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The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation

Chapter 9
The New Evangelicalism


By no means are all Evangelicals letting theological drift take place without any protest. We have already mentioned Harold Lindsell's Battle for the Bible and his call for the defense of inerrancy. Shortly before his death, Evangelical writer and apologist Francis Schaeffer warned in The Great Evangelical Disaster against the increased accommodation of Evangelicalism to worldliness. More recently, John MacArthur echoed Schaeffer's concerns. Likewise, although on a more scholarly level, David Wells warned against theological compromise that threatens the theological and intellectual underpinnings of Evangelicalism.50 Furthermore, some writers soundly criticized particular doctrinal deviations. MacArthur challenged the Charismatic movement, for example, and both he and R. C. Sproul spoke out against the accommodations Evangelicals are making to Roman Catholicism.51

Fundamentalists may read such critiques with great profit, but they should realize that the authors of these books still differ with them over ecclesiastical separation and even points of personal separation. Such writers take a commendable stand against error. Yet they remain part of a network of organizations and alliances that accepts and promotes tolerance of false teaching and wrong practice. It was part of the Neo-Fundamentalist error to assume that a common opposition to certain dangers provides a basis for unity between Fundamentalist and non-Fundamentalist Evangelicals. But as we have seen, the basis for unity must not be a common opposition to error but a common commitment to biblical truth and biblical practice.

We must observe that the New Evangelicalism and its heirs adopted wrong strategies that led them into error. They thought that they could make a greater impact on the world through what they considered a more intellectually credible presentation of orthodox Christianity. But as John Sanderson points out, liberals and secularists do not reject Christianity because it is poorly presented but because it is Christian.52 They thought they could make greater inroads for the gospel by cooperating with liberals in evangelism. But in doing so they made partners of the very people who were supposed to be the objects of evangelism. They thought that by lowering standards of personal separation they could accommodate and thereby attract the world. But as Jerry Huffman notes, "We cannot rescue a man sinking in quicksand by jumping in with him."53 Blurring the distinctions that God has set down is never a legitimate means of advancing the Christian faith.

Finally, we should remember that non-Fundamentalist and Fundamentalist Evangelicals are Christian brethren. Therefore, in his opposition to the teachings of the New Evangelical, the Fundamentalist must bear in mind Paul's command to "count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (II Thess. 3:15). The goal of separation from the New Evangelicalism is not only purity but also the restoration of Christian brethren. Admittedly, there does not seem to be a high success rate in urging Evangelicals to return to the biblical position concerning separation. But just as obedient Christians must practice biblical separation whatever the circumstances, so they must seek to admonish and win the erring Christian despite the discouragements they may face.

The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation. By Mark Sidwell. ©1998. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address:

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