Friday, October 29, 2010

Popish Roots of Pentecostal and Charismatic Theology

Yesterday, we annihilated Rome’s rejection of Sola Scriptura by her appeal to “Tradition”. Today I would like to show how her appeal to Tradition is almost exactly mirrored in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Though I realize how offensive this proposition might seem to many, as one who has labored in Gospel ministry for many years, I feel it incumbent upon me to speak the truth in this matter. Upon Augustine’s conversion to Christianity, he expended a great deal of energy refuting the Manichaeism he was once an adherent of. Likewise, as one who was formerly beguiled by the Pentecostalist arguments, I feel compelled to refute them. I do this, not to soothe my own conscience or to reassure myself as to the rightness of my rejection of said doctrines, but in the hopes that others, who were duped like I was, will see the truth and return to the position of the Reformation.

Yesterday I presented and refuted Rome’s appeals to history and Tradition. Today I will attempt to demonstrate how this appeal is mirrored in the way Pentecostals and Charismatics argue for their continuing revelation by means of Tongues and prophecies.

We noted previously that it is a mistake to think that the difference between Protestants and Rome is that we believe in the Scripture alone, while Rome believes in Scripture plus Tradition. Rome places both Scripture and Tradition under the feet of the papacy. Both are subject to the supposed infallibility of her Pope. There is no basis for this in Scripture. There is not the least suggestion in the Bible that peculiar authority of Christ’s Apostles would ever be handed on to anyone else.

In case any should suspect that I have gone too far afield in debunking the papal appeal to Tradition in an attempt to link it to the Charismatic movement, I assure I did not go off on a tangent. The Romish appeal to Tradition produces in her at least four errors which appear virtually unchanged in Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching.

1. Scripture does not even hint at a continuing Apostolate. Rome considers the Pope to be the successor of Peter, thus making, at least Peter’s apostolate, continual. Charismatics are now, like Rome, asserting a continuing ministry of Apostles. In Acts, however, when Judas Iscariot was to be replaced as an Apostle, the condition of Apostleship was physical presence with Christ from the time of His baptism until His ascension. Even at that early date, only two men fit the bill. Matthias was chosen. So unless Joseph “Barsabas” Justus is still alive, there is no living human being, now or ever, who can be added to the number of the Apostles.

2. Rome believes that the oral message originally spoken by Christ and His Apostles was far more extensive than the written message that is contained in the Bible. In actual substance, this is indistinguishable from John Wimber’s infamous refrain that God is a lot bigger than His Word. This is the whole basis undergirding for all messages of so-called prophecy or Tongues. God is allowed to expand on what He has already revealed, thus the body of revelation, to borrow Vatican II’s words, is developing. The appeal to a dream, vision, or mystical experience as a conveying instrument of God’s truth is in no significant way different than the Romish appeal to unwritten tradition.

3. Continuation of the revelatory sign gifts has always been a distinctive Papist belief. B.B. Warfield wrote, “Pretensions by any class of men to the possession and use of miraculous powers as a permanent endowment are, within the limits of the Christian Church, a specialty of Roman Catholicism. Denial of these pretensions is part of the protest by virtue of which we are called Protestants.”

Medieval Catholic mystics had visions which have been given the stamp of papal authority. Many of these visions lead to teachings that are virtually indistinguishable from Hindu pantheism. We now have Pentecostals and Charismatic having visions in which they claim to speak personally with the risen Christ. Kenneth Copeland claims to have had a vision in which Christ told him personally, “I never claimed to be God.” Benny Hinn has claimed to see Jesus’ actual footprints in the carpet of his bedroom, when Scripture definitively asserts that Christ will remain in heaven until the consummation.

4. Benny Hinn’s fascination with the grave of Kathryn Kuhlman rivals any piece of relic worship from the Middle Ages. Many Charismatic ministries send their supporters water from Galilee and other relics from the Holy Land.

I have in a previous post referred to Pentecostalism as ‘closet popery.’ I fear that the only reason that the term ‘closet’ is applicable is because most modern Christian are ignorant of the Gospel truths for which our Protestant forbearers lived and died. If the vile blasphemy of the Mass were known to the generality of Christians today, Benny Hinn would have been laughed off TV when he stated that when we take communion we are ingesting the actual body and blood of Christ.

Before I wrap this post up, I should also note that, at bottom, Rome’s theology of salvation is Pelagian. Much of what passes for Evangelical soteriology is equally Pelagian. This can be seen most clearly in all forms of Arminianism. Augustus Toplady, author of the hymn Rock of Ages, called Arminianism the “road to Rome.” The obsession with “free-will” that plagues Arminianism can be seen in Erasmus, whom Luther confuted in his Bondage of the Will. Water does not rise higher than its source. If you start out with Romish presuppositions, don’t be surprised when you come to Romish conclusions too.

Let us hold fast to Scripture and not be turned aside from the simplicity of the Gospel. Let us always “Remember the Alamo” of the Reformation. Never let our stance against apostate Rome, and all apostate churches ever soften or grow slack.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rome's Appeal to Tradition Refuted

Rome builds her claims upon the notion that God could never have left the Church without a visible head and infallible guide on earth. Therefore we must have a Pope in Rome. Herbert Carson pointedly asks that if we take it as a proposition that to protect the purity of doctrine God could never leave His Church without a visible head and infallible guide on earth, by the same logic, would you not also have to conclude that God would never leave the Church with a visible and infallible head who would lead the Church in morality? Are we to believe that Rome’s Popes have guarded the truth of Christian doctrine undefiled when many of them were vile and reprehensible heretics, atheists, fornicators, liars, profligates, thieves, sellers of holy office and murderers? Are we to believe that God cares more that His Church’s doctrine remains protected than He is that her life reflects the teachings of such doctrines? Does God place orthodoxy of belief so far above orthodoxy of behavior that He gives us Popes to protect the purity of doctrine, even as these Pope live despicable and degenerate lives? These descriptions of the Popes are not mine; they are given by Roman Catholic historians. When Lord Acton said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, he had the power of the papacy in view. There were centuries in which the Popes of Rome were the most vile products of the moral sewers of Europe. Yet Rome asserts that Christ would never dream of leaving His Church without a head. My response is to ask whether anyone in his right mind could believe that Christ would inflict His body on earth with such a head!

Like the Romish attempt to make the Bible testify against itself, the Pentecostal/Charismatic ship has already been sunk, I think, based on what we deduced yesterday from Scripture about its own sufficiency. There is no contradiction in saying that at one time, recourse to revelatory sign gifts in the Church was good, and indeed necessary. But notice that this was all occurring at a time when the canon of the New Testament was as yet not closed. Once God closed the canon with a curse upon anyone who adds to it, no possibility is left for any further revelations from God. If it is not in Scripture, it is not important or necessary for salvation. It is one thing to say that Tongues and prophecy occur in the pages of Scripture, but quite another to say that these things are meant to continue after the close of the canon. When Agabus prophesied, he did not speak some unrecorded message about which we can only conjecture. His actual words are recorded in Scripture as part of the body of revelation which God seemed fit to bequeath to His people.

First then, let me give Rome’s position again in her own words by quoting from Vatican II. “In order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, handing over their own teaching role to them. This Sacred Tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments, are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from Whom She has received everything until She is brought finally to see Him as He is face to face. Therefore, the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast the tradition which they had learned either by word of mouth or by letters (2 Thess. 2:15). This Tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit to the successors of the Apostles. Sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s Word. And consequently, it is not from the Scripture alone draws Her certainty about everything which has been revealed.”

It is no secret that Rome make a great appeal to history. If you ever debate a Romanist, you will find that this is the first road they take. But, just as we showed yesterday that their appeal to the Bible is bogus, likewise we will show how their appeal to history is fraudulent also.

After the first sentence of paragraph of the Vatican II statement, they provide via a footnote a citation from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies to prove the antiquity of the notion that Apostolic Tradition and the teaching role of the Apostles was handed down to the bishops as their successors.

Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. So in Irenaeus we have an almost direct link to the Apostles themselves. And if someone is not careful enough to read his actual words, merely accepting Rome’s appeal to him, he will undoubtedly be swayed by what appears to be the voice of antiquity. Irenaeus was sent to Lyons, where he labored and died as a martyr. In his early ministry there, he was alarmed by the spread of heresy. So he felt compelled to go to Rome to raise a cry against the incursion of heretics. When he got there however, he found that bishop of Rome was patronizing the Montanist heresy. So he returned to Lyon and undertook his lifework, Against Heresies. In this work, Irenaeus, rather than supporting the notion that Rome protects the Church’s doctrine inviolate, rebukes the Roman bishops for adhering to heresy.

When one looks up what Irenaeus actually says, one sees immediately how fraudulent Rome’s appeal to him is. In the section of his work cited, Irenaeus is dealing with Gnostics. He writes, “When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and assert that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For they allege that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce.” (Against Heresies 3.2.1) The view Irenaeus is refuting here is the exact same position Rome accuses him of affirming. It boggles the mind that Vatican II had the gall to cite this passage in their favor.

Irenaeus was in effect saying, “When I rout you from Scripture, you appeal to tradition. I am a disciple of Polycarp, who was taught the Gospel by John. Don’t tell me about tradition. I am in a much better position to argue tradition than you are.” But he was not setting up that tradition, as Rome does, as a counterpart to or parallel authority of Scripture. And at 3.3.2, where we are told by Romish editors of Irenaeus of the passage that is difficult to interpret, we find Irenaeus simply saying that Rome was the center of the Catholic world because it was the center of the Roman empire. And as such it was a place to which people traveled from all over the world. These people, many of whom he names, are people who have either a direct link to the Apostles or a one person gap between them and the Apostles, when coming to Rome carry the true teaching. Hence Irenaeus could point to Rome, not as the sun giving light to all the churches, but as a mirror, reflecting a picture of the entire Catholic world’s teaching. These, people, close as they were to the Apostle, could not be fooled by invented traditions. Irenaeus’ entire point is that when the Gnostics are defeated by Scriptural argument, they resort to an unwritten tradition. But Irenaeus shows that on that front, he has the advantage over them as well. So when we compare this to what he wrote in his preface to Book 3, we see that the tradition Irenaeus appeals to he uses in support of what he has already established from Scripture.

Rome argues that the Scriptures are ambiguous. She argues that since the Gospel was originally spoken, we must get past what was written to what was spoken. This was not the position of early Christians: it was the position of early Gnostics! Shame on Rome for insulting anyone's intelligence with such illogic!

Rome claims that the task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living Teaching Office of the Church of Rome. Rome claims to be the one true Mother Church and to be 2,000 years old. But in that entire 2,000 years Roman bishops have NEVER turned out an authoritative interpretation of Scripture. Rome’s Popes have never given an authoritative interpretation of Scripture, while all the while protesting that no one else has the authority to do so.

Moreover, there has often been more than one Pope. From 1309 to 1429 there were two Popes, one in Avignon and one in Rome. Which one was the infallible head then? In fact during this span, there was a time when there were three Popes. One of the dual Popes was John XXIII. When the previous Pope John was elected, they called him John XXIII, when he was actually XXIV, to expunge from history the first John XXIII, who was a legitimate Pope. These two authoritative visible and infallible heads of the Church anathematized each other, accused each other of being Anti-Christ, each damning the other and his followers to hell. Yet both professed to be the vicar of Christ. Both Popes were appointed because of political considerations. The scandalous nature of the politics of medieval Europe is well known.

Worse yet, there were times when there was a necessity for the Pope to give a definitive statement of truth, but we find the Popes dragging their feet for decades, even centuries, waiting to see how the theological battle would turn out before any statement was ever made. For example, it took the pope over 500 years to define the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a dogma that was necessary unto salvation. The debate began to rage in the 14th Century, but the Pope waited around until 1854. If the Pope was right, then Bernard, Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas must all be in hell because they did not believe in this dogma which the Pope in 1854 claimed was an Apostolic Tradition necessary for salvation.

It took the Pope until 1870 to define his own infallibility. This dogma was not, as Romish apologist claim, something that the church had always believed and which was merely articulated at Vatican I. Prior to 1870, it was often asserted by Rome that the doctrine of papal infallibility was a Protestant invention and not a true Roman doctrine. The Apostles never defined as truth something that has been proven to be wrong, but the Pope has many times infallibly defined something to be true, only to find out later that he was wrong. In 1802, the infallible Pope canonized St. Filomena. Her bones were worshipped because she was declared to have been a martyr under Diocletian. Not long later, however, even the Pope had to admit that St. Filomena never even existed. For centuries, the infallible Popes used the Donation of Constantine and the Isodorian Decretals for his benefit, both of which have been discovered to be forgeries.

Among the supposedly infallible popes was Liberius, an Arian, who excommunicated Athanasius from the Church. Rome has the unmitigated gall to now call him St. Athanasius, totally sweeping under the rug the fact that her own Pope excommunicated a universally recognized champion of orthodoxy. Zosimus, claiming Apostolic authority, declared Pelagius and Coelestius to be absolutely orthodox in direct confrontation with Augustine, the greatest name in all of theological literature. Vigilius wavered between Eutychianism (monophysitism) and Nestorianism. When he finally made an official pronouncement, he defined Nestorianism as Biblical orthodoxy. He withdrew this statement when the Council of Constantinople in 553 condemned Nestorius as a heretic. Constantinople III declared Honorius to be a heretic in 680/1. Sixtus V gave his stamp of approval to an edition of the Vulgate, only to have it withdrawn immediately and revised for more than 3,000 crass errors that needed to be corrected. This was after officially declaring, “By the fullness of Apostolic power, we decree and declare this edition approved by the authority delivered us by the Lord, is to be received as true, lawful, authentic and unquestioned in all public and private discussion, reading, preaching and explanation.” Pope Urban VIII excommunicated Galileo for believing that Scripture is true, but that the Pope’s interpretation of Psalm 93:1 was mistaken. It was not until 1831 that Rome removed its anathema from Galileo by removing Galileo and Copernicus from the Index of Forbidden Books.

All of the above suggests two things: 1. Rome’s use of Church history is often misleading, and 2. Her theory of tradition has in fact, never worked. This leads to a further observation, namely, that Rome’s Tradition is obvious imposture. The only way to validate or authenticate that the Apostles ever said or did something is by appealing to the Bible. When one analyzes Romish tradition it becomes obvious that the whole body of it serves the Pope, his pocket and his titanic ego. How are we to believe that the selling of Indulgences was conceived to help poor souls in Purgatory, when Rome made out on them like a bandit? Rome and her popes are always the beneficiaries of the “Sacred Tradition,” and the benefit is almost always monetary. Is this not cause for suspicion?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rome's Rejection of Sola Scriptura

First we should define what we mean by Sola Scriptura. In essence we mean that in the Bible God has graciously given His Church a sure and certain guide, a final Arbiter, a perfect vehicle of revelation that is without fault and without error. In all matters that bind the consciences of believers, in all matters that settle theological disputes, in all matters that guide us in what we are to believe and do, God has given us His revelation in the written Word of God. Scripture and Scripture only is the sure and sufficient guide and rule for all matters of doctrine and practice. As the Reformers used to say, “Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum.” What is not Biblical is not theological.

The Reformers recognized that God’s word was not always written. There was a time when it was oral. But the principle of Sola Scriptura affirms that those days are over. God has consummated the revelation by which He wishes His Church to live and definitively committed it to writing. Sola Scriptura does not deny that in matters of custom, the practice of God’s people for centuries may have weight with us, but rather it affirms that those traditions must be judged by Scripture and Scripture is never judged by those traditions. The most important feature of Sola Scriptura is that we believe that everything that is necessary for salvation will be found in the Bible. If it is not Biblical, it is not part of Christian belief. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” I ask: what else is there outside of doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness and preparation for holy living? Is this not the entirety of Christian doctrine and practice? The word rendered “perfect” is the Greek word ἄρτιος, which means complete. If no other relevant passage of Scripture existed, this would be sufficient to put the final nail in the coffin of the Romish imposture concerning Scripture and tradition.

Ever since Rome began crafting her elaborate system of apostasy, she has feared the Bible; that is why she attacked Sola Scriptura at the very outset of the Reformation. In fact, even as far back as 1229 at the Council of Valencia, Rome placed the Bible on the Index of Forbidden Books in response to minuscule attempts to get the Vulgate in the languages of the people. This was before the printing press! Why does Rome fear the Bible? Because there is not one single distinctive Roman Catholic dogma that is founded on Scripture! Every single one, from Mariolatry, to the vile blasphemy of the Mass, to the veneration of images, to the doctrine of Purgatory, to works of supererogation, to auricular confession to a priest - all of them stem from a nonexistent unwritten "Sacred Tradition."

This “Tradition” is a supposed body of oral truth passed on by the Apostles to their successors, the Bishops of the Roman church, but especially to the Bishop of Rome, which has been kept pure by them throughout the ages. In the words of Vatican II: “In order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, handing over their own teaching role to them.” Let me interject here that this in direct contradiction to the Bible! Hebrews 4:12 says that Scripture is “quick and powerful.” It does not need an oral tradition entrusted to bishops to be effectual and alive. Are we to believe that the Bishops of Rome have kept the Gospel wholly pure when we know for a fact that many of them were heretics, atheists, profligates and murderers?

Vatican II continues, “This Sacred Tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments, are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from Whom She has received everything until She is brought finally to see Him as He is face to face. Therefore, the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast the tradition which they had learned either by word of mouth or by letters (2 Thess. 2:15). This Tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit to the successors of the Apostles. Sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s Word. And consequently, it is not from the Scripture alone draws Her certainty about everything which has been revealed.”

Hence we see the utter hypocrisy and imposture of Rome when she claims to believe the Bible and that it is the word of God, for clearly she places her own “Tradition” above Scripture as its judge and interpreter. Therefore, Tradition outweighs Scripture as the source of Romish dogma. Indeed Rome’s Tradition is outranked by the Pope, since he alone decides what this Tradition contains. Every new papal bull (an accurate term if ever there was one!) asserts that what the Pope is now teaching is in accordance with this Tradition. No one could ever verify this since he claims to be the sole possessor of it. Talk about a ‘fixed fight.” When Protestants claim that the difference between us and the Roman Catholics is that we believe in Scripture alone and Catholics believe in Scripture plus tradition, they are missing the point. The fact is that Rome places herself above both Scripture and her "Tradition."

The favorite argument of Romish apologists against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is their assertion that the Bible doesn't teach it. This is the most brazen piece of two-faced nonsensical hogwash imaginable. I think I am being kind in stating it that nicely. The unspoken assumption is that if you can prove Sola Scriptura from the Bible then Rome will accept it. But once they say that they have ceded the argument. It is nothing but a diabolical, hypocritical, convoluted piece of sophistry. If Papists would be willing to accept the truth of Sola Scriptura upon the explicit teaching of the Bible, then why won't they submit their other whoredoms to the bar of Scripture? If Rome could produce Scripture for her abominations, do you think she would ever make the crass appeal to some mysterious, unwritten tradition? If the Romish apologists are willing to believe that Scriptural proof is sufficient when it comes to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, why are they not willing to hold the same position in regard to the doctrines of the Mass, Purgatory, Indulgences or Merit?

Here are Rome’s biblical “proofs” that the Bible does not claim to be sufficient. And let me just interject here that again this is horrendously blatant hypocrisy. Rome pretends to make an appeal to Scripture, and to believe that this is sufficient! Indeed she is actually trying to make Scripture testify against itself. Here are her “proofs”:

• John 21:25 – “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

Based on this Rome asks: How could the Bible be sufficient if there is so many things not written down? No Protestant in his right mind would deny that Jesus did things that are not in the Bible, nor that the Apostles knew things that are not in the Bible. What we are affirming however, is that all that the Lord has made necessary for salvation is recorded in Scripture. This passage does not give the slightest ghost of a loophole for Rome’s position. If the Magisterium of Rome is all they say it is, and if Tradition is all they say it is, why would there be a need for any authoritative written revelation from God? No Romish apologist has ever tackled that question.

Never mind the fact that oral tradition always gets corrupted. The farther one gets from the source, the worse it gets. But when an oral tradition is all one has, this tradition can get corrupted even at the very source itself. When Israel was in the wilderness, they apostatized to golden calf worship within 40 days during Moses’ absence. If Israel, with only an oral revelation, and on the heels of a miraculous deliverance from Egypt, could degenerate so quickly - would we not have to be deranged to believe that Rome has kept Tradition pure for nearly 2000 years? This is sheer idiocy! That is why God selected what was necessary for salvation and committed it to writing.

• 1 Corinthians 11:2, 34 “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you… And the rest will I set in order when I come.”

From this passage, Rome asserts that there are ordinances which are not written in Scripture. But I would ask: By what stretch of the imagination can they infer that from these verse? Who is to say that the ordinances to which Paul is referring are not the very ones he is addressing in this epistle?

• 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

Protestants would believe any Apostolic teaching. If Paul came into a church and said, “This is a truth from God,” we would believe it. But the question is: How do we know an Apostolic teaching? It is easy to identify it as such if it is written. But if someone comes along 1800 years after Paul has died and says, “This is an Apostolic tradition,” how am I to know that this is in fact true? The only way to know and verify it is to judge it by Scripture. Period!

• 2 Timothy 1:13, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”

This, Rome says, is supposed to undermine Sola Scriptura. I defy anyone to defend a position, even in a small claims court, on such flimsy evidence, and see how far he gets!

• John 20:31, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:”

Here again, Rome appeals to unwritten tradition. Certainly, at the beginning of the Apostolic era Gospel truth was largely in an oral format. The Apostles preached before they wrote. But the evidence indicates that the Apostles set about writing their Gospels and Epistles at a very early stage. But more to the point is John’s statement in the very next verse. John says, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Here we have a definitive Apostolic clarification that, whatever Jesus may have done or said that is not recorded in Scripture, what is recorded is sufficient for faith and practice. Let Rome put that in her pipe and smoke it!

As I said earlier, if Rome’s apologists could establish the doctrines of Purgatory, merit, supererogation, a sacrificing priesthood and the rights and privileges of the papacy, they would not be expending so much energy on tradition. They know that if the appeal was made to Scripture alone, the whole ship of their carefully crafted system of religion would be sunk.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hegelian Relativist Christians

I don’t know how many other people do this, but I have a habit of reading the comments people make on blogs or in response to ‘controversial’ posts on Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me how ridiculous many people are. I generally find that a majority of those who write vitriolic responses have generally missed the whole point of the article or post. Another thing that frequently happens is a debate ensues between two or more responders, who end up arguing over something completely beside the original writer’s point. People just don’t seem to be able or willing to concentrate anymore.

But what amazes me most often is how Hegelian or relativistic so many Christians are. These are the same people who complain about secular society’s loss of moral compass and the denial of absolutes. But let someone make a strong two-fisted theological statement, and these same people turn into chicken-livered relativists. “Well, that’s your opinion…” You get the picture.

It’s fascinating to hear Christians rail against our degenerate society with its lack moral absolutes. They lament how the church has bought into this same moral subjectivity. Yet tell them that the Pope is the anti-Christ and see what they say. Claim that to be a true Calvinist one should advocate paedobaptism and watch the relativistic bullets fly. Call Arminianism a heresy and see what happens. Declare the imposture of Popery and watch the bullets fly. The same people who want absolutes, suddenly they think you are merely stating your opinions and that theirs are equally valid.

Calvinism and Arminianism cannot both be true. True Reformation Christianity cannot be compatible with Popery, despite what the compromising "evangelicals" of ECT say. Scripture affirms one view or the other. This should be clear to anyone willing to listen. Revelatory sign gifts are either still in operation or they are not. Baptism of infants is either valid or it isn’t. It’s funny though that when you affirm Calvinism, Cessationism and Paedobaptism and repudiate their opposites, you will hear the Hegelianism shine through.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rome, True to Form

The sex scandals of Roman Catholic priests are nothing new. Volumes could be written detailing the immorality, abhorrently vile lives of not just the priests, but of their own pope.

Pope Sergius III who reigned between 904 and 911 obtained the office of his pontificate by murder. The records of the Catholic Church tell about his life of open sin with Marozia who bore him several children. The Cardinal Baronius described pope Sergius III as a “monster” while Gregorovius called him a “terrorising criminal.” The grandson of Marozia, when merely eighteen years old succeeded in taking possession of the pontifical throne under the name of John XII.

In his book The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional, Chiniquy, the former Catholic priest, on p. 138 writes:

“In the year 936, the grandson of the prostitute Marozia, after several bloody encounters with his opponents, succeeded in taking possession of the pontifical throne under the name of John XII. But his vices and scandals became so intolerable, that the learned and celebrated Roman Catholic Bishop of Cremorne, Luitprand, says of him:- “No honest lady dared to show herself in public, for the Pope John had no respect either for single girls, married women, or widows - they were sure to be defiled by him, even on the tombs of the holy apostles, Peter and Paul.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia itself admits the following facts concerning the monster pope John XII:

“a coarse, immoral man, whose life was such that Lateran was spoken as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the subject of general odium…On 6 November a synod composed of fifty Italian and German bishops was convened in St. Peter’s: John was accused of sacrilege, simony, perjury, adultery, and incest, and was summoned in writing to defend himself. Refusing to recognize the synod, John pronounced sentence of ex-communication against all participators in the assembly, should they elect in his stead another Pope…John XII took bloody vengeance on the leaders of the opposite party, Cardinal-Deacon John had his right hand struck off, Bishop Otgar of Speyer was scourged, a high Palatine official lost nose and ears…John died on 14th May, 964, eight days after he had been, according to rumor, stricken by paralysis in the act of adultery.”

The Catholic collection of the lives of popes, the Liber Pontificalis states concerning John XII the following: "He spent his entire life in adultery” [Pontificalis, Vol. 2, p. 246].

The pope Benedict IX who reigned from 1033 to 1045 was made pope when merely twelve years old. Halley, in his Halley’s Bible Handbook on p. 775 says concerning this pope the following:
“He committed murders and adulteries in broad daylight, robbed pilgrims on the graves of the martyrs, a hideous criminal, the people drove him out of Rome.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “He was a disgrace to the chair of Peter.”

The pope Boniface VIII, is described in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, on pp. 668-669, art. Boniface VIII, in the following manner:

“Scarcely any possible crime was omitted - infidelity, heresy, simony, gross and unnatural immorality, idolatry, magic…historians, generally, and even modern Catholic writers class him among the wicked Popes, as an ambitious, haughty, and unrelenting man, deceitful and also treacherous, his whole pontificate one record of evil.”

During the reign of Boniface VIII, the poet Dante visited Rome and described the Vatican as a sewer of corruption. The Catholic historians admit that Boniface VIII spoke offensive phraseology on the public documents. The pope Boniface VIII also publicly declared the following:
“to enjoy oneself and to lie carnally with women or with boys is no more a sin than rubbing one’s hands together” [History of the Church Councils, Book 40, art. 697].

Now this monster of a man was in fact the very pope who in 1302 issued a well known UNAM SANCTUM which officially declared that the Roman Catholic Church is the ONLY TRUE CHURCH - outside of which there is no salvation. His declaration is embraced by the faithful flock of Romanism to this very day. The pope John XXIII was another monster who set on the alleged chair of St. Peter. Chiniquy in his book The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional on p. 139 gives us the following information regarding this monstrous Holy Father:

“John XXIII, having appeared before the Council to give an account of his conduct, he was proved by thirty-seven witnesses, the greater part of whom were bishops and priests, of having been guilty of fornication, adultery, incest, sodomy, simony, theft, and murder. It was proved also by a legion of witnesses, that he had seduced and violated 300 nuns. His own secretary, Niem, said that he had at Boulogne, kept a harem, where not less than 200 girls had been the victims of his lubricity.”

A Vatican record offers this information in relation to his wicked, immoral and monstrous reign:

"His lordship, Pope John committed perversity with the wife of his brother, intercourse with virgins, adultery with the married, and all sorts of sex crimes…wholly adverse to the life and teaching of Christ…he was publicly called the Devil incarnate” [Sacorum Conciliorum, Vol. 27, p. 663].

The pope Alexander VI is regarded as most wicked and corrupt of the Renaissance popes. He lived in public incest with his two sisters and his own daughter Lucretia, from whom he had a child. In October 1501 he conducted a sex orgy in the Vatican, the equal of which for sheer horror was probably never duplicated in the annals of human history. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, while still a Catholic priest, visited Rome. As he caught the glimpse of the seven-hilled city, he fell to the ground and said:
“Holy Rome, I salute thee.”

He did not have to spend much time in Rome - that is, in Vatican where the pope was situated - to find out that Rome was anything but a Holy City. He soon discovered that iniquity and immorality existed among all classes of the clergy. He discovered that many priests told indecent jokes even while serving at the Mass. The papal court was served at supper by Twleve naked girls. He was shocked and dumbfounded. He used to chastise himself and even whip himself when he committed minor sins. But here at the heart of Vatican, in the presence of pope himself - nudism was rampant. [For verification of this story please see Durant, The Story of Civilization, Reformation, p. 344]. Pope Gregory XVI who reigned from 1831 to 1846 had several mistresses, one of whom was the wife of his barber. He was one of the greatest drunkards in Italy. Pope PIUS IX who reigned from 1846 to 1878 also had several mistresses. Two daughters were born to him from two of his mistresses. It is hardly surprising that the popes, cardinals, bishops, priests etc. were and still are guilty of such gross illicit sexual acts. They are nothing more than the priests of Bacchus. Chiniquy writes:

“However, nobody can be surprised that the priests, the bishops, and the popes of Rome are sunk into such a bottomless abyss of infamy, when we remember that they are nothing else than the successors of the priests of Bacchus and Jupiter. For not only have they inherited their powers, but they have even kept their very robes and mantles on their shoulders, and their caps on their heads. Like the priests of Bacchus, the priests of the Pope are bound never to marry, by the impious and godless law of celibacy. For every one knows that the priests of Bacchus were, as the priests of Rome, celibates. But, like the priests of the Pope, the priests of Bacchus, to console themselves for the restraints of celibacy, had invented auricular confession. Through the secret confidences of the confessional, the priests of the old idols, as well as those of the newly-invented wafer gods, knew who were strong and weak among their penitents, and under the veil of the sacred mysteries, during the night celebration of their diabolical mysteries, they knew to whom they should address themselves, and make their vows of celibacy an easy yoke.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Salvation of All Men - by John Calvin, pt. 5

It is said in Amos 4:7, "God caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city." So the Lord sendeth His gospel wheresoever it pleaseth Him: His grace is poured out upon all the world; yet it cannot be but He worketh otherwise with those whom He draweth to Himself, for all of us have our ears stopped, and our eyes hoodwinked. We are deaf and blind, unless He prepareth us to receive His Word. When the gospel is preached to us, it is as much as if God reached out His hand (as He saith in Isa. 65:2) and said to us, come unto Me. It is a matter which ought to touch us to the heart when we perceive that God cometh to seek us. He doth not wait till we come to Him, but He showeth us that He is ready to receive us, although we were His deadly enemies. He wipeth away all our faults, and maketh us partakers of that salvation, which was purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus we see how worthy the gospel is to be esteemed, and what a treasure it is! As St. Paul saith to the Romans. "It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth:" it is the kingdom of heaven; and God openeth the door, that we, being taken out of the bottomless pit wherein we were sunk by nature, may enter into His glory. We must remember that it is not enough for us to receive the Word that is preached to us by the mouth of man, but after we have heard it, God must speak to us inwardly by His Holy Spirit; for this is the only means to bring us to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore, when God hath dealt so mercifully with us, as to give us the light of faith, let us hold it fast, and pray Him to continue it, and bring His work to perfection.

Let us not lift ourselves proudly above other men, as though we were more worthy than they are, for we know that it is our God that hath chosen us, and setteth us apart from others, by His mere goodness and free mercy. We must know, moreover, that men are very faulty, when God offereth them His Word, and they receive it not. This is spoken that unbelievers and rebels might have their mouths stopped, that they might not blaspheme the name of God, as though He had been wanting on His part; and to the end that all the faithful should, in humbleness of heart, glorify God for His grace and mercy toward them: for we see how He calleth all those to whom His Word is preached, to salvation.

If men reply by saying they cannot come to God, we cannot stand to plead here, for we shall always find ourselves in fault. If a man say, it resteth only in the hands of God, and if He would give me repentance, could He not do it! If I remain stiff-necked in my hardness and malice, what can I do in this case, seeing God will not give me repentance to turn to Him? This is not in any wise to be allowed; for God calleth us sufficiently to Him, and we cannot accuse Him of cruelty; even if we had not His Word, we must needs confess that He is just, although we know not the cause that moved Him to deprive us of it.

When we are called to come to God, and know that He is ready to receive us, if we do not come, can we deny that we are unthankful? Let us not separate salvation from the knowledge of the truth; for God doth not mean to lie, nor deceive men, when He saith, when they come to the knowledge of the truth they shall be saved. God will have all men to be saved; but how? If they will come to the knowledge of the truth. Every man would be saved, but no man will draw nigh to God. The Scripture informeth us that if we desire salvation, we must attend to the means which God hath appointed; that is, we must receive His Word with obedience and faith.

The Scripture saith this is everlasting life: to wit, to know God the Father, and to receive Christ as our only Savior. Therefore let us learn, as it is here set forth, not to doubt of the certainty of our salvation; for the kingdom of God is within us. If we wish God to receive us, we must receive the doctrine given us by St. Paul. How are we called to the hope of salvation? By the influence of the grace of God, which maketh known to us His love and favor. Thus we may see what St. Paul’s meaning is when he saith, God will have His grace made known to all the world, and His gospel preached to all creatures. Therefore, we must endeavor, as much as possible, to persuade those who are strangers to the faith, and seem to be utterly deprived of the goodness of God, to accept of salvation.

Jesus Christ is not only a Savior of few, but He offereth Himself to all. As often as the gospel is preached to us, we ought to consider that God calleth us to Him: and if we attend to this call, it shall not be in vain, neither shall it be lost labor. But can we come to Him without any assistance, except what we derive from our own nature? Alas, we cannot! "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). When God dealeth so graciously with us as to touch our hearts with His Holy Spirit, then He causeth His gospel to work profitably to our salvation; then He maketh a display of the virtue spoken of by St. Paul.

Again, we must remember when the gospel is preached to us, that it is to make us more void of excuse. Seeing God hath already shown us that He was ready to receive us to mercy, if we would come unto Him, our condemnation will no doubt be increased, if we be so wicked as to draw back, when He calleth so mildly and lovingly. Notwithstanding, (as we are here exhorted), let us not leave off praying for all men in general; for St. Paul showeth that God will have all men to be saved; that is to say, men of all people and nations.

Although we see a great diversity among men, yet we must not forget that God hath made us all in His own image and likeness, and that we are the workmanship of His hand; therefore He extends His goodness to those who are afar off, of which we have had sufficient proof: for when He drew us unto Him, were we not His enemies? How then cometh it to pass that we are now of the household of faith, the children of God, and members of our Lord Jesus Christ? Is it not because He hath gathered us to Himself? And is He not the Savior of the whole world, as well as of us? Did Jesus Christ come to be the mediator of two or three men only? No, no; but He is the mediator between God and men.

Therefore, we may be so much the more assured that God taketh and holdeth us for His children, if we endeavor to bring those to Him who are afar off. Let us comfort ourselves, and take courage in this our calling: although there be at this day a great forlornness, though we seem to be miserable creatures, utterly cast away and condemned, yet we must labor as much as possible to draw those to salvation who seem to be afar off. And above all things, let us pray to God for them, waiting patiently till it please Him to show His good will toward them, as He hath shown it to us.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Salvation of All Men - by John Calvin, pt. 4

Seeing that God alone turneth men from their wickedness, experience teacheth us, and so doth the Holy Scripture that He giveth not His grace to all men. It is said, "The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" (Deut. 29:4). It is plainly shown that God doth not cast forth His grace without direction, but that it is only for those whom He hath chosen, for those that are of the body of His church, and of His flock. Thus we see what St. Paul meaneth when he saith, God will have all men to be saved: that is, He will have some of all nations, and all conditions.

It is said that He offereth His gospel to all, which is the means of drawing us to salvation. And doth this profit all men? No; of this our own eves are witnesses. For when we hear the truth of God, if we rebel against it, it proves a great condemnation to us. Yet so it is, that there are many who do not profit by the gospel, but rather become worse, even those to whom it is preached; therefore, they are not all saved. God must go farther in order to bring us to salvation; He must not only appoint men, and send them to teach us faithfully, but He must operate upon our hearts. He must touch us to the quick, He must draw us to Him, He must make His work profitable to us, and cause it to take root in our hearts.

It is evident that we have to consider the will of God in two ways: not that it is double of itself (as we before observed), but we must consider it as adapted to our weakness. He formeth His speech to us in His Word, according to our capacity. If God should speak according to His majesty, His speech would be beyond our comprehension; it would utterly confound us! For if our eyes be not able to abide the brightness of the sun, would our minds be able to comprehend the infinite majesty of God? These silly men who would destroy God’s election ought not to abuse this passage; nor say that we make God to have two wills; for therein do they impudently misrepresent us. We say, as far as we can perceive, God would have all men to be saved, whensoever, and how oft soever, He appointeth His gospel to be preached to us.

As we said before, the gate of paradise is opened to us, when we are called to be partakers of that redemption which was purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is the will of God, as far as we can comprehend it: that when He exhorteth us to repentance, He is ready to receive us, if we will come to Him. Although we have answered the doubts which might have been raised- upon this subject, we will bring a similitude to make this doctrine more easy. (I call a similitude that agreement and similarity which God maketh between the children of Israel and us.) God saith that He chose the children of Abraham for His inheritance, and dedicated them to Himself: He loved them, and took them for His own household (Deut. 7).

This is true; for He made His covenant with all those that were circumcised. Was circumcision a vain figure, and of no importance? Nay, it was a sure and undoubted sign that God had chosen that people for His own, accounting all for His flock that came of that race. And yet, was there not a special grace for some of that people?

Surely there was, as St. Paul setteth forth, "For they are not all Israel which are of Israel: neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children" (Romans 9:6, 7), for God deprived some of this benefit that His grace and goodness might seem greater to those whom He called to Himself. Behold, therefore, the will of God which was made manifest to the children of Israel is at this day made manifest to us.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Salvation of All Men - by John Calvin, pt. 3

When it pleased God to draw us out of the darkness of unbelief, and give us the light of the gospel, He looked not at any service which we might have performed, or at any virtue we might have possessed: but He called us, having chosen us before. This is the order in which St. Paul maketh mention in Romans 8: that knowing God, we must not take the glory to ourselves. Thus, the calling of the faithful resteth upon this counsel of God; and we see how far the Lord maketh known to us that which He had decreed before we were born. He toucheth us with His Holy Spirit, and we are ingrafted, as it were, into the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the true earnest of our adoption: this is the pledge given us, to put us out of all doubt that God taketh and holdeth us for His children, when by faith we are made one with Jesus Christ, who is the only begotten Son of God, unto whom belongeth the inheritance of life.

God giveth us such a sure testimony of His will that notwithstanding our ignorance, He putteth us out of doubt of our election; He giveth us a hope, of which we should be entirely void, if Jesus Christ did not call us to be members of His body. Thus we see how profitable this doctrine of election is to us: it serveth to humble us, knowing that our salvation hangeth not upon our deserts, neither upon the virtue which God might have found in us: but upon the election that was made before we were born, before we could do either good or evil.

When we know that according to this unchangeable election, God hath called us to Himself, we are so much the more put out of doubt of our salvation. Jesus Christ saith, no man taketh from Me that which the Father hath given Me (John 10). What is it that the Father hath given Jesus Christ? They whom He hath chosen, and whom He knoweth to be His. Seeing the case standeth thus, that God hath given us to His Son, to be kept and defended by Him, and that Jesus Christ promiseth that none of us shall be lost, but that He will exercise all the might and power of the Godhead to save and defend us, is not this a comfort surpassing all the treasures of the world? Is not this the true ground upon which all the assurance and certainty of our salvation is settled?

We are as birds upon the boughs, and set forth as a prey to Satan. What assurance then could we have of tomorrow, and of all our life; yea, and after death, were it not that God, who hath called us, will end His work as He bath begun it. How hath He gathered us together in the faith of His gospel? Is it grounded upon us? Nay, entirely to the contrary; it proceedeth from His free election. Therefore; we may be so much the more freed from doubt. We must not strive to know any more of God’s counsel than what is revealed in Holy Writ.

The will of God is opened to us, as often as we hear His Word preached, whereby He calleth and exhorteth us all to repentance. After He hath once shown us that we are all damned in His sight, and that there is nothing but condemnation in us, He showeth us that we must renounce ourselves, and get out of this bottomless pit. In that which God exhorteth all men, we may judge that it is His will that all men should be saved: as He saith by the prophet Ezekiel, "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways and live ?" (18:23). "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (33:11).

How will God have sinners turn themselves? and how shall we know it? Seeing He will have repentance preached to all the world. When it is said that God will have mercy upon sinners, upon such as will come to Him, and ask forgiveness in Christ’s name, it is a general doctrine. So then, it is said that God will have all men to be saved, not having respect to what we devise or imagine, that is, as far as our knowledge can comprehend it. When the Scripture speaketh of the love and will of God, let us see if men can have repentance by their own actions, being self taught, or whether it is God that giveth it.

God saith by His prophet, I will that all men turn and live. Can a man by his own works turn himself? No: for if that were in our power, it were more than to make us. It is an undoubted doctrine throughout the whole Scripture that our Lord Jesus Christ giveth Himself the praise of turning us. He saith, "I will put a new spirit within you: and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19). To be short, there is nothing that the faithful ought so much to do as to give God the glory, confessing that it is He alone that can turn us; and that He hath adopted us in such a manner that He must needs draw us by the grace of His Spirit.

Have men such knowledge that they are able to attain this faith, this wonderful wisdom which is contained in the gospel, such as the very angels themselves reverence? Let us mark what God saith to us in His Word: that He will open our eyes, and unstop our ears; because the natural man understandeth no part of the secrets of God; for it is the Holy Ghost that revealeth them to us. It is hardly possible to read a single passage in Holy Writ, without finding some sentence, which informeth us that men are utterly blind by nature until God openeth their eyes. They can in no wise come to Him, until He draw them, and enlighten them by His Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Salvation of All Men - by John Calvin, pt. 2

The gospel is called the mighty power of God, and salvation to all them that believe: yea, it is the gate of paradise. It followeth then, if through the will of God the gospel be preached to all the world, there is a token that salvation is common to all. Thus St. Paul proveth that God’s will is that all men should be saved. He hath not appointed His apostles to proclaim His name only among the Jews, for we know that the commission was given them to preach to all creatures; to be witnesses of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Samaria, and from thence throughout all the world.

Are the apostles sent to publish the truth of God to all people, and to all conditions of men? It followeth then that God presenteth Himself to all the world, that the promise belongeth to both great and small, as well to the Gentiles now, as to the Jews before. But before we go any farther, it is necessary to beat down the folly, or rather the beastliness, of those who abuse this passage of St. Paul; who endeavor to make the election of God of no effect, and to utterly take it away. They say, if God will have all men to be saved, it follows that He hath not chosen a certain number of mankind, and cast the rest away, but that His will remaineth indifferent.

They pretend that it is left to the choice of men to save themselves or not; that God letteth us alone, and waiteth to see whether we will come to Him or not; and so receiveth them that come unto Him. But in the mean time, they destroy the ground work of our salvation; for we know that we are so accursed that the inheritance of salvation is far from us: if we say that Jesus Christ hath come to, remedy that, then must we examine the nature of mankind. We are so contrary in our nature, and such enemies to God, that we cannot but resist Him: we are so given to evil and wickedness that we cannot so much as conceive a good thought. How then can it be that we may become partakers of that salvation which is offered in the gospel, unless God draw us to it by His Holy Spirit? Let us now see whether God draw all the world to it or not. No, no, for then had our Lord Jesus Christ said in vain, "No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me’ draw him" (John 6:44). So then we must needs conclude that it is a special grace that God bestoweth upon such as pleaseth Him, to draw them, and teach them in such a manner, that they believe the gospel, and receive it with true faith.

And now, why doth God choose one, and leave another? We know that men cannot come to God by their own deserts, neither are those who have been chosen deserving any such thing as to be preferred to their companions, as though there were some worthiness in them. It followeth then that before the world was made (as St. Paul saith in the first to the Ephesians), God chose such as pleased Him: and we know not why this man was chosen in preference to that. And still we must confess that whatsoever God doth is done justly, although we cannot comprehend it. Therefore, let us receive that whereof we are so thoroughly certified in Holy Writ; and not suffer ourselves to be lead astray, under a shadow of vain reason, used by men, who are ignorant of the Word of God.

At the first sight, there appears to he some weight in their argument God will have all men to be saved: therefore say they, it is left to the free choice of every man to become enlightened in the faith, and to partake of salvation. If a man will read but three lines, he will easily perceive that St. Paul here speaketh not of every particular man as we have already shown, but that he speaketh of all people, and of all conditions of men. He showeth that the case standeth not as it did before the coming of Christ, when there was but one chosen people, but that God now showeth Himself a Savior to all the world; as it is said, thine inheritance shall be even to the ends of the earth.

Moreover, that no man may abuse himself, or be deceived by the vain and foolish talk of those who pervert Holy Writ, let us examine how the doctrine of these enemies of God, and all godliness, standeth. God will have all men to he saved; that is, as they imagine, every one. If it be the will of God at present, no doubt it was the same from the beginning of the world: for we know that His mind changeth not. So then, if at this day God will have all men to he saved, His mind was so always; and if His mind was so always, what shall we make of what St. Paul saith? that He will that all men come to the knowledge of the truth. He chose but one people to Himself, as it is said (Acts 14) and left the poor Gentiles to walk in their own ignorance.

There were likewise some countries where He would not suffer St. Paul to preach; as in Bithynia and Phrygia (Acts 16:7). And so we see that God would not have the knowledge of the gospel to come to every one at first. Thus we may easily see the error of those who abuse this text. St. Paul speaketh not in this place of the counsel of God, neither doth He mean to lead us to His everlasting election, which was before the beginning of the world: but only showeth what His will and pleasure is, as far as we ought to know it.

It is true that God changeth not; neither hath He two wills; nor doth He use any counterfeit dealing: and yet the Scripture speaketh unto us in two ways concerning His will. And how can that be? How cometh it to pass that His will is spoken of in two different ways? It is because of our grossness, and want of understanding. Why doth He make Himself to have eyes, to have ears, and to have a nose? Why doth He take upon Him men’s affections? Why is it that He saith He is angry, He is sorry? Is it not because we cannot comprehend Him in His incomprehensible majesty? Therefore, it is not absurd that Holy Writ should speak unto us of the will of God after two sorts: not because His will is double, but in order that He may apply Himself to our weakness, knowing that our understanding is gross and heavy.

When the Scripture informeth us that God hath chosen such as pleased Him before the world began, we behold a counsel into which we cannot enter. Why then doth Holy Writ inform us that this election and choice of God is everlasting? It is not without cause; for it is a very profitable doctrine, if it be received as it ought to be. For thereby we are reminded that we are not called to the knowledge of the gospel by reason of our own worthiness. We are no better than others, for we all sprung from the cursed root of Adam; we are all subject to the same condemnation; and we are all shut up under the slavery of sin and death.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Salvation of All Men - by John Calvin, pt. 1

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior: Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. —1 TIMOTHY 2:3-5.

When we despise those whom God would have honored, it is as much as if we should despise Him: so it is, if we make no account of the salvation of those whom God calleth to Himself. For it seemeth thereby that we would stay Him from showing His mercy to poor sinners, who are in the way to ruin. The reason why St. Paul useth this argument, that God will have all the world to be saved, is that we may, as much as lieth in us, also seek the salvation of those who seem to be banished from the kingdom of God; especially while they are unbelievers.

We must always observe what the condition of the world was in the days of St. Paul. It was something new and strange to have the gospel published to the world in those days: for it appeared that God had chosen the stock of Abraham, and that the rest of the world would be deprived of all hope of salvation. And indeed we see how Holy Writ setteth forth the adoption of this people: but St. Paul commandeth us to pray for all the world; and not without cause, for he addeth the reason, which is here mentioned: to wit, because God will have all men to be saved. As if he should say, my friends, it is reasonable that we should observe what the will of God is, and at what He aimeth; that every one of us may employ himself to serve Him aright.

Therefore, seeing it is the will of God that all men should be partakers of that salvation which He hath sent in the person of His only begotten Son, we must endeavor to draw poor, silly, ignorant creatures to us, that we may all come together to this inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, which hath been promised us. But we must observe that St. Paul speaketh not of every particular man, but of all sorts of men, and of all people. Therefore, when he saith that God will have all men to be saved, we must not think that he speaketh of them individually, but his meaning is this: that whereas in times past He chose a certain people to Himself, He meaneth now to show mercy to all the world: yea, even to them that seemed to be shut out from the hope of salvation.

He saith in another place, the heathens were without God, and void of all promise; because they were not as yet brought to the fellowship of the Jews. This was a special privilege that God had given to the descendants of Abraham. Therefore St. Paul’s meaning is not that God will save every man, but that the promises which were given to but one people are now extended to all the world: for as he saith in this same epistle, the wall was broken down at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God had separated the Jews from all other nations; but when Jesus Christ appeared for the salvation of the world, then was this difference, which existed between them and the Gentiles, taken away.

Therefore, God will now embrace us all: and this is the entrance into our salvation. For if that had always continued, which God ordained but for a season, then should we be all accursed; and the gospel would not have been preached to us: we should have had no sign or token of the love and goodness of God. But now we have become His children; we are no more strangers to the promises, as were our fathers: for Jesus Christ came to be a Savior to all in general; He offered the grace of God the Father, that all might receive it.

As St. Paul speaketh of all nations, so he likewise speaketh of all conditions; as if he should say, God will save kings and magistrates, as well as others: we must not restrain His fatherly goodness to ourselves alone, nor to any certain number of people. And why so? For He showeth that He will be favorable to all: thus we have St. Paul’s meaning. To confirm this matter, he addeth it is God’s will that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. We must mark well why St. Paul useth this argument; for we cannot know the will of God, unless it be made known to us; unless we have some sign or token whereby we may perceive it. It is too high a matter for us to know what God’s counsel is; but as far as He showeth it to us by effect, so far we comprehend it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Piety and Pietism

Piety is an old word which means holiness. Pietism, on the other hand is a system which stratifies Christians into different classes, some being more spiritual than others. It produces elite Christians.

There are no extraordinary Christians; we are all ordinary. Pietism can be boiled down to a practice that is intended to lead to an experience that claims to make one an elite Christian, one with a special status compared to ordinary Christians. Pietism is such a slippery, multi-faced thing, that one must always be on one’s guard against it. 

Even during the days of the Apostles we find pietism rearing its ugly head in Colossae. Paul labors in his epistle to them to show that they are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). If you are complete, then you have no need for some extra work to do to make you even more complete! There is no such thing as ‘more complete’.

Pietism virtually always comes off under the guise of a secret. Hence, thousands of Christian books contain the word “secret.” This also demonstrates that another frequent feature of pietism is mysticism. Pietism, like mysticism, comes in a million varieties. So how do you recognize it? If you are told that after trusting in Christ’s finished work, you still lack something: you are being taught pietism.

Church history is littered with pietism. There was the asceticism of the Desert Fathers, the mysticism of Boehme, the Methodism of Wesley, the Keswick movement, the Latter-Rain/Manifest Sons of God teaching, the Charismatic movement, and a host of others. What they all share in common is the assertion that there is something you can and should do after having trusted in Christ’s finished work, which will make you a deeper, more spiritual Christian.

Actual churches, as well as parachurch organizations, can be guilty of pietism. There is often the demand for strict and unquestioning submission to leaders who claim to have a special status with God, thus conveying an elevated spirituality upon those under his/her care. As one who spent many years in such an organization, I can personally attest to this fact. The leader does not even have to claim superior status for the group to be pietistic. It is a common phenomenon in parachurch organizations to see themselves as performing a duty or ministry that ordinary Christians can’t or won’t do. Leaving such a group is usually viewed as tantamount to backsliding. But, I digress.

Here is Paul’s response to pietism:

“Therefore suffer no one to sit in judgement on you as to eating or drinking or with regard to a festival, a new moon or a sabbath. These were a shadow of things that were soon to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one defraud you of your prize, priding himself on his humility and on his worship of the angels, and taking his stand on the visions he has seen, and idly puffed up with his unspiritual thoughts. Such a one does not keep his hold upon Christ, the Head, from whom the Body, in all its parts nourished and strengthened by its points of contact and its connections, grows with a divine growth. If you have died with Christ and have escaped from the world's rudimentary notions, why, as though your life still belonged to the world, do you submit to such precepts as "Do not handle this;" "Do not taste that;" "Do not touch that other thing" — referring to things which are all intended to be used up and perish—in obedience to mere human injunctions and teachings? These rules have indeed an appearance of wisdom where self-imposed worship exists, and an affectation of humility and an ascetic severity. But not one of them is of any value in combating the indulgence of our lower natures. Col 2:16-23, Weymouth New Testament

These statements strike at the heart of everything that pietism entails in any of its incarnations: asceticism, legalism, and “spiritual disciplines.” You name it, it is here and Paul labels it all “self-made.” Notice also that he says that there is an appearance of wisdom. This is where it is important to differentiate between piety, which simply means holiness and pietism. There is such a thing as the progressive work of sanctification in the life of every believer. This growth in godliness is called piety. But when someone claims that there is a secret way to attain piety: that is pietism. Make no mistake: pietism is always dangerous – ALWAYS.

So let’s be clear. God does desire true piety in the lives of His children, but it is a bunch of papistical merit-earning to think that God is more pleased with you because you read 10 chapters a day. To say that Christians aren’t experiencing a higher degree of holiness because they don’t desire it enough is a lie. This leads one directly into the elitist pietism Paul rebuked in Colossae. “God is more pleased with me because I fast twice a week.” Is He? “I sold everything I own and joined a Christian commune, therefore I am not like the rest of these wimpy wuss Christians who don’t have what it takes to sacrifice for God.” Really? Paul says that these practices “are of no value in combating the indulgence of our lower natures.” 

God desires holiness and is committed to making us holy. But He doesn’t accomplish it through the use of secret disciplines. He uses His ordained means of grace. There is no secret to be discovered that ushers one instantly into the “higher life.” “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14) Pietism is dangerous because it is an attack on Christ’s finished work. If it is true that Christ has already done it all – then all Christians are all already complete in Him. God sanctifies all His children by the same means.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Martin Luther on Free-will

Free-will is plainly a divine term, and can be applicable to none but the divine Majesty only: for He alone “doth, (as the Psalm sings) what He will in Heaven and earth.” (Ps. cxxxv. 6.) Whereas, if it be ascribed unto men, it is not more properly ascribed, than the divinity of God Himself would be ascribed unto them: which would be the greatest of all sacrilege. Wherefore, it becomes Theologians to refrain from the use of this term altogether, whenever they wish to speak of human ability, and to leave it to be applied to God only. And moreover, to take this same term out of the mouths and speech of men; and thus to assert, as it were, for their God, that which belongs to His own sacred and holy Name. But if they must, whether or no, give some power to men, let them teach, that it is to be called by some other term than “Free-will”; especially since we know and clearly see, that the people are miserably deceived and seduced by that term, taking and understanding it to signify something far different from that which Theologians mean and understand by it, in their discussions. For the term, “Free-will,” is by far too grand, copious, and full: by which, the people imagine is signified (as the force and nature of the term requires) that power, which can freely turn itself as it will, and such a power as is under the influence of, and subject to no one. Whereas, if they knew that it was quite otherwise, and that by that term scarcely the least spark or degree of power was signified, and that, utterly ineffective of itself, being the servant and bond-slave of the devil, it would not be at all surprising if they should stone us as mockers and deceivers, who said one thing and meant something quite different; nay, who left it uncertain and unintelligible what we meant. For “he who speaks sophistically (the wise man saith) is hated,” and especially if he does so in things pertaining to godliness, where eternal salvation is at stake.

Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, Sect. XXVI