The challenge of the New Evangelical Liberalism

Whether or not J. Gresham Machen was right, that modern liberalism represents a different religion from Christianity, it is definitely a mindset that offers enormous danger to the church. The January/February issue of the 9Marks eJournal examines the new evangelical liberalism and the current marginalization of the Gospel in some quarters of the church today. There is plenty of good reading, from the issue of evangelical scholarship and ambition by Carl Trueman (Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at WTS) to an article by R. Albert Mohler (president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) on how the reformulation of the doctrine of hell to remove its intellectual and moral offensiveness is a good test case for the slide into liberalism.

For those that are passionate about the Gospel and the health of the church, the eJournal is a helpful collection of essays that reaffirm the necessity of faithfulness to God’s Word in our Gospel-proclamation and witness.

Download the PDF or read the articles online:

THE MINDSET OF THE NEW EVANGELICAL LIBERALISM

How to Become a Liberal Without Attending Harvard Divinity School
What kind of pastor is susceptible to liberalism? One who loves self, and even the sheep, more than he loves the Good Shepherd.
By Michael Lawrence

The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
Why do evangelical academics so crave worldly acceptance?
By Carl Trueman

Air Conditioning Hell: How Liberalism Happens
Liberalism happens when we try to save Christianity from itself.
By R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

The Neo-Liberal Stealth Offensive
The gospel’s most dangerous adversaries are not raving atheists. They are church leaders with gentle, friendly, pious demeanors.
By Phil Johnson

CASE STUDIES IN THE NEW EVANGELICAL LIBERALISM

What’s Happening to InterVarsity?
A long-term InterVarsity vet takes a hard look at some disturbing trends in this historically faithful campus ministry. 
By J. Mack Stiles

Is the God of the Missional Gospel Too Small?
When we say that a gospel that addresses systemic injustice is “bigger” than a gospel of “sin management,” what are we saying about the worth of God’s glory?
By Jonathan Leeman

What Would Athanasius Do: Is The Great Tradition Enough?
Is this new rallying point for Christian unity all it’s made out to be? Not if you want to preserve the gospel.
By Greg Gilbert

Notes from the Future: Evangelical Liberalism in the UK
Want a sneak peek at the future of evangelicalism? Then listen in as a British brother takes a look at the past and present of liberalism in the UK.
By Mike Ovey

Social Gospel Redux?
Are some evangelicals preaching a renewed social gospel?
By Russell D. Moore

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE NEW EVANGELICAL LIBERALISM

What Can We Learn from the History of Liberalism?
Historic liberalism was a response—the wrong one—to Christianity’s credibility crisis.
By Gregory A. Wills

Who Exactly Are the Evangelicals?
Is an evangelical simply “anyone who likes Billy Graham,” as one historian put it?
By Michael Horton

More Than a Feeling: The Emotions and Christian Devotion
Casting an eye toward recent evangelical history, Darryl Hart suggests that a wrong emphasis on emotions has been—and can still be—a path to liberalism.
By D. G. Hart

Evangelism and Social Action: A Tale of Two Trajectories
What do twentieth century ecumenism and twenty-first century evangelicalism have in common? More than you might think.
By Bobby Jamieson

MISCELLANEOUS BOOK REVIEWS

Book Review: The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church, by Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna
Reviewed by Aaron Menikoff

Book Review: Why Join a Small Church?, by John Benton
Reviewed by Aaron Menikoff

4 replies
  1. Andrew Thomson
    Andrew Thomson says:

    I haven’t read all the articles linked above, however, I did read: “Air Conditioning Hell: How Liberalism Happens”. It is an old ploy; if someone believes differently to you, give them a derogatory label, this time “Liberalism”, and then you can avoid debating the bibical evidence or otherwise for a certain belief.

    While it is clear that many Christians are embarrassed, or even offended by the traditional understanding of “hell” (rightly so), and for that reason avoid it like the plague. There are many others who have studied the scriptures extensively to find out what God’s word really teaches about hell and man’s nature and have arrived at what Albert Mohler might term as an “annihilationist” view.

    While there may well be some “annihilationists” who have rejected some parts of the Apostles Creed, and have therefore strayed into error. There are many who hold an “annihilationist” view who hold firmly to the Apostles Creed.

    Let’s debate the issues from God’s Word, rather than dismiss the views of those who may not agree with you, by appending a label.

  2. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Isn’t it wonderful that different ages can reinterpret scripture to mean…..well, to make it more palateable.

    I do not know much of the scriptural basis but I am skeptical of the modern softening of hell to merely ‘apart from god’.

  3. Jason
    Jason says:

    Andrew,

    You make some really good points, but I’m not sure your comments can be taken as a fair account of either Mohler’s intentions here or his general approach with those he disagrees with.

    You’re right that he calls those who reject or reinterpret the doctrine of hell liberals. But does he really dismiss them on the basis of this label? Or does he, instead, criticize them for allowing other considerations to crowd out the sole authority of the Bible?

    In fact, I think Mohler would actually agree with your final sentence and I would argue that the point of his article is to call Christians back to the priority of the words of Scripture.

  4. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    Mohler’s article actually contains some striking irony.

    Firstly, he suggests that one of the stages in Christians sliding into liberalism and giving up essential Christian doctrines is by ridiculing or lampooning them, labelling them unfavorably and not really grappling with them.

    But is this really any different from simply labelling anyone who doesn’t share your theology a “liberal,” rather than actually addressing their arguments in an evangelical way? Why does Mohler not see the log in his own eye on this one? I could just as easily reject his view as “fundamentalist” and therefore not seriously engage them, but that would be intellectually lazy and irresponsible. Jason, I think it does no good to defend him by saying that he is critiquing people for “allowing other considerations to crowd out the sole authority of the Bible.” This is just to critique people for being liberals. The issue is actually that there are conservative evangelicals who reject the traditional view of hell because as far as they can tell, it is the traditional view, rather than their own view, that is not in accord with the teaching of the Bible. Labelling them liberal and assuming that they must be motivated by a lower view of the authority of the Bible is just to skip over the exegetical issue altogether.

    Secondly, Mohler says that part of the liberal slide away from his view of hell involves “reformulating” the doctrine into something a little more palatable and less embarrassing. What he chooses to ignore, however, is the way that even those traditionally minded Christians who like to call their view “the literal view” do precisely this! The traditional view of hell as a place of actual torture, where the saints are filled with joy and pleasure by being allowed to watch the torments of the damned forever (as expressly taught by Tertullian, Aquinas, Edwards and Watts, for example), somehow shifts into something vaguely called “eternal separation from God.” I wonder if Mohler himself believes all the lurid details of his traditionalist forebearers?

    At least the annihilationists are being honest. They’re not saying “look, we want to affirmt he traditional view, but we don’t want to look bad, so let’s tone it down and dress it up.” No, we actually affirm what we do because we think that Scripture teaches something else, and that the traditional view is objectively false.

    It’s unfortunate that some among us conservative evangelicals have substituted labels for arguments. I don’t care what Mohler calls me, in fact I won’t care about anything he says unless he acts like the evangelical that he professes to be, opens his bible and is prepared to reason with me.

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