Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Book Review - NEW EVANGELICALISM by Paul Smith
It was with great anticipation that I read NEW EVANGELICALISM: THE NEW WORLD ORDER by Paul Smith. Paul Smith did a great job tracing the liberalization of Fuller Theological Seminary. Mr. Smith pulled no punches when it came to naming names, tracing the changes through the men who caused them and laying blame where it was due. New Evangelicalism leaves no doubt as to what Fuller has become and who made it that way.
The other thing this book did very well was to connect Rick Warren and the purpose driven movement to business guru Ted Drucker, an admitted unbeliever. Paul Smith shows that the purpose driven movement is greatly influenced by a Seminary(Fuller) that does not believe in the inerrancy of scripture and a business leader who ascribes to eastern mysticism. Much of the criticism of the purpose driven model is that the world is brought into the church to attract the lost and the Gospel is watered down to keep them coming. That charge makes a great deal of sense when one sees the influences that have driven Rick Warren.
I also appreciate how the book spends a great deal of time defending the inerrancy of Scripture. Without a firm belief that the Bible is literal, God breathed, and error free, there is no solid basis for absolute truth. Overall this book was well written and well intentioned, however, it seemed to me like a gun that was cocked, loaded, and the safety turned off, yet Paul Smith failed to pull the trigger. Everything lined up to show the flawed influences that led to the purpose driven movement but missing was the negative results and damage that this movement is doing to true evangelicalism. Paul Smith made a great case for the unholy origins, but left the reader with nothing solid to hang his hat on. Missing were heretical quotes or teachings of Rick Warren and other purpose driven adherents, missing were the stories of people who were led astray by the movement, and missing were practices employed by these churches that should raise red flags for believers.
I can relate a story from my own personal experience from a church in S. Florida. A fad among some Baptist churches in S. Florida was to drop Baptist from the name of the church and adopt a purpose driven model. One such Church in Coral Springs, Florida followed this pattern. My family and I were invited to this church and were very dismayed by the fact that the message was preceded by a clip from the television show Friends. The Pastor showed the clip and then started his message by saying,"if you are a fan of the show friends..." and proceeded into his message. This seemed very irresponsible to me for a church to seemingly endorse a show that so blatantly endorsed sexual immorality.
Another pastor in another such church in Plantation Florida used a video of himself having a tattoo redone as the source material for his message. Believe me, I have no problem with tattoos as any one who knows me can attest to, but is that really a proper method to teach the word of God? This same pastor also had a web cam show called "my naked pastor" in which he allowed people to see him in his daily life that he might be a good example. I felt that using that name was meant to appeal to carnality and did not bring any glory to God.
Stories like these, I believe, would have made Paul Smith's point as to why the we need to adhere to the innerrancy of scripture and why believers should run, not walk, away from the purpose driven movement. Once we do not have the firm foundation of scripture to stand on, we are in danger of falling for anything. I endorse this book and believe it would be a good read for any one who is considering becoming purpose driven. If you see any purpose driven books in your pastor's office, you may want to give him a copy of New Evangelicalism as a gift.