In a recent series of articles on Ethika Politika, several well-known evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, wrote of what they would like from Roman Catholics. The articles, titled “What I Want From Catholics,” included a call to action for Roman Catholics to stand firm against secular cultural influences, such abortion, gay marriage–even Communism. One article particularly stood out to me, however, because it show just how willing Southern Baptist are to compromise the integrity of the Gospel to advance a culture war.
In this article, What I Want From Catholics: Save the Drowning, by Bruce Ashford, Professor of Theology and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes:
The differences between Catholics and Protestants are real, and deep, but they must never prevent us from locking arms as we face a disintegrating society and culture. Imagine being on a beach on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and seeing four bystanders risk their lives to rescue a drowning swimmer caught in a dangerous riptide. We find that three of them are rosary-carrying Catholics and the other a strong Bible-believing Southern Baptist. I’m a strong Bible-believing Southern Baptist and I’d be proud of him for joining the others to save the woman. Should Protestants be any less grateful for Catholics who have been lifeguards for a nation caught in a moral riptide? It’s that simple.
So here, Ashford equates locking arms in a spiritual enterprise with working together with people of other faiths on non-faith matters. This is the typical spiel we get from culture-warrior types in the convention. They don’t separate spiritual from secular endeavors. A proper understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 will reveal just how in error this ecumenical practice is. It says,
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? … – 2 Cor 6:14-16
The difference between spiritual endeavors and a common, secular “working together” must be understood.” The phrase, “unequally yoked,” in 2 Cor. 6:14 is “ἑτεροζυγέω,” transliterated “heterozygeō.” It is actually a compound of the two words “ἕτερος” (“heteros”), and “ζυγός” (“zygos”). It was metaphorically used to represent the unequal combining together of working animals, such as a donkey and an ox, to a plow. Because of their differences, these animals would have difficulty accomplishing the task. Paul is primarily speaking to the Church in this letter and he is literally commanding its members not to enter into enter into a formal working partnership, or alliance with unbelievers–specifically those that would cause them to compromise their witness.
But it seems we will never let a good crisis go to waste–or in this case, a good pawn for the culture war. While Ashford sees issues of moral importance as “common ground” between Catholics and Protestants, he fails to address the solution and the serious difference between the Roman Catholic and the Biblical solution. In fact, he levels down the true solution to these (serious) problems we face in our culture to a mere cooperation of works between Protestants and Catholics. He writes,
…an honest assessment reveals that for nearly half a century, Catholics have most often been the ones best prepared to speak to issues like these and have taken the lead in speaking out in the public square. Thank God they have.
But are they the best prepared? Does Ashford really believe that a false religion that holds to a false Gospel and worships a false Christ is really the best prepared to speak to a solution for a sin issue, a fallen humanity issue? How can this be? He continues,
I want them [Catholics] to continue to stand in the public square and speak with moral clarity and conviction. I hope Catholics will continue to produce many of the nation’s most compelling and articulate opponents of abortion and marriage redefinition…God help us Protestants if they do not.
But what moral clarity do they have? How can a religion of unregenerate idolaters that blaspheme our Lord Jesus Christ daily have any moral ground to stand on to speak for Christians on these issues? The Roman Catholic church propagates a false solution to the world’s problem of sin–works. Has the Catholic Church been outspoken against atrocities such as abortion? Sure. But their solution is not centered on the redeeming work of Jesus Christ at the cross. While Catholics may give lip-service to the cross, to them, it’s only a starting point, and it’s up to us to earn our salvation and moral standing with God.
But bible-believing Christians don’t share this false Gospel of works with Roman Catholics. Our solution to sin is the complete and total propitiation of our sins through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, in which produces in those who believe a changed heart, and a desire to be obedient to his commands. It is only through this saving faith of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ that one can expect a fallen world to be saved and reconciled to the father. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) God isn’t going to restore our nation or our culture through a false gospel, or a false Jesus.
However, he writes,
Catholics and Protestants need to prioritize a sturdy and practical ecumenism. As the Southern Baptist theologian Timothy George puts it, we need an “ecumenism of the trenches.”
But what is a “sturdy and practical” ecumenism? Can we practice a “sturdy and practical” ecumenism with Muslims? Muslims are staunchly against homosexuality. Why can’t we join hands with them in the fight against gay marriage? Perhaps we could, and perhaps we could “succeed.” But what have we really changed? Have we changed hearts? Have we made converts and disciples of Christ? No. You can’t cure a cold with aspirin–though it might make you feel a little better. There is no practicality with unbiblical ecumenism. It’s merely a capitulation to the world when we participate in it, and by doing so, we are participating in the sins of the harlot–spreading a false gospel and proclaiming a false Jesus. Ephesians 5:11 says “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Shouldn’t we be calling Roman Catholics to repentance of their continuous idolatry and blasphemy?
Sadly, he finishes,
Ecumenical cooperation on public matters is a perennial need in the Church, but there has never been a more pressing time for such cooperation. The places of cultural power are increasingly occupied by men and women whose creativity and power are exercised in the service of disorder and death rather than order and life. Many of them will not be satisfied until all dissent is quashed. What I want from Catholics is that they continue to hang with us, for if they don’t, we very well may hang separately.
It’s as though he doesn’t understand what disorder and death really are. The Bible says that those who are lost, and unrepentant will perish (Luke 13:3-5) and those who spend eternity in Hell will experience the second death (Revelation 20:14). Do we really want Catholics to “hang with us?” We are supposed to be set apart from the world (Romans 12:2). Let’s be clear, Roman Catholicism is of the world, and of the devil, and if we choose to “hang with them,” we are choosing the devil, and this world. Of course the world isn’t going to be satisfied until all dissent is squashed. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12) Therefore, we must take up the whole armor of God, standing firm, fastened in the belt of truth–not lies.
I, for one, would much rather “hang separately,” than hang together with the forces of darkness on any level. Praise God the reformers did.
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