More About Campus Crusade

The attraction to movements like Campus Crusade and the kind of “evangelism” which it represents (and I include in this classification all kindred Arminian movements) seems to be not inconsiderable even among people of the Reformed household. It is not amiss, therefore, that such movements be exposed for what they truly are. And, as it is frequently with movements of this kind, the more deeply one probes into them and the more thoroughly he discovers their true nature, the less attractive and genuine they appear. Recently there was called to my attention a pamphlet written by someone with first-hand knowledge of Campus Crusade, a Mr. Gary North. The pamphlet is entitled Campus Crusade For Christ: A Critique. This pamphlet fully substantiates all that our Rev. Harbach has written about this movement—and more. And because it is written by someone acquainted with the movement by personal experience, and because it is rather refreshing to note that some of the same criticisms voiced in our magazine are sharply voiced by another, I wish to share some of the thoughts of this pamphlet with our readers. 

The writer of this pamphlet is introduced on its fly-leaf as “a member of the History Department at the University of California (Riverside), (who) holds the B.A. and M.A. in history from this school and is presently completing his Ph.D. He has studied at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia . . .” He introduces the pamphlet by referring to some advice given him by another student when he left Westminster: “Truth before friendship.” And in this connection he writes:

The kind of solid, rigorous commitment to principle that is involved in such thinking is foreign to twentieth century attitudes. Only “fanatics” are supposed to act in such an ungraceful manner . . . Evangelical Christians think they are doing God a favor by being meek in principle, soft in manner. Creeds and principles that brought death to the Reformers four centuries ago are regarded as matters subsidiary to that modern excuse for impotence and vague theology, the so-called “warm Christian faith.” Whatever it is, the “warm Christian faith” has become a synonym for loose thinking and even a retreat from thought; it represents one more facet of the drift into irrationalism which has characterized so many of this century’s religious movements, whether secular (fascism, existentialism) or sacred (neo-orthodoxy, mysticism).

From the outset, in harmony with the above stance, the author characterizes Campus Crusade as an enemy of the orthodox faith. He states that “Until Campus Crusade for Christ alters its theological foundations and the methods of evangelism built on these foundations, it shall remain an enemy to that orthodox faith. It is simply a question of the Reformation faith versus Campus Crusade; to put the issue in other terms is misleading.” He insists that what is involved is a conflict of principles, not a debate over the means of evangelism. And he insists, moreover, that the means of evangelism cannot be separated from the question of theological orthodoxy. He bluntly insists that the differences cannot be healed by a so-called “warm Christian faith,” and warns: “The day a man adopts a ‘warm Christian faith’ at the expense of rigorous theological thinking, that day he has drawn near to the ‘warmth’ of hell’s eternal flames.” 

One might expect that Mr. North was brought up in the allegedly stiff and rigorous atmosphere of Reformed orthodoxy, and that he carries his prejudices against Campus Crusade from that source. But no! He tells us that he was converted to faith in a personal Christ in 1959, that he was ill-prepared as a convert to venture forth into the college world, that initially he was associated with an independent fundamentalist Bible church, and that thus he came into contact with the campus evangelistic movement—first at the College Briefing Conference at the Forest Home Christian Conference Center (near Redlands, California), and thus with Mr. Bill Bright, the founder and leader of Campus Crusade for Christ. He informs us, further, that “It took over five years for me to grasp what was involved in the whole movement, of which Campus Crusade for Christ is by far the most potent representative on the American college scene.” After Mr. North’s initial contacts with Mr. Bright at the College Briefing Conference, he did not come into personal contact with Campus Crusade until he transferred to UCLA, one of the two central campuses at that time for the Campus Crusade movement. There he became well acquainted with the “soft-sell” approach of CCC, with its “activist” character, and with its thrust that “important people can be Christians.” Writes he, in this connection:

The soft-sell approach characterizes much of the Campus Crusade program, and it is as much a product of Mr. Bright’s business background as it is of its Arminian foundations. It avoids, whenever possible, an open, intransigent, and thorough-going confrontation with ethical apostasy. What I originally regarded as the greatest strength of the organization I now see as its fundamental flaw: it does not acknowledge the radical nature of the dichotomy between the saved and the lost.

As to the “important people can be Christians” thrust, he writes:

The reader who is unfamiliar with the inner operations of Campus Crusade would be (I trust) astounded to see how much attention is paid to any athlete or campus leader who can be converted, cajoled, or otherwise led to “accept Christ as personal savior.” I put the words in quotation marks not in order to ridicule the idea, but only to call attention to another facet of orthodoxy: the fear of a sovereign God who makes demands on His people. Those approached by Campus Crusade disciples are simply not initially taught to fear God, wherein lies the beginning of all wisdom.

Psalm 111:10

All of the above is background information. At this point Mr. North turns to the methods of Campus Crusade and criticizes the—admittedly unofficial—policy of CCC to seek out the big-name campus leaders in its eagerness to emphasize that it is possible to be a Christian and at the same time a “big man on campus.” He writes:

But the basic approach of Campus Crusade is not to use the big schools as examples of horror; instead, the campus celebrities receive so much attention precisely because they have been so successful inside the framework of such institutions! It is not that these celebrities have escaped from these institutions because of the gospel of light; they are seen as examples of how one can have success in both worlds, fusing, as it were God and Mammon. The paucity of Campus Crusade’s program is seen in the fact that its view of the “collegiate challenge” does not involve the challenging of those secular institutions that are waging war on the saints.

But Mr. North has some very substantive criticism of the entire doctrinal position of CCC. He maintains that Campus Crusade’s evangelism rests on a perversion of the orthodox doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. He calls attention to the fact that hell is never mentioned in any of the early CCC literature, and to the fact that Campus Crusadecannot speak of hell because of the God-loves-you approach and its God-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-every-life approach. He emphasizes again and again the Arminianism of CCC, documents his claims, and demonstrates with strong and Scriptural appeal to the truth of predestination that this Arminianism is false doctrine and a pseudo gospel. He concludes this section of the pamphlet with the following:

The idea that the message needs to be softened in order for men to accept it is ludicrous. If it is presented faithfully, by definition it will not be accepted unless the Holy Spirit moves the individual’s heart. And if the Spirit moves the heart there is no reason to soften the message. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know (them), because they are spiritually discerned.”

I Cor. 2:14

This is precisely the reason that the sinner must be regenerated before he can make a profession of faith. We dare not reverse the order of salvation: regeneration precedes confession, and not the reverse. There is no necessity of toning down the gospel; in fact, it is a sin to do so: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

Gal. 1:8

The man who continues in his Arminianism had better consider those words with fear and trembling.

But there are more aspects of CCC which come in for Mr. North’s criticism. One is theperfectionism of Campus Crusade. Another is the false doctrine of the church which underlies Campus Crusade as an “interdenominational ministry.” Mr. North accuses CCC—rightly—of professing a “hypothetical religious neutralism” in its doctrine of the church as an institution. He claims that with CCC the “least common denominator” principle triumphs; and he insists that no truly creedal church can go along with the movement. He is critical of cooperative evangelism and its humanism. He is critical of the drift toward Barthianism and neo-orthodoxy in this and other neo-evangelical movements. And finally, he calls into question the whole matter of what is called campus evangelism—at least, as it is presently conducted. 

Through the whole pamphlet there is but one point which I would criticize and which, if I could, I would want to discuss with Mr. North. That is his reference to a “free offer of grace,”—something which I would guess he may have imbibed at Westminster when he studied there. Grace is never an offer in Scripture; neither is salvation; neither is the gospel! 

All in all, however, this little pamphlet is very worthwhile, very instructive, and a forthright and incisive critique of Campus Crusade—the more interesting and the more valid because it comes from one who speaks from experience.

The reader who is interested in finding out for himself may obtain this little pamphlet for 40c from: Chalcedon Inc., 394 Chestnut St., Nutley, NJ 07110.