New Evangelicalism by Paul Smith. Costa Mesa: Calvary Publishing, 2011, 215 pp. paper $12.00
Paul Smith is one of the original founders and leaders of the Calvary Chapel Movement, in my opinion the most doctrinally sound and biblically oriented of the charismatic/Pentecostal organizations. In this book Smith is not bashful about presenting his and Calvary Chapel’s theological distinctives which include: the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, salvation by faith alone, pretribulational/dispensational eschatology and a firm stance on the fundamentals. While I would differ with Smith on cessationalism and present day use of spiritual gifts, I would stand with him on the doctrines above.
Smith’s burden is to sound a warning concerning the theological shift that has taken place, and continues, in much of evangelism. On the negative side I do not place much store on what might be called his conspiracy theories which attempt to trace many of America’s social and moral failings to a gathering of intellectuals in 1905 (p. 9) or the Trilateral Commission (pp. 159-165). While damage may have stemmed from these leaders and meetings, I believe Satan’s attack on humanity is much broader and cannot be traced to solitary sources such as these. One of Satan’s advantages is that he can marshall tens of thousands of false ideologies simultaneously. The devil has many false doctrines, while the Lord has one truth. It is the believers task to stand against the many doctrines of demons with the “sword of the Spirit, the word of God” (Eph 6:17).
When Smith turns to the recent history of doctrinal drift within evangelicals, he is much more effective. For those lacking a thorough understanding of the compromises, ranging from Princeton in 1929 to Fuller in the mid-twentieth century to the emergent church and Rick Warren today, I recommend New Evangelicalism highly. Some highlights are: the behind-the-scenes (chapters 5-8) downgrade of Fuller Seminary, the influence of management guru Peter Drucker on the megachurch movement in general and Rich Warren in particular (pp. 120-129, 145-157, 166-174), the beginning of theological liberalism in America (chapter 4), the role that Calvary Chapel has played and challenges it has faced (chapter 9), and the purpose driven and emergent church (chapter 10).
While not impressed with Smith’s social conspiracy views, and rejecting his non-cessationist doctrines (which are not mentioned in the book), I was impressed with the overall message. The book is a bit scattered in thought at times, as Smith tries to cover too much territory, but he presents a marvelous overview of recent church history in relationship to theological downgrade, and he maintains and proclaims the fundamentals of the faith.