One of the constant declarations made in behalf of the new confession of the United Presbyterians is that the church is speaking within the context of its present world. The church must now speak in the language of the world at large so that its message can be relevant and effective. The church must even use new terminology so that the scientific and educational mind of the twentieth century can be affected.

All of this is used as a justification for laying aside the Confession of the Westminster Assembly and producing a new one.

It is appropriate, therefore, that we look at the present context and the manner in which the new confession fits into this setting.

A. The Freedom Revolution and the Churches is the title of a book by Robert W. Spike who was director of the National Council of the Churches’ Commission on Religion and Race.

To be effective in this revolutionary program, which the Negroes are promoting, Dr. Spike makes it plain that the old concepts of the Bible must go. He writes in Chapter 8, “The Power Beyond the Churches”:

In the pages of the Bible there are many contradictions, many unexplainable bits of legend and history. There are discontinuities and puzzling lapses into primitive religion from high plateaus of ethical insight (p. 118).

He insists that we must get rid of this kind of Bible and this kind of God. Instead, the God of the Bible is a God of deliverance and this God is the one who is going to deliver the Negro and civil rights promoters in their conflict with the status quo. Thus the God of the revolution is different from the God of the Bible with all of these “puzzling lapses into primitive religion.”

The full force of this attack on the Bible is seen on page 77 under the subtitle, “Taking the Bible Literally.” He denounces what he calls “biblical literalism” and says, “This is perhaps the worst form of the chaining of Christ in which the church has engaged.”

To “unchain” Christ is to separate Him from the idea that the Bible is literally true. This is exactly what the Confession of 1967 has done. It has released Christ from any binding connection with a Bible which is verbally or plenarily inspired.

Thus we have a concrete illustration as to how the Confession of 1967 reflects the current conflict in the civil rights struggle. We must simply get rid of the Bible if we are going to have a freedom revolution. This is what the Confession of 1967 has done.

B. The Communists also are very happy about this attack on the Bible. Northern Neighbors, for September, 1965, published in Canada by the Communist party, features an article, “What’s shaking our Churches?” We read:

In a way no one would have dreamed possible, Church leaders themselves are attacking the fundamental teachings of religion. Above all (in order to “accept” the discoveries of science) they are rejecting the Bible as “the word of God” and describing it as a collection of ancient mythical tales, not to be taken too seriously.

The Communists are fully aware of what is taking place in the United Presbyterian Church and others of these churches, and they recognize that they are indeed rejecting the Bible as the Word of God. This is what the Confession of 1967 does officially and finally on behalf of this great denomination.

This article from the Communist journal, however, develops the significance of all of this:

Finally, Catholics and Protestants must abandon much of their faiths if they are to come closer (and some day unite); this they realize must be done to save what is left of Church influence; and some clergymen are even considering “unity” with Jewish, Buddhist, Mohammedan faiths!

And in reference to the impact of the Communist peace line itself upon the churches, we read:

Just read Church publications and you’ll see how tremendous has been the power of the people’s peace fight, in changing religion. Not only because of the peace movements, but also because the Church itself would be exterminated in a thermonuclear war, clergymen right up to the Pope have been compelled to take action against catastrophe.

This fits in very naturally with the section in the new confession dealing with the risk of the extermination of the human race. The fear technique, according to this Northern Neighbors’ story, has reached clear up to the Pope and is affecting the position which he is now representing:

This has had an amazing result: because Peace means peaceful coexistence with the USSR and Socialism, all major religions have had to play down their vicious antiSoviet propaganda,and even to develop “left wing” groups of clergymen…who now say “Marx and Lenin weren’t all wrong!”

Because they cannot avoid it, even Roman Catholic leaders now support “peaceful coexistence with Communists”-many millions of their church members vote for Communists anyway (Italy, France).

Thus when we dispose of the Bible as the Word of God, and when we become fearful of the extermination of the race under Communist fear technique, we are ready to make the concessions necessary even at the risk of national security. How naturally and perfectly this fits into the Confession in the present context!

C. But the Communists go even further than that, “Communism and Religion” is the title of a section in the New Program of the Communist Party U.S.A. (A draft) pages 116-127. This is the program of 1966. We are told:

In this respect we are guided by these principles:

1. We oppose all attempts to create division and antagonism among the people along religious lines. Accordingly, our Party is made up of believers and nonbelievers. What unites its ranks is a common social-political outlook.

2. Marxists disagree philosophically with the supernatural, mystical elements of religion; nevertheless we recognize many positive, humanist values in ethical and moral precepts of the several religions. We salute the increasing attempts of social-minded religious individuals and groups to apply the positive precepts of their faiths to the struggle for a better life on earth. A salutary development of our time has been the growing involvement of clergymen of all faiths, frequently on the front lines, in the battles for civil rights, peace, civil liberties and economic welfare. To all -such efforts we extend the welcome hand of friendship and solidarity.

From this it would appear that the Communists are using their influences to help this unity emphasis and the development of this common social-political outlook. And then they are extending a welcoming hand of friendship and solidarity to the clergy who are “on the front lines, in the battles for civil rights, peace…”

On the basis of this statement, the Communists will be extending the right hand of “friendship and solidarity” to the new Confession of 1967 in those paragraphs that deal with matters of peace and civil rights. This is what they commend. It is just that close in the immediate context of 1967.

D. The Marxist Quarterly, Spring, 1966, published in Canada, is devoted to “Christianity and Marxism in Dialogue.” A lengthy report is presented on “United Church and Communist Discussions in British Columbia.” This is offered as a pattern of reconciliation, the fruit of dialogue. We read (p. 32ff)

Under the initiative of the B. C. [British Columbia] Conference of the United Church, ministers and church workers, together with a like committee from the Provincial Executive of the B. C. Communist Party, began a series of discussions…

Conducted without prejudice and with full respect for the diverse opinions aired in the dialogue, this joint committee of Church leaders and Communists put much of its emphasis on finding areas of agreement, rather than upon theological and material differences.

Our committee sessions, five in all, were held in the Renfrew United Church, Vancouver. Each session began with a very fine luncheon, prepared and graciously served by lady members of the Church. It may be added that these luncheons, aside from being deeply appreciated by all, served to break down any sectarian reserve that may have existed in the initial stages of the ChurchCommunist dialogue, and helped to create an atmosphere of friendly but free-swinging exchange of views arid opinion.

The story continues, “An atmosphere of searching and cordiality prevailed throughout all the sessions.” Yet the intent of the Communists in this operation was clearly manifest “To advance the struggle for progress and a Socialist Canada, the contradiction between the material aims and religious or spiritual beliefs of Canadians must be reconciled, if victory is to be won.”

When we run into this word “reconciled” at this point, we have fitted ourselves in directly with the Confession of 1967 and its entire thesis of reconciliation. The church leaders of the United Church of Canada and the Communist leaders there in Western Canada are giving a concrete example of the manner in which this reconciliation, of which the Confession of 1967 testifies, can be and is actually being implemented. Now we see the discussions in regard to the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement in the United States, and similar fields of endeavor. We read (pp. 34, 35):

It is interesting to note that on the disturbing issues of the times, and especially on the vital questions of peace and war, these joint committee discussions found a very wide area of agreement. As with other sectors of the Church, many ministers and churchworkers of the United Church of Canada and its equivalent in other countries, have taken a very forthright stand for peace, in Vietnam and elsewhere.

In the great civil rights struggles in the U.S.A. too, leading Church men and women have played a courageous supporting role. Some have even given their life in this sacred cause.

During recent months in Vancouver some of the Church ministers on this committee have played an active role in the satisfactory settlement of long-protracted strike struggles. In pursuance of their duties, as for instance burial services, Church ministers, like other workingmen, Communist or non-Communist, refused to go through the picket line of striking cemetery workers, and insisted upon resumption of negotiations “in good faith” by both parties to the dispute.

Again, when some of our Church leaders sought an interview with the Government to urge that it act immediately to help settle the long strike of the Oil Workers before the threatened 48-hour general work stoppage initiated by the British Columbia Federation of Labor was to go into effect, they were met with insulting remarks from an arrogant Socred Labor Minister, who as much as told them to “stay in their pulpits” and leave the more weighty matters of management-labor relations to him!

I mention these incidents merely to emphasize those materialistic ideals which Communists and Churchmen have in common, and which in no way run counter to the materialistic philosophy of one, or the spiritual philosophy of the other.

Concluding this account, we read:

While it may be said that no spectacular results flowed from this United Church-Communist dialogue, it established two important factors: a very worthwhile precedent—and a relationship, both high on the agenda of world affairs today. The Ecumenical Council, dedicated primarily to healing the split in the ranks of denominational Christianity, thereby strengthening and widening the base for “Peace on Earth.” And, secondly, to begin to narrow the gap between the adherents of “Christian Faith” and “Communist Faith,”

Reconciliation is narrowing the gap. This is the dialectic; this is the taking of risks. Indeed, the Confession of 1967 is truly the pattern for this program. Now it will henceforth have the sanction of being a pillar in the faith of the United Presbyterian Church.

E. At the time of the adoption of the Confession of Faith by the 1966 General Assembly for its commendation to the presbyteries and its final action at the General Assembly, meeting in Portland, Oreg., 1967, the United Press International released a story which included the following:

Later in the day, the assembly voted to try to reestablish relations with Protestant Christians in Communist China.

The Presbyterians have had no official contact with Protestants in China since the Communists’ takeover in 1949. At that time, there were an estimated one million Protestants in China-members of many denominations united in the Church of Christ in China.

Rev. Andrew Roy of Chung Chi College in Hong Kong urged establishment of a Chinese relations panel to study the Protestant Church in China and attempt to restore relations through ecumenical channels with Chinese Christians.

The Assembly approved creation of the panel, which will have offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong. The Presbyterian Church will work with the National Council of Churches in seeking closer ties with Chinese Protestants.

Thus, immediately, the Assembly is seeking to implement this principle of reconciliation in relationship to Communist China, and they are moving in through the church channels just as Dr. Eugene Carson Blake and the National Council did in dealing with Moscow and the visits in 1956 to Metropolitan Nicolai and the return visits of the Russians in the same year to the United States. A second exchange occurred in 1963.

The principles and the position to support such specific endeavors is now a part of a Confession of Faith. It expresses the mind of the church in these areas in relationship to civil rights, Communism, poverty, the new morality, and the general activity in the social revolution. These current developments are a complement to the creed; and to understand the mind of the church at this present moment, this setting and context are most essential.

The immediate context, also, needs to be discussed from the standpoint of the new evangelicals and the ecumenical evangelists and evangelism. Actually the conservatives who capitulated at Boston had within their number leaders of what is now called the “new evangelicalism.” These men affirm their adherence to the fundamentals of the faith but insist that they can accept and live within the inclusive church and be a part of the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical apostasy. They justify this position on the basis of expediency and in numerous ways they rationalize their action in disobeying the commands of God which call for separation from unbelief and which forbid the unequal yoke.

The outstanding spokesman in the Christian world for ecumenical evangelism is, of course, Dr. Billy Graham. His position has become more clearly defined in recent years, and following his London campaign of 1966 he even boasted of his “ecumenical heart.”

The United Church Observer, July 1, 1966, the official organ of the United Church in Canada, published “Billy Graham’s answers to 26 provocative questions.” Here Dr. Graham, for the first time, answered questions concerning his co-operation with the modernists and the apostates. However, there were two questions which he declined to answer. The first of these is directly related to the Confession of 1967 and is indeed a part of the current context in relationship to it. He was asked, “Do you believe that we who teach that Christ is the word of God and that the Bible bears witness to God’s revelation in him—but that the Bible is full of parable, myth, allegory, and is often quite unhistoric and inexact—are ‘false teachers’?” Answer: “Unanswered.”

Dr. Graham could not answer this question and maintain his broad, inclusivist, ecumenical evangelism. He should have answered it categorically, “Yes.” The attempt to separate Christ from the Word of God and to teach that the Bible is “full of parable, myth, allegory,” etc., is indeed false teaching, and the Bible warns us against it and exhorts God’s servants to warn the flock against such deception and falsehood.

The statement of the case as outlined in this question represents the position of the United Church of Canada, also of the United Presbyterian Church in its new confession. In fact, Dr. Blake spoke of this as being an ecumenical creed. We can reject the Bible but still hold on somehow to this Christ and build our cause and our program around Him.

If Dr. Graham had answered the question, “No,” which would have put him in the position of endorsing such a creed, he would have been in difficulty with the Bible believers throughout the whole world. On the other hand, if he had answered, “Yes,” then he would be in difficulty with the United Church of Canada and with the United Presbyterian Church under its new confession. So, instead of answering the question on the basis of the teaching of the Bible, he evaded it all, and because of the horns of the dilemma upon which he found himself he decided that the best thing to do was to leave it blank and not answer.

This is the issue of the hour. Billy Graham does not have any Bible to preach if it consists of “myth, allegory, and is often quite unhistoric and inexact.” Every true evangelist has to begin with the Bible, stand by the Bible, proclaim the Bible, defend the Bible, and declare it to be God’s holy and infallible Word. From this Book, and this Book alone, he receives the message of the precious blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses sinners.

The immediate context of the confession has many implications and consequences.