Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on February 4, 2017 and has been revised.
Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty
Edited by Timothy George and Thomas G. Guarino
Brazos Press, 2015, 187 pages
When I returned to the Lord in 2014 after a prolonged prodigal absence, I noticed things had changed quite a bit within evangelicalism. I had to quickly educate myself regarding the widespread phenomena of the seeker, church-growth, mega-church movement where doctrine is often dumbed-down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Some of the resulting changes were seemingly harmless, like the switch from jackets and ties at Sunday worship service to jeans and flannels. Other changes were not so innocuous.
One of the most disturbing changes was in regards to evangelicalism’s approach to Roman Catholicism. Evangelical churches have always proclaimed the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, while the Catholic church has always proclaimed its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and “never the twain shall meet.” But there were determined efforts on the part of Rome and some evangelicals led by the example of Billy Graham as far back as the early 1960s to bridge the unbridgeable chasm. When I walked away from the Lord in 1991 I could see the ecumenical train coming down the tracks, but it was still a long ways away. Twenty-three years later, in 2014, meetings between the pope and big-name evangelicals at the Vatican were commonplace. What had happened?
Since returning to the Lord, I’ve become very familiar with Evangelical and Catholics Together (ECT), an ecumenical initiative which was launched in 1994 by evangelical, Chuck Colson (d. 2012), and Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, to bridge the gap between both camps. Over the course of twenty-three years, ECT has issued nine statements on various topics. Certainly, most “laypersons” are not at all familiar with ECT, but the group was a vanguard influence on theologians and church leaders and contributed a great deal to our current state of compromise, betrayal, and false unity. There was considerable outrage from conservative evangelicals at the time ECT released its first statement in 1994 – most notably from John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, James Kennedy, and John Ankerberg – but since then opposition to advancing ecumenism with Catholic error has become increasingly muted. Those who still oppose ecumenism with Rome are viewed as sectarian “isolationists,” as ECT member, J.I. Packer, deridingly refers to us in the preface of this book.
In “Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty,” the ECT alliance re-presents its nine statements with some brief commentary. It’s sad reading, folks. Very sad. The pre-supposition heading into the first statement is that evangelicals and Catholics are brothers in Christ and preach, at its core, the same Gospel. It then becomes an issue of trying to force a square peg through a round hole. Salvation by sacramental grace and merit is NOT the same as salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Throughout these statements, differences are (somewhat) acknowledged and then immediately glossed over in deference to ecumenical “unity.” The scandalizing accommodation, cooperation, compromise, infidelity, and betrayal of the Gospel in these pages on the part of participating evangelicals has its precedent in the Old Testament as the Israelites mixed with the pagan Canaanites and “relaxed” their fidelity to Yahweh and His Word for the ecumenical worship of Baal (“Lord”). Even more foretelling were Paul’s many clear warnings to the New Testament churches of the encroaching “Judaizer” legalists.
I thought about listing each of the ECT statements and commenting on them individually, but I feel like I’ve already devoted far too much time and energy reading the book and writing this sorry “review.” My heart is deeply saddened by this ongoing betrayal of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and His Gospel, but I am encouraged to know the Lord is still on His throne and a remnant remains faithful to the uncompromised Gospel of grace!