This excellent article by Dr. Richard A. Harris, a former president of the American Council of Christian Churches who recently went to be with the Lord, challenges believers and churches to stand together for the Cause of Christ. It was written in 1997, as a few references in the article reflect.
Isaiah wrote, “When the enemy cometh in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion” (Isaiah 59:19-20).
This statement is unquestionably true and God will ultimately lift up that standard when His own Son, the Redeemer, comes to Zion at His second appearing.
However, it is His will that there be a standard of righteousness today. It is interesting that before the Savior’s coming return, He prophetically remarks through Isaiah, that “I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered [I was amazed] that there was none to uphold [the standard of righteousness]: therefore mine own arm brought salvation…” (Isaiah 63:5). This failure of men should be astonishing to us.
There have always been honest differences of interpretation on church organization, as well as on other issues, among good men who love Christ. There was a time when men could amicably differ on issues which did not affect fundamental Christian doctrine and still respect and firmly defend one another. Great Christian leaders of the past were able to respect those differences and yet recognize that the men with whom they differed were still fundamentalists and brothers in Christ. They were Christian statesmen. The dictionary definition of a statesman is “one who is experienced in the art of administration of governmental affairs, who exhibits great wisdom and ability in dealing with important public issues.” We are so desperately in need of Christian statesmen today who will lead His church.
The National Council of Churches (then known as the Federal Council) was organized in 1908. By 1940, they were purporting to speak for all Christianity, except Roman Catholicism. It became evident that a voice had to be raised up for fundamental Christians or the Christian testimony would be delivered into the hands of the NCC by default. Men of sterling character in that day stood together to raise up a voice for truth and the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) was formed in 1941. It made no difference that some of them were Baptists, some were Evangelical Methodists, some were Bible Presbyterians and some of other persuasions. Their fellowship was characterized by their common belief that the Bible is the authoritative, inerrant Word of God. All of them believed in the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement for sin, His bodily resurrection and ascension into Heaven and His coming again in power and glory. Each believed the Bible taught that the Church should separate from apostasy and Christians should be obedient to Christ.
They did not hold evangelistic meetings or revival campaigns together, nor did they send out missionaries from the Council. Those were and are church functions. What the ACCC did was to provide a place for fundamental Christians to stand together to raise a voice of protest against the false doctrines that were creeping into and destroying the churches of America. They accomplished this by strongly proclaiming the fundamental doctrines of Scripture and bringing that which was false into the light of truth. They protected God’s people from the misuse of power that the NCC was gaining through its alliance with governmental leaders. It is hard to contemplate where we would be today if those godly men had not stood together.
It is a tragedy that by the close of this Twentieth Century, the climate among fundamental Christians seems to have swung away from the respect, appreciation and heritage these men and churches gave to each other. Now, distrust, competition and self-centeredness seem to divide so many of God’s people, even some who claim to be fundamentalists. This division over issues that are not remotely connected to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian Faith is tearing Bible Christianity apart. How desperately we need to remember…Satan’s method is to divide and conquer. He isolates us from one another and builds a wall of distrust and divisions between us. By allowing him to do this, we are weakened as a united voice for fundamental Christianity. Our enemy knows this and takes bolder and bolder steps to strip us of our credibility and our effectiveness.
I am not referring to the compromise that is promoted by Promise Keepers when they speak of “breaking down the walls” of denominationalism. To “denominate” something means to describe a group’s beliefs; nowhere in God’s Word are we told to surrender our distinctive beliefs in order to build some “ecumenical organization.” That is compromise and accommodation, and it is in direct violation of God’s commands. The American Council is not an interdenominational body; that is, one that belittles or deems unimportant the denominational beliefs of others. Instead, it is a multi-denominational council of churches that respects the honest and sincere differences of denominational interpretations of God’s Word in areas considered not basic to the fundamental Christian Faith. Although it is true “it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power” (2 Chronicles 14:11), that does not negate our responsibility to maintain a spiritual unity among those who love and obey the Lord Jesus. It should be natural for believers to stand together for the Faith. One day Jesus was confronted with the pettiness of His disciples when they were discussing among themselves “which of them should be the greatest” (Luke 9:46–50). Right after being rebuked for their competitive spirit, John remarked to Jesus that they had seen someone casting out devils and they forbade him because “he followeth not with us.” Again Jesus rebuked them for the self-centered spirit. When there is no compromise of cardinal Bible doctrines concerning the authority of God’s Word and the Person of our Lord Jesus, it is clear that we are to stand together as brothers in Christ. The extent of our fellowship and ministry together will be determined by the scope of our agreement, but we certainly can raise a united voice for true Christianity.
The Apostle Paul, when writing to the church at Corinth, said, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (2 Corinthians 3:4, 5, 9).
During the years since 1941, the ACCC has maintained a strong and vibrant testimony for the Word of God and the Lord Jesus. It has represented fundamental Christianity in many different arenas. It has endorsed chaplains in the United States Armed Forces and in prisons and hospitals across our nation. It has published reports on the National and World Council of Churches and their left-wing, apostate agendas. People have been alerted to the dangers of false doctrine and help has been available to pastors and churches who found themselves in a struggle for their own survival. The ACCC deserves the support of those churches which stand in harmony with the historic Christian Faith.
The waters were further muddied by the formation of a third national organization, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), in 1942, the year after the ACCC formed. They were not in agreement with the Scriptural and separated stand of the ACCC. They took a position in the middle between the fundamental ACCC and the apostate NCC. As a result, the NAE has confused the issues within Christendom by their compromise. Some have stated with a great deal of evidence that the NAE is more dangerous than the apostasy itself. When believers constantly defend a compromising attitude toward false doctrine and practice, it weakens a believer’s resolve to stand aggressively for the truth. Jesus said, “He that is not for me is against me.” There can be no justification for a neutral stand when it comes to truth. Because of this neutral position of the NAE, the ACCC is challenged with the responsibility of defending this biblical position against two alternative voices.
Of these three national voices, which represents you? Whether we realize it or not, each of us who claims the label of Christianity is being represented in some way by one of these groups. They represent three strategic positions within Christendom in America—one of apostasy, one of compromise, and one of faithfulness to the fundamental truths of Christ and His Word. With annual budgets of tens of millions of dollars, the NCC and the NAE continue to push their liberal and compromising agendas. The ACCC is attempting to promote and protect Bible Christians and churches with an annual budget of less than one hundred thousand dollars. Is this small financial commitment an indication of fundamental believers’ real commitment to aggressively stand for the truth? No, it probably is not. What it does say is that too many of us do not understand the urgency for a national voice to promote and protect the Faith because we see no threat to religious liberties. Or, we have difficulty standing together for the Faith unless we are in total harmony on every minor doctrine.
The failure of fundamental believers to live up to the challenge of Christian statesmanship threatens the very survival of a strong biblical voice, united in its belief in the authority of God’s Word. Only a revival of wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit coupled with the courage of our convictions can protect us. Our plea is for Christian statesmanship among fundamental Christians.