From July 4 through the 20th of 1968 the World Council of Churches met in its fourth assembly at Uppsala, Sweden. Some 235 church denominations were represented by 704 delegates in attendance. The theme of the assembly was, “Behold, I make all things new. In the following issues of the Standard Bearer I plan, D.V., to point out what went on at the assembly. The source of my information will be from the official Uppsala 68 Report, published by the World Council of Churches. The report beings with an official message adopted at the assembly. This surely sets the tone of the entire fathering—therefore, I reproduce it in full and compare it with selected passages of Scripture.
A Message from the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches
The excitement of new scientific discoveries, the protest, of student revolts, the shock of assassinations, the clash of wars: these mark the year of 1968. In this climate the Uppsala Assembly met first of all to listen. (Cf. A. below—G.V.B.)
We heard the cry of those who long for peace; of the hungry and exploited who demand bread and justice; of the victims of discrimination who claim human dignity; and of the increasing millions who seek for the meaning of life.
God hears these cries and judges us. He also speaks the liberating Word. We hear him say—I go before you. NOW that Christ carries away your sinful past, the Spirit frees you to live for others. Anticipate my Kingdom in joyful worship and daring acts. The Lord says, ‘I make all things new.’
We ask you, trusting in God’s renewing power, to join in these anticipations of God’s Kingdom, showing now something of the newness which Christ will complete.
1. All men have become neighbors to one another. Torn by our diversities and tensions, we do not yet know how to live together. But God makes new. Christ wants his Church to foreshadow a renewed human community.
Therefore, we Christians will manifest our unity in Christ by entering into full fellowship with those of other races, classes, age, religious and political convictions, in the place where we live. Especially we shall seek to overcome racism wherever it appears. (Cf. B. below—G.V.B.)
2. Scientific discoveries and the revolutionary movements of our time open new potentialities and perils for men. Man is lost because he does not know who he is. But God makes new. The biblical message is that man is God’s trustee for creation, that in Christ the ‘new man’ appears and demands decision.
Therefore, with our fellow-men we accept our trusteeship over creation, guarding, developing and sharing its resources. As Christians we proclaim Jesus as Lord and Saviour. God can transform us into Christ’s new humanity. (Cf. C. below)
3. The ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, fostered by armament expenditure, is the crucial point of decision today. But God makes new. He has made us see that Christians who in their acts deny dignity to: their fellow men deny Jesus Christ, in spite of all that they profess to believe.
Therefore, with people of all convictions, we Christians want to ensure human rights in a just world community. We shall work for disarmament and for trade agreements fair to all. We are ready to tax ourselves in furtherance of a system of world taxation. (Cf. D below)
4. These commitments demand the worship, discipline and mutual correction of a world-wide community. In the World Council of Churches, and its regional, national and local counterparts, only the beginning of this community has been given to us. But God makes new. The ecumenical movement must become bolder, and more representative. Our churches must acknowledge that this movement binds us to renewal.
Therefore, we re-affirm our covenant to support and correct one another. Present plans for church union call for decision, and we seek fuller communion with those churches which are not yet in full fellowship with us. We know that we never live the fullness of what we profess and we long for God to take over. Yet we rejoice that already we can anticipate in worship the time when God renews ourselves, all men, all things. (Cf. E. below)
God, our Father, you can make all things new.
We commit ourselves to you: help us
—to live for others since your love includes all men,
—to seek those truths which we have not yet seen,
—to obey your commands which we have heard but not yet obeyed,
—to trust each other in the fellowship which you have given to us; and may we be renewed by your Spirit through Jesus Christ; your Son and our Lord. Amen. (Cf. F. below)
The Message from the Word of God
It is proper that one compare the above message from the W.C.C. with the Word of God itself. Is the message of the W.C.C. based upon God’s Word? Is it indeed a brief synopsis of Scripture? Or is it a message that runs exactly contrary to that Word?
I would maintain the latter. The message is hardly scriptural and presents for the most part what might be termed the “social gospel” which is so prevalent today. There are passing remarks meant to appeal to the evangelical, but the general tenor of the message is plain. Rev. 21:5 states, “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” This phrase, which is used in connection with the ushering in of the new heavens and new earth exclusively, is used in the message of the W.C.C. to suggest rather an improvement of this present world. Likewise, many of the suggestions in the “message” are contrary to the teachings of Scripture.
A. By way of introduction, the message of the W.C.C. points to present-day developments—developments which cause it to “listen.” They want to listen, evidently, in order to hear the complaints of many radicals—and do something about this. Scripture, however, emphasizes that the developments which take place today are signs of the soon-return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Uppsala could better have listened to Matthew 24: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . . And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. . . . And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
B. The W.C.C. wants a “renewed human community” and will work with all kinds of people to accomplish its purpose. This, it suggests, will be the fulfillment of the purpose of God who makes all things new. But what does Scripture teach? Jesus speaks of the unity which must be sought by the church – a unity which is a manifestation of that perfect unity existing within the Triune God. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Again, the Word of God so clearly condemns any sort of union with the world to accomplish the purpose of God. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” (II Cor. 6:14-16).
C. “Man is lost,” says the W.C.C. message, “because he does not know who he is.” But Scripture speaks another language: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Rom. 1:21). And what is meant by God transforming us into “Christ’s new humanity”? The “transformation” appears to be that “we accept our trusteeship over creation, guarding, developing and sharing its resources.” But Scripture speaks differently. Rom. 12:2 states, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the reneging of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” The transformation of the child of God is not into some sort of “new humanity”, but into the image of the Son. Nor again can the Christian accept a “trusteeship over creation” with fellowman. The Christian is called to serve God now through the proper use of this creation—but “fellowmen”, or natural man, refuses to do that.
D. The “ever widening gap between the rich and the poor” is itself foretold in Scripture and is a sign of the end of time (see Rev. 6:5-6). Scripture also reminds the saints, “My kingdom is not of this world, then would my servants tight. . . .” (John 18:36). And again: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4).
E. As far as an ecumenical attempt which “must become bolder”, Matt. 24:4-5 must serve as a warning, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
F. The prayer of Jesus in John 17 is not only an improvement upon the prayer in the Message from the W.C.C., but also reveals a completely opposite spirit. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. Thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. . . . I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And, now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” Amen, and amen. So may the faithful continue to Pray.