The Roar of the Ecumenical Movement
By Dr. Eugene J. Petersen (1922-2016)
Some years ago I received a Christmas card which quoted Kahil Gibran, “To be closer to God, be closer to people.” Inside of each letter “O” were symbols of Christianity, Mohammedanism, Judaism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism! That Christmas card was emblematic of the ecumenical spirit of these times, and now with the phenomenal growth of the New Age Movement, the reality of a one world religious system is truly growing.
Ecumenists lament that a divided Christendom is the scandal and tragedy of our time. They quote John 17:20-23, but our Lord is not speaking here of ecclesiastical union, but true spiritual unity. The ecumenists quote Ephesians 4:1-6, but Paul lends no support to an all-embracing ecclesiastical structure. He was only explaining to Christians that they should evidence love, patience, unity of the Spirit and peace among themselves.
This religious synthesis, now a century old is not a movement of people in the pew. It is rather a movement of professional church men consumed with a vision of power, a “super” church. It is doubtful that the leaders of the ecumenical movement will be satisfied when the three major bodies of Christendom (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestantism) unite. They will then reach out to include the cults and non-Christian religions as Buddhism and Hinduism. Do not think that this is impossible when already unitarians, liberals, Easter Orthodox, advocates of secular Christianity, and Roman Catholics are all working toward one goal!
The ecumenical church will be the apostate church referred to in Revelation 17 as “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters,” which indicates the universal nature of the church. The designation as “whore” (harlot) and “mother of harlots” refers to the false worship, false doctrines and degeneracy of the church from the true faith. The mother has produced many harlots representing the false religious groups which make up the apostate church.
In all of these developing trends the Bible has been rejected, and theology is not the basis of unity but love or some other common denominator. But most disturbing of all born-again believers have used methods to bind believers with unbelievers in crusades; ecumenical evangelism in pulpits, seminars, seminary classrooms, etc. With all of this, coupled with the failure to examine the doctrine of biblical separation, apostasy continues to expand with deepening union of the church and the world, the secular and sacred, and the holy and the profane.
The neo-evangelical accused the fundamentalist of evading social problems, of abdicating leadership and responsibility in society, and thus becoming impotent to change society and solve problems. They stated that Christians must use the strategy of infiltration rather than one of separation. But have they (the neo-Evangleicals) with their concepts changed society? In this year 1990 have they reversed the course of history by infiltrating the liberals and changing the apostate condition of denominations? Dr. Charles Woodbridge long advocated, “if the roots are rotten, one cannot change anything!”
Where does all of this leave the local church and the local pastor today? We lack the extensive and incisive leadership of the past. Everywhere we miss the pen and the voice, to say nothing of the passion of their lives, the likes of Charles J. Woodbridge, Guy Archer Weniger, Myron Cedearholm, Bob Ketcham, et. al. God bless their memories and their kind! They spoke the language of the people. They made the way clearer—no compromise! They thundered the message of the Bible as they contended for the faith. Controversy was their lot. They expected none other. They could not stop ecumenism, but they deterred it, but most important in the climate that they created every pastor knew the issues and would decide to take his stand, either for or against compromise! We are now in a wilderness as compromise in the local church and the ecumenical movement roars on!
[The previous article was written by Dr. Eugene Peterson in 1990. Dr. Peterson served as a godly pastor and Bible teacher for many years prior to his home-going in July 2016].