Ecumenism: The Maniacal Congregation
For some people the practice of ecumenical fellowship is a great thrill. Ecumenism is the practice of sharing religious activities while overlooking differences of belief and practice. Seeing denominations and religions of every stripe and color bonding together to serve humanity is, for some, very satisfying. But for many other people ecumenism is nothing more than bad religious theater. Saying it crassly--the unionism of the ecumenical movement is little more than a religious Frankenstein. Even though it walks and talks, the parts just don't fit together.
Ioften hear people say they don't think God intended all these warring factions in the church; that God prefers unity and cooperation to "petty infighting." But while the verbiage of one body and many parts (1Corinthians 12) fits both St. Paul and Mary Shelly on the surface, it's obvious that the two writers were headed in somewhat different directions.
Christianity and ecumenism are built from two different blueprints. Christianity is built on total submission, submission to the head who is Christ. Christians love to honor the revealed person and will of God, even if it's very costly; even if it costs them their family, friendships or lives (Luke 14:26). God's people love to acknowledge Christ and his salvation as the one and only, perfect and complete salvation (Acts 4:12). The Christian nature with regard to Christ is one of submission to him and his word. Jesus has made it clear that to deny his word is to deny him (John 8:31-32, 12:47-48; Mark 8:38). To trust the true God and take him at his word without wavering is the greatest act of worship (Romans 4:20-22; John 3:16-18).
Ecumenism teaches something different. The blueprint for ecumenism does not call for trust in and submission to Christ, it calls for compromise of Christ's word and faith in people. As a matter of fact, without a compromising of Christ's words ecumenism cannot exist. The compromise is this: We will set aside what Christ has said so that we can do something together. But we ask, "What of Christ should be compromised? What should we leave out when we speak of Christ?" Should we ignore what Christ has taught us about the slavery of the human will, the accountability of infants and children, the majesty of his 6 day creation? Should we ignore that Christ has called himself the one and only Savior of the world, or that his atoning sacrifice is complete and sufficient for all people, or that his righteousness avails for all people? And if we find that someone has perverted the truth about Christ, not just innocently, but maliciously, what should we do? Should we ignore that, pretend it doesn't matter? Should we not concern ourselves with the defamation or blasphemy of Christ so that we can carry on with the work of Christ in the world?
Again, the question arises: Why should we compromise our Savior and his words? What would be accomplished? The answers that I hear are: ``We could get so much more done if we just stopped fighting and nit-picking. If we set our differences aside, we could really change the world." And again, we understand that some of the differences people are thinking about are petty and inconsequential. But the doctrinal differences that separate denominations are not petty or inconsequential. They either glorify or blaspheme the Savior of the world. No amount of earthly success or progress will be able to balance out the blasphemy of the living God.
This is also true with regard to sharing the Christian faith with unbelievers. Some say that we reach more people if we can demonstrate to them that we're united and not constantly infighting. But the question is: reach them with what? Shall we reach out to them with a dismembered Jesus, a Savior who has been remolded and reshaped and edited down so that he is not offensive to anyone? Such a Jesus is a false Jesus--the main character of proclamation that St. Paul called ``another gospel" (see Galatians 1:6-9).
For Christians, God is not someone to be checked at the door or remodeled to fit a community's comfort. God calls on people to conform to him and his word, not the other way around. But if people espouse or tolerate this kind of commitment to God, ecumenism won't work. But in our world people who embrace such a love and commitment to God's word are labeled as intolerant, fanatical and narrow-minded. So be it.
Why would someone who knows and enjoys the beautiful and glorious Savior, the one who embodies love and forgiveness in all of his parts, who is beautiful and glorious in every word he utters, exchange him for a monstrosity of rearranged parts, added on words and faulty human labor? The monstrosity of ecumenical religion and worship may be a marvel of sorts in that it somehow holds together parts and extremities that just don't belong together. But it's still a monstrosity compared to the beauty and majesty of the one, true God and Savior. And who in their right mind would give up him for something else?