Is the church a religion? Is it a human religion? Is the religion of the Hebrew people to be separated from God’s revelation to Israel?

The new confession indeed does raise strange questions and makes most un-Biblical assertions in the section dealing with what it calls “Revelation and Religion.”

“The church in its mission encounters the religions of men and in that encounter becomes conscious of its own human character as a religion.”

But the church is not a religion. We are dealing with the Christian religion, and the Christian religion is revelation believed and obeyed by the people of God. But the framers of this confession made a distinction between God’s revelation to Israel and the religion of the Hebrew people. They had to make it, since they have rejected the Bible as the revealed Word of God. In fact, according to the theory and belief of these liberals, the Bible is simply a report of the development of the religion of the Hebrew people. This is the direct result of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, as it relates to the Old Testament, and the reorganization and redating of the various documents contained in the canon. But the Hebrew people in truth received all of their knowledge and the commandments which they were to honor from their God. He gave them the Ten Commandments directly, written on a tablet of stone with His own finger. When, however, revelation, as it is written, inspired, in the Old Testament, is rejected one must come up with the idea that the Hebrew people had some sort of religious experience, that their experience was actually human in character, and that this was similar at many points and often parallel to the religious experience of other people on the earth.

In the same manner the confession states, “The Christian religion, as distinct from God’s revelation of himself, has been shaped throughout its history by the cultural forms of its environment.” But God’s revelation of Himself as given in the New Testament and through His Son, Jesus Christ, as He is revealed in all the Scriptures, does constitute the Christian religion. Thus we are confronted with a wide range of differences between those who believe that Christianity is a revealed religion and those who believe that the Christian religion represents the evolutionary growth of people from generation to generation. Under the latter we have the Confession of 1967, for the evolution continues. Under the former we have the Westminster Concession of Faith, which summarized and stated this revelation in such terms that the church could bind itself to it in solemn ordination vows and remain steadfast in this truth until the Lord comes again in the glory of His power. Thus in the new confession we have the religion of the Hebrews and the Christian religion, which are evolutionary developments, and, since the same process has been going on among other religions throughout the world, the confession explains, “The Christian finds parallels between other religions and his own and must approach all religions with openness and respect.” Did Jesus Christ take such an attitude? He declared, “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them” (John 10: 8) . He insisted, “I am the way, the truth, and *he life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

But in the new confession there is a basis for a broad religious syncretism; and to the Christian who believes hat “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), the next statement of this confession is indeed appalling, “Repeatedly God has used the insight of non-Christians to challenge ,he church to renewal.” And then, as though this reconciling word is something entirely different from the revelation that gave to men the Christian faith, we read, “But the reconciling word of the gospel is God’s judgment upon all forms of religion, including the Christian.” As it has turned out, this “reconciling word” is the insight which the twentieth century liberals have decided is the “word,” and on the basis of this insight of the twentieth century they are proceeding to judge, to reject, to rewrite the Christian religion. They have found it wanting-so much so that they must now write their new confession and adjust its teaching to the experience of the church in 1967.

At this point the nerve and the purpose of missions is vitiated. If we are to receive insight from other religions to assist the church in its renewal, how can one go to adherents of such faiths and insist that they must give up their false beliefs and turn instead to Jesus Christ and be reconciled, because He alone died for the sins of men and He alone has been raised from the dead for their justification? The missionary appeal in the church is dead. To really preach the Gospel is to proselytize and disrupt the other religions in whatever contribution they may have to make for the benefit of mankind. Thus in the new confession the church, which is a religion, which religion is human in character, finds assistance from other religions, which are also human in character, and all are related to the cultures out of which they have developed-the Hebrew to the Semitic culture, the Christian to Hellenism and Judaism, and in like manner with all others.

We pass on to what I consider to be a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession (which-let me repeat-has been completely abandoned in the new confession of 1967), which is a detailed expression of what Presbyterians should believe, including an analysis of the Ten Commandments, was in no way included even in the Book of Confessions. This Larger Catechism tells us that it is a violation of this First Commandment to place the living God alongside of other gods.

Turning from the insights of non-Christians and the contribution that all religions are making, we find two sentences which at first appear to be out of place. This is the reaction that is normal for one who believes that Christ is indeed the Son of God and the only One in whom men should trust and to whom they should look for life and hope and comfort. Only in Christ is there light. He said, “I am the light of the world,” and insisted that if men did not follow Him they would “walk in darkness.” This rules out all pagan religions. And in this regard the new confession says, “The gift of God in Christ is for all men. The church, therefore, is commissioned to carry the gospel to all men whatever their religion may be and even when they profess ‘none.” When, however, we read this in the connection that it has with the sentence before it and the association here with all religions, dealing with them in “openness and respect,” we have the full and real meaning. To deal with openness unquestionably involves accepting the contribution these pagan religions have to make. In the presence of this connection, which is obviously the plain and intended meaning of this statement, Christ is to be offered to these other religions not as the One who will replace their faiths but One who can be added to what they already possess. They may have Him as well as others. In this way, the true God takes His place alongside of other gods. Christ can be of assistance to these other human religions, also. This opens the door for Christianity to participate in the proposed “Temple of Understanding,” which is being prepared in Washington, D. C., in which six different faiths will be joined in do-operation, unity, and respect, each particular faith having a wing of the temple-Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Judaism, and Christianity. This also furnishes the basis for a general assembly of the religions of the world to support the cause of peace in a United Nations. This justifies the two convocations of religions to pray for peace and to celebrate the tenth and twentieth anniversaries of the founding of the United Nations which were held in San Francisco.

The God of the Christian cannot and will not participate in any such debasement. There is only one true and living God. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). To attempt therefore to associate Him in any way with the religions, the deities, or the opinions of heathen religions is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. This indictment, and that is exactly what I am here making, brings the significance of the new confession to one of its sharpest focuses.

Here also is another illustration of what we have observed as we have moved along in this analysis and discussion-the way in which terminology is so employed that it is capable of satisfying the minds of a wide variety of people who hold different and diametrically opposed views concerning Christianity and Jesus Christ. Words become vehicles to cover confusion, not to produce clarity. Words are used to obscure the truth, not to present truth. And every man can appeal to what he likes in the confession and comfort his uneasy conscience.