New-Model “Evangelicalism”

In recent decades, there has been a movement among born-again Christian groups in Western countries which has aimed to remove the influence of the concepts of Roman law which the early church leader Tertullian (155-220A.D.) and others incorporated into Christian teaching. This movement has correctly exposed the wrong influence of Roman unbiblical ideas about merit, satisfaction and associated matters in certain church traditions.

One offshoot of this movement has been the growth of a new Protestant belief-system which has been named New-Model “Evangelicalism”. In an article entitled “Evangelical Megashift – Why you may not have heard about wrath, sin and hell recently” in the “Christianity Today” magazine dated February 19, 1990, a number of Protestant Bible teachers discussed the New-Model “Evangelical” movement within Protestant churches. I will quote from parts of this article later.

 

A dreadful mixture of truth and error

 

New-Model “Evangelicalism” retains some Biblical teaching on God’s love, grace, mercy, the Trinity, God as Father, God as Creator, God’s covenants, forgiveness of sin, being born again, having Christ's righteous nature imparted to believers, trusting in the Holy Spirit and some other matters.

But New-Model “Evangelicalism” corrupts much Biblical teaching on God’s righteousness, His justice, His judgements, His wrath, sin, substitution, redemption, justification, the purposes of God’s Law and hell by trying to remove totally or as much as possible any court-of-law or justice understanding of these things. This is even though the Bible itself contains many teachings which have a court-of-law basis from God’s and not a Roman law perspective.

God is a combined Supreme Ruler and Judge and not a Judge alone. Therefore, God’s Throne and Court are combined. His judgements are both governmental and court of law.

 

The main teachings of New-Model “Evangelicalism”

 

New-Model “Evangelicals”:

 

         redefine God’s righteousness merely or mainly as His faithfulness to His covenants. They do not like the idea there are absolute rights and wrongs which are related to God’s righteousness. In the Bible, God’s righteousness mainly refers to the fact God is absolutely right in His nature, character, thoughts, words and actions and that as a result everything He defines as right is absolutely right and whatever He defines as wrong is absolutely wrong. God’s righteousness includes His faithfulness to His covenants but is not limited to or mainly this.

         view God and the Bible through partly pagan viewpoints because of their partial acceptance of pagan relativist and existentialist views of truth, error, right and wrong. Relativism is the wicked belief there is nothing which is absolutely true. Relativism also sinfully claims there are no absolute changeless moral standards which apply to all people in all situations. Existentialism has many varieties, but it teaches nothing is objectively true including what is taught in the written Word of God.

         have a tendency to change Biblical absolutes about various moral matters into more compromising flexible guidelines and “tolerant feel-good” solutions which rename sins as “problems” or “weaknesses” or “psychological maladjustments” or “ignorance”.

         tend to label more Biblical Evangelicals as “judgemental legalists” for teaching moral absolutes about homosexuality, abortion, sexual petting before marriage and many similar matters. [1]

         water-down the Biblical teaching of God as Judge to mean He is only a Saviour-Deliverer type of Judge.

         teach the heretical views of C. H. Dodd about God’s wrath. Dodd was a Neo-Orthodox non-Evangelical scholar from Oxford, Manchester and Cambridge Universities in England. He taught that God is not personally angry with unbelieving sinners and about their sins.

         describe sin with no reference to God as Judge or to His perfect justice. Sin cannot be described just in terms of God’s justice and judgements. But sin must be partly described in this way.

         try to excuse their own extremism by pretending that believers who disagree with them only preach about God’s wrath, His judgements and hell all the time. They mockingly call these “fire and brimstone preachers”.

         infer that preaching about God’s wrath, His judgement and hell is only for some past uneducated unsophisticated age. They do not realise that for example, prior to the era of John Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathon Edwards, the Deist and liberal Protestants in Britain, Europe and the United States rid multitudes of churches of preaching about God’s wrath, His judgment and hell. Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards and other great revivalists preached about God’s love, grace, mercy, Fatherhood, righteousness, judgements and wrath and not just some of these things.

         teach our relationship to God should be seen only or almost exclusively in terms of His love, grace, mercy and covenants, with no or very little emphasis on any forensic relationship between God the Supreme Ruler and Judge and us.

         do not believe in the Biblical doctrine of substitution. New-Model “Evangelicals” oppose the Biblical teaching that God the Judge has pronounced a sentence of eternal punishment on all sinful unbelievers. They do not believe God operates partly on the basis of a perfectly just system of punishments. As a result, they do not believe Christ needed to act as a substitute on the Cross for sinners. Under the New Model “Evangelical” system, Christ's death is mostly seen as important but not absolutely necessary.

         say the Biblical teaching on redemption through Jesus’ death does not involve a payment by God through Christ to the demands of His perfect justice.

         do not believe one of the purposes of God’s Law is to show unrepentant unbelieving sinners that God the Judge has pronounced them “Guilty” and “Eternally Condemned”. As a result, New-Model “Evangelicals” despise the type of preaching which uses God’s commandments to reveal to unbelievers their sins and their condemned legal standing before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge.

         tend to believe many “religious” and supposedly “good” people will be saved even though the latter have clearly heard the Gospel, never had trusting faith in Jesus Christ and never experienced a conversion and an associated turning from known sin. New-Model “Evangelicals” do not teach all will be saved. But they believe in a “middle-road” to heaven which is somewhere between the narrow and broad roads Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:13-14.

         despise preaching which emphasises repentance and turning from sins.

 

Note New-Model “Evangelicals” vary among themselves. Some advocate all the above heresies. Others only teach some of these. Even some previously sound Evangelical Bible teachers have been influenced by the writings of New-Model “Evangelicals”.

 

Ignorant of differences between God’s justice and Roman justice

 

New-Model “Evangelicals” love Biblical passages which use family and covenant language in reference to their relationship to God. But they try to explain away other verses using court-of-law justice language about their relationship to Him.

New-Model “Evangelicals” do not understand the differences between the unbiblical pagan Roman law teachings of writers like Tertullian and the court-of-law justice teachings frequently found throughout the Bible. They equate pagan Roman ideas about courts of law with Biblical teachings on God as Supreme Ruler and Judge.

Just because Tertullian emphasised a certain amount of Biblical court-of-law justice teaching but added to it numerous pagan Roman law concepts, does not mean all Bible teachers and preachers who emphasise Biblical teaching about God’s justice and judgements add pagan Roman law concepts to this.

It is just as ridiculous to say that because the Russian monk Rasputin taught the wicked idea that God’s grace justified him having sex with many women outside of marriage, this means all who teach about God’s grace practise and make excuses about sexual immorality also.

In the past, some Christians overemphasised the court-of-law aspects of God’s righteousness and judgement and underemphasised His love, grace and Fatherhood. But now New-Model “Evangelicals” are falling into the opposite tragic error.

 

Quotes from the “Christianity Today” article

 

Below are parts of the previously mentioned article “Evangelical Megashift – Why you may not have heard about wrath, sin and hell recently”:

“One of the most obvious features of new-model evangelicalism is an emphasis on recalling the warmth of a family relationship when thinking about God…So instead of being dragged trembling into a law court, we are to breathe in the atmosphere of a loving family…

Another word with shifting connotations is judge. The word has two quite different meanings, it is argued. Instead of a Roman law court, the new emphasis derives its understanding from the books of Judges, Samuel and Kings. Judges such as Deborah or Gideon or Samuel are portrayed as defenders of their people. They may have to settle petty quarrels, but their concern is the freedom and peace of the people…

In new-model theology, a fourth term, wrath – specifically God’s wrath – similarly means something different from the old-model understanding. Wrath connotes not angry punishment but the bad consequences God assigns, as any loving parent might, to destructive or wrongful behavior. The word wrath as used in the Old Testament, it is argued, is not primarily a law-court term. It never means sending people to an eternal hell. In fact, it can simply be translated “bad consequences” – the bad consequences of pestilence, drought, and famine, or the ravages of wild animals and invading armies, experienced in the here and now. Likewise, Jesus spoke of terrible consequences that would come about in the fall of Jerusalem – for his generation.

So wrath is more like a loving encouragement or rebuke to help us into (or keep us in) the fold. New-model evangelicals shrink from using the terrors of hell to scare people into making a decision. From the old-model point of view, that approach misses the fact that God can send us to hell, and that the only hope is to accept what Christ has done to save us from the damnation we deserve.” [2]

 

Don Carson’s comments on aspects of New-Model Evangelicalism

 

D. A. Carson, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois asked the following challenging questions in relation to New-Model “Evangelicalism”:

“Take the “old-model” notion of penal substitutionary atonement. Does it rest on so narrow a base as the Roman system of justice…? What about the Old Testament with its scapegoat, Passover lamb, and sacrificial system? If the Passover lamb was slaughtered in order to protect the first-born son, and if Christ is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19) is not new-model evangelicalism based rather restrictively on the Incarnation at the expense of the Cross?

And is the wrath of God in Scripture nothing more than ‘bad consequences…experienced in the here and now’? What do we make of the fact that Jesus speaks of hell (both hades and gehenna) far more often than all other biblical characters put together? Granting that there are countless temporal (or earthly) judgements in Scripture, are there no eternal ones?…If the Cross is not payment in some sense what did it achieve? Scottish theologian James Denney answered that decades ago when he pictured a man running along Brighton pier, crying out to the world, ‘I love you! I love you! And I’ll prove my love for you!’ With that, the man jumps off the end and drowns. Has he proved his love? Has he saved anyone? Or does his action merely prove he was demented?” [3] The word “incarnation” above refers to God the Son being clothed in human nature.

 

An adulterous mixture of Biblical and anti-Christian teachings

 

New-Model “Evangelicalism” has rightly attacked the influence of Roman law concepts in some Catholic and Protestant teaching but has poor Scriptural roots in many major matters.

New Model “Evangelicalism” is an adulterous mixture of some Biblical teaching with the ideas of humanists like Carl Rogers, various liberal-modernist Protestant heresies, the teachings of unbiblical ethical systems like situational ethics and the errors of Neo-Orthodox theologians like Soren Kierkegaard, Emil Brunner and C. H. Dodd. [4] Humanists, Liberal-modernist and Neo-Orthodox Protestants reject or modify the Biblical teachings on God as Judge, His justice, His wrath, sin, substitution, redemption, the purposes of the Law and hell similarly to how New-Model “Evangelicals” do.

Liberal-modernist and Neo-Orthodox Protestants also reject the foundational truth that the Bible teaches objective absolute truths. Liberals and Neo-Orthodox also say Adam was not an historical person but was only a myth or fable. They say the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Books of the Bible only contain the Word of God, but are not the Word of God in every verse. The same tendencies are seen among many (but not all) New-Model “Evangelicals”.

I pray that God empowers His Church to throw off the alluring bondages of New-Model “Evangelicalism”.

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         List the main teachings of New-Model “Evangelicalism”.

2.         What anti-Christian teachings do New-Model Evangelicals combine with Biblical teachings?

 


 


[1] Refer to Chapter                  “Liberalising and backsliding in U.S. Evangelicalism” to see the effects of the infiltration of such New-Model “Evangelical” attitudes into many American, previously Evangelical colleges and theological colleges in recent decades.

[2] “Christianity Today”, February 19, 1990, Christianity Today Inc, Carol Stream, Illinois, pages 12-13.

[3] Ibid, pages 14-15.

[4] The Neo-Orthodox writer C. H. Dodd originated various heretical views of God’s wrath and propitiation. Refer to Chapter…….. “God the Perfect Judge” and to Chapter           “Propitiation” for more details.

 

 


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