Parts 1-3 of this series have dealt with the history, current situation, underlying theology and Scriptural contexts of Christian ecumenism.
This final Part 4 will conclude the subject at hand with additional biblical perspectives, guidelines and a personal statement for navigating a deliberated ecumenism.
Additional Perspectives and Guidelines
- God never intended “denominations,” sects or cliques among Christians (1 Cor. 3:1-11; Eph. 4:1-6; Romans 12:16; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 1:27, 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8). While early churches often worked together to provide for each others’ needs, and while Apostles’ letters were circulated among them, this is not the same as denominationalism or apostolic succession. Even though God never intended denominations and sects in Christianity, many legitimate church movements have arisen as a result of believers’ “leaving” apostate leaders and teachings.
- It is of great benefit for churches who agree on essential doctrines of Christianity to partner together for the Gospel ministry and the good works which accompany it.
- As Social Gospel and the Progressive Movement were admittedly driven by a post-millennial view of the End Times, and also intertwined itself with government organizations and Non-Christian philanthropists, can we agree that this view stems from Covenant Theology? While I would never separate with a brother over his views of the end times or other non-essential doctrines, I would warn him of the evils and the errors of Covenant & Replacement theology. [please see Damn, Offer, Yawn, or Save?, The Kingdom of Heaven and Its Keys & All the Sins of All Mankind & Why Do Some Not Believe — Parts 1 & 2]
- There is a clear mandate from Scripture not to join in (“yoke up with,” or “team up with;” – implied:: prayer as well) with unbelievers, neither in their midst, nor using their implements of worship (1 Cor. 6:11-18,NLT,NASB). In fact, the Apostle John commended the churches in 3 John for “not taking anything from the Gentiles” (unbelievers) on their journey for Christ’s name. Those with whom you pray and worship and team up MUST be doctrinally sound believers–not denying any essentialsofthebiblicist Christian faith.. and not otherwise contentious (3 John).
- Christians should expect nothing from their Governments. Neither should they try to purposefully legislate Christianity into an enforced morality.
- This directly demands that the Christian not follow or organize any effort where the leaders or members are liberal theologians, progressives, pervert the gospel (by adding to, taking away, redefinition or omission), or are plain non-believers in Christ.
- This does not deny that Christians should provide a solid apologetic to those who ask questions of us or who attack the Christian faith.
- This does not negate the responsibility of Christians to Balance God and Government individually and among themselves.
- This does not negate the responsibility of Christians to Break Not, Quench Not.
- Again, this does not negate the Christian’s responsibility to prepare for the coming Kingdom by living like one is in it now (Matthew 5-7). Giving to the poor and letting one’s light shine is what kingdom citizens do (Phil. 3:20), because their faith is alive (James 1). BUT, they don’t need governments or denominations to do it. Believers only need to be of the same mind, one with another and follow the Spirit, as He leads.
- Jude requires of us 5 means for dealing with apostasy in one’s own church (vv. 17-24).
- Remember that God said through the Apostles that there would be mockers of the Christian faith, those who are in Christianity for the money or prestige & particularly immoral and unregenerate people trying to infiltrate the Church in the last days.
- Pray in the power of the Holy Ghost (Spirit)in order to
- Keep your own self in love with God and in the love from God.
- Build up your faith. (We don’t only pray because we have faith, we also pray because we need faith. Praying in the Spirit does this for us.)
- Look (earnestly await and prepare) for the return of Christ.
- Differentiate between those who need compassion and those who need to be rescued with frightening messages of God’s Judgement.
- Doall of these things in with the attitudes of:
- Hating fleshly ways in yourself (ex. lust, envy, backbiting, pride, self-righteousness).
- Assurance that God is able to keep you from falling by his grace.
For all of these reasons, I am an essentialist evangelical who refuses to be labeled as a fundamentalist. True, I hold to the fundamentals of historic evangelicalism–that of R. A. Torrey, B. B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen. But, at the same time, I do not hold to the fundamentalist movements of today’s era. These folks are contentious to a fault, unable to be of one mind with another, unable to have compassion for one another, let alone the lost. They do this even though they know beyond doubt that each of them affirms the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Moreover, today’s fundamentalists can only rarely be moved to any humanitarian aid or environmental good works. They have missed the character of Christ while defending his message. One wonders what good works they let shine. There is little love among them, and they love to be the best and right–just like Diotrephes (3 John).
On the other hand, I reiterate that I am an “essentialist” evangelical. I follow the above biblical mandates and those attested in Part 3 of this series. This allows me to both uphold and defend the faith by giving to the poor, the widow and the fatherless; and by giving an answer to those who first attack or question the doctrines of the Christian faith.
Covenant Theology is Not Replacement Theology — O, Really? Please see:
- Amillennialism (Replacement Theology) by Berean Internet Ministry
- Covenant Theology – Theopedia
- The Error of Replacement Theology by Clarence H. Wagner, Jr.
- Replacement Theology – Baptist Bulletin
The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant Osborne
The History of Interpretation by F. W. Farrar
Thomas, Robert. Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003. (chapters 1-8 and 12)