VOLUME 22 - NUMBER 2 (August 1999)
THE WORLD CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT
EVANGELISM VS. EVANGELIZATION
By Albert James Dager
In our previous issue we outlined the basis for what has come to be called the World Christian Movement. In summary, the World Christian Movement (WCM) is a concerted global, ecumenical effort begun some years ago by diverse Christian organizations networking to evangelize the world by the year AD 2000. The watchword for the WCM is "evangelization," as opposed to "evangelism." Evangelization is the "Christianizing" of all the world's people groups by means of a work that combines social and political action as equal elements with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelism, a legitimate implementing of the Great Commission, is the preaching of the Gospel with the intent to save individual souls. In some cases evangelism is utilized in evangelization, but it is not always pure in the sense that evangelization recognizes the gospels of diverse religious groups -Roman Catholic, Orthodox, etc.as equal within the evangelization process.
At the heart of the WCM is the U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM), in Pasadena, California, founded by Ralph D. Winter. USCWM has produced a study course on missions entitled Perspectives, which is used by hundreds of organizations to train their missions leaders.
Additionally, we have found that a large segment of the WCM is youth oriented, whereby churches working with Christian youth organizations send teenagers to accomplish the task of evangelization. This in place of evangelism, which the Lord has commissioned to elders known as evangelists. In most cases, these youth are not actually ministering the Gospel, but rather employing certain tactics to gain peoples' attention for the presentation of a watered-down gospel. These tactics include miming, puppets, movies (such as the "Jesus" Project shows), and other non-offensive means to persuade people to think about Jesus to some degree. The youth themselves seldom minister the pure Gospel to the people. If they do, it is not generally under the auspices of the youth ministry's program, but as individuals who see the need to do so on a one-to-one basis.
Using acceptable means to draw listeners is not wrong. The problem is that, once drawn, they do not hear a clear presentation of the true Gospel. "Jesus saves" is only a cliche unless the hearer is told who Jesus is, from what and to what He saves, and the need to repent from sin, as well as the cost of following Him. The WCM, however, citing the Joshua 2000 Project in Nepal as an example of evangelization, says:
Nepal has been literally saturated with the gospel in five years. From the time the constitution was changed in 1990 to allow for greater religious freedom to the present, almost every village in every district has had gospel witness through local evangelists, national teams involved in Christian literature distribution, the "Jesus" film, gospel recordings, radio and other means. All fifty-one peoples of Nepal listed in the Joshua Project 2000 list of least evangelized peoples could now be said to have had the gospel preached to each person!71
Yes, provided "each person" has a radio, television or boom box, and/or is literate. This illustrates the loose interpretation of evangelization "to every person" held by the World Christian Movement.
In any movement comprised of diverse elements working in unity of purpose there are bound to be misunderstandings as to the ultimate goal of that movement. We have stated in our previous issue that not everyone involved in the World Christian Movement has the same idea of what the goal is or how it is to be achieved. Observers might be confused if they hear different voices offering differing views on the same issues while claiming to be in unison with one another.
The goal of the World Christian Movement is stated succinctly by Ralph D. Winter, and it is one with which we find little disagreement:
A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by the Year 2000!-How can anyone guarantee that this WILL happen? How can anyone guarantee that this WON'T happen?
Well, AD2000 leaders are truly sorry if some find it difficult to believe that "it CAN happen."... However, just what are we talking about? Is it the completion of the Great Commission? No, no, no.
Is it the Return of Christ?
No, no, no.... So, let us not argue the wrong cause. Satan would be happy to embroil us in such things, just to distract us from the task before us-the preaching of the Gospel within every people. The classical statement of that goal has been in print ever since 1981, and is contained in the appendix of my new book, "Thy Kingdom Come" under the title, "A Church in Every People - Plain Talk About a Difficult Task."72
Winter's clarification of the AD 2000 goal does not allay the confusion wrought by many within the movement who do urge everyone to get on board to complete the Great Commission by the year 2000. In truth, his statement seems to contradict earlier claims as to the purpose of the U.S. Center for World Mission described in:
What will it take to finish Christ's Great Commission to take the Good News to every nation people group) on the face of the earth? The U.S. Center for World Mission is being established for just that purpose. We're the largest strategy center in the world wholly dedicated to sending the Gospel across the last frontiers to the 16,750 hidden people groups who have not yet had opportunity to hear.73
It would appear as if Winter's latter statements betray the realization that this goal will not be attained by the year 2000, the date originally targeted. Now the goal is not to complete the Great Commission, but to merely insert a "Christian presence"-even Roman Catholic-into every "people group."
We have no problem with either position, whether to complete the Great Commission or, as Winter says, have a Church for every people by the end of the millennium. The problem is the ecumenism which characterizes the movement, as well as various other factors that tend to water down the true Gospel. Thus, the "preaching of the Gospel," according to some in the WCM, is presenting Jesus as a familiar icon within indigenous cultures rather than as the historical, only-begotten Son of God who lived, died and was resurrected at a specific time in human history. This is evidenced by some who claim that it is not necessary for one to know Jesus in order to be saved.
IS JESUS THE ONLY WAY?
In its Perspectives course, the U.S. Center for World Mission offers an eclectic mix of teachings on the subject of evangelism by well-known Christians. Some of these leaders present solid biblical approaches to the subject; some present a liberal, social-gospel perspective. While the course consistently espouses faith in Jesus Christ as the basis for evangelization, not everyone contributing to the course presents faith in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. In his Perspectives article, "Jesus Christ and World Religions," Ralph Covell, Adjunct Professor of World Mission at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, affirms the need to present Jesus to every culture. But he then suggests that modern missionaries must rethink the idea that men are lost without Christ.
No doctrine is more important for the Kingdom of God than the unique person of its King and the obedience of his subjects to witness for him in all the world. To proclaim the message of this King to all the religions of the world demands not only inculturation but "inreligionization, an inside understanding of the "faith experience" of other peoples. How does God's Kingdom relate to the religious kingdoms? Has the King revealed himself in world religions? Does this revelation make it possible for people to be saved? If so, how? Is overt faith in Christ, the King, the only way for people to be saved? Is it just for God to condemn those who, by virtue of their birthplace and the neglect of his church, have never had a chance to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom? Is dialogue with adherents of world religions a help or hindrance in the task of world evangelization?
Evangelicals as a group have long neglected to analyze these issues They are clear on the uniqueness of Christ and on God's will to save all humanity, but they face the dilemma that most of the people of the world are comfortable in the religion in which they were born. Christ is the unique, but apparently not the universal, savior. When crucial target dates appear-1900 and 2000, for example-they mount new crusades to spread Christ's message universally, but without giving any new, creative thought to the relationship of these efforts to the nagging questions posed by world religions.
For the most part, evangelical scholars from the time of the Wheaton Congress on Evangelism (1966) to the Lausanne II International Congress on World Evangelism (Manila 1989) have been satisfied with predictably repeating their basic proof texts on the finality of Christ. Disturbing biblical texts which might nuance their attitudes to other religious expressions are glossed over, put in footnotes, subsumed under traditional views, or placed in the last paragraph of an article.74
While not quite answering his questions, Covell plants seeds of doubt about whether faith in Jesus Christ is really necessary for salvation. He accuses Evangelicals of neglecting to analyze these issues. Three points in this passage need to be addressed:
1) Covell asks, "Is dialogue with adherents of world religions a help or hindrance in the task of world evangelization?" To this we must respond that "dialogue" between truth and error cannot enhance truth; it can only result in denigration of the truth. While the simple definition of "dialogue" is "conversation between two or more persons," its expanded definition is "an exchange of ideas and opinions." In the area of religious dialogue, conversation means nothing without the participants attempting to persuade one another of what each perceives to be truth. Dialogue assumes that there is something to be learned from both sides of the issue. This is borne out in Covell's statement that Evangelicals have failed to give "any new, creative thought to the relationship of these efforts to the nagging questions posed by world religions." But is there any truth apart from God's Word that can be learned from any religious expression? Not according to Scripture:
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 doth he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
The approach that Covell suggests is that which has been implemented by Roman Catholicism in its relationship with world religions. The important task of Roman Catholicism is to insert its presence within every culture; in order to do this it has traditionally allowed each culture to retain its religious expression and meld it with Roman Catholicism. Demon gods have been transformed into Roman Catholic saints, pagan rituals have been blended with the Catholic mass, and Catholicism has adopted different attitudes depending upon the culture in which it has sought to establish its "Christian presence. In many Catholic countries pagan rituals are performed in Catholic churches under the approving eyes of the priests.
It is this attitude which accounts for the pope's ability to proclaim faith in Christ while engaging in unified worship with animistic religions.
2) Covell asks the question, "Is it just for God to condemn those who, by virtue of their birthplace and the neglect of his Church, have never had a chance to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom?"
This is what skeptics of the Faith have asked for centuries. By human reasoning it is not just for God to condemn those who have not heard the Gospel. But Isaiah speaks for God when He says:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:8-11)
Likewise, Ezekiel says:
Hear now, 0 house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? (Ezekiel 18:25)
It is presumption for man to assume anything about God, whether that presumption turns out to be true or not. Job's friends spoke many truths about God, but they were chastised by God for having spoken presumptuously.
We cannot go beyond what is written in the Scriptures, which are largely silent about the fate of those who have not heard the Gospel. One portion of Scripture used by Universalists gives only a hint about those who perish without the Law, but says nothing about grace:
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
To them who by patient continuance ill well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
For there is no respect of persons with God.
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law,'
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
Which shew the work of the law wrItten in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. (Romans 2:5-16)
Here Paul was speaking to the Jews in Rome, explaining to them that the Law cannot justify anyone. His explanation was given in order that the Jews might see that it is by faith that salvation comes, not by the keeping of the Law. In that context, then, those of the nations other than Israel who came to God through faith in Jesus Christ were counted among the righteous. He states that those who patiently do well in seeking for glory and honor will receive eternal life; those who continue to do evil will be condemned. In the overall context of God's Word we know that no man can do righteously without faith in the God of the Bible whose only begotten Son died for their sins. All of man's righteousness is vanity and, as Isaiah puts it, "filthy rags" to God (Isaiah 64:6).
All we really know is that Jesus had to die for our sins in order to procure for us eternal life; we must place out faith in that great sacrifice in order to appropriate it for ourselves. And Scripture affirms the necessity to preach Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in who In they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:13-15)
In light of these and many other Scriptures that insist upon the necessity to place one's faith in the person of Jesus Christ exclusively and uniquely, the question arises: why did Jesus die if it is not necessary for His sacrifice to be presented to those who would be saved? And why are we commanded to have nothing to do with the religious rites and beliefs of pagan nations if those rites and beliefs point to Jesus, as suggested by Covell and those whose teachings he embraces?
All they leave us with is their human reasoning and opinions based upon what they think a "just" God would do.
The one thing that escapes them is that our salvation is not predicated upon justice; it is predicated upon mercy. If we wish to have the destiny of all men (ourselves included) based upon justice, then all men would be lost. Is that not the reason Jesus came in the first place-to seek and save those that are lost? Is it not an axiom of the Faith that all men are condemned to begin with, and that God's sacrifice of His only-begotten Son is what saves us from that condemnation? When has this belief been abandoned?
I thank God that He offered His Son to take upon Himself the penalty for my sins. His sacrifice satisfies God's justice, and provides mercy for my soul.
So to answer Covell's question, yes, it is just for God to condemn "those who, by virtue of their birthplace and the neglect of his Church, have never had a chance to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom." Just as it would be just for Him to condemn those who do hear the Gospel. But, according to His love for us, He says through the Apostle Paul:
what shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compass'on. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (Romans 9:14-16)
I would like to believe that all men will one day be saved. But that is not what God's Word says; it is human emotion at work. And it reflects the emotion-oriented gospel of neo-evangelicalism which cannot countenance God doing what He wants to do with His own creation.
Yet rather than presume upon God in any sense, we must allow His silence in certain areas to remain among those secret things which belong to Him alone (Deuteronomy 29:29). It is not up to us to condemn men, or to impart salvation to them. Our task is to preach the Gospel and obey God's Word. What God does with each individual soul remains His prerogative. It is wrong to assume anything other than what His Word clearly states. And it is wrong to hedge against what His Word says by suggesting that we can embrace pagan rituals and beliefs as valid expressions of the Faith.
3) Covell impugns Evangelicals for insisting that "Christ is the unique, but apparently not the universal, savior." But can Jesus be unique and, at the same time, "universal"? To say that Christ is the unique Savior is to say that only through Him can one be saved. To say that He is the universal Savior is to imply that He will save those who do not come to Him as the unique Savior. This is a form of"Christian universalism"-all may be saved by Christ without knowing Christ-as opposed to traditional universalism which states that all will be saved, period. Traditional universalism has long been regarded as a major heresy that has inserted itself into the modern Christian consciousness as a result of liberal theological adherents.
"Christian universalism" seeks a middle ground between biblical salvation through conscious surrender to Christ, and traditional universalism. Covell suggests that it has been rejected largely because Evangelicals have subsumed certain biblical texts which might imply that universalism is a valid Christian belief. But he fails to cite those biblical texts in order to prove his point. What Covell believes is that Jesus is found in other religious expressions apart from biblical faith. After quoting the Lausanne Covenant on the uniqueness of Christ, he states:
Since this was not a church-originated confessional statement, many of the signators may not have been affirming their agreement with every jot and tittle. This, however, has been the basic parameter within which most evangelical theologians have worked. Some, however, both before and after Lausanne, have been bold enough to take some fresh initiatives.
First, a small number of evangelical writers affiirm that the divine self-revelation (the illumination of the divine Logos plus the testimony of God's creation) is at least potentially salvific, and not merely judgmental in its intent. This general revelation is broad enough, they claim, to include a sense of God's kindness and mercy, as well as his claim on the human conscience. If the individual responds to this sense of need and gives oneself in "self-abandonment to God's mercy," then salvation is possible....
Don Richardson (1984) appears to have opened the door for many more people to be saved through general revelation than has been the usual evangelical view. John Sanders and Clark Pinnock affirm that Christ's salvation is accessible to all humanity, either in this life or as a result of "eschatological evangelism," either at the time of or after death....
Second, a corollary to this view is that such salvation does not depend on the hearer knowing specifically about the historic Jesus. The process is compared to those who were saved in the Old Testament period under the law by casting themselves on God's mercy, seen only dimly and partially through the sacrificial system. However, the only basis for this salvation, as for any of God's people, is the atoning death and resurrection of God's son. Works of merit, so prominent in all religious systems, including Christianity, are specifically excluded as ways of reconciling humanity to God. Evangelicals find unacceptable, even as does an ecumenical theologian such as Carl Braaten, the theocentric model proposed by Paul Knitter that reduces and perhaps eliminates the definitive role of Christ in Salvation....
Third, within the evangelical tradition, an option for a few thinkers has been that human religious systems are both a response to and a suppression of God's personal and direct revelation. J.H. Bavinck commented:
"In the night of the bodhi, when Buddha received his great, new insight concerning the world and life, God was touching him and struggling with him. God revealed Himself in that moment. Buddha responded to this revelation, and his answer to this day reveals God's hand and the result of human repression. In the 'night of power' of which the ninety-seventh sutra of the Koran speaks, the night when 'the angels descended and the Koran descended from Allah's throne, God dealt with Mohammed and touched him. The great moments in the history of religion are the moments when God wrestled with man in a very particular way...
The Christian missionary then does not bring God or Christ to another culture. God the creator and Christ the Logos, who gives light to every person coming into the world, has been working there long before the missionary arrived.
Cross-cultural communicators will be sensitive to this fact, both to the positive and negative, even as they proclaim God's love as revealed in the incarnate Christ.
Fourth, dialogue, except as the first step in the evangelizing process, is still a "dirty" word to many Evangelicals. Many point out, probably correctly, that the broad Evangelical community is gradually abandoning its conviction about the lostness of humanity, and that this was one reason for mainline denominations losing their motivation for world mission. If, however, God's self-revelation may be found in the world's religions, then there is every reason to engage in serious dialogue.75
Covell credits as being "bold enough to take some fresh initiatives" those who do not agree with every jot and tittle of the Lausanne statement on the uniqueness of Christ. While the Lausanne Convention put in writing a sound biblical account of Christ's uniqueness, much of the rest of the statement is faulty. And Covell suggests that many within the Lausanne Convention did not really believe the statement on Christ's uniqueness even though they signed the statement. Covell's words indicate his affirmation of those who did not really believe it. Certainly he says nothing to challenge those whose false doctrines he quotes.
For example, regarding those who claim that salvation is possible through general revelation, Covell says "If the individual responds to this sense of need and gives oneself in "self-abandonment to God's mercy," then salvation is possible. However, while God's existence is evident in general revelation, His mercy is revealed only in the Bible which gives testimony to the person of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins. One cannot abandon oneself to God's mercy apart from Jesus Christ.
Those who claim that "Christ's salvation is accessible to all humanity, either in this life or as a result of 'eschatological evangelism,' either at the time of or after death," Covell does not challenge. Yet God's Word says:
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;
and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:27-28)
Those Covell credits with boldness and whom he quotes with favor reveal further their belief that faith in Jesus Christ is found in all religious expressions; thus, all religious expressions offer salvation. Among those affirmed are Buddhism and Islam. Therefore, evangelists must recognize that the people to whom they are bringing the Gospel already have the Gospel; they merely need to enter into dialogue in order to learn how Christ can be glorified through those people's unique religious expressions.
Covell further affirms this idea:
Protestant missionaries in China did better [than their missionary counterparts in Japan] with Confucian ideology, recognizing that this represented the warp and woof of Chinese society. In their preaching, writing, and training they tried, with varying degrees of success, to speak and write within a Confucian framework. In fact, their own mental grid of Scottish realism or "common sense," popularized through William Paley's Natural Theology, fitted nicely with Chinese "natural theology." Some missionaries, most notably those from the London Missionary Society, followed the path pioneered by the early Jesuit missionaries and affirmed that God's self-revelation was writ large on the pages of the ancient Chinese classics.
With a few exceptions, missionaries were fearful of converts who looked "too confucian." Some, however, argued for "Confucius plus Christ," noting that a Chinese Christian who performed the Confucian rites "renounces nothing, nor is he supposed to accept any anti-Christian doctrine." No issue in Asia, whether in China or Japan, offended the sensitivities of the receptor cultures more than the attitude of Protestant missionaries toward the ancestral rites. These were viewed generally as religious idolatry, and little attempt was made to understand their social dimensions. As a result, they were rejected out of hand, and this proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to the reception of the Gospel message (Covell 1978, 1986). Evangelical missionaries are required to do better today.76
Do better? Better than what?
Obviously, Covell means that evangelical missionaries are to adopt the Jesuit missionary approach which assumes that "God's self-revelation was writ large on the pages of the ancient Chinese classics" (and, we must assume, all other pagan religious expressions). Nor are they to look upon ancestral rites as idolatry (which, I suppose, no longer exists).
In other words, they are not to present Christ Jesus apart from the religious context of the pagan cultures into which they go. They are to learn from pagan religions how to engage in their rituals as means to worship God through Jesus Christ. This will be less offensive to the cultural sensitivities of the people.
God forbid that Jesus be "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed" (I Peter 2:8).
We should understand that in the World Christian Movement, "evangelical" really means "neo-evangelical." The movement chooses to apply to today's liberal, unbiblical, ecumenical movement within Protestantism a term which denotes adherence to the purity of the Gospel. In order to do this, it has created three classes of "Evangelicals," as outlined by Covell:
How do American Evangelicals understand world religions? It is difficult to be precise, for American evangelicals are not a unified group. In general, Paul Knitter is right when he puts them into three groups: fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals, and ecumenical evangelicals. The latter two groups can be identified, at least informally, with the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) and its doctrinal commitment. American evangelicals associated with the LCWE come largely from particular evangelical denominations belonging to the National Association of Evangelicals or from interdenominational churches. Some, however, are affiliated with mainline ecumenical denominations within the Protestant mainstream.77
Rowland C. Croucher, of John Mark Ministries in Australia, points out the confusion that surrounds the word "evangelical" today:
There are now, says one evangelical seminary professor on the US west coast, sixteen kinds of "evangelicals."! If as the truism puts it, the only constant thing is change, that dictum is certainly true of evangelicals today....
A US Gallop poll (1977-1978) defined an evangelical as one who "has had a born again conversion, accepts Jesus as his or her personal saviour, believes the Scriptures are the authority for all doctrine and feels an urgent duty to spread the faith". For its purposes, an evangelical also places a strong emphasis on a personal relationship with God and adheres to a "strict moral code"....
In my travels to pastors' conferences, I find hardly anyone who doesn't want to be thought of as "evangelical' at least in some sense. I only know one liberal" in the older usage of the word-a Congregational minister, now retired and in his eighties. "Newsweek", in an article on evangelicals (April 26,1982), says: "So many different kinds of Christians now call themselves evangelical that the label has lost any precise meaning." US church historian, Martin Marty, says the best he can suggest is that evangelicals be defined as "people who find Billy Graham or his viewpoints acceptable."78
These revealing statements affirm that "evangelicals" are not all evangelical. The term "evangelical" refers to a basic belief in evangelism. The difference is in how salvation in Christ Jesus is perceived, whether affirming Jesus as the unique Savior (the only Way to God found only through biblical revelation) as espoused by true believers, or as a universal savior (the only Way to God working through all the world's religions, hidden and unnamed, to be revealed by open-ended dialogue) as espoused by neo-evangelicals.
Prominent among neo-evangelicals, and associated with the World Christian Movement, is Billy Graham who has affirmed his belief in the latter universal savior.
Appearing on Robert Schuller's Hour of Power television program, June 8, 1997, Graham stated categorically that he believes people of other faiths are members of Christ's Body, even if they have never heard of Jesus. After reminiscing about the past fifty years and how Billy Graham had encouraged him in starting his television program, Schuller asked Graham, "Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?" To this question Graham replied:
Well, Christianity and being a true believer-you know, I think there's the Body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world - or outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ whether they're conscious of it or not-they're members of the Body of Christ.
How can one love Christ without being conscious of it? Or was Graham speaking of Christians who might not be conscious of being members of the Body of Christ? His further words clarify his meaning:
And I don't think that we're going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. I think James answered that-the Apostle James-in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God's purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that's what God is doing today; He's calling people from out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they've been called by God.
At this point, we still gave Graham the benefit of the doubt, allowing that he may have meant that God is calling people out from among these various religious systems to follow Christ. But Graham's following words revealed that this isn't what he meant. He meant that, even while in these religious systems - even those in "the non-believing world" - they are members of the Body of Christ:
They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their heart that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved, and that they are going to be with us in heaven.
Graham has redefined the Body of Christ without offering anything more substantial than what he thinks or believes. Schuller asked for clarification:
SCHULLER: What I hear you saying, that it's possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life, even if they've been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you're saying?
GRAHAM: Yes, it is. Because I believe that. I've met people in various parts of the world in travel situations, that they had never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard about Jesus, but they believe in their heart that there was a God, and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.
SCHULLER: This is fantastic! I'm so thrilled to hear you say that! There is a wideness in God's mercy!
GRAHAM : There is; there definitely is.
After again reminiscing about how Graham helped Schuller get his Hour of Power program going, Schuller asked:
Billy, if you look into the future, what challenges would you throw out to Christians, or to pastors thousands of pastors, and hundreds of rabbis, and, they tell me, over a million Muslims a week watch this program. What challenge would you have to these listeners?... Give them a message right from your heart.
GRAHAM: Well, the message is that God loves you. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your religious background, God loves you. He wants to come into your heart and change the direction of your life, and give you a peace and a joy that you've never had before. And He will do that today, if you will make that commitment to Him.
In his advice to pastors, rabbis and Muslims, Graham merely tells them that God loves them. But which God? Jesus is not presented as the incarnate Word of God and the only way to God. Nor does he (or the WCM) ever tell them to count the cost of following Jesus.
Schuller then extolled the virtues of his mentor, the late Norman Vincent Peale, and the late Roman Catholic Archbishop Fulton R. Sheen, asking Graham what he thought of these men. To this Graham replied:
I knew both of them, as you did, and loved them both. And I have in my book a story of how Fulton Sheen came to my apartment on a train once, and we had two or three hours together. And when I went to his funeral they took me right up to the place of burial. And I felt I had lost a very dear friend. And since that time, the whole relationship between me and my work, and you and your work, and the Roman Catholic Church, has changed. They open their arms and welcome us, and we have the support of the Catholic Church almost everywhere we go. And I think that we must come to the place where we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, and not on what denomination or what church, or what groups we belong to.
More recently, following the tragic death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., Graham appeared on Larry King Live to answer questions about his relationship with the Kennedy family:
KING: Right now, we'll spend the rest of this program with the Reverend Billy Graham. He comes to us from our studios in Jacksonville, Florida. He was interviewed by John Kennedy Jr. for an issue of George. How well did you know young John, Billy?
GRAHAM: Well, I got to know him fairly well. I crossed paths with him on several occasions, including the Time magazine gala in New York and places like that. And he and his wife postponed coming home from their honeymoon about two days in order to come and see me in New York. They spent about an hour-and a-half to two hours in my room at the hotel. And the paparazzi people were after him at that time very strongly, and he had been more or less trying to shield his wife from it. I think it was new to her.
KING: You knew his father very well. Was this a very good chip off the old block?
GRAHAM: Yes. I think that I was impressed with him in every way, everything I've read and heard about him since then. He was coming to my home. He wanted to come he asked if he and his wife could come and spend the weekend with us. And I said, "Of course you can." And I have found out from some of his people that know him very well that he was really a searching Christian. He was searching for something more in life than he already had. And it seems to us, you know, that he had everything. But he wanted more. And I think that he really wanted Christ to come and take over his life.
KING: You must have seen him as baby, didn't you, Billy?
GRAHAM: Yes, I saw him as a baby when his mother was feeding him, and we were going out to play golf, and we stopped by. And that was the first time that I'd ever met Jackie but I met the president, Kennedy, several times before. But his father is the one Kennedy is the one that wanted me to come down there because there had been a religious issue in the election between Catholic and Protestant. And he thought that I could help the president adjust to a new situation.
KING: All right, Billy, I assumed you heard Father Moynihan, the Catholic priest who spoke....
GRAHAM: Yes, I thought he was wonderful.
KING: What - what do you say to - well, you're kind of America's voice to the heavens in a sense. What do you say to a family in a case like this? And then what do you say to America? What do you say to parents who've lost a child? How can you possibly deal with that?
GRAHAM: I would say that God loves you. God has a plan in your life. No accidents happen to a true believer, that this was in, somehow, the plan of God, but we cannot understand it. And to try to analyze it as to why, it's impossible. We have to say by faith that God had a plan, and I believe he did have a plan. And there's a passage of scripture that John Kennedy Jr. read at his mother's funeral that was read by Cardinal Cushing at his father's funeral. I was there as a guest of the family at St. Matthew's in Washington for that funeral....
KING: What do you say to the Public, not the direct family, the public which is taking this loss terribly?
GRAHAM: Yes. It has shocked us all. When I first heard it, it shocked me because I thought of him, you know, he was more handsome than I think any man I ever knew, and he was strong physically, and he was so kind to everybody. And I have talked to people who worked for him at George magazine, and they've told me that what a kind and considerate person he was. He always had time for everybody. He signed their autographs if they wanted it. And he was-he just was a remarkable young man....
KING: You told John Jr. about the last time you were with his father. And we understand he was really intently interested in that. What happened?
GRAHAM: Well, the last time that I was with his father was-I spoke at all the presidential prayer breakfasts when he was the president. He's reportedly said that Billy Graham is the only Protestant I feel comfortable with....
KING: How many funerals have you gone to, Billy?
GRAHAM: Oh, hundreds I suppose.
KING: You ever get used to that?
GRAHAM: I am an old man. I've had the opportunity. I've been a clergyman for nearly 60 years.
KING: I know. But do you ever get used to having to say goodbye?
GRAHAM: If I know that that person has been a real good person and is close to God, I think I rejoice with them, because I know they're in Heaven. If a person has been a very bad person and has shown no evidence of faith, I think I would have an extra tear for that person.
KING: So you rejoice in the death of a good person?
One might get the impression that Graham is more in awe of the Kennedys than of Jesus. Throughout the entire interview the name of Jesus was never mentioned. "Christ" was alluded to on a few occasions, but not with a definite connection to the person of Jesus. There are many "Christs" that are the figments of men's imaginations.
Nor were the terms "good," or "faith" defined. Graham knew he was addressing a secular audience. It seems that it would have been necessary to affirm that "goodness" has nothing to do with salvation, and that faith in Jesus is the only faith acceptable to God.
Of course, this would have offended Larry King and countless viewers. But considering Graham's previous remarks that unbelievers faithful to their religious traditions are members of the Body of Christ, there is no reason for him to risk offending anyone; "faith" in whatever they believe in is sufficient.
This is not the first time Graham has alluded to the possibility of salvation apart from Jesus. The twist is that now salvation apart from Jesus is really salvation in Jesus; the people just don't know that they are saved.
Remember that Graham told Schuller that he didn't think that "we're going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole World to Christ at any time." Given that confession, it is understandable that Graham would like to see people saved by some other means. That realization has no doubt affected others within the World Christian Movement, spurring them to accept the idea that men can be saved apart from the preaching of the Gospel -that they are already saved by Christ through faithful adherence to their religious traditions.
The influence that Graham wields over the Christian community is tremendous. To present a new gospel on the basis of what he thinks and believes, without offering a shred of biblical evidence to support it, should cause wholesale rejection of that new gospel.
But there has been no concern evidenced by the mainstream voices in the Christian media or churches. And others of high esteem among Christian leaders have echoed this siren song. The neo-evangelical gospel affirms that Jesus is the only way to God. But it qualifies this truth by suggesting that Jesus is found in all the world's religions. Thus, anyone who lives by faith according to their religious traditions is already in Christ. It is only up to the Church to inform them of how their religious traditions point to Christ, having been given them as a measure of light by God through the founders of those religions.
This is how Billy Graham can say he believes that all "good" men will be saved, and that faithful unbelievers are members of Christ's body.
But what does the Apostle Paul say?
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
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. (Galatians 1:6-9)
Strong but sobering words in view of the new gospel of universalism (which is not a new gospel, but an old heresy lately insinuated into the ranks of mainstream Christianity).
Now, where did Paul ever preach the gospel found in neo-evangelicalism? Nowhere does he (or any of the apostles) suggest that one may be saved by being faithful to one's pagan religion. Paul did preach Christ to the Romans on Mars Hill, but he merely took the opportunity to reveal to them the "Unknown god," whom they worshipped as a means to cover all their bases. He did not affirm that they could continue in their pagan beliefs and practices, but must know and follow Jesus Christ personally.
In spite of their insistence that we believe their new gospel, neo-evangelical leaders offer no Scripture no empirical evidence from God's Word that would justify abandoning centuries of belief that is grounded in Scripture. We are to believe it because they are telling us they believe it
. It is a convolution of God's Word to suggest that being in Christ, or being "saved," means something other than a living, obedient faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to God. So consumed with a desire for unity at any cost, neo-evangelicals are erecting a barrier to unity with those who would remain faithful to the truth.
Unity Or Separation?
Not all involved in the World Christian Movement would agree with the neo-evangelical gospel. Many are ignorant of it. Of those who are aware of it, it appears as if they are willing to tolerate it for the sake of unity in order to accomplish their goal of world evangelization by the year 2000. But does this please God?
We are commanded in God's Word not to fellowship with heretics. But is it any better to fellowship with those who, in their essential beliefs are not heretics, but practice fellowship with heretics? Does not separation for the sake of maintaining the purity of the Gospel demand it?
It has become the custom of late for some in evangelical ranks to associate with and even promote from the pulpit others whose doctrines and practices are not pure. The motive behind this is the hope to glean whatever "good" they can from these people's teachings. John B. Ashbrook, writing in Axioms of Separation, states, "God's work done in God's way produces only good results. God's work done in man's way produces good and bad results."80
Because men produce good works the gullible and naIve assume that those good works are ordained and sanctioned by God; they therefore wish to associate with them. But these are the most deceptive of Satan's lies:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. There fore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13.15)
If, then, Satan's ministers of righteousness are evil, regardless of the "good" they do, should we not keep away from them; should we not, in fact, expose them? And if there be those who espouse true faith in Jesus who join with them, should we not also keep ourselves from them and warn them of the evil they are condoning? And if they refuse our counsel, should we not separate from them for the sake of our own testimony?
Yes. For to fellowship with those who fellowship with darkness is to condone the darkness ourselves. Yet this is seen as "divisive," "unloving," "unChristian."
Therefore, our plea is to those true brethren who are part of the WCM, and who are compromising their position for the sake of the work they perceive will not be accomplished apart from those who are promoting the neo-evangelical gospel.
We should thank the Lord for showing us so clearly the deception that is taking hold on the hearts of many. Truly, contrary to neo-evangelical belief, the Lord's words demonstrate how the vast majority of the world's population will not be saved:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
In actuality the neo-evangelical gospel is not a new gospel; it has been around since the beginning, and has its modern expression in universalism. That universalist gospel is now being accepted within traditionally evangelical circles, both charismatic and non-charismatic. This will effectively open the door to the unification of evangelical Christianity with all religions and philosophies.
In the Brave New World Order religio-political scheme it will not be necessary for everyone to be of the same religion. Ml that will be necessary is that "negative," "exclusive" religious beliefs (such as the Gospel of Jesus Christ and insistence upon obedience to His Word) be sufficiently neutralized to allow mankind to march in unison into the New Age.
Of course, love for unity will result in hatred for divisiveness. The powers that be will never admit to hating those whom they accuse of divisiveness, but they will "hate the sin and love the sinner" to death. They will believe they are doing God a service by putting to death His true disciples.
And the leading voices among today's Christian leadership will so mesmerize the people with their oratory and sweet songs of love for Jesus that the people will cheer when the "evil" is purged from their midst.
At the heart of the WCM's position on unity is a satanic deception that will culminate not in the true evangelism sought by many within the movement, but in the reestablishment of the Holy Roman Empire under the reign of the coming man of sin, the anti-Christ.
Again, this is not to say that individual souls will not be saved through the efforts of those working within the WCM, unaware of the true implications of its goals and methods. God works wherever His Word goes forth, often in spite of, rather than because of, men's efforts. But there is no getting away from the prophetic pronouncements of God's Word of what the condition of the world will be when Jesus returns:
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:7-8)
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be save& but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any 'nan shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt 24:21-24)
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, who m the I,ord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12)
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples caine unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 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. (Matthew 24:3-14)
These verses do not give us hope for a world turned to Christ. On the contrary they paint a picture of evil which will abound increasingly until Jesus returns, while those who serve God in truth will be persecuted.
And while the Lord tells us that the Gospel will be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, it is in the context of rejection and apostasy. He does not say that all nations will have a "Christian presence" established among "every people group."
CONTINUED IN PART FOUR
NOTES71. Mission Frontiers, Jan-Feb, 1996, p.17.
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