I was wondering when it would happen. It is grossly inconsistent for evangelicals to fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church, with its sacramental gospel and wafer-christ and Queen of Heaven and Holy Father, AND NOT to fellowship with Mormons. If the Roman Catholic, with his false christ and false gospel, can be accepted as a fellow believer, why not the Mormon?
Now this inconsistency is being addressed.
Prominent “evangelical” leaders met on March 10, 2011, with Mormons in Salt Lake City for a “dialogue” in search of better understanding. The evangelicals include Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Craig Williford, president of Trinity International University; Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary; and David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today. Anderson said, “We hope this time of dialogue with LDS leaders will deepen our understanding of the Mormon faith and contribute to the ongoing work of evangelicals in Utah” (“Evangelicals, Mormon,” Christian Post, March 10, 2011).
This is a continuation of something that began several years ago.
An “EVENING OF FRIENDSHIP” in the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle on November 14, 2004, featured several evangelicals who are calling for a better understanding of and relationship with Mormons. Ravi Zacharias was the main speaker. He was joined by Richard Mouw (president of Fuller Seminary), Craig Hazen (a professor at Biola University), Joseph Tkach, Jr., head of the World Wide Church of God, and Michael Card (Contemporary Christian musician).
Roughly 7,000 attended the meeting, filling the Tabernacle to capacity and overflowing into another room. Reports said the crowd was about half Mormon and half non-Mormon.Note the term “friendship” in the title of the meeting.
The event was co-sponsored by Standing Together Ministries and the Richard L. Evans Chair for Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University. Standing Together was formed in 2001 by “evangelical” preacher, Greg Johnson. It is “an organization established to build stronger unity between Evangelical churches in Utah, and greater dialogue between Evangelical Christians and Latter-day Saints.” Johnson has traveled extensively to conduct “dialogues” with Mormon professor Robert Millet of Brigham Young University.
Johnson is the one who envisioned the meeting, invited Ravi Zacharias, and was instrumental in getting permission from the First Presidency of the LDS Church to hold the meeting in the Mormon Tabernacle. Johnson, Millet, and Zacharias met this summer in Atlanta to discuss the meeting.
Johnson is a radical ecumenist. His web site says his “vision” is “uniting Christians for Greater Spiritual Impact.” It also says, “We affirm that there is one Church in Utah that meets in various locations,” and, “Unprecedented unity will contribute to healthier local churches and transformed lives by the thousands. The first “ministry focus” listed is “Uniting the Body.” Johnson’s web site describes him as “passionate about building bridges of relationship and dialogue with the predominant religious culture found in Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or better known as the Mormon Church. Johnson was instrumental in getting Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary and Steve Robinson of Brigham Young University together to “dialogue” and the result was a
book titled “How Wide the Divide,” which concluded that the divide between Mormons and Bible-believing Christians is not as wide as formerly thought.
WHO WILL BENEFIT?
It should be obvious that the only reason that Mormon leaders would allow such an event to be held in its Salt Lake Tabernacle is that they were convinced that it will benefit them and help in their ongoing effort to be become more mainstream. Rauni Higley and her husband are former Mormons and have been ministering to Mormons in Utah for 22 years. Mrs. Higley was converted to Mormonism in 1963 in Finland. After moving to Salt Lake City she worked as a translator and interpreter for Mormon leaders for 14 years. Mr. Higley was a sixth-generation Mormon. He served in leadership positions such as Elder Quorum President, Sunday School teacher, and High Councilman. The Higleys were saved through biblical faith in Jesus Christ and in May 1983 had their names removed from the Mormon Church roles. They have ministered the Gospel to Mormons in Utah ever since.
When the Higleys learned of the meeting, they wrote to Ravi Zacharias and warned him not to participate, because they understand how the Mormon Church thinks and operates. In an e-mail to me dated November 28, Mrs. Higley said: “Ravi received his invitation from the First Presidency of the LDS Church! They would not have invited him had they had even a slight fear that Ravi was going to say anything that would alert the Mormons! That this was to benefit the Mormon Church is very clear. What I find so scary in this is that a large percentage of evangelical pastors in Utah are supporting this movement Greg Johnson has started. There were about 50 evangelical churches that lent their names as supporters of Zacharias’visit.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE “EVENING OF FRIENDSHIP”
Some highlights of the “Evening of Friendship” meeting at the Mormon Tabernacle were as follows:
Ravi Zacharias preached on the person and work of Christ, but carefully avoided describing the serious, soul-damning differences between Bible doctrine and Mormonism. He did not point out any of the Mormon errors nor warn Mormons to turn from their false gospel or face eternal hell. Even when he was asked pointedly at a question and answer session at the University of Utah, “What are the differences between Mormonism and Christianity,” he sidestepped the issue, saying, “I have to keep in mind that I am a guest here.” He then went on to answer the question, “but failed to explain what the differences are and how significant they are for a person’s salvation” (Greg Cantrell’s eyewitness report).
This is not how the apostle Paul acted when he was invited to preach on Mars Hills. Of course, there is no record that Paul was ever invited back, and these New Evangelicals, in contrast, know how to preach the Bible without causing a lot of offense, which is a most amazing thing.
One report said Zacharias almost pulled out of the event because prior reports had downplayed his theological differences with Mormonism, but he had the best opportunity of his life to highlight those differences in a context that could make a difference in the eternal destiny of many, and he simply didn’t do it. His New Evangelicalism wouldn’t allow him to pull the trigger and plainly preach the truth that all men outside of the one true Gospel of the Bible are heading to eternal hellfire and that Mormonism is sending multitudes to hell through its religious myths and false gospel. In his message he used broad terms such as “Christianity,” saying for example, “Christianity is the one faith that offers true forgiveness,” without telling the crowd plainly that Mormonism is NOT true Christianity. This has been stated in books with which he has been associated (such as the Kingdom of the Cults, to which he wrote the foreword), but it was not said in this meeting when he was speaking directly to the Mormons.
Hazen said of Ravi’s message, “In my view the rank-and-file Mormons would not have found anything controversial in it.” It is also instructive that Ravi’s message received a standing ovation from the entire crowd. Hazen reported, “Ravi received a long standing ovation FROM EVERY PERSON IN ATTENDANCE when he concluded.”
I wonder why Paul didn’t get a standing ovation for his sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17; or Stephen, for his sermon before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7; or the Lord Jesus, for his sermon to the Pharisees in Matthew 23? It is said that preaching is like shooting; a good preacher will always hit his target.
Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw, who preceded Zacharias to the podium, apologized to the Mormons, making the following amazing statements: “Let me state it clearly. We evangelicals have sinned against you. ... We have demonized you. ... [We evangelicals] have often misrepresented the faith and beliefs of the Latter-day Saints.”
Sinned against Mormons? Is it sin to preach the one true Gospel and to warn of false gospels and false christs as Paul did (2 Cor. 11)?
Misrepresented the beliefs of the Mormons? Who has done that, Dr. Mouw? Bible believers have stated that the Book of Mormon is fantasy; that Joseph Smith was a liar, an adulterer, and a polygamist; that Mormon doctrines are heretical. In what way is any of that a misrepresentation? The Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exalts its own writings to authority alongside Scripture, teaches that salvation is by faith plus works, denies the Trinity, claims that God was once a man, that Jesus Christ was a created being, that he had many wives, that he is the brother of Satan, that men have pre-existent souls, that the living can be baptized for the salvation of the dead, that those who endure faithfully in this life will be gods in the next. In fact, Mormonism denies or corrupts most cardinal doctrines of the New Testament faith. Perhaps some individual has misquoted something in refuting Mormonism. That does not call for a wholesale apology. The fact is that the Mormon Church has tried its best to hide and shade its true history, and even Mormons who are well educated in their own theology do not know the truth about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. When the truth is dredged up, one is charged with libel. The real apology needs to be made by those who preach heresies and thereby damn people’s souls to eternal hell. Therein is the truly serious error that needs to be repented of.
Demonized the Mormons? Does the Bible not warn that heretical doctrines such as those the Mormons preach are “doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1)? Did Jesus not call the false religious rulers of His day “blind guides,” “children of hell,” “serpents,” “generation of vipers,” “fools” (Matthew 23)? Did He not plainly warn them of the “damnation of hell”? What is wrong, then, with “calling a spade a spade” after the fashion of Jesus Christ and the authors of Scripture?
By the way, evangelicals in England issued an apology to Roman Catholics at the Nottingham Conference in 1977 (chaired by John R.W. Stott). “Seeing ourselves and Roman Catholics as fellow-Christians, we repent of attitudes that have seemed to deny it.”
Mouw even encouraged evangelicals to participate in the upcoming celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Will it please God if we celebrate the birth of a man who created a false religion through deception and established a false gospel that the Bible labels “accursed” (Galatians 1)?
Robert Millet, a Mormon professor at Brigham Young University, said, “God is our father and loves us all” and “God cares more about people than truth.” These are the heresies of the universal Fatherhood of God and Ecumenism.
Some of the evangelical speakers actually quoted Joseph Smith. Mouw quoted him. And Craig Hazen, in his closing prayer, said, “If we, as Joseph Smith, seek wisdom, we must ask God in prayer.” To mention Joseph Smith in such a context in no way furthers the truth; what it does is play right into the hand of devil, encouraging the Mormons’ that even the “evangelicals recognize that our prophet was a true man of God.” Hazen would have done better had he prayed, “If we seek wisdom, then we know we must go to the Bible alone, for it alone is the authority for faith and practice, and we know that we must at the same time reject all heresies and myths.”
At the end of the service, Craig Hazen addressed the Mormon leaders and asked, “Don't you all have a bigger place right across the street for next year?” He wants this to become an annual event, and if the Mormons are smart enough to pounce on this opportunity to become more acceptable and mainstream and if the apostasy is in full enough blossom, they will agree.
Michael Card led the Mormons and evangelicals in praise to God. I suppose the evangelicals worshipped their God and the Mormons worshipped theirs, but it was confusion because they did it TOGETHER. How can an unregenerate Mormon who worships a false christ offer acceptable praise to God? And how can evangelicals who allegedly know the God of the Bible join hands in worship with unbelievers? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15). The Lord Jesus warned that worship is only acceptable when it is offered in spirit AND in truth (Jn. 4:23). There was no acceptable worship in the Mormon Tabernacle on November 14, not on the part of the Mormons and not on the part of the disobedient evangelicals. It was a deep deception.
In the Deseret Morning News, Card is quoted as saying that “he doesn’t see Mormonism and evangelical Christianity as opposed to each other; they are more like the two ends of a long thread -- part of the same thing.” He said, “The older I get, I guess the more I want to integrate everything. I think it’s more important to be faithful than right” (Nov. 16, 2004).
By the way, Michael Card now has the distinction of having the greatest ecumenical reach of any of the CCM artists. On the one side of the scale he performs for Mormons, as he did in “An Evening of Friendship” in Salt Lake City, and for Roman Catholics. His close friend is John Michael Talbot, the Roman Catholic contemporary musician who prays to Mary. And on the other side of the scale, Card even performs for independent Baptists. On October 1996 Card had a concert at Temple Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan. This church was pastored by J. Frank Norris from 1935 to 1950 and by G. Beauchamp Vick from 1950 to 1975. In bygone days, it was the most prominent church in the Baptist Bible Fellowship International. It was a conservative fundamental Baptist church that eschewed ecumenism, preached strong Bible doctrine, used sacred music, promoted holy living and separation from the world, and used only the King James Bible. Today it has turned its back on its heritage and has capitulated to the contemporary church growth philosophy.
THE NEW EVANGELICAL ERROR OF PREACHING THE TRUTH WITHOUT CONTRASTING IT WITH ERROR
Greg Cantrell, who attended the meeting, testified: “No one during the entire time spoke of the major differences between Mormonism & Christianity.” Cantrell observed, “I will leave you with this analogy . . . about what happened last night: It was the same to me as if I was talking with an English man about football and what a wonderful, exciting sport it is, and how he said he loves that sport; yet we never clarified that he was talking about soccer, and I was talking about American football. We could not understand each other. It’s like apples and oranges. Not the same.”
This is exactly right. If the truth is not preached in plain distinction to error, those who sit in error will not understand. As they listen they redefine terms according to the heretical theology they have been taught.
This is what happens when Billy Graham, Luis Palau, and other ecumenical evangelists preach to Roman Catholics. The preacher says, “You must receive Christ,” and the Catholic thinks, “That’s right; I have received Christ many times in the sacraments and I need to receive him AGAIN at this meeting, and hopefully, after I continue doing this all my life, and continuing trying to be a good person, and spend a little time in purgatory after I die, God will eventually receive me.” That is Catholic theology, of course, and that is exactly how a Roman Catholic will interpret Gospel terms. Thus the truth must be preached in clear contradiction to heresy; the heresy must be identified and refuted head on, which is exactly what we see in the Bible, in Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill and in his Epistles, for example. But the ecumenical philosophy will not allow this and the New Evangelical philosophy of preaching the “positive proclamation” of the truth “without delving in personalities which embrace the error” (Harold Ockenga), also does not allow such clarity.
The same thing happened when Ravi Zacharias preached Christ to the Mormons gathered for the “Friendship” meeting. Since he did not plainly contrast the truth he was preaching with Mormon heresies and since he did not refute the Mormon’s habit of re-interpreting traditional theological terms, he did not “get through.”
The aforementioned Rauni Higley, who was an active and convinced Mormon for 20 years, wrote to Ravi Zacharias on November 22, after the event, and explained to him how she would have re-interpreted his words if she were still a Mormon and had sat under his sermon:
“You failed to declare the truth clearly to those who interpret the words, familiar to Christians, totally differently. I think this is why Biola’s Craig Hazen, after the meeting, said in his report that ‘rank and file Mormons would not have found anything controversial [to Mormonism] in it,’ meaning that what you said would not have alarmed them to see that Mormonism is false!
“All Mormons in the audience could have agreed with just about everything you said, but yet not understood at all.
“I think how I, if I was still an active and believing Mormon as I once was, I would have ‘understood’ your words. I would have interpreted them, based on what I believed as a Mormon, and what I was taught by the LDS church. When you said ‘Jesus,’ I would have thought of Him as my brother I lived with in heaven before coming to this world. When you said ‘God,’ or ‘Heavenly Father,’ I would have thought my literal heavenly parents, father and mother Gods in heaven. When you said ‘redemption’ or ‘payment for our sins,’ I would have thought of conditional salvation Jesus provided for me, and that I must work hard, along with my husband, to earn my real salvation which is exaltation and godhood. When you said ‘Trinity,’ I would have thought of three Gods for this earth, ‘Trinity’ in a sense of unity in purpose among them, -- and I would have, at least in passing, thought that someday my husband and I will be as God is now. When you said ‘Cross’ I would have acknowledged that Jesus died on the cross, but I also would have thought that He had, before going to the cross, already made an atonement for me and provided resurrection by suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“Like the Mormon leaders on the platform, I too could have said that I ‘agreed’ with your message even when using my ‘Mormon-mindset.’
“I personally know active, temple-going Mormons here in Utah who regularly listen to Christian speakers in radio and TV, read C.S. Lewis's books etc., and ‘agree’ with them all -- even though with some pity that these great Christian speakers cannot go to celestial kingdom and become gods because they have not received the ‘fullness of the LDS gospel.’ Mormons simply interpret and understand the words used differently. I am sure you get my point” (Letter from Mrs. Rauni Higley, former Mormon, to Ravi Zacharias, Nov. 22, 2004).
This is the second wise letter that I have seen that men and women of God have written to Ravi Zacharias to warn him; but, sadly, instead of posting these at his web site and acknowledging his error, he has chosen to ignore his critics and to post the spiritually undiscerning report by Craig Hazen, who wouldn’t know apostasy and compromise if it hit him in the face.
SHOULDN’T WE DIALOGUE?
Zacharias would doubtless say that he and his fellow evangelicals at this meeting were not accepting Mormons as true Christians and not trying to have unity with them; they are merely seeking dialogue and better understanding.
But dialogue is how the evangelical back-to-Rome movement began. Where does the Bible instruct us to dialogue with heretics?
To the contrary, “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition REJECT; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself” (Titus 3:10-11).
And, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; AND AVOID THEM. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).
And, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY” (2 Tim. 3:5).
And, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE RESULTS IN “TONING DOWN THE RHETORIC,” IN SOFTENING THE PLAIN CHARGES OF HERESY AND APOSTASY AND UNBELIEF, IN QUIETING DOWN THE WARNINGS ABOUT JUDGMENT. It is impossible to dialogue without doing this. Greg Johnson said that we must “cease throwing our theological rocks and start loving as Christ commanded us.” This is his definition of dialogue. Thus, speaking the truth about heresy is likened to “throwing rocks,” which is something that is potentially very hurtful, even deadly. Actually, preaching plainly against false christs and false gospels is a very loving, compassionate thing. If a man is on his way to hell but is self-deceived into thinking that he is on his way to heaven, it is an act of the greatest compassion to tell him plainly that he is deceived.
“Toning down the rhetoric” and softening the plain charges of heresy and apostasy is precisely what the Bible does not do and what the apostles and prophets did not do and what Bible preachers today are not allowed to do.
Paul wasn’t much of a dialoguer. He called false teachers “dogs” and “evil workers” (Phil. 3:2). Of those who pervert the gospel he said, “Let them be accursed” (Gal. 1:8, 9). He called them “evil men and seducers” (2 Tim. 3:13), “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Tim. 3:8), “false apostles, deceitful workers” (2 Cor. 11:13). He named the names of false teachers and called their teaching “vain babblings” (2 Tim. 2:16, 17). He warned about “philosophy and vain deceit” (Col. 2:8). He plainly described their “cunning craftiness.” When Elymas tried to turn men away from the faith that Paul preached, Paul wasted no time with dialogue. He said, “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). He warned about false teachers who would come into the churches and called them “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) and their teaching “perverse things” (Acts 20:30). Those who denied the bodily resurrection were called “fools” (1 Cor. 15:35-36). He warned about false christs, false spirits, false gospels (2 Cor. 11:1-4). He labeled false teaching “doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). In the Pastoral Epistles Paul warned of false teachers and compromisers by name 10 times.
And what sort of dialoguer was Peter? He wasn’t very good at it. He was much too plain spoken about heresy. Of the false prophets in his day and those he knew would come in the future, he labeled their heresies “damnable” and warned of their “swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1). That would end a good dialogue right there, but he wasn’t finished. He called their ways “pernicious”; said their words were “feigned”; and boldly declared that “their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Pet. 2:3). And he isn’t even wound up yet. He warned them of eternal hell (2 Pet. 2:4-9) and called them “presumptuous” and “selfwilled” (2 Pet. 2:10). He likened them to “natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed” (2 Pet. 2:12) and exposed their deception (2 Pet. 2:13). Peter is in high gear now. Consider how he ended his little “dialogue.”
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Peter 2:14-21).
I don’t suppose that Peter would get invited to too many ministerial association meetings or World Council conferences or ecumenical dialogues today. He might be invited once, because he is an apostle and the first pope and all, but I can assure you that he would not be invited back!
But what about John, the Apostle of Love? How was his dialoguing technique? Again, not too effective, because he was too often warning about antichrists (1 John 2:18-19), calling them liars (1 John 2:22) and seducers (1 John 2:26) and deceivers (2 John 7); saying that they denied the Son (1 John 2:23) and that they don’t have God (2 John 9). He put too much of an emphasis upon testing the spirits (1 John 4:1-3). He even made all sorts of exclusive claims, such as, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). Just who did he think he was! John even forbade the believers to allow the false teachers into their houses or to bid them God speed (2 John 10-11). It is not possible to get along in a good dialogue when you do such things.
In this, the apostles were only following their Lord. Jesus Christ was not big on soft-spoken, “let me listen carefully and make sure I understand you,” give-and-take dialogue but He was a great preacher. He scalded the Pharisees because they perverted the way of truth and corrupted the gospel of grace, calling them hypocrites, blind guides, fools and blind, serpents, generation of vipers. That was just one sermon! Even when he visited the homes of the Pharisees He didn’t try to be socially acceptable. He spoke the truth in love at all times and therefore offended them coming and going! They were so angry that they plotted his murder.
Again, theological dialogue results in “toning down the rhetoric,” in softening the plain charges of heresy and apostasy and unbelief, in quieting down the warnings about judgment. But this is precisely what the Bible does not do and what the apostles and prophets did not do and what Bible preachers today are not allowed to do.
DIALOGUE ALSO CALLS FOR “MUTUAL RESPECT,” but this is not what we see in Scripture. Jesus did not show a lot of respect toward the Pharisees who were leading people to hell through their works gospel. Paul did not show a lot of respect toward the heretics who were bothering the early churches. How much respect did he show toward the following two fellows? “And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus” (2 Tim. 2:17). Didn’t Paul understand that such language would hurt these fellows’ feelings and might even injure their self-esteem? Today, the ecumenical crowd would say, “Paul, how do you think we are ever going to have a good dialogue if you persist in talking like that?”
DIALOGUE ALSO REQUIRES “LISTENING, which at its best includes restating what the other is saying to his complete satisfaction.” But this ignores the fact that heretics lie and try to hide and shade their error. The Bible repeatedly warns about the subtilty and deceit of false teachers. Jesus referred to them as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mat. 7:15). Though they are wolves, they hide under the appearance of the truth. Paul warned of “deceitful workers” (2 Cor. 11:13), of “false brethren” who work “privily” (Gal. 2:4), of those who are characterized by “cunning craftiness” (Eph. 4:14), of their habit of “speaking lies in hypocrisy” (1 Tim. 4:2), of those who “who creep into houses” (2 Tim. 3:6), of “seducers ... deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Peter warned of “feigned words” (2 Pet. 2:2). Jude warned of “certain men crept in unawares” (Jude 4).
DIALOGUE RESULTS IN WEAKENING OF BIBLICAL CONVICTIONS. The Bible warns, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). Close association with sin and error corrupts godly thinking and living. Just as a good apple cannot raise the standard of a barrel of bad apples, a true Christian cannot raise the standard of an apostate church or association. Contrariwise, it is the man of God who will always be pulled down.
Look at Billy Graham. When he first began his ecumenical ventures, he claimed that he wanted to use ecumenism to get the gospel to more people, that the liberals and Roman Catholics needed the Gospel. After a few decades, he had changed entirely and was saying that the liberals and Roman Catholics are fine like they are. In a May 30, 1997, interview with David Frost, Graham said: “I feel I belong to all the churches. I’M EQUALLY AT HOME IN AN ANGLICAN OR BAPTIST OR A BRETHREN ASSEMBLY OR A ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. ... And the bishops and archbishops and the Pope are our friends” (David Frost, Billy Graham in Conversation, pp. 68, 143). I do not know of even one well-known modernist or Roman Catholic leader that has converted to biblical truth because of ecumenical relationships with Billy Graham. Rather, it is Graham who has been converted. He admitted, “The ecumenical movement has broadened my viewpoint” (Curtis Mitchell, Billy Graham Saint or Sinner, p. 272).
The same is true for Graham’s co-workers. When an evangelist said that he did not believe that Catholics are true Christians, Graham’s co-laborer T.W. Wilson exclaimed that this is “absolutely wrong” and continued, “...to say they are not Christians--man alive! Anybody that receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour is converted! They’re born again. I believe the Pope is a converted man. I believe a lot of these wonderful Catholics are Christians” (William Martin, A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, p. 461). Obviously, Wilson is not asking any hard questions about what a person means by believing in Jesus as “Lord and Saviour,” and the same will eventually become true for those dialoguing with Mormons. Do not Mormons also believe on Jesus as Lord and Saviour? Of course they do, but not if we require a biblical definition.
The ecumenical crowd, which has been busy dialoguing for half a century and more, has been so weakened that they can’t even speak out about salvation and say that pagans need to be converted. When the Southern Baptist Convention published a prayer guide in 2000 calling upon Baptists to pray for the conversion of Hindus, ecumenical leaders in India rose up in alarm. Ipe Joseph, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, condemned the prayer guide and said, “We should find ecumenical space for followers of other faiths in salvation. ... Christians should stop thinking of Christianity as the religion among religions.” The general secretary of the Council of Baptist Churches in North-East India, Pastor Gulkhan Pau, also condemned the Southern Baptist prayer guide. Pau said, “You preach your faith, but don’t play down others. ... I am not going to condemn the Hindu or the Muslim for his faith.”
Thus we see some of the dangers of dialogue. It is not scriptural. It is not what God has called us to do. It is pragmatism rather than Bible. We are to preach the truth in Christian love and preach it in such a plain manner that those who follow false teaching will know that we are condemning their error and that we are warning them of judgment if they do not turn from it.
OTHER EFFORTS TO BRING EVANGELICALS TOGETHER WITH MORMONS
Actually this is not the first effort to bring evangelicals together with Mormons.
Mormons have been welcome to participate in the annual March for Jesus rallies, for instance. (The co-founder of March for Jesus is Graham Kendrick, one of the influential voices in the Contemporary Praise movement.)
The national coordinator for March for Jesus in Canada in 1996 was Marty Klein. Alan Sharpe of Ottawa wrote to Klein on May 2, 1996, via e-mail and asked, “I am interested in the March for Jesus. Can a devout Mormon who loves Jesus march in the march?” Klein replied: “ALL are welcome to join us. However, we make it clear that this is a march FOR Jesus. It is not a protest--we are not promoting anything, but a person (Jesus) and we will not allow Christians or otherwise to parade their various causes.” In light of the Bible, the obvious question is what Jesus are you marching for?
And in 1999, Maggy Fletcher, organizer of March for Jesus in Salt Lake City, said: “Over a dozen churches of various denominations are directly involved with the march, but many more churches have shown an interest in coming . . . Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Assembly of God, non-denominational, charismatics (and) LDS [Mormon].” She said that though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had not endorsed the event, individual Mormons had expressed interest in participating “and are welcome to do so” (Salt Lake Tribune, Sat., May 22, 1999). Fletcher said Mormons are part of the “body of Christ.”
In 1997 the book “How Wide the Divide? A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation” appeared. The authors are Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, and the publisher is InterVarsity Press. Blomberg is professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado, which is associated with the Conservative Baptist Fellowship; whereas Robinson is professor of ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University.
In 1997 rogue Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter (he did not make his formal break with the SBC until 2000) said Mormons are Christians and should not be the targets of “proselytizing” (Carrie Moore, “Are Mormons Christians,” Deseret News, Nov. 15, 1997). During the interview, Carter likened those who reject Mormons to “Pharisees.” Carter defined his personal philosophy as “a nonjudgmental, reconciling type of spirituality.” He testified that “the people in my own local church have no interest in trying to condemn Mormons or trying to convert Mormons to be good old Baptists like me.”
Jimmy Carter is merely defining good and proper New Evangelicalism, non-judgmental, positive in its approach, reconciling rather than dividing, tolerant of other views. And to be consistent, this New Evangelical philosophy must eventually accept Mormons, at least the “evangelical Mormons,” as it has the “evangelical Catholics.”
One either judges doctrine or he doesn’t. If I have the right to judge doctrine by God’s Word, then I can judge any doctrine; but if judging is wrong and Matthew 7:1 and Romans 14:10 forbid judging doctrine, as the New Evangelical philosophy would have us believe and as thousands of New Evangelicals have written to inform me, then ALL doctrinal judging is wrong.
In November 1998, Assemblies of God pastor Dean Jackson presented Mormon leaders in Provo, Utah, with “a formal declaration of repentance for prejudice against members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.” The document was signed by more than 160 members of Jackson’s Canyon Assembly of God Church in Provo, and roughly 100 Mormon visitors were on hand to receive the official apology (Charisma News Service, March 1, 2000, citing Deseret News of Salt Lake City). The declaration of repentance was also endorsed by the regional presbytery of the Assemblies of God. When attendance dropped by half in Jackson’s church following the reconciliation ceremony, Jackson said: “Some just couldn’t handle it. You can’t spend your whole life hating people and then be told you should start loving them.” That is a foolish and slanderous statement. It is not hatred that motivates Bible-believing Christian people to obey God’s commands to separate from those who preach a false gospel. Did the Apostle Paul hate the Galatian legalizers when he warned that they were cursed of God because of their false gospel (Galatians 1)? Of course not. In another place, Paul said he was willing “to be accursed from Christ” for the sake of the stubborn, unbelieving Jews who denied and perverted the gospel (Romans 9:1). Following in the footsteps of his Master, the Apostle Paul loved even those who are enemies of the truth, though he did not draw back from condemning their error. To expose and separate from those who preach false gospels is not hatred; it is obedience to God. The ecumenical crowd is extremely confused about Christian love. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
In April 1998 Mormon professor Robert Millet, dean of Brigham Young University, spoke at Wheaton College on the topic of C.S. Lewis. In Christianity Today, Millet is quoted as saying that C.S. Lewis “is so well received by Latter-day Saints [Mormons] because of his broad and inclusive vision of Christianity” (John W. Kennedy, “Southern Baptists Take Up the Mormon Challenge,” Christianity Today, June 15, 1998, p. 30). That’s also why New Evangelicals love C.S. Lewis.
In April 2003, Fuller Theological Seminary hosted a three-day “Thinking Theologically about America: Evangelical and Mormon Perspectives in Dialogue.” Speakers included Fuller President Richard Mouw, Tim Weber of Northern Baptist Seminary, Fuller professor Al Dueck, and Mormons Grant Underwood, Richard Bennett, and Robert Millet of Brigham Young University. The second evening featured a dialogue with Greg John Johnson and Mormon Robert Millet. One of the Mormon presentations was titled “Like a Tree Planted by the Rivers of Water: Springs of Renewal and Reform Among Latter-Day Saints.”
In 2011, Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America, said that Mormons are Christians. In an interview with The Washington Post, Osteen said: “I don't know if it's the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with. But you know what, I know Mormons. I hear Mitt Romney--and I've never met him--but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God, I believe He’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues” (Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2011). Osteen is biblically ignorant and spiritually naive at a frightful level. The Bible warns of false christs and false gospels (2 Cor. 11:1-4). False teachers use the same language as sound Bible teachers but they have a different dictionary. Jesus warned of many who would call Him Lord and even do many wonderful works but they are not saved (Matthew 7:21-23).
For more on Mormon history, doctrine, and practice, see the Way of Life Advanced Bible Studies Series “Defense of the Faith.”
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