Catholic Evangelical Alliance?
By Mike Gendron
Unity and harmony between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics were the objectives of the declaration entitled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." While it may have united those who endorsed the agreement, it has created lingering discord and controversy in the Evangelical community. Many believe it has blurred the biblical distinctions of the Gospel and set the mission of the church back 500 years. On March 29, 1994, Evangelicals, including Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, Pat Robertson, and J. I. Packer signed the agreement with Roman Catholics that compromised the eternal truth of the Gospel for the sake of temporal social and political issues.
It appears this is yet another strategic move by the Vatican to bring all religions under the influence and power of the Pope. Other recent ecumenical efforts include: an ongoing dialogue with the Anglican Church; the establishment of diplomatic relations with the sovereign state of Israel, 46 years after its rebirth as a nation; and the welcoming of voodoo worshippers with their pagan practices into the Catholic Church. In order to build a bridge with Islam, Vatican II also included the Moslems, who deny the deity of Christ, in its plan of salvation.
The document attempted to minimize the ten doctrinal disagreements that exist between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, and yet it failed to mention the one most critical -- the means of salvation. The biblical plan of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone is not taught in the Catholic Church. Instead, Catholics are taught they must do good works, obey the commandments, be baptized and receive the sacraments to be saved (A Catechism for Adults by Rev. Cogan).
In the sixth century, the Vatican created a place called Purgatory where those who do not fulfill these requirements perfectly can be purged for their sin. Catholics are also taught "they can attain their own salvation and at the same time cooperate in saving their brothers" through good works. (Vatican II, Flannery's Edition, Vol. 1, pages 64-68) Obviously this is a different gospel that produces only false hope. Paul declared, in his letter to the Galatians, anyone preaching a different gospel should be eternally condemned -- not be called a brother in Christ.
However, the declaration does claim all Catholics are brothers and sisters "in Christ." It appears the endorses of this document overlooked what it means to be "in Christ." In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul describes those who are "in Christ" as: redeemed by the blood of Christ, forgiven, and sealed with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing their inheritance. Yet any Catholic who believes he is eternally secure in Christ is cursed with an anathema by his church (Canon 30, 6th Session, Council of Trent).
The document also declares conversion to Christianity "is a continuing process so that the whole life of a Christian should be a passage from death to life, from error to truth, from sin to grace" (Section V). Why did Evangelicals sign this document knowing that conversion occurs the moment a repentant sinner is born again of the Spirit by placing his trust in Christ alone for salvation? It is so disturbing to see the most essential doctrine of Christianity undermined and refuted.
Why did Evangelicals sign an agreement that prohibits them from proselytizing Catholics? It may have developed from threats from high ranking Roman Catholic clergy. At the 31st National Conference of The Bishops of Brazil, Bishop Bohn threatened to declare a holy war against Evangelicals. He said, "The Catholic Church has a ponderous structure, but when we move, we'll smash anyone beneath us." Bishop Bohn stated the only way to avoid an all-out holy war is if Protestants halt their evangelism efforts in Brazil. Must the Great Commission be compromised because of a threat?
If this agreement is sustainable then its endorsement must declare the Reformation was a terrible mistake and the martyrs who died defending the Gospel, died in vain. Let us pray for the discernment of those involved, that they may realize the severe implications of their actions and annul the agreement. Evangelicals must unite to defend the integrity of the Gospel and boldly contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints. Truth, not tolerance, is the only basis for Christian unity.