For more than 35 years prior to 1948 the term 'Fundamentalist' had been in existence. The Fundamentalist movement took its name from a set of twelve booklets originally published between 1910 and 1912.
Since that time [1910-1912], this term became the popular name attributed to those in various Protestant evangelical denominations who were opposed to the Liberalism and Modernism that were sadly taking over the major denominations of America. From the inception therefore of these terms, 'Fundamentalist' & 'Fundamentalism', were used to describe those Bible believing evangelical Christians who were on a crusade against liberal/modernistic attacks upon the faith once delivered to the saints.
The origin and existence of these terms are important as there is a relevant connection between Neo-evangelicalism and Christian Fundamentalism:
Harold Ockenga, who coined this term, had originally, with other evangelical classmates, withdrawn from Princeton Seminary in 1929, unhappy with the liberal turn that place of learning had taken. He and the others had started to attend the newly formed Westminster Seminary. Harold Ockenga and the others professed to be saved men, but by 1947/48 they no longer believed in the Fundamentalist approach previously adopted against these alternative views of Bible truth. Subsequently, they sought to make accommodation with the spirit of unbelief that was abroad in their day.
2. Neo-evangelicalism simply wished to abandon the old contending spirit of the past. Harold Ockenga, and the others, had no stomach for the fight against the departure from God's truth as had characterised the Fundamentalist movement for many years. They no longer wanted contention. This militancy against false teaching was to them akin to having a judgmental spirit. One promoter of this new line of reasoning, a man called, E J Carnell, wrote accusing the Fundamentalists of having shifted doctrine into the place that love should occupy. It was more important to them to love everyone than love the truth of God and oppose error. The spirit of ecumenism had seriously infected those who were of this new evangelical persuasion.
By their own definition, in the foreword to a book written by another Neo-evangelical called: The Battle For the Bible, Harold Ockenga defined the term 'Neo-evangelicalism'. He wrote:
Instead of fighting the good fight, Neo-evangelicalism wanted dialogue about the faith with Modernists and Liberals. They would host seminars for discussions with these apostates, where they would seek to explore and come to an understanding of the Truth; instead of repudiating and denouncing them as false prophets and wolves in sheep's clothing as the Scriptures require. Non-judgmentalism replaced Biblical contending for the faith.
The Biblical doctrines of separation and contending for the faith were simply repudiated!
Harold Ockenga is quoted as saying: The [new] Evangelical believes that Christianity is intellectually defensible, that the Christian cannot be obscurantist in scientific questions pertaining to creation, the age of man, the universality of the flood and debatable Biblical questions… The new Evangelical is willing to face the intellectual problems and meet them in the framework of modern learning.
In particular, this modern scholarship, will not be dogmatic about what they describe as 'debatable Biblical questions'. According to these new evangelical these issues included such subjects as: creation, the age of the earth, the universality of the flood, & moral issues. Just this past week [Dec 2012] Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in California, stated that sodomy only 'might be' sinful, and that he believes sodomites can go to heaven. In responding to the question of whether or not a person can be born a sodomite, he said: I think the jury is still out on that. It wouldn’t bother me if there was a ‘gay gene’ …. This is an expression of this modern scholarship culture among new-evangelicals.
According to this 'new' way of thinking it is no longer acceptable to say: The Bible says. No, the Bible cannot be taken at face value. That's not scholarly. That's old fashioned and silly! That's not being intellectual. That's being irrational and naive. We have moved on from such follies. The Bible must be interpreted according to modern theory. The Bible must be made to conform to the ever changing opinions of men. The inerrancy and sufficiency are no longer accepted.
To new-evangelicals a person can be both an evangelical and an evolutionist. There are neo-evangelicals who accept either Progressive Creationism or Theistic Evolution. The bottom line being that the opening chapters of Genesis are not to be taken literally. E J Carnell said: Since orthodoxy has given up the literal-day theory out of respect for geology, it would forfeit no principle if it gave up the immediate creation theory out of respect for paleontology [study of fossils].
These views are not something 'new', they are the 'old' heretical views of Liberalism and modernism dressed up in a new garb.
Instead of the Word of God/Gospel being applicable to society; they want the Word of God/Gospel to be acceptable to wider society. There cannot be anything in the Bible or the Gospel that offends the intellect of ungodly men. This is an attempt to take the supernatural out of the Bible and the Gospel.
1. Social Activism. Modern day neo-evangelicals will talk about redeeming the culture. They are speaking about the Christianisation of ungodly worldly society. Society generally is not getting better nor will it get better prior to the coming of the Lord. The Gospel certainly changes the lives of those who are saved but generally society is not going to embrace the Gospel, even the watered down version that neo-evangelicals 'preach'.
2. Co-operative Evangelism. They show great enthusiasm for co-operative evangelism, even to the extent of aligning with groups that have been traditionally subversive of Bible truth, such as Romanism. We have had for many years the example of Billy Graham and his crusades, who more than any other, has epitomised this co-operative, inclusive approach to evangelism, as opposed to the Biblical separatist approach.
Wherever you find this 'hotch, potch' of social activism and co-operative evangelism you have expressions of neo-evangelicalism.
In conclusion, Neo-evangelicalism is a form of Christianity that wants no separation from the world and its ways; yet still wants to claim allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is a gospel of compromise, one alien to the New Testament. It is rightly described in Jude v 3,4: Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Earnest contending is the command of Scripture and the need of the hour!