A Voice in the
When ECTs (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) 1 & 2 came out, many Christians voiced objections. How can evangelicals, who claim to be "Christian" join with Catholics, whose doctrines are so divergent from Biblical Faith? And yet, the current push to "unite" everybody, drove many evangelicals to jump on that bandwagon.
Now, a new statement, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: an Evangelical Celebration", has been composed; by evangelicals, for evangelicals. A defining of -what- the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. The "good news" of salvation. In the July "Berean Call" newsletter, Tom McMahon expresses being "..thrilled at reading GJC's affirmations of the true gospel.."
However, this new statement is even more Eternally Deadly than its predecessors because of its deception! As good as it appears initially, it omits one primary key, without which, nobody can be saved. It contains 99% Truth. And that Truth is presented quite clearly; albeit, with some contradictions to itself. But, without the 1% which is lacking, a person will never 'reach' the other 99%. Without that 1%, this document is Most Deadly! But it is insidiously deceptive, because the 99% is so good in its own "wordy" kind of way...and most people won't even notice that the 1% is missing.
They omit "..repentance to salvation.." (2Cor7:10) We'll come back to this.
First of all, however, let us consider this document. It is introduced in the June14,99 "Christianity Today" by CT editor David Neff. The stated purpose in compiling GJC was to arrive at a "broad consensus on the gospel and join in a common statement." That there are all these historical creeds and catechisms, and that evangelicals have forgotten what they believe. So as evangelicals contact and collaborate with "the historic churches" we need to..."recapture the gospel". That this is the only way to "find" unity. If we are going to be uniting with everybody (as others state it, "unity in diversity"), we need to know what -our- particular distinctives are.
The question that comes to mind is, "why is yet another -statement- needed?" People are so busy learning and reciting creeds, and "catechizing" their children, a person wonders what place the Scriptures have in their lives? (Ps119:9-11,105,etc) Paul wrote to Timothy that "all Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine [that which we believe]..." (2Tm3:16a) When people lean on creeds, resolutions, statements they are trusting in -people-; the people who drafted these documents. [For more on this, please see at VW's website under Q/As, "Statements of Faith" (Feb27,99)]
So, what is a "broad consensus"? The true Gospel of Christ is not a "consensus"! God did not enjoin a committee to dialogue and debate as to what Truth may be, or what we -think- the Bible says about it! God enjoined the prophets to proclaim, "Thus says the LORD". GJC states that when there are doctrinal differences that it "calls for debate." That Scripture exhorts us to "be of one mind WHEREVER POSSIBLE." [emphasis added] Jesus did not pray that "they may be one" WHEREVER POSSIBLE! (Jn17:20-21) Paul did not exhort us to be "like-minded...being of one accord and of one mind" IF IT'S POSSIBLE. (Phil2:2) Nor did he tell the Corinthians to "speak the same thing..in the same mind and in the same judgment [doctrine]" if they could get their committee together and dialogue their way to a BROAD CONSENSUS! (1Cor1:10)
"Recapture the gospel"? Was it lost? To "find" unity? They are actually unwittingly confessing that the evangelical movement is not saved! If people haven't known for sure what they believe, which is why they are compiling this document; how can they be saved? Paul affirmed, "I KNOW Whom I have believed, and I am PERSUADED..[of things regarding salvation]." (2Tm1:12) When Jesus cried out, "it is finished!" (Jn19:30) He completed the work "that they may be one" (Jn17) that He had prayed about. He accomplished "unity" as all believers are reconciled together to God. (Eph2:16) Their admission to needing to "find" unity, means they don't have it. They are not in Christ.
However, we are assured that the drafters of this document are "experts in the gospel". That this document represents a "synthesis of the Reformation's recovery of biblical truth". Was Biblical Truth 'lost'? MEN looking to the works of other MEN; many of those men having been in error. But Mr. Neff suggests that GJC is "key to our Christian identity". I thought our "identity" is "in Christ"! (2Cor5:17) Because we are "looking unto Jesus..." (Heb12:2)
But you'll be 'happy' (!!) to know that it is receiving "broad acceptance" among many people and many denominations, including those that have been traditionally "liberal". Let's see... of the "broad" way, Jesus said that the "many" who go there, go "to destruction". (Mt7:13)
First of all, let us highlight the topics this document covers fairly accurately. Regarding Jesus Christ they proclaim His Deity, humanity, perfection, death, resurrection. That salvation comes -only- through the work of Christ. That there is nothing man can do to achieve salvation on his own merits or works. They speak of man's sinful state, being separated from God, having no merit, being deserving of eternal punishment. That salvation comes through God's grace, justification, reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, imputation. That when a person is saved they receive remission of sins, turn from darkness to light, become a new creature; and although not stated directly, they imply the new birth. That a person must receive salvation as a gift, by faith. That after salvation the Believer is ever growing in sanctification and holiness, to good works, to be more Christ-like. They coin a new descriptive expression of being "savingly related to Jesus."
They also make a -claim- to believing that this is the "only gospel", that there is no other. That anything else perverts the gospel. They -claim- to believe in God's "written" and "infallible" Word.
Which brings us to the problems. While these fundamental doctrines are presented, they also contradict themselves. They state that we "cannot have doctrinal relativism, pluralism by which God's truth is sacrificed for a false peace." This sounds wonderful, and will lure in the staunchest of fundamentalists. But the very next paragraph states, "Doctrinal disagreements call for debate, dialogue for mutual understanding, and...narrowing of differences." Where this document lists the Scripturally sound beliefs, they include -many- supportive Scripture references. For -this- point about 'dialogue' they do not.
This is the tactic I have come to recognize from false teachers. As we have noted in the past, most false teaching includes a -lot- of Truth. Even demon worship and the occult -contains- a lot of truth. The false teachers will proclaim -truth-. A lot of it. They will support it with Scripture. They will continue along, mesmerizing the hearer/reader with all these Scripture references. And then, WHAM...they slip in their false doctrine. Their own ideas. And of course, since it is false, there is no supportive Scripture. But the hearer doesn't notice, because all these -other- points have been Scripturally supported, and so the false teaching -joins- the rest.
Holding to a position of no "relativism" nor "pluralism" would seem to indicate a firm "thus says the Lord". A teaching that has been given from God. Once "dialogue" and "mutual understanding" come into play, it becomes "man's ideas", by the very definition of such a process! Paul asked, "For now do I persuade men, or God?" (Gal1:10) Whenever dialogue occurs, people are attempting to persuade others to see -their- point of view. And this is how they are "desiring to pervert the gospel of Christ." (Gal1:7) Paul is quite clear about anyone bringing something "beside what you have received" as being "accursed". (vs8-9) Rather than "dialogue", what people need to do is spend more time in the Scriptures! (2Tm3:14-17) If they were to do so, there would be no need for their comment about the gospel "as evangelicals understand it". They would -KNOW- "Thus says the Lord." After all, they -claim- to believe that the "written" Word is "infallible".
They -deny- that the "gospel derives from any human insight or invention.." They -deny- that "there is more than one true gospel." So, when they advocate "debate" when there are "differences" what are they saying? Debate, by its very nature -is- "human insight". They don't speak of "going to the Scriptures" to see what God might say about a matter, like the Jews at Berea who were commended because they "searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so." (Acts17:11) Instead, they tout the fact that GJC finds agreement in the "Reformation confessions and creeds". These, of course, being other 'man-made' documents.
While there are other things we could nit-pick at, let us now address the PRIMARY PROBLEM.
How does one actually -OBTAIN- salvation? They correctly include "Faith in Christ" and "receiving" it as a gift. But they make an interesting couple of comments. Regarding the "imputation of Christ's righteousness" they say, "All we bring to the transaction is our need of it." That all we can do is to "acknowledge" our sin and our "need" for salvation.
Simple "need" does NOT bring salvation. We know that "all the world lies in evil" (1Jn5:19) and "needs" to be saved, but the whole world is not saved, nor -will- it be. The blind men crying out to the "Son of David" had a "need", but Jesus did not automatically 'zap' them into sight. He asked them, "What do you desire that I should do to you?" (Mt20:32) He was not asking this question because He 'didn't know'. No. He required of them to -state- their need, and -request- sight.
We said earlier that they do not proclaim "repentance to salvation". However, the word "repentance" does appear three times. Their use of the word is in connection with "looking to Him in repentance and hope for empowering through the Holy Spirit" ...so that we don't sin. In other words, 'repentance for sanctification'. They also speak of the "conformity to Christ's image through prayer, repentance, cross bearing..life in the Spirit." They are using the word "repentance" where Scripture typically teaches "confession" (1Jn1:9) and becoming "renewed in the spirit of your mind" (Eph4:23) and "renewal of the Holy Spirit." (Tit3:5) Where they use "repentance" in the manner they do, they again did not include any supportive Scriptures in two cases, and in the third, the Scriptures did not support their use of the word. A tactic for 'confusion'. They've included the word, so nobody can claim they left it out, because they know that some of us will be looking for it; but they use it wrong. And the way they use it confuses the reader; and when somebody proclaims Biblical repentance for salvation, this false teaching has preconditioned the mind that repentance is a "work". And so they will reject "repentance for salvation" because salvation is "not of works." (Eph2:9)
[For in-depth teaching on this subject, the reader is directed to the VW website Jan,99 commentary "Only Believe...?" ...and the follow-up links that branch out from it ("Last Domino..." and "Reformers & 'Sola Fide'").]
To merely "acknowledge" a "need" for salvation is no different than the neighbors I knew years ago, whose "oil light" came on as they were driving down the freeway. They -saw- the light. They -knew- there was a problem. They knew they -needed- to get more oil in their engine. But they continued driving, hoping to make it to the next exit. Well, they didn't make it. The engine froze up. The -need- and -acknowledgment- did not get any oil into that engine.
Many people come to a point where they -know- they are sinners. Like my ex-wife, they know that they are "dark" -inside-. They can -believe- that Jesus came and died on the cross for -their- sin. They can believe, as many churches proclaim, that Christ "rose" from the dead. But they are not saved.
Many people think that all they need to do is "invite Jesus into their lives." As though such a thing is a "good idea" to do. And then they wonder why they have struggles ridding themselves of the sin in their life, why they don't desire to read God's Word, that they still get along with their old friends in their sin. They are not saved!
This GJC speaks of the Great Commission. Jesus' command to "make disciples" and proclaim the gospel to others. But they do not indicate the -MESSAGE- Jesus instructed that should be proclaimed. Without this message Jesus commanded, people will not get saved!
Here it is:
They proclaim Christ's death, resurrection... and faith in Christ. But they omit "repentance" right out of the middle.
This repentance we speak of is not for -all-the-sins- along the way. Oh, I lied! I'm sorry I lied! I hurt you. Oh, I'm sorry... will you forgive me? No. This is repentance of "being -in- sin". The psalmist says, "in sin did my mother conceive me." (Ps51:5) That is the sin -nature- which we inherited from Adam. (1Cor15:22) When a person -merely- "invites" Jesus "into their life" there is no "abhorrence of self". (Job42:6) A person can be "cool" and think of Jesus as a "cool guy" with Whom to be "buddies". But that is not salvation. It is not a recognition and repugnance of one's own state of being, when confronted by God's holiness. (Is6:1-5)
When a person truly repents before God, they despise and repudiate their own -self-. (Lk18:13a) This is hardly a "work". Any more than appearing before a judge in a court of law is a "work". God is on the "bench" to pass judgment. The sinner stands before the judge, guilty and condemned. The Judge asks, "does the accused have any final words before I pass sentence?" The accused does the only thing he can, and pleads for "mercy of the court". (Lk18:13b) THAT... is "repentance". If the accused pleads "not guilty" or doesn't even show up in court to answer the summons because he has "faith" that he is OK, a warrant is issued for his arrest...and he's thrown "into outer darkness". (Mt22:13) But the one who pleads for mercy, can then experience "imputation" of Christ's righteousness. (Rom4:22-24) Christ is sitting at the Judge's "right hand" (Rom8:34) and says, My blood covers the debt for his "eternal redemption" (Heb9:12) for "whoever believes". (Jn3:16) So the judge turns to the condemned one (Jn6:44) and says, Jesus offers to pay your debt. Is this agreeable to you? At which point, the condemned says, Yes, I "receive Him". (Jn1:12) ...at which point...all the things contained in the GJC document "go into effect". Justification, redemption, new birth, hope of eternal life, etc. And these things are done -by- God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, without any -input- on our part. And the Clerk of Court, the Holy Spirit, stamps (seals -Eph1:13) the case file -JUSTIFIED-. (Lk18:14, Rom3:24)
Scriptures proclaim: "repent and turn from your idols" (Ez14:6), "repentance for the remission of sins" (Mk1:4), "repent, and believe the gospel" (Mk1:15) [notice that repentance comes -before- Faith and/or the gospel], "..to call..sinners to repentance" (Mk2:17), "..proclaimed that all men should repent" (Mk6:12), "..unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Lk13:3), "repent..to remission of sins" (Acts2:38), "repent and convert so that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts3:19), "repentance to life" (Acts11:18), "God..commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts17:30), "the command to repent and turn to God" (Acts26:20), "the kindness of God leads you to repentance" (Rom2:4), "repentance to salvation" (2Cor7:10), "The Lord [wills]...that all should come to repentance" (2Pt3:9), "repent, repent, repent, repent, repent". (Rev2&3)
The way this document is put together it summarizes the basic doctrines of the fundamentalist apostasy of the past 30-or-more years. It is my firm conviction that this document was created for the specific purpose of drawing the rest of the evangelical-fundamental "stragglers" in to the push-for-unity 'fold' of the One World Religion. When I first heard about it a couple months ago and read the promotional piece, in my spirit I knew this would be the case, before I ever saw it. Now that I have, I realize that this is the final deceptive "bait" for those final hold-outs who will nibble. The only 'concern' TBC's McMahon expressed was the fact that so many of ECT's signers also signed GJC, and their 'catholic' connections. I hope he (or Dave Hunt) will rethink this matter! It contains so much truth -- but -IS- a LIE! ...an invitation to Hell!