Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
I would like to share some thoughts about ecumenism. I am not the world’s foremost authority on this topic, but I do read the scriptures and what it has to say, and my approach is strictly from a biblical view. One comment recently made in response to an earlier posting is typical of a perspective held by many Christians today, and the comment included a statement that how I was critiquing certain positions “does not reflect an ecumenical spirit” and is “very divisive”. My reply after reflecting on that is this: achieving an ecumenical spirit is not necessarily my goal. (And being “divisive” is often unavoidable according to the scriptures, i.e. Rom. 16:17-18, Titus 3:10-11, 1 Tim. 6:20-21, Titus 1:9-2:1, James 4:4-8). It is often a consequence of defending the gospel). So I am generally opposed to the idea of the “ecumenical spirit” or ecumenical movement as it is practiced by many today, because I believe that it is one of the many philosophies that are working towards the perversion of the Christian church and the watering down of the gospel.
In the Windsor Hills post, I criticized Professor Doug Hardy of Nazarene Theological Seminary for recommending a great number of books as good resources to be used in the Hardy Library of Spiritual Formation. The vast majority of these books were treatises on a number of saints, monks, priests, and theologians from the Roman Catholic tradition, as well as some current proponents of emergent ideology and “spiritual formation” practices, such as Richard Foster, whose “Celebration of Discipline” is popular in many Nazarene circles. My objection to these books, was not that they were simply to be available for research into unbiblical practices; but that they were recommended for reading as a healthy spiritual resource, as evidenced by the two declared purposes for the use of these books. My objection was on the basis that these books are not the kind of books that ought to be anywhere near a Nazarene or any other Christian library, for the purposes of encouraging spiritual growth or learning about the scriptures! So, to view these books favorably like they are by Dr. Hardy, reflects the “ecumenical spirit” held by so many today in the “evangelical” church. If you honestly look at the facts concerning the mystics in these books (Mystics Who Are being Promoted To Nazarenes) , you would be hard pressed to say these are acceptable for Biblical Christians to use as good resources.
I understand full well that the idea of criticizing the Roman Catholic Church can be a lightning rod that triggers accusations of bigotry, anti-Catholicism, hatred, insensitivity, and on and on. It comes from an erroneous idea that all who verbally profess belief in Jesus Christ are true Christian brothers and sisters, and that we need to get along and ignore our differences, instead focusing on what we share in common. That is a direct oppositional view to the doctrine of separation. Instead of the doctrine of separation, which is biblically grounded, many have chosen the doctrine of ecumenism, which has brought disastrous results. And the most volatile opposition seems to arise when anyone criticizes the doctrines of the RCC. Just to be clear, I am focusing here on the official doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church that it teaches dogmatically (Roman Catholicism And Its Heresies), not on individual members of the RCC. We cannot judge what is in the heart of an individual, but we can judge the doctrine of any church or person in the light of scripture.
So what is the ecumenical movement like? Here is a statement from the ecumenical World Council of Churches website that describes their goal:
“The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21).”
This statement is admirable on it’s face. But who should we fellowship and join together with, and who should we not join together with? While varying groups can express the shared sentiment of “confessing the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior”, does that mean that we are brothers and sisters with all who verbally profess to believe that way? Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” It would seem that doing the will of My father includes obeying the commands in scripture that are clear and absolute, not just simply saying that you believe in the Trinity and a few “essentials of the faith”, ignoring the supposed “less important” teachings.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13
Does the teaching of the RCC and other groups such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses fall in line with doing the will of our Father in heaven, and if not, what is the rationale for pursuing an ecumenical joining with them? We should have fellowship with one another as Christians, but when fellowship with some professing Christians gets compromised by their continual and clear disobedience to the commands of scripture and adherence to a perverted gospel, are we to really continue in fellowship with them, and how would that be justified biblically, which should be the only criteria? It is interesting that many who have argued with me about having fellowship with the RCC, do not argue that same point regarding the Mormon cult, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is inconsistent with their argument that joining hands with the RCC is okay. Mormons believe in a perverted view of the nature of Jesus Christ (Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers), and so do the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Jesus was a created being). Do we really want to say they are true Christian brothers and sisters, just because they profess a belief in Jesus with their mouths? Therefore if someone does not believe in going to ecumenical services with Mormons and and JW’s, what difference is there in going to ecumenical services at a Roman Catholic church?
And so there is a pursuit of this ecumenical spirit with the Roman Catholic Church, which many in the Nazarene denomination seem to be embracing, including those from our seminary, evidenced by their sponsorship of a spiritual formation retreat just before General Assembly, as one example. The RCC believes dogmatically in the following: the veneration of Mary; the praying to saints and icons; the bread of the Mass as the actual body of Christ; the belief in purgatory; the means of salvation being attributed to baptism, works, and the sacraments, instead of grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone. There’s even more. These declarations from the Council of Trent hundeds of years ago still hold full authority today. So for Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism to be seen as the same is a total contradiction, and holding to that view completely ignores the vast differences. One has to compromise their Biblical beliefs as taught in the scriptures, to say that we are one and the same with the Roman Catholic Church. If I am wrong, I would challenge anyone to show me otherwise using the scriptures as the only authority.
But you will not find anything in scripture that justifies the ecumenical philosophy as it is practiced by Rick Warren and many others, and even the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has had 50 years of compromise with the Roman Catholic Church (this is well documented and disturbing, and I report this in spite of my admiration for Graham’s great sermons and his longtime service). Even such admired men as Chuck Colson, who has done some great work, have succumbed to the seduction of ecumenism.
Our motivation should not be an immediate desire for a kind of unity with any professing body that says Jesus is Lord, but rather to spread the gospel that is true and pure to the whole world. Joining hands with those who preach another gospel does not help that goal, it hurts it, and serves only to bring confusion and compromise, which Jesus and the apostles never taught. Instead, they seemed to be the most condemning and harsh when addressing those who preached another gospel, another Jesus. What you will find is this and many other admonitions:
2 Cor. 6:13-19: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[a] are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“ I will dwell in them, And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”
We must be careful and only join hands with those who believe in the biblical definition of the gospel, not simply jump up and join with anyone who claims to follow Christ. Paul had particularly harsh words to say to those who would pervert the gospel and preach another gospel:
Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
In practice, I believe many in our denominational leadership seem to be rejecting the doctrine of separation, and instead are moving towards a higher degree of ecumenism that is very troubling to many other Nazarenes who are aware of it.
But I contend that the price of “unity” must not come at the expense of compromise.