GROWTH OF PENTECOSTALS
Surprisingly enough, the fastest growing denomination in both North and South America is a denomination known as the Pentecostals. Their missionary efforts have produced converts almost faster than they can immerse them for baptism. In a recent article in Time the startling growth of this sect was described.
In Latin America, mostly nominal Roman Catholics (of which there are thousands) are attracted to this group. They outnumber other Protestants by better than four to one. They have, at last count, a million and a half members in Brazil; 700,000 in Chile which has a total Protestant population of only 835,000; one out of two Protestants in Puerto Rico; they have 112 churches in Buenos Aires, Argentina alone and 1200 churches in Old Mexico. In this country, they are found mostly among Spanish-speaking migrants in the large cities such as New York, Chicago, Houston. Mostly missionary work is done among the poor and slum dwellers. The church buildings are usually vacant and run-down buildings such as old stores.
As far as the theology, of the Pentecostals is concerned, it is very haphazard. Their churches are hardly organized at all. Whether in the local congregations or in the denomination, there is no institutional organization or denominational unity. They claim to go back to Pentecost and try to live a life which was the life of the early Church described in Acts—without the sharing of earthly goods. They claim to hold to a traditional view of Scripture and emphasize salvation through repentance. But their services are almost entirely an appeal to the emotions. They hold these church services every night of the week, and they usually last for about two hours. But there is little preaching in the Scriptural sense of the word. Anyone can get up and speak as he is moved by the Pentecostal Spirit. There are loud Bible readings and spontaneous testimonials. There is usually a lot of shouting and singing accompanied by rhythmic clapping, guitars, drums, tambourines, bass viols and pianos. They believe in baptism by the Holy Ghost with its gift of speaking in other tongues—and rather wild demonstrations of this “gift” are not uncommon in the meetings. Their moral code is very limited—no smoking, no drinking, no make-up, etc. They concentrate on a narrowly limited, morally upright life.
Their claim however, to go back to the early Church and to Pentecost is a false claim. In their emotional religion, they forget that the apostles instructed the new converts to the Church in the truth of the Word of God. Paul wrote his profound doctrinal epistles to newly established New Dispensational congregations in order that they might grow in the knowledge of the truth. For the life of a Christian that is pleasing in the sight of God is a life that is deeply rooted in the faith of the truth of God’s Word, and thus in Christ Himself.
Besides, evidently these Pentecostals also conveniently forget that the apostles did not simply bring together people into meetings; rather they organized congregations with the institute of the Church playing an important part. Office bearers were appointed; ministers were ordained to preach; fundamental rules of discipline and church government were laid down; even those who possessed the spiritual gifts of the Spirit were admonished to use them decently and in good order and for the edifying of the Church through growth in doctrine. There must not be in the Church confusion and vain babbling.
Pentecost was not, after all, only an emotional experience. Peter himself explains Pentecost as being the outpouring of the Spirit of Truth that would lead and guide the Church into the truth of the resurrected and ascended Christ.
When this is forgotten, any Church such as the Pentecostals is nothing more than another sect that rises in our day of sects. It is another indication that the church of today has abandoned sound doctrine.
PRESBYTERIANS IN KOREA
The Presbyterian Church in Korea celebrated its “jubilee”—fiftieth anniversary—last month. The celebration was however rather sad as the Church pondered the many schisms that had torn it apart in past years. There was hope that before another “jubilee” would be celebrated, these groups would be merged back again into one denomination.
The main group of Presbyterians constitutes about 49% of the total Presbyterian membership in Korea. It is the largest Protestant body numbering 374,000 members (the closest to this is the Methodist Church with 235,000 members). This group is associated with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in this country and is a member of the Korean National Council of Churches and supports missionary work sponsored by the World Council of Churches. In fact, it is this ecumenical interest of this Presbyterian Church that accounts for one of the splits. The group that split away constitute now about 32% of the Presbyterian constituency. They broke away in 1959 exactly on the ecumenical issue and united themselves with another group that had broken away from the main body in 1951. They are opposed to both the WCC and Dr. Carl McIntire’s International Council of Christian Churches. They are most closely connected with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in this country. They met last month also to celebrate their “jubilee,” but the meeting was marred by another split of a small group that separated from them on the same ecumenical question. This small group supported the ICCC of McIntire and. wanted the entire denomination to go along. When they refused, this group left.
From here the Presbyterian picture in Korea gets rather complex. Christianity Today describes the situation as follows:
The ROK Presbyterian Church represents approximately 15 percent of the Presbyterian constituency and is a more liberal schism related to the United Church of Canada. It separated in 1954. The Korye Presbyterian Church (about 2 per cent of the constituency) is what was left of the 1951 schism when one large segment of that church refused to enter the anti-ecumenical reunion of 1960. All the rest (about 2 percent) are splinters, like the Reconstruction Presbyterian Church which still keeps alive the issue of compromise with Japanese shinto worship; the Bible Presbyterian Church, 1960 McIntire schism; and this week’s latest (the schism referred to above, H.H.) McIntire schism which will have nothing to do with the former McIntire schismatics but which is now forming its own 20-man assembly.
From this distance, with our limited knowledge of the issues it is impossible to tell whether the Church of Christ is fighting a battle for survival in all this stress and strain; and, if it is, precisely where that battle is really being fought. This is sure: the church in Korea is having its troubles.
MORE ON THE ICCC
Several issues back, the undersigned wrote a brief article in The Standard Bearer on the International Council of Christian Churches of which Rev. Carl McIntire is the president and which recently met in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At the time I mentioned that it would be interesting for our readers to know more of this movement, its basis, purpose, etc. Rev. R. Harbach, from Lynden, Washington, who is well acquainted with Presbyterian movements and trends, sent me considerable material. Some of it is worth passing on to you.
Rev. Carl McIntire is a minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church. This group split away from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church on issues of Fundamentalism, Arminians, Pre-Millennialism, and Christian Liberty—the Bible Presbyterians are opposed to any use of alcohol even in communion services.
The Rev. McIntire is a well-known radio speaker who has a network of over 330 stations for his Twentieth Century Reformation Broadcast in which he fights vehemently against Communism, ecumenicism and Roman Catholicism.
The ICCC, of which McIntire is president, expresses its purpose in the Preamble to its Constitution:
. . . for fellowship and cooperation on the part of Bible-believing churches for the proclamation and defense of the Gospel, for the maintenance of a testimony pure, steadfast and world-wide to those great facts and revealed truths of historic Christianity, and especially to the great doctrines of the Protestant Reformation . . . to make known the Gospel of Christ to every kindred and tongue and tribe and nation . . . (to be) without compromise or evasion, unreservedly dedicated as a witness to “the faith for all delivered to the saints.”
Its doctrinal basis is contained in article II of the Constitution and reads:
Among other equally Biblical truths, we believe and maintain the following:
a. The plenary Divine inspiration of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and, as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life;
b. The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
c. The essential, absolute, eternal Deity, and the real and proper, but sinless, humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
d. His birth of the virgin Mary.
e. His substitntionary, expiatory death, in that He gave His life “a ransom for many.”
f. His resurrection from among the dead in the same body in which He was crucified, and the second coming of this same Jesus in power and great glory. g. The total depravity of man through the fall.
h. Salvation, the effect of regeneration by the Spirit and the Word, not by works, but by grace through faith.
i. The everlasting bliss of the saved, and the everlasting suffering of the lost.
j. The real spiritual unity in Christ of all redeemed by His precious blood.
k. The necessity of maintaining, according to the Word of God, the purity of the church in doctrine and life; and still believing in the Apostles’ Creed to be a statement of Scriptural truth, we therefore incorporate it in these articles of faith.
It is quite striking that nowhere in these articles appear the historic Presbyterian truths incorporated also in the Westminster Confessions of Predestination and sovereign grace.
The organization includes churches from all over the world. Some examples: St. Thomas Evangelical Church from India, Baptist groups from England, churches from Korea and Formosa where also the ICCC does most of its missionary work, churches from Australia and Tasmania—Baptist, Methodist and Reformed Presbyterian.
In their plenary sessions and national conferences they concern themselves mostly with decisions of a political and ecumenical nature. They have gone on record, e.g., as opposed to sending wheat to Red China, opposed to Socialized Medicine, opposed to Postal Subsidy of Communist Propaganda. They have vigorously fought against the WCC meeting in New Delhi, against the “Blake-Pike Proposal” of Church union. They hold rallies to protest the coming to this country of the Archbishop of Canterbury and to support the abolition of the income tax.
One gets the impression that this group is more interested in politics than the truth of Scripture; in international affairs than ecclesiastical matters; in earthly battles rather than the battle of faith. It is exceedingly dangerous for even ecclesiastical assemblies to cease treating ecclesiastical matters and busy themselves with all kinds of other affairs belonging to the sphere of the state.