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Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission Paperback – September 24, 1995
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About the Author
Chuck Colson was a popular and widely known author, speaker, and radio commentator. A former presidential aide to Richard Nixon and founder of the international ministry Prison Fellowship, he wrote several books that have shaped Christian thinking on a variety of subjects, including Born Again, Loving God, How Now Shall We Live?, The Good Life, and The Faith. His radio broadcast, BreakPoint, at one point aired to two million listeners. Chuck Colson donated all of his royalties, awards, and speaking fees to Prison Fellowship Ministries.
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Bombastic Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority eventually flamed out but in 1994 Chuck Colson's and "father" Richard John Neuhaus's ecumenical "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" project issued its first declaration calling for Evangelicals and Catholics to renew their alliance against secular humanism and to recognize each other as Christians. The declaration was signed by a number of influential Evangelicals and Catholics. However, a large number of other Evangelicals voiced their concerns over the declaration, which embraced works-righteousness Catholicism and called for an end to evangelizing Catholics.
This book was published in 1995 to explain and defend the ECT declaration. The contributors were Evangelicals Colson, Mark Noll, and J. I. Packer and Catholics George Weigel, "father" Avery Dulles, and Neuhaus.
I really don't care to expend too much energy reviewing this book. In my view it's a tragedy from the first page to the last. The Evangelicals involved flagrantly accommodate error and compromise the truth. What is the Gospel? For Evangelicals, the Gospel is salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. For Catholics, their gospel is sacramental grace and merit. The two views can't be bridged, unless you're a determined ECT supporter. Colson and Noll see Catholic concession to "justification by grace through faith" and say, "Close enough," knowing full well Catholics also adhere to "cooperation with grace," aka merit, as the other factor in their justification. Packer? He correctly writes that if any Catholics are saved, they are saved IN SPITE of their church's standard theology but he's willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
"And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." - Romans 11:6
ECT went on to publish several additional declarations over the years although it's pretty much faded from view. But, regrettably, Colson and ECT did accomplish some of what they set out to do. Chuck Colson (d. 2012) would be pleased that works-righteousness Catholics have been embraced as Christians by a segment of doctrinally-challenged Evangelicals.
Colson notes in his essay, "This new ecumenism bears no relationship to liberal ecumenism, which seeks unity by disregarding doctrinal differences. Conservative evangelicals and Catholics understand and maintain the distinctives of their respective traditions." (Pg. 2) Weigel suggests, "a reframing of the abortion debate... ought to be high on the list of works to be undertaken by evangelicals and Catholics, together." (Pg. 66)
J.I. Packer notes, "Over and above objections to Church infallibility as such... Roman teaching obscures the gospel and indeed distorts it in a tragically antispiritual and unpastoral manner, in at least three ways. First, the doctrines of transubstantiation and the Mass-sacrifice ... obscure the finished character of Christ's atonement and encourage people to look for ongoing masses rather than to Christ's once-for-all historic death for the forgiveness of their sins. Second, Rome's Mariology, Mariolatry, and regular invocation of other saints... discourage people from directly approaching 'the throne of grace...' ... Third, the Tridentine exposition of justification... obscures the biblical meaning of justification as the here-and-now acceptance of the believing sinner not on the basis of our own righteousness ... but Christ's." (Pg. 153) Packer also points out that he would NOT accept an invitation to attend Mass, were he invited (Pg. 162-163).
Neuhaus (who was an evangelical Lutheran who converted to Catholicism) observes, "I would be deeply grieved in my role in ECT became an obstacle to its reception among evangelical Protestants. As a Catholic, honesty requires that I represent the ecclesiological claims of Catholicism without trimming or dissimulation... I know for a certainty ... that ECT is not about persuading evangelicals to become Roman Catholic." (Pg. 179)
This book will be "MUST READING" for anyone even remotely interested in Protestant/Catholic issues, and ecumenism.