American Council of Christian Churches
75th Annual Convention, October 18-20, 2016
Faith Baptist Church, Kittery, Maine
“Resolution on Recent Ecumenism of Roman Catholicism”
“With the approach of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 2017, the Roman Catholic hierarchy has launched what it considers a public relations offensive that appears to have the objective of minimizing any negative impact from the renewed comparison between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The Jesuit-trained Pope Francis has been leading the offensive in three areas that are the results of efforts to rebuild sympathy for Roman Catholicism as a more moderate influence than it was during the Reformation period.
“A major part of the charm offensive was the canonization on September 4 of the late Mother Teresa, the nun whose 1997 death ended her career of relief of the extremely impoverished in Calcutta. Mother Teresa’s devotion to the needs of the poor has earned her effusive praise in the world’s press and media, while her ardent defense of the rights of the unborn always seems to vanish into the haze. According to reports from Cable News Network, Pope Francis said in the ceremony at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, “after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint, and we enroll her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole church.”
“The Romanist concept of sainthood varies widely from that which authors of the New Testament affirm. There, in epistle after epistle, recipients receive the designation of saints, without any regard for papal pronouncements or miraculous works. The saints of the New Testament did not receive any veneration, either before or after their deaths, and never did the apostles instruct that the faithful should offer prayers to them or through them. In biblical terms, a person’s status as a saint is fixed on the day of salvation by faith alone. A person who dies as a saint will never be anything else, and a person who dies without saving faith in Christ alone will never be a saint, the pronouncements, compromise, and confusion of false apostles and false brethren notwithstanding.
“Another part of the charm offensive has been to continue the process of softening historic Roman Catholic hatred for Martin Luther, whom many Roman Catholics for centuries have regarded as little better than the archfiend himself. Publicly, Pope Francis has promoted the idea that the excommunicated Luther can be admired after all, and as some have been predicting for more than thirty years, he has been leading the drive that may end in Luther’s canonization as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. On October 13, the pope participated in an audience in the Vatican during which he gave attention to a small statue of Luther as though he were one of the Church’s saints. Furious Romanist opponents of the pope’s action have complained that he has shown sympathy for one they regard as the arch-heretic.
“Closely linked to the curious softening toward Luther is the concerted push to achieve agreements with Lutherans around the world on the meaning of terminology that Luther employed in breaking from Romanism nearly 500 years ago. During August of this year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Churchwide Assembly meeting in New Orleans adopted “The Declaration on the Way” by a vote of 931-9. Reflecting on the overwhelming vote, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton said, “Though we have not yet arrived, we have claimed that we are, in fact, on the way to unity. … This ‘Declaration on the Way’ helps us to realize more fully our unity in Christ with our Catholic partners, but it also serves to embolden our commitment to unity with all Christians.” While Lutherans and Roman Catholic officials acknowledge that some differences still divide them, they have renewed their resolve to overcome those differences. Historically, such resolves have always meant that the Protestant side surrenders its insistence on its theological distinctives in the cause of achieving ecclesiastical fellowship.
“Earlier in the year, Pope Francis, again to the dismay of some of the hierarchy’s hardliners, announced that he would begin the Reformation’s 500th anniversary year by traveling to Lund, Sweden, for a joint service with Lutherans there on October 31 of this year. The ecumenical prayer service will include both Pope Francis and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation. Roman Catholic Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility to participate in what he called, “an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.” Echoing his assessment was Bishop Anders Arborelius of the Catholic diocese of Stockholm, who argued that “history will be written when Pope Francis and the LWF leaders visit Lund and Malmö to encourage all of us to go further on the road towards Christian unity.”
“Such a charm offensive is the reflection of the fondest hopes of the Jesuits since their founding in the Catholic Counter-Reformation that there would be a way to reverse what the Roman Catholic Church has always considered the unfortunate separation by the followers of the Reformers. Sadly, evangelicals in America and elsewhere have also been associating with this offensive. Those who believe the Bible, however, know that the causes of the Reformation continue to exist because they are biblical responses to Roman Catholic departures from the truth of the Scriptures.
“Therefore, the American Council of Christian Churches, at its 75th annual convention, October 18-20, 2016, at Faith Baptist Church, Kittery, Maine, summons faithful believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to defend the truth of the Gospel, and to oppose any attempt to suggest that anyone but God Himself has the authority to make anyone a saint, or that there can be any common ground between that which Martin Luther and the other Reformers came to understand and the unyielding insistence of the Roman Catholic Church’s Magisterium that those who declare that justification is by faith alone are anathema. The 500th anniversary year of the Reformation’s beginning should be a time for rejoicing in the revival of the preaching of the gospel and the clearing away of centuries of man-made traditions. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).”
In Pastor Don Johnson’s description of “Convergent” evangelicals, the first item is “Anti-separatism (or at least non-separatism).” This descriptor is so vague as to be nearly incomprehensible, and to the degree that it can be comprehended it is misleading. To know what Pastor Johnson means by “anti-separatism,” we would first have to know exactly what he means by separatism. Presumably he is thinking in terms of some version of ecclesiastical separation, though exactly what his theory of ecclesiastical separation is, I have never quite been able to understand. At any rate, assuming that he is accusing “Convergents” of rejecting (or at least not implementing) ecclesiastical separation, the accusation is terribly unfair.
Even the Neoevangelicals were not completely anti-separatistic. They never argued for engaging in Christian fellowship with Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, Jainists, Sikhs, Bahaists, Theosophists, Spiritists, Atheists, Satanists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Millennial Dawnists, or Mormons. They clearly understood that no Christian fellowship was possible with adherents of these gospel-denying systems.
Even their cooperation with Protestant Liberals and, later, Roman Catholics was targeted and limited. It was typically driven by one of two concerns: either a commitment to citywide evangelism (represented chiefly by Graham) or a wish to recapture the leadership of mainline denominations (represented more by Ockenga and Carnell). It is fair to say that the New Evangelicals rejected separatism within certain spheres and for certain purposes.
It is worth remembering that Neoevangelicalism did not represent the evangelical mainstream. It was initially a cadre of young intellectuals. Only during the late 1950s and early 1960s did mainstream evangelicals begin to have to choose between separatist fundamentalism and New Evangelicalism. When they chose to side with the Neoevangelicals rather than the fundamentalists, they were not rejecting separatism tout court. They were rejecting the fundamentalist stance that faithful Christians should separate (at some levels) from Neoevangelicals.
While it is still not clear just who Pastor Johnson thinks the Convergents are, they do not seem to occupy the position of the old New Evangelicals. Rather, they are either the people who now occupy the old Moderate Evangelical slot (today’s Conservative Evangelicals), or else the (former?) fundamentalists who are trying to move to a middle ground between separatist fundamentalism and Conservative Evangelicalism. In any event, it is not correct to say that they are either anti-separatist or non-separatist. It would be better to say that they lack a full and robust implementation of biblical separatism.
To make that statement, however, requires a clear, coherent, workable, and fully-articulated theory of Christian fellowship and separation, particularly secondary separation—and that is something that Pastor Johnson and his friends have not yet given us.
I refuse to worship anything of my own making.
Tozer, A.W. Delighting in God (Kindle Location 302). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
You can get the Kindle version for cheap, at least for now. Who knows, it may go up after Grudem includes eternal generation.
Jeff Brown is an alumnus of Central Seminary who, with his wife Linda, has spent decades working in southern Germany. Here’s an excerpt from their latest prayer update:
In October we celebrated with the independent Baptist Church of Erlangen their 25 years of existence. We really had not anticipated that day when we began the church with a handful of people, but indeed, it arrived: to the joy of the church. Pastors Oliver meyer and Dr. Rolf Degel do a fine job of leadership, and the church has now grown to the point that the building, with a capacity of 150-160 people, is filled to capacity each Sunday. the church is also richly blessed with eight or nine capable preachers, spanning generations. The church has likiewise maintained its evangelistic spirit. BMM Co-workers Burdette and Mary Jane Bergen minister presently at the church in teaching, music, and children’s work. Erlangen’s second mayor was also present to participate in the celebration. She was especially appreciative of how the church had participated in helping refugees that have recently arrived in Germany.
American Council of Christian Churches
75th Annual Convention, October 18-20, 2016
Faith Baptist Church, Kittery, Maine
“Resolution on Freedom and Respect for Civil Authority”
“Two hundred and fifteen years ago this month, the Danbury [CT] Baptist Association authorized a letter to congratulate their newly elected president, Thomas Jefferson, and to welcome him to office. Baptists in Massachusetts were equally thankful for their new magistrate. Days after President Jefferson received the Danbury letter, Elder John Leland from Cheshire, MA delivered a 1200 pound Cheshire cheese to the White House with Jefferson’s favorite motto emblazoned on its side, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
The persecuted Baptists of New England expressed their convictions regarding the freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state in their letter: “Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty—That Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals—That no man ought to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religious Opinions—That the legitimate Power of civil Government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”
“When they spoke of “the legitimate Power of civil Government,” they did so recognizing the importance of the rule of law under the constitutional republic that God had ordained for their new nation: “Sir, we are sensible that the President of the united States, is not the national Legislator, & also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the Laws of each State; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine & prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and tyranny be destroyed from the Earth.”
“Our freedom-loving founding fathers notwithstanding, tyranny has not been destroyed from the earth, and today it threatens the liberties of Americans in unprecedented ways. Facing these challenges, we look to the Word of God, which with its truth eternal stands like a rock undaunted amid the raging storms of time. There we find that civil authority is ordained of God (Rom. 13:1), and so we rest assured that God is sovereign over it. There we find that civil authority is a minister of God (v. 4), so we accept His just judgment of its administrations. There we find that civil authority is not a terror to the good, but to the evil (v. 3), so we determine to do that which is good, supporting law-enforcement officials in their dangerous work. There we find that civil authority executes wrath with a sword (vv. 4-5), so we determine to obey guided also by a free conscience, ever mindful of our Savior’s admonition not to fear “those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather [to] fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
“Therefore, the American Council of Christian Churches, at its annual convention, October 18-20, 2016, at Faith Baptist Church, Kittery, Maine, resolves to love freedom and to obey civil authority. We shall pray for “kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:2). We shall be faithful in our responsibilities as citizens of a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and ordained of the Lord. We shall endeavor to “let [our] conduct be as it becometh the gospel of Christ . . . stand[ing] fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. And in nothing terrified by [our] adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to [us] of salvation, and that of God” (Phil. 1:27-28).”
“ Clearly the apostle Paul, a Roman citizen who lived under the reign of Nero, would agree with Jefferson’s motto only when tyranny demands disobedience to God. Our founders’ doctrine of the consent of the governed, however, did come from a scriptural understanding of unalienable rights as gifts from God, not man or civil government. The revolution of the ten northern tribes of Israel was God’s judgment on the idolatry of Solomon’s leadership and the tyranny of Rehoboam’s oppression (1 Kings 11:29-39; 12:1-24).”
Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still.
Lewis, C. S. The Allegory of Love (eBook Original) (Kindle Locations 70-71). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.