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Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity Paperback – March 15, 2010
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Steve has certainly given a short primer on issues related to ecumenism, as well as creative ways to interpret rock band lyrics.
From an evangelical Protestant perspective, there are significant problems. I would track down page numbers for these, but the book's so short that an hour's perusal will reveal them:
1. It's not certain if he means organizational unity; it appears he does. If this seems an unnecessarily ambitious definition of church unity, there is a caveat: his unstated, yet clearly implied, opinion is that no one should have to change their beliefs to achieve unity. If this violates your definition of unity, then you can dispense with this book. His implied opinion of his is made possible by the relativism described below.
2. He says that being a non-denominational Christian is impossible, for one's theology will probably fit within one of the large denominational traditions. Therefore non-denominationalism is both a sham and ineffective, and one must become proudly denominational if one wants to contribute to church unity. Again, this is facilitated by a low-key but persistent relativism.
3. He assumes that there are no essential differences between Catholics and Protestants that might be worthy of division, notably justification by faith alone; instead he pretends this issue does not exist.
4. The questions of biblical authority and sexual ethics are ignored, as if we should be perfectly fine uniting with churches that don't share our stance on inerrancy or homosexuality. He notes that mainline churches have been much more interested in ecumenism than evangelicals; perhaps because evangelicals have stricter, dare I say more orthodox, theological standards? Theology in general is not given much consideration here, aside from noting The World Council of Churches' requirement of Trinitarianism; I'm quite surprised that he didn't discuss bringing other nominally Christian sects like the Mormons and Christian Science into the fold. On a related note, his use and unqualified endorsement of The Message paraphrase, positive words about the now-defunct Emergent church movement, and occasional mentions of environmental care and social justice (with abortion conspicuously absent) make his theological and political emphases clear.
5. His practical suggestions, entirely limited to chapter 4, are mostly "pray, converse, & cooperate." These are certainly admirable, but fairly obvious, and woefully incomplete for such a book. No mention is made of changing theologies, deciding which doctrines are worthy of division, merging churches, or influencing denominational leaders to begin ecumenical talks.
6. He explicitly and repeatedly denies a "hippie hand-holding" unity, saying that we must be "one but different," echoing those oft-quoted U2 lyrics; his example of this is how Bono refused to cooperate with the Dalai Lama, a leader clearly outside of even nominal Christianity. Inside it, however, the Kum-Bah-Yah circle rings loudly as he employs the language of relativism ("our truth / their truth") and fails to notice or discuss the serious doctrinal differences between denominations. For anyone theologically minded, this is unity by looking the other way, despite his claims to the contrary.
The last problem I want to mention isn't numbered because it's nowhere near as significant as those above, but it's one that any prospective buyer should be aware of: his U2 fanboyism is less illuminating than it is distracting and nonsensical (he freely interprets U2's early aversion to using the third in chords as "the already/not yet eschatology of U2"). This is unleashed only in the final chapter, which serves to illustrate the disjointed nature of this book (originally a series of lectures).
In all, if you are an evangelical Protestant who is wary about the word "ecumenism," you'll find more of the same here. In absence of clarifying edits, the takeaway from these talks is that we should unite organizationally with any who call themselves Christian and cooperate with them, all the while glossing over important disagreements that may justly divide us.