Update: Dear Catholic friends visiting the blog, please read the follow-up post to this article titled “Dear Catholics of 40 Days for Life“.
2012 has been a year of firsts for my wife and I with regards to pro-life mission work. We have had the privilege to minister at two different abortion clinics in Charlotte, NC, and have spoken to abortive mothers, fathers, abortion mill staff, as well as distribute pro-life materials, Gospel tracts, pray for the unborn and their parents, and preach the Gospel in the open air. Cities4Life has been instrumental in encouraging us to get into pro-life Gospel ministry, and I am thankful for the upcoming opportunity to present at the next Cities4Life Frontline Training Session on May 11 (please join us!). While my experience in pro-life Gospel ministry has been extremely fulfilling, it has not come without a stark realization of the further slide of evangelicalism into ecumenical compromise.
I am relatively new to the pro-life “movement” and was somewhat aware of there being so few Gospel-centered pro-life ministries and causes. My understanding was that most organizations are first concerned with saving the lives of the unborn, and if there was any concern for an abortive parent’s soul, this was a secondary issue. I was then elated to learn of Cities4Life and their Christ-centered, Gospel-centered (thus biblical) approach to combating abortion (read about that here). However, in hitting the sidewalks over the last few months, I have become keenly aware of another organization that is hardly Gospel-centered – 40 Days for Life. What we witnessed during our outreach on March 31, 2012 is what compelled me to write this article, which will be explained later in the post.
Before I continue, I understand some (hopefully many) of the readers of this post are evangelical Christians heavily involved with 40 Days for Life. I have personally met some of you and want you to know this article is not a personal attack against you. It saddens me to find it necessary to write such a piece, but out of love for the truth, love for the Body of Christ, and love for deceived, lost souls, write it I must. This article, then, is an open letter of sorts to evangelical Christians who are associated with 40 Days for Life, that they may understand the dangers in yoking with such ecumenical organizations at the expense of Gospel purity (go here to better understand what ecumenism is and how it is unbiblical).
40 Days for Life
February 22 – April 1, 2012 marked the organized, semi-annual abortion outreach for 40 Days for Life. One might recognize that “40 days” coincides with the Roman Catholic Lenten season. The 40 Days for Life Campaign page states:
40 Days for Life takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families. It puts into action a desire to cooperate with God in the carrying out of His plan for the end of abortion in America.
Participants meet their goal by prayer and fasting, constant vigils at abortion clinics, and community outreach. Finally, the vision and mission of 40 Days for Life as found on the Campaign page is
to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40 day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion in America.
Of course, if one reads the above at face value, there is nothing inherently wrong with the stated objective. Christians should pray and fast, we should maintain a [Gospel] presence at abortion clinics, and we should seek to educate the community on the evils of abortion. However, the danger is not in what has been said, but in who has said it.
While I was familiar with 40 Days for Life being at least a Roman Catholic friendly organization, I was not aware of how ecumenical and Catholic-rooted it is until researching it over the weekend. Take for instance the 40 Days for Life series for daily devotionals. Each devotional is written by various people representing different pro-life organizations including Priests for Life (Catholic), the National Pro-Life Religious Council (ecumenical), the National Clergy Council (ecumenical), Rachel’s Vineyard (Catholic), United Friends for Life (of the gay-affirming United Church of Christ), among others including Presbyterian, Charismatic-Episcopal, United Methodist Church, Anglican, Orthodox Church, and Lutheran organizations. What’s more, a list of Catholic prayers and vigils can be found on the Prayers page of the 40 Days for Life Charlotte chapter. As if this is not enough evidence of the ecumenical and Roman Catholic foundation of 40 Days for Life, one can Google the keywords “40 Days for Life Catholic” to see pages upon pages of Catholic associations with 40 Days for Life.
With this foundation laid, let’s look into why it is so problematic for Christians to be involved with 40 Days for Life. While the efforts of 40 Days for Life and the associated organizations are noble in saving the lives of the unborn, none of these organizations are built on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is much “God-speak” mentioned throughout the websites of these organizations, but nowhere will one find any mention or definition of the Gospel. What’s more, because there is no clear Gospel distinctive offered by any of these organizations, each can confess and promote unity in the church as if biblical Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, other apostate church denominations, and the Church of Latter Day Saints (yes, even Mormons) are all part of Body of Christ.
I am reminded of the controversial (and ecumenical) Manhattan Declaration from 2009 where the Gospel was compromised for the sake of “church unity” in fighting the culture’s social woes. In his refusal to sign the Declaration, John MacArthur resolutely explains why in the following excerpts from his November 24, 2009 post:
Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel. The gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration. At one point the statement rightly acknowledges, “It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season”—and then adds an encouraging wish: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.” Yet the gospel itself is nowhere presented (much less explained) in the document or any of the accompanying literature. Indeed, that would be a practical impossibility because of the contradictory views held by the broad range of signatories regarding what the gospel teaches and what it means to be a Christian.
Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.
In short, support for The Manhattan Declaration would not only contradict the stance I have taken since long before the original “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document was issued; it would also tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way—perhaps the very worst way—for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time. Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.
If given the opportunity, I am confident Dr. MacArthur would take the same position with regards to born again believers participating in the ecumenical 40 Days for Life organization, or any other pro-life organization that seeks common ground in Christendom and relegates the Gospel to a secondary issue, if it is indeed an issue at all.
So why is it that even mainline Protestant ministries are yoking with Rome? Why are Christian leaders and ministries like Southern Evangelical Seminary, Mark Harris – pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte and President of the NC Baptist Convention, and apologist Frank Turek endorsing 40 Days for Life (source)? [Edit: A representative from Southern Evangelical Seminary contacted me on 4/10/12 to inform me that they have severed ties with 40 Days for Life (before the publishing of this article) based on information learned about the practices that took place at A Preferred Women’s Health Center on March 31, 2012 (see photos included in this article). The representative informed me the actions of the Catholic group on March 31 was a violation of the 40 Days for Life bylaws. The representative asked for the information about SES be removed from the blog article. I have decided to retain the information on the blog for informational purposes, but I acknowledge and appreciate SES’s decision to cut ties with 40 Days for Life. This does not, however, answer the question as to why SES was involved with this ecumenical organization in the first place. See image to the right for the Sanctity of Life flyer].
Why do so many conservative churches in Charlotte participate in 40 Days for Life, in lock-step with over two dozen Roman Catholic churches and organizations? At best, the leadership of some of these churches are unaware their church name is listed as participating; at worst, they have knowingly and willingly joined hands with Rome and compromise the integrity of their church foundation and the Gospel. If the latter is the case, it is consistent with evangelicalism’s counter-reformation in her remarriage to the apostate Roman Catholic Church and it is consistent with the “Deeds not Creeds” dogma (which is a creed itself, by the way) pushed by the likes of Rick Warren. Regardless of the goal to end abortion, the ends does not justify the means. If the Gospel must be pushed aside for the sake of unity, then there can be no unity!
The Dangers of Ecumenical Compromise
With this in mind, what is the outflow of this ecumenical compromise? What are the dangers in yoking with organizations who hate the Gospel of our Lord? The following three reasons should shed light on the seriousness of Christians participating in ecumenical organizations regardless of the moral battles being fought:
Danger 1: It is sin.
The Bible explicitly commands the Christian and the non-Christian to have no spiritual relationship:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? – 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
What does it mean to be “unequally yoked”? Paul has in mind the yoke that binds two oxen together to pull a load. If one ox is stronger or taller than its companion ox, the work will not be equally distributed resulting in the pair to walk in circles. The task they have been given to do cannot be completed as the two oxen are at odds with one another. The same can be said of a believer and nonbeliever yoking themselves together in a spiritual relationship.
When the Christian enters into such a relationship with a nonbeliever, it is the Christian who compromises their principles. We often see this when Christians enter into worldly relationships with the opposite sex, and it is clear this is the case when Christian organizations and churches enter into ministry relationships with Belial (worthless religions and cults controlled by the god of this world – Satan). Looking at 40 Days for Life and the Manhattan Declaration, the compromise is apparent – any Gospel distinctive is woefully absent. This is a partnership between righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, and believers and nonbelievers, and God commands us not to do it. When we do, we sin.
Beloved, when you join Catholics in prayer, you are not equally yoked because God does not hear the prayers of Catholics who do not believe in the sufficiency of the blood of Jesus Christ to completely atone for one’s sins. When you join Catholics in proclaiming the mercies of God, you are not equally yoked because there is no mercy for those who deny justification by faith alone. When you join Catholics in sharing the message of hope and healing, you are not equally yoked because unless one is born again of the Spirit by grace alone, then there can be no hope or healing. Can you see how very much unequally yoked you are when you join Catholics in the pro-life movement? Can you see the sinfulness in doing so?
Danger 2: It affirms the deceived in their unbelief
One of the worst consequences for when Christians yoke themselves with nonbelievers is that it affirms the lost in their unbelief. Contrary to the postmodern trend that teaches the Roman Catholic Church is part of the Body of Christ, devout Catholics are not Christians. The Christian should know better, and if any Christian reading this post was unaware of this for any reason, let me be clear: Catholics are not born again, which means they are still dead in their sins and on their way to hell. One of the most unloving thing a Christian can do is to affirm a Catholic, or any member of any religious cult, and allow them to remain comfortable in their idolatry.
What took place at the Latrobe abortion mill on March 31st was heartbreaking and revolting. On the one hand, I was saddened by the blindness in the Catholics’ idolatrous worship as they chanted in unison to Mary, prayed the Rosary, and touched, kissed, and bowed down before the 6 x 3 foot portrait of the “Lady of Guadalupe”. On the other hand, I was furious with the blatant idolatry taking place in public. Nevertheless, these pitiful souls are deceived and need the Gospel of Jesus Christ just as much as those entering the slaughterhouse to murder their babies. By yoking oneself to 40 Days for Life and joining hands on the sidewalk as they practice their vain prayers, one is affirming the idol worshiper in their false religion.
I do appreciate the sincere efforts of Catholics who are out on the sidewalks praying for abortion to end. Frankly, my understanding is there are more Catholics in the pro-life movement than there are Christians – I say this to our shame. Their mere presence on the sidewalk add to the numbers of pro-lifers in front of abortion mills, which does play a role to change the minds of abortive parents (sometimes not even pulling into the abortion mill parking lot). I also am grateful for the opportunity to be able to preach the Gospel in the presence of Catholics as they are not beyond the Holy Spirit’s reach. Nevertheless, yoking ourselves with Catholics is harmful to their soul.
Danger 3: It supplements a stumbling block for abortive parents and abortion mill staff
Ironically, phrases like “40 Days for Life” or any “pro-life ministry” that is absent the Gospel at its core is not about Life at all. Yes, there may be babies saved, but in the end, what have we gained if mothers, fathers, babies, and pro-abortionists still go to hell when we could have given them the message of Life and Hope?
This is not to say, at all, that all evangelical Christians participating in 40 Days for Life do not share the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ with parents who decide to keep their babies. I trust many do. But what of the mothers and fathers who keep their babies who end up speaking with a Catholic, a Mormon, or any other religious cult member? Has your participation and endorsement of 40 Days for Life not played a role in deceiving more souls looking for answers to life’s difficulties, only to be persuaded to believe in a false hope? A mother who keeps her baby may hear the Gospel from you, Christian, but what of her speaking to a Catholic or Mormon? I assure you, they will not be hearing the same message and this has eternal consequences.
Moving Forward with the Gospel
My dear friends, abortion is a Gospel issue and we must not set it aside for the sake of unity on social issues. Just a few weeks ago I was told it does not matter who gets on the microphone to preach as long as their message is pro-life – that it does not matter whether one is Christian, Catholic, Mormon, or Atheist as long as they stand with us on the sidewalk. My friends, this is a lie from the pit of hell. Do not be deceived – it is uncharitable to have as one’s first task to save a baby’s life, then later potentially share the Gospel with the parent(s) who choose life. What happens if they go through with the abortion? What happens if they keep their baby but there is no follow-up with you, or they follow up with someone who is still lost themselves?
The reason why we must preach the Gospel first and foremost, whether in the open air or one-to-one, is because Jesus is worthy of our public adoration, our public worship, and our public testimony of the Gospel of Grace. Our King is worthy for us to be obedient to the Great Commission, regardless of whether anyone is saved. We preach Christ and Him crucified for the glory of God alone because we love the Lamb above anyone or anything else.
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). Preaching the Gospel is essential, for if there is no Gospel, there is no power to change the heart. If they are not born again, they will kill again. When we preach the Gospel unashamedly, we trust the seeds sown will take root on fertile hearts, and whether or not a woman chooses to murder her baby on that day, the seeds of the Gospel have gone forth and God may yet water them days, weeks, months, or years later. Front and center of any pro-life ministry must be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must begin with Jesus for in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
So here’s a question for you: what or who do you value more? Christ, or the lives of the unborn? Has your love for the voiceless surpassed your love for Jesus? Has your zeal to fight and end abortion surpassed your zeal for the Gospel? Do you yet understand that God is sovereign and He has called you to “be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17), even if that means forsaking your participation in a massive pro-life organization?
Beloved, God is sovereign, and He commands your loyalty as an ambassador for Christ. I am with you in your zeal for the unborn, but we do not need to compromise our biblical principles and the Gospel to be zealous for this good work (Titus 2:14). God has not called you to save babies, dear brother or sister; He has called you to be a faithful minister of the Gospel and that by doing so you might play a role in saving babies. See the difference?
In as much Christian love as I can muster, my call to you is one of repentance. I call you to come out from among these organizations that are in bed with the mother of all harlots, namely the Roman Catholic Church (Revelation 17). In doing so, I encourage you to use this opportunity to join Gospel-centered pro-life ministries. We need your compassion and we need your zeal! This would also be an opportune time for you to write your friends and family who may be Catholic participants in 40 Days for Life and share the pure Gospel of Christ with them. Perhaps you have wanted to do so for some time, but your pro-life commonality has gotten in the way and you have feared losing friendships and resources. Are the souls of these individuals not more important than the potential babies you might save together? Might you explain to them why you are leaving 40 Days for Life and speak the truth to them in love that they might come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?
I pray you consider the aforementioned concerns of weighty significance, and you will do your prayerful diligence to the Lord to respond biblically. I pray you listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd and continue to follow Him down the costly, narrow way.
In our fight for life, let us be truly pro-Life and not forsake the Life-giving power of the Gospel. Soli Deo Gloria!