Saturday, July 23, 2011

"CRU": Sadly, A Very Fitting Name

cru

(Disclaimer: In presenting this critique, it is not my intention to imply that every member within CCCI is in harmony with what is here criticized. It is my intent to offer this word of warning with the hope that it may do others good, perhaps even those who now serve in CCCI).

This week Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI) announced that after a two year process of study, prayer, and deliberation, it will be "rebranding" the organization's identity to that of CRU in an effort to "be more effective in sharing the gospel and to see even more people come to faith in Christ." This announcement has stirred much disappointment and surprise among Evangelicals, especially in light of their choice to drop the name of Christ.

What surprises me is that so many are surprised by this.

CCCI and I go way back to my earliest years as a Christian. Even my first seminary class that I ever took was from CCCI's own school - the International School of Theology - ISOT. As well, throughout my years in the ministry I have had to face various influences brought on by the teachings of CCCI. The greatest such influence is found in what is called the "Four Spiritual Laws," written by CCCI's own founder, Bill Bright.[1] Overall, I agree with CCCI's proposed name change which is due to be implemented next year. In many ways, the new name says a great deal about the organization itself. But before explaining my affirmation, I should point out the following:

1. The word crusade is, historically speaking, a troubling term to say the least. In view of the nine or so religious/military crusades launched between the 11th-13th centuries, there is much within these campaigns that demands close scrutiny. What is most noble in the earliest campaigns is the effort to protect and defend Jerusalem's people and territory, but sadly, these crusades degraded severely into reckless and riotous endeavors over time. Overall, all of these crusades were saturated with motivations that were rooted in Roman Catholic dogma, including the promise of plenary absolution for all who would take the journey to Jerusalem and fight.[2] For this reason, I would have no hesitation in dropping the word crusade at all. Frankly, I never would have used it in the first place.

2. CCCI's stated desire to avoid offense in the presentation of the Gospel should have produced no surprise at all. In fact, the historic focus of CCCI has been to present a Gospel message that is devoid of any significant offense at all. In stating this, the reader should know that there is no value or merit in the introduction of offense in our Gospel preaching for the sake of being offensive. Our goal is not to be offensive when sharing Christ, however, our goal must never be to remove the inherent offense of the Gospel. When we remove the offensive elements of the Gospel, we remove some of the core tenants of its message. Thus, the historic premise of the four spiritual laws reveals the point here addressed: Law 1 - God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. While true in a limited sense, this is only half the Gospel's message, especially in view of mankind's sin and active enmity against God. And though the second law does speak of sin, the presentation of the subject is tepid at best: Law 2 - Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life. When we combine these two fundamental "laws" within the Four Spiritual Laws of CCCI, we find a significant contrast of thought to that of the Eternal Gospel in God's Word: Revelation 14:6-7: 6. And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7. and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” Telling men to "fear God" and "give Him glory because the hour of His judgment has come" bears a strong offense to the natural man. What is emphasized in Revelation 14:6-7 (which is a summary of the biblical Gospel) is the worthiness of God, not man. However, when reading the Four Spiritual Laws, one is inclined to think that it is man who is deeply worthy in the Gospel's equation, and that a loving God wants desperately for such a salvation to work out in view of that worthiness. The Four Spiritual laws is utterly bankrupt of any mention of the pending doom that comes to those who reject the Gospel. Instead, those who reject such an un-offensive "Gospel" tend to walk away from God without understanding what an offense they are to Him. What they do not understand is that, without Christ, the wrath of God abides on them (John 3:36).

3. CCCI's founding president, Bill Bright, revealed throughout his life that he had a longstanding deference towards religious ecumenism. As one of the most prominent co-signers of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document (ECT, 1994), Bright showed the world that his version of the gospel was broad enough to embrace the works-righteousness system of thinking found within Roman Catholicism. However, the genuine Gospel is violently at odds with the false gospel of Rome. Thus, this is just another indicator of CCCI's historic endeavors to eliminate the Gospel's offense and divisiveness when it comes, not just to secularists, but to religionists as well.

ccci

Which leads me to my affirmation of the name change to CRU. In many respects, this new name represents everything that CCCI has been becoming over the years.

Campus: Their loss of the word Campus is somewhat insignificant, though understandable. Though the word poses no offense, it should be an obvious choice in view of the fact that their labors clearly extend far beyond college campuses. However, their other choices are, at best, disturbing -

Christ: The removal of the name of Christ is deeply troubling, but understandable in view of their history as an organization. In many respects, this is just another rung in the ladder that CCCI has been climbing for years in its pursuit of an un-offensive "Gospel." Certainly, the name of Christ does offend people, just as the genuine message of the Gospel itself offends people. By removing the name of Christ, CCCI has shown itself for what it is - an organization that is more concerned about offending men than it is about offending God.

Crusade: Strangely, the only term that should have been removed (for the reasons stated above) is the term that they have chosen to retain, but in abbreviated form. In many respects, this further exposes the historic practices and procedures of CCCI. For years now they have chosen to hide and veil matters before a watching world. Thus, instead of laying their cards out on the table when presenting themselves to the culture, CCCI has had this tendency of masking themselves and their message in an attempt to become more relevant and acceptable within this fallen world. Strangely, their rebranding efforts will most likely backfire on them. When an unbeliever comes to ask the question - "what does CRU stand for?" the CRU "missionary" will then have the awkward responsibility of having to explain this troubling term. Unwittingly, in their effort to remove stumbling blocks and unnecessary offenses, they have actually managed to magnify a very irrelevant offense - one that has nothing to do with the Gospel at all. While I don't delight in their choices – I truly don’t -  I must confess that I have little surprise in this.

Sadly, CRU is a very fitting name indeed.


[1] CCCI was founded in 1951, and the Four Spiritual Laws tract was made in the next year in 1952.
[2]"The Crusades furnished the popes the occasion to issue indulgences on a magnificent scale. Urban II,’s indulgence, 1095, granting plenary absolution to all taking the journey to Jerusalem was the first of a long series of such papal franchises. That journey, Urban said, should be taken as a substitute for all penance." Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1997). History of the Christian church. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.