MAX LUCADO'S ECUMENICAL CONFUSION
Updated May 11, 2003 (first published September 4, 1998) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about
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Max Lucado is one of the prominent and influential evangelical leaders on the scene today. His positive-oriented books and tapes are sold in most
Christian bookstores; and he is a popular speaker at a wide range of conferences, including Promise Keepers, National Religious Broadcasters,
National Association of Evangelicals, Moody Bible Institute, and Jerry Falwell's 1992 National Youth Workers Convention.
Lucado is pastor of the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas. In June 1997 I talked with Lucado on the phone as well as with Elder Doyle Jennings of the Oak Hills Church. Both stated that they believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, but they do not believe in "baptismal
regeneration." Thus we see that they have added baptism to the grace of Christ for salvation. This is standard Church of Christ error, and it is a
very serious matter for it constitutes a false gospel. That Max Lucado is committed to Church of Christ doctrine is evident by his close
relationship with Pepperdine University and Abeline Christian University, both staunch Church of Christ institutions. A Pepperdine spokesman told Dennis Costella, editor of Foundation magazine, that Lucado has been featured seven times
at Pepperdine lectureships (Foundation, March-April 2000). Costella is in a unique position to judge these things because he grew up in the Church of Christ and graduated from Pepperdine.
Elder Jennings said he does not accept the doctrine of eternal security, while Lucado said this doctrine is not an issue in the church and elders and people are free to accept it or reject it. This is very telling since a proper understanding of salvation results in eternal security for the believer. Those who believe a born again child of God can lose his salvation simply do not understand the gospel. Consider the following biblical truths about salvation:
1. Salvation cannot be lost because it is a free gift of God's grace that cannot be mixed with works (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:3-8; Rom. 3:19-24; 4:4-6; 11:6). A gift means I receive something I do not earn; it refers to something that it absolutely free and unmerited. How can a true gift be taken away? If it can be taken away, it ceases to be a gift!
2. Salvation cannot be lost because it is by imputation and substitution (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 9:10; Rom. 4:5). Salvation is an exchange. Christ takes the believing sinner's place in condemnation, and the believer takes Christ's place in justification. Christ imparts to the sinner something he does not have and does not deserve (righteousness). That is the meaning of the term justification. It means that the believing sinner is declared righteous on the basis of Christ's atonement. How can it be lost?
3. Salvation cannot be lost because salvation is an eternally new position in Christ. See Ephesians 1-3. The phrase "in Christ" is used 25 times, in that the theme of those chapters is the believer's position in Christ. In contrast, Ephesians 4-6 describe the believer's walk in this world. The term "walk" is used 9 times in those chapters. This teaches us the important truth that salvation is a matter of position and practice, relationship and fellowship, union and communion, standing and state. The believer's position and relationship with Christ is eternally secure the moment he is born again into God's family, whereas his practice and fellowship change according to how he lives. The believer is a child of
God forever though he might not be walking in sweet fellowship every day of his earthly sojourn. See Eph. 4:1, 30; 5:1, 3, 8, where this teaching is described.
4. The blessings of salvation cannot be lost because of the teaching of election. Election does not destroy human responsibility (2 Th. 2:10-13; also compare Acts 13:46 with Acts 13:48). But divine election does promise security for the believer (Rom. 8:28-39). Predestination is not God
choosing some to be saved but God choosing the destiny of those who are saved (Rom. 8:29). Election guarantees glorification (Rom. 8:30) and it promises that there will be no condemnation (Rom. 8:31-34; 1 Pet. 1:2-5).
5. Salvation cannot be lost because of the value of Christ's blood (Rom. 3:24-25). The term "redeemed" refers to this price. It means to purchase a slave and to set him free to serve the new loving Master. The term "propitiation" also refers to the price of salvation. It means the satisfaction of a debt or the price that is paid for the slave. 1 Cor.6:20 says we are bought with a price. 1 Pet. 1:18-19 says the price was the blood of Christ, which is precious, meaning valuable. Rom. 5:20 teaches us that the price paid is much greater than the debt. If I can lose my salvation, it means that the price paid for it was not sufficient, that I must add something to it and if I do not add my part, I will be lost. Such a teaching greatly devalues the blood of Christ.
Thus the doctrine of eternal security is the natural product of a right understanding of the gospel of salvation.
DOCTRINE IS NOT VERY IMPORTANT
In my phone conversation with Max Lucado and with Elder Jennings, I got the distinct impression that doctrine was not very important to them. After I hung up the phone from talking with Lucado I wrote the following summary of my observations:
"Lucado said he represents a 'movement of grace' in the Churches of Christ, 'a move away from legalism.' I sense that we are seeing a movement away from the older rigid doctrinal positions of the various denominations by the younger men who have taken charge. I saw another example of this in a recent article in Charisma magazine about the United Pentecostal Church. It said some of the younger men are not satisfied with the past legalism and are willing to modify some of the finer points of their doctrinal position for the sake of ecumenism. Even the cults are joining in this movement, represented by the Worldwide Church of God. These new leaders are ecumenical and make no great issue of doctrine. Finer points of doctrine are meaningless. That is why something as important as eternal security is a non-issue with them. IT IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY MORE DIFFICULT TO PINPOINT THE HERESY OF HERETICAL CHURCHES. THE EASY-GOING, DOCTRINALLY-GENERIC CHURCH IS BECOMING THE NORM" (Dave Cloud, June 9, 1997).
Lucado holds an unscriptural view of Christian unity that is helping to break down the walls of separation between truth and error and that is
preparing the way for the building of a one-world apostate "church." Lucado helped organize an ecumenical alliance of pastors in his hometown, which had grown to more than 100 some years back. The pastors are learning to "put away differences" in order to deepen personal relationships. The alliance includes women pastors, Charismatics, and others. Cindy Daniel, for example, is co-pastor with her husband of Expect a Miracle Church. Newman Dollar, pastor of City View Christian Fellowship, who, with Lucado, was one of the founders of this ecumenical fellowship, told the San Antonio Express-News (Feb. 19, 2000) that he wants to see more pastors from Catholic churches participating.
Lucado was a signer of the deceptive "The Gift of Salvation" declaration between evangelicals and Catholics in November 1997. This declaration was also known as "Evangelicals and Catholics Together II." We exposed the danger and error of this statement in the article "Evangelicals and
Catholics Confusing the Gift of Salvation," which was published December 7, 1997. We noted that "The Gift of Salvation" is a bland and, in the ecumenical context, insufficient affirmation of the doctrine of biblical justification. In typical New Evangelical fashion, the evangelical authors and signers omitted many things that are necessary to properly delineate the true Bible Gospel from the false Roman Catholic one. For the most
part, what they stated about justification is not inherently unscriptural; THE MOST SERIOUS PROBLEM LIES IN WHAT THEY FAILED TO STATE. This, of course, is the root error of New Evangelicalism.
Lucado's unscriptural view of unity was also evident when he spoke at the 1996 Promise Keepers Clergy Conference for Men in Atlanta, Georgia. According to Promise Keeper leader Dale Schlafer, priests, bishops and pastors were present from every denomination in America. In fact, Promise Keepers had a Roman Catholic director for a couple of years, and Catholic priests have spoken at Promise Keepers events.
Lucado's message at the Clergy Conference dealt with "Denominational Harmony: From Bondage to Freedom." Lucado said, "I submit myself to the Word and there are core beliefs. However, for too long we have allowed our differences to divide us instead of our agreements to unite us." He urged the men to subscribe to the premise, "In essentials unity--in non-essentials charity."
We wonder if Lucado considers the gospel itself "essential"? If so, how can he yoke together with Roman Catholics who add sacraments to Christ's salvation? The phrase "in essentials unity--in non-essentials charity" is a smokescreen for disobedience to biblical separation. While not every teaching of scripture is of equal importance, the Bible does not divide doctrine into essential and non-essential. Timothy's job in Ephesus was to make certain that NO OTHER DOCTRINE be allowed (1 Timothy 1:3). There is no hint here that some portions of apostolic truth are "non-essential." Paul labored to preach THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD (Acts 20:27). The man who strives to be faithful to every detail of New Testament truth will find it impossible to be comfortable in an ecumenical Promise Keepers-type environment. As one wise man observed, "You will have a limited fellowship, or you will have a limited message."
Lucado then had the 40,000 men shout the names of their denominations all at once. The result was confusion, of course. Lucado then asked the crowd to state who was the Messiah. The ensuing response, "Jesus," was heard plainly. The evident goal of this clever little exercise was to
demonstrate the beauty and simplicity of ecumenical unity.
In Atlanta, Lucado even claimed that "the sin of disunity causes people to go to Hell!"
He then stated: "The step to unity is acceptance and no longer to speak evil of one another. WOULD IT NOT BE WONDERFUL NOT TO BE KNOWN AS EITHER PROTESTANT OR CATHOLIC? This is a God-sized dream and no one in our generation has ever seen the Church united."
This is not a God-sized dream; it is the vision of the religious Harlot that John recorded in Revelation 17. Promise Keepers is confused about the
church. It certainly is not composed of all of the alleged Christian denominations. The focus on the New Testament Scriptures is upon the
church as a local body of baptized believers organized according to the apostolic pattern for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This is the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). To define the "church" as the denominations of our day and to call for this hodgepodge of doctrinal and moral confusion "to stand together" is utter confusion. The denominations today are more akin to the Harlot of Revelation 17 than to the church of Jesus Christ.
According to eyewitness reporter Dr. Ralph Colas, "LUCADO THEN PLED THAT EVERY CLERGYMAN WHO HAD EVER SPOKEN AGAINST ANOTHER GROUP OR DENOMINATION, FIND A MEMBER OF THAT GROUP AND APOLOGIZE. Contemporary Christian singer Steve Green then belted out repeatedly 'Let the Walls Come Down.' The 40,000 ministers shouted, whistled, clapped, and cheered as they worked to a higher and higher pitch of emotion" (Colas, An Eyewitness Report on the 1996 Clergy Conference for Men, Atlanta, Georgia, February 13-15, 1996).
We are to apologize for warning people of false gospels and false baptisms and false spirits and false Christs and false sacraments and false
mediators and false views of the church and false views of Scripture? We are to apologize for warning of sin and worldliness and compromise? I have spoken against many Christian groups and denominations, because God commands me to preach the truth AND to expose error (2 Timothy 4:1-6). I refuse to apologize for striving to obey God. By God's grace I am going to keep on exposing error until the Lord takes me to Glory. And by God's grace I am going to name names and be specific about the error and the sin so that those who have an ear will be able to heed the warning.
May God help us have the courage in these evil hours to honor and obey Him rather than man.
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).