In this recent e-Journal by 9Marks ministry (Jan/Feb 2010, 7:1), various notable evangelical theologians including Carl Trueman, R. Albert Mohler, Phil Johnson, Mike Horton and Darryl Hart have written excellent articles on the state of the church — On the "New Evangelical Liberalism".
As written in the editor's note:
In general, the danger of liberalism, which we define broadly as gospel-denial within the church, occurs when we allow the world's demands to ring a little too loudly in our ears. It occurs when we let the world dictate the terms of our beliefs or practices. Or when we let the world determine, "These things are good and worthy, not those things," or, "This is the salvation we are looking for." As soon as we let the world influence the terms of the church's life and mission, we have let another authority enter the house and tie up the king of the church, Christ.
A question for evangelicals to ask themselves is, has the way we think about church prepared us for compromise? The challenge for churches, we're told, is striking the balance between isolation and assimilation. Usually, this translates into, "Change your church structures and the way you talk, but not your doctrine." The trouble is, changing our structures and the way we talk changes the way we think, because words and structures shape thinking. For instance, change how you talk about the gospel and your congregation will think differently about the gospel. Change what membership means, to use another example, and your congregation will begin to understand the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of God's love—and so God himself—differently. In short, the question about finding the balance between isolation and assimilation may be the wrong question. It may open a side door through which the authority of the world sneaks into the church. Wouldn't a better question be, how can we be utterly faithful to God's Word in everything? After all, faithfulness will preclude both isolation and assimilation. It's often been suggested that the doctrinally aberrant Emergent church is a reaction to fundamentalism. This may be true for some individuals, but could it be that the Emergent church's doctrinal aberrations are more the result of an entire generation who grew up in doctrinally anemic seeker-sensitive churches?
It's in this light that evangelicals should always be willing to "examine ourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5), especially since our very place of strength is also our Achilles Heel. Our desire to reach the world is what can lead us to mimic the world. Many things in our churches are encouraging, but some things are discouraging. And for the sake of love, we should, from time to time, take stock of those places where we will be tempted to compromise the gospel and move toward liberalism. That's what this issue of the 9Marks eJournal tries to do.
Michael Lawrence, Carl Trueman, Al Mohler, and Phil Johnson examine how liberalism happens and offer wise counsel for the academic and the pastor's heart. Greg Gilbert, Michael Ovey, Russell Moore, and I point to several specific areas where evangelicals appear to be walking on thin ice (yet a careful reader will notice a slight divergence of views here). Greg Wills, Michael Horton, and Darryl Hart present notable lessons from history, which Bobby Jamieson rounds out by observing some striking similarities between the ecumenical movement of the 20th century and evangelicalism today. Finally, Mack Stiles does the hard work of challenging one particular organization which he loves, I dare say, with the love of Christ— a love which is willing to both build up and tear down for the purposes of holiness and glory.
Dear reader, we offer these pieces not to be alarmists or critics, but in the attempt to be lovers of our churches and yours. Where we overstep, we ask for your patience and loving correction in return.
Do check out ALL the articles in this journal, as it speaks much to the state of the New Evangelical movement in our day. I would be going through some of them here also myself in subsequent posts