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Archive for the tag “Unity”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anglican/Episcopalian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pentecostal/Charismatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness/Holy Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unity or Heresy, Part 3: Psuedo-Christian Denominations

2 Peter 2:1 – But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

This series started with a description of the methods I am using to define whether a denomination is heretical or unified with Scripture.  When Paul calls for unity, he doesn’t just mean that everyone who calls themselves Christian should be unified.  The world has distorted many so-called Christians.  We see this in last week’s post on the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Before we delve into the mainline Protestant denominations, I want to speak about those pseudo-Christian groups who are out on the periphery of Christianity.  Some of these groups are very large, some are small but influential, and some we rarely hear about.  But can these groups be unified with Scripture enough to call then Christians?

Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

The first thing we need to do is define a few terms.  A denomination is a movement in Christianity that differs on doctrinal issues but hold to the common core of beliefs about God, Christ, and Scripture.  A sect is a group that agrees with the denomination on the main matters, but differs in some other way.  Look, for example, at the Amish who hold a very deep separatist view with the world.  Cults are groups that appeal to the overall Christian view, but differ in a main core belief such as the Trinity for example.

The first group I want to look at is the Mormon Church.  This church was founded by Joseph Smith Jr., when he claimed to be restoring the genuine church to the earth during the time period of the Second Great Awakening.  They are based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and have over 80,000 missionaries worldwide.  The National Council of Churches ranks it as the 4th largest denomination of Christianity.

If we were simply to ask whether Mormons are connected to Christ, then the answer would be yes.  But the problem that arises in the Mormon Church is that if we test the church to Scripture, it fails.  A great example of how Mormonism goes against Scripture comes in one of the Mormon scriptures called The Pearl of Great Price.  In it, we are told that the world was created “by the Gods.”  In a sermon preached by John Smith himself, he claimed that God was once a mere man and that we may become a God like Him.  A third piece to look at with the Mormon Church is that salvation does not come through faith, but only through adhering to the Mormon principles.  Finally, Mormons have placed three other books – The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price – alongside the Bible as a Holy book.

Because of these tests against Scripture, Mormonism fails the test to be considered a denomination of Christianity.  It also fails to be considered a sect by the definition because of having such a significant departure from core beliefs of Christianity.  Therefore, Mormonism must be considered a cult.

1 John 4:1 – Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The next church we will look at is the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They were founded in 1872 by Charles Taze Russell.  He had issue with the views of eternal damnation and the Trinity as well as the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Russell started writing a magazine that would interpret the Bible based on his views.  He claimed the Bible could only be understood through his interpretation, a typical view of cults.  Jehovah’s Witnesses have several book studies each week, discipling the Witness to the skewed version of the Bible.  In all honesty, most Jehovah’s Witnesses would win an apologetics argument against the average Christian simply because of how deep their study is on their interpretations.  The version of the Bible Witnesses use is called the New World Translation (NWT).  The first big issue with JW is that this Bible clearly goes against the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible.  For example, they believe that the New Testament originally used the Hebrew name YHWH (translated as Jehovah) and that heretical scribes used the word “Lord” (in Greek kurios).  The historical documents clearly show the JW view is incorrect.

The next teaching that JW does not adhere to is the Trinity.  They believe the Father alone is God.  Jesus is “a god” (their translation of John 1:1), inferior to the Father, and that the “holy spirit” is a force that emanates from the Father as an impersonal force.  This clearly goes against the Trinitarian views of John 1:1, John 17:3, John 20:28, Acts 5:3-4, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, and Titus 2:13).

Another teaching that they do not agree with is the views on death, the soul, and eternal punishment.  According to JWs, when the unsaved die, they cease to exist anymore.  This clearly is counter to Luke 6:19-31, Luke 23:43, Hebrews 12:9,23, Revelation 6:9-11.  The NWT mistranslates Luke 23:43 to avoid that, however.

The next thing JWs hold differently revolve around Jesus’ resurrection and return.  JWs believe God raised Jesus from the dead as a spirit and deny that He will return physically to the earth.  Finally, JWs view of salvation is also skewed.  They believe that you not only need to accept Christ’s ransom, but that they must prove themselves worthy of salvation through work.

Again, with as many core beliefs as are misconstrued by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they must be considered a cult, not a denomination or a sect.

1 Corinthians 3:4 – For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

A third organization I’d like to look at is the 7th Day Adventists.  The 7th Day Adventists were born out of the craze in the mid-1800s about Jesus’ eminent return.  In 1840, a Baptist lay leader, William Miller, predicted Christ would return in 1843.  His teaching incited panic throughout America at the time.  He based his prophecy off of Daniel 8:14.  When the date came and went, Miller admitted messing up the date and recalculated it for October 22, 1844.  Again the date came and went and that resulted in what religious scholars call the Great Disappointment of 1844.  Miller eventually faded away, but others carried on his banner by changing the interpretation of his prophecy.  Hiram Edson decided to tell everyone that Christ HAD returned, but not to the earth.  He moved from the right hand of God to the Most High temple and that this brought about new gifts.  Eventually, Ellen Gould White became the leader of the Adventists and that God told her to return to Sabbatarian protocol by worshipping on Saturday and also to return to Levitical dietary restrictions.

While 7th Day Adventists hold on to the main core beliefs of Scripture, and believe that it is infallible and inerrant, they do have some heretical views when it comes to doctrine.  First, the strong tie to Levitical law can create a very legalistic view of Christianity.  Next, they believe that worship must take place on Saturday and that those who do not have the mark of the beast.  Third, they hold to an annihilationist view of eternity for the unsaved.  Fourth, they adhere to a strict Levitical diet and urge vegetarianism among their followers.  Fifth, they hold to their “Spirit of Prophecy,” which, while subject to Scripture, talks of continuing revelation.  Finally, they believe that final judgment started in 1844.

With this information, it is very possible for 7th Day Adventists to be considered Christian.  They do not follow the mainline denomination, yet, they affirm all of the major claims of the church with regard to God, Christ, and Scripture.  They would be considered a sect, however, as they do have some very exclusive claims that they make.  It does, however, show heresy in the 7th Day Adventist church because of Romans 14:4-6 that tells believers not to judge another believer on the basis of the day that he/she worships.

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

Finally, I’d like to look at Christian Science.  This is not to be confused with Scientology which was started by L. Ron Hubbard who started Scientology in order to make money. “I’d like to start a religion, that’s where the money is.” (L. Ron Hubbard, 1949)

Christian Science or Church of God Scientist, is based on the metaphysical theories of their founder, Mary Baker Eddy.  Eddy was a very physically sick woman much of her life and was expected to die from illness in 1866 when, she apparently read Matthew 9:2 and was miraculously cured.  It was at that point she began to read the Bible and find errors.  She claimed to be the person who held the key of David as written in Revelation 3:7 and that she was the woman prophesied about in Revelation 12.  She wrote three major works that have become equal with the Bible in Christian Science – Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Miscellaneous Writings, and Manual of the Mother Church.

While she claimed to have been only under the authority of the Bible, she writes, “The material record of the Bible…is no more important to our well-being than the history of Europe and America.” (Miscellaneous Writings, 170).  As one reads her works, it is clear that the Bible holds little to no authority in Christian Science.  First, she reinterprets the Bible to make each person in it a principle.  For example, Adam becomes “belief in original sin” and Abraham becomes “faith in the Divine life and the eternal Principle of being.”  She replaced the Trinity with “Life, Truth and Love.”  She denied sin.  She felt that mean was simply spiritual, could not die, and was “above sin.”  She claimed that Christ’s work on the cross was meaningless.  “The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon the ‘accursed tree,’ than when it was flowing in his veins as he went about his daily business.”  Later, she even denies the historical person of Jesus altogether.  I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Eddy believes that this real life is simply an illusion and that everything that truly happens is done so in the spiritual realm, not the physical one.

As Christian Science has redefined the Bible in its entirety, it is without question that it is a cult.

Matthew 21:42 – Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

As you can see, out of the four organizations I listed in here, only one can be considered a sect while the others would be considered cults.  But what are some basic danger signs that something is a cult?

1)      The group is almost always outside the mainline dominant religious form and culture and shows direct opposition it, meaning it is elitist or exclusionist.  Look at Christian Science, for example, and how they have redefined the Bible.

2)      There is often new revelation or authority, which also brings further writings equal to the Bible.  Look at Mormons, JWs, and Christian Science above.  All have other holy writings that are equal, or greater than, the Bible.

3)      The group is focused around a central figure other than Jesus Christ.  Mormons have Joseph Smith, JW has Charles Taze Russell, Christian Science has Mary Baker Eddy.  They believe their prophet-founder has been chosen by God to deliver a special message that is not found in the Bible.

4)      Often the leader teaches that the Bible foretold of the coming of its particular leader.  Mormon and JW both believe that is the case.

5)      The organization believes its work is the last system on earth for God’s glory.  This is the case with JW.

6)      These groups usually believe God is a force or a power, not a person who has intimate relationships with His creation.  This is found in Christian Science.

7)      These organizations are usually apocalyptic or eschatological in their teaching.  Look at JWs for an example of that.

8)      These organizations usually emphasize minor points in Scripture while de-emphasizing major points.  Look at Christian Science with prophecy versus the Trinity.  JWs are also a great example.

9)      They believe that you can have direct revelations or visions from God.  Mormon hold on to that view.

10)   They claim to be in harmony with the Bible but in fact discounts the Bible and adds other words to it.  This is the case for Mormon, JW, and Christian Science.

11)   The group denies at least one of the central truths of Christianity.  This is the case with all three cults listed above with the Trinitarian view.

12)   Teaching salvation through works, which is what Mormon and JW propose.

13)   There are many other more evident ways something could be considered a cult, but these are some of the more easily hidden under their sheep’s clothing.

So as you can see, these are 4 organizations that have claimed Christ in one way or another, and only one of them can still be considered a Christian organization.  The 7th Day Adventist Church, while elitist and exclusionary in their view, does still maintain the core belief system of the Christian church.  Mormon, JW, and Christian Science need to be considered cults.

John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Next week we will look at Anglican/Episcopalian, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Holiness/Holy churches.

Unity or Heresy, Part 2 – Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic v. Protestant

2 Peter 2:1-3 – But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep

There are many areas in which Catholic and Protestant Christianity differ.  While over the years there have been a lot of people who have tried to bring the two groups together, the fact remains that they are very different translations on Christianity as a whole.

Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity in the world today.  Over 33% of the world is Christian, with 17% of that number coming from Catholics.  To begin, I would like to offer a chart that shows some of the differences between Catholic and Protestant Christianity.

Topic

Catholic

Protestant

Concept of Trinity

Believes the Trinity is God:  Father, Son & Holy Spirit

Believes the Trinity is God:  Father, Son & Holy Spirit

Bible

Contains 7 more books than Protestant Bible.  Includes: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, I and II Maccabees, and additions to Daniel and Esther.  The NT is the same as the Protestant NT.

The Old Testament contains the same information but formatted differently.  While in the Hebrew Bible there are 24 books in the OT, there are 39 in the Protestant version, although they have exactly the same information.  The NT is the exact same as the Catholic NT

Birth of Jesus

Virgin Birth

Virgin Birth

Death of Jesus

By Crucifixion

By Crucifixion

Savior

Jesus Christ alone

Jesus Christ alone

Resurrection of Jesus

TRUE

TRUE

Confession of Sins

To God, through priests and Jesus.

To God through Jesus alone.

Second Coming of Christ

TRUE

TRUE

Salvation

Gained at baptism but may be lost by sin.  Regained through faith and penance.  Must believe Jesus is the only son of God, confess sins, have a relationship with Christ, do good works, take the 7 sacraments, and take part in Holy Mass

Faith in Christ alone brings salvation as He paid the penalty for our sins.

Jesus

Jesus is consubstantial to the Father, meaning that they are one and the same and that the Word became flesh and walked among us.

Jesus is consubstantial to the Father, meaning that they are one and the same and that the Word became flesh and walked among us.

Women

Not allowed to become priests or higher but may become nuns.

Usually not permitted to be leaders in the church, but that is debated among many different protestant denominations.

Moral Law

The Bible and Catechisms, which only the Pope may alter.

The Bible alone is what verifies all things.

Mary

Favored among women.  Chosen by God as the mother of Jesus.  She is considered holy and thus can be an intercessor to God and prayed to.

Favored among women, but otherwise simply another human woman.

View of Protestantism/Catholicism

Protestant denominations cannot be consdiered real churches.  Because they do not have the same structure of the Catholic church, they cannot be descendent of the Apostles of Christ

Protestantism is how the church was originally established.  Catholicism became corrupt with establishment of Papl Infallibility.  God reveals Himself through Scripture and prayer, not tradition.

View of the Pope

Infallible, not possible to err during his time as Pope

Denied as authority

Life After Death

Eternal Salvation in heaven, eternal damnation in hell.  A temporary third palce known as purgatory.

Faith in Jesus leads to paradise, faith in self alone leads to damnation.

Praying to Saints, Mary, Angels

All can be used as intercessors, but all prayer must end with “but only God’s will be done.”

The only intercessor is Jesus, no one else.

Goals

(taken from Pope Francis) A church for the poor, that doesn’t judge, a feminie church, a radical church, a church that works for peace and the environment, and a reformed church.

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Homosexuality

Not allowed in leadership roles in the church

Debated, but generally not allowed in leadership roles in the church.

Preaching the Gospel

Looking at Pope Francis’ goals, there was little, if any, Gospel message listed.

Different among different denominations.  Some preach it heavily, others not so much.

Missions Work

Very significant work in missions

Growing, but still a very small percentage of churches support missions.

Marketplace

Variable.  Some with small money-generating programs such as coffee bars or bookstores.  Most are at or below cost to produce and support outside evangelism.

Variable.  Some are extravagant and used as a means to fund the church operating budget and others are smaller or used to fund a ministry.

Biblical Truths

The Bible has been superseded by Papal Infallibility and other Apostolic Constitutions.

Variable with regard to degree at which it is preached, but all Bible is infallible and inerrant.

Discipleship

Required for Catholics

Completely voluntary.

Growth

Down .5% between 2011 and 2012.

Down 1.5% between 2011 and 2012

So let’s look at the Roman Catholic Church a little more up close, as it is probably the most different to all of the other churches I will discuss over the next 10 weeks.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

As you can see in the chart above, there are some definite apostasies that are happening in the Roman Catholic Church.  To get to the bottom of some of these, let’s look a little at the history of the church.

The Catholic Church started when the original Christian movement began after the death of Christ.  Eventually, the first Pope took office, traced to the Apostle Peter.  The Pope is considered a direct successor to Peter.  By about 450, Pope Leo was seen as the first universal Pope of the church and created the unique Roman Catholic structure.  By 451, the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox church separated institutionally.  By 1054, the Great Schism occurred which caused the largest division in Christianity, based around the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.  In the 16th Century, the Protestant Reformation occurred.  This is actually the first instance of the term Roman Catholic Church in use during the Council of Trent in 1545-1563.

During much of this time, various additions to the church’s beliefs were instituted.  During some of the early Councils, a focus on tradition was incorporated with a desire to fight back against modernism.  Another view is that only the Catholic Church is the one, true church.  Pope Benedict in 2007 claimed that Protestant churches are not “true churches.”  Another apostate view is that of Papal Infallibility.  In 1870, the First Vatican Council claimed in their Dogmatic Constitution on the Church that the Pope was infallible, as Jesus had made Peter in His promise in Scripture.

Clearly there are many apostate views in the Roman Catholic Church.  There is the addition of the 7 books of the Apocrypha, to me, while adding to the Scriptures of the Protestant Bible, is acceptable as many modern theologians, Protestant and Catholic alike, utilize these in their teachings.  But there are many other pieces that just don’t fit Scripture and I would love to hear a Catholic priest (or maybe even the Pope…now that would be cool if he replied to my blog!) refute.

First, there is the confessing of sins to a priest as mediator.  Jesus alone is our mediator.  Second, that one can lose his salvation through sin.  Third, requirement of good works, the sacraments, and take part in Holy Mass to have salvation.  Fourth that moral law can be allowed to be different from Biblical standard if the Pope says so.  Fifth that Mary is considered holy.  Mary is clearly a simple human whom God used in a very big way, but that does not make her divine in any stretch of the imagination.  Sixth, that the Pope is infallible.  The Pope is a man.  He has the same Adamic fall from grace that we do.  Seventh, the concept of purgatory.  Eighth, I am concerned with the direction away from the Gospel that Francis has gone in his latest speech.  He is giving a social gospel, one to fix the worlds ills through the Catholic Church, not through Jesus Christ.

My bottom line for the Roman Catholic Church is that I would not want anyone being deceived by this church.  This, to me, is clearly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It is easy to see why such significant schisms and reformations have happened as there is plenty of issue with the Roman Catholic view.

Galatians 1:7 – Not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

That leads to my next denomination, the Eastern Orthodox Church.  To the guy on the street, there isn’t a lot different between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic.  The word “orthodox” means “right believing.”  This word is used to show that this is the true religion that dates back to the first 10 centuries of Christianity and the first 7 ecumenical councils. This church claims to have preserved the original church traditions and doctrines adopted by the apostles.

The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church split during what is called the East-West Schism that started around 180 AD and culminated in the terminal event of the excommunication of the Eastern Orthodox leader and the Roman Catholic leader from each others’ cardinal cities.

While there are very similar practices between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, the two do have some very big differences.  First, the Roman Catholic Church decided to deviate from the original 7 ecumenical councils.  The Eastern Orthodox Church decided not to.  The next big difference is what may seem to be simply a wording difference.  In what is known as the Filloque Controversy, the Roman Catholic Church added “and from the Son” to the Nicene Creed.  The Eastern Orthodox Church, not believing any of the original decisions of the ecumenical councils should be changed, challenged this.  Not only because of the wording, but because of what the wording does to the creed.  The Roman Catholic Church added “and from the Son” to emphasize the divinity of Christ.  Up to this point, the majority of the teachings on Christ were centered around His humanity, and the Roman Catholic Church wanted to ensure Christ’s divinity in the creed.  But the Eastern Orthodox Church believes that the Father is the godhead of the Trinity and that both the Son and the Spirit were begotten from the Father.   One more difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is that Orthodox do not believe in the Immaculate Conception.  This is the view that Mary, once the Spirit filled her womb with Jesus, because free from original sin.  This is a view that Orthodoxy and Protestantism deny.

Looking at the differences between Eastern Orthodox and Protestantism, the first is one of the same complaints that Protestants have with the Roman Catholic Church.  Protestants clearly believe sola Scriptura.  This means that the Word of God can be clearly understood by the individual believer and is sufficient in and of itself to be the final authority in doctrine.  Eastern Orthodox (and Roman Catholic as well) believe that both Scripture and tradition should hold equal weight when determining doctrine.

Another point that orthodoxy holds is a very eastern view of truth.  Truth is to be experienced and, therefore, less emphasis is put on precise definitions.  The Eastern view is one geared toward mysticism and philosophy while the Western church is guided by practicality and legality.

A major point that differs between Protestant and Orthodox churches (and Roman Catholic as well) is the views on the sacraments. Baptism is the initiator of salvation according to Eastern Orthodox, whereas in the Protestant church it is an outward symbol of what the Spirit has already accomplished inside of you.  Next, during the communion, the Orthodox Church believes (as does the Roman Catholic Church) that the wafer and wine mystically transform into the body and blood of Christ once inside you while the Protestant church believes, again, this is a symbolic meal.

Also like the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church practices the veneration of the saints and statues.  Reverence is to be directed toward the person they represent, not the icon itself.  This is very different from the Protestant church in that the only holy symbols traditionally are the cross in its many forms.

Finally, the Eastern Orthodox Church practices theosis or divinization, which is the gradual becoming more and more like Christ.  Unfortunately, the Eastern Orthodox Church views this divinization as a requirement for salvation.  The concept of justification by faith is pretty much non-existent.

So where does this leave me with Eastern Orthodox?  Again, I feel this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  While I applaud the church for trying to stay true to the first century church, the fact remains that there are many points that Eastern Orthodoxy is filled with heresy.  The following are a list of practices that run counter to Scripture that are found in the Eastern Orthodox Church:

  • Equal authority between Scripture and tradition
  • Discouraging individuals from translating the Bible apart from tradition
  • The perpetual virginity of Mary, meaning she was a virgin all of her life (this is counter to Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, John 7:3, Acts 1:14, and 1 Corinthians 9:5)
  • The possibility of receiving salvation after death
  • The possibility of losing salvation

While there have been many throughout history that were great theologians and teachers from the Eastern Orthodox Church, the church itself does not give a clear message that can be harmonized with Scripture.  Sola Scriptura is missing from their views and that is too precious to leave behind.

1 Corinthians 4:6 – Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.

Next week I will look at many of the cultic Christian or pseudo-Christian denominations.

Unity or Heresy, Part 1.5 – The Method

A few days ago I introduced a series that I will be doing that looks at the Christian denominations (and in some cases pseudo-Christian or cultic Christian) and tests them Scripturally.  In order to do this, I am going to compile a list of Scriptural teachings based on primary and secondary standing.  Then, based on the list I propose, I will come up with my own view on whether the denomination is 1) unified in the Christian faith, 2) Beginning to lean away from Biblical teaching, or 3) Apostate.  One thing needs to be said here.  Inside every true Christian denomination are apostate churches and churches that are faithful to the call of Christ.  This study will look at the overall denomination, NOT individual churches in each.

So before I begin digging into each denomination, here is the list I will be using:

1)      Primary Work and Nature of Christ – These are items that we cannot turn away from and still be considered Christian as are blatantly expressed in Scripture:

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

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

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

d.      The gospel is about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Galatians 1:8-9)

e.      There is only one God (Exodus 20:1-3, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6-8)

2)      Nature of God – We cannot turn away from these and still be Christian

a.       God exists in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost

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

3)      Views on the Bible, church ordinances, and practice of Christians – turning away from these does not void salvation, however these are principles that are clear in Scripture and denial suggests apostasy.

a.       Male eldership and pastorate (1 Timothy 2:12-13, 1 Timothy 3:15, Titus 1:5-7)

b.      Fidelity in marriage and the heterosexual relationship (1 Corinthians 6:9)

c.       The condemnation of homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27)

d.      Inerrancy of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)

4)      Non-essentials that are debated within Christianity that does not affect one’s salvation with God.  Denial or acceptance does not suggest apostasy.

a.       Baptism for adults/infants

b.      Predestination, election, free will

c.       Communion every week, month, year, etc…

d.      Saturday or Sunday worship

e.      Worship that is contemporary or traditional

f.        Pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation rapture

g.       Premillenialism, amillenialism, and post millennialism

h.      Continuation or stopping of the charismatic gifts

So, after reviewing multiple websites, conferring with a few people whom I just graduated seminary with, and putting pieces together of my own theology, I came up with a pretty long list of items that I will consider as apostate and thus grade the denominations by in the upcoming 10 parts of the series.  The culmination will then be a chart that can be easily reviewed by denomination and apostasy or unity.

List of apostasies

1)      Denying the work and nature of Christ and the nature of God.  The first two points above culminate this one item in this list.  This includes the Trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace, and Biblical moral absolutes.  If there is deviation from the primary works and nature of God, then apostasy is sure to be part of the church.

2)      Significant division in the body of Christ.  The gauge for this will be both John 13:35 and 1 Corinthians 1:10.  While we know that there will be differences of opinion, and that is healthy for any church (see Romans 14:1-12), anything that claims man’s rules over God’s absolutes is apostate.

3)      Homosexuality in church leadership.  Ordaining homosexual men into the ministry clearly goes against the gauges for this point which are Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:9.

4)      Women elders and senior pastors.  This is a hotly debated topic in Christianity today.  Proof of the matter is that the Bible clearly states male leadership in the church.  Now, I am going to show a little of my trepidation here and I want you to know that I, personally, am on the fence about ANY leadership roles being allowed to be filled by women in the church.  Many great theologians today believe that woman can be ordained.  Many don’t.  The measure for this is going to be 1 Timothy 2:12-14, 1 Timothy 3:2, and Titus 1:5-7.  Keep in mind this is not a salvation issue.  This is apostasy issue, but not salvation.

5)      Ashamed to preach the Gospel.  The measure for this will be 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and I need to give a shout out to my favorite verse in the Bible Romans 1:16.  The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is never an easy topic to speak about in today’s age, but it is a necessary one.

6)      Failing to send out missionaries.  The measure for this will be Matthew 28:18-20.  Jesus commands us to carry out the Great Commission.  Any church that does not support missionary work is in violation of Jesus’ command.

7)      A church that has become a storefront.  John 2:13-22 will be the Scripture verse for this.  I am not saying it is wrong to sell stuff at church.  For example, if you are undergoing a new vision casting session and you want people to support it, selling a T-shirt is not what I am talking about.  But there are churches, and entire denominations, that have created clothing lines and are selling them on their websites.  Also, the purpose of the sale is important.  A popular piece to almost all medium-large churches today is the coffee bar or sandwich shop.  Is the purpose to make money for the overall budget or is the purpose to support missions work or create community in the church to where the retail price of the product is equal to the cost of the product that you are serving.  This is a very gray area, and can easily turn subjective in this study, but I feel it must be approached.

8)      Church growth takes precedence over Biblical truths.  Ephesians 4:15 and John 14:6 are going to be the measure for this.  I will review the websites, doctrines, and claims of each denomination.

9)      Discipleship is not taking place.  The church is called to equip Christians.  The measure for this will be Ephesians 4:11.

10)   Not preaching about hell.  Jesus preached about eternal life a lot.  He taught of a life that was separated from God for eternity.  We call this hell.  The truth is that there WILL be people who are damned to hell for eternity.  That is not a gentle or easy topic, but whoever said preaching to Gospel would be popular or easy?

11)   Is the church growing organically.  Above we looked at church growth taking precedence over truth, but church growth needs to be happening.  I will look at statistics on the denomination’s growth (or lack thereof) over the past.  Acts 2 will be the measure of this.

12)   Church stances on abortion, evolution, and other hot button topics.  A church that doesn’t stand for something publicly stands for nothing eternally.

So these will be the measures of apostasy in the church.  As we review these by denomination, I will challenge you to research these with me.  If you feel uncomfortable by something I say on here, please research It on your own as well.  That is how we grow.

I guarantee that this will not be the perfect measure by any stretch of the imagination.  So if you are uncomfortable but going to a church that seems filled with apostasy, please approach your pastor.  Then approach other pastors and talk to them.  It is important to get a well-rounded view.

So next week, we will dig in to Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and the differences between Catholic and Protestant.  Hold on tight, here we go!

Unity or Heresy – Part 1, the Intro

Philemon 2:2Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose

I remember a day in 2005 when I was watching the news and heard a story about Pope Benedict XVI calling for “unification of Christians.”  Now what caught my eye was a quote that he said about collaborating with other religions.  “With this full knowledge, I would like to greet all those, including those who follow other religions … to reassure them that the church wants to continue with its open … sincere dialogue looking for the true good of man and of society.”

There are many signs that show to apostasy in the church, and one of them is lack of unity in the body of Christ.  Christians are to show love.  Jesus says that the world will know His disciples by the love we show one another (John 13:35).  The New Testament , in Ephesians 4:5, calls for us to be unified in Christ.

Paul cautions Christians to not follow anyone but Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).  Following man, not Jesus, leads to divisions in the church.  Now Paul does say that division is going to happen, and, when done in the proper manner, can be healthy.

1 Corinthians 11:19 – For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

It is not a secret that the Apostle Paul wanted unity in the church.  Paul’s books in the Bible were used to unify the Christians in the individual churches to which he communicated.

But we are human.

We are all different.

Our opinions are different.

Romans 14:1-12 – Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.  One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

It is alright to have differences in opinion on non-essential things.  Style of worship, day of the week to worship, pre-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture, Armenianism, Calvinism, etc….  When it comes to those issues, they do not affect our salvation.  But I have seen Christians use non-essential opinions for causing unnecessary division in the church.  Clearly in those situations, pride overtakes the person and the love of Christ is sacrificed for our own opinions.

Have you ever heard someone come to you and say, “I am right, you are wrong.”

There are clearly things in the Bible that are black and white, right and wrong.

But we should not sacrifice our humility to make our point.

So here is what I am going to do over the next few posts.  I’d like to go into detail about some of the main denominations in the world today (including some we consider pseudo-Christian, or cultic) and shine a light on their views.  This is not going to be a series that states only the evangelical church is right in its views, even though I am clearly evangelical in my views.  But this is going to be broken up into a few sections for each denomination.

First, I will give a little bit of the history of the denomination.  Next, I will show its views, past and present.  It is true that the church is made of the people.  People learn and grow as we disciple under Christ, if we choose too.  Finally, I will give you my views.

I know what you are thinking.  “Fred, you are going to cause more divisions in the church if you so this series.”

1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Maybe.

But remember what Paul said, those who are approved will come to the front when the heresies are shown.

So I am sure that I will lose a few readers over the next few weeks.  I am sure I will offend people over the next few weeks.

I’m sorry.

But I know this needs to be said.

Here is the schedule:

Part 2 – Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox.  Roman Catholic versus Protestant views.

Part 3 – Mormom, Jehovah’s Witness, 7th Day Adventist, Christian Science, Unitarian

Part 4 – Anglican/Episcopalian, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Holiness/Holy

Part 5 – Assemblies of God, Disciples of Christ, Quaker

Part 6 – Foursquare Gospel, Salvation Army, Christian Reform, Full Gospel

Part 7 – Apostolic, Reformed, Mennonite, Brethren

Part 8 – Nazarene, Church of God, United Church of Christ, Church of Christ

Part 9 – Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist

Part 10 – Baptist, Evangelical

Part 11 – Comparison chart of beliefs for each denomination

So if you are interested in being uncomfortable, read for the next 10 weeks.  If not, I pray you come back at the end of the series.

Psalm 133:1 – How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

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