Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome
By John Warwick Montgomery, Ph.D.
Zondervan, 1969, 113 pp.
While reading a booklet on the errors of Catholicism, “What’s Happening in the Roman Church?: A Report from Rome” by William C. Standridge (see my review here), I took note of the author’s favorable reference to what looked to be an interesting book, “Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome” and immediately ordered a copy from an Amazon third-party used book seller.
At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic church changed its stance regarding Protestants from confrontational militancy to conciliatory cooperation. Protestant theologians were quite surprised by the dramatic change and many were eager to enter into ecumenical dialogue with the RCC.
In this book, published in 1969, John Warwick Montgomery (1931-, photo right), a theologian affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), takes a look at the rising tide of Protestant ecumenism with Rome.
Friends, I’m a Theology 101 type of guy and this book was written for Theology 401 types. The academese is so thick that the lay reader must use a fork and knife to labor through it. Difficulties aside, what I catch from the grandiloquent prose is that Montgomery definitely favors dialogue with Rome. However, he doesn’t view ecumenical discussions as accommodation and compromise, but supposedly as opportunities to witness on behalf of the genuine Gospel of grace to Roman Catholic theologians with their false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit (p. 42). What Montgomery and other overly-optimistic and naive evangelical theologians failed to consider was that ecumenical dialogue is a two-way street and Roman Catholic theologians also relished opportunities to advance their false gospel.
Below are the chapters of the book with some comments from myself:
- Evangelical Unity and Contemporary Ecumenicity
The author notes the change to the RCC’s approach to Protestants and argues for the value of ecumenical dialogue as a chance to witness for the Gospel. Montgomery strangely devotes several pages to complimenting Eastern Orthodoxy for its emphasis on subjective mysticism, but he ultimately rejects it in favor of the absolute authority of God’s Word.
- Sixtus of Siena and Roman Catholic Scholarship in the Reformation Period
Montgomery is highly complimentary of Catholic theologian, Sixtus of Siena (1520-1569), and his encyclopedic overview of the Bible in his “Bibliotheca Sancta” (1566), but finally renounces the scholarship of Sixtus for his intellectual approach to Scripture rather than embracing the spiritual message of the Gospel therein.
- The Approach of New Shape Roman Catholicism to Scriptural Inerrancy: A Case Study for Evangelicals
Montgomery notes the rise of “New Shape” theologians within the Catholic church by which higher-criticism/modernism was introduced into the RCC in the 20th century. As a result, Catholic theologians (and also, prelates and priests) increasingly viewed the Bible as myth and allegory rather than God’s literal Word.
- Rome and the “Death of God”
Modernist RCC theologians of the “New Shape” argued that the church was “progressively unfolding” and was not anchored to “ancient manuscripts” (i.e., the Bible). The RCC’s untethering from Scripture has always allowed it to place its magisterium and its evolving “sacred traditions” above God’s Word.
- Three Reviews: Hans Kung, Alonzo Schokel, Nathan Soderblom
Montgomery cites three books that were influential in promoting ecumenism and points out their particular faults.
This is a VERY strange book. Montgomery welcomes ecumenical dialogue while simultaneously warning against Rome’s heterodoxies. Via the efforts of theologians like Montgomery, ecumenism gained a foothold within evangelicalism and eventually reached a point where the author’s cautions and objections back in 1969 were no longer voiced or even considered (see William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, etc.). Ecumenism with Rome always, always, always results in accommodation, compromise, and betrayal of the Gospel. What looked to be an interesting book turned out to be a big disappointment.