Unity or Heresy, Part 1.5 – The Method
A few days ago I introduced a series that I will be doing that looks at the Christian denominations (and in some cases pseudo-Christian or cultic Christian) and tests them Scripturally. In order to do this, I am going to compile a list of Scriptural teachings based on primary and secondary standing. Then, based on the list I propose, I will come up with my own view on whether the denomination is 1) unified in the Christian faith, 2) Beginning to lean away from Biblical teaching, or 3) Apostate. One thing needs to be said here. Inside every true Christian denomination are apostate churches and churches that are faithful to the call of Christ. This study will look at the overall denomination, NOT individual churches in each.
So before I begin digging into each denomination, here is the list I will be using:
1) Primary Work and Nature of Christ – These are items that we cannot turn away from and still be considered Christian as are blatantly expressed in Scripture:
a. Jesus is both God and man. (John 1:1, John 1:14, John 8:24, Colossians 2:9, 1 John 4:1-4)
b. Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21)
c. Salvation is by grace through faith (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 5:1-5)
d. The gospel is about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Galatians 1:8-9)
e. There is only one God (Exodus 20:1-3, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6-8)
2) Nature of God – We cannot turn away from these and still be Christian
a. God exists in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost
b. The virgin birth of Jesus – this relates to the incarnation of Christ as both God and man.
3) Views on the Bible, church ordinances, and practice of Christians – turning away from these does not void salvation, however these are principles that are clear in Scripture and denial suggests apostasy.
a. Male eldership and pastorate (1 Timothy 2:12-13, 1 Timothy 3:15, Titus 1:5-7)
b. Fidelity in marriage and the heterosexual relationship (1 Corinthians 6:9)
c. The condemnation of homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27)
d. Inerrancy of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)
4) Non-essentials that are debated within Christianity that does not affect one’s salvation with God. Denial or acceptance does not suggest apostasy.
a. Baptism for adults/infants
b. Predestination, election, free will
c. Communion every week, month, year, etc…
d. Saturday or Sunday worship
e. Worship that is contemporary or traditional
f. Pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation rapture
g. Premillenialism, amillenialism, and post millennialism
h. Continuation or stopping of the charismatic gifts
So, after reviewing multiple websites, conferring with a few people whom I just graduated seminary with, and putting pieces together of my own theology, I came up with a pretty long list of items that I will consider as apostate and thus grade the denominations by in the upcoming 10 parts of the series. The culmination will then be a chart that can be easily reviewed by denomination and apostasy or unity.
List of apostasies
1) Denying the work and nature of Christ and the nature of God. The first two points above culminate this one item in this list. This includes the Trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace, and Biblical moral absolutes. If there is deviation from the primary works and nature of God, then apostasy is sure to be part of the church.
2) Significant division in the body of Christ. The gauge for this will be both John 13:35 and 1 Corinthians 1:10. While we know that there will be differences of opinion, and that is healthy for any church (see Romans 14:1-12), anything that claims man’s rules over God’s absolutes is apostate.
3) Homosexuality in church leadership. Ordaining homosexual men into the ministry clearly goes against the gauges for this point which are Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:9.
4) Women elders and senior pastors. This is a hotly debated topic in Christianity today. Proof of the matter is that the Bible clearly states male leadership in the church. Now, I am going to show a little of my trepidation here and I want you to know that I, personally, am on the fence about ANY leadership roles being allowed to be filled by women in the church. Many great theologians today believe that woman can be ordained. Many don’t. The measure for this is going to be 1 Timothy 2:12-14, 1 Timothy 3:2, and Titus 1:5-7. Keep in mind this is not a salvation issue. This is apostasy issue, but not salvation.
5) Ashamed to preach the Gospel. The measure for this will be 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and I need to give a shout out to my favorite verse in the Bible Romans 1:16. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is never an easy topic to speak about in today’s age, but it is a necessary one.
6) Failing to send out missionaries. The measure for this will be Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus commands us to carry out the Great Commission. Any church that does not support missionary work is in violation of Jesus’ command.
7) A church that has become a storefront. John 2:13-22 will be the Scripture verse for this. I am not saying it is wrong to sell stuff at church. For example, if you are undergoing a new vision casting session and you want people to support it, selling a T-shirt is not what I am talking about. But there are churches, and entire denominations, that have created clothing lines and are selling them on their websites. Also, the purpose of the sale is important. A popular piece to almost all medium-large churches today is the coffee bar or sandwich shop. Is the purpose to make money for the overall budget or is the purpose to support missions work or create community in the church to where the retail price of the product is equal to the cost of the product that you are serving. This is a very gray area, and can easily turn subjective in this study, but I feel it must be approached.
8) Church growth takes precedence over Biblical truths. Ephesians 4:15 and John 14:6 are going to be the measure for this. I will review the websites, doctrines, and claims of each denomination.
9) Discipleship is not taking place. The church is called to equip Christians. The measure for this will be Ephesians 4:11.
10) Not preaching about hell. Jesus preached about eternal life a lot. He taught of a life that was separated from God for eternity. We call this hell. The truth is that there WILL be people who are damned to hell for eternity. That is not a gentle or easy topic, but whoever said preaching to Gospel would be popular or easy?
11) Is the church growing organically. Above we looked at church growth taking precedence over truth, but church growth needs to be happening. I will look at statistics on the denomination’s growth (or lack thereof) over the past. Acts 2 will be the measure of this.
12) Church stances on abortion, evolution, and other hot button topics. A church that doesn’t stand for something publicly stands for nothing eternally.
So these will be the measures of apostasy in the church. As we review these by denomination, I will challenge you to research these with me. If you feel uncomfortable by something I say on here, please research It on your own as well. That is how we grow.
I guarantee that this will not be the perfect measure by any stretch of the imagination. So if you are uncomfortable but going to a church that seems filled with apostasy, please approach your pastor. Then approach other pastors and talk to them. It is important to get a well-rounded view.
So next week, we will dig in to Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and the differences between Catholic and Protestant. Hold on tight, here we go!