Apostasy #7 – New Evangelicalism
Woe to the People Pleasers!
We find a good example of a disobedient “people pleaser” in 1 Samuel 15.
Samuel approached King Saul with a message from the Lord. “I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has…”
But Saul spared the king of the Amalekites, Agag, and the people kept the best of the sheep alive. Then to compound his sin, King Saul immediately erected a monument to himself at Carmel! Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command, and then justified himself when Samuel accused him of failing to obey the Lord. Eventually, Saul admitted to Samuel that he had sinned. He said, “I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words because I feared the people and listened to their voice.” But it was too late. God was going to remove Saul from the throne.
Even when Saul understands his sin and its consequences, we see no fruit of repentance. He immediately asks Samuel “please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” He is still a people pleaser. He preferred the honor of men over the honor of God.
The moral of the story? Obey the Lord when he gives you a task to perform. Do it completely and accurately. We are told to preach the gospel – a specific message. New Evangelicals, due to their people pleasing tendencies, modify the message and the methods because they “fear the people.” While they may be quite popular, you can be sure that they are rejected by God. Still, in their own minds they consider themselves highly successful. They may even erect a library to celebrate their lifetime of faithfulness.
The seeds of New Evangelicalism grew as a reaction to the “Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy.” Desiring to have greater influence in academia and society, some evangelicals denied that separation from apostasy is necessary to protect the Church of Jesus Christ. Below is an article by Richard Bennett (www.bereanbeacon.org).
The Alignment of New Evangelicals with Apostasy
Evangelicals throughout the centuries have maintained that by justification by faith—and
by faith alone—sinful human beings are in Christ made right before the all Holy God.1
Justification itself is a judicial declarative act on the part of God alone. By it, He declares that
only in Christ is a man perfectly just. His judicial declarative act is not made on the basis of
anything within a man, but rather it is made solely and wholly upon the righteous life and
sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Savior lived a perfect life and upon the cross paid
the just penalty for all the sins of His people. Historically, Evangelicals have been in agreement
with the Apostle Paul, “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly,
his faith is counted for righteousness.”2
A person calling himself Evangelical is professing to be committed to the Gospel of
Christ as proclaimed in Scripture. The true Gospel demands separation from all who teach
another Gospel. As the Apostle declared, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any
other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we
said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have
received, let him be accursed.”3 “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but
rather reprove them.”4 Without such separation the name Evangelical signifies nothing. “New
Evangelicalism”, which willingly compromises with and accommodates another Gospel, has
gained ground everywhere, beginning in the early 1960s. Since then, the Evangelical world has
changed beyond recognition.5
The first and second National Evangelical Anglican Conferences that met at Keele and
Nottingham in the UK in 1967 and 1977, respectively, were primed to launch and further the
new policy of Anglican Evangelicals towards ecumenism. There was a now desire on the part of
New Evangelicals to be united with ritualistic Anglicans, who were essentially Roman Catholic
in belief and practice; and liberals who believed in a fallible Bible. Leading Evangelicals, such
as John Stott and J.I. Packer, endorsed the statements from these. John Stott, who chaired the
first conference at Keele, made clear that the conference was accepting not only Anglo-Catholics
and liberals, but Roman Catholics also: “All who confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and
Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek together to fulfill their common calling to
the glory of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have a right to be treated as Christians, and it
is on this basis that we wish to talk with them.”6 The conference at Nottingham went further
than Keele, giving the compromise already proclaimed a complete seal of approval. Nottingham also endorsed and praised the Charismatic movement and is remembered for David Watson’s
reference to the Reformation as “one of the greatest tragedies that ever happened to the church.”7
The most extensive exodus from biblical faith
The most drastic departure from true Evangelicalism, however, took place in the United States in
1994, some seventeen years after the Nottingham Conference. At the end of March 1994, a
group of twenty leading Evangelicals and twenty leading Roman Catholics produced a document
entitled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium”
The two main instigators of this ecumenical thrust were Charles Colson and Richard John
Neuhaus, a Lutheran pastor turned Roman Catholic priest. The specific task was begun in
September, 1992. Larry Lewis of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention,
Jesse Miranda of Assemblies of God, John White of the Geneva College and National
Association of Evangelicals; and others, including two Jesuits, Avery Dulles and Juan Diaz-
Vilar, joined Colson and Neuhaus in the writing process. Cardinal Idris Cassidy, the Head of the
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was said by Richard Neuhaus to have given
“very active support throughout the process.” The Evangelical signatories included J. I. Packer,
Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, Mark Noll of Wheaton College, and Pat Robertson of
The 700 Club. Roman Catholic signers included such well know figures as Cardinal John
O’Connor, now deceased, Archbishop Sevilla, Archbishop Stafford, and Bishop Francis George,
now Archbishop of Chicago.
The Gospel according to ECT
The signers of ECT readily admit to “differences that cannot be resolved here”. Nevertheless,
motivated by the desire to face important moral issues together, the authors of ECT flatly state
that Evangelicals and Catholics are one in Christ, and that all are truly Christians.8 The primary
fallacy of the lengthy document is its declaration on the Gospel. The signers state what they
believe comes closest to the Gospel of Christ when they declare, “We affirm together that we are
justified by grace through faith because of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing
less than the love of Christ….”9 To be biblical, this statement should read, “We affirm together
that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” The word “alone”
signifies that the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus — and that alone — is sufficient before the
all Holy God to justify unholy sinners.10 To so define justification, however, would exclude the
Catholic sacraments and the priests who control them, both of which are necessary for the
Catholic people.11 Thus a subtraction had to be made from the Gospel of Christ by excluding
what is signified by the word “alone”. In a similar manner an addition had to made to the
Gospel. The ECT addition that redefines faith is, “living faith active in love.” “Living faith”
implies works and to Catholics, baptism in particular. This is documented in present day official teaching of the Church of Rome where Rome teaches, “the very root of the Church’s living faith
[is] principally by means of Baptism.”12 It is the same addition to faith that was proclaimed by
the Roman Catholic Church at her Council of Trent in 1547, “For faith, unless hope and charity
be added to it, neither unites one perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of his
body….”13 The theology of the Church of Rome always comes back to the concept of “living
faith” so as to include “works righteousness” and particularly in her sacraments, that she defines
as necessary for salvation.14
The New Evangelical signers of ECT have concurred with the Roman Catholic definition
of “living faith active in love”, and thus they have formally agreed to an addition to the Gospel
that nullifies its message. If the New Evangelicals do in fact believe the Roman Catholic
concept of “living faith,” then logically they ought also to endorse Rome’s curse upon all who
have simple faith in God’s grace—as was officially done by Rome at the Council of Trent,
“If anyone shall say that by faith alone the sinner is justified, so as to understand that nothing
else is required to cooperate in the attainment of the grace of justification, and that it is in no
way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will: let him be
To endorse Roman Catholic teaching, therefore, is to deny the clear teaching of Scripture, “But
after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”16
Disturbing effects of ECT
The devastating effect of the New Evangelical compromise with the Gospel is to put a stop to the
evangelizing of Roman Catholics across the world. If this compromise of the true Gospel of
Jesus Christ is accepted, then Bible-believing Churches will refrain from evangelizing Catholics.
The impact on the true Church in third world Catholic countries of Central and South America,
in Africa, as well as in Spain, Portugal, and the Philippines, is already apparent. If this antievangelical
trend continues unchecked it will become ruinous to the spiritual welfare of millions
of souls. But this is exactly the policy the ECT signatories promote when they state, “…it is
neither theologically legitimate nor a prudent use of resources for one Christian community
[church] to proselytize [evangelize] among active adherents of another Christian community.”17
Since when has it been theologically illegitimate to expose error and heresy?
Compounded endorsement of Rome
On November 12, 1997, a second document, entitled “The Gift of Salvation”, was signed and
published by Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders. Its expressed intention was to
demonstrate the “common faith” of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, and to further
“acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.” It was published in the December
8, 1997, issue of Christianity Today. Explicitly, the Roman Catholic signatories such as Richard John Neuhaus and Avery Dulles, S.J., state in the document that they are “Catholics who are
conscientiously faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church.” The Roman Catholic doctrine
of conferred justification is taught as the Gospel. The New Evangelicals are now joined together
in not only giving a clouded Gospel-Justification message, but also in a distinctively erudite
manner, endorsing Rome’s doctrine of conferred inner righteousness.
A studied denial of the Gospel
This second ecumenical document states, “Justification is central to the scriptural account of
salvation, and its meaning has been much debated between Protestants and Catholics.” Then it
claims that the signers have reached agreement. Their statement of accord is,
“We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is
entirely God’s gift, conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness, out of the love that he
bears us in his Son, who suffered on our behalf and rose from the dead for our justification.
Jesus was ‘put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification’ (Romans 4:25). In
justification, God, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his
rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends, and by virtue of his declaration it is so.”
The subject under review is stated clearly in the first sentence. “We agree that justification…is
conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness.” But it is only by careful reading that one
comes to see what the two pivotal sentences state grammatically, “…it [justification] is entirely
God’s gift, conferred [rather than imputed]…and by virtue of his [God’s] declaration it
[justification conferred] is so.” This is traditional Roman Catholic doctrine. To employ the
Roman Catholic word “conferred” instead of the biblical word “imputed” is tantamount to
putting aside the authority of Scripture on the issue of justification. Since medieval times, the
Roman Catholic Church has clearly distinguished between the concept of imputation and the
Thomist concept of God’s grace conferred as a quality of the soul.18 Since the Council of Trent
she has condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. Present day dogma of the
Roman Catholic Church not only upholds the teaching of the Council of Trent but also declares
that such Councils are infallible.19 The Council of Trent proclaims the following curse:
“If anyone shall say that by the said sacraments of the New Law, grace is not conferred from
the work which has been worked [ex opere operato] but that faith alone in the divine
promise suffices to obtain grace: let him be anathema.”20
Rome’s reason for such a curse on those who hold to “justification by faith alone” and to
“justification imputed” is logical because of what she refuses to concede. For her, justification is
not an immediate one-time act of God received by faith alone. Rather, she teaches that grace is
conferred continually through her sacraments. Thus she is able to make a place for herself as a
necessary means through which inner righteousness is given. She teaches this in her Catechism,
“Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the
righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.”21 Because inner
righteousness, which is claimed to have been conferred, is located in the person, and not located in Christ, it can be lost and may need to be conferred again and again. Thus Rome officially
states, “…the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace
of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as ‘the second plank (of
salvation) after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.’”22
“Conferred justification” is necessary for Rome because of her claim that the work of her
sacraments is the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus she states, “‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of
the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament.”23 Calling “sacramental grace”
the “grace of the Holy Spirit” is pretentious blasphemy against the All Holy God. What is
declared in Scripture is the imputation of God’s righteousness in the Lord Jesus Christ; it is to
“…be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”24 The Roman Catholic
Church’s persistence in using the word “conferred” is an attempt to exchange her sacraments for
Jesus Christ, the Lord and giver of life.
Alignment by means of Catholic dogma
In the face of such clarity—both on the part of Scripture and on the part of the Roman Catholic
Church—this New Evangelical distortion claims that both sides now agree that the issue of
division between Protestants and Roman Catholics for nearly five centuries is now resolved.
This it does precisely by using Roman Catholic terminology. The Apostle Paul continually used
the concept of imputation (crediting, reckoning or counting); for example he used the term
eleven times in Romans Chapter Four, a summary of which is verse five, “But to him that
worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for
righteousness.” Now this pivotal truth of God’s righteousness in the Lord Jesus Christ imputed
to the believer is undermined in the document’s most horrifying concept, “…and by virtue of his
[Holy God’s] declaration it [justification conferred] is so”. With like audacity Rome has always
taught from the Council of Trent to the present day.
Defense of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together”
The most serious apologetic for the document entitled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together:
The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium”(ECT) is in the book of the same title
Evangelicals & Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission.25 The architects of ECT were
well aware of the crucial distinctions with regards to the Gospel separating Catholics and
Evangelicals, but they chose to by-pass them. J.I. Packer writes in Common Mission, “Neither
evangelicals nor Roman Catholics can stipulate that things they believe, which the other side
does not believe, be made foundational to partnership at this point; so ECT lets go Protestant
precision on the doctrine of justification and the correlation between conversion and new birth.…”26 That such compromise is unbiblical is seen from his statements earlier in the same
article when he said, “…Roman teaching obscures the Gospel and indeed distorts it in a
tragically anti-spiritual and unpastoral manner…”27 and “Rome’s official doctrinal disorders,
particularly on justification, merit, and the Mass-sacrifice, so obscure the Gospel that were I, as a
gesture of unity, invited to mass—which of course as a Protestant I am not, nor shall be—I
would not feel free to accept the invitation.”28
Packer towards the end of the article speaks of the evils of “humanism”, “materialism,
hedonism and nihilism”. To rebuild a Christian consensus, he proposes that “…domestic
differences about salvation and the Church should not hinder us from joint action in seeking to
re-Christianize the North American milieu…”29 These are amazing words from the author of
Knowing God. The orthodox Evangelical J. I. Packer of old spoke of the doctrine of justification
by faith alone, sola fide, as “like Atlas, it bears a world on its shoulders, the entire evangelical
knowledge of saving grace”! Now the same saving faith is downgraded to the “domestic
differences about salvation.” In a 1994 article, “Why I Signed It”, he refers to sola fide (faith
alone) as “small print.”
Most serious and bizarre defense
Packer, who leads the New “Reformed” Evangelicals, has struggled to explain his position. In a
1996 article he asks,
“Can conservative Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and mainstream Roman Catholics join
together in bearing witness to all that I have spoken of? I urge that we can, despite our
known and continuing differences about the specifics of the salvation process and the place
of the church in that process…To be sure fundamentalists within our three traditions are
unlikely to join us in this, for it is the way of fundamentalists to follow the path of
contentious orthodoxy, as if the mercy of God in Christ automatically rests on persons who
are notionally correct and is just as automatically withheld from those who fall short of
notional correctness on any point of substance. But this concept of, in effect, justification,
not of works, but of words — words, that is, of notional soundness and precision¾is near to
being a cultic heresy in its own right and need not detain us further now, however much we
may regret the fact that some in all our traditions are bogged down in it.”30
No orthodox Evangelical has ever maintained that “notional soundness and precision”, that is,
doctrinal theory, ever saved anyone. Rather, orthodox Evangelicals have always held to Romans
10:10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation.” It appears that Packer is here conducting a little casuistry of his own. He
is attempting to preempt his critics by raising an anti-biblical dichotomy between head and heart.
This is an old liberal tactic, that is, to create an unbiblical dichotomy and then imply and
insinuate that any party who refuses to acknowledge it, must in the nature of the case, be
unspiritual, opposed to Christian love. None of the historic Evangelical confessions of faith hold
out that mere doctrinal “soundness” saves anyone. This is an absurd caricature. Rather orthodox Evangelicals today, even as they did in the days of the Apostle Paul and at the Reformation,
declare that it is the righteousness of Christ Jesus alone that saves a person!
What Packer does in setting aside the crux of the issue that justification is by grace alone
through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone is thoroughly in tune with the practice of the Church of
Rome. For Sola Fide, faith alone, is the issue for which the Apostle Paul contended against the
Judaisers and for which the Reformers contended against the Roman Catholics of their day. It
was the burning issue, foundational to why so many thousands of Evangelicals gave their lives at
the stake—John Huss, William Tyndale, John Rogers, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Anne
Askew, John Bradford, and John Philpot, to name but a few The ardent desire of true
Evangelicals to “be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but
that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,”31 was and is
the heart of the Gospel, not “contentious orthodoxy” nor “cultic heresy”. Christ Jesus’
righteousness is the crown jewel of orthodoxy, the pivotal doctrine of truth revealed again by
God in its rediscovery, which began the Reformation.
Dr. Packer has chosen to deny the very doctrine that once stood for him like Atlas and
bore a world on its shoulders. What Packer has done is to deny the importance of the Scriptures
on the precise point of Sola Fide. He also denies the Reformation history of those Evangelicals
who under the Roman Catholic Inquisition gave their lives, not for any correctness in words, but
rather for their faith in Christ Jesus alone.
“Separation for the sake of the gospel is not necessary”
In the same book, Richard Neuhaus stated emphatically, “If, at the end of the twentieth century,
separation for the sake of the gospel is not necessary, it is not justified.”32 What Neuhaus was
effectively saying is that the Gospel is no longer relevant to Christian unity. This seems to be the
precise intent of the 1994 ECT document and equally the 1997 “The Gift of Salvation”
document. If true Evangelicals do not combat this heinous attack on the Gospel, then Neuhaus’
anti-Scriptural words “separation for the sake of the gospel is not necessary or justified” might
well fall on them and their children after them. If the lie is swallowed that separation for the
sake of the Gospel is not justified, then the logical conclusion is that Churches should cave in
and submit to the Church of Rome. This has always been the avowed goal of the Roman
Catholic Church, as her documents verify.
Neuhaus argues that “to declare it [justification by faith alone] to be the article by which
the Church stands or falls in a manner that excludes other ways of saying the gospel is to turn it
into a sectarian doctrine.”33 The true Gospel of grace has in this statement not simply been
declared unnecessary, but it has also been labeled a “sectarian doctrine”. This statement by
Neuhaus shows the intent of Catholics who have planned and fostered the whole deceitful
compromise with Evangelicals. Their purpose is to make the true Gospel of grace through faith in Christ alone to be irrelevant, all the while promoting as truly Christian the Catholic “salvation
by works-gospel”—which is no gospel at all but which so acceptable to the natural man.
C. H. Spurgeon’s timely words apply now even more than his own day, “Since he was
cursed who rebuilt Jericho, much more the man who labors to restore Popery among us. In our
fathers’ days the gigantic walls of Popery fell by the power of their faith, the perseverance of
their efforts, and the blast of their gospel trumpets.…”34 The Gospel trumpet is the very issue at
stake, for the Roman Catholic and Evangelical signers of ECT I & II first give the false message
of Rome, and then in defense of what they have written, declare that the Gospel of Christ is a
“domestic matter” or even “a sectarian doctrine”.
Since it is the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, His glorious Gospel and
the truth of His Word that is at stake we rest only in leaving the matter in the hands of the
Almighty God, “For we know him that hath said, vengeance belongeth unto me, I will
recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to
fall into the hands of the living God.”35 It is sobering to know that the all holy omnipotent God
will, for the sake of His own glory, rebuke in just measure all those who would pervert the
Gospel and make merchandise of His sheep.
Richard Bennett of “Berean Beacon” WebPage: http://www.bereanbeacon.org
Permission is given by the author to copy this article if it is done in its entirety without any changes.
1 The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646; The Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689; The Philadelphia Confession
of Faith, Adopted by The Baptist Association, 1742; and others.
2 Romans 4:5.
3 Galatians 1:8-9.
4 Ephesians 5:11
5 This is fully documented in Iain Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided (Banner of Truth, 2000).
6 Quoted in Michael de Semlyen’s The Foundations Under Attack: The Roots of Apostasy, (Herts., WD3 5SJ:
Dorchester House Publications, 1998) p.6
7 Ibid., pp.7-8; also John Capon, Evangelicals Tomorrow (Glasgow: Scotland).
8 ECT, Section I “We Affirm Together”
10 Romans 4:5-8, II Corinthians 5:19-21, Romans 3:22-28, Titus 3:5-7, Ephesians 1:7, Jeremiah 23:6, I Corinthians
1:30-31, Romans 5:17-19. and elsewhere.
11 Catechism, Para. 987.
12 Catechism, Para. 249.
13 Denzinger, #800.
14 Catechism, Para 1129.
15 Denzinger, #819.
16 Titus 3:4-5.
17 ECT, Introduction
18 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2 vols., Great Books of the Western World, Tr. by Fathers of the English
Dominican Province (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) Part I of the Second Part, Question 110,
Article 1, Obj. 3 and Article 2, Reply Obj. 1.
19 Catechism, Para. 891.
20 Denzinger, #851, Can. 8.
21 Catechism, Para. 1992.
22 Catechism, Para. 1446.
23 Catechism, Para 1129.
24 Philippians 3:9
25 Evangelicals & Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission, Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus,
editors (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1995). Hereafter referred to as Common Mission.
26 Common Mission, p 167.
27 Ibid., p. 153.
28 Ibid., pp 162,163.
29 Common Mission, p. 172.
30 J. I. Packer, “On from Orr”, The J. I. Packer Collection, Selected and Introduced by Alister McGrath (Downers
Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999) p. 264.
31 Philippians 3:9
32 Richard John Neuhaus, “The Catholic Difference”, Common Mission, p. 199. Emphasis is in the original
33 Common Mission, p. 207.
34 Morning and Evening, on Joshua 6:26
35 Hebrews 10:30-31