Dr. James Daane, minister in the Christian Reformed Church, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, one of the editors of the Reformed Journal, is a well-known advocate for membership in the World Council of Churches. He continues to encourage membership for his denomination even though several Synodical decisions have strongly condemned such union. He and others, I predict, will continue this agitation for union with the W.C.C. until they succeed in their desires—and this success will be seen within a few years, if the Lord tarry.
Dr. Daane has written a series of three articles for theReformed Journal in which he advanced three propositions which, to his mind, proves that the C.R.C. ought to join the W.C.C. He suggested, first, that there “is nothing in the nature of a Reformed Church that prohibits the Christian Reformed Church from belonging to the Word Council of Churches.” Secondly, he “urged that nowhere better than in the W.C.C. can the C.R.C. pursue its acknowledged and long-neglected obligation to contact all the churches that belong to the Church of Christ.” In his third article (Reformed Journal of March, 1970) he presents a far more sobering and disturbing argument. He contends that the nature and purpose of the Church, as taught by Paul in Ephesians and Colossians, compels union with the W.C.C. In fact, Daane suggests more: that the nature and purpose of the Church compels union of denominations.
The reasoning of Dr. Daane is very disturbing and seriously heretical. First, he presents an utterly false view of the Church. He considers the origin of the Church to be the “reconciliation of Jew and Gentile by the Cross.” The Church began, therefore, after the death of Christ and consists of that “new humanity”: Jew and Gentile. In the Old Dispensation, then, there was no Church—there was only God’s people: the Jews. This conception of the church is contrary to the instruction of Scripture (Rom. 4:11-16; Rom. 2:28, 29; Gal. 3:7-19;Hosea 1:10, 11 compared with Rom. 9:24-26; etc.), and it is contrary to the instruction of our confessions (H.C. Lord’s Day 21; Belgic Confession, article 27; etc.).
Secondly, Daane falsely presents the unity of the church. He suggests that “unity is inherent in the Church’s birth. . . .” His idea seems to be that the unity of the church is the combining of Jew and Gentile into one “new humanity.” In the Old Dispensation, then, that unity could not have existed. Then there was division. Now there is oneness in the Church. However, Daane confuses the oneness or unity of the church with its universality or catholicity. In the Old Testament the church was not universal; it was limited. In the New Testament, after Pentecost, this changed. Then God broke down, through the cross of Christ, that “middle wall” of partition. Now Gentiles were also brought into the one body of Christ. But the Church, both in the Old and New Dispensation, was always one in Christ. The passages of Scripture and the confessions to which I made reference above clearly show this.
But in making the “unity” of the Church a unity of Jew and Gentile, Daane apparently ignores that Scripture teaches that the unity of the Church is a unity of truth and doctrine. Christ insists that the oneness of His people must reflect that oneness which exists between Himself and His Father (John 17:21). Paul, in Ephesians, emphasizes a oneness which is doctrinal (“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as, ye are called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Eph. 4:4-6). When Daane nevertheless insists that the oneness of the Church consists of the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile by the Cross, he opens the way for his idea that doctrinal difference and oneness can exist simultaneously within the Church. He states, “Even the differences that obtain within the Church, doctrinal and otherwise, obtain within the Church, sustained by the unity of the Church, and unable to create a second Church.” And Daane here evidently refers not only to the unity of the Body of Christ, but also to its manifestation now on the earth. Even doctrinal differences must not cause separation in the Church, nor be the basis for continued separation of denominations, but can existwithin the unified church. He pleads in this, way, “In the light of Paul’s doctrine of the Church, its nature and task, the matter of church union must face the question whether the doctrinal differences are of such magnitude as to warrant a separation that obscures the meaning of Christ’s Cross and God’s eternal purpose.” Daane is somewhat vague—but I would conclude that in Daane’s view there is no church union which he would regard as impossible. The principle of union he advocates; he questions whether there areany doctrinal differences of such magnitude as to warrant separation. This man is not merely interested in seeing the C.R.C. in the World Council of Churches—this is only the first step towards something wider: the union of all churches.
In the third place, Daane suggests what seems to me to be a strange and unscriptural idea of election. He does not speak of election in any detail—that was not the purpose of his article. He does speak of that deepest possible of all divisions cut by election between Jew and Gentile in the Old Testament. Daane’s idea seems to be that all of Israel, or all of the Jews, were the elect. That gulf had to be broken down—that gulf of election which cuts between Jew and Gentile. Christ does this. And one can logically conclude from Daane’s description, that now in the New Testament age all Jews and Gentiles are elect. The wall, however, which divided Jew and Gentile was not election. Election cut right through the heart of Israel itself. Israel was not itself the elect, but it had in it the elect remnant. The wall which divided Jew and Gentile was the law and ordinances given by God through Moses. These laws set Israel apart from all other nations of the earth. Christ, in His death on the cross, broke down this middle wall, thus establishing a universal Church. But election is of a particular people chosen by God in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Even in Isaiah where we read of “elect Israel,” the reference is undoubtedly to spiritual Israel, to the spiritual seed of Abraham (Romans 9:6-8). Daane’s idea of election appears to be contrary to that description of it in the Belgic Confession, article 16; or the Canons of Dordt, First Head, article 7. Election does indeed create a division among mankind—but that division is never broken down nor bridged. Only because of the cross does this division continue to exist.
In the fourth place, Daane speaks of “God’s eternal purpose.” I hope I do misunderstand him in his article, for I receive the definite impression that Daane believes that God’s eternal purpose is to reconcile all men ultimately to Himself, and, in fact, to heal the breech which exists between Satan and God. He appears to teach a universalism for which a united church on this earth must serve as sign. “The Church,” says Daane, “as that new, unified, and reconciled humanity achieved by the Cross is a unique window on the nature of Gaff; eternal purpose and that unique, one and only concrete historical reality whose very existence is an initial realization of God’s purpose and the sign that the unity that now constitutes the Church will one day unite all things.” The universalism which Daane’s article suggests, I find in the following statements (the italics are mine):
What, according to Paul, is the greatest unreconciled division within reality, whether earthly or heavenly, visible or invisible? Not that between God and the devil, between slave and free man, White and Black, communist and capitalist, elect and reprobate, nor that between democratic and totalitarian societies. Nor in Pauline thought does the deepest unreconciled division lie between the Church and the world. The deepest division is rather that between Jew and Gentile, a division that stems not from human sin, but from that free divine act which made the Jews the choice of God’s election.
You will note in the above quotation that Daane emphasizes that the greatest unreconciled division is that between Jew and Gentile; all the others, including that between God and the devil, between elect and reprobate, are lesser unreconciled divisions. Then Daane continues later in the article:
The Church is the historical actuality and. substantive proof that all the remaining lesser disunities and enmities can and will be reconciled in peace and harmony.
As a community of the reconciled in which there is not only neither Jew nor Gentile, but also neither rich nor poor, Black or White, slave or free man, male or female, the Church as the new humanity in which all these differences are discounted, accepted, and harmonized is a sign to all the world that there is no division in all the reaches of cosmic reality that cannot and will not be healed.
Note that Daane does not state that division will finally be gone—for the devil and all workers of iniquity will be cast into hell. Rather he insists that all division will behealed. On the basis of this purpose of God, Daane wants a unified church on this earth to serve as a sign and seal, as an “evidence of God’s purpose and of his power to attain it, that monument in history of the final unity and reconciliation of all things.”
I hardly need point out that the above teaching would be a violation of that which is clearly taught in Scripture and our confessions—and is surely not Reformed. If Daane does maintain the above, he flagrantly violates that formula of subscription which he signed when he was ordained into the ministry of the Christian Reformed church. But surely this unreformed presentation must not be used as basis for advocating union with the World Council of Churches.
If Daane would want a good ground for advocating the proposition that the C.R.C. ought to join the W.C.C. and even the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), he could point to himself. If the Christian Reformed Church can allow Daane to remain a minister in good standing within their denomination in spite of what he teaches, in spite of his violation of the formula of subscription—then there is no principal reason why they should refuse fellowship with and membership in the W.C.C. or even in C.O.C.U.