Previous article in this series: November 1. 2008, p. 52.
s we stated in the last article, evangelical churchmen who in the interests of developing closer ecclesiastical ties with Rome have justified making concession after concession to Rome, have labored under a grand delusion, namely, if we as Protestants, in the spirit of brotherhood, would only show a willingness to make doctrinal concessions to Rome, she surely would reciprocate in kind.
Suffice it to say, this has not materialized.
Rome has made it clear that, for all her willingness to allow some of her officials to draw up carefully-crafted documents in concert with her “estranged brethren,” she has no intention of ever conceding one thing Romish.
Any questions about Rome’s willingness to make concessions on doctrinal points in the interests of ecclesiastical oneness and presenting a united front to the world should have been answered in the early 1990s.
As early as 1981 a joint commission of twenty men composed of both Romish and Anglican churchmen presented to their respective assemblies a carefully-worded document called The Final Report. The General Synod of the Church of England approved it in 1986. The Vatican delayed until 1991, and then
. . . required that the Catholic teaching—especially on the Eucharist (the Mass)—be spelt out specifically. It wanted assurance that there was agreement on “the propitiatory nature of the eucharistic sacrifice,” applicable to the dead as well as the living; and “certitude that Christ is present . . . substantially when ‘under the species of bread and wine these earthly realities are changed into the reality of his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.'” . . . The Anglicans assured the Vatican that the words of the Final Statement… did indeed conform to the sense required by the official Roman teaching (I. Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, p. 220).
The evangelicals evidently had hoped to hide behind a vagueness of language so that it appeared as if Rome was making some concessions too. Rome would have none of it. Rome’s approach has always been, “It does not matter what is written, be it God’s Word itself, what our Magisterium decides something says, is what it says.”
So it was to be with this Final Report (about which Rome had the final word).
In the name of ecumenicity the Anglicans, evangelicals and all, ‘genuflected’ and expressed a willingness to swallow Rome’s doctrine of the Mass whole.
And note well that phrase, “applicable to the dead as well as the living“! The fires of purgatory were to continue burning, and, as well, the sacrament of the Supper was to be applicable to the dead, meaning, to serve as an indulgence!
If such language was not enough to make clear what ‘concessions’ Rome was willing to make, there can be no disputing the recent pronouncements that have issued from the Papal See.
In July of 2007 the Vatican released a document titled “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church.” Its purpose was to send a clear signal, both to liberal, agitating churchmen within Rome herself and to ecumenically-minded Protestants, where Rome’s Magisterium stood on this vital matter of Rome’s doctrine of the church. The document amounted to a reiteration of Rome’s dogma that she was and is and forever shall remain Christ’s one, only true church.
If this recent document made nothing else clear, this much has been—no one may labor under the misguided hope that Rome intends to divest herself of one iota of the power that she, over the centuries, has acquired to herself by craft and guile and painful labor.
The document posited five questions concerning the doctrine of the church and gave Rome’s “Responses.” These responses make plain that any spirit of accommodation is foreign to Rome.
The first question was most significant. “Did the Second Vatican Council [of the early 1960s] change the Catholic doctrine of the Church?”
Those who have sought to justify pursuing ecumenical relations with Rome always assured the skeptical that it had.
Well, Benedict XVI and his Magisterium beg to differ. In unambiguous language the “Responses” declare that the Second Vatican Council “neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.”
What is this doctrine of the church that Rome has always asserted and still defends? This, as spelled out in the document’s second answer:
Christ “established here on earth” only one Church . . . in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted . . . . [This Church] subsists in the [Roman] Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.
Such a view leaves precious little room for any other church to claim a biblically valid identity apart from Rome and to justify not being reabsorbed into Rome. Rather, Christ places upon every Christian congregation one solemn calling, to place itself and her members under the apostolic authority of Rome’s “Christ-appointed” Supreme Bishop and his colleagues once again.
That this is precisely what Benedict XVI and his henchmen are saying is plain from the fifth question and its response.
Q. 5 — Why do the text of the Council (of Vatican II) and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century? (emphasis mine — KK)
The Response declares that
. . . . These Communities do not enjoy apostolic [!] succession in the sacrament of [priestly] Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery, cannot . . . be called “Churches” in the proper sense.
Shortly after the document was made public, Benedict XVI declared that churches outside of the Roman Catholic Church are “wounded churches,” because they were not in communion with the Roman papacy.
And how is the wound of separation to be healed?
How else but by reunification with Rome, submitting to the authority of her apostolic clergy, and by partaking of Rome’s eucharistic sacrifice of Christ once again.
Where, pray tell, is there any element of concession in all of this?
One is reminded of that poem about a well-dressed lady in India riding off on the back of a tiger into the jungle with a smile on her face. Not so long afterwards the tiger returned, sans lady, but now with a smile on his face.
To say that the advocates of renewing ecumenical relations with Rome were taken aback by the clarity and candor of Benedict XVI’s language is to put it mildly. Stunned might be a better word. It placed them in an awkward position, to say the least. Their reassuring words about Rome’s openness to change and readiness for biblical renewal were suddenly exposed for what they were, so much blarney.
The simple fact is that those promoting the renewing of ecumenical relations with Rome should not have been surprised by this latest ‘revelation’ out of Rome. Already back in 1970 Rome explained to her clergy the strategy behind its new (spurious) ecumenical policy, a policy according to which Rome had begun expressing an interest in seeking unity with those estranged from her and an openness to dialogue with Protestant churchmen.
Richard Bennett, a former Catholic priest, converted to biblical Christianity in the 1980s (and a man who is simply appalled by what influential Protestant leaders are doing to Reformation truths in the interests of pursuing closer ties with Rome), explains it well:
With . . . . [her] new strategy, the Church of Rome set out to win the world back to herself. This was necessary after the controversial reign of Pious XII [1939-1958] and the uncompromisingly severe image that his pontificate had presented to the world. . . . . [A] main approach was [to be] by dialogue. In 1970, the Catholic Church carefully spelled out the goals and rules of [this] dialogue. The method of incremental advances into Bible believing churches was to be by means of “dialogue,” the purpose of which is clearly stated by the Catholic Church.
And then he quotes the policy of 1970 that lays bare what Rome’s strategy has been all along.
Dialogue is not an end in itself . . . . [I]t is not just an academic discussion. Rather, . . . it serves to transform modes of thought and behavior and the daily life of those communities [non-Catholic churches]. In this way, it aims at preparing the way for their unity of faith in the bosom of a Church one and visible: thus ‘little by little’ [!], as the obstacles to perfect ecclesial communion are overcome, all Christians will be gathered, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, into the unity of the one and only Church [!] which Christ bestowed on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, dwells in the Catholic Church [!] as something she can never lose.
Could anything be clearer? Does Rome have to affix K-Mart’s blinking blue light to her decrees and make an announcement over the intercom what “ecumenicity” she is selling?
How blind and self-deceived can intelligent men be?
And yet, these men of reputation and Reformed knowledge continue to justify modifying (corrupting) the most basic doctrines for Rome’s sake and continue to press for on-going dialogue with Rome’s prelacy.
They, evidently, have convinced themselves that the final victory of the biblical, apostolic faith and gospel, which is to say, Christ’s victory, hinges on unity with Rome.
The Ascended Christ of Revelation 6, who has sent out the great White Horse and its conquering rider, needs Rome?
This is what they would have us believe?
Evidently it is.
And they imagine they honor the Ascended Lord Christ?
One could wish that as the ‘ghost’ of Samuel appeared to King Saul long ago, during a dark period of church history, so the ‘spirits’ of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, to name but three, wrapped yet in the rags of their martyrdom, would appear to James I. Packer and John Stott, to name just two, and ask them, “You are making concessions of doctrines and manner of worship to whom? In the interests of what? And we gave our blood for this? For shame!”
But understand well that our purpose in stating all this is not to marvel at the willful blindness of certain churchmen of stature and reputation. Rather our concern is with the evil they are sowing and what damage they are doing to what is left of Christ’s church on earth by the doctrinal concessions/corruptions they have made as they travel on the road back to Rome (and seeking to lead all of Protestantism with them).
That being so, it might be profitable that we devote at least one more article to this issue of the road back to Rome and make plain just how far those who are now part of the ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) have gone in doctrinal compromise.
It is most interesting, because the doctrinal compromises they have made mesh well with the ‘new’ heresies of the Federal Vision movement as well.
This we intend to address next issue