Articles

But By My Spirit Saith the Lord, Pt 1

It is easy to get caught up in “good” movements and works because they make perfect sense, however, we must always be aware that although a string of logic may move perfectly along a succession of premises, that does not mean that we will not arrive at error instead of truth. Logic is a dumb tool, like computers — garbage in, garbage out. Logic can work very well in an erroneous environment of thought; just consider evolution for a while. That is the deception of “perfect sense” and just another reason why we need divine revelation.

Christian unity is a given. The Church is required to foster unity between its members and between churches.   Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” In John 17:23, Jesus prays for unity among His people, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” It is a way of glorifying God in the presence of the world for their salvation. In Colossians 3:14, Paul treats it as a commandment, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Nobody can deny that unity among God’s people is of great importance in the function of the Church and of particular churches. The question is: Can we take unity too far, and does it matter how we achieve unity as long as we achieve it?

There are two modern schemes of unity in the world. There is ecumenism and non-denominationalism. Ecumenism is a positive plan to unite the churches of the world, while non-denominationalism is a negative idea to break down denominations which are viewed as divisive. Ecumenism seeks unity by reduction, that is, by reducing Christianity to such a low denominator that any organized claim to Christianity can be a part of one world “church”. This means that the world church must be able to embrace Catholics, evangelicals, liberals, and even cults that claim to be part of the Christian culture, such as Mormonism.

Since the beginning of the Ecumenical Movement between 1910 and 1920 (depending on your interpretation of an historical starting point), the movement has been Catholic led and has moved from dialogues to the signing of joint declarations. The dialogues have chiseled away at the distinctions between Catholic and Protestant understandings of important doctrines, steered by modernism. This is not a mere theory, but it is clearly stated in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Lutheran World Foundation and the Roman Catholic Church. (Many other signers have joined since 1999, including the World Methodist Council, the PCUSA, various congregational churches, and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.) An excerpt from the Joint Declaration states: “By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today's partner.” JDDJ, 2,13. In other words, our confessional views of justification have been trumped by the consensus of the Catholic led Ecumenical Movement with agreement of the Lutheran World Foundation.

The result is basically a semantical marriage of monergism and synergism in the doctrine of justification, which is heretical. Since neither Liberalism or Mormonism hold to orthodox views of salvation and justification, their inclusion in the Ecumenical Movement necessitates breaking down basic Christianity into mere “spirituality”, which renders Christianity on par with any other religion in the world. This has produced several cross-cultural and inter-religious discussion organizations such as The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (which has an evangelical chapter) and Patheos, a related organization committed to conversations between different expressions of “spirituality”, i.e. any religion including witchcraft and certain forms of atheism. Broad evangelicalism has inroads to these organizations through Christianity Today and other vehicles.

We’ll continue this discussion next week, but I want to leave you with a closing thought. What I have described above is what is considered the cutting edge of modern Christianity. We are the cavemen, the Neanderthals of Christianity. We walk around swinging our Confession Clubs, dragging the Church by the hair, and grunting Calvinism. The big, glossy, streamlined, state-of-the-art Christianity is being done by Catholics and huge, significant denominations and large church associations and movements. Unfortunately, and here is where we need to be on our guard all the time, these “august” decisions are filtering down into churches and denominations that are not directly in the movement, and are having subtle effects on conservative, orthodox churches because ministers and members are not discerning about what material they digest. If we are going to preserve the true, biblical doctrine of justification, we are going to have to be wakeful and study very hard in order that we may be approved unto God (2 Tim 2:15).