Last time we considered the Basis, as stated in its constitution, of the World Council of Churches. The statement of Basis, though amazingly brief, seemed to teach several truths: the divinity of Christ, that He is Savior, that there is the Trinity, and that there is Scripture. Yet on such a basis we felt it impossible to affiliate with other churches. First, this is true because the Basis does not mention several vital Scriptural truths,—including the truth of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. Without such an affirmation, the basis can mean anything to anyone. Secondly, we showed that many members of the W.C.C. today deny the truths which the Basis seems to contain: the truths of redemption through Christ alone, the truth of the Trinity, the truth that Christ is divine. Even some of the, six elected presidents deny aspects of these truths as Scripture maintains them. Thirdly, it was shown that before official organization, prospective member churches were informed that it was their privilege to interpret the Basis as they pleased. Thus, in reality, the W.C.C. could elide its entire basis,—and function no differently than it presently does. Certainly no faithful Christian may join an organization which does not clearly, unequivocally present its basis of organization so that he may know with certainty with whom he fellowships and works.
But other objections to this organization must be raised. There is the question of its aim or goal,—particularly with respect to the church. What is its view of the church? And what does it seek to attain? These are important questions. When we work with another, we must know what we are mutually working for. If I can not work for the same goal or end which another seeks, then I simply can not work with him at all.
The W.C.C.—A Super-Church?
One question often raised concerning the W.C.C. is whether it is some sort of super-church. There are various fears in that connection. Some refuse to lose their denominational identity. Others fear a large bureaucratic organization. Many express disagreement with any union which combines many churches on the basis of the “lowest common denominator.” And the very fact that the W.C.C. has repeatedly sought to deny the charge of being a “super-church” seems to indicate that the fear is very real,—even within the membership of this organization.
The external evidences show that the W.C.C. refuses to consider itself a super-church. It is called a councilof churches (note the plural). Article IV of its constitution, which treats the authority of the organization, states:
The World Council shall offer counsel and provide opportunity of united action in matters of common interest.
It may take action on behalf of constituent churches in such matters as one or more of them may commit to it.
It shall have authority to call regional and world conferences on specific subjects as occasion may require.
The World Council shall not legislate for the churches; nor shall it act for them in any manner except as indicated above or as may hereafter be specified by the constituent churches.
The last paragraph of that article particularly renounces the right to legislate or act for the member churches except in the limited way permitted by the constitution. A similar sentiment .is expressed in the article on “Public Statements:”
While such statements may have great significance and influence as the expression of the judgment or concern of so widely representative a Christian body, yet their authority will consist only in the weight which they carry by their own truth and wisdom and the publishing of such statements shall not be held to imply that the World Council as such has, or can have, any constitutional authority over the constituent churches or right to speak for them.
No doubt but that the W.C.C. as presently constituted is not a “super-church,” although it does perform some functions which usually are associated with the church—rather than with a council of churches; one instance of this is works of “mercy”, that is, the relief of the poor and oppressed in many lands.
Visions of Grandeur
I believe the question is not so much whether the W.C.C. is today a “super-church,” but what it intends to become, or, for what it desires to prepare the way. I would maintain that both in the declarations of its many supporters as well as in its official decisions, it becomes evident that the goal in mind is the one united “church” which will encompass all “Christians.” I am convinced that in this “church” there will be no room for the truth; there will be no room for separate denominations; in brief, it appears that the “church” which the W.C.C. strives to achieve will be nothing less than the church of the antichrist.
There is W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft, presently general secretary of the W.C.C., and possibly the one most prominent man in the organization. This is his vision:
The World Council of Churches as it is today is only an instrument for Christian unity. It must disappear in its present form when the unity of the church becomes a reality. In the meantime, much remains to be done. What else can one expect when one recalls that the council is not yet 20 years old? The time is hidden in the wisdom of God when the whole flock will be gathered together under one Shepherd. All we need to know is which way we are going.¹
The World Council of Churches is not the adequate answer to the problem of disunity. The adequate answer cannot be a council of churches which are not ready to be united. That answer must simply be the one Church of Christ . . . .
The ecumenical movement becomes unfaithful to its very mission if it begins to consider its own forms of life and the present relationships between the churches as permanent. These structures are to decrease in order that unity may increase. The growth of unity is not to be the growth of a movement or a World Council of Churches, but the growth of the Una Sancta, the one Church of Christ.²
Again, consider the evaluation of another, evidently sympathetic with the W.C.C., writing in a national magazine:
. . . This body (W.C.C.) was set up in 1948, after long years of preparation, with the precise aim of achieving Christian unity. Nor should there be any doubt about the profound and revolutionary nature of this aim. It is nothing less than the reunion of all Christians in the organic unity of a single communion, the disappearance of sects and denominations, the coming of the Universal Church. As an Anglican ecumenicist, Bishop S.C. Neill, has starkly put it: “The great and terrible difficulty is that the churches cannot unite unless they are willing to die . . . .”
. . . In this context, the search for unity among Christians . . . should be understood as a compelling, agonizing destiny. Christians have to hasten their own reunion so that they can embark more effectively on the part they could play in discovering a core of unity for the human race. . . . (Christ) is the second Adam, the initiator of a new way of life which continues the vast cosmic drama of evolution and demonstrates to the human race that the expansion of being which began with the amoeba is destined to create in the fullness of time a new community realizing in its organic unity and brotherly love “the glorious liberty of the sons of God.”
. . . If . . . great changes among men come only as a result of profound changes in their ways of imagining their life and destiny, it may be that when the evils of division and insufficiencies of a purely material order have had their full effect, a hunger for unity and brotherhood may really take possession of the human mind. Christians must prepare for such a day, forwarding now their own reunion and seeing in it their dedication to the ultimate unity of all mankind.³
That the unity of all churches is not simply the aim ofsome of the members of the W.C.C., but that it is the aim of the Council itself is evident from its declarations. The provisional committee arranging for the first assembly of the W.C.C. declared:
Our churches are divided, both in speech and in action, and by their divisions the whole work of the church suffers most grievous harm . . . . We long for the day when the Lord Jesus Christ shall recapture the churches and, manifesting His glory, lead them to speak with one clear voice, and to act as those who serve Him only as their Lord.4
The Second Assembly, meeting at Evanston, Ill., declared:
Six years ago our churches entered into a covenant to form this council, and affirmed their intention to stay together. We thank God for his blessing on our work and fellowship during these six years. We enter now upon a second stage. To stay together is not enough. We must go forward . . . We must go forward. As we learn more of our unity in Christ, it becomes the more intolerable that we should be divided.”5
In conclusion, let me quote the statement of one of the Commissions or committees of the W.C.C., meeting in St. Andrews, Scotland in August of 1960, together with comments from the Christian Century which calls itself the ecumenical magazine:
“The Commission of Faith and Order understands that the unity which is both God’s will and His gift to His Church is one which brings all in each place who confess Christ Jesus as Lord into a fully committed fellowship with one another through one baptism into Him, holding the one apostolic faith, preaching the one Gospel and breaking the one bread, and having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all; and which at the same time unites them with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and all ages in such wise that ministry and members are acknowledged by all, and that all can act and speak together as occasion requires for the tasks to which God calls the Church.”
. . . What all this seems clearly to be at long last saying to all Christians is that in the ultimate achievement of Christian unity here on earth all the presently precious distinctive names and all the nice, neat distinctions in doctrine cherished within our common faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will have to be laid on the altar, and that in any community the establishment of a second church where there has been one, or a third where there have been two, can be justified only by the number of believers increased to otherwise unwieldy size and by the necessities of geographical convenience so that a church, may be easy of access to the children, young people, and adults whose lives can thus the more readily be centered in the church . . . .6
The Future United Church
The above quotations ought to be sufficient to show that it is the common view that the ultimate aim of the W.C.C. is to unite all churches into one super-church. Whether the W.C.C. will itself become this super-church, or whether it only prepares the way for it, I do not know. But this is certain: the faithful child of God can not join in the above attempts.
I believe that churches, and denominations of churches, may seek to discuss together what the other believes and teaches. Why not? I suggest too that we as churches could contribute much to such discussion. I believe too that the church is one, and that this oneness is fully manifest when Christ returns. But because of sin, that oneness will not be fully manifest on the earth. The unity of all churches, presently sought with great desire, can only culminate in the church of antichrist. Read once Revelation 12, 13, 16, 17. Look especially at Rev. 13. The two beasts are there presented: the political and spiritual aspect of the antichristian world power. Striking, is it not, that the W.C.C. emphasizes especially these two things (corresponding to those two beasts): the unity or oneness of all that is called church, and the necessity of all nations working together and submerging themselves under some sort of international power and control. How, then, can the true church cooperate with such an organization which shall culminate in, or prepare the way for, that “son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (II Thess. 2:4).
¹ The Christian Century, “Between Constantinople and Rome,” W.A. Visser ‘t Hooft, Sept. 9, 1964, p. 1108
² W. A. Visser ‘t Hooft, The Pressure of our Common Calling, Doubleday, pp. 24, 88
³ The Atlantic Monthly, Aug. 1962, “The Quest for Christian Unity,” Barbara Ward, p. 121
4 Paul Griswold Macy, If It Be Of God, Bethany Press, p. 102
5 Harold A. Bosley, What Did the World Council Say to You?, Abingdon Press, pp. 16-17
6 The Christian Century, June 14, 1961, pp. 742, 743