The False Ecumenism of the Present Day

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Because many Evangelicals have a poor grasp of the Gospel, biblical doctrine, and church history, they leave themselves vulnerable to Roman Catholicism.  The Papacy, ever the enemy of Evangelicals, has been very adept at assessing these weaknesses and fifty years ago formulated new methods by which to snare unsuspecting Bible believers into its net.

The major tactical change that took place in Vatican Council II (1962 to 1965) was to declare officially that Rome was now ready to ecumenize with Hindus, Muslims, and other religions.  In particular, Evangelicals, formerly called heretics, were now to be seen as “separated brethren” and thus to be wooed, “little by little,” back into the Roman Catholic fold.  This was to be done primarily by means of dialogue.  Leading Evangelicals of the time, for example John Stott, J. I. Packer, soon after the Vatican II documents were published, were the first major examples of this false ecumenism.

John Stott and J. I. Packer, key leaders at the first and second National Evangelical Anglican Conferences, met at Keele and Nottingham in the UK in 1967 and 1977, respectively.  The conferences were primed to launch the Anglican Evangelicals’ new policy of acceptance of ritualistic Anglicans, who were essentially Roman Catholic in belief and practice.  Both John Stott and J. I. Packer endorsed the statements from these conferences.  John Stott, who chaired the first conference at Keele, made it clear the conference was not only accepting Anglo-Catholics and liberals, but Roman Catholics also.  The conference at Nottingham in 1977 went further than Keele, giving the compromise already proclaimed a complete seal of approval.  Nottingham also endorsed and praised the Charismatic movement.  Thus, it was that these conferences in England helped set the stage for the apostasy that was later to follow in the USA.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together

Some seventeen years after the Nottingham Conference in England, the most drastic departure from true Evangelicalism took place in the United States in 1994.  At the end of March 1994, a group of twenty leading Evangelicals and twenty leading Roman Catholics produced a document entitled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium” (ECT).  The two main instigators of this ecumenical thrust were Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus (a Lutheran pastor turned Roman Catholic priest).

The Gospel According to ECT

The signers of ECT readily admit to “differences that cannot be resolved here.”  Nevertheless, motivated by the desire to face important moral issues together, the authors of ECT flatly state that Evangelicals and Catholics are one in Christ, and that all are truly Christians.

In a similar manner, an addition had to made to the Gospel.  The ECT addition that redefines faith is, “living faith active in love.”  “Living faith” implies works, and to Catholics, baptism in particular.  This is documented in present-day official teaching of the Church of Rome where Rome teaches, “the very root of the Church’s living faith [is] principally by means of Baptism.”[2]  The theology of the Church of Rome always comes back to the concept of “living faith” so as to include “works righteousness,” and particularly in her sacraments, which she defines as necessary for salvation.[3]

Consequently, the Evangelical signers of ECT concurred with the Roman Catholic definition of “living faith active in love,” and thus they have formally agreed to an addition to the Gospel that nullifies its message.  By endorsing Roman Catholic teaching, therefore, they have denied the clear teaching of Scripture, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”[4]

Disturbing Effects of ECT

The devastating effect of the Evangelical compromise with the Gospel reduced evangelizing Roman Catholics across the world.  The impact on the true Church in third world Catholic countries of Central and South America, in Africa, as well as in Spain, Portugal, and the Philippines, has been apparent.

Compounded Endorsement of Rome

On November 12, 1997, a second document entitled, “The Gift of Salvation,” was signed and published by Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders.  It is also called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together II.”  Its expressed intention was to demonstrate the “common faith” of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, and further, to “acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.”  It was published in the December issue of Christianity Today.  Explicitly, the Roman Catholic signatories, such as Richard John Neuhaus and Avery Dulles, S. J., state in the document that they are “Catholics who are conscientiously faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church.”  The Roman Catholic doctrine of conferred justification is taught as the Gospel.  The Evangelicals were joined together in not only giving a clouded Gospel-Justification message, but also in a distinctively erudite manner, endorsing Rome’s doctrine of conferred, inner righteousness.

A Studied Denial of the Gospel

This second ecumenical document states, “Justification is central to the scriptural account of salvation, and its meaning has been much debated between Protestants and Catholics.”  Then it claims that the signers have reached agreement.  Their statement of accord is,

We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is entirely God’s gift, conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness, out of the love that he bears us in his Son, who suffered on our behalf and rose from the dead for our justification.  Jesus was ‘put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification’ (Romans 4:25).  In justification, God, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends, and by virtue of his declaration it is so.

The subject under review is stated clearly in the first sentence.  “We agree that justification…is conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness.”  But it is only by careful reading that one comes to see what the two pivotal sentences actually state.  “…it [justification] is entirely God’s gift, conferred [rather than imputed]…and by virtue of his [God’s] declaration it [justification conferred] is so.”

This is traditional Roman Catholic doctrine.  To employ the Roman Catholic concept,  “conferred” instead of the biblical concept, “counted” “reckoned” or “imputed” is tantamount to putting aside the authority of Scripture on the issue of justification.  Since medieval times, the Roman Catholic Church has clearly distinguished between her concept of imputation and her concept of God’s grace conferred as a quality of the soul.

The Roman Catholic Church’s persistence in using the word “conferred” is an attempt to substitute her sacraments for the grace of the Holy Spirit.  The concept that the sacraments automatically convey the grace of the Holy Spirit to people is pivotal to Papal Rome.  However, what is proclaimed in Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is infinite, supreme, omnipotent, and all sufficient in convicting of sin and in bringing a person directly to new life in Christ Jesus.  “He [The Holy Spirit] will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”[5]  Nevertheless, Rome will not repudiate the concept of “conferred” because she teaches that the sacraments are “necessary for salvation.”  Without her seven sacraments, she has no function as a Church in the lives of people.

The Acceptance of Papal Rome’s False Ecumenism

The Vatican Council II agenda for false ecumenism was as we have seen implemented in conferences held in Keel and Nottingham England.  Moreover, the false ecumenism was further set in motion by the statements of ECT I and II in the USA.  On both sides of the Atlantic, well-known Evangelicals were involved in this ecumenical compromise.  Even the secular newspaper, The New York Times, on May 30, 2004, carried a report stating that the alliance called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” is a movement that is changing the face of Christianity across the world.  As a result of these major defections from biblical faith, many Evangelicals have hasten Romeward at the expense of their heritage.  Timothy George, a leading Reformed man of the Founders Movement, has fully endorsed ECT.  He not only upholds the Catholic Church, but also has high praise for Ratzinger, viz., Pope Benedict XVI.

Then some former Presbyterians, and others who have apostatized into Roman Catholicism, are ruthlessly attacking the very Gospel.  Some of these are now in full-time work defending Roman Catholicism in books, videos, conferences, and on the Internet.  Of such are Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Marcus Grodi, and Jerry Matatics, just to mention a few.  There is also a movement called “Christian Churches Together.”  It is a movement of what are called “the historical churches,” which includes Catholicism; and it is being carefully organized for exactly the same purposes as ECT.  Much more ominous is “The Coming Home Network.”  Its stated purpose is, “…to provide fellowship, encouragement and support for pastors and laymen of other traditions (Protestant, Orthodox, etc.) who are somewhere along the journey or have already converted to the Catholic Church.”

There are also a great many churches embracing the ecumenical Emerging Church Movement.  This movement has become a dangerous threat at the present time affecting the USA, the UK, France, and other parts of Europe.  Brian McLaren is the chief leader of the movement that essentially markets Catholic mysticism.  Another leader, Anglican Alan Jones, takes the movement further into the Roman Catholic fold.  His audience is large.  It is important to study his stratagem.  He also has endorsed the United Religions Initiative, which includes an acceptance of Islam that has become a terrorist menace in recent times.  Christianity Today published an article entitled “The Emergent Mystique.”[6]  It stated, “Not since the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s has a Christian phenomenon been so closely entangled with the self-conscious cutting edge of U.S. culture.”  While this new movement is permeating modern Evangelical circles in the USA, it also has had disastrous effects in France, Ireland, and England.  It is vitally important to understand the essential modus operandi of the Emerging Church Movement before it leads more and more astray into the mystic clutches of Papal Rome and Greek Orthodoxy.  The constant deadly deception of the movement is that it arrogantly advertises a way of direct access to God and thus repudiating any need of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One Mediator between God and men.  We have documented the four articles on the Emerging Church Movement that are posted on our Berean Beacon website.  Christ Jesus as Savior and the One Mediator alone has all authority in heaven and in earth, not the mystical charms of Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, or the Emerging Church Movement.

The Present-day Consequences and Our Response

The Evangelical apostates that we have documented in this address have a name of being Christian, but in fact are a danger to those who have remained true to the Gospel.  What is so disheartening is that so many true believers have remained silent as the apostasy increases in numbers and influence.  Well-known Evangelical leaders have attempted to trample under foot the blood of the everlasting covenant and are hastening more and more towards acceptance of Papal Rome.  We are to separate from those who promote heresy and “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”[7]

The Evangelical recognition of Papal Rome as Christian should be of serious concern.  The delusion that doctrine, faith, and practice are separable elements in the Christian life is widespread among popular teachers.  Likewise, an appalling ignorance of the Word of God is generally manifest in Evangelical circles.  Hundreds of thousands of souls around the world have succumbed to the presentation of a false gospel poured tiresomely from Evangelical and Emergent church pulpits.  Consequently, grandiose Evangelical church buildings and teaching institutions are presently overrun with people who have been taught by their leadership to confuse manufactured human-religious feeling for a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.  Multitudes credit themselves as being “born again Christians” while rejecting the Lordship of Christ and the authority of His Word, which are the hallmark of authentic discipleship.[8]

Recovering from the apostasy of false ecumenism will not come by new techniques or because of better church programs.  It comes about by the Holy Sprit because of a love for the truth and of the true Gospel.  The greatness of the Gospel is manifested as each true believer exalts the Person and work of Christ Jesus; He is the exalted Head of His Church.  In the Gospel, Christ Jesus appears as the anointed, exalted One.  His purpose was His work of obedience and death, in which He received in His humanity, as mediator, the perpetual fullness of the Holy Spirit.  That was the day Pentecost declared Him to be the exalted Prince and Savior as the abundance of pouring out of the Holy Spirit was not for Himself, but for the Church, which is His body.  As the Apostle Peter preached, “therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”[9]  As we come to a fresh understanding of the Gospel we cry out, “come from the four winds, 0 Breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live!”[10]   We pray that Christ Jesus will be again exalted in the true Gospel, so that we can again see a plentiful “pouring out of the Spirit.”  This is the same Lord who said, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”[11]

Why is it that at our time we are not more expectant of the exalted Lord’s super-abundant grace?  It is because so few are willing to search out what the Spirit has revealed in the Scriptures concerning those things God has prepared for them that love Him.  If we truly trusted on the Lord’s promises, we would act differently.  The spirit of biblical Christianity is dynamic.  It is a person-to-person encounter of the believer with Jesus Christ, based upon and expressed in the vibrant principle of what the Holy Spirit reveals in His Word.  “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”[12]  In Scripture, the manifold wisdom of God is made manifest to His people.  It is our privilege to lay hold of what He has promised.  May the abundant riches of His grace be seen in our day to be His work and to His glory!


[1] Jeremiah 23:6; Romans 3:22-28; Romans 4:5-8; Romans 5:17-19; 1Corinthians 1:30, 31; 2Corinthians 5:19; 21, Ephesians 1:7; and Titus 3:5-7

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications, 1994) Para 249.  Hereafter referred to as Catechism

[3] Catechism, Para 1129

[4] Titus 3:4, 5

[5] John 16:8

[6] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/011/12.36.html 1/18/06

[7] Jude 3

[8] Luke.6: 39-49; Matthew 7:21-29

[9] Acts 2:33

[10] Ezekiel 37:9

[11] Luke 11:13

[12] 1 Corinthians 2:9-10