Updated November 22, 2006 (first published March 29, 1997) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org) -
One of the theme songs of the ecumenical movement is “God is destroying denominational lines.” This, of course, is one of the stated goals of the Promise Keepers movement. They are breaking down the walls between denominations. This is a gross error that ignores the reason for such divisions. While some divisions between Christians are manmade and unnecessary, many others, most, in fact, are doctrinal.
Why, for example, is an Episcopal church different from an independent Baptist church? They have different doctrine. One teaches baptismal regeneration; the other, that baptism is symbolic only. One baptizes infants; the other practices believer’s baptism. One sprinkles; the other immerses. One has a priesthood; the other has pastors and deacons. One has a hierarchical church structure; the other practices the autonomy of the assembly. One interprets prophecy literally and is looking for the imminent return of Jesus Christ; the other interprets prophecy symbolically and is working to establish the kingdom of God on earth. One allows its leaders and members to hold every sort of heresy and immorality; the other (generally speaking) practices discipline and separation.
What is the difference between an Assemblies of God congregation and an independent Baptist church? Again, it is doctrine. One believes the baptism of the Holy Spirit is subsequent to salvation and is something the believer must seek and that its manifestation is tongues-speaking; the other believes the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred at Pentecost and that every believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit when he is saved. One believes the sign gifts are operative today; the other believes the sign gifts were given to the apostles and ceased with their passing. One believes the Holy Spirit “slays” people; the other, that “spirit slaying” is unscriptural. One believes the gift of tongues is operative today; the other, that the gift of tongues had a temporary purpose that ceased in the first century. One believes salvation can be lost; the other, that salvation is eternally secure. One believes ecumenical unity is the work of the Holy Spirit; the other believes ecumenical unity is the work of the devil.
Those who call for the removal of denominational divisions are ignoring these serious doctrinal differences. Any Bible doctrine worth believing is worth fighting for.
When Paul wrote to Timothy to instruct him in the work of the Lord, he did not tell him to “lighten up” and to ignore doctrinal differences. He solemnly instructed him to remain absolutely steadfast in the apostolic doctrine and not to allow ANY other doctrine to be taught.
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach NO OTHER DOCTRINE” (1 Timothy 1:3).
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, THE SAME commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
The believer is instructed to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). There is not a hint here or anywhere else in Scripture that some part of the Christian faith is of such little importance that it is to be disregarded for the sake of a broader unity.
Those who have the most to lose from the ecumenical call to dissolve denominational walls are those whose doctrine is based upon the Word of God.