Saturday, January 05, 2013

On Campus Crusade for Christ (aka Cru)

This is a post requested by a friend. I generally hesitate to write such posts in which I deal with people and organizations I have attachment to. I have many friends from my time over in Campus Crusade in my university days, many great times of fellowship, and as such it is not easy to be objective over this issue.

Nevertheless, the question that is to be answered is: What should biblical Christians think about Campus Crusade? Should someone who desires to be obedient to the full counsel of God's Word join it? It is noted here in passing that I refuse to refer to Campus Crusade as "Cru." In my opinion, there is absolutely no justification for the switch beyond capitulation to forces prevalent in the larger culture, especially since Crusade is known by other names in some countries (e.g Agape in UK).

CCC is a para-church organization founded by the late Bill Bright. It is an organization that started off with a focus on evangelism and outreach in university campus, although they do do discipleship as well. Over the years, it has diversified to various kinds of ministry, for example in the marketplace and the media, and thus it is not purely about campus ministry anymore although that is still its main focus.

In its historical setting, CCC is one of the main organizations that are symptomatic of the larger movement called the New Evangelicalism. Started by Harold Ockenga and Carl Henry, with its flagship seminary Fuller Theological Seminary and its famous evangelist Billy Graham, the New Evangelicalism is a movement that seeks to stand for biblical truth while being positive and winsome towards others, disagreeing with the polemics of Fundamentalism. As a movement that originated in the context of 19th and 20th century American religion, it partakes of the same low-church, anti-institutional slant of the previous Evangelicalism that began with the 1st Great Awakening and developed through the 2nd Great Awakening. New Evangelicalism as a movement is of course very diverse, yet in order for it to be a movement at all, it had various characteristics. Since it is supposed to embrace professing Christians who believe the Bible, confesssional minimalism becomes the norm. In other words, while one could hold on to for example infant baptism, confessional minimalism in the movement requires one to suspend one's strength of conviction on the issue so that one could co-operate across confessional lines. Such of course relativize certain doctrines to the category of "secondary doctrines" which must be held on to loosely and not firmly.

CCC as a child of the New Evangelicalism partook of this Zeitgeist. It is very much low-church, and while individual Crusade staff and students could hold on to a higher view of the Church, Crusade itself does not have a strong doctrine of the Church. It is inter-denominational, as it works towards fulfilling its mission which is to evangelize the world (with a certain myopic and reductionistic understanding of the Great Commission). As such, it could not take strong stands on many doctrines taught in Scripture as long as those who are called "Evangelicals" disagree over it. Rather, they seek to hold to some form of "mere Christianity" and proclaim the "simple" message of Jesus Christ coming to die for the sins of mankind, with its attendant duty to repent and believe the Gospel

With this introduction to CCC in its historical context, here are some points I would like to make:

  1. CCC's desire to see people saved is laudable. Whatever one wants to say about Crusade, they have a sincere desire for those who are lost to come to salvation.
  2. CCC provides good Christian support and fellowship, and thus helps mitigate against negative peer pressure
  3. CCC embraces by default an Arminian view of the Gospel. Coming from the revivalist tradition after Charles Finney, the idea of salvation and the Gospel has been shaped and perceived by those forces. While not embracing Finney's rank Pelagianism, the mixture of Calvinistic and Pelagianizing elements produce an inconsistent mixture that closely resembles Evangelical Arminianism. Total Depravity of Man is held to alongside with the view that methods helps in the effectiveness of evangelism, although in another inconsistency the Holy Spirit is believed to be ultimately responsible for the salvation of those evangelized. This mixture of Calvinistic and Pelagianizing elements have created a veritable chaotic mess when it comes to evangelism and outreach, with people and methods running the spectrum of beliefs from Semi-Pelagianism to Amyraldianism, seldom reaching true Calvinism.
  4. Most people especially in the Asian context are decidedly piestistic and anti-intellectual. They love God, but sadly do not know much of God and much about God. I do not doubt their salvation and they are great people, but their maturity leaves much to be desired. They will generally not understand any Christian who is non-pietistic and who earnestly strive for biblical accuracy and fidelity.

Therefore, I will advice thus:

  • One should know the good and the bad in CCC. One should make a decision whether to join or not based upon all these data.
  • One's foremost loyalty is to God, and then to one's local church. Attending CCC mid-week meetings are never a substitute for Sunday church services. CCC as a para-church organization can never minister the Means of Grace, and if they do so, those persons are violating God's commands.
  • Knowing the confessional minimalism of CCC, one has to discern for oneself whether one can live with that for the sake of fellowship and lay ministry in CCC. CCC is not a church, and therefore it is my opinion that it does not have to meet the standards of orthodoxy that a church should have. This is a matter of wisdom and between God and you the person, and a matter of your conscience.
  • Know that one may have to dissent from CCC and the leadership at times. CCC being not a church does not mean that one rolls over and plays dead with regards to sound doctrine. Rather, one tolerate dissenting view not pertaining to the essence of the faith, but any Pelagianizing move we should dissent.
  • Finally, whatever that is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23ff). If one does not have the peace to join CCC, or one thinks that doing so would violate his conscience, don't.

I hope this helps


Bill Hamilton said...


Thanks for this post. As a former full-time staff member of CCC, I too share your concerns. However, your concerns appear to be more related to the Arminianism vs. Calvinism debate, which is a debate that will never be satisfactorily resolved this side of heaven. My concerns have more to do with Crusade's "float-ability" when it comes to certain biblical doctrines. For example, Crusade never took a "theological" position for or against the gift of tongues, but because of its divisive nature in the Evangelical world, it had a policy against the public and private use of this "gift" until 1981. When tongues ceased to be such a divisive issue (i.e., recruitment by Charismatic of non-Charismatic churches slowed down or ceased), Crusade changed its policy to allow the private use of tongues - at least in the U.S. That policy may have been further modified since 1981, however.

Another example comes in the area of evangelism. Crusade had always defended what it called "aggressive evangelism" (later renamed "initiative evangelism") as the most biblical approach. This approach to evangelism was pitted against the growingly-popular "friendship evangelism" approach of, for example, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and popularized by Joe Aldrich's book "Lifestyle Evangelism" back in the mid-80's. Crusade's approach began to give way in the organization to the "friendship evangelism" approach as the (American) evangelical culture increasingly embraced the latter. These tendencies to embrace cultural trends over scriptural teaching concern me. Although you excuse Crusade, as a parachurch organization, from adherence to certain standards stipulated for local churches, I find a parachurch organization allowing things that are prohibited in the local church setting to be concerning. One example would be Crusade's violation of 1 Timothy 2:12-14. In CCC women are allowed to teach and even exercise authority over men. When one takes into consideration the label used of such organizations - "para" (i.e., "for" or "in favor of") church - it seems quite inconsistent to be "for" something when you practice what the organization you're supposedly "in favor of" MUST NOT practice. By the way, this is another doctrinal issue that was embraced at one time in Crusade (at least the "exercise authority over men" part - "Campus Directors" were always men, and "Associate Campus Directors" were women who only had authority over the "women's side" of the local campus ministry). This policy also changed when evangelical society "softened" on the topic.

Bill Hamilton said...


All this to ask, "What next?" What other important biblical doctrines is CCC going to compromise on next? Will it capitulate to "Christian Universalism" (e.g., "The Shack")? How about "Kenosis Theology" (e.g., Bill Johnson of Bethel Church of Redding)? As an interdenominational organization, it has never taken an official position on the doctrine of "The Perseverance of the Saints." That has allowed for a lot of Arminians (PentecostalS, Neo-Pentecostals and non-Charismatics) to enter the organization who have had and will continue to have a lot of influence. There was even a time when solidly-biblical Christians were concerned that CCC was becoming too ecumenical when Bill Bright signed onto Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). I was in Brazil at the time, the largest Catholic nation, and remember thinking, "I better not be told I'll have to adhere to the ECT agreement! I can't, with a clear conscience." Fortunately, in light of the flap his signing of the agreement caused back in 1994, Bill Bright backed down and guaranteed that he only signed it as an "individual" Christian and not as president of Campus Crusade for Christ. But the way things are heading, I foresee the day when CCC goes totally "ecumenical" - because that is where so many evangelicals and churches are heading. Doctrine isn't that important any more; unity is. When Catholic leaders can use "evangelical-friendly" terminology to pull the wool over the eyes of so many naïve Christians (e.g., Catholic priest on TV in 1991: "I may not agree with Billy Graham when it comes to his Ecclesiology, but I do agree with him when he says, 'Ye must be born again.'"), it's just a matter of time before short-term-memory Protestants cave to the ecumenical movement. It happened in the "New Apostolic Reformation" camp via Kenneth Copeland two years ago!

Okay, I've said enough... almost. One more concern: Crusade preaches a version of the "modern gospel" via its emphasis on God's love vs. God's righteousness and holiness. While "de-personalizing" sin (Law 2 of "The Four Spiritual Laws" booklet: "Man is sinful and separated from God..." vs. "Here is how YOU are sinful and separated from God") it gets people to "pray a prayer" devoid of a biblical emphasis on repentance and faith and, when they do, pronounces them "Christians" (with a heavy emphasis on assurance of salvation). While evangelism has been Crusade's "bread and butter" since its founding in 1951, I'm afraid it has produced more false converts than genuine believers over the years. To its credit, my wife converted through a presentation of "4 Laws," but how many have been assured they had become Christians because they repeated the words of a model prayer, only to discover that they had little or no hunger for - and obedience of - the Word of God just days after such a "decision?" As Paul Washer says (and I'm paraphrasing), "Yes, people can genuinely be converted through such a presentation, but they will convert 'in spite of' the presentation and not 'because of' it." In other words, God is bigger than "The Four Spiritual Laws" (or the more modern booklet in greater use by CCC, "Knowing God Personally"), but meanwhile, how many false converts is this unbiblical approach adding to Evangelical Christianity? And if compromises can be made in such an important area as Soteriology, what about Theology Proper, Christology, etc.?!

[To his credit, Dr. Bill Bright backed away from his "modern evangelism" approach at the end of his life, which his little book "Heaven and Hell: Your Ultimate Choice" can attest to. What's sad is that this little book is largely unknown to most Campus Crusade staff.]

PuritanReformed said...

Hi Bill,

I agree with the problems in Crusade, which are the problems with Evangelicalism as a whole. There is nothing much to be done about this except to continue to call them to biblical fidelity, and focus on building the strong churches that are needed to weather the inevitable collapse of orthodoxy among Evangelicals (if it hasn't happened yet).