Ecumenism can either be defined as a movement promoting unity among Christian churches, or denominations, or as a movement promoting worldwide unity among religions through greater cooperation and improved understanding. The word itself is derived from Greek οἰκουμένη (oikoumene), which means "the whole inhabited world", and was historically used with specific reference to the Roman Empire. Other definitions vary with some saying unity among different religions is better described as “interfaith dialogue”, or cooperation. In many articles and sources, the word Ecumenism is used in the broad sense of promoting religious unity.
Why is the Ecumenical Movement promoted so extensively today? Surely everyone has heard the sentiment articulated that if the church could just become unified, it could win the world. Some of the sentiments expressed are: people don’t want to join churches when there is so much division among Christians; as separate entities churches can’t present a united front against evil; Christians just need to get along, and so forth. Those encouraging Ecumenism view it as a vital link in establishing peace in the world. Some even say it is sinful to have so much division. And, one of the most prevalent arguments is, didn’t Jesus pray for His followers to be one in John 17:11?
In Gen. 9:1 we find that after the flood: “… God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” But, rather than spreading out over the land, we find in Gen. 11:4 that a large group of people decided to build a city and a tower whose top might reach unto heaven. The people said, “And let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” They had no regard for what God wanted. In this one verse, we find the seedbed of all rebellion against God, whether then or now. In fact, this was the very first organized rebellion against God. God had told them to replenish the earth, and they were doing the very opposite. So, in verses 7-8 we see God confounded their language and scattered them abroad. In verse 9, we read “Therefore is the name of it called Babel (Baybel or babble).” This word means confusion; it is also the Hebrew name for Babylon. Now, there are many other places Babylon is mentioned in the Bible, such as Rev. 17:5-6: “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This is speaking of all religious systems that go contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These are not founded on the firm foundation. 2 Cor. 6:17 says: “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” Biblical separation means being detached from anything which has been inspired by the enemy; anything that lifts up man rather than Jesus. Religion is all about works; what we do. There’s something about the flesh: it likes to work so it can get some credit, or recognition. There are thousands of examples, but the following should suffice: a Christian might undertake an extensive fast concerning a specific situation. When someone else learns of this, the response is one of admiration. So, the question is who was lifted up in that circumstance? Now, does separation mean Christians must live in caves? Of, course not. We are in the world, but not of it, according to John 15:19. In Rev. 18:4 we read: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’” This scripture is primarily referring to Israel, but has an application for all believers. Matt. 7:13-14 says: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” God wants His people to be separate from the world’s system and there are eternal consequences if this instruction is ignored.
Now, someone might be thinking, why aren’t more people concerned about joining up with other religions, and why don’t they know we are to avoid doing so, according to the book of Revelation? Well, one reason is that many are amillennialists. The amillennial view holds that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, not a literal description. Also, many believe that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the current church age. Amillennialism holds that Christ's reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature; that Christ is ruling and reigning in our hearts now. Then, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent reign in the new heavens and new earth. Others believe in preterism which interprets prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened. Revelation is interpreted as describing events that happened in the first century, particularly involving the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Yet, others believe Revelation is a book of allegory; that it symbolizes a great contest between good and evil. Premillennialists obviously reject these views.
Catholicism is a religion based on the traditions of men. If Christians join up with this system, they have walked onto the broad path leading to hell. That is a strong statement, but it is the truth. The Catholic church has made a concerted effort to reach out to what they call “separated brethren” and bring them back “home.” According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), was announced by Pope John XXIII as a means of spiritual renewal for the church, and as an occasion for Christians separated from Rome to join in search for reunion. There were sixteen documents written at this council and the second one is entitled “Decree on Ecumenism.” This decree states in the introduction that, “In recent times more than ever before, the Lord has been rousing divided Christians to remorse over their divisions and to a longing for unity.” Continuing: “The results will be that, little by little, as the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion are overcome, ALL CHRISTIANS WILL BE GATHERED IN A COMMON CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST, INTO THE UNITY OF THE ONE AND ONLY CHURCH, which Christ bestowed on his Church from the beginning.” Obviously, Catholics can make such declarations, but it doesn’t mean they apply to true Bible-believing Christians. Believers must ask the following question: are those we are joining with, true Christians in the biblical sense of the word? Sadly, though, many neglect to ask this question and then join up with those who do not believe in Christ’s Finished Work on the Cross. The problem is many people and organizations in America, and around the world, “name the Name of Jesus Christ” even stating He is Lord and Savior, and yet clearly reject what the Bible says about Him. Obvious examples of this are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Members of these groups will declare themselves followers of Jesus Christ, and yet they clearly deny what the Bible teaches concerning Christ’s nature and work.
A huge problem with Ecumenism is that often many groups such as Catholics and Mormons, for example, are passionately like-minded, along with Christians, regarding a given social issue. Biblical Christians are usually marked by a strong pro-life belief, a strong traditional view of the family, a strong emphasis on compassion for the homeless and sick, and a strong desire to see justice in the world. So, the temptation to “pool resources” in pursuit of a common cause is sometimes great. However, Christians have been instructed to preach the gospel, not attend to every felt need on earth today. 1 Cor. 15:3-4 says: “How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” 2 Cor. 5:20 says: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” Christians can hold up signs at all kinds of rallies and protest this or that. But, how will a person involved in whatever activity we are speaking against, know the solution to his or her sin is Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, unless we give them the gospel? The ultimate goal of our actions should be the salvation of lost sinners, which we once were (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible tells us that the angels of heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). There is no passage that declares that the angels rejoice because we are holding signs and protesting.
We cannot just preach law. But, that is actually what we are doing if we march in front of an abortion clinic, for example, holding up a sign that says, please don’t kill your baby. Are we against abortion? Of course! And, engaging in anti-abortion causes seems so good. But, a person can have good morals and not be saved. They can attempt to keep the law, in all of its many facets and not be saved. There are plenty of people who are against abortion who are atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. However, if we witness to people and they get saved, and turn their lives over to Jesus, they become born again. When they place their faith in what Jesus did for them on the Cross, the Holy Spirit will begin the work of sanctification; the work of conforming them to Christ’s image. And, we know this doesn’t mean we will never sin again because the Bible does not teach sinless perfection, but as a born again child of God one will begin to see old thoughts and old ways fall off as we place our faith in Jesus and His Finished Work. And, there are many Catholics who work for the anti-abortion cause. If true believers join in a political, a social, or a moral effort with a particular group, no matter how good the cause, our joining up gives credence to that group. It absolutely makes no sense for born again believers to join with Catholics at anti-anything events, when we should be witnessing to them. This was the same problem with pastors promoting the “A.D. The Bible Continues” series. Pastors extensively promoted this series, click here for more details which was produced by a new age Catholic. True pastors, concerned about souls, would have been witnessing to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett!
One example of an important Ecumenical endeavour is a document called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium,” published in 1994 and endorsed by some rather prominent representatives of Evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Here are some of the more well-recognized names of those who signed this document: Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries; Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ; and Pat Robertson of the 700 Club. Some of the statements from the document are as follows: “We are Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who have been led through prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions about Christian faith and mission.” “As Christ is one, so the Christian mission is one.” “We together, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess our sins against the unity that Christ intends for all his disciples.” “We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ.” Now that last statement has been celebrated as a remarkable concession on the part of the Catholics, but the real issue under debate between Roman Catholicism and historic evangelicalism, which is justification by faith ALONE, is carefully avoided throughout “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” The bottom line is, if Catholics truly believed in justification by faith alone, they would dispense with all their sacraments, and they certainly have not done so. Much of the document focuses on “the right ordering of society”. The longest section, “We Contend Together,” states that “politics, law, and culture must be secured by moral truth”. Therefore the catalogue of issues which the document’s signers “contend together” for includes: religious freedom, right-to-life issues, moral education, parental choice in education, a free-market economy, pro-family legislation, and a responsible foreign policy. One can easily see this document is truly about control because several of these items are strictly governmental issues.
An example of coming together for the “right ordering of society” is a conference on marriage and the family held at the Vatican on Nov. 17-19 in 2014. Rick Warren and Russell Moore, who is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist convention, attended this conference. Click here for details. Fourteen religions were represented there. Here is a quote by Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general, World Evangelical Alliance: “Engagement between evangelicals and Catholics has gone to a whole new level. In June, I had a three-hour project meeting with Pope Francis—with no agenda. In my tenure, I have not seen that kind of openness. There’s a shift taking place under Francis. He seems clearly geared toward evangelicals.”
Mrs Connie Wright - USA Miss Tammy Cheetham - UK
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