Evangelicals and
Catholics Together

by John MacArthur

[In March of 1994] fifteen well-known Catholics and evangelicals un veiled a document titled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." The Document reads much like a treaty or formal agreement, and even includes the signatrues of many prominent Catholic and evangelical leaders—leaders whose names you would no doubt recognize.

The essence of the document is simple: The authors and those who endorse it believe Catholics and evangelicals are one in Christ, and should work together as such. They also claim that because both groups are already brothers and sisters in Christ, evangelizing Catholics with the "Protestant" gospel is not only counterproductive, but also a sin—a sin to be confessed and forsaken. And in spite of doctrinal disagreements, the authors insist that what is most important are the parcels of "common ground" between Catholics and evangelicals. Doctrinal differences, they say, should be put aside so both groups can work together as one body. Here are a few examples of the differences they believe you and I should put aside:

The Means of Salvation:

Evangelical doctrine teaches that we are justified freely by grace alone.

Catholic doctrine teaches that justification is a process involving human merit. The Catholic Church has declared that ayone who believes in justification by faith alone is damed.

The Bible:

Evangelical doctrine teaches that the Bible is the only binding authority for all matters of life and godliness.

Catholic doctrine teaches that church tradition and papal authority are just as binding as the Bible.

Worship:

Evangelical doctrine teaches that our triune God alone is worthy of worship, the sole audience of our prayers, and the only object of our praise and adoration.

Catholic doctrine encourages prayers and adoration offered to Mary and other saints.

Regardless of which side of those doctrinal issues you find yourself, if you're honest, you must face two unavoidable conclusions. First, the issues at stake—issues regarding how you are saved, whether your final spiritual authority is God's Word, and whom you worship—are foundational truths on which the eternal destiny of your soul hangs. Second, you must conclude that both sides cannot be right. The two belief systems cannot be reconciled: For one to be right, the other must necessarily be wrong, and wrong about the most crucial issue of all—what we must do to be saved.

Of course, talk about right and wrong beliefs isn't popular. In a day like ours, when intolerance for another person's views is considered the worst possible sin, it's tempting to look for common ground and compromise the issues that divide us. Bringing up doctrinal differences is usually considered unloving, mean-spirited, or divisive. Unity at all cost has become the battle cry of today's church.

Yet the doctrinal conflict between Catholics and evangelicals is neither superficial nor negotiable. The biblical teaching about salvation is a matter of eternal life or eternal condemnation. During the reformation, countless men and women gave their lives rather than deny the biblical truths about salvation. Those same precious truths deemed worth dying for have now been quietly overthrown.

Yes, I long for unity in the body of Christ. But let's define "the body of Christ" like Scripture does. If a person misunderstands the gospel, bases his salvation on his own merit or self-effort, and nullifies the grace of God, how can we consider him part of the body? The starting point of unity is not compromise and tolerance. Unity begins with truth and genuine faith in Christ, as and women come to know Him on His own terms.

As a pastor of God's flock, would I be more loving, kind, and caring if I silently allowed people to believe a false gospel and spend eternity separated from God? Is the contrived, temporal unity the Catholic-evangelical accord proposes worth that dreadful price? Would God have us set aside the gospel of grace to avoid causing offense, when that is precisely the reaction He promised the gospel would bring? On the contrary, we should lovingly and biblically plead with those who reject the gospel of grace, showing them that Christ's is a narrow road, one built on grace through faith in Him.


Taken from a public letter


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