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SUNDAY STUDY: Ecumenism Update

By T.A. McMahon of The Berean Call
What is ecumenism, and why should it be updated?

Ecumenism is a movement that began as an attempt to bring about unity within the denominations and groups that call themselves Christian. In the mid-20th century, however, a change took place (led, for the most part, by the Roman Catholic Church), expanding the goal of ecumenism to include all religions. That may seem like a worthy objective, but it is neither biblical nor possible. Nevertheless, the movement is alive today and growing exponentially. Yet most Christians do not recognize its deceptive nature. Hence this update.

Some would claim that the Bible calls for religious unity. No, it calls for Christians who are true followers of Jesus Christ to unite themselves in the truth of God’s Word—the faith—once for all delivered to those who have put their trust in Jesus (Ephesians 4 1-6; Jude 3).

For those who have not received Christ’s offer of salvation, unity in the doctrine of Christ is impossible. What’s more, many who have been redeemed by Jesus have drifted away from keeping the unity of the faith (John 17:20-23)—examples will follow below.

First, let’s consider the religions of the world regarding this hoped-for unity. What might be the basis for that unity? It certainly isn’t their belief in God or their gods or their doctrines. Why not? Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism serve as prime examples.

  • Followers of Judaism worship one God, who calls the Jews His “chosen people”
  • Muslims worship Allah, who hates Jews.
  • Hindus worship 330-million personal gods.
  • The supreme deity of Buddhism is an impersonal Force that is in everything.
  • Most Jews consider the material world as the epitome of life
  • Hindus regard the material world as maya, an illusion
  • Muslims strive to get to paradise by doing good works in their lifetime—works that are satisfactory to Allah, with the most acceptable “work” being jihad (killing infidels)
  • Hindus and Buddhists strive to reach nirvana or moksha, a state of perfect happiness, through an endless cycle of deaths and rebirths.

These are only a few of the dissimilarities in the world’s diverse religious belief systems, yet they clearly reveal that the popular belief that all paths lead to God is delusionary at best.

On the other hand, all the religions of the world will converge into a one-world religion under the control of the Antichrist, who will be worshiped as God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:8) and offers the same godhood to humanity as did Satan in Genesis 3:5.

Of course, all religions must undergo major modifications, especially those that espouse doctrines that don’t fit in with universal acceptance, which is a major part of the Antichrist’s belief system. Islam, for example, is a religion of coercion and harsh Sharia law legalism, (which cannot be reconciled with other religions whose followers are regarded as infidels).

Therefore, Islam cannot be included in the religion of the Antichrist and must be eliminated or drastically changed. That will very likely take place when Russia, in association with Muslim nations, attempts to plunder and destroy Israel. God, however, will obliterate the attacking armies in the battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38:18-22). In verse 23, God destroys any hope people have in Allah and Islam when He declares, “Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.” The result for over a billion Muslims and others who are affected by God’s intervention and His protection of Israel will not turn many of them to the true and living God. Instead, the religion of the Antichrist will simply gain more followers.

Ecumenism within Christendom is another story and includes both professing Christians (not truly committed believers) and born-again Christians.

For example, the cults that profess to be Christian, e.g., Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Christian Scientists, do not hold to the Biblical gospel which is mankind’s only means of salvation! Yet they all call themselves Christian.

Ecumenism is not only a major factor in the development of the religion of the Antichrist, but it is also a leading movement that undermines the teachings of the Scriptures held by those committed to Christ. It dismisses the warnings given throughout God’s Word regarding deception (Matthew 24:4) and the drifting away from Biblical truth (Hebrews 2:1). Moreover, ecumenism’s chief cause among believers is declared in 2 Timothy 4:3-4  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables [emphasis added].”

Ecumenism within Christendom over the last seventy-five years has centered around the involvement of evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals with the Church of Rome. In the 1940s, Billy Graham declared that the three greatest evils in the world of that day were Communism, Muhammadanism, and Catholicism. A few years later, Graham’s crusades were endorsed and financially supported by the Catholic Church! Catholics who responded to Graham’s gospel appeal were thus directed back to the Roman Catholic Church by nuns and priests who were utilized as counselors. Graham had a lifetime of association with influential Catholics such as Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Cardinals Cushing and O’Connor, and Pope John Paul II. He declared that his theological differences with the pope were minimal, none involving the essentials of the faith.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) was a movement that called for cooperation in evangelizing the world, which was supported by influential evangelicals including Chuck Colson and Pat Robertson.

Promise Keepers’ main objective was to break down the theological walls between Catholics and Protestants. Charismatics and Pentecostals were drawn to Rome when the Catholic Church approved the teachings of David Du Plessis, who became known as “Mr. Pentecost.” The so-called manifestations of the Holy Spirit among Catholics were said to increase their devotion to Mary and their commitment to the Sacraments, especially the Mass. All the above took place despite the fact of Catholicism’s clearly false gospel of works salvation.

Freemasonry, with its ecumenical gospel that invites all religions into the worship of its Supreme “God” (the Great Architect of the Universe), drew many Christians into its fraternal organization, especially Southern Baptist pastors and their church members.

Social and conservative political causes have also motivated “Christians” to work together for the “common good” of humanity regardless of their doctrinal differences. The Moral Majority, organized by Baptist minister Jerry Falwell, worked with Mormons and Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church in order to achieve Christian Right objectives.

Ecumenism’s widespread and rapid increase, however, can especially be accounted for because of the rise of Christian media, including radio and television programs. Many have adopted the format of secular talk shows, emphasizing the entertainment aspects with little concern for sound doctrine. This has resulted in a tsunami of false teachers, practices, and doctrines.

Following the popularity of the best-selling The Seduction of Christianity, Dave Hunt was invited to speak at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in the late 1980s. Based upon the organization’s statement of faith, he expected its leadership to be a watchdog of Christian programming, thereby safeguarding biblical orthodoxy. Since that was clearly not taking place, the Lord put it on Dave’s heart to exhort his audience to take personal responsibility for what they allowed to be broadcast on their stations.

In his NRB address, he went over what the Scriptures had to say about Hymenaeus and Philetus: “Who concerning the truth have erred…and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:17-18). He then posed the question, “What if Hymenaeus and Philetus had their own TV or radio show today?” Sadly, the answer is—they do, though under different names and in a myriad of formats. Popular “Christian” talk shows are overthrowing the faith of far more than “some.” Dave’s message apparently did not please his audience or the NRB officials; he was never invited back.

Nearly a decade later, Adrian Rogers brought a similar concern before the NRB after Dave Hunt’s admonishment and exhortation went unheeded. Rogers stated: “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts, and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. Let me tell you something, friend, it is not love, and it is not friendship, if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth, than to be loved for telling a lie….” The NRB is obviously more concerned about “a multitude” than in standing for “the truth.”

In 2009, the NRB issued a Declaration of Unity, “declar[ing] afresh our long-standing commitment to use every electronic medium available to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….[T]aking this opportunity to expressly affirm the faith ‘that was once for all entrusted to the Saints (Jude 3)….It is for us to carefully and accurately represent this message in our culture….We acknowledge that as Christian broadcasters, we bear a special responsibility in this area” (emphasis added).

In its preamble, the document declares, “We…reaffirm this day our devotion to the historic Christian faith and our long-standing commitment….” Really? The “historic Christian faith” has been malformed into “people of faith,” meaning that anything religious or spiritual qualifies—unless, that is, it is critical of another faith. NRB’s “Declaration” is a sham at the very least.

But that was written a decade ago. Has anything taken place of late regarding NRB’s “special responsibility” of Biblical carefulness and accuracy? No. The “watchdogs” of Christian broadcasting are chasing their own ecumenical tails while hypocritically yapping “Jude 3!” The masthead for the NRB website features the words “Biblical Truth,” yet the ecumenical organization’s events continue to be antithetical to those terms.

The speakers for its upcoming 2019 NRB convention (Proclaim 19) include some big names in evangelical Christianity, while others have more to do with marketing strategies and the entertainment business of Hollywood, which, by the way, has found a lucrative audience in movies that appeal to “people of faith.”

For box office success to take place, the “faith” of the people must remain an undefined faith. The headliners are Rick and Kay Warren, Greg Laurie, John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, Joni Eareckson Tada, Devon Franklin, Alex Kendrick, and Kirk Cameron among others. Regardless of what one thinks about these individuals personally, they have all signed on to support NRB’s alleged “Declaration of Unity… [and] to carefully and accurately represent this message [Jude 3] in our culture….”

Collectively they represent a mixed bag of true and false doctrines, yet they seemingly have no concerns regarding appearing together—which is what ecumenism is all about.

  • The Warrens have promoted one heresy after another, from Celebrate Recovery to occult meditation to mysticism to overtures with Islam, and to insistently supporting Roman Catholicism (see TBC archives for documentation).
  • Greg Laurie, an NRB Hall of Famer, is seemingly oblivious to Warren’s heresies and has joined with him on many occasions, including at his Harvest Crusades. Laurie would seem to be at odds with John MacArthur’s 5-point Calvinism
  • MacArthur’s Calvinist/Reformed cessationism would likewise be opposed to Laurie’s and Calvary Chapel’s view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which MacArthur has aggressively criticized
  • Other influential Christian NRB speakers such as Charles Stanley and Joni Eareckson Tada also have differing doctrinal views, with Eareckson Tada lining up with MacArthur’s Calvinism, and Stanley quietly opposed to Reformed theology

The point of all this is that the NRB Convention strongly conveys the message that doctrinal concern and Biblical accuracy are really not critical in view of the overriding need for religious unity. That ecumenical mindset was reflected in the words of Rick Warren when he exhorted a gathering of diverse religious leaders in Davos, Switzerland: “Can’t we all just get along?” From there, he moved quickly to working together with them to solve the world’s problem of “spiritual emptiness” according to Warren’s Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan.

The NRB has also been the chief marketplace for the promotion of Hollywood’s attempts at interpreting the Bible for major theatrical productions. Staunch Roman Catholic James Caviezel spoke at the 2018 NRB Convention. He was the star of “The Passion of the Christ” (based on the Catholic ritual of the Stations of the Cross) and more recently “Paul, Apostle of Christ”, another endeavor by a Hollywood screenwriter to interpret God’s Word.

Catholic/New Ager Roma Downey, producer of “Son of God” and “A.D. The Bible Continues” for NBC, corrupted the Scriptures in every frame. Nevertheless, she was given the platform to speak at the 2016 NRB Convention (see TBC archives for documentation). Other NRB promotions include “faith-based” movies with serious doctrinal problems such as “Heaven Is for Real”, produced by T. D. Jakes and Devon Franklin, a popular speaker at NRB (2017, 2019). Franklin is also a motivational speaker and a Seventh-day Adventist who strictly keeps the Sabbath in addition to adhering to other cultic SDA doctrines and practices.

Space limitations of this article restrict me from listing the multitude of other individuals who have contributed to NRB’s rampant ecumenism. There are also numerous organizations that have been celebrated and awarded for their service by the NRB such as Focus on the Family and psychologist Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk. These, more than any other “Christian” establishments, have led followers of Christ to become followers of “science falsely so called” and “lovers of themselves” (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 3:1-2). Even a cursory review of Christian radio from the 1970s through today brings to light the ongoing supplanting of Biblical programming with so-called Christian psychology.

So what’s to be done to turn back the flood of ecumenism that will culminate in the religion of the Antichrist? Nothing, globally. Nothing, perhaps, even for Christian organizations or ministries, unless a work of the Holy Spirit brings about conviction that leads to repentance. Individually, however? Everything—if we begin with a heart that has a “love of the truth” (2 Thessalonians:2:10). We exhort you to pray for all believers to that end.