A Review of Peter Kreeft’s Ecumenical Jihad: by Robert M. Zins

Peter Kreeft is listed on the cover of his own book as, “a popular philosopher, author and speaker.” We do not doubt this characterization. Chuck Colson calls him “a valiant intellectual warrior.” J.I. Packer asks this question after extolling the significance of this “racy little book” with the “far reaching theme,” “What if he is right?”

Right about what? This is a good way to start our review of Ecumenical Jihad. For Mr. Kreeft has a lot to say about the way things were, are and ought to be in the world of theology and ecumenism.

The main thrust of Kreeft is a familiar theme to all who have been keeping up with ecumenism. Kreeft defines for us his view of the real battle field and then seeks to set into motion an ecumenical army to ward off the real enemy. We are finding this motif to be more and more common among evangelicals and Roman Catholics who are intent on saving the culture from a parade of real and imaginary horribles. Kreeft pulls out all stops to blend Romanism and Christianity into one huge vat of solution to be poured out on what ails society.

To get back to Packer’s question, “what if he is right?” Let us first try to answer, “right about what?” If we were to ask if Kreeft is right about his assessment of the rapid decay of American culture, due to the moral decay of her people, we would have to say that, “he is right.” There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. America is decaying briskly. Kreeft offers reams of proof and cites example after example of Americanized evil.

From aborted babies to zealous terrorists, America seems to be coming undone. Kreeft is accurate in his appraisal of the public educational system, the Entertainment industry and the American media. The institution of family is held up to ridicule as well as hard work, honesty, integrity, fidelity and all forms of conservatism. Kreeft strikes a chord of affirmation within all who view the current moral collapse of America with horror. He gets his point across very well:

“I think modern man is becoming reptilian. Three distinctive features of reptiles are: (1) they devour their young; (2) they are cold blooded; and (3) they conform their body temperature to their environment. Three features of modern secularists are: (1) they kill their unborn children; (2) they judge the warm-blooded to be “fanatics” (for 98.6 seems like a high fever to the cold-blooded); and (3) they have nothing but their ever-changing society to conform to; they are social relativists with no transcendent absolutes.” [1]

America is in trouble. The family is attacked by both divorce and the courts. The gay and lesbian community continues to fight for a redefinition of family. Abortion, drugs, homicides, and immorality of every imaginable kind pervade the very fabric of main street America. The government seems bent on rewriting the Constitution and writing out morality. These and similar slashes have left deeps gashes and ugly sores on the American moral landscape.
However, if we were to ask, “is Kreeft right about his remedy?” the answer is “no.” With remarkable finesse, Kreeft ascends to the high moral ground and calls all Christians to join him.

The tip off that something is askew comes early when Kreeft announces that the only solution to the problems facing our culture is to keep in mind two principles. The first is that the foundation of social order is morality. The second is that the foundation of morality is religion. Exactly which religion, and exactly which morality, ultimately becomes an ecumenical mush of God talk, Jesus talk and Mary talk, with the Qur’an thrown in for good measure.

The main problem is that Peter Kreeft is a Roman Catholic who assumes that Roman Catholicism is not only “Christian,” but the leader of the Christian band. He does not say this. He assumes it throughout his entire book and leaves no room for doubt that Roman Catholicism is “in.” So, “come on” says he, “get up here with us Christians and fight from the high moral ground for the high moral ground.” So sweeping is his indictment against the oozing slime of a decadent culture that to not “get on up there with him” is tantamount to blasphemy. Surely no non-Christian could see society’s problems with such clarity. Surely this is of the Lord. Not quite.

In typical ecumenical fashion, Kreeft minimizes any meaningful definition of the gospel of Christ and overwhelms any theological objections to Rome with a bombardment of manipulative scare tactics. We hear in effect, “there is a war to be fought, no time now to look too closely at who is in the foxhole with you.” “The culture is going to hell in a hand basket and you are arguing whether or not there is a Purgatory?” “We Christians need to stand together; there is a whole herd of secular fanatics trying to run us out of town.” “It is time for all God-fearing Christians to join hands regardless of what you believe.” And so it goes. The big bad wolf is the world system. This is loosely defined as the dreaded secularist who wants his kids hooked on porn and taught by a lesbian before it is too late. Ring the alarm and circle the wagons. Come to the safety of Fort Rome. Not unlike Chicken Little’s frantic call, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” we hear over and over, “the secularists are coming, the secularists are coming.” Quick, abandon all doctrine. Quick, dump the gospel fuel or this baby is going to crash and burn. Or, so we are told.

Let us counter with our own two principles. The first, Romanism is not Christianity, never was and never will be. The second, running to Rome to escape secularism is tantamount to Chicken Little running to the foxes’ house to escape the farmer.

So gummed up is the mind of this ecumenicalist that he even takes us one step beyond all known territory in his enlistment of help to stem the tide of corruption and scum. Kreeft not only wants us to believe Rome is Christian but also that the horrid pagan monsters (the Godless ones) can only be fully dethroned if Jewish-Christian ecumenism and Christian-Muslim ecumenism is successful. What next? Should not sincere atheists and agnostics be called in as well? We kid you not. After calling all Muslims...
“Nothing in the Jewish Scriptures contradicts Christianity, but some things in the Qur’an do. Yet even here, an ‘ecumenical jihad’ is possible and is called for, for the simple and strong reason that Muslims and Christians preach and practice the same First Commandment; Islam, total surrender submission of the human will to the divine will. We fight side by side not only because we face a common enemy but above all because we serve and worship the same divine Commander.” [2]

...Kreeft has the audacity to call all pagans as well. Only these are no longer pagans—they’re anonymous Christians!

“Finally, even atheists and agnostics, if they are of good will and intellectual honesty and still believe in objective truth and objective morality, are on our side in the war against the powers of darkness. Perhaps they can be called ‘anonymous Christians.’” [3]

Hold onto your Bibles, folks. Nothing other than a total spiritual blindness sent by the hand of God could possibly explain how any one in their right mind could read and approve the utter nonsense espoused by this author. And yet, this very “racy little book” has the endorsement of both Packer and Colson.

Weaving in and out of history, theology and philosophy, including an imaginary conversation between Luther, Aquinas and C.S. Lewis, Kreeft presses, pushes, postures and poses an unrelenting case for “two plus two equals five.” He assumes Rome is Christian and never lets go of it. He assumes that Luther and Aquinas can be harmonized for the “mereness” of Christianity. He defends Romanism and subtly mocks evangelicals who are stubborn in their resistance to Rome’s outstretched hand. He applauds Muslims and any other sincere religion because they have morals and values. He thinks Jesus is hidden in the Muslim religion much like Jesus is hidden in the transubstantiated bread of the Roman Mass. He thinks Protestants and Catholics have the same religion but different theologies. He thinks Christians need to learn from great non-Christians. He thinks God is Socratic. He thinks Christians have a lot to learn from Confucius and Buddha. He thinks Romanism is Christianity, as well as any number of other religions which deny our Lord Jesus Christ. He has lowered the standard so far as to make the gospel absolutely meaningless.

Perhaps the chief danger of this awful little book is found in the “What Can I Do?” chapter, which is saved for last. Here Rome is as Rome as Rome can be. Here we are given a timely, if not intentional, reminder of why we must as Christians fight the culture war wearing different uniforms than Rome and answering to our very own Commander in Chief. If we were now to accept Kreeft’s invitation and join in the mad dash across the Tiber, we would find that there is nothing but loss in all that is sacred to the gospel of Christ when once we landed on the opposite bank. Kreeft leaves to us these two gruesome suggestions, among many, for victory in the cultural wars. As you can see, there are some things worse than secularism:

“Consecrate your life to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She is the one who will win this war. She is the one (as the Bible says) who triumphs over Satan.”

“Eucharistic adoration, when persevered in, has incredibly revitalized parishes and individuals.” [4]

Packer asks, “What if he is right?” We answer, “if Kreeft is right then we, and everyone resisting Rome for the past 1500 years, are wrong and most to be pitied. We are yet in our sins and have trusted in a lie.”

The good news is that Mr. Kreeft is wrong. In essence, Kreeft is a Roman Catholic moralist who has decided to declare Romanism a Christian religion and include a few of his friends as well, i.e., Muslims, Buddhists and any other card carrying, gum chewing pro-lifer, pro-family religionist. None of his meanderings have anything to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the depravity of mankind, the salvation of God and the true Christianity found in the Bible.

Roman Catholic moralism is nothing new. They have been at it for a long time. So swift is the Romanist transition from “good morality” being the result of the gospel to “good morality” being the gospel, that one hardly notices that the gospel was ever anything else. Equally as swift is the transition from “the gospel” being the message of the Church, to the Roman Catholic religion being “the gospel.” Kreeft is facile, fluent, slick and smooth; but he is not Christian.

Mr. Spurgeon has captured the essence of our sentiment:

“In these times, when liberality is the only popular virtue, and zeal for truth the cardinal sin, it is worth much to let the public know assuredly that Popery is not the angel of light it professes to be. ‘ Distance lends enchantment to the view;’ but, to the right-minded, to see Romanism is to abhor it.” [5]

[1] Ecumenical Jihad, page 57
[2] Ecumenical Jihad, page 30
[3] Ecumenical Jihad, page 31
[4] Ecumenical Jihad, page 169
[5] Taken from Geese in their Hoods, Selected Writings on Roman
Catholicism, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, compiled and edited by Timothy
F. Kauffman, (Huntsville, AL: White Horse Publications, ©1997), pg. 110

From the 3rd Quarter 1997 edition of Theo-Logical, a quarterly publication of A Christian Witness To Roman Catholicism.