I believe that the ethical guidelines included on my last post are valid and worthy of recommendation for any evangelical church or church leader around the world. They are not infallible. But, as far as I can tell, I see no reason why they should not be put into practice in any and every context.
At the same time, though, I do not see any need to put these guidelines into practice with respect to the Catholic parish down the street or with the local bishop or parish priest. Neither do I see any need to put these guidelines into practice with the local leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or with the Mormons.
Why? Because all of these groups, as I understand it, in their official position, teach a “gospel” that, in the words of Paul in Galatians 1:7 “is really no gospel at all.” That is, if you followed what their official doctrine teaches, it would not lead you to having your sins forgiven, a reconciled relationship with your Heavenly Father, or an eternity in heaven.
Where for me the rubber really meets the road on this is how do I regard other true born-again believers, and Christian groups that teach a gospel that leads to salvation, but do not dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ just like I do. Do I, for instance, treat the Presbyterian pastor on the other side of town in essentially the same way I treat the parish priest down the street? Do I treat the Pentecostal pastor in the next neighborhood over essentially the same way I treat the leaders at the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
I believe I should be friendly and kind to everyone. I believe I should treat everyone with dignity and respect. I also believe there are certain ethical principles that govern my relationship with all my fellow human beings. But I have a special relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The priest may be a wonderful human being, and I may enjoy his company and friendship. I may even get together with him for a weekly golf game. And, the Pentecostal pastor may be a real jerk, with some off-the-wall “looney tune” ideas.
But, the bottom line, as I understand it, is which one is really and truly a member of my spiritual family. Those are the people I have an inherent commitment towards mutually putting into practice the various guidelines included in the list on my last post.
Having said this, I need to make a small caveat. I recognize there is a possibility that the priest may actually be a sincere born-again believer. Though, due to my understanding of Catholic theology, I would consider his position to be somewhat of an anomaly, if I have reason to believe he really is regenerate, then, on a personal basis, I must treat him in accordance with the special relationship he shares with me as a brother in Christ. As far as his position as a so-called “church leader” is concerned, though, since he is not, as I understand it, a representative of a biblically legitimate Christian body, I do not think I have the obligation to keep to all the guidelines outlined in the list in my dealings with him, or with the “parish” in which he officiates.
I am aware that some might point out the similarities of my position here to that of the Landmark position. And I would concede that, to a certain extent, they would be correct. The big difference, as I see it, is that I accept as authentic churches, and as authentic church leaders, more than solely Baptist churches and Baptist church leaders. Doctrinally, where I draw the line, is where I understand Jesus Himself to draw the line. If I expect to spend eternity in heaven with someone, I must treat him/her as my brother or sister in Christ here on earth, with all of the implications that come along with that. If a purported Christian congregation is preaching a gospel that, when all is said and done, comes down on the side of being the true gospel, and not a “gospel” that is “really no gospel at all,” then I must treat this congregation as a sister congregation as well, with all of the implications that come along with that.