Ecumenism

When Love Divorces Doctrine and Unity Rejects Truth: A Response to End-Time Ecumenism

It is evident that leading neo-evangelicals believe that our main goal is to eliminate doctrinal distinctives and to emphasize unity among those claiming to be believers.

One of the basic ideas of today’s philosophy of ecumenical evangelism is that love is more important than doctrine. Ecumenical evangelists say that doctrine divides, whereas love unifies. What does the Bible say? Is it true that in the New Testament love is more important than doctrine, or truth?

In the so-called “love chapter,” we are told: “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love [agape]” (NKJV, 1 Cor. 13:13). Some say—“That settles it: love is supreme!” But when we examine this chapter more carefully, we discover that truth is also mentioned. In v. 6 we are told that love “rejoices in the truth.” In other words, faith, hope and love are virtues, but truth has an altogether different status. It is the frame of reference, the foundation, the atmosphere without which virtues such as love cannot exist at all.

Love “rejoices in the truth.” Why? Because without truth to define, interpret, protect, guide and channel it, love can become a total disaster. We dare not place truth on the same level as virtues. Virtues would shrivel up and die if it were not for truth.

Here is an example from the natural world. We cannot imagine life on this planet without water. Water is absolutely essential for life—as long as it stays within proper channels, such as canals, aqueduct and pipes. But when water gets out of control, it is the second greatest catastrophe that can happen to this planet—second only to fire. On the one hand, it is an absolute blessing, but on the other hand it can be a total disaster. So it is with love.

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"In his sermon, called a 'reflection,' Thompson read from the Torah and Quran, as well as the Bible"

“ ‘You have to learn how to love people different than you.’ That’s the core belief for Thompson and a small band of Sacramento-area followers, who are quietly experimenting with a faith that takes ecumenical to the extreme.”… “The Sunday gathering is called an ‘ecumenical forum,’ not a worship service. There are no church members, but ‘friends.’” Sacramento Bee

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"Williams, the spiritual leader of Anglicans worldwide, will visit the Vatican on Nov. 17 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity"

“The visit follows the resignations of five Anglican bishops who converted to the Roman Catholic Church.”
Anglican Head to Visit Vatican for Unity Celebration

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Confused about Catholicism, Part 3

(This series on evangelical confusion about Roman Catholicism originally appeared as one article in JMT, Fall, 2008. Read Part 1 and Part 2).

Areas of disagreement between Roman Catholics and evangelicals

(2) A different view of ultimate authority

Related somewhat to one’s understanding of church history is one’s viewpoint of ultimate authority as quotations above suggest. From the Catholic side there is the general sentiment that since Christ formed the church (a single church) it inherently carries His authority. Perhaps the general Catholic thought is summed up with these words: “They [Protestants] are not clear-headed enough to perceive that a proper notion of the Church is a necessary stage before we argue from the authority of Christ to any other theological doctrine whatever.”1 Adding some intensity, the same writer goes on to claim that “the Protestant had no conceivable right to base any arguments on the inspiration of the Bible, for the inspiration of the Bible was a doctrine which had been believed, before the Reformation, on the mere authority of the Church; it rested on exactly the same basis as the doctrine of Transubstantiation.”2 Karl Rahner, the famous Catholic theologian, says the same truth in a different way. He speaks of the two aspects of the faith of a Christian. Those two aspects are faith in Christ and faith in the church, not faith in God’s Word:

It makes no difference…whether he believes in the Church first and then in the rest of matters proposed for his belief because these come from the Church, or whether he first attains to belief in Christ and his word, and goes on from there to belief in the Church as founded by Christ…On the basis of faith in Christ the believer includes the Church too in his faith in such a way that it immediately becomes the direct medium and rule of faith as such.3

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Many Denominations: The Positive Side

“If the Bible is true, why are there so many denominations?” What Christian has not fielded this question? Yet there is an unspoken assumption behind this objection, namely, that having one denomination is somehow a good thing. I suggest that the opposite is true. Bigger is not always better.

“But didn’t the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, teach that there should be just one denomination? Wouldn’t the church be more effective if we had one central voice?”

When the churches were one

Before we explore these valid concerns, let me prime your mind by asking a few questions of my own. When most of Christendom was part of one denomination, how ideal were things? Before 1054 AD (when the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the old Western Catholic Church), the overwhelming majority of Christendom considered itself Catholic and somewhat loyal to Rome. Both forms of Christianity had wandered far from the simplicity of Scripture centuries before the split. Were Christian laymen mighty in the Scriptures? Was the gospel of salvation by grace through faith spreading throughout the world?

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