June 25, 2006

Profiles in Subversion

The Strange Career of Donald Grey Barnhouse

Part 4: Marxist “Prophet” in a Religious Mantle
– Continued from Part 3 –

Donald Barnhouse, 1957
Eternity Magazine
Author of a Revised “Christianity”: Donald Barnhouse influences aspiring missionaries at the Fifth International Student Missionary Convention, held at the University of Illinois at Urbana, 1957. (Eternity Magazine, March 1958).
What sort of religious doctrines would a Communist agent promote in Christianity? As one of the founding leaders of the modern evangelical movement, Communist-affiliated preacher Donald Barnhouse had to maintain his conservative reputation, yet he constantly worked to insinuate subtle but dangerous changes into traditional Christian belief:

  • He published articles favoring anti-religious philosophies, implying they had something in common with Christian values. He particularly showed interest in Sigmund Freud and Sören Kierkegaard, whose psychological doctrines sneered at truth, advocating instead the amoral pursuit of “self-realization” — essentially the pursuit of one’s personal desires instead of subjecting oneself to higher duties imposed by G-d.1
  • To the extent that he couldn’t turn evangelical Christians into Marxists, Barnhouse tried at least to keep them uninvolved in current issues. So he constantly alternated between calling for leftist activism and opposing any activism at all. In the latter case, he pushed hard in favor of a pessimistic, defeatist theology that discouraged influencing society at large as a waste of time. He preached the notion of “the total incapacity of man to do any lasting good for himself or his fellows,” in stark opposition to Biblical teachings of the good deeds through which G-d commands man to transform the physical world.2 “We are not here to steer the thinking of the world,” Barnhouse slyly declared on another occasion. “We are not here to change the world… but to witness against it and to save as many individuals out of the wreck as we possibly can before the final crash comes.”3 Unless, of course, one was a Marxist, in which case Barnhouse championed full, aggressive activism to transform the political structure of the world immediately.
  • Barnhouse wanted no moral influence by Christians on their surrounding society. Thus he argued forcefully and constantly for removing all religious influence from public schools — while adamantly insisting on maximum government funding to maintain the system of non-religious (or anti-religious) public schools. He went so far as to condemn religious conservatives who warned this would lead to immorality and a breakdown in education — precisely what has, in fact, taken place ever since.4
  • Christianity has always struggled with the tension between its two opposing traditions: Jewish monotheism, seen in its translations of the Hebrew Scriptures under the name “Old Testament,” and paganism, which dominates the writing and content of the “New Testament.” Following the Satanic aims of the ancient nation of Amalek, Communism seeks to remove the Jewish aspects of Christianity in favor of the pagan ones. Barnhouse, accordingly, would periodically give favorable descriptions of ancient, idolatrous cultures. In reviewing Mayan Indian society, for example, he admitted that “there were human sacrifices,” but immediately insisted that “the primitive religion of the Mayans was rather pure and ethical.”5 The Hebrew Bible, on the other hand, records G-d’s condemnation of idol-worship as the lowest, most degenerate form of human existence.
  • Barnhouse repeatedly tried to introduce witchcraft practices into Christianity in the form of the Pentecostal or “Charismatic” movement, which turns religion upside-down into a personal, emotional, often hysterical experience. Pentecostalism hypnotically mesmerizes its followers into trance-like states of speaking gibberish, often performs magic-medicine referred to as “faith healing,” and practices various other forms of sorcery and divination disguised as “Christianity.” Communists in Cuba, Africa, and elsewhere have actively encouraged ritualistic cults of witchcraft, and Barnhouse — together with his comrades in the Marxist National Council of Churches (NCC) — similarly promoted the controversial Pentecostalism decades before its current mass popularity.6
  • Undermining the Jewish side of Christianity proved more difficult, given the growing interest in Jewish affairs by fundamentalist Christians, especially in the wake of the establishment of Israel in 1948. But Barnhouse nevertheless attacked Judaism head-on, pouring his anti-Semitic venom at traditional, orthodox rabbis for enforcing 3,300-year-old Jewish Law in Israel. Barnhouse admitted he hated the rabbis and traditional Jewish practice as much as he despised Spanish anti-Communist leader Francisco Franco, defended the Marxist-aligned “Reform” movement that seeks to subvert Jewish traditions, and labeled traditional Judaism a “sect” that was too “extreme.”7 His Eternity magazine also featured, in every issue, a stunning array of advertisements for programs seeking to missionize Jews to Christianity, rather than learning from Jews as so many Christians had done in past centuries. Barnhouse personally editorialized in favor of the anti-Judaism crusade, including endorsing precisely such a drive launched by the Leftist leaders of the NCC-affiliated United Presbyterian Church in 1958.8 Provoking Christians to preach at Jews, rather than listening, was an effective way to poison Christian attitudes while stirring up Jewish-Christian tensions — thus accomplishing the Communist objective of blocking Jewish influence on Christians.
  • Barnhouse tried to subvert the growing Christian interest in end-times prophecy by slipping in heretical notions disguised as “prophecy,” mixed among authentic traditions of prophecy drawn from Jewish sources such as the Talmud (without crediting his true sources). As early as 1931, he tried to wrap Marxist propaganda in Christian clothing by predicting, in the name of the Bible, a growing gap between rich and poor leading to class warfare — the exact opposite of how capitalist economies have since developed.9 Seeking to distract attention from the Communist enemy, Barnhouse also tried to refocus Christian opposition to a mythical ten-nation revival of the Roman Empire led by Rome, something that has not happened and which Jewish prophecy teaches will never take place.10 And to provoke a Christian rebellion against the true Messiah, Barnhouse described the prophetic return of gentiles to G-d’s Law and the permanent rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple as merely temporary events inspired by some secret evil force — in stark contrast to the traditions of Jewish prophecy, which clearly teach there will be no “false Messiah” ruling the Jewish people, no “false Temple,” and no “false Law.”11 Traditional Christianity had no such beliefs in its nearly twenty centuries of existence, until Barnhouse and his comrades introduced them under the guise of evangelicalism.

Some of Barnhouse’s subversion survived his death in 1960, its strong imprint found widely today in modern evangelical Christianity; other parts of his agenda fell by the wayside. His heaviest Marxist influence has been felt through evangelical leaders he promoted, including Walter Martin and Billy Graham. But by the same token, the credibility of the newer evangelical spokesmen will sink as Barnhouse’s Communist ties become more widely known.


1. Grounds, V., “Has Freud anything for Christians?”, Eternity, July 1956, pp. 8-9, 46-48; Ramm, B., “The Danish timebomb,” Eternity, July 1958, pp. 5-7, 47.

2. Barnhouse, D.G., “The sky and the weather,” Eternity, April 1956, p. 37.

3. Barnhouse, D.G., “Editorials,” Eternity, Sept. 1956, p. 11.

4. Barnhouse, D.G. & Hitt, R.T., Eds., “Window on the world,” Eternity, Oct. 1955, p. 16; “What about Kennedy?”, Eternity, Feb. 1958, p. 31; Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Eternity, Aug. 1958, p. 34; Carlson, C.E., “Religion in public education,” Eternity, Dec. 1958, pp. 20-22, 44-45.

5. Barnhouse, D.G., “The editor visits Mexico’s Mayan ruins,” Eternity, May 1956, p. 7.

6. Barnhouse, D.G., “Finding fellowship with Pentecostals,” Eternity, April 1958, pp. 8-10.

7. Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Eternity, April 1958, p. 33.

8. Ibid., p. 32; Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Aug. 1958, Op cit., p. 34.

9. Barnhouse, D.G., “The sky and the weather,” Op cit., pp. 22-23, 36-39.

10. Ibid.; Barnhouse, D.G., “What to recent developments in France mean to the Christian?”, Eternity, Aug. 1958, p. 9.

11. Barnhouse, D.G., “Window on the world,” Eternity, Nov. 1958, pp. 31-32.