The Siren Song of Unity!*

In Greek and Roman mythology, sirens were women who lured ships onto rocky shores by enticing the sailors with their singing. Today the world's leaders, like the sirens of mythology, are singing an enchanting song of unification very similar to the days of Babel: "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth'" (Genesis 11:4).

We have a comparable message coming from the present world's leaders telling us we must rethink our world and come into a new way of doing things:

"Today humankind is facing a choice,' [Mikhail Gorbachev, former head of the Soviet Union] said. It is time for every individual, nation, and state to re-think its place and role in world affairs.'... We need to find a new paradigm .... This search for a new paradigm should be a search for synthesis, for what is common to and unites people, countries and nations, rather than what divides them'" (From speech given at the State of the World Forum in San Francisco, Oct., 1995, as quoted in letter from Lucis Trust promoting World Invocation Day, received March, 1996).

Unfortunately, this "siren song of unity" is reaching into the Christian community. The book A Plea for Purity, Sex, Marriage, and God, by J. Christoph Arnold (a pastor) includes a foreword by Mother Teresa, with endorsements by men who also participated in or endorsed "Evangelical & Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium."

Subtly we are being directed toward Christian unity -- a unity not based on the Holy Scriptures and Biblical doctrine, but founded on social issues ("better families," "sexual purity," "father/son relationships") and Promise Keeper-like emotional experiences (fathers and sons embracing, standing ovations for pastors, and the joining of hands during worship songs). As compelling and heart warming as the social issues and emotional experiences might be, these cannot be the basis for Biblical unity.

An unbiblical ecumenical union is not in the best interest of the body of Christ. Besides, many pastors and laymen attending ecumenical gatherings are promoting and practicing beliefs not in accord with Biblical Christianity. This fact alone should force us, out of respect for Christ and His teachings, as well as for our own spiritual well-being, to avoid fellowship.

As conscientious and watchful Christians who need to be keenly aware of what Scripture warns about the last days' generation, we must not only examine, but also scrutinize movements impacting the Church -- their immediate, individual effects and also their long-term collective effects. Pastors and other church leaders cannot blindly accept short-term benefits and not consider the long-range consequences. And the long-range consequences of uniting with movements that want religious unity over Biblical unity will be compromising pastors, diminishing reliance on the Word and doctrine, lukewarm congregations, unholy alliances with any faith, and eventually embracing the religion of the Antichrist and the False Prophet.

Individuals who become saved and added to the body of Christ (regardless of when and where) must be discipled with Christ-centered worship, Bible-based preaching, an "in-the-Bible" Bible study, and taught to test all things according to Scripture. To lead them into unscriptural teachings and unbiblical unity is to tamper with the good work started by the Holy Spirit.

Unity Fever is Everywhere

As the following quotations demonstrate, the song of unity has many melodies and many singers:

(a) "We [participants in the Parliament of World Religions] are persons who have committed ourselves to the precepts and practices of the world's religions. We confirm that there is already a consensus among the religions which can be the basis for a global ethic -- a minimal fundamental consensus concerning binding values, irrevocable standards, and fundamental moral attitudes" (Given at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, September 4, 1993, in Chicago, Illinois).

(b) "The Millennium Council of Faiths is being asked to design suitable 'rites of passage' through which people will 'die' to old 20th century ways of thinking and being, and emerge as new 21st century people. Through the Parliament of the World's Religions, the Peace Council, and other major interfaith organizations, we are building leadership commitments in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha'm, Jain, Sikh, Wicca, Brahma Kumari, Shinto, Indigenous, and other faith traditions to making the year 2000 a turning point" (The Millennial Moment Initiative: The Overall Plan, December,1995).

(c) "Now that we [Catholic Church leadership] have briefly set out the conditions for ecumenical action and the principles by which it is to be directed, we look with confidence to the future. This Sacred Council exhorts the faithful to refrain from superficiality and imprudent zeal, which can hinder real progress toward unity" (Decree On Ecumenism proclaimed at Saint Peter's, by Pope Paul VI on Nov. 21, 1964).

(d) "We are Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who have been led through prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions about Christian faith and mission. ... In this statement we address what we have discovered both about our unity and about our differences" (Evangelicals & Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium).

(e) "In spite of its problems, Christian television has done much to help tear down the barriers between denominations and movements. Catholics now watch Baptists, and Presbyterians watch Pentecostals, with everyone learning that there is merit to the beliefs of others. There are many Christian events that draw believers together from across the spectrum of the body of Christ, and genuine interchange is taking place. There is probably more unity in the church today than at any time in the last one thousand years" (The Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin, May 1996, "Civil War in the Church").

(f) "We are in the prophesied latter days. This is the harvest time, the transition cycle between the ending of the old, materialistic age and the New Age of Aquarius, now dawning. This forty-year period (1960-2000) also is known as the Mark Age, or age of marks and signs when all on Earth know we are entering a new spiritual dimension of love, peace and brotherhood" (MARK-AGE [Planet Earth] Love in action for the New Age, [Mark-Age, Inc. is a nonprofit spiritual-educational organization founded in 1960. Executive director and primary channel is Nada-Yolanda, a prophet for the New Age and the Second Coming. International headquarters are in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.]).

The body of Christ cannot hide from this unification crusade whether it be political or religious. The Book of Revelation speaks to both types:

"Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no-one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:11-17).

Since the Bible speaks of a false world religion in the end times that is an offense to Christ, and since we see a push for oneness not only from politicians and economists but also from professing Christians, the body of Christ must have a good understanding of what the Scriptures say about unity among believers.

Shouldn't Truth Unify the Church?

If believers remain in Christ's truth, the unity that He prayed for in John 17:20-26 is possible -- "that they may be one as We are one. ... I in them and You in Me." Jesus and God are one spiritually. They have one essence or nature, no separate kingdom, no separate interests, no separate will, no separate desire, and no separate truth. This is the true unity that the body of Christ should have today. This kind of unity cannot occur in man simply through ecumenical councils and unbiblical confessions. This unity can come only through the Holy Spirit's work in the hearts of believers who are committed to the Word and to the testimony of Jesus.

To be Biblically one requires more than church attendance, more than emotional experiences, more than pseudo-supernatural signs and wonders, more than promises, and more than resolving social ills. It requires "the glory that You gave Me." What is this glory? "The 'glory' of Christ was His life of self-denying service and His dying on the cross in order to redeem the human race. Likewise, the 'glory' of the believer is the path of humble service and bearing his or her cross. Humility, self-denial, and the willingness to suffer for Christ will ensure the true unity of believers and will lead to true glory" (Full Life Study Bible, p. 1621). This glory is not earned by some work of man but bestowed by God through Jesus (John 17:22).

Above all else, Jesus and the Father are united with regards to the TRUTH, and believers are to be united likewise: "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks" (John 4:23). Since truth comes from the Father through Jesus to the apostles, and the Church is told to build upon the apostles (as well as Jesus), the apostles' teachings should be followed: "They [the early believers] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). The instructions of the apostles of what they knew about Christ and His teachings became known as doctrines.

It seems interesting that doctrine is being ridiculed in some circles as being divisive: "If people didn't stick to their 'pet doctrines,' the Church wouldn't be so divided." I agree that some people divide over irrelevant issues. However, Paul warns Timothy to beware, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Timothy 4:3). There is a major distinction between irrelevant issues and sound Biblical doctrine. Sound Biblical doctrine needs to be aggressively defended, not timidly compromised. Here are some other Biblical insights into the role of doctrine and its importance to the body of Christ:

(1) "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9);

(2) "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1);

(3) "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16); and

(4) "for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers -- and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:10);

Believers united as Christ defined in John 17 have kept to sound doctrine, and there has always been a remnant like this:

"God did not reject His people, whom He foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah -- how he appealed to God against Israel: 'Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me'! And what was God's answer to him? 'I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace" (Romans 11:2-5).

The whole professing church may seem to be succumbing to the unification movement; but a remnant still exists today who have not bowed down to every new wave, new teaching, or new experience that comes along. They have not united around social issues, signs and wonders, or a lowest-common-denominator Biblical standard that any religion can join. They search the Scriptures daily, they worship, they deny themselves, they seek God's face through prayer and supplication. Their hearts are turned toward their God, asking Him what He desires. Believers like this, in fact, are united and they possess "the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one" (John 17:22).

Since Jesus has left us His Biblical criterion for unity, the leaders of "Christian" ecumenism should willingly use the Bible as the standard. When looking at the history of God's chosen people and the Church, it is easy to see that any unity less than the one Jesus defines results ultimately in rebellion against His Word.

Does the Body Have Unity?

According to Paul in Ephesians chapter 4, the Church has unity because Paul instructs believers to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit" (v. 3). You only keep what you already have. This unity is kept "through the bond of peace" (v. 3). This bond is defined in verse 2 as humility, gentleness, patience, and love.

Paul goes on in a very "narrow-minded" fashion by showing how exclusive real Biblical unity is. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope (v. 4), one Lord, one faith, one baptism (v. 5), and "one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (v. 6).

So believers would be able to "grow up into Him who is the Head" (v. 15), Jesus established apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (v. 11). Through these offices, the Holy Spirit (a) prepares God's people for works of service, (b) builds up the body of Christ, (c) brings us to unity in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ, thus enabling us to "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (vs. 12-13).

Once this fullness is attained, believers won't be deceived and seduced by false teachings and false doctrines promoted by cunning and crafty men, but will speak the truth in love.

How Does the Church Remain United?

Since Jesus is our "wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30), we need to, "See that what [we] have heard from the beginning remains in [us]. If it does, [we] also will remain in the Son and in the Father" (1 John 2:24).

As can be seen from John 15:4-11, it is imperative that the Church read, study, know, heed, and do the works of Jesus as outlined in the Scriptures. "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 1:9).

As members in the body of Christ, and with so much emphasis placed by Jesus on remaining in sound teaching, this responsibility requires that we should not "let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify [us] for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow" (Colossians 2:18-19).

If the body of Christ is indeed impotent and not doing the work of the Lord, is visible unity the answer? Or maybe it needs to return to the teachings of Christ, the vine! Perhaps the Church needs to return to Christ-centered worship and preaching of the Word by pastors who believe in the reality and reliability of Scripture, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, and other foundational truths. Congregations need to desire the Word of God preached and that sin be exposed rather than desire "make-me-feel-good" sermons, signs, miracles, wonders, and unscriptural experiences as a substitute. Jesus says, "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine."

Can the Body of Christ Afford to Ignore Christ's Warnings?

In the Book of Revelation, Christ tells us what a church should be like:

1. Not tolerating wicked persons -- 2:2
2. Testing the life, doctrine, and claims of Christian leaders -- 2:2
3. Persevering in faith, love, witness, service, and suffering for Christ -- 2:3,10,13,19,26
4. Hating what God hates -- 2:6
5. Overcoming sin, Satan, and the ungodly world -- 2:7,11,17 26; 3:5,12,21
6. Refusing to conform to immorality in the world and worldliness in the church -- 2:24; 3:4
7. Keeping God's Word -- 3:8,10

The Book of Revelation also reveals that churches have a natural tendency to error, to be influenced and misled by false teaching, and to adapt to the evil, anti-God elements of the world:

1. To the church at Ephesus, Jesus said, "You have forsaken your first love" (2:4);

2. To the church at Smyrna, Jesus said, "I know your afflictions and your poverty -- yet you are rich" (2:9)! (Notice Jesus had no rebuke for this church that by man's standards was poor.);

3. To the church at Pergamum, Jesus said, "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans" (2:14-15);

4. To the church in Thyatira, Jesus said, "Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads My servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols" (2:20);

5. To the church at Sardis, Jesus said, "... I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you" (3:1-3);

6. To the church at Philadelphia, Jesus said, "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name" (3:8). (Notice that Jesus commends them for keeping His Word and for not denying His name.); and

7. To the church in Laodicea, Jesus said, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of My mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (3:15-17).

By the end of the first century, only two churches out of seven are commended by Christ Himself. It seems the visible Church does not have a very good track record.

What Should Christians Do?

As the unity/ecumenical pressure increases, those opposing will be considered obstructions to a so-called "move of God." Any opposing views will be condemned as divisive, negative, proud, unloving, narrow, radical, or some other malicious label. To be able to stand against the criticism, avoid unholy entanglements, and be confident of your position, we offer this checklist of questions as a guide to evaluate any ecumenical movement:

1. Is theology built on the 66 books of the Old and New Testament Scriptures used in context?;

2. Is the Biblical Christ the cornerstone?;

3. Is the bodily resurrection of the Biblical Jesus accepted and taught as literal, historical fact?;

4. Does the Biblical Jesus have preeminence in all areas?;

5. Do members love the Jesus Christ identified in the Scriptures, as evidenced by their obedience to His Word?;

6. Is God's Word the final truth -- the last court of appeals in all matters of faith and doctrine?;

7. Is all worship, preaching, and teaching Christ-centered and leading to the Christ of the Bible?;

8. Do teachers promote the Word and the testimony of Jesus?; and

9. Are the Scriptures viewed as sufficient for all matters of life and godliness? Or are worldly philosophies and pseudo-scientific teachings brought in under the guise of "All Truth Is God's Truth"?

Christians need to heed Jesus' prayer for unity, and desire, recognize, and work for His kind of unity -- not force or promote an unbiblical one. Jesus Himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). This claim offends and excludes those who are not sold out to Him. In John 6, some of Christ's disciples were offended by His teaching that "... no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him" (v. 65). Because of this teaching, many disciples abandoned Jesus (v. 66) just like many do today because of His teachings. After this reaction, Jesus turned to the twelve disciples -- His core group -- and asked, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" (v. 67). Notice how Simon Peter responded: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God" (vs. 68-69). No one else has the words which lead to eternal life or can claim to be the eternal God; so how can Christians unite with any religious group that does not believe as Peter did?

Don't let the siren song of the current unity movement lure you away from Biblical Christianity or cause you to make a compromised commitment to the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, stand in true Biblical unity, "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3).

Foremost, we need to adhere to Christ's teachings, live for Him and through Him, and be willing even to die for Him as martyrs are doing today in many foreign countries like China and the Sudan. Biblical unity will automatically follow those whose love and faith in Jesus are more important than life itself. Then true, sold-out believers will be able to stand for Biblical Christianity, do great works, and be witnesses to a fallen world. Combined with God's Word and our testimony of Jesus and the genuine power of the Holy Spirit, Christ's Church will be an unblemished Bride occupying this earthly home until the Bridegroom returns.

"'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).

* This report has been excerpted and/or adapted from an article by Jim Weikal, Biblical Research and Instruction Director, Bill Rudge Ministries, Newsletter, Vol. 19, No. 2., pp. 1-5.

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