Revelation 2:12-16 – “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
If we look at the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation, we find that six of those churches had heresies inside them. As we continue to look at the denominations of the Christian faith, so far we have not found one that has followed the Bible true to the letter.
It is very difficult.
That is why there is grace, after all.
And churches are made up of human beings.
And human beings are fallible.
But the head of the church should ALWAYS be Jesus.
It is when we, as fallible human beings, lose sight of that, whether individually or corporately, heresy creeps in. So I pray this to be a wake-up call to all denominations out there. Not to focus on the heresy that is being pointed out. Not to focus on other denominations heresy. But to focus only on the One True Savior, Jesus Christ and let Him lead the church.
Gain the power from the Holy Spirit.
Be on fire for God.
That said, let’s move right into the churches for this week.
1 Corinthians 14:37 – If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is a Pentecostal denomination when Aimee Semple McPhereson opened the Angelus Temple in 1923. Within 10 months, they planted their first church in Long Beach, CA. The name “Foursquare” comes from the book of Ezekiel where God is revealed with the faces of man, lion, ox, and eagle. Later, the church adopted symbols to define the foursquare gospel, which is that of the cross, a cup, a dove, and a crown. They boast the first televangelist in Sister Aimee, fed more people during the depression than government subsidies could, and sold more war bonds during WWII than even the most famous of Hollywood stars. Currently there are more than 66,000 Foursquare Gospel churches worldwide, with 1,700 in the United States. A few names you might know who are adherents of Foursquare Gospel are Pat Boone and Jack Hayford, who was also the 5th president of the Foursquare Gospel Convention.
I find myself hard pressed to find any significant present-day heresies inside the denomination of the Foursquare Gospel. While this is a Pentecostal denomination, the truth of the matter is that they are very biblically focused in their teachings on their website and from other Christian sources. Even with regard to the Trinity. If you go to their website, even though the mainline Pentecostal Church believes in Oneness theology, Foursquare believes in Trinitarian theology. Now, their past had been checkered with scandal from their original founder, Sister Aimee.
If I had to pull something out, it would be the ordination of women. Now please keep in mind this is a very hotly debated topic in Christian circles today. Ordination of women is NOT a salvation issue. It is a church government issue. I personally believe that women should not be head pastors or head elders, however, I have softened my view on women as associate pastors over time. I know what the Bible says. And in the Bible, I see no evidence of women as senior pastors or head elders. But we do find deaconesses and prophetesses. We find women teachers. Just look at Apollos’ training, he credits both Aquila (male) AND Priscila (female). So men being taught by women is not the issue. I believe at issue is senior leadership. To that, we do not see example in the Bible. That said, following the fact that senior leadership for women is not found in the Bible and Foursquare Gospel not only promotes it, but was founded on it, that can be considered a doctrinal issue, albeit small in the grand scale of heresy.
Now this is a Pentecostal denomination, so speaking in tongues is a very real event in this church. But from what I have seen and read, it must be done in a biblical manner. Pastor Jack Hayford rebuked a woman whom he felt was simply disrupting the service when she supposedly began speaking in tongues at the Church of the Way once.
After reviewing the Foursquare Gospel church, I come to the fact that they are a strong Christian denomination.
1 Corinthians 9:12-14 – If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
The Salvation Army
Most people do not think of the Salvation Army as a church. We see the bell ringers every Christmas and think it is a great non-profit organization that is doing good in the community. Well it goes far beyond bell-ringers. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was a Methodist minister who became upset with traditional church experiences. He wanted to reach the unreachable. Love the unlovable. Booth left Methodism to pursue itinerant evangelistic efforts. Originally, when they were saved, Booth set them up with traditional churches. Unfortunately, because of the past of many of the converts, the traditional churches turned away these people who had come to Christ. Eventually, Booth developed them to evangelize to others like them in the streets. Reading the 1878 annual report, he noticed the statement, “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.” He crossed out volunteer and replaced it with Salvation. The saw themselves as soldiers for Christ and sometimes had to fight real battles as organized gangs mocked and attacked them. Despite violence against them, over 250,000 people converted to Christ between the years of 1881 and 1885. On March 10, 1880, Commissioner Scott Raiton and seven female officers gave thanks in the harbor of New York for their safe arrival. While the road was tough, by 1886 the Salvation Army was welcomed in the White House and given a personal endorsement by the President of the United States. Over the years, they have had several generals replace booth, both male and female.
To quote William Booth, he warned, “the chief danger…will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
As for their beliefs, they are Protestant denomination, very closely aligned with Methodism. There are a few changes to their method, however. First, they do not baptize or take communion. They feel that a Christian’s life should be a sacrament to God, not an outward act.
They also believe that a Christian can lose his salvation. Salvation can only be maintained if a person turns away from his/her sin. But, on the flip side of that, they believe in the Methodist theology of “entire sanctification.” This is the belief that it is the privilege of believers to have their whole spirit, soul and body preserved blameless until the second coming of Christ.
They also believe that women can be in senior leadership roles. Again, while not an issue of salvation, it is an issue of Biblical interpretation.
There was a myth that was floated about the Salvation Army and their views on the homosexual community. The myth calls for gays to be put to death. This is NOT TRUE. There was a misrepresented Australian radio broadcast in which one of the media managers of the Salvation Army in Australia spoke incorrectly, but immediate statements went out by the world headquarters and regional headquarters of the Salvation Army to say that one view is not representative of the views of the Salvation Army and that homosexuality is a sin and sin separates us from God. A life completely separated from God, without grace, leads to death, regardless of the sin.
The Salvation Army is a viable denomination because their issues stem from non-salvation related doctrines.
Romans 3:10-12 – As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
The Christian Reformed Church gets its history started with John Calvin. While his churches flourished in the Netherlands, around the mid-1800s, a group of Reformed Dutch moved to America and in 1857 started the Christian Reformed Church. It was at this time that they also separated from the Dutch Reformed Church. In the 1920s, under Herman Hoeksema, the Calvinists withdrew from the Christian Reformed Church and started their own, Protestant Reformed Church, over the issue of “common grace.” Ultimately it boiled down to interpretation of Scripture. I am not going to get into this theology as it would take an entire blog post (or series) to do so. Up to 2013, the CRC has 1,100 churches and 252,000 members. They have been dropping every year since the turn of the century.
So what does the Christian Reformed Church believe? Positionally, the CRC is aligned with Scripture in many ways. They practice baptism and communion, although they baptize both infants and adults. The Bible is seen as inspired and infallible. The word “inerrant” is missing from that, and I will show you in a little bit how that can significantly erode the Christian ethos. They believe in the Trinity and understand that salvation comes only through Christ.
They do ordain women, and again, as this is a hotly debated topic which ultimately does not affect salvation, but church government, I am declaring this minor.
The big issue comes in the fact that they leave out the word “inerrant” about Scripture. You see, what happens when we don’t see Scripture as the end all be all? It leaves a lot of room for creative imaginations. For example, as I write this, tonight there was the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham about Creation versus Evolution. Now I love a good debate, but both sides have their views and they are going up against people who have very strong views of the opposite. No minds are going to get changed, but this was publicized for the world to see and millions got polarized one way or the other. Not a win for Christianity today because of the postmodern view of man in the 21st century. Now let’s take this a step further. If Christians start to question the infallibility, inerrancy, and inspiration of the Bible, then we leave room for creative license. In May of 2013, a retired CRC minister posted in The Banner, the CRC’s official magazine, about “Tomorrow’s Theology.” The link is here. http://www.thebanner.org/features/2013/05/tomorrow-s-theology. In this article, this pastor begins by questioning Creation. Then he goes on to say that if Creation is wrong, then Adam & Eve are wrong. If Adam & Eve are wrong, then the Fall into Sin is wrong. If the Fall is wrong, then Original Sin is wrong. If Original Sin is wrong, then Salvation is wrong. And if Salvation is wrong, the God’s Purpose in History is wrong. He feels that we, as the church, need to redefine theology to come in alignment with the world.
THAT is the danger of not seeing the Bible as inerrant, infallible, and inspired.
While the CRC is definitely a denomination, lately they have been opening a lot of doors to allow heresy to enter in. God’s purpose does not change, CRC. And our theology does not need to change in order to simply align ourselves better with the world.
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This one will be fairly easy to discuss. While it is actually seen as its own denomination in many studies that come out, Full Gospel is typically used to describe Pentecostalism. The only real discernment is whether you are considered part of the denomination or associated with the denomination of Pentecostal. Many Full Gospel churches are not associated directly with the denomination. But, and here is the confusing part, the Pentecostal denomination considers itself full gospel. So, as you can see, if you are looking for a denominational tie, be sure to read everything that denomination has about it.
Basically, a Full Gospel person is one who believes that the Holy Spirit is still doing everything He was during New Testament times. This involves miraculous healing, tongues, and assorted miracles. Using Hebrews 13:8 as the backdrop to this theology, they believe that Jesus still operates in the world with the same methodology as the first century church.
The concept was coined by A. B. Simpson in 1881. He claimed a miraculous healing, which was taboo by the Presbyterian church he was shepherding, and went to a Baptist church, got baptized, and founded his own non-denominational congregation. Ultimately he created the Christian & Missionary Alliance that based their beliefs on the four-fold gospel, found in the Foursquare Church above. While he never embraced all Pentecostal beliefs, his theology was considered instrumental to the Pentecostal church.
While the Pentecostal Church has claimed Oneness theology (there is not Trinity), A. B. Simpson and his Christian Missionary Alliance claims Trinitarian belief.
Looking to the CMA and A.B. Simpson, I find that there is a very strong church in them. Lately, there have been issues arising out of the CMA with Word-Faith theology. This is something that I pray gets resolved quickly. A strong church such as CMA should be focused on God and God alone. Word-Faith claims that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough and that He went to hell and tortured for three days, before rising. So I have concern over current leadership at CMA. But we need to pray that Word-Faith theology will be removed from CMA’s current leadership.
Overall, it depends on what one considers Full Gospel in order to declare it a denomination. Please revisit my blog on Pentecostalism here to see a cult in action. But looking at it from the CMA definition, it is definitely a viable denomination.
2 Corinthians 5:14 – For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died
Next week, I will look at Apostolic, Reformed, Mennonite, and Brethren.