In 1994, a group of notable evangelicals and Roman Catholics issued a statement of cooperation entitled, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." The document has provoked numerous articles and books assailing the evangelical signatories to the accord.
The present author has surveyed many of the responses to ect, but he has come away with mixed feelings. So far, most of the critics of ect take aim at areas where Rome is an easy target; but they avoid critical aspects of doctrine and practice where modern evangelicals exhibit remarkable similarities to Rome.
There can be no question that the ect document represents a colossal compromise with Rome on the part of any professing Protestant who supports it. Moreover, the accord and its aftermath reveal much about the present state of evangelicalism. In particular, the situation demonstrates that most evangelicals have departed from the doctrines and practices of the Protestant Reformation.
We take this opportunity to focus upon the preeminent issues of the Reformation. The present essay seeks to redirect the focus of readers to the bigger picture, providing a framework for assessing Roman Catholicism, contemporary evangelicalism, and the ect document. This book illustrates how both Romanists and evangelicals have rejected scriptural teaching about (1.) the essence of the gospel, (2.) divinely-instituted worship, and (3.) the marks of a true church. By corrupting the gospel, worship, and the church, evangelicals and Roman Catholics together are making shipwreck of the Christian faith.
Our study will mention some of the specious beliefs and practices of both Roman Catholics and evangelicals. When confronted with the unbiblical practices of Rome, Protestants often assume that there is a prior misunderstanding of doctrine which leads to a corresponding corruption in practice. Protestant theology moves from thought to practice, so that is the way Protestants tend to analyze the religion of others. Yet, this reasoning (from anterior belief to posterior practice) does not always apply to Roman Catholicism; and it is increasingly unserviceable when dealing with evangelicals. The fact is, aberrant practices often obtain admission and long usage in religious assemblies before anyone seeks to provide a rationale for them. When a practice is subsequently questioned, latter-day apologists scurry to devise a justification for their actions. This ex post facto method of building a rationale is what leads to some of the bizarre scripture -twisting so prevalent in Rome and modern evangelicalism.
As our analysis proceeds, we will criticize some of the established doctrines and practices of both Romanists and evangelicals. It is not our desire to create animosity, but our commitment to sola scriptura requires that we candidly examine the beliefs and practices of all parties in this controversy.
The sober reality is that ect is merely the tip of the iceberg. Both Roman Catholics and evangelicals are making shipwreck of the faith. If there is going to be a recovery of biblical religion in our land, we must repent and return to the scriptural principles which marked the Protestant Reformation.
Footnotes for Chapter 1
1. See the comments by Richard Whately, cited by William Cunningham, "The Errors of Romanism," in Discussions on Church Principles: Popish, Erastian, and Presbyterian (1863; rpt. Edmonton: Still Waters Revival Books, 1991), pp. 15-18.
Copyright ©1995 by Kevin Reed