Fourth in a Series

Notwithstanding the evidence of ongoing vitality, the evangelical movement shows disturbing signs of dissipating its energies and of forfeiting its initiative.

Large denominations once unequivocally aligned with the evangelical enterprise are no longer taken for granted. The Presbyterian Church in the U. S. (South) has already been split into several groups. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is now in a struggle in which erstwhile ecumenists who once regarded schism as the worst of sins have helped split Concordia Seminary on the issue of biblical criticism. While it retains an evangelical program and evangelistic emphasis, the Southern Baptist Convention in several of its seminaries espouses a murky neo-orthodox theology; some of its colleges, no longer unapologetically Christian, even hire faculty members who make no profession of faith whatever. The American Baptist Churches, once thought to be 85 per cent evangelical, have faced a steady erosion of conservative strength, American Baptist Seminary of the West in California being the most recent casualty.

Evangelicalism has shown itself painfully weak in shaping American national conscience, despite the great impact of the Graham crusades and the evangelist’s personal popularity. In the Watergate debacle, a graduate of a leading evangelical college escaped heavier penalties by plea-bargaining and a Baptist was among those imprisoned for illegalities. The shameful national crime statistics, ready acceptance of abortion on demand, serious deterioration of sexual morality, and growing disregard for monogamous marriage indicate how ineffective evangelical proclamation today seems to be in molding the moral sensitivities of the man on the street and sometimes ...

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