PASADENA, CALIF. -- The evangelicals -- "born-again," convert-seeking Protestants -- have outshone the mainline ecumenical Protestants for about two decades in church growth, spending and public attention in America, most religious analysts agree.

But are they still on a full head of steam? Can they be heard in spite of television evangelist controversies, fighting within the large Southern Baptist Convention and what evangelicals decry as "secular humanist" attitudes in influential parts of society?

One of evangelical Christianity's prime movers and shapers, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, the world's largest multidenominational seminary, observed its 40th anniversary this week and posed that question.

The answer seems to turn on whether one expects to see signs that evangelical values are being embraced by American society as a whole.

Most voices heard this week questioned that as a realistic standard, but one prominent evangelical theologian said it was and pronounced the movement lacking.

The evangelical movement is "being swamped by the very culture it sought to alter," said Carl F.H. Henry, one of Fuller's founding faculty members. Henry, 74, was asked to open and close an all-day conference Tuesday that assessed the evangelical movement.

Henry indicated that the post-World War II rise of evangelism peaked in 1976 when, significantly, Americans elected a "born-again" Southern Baptist, Jimmy Carter, as president. Since then, evangelicals have been plagued with a range of sins, including self-indulgence, he said.

Meanwhile in general society, Henry said even secular humanism -- as represented in mass media, universities and U.S. politics -- is "decomposing into paganism."

Besides what Henry said was a predominant media disdain for "inherited values, particularly the biblical ideals of chastity, marriage and family," he said America today resembles ancient Rome in its benign tolerance of a variety of religious beliefs but is intolerant of any religion that claims to be the only true one.

"The cross-pollination of religious ideas is reflected in a Gallup {Poll} report that one in four Americans believes in reincarnation," Henry observed in his keynote talk. "The wave of the immediate future is not neo-orthodoxy but neopaganism."

In remarks at the close of the day, Henry said an evangelical decline is further evidenced by a "massive falloff of giving" to television ministries, a downward trend in religious book sales and a decline in seminary enrollment.

On the latter point, Fuller President David Allan Hubbard said there are some small declines in seminary enrollments, including that at Fuller, which has hovered around 2,800 students for the last few years.

But on whether evangelicals are transforming U.S. values, Henry acknowledged an earlier observation by a Fuller faculty member that churches true to their calling will always have a sense of alienation from society.

Nevertheless, Henry said, "I don't want to give up too easily on the possibility of a Christian culture."

Henry's criterion for judging evangelical success and even his assessment of Christian impact on the United States was criticized on several fronts.

"Evangelicalism, for all its defects and missed opportunities, is undoubtedly making a sizable impact both on the larger scene and especially in evangelistic and pastoral work," said Geoffrey Bromiley, senior professor of church history and historical theology at Fuller.

"Secondly, America is not the world, as the existence of {Fuller's} School of World Mission constantly reminds us . . . and great advances are taking place in many regions abroad," Bromiley said.

In addition, Bromiley said, Christianity survived the fall of Rome and its mixture of Christianity and paganism.

Likewise, Fuller colleague James Bradley said evangelical scholars are steadily making gains in major institutions; the growing presence of women leaders is revitalizing the evangelical movement, and the laity is interested in more than self-fulfillment.

Looking at church life in the last 40 years, the Rev. Cary N. Weisiger III, senior pastor at Menlo Park (Calif.) Presbyterian Church from 1961 to 1973, described that period as the most difficult for churches amid the turbulence of student, minority and war protests.

But in the last 13 years, Weisiger said, "evangelicalism has been enjoying a wind of gale force" behind its back. Evangelicals have become nationally known, parachurch organizations have expanded, seminaries have more women students, foreign missions have grown, Christian schools have increased in numbers and Pentecostal Christianity has surged spectacularly outside the United States, he said.

An optimistic tone was also set by the Rev. Samuel Hugh Moffett, who recently retired from Princeton Theological Seminary. Evangelicals have outpaced the mainline Protestant churches in membership growth, missions and new churches since 1960, Moffett said.