The most significant event in almost 500 years of church history took place March 29, 1994. Leading evangelicals and Catholics signed a joint declaration, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the 3rd Millennium." The document overturns the Reformation and does incalculable damage to the cause of Christ. The news release said:
They toiled together in the movements against abortion and pornography, and now leading Catholics and evangelicals are asking their flocks for a remarkable leap of faith: to finally accept each other as Christians...[E]vangelicals including Pat Robertson and Charles Colson joined with conservative Roman Catholic leaders today in upholding the ties of faith that bind [them]....They urged Catholics and evangelicals...to stop aggressive proselytization of each other's flocks.
John White, president of Geneva College and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the statement represents a "triumphalistic moment" in American religious life....
Other evangelical endorsers include the heads of the Home Mission Board and Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, and Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ...Mark Noll of Wheaton University...[Os Guinness, Jesse Miranda (Assemblies of God), Richard Mouw (President, Fuller Seminary), J.I. Packer and Herbert Schlossberg].
Robert Simonds, Southern California chairman of the National Association of Evangelicals, "applauded the declaration" and said he hopes it will bring "increased cooperation between evangelicals and Catholics...." But the fruit of such "cooperation" has not been good in the past. Evangelicals working beside Catholics, Mormons, Moonies, et al., for common social or political aims (for example, in Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition) will not witness to their "partners in action" for fear of offending them and breaking up the coalition. Such compromise laid the foundation for this alliance—a development monitored closely and approved by the Vatican.
I neither impugn the motives nor question the salvation of the evangelical signers. Yet I believe the document represents the most devastating blow against the gospel in at least 1,000 years. Already the declaration is being "translated into Spanish, Polish, Portuguese and Russian for circulation throughout Latin America and Eastern Europe." Soon it will have a revolutionary impact worldwide.
Having carefully read the 25-page fifth draft marked "Not for general circulation," I appreciate the loving concern for both truth and unity expressed therein. Some key differences between Catholics and evangelicals are noted without compromise. But the most important difference—what it means to be saved—is not mentioned and, in fact, is directly denied.
Amazingly, the document claims that all Catholics are Christians, hold the same faith as evangelicals, and are our "brothers and sisters in Christ." If so, then the Reformation was a tragic mistake which we all must denounce! On this sad juncture in church history, the last words of Hugh Latimer ring in our conscience. Bound back-to-back to the stake with Nicholas Ridley, Latimer, England's most effective gospel preacher at that time, was heard to exclaim as the flames engulfed them, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day, by God's grace, light such a candle in England as I pray shall never be put out." How incredible that the last spark of that Reformation "candle" is now being extinguished by evangelical leaders who owe so much to the very faithfulness of such martyrs!
For 1,000 years before the Reformation, there were always groups of evangelical Christians outside the Catholic Church, millions of whom were slaughtered for obeying Scripture instead of Rome. Pope Pius III killed 60,000 in one day when his forces wiped out the entire town of Beziers, France, an act which he considered the "crowning achievement of his papacy." Martin Luther acknowledged his debt to these earlier martyrs:
We are not the first to declare the papacy to be the kingdom of antichrist, since for many years before us so many and such great men (whose number is large and whose memory is eternal) have undertaken to express the same thing so clearly and plainly.
Through the example of these Vaudois, Albigenses, Waldenses and other early evangelicals, and from the Bibles they preserved, a few Roman Catholic priests and monks realized that their Church didn't preach the truth and that they and their fellow Catholics were not saved, but lost. Men like John Wyclif (1329-84), Jan Hus (1373-1415) and Johannes Geiler von Kaysersberg (1445-1510) believed the gospel and began preaching it. They hoped their Church could be reformed. In response, Rome consigned many of these faithful gospel preachers to the flames. Later Luther and other Reformers, all Roman Catholics, also became convinced that neither they nor their fellow Catholics were saved. They began preaching salvation by grace through faith instead of Catholicism's false gospel of sacramental rituals and works. For this they were excommunicated and untold thousands more were martyred.
Such is the heritage of today's evangelicals, which this document now rejects. We are asked to believe that the Reformers were deluded, that like all active Catholics today they were saved but didn't know it; the tens of millions of Catholics who since then have received Christ by faith alone and left the Catholic Church have also been deceived; the whole evangelical church of today is equally deluded about what it means to be a Christian. Colson, Robertson, Bright, et al. have revised both history and doctrine.
Evangelicals would decry the complacent attitude that everyone raised in and/or attending a Protestant church is a Christian. Lost sinners need to be saved. How, then, did leading evangelicals decide that all active Catholics are Christians and must not hereafter be evangelized? The agreement states that both Catholics and evangelicals accept the Apostles' Creed: that Christ "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." That creed, however, does not express the gospel that saves (Rom:1:16): that "Christ died for our sins (1 Cor:15:3). Mormons affirm the Apostles' Creed, but they aren't Christians. Nor does affirming it make Catholics (or Protestants) Christians.
Catholicism's false gospel hasn't changed. It diametrically opposes the evangelical view of what Christ's crucifixion and forgiveness of sins mean. Let me quote from Vatican II, Flannery's Edition, Vol. 1 (the same teaching is affirmed by the new universal Catechism of the Catholic Church just released by the Vatican). This is what Catholicism teaches and Catholics believe and practice today:
Christ's death earned "satisfactions and merits" which have been deposited into a "Treasury" to which have been added "the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary [and] the prayers and good works of all the saints [beyond what they needed for their own salvation].
From the most ancient times in the Church good works were also offered to God for the salvation of sinners.... Indeed, [by] the prayers and good works of holy people...the penitent was washed, cleansed and redeemed....Following in Christ's steps, those who believe in him have always...carried their crosses to make expiation for their own sins and the sins of others. They were convinced that they could [by such good works and sacrifices] help their brothers to obtain salvation from God....(pp 64-66)
Out of this "treasury of the Church" salvation/redemption is dispensed in installments by the Catholic clergy through the seven sacraments. One never passes "from death to life" (Jn:5:24) but is always earning salvation with the Church's help. In fact, excommunication is the penalty for saying one is saved and knows he has eternal life through faith in Christ's finished work. The very heart of the gospel which evangelicals affirm is denied by Catholicism in all its creeds, catechisms, canons and decrees and dogmas, and those who dare to affirm it are anathematized. Vatican II's first page declares,
For it is the liturgy [sacramental rituals] through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is accomplished.
So redemption/salvation is in process of being effected by Church sacraments. But Paul wrote, "In whom we have [present possession, an accomplished fact through Christ] redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Eph:1:7; Col:1:14). Hebrews:9:12 says, "...by his own blood he entered in once [for all time] into the holy place [heaven], having obtained eternal redemption for us." Redemption is finished! But that truth is consistently and insistently denied.
Even Christ's death is an ongoing process, so the Mass is not a remembrance of a finished work but a sacrifice which obtains forgiveness of sins and from which "graces and merits" flow in partial installments. This is from the Pocket Catholic Dictionary:
The Mass is a truly propitiatory sacrifice [by which] the Lord is appeased [and]...pardons wrongdoings and sins.... Finally the Mass is the divinely ordained means of applying the merits of Calvary. Christ won for the world all the graces it needs for salvation and sanctification. But these blessings are conferred gradually and continually...mainly through the Mass....The priest is indispensable, since he alone by his powers can change the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ....the more often the sacrifice [of the Mass] is offered the more benefit is conferred [i.e.; Calvary wasn't enough] (pp 248-49).
The Mass continues to transmit installments of grace even after one has died, as relatives buy "Mass cards" which are laid upon the altar during Mass in the name of the deceased in order to shorten purgatorial suffering. Christ's death couldn't get us to heaven, but Masses, Hail Marys, good works, "bearing one's cross" for others, etc. will do so. Earned "indulgences" also shorten time in purgatory. Charles Colson says indulgences are no longer part of Catholicism (The Body, p 271). In fact, Vatican II devotes 17 pages to indulgences (pp 62-79) and anathematizes anyone who rejects that doctrine (p 71)!
"But surely you don't deny that some Catholics are saved!" is the objection when one presents the truth about Catholicism. That some Catholics may be saved is possible, but that is a far cry from this document's implication that all are saved. And to be saved, a Catholic would have to believe the true gospel and reject Catholicism's false gospel. One can't believe two contradictory propositions at the same time: one can't believe Christ obtained redemption through His blood and also believe redemption is being accomplished through Catholic liturgy; one can't believe salvation is by faith and "not of works" and at the same time believe that good works earn salvation (see quote above).
Paul declared that "all have sinned" (Rom:3:23) and need to be "saved" from God's eternal judgment upon sinners. He also insisted that one can be saved only by believing "the gospel of Christ" (Rom:1:16). The early church "turned the world upside down" (Acts:17:6) with the preaching of this gospel, a gospel which Roman Catholicism has denied for 1,500 years.
I have been in contact with thousands of Catholics who were saved and left that Church. Not one ever heard the true gospel preached there. Not one was saved by being a Catholic, but by believing a gospel which is anathema to Catholics. In a recent survey of 2,000 homes in Spain only two Protestants knew the gospel, while 1,998 Catholics thought good works, church attendance, etc. would get them to heaven. In their 15 years of evangelizing in Spain, missionaries with whom I spoke had never met one Catholic who was saved or who knew how to be saved. Knowing that these millions of Catholics are lost causes evangelicals there to work day and night to bring them the gospel!
And now we are asked to refrain from sharing the gospel with those who desperately need it, and to assume them already saved, when their own doctrines forbid this assurance. It is outrageous that leading evangelicals have placed nearly 25 percent of the world's population off limits for evangelization! Missionaries must now leave Catholic countries such as Spain, Italy and those in Latin America—such is the tragic implication of this document!
Paul told the Philippian jailer that if he would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (that is, personally put his faith in Him as His Savior who had died for His sins and risen again) he would be saved. That being "saved" was a once-for-all transformation effected by placing one's complete trust for eternity in the finished work of Christ alone has been proclaimed by generations of preachers such as Wesley, Whitefield, Spurgeon and Moody and by missionary giants such as C.T. Studd, Hudson Taylor and David Livingstone. We are now being told, however, that such men and women who gave their lives to bring the gospel to the lost wasted their time if they preached to Catholics. Tell that to the millions of ex-Catholics who thank God with tears that someone loved them enough to tell them the truth!
Instead of rejoicing in these souls being saved, Colson says he and others had become "distressed by the clashes arising from the growth of evangelical Protestantism in traditionally Catholic Latin America and, more recently, in traditionally Catholic or Eastern Orthodox areas of Central Europe and Russia." Go to Latin America, Mr. Colson, and see the paganism and spiritism mixed with Catholicism! See the tragedy of souls by the millions going into a Christless eternity because they have been deceived by Roman Catholicism! Thank God that millions of Catholics are accepting the gospel and now know they have eternal life (1 Jn:5:13)! Yet the signers of this treacherous document denounce the conversions of Catholics and ask us to stop rescuing them from hell!
We have warned of growing ecumenism, explained the difference between the false works gospel of Catholicism and the biblical gospel, and exposed the growing unity between Catholics and the very evangelicals who have signed this agreement. I have sent photocopies of pertinent sections from Vatican II, Trent and catechisms to some of these men, with no response to the issues. They cannot be excused on the grounds of ignorance.
The most tragic result of this historic development will be to prevent the gospel from being presented to lost millions who have now been wrongly reclassified by evangelical leaders as Christians. A disaster of almost equal proportions will result from this document’s endorsement of Catholicism’s false gospel, thereby encouraging multitudes to believe it. Unless we speak up boldly, the much needed warnings against some of Satan’s cleverest lies will be silenced.
If we truly love lost souls about us, no matter what their religious affiliation, we will increase our efforts to bring them the truth of the gospel before it is forever too late. Pray with us that TBC will be used mightily to bring lost souls everywhere into the light of the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us together stand firm against the spiritual darkness which threatens to extinguish the candle that martyrs like Latimer and Ridley so faithfully lit. TBC