During the first week of October the overseas arm of the National Council of Christian Churches held its first meeting since the reorganization plan went into effect early in this year. The avowed aim of the gathering was to emphasize the “new directions” which should be taken by those denominations who in their work follow the Council’s directions.
That these are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Holy Writ on the evangelistic task of Christ’s church can be plainly demonstrated. Any church or board or missionary which follows what was proposed can no longer claim to be faithful to the Word. Of course, the question remains whether and to what degree the constituent members of the Council will implement the expressed opinions and plans of those in charge of the October meeting on missions. But even though this is left to the discretion of individual churches and their representatives. the influence of the Council’s agency may not be underestimated. In this area Council literature and program materials are being more widely used than in any other. By means of study books, films and speakers as well as by actual policy decisions the impact of the suggested “new directions” will undoubtedly be very strong.
Which, then, are these proposed “new directions”?
To every truly evangelical and Bible believing Christian these should serve as a strong warning.
The assembly called for a move away from the salvation of souls to serving mankind, a favorite theme of those who have embraced the universalistic and this-worldly emphases of the new existential theology. In the theological addresses delegates were told that the church’s mission “has to do with concrete political, social and cultural implications.” What was called for is “a Christian secularization,” so that all the best everywhere, also in the pagan religions, may be claimed “for the One God.” One of the top executives urged. that “the emphasis upon darkness and heathenism must go.” The church’s concern must be with our government’s action in Viet Nam and the Dominican Republic and with such problems as housing, hunger and planned parenthood. This world must be made a better place for all men.
Much as evangelical Reformed believers accept the undeniable truth that the Christian gospel has social and cultural implications together with the conviction that the fulness of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is not proclaimed if the preaching restricts itself to a call to personal repentance and faith, it is equally their conviction that “missions” rightly conceived. is always addressed primarily to the individual who is saved from sin and all its consequences only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor is it the task of the instituted church to involve itself directly in the political, economic and social issues of the day. Any trend in this direction is an overstepping of the boundaries of her life and commission. She has been entrusted by Christ with the task of preaching the gospel. This call is virtually repudiated by the leaders who spoke at the recent gathering. For them the Biblical distinction between “children of light” and “children of darkness” seems to be wiped out. It is fast being replaced by a distinction between the “haves” and “have-nots,” interpreted in a purely this-worldly fashion.
The “new directions” are plainly the “wrong” directions for Christ’s churches.
Churches which belong to the National Council of Christian Churches but still claim to be confessional and Biblical do well to ponder with what show of right they contribute to such propaganda. And those who do not belong but are being urged by some of their leaders to join must ask on what Scriptural basis such fellowship and cooperation with those who patently pervert our Lord’s command to his church can be justified.
COMMUNIST ACTIVITIES ON THE COLLEGE CAMPUS…
Recently U.S. News and World Report presented facts and figures on the growing influence of Communism on the college and university campuses of this land.
In a carefully formulated series of answers to specific questions Stefan T. Possony of Stanford University indicated what is going on. He calls attention to the fact that Communism presents an ever-changing face and makes use of ever-changing approaches to influence especially the rising generation. In terms of actual numbers Communists among both students and faculty constitute a very small fraction of the whole. Yet he warns “that the Communist game is not a game of numbers.” Those who, if successful, will destroy our religious as well as political liberties are interested in training revolutionaries for the future. Not many are needed to create much unrest and open strife. And in view of the fact that the vast majority of not only American students but also citizens arc both politically uninformed and indifferent, it cannot be denied that the noise of a few receives much attention.
Possony is far from convinced that the Communists have a master-plan by which to take over the United States. Rather would it seem that they are as much surprised by their new opportunities as many loyal Americans are shocked and dismayed. He therefore urges that the nation open its eyes to what is going on. Especially would he warn youthful idealists against the Communist technique of “fronting” by means of which they involve themselves in acts which contribute to the weakening of the nation in these times of world crisis.
The reason for this upsurge in Communist activity on all fronts is outlined by J. Edgar Hoover. He reminds us that the United States Supreme Court on June 22, 1964, declared unconstitutional the passport section of the Internal Security Act of 1950. Said section prohibited any member of the Communist party in this country from applying for or using an American passport. Since then large numbers of party functionaries have been able to travel openly to the Soviet Union. Also the school year 1964–65 was a busy time for leaders. In some fifty-six appearances they were able to address more than 37,000 students.
That the church of Jesus Christ has a great stake in what is going on cannot be denied and may not be ignored. The godlessness of both Communist theory and practice makes it imperative that every believer choose clearly. The Scriptures unequivocally reject economic determinism, class struggle and revolutionary tactics. Although much in our nation needs continual reformation and improvement and believers should be in the forefront in the struggle for social justice instead of passing by on the other side of the road, the church must warn her starry-eyed idealists against making common cause with Christ’s enemy.
Also today not revolution but Christ’s gospel, purely preached and believingly practiced, is the hope of the world.
ON THE PROBLEMS AND PAINS OF CHRISTIAN JOURNALISM…
The pen, someone said many years ago, is mightier than the sword. This has always been an encouragement for those who seek to mold public opinion and conviction by means of books and articles and pamphlets. The Communists are well aware of this. Hence they spend millions every year to infiltrate homes and schools and nations with an avalanche of printed material. Throughout the history of Christianity no method has been more successful in drawing men to our Lord than the widespread distribution of the Holy Scriptures.
All this does not mean, however, that writing is without its pitfalls and its pains.
Most of us find it exceedingly difficult to state our position precisely and convincingly on paper. And to this must be added that nearly everyone who reads falls into the snare at one time or another of misinterpreting what is written. Although man created in the image of God has been endowed with the high privilege of being able to communicate his thoughts to others, sin has exerted a dreadful and almost disastrous influence in our lives as we seek to communicate. Only the grace of God in Christ Jesus, who is himself the Truth and through his Spirit leads into the truth, can enable us to communicate and receive communication of thought aright. And as we exercise ourselves, both readers and writers, everyone needs the forgiving and cleansing grace of Christ each day.
Of this unhappy but undeniable situation we were again reminded when reading the comments of the editor of In de Rechte Straat. He cites some illuminating but shocking incidents in his recent experiences.
Not long ago he reviewed a book on South Africa and its apartheid policies written by a Dr. Dominicus. In it he commented, “What consistently goes against the grain with me is the one-sided interpretation (“voorlichting”) of South Africa which the world press always gives.” From this statement some distilled the conclusion that the writer, the Rev. H. J. Hegger, favored racial discrimination. He now asks whether as Christians we must assume that the white race in that land is so estranged from all principles of justice, that we need no longer apply that basic principle of justice to them which requires that we do not condemn them without a fair hearing.
How emotionally loaded and prejudiced reading can be -even without our being fully aware of what is happening within us as we read, is evidenced by the reaction of a Protestant clergyman (a doctor of theology, no less) to what Hegger had written about the evil of imposed celibacy of the Roman Catholic clergy. This gentleman justified the Roman requirement and practice by referring to the Protestant monastic fellowship at Taize, France, and at once cancelled his subscription.
These may seem to be little more than passing incidents. Yet they remind us afresh that hard as it may be to write fairly and precisely and consistently, it is even harder to read without misconstruing and misjudging what is written.
– PETER Y. DE JONG