The Founders Journal is a quarterly Magazine committed to historic Southern
Baptist principles and indispensable for ascertaining the reformation
going on in that Convention. It is edited by Dr Tom Ascol of the Grace
Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida (Founders Journal, P.O.Box 150931,
Cape Coral, FL 33915) Visit their web site at www.founders.org
In the current edition the Baptist Dr Roger Nicole, the Visiting Professor
of Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, in Orlando, Florida and
a contributing editor of this Journal review Iain Murray's "Evangelicalism
Divided". Dr Nicole, as his custom is, sent a copy of his review
to Iain Murray and he has responded to it. This is their exchange published
here by permission:-
Iain H. Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, A Record of Crucial Change in
the Years 1950 to 2000. Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth
2000. X, 342 pp. $21.99 Reviewed by Dr. Roger Nicole
Surely Rev. lain Murray does not need an introduction to the readers
of the Founders Journal, for they presumably know him as the author of
The Forgotten Spurgeon, Spurgeon V. Hyper-Calvinism, as well as biographies
of Jonathan Edwards, Arthur W. Pink, John Murray and Martyn Lloyd-Jones
(2 volumes). In the present work Rev. Murray has undertaken to describe
and document some serious weakening in the evangelical front in the British
Isles and in the United States of America during the period of 1950 to
Rev. Murray views Billy Graham and Harold J. Ockenga as having been
at the root of this weakening in America, while J. I. Packer and John
R. W. Stott as well as Billy Graham have had a comparable influence in
England. Billy Graham is named because of his broad policy of permitting
a wide range of personalities of very diverse convictions, including some
Roman Catholics and some liberal Protestants, to support his evangelical
crusades and to appear with him on the platform. This, Rev. Murray avers,
has blurred the line of distinction between evangelicals and non-evangelicals.
Furthermore the evangelistic approach dubbed "invitation" system,
has encouraged a certain superficiality in the call of the gospel, neglecting
the importance of repentance and leading many who were not truly regenerate
to view themselves as "saved" because they had "come forward"
in a crusade.
Harold John Ockenga is blamed for a shift in the character of Fuller
Theological Seminary, an institution founded on strictly evangelical premises
and supported by funds of evangelical origin. In the desire to prepare
ministers that would be acceptable in the "mainline denomination",
Rev. Murray contends, undue emphasis was placed on academic accreditation
and professional earned doctorates rather than spiritual qualifications
and experience in ministry. Thus the desire for "intellectual respectability"
led many who had started as clear-cut evangelicals to make concessions
to Biblical criticism and thus to permit the erosion of the doctrine of
Biblical inerrancy. Ockenga's failure to operate as resident president
is blamed for the beginning of this shift under the presidency of E. J.
Carnell, which accelerated under President David A. Hubbard with the departure
of several of the staunchest conservative members of the Faculty.
On the English scene, J. I. Packer and John R. W. Stott are singled
out because of their unwillingness to accept Martyn Lloyd-Jones challenge
in 1966 that evangelicals should give up the Anglican Church to its own
doldrums and concentrate on an effort by all evangelicals to unite in
a common fellowship and action. This was understood as an appeal to leave
the Church of England which Packer and Stott refused to do. The result,
Rev. Murray holds, was a splintering of the evangelical force and, as
a result of the marginalizing of Packer and Stott's leadership, a precipitous
decline of the clear-cut evangelical movement within Anglicanism.
The gradual estrangement of many in the Church of England who had been
considered as evangelicals is then carefully documented by Rev. Murray.
This includes the complete alienation of Dr. James Barr and the damaging
shift away from verbal inspiration of Dr. J. D. G. Dunn. Some leaders
who had formerly been strongly associated with the evangelical movement
came to endorse the view that "baptism is the visible sign of a Christian"
and we must practice unity with all the baptized. (p.99). This evidenced
a drift toward Anglo-Catholicism and even toward Roman Catholicism to
the great detriment of the recognition of the Reformation as a return
to New Testament Christianity singularly blessed by God Himself.
This last weakness, Rev. Murray avers, has a parallel in the American
movement call ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) which aroused
fiery opposition on the part of some evangelical leaders, while others,
no less evangelical, addressed the matter by correcting some flaws in
the original document, which the original evangelicals signers acknowledged,
without, however, renouncing the principle of evangelical co-belligerency
with the Roman Catholic Church against the grievous deterioration or even
abandonment of Judeo-Christian morality in the United States. As one who
has been during the whole period wholeheartedly committed to the evangelical
cause, inclusive of the inerrancy of Scripture and the centrality of the
substitutionary penal nature of the death of Christ, I must confess that
the reading of this book was a very melancholy task, particularly in areas
in which the book points to real weakenings that I am constrained to acknowledge.
There are certain demurrals that I am eager to present, lest the book
be considered to document a massive defection of evangelicalism.
1. The situation in 1950 was not ideal. Some of the defects mentioned
for the period 1950-2000 were already in evidence in 1950, in 1930, in
the 1920's, in 1900, in 1880, in 1850, throughout the 18th century, at
several points in the 1600's as well as during the life-time of our great
Reformers. Knowledge of church history will readily prove that no period
was free of defection. The constant need to reorganize monastic orders,
where separation from the world should have promoted lasting faith and
purity, certainly manifests that constant vigilance is imperative. The
sin-stained human heart is naturally Pelagian, and thus there is a natural
slippage toward a man-centered direction that must be continually resisted.
1950-2000 is no exception.
2. The people on whom Rev. Murray centers the blame happen to have been,
and to be still, if now alive, firm believers in the evangelical faith:
Billy Graham, Harold J. Ockenga, J. I. Packer, John R. W. Stott were
through this period and are wholly committed to the infallible authority
of scripture and to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ
alone. Certainly not one of them has given an example of deviation from
the faith they held in 1950.
Of course, people of sound faith may at times favor policies that turn
out to be damaging in the event. Perhaps if Billy Graham had adopted another
approach to co-operation with non-evangelical churches some loosening
of the faith might have been avoided. Perhaps if Dr. Ockenga had moved
to Pasadena in 1947, or at least in 1955, he could have prevented a change
in the statement of faith of Fuller Seminary, a loss of some of the staunchly
conservative faculty members, and a certain slippage in its evangelical
stance. Perhaps J. I. Packer and John Stott might have maintained a strong
leadership among Anglican evangelicals that would have warded off the
defection documented by Rev. Murray. To say this is to posit that their
churchmanship may not have been totally impeccable, but it should not
ever degenerate into thinking that their faith was in any way deficient.
Rev. Murray would be the first to acknowledge this, but his blame may
tend to mislead at this point. Let him whose churchmanship is always beyond
criticism cast the first stone.
Perhaps if Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had been careful in 1966 to prepare
some of his collaborators like Packer and Stott so as to make sure that
they understood his outlook and were ready to support him, instead of
springing his challenge when they were wholly unaware of his plan, the
Anglican group might not have foundered as it did.
3. While my acquaintance with the British Isles is not such as to permit
me to challenge Rev. Murray's portrayal, I believe that I have a sufficient
contact with the situation in the United States to warrant my suggestion
that the picture he presents here is not complete. In Christianity Today
for 9/6/96 I wrote an article entitled "What Evangelicalism Has Accomplished"
(pp 31-34) in reaction to the rather pessimistic assessment of David Wells
and Marc Noll. Here is some of the data adduced.
Seminaries. Although some conservative seminaries have toned down their
original evangelical stance, yet at this turn of the century out of 125
accredited Protestant seminaries, 55 are clearly evangelical. Furthermore
in some seminaries that had embraced the Biblical critical position some
thoroughly evangelical professors have been added to the faculty. Even
Harvard Divinity School has now a chair of evangelical theology!
Students. Almost half of those studying theology at the seminary level
are enrolled in these 55 seminaries. Moreover many are studying in evangelical
seminaries not yet in the accredited list and many evangelical students
are found in denominational seminaries that are not evangelical, but are
not losing their faith on this account. Since the pastoral ministry does
not greatly attract more liberal students, it would appear that there
would be soon a strong preponderance of evangelical pastors serving in
the pulpit. Seminary Professors in evangelical schools have received fuller
academic training than was the case in 1950, many of them holding doctorates
from high-rated schools. More adequate salaries and a lesser load of class
work combined with judicious sabbatical programs have enabled them to
pursue their studies and to publish.
The Evangelical Theological Society inaugurated in 1949 and requiring
a Master's degree or its equivalent for full membership, had 112 charter
members by mid-1950. At this point it numbers more than 3,132 members,
all of whom have declared and sign each year the following statement of
The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written,
hence inerrant in the autographs.
Libraries. In 1950 the theological libraries of evangelical institutions
were often very inadequate. By 2000 this defect has been very remarkably
Publications. In 1950 many were chiding evangelicals for being satisfied
with reprints of older works. In the latter half of the century, however,
a great production has taken place in the Biblical department (Introduction,
Dictionaries, Commentaries, Biblical Theology, Archaeology); Historical
department (Denominational Studies, Biographies, Monographs); Theological
department (Systematics, Ethics, Apologetics), and Practical department
(Homiletics, Evangelism, Counseling, Sermons, Edification). Evangelical
publishing houses have prospered and produce every year impressive catalogs.
The NIV prepared entirely by evangelicals is now the best-seller of the
Periodicals. More than 30 quarterlies are now issued under evangelical
Evangelism and Mission have continued to flourish among evangelicals,
while these activities have tended to wane when an unsound pluralism prevailed
in many churches.
Social Consciousness, that was sometimes flagging in 1950, has been
revitalized in many evangelical churches and para church movements.
All of these things and still others lead me to think that God has placed
us evangelicals in a time of unparalleled opportunity that we should be
eager to seize for the blessing of His people and for His glory. Rev.
Murray's book should alert us to the dangers that are ever threatening.
One of these is surely the temptation to dilute the truth in order to
accommodate the greatest number possible. But another danger is to permit
"Evangelicalism" to be divided and thus to blunt the force of
our united witness. It is my prayer that we may by God's grace avoid both
A Response to Dr. Nicole
lain H. Murray
[The following is taken from a letter written by Rev. Iain Murray to
Dr. Roger Nicole in response to the latter's review of the former's book,
Evangelicalism Divided, which also appears in this issue of the Founders
Journal. It is printed here with permission.]
Dear Dr Nicole,
I appreciate your kindness in letting me see your projected review of
Evangelicalism Divided and the time and thought which you have given to
this. I agree with your reason for the summary you gave towards the end
on evangelical growth. If people thought my book was intended to be a
history of evangelicalism as a whole in the last fifty years it would
leave them with a wrong negative impression. Another positive fact that
could be mentioned is the enormous sale of sound evangelical books in
the US, Jim Packer's Knowing God, for instance, selling upwards of quarter
of a million copies. I also agree entirely with your point . All generations
are flawed and fallible, In many things we offend all'. There is much
for which we can be thankful in the change since 1950.
I see the main point of my book differently from yourself. I think that
someone simply reading your review could think, "Oh, this is just
the old fundamentalist attack on people, and the same old targets."
I tried, you may think unsuccessfully, to be assessing policies, not people
and I took care, in places, to speak for the people whose thinking at
other points I criticise (e.g. I disagree with Archbishop Fisher on the
results of Harringay, p.56). Over against critics of Ockenga and Carnell,
I documented that their evangelical convictions did not change (in passing,
I don't recall I offering any opinion on how Ockenga's non-residence affected
things at Fuller). My main point is the historic evangelical understanding
of what it means to be a Christian and how that was challenged (chapter
1) by the liberal contention that it is not essential to believe any set
of doctrines to be a Christian. Granting the excesses of fundamentalism,
on that issue they were clear. The new evangelicalism (for want of a better
term, I don't use it in the book as a smear label) came to believe that
the older lines of division were too narrowly drawn and that, with more
'openness' and a better spirit, Christians in the major denominations
could be helped and the whole position strengthened. This thinking happened
to coincide with the ecumenical movement and thus to an atmosphere which
evangelicals believed to be conducive to a wider unity while they could
still maintain the biblical essentials. But ecumenism, as liberalism,
for the most part assumed a different definition of a Christian from that
of evangelicals, and the issue of division, as I have tried to relate
it, became whether or not evangelical convictions are necessary to be
a Christian. On that issue Graham, Stott and Packer have quite clearly
taken a position which none of them took in 1950 and which would have
been opposed generally throughout evangelicalism at that date. I think
the documentation on that point is unanswerable (see, for instance, pp.73-4,
119). My use of Fuller Seminary is to show that in trying to advance evangelical
belief they quickly ran into tension with non-evangelicals and that there
was no way to gain wider acceptance without a toning down of distinctives
(pp.188-9), the very problem Ockenga and Carnell discussed. On a much
larger scale Graham encountered the same problem and the solution to which
he moved was to accept that his earlier idea of Christian was much too
narrow. Now he professes to have no problem with either Robert Schuller
or the Church of Rome.
It was this tension that Dr Lloyd-Jones was addressing, not issues of
churchmanship. He argued that evangelicals could only be a part of ecumenism
if they accepted the ecumenical axiom that "we are all Christians"
and that by so doing, sooner or later, the importance of what is distinctive
and essential to evangelical belief would be seriously weakened and undermined.
I believe he was right. It is not the jettisoning of evangelical belief
by the leaders which I claim has happened (readers of your review could
think I do) but their changed stance on how that belief relates to forms
of religious thought which are inimical to it. In the end do the differences
really matter? They clearly don't matter much if men can deny the resurrection
of Christ and still be Christians (p.119 again). (You would notice I said
nothing on Dr Stott's views on eternal punishment; I was trying to keep
to the big issue which is at the center of the division).
My point in chapter 6, which I think is very relevant, is that the kind
of evangelism so blessed of God in history, depends on the conviction
that men must believe the truth or perish. Lloyd-Jones' great point was
that the primary issue is, What is a Christian? and that the ecumenical
involvement would necessarily involve a playing down of that issue (Similarly,
the quest for intellectual respectability involved a playing down of the
antithesis between the regenerate and unregenerate mind).
Following are a few points of detail, on which I simply give my opinion.
- Stott's leadership was not marginalized, not in the 1970s surely.
Packer's position was different.
- Regarding "baptism the visible sign", you quote from p.99
but on p. 101 I show this was the position now formally adopted by the
Anglican evangelical leadership.
- Schaeffer and others have long allowed social and moral action with
Roman Catholics; what was new in ECT was the commitment with respect
- Concerning your speculation that Lloyd-Jones did not speak with Packer
and Stott enough about his thinking which he made public at the 1966
meeting, I think here you are wrong. ML-J had plenty of contact with
Packer and Stott before the critical meeting of 1966, including discussion
on the subject in question.
May I add a final thought. We have to contend for the faith but we would
both agree that something more than right beliefs are needed. The power
of godliness is not widely in evidence in many churches today - prayer
meetings and powerful evangelistic preaching are not common. Certain correct
tenets of belief can appear to exist in people who see no conflict in
accepting views seriously at variance with those beliefs (I mentioned
Inter-Varsity men on this side of the Atlantic and on your side you have
such people as Clark Pinnock in the Evangelical Theological Society).
Among "our ranks" pragmatism is probably more widespread than
wrong beliefs. Your final warning on "the greatest number" is
surely right but that kind of thinking would appear to have eaten into
evangelicalism on both sides of the Atlantic. "Is it successful?"
becomes a primary question. If the main case of my book is true, the prevalence
of expediency is not unconnected with the policy of going for influence
at the expense of a clear-cut biblical stand.
Thank you again for this discussion.