Why The Reformation Still Matters: Ecumenicalism & The Five Solas

Why The Reformation Still Matters in Big Eva

I keep hearing of Churches that are confusing their members about the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and Evangelical Christians (Big Eva). Even Billy Graham made mistakes by building bridges with priests. And in recent years, efforts like Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) and The Manhattan Declaration (drafted by Church Colson, Timothy George, and Robert George) have made Big Eva question the differences in our doctrine and seek ecumenicalism (i.e. ‘common ground’ between different religious groups). Ecumenicalism has caused so many Christians to suffer theological delusion because of the supposed ‘common ground’ we have in our faiths. Ecumenicalism has caused an eruption within Big Eva where we see un-equally yoked marriages and compromised doctrinal positions for sake of un-biblical unity.

Ecumenicalism has caused an eruption within Big Eva where we see un-equally yoked marriages and compromised doctrinal positions for sake of un-biblical unity.

R.C. Sproul explains the matter further, ‘In 2009, a new document was released, The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience. It was another effort to find common cause on such issues…The signers included evangelicals, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox adherents…it calls Christians to unite in ‘the Gospel of costly grace and the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…I do not believe that Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches are preaching the same gospel that evangelicals preach.”[7]

Why The Reformation Still Matters Personally

In fact, from personal experience I have been hearing Christians say things like, ‘if it started with Billy Graham and Chuck Colson, it must be with good intention’ and ‘my son married a Catholic and she is a believer, but she will only attend the Catholic Church’ and ‘don’t mention Catholics from the pulpit.’ One reason I think this was happening is because of the support from mega-Churches to endorse ecumenical behavior. Many think if a mega-church does something, then it must be right because the Church is growing, but this is not always a correlation (please read my blog about why I left the mega-Church). I personally interacted with and know of a Church (Kensington Church) where the elders were having a priest from the RCC preach at their services. They also put out a documentary on Amazon Prime for free called ‘Common Ground: What Protestants and Catholics Can Learn from Each Other.’ In this documentary you see the dismissal of God’s Word by a well-known pastor in order to follow the trend of Big Eva in doctrinal compromise (faith and justification) to befriend the RCC. I sat and watched this documentary with my senior pastor and felt ill. It just so happened that we needed to call the Church on an un-related matter, but breached the subject with one of their elders. We attempted to discuss this error, since it was confusing our own members who knew people that attended their Church. However, the elder disregarded our comments and told us that hermeneutics is debatable and we were being judgmental. We offered to speak to the chairman of their elder board and gave our information so we could wait for their response. We were told that we would be contacted within the month. However, we were never called.

I usually don’t name names; but such a public display of wrong teaching is deserving of publicity and I did attempt to reach out to them privately first. My senior pastor and I were saddened by the lack of theological accuracy and awareness in regards to the rich history of councils, confessions, and blood shed by former reformers. We realized that Christians needed to be educated more about the reformation and why it still matters so much. It is time we remind ourselves of the beautiful doctrines that came out of the reformation: the doctrines of grace. Charles Hodge said, “The doctrines of grace humbles man without degrading him; exalts man without inflating him.” Below is an assessment under the authority of Scripture, not man or Big Eva, to explain why the reformation still matters.

Why the Reformation Still Matters Biblically: SOLAS

The Reformation still matters because we caused a necessary division because of Biblical doctrinal clarity. We can’t attempt to reverse biblical division for an unbiblical fear of man or unbiblical doctrine. We can clarify these doctrinal divisions by using the doctrines of grace acronym, that can partly be understood in the solas (I have another article where I deal with the other part – T.U.L.I.P). By assessing these doctrines of grace, we will clarify why we have no ‘common ground’ with the RCC.

So Why Are Pastors Trying to Dilute the Reformation?

Many of the Pastor’s that fill the pulpits of evangelical Churches are ill-informed, un-trained, and willing to compromise doctrine for the sake of friendship with non-believers. Protestants of the reformation differ at the core from the RCC. Christians can’t hold beliefs in common with non-believers. Preachers that compromise on the doctrines of grace, will have churches with broad-gate congregations that enter into Church because God will accept their view of Scripture, but never submitting to God’s view according to Scripture (Mt. 7:13-14). In fact, these preachers and teachers who try to create a ‘common ground’ do so without the approval of God and will be judged twice as harsh for their teaching (James 3:1-12; 2 Tim. 2:2).

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” - 2 Tim. 4:3-5

How Do We Handle This Emotionally?

Let’s join together in prayer for the RCC, love the RCC, teach the RCC true doctrine, but we shall never surrender to the RCC.

I know this may be emotionally difficult to deal with; after all, many of us came out of the RCC and still know loved ones who attend. However, may we learn our lesson and never sacrifice doctrine for the sake of ‘common ground’ with friends or family (Mt. 19:29). Our relational or societal presuppositions should never usurp the clear doctrines revealed in Scripture. Instead, we ought to practice our Church fellowship based on the teachings of Scripture (Acts 2:37-47). I pray that we continue witnessing to these loved ones and teach the doctrines of grace, praying that God effectually calls his elect to himself. Let’s join together in prayer for the RCC, love the RCC, teach the RCC true doctrine, but we shall never surrender to the RCC. Amen!

References: [1] R. C. Sproul, Are We Together?: A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012), 36. [2] R. C. Sproul and Michael Horton, Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification, Repackaged edition. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2017), 44–45. [3] Tatlock, Mark, Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of the Gospel and Its Impact on the World (The Master’s Academy International, 2017), 49–50. [4] Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton (Abingdon Press, 1787), 144. [5] Sproul, Are We Together?, 28. [6] James Montgomery Boice, Lane T. Dennis, and Eric J. Alexander, Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace?: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World, Reprint edition. (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2009), 151. [7] Sproul, Are We Together?, 3–4.

David J. Lupinetti is the Associate Pastor at San Tan Bible Church in Arizona. He has a passion for Expository Preaching, Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, and Evangelism.

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