June 18, 2006

Profiles in Subversion

The Strange Career of Donald Grey Barnhouse

Part 3: Agent of the Red Underground
– Continued from Part 2 –

Soviet agents in charge of Russian Baptists, 1956
Eternity Magazine
Barnhouse’s KGB Allies: Soviet agents in control of Russian Baptists, on a 1956 visit to America. From left: James Zhidkov, Klaudia Tyrtov, Nikolai Levindanto, Alexander Karev, and Ilya Ivanov. (Eternity Magazine, July 1956).
Every Communist action produces an opposing reaction by conservative forces. The Communists know that well, and never attack until they have penetrated the future “reactionary” camp with their agents, who stand ready to throw confusion and fragmentation into conservative ranks at the critical moment. Among fundamentalist Christians, one of those leading “sleeper” agents was Dr. Donald Barnhouse, a founder of the modern evangelical movement.

Having prepared for decades through gradual infiltration, the underground Communist network launched its “modernist” assault on Protestant Christianity from within, led by agents posing as ministers and coordinated by the Marxist Federal Council of Churches (FCC), in the 1910s and 1920s. As expected, conservative clergy and theologians rose up in protest. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, president of Princeton Seminary, led the rebellion by resigning in 1929, shortly after the Left had taken full control of Princeton. As he and his fellow conservatives spoke out more strongly against the subversion, the newly Marxist-controlled Presbyterian denomination defrocked and expelled Machen and his allies.1

The storm had already enveloped all major Protestant denominations. Yet Donald Barnhouse, also a Presbyterian and supposedly a member of Machen’s fundamentalist camp, neither fought the “modernists” nor resigned from the denomination — nor did the new Marxist leaders ever try to expel him. That fact alone raised considerable suspicion of Barnhouse in fundamentalist circles.2

As the FCC reorganized itself into the National Council of Churches (NCC) in 1950 and its affiliated World Council of Churches (WCC) by 1954, Barnhouse not only did not protest the increasingly open Marxism, he actually remained a member of the NCC and condemned the fundamentalists for refusing to participate.3 In 1954, Barnhouse openly abandoned the fundamentalists and fully endorsed the NCC and WCC, even while both organizations were being led by either Communists from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe or by “ministers” with open ties to the Communist Party and its front organizations, and while both groups were officially promoting Communist publications and political causes.4 In the same article in which he repeatedly condemned conservative fundamentalists, Barnhouse brazenly declared that “some of the officials of the National Council of Churches are humble, dedicated men” with genuine religious belief.5 He even tried to paint New York’s notorious Riverside Church, a perpetual center of Marxist revolutionary organizing created by the leftist radicals of the Rockefeller family, as turning to “theological conservatism.”6

Naturally, Barnhouse showered his affection equally on the International Missionary Council (IMC), a Marxist precursor of the Soviet-controlled WCC. When the IMC and the WCC brokered an official merger between the two organizations in 1958 — at a meeting in Communist Ghana hosted and addressed by brutal Marxist dictator Kwame Nkrumah — Barnhouse covered the event favorably, even quoting Nkrumah’s comments as guidelines for Christians to follow.7 The IMC’s well-deserved reputation for sending Leftist missionaries into the field didn’t bother Barnhouse in the least; in fact, he directly echoed the Communist line by publishing a call for missionaries to stop bringing positive cultural influence to primitive societies.8

The Marxist Left showered Barnhouse with equal friendliness. Since the 1920s, the CBS radio broadcasting network enthusiastically promoted Barnhouse and turned him into a household name throughout America; by the mid-1950s, Barnhouse’s show moved to NBC to receive that network’s unusual favor.9 Both broadcasting networks had established clear reputations for refusing airtime to religious programming while supporting leftist politics, yet they easily embraced Barnhouse. The National Council of Churches joined in by 1955, officially sponsoring Barnhouse as its co-host in a new television program from coast to coast.10

Other Communist-controlled organizations also promoted Barnhouse’s career and influence. The Fifth International Student Missionary Convention, for example, featured Barnhouse as a speaker on the theme “One L-rd, One Church, One World.”11 Barnhouse wasn’t just using religious metaphors; he had previously made clear he did, in fact, endorse the (Communist) goal of a world government.12 Presiding over much of the convention was the general secretary of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), C. Stacey Woods, herself a barely disguised Marxist to whom Barnhouse later opened his Eternity magazine to promote her pro-Communist agenda.13

Swimming in such a stream of Communist ties, Barnhouse predictably worked to promote close relations between American evangelicals and churches under control of the Soviet KGB secret police, thus opening doors for KGB penetration among conservative fundamentalists. For example:

  • The Soviet Union had organized the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christian Baptists, an umbrella front group controlling Protestant fundamentalists behind the iron curtain; as KGB agents, its leaders were free to travel outside the Soviet Union to deny all reports of mass murder in concentration camps, to promote the notion that some religious freedom existed in their Communist-occupied country, and to establish “friendships” with unsuspecting Americans. Barnhouse shamelessly endorsed the Council and its president, James Zhidkov, with a feature article complete with cover photo, and continued promoting the Council’s leaders as legitimate and trustworthy.14
  • Barnhouse extended his warmth for Red “Christians” to Josef Hromadka, hand-picked by Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party as its official head of Protestant Christianity in the country. Hromadka didn’t just work with the Communists; he so publicly endorsed Communism itself, including the brutal 1956 invasion of Hungary and the murderous occupation and war in Korea, that Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev personally awarded him the Lenin Peace Prize in 1958. During those years, Hromadka remained a member of the World Council of Churches’ Executive Committee, prominent among numerous Soviet Bloc Communists running the organization.15 Defying anti-Communist outrage, Barnhouse lavished Hromadka with praise as a genuine evangelical leader and virtually as a religious martyr.16

An undercover Communist agent with widespread influence as a religious leader does not restrict himself to a Marxist political agenda; he also works to transform the religious theology and practice themselves, to undermine monotheistic faith. Barnhouse played that role, too.

– Continued in Part 4 –


1. Stanford, M.J., “Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse and Neo-Evangelicalism,” withchrist.org, 1977 (retrieved May 18, 2006), part 1.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.; Barnhouse, D.G., “Editorials,” Eternity, March 1958, pp. 6-7.

4. Stanford, M.J., Op cit., part 2; Bundy, E.C., Apostles of Deceit, Church League of America, Wheaton, IL, 1966.

5. Barnhouse, D.G., “Editorials,” March 1958, Op cit.

6. Bundy, E.C., Op cit., pp. 40-41; Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Eternity, Aug. 1958, p. 34.

7. Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Eternity, March 1958, p. 30.

8. Glasser, A.F., “New Books,” Eternity, April 1956, p. 28.

9. Hopkins, P.A., “Dr. Barnhouse moves to N.B.C. network July 1st,” Eternity, July 1956, pp. 6-7.

10. Hopkins, P.A., “Television: ‘Man to Man’,” Eternity, Oct. 1955, pp. 6-7.

11. Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” March 1958, Op cit., pp. 30-31.

12. Leitch, A.H., “The theological conflict,” Eternity, May 1956, p. 44.

13. Woods, S., “What I saw in Latin America,” Eternity, Sep. 1958, p. 35.

14. Lawrence, J., “Here are the facts about Russian Protestants,” Eternity, Nov. 1955, pp. 8-9, 54-55; Barnhouse, D.G. & Hitt, R.T., Eds., “Window on the world,” Eternity, July 1956, p. 19.

15. Bundy, E.C., Op cit., pp. 89, 102, 504; Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Eternity, Sept. 1958, p. 36.

16. Barnhouse, D.G. & Hitt, R.T., Eds., “Window on the world,” Eternity, May 1956, p. 14.