Van Tillian Inconsistency

I want to start off by saying that I fall into the “presup” camp when it comes to apologetics. I find the position to be most consistent with Scripture (which I am not seeking to defend in this article). However, I find problems among those in the camp and even with some of Van Til’s teaching. I don’t necessarily buy everything Van Til or his followers teach or have taught. I would label myself a “moderate” presuppositionalist. I believe it is possible to find middle ground between the “classical” approach and the “presup” approach without having to result to what I think is a false dilemma between the two positions. Both sides have truths that can be offered and we shouldn’t throw either position out entirely because we may not like certain teachings sourced in either position. I do find it ironic that there are those in the “classical” camp who would complain because some in the Van Tillian camp will reject their position or aspects of it on theology proper due to philosophical commitments that are used in their theology, but then turn around and criticize the “presup” view because Van Til used idealist philosophical concepts in his system. For some reason, it is okay for “classicists” to use philosophical concepts in their theology (and rightly so) that are found in pagan philosophy, but Van Til can’t, even when he goes to great length to defend himself against accusations of adopting idealism (see his work “The Defense of the Faith”). And on the flip side, there are those in the Van Tillian camp that have fallen into this too, where there will be criticism of the usage of “Greek philosophy” in theology while adopting a system (“presup”) that has inherent philosophical commitments that are found in idealism. We have to move beyond this type of argumentation. With all that said, this article spawned out of me reading an essay that Dr. Matthew Barrett of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary posted by Richard A. Muller titled, “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay” from 2018. This article is not meant to cover every inconsistency by Van Tillians or the beliefs of Van Til, but a point-by-point discussion of inconsistencies among Van Til and some of his followers. Also, when I say, “Van Tillian” in the title, I am not only referring to what Van Til may have taught, but some teachings found among the “presup” camp that have come from followers of Van Til. Let us begin.

The Doctrine of God

This doctrine seems to be in some way be at the center of multiple controversies. There are those in the “presup” camp (not necessarily everybody) that have adopted an unorthodox doctrine of God. However, there seems to be disagreement among followers of Van Til with Van Til himself on what constitutes an orthodox theology proper. One need look no further than Jeff Johnson. He identifies as a presuppositionalist in his book, “Saving Natural Theology from Thomas Aquinas,” on page 6 of the Kindle edition. However, there does not seem to be agreement even with Van Til on who God is (although this may be done in ignorance). In his previous book (“The Failure of Natural Theology”) he specifically rejects the concept of God as “actus purus,” meaning God is pure act without the capacity to become more than He actually is. He is the fullness of His being, completely perfect. Jeff says the following:

Actus Purus Is Not the God of the Bible…Actus Purus Is Oblivious and Unconcerned…Actus Purus Cannot Create…Actus Purus Does Not Have a Free Will…Actus Purus Is Impersonal…Thus, according to Aristotle, God is somewhat deistic in that he is oblivious to the universe.

Johnson, Jeffrey D. “The Natural Theology of Aristotle.” The Failure of Natural Theology: A Critical Appraisal of the Philosophical Theology of Thomas Aquinas, Free Grace Press, 2021, pp. 66–69.

As you can see, he expressly denies this doctrine. He sees it as a philosophical commitment and not a biblical one, although he does see some overlap between Aristotelian concepts of God and the biblical God (see page 67). However, it is clear that Van Til did teach this doctrine of actus purus as applied to God and even grounded this understanding of God as the basis for his apologetic position (which position Jeff Johnson espouses). Notice what Van Til says,

As God is absolute rationality so God is also absolute will. By this we mean primarily that God did not have to become good, but has from everlasting to everlasting been good. In God there is no problem of activity and passivity.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Behavior.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 83.

Even on a footnote on the same page, K. Scott Oliphint who edited the 4th edition, says the following in relation to the above:

That is, as orthodox theology has maintained, God is Pure Act. There is nothing incomplete or in any way imperfect in God.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Behavior.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadelphia, 1955, p. 83.

And Van Til then seems to tie this view of God to his view of apologetic methodology where he says,

It should be especially noted that Christians put forth this concept of God, not as something that may possibly be true and may also possibly be untrue. From the nontheistic point of view our God will have to appear as the dumping ground of all difficulties. For the moment we waive this objection in order to call attention to the fact that all the differences between the Christian and the non-Christian point of view, in the field of ethics, must be ultimately traced to their different God-concepts. Christians hold that the conception of God is the necessary presupposition of all human activity.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Behavior.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 83. (Emphasis mine)

Just prior to this section is where Van Til established actus purus as biblical in understanding God’s nature. So the context and what is said above would seem to indicate that to reject this view of God is to undermine a core aspect of Van Til’s position on God. Jeff says he’s a presuppositionalist without qualification as we’ve quoted already, so it can safely be assumed he holds to Van Til’s apologetic as a whole. Remember, this concept of “presupposing” God is key to Van Til’s methodology. God must be presupposed to account for all things such as logic, thought, facts themselves, etc. This is essentially the transcendental method of arguing for God’s existence. Also, there is no real neutrality when it comes to man. Man’s state is sinful and as such he is bent away from God. Also, since he lives in God’s world, man must assume God by default since he is using those things created. He cannot escape God. So this statement made by Van Til that, “the conception of God is the necessary presupposition of all human activity” is an indication of his apologetic methodology. This, I think, would put Jeff in a precarious situation as it relates to holding to Van Tillian apologetics the way he does.

Proofs for God

Now, I want to visit some of the apologetic argumentation of Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary who knew Van TIl personally and was a student of his post-Van Til’s retirement. Among the Van Tillian camp and with Van Til himself, there is a large amount of criticism of Thomas Aquinas. Van Til, at least to me, seems to identify Aquinas with the broader Roman tradition and not allow for much nuance of Romanism. If this is indeed the case, this could be problematic as the Catholic Church under Aquinas was very different than post-Trent Rome, so this could lead to anachronistic predication. Regardless, the emphasis on Aquinas by Van Til seems to have been passed to at least some of his followers including Dr. Oliphint. Let us look at an example. Richard A. Muller says the following in critique of Oliphint’s understanding of “proofs for God” :

Oliphint makes several crucial mistakes in his interpretation of Aquinas’s proofs of the existence of God. The first mistake is categorical. Oliphint assumes, largely on the basis of Aquinas’s Summa contra Gentiles (even though his analysis of Aquinas’s proofs is based on the Summa Theologiae) that the proofs are not only an exercise in the philosophy of “pure” natural reason but also a form of apologetics. The proofs in the Summa Theologiae, however, are identified as preambles to articles of faith that neither identifies them exclusively as philosophy nor classifies them as apologetic—they belong to sacra doctrina.

Muller, Richard A. “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay.” Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 53, 2018, p. 274.

This is key, as critiques of the “classical” position of apologetics from the “presup” camp do assume that the arguments coming from the other side, i.e Thomistic the view, are indeed apologetic in nature. This can be understandable given that men like Norman Geisler, who was R.C. Sproul’s mentor, used Thomas as an apologetic tool (see Dr. Oliphint’s book, “Thomas Aquinas” page 55, Kindle edition). However, Thomas never meant his work to be utilized as an apologetic tool or for it to be apologetic in nature, but as part of the basic articulations of the Christian faith itself. This changes the discussion, as this means to critique the “classical” position based on these proofs from Thomas would be to fall into a straw manning by arguing against something that Thomas never said. If the argument is simply against one like Geisler who turned the theistic proofs of Thomas into apologetical arguments, then the argument would be against Geisler and not Thomas unless one misrepresents Thomas. However, Oliphint, who is a prominent Van Tillian, imputes these motives of theistic proofs to Thomas himself as is seen in Muller’s critique above. One should argue against followers of Thomas who have changed his proofs into apologetic tools rather than going after Thomas when he was simply laying out the Christian faith if they are to engage with these proofs at all. Given the discussion above, we can then look at a common argument for any theistic proof that is not attached to the Van Tillian model and is applied to Aquinas’s theistic proofs. Muller says this,

The second mistake is also a categorical one: it concerns the issue of precisely what Aquinas thought he was proving. Oliphint, who has strenuously advocated Mclnerny’s critique of Gilson and has referenced a Cajetanian reading of Aquinas, clearly misunderstands Cajetan’s view of the proofs. Oliphint represents Cajetan as teaching that the “proofs only demonstrated properties that could apply to a god, but not to God himself.”…The intent of the proofs is not to provide a full doctrine of the Christian God but only to show that reason can attain a set of rather limited concepts that can only be predicated of God and that will be seen to belong to God in the full development of the Christian doctrine of God subsequent to the proofs.

Muller, Richard A. “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay.” Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 53, 2018, p. 276-277

This line is key from Oliphint’s book “Thomas Aquinas” that Muller cites, “proofs only demonstrated properties that could apply to a god, but not to God himself.” (Page 155, Kindle edition) Oliphint is actually referring here to a Cardinal that was explaining Thomas but Oliphint clearly thinks this principle is true of Thomas’s theistic proofs. But as one works through a massive work like the Summa, it can be seen clearly that saying these theistic proofs logically leave us with merely a god and not the God is inaccurate. Aquinas in the Summa is very clear that the God these proofs are pointing to is not a faceless god but the God of Scripture. As he expounds for instance on God’s immutability in Part I, question 4 of the Summa where he clearly establishes the God that does not change is the God of Malachi 3:6, the one true and living God. And the starting point for Aquinas is not philosophy, but Scripture. He then works from the already established Scripture to bring to light implications of divine immutability. To separate the proofs of God’s existence from the rest of Aquinas’s work as if they are arguments that merely prove a “god” is to take Aquinas’s words completely out of context and to let Van Tillian methodology blind. This Van Tillian argumentation would apply certainly to an evidential apologetic where God’s word is left out of the presentation for the sake of different evidences and even theistic proofs. This methodology is not intended to couple the supernatural with the natural in terms of apologetic argumentation, but it is meant to use “evidence” in lieu of the supernatural to prove the supernatural. This is not what we find with Aquinas. We find that he never meant these proofs to be apologetic and that they were to be taken with the whole doctrine of God, that God being from Scripture who is brought out elsewhere in the Summa.

The Concept of Analogy

We now arrive at a thorny topic: “analogy” There seems to be issue here as it relates to Van Til when it comes to his definition of “analogy” and the concept of the Thomistic “analogy of being.” Let us look at Muller again.

Oliphint’s discussion of Aquinas’s view of God draws heavily on the claims of Cornelius Van Til, one of whose basic points of critique is that Aquinas’s “idea of the analogy of being compromises the biblical doctrine of creation.” The reason for this, in Van Til’s view, is that the notion of an analogy of being comes directly from Aristotle and reduces the distinction between the Creator and the creature by adopting the Greek philosophical assumption that “all being is essentially one” and that “all individual beings are being to the extent that they participate in this one ultimate being,” thereby undermining the Christian teaching of “a self-contained God”…

Muller, Richard A. “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay.” Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 53, 2018, p. 270

I am not sure what version of analogy of being Van Til would have held to explicitly, but he did at the very least rejected the concept of “analogy of being” between God and creation, understood Thomistically. This would naturally create problems. It would be dangerous to reject analogy between God and creation as this would mean there really is likeness between us and God in some way completely destroying the creator/creature distinction that must be kept if God is to truly be the first cause of all things and independent of all things. Clearly though, Van Til rejected Thomas’s view of analogy and applied analogy in a different way. What I will say though is I doubt Van Til denied in every respect analogy of being as this would result in no distinction in reality or concept between Him and His creation. I don’t think this was the case. It seems to me that he denied the concept of analogy of being, but maintained it in other areas unknowingly and inconsistently. This would merely show a misunderstanding of Thomas rather than a complete denial of the doctrine all together. What is odd about Van Til’s understanding of analogy of being is that he thought it broke the distinction between God and creatures. This is a complete misunderstanding of analogy of being as it relates to Thomas in that it sought to show a very qualified similarity between God and creatures without violating the distinction. By definition this is the case, and to say it isn’t implements a straw man fallacy. What would in fact break down the distinction would be to utilize a univocal understanding of God and creation or adopt an equivocal view. Van Til seemed to have two different meanings of “analogy” when talking about God. That we shouldn’t talk about the relation between God and creation by way of Thomistic analogy and that analogy of “knowledge,” which Oliphint breaks down for us in a footnote in Van Til’s “The Defense of the Faith”, is how we should view analogy as it relates to God. First we will quote Van Til and then Oliphint’s footnote:

All of this may again be expressed from another point of view by saying that human knowledge is analogical of divine knowledge.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Knowledge.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 62.

Here is Oliphint’s footnote aforementioned on the above statement from Van Til:

Van Til’s notion of “analogy” or “analogical,” as it applies to knowledge and to predication, is central to his theology and apologetic. Though the term itself is confusing, in that it carries with it a host of assumptions in Thomism, it should not be confused or in any way identified with Thomas’s understanding of analogy. Though for Thomas there was an analogy of being, for Van Til, the notion of analogy was meant to communicate the ontological and epistemological difference between God and man. The difference has been expressed historically in terms of an archetypal/ectypal relationship.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Knowledge.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 62.

Why Van Til chose to use the terminology Thomas did is odd and even Oliphint notes this terminology as “confusing” since it is clearly a Thomistic term. This makes it quite concerning that Van Til would choose to reject the notion of analogy of being and replace it with his own, confusing definition of “analogy” even if what he meant wasn’t necessary incorrect. This phraseology is not helpful.

Conclusion

These are just some quick points laid out of inconsistencies I see in Van Tillian theology. This does not mean I’m abandoning all that position. But I will not jump on the “presup” band wagon and try to remain objective. Van Til was a product of his day and it seems to bleed through sometimes in a negative way. I have come back to the “presup” position with new eyes having studied more historical theology and theology proper. I’ve been able to look at the position and go, “no that doesn’t work” for some things. But I can do so without throwing out the position entirely. I refuse to commit the genetic fallacy of rejecting “presup” because it came from Van Til or because Van Til was allegedly an idealist. This argumentation is not sound. But, like we do when we critique Aquinas while keeping the gems he taught, we should be willing to critique the Van Tillian camp even if it makes us fall out with the “cool kids club.”

– Daniel Vincent (thanks for those from the team who assisted with reviewing and editing this article)

PAEDOBAPTISM MOCKS THE OLD TESTAMENT

BAPTISM. It’s no surprise that I disagree with paedobaptism. It also shouldn’t be a surprise when I say the Baptist and Presbyterian views of baptism will revolve around how we view the covenant of grace. Each side believes in the covenant of grace, but we greatly differ in how we believe it is applied as well as when it was implemented. Without getting too far into the weeds, Presbyterians (and some others) believe the covenant of grace was active in the Old Testament but was merely a different form of administration as compared to the New Testament. Just as circumcision was a sign of the old covenant, so they feel baptism is a sign of the new covenant. Similarly, just as children in the old covenant were given the sign of circumcision, they feel children of believing parents are considered “covenant children” who should receive the sign of baptism. Now, there is far more to be understood on this topic, but this should suffice to give a fair overview of their beliefs. While my first two statements shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, perhaps my third will. I assert paedobaptism makes a mockery of the Old Testament and the old covenant (i.e. Mosaic covenant) by inadvertently declaring the latter to be a sham.

Before the hate mail begins, allow me to justify my assertion and preface it with the acknowledgment that no Presbyterian would ever dare make such a claim of the old covenant. I do believe our Presbyterian brethren are genuine in their desire to be true to the Word of God. My point is less that they openly declare such a position and more that their belief in infant baptism necessitates it. As we begin, we need to turn our attention to the eighth chapter of Hebrews. I will make bold the parts I plan to discuss in more detail.

6But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, to the extent that He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been free of fault, no circumstances would have been sought for a second. 8For in finding fault with the people, He says,

“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will bring about a new covenant
With the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
9Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day I took them by the hand
To bring them out of the land of Egypt;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care about them, says the Lord.
10For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel
After those days, declares the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds,
And write them on their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
11And they will not teach, each one his fellow citizen,
And each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
For they will all know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them.
12For I will be merciful toward their wrongdoings,
And their sins I will no longer remember.”

13When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is about to disappear. -- (Hebrews 8:6-13)

I will use the remainder of this article to lay out my reasoning. For the sake of space, this will just lightly touch on the subject. However, I do believe my case will still be made clear despite the brevity.

To begin, we must keep in mind the author of Hebrews declares the new covenant is not only new (v.8) but is also a better covenant with better promises (v.6). He makes it abundantly clear that this new covenant is not like the old one made with their fathers (v.9). It seems awfully strange to go to such an extent in differentiating the covenants, only for them to end up actually being the same covenant under a different administration. Not to mention, there is zero mention here of administrations. It is the covenants themselves that are different from one another. In the old, there was fault in that it was held together by man (v.7). The new is faultless because it is God Himself who keeps it. Again, the old covenant and new covenant are not the same, and any similarities in the old serve as a type/shadow of the new that was to come.

Let us shift our focus to Hebrews 8:8-12. These verses are quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34. Take note that Jeremiah is speaking in the future tense. At a minimum, the covenant of grace did not yet exist during his day. He clearly wrote of it as being a covenant yet to be. So when was the covenant of grace established? The answer to this is simple. It was established in the crucifixion of our Savior. The covenant of grace was not validly established until His blood was shed (Hebrews 9:16). Just as the old covenant was inaugurated with blood (Hebrews 9:18-19), so was the new covenant. Nobody tries arguing the old covenant existed prior to its inauguration. We must hold the same standard to the new covenant if we hope to be consistent.

But what happened to the old covenant once the new came? According to Scripture, it was made obsolete and disappeared (v.13). With the new covenant, there was no longer a need for the old. The Presbyterian uses words like “administration” because it fits their tradition, but we see no such wording found here. This is an area where I wish Presbyterians had continued reforming. I like to semi-jokingly assert that Lutherans were part of the Reformation but are not Reformed, Presbyterians are partially Reformed, and Particular Baptists are thoroughly Reformed. Of course that’s not to say we’re perfect and have it all figured out, but I do feel in the case of baptism we are further Reformed than our Presbyterian brethren. I also assert infant baptism is a doctrinal holdover of popish error and tradition. If the new covenant was not the old covenant, the new covenant was not inaugurated until the death of Christ, and the old covenant was rendered obsolete upon the establishment and inauguration of the new covenant, it necessitates that the old covenant and new covenant could not both exist simultaneously. The covenant of grace was not valid until it was ratified by Christ through the shedding of His blood, which means it was not active in the Old Testament. Thus, if paedobaptism requires the belief that the covenant of grace was active in the Old Testament, it must first declare the entire old covenant to be a sham. I dare say this is no small claim, but it is the logical conclusion of paedobaptism so long as it holds to the “two administrations” model of the covenant of grace. If the covenant of grace truly existed in the Old Testament, it means the old covenant was obsolete from the beginning, that it was never a valid covenant, and that it was all a sham. Thus, paedobaptism makes a mockery of the old Mosaic covenant and all who believed they were a part of something valid. During their time, the new covenant existed in promise only, the substance yet to be inaugurated.

But what does that make of Old Testament saints? Were they not actually saved? If they were saved, was it by some other means than how we are saved today? Rest assured, Old Testament saints were saved in the very same manner we are today: by faith in Christ alone. Paul makes very clear that Abraham was justified by the same faith that we possess today (Romans 4). This is because Old Testament saints looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah while New Testament saints look back through faith. This faith remains constant, though there was certainly more revealed in time. So does this mean Old Testament saints were actually in the covenant of grace after all? Does this mean they saw heaven from the moment of death because of their faith? The answer to the second question is no. The answer to the first question, however, is a bit more difficult to answer. While they were saved by the same faith, and we can safely say they are part of the covenant of grace, they were not yet in the covenant because it had not yet been established. There was no covenant of grace to be a part of. However, it was their very real faith that saved them. This is why they went to Abraham’s Bosom (for more, READ THIS). This was not a place of uncertainty but of temporary holding until the Christ would come and inaugurate the new covenant. Upon inauguration, all who possessed faith in Christ were now a part of it though Him. The below graphic might help.

TIMELINE OF THE SAINTS

The good news is that there is now a better covenant with better promises. In the old covenant, you could be a full-fledged member simply by birth, yet be bound for hell in unbelief. The better promise of the new covenant is that all who are part of it will see heaven. This is because only those in Christ by faith are members. All members of this new covenant, from the greatest to the least, will know Christ (v.11). Just as circumcision was the sign of the old covenant, so is circumcision required in the new. All new covenant members will bear the sign of a circumcised heart which leads to faith. This is the inward reality of all members. I, too, believe in covenant children but only in one of two ways: either a child who comes to saving faith in Christ, or by the fact that all believers are children of God. As Pastor Steve Clevenger so succinctly put it, “You are not in the new covenant without the inward realities.”

The new covenant is unbreakable. All who are in it shall remain in it. No covenant member can wear the external signs, void of internal realities, only to fall away or depart later. Such a person only demonstrates they were not covenant members at all. While Baptists may occasionally mistakenly baptize false converts, Presbyterians routinely do so to those who never even proclaim faith, all in the name of a covenantal continuity that does not exist. This is dangerous territory. If you were baptized as an infant only to come to faith later in life, I urge you to be baptized through faith in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the absence of faith, your baptism was just a BATHtism. Seek obedience to your Savior have the ordinance be carried out biblically.

The new covenant is unbreakable! Take peace in this and give thanks to the Lord who has called His own and shall preserve us to the end in such an unbreakable covenant.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Good Works and Salvation

Imagine you are on the street witnessing to the strangers around you. You ask each person whether or not they feel they will go to heaven when they die. How many of those people do you think will say yes? Furthermore, how many of those people will justify their answer by saying they feel they are a good person? Unfortunately, being a good person is not what brings us salvation. This is one of the most believed lies in the world today. Saving faith in Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God. 

Without Christ, we are separated from God. Only He is good (Matthew 19:17). This is not saying it is impossible to do good at all. It is saying without God, it is impossible to do so. As a result, the man who is lacking in God and who hides from the Light (John 3:20), is incapable of performing an action which is truly good when judged by the righteous standard of God.

The Greek word used for “good” in Matthew 19:17 is agathos. It speaks of a good nature, honorable, distinguished, upright, and excellent. No one is like this except God (Ecclesiastes 17:20). We all have our sinful nature. This does not mean we are incapable of doing good. Of ourselves, no good can exist, but when God is the focus, good will flourish.

Before Christ came into our life, we were not capable of doing good. We were lost. This is the exact state of much of the world today. Many claim to be believers yet do not understand what faith is about. They know OF God but do not KNOW God. It is because of this fact that they are incapable of doing good. An unbeliever is capable of looking good in the eyes of the world but God does not share the same standards. While one man may see a hero, God may see a worker of iniquity (Luke 13:27).

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; (Isaiah 64:6a, NASB)

Isaiah drives home the point of how filthy our righteous deeds really are. In the original Hebrew, he uses the word `ed. The literal translation used here means “and like rags used of menstruation.” Even our greatest works, when Christ is not the center, are like the rags used to catch the blood of a menstruating woman. Works alone are worthless. They are not good. Nothing is good unless it is of God. A non-Christian can do all the “good” things they want but they will be in vain. They can donate to as many charities, visit as many retirement homes, or do as much volunteer work as they want but the works will never be purely good in nature. On the bright side, when Christ is our focus, all our works become righteous because they are based in His love.

When we are saved, we are changed forever. We have a new calling from this point on. We are no longer called to be lost in this world. We are called to be sanctified. We are called to be holy. We are called to be set aside for God (1 Thessalonians 4:7). We are created as new creatures for the very purpose of doing good for God (Ephesians 2:10). We take our holy and sanctified selves and finally do good for the first time in our lives.

A Christian and a non-Christian can perform the same exact works while being rooted in two very different motivations. They can both go to retirement homes. They can both give to charities. They can both volunteer their time to causes. Only one of these will truly be doing good. The other will be performing works no better than filthy rags. It is not the Christian that makes these works good. It is the fact that they are being performed for God. They are being performed with God and His purpose in mind, to His glory. This alone makes the works good.

Go back to the scenario I had you imagine at the beginning of this article. Remember all the people who allegedly believed in God? Remember all the people who thought they would go to heaven and be with God because they were good people? Scripture addresses these people.

"Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.' "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; and He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.' "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. (Luke 13:25-28, NASB)

This is a prime example of people who thought they were doing good. They did many things in the “name of God” but none of it was for God or through God. In verse 27, the NASB uses the word evildoers. This is a very apt description because without God, nothing is good. There are many things that we would classify as good on this earth but from the perspective of God, one’s nature cannot produce these good works. Only evil results; filthy rags are the result. The only way true good can be done is if it comes from God through us. The only way we can do good is if we are created as new creatures in Christ.

As much as one thinks they are doing good in this world, they have to realize that it is only in this world where it will be recognized. Jesus says Himself that all who claim to do good (without being a new creature in Christ) are evildoers. Lest the believer begin to think truly good works will be enough to earn them heaven, keep in mind that good works is what we are commanded to do. Even if we were capable of meeting the minimum standard, why should we expect a reward of eternal life for doing nothing more than the minimum? No, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8), and we must always remember we are unworthy servants (Luke 17:10).

Roman Catholicism: Doctrines of Error

Last week (CLICK HERE), I wrote on some of the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. We learned that Roman Catholicism is not part of orthodox Christianity. We reviewed their own declarations from the Council of Trent as well as the Catechism. Today, we are going to focus on what Scripture has to say regarding some of the other doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Church. As was the case with last week, this is not meant to belittle anyone simply because they have a different faith from ours. It is merely meant to point out the differences from a Scriptural perspective to further your understanding of the Truth. I agree with the below statements by the great theologian:

I neither hate you nor despise you; nor do I wish to persecute you; but I would be as hard as iron when I behold you insulting sound doctrine with so great audacity.

John Calvin (to Michael Servetus)

A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.

John Calvin

As always, my goal is to proclaim the truth of Scripture in light of Scripture alone. Sola Scriptura! Our first area we are going to touch on is the doctrine of purgatory. This is one I feel most have heard of but few properly understand.

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation, but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1030

If you die in the love of God but possess any stains of sin, such stains are cleansed away in a purifying process called Purgatory. These stains of sin are primarily the temporal punishment due to venial or mortal sins already forgiven but for which sufficient penance was not done during your lifetime.

Handbook for Today’s Catholic, page 47

According to Roman Catholicism, all men die with a stain of sin. The only exceptions to this are infant babies who have been baptized and the saints who were deemed exceptionally holy. All others are blemished with sin even until the point of death. As a result of this, one cannot enter into the joy of heaven until he has been purified. This purification is as by fire. Catholicism does not rely primarily on Scripture for this doctrine. It is a doctrine that stems from their own teaching which they refer to as Sacred Tradition. It is also a doctrine that comes from the Apocrypha, which is included in the Catholic bible, but it is not found in the Protestant Bible. These deuterocanonical books can be used as history lessons but they were written by fallible men and are not to be included among the inspired Word of God. However, they have attempted to fit it to Scripture by referencing various passages. One passage in particular is from 1 Corinthians.

If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15, NASB)

In essence, the doctrine of purgatory teaches that one is to live a good and holy life, but that he will eventually end in a state of sin with the need to be purified by fire and cleansed from the stain. It’s ironic that false teaching would stem from a verse that is actually referring to the danger of falsehoods by teachers and hollow teachings that contain zero eternal value. Before I get into the doctrine of purgatory as a whole, I’d like to touch on a couple other areas: penance and indulgences.

Like all the sacraments, Penance is a liturgical action. The elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest’s absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1480

The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1468

In other words, penance is a part of the process of reconciliation. We become reconciled to God through a string of actions on our part. We earn the grace of God by the works that we complete on this earth. According to Catholicism, the proper way to be reconciled to God is by being greeted and blessed by a priest, reading Scripture in public, and confessing our sins to a priest. It is by this method that one can attempt to achieve a state of holiness so as to reduce the amount of time they have to spend in purgatory. After all, isn’t the goal to get to heaven as soon as possible?

All of this ties into indulgences. While penance is the active process of sanctification and obtaining holiness and the good grace of God, indulgences are the method of obtaining forgiveness for sins already committed. It is not actually a way of obtaining forgiveness of the sin itself, but rather a method of spiritual stain removal. Penance is preventative whereas indulgences are corrective. Like penance, indulgences are meant to reduce the amount of time one has to spend in purgatory. This is done by drawing from what is known as the Treasury of the Church, also known as the Treasury of Merit. Just as the Roman Catholic faith is based, in part, upon works, these same works are stockpiled in a heavenly storehouse where merit can be drawn on by members of the Church. However, all drawings of indulgences are given through the Church by its priests through official sacraments.

Penance and indulgences are both a form of works based salvation. They deny the efficacious atonement of Christ and places it in the hands of the priests. Regarding penance, the Catholic Church tells us we can perform works to earn justification and be considered righteous. However, Scripture tells us nothing of the sort. Scripture is very clear when it says we are not saved by our works (Galatians 2:16) nor is there anything we can do to justify ourselves. It is faith alone (Romans 5:1) through the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9) that makes us righteous (Romans 4:3). We are not justified by penance and indulgences. We are justified by His blood. The doctrine of penance and indulgences clearly detracts from the atonement provided in the blood of Christ. It removes the sufficiency of Christ and amounts it to nothing more than a fraction of plan of salvation. Interestingly enough, a certain apostle battled a type of people similar to this.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13, NASB)

John was combating a particular type of crowd in his day. That crowd was the Gnostic movement. They taught a secret knowledge that was pertinent to salvation that only they could reveal. John speaks boldly and bluntly in his use of the word “know.” He wanted the readers to understand that there was no hidden knowledge regarding salvation. It was cut & dry. They could KNOW whether or not they were saved. They could be confident! The Roman Catholic Church functions in much the same way as the Gnostics. They say, outside of the Catholic Church, there is no preservation from error. They say, outside the Catholic Church, one cannot be saved. Sure, this is not the spoken word taught today but it is to be understood so long as they affirm the declarations of the Council of Trent that we went over last week. They teach that they have a hidden knowledge that is preserved within their organization (which they claim to be Christ’s only Church). It is only through the priests that this knowledge and revelation can be shared and experienced. It is modern Gnosticism in more ways than one.

Not only are indulgences unbiblical, they were also created as a money making scandal. In the early Church, indulgences were often sold to the people. The people would bring the priests money and the priests would then offer up indulgences on their behalf. These indulgences would often be purchased for the dead in a hope to speed up their time in purgatory so they could enjoy the peace of heaven. Indulgences were sold in the form of time periods. There were basic indulgences sold during the Mass that would shave time off of purgatory for basic sins. Additionally, there were more expensive indulgences offered by bishops. These would only be available to certain people in higher financial standing. Of course, if it meant getting to heaven faster, isn’t it worth it to give some money? You can’t take it with you, after all, right? On top of this, the quality of the pardon varied based on the motives of the priests. If they didn’t have the proper attitude while performing the sacrament, the quality was reduced. Of course, they were collecting money from people so the sacrament was not considered null and void. It was just reduced in effectiveness. An undisclosed amount of time would still be shaved off purgatory just for going through with the hollow ritual. Because a man’s heart is only known by God, it made sense to keep repeating it over and over just in case. On top of that, nobody knew how long a man would spend in purgatory. Again, it only made sense to keep paying for indulgences in hopes that you would free your dead loved ones from the fires of purgatory as well as avoid having to go there yourself. As long as you pay, you can enjoy the riches of heaven in an expedient manner. So long as you perform works in the Church, purgatory will go by much faster for some than for others. However, if you really care about the others, you can help them out by paying some more. This is the grim reality of how it all started. Things may have changed over the years but the roots still remain.

All of this leads to the concept of purgatory and how it completely assaults the concept of grace and forgiveness in Christ. Since we already covered the basics of what purgatory is all about, I now want to go over the Scriptural response. As Christians, we have no fear of going anywhere but heaven, as there is no condemnation awaiting us (Romans 8:1). Paul had no fear of death. He knew the moment he left his body, he would be at home with the Lord experiencing the joy of heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:30, NASB)

The Greek word used here is teleo, and it refers to something coming to an end. Regarding monetary matters, the word was used to refer to a payment of debt. Christ was saying that all debt was considered paid in full. Through his blood, there is no more debt. Why is it that the Catholic Church teaches otherwise?

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27, NASB)

This verse looks like it could almost be used to justify purgatory. Isn’t it saying there is judgment after death? Can’t it support the notion of God judging us to an intermediate place of purgatory to be cleansed of the stain of our sins? Most certainly not! That is what the blood of Christ perfected! Let’s revisit that ever-popular fire from 1 Corinthians 3:15.

If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15, NASB)

Upon death, there will indeed be judgment from God. For the unsaved, this judgment will end in eternal death and suffering of hell. For the saved, this judgment will result in eternal life with the Father. However, our works will be judged as well. They may not play a part in our timeline from death to heaven but they most certainly affect our rewards in heaven. Instead of attempting to find out the meaning of 1 Corinthians 3:15, the Roman Catholic Church invents a meaning in order to make it fit their pre-existing doctrine of purgatory. It is dangerous practice to invent doctrine and then make Scripture fit. If it is not explicitly in Scripture, it is to be excluded. This is the very essence of the Regulative Principle of Worship, as well as the intent of Sola Scriptura.

Again, Paul is not saying one must be purified in purgatory. In those days, fire was the method of removing the dross. Dross is all the waste product of metals being purified in fire. Let’s look at the entire passage.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, NASB)

Notice it is not saying that a man must perform works or else be saved through the fires of purgatory. As I alluded to earlier, it’s speaking of the hollow teachings of men. The foundation of Christ had already been laid, yet some were building on the foundation with materials that were of zero reward. Perhaps it was their charm or a flashy stage, or maybe it was of some other valueless substance. The point is that, one day, the judgment of God will come to all. The atoning blood of Christ is the only thing that can save. This will be the first step. Among Christians, however, there is yet another judgment. This judgment will determine the eternal rewards in Heaven. While specifically referring to teachers, there is a certain universal application that can be extracted. We must always remain focused on Christ and things of eternal value. Outside of Christ, even our greatest works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). In the Hebrew, this literally meant the rags used to catch the bloody flow of a menstruating woman. However, when we have Christ as our foundation, those works take on a whole new meaning. They may not purify us, speed up entrance to heaven, or work off past sins of others, but they do indeed build up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). In the Day of Judgment, all of our works will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10). The only ones to remain will be the eternal works in Christ. These works are described as being of even higher quality than gold (1 Peter 1:7). Gold and empty works will burn away, but our works in Christ will remain forever.

We are justified by faith alone (Romans 5:1, 8). The Roman Catholic Church teaches we must work for justification, work for heaven, and experience suffering by fire in order to reach heaven. Not only is this unbiblical, but it is also anti-biblical.

According to Romish theology, all past sins both as respects their eternal and temporal punishments are blotted out in baptism and also the eternal punishment of the future sins of the faithful. But for the temporal punishment of the post-baptismal sins the faithful must make satisfaction either in this life or in purgatory. In opposition to every such notion of human satisfaction Protestants rightly contend that the satisfaction of Christ is the only satisfaction for sin and is so perfect and final that it leaves no penal liability for any sin of the believer.

John Murray (Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, p.49)

Christ said it himself. It is finished (John 19:30)! Roman Catholic teaching does not believe this and, in turn, adds to the gospel. Anything added to the Gospel is a false gospel. Anything that adds to the finished work of Christ is a false gospel, and a false gospel is to be condemned (Galatians 1:8-9). To close with another excellent and highly relevant quote by John Murray:

This polemic against Romish blasphemy is just as necessary today as it was in the Reformation period. The atonement is a completed work, never repeated and unrepeatable.

John Murray (Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, p.51)

~ Travis W. Rogers

Roman Catholics: Mission Field or Family?

In this article, I want to bring something to the table that has confused many people over the years. It is a controversial discussion. It is a topic that many people feel they know the basics of but fall short when asked for an explanation. The subject is whether Roman Catholicism should be considered a valid option when it comes to matters of Christian faith. Specifically, it is whether Romans Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ, or if they are the mission field. I want to let it be known that nothing said here is meant to belittle anybody else as a person. It is simply meant to inform so that you will never again be without an appropriate response when presented the title question.

Beginning in 1985, there was a movement. This movement was called Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). In 1994, there were many people of both Protestant and Catholic persuasion who signed an official document. The purpose of the ECT was to work together for the common good. Although they may have had their differences, they believed they were following the same Christ. Instead of fighting each other, they desired to work for the common good and share Christ with others. On the surface, this seems like a great idea. If we all worship the same Christ, why not work together? It was a joint effort to stop treating each other like the mission field. However, this simply is not possible regardless of what piece of paper is signed so long as each party holds their beliefs unwavering. There are simply too many irreconcilable differences.

To realize why it is impossible, a Protestant must only look at his own name. The key word is protest. There are some very clear things being protested among us Protestants. In fact, the Catholic Church had some very strong things to protest as well toward us. In the 1500’s, over the course of 18 years, a council took place to put together an official statement. This assembly was known as the Council of Trent. Protestantism was gaining popularity in the way it held dear to Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) and did not place Church Tradition on the same level of authority as the Catholic Church had done.

…the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 82

The Council of Trent had it in mind to put a stop to the Sola Scriptura Reformers. In their attempt, they declared 125 anathemas. Dictionary.com defines anathema as, “a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.” However, words have meaning. Many Catholics contend that being outside of the visible Catholic Church does not automatically equate to Hell. That said, if there is truly “no salvation outside of the Church,” and one is in open opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the orthodox Catholic position is that such a person is a heretic with no salvation. In other words, the Catholic Church gave 125 different ways a self-proclaiming Protestants can be eternally cut off and cursed by God. We are going to review a few of those ways and then learn the truth.

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

Canon 9, Justification

In other words, if you believe you are justified by faith alone and that there is no work we can possibly do to justify ourselves, you are eternally cursed and cut off from God. Yet, Scripture is clear that no works of the Law can justify (Romans 3:20), and that man is justified by faith, apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:28). We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8), “not on the basis of deeds done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The Law does not justify us. If anything, it does the exact opposite. It shows how there is nothing we can do to justify ourselves. It shows our total depravity and dependence on God. It gives us knowledge of sin. It shines light on sin so that we can see it for what it really is and how impossible it is to be justified apart from God or by anything else other than God.

If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,- except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.

Canon 23, Justification

Canon 23 says it is possible, indeed likely, to lose your salvation. If you say it is impossible to lose your salvation and that one who falls away from the faith was never truly saved to begin with, be eternally cursed by God. Yet, John tells us that all who permanently depart from the faith actually had no faith at all (1 John 2:19), and that he who believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36) and will be raised on the last day (John 6:40). All with faith will persevere and none will be snatched out of His hand (John 10:28). Salvation is not something which is here today and gone tomorrow. It is eternal. What good is eternity if it is only temporary and always changing? The answer is that it isn’t. Thankfully, Scripture promises something quite different: a man who has obtained salvation through faith will remain secure in his salvation until the end.

If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

Canon 24, Justification

The Council of Trent declares that good works are not merely the fruit of a Christian but are actually a method of obtaining justification. If you believe the former and not the latter, you are eternally cursed by God. If good works are more than just fruit and do indeed justify, why is it that Paul so clearly states otherwise in Galatians? Does the Catholic Church now charge Paul with being a liar? He tells us we are to not be subject to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). By putting our faith and hope of justification in works, we are binding ourselves to them. We are hoping we will perform well enough so that we might one day be considered justified. Paul rebukes the Galatians for this. He calls them foolish to think something that was started by the Spirit could be made perfect by our own doing in the flesh (Galatians 3:1-3). Justification is by Christ alone. Those whom He calls, He justifies (Romans 8:30). Our own works have nothing to do with it.

If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.

Canon 30, Justification

In other words, if you believe the blood of Christ fully cleanses and does not leave some form of spot or blemish in which we must purify ourselves of in the fires of purgatory, you are anathema. That’s great and all, but what does the Bible actually say on the matter? It says we are forgiven of all of our transgressions. Christ canceled out all of our debt (Colossians 2:13-14). He rescued us from the domain of darkness; from Hell (Colossians 1:13). While we are not to sin, even if we do, we have an Advocate in Christ (1 John 2:1). That is in the current tense. We currently have an Advocate making intercession for us at all times. Every little thing that might be held against us is nailed to the cross. As a result, we are fully justified and declared “not guilty” before the eyes of God. In Christ, we have been made complete (Colossians 2:10).

If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.

Canon 3, The Sacrifice of the Mass

To understand, the Catholic Mass would be similar to our communion. Another name for it is the Eucharist. In other words, if you do not believe that communion is a sacrifice of Jesus, you are condemned. If you do not believe that communion is profitable for the dead as well as the living, you are damned. If you do not believe that communion is a means of propitiation, you are cursed. If you believe communion to be merely symbolic and not the imparting of grace, you are eternally cut off from the Father. Here are some quotes from official Catholic teaching:

The mass is the sacrifice of the new law in which Christ, through the Ministry of the priest, offers himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine. The mass is the sacrifice of Christ offered in a sacramental manner…the reality is the same but the appearances differ.

New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Vol 2 Question 357

Their catechism clearly teaches that the mass is a sacrifice of Christ. Now the question remains as to what they mean by sacrifice. Thankfully, they answer this question:

A sacrifice is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, and the destruction of it in some way to acknowledge that he is the creator of all things.

New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Vol 2 Question 358

Based on those two statements alone, we can clearly see the mass is the sacrifice of Christ, their victim, which a priest offers up to God countless times over and over again to purposefully destroy him on the altar. Unfortunately, there is more.

The sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests’ hands,

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1369

How is it that they can possibly be proud to claim something so vile and disgusting? The Roman Catholic Church attempts to use Scripture to back itself up but it fails miserably. They use verses such as Matthew 26:26-28 and Luke 22:19 in an attempt to justify their position. Instead of taking this as a command to perform communion on remembrance of the death of Christ, the Romans Catholic Church teaches that Christ was passing on a sacrament to the apostles and their succeeding priests, and was giving them the power to transform the bread and wine into the literal flesh and blood of Christ. As we read, they do not teach that it is bread and wine, but literal flesh and blood that only appears to be bread and wine, although the bread and wine is no more. This is where the priest comes into play with his sacrifice. He goes to the altar where the bread and wine await him. He lifts it up to the sky in the action of raising it to God. He then brings it down and offers it to the people. According to their teaching, it is not bread and wine that he offers up but is literally Christ being sacrificed by the priest under the appearance of bread and wine. The Catholic Church does not deny that Christ alone is our propitiation. However, with their teaching of the Mass, it allows them to claim propitiation in the act of the priest for it is Christ being sacrificed.

According to Scripture, Christ died once for all (Hebrews 7:26-27). There was no need for countless reoccurrence as was the habit of the priests. We are told the repetitious sacrifices are in vain as they can never take away sins (Hebrews 10:1, 10-12). If Christ died once for all, who is it that the Catholic priests are sacrificing? It is bad enough that they claim to sacrifice Christ countless times over but it is even worse that they are lifting up someone other than Christ since we know Christ was only sacrificed once, and that was by God. Once was sufficient. Once for all. The one they are lifting up certainly is not our Lord. The whole concept of the Mass is an extremely anti-biblical, pagan, and dare I say, satanic practice.

The Catholic Church will deny their claim that they re-sacrifice Christ over and over. They do this because the claim of repetitious sacrificing completely goes against the Scripture that says he was sacrificed once for all. They instead say that they are simply re-presenting the one-time sacrifice of Christ. Despite these claims, this is not what they teach.

For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, that “the work of our redemption is accomplished”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1068

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367

By their own admission, they go against Scripture. However, they will never claim error because they believe they are preserved from such. They can never be wrong in their doctrine or dogmas (even if such a position is circular reasoning). They clearly teach a sacrifice of Christ and will never recant these teachings for to do so would crumble the whole system. If one thing is admitted to be wrong, how many countless other things are wrong as well? Again, if Christ is not being sacrificed over and over again (as per the Scriptures), who is it that they are lifting up week after week all over the world?

If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.

Canon 33, Justification

In other words, if you disagree with even one jot or tittle of the declarations and teachings of the Catholic priesthood, you are eternally cut off from the glory of Heaven, eternally cursed by God, and are destined for Hell. I must be in big trouble then because I denounce every single one of those and I have the truth of Scripture to bring me confidence in these matters. One may ask if the Catholic Church still holds to these teachings. Wouldn’t it be highly possible that they would have renounced these absurd teachings so many years after the Reformation? After all, if the entire purpose of them was to scare people from leaving the Roman Catholic Church during a time when so many were converting to Protestantism, shouldn’t changes in culture have allowed for a more lenient view by now? Despite the time that has passed, the Roman Catholic Church still clings to each and every declaration of the Council of Trent. In fact, it was only 61 years ago that Pope John XXIII affirmed them. To say otherwise is to go against the very core of Catholic teaching.

but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15, NASB)

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18, NASB)

They teach that they are Christ’s one true church and that they are preserved from error. They claim the truth abides with them and that they will never teach doctrinal error because the gates of Hell will not overpower Christ’s Church. Because of this, nothing they declare as doctrine, dogma, anathema, and especially ex cathedra will ever be wrong. As a result, instead of preserving the truth, they have done nothing more than preserve error upon error under a system of works.

I have only touched on a few of the decrees from the Council of Trent. According to the Roman Catholic teachings, a few other things that will get you booted to Hell include:

1) Rejecting the Apocrypha as being the inspired Word of God

2) Saying baptism is not a requirement for salvation

3) Claiming infant baptism is wrong

4) Believing confirmation is just a ceremony and not a sacrament that imputes grace

5) Denying penance

6) Denying the priesthood

7) Denying the doctrine of purgatory

Where exactly does the grace of God ever come into play in all of these preposterous claims?

The Mass is the sum and substance of our faith.

Pope Benedict XVI

If the Mass is the substance of faith, the Catholic Church does not have saving faith. The Mass lifts up someone they call Christ but is not actually Jesus. It worships a counterfeit and makes sacrifice after sacrifice of this counterfeit Christ. Again, how can this be the substance of faith? It follows after a system of legalistic works that teach you can earn your salvation as if by merit (in addition to faith) so long as you follow their rituals and make payment on time. It teaches that there is some other way of justification and some other source of propitiation and then places it at the feet of the priest who lifts it up to a false god. No, the Catholic Church cannot be considered a valid alternative. It cannot even be defined as a Christian denomination any more than Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses can be. Their counterfeit Jesus is not an all-sufficient Savior but merely a person who helps them to save themselves.

All that said, please keep in mind that not everyone in the Catholic Church fully affirm its teachings. Some people know the truth for what it is but do not see the harm in staying in the local Catholic church they grew up in. Being in a local Catholic church is not the same as being a part of the Catholic Church, or a devout follower of Catholic teaching. If you know anybody in this predicament, I urge you to speak with him or her on the importance of leaving. While it may seem harmless, I hope the examples brought to you in this short article can show how it is far from safe. It is very dangerous and we need to understand why. It is the mission field through and through.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Provisionism and Man’s Moral Posture

Provisionism seems to have made a surge in popularity in both Calvinist and anti-Calvinist groups. It has created firepower for both sides. One of the main points of contention between Provisionists and Calvinists is on the nature of man. Did Adam’s fall really make us incapable of freely (in a libertarian sense) responding to the Gospel or not? Are we so corrupted by sin that that we are only able to choose that which is evil? Let us look at a Twitter page called ProvisionistPersective, which is a platform for Provisionist theology. They recently tweeted the following message:

The assertion here is that we are not dead in our sins, but merely diseased, sick, and Mark 2:17 is quoted as a “proof text”. This is a classic example of isolating verses from the rest of the biblical narrative and thereby reading into the text what is not there. This seems to be a theme in the Provisionist camp. Dr. Leighton Flowers, a prominent Provisionist, has done this with verses like Jeremiah 19:5 where this single verse is used to deny that God has an active decree of all sinful things that will come to pass, while ignoring passages in Isaiah that clearly speak of God bringing about His plan and purposes, and actively causing evil things to come to pass (albeit without being the author or partaker thereof). This is the only way, from a biblical perspective, that the Provisionist framework can survive, because a consistent hermeneutical system would not lead to the eisegesis that is placed upon the Scriptures. That is what I want to address with the usage of Mark 2:17 above. I want to address it using consistent hermeneutical principles. Let us begin.

First, the assertion is made that Calvinists say we are not sick, but dead. Sin most certainly is a disease, a defect, a twisting of the good. Sin is lawlessness as 1 John 3:4 explicitly states. However, historically, Calvinists have taught we are spiritually dead in our sins, ergo, not able to respond to God positively without God working toward our salvation.

This leads to our second point: the usage of Mark 2:17. In context, Jesus was eating with “sinners” in an evangelistic effort. He came to save people from their sin. The Pharisees were having none of it and criticized Jesus for his association with these sinners, which prompted His response in verse 17. Before moving on, it is important to note what these Provisionists are trying to do by saying we are simply “sick”. This is an attempt to somehow preserve man’s inherent ability to freely respond to the Gospel. Because if man is as spiritually corrupt as Calvinists assert, then man’s libertarian free will is gone. The argument that is used is, “Good enough for Jesus = Good enough for me.” I can play that game, too, with other verses. For instance, Jesus (yes, the same one who spoke in Mark 2:17) clearly describes man’s LACK of ability to respond to the Gospel in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. (NIV) Jesus said it, so its good enough for me. Oh, what about John 6:65? He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (NIV) This is good enough for me! There are other things that could be gleaned from chapter 6 such as Jesus’ knowledge of the choices of men in their betrayal and His certainty of those who would be saved, which I believe causes problems for Provisionists with regards to omniscience, but that is a discussion for another day. My point here is, just simply quoting one verse does not necessarily prove a point. All of Scripture must be taken into account when exegeting a passage.

With a proper hermeneutic in mind, how do we address the verse above? Are we simply sick? First, let us analyze the verse itself. Jesus brings forward the analogy of a doctor coming to heal the sick. On its face, it makes sense as far as it goes. A sick person isn’t dead are they? They have life in them. Fair enough. However, that is not ALL that He says. He says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV) Hmm. He says you are in two camps: righteous or sinner. This is not a “relative righteousness” that we find in other places of Scripture where someone is described as being more righteous than others, but this is about their spiritual condition. If you are simply sick, strictly speaking, there would be a mixture of the two conditions since the sickness has not fully corrupted your body. But Jesus makes clear that if you are a sinner, there is no righteousness in you. You are completely corrupted. It is a terminal disease. This principle is laid out in different places, but most most clearly in Jeremiah:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)

Here we see that the human heart is not just sick, but that it is terminally ill. There is no life in this heart of ours that can be redeemed or brought back by our own volition. Going back to what was discussed before, if there is some part of us that is not corrupted by sin and we are simply “sick” with some parts of us being healthy, we now have righteousness inherent in us. We now have the ability to keep God’s law (at least to some extent). The dichotomy that Jesus had made is now destroyed. Now we move onto a section of Scripture that lays out more explicitly our “deadness”.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

Notice that Paul uses the same dichotomy that Jesus does: you are either a righteous person or you are a sinner. If you are a sinner, then you are dead in your transgressions. If man was simply sick, as ProvisionistPerspective has clearly asserted, we would have a contradiction in the Scriptures as Paul does not assert we are sick, but dead. He would go beyond what Jesus is teaching. So we have to ask ProvisionistPerspective, is the Scripture consistent? If so, then how is the interpretation of Jesus saying we are sick consistent with the rest of Scripture, given he clearly does not think we are spiritually dead? The only explanation is that Jesus is not saying we are simply sick but that the sickness is terminal and we are, for all intents and purposes, dead. Even someone who has died is still sick in that the disease still clings to their body. Being “sick” does not necessarily negate death. We do not have life in us. And that lack of life requires an outside mover to bring us to spiritual life. The mover all the way through is God Himself. There is no libertarian freedom in Paul’s mind with regard to believing in the Gospel. God is the mover and the finisher of our faith, down to the good works that we will do.

What we have seen is that simply asserting a single verse is about an alleged condition of man does not mean that is what is being spoken of. A proper hermeneutic is paramount to understanding different texts. All of Scripture must be taken into account when interpreting Scripture.

God or Satan? Choose Responsibly.

CHOICE. It’s such an enticing word. For most, it implies a sense of freedom. Yet, at the same time, it can be one of the most burdensome words to ever exist, as it can also imply responsibility and accountability. The primary theme of this article is going to be the sovereignty of God. In particular, we are going to go over man’s role in regard to the sovereignty of God. There are three basic positions on the subject:

1) If man has free will, God cannot truly be sovereign

2) If God is sovereign, man cannot be held accountable for his actions, as he has no free will

3) God is sovereign, yet man is still accountable for his actions

I adhere to the third option (I know, quite the shocker!). It’s my hope that, by the end of the post, all who read this will feel the same way. Before we get into man, we must begin with God. We know God is sovereign because the Scriptures tell us so. Before we go into the Scriptural backing, let’s define sovereign. Dictionary.com defines sovereign as “having supreme rank, power, or authority.” Scripture fully supports this idea when it says God sovereignly rules over all (Psalm 103:19) and works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He rules over all the kingdoms of the nations (2 Chronicles 20:6) and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). We can clearly see that God is in control at all times. He is sovereign!

It is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things but that He does so always and without exception.

John Piper

This sovereignty flows into all areas. Nothing escapes it. As Psalm 103:19 said, “His sovereignty rules over all.” In this case, all means all. This isn’t about all types of things or all of a certain category. This is about all of creation. Every facet of creation is intricately controlled by God. From the casting of lots (Proverbs 16:33), to the sparrow that falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29), to the vapors of the earth and weather conditions (Psalm 135:6-7), He controls all. Even Paul writes of being set apart from his mother’s womb and called to preach among the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16).

Most people don’t take issue with the teaching of God’s sovereignty so long as it is spoken of in these terms. Up until now, all the verses have been describing God and leaving man out of the picture. Man naturally likes to live a guilt free life. Nobody likes a buzz kill. It is unfortunate that, even by many in the Church, God is viewed as sovereign so long He doesn’t interfere with our own free will. Such a concept is entirely unbiblical and is to be rejected. Not only does heaven and earth fall under the sovereignty of God but so do we as people. The Lord rules over all things; even mankind. This becomes no clearer than in the predetermined plan of the cross.

this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:23, NASB)

Even the crucifixion was ordained by God. Notice what is taking place in the verse above. It says that godless men will put him to death. Godless men will nail him to a cross. Both of these things imply man will make the choice to perform a wicked act. However, take note that it only takes place because of the predetermined plan of God. It also speaks of His foreknowledge. Don’t be confused. God didn’t ordain His plan based on choices He knew man would make. Rather, He knew the choices man would make because He foreordained it to be so.

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27-28, NASB)

This just drives home the previous point. Both Herod and Pontius Pilate had gathered together to go against Christ. In fact, they were not alone. Scripture says the Gentiles and people of Israel had gathered as well. There were countless people rising up against Christ. This was of their own doing and their own choices. They had made the decision to put Jesus to death for his claims. Again, however, notice that it says they were only doing whatever God’s hand and purpose had predestined to occur. While they were making their own choices in life, there was only one way it would play out. God had decreed it to be so and that was the end of it.

Another example in Scripture of God’s sovereignty mixing with man’s choices is in the story of Joseph, in Genesis 37:18-22. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the passage. It’s the part where Joseph’s brothers are conspiring to kill him. This was a free and open dialogue between siblings. Their discussion wasn’t being coerced or pushed in any direction. It wasn’t being moderated. They were freely coming up with a plan to murder Joseph. At the same time, Reuben took it upon himself to talk them into sparing his life and throwing him into a ditch, or pit of some sort, instead. On the surface, it appears they are free to do as they wished with nothing else to lean on other than their own desires. While it’s true that they were coming up with this plan on their own, there is more to the story.

Joseph was rescued, sold into slavery, and eventually took on a prestigious position under the pharaoh. None of this was by accident. Scripture is clear that God had a plan and that plan was good (Genesis 50:20). After all, we’ve been given the promise that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

While Joseph’s brothers were free in the choices they made and the actions they took, they only made these choices because God had decreed it to be so. God is always in charge. Sometimes He actively takes part in an event such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah whereas most times, He allows man to freely make decisions and choices. However, even when left to freely make decisions, they are always within the constraints of God’s sovereign plan and purpose. Why then do so many cling to the false premise that God is limited in His sovereignty when it comes to matters of salvation?

To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind, but that the vast majority of men will not let Him save them, is to imply that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.

A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God

While I firmly believe salvation falls under the sovereign decrees of God, and I believe Scripture when it says all who are appointed to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48), I don’t intend on getting into a lesson on God’s Election. While it is true that only those whom God has called unto Himself will respond to the call of Christ, I want to focus on those whom He does not call unto Himself. Are these men condemned because of God? Should they be given a free pass? Can they possibly be guilty if they were never given a fair chance or opportunity? No, no, and yes!

While they are indeed condemned, it is certainly not because of God. These men will never choose Christ because God has ordained that they will not but this does not mean God is responsible. Each man is still held accountable for his actions, as we saw earlier in the cases of the crucifixion, as well as in the example of Joseph’s brothers. There is no free pass to be given because each man is guilty to begin with. Compatibilism is the term used to describe man’s responsibility as it meshes with God’s sovereignty.

One would be remiss to think man has no responsibility for his actions. God has made very clear that the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, as is the wickedness of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:20). Just as our words justify, so do they condemn (Matthew 12:37). Throughout the totality of Scripture, there is a clear distinction being taught between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. While there is no doubt that God is sovereign, and all things only come to pass because He ordained it to be so, it is equally as true that man makes his own choices without being forced or coerced. Man’s choice will always be the outcome that God decreed, but man will gladly make it. This is because man is bound by his nature and that nature is wretched and fallen. Our hearts are evil from our youth (Genesis 8:21) and are more deceitful than all else (Jeremiah 17:9). The unregenerate love darkness (John 3:19) and hate the Light (John 3:20).

If it sounds totally depraved, that’s because it is. That’s the state of the unregenerate natural man. We simply follow our nature. Before salvation, we were slaves to sin (Romans 6:17). We had no choice but to give our all to sin. However, this was not done in a begrudging manner, as we did it with pleasure. Our hearts were evil. Our hearts were deceitful. Our deeds were evil and we hated the Light. We hid from the Light lest our evil deeds should be exposed (John 3:20). Our natural inclination was to sin. We were in bondage to sin but we enjoyed every minute of it. This is why we are still found guilty for our sins despite following God’s sovereignly decreed plan.

While once enslaved to sin, we are now enslaved to God (Romans 6:22-23). The unregenerate man, despite being in full accord with God’s sovereign decrees, is still found guilty and deserves death. He works as a slave to sin and, as a result, he will be paid death for wages. It is what we all deserved as we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, God chose us and called us unto Himself. This does not make us perfect but it does make us His own. When we sin, we are covered by the blood of Christ. It’s the blood that justifies and saves (Romans 5:9) in accordance with God’s calling and election (Romans 8:30).

We still sin daily in our battle with the flesh but we will not see Hell for it. We have been justified by the blood of Christ. His blood alone has fully atoned for our sins. There is no more debt. The blood was not merely hypothetical, but actual. In Christ’s sacrifice, there was a substitutionary atonement taking place on behalf of all who would put their faith in the death, burial, and resurrection. However, just because we are covered by the blood does not mean we are to abuse our justification. Paul makes it very clear that we are not to sin so that the grace we fall under may increase (Romans 6:1-2). We are now free of the chains of the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). This is where we differ from the unregenerate man. We have a new nature in Christ whereas he does not.

Reader, do you love God? If so, do you feel as if you are being forced to love Him against your will? Just as we love God and desire to serve Him with all we have, so does the unregenerate man hate God and desires to hide from the Light. Even if an unsaved individual says he is not at war with anyone, his refusal to submit to the authority of God proves otherwise. A man cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). He is either for God or he is against God (Matthew 12:30). Both sides serve their masters willingly yet both sides do so only because God has declared and ordained it to be so. God is sovereign yet we are responsible.

…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.

John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will

~ Travis W. Rogers

A Morning Among Mormons

The following is an essay I once wrote as a part of a college class. The idea behind the assignment was to visit a service of a faith group other than my own. After some consideration, I decided to attend the morning service of a local Mormon church. As you read on, my hope is that you will feel as if you were right there with me.

It was a brisk Sunday morning. As I pulled into the parking lot, I dreaded stepping out into the cold. Yet, at the same time, I looked forward to the experience that was at hand. With the strong winds beating against my face, I gazed up toward the tall steeple and began walking toward the church building. Apart from the unusual cold, this particular Sunday morning was different than most. Instead of attending my own Baptist church, I found myself visiting a local Mormon church. I knew I was in for a surprise but I was prepared for whatever the morning had in store.

As I crossed the threshold through the front door, I immediately felt the warmth surround me. At first, it was in the form of heat on a cold body. Next, it was in the form of tender love and friendliness. Looking like a fish out of water, I was welcomed by some of the congregants. They introduced themselves, retrieved a church bulletin for me, and told me to feel free to sit wherever I liked. Before sitting down, I engaged in some casual discussions with various unfamiliar faces. Though I didn’t know anybody in the sanctuary, I felt as though the awkwardness quickly subsided. Before I knew it, it was time to take a seat and begin the service.

In an effort to blend in, I took a seat in the back corner of the room. I opened my bulletin and glanced at the order of worship they had scheduled for the morning. The first thing that took me by surprise was the fact that they had two speakers listed. I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant but I was intrigued. As an elderly man was making announcements, I flipped my bulletin over to the other side where I found a concise list of what they thought we should know. Of course, none of the references listed were from the Bible. Every last one was from another Mormon document. The teaching that stood out to me most was also the one that bothered me the most. Without any shame, they proudly declared that they do not believe special revelation has ended. They claimed their interpretation of the Bible is unique in that they believe it should be interpreted through continuing revelation. While I knew this to be the case with the Mormon religion, seeing it printed right before my eyes was appalling! My mind instantly went to where the Bible says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 New American Standard Bible). If Scripture is enough to equip man for every good work, where is the need for ongoing special revelation?

As the announcements came to a close, the congregation began singing. I realized I had missed something. That was when I noticed they were all singing out of the hymnal. As oblivious as I felt in that moment, I grabbed a hymnal and flipped to the song number as quickly as I could. Expecting to find heresy upon heresy, I was surprised to find the song they were singing actually contained no error that I could find. They sang of Christ (albeit, a counterfeit version) being a firm foundation as well as of his atoning sacrifice.

Quite fittingly, the service then transitioned into communion or, as they called it, Administration of the Sacrament. Whereas the concept of communion is a very familiar one, their administration of it was quite different from anything I had witnessed before. Instead of it being served by adults who were in good standing within the church, it was being served by teenagers. Never before had I seen children serving communion. Something else that grieved my soul was seeing children of every age partaking in the meal. Scripture states, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). So long as a child has no relationship or unity with Christ, he should not be participating in communion. Yet, if these children had teeth, they were chewing on the bread. As communion came to a close, an older gentleman asked if the young men of the priesthood could be seated with their parents. I could go on about Christ abolishing the priesthood when he became our High Priest but, for the purpose of not dwelling on the subject, I’ll move on.

As the first speaker stepped up to the lectern, he informed us he would be speaking on the subject of faith. I was expecting to hear a passage to turn to but it never came. Instead, he began comparing faith to flying an airplane and trusting in the instruments. He compared it to driving a car and trusting in your skills as a driver. In this sense, it was nothing more than belief. He was also very adamant that one must act on his faith for it to be effective. While this may have sounded normal to the untrained ear, I heard heresy. The Mormon religion teaches that one can lose his salvation if there are no accompanying works. Therefore, for him to teach what he did made perfect sense. However, that doesn’t make it accurate. In reality, faith will make for effective works, not the other way around. Our faith makes our works effective yet our works have no bearing on whether or not our faith is effective. It only has a bearing on whether said faith is real or counterfeit.

After a brief interlude, the second speaker stepped up to the lectern. He didn’t exactly specify what he was going to be speaking on but, just as before, he also didn’t base it on any particular passage or verse. It soon became clear he was speaking on thankfulness and a grateful heart. While this is a wonderful topic to speak on, I felt as though he was taking a completely unbiblical approach to it. For instance, he declared that the Heavenly Father gave His children the gift of happiness. He even went so far as to claim that God will never demand from His children anything that will diminish the happiness He desires from them. I felt as though I were listening to a prosperity teaching televangelist. Yet, this man seemed very sincere in what he was saying. Ultimately, he linked it all to various passages within the Mormon writings. Since I reject Mormon writings as being the unbiblical teaching of another gospel, I naturally couldn’t stand behind his teaching. As he came to a close, he stated that all scriptures are the words of the apostles and prophets, both ancient and modern. Immediately, I was reminded of the blurb on the front of the bulletin that I had read upon first taking a seat in the pew. I found it ironic that the last thing I heard from the pulpit was also the very first thing I read upon arriving to the church. Sadly, neither of the speakers ever went to their Bible nor did they go to any of their other sacred writings. Instead of hearing preaching from the pulpit, it was more of a testimony sharing time.

The service closed in prayer and we all stood up to leave. I was approached by a man who saw me in the beginning. He was curious as to what I thought of the service. Out of kindness and respect, I chose to keep most of my thoughts to myself. After all, I was a guest in his church and they had treated me with nothing but kindness. He then began sharing with me why he felt the Mormon religion was true and how he had converted nine years prior. After he was finished, he appeared to be inquiring as to what my thoughts were. In the most loving way possible, I told him my main concern was that I believed the Jesus of the Book of Mormon to be a completely different person from the Jesus of the Bible. I explained that the Mormon Jesus was a created being who didn’t always exist whereas the Bible’s Jesus is eternal and is actually God Himself as the second person of the Holy Trinity. This, in and of itself, is enough to show how the two religions aren’t merely describing one person in different ways but are actually describing two different people in similar ways while still maintaining their individuality. With this foundational principle being in place, the only thing left to say was, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8). I explained that our differences will be offensive in nature but that my intention was not to offend maliciously. By this time, there were several people standing around and they were all in agreement that, while we disagreed, we could maintain kindness and love toward one another. One of the missionaries asked for my phone number in hopes that we can continue our discussion at a later point. I gladly gave my information and truly do hope to receive the call someday in the near future. I always look forward to the opportunity to evangelize to the lost. May God’s glory be lifted above all else. Soli Deo Gloria!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Justified By (______)

JUSTIFICATION. What is it? Where does it come from? It’s a doctrine that has divided the Church for roughly 500 years and has been an ongoing issue for even longer. It isn’t a subject that can be brushed to the wayside or compromised on. It is a matter of extreme importance and we all need to know where we stand on it. There are some doctrines that require a firm line to be drawn in the sand, and I argue this is one. Of course, if a line is to be drawn, it needs to be in accordance with Scripture.

R.C. Sproul has defined justification as “a legal action by God by which He declares a person just in His sight.” Dictionary.com defines it as “to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit.” Yet, I know plenty of people who live decent lives and seek to help others. What could such good people possibly need to be justified of?

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Ecclesiastes 7:20
Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Romans 6:23a
For the wages of sin is death,

Scripture makes it quite clear that none of us are innocent. We have all fallen prey to sin and all of us are blemished before the glory of God. In fact, Scripture declares that, because of our sin, we are all worthy of death and Hell. None of us are righteous enough to deserve Heaven. According to God’s Word, we are all wretched sinners. How is it then that we can possibly be declared justified by God? Is it something we work toward? Is it simply by His love that He overlooks our sin? Is it temporal and constantly being renewed with a chance of forfeiture, or is it a permanent and once-for-all action? This is what I hope to make abundantly clear.

Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Why the apparent contradiction? Is it by faith alone or is it by faith plus works? While only having one true answer, the response will vary depending on who you ask. Ask a Protestant and he will tell you one thing. Ask a Catholic and he’ll tell you another. To really understand the doctrine of justification, we also need to understand what it is not.

The Roman Catholic view of justification is seen as taking place in the sacraments. Roman Catholicism has seven sacraments that are delivered through priests alone. They are baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion, confession, marriage, Holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. The one I want to highlight is baptism.

Roman Catholics and Protestants hold a very different view of baptism. While most Protestants hold that it is symbolic (NOTE: there are some heretical groups that believe in baptismal regeneration and some paedobaptists who believe baptism to be more than symbolic) of our dying to self and rising in Christ (an outward sign of inward faith), Catholics believe baptism justifies an individual of all prior sins and makes him, at that very moment, cleansed before God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sec 1, Ch 3, Art 2
Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.

Here, we see baptism is spoken of being the thing that inwardly justifies. It is important to note that baptism is also viewed as being an act of faith, so, while being a work, it is also viewed as a work done in faith that was already present in the individual. In other words, according to Catholicism, justification is achieved through both faith and works, with neither one being sufficient in and of itself apart from the other.

Not only does the Catholic Church believe in justification through both faith and works together, they also teach that it can be lost through the practice of mortal sins. The Council of Trent was held during the Reformation in the 1500’s with the primary purpose of stopping the Reformers who were protesting the Catholic Church. In fact, this is where we get our name as Protestants and it’s important to know the history behind it. James Montgomery Boice says, “the evangelical church is either dead or dying as a significant religious force because it has forgotten what it stands for.” Trent made many declarations against the Reformers in an attempt to slow down the crowds who were rapidly converting to Protestantism.

Council of Trent
Against the subtle wits of some also, who “by pleasing speeches and good words seduce the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18), it must be maintained that the grace of justification once received is lost not only by infidelity, whereby also faith itself is lost, but also by every other mortal sin, though in this case faith is not lost; thus defending the teaching of the divine law which excludes from the kingdom of God not only unbelievers, but also the faithful [who are] “fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners” (1 Cor. 6:9f.; 1 Tim. 1:9f.), and all others who commit deadly sins, from which with the help of divine grace they can refrain, and on account of which they are cut off from the grace of Christ.

In other words, if you commit infidelity, or unbelief, you lose not only your faith but also your justification. If you commit any other mortal sin, you may still have your faith but your justification will be lost and, therefore, must be regained through the deliverance of the sacraments by a priest as well as other acts such as penance.

As I said in the beginning, the doctrine of justification is the key doctrine that divided the Church during the Reformation. Because of this, you can probably imagine the Protestant belief is quite different. While the Catholic belief is a hybrid system of faith plus works, the Protestant belief has always been justification by faith alone, or sola fide.

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The French Reformer, John Calvin, believed that all sins are mortal, by the simple fact that Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death. However, he argued that, while being worthy of death, no sin could cause a believer to lose his justification. The large difference is that Catholics teach man must actually BE inwardly just, while Protestants teach that man must be DECLARED just by God (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:1; Romans 5:9; Galatians 2:16).

Works do not justify. We’re justified apart from the Law. Justification comes only by faith through the redemption in Christ Jesus by His blood! There is no other way! It’s by the grace of God alone that He chose to send His innocent and spotless Son to die on the cross so that we could become heirs of the kingdom of God instead of heirs of Hell.

“On the cross Christ paid the price for our sin. This was both a work of expiation and propitiation. By expiation he “took” away” our sins from us. By propitiation he satisfied the justice of God by undergoing the penalty for our guilt.” — R.C. Sproul

In Christ, we are declared spotless. His blood has washed us clean. However, righteousness is not the same as cleanliness. We’re called to obey God and to be imitators of Him (Ephesians 5:1). Of course, none of this is possible within ourselves. This is yet another act of Christ. Whereas Catholic doctrine teaches an inherent or infused justice which makes the person truly inwardly righteous, Protestantism teaches of imputed righteousness in which the reward of Christ is given to us and our wages of sin are given to Him.

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Christ was worthy of all of the kingdom of Heaven, yet He gave it up so that we could acquire it. It is not by our works that we earn merit. It’s solely by our faith in Christ that His merit is imputed unto us and that our justification remains.

“…the righteousness of Christ considered as the merit of his mediatorial work must ever continue, even when it is imputed to us, to belong primarily, and, in one important respect, exclusively to him by whom alone that work was accomplished. It is his righteousness in a sense in which it can never be ours: It is his, as having been wrought out by him; and it is ours, only as it is imputed to us.” — James Buchanan

“By faith the justified person receives all the blessings of God due to Jesus for his perfect obedience. In this regard Christ is our righteousness.” — R.C. Sproul

The Roman Catholic doctrine of “faith plus works” simply does not jive with Scripture. To claim we become just by any act other than the imputation of Christ’s merit is to say we are saved by something other than Christ alone. Salvation is not in the hands of priests nor is it in the sacraments. There’s not enough of our own merit in the world to save us and the blood of Christ alone is sufficient. As Sproul has simply put, “We’re justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.”

Knowing the Scriptural stance on the cause of justification is critical to the Gospel message. However, knowing whether it’s temporal or permanent is equally as important. Hebrews 6 is a much debated passage that both sides appeal to for their beliefs. Read closely:

Hebrews 6:4-6
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Those who believe in losing your justification and salvation appeal to this passage by saying those who have been saved can fall away and never again to be renewed unto God. This is NOT what is being said in this passage! In fact, this interpretation completely destroys everything the Gospel teaches of justification and the completed work of Christ.

The claim from the “you can lose it” camp is based on the phrase “those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They say one cannot partake of the Holy Spirit or be enlightened unless they have first been saved. This is based on verses such as 1 Corinthians 2:14 which says,

1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

The problem is that the above verse is being taken out of context to support an erroneous argument. While a non-Christian will never have the Spirit reside in them, this doesn’t mean they are incapable of partaking of the blessings of the Holy Spirit or being affected by Him.

Matthew 5:45
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Here, we can see what is commonly referred to as common grace or common blessing, and that even the evil men receive a certain level of blessing from God. Now, let’s move on to something even more specific in 2 Peter 2:20-21:

2 Peter 2:20-21
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.

It would be easy to think this is referring to a back-slidden Christian. However, the full context shows that this isn’t referring to a believer at all. It’s referring to a false prophet. Despite this, it uses phrases like “escaped defilements of the world” and “knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It even speaks of them as having known the way of righteousness. Again, all this would lead someone to believe it’s speaking of one who has lost his salvation: his justification. But we can know this isn’t the case in the reference to false prophets. It’s merely referring to someone who has all the head knowledge possible yet doesn’t clinch the eternal bond of the Spirit. While it’s true that only a Christian can truly understand the things of the Spirit, it’s not true at all to say only a Christian can taste the things of the Spirit. A great point was made by Paul in 1 Corinthians on this subject.

1 Corinthians 7:14
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

The use of the word “sanctified” doesn’t mean that the unbelieving spouse is saved based on the believing spouse’s faith. It simply means they receive the blessing of the Spirit through the faith of the believing spouse. They may not receive salvation or the forgiveness of sins but they do receive a blessing nonetheless. It’s in this sense that a non-believer can still partake of the things of the Spirit without ever having obtained regeneration/salvation from the Spirit.

So what does it mean by “those who have once been enlightened”? The Greek word used for enlightened is phōtizō and is being used in the sense of being intellectually enlightened to Spiritual truths. The people being spoken of in Hebrews 6 had been made aware of Spiritual truths and they saw them for what they were but it does not give any indication to a response to the call of salvation. Furthermore, nowhere in Scripture is this phrase used to speak of salvation. It simply means they had mental knowledge of the things of the Spirit. To some extent, I’m sure they also tasted the things of the Spirit, albeit never tasting salvation or regeneration. It would be impossible to have been so involved in the things of the Church and not have been affected. Even the people following Christ in Matthew 5 were affected by the Light yet they did not believe despite this.

I don’t believe it’s referring to believers who have fallen away and lost their salvation and justification because of some mortal sin or infidelity. I fully believe it is referring to unbelievers who are on the outside edge of salvation, so to speak. They have all the knowledge they need. They’ve seen the power of the Spirit and have received a partial blessing of what the Spirit has to offer. If there was ever a time to believe, this was it! If one fell back after all this, it would be lost on them. There would be a sense of hopelessness; an impossibility that they would ever see Christ for who He is. With all that knowledge, if one still rejected Christ, all hope would be lost that they would ever see the Light.

Again, in Hebrews 6:6 where it says, “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame,” it doesn’t refer to those who were once saved and had fallen away, but rather those who were on the fence and finally stood their ground among those Jews who crucified Christ. Even if they never would have physically done so, the author of Hebrews does not water it down when he places them in the same category. It shows the seriousness of their rejection. We know Christ was crucified once for all (1 Peter 3:8) as the final act of completion, never again to be repeated. They never chose Christ even after all they had tasted and, in their rejection, had lost all hope of ever choosing Christ and now stood among the rest of the crucifers.

Once we have been justified by Christ alone, there is no turning back. If one turns back, it’s because they never truly had saving faith to begin with. They were as the first three seeds in the parable of the seed and the sower. Eternal life is exactly that — eternal! (John 10:27-29; Romans 5:10; Romans 8:34, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5)

So, going back to the very beginning of this post:

Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

By now, we should clearly be able to understand that it’s not the works which help justify us but that it is the works which show evidence of our salvation and justification. If works do not follow salvation, it’s evident that salvation is absent. If salvation is absent, justification is naturally absent as well.

Sola fide (salvation/justification by faith alone) is a key doctrine that cannot be ignored. It is essential in the life of every believer. Without it, there is no salvation, no justification, and no glorification. To stress its importance, I would like to close with one final quote by R.C. Sproul:

“Without sola fide one does not have the gospel; and without the gospel one does not have the Christian faith. When an ecclesiastical communion rejects sola fide, as Rome did at the Council of Trent, it ceases being a true church, no matter how orthodox it may be in other matters, because it has condemned an essential of the faith.” — R.C. Sproul

Sola Fide!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Man vs. God

I’d like to share a story with you. Though it’ll probably enrage many, I ask that you reserve judgment until the end. It’s a story of a school bus filled with kids on their way home from a tiring day at school. All was normal in the world. The driver was making her way down the winding country roads. The elementary aged children were playing

with their friends while trying to avoid the attention of the driver. Parents were waiting at home to greet their children. Sadly, the bus wasn’t the only vehicle on the road. What nobody knew, nobody could have predicted, was that the town drunk had gotten started early that day. It was barely into the afternoon and he was already completely intoxicated, focusing intently on the road ahead of him. In an instant, life got turned upside down. The screeching of tires pierced the ears of anybody within range. Though the car was smaller, the impact couldn’t have been more precise. The car was already a mangled mess as the bus began to roll a seemingly infinite number of times down the adjacent hillside. For the solitary witness, it was a nightmare that had become reality. He got out of his car and ran full speed down the hillside, desperately praying he wouldn’t break an ankle before reaching the bus. As he approached the wreckage, it was lying on its roof and flames were beginning to roll with billowing smoke coming from the windows. The only thing he could think to do was rip open the back door and climb in. Some of the children were beyond hope but, much to his surprise, he found most of them to be alive and pleading for help. Before he could think, he had two children, one in each arm, and was jumping out the back door. Upon bringing them a safe distance, he returned to save more. The smoke was getting thicker and it would be only minutes before the flames overtook the children. He had to act fast. After he had saved another four children, he looked at the bus one more time. He knew he could easily save the remaining ten if he acted quickly. However, instead of racing for the coughing and crying children on the bus, he put his arms around the six he had saved and began to walk back up the hillside where he loaded them in his truck and brought them home. Not once did he look back. Not once did he ponder whether he should save the rest. Not once did he regret his decision. He could’ve saved them all but that simply wasn’t his intention. He saved as many as he wanted and that was just going to have to be good enough.

Where do you stand in regards to this story? Do you praise the man as a hero or do you condemn him as a monster who left children to die unnecessarily? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle. Thankfully, this isn’t a true story. Instead of being found in the latest headlines, it resides nowhere other than my brain and this blog. Truth be told, that’s not even an honest declaration. In reality, though I embellished a bit, it’s the foundation of an old theological argument against the doctrine of election. I know, shocking! Perhaps you’ve even heard the argument from someone else. Many who despise the doctrine of election love to use a similar story, placing God as the main character who is saving children from a burning fire. The claim is that, if God could save everybody yet chooses to let them perish while only saving some from the flames, it makes Him a monster. The next claim tends to be that a monstrous God should never be worshiped. In and of itself, I could agree with the last claim. However, is there really any validity in correlating God to the hero/monster in the above story? Is there any relation at all or is this a case of apples to oranges?

Unfortunately, too many would say the above story is accurate. I believe this is the direct result of knowing neither the righteousness of God nor the wretchedness of man. So long as man exalts himself to a loftier position than he ought, he will always demote God to a position other than that which He deserves while denigrating the Most High. Scripture speaks loudly of both God’s character and man’s status.

Deuteronomy 32:4 – “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

Isaiah 6:3 – And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Ezra 9:15 – O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.”

Numbers 11:15 – So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

Romans 7:24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

James 2:10 – For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

No, the story told above shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you hear somebody telling it, stop them any way you can and preach the gospel for they either do not know Christ as they should or they don’t know man as he is. A better analogy would be one of the same bus on the same road. Yet, instead of being filled with children on their way home from school, it’s filled with heinous convicted murderers being carted off to death row in a maximum security prison. Instead of being a drunk driver, it’s an interception with a prison break in mind. The mastermind behind the ordeal leaps into action. Everybody is confused. They never saw it coming. In fact, for the most part, the mastermind is so quick, they still don’t realize what’s happening. Yet, here we are again at a crossroads. The mastermind can break all sixteen prisoners out but he chooses to only grab six. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason behind who he selected but selected they were. The remaining ten sit in silence as they too don’t even realize what’s happening. They don’t even realize six of their fellow prisoners are no longer with them. The six who were broken out are stashed away at a safe house, given new identities, and are now walking amongst the world, minding their P’s and Q’s in an effort to avoid going back at all costs while forever indebted to the mastermind.

Surely, we aren’t thanking the mastermind for breaking out those who were convicted of murder. Nobody in their right mind would think this was a righteous move. In fact, most would be thankful he only snagged six instead of pulling out more. If the mastermind were ever to be discovered and captured, most reasonable people would demand he be put up on trial and convicted of his crimes. Are we now putting God on trial? Are we demeaning His character even in this story? While not all the details match up perfectly with God’s redemptive story, the concept is still there. Simply put, prior to regeneration, we more closely resemble the convicted murderers than we do the sweet and innocent children. As it stands, God took guilty men and set them free. He chose to save some

while leaving others to perish. If one wants to tout fairness, instead of crying over God not saving everybody, he should be seething over the fact that God, in His own infinite wisdom, chose to save ANYBODY! After all, we were guilty! We were wretched! We were vile! We hated God, cursing His name and trampling His goodness under our feet. We were bound for death row but He chose to take us off our collision course, give us new life, and abide with us forever. What a gracious God we serve!

It continues to amaze me that He would ever choose to save those who never would’ve chosen Him if the roles were reversed. For those who still despise the doctrine of election, it’s okay. So long as you trust that Christ is God, born in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21), died a horrific death (Matthew 27:26), rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4), and ascended to be seated at the Father’s right hand (Mark 16:19) for all of eternity in order that you might be saved so long as you trust in Him (Ephesians 2:8), while an important piece of doctrine, your position on election doesn’t change your status before God. You’re a part of it regardless and for that you can be thankful. God is good and, though we can now call ourselves saints (Ephesians 2:19), it’s only because of what He first did for us.

~ Travis W. Rogers

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