Forget Doctrine, Let's Just Love One Another

Increasingly, we are being called to forget those things which divide us and come together in Christian unity. The Roman Church appears to be the primary instigator of this ecumenical movement as she strives to mend fences with her separated brethren and professing Christian communities in the East and West. There has been no shortage of internationally known figures in the professing Christian church willing to embrace this Roman call to unity. Sadly, these non-Catholic figures have displayed a universal readiness to overlook the doctrinal issues that led to the Reformation. They appear to value the appearance of brotherhood more highly than the teachings of Scripture.

Ecumenism implies that the Christian communities should help one another so that there may be truly present in them the full content and all the requirements of "the heritage handed down by the Apostles". [130] Without this, full communion will never be possible. This mutual help in the search for truth is a sublime form of evangelical charity -- That They May Be One ( Ut Unum Sint), Encyclical of Pope John Paul II, promulgated on May 25, 1995

Rome teaches that biblical truth must be filtered through the Magisterium before it can be doled out to the rest of the world. The Roman Church has arrogated to herself first possession of God's truth, the power to dispense God's grace, even to control the very power of salvation.

. . . Catholicism offers what is termed a sacerdotal salvation-a salvation that is given through the functions of the priesthood, namely the sacraments. In the end, salvation is a function of 1) God's grace, 2) individual faith and works, and 3) the Roman Catholic system of sacraments. (This is why the Church has traditionally taught that there is only one true Church-Rome-and that those outside of the Church cannot be saved since they are partakers of neither the one true Church nor the sacraments, both of which help procure salvation.)--THE FACTS ON ROMAN CATHOLICISM, What Does The Roman Catholic Church Really Believe?-- John Ankerberg & John Weldon

The Bible teaches:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." -- Ephesians 2:8-9

Who is standing on the Gospel? Those who join with Rome in calling for unity without regard for doctrinal differences? Or those who stand firm on the Word of God? Is that a no-brainer?

How might one discover the truth? Well, Paul gave Timothy some excellent advice:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. -- 2 Timothy 2:15

In other words, open the Bible and delve into God's revelation to man. Don't just casually read the inspired writings, but prayerfully approach them with the heart of a devoted student. For those whose studies are illuminated by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the truth will not be hidden, for God's words are written on their hearts.

Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart -- 2 Corinthians 3:3

The Roman Catholic Church disagrees, it would seem, for in Paragraph 100 of the New Catechism, we read:

100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him. -- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (C) 1994/1997 United States Catholic conference, Inc.

How can Christians overlook sound doctrine in order to unite with Rome and the Eastern churches? In so many ways, the dogmas and doctrine of Rome stand defiantly in opposition to the Word of God. There are those who would argue that, in her eagerness to unite with separated brethren and others around the world, Rome has softened her stance on many of the issues that divide us. Ankerberg and Wellen point out:

The Catholic Council of Trent (1545-63), whose decrees remain authoritative, declared as "anathema" (divinely cursed) anyone who would deny the seven sacraments of Rome: "If anyone says that the sacraments ... were not all instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, or that there are more or less than seven ... or that any one of these seven is not truly and intrinsically a sacrament, let him be anathema." Further, "If anyone says that the sacraments ... are not necessary for salvation ... and that without them... men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification... let him be anathema." Further, Canon Five reads, "If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema. -- John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Op. cit.

When faced with the often diametrically opposed words of Scripture and the utterances of Rome, how does the earnest seeker of truth distiguish between God's truth and deceptions? By diligently studying the Word of God.

It is one of the distinguishing doctrines of Protestants that knowledge is essential to faith. This is clearly the doctrine of Scripture. How can they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? is the pertinent and instructive query of the Apostle. Faith includes the affirmation of the mind that a thing is true and trustworthy. . . . Truth must be communicated to the mind, and seen to be possible, before, on any evidence, it can be believed. If, therefore, we cannot know God, we cannot believe in Him. -- Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 353-354

In these hedonistic times, the growing tendency to emphasize feelings and experiences at the expense of sound doctrine is presenting the world with a feel good religious community, the boundaries of which grow more ephemeral with every new ecumenical pronouncement. Paul and the other writers of Scripture spoke out repeatedly against false doctrine. Christ certainly was not reluctant to challenge errors in doctrine and practice, as in Matthew 23, for example. Our Savior and the men who preached the Good News confronted error when and where they found it. In today's religious world, it seems that standing firm on Scripture and confronting error are no longer in vogue. Any mention of doctrinal error is more often than not viewed as a personal attack. -- as a non-loving act. Those who express their concern for the lost condition of those wandering in darkness are frequently viewed as hateful.

Speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) is no longer "popular" or "politically correct" so many in the evangelical world have lost their taste for it. Thus, one of Satan's most effective weapons against Christ's Church is tearing away at the very core of Biblical Christianity. That weapon being, teach a lot of truth and mix in a little bit of error. Once we have developed a taste for error the dosage can and will be elevated!

"ne of the problems is that we have bought the lie that to confront error is not showing love. We have redefined love! In the context of Scripture it is not the one who allows his brother to continue in sin and error who is showing love but the one who confronts is showing love (Matt. 18:15). Love and truth can no more be separated than can God, who is Love and Truth by His very nature!--Mal Couch PH.D., TH.D. and Russell L. Penney Dr. Sc, The Doctrines That Cannot Be Compromised - Paul's Response to Doctrinal Error in the Church,

Today, rather than help a brother to see he is holding to false doctrine, the tendency is to say something to the effect of, "God is love. And love endures all things." The same approach, when applied to those wandering in darkness, has the effect of leaving them to drown in their false hopes for the sake of not hurting their feelings. How did Paul deal with such situations?

Simply put, the apostle addressed Doctrinal Deviation head-on. Paul didn't mince words. He refused to back down from controversy. He also was not afraid to call names and be specific with the nature of error. Throughout his letters he made it clear that the way to silence error was to teach doctrine and to instruct. By the power of the Holy Spirit and sound words, Paul felt the mind had to be changed by the input of new spiritual truth. -- Ibid.

But Rome would gather all those whom she now calls Christians together in ecumenical unity. Does this mean that the Roman Church is willing to examine her doctrines and dogmas with the end view of coming together with all so-called Christian churches? Will Rome change her extra-biblical stand on doctrine? Not hardly.

Catholic theologians engaged in ecumenical dialogue, while standing fast by the teaching of the Church and searching together with separated brothers and sisters into the divine mysteries, should act with love for truth, with charity, and with humility -- Second Vatican Eecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), 11.

40. Relations between Christians are not aimed merely at mutual knowledge, common prayer and dialogue. They presuppose and from now on call for every possible form of practical cooperation at all levels: pastoral, cultural and social, as well as that of witnessing to the Gospel message. -- That They May Be One ( Ut Unum Sint), Op. cit.

Rome appears to have a special concern for those commonly referred to as "Protestants."

Our thoughts are concerned ... with those Christians who openly confess Jesus Christ as God and Lord and as the sole Mediator between God and man unto the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. -- Ibid., 20

These brothers and sisters promote love and veneration for the Sacred Scriptures: "Calling upon the Holy Spirit, they seek in these Sacred Scriptures God as he speaks to them in Christ, the One whom the prophets foretold, God's Word made flesh for us. In the Scriptures they contemplate the life of Christ, as well as the teachings and the actions of the Divine Master on behalf of the salvation of all, in particular the mysteries of his Death and Resurrection ... They affirm the divine authority of the Sacred Books -- Unitatis Redintegratio, Op. cit., 21

At the same time, however, they "think differently from us ... about the relationship between the Scriptures and the Church. In the Church, according to Catholic belief, an authentic teaching office plays a special role in the explanation and proclamation of the written word of God".[116] Even so, "in [ecumenical] dialogue itself, the sacred utterances are precious instruments in the mighty hand of God for attaining that unity which the Savior holds out to all" -- Ibid.

Looks pretty good on paper, but Rome is not at all interested in joining together with the Reformed churches, or anyone else, for that matter, except on her terms:

Even though the truths which the Church intends to teach through her dogmatic formulas are distinct from the changeable conceptions of a given epoch and can be expressed without them, nevertheless it can sometimes happen that these truths may be enunciated by the Sacred Magisterium in terms that bear traces of such conceptions. In view of this, it must be stated that the dogmatic formulas of the Church's Magisterium were from the very beginning suitable for communicating revealed truth, and that as they are they remain for ever suitable for communicating this truth to those who interpret them correctly--Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration in Defense of Catholic Doctrine on the Church (Mysterium Ecclesiae), 5: AAS 65 (1973), 403

What does Rome think about the differences?

. . . this Decree affirms: "The Churches and Ecclesial Communities which were separated from the Apostolic See of Rome during the very serious crisis that began in the West at the end of the Middle Ages, or during later times, are bound to the Catholic Church by a special affinity and close relationship in view of the long span of earlier centuries when the Christian people lived in ecclesiastical communion . . . At the same time one should recognize that between these Churches and Communities on the one hand, and the Catholic Church on the other, there are very weighty differences not only of a historical, sociological, psychological and cultural nature, but especially in the interpretation of revealed truth. -- Unitatis Redintegratio, Op. cit., 19

Is there any area of agreement between the Roman church and Christianity? Sure, how's this for an example?

There are many Christians who do not always understnd the Gospel in the same way as Catholics. -- Ibid. 23

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