Is it permissible for Christians to belong to the Gideons’ society?
Since the Gideons’ organization is unknown to the Scriptures, I cannot supply you with an answer that is based upon explicit Bible testimony. I can, however, cite some principles which should be helpful in reaching a decision on this matter.
Who Are the Gideons?
The Gideons International association is an organized group of business men that had its beginning in 1899 in Wisconsin. The founders were men of varying denominational backgrounds who had a common interest in advancing Christianity, as they viewed it.
Accordingly, these gentlemen organized a group of traveling professional men who would promote their message. They named themselves the Gideons after the biblical judge who led the Israelites in victory over the pagan Midianites during those “dark ages” of Hebrew history (Judges 6-7).
The main emphasis of this movement is to “win individuals to faith in Christ, particularly through the free distribution of Scripture” (Freundt 1974, 412).
Objections to the Gideons Organization
While we commend the motives of these gracious people—and certainly we are in agreement with the goal to which they aspire, namely, the widespread distribution of the Scriptures—we cannot but raise some objections:
Unity in division
The Gideons ignore many fundamentals of biblical truth, combining various denominationalists who agree to work together for a common cause, in spite of serious doctrinal differences.
The movement thus promotes a bogus type of “unity” that is contrary to New Testament teaching (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10ff). Unity is to be grounded on more than noble motives; it must be anchored in truth, not compromise.
Yoked with denominationalism
Christians are “complete” in Christ (Colossians 2:10). They are to glorify God “in the church” (Ephesians 3:21). They are, therefore, perfectly capable of proclaiming the true gospel, distributing the Scriptures, etc., without having to affiliate with a conglomerate of denominationalists.
Why cannot Christians accomplish their own objectives without entering the “yoke” of fellowship with those who teach and practice that which does not conform to the New Testament? (2 Corinthians 6:14). This is a puzzling phenomenon.
A crucial question,therefore, is this: why would a New Testament Christian feel the need of joining with the Gideons, or any other sectarian association (e.g., The Salvation Army or Promise Keepers) for the purpose of implementing Christ’s will?
An inclination in that direction reveals a serious lack of understanding of what true Christianity is about.
For a related discussion, see What’s Wrong with the Promise Keepers Movement?