The purpose of this statement is to clarify why I believe the Lord led me to affirm certain principles with selected, believing Roman Catholics who love the Lord Jesus Christ as I do.
I have received a relatively small number of negative reactions to this agreement, and most have been based on the account given by the secular news media. In their attempts to distill things, critical points are often omitted by the media, creating misunderstandings. A smaller number of sincere and knowledgeable Christians who have actually studied the document have also expressed disagreement with it, and have given me the benefit of their analysis, which I deeply respect. I appreciate all who have contacted us, and I have given serious consideration to all their views. Hopefully, this will clarify my heart in the matter.
It is very important to realize that the document is not a formal a agreement with the Roman Catholic Church as an institution, but an informal agreement with a few Catholic signatories who, as devout, believing scholars, were willing to affirm certain precious biblical truths which we evangelicals hold as both God-given and dear. Actually there were four of these truths upon which we agreed: (1) the Lordship of Christ, (2) justification by grace through faith in Christ, (3) all who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ, and (4) that Christians are to teach and live in obedience to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the infallible Word of God. We also agreed that the Apostles Creed is an accurate statement of scriptural truth, and that we contend together against all that opposes Christ and His cause. The latter mentioned several areas of agreement on social issues such as the importance of religious freedom, the protection of the unborn, the evil of pornography and others.
To non-Christians and the non-believing world who know nothing about Christianity and who may think Protestants and Catholics worship a different God, this affirmation should be a testimony to the Lordship of Christ and the truth of His Word. Catholics do not have a cultic understanding of God. They know Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in Holy Scriptures, with Jesus the Second Person of the triune Godhead, at one with and equal to the Father, who died for our sins, and who has given us His Holy Spirit.
While there was agreement only on the above four doctrinal areas, there was acknowledged disagreement on ten specific issues, issues that have traditionally separated evangelicals and Catholics. These include the purpose of the Lord's Supper, devotion to Mary, and eight others. Believe me, I am well aware of the sharp doctrinal differences with many points of Roman Catholic theology and some of their historic pronouncements. Please understand that there was no compromise on these matters. The biblical principles upon which I have committed my life, and that guide Campus Crusade for Christ and all that we do, have not changed one bit and, by God's grace, never will.
I am also aware that many Roman Catholics, while they may use the phrase, may attach a different meaning to "justification by faith" than what Martin Luther had in mind and what most of us believe. (Unfortunately, so do many Protestants.) However, in spite of official Roman Catholic doctrine which may not have changed, many Catholics, including theologians, have begun to take a more biblical view on this subject. For example, in the 1980s there were theological discussions on various subjects between Protestant and Catholic scholars. Part of the results of their discussions and agreement are contained in a book entitled Justification by Faith, published by the Augsburg Publishing House in 1985. In part, they "wholeheartedly" agreed (page 16):
"Our entire hope of justification and salvation rests on Christ Jesus and on the gospel whereby the good news of God's merciful action in Christ is made known; we do not place our ultimate trust in anything other than God's promise and saving work in Christ. This excludes ultimate reliance on our faith, virtues, or merits, even though we acknowledge God working in these by grace alone (solo gratia). In brief, hope and trust for salvation are gifts of the Holy Spirit and finally rest solely on God in Christ . . . Our intent in presenting this statement is to help our churches see how and why they can and should increasingly proclaim together the one, undivided gospel of God's saving mercy in Jesus Christ."
I rejoice and agree with any affirmation of the total sufficiency of Christ and His atoning sacrifice, and of justification by faith. The recent agreement notwithstanding, I still disagree strongly with any historical and remaining official doctrine, confession and practice that would oppose it.
Some Protestants believe that Roman Catholics cannot know God or experience eternal life. On the other hand, many Roman Catholics believe that Protestants cannot know God or experience eternal life. A main reason Protestants believe as they do about Catholics is, as mentioned above, the official Catholic doctrine of salvation which includes the necessity for human works to be added to the finished work of Christ. While I strongly disagree with this doctrine, I do not believe such an erroneous view, in itself, disqualifies one from the salvation promised those who "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" as the Son of God, as promised by John 3:16 and many other Scriptures. I am particularly reminded of I John 5:1, which declares, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (NIV).
I am also reminded of the 3,000 reported by the Holy Spirit as saved on the Day of Pentecost. Probably most knew very little about theology. They only knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and they needed to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Peter had given them just a very short and simple sermon. If you later gave those 3,000 a test on their understanding of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and the faith vs. works controversy, most would probably flunk. Yet they were saved. I believe the same is true in both Protestant and Catholic communions today. They were 3,000 living testimonies of what John later wrote in I John 5:1.
Many Protestant churches preach a faith-works theology not dissimilar to Catholicism. Of course, they may explain that works naturally follow a real saving faith (and they do), but the often legal requirement for works in the local church has the practical effect in the minds of church members as a reliance on works. In this sense, are those members any better off than Catholics? Are they without salvation because they do not understand the fine points of the truths of Ephesians 2:8,9? I do not believe so. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the assurance of our salvation by bringing alive God's Word in our hearts (I John 5:11-15).
In my world travels of many years, I have discovered that there are both believers and nonbelievers in Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox communities. I have sought to build bridges of love with all true believers in all communions.
Some are concerned about the agreement not to proselytize one another. In this sense, "proselytize" does not mean "evangelize." In fact, I believe the agreement will enhance our evangelistic efforts among Catholics. Campus Crusade for Christ has always been and will continue to be dedicated to sharing the gospel with everyone, including those who claim to be Protestants, Catholics, Jews, nonbelievers or anyone else. We have never recruited for any church or denomination. When by God's grace through our ministry an individual receives Christ, we simply exhort them to find a church where Christ is honored as Lord and the Bible is proclaimed as God's Word, and we leave further guidance up to the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Of course, if we know a new believer to be in a church where Christ and His Word are not honored and preached, whether it be Protestant or Catholic, we would encourage that person to find fellowship and plant themselves elsewhere.
Some have also expressed concern that I would call a Roman Catholic a "brother or sister" in Christ, or even a "Christian." I call all people brothers and sisters in Christ and Christians if they have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and place their faith in Him for eternal life. If they have done that, even if I disagree with some of their doctrine and practices, they are my brothers and sisters in the Lord. If they have not done that, they are not my brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they be Protestant or Catholic. The document was an agreement with those who profess Christ as Savior and Lord.
For all who have received Christ, whatever their label, I am convinced that it is God's will and that it pleases Him when we embrace each other in love and spiritual unity. Our Lord has made it emphatically clear that our discipleship should be demonstrated by that one overriding biblical test: our love. His prayer for unity was expressed in John chapter 17, verses 20-21 when, in His high priestly prayer, He prayed to the Father, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." This is unity in Christ and can in no way be equated with the kind of apostate unity among those who have turned from Christ.
To the maximum extent possible, and without compromise, it is important that those who belong to Christ demonstrate love and unity with one another. Jesus commanded us to love fellow believers (John 15:12,17) and stated strongly in John 13:35 that by loving one another we bring glory to God as we prove that we are His disciples.
As you may already know, the driving force in my life, that which captivates every waking moment and guides everything I do, is to help fulfill the Great Commission. My motivation is to demonstrate my love and gratitude to our Lord for all He has done for me. For almost 25 years, we have helped to take the gospel to tens of millions of Catholics in cooperation with Catholics who know our Lord all over the world. There are probably a billion people who profess Catholic affiliation, but many have never received Christ. I believe this agreement will help open doors to them for the gospel. I have already received feedback from the field that such is the case. I believe that because of current world demographics, the Great Commission will not be fulfilled if we refuse to cooperate with born-again Catholics. This agreement should help our effort, for God's glory.
Please know that in response to recommendations that I withdraw my name from the agreement from a few sincere friends outside of Campus Crusade, I prayerfully sought the counsel of our senior ministry leaders -- godly, committed men with a world perspective and whom I know to seek and discern God's wisdom. They unanimously agreed that I had done the right thing and recommended that I not waver from how I believed the Lord originally led me.
This is a historic moment. I am convinced that we are on the brink of the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit and world revival in history and, because of the sheer numbers of people in the world now, even greater than Pentecost, although it may be simultaneous with a great outpouring of evil. Therefore, I am also convinced that those who sincerely name the Name of Christ must embrace, encourage and comfort one another, and stand together against the wiles of the devil to accomplish the work of the Lord. We are privileged to live in this time, and we must not miss God's best.
Spiritual unity can help bring victory. We have the promise of God that no weapon formed against us shall prosper. If one can put a thousand to flight, then two can put ten thousand. "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NIV).
Billions are in the "valley of decision," teetering between heaven and hell and where their eternal destiny is at stake. It is a testimony that "they know we are Christians by our love." By that I mean love without compromising our biblical convictions.
I pray for and love, as our Lord commands, all who, for whatever reason, attack and criticize our attempt to build bridges of love with fellow Christians. May God bless you richly.
Yours for fulfilling the Great
Commission in this generation,