Today I was reminded of a passage from ‘Mere Christianity’, by C.S. Lewis:
I had a very interesting online discussion with a friend recently about ecumenism. He referenced the term “mere Christianity” as being somehow related. While I understand where he was coming from in common usage of the word, when most hear “Mere Christianity” they think of the book by C.S. Lewis. What follows are some of my thoughts about what ecumenism is good and what is bad.
Have you read the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis? It is an excellent apologetic that I highly recommend. The book is not about ecumenism. It is about determining “what exactly is Christianity”?
Every church preaches Christ plus something else.
For Catholics, it is Christ plus transubstantiation.
For Pentecostals, it is Christ plus speaking in tongues.
For the early church is was Christ plus circumcision.
Some of these are right, and some are wrong – but none of them are necessary for salvation.
This was the purpose of the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15. Various beliefs existed, and there was division about what was required of believers. Lewis is doing the same thing that Paul and Peter did.
The same thing continues today. Very conservative denominations will say that Christians can’t go to dances or movies. Some even believe that a specific diet must be followed.
Mere Christianity is not about ecumenism, but about determining what the bible says is required. Mere Christianity as presented by C.S. Lewis is about finding what is common to the faith – the central belief. For instance, Methodists and Presbyterians will agree that Jesus was the son of God. Calvinists and Arminians will agree on the doctrine of the trinity. Baptists and Charismatics will agree that Jesus was fully God, and fully man. Catholics and Protestants will agree that there is one way to God, thru Jesus Christ.
Mormons will not agree to the tenets that Mere Christianity presents. Neither will Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists, or New Agers.
It is correct that we should not accept the belief that “all paths lead to God”. But this is not the message of Mere Christianity. Give it a read – it’s a great book!
Keep in mind that Lewis was an Irish-born brit who taught at Oxford 50-60 years ago. This is not a common man who speaks our lazy English! 🙂 According to Lewis, “mere Christianity” speaks of that part of Christianity which we have in common or that which is central to the faith. Note that I did not say something that humanity holds in common, or something that is universally agreed upon. I mean those principal beliefs which Christians agree are necessary and fundamental to the faith.
If you’d like to read it, you should. It’s actually a very short book. You an even read it online here!: http://bit.ly/MereChristianity
Ecumenism is a funny word. The haters will say it means making all belief systems equal. They say it puts all faiths on a level playing field, because all roads lead to God. This is a result of our politically correct culture which fears criticizing and places a greater value on hurt feelings that it does on the truth. While this definition of ecumenism is technically correct, it is not the common usage. I agree with much of his commentary in the clip, but I would not label this as ecumenism. I would call it postmodernism.
Ecumenism in its most common current usage is trying to come to a unity of belief, but within the Christian framework. That means looking at the essentials of Christianity, and setting aside our pet doctrines. I love my pet doctrines – believe me! But at what cost?
Do our theses on dispensationalism, replacement theology, or predestination really matter to the lost? I don’t think any sacrament has ever saved a soul.
So, would I set my preferences aside for this purpose? Absolutely. We are not to lay any obstacles in front of people. I see the Christian unity aspect of ecumenism as our attempt to lay ourselves aside for the sake of the gospel. In our church classes and blogs we can debate all the minutiae – and this is a good thing!