What Key ’73 is
Key ’73 is the name of a project that unites more than one hundred churches and religious groups in the work of evangelism in 1973. The leaders of Key ’73 describe it in various ways. One calls it “cooperative evangelical thrust for world evangelism.” Another refers to it as a “corporate manifestation of biblical faith.” Still another calls it “a dynamic evangelical fellowship.” Another leader call sit a “non-organizational ‘evangelical Christian coalition.'” Recently, a spokesman for Key ’73 called Key ’73 “transdenominational evangelical cooperation.”
There are two main aspects of Key ’73. One of these is evangelism. The avowed objective of Key ’73 is “to confront every person in North America more fully and forcibly with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The theme of the endeavor is: “Calling Our Continent to Christ.” The other main aspect of Key ’73 is the union of churches and religious groups. Key ’73 unites many churches in the work of evangelism. Over 130 churches and groups have joined Key ’73.
The explanation of the name, “Key ’73,” is that those who planned the project met in Arlington, Virginia, near a bridge called “Key Bridge” after Francis Scott Key. They named their project after this bridge. They added “73” because 1973 is the year that they chose in which the project is to be carried out.
Key ’73 is run by an executive committee of ministers and other churchmen from such churches and groups as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; the American Baptist Church; Campus Crusade for Christ; the United Methodist Church; the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; the Christian Reformed Church; the Salvation Army; and the Assemblies of God. There are more than 130 member churches and religious groups including the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church U.S., the Free Will Baptist Church, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the Wesleyan Church, and many more. The Roman Catholic Church is also a full participant now.
Our calling to examine Key ’73
There are many who approve Key ’73 uncritically, simply because it claims to do evangelism. They resent any criticism of Key ’73 and condemn every critic out of hand as a man who is not evangelistic. But we have a calling to examine Key ’73. This is a God-given duty. I John 4:1 requires us to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Ephesians 4:14 warns the saints not to be swept away with every latest fad in the sphere of religion: “That we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie to wait to deceive.” Especially pastors and elders have the duty to examine Key ’73 carefully, so that they can instruct and warn the church which Christ has put under their care. The movement itself forces us to examine it and to say something about it. Some of us have been invited to join Key ’73. Pressure is put on those churches that do not join. An example of this pressure was found in the Grand Rapids Press of April 16, 1973. Under the caption, “Spirit of Christ Fills 5,000 at Calder,” the Press reported on an inter-denominational, “Key 73 worship service” featuring three speakers, the editor of the Christian Reformed Church’s magazine, The Banner, the mayor of Grand Rapids, and the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids. In the article, the Pressquoted a spokesman of Key ’73 as saying that “one disappointing thing about the day was that in spite of all the denominational cooperation, some groups, particularly the Baptist and minority churches, were still not participating much in Key 73.”
Our viewpoint in this examination of Key ’73 will be that of the Reformed faith, the faith embodied in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt. The question, “What must we say about it?,” means: What must a Reformed Church say about it and what must a Reformed believer say about it? This by no means implies that non-Reformed people are ignored. The standard by which Key ’73 will be measured is Holy Scripture, God’s inspired and, therefore, infallible Word. Our sole concern is: What does Scripture require us to say about Key ’73? Therefore, we intend to set forth what every Christian must say about Key ’73.
Key ’73, a project of neoevangelicalism
The beginning of Key ’73 was an article in the June 9, 1967 issue of the religious magazine, Christianity Today, entitled, “Somehow, Let’s Get Together.” The author was Carl F. H. Henry, who was editor of the magazine at that time. The opening line was: “This is a rallying cry for evangelicals everywhere.” The article pleaded for cooperation of evangelicals, particularly in the work of evangelism. The response was enthusiastic, and in September, 1967 Henry and Billy Graham called a meeting of leading evangelicals. From that and subsequent meetings came the project known now as Key ’73. This history shows that Key ’73 is the baby of “neo-evangelicalism” “Neo (that is, new)—evangelicalism” is the name given to their movement by a certain group of Protestant people. They call themselves “evangelicals” because they claim to spread the gospel (in the Greek New Testament, the word “gospel” is evangel). They call themselves “neo-evangelicals,” that is, the newevangelicals, because they like to distinguish themselves from an old evangelicalism, that which is known as “fundamentalism.” ‘This new evangelicalism is a large, powerful force on the religious scene today. To know Key ’73 it is necessary to know something about neo-evangelicalism, for the baby resembles the parent. It is all the more necessary to know what neo-evangelicalism is because Key ’73 is not the only project that this movement has planned. On the drawing-board of neo-evangelicalism are more projects and activities after 1973.
First of all, it is helpful to take note of the persons and institutions that head the movement. The man who coined the name and who is regarded as the father of neo-evangelicalism is the well-known pastor of the Park Street Congregational Church in Boston, Harold Ockenga. Other leaders include Carl Henry, Billy Graham, and Bernard Ramm. The views and projects of neo-evangelicalism are promoted in the flourishing magazine, Christianity Today. Fuller Theological Seminary in California trains men to preach, teach, and practice neo-evangelicalism.
Secondly, we ask what neo-evangelicalism stands for. It is not a church or a denomination of churches. Rather, it is made up of many people in many different Protestant churches. Nor is it a movement, at present anyway, that seeks to establish a new church. Rather, it strongly advocates that evangelicals remain in their churches. Harold Ockenga himself described neo-evangelism in an article entitled, “Resurgent Evangelical Leadership,” in the October 10, 1960 issue of Christianity Today. The ambitious goals of neo-evangelicalism are evident in Ockenga’s opening sentence: “What the Communist party is in the vanguard of the world revolution, the evangelical movement must be in the world revival.” He defines an evangelical as a Christian who holds what a majority of Protestants regard as the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, e.g., the Trinity, the fallen condition of man, and the literal return of Christ; a spiritually minded man and zealous for practical Christian living, not merely orthodox; and a man who seeks the conversion of sinners. He distinguishes the new evangelicalism from three other movements in Christendom, Roman Catholicism, modernism, and fundamentalism. It differs from Roman Catholicism in that Catholicism is sacerdotal, that is, Catholicism teaches that salvation comes through the priesthood and the sacraments. It differs from modernism in that modernism denies the fundamentals of the Christian faith, e.g., the Virgin Birth and the resurrection of the body. Ockenga stresses that neo-evangelicalism also differs from fundamentalism, “the old evangehcalism.” Especially two characteristics of fundamentalism displease the new evangelicalism. The first is fundamentalism’s anti-intellectualism. The second is fundamentalism’s separatism, its refusal to have fellowship with those that hold false doctrine. The new evangelicalism contends that this position leads to unfortunate and unnecessary schism in the church. Neo-evangelicalism is determined to avoid ecclesiastical separations and splits. Ockenga speaks for the entire movement when he calls evangelicals to remain in modernist, apostate churches. They must “infiltrate” such denominations in order “to minister in and influence modernist groups” and in order to “strengthen the things that remain and possibly resume control of such denominations.” In harmony with this basic principle, the new evangelicalism refuses to engage in controversy with those who deny the truth. Rather, it advocates carrying on courteous dialogues with the enemies of the Christian faith.
Neo-evangelicalism, then, is a large, well-defined group in Protestantism, cutting across all denominational lines, which likes to call itself conservative because it holds to such fundamentals as the Virgin Birth and which boasts of preaching the gospel. It has ambitious, clearly articulated goals. It intends to revive Christianity in the midst of the secular world. It intends to make Christianity respectable to the modern world by intelligent courteous defense of the faith and dialogue. It hopes to recapture the big Protestant denominations from modernism. It wants to make Christianity a force that reforms the social order of America. This last is an important item on the agenda of neo-evangelicalism. It receives more and more emphasis, even during the current project of evangelism. One discerns in the propaganda of Key ’73 that the improvement of society is the main goal of evangelism. For the accomplishment of all of this, there has to be a union of all the evangelicals.
What must we say about it? A Reformed man has two main criticisms of neo-evangelicalism, criticisms which are most serious. Neo-evangelicalism works for and realizes an ungodly union, or ecumenicity. And neo-evangelicalism displays an unchristian disregard for the truth of God’s Word; indeed, it proclaims a perverted gospel. Both of these errors characterize Key ’73 and make that project totally unacceptable to a Reformed Church and to a Reformed man.
Key ’73 is an ungodly union
The leaders of Key ’73 insist that Key ’73 is not an ecumenical movement. The Executive Director, Theodore Raedeke, states flatly: “Key 73 is not an ecumenical movement” (in Key 73’s officialCongregational Resource Book, St. Louis, MO, Concordia Publishing House, p. 5. After this, this book will be referred to as C.R.B. ). The ground for this disclaimer is that Key ’73 does not aim at theorganizational union of the different churches; it does not intend to merge churches. Repeatedly, Key ’73 claims that all churches and groups are left free to do their own thing in their own way. Reformed Churches may do evangelism in a Reformed manner; Rome may engage in the work of Key ’73 in the Roman way; the Pentecostals may participate with tongues; the Salvation Army may beat its drums, toot its trumpets, and shake its tambourines.
In fact, however, Key ’73 involves the union of churches and groups, and this oneness of the many participants is an essential element of Key ’73. That Key ’73 both aims at a union of many churches and effects such a union is obvious to everyone. 130 or more churches and groups, from Rome to the Salvation Army, are united in this one, massive program and work. There is even an organizational union. All the participants must express agreement with a single, officially adopted message and with a set of officially adopted objectives. Also, all the churches and groups are headed by an Executive Committee. That Key ’73 is a union of all the churches is plain from the descriptions given of Key ’73 by its own leaders: “cooperativeevangelical thrust”; “corporate manifestation of biblical faith”; dynamic evangelical fellowship“; “non-organizational evangelical coalition“—all terms expressing union, oneness, and fellowship. Union of the evangelicals was the purpose of the neo-evangelicals who conceived of Key ’73.
Union was their main goal. It is not the case, as we are led to believe, that the union of the churches in Key ’73 exists for the sake of evangelism; rather, evangelism serves the end of bringing about the union of the churches. This was evident in the editorial of Carl Henry which resulted in Key ’73. The title itself shows this: “Somehow, Let’s Get Together.” The entire article breathed one main concern, that evangelicals be united. Evangelism was regarded as a good means to achieve this goal. In the C.R.B., one of the members of the Executive Committee of Key ’73. Rev. Joe Hale, tips the hand of Key ’73 as regards its intention to realize union of many, diverse churches: “There is a growing Christian consensus that we cannot be divided—into black or white, brown or red—reformed or free—catholic or evangelical. We can move out together to proclaim to the world the One who has broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (p. 162). Immediately, he quotes with approval a certain Dr. Rufus Jones, who said that “the old divisions (read: denominational lines—DE) no longer apply.”
The leaders of the new evangelicalism who gave us Key ’73 are going to give us much more after 1973 in order to perpetuate and strengthen the union begun in Key ’73. For this reason, those in Reformed Churches who are opposed to Key ’73 but who console themselves regarding their church’s participation in Key ’73 by supposing that Key ’73 is a temporary evil are fooling themselves. Key ’73 is only a beginning. Already in 1967, in an editorial that followed up his original call for evangelical union, Carl Henry denied that evangelism was the only reason for getting together. He wrote: “We must go beyond evangelism and missions. Evangelism is not the only reason for evangelical rapprochement.” Other reasons for getting together include the benefit of praying together, the benefit of fellowship, and the benefit of worshipping together (cf. Christianity Today, July 7, 1967, pp. 20, 21). In the October 27, 1967 issue, Christianity Todayreported that the meetings at Key Bridge not only planned cooperative evangelism but also discussed plans “to further transdenominational evangelical cooperation beyond evangelism.”
Key ’73 deliberately set out to accomplish union of the churches, and now, marvelous to relate, we see that the union it brings about is a union that also includes the so-called “liberal,” that is apostate, Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Key ’73 began with a call for evangelicals to get together. Now, it invites and receives such apostate churches as the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. In 1972, the Roman Catholic Church accepted an invitation to join Key ’73. So, Key ’73 is a “coalition,” a “fellowship,” a “corporate manifestation of biblical faith,” of evangelicals, liberals, and Rome.
What must we say about Key ’73 as regards its union of many churches? We repudiate the charge beforehand, that we are critical of this union because we are unconcerned with the unity of Christ’s Church and because we are separatistic and schismatic. It is not in the Reformed tradition to take lightly the unity of the Church. Witness Calvin’s fervent rejection of Rome’s contention that the Reformation broke the unity of the Church. Not the Reformation, but Rome, by proclaiming false doctrine, was the “troubler of Israel,” insisted Calvin. Neither is it part of the heritage of the churches in which I am a pastor, the Protestant Reformed Churches, to disparage the unity of the Church, say, for the sake of maintaining the truth. Our deep concern for true unity is the reason why we have always thought it important to note that our separate existence as churches is not due to our having left the Christian Reformed Church but to their having put us out of their fellowship. The burden for that division in the Church is on them. But there is an ungodly union as well as a Godly unity, and Scripture warns the saints against that ungodly union. Believers are warned against fellowship with unbelievers, whether they be heretics, who oppose the gospel of Jesus, or immoral persons, who live contrary to the law of God. II Corinthians 6:14-18 admonishes the saints: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” We are told to “come out from among them, and be . . . separate.” The passage points out the fundamental importance of the saint’s life of separation when it says that only in this way will we be received by God and do we experience Him to be our Father and ourselves to be His children. II John 11 forbids us to receive into our house a man who teaches false doctrine or to bid him godspeed. I Corinthians 5 forbids the members of the Church “to company” with persons in the Church who live unholy lives. Revelation 13 warns the Church that in the last days there will be a vast getting together of churches and religions and that this “beast” will have the appearance of Christianity. It will look like a lamb. But this union is effected by the spirit of Antichrist and stands in the service of the Antichrist, and whoever joins this unholy alliance will be damned.
Key ’73 is not a holy unity but an ungodly union. This is what we must say about it. In its union, Key ’73 carries out neo-evangelicalism’s precious principle that Christians should not separate from unbelief and the lie but remain in fellowship with heretics and immoral people, in order to influence them. This includes avoiding sharp, uncompromising condemnation of heresy, because, of course, this leads to separation. Key ’73 is the embodiment of this principle of the new evangelicalism. But this principle and the practice that flows from it are ungodly; they are contrary to God’s Word. They represent a denial of the antithesis, the God-established separation between His holy people and the unholy world and the God-established enmity between them. Key ’73 is a movement to obliterate the antithesis. Completely lost in this effort to bring everybody together is the calling given to the Church to exercise Christian discipline, that is, to put out of the fellowship of the Church those who by doctrine or walk show themselves to be unbelieving. Christian discipline is the “Key-Power” of Christ by which He opens and closes the Kingdom of Heaven to men. Christ has given these keys to His Church (Matthew 16:19), so that the exercise of Christian discipline is one of the marks of the true Church (Belgic Confession, Art. 29). I Corinthians 5 teaches the Church that she may not have fellowship with any member of the Church, that is, one who claims to be a Christian, who lives impenitently in sin, but that she must put away the wicked person by excommunication. The ground for this instruction is the warning of verse 6: “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” This warning completely overthrows the notion of neo-evangelicalism and the practice of Key ’73, namely, that the union of the truth and the lie works in such a way that the truth influences the lie and gradually gains it. This may be the principle of Key ’73, but the principle of the Bible is the very opposite. Conservatives” in an apostate Church do not leaven the “liberals,” that is, the unbelievers, but unbelief and disobedience leaven the whole lump. Conservative denominations in Key ’73 do not influence the modernists and the Roman Catholic Church, but the modernists and Rome are the death of the conservative churches. Lot did not leaven Sodom, but Sodom leavened Lot’s whole lump, his family, and he himself escaped by the skin of his teeth; Jehoshaphat did not leaven Ahab; Paul did not advise the Galatians to tolerate the false teachers and coexist with them in order to carry on dialogues with them and win them; but he cursed them and expressed his will that they be cut off.
Key ’73 is laying the groundwork for a full-blown ecumenicity the like of which has not been seen in our country up to now. In comparison with Key ’73, the World Council of Churches is mere babes-in-the-woods. Key ’73’s profession not to be an ecumenical movement is false. Built into Key ’73 is the basis for a future, total union of every church and group involved. Key ’73 joins all its 130 participating churches, from Rome to Reformed, in the work of evangelism. Now, evangelism is this: Preaching the gospel. Therefore, Key ’73 implies that all the churches and groups involved have one and the same gospel. And if their gospel is the same, they are all united in the one, essential thing as far as the Church of Christ is concerned. All other differences between churches are secondary and can be resolved. If churches are one in the gospel, they can be and ought to be one institutionally also. Key ’73 maintains that Rome and the Reformed, Lutherans and Baptists, Presbyterians and Wesleyans, no longer have any essential reason to be separate. Never has there been an ecumenicity like this. Already, the implication of union in evangelism is being drawn out by the participants in Key ’73: the various churches are meeting together in worship services.
Key ’73 is accomplishing union. No one can pull the wool over our eyes on this point. The only way to determine whether that effort is good or bad is to discover whether Key ’73 is uniting the churches on the basis of a common confession of the truth. The only way to determine whether the union of Key ’73 is the unity of the Holy Spirit is to see’ whether the churches of Key ’73 are bound together by a common love of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the issue, as regards what we must say of Key ’73. Key ’73 stands or falls here. When Key ’73 is measured by the standard of the Scriptures, it becomes plain that Key ’73 seeks union apart from the truth, that is, Jesus Christ, and that the union established by Key ’73 is founded on a common rejection of the gospel and a common love of a gospel that is no gospel. This is the main condemnation of Key ’73 by a Reformed man.
Key ’73 is unchristian disregard for the truth and the perversion of the gospel
The truth, or message, that Key ’73 proposes as a basis for its union is a pathetically poverty-stricken “gospel.” This is necessarily the case, for it must be such that all the participants in Key ’73 can subscribe to it—Rome and the Reformed, United Methodist and Lutherans, Salvation Army and Southern Presbyterians. The attempt to link faith and unbelief never raises unbelief to the level of faith but always lowers faith, in stages, to the level of unbelief. That Key ’73 would water down the gospel in the interests of union was apparent already in Carl Henry’s editorial, “Somehow, Let’s Get Together.” Having called evangelicals together, he proceeded to describe “the common ground” shared by evangelicals: “Evangelicals: common ground is belief in biblical authority and in individual spiritual regeneration as being of the very essence of Christianity.” This is all that it takes to be an “evangelical,” and this is the requirement for membership in the union of evangelicals. But who on the face of the earth that claims in any sense to be a Christian would deny that he believes in “biblical authority and in individual spiritual regeneration”? At the outset, Key ’73 adopted a “gospel guideline” to which all of the churches and groups had to subscribe. This statement was intended to be both the message that Key ’73 would proclaim and the basis of the union of all the churches in Key ’73. The “gospel guideline” is this: “The Bible is the Word of God through which Christ is made known. God through Christ offers man the way of salvation, wholeness, and meaningful life. Men are confronted with Christ’s call and through the power of the Holy Spirit comes the repentance in faith. Genuine saving faith affects every area of a person’s life and engages him in Christ’s serving ministry” (C.R.B., p. 196). In this basis of union and message of Key ’73, there is no mention of an infallible Bible; no mention of the Deity of Christ; no mention of sin; no mention of the cross, much less of the substitutionary satisfaction rendered to the justice of God by Christ; no mention of salvation by grace alone, much less justification by faith alone; and no mention of the believer’s life of serving Godand enduring tribulation in the world. Key ’73’s “statement of faith” can be embraced by everyone, by Rome, by the Barthians, by the rankest modernists. It is a lowest-common-denominator-gospel, a gospel stripped of offensiveness. Compare with this meager, bland “message” that which a Reformed Church would propose both as the basis of union and as the statement of the message to be proclaimed: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt or, if you will, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Catechisms.
If the above indicates disregard for the truth, recent statements by the leaders in Key ’73 express outright contempt for the truth of God’s Word. In a recent editorial criticizing churches who refuse to join Key ’73,Christianity Today dismisses, all the theological differences between the participating churches as merely a “babble of disagreement” that ought to be silenced: “The participating groups have all agreed to silence whatever babble of disagreement might normally exist among them and sound the Gospel clearly . . .” (“On Sitting This One Out,” Christianity Today, April 27, 1973, p. 30). To mention nothing else, this is to call the truths of the gospel of grace held by the Reformed faith over against Rome a “babble of disagreement,” and this is contempt for the truth of God’s Word.
Most serious of all, Key ’73 proclaims a message of salvation by the free will of man, rather than the gospel of salvation by God’s free and sovereign grace. The message of Key ’73 is the announcement that man must save himself. This hardly needs to be proved, since we know Billy Graham to be one of the main movers of Key ’73. The C.R.B. declares that Key ’73 should “focus on the unity Christians share in the mandate to witness to God’s love for all persons” (p. 24). The message of Key ’73 is a universal love of God. Therefore, Campus Crusade can belong to Key ’73 and have its head on the Executive Committee—Campus Crusade whose first spiritual law, with which it confronts every person, is: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” In accordance with Key ’73’s notion of a universal love of God is its teaching in its “gospel guideline” that “God through Christ offersman the way of salvation.” If God loves every man, He tries to save every man by offering him salvation; but salvation depends upon man’s acceptance of the offer by his free will. From the teaching of universal love and salvation by man’s free will follows the second of Key ’73’s five objectives: “To employ every means and method of communication of the gospel in order to create’ the conditions in which we may respond to God” (C.R.B., p. 196). Not only does this objective authorize other means of bringing the gospel besides the one means authorized by God, namely, preaching, thus opening the way for Key ’73 to use such means as gospel rock, drama, and the like, but it also makes salvation depend upon our clever creation of those conditions which will entice the sinner to make a favorable response to God’s offer, as if there were any conditions which enabled the totally depraved sinner to respond favorably to God. The materials of Key ’73 are rank with this teaching: God loves everybody; Christ died for everybody; God in evangelism desires to save everybody; now, it is up to Key ’73 and the free will of the sinner to get him saved.
What must we say about Key ’73’s attitude towards the truth and about its gospel? We condemn its cavalier treatment of the doctrines of Holy Scripture, whether that be ignoring them or banishing them to the realm of the unimportant. We must have the full. truth of Scripture, the complete gospel, including creation as well as redemption, eschatology as well as Christology. If ever in her history, then today, the Church must be precise, not vague, in her confession of ah the truth. Secondly, we have every reason to be suspicious of Key ’73, since it is the product of neo-evangelicalism. Neo-evangelicalism is shot through with serious doctrinal errors, e.g., denial of the infallibility of Scripture, the theory of theistic evolution (or, progressive creationism, as some like to call it), and premillennialism. But our chief condemnation of Key ’73 is this, that the gospel it preaches is, in the language of Galatians 1, another gospel, not the gospel of Christ and Paul. Key ’73 proclaims that salvation depends on the choice of the sinner by his free will. This is heresy. Romans 9:16 plainly teaches that salvation is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, that is, that salvation does not have its source in nor depends upon man’s works or man’s will. Rather, salvation is “of God that sheweth mercy,” that is, salvation has its source entirely in and depends wholly upon God’s free and sovereign grace. The truth of salvation by God’s sovereign grace, popularly referred to as “Calvinism,” is a fundamental of the Christian faith every bit as much as are the truths of the Virgin Birth and the Deity of Christ. This truth includes God’s sovereign, unconditional, eternal predestination, election and reprobation. As Romans 9 teaches, God has chosen some men unto salvation, merely out of grace, and He has, according to His good-pleasure, determined other men to perish. This truth is the rock against which the first spiritual law of the Campus Crusade for Christ is shattered. There are some men whom God does not love, but hates, e.g, Esau (Rom. 9:11-13), and some men for whom God’s “wonderful plan” is their eternal damnation, e.g., Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17, 18). The truth of sovereign grace includes Christ’s limited, effectual atonement for the elect Church (John 10:15). It includes the Spirit’s efficacious salvation of some totally depraved sinners by regeneration and effectual calling, that is, “irresistible grace” (John 6:44). It includes the Spirit’s preservation of the saints so that they persevere to the end (John 10:27-29). A Reformed Church confesses this to be the gospel itself, a “fundamental.” For this reason, a Reformed Church condemns much of so-called “fundamentalism,” even though “fundamentalism” insists on separation from “liberals” and Rome. There is one fundamental of the faith that much of fundamentalism hates as much as Rome does, and that is the truth of salvation by sovereign grace. The fact is that such a fundamental as the Deity of Christ comes to expression in the truth of sovereign grace. Christ is no hapless, would-be Savior, dependent on the will of man, but He is the very Son of God in our flesh Who certainly does save His people, every one, from their sins. Much of fundamentalism boasts loudly of its confession of the Deity of Christ, in contrast to the “liberals,” but its denial of a sovereign Savior gives the lie to that confession. The doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace is not a minor point, part of the “babble of differences” that we can give up without loss to the Gospel, but to lose it is to lose the Gospel. What is more, a Reformed Church condemns the lie of man’s salvation of himself, whether by his running or by his willing. We have no tolerance for this heresy; we do not carry on courteous dialogues with it. This is not bigotry, nor is it the expression of a bitter spirit. On the contrary, it is love for our neighbor, e.g., the Roman Catholic, who depends for his righteousness and salvation upon his own works, as well as upon the work of Christ. We warn him against his eternal ruin when we condemn work-righteousness, and we admonish him to put ail his trust in the merits of Christ alone. It is not love for him to further his trust in self, as that church does which approves Roman doctrine by uniting with Rome to preach the gospel in Key ’73. Besides, condemnation of the lie is love for God, Whose truth the gospel of grace is, and love for Christ, Who is revealed in the gospel of grace as the only Savior.
Agreement in the false gospel of free will explains the union of Key ’73. There is, after all, a reason why all of these churches and groups can be one, from Rome to the Salvation Army. That reason is that they all share the same belief in a salvation dependent upon man himself. This is what the C.R.B. implies when it states that all the members of Key ’73 are one in maintaining that God loves all persons. To this false gospel can also be traced Key ’73’s distaste for the antithesis. According to Key ’73, all men, including the wicked world, are alike objects of God’s love and grace in Christ. Ultimately, the antithesis derives from predestination, and Key ’73 has no room for predestination.
To Key ’73’s perverted gospel are due other objectionable features of this evangelistic extravaganza. One of these is Key ’73’s use of many worthless and wicked means to get men to respond to Christ: the entire “decision system” which presses for quick, easy decisions for Christ; the use of “gospel rock”; the exploiting of ungodly entertainers and athletes; the use of movies and other drama; and many other gimmicks. Such methods of “evangelism” show disdain for the Word of God. The use of them is due to Key ’73’s notion that men can be wooed and won by human persuasion, in ignorance of the truth that God sovereignly draws whom He wills to save through the preaching of the Word. Another of its objectionable features is Key ’73’s delusion that the salvation of North America depends somehow upon the size, numbers, and massive program of the evangelistic effort. The leaders of Key ’73 are beside themselves with numbers, size, the co-ordinated use of all the media, and all the aspects of the elaborate machinery. Lost out of sight is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). The bare Word of God saves the Church, apart from the grandeur of the earthen vessels through whom it pleases God to bring this treasure “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (II Corinthians 4:7).
Our Reformed stand with regard to Key ’73
We stand apart from Key ’73, and we stand opposed to it. We need to be strengthened in this conviction. The size, the glamour, the prestige, and the apparent success allure us. It appeals to us, especially, to our youth, by its claim of union and its boast of evangelism. In obedience to God, we remain separate, and in faithfulness to Christ, we insist on proclaiming the gospel of grace. Key ’73 is ungodly union, and Key ’73 is a perversion of the gospel. Over against the siren-song of Key ’73 that allures to an amalgamation of neo-evangelicals, liberals, and Rome, we must hear God’s call to us: Be Reformed! We are not neo-evangelicals nor fundamentalists nor liberals, but Reformed. Let us be Reformed. Let us be Reformed in doctrine, confessing the truths set forth in the Reformed creeds. Let us be Reformed also in our church-life. Key ’73 has a woefully bad view of the church institute and wreaks havoc with it. For one thing, the Church of Christ needs no par-a-ecclesiastical organization to help her preach and evangelize; nor has God given the calling to do these things to any other than to the Church. These are some of the things that belong to a Reformed church-life. We pursue fellowship which is based on a unity of the faith, or truth. We exercise discipline with regard to the leaven of unbelief and disobedience. We recognize and stick to the Church’s calling. The calling given the Church by her Lord in the Scriptures is not the improvement of society and the solution of society’s ills. Her calling is to preach the gospel and thus to call the elect to faith, build up the people of God in Christ, and enable the saints to live in the world the antithetical life of a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is part of this calling that the Church do evangelism. In the true sense of that word, genuinely Reformed Churches are the real evangelicals, for they have the gospel to preach. And we are called to preach to those outside the Church. We are able to do this. Specifically, we Protestant Reformed Churches are able to do this. OUI denial of the “well-meaning offer of the gospel,” or “the free offer,” in no way represents a weakening of the calling of the Church to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature, or the duty of the Church to call everyone to repentance and faith, or the responsibility of the Church to publish promiscuously the promise that whoever believes will be saved. Our denial of the “offer” is a denial that God loves everyone who hears the preaching, a denial that God is gracious in the preaching to everyone who comes under the preaching, and a denial that the nature of the salvation accomplished through the gospel is that of God’s making and man’s accepting an offer. As Churches, we unreservedly confess the following: “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons of Dordt, II, Art. 5). Not only can we do evangelism, that is, preach the gospel to those outside the Church, but we must. The Church must do this through the office of the preacher, sending a man whom God has called to preach. And the Church must preach the same gospel that she preaches within the Church, the gospel of a sovereign, holy, glorious God; the gospel of a totally depraved and guilty sinner; the gospel of God’s great grace in Christ crucified; and the gospel of the believer’s calling to live a thankful, holy life in the midst of a wicked world, a life of costly discipleship and self-denial.
It is part of our responsibility as Reformed Churches to confront those who are not Reformed, but who oppose Key ’73, with our conviction that, in the end, only the Reformed faith is able to stand against this and subsequent movements, especially because of its confession of the sovereignty of God in the gracious salvation of His people. Let Protestantism in general, alarmed at the union of the Protestant churches with Rome, consider whether much of Protestantism has not fallen away from the gospel of grace, the gospel still proclaimed where the Reformed faith is maintained, so that Protestantism no longer has any reason to be separate from Rome.
Our duty as Protestant Reformed Churches also includes that we call to our Reformed brothers and sisters in churches that are swept away by Key ’73 and similar movements to continue with us to be Reformed. Key ’73 is working the abolition of everything Reformed! It obliterates the very distinction between the Reformed faith and the faith of Rome, as well as the distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism. When Key ’73 has had its way with the-Reformed churches that are participating, the only Reformed thing that will be left will be a hollow, empty name. There is abundant evidence of this already. Reformed doctrine is first compromised and then lost in the message of univer.4 love and atonement. The antithesis is rejected, both in practice and in theory. Discipline is ruled out, especially, the discipline of heretics. God’s covenant with believers and their children, dear to a Reformed heart, is denied in the practice of treating covenant children as the targets of evangelism at a later age, instead of viewing them as covenant children from birth, to be reared in the truth from infancy. The offices are despised—everybody becomes a preacher, or evangelist, today. These things are going on in Reformed churches now. Therefore, we call the Reformed saints: Continue to be Reformed with us. It is essentially the same as the call extended by Judah to Israel in II Chronicles 30. During the reign of King Hezekiah, Judah called the children of Israel to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with Judah. At that time, God called the remnant in Israel out of that apostate nation, calling them to express their real, spiritual oneness with Judah:
Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of kings of Assyria. And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he bath sanctified for ever: and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.
Such is our call today: Come, celebrate the Passover with us; worship Christ crucified for our sins, the gracious and only Savior. Do it by a living faith that confesses Him purely; that hears Him truthfully preached, and that fellowships with the saints who are one in Him.
There is a warning attached to the call. In the days of Hezekiah, just a few years after Israel was called to the Passover, the nation of Assyria destroyed the nation of Israel. The call through Hezekiah was God’s final call to Israel. Today, the end of Reformed churches and of the Reformed faith on a wide scale is at hand. And this goes hand in hand with the approach of the end of all things.
The response of most of Israel to the call of Judah was a scornful rejection: “but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them” (II Chronicles 30:10). However, there some who heeded the call and came up to the Passover: “Nevertheless divers . . . humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” (vs. 11). To them God gave a wonderful promise. May this promise be an incentive today to many to heed the call, “Be Reformed”: “For if ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him” (II Chronicles 30:9)