Neo-Evangelical Movement


The modern “Evangelical Movement” has now been dubbed the “Neo-Evangelical movement” by many historians and church leaders. The reason for this is because the original Godly and Scriptural pillars and standards of Evangelicalism have been all but eroded away. The modern Evangelical movement now hardly resembles the original product. The term “Evangelical” was historically and doctrinally synonymous with the terms “Protestant” and “Sola Scriptura”(“Scripture Alone”). It came into being during the Reformation.

To be truly “Evangelical” in its original sense was to accept the Reformation pillars including Sola Fide (Faith alone) and Sola Scriptura. Books such as “Evangelicalism Divided” by Iain Murray or it’s less expensive yet excellent summary “The Unresolved Controversy”* detail the historic falling away from the original distinctives of Evangelicalism – a high view of Scripture alone; an emphasis on the Gospel; and a clear understanding of what a “Christian” is. In the mid 1940’s several church leaders believed that Evangelicalism needed change. They did not mean to throw out fundamental doctrines but they wished to be more respectable to the world and to take Evangelicalism into a wider field. Many of their motives may have been genuine but were nevertheless incorrect and unbiblical.

These men began to penetrate colleges and institutions attempting to make Evangelicals and Evangelicalism acceptable even to liberal and secular leaders. This inevitably lead to compromise. Compromise always lowers the original standard. Some of the factors hastening the falling away in Evangelical distinctives were caused by the early reactions to Fundamentalists who were vocal in their exposure of error and in their emphasis on separation. At the same time liberalism was flooding into many Evangelical Bible colleges. But by far the greatest erosion came with the rise of the ecumenical movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In 1957 Billy Graham conducted his first ecumenical crusade and was immediately taken to task by Fundamentalists. John R. Rice the editor of “Sword of the Lord” of which Graham was a co-operating member of the board, wrote to Graham asking him if he could still sign the doctrinal statement of “…verbal inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ , His blood atonement , salvation by faith… opposing modernism, worldliness, and formalism. Graham replied that he could not and resigned. The impact of “mass evangelism” was to bring people together who otherwise would not have had any doctrinal unity. Doctrine slowly became a non issue. The impact of “pragmatism” in overriding Biblical principles for the sake of unity cannot be understated. Pragmatism essentially derives conclusions based on results, no matter how subjective the results are. Mass evangelism produced quick and deceptively convincing results. Yet the long term fruit of such has proved nothing short of devastating to the western church.**

Graham further distanced himself from true Evangelicalism with his remarks about Charismatism, a movement not considered “Evangelical” at the time. In Christianity Today he stated that “By and large, it [Charismatism] has been a positive force in the lives of many people”. So too his remarks concerning Roman Catholicism and the Pope further distanced him from Evangelicalism.

In 1979 Graham called The Neo-Evangelical Movement Pope John Paul II “the moral leader of the world”, (Religious News Service, Sept. 27, 1979). In an article about the Pope in 1980, Graham said: “Pope John Paul II has emerged as the greatest religious leader of the modern world, and one of the greatest moral and spiritual leaders of the century”, (Saturday Evening Post , Jan./Feb. 1980).

Neo-Evangelicalism redefined the question “what is a Christian”. This was once an important query. However, over the years the benchmark became: “all those who accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and saviour are Christians”. Of course this immediately included liberals, Roman Catholics and other false religions. The test of salvation came to be based on the profession or “decision” of faith in Jesus rather than the preaching of sin, repentance and a changed life.

The neo-evangelical tide continued to flow strongly… in 1969 major church leaders and authors such as J.I. Packer co-authored books with Roman Catholics. In the 1970’s leaders such as John Stott were becoming increasingly ecumenical and universal in their attitude to salvation and Christianity.

In the 80’s and 90’s serious dialogue began with Roman Catholics and other non Evangelical groups which led to the unprecedented signing of documents such as “Evangelicals & Catholics Together”. These documents involved key “Evangelicals” who allowed the mish mashing of terms such as “faith”, “baptism” “the Gospel”, etc into a melting pot of ecumenical sewage which tasted foul to true Evangelicals, yet sweet to the neo-Evangelicals. The fruit of the neo-evangelical movement which has been most noticeable, and to which the founders would not have perhaps wished, is the watering down of the Biblical doctrines of innerrancy, authority and sufficiency.

With a falling away in the understanding of Sola Scriptura as it was originally taught, Pentecostals, Charismatics and even Roman Catholics openly called themselves “Evangelicals”. The final fruit was a “worldliness” or a new view of the world. Entertainment became a key to reaching the lost. Books with titles such as “The Worldly Evangelical” were applauded. Worship became experiential, entertaining and subjective in seeking pleasure. The Evangelical movement had opened the door to the world and the world had come in to take the movement into the world. Notice that this entry into the world was not for the purpose of reaching out to the world in evangelism but rather to appease and cater for the world and its thinking.

Because the true meaning of the term “Evangelical” has all but been lost and is not understood, I do not use the term for myself. However, the true “Evangelical” stands where the original Evangelicals stood – with a high view of the innerrancy and the complete sufficiency of Scripture; a desire to guard the Gospel and its preaching of sin and repentance; an understanding of what a “Christian” is and the fruit thereof; and a steadfastness in not negotiating and fellowshipping with false religions and movements but rather ministering to them and not with them. “Dig again the wells of water” (Gen.26) and “ask for the old paths, where is the good way”, (Jer.6:16)

In our article “The Greatest Deception” … the history of the Pentecostal movement. The author, (a direct descendant of a co-worker of Charles Parham who founded the movement), divorces himself from his own Pentecostal roots and ties, and documents the progression of the movement from its beginnings in Topeka in 1901. Nowhere do we see the authors doctrinal views or Pentecostal distinctives. There is no book in the world I know of that is as accurate, objective and readable as this book. It is a must for every Pentecostal and a must for every reference library.

The documentation is simply the best and most scholarly available. (There are 80 pages of notes, references and sources at the end of the book alone). The book also includes photographs and photostats of exhibits. The book defines clearly the Pentecostal movement as: “A Christian confession or ecclesiastical tradition holding the distinctive teaching that all Christians should seek a post- conversion religious experience called the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, and that a Spirit baptised believer may receive one or more of the supernatural gifts known in the early church: instantaneous sanctification, the ability to prophesy, practise divine healing, speaking in tongues (glossolalia), or interpret tongues”. Goff also takes the reader back to the holiness movement of the 19th Century, when there was a new emphasis on the Holy Spirit. The 1890’s saw radical holiness movements breaking away from Methodists, and the teaching of sanctification became divided into different views, including the erroneous view of what some now call “Entire Sanctification”.

Divisions in the doctrine of the Trinity also followed. It was Charles Parham who first formulated the definition of Pentecostalism by linking tongues with the Holy Spirit Baptism. “Glossolalia” (glosso-tongue/ lalia-speak ) became the proof or evidence of a post conversion experience. Parham actually had three main teachings which included the above. Two of these teachings were rejected: these were that Spirit filled believers are “sealed” as the bride of Christ, and that the “glossolalia” would be the tool for a world endtime revival, (P.173). However, the teaching of “the evidence of tongues” for a subsequent Baptism with the Spirit remained as the distinctive teaching that defined and separated the Pentecostal movement from historical Christianity.

An interesting thread to the movement shown by Goff is the Sociological aspect. At the inception of the movement there were social problems and influences that gave the new Pentecostal experience a climate in which it was readily accepted. That Charles Parham was the founder of the Pentecostal movement, is well proved in this book. It is only in more recent times that the Pentecostal movement has sought to distance itself from this history. The reason becomes clear when one reads the documentation of the life of Parham… Earlier in life Parham had suffered a viral infection of the brain which some believe caused him to behave in a disorderly manner. He was in fact rejected for ordination by the Methodist Church. He denied the doctrine of eternal punishment, opposed medical and medicational treatment and believed serious diseases to be demonic. He was also influenced by a cult like centre called “Shiloh” run by a Frank Sandford near Durham, Maine, and believed that missionaries could be endowed with special powers for last days mission work.

Parham was documented as having mental, emotional, psychological and sociological disorders. In 1907 he was arrested for homosexual acts with a 22 year old man in San Antonio, Texas. From then unto his death in 1929 he was considered by the movement as a “fallen prophet”. However, he continued his religious endeavours up to the end, including raising funds for a trip to the Holy Land to search for the Ark of the Covenant. This trip never materialised as Parham claimed to have been “mugged” in New York and had all his money “stolen”. Many writers and leaders have sought to reject Parham as the founder. But it was Parham who founded the first Pentecostal magazine called “Apostolic Faith”, he issued the first Pentecostal minister credentials, and it was he who first formulated the new Pentecostal doctrine of a subsequent Baptism With the Spirit. Parham was a Bible College teacher at Topeka, Kansas, USA and mentor of a William Seymour who founded the Azusa St. church some years later to which various Pentecostal affiliations trace their roots.

The [unknown] Tongues movement is clearly traced to Topeka in 1901. Before this only isolated cases of unknown tongue speaking can be found with mystics, Roman Catholics and extreme sects, and some isolated occurrences by individuals during holiness camp meetings. The part of this book that should shock all Christians is the history of the Topeka event in 1901 where the “tongues movement” began. This event also documents Parham’s true understanding of “tongues”.

Parham did not believe in unknown tongues but rather “Zenoglossa” – (Zeno-foreign/ Glosso-tongue speaking). He believed true tongues to be real human earthly foreign languages as in Acts 2 and they would be supernaturally and instantly given to Christians for the purpose of missionary work in other countries. After suffering a nervous breakdown in 1899 Parham attempted to reproduce Acts 2. However, the event at Topeka was proved to be something very different. Parham later rejected the same phenomenon at Azusa St. which had been imparted by Seymour. The unknown tongues of today are traced precisely to the Topeka event and the later Azusa St.

The book traces the developments of Azusa St. and Parham’s eventual denouncement of this movement as occultic. Much of this history is today being rewritten or is presented selectively, but this book leaves no stone unturned and the background of references and bibliography is simply exhaustive. At times this book reads like a novel as it traces the fascinating history of men such as Parham and Seymour to the very end. Christians who are lovers of truth will want to read this scarce classic and learn from history. Whatever one thinks of the Pentecostal movement, the irrefutable documentation in this book will enlighten and give a source of valuable information as to how, where and why this movement originated.