By James W. Adams
The virulent onslaught of the “new technology” of our day against what its devotees choose to call “traditional religion and morality,” the undeniable success of atheistic Communism in proselyting and controlling the teeming masses of the world’s population in Asia, Africa, and South America, and the almost universal youth revolt against organized religion have shocked and frightened all segments of so-called “Christendom.” The shock has run like an electric charge through Roman Catholicism’ at its highest level of ecclesiastical authority and scholarship to its humblest priest. Like a great earthquake, it has shaken protestant denominationalism from the hinterland of “Christian Atheism” and the “Death of God Movement,” through the ivory towers of Neo-orthodoxy, to the most obstinate and unreasonable sects of “dogmatic fundamentalism.” Suddenly, the awful truth has dawned upon the whole spectrum of so-called “Christianity” that, in any and every form, it is involved in a titanic struggle for its very life.
The crisis thus generated has focused attention upon the vulnerability of divided Christendom. It has pointed up the need for a burial of old antagonisms and a diligent search for a formula for unification of the dissenting and warring segments of the so-called “Christian community.” The minimum objective is thought to be some sort of amalgamation of the sects of “Christendom” which is capable of marshalling its total resources for all-out war with its common foes. The effort to accomplish this is what is called 11 the ecumenical movement” or “ecumenism.”
The Stance of the “churches of Christ”
Not being Roman Catholic and repudiating denominational status, professed “churches of Christ” whether denominated “liberal” or “conservative” (often most inaccurately) are too conservative to embrace such an amalgamation as the ecumenists propose. Only a few far left brethren have shown any great interest in an inter-denominational conglomerate of divergent sects for functional, if not doctrinal, purposes. Yet, the many divisions of what Brother W. Carl Ketcherside calls “the heirs of the Restoration Movement,” and to which he so frequently and contemptuously refers, have impressed members of “the churches of Christ,” particularly the better informed elders and preachers, with the dire need for a closing of our ranks. It requires little argument, logically or scripturally, to demonstrate that New Testament Christians should constitute an impenetrable, spiritual phalanx, with no flanks vulnerable to attack by reason of senseless and unscriptural division. Only thus united and their resources thus employed can they marshal an effective offense and defense against the overwhelming, physical odds of current enemies of New Testament truth.
With the strongest condemnation of division among brethren and the most fervent emphasis of the need of unity among the Lord’s disciples, I have no quarrel. To the contrary, with such, I am most fervently aligned. However, with the bases proposed by what I have chosen to call “the neo-Calvinistic, unity cult” upon which the mire for division is predicated and the attainment of unity anticipated, I am in almost total disagreement. It constitutes an abdication to error and a creation of a pseudo “fellowship” of doctrineless and faithless non-entities. Like the Abner Jones and Elias Smith movement of Vermont which, at its zenith, assumed a similar posture, its destiny is oblivion.
In a previous article, it has been shown that our current “neo-Calvinistic, unity cult,” had its beginning with a group of ultra-extremists whose force had been spent and whose sun was setting among the “churches of Christ.” However, in all unscriptural religious movements, other elements are soon fused with the original. Such is true in this case. There are at least three other groups or classes of individuals who have mounted the band wagon and are beating the drums of propaganda in this matter.
This “neo-Calvinistic, unity-fellowship cult’s” appeal has struck a responsive chord among a considerable number of brethren. The fundamental reason for this is its psychological timing. We shall be emphasizing this point throughout this series of articles. I do not believe this was accidental or spontaneous but deliberate and opportunistic.
The movement was launched while there yet reverberated among the churches the echo of an often-bitter struggle over church support of human institutions and cooperative evangelism and benevolence by the churches through the sponsoring church arrangement. It hoisted its mainsail at the dawn of a new and perhaps greater and bitterer struggle among those who favor the aforementioned matters. This battle is already in progress and gaining in intensity by the hour. It is a confrontation on the one hand between classical liberals and their more conservative contemporaries. Already, these churches have, for the most part, accepted the first forms of the “social gospel.” The ultraliberals want the whole package, and they are right. The “social gospel” was germinated in the hotbed of German Rationalism of the nineteenth century. Out of which fertile soil came also “modernism, neo-orthodoxy, and existentialism,” not to mention “organic evolution and atheistic communism.” If one accepts the first fruits of the “social gospel,” why should he not accept the seed from whence it sprang and the complete harvest?
On the other hand, fighting has erupted on a second front. Having lost faith in the all sufficiency of Divine Revelation, a considerable segment of these brethren have turned to what I have recently called “subjective sentimentalism” in an article in “The Preceptor Magazine.” They are finding their answer to doubts which plague them in the emotional fanaticism of a supposed immediate indwelling and functioning of the Spirit of God in the believer with consequent intuitive guidance, miraculous divine healing, and glossolalia (ecstatic tongue-speaking).
Ketcherside and Garrett (These men are my brethren in error, and I so regard them, but for the sake of brevity and space, they will hereinafter be designated without the appellation, “brother.”) are making their unity pitch to people harried by fear, weary of controversy, and longing for relief. Peace at any price often is deceptively desirable under such circumstances. Our recent experiences as a nation in South Vietnam constitute a classic example of this very thing. Coupled with this is the youth unrest and rebellion, which pervades our country, the world, and the churches. Young Christians, by reason of this fact, are particularly vulnerable to the platitudes, sophistry, and astutely pietistic overtures relative to “unity” and “fellowship” which are made by these men. Ketcherside and Garrett have worked this fertile ground with consummate skill and diligence. In their political niachinations aimed at relating to youth, they remind me of the abortive efforts of a recent, unsuccessful presidential candidate. At first, the youth of our nation seemed overwhelmingly attracted, but their fundamental good sense and innate perception asserted themselves and they refused to be politically managed and selfishly used for another’s unworthy objectives. Some young Christians have been caught up in the surge of this “neo-Calvinistic, unity movement,” but it is my fervent hope that their fundamental intelligence and knowledge of truth plus their unsullied integrity will deliver them from its destructive current. I shall deal with this point at greater length in subsequent articles.
This brings us to a discussion of the first of the three secondary sources from which the current “unity cult” draws its strength. There are those (preachers and others) who have had unhappy personal differences with fellow preachers, elders, and other brethren and / or have experienced thwarted ambitions and abortive undertakings. By these experiences, they have been disillusioned and embittered. In their chagrin and hurt relative to these matters (for which they were largely to blame), they lost their personal faith in the correctness and validity of their religious convictions and practice. Suddenly, they began to imagine they saw in their religious colleagues that which was in reality at the root of their own problems-an unholy desire for popularity, place, and preeminence. With no personal animosity toward any person, and certainly, with no desire to be unkind or unnecessarily harsh, I must say it is my personal conviction that such brethren as Charles A. Holt and Harold Spurlock (recent editors of the now deceased Sentinel of Truth) along with Pat Hardeman of some years past, in a very large degree, are properly classified in this category.
By thus classifying certain brethren who have been prominent and vocal in the advocacy of their positions in specific categories, I do not rule out the possibility that other factors than those mentioned may have contributed to their defection. For the men just named, I once had high regard and warm personal affection. A consideration of their departure from the ranks of those whom I personally consider faithful to the Lord brings me no pleasure. It brings only a deep melancholy and a distressing sense of irreparable loss.
In the next article, I shall consider the two other secondary sources, which have contributed to the present state of things relative to the “unity-fellowship” movement under consideration-the emotional fanatics and the precocious neophytes. The article will appear under the subject heading: “Secondary Sources of the Neo-Calvinistic Unity Cult” (II)
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 22, pp. 6-8
April 5, 1973