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Unity or Heresy, Part 8 – Nazarene, CoG, CoC, UCC

Colossians 1:9 – And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding

So I ask for prayer as I continue this series.  As a recent seminary graduate and someone who has preached only a handful of times, I can now understand how sermon series take a lot out of a pastor.  This is a very long series and my desire to finish it is waning.  So please keep me in prayer as I continue it.  I just pray that God uses it to soften hearts to the most important part of any church, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is the only thing that will change this world in which we live.

So let’s dig right in today with the first organization, the Nazarene Church.

2 Timothy 2:21 – Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Nazarene

Right from the Nazarene Church’s website, their history is fairly simple, like many other American-based organizations.

The Church of the Nazarene traces its anniversary date to 1908. Its organization was a marriage that, like every marriage, linked existing families and created a new one. As an expression of the holiness movement and its emphasis on the sanctified life, our founders came together to form one people. Utilizing evangelism, compassionate ministries, and education, their church went forth to become a people of many cultures and tongues.

Two central themes illuminate the Nazarene story.

The first is “unity in holiness.”

The spiritual vision of early Nazarenes was derived from the doctrinal core of John Wesley’s preaching. These affirmations include justification by grace through faith, sanctification likewise by grace through faith, entire sanctification as an inheritance available to every Christian, and the witness of the Spirit to God’s work in human lives. The holiness movement arose in the 1830s to promote these doctrines, especially entire sanctification. By 1900, however, the movement had splintered. (http://nazarene.org/ministries/administration/visitorcenter/history/display.html)

The second theme of the Nazarene Church is that they will be based on a missional view.  To that end they have planted churches in Canada, India, Japan, Africa, and many other nations.

So the Nazarene Church is based on two central themes of holiness and mission.  the Holiness side of the church believes in “entire sanctification” while the missional side of the church takes the message to all the world.

So just what does the Nazarene Church believe?

Entire sanctification is a complete regeneration by the Holy Spirit that allows the believer to become more Christlike every day.  This concept of entire sanctification has been open to translation in many of the Wesleyan-tradition churches, of which Nazarene is one.  The other controversial belief that the church holds is that salvation is conditional on continued repentance.  Those who do not repent, even after giving their life to Christ, can lose their salvation.

Those are two very tough stances.  I also question the fact that they see the Bible as only inspired.  I understand that the words inerrant and infallible are potentially debatable among scholars, but 2 Timothy says that ALL Scripture is breathed of God.  If it is breathed of God, then, by definition, the Scripture has to be inerrant and infallible.

This last point is the one that I want to stick with.  It is, as it has been with other denominations seen in this series, a core to the reason that heresy exists in the church today.  When we, as Christians, stop taking the Bible as the final Word of God, then Satan gets a foothold.  The church needs to believe what it is we are based from.  If we take our own holy doctrine and muddy it with bad theology or misinterpretation, then then church becomes a dangerous place.  Even some Nazarene leadership is writing books claiming that the Bible may not be completely true.

Certainly it cannot be claimed that the whole Bible contains the words of God. There are temple records, prayers of men, pronouncements of prophets, and even words from the devil; …An important distinction must be made between the word of God (lower case)  and the Word of God (uppercase). The latter comes to expression in the former, making the former the vehicle
of God’s self-communication. It is critically important for there to be an objective point of reference. Without that it would be too easy to confuse the word of God with subjective feelings. But the words of Scripture provide a benchmark by which to constantly check the authenticity of our claims to hearing the Word of God. It is possible to accurately understand the  words of Scripture without ever hearing the word of God. In that sense the two can never be equated.

(An Introduction to Wesleyan Theology, William Grethouse & H. Ray Dunning, p. 12-13)

While I believe heresy exists in the Nazarene Church and that they are beginning to slide deeper into heresy as the days go on, it is a denomination.

John 17:17 – Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Church of God

What started in 1886 as a gathering of 8 people in Tennessee turned into a large denomination that has over 7 million members and 36,000 congregations worldwide.  What led these 8 people to split away from their Baptist upbringing was the concept of entire sanctification.  This is a term we have seen over and over in the Holiness Movement here in the United States.  Baptists do not believe in entire sanctification, and therefore, these 8 people from 3 families we’re persecuted by others of similar faith.  As more and more people in the community started believing in entire sanctification, the Baptist churches would remove congregants from their churches.  Those congregants would show up next week at a CoG church.  Sometimes, the persecution was even violent with CoG members being shot at, having their homes burned, or their wells poisoned.  While at this time they were not officially the CoG, the groundwork was being laid for the church to exist, and, by 1906, the CoG was an official denomination.

The CoG has a very strong positions on multiple fronts.  First, with the main points of Scripture, they agree that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and inspired.  Believing this, they have taken up numerous positions on various hot button issues in the church today.  For example, read the attached link that defines how the CoG views “Marriage.”

http://www.churchofgod.org/resolutions/marriage_and_family_2012

Pretty impressive.  They have been meeting about this numerous times over the past 20+ years and if you surf their RESOLUTIONS, you will find that they always come up with the same Scriptural definition of marriage.  They have these resolutions on almost every hot button issue out there.

But I do have some concerns.  The CoG is Arminian in nature.  That means that you can lose your faith.  While Arminianism or Calvinism is not a measure of cultic status, it is one of Scriptural translation that needs further insight.  This is an area of deep rift in the church today.  And it is an area in which I believe wholeheartedly the other way.  That will be a blog post for another day, however.

Another point that is simply interesting to me is that they feel that speaking in tongues is the first sign that you are baptized of the Holy Spirit.

With these points, the CoG is a strong denomination that I pray continue to grow.

Mathhew 16:18 – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Church of Christ

The CoC is a very difficult “denomination” to define.  Because of how it is set up, they do not prefer to call themselves a denomination as they believe in self-governing churches defining themselves.  This can lead to problems.  I found one CoC that follows Mormon standards and actually split away from the Mormon Church because they felt it wasn’t conservative enough, even though they still use the Book of Mormon and the Bible as their Word.  Now that is not common for all churches labelled CoC, but it is the danger in having a denomination that is loosely guarded.

For the most part, the CoC is the continuation of the Campbellites that came out of the 2nd Great Awakening in America.  They have a few quirky pieces to them.  First, they, for the most part, do not allow instruments to be used in their services.  The majority of the churches only allow the human voice to be the instrument.  This is because instruments were not introduced to church services until about the 5th century AD.

Another point that is quirky is that baptism is required for salvation.  Baptism, as most Protestant denominations view it, is the outward sign of an inner experience.  For the CoC, the baptism is part of that inner experience.  Without it, you cannot be saved.

One point that was brought up on several websites is that the CoC is exclusivist.  In reading posts by CoC members and those who carry the banner of CoC, they claim that is false.  They believe that the only standard for being a Christian is following Christ.

So what is there to say about heresy?  This is a very difficult place to be.  This is definitely a church that is not regulated like a church.  Because of that, there are CoC churches that have fallen into cultic status and others which are very biblically sound.

Even the first century church had oversight.  Paul traveled from church to church, sending letters and ambassadors to ensure the church was unified under a single banner.  From what I have seen, there is little to no oversight of the CoC denomination.  I even find myself hard pressed to call it more than a movement inside of Christianity, rather than a denomination.  So, because of the varying views from church to church and lack of significant government, I find this as a movement inside Christianity.

John 17:1-5 – When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

United Church of Christ

The UCC claims it gets its history beginning in the first century church.  In reality, the UCC became a denomination in 1957 when four different groups came together to form the organization.  While the four denominations that came together each have longstanding histories, the UCC banner was raised officially in 1957.  From their own website, here is a description of their coming together:

On Tuesday, June 25,1957, at Cleveland, Ohio, the Evangelical and Reformed Church, 23 years old, passionate in its impulse to unity, committed to “liberty of  conscience inherent in the Gospel,” and the Congregational Christian Churches, 26 years old, a fellowship of biblical people under a mutual covenant for responsible freedom in Christ, joined together as the United Church of Christ. The new church embodied the essence of both parents, a complement of freedom with order, of the English and European Reformations with the American Awakenings, of separatism with 20th-century ecumenism, of presbyterian with congregational polities, of neoorthodox with liberal theologies. Two million members joined hands.

(http://www.ucc.org/about-us/short-course/shortcourse.pdf , p. 33)

The UCC is a very liberal church.  Looking at their own website, they have an area of UCC Firsts.  This includes the ordination of the first female pastor in 1853, the ordination of the first openly gay minister in 1972, and marriage equality in 2005.  And they have a longstanding love for political personalities.  As a matter of fact, prior to being elected President of the US, Barak Obama was a member of Trinity UCC in Chicago.  Other notable UCC members in history include Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and many others.

The church’s focus on unity in the essentials and diversity in the non-essentials means that they practice charity when there is disagreement.  Individuals are free to live based on their interpretation of God’s will for their life.  The major distinguishing point that UCC has is that they believe God is still speaking to us today and giving us new insights and interpretations into the Bible.  In 2011, they voted to drop “God the Father” from their version of the Trinity.  Their new language is “A local church is comprised of persons who, believing in the triune God, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance from the Holy Spirit.”  The denomination said in a press release that “God the Father” was too restrictive.  They feel that “the language for God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit…is preferred to be more open for different expressions of the Trinity.”  Since then, many UCC pastors have started referring to “God the Father and Mother.”

A UCC organization, the Biblical Witness Fellowship,  has come out with their own press release, “We are deeply concerned about the alarming rate at which the UCC is encouraging the ordination of those who choose ‘alternative’ lifestyles (i.e., homosexuality, bisexuality and sexual activity outside of marriage), embrace moral relativism, seek authority in human experience, or are ambivalent about such basic beliefs as the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the reality of the Resurrection and other doctrines of the church which are the foundation of our faith. Continued ordination of ministers who cannot accept even the simplest truths of the Christian faith will only contribute to the further collapse of our church to the prevailing mythologies of the culture.”

Ok, the more that I study this church, the more I could write. 

BUT I WANT TO ASK YOU…

A church that produces an ad such as this,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXCzzNoMeNs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx1u1v7hAtY

Are they TRULY seeking to unify the church or are they grasping at straws to maintain their dwindling congregations.  A church that was at 2.1 million in 1950s is at 1.2 million today, and continuing to shrink daily.

 

I have one simple question for the UCC church.  This statement is right from their website under the heading Stillspeaking.  “Today, under one collective identity, we can enthusiastically lift up that the UCC is a welcoming, justice-minded Christian community.”

My question is this….

WHAT is your definition of justice?

Biblical justice looks very different than what you are preaching today, UCC churches.  The definition of “justice” is the administering of punishment or rewards.  Ignoring God’s wrath ignores a significant part of Scripture.

It seems the UCC has it backwards.  We should want to change our lives to live up to God’s standard because we love Him.  We should not expect Him to change to our lifestyles.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  How prideful is it of us to expect Him to change for us.  HE CREATED US!  We should give HIM everything, including a changed life.

Based on my study of the UCC, they are a cult.  Do not get mixed up with them.

1 Corinthians 4:6 – I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Next week I will look at Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Methodist.

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?

Apostolic

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:

http://www.apostolicfaith.org/Library/Index.aspx?xsq=salvation

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:

http://www.nak.org/catechism/9-life-after-death/96-help-for-the-departed/961-intercession/

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.

Reformed

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.

Mennonite

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.

Brethren

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.

Unity or Heresy, Part 4 – Anglican/Episcopalian, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Holiness/Holy

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Last week we looked at cults and sects of Christianity.  This week, we will start looking at some of the mainline denominations.  Denominations are those which SHOULD attest to the main precepts of Christianity.  Unfortunately, as you will see with this and the posts in the upcoming weeks, heresy has found its way into many of these denominations.  So much so in some cases that we need to evaluate whether these can legitimately be considered the Christian church anymore.

One thing we need to remember is that in the New Testament, the Corinthian church was most likely the most corrupt church in the Bible.  Yet Paul still called them saints.  The fact that heresy creeps into a church does not mean it has lost its credibility as a Christian church.  Only when those heresies turn into more substantial differences with Christian doctrine found in the Bible, as such is the case with the Roman Catholic Church.

So let’s begin looking at some of these denominations to determine what their views are. Remember, the criterion that I am using was laid out a few weeks ago in part 1.5 of this series.  Please review that before reading this post.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness

Anglican/Episcopalian

The Episcopalian Church is the American arm of the Anglican Communion, based in the United Kingdom.  The church got its start in 1534 when the King of England removed the Roman Catholic Pope as the head of the church in England and placed himself in the role.  Over the next 130 years, Protestantism finally won out over Catholicism in the UK.  But this isn’t Protestantism in the form we are used to in most Protestant churches.  The denomination that resulted in this split is a blend of Protestant Reformation and Roman Catholic beliefs.  For example, the worship is highly liturgical and there is an Episcopalian structure, which means that it is bishop-led.  You can find a very diverse range of Anglican churches around the world ranging from the evangelical to the liberal to the primarily Roman Catholic.  The Anglican Church believes the Bible, traditions of the Church, human reason, and the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican book of worship) are used to influence the structure of the church.  Each area in the Anglican Communion is called a province and is in communion with, but independent of, the Church of England.

So what are the Anglican beliefs?  One major difference between Anglican and Roman Catholic belief is the justification by faith alone.  In their 39 Articles Anglican Communion, they say “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine…”

They also believe wholeheartedly in work of Jesus on the cross and His sacrifice for our sin.  “He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world …”  Also, once baptized, the Christian cannot lose his faith.  “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble.”

The idea of purgatory is an area in which one can see the anger between the Anglican church and the Roman Catholic church, “The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory … is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”

One piece of heresy that has crept into the Anglican Church, which could show why other heresies such as ordination of homosexual pastors has happened, is that they view Scripture as inspired.  They do not see it as inerrant and infallible.  They place reason and their Book of Common Prayers on equal or even higher ground than Scripture.  If we maintain that all Scripture is inerrant and infallible, then there is no room for heresy to creep in.  If we maintain the Scripture as our only source for morality, then heresy will not happen.

It goes without saying that the past few years has been trying for the Anglican Church.  Trying to be relevant while at the same time holding onto their traditions.  The American province, the Episcopalian Church, has ordained homosexual ministers.  While this has happened in America, internationally the Anglican Church has frowned upon this.  However, in 2002, the Canadian Province allowed same-sex unions.  Beginning in 2013, the overall Church of England has started allowing same-sex unions.

While many of my personal friends are gay, they do understand where I am with regard to my belief of homosexuality.  I believe the Bible when it is called a sin.  It is not a disease that can be cured.  It is not how someone is born, other than being born with a sin nature.  It is simply a sin.  When it enters the church as a doctrine, it becomes a heresy.  For that point, and the fact that the Bible is viewed as inspired but not inerrant or infallible, heresies have crept into the Anglican Church, which, if not resolved in a Scriptural way, will result in a further slipping of Christian doctrine and increased growing of worldly doctrine.  The church is not called to be OF the world.  The church is called to be OF GOD.  We must be in this world, but not of it.

2 Timothy 3:5 – Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Pentecostal/Charismatic

It is very easy to become distracted when speaking of the history of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Church.    Many denominations are involved including Methodist, Holiness, Assemblies of God, and Foursquare among others.  The actual Pentecostal/Charismatic Church movement started right around the turn of the 20th Century and came out of the Holiness Movement.  Looking at the PCCNA (Pentecostal Charismatic Churches of North America) website, it is very hard to follow the history of the movement.  Basically, they believe that around 1901, the very first “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in modern times occurred in Topeka, KS.  It was quiet for a short while until 1906 during the Asuza Street Revival in LA, CA.  The “massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit” drew national attention.  Because of the “different nature” of the attenders of the revival, many were thrown out of their congregations upon returning home.  The church’s main belief is that once one is “baptized by the Holy Spirit” that they will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which is evidenced in speaking in tongues.  As I write about several other denominations over the course of this series, I will continue to touch upon the PCCNA movement as many of the denominations have splintered from this movement.

The core of Pentacostalism is that there are three steps in the life of a believer that indicates growth.  First is justification, which comes only from putting your faith in Jesus Christ.  Second is sanctification, which was taught by John Wesley in “A Plain Account of the Christian Perfection” in 1766.  The essence of this is that you receive power from the Holy Spirit and inner purity and therefore you no longer practice sin.  Finally, the third step is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” which leads to outward gifts, most notably speaking in tongues, healing, or prophecy.

Overall, the Pentecostal church is very much in accord with the Protestant church beliefs.  All of the major core values of Christianity are taught and believed except for one.  The Trinity.  Most Pentecostal churches believe that you should pray to Jesus alone, that there is no Trinity.  Careful review of the UPCI website reveals that they believe God has shown Himself in the form of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It is very easy to slip into modalism when reviewing the Trinity with Pentecostals.  This is a direct quote from their Doctrinal Foundation, “The one God existed as Father, Word, and Spirit before His incarnation as Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and while Jesus walked on earth as God Himself incarnate, the Spirit of God continued to be omnipresent. However, the Bible does not teach that there are three distinct centers of consciousness in the Godhead or that Jesus is one of three divine persons.”

  The one piece that is out there is the speaking in tongues piece.  Many Pentecostals believe you have not truly been “baptized by the Holy Spirit” until you have been given your gift, and this is a more dramatic gift such as healing or speaking in tongues.  Some have taken this to be a works-based system, but I don’t agree with that.  If you go directly to their website and review their “What We Believe” section, it says clearly, “Everyone has sinned and needs salvation. Salvation comes by grace through faith based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (See Romans 3:23-25; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9.)”

I am having a very hard time claiming Christian church status to the Pentecostal church.  One of the major tenets of the faith is the view of the Trinity.  And while the Trinity is a modern word, the concept is alive and well in Scripture.  I am concerned that there are people in the Pentecostal Church being deceived.  Jesus puts it well in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers.”

2 Thessalonians 2:1-6 – Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?

Holiness/Holy Movement

The Holiness movement started in the beginning of the 19th century as a revival of original Methodist beliefs.  While Methodism grew in America since 1766, the Holiness Movement sought to revitalize something they felt was lost in the original Methodist Church, the emphasis on the perfection of love.  Over time, the Christian Holiness Partnership (CHP) arose and started unifying the Holiness denominations throughout the world.  The largest Holiness Movement in the world currently is the Korean Evangelical Holiness Church with over 1 million members, almost 9% of the overall world population of Holiness members.

Many view the Holiness Movement in synchronicity with the Pentecostal Movement.  Oddly, the strongest critics of the Pentecostal Movement have been Holiness denominations, wanting to shy away from the speaking in tongues.  The Holiness Church has been instrumental over the years in many major issues that have faced America.  One of the primary issues they faced head on was abolitionism.  Seen as a century ahead of its time, many Holiness churches worked to integrate black and white into a unified congregation.  The next issue they faced was that of feminism.  The first women’s rights convention was actually held in a Holiness church.

Holiness churches are defined more by the ethics and morality than by the doctrine.  While doctrine is paramount to Holiness churches, one cannot get too far into Holiness history without hearing the term “holy roller” and hearing the stories of churches condemning dancing, movies, music, etc….  While the old Holiness Church was ultra-fundamental, the newer Holiness Church is struggling with the impact of culture on their congregations.

As far as beliefs, the views of the Holiness Church are very closely aligned with the Methodist Church.  The one view that is different from Methodism is the view of “Christian perfection.”  Simply stated, this is the view that the Christian receives a “second blessing” subsequent to conversion.  This is to gain volitional perfection over voluntary sin in the life of the believer.  While on earth, the Christian will still mess up, those mess ups are not seen as sin because the Christian has brought true love into his heart and since the Christian’s actions are done with the motive of love, the action cannot be considered a sin.  The only time it can be considered sin is if it is not done with God’s perfect love as the motive.

While I am not in complete agreement with this theology, 1 John 4:17, the cornerstone of Wesley’s argument on Christian perfection, is easily used for this, if taken out of context.  1 John 4 talks about God being love, but there is little to no reason to say that God’s love for us creates perfection in us.  God’s love is “perfected in us” (v. 12) and God’s love takes fear away (v 17-19).  I do believe that God has provided His perfect love for us.  That love is to manifest itself inside of us and, because we love God, will help to guide us in our actions.  Does this mean we will be perfect at our actions?  No.  And those actions can be sinful.

Let me put it this way, I love my kids.  My kids love me.  Because of my love for my kids, if my daughter is dating a boy (not now, when she gets MUCH older, lol) and that boy breaks her heart, I will treat that boy differently.  I will view him negatively.  He could be one of the greatest men on earth, but to me he would still be a jerk because he broke my daughter’s heart.  If I see him walking down the street, and out of my love for my daughter, push him into a mud puddle, then I am still doing her a disservice, even though I love her as my daughter.  Consequently, when we as Christians fail to share the Gospel to someone even though we love God, we are doing a disservice to them.  We may love the person.  We may love God.  But we are choosing, volitionally, to not share God with the person because of our fear.  That is sin, whether you are a Christian or not.  If we choose to walk by those who need to be evangelized to, then we are wrong.  We sin.  This sin does not separate us from our salvation, but it does distance us from God while here on earth.

While the Holiness Church holds on to the theology of Christian perfection and ordination of women, it is very clear that in every way they are a Christian denomination and need to be viewed as partners with us as we evangelize the world with the Gospel.

2 Peter 3:16 – As he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

So this week we reviewed the Anglican/Episcopal, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and Holiness/Holy Churches.  Overall, my view on the Anglican/Episcopal Church is that they are saints but are moving toward more and more heresies and may end up alienating more Christians and seekers than helping.  With the Pentecostal/Charismatic Church, I cannot view them as a Christian denomination because of their Unitarian views on the Godhead.  Finally, while the Holiness Movement’s theology of Christian perfection is a little distorted and they ordain female pastors, I believe that they are promoting Scriptural doctrine.

Next week, I will look at Assemblies of God, Disciples of Christ, and Quaker.

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