Religious liberalism, having repudiated the Scriptures as the authoritative revelation of truth concerning God, man, and the plan of redemption,—and consequently concerning the nature and citizenship of the kingdom of God, together with the time and manner of its establishment,—turns vainly to the creations of its own reasonings and fancy in unwitting harmony with the impending events so clearly revealed. He who is wise will watch these developments that may have marked prophetic significance. The implications of the latter part of Revelation 13 are involved.—Editor.
Whatever the field of human activity to which we give serious attention, we find developments of great, not to .say appalling, interest. In the political, social, industrial, and moral worlds, and especially in the religious world, we face a situation which is full of significance. Those who are not specialists in prophetic interpretation are free to acknowledge that we are now in a time when men are "fainting for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world." Luke 21:26. It is certainly incumbent on us now to take our bearings, and to be sure that we are holding to the right course.
It is my purpose in this article and succeeding articles to give consideration to two meetings which have commanded world-wide attention,—the international conference held in Oxford, England, in July, 1937, and the one held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August, 1937. The delegates to the two conferences were practically identical, numbering 414, and representing 122 church bodies in 43 countries. The Oxford meeting was designated as a Conference on Life and Work and the Edinburgh, 'as a Conference on Faith and Order. Or, otherwise stated:
"At Oxford the churches faced the question of their relation to the world; at Edinburgh, the question of their relation to each other. At Oxford the center of interest was the immediate one of securing, in spite of all differences. a united front in meeting practical problems; at Edinburgh the center of interest was the more ultimate one of reconciling the differences which now divide Christians into separate churches."
The following paragraph, dealing with the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church toward the conferences, and its reason for not sending delegates, is of interest:
"The Roman Catholic Church was invited to send representatives to the conferences. The hierarchy declined, giving as a reason that their church was the only real church and had the only genuine faith and order, and consequently no unity was possible except upon their foundations."--John M. Moore, in Christendom, Autumn, 1937, p. 574.
The confidence on the part of some Protestants that the Roman Catholic Church will at some future time surrender this claim and become a part of a great world church is thus expressed by a leading Protestant paper:
"It is only a matter of time—though it may be a long time—until the exclusiveness of the Roman Catholic Church will succumb to the same forces that have triumphed over the exclusiveness of its great offshoot, the Church of England. . . . There can be no doubt that Rome is watching Oxford and Edinburgh closely; one wishes that along with watchfulness there were a prayerful interest. Unless we are entirely mistaken, the Roman Catholic Church cannot much longer maintain an attitude of religious isolation in face of great issues and menacing situations that affect Christians, whether they be Roman or Protestant. . . . The absence of Catholics from Oxford, as well as of German Protestants, is suggestive of a dictatorship in church as well as in State."—Advance (Methodist), Sept. 1, 1937.
In its editorial summary of the doings of the Oxford conference, the same paper contains this interesting paragraph:
"In his presidential address the Archbishop of Canterbury, the official head of the Church of England, deplored the nonparticipation of the Roman Catholic Church, and the absence of the German delegation. .. . 'We can only hope and pray the day may come,' said the archbishop, 'when common dangers and a true sense of the real facts of Christendom may lead authOrities of the Roman Church to sanction active cooperation with their fellow Christians.' "
The following pertinent paragraph, which has been familiar to Seventh-day Adventists for nearly half a century, may very fittingly be quoted in this connection, as it is prophetic with significance:
"When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with Spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan, and that the end is near."—"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 451.
According to the origin of the word, a "Protestant" is one who protests against the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in matters of doctrine. This original protest was made in a formal way at the diet of Spires, which opened in March, 1529, the essence of which is well stated in the following paragraph:
"The principles contained in this celebrated protest of the t9th April, 1529, constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. Instead of these abuses, Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate; and the authority of the Word of God above the visible church."—"History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century," I. H. Merle D' Aubigne, Vol. IV, p. 60.
From the wording of the refusal of Roman Catholics to attend the world conferences, it is clear that that church has not changed its claims, and that she is still exalting herself "against all that is called God or that is worshiped." 2 Thess. 2:4. For four centuries this apostasy has been recognized by true Protestants, who have plainly declared that the Pope is the antichrist of the Scriptures, and that the Roman Catholic Church is the Babylon of the Apocalypse. In the light of these facts it is truly significant that at the opening of the Oxford conference the official head of the Anglican Church, whose refusal to submit to the authority of Rome has been well known, should semiofficially recognize the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian body.
Now do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that there are no Christians in that church. On the contrary, I recognize that there are many. What I assert is that the Roman hierarchy has openly claimed the authority to proclaim doctrinal decrees contrary to the Word of God, and to persecute those who refused to recognize this authority ; and that such actions nullify its claim to being a Christian church. One of the outstanding features of the Roman Catholic Church is that it is semper eadem (always the same), and therefore if there should be a union of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, it would constitute a convincing demonstration that professed Protestants no longer protest.
Conception of World Community
The Oxford conference was divided into sections which considered the following topics: (I) The Church and Community, (2) The Church and Economics, (3) The Church and State, (4) The Church and the World of Nations, (5) The Church, Community, and State. The idea of the church as a world community seemed to grip the delegates, as is indicated in the comment of the Federal Council Bulletin for September, 1937:
"Whatever else the Oxford Conference on Life and Work did, it certainly kindled a new vision of the possibilities of the church as a world-wide unity of Christians of every nation and race. This new outlook was described as 'ecumenical,'--an adjective which was on every one's lips at Oxford. . . , The churches as we see them today, one has to confess, are but feeble reflections of the one universal church of Christ. . . . Broken into denominational fragments and crippled by nationalism, the churches fail to function as one body of Christ throughout the world. . . . The Oxford conference made it clear that the first great task of the church as it confronts a disintegrating civilization is to be the Christian world community. . . . If Christians more and more truly become a world community, no one can set limits to their possible influence for unity in the political and social realm. . . . What if Christians generally, in different countries, gained the unshakable conviction that they owe a loyalty to the universal church of God which is higher than their loyalty to any nationalist state? Then perhaps governments might come to realize that they can no longer demand of Christians in the name of patriotism the kind of action which nullifies their fellowship with one another in Christ. . . .
"If the Christian church is a world community; it manifestly requires a structure which will enable it to function as the one body of Christ throughout the world. Such a structure we do not yet possess. We do not need a highly centralized or authoritative organization such as the Roman Catholic, but we do require some instrument through which the Christian bodies in different lands can be more than separate and unrelated national units. We need a central agency through which the churches of the various nations can be in continuous fellowship and can act together across national lines."
One Central Organization
The thoughtful student of history who reads this disclaimer of any desire for "a highly centralized or authoritative organization such as the Roman Catholic Church," will certainly be reminded of the statements of Gregory I, Bishop of Rome, 590-604, in letters to the em, peror Maurice, in which he declared:
"St. Peter is not called Universal Apostle. ,
The whole church falls from its place when he who is called Universal falls. . . . But far from Christian hearts be that blasphemous name. . . . I confidently affirm that whoso calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, in his pride goes before antichrist." (Ep. v. 20; VB. 33.).—"Plain Reasons Against Joining the Church of Rome," R. F. Littledale, p. 177.
Follow down the path of history a few centuries and note the logical outcome of the idea of a central organization as it is authoritatively made known in the papal bull, "Unam Sane-tam," issued by Bonif ace VIII, who was pope from 1294-1303:
"That there is one holy catholic and apostolic church, we are impelled by our faith to believe and to hold—this we do firmly believe and openly confess—and outside of this there is neither salvation nor remission of sins. . . . Therefore, in this one and only church there is one body and one head,—not two heads as if it were a monster,—namely Christ and Christ's vicar, Peter and Peter's successor."—"Corpus Juris Canonici," Extravagantes Communes, book 1, title 8, chapter x.
I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, and I shall not presume to predict the outcome of the present effort to have all Protestants unite in one central organization, so that they may speak with a united voice. But while they are repudiating the implied idea that they would claim authority over the different churches, I cannot forget the time-established statement, "History repeats itself," and I await with interest the logical outcome of this latest program for Protestantism.
____ To be concluded in February