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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Jesus Syllogism | Main | Bible Logic Fallacies of Synergists »

    The Strong Hold of Ecumenicalism: Ecclesiological Chaos By Marco Gonzalez

    untitled.bmpOver the past fifty-plus years, the air of ecumenicalism has been breathed into evangelicalism. With the hopes of “unity,” leading figures in the ecumenical movement have tried to unite in evangelicalism: non-evangelicals, Catholics, and Liberals. The ivory tower of theologians has lessened the cause of Christ and as a result broken fellowship, unity, and Christian Brother-ship. While I believe unity is a high priority for evangelicalism, I have to ask the question: at what cost shall we become unified?
    Evangelicalism as a whole is plagued with the ideology of ecumenicalism. At heart of ecumenicalism is what I call “ecclesiological chaos.” There are countless well-known preachers/teachers emphasizing the necessity of world wide unity with Catholic, non-evangelical, and Liberal churches.

    . While this is a noble cause, everyone is asking the wrong question. The question we should be asking is, “What is a Christian?” The plight of ecumenicalism is that it conveys Christianity as “anyone who believes in Christ is part of the church.” Doctrine then, is subservient to a visible confession of faith. But isn’t this exactly why the Reformers revolted against Rome? Evangelicals are now working side by side with Catholics, non-evangelicals, and liberals. It seems as though there is no distinction between these groups. I have talked with numerous ministries and associations who have boasted over their unity with these groups and yet there is no discussion over what a Christian really is. No one answers the question: “What brings forgiveness of sin?.” I know of one ministry who actually changed their doctrinal statement to include the Pope as the head of the church all in the name of Christian unity. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones in his own ministry fought against the onslaught of ecumenicalism. He said:

    “Is it right to tolerate in the same church people whose views on the essentials of the faith are diametrically opposed? Is that right in the light of the New Testament teaching that we regard such people as “brethren”; that we refer to people who never darken the doors of a place of worship as “lapsed Christians” simply because they have been baptized when infants? Is that compatible with the New Testament teaching with regard to the church, and her unity and her discipline and her life?”

    Lloyd-Jones inevitably broke his ties with J.I packer and John Stott over the issue of Anglican-Catholic unity. Lloyd-Jones was a prophet in the wilderness, calling the church back to the main issue: the gospel. Lloyd-Jones was accused of having a separatist temperament and trying to destroy the cause of Christian Unity. However, it was the essential principles of the gospel that were at stake and his uncompromising attitude toward the gospel would not be truncated. By and far, the ecumenical movement allows a “broader church” policy toward believers. No longer is salvation an individualized justification by faith alone in Christ alone, but salvation is external unity, based on a belief in Christ. The New Testament never places external unity as the true body of Christ. When the New Testament speaks of salvation it always refers to the spiritual body of Christ as those enlightened, awakened, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, without the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, the visible ordinances of Christ are worthless. Edward A. Litton wrote in his book, The Church of Christ, in its ideas, Attributes, and Ministry, concerning the ecclesiological differences of Protestantism and Catholicism:

    “The Romanists, while admitting that there is, or ought to be, in the church an interior life, not cognizable by human eyes, yet regards this as a separable accident, and makes the essence of the Church to consist in what is external and visible: the Protestants, on the contrary, while admitting that to be invisible is an inseparable property of the Church, makes the essence thereof to consist in what is spiritual and unseen; the work of the Holy Spirit.”

    This is exactly what I mean when I say “ecclesiological chaos.” When external unity becomes the primacy of the Church, it enviably leads to what is “external and visible.” Isn’t this exactly what many, pastors/preachers, and evangelicals boast over? Most ministries are praised for their so called “unity,” but could never truly agree with their associates on what forgives sin or what a Christian is. Therefore, unity is no longer defined as evangelical belief, but fellowship and partnerships with believers. While scripture affirms a confession of faith, it never says believers are saved by a confession of faith. Liberals, non-evangelicals, and Catholics alike affirm Christ, however, not one these groups affirms that we are reconciled to God on the basis on Faith alone by Christ alone. This is the cardinal principle of the gospel. How can we then affirm them as brethren? Yet, this has already manifested its self significantly.

    In 1996, a document was presented called Evangelicals and Catholics Together. The goal was to harmonize Protestant and Catholic relations. Many well known preachers and teachers signed the document; some who signed the document included: J.I Packer, Charles Colson, Max Lucado, Os Gussiness, and Mark Knoll. This document changed the mentality of this century of Christians. Most Christians see no significant differences between Catholics and Protestants. It is amazing to see the ecclesiological chaos that is rampant around us. The Trojan horse of ecumenicalism has enthroned ministry. Ministry is now widespread with evangelicals working with liberals, non evangelicals, and Catholics as if no theological distinction is present. None of these associations can even agree on the fundamental truths of the gospel. I believe more than ever we need to pray. We need to pray that God raises up a strong willed theologian who can reform our poor and decadent ecclesiology. Evangelical’s ecclesiology is in an extreme state of weakness. I fear greatly, if something is not done, it will profoundly eradicate evangelicalism as we know it. The article on which the church stands -the gospel- must be defended, defined, and upheld.

    Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones has rightly said:
    “We are undoubtedly living at one of the great turning points of history. I sometimes have a fear that we who are evangelical, of all people, are most guilty of failing to recognize this.”

    Posted by on November 2, 2005 10:50 PM

    Comments

    J.I. Packer signed this document? All of the other names make sense to me, but this one is mind boggling. J.I. Packer firmly stands for the truths of the Reformed perspective, so I am left wondering how he could support this.

    2Co 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
    2Co 6:15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

    The Vatican has made several steps which I believe are in the direction of the true Gospel. However, I cannot say that they have crossed that threshold. Oh, that we as a Church would truly repent and come back to our Lord's voice.

    I think that in our times what it's needed to be affirmed strongly is the Gospel, that is, total and absolute sovereignty and freedom of God, total depravity and guiltiness of man, the perfect sufficiency af the work of Christ for all His loved ones, justification by faith alone in Christ's perfect and complete work alone, and faith and repentance as unmerited gifts of God granted to His chosen people by grace alone.

    I think that monergism and sovereignty regarding God in salvation is the only true Gospel.

    Only in THIS Gospel there can be TRUE unity in the Spirit of Truth, otherwise it's a unity in lie.

    Francesco

    I believe you are on the right track. It has been said that "I would rather divide over truth than to unite over error." It saddens me to see that some of the "evangelicals" you have listed signed this particular document. Look back at Luther's life and why he eventually left the Catholic Church; it has not changed since then.

    Ray

    Great post. The gospel must be defended, defined, and upheld. This is so essential and yet what I see so often among evangelicals is that the gospel is not well defined. I think one of the reasons for not defining the gospel and presenting it clearly is the fear of disunity. To preach a defined gospel is offensive. It is interesting to talk with so many evangelicals who are determined to do away with creeds and definition. Many churches have very vague statements of what they believe and refuse to use any thorough confession or creed. Maybe this is intentional in order to avoid controversy? Yet I think this is quite a problem. Although I believe tolerance is essential in so much of our lives, to take this value to the point where tolerance trumps truth is detrimental not just to the clear preaching of the gospel, but to unity as well. To not define the gospel with clearity is to allow for assumptions and speculation which is never good for unity. I am most unified I think with my brothers whom I often disagree and yet their beliefs are well defined. Yet what is most important? The gospel is that which breaks down the walls of hostility.

    I am living now in Salt Lake City and one of the recent trends here has been evangelicals and latter-day saints becoming more and more unified. But unified over what? Is the clearity of the gospel being disregard? Many evangelicals here also believe the mormon church is becoming more and more Christian. The question I continue to ask myself is "are Mormons embracing more and more Christian doctrine or are Evangelicals becoming less and less clear on their understanding of the gospel, sin, justification, etc.? I believe what is happening is less and less definition on basic gospel essentials. This is a huge problem.

    Mark:

    Great insights. As long as the gospel is made ambigious we will continue to witness a great drought in evangelicalism. If you look up the ECT document and read the section concering Justification you will find it unclear. The document defines the gospel as "Justification By Faith." However, they failed to insert and I believe intentionally ommited "alone" for the sake of catholic unity.

    Marco

    P.S If you ever have a chance read Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones "The basis of Christian Unity."

    Good post, Marco! It certainly is an issue that we can't ever go over too lightly. It's interesting to read and compare what Mike Horton had so say about a very similar issue of Roman Catholics calling themselves Evangelicals. Read it here

    Jim K

    This an issue that is incredibly important to the rise and fall of today's church. But all of the discussion above is leading to questions on grounds that most of us are very weary of approaching.
    - If monergistic sovereignty is really the gospel then what about synergists?
    - Do we seek out synergists to evangelize with a monergistic gospel? I can't say that with a clear conscience and pure heart.
    I believe the effects of the compromise of the gospel to man centeredness can be seen plainly in the mainstream denominations, but simply saying that monergism is the only true gospel implies that all synergists do not know or believe in the gospel that saves. Am I reading too deeply into the implications of the posts above? I love the sovereignty of God and desire all to come to this same knowledge of the power of Christ for their joy and God's glory. These are real issues that I have to deal with in my approach to ministry. Your thoughts are much appreciated.

    Jim,

    It appears that only one person above actually may have drew this conclusion ... I hope he only meant monergism is the closer to an"unmixed" gospel ... for certainly synergists, like us, also preach a gospel of "no hope save in Christ alone" ... the problem we usually discover in their gospel is not so much that it is wrong across the board, but rather, that they are inconsistent in their theology of "grace alone" and thus their gospel presentations are often weakened and diluted with humanistic elements... that is NOT to say that the Holy Spirit won't use their presentation of the Bible to open people hearts to faith in the Savior. And I pray that we would also continue to be consistent and God-honoring in the way we present His Word to the world.... and do so humbly ... remembering that it is only the grace of God that makes us to differ, nothing we have in our character that makes God more pleased to grant us repentance.

    So in a sense we do need to re-evangelize the church itself, not so much for salvation, but so that the gospel would be more faithfully in line with the narrative of redemptive history, with the focus on God's redemptive acts, culminating in the person of Jesus Christ ... too many of today's gospel presentations use transactionalism-like language as if believing were like putting money in a vending machine. The gospel, rather, is about what Christ did, not what we do. We hold out His person and work and promises assuring salvation to all who are believing in Him with empty hands and a bankrupt spirit.

    JWH

    Hi, I believe that God grants true faith in the work of Christ to His elect also through the presentation of the "mixed" Gospel.

    But I believe that the truth of the Gospel, regarding true grace, is properly one. So, even if synergists may have been truly saved by God, and, if truly saved, "monergistically" saved by God, I think, like John Hendryx, that they need to be correctly re-evangelized, if we want to have a true unity in the true Gospel, that is, in the truth of the Spirit of God Who regenerated and saved us both.

    Even though Synergists or (Armineans) deny many of the tents of monergism or (calvinism) they still affirm Justification by Faith alone. Lets not forget that they are still are brethen and are saved alike. Please note that Justification by Faith is the cardinal principle of the gospel. I would not go as far as to say that their gospel is "anathema."


    Marco

    Neither would I...but...believing in free will, and in a "conditional" sovereignty of God has tremendous consequences for the Christian life, for obedience and sanctification, if you think about it.

    Moreover, I was speaking about true unity in the truth of the Spirit of God, He Who inspired the Word of truth, and Who rigenerated both monergists and synergists giving them eyes to see and a heart to understand, so that they could become sons of God.
    I f the unity is not based in the truth regarding what really is grace, freedom of the will, election, sovereignty of God on everything, the function of the law, on what basis human beings are responsible, is not true unity in the truth of the Gospel, I believe.

    Michael Garner:

    "J.I. Packer signed this document? All of the other names make sense to me, but this one is mind boggling. J.I. Packer firmly stands for the truths of the Reformed perspective, so I am left wondering how he could support this."

    Have you read Faith Alone by R. C. Sproul? He brings up the ECT, and it was also something surprising to see when he wrote that J. I. Packer signed the ECT. But I'm not sure now. Packer may have written something against it? Oh well.

    J.I. Packer did indeed sign the ECT document. This was a continuation of his longstanding decision for the Anglican church in 1967 [and against Lloyd-Jones's advice], proving that whatever he writes and whatever doctrines he upholds, he is not willing to define the church by 'sound doctrine' and so is an uncertain trumpet, a betrayer of the Reformation and all those who trusted his leadership. The young evangelicals within the UK Church of England have taken his lead by getting personal advancement and then failed to separate prophetically from the rank liberal majority in their Church.

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