Monday, November 23, 2009

Why do Calvinists Co-Belligerize?

UPDATE 11-24-09: Dr. James White responds to the Manhattan Declaration here.

Steve Camp chimes in here.

Back in October we were reminded of the doctrinal compromise that was to take place at the 2009 National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Sadly, this has been happening at this conference for years. The first time I learned of it I wrote a letter to Dr. Norman Geisler asking him why Roman Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft was chosen to be a plenary speaker. My basic question went something like this: "How can a gospel denier teach gospel defenders how to defend the very gospel that the denier denies?" Well, if you are an evangelical that has already embraced Rome's philosophical and soteriological foundations, namely the natural theology of Thomas Aquinas and the synergism associated with semi-Pelagianism, then having a Romanist preach peace when there is no peace isn't too radical since you are already half-way across the Tiber river anyways.

But this one I heard about today just doesn't make a lick of sense at all: The Manhattan Declaration of Christian Conscience

An overview on the homepage tells us this:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

1.the sanctity of human life
2.the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3.the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

From the Preamble:

Christians are heirs of a 2,000­year tradition of proclaiming God’s word,… After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture.

It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries… Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel…

The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that people are saved by God through His grace alone; by faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, and that this has delivered us from His wrath and transferred us into the glorious freedom of the sons of God. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy both teach that salvation is through faith in Christ + meritorious works. The first is the true gospel and the latter is a damnable heresy according to Paul (Galatians 1:6-9).

It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to see that these two beliefs are not the same. So why would men who have a better grasp of church history, the Reformation, and the true gospel than I do sign a document that essentially says that Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism all have the same "gospel" and are a legitimate form of Christianity? (i.e., ". . . Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel…" Emphasis mine - DSS). So let's ask some really basic and fundamental questions: What is a Christian? What is the Gospel? What has become of the Protestant Reformation? Finally, why are Calvinists who ought know better signing this document? These men include:

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)

Dr. Wayne Grudem
Research Professor of Theological and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary (Phoenix)

Here's what Dr. Mohler said to justify his actions:
I believe we are facing an inevitable and culture-determining decision on the three issues centrally identified in this statement. I also believe that we will experience a significant loss of Christian churches, denominations, and institutions in this process.
It seems as if Dr. Mohler is implying that he doesn't trust the sovereignty of God to work through doctrinally sound ministries to preach the gospel in order to change the hearts of the wicked; hence, we must engage in evangelical co-belligerism by yoking arms with those who are preaching a false gospel in order to effect a change in society. The problem can be simply put: we are never commanded by God to effect change in society for the sake of moral improvement, we are commanded to preach the gospel and trust God to regenerate people in His time, not ours (Matt. 28:19-20). Contrast Mohler's response to a letter recently written by a Calvinist Baptist pastor to a Roman Catholic friend who expressed genuine concern over this pastor's adamant unwillingness to take up arms with Roman Catholics in order to fight against abortion:
Before I continue on, please let me state that I desire to maintain a cordial, loving relationship with my Catholic friends. Today, very few people of differing religious convictions have the ability or desire to sit down and do the hard work of calmly discussing their differences so as to arrive at a greater understanding of the truth. Most of us want to remain comfortable with our understanding of reality, especially if it has been ingrained in us from the time we were children. I on the other hand believe that we should pursue truth at all costs even if it means giving up cherished beliefs and that we should seek to foster relationships with those that we think are in great error for the purposes of forwarding the truth of the gospel. This is important because according to the Holy Scriptures, our understanding of the gospel (or lack thereof) will determine whether we spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. This means that while our church desires to speak the truth in love with clarity and conviction, we desire to do so without compromising the gospel (Colossians 4:1-4). Hard-hearted, prideful sinners cannot understand the grace that is extended to them in Christ Jesus unless they first see how wicked they are in comparison to God’s holiness. Because our church believes that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in making the gospel come alive in the hearts of His people, we endeavor to make our proclamation clear while trusting that God will draw His elect to Himself in His time, not ours. In light of those doctrinal convictions, our church unashamedly believes and teaches that the institution known as the Roman Catholic Church preaches a false gospel because the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century anathematized those who hold to doctrine of justification by faith alone. When Trent did this, they condemned the very gospel of Christ and forever separated themselves from those Christians who desired to bring Rome into conformity with the Holy Scriptures (Romans 4:1-8; Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). To add injury to insult, Vatican II not only upheld Trent, but also teaches the following heresy in section 841 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

The Church's relationship with the Muslims. The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.[1]

This plainly contradicts the teachings of the Lord Jesus (John 14:6), St. Peter (Acts 4:12), and St. Paul (1 Timothy 2:5) and provides further evidence that Rome has rejected the truth and made shipwreck of the faith.
Because I love my Catholic friends, I have always sought to speak the truth to them in love about these issues because according to St. Paul, their eternal destiny depends on it (Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 4:15). This letter is an effort toward that end.
Notice that this pastor believes that no ecumenical cooperation is possible whatsoever between biblically faithful Protestants and Catholics because Rome preaches a false gospel. How can two walk together lest they be agreed? (Amos 3:3 NKJV) More importantly, if we are not agreed on something as fundamental as how a man is to be made right with the God of heaven, then how can we justify yoking together with false teachers for the purposes of fighting against social evils. As Christians, we are forbidden to yoke ourselves together in ministry with anyone who preaches a false gospel, even if it means that a common moral agenda is not promoted in our society or world. In closing, we would all do well to once again consider the words of the Apostle Paul:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 "Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NASB 95)