One of the most common responses I have run into about my thesis regarding missional-ecumenism comes down to this question: “I cannot cooperate with churches and people who are not Christian!”
If it were only this simple. You know who is and is not a follower of Christ and thus you can clearly judge the matter and not cooperate with false professors of the faith. Again, this problem arises in very conservative contexts where we believe we can judge the fruit of others and if they do not confess all the faith, or the part we think to be vital to living faith, we judge them to be false. This does not generally happen in real life situations, face-to-face, so much as it feeds an attitude that is ubiquitous in many churches. We say that we are just “fruit inspectors.”
Look, if someone is born again we can know they are, right? No, we cannot. God alone judges the heart. And only called and equipped leaders (elders) are charged with determining false teaching inside a church. Making this command the calling of every Christian, in a democratic society, has proven to be very deleterious.
I propose in this week’s video what I think is a better way to proceed. See what you think. Then check out the chapter in my book titled: Who Is a Real Christian?
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John, I am very much in agreement with you that there must be a broad acceptance of those who claim to be Christians. Of course, this does not mean a blind acceptance; we can use our reason concerning certain groups like the JWs and the Mormons who might repeat the creed deceptively. However, I grew up in a group that often recited the Apostles Creed. I also recited it, but I was not a Christian until much later–in fact, I was very much against being a Christian until I met the Lord Jesus. So the problem remains concerning how to draw the circle of fellowship. Yet, I still feel we must be very broad in this matter according to Romans 14:1-15:13.
I agree with you 100% here! I know that just confessing the Creed doesn’t make somebody a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes someone a car. However, when someone professes to be a fellow follower of Christ, the articles in the Apostle’s or the Nicene Creed are the best test of orthodoxy, and certainly would lead me to accept that brother or sister as a fellow member of the Body of Christ. Not only can I NOT judge someone else’s heart, sometimes I don’t even accurately know what’s going on in my OWN heart. Keep up the great work!