It was with considerable surprise and shock that I read the editorial in the Reformed Journal of March 1965; surprise, because I had imagined that my name would never come any closer to the Reformed Journal than the mailing label which directs my personal copy to my door; shock, because of the extremely serious charges leveled against me and my article in the Standard Bearer of February 1, 1965. It does not make for pleasant reading to hear that one gives less due to Christians than the devil has coming; of being guilty of the “grossest kind of misinterpretation,” of being guilty of “profound error;” of characterizing the Church of Christ, at least a large segment of it, as being thoroughly rotten; of not speaking the truth in love; of unfair criticism, emotional, intemperate judgment. It surely was not my intent to be guilty of any of these charges; I consider them very awful indeed.
But why ought Dr. James Daane take it upon himself to reveal the contemptible character of my article before all the readers of the Reformed Journal? Why should he so strongly attempt to refute the article of an unknown country pastor from the insignificant and small Protestant Reformed Churches written for a church periodical of very limited circulation? I suspect that there is more to the editorial than simply an attempt to set me straight. Dr. Daane knows very well the stand of his own Christian Reformed Church. He surely knows that the position I took in that article was basically no different than the official position of his own church. There was no good reason for his “surprise” at the grounds presented. Does he use this as a means of attacking indirectly, but very effectively, the position of his own church? Does he wish his Christian Reformed readers to disassociate themselves from their own official view because I, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church, happened to espouse it?
The “Basis” of the W.C.C.
First, Dr. Daane implies that the purpose of the W.C.C. is only to discuss differences between denominations. “It (Basis) is intentionally brief because it wants to serve the function of opening the door to any Christian church . . . to get all churches into an organization where they can discuss their differences.” “The kind of extended, detailed Basis Van Baren has in mind could never serve the function of getting the churches together to discuss their differences . . . .” If he is correct, if the W.C.C. is an organization to discuss differences, and only this, then I would agree that the present Basis will do. It could, in fact, be even briefer: a statement to the effect that the organization could include all those who express belief in one Divine Being would also be sufficient. Then discussions could include Unitarians, Jews, and possibly also those of Oriental religions. Why not? Who knows but that such discussions might lead many of them to repentance? But Dr. Daane knows well that the W.C.C. is an organization which does more than discuss, It has its Commission on World Mission and Evangelism. It facilitates “common action by the churches.” It can “call world conferences on specific subjects as occasion may require, such conferences being empowered to publish their own findings.” Although it does not “legislate for the churches,” it does take “action on behalf of constituent churches in such matters as one or more of them may commit to it.” Although the W.C.C. declares that it does not assume a right to “speak for” the constituent churches, yet the “Council through its Assembly or through its Central Committee may publish statements upon any situation or issue with which the Council or its constituent churches may be confronted.” It has its “Division of Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service” which administers aid to the needy.¹ It is no wonder that one writes: “. . . the denial of being a ‘super-church’ seems a little thin . . . . I belong to a denomination that belongs to both councils (N.C.C. and W.C.C.), and most days I sit easy. But some days I wonder.”²
Secondly, because the W.C.C. does more than “discuss . . . differences,” its Basis is inadequate. No, Dr. Daane, I do not insist that its Basis must be some sort of “creed or confession of faith.” Nor do I have in mind a Basis so complete that if adopted, “the disunity of the churches will already have been overcome.” But if churches are going to work together, they must have a clear understanding with whom they are working. Therefore I suggest that other elements ought to be included, but that I would regard a statement of belief in the inerrant Scripture as absolutely essential. If the brief statement concerning the deity of Christ and His salvation is not based upon that, then it could be open to all kinds of interpretation. Exactly then one official delegate could say (in discussing the proposed revision of the Basis at New Delhi): “. . . that the Synod National de l’Eglise Reformee de France would accept the new Basis. as an attempt to express the mystery of the divine revelation which does not intend to impose upon the member churches any particular theology.” And another legal representative could say, “. . . but we trust that the dogma of the Trinity may never become the touchstone of the admittance of the churches into the World Council.”³ True, these, are individualsspeaking, but as representatives of their churches. Their objections were recorded in, the official report of the New Delhi assembly. Now if it is true that the doctrine of the Trinity is not a touchstone of admittance of churches into the W.C.C., then also the confession that Christ is God has little meaning either. That’s why, though there are indeed various interpretations of Scripture, the infallible Scriptures must be one of the “touchstones” for admittance into a proper Council of Churches.
Thirdly, Dr. Daane is correct that I quoted often from individuals, and sought to judge the character of the W.C.C. in light of the type of individuals, who participate in it. He is also correct that an individual does not necessarily speak for the organization of which he is member. At the same time, I believe that this objection of Daane is not entirely valid. Too often opponents of the W.C.C. are dismissed with the statement that they only quote some individuals who do not necessarily speak for the W.C.C.4 But who, pray tell, chooses these representatives? Are they not chosen as representatives of their respective denominations? Surely these denominations choose men whom they believe can fairly represent them at the meetings of the W.C.C. And who chooses the leaders of the W.C.C.? Are they not chosen by ballot by the majority at the Assembly? Is it so much of a question “how and why churchmen of liberal views often find their way to the levels of. top leadership in the W.C.C.?” I believe Daane would assume that usually what I taught and wrote would be in harmony with the beliefs of the church organization to which I belonged. Why then can one not assume that the beliefs of the liberal leaders of the W.C.C. reflect what the majority of the delegates want?
Finally, Dr. Daane wrongly imputes to me the statement that I characterize the large segment of the Church of Christ within the W.C.C. as “thoroughly rotten.” I did imply this with respect to the organization of the W.C.C., but that does not necessarily apply to the denominations belonging to it. The W.C.C. itself does not equate itself with the “Church of Christ,” then why should my characterization of the W.C.C. be a condemnation of the “Church for which Christ died?” Maybe I overstated myself. Possibly I should have used that distinction we were taught in Calvin College, and state: the W.C.C. is totally rotten, though notabsolutely so.
The Stand of the Christian Reformed Church
But I stated that I cannot understand the attack on me by Dr. Daane when his own church has taken virtually the same position as I set forth, unless, of course, this editorial was an indirect means of attacking the official stand of the Christian Reformed Church.
Dr. Daane must know very well the decision of the C.R.C. on the Alameda Church case in 1958:
Although recognizing with appreciation the evangelistic zeal which motivated the Alameda Church in joining the Alameda Council initially, Synod declares that it does not approve of any consistory or congregation of our church identifying itself by membership with any local council or agency of the National Council of Churches, or a similar local organization which included “churches” that deny the orthodox faith and Scriptural teaching. Grounds:
1. Scripture forbids such association with unbelievers and with those who preach another Gospel. Cf.
2. Synod has taken a position against membership in the National Council after initially joining it, also for reasons of gaining opportunities for service, on the ground that:
a. Ecclesiastical alliances of any kind between orthodox and liberals are contrary to God’s Word.
b. Liberalism is strongly in evidence in the Federal (now National) Council.
c. The Council stands committed to programs . . . which our churches . . . should not endorse. Art. 95, pp. 111, 112.—Adopted 5
Just a few questions, Dr. Daane. Would you also say that when your church referred to II Cor. 6:14-18 (as I had done similarly), it too is guilty of “profound error?” The decision mentioned “unbelievers” and “those who preach another Gospel”; do you also “shudder” when it so characterizes the “large segment of the Church of Christ . . . for which He died?”
Your churches, did they not, adopted the decision of the RES meeting at Edinburgh, 1953, which stated:
1. Synod advises the member Churches of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod not to join the World Council of Churches as now constituted. Grounds:
a. The World Council of Churches actually permits essentially different interpretations of its doctrinal basis, and thus of the nature of the Christian faith.
b. The World Council of Churches represents itself as a Community of faith, but is actually not this, for Churches of basically divergent positions are comprised in the World Council of Churches.6
A few more questions, Doctor. Is not (a) above essentially the same as stating that the churches may interpret the Basis “in any manner?” What can be “essentially different interpretations” of the incarnation of Christ? What are “essentially different interpretations” of the salvation which Christ merits? It can only mean that some interpretations are permitted which are contrary to that which is “orthodox” and Scriptural. Would you charge your church of the “grossest kind of misinterpretation?” Again, when the statement declares that the W.C.C. is not actually a “community of faith,” do you also shudder?
Finally, did not the C.R.C. also adopt in the declaration of the R.E.S. of Grand Rapids, 1963, the following statement:
4. Taking note of the fact that the “Deputies for Ecumenicity” have not completed their study, and in view of the undeniable fact that outspoken liberals are active, and in some instances prominent, in the W.C.C. and that some of its member churches knowingly tolerate and even highly honor as preachers and teachers, deniers of cardinal truths of the Christian religion, Synod is assured that in their further study the deputies will do justice to the antithesis of belief and unbelief, the true Church and the false, as taught in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession and Chapter XXV, v of the Westminster Confession of Faith and in such passages of Scripture as
. . . . 7
True, the above involves a matter which a committee is presently studying. But does not the fact that the R.E.S. (adopted also by the C.R.C.) mentions II Cor. 6:14-18 (as I also did) in connection with the W.C.C. suggest that at least the thought has entered the minds of these men that this passage also applies to the W.C.C.? Would you also consider the R.E.S. as guilty of “profound error,” Doctor?
Dr. Daane, you know very well that there are many points with which I would strongly disagree with the official position of the Christian Reformed Church. But I want to say that I admire their courage in withdrawing from the F.C.C. in 1924. I commend them for taking their stand with the R.E.S. of 1953 in condemning the W.C.C. as it is presently constituted. I appreciate the fact that they have reaffirmed that stand on the Synod of 1964. It is my hope that they continue to hold to this good position—as long as the W.C.C. is constituted as it now is. And if you, Dr. Daane, are opposed to that stand, may I humbly suggest the good way of protest and-appeal—rather than harsh criticism of one outside your denomination who happens to concur with the present stand of your Synod.