This is an article by Gary Johnson, entitled, “The Reformation, Today’s Evangelicals, and Mormons,” subtitled, “What next?”
The article concerns itself with the definition of the category “evangelicals.” He starts off by asking, “What is an evangelical?” (pg. 191). The thrust of the article is (to my mind, anyway) a sort of ultimatum: either evangelicals get back to doctrinal orthodoxy (back to fundamentals, if you will), or else Reformed Christendom should perhaps escape from under the umbrella of “evangelicalism.”
Johnson gives several examples of how problematic and meaningless the term “evangelical” has become in recent years. Clark Pinnock describes evangelicalism as to be defined in “more sociologically than precisely theologically” terms (quoted, pg. 192). As evidence of the truth of this definition, penal substitution, a very theological concept which used to unite evangelicals, “is now openly disdained and considered detrimental by a growing number of today’s evangelicals” (pg. 192).
Johnson then critiques Bebbington’s and Collins’s definitions of evangelicalism as in need of revision. Their four sine qua non doctrines of evangelicalism are the normativity of Scripture, conversion, atonement, and evangelism (pg. 193). However, what makes this definition poor in today’s world are some other examples, such as Keith Fournier, who calls himself an evangelical Roman Catholic, and does not regard himself as a living contradiction (pp. 193-194). However, Fournier’s book is a rather unashamed defense of the doctrines of Rome (pg. 194). Another example which is briefly (but adequately) addressed is the Promise Keepers, who have abandoned doctrine as the definition of evangelicalism.
The next section discusses is some detail the issue of Robert L. Millet, a Mormon, who received the accolade of “evangelical” from Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary. Mouw believes that Millet is a Christian: “Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation” (quoted on page 196). Johnson then destroys Mouw’s position by examining the doctrine of Millet’s book, which has nothing to do with traditionally Protestant doctrines, from the Trinity (pp. 196-197), Christ’s person and work (pp. 197-199), salvation (pg. 198-199), and the fall (ibid). The doctrine of Scripture follows on pp. 199-202). Then Johnson explodes Millet’s claim that David Wells and Haddon Robinson endorsed his Christianity, by noting that Wells and Robinson were not satisfied by Millet’s (correct) answer to the salvation question.
The logical conclusion of the direction evangelicalism is taking is that Islam and other religions cannot really be excluded from its umbrella. This is a very incisive critique of modern evangelicalism. At first, after reading the article, I was puzzled as to how it fit into the book. Then I realized that NPP and FV are not the only targets of the book. Sola Fide is a doctrine, an unashamedly Protestant and (used to be) evangelical doctrine. All of this rejection of doctrine means that the Reformation will be swallowed up if we do not stand for its fundamental truths. I believe that this is the clarion call of the book (although it would not have been detrimental to the book had this been spelled out a bit more explicitly: it’s there, but the reader has to take the final logical step).
The afterword is by Al Mohler. He warns us against the dangers of claiming that contemporary thought is better over continuous thought withthe Reformation truth (pg. 206). He argues that “those arguing for the New Perspective have not escaped the bonds of tradition; they have simply come out on the wrong side” (ibid). The doctrine of imputation stands at the heart of the Protestant doctrine of salvation (ibid). Therefore, any attempts to undermine it will attempt to undermine Christianity itself.
He then argues that what we have today is a change in the audience. He says that “many of today’s evangelicals new demand a new drama, a new theology. To some extent, this is a reaction to a failure in evangelical demonstration. In other cases, it appears that a sense of theological fatigue has set in, prompting some to look for theological formulations that demand a lower level of defense in light of current controversies. Whatever the case, a new audience demands a different drama” (pg. 207). This is a call to be warned against the new theology, not to embrace it. “Otherwise, nothing genuinely evangelical will remain of evangelicalism.”
In conclusion to this review, I agree with Mohler’s claim about this book: “Taken as a whole, the book is an arsenal of theological arguments in defense of the gospel” (pg. 207). Amen, and may it convince the nay-sayers.