The American church is a fascinating community to observe. Is it good, bad? I shudder to think what churches in, say, Africa or China think of us.
Actually, I know that they think of us. “Courageous” is probably not a word that often comes to mind.
Yet, there are exceptions. I recently read a book that is wrapped in courage, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Paul Smith, for years a key advisor to his brother, Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel), has written “New Evangelicalism: The New World Order.” In it, Smith exposes the roots of liberalism (and, eventually, apostasy) that has virtually destroyed the American church. I thought I knew quite a bit about it, but this book taught me a ton, and Smith’s research and firsthand knowledge into the slide toward liberalism is astonishing, truly.
It’s the difference between someone writing about World War II, and someone who fought in it. Smith has been at the epicenter of the struggle between evangelicalism and liberal/seeker-driven approaches. His insights into the erosion of conservative views at Fuller Theological Seminary and the roots of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven model are riveting. If you want to know why your church seems weird and alien to you, look no further than “New Evangelicalism.”
John MacArthur, for one, has boldly said publicly that the Purpose Driven model will lead to apostasy. In this new book, Paul Smith exposes the Purpose Driven model times one hundred, and you will be knocked off your feet by his exposure of this poisonous model.
Are you confused by Warren’s cozying up to Muslims? Do you wonder why your local church changed in every way overnight? Is the term “emergent” a puzzle? You won’t have these questions anymore after you read Smith’s watershed, landmark book.
(This is one of the few books I own where the yellow highlighter marks are more numerous than the white space left.)
In the introduction, the reader gets an idea how meaty this book is and how specific Smith gets in uncovering the strange morphing of the American church into a New Age entity: “Charles Fuller’s own son, Daniel, studied under Karl Barth and brought back to his dad’s seminary the neo-orthodox belief that the Bible only contains the Word of God and that some portions of Scripture are revelatory and some portions are not!”
Holy smokes. Lots going on in that paragraph. The Fullers, of course, are the founders of California’s Fuller Theological Seminary, and Barth is the purveyor of the “true myth” nonsense that has so damaged countless people of faith.
Smith wastes no time in going to one of the root causes: Peter Drucker. A management guru who (along with folks like C. Peter Wagner) spawned all sorts of church-growth Pablum that has overtaken the evangelical church (Smith also gets into the issue of what an evangelical is – historical definition and the current, somewhat fluid term), Drucker is the key.
Drucker, who admitted that he was not a Christian, is a curious mentor for Warren, who has said that he studied under Drucker for two decades!
And Smith is not shy about explaining how wide is the scope of this whole issue: “Our current generation has witnessed two eschatological markers with our own eyes. The first one was the Jews returning to their Promised Land and forming the nation of Israel in 1948. The second marker is the emerging church paradigm that gave birth and will inadvertently host, through accommodation, compromise and a postmodern mindset, a platform suitable for the coming one-world religion as clearly prophesied in the Bible.”
Of course, Warren and his friends would smirk at and mock such a statement, but there are still quite a few of us who think Paul Smith has hit the target dead center.
As a book person, and one who values research, I find this book remarkable. If I had to rush into my burning home and retrieve five books, “New Evangelicalism” would be one of them.
We know that the claims and marketing slickness of Purpose Driven and church growth paradigms appeal to a lot of people. But notice how Smith makes the distinction between these models (and their spiritual bedfellow, the emergents), and the clear teaching of Scripture:
“The Fuller School of World Missions’ founding dean, Donald McGavran, introduced a new theory,” Smith writes. “The term describing the idea of missionary endeavor was replaced with the word ‘missional endeavor.’ McGavran taught that because individuals are always found in homogeneous ethnic or people groups, therefore ‘missional’ methods that appeal to the unbelieving people groups should be used. He advocated that missionaries should not make a gospel appeal for a response from an individual, but elicit responses from people groups.
“It made the missions strategies of the past obsolete,” Smith explains. “Contrary to this, Jesus said personally and individually to Nicodemus, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7). Our Lord was appealing to an individual, not a people group. Jesus was anticipating an individual response, not a group response.”
This is not trivial information. If you have wondered why your hip-looking new pastor or youth leader is now using terms like “missional,” you’ll now know after reading Smith’s superb effort.
I’ve rarely read a book that so thoroughly explained a critical issue. Smith explains in clear language exactly what forces are arrayed against Bible-believing Christians – again, from within the Church – and who the players are. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The world doesn’t love Paul Smith or his ideas. The world loves the Bill Mahrers (who said that Jesus was a Palestinian who performed parlor tricks). The world loves the soft-soap, self-centered “teaching” being peddled now by legions of the new breed of pastor.
No, the world hates what Paul Smith has to say.
But you’ll love it and be blessed immeasurably by it.