The idea for an “Affirmation” was conceived in 2008 within the Bible League Trust and as a result of conversations about what has been described as “the changing face of Evangelicalism” and even “the crumbling of Evangelicalism.” Tragically, in recent years, there has been such an unprecedented decline, both in faith and in practice, that many of us no longer recognise “modern Evangelicalism” as the faith in which we were brought up or as the faith to which we still firmly adhere.
In not a few churches there has been a serious departure from Biblical truth. The doctrine preached from many pulpits has been diluted, and even adulterated; worship has undergone a change so radical as to become almost entertainment, wholly devoid of that awe and reverence which befits the worship of our holy, glorious and majestic God. Sadly it has to be added that the behaviour of many who profess the true faith is hardly distinguishable from that of worldly men and women.
Discerning persons will observe that it is conservative Evangelicalism, with its emphasis on Biblical truth, holy living and heart experience, which has suffered most in the grievous decline in the latter part of the twentieth century.
It is hoped that this Affirmation, under the good hand of God, will become a standard to which truly conservative men might rally. There has already been an encouraging response and enthusiastic support for it. The Affirmation may be a means of alerting believers to the deteriorating state of things and informing them of the way back from compromise to faithfulness and blessing. It may also be a means of enabling those who presently grieve over the corruption of our churches to re-group (but not in any formal, denominational way) and to take their stand (identifying with like-minded men and women) for the things once commonly held among us and which desperately need to be maintained and defended again.
Donald Cargill, the Covenanter and martyr, once said: “I have followed holiness, I have taught truth, and I have been most in the main things”. Those last words are particularly striking and seem to sum up what the Affirmation is all about. It does not deal with matters on which genuine Evangelicals might differ one from another (for example, in matters of church government and the sacraments), but it does seek to be “most in the main things.”
History and experience show very clearly that the best of churches can quickly and sadly lose their conservative evangelical identity unless there is a strong theological document to which they sincerely give adherence. Saying this, we are aware that even when such a document is in place, unbelief can bring insincerity, and ultimately, defection. But even though that is true, it does not remove from us the responsibility, in an evil day, of declaring both where evangelicals should stand and protesting against the errors and the false ways which are being blindly followed by so many. God, in His great mercy and grace, may be pleased so to use a faithful declaration to halt further slide into apostasy and even to recover true religion in professing Christian churches. In these matters, as in all things, we are utterly dependent upon the favour of God and the gracious working of His Holy Spirit.
The Affirmation is not now associated with any individual or any particular society or organization. It is the common possession of all who can, out of love for the truth, identify with its content and with its emphasis. It will be a blessed thing if the Lord moves the hearts of true, conservative evangelicals so that they once again stand together for vital and non-negotiable truth.
As a document, the Affirmation differs from other like statements in several particulars: first of all it concentrates on truth presently being undermined in our churches; secondly, it deals with the outworking of doctrine in practical Christian living; and thirdly, it emphasises genuine Christian experience – and this last aspect is without doubt of the utmost importance in these spiritually lifeless times.
We appeal to all who love and still adhere to “the old paths” to identify with this Affirmation and so to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in defence of vital Christianity and godliness.