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Ecumenism: "Why Can't We Be Friends?"

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Should a Christian be involved in the ecumenical movement?

“Ecumenism a religious movement that seeks to unite all Christians and bring the various denominations together in mutual cooperation. The word comes from the Greek oikoumene, which means "the whole inhabited world." Ephesians 4:3 says that Christians should be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." John 17:21notes Christ's desire "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you." So, biblically, Christians should pursue unity with one another. But how does this apply to the contemporary ecumenical movement?

The modern ecumenical movement often goes beyond uniting Christians and seeks to connect Protestants, Catholics, and non-Christian religions. Modern ecumenical leaders promote "interfaith dialogue" with Mormons, Islamists, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Universalists, and a variety of New Age belief systems. Such efforts are at odds with the concept of Christian unity as presented in Scripture. While there is room for discussion with those outside of Christianity, to accept all religions as equally valid is to deny the uniqueness of Jesus and the Christian faith.

Some partnerships are not really an issue. Believers from almost any background can cooperate to fight poverty, for example, or to take a pro-life stand. However, in other areas partnerships can send the wrong message or contradict a church's beliefs. For example, recent attempts to bridge differences between Protestant and Catholic theology have included joint statements on salvation and the inspiration of Scripture. To sign a statement that compromises core biblical teaching is dangerous. Doctrines such as salvation by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) and the authority of Scripture (1 Timothy 3:16-17) should not be compromised for the sake of a synthetic unity.

A desire for ecumenicalism cannot ignore the Bible's commands to maintain the purity of the gospel (Galatians 1:6-92 Peter 2:1Jude 1:3-4). Christians must "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). It's significant that, immediately following Paul's anathema on apostates, he asks, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?" (Galatians 1:10). At the heart of modern ecumenicalism is a desire to please men instead of God.

On a positive note, a denomination is itself "ecumenical" in the sense that it consists of many churches working together with common beliefs. This coalition shares resources, serves local churches, and reaches others in world missions. Negatively, denominational ties that are too strong or centralized can lessen the ability of a local church to follow God's will for its members.

Christians are called to unity, but not at all costs. Doctrine is paramount, especially when it concerns the person and work of Christ. Modern ecumenical efforts are often all too ready to part with biblical teachings. Therefore, we must take care when evaluating potential partnerships. If unity can be had without compromising fundamental Christian belief, then unity should be pursued. As 17th-century Lutheran theologian Rupertus Meldenius said, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” (
https://www.compellingtruth.org/ecumenical-movement.html)

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The Problem With Ecumenism and Interfaith Coalitions

BY  NEWS DIVISION · PUBLISHED JUNE 1, 2015 · UPDATED OCTOBER 16, 2015

 
 

Ecumenical movements within the Church and those who propagate them should be considered with caution.  One prominent propagator of such movements is the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC).  The ERLC has been known to make questionable dives into the waters of faith-based alliances with organizations that hold to completely different sets of doctrinal beliefs than do Bible-believing Southern Baptists.  It has rightly been criticized by concerned Christians for doing so.  Unfortunately, critics of the ERLC and similar organizations are often accused of slandering people of faith, causing division, rejecting diversity, or even spreading hate. Questions, not unlike the trap questions asked of Jesus by Jewish leaders during the first century, are thrown at the critics of ecumenism in attempts to discredit their concerned stances.  Many times, these questions are nothing more than straw-men tactics that shown no real concern the specific issue at hand.  When responding to such questions, critics of unhealthy ecumenism should strive to respond with sound logic and thoughtful biblical exegesis.  Consider the following admonishments from the Apostle Paul in light of notable activities of the ERLC.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? … – 2 Cor: 14-16

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. – Eph. 5:11

Recently, the ERLC formed a “faith-based” coalition against what they refer to as “predatory payday lending.” Last week the Pulpit & Pen published an article taking a strong stance against this alliance, making it clear that such an alliance compromised the Gospel. While many are waking up to the troubling alliances often formed by the ERLC, there are still many more who are blind to the ERLC’s potential damage to the witness of the local churches which financially support it and the convention that oversees it.  Some may see the motives of the ERLC as genuine and the outcome of its actions benign. On the surface, it may appear to be that way, but if one really steps back and takes a look at the deeper issues involved, he will have little option but to see that the ERLC does compromise on the gospel. Upon coming to this realization and speaking out about it, one will be face with questions such as:

Is it wrong for Baptists and Catholics to work together cleaning up after 9/11?

Would it be wrong to agree with an atheist on a solution to a problem?

As noted above, such arguments, in general, are straw-men, different from the arguments made against ecumenical alliances.

Spiritual Endeavors

The difference between spiritual endeavors and a common, secular “working together” must be understood.” The phrase, “unequally yoked,” in 2 Cor. 14is “ἑτεροζυγέω,” transliterated “heterozygeō.” It is actually a compound of the two words “ἕτερος” (“heteros”), and “ζυγός” (“zygos”). It was metaphorically used to represent the unequal combining together of working animals, such as a donkey and an ox, to a plow. Because of their differences, these animals would have difficulty accomplishing the task. Paul is primarily speaking to the Church in this letter and he is literally commanding it members not to enter into enter into a formal working partnership, or alliance with unbelievers–specifically those that would cause them to compromise their witness.

Now, here is where the question lies. What is it that causes a compromise of the Gospel and how is it different from the generic “working together” to solve a problem? Ezekiel 3:19 provides insight:

But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

So what does that have to do with the question at hand? Consider a recent example. In 2014, President of the ERLC, Russell Moore, and Saddleback mega-church pastor Rick Warren went to the Vatican to meet the pope and participate in a conference which affirmed the biblical view of marriage (that it is between a man and a woman). On the surface, this sounds like a noble cause for Christ, but on a deeper level, what was the outcome of this alliance?

Jesus commissioned the Church to go and make disciples–calling people to repentance and faith in Christ (Matthew 28:19). Moore and Warren silentlymade an agreement with the pope to not talk about their differences. What would have happened if Russell Moore or Warren were to make the trip to Rome and started publicly calling Roman Catholics and the pope to repent of their idolatry? They would have been asked to leave and not participate. However, they chose to put their differences aside and work together to accomplish something less important.

The lasting damage this has done to the witness of the true church is considerable. Some would argue that perhaps they witnessed to some individuals while they were there and while this would be laudable if it were true, it’s a moot point. The public impression that they gave the world was that the sanctity of marriage was a more important cause than any doctrinal differences between them and the Roman Catholic Church. This is not an acceptable impression. Ephesians 5:11 says:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

There may be those uneducated Christians who think that Roman Catholicism is just another denomination. Leaders such as Moore and Warren certainly know better.  The exploits of the Roman Catholicism Church are, at their core, works of darkness. If Christ’s true church is allied with the false church that is the Roman Catholic Church, how can it expose its wicked deeds?

The same concept is true of the most recent ecumenical alliance between Russell Moore and and certain groups that deny the inerrancy of scripture.  This alliance came together to stand against “predatory lending” and advocated governmental solutions to curb the practice.  Even if such action by the government is a wise course of action (I do not think that big-government solution is), the partnership hurts the witness of the bible-believing Christian Church. Again, Russell Moore doesn’t call any of the leaders of these scripture-rejecting groups to repentance because he has silently made an agreement with them to only talk about the thing they agree on–the danger of predatory lending.  Moore has also subtly but publicly agreed with them that they are a “Christian” coalition. Once again, if he were to publicly proclaim that, for example, many of the people involved in PICO National Network held to a false gospel that led to Hell, he would be chastised by the group, and asked to separate from it.

Non-Spiritual Endeavors

Okay, so what about Baptists and Catholics working together to help victims of Hurricane Katrina or a Baptist doctor working with a Muslim nurse? Well, in this case, the answer is “it depends.”  In most cases, by default, these are not “gopsel” endeavors. As a general rule, one doesn’t see Baptists and Catholics working on disaster relief forming a formal alliance, building a website, and co-signing partnership documents in these cases which would compromise the Gospel. Further, one doesn’t see faith-based alliances that that presuppose only those who profess Christianity can be involved.

Non-Gospel Solutions to Sin Problems

The Bible clearly teaches that evil acts are sin and the only true solution to sin is the Gospel. The role of the Church is to equip the saints to go out into the world and make disciples (Eph 4:12).  When an alliance with unbelievers is formed to find a solution to a certain problem, the gospel is automatically ignored as the solution. How can Russell Moore’s “Lend Justly” coalition provide the Gospel as a solution when the different groups hold to different gospels? The only option is to come together for a man-centered solution.

The Church has five main functions according to Scripture; these functions are worship, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and evangelism. The ERLC, as an extension and representative of the Church, is consistently engaging in political activism–seeking man-centered solutions to sin problems. This idea is nowhere to be found in Scripture, and political activism is definitely not a function of the Church. While having moral laws in place that restrict evil is most certainly a good thing, it’s the Gospel and the conversion of people to Christianity that ultimately changes hearts towards the morality of God.

Bad Company Ruins Morals

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Cor. 15:33

The old axioms “Birds of a feather flock together” and “If you lay down with dogs you get fleas” are true.  It’s a natural psychological phenomenon to mimic one’s friends.  The church’s primary dealing with unbelievers should be to witness to them. It’s members should never allow themselves to become comfortable around people in their sin. Proverbs 13:20says:

Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

If Christians are consistently around people who deny Jesus, or deny the true Gospel (i.e. the pope), and they aren’t making any headway with them by witnessing to them, it’s time to move on and find new company (Matthew 7:6). Further, if Christians have chosen not to proclaim the Gospel to the lost, by forming an alliance, or otherwise, then they have have also chosen to disobey Scripture.  To be certain, if one were to ask Dr. Moore about the nature of the Gospel, he would likely know how to expound upon it in a biblical way. He knows the gospel. However, there is a difference between knowing and showing.  The fact is that Moore knows the Gospel but essentially refuses to boldly proclaim it within the ERLC’s ecumenical alliances.

But Jesus Mixed With Unbelievers?

Jesus mixed with unbelievers and he did so regularly. Yet, the Bible never shows Christ or the Apostles  forming alliances or coalitions with unbelievers. Some have argued that Jesus chose to ally with Judas to serve his purposes. But, while Judas was certainly chosen as a disciple of Christ, one could hardly make the argument that he was an ally. Further, Christ, being fully God, knew fully well that Judas would betray him, therefore, his purposes were served withoutallying with him. One could hardly argue that this is what the ERLC is doing.

While Jesus regularly sat with unbelievers and spoke to them, his purpose was to witness to them. Jesus called people to repentance.

Conclusion

The reader should ask himself this question. “Do I really believe that the Bible is the infallible, inspired and true Word of God and not just a book containing some spiritual metaphors that I can pick and choose from when it suits me?” If one is a Christian, then he must take the Word of God as truth.  The Word of God has clearly forbidden partnership between believers and unbelievers.  Jesus commissioned the Church to go and make disciples. Undoubtedly it cannot do that by devaluing the primacy and sufficiency of the Gospel. God calls the church to be separate from the world and not to walk with it. Romans 12:2 says:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Christians are to live “in the world,” but not to be “of the world.” As this is the plea of God, for those who don’t will reap destruction.

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; – Revelation 18:4

[Contributed by Pulpit & Pen]

Editor’s Note: JD recently preached a sermon on this topic, “The Temple of God and Idols.” You can listen here.

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“Ecumenism, or the Ecumenical Movement, represents a modern unity movement seen most prevalently among liberal Protestants, Roman Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox. After over a millennium of various divisions, members of these churches determined that it was best to attempt a dialogue that would lead to reconciliation and full communion among its constituent members. Unlike other movements, ecumenism has not resulted in any new or different churches or ecclesiastical structures: the movement entirely consists of various member churches communicating and working with one another bilaterally, multilaterally, and within organizations like the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC)1. The primary goal of ecumenism is the attainment of full communion of the constituent separated churches within the movement and other ecclesiastical communities, manifest in shared events, collaboration in missions and other activities, and continued dialogue2. Ecumenism in the twentieth and now the twenty-first century is greatly responsible for overall attitudes espousing “unity-in-diversity” among different churches and the common appearance that all churches are essentially the same; it has popularized entirely new models of Christian worldview and perspective, recasting “the church” in more expansive terms than ever before.

 

Origins and History

Ecumenism finds its origins first in the trans-denominational movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth century that led to the Evangelical movement (although, as noted below, many evangelicals are cool toward the ecumenical movement proper) and most directly in the missionary society movement in the nineteenth century. The close cooperation of many Protestant denominations in mission work compelled their members to consider their differences and work toward some kind of unity. The beginning of the ecumenical movement is normally reckoned with the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland3. Other aspects of the movement soon followed: in 1921, the International Missionary Council was established, followed by the World Conference on Faith and Order in 1927 (focusing on doctrinal differences); these all led to the establishment of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 19484. These international developments were paralleled by national movements in many countries, including the United States, where the National Council of Churches of Christ began in 1950. The constituent members of these bodies have met consistently during their existence, and much discussion and dialogue has taken place regarding areas of agreement and disagreement among the various groups.

While much of the action of ecumenism has taken place within the national and international ecumenical organizations, other efforts have been undertaken on the denominational level. Roman Catholics have engaged in dialogue with any branch of Christendom willing to converse with them; Lutherans and Anglicans, Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox, and many other such groups have engaged in much dialogue. In 1997, the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America established full communion with one another, perhaps one of the greater displays of professed unity within the movement5. The conversations and joint participation in matters of agreement continue to this day.

Denominations Involved

The founding members of ecumenism include many Wesleyan churches, primarily Methodists, along with Anglicans/Episcopaliansand Lutherans. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), historic Calvinist churches (United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church, Reformed churches), many Anabaptist groups, Pietists, some Quaker groups, and The Salvation Army represent Protestant groups also allied with the ecumenical movement.

While the Roman Catholic Church was leery of the movement from 1919 through 1949, the church reversed itself, and beginning in 1961 fully participated in ecumenism6.  Eastern Orthodoxy and many of the first millennium splinter groups (Church of the East, Syrian Orthodox Church, Coptic church) have also participated in the movement.

Many groups aligned with the Evangelical movement (Baptists, some Holiness groups, and many Pentecostal groups) are suspicious of the liberal Protestant-based ecumenical movement and have little to do with the World Council of Churches and its attendant ecumenical dialogues. Such churches, however, practice their own brand of ecumenism among themselves, as discussed within Evangelicalism.

General Considerations

Since ecumenism has not resulted in any new ecclesiastical structure or organization per se, it will be sufficient to consider the general considerations listed for its constituent denominational members.

Ecumenical Goals and Methodologies

As we investigate ecumenism in greater detail, we must begin by recognizing that the overall goal of the ecumenical movement is quite noble and excellent: the unity of believers in Christ. Such is the desire of God for those who are indeed His people (1 Corinthians 1:10Philippians 2:2John 17:21). Unity of believers is certainly a goal worthy of consideration and diligence.

While unity is a desirable goal, it is important that the unity is indeed the unity that God desires for His people, truly fulfilling the imagery of 1 Corinthians 12:12-28 and Ephesians 5:22-31. A form of unity that is not in accordance with God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures is not going to be pleasing to God! Therefore, it is of the greatest importance to consider the smaller goals and methodologies of ecumenism and to compare them with the Scriptures.

One major concern with the methodology of the ecumenical movement is found in its evaluation of its constituent members. One requirement of anyone participating in the ecumenical movement is the confession that the “Church of Christ” is more inclusive than one’s own church; it is believed that the Holy Spirit has been working throughout history in each individual denomination and that denominations should learn from the developments in faith that can be found in their ecumenical partners7. These views presuppose that all the participants involved in ecumenism represent legitimate and divinely approved expressions of Christianity and that no individual constituent denomination truly manifests the entire truth found in the New Testament.

The New Testament records the following regarding the nature of the church:

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3).

In both passages the author presupposes that the audience is part of a body that has the truth within itself based upon the revelation of God. 1 Timothy 3:15 may include a challenge for a church (that it will be the pillar and support of the truth), but the fact that Paul can even speak of such a possibility demonstrates that God expects that which is truly the “Church of Christ” will hold firm to the truth as delivered once for all.

By participating in the ecumenical movement, the various members implicitly confess that they are not promoting the Gospel fully as intended by God in the New Testament and somehow expect that the truth will be established by consensus within the movement and its dialogue. Such an implicit admission casts doubt about the legitimacy of the movement and those who would comprise it.

Ecumenism is also marked, even from its origin, by a desire to collaborate in social reform movements and mission work8. Indeed, ecumenism attempts to work on the basis of areas of agreement and moves toward areas of disagreement. This kind of methodology, while understandable considering the task that is being attempted, ought to give pause. As can be seen in The Church Treasury, I: BenevolenceThe Church Treasury, II: Other Considerations, and Wesleyanism: The Church and Social Responsibility, church sponsorship of missionary societies, hospitals, centers of education, and the like are without Scriptural authority and that the function of the church is not to push for social reform per se but rather the promotion of the Gospel, the building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:16). If all of these groups are individually acting outside of God’s authority for the church, can they truly collectively represent the pillar and support of the truth?

Unity cannot be established on the basis of agreement on certain practices or in collaboration of given works; unity can only be established by the reality of the shared walk in the light of Jesus Christ, and through association with Him (1 John 1:5-7). If a given group or given persons do not have association with Christ, how can those who have association with Christ share in association with them? Such represents the primary concern with the secondary goals and methodologies of ecumenism.

Ecumenical Conceptualizations of the Church

Ecumenism, by its own confession, represents a new and more sophisticated way of attempting to unify disparate parts of Christendom: previous attempts of restoring New Testament Christianity, unity movements, unitary endeavors by various denominations, etc., have been brushed aside in an attempt to foster unity through what is known as koinoniafellowship9Koinonia is the Greek term for fellowship or association. Ecumenism has disavowed an “institutional merger” form of unity, which looks toward a day in which there is only one church with one structure with various congregations10. Since unity is not envisioned in terms of merger, it is viewed in terms of maintaining association with one another in various collaborative endeavors and dialogue11. It is Biblically rationalized by appealing to the example of the Jerusalem council of Acts 15:4-29, which is believed to represent this koinonia of disparate Christian elements12.

The ecumenical perspective on interdenominational relationships is entirely a novel thing, diametrically opposed to the historical perspectives of many of the denominations involved. To rationalize and justify this perspective, ecumenism posits a different understanding of the nature of the “universal church”. The “universal church,” or the Church of Christ according to ecumenism, represents all believers in Christ in all of these denominations, with unity in the basis of faith and baptism, even if its members disagree in the particulars of said faith and baptism13. In this model, the different denominations are considered synonymous with the local churches of the New Testament: Corinth, say, would be like a Pentecostal denomination, while Rome might represent Roman Catholicism, and Philippi, Lutheranism. According to this way of thinking, just as these individual local churches were parts of the greater Church, so various denominations are parts of the greater Church14. This view attempts to find legitimacy by appealing to the diversity of theology, practice, and church organization in the New Testament15. Does the ecumenical movement accurately represent the church in the New Testament?

There is no doubt that the New Testament reveals a variety of beliefs and practices within the various churches. The greater proportion of this variety, however, was not in concordance with God’s intentions for the church!

Concerning the organization of the church, we read the following in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5:

And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed.

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge.

Further directives regarding elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-8Titus 1:6-7, and 1 Peter 5:1-4; elders are present in Jerusalem, Philippi, and Ephesus (Acts 11:30Philippians 1:1Acts 20:17-38). No other system of governance is divinely approved in the New Testament; the lack of mentioning of elders in other congregations is likely an indication that not enough men were qualified for the task of the eldership rather than an intentionally different system of governance.

As to instruction and truth, the following is recorded in Galatians 1:6-9 and 1 Corinthians 4:17:

I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.

For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every church.

These verses indicate that within the churches of the New Testament there was the expectation that the same Gospel and message would be promoted and taught in all the churches. A Christian could travel to Rome or Ephesus or Antioch and hear the same message being taught. If a different message were being taught, such was considered an anathema, an accursed thing! One cannot go to a Roman Catholic church, a Lutheran church, and a Presbyterian church and expect to hear the same Gospel being taught, for the different groups believe vastly different things regarding many of the matters of the faith.

Acts 15:4-29 and Romans 14:1-15:3 represent the cornerstones of the ecumenical position, but the texts do not reflect the current position of the ecumenical movement. Yes, Acts 15:4-29 represents a council meeting to decide in a dispute regarding circumcision, yet it was hosted by the “source congregation” of the problem, came to a consensus view based upon a mutual understanding of the prophecies of Scripture and recent events, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and was to be considered normative for all the churches. The council did not presuppose the legitimacy of both viewpoints, nor is it assumed that those of the “Judaizing” party actually represent legitimate brethren in Christ (cf. Galatians 2:4). Indeed, those promoting the “Judaizing” view are declared as anathema by Paul in Galatians 1:6-9!

Romans 14:1-15:3 represents a text attempting to resolve contention regarding matters of no consequence to God that threatened to divide the church in Rome. The expected conclusion was not that different churches should exist, but that the brethren should maintain association with one another, remain a unified church, and not place any stumbling block in the way of each other. Sacrifices were to be made to establish true, concrete unity; it is not a symbolic event that involves limited participation while the groups involved remain separate entities.

What shall we say to these things? The New Testament reveals that there is but one church (Ephesians 4:4-5) and that the living members of this church, ideally, also constitute local bodies of believers accountable to one another and who assemble to build each other up (Hebrews 10:24-251 Peter 5:1-4). These believers are to be united in the same mind and judgment, believing in the same Gospel and teaching the same things in every church (1 Corinthians 4:7Galatians 1:6-91 Corinthians 1:101 John 1:6-7). Deviation from this norm is not acceptable or rightly tolerated. The ecumenical perspective on the universal church is unfounded in Scripture.

“Unity-in-Diversity”

Perhaps the hallmark of the ecumenical movement is represented by the concept of “unity-in-diversity”. While the ultimate goal of ecumenism is the unity of all its members in all matters of faith and doctrine, it is highly unlikely that such will be realized. Instead, a diversity of theological traditions is seen as acceptable, the various constituent members can work together despite significant disagreement in various matters of faith and practice, and toleration for what is perceived as the “diverse gifts of the Spirit” is mandated16. The appeal is made that this unity is possible because of agreement on the “essential” matters–the Trinitarian nature of God, the Chalcedonian understanding of Jesus, practicing many of the same practices, and the like–and that many of the matters of disagreement are “non-essential” matters that ought to be left for liberty17. Does this reflect the expectations of God in the New Testament?

We should note that there is an expectation of some level of diversity within the church. Racial, ethnic, cultural, and national diversity is assumed (Galatians 3:28Colossians 3:11Revelation 7:9). Differences among the individual members in terms of experiences and talents is also expected (1 Corinthians 12:12-28). There are indeed matters of liberty in the Scriptures, matters of “food and drink,” which may allow for divergent practices in some instances (Romans 14:17).

If the matters involved with the ecumenical movement reflected matters of “food and drink,” we would have no basis of disagreement with their view of “unity-in-diversity.” The ecumenical view of “unity-in-diversity,” by necessity, does not correlate with what is presented in Romans 14:1-15:3, for the matters of disagreement among the various bodies involves matters of far greater consequences than mere “food and drink.” Differences among the various groups include, but are not limited to: infant baptism versus adult baptism; baptism as sprinkling, pouring, or immersion; the function of baptism; the nature of the elements of the Lord’s Supper; bishopric, presbytery, or congregational church organization; the legitimacy or lack thereof of the papacy in Rome; understanding of the roles of the Scriptures and tradition; the role of Petrine authority; the status of homosexuals before God; Calvinist foreordination versus Arminian free will; etc. Who, honestly, can consider these matters of “food and drink” and not matters of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17)? When we recognize that one who taught that one should be circumcised was accursed (Galatians 1:6-9); that one who adhered to worldly philosophy violated God’s will (Colossians 2:8); and that those who presented stumbling blocks contrary to what was presented to the Christians were to be marked and avoided (Romans 16:16-172 Thessalonians 3:16-17); and then we consider the grave matters of disagreement listed above, how can we say that we can maintain association despite such vast differences in belief and practice?

Such represents the heart of the matter of ecumenism: the boundaries of koinoinia or association. Ecumenicalists would claim that any exclusive attitudes are sinful and inherently divisive; nevertheless, what do the Scriptures indicate about the limits of association?

We read the following in 1 John 1:5-7:

And this is the message which we have heard from him, and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

We can see clearly that association is to be based in a shared walk with the Lord; one can only walk with the Lord when one does His commandments and walks in the ways that He walked (1 John 2:3-6). Those who do not walk in this way walk in darkness, and there is no ability to have association with such persons.

If God commands that those who are His obedient servants will be immersed in water for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38Romans 6:3-7); live by obedient faith (Romans 1:5James 2:14-26); assemble with fellow Christians in a local congregation (Hebrews 10:24-25Philippians 1:1); walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh (Galatians 5:17-24); and preaching the one true Gospel (Romans 1:16-17Galatians 1:6-9); and there are persons who profess Christ but do not do some or all such things, on what basis can there be association? Are all those who profess Christ saved? Not according to Matthew 7:21-23.

The matter of proper association is a difficult matter; God is the ultimate Judge, and He is the only One who truly knows who is His (James 4:12). Nevertheless, Christians are called upon to test the spirits and judge those who are within (1 Corinthians 51 John 4:1). We will be held liable for the decisions we make with our association, whether it be too broad or too restrictive. If our association is too broad, we may give the false impression of a shared walk with the Lord, and disobedience to divine commands (cf. Romans 16:16-17). If our association is too restricted, we will not be building up as we should (Hebrews 10:24-25).

While this is the case, the ecumenical compromise is not Biblically tenable. While there can be toleration of some forms of diversity, the New Testament makes it clear that the Gospel and righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit are not up for compromise (Galatians 1:6-9Romans 14:17). The association of Christians is expected to be meaningful, involving joint participation in matters of the faith, not symbolic gestures with separate structures remaining underneath.

The prayer of unity expressed by Jesus represents the main inspiration for ecumenism, particularly in John 17:20-21:

“Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me.”

This is a wonderful passage and a message of hope. Notice the basis of the unity: Christians are to all be one, but they are to be one as the Father and the Son are One. The Father and the Son are not in disagreement about the nature of baptism or on the nature of predestination. Christian unity must be more than skin deep, as 1 Corinthians 1:10 and Philippians 2:1-2 indicate:

Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

If there is therefore any comfort in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Joint participation/association is a delusion if there is no substantive agreement and unity among those who work together. We cannot find this unity in the midst of a movement attempting to reconcile denominations with centuries of traditional baggage; we can only find this unity by returning to the standard of faith and practice as embodied in the New Testament, the basis of our shared faith and judgment. Unity is a noble desire, yet the truth in Christ should never be sacrificed for the sake of superficial unity (Galatians 1:6-91 Timothy 3:15)!” (http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/movements/ecumenism/)

Notes

1: Jeffrey Gros et al, Introduction to Ecumenism, 12-13, 22, 135.
2: ibid., 38, 53-54, 87.
3: ibid., 23.
4: ibid., 24.
5: ibid., 237.
6: ibid., 25-26, 236.
7: ibid., 95, 138.
8: ibid., 87, 109, 136.
9: ibid., 236, 240.
10: ibid., 236.
11: ibid., 58, 240.
12: ibid., 10-11.
13: ibid., 37.
14: ibid., 10-11.
15: ibid., 120.
16: ibid., 67, 124, 244-245.
17: ibid., 97.

Edited by Fidei Defensor

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You wrote, "..The beginning of the ecumenical 

movement is normally reckoned with the 

1910 World Missionary Conference.."

You are right about that.

----

The focus of 1910 Conference was about

"world evangelization / reaching the lost.."

---

After that, the focus changed..to other things.

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11 hours ago, Global Mission said:

You wrote, "..The beginning of the ecumenical 

movement is normally reckoned with the 

1910 World Missionary Conference.."

You are right about that.

----

The focus of 1910 Conference was about

"world evangelization / reaching the lost.."

---

After that, the focus changed..to other things.

So the ecumenism was focused in vein of evangelism then?  Very interesting, Unitas in Evangelion. Do you know where I could find more information on this era of evangelistic ecumenism? 

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3 hours ago, Fidei Defensor said:

So the ecumenism was focused in vein of evangelism then?  Very interesting, Unitas in Evangelion. Do you know where I could find more information on this era of evangelistic ecumenism? 

I prefer the word "mission", not "evangelism" in this context.

I assume you read article ( Wikipedia ) about 

 "1910 World Missionary Conference".

It shows that conference was about World Mission / Evangelization.

" Mission" focused conference started ecumenical movement.

----

Try to find following articles.

Article from: Wikipedia

"John Mott"

- He was of one of key figures in 1910 conference.

Article from: Christianity Today

- "Mission and Ecumenism : John R. Mott"

 Title of his book 

 -  " Evangelization of the World in this generation"

---

Article from: Christianity Today

- "Nicholas Von Zinzendorf"

He is the real father of missions - ahead of William Carey.

He is known to be the first to use the word "Ecumenism" at that time.

----

I took a course called "ecumenics and mission"...many years ago.

----

I am sure that you can find more info. - through other sources.

----

You have commitment and passion for Christian Unity.

- reminds of Zinzendorf.

 -I visited Herrnhut, Germany.. birth place of "Mission" 

 

Blessings,

   

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 hours ago, Global Mission said:

I prefer the word "mission", not "evangelism" in this context.

I assume you read article ( Wikipedia ) about 

 "1910 World Missionary Conference".

It shows that conference was about World Mission / Evangelization.

" Mission" focused conference started ecumenical movement.

----

Try to find following articles.

Article from: Wikipedia

"John Mott"

- He was of one of key figures in 1910 conference.

Article from: Christianity Today

- "Mission and Ecumenism : John R. Mott"

 Title of his book 

 -  " Evangelization of the World in this generation"

---

Article from: Christianity Today

- "Nicholas Von Zinzendorf"

He is the real father of missions - ahead of William Carey.

He is known to be the first to use the word "Ecumenism" at that time.

----

I took a course called "ecumenics and mission"...many years ago.

----

I am sure that you can find more info. - through other sources.

----

You have commitment and passion for Christian Unity.

- reminds of Zinzendorf.

 -I visited Herrnhut, Germany.. birth place of "Mission" 

 

Blessings,

   

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You took a class on Ecumenics, I would have loved to take such a class in my seminary! 

Ah yes Count Nicklaus Von Zinzendorf! I just used his quote as my profile pic, “preach the Gospel, die, forgotten.” (I’ll make it my profile pic so you can see). I respect Zinzendorf , his desire for Unitas and his 24/7 prayer vigils at Herrnhutt for 100 years is something I wish could happen again. You were able to visit Hernnhut! 

Edited by Fidei Defensor
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A great Ecumenical saying is “in the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.” 

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One of the most successful Ecumenical leaders was Count Nicklaus Von Zinzendorf:

Nikolaus Ludwig, count von Zinzendorf, (born 1700, DresdenSaxony [Germany]—died May 9, 1760, Herrnhut), religious and social reformer of the German Pietist movement who, as leader of the Moravian church(Unitas Fratrum), sought to create an ecumenical Protestant movement. 

 

The very success of Herrnhut in attracting new members intensified the antagonism of the establishment—the aristocracy, the town guilds, and the Lutheran church. Zinzendorf had sought to placate those who saw him as a sectarian and who doubted his allegiance to the Augsburg Confessionby having himself ordained in 1734 as an orthodox Lutheran pastor. Nevertheless, two years later, he was banished from his estate by order of the Saxon government. In exile the count, in order to represent the missionary interests of the Moravians abroad more authoritatively, was consecrated a bishop of the Unitas Fratrum (1773). After establishing Moravian settlements at Herrnhaag and Marienborn in Wetteravia and forming new congregations in the Netherlands and the Baltics, he spent time in the West Indies and, subsequently, laid the groundwork for Moravian congregations in England. From 1741 to 1743 he traveled in America, setting up Moravian congregations in New York and Pennsylvania (including the major settlement of Bethlehem, Pa.).

On his return to Europe, Zinzendorf’s ecumenical passion led him to develop the idea of Tropen (methods of training), according to which the different Protestant churches each represented valid concrete expressions of the one true church of Christ, differing only in their modes of apprehending and communicating a shared set of religious truths. In 1747 the Saxon authorities rescinded the count’s banishment; two years later they formally recognized the Church of the Unity of the Brethren. The English Parliament bestowed a similar recognition in 1749. But the excesses of the Sifting Time (1740s), a period in which the antirational, emotional, and sensuous elements inherent in Zinzendorfian theology were greatly intensified and which led, particularly in Herrnhaag, to an erotically tinged preoccupation with Christ’s wounds, provided new ammunition to his opponents. The last decade of his life was trouble-laden. Debts incurred in pursuit of his worldwide missionary program continued to mount; his son Christian Renatus, whom he hoped would succeed him as leader of the Moravian church, succumbed to a lung ailment at the age of 25; and his wife, Erdmuthe, died in 1756. In the following year he married his lifelong collaborator Anna Nitschmann, who had formerly headed the Single Sisters’ Choir in Bethlehem. Three years later, in 1760, Zinzendorf died in Herrnhut and was buried there.“ (Enclyopedia Britannica). 

Edited by Fidei Defensor
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Ecumenical Count: 

“Our method of proclaiming salvation is this: to point out to every heart the loving Lamb, who died for us, and although He was the Son of God, offered Himself for our sins ... by the preaching of His blood, and of His love unto death, even the death of the cross.” Nicolaus Zinzendorf

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