In the last issue we were noting what Dr. Harold John Ockenga, pastor of the Park Street Congregational Church in Boston, presented as the “Basic Theology off. Evangelism.” He insisted that proper evangelism must proceed out of the truth of the Trinity. We quoted some of his remarks concerning the position of the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, regarding evangelism. His idea of predestination by the Father from all eternity was nothing else but Arminian. The same arminianism becomes apparent in his discussion of the work of the Son and the Spirit in evangelism.
GOD THE SON IN EVANGELISM
Ockenga emphasizes the divinity of the Christ. He insists too on the real virgin birth of Christ. But his view of the atonement is plainly Arminian. He is ready to accept a variety of views concerning the work of atonement:
Various theories concerning the Atonement have been taught, such as the governmental view, the exemplary view, the piacular view, and the view of vicarious redemption. All these emphases are to be found in the Scripture, but they are found as manifestations of the basic teaching that Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of divine righteousness, substituted for us in his act of passive obedience to justice, and thus demonstrated in his life and death a divine justice and love. From this derived the governmental, the moral, and the exemplary views of the Atonement. It is this Gospel of redemption that is able to affect the will; nothing will move men to repentance and faith as does the preaching of the propitiation of Calvary. (Christianity Today, Oct. 28, 1966, pg. 12)
Although Ockenga denies universalism, he does insist that Christ died for all:
…Universalism is hardly compatible with biblical teaching. The Bible declares that the Gospel must be preached universally, that the death of Christ is sufficient and applicable for all but is efficacious only to those who believe. The Bible emphasizes the responsibility of acceptance of Christ. The plain alternative to this is the state of being lost and of suffering eternal torment (pg. 13).
THE HOLY SPIRIT IN EVANGELISM
Ockenga then proceeds to show how the Holy Spirit works in evangelism — and his view again is strictly Arminian. He considers the Spirit as He Who works common grace:
. . .Contemporary theology discloses a new interest in and emphasis upon the Holy Spirit’s ministry. This applies not so much to the Spirit’s ministry in common grace as to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in special grace. The Holy Spirit restrains the destructive processes of sin and thus enables humanity to maintain an orderly life. The Holy Spirit also is the source of the renewing processes in the churches and in society. The emphasis upon spiritual renewal in the Roman Catholic Church and the various branches of Protestantism is directly attributable to the work of the Holy Spirit… (pg. 13).
Ockenga insists further that his Arminian view of the work of the Spirit “alone stimulates evangelism.” Conversion he places before regeneration:
Evangelism may be equated with the public proclamation of the good news of the Gospel or the private witnessing to the good news of the Gospel, with the purpose of bringing individuals to faith in and confession of Christ as Savior. This is called “conversion,” and conversion has two meanings. It may be the active turning on the part of an individual as a response to the Gospel. This is the lesser sense of conversion and is within the ability of the individual. The New Testament uses the word epistrepho in the active sense. Theologically, conversion is often used in the larger sense of being equated with regeneration. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts, converts, and transforms the life of the individual. There is no possibility of an evangelistic outreach without the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The twentieth century has seen the growth of the so-called third force, which is the Christian movement emphasizing the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration, or the new birth by water and the Spirit
is the requirement for any spiritual and evangelistic movement. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Too much religion omits the necessity of the new birth. Some theology minimizes the place of evangelism in regeneration. Some Lutherans and Anglicans teach baptismal regeneration. Some Reformed theologians teach that regeneration by the Holy Spirit precedes conversion. The evangelical position is that regeneration is conditioned upon repentance, confession, and faith. This alone stimulates evangelism. (pg. 13)
The above “theology” for evangelism seems to be the “theology” approved by most of those attending the conference. At the conclusion of the conference, a formal statement or “message” was adopted by voice-vote (I understand that only the affirmative vote was called for; there was no opportunity for those opposed to the idea of the “message” to express their dissent). This “message” reflects the same theology set forth by Cckenga — as one could expect, since the conference was the work of Billy Graham and associates. Some of the thoughts expressed by the message:
On behalf of our fellowmen everywhere, whom we love and for whom our Saviour died, we promise with renewed zeal and faithfulness to bear to them the Good News of God’s saving grace to a sinful and lost humanity.. . .
. ..Our goal is nothing short of the evangelization of the human race in this generation, by every means God has given to the mind and will of men.
. ..All men are one in the humanity created by God Himself. All men are one in their common need of divine redemption, and all are offered salvation in Jesus Christ….
. ..We extend our hands to each other in love, and those same hands reach out to men everywhere with the prayer that the Prince of Peace may soon unite our sorely divided world.
. ..Recognizing that the ministry of reconciliation is given to us all, we seek to enlist every believer and to close the ranks of all Christians for an effective witness to our world….
While not all who hear the Gospel will respond to it, our responsibility is to see that every one is given the opportunity to decide for Christ in our time….
Finally, we express to Evangelist Billy Graham our gratitude for his vision of a World Congress on Evangelism. To the magazine Christianity Today goes our debt of thanks for bringing it into reality….
What did this Congress accomplish? From the reports that have come from Berlin, one would conclude that there is yet no evidence that anything was accomplished. When, before the meeting, this Congress was compared to Pentecost, one could expect something tremendous to happen. It didn’t. According to the Presbyterian Journal of Nov. 23, 1966:
What did it accomplish? No pronouncements were issued, no resolutions were passed. A “sense of the assembly” message was approved by applause but not by a formal vote. Congress backers and participants will feel that Berlin was worthwhile if the organized Church hears once again its marching orders: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
This same paper, which is opposed to the World and National Council of Churches, points out: “While the difference between such a gathering and those of more ecumenical organizations was not accented, and the negative note was not heard, one could not help but noticing that names associated with evangelism in the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches circles were missing in Berlin.” However, theChristian Beacon of Carl MCIntire (Nov. 17, 1966) mentions that “ecumenical leaders were commended to the evangelicals. Chandu Ray, chairman of the World Council’s Commission on Mission and Evangelism, delivered a major address….” Dr. McIntire also refers to a confrontation he had with a Rev. Walter Hollenwerder, secretary of evangelism for the World Council of Churches. So there were represented at this Congress at Berlin those who favored and pressed the cause of ecumenism. Dr. McIntire, following the usual form of criticism, points out also that leaders of churches in Communist countries were also invited and present — men whom McIntire claims are communist agents. Present also were observers from Judaism and Roman Catholicism. Could any expect the blessings of the Spirit of Pentecost on such a gathering?
I would conclude that this Congress was no place where a Reformed churchman should be found — not that arminianism can never be the foundation-theology of evangelism. Besides, no Reformed man could favor this somewhat obvious attempt to promote ecumenism. The reports of the Congress seem to indicate a deliberate effort to ward off every evidence of disharmony a and disagreement — and to emphasize only the agreement. On the only “message” coming out of the Congress, not even a negative vote was allowed.
Evangelism we must have. It must be based on “Calvinistic” theology — that is, on the theology of Scripture. Such evangelism meets with the favor and blessing of God. This evangelism will not evangelize “the human race in this generation,” but it will serve to bring God’s elect people from darkness to light. May the church continue to be faithful in such evangelism.