McClain and New Evangelicalism

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Previously, I wondered what response McClain had toward new evangelicalism during its rise in the 1940s and 1950s. Recently, while filing a pile of papers, I came across some notes from a chapel at DBTS by Dr. McCune. He and Dr. Priest were doing a series on “Fundamentalist Personalities,” and the individual under consideration for Nov 7, 1996 was Alva J. McClain. McCune closed his remarks with the following:

“Dr. McClain wrote an analytical response to the now-famous landmark article in Christian Life (March 1956), ‘Is Evangelical Theology Changing.’ Concerning ‘dialogue’ or conversing with liberals he said, ‘I understand the desirability of an acquaintance with the program and ideas of our opponents, but we must never for one instant forget that they are deadly enemies with whom there can be neither truce nor compromise’ (italics added). He concluded his analysis with this paragraph:

Finally, the editors of Christian Life express deep concern over the divisions which have blunted the effectiveness of fundamentalism. With them, I sincerely share this concern. But a reading of their expressed views will only deepen the conviction of many that they are abetting a trend which may not only lead to another division, but one which will be the deepest and most disastrous of all (“Is Theology Changing in the Conservative Camp?” The Brethren Missionary Herald [Feb 23, 1957]).

It is instructive to note where McClain, a “first generation fundamentalist,” would put the blame for division in the fundamentalism of their day–squarely at the feet of the founders of new evangelicalism.

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Author: Dan Greenfield

I am an undeserving sinner saved by God's grace through Jesus Christ, a happy husband, proud father of 6 great kids, pastor of Orwell Bible Church, Executive Secretary of the American Council of Christian Churches, and member of the Ohio Bible Fellowship .

2 thoughts on “McClain and New Evangelicalism”

  1. Regarding:

    “But a reading of their expressed views will only deepen the conviction of many that they are abetting a trend which may not only lead to another division, but one which will be the deepest and most disastrous of all .”

    At first I didn’t understand the paragraph you quoted. But I think I do now. Was he saying that after reading their views, he thought the early new evangelicals were propogating ideas that were very dangerous?

  2. Yes. The 1st NE’s didn’t like the divisions in fundamentalism, but McClain said that what they promoted would lead not only to another division, but “one which will be the deepest and most disastrous of all.”

    History has proven McClain’s assessment correct (cf. Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism).

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