Friday, March 9, 2018

What do you get when you fall in love. . .

There is no denial that there has been a rash of highly visible and even surprising overtures back and forth from Evangelicals to Roman Catholics and the other way around.  Lutherans are also a part of this ecumenism and the Year of Luther proved to be a year in which we worked hard to make nice in a way that Luther himself never did.  Most folks are encouraged by the amnesia over historic and strong doctrinal distinctions and differences in favor of a more sentimental and symbolic friendship.  But I am not.  If good fences make for good neighbors, then meeting together to discuss differences will bear better ecumenical fruit than simply forgetting or ignoring what once divided us.

Maybe Christianity Today agrees.  It seems some Evangelicals are throwing some cold water on the warming friendship between some of them and Francis. 
[In December]. the national evangelical alliances of Italy, Spain, and Malta—all members of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)—wrote an 8-page open letter charging their parent organization with “moving away from its historic position” of holding the line against Catholic and liberal Protestant theology.

“In recent years we have sensed that the leadership of WEA has moved away from the outlined historic position of the Alliance on unity by endorsing a more ‘ecumenical’ attitude,” the three alliances stated in December. “Unity has become a blurred term to refer to any relationship even beyond the principles that have always characterized evangelicals. Leaders have become less cautious in talking about unity with the Catholic Church as such and have tended to bypass the historic boundaries.
The New Ecumenism is almost exclusively the work of liberal Protestants and liberal Roman Catholics.  They are quick to jettison doctrine in general (in their own traditions as well as others) and they are also quick to substitute other orthodoxies for confessional and theological ones. They seem to be more than comfortable with gender issues, redefining marriage and family, social justice in place of the Gospel of the Cross, and other causes tied to the moment (from global warming to disarmament and other causes. When it comes to real ecumenism, I wonder if more real headway might be made by those who really believe what their churches confess and who want to convert others.  Better to believe in a real Jesus than a mythological or symbolic Messiah and to confess this Jesus with conviction rather than skepticism and doubt.  Could it be that real unity will come from people who begin by believing and confessing that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God born of the Virgin, to suffer and die for real sins that have real consequences and whose death is the one inclusive and authentic hope for forgiveness, life and salvation than by people who want to talk about climate change or trade agreements or bathroom usage or reproductive freedom or gender identity.

So perhaps it is not love at first sight but it may be more profound and lasting love after all.  Churches with real convictions and a desire to be Scriptural and orthodox may just find more substantial and lasting agreement than those who just want to ignore the differences or focus on other things. . .  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The new ecumenism is the old mixing of Luther’s two kingdoms. When struggling with implementing a political agenda it is quite natural to politcize the church. The Church should resist this temptation and not be distracted from the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments; that it is Christ’s Church for the forgiveness of sins which brings about eternal life and salvation. Most of the political agenda items promulgated in the church are end run around God’s Law anyway.