{25}     Ecumenism & new theologies

ERA 7 << Modern Church (3): Ecumenism & Adaptations (AD 1900–2000) >> SESSION 4

Reference: Gonzalez, volume 2, chapters 36

        25.1.1  Underlying factors

·         Originated with missions: Because of cooperation in missionary activities, there were movements seeking further collaboration among various churches by the end of 19th-c.

·         The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) [1895]—It was to coordinate different Student Christian Movements in different countries.

·         World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh [1910]—This would eventually lead to visible manifestations of Christian unity. The ecumenical movement had 2 facets: [1] the quest for greater and more visible unity, and [2] the birth of a worldwide church .

·         Charismatic movement: Beginning in the late 1950s, the charismatic movement spread within mainline denominations and the Catholic Church. The similarity in its emphasis facilitated the rise of ecumenism.

        25.1.2  Quest for unity

·         International Missionary Council (IMC):

o        Formation: The Edinburgh meeting [1910] appointed a Continuation Committee, leading to the founding of the IMC [1921]. By that time, there were other regional and national organizations appearing in the West. The council served as a meeting place where strategies, experiences, and various resources could be shared.

o        Meetings: The IMC met in Jerusalem [1928], Madras [1938], and Whitby, Canada [1947]. By then, it seemed unwise to discuss missionary matters without also entering a dialogue on the nature of the church and other theological matters. After 2 more meetings [1952, 1957], IMC joined the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1961.

·         Faith and Order Conference:

o        Formation: The 1910 meeting also explicitly excluded matters of faith and order, which included the beliefs of churches, their understanding and practice of ordination, sacraments, etc. The objective was to work towards the reunion of divided denominations. The Anglicans proposed a separate meeting on faith and order. The First World Conference on Faith and Order gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland [1927]. It was represented by 108 churches, most of them Protestants, but also Orthodox and Old Catholic (those who left the Catholic Church because of the dogma of papal infallibility).

o        Meetings: At the conference, it was decided not to seek unanimity. The document would stress those points on which agreement had been reached, and then clearly stating those other points on which differences still remained. It was felt that their agreements were much more significant than the disagreements. A Continuation Committee was appointed under William Temple, archbishop of York. The second conference met in Edinburgh [1937], with 123 churches from 43 countries.

·         Life and Work Conference:

o        Formation: It grew out of collaboration in missionary activities. It was concerned with the relation of Christian faith to social, political, and economic questions. Its objective was to seek common responses to contemporary problems on the basis of the gospel. The first conference was in Stockholm [1925], with 90 churches from 37 countries. Its delegates were divided into 5 groups, each discussing a main theme: economic and industrial matters, moral and social issues, international affairs, Christian education, and means of collaboration among churches. The movement took a firm stance against every form of exploitation and imperialism. Later, the conference noted a “general resentment against white imperialism.”

o        Meetings: The conference appointed a Continuation Committee. The second conference met in Oxford [1937]. Its final documents included a strong word against every form of totalitarianism, and a condemnation of war as a method to solve international conflict. It also called for the joining of Life and Work with Faith and Order. The two conferences met in Utrecht [1938], and eventually joined to the WCC [1948] and became two divisions inside the WCC.

        25.1.3  World Council of Churches (WCC)

·         Formation in Amsterdam [1948]—During the war, networks of Christian gave support to the Confessing Church in Germany and saved Jews in various lands under Nazi rule. After the interruption of WWII, the first assembly of the WCC met in Amsterdam [1948], with 150 churches from 44 countries. There were the Division of Studies (continuing the work on faith and order) and the Division of Ecumenical Action (continuing the work of life and work). The council called on all churches to reject both communism and liberal capitalism. The Orthodox Church joined later.

·         Other assemblies: There have been 8 more assemblies: Evanston, Illinois [1954], New Delhi [1961], Uppsala, Sweden [1968], Nairobi, Kenya [1975], and Vancouver, Canada [1983], Canberra, Australia [1992], Harare, Zimbabwe [1998], Porto Alegre, Brazil [2006]. The Eastern Orthodox Church began to send representatives to WCC and the RCC began conversations with WCC, leading to collaboration in various projects and studies.

·         Support for socialist agenda: WCC has turned to the left socially, economically, and politically, making salvation earthly and physical rather than spiritual. Since the 1960s, the delegates began to insist on speaking about issues of peace and justice. The theme “Salvation Today” [1973] was interpreted as the “humanizing of society” to free man from all forms of oppression and to create a new society on earth.

o        Uppsala: The document Renewal in Mission from the Uppsala Assembly [1968] barely mentioned bringing non-Christians to faith in Jesus Christ. The “vertical” dimension of mission, reconciliation with God, was virtually abandoned. Instead, all the emphasis lay on the “horizontal” dimension of reconciliation with humanity. Rahner’s idea of “anonymous Christianity” (leading to universalism) was adopted so that religious conversion became of secondary importance. Mission was defined in the light of contemporary concerns for a fully human life (salvation as humanization). The restoration of true manhood in Jesus Christ includes all moves towards greater justice, freedom, and dignity.

o        Bangkok: The Bangkok Conference [1973] moved further in the same direction. The declaration was drew up by Moltmann, defining salvation mostly in “horizontal” terms—of struggles for economic justice, for human dignity, for solidarity against alienation, for hope against despair.

o        Nairobi: The Nairobi Assembly [1975] moved back slightly from the radical position, calling Christians to engage in both evangelism and social action. But it supported “non-military guerrilla programs” of revolution and adopted liberation theology with positive orientation toward socialism.

·         Problems of the WCC:

o        Weak on doctrine: The movement often sacrificed sound theology for structural union based on the lowest common denominator. Orthodox doctrines are sacrificed for inclusiveness.

o        Dominated by the left: Evangelization gives way to radical political and social revolution which leads to left leaning policies and becomes an instrument of socialism and communism.

        25.1.4  Global Missions

·         “Three selves”: The purpose of missions has always to found indigenous and mature churches in various parts of the world. Among Protestants, the goal has often been expressed in terms of the “three selves”: self-government, self-support, and self-propagation.

·         Indigenization or contextualization: They sought to look at the whole of Christian theology from an entirely different perspective than the traditional one, taking account of different perspective in its cultural setting as well as the social and economic struggles of the oppressed. The objective is to build a native church that fits well into the indigenous culture (with genuinely native worship, community life, education, and values), not an imported westernized Christianity with western-style practices.

o        Japanese: Waterbuffalo Theology by Kosuke Koyama

o        Chinese: Third-Eye Theology: Theology in Formation in Asian Settings by Choan-Seng Song

o        Africa: Farewell to Innocence by South African Allan Boesak, African Religions and Philosophy by Kenyan John Mbiti.

o        Latin America: Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation by Argentinean Jose Miguez Bonino


        25.2.1  Interdenominational cooperation

·         Plan of Union [1801–1852]: This was the cooperation between Congregationalists and Presbyterians to meet the shortage of pastors on the frontier.

·         American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions [1810]

        25.2.2  Non-denominational cooperation

·         The American Bible Society [1816]—distribution of Bibles

·         American Sunday School Union [1824]

·         American Tract Society [1824]—distribution of Christian literature for evangelism

·         Anti-Slavery Society [1833]—support the abolition of slavery

·         Student Volunteer Movement [1866]—support evangelistic effort

·         Gideons [1899]—distribution of Bibles

·         Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) [1927]—provision of Christian training for university students

·         Youth for Christ (YFC) [1945]—support evangelistic effort

        25.2.3  Organic reunion: National Intraconfessional

·         Basis of union: These are organizations that joined denominations with similar backgrounds of theology, polity, and rites.

·         Methodist Church [1939]—northern & southern churches

·         Evangelical United Brethren Church [1946]—United Brethren Church & Evangelical Church, joined Methodist Church in 1968

·         United Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA) [1958]—United Presbyterian Church & Presbyterian Church, USA

·         United Methodist Church [1968]

·         American Lutheran Church [1960]

·         Lutheran Church in America [1962]; these two join as Lutheran Church [1984]

        25.2.4  Organic reunion: National Interconfessional

·         Federal Council of Churches (FCC) [1908]—liberals, 30 denominations in the US: the words “divine Lord and Savior” constituted the only statement of theology in the constitution.

o        The Social Creed [1908] (adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Church) urged the churches to support social needs such as the abolition of child labour, the establishment of a minimum living wage, and provision for arbitration in industrial disputes. Because of this social emphasis and weak theological foundation, liberals have been able to seize and hold the reins of leadership firmly.

·         National Council of Churches (NCC) [1950]—liberals, reorganized from the FCC, 25 Protestant and 4 Orthodox denominations, not including Southern Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Pentecostals

·         American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) [1941]—conservatives

·         National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) [1943]—conservatives

·         Protestant Federation of France [1905]

·         Federation of Churches in Switzerland [1920]

·         British Council of Churches [1942]

        25.2.5  Ecclesiastical confederations: National interconfessional

·         Structure: In the federation, the cooperating units maintain their sovereignty but cooperate to achieve ends of common interest.

·         United Church of Canada [1925]—union of 40 different denominations, mainly Methodists and Presbyterians.

·         Church of Christ in China [1927]—union of Reformed churches, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists.

·         Church of Christ in Japan [1939]—union of 42 denominations, formed under state pressure.

·         Church of South India [1947]—union of Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches.

·         United Church of Christ [1959]

·         United Church of Australia [1977]

        25.2.6  Ecclesiastical confederations: International intraconfessional

·         Anglican Church Lambeth Conference [1867]—conference of all Anglican churches in the world, represented by 38 primates from 38 regions

·         World Alliance of Reformed Churches [1875]

·         World Methodist Council [1881]

·         International Congregational Council [1891]

·         Baptist World Alliance [1905]

·         Lutheran World Federation [1947]

        25.2.7  Ecclesiastical confederations: International interconfessional

·         World Council of Churches (WCC)—It is the largest international and interconfessional ecumenical organization in the world. However, it is moving in the liberal direction.

·         Reaction to liberalism: In response to the left-leaning WCC, conservatives founded the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC) [1948] in Amsterdam. The World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) was formed in 1951.

·         World Congress on Evangelism [1966]—It was sponsored by Christianity Today, meeting of 1,200 evangelicals from around the world to discuss and pray concerning world evangelism. The relevance, urgency, nature, problems, and techniques of Bible-centred evangelism was discussed.

·         International Congress on World Evangelization [1974]—Lausanne MovementThis is the response of the conservative Christians to the WCC. It aims to “unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world.” The first inaugural congress was held at Lausanne, Switzerland [1974] with 2,400 delegates representing 150 countries, led by Billy Graham and John Stott. The second global congress was held at Manila, Philippines [1989] with 4,300 delegates from 173 countries. The third global congress has been planned for Cape Town, South Africa [2010]. In addition, they have been more than 20 regional conferences since 1974. The Lausanne Covenant [1974] emphasizes loyalty to the inspired Scripture as the infallible rule of faith and practice, and that social concern and action are a relevant part of the gospel. It is the most representative and authoritative statement of evangelical belief in modern times. While the movement stresses on social responsibility, all the participants agreed on the vital urgency of the preaching of the gospel to the whole world.

o        Infallible Scripture: “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

o        Support social action: “Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both parts of our Christian duty.”

o        Against injustice: “The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression, and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist.”

o        Culture & Christianity: “Culture must always be tested and judged by Scripture. Because man is God’s creature, some of his culture is rich in beauty and goodness. Because he has fallen, all of it is tainted with sin and some of it is demonic. The gospel does not presuppose the superiority of any culture to another, but evaluates all cultures according to its own criteria of truth and righteousness, and insists on moral absolutes in every culture.”

·         Chinese Congress on World Evangelization (CCOWE) [1976]—This organization operates under the Lausanne Movement and tries to coordinate evangelizing effort among Chinese Christians. The first congress was held in Hong Kong [1976], with 1,600 delegates. The 7th congress was also held in Hong Kong [2006], with 2,600 delegates from 37 countries. The objectives include: [1] Promote public awareness of the significance of world missions among Chinese Christians and churches. [2] Enhance the overall efficiency of evangelistic ministry co-workers, and their understanding of world missions. [3] Facilitate collaboration among individuals, para-church organizations, and churches, who have the common burden for world missions. [4] Provide support to co-workers dedicated to the ministry of world missions.


        25.3.1  New directions

·         Problems of liberalism: Liberal theology challenged the foundation of Christianity in many ways, including: [1] the universal nature of Christianity, [2] the absolute God known through His propositional, verbal, inerrant revelation inspired by the Holy Spirit, [3] the global validity of the inspired objective historical revelation about Christ. They favoured subjective, imminent, and humanistic approaches to the gospel.

·         Recent disputes: Contemporary theological disputes centred around the nature of the church, Biblical inspiration and inerrancy, the role of the Holy Spirit in the church, and eschatology.

        25.3.2  Liberation Theology

·         Origin: In Latin America, the people suffer not just from underdevelopment but from oppression by oppressive regimes (dictators) or oppressive capitalism (wealthy landowners and business entrepreneurs). Some pastors in Latin America concluded that the gospel required that the church side with the poor and the oppressed in their struggle for liberation. Human history is the stage of theology and liberation, often conceived of in Marxist terms—in terms of class struggle, the exploitative role of capitalism, and the need for revolutionary struggle. This salvation is social, economic, and political liberation from all forms of oppression.

·         Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez (1928–  ), and Uruguayan Juan Luis Segundo (1925–1996)—They are the leaders of liberation theology. The perspective was to look at the entirely of Christian doctrine and life from the perspective of the poor who are being empowered by God “from below”. The Christian orthodox belief was interpreted in a radically new fashion because of the missing elements.

·         Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) [1955]—It was founded within the RCC to examine continent-wide questions as to the mission of the church. In the Medellin Conference [1968], the bishops rejected both capitalism and communism. They committed to the cause of justice, and called on Christians to take the side of peasants and Indians in their struggle for dignity and better living conditions. In the Puebla Conference [1978], the bishops reaffirmed their earlier stance. But liberation theology was interpreted as a threat to the established order, or as “Marxist theology” which is an oversimplification. There were violent confrontations in El Salvador, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Guatemala where Catholics were killed.

·         Main teachings: [1] Liberation theology makes no claim to be “universal theology” and claims that it is just for the current Latin American situation. [2] It rejects the idea of a universal theology, claiming that the idea if a perversion by abstract Greek thought. Timeless truths are static and, in the long run, sterile. [3] Liberation theology is critical of all western theologies. Traditionally, ethical though and practical action were to be deduced from the theological foundation. Liberation theology has a different approach. It starts with the concrete Latin American situation of oppression and the need for active involvement, and then moves into theology. [4] Major themes in theology are reinterpreted in light of the real situation. Salvation is reinterpreted in terms of political liberation. The central thesis of the Bible is social justice, the salvation of the poor. The Exodus account is used as a Biblical basis for resistance against the prevailing government. [5] The “anonymous Christianity” of Rahner means that all who are open to their neighbour in love actually know God. [6] The church cannot be politically neutral and must be committed to the poor. It is to manifest liberation visibly to the world.

·         Errors: These are attempts to solve the problems of man in history through efforts of autonomous man and an immanent God in a human Christ. They emphasized the liberator Christ but not the revealed Word of God. The eternal gospel is divorced from revelation and is contextualized by relating it to temporal culture. Man’s sinfulness and spiritual salvation are ignored. Hope is not for eternal life through Jesus Christ, but the worldly hope of helping to shape the future. It is a deviated gospel. In all these, they do not do justice to God, Christ, or the Bible.

        25.3.3  Different perspectives of churches

·         Perspective of the North: the great issue is the East-West confrontation between capitalism and democracy (West) and communism and totalitarianism (East)

·         Perspective of the South: the main issues are the search of an economic order that will not continue to impoverishing the Third World, distribution of wealth within the nations and internationally, avoidance of being the battlefront of wars by proxy between the great powers of the North

        25.3.4  Recent divisions due to disagreements

·         Baptists: Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the US, pulled out from the World Baptist Alliance because of its increasingly liberal drift [2004].

·         Anglicans: In the US, the Episcopal Church (ECUSA, Anglicans) ordained a practicing homosexual as the bishop [2003]. In Canada, many regions ordained homosexual ministers and began to officiate same sex marriages. Some conservative congregations decided to seek supervision from outside the US—from Nigeria, Uganda, and South Cone (southern South America). Conservative bishops from the world boycotted the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference [2008] and instead met together in the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem.

·         Presbyterians: The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) has progressively adopting liberal policies, including: [1] the revision of the names given to the Trinity [2006], making them gender-neutral (such as “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” or “Mother, Child and Womb”), and [2] the acceptance of practicing homosexuals as ministers. In 2007 alone, about 5% of the congregations left PCUSA and joined other Presbyterian denominations.

·         Future divisions: The problem of ordination of homosexual people as pastors has plagued other mainline denominations as well, including the Lutheran Church and the Methodist Church. The underlying reason for the divisions is actually not sexual morality but the authority of the Bible. The exodus of conservative congregations from liberal denominations will continue.


        25.4.1  Characteristics of Evangelicalism

·         Definition: Evangelicals are those who hold to the historic doctrines of Christian faith, including the Bible as God’s Word, the deity of Christ, and salvation by faith and not works. They owe much to Puritanism and Pietism. Because the name evangelical implies “good news”, evangelicals believe strongly in evangelism.

o        European definition: In Europe, an evangelical is not necessarily one who holds to conservative doctrines because the term has become synonymous with Protestant.

·         Beliefs: [1] The Scripture is the inspired, infallible rule of faith and practice. [2] Human depravity came from the original sin as a result of Adam’s Fall. [3] Christ is God, came from virgin birth, completed vicarious atonement, and resurrected in a body. [4] A new birth and a life of righteousness become a reality through faith in Christ. [5] Proclamation of the gospel is the main duty of Christians. (An increasing number are also involved in social action.) [6] Biblical criticism, evolution, and social gospel must be rejected.

·         Eschatology: Evangelicals are divided concerning the nature of end-time events. Most are premillennialists; some are dispensationalists. In 19th-c, nondenominational conferences concerning prophecy on the second coming of Christ met in Swamscott, Massachusetts [1876], followed by meetings in New York [1878], and in Niagara [1893–1898]. The 5 points of fundamentalism were usually linked with the 1895 Niagara conference.

·         Denominations: In North America, evangelical churches include the Baptist churches, the Pentecostal churches, some denominations that came out of the mainline churches (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Presbyterian Church of America), and some smaller denominations (Christian & Missionary Alliance, Free Methodist Church).

        25.4.2  Increase in the number of Evangelicals

·         Growth: The 20th-c has seen regional revivals, including Kenya and Uganda [1930], Ethiopia [1964] with 100,000 converted, Timor, Indonesia [1965] with 200,000 converted, Korea with 20% Christian. In the West, revivals occurred in Wheaton College [1951], Asbury College [1970], Saskatchewan [1971].

·         Decreasing attendance: For the last few decades, there has been a clear trend in church attendance—persistent decline in liberal mainline churches. 5 liberal national churches had their attendance decreased by 5% to 15%. The more liberal the denomination, by most people’s definition, the more they were losing. One national church actually lost half of their members since 1960.

·         Increasing attendance: In contrast, there has been a general trend in increasing attendance in evangelical churches. Between 1990 and 2000, 5 conservative national churches had their attendance increased by 5% to 57%. Research shows that orthodox Christian belief is the single best predictor of church participation.

·         US: In a 2007 survey by Barna, people were asked if they considered themselves to be evangelicals, 38% of Americans accepted that label. However, if the nine questions for categorizing people more accurately as evangelicals were used, just 8% of the adult population in 2006 fit the criteria. Another Barna survey in 2006 found that 45% of all adults meet the criteria that classify people as “born again.” That number is up from 31% in 1983.

·         Third World: In the Third World where massive conversions to Christianity are found, most of the new churches are evangelical because missionaries who helped to found the churches were mostly from evangelical denominations. Even churches from the mainline denominations are evangelical in outlook. This fact can be easily demonstrated by the affiliation of the Chinese Congress on World Evangelization (CCOWE) with the conservative evangelical Lausanne Movement.

        25.4.3  New directions in Evangelicalism

·         Televangelism—Evangelism through mass media:

o        Growth: In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, evangelical work in radio and television grew enormously. A widespread phenomenon called “the electronic church” was the result. Today, they reached an audience of 50 million each work and received millions of contributions every week.

o        Origin: It was pioneered by Charles Fuller’s “Old-Fashioned Revival Hour” and Walter Maier’s “Lutheran Hour”. Billy Graham’s “Hour of Decision” was first on radio, then on television. Later additions included Pat Robertson’s “700 Club”, Jerry Falwell’s “Old Time Gospel Hour”, and Jim Bakker’s “PTL Club”.

o        Controversy: While it is still popular today, it was tainted by the downfall due to moral lapses of televangelists Marvin Gorman [1986], Jim Bakker [1987], and Jimmy Swaggart [1988].

·         Social involvement:

o        Moral Majority [1979–1989]: This movement was organized by Jerry Falwell (1933–2007) to defend moral values and to support conservative economic and social policies. The Christian Coalition [1988], founded by Pat Robertson, aimed to influence the governments to protect the institution of the family.

o        Liberals: The liberal evangelicals issued the Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern [1973]. It stressed on the demonstration of love, the defense of social and economic rights of the poor and the oppressed, the condemnation of racism and materialism. It also expressed repentance for past evangelical indifference to social and economic issues. However, the problem with liberals is their relativism with regard to moral issues like abortion and homosexuality.

o        Conservatives: The conservative evangelicals issued the Lausanne Covenant [1974] which affirms that “evangelism and sociopolitical involvement are both part of our Christian duty.” They are not incompatible and are both important. These include both social assistance and social action. Further, a 1982 report from the Grand Rapids Conference (Michigan) stated that evangelism has a logical or theoretical precedence as it is most important to save souls; but evangelism and social responsibility are two hands of the same gospel and should not be separated.

        25.4.4  Evangelical para-church organizations

·         Para-church organizations: These are organizations outside churches; they cooperate with most of the denominations, offering a variety of services or ministries.

·         Youth Work:

o        Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship [1923]: reaching youth with the gospel, sponsoring the student missionary conventions at Urbana since the first one in Toronto [1945].

o        Campus Crusade [1951]: promoting a more aggressive type of evangelism and discipling process for converts.

o        Youth for Christ [1943], Youth Life [1941], Torchbearers [1947].

·         Adult Work:

o        Christian Businessmen’s Committee International [1931]: helping businessmen in evangelizing their colleagues and in developing their own spiritual life.

o        International Christian Leadership [1954]: reaching political leaders in government with the gospel and to support them spiritually.

o        L’Abri, Switzerland [1955], founded by Francis Schaeffer: reaching upper-class intellectual drop-outs and disenchanted students with the gospel, presenting challenges at high intellectual and philosophical level.

o        Evangelism Explosion [1960]: founded by James Kennedy in the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida: training laity in home visitation and presentation of the gospel.

·         Social support:

o        World Vision International [1951] established by Bob Pierce: supporting orphanages in many countries; providing food, medicine, and shelter for refugees from war and natural disasters.

o        Teen Challenge [1958] founded by David Wilkerson: reaching young drug addicts and gang members.

·         Distribution of Bibles:

o        Gideons [1898]: placing copies of the Bible in hotels, motels, schools.

o        Wycliffe Translators [1942]: translating the Bible in new languages; sponsoring missionary linguists who have reduced tribal languages to writing, then translating parts of the Bible.

o        New translations: New American Standard Bible [1971], New King James Version [1982], New International Version [1984], English Standard Version [2001].

·         Publishing:

o        Evangelical publishers: Eerdmans Publishing Company, Zondervan Publishing House, Baker Book House, Channel Press, Word Books, Tyndale Press, Moody Press.

o        Periodicals: Christianity Today [1956, founded by Billy Graham], Moody Monthly, First Things, Touchstone, Pro Ecclesia, Books and Culture, Modern Reformation, New Oxford Review, World Magazine [1986].

        25.4.5  Diversity of evangelicals

·         Evangelical separatists: They do not cooperate with non-evangelical groups and are not involved in social action. The leaders include Bob Jones, Carl McIntire, John Rice. McIntire organized the American Council of Christian Churches [1941] and the International Council of Christian Churches [1948].

·         Evangelical establishment—conservative evangelicals: The proclamation of the gospel is the highest priority but without excluding social action, mainly directed to moral questions. The leaders include Carl Henry, Harold Lindsell, Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson, Albert Mohler. The group includes the scholarly Evangelical Theological Society, the periodical Christianity Today [1956], and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Originally, it includes the National Association of Evangelicals but the association has been recently dominated by liberal evangelicals.

·         Moderate evangelicals or neo-evangelicals: They raise questions concerning verbal inspiration and inerrancy and believe that Biblical criticism can be profitable. Some engage in dialogue with liberal and neo-orthodox ecumenical groups. Some accept theistic evolution. The leaders include Harold Ockenga of the Fuller Seminary, Bernard Ramm, and Jack Rogers.

·         Liberal evangelicals: They favour social action on poverty and hunger, oppression, world peace, and environment, but less on moral questions. They advocate increased participation in the political process to promote social justice. They support liberal thoughts such as feminist theology and elements of liberation theology. Their leaders include Ronald Sider (pacifist, Mennonite), Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis (Sojourners magazine). Their representative periodical is Christian Century [1900].

        25.4.6  Evangelical Theologians

·         Gerrit Berkouwer (1903–1996)—Dutch Reformed: He wrote 14 dogmatic studies in systematic theology. To him, theology must always relate to the Bible and to the needs of the pulpit. However, he holds a less conservative position on the infallibility (or inerrancy) of the Bible. He emphasizes the humanity of the Bible and believes that some elements in the Bible should be considered when studying the Bible: the languages, the literary forms, and the circumstances of the times in which they were written.

·         Helmut Thielicke (1908–1986)—German Lutheran: His major works are Theological Ethics [1955] and a 3-volume systematic theology entitled The Evangelical Faith [1968–1978]. His major objective is to relate the gospel to the contemporary world. If faith is real, it must result in obedience, thus the importance of ethics. Ethics must also consider our political, social, and economic lives.

·         Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984)—American Presbyterian: He was famous for his apologetics growing out of his passionate concern for truth. For him, truth is a system coherently expressed in the reliable words of Scripture. Christianity is a system that is open to verification. His books have a prophetic function of pointing out the sorrow and pain at the heart of modern culture. He also warned evangelicals about the dangers of theological liberalism and neo-orthodoxy. His famous trilogy: Escape from Reason [1968], The God Who Is There [1968], and He Is There and He Is Not Silent [1972] challenged the moral and epistemological relativity in modern Western culture.

·         Carl Henry (1913–2003)—American Baptist: He wrote in many fields but was famous in apologetics. He explained the two tasks of apologetics as refutation of non-Biblical alternatives (including naturalism and subjectivism), and defense of Christian revelation (including propositional revelation, the authoritative and inerrant Bible, and the doctrine of God). He was most disconcerted with the continuing disunity of evangelicalism. His greatest influence and legacy is perhaps his founding editorship of the evangelical journal Christianity Today [1955–1968].

·         John Stott (1921–  )—English Anglican: He has been widely regarded as the modern spokesman of evangelicalism. He is a versatile theologian, holding expertise in many different fields, particularly in Biblical exposition, apologetics and ethics. He wrote a long list of widely read books, including the famous Basic Christianity [1958]. His main commitment has always been the centrality of the Bible. He warned about the dangers of depending on reason or tradition in seeking truth. His deepest concern is in Biblical preaching and evangelism. In theology, he emphasizes the cross. In ethics, he emphasizes social concern by Christians. With Billy Graham, he has been leading and helping the founding of the Lausanne Movement.

·         James Packer (1926–  )—English Anglican: He is a wellknown writer on systematic theology. He has been a strong defender of historic Christianity, emphasizing the use of Scripture as the supreme norm of faith and practice. He objects to viewpoints of non-Christians, Roman Catholics, and modernists through well-balanced arguments. His books Knowing God [1973] and Keep in Step with the Spirit [1984] stress the importance of applying our knowledge of theology in daily lives. Despite uncompromising stance, he always writes in an even-tempered and gracious manner. Recently, he has publicly opposed the liberal tendencies in the Anglican Church.

·         Donald Bloesch (1928–  )—American Lutheran/Presbyterian: He has wide-ranging interests and wrote books of different fields in theology. His major work is the 7-volume Christian Foundations [1992–2004] on systematic theology. While his theology is based on evangelical theology, he also tried to find a middle way between liberalism and fundamentalism. He introduced a spirit of ecumenical cooperation by his appreciation of the traditions in the RCC. He believes in greater cooperation between Protestants and the RCC, perhaps even an eventual reunion.

·         Thomas Oden (1931–  )—American Methodist: He was educated in the tradition of liberal Christianity. In 1976, while reading theological works from 5th-c, his theological position shifted drastically to conservativism. He called his theology paleo-orthodoxy or classic orthodoxy because he discovered that most of the modern questions had already been addressed by ancient exegetes. His 3-volume Systematic Theology [1987–1992] traces the development of theology from the ancient church. His books on Biblical exegesis and pastoral counselling are also based on ancient Christian writings.



[1] treasure our heritage

Both evangelism and social concern are important elements of the gospel.

[2] appreciate God’s providence

God raised up evangelicals to recognize the fallacy of the WCC. Classic ecumenism of spiritual unity and cooperation is practiced.

[3] avoid past errors

Decline and breakdown of mainline churches is mainly caused by compromising or abandoning the Word of God.

[4] apply our knowledge

We should use modern technology to extend the kingdom of God as much as we can, such as television and internet.

[5] follow past saints

Para-church organizations work for the advance of the universal church, not just for self-interest.



        Should we support and participate in the modern ecumenical movement, such as the World Council of Churches? Is the emphasis of the WCC on political questions Biblical?

o        The unity of Christians was taught by Jesus and emphasized by the NT. So ecumenical movement as the quest for Christian unity is Biblical. However, the type of unity that should be emphasized is spiritual unity of a similar objective: to fulfil the Great Commission and to extend the kingdom of God.

o        The WCC is an attempt to develop an institutional unity which is not clearly warranted in the Bible. The problems that have gradually arisen show that the direction is perhaps wrong.

          In order to arrive at relative doctrinal unity, the minimum commonality was applied. If any doctrine was opposed by a small minority, it was abandoned. This allowed the possibility of mixing orthodox churches with heretical churches.

          The accusation by the West of WCC being influenced by Marxists may be overblown but not completely unfounded. There were evidences of Marxist support of WCC. The pursuit of social justice and international peace was in name noble enterprises. But once the agenda was dominated by radicals, WCC became a voice for liberalism and liberation theology.

          The main problem of liberation theology is equating salvation from sin with liberation from oppression. The gospel then became a secondary objective that was often not stressed.

o        The political emphasis of WCC therefore corrupted the original intention of spreading the gospel to the whole world. It was Biblical in theory but unbiblical in practice (for their misguided emphasis).

        Should we support movements to unite different denominations, such as the United Church of Canada?

o        Like the ecumenical movement, the objective to unite different denominations was well-intended. The problem is that such unions involved compromises both in doctrine and practice.

o        The development of the United Church of Canada has been a demonstration of how a church created from such a union becomes corrupt. Some recent moderators of the national church have denied basic doctrines of Christianity including Jesus’ resurrection. It also started denying the Bible and ordaining practicing homosexuals.

o        On the other hand, some unions of denominations with similar doctrine and practice may work out, such as the union of the Methodist Church and the Free Methodist Church in Hong Kong. The union forming the Church of Christ in China appears also successful. However, this may be attributed to the general tendency of Chinese Christians to emphasize conservative orthodox beliefs.

        What are the meanings of North-South and East-West confrontations?

o        Perspective of the North: The great issue is the East-West confrontation between capitalism and democracy (West) and communism and totalitarianism (East).

o        Perspective of the South: The main issues are the search of an economic order that will not continue to impoverishing the Third World, distribution of wealth within the nations and internationally, avoidance of being the battlefront of wars by proxy between the great powers of the North.