By John MacArthur
The following was transcribed from a television broadcast of a "roundtable discussion," titled "Irreconcilable Differences: Catholics, Evangelicals, and the New Quest for Unity" that took place in Ft Lauderdale, Florida between Dr. James Kennedy, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. R. C. Sproul, and John Ankerberg.
JOHN ANKERBERG: We are here in Ft Lauderdale, Florida in the beautiful Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. My guests are Dr. D. James Kennedy, who is the pastor of this wonderful church. And the well known, popular, Dr. John MacArthur, and Dr. R. C. Sproul.
Our program today is about a document that is called the Evangelicals and Catholics Together - The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium. We are also going to be talking about a new clarifying doctrinal statement that was just written by the Evangelical signees of this document. The ECT, The Evangelicals and Catholics Together document, as we call it, was written by twenty well-know Evangelical leaders and twenty well-known Roman Catholic leaders.
The purpose of this document was stated to be:
1. To provide a statement that would advance Christian fellowship, cooperation, and mutual trust, between Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics.
2. It was to provide a world-view for Protestants and Catholics to unite on, in defense of the truth, here in the North American culture wars. That is, these men saw the benefit of Catholics and Protestants standing and fighting together on the critical moral issues of our day.
3. The document was written to establish some basis for servility and mutual respect between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Latin America, and some other countries, who because of rivalry were in conflict over evangelism.
Now, I want to make it clear that those who wrote this document said, "It is not an official document binding Roman Catholics and Protestants together. It is not meant to be precise or theologically comprehensive, and the only authority it has stems from the personal creditability of those who signed it." At the same time the signatories of this document said they "Hoped it would make waves and change established patterns of behavior in this country and overseas." If it did, they thought its strategic importance would be far-reaching, and apparently its impact has been wide, and powerful. For example, its been reported to have circulated inside the Vatican and been received there with great enthusiasm. One Christian publication said "It was a landmark document." Christianity Today and the Christian Coalition have both referred to it as a "Historic Document." The Wall Street Journal, of all places, said, "This document was the wave of the future." Now, the very fact, that many people feel this document is uniting Catholics and Protestants in North America to stand together on social issues, and it is helping stop the conflict in Latin America and other countries--it shows how important and influential this document is.
Now, Chuck Colson, who helped draft this document, has acknowledged that it has created a lot of controversy and it has raised genuine concern over whether it clearly represents what Evangelical Christians believe. Just a few weeks ago, Chuck requested a private meeting with ten Evangelical leaders, including the four of us that are here. He expressed his concern over the document in the confusion that it has caused as well as its lack of clarity concerning what Evangelicals believe, and he said that he wanted "to resolve and remove any contentious issues, so that there would no longer be any doubt as to where he and the other Protestants signees stood." To this end, together, we all composed a statement that clarifies and clearly defines our Evangelical beliefs--not all of them, but some primary ones.
To begin, I would like to come to you, Dr. R. C. Sproul. When we all got together, we were concerned about the statements and the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document, that seemed to give an unwarranted stamp of legitimacy to Roman Catholic doctrine. For example, the ECT document implies that Evangelicals and Roman Catholics should and can be united on the basis of their being able to affirm this statement:
"That we are justified by grace, through faith, because of Christ"
Now, we all agreed this statement still needed to be clarified. Some may wonder, "What in the world is wrong with that phrase?" All Roman Catholics will say that they accept and believe these words, but we know that if you add the word "alone" to this sentence, so that it reads this way:
"That we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone"
The Roman Catholic friend that you are saying this to will back away from it, and he won't accept it. R. C., why is that one little word, "sola" the Latin word "sola" (alone), that's missing in the ECT document--why is this so important to us? And then please explain why we did place it in the new clarifying doctrinal statement.
R. C. SPROUL: Well, John as you will certainly remember when we had our private discussions behind closed doors, with Chuck, and Jim Packer, and Bill Bright, and the other signatories there, I made the comment at the time that, that word "alone" which is so conspicuously absent from ECT, has emerged as something of a "shibboleth" in Church history, not in the pejorative sense (in the negative sense), but in the positive sense of the "shibboleth" that this is a watershed statement that separates people on what they really believe. Now to get to the heart of that let me jump down the funnel to the bottom line of the controversy, historically, between the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelicals that provoked the Reformation.
I will try to say this in a way, that my mother, God bless her if she were still alive, would be able to understand it, and I hope that she understands it now far more clearly than I do, in her felicity in heaven. In any case, if my mother were here I would say, "Mom, here's my problem" "God is just, God is righteous, and I'm not! How can I possibly survive a tribunal before a just and holy God? Since I know that that God requires and demands perfect righteousness for Him to justify anyone." And so the issue in the 16th century was, not whether God demands righteousness in order for Him to declare somebody just, but the issue is: "Where do we get that righteousness?"
The Protestant view was this: that the only righteousness that has the merit necessary to meet the requirements of the holiness of God, is that righteousness that was achieved and performed by Jesus Christ--and by Jesus Christ "alone!"
There is where the word "alone" comes in John, because all Protestants have acknowledged, historically, that the phrase, "justification by faith alone," really means, it's shorthand for, "Justification by the righteousness of Christ alone--that only His righteousness is sufficient to save us." The Roman Catholic Church said that the only way God will ever declare me righteous, or you righteous, or anybody else righteous, is if they have a righteousness that inheres within them, an intrinsic righteousness, a righteousness that really belongs to John Ankerberg. They would say that you can't be righteous, John, apart from the help of Christ, and the grace of Christ, and the infusion of His power and so on, with which you must assent and cooperate (assentari (sp.), cooperari (sp.), is the (L.) language they use). And so you can't be saved without the help of Christ, or without grace, or without faith. But, added to that faith, added to that grace, added to that Christ--must be the contribution of John Ankerberg, without which God will not declare you just.
Now, that is all the difference in the world! The word "alone" is trying to draw a line in the sand and say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ says that, "The only way that a person can be saved is by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith."
JOHN ANKERBERG: Amen, how do we clarify that in our doctrinal statement?
R. C. SPROUL: In the doctrinal statement, we spent most of our discussion time that day focusing on this question, "What is the gospel?" "And is the doctrine of "sola fide (L.)" (Justification by faith alone) essential to the gospel, and essential to Christianity and to salvation?" Because the problem that I had and others had with ECT is with the statement that "we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ." I have been saying for ten months, that every delegate to the Roman Catholic Council of Trent in the 16th century would have happily signed that. That the ECT nowhere explicitly mentions the Protestant and reformation doctrine of "sola fide (L.)" (Justification by faith alone). It doesn't affirm it; it doesn't deny it, but what I have been concerned to say is that implicitly and inferentially, and I think the necessary inference of the document is that "sola fide (L.)" is not necessary to believe, in order for one to be a brother or sister in Christ. Because the Roman Catholic Church certainly does not affirm "solo fide (L.)."
JOHN MACARTHUR: I think that, if I may jump in, I think that more than implicit in the document, I think that it's explicit.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Yes, let me come to a question for you John, that will help us out on that, and that is one of the things that we told Chuck, and Jim Packer, and Bill Bright, and that was this statement [from the ECT]:
"We together, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess our sins against the unity, that Christ intends for all His disciples" (ECT).
Now the assumption in that statement is that Evangelicals and Catholics are all Christ's disciples. What do you think of that assumption?
JOHN MACARTHUR: Well, I think that is in grave error! And just going back, if I can make the point solidly, to borrow the language of the Apostle Paul, "Any attempt at self-righteousness, no matter how noble the effort, no matter how frequently the "God" vocabulary is used and the divine is brought into it--any attempt at self-righteousness, Paul classifies as "skubalon" (Greek), in Philippians 3. That word is about as vivid a word as he could possibly use. It could be translated "rubbish"--the most accurate translation is "dung."
When you talk about a work-righteousness system, of any kind, it is so far from saving that it is rubbish, it's garbage. That's why Paul said, "All my life" he said, "I tried to achieve this stuff, and I had all this stuff in my gain column," remember that in Philippians 3? "And then I saw Christ, and a righteousness which came not by the law, but a righteousness was given to me by faith--the righteousness of God and immediately all what was gained was "skubalon."
What you have got is a whole system built on "skubalon" and you can't throw your arms around that system. You can't embrace it, and simply say, "Well, they talk about Jesus, and they talk about God, and they talk about faith, and they talk about grace, and we have got to embrace them. And if we don't embrace them then we are violating the unity of the Body, and we are being ungracious to other disciples." That is a frightening misrepresentation of the distinctiveness of "Justification by faith, and faith alone."
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr. Kennedy, Catholicism believes that Evangelical Protestants do not emphasized, or put enough significance on the changed life. O.K., they hear us talk about "Justification by faith alone," and they think that nothing has to happen in terms of the life. But they get mixed up: Justification with Sanctification. Would you define those, and talk about the relationship?"
JAMES KENNEDY: They state very clearly, both in Trent [Council of Trent] and also in their modern catechism, that just came out, that Justification encompasses Sanctification--so they confound the two. Justification and Sanctification must always be distinguished, but they can never be separated. Justification is an act, once and forever, instantaneous, whereby God declares a sinner, an ungodly, unrighteous sinful man, declares him righteous for the sake of Christ. Having imputed to him the righteousness, or the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ, and that is "once and for all done." No Christian is more or less justified than another, we are all justified instantaneously; all justified totally and completely.
Sanctification is a process, which begins at that moment of regeneration, the moment of salvation, and grows all through our lives. It is different in every believer. Sometimes you hear people say that they don't like people that are "holier than thou"--holier than me! But the fact of the matter is, there are Christians that are holier than I am, holier than you are, and holier than everyone here is. Everyone sitting in this room is at some different degree of cleansing in growth, in the Christian faith--that is completed by glorification, which again is an act, which takes place after death, immediately after death, where all the vestigial remains of sin are removed and we are made absolutely perfect. It is as if the perfect white robe of Christ's righteousness were placed upon us once and for all--but they make Sanctification a part of Justification, so that a person must work long and labor hard.
I was just reading some of the things, which they tell a person they must "do" in order to receive the grace of justification. Consider these things, they must:
-- Love and worship God
-- Love one's neighbor
-- Practice self-renunciation
-- Obey the commandments of God
-- Bear witness to the Catholic faith
-- Follow supernatural inspiration in deeds
-- Confess the major doctrines of the Church
And if they do all of these things, they may become worthy of Justification. But the Bible says that God Justifies the ungodly and that we are justified apart from works. In the third chapter of Romans, where Paul gives the fullest statement of the Gospel, he concludes with this concluding statement:
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law."
Now that is nothing other than "sola fide (L.)" if stated in other words--"faith alone." "A man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." But they are saying, "A man is justified by faith based upon his completion of a whole series of years of efforts to keep the law, and finally he is justified by his own merit," in effect.
JOHN MACARTHUR: I was just going to add, the process of justification, and it is a process in the Catholic faith; starts with infant baptism. They say that justification is initiated as a process at infant baptism, and it progresses through life, based upon what you "do" with infused grace. Grace is infused into you supernaturally; it's infused into you through the Mass; it's infused into you through the sacraments, and as it is infused and you cooperate with it--you keep the justifying process going. Now, you can stop that process at any point in time with a mortal sin, but you keep it going even when you get to the end of your life. The odds are that you haven't kept it going good enough and you are going to Purgatory. Nothing could be a more convoluted view of what is an instantaneous act in the Word of God, as he said exactly, by which God places the righteousness of Christ on you. The truth is, I am no more righteous to the satisfaction of God now, than I was before I was declared righteous.
R. C. SPROUL: That's not true! That's not the truth! The truth is John MacArthur is a changed man. And the truth is John MacArthur has had some degree of sanctification in his life.
JOHN MACARTHUR: This is true, this is true, but what I said was (you got to get my qualifier), I said that I am no more righteous, in the sense of satisfying a just God, in other words, I cannot achieve a righteousness that satisfies His requirement. Yes, I believe in regeneration--that's a different issue, and that there is a work of God in my life that is a sanctifying work.
R. C. SPROUL: That's why I was joshing him there, because we don't want to give the impression that people think that just because we believe that we are justified by faith that nothing happens, that we remain unchanged.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Take 45 seconds, for the person that tuned into, just to this program, that would like to have his sins forgiven, and have Christ's righteousness imputed to him--R. C., How does he do it?
R. C. SPROUL: Forty-five seconds, I would say that His only hope of being forgiven and restored to a relationship with God is to confess his sins, acknowledge his sin, and repent of his sins, and look to Christ and to Christ alone, who is the only person who is sufficient to give him what he desperately needs to be reconciled to God. That Christ will cover your nakedness; that Christ will supply the righteousness from himself and grant you all of His righteousness as a robe to put upon your nakedness. If you would receive Him by faith and trust in His righteousness, then you will be received by the Father, into the Father's house and adopted into his family.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Now, Dr. John MacArthur, when we met together, we agreed that the ECT document, the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" document was attempting to join Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants together as "cobelligerents," the word the Francis Schaeffer coined "working at the grass-roots level" in terms of social issues. And we were going to work together against the many social evils, including secular humanism, the riding tide of Islam, pornography, abortion, and things like that. But we also agreed that this work [ECT] has been perceived as going too far in proclaiming the kind of unity that exists. I would like you to define the kind of unity that can exist between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, and the kind of unity that cannot exist until the doctrine of "Justification by faith alone" has been dealt with clearly.
JOHN MACARTHUR: Well, I might be a little bit radical on this, but I will go ahead. I think the way we can work together on it is for the Catholics to work against those things, like they want to work against them, and we will work against those things, like we want to work against them, but we can't really throw our arms around each other in a common effort because that confounds the issue of spiritual truth.
Look, if the Catholic Church is already a cobelligerent, if they are already anti-abortion, and pornography, and homosexuality; they are going to use all of their energies within the framework of their system to go after that. We are committed to that, and we are going after that. There is already a collective movement. Once you then sort of try to define that as "common spiritual mission" built on "common spiritual unity" you just take doctrine and throw it out the window, and perception is violated, particularly because the Catholic Church claims to be true Christianity, and when we reverse 450 years of history, and just throw our arms around the Roman system, which I think we have to say, John, in all honesty, is not a group of wayward brothers but is an apostate form of Christianity.
It is a false religion, it is another religion. When you throw your arms around that you literally have to undo any doctrinal distinction. In fact, ECT doesn't just do that implicitly, they do that explicitly. In the document, in effect, they say, "we have to accept all baptized Roman Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ. In an article that followed that up in Christianity Today, J. I. Packer said, "We should acknowledge as brothers and sisters in Christ, anyone who lives to the highest ideals of their communion." My response to that is the opposite. I maybe could fellowship with a bad Roman Catholic, that is, one who has rejected the system, but was still in the church and came to know Christ. But one who holds the highest ideals of Roman Catholicism--on what grounds do I have spiritual unity? And when you get spiritual leaders from both churches, coming together to sign a common effort--you may say that it is to fight a cultural war, but people are going to see it as confusion over doctrine.
R. C. SPROUL: John, can I say something?
JOHN ANKERBERG: Yes, let me just throw in here, that is why we put in here, paragraph one in this new doctrinal statement, which, let me read it:
"Our parachurch cooperation with evangelically committed Roman Catholics, for the pursuit of agreed objectives, does not imply acceptance of Roman Catholic doctrinal distinctives, or endorsement of the Roman Catholic Church system."
R. C. SPROUL: That is important, John, that Chuck and Dr. Packer, and Bill Bright wanted to make that point clear. I just wanted to comment on John's statement that he prefaced by saying he was "a little bit radical," you know, like being a "little bit pregnant" I think. Because when somebody, representing evangelicalism makes the comment, "that in their opinion or their judgment, the Roman Catholic Church is apostate--it is not a true Christian community." In this day and age of tolerance and pluralism and relativism, and the milieu or irenic peaceful, gentle coexistence. . . .we live in a world that is fed up with theological controversy and disputes, and divisions and all of that. You see we don't live back in the 16th century where people burned each other at the stake over that.
For John MacArthur to make a statement like that, about the Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest professing body in the world, that claims a Christian position--it's just flame inflammatory, incinderary (sp.), and will provoke a howling outcry of people--you're going to get an enormous amount of mail for saying that John, you know that! [Great Applause].
The one thing that the spirit of tolerance of our day cannot tolerate is intolerance, because relationships have become more important than truth. Now what's at stake here, if I understand the New Testament where the Apostle Paul writes the Galatians and says, "If anybody, anybody, if it's Peter, if it's Barnabus, if it's an angel from heaven teaches any other gospel--let him be anathema." That's not Sproul, that's not MacArthur, that's not Kennedy, that's not Ankerberg--that is the Apostolic position, and Paul wanted to make sure that he made himself clear so he repeated that.
And then he goes on to say that he had to resist Peter himself, as Peter started to crack and compromise and negotiate the gospel. Now think about the people in the first century who got that letter--they were horrified. They said the last thing we can have happen is a break-up of fellowship and unity between Peter and Paul! All I have listened to for ten months is "Oh, my goodness, what would happen if we saw a split among people like Colson, Packer, and Sproul, and MacArthur--we cannot have that happen! Well, I am the last person in the world to want to have that happen--I can't stand that either, these people are my friends, my comrades and everything. But John, what he [John MacArthur] is saying here, the Catholic Church understood in the 16th century, and Trent and Rome placed its unambiguous anathema on the Protestant doctrine of "Justification by faith alone" and has never, in any magisterial sense removed that anathema.
The Roman Catholic Church condemns "sola fide! (L.)" Now if, please understand this, if "sola fide (L.)" is the gospel, then the Roman Catholic Church has condemned the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, nobody who went to the Council of Trent, as a delegate, went there with the intention of condemning the gospel. The theologians of Rome really believed that they were defending the gospel and that the Protestants had in fact committed apostasy. And I admire the Church, the Roman communion of the 16th century for at least understanding what apparently people don't understand today, and that is what is at stake here. That they understood that somebody is under the anathema of God! And we can be as nice, and as pleasant, and as gentle, and as loving, and as charitable, and tolerant as we can possibly be, but it's not going to change that folks. Somebody is preaching a different gospel! And when Rome condemned the Protestant declaration of "Justification by faith alone" I believe, Rome, when placing the anathema on "sola fide (L.)," placed the anathema of God upon themselves. I agree with his [John MacArthur] assessment, that the institution [Roman Catholic Church] is apostate!
JOHN MACARTHUR: I don't want to leave Jim [James Kennedy] out of this, but I think that it is so important to know this. In a time like this of tolerance, listen, false teaching will always cry intolerance. It will always say you are being divisive, you are being unloving, you are being ungracious, because it can only survive when it doesn't get scrutinized. So it cries against any intolerance. It cries against any examination, any scrutiny--just let's embrace each other; let's love each other; let's put all that behind us. False doctrine cries the loudest about unity. Listen carefully when you hear the cry for unity, because it may be the cover of false doctrine encroaching. If ever we should follow 1 Thessalonians 5, and examine everything carefully, it's when somebody is crying unity, love, and acceptance.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr. Kennedy, not Chuck, and not J. I. Packer, and some of our Evangelical buddies that came out with the ECT document, but others have gone one step further, and have said, "You know, Evangelicals and Catholics should overlook doctrinal differences and distinctives and unite to survive today here in America. If we don't stand together; if we don't fight together; we are all going down. How does that come into your theology of the sovereignty of God? Should we give up doctrinal distinctives just to survive? What do you think about that?
JAMES KENNEDY: John, first of all, let me if I could just add one little thing to this discussion that went on here, and then I will get back to that. For those lay people here that are not familiar--the Council of Trent, eighteen years that they spent examining the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, and at the end of that time they came out with many Canons of the Council of Trent, and this is the particular one that R. C. was referring to, and I just like to have you hear the words. This has never been altered or denied by the Catholic Church, "If anyone says that the faith which justifies is nothing else but trust in the Divine mercy, which pardons sins because of Christ, or that it is trust alone by which we are justified" Which is what every Evangelical Christian would say. And they end with, "let him be anathema," which means "let him be accursed."
Every Evangelical Christian in the world stands under the official, never changed curse of the Roman Church, and we need to be aware of that fact. Now, the Bible says that we are to hold to the truth--in love. Now, that is difficult to do. Only Christ did that perfectly. We always tend either to slip into a rigidity or a legalism or to slide on the other side into some sort of "wishy-washy" compromise of the gospel.
But, getting to your question, and that was one of the reasons for ECT, that we live (as Chuck told me on the phone when he called me). We live in a time when the concept of truth is under attack. When the values and morals that Christians hold in common are under enormous assault, that we must stand together, or we are going to fall together. But, the problem with this document is that it gives the appearance of compromising the basic doctrine of the gospel of the Bible, which is the gospel, and this is the heart of all Christianity. This is why we had this meeting, right here in my office, to try to work these things out so there would not be a schism among Evangelicals, and happily got all of these gentlemen to sign a statement that they do affirm the basic Reformational truths. I still would have difficulty having my name on that document [ECT], which it is not, because I think of the ambiguity of it; the lack of clarity, and the way it opens a door for people to think that there is no difference of any significance, pertaining to the Gospel of Salvation between Protestants and Catholics.
JOHN ANKERBERG: It is very important right now, that we, for the people who are tuning in, because they want to know, "Where do we stand right now?" "What does this doctrinal statement mean in terms of where we are at?"
R. C. SPROUL: That's what I was going to address, John, so that we have an understanding of this. The purpose of this meeting for the clarification, was as Chuck Colson had a compassionate concern to communicate. He said, can't we come together and agree to disagree as brothers in Christ, because the controversy had escalated to such a point that the issue became now: not what is the relationship between Catholics and Evangelicals, but what will the relationship now be between evangelicals who endorse this position and those who didn't. Are we facing a serious and permanent breach within Evangelical ranks? I mean, are we going to break fellowship over our disagreement over ECT, and that is what provoked this. At that meeting everybody expressed their concerns in a candid way, and Chuck, of course, said, "The whole thing was provoked in the first place because of their deep concern of what was happening in Latin America, and they didn't want to see another Belfast erupt, and trying to come to a united front to an increasing hostile secularism." And we all said, "Hey, we share that concern. We don't want to see Latin America become a Belfast, and we recognize the hostility of secularism."
Our concern was, as I stated it in that meeting, as clearly as I knew how, "that as far as I could see ECT, in my judgment, betrayed the gospel of Jesus Christ." I also went on to say, and I have said this as loudly as I can every time that I discuss this, "I don't for one minute think that Bill Bright, Jim Packer, Charles Colson, et all, ever in their wildest dreams, ever intended any such thing. But by the same token, neither did the signers of the Council of Trent." This is not a personal thing with me. I was saying the document, in what it says and proclaims because it goes beyond this standing together as cobelligerents--it declares a unity of faith, John, where there is not a unity of faith. That's what deeply, deeply, concerns me. So what the concern of the men was, at this meeting was to say, "Hey, look, let's say to the world, 'We do believe in 'sola fide (L.)' and Chuck Colson says, 'I believe in Justification by faith alone' and he wanted to put his print on paper his statement that this is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ, because he realized that people were interpreting the document the way that I was interpreting it, and he believed that that was a misinterpretation. Packer thinks that it is a misinterpretation. I think that it is the one that the document screams, but we still disagree on that, and Chuck is still committed to ECT--my fondest hope was that these men would remove their names from it--"A." And if they couldn't do that, if they couldn't formally recant of it, "B" that they would at least revise the document itself, and if we couldn't get them to do that--at least, please give a clarification that we can print separately of what you meant.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr. MacArthur, there might be some people that are listening in that are saying, "That's all fine and dandy in terms of what you guys are debating," but they picked up on some good things in terms of the relationship they might have with God. Take 45 seconds and close this with the Good News" that we think is so important, and how can the people that are watching get into it themselves?
JOHN MACARTHUR: I think the simplest way that I can say that is, "God has commanded all men everywhere to repent, because He has ordained a day in which He will judge the world by that Man whom He raised from the dead--even Jesus Christ." There is forgiveness for sin to those who repent, and it is as simple as a beggar coming and crying out for something. It is as simple as hungering and thirsting for a righteousness you desperately need, don't have, and can't earn. It's pleading with a gracious God to give you the forgiveness of your sins, purely and simply because He wants to do it. It's a beggar's position, and if a person is overwrought with sin, and feels the burden and the weight of sin, and the heart anguish of sin; comes to God and cries for mercy, and God in His grace will reach out and by virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which satisfied His justice with regard to your sin, will grant you saving grace.
JOHN ANKERBERG: I have told Chuck [Colson] that we would talk about some of the things in the ECT document that we have felt, since we wrote a clear doctrinal statement to clarify some of the things that were in there, that there would be no way that we could without sounding a little bit critical of that document, simply because we felt there were things that did need to be clarified. One of those things has to do with "sheep-stealing, " proselytization, that comes into the Great Commission. Jesus commanded every Christian to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The ECT document, though, in talking about this area says, "The one Christ and one mission includes many other Christians, notably the Eastern Orthodox, and those Protestants not commonly identified as Evangelical," (and we assume that means liberal Protestants), "all Christians are encompassed in the prayer, 'May they all be one.'"
Now, before we get on to the "sheep-stealing" and proselytization, I think that we wanted to stop right there Dr. Kennedy, and we took exception to the assumption that, "all of these folks under these church titles were automatically Christians." Now Chuck says, "That's not what he intended!" He never intended to say that they were all Christians, but that's the way a lot of people have interpreted it, including Dr. Carl Henry, who said, "That as he looked at the mass media--that's how they interpreted it." Now we clarified that, but let's start at the beginning, "Do you assume that everyone that a member of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, an Evangelical Church, or everybody that's in a Roman Catholic Church, just because they are a member of a Catholic Church, or a Liberal Protestant Church--that all of these, under these titles--that they are automatically true Christians?"
JAMES KENNEDY: I certainly don't make any such assumption, John. In fact, I have said from this pulpit, right here, "That there are a number of members of my church that I would not want to be handcuffed to when they die!" The ECT document says, "That all active Roman Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ and therefore should not be evangelized." Well, I am certainly not ready to give up evangelizing active Presbyterians, much less active Roman Catholics, or anybody else.
My wife, to use a very personal example, went to the Presbyterian Church six times a week--all of her life! She was a soloist, she was a choir member, she played the piano, she taught Sunday School, her father was an elder--she was as active a Presbyterian as Paul was a Jew, and yet she was not saved!
I witnessed to her and someone else witnessed to her and finally she accepted Christ. I can tell you this, my wife would be very happy to stand up here and tell this audience that she is very happy that I did not assume that all Presbyterians, active Presbyterians, were Christians. I don't assume anything about anyone, and when we evangelize we use diagnostic questions.
Wouldn't it be foolish of a doctor to assume that all blondes are healthy, and therefore they don't have to be checked--they have good hearts, so they don't have to check their hearts. That would be very foolish. And we would be foolish to make such assumptions, so we ask diagnostic questions. We as evangelists, which every Christian is to be, should be spiritual physicians. We should ask diagnostic questions: "Do you know that you have eternal life? What are you basing your hope [on]? Why should God let you into heaven, if you were to die tonight?" So we find out. I don't care what the label on the person's back says, whether it says Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic or Muslim, if that person is not trusting in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation--that person, in my opinion and I believe certainly in the historic opinion of all Protestant churches, is not really a Christian and is desperately in need of hearing the gospel and being saved. We have among the thousands of members of this church, thousands of them who have been active members of all kinds of churches, including Roman Catholics, who discovered years into their maturity, after 30, 40, 50, 60 years of active service in this church or some other church, that they really never really understood the gospel, they had never put their trust in Christ alone, and they had never experienced the saving power of the grace of God, which can not only declare us righteous in the sight of God, but it can change and transform our lives and make us new creatures and turn us around and start us off in a new direction, and give us a joy and a purpose and a meaning in our life that we never had before. That's what I believe every Christian ought to be doing--not checking to see the label in the coat before you decide to share the gospel with them, but finding out, diagnostically, in whom are they trusting for their salvation. And that is what I believe that the Great Commission commands everyone to do.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr. Kennedy, I think that you would be great at instructing Christians on how to witness, do you know that?
JAMES KENNEDY: I have thought about starting that!
JOHN ANKERBERG: John MacArthur, let me come to you, because I want to get to this thing of "sheep-stealing." I have heard you preach on this and you have got some neat illustrations here. Carl Henry, so it's not us saying this, and it is not other folks that are close by, but he quotes the media and he says, "The ECT document deplores proselytizing or 'sheep-stealing,'" saying, "that the energies might be better deployed in reaching the unchurched." Whatever may have been the intention of the ECT writers, this was interpreted by the media and by many Evangelicals as an annulment of the Great Commission.
Now, let me read the statement, and we told Chuck this, and we have also written a clarifying statement on this, "There is a necessary distinction," ECT said, "between evangelizing and what is today commonly called proselytizing or 'sheep-stealing.' We condemn the practice of recruiting people from another community (Protestants from Catholics or Catholics from Protestants) for purposes of denominational or institutional aggrandizement, and we call upon Christians to refrain from such activities." One more statement, it says, "In this country and elsewhere, Evangelicals and Catholics attempt to win converts from one another's folds. Such efforts at recruitment," ECT says, "undermine the Christian mission, by which we are bound." Talk to me.
JOHN MACARTHUR: That's a frightening statement. That little sort of caveat in there about, "for institutional aggrandizement" is meaningless, because they come right back and used the words "convert people" which is a distinctively spiritual term--not an organizational term.
Look, I could start as a pastor of a church, like Jim [James Kennedy] has seen, and my church has particularly filled with ex-Roman Catholics because of the large Hispanic community in Southern California. The most conservative figure that I could give you, would be that 50%, the upper end would be 70% of the entire membership of our church, and we probably have 10,000 people on a Sunday--50 to 70 percent of those people are converted Roman Catholics. Now you are talking about a massive amount of people who have had Roman Catholic influence.
Every Sunday night in our Church, every Sunday night of the year we have Baptism. When we have baptism, people stand there who are confessing Christ publicly, and they give their testimony. There is not a Sunday night that goes by, in my memory, when there hasn't been, one, two, three, and there will be anywhere from five to ten people on a Sunday night, who say that, "I was in the Catholic Church. I went through Catholic School. I grew up in that whole system--I never knew Christ--I never knew God. I was in a system. The Church [Catholic Church] is a surrogate Christ; the Church has all the authority; I sucked my life from the Church, from the system, but as far as the knowledge of Christ, or the reality of the forgiveness of sin, or of the power of the Holy Spirit in my life--absolutely didn't have any idea about that."
I am talking from a pastoral standpoint, the Catholic Church, from my vantage point is the single most fertile ground for evangelism that exists in this community in which I minister. These people know about Christ, they know about the Bible, they believe all that, what they don't know about is how to become a Christian--how to be genuinely converted and saved--they don't know that! For somebody to try to back me off of that, would to bring me under the judgment of God, because I am commanded to be faithful to the discharge of the Gospel--to the ends of the earth and to every creature that I can reach. I think what that document did, immediately with one sweep, just sanctify, or justify (whatever you want to say) all the Roman Catholics and say, "Hands Off!" You know, all the Protestants unloaded all their guns and said, 'Oh, well that's good news. We don't have to bother with those folks, we will just relabel them.'" I mean, that's the way the thing reads and that's what frighten me.
People, actually in my church, came to me in tears, saying that they had read that thing [ECT], and saying that if somebody hadn't given the gospel to them--they would have never come to know the Lord Jesus Christ at that point. So, I think it's a tragic thing. As far as this unity thing goes, I need to add a footnote. I am really kind of weary of this misinterpretation of John 17, that Jesus praying, "That they may be one, that they may be one," like "Oh, please, You know I just really want you to do this. And I really hope that it works out this way."
Listen, when Jesus prayed "that they may be one"--that prayer is fulfilled in the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit, that takes every single believer and baptizes them into the one body--that is a fact--that is not a wish! And they are one, but the ones that are one are "He that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit." So we can't just say, "Well, the Catholics, he wants them to be one with us, and he wants the Orthodox to be one, and the Liberals to be one, and he's hoping that we will all get together in an organizational way--that's not it, that prayer is fulfilled in the baptism of the Spirit.
JAMES KENNEDY: John, just let me add an illustration to that. Just a few weeks ago, I was out on visitation, and I ended up in a home where there were seventeen people present. There was a family that were in our new member class. There was a visiting family that were a part of our sponsors that happened to be there. There were a bunch of kids, and there was a mother of one of the adults there, an elderly woman from Brooklyn and she was a Roman Catholic. Now there were some other relatives there--they came from five or six, maybe different churches and backgrounds. I went around and asked them these questions: I asked each of them, one by one, "In what were they trusting for their hope of eternal life. Why should God admit them into heaven?" This woman, before, had said, with a little bit of hostility, that she thought it was terrible that there was all these different religions. Everybody had their own religion, there own views, they are all different, and she didn't like this idea that everybody had a different religion--they all ought to be one. It was fascinating to see that one, after another, after another--the person said the reason God should let me into heaven is:
"Christ died for my sins."
"Jesus paid for my sins."
"I have no hope but Christ."
"By the grace of God, through faith in Christ alone"
"It was through Christ who died for me."
"I put my trust in Jesus Christ."
"Christ paid for my sins."
"I am trusting in Jesus Christ."
"Christ is my Savior."
"I have no hope but Jesus."
And on and on it went, and this woman said, "Because I'm good!" But she was stunned by the fact that what she thought were all of these different churches, in disunity, were all in perfect unity when it came to the essence of the gospel. I think as John has said, there is a unity of Christians, of true believers. You can go anywhere in the world, as many of you have, and you will find a person is a true Christian and you have discovered a brother or a sister in Christ, regardless of what denomination he's in--if he really trusts in Christ. You have been joined together in one, and you are one in Him.
R. C. SPROUL: I think what Dr. Kennedy has just said gets to the heart of the concern of those who did sign ECT, as well as getting to the heart of the concern of those who would never sign ECT, and let me explain what I mean by that. Chuck Colson, Jim Packer, Bill Bright, they say, "We don't embrace the system of doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. We acknowledge that there are long standing things that divide us and that these matters are serious, but we want to affirm, as the document did, that everyone who accepts Christ as Lord and Savior is a brother and sister in Christ, and that Catholics and Evangelicals are brothers and sisters in Christ." What is behind that, I believe, is a conviction that those there are serious divisions historically, between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism, there is an agreement at the essential level of historic Christianity.
For example, both communions affirm the Apostle's Creed. All evangelical confessions, historically have reaffirmed the so-called ecumenical councils of Nicaea, Chalcedon, etc., and we share a common Catholicity, in terms of essential things to the Christian faith, like the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the resurrection of Christ--all of these doctrines have been attacked by modern liberalism. At least the Roman Catholic communion has been heroic in defending the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the supernatural elements that the Protestant liberals have jettisoned. And so they say, "Hey, the Catholic Church has been heroic and faithful in holding to these essential truths." And I say, "That's right, those are essential truths. But tragically, what breaks my heart, John, is that I believe is that "Justification by faith alone" is an essential truth. Oh, if Rome would repent of her rejection of "sola fide (L.)" and be as heroic and consistent in reaffirming the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the person of Jesus Christ, we wouldn't have this problem.
But what is the dispute here is the essential aspect of the "work of Jesus Christ." So I cannot sign ECT because I cannot recognize that we have a common faith, and a common witness, and a common ecclesiastical vision, for the simple fact that we don't agree on the gospel--and that's essential.
JOHN ANKERBERG: I think that we need to say that this area of "sheep-stealing" and proselytization and evangelism, we have two points in the new doctrinal statement that Chuck, and J. I., and the Protestant signees have agreed to. But, Dr. Kennedy, with a minute left, for people that again, are listening--the gospel is always good news. When you start to grasp it, it really grabs your soul. And the fact is, in this one minute that we have got left, for the person that's listening and saying, "Hey, don't leave me hanging now. How do I get into this relationship with Jesus? Tell me more!"
JAMES KENNEDY: Delighted to do it! The great joy of my life! God is Holy and we are sinful--that's the problem. If that were all there were to the problem--God would solve it very simply--He would send us all to Hell! But God is also loving, infinitely so, and because he loved us, He sent His own Son into the world. And He imputed, or laid upon Jesus Christ all of our guilt and sin. And then, something which astounded me when I first learned it, as a Father, God poured out all of His wrath for sin, upon His own Son. And Jesus Christ in body and soul suffered infinitely in our behalf and paid for the penalty for our sins. As I have told many, the problem for you is simple--your sins are going to be punished by God. The question is, are they going to be punished on you, in Hell forever, or on Jesus Christ on the Cross? If you would prefer the latter--you need to abandon all trust in yourself, repent of your sins, and receive Him into your heart as Savior and Lord, trusting in His atoning death and perfect life as your only hope of salvation. And His promise is, "He that trusts in Me, already has everlasting life."
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr. R. C. Sproul, I am going to come to you with a very controversial area, and that is, that when you sit down with two groups that are basically holding to different views: you had twenty Protestants signees, twenty Catholic signees of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document (ECT), and they said that when they sat down, and basically were writing this thing, that they were seeking for common ground of our core beliefs--common ground of our core beliefs. What's the bottom line that we can unite on? They said, "They found it!" And it consisted of the following:
-- To accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
-- Affirming the Apostle's Creed.
-- To accept the proposition, "We are justified by grace through faith because of Christ."
-- To affirm to seek more love, less misrepresentation and misunderstanding.
They went on to talk about some other things as well. But those are pretty heavy little things that they have put on the table, and yet, when we met to talk together, we said, "It wasn't enough." I think a particular sticking point was--isn't it good enough to say, "All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior, are brothers and sisters in Christ?" Because right after that statement in the ECT document, you find "Evangelicals and Roman Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ," that is, anybody that can affirm the first one--fits the second one--if you are a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. We said "No, it needs to be clarified," and did clarify it, but some of the people in our television audience might say, "What in the world was wrong with that? If you can't agree on that--if that doesn't bring unity--what's the problem?"
R. C. SPROUL: Well, John, you've just quoted the portion of this document, and the document is some twenty-five pages long, and most of it does not get into theological matters like that. You have just quoted exactly, the portion of that document that most distressed me personally. I have to say, before I try to answer your question, that in my career as a teacher of theology, and in my life as a Christian, I cannot think of anything that has come remotely close to distressing me to the depths of my soul, as much as this document has distressed me. What distressed me the most about it is that segment that you just mentioned.
In last week's discussion, we discussed this business about, "Do we assumed that everybody in an Evangelical Church is a Christian?" Of course not! That's not the issue. Nor do these people ever intend to say that everybody in the Roman Catholic Church is a Christian. The statement, "Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ," does not mean that everybody in the Roman Catholic Church is a Christian, or every Evangelical is a Christian. Any sober reading of the document would illustrate that.
At the same time, those who have resisted this document have for the most part agreed that yes, there are believers, true believers, here and there in the Roman Catholic Church, and Liberal Churches and so on. They are mavericks to their community, and I personally believe that those people who truly accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior in the Biblical sense, who live in the Roman Catholic Church, have a moral and spiritual duty to leave that communion immediately! They are living in sin by continuing to be a visible member of an institution that anathematizes the Gospel of Jesus Christ! That is what I would say to that point. But then you say, "But wait a minute R.C., are you one of these theologians that's insisting on dotting every I, and you are in a witch-hunt, and all of that kind of stuff?"
Chuck, for example, Colson, is very jealous to say, "R. C., you just can't read that statement in the naked way, 'That Catholics and Evangelicals are brothers and sisters in Christ,'--there's a context." And that is right--there is, because right before that, as you read, it says, "That all who accept Jesus as Savior and Lord are brothers and sisters in Christ," and "Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ," and the elliptical sense of this is that those two statements are connected--meaning that only those Catholics, and only those Evangelicals who truly accept Jesus as Savior and Lord are brothers and sisters in Christ, and what Evangelical would quibble over that? Me! For this reason. Precisely at the heart of the debate in the 16th century was not the question "Is Jesus Lord or is Jesus Savior?" Beloved, the issue that tore apart Christendom in the 16th century was this, "What does it mean that Jesus is Savior?" "How is Jesus the Savior?" Is he a Savior in the liberal sense, where he is an existential Hebrew, a hero, a symbol of liberation? Do I believe that Jesus is my Savior in the sense that He reveals to me authentic existential existence? Do I mean that Jesus is my Savior when I say, "That Jesus on the cross revealed the seriousness of sin and demonstrated the love of God and so restored a moral influence to the universe, and saved me in that way?" Or, as the Roman Catholic Church has said repeatedly, "Yes, Jesus is my Savior in that He infuses the necessary grace into my soul, by which, with my cooperation I can be saved and justified before Almighty God."
When my Roman Catholic friends tell me they believe in Jesus as Savior, do they mean by that statement that they are trusting in the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ to their account, forensically by God, through faith alone? Or, do they mean, that Jesus is their Savior in the sense that He helps them, have the ability to gain the merit necessary for God, to declare them just? Do you see that, that is a world of difference in understanding Jesus as Savior?
Now when Chuck Colson says, "All who believe in Christ as Savior," he is filling that with the content of his own evangelical heritage, because if you ask Chuck Colson what he means by "accepting Jesus as his Savior;" if you ask J. I. Packer what he means by "accepting Jesus as Savior," they will give you the unvarnished orthodox Protestant faith. But the question is, "Is that true for the Roman Catholic Church?" Now, they will be quick to say, "But, we are just talking about those forty guys; these are just a group of individuals talking from their communion, to their communion, and they have insisted on that over and over again-- that this is not an official document, and it isn't an official document. But I have said to Chuck and to J. I., I said, "Look, Jim, that may be true, but you are speaking 'about' these communions, and as soon as you speak 'about' the two communions--you have gone way beyond forty people. You are making a blanket statement about Evangelicals and Catholics, who profess to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, if they do accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, in the biblical sense--they are brothers and sisters in Christ and I have no dispute. But the doctrine of Justification, upon which we are united is far more than that statement that we have looked at already, "That we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ."
JOHN ANKERBERG: People that are listening might say, "But, boy are you narrow-minded."
R. C. SPROUL: I hope so! John, let me explain that comment. I don't mean to be flip about that, because I think one of the most difficult things in the Christian life is to know when to be tolerant, and when to be narrow.
The same Apostle Paul who tells us that we are not to be contentious, and divisive, and argumentative, and belligerent--that the same Apostle who teaches us that the "fruit of the Spirit, of the Holy Spirit," is the fruit of "gentleness, and kindness, and long-suffering, and meekness, and goodness," and so on--that same Apostle who tells us that we are to judge each other always with the judgment of charity and not harshly, with a love that covers a multitude of sins--that's the same Apostle who said, "When it comes to the gospel, you can't negotiate it! Ever! For any reason!" That's why when Luther said, "That this was the article upon which the Church stands or falls"--and I agree with Luther's assessment there. I mean, I don't think that we should fight over every doctrine and over every pedantic point of theology. But, John, this isn't a pedantic point--this is not the "small print." This is the article upon which the Church stands or falls--the Gospel itself!
JOHN ANKERBERG: John, do you think that the gospel is at stake in what we are talking about?
JOHN MACARTHUR: Oh, absolutely--that is what is at stake. I was just going to mention a parallel. The Apostle Paul in Romans 10, obviously we know his heart and his passion for Israel, he actually said he, "could almost wish himself accursed for their salvation." Nobody would question that Israel was devoted to God, that they had a zeal for God, that they tried their best to follow the Law and all of the prescriptions. I mean, that it is a very close parallel to the same kind of situation, and he says in Romans 10, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is for their salvation." I mean, it was clear that they had missed the whole point of a gracious salvation. A salvation that came from God and God alone--apart from any works.
He said, "I bear them witness, this I'll grant them: they have a zeal for God, but it is not according to knowledge. Because they do not understand God's righteousness and they seek to establish their own." That is exactly what you have going on in the Roman Catholic Church. And, "so they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God," in other words, they did not understand the righteousness of God--they went to seek their own righteousness, therefore they missed the righteousness of God, and he says in the next verse, "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Christ is the righteousness, and Israel missed it and Paul confronted it, Jesus confronted it, I mean He blistered the Jewish leaders for their defection.
I hate to say that if I had been in the meeting with twenty Roman Catholics, I think I would have been a troubled person. I don't think we would have come out with any document which we all agreed on, because I would have had to confront the fact that they have a zeal for God, but it is apart from understanding the righteousness of God, which is the only means by which salvation can occur. Yes, it's absolutely the definitive issue.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr Kennedy, all through the years that I have known you, you have had the reputation among evangelical leaders of being the statesman--the one that constantly wants to bring us together--you don't want any splits, and even in this situation we met in your office. But what is at stake is that the cry for tolerance today and love between Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants is very, very strong. And when we make some of these statements, people say, "Don't you have any love for Roman Catholics? Are you guys so harsh?" Talk about love and tolerance and the priority that truth has over that, and that when we stand for the truth that does not necessarily mean that we don't love people, in fact, when we stand for the truth it means that we actually love them more.
JAMES KENNEDY: Absolutely John, if we believe, as Christians, the truth of the Scripture. If we believe what Christ said, that He, "Is the way, the truth, and the life." If we believe as Peter said, "There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." If there is no other way than through justification by faith in Christ alone. If we are willing for sake of some temporal, earthly peace and tolerance to ignore proclaiming that truth to people, then we are not demonstrating to them love--we are actually demonstrating hate, because we are allowing those people to go to the judgment of God without ever telling them the one way by which they can be justified in the eyes of a just and holy God, and that is a false love--true love confronts, and it should do it with grace and with kindness, but never the less firmly.
I have always felt that we need to have a velvet glove, but as I was saying to R. C., in my office this afternoon, that I have always felt that there should be a velvet glove, but inside that velvet glove there is to be a steel fist. We can never become "wishy-washy" and spongy when it comes to the essential truth, upon which the eternal wheel or woe of human beings rest and that is the gospel. We can't compromise on this truth. We can agree to disagree on a lot of the nonessentials, as Pascal said, but when it comes to the heart of the gospel we have to insist that there is only one way, and Christ is that way, and to ignore that is a false love. It is a personal apostatizing on our own part from what Christ called us to be.
I commend these men as I commended R. C., in that meeting that I mentioned, that he made it very clear to these men what was at stake here, and what was at stake, ultimately, was whether or not we could maintain fellowship if they were going to leave a confused idea as to whether or not they accepted the distinctives of the Reformational Theology, and happily they made it clear that they do not reject those, they do clearly accept them, and in that we do rejoice, although we would of all been happier if they would have taken their names off of the document altogether.
JOHN ANKERBERG: R. C., summarize where we are at. I think that it is very important for the people that are listening, they want to know, "well, where are we at here with Chuck [Colson] and our own fellows--where do we stand?"
R. C. SPROUL: I am not sure. I received a wonderful letter from Chuck just this week. John, this is so hard, because like Chuck writes in a scroll in the bottom, "I am so glad that we had this meeting because this has been torturing my soul." He has been in tears, I have been in tears--it tears of our personal friendship that is for so long and so deep. J. I. Packer, few people in my life have I had a deeper camaraderie with--standing shoulder to shoulder, proclaiming the reformed faith to our generation. These are the last people in the world I wanted to break fellowship with, and that is certainly Chuck's heart, and that is why we got together here.
Now, how I feel personally about these guys, after that meeting, is I feel a lot more comfortable about it--knowing what there concerns were. They are perfectly willing to stand and say to the world, "We believe in justification by faith alone and that is essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ." I want them to say that from the housetops. Where are we? I am delighted in that, and as I have said before, "It is a halfway covenant here," I mean that was the bare minimum that I could hope for, that we could be able to achieve to avert a theological war, and I think that we have, at least for the time being, dodged a bullet here. I am not sure, I mean the truth is tenuous and I hope that we are going to be able to get more clarification, because we didn't have the time to look at all of the issues here, and we all recognized that there was a lot more to be done, and so part of that clarification statement that you have in front of you John, point number five, makes a commitment for those people involved there to continue this discussion, because the discussions aren't over, and there is kind of a moratorium here on "Let's put down the guns in the meantime and not be shooting each other in the back, and still try to get further resolution of this problem." I, again with Jim, I wish that they would just unsign the document and then we could all go home and be happy, but in the meantime we are trying to have as much accommodation as we possibly can without compromising the gospel.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr John MacArthur, close us off in this session, "Why is it so important to be so precise and so clear in the statements that we are making about what we believe--what's at stake?"
JOHN MACARTHUR: Because the eternal soul of every person is at stake. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and coming to Christ on God's terms and His terms alone is the path of salvation--everything is at stake, absolutely everything. If I can just add one thing to what R. C. said, we are glad to agree on the doctrine of salvation, "sola fide," what we don't agree on is the implications of that. We are saying that has massive implications in terms of our cooperation--they don't seem to see those implications. Therein lies the difficulty. It's implications that concern me, because the implication of taking the right doctrine of salvation is, you preach the truth and people can come to salvation. Confusing that--is a damning doctrine.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Dr Kennedy, close us off again, "How can a person who is listening come into that wonderful relationship that we have been talking about?" Maybe they have been listening to all of this and their curiosity is peaked. You are saying some things that are bringing joy, is it really true? Explain it.
JAMES KENNEDY: Essentially there are only two religions in the whole world, one of them is "I"--"I" live a good life, "I" keep the commandments, "I" pray, "I" go to church, "I" follow the golden rule, "I" love my neighbor, "I" do the best "I" can, "I" don't do this bad thing, "I" don't do the other. That's called "autosoterism," or "self-salvation," where "I" become my own savior--glory be to me! I am in competition with Jesus Christ who claims to be the savior of the world. The only other religion is the "cross." There are over 30,000 religions in the world, but when you take off the ribbon and the wrapping and open the box, you'll either find the "I" or the "cross," essentially. Every one is going to either be saving himself, and be his own savior, or he is going to trust in Christ, and in Christ alone.
I would say to anyone that wants to know the free salvation of God, to get out of the savior business, declare spiritual bankruptcy, turn to Christ, and trust in Him alone for your salvation, and He will freely give you the gift of everlasting life. He will come into your heart and enable you to trust Him and to repent of your sins and change your life and give you new meaning and new direction and new power to live a godly life, and He will take you to be with Him in paradise for ever and ever.
JOHN ANKERBERG: We have questions from the audience and hopefully the very question that some of these folks are going to ask is the one that you [the TV listener] want to ask and have answered. Now I am going to ask the first one and "start the ball rolling here."
There was a very controversial area in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) document, that many of the Evangelical lay people picked up on right away, and it was this statement right here, "Those converted, whether understood as having received the new birth for the first time, or as having experienced the reawakening of the new birth, originally bestowed in the sacrament of baptism, must be given full freedom and respect as they discern and decide the community in which they will live their new life in Christ."
Dr. R. C. Sproul, to many people that sounded like the Evangelical Protestants, who were helping frame this, were allowing there to be two equally valid ways of coming into a relationship with Christ, that is the new birth or the sacrament of Baptism. We objected to that statement and wanted it clarified. Tell us what is at stake and what we did.
R. C. SPROUL: First of all John, let me put my theologian's hat on just for a second and you indulgence to get just a little bit technical here with respect to that. That question as you have posed it and as it stated in ECT represents what called the "fallacy of the false dilemma," or the "either or fallacy." So, in the document there was a bullet point list of ongoing points of differences, "Do we believe this or that?" Which in some cases radically missed the historic points that are in dispute.
For example, you are saying, "Are there two ways of conversion, one through regeneration and the other through the sacraments?" That really misses the point of the historic debate between reformed theology (Protestantism) and Rome [Roman Catholicism], because both Rome and historic Evangelicalism maintain that it is necessary for a person to be regenerate. There is no dispute about that, the question is, "How does regeneration come to pass and what does it affect, what does it do, and how is it linked to justification?"
Now in the classical reformed view of Calvin and Luther, the order of salvation went like this: that first, before I can believe and meet the requirement of faith, in order to receive and appropriate the righteousness of Christ for my justification, something has to happen to my heart, because I'm fallen, I'm dead in sin and the Holy Spirit has to change the disposition of my heart, and we call that regeneration or rebirth. As a result of that work of the Holy Spirit, now I am able to and indeed do embrace Christ in faith. So, I am reborn--I have faith. As a consequence of the faith I am justified.
The Roman Catholic Church has taught, that the way a person comes to salvation is, in the first instance, they are baptized, and baptism works--by the working of the works, virtually automatically, infusing the grace of justification in the soul, effecting regeneration and justifying grace, so a person is now justified by baptism, and that is good until or unless that person commits Mortal Sin. Mortal Sin is called "Mortal Sin" because it destroys the grace, this justifying grace that has been implanted and infused into the soul at baptism. That's why you have confession. That is why you have the Sacrament of Penance, which became the center of the controversy in the 16th century.
The Sacrament of Penance, Rome defines and redefines at Trent, as the second plank of justification for those who have made shipwreck of their souls, that is, once you commit Mortal Sin, that sin is called "Mortal" because it kills the grace of justification that you received at Baptism, and so you need to get justified again, and that comes through another sacrament, namely the sacrament of Penance. Now what that provoked in the 16th century was in the second question, not only, "What is the ground and the basis of justification, whether it is the righteousness of Christ imputed to me or infused in me?" The other question was, "What is the instrumental cause of my justification?" Going back to Aristotelian language, the instrumental cause is defined as that cause or means by which an effect is brought to pass, and when the reformers said that, "Justification is by faith alone (sola fide)," the word "by" there meant the instrumental dative: the means by which I appropriate the righteousness of Christ and therefore am justified--is by faith and by faith alone.
Whereas, Rome taught the instrumental cause of justification is not faith--it is the sacraments, in the first instance baptism, in the second instance penance. So that was a major point of difference on the "how" question, of how a person is saved. Does that answer it John?
JOHN ANKERBERG: Yes, talk about that thing of faith then, because obviously, if a Roman Catholic baby is baptized, where does faith come in? They are not even conscious at that point.
R. C. SPROUL: No, the faith would come--they would presume that it would come later as a consequence of their being in a state of justifying grace. It would be for them the same place that it is for us, that faith is a result of regeneration ultimately, although the difference from the reformed perspective, although there are many professing Evangelicals that don't agree with this, they would say that regeneration makes it possible for a person to have faith, but it doesn't necessarily yield the fruit of faith, and that would be the case in the Roman Church, but not in the case of the Reformation Fathers
JOHN ANKERBERG: Why did we want that clarified and why has it been so objectionable to the Evangelical community then?
R. C. SPROUL: Because for the most part the Evangelical community is aghast at any idea that the sacraments, can in any way, automatically confer justifying grace--that a person can be saved through the sacraments without faith. So you have a double-edge sword here. On the one hand you have that view seeming to suggest that a person can be saved without faith, and the other view of Rome that a person can have faith and not be saved! Now that gets confusing, but let me say this, that is only in the case of infants. When it comes to the adult person who has committed Mortal Sin, according to Rome, they not only must go through sacramental penance, but they must also have faith. So faith is a requirement in the case of adults.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Well let's pick it up right there, with the adult they are not saying that it is faith alone either, because then you will have to go back to the sacraments and the mass.
R. C. SPROUL: If you look at their section in Trent on the sacrament of Penance, as well as Session six of the Council of Trent, on Justification (on the Canons and Decrees of Justification), Rome spells this business of Mortal Sin out and goes on to say, "If a person has true faith and commits Mortal Sin, that Mortal Sin destroys the grace of justification, but does not destroy the faith." So there you have a clear statement by Rome. I should have brought the Canons and Decrees of Trent with me, to read it to you exactly. The thing there John, is that it clearly states that a person can have faith, true faith, not just a profession of faith, but true faith and not be justified, which couldn't be any more clear than a repudiation of the New Testament concept of justification by faith alone.
JOHN ANKERBERG: All right, let's finish it up. Flip the coin, because Catholics do not have assurance that they are in heaven [going to heaven] because they have to get more and more justifying faith through the sacraments, once they have come in via baptism.
R. C. SPROUL: Well, they don't normally have the assurance of salvation, because again, Trent declares, that it is possible to have assurance of salvation in the sense of knowing that you are going to be saved by special revelation, in special circumstances, like in the case of Mary and in some of the Saints. But the normal rank and file believer cannot have the assurance of perseverance or the assurance of salvation, except beyond that of what the church encourages them.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Finish us off here, in the sense that--talk about salvation as a final act that is completed. In the forensic sense that God makes a judgment, an eternal judgment about my status, because of Christ, versus Catholicism--that it is not a completed act all at once--it is a process. Define those two for us.
R. C. SPROUL: For the Protestant, for the Biblical view as I understand it John and embrace it, justification, technically and narrowly considered, and what the word means in the Greek and in the Hebrew, and I believe, originally in the Latin until it got corrupted in the Roman judicial system, and that is where one of our problems came in, with the Latin use "varcari" (sp.) which means "to make just." And that planted the seeds in some of the Latin Fathers of thinking that justification means a "making just," but the Biblical concept clearly teaches that justification narrowly considered is the declaration of God, the legal declaration, what we call "forensic declaration." You hear about the "forensics" in trials, and forensic medicine, and "forensic" pathology, and so on, that what we are talking about there is, that justification specifically, and narrowly refers to God's declaration of a person being righteous in His sight--that, that is what justification means--and that is a once for all thing.
What the New Testament teaches is that at the very moment a person has authentic faith in Jesus Christ, at that instant God the Father declares that person "in Christ" and acceptable in the beloved, He now remits or removes their sins forever--the eternal punishment of sin has been removed and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to that trusting and believing person. They are now pronounced just, and Luther said they are "at the same time just and sinner" while they are still unclean in themselves, they are the seed, and the beginning of their transformation has already taken place. They are still sinners and they remain polluted by sin until they are glorified by God in heaven. The process of sanctification goes until we die and go into heaven. The status that you referring to, our condition of being declared just before God, is a once for all single, instantaneous action the moment faith occurs.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Great. Question?
MEMBER IN THE AUDIENCE: I come from Brazil, the largest Roman Catholic country in the world. I heard you gentlemen say that what is at stake here is the Gospel. Therefore, aren't those who advocate Lordship Salvation views, guilty of the same mistake as Roman Catholics are, by adding works to the Gospel, and therefore denying justification by faith alone?
JOHN ANKERBERG: MacArthur, we knew that question had to come up tonight somewhere! All right, it is time to answer it John.
JOHN MACARTHUR: I have written on that question, haven't I? Look, that is a "straw man." To say that "Lordship Salvation" (whatever that term might mean to people), has the connotation that you must believe in Jesus as Lord, in order to be saved. I don't know how that all of a sudden that became an abhorrent view, but somewhere down the path it has become abhorrent in some circles, to affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ, in spite of the fact that Paul said that you have "To confess with your mouth 'Jesus as Lord,'" in order to be saved. But the implication that people want to read into that, is that if you have to do that--that's a work! That's a pre-salvation work that you have to do. Then they take repentance and they say we don't believe in repentance either. In other words, salvation is purely grace, you don't commit to anything and you don't repent from anything. And you say, "Well, repentance is in the Bible!" Well, those people who are against "Lordship Salvation" they will redefine repentance as changing your mind about who Jesus is, or changing your mind about whether you can save yourself, but it does not mean turning from your sins because if you had to turn from your sin, that would be a pre-salvation human work. Or if you had to submit to Christ, and bow your knee to His Lordship, that would be a pre-salvation work.
The simple answer to that is--that is exactly what R. C. was talking about, when he talked about regeneration. You couldn't repent if it were a pre-salvation human work, and you couldn't submit to Christ if it were a pre-salvation human work. None of it is a pre-salvation human work. It is all encompassed in the redeeming work of God. It is all the work of God. God grants repentance, Paul said that to Timothy. God grants repentance, God grants submission, God breaks the human will. God terrorizes the soul over the results and the implications of sin, and to take any less than that is nothing more than limiting God. Are you saying that God can save, He just can't make people repent? Or God can save, He just can't make them submissive? I mean, it strikes a blow against the power of God--it doesn't say anything about human works. I would never advocate there is any component of human effort in salvation. It is all of God! Let's just not strip out what God is doing and say that He is not doing it.
JAMES KENNEDY: John, I think, if I could add to that--the person who objects and coins this phrase "Lordship Salvation," which is the view that we are to believe in Jesus Christ both as Savior and Lord, which is to say that we are to "Believe and Repent." This has been the view of the Church down through the centuries, and now it has been made some kind of abhorrent view by some in recent times. Now, the truth of the matter is that these people are guilty of doing the very thing that they are charging those who believe in what they now call "Lordship Salvation," because they do not see that salvation is all of God. They say, "Well, we can't repent--that would be a human work, all we can do is believe, and so therefore, we will believe in Jesus as our Savior, and that is salvation by grace, but we are not able to repent." But they are the ones that are declaring that man has some ability to do something--namely to believe.
The truth of the matter is, the unregenerate man is blind--he has eyes and sees not, he has ears and hears not, his mind is darkened, his heart is a stone--he is at enmity with God and he is dead in trespasses and sins--he can no more believe than he can repent--he can't even understand the gospel, "for the things of the 'Spirit of God' of which the gospel is the heart of those things, "are foolishness to the natural man, neither can he know that--it is not possible that he can know that.
The fact of the matter is, that what God requires for salvation is faith and repentance. Faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, and repentance and submission to Him as Lord! And that which God requires for salvation--that God also freely gives by His grace in regeneration--so that the whole thing may be of God. Salvation is by faith, in order that salvation may be of grace. Why? In order that salvation may be of God! That is the essence of Evangelical religion--salvation is of God from eternity to eternity, from Alpha to Omega--man has no part in it, neither his repentance, or his faith, or his good works or anything else. And to God be the Glory--it is all of God! [Great Applause].
R. C. SPROUL: John, I think that it is critical as part of the question that was raised there about "Lordship Salvation," was, does not the "Lordship Salvation" concept undermine "sola fide" (justification by faith alone) because of its insistence on works, and we haven't discussed that. Quickly, the reformers said that "justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone!" The point was this, following James, that true faith, the faith that brings us into a saving relationship to Christ by which we receive His righteousness, that is the alone basis for our salvation, where our works contribute nothing of merit or value, or contributing anything to the basis of our salvation, that is received solely by faith, but if that faith is a true faith--immediately, inevitably, necessarily, that faith begins at the moment of its inception to show forth the fruit of redemption and of justification.
So the question is this, "Is it possible for a person to have faith--be justified, and never have works?" What John is saying, what we are all saying, is that is absolutely impossible. There is no such thing as a Carnal Christian in that sense, that they are utterly carnal and at the same time a Christian. I hope that helps.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Explain it then, Dr. MacArthur, in terms of, for the person that has listened to "at the same time that he just he is also a sinner." For the people that are the soft-hearted ones that are listening.
O. K.? For the people that say, "O. K., I have made my commitment to Jesus as Lord, but I haven't lived perfect every step, does that mean that I have not really accepted Jesus' Lordship?" Talk to those folks.
JOHN MACARTHUR: I like to say to people like that, "It is not the perfection of your life, it's the direction" Paul said, "Not as though I have attained, but I know the direction that I am going--I am going towards Christ-likeness, and that is my passion." I think the way you get in touch with the reality of your salvation is not by counting up your righteous acts, but it is by listening to your heart longings. The Puritans use to talk about "Holy Aspirations." I think the evidence of a regenerate heart is a hatred of sin, is a love for God, and a longing to obey. I don't think it is perfect obedience, it's not perfect love towards Christ, and it is not a perfect hatred towards sin, but it is animosity towards sin, it is revulsion towards sin, and mostly in me--not in you, or in the culture. It is a love for God that comes forth in a desire to commune with Him, a desire to that which is well pleasing in His sight, a desire to sing His praises. It comes forward in a love of His truth, a hunger to know that truth and to apply that truth in your life. I think it is the cry of the heart. I mean, David said it, "As the hart [male deer] pants after the water brook, so my soul pants after Thee, oh God, when will I come before you?"
RONALD KILPATRICK: During the last several Ankerberg shows, there was only one reference to why ECT was written to begin with, and it might be helpful to clarify that, and to point out maybe also that the writing of ECT crippled the goal that they were trying to accomplish.
R. C. SPROUL: I would like to speak to that, because I did mention earlier what the driving force, according to Chuck Colson and others was. Chuck Colson is an international Christian. He has been a spokesman for the cause of Christ cross borders like few people have, particularly in the level of prisons. In Eastern Europe, in the East, all over the place. He has seen the rising specter of increasing hostility of a paganism, a neo-paganism that is radically hostile to historic Christianity. He has been in the White House, he has watched the systematic dismantling and disintegration of anything Christian to our culture and speaks to us against the night. This has been a driving passion for Chuck Colson, to be an activist and an apologist for Christ in the market place, in the prison, in the world, defending Christian truth against secular paganism.
It was that concern that I believe was the overarching concern, along with his concern that there has been bloodshed around the world, in Latin America particularly of conflicts between Catholics and Evangelicals. Also, in Chuck's work, particularly in the prison ministry where I have been with him in his prison ministries, he has encountered many Roman Catholic Chaplains who have welcomed him with open arms and encouraged him to preach his gospel in these circumstances, and he is saying, "If we can have this kind of cooperative activity at the grass-roots, it's time now to put the old rancor aside and try to find more and more venues of cooperation and acknowledging that we have more unity of faith than anybody dreamed of prior to this time." I think that is the motivating force behind this document. I think that it goes too far as we have been saying all along.
JOHN MACARTHUR: I think that there is one other thing that has come up in the meeting several times, and that is that the both Chuck Colson and J. I. Packer are convinced that effective evangelism is dependent on a pre-theological, sort of moral consensus. In other words, you can't just evangelize a culture in a vacuum. Francis Schaeffer use to talk about "pre-evangelism" and there in that idea that if we can create a context of Christian morality, the gospel becomes much more readily received. They are convinced of that, although personally I am not convinced that, that is an issue, certainly it wasn't an issue for the Apostle Paul throughout the whole Gentile world. But they are convinced that, that is going to have a great impact on the acceptability of the gospel.
JAMES KENNEDY: May I add one other thing to that, because having listened to the excellent exposition of the motives for the ECT Document, for those who have seen none of the other programs, they may wonder what the problem is, because all of that sounded so good and so noble. The problem is, that in creating this document of cobelligerentcy to face the evils of the secular neo-pagan world, it was the opinion of many, including the three sitting here that presented vague and apparently compromising statements concerning the essence of the Christian Gospel and put the whole heart of Christianity into jeopardy, and that is why we had the meeting here a few weeks ago to try to resolve it, and that's what we been discussing about for the last few weeks.
RONALD KILPATRICK: R.C., and where does it stand right now?
R. C. SPROUL: It stands, that so far, we have a minimal statement of clarification by which some of the framers of the document, Chuck Colson, Jim Packer, and Bill Bright have affirmed their personal belief in the central importance of the historic doctrine of justification by faith alone, among other clarifications that they have gone on record, that they did not intend in any way to imply in ECT, and negotiation of that centrality to the gospel. They are now taking that document to the other Protestant signatories and asking them to sign it, and they have made a commitment to release this statement of clarification to all of the same media agencies that ECT was originally given--to the press, to the New York Times, to the Washington Post, and others. At the same time it stands where there is a commitment to ongoing discussions to try to resolve this problem further.
RONALD KILPATRICK: A stumbling block to many Roman Catholics at the time of the reformation, and today, is James, chapter two, verse 24, in its proper interpretation, you see then how then "By works a man is justified and not by faith alone." Would you please explain that verse.
R. C. SPROUL: Why should I take the time to try explain that to you Ronald Kilpatrick, when you had my course in it? [Laughter] Can you believe this?
JAMES KENNEDY: Well, let me take a crack at it, if Professor Sproul will not do it again for him. I think that the key in that passage is that James is dealing with people who profess to be Christians, and yet they don't evidence the reality of their faith by their works [deeds]. He says, in verse 18, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18, NIV). And he says in verse 15, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:15-17, NIV).
Over, and over again, in this he makes clear that people will say they have faith and they don't have works and James is saying that real faith always produces works as a result, and a key in this, I think are the words "say" and "see," they are repeated throughout this whole Second Chapter of James. And the question is, "A man may say that he has faith, but will that faith justify him? If it is just a 'said' faith?" No, it won't!
To give you an illustration: One time, years ago, I talked to a woman and I shared with her the gospel, and she said to me, "Do you mean that all that I have to do is say that I believe in Jesus Christ, and I will be saved?" I said, "No ma'am, I didn't say that." She said, "You didn't, what did you say?" I said, "If you would put your trust in Jesus Christ--you would be saved." She said, "There, you said it again, all I have to do is say that I trust in Jesus Christ and I'll be saved." I said, "No, ma'am, I did not say that--I have never said that in my life!" She said, "You just said it!" I said, "No I didn't."
I wonder if everybody here noticed how she distorted my statement. I said, "If you would trust in Christ, if you would believe in Christ--you would be saved." She said that I said, "If you would say that you trusted in Christ, and say that you believed in Christ--you would be saved." There is a gulf, a vast gulf between saying that you have faith and having faith! That is the difference between salvation and eternal perdition [hell]. What we need to do is to trust in Christ, and if we do that, works will inevitably follow as a result of that.
R. C. SPROUL: I would like to add to that John, even though I was joshing with my student, the former student there--I wouldn't claim him any longer. But that is a critical statement and Trent is virtually filled with quotations and citations of James 2:21 and 2:24, "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?" (James 2:21, NIV). And then James 2:24, "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone" (NIV). Now there the Holy Scriptures, what could be a clear, more demonstrative, categorical repudiation of "sola fide" than that? We see then, by conclusion, that a man is justified by "works" and not by "faith alone!" That would seem to put Luther out of business, as clearly as anything possibly could, and the Catholic theologians of the 16th century said, "Read this, read this, read this!" All right, we have to answer that. But Jim, of course, put his finger on it--the issue that James is dealing with there, by citing Abraham, and the thing that the plot thickens, is that both Paul in Romans Three, and James, in James Two, use the word "justification"--they use the same Greek word--they appeal to the same person, it is there exhibit "A" to prove their case--Abraham! "Was not Abraham our father justified when he offered Isaac on the altar?" Paul labors the point in Romans Four, that Abraham is justified by faith, not in chapter 22 of Genesis, that James quotes, but in chapter 15 of Genesis, when "Abraham believes God and it is counted to him, reckoned to him, imputed to him (there's a great reformed text) for righteousness." So they both appeal to Abraham, but to different points in their life.
How do we reconcile this? I think Jim is right there, the question that James is answering is the question that he starts off this thing is, "If a man says he has faith, and has not works, will that faith save him?" The issue here, under the microscope of the Apostle is, "What constitutes saving faith?" This is where Evangelicals stumble, because we have created a whole milieu (an environment) in the 20th century Evangelical World that tells people, "that all you have to do to be saved is raise your hand, come forward, pray a prayer (you know, say the 'sinners prayer"), make these statements! No! Still the requirement is faith. All of those things that we are talking about are outward manifestations, demonstrations, or professions of faith. The Bible does not teach, never did teach that a person is saved by the profession of faith--it's the possession of faith that alone links us to Jesus Christ, and that is what James is laboring in chapter two, it would take another half an hour or hour to follow that all the way. But that the summary.
JAMES KENNEDY: Go through the Second Chapter of James, underline every instance of "say" and "see" and I think that you will understand the difference between a professed faith and a possessed faith, and whether we can see by the evidence of his works the reality of his faith or not.
MEMBER IN THE AUDIENCE: Looking down the road a few years, do any of you gentlemen see the ECT as a preliminary document, which could eventually, and perhaps unwittingly evolved into a synthesis document for a global one-world religion?
JOHN MACARTHUR: Well, I'll take a shot at that. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet so I don't want to be stoned if I am wrong here. But, I am convinced that this is only the beginning of a rather large movement that is going to continue to escalate. It isn't primarily because of this document--its primarily because of the ringing cry for tolerance! Because of the abysmal lack of discernment in the Church; because of this tremendous impetus that this unity mentality has, and I think that it is going to escalate. I think that you have got powerful media, people who have got this high on their agenda and they are going to pump this thing nationwide all the time. I think it is very conceivable, and we would not all agree on how we interpret the Book of Revelation, but if you take the Futurist view of the Book of Revelation, it would very, very much fit the scenario of moving rapidly towards a one-world false religion, that is described in the 17th chapter of the book of Revelation, which will be bigger than Rome, but obviously is connected to the "city on seven hills" that is called the "Harlot and is drunk with the blood of the martyrs," and all of that kind of thing. So, certainly from my tradition, looking at Revelation in its prophetic implications--I am not going to say this is that, but it certainly could fit that scenario.
MEMBER IN THE AUDIENCE: While you took the Catholic religion to task, why is it that you are not strong against the twenty Evangelicals who signed and produced that pact and did it without doctrinal justification.
And number two, why wasn't this second meeting held first, so you would resolve all the Evangelical issues before any pact was ever produced?
JAMES KENNEDY: Well, I can answer part of that, and that is I never knew that the consultation was under way until after I had heard about the signed document, so consequently I was able to do nothing about it beforehand. If I had known about it, then I perhaps could have done something beforehand.
I think another factor that needs to be considered is the fact that the second meeting that was held here did result in those major players in that, signing a clarifying document that they believe the basic reformation teachings of "sola fide" and the other related doctrines, but I think that there have been some statements here of a number of people that we wish that they had been willing to take a clearer stand and remove their names all together from the document, and we must confess that we all find it very difficult to see how they really can keep their names on both of those documents. They seem to find no problem because they say that's what they meant all along, and now they are clarifying that, but we see that first document as so ambiguous and confusing, and misleading, that we do not see how a person, believing what they signed in the second document, and we do not question that they believe that--we don't see how they can ignore the implications and leave their name on the first document.
R. C. SPROUL: One of the things for which I was grateful, and I expressed my attitude to Chuck Colson, and I wasn't being facetious or cynical about it, was that as soon as this document was released, and I responded to the press about it in a negative way, and Chuck and I talked about it, he said, "R. C. I didn't send you a copy of this and I didn't ask you to sign this document, because I knew that you wouldn't," and I was sincere at that point when I said, "Thank you," because I very much appreciate that he understood, up front, there is no way in the world that I would ever sign a document like that.
MEMBER IN THE AUDIENCE: My question is for Dr. R. C. Sproul, do the drafters of ECT say anything about Papal authority over the church? What is their position on that, if any at all?
R. C. SPROUL: I am trying to recall whether there is even anything said about Papal authority, I mentioned earlier that in one section of ECT there is a list, a bullet point list of those points of continuing, on-going disagreement between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, and one of them, and not very accurately sets in contradistinction the authority of Scripture, and tradition, or the magisterial authority of the church, and so on, which is a sort of a misunderstanding of the critical issue their in the sixteenth century on "sola scriptura" (sp.) (Latin). "Sola scriptura" had to do with two things, one, that the Scripture and the Scripture alone has the authority to bind our conscience and impose divine obligations upon us--no church council, no church leader can do that, and secondly that's there only one source of written "Special Revelation," namely the Sacred Scriptures, whereas, Trent has a "dual-source theory" of two sources that the Church has of Special Revelation, namely the Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, which is ruled over by a Pontiff, in whom is vested this "ex cathedra infallibility."
There is very little discussion of that in Vatican II, but that really does get to the heart of the historic division, because as Roman Catholic Theologians continue to complain about, within Rome, they are convinced that they as theologians have very little authority, and very little influence on the church--that it's the magisterium that determines what is to be believed in the church, not the theologians, or the Scriptures, or anything else.
I frankly think, in practical terms the biggest thing that got Luther in trouble, in the 16th century, was not so much he challenged the doctrine of the church, as he challenged the authority of the church. When he challenged the authority of the church councils and of the Pontiff in Rome, that's when Kathechen (sp.), and Ackenson (sp.), and so on linked him with John Huss, and that's when the church moved to excommunicate him.
JOHN ANKERBERG: Guys, I want to say thank you for your willingness to come and to talk about something that has been very troubling to all four of us.
The good news is that we have a clarifying statement. We are waiting to see how many of the Evangelical Protestant signees of the ECT document will sign it--I would assume that all of them will. Then there is the hope for future discussion on some of these other issues that we have discussed tonight. I want to say, thank you for your coming, for being brave enough, courageous enough to speak out on some of these very, very tough issues.
Thank you very much.
The following is the actual ECT Document:
EVANGELICALS AND CATHOLICS TOGETHER
THE CHRISTIAN MISSION IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM
The following statement is a product of consultation, beginning in September 1992, between Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians. Appended to the text is a list of participants in the consultation and of others who have given their support to this declaration.
1. We are Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who have been led through prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions about Christian faith and mission. This statement cannot speak officially for our communities. It does intend to speak responsibly from our communities and to our communities. In this statement we address what we have discovered both about our unity and about our differences. We are aware that our experience reflects the distinctive circumstances and opportunities of Evangelicals and Catholics living together in North America. At the same time, we believe that what we have discovered and resolved is pertinent to the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics in other parts of the world. We therefore commend this statement to their prayerful consideration.
2. As the Second Millennium draws to a close, the Christian mission in the world history faces a moment of daunting opportunity and responsibility. If in the merciful and mysterious ways of God the Second Coming is delayed, we enter upon a Third Millennium that could be, the words of John Paul II, "a springtime of world missions." (Redemptoris Missio)
3. As Christ is one, so the Christian mission is one. That one mission can be and should be advanced in diverse ways. Legitimate diversity, however, should not be confused with existing divisions between Christians that obscure the one Christ and hinder the one mission. There is a necessary connection between the visible unity of Christians and the mission of the one Christ. We together pray for the fulfillment of the prayer of Our Lord: "May they all be one; as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so also may they be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17) We together, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess our sins against the unity that Christ intends for all his disciples.
4. The one Christ and one mission includes many other Christians, notably the Eastern Orthodox and those Protestants not commonly identified as Evangelical. All Christians are encompassed in the prayer, "May they all be one." Our present statement attends to the specific problems and opportunities in the relationship between Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants.
5. As we near the Third Millennium, there are approximately 1.7 billion Christians in the world. About a billion of these are Catholics and more than 300 million are Evangelical Protestants. The century now drawing to a close has been the greatest century of missionary expansion in Christian history.
We pray and we believe that this expansion has prepared the way for yet greater missionary endeavor in the first century of the Third Millennium.
6. The two communities in world Christianity that are most evangelically assertive and most rapidly growing are Evangelicals and Catholics. In many parts of the world, the relationship between these communities is marked more by conflict than by co-operation, more by animosity than by love, more by suspicion than by trust, more by propaganda and ignorance than by respect for the truth. This is alarmingly the case in Latin America, increasingly the case in Eastern Europe, and too often the case in our own country.
7. Without ignoring conflicts between and within other Christian communities, we address ourselves to the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics, who constitute the growing edge of missionary expansion at present and, most likely, in the century ahead. In doing so, we hope that what we have discovered and resolved may be of help in other situations of conflict, such as that among Orthodox, Evangelicals, and Catholics in Eastern Europe. While we are gratefully aware of the ongoing efforts to address tensions among these communities, the shameful reality is that, in many places around the world, the scandal of conflict between Christians obscures the scandal of the cross, thus crippling the one mission of the one Christ.
8. As in the times past, so also today and in the future, the Christian mission, which is directed to the entire human community, must be advanced against formidable opposition. In some cultures, that mission encounters resurgent spiritualities and religions that are explicitly hostile to the claims of the Christ. Islam, which in many instances denies the freedom to witness to the Gospel, must be of increasing concern to those who care about religious freedom and the Christian mission. Mutually respectful conversation between Muslims and Christians should be encouraged in the hope that more of the world will, in the oft-repeated words of John Paul II, "open the door to Christ." At the same time, in our so-called developed societies, a widespread secularization increasingly descends into moral, intellectual, and spiritual nihilism that denies not only the One who is the Truth but the very idea of truth itself.
9. We enter the twenty-first century without illusions. With Paul and the Christians of the first century, we know that "we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6) As Evangelicals and Catholics, we dare not by needless and loveless conflict between ourselves give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cause of Christ.
10. The love of Christ compels us and we are therefore resolved to avoid such conflict between our communities and, where such conflicts exists, to do what we can to reduce and eliminate it. Beyond that, we are called and we are therefore resolved to explore patterns of working and witnessing together in order to advance the one mission of Christ. Our common resolve is not based merely on a desire for harmony. We reject any appearance of harmony that is purchased at the price of truth. Our common resolve is made imperative by obedience to the truth of God revealed in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, and by the trust in the promise of the Holy Spirit's guidance until Our Lord returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The mission that we embrace together is the necessary consequence of the faith that we affirm together.
We Affirm Together
11. Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final affirmation that Christians make about all of reality. He is the One sent by God to be Lord and Savior of all: "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4) Christians are people ahead of time, those who proclaim now what will one day be acknowledged by all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2)
12. We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing less than the love of Christ, for we together say with Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2)
13. All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have not chosen one another, just as we have not chosen Christ. He has chosen us, and he has chosen us to be his together. (John 15) However imperfect our communion with one another, however deep our disagreements with one another, we recognize that there is but one church of Christ. There is one church because there is one Christ and the church is his body. However difficult the way, we recognize that we are called by God to a fuller realization of our unity in the body of Christ. The only unity to which we would give expression is unity in the truth, and the truth is this: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4)
14. We affirm together that Christians are to teach and live in obedience to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the infallible Word of God. We further affirm together that Christ has promised to his church the gift of the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth in discerning and declaring the teaching of Scripture. (John 16) We recognize together that the Holy Spirit has so guided his church in the past. In, for instance, the formation of the canon of the Scriptures, and in the orthodox response to the great Christological and Trinitarian controversies of the early centuries, we confidently acknowledge the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In faithful response to the Spirit's leading, the church formulated the Apostles' Creed, which we can and hereby do affirm together as an accurate statement of scriptural truth:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
We Hope Together
15. We hope together that all people will come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This hope makes necessary the church's missionary zeal. "But how are they to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10) The church is by nature, in all places and at all times, in mission. Our missionary hope is inspired by the revealed desire of God that "all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2)
16. The church lives by and for the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matthew 28)
17. Unity and love among Christians is an integral part of our missionary witness to the Lord whom we serve. "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13) If we do not love one another, we disobey the command and contradict the Gospel we declare.
18. As Evangelicals and Catholics, we pray that our unity in the love of Christ will become ever more evident as a sign to the world of God's reconciling power. Our communal and ecclesial separations are deep and long standing. We acknowledge that we do not know the schedule nor do we know the way to the greater visible unity for which we hope. We do know that existing patterns of distrustful polemic and conflict are not the way. We do know that God who has brought us into communion with himself through Christ intends that we also be in communion with one another. We do know that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14) and as we are drawn closer to him -- walking in that way, obeying that truth, living that life -- we are drawn closer to one another.
19. Whatever may be the future form of the relationship between our communities, we can, we must, and we will begin now the work required to remedy what we know to be wrong in that relationship. Such work requires trust and understanding, and trust and understanding require an assiduous attention to the truth. We do not deny but clearly assert that there are disagreements between us. Misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and caricatures of one another, however, are not disagreements. These distortions must be cleared away if we are to search through our honest differences in a manner consistent with what we affirm and hope together on the basis of God's Word.
We Search Together
20. Together we search for a fuller and clearer understanding of God's revelation of Christ and his will for his disciples. Because of the limitations of human reason and language, which limitations are compounded by sin, we cannot understand completely the transcendent reality of God and his ways. Only in the End Time will we see face to face and know as we are known. (1 Corinthians 13) We now search together in confident reliance upon God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, the sure testimony of Holy Scripture, and the promise of the Spirit to his church. In this search to understand the truth more fully and clearly, we need one another. We are both informed and limited by the histories of our communities and by our own experiences. Across the divides of communities and experiences, we need to challenge one another, always speaking the truth in love, building up the body. (Ephesians 4)
21. We do not presume to suggest that we can resolve the deep and long-standing differences between Evangelicals and Catholics. Indeed these differences may never be resolved short of the Kingdom Come. Nonetheless, we are not permitted simply to resign ourselves to differences that divide us from one another. Not all the differences are authentic disagreements, nor need all disagreements divide. Differences and disagreements must be tested in disciplined and sustained conversation. In this connection we warmly commend and encourage the formal and theological dialogues of recent years between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals.
22. We note some of the differences and disagreements that must be addressed more fully and candidly in order to strengthen between us a relationship of trust in obedience to truth. Among points of difference in doctrine, worship, practice, and piety that are frequently thought to divide us are these:
- The church as an integral part of the Gospel or the church as communal consequence of the Gospel.
- The church as visible communion or invisible fellowship of true believers.
- The sole authority of Scripture (sola scriptura) or Scripture as authoritatively interpreted in the church.
- The "soul freedom" of the individual Christian or the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the community.
- The church as local congregation or universal communion.
- Ministry ordered in apostolic succession or in the priesthood of all believers.
- Sacraments and ordinances as symbols of grace or means of grace.
- The Lord's Supper as Eucharistic sacrifice or memorial meal.
- Remembrance of Mary and the saints or devotion to Mary and the saints.
- Baptism as sacrament of regeneration or testimony to regeneration.
23. This account of differences is by no means complete. Nor is the disparity between positions always so sharp as to warrant the "or" in the above formulations. Moreover, among those recognized as Evangelical Protestants there are significant differences between, for example, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Calvinists on these questions. But the differences mentioned above reflect disputes that are deep and long standing. In at least some instances, they reflect authentic disagreements that have been in the past and are at the present barriers to full communion between Christians.
24. On these questions, and other questions implied by them, Evangelicals hold that the Catholic Church has gone beyond Scripture, adding teachings and practices that detract from or compromise the Gospel of God's saving grace in Christ. Catholics, in turn, hold that such teaching and practices are grounded in Scripture and belong to the fullness of God's revelation. Their rejection, Catholics say, results in a truncated and reduced understanding of the Christian reality.
25. Again, we cannot resolve these disputes here. We can and do affirm together that the entirety of Christian faith, life, and mission finds its source, center, and end in the crucified and risen Lord. We can and do pledge that we will continue to search together -- through study, discussion, and prayer -- for a better understanding of one another's convictions and a more adequate comprehension of the truth of God in Christ. We can testify now that in our searching together we have discovered what we can affirm together and what we can hope together and, therefore, how we can contend together.
We Contend Together
26. As we are bound together by Christ and his cause, so we are bound together in contending against all that opposes Christ and his cause. We are emboldened not by illusions of easy triumph but by faith in his certain triumph. Our Lord wept over Jerusalem, and now he weeps over a world that does not know the time of its visitation. The raging of the principalities and powers may increase as the End Time nears, but the outcome of the contest is assured.
27. The cause of Christ is the cause and mission of the church, which is, first of all, to proclaim the Good News that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5) To proclaim this Gospel and to sustain the community of faith, worship, and discipleship that is gathered by this Gospel is the first and chief responsibility of the church. All other tasks and responsibilities of the church are derived from and directed toward the mission of the Gospel.
28. Christians individually and the church corporately also have a responsibility for the right ordering of civil society. We embrace this task soberly; knowing the consequences of human sinfulness, we resist the utopian conceit that it is within our powers to build the Kingdom of God on earth. We embrace this task hopefully; knowing that God has called us to love our neighbor, we seek to secure for all a greater measure of civil righteousness and justice, confident that he will crown our efforts when he rightly orders all things in the coming of his Kingdom.
29. In the exercise of these public responsibilities there has been in recent years a growing convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics. We thank God for the discovery of one another in contending for a common cause. Much more important, we thank God for the discovery of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our cooperation as citizens is animated by our convergence as Christians. We promise one another that we will work to deepen, build upon, and expand this pattern of convergence and cooperation.
30. Together we contend for the truth that politics, law, and culture must be secured by moral truth. With the Founders of the American experiment, we declare, "We hold these truths." With them, we hold that this constitutional order is composed not just of rules and procedures but is most essentially a moral experiment. With them, we hold that only a virtuous people can be free and just, and that virtue is secured by religion. To propose that securing civil virtue is the purpose of religion is blasphemous. To deny that securing civil virtue is a benefit of religion is blindness.
31. Americans are drifting away from, are often explicitly defying, the constituting truths of this experiment in ordered liberty. Influential sectors of the culture are laid waste by relativism, anti-intellectualism, and nihilism that deny the very idea of truth. Against such influences in both the elite and popular culture, we appeal to reason and religion in contending for the foundational truths of our constitutional order.
32. More specifically, we contend together for religious freedom. We do so for the sake of religion, but also because religious freedom is the first freedom, the source and shield of all human freedoms. In their relationship to God, persons have a dignity and responsibility that transcends, and thereby limits, the authority of the state and of every other merely human institution.
33. Religious freedom is itself grounded in and is a product of religious faith, as is evident in the history of Baptists and others in this country. Today we rejoice together that the Roman Catholic Church -- as affirmed by the Second Vatican Council and boldly exemplified in the ministry of John Paul II -- is strongly committed to religious freedom and, consequently, to the defense of all human rights. Where Evangelicals and Catholics are in severe and sometimes violent conflict, such as parts of Latin America, we urge Christians to embrace and act upon the imperative of religious freedom. Religious freedom will not be respected by the state if it is not respected by Christians or, even worse, if Christians attempt to recruit the state in repressing religious freedom.
34. In this country, too, freedom of religion cannot be taken for granted but requires constant attention. We strongly affirm the separation of church and state, and just as strongly protest the distortion of that principle to mean the separation of religion from public life. We are deeply concerned by the court's narrowing of the protections provided by the "free exercise" provision of the First Amendment and by an obsession with "no establishment" that stifles the necessary role of religion in American life. As a consequence of such distortions, it is increasingly the case that wherever government goes religion must retreat, and government increasingly goes almost everywhere. Religion, which was privileged and foundational in our legal order, has in recent years been penalized and made marginal. We contend together for a renewal of the constituting vision of the place of religion in the American experiment.
35. Religion and religiously grounded moral conviction is not an alien or threatening force in our public life. For the great majority of Americans, morality is derived, however variously and confusedly, from religion. The argument, increasingly voiced in sectors of our political culture, that religion should be excluded from the public square must be recognized as an assault upon the most elementary principles of democratic governance. That argument needs to be exposed and countered by leaders, religious and other, who care about the integrity of our constitutional order.
36. The pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics is, in large part, a result of common effort to protect human life, especially the lives of the most vulnerable among us. With the Founders, we hold that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The statement that the unborn child is a human life that -- barring natural misfortune or lethal intervention -- will become what everyone recognizes as a human baby is not a religious assertion. It is a statement of simple biological fact. That the unborn child has a right to protection, including the protection of law, is a moral statement supported by moral reason and biblical truth.
37. We therefore, will persist in contending -- we will not be discouraged but will multiply every effort -- in order to secure the legal protection of the unborn. Our goals are: to secure due process of law for the unborn, to enact the most protective laws and public policies that are politically possible, and to reduce dramatically the incidence of abortion. We warmly commend those who have established thousands of crisis pregnancy and postnatal care centers across the country, and urge that such efforts be multiplied. As the unborn must be protected, so also must women be protected from their current rampant exploitation by the abortion industry and by fathers who refuse to accept responsibility for mothers and children. Abortion on demand, which is the current rule in America, must be recognized as a massive attack on the dignity, rights, and needs of women.
38. Abortion is the leading edge of an encroaching culture of death. The helpless old, the radically handicapped, and others who cannot effectively assert their rights are increasingly treated as though they have no rights. These are powerless who are exposed to the will and whim of those who have power over them. We will do all in our power to resist proposals for euthanasia, eugenics, and population control that exploit the vulnerable, corrupt the integrity of medicine, deprave our culture, and betray the moral truths of our constitutional order.
39. In public education, we contend together for schools that transmit to coming generations our cultural heritage, which is inseparable from the formative influence of religion, especially Judaism and Christianity. Education for responsible citizenship and social behavior is inescapably moral education. Every effort must be made to cultivate the morality of honesty, law observance, work, caring, chastity, mutual respect between the sexes, and readiness for marriage, parenthood, and family. We reject the claim that, in any or of these areas, "tolerance" requires the promotion of moral equivalence between the normative and the deviant. In a democratic society that recognizes that parents have the primary responsibility for the formation of their children, schools are to assist and support, not oppose and undermine, parents in the exercise of their responsibility.
40. We contend together for a comprehensive policy of parental choice in education. This is a moral question of simple justice. Parents are the primary educators of their children; the state and other institutions should be supportive of their exercise of the responsibility. We affirm policies that enable parents to effectively exercise their right and responsibility to choose the schooling that they consider best for their children.
41. We contend together against the widespread pornography in our society, along with the celebration of violence, sexual depravity, and antireligious bigotry in the entertainment media. In resisting such cultural and moral debasement, we recognize the legitimacy of boycotts and other consumer actions, and urge the enforcement of existing laws against obscenity. We reject the self-serving claim of the peddlers of depravity that this constitutes illegitimate censorship. We reject the assertion of the unimaginative that artistic creativity is to be measured by the capacity to shock or outrage. A people incapable of defending decency invites the rule of viciousness, both public and personal.
42. We contend for a renewed spirit of acceptance, understanding, and cooperation across the lines of religion, race, ethnicity, sex, and class. We are all created in the image of God and are accountable to him. That truth is the basis of individual responsibility and equality before the law. The abandonment of that truth has resulted in a society at war with itself, pitting citizens against one another in bitter conflicts of group grievances and claims to entitlement. Justice and social amity require a redirection of public attitudes and policies so that rights are joined to duties and people are rewarded according to their character and competence.
43. We contend for a free society, including a vibrant market economy. A free society requires a careful balancing between economics, politics, and culture. Christianity is not an ideology and therefore does not prescribe precisely how that balance is to be achieved in every circumstance. We affirm the importance of a free economy not only because it is more efficient but because it accords with a Christian understanding of human freedom. Economic freedom, while subject to grave abuse, makes possible the patterns of creativity, cooperation, and accountability that contribute to the common good.
44. We contend together for a renewed appreciation of Western culture. In its history and missionary reach, Christianity engages all cultures while being captive to none. We are keenly aware of, and grateful for, the role of Christianity in shaping and sustaining the Western culture of which we are part. As with all of history, that culture is marred by human sinfulness. Alone among the world cultures, however, the West has cultivated an attitude of self-criticism and of eagerness to learn from other cultures. What is called multiculturalism can mean respectful attention to human differences. More commonly today, however, multiculturalism means affirming all cultures but our own. Welcoming the contributions of other cultures and being ever alert to the limitations of our own, we receive Western culture as our legacy and embrace it as our task in order to transmit it as a gift to future generations.
45. We contend for public policies that demonstrate renewed respect for the irreplaceable role of mediating structures in society -- notably the family, churches, and myriad voluntary associations. The state is not the society, and many of the most important functions of society are best addressed in independence from the state. The role of churches in responding to a wide variety of human needs, especially among the poor and marginal, needs to be protected and strengthened. Moreover, society is not the aggregate of isolated individuals bearing rights but is composed of communities that inculcate responsibility, sustain shared memory, provide mutual aid, and nurture the habits that contribute to both personal well-being and the common good. Most basic among such communities is the community of the family. Laws and social policies should be designed with particular care for the stability and flourishing of families. While the crisis of the family in America is by no means limited to the poor or the underclass, heightened attention must be paid those who have become, as a result of well-intended but misguided statist policies, virtual wards of the government.
46. Finally, we contend for a realistic and responsible understanding of America's part in world affairs. Realism and responsibility require that we avoid both the illusions of unlimited power and righteousness, on the one hand, and the timidity and selfishness of isolationism, on the other. U.S. foreign policy should reflect a concern for the defense of democracy and, wherever prudent and possible, the protection and advancement of human rights, including religious freedom.
47. The above is a partial list of public responsibilities on which we believe there is a pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics. We reject the notion that this constitutes a partisan "religious agenda" in American politics. Rather, this is a set of directions oriented to the common good and discussable on the basis of public reason. While our sense of civic responsibility is informed and motivated by Christian faith, our intention is to elevate the level of political and moral discourse in a manner that excludes no one and invites the participation of all people of good will. To that end, Evangelicals and Catholics have made an inestimable contribution in the past and, it is our hope, will contribute even more effectively in the future.
48. We are profoundly aware that the American experiment has been, all in all, a blessing to the world and a blessing to us as Evangelical and Catholic Christians. We are determined to assume our full share of responsibility for this "one nation under God," believing it to be a nation under the judgment, mercy, and providential care of the Lord of the nations to whom alone we render unqualified allegiance.
We Witness Together
49. The question of Christian witness unavoidably returns us to points of serious tension between Evangelicals and Catholics. Bearing witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ and his will for our lives is an integral part of Christian discipleship. The achievement of good will and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics must not be at the price of the urgency and clarity of Christian witness to the Gospel. At the same time, and as noted earlier, Our Lord has made clear that the evidence of love among his disciples is an integral part of the Christian witness.
50. Today, in this country and elsewhere, Evangelicals and Catholics attempt to win "converts" from one another's folds. In some ways, this is perfectly understandable and perhaps inevitable. In many instances, however, such efforts at recruitment undermine the Christian mission by which we are bound by God's Word and to which we have recommitted ourselves in this statement. It should be clearly understood between Catholics and Evangelicals that Christian witness is of necessity aimed at conversion. Authentic conversion is -- in its beginning, in its end, and all along the way -- conversion to God in Christ by the power of the Spirit. In this connection, we embrace as our own the explanation of the Baptist-Roman Catholic International Conversation (1988):
Conversion is turning away from all that is opposed to God, contrary to Christ's teaching, and turning to God, to Christ, the Son, through the work of the Holy Spirit. It entails a turning from the self-centeredness of sin to faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Conversion is a passing from one way of life to another new one, marked with the newness of Christ. It 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. Our life in Christ demands continual growth in God's grace. Conversion is personal but not private. Individuals respond in faith to God's call but faith comes from hearing the proclamation of the word of God and is to be expressed in the life together in Christ that is the Church.
51. By preaching, teaching, and life example, Christians witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. We seek and pray for the conversion of others, even as we recognize our own continuing need to be fully converted. As we strive to make Christian faith and life -- our own and that of others -- even more intentional rather than nominal, ever more committed rather that apathetic, we also recognize the different forms that authentic discipleship can take. As is evident in the two thousand year history of the church, and in our contemporary experience, there are different ways of being Christian, and some of these ways are distinctively marked by communal patterns of worship, piety, and catechesis. That we are all to be one does not mean that we are all to be identical in our way of following the one Christ. Such distinctive patterns of discipleship, it should be noted, are amply evident within the communion of the Catholic Church as well as within the many worlds of Evangelical Protestantism.
52. It is understandable that Christians who bear witness to the Gospel try to persuade others that their communities and traditions are more fully in accord with the Gospel. There is a necessary distinction between evangelizing and what is today commonly called proselytizing or "sheep stealing." We condemn the practice of recruiting people from another community for purposes of denominational or institutional aggrandizement. At the same time, our commitment to full religious freedom compels us to defend the legal freedom to proselytize even as we call upon Christians to refrain from such activity.
53. Three observations are in order in connection with proselytizing. First, as much as we might believe one community is more fully in accord with the Gospel than another, we as Evangelicals and Catholics affirm that opportunity and means for growth in Christian discipleship are available in our several communities. Second, the decision of the committed Christian with respect to his communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected. Third, in view of the large number of non-Christians in the world and the enormous challenge of our common evangelistic task, it is neither theologically legitimate nor a prudent use of resources for one Christian community to proselytize among active adherents of another Christian community.
54. Christian witness must always be made in a spirit of love and humility. It must not deny but must readily accord to everyone the full freedom to discern and decide what is God's will for his life. Witness that is in service to the truth is in service to such freedom. Any form of coercion -- physical, psychological, legal, economic -- corrupts Christian witness and is to be unqualifiedly rejected. Similarly, bearing false witness against other persons and communities, or casting unjust and uncharitable suspicions upon them, is incompatible with the Gospel. Also to be rejected is the practice of comparing the strengths and ideals of one community with the weakness and failures of another. In describing the teaching and practices of other Christians, we must strive to do so in a way that they would recognize as fair and accurate.
55. In considering the many corruptions of Christian witness, we, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess that we have sinned against one another and against God. We most earnestly ask the forgiveness of God and one another, and pray for the grace to amend our own lives and that of our communities.
56. Repentance and amendment of life do not dissolve remaining differences between us. In the context of evangelization and "reevangelization," we encounter a major difference in our understanding of the relationship between baptism and the new birth in Christ. For Catholics, all who are validly baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion with Christ. That baptismal grace is to be continually reawakened and revivified through conversion. For most Evangelicals, but not all, the experience of conversion is to be followed by baptism as a sign of the new birth. For Catholics, all the baptized are already members of the church, however dormant their faith and life; for many Evangelicals, the new birth requires baptismal initiation into the community of the born again. These differing beliefs about the relationship between baptism, new birth, and membership in the church should be honestly presented to the Christian who has undergone conversion. But again, his decision regarding communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected.
57. There are, then, differences between us that cannot be resolved here. But on this we are resolved: All authentic witness must be aimed at conversion to God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those converted -- whether understood as having received the new birth for the first time or as having experienced the reawakening of the new birth originally bestowed in the sacrament of baptism -- must be given full freedom and respect as they discern and decide the community in which they will live their new life in Christ. In such discernment and decision, they are ultimately responsible to God and we dare not interfere with the exercise of that responsibility. Also in our differences and disagreements, we Evangelicals and Catholics commend one another to God "who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think." (Ephesians 3)
58. In this discussion of witnessing together we have touched on difficult and long standing problems. The difficulties must not be permitted to overshadow the truths on which we are, by the grace of God, in firm agreement. As we grow in mutual understanding and trust, it is our hope that our efforts to evangelize will not jeopardize but will reinforce our devotion to the common tasks to which we have pledged ourselves in this statement.
59. Nearly two thousand years after it began, and nearly five hundred years after the divisions of the Reformation era, the Christian mission to the world is vibrantly alive and assertive. We do not know, we cannot know, what the Lord of history has in store for the Third Millennium. It may be the springtime of the world missions and great Christian expansion. It may be the way of the cross marked by persecution and apparent marginalization. In different places and times, it will likely be both. Or it may be that Our Lord will return tomorrow.
60. We do know that his promise is sure, that we are enlisted for the duration, and that we are in this together. We do know that we must affirm and hope and search and contend and witness together, for we belong not to ourselves but to him who has purchased us by the blood of the cross. We do know that this is the time of opportunity -- and, if of opportunity, then of responsibility -- for Evangelicals and Catholics to be Christians together in a way that helps prepare the world for the coming of him to whom belongs the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Mr. CHARLES COLSON (Prison Fellowship);
Fr. Juan Diaz-Villar, S.J. (Catholic Hispanic Ministries);
Fr. Avery Dulles, S.J. (Fordham University);
Bishop Francis George, OMI (Diocese of Yakima, Washington);
Dr. Kent Hill (Eastern Nazarene College);
Dr. Richard Land (Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention);
Dr. Larry Lewis (Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention);
Dr. Jesse Miranda (Assemblies of God);
Msgr. William Murphy (Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston);
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (Institute on Religion and Public Life);
Mr. Brian O'Connell (World Evangelical Fellowship);
Mr. Herbert Schlossberg (Fieldstead Foundation);
Archbishop Francis Stafford (Archdiocese of Denver);
Mr. George Weigel (Ethics and Public Policy Center);
Dr. John White (Geneva College and the National Association of Evangelicals).
Dr. William Abraham (Perkins School of Theology);
Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier (Union Theological Seminary, Virginia);
Mr. William Bentley Ball (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania);
Dr. BILL BRIGHT (Campus Crusade for Christ);
Professor Robert Destro (Catholic University of America);
Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P. (Dominican House of Studies);
Fr. Joseph P. Fitzpatrick, S.J. (Fordham University);
Mr. Keith Fournier (American Center for Law and Justice)
Bishop William Frey (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry);
Professor Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard Law School);
Dr. Os Guinness (Trinity Forum);
Dr. Nathan Hatch (University of Notre Dame);
Dr. James Hitchcock (St. Louis University);
Professor Peter Kreeft (Boston College);
Fr. Matthew Lamb (Boston College);
Mr. Ralph Martin (Renewal Ministries);
Dr. Richard Mouw (Fuller Theological Seminary);
Dr. Mark Noll (Wheaton College);
Mr. Michael Novak (American Enterprise Institute);
John Cardinal O'Connor (Archdiocese of New York);
Dr. Thomas Oden (Drew University);
Dr. JAMES I. PACKER (Regent College, British Columbia);
The Rev. PAT ROBERTSTON (Regent University);
Dr. John Rodgers (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry);
Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J. (Archdiocese of San Francisco).