Should All Christians Unite with Catholics?
|By: Mike Gendron; ©2000|
|How should we respond to the Roman Catholic Church’s invitation for “separated brethren” to return to the “one true church?” Should we tolerate doctrinal differences for the sake of Christian unity? Should all professing Christians come together under the power and influence of the pope? Mike Gendron answers these questions in light of God’s Holy Word.|
Should All Christians Unite with Catholics?
Since the dawn of the new millennium we are witnessing the greatest push toward ecumenical unity the world has ever seen. The Roman Catholic Church is fervently building bridges to all Christian denominations. Through the dedicated efforts of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican is urging all professing Christians to return home to Rome. Dialogues and accords have been initiated and created to seek unity through common beliefs. An example of this is the 1999 Lutheran-Roman Catholic “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.” In the declaration, Rome uses equivocal and ambiguous words to affirm agreement on the doctrine of “justification by faith alone.” but, at the same time, continues the anathema’s on all whom believe this doctrine. We must not be misled. Rome has not changed its position on things that really matter! Instead they continue to take advantage of professing Christians who lack discernment or who are unwilling to contend for “the faith.”
The key to the success of this unity effort has been a commitment to “love one another and tolerate one another’s beliefs.” The proposal for all Christians to ignore their doctrinal differences for the sake of unity completely overlooks the fact that Roman Catholic, Orthodox and many Protestant churches preach a false gospel that denies the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption.
This ecumenical movement has provided fertile ground to rebuild the religious tower of Babel. Multitudes are being influenced by perverted gospels, doctrines of demons and false teachers. Many more are being persuaded by highly visible evangelicals to join the crusade. It is no surprise the Roman Catholic Church has been the driving force behind this ecumenical movement. Since the close of Vatican Council II in 1965 Rome has been courting those she once called “heretics” by renaming them “separated brethren.” No longer able to force people to submit to its popes under the threat of death and persecution, the Vatican has changed its strategy to win the world. Wearing a new face of love and concern for these “separated brethren,” she is now offering them the “fullness of salvation” upon their return to the “one true church.”
With so many professing Christians jumping on the ecumenical bandwagon, there is evidence of the spirit of Antichrist at work building his one-world religion. Propelling the movement are church leaders who fail to warn their congregations of the great apostasy and increased deception during the last days. Instead of church leaders hating everything false, many are tolerating false doctrines and counterfeit gospels (Psalm 119:104, 128). Instead of church leaders exposing the prevailing doctrines and agents of compromise, many are enduring them.
Tragically, many pulpits are also incredibly silent regarding the numerous scriptural warnings against being yoked with unbelievers. As under-shepherds of the flocks entrusted to them, pastors must warn their sheep of the dangers of ecumenical unity. Jesus and His disciples never tolerated unity without the foundation of biblical truth. Time after time zealous religious leaders, with their own agendas, were strongly rebuked:
- Jesus did not join hands with the religious leaders who shut off the kingdom of heaven from men (Matt. 23:13).
- Paul did not unite with the Judaizers who only wanted to add circumcision to the Gospel (Gal. 1).
- Jude refused to cooperate with those who crept in unaware to pervert the grace of God (Jude 4).
- John did not seek to establish unity with those “who went out from us because they were never really of us” (1 John 2:19).
- Peter never joined hands with the false teachers who had forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam (2 Pet. 2:15).
- The writer to the Hebrews never united with those who would ignore such a great salvation (Hebrews 2:3).
In light of the “cloud of witnesses set before us” one must wonder why some evangelicals ignore the lessons of Scripture by embracing the false gospel of Roman Catholicism. Surely they are not ignorant of their numerous anathemas that condemn born again Christians! Surely they are not ignorant of the many additional requirements Rome has added to the gospel of salvation. Could they be so easily persuaded by the Catholic Church’s worldly influence, incredible wealth, one billion followers and a leader that is so loved by the world?
How are Christians to protect themselves in the midst of the religious deception so prevalent in the world today? The Bible exhorts us to test every teaching. We are warned not to believe every spirit because many false prophets have gone out into the world. It is only by God’s Word that we can know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1,6).
We are to be like the Bereans who examined the Scriptures daily to verify the truthfulness of the Apostle Paul’s teachings (Acts 17:11). If Paul, who wrote over half the New Testament was tested, it stands to reason that every priest, pope, prophet, or preacher should also be examined in light of God’s Holy Word.
So what are we to do with the false teachers within Christendom? We are not to partake in their endeavors but to expose their false teachings (Eph. 5:6,11). With gentleness, we are to correct those who are in error in hopes that God may grant them repentance leading to the truth (2 Tim. 2:25). Those who “profess to know God but by their deeds they deny Him” must be exposed and silenced so others will not be deceived. (Titus 1:9-16). Those who do not listen to apostolic teaching are not from God. We are commanded to separate from those who persist in false teaching (Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10). For some, this may mean finding another church; for others, it may mean withholding support from ministries that continue to compromise the Gospel.
As end time deception increases and more and more people are led into apostasy, we must contend fervently for the faith that was once delivered to the saints (Jude v. 3). As more Christian leaders seek the approval of men rather than God, the way of truth will become more narrow and less traveled. Those who remain faithful will be persecuted for refusing to compromise (2 Tim. 2:12). They will be accused of being intolerant, unloving and narrow minded. But we must always be mindful of the warnings of the apostles—if we do not separate from false teachers we could be disqualified for service (2 Tim. 2:20), become identified with them and their error (2 John 10-11), or risk being partakers of their fate. (Jude vv. 11-13).
As church leaders continue to teach partial truths and tolerate doctrinal error the body of Christ must take action. We must avoid the rebuke Paul gave to the Corinthian church. He wrote: “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Cor. 11:3-4). As the ecumenical movement grows in popularity within the church, we must accept the fact that contending for doctrinal purity will be an unpopular position to pursue. Yet it is indeed what we are called to do! By pointing out false doctrine and practices, we will be good servants of Christ Jesus as we are nourished by His word and sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:6). Upholding truth can, and will be divisive within the church, but division is sometimes good for the church. Occasionally it is necessary to show which ones are approved of God (1 Cor. 11:19).
Those who contend for the purity of the Gospel are often criticized for quibbling over things that don’t appear to be that significant. However, contenders for the faith realize that the most dangerous lie is the lie which most closely resembles the truth. Conversely, ecumenists consider anything that appears close to the truth as an opportunity for unity. Thus they embrace the false gospel of Catholicism because it is the most clever of all counterfeits.
In these days of apostasy, the body of Christ needs to boldly and courageously proclaim the whole counsel of God and expose as error everything that opposes it. May God give all His servants the grace, power, discernment and courage to be contenders for the faith.