Is World Council Unity Christian?

It was a desire for some kind of unity of churches which occasioned the initial formation and the subsequent development of the World Council of Churches. This is evidenced, even today, by the fact that the continuing theme of Council utterances is “the unity that we seek.” It is supposed then that the present structure of the WCC is, at least, a partial answer to the prayer of our Lord in John 17:21. These words of Jesus arc continually referred to by all the proponents of the WCC: “that they may all be one.” The question which is presently before us is whether the unity of the WCC is in any significant way a proper response to this prayer of our Lord.

I shall simply state, what to me is a fact, that the spirit which pervades the WCC is one of compromise and accommodation for the sake of a kind of unity which in no way answers to the prayer of our Lord in John 17.

It is evident that the organization of the WCC harbors within it churches which have fu ndamentally divergent views in respect of doctrine, church polity, and worship. There are unitarians and trinitarians; liberals, evangelicals, and neo-orthodox; Arminians, Calvinists, Lutherans, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox; there are those that believe in “apostolic succession,” the veneration of Mary and saints; there are congregationalists, presbyterian, episcopalian, and catholic systems of church polity; there are national churches that believe in the union of church and state and there are free churches which oppose this doctrine; there are dozens of different rites of communion and worship. It is now held that the WCC must be a forum in which these divergent ideas can be freely discussed so that out of it will come formulations which will be acceptable to all. The result which we presently see is a statement of faith which allows for every conceivable interpretation and which thus includes everyone and excludes no one. The spirit of the WCC is the spirit of synthesis.

It is precisely this spirit of synthesis which makes participation in the WCC utterly impossible for the church which seeks to live the life of the church. There is no place in the Word of God where synthesis with unbelief is allowed to the church of Christ. The church is everywhere called to a unity in Christ Jesus according to the Word of God. It is for this unity that Jesus prayed. “That they may all be one, even as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us.” This unity in Christ sets the antithesis between the church and unbelief. “Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are. While I was with them, I kept them in they name which thou hast given me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition: that the scripture might be fulfilled….I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” This prayer is in no way the expression of desire for an organizational unity upon the basis of a synthesis of divergent ideas. The spirit of our Lord’s prayer is not one of synthesis but of antithesis. “…giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all, and in all.” It is the unity of faith in Christ Jesus, according to the scripture, which is the unity of the church. Any unity without this is finally man’s invention which ignores the word and spirit and finally denies the truth even as the truth is in Jesus. From Elijah in the O.T. to Paul in the N.T. the call of the church has never been a call to synthesis but quite the contrary to anti-thetical confession and life. “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate.”

There are many shades of theological thought in the WCC. Finally they can be subsumed under the two radically different views of the liberals—including the neo-orthodox—on the one hand and the evangelicals on the other. The unity of the WCC is maintained by using language which will allow for interpretations equally pleasing to both. Those who deny the Lord Jesus Christ as well as those who acknowledge him as the only Savior from sin by the blood of Calvary are then supposed to be equally at home under the formulations of the WCC. In order to accommodate both schools of thought the leaders of the WCC have sought a new orientation of authority, “a starting point of conversation” and a “foundation for collaboration” whereby the WCC becomes the conscience for the churches.

The first conference on Faith and Order to be held in the United States was held in Oberlin, Ohio in September of 1957. It was at this conference that Bishop Hanns Lilje of the Lutheran Church in Germany addressed the meeting. Laying emphasis on the need for unity he said, “This means that we have to rethink our whole Christian status, our Christian message and our Christian way of living in the light of greater Christian unity.” This same conference closed with a call to the churches for a “unity in which every ministry is a ministry of and for all the members, bound together in a worshiping and sacramental community.” Every church was called upon to “examine the way in which it makes visible the nature of the Church of Christ.” The message to the churches was concluded by saying, “Although some of our divisions arise out of loyalty to truth that we now see, we must acknowledge that Christ calls us to a fuller comprehension of truth and more obedient service.”

The Oberlin report fails, however, at the most crucial point of all for the church of Christ. We are called upon to rethink Our whole Christian status, message, and way of living in the light of greater Christian unity. To rethink and reformulate the Christian message for the sake of unity with the Christ denying liberal and the Word denying neo-orthodox would demand nothing less than the emasculation of the Christian message to the point where the authority of the Scripture is rejected and the substitutionary atonement of Christ is denied. It is only then that any kind of unity with other members of the Council could be achieved. This is to deny the truth and this the church may never do. It is a unity ill the truth which is the only kind of unity that the church may seek and know. This is the unity for which Christ prayed in his high priestly prayer. It is precisely this unity of the Church which makes the rejection of the false unity of the WCC imperative.

The leadership of the WCC is firmly committed to a unity which will become a single world church organization. Dr. Charles Clayton Morrison in his Lyman Beecher lectures published under the title “What Is Christianity” branded Protestantism a heresy and called for a new Catholicity. Bishop Oxnam, who was instrumental in drafting the first blueprint for the WCC, wrote a book in which he expressed his hopes for a great single church in the future. In this book, “On the Rock,” he expressed his desire that this great single church will reject all the basic tenets of evangelical Christianity. He would eliminate virtually every doctrine of the truth which would stand as a barrier to the formation of the great ecumenical church of the future. To become involved in this experiment would be a denial of the Christ and His Word and a denial of the church for which He prayed. Some in the WCC are seeking for a revolution which others are looking for an inclusive workable ecclesiastical device where everyone of whatever conviction may live together in cooperation and work together in harmony. How can there be a working fellowship where there is no fellowship of faith. What concord is there between Christ and Belial—what fellowship hath light with darkness—how can there be a yoking together with unbelief? The character of the church of Christ has always been one of antithesis and not one of synthesis. How often in the O.T. as well as in the N.T. has there been the warning against synthesis. The struggle of Elijah is being ignored for the sake of a superficial unity which finally is no unity at all.

The handwriting is now on the wall. With the election of Eugene Carson Blake to the most powerful office in the WCC there can be little doubt as to the direction which the Council will now take in its quest for organizational unity at whatever cost. The now well-known Blake proposal which would bring together 17 million Protestants and the methods and motivations behind it have been espoused by the WCC by the very fact that they elected him to the high office of General Secretary. Blake made his blue-print very clear in his message presented the day before the opening of the meeting of the National Council of Churches in San Francisco in 1960.

If the syncretism of the WCC is present in principle in the pronouncements and actions of the commissions on Faith and Order they come to clear and alarming expression in the pronouncements and work of the International Missionary Council. The merger of the International Missionary Conference with the WCC at New Delhi in 1961 marks a significant point in the program of the Council. Edinburgh called for the “evangelization of the world in our generation” through preaching and teaching the gospel, saving lost souls, and building the church of Christ. New Delhi, however, in an atmosphere of theological compromise called for a united “Christian mission bearing witness to a profound search for living truth.” It becomes obvious at once that the centrality of the Word of God and uniqueness of the Christian message has already been dismissed.

The leadership of the International Missionary Conference which is the right arm of the WCC sees Christianity only as the fulfillment rather than the contradiction of the non-Christian religions. Again synthesis is substituted for antithesis. The spirit which pervades the International Missionary Council seeks to see the good in all religions. This inclusivistic syncretism began already for the International Missionary Council when as early as 1928 they declared “We recognize as constituent elements of the only truth: The profound feeling of the greatness of God, the spirit of reverence in worship, as we find them in the Moslem religion; the profound sympathy for human suffering and the unselfish effort to escape from it which is the basis of Buddhism; the longing for contact with supreme reality conceived as a spiritual entity which is the distinctive mark of Hinduism; the belief in a moral law guiding the entire universe as professed by Confucianism; the unselfish pursuit of truth and effort for increasing the welfare of humanity which one frequently finds in those who believe in the progress of civilization but do not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We urge the followers of non-Christian religions to remain firm in an eternal and invisible world and join hands with us in an intense battle against all the evils which are engendered by modern civilization.” Here already it is plain that the gospel of sovereign grace unto salvation by the blood of Christ alone has been dismissed and a social gospel for the betterment of mankind has been put in its place.

In 1932 the Foreign Missions Inquiry made its report in a volume entitled, Rethinking Missions. Here was a complete repudiation of the evangelical, biblical concept of missions. It stated among other things: “The task of Christianity is not to argue with Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism but with materialism, secularism, naturalism. It is no longer, Which prophet? or Which book? It is whether any prophet, book, revelation, rite, church, is to be trusted.” With such a clear rejection of the uniqueness of the Christian faith and the Word of God it becomes plain that such a plan for Christian missions is demonic in its basic intent and method. There is little doubt that those who have abandoned the New Testament view of the finality, absoluteness and uniqueness of the Christian message of salvation by the blood of Christ only are in complete control of the WCC and in particular of its Missionary activity. Even Hendrik Kraemer, who challenged the liberal views from a neo-orthodox point of view, in his book “The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World” has admitted that the cause is lost. This is evidently the working spirit in the International Missionary Council.

What place can the true church of Christ with its unique message have in such a structure? Here the Word is ignored and need of salvation by the blood of Christ is rejected. That this WCC missionary arm has no place for the true gospel is born out by the report of our own missionary.

Rev. Bassam Madany, reporting on his recent visit to the near east says, “The Near East Christian Council, which is affiliated with the WCC, has complete control of the Arabic programs on the Voice of the Gospel station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They do not permit any mission or board to broadcast in Arabic unless one works under their auspices and is a part of the local church. In other words, they have policies which would forbid an organization such as the Back to God Hour from broadcasting the Gospel in Arabic. Furthermore, their programs are not directly missionary ones, but simply represent the life and beliefs of the many member churches. Around 30% arc classified as religious and the rest are of a cultural nature. The management of the Arabic department of VOG did not admit that it was their aim to keep the witness of other Christians out of their station. They claimed that they were organized on the basis of producing Arabic programs by the national churches of the Middle East, which include other than protestant churches. But it is clearly evident that the policies of the Arabic section of the VOG manifest an ecumenical impatience with any clear-cut presentation of the Gospel.” The time will come when the two witnesses who bear the testimony of Jesus will be silenced by the totalitarian church and their bodies will lie in the streets of the city where also their Lord was crucified.

The demonism of the spirit which presently pervades the Missionary arm of the WCC is, I think, most clearly expressed in the Festival of Faith held in June 1955 under the allspices of the National Council of Churches which is United States branch of the WCC. This was a combined “service prayer for peace and divine guidance to the United Nations.” Representatives were present from the Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Bahai, and Jewish faiths as well as the Christian faith. Quotations from the sacred writings of each of the faiths were woven together into one responsive reading. The Savings of Confucius, The Bhagavad Gita, Selected Readings of the Buddhist, the New Testament, and the Old Testament were used. The NCC report issued subsequently said “They called God by different names, speaking to Him in different tongues, but the dream for peace in their hearts was the same.” The prayers offered upon this occasion were printed also. The Buddhists called upon the ultimate reality and the supreme Buddha and our Lord the Buddha. The Hindu addressed “a Brahman—Thou god Transcendent” and the protestant who prayed addressed the “Eternal God, Father of all.”

This is the apostate spirit of the NCC and the wee. It is a rejection of Jesus Christ who said, I am the way the truth and the life—no man cometh unto the Father but by me. To be a party to such a false god and to participate in such a false unity would be a denial of the only gospel and a rejection of the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace which is the mark of the true church of Christ.

For what kind of unity did our Lord pray? For what kind does he by his Word and Spirit work today? Is this the unity professed and practiced by the World Council of Churches? The facts cited here as well as the conclusions drawn should be taken seriously by all believers, not the least by members of the Christian Reformed Church which has officially addressed itself to the matter of its evaluation of the ecumenical organization. This material was first presented as an address to the Annual Meeting of Reformed Fellowship, Inc. by Rev. Rein Leetsma, pastor of the First Roseland Christian Reformed Church, Chicago, IL.