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Wrong Harold Ockenga?

Dr. Harold John Ockenga

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Background Information

Employment History


Park Street Church


Board Member
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Ltd

Christianity Today



Luther College

Princeton Seminary


Taylor University


Westminster Theological Seminary

Ph. D.


Ph. D.

Westminister Seminaries


Princeton Theological Seminary


University of Pittsburgh


Boston University

Web References (200 Total References)

All characters are fictional, except for ... [cached]

All characters are fictional, except for Dr. Harold Ockenga, pastor of Park Street Church, restaurant owner Mr. Okagi, pharmacists Albert and Jim Hart in Vermilion, and historical figures.

From 1936-1969, Dr. Harold J. ... [cached]

From 1936-1969, Dr. Harold J. Ockenga served as pastor of Park Street. In the first part of the twentieth century, the rise of secularism in mainline churches led to the rise of fundamentalism, with its call to separate from the culture. In response, Ockenga and others gave rise to the modern evangelical movement, which kept fundamentalism's stand for theological truth, while rejecting its trend toward isolation from culture. In 1942, the National Association of Evangelicals was formed, with Ockenga as president.

Sanctuary of Park Street Church, Boston (Photo: Sarah Sundin, July 2014) Sanctuary of Park Street Church, Boston (Photo: Sarah Sundin, July 2014)
On May 30, 1943, Dr. Ockenga began an outdoor evangelical ministry on Boston Common. At the first service, 3500 servicemen and civilians enjoyed music and teaching, and many came to Christ. The services continued through that summer and the next, until opponents caused the city to cancel the permit. Not to be silenced, Ockenga continued conducting the services from the church steps, and later from the "Mayflower Pulpit" on the side of the church-across the street from Boston Common.

This new affiliation proved beneficial to ... [cached]

This new affiliation proved beneficial to the New England Fellowship, enhancing Wright's relationship with a number of emerging evangelical leaders, including one who would play a role in the NAE: Harold John Ockenga.

What were previously isolated leaders working in limited frames of reference were molded into a cohesive whole through stirring addresses by Harold Ockenga of historic Park Street Church in Boston, William Ayer of Calvary Baptist Church in New York, Stephen Paine of Houghton College, and Robert G. Lee of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.
Ockenga's often-quoted "The Unvoiced Multitudes" speech captured the mood of the hour, lamenting that the cause of evangelical Christianity in America - once maintained by the united, corporate testimony of the established denominations - had been reduced to individuals and individual congregations. He challenged those single voices to put aside denominational differences for the sake of a more consolidated witness for Christ.

The Man Who Smiled Through Suffering [] [cached]

Harold J. Ockenga, famous minister of Park Street Church in Boston, once called Paul, "The Man Who Smiled Through Pain.

Harold Ockenga and the ... [cached]

Harold Ockenga and the New Evangelical Movement he Founded

The following is a review of the book The Surprising Work of God: Harold John Ockenga, Billy Graham, and the Rebirth of Evangelicalism by Garth M. Rosell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).
Rosell is the son of Merv Rosell, an evangelist who associated with Ockenga, Graham, and other leaders of the New Evangelical movement.
Harold Ockenga (1905-85) was possibly the most influential evangelical leader of the 20th century. He was pastor of the prominent Park Street Church in Boston, founder of the National Association of Evangelicals, co-founder and first president of Fuller Theological Seminary, first president of the World Evangelical Fellowship, president of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and chairman of the board and one-time editor of Christianity Today.
In the 1950s Ockenga helped found the New Evangelical movement that rejected separatism and aimed at a more positive and pragmatic philosophy as opposed to the negativism and isolation of fundamentalism.
Looking back on this epic speech thirty years later, Ockenga commented:
Neo-evangelicals emphasized the restatement of Christian theology in accordance with the need of the times, the REENGAGEMENT IN THE THEOLOGICAL DEBATE, THE RECAPTURE OF DENOMINATIONAL LEADERSHIP, AND THE REEXAMINATION OF THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS SUCH AS THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN, THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE FLOOD, GOD'S METHOD OF CREATION, AND OTHERS" (Ockenga, foreword to Harold Lindsell's book The Battle for the Bible).
Ockenga represented the changing mood of the sons of the old fundamentalists. They were tired of exposing error and separating from modernistic, compromised denominations and churches.
But while Billy Graham is the popular face of New Evangelicalism, Harold Ockenga was the brain behind the movement.
New Evangelicalism was founded by young men. When Ockenga renounced separatism he was in his 30s. One reporter observed that the leaders of the Billy Graham crusade in Boston, in 1950 where Ockenga had a central role, "were nearly all in their twenties and early thirties" (p. 138).
In 1929, Ockenga left Princeton Theological Seminary because of its theological modernism. He followed J. Gresham Machen and other conservative Presbyterians out of Princeton and continued his studies at the newly established Westminster Theological Seminary. In those days, Ockenga wrote:
"Princeton has changed and can never be the same, so they set forth to organize a new seminary which would be true to God's Word. ... I left Princeton, an assured degree, an assured Fellowship which would send me to Europe, and all the material advantages and came here to Westminster Theological school. It was a question of taking a definite stand for Christ and we have done it, but at great cost" (pp. 58, 59).
In the early days of his pastorate at Park Street Church in Boston beginning in 1936, Ockenga said that separation was necessary.
Preaching on the threatening letter that came to King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 19, Machen charged Ockenga to take a stand for truth and not to fear controversy.
This was a true and mighty challenge, but Ockenga ultimately renounced it, and the evangelical world has become a traitor to the truth by its unwillingness to earnestly contend for the whole counsel of God and to separate from the enemies of the Word of God.
It is important to understand that the evangelical movement is fundamentally a Protestant movement. This is why it has the universal view of the church and is careless about the mode of baptism and the Lord's Supper, usually allowing for infant baptism and sacramentalism. Ockenga began his ministry as a Methodist but he easily changed over to Presbyterian. In fact, he said, "I will now have had the experience of ordination from a Methodist Bishop and from a Presbyterian Presbytery" (p. 64).
After arriving in Boston, Ockenga participated in the New England Fellowship and was influenced by its founder and president J. Elwin Wright, who sought for an evangelical ecumenism.
The New England Fellowship had a powerful influence on the formation of The National Association of Evangelicals in 1942, and Ockenga was a chief player. He traveled across the country meeting with Christian leaders and encouraging them to support the new organization and its inclusive philosophy, and he became its first president.
From the beginning, Ockenga supported the inclusion of Pentecostals in spite of their heresies pertaining to Spirit baptism, filling, and gifts, among others.
The philosophy of "secondary" doctrine has become the working philosophy of modern-day evangelicalism, but it is a damnable thing that has caused great spiritual destruction.
The Bible warns, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33), but Harold Ockenga did not take this to heart and instead renounced separatism and called for the infiltration of modernistic denominations and institutions, and this oversight and disobedience has resulted in the ruin of evangelicalism.
Ockenga was "open to cooperation whenever it could be done without theological compromise" (p. 158), but it is impossible to cooperate with error without theological compromise.
Consider just a few specific examples of doctrines that Ockenga believed that were given up by his sons and daughters in the New Evangelical movement.
Ockenga believed in the infallible inspiration of the Bible and called this "the watershed of modern theological controversy" (The Surprising Work of God, p. 82). But he called on evangelicals to associate with those who deny the Bible's infallibility, and as a result the movement has become riddled with unbelief.
Consider, secondly, that Ockenga believed in the necessity of the new birth and called for clear evidence of conversion (p. 83). But he condemned the practice of separating from those who don't believe this and who accept mere infant baptism and church membership as salvation. As a result, evangelicalism is riddled with pastors and church members that don't have a biblical testimony of salvation.
Ockenga also believed in total abstinence and promoted a "five point program to end the production, distribution, and use of alcohol" (p. 172). He urged people to "talk with the children in the church and the home and warn them of the evils of drink" and challenged them to "write in your Bible, 'I will abstain from all alcoholic beverages'" (p. 172). But he taught evangelicals to become more "culturally relative" and to associate with liberals who drink, and it is not surprising that his grandchildren in the faith, the emerging church, love to drink. (See "Emerging Church Loves to Drink" at the Way of Life web site.)
Ockenga believed that "only the atoning work of Christ on the cross was sufficient to forgive sins, tame the rebellious heart, and bring genuine peace with God" and that "consequently, the fundamental solution to human sinfulness and the starting point for all genuine social reform is the transforming power of the gospel" (p. 173). But because of the evil communications that have resulted from the disavowal of biblical separation, Ockenga's grandchildren believe that the pursuit of social-justice issues apart from gospel preaching is perfectly legitimate. (See our book "The Emerging Church" for extensive documentation.)
There are many other things that Harold Ockenga and the other founders of New Evangelicalism believed that their children and grandchildren have either questioned or soundly rejected. This is very sad, but does not the Bible warn, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
When Ockenga renounced separatism and compromised the position he had formerly held, he was warned and exhorted by his uncompromising brethren.
"I I feel like weeping and lamenting and mourning over you. ... some of the things you are doing only cause me grief and heaviness of heart. [It] grieves me Harold to see you giving way here a little and there a little to policies that will be the ruination of our country. [

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