Those who ever watched TV’s “Father Ted” will recall that the phrase ‘that’s an ecumenical matter’ was something which the eponymous Fr Ted taught the foul-mouthed Fr Jack to say when visiting bishops came to Craggy Island; it was a way of avoiding him saying anything embarrassing. Yet a good deal of what passes in the name of ecumenism is embarrassing enough. Rereading that report on Religion in Society I linked to last week, it struck me that it was a pure product of ecumenism of the sort which in my view has rotted the vitals of the Christian faith in Europe. The sincerity of its members in what they believe is apparent, but is what they believe what Christians have always believed? The answer to that has to be ‘no’.
At the risk of getting myself on some sort of Government list as a fundamentalist and extremist, I am committed to the view that Christ is my Saviour, and that he is your Saviour too; indeed to the whole idea that His name is the one name above all. That has led Christians into bad places in the past, but that is no excuse for so neglecting it that it leads everyone into bad places now. That it was not only wicked but pointless to try to compel belief is something I have no problem with. You can’t make someone a Christian. As I remind some of our youngsters when, back from preaching, they think they have helped bring someone closer to Christ, that is the work of the Holy Ghost, and we are but feeble instruments in His hand – we stand in His strength and have none of our own. But to go from that extreme to the idea that one faith is as good as another is to commit the error at the opposite end of the spectrum of folly. If one faith was as good as another then Paul could have stayed at home, as could Peter, and everyone could have been saved in the way they chose, knowing it was God’s will – or even not knowing that.
We come back here to a point made before on this blog, usually by me, which is that we are being saved from something; Christ suffered, died and was buried, for us, to save us from our sins and to gain heaven for us. His resurrection was the first fruits of His sacrifice, and as we die with Him, so we rise with Him. I am quite happy to respect another fellow’s ‘belief system’, and I am even happy to say that I’ve no idea who will get to Heaven – that’s above my pay grade. But what I am not happy to say is that it does not matter. That is what the report says by implication. We should make spaces for all faiths and for none, that I can follow, but I cannot follow the idea that it is somehow wrong to claim that one’s own faith is the one which saves you – that is truth and we are bound to preach it.
Truth? That’s a problem for an age of relativists, but so much the worse for the relativists. Truth is the Person of Christ, and in His life, death, and resurrection, we shall have life, and life eternal. We are charged with making disciples of all nations. We’ve often made a hash of it, but only the other day we had a fine preacher from Nigeria here, and I thought to myself when I listened to him that the new world was coming to the aid of the old.