The Strong Hold of Ecumenicalism: Ecclesiological Chaos By Marco Gonzalez
Over the past fifty-plus years, the air of ecumenicalism has been breathed into evangelicalism. With the hopes of â€œunity,â€ 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 â€œecclesiological chaos.â€ 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, â€œWhat is a Christian?â€ The plight of ecumenicalism is that it conveys Christianity as â€œanyone who believes in Christ is part of the church.â€ Doctrine then, is subservient to a visible confession of faith. But isnâ€™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: â€œWhat brings forgiveness of sin?.â€ 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:
â€œIs 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 â€œbrethrenâ€; that we refer to people who never darken the doors of a place of worship as â€œlapsed Christiansâ€ 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?â€
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 â€œbroader churchâ€ 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:
â€œThe 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.â€
This is exactly what I mean when I say â€œecclesiological chaos.â€ When external unity becomes the primacy of the Church, it enviably leads to what is â€œexternal and visible.â€ Isnâ€™t this exactly what many, pastors/preachers, and evangelicals boast over? Most ministries are praised for their so called â€œunity,â€ 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. Evangelicalâ€™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:
â€œWe 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.â€