I recently read the book “New Evangelicalism“, by Paul Richard Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel Victorville CA. Paul Smith is a leader in the Calvary Chapel movement founded by his brother Chuck Smith, who also wrote the foreword to Paul Smith’s book.
The book gives a brief history of modern Protestantism beginning with modernism where scripture became critically analyzed through the filters of the philosophies of 19th and early 20th century humanist intellectuals. This humanistic intellectual analysis of the scriptures became known as “higher criticism”. I took one of those silly “higher criticism” courses in college myself.
I will give you my own take on modernism; most of what I will say about modernism in Christianity does not come from Paul Smith’s book, but from what I read in his book, I think Paul Smith would agree with most of it.
Modernism is also known as liberalism and it has a low view of scriptures. They do not believe the scriptures came from God as inerrant doctrine. Educated men and so-called “science” became the judge of scriptures. Man and his intellect decided which scriptures contain truth and which were just creative writings of men.
Man with his “higher criticism” became the judge of God’s inerrant word, even though man did not have the knowledge or the spiritual wisdom to take that role upon himself. There is overwhelming proof that we still have the same scriptures that Jesus read and Jesus said that every jot and tittle of the law and the prophets would be fulfilled (Mt 5:18). That fact carries little weight with the critics in modernism. After all, “higher criticism” really exists to discredit the scriptures.
The modernists have said that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions but that claim itself is just the conjecture of critics. Humankind did not and does not have the required knowledge to make such a judgmental statement. When new discoveries were found over time they always supported what the Bible said and not the critics. The Bible is always proven correct but the best reasoning of man trying to discredit the Bible always turns out to have its facts wrong.
Christian apologists have since given reasonable answers to anything that the critics of inerrancy have brought up. Nevertheless, they simply chose to ignore reasonable explanations because they would rather believe that the Bible is just writings of men and a work of man rather than the very word of God.
The only thing inerrant to most modernists is their own low view of scripture. In their mind scripture might be inspired by God but probably no more inspired than the writings of later Church theologians.
Which begs the question, was God’s word to man complete after the Apostles and the Holy Spirit appointed witnesses of Jesus died, or would there continue to be progressive revelation within the Church? This question came up early in Church history with the early Gnostics that were claiming to have received special knowledge from God. Much of what they were claiming was obvious heresy that conflicted with books that were already widely accepted as scripture in the churches. So the Church refuted Gnosticism and other heresies with the Jewish scriptures and the writings of the apostles and direct witnesses that wrote of Jesus.
To keep out heresy the Church determined that the Church needed to decide which books that were widely circulating among the churches would be accepted as scripture. The Church believed that the Holy Spirit guided them through this endeavor and the end result of that effort was the Canon. The Holy Canon actually fulfilled the prophecy of Revelation 2:16, when the sword of God’s mouth (the word) fought against the heresies that Jesus said He hated at the Church identified with Pergamos.
There would be progressive revelation in the Church but it would not come through new revelation of fallible men. It would come from those that obtained the wisdom and understanding to be able to expound on God’s inerrant written word. Nevertheless, many in modernism in recent times have chosen the philosophies of men over scripture. The Popes of the last few centuries even declared themselves to be infallible in matters of Church doctrine.
Many in modernism reject anything supernatural. They have a form of godliness but they deny God’s power to keep the word of God inerrant. Most in modernism see nothing supernatural happening in creation. With these people, God only works in His creation through the works of men of good will. They think humans can evolve toward their higher nature as images of God and work to bring back paradise lost through their own efforts. The modernist thinks that God is somewhere outside of creation, waiting for man to solve the problems in His creation, through fallen man’s basic goodness and intellect. It really is a pretty silly concept.
Modernism took the words of God and made the words meet man’s litmus test to determine which words would be accepted as truth and which would not. That made fallible men the judge of the inerrant autographs of God. They have no excuse, because the many manuscripts found over time overwhelmingly prove that the scriptures have not changed from Jesus’ time and Jesus Himself verified that the scripture He quoted was the very words of God.
Why is it that some men can believe in a risen savior and a Holy Spirit led Church, but they will not believe that this same Holy Spirit could keep the scriptures inerrant? I bring this up because as Paul Smith documents in his book, all major heretical movements started when people departed from believing that scripture was inerrant.
The modernists or liberals with their higher criticisms took over the mainline denominations. Then denominational doctrine and traditions of men trumped scripture in most mainline institutions and churches. The liberal churches are full of ritual and traditions of men and most of the lay people have lost the meaning of why they started the rituals and traditions in the first place. You very seldom will find members of these churches getting any spiritual truth or guidance from the Bible; they get everything from their denomination or clergy.
Of course not all Christians agreed with those embracing modernism. Many in Christendom still believed that the Bible was inerrant and they split off and formed new denominations. Any common sense literal reading of the scriptures readily produced certain fundamentals of the faith, so most of the Christians that held to biblical inerrancy became identified as fundamentalists.
Over time there was division over certain emphases on scriptures among fundamental believers; there were also those fundamentalists that became obsessed over certain social practices that they thought were uniquely sinful. Many Christians that believed in inerrancy did not agree with the legalistic control freaks that were giving fundamentalism a bad name so they started looking for a new name to rally around. For reasons given in Smith’s book, people soon started calling themselves Evangelicals.
The early Evangelicals believed that scripture was inerrant but later the word inerrant was rejected by some and replaced with the word infallible (which means different things to different people). Nevertheless, all still wanted to be identified as Evangelicals, as do the postmodern rejectors of biblical inerrancy today. The history of the Evangelical movement is well documented in Paul Smith’s book.
The big left turn in the Evangelical movement started in Bible teaching seminaries like Fuller Theological Seminary that originally taught that the Bible was inerrant. Paul Smith mainly documents the devolution into new evangelicalism at Fuller Seminary (it also happened elsewhere). He gives the history how Fuller Seminary over one lifespan went from teaching Bible inerrancy to postmodernism (where truth is relative and truth is whatever the consensus of the group says it is).
By the 21st century, church marketing techniques rather than evangelism and salvation of the lost became the popular way to try to bring a postmodern generation into the churches. The mastermind behind this humanistic marketing strategy for churches was Peter Drucker. He was not a Christian. He got his fame as a management Guru to large corporation. Rick Warren and others were mentored by Peter Drucker and the seeker-friendly market-driven churches were the end result of that.
Drucker thought that mega-churches were the ideal model to build humanistic communities. Rick Warren said that Peter Drucker was his mentor for 20 years. It is obvious to many that the seeker-friendly church growth model originated from Peter Drucker. Rick Warren and Bill Hybells were the two most successful people in bringing this seeker-friendly movement to thousands of churches. The churches were modeled to attract a postmodern generation that rejected the traditional evangelical Christian message.
In order to attract that postmodern generation the seeker Gurus removed everything that people might consider negative or objectionable from the Sunday service. The Gospel that taught that man’s sin required repentance and salvation through the work of Jesus at the cross would no longer be preached on Sunday. Instead it was replaced with feel good and self-help humanistic messages and entertainment eye candy. During the week the churches would offer every program that would appeal to the community. The postmodern seekers soon took over the churches with their self-centered and humanistic pragmatism and relativism and many believers in Bible inerrancy decided or were told to go down the road.
Paul Smith on page 12 in his introduction says:
The Devil is truly in the details. My objective is to show how interwoven the connections are among Fuller Seminary, the new evangelicals, Rick Warren and Peter Drucker, the Emergent church, and a postmodern America that has drifted far from Christian origins. This documentation is staggering and sobering. The subtle progression of unbiblical ideas is shocking.
I think the book justifiably targets Rick Warren. He has spread error throughout many denominations. He poses as an inerrant Bible believer to Baptists but promotes a postmodern gospel of humanistic works to the world and he has become unequally yoked with those in demonic religions. The history of Fuller Seminary and how it got to be the postmodern institution that it now is today, is extremely well documented in this book. I think “New Evangelicalism” meets Paul Smith’s quoted objectives above.
Rick Warren is linked with globalist endeavors and globalist interfaith foundations but he never uses his international platform to give out the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. He also attacks fundamentalists as a danger to the world and Rick Warren believes and has taught that the study of Bible prophecy is a diversion or a waste of time. However, the Bible sternly warned people to watch for Jesus and it also warned that people saying and doing such things as the postmodernists are doing would be evidence that we were near the Lord’s coming.
Rick Warren even brings pagans into his church to teach Christians how to live. Warren is a CFR globalist and he sits on the board of Tony Blair’s Interfaith Foundation. He does not proselytize to those in other religions. He does all this while subverting half the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention and churches in many other denominations through his purpose driven church program that waters down the gospel message. Now he seems to be on a purpose driven agenda to get Christians to believe in religious pluralism and to produce social works rather than Christians making any effort to bring those trapped in the bondage of demonic religions to Christ.
From my experience in the Southern Baptist Denomination, I know that ten times more people have read through Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” book than have ever read through the Bible. I wrote about the purpose driven seeker agenda years ago. Many pastors are still downloading his purpose driven sermons and delivering them on Sunday. I know what the Bible says about double-minded men and Rick Warren has proved to me that he is a double-minded man over-and-over again, but few in Christian leadership care.
Now Warren is actively endorsing postmodern authors and pastors in the heretical Emergent Church and Contemplative Prayer movement that is giving young people a Jesus made in their own image, but few in leadership care. I think if Warren openly joined with Rome, half the new evangelicals would just follow him.
Peter Drucker must have been very happy with Rick Warren and ilk. There are now over 5000 mega-churches in the United States and few of them teach the gospel on Sundays. However, they are the focal point for every humanistic social program ever devised by man. Peter Drucker would be so proud.
One thing I noticed from the letters in Smith’s book, and my own experiences over the years, is that leaders that do not go along with the consensus usually resign rather than fight for what they believe is right. The documentation in the book suggests to me, that the resignations of believers in inerrancy in these institutions, made it just too easy for the postmodern new evangelicals to take over major religious institutions. That is still going on today.
With postmodern boards, committees or teams there must be consensus; people are expected to resign rather than disagree with the consensus. The consensus position becomes their truth even if it not the truth. History tells us that the majority is often wrong. Just resigning because you disagree with the majority really makes it easier for influential Satanic plants to take over religious institutions. I do not think we can broad-brush this, but it seems some leaders in Christianity are more afraid of being fired or being in the minority, than they are of failing to stand up for God’s truth.
I am sure it was board consensus that decided all churches no matter how liberal or Catholic should take part in the Billy Graham Crusades and I am sure that seminaries continue to be taken over because the opposition soon resigns. Likewise, churches are becoming more-and-more postmodern because a search committee consensus ignorantly suggested the hiring of a pre-programmed outsider because he was a seminary graduate.
Not long after you bring them in, they will bring in like-minded people and then the traditional Bible believers will depart. Once the salt and light is removed from the institution or local church it becomes a lost cause. There is usually no going back once a church starts down this postmodern path. Try changing your own Purpose-Driven or Willow-Creeker church back to teaching Christian doctrine on Sundays now. It can’t be done, because the postmodern pragmatic church boards will not even entertain biblical arguments or the thought that the Church is supposed to be made up of believers. That would mean less attenders and less attenders is the unforgivable sin in mega-churches..
Paul Smith’s “New Evangelicalism” mentions C. Peter Wagner and his mystical influence at Fuller Seminary. He taught the Signs and Wonders class at Fuller with John Wimber. Paul Smith gets into some ramifications within the Calvary Chapel movement because of John Wimber, but I think Smith fell short in explaining where Wagner’s influence led many Pentecostals. The influence of C. Peter Wagner led to what is now known as the New Apostolic Reformation and ilk, with its postmodern third wave of self appointed anointed Dominion Theology heretics.
I thought that Smith should have expounded on this more in his book because this signs and wonders movement is greatly influencing the Pentecostal side of postmodernism and their Dominion Theology heretical doctrine also leads to the religious Harlot. Paul Smith only wrote a couple of pages on the signs and wonders movement but I think fifty pages would have been much more appropriate. Maybe Smith could work on that if he has any revision in mind or wants to write a follow-up book on the Pentecostal influence within new evangelicalism.
When people want to experience God by creating Him in their own mind, or by getting some sign or extra-biblical message, or by getting some mystical experience from one of the self-appointed anointed they will be deceived. In these last days these things will tie in with the mysticism of the Roman Church and other demonic deceptions. All these demonic deceptions and more, will be the foundation of the one world religious Harlot that Paul Smith does talk about in his book.
The latter part of Paul Smith’s book explains that postmodernism, emergent theology and religious mysticism is all heading toward a one world political, economic and religious system. It is a pretty good summary of where the world is heading and a briefing on sound eschatology in just a couple of chapters.
The book also has some insider information about the Calvary Chapel movement. It contains a couple of positional letters by Chuck Smith against those that wanted to change the Calvary Chapel movement from its expository teaching through the Bible to some other format.
Finally, the book has an appendix that explains the difference between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. It is very good, but I would disagree on at least one point. God never gave Satan the deed to planet earth as Paul Smith suggested. God does not give away His creation to angels or Satan. After the fall of man God gave Satan the power to rule the earth but He certainly did not give Satan the title-deed to the planet. I mention that because this thinking is a popular error that leads some to believe in Dominion Theology. I write about that in my paper on the Woman on the Beast.
I highly recommend this book. In fact, it should be required reading for all church leaders. If God never gave us His written word there really would be no foundation for Christianity at all. If man can just redefine or dismiss God’s word because he thinks it is full of error, he really does not believe that there is a God with the ability to preserve what He spoke. If God did not give us the absolute truth, then man cannot be saved from the obvious fallen nature that we find ourselves in. If God cannot preserve what He said, why should anyone believe that Jesus fulfilled what God might not have said?
If you are one of those that does not believe that the scriptures were spoken by God, then you probably should examine yourself to see if you are really in the faith. What hope can man have in a God that did not also provide foundational truth to trust in Him? It should be clear to any true believer that God gave man both the inerrant word and the living Word (John 1:1).
Don Koenig founded www.thepropheticyears.com website in 1999 after almost thirty years of independent study on the Bible and learning from many astute teachers within Christendom. Don created his website to write about Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and his Christian worldviews. Don wrote a free Revelation commentary ebook in 2004 named "The Revelation of Jesus Christ Through The Ages". The World and Church and Bible Prophecy section of this website was started in 2007.