Why a special issue devoted to Rome and her Catholicism and its errors?
Because as the twenty-first century opens, the current of ecumenicity moves with increasing force, and, as is becoming increasingly clear, all the tributaries flow towards Rome.
On the ecclesiastical scene, old Rome has taken shape again with a new vigor and in a more attractive form, and more and more evangelical voices of influence are pointing towards Rome as the last real hope of Western Christianity, if it is going to withstand and save itself from the assault of our post-Christian world and its amoral, anti-Christian society.
You want voices of men of influence? Try on J. I. Packer, John Stott, and Chuck Colson for size. Add to them the decades of influence of Dr. Billy Graham, and as well, for the last half a century, the better-known Bishops of the Anglican Church (the Archbishops of Canterbury in particular). These are but a few of the better known names.
One cannot ignore the irony of it—in the hopes of saving a weak, apostatizing Christianity from the anti-Christian assault of our modern-day world on everything that carries even the odor of Christian morality, the leaders of modern-day Protestantism turn us towards ROME, of all institutions, ROME, who is herself, according to the unanimous testimony of the great Protestant leaders of the past, the very embodiment of Antichrist’s kingdom in its ecclesiastical form. The Reformers, to a man, identified Rome with her pope as the Babylon spoken of in Revelation 13-18, Babylon that great whore (cf. WCF XXV, 6). But now, we are being told, Christianity’s only hope for salvation from the present anti-Christian forces loose in twenty-first century Western society is ecumenical relations with the Antichrist of the Christian church, the pope, and his false, apostate church.
This is modern Protestantism’s ‘wisdom’: the one who dwells in the seat of Antichrist, together with his Magisterium, is to save us from being swallowed up by the evils of Antichrist that threaten Christianity.
What can one say?
The Devil’s ability to deceive men within Christ’s church is phenomenal. I think sometimes he is surprised himself with just how gullible and pliable the Christian segment of the human race proves itself to be over and over again.
I am reminded of a refrain from a poem of a well-known trilogy that has become popular in the last few decades, a book that centers in a fellowship seeking to destroy a certain ring of dark, controlling power.
One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Tolkien could not have better described the self-serving and enslaving power of Papal Rome throughout Western history if he had tried.
What is interesting about the great ecumenical developments of the past fifty years is that, while Rome has proved keenly interested in the movement and has become an active participant, Rome did not initiate this interest in ecumenical ties between herself and Protestants. To be sure, by means of the sweeping liturgical changes made by Vatican II in the early 1960s, Rome made herself more accessible to those outside her ecclesiastical structure, and the language of the late charismatic Pope John Paul II became increasingly ecumenical as his papacy progressed. Still, the movement towards Rome found its impetus within Protestantism itself, evangelical Protestants seeking out Rome and making conciliatory gesture after gesture to Rome.
This must be kept in mind.
The movement has been all towards Rome—concessions to Rome, becoming more and more like Rome, praising the stability and enduring presence of Rome—not Rome conceding one essential thing to its ‘erring, separated, brethren.’
This can be demonstrated (and will be, in a following editorial).
The history of evangelical Christianity’s rapprochement with Rome is interesting and instructive. It began decades prior to what is known today as ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together). It began with promises and reassurances by ecumenically-minded evangelicals of the 1950s and 1960s (in England in particular) that what they had in mind was merely cooperation between Protestants of diverse persuasions. Concerned conservatives could be reassured it would never have anything to do with seeking contact with Rome.
How soon this church political promise was broken was astonishing even by the standards of the politicians of the world.
Ian Murray spells this out in some detail in his excellent book Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000. The book is a detailed record of the disastrous concessions evangelical Protestants made during these decades, concessions made first of all to mainline liberal churchmen (in particular what took place in the 1960s in England), concessions made in the misbegotten hope that by making common cause with influential creed-denying liberals they could revive biblical Christianity as a force to be reckoned with again in England and their own dying Protestant churches as well.
And one is surprised that, working from this premise, revival of a vibrant English Protestantism has fizzled? How naÃ¯ve can intelligent churchmen be?
What is interesting is that, while it’s true that the present ecumenical climate dominated by the ECT movement can be traced back in large measure to events that took place at alliance conferences sponsored by English evangelicals in the 1960s, it was none other than an American, the young Billy Graham, with his crusades (which hit England in the mid-1950s) and his personality and contacts, who proved to be a fundamental catalyst in getting the ecumenical movement moving in the direction it has.
We tend to assess the damage Billy Graham has done to gospel truth and the church in terms of his Arminianism and ‘Easy Believism’—”Just walk down the aisle and accept Jesus as your Savior.” It becomes plain, however, that the damage inflicted by Dr. Graham goes much deeper than that.
The evolution of Billy Graham from insisting that his crusades be associated only with those who maintained fundamental biblical doctrines to his becoming a broad-minded Universalist took place rather quickly. In the late 1940s he stated, “We do not condone nor have fellowship with any form of modernism” (Evangelicalism Divided, p. 29). And yet in the mid-50s, in the Great London Crusade, the Archbishop of Canterbury, well known for his Bible-denying modernism, was invited to share the podium with Billy and gave the closing benediction at one of Graham’s last climactic rallies.
In the early 1950s Graham twice declined invitations to take his crusades to NY City because he was concerned that they were to be sponsored by men of modernistic and liberal convictions. Yet, in 1957 Graham accepted an invitation to take his crusade to Manhattan, NY, knowing full well that it meant “cooperation with a group that was predominantly non-evangelical and even included out-and-out modernists” (Ibid., p. 29). His position now was “We should be willing to work with all who were willing to work with us” (Ibid.).
Even then, assurances were given: this ecumenical mentality would never include involving Rome. As late as 1958, a leading member of the Graham organization, Dr. R.O. Ferm, wrote a book entitled Co-Operative Evangelism. It was written to defend Graham’s cooperation with churchmen of liberal persuasion and to deflect criticism of what ‘appeared’ to be a compromising of basic biblical doctrines of grace. In Murray’s words:
[Dr. Ferm] insisted…that Roman Catholic participation in their work was excluded. Referring to crusade services, he replied to the inquiry of a Kansas minister, “Certainly Catholic priests do not attend . . . . [They] have not been invited to participate in any way. Nor would they do so if they were invited.”
This was all to change (Ibid., p. 67).
In the 1970s Graham became one of the embattled President Nixon’s ‘spiritual’ advisors. As Murray relates:
Graham himself shared a White House service with Rabbi Edgar Magnin and John Cardinal Krol. In his autobiography he refers to such meetings in terms of his “ecumenical strategy”.
What Ferm had formerly called his [own] “emphatically Protestant theology” was clearly no longer operative in 1977 when he shared with Graham in a crusade on the campus of Notre Dame, the premier Catholic university in the United States.
. . . Years earlier [Graham] had said, “I have no quarrel with the Catholic Church,” and now it was plain for all to see. Speaking of the difference between evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism he could further say, “I don’t think the differences are important as far as personal salvation is concerned.” Graham could now say: “I feel I belong to all the churches. I am equally at home in an Anglican or Baptist or a Brethren assembly or a Roman Catholic church . . . . Today we have almost 100 per cent Catholic support in this country. That was not true twenty years ago. And the bishops and archbishops and the Pope are our friends.”
In 1987 Graham agreed to share a service in Columbus, South Carolina, with Pope John Paul II. He was already on record as affirming, “He is a wonderful pope” (Ibid., pp. 68-9; Note: For much of his information on Graham, Murray acknowledges his indebtedness to W. Martin’s book, Prophet With Honor, the best biography on Graham).
The above is a decidedly different perspective from where Graham began his public career. As Graham himself stated in defense of his theological evolution, “The ecumenical movement has broadened my viewpoint” (Mitchell, Billy Graham: Saint or Sinner, p. 272).
For the record, Graham’s ecumenical viewpoint has become so broad that just prior to the end of the century (in 1997), in an interview by Dr. R. Schuller, of Crystal Cathedral fame, Graham went on record as stating that knowledge of and faith in Christ Jesus is not the only way of salvation. Having stated that Muslims, Buddhists, and non-believers could also be members of Christ’s body as they were, he went on to say,
They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven (Murray, op. cit., p. 74).
Not even Schuller was sure he had heard right. Seeking clarification, Schuller exclaimed,
What, what I hear you saying, that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they have been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you are saying?
“Yes, it is”, Graham responded in decided tones. At which point his television host tripped over his words in his excitement, and exclaimed, “I’m so thrilled to hear you say this. There is a wideness to God’s mercy”. To which Graham added, “There is. There definitely is” (Ibid.).
A wideness of God’s mercy indeed! So wide, it does not even require Christ.
This is universalism of the crassest sort. It raises the fundamental question, why preach the cross to unbelieving sinners at all? Such is folly personified. According to this ‘wisdom,’ all missions does (and has done) is to make Christians of a few souls in heathen lands, which in turn riles up the heathen unnecessarily, causing division and untold religious turmoil in those lands. Those countries would have been better off without the Christian gospel ever having been introduced into them. The converts, as spiritually troubled and sincere heathens, would have been saved anyway by the wideness of God’s mercy, despite their ignorance of Christ, and with a lot less grief to themselves and those whom their faith and their Christ antagonized. Christ was mistaken. Knowledge of and faith in Himself were not so sorely needed by the Gentile unbelievers lost in darkness after all.
We say again, even Satan must find astonishing what professing Christians can be led to say about the dispensability of the crucified Son of God they claim to believe and love.
But such is the record of Graham’s ecclesiastical pilgrimage.
We trace it because it is basically the biography of twentieth-century American Protestantism. We trace it because Dr. Billy Graham, without a doubt, has been the most influential evangelical protestant in the last half century. Graham publicly has made his peace, not only with Scripture-denying liberals, but also with Rome’s hierarchy. And where Graham has led, countless millions of admiring, trusting souls have followed. He is the anti-Luther and one of the chief anti-Reformers of the twentieth century. He has been used as an agent of the Enemy of all scriptural truth. And, sad to say, all too willingly.
A second major contributing party to the road back to Rome (and the ECT movement of our day) is to be found in England of the 1960s, namely, the English evangelicals. Significantly, Graham had a hand in influencing them as well to make their peace with Rome via peace with the liberals first of all.
We intend to treat that along with concessions made to Rome in a second editorial, D.V.