Hailed as a modern liberal Pentecostal movement, Buchmanism is strictly not an organization with an official membership. It is rather a “do-gooder” movement calculated to so change individuals, societies and nations as to convert mankind into one universal peace corps before the third world war annihilates humanity. In England it is known as the Oxford Group movement. In Switzerland it is known as Moral Re-Armament. It gets its nickname from Frank Nathan Daniel. Buchman, of nominal Lutheran background. He was born in 1878 at Pennsburg, PA. He died in Switzerland, August 1961, at 83. His father was a brewer. He was educated at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA, and at the Lutheran Seminary in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. He pastored the Church of the Good Shepherd in Overbrook, Philadelphia. At the Keswick (Victorious Life) conference in England he felt himself “religiously reborn.” For a time, he worked at a YMCA post at Penn State College. He had also worked with Sherwood Eddy. He was lecturer in Personal Evangelism at Hartford Seminary. Through the years the Buchman fad developed a strong anti-Communist trend. The man himself preferred Fascism (Socialism) to Communism. According to publicity reports, one of the converts to this cult was Mae West.
Buchmanismi along with Christian Science, Christadelphianism, Mormonism, Modernism, Seventh Day Adventism, Spiritism, Russellism and Theosophy, is another cult which denies the substitutionary atonement. It does not do this openly and directly, but rather employs the tactic of evasion. For its aim is to influence those who believe this doctrine rather than to offend them. Hence no doctrine is mentioned in the Buchmanite meetings in order not to upset anyone. But there could be no debate with this movement unless it would agree to face up to and express itself on the doctrine of the atonement.
Actually it has no vicarious atonement, but it does have vicarious sin-tasting. For one outstanding characteristic practice of the cult is that of “sharing,” which consists in exchanging “religious experiences” (whoppers—RCH) with one another. This is simply the enjoying of each other’s sins, an “if you tell me what you did, I’ll tell you what I did” sort of thing. It is not surprising that this “experience-sharing” was called “sin-sharing.” The change of name did not change the nature of the practice. Buchmanites therefore do not have any remission of sins, but a reveling in sins. Modern psychologists would say that they are subconscious exhibitionists led by the libidinous drive. In this way; auricular confession is sneaked into the protestant church, as well as a morbid delight in sexual sins. Against all this we have, the Scripture, “neither be partaker of other men’s sins” (I Tim. 5:22), which means, “Be not sin-sharers!”
Another characteristic is its sickly mysticism evident in. its so called “guidance.” This consists in putting the brain out of gear; resting it in neutral every morning in complete silence, sitting thus with the mind blank and the intellect and will put off as much as possible in a state of suspended animation. Then with pencil and paper in hand, whatever “guidance” pops into the head may be written down to be preserved and followed for the day. One simply waits for the “inner voice” or the “inner light”. One may readily imagine how that on certain days the only “guidance” the scratch-pad may record is, “Eat your oatmeal!” Who can place any confidence in this Ouija-board method of guidance? He who reduces himself to a robot with a mental vacuum opens himself to the delusions of the devil. If an angel appeared before us while waiting (empty-headed?) for “guidance,” and informed us that he had seen our name written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we could never believe it, for the devil himself is “transformed into an angel of light” (I Cor. 11:14) to deceive us and to deter us from the practice of prayer and reading the Word of God. For there alone God has already spoken to His people. Guidance comes through the Scriptures by the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. But the experience of the mentally ill and the method of the Spiritists who seek impressions from the spirit world are here closely approached. Not the “mind of the Lord,” but the “depths of Satan” are liable to be uncovered.
It is admittedly not prayer, this reducing oneself to atabula rasa, a blank pad, in order to “tune in” on God. Buchmanites do not pray; they wait on God for “guidance.” God gives this guidance in the form of a strong impression which makes one “feel led” what to do. People who can subject themselves to this insidious brain-washing or mind-voiding process will also be satisfied with such pet platitudes, the closest they come to biblical exposition, as, P, R, A, Y, which means Powerful Radiograms Always Yours. Or there is, J, E, S, U, S, which means Just Exactly Suits Us Sinners. Or F, A, I, T, H, means Forsaking All I Take Him. In keeping with this, Buchman summed up Christian experience in his Five C’s: Conviction, Contrition, Confession, Conversion, Continuance. These superficial designations may just as well represent the system of humanism, or may serve to indicate the conviction of Saul, “I have-sinned” (Is. 15:24, 26:21), or of Pharaoh, “I have sinned” (Ex. 9:27), or of Judas, “I have sinned” (Matt. 27:4). Contrition may remind us of Esau who carefully sought the blessing with tears, but found no place of repentance (Heb. 12:17). Confession is also forthcoming from Pharaoh who admitted, “The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” Saul’s confession was, “I have played the fool; I have erred exceedingly.” Judas’ confession was, “I have betrayed the innocent blood.” All these wicked, reprobate men did as Judas, “when he saw that he was condemned repented himself” (Matt. 27:3). Note that “when.” What a time for repentance! As to conversion, there was that of Simon the sorcerer, who, although he “believed,” after a fashion, was nevertheless “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:13, 23). Then there is also Demas (II Tim. 4:10). As to continuance, think of the tares (Matt. 13:30) and the many false prophets which continue to the day of judgment (Matt. 7:22).
Buchmanism denies all Christian doctrine, especially, as we have seen, the atonement, prayer, the guidance of the Holy Spirit according to Scriptures and so it also denies the church. The movement pretends to be a “First Century Christian Fellowship.” But first century Christians did not form unorganized groups; they organized churches. They did not meet to hold “testimony meetings,” or “sharing sessions,” or to exchange ‘”spiritual experiences.” They “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). They “ordained them elders in every church” (Acts 14:23), “in every city” (Titus 1:5). They had ruling elders who administered the affairs of the churches according to Christian order. They had teaching elders who labored in the Word and Doctrine (I Tim. 5:17). Nor did the first century churches have hilarious house parties, stage plays proffering peace propaganda, and movie-films “to change the world.” Nor did the apostolic church pretend to have a panacea for all nations, as Baha’ism does in world-socialism, and as Buchmanism does in world-democracy. None of the cults present even a cheap resemblance of the church. Buchmanism denies the New Testament ideal of the church, and the church which has come down through the ages. For this reason it inescapably denies history. That is why it is so anti-intellectual and antidoctrinal. It ignores all great creeds and confessions of the church. It bypasses the development of Christian doctrine. It has no Christian experience based on doctrine. It has personal experience untrammeled with doctrine. It is humanism concocted by an admixture of ancient Pelagianism and modern pragmatism. That is, it believes it in the power of man to fight his way out of the paper bag of “misfortune,” and that the only truth is the best way at the moment to accomplish that.
But in all fairness, are we not to admit that Buchmanism has its good points? It has, for example, emphasized the need for “individual changed lives.” Members of the movement claim to be “life-changers.” Do we not have a recognized good here? But the question is not one of change. We may readily grant that. The question is, What is the nature and significance of this change? Is it regeneration, or mere reformation? Is it a new creation, or merely a new form of will-worship? Is it by the operation of God, or the traditions of men? King Saul was a Buchmanite; he became a changed man. He received another heart, but not a new heart. He became another man, but not a new man. He was not rid of his sins; he only changed his sins. Despite so much talk of life-changing, it is Buchmanite to deny the new birth. As one Gospel song has it, there is talk of “Ye must be born again, again,” i.e., “a man ought to be born again every day.” But such expressions usually are never brought out, except under point blank questioning. Then, as above, the new birth is admitted with one hand only to be immediately cast away with the other. Many people are at heart Buchmanite. They hate to accept the division of mankind into two classes—the saved and the lost. These people may be indeed changed, but not saved. They may be “revitalized” as they like to put it; but not born from above. There is no regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit, according to which He raises us up from our spiritual death into eternal life, and translates us out of our natural darkness into His marvelous light, so that we believe the atoning work of Christ on the cross, shedding His blood in our place, and receive Him by a true faith. Then sin (although some sins may be exchanged for other; more respectable, sins) remains; the guilt of sin remains, and the soul still goes lost.
Isn’t Buchmanism praiseworthy in its aversion to intellectually accepted doctrine to the neglect of exemplary life? Not at all, since it sees no need for “dogmatic theology.” The Reformed Confessions to them are non-essentials. The “love of God and love of man are still the only essentials.” Whether God may rightly be said to repent, whether Christ came to reconcile man to God, whether His death satisfied divine justice, whether God will receive us through faith and repentance, is all non-essential. These things may be true or not true. What is most essential is “the great and wonderful experience of conversion.” Here is conversion without Christ, without atonement, without remission and without repentance! Conversion is not to Christ, but to man.
Are there not elements of truth in Buchmanism? Undoubtedly; the devil does not spread before the world an out-and-out black lie. He sprinkles the lie with glints of the truth. The Scripture itself recognizes any elements of truth in the heathen religions. There are remnants of the natural knowledge of natural things, and the natural knowledge of God in unregenerate men. (Job 32:8). They still have glimmerings of natural light (John 1:9; Rom. 2:14). Yet Scripture also makes it clear that these false religions are the devil’s caricatures of the living original in Christianity (Gen. 3:4; John 8:44); and that any vestiges of the truth in men they are incapable of using aright and hold them down in unrighteousness.
Then do not the Buchmanites labor to reach the rich with “changed lives,” to win not only the “down and outs,” but also the “up and outs”? It is true that this does seem to be the cult of the rich. It seems to appeal to the theatre and ballroom crowd. Its meetings are often attended in evening attire, the women with ample exposure of bosom, back and arms, and the men in formal garb. It is likely that the meetings may also begin without prayer, and without Scripture reading. Why not? The movement does not pretend to be a church. It is nothing more than an ethical society. The various speakers may make not one reference to Scripture. Usually, mention is made of what the movement has done for them, or of the excitement and adventure afforded in the group or the fellowship enjoyed with kindred souls. Jesus Christ may be mentioned, but is not referred to as Lord, or as the Son of God, much less as “God over all blessed for ever.”
There is nothing genuinely Christian about Buchmanism, for there is nothing distinctively Christian in it. Found to be thoroughly anti-theological, modernistic, religiously and politically liberal, it is the ancient Pelagianism out of the pit of hell coated with sociological veneer.