We’re living in the “post-modern” era characterized by the prevailing philosophy that truth is relative and that right-minded thinking embraces “inclusiveness,” “plurality,” and non-critical “charity.”
In the spirit of the times ecumenical discussions between Catholics and some Evangelicals have often focused on “what unites” rather than “what divides.” In attempts to hammer out a mutually satisfying statement on the primary theological issue of justification, both sides can agree that salvation is “by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ” but Catholics purposely leave off the table their belief that sacramental grace equips them to better obey the Ten Commandments and church rules so they can merit their salvation. Both parties shake hands and walk away from the table celebrating their newly forged “unity” but there’s also an understanding on both sides that the onion remains largely unpeeled. And that’s only regarding justification. I haven’t even mentioned the troubling issues of Mary, saints, transubstantiation, the pope, priests/sacerdotalism, confession, purgatory, statues, etc.
Some Catholics, like David Mills in the blog below, bemoan today’s ecumenical niceties. He misses the old days when Catholics proudly proclaimed they were members of the “one true church” (that actually hasn’t changed) and all Protestants were “heretics.” Mills makes great fun of nineteenth-century Protestant preachers with their “swallow-tail coats” and “enormous sideburns” who frequently railed on the errors of the Roman “Whore of Babylon” (see illustration of Charles Spurgeon probably railing against the evils of Rome). But he conveniently neglects to mention how Protestants were often harassed and persecuted in Catholic-dominated countries right up into the mid-twentieth-century.
Is today’s ecumenical dialogue a good thing? Only if you’re Catholic. Rome has never equivocated on its ultimate goal of drawing all Protestants back under the authority of the pope. And as Mills surely knows but doesn’t mention, part of Rome’s rationale for today’s ecumenism is an attempt to stanch the steady flow of ex-Catholics to Evangelical, Gospel-preaching churches. Most importantly, no one can be saved by trying to merit their way to Heaven as Rome teaches.
But I respect the forthrightness of David Mills. It does no one any good to downplay or overlook doctrinal distinctives in the pursuit of “Christian unity.” I’ll continue to point out the differences between the Gospel of grace versus Catholicism’s gospel of works. If that makes me sound “so nineteenth-century,” that’s fine with me.
The Quaint Quibbles Dividing Catholics and Evangelicals
By David Mills
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