Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 9th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.
[The information in this post is closely associated with the “Throwback Thursday” post that was published just a few weeks ago. See here.]
In 1994, Chuck Colson’s and, Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus’s ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) alliance issued its first declaration; “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” The gist of the statement 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 (photo above), an influential Reformed theologian best known for his book, “Knowing God.” Packer’s endorsement of ECT was met with shock and strong criticism from many evangelicals.
One year later, ECT leadership released “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission,” a collection of articles defending the ECT declaration, written by six of the document’s 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 Catholics are 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 post, as a signatory of ECT, Packer was quite willing to give every Catholic the benefit of the doubt.
In defending himself from 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 a false religious system than one who was once held in bondage by it? 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 false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit? 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 ex-Catholic critics of ECT as being a bunch of bitter, old fogeys! Well, it’s easy to see that J. I. was quite stung by the well-deserved criticism of his participation in ECT and lashed out irrationally and 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 speak about it! To read Lloyd-Jones’ sermon, “Roman Catholicism,” see here.
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 58 percent of self-identified evangelical Christian pastors agreed that pope Francis was a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ,” while another 19 percent responded that they were not sure. What that means is only 23 percent of the evangelical Christian pastors who were polled disagreed with the statement that the pope is a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ.” I shouldn’t be surprised at the rising apostasy. The Bible does speak about it. And, no, I shouldn’t be hateful towards Packer and other misguided evangelicals who embrace the RCC and serve as the Vatican’s “polezni durak” (useful fools). However, I love my Catholic family members, friends, and Catholics in general who endlessly toil to be “good enough” to merit Heaven. Ach! What a rat race they run! They need evangelicals who will confront them with their sinful state and present them with the genuine Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. They don’t need accommodating and compromising evangelicals like J.I. Packer, who betray them and the Gospel.
“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 am a HAPPY guy! Repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ and trust in Him as your Savior by faith alone, not in your own efforts or the man-made traditions your church.