Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ecumenism is not the same thing as unity

In less than a week religious leaders from around the world and across the religious spectrum will gather in Vatican City under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to discuss marriage. The conference, called Humanum, purports to be "An International Interreligious Colloquium on The Complementarity of Man and Woman". If you read me very often you know that I am a big advocate of complementarianism so surely I am all in favor of this. Actually no. Quite the opposite.

When I examine the speaker list as an American evangelical I see some names I recognize and a lot I don't. At the top of the list that I do recognize are men like: Russell Moore. N.T. Wright. Rick Warren. Johann Arnold, current leader of the Bruderhof. Along with them are a host of men and
women from other religious traditions, or as I like to call them false religions. A whole bunch of Roman Catholic dignitaries who ironically are forced into an unbiblical vow of celibacy and yet are considered authorities on marriage. A top mormon leader. A lot of Muslims. A smattering of more esoteric religious groups. What is glaring from the invitee list is that there are a few people who are Christians and a lot more that are not talking about something that models and demonstrates the New Covenant relationship between Christ and the Church.

An event like this doesn't happen in a vacuum. Like two sides of a sand dune, the dual forces of the cultural religion of America are collapsing at breakneck speed. While "progressives" are racing one another to see who can deny the most central tenets of the Gospel, the "conservatives" are desperately making alliances with unbelievers and blasphemers in a desperate attempt to maintain their political power and influence. As a result many men that I respect and that publically hold to the "right" positions are nevertheless making common cause on issues they would admit are secondary to the Gospel. It is symptomatic of the mindset that compelled Albert Mohler to not once but twice speak to mormons about our common ground. It brings to mind the Manhattan Declaration and other attempts to find common ground where the sole foundation for common ground is absent, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Make no mistake. To speak to people who deny Christ in a framework of the picture of husband and wife as a type of Christ and the church is to put the cart before the horse. Worse yet is for a Christian to attempt to speak on marriage without framing it in that way. You simply cannot truly begin to understand the blessing of marriage apart from the New Covenant relationship with Christ. Sure I loved my wife and cherished her and all of that before I was a Christian but I didn't understand what it meant to be united with her in a complementary relationship and I still am only scratching the surface of how I am to love her like Christ loved the church. Christian marriage as ordained by God is so much more than two people of the opposite sex pledging themselves to one another until death do us part and seeking some sort of fuzzy common ground, lowest common denominator definition and understanding of marriage inevitably diminishes marriage as instituted by our Creator.

Just to clear the air, yes what I am saying here is that Christians corner the market on understanding marriage. No, that doesn't mean that Christians are better at being married, that they make better husbands or wives or that unbelievers can't have fulfilling, loving marriages. It is simply to say that any understanding of marriage apart from the New Covenant in Christ is by definition incomplete and inferior. That sort of talk makes a lot of people twitchy. Too bad. In fact if you don't believe that I might gently suggest that you don't really understand the New Covenant, the eternal purpose of marriage (hint, it ain't about tax breaks and wedding registries) and the grand design of humanity made in the image of God as two distinct, equal, immutable and complementary genders.

Traditional marriage is not the Gospel. Religious liberty, whatever that means, is not the Gospel. Complementarianism is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the Gospel. What is on display here is trying to find unity in spite of the Gospel when the church can only have unity because of the Gospel. That unity is impossible to have with groups, sects and cults that deny that same Gospel that not only saves us but defines marriage for us. Russell Moore, anticipating the objections to his attendance, posted a preemptive strike with his post Why I’m Going to the Vatican. While I don't doubt the sincerity of his words and his conviction, his excuses ring hollow to me. The best thing he could do in an assembly hall full of unbelievers is not to talk about marriage but to preach Christ and Him crucified and call on those present to repent and be baptized. To do anything else is a betrayal of the Great Commission, even if done for the noblest of intentions.

I am going to try to watch and read what I can from this conference because it should be interesting. I suspect that it will be a lot of eloquent speech that amounts to nothing. I hope that in their time in Vatican City my Christian brothers have the opportunity to share the Gospel with the lost among them and that the Holy Spirit would soften those hearts. We can't preach marriage without preaching Christ. I pray that the fruit of this conference is not merely lovely speeches but changed hearts that are turned to Jesus Christ our Lord. 

1 comment:

Aussie John said...


You are so right! Ecumenism is not the same thing as unity.

It would seem that many also believe uniformity is the same as unity!

Both end up like factory carton milk; homogenized and compromised.