From various quarters Key ’73, of which Evangelism Thrust is the Christian Reformed Version, has met with criticism. The Standard Bearer has more than once engaged in criticism of the movement; and elsewhere in this issue you will find an article by Rev. Van Baren which once again points out some of the real dangers of this attempt at “ecumenical evangelism.”
One of the very serious errors of Key ’73 (and of Evangelism Thrust) is its ecumenism. This is rather graphically pointed out in a little leaflet published by the Fundamental Evangelistic Association and entitled, “Explo ’72 + Key ’73 = Confusion ’74.” In this leaflet Key ’73 is called the “‘Trojan Horse’ of ecumenism to penetrate the evangelical camp.” Now while we are not so concerned with what is vaguely called the “evangelical camp,” and while we most likely would not agree with the conception of evangelism held by the Fundamental Evangelistic Association, yet we may well pay attention to some of the evidence produced in this leaflet. The leaflet makes a point of producing quotations from various leaders in the Key ’73 movement, so that by means of these quotations Key ’73 ought to stand condemned in the judgment of a Reformed man out of its own mouth. For this reason I will quote some of the information and quotations contained in this leaflet.
Key ’73 has been called “A Smorgasbord of Ideas” and “An umbrella high enough raised so that under it we can all gather without sacrificing our particular heritage.” These expressions used by leaders of Key ’73, are most revealing. ECUMENISM is indeed a “smorgasbord” and an “umbrella” but EVANGELISM is not. ECUMENISM IS OF THE DEVIL. EVANGELISM IS OF GOD. They are opposites. It is a sin to join them together!
Key ’73 offers a “Do Your Own Thing” Evangelism. Key ’73 director, Dr. T. A. Raedeke, in his report to the Central Committee in October 1971, made this very clear. He emphasized four principles of Key ’73 evangelism: 1) Do your own thing—your way, 2) Do your own thing—but share, 3) Do your own thing—simultaneously, 4) Do your own thing—together. What could be more unscriptural—what could be more deceptive—what could be more dangerous than to encourage everyone to DO YOUR OWN THING and then call it EVANGELISM?
Here is a sample of this do-your-own-thing-evangelism with which a church is necessarily cooperating when it cooperates with Key ’73.
Key ’73 has the endorsement of the United Methodist Church—one of the most liberal of all Protestant bodies. They are represented on the Key ’73 Central and Executive Committees. But do apostate Methodists preach the one true gospel? Of course not! Dr. Gebrge Outen, in his presentation of Key ’73 to the United Methodist Conference in Atlanta on April 25th, said, “To protest war—that’s evangelism . . . to work for open housing—that’s evangelism . . . to combat racism—that’s evangelism . . . to be engaged in the political process—that, too, is evangelism.” Outen made it clear he would have nothing to do with a “Bible-thumping”, revivalist kind of evangelism—yet, he is a strong supporter of Key ’73 and will be “doing his own thing” in the name of Key ’73 evangelism.
And here are the ideas of the staff executive for Key ’73 of the American Baptist Convention, Dr. Jitsou Morikawa, who told the delegates:
Key ’73 appears to be a decisive event in the religious history of America. In unprecedented degree of scale, religious forces of the right and left are reaching out toward each other in a common, corporate evangelistic enterprise . . . There is an amazing mixture of fundamentalists, conservatives, liberals and ecumenists, spanning the whole religious spectrum of America.
Recently De Wachter made reference to some of this anti-Key “73 propaganda of the Fundamental Evangelistic Association. But instead of answering the claims and justifying Christian Reformed participation in Key ’73, the snide comment was made (I translate): “And some people slick this up like cake.” That, of course, is no answer. It is either “whistling in the dark” on the part of one whose Reformed conscience tells him that this cannot be answered and that Christian Reformed participation cannot be justified, or it bespeaks a haughty and self-righteous conceit.
The fact of the matter is, of course, that as soon as a Reformed man would speak up for his Reformed principles of evangelism and would begin to insist on reaching America with the gospel according to our Reformed confessions, the cooperation and ecumenism of Key ’73 would disappear like a morning mist. Imagine, if you will, what would be the reaction of men like Dr. Raedeke, Dr. Outen, and Dr. Morikawa (all mentioned above) if a representative of Evangelism Thrust—let us say, the Rev. Wesley Smedes—would inform them that Evangelism Thrust would begin its campaign at their addresses!
The trouble is, of course, that the brand of “evangelism” for which Evangelism Thrust stands is itself far from Reformed. In fact, it fits right in with the ideas of men like Dr. Outen. You think a statement like this is extreme, perhaps radical? The evidence is at hand—for anyone who is willing to see it. Exhibit No. 1 you will find in All Around Us in this very issue of theStandard Bearer. The sad fact is that the brand of “evangelism” represented in the pamphlet about which Prof. Hanko writes is an evangel-less evangelism. It is pure modernism. And Exhibit No. 2 can be found in the unholy mixture of Hudnut, Bonhoeffer, and Calvin which Editor De Koster presents as a “Pattern For New Year” in the Banner of December 29, 1972. It is readily understandable to me, when I read such samples, that the Christian Reformed Church can cooperate with Key ’73.
There are two things, however, which I cannot understand.
The first is this: how is it that some who have valid criticisms of Key ’73 and of Evangelism Thrust and who have voiced these criticisms in writing and orally nevertheless Cooperate, even in a measure? Do they not realize that they are doing the same thing as are all of the participants in Key ’73? That is, they are attempting to “do their own thing” but in the name of Evangelism Thrust. They disagree seriously with Evangelism Thrust, but they purpose to evangelize as participants in Evangelism Thrust. This is dishonest. It is deceitful. It can only be detrimental. These critics of Evangelism Thrust’s materials ought to make it their first business to convert, if possible, their own leaders who are publishing this rot. And I am purposely using the word “convert” here. I seriously believe that men who write stuff such as that cited by Prof. Hanko are in need of conversion! In other words, let the Christian Reformed critics of Evangelism Thrust begin with their evangelism at home, in their own denomination, among their own champions of evangelism, before they attempt to evangelize North America!
And the second is this: why is there so much preoccupation with the question what is wrong with Key ’73 and Evangelism Thrust? To my knowledge, no one, either among the critics or the protagonists of Evangelism Thrust, has attempted to furnish a sound, thorough-going, confessionally based, Scripturally based, Reformed answer to the very proper question: what is RIGHT about Evangelism Thrust and Key ’73? You understand, it is all right for non-participants to point out and to warn against the evils and the dangers of Key ’73. But those who participate cannot take the approach represented in the question, “What is wrong about it?” To justify participation one must have something positive. One must confront the question, “What is right about it?” And especially in our day, when it is becoming so extremely difficult and so very rare to maintain a distinctly Reformed stance, this is essential. We must ask: what is right, i.e., what is REFORMED, about it?
If this question is honestly confronted, the answer will be, I am convinced: ZERO!