The title of this article is the title of a book published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Company. It is a book which is edited by Clifford Christians, Earl J. Schipper and Wesley Smedes, but is the result of the work of a large number of contributors who wrote papers on the subjects covered in the book. It is available in paperback for $1.95.
The occasion for the book is “Key ’73,” a cooperative effort on the part of 125 denominations and Christian agencies to join together in a massive evangelistic thrust during the year 1973.
That our readers may have some idea of what “Key ’73” is all about, we quote from The Sower.
How did it start?
Key ’73 is a direct result of an editorial in “Christianity Today,” written by Dr. C. F. Henry calling evangelical Christians to unite in evangelism. As a result of that editorial, several prominent Christians began to meet together to lay plans for a historic cooperative evangelistic effort. Key ’73 was born in those meetings.
The theme of Key ’73?
Key ’73 has adopted this theme: Calling our continent to Christ. The theme text is: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.
Who belongs to Key ’73?
Membership is open to all denominations and agencies desiring to participate. At present there are approximately 90 denominations and 30 agencies which have joined the movement. Many more are expected to join during the latter part of 1972. Membership is subject to the approval of the Executive Committee.
The purpose of Key ’73?
The purpose of Key ’73 shall be to provide a means whereby Christians of all denominations and groups may cooperate in a simultaneous task of communicating the message and the meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the United States and Canada, with particular emphasis during the year 1973 using the slogan and symbol “Key ’73.”
How is Key ’73 organized?
The Key ’73 organizational structure is minimal. The Central Committee, consisting of one representative from each participating denomination or group, is the decision-making body. The 15-member Executive Committee elected by the Central Committee is charged with interim action. . . .
It is apparent that the large number of denominations participating means that widely divergent church groups are banded together in this effort. Salvation Army is one such organization. Campus Crusade for-Christ is another. Pentecostals and Mennonites are also participating. In fact, at this point three Roman Catholic dioceses in this country have officially decided to take part in the program.
The Christian Reformed Church is also a part of the program. Hence, this book.
As an explanation for such diverse participation, the following is given as stated in Christian News.
Participants may function ecumenically or separately; local areas and individual congregations will determine their activities to a large degree.
“No denomination is called to affirm the theology or methodology of any other participant,” according to Dr. Thomas F. Zimmerman, chairman of the “Key ’73” executive committee and head of the Assemblies of God.
“The participating denominations and groups are involved at a variety of levels. While some are encouraging cooperative activities, others are saying they will participate in only certain segments of the program calendar and only by themselves.”
As far as this “program calendar” is concerned, we quote the following from The Banner.
Evangelism Thrust (the name given to the program insofar as the Christian Reformed Church intends to participate. H.H.) guides a church through four phases: 1) self-study, 2) setting goals, 3) working for goals, and 4) review and evaluation. Now these four steps are simply ways to help a church answer the very basic questions—Who are we as God’s redeemed people in today’s world? Where do we believe God wants us to be (what goals)? How, with our resources and gifts, can we achieve these goals? And in review, what can we learn from our successes and failures to help us be more effective witnesses?
Now put those together and you have the Thrust strategy.
—Phase 1 is a three-month self-study.
—Phase 2 is a month for setting goals (December).
—Phase 3 is a six-month period to work for evangelism goals (January-June).
—Phase 4 is a review and evaluation (May or June).
The question will inevitably arise: Is the Protestant Reformed denomination participating in this program in any way? And if not, why not? This article is intended to be an answer to that question although it must be understood that the matter has never been officially before our synod; and that, therefore, the views expressed here are mine.
This article is really a book review because the bookWho In The World was sent to our magazine for review. But an adequate review must, of necessity, say something about the whole program.
I know that there are some difficulties in objecting to a program of this nature. The difficulties are not so much in discovering what is wrong with such a program: the, objections seem to me to lie on the surface and to be clear to anyone who wants to be Reformed. Rather the trouble is that in today’s ecclesiastical world, anyone who is opposed to such a program seems to be putting himself into a category of people who are opposed to motherhood and apple pie. To raise objections is automatically to invite criticism. How can anyone be opposed to such a noble endeavor as evangelism? Is not the evangelizing of the North American continent an eminently desirable goal? Can you in good conscience set your opinions over against the collective wisdom of over 100 denominations?
It would, however, be a dereliction of duty to be silent. The program is a travesty of all that Scripture calls the Church to do in her missionary efforts. For the sake of the truth of God it must be done.
While a great deal of my criticism of the program must be made in connection with the book Who In The World, nevertheless, there are a couple of remarks about the program itself which ought to be said first of all.
In the first place, and most glaringly, it is evident that the program is based on an entirely anti-Scriptural ecumenism. It seems to me a thing incredible that almost all denominations in the United States and Canada which in any way call themselves “Christian” can participate together and cooperate with each other in this program. This is ecumenicity at its worst.
The objection may be raised that each denomination is permitted to participate in the program to the extent that it desires; and that no one denomination need subscribe either to the views or to the methodology of any other denomination; but the fact remains that there is cooperation. And cooperation implies, of necessity, approval.
This ought to be plain. If I can cooperate with the United Methodist Church or with the Salvation Army in such mass evangelism, then it seems clear that the very least I am saying is this: these groups are able to perform evangelism in the true Scriptural sense. They are able to bring the gospel and the truth of the gospel to the unbeliever. And I, in cooperating with them, approve of the gospel which they bring and the content of that gospel which they proclaim.
Perhaps an example will make this point. I may desire to raise a large amount of money for the Cancer Fund. To do this, I enlist the aid of the Mafia. I cooperate with them in this venture and say before all the world: I and the Mafia are raising money for the Cancer Fund. I explicitly disavow the philosophy of the Mafia and I disassociate myself from their “methodology.” But I ask no questions. If they choose to raise such money by means of extortion, murder, robbery, that is their business and I shall not inquire into their methods. It is sufficient that we are cooperating together. Any one would immediately have serious and legitimate questions about my moral standards. Cooperation necessarily implies some measure of approval. And especially in the case of evangelism, cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church means that I am saying that this Church is capable of doing evangelism.
And if the objection is raised that it will hardly do to compare the “methodology” of the Mafia with the “preaching” of apostatizing churches, then they need to be reminded of what Paul writes in Galatians 1:8, 9: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
That is one objection.
And the results are obviously going to be disastrous.
When a denomination which is openly modern and liberal, which denies the blood of atonement and scorns in the divinity of Christ performs “evangelism” and “saves some lost souls,” I am obligated to recognize these efforts and acknowledge that they are the work of salvation even though these people might learn to their anger that they have been given a corrupted version of the truth of Scripture.
But another objection ought to be raised. That objection has to do with the whole matter of evangelism itself. I am not saying that evangelism is mot the calling of the Church of Christ. But this is not the question. There is a startling lack of definition in all the material available for distribution as to what, precisely, Scripture means by evangelism. There is no effort made to define carefully and clearly the Scriptural teachings on this subject. Not even the book Who In The World does this, as we shall see. Some of these questions which need answering we ought to mention. And they are not peripheral questions which have little to do with the program. They are basic questions which involve the heart of the matter.
What are these questions?
Well, first of all: Does the Scripture call us to do the kind of evangelism which this program envisions? Does the Bible tell us that it is the calling of the Church to go again and again to those generations which have apostatized to bring the gospel to them again and again and again? I know that this question involves other questions which have to do with the “individualism” of Arminianism over against the organic approach which the Scriptures take. And these questions are not always so easy to answer. But if the answer to these questions is Yes, then one wonders whether there ever comes an end to the work of evangelism. Does not Christ Himself ever finish His work? Does not Christ ever put a roof on His temple? After all, there are unbelieving people in so-called “Christian” countries until the Lord returns. Is there always a calling to evangelize these people? Is there always a number of souls which has to be saved from them? If so, then it seems that the work is not even finished when Christ comes back; and we may then well bemoan the fact that Christ returns when He does, for there are people who perish because Christ returned too soon.
And, in keeping with this! What does the truth of election and reprobation have to do with the work of evangelism? No one mentions these Scriptural and creedal doctrines. And no one seems to consider the importance of these truths is the work of evangelism.
And again what is the relation between evangelism and the coming of Christ’s kingdom. I ask this question because some of the reading in this field leaves one with the inescapable question: Must we look for the kingdom of Christ to be realized on this earth? Must we look for a mass conversion of North America (and the world)? Does Scripture hold out any hope of this? Much of the material put out seems to accept this possibility.
One would expect to find the answers to these and similar questions in Who In The World. One would expect to find some extensive treatment of, for example, the beautiful statement of the Heidelberg Catechism: ‘”The Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith. . . .”
One would expect this because me knows that this book is written by members of one of the most Reformed bodies participating in this program. Here adequate justification will surely be found. Here the answers to these questions will appear because this is a look at the program from Reformed perspective.
And this brings me to an actual review of the book itself.
But this must wait, the Lord willing, for our next issue.