Protestant and Catholic Unity Impossible?

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ECT: Evangelicals and Catholics Together

In 1985, Evangelical Charles Colson of the Prison Fellowship Ministries organized a meeting among the stalwart Christian leaders of the United States. These included Rev. Richard Neuhaus of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, Carl Henry, editor and founder of Christianity Today.

Christian culture no longer held a significant influence among young people and fast becoming irrelevant. Thus, Colson pushed the idea of unity between the two most influential religious groups to strengthen the gospel.

In 1992, leading American Catholics and Protestant leaders sought common ground to promote Christianity. 21 Evangelicals and 20 Catholics signed the ECT document, including J.I. Packer and Richard Land, as part of the signatories.

Quick protestant history.

ECT Statement: “The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium”

  • Christianity includes a large number of faith groups, including Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, mainline Protestants, and liberal Protestants that should be reunited for the gospel.
  • Salvation is possible only within Christianity, and that the entire population of the world will eventually be converted to Christianity.
  • Individuals are “justified by grace through faith.” However, for Catholics, ‘salvation by grace‘ refers to a divine grace mediated through the 7-sacraments by a priest. For Evangelicals, it is an unmerited favor received by faith alone.
  • The church has a responsibility for the right ordering of civil society, politics, law, and culture. Securing civil virtue is a benefit of religion.
  • Both groups assert a pro-life stand, support a ‘free economy,’ and multiculturalism. Also, laws and social policies should support the nuclear family.

Weak and strong Calvinism.

Negative responses from evangelicals over ECT statement

Appreciating the goal of ECT, 100 hundred evangelical leaders signed a statement denouncing the document. Chuck Colson faced flak and lost about a million dollars in contributions to his prison ministry. Criticism includes the following:

  • The ECT document represents a colossal compromise with (pagan-rooted) Rome.
  • It demonstrates that most evangelicals have departed from the doctrines and practices of the Protestant Reformation.
  • The document contains false theological presuppositions and blatant compromises to satisfy Roman Catholic belief.
  • ECT is a new faith group of secularism, humanism, and false religion.”

The history and rise of Catholicism.

Unity between Evangelical protestants and the Roman Catholics may not be possible

The intention is good but counterproductive if we step down to what really matters most—doctrine. Unity is a good thing but the theological precepts of the ECT compromise Biblical tradition.

Theologians who openly opposed it were John Ankerberg, D. James Kennedy, John F. MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul. Apologist John Macarthur puts it bluntly; there can never be unity unless Rome is evangelized and denounce its pagan tradition.

In short, there may be sincere Catholics who are Christ-followers, but the Catholic doctrine remains rooted in paganism.

John MacArthur points out the following:

  • Roman Catholicism continues to engage in idolatry by worshiping saints and the veneration of angels. It conducts a horrific exaltation of Mary above Christ and even God. [Co-Redemtrix]
  • It conducts a twisted sacrament of the mass by which Jesus is sacrificed again and again. [Seven Sacraments]
  • It offers false forgiveness through the (unbiblical) confessional box. [Act of Contrition]
  • It calls for the uselessness of infant baptism and other sacraments. [Baptism]
  • Take away the false doctrine of purgatory and its a hard sell to be Catholic. [Inventing purgatory]
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