Ecumenicism

This is the organized attempt to bring about cooperation and unity among Christian groups.  This is healthy and stimulating but there will be a challenge to, and the possible compromise of beliefs. It is essential to know and not deviate from the Bible based foundational doctrines. However, there should be cooperation between various groups as there is so much in common in the core essentials of the Christian faith, without getting into controversial and divisive topics. The emphasis should be on teamwork – what unites, not the differences of interpreting the Bible teachings and its practical outworking, which tend to divide.

Jesus prayed that His followers would “be one, as He and the Father were” (Jn 17:20-22). With such unity God is glorified and this is a powerful witness to the unsaved (Ps 133:1). However, in such groupings there may be those who advocate for this coming together who do not hold to what the Bible says about the nature and work of Christ. Many people claim to be ‘Christian’ yet deny or diminish the fundamentals of the Christian faith, such as the inspiration and authority of the Bible (2 Tim 3:16); the exclusive nature of salvation in Christ (Jn 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5); the total dependence upon God’s grace, apart from human works, for salvation (Rom 3:24,28: Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8,9); and whose lives do not reflect godly values (Phil 3:17-19).

For true ‘oneness of spirit’ there must consensus (with the Bible as the supreme authority) on how a person is saved, how the issue of sin is dealt with, the work of Christ on the cross, the priesthood of believers, etc. While there may be sincere views held about the validity of a project or good cause there can be irreconcilable and fundamental differences of belief that will cause major problems to emerge in its outworking. The Bible asks, "Can two walk together unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3).

Between theologically diverse groups there will normally be common ground held on such topics as pro-life issues, family values, a desire for world justice and compassion for the disadvantaged and sick.  Many other groups and individuals also have these social values and while it may seem logical to pool resources in pursuit of a common cause, the methods to achieve these goals may be far from Christian in theology and moral character. Because there is no agreement of doctrine, the unity can only be directed to the outward transformation of society. Addressing humanitarian problems is good, but any such action should always be done with a view to earning a hearing for the gospel. The mission of the Christian, in obedience to Christ, is to make disciples (Mt 28:19). If the claims of Christ can’t be presented in this setting then it is futile to be involved. 

As Biblical Christians, our focus should be on the inner man, bringing that into right relationship with God. We are to let our light shine with the proclamation of the gospel our top priority in our interaction with the world, with whatever we do, done with the motive to bring Him glory (Mt 5:16, 28:1-20; 1 Cor 2:2, 10:31; Eph 2:1-3; Col 1:17). The Bible’s approach is to first establish the inner foundation of connection to God through faith in Christ (which must be continually reinforced), this then provides the basis from which to reach out to the needs of society.

Thus while we should join with other churches and groups in the pursuit of God’s Kingdom this should not come at the expense of doctrinal compromise on core Christian belief, or a watering-down of the gospel which should be at the heart of all we do.

See also: compromise, co-operation, division, interfaith movements, non-negotiable, pluralism, unity.



 


Copyright © 2022 Bible Dictionary. All rights reserved. Website design by fuel.