The evangelical church is increasingly aware of the need to witness to Christ in acts of mercy, especially since some evangelicals in the past spoke almost exclusively of individualistic and future salvation. In reaction, some today are adopting “orthopraxy” (right action) as their main emphasis, downplaying or even abandoning “orthodoxy” (right belief). But good works and sound belief cannot be separated. Alas, instead of a biblical balance, we face the serious danger of a new form of the old “social gospel,” which turns the Christian faith into a system of salvation by works, Jesus into a mere example, like the Buddha, Socrates or Lao Tzu, and Christianity into one variant of interfaith good will. But orthopraxy alone cannot preach the gospel. We as redeemed sinners must “confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.”
A further danger lurks—that Christian good works can be recuperated by movements of pagan utopianism. A case in point.
In January 2013 World Vision (WV) sent an Easter funding appeal to those sponsoring needy children. WV began as an evangelistic ministry of Bob Pierce, a powerful preacher whom I heard preach when I was just a lad in my hometown in Liverpool in an evangelistic crusade. Since then, I have noticed many changes. The cross featured on all WV literature morphed into a twinkling star. I began to wonder. At the WV booth at a recent pastors’ conference, we were asked to fill packages with good things to be sent abroad. When I asked why there were no Bibles in the packages, I was told that they couldn’t know which language to include! My concern increased.
This Easter appeal included a card to be sent to deprived children in faraway places, with the WV tagline “Building a better world for children.” There was no good news of resurrection, rather pictures of animals teaching moralistic lessons to “bless children.” Children, like sheep, should “stay close to the family and friends you know…” but no mention of staying close to Jesus the Good shepherd. Children are like deer: “The deer is sure-footed…be confident in your abilities, like the deer.” No mention of the soul, like a thirsty deer, panting after God. The card only lacked the Easter Bunny! This is not an absence of Gospel. This is an anti-gospel—learning morality from nature and being successful from within ourselves, without depending on the Creator and Redeemer of nature.
In an accompanying letter, the president, Richard Stearns, explains: “We’ve been careful to design the card…so that it won’t compromise the safety of children or World Vision staff in countries where Christianity is restricted.” For “safety reasons,” not only is the Gospel absent but a subtle counter-gospel of self-improvement is proposed. The physical safety of Christians in hostile countries is important, but for a Christian organization, eternal safety and preparing for God’s “better world” of the new creation is surely of even greater concern.
The Christian WV recommends that churches work with secular United Nations-approved social justice NGOs, like InterAction where another worldview is being incubated—not secularism, but a new version of ancient paganism, blending “enlightened spirituality” with “social action.” The goal is “world transformation” to create a pagan “non-dual” (no Creator) utopia. The Lucis Trust (originally the Lucifer Trust!), an occult Theosophist group in charge of the spiritual heart of the United Nations’ Meditation Room since 1952, now announces their version of a better world: “uniformity of beliefs is unnecessary…shared spiritual experience and collective service may offer a better hope for achieving global synthesis.” “Beliefs” are dismissed. Meditative “spiritual experience” and “collective service” are in. How many well-meaning evangelicals are following like “sheep,” unaware that totalitarian paganism, by this agenda, now seeks control of the planet?
This growing movement, deeply tied to evolution, “cannot be halted,” says ex-fundamentalist Michael Dowd. An “evangelical naturalist [who is] no longer a supernaturalist,” because “God is not a person,” Dowd goes on: “As we integrate the Great Story of evolution…we will see a worldwide spiritual revival… a new era of peace, sustainability, health, and prosperity….the end of war, democracy for all, eradication of hunger, and education for everyone. Freedom. Opportunity. Global friendship…These dreams are at our fingertips now.”
Christians cannot dig wells in Africa without telling thirsty sinners of the wells of salvation. They cannot speak of blessings without speaking also of the curse of human evil. Children must hear the difference between the Lie and the Truth in order to place their trust in Jesus as their only Savior, and we must obey the Savior’s command: “Let the little ones come tome.”
Dr. Peter Jones is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Director of truthXchange, and Adjunct Professor of New Testament, as well as Scholar in Residence, at Westminster Seminary California. This article is used with permission.