Featured Harold Okenga?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by jwright82, Jan 12, 2020.

  1. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    What are people's thoughts on Harold Omega? In general or specific things. I admire his motivations as well as the motivations of neoevangelicalism.
  2. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I think the expressed motivations of Ockenga and others in the neo-evangelical movement included some good and some bad. There were fundamentalist excesses to back away from. But the desire to be admired and intellectually respectable was a very pernicious leaven that quickly led to corruption in the whole lump. Witness Fuller Seminary and Christianity Today, today. The decline did not take long.
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  3. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior


    A good book that deals substantially with Okenga and that period:

    Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray
  4. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Very true but to be scholarly instead of selfconsciencly anti intellectual is not the worst of things, not all Fundamentalists. But the social aspect is good.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020 at 12:24 AM
  5. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    It wasn't the desire for scholarship that was a problem, but the focus on having that scholarship acknowledged and recognized. Christians can be excellent scholars, of course, and those with that calling should absolutely pursue excellence. But they should pursue excellence to the glory of God, and not to attain recognition or accomplish strategic goals of gaining influence. "How can ye believe, who receive honor one of another?" If we attempt to build the faith on scholarly reputation, we are attempting to ground faith on the wisdom of men, rather than on the power of God. Pursuing respectability for the faith once delivered ultimately winds up diluting the faith into a form which no one could respect.
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  6. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    There's a lot about him in Evangelism Divided by Murray, which I heartily recommend. I'd pull some quotes but my copy is on loan.
  7. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Evangelicalism Divided is such a good book. That and Revival and Revivalism are so key to help understand where we are today.
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  8. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I witnessed a lot of this firsthand at TEDS. There is such excellent scholarship at that seminary, but also a good bit of coveting a seat at the table of pagan academia and culture. The fruit of that pursuit is showing itself quite hideously, in my opinion.
  9. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Very true but, to play devil's advocate, wasn't it fundamentalism he was reacting to? Not saying that justifies it, Machen was a scholar par excellence and he never compromised his confessional standing. It seems that their intentions were at least in line with Machen on scholarship but had pan Christian, unrealistic to say the least, movement.
  10. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Machen actually shows that the whole approach of neo-evangelicalism was compromised from the get go. They had an example: there was a way to be Christian, scholarly, and Biblically convicted. Machen was also familiar with fundamentalism and its problems, but he didn't let that stalking horse drive him into error. Listen to probably the best of the neo-evangelicals:

    Carl F.H. Henry, Confessions of a Theologian

    p. 119

    Meanwhile the Seminary faced an intensive job of public relations with community and churches. It seemed imperative to me that in the cultured context of Pasadena, evangelical Christianity be seen as an intellectually viable and vibrant faith and not as a suspect cult.​


    Carnell wrote me he was disturbed by what he considered a "lukewarm reception" of his A Philosophy of the Christian Religion (1952). "After pouring the fruit of my philosophic labors into it, it has received little or no acclaim; at least not a measure of what I thought it was deserving in the light of the effort expended." He added: "There is a parochialism in evangelicalism from which I must withdraw. I trust that the fruit of this withdrawal will be a richness and breadth of comprehension that will serve as a new point of rallying for the evangelicals. . . . I want to command the attention of Tillich and Bennett; then I shall be in a better place to be of service to the evangelicals. We need prestige desperately."​

    p.293 [of a rather tense meeting of the board of Christianity Today]

    Baker said he wanted to hear from Henry on magazine policy.

    "First," I began, "no evangelical magazine has defined the evangelical alternative to ecumenical patterns on Church and Society with more critical power and precision than Christianity Today. I would be surprised," I said, "if the proposed editor needs to add clarity and/or depth to these positions." ["Christianity Today," Lamont interjected, "made it possible for us to 'live with' evangelical criticisms as respectable positions."] "Secondly," I continued, "Christianity Today cannot 'win' by escalating editorial policy to a plane of polemics and propaganda; on that basis we would soon forfeit dialogue with the ecumenical leaders and churches. Third, the one level at which Christianity Today could have strengthened the attack—and I was wholly ready—would have been through essays from influential evangelicals in NCC-related denominations, included in our own Board members, but these have not been forthcoming across these ten past years. If these criticisms now come from an editor or from essayists outside the ecumenical churches, they will be shrugged off as what may be expected from such sources."​

    (Emphasis added.)
  11. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I mean the quotes still seem to me to be in that context. I'm not defending them, but we have a context today that is different than theirs.
  12. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    They do seem desperate though. But 3 quotes a case does not make, but this thread was about Okenga in particular. Wasn't he Reformed, with a bit of Wesleyan "piety" thrown in, in some (most?) points?
  13. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    We do have a different context, in part because neo-evangelicalism was tried and did not really succeed. They had intellectual firepower (especially Henry); they had money; they had celebrity (Billy Graham). They used those things to build institutions, but many of the positions adopted by those institutions would be unrecognizable to people like Ockenga.

    The three quotes given reflected Carl F. H. Henry personally, E.J. Carnell, and Robert Lamont, a founding board member of Christianity Today. I think most would recognize that they are in as good a position as anyone to speak sympathetically and from within about neo-evangelicalism. And they said the same thing about prestige or respectability. I think that is a pretty strong case ("in the mouth of two or three witnesses"). They pursued an idol, and of course it receded from their grasp.

    As to Ockenga, you can read his sermons (a 3-volume set is available from Logos). I read him on 2 Thessalonians 2 as part of my own research on that passage, and found him the weakest and least informative of all the sources I consulted.
  14. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Fair enough.
  15. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Let's not be too hard on these guys, considering the context in which they found themselves, as some have noted.

    By the middle of the 20th century, the Christian world (especially academically) was drowning in liberalism, on the one hand, and awash in fundamentalism (in the bad sense), on the other hand. Arthur Pink (1886-1952) was fired from just about every church he pastored due, mainly, to his conservative, Reformed preaching (and, yes, his rather prickly personality had something to do with it, too). People were just not used to hearing serious exposition from the pulpit in those days (for the most part), and they didn't like it. It was liberalism as far as the eye could see.

    It really was a liberal wasteland. Keep in mind that, when Louis Berkhof published the final version of his Systematic Theology in 1938, it had been nearly 70 years - almost three-quarters of a century - since Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology had been published in the early 1870s. And Berkhof's was the first truly serious ST to be published in all that time, to my knowledge.

    But, after World War II, a new generation started to rise up - a new generation of conservative Christian scholars who were determined to show that serious, believing, rigorous scholarship actually did exist, that there was an alternative to both fundamentalism and liberalism. F. F. Bruce's (1910-1990) Commentary on the Greek Text of the Book of Acts, published in 1951, was one of the first shots fired across the bow of academic liberalism.

    Scholars like Bruce and Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003) really led the way (along with a host of others, of course). If they seemed, at the time, to be a little too anxious about things like prestige or acceptance in the wider Christian world, please remember that they were trying to keep their heads above water (so to speak) as they bobbed along in the ocean of liberal theology, and trying to call attention to the fact that folks like them actually existed - that there was an alternative to both fundamentalism and liberalism.

    If they seemed a little too anxious after some sort of public acclaim, I think they were still doing so for the right reasons. They were calling attention to themselves so that Christian folks would notice that a new era of serious Christian scholarship had begun.

    Thanks, in large part, to that generation of scholars, serious, conservative Christian scholarship is in really good shape today. They were the pioneers.
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  16. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Ockenga was a graduate of Westminster, as much as McIntire. Both pursued different directions, and there are things worthy of criticism in either line. Illustrating the horseshoe effect, a lot of fundamentalism fell as much pray to worldliness in a populist vein as neo-evangelicalism did in an elitist vein. But what didn't seem to occur to either one was to pursue the model already demonstrated by Machen. That third way is imperfectly practiced by everyone who tries, but the way itself I think less objectionable than the alternatives exemplified in the friends who went in opposite directions.

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