Friday, September 29, 2006

a Rabbi, a Priest, and a minister...

Larry King has a habit of interviewing religious leaders (from many different religions and Christian denominations) and he is meticulous about asking one line of questioning to all of them. The gist of his question is this, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” There have been confessions made by many different people, and many of them (from what I have seen) have fallen into a similar category of deceived non-biblical nonsense. And by the way - I am primarily referring to those people who claim to be Christians. Sure, we get the same universalistic and all-inclusive drivel from other religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age religions, and (sadly) Judaism, but we cannot expect false religions to provide us with the truth. But we can and should expect more from those who are or claim to be Christians and who claim to hold dear the very gospel that Christ died to give to us.

If you don’t think that the devil has set up false systems to be inclusive of everything but the truth, here is a quick rabbit trail. I have found, interestingly enough, that the position of many (if not most or all) modern Jewish Rabbis is that if a person keeps the laws of Noah (Noahide law), they will have a share in paradise. These 7 Laws of Noah are (although not universally agreed to in order or in content) these:

  • Prohibition of idolatry

  • Prohibition of blasphemy

  • Prohibition of murder

  • Prohibition of theft

  • Prohibition of illicit relations

  • Prohibition of eating live meat

  • Prohibition of failing to establish courts of justice

The basic doctrine associated with these laws is that if a non-Jew keeps these laws, they will inherit eternal life. It is interesting to note that “Maimonides has maintained that Islam is a Noahide religion” while, although there is some debate, “the strict view is that Christian theology is considered [idolatry] for all people, both Jew and gentile, as it subscribes to the Trinity.“ It is funny that the Jewish tradition holds that practicioners of Islam would be keeping the laws of Noah when true Muslims (in my view) are the ones practicing the Ji’had on everyone else. I call them “true Muslims” because their holy book calls for war and destruciton and of the infadel as plainly as Christ claimed exclusively to be the only way to God in the New Testament (John 14:6). Is it more ironic or more wicked that this doctrine most specifically rejects Christ, but accepts Mohammad and those who wage an endless war on Jews?

Leaving false religions aside (because, really, how much truth can we expect to find in those who openly and viciously deny the deity of Jesus?), I want to focus again on various “Christians” and their affrmations of the gospel. In order to do this, I have found a few video clips from the Larry King Live show that I would like to share. The first video is one that I have sent to a few Catholic friends and it has received by them with anything from calling the Priest a heretic to defending him totally on what he says. Let us just listen to this ordained minister and Priest of the Roman Catholic Church talk about the gospel:

(Click here to view the video Clip)

The universalism is so thick; I had a hard time listening to it. The sickening works righteousness of being a good person “doing the best he can” which then allows one to get eternal life just oozes out of his mouth. This is another gospel than the one contained in the Bible.

Now, to show that I am not just ragging on Catholic statements of Christ and salvation, here is the poster-boy for contemporary (pseudo) Christianity: Joel Osteen.

(Click here to view the video Clip)

To be fair to Mr. Osteen, he did pretty well for the first 31 seconds of this exchange. After that, it wasn’t just that he went downhill; he did a freefall plummet out of the sky. Saying that the people in India (who presumably are not Christians by the context of his statement) “love God” by practicing what the Bible declares to be idolatry is nothing less than pure theological garbage. He is right that we don’t know definitely who is or who is not saved, assuming that we’re only looking at professing Christians, but to say regarding other faiths, “I don't know if I believe they're wrong.” is to skip past humility and jump straight into a denial of God’s Word and it is heresy of the first order.

In the final clip, there are three primary speakers here: a rabbi, a priest, and a minister. No joke, that’s the case. Rabbi Harold Kushner, Father William Byron, and Albert Mohler who is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary fulfill these three different roles. You can watch for yourself, but you will see both Rabbi Kushner and Father Byron basically say that regardless of what you believe, your good works will get you to heaven. After that, Mohler will give the appropriate, correct, and biblical response. (this clip has bad video quality)

(Click here to view the video Clip)

I don’t think that Rabbi Kushner, Father Byron, or Father Manning represent the crazy wacko-wings of their respective religions, but rather I think that they represent the main-stream. In the same way, I think that Joel Osteen represents much of those who would now call themselves evangelicals. Albert Mohler represents the traditional and historical affirmations of the Christian faith in that we are saved in Christ alone by the preaching of the Word of God (Romans 10:13-15).

I am not in line with Mr. Osteen’s presentation of the gospel, his emphasis on prosperity (health, wealth, etc.), or that Christians can live your best life now in Christ (unless by that he means and articulates that we will undergo trials, tribulations, persecutions, and possibly martyrdom for the cause of Christ). If he were a pastor in my denomination, I would call for disciplinary action and most likely removal from his pulpit because he clearly does not understand the gospel. Dr. Mohler affirms the gospel, and although we may disagree on some issues (none come to mind right now), I applaud his stance and encourage him on in his ministry.

If these two Catholic Priests are correctly articulating Catholic theology, then it is proof positive that the Catholic Church is as apostate as the Mormon church or the wishy-washy self-help protestant churches like the one that Mr. Osteen pastors. Again, if indeed this is the official gospel preached by the Roman Catholic Church, neither I nor you owe it any allegiance, nor should we pay it lip service, nor should we genuflect to it. If, however, these Priests are preaching a gospel that is contrary to official Roman Catholic theology, with the very intricate hierarchy that exists, why are they still active Roman Catholic Priests? Why have they not been corrected by whatever disciplinary system that is present? Why have they not been defrocked? Why have they not been excommunicated?

If the Roman Catholic Church is unwilling or unable to severely discipline those members of its clergy who so blatantly blaspheme the gospel, I cannot support it, I cannot defend it, and I cannot be in communion with it. Any church that allows men to preach the false gospel that these men (Byron, Manning, or Osteen) preach is apostate to the very gospel that Christ died to bring to us in such a basic and foundational way that there is no excuse for it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Justification: "Works" vs. "Works of the Law"

As you may have seen (or been a part of), there has been a fairly zesty debate between Roman Catholics and Protestants that has taken place over the past few weeks on this blog. Of the issues raised, debated, re-raised, and rebutted, none has been more important to me than the issue of true saving faith. Roman Catholics believe that we are justified by faith and works. At this, some of my Roman Catholic friends scoff or tell me that I don’t understand Catholicism, but to say that one is born again (regenerated, saved, or whatever specific word they want to use) at baptism and at the same time say that works do not save us, is (in my understanding) the height of self delusion. Catholics do tend to say that the ongoing works in the life of a baptized Catholic are the effect of Christ working through the person, but the problem is that this ongoing work then achieves the possibility of an eventual justification…maybe…that is based upon the merits earned during the individual’s life, and not solely on the basis of the righteousness of Christ and His finished redemptive work that was completed in His death and resurrection.

Well, the debate rages on. Both sides ardently opposing one another while adamantly stating, “Nothing that I believe contradicts the Bible. I have nothing to fear from the Bible and correct exposition.” Obviously two completely contradictory views on the basis of true Christian faith cannot both be the correct conclusion from the pages of scripture. So, in these recent discussions, the Catholics that have been trying to show me the error of my soteriology have trotted out James 2:17 “faith without works is dead” and used that as the trump card to slap down any “faith apart from works” or “faith alone” claims. Interestingly enough when I quoted Ephesians 2:8-10 as showing that faith is what is required I was accused of taking this verse out of context.1 But it is absurd to say that the whole context of Ephesians 2 when we are talking about grace and faith with works being excluded as being out of context. I am trying to stay away from the careless throwing about of the accusation “Out of context!” so I refrained from responding by saying that he was misinterpreting (taking out of context) the passage in James 2.

So instead of tackling both Ephesians 2 and James 2 (which I plan on doing in the future), I want to tackle this issue from a different angle. And possibly, this way of dealing with this specific Catholic objection just might clear up the issue. The Catholic objection (that I have been presented with) to using passages that refer to faith as the requirement for salvation at the exclusion of works is that these passages are talking about works of the law. “The ‘works of the law’ Paul taught about in Ephesians 2:8-9 and elsewhere referred to the Mosaic Law and their legal system that made God obligated to reward them for their works.” The Mosaic Law is defined as referring to the laws governing “moral, legal, and ceremonial” affairs.2 It is on this understanding of the “works of the Law” that I would like to briefly focus upon.

When Christ was asked to tell which commandment from the Law of Moses was the greatest, he responded by saying, “`YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'” (Matthew 22:37-40) In this text he was referencing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, and not creating a new standard. I began to think…what good thing could a person do that doesn’t fall under either of these two summaries of the commandments? I think that the answer is, plainly, nothing. Therefore, I think that it is a false distinction that Catholics try to make between James’ “works” and Paul’s “works of the law” regarding their role in our justification.

I thought that there would be a lot more to say, but there isn’t. If we are not justified by any works of the law (which I agree that we are not), and that anything that could be considered a good work would fall into either the category of loving or serving God or of loving others, then James and Paul must be harmonized in a way that doesn’t imply that our contemporary works actually justify us. Our works do show that we are saved, but they do not cause us to be justified nor do they maintain or regain our justification if it is lost (you cannot be “unjustified” once you have been declared righteous).

The works of a believer are proof that he or she has been justified, but they do not play any part in attaining, maintaining, or losing of that justified state.

Sola fide. Soli Deo gloria.



Monday, September 25, 2006

God is Great!

Serving a wonderful God is such a blessing. Over the past few weeks the various ministries of the church have been swinging into high gear along with the start of the school year, and I am definitely feeling the increase in workload. It was nice to have a few months off from teaching the Contenders Adult Bible Fellowship and actually have weekends to get things done, go out with my family, and rest. Basically, I have been really feeling the contrast between a lighter summer work load and my current and continual one.

It was on Friday or Saturday this past weekend when I was getting a little more run down than normal and I really needed a chance to relax. However, even though I got much less sleep than I wanted (or needed) this weekend, I left church last night after my final obligation feeling refreshed. That’s right…refreshed. I was as bewildered and amazed, not to mention grateful, as you can imagine. As I was riding home and going over everything in my mind, the Lord kept bringing to mind one thing, well one type of thing. Encouragement.

You see, over the past month or so, I have been very blessed by various individual people as well as groups of people. So, in order for me to remember this down the road as well as to say thank you to everyone and to God, I want to make a list (not exhaustive) of the encouragement that was out of the ordinary, very timely, and shows the kind of God we have who “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Brea – Brea is a young lady who is involved in my church’s youth group. I help run the children’s program (AWANA) on Sunday nights and we asked some of the members of the youth group if they would be willing to help us out. Well, I had not heard of any of them who were willing until one day Brea waited patiently, looking visibly excited, to talk to me after the morning service. She told me many times how she wanted to work in AWANA with a certain age group of girls because she thought she could be of special encouragement to them. Over the next few weeks, we would occasionally speak and she would just be bounding with enthusiasm and excitement over serving in AWANA. Her attitude of being so excited as well as her commitment to being engaged in the various activities that go on during AWANA has been so refreshing from someone so young.

I say a little more about Brea than some of the others because it was her excitement and overall visible joy that was the first in a long litany of blessings.

Stu – Stu and I have been growing into pretty good friends since my wife and I came to Ambassador 5 years ago. It was his Sunday school teaching, Pastor Bruce’s intentional greeting of us on our first Sunday, as well as being welcomed by so many others (in a real and genuine way) in the church that made us stick with Ambassador when we were looking for a church. Stu and I have become close because we have similar passions for teaching, preaching, and the importance of theology, family, and so many other things. The most recent encouraging thing happened on Saturday night. We were talking on the phone about the various things we would be teaching on the following day, and I mentioned that I had to go to the church to make photo copies, and he told me to call him and he would come with me to have some fellowship. Basically, it was 10 PM when I left and about midnight when I dropped him off back at his home, and the conversation and fellowship was a much needed, and totally unsolicited, stimulant to encourage me for Sunday.

Ed and Stephanie – Ed and Stephanie are a young couple in our church who have been helping out with AWANA for a few years. I was walking away from the group of kids and leaders last night during AWANA’s game time and I heard the cacophony of sounds that occur when the kids are playing the games. But above all of that noise, I heard Ed’s voice raised in cheering for his team. Both he and his wife are generally on the “quieter” side, so it was shocking and encouraging to hear him getting so involved in the games and encouraging all of the kids was just great. Stephanie came up to me after the teaching time (where I teach the lesson to all of the kids) and thanked me for playing my guitar. It was the first time that I’d played it at church (in the morning service) and I used it to lead the kids’ worship that evening. She said that she was hoping that I’d use it for AWANA, and she was thankful and excited that I did.

Josh & Leah – They are a relatively new family to our church, but they are brand new to attending the Adult Bible Fellowship that I teach (the Contenders). Both Josh and Leah are engaged in the discussion and seem to be reading the material (we’re studying Titus now) during the week, and that is always encouraging for a teacher. They are also both so enthusiastic about the gospel and about spreading it to the masses that it is, well, infectious.

Jon – Jon is a very gentle, kind, and sincere man who has a passion for Christ and for others’ knowing Christ. A few years ago when I was first leading the AWANA program, Jon couldn’t be a leader because of his work schedule, but he told me to send prayer requests his way so that during the AWANA time he could be praying for the children, the leaders, and the lesson asking that God would move in the hearts of the children. Yesterday afternoon after the service, Jon came up and said that he really appreciated what I had said prior to observing Communion. I had read briefly out of Romans 3, 4, and 5 and Jon said that He always appreciates seeing God doing two distinct things, in this case He is the Just and the Justifier of those who have faith in Christ. Justification has obviously been on my mind in recent weeks, so it was good that, in the 5 minutes that I was able to relate the truth of the doctrine of Justification with the sacrifice of Christ that we celebrate in Communion, someone was blessed by what I had to say.

Rob & Jennifer – They have been coming to our church for a few months, and not too long ago, they expressed a desire to become members. So far, we (the Deacons) were able to hear Rob’s testimony and grill him about his understanding of the gospel, the bible, and other important things that all Christians must understand. Also, he said that he wanted to be baptized because he had never been baptized in the pattern of the New Testament – as a believer. Baptisms and testimonies (that come from those who truly understand the gospel) are always so encouraging to hear and see. Also, both Rob and Jennifer are attending the Contenders Adult Bible Fellowship, and Jennifer sent a very nice and encouraging e-mail to me today where she said, “Thanks for all that you did yesterday at Ambassador! I commented on the way to drop Anna and James off at their mother's last night -- "Eric must be exhausted!" Thank you!” She then went on to make comment about what we had discussed in Titus 2 (and other related passages) that she, “appreciated the reminder of the role of the wife in a biblical, God honoring marriage.” She then closed her e-mail with, “Thanks again for all that you do! I am looking forward to next week's lesson.” What an encouragement!

The Deacons – I could say so much about this group of men that I am privileged to serve with, but let me say this. Our last meeting lasted for about 2 hours (or a little more) and for a good chuck of that time (perhaps half) we were engaged in prayer for the church, the pastor, the other deacons, our ministries, and other things. That alone was enough to encourage me for a long time to come as well as convict me further about making my prayer life more of a high priority.

Nate – He came in to make an announcement to the AWANA kids and heard my telling of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and he said that he thought that I did a good job of, not only telling the story, but explaining what the story meant to the children. I asked another leader, and the overall feeling is that all of the kids were engaged (as evidenced by the lack of fidgeting) and soaking up the gospel message in that story.

Jeff & Shawna – Of the many things that they do that is encouraging, one of the most recent and most needed was when (a few weeks ago) they called and said that my wife and I could pick a Friday over the next few weeks to go out on a date and they would watch our boys. The fact that they love our boys, show it, and those they see our need (my wife’s and mine) and desire to have time away from the boys so that we can be focused on each other really blessed me.

I could go on, but I will close with one final blessing. You. This blog. Over the past year I have really grown spiritually and I have this outlet as well as the comments (both affirming and challenging) to partially thank for that.

May God bless all of you who read this, as well as those who have encouraged me in the past.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

1 year (and change)

I was looking forward to this past week because it contained my 1st blog anniversary. I was gonic to be nostalgic and comment or emote about what has gone on in the blogosphere (my small portion, anyway) in that time...but the intriguing discussion between myself and a hand full of other bloggers distracted me and has occupied my thoughts.

So, consequently, I missed my anniversary date. Luckily, if ever I am going to forget or miss an anniversary date...this is the one do miss. So, until I write more thoughts about the last year or unless I do not, thanks for making this experience an exercise a positive one toward my growth and maturity in Christ.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Justification by Faith - John MacArthur Vid.

John MacArthur articulates the doctrine of imputation relating to the believer's justification in 45 seconds.

Praise god that I am forgiven and that God has granted me eternal life based upon the life, death, and resurrection of His Beloved Son!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More on Justification by Faith and Adam

"Do not think that the doctrine of justification by grace, based on the imputation of the obedience of Christ through faith apart from works, is a mere concoction of a western European worldview that got off the ground with the guilty conscience of a monk named Martin Luther. That's not true. It can't be true, because it is the historical remedy in the person of Jesus Christ for the historical damage in the person of everybody's first ancestor.

The doctrine of justification by grace through faith cannot be replaced by a redemptive analogy. If Paul had merely said for example, "Sin is like drowning in the ocean, and salvation is like being pulled out of the water into a boat by a strong man," then you might go to a people group somewhere far from oceans and boats and say, "Sin is like sinking in quicksand and salvation is like being pulled onto a firm rock by a strong man." That's fine. But you can't do that with this doctrine of justification - not now, not after Romans 5:12-21.

Why not? Because now Paul has connected it with Adam. And Adam is the historical ancestor of every people group on the face of the earth. This is not a myth; it's not an analogy; it's not an illustration. It is historical fact. Adam, the first human being, sinned and in him all human beings sinned, and all died and all are condemned. And the remedy for that is another historical Person - the God-man, Jesus Christ, who came in space and time to undo what Adam did. He trusted and obeyed God perfectly, so that all who are in him by faith have that obedience imputed to them and become right with God forever." - John Piper

Romans 5 and the significance of Adam

When asked about the importance of the fact that Adam was the literal and historical person that the Bible claims he is, as opposed to being symbolic, and how it relates to our salvation (commenting specifically on Romans 5:12-21), John Piper said this:

“I think that the whole structure of Paul’s arguments falls to the ground, and since he is not creating arguments out of nothing, but rooting them in reality which is past and future, that is relating to sin and our future salvation, our salvation would evaporate. That may sound like a lot to hang on the historicity of Adam, but Romans 5 documents our problem as people who have sinned in Adam and it documents our rescue as One who explicitly modeled His teaching to reverse the error that Adam committed and the misery, the fall, that has come upon us. So if you put stock in the inspired word of God as not just creating arguments out of nothing, but as being rooted in history and therefore able to relate to future real-life history, namely our lives, I would say the denial of the historical person of Adam is a gospel-threatening denial.”1

1 “Adam, Christ, and Justification” by John Piper (Desiring God Radio broadcast 9/12/2006)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunday School Lessons & Blog Update!!!!!

Recently I purchased an iPod – so now I can be like every other suburban yuppie, student, vagabond, and jogging fanatic – primarily so that I could listen to the various ministry related programs that I thoroughly enjoy (the same ones that are listed on the sidebar under “great preaching”). However, since I sit in-front of a computer for my job, I could fairly easily listen to these same programs using my computer’s media player, it would be difficult to justify the expense of a spendy little toy. So, fortunately I have had another idea and plan in mind that I have been thinking about for almost 1 year to make better use of an iPod if I were to get it. A friend of mine, who had an iPod, showed me his iTalk adapter. Basically, it turns the iPod into a Dictaphone when this adapter is connected. I was so excited because I knew that there could be many uses for that.

Well, to make a long story short (or a short story long, I’m not sure which one it is, anymore); I had to wait for a while because the current iPods weren’t compatible with this same accessory. But once I could buy both, I did.

So what?

Well, I have always had the idea that I wanted to make this blog a virtual online mirror (in many ways) of the Sunday school class that I teach. I have done this by trying to post thoughts and comments about the texts that we are studying as well as thoughts and meditations on other subjects that I read and deal with during the week. So, I thought that a good idea would be to record the lessons from our weekly class and upload them.
You can see a link to the available lessons on the sidebar under “Contender Sunday School Lessons” and I will update this link list whenever new lessons are available.

I also am trying to develop a good way to have the basic outline (that I would hand out in class) available to view. I can’t decide if it would be better to have all of the blanks filled in or to have an interactive word document that will let you fill in the answers as you go. (you can give me feedback on what you think is best)

The first lesson available is called “Christology 099”. Basically, I was asked to do an overview of Christology during the month of July (4 weeks), and since I didn’t have a snazzy title for it, I just decided to give it a title that would be fitting – Christology at a less than collegiate level.

I will be updating (soon I hope) with my lesson from yesterday where we are beginning to review Titus 1:1 – 2:10 (which we covered last school year) so that we can go the rest of the way through Titus. Enjoy the resource!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

blasphemy or not blasphemy? That is the question.

What constitutes blasphemy? I am specifically referring to taking the Lord's name in vain.

I don't think that it is disputable to say that if one uses God, Jesus, or Christ in an irreverant way, it is blasphemy. However, what about substitute words like "gosh", "gee", or "oh my Word" or things that replace the the blatant blasphemy in common expressions, but are used to express similar feelings?

I don't have an answer that I am comfortable with yet, so I really would like some input/feedback.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

be a berean - don't be fooled

When dealing with the issue of Iraq being a just war, watch to see if you can see someone misusing/misquoting scripture to. Also, the point of using this clip is not to get into a discussion for the pros/cons of Iraq or any other political matter, it is only to show the use of scripture by people who claim to affirm Christ.

Did you notice the quick references to the prophets by Bishop Talbert? He made reference to "making swords into plowshares" as having been promoted by three prophets (Joel, Isaiah, and Micah) and uses that as the basis to say that Christ would be opposed to war (specifically this one). Well, I took the liberty of looking up the references that he seemed to be talking about.

"And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war." (Isaiah 2:4)

"Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, 'I am a mighty man.'" (Joel 3:10)

"And He will judge between many peoples And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war." (Micah 4:3)

Isaiah and Micah both tell their audience to "hammer their swords into plowshares" but Joel says, "Beat your plowshares into swords" which is the exact reverse. This shows that at times God calls for the use of arms, and at others we are to be peaceful. It is as untrue to make the blanket statement that God is opposed to all war as it is to say that He is a war monger who always delights in endless warring.

Monday, September 11, 2006

responding to an onslaught of Catholic criticism & accusations

If you have read any of the discussions that I have had with Danny or others on my blog you will notice that I try to stick to issues that can be discussed, defined, and defended in the scriptures. Not once have I assaulted you or anyone else’s perceived motives for saying or believing what you do, they are not what I am primarily concerned with because they cannot be known by me unless you articulate them to me. In a totally different fashion you have attacked me personally and attributed motives and experiences to me that you have no idea if they are true or untrue. A few of the more egregious ones are below:

“You were raised on beliefs that the evil Catholic church persecuted good Christians for thousands of years until Martin Luther came to free them, you also believe that the evil catholic demonized church hid the bible from people and kept them illiterate in order to somehow rip them off on salvation.”

“…you are spouting off things that you have no real clue about except from local legend taught to you be your childhood church and family that the Catholic Church is the devil.”1

“Look at it this way, Danny is throwing all his seed out on the fertile ground in hopes of having a great harvest... you on the other hand is content that you don't have to throw out any seed to have a harvest...”2

You do not know me, my family, my upbringing, the diversity (or lack thereof) of my own personal spiritual heritage, nor the experiences and studies that I have done. You know nothing about me except what I have written, and to attack me on these other issues is simply abhorrent and does more harm to any possible valid arguments that you may present. One thing that I appreciated corresponding with Danny is that, for the most part, we debated the issues according to the scriptures. He and I have very different theology, ecclesiology, as well as soteriology and we debated them rationally, reasonably, and in a fair manner. I invite you to do the same because again, attacks on perceived personal characteristics, motives, amount of study or anything else is folly and it makes you look spiteful, angry, and it undermines any valid argument that you would seek to make.

So, if you want to have a discussion or debate about the issues that are on this blog, let’s do that and stick to the issues and leave the speculation on each other’s family life, education, and motivates off the table. I also find it strange that you haven’t made any response to the article that I wrote that you requested (“Prayer to Saints”). In that article you will see my spirit in that I try to tackle the issue and deal with it in a fair way by searching the scriptures.

“There are now over 78,000 Protestant denominations all claiming that they hold the one true truth of Christ.... [Martin Luther] split up the unity of Christ, he split Christ... now you tell me which denomination has held true to its teachings? Which denomination can trace its roots back over 2000 years? Can your independent church do that? When you got ordained or whatever you call it, did a Bishop in the lineage of the apostles lay his blessed hands on your head and give you the power of the Holy Spirit? Is your ordination even valid? In the Old Testament, the Jews had a lineage of Priests and the Priesthood... do protestants share that line? Why do protestants not have priests??? Remember in the bible it talks about presbyters (priests) and bishops...”3

I would like to see your source for the total number of Protestant denominations. I don’t doubt that the number is high, but I have never seen a statistic that has shown the number to be 78,000, so I will dispute this number until you can show me a credible source that shows that. But even if there are 78,000 or 100,000 denominations, that is not the primary issue. The question should be, “Is there a church or denomination that is preaching Christ and His gospel truthfully from the Bible?” If anyone is a part of a church that preaches a false gospel, we should try to call that church back to the truth (or call them to the truth for the first time), but if the church will not, we must divorce ourselves from that assembly and find one that does preach the gospel. That is the historical reason why people have left the Catholic church or other denominations – in an attempt to preserve and proclaim the gospel.

As to whether or not my church can trace its roots back 2000 years, yes we can. Not in a church hierarchy or structure like the Catholic church, but in the truth of our doctrine and in it’s primary root in the scriptures. The funny thing about Protestant churches is that there are churches that preach the gospel of Christ that are Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Assemblies of God, Baptist, and non-denominational Bible churches. There are also churches of the same denomination or affiliations that do not preach the gospel. So this issue begs the question as to why do those churches that do preach the true gospel belong to various denominations. The answer, which is not the most desirable one but it is reality, is something that I addressed in “Fundamentalism”. The main catalyst for this was an article by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. where he talked about the reasons for division in and amongst churches.4

The most disturbing parts of the above comment were the references to the giving of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Papacy, and priests or bishops. Scripture says that all Christians are given the Holy Spirit (John 7:39; Romans 5:5; 8:9; 1 Corinthains.3:16; 6:19). To say that people are given the Spirit by men (whatever their role in the church) is an abomination. Why don’t Protestants have priest? Peter said, when writing to Christians in his first epistle, “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) We are all priests if we are believers in Christ and are born again because the Spirit dwells within us. As far as the office of bishops goes, the word that you are referring to (presbuteroV) is pronounced pres-boo-ter-os and it means elder. But even if the word bishop is to be used, it seems to be synonymous with that of an elder (see 1 Timothy 3:1ff and Titus 1:6-8). Finally, as to the papacy and the office given to Peter and the reference (I believe) to Matthew 16:18, I think that it is folly to see this as the indoctrination or ordination of Peter as the end-all be-all apostle and head of the Church. Here are a few reasons why I think this:

The words “rock” and “Peter”

  • petroV - (pet-ros)“Peter” a rock or a little stone

  • petra - (pet-ra) rocky ground (firm), a large rock (Matthew 7:24-25; 27:51, 60; Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8; Revelation 6:15,16)
It seems clear that after you look at the biblical text to better understand the words used in Matthew 16:18 that Christ is making a play on words to get his point across. I would like to paraphrase John MacArthur made this point well in one of his lectures about the papacy. He said, “You are Peter – petros, small rock – and on this PETRA – a rock bed – I will build my church.” He was referring to Peter with “petros” (petroV) and to Himself with “petra” (petra). If Peter was the prime and unchallengeable apostle, why then did he refer to himself as a fellow elder in 1 Peter 5:1 and not a special word or title for being a Pope, bishop, or cardinal? Corresponding to that, why was Paul able to reprimand Peter in of faith and doctrine?

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.” Galatians 2:11-13

Peter had fallen in with the Judaizing crowd of false teachers who were teaching that Christians had to be Jewish (observing the dietary, social, and other laws) and were denying the freedom in Christ that the apostles proclaimed. Finally (for now, anyway) If you look at Romans 9:33 and 1 Corinthians 10:4, the rock (petra) being referred to here is explicitly and unquestionably Christ, not Peter. Ephesians 2:20 says that the apostles (all of them) laid the foundation, but it is Christ on whom the structure holds together in that He is the corner stone. The point is that Christ is what the Church is built on, not Peter. To say that Peter is the “rock” that the church is built upon (as miss-interpreted from Matthew 16:18) is at best an aberrant teaching, but at worst it is idolatry because it places Peter in the place of Christ.

Before I go on, let me clear up something that some readers seem to have misunderstood. I was debating another Catholic about the truth that we are saved by grace alone we are saved through faith alone, and he kept on asking me to show him where the used the phrase “faith alone” in order to prove my point. Well, the bible doesn’t use that phrase in those words, but the overall testimony of salvation is just that. So, in my response, I wrote this:

“Does the phrase “faith alone” or “only faith” appear in scripture referencing the requirements for salvation? Nope. But neither does the word Trinity. Orthodox Trinitarian theology is taken from the whole of Scripture in what it has to say about God, not just a few passages that, if seen alone, may lead to some incorrect conclusions. Nevertheless, the important thing is that we have come up with a way to express how the Bible describes God – He is a Triune God and thus we have the word Trinity. In the same way we confess that man can be saved only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone because it is only by this way that God alone gets all of the glory because He does everything to save wretched sinners who can do nothing to save themselves.”5

This is not saying that I don’t believe in the Trinity. What it is saying is that there are some ways that we express doctrinal truths in words that capture the meaning of the scriptures even if the word or phrase itself is not found in the text itself (i.e. grace alone by faith alone for salvation and the theology of the Trinity). I used this same line of argument and theology to challenge some Roman traditions and doctrines, some of which concerned the doctrines of Mary because they don’t have scriptural support.

“On the [bodily] assumption of Mary:

Check out Revelation in your bible and read this: (Rev. 11:19). Both Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven (Heb. 11:5, 2 Kgs. 2:11). Also, in Matthew 27:52-53 one can read about saints whose bodies left the grave after the Resurrection of Christ. If God did that for two of his prophets, don't you think he would also do it for his own mother?”6

The bible makes no case for the bodily assumption of Mary. To base a doctrine of Mary on vague passages and assumptions based upon the logic that if God did it for these other people, “don’t you think He’d do it for his mother?” is a problem. Primarily, these assumptions are not based in scripture. Are there passages where God does something for a few people, it doesn’t require that God would do it for more. Also, this idea of Enoch and Elijah being taken into heaven has nothing to do with their status as great or important men of God, necessarily. David was a man after God’s own heart, Moses had the closest relationship with God (in the Old Testament) of anyone, and John the Baptist was the greatest of all of the prophets and all of these men were not taken bodily into heaven. To say that the doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary is an argument from silence is an understatement.

“…take a look and see what the divorce rate is for married ministers? It’s about 70%, that is a high rate. Why juggle a family and God, remember God said that he is a jealous God, if you are his minister, don't you think he would want you to focus on him 100% instead of being disc traced by family? Jesus himself didn't marry, some of his apostles didn't either, in fact the ones that were married when Jesus called them, left their wives and family to follow Christ and they probably never saw them again.”7

In the same spirit as my challenge to the previous statement that there are 78,000 Protestant denominations, I simply would like to know the source for the 70% divorce rate among protestant ministers. I know that so-called Evangelicals have a divorce rate similar (if not a little above) the rest of the culture, but I have never heard of this shocking rate, so I doubt this figure’s credibility. The only semi-cogent argument is the fact that Jesus, Paul, and others didn’t marry. This is true. As a matter of fact Paul makes the case that it is better if a man can remain single, but he clearly knows that not many men can. Regarding singleness and sexual purity, Paul wrote, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. “(1 Corinthians 7:7-9) Furthermore, if it were the call of God to have the elders of the church (presbuteroV) be single, why then is the call to be a husband of one wife made repeatedly (see 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6). As far as the statement that many of the apostles weren’t married or that they never saw their families again, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5) Again, I am no Catholic theologian, but doesn’t the fact that Peter was married and had his wife with him really hurt the idea of forced celibacy of the priesthood?

There was a panel discussion involving various religious leaders (Jew, Protestant, Catholic, and others) on the Larry King Live show on 3/11/2003 where they were discussing the different positions on the war in Iraq. During this conversation, the gospel came up and was discussed between the panel members (John MacArthur and United Methodist Bishop MelvinTalbert) and Larry King. Here is a part of the transcript from that show:

MACARTHUR: I see what you are saying, Well, they, do. But there has to be truth, and untruth and once you've established the truth and I think the word of God has been established as true, I think it can hold up under the most intense scrutiny and other book do not.

KING: Bishop, don't you believe, Bishop Talbert, that Christianity is the right path?

TALBERT: I do believe for Christians, but we're not here to settle which religion is right. That settle -- that dispute belongs to God. We are here to practice what we preach.

KING: Do you believe your religion is right.

TALBERT: Yes I do.

KING: Or else why believe it.

TALBERT: That is right.

KING: So therefore the other religions have to be wrong.

TALBERT: No, I don't say that at all.

KING: If you believe your religion is right. The other religions are wrong.

TALBERT: I believe my God is large enough to be inclusive of all human beings who were created in god's image and that includes those religions that are not Christians.

MACARTHUR: I want to ask a question. Why did Jesus say -- why did Paul say if any man preaches any other Christ than the true Jesus Christ, let him be a cursed? Let him be [anathema]. Why does the Bible say neither is their salvation in any other name than Jesus Christ. Why does the scripture condemn anyone who rejects Jesus Christ and the gospel of Christ? Why is the message so exclusive?

TALBERT: For me, salvation in Jesus Christ is the way, and what I try to do as a Christian is to live that example. My responsibility is not to convert all other religions, but to live the Christian faith in the face of those religions. Are you going to say that my -- our friend on the show tonight who is Jewish is on the wrong path? That's god's choice. That's god's judgment, not mine.8

It was to this video clip (you can see the video in my post titled “Compromising the Gospel” from 9/8/06) that the same Catholic blogger made the following comment on my blog,

“That Methodist Preacher has his own way of trying to convert and for that, he should not be bashed. Just think about this for a second... Think about the hermits in the bible, the first Monks, did they go out and yell fire and brimstone and try to convert every soul they met? NO! They worked out their salvation in the wild, they preached to people that came to listen to them... do you see where I am going with this, they were like magnets and that is what attracted all those people... Jesus in a way did the same thing... instead of knocking on doors and trying to convert people, he healed and the people followed, think of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the people followed him there on their own free will.

My point is, everyone is called to their own way of evangelizing and spreading the truth of Christ, just because that Bishop didn't do what you do, that doesn't make him wrong. Your way of evangelizing, is I am sure you talk to the youth, on the streets where you live, and most of all on your blog. I leave you with this, don't be bothered with the splinter in someone else’s eye, while you have the beam in your own.”9

I hope that my Catholic friend just didn’t listen to the Methodist Bishop at all, because it is not with his “way” of evangelism that I had a problem with; it was his message, the gospel that he believes that I have a problem with. He was discounting the clear scriptures showing that Jesus is the only way for salvation for anyone by using phrases like “I do believe [that Christianity is the right path] for Christians” or “For me, salvation in Jesus Christ is the way” but possibly the most condemning thing that he says is that according to his judgment (based on the scriptures) he cannot say whether a devout Jew would go to heaven or not. The answer is clearly that he wouldn’t! If anyone believes that the gospel as articulated by this Methodist Bishop, they do not understand Christ and they deny the truth of the scriptures. Then according to the apostle Paul, they are to be cursed (Galatians 1:6-10), or according to Christ they are false teachers or wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).

Again, you show your biblical ignorance by using the text in Matthew 7 where Christ says, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” (Matthew 7:1,3,5) This text is referring specifically to the pharisaic way of passing judgment on people for various issues, not their theology. We know that it is not referring to judging someone by what they preach or teach because later on in that same chapter Christ says that we are to judge teachers by their fruit – what they do and say (Matthew 7:18-20). So please don’t misuse the admonition not to judge as seen in the first pat of Matthew 7 to promote spiritual and theological lethargy and apostasy.

“By the sounds of your post... my friend... you have chosen to save your seeds and your harvest will yield nothing.”10

I have no idea what this means regarding anything that I have written. The word “baffled” does not even come close to how little I understand this comment.

“Should Protestants be called Christian, if they reject the teachings of Christ, and do their own thing??? If you do not follow the teachings laid down by Christ, theoretically you should not call yourself a Christian. This is a controversial topic, many will scoff at the very idea. But what do you think?”11

That is a very good question. If the standard of what is to be “Christian” is the Catholic church, then no. But if the standard is a clear understanding and steadfast holding onto what the bible clearly teaches about all matters of doctrine, then Protestants absolutely are Christian, but the same cannot be said for Catholics. It is definitely a provocative question.

Here is a provocative question for you, my Catholic friends. If Catholic theology is true, I am not sure where I – a Protestant who is sold out to the Lord and who loves and is serving Christ – would go when I die. It could be purgatory or hell, but I don’t know which. However, if the “sola” theology as articulated in the reformation is correct (which is in direct opposition to Catholic theology), then, my Catholic friends, you will not go to purgatory because it does not exist. You will be in hell. I say this to make this point: If we do not have the right gospel and therefore we don’t have the right Christ, we will not be saved. Examine the scriptures and plead with God in prayer to open your eyes to the truth. Only He can save you, and if He does, He will completely save you. None of your works count for your salvation.

We cannot be sloppy with the gospel and distort that which Christ died to give us as Bishop Talbert did on Larry King Live. We must always examine the facts that we hold on to, no matter if we are Protestant or Catholic. I find it ironic that in the same responses where I was berated for “spouting off things that you have no real clue about except from local legend taught to you be your childhood church and family” and then to have the same person within a day make the absurd statement that 70% of protestant ministers are getting divorced without any citation of any source (much less a credible one). Let us debate these issues vigorously because eternity hangs in the balance. And I will hold to the Truth (unpopular among Catholics) that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone and that it is not on the basis of any work (baptism, penance, or anything else). This salvation which is completely by grace alone and not as result of works then produces good fruit from the saved person. But this fruit does not contribute to the justification of that person or make it more likely that they will get into heaven.

sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola Scriptura amen




4 A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.








Friday, September 08, 2006

Compromising the Gospel

I know that I am way behind on getting involved in the "you tube" phenomenon, but...oh well. I thought that the video clip below was a good articulation of the gospel and specifically regarding the exclusiveness of it.

I think that this shows the danger of being at all squishy in our theology or even in how we express our theology. We dare not ever proclaim a gospel that is only true "for me" or that is "my path" and not make the declaration that all men need to repent and believe in Christ. I also think that the pointed scriptural questions that John MacArthur asks as a rebuttal of the statements of a non-exclusive God is clarifying. The first response back is to ask about the faith of a genuine Jew, and if what MacArthur is saying (he is expressing what the Bible clearly teaches), then the Jew is on the wrong path. EXACTLY! That is why we need to evangelize everyone.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Recently my pastor forwarded a critique or a response to an article by Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.. The article was on the topic of the necessity for Christians to make distinctions in what doctrines are most important and need to be divided over and which ones do not. In order to understand my comments, I advise you to read his article.1 Also, I have copied the response/rebuttal/condemnation by David Cloud below:

"I have long said that the central problem of the Southern Baptist Convention is its commitment to New Evangelicalism, and this is evident from a recent article by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In "A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity" (Baptist Press, August 23, 2006), Mohler divides biblical truth into three categories: First-order, which are "those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith" (in this category Mohler lists only the incarnation, humanity and deity of Christ, the Trinity, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture); Second-order, which are things "that believing Christians may disagree on though this disagreement will create significant boundaries" (he gives the examples of the mode of baptism and women pastors); and Third-order, which "are doctrines on which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship" (here Mohler lists eschatology and "any number of issues related to the interpretation of difficult texts or the understanding of matters of common disagreement"). While Mohler adds a caveat that "a structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness," he blatantly contradicts this statement by lumping many biblical truths into a "third-order" category and claiming that these particular truths should not be divisive. Mohler says that liberalism's error is "the refusal to admit that first-order theological issues even exist," while the error of fundamentalism "is the belief that all disagreements concern first-order doctrines." He says that this results in Christians being "wrongly and harmfully divided." This is the typical New Evangelical position, and while it might sound reasonable it is nowhere supported by Scripture. Though we recognize that not everything in the Bible has equal weight, all has some weight and the division of biblical truth into second or third classes after the fashion of modern evangelicalism is artificial and man-made. The Lord Jesus Christ instructed the churches to teach the believers "to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Mat. 28:20). There is not a hint in Christ's teaching that some of His doctrine can be placed into a "third-order" category. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to keep the apostolic commandments "without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 6:14). This refers to the details of the New Testament faith and includes things such as church discipline, standards for pastors and deacons, restrictions to the woman's ministry, regulations pertaining to the exercise of spiritual gifts, separation from the world, separation from false teaching, and the interpretation of prophecy, all of which are clearly commanded in the apostolic epistles. Nowhere does Paul instruct his fellow preachers or the churches that a segment of biblical truth can be placed into a "third-order" category for the sake of unity. It is the Scripture itself that has made me a Fundamentalist and has led me to reject New Evangelicalism. Divisions created by a stand for biblical truth are not wrong."2

After reading both the response by David Cloud as well as the full article by Dr. Mohler and I feel as though there are a few things that I must say.

I believe that the response by David Cloud mischaracterizes Dr. Mohler’s article in a few places. First of all it is plain that Mr. Cloud sees the list of “first-order” things as only those doctrines that were initially cited (“incarnation, humanity and deity of Christ, the Trinity, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture”). However, Dr. Mohler makes it plain that these are not the only doctrines, rather they are representative of the first-order category of doctrines by saying, “doctrines such as the Trinity…” implying that there are other foundational (first-order) issues than the ones listed. Furthermore, Dr. Mohler concludes his comments on the importance of the first-order issues (and he expounds on the Christological issues too) by saying, “Those who deny these revealed truths are, by definition, not Christians.” Basically stated: First-order things are those doctrines on which any disagreement necessarily pushes one party or another outside of orthodoxy.

I also believe that Mr. Cloud’s comment citing a blatant contradiction by “lumping many biblical truths into a "third-order" category and claiming that these particular truths should not be divisive.” is not a fair representation of Dr. Mohler’s ideas either. If you read the article, the parameters for the division in “order” is this:

  1. First-order things must be divided over, because those who disagree on these issues are not Christians.

  2. Second-order things divide because there can be no compromise (see his appropriate example of Baptist and Presbyterian understanding of baptism). We would affirm (I hope) that gospel believing Presbyterian’s are Christians, but vigorously disagree about their stance on this issue.

  3. *Note the difference between the first and second order ideas – disagreeing on first order things means that we cannot have fellowship with Christ, and disagreeing on 2nd order things means that we cannot have fellowship with one another (in local congregational worship).
  4. Third-Order things are not minor, but they are more disputable. We must always seek to defend the Word of God for all that it is and all that it says, but there are some things that we can have differences of theological positions on (that are arrived at by study, prayer, and meditation), but not forsake fellowship.

I think that this idea that Dr. Mohler brings out is just a way of framing how we as Christians have always tried to adhere to Christ’s call for unity but still remain faithful to the specific and discriminating statements and proclamations of Holy Scripture. I think it pans out in our own church. Without naming specifics, there are disagreements over certain points of nuanced doctrine. We affirm the same doctrine, but through our own growing understanding of the scriptures, we would make stands at different points along the spectrum. These are disagreements, but we choose to not divide over these issues (think Divine Sovereignty vs. man’s free will). Simply by having these differences (however nuanced they may be, they’re still important), but choosing not to divide is the practical application of what Dr. Mohler was communicating.

Also, upon a little further investigation on this article and the response by David Cloud, I found that Mr. Cloud seems to be a proponent of KJV-Onlyism. He wrote an article describing why he feels that it is an important issue to debate and fight about.3 Now I do agree that this issue is worth debating, but my conclusions are very different from Mr. Cloud. Also, I do think that in the extreme case, some KJV-Onlyist proponents may be somewhat cultish (and I use that word carefully and purposeful). The reason I say that is this: if we put any translation of scripture on the same level or above the level of the original manuscripts written by the apostles and prophets and inspired by the Holy Spirit, we make a grave mistake. This uplifting of any translation is almost idolatrous because the focus is then on the translation and not on the meaning and truth contained in it. I am not one for watering down the gospel or the Word of God, but we must not be jingoistic and make the error of lifting up an English translation and make that the standard when we should be going back as close as we can get to the original.

1 A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.


3 Is The Bible Version Issue Worth Fighting Over? by David Cloud

a little levity...ok, 4 little levities

And now for something totally on the picture to see something that will make you smile, I guarantee it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

grace, baptism, and scripture

I have recently been having a conversation/debate with Danny who is a fellow blogger and a Catholic. We have covered much ground in our discussions, but the primary focus has been soteriology even though the specific issues have been some of the statements that came out of the Reformation: “sola fide” (faith alone), “sola gratia” (grace alone), and “sola scriptura” (Scripture alone). The most recent discussion area has been surrounding baptism and how we are to view it. Is it a prerequisite for salvation or is it something that relates to the obedience of an already saved individual? Below is a statement that Danny made regarding baptism:

“Even Paul, who was converted by Christ Himself, had to be baptized! It wasn't enough for him to just believe in Jesus (which he surely did after Christ appeared to him), he still needed baptism!(cf. Acts 22)

The thief on the Cross received a Baptism by intent. Because he believed and testified to who Christ was, he desired to become a Christian. If he had been rescued from the Cross, the Apostles would have immediately baptized him as they did with all new Christians (cf. Act 10).”1

To say that water baptism is necessary for salvation and then to go onto say that if someone really believes and some situation does not allow them to be baptized that this will be okay, it seems a little contrived. Especially when there is no baptism by intent spoken of in the Bible. Baptism (the act of being immersed in the water – the Greek word for baptize (baptizw) means to immerse) is only a symbol of the work that Christ has completed on the cross. Also, the theif would not have been immediately baptized by the apostles when he came down – the only apostle present was John, the others had diserted Christ. Peter not only had deserted Christ but he had cursed Him publically (Matthew 26:69-74). The theif didn’t need to be baptized for salvation because it had been granted to him when he placed his faith in Christ while dying next to Him. In fact it is the very mark of a truly regenerated person, when after being made aware of Christ’s command to be baptized, that they earnestly seek to obey their Lord. The fact that they are obedient shows that they have been made new, but it does not add to or take-away from the salvation of an individual. I think that a strong case can be made that sanctification (growing in holiness) can be greatly stagnated by a refusal or a delay in obeying Christ in the explicit command for believers to be baptized, but salvation is withdrawn or withheld. Finally, if Christ were to require the act of baptism so that one would be saved, why then in John 6:40 did He say, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Also concerning Baptism, Peter himself says, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 3:21) The key is that it is not the effect of the water that saves, but it is the effect of the Spirit’s working that saves. And it wasn’t even the immersion (baptizw) in water that is the key, but it is the immersion in Christ and His atoning work that saves. Peter was primarily referencing the story of Noah. They were not immersed in water in the sense of a holy ceremony; they were immersed in the flood of God’s wrath and they were saved by their faith in God that was shown by their obedience to Him (works) in building the ark. In this way, Noah foreshadowed what Christ would endure for us. The full wrath of God would be poured out on Christ, and only by placing faith in Christ can we survive God’s perfect wrath at our own sinfulness.

So baptism is necessary for salvation, just not water baptism (immersion or sprinkling for that matter). That is why I originally answered Danny’s question by saying, “Water baptism is not necessary for salvation. We are saved by God’s grace alone. (Mark 16:16; Luke 23:40-43; Eph 2:8,9).”2 One’s baptism into Christ’s death (which is spiritual, not physical) is the only means by which we are able to be granted eternal life.

Just as Abraham was justified by his faith (Genesis 15:6) and his faith was perfected (shown to be true in that he was willing to sacrifice his son) as we see in James 2:22, we are to be justified by our faith. Then our actions testify to the world about the very Lord that we have placed our trust in. The fact is that Abraham was already saved (justified and effectively declared “not guilty” in the court room of God) and that he had the ability to believe that God would raise his son from the dead after he killed him showed just how much he believed in God.

“I asked you to show me anywhere in the Bible where it says that we are saved by ‘Faith Alone.’”3

Does the phrase “faith alone” or “only faith” appear in scripture referencing the requirements for salvation? Nope. But neither does the word Trinity. Orthodox Trinitarian theology is taken from the whole of Scripture in what it has to say about God, not just a few passages that, if seen alone, may lead to some incorrect conclusions. Nevertheless, the important thing is that we have come up with a way to express how the Bible describes God – He is a Triune God and thus we have the word Trinity. In the same way we confess that man can be saved only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone because it is only by this way that God alone gets all of the glory because He does everything to save wretched sinners who can do nothing to save themselves.

Not only does Scripture not say “faith alone” in reference to salvation, it also says nothing about the bodily assumption or immaculate conception of Mary (or other Marian doctrines), praying to her or to other saints, of the office of Cardinals, the Pope or the Papacy, forced celibacy of clergy, or many other Roman doctrines. This is why the Roman system must always reject the primacy of the Scriptures and the understanding that they are the only source of revealed and inspired truth. That is also why keeping the Scriptures from the people (and much of the clergy too) was one of Satan’s greatest weapons against mankind which allowed the Catholic church to grow relatively unchecked (on human standard) for centuries leaving only remnants of true believers throughout the ages that were systematically persecuted.

Concerning Ezekiel 36:24-27:

“And in Ezekiel, the water mentioned does in fact refer to real water. Ezekiel fortells Christ. The passage you referred to, prefigures Christ's institution of the sacrament of Baptism.”4

This passage does talk about the washing and regeneration of the Spirit prior to the coming of Christ. But this shows that the emphasis is on the inner change of the heart of the person (and ultimately the stance before God) and the cleansing from spiritual filthiness and idolatry. Just as circumcision did nothing to save Abraham, baptism does nothing in to save you or me.

In an earlier part of our ongoing discussion, Danny wrote, “And we are not given salvation. We are given the grace to achieve that salvation by obeying Christ and perservering to the end. Once saved, always saved is a false doctrine. By virtue of our free will we can resist the Grace of God that was purchased for us by Christ's death on the Cross. If we disobey we will not receive our reward:”5 (he then quoted Matthew 7:21-27). I want to look at this for a bit. The apostle John lays out a good picture of what salvation for an individual looks like. We see that God draws some people, gives those people to Christ, and Christ holds onto them all. No one comes to Christ unless drawn by the Father, and all who are drawn by the Father come to Christ (John 6: 37-39, 44). Not only does Christ say that He will keep us in that text, but he also says that nothing at all can take us out of God’s hand (John 10:27-30) and Paul reiterates the same thing in Romans 8:38,39 (I wrote about this same issue in “kept by God”). The longest of John’s epistles, 1st John, has the theme, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13) We can know that we are saved, we don’t have to worry. God has given us His word so that we can “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5a)

The issue of works in the believer’s life is hammered on from both ends of the spectrum. Proponents of “easy believism” call it legalism to say that any works accompany salvation whereas Catholics say that the works contribute to people attaining salvation. The view that is most consistent with Scripture is that works are the fruit of being saved by Grace. They do not contribute to our salvation (justification) but they do serve as benchmarks for others to judge our profession of faith by, as well as the good works further the cause of the gospel on the earth. You can read more about this issue (dealing with it against the attack of the “easy believism” side) by reading “Repentance and Faith: two necessary sides of the same saving coin” and “Is Turning from Sin Legalism?

My Catholic friends, my goal is not that you become baptist or to have you become a member of a specific denomination. My goal is that you encounter Christ, as all true believers have, as a wretched, naked, and dead sinner who can do nothing to add to the completed work of Christ which He extends as a free gift of God to all who believe (see Romans 6:23). Then and only then can you experience the unfailing, limitless, and unfathomable love and grace of Christ and you can know that you are saved.


2 (emphasis added)


4 Ibid.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Grace Alone

I have recently been interacting with some Catholics online, and I must say that I have really enjoyed the debate. I asked a straight forward question regarding salvation, to which I received a straight forward reply (thankfully). There was only one line that perplexed me. "Without the grace of Christ's death on the Cross, we would not be able to achieve salvation."1 I don't know why, but the word "achieve" sounds too much like earn. Perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but Catholic theology has the interwoven idea that we must pay for our own sins (even if we are saved). That seems to be the base reason for pennants and for purgatory. Because if we are saved, and Christ's blood washes away all sins (past, present, and future) then purgatory makes God gratuitous in His punishing sin.

This discussion will not be the end of the Catholic vs. Protestant wrangle, but it may be enlightening.

Now, on to the questions:

  1. Q: Is baptism necessary for salvation?
    A: Water baptism is not necessary for salvation. We are saved by God’s grace alone. (Mark 16:16; Luke 23:40-43; Eph 2:8,9).

  2. Q: Do we need to keep the commandments to have eternal life?
    A: No. It is impossible to keep all of the commandments; therefore we are guilty of them all. (James 2:10) Our works will determine our degree of reward in heaven, but it will not determine our eternal destination. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

  3. Q: If you have faith, but not have works, can your faith save you?
    A: Of course not. True faith produces works, false faith does not. The metaphor frequently used is that of a plant and its fruit. (James 3:11) The plant must be alive to produce the fruit, and only Christ makes us alive through His grace. We are dead in sin, and until we are born again (John 3:3), we cannot do anything because…we’re dead. Christ makes it clear in His own words what will happen if we do not abide in Him: namely that we are condemned (John 15:1-11). We also know that it is ultimately by God’s providence alone that all who are going to be saved, are saved (John 6:36-40, 44).

  4. “It is grace alone that saves, but the grace that saves is not alone.” If we believe for one second that our works add to or contribute to our salvation, then we are damned. We do not achieve salvation, we are given salvation. Sola gratia. Sola fide. Solus Christus. Soli Deo gloria.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Regarding Christian Zionism

I recently listened to a few of the episodes of the “Bible Answer Man” radio program. If you are not familiar with Hank Hannegraaff (the host of the broadcast and president of the Christian Research Institute) is known for taking hard stands against modern heresies and false teachings. He makes very direct statements against the Word of Faith movement (think of most TBN personalities), popular heretical preachers and teachers like TD Jakes’ Oneness Pentecostal heresy (see an apologetic e-mail), as well as confronting and dealing with modern cults (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc). One of the things that I appreciate most about Mr. Hannegraaff’s ministry is their clear stand that is taken on the essential issues of the faith. He doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to the deity of Christ, the infallibility of the Bible, the Trinity, and others indispensable doctrines. However, when it comes to other issues, those that are referred to as “secondary” issues,1 I have been known to disagreements with him (sometimes very seriously too).

It is dealing with one of these secondary issues that compelled me to listen recently. A few weeks ago, Hank was interviewing a guest named Stephen Sizer over the course of two broadcasts. Mr. Sizer recently wrote a book called “Christian Zionism : Road-map to Armageddon?” It was the title of this book that made me listen to the broadcasts to see what another Christian perspective might be on the Middle East crisis.

Before I go any further, let me start off by defining Christian Zionism. Zionism is defined by Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary as “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.”2 Christian Zionism, then, is the support for this movement from people inside of the Christian faith. Also, I think that it is noteworthy to say that I have never heard either “Zionism” or “Christian Zionism” used in a positive and sympathetic way.3 That is not to say that it has never been used positively, but simply that I have not seen it.

The basic premise (as I understood it from listening to the two program series) of Mr. Sizer’s book, as well as Hank’s views, is that the Jewish people committed a great injustice when they displaced the Palestinian people just following World War II and that Christians should not be pro-Israel by default. Whether one agrees with the premise of the book (or the tone of the interview) is not the main point of my concern, but it is notable to say that many (if not most or all) of the ideas that a Christian holds concerning the Middle East come as a direct result of one’s theology of the end times (eschatology) and the book of Revelation. Hank Hannegraaff, as best as I can tell, holds an eschatological view best described as “partial-pretorism” in that he believes that the tribulation spoken of in the book of Revelation was basically the persecution of the early church by Nero. I know that he believes in the future second coming of Christ and the problem of sin will be fully and finally dealt with in the future, but as far as what he believes and what his biblical case is for all of this, I do not know any real specifics.4 I do know, however, that there are other Christian theologians whom I greatly respect, namely R.C. Sprohl, who hold very similar views on eschatological matters, so Hank is not all alone in his thinking.5

The popular Christian view of how the world will end is, for better or worse, best articulated in its general form by the “Left Behind” book series. I would confess a future coming of Christ where His church will be raptured instantly and brought to heaven. This will be followed immediately by the 7 year tribulation, the 1,000 year reign of Christ, and then finally the New Heaven and New earth.6

That being said, I don’t want to deal with the various arguments for or against either Mr. Hannegraaff’s or my personal eschatology. But, if one believes (as futurists do) that the nation of Israel will (or has already) return to the land in unbelief prior to the second coming of Christ, then this could potentially greatly impact how we view current events and the current nation of Israel. What I would like to do is to quickly look at a few of the statements made on these programs and (hopefully) show some problems with the characterizations made by a brief comment.

“I was interested to read in the preface [to Mr. Sizer’s book] in going to Israel and see the heavily armed Israeli soldiers and the encounters they have with the occasional stone throwing Palestinian children actually ended up fueling within you a latent prejudice against Palestinians. Cash that out for us.”7

I have not read the book, so I do not know the entirety of the story or event in context, but the way that the comparison is made between the “heavily armed Israeli soldiers” and the “occasional stone throwing Palestinian children” is an unfair picture, at best. For anyone who has watched news about Israel in the past decade would know that primarily the soldiers are not heavily armed because of the children. They are so armed because of the recent advent of the suicide bomber and other political or religious actions that are carried out primarily against Israeli civilians by Palestinians. One other important note is often made by Dennis Prager. Some people say that the reason for the suicide bombing is a result of poverty or of occupation by the Israeli’s, Dennis then asks “Where are the Palestinian Christian suicide bombers?” The point is undeniably that there aren’t any. The problem as we see it today is not between ordinary civilians and an occupying force, but between Muslims, motivated by the doctrine or idea of Jihad, carrying out their actions against Jews. So to make the comparison between military troops and misfit children as the only pro-active comparison in the whole broadcast for the conflict going on is to look at the situation and totally mischaracterize it.8

“I’m very passionate about wanting to support the state of Israel within secure borders, but they have to be internationally recognized. And I want to see the same rights for the Palestinians and I believe that is the only way forward for a secure and a peaceful middle east. Our Christian Zionist friends are committed to a very apocalyptic and confrontational view of the future which I believe is going to perpetuate and exacerbate tensions in the Middle East which we see ourselves as we saw last week with the planes that might have been blown up across the Atlantic. We see this rise in Islamist terrorism I think as a direct response to our one-sided support for Israel today.”9

There are so many different things in this one statement that could be addressed, but I will just deal with two. The desire to support a state of Israel that is internationally recognized sounds noble but it will never happen. It will never happen unless either (a) the futurist understanding of the end times happens or (b) the Islamic countries in the region and all over the world become secular or non-Muslim. The phrase “internationally recognized” usually means recognition by the U.N., but Israel was accepted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949 as well as won a war against it started by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.10 I am not sure what constitues one being internatinoally recognized if the United Nations doesn’t count. It is a catch 22 to say that israel needs to be recognized internationally when there are numerous political bodies that want to see Isreal destroyed.

The second thing that is upsetting about the above quote is the sentiment that we are being plagued by Islamic terrorism in the west primarily because of our one-sided suport for Israel. I think that it is very egocentric to think this way seeing as how Muslims have a view that is derived from their scriptures that the whole world needs to be an Islamic state. Not only that, but look at how Muslims ransacked Lebanon and the Lebaniese Christians in the last century. They would have been just as displaced and offended by the Jewish occupation as their Muslim agressors, but they were attacked and killed all the same. It is naieve to believe that the presense or the rise of Islamic terrorism is directly related to Israel. That may well be the case for the United States, but not for other countries who are less than sympathetic to Israel. Sudanese people aren’t sympathetic to Israel (at least politically) but Sudan is the place where true terrorism and genocide is occurring by the same strain of Islamic fundamentalists.

“What we see at the moment in our foreign policy is a very one-sided approach that demonizes some of the Arab states and exonerates Israel in its actions. And that does not lead to peace, it leads to jealousy, and hatred, and worse.”

Then later in the program, in a specific response to a question regarding Iran’s saber rattling, Mr. Sizer says,

“I in no way would endorse what the president of Iran is saying. I abhor his sentiments, but I have to say at the same time as we hear statements about how allegedly the Arabs want to drive the Jews into the sea, what we see in action is in effect Israel driving the Palestinians into the desert. And both sides need to be encouraged to change their rhetoric and their actions and to learn to live within secure borders.”11

I think that these two statements together are upsetting, at the very least. Let me start off by saying that I do not want to ever give a blank check to anyone for to do anything that they want even if the overall cause or idea is something that I support.12 If and when Israel takes inappropriate action against those individuals or organizations that are not part of a threat to their security, they should be chastised and called to account. However, the “demonizing” that I have seen has not gone far enough to call persons, states, or organizations to account when they promote an open goal of genocide when they express their desire to “drive the Jews into the sea.” The President of Iran has made it plain that he wants Israel wiped out. The most visible face of a Palestinian nation in the past century was Yasser Arafat who headed up the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). In the PLO charter, this organization calls for the destruction of Israel.13 The PLO may have softened their resolution on this matter, and the Palestinian responded accordingly by recently electing (in a popular vote) Hamas to be their current political leadership. Hamas is a terrorist organization whose charter states, “the organization's goal is to "’raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine,’ in order to establish an Islamic Republic.”14 Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that all-but controls Lebanon, views the destruction of the state of Israel as one of its primary goals.15

So to conclude what has turned out to be a very long introduction, it seems that there is a latent disconnect (at least) on the part of both Stephen Sizer and Hank Hannegraaff when looking at the current problems in the Middle East. The issue is not that a two state solution (Israel and a Palestinian nation) has not been offered by the Israelis. It is that the offer of a two state solution (as in the Oslo Accords) was rejected by the various powerful organizations inside of the Palestinian population because they “objected to the accords since the groups completely denounce Israel's right to exist.”16

All of my frustration, concern, and confusion only made the next issue the most prominent one. The above issues that primarily deal with the geopolitical motivations and reactions of states and societies are important, but in this specific instance they pale in compare to the next theologically packed statement made by Mr. Hannegraaff. Hank introduced his guest, the book, and this topic at the beginning of both of the radio programs by saying this, “Evangelicals are increasingly polarized over whether Christian Zionism is biblical and orthodox or unbiblical and cultic.”17

This may seem a bit trivial but the mere fact that it was stated twice with the exact same language shows that it was not a misspoken word but that it was designed and intended to covey the dichotomy between the two viewpoints. The dichotomy is not in the same manner in which most secondary issues are referred to on his program. It is primarily due to the fact that the word “cultic” was used that I am so flabbergasted and concerned.

Before I jumped to conclusions, I decided to see how the Christian Research Institute (C.R.I.) defines what a cult is. First they give the secular or popular definition of what a cult is, “a cult is a religious or semi-religious sect whose members are controlled almost entirely by a single individual or by an organization.” The other way in which they defined a cult is more evangelical in nature, “a cult is any group that deviates from the orthodox teachings of the historic Christian faith being derived from the Bible and confirmed through the ancient ecumenical creeds.”18

Further in that same official C.R.I. article Hank goes on, “These groups do not lead to the Christ of the Bible, but to another Jesus and another gospel (2 Cor. 11:1-4; Gal. 1:8, 9). We must therefore reject these false teachings, and “earnestly contend for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).”19

If the implication made by Hank is not missed or misunderstood, then those Christians who, motivated by their theological convictions that the Church and Israel are not the same, support Israel unorthodox, unbiblical, and cultic. Then, if these same Christians are cultic, their faith does not lead to the Christ of the Bible. It seems odd that such a careful wordsmith and apologist like Hank Hannegraaff would use such a loaded word and back up its use by contrasting cultic and unbiblical views with orthodox and biblical views leaving no question as to the implications of his meaning.

Also, in the same C.R.I. Perspective article, cults are determined or defined by the fact that they “deny or distort fundamental Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith alone.“20 Since when did eschatology (except for extreme pretorism which says that the actual second coming of Christ occurred in the past) become an essential or fundamental doctrine of the faith? It is important, and very important at that. But essential to salvation? I don’t think so.

Adding to the frustration surrounding the cultic accusation was this next quote, “It is tragic that some of our well known Christian leaders embrace orthodox Judaism and soft-peddle the gospel or deny that it is necessary for Jewish people even to hear about Jesus; that by virtue of their Jewishness that God accepts them through obedience to the law or through sacrifice if that takes place again through a new temple.”21 There are a few self described evangelical leaders who say that Jews will be saved because they are Jews and apart from being saved by Christ. These few men, John Hagee being one of them, may be somewhat popular because of the shock value of some of their predictions, but anyone who denies that all people must be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for salvation are not only not Christian leaders, they are heretics. To lump this heretical theology in with futurism is almost slanderous, but it is definitely unfair and a poor comparison.

Are there some people who believe that Jews will be saved because of their ethnicity? Yes. Do some of these same people believe in futurist eschatology? Yes. Given the fact that these people are heretical because of their view on salvation, is it fair to use these same people to characterize futurists? No.

In conclusion I have some concerns with some of the statements made by Hank Hannegraaff and Stephen Sizer regarding Israel, the Palestinians, and terrorism in general. However, I am most concerned and upset by the gross mischaracterization and use of the word “cultic” in the framing of the conversation. I do not believe that Mr. Hannegraaff truly believes that futurists who support Israel are cultic or heretical, but that is the only conclusion that I can draw by the implications of his repeated introduction as well as the C.R.I. statement on what cults are.

I am, however, trying to contact Mr. Hannegraaff to ask him what he meant by what he said. I truly hope that this is just a miscommunication, misunderstanding, or sloppy word choice on his part.

1 Issues like spiritual gifts and their place today, how to understand election and free will, eschatology, and others. These issues are called “secondary” because they are matters of doctrine and interpretation that, although they are different (and sometimes very different), they still fall under the umbrella of orthodoxy.

2 Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary

3 Just like the word “ilk” is not used except when describing people or holders of an ideal that you find reprehensible.

4 Hank Hannegraaff has been writing a book called “Exegetical Eschatology” where he is detailing the biblical argument for this particular view. I do not know when this book will be published.

5 I’m not saying that he’s right. I personally don’t hold to his theological position on this matter, so he may be wrong, but he’s not alone nor is he heretical in his wrongness.

6 The sheer fact that the Future Pre-millennialism is so extremely popular is the single greatest reason why I (currently, anyway) would not dogmatically hold to this position until I have researched it in more detail and either affirmed and “owned” it in my own mind and heart, or confess another eschatology that I find to be the biblical one.

7 Hank Hannegraaff speaking on the Bible Answer Man Broadcast 8/15/2006

8 A comment about suicide bombings and other types of large scale actions by Palestinians against Israel did come up, but only after being raised by a caller which I reference later in this piece.

9 Stephen Sizer on the “Bible Answer Man” Radio broadcast on 8/15/2006 41:03


11 Stephen Sizer on the “Bible Answer Man” Radio broadcast on 8/16/2006 @ 23:25

12 Case and point: I abhor abortion and view it as murder. I wish and hope that all legal operations of abortion clinics in the U.S. were stopped. However, whenever a crackpot has taken a vigilante approach to this issue and killed a doctor or a nurse or bombed a clinic I have (and I will continue) condemned that as a wrong and evil thing.





17 Hank Hannegraaff on the “Bible Answer Man” Radio broadcast on 8/16 & 8/17/2006

18 CRI Perspective: What is a Cult? 8/29/006

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Stephen Sizer on the “Bible Answer Man” Radio broadcast on 8/16/2006 40:55

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