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"The Four Spiritual Laws" vs. Paul's Gospel

From _Campus Crusade Examined in the Light of Scripture._ by Dr. Charles Woodbridge.
The content was originally published in English.

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[Dr. Woodbridge was supportive of Campus Crusade in its earliest days but had to withdraw his support and begin sounding a Scriptural warning because of the wrong path this organization has taken.]

Basing my judgment upon the plain teaching of the Bible, I regard these “Laws” as a totally inadequate, indeed an emasculated and misleading presentation of the blessed Gospel of the Son of God.

If they had been entitled “Four Pious Principles” instead of “The Four Spiritual Laws,” perhaps I should have little to say by way of rebuttal.

But to begin with, the use of the definite article “The” is disturbing. The implication is that the “Laws,” as the Crusade presents them, are exclusive, definitive and thoroughly adequate. Having discovered and embraced them, a fortunate seeker is presumably bound for Heaven.

When one purports to reduce any subject to four central descriptive items, logic dictates that he must not eliminate from these items the essential ingredients of the matter under discussion. When a physician is prescribing for his patient, he must not remove from his formula necessary but perhaps disagreeable or unpalatable drugs. No faithful analyst, when seeking to abbreviate, must relegate to footnotes the crucial areas of the subject he is publicizing. He must spell out in no uncertain terms – whether his readers are impressed favorably or not – the precise, basic, fundamental, and differentiating character of his proposition.

I believe that Campus Crusade has tragically failed to do this. As the result there is every probability that great numbers of earnest students, whose response to the “Laws” has seemed to be affirmative, have a false and unwarranted sense of spiritual security. If my deduction is correct – and the evidence would lead me to believe that it is – this would be a tragedy of great proportions.

Years ago I wrote the Director of the Crusade with this in mind. I had the positive, constructive, but admittedly forlorn hope that I might be able to help him to extricate his movement from the doctrinal inadequacies in which “The Four Spiritual Laws” had enmeshed him. I received no reply to my letter. Years have elapsed since them. I now feel that it is my solemn duty under God to speak out in defense of the old, well-tested, and thoroughly proved ways.

First, let us examine the “Laws” as a whole, always bearing in mind by way of contrast the glory and wonder of the Biblical Gospel of Grace.

In each of the four “Laws” mention is made of the Divine plan for a person's life. The story is as follows: God has a wonderful plan for a man's life; because of man's adverse spiritual condition he cannot know that plan for his life; when the proper steps are taken he can know the plan for his life.

This is not the way in which the Gospel is proclaimed in the Bible. The Crusade's approach is anthropocentric (“man-centered”). It implies that the summum bonum, the pivotal issue, is that an individual may know God's wonderful plan for his life.

The Biblical approach is theocentric (“God-centered”). The writers first laid the background of the being and attributes of God, sublime in His sovereignty, ineffable in His majesty and holiness. They quickly stressed the blazing fact that the righteousness of God has been outraged by human sin and that apart from Divine, unmerited grace, man's deadly guilt (Romans 3:19) will bring upon him the wrath of God (Romans 1:18), the deserved judgment of the Lord (Romans 2:2), and ensuing death (Romans 6:23). The amazing be-all and end-all of the Gospel, according to the Bible, is not what man may or may not know about the Divine plan for his life; but it is the everlasting glory of the living God.

How different all this is from the “Four Spiritual Laws.” The hell- deserving sinner has far more to reflect upon, prior to his salvation, than the optimistic confidence that somewhere in the dim blue “yonder” God has a satisfying plan for his life!


But now to “Law One” itself: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Then two footnotes: John 3:16 and John 10:10. (Is it not astounding that John 3:16 could possibly be in anybody's footnote!)

A few reflections concerning this first “Law.”

First, the booklet announcing these “Laws” is used indiscriminately with believers and unbelievers. May I ask a rather obvious question? Precisely what “wonderful plan” does God have for the unbelieving sinner who steadfastly and persistently rejects Christ Jesus as Saviour? Answer: the “lake that burneth with fire.” This is an awesome, rather than a “wonderful,” prospect.

Second, is not the Crusade aware of the fact that even a pious Mohammedan might believe that the compassionate God might have a plan for his life?

This being true, the Crusade is left with only three distinctively Christian “Laws.”

Third, who is the “God” to whom the Crusade refers in Law One? When the apostles wrote of Him, it was against a religious background of understanding – their Hebrew readers knew Who God is. But when Paul spoke to Gentiles on the Areopagus (Acts 17), he explained Who the Almighty is.

The Crusade must not take it for granted that this confused, untaught generation of college students knows Who the Lord God is. At the very outset of the “Laws” it should be made clear Who the One is with Whom the students have to do. He is the Holy, Sovereign, Omnipotent Creator of the universe.

This observation on my part is not a vague fancy. I heard one of the Crusade's bright and shining lights, a university football star, give his public testimony. He referred to the God of the ages as “the man upstairs.” Some may regard this as justified puerility [immaturity]. I regard it as blasphemy. I happened to be the other speaker that evening. Before I addressed the crowd, I turned to the student and told him bluntly that before he witness to others he should be sure that he himself had been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God and that he really knew the living and true God.

I do not imply for a moment that the Crusade leaders should give all their hearers a course in systematic theology. But I insist that when men and women handle the things of God they must make clear Who He is, the ineffable [too overpowering to be expressed in words!] Lord of Glory.

A defender of the Crusade might reply: “'The Four Spiritual Laws' are just a summary of truth. The personal workers fill in the gaps.” To this explanation my answer is twofold.

First, when one is reducing any subject to four basic points, it is the height of folly to omit crucial matters with the trivial explanation that assistants will subsequently explain them. For example, if one is summarizing the theme “Aviation,” he will not omit the fact that airplanes have wings and a motor, in the confident expectation that the learner will have these addenda elucidated by assistants after his effort to take off from the earth!

Second, if the Crusade assistants do in fact try to explain Who God is, they seem to fail dismally. Else why the shallowness and flippancy in the “testimonies” of so many of their “converts”?


And now the Crusade's second “Spiritual Law”: “Man is sinful and separated from God.”

So far so good. I commend the Crusade for putting the matter so plainly.

But Bible believers, taught in the Word of God, might well expect the “Law” to be expanded so as to include its inevitable corollaries.

What are these Biblical corollaries? In a footnote Romans 3:23 and 6:23 are quoted. An explanatory note indicates that the sinner goes his own independent way and fellowship with God is broken; evidence of sin is an “attitude” of active rebellion or of passive indifference.

But no uninformed college student, meditating upon this second “Law,” could possibly understand that sin is far more than an attitude of independence or rebellion. God has given to sinful man His Holy Law, which reflects His perfect nature and sovereign will. Sin is an open, flagrant breach of that Law or a stubborn refusal to obey it. Apart from the Law of God sin cannot possibly be understood. It is far worse than an “attitude” or a going on one's own “independent way.” It is primarily a heart condition, but it is also an act wrought in defiance of the will of God.

What are the consequences of this heart condition and defiance? The second “Law” states that the sinner is “separated” from God and is out of fellowship with Him. The Bible is far more detailed and explicit. It tells the sinner in no uncertain terms precisely what the separation and loss of fellowship involve. The consequences of willful disobedience are horrible indeed. The Bible speaks of “hell.” It reminds us of the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). It suggests the endless, conscious torment of Christ- rejecting sinners. This is the dreadful doom of unbelievers. And it is from this that believers are saved by grace.

For all this the Crusade substitutes in its second “Law,” apart from a modest footnote quoting Romans 6:23, the dismal consequence that as the result of the sinner's separation from God “he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life!”

The trouble with this statement is that it is not only weak and anti- climactic, but it is also falsely oriented and misleading. It breeds a naive and unwarranted optimism.

In the first place it is, as in the case of the first “Law,” man-centered and thus out of line with the total revelation of God. The paramount result of sin and separation appears to be the unfortunate inconvenience that the sinner has lost the sense of God's love and plan for his life!

Secondly, the “Law” omits what the Bible never omits – the eternal, unmitigated, drastic consequences of sin and separation. How can a person possibly know what it is to be saved unless he is made aware of that from which he is saved? Why not follow the Biblical pattern and tell the whole truth?

Once more the Crusade's rejoinder might be: “We are simply giving a readily understandable summary of truth. We have not space within the confines of the second 'Law' to tell the whole truth.” But frankly, can even a “summary” of the Gospel which is worthy to be used as a basis of witnessing to college students possibly eliminate a clear presentation of the actual consequences of sin?

Thirdly – and this is simply an observation – the separated sinner who persists in rejecting the proffered love of God will certainly know the Divine plan for his life! That plan is the “Judgment of the great white throne” and “the lake that burneth with fire”!

Am I unduly critical? Is this merely a conflict between two relatively similar concepts? Is the Crusade's view simply an exposition of the thoughts of a newer, perhaps more enlightened, generation? Let me assure my readers that nothing could be farther from the truth.

One of the leading Crusade writers has let the cat out of the bag. The Crusade, to put it bluntly, does not like the idea of “hell,” so far as their witness is concerned. The writer in question has carefully explained that in testifying to college students. Crusaders “for 'hell' should substitute 'eternal separation from God.'”

Please do not think that I am quibbling about unimportant ideas. Have you recently studied Romans or Hebrews or Revelation? May I mildly inquire by what authority the Crusade spokesman chooses what words of the Bible he desires to eliminate? And lest any of my readers are still doubtful about the validity of my argument, may I remind them that the same writer has the audacity to declare – and I cannot but wonder why a multitude of old-fashioned Bible believers do not arise in holy protest – that for the word “saved” “we substitute … (in the beginning at least) 'entering into a personal relationship with Christ.'”

Thus the terrors of Divine wrath are neatly minimized and, probably from the poor student who simply wants a plan for his life, eliminated! The totality of truth is abbreviated, not actually because the “Laws” are a mere “summary,” but because the Crusade has taken it upon itself to abbreviate it!


The Crusade's third “Law” really troubles me. It does indeed state that Christ is “God's only provision for sin.” Splendid! It quotes verses in footnotes (of all places) which indicate that Christ died in our place, that He is the only way to the Father, and that He bridged the chasm between the sinner and God.

But the difficulty is that the “Law” does not tell us Who Jesus Christ is.

College students on the whole have only a glimmering of truth in this area.

Coming, as most of them do, from modernist churches or godless cultures, they do not know that Jesus Christ is God, the everlasting Son of the Father, Who existed from eternity in the bosom of the Father, and Who for the sins of a rebellious race became incarnate and suffered, bled, and died for the remission of our sins.

Moreover, the third “Law” makes no mention of the incarnation, the vicarious blood atonement, the resurrection of the eternal Son “for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Thus it does not really explain what it means by “God's only provision.” This is not the apostolic mode of presentation. “Without the shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Such verses as these make the matter plain. Any “Law” which may make passing, appeasing references to related verses but which fails to disclose the identity of our blessed Lord or to mention His outpoured blood for sinners does not remotely resemble the Gospel preaching of the apostles. Is Campus Crusade trying to avoid “the offense of the cross”? It appears to be doing exactly that.

And, according to the third “Law,” what is the net result of Christ's being “God's only provision for man's sin”? Is it a paean of praise from worshipping hosts of angels around the throne? Is it the eternal adoration of believers in glory because the God-man's work of redemption has been consummated on behalf of lost sinners? Is it antiphonal echoes of wonder resounding through the corridors of Heaven?

The third “Law” gives the answer: “Through Him you can know God's love and plan for your life”! Words fail me. How incomplete and man-centered can a movement be?


And now the fourth “Law”: “We must receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord by personal invitation; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.”

This “Law” might be regarded as helpful if “Law” Three had explained precisely Who Christ is, how He saved sinners, and what it means for one to call Him Saviour and risen Lord. But the third “Law” has left a great vacuum. No wonder college Crusaders seem to be so uninformed. May I show what I mean?

In the Crusade's Collegiate Challenge (Vol. 6, No. 2) we read: “Val talked with a girl who wasn't very interested, but as she listened to the Four Spiritual Laws, she decided to invite Christ into her life. Then she told her girl friend who had also received Christ. 'Our week had been so dull, but what a change.' Her friend replied, 'Yeah, now we're in the in-group.'” Some sentimental, uninstructed soul might breathe a sympathetic sigh and remark, “Isn't that sweet?” But I should like to ask every truly informed reader a pointed question: “Does this sound to you like genuine Biblical conversion on the basis of Christ's atoning work and through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit of the living God?” Of course it does not. And why should it?

In a sheet prepared by Campus Crusade entitled “How to Prepare a Personal Testimony,” their workers are told: “Don't use … words such as 'saved,' 'convicted,' 'converted,' 'born again,' and 'sin.'” These words may be precious to the Crusaders, it is intimated, but “they do not communicate truth to the average non-Christian.”

If this dogmatic thesis were true – and praise the Lord it is not – how in the world have faithful evangelists through the years, men of God who used these blessed words in the energy of the Holy Spirit, been so marvelously instrumental in bringing precious souls to Christ? Further, is it not true that the Holy Spirit has blessed the use of these very words in the proclamation of the Gospel to sinners? Was Nicodemus a believer when our Lord told him that he had to be “born again”? Were the people surrounding Simon Peter believers when he warned them: “Repent … and be converted” (Acts 3:19)?

How dare any movement that calls itself “Christian” toss aside lightly the Words of the Omniscient God? Is it to cater to the intellectual or spiritual immaturity of college students? In my opinion this is what Campus Crusade is doing, apparently without fear of weighty contradiction.

May I be a bit more analytical? Three verses of Scripture and words of explanation are given in the footnotes of the fourth “Law.” The verses are:

John 1:12; Eph. 2:8,9; and Rev. 3:20. Of course, we are always delighted to discover the Word of God, even if it is relegated to footnotes, in any set of guidelines which have to do with leading souls to the Saviour. And the words of explanation, if they had a solid foundation, could conceivably be of genuine help. They read: “We must receive Christ; we receive Christ through faith; we receive Christ by personal invitation.” It then adds:

“Receiving Christ involves turning to God from self, trusting Christ to come into our lives, to forgive our sins and to make us to be what He wants us to be.”

All this suggests several questions of supreme importance.

First, not having been told in the first three “Laws” either Who Christ is or how He saved the lost sinner, how can a student really receive the Son of God intelligently as his Saviour?

Second, the word “Saviour” has been bandied about through the centuries.

It is widely misunderstood. It has been given various meanings, some totally false and others deceitfully close to Biblical truth. It is of great importance that true witnesses for Christ always make the title crystal clear.

The followers of Albrecht Ritschl, in referring to Christ, might use the word “Saviour.” They would mean that Jesus saves us, by His moral influence upon our lives, from our base and unworthy motivations.

Mary Baker Eddy, mother of Christian Science, wrote (Science and Health, page 39): “Christ wrought a full salvation from sin, sickness and death.” Yet Christian Science is as far removed from orthodox Christianity as it can possibly be. Behold what Mrs. Eddy actually means: “His consummate example was for the salvation of us all” (page 51). Is it not plain that, in opposition to this sort of false teaching, the true Crusader for Christ must explain that the Lord Jesus saved us from sin by His perfect sacrifice upon Golgatha?

Even Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of America's leading modernists, did not hesitate to write of Christ: “He died as he lived, a savior. That his saviorhood is unique in its scope and impact is obvious, but the principle of it is not unique. We can all share it” (Dear Mr. Brown, page 134). You see, Dr. Fosdick, one of the leading unbelievers of the twentieth century, called Jesus “Savior.” And, demonstrating his infidelity to the Word of God, in the same book (page 136) he speaks of the substitutionary atonement wrought by our Lord as a “pre-civilized barbarity.”

Cannot the Crusade be brought to understand that the Saviourhood of the Son of God must be meticulously explained? Else college students too may speak of Him as “Saviour” while meaning something altogether different from the truth!

What a glorious opportunity is missed in the fourth “Law”! When Christ as He is depicted in the Scriptures is truly received as Saviour, what vistas of rapture break upon the redeemed soul! Now the sinner has been born again into the family of God. Now he has become a joint-heir with the Son of the Father! Now Heaven, with all its infinity of blessing, has its gates flung open to welcome him!

How does the Crusade's fourth “Law” summarize all this wondrous treasure- store of delights? Read its words. Ponder them carefully and, perhaps, a little wistfully. Compare them with the Bible. Understand their man-centered nature. Now at long last, the “Law” reads: “We can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.” What an anti-climactic conclusion!

Why not spell out the truth of God on the basis of the everlasting Word of God? Why not explain the “plan” which the converted sinner may know? It far transcends a student's life choices! It reaches beyond the limits of his life pilgrimage. It leads to and enters the portals of everlasting glory!

Why not tell the student this in no uncertain terms? And why not, in all fairness, warn him that rejection of the Son of God spells not a vague “separation” from God – but the eternal miseries of the lake of fire?

Let the student have all the facts before he makes what the Crusade calls a “commitment.”

(From Campus Crusade Examined in the Light of Scripture by Charles Woodbridge)

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