Unity or Heresy, Part 7 – Apostolic, Reformed, Mennonite, Brethren
Proverbs 25:2 – It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.
As I look back over this series so far (and we are more than half way through, by the way), I realize that I truly can’t do any of these denominations, sects or cults any justice in a page. If I had this to do all over again, I would have dedicated each post to a different organization. If I ever write my first book, I think this would be the topic (any rich folks out there who want to fund my first book and send me all over the world to research?).
I want to reinforce what has been said over the past 7 weeks. Just because a church has a heresy in it does not mean you write it off. The Corinthian Church was corrupt and Paul still called them saints. And just because someone you know goes to a church with a heresy, does NOT mean that they are not Christian. Solomon was idolatrous. Haman was proud. Peter was impulsive. David was a drama king (maybe that’s who I am related to). Jacob was scheming. No one is perfect. As I said in the last post, that is why there is grace.
Psalm 85:6 – Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
The first denomination to look at is Apostolic. The history is a little divided as there are two very different Apostolic Churches in the world. First is the Apostolic Faith Church International. They were born out of the Azusa Revival of 1906 when Florence Crawford established the church in Portland, Oregon. Some of the key pieces of outreach of this church is camp meetings, publications, and music. As a matter of fact, their mission actually calls out their 3 P’s: Pray, preach, publish.
The Apostolic Faith Church is a Trinitarian, Pentecostal church that does have a strong belief that the gifts of the Spirit present in the first century church are alive and well today. The one area that they do differ from many other churches is in whether one can lose salvation. According to their website, someone can lose salvation. If you review their salvation.pdf file that is on the following page, they have a whole section dedicated to “How to Keep Salvation.” The website is here:
The other Apostolic Church is the New Apostolic Church International based in the U.K. This church was founded in the early 1800s in Britain after the 12 disciples, showing gifts of prophecy, planted a church that would immediately dispense the gifts of the Holy Spirit on believers through the laying-on of hands. When the original apostles began to die off, they shifted their focus to not replacing them, but to preaching the imminent return of Christ. One of their contingents in Hamburg, Germany, pulled away, bringing in a new set of apostles in 1863.
While their website is very detailed, I did not have the opportunity to read every little piece that was one their site. The mission of the church is to fulfill the Great Commission while being a congregation that can serve others and serve God. But I have found something that concerns me. When reviewing their section on “Life after Death” under catechism, I found that they believe that the living can perform acts in this life to help those who are not saved who have died, that will help their situation with God. So, basically, the One and only bridge to the Father is evidently not necessary in the New Apostolic Church International. According to their site, our works here on earth can help those who are dead to lessen their punishment. The website is here:
As I review the Apostolic Church, I find that I need to give a split decision. The Apostolic Faith Church is a denomination, while still having heresy in the church. The New Apostolic Church International is a cult.
Titus 2:1 – But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Admittedly, when I put this schedule together, I looked at a study that I have been using for quite a while and was suggested by one of my Liberty University professors as a good basic understanding of denominational numbers and facts. In this report, they have Christian Reformed and Reform separated as two different denominations. Last week, I did a little bit of a study on the CRC and, as I look for more and more information about the keyword “reformed,” I find that there are several movements inside churches today called “reform,” but that when one considers a Reform Church, they are more often than not speaking of the CRC. That said, this topic can be found in last week’s post.
But I will say that I have received an email from the CRC magazine Banner and would like to clarify some points I had made last week. As I mentioned before, doing a blog post about multiple organizations can be a little surface-oriented. I wish to thank the editor of Banner magazine for explaining the reason for the schism in the CRC. The CRC continued in a Calvinist tradition, while Hoeksema’s new congregation took Calvinism to the extreme, which thankfully, the CRC turned away from and stayed more in line with Biblical evidence.
With regard to the article that I pointed out last week that was published by Banner, in a future issue of the magazine, the editor published an open letter of apology that stating that the article was not the position of the CRC. But to still have published it in a widely distributed manner to begin with is very concerning to me.
I email every organization that I discuss in my blog. I put in the email to them that if they find that I have made an error, to please inform me so that I may retract what I said. That is why I am writing this point here. I do not believe that anything in the email I received this week from Banner changes my view on the CRC. They are still a denomination. There is still heresy in the church as there is in any church that we have studied thus far. But I am thankful that Banner cleared up my (and subsequently my readers’) confusion about Hoeksema and the schism.
1 Peter 2:13-17 – Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Some of my good friends are Mennonite. One of my best friends is Mennonite. Growing up in south central Pennsylvania, Amish and Mennonite were everywhere. Going for my undergraduate college work at Elizabethtown College in PA meant that we were required to understand the Mennonite and Amish cultures. We even had a class that would take us on a field trip to a Mennonite farm to work for a few days.
As for the history, The Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches in Europe required that you belong to the church and pay church taxes. The church was connected with the state. In the early 1500s, a group of people felt that state churches were wrong and that the only ones who should be baptized were adults giving their lives to Jesus, not infants. They decided to break away. The state run churches banded together to end this movement. In 1525, a group of men in a Bible study began to baptize each other in the name of the Holy Spirit. This group of believers were called Anabaptist (which means “again-baptizers). One day, Menno Simons, a Catholic priest in Holland, learned of the death of his brother, an Anabaptist, by the state run churches. He decided to put away his priest robes and become Anabaptist. Early on, the church was named Menists, after Menno Simons. Later, during the settling of America, Dutch Mennonites were aboard the Mayflower and many Mennonite beliefs permeated throughout the new towns that popped up. During the colonial period, there were groups that broke away from the Mennonite Church. One of those groups was the Amish. They were a much more conservative version of Mennonites, refusing to change style of dress as the culture changed and many other attributes that separated them from the world, and the Mennonite Church.
The Mennonite Church has, as its core, the basic Scriptural beliefs that I am using to review a denomination. While I find it hard pressed to find any significant heresy inside the Mennonite church, I would like to know what their view of hell is. On their website, I could not find anything regarding the existence of hell. It is also very easy to make the mistake that Mennonites have a “works based” faith, but in deep understanding of their Articles of Faith, you will find that they believe grace alone is the reason for salvation and the works come as a result of the love we have for God. The Mennonite Church has added extra ordinances (they do not use the term sacrament) such as foot washing, the holy kiss, and anointing with oil.
After researching the Mennonites, I have come to find that they are indeed a very conservative, Christian denomination.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 – Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.
When I went to my undergrad college, it was a tiny Brethren college in south central PA. Every week we had convocation, which would then begin the week for us. As time went by, we realized just how loosely the college held their religious beliefs. I enjoyed my time there, sometimes WAAAAY too much, but I never got much out of it spiritually.
As for the Brethren Church, the history of the church dates to 1708. In August 1708, eight people in Germany met at a river for adult baptism, illegal at that time as the state run church only allowed infant baptisms. The new group simply called themselves “the brethren.” There were some distinct differences between the Protestants of the day and the brethren. They believed in extreme evangelism and spread their faith in every area they could think of. They also believed that God laid out a Christian’s life guide in the New Testament. Christians were supposed to follow the model of Jesus, being peaceful, compassionate, plain, and share in a search for truth. Because of persecution, the Brethren left Europe for America and settled in PA by 1723.
As for what the church believes, their website is a little nebulous. I do feel that they work to proclaim the voice of Christ in this day and age. And they have definitely placed a line in the sand around peaceful existence and working for programs of peace. But on their website, their views of the Trinity are hard to come by. How they view different Scriptural views is difficult to find. You have to dig through a lot on their website to find the information you need to piece together how they see Christianity. Let me elaborate. They believe that the Old Testament of the Bible explains God’s purpose for humanity while the New Testament is our guide for living a Christian life. They use the word “inspired” to explain the Bible, but nowhere could I find “inerrant” or “infallible.” God the Father is seen as the Creator. Also, this church does ordain women.
I do need to give a word of caution, however. While the main Brethren Church is very conservative in their views of Christianity, there are multiple groups out there that claim the Brethren name. In those groups, the full range of beliefs is seen. Some are Calvinistic while others are Arminian. Some hold different views of the Trinity and His impact while others have very Scriptural views.
Overall, I would say the Brethren Church is a solid denomination, although I do believe they could use some work on claiming major salvation points from Scripture a little easier to find. There are some definite heresies that I see, however. The view of Scripture being only inspired concerns me. That leaves room for multiple translations as is evidenced by the varying groups of Brethren Churches.
John 16:33 – I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Next week, Nazarene, Church of God, United Church of Christ, and Church of Christ.