Evangelicalism is a beautiful word that has come into a little disrepute because of its misuse in recent years. Early in the 20th century, a movement arose calling itself fundamentalism. Very early, the Arminian wing gained control, stressed certain views strongly, and became known as the "fighting fundamentalists." While not Reformed, they were zealous and effective, much hated for their successes. After World War II, great segments of this movement drifted into compromises, especially on inerrancy, and called themselves evangelicals. They waged war on fundamentalism, and also often on Cornelius Van Til and his presuppositionalism. The notable institution for evangelicals is Fuller Seminary, at war against Biblical inerrancy, and the Rev. Billy Graham, with his congenial spirit of compromise.
The heart of this new evangelicalism can be seen in the Fuller Seminary position on the Bible. Professor Donald A. Hagner, in Theology News & Notes, June, 1998, held that "it is hard to imagine anything more debilitating to the work of a Biblical scholar than a priori insistence on inerrancy" (p. 7). This new evangelicalism sees its future better based on the critical premise of modernism than on the historic foundations of the Christian Faith. It sees orthodoxy as imposing alien, non-scholarly premises on Christian scholarship whereas the premises of modernism are supposedly scientific and valid. It will not admit that all starting points are a priori acts of faith, and that no scholarship is possible without them. The question is rather this: Do we begin with God or man, with the word according to God or the word according to man? The new evangelicalism begins with man, not with God.
In so doing, it ignores man's fallen state. Certainly Dr. Hagner never mentions nor considers it. Yet the Biblical Faith requires it. Is man a fallen sinner or a capable scholar and judge over God and his word? Dr. Hagner sees no question of competency, but the Bible presupposes it.
The new evangelicalism is at odds with the Reformation and often in open sympathy with St. Thomas Aquinas and his rationalism. This should not surprise us. Rationalism is too much a part of evangelicalism. Dr. Hagner is concerned with "the credibility of the evangelical perspective in the larger intellectual world" (p. 8). But is it our calling to please that "large intellectual world" or our Almighty God and Redeemer?
As a young man, I recall being told of an aging modernist scholar who in his younger days had held he was as good a fundamentalist as any! Claims are cheap; affirmations must be yea, yea — not a vague, compromising word. In due time, these new "evangelicals" will discard the term as having served its purpose.
It is our duty to uphold the Faith, not the popular, nor the noted. The days of these compromisers are numbered because God is God. One report lists only eleven Christian colleges, universities, or seminaries as still maintaining inerrancy. So much the worse for the rest of them. Christendom has more than once seen the faithful almost disappear, but the true Faith survives and revives. Will you?