Modern Ecumenical Movement
Table of Contents
Compromising the Truth
Modern Christian Ecumenical Movements
The Christian Response to Ecumenism
There is great emphasis in the church today on uniting professing Christians of all denominations and beliefs. The message is that weŐre not so different after all... we can work together. Setting aside theological differences we can help each other in the things we all agree upon. That effort is commonly referred to as "ecumenism," which is defined as "the organized attempt to bring about the cooperation and unity of all believers in Christ."
The foundation for this ecumenical trend has been laid and built upon over many years. We saw the beginning of institutional ecumenism in the 1960Ős, with the World Council of Churches, mostly liberal mainline Protestant denominations who denied such essential doctrines as the inerrancy of Scripture and a literal, bodily resurrection of Christ. For years, Evangelicals distanced themselves from this institutional ecumenism because of the unsound theology of the groups involved. Today, however, that spirit of compromise has invaded Evangelicalism. The recent Catholic-Evangelical accord is an example of such compromise. In this accord, Evangelicals compromised essential doctrines such as justification by faith alone and the sufficiency of Scripture in order to unite with Roman Catholics on issues such as abortion and school prayer.
Compromising the Truth
The undiluted preaching from GodŐs Word and an authoritative stand on truth seem to be on the decline. What weŐre seeing instead is a broadening of the gospel, a redefining of what it means to be a Christian, and a growing emphasis on inclusion and tolerance. Ecumenism has come to mean "reducing all elements of faith to the lowest common denominator. GodŐs Word is neglected, experience is valued above truth, a false and selfish "faith" is promoted, and sound doctrine and correction are despised as "divisive" and "unloving."
Ignoring the Scriptures, numerous evangelical leaders today claim that a concern for doctrine causes division and therefore should be avoided for the sake of love and unity among the brethren. The Word, however, couldnŐt be more specific in its opposition to such a teaching.
I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. [Romans 16:17]
Divisions are created by teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" [2 John 1:9]. Unity in the faith is impossible without the doctrine of Christ. Without such a foundation we have no basis for the faith, for the gospel, for knowing Jesus, or for knowing anything pertinent to the Truth.
The glittering terminology of ecumenical is seen, on close examination, to be as hollow as a soap bubble and just as slippery and hard to hold onto. Where is the "common ground" between belief and unbelief? A believer cannot ignore the "major theological differences" between him and an unbeliever. Instead, he should be cutting through those differences with the Sword of the Word to win the unbeliever to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I cannot agree to ignore an unbeliever's condition without, by that very act, compromising my beliefs. For my beliefs include the Great Commission, which requires me to tell the world of the gospel of Jesus.
Modern Christian Ecumenical Movements
(ECT) Evangelicals and Catholics Together
On March 29, 1994, leading evangelicals and Catholics signed a joint declaration, Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the 3rd. Millennium. Contained within the document, which attempts to bring ecumenical unity, are some seriously compromising agreements regarding proselytizing and doctrinal distinctions.
The 25-page document, originated by Chuck Colson and Catholic social critic Richard John Neuhaus, was signed by 40 noted evangelical and Catholic leaders. It called for Catholic and evangelical cooperation on social and cultural issues where both traditions share common goals, one example being the fight against abortion. The accord also stressed mutual allegiance to the Apostles' Creed, world evangelism, justification "by grace through faith because of Christ," and encouraged "civil" discourse over doctrinal differences.
Only 35 short years ago Roman Catholicism was included among the "modern Cults" about which Harold Lindsell warned his students in a course by that name at Fuller. Today, in spite of its false gospel of works and ritual which millions of martyrs faithfully opposed to the death, Catholicism is embraced by our most trusted evangelical leaders. One often hears the naive expression, especially in justifying the new ecumenical acceptance of Roman Catholics as Christians, "I embrace all those as brethren who Ôlove JesusŐ and Ôname the name of Christ.Ő" Yet many cultists profess to love Jesus and almost all "name the name of Christ." One must discern what is meant by such words. The gospel of GodŐs grace is denied by every cult and false religion, including Roman Catholicism, where infant baptism removes original sin and makes one a child of God, salvation is in the church and its sacraments, redemption is an ongoing process of perpetually offering the body and blood of Christ upon its altars, and good works merit acceptance with God.
You canŐt believe two contradictory propositions at the same time!
- You canŐt believe Christ obtained redemption through His blood and also believe redemption is being accomplished through Catholic liturgy;
- You canŐt believe salvation is by faith and "not of works" and at the same time believe that good works earn salvation.
While the founders of Operation Rescue may have intended only to save the lives of the helpless children that are destroyed through abortion, they have disobeyed a key Scripture, and now find themselves serving an entirely different purpose.
"I have never seen such an instrument for ecumenism as Operation Rescue is," said Catholic priest Patrick Malone, head of St. Mary Catholic Parish just outside Wichita. Malone explained that Operation Rescue "has a very strong evangelical flavor nationwide, but the experience here has been that the operations break down barriers that have separated churches as we stand for the common cause of the unborn child." Recognizing that the movement offers a tremendous opportunity to sweep millions of Protestants under the guidance of the papacy, Catholic leaders are now encouraging Roman Catholics to join Operation Rescue and shape its future direction. It's already working. said Malone, "People I've demonstrated with, attended rallies with and spent time in jail with--the evangelicals and others--apologized again and again to me" for the views they had held of the Catholic Church.
At Indianapolis 1990, Catholic priest Michael Scanlan gave a testimony about being arrested during an Operation Rescue demonstration. He spoke of the close fellowship between Catholics and Protestants in the jail, and said many of the Protestants attended the masses which were held there. He also said that after these ecumenical experiences, some Protestants began reciting the rosary during Operation Rescue demonstrations.
The Charismatic Movement
The Charismatic movement has been effective in uniting those who supposedly have had a common experience in the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues. Because of common experiences, doctrinal differences that once separated denominations have often been set aside. One can now be an Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, or even Roman Catholic and still be united because of common experience.
The infiltration of psychology into the church has also strengthened the trend toward ecumenism. Psychology plays a major ecumenical role by providing common faith, language and ritual for everyone from atheists, cultists and occultists to Roman Catholics and evangelicals. Most Christian radio stations are saturated with Christian psychology programs, yet the vast majority of listeners to these programs know very little about the doctrine or church affiliation of the men they listen to. These men are accepted as authorities on Christian living simply because they say they are Christians and believe the Bible. These men unify Christians, not on the basis of Scripture but on their psychological influence which is trans-doctrinal.
Those who get involved with Promise Keepers are trained in a blasphemous mixture of humanistic psychology and corrupt Christianity. Men attending a massive 1993 Promise Keepers conference were given complimentary copies of The Masculine Journey: Understanding the Six Stages of Manhood by psychotherapist Robert Hicks. In a review of this book, T.A. McMahon notes:
"The book, written to help 'provide directions for a man's life so that he doesn't get lost along the way,' is mainly psychologically biased conjecture centering around six Hebrew words. In chapter after chapter, subjective insights into manhood are offered through quotes by a host of secular authors with a psychological bent, including Carl Jung, inner-healing therapist Leanne Payne, transpersonal psychiatrist/spiritualist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Sam Keen, former theologian in residence at Esalen, the New Age/Eastern mystical therapeutic center south of San Francisco.
What could be wrong with Christian men uniting to become more godly?
Well, of course, there is everything right and nothing wrong with becoming more godly. There is a fundamental problem, however, with the Promise Keepers' approach to the Gospel and to the way godliness is achieved in the life of a believer.
Promise Keepers is committed to reaching across denominational barriers in an effort to unite men. And they have been successful in doing that. Promise Keepers supporters and sponsors include Evangelicals, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Charismatics, Catholics, Mormons and others. These groups have been divided by major doctrinal differences for many years. But now these differences are being dropped for the sake of unity. This seems to be an ecumenicalism of proportions never experienced since the Reformation. There have been single issues, such as abortion, pornography, and prohibition, that have drawn a spectrum of churches together, but none have reached the popularity and ecumenicalism of the Promise Keepers.
Promise Keepers is a burgeoning force in American Christianity. With the goal of Point Men in every church, one cannot ignore its influence. Beneath the emotional hype, camaraderie, enthusiastic speakers, songs, and cheers, Promise Keepers champions a psycho-spiritual, ecumenical and political agenda.
The Promise Keepers' movement is part of an ecumenical trend of down-playing doctrine for unity that puts aside essential theological issues in order to promote a unity which is not biblical unity. Are false doctrines being addressed? Are the people in these churches challenged to flee their false religious systems? The answer is "No." Key foundational issues have been dropped, all for the sake of supposed unity.
The men who are reached through this ministry are not necessarily brought into sound New Testament churches and grounded in the truth. They are not being taught to keep themselves pure from apostasy and heresy. They are not being trained in discerning false gospels from the true. Rather they will be instructed in unscriptural ecumenism. They are being taught that doctrine is not crucial, that to fight for the truth is unspiritual. They are even being encouraged to accept apostate denominations as genuine expressions of Christianity. There is so much theological diversity among those involved with Promise Keepers that no in-depth discussion of Scripture or what it means to be a Christian could take place without tearing the movement apart. If one followed the doctrines of some of the groups involved in this movement, one could not even be a Christian. And if one is not a Christian, nothing that person does will enable him or her to be godly.
Though we can rejoice that men may get saved and their lives turn around for the good, yet results in and of themselves do not necessarily mean the movement has God's approval or that the methods Promise Keepers uses are right and in conformity to the will of God. Numbers 20 provides a classic example of this. Moses was commanded by God to strike the rock (Ex. 17:5) and speak to it (Num. 20:8) and water would come forth miraculously to supply the needs of the Israelites and their animals. In a fit of rage and frustration over the rebellious attitudes and complaints of Israel, Moses angrily struck the rock twice and water came out of the rock in abundance to quench the thirst of millions of people and animals. God graciously displayed His supernatural power and performed a miracle in the presence of the entire assembly. Yet, did God approve of Moses' methods? Did the visible result of water coming out in abundance demonstrate God's hand of blessing was upon Moses' work? No, his disobedience was noted and as punishment, he was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. "The good results that were publicly displayed did not justify the wrong way in which God's will was carried out" (Axioms of Separation, p. 14). The same is true about Promise Keepers.
The Scripture is unmistakably clear: the primary attribute by which God wants to be known is holiness--He is totally separate from all that is sinful or defiled. Fifty-five times God refers to Himself in Scripture as the "Holy One." Fifty-nine times He is called or described as being holy. There are only forty-three times where God is said to love or that He Himself is love. Interestingly enough, the word "holy" (or a form of it) occurs 651 times in Scripture. The word "love" (or a related form) whether human or divine is mentioned only 546 times. Although no attribute of God is mentioned more frequently in the Bible than that of holiness, there is perhaps no other characteristic so ignored and misunderstood as this one. Many seem to view holiness and love as being contradictory: holiness is too negative and divisive while love seems to be positive and accepting. But contrary to God's nature is the notion that love must tolerate or even refuse to expose error. God's love is compatible with His holiness. As believers follow the command to imitate their God (Eph. 5:1), they are not free to pick and choose which characteristics to copy. The modern day definition of love largely sets aside God's demand to His children, "Be ye holy for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:15,16).
Holiness is the hub of the wheel from which all other divine attributes radiate. Anything that is genuinely at the heart of God should primarily reflect that same characteristic of holiness. With the blatant rejection of the Bible doctrine of separation (which finds its foundation in the holiness of God), Promise Keepers cannot be legitimately considered "at the very heart of God." Whenever a movement becomes engrossed in compromise with error, it ceases to reflect that core attribute which God has chosen as His name (Isa. 57:15).
Still some would try to ignore the wrong of compromising methods and point out only the good that is seen. Some would even say that those who dare criticize a movement (as PK) which has enjoyed such phenomenal success are being nit- picky. If there can be an agreement on the "major" doctrines of Scripture, then why not get on the bandwagon of a good cause? To this Albert Dager makes the following remarks:
"The evidence of God at work is not outward results, but conformity to Scripture, which in turn results in outward change. Outward change without conformity to Scripture is merely human righteousness. Change of mind does not always equate to change of heart. A genuine change of heart results in the holding of Scripture in high esteem. Nor does it distinguish between so called `essential doctrine' and `secondary doctrine' ... (2 Tim. 3:14- 17)... When the Holy Spirit says that all Scripture is given for instruction in righteousness, He isn't speaking only of the so-called `Big Five' doctrines the ecumenists are claiming as reason for unity. He means all of Scripture itself is the essential doctrine of the Faith" (Media Spotlight Special Report, p. 14).
He then continues with these comments:
"The end does not justify the means. The proper focus must be on the means itself, as well as on the end. . . Results are not the final arbiter of truth; one's pious demeanor is not the final arbiter of truth; one's ability to call fire down from heaven is not the final arbiter of truth. God's Word is the only and final arbiter of truth" (Ibid.).
The Christian Response to Ecumenism
Nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon was known for taking unpopular positions as he ministered GodŐs Word, and faced the same arguments confronting many Bible teachers today. His response to the seductive power of compromise for popularityŐs sake was especially poignant: "What have you and I to do with maintaining our influence and position at the expense of truth? It is never right to do a little wrong to obtain the greatest possible good ... Your duty is to do the right: consequences are with God."
How many times have you heard that somebody was "causing division in the church?" Well, maybe they were supposed to! After all, there are two things that cause division according to the Bible: truth and error. Haven't you heard the scripture, "Do you suppose I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, rather division!" That's right! Jesus said that "from now on five members in one household will be divided three against two, and two against three" (Luke 12:51-52). He said that whole families would be divided over Him. And there are many occasions in the New Testament when whole assemblies of people were divided because of Jesus (John 7:43, 9:16, 10:19, Acts 23:6-7).
You must remember people who love the truth will divide from people who love lies.
Today, when there are so many who are professing religion, is it any wonder that some of the deepest truths in the Bible - repentance, faith, holiness, etc. - are also some of the greatest objects of debate in the Church. It must be said that those who truly want to know God's views on these great pillars of Christian doctrine, will appear to be divisive - and rightly so, in an age when the great gospel message of salvation can be reduced to such a sugar-coated, bakery-item as, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!"
Can ecumenists by uniting, set the standards for the rest of the world? "WhoŐs kingdom is the earth anyway?" This worldly kingdom belongs to Satan until Jesus Christ returns. Jesus said in John 18:36, "My kingdom belongs not to this world..." He said he did not come to bring peace, but rather division.
Division that comes from the proclaiming of the truth will usually include some intense reaction and opposition, but it will also produce good fruit and the advancement of God's kingdom (not to mention the conversion of souls.)
Behold the emergence of the ecumenical apostate church, the bride of Antichrist! "Positive Christianity" is the enemy of the cross. The truth offends those who don't want to hear it. Yet to speak anything less is to trifle with the eternal destiny of souls. Ecumenism's promise of "unity" is tempting, but it denies Christ and paves the way for the Antichrist and his new world religion. It is a unification that will ultimately lead to destruction.
True unity is not sought by pretending that there are no differences, as modern ecumenists have done, but by recognizing and respecting those differences, while focusing on the great orthodox truths all Christians share. Articulated in the classic confessions and creeds, it embraces such fundamentals as the Virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the Atonement, the Resurrection, the authority of Scripture, and the Second Coming.
Man-made unity is not what God desires. He wants a holy people. Many Christians believe that unity in itself will bring about a holy revival. But unity cannot bring holiness, only holiness can bring about true unity. For when God's people start seeking to live, worship and pray according to the Holy Word of God, then God Himself will answer Jesus' prayer and make those who seek Him, truly "one!" THEN God will unite the hearts of those who love Him, and hate sin and error, and He will truly shine forth from the midst of such a people - the true people of God!
The unification of the various national identities, races, and religions can only be achieved through the eradication of sin. That means only through the Lord Jesus Christ can we become perfectly one. The other avenue to unite people, the program of the Antichrist, will only be accomplished temporarily through deception.
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