Religion: A Challenge from Evangelicals

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"Go forth to every part of the world, and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation. Those who believe it and receive baptism will find salvation; those who do not believe it will be condemned."

—Jesus to the Apostles, as reported in Mark 16:15-16 Millions of Christians still take that commission of Christ literally, still be lieve that one of their foremost tasks is to preach the Gospel to the unbaptized.

Last week, in the lakeshore resort of Lausanne, Switzerland, that belief found a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held.

Brought together largely through the efforts of the Rev. Billy Graham, some 2,400 Protestant Evangelical leaders from 1 50 countries ended a ten-day International Congress on World Evangelization that served notice of the vigor of conservative, resolutely biblical, fervent ly mission-minded Christianity.

The congress also constituted a considerable challenge to the prevailing philosophy in the World Council of Churches, headquartered some 30 miles down Lake Leman in Geneva. Some of the World Council's advocates of ecumenism increasingly have questioned whether Christians even have the right — let alone the duty — to disturb the hon est faith of a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Jew. For many in the World Council, the Christian's mission has become more of a campaign to achieve a sort of secular salvation, a human liberation in the political and social sense. To oppose that trend, the Evangelicals at Lausanne laid the groundwork for a post-congress "fellowship" that could eventually develop into a rival international body.

At the same time, the Lausanne leaders seem to have had their consciences prodded by the World Council's concern for secular betterment. In the five hours after the meeting closed, 1,900 people (including some wives and observers) signed a 3,000-word document that had been drafted by a committee headed by Anglican Rector John Stott, 53, the leading figure among British Evangelicals. Called the Lausanne Covenant, it sternly reaffirmed traditional Protestant beliefs while also emphasizing secular action. Items:

ON SOCIAL CONCERN: "We express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive ... Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and sociopolitical involvement are both part of our Christian duty."

ON THE BIBLE: "We affirm the divine Inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament

Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice."

ON SALVATION: "We recognize that all men have some knowledge of God through His general revelation in nature, but we deny that this can save.

Jesus Christ... is the only mediator between God and Man ... Those who reject Christ repudiate the joy of salvation and condemn themselves to eternal separation from God."

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