Chapter 11: Roman Catholicism
to Catholic endeavors such as Vatican II, other factors
have promoted closer ties between Catholics and Evangelical
Christians. The Charismatic movement was one such element.
As we mentioned in the previous chapter, the "Charismatic
renewal" won a large number of followers among Catholics.
Undoubtedly, some of these Catholics were genuinely converted.
But one effect of the growth of Charismatic Catholicism
was to make Catholics and their church seem more acceptable
to Protestants. Since Catholics were apparently receiving
the same spiritual gifts as Protestants, then Charismatic
Protestants saw less reason for distancing themselves from
factor was what has been called "Evangelical cobelligerence."
Alister McGrath says that this idea originated with Francis
Schaeffer and was expounded by J. I. Packer. McGrath writes,
"Its basic principle can be stated as follows. There
is no inconsistency in evangelicals' forming alliances or
coalitions with others to address issues on which they can
agree. Such a coalition would be temporary in nature and
limited in its objectives. It would not commit evangelicals
to collaboration on any other issue, nor to any acknowledgement
or admission of the correctness or incorrectness of the
outlooks of such other groups."10
The idea is that orthodox Christians may form all sorts
of temporary alliances with diverse groups as long as they
have some common objective. Such alliances with Catholics
are also supported by Vatican II's "Catholic Principles
on Ecumenism," which encourages Catholics to work with
non-Catholics on behalf of social causes (sec. 12).
is some validity to this position, but only in a limited
way. For example, Catholics, Protestants, and many other
diverse groups may belong to organizations such as the Republican
or Democratic Party. They may then work together for the
nomination or election of certain candidates. But such cooperation
is not in a religious organization dedicated to religious
goals. When religious issues become the basis of an organization,
then the biblical teaching concerning religious fellowship
must guide its activities. Religious unity that is not based
on the essential truths of Scripture will lead only to the
compromise of those truths.
of the dangers of Evangelical cobelligerence is the organization
known as Promise Keepers. College football coach Bill McCartney,
a former Catholic and a member of the Charismatic Vineyard
movement, founded Promise Keepers in 1991. This "Christian
men's movement" sought to inspire men to be better
husbands and fathers. Because they sought to affect all
"Christian" men, the Promise Keepers welcomed
every person of nominal Christian faith, including Catholics.11
One report said that a tenth of the men who attended Promise
Keepers rallies in 1996 were Catholic. Furthermore, it reported
that the organization's board took on its first Catholic
member and that it began featuring a Roman Catholic evangelist
in its rallies. In 1997 Promise Keepers even revised its
doctrinal statement on salvation by altering the phrase
"through faith alone" to make it less objectionable
of the most troubling examples of Protestant accommodation
to Catholicism is a document known as "Evangelicals
and Catholics Together," or "ECT" for short.
This document was drawn up and signed by a number of Catholics
and Evangelicals, led by Richard John Neuhaus, a former
Lutheran turned Catholic priest, and Charles Colson, a former
member of President Richard Nixon's staff who was converted
after his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Several
leading Evangelicals endorsed the document, including Charismatic
leader Pat Robertson; Bill Bright, leader of Campus Crusade;
Mark Noll, professor of history at Wheaton College; and
J. I. Packer, theologian and professor at Regent College
in Canada. Reaction to ECT was not all positive. A number
of Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and even Roman Catholics
criticized the document.13
document presents Evangelicalism and Catholicism as equally
valid expressions of the Christian faith. It condemns "proselytizing,"
attempts to convert Catholics to Evangelical Protestantism
or vice versa.14
The trouble with ECT is that it underestimates the importance
of the significant differences between Catholicism and Evangelical
Christianity. Although it lists "points of difference"
between the two, such as the nature of the church and the
authority of Scripture15,
the document does not consider these points important enough
to prevent cooperation between Catholicism and evangelicalism.
ECT does not include salvation or justification in its list
of differences. Rather it tries to unite the two sides by
stating, "We affirm together that we are justified
by grace through faith because of Christ."16
Such a statement, however, covers over deep differences
in doctrine. As we have already seen, Roman Catholics believe
that Christ's atonement provides the basis for salvation.
Furthermore, they believe that God's grace and faith are
necessary for salvation. But they do not believe that Christians
are justified by faith alone apart from all human
Unfortunately, the acceptance of Catholicism represented
by ECT is the general tendency of Evangelicalism today.
But it is a trend that those who uphold biblical teaching
The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation. By
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