Previous article in this series: November 15, 2008, p. 76.
Our previous three articles were a brief overview of ecumenical developments between evangelical Protestants and Rome during the past 50 years. This means we are dealing with something that has been working itself out during our own lifetime. What it amounts to is this, negotiations are taking place that, almost exactly 500 years after the Reformation, are working to undo everything the Reformers labored to accomplish, and, for many of them, at the cost of their own lives.
For much of this information I have relied on Iain Murray’s book Evangelicals Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000, a book every reader who wants to be fully informed about what has led to the present ecumenical climate of Protestant surrender (or, in the words of the former RC priest Richard Bennett, “betrayal“) would do well to read.
As indicated at the conclusion of our last article, it is exactly what doctrines the evangelicals have recently begun to concede that indicates just how far influential Protestant churchmen are willing to go in order to forge ecumenical ties with ‘mother’ Rome.
For our purposes, reference to two doctrines will suffice, namely, baptism (with its significance) and justification by faith (alone)—two doctrines that lie at the very heart of the Reformed, which is to say the biblical and Apostolic faith. It would be difficult to find two doctrines that spelled out the difference between the old Reformers and their archenemy Rome more clearly than these two.
Yet, even these two vital doctrines ecumenically-minded Protestants (men who still today claim the right to be called Calvinists) have been willing to ‘modify’ and corrupt in order to placate Rome.
How far ecumenically-minded Protestants have been willing to go in selling out the biblical doctrine of baptism in order to placate Rome was made plain in the first “Accord” released by men of the ECT in 1994. (In 1997 another “Accord” was released.)
In a web-site article entitled The Alignment of New Evangelicals with Apostasy, the former Roman Catholic (Irish) priest Richard Bennett states as a paragraph heading: Evangelicals also Endorse Baptismal Regeneration (emphasis Bennett’s).
As evidence, he points out the following about the ECT Accord document:
In the general heading of “We Witness Together,” (and to use the words of the document, “In the context of evangelization and ‘re-evangelization'” i.e., the Gospel), the message to the world by New Evangelical personalities like J.I. Packer, Chuck Colson and [Bill] Bright is, “For Catholics, all who are validly baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion with Christ.” (p. 23) [emphasis mine—kk]. These New Evangelicals might as well have quoted the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law which says the same thing. “Baptism…by which men and women are freed from their sins, are reborn as children of God and configured to Christ….”
Notice, according to the agreed upon statement, “…all who are validly baptized are born again and…in communion with Christ.”
To be sure, the three “personalities” mentioned, along with the others who drew up the document, can cleverly argue, “This is not necessarily our conviction. Notice that we said, ‘For Catholics‘ this is true!” And, in fact, this has been their defense. But such is subterfuge. The point is they are endorsing this statement, meaning it is to be accepted by all as a valid view of baptism. Rome’s teaching is not to be opposed by Protestants of good will.
This fundamental concession/corruption did not emerge out of the blue. It finds its origin in the earlier Keele Congress of 1967 (chaired by Dr. John Stott himself, if you recall).
The Keele Congress faced the Evangelicals with the need to justify their making common cause with the liberal, creed-denying churchmen of their own Anglican denomination. With many of their own Bishops they were not on the same page, even in confessing the historical truth of the bodily resurrection of Christ. On what basis could they consider them as Christians and brothers in Christ and extend the right hand of fellowship?
On the basis of baptism!
But baptism now significantly redefined.
Murray points this out.
[Until Keele ’67] all evangelicals had thought that no one should be regarded as belonging to Christ simply because they were outwardly (emphasis mine—kk) connected with a church…. [However, after Keele ’67] change on this point was not long in coming and the proposal that church membership should be treated as enough to justify a person’s Christian status gained increasing support.
… A new theory would have to be found to justify [this], and by the 1970s it was being confidently announced that just such a theory had been found. If, it was argued, “baptism is the visible sign of a Christian”, then a New Testament ecclesiology requires us to practice unity with all the baptized. (emphasis mine—kk) (Evangelicals Divided, p. 99)
The question was, how could one justify living in unity with and pursuing common gospel causes with others regardless of what biblical doctrines they deny or unbiblical practices they are engaged in?
Answer: by recognizing their baptism, for baptism has effectively made them also members of Christ and of His body, the church. They by virtue of their baptism are true Christians.
This is simply another version of Rome’s sacramental ex opere operato—an operation of grace by the very act (of the sacrament being applied).
This, of course, is precisely what the Reformers rejected and sought to extract root and branch from their ecclesiology and soteriology.
For any number of reasons, but for our purposes, two will suffice: #1—It was this doctrine that put all the power of salvation (saving grace!) into the hands of mere men, namely, Rome’s clergy, to apply or to withhold on a whim; and #2—It meant that anyone baptized and on the church roles must be received as a Christian with full rights and privileges, though he gives precious little evidence of any spiritual life or a regard for biblical truth at all, and in fact despises such things. After all, by virtue of water baptism even such are genuine members of Christ and His body, and so must be treated as such.
A more devastating doctrine against the life and purity of the church would be difficult to find.
That this is what the new evangelicals were saying was made explicit at the Nottingham Congress that met ten years after Keele ’67. A lengthy document was drawn up. In the section titled “The Church and Its Identity,” the lead idea read,
The church on earth is marked out by Baptism, which is the complete sacramental initiation into Christ [!] and his body. (Ibid., p. 101)
That the writers were speaking of what amounts to automatic baptismal grace (which is baptismal regeneration by another name) is plain from a phrase that the congress deliberately deleted. As Murray informs us in a footnote:
A vital qualification that baptism is not efficacious without faith, which was proposed at draft stage [!], was omitted…in stark contrast to the older Anglican and Protestant teaching. (Ibid., p. 101)
There you have it.
Both by what they wrote and what they omitted these so-called heirs of the Reformation were de facto back in the land of Rome, subscribing to her principal sacramental error.
We do not have space in this article to get into the doctrine of justification and the fatal concessions the ETC made concerning it. That must wait until the next article.
We will be quoting the former priest Richard Bennett, who has some insightful and pointed things to say on this “modification” of the doctrine of justification, a doctrine so vital to his own conversion from Rome. And now to be told that Rome’s version of justification is also gospel?
We will begin next article by demonstrating first, however, that due to the concessions the New Evangelicals have made concerning Rome’s baptismal regeneration and automatic sacramental grace, they now also stand in full accord with the Federal Vision men on this vital doctrine.
The Federal Vision heretics have also adopted what amounts to the heresy of baptismal regeneration.
Indeed, all the ecclesiastical tributaries are flowing back to Rome and her polluted doctrinal ‘See.’