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Archive for the tag “Unity”

We Are The Church

Ephesians 2:20-22 – Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

On Resurrection Sunday I didn’t go to my home church for service. Last year my mom passed away on Easter Sunday and this year Easter just happened to fall on her birthday. I went up to my dad’s alone and we went to his church and then went through the box of memories we had of my mom.

My dad’s church is nothing like my home church.

My home church is your typical modern non-denominational, evangelical/charismatic, thousand-person church. My dad’s church is a small Methodist church that typically has less than 25 people at it.

My home church has an amazing worship team. My dad’s church has an organist who misses a lot of notes.

My home church has 6 pastors, 7 elders, about 50 trustees, and several other people who help with the service. My dad’s church has a part-time pastor that goes to preach at another church and then comes to my dad’s church to preach.

My home church has a weekly monetary need of $33,000 to meet all of the financial needs of both the church and the missions that we support. My dad’s church has raised just shy of $11,000 in the first 3 months of this year.

My home church is continually bringing in a younger and younger crowd (and not at the detriment of the older crowd either). My dad’s church had an average age of 60+.

It was a little bit of a culture shock going to church with dad today, but not completely as I grew up in that kind of church environment.

But let me tell you something, my dad’s church has a lot of positives that my home church just doesn’t.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

First, for the Sunday service, almost all of the 20-something people who attend the church are helping out in the service in some way. That is almost a 100% participation!!! My home church struggles in this area.

Next, the discipleship of people is very strong. Over a quarter of the people at my dad’s church is going through discipleship classes regularly and each of them are connected with each other and spend time with each other outside of church living life together. While they aren’t taking official classes, they are pouring into each other daily just by spending their lives intertwined.

Finally, my dad’s church had the entire congregation making a joyful noise to the Lord during the hymns. My home congregation falls short here. Yes, the first 6 rows at my home church sing out loud, but I typically sit in the back. As I look around at people the larger majority are not singing the songs. Don’t get me wrong, they like the music a lot (and so do I). But they don’t have a personal connection with the music like the old hymns did on the older generation.

After the service, the pastor of my dad’s church asked me if I would come up and give the message one weekend. In the short few moments it took me to respond, I did think about the differences between my dad’s church and my home church. But I answered with an emphatic “yes.”

I’ve thought a lot about being a pastor. I’ve been trying to apply for several pastor positions but since I don’t have the experience level or the ordination, I’ve been rejected by almost all the places I’ve applied.

And could I ever lead a United Methodist Church?

Romans 12:5 – So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Their theological differences are so far away from my home church’s views. I’ve talked to my wife about the possibility of being a UMC pastor. Or another legacy denomination. And we’ve both agreed that it would be a struggle not just for me but my wife and family to go into an environment that would be so far removed from where we are now. What would the kids be taught in youth group of Sunday School? What would the overarching theology be from the pulpit or from the denomination?

And if we look at the first century church as our example, they were completely unified and are the perfect example for us to follow.

Or were they?

All the members worked together in peace and harmony, right?

Nope.

The New Testament chronicles several dissentions and problems in the first century church. As a matter of fact, the book of James was written to help bring unity among the churches. The early church was suffering from false teachers, partiality toward those who had money, gossip, and general misunderstandings regarding faith and its application.

That’s not very different from today? What are today’s litmus tests? False teachers (especially those who preach about homosexuality and gender issues). Partiality toward those who have money (or who claim to be conservative, right-wing politically). General misunderstandings regarding the faith (which version of the Bible to use, how to translate the end-times prophecies, and general church polity being used as a condition of faith).

Ephesians 2:19-22 – So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

I am not going to say that I am becoming more liberal in my beliefs. Paul was never wishy washy about where he stood. I still hold my same beliefs that I ever have in believing that the Bible calls homosexuality and abortion sin. But I also need to line that up with the Bible’s call for unity, even in a church that was as corrupt as the Corinthian church where Paul STILL called them saints!

I know many groups, both liberal and conservative, have worked together to build bridges between those who call themselves Christian. Ecumenical groups abound in this day and age. Some are worthy, others I call into question. I am a member of the Manhattan Declaration, for example. I signed it. It is an ecumenical declaration between Evangelical, orthodox, Catholic, and even some legacy denominations. It believes that every life has dignity, that marriage is between one man and one woman, and religious liberty is a right of all human beings. It is clearly made up of groups of people in which I disagree with their theological beliefs.

But we have unified to get an important message out that strikes at the core of the gospel message, that we are all created in God’s image.

So just how can groups that varied theological beliefs come together?

I don’t completely have that answer.

I know the answer is held somewhere in the gospel message. That is one thing that all foundational Christian denominations believe, that God formed us in His image, that we fell through sin, that we are in need of a Savior, that Jesus Christ is that Savior, and that Jesus died and rose again and will one day come again to save His church.

The answer is in there.

Acts 28:31 – Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

But where?

Can it be enough that Christians come together to spread the gospel message? Can that be enough?

The disciples, once Jesus was taken up in the cloud from them, ran beck to Jerusalem and spread the message about the Kingdom of God. Paul, Peter, Phillip and especially Jesus all preached and teached the Kingdom.

The problem today is not a church that believes one theology over another.

The problem today is that the church doesn’t even know what the Kingdom of God is!

If we could unify under that alone we would be a much stronger church! We wouldn’t focus on what makes us different but what makes us the same! We wouldn’t have time to fight among each other over scraps but we would be out there on the front lines taking entire cities in the name of Christ and fighting against the real enemy, Satan.

So let’s learn about the Kingdom of God. Let’s try to understand its implication on our lives and how we should live and act as a Christian people.

Then….

Let’s get out there and help the world to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Unity or Heresy Part 14, Conclusion part 4

1 Timothy 2:1- First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
This will be the final installment in this series. As predicted, this series has caused some to leave my blog. It has also provided the wide range of comments and complaints. Some of which were posted to the site and others were emailed directly to me.
One key learning that I have taken away from the Bible is that when Jesus spoke to those who did not know Him, he was gentle and, while He let them knew His stance on their sin, He stood with open arms to love them gently into His kingdom. With those who claim belief, He is very straightforward about right and wrong, sometimes to the point of overturning tables in anger inside the synagogue.
This post was an overturning of tables.
Most of the points made were taken directly from the denominational websites.
And I want to preface this one more time. Just because someone is involved, or even pastors, at a church of one of these denominations, DOES NOT mean they are against Christ. I have met numerous people in every denomination who are fervent believers. This was not a post about people. This was a post about rulers, leaders, and principalities. My late brother died a leader in the Episcopal Church, one which was very open to his lifestyle of being gay. Do I believe he was a strong believer? Yes.
We need to remember the Christian journey is just that. A journey. Just because the alcoholic gives their life to Christ does not mean their addiction is immediately gone. It could, and I’ve know people in which that is the case. But more than likely it does not happen that way.
So church leaders, please review this site and the 14 posts that I’ve written and then read your own denominational websites. And then take that information and go to the Bible. Check it out for yourself.
So in this final week, I want to look at the views on the Bible, ordinances, and the practices of Christians. While tirning away from these does not void salvation, these are principles that are clean in Scripture and denial of them suggests apostasy.
This will be one final long post as there are 3 points to get through. I’m sorry, but next week I promise that I will post a lighter piece (well, not necessarily lighter, but more digestible).
Acts 20:28 – Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Male eldership and pastorate (1 Timothy 2:12-13, 1 Timothy 3:15, Titus 1:5-7)
Roman Catholic – Ordain men only.
Eastern Orthodox – Ordain men only,
Mormon – Ordain men only.
Jehovah’s Witness – Every baptized believer is seen as an ordained pastor, so men and women ordained.
7th Day Adventist – Ordain both men and women.
Christian Science – Ordains both men and women.
Anglican/Episcopalian – Men and women ordained.
Pentecostal/Charismatic – Both men and women ordained.
Holiness/Holy – Both men and women ordained.
Assemblies of God – Both men and women ordained.
Disciples of Christ – Ordains both men and women.
Quaker – Both men and women ordained.
Foursquare Gospel – Both men and women ordained.
Salvation Army – Both men and women ordained.
Christian Reform – Both men and women ordained.
Full Gospel – varies
Apostolic – Ordains both men and women.
Mennonite – Men and women ordained.
Brethren – Ordain both men and women.
Nazarene – Both men and women ordained.
Church of God – Both men and women ordained.
Church of Christ – Ordains both men and women.
United Church of Christ – Ordains both men and women.
Presbyterian – PCA ordains only men, PCUSA ordains both men and women.
Lutheran – ELCA ordains both men and women while LCMS ordains only men.
Methodist – Men and women ordained.
Baptist – SBC only ordains men, ABC ordains both men and women.
Evangelical/Non-Denominational – varies
Genesis 2:24 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Fidelity in Marriage and Condemnation of Homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1:26-27)
Roman Catholic – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Eastern Orthodox – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Mormon – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Jehovah’s Witness – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
7th Day Adventist – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Christian Science – Everything about marriage and homosexuality in Christian Science is summed up in the quote from their website, “marriage is the legal and moral provision for generation among humankind.” I honestly have no clue what that means and how that impacts the answers to the questions of man and woman or homosexual.
Anglican/Episcopalian – Marriage is either heterosexual or homosexual approved.
Pentecostal/Charismatic – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Holiness/Holy – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Assemblies of God – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Disciples of Christ – Senior Pastor Derek Penwell said on June 2011, “We are trying to figure out how to live in the whole identity of being open and affirming. We thought a statement that said we would no longer sign marriage licenses until all couples – both heterosexual and homosexual – were treated equally….”
Quaker – They believe in hetero and homosexual marriages.
Foursquare Gospel – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Salvation Army – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Christian Reform – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Full Gospel – varies
Apostolic – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Mennonite – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Brethren – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Nazarene – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Church of God – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Church of Christ –Marriage is between one man and one woman.
United Church of Christ – Marriage can either be heterosexual or homosexual.
Presbyterian – PCUSA believes that marriage can be either heterosexual or homosexual.
Lutheran – LCMS believes marriage is between one man and one woman. ELCA are conducting studies to determine if they should go down the route of same-sex marriages.
Methodist –Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Baptist – Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Evangelical/Non-Denominational – varies

Inerrancy of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)
Roman Catholic – “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God . . .” (Catechism of Catholic Church, paragraph 97)
Eastern Orthodoxhttp://www.serfes.org/orthodox/scripturesinthechurch.htm
Mormon – The Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 29:6 claims, “Fools think the Bible is enough!”
Jehovah’s Witness – They try and make the Bible fit with their theology tells them and they ignore those verses that disagree with them.
7th Day Adventist – Scripture is inspired, infallible, and trustworthy.
Christian Science – Similar to Jehovah’s Witness, she chooses the scriptures she likes and denies that which doesn’t fit her theology.
Anglican/Episcopalian – It is our foundation, understood through tradition and reason, containing all things necessary for salvation. Our worship is filled with Scripture from beginning to end.
Pentecostal/Charismatic – The Bible is the infallible Word of God and the authority for salvation and Christian living
Holiness/Holy – We believe in the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, known as the Bible, composed of sixty-six books and divided into two departments, Old and New Testaments. We believe the Bible is the Word of God, the full and complete revelation of the plan and history of redemption.
Assemblies of God – The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.
Disciples of Christ – We hold the centrality of scripture, recognizing that each person has the freedom – and the responsibility – to study God’s Word within the community of the church.
Quaker – Quakers’ beliefs stress individual revelation, but the Bible is truth. All personal light must be held up to the Bible for confirmation. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the Bible, does not contradict Himself.
Foursquare Gospel – We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God; it is absolutely true, enduring, and unchangeable
Salvation Army – We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.
Christian Reform – We believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. It contains all that people in any age need to know for their salvation. We call the Bible God’s Word, believing that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaks to us through this book.
Full Gospel – varies, but typically that Scripture is inspired, inerrant, and infallible.
Apostolic – The Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God to man. The New Testament serves as the foundation of the doctrine of the Apostolic Christian Church. The authorized King James version is embraced.
Mennonitehttp://www.mennoniteusa.org/about/confession-of-faith-in-a-mennonite-perspective-1995/confession-of-faith-%E2%80%94-article-4/
Brethren – The Brethren use the New Testament as their guidebook for living. They believe the Bible is divinely inspired and hold that the Old Testament lays out God’s purpose and desires for humanity.
Nazarene – We believe that the Old and New Testament Scriptures, given by plenary inspiration, contain all truth necessary to faith and Christian living.
Church of God – In the verbal inspiration of the Bible.
Church of Christ -The original autographs of the sixty six books which make up the Bible are considered to have been divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. Reference to the scriptures is made in settling every religious question. A pronouncement from the scripture is considered the final word. The basic textbook of the church and the basis for all preaching is the Bible.
United Church of Christ – There is nothing in their statement of faith about Scripture.
Presbyterian – Our knowledge of God and God’s purpose for humanity comes from the Bible, particularly what is revealed in the New Testament through the life of Jesus Christ.
Lutheran – Luther believed the Scriptures contained the one necessary guide to truth.
Methodist -We say that God speaks to us through the Bible, that it’s God’s Word. This authority derives from three sources: We hold that the writers of the Bible were inspired, that they were filled with God’s Spirit as they wrote the truth to the best of their knowledge. We hold that God was at work in the process of canonization, during which only the most faithful and useful books were adopted as Scripture. We hold that the Holy Spirit works today in our thoughtful study of the Scriptures, especially as we study them together, seeking to relate the old words to life’s present realities.
Baptist – The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Evangelical/Non-Denominational – Varies
2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
So this is all. I am waaaay beyond finished for this series, and I am sure you are happier for it. During this series I lost a LOT of readers. Even more so, I lost a lot of both Twitter and LinkedIn followers. It is definitely a very polarizing place to be when one criticizes the church. Many believe we shouldn’t do that. We should simply accept the status quo of the church and go on with our lives, believing that we are right and all others are wrong.
But that is a very wrong way to look at it.
The Bible calls us to unity as Christians. It is very difficult to be unified when, especially with this final analysis of Scripture, we are all across the board on our beliefs. We need to unify on beliefs before we can unify in the world.
I call upon the leaders of each major denomination to begin with Scripture. Then, reach out to me at coffeeguy777@hotmail.com. I would love to organize a coming together of the denominations. Pray about this.
We need to get unified, church.
We need to world to stop thinking that we can’t hold the truth because we don’t even know the truth. When the world speaks to someone in the UCC, the message is different than when they speak to someone in the Baptist camp. It is a shame.
Let’s unify, church. Let’s unify under the banner of Christ, the Trinity, the Bible, and the simple message of the Gospel.
Matthew 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.
Amen.

Unity or Heresy, Part 13 – Conclusion Part 3

We are almost to the end of this series.  This week I will look at those items which speak to the nature of God.  This means that one cannot turn away from these and still be considered Christian.  Again, much of this is taken directly from the denominational websites.  Color coded for ease of translation.  RED is significant heresy while YELLOW is heresy that could lead to lack of Christian status for the church.

God exists in the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Roman Catholic – “Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.’ In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent.

Eastern Orthodox – We believe that the Father, who is the Source of all that exists, always has His Son and His Spirit who are not creatures, Who were not made like everything and everyone else, but Who exist eternally with Him; from, in and by His very own divine being.

Mormon – The trinity is three separate Gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. “That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other, is demonstrated by the accepted records of divine dealings with man,” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 35).

Jehovah’s Witness – There is no Trinity, Let God be True, 2nd Ed., pp. 100-101; Should You Believe in the Trinity? p. 7; Watchtower, 2/1/1960, p. 94, Why Do You Believe in the Trinity?

7th Day Adventist – There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present.

Christian Science – The unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is Life, Truth, and Love. Jesus, the Messiah, is divine, not a deity.

Anglican/Episcopalian – And in unity of this Godhead there are three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Pentecostal/Charismatic – There is one God, who has revealed Himself as our Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and as the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is God manifested in flesh. He is both God and man.

Holiness/Holy – And in the unity of this Godhead, there are three Persons of one substance of eternal being, and equal in holiness, justice, wisdom, power, and dignity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Assemblies of God – We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God who is One Lord, as a trinity or as one Being of three persons …”

Disciples of Christ – Disciples of Christ profess God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in their Confession, and they baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Church members are allowed freedom of opinion on this and other doctrines and are expected to give others that same freedom.

Quaker – Friends believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, although belief in the roles each Person plays vary widely among Quakers.

Foursquare Gospel – and that in the unity of the Godhead there are three, equal in every divine perfection executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.

Salvation Army – We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.

Christian Reform – A quick look at the structure of the Apostles’ Creed reveals one of the bedrock truths of the Christian faith: the Trinity. The creed is divided into three parts: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All Christians believe that the Bible reveals one God in three “persons.” In other words, God is a perfect community of love.

Full Gospel – varies

Apostolic – There is one eternal God, the Creator of all things, who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Mennonite – We worship the one holy and loving God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally.

Brethren – In the name of God, we declare and confess before men that we believe in the only true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that these three are one–the Father in the Son, the Son in the Father, and the Holy Ghost equal in essence or being with both; that this triune God created the heavens and the earth and all that in them is, visible as well as invisible, and furthermore sustains, governs, protects, and supports the same.

Nazarene – We believe in one God-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Church of God – In one God eternally existing in three persons; namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Church of Christ- We believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, the manifestation of God in flesh, who lived, suffered, and died for all mankind; whom we own as our only Leader, Witness and Commander.

United Church of Christ – We believe in the triune God: Creator, resurrected Christ, the sole Head of the church, and the Holy Spirit, who guides and brings about the creative and redemptive work of God in the world.

Presbyterian – He exists eternally as one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—a mystery beyond our understanding, but not a contradiction.

Lutheran – “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.”

Methodist – When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we join with millions of Christians through the ages in an understanding of God as a Trinity—three persons in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Baptist – The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

Evangelical/Non-Denominational – varies

Matthew 1:20-23 – But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ”The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”– which means, “God with us.”

The virgin birth of Jesus – this relates to the incarnation of Christ as both God and man

Roman Catholic – From conception, Mary was without original sin (Immaculate Conception). Mary is the “Mother of God.” Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, when she gave birth, and remained a virgin throughout her life. (this is yellow because of the remaining a virgin her whole life piece…Matt 1:25, is pretty clear about that)

Eastern Orthodox – http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/theotokos.aspx

Mormon – “The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood – was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115).

Jehovah’s Witness – Jesus took on human form as the man Jesus by means of a virgin birth.

7th Day Adventist – He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary

Christian Science – They believe in the virgin birth

Anglican/Episcopalian – Anglicans believe Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. “They … have difficulties with Catholic belief in her immaculate conception – the idea … that Mary was free from the stain of original sin from the moment of her own conception …”

Pentecostal/Charismatic – The one true God, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, took upon Himself the form of man, and as the Son of man, was born of the virgin Mary.

Holiness/Holy – We believe that the Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed virgin

Assemblies of God – Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. (Luke 1:34-38). Though “highly favored” by God (Luke 1:28), Mary was human and conceived in sin.

Disciples of Christ – Beliefs vary from congregation to congregation and among individuals concerning the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the existence of heaven and hell, and God’s plan of salvation.

Quaker – Some, but not all Quakers, view the doctrine of Jesus’ and the virgin birth as nonessential and not accepted as fact.

Foursquare Gospel – Co-existent and co-eternal with the Father, who, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary

Salvation Army – The Virgin Birth illuminates our understanding of the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. It asserts his divinity as well as his advent in time as a man, made in the image of God. It reminds us that Jesus is both like us and unlike us.

Christian Reform – who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

Full Gospel – varies

Apostolic – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was begotten by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life.

Mennonite – We acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only Son of God, the Word of God incarnate. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

Brethren – We believe in Jesus Christ; that He is very God and man; that He became incarnate by the power of the Holy Ghost in the Virgin Mary and was born of her;

Nazarene – While He is God, He is also human. Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon her (Luke 1:26-35). In Him, the nature of God and the nature of humanity are united in one Person (Colossians 1:19-20).

Church of God – That Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary.

Church of Christ – The statement in Isaiah 7:14 is taken as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. New Testament passages such as Matthew 1:20, 25, are accepted at face value as declarations of the virgin birth. Christ is accepted as the only begotten Son of God, uniting in his person perfect divinity and perfect manhood.

United Church of Christ – There is nothing on their website discussing the virgin birth.

Presbyterian – Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary is honored as “God-bearer” and a model for Christians.

Lutheran – Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth.

Methodist – Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. The United Methodist Church does not subscribe to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception – that Mary herself was conceived without original sin.

Baptist – Mary was a virgin both when she conceived Jesus and when she gave birth. (Luke 1:34-38). Though “highly favored” by God (Luke 1:28), Mary was human and conceived in sin.

Evangelical/Non-Denominational – varies

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Unity or Heresy, Part 12: Conclusion Part 2

As this begins to wind down, I am finishing this series with a long conclusion about what each denomination believes. Last week I started in with that which is the primary work and nature of Christ. For those, you cannot turn away from them and still be Christian as they are blatantly expressed in Scripture. We will then discuss the nature of God in today’s post. Again, we cannot turn away from these and still be considered Christian because they are expressly part of the Christian faith.
Almost everything below is taken directly from the denominational websites. If you feel that something is incorrect, I will challenge you to go to your denominational website and check it our yourself.
I am going to color code these again this week. RED means that it is blatant heresy and needs to be corrected. ORANGE means that it is a dangerous area because it will either mean that there is inconsistency in the denomination or that they do not proclaim it out loud.
This will be long post. I am sorry for that. Just think, in 2-3 more weeks, this series will be over and we can do a nice fluff piece on puppies or something. Let’s dig in.
Galatians 1:8-9 – But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

The Gospel is about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Galatians 1:8-9)
Roman Catholic“But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 119). “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation,” (CCC, 847). “The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary,” (CCC, 971).
Eastern Orthodox – The Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The original Christian Gospel begins with—love.
Mormon“Ordinances are basic to the gospel. Now, what is the gospel of which we speak? It is the power of God unto salvation; it is the code of laws and commandments which help us to become perfect, and the ordinances which constitute the entrance requirements” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.502, 12 President).
Jehovah’s Witness“Let the honest-hearted person compare the kind of preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom done by the religious systems of Christendom during all the centuries with that done by Jehovah’s Witnesses since the end of World War I in 1918. They are not one and the same kind. That of Jehovah’s Witnesses is really “gospel,” or “good news,” as of God’s heavenly kingdom that was established by the enthronement of his Son Jesus Christ at the end of the Gentile Times in 1914.” (Watchtower, 5/1/1981, p.17)
7th Day AdventistThe biggest concern with SDA is their Clear Word Bible. Many people mistakenly believe that they believe that Jesus is a created angel, more specifically, Michael the Arc Angel. But they hold a slightly different view than others in that they believe Michael is the Old Testament manifestation of pre-incarnate Jesus. While incorrect in comparison, they still hold to the deity of Christ and the Gospel message of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Christian Science“…thus losing the divine power which heals the sick and sinning, — they were to be brought back through great tribulation, to be renamed in Christian Science and led to deny material sense, or mind in matter, even as the gospel teaches,” (S&H, p. 309).
Anglican/Episcopalian“In him you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 368).
Pentecostal/Charismatic – The saving gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. We obey the gospel (II Thessalonians 1:8; I Peter 4:17) by repentance (death to sin), water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (burial), and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (resurrection). (See I Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 2:4, 37-39; Romans 6:3-4.)
Holiness/Holy – “Our eternal hope is based on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Assemblies of God – The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. The Scriptures declare: His sinless life, His substitutionary work on the cross, His bodily resurrection from the dead.
Disciples of ChristDisciples embrace the broad meaning of the term “Salvation” to include notions of deliverance from all threats of life, both now and hereafter. This explains their passion and unwavering quest for social, political, and economic justice.
QuakerThey are harder to define as they do not believe in a fixed creed but rather in seeking God within ourselves. Some, but not all, view Jesus as nonessential. Feelings take precedence over Scripture for testing doctrine.
Foursquare Gospel We believe that Christ died for all of us while we were still sinners; He took the punishment for our sin. With His own blood, He purchased salvation and redemption for all who believe in Him (John 3:16; Isaiah 53:5; Titus 2:14).
Salvation ArmyWe believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.
Christian Reform – As the Christ, Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about a Messiah who would redeem God’s people. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are grounded in historical fact.
Full Gospel – The saving gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. We obey the gospel (II Thessalonians 1:8; I Peter 4:17) by repentance (death to sin), water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (burial), and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (resurrection). (See I Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 2:4, 37-39; Romans 6:3-4.)
Apostolic – The saving gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. We obey the gospel (II Thessalonians 1:8; I Peter 4:17) by repentance (death to sin), water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (burial), and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (resurrection). (See I Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 2:4, 37-39; Romans 6:3-4.)
Mennonite – In his suffering, he loved his enemies and did not resist them with violence, thus giving us an example to follow. In the shedding of his blood on the cross, Jesus offered up his life to the Father, bore the sins of all, and reconciled us to God. God then raised him from the dead, thereby conquering death and disarming the powers of sin and evil.
Brethren – We hold the New Testament as the record of the life, ministry, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of the beginnings of the life and thought of the Christian church.
Nazarene – We believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead; that He was eternally one with the Father; that He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say the Godhead and manhood, are thus united in one Person very God and very man, the God-man. We believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He truly arose from the dead and took again His body, together with all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith He ascended into heaven and is there engaged in intercession for us.
Church of God – That Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary. That Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. That He ascended to heaven and is today at the right hand of the Father as the Intercessor.
Church of ChristWe believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, the manifestation of God in flesh, who lived, suffered, and died for all mankind; whom we own as our only Leader, Witness and Commander.
United Church of ChristThere is no description of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Presbyterianhttp://www.pcaac.org/what-we-believe/the-good-news/
Lutheran – God is born, God dies, God rises.
Methodist – Perhaps best of all, we believe in Jesus as Savior, as the one through whom God has freed us of our sin and has given us the gift of whole life, eternal life, and salvation. We speak of this gift as the atonement, our “at-oneness” or reconciliation with God. We believe that in ways we cannot fully explain, God has done this through the mystery of Jesus’ self-giving sacrifice on the cross and his victory over sin and death in the Resurrection.
Baptist – Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. …He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross, He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.
Evangelical/Non-Denominationalvaries
Isaiah 43:10 – “You are My witnesses”— this is the LORD’s declaration— “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. No god was formed before Me, and there will be none after Me.
There is only one God (Exodus 20:1-3, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6-8)
Roman Catholic – “Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.’ In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent.
Eastern Orthodox – We believe and confess that God the “ineffable, inconceivable, incomprehensible, ever-existing God”
Mormon“And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light: and there was light (Book of Abraham 4:3).
Jehovah’s Witness – There is one God in one person, Make Sure of All Things, p. 188.
7th Day Adventist – There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Christian ScienceThe unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is Life, Truth, and Love. Jesus, the Messiah, is divine, not a deity.
Anglican/Episcopalian – “There is only one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or suffering; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible.
Pentecostal/Charismatic – There is one God
Holiness/Holy – We believe there is but one living and true God, everlasting, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness; Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible.
Assemblies of God – “The terms ‘Trinity’ and ‘persons’ as related to the Godhead, while not found in the Scriptures, are words in harmony with Scripture, … We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God who is One Lord
Disciples of Christ Unlike most other churches, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) does not have an official doctrine or creed we can refer to when someone asks, “What do you believe?” (http://www.northchristianchurch.com/pages/beliefs.html)
Quaker – Nonetheless, because we believe that God is singular, we believe that worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth will ultimately lead to similar revelations among us all (http://www.conservativefriend.org/whatdowebelieve.htm)
Foursquare Gospel – We believe that there is but one true and living God;
Salvation Army – We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.
Christian Reform – A quick look at the structure of the Apostles’ Creed reveals one of the bedrock truths of the Christian faith: the Trinity. The creed is divided into three parts: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All Christians believe that the Bible reveals one God in three “persons.” In other words, God is a perfect community of love.
Full Gospelvaries
Apostolic – There is one eternal God, the Creator of all things, who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Mennonite – We worship the one holy and loving God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally.
Brethren – In the name of God, we declare and confess before men that we believe in the only true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that these three are one–the Father in the Son, the Son in the Father, and the Holy Ghost equal in essence or being with both; that this triune God created the heavens and the earth and all that in them is, visible as well as invisible, and furthermore sustains, governs, protects, and supports the same.
Nazarene – We believe in one God-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Church of God – In one God eternally existing in three persons; namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Church of ChristWe believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, the manifestation of God in flesh, who lived, suffered, and died for all mankind; whom we own as our only Leader, Witness and Commander.
United Church of Christ– We believe in the triune God: Creator, resurrected Christ, the sole Head of the church, and the Holy Spirit, who guides and brings about the creative and redemptive work of God in the world.
Presbyterian – The God of the Bible is the one and only true God.
Lutheran – “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity”
Methodist – From early in our Judaic roots we’ve affirmed that God is one and indivisible, yet God is revealed in three distinct ways.
Baptist – There is one and only one living and true God
Evangelical/Non-Denominationalvaries
Matthew 28:19 – Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Unity or Heresy Part 11 – Conclusion Part 1

Galatians 6:9 – And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Over the past 10 weeks we have analyzed a lot of different denominations and came up with bold statements to claim whether an organization was a denomination, a sect, a movement, or a cult.  Surprisingly, I believe, based on the Biblical evidence, that we have a lot of cults out there, some of which are very large organizations.  We based our discussion around a significant number of criteria.  In many cases, I had to pare down the discussion for purpose of space and your time in reading it.

To conclude with this series, I will be posting 4 final conclusions posts that will take each point and discuss the basic belief of the organization.  The first part of this conclusion will focus on two separate factors:  that which speaks to the primary work and nature of Christ and that which speaks to the nature of God.  Both of those are that which make us Christian.  If we deny any of those key pieces, then we cease to be a Christian church and are proclaiming a worldly message.

The next part of the conclusion in 2 weeks will focus on the views on the Bible, church ordinances and the practices of being Christian.  While these do not void one’s salvation, they are principals that are clear in Scripture and denying them shows apostasy.

The final section will deal with what many churches, unfortunately, get caught up in.  This is the minor stuff.  These are the items that are debated inside Christianity that does not affect one’s salvation.  Belief or non-belief of these items does not suggest apostasy.

During the first two sections, I will color-code the organizations.  A red color suggests apostasy.  In this first section, a red color will suggest cult status as one cannot deny them and still be considered a Christian organization.  Yellow designates a caution.  The reason for the caution could be the simple fact that each individual church needs to be reviewed instead of the denomination.  This is especially important in those nondenominational, evangelical churches out there.  For every one of these they will always be yellow.

Alright, let’s dig in!

John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is both God and man (John 1:1, John 1:14, John 8:24, Colossians 2:9, 1 John 4:1-4)

Roman Catholic – “In the Father and with the Father, the Son is one and the same God.”

Eastern Orthodox – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man

Mormon – Jesus is the firstborn son of God, no different from each of us except that He was born first.  This is why Mormons consider Jesus as Elder Brother.

Jehovah’s Witness – Jesus was created by Father God as God’s spokesman through The Word.  The archangel Michael is synonymous with Jesus and therefore it was Michael who impregnated Mary and she gave birth to the perfect man.

7th Day Adventist – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man

Christian Science – They see a difference between Jesus the man and the “Christ principle.”  According to Christian Science, Jesus only became Christ as He started to comprehend what being Christ was all about.

Anglican/Episcopalian – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

Pentecostal/Charismatic – Jesus is the sole God, sometimes expressing Himself as Father and sometimes as the Holy Spirit.  But He is fully divine.

Holiness/Holy – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

Assemblies of God – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man

Disciples of Christ – The Disciples’ Confession states that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God … Lord and Savior of the world.” Belief in Christ as Savior is the only requirement for salvation.

Quaker – While Quakers beliefs say that God is revealed in Jesus Christ, most Friends are more concerned with emulating Jesus’ life and obeying his commands than with the theology of salvation.

Foursquare Gospel – The Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. By shedding his blood on the cross, he redeemed from sin all who believe in Him as Savior. He lives as Mediator between God and man.

Salvation Army – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

Christian Reform – the Son of God, is the center of human history. Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, and his life, death and resurrection are historical facts. Christ returned to heaven following his resurrection an

Full Gospel – Varies.  Depending on leanings of whether more toward Pentecostal or more toward AoG.

Apostolic – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.  However, this is more in the Pentecostal tradition that Jesus expresses Himself in various forms at various times.

Mennonite – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

Brethren – All Brethren “affirm their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” Living a life patterned after the life of Christ is of paramount importance to the Brethren as they seek to emulate his humble service and unconditional love.

Nazarene – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

Church of God – That Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary. That Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. That He ascended to heaven and is today at the right hand of the Father as the Intercessor.

Church of Christ – We believe in Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, the manifestation of God in flesh, who lived, suffered, and died for all mankind; whom we own as our only Leader, Witness and Commander.

United Church of Christ – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

Presbyterian – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human

Lutheran – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human

Methodist – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human

Baptist – Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human

Evangelical/Non-Denominational – Varies

Luke 24:38-39 – “And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21)

Roman Catholic – A physical resurrection

Eastern Orthodox – A physical resurrection

Mormon – They do not believe Jesus died on the cross, but they do believe in a physical resurrection.

Jehovah’s Witness – They deny the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ

7th Day Adventist – Physical resurrection

Christian Science – They deny the physical resurrection.

Anglican/Episcopalian – A physical resurrection

Pentecostal/Charismatic – Physical resurrection

Holiness/Holy – Physical resurrection

Assemblies of God – A physical resurrection

Disciples of Christ – Physical resurrection

Quaker – Varies

Foursquare Gospel – Physical resurrection

Salvation Army – Physical resurrection

Christian Reform – Physical resurrection

Full Gospel – Physical resurrection

Apostolic – Physical resurrection

Mennonite – Physical resurrection

Brethren – Physical resurrection

Nazarene – Physical resurrection

Church of God – Physical resurrection

Church of Christ – Physical resurrection

United Church of Christ – Physical resurrection

Presbyterian – A physical resurrection

Lutheran – A physical resurrection

Methodist – A physical resurrection

Baptist – A physical resurrection

Evangelical/Non-Denominational – varies

Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–

Salvation is by grace through faith (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 5:1-5)

Roman Catholic – Not through grace alone, you must perform works.

Eastern Orthodox – Not through grace alone, you must perform works.

Mormon – Not through grace alone, you must earn your salvation.

Jehovah’s Witness – Only 144,000 people will go to heaven, as cited in Revelation 7:14. The rest of saved humanity will live forever on a restored earth. Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs include works-learning about Jehovah, living a moral life, witnessing to others, and obeying God’s commandments–as part of salvation’s requirements.

7th Day Adventist – This faith which receives salvation comes through the divine power of the Word and is the gift of God’s grace. Through Christ we are justified, adopted as God’s sons and daughters and delivered from the grip of sin

Christian Science – Salvation is achieved through progressive spiritual understanding. A person is not saved from hell – but from his or her belief in materiality.

Anglican/Episcopalian – Salvation through grace alone, not by works.

Pentecostal/Charismatic – Salvation comes by grace through faith based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Holiness/Holy – We believe that the atonement through Jesus Christ is for the whole human race; and that whosoever repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is justified and regenerated and saved from the dominion of sin.

Assemblies of God – “Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life.”

Disciples of Christ – Disciples embrace the broad meaning of the term “Salvation” to include notions of deliverance from all threats of life, both now and hereafter. This explains their passion and unwavering quest for social, political, and economic justice.

Quaker – Some Friends (the formal name of the group) churches include rites of baptism and communion, but sacraments to God are most often considered to arise from inward experiences, a personal encounter with God, rather than church ritual. Salvation is found internally through union with Christ, the divine Light within all. Many Quaker churches, e.g. evangelical, believe similarly to Conservative Protestant, that salvation is a free gift from God, with faith, independent of good works. Yet moral behavior and good works are viewed as essential to showing faith and obedience to God. Good works, such as humanitarian service, social justice, and peace efforts, are an expression of Christian love. Simplicity and humility are viewed as essential to living a Christian life.

Foursquare Gospel – We believe that salvation is totally an act of God’s grace that is accessed through faith in Jesus Christ. No person can be good enough to earn salvation, and “being good” does not contribute to receiving God’s love and favor

Salvation Army – We believe that repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.

Christian Reform – God the Father refused to let sin conquer humanity. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem the world through his sacrificial death. Further, God raised Jesus from the dead to show that Christ has overcome sin and death.

Full Gospel – Salvation comes by grace through faith based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Apostolic – Salvation comes by grace through faith based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Mennonite- We are saved by God’s grace, not by our own merits.

Brethren – Salvation is both an event and a process: it is an accomplished fact, a continuing walk, and a future hope. Always the gift of God, salvation is received by repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, both witnessed to through water baptism. In faithfulness to His promises, God adopts believers as His children, forgiving their sins and giving them His Holy Spirit. They in turn demonstrate their faith by obeying the commands of Christ and following His example in daily living. Scripture uses various terms to describe aspects of salvation, but ultimately it means Christlikeness-conformity to the image of God’s Son by the work of His Spirit within us. To that end we are kept by the power of God, which operates through our faith.

Nazarene – We believe that the atonement through Jesus Christ is for the whole human race; and that whosoever repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is justified and regenerated and saved from the dominion of sin.

Church of God – That justification, regeneration, and the new birth are wrought by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.

Church of Christ – We believe that through the atonement of Christ all men may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel; Faith in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ; Repentance and Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; Laying on of Hands for: (a) Ordination; (b) Blessing of Children; (c) Confirmation and the Gift of the Holy Ghost; (d) Healing of the Sick.

United Church of Christ – God destined us for adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of God’s will, to the praise of God’s glorious grace that God freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of God’s grace that God lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, according to God’s good pleasure that God set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

Presbyterian – “Presbyterians believe God has offered us salvation because of God’s loving nature. It is not a right or a privilege to be earned by being “good enough,” … we are all saved solely by the grace of God …Out of the greatest possible love and compassion God reached out to us and redeemed us through Jesus Christ, the only one who was ever without sin. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God triumphed over sin.”

Lutheran – “Faith in Christ is the only way for men to obtain personal reconciliation with God, that is, forgiveness of sins …”

Methodist – “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only…”

Baptist – “Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer … There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”

Evangelical/Non-Denominational – varies

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Unity or Heresy, Part 10: Baptist and Nondenominational

Revelation 2:5 – Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

So last week, I had a challenge to my view of United Methodism that I feel I need to clarify.  This reader expressed concern that I went too easy on the UMC denomination.  While heresy exists in every denomination, and UMC is no different, the basic tenets of their faith, minus the Arminian views, are fairly Scriptural.  There are a lot of things going on in all of the old-line denominations right now that are cause for alarm, and again, the UMC is no different.  They are the largest supporter of the ecumenical group World Council of Churches.  This is a radically liberal theology group that is looking to create unity among the churches.  Unfortunately, it is going beyond just the churches and into unity among religions.  Also, many people point to the UMC when speaking about gay rights.  I want to post the page directly from their Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions.  This will give you their official statement and then I would like you to be the judge.

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-the-denominations-position-on-homosexuality1

The next point about the UMC is something that does concern me.  They allow for abortion in certain circumstances.  Here is the word from the UMC on their site:

http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1732

The sanctity of life is beyond important.  If it weren’t, God would not have sent His Son to die on the cross for us to save us.  If life were not sacred, then we would not even exist.  Life cannot be aborted.  In any case.  What would happen if we chose to abort a life that God was going to make into the next great evangelist or a talented musician or a great writer?  Even beyond those opportunities to miss some of the world’s greatest people, the Bible is clear about murder.  Does “Thou shalt not murder” ring a bell with anyone?

Regardless, the UMC church is still a strong denomination.  Like all of the larger, legacy denominations, they are on a slippery slope and heading closer to ann abyss of heresy.  But there is no denying the 200,000 who gave their lives in Africa alone last year through the UMC.

So now it is time to get to this week’s topic, the Baptist Church and all of those non-denominational, evangelical churches out there.

1 Peter 3:21 – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Baptist Church

The Baptist church is one of the oldest Protestant denominations.  The main difference between Baptist churches and many other Protestant faiths is that they believe only in believer’s baptism and that this baptism takes place through immersion only, as traced back to the early church.  Just like any other legacy denomination, there have been schisms along the way and those schisms have caused the theology to be varied from subgroup to subgroup.  The most major of these schisms was in 1845 when the church divided between north and south with the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The two main groups of Baptists in America are the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the American Baptist Churches (ABC).  While the basic theology of Baptist churches varies between subgroup, there are certain points that make a Baptist Church its namesake.  This can be seen in the acronym BAPTIST:

                B             Biblical Authority

                A             Autonomy of the local church

                P             Priesthood of the believer

                T              Two ordinances (believer’s baptism and communion)

                I               Individual soul liberty

                S              Separation of church and state

                T              Two offices of the church (deacon and pastor)

While most affirm that basic acronym, there can be differences found between Calvinism and Arminianism, eschatology, views on homosexuality, and views on women in leadership.

Let’s look a little at each of the major groups of Baptists out there and determine the differences.

Each of these two groups has done amazing things worldwide for the cause of Christ. They both believe in the authority of Scripture, believer’s baptism, that the Bible is inerrant, inspired, and infallible (according to their position papers), and in the Trinity.  While that may be the case, they both have some issues that need to be addressed.  The SBC is extremely conservative in their approach with being one of the few denominations that do not allow women to hold pastoral roles.  They also affirm, on their positional statement, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, disallowing the world’s view of homosexuality as less than a sin.  You can find their positional statement here:

http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/positionstatements.asp

The denomination has chosen to begin severing ties with the Boy Scouts of America over the issue of homosexuality in leadership.  You can read this here:

http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/about/homosexuality

The SBC has been known to re-baptize those who were baptized in other denominations.  While the information I have received is ambiguous as to whether they are required to re-baptize if they came from a believer’s baptism/immersion church prior to joining the SBC church, this position can be seen in two different ways.  Either the church is breaking down the unity of believers by requiring this stance, thus making other denominations out to be unbelievers, or they are attempting to create a unified methodology that can bring a visible example of Christianity in this dark world.  If the former is true, then there could be cause for claiming heresy as they would be seen as exclusivist.  If the latter is true, then they have a long road ahead of them with some definite push back, not only from non-Christians but Christians as well.

James 4:17 – So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

The ABC church, while known as being more liberal in their teaching, also holds many of the same basic tenets of Protestant faith.  To give you an idea of their view of homosexuality, here is their positional statement:

http://www.abc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/homosexuality.pdf

The ABC has been littered, over recent history of individual heresies that go unpunished.  These individual heresies may not have been primarily done by the ABC, but they have turned a blind eye to much of it.  For example, in 1991, an ABC women’s ministry paper, stated, “What I have come to love about Scripture is the fact that IT IS NOT INERRANT. That IT IS NOT PERFECT. That it is not complete. That it does contradict itself…”

In another situation, at the Christian Feminist Conference in 1993 in Minneapolis, an ABC outwardly gay female pastor claimed that Mary and Martha were not sisters, but lesbian lovers.  My question for the ABC is how does that statement in 1993 by an openly gay, female pastor line up with the 2005 statement in the link above that homosexuality is “incompatible with Biblical teaching?”

The American Baptist Convention is having a major issue.  They have claimed some of the right teaching in their positional statements, but reading pieces from their website and seeing the major schism that is forthcoming proves that there is something below the surface that is brewing.  The heresies that have been turned a blind eye toward are finally beginning to take a toll.  In a matter of time, there will be many more Baptist denominations.  Here is one more link, showing their views on women in ministry:

http://www.abc-usa.org/what_we_believe/abc-organizations/abwim/

Looking at the SBC, I would have to call them a denomination.  But the ABC, I need to see them as a cult.

Jude 1:3 – Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.

Nondenominational/Evangelical

The nondenominational churches are very tough to pinpoint.  For these, you have to look very carefully at the individual church.  Whether it is a single church, a multi-site church group, or even a para-denomination unto itself, one needs to look very deeply at the individual church beliefs, positional statements (if even there) and interview the leadership.  For the record, I attend a church that is nondenominational and evangelical.  This church I attend is very Biblically focused and, from what I have seen, heresy is not existent.  As with any large church, the challenge to love all of the congregants as we love our family is tough, especially when the church is constantly growing.  And, of course, like any large organization, there are daily operational struggles, mostly involving the same operational struggles of any church, growing a volunteer organization to be evangelical, loving, and unified.

But the blessings that I have experienced at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship are not experienced at all nondenominational church or organization.  I look at Calvary Chapel as an example.  I love the idea of Calvary Chapel.  The running joke there is that “you don’t have to go to cemetery, er, seminary to pastor a church.”  Now I am not one who believes that seminary is an absolute necessity to pastor, but there is something to be said for deep, intellectual study of Scripture.  This is why at Calvary, inconsistency from one church to the next is significant.  From a pride-filled Gospel to one that is very Scripturally sound.

And then there is Mars Hill.  Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll’s multi-site organization.  This is the same church that provided for us Rob Bell.  The benefits to these non-denominational churches is that, since they don’t have positional statements, they can easily wipe away heretics such as Bell.  But in the tradition of sola scriptura, they show the Bible as inerrant, infallible, and inspired.  They believe much of the Protestant view of Christianity.  But there is one thing that is concerning, similar to Calvary Chapel, that they “believe in the autonomy of the local churches, free of any external authority and control.”

That is a common theme throughout nondenominational churches.

I am not going to bash many of my friends.  I love Mark Driscoll.  I grew up on heavy metal music that came out of Calvary Chapel in the 80s.  Steven Furtick at Elevation Church, David Ashcraft at LCBC, Perry Noble from NewSpring, Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands, Matt Keller at Next Level, Greg Surratt at Seacoast, Jim Putman at Real Life Ministries and the list goes on, I love them all.  I’ve spoken via email to almost all of these men, spoken live to a couple of them, and read almost all of their books.  I love what they all stand for.

But you can’t deny the risk.

Christian, let me ask you, what is the largest church in America?  Lakewood Church, pastored by Joel Osteen.  I’ve blogged before about my concerns with Osteen’s teachings.  But his church had 43,500 weekly attenders in 2013.  It is very easy for churches to water down the Gospel in order to reach more people.  Every pastor who is part of a growing church will at least be tempted by Satan to make the church more appealing to the masses.  Whether that be twisting Scripture like Osteen or disregarding the command to disciple while focusing only on seekers, the temptation will happen.

If you are seriously considering one of the megachurches or any nondenominational church for that matter, then I mean this severely:  You need to interview the lead pastor.  You need to make sure you check them out deeply.  These churches can build amazing communities that are Scripturally sound and focused on the Gospel.  But they can be dangerous as well.  They can do more damage if there is little or no oversight.  Remember, the road to hell is broad while the road to heaven is narrow.  The definitions of broad and narrow can be subjective, however.

So I can’t really give a blanket statement about nondenominational churches.  I know that Chesapeake Christian Fellowship is a true definition of a church by Scriptural standards.  And I know that Osteen’s church is more heretical.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Next week, I will begin to wrap this up with the 3 part conclusion that will list out each denomination and each standard that I am reviewing them all by and giving the denomination’s position.

Unity or Heresy, Part 9: Presbyterian, Lutheran, and United Methodist

2 Thessalonians 2:15 – So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken work or by our letter.

As this series begins to draw to a close, I wanted to look at some of the “legacy” organizations.  These are churches that people conceive as being around for a very long time.  In actuality, some of these have been around for a long time and some didn’t start until fairly recently.  Perhaps it is because of the area of the country in which I live, people in this area know of these three organizations and have for a long time now.

Presbyterian

Acts 1:23-26 – So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Presbyterian, in its widest scope of the definition, is a form of church government that uses representative assemblies instead of bishops (which would be Episcopalian) or by individual congregation (which is Congregationalism).  But if we narrow the scope a little, we see that Presbyterian is also a denomination of Protestant faith.  They follow the distinct pattern of Presbyterian church government, hold a Calvinistic theology, and do not ascribe to certain rituals of worship.  In the United States, the PCUSA was created in 1788 in Philadelphia.  The 1800s brought much of the growth of the PCUSA but also a schism that resulted in numerous Presbyterian denominations throughout the United States.  Currently, there are 8 recognized divisions inside the Presbyterian Church that are seen as their own denomination.  Some are very conservative, others quite liberal.  The largest of these groups, however, are the PCUSA and the PCA.  They are both vastly different in practice and on paper, so I will challenge you to follow along.

As of 2012, the PCA had 1,450 churches with 306,000 attenders and is growing by small amount every year.  PCUSA, significantly larger, has 10,262 churches and 2.7 million attenders.  PCUSA, however, is showing a net loss of 5.3% between 2011 and 2012 of attenders and a loss of 204 churches.  These churches may have very similar names, but are very different doctrinally.  Typically what makes a Presbyterian Church its namesake goes beyond the style of church government.  It includes a Calvinist approach that is very similar to Lutheran.  The differences between Calvinist view and Lutheran view is the theologies of predestination and eternal security.

Here is where things change a little.  PCA believes the basic tenets of the Trinity, that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, and that salvation is a gift from God.  They see salvation as a journey, not a destination.  Using Paul’s fruit of the Spirit, they look to growth and maturity as evidence of salvation in a person.  If you would like to know more, you can find their beliefs on this website:

http://www.pcaac.org/what-we-believe/the-good-news/

The PCA is also a very conservative arm of the Presbyterian Church.  For example they will not ordain women beyond the role of deacon, they have a very aggressive stance about homosexuality, and they even have written position papers disallowing their members of leadership to join organizations such as the Freemasons.  This is a great example of why this church continues to grow, even if slowly.  The PCA is an organization that is seen as a grass roots type denomination.  While more centralization of power is occurring in the PCA, the majority of the power is still held within the individual presbyteries.  If you would like to see some of the denomination’s position papers, I suggest you go to this website:

http://pcahistory.org/pca/

Let’s switch gears to the PCUSA.  The PCUSA is a much more liberal organization.  While the basic tenets of faith exist on paper for the PCUSA, the difference in practice is pretty substantial.  The example I would like to use is that of the Bible.  When reviewing the PCUSA view on the Bible, I find that nowhere in there does it state that it is inerrant or infallible or even inspired.  The word authoritative does show up and can be used to mean those things, but one needs to be very specific on what the Bible is and is not in order for us the world to truly understand our faith.  If we simply call it authoritative then the world gets a very negative view of the Bible.  It could be authoritative but not inspired.  It could be authoritative and not inerrant.  But if it is inerrant, infallible, and inspired it must be authoritative.  You can find the PCUSA view of the Bible here:

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/101/bible/

To go along with this idea of the Bible only being authoritative and not inerrant, infallible or inspired, this has led to confusion in the position papers of the organization.  For example, women are allowed to hold any office in the church, including senior elder.  While I, myself, admit to heretical view on my own beliefs on ordination of women, I still need to claim a heretical view based solely on Scripture as the guide.  To continue, the PCUSA, in 2011 has removed the language of requiring church leadership to live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”  A statement released by PCUSA in 2011 claims that this decision will allow “persons in a same-gender relationship…be considered for ordination and/or installation as deacons, elders, and ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”  I find this interesting.  According to the PCUSA website on SOCIAL ISSUES, they preface their positional papers with the statement, “The General Assembly “Affirms its conviction that neither the Church as the body of Christ, nor Christians as individuals, can be neutral or indifferent toward evil in the world.”  You can find that website here.

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/101/social-issues/

The more that I consider each of these denominations, the more I need to give a split decision.  The PCA is a very strong denomination.  They are going through the same struggles and debate as any other church out there, but they are using the inerrant and infallible and inspired Word of God as their light in this dark world.  The PCUSA, while still holding on to some of the basic tenets of Christianity, have slid into cult status because of their view of the Bible.  If the Bible was truly authoritative to them, they would not have taken the stance on ordaining homosexual ministers that they have done.  If the Bible were truly authoritative to them, they would be convicted by their states of not being neutral or indifferent toward evil in the world.  The Bible is so very impactful, just look at Psalm 138:2

Psalm 138:2 – I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

Lutheran

The Lutheran Church, similar to the Presbyterian Church, has two major denominations inside their organization:  The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).  Again, both are very different in practice and on paper and both are fairly large.  The ELCA is the largest of the two groups with 4.8 million members and officially got its start in 1988, although the roots go much farther back than the 80s.  The LCMS has 2.4 million members and is the 2nd largest Lutheran group.  Both groups are in the top 15 in America (ELCA is ranked 5th and LCMS is ranked 11th) but both groups have shown a loss of members year over year.

Lutheranism got its start in Germany and most everyone reading this I’m sure knows about the 95 Theses.  There are some interesting myths and legends that go along with any major character in history, and Luther was no different.  For example, legend has it that Martin Luther was inspired to launch the Protestant Reformation while seated on his toilet going to the bathroom (all great men have to think somewhere, right?).  Luther’s toilet, just as a side note, was the Rolls Royce of toilets for his day and age.  As a Catholic monk, he lived in pretty nice surroundings.  Archaeologists discovered his toilet which included a heated floor in the bathroom and a primitive drainage system.  But I digress.  He got so upset with the Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin that he penned the 95 Theses.  The two central beliefs of this document is that the Bible is the sole religious authority and that humans may only reach salvation by their faith, not their deeds.  As time went by, he fought to not have his name associated with the movement that he caused.  He felt that he did not want to bring notoriety to himself, only to God.

The ELCA traces its roots back to the same reformation.  While the denomination officially formed in 1988, it was a conglomerate of three other Lutheran organizations:  The American Lutheran Church, The Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.  The LCMS came together in 1847 when 14 congregations made up of German immigrants banded together with a really long church name.  In 1947, to celebrate their 100th year, they shortened their name to Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Lutheranism is one of the oldest Protestant beliefs in the world.  The basics of the faith revolve around Scripture being the one necessary guide to truth, salvation comes from grace through faith alone, and that salvation is available to all who desire it.  Similar to Roman Catholicism, history and tradition do play a big role in the Lutheran life.  While not seen by many of the laity, the church continued to build its foundation throughout history by claiming the Nicene Creed, The Apostle’s Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

The differences between the two organizations are very significant.  While both claim Lutheranism and wear the same colors of robes, sing the same hymns, and have similar layouts to their churches, they have significant differences when it comes to faith and practice.  With the ELCA, they ordain women into office while the LCMS does not.  The LCMS is also exclusive when it comes to their churches in that non-LCMS/Lutheran pastors may not serve at an LCMS church while other Protestant faiths are welcome at ELCA.

With regard to homosexuality, ELCA does not view it as a sin and has ordained openly gay clergy while LCMS will not ordain a homosexual pastor.  Abortion is also a point of difference in that LCMS sees it as a sin against the 5th Commandment while the ELCA allows abortion in various situations.  One major concern that I have is specific to the ELCA.  It is no secret that we, as Christians, need to be building relationships with Muslims.  We are NOT called to be Islamophobic.  We need to have relationships, friendships, and meetings with others of non-Christian faith.  But our goal always, first and foremost, is to present the Gospel.  Whether that is with a Muslim, an atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, etc… our goal is always to open the way for the Holy Spirit to work.  The ELCA has claimed in two separate statements that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity is one in the same.

NO WAY!

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.

Here are the statements that the ELCA has posted to their website:

“Most pertinent to this discourse, there are differences as to how Muslims and Christians each understand the realities that make up the common ground upon which we stand.  Oneness of God compels a discussion about how the revelation of God has been differently understood by the communities that call upon God’s name.”

“There are many questions for Christians and Muslims to ask together as we explore the common ground on which we stand.  We acknowledge God’s oneness, but how do we understand this as communities that call upon God’s name?  Can we understand each other’s affirmations of the oneness of God?”

The website can be found here and all the links you need to research their views are here as well:

http://www.elca.org/Faith/Ecumenical-and-Inter-Religious-Relations/Inter-Religious-Relations/Muslim-Relations

The LCMS has called for unity among those of the same beliefs.  ELCA has called for unity among Christians and all peoples regardless of race, sexual preference, or repentance of sin.  While the LCMS has taken hard stances on non-salvation items (such as rejecting Anabaptists for claiming that children are saved without baptism if they die before getting a chance to understand the Gospel), they have also taken the hard stances on areas where heresy can creep into a denomination.  The ELCA has allowed the world to define their church.  Heresy is out of control in the ELCA.

To that end, the LCMS is a very strong denomination, while a little exclusivist, and the ELCA is a cult.

Claiming both PCUSA and ELCA as cults in this is very painful.  I actually found myself in tears knowing that a combined 7.6 million people are being fed lies by a church leadership organization.  It is not that those who go to those churches are all lost.  I am sure there are very strong Christians in both organizations.  I am just concerned that those organizations are being led by the world using the name of Christ as only a means of social reform rather than the spiritual reform that Christ called us all to lead.

Matthew 7:13 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it….”

Methodist

The United Methodist Church (UMC) officially became a denomination in 1968 when the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church came together.  John and Charles Wesley, Anglican Church leaders, started what they called the Methodist Movement inside the Anglican Church.  This was meant to be the evangelical arm of the Anglican Church.  Wesley, because of his views, was actually barred from speaking at most Church of England pulpits.  He took to the streets, homes, farms, and wherever he could find a crowd.

Interestingly, John Wesley was a Tory in the American Revolution.  This simple fact led to very few Methodist ministers aiding the patriots in the war.  After independence was won, Wesley realized a need for change and, while still an Anglican leader, he set the groundwork in place for Methodism to become a full denomination.  In 1784, in Baltimore MD, the Methodist Episcopal Church officially became a recognized denomination.  At this time, the church was very hard core as to their spiritual beliefs and directions.  They believed that church was no place for those whom Wesley called “almost Christians.”  During this initial timeframe, there were growth pains as the Methodist Church grew to one of the largest churches in America.  One such split came from Richard Allen, an emancipated slave and Methodist preacher, who was mistreated because of his race and left to start the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

As the church entered into the 1900s and toward the creation of the UMC in the latter half, many of the organizations that created the UMC started dialogues to begin hashing out their beliefs.  One example of this is ordination of women.  When the Evangelical Church and the United Brethren Church combined in 1939, they had to come to an understanding of women in ministry.  The Evangelical Church never ordained women while the United Brethren Church ordained their first woman pastor in 1889.  It wasn’t until 1956 with Methodists that full clergy rights were given to women.

In 1968 when the UMC was officially formed between the groups, they had 11 million members.  Since 1968, the U.S. arm of the church has lost 4.5 million members.  In Africa, however, the UMC continues to grow by almost 200,000 members a year.

The overall precepts that the UMC is built from are threefold:

1)      Shun evil and avoid partaking in wicked deeds at all costs

2)      Perform kind acts as much as possible

3)      Abide by the edicts of God the Almighty Father

1 Thessalonians 5:22 – …reject every kind of evil.

While the UMC holds the basic tenets of Protestant Christian belief, there are a couple of distinctions to be made.  First, Methodists believe that one must use logic and reason in all matters of faith.  This can be found here on their website:

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/theological-guidelines-reason

The next point of differentiation is their view of grace.  To the Methodist, there are three distinct types of grace:

1)      Prevenient – This is present before they are saved from the error of their ways.  Simply put, this is the grace that convicts the person of their evil ways and gives them the choice to accept Christ.  It is at this point, the person has the ability to say yes or no to God.  This is in direct contrast to Calvin’s irresistible grace in which when we see God’s grace, we can’t help but turn to Him.  Another name for this throughout history is called resistible grace as it is in direct contrast to Calvin.

2)      Justifying – This is the grace given at the time of the person’s repentance and forgiveness by God.

3)      Sanctifying – This is the grace given when the person has finally been saved from their sins and the sins of the world.

The Methodist Church, while Arminian in view, has still remained true to their stances since their inception.  While not as rejecting as Wesley was by calling out “almost Christians,” the church has tried to maintain control during a life when this world is out of control.  Simply because of their size, the church has been more and more affected by liberal teaching coming from the laity and outside world.

I would challenge you to read more on the UMC’s stance on Social Community here:

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/the-social-community

With all of this being said, the UMC is a strong denomination.  With any large denomination, I would like to challenge them to continue to make the choices necessary to proclaiming Scripture to be infallible, inerrant, and inspired.  If we change our churches to become worldly and bypass Scripture in its fullness, then we become irrelevant and unnecessary.  Stay true to Scripture, UMC.

Judges 2:10 – After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.

Next week, I will look at the Baptist and Evangelical/Non-Denominational Churches

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 6: Foursquare Gospel, the Salvation Army, Christian Reform, and Full Gospel

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.

Foursquare Gospel

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 9:12-14If 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 3:10-12As 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.

 Christian Reform

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.

Full Gospel

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.

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