Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why some Christians are anti-ecumenical

In this week's class session of the Ecumenical Theology course I'm teaching at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, we prefaced our examination of the biblical basis, theological framework, and historical development of ecumenism by discussing the reasons some Christians are stridently anti-ecumenical. Among the factors we identified were the influence of dispensational premillennial eschatology, anti-Catholicism, fear that ecumenical alliances will water down doctrinal distinctives or involve compromise with theological liberalism, fear that the journey toward visible unity will require us to give up some of the things that are most dear to us about our denominational traditions, and ecclesial memories of persecution by other Christian communions. (In connection with the influence of dispensational premillennial eschatology, I once joked to my wife while preparing to travel to participate in an ecumenical dialogue that I was off to prepare the way for the coming of the Antichrist.) This morning I came across something that exemplifies many of the factors we discussed: the online tract "Ecumenical Baptists?" linked from the web site We Are Baptist Because... (associated with Morning Star Baptist Church, an Independent Baptist congregation in West Chester, Ohio).


  1. Wish I could have sat in on this lecture! I'm now about as ecumenical as orthodoxy permits. But I grew up with a "dispensational premillennial eschatology." And I certainly saw there the strident opposition you speak of. But I'm not sure why, or how it's rooted in this particular theology. Could anyone enlighten me?

  2. Thanks, Mauarice. Regarding dispensationalism, that eschatological perspective has long read the "whore of Babylon" of Revelation as the Roman Catholic Church and has understood the modern ecumenical movement as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy--what it takes to be references to a false "one-world church" led by the Antichrist in the book of Revelation.