How about a spiritual hug?

By Jim Allen

The principal reason the Lord Jesus and the apostles warn about deception was not to provide bloggers with worn-out themes to write about (Matthew 24:4-5, 23-24). Even if the topic of deception seems like old news, it shouldn't. Deception is real and powerful and still in play for the unwary. It can morph into whatever form it needs to be to trip the unguarded heart.

Ecumenicalism continues to make inroads in the lives of evangelicals. We know ecumenicalism is a deception because it promotes unity among churches of differing faiths at the expense of true doctrine. What you are about to read is an update.

While the desire for unity among ecumenicals is not new, the growing romance between evangelicals and Catholics is new. It has become a hand-to-hand romance. They are using "love" as the potion to seriously put aside doctrinal differences after five centuries of Lutheran protest. Bishop Robert Barron in a recent article enthusiastically wrote:
The whole Christian world has watched with fascination as Pope Francis, over the past several months, has reached out to evangelicals. Who can forget the mesmerizing iPhone video, filmed by the Pope's (late) friend Bishop Tony Palmer, in which the Bishop of Rome communicated, with father-like compassion, to a national gathering of American evangelical leaders? His smile, his tone of voice, and the simple, direct words that he chose constituted a bridge between Catholics and evangelicals. (Source)
The Pope, recently speaking in a whispering tone, said: "Let's give each other a spiritual hug and let God complete the work He has begun." About this beloved pope Gillea Allison wrote:
Pope Francis's inclusive message and embodiment of the Jesuit emphasis on service solidified my return to Catholicism. I doubt I'm the only one. Hordes of non-Catholics are moved and inspired by his presence and teachings, and the fervor and exuberance we've seen during his US visit can only bring good things for the church. (Source)
When Kenneth Copeland extended the handshake of brotherhood to Pope Francis in 2013, the five-hundred-year dissenting thesis (nailed to the church door by Martin Luther in 1517) morphed into a coming home campaign. The idea of Protestants coming back home to the Roman Catholic Church was unthinkable fifty years ago. Today it's happening.

Why is it happening? Because ecumenicals have placed truth on the altar of compromise. Just how important is truth? Is love a greater unifier than truth? Should we accept the notion that it's okay for love to go one better than truth for the sake of unity? We know God is love but He is also truth (1 John 4:9; John 14:6). How do you make the cut? Ecumenicalism emphasizes love over truth. Can this be correct?

The Bible says love is more important than faith and hope, and among the three love reigns supreme (1 Corinthians 13:13). But where does love fit next to truth? A gospel promoting love and unity sounds so right in a time when so much is so wrong. But is the focus on love over truth biblical? Sandy Simpson writes:
If you love God you will love people and not shrink from telling them the truth because Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ. His Spirit of love is deposited in us and should come out to others. John 7:38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." The word is the water, the Spirit that works in us to deliver the truth to others. (Source)
Can we love people into the kingdom of God? While "love" is an important part of living the Christian life, "truth" is the door to eternal life. While an increasing number of evangelicals are accepting love over truth, they fail to see the difference between the two. It's troubling. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6).

While God is love, He is also Truth. Love is a fruit produced on the Vine, which is the Truth (John 4:24). Love and Truth are attributes with differing purposes. Love sent the Lord Jesus to the cross and propels believers to share the truth; but it is Truth received that saves the soul:
Faith, hope, and love are virtues but Truth has an altogether different status. It is the frame of reference, the foundation, the atmosphere without which virtues such as love cannot exist at all. Love rejoices in the truth. Why? (Source)
If virtues like love, joy, and peace were birds in flight, then truth would be the air enabling them to soar aloft. Remove the air and the birds of virtue would be grounded. When men place a higher value on the virtue of "love" over the doctrine of "truth," they change the atmosphere of Gospel and herein the deception.

Jesus is the Chief Corner Stone, the sure foundation for holding all things in place (Ephesians 2:20). If one's worship experience rests on the emotion of love without possessing the Spirit of Truth, can it be true worship? Does not God require us to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24)? Though worship is an expression of love, spirit and truth certify the experience. Truth is foundational. No measure of love can change truth. Love is like shifting sand; truth is the solid rock (Mark 12:10). Whereas love joins, truth divides. While God is love and an attribute of God, truth is the Word of God and the "Source" from which flows love, hope and faith. About truth and in reference to 1 Peter 1:23 John MacArthur writes:
There's no way to be saved except through the truth, except through the gospel, the Word of God. It is the Holy Spirit who does the work but the gospel is the means by which that work takes place. This seed planted in us is of a heavenly origin not an earthly one. And it is a permanent and eternal seed through the preaching of the Word of God. Source)
MacArthur is saying the seeds of truth lead to salvation. Sowing seeds of truth in love make salvation possible. Though we agree love is important and is the motivation for sharing truth, Jesus said: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). The problem with promoting love over truth is ecumenicals are using it (love) to encourage unity at the expense of truth. Why are they promoting love over truth? Because truth will always demand separation from what is untrue.

Ecumenicals don't like truth because it doesn't fit the narrative for global unity of one faith. Truth will always expose and divide right from wrong (2 Timothy 3:16), which is what Luther did 500 years earlier. Jesus didn't come to ensure unity but to divide the true from the untrue (Luke 12:51). In Ephesians 6 the Apostle Paul speaks about taking up the sword, the Word of God, to discern truth from error.

Pope Francis is promoting a gospel of love and brotherhood because he wants to break down the barriers of division between faiths, and we know why. The ecumenicals want a global faith united in love. While these are encouraging words and tug on the deepest longings of the heart, the Pope is promoting a love without the truth. A love without truth is human love.

Does Jesus share Pope Francis' view of love? Did Jesus pray for all faiths to be one? No. Jesus prayed for all who share the same truth to be one in faith resulting in true brotherly love (John 17:20-23).

The only way to bring all faiths together is by the agent of compromise. But what a body of believers choose to compromise is the question (Acts 17:11). The Bible warns about compromising truth and especially when it means giving up the fundamental truths of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says there is one path to God and that path is not to be compromised (John 14:6).

You can rest assured that the religions of the world will never accept the fundamental truth that Jesus is the Lamb of God. For ecumenicalism to succeed, this most holy of titles will need to be minimized and then removed from Jesus in order for the one world religion to form. Portraying the Savior without this holy title denies His divinity, priesthood, and dilutes Jesus' ministry to little more than prophetic message of love (Hebrews 4:14).

As proof, denial of Jesus' title as the Lamb of God occurred in The Bible series on the History Channel in 2013 and then again in the Son of God movie in 2014...The denial of Jesus' role as the Lamb of God is troubling and one example of a fundamental truth being glossed over in favor of the gospel of love (John 1:29). Both productions said Jesus came to change the world by his love. Is this what the Bible teaches? Not exactly.

Ecumenicals are excited about the progress Pope Francis is making to bring Protestants "back home." The Pope's purpose is clear. His purpose is to showcase the gospel of love via a spiritual hug. He is challenging the teachings posted by Martin Luther five centuries earlier. Luther boldly and precisely taught men are justified by grace through faith alone in Christ alone; men are not justified with a long history of rich worship guided by holy tradition and good works.

Layered within this theme of ecumenical love is a simple idea that sounds good, appears tenable, and perhaps even noble, but if acted upon would bring forward a gospel that cannot save anyone. As demonstrated by Copeland, evangelicals are falling for it. Ecumenicals are leaving the truth far behind; they are allowing the lure of love to be the unifying force drawing undiscerning Protestants back home to the Mother Church (2 Corinthians 6:17).

In closing, Martin Luther wrote: "I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands that I still possess" (Source). And what did Luther place in God's hands? A heart transformed by truth (1 Peter 1:23). (Source)

Note 1: The fundamentals of the Christian faith appear in this Got Questions Article .

Note 2: Ecumenicalism is a movement intent on promoting the need for all believers in God to gather under a single banner of faith for the purpose of unity in love and brotherhood.

Note 3: "Some think it (the Gospel) is merely a message of 'forgiveness;' others conceive of it as only 'moral' in nature; and still others see it as 'something good and beautiful.' The truth of the matter is, the gospel is a 'whole view of life' — it is not partial or piecemeal — consequently the "whole man" must be involved in it — the mind, the heart and the will...we must put things in the right order — mind, heart, and will. Truth must be first — once we know the truth, it will move the heart, and once the heart is engaged, your greatest desire will be to live it." (Source)

Image Credit: Republic of Korea; "Korea Pope Francis Haemi Castle 21"; Creative Commons

Published 11-28-16