In 1994, Chuck Colson’s and “father” Richard John Neuhaus’s ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” project issued its first statement, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” The gist of the declaration was that both camps recognized the other as “Christian” and resolved to join as allies in the culture war against secularism. Several notable Evangelicals supported the statement but perhaps the most surprising signatory was J. I. Packer (pictured), an important Reformed theologian best known for his book, “Knowing God.” Packer’s endorsement of ECT was met with strong criticism from many Evangelicals.
One year later, the ECT leadership released “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission,” a collection of articles defending the ECT statement written by six of the signers including Packer. In his article, Packer argued that his endorsement of ECT was not an approval of the doctrines of Catholicism. He stated, in so many words, that if a Catholic is saved they are saved in spite of their church’s standard theology not as a result of it. But, as I noted in a previous blog, here, as a signatory of ECT, Packer was happy to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
In making reference to his critics Packer wrote:
“The most poignant expressions of these criticisms come from middle-aged and elderly individuals who found Christ and spiritual life in evangelicalism after failing to find either in the Roman Catholicism of their birth and who cannot believe that Protestants who back ECT know what they’re doing (p.156).”
Packer’s statement is condescending at best and insulting at worst. Well, J. I., who best to comment on the quality of a restaurant than one who’s eaten there? Who best to answer whether Christ and spiritual life can be found in Catholicism than ex-Catholics who have accepted Christ and come out of that church with its doctrines of works-righteousness? On the one hand Packer readily admits that salvation cannot be found in the standard theology of the Catholic church but then he turns around and backhands the critics of ECT as being a bunch of bitter, ex-Catholic, old fogeys. Well, J. I. was understandably stung by the well-deserved criticism and lashed out a bit uncharitably.
In some cursory readings I see Packer was always a bit of an ecumenist, being an ardent admirer of C. S. Lewis, which eventually led to his break with David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones! Now there was a man of God who knew the danger of cozying up to Rome and wasn’t afraid to talk about it! Try and get your hands on copies of Lloyd-Jones’ “Roman Catholicism” and “The Roman Catholic Church.”
It’s been twenty-one years since the first ECT document was published and the fruits of Colson’s, Packer’s and other ecumenists’ efforts are everywhere. It’s a rising tide. A recent survey found that 56% of Evangelical pastors believe the pope is their “brother in Christ.” Praise the Lord for the other 44%! I shouldn’t be surprised at the rising apostasy. The Bible does speak about it a bit. And, no, I shouldn’t be too ANGRY with Packer and other misguided Evangelicals who embrace Rome. I love my Catholic family members, friends, and readers of this blog who endlessly toil to be “good enough” to merit Heaven. Ach! What a rat race they run!
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18
I’m clothed with my Savior’s imputed perfect righteousness. Now THAT’S something to REJOICE about! Yep, I can be a HAPPY guy, too! Accept Christ and trust in Him as your Savior, not in your own efforts or the traditions your church.