Signs of the Times

Some months ago I read several magazines which quoted an article on earthquakes and their frequency. If the report is correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, this makes for some interesting proof that the end of the age approaches rapidly. In Outlook, May 1983, this report is presented:

Among the “signs” which our Lord mentioned as signalling His approaching return were “earthquakes, in diverse places.”

Matt. 24:7

An article in the January, 1983, issue of Getrouw by Alexander Seibel on “The Background of Terrorism Illuminated from the Bible” calls attention to these signs mentioning especially the increasing frequency and intensity of earthquakes in our time. Citing as authority a book, The Cosmic Conspiracy by Stan Dyo, he points out that from 1897 to 1946 there were 3 earthquakes registering above 6 on the Richter scale. From 1946 to 1956 there were 7; from 1956 to 1966 there were 17 of that degree of violence. But in the year 1967 alone they numbered 17; in 1968, 19; in 1969, 21; in 1970, 24; and in 1971 there were 34 above 6 on the Richter scale. From 1967-1976 there were according to other statistics a total of 180 earthquakes registering above 7 on the Richter scale. Should we let these increasingly frequent and violent catastrophes pass without noticing what they tell us of the Lord’s approaching return and our need to be ready for it by believing in and serving Him?

Another reminder, this is, of the nearness of Christ’s return. He who would close his eyes to the clear evidences would be a fool indeed. Let us watch—and labor, knowing that the night is far spent and the day is at hand.

World Council of Churches

This past summer the W.C.C. met in Vancouver, Canada—its sixth assembly since the founding. Many reports have been given about this assembly. Some have found that it appears to have become more conservative and spiritual. Others, while conceding that the evangelicals have had a louder voice at this assembly, believe that the W.C.C. continues down the steep road of apostasy. Christianity Today, Sept. 16, 1983, contains a lengthy and positive report about the assembly—but includes also a short comment from one who dissents from this positive assessment. The positive report states:

After its Uppsala, Switzerland, assembly in 1968, the World Council of Churches (WCC) espoused liberation theologies, sent money to liberation movements, and acutely criticized Western failures. This, combined with comparative silence about Communist societies, convinced many evangelicals that it was controlled by the political and theological Left. But the Sixth Assembly of the WCC in Vancouver, which concluded last month, may significantly alter that perception, and may introduce stronger evangelical currents in the council. 

Vigorous Trinitarian theology with a strong emphasis on eternal and supernatural life in Christ permeated this assembly. The theosis motif—the special Orthodox emphasis on our vital union with Christ in His death and resurrection, and our salvation through participation in the divine life—especially lent itself to the theme of this assembly, “Jesus Christ—the Lord of the World.”. . . . 

. . .The majority of evangelicals who caucused at the assembly were also enthusiastic, so much so that they produced a statement, commending the World Council and inviting evangelicals to add their gifts to its process. The main drafter of “Evangelicals at Vancouver: An Open Letter” was Arthur Glasser, who reflected the contributions of a group of about 40 others, including Waldron Scott and Orlando Costas, who was an advisor at the assembly. The evangelical statement made the front page of the assembly newspaper. Emilio Castro, head of the WCC Division of Mission and Evangelism, was ecstatic about the support provided for evangelical concerns in the council, and predicted that the open letter would turn out to, be the most important event at the Siih Assembly. More than 200 persons signed the document, and many others thanked us for it. 

Not all evangelicals at the assembly-affirmed this statement. A counterstatement produced by Peter Beyerhaus was signed by American missiologist Arthur Johnston and a Korean Presbyterian professor, Myung Yuk Kim. The Beyerhaus statement admitted some of the progress noted by the other evangelicals but called attention to theological vagueness, a neo- Marxist “theology of the poor,” feminist neopaganism, the presence and counter witness of spokespersons for non-Christican religions, unbalanced criticism of the West, shallowness in perceiving sin, and a lack of eschatological perspective. It concluded by warning evangelicals to stay clear of the WCC process, just as the open letter called for their involvement. . . .

Other reports of the WCC appeared in Christian Renewal, Sept. 12, 1983:

Representatives of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam told an international gathering of Christians here how their traditions view life as a gift from God. They took part in a plenary session of the sixth assembly of the World Council of Churches devoted to an assembly sub-theme, “Life, A Gift of God.” and made history in so doing. Although there have been observers from non-Christian religions at previous assemblies, the assembly here marked the first time that a plenary session had been addressed by non-Christian representatives. At the World Council’s New Delhi assembly in 1961, it was not even possible for people of other faiths to be accredited as press representatives.

It is evident that the WCC has accommodated itself somewhat to the evangelicals in its midst. But this, perhaps, makes the organization more deceptive and dangerous. The reports indicate that the WCC has drawn closer to the non-Christian religions. Thus, while trying to soothe some of the fears of the evangelicals, the WCC has at the same time accommodated itself to the other “religions” of the world. How can any of the faithful churches participate with those who increasingly seek union between “light” and “darkness”? Clearly, there is continued development toward the one church and one world concept of the antichrist.

Total Depravity

One is encouraged when reading of others a strong emphasis upon the total depravity of natural man with a clear-cut denial of the so-called free-will of the sinner. Such a statement appears in the Reformed Herald, September, 1983, a publication of the Reformed Church in the U.S. (Eureka Classis). The Rev. Steven Schlei writes about “Cement Shoes”:

. . .A few years ago, a popular South Dakota evangelist visited Minot to urge the evangelical ministers of this community to sponsor him in an evangelistic crusade in the city. He wanted a guaranteed purse of $25,000 to cover his expenses so that he could come. The ministers wanted him to come, but they were quite hesitant to make such a large commitment to cough up so much money. Sensing that money was the only issue in whether or not he could come, the evangelist rebuked and admonished the ministers, “Brethren, it has been our experience in previous crusades that for every $25 invested, one soul is saved. We are talking here about the salvation of 1000 people in Minot. How can you quibble over such things as money?’ He went on to urge the ministers to “sell” this plan to the Christians of Minot by telling them they could buy a soul for $25 or a whole family for the gift of $100. 

My dear brethren, let me tell you that these and other similar horror stories make my blood boil…. These blasphemies come from a view of God which sees Him as having done all that He can to save sinners, and now He must await the outcome of their individual and collective decisions. This “god” has tied His hands in the realm of salvation because He has granted a “free will” to His creatures, so that He is dependent upon them whether heaven will be populated by a few or many men. Because so many men perish in Hell, ‘because they improperly exercise their free will, one Arminian called Hell a “colossal monument” to the failure of God in saving men. 

According to this view, man’s sin has left him in rough shape, but man can pull himself out of the dilemma he is in, if he will only take hold of Christ. Man is drowning in his sin. On that all Christians would agree. The common conception though is that man is yelling for help on the top of the waves, and he could find that help if only he would take hold of the life preserver floating beside him. We believe man is drowning in sin all right, but he is not floating on the surface. Instead, he is at the bottom of the sea wearing cement shoes and having his pockets filled with lead. In short, man is not merely in trouble; he is dead. . . .

It is refreshing to find such strong emphasis on the depravity of the sinner. Indeed, he has no “free will,” nor is he capable of catching the “lifeline” if he will, but he is truly dead in sin and iniquity. Salvation, then, is of God alone through Jesus Christ.