Synthetic Religion by Dr. Monroe Parker
“Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy rattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shaft not sow thy field with mingled see: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee”? Leviticus 19:19.
A generation ago a favorite question of the modernists was, “What is a modernist, anyway?” Today the new evangelicals are asking, “What is a new evangelical?” Of course, there are millions of Christian people who do not now what a new evangelical is. For the benefit of such people, as well as for those new evangelicals who think fundamentalists are so naive as to believe that they do not know what a new evangelical is, these lines are written.
A new evangelical is not necessarily a modernist, although many of those who are known as new evangelicals are modernists. A new evangelical is not necessarily neo-orthodox, although many of those who are known as new evangelicals are neo-orthodox. A new evangelical is not necessarily an evangelical, although many new evangelicals are evangelical.
Certain astute new evangelicals have begun asking the question, “What is a new evangelical?” because they recognize that new evangelicalism, if given theological classification, would fall into the Department of Practical Theology. It does not lay stress on doctrinal content.
If new evangelicalism is not defined in the terms of any particular doctrinal position, it would seem rather bigoted to oppose it. On the other hand, practical theology is theology, a science as well as an art, and, of course, has doctrinal ramifications.
New evangelicalism, strictly speaking, was sired by an irresponsible effort on the part of some evangelicals to lure men to an acceptance of Christ as Saviour through unscriptural alliances, and in some cases through open appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
Some sincere people have been caught in the; vortex of the movement, but let us not forget that one can be sincere and still be wrong. Conscience is not a safe guide unless the light of truth shines upon it. A man?s conscience is governed by what he believes.
New evangelicalism was born of the confusion which followed the confessed failure of modernism in the crises of World War II. At that time hundreds of leading modernists confessed that they had gone too far from the pole of truth, the supernatural revelation of God in the Holy Bible and in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and they became willing to accept neo-orthodoxy; and many evangelicals thought they had been converted.
With an orthodox profession, but still holding their old philosophy of naturalism, the modernists lacked the conviction to proclaim their new message, refill their churches, and replenish their coffers. Many gifted liberals were able to adapt, but few could sound a positive note; they had spoken too long in the accents of surmise and speculation.
Their recourse was to enlist evangelicals. This they could not do directly. It would require great skill and “statesmanship” and compromise with evangelicals beyond the point many liberals were willing to go. It could be accomplished only at the summit where key leaders could court key leaders.
Thus began a great compromise. I heard the great liberal preacher, Dr. Paul Shearer, declare in 1946 that the modernists needed to retrace their footsteps back toward the old orthodox position of their fathers, but that they should not go all the way back He said the modernists should form a synthesis with the evangelicals.
Four years later I heard Dr. Sidlow Baxter, the great British evangelical, speak to the faculties of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles and Fuller Theological Seminary. It was a “closed door meeting” in the Church of the Open Door. He said that he had found a schism in the church of America which was not so marked in the Church of England.
He said that while he stood doctrinally with the conservatives, those on the other side of the gap were disillusioned men, and so they were. I could say “Amen” to that. I couldn?t agree with his conclusion, however. He said that Bible-believing Christians ought to bridge the gap in fellowship. But light cannot have “fellowship with darkness,” and “he that believeth” has “no part with an infidel.” “Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed.”
In September 1950 Dr. John MacKay, one of the founders of the World Council of Churches and the most outstanding leader of the ecumenical movement, speaking at the opening of the academic year at Princeton Theological Seminary, of which he was then president, said: “This past summer I passed through Portland, Oregon, at a time when the evangelist Billy Graham was being listened to by crowds of over one hundred thousand. I learned that churches in the great Oregon city were getting behind that simple, non-college trained man, an intimate friend of our own Charles Templeton.
The churches cannot ignore the phenomenon which this young man presents. And then there is the Youth for Christ movement, the Inter-Varsity movement, the Pentecostals – all of whom are doing an amazing work in many parts of the world. These groups are often frowned on as Christianity?lunatic fringe? because of certain objectionable features which they manifest.
Yet according to the clear evidence of spiritual results, they are doing a great work in which God is present. As to the fruits that may be garnered from these movements into the storehouse of the Christian church, that will depend upon the sympathy, the good judgment, and the statesmanship of the Christian churchmen.
Among the things which I have learned in my lifetime, both by experience and observation, is this: Never to be afraid of a young fanatic or of what appears to be a fanatical movement, if Jesus Christ is the supreme object of devotion ….The young fanatic, if wisely dealt with, can be toned down and mellowed.”
Remember, that statement was made in 1950 at Princeton. In 1957 Dr. MacKay was among the sponsors of Billy Graham’s New York campaign.
I am often asked if I agree with Dr. Graham in his program. It is difficult for me to answer because I love Billy Graham personally. I have known him well since he was seventeen years of age and consider him a personal friend. He has been so signally blessed of God and has won so many people to Christ that it is difficult for me to say that I do not agree with the policies he has followed since 1957. However, I have told him personally that he is neutralizing his good.
A man criticized me and said that I ought not to criticize Billy Graham because he had won more souls to Christ than I. I believe I have won more souls to Christ than the man who criticized me, but that does not make me immune to criticism. The Apostle Peter had 3,000 converts in a single service, but that did not place him above the just rebuke and criticism of Paul at Antioch.
In the sacred task of preaching the Word of God, collaboration with those who do not believe the cardinal doctrines of the Christian Faith is wrong, no matter who does it.
I rode on Billy Graham’s” bandwagon” from the time of his 1949 Los Angeles Campaign until I read the message and heard the tape of the message he preached at Union Theological Seminary in 1955, in which he threw bricks at the fundamentalists and roses at the modernists.
When this message was published by Dr. Carl McIntyre in The Christian Beacon, Billy Graham was in his great Scotland campaign. A friend of Dr. Graham’s paid Dr. John Rice’s way to Scotland to be a guest of Dr. Graham. Dr. Rice helped Billy pull his chestnuts out of the fire, so to speak He felt that Billy had certainly been unwise in making the statements he made at Union Seminary but felt that he was young and that he would certainly listen to the advice of his conservative friends.
Dr. Rice wrote a featured article in The Sword of the Lord, reporting the Scotland campaign and giving Billy Graham the benefit of the doubt as to his courting or favoring liberals for their support. Later when Billy went to New York under the sponsorship of the modernistic Protestant Council of Churches and announced at Buffalo to the National Association of Evangelicals that he would accept the sponsorship of modernists, Dr. Rice was forced to the conclusion that Billy had taken the wrong direction.
In April 1958 I said the following to Dr. Graham: “Billy, I give you the benefit of any doubts as to motives. I believe you are trying to take advantage of the friendly gestures of liberals toward conservatives.
You are using the liberals in order to get a chance to preach the Gospel to thousands of people in modernistic churches. But these liberals are using you, and though you are doing some good, it is being neutralized. You are not isolated. Few men have more influence than you. Hundreds of other evangelists and pastors feel that they must follow your example and your methods. I urge you to return to your former policy of being sponsored by evangelicals only.”
Some weeks later I signed my name to a friendly letter of greeting containing the same appeal which was written by an outstanding Baptist pastor from the East and was also signed by scores of other Christian leaders during the annual meetings of Conservative Baptists at Denver, Colorado. It grieves many of us who know and love him that he did not follow this advice.
I am not writing in a bigoted spirit. I realize that if I had my just deserts, I would be in Hell. But I am saved by the grace of God. I love this glorious Gospel and love Christ and love the souls of men. That is why I am against anything that would weaken the Christian testimony and pervert the church of Christ. New evangelicalism will do just that.
System Not Acceptable
I heard Dr. Vernon Grounds say at the Colorado State meetings of Conservative Baptists in May 1959 that anything that is good in new evangelicalism is of God. If this is true, does it follow that anything that is good in Christian Science, or Communism, or Mormonism, or Seventh-Day Adventism is of God? Whether this is so, it does follow that the entire system is of God. It is just as logical to conclude that anything that is bad in evangelicalism is of the world, the flesh, or the Devil.
In its beginning new evangelicalism was not characterized by doctrinal content but by method. This method is that of joining with enemies of the true Gospel in an effort to promote the Gospel while they promote a contrary message. Every child of God ought to repudiate new evangelicalism.
God’s Answer to New Evangelicalism
John, the apostle of love, wrote: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (II John 10, 11). What is God’s answer to new evangelicalism?
God’s answer to new evangelicalism is also found in II Corinthians 6:14, 16-18: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Having lain down with dogs of liberalism, the new evangelicals have got up with doctrinal fleas on themselves. They decided to treat evolution as a moot question, and many of them have embraced theistic evolution. They decided not to be “other worldly”; and the result, the “Doctrine of Balaam” or worldliness.
They decided to follow a philosophy of pragmatism, and the result is an exalting of feeling and experience above “thus saith the Lord.” Hence, so-called revelations, and charismatic manifestations. They decided to add to the Gospel the social gospel; hence, a synthetic religion.
Day of Compromise
The new evangelicals have failed to heed the warning of Jesus to” Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.” It seems that we have reached a day of compromise on every hand. Even earnest, evangelical Christians censure the servants of God who cry out against false, prophets. But these servants of God are in a glorious tradition.
Old Testament Prophets Denounced False Religious Leaders
Isaiah cried out against the priest and prophet who “err in vision” and “stumble in judgment” (Isa 28:7). Jeremiah said, “For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord” (Jer. 24:11). Ezekiel wrote, “Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O, Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts” (Ezek 13:3,4).
Micah said, “They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us?” (Mic. 3:10,11).
Jesus and Apostles Denounced False Religious Leaders
Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, said, “Beware of false prophets.” The Apostle Peter, speaking of the scoffers who sneer at the promise of the coming of Christ and wrest the Scripture unto their own destruction, said, “Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” ( II Peter 3:17).
Paul, the missionary, evangelist, apostle, and builder of churches, the bondslave of Jesus Christ, wrote to Timothy, “But after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, l have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:3-7).
To the church at Rome he wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17, 18).
John the Beloved, who wrote his Gospel that we “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 10:31), wrote in his second epistle,” If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (II John 10).
Jude wrote, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). He says that they are “raging waves of the sea foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13).
If the Blind Lead
Thousands of young theological students are gullibly following these “false prophets in sheep’s clothing” who “within are ravening wolves.” Impressed by the high-sounding theological terminology, the vast store of encyclopedic knowledge, and the pious talk of false teachers, thousands of them are going out themselves in sheeps’ clothing to preach the new modernism. ?
If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14). Tragedy of tragedies! The new modernism is as false as the old! It is essentially the same though covered in a new robe and a thousand times more subtle.
Need Today for Exposing False Teaching
There was never a day when fundamentalists needed more to emphasize the verbal inspiration of the Bible and the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ than today. They need also to understand the issues and the design of these new modernists. Many of our true evangelical leaders must surely be uninformed as to the ultimate aim of some of the ecclesiastical leaders. It is Nicolaitanism, the conquering of the laity.
No one who believes in a congregational form of church government and in the right of the individual to interpret the Word of God for himself under the illumination of the Holy Spirit can follow these false teachers. Let us look under the “sheeps’ clothing” and there we see the pointed ears, the leering eyes, the dilated nostrils, the dripping tongues, and the bared fangs of “ravening wolves.”
Purpose of Liberal Leaders
What is the design of these men? Back of this movement is a plan for the formation of one World Church. As has already been said, the modern church had lost its voice of authority because it had left the authority of the Scriptures.
The Catholics believe in an authoritative church with an infallible Pope at the head of it. Although they accept the Bible as infallible, they hold it is so only as it is interpreted by the church. Orthodox Protestantism has held to the infallibility of the Bible by which the church is judged.
The new modernism is attempting to recover authority for the purpose of building ecclesiastical walls, but is unwilling to yield to the inerrant and infallible authority of full, verbal inspiration. Consequently, just as the British crown is a symbol of British authority with the authority vested in Parliament, so the new modernism is trying to make the Bible a symbol of authority with the authority actually vested in the church.
Substitute for Inspiration Offered
Dr. John Newton Thomas, Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia, wrote in an article in the July 1946 issue of Theology Today, page 171: “Is not the key to the situation the frank acknowledgement of the Church’s authority as determiner of the Canon? This is at once the valid substitute for the doctrine of verbal inspiration and the guarantee of an authoritative Scripture as against rationalizing and mystical influences.”
There you have it, my friends. These liberals are determined to form through their councils a church arrogating to itself the authority to change the Bible to suit their doctrine. Professor Thomas goes on to say: “If the current reemphasis upon the Church can secure recognition of her true and legitimate role in relation to the Canon, we shall emerge from the present confusion with a clearer grasp of the authority both of the Church and of the Bible” (Ibid., p.171).
There is no wonder that the National Council of Churches has no compunction against shading the Word of God as in the Revised Standard Version to favor its liberal theology. They have usurped for themselves the authority to speak for God instead of simply recognizing that God has spoken.
The same issue of Theology Today (July 1946) in which Professor Thomas’ article is found carries an article by Floyd V. Filson, Professor of New Testament Literature and History, McCormick Theological Seminary, on “The Revised Standard New Testament” (page 221) in which he says, “The Bible is the Church’s book” The professor is wrong. It is God?s Book
He says further, “Its writers were members and servants of the Church, and their writings have been preserved, translated, and used in its worship, preaching, and teaching.
The real test, therefore, which this version must pass is whether it will prove adequate to the needs of the Church.” The real test is whether it is true to the original text written by “holy men of old” as they were “moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Need to Recognize Authority of the Word
The greatest need in the church today is not a “substitute for the doctrine of verbal inspiration” but a realization that here we have the very inspired Word of the Living God whether correctly or incorrectly interpreted. “It is more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10). Let us hide it in our hearts, live it in our daily walk, preach it to the world, teach it to our children, and beware lest “false prophets in sheeps’ clothing” steal it away!