We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Monday, June 28, 2010

Catholic Iconography and the “Saints.”

Catholicism teaches that images may be made of the apostles and other “saints” (contrary to the Bible’s teaching that all Christians are saints, Rome has to declare people saints after their death based on their good works and other qualifications) so that the faithful may venerate them. Images may be statues or pictures of various types (glass, mosaic, paintings, etc). Let’s look at some paragraphs from the Catechism on this subject:

Paras. 476, 477 “Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ's body was finite. Therefore the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II in 787) the Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate. At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the body of Jesus ‘we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.’ The individual characteristics of Christ's body express the divine person of God's Son. He has made the features of his human body his own, to the point that they can be venerated when portrayed in a holy image, for the believer ‘who venerates the icon is venerating in it the person of the one depicted’.”

Paras. 1159-1162 “The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images… Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other… All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man ‘in the image of God,’ finally transfigured ‘into his likeness,’ who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ: ‘Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.’ … the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart's memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.

Note also that Catholics pray to the saints for intercession on our behalf.

What response do we have from Scripture? Firstly, Scripture says we are not to make any image to worship or bow down to it because that would be idolatry. (Exod. 20:4-5a)

Secondly, how does anyone know what Jesus looked like? Would not any image of Christ therefore be from someone’s imagination and not really what Christ looked like, and therefore would not the veneration be of another god - one of the artist’s making? Let’s make an analogy here. If I carry a photo of a model in my wallet and tell everyone this photo represents my wife, would I be properly representing my wife? Would it be respectful of my wife or would it cause her to be jealous? God tells us that He is a jealous God, which is why He commands no images for worship.

Images of saints, although not being of God, are nevertheless not to be worshiped (including “veneration”). And, as with images of Christ, these images would be false representations since we do not know what the people looked like.

The issue of praying to the saints would be the same as with praying to Mary. These people are dead and we do not communicate with the dead. Although the Catholic church claims that Mary and the saints are in heaven and are therefore not bound by space and time, the reality is that they would have to be omniscient to hear prayers from people all over the world. The plain fact is that we are told in Scripture that prayers are directed only at God, never to people.

The veneration of the saints and icons is part of the daily practice for Roman Catholics, and yet this is plainly unbiblical and idolatry.

Summary:

We have seen in this series on Roman Catholicism that Rome’s claim to papal infallibility being directly from God, as well as papal authority, is belied by the history of papal behaviors and teaching which are against what God has told us in the Bible. The Church’s claim to authority of the Magisterium for teaching and interpretation of Scripture has no Scriptural basis, but is a tool of control.

We have also seen that Rome’s works-based system of salvation is directly opposed to the Bible’s teaching of salvation by faith alone, in Christ alone. We’ve examined transubstantiation and the mass, and how it does not resemble anything found in Scripture. We’ve seen how Mary is looked at as being almost equal with Christ in the way they pray to her, worship her, and give her unbiblical attributes of perpetual virginity, sinlessness, and the ability to hear and answer prayer. And, finally, we’ve looked at iconography and veneration of saints, both of which are prohibited by the Bible.

These are the heavy burdens of legalism placed upon the members of the Roman Catholic Church, which result in the Roman Catholic Church being a cultic organization, in which the majority of its members are not true Christians (as testimony after testimony of ex-members attest).

How do we then witness to Catholics? The best way is to show them that salvation is a one-time thing and that it is not as a result of works. Point them to Christ, and not to Mary, for salvation. And that everything their leaders say should be passed through the grid of Scripture.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mary, “Mother of the Church,” Is Not the Mary of the Bible

Mary of Roman Catholicism has little in common with the Mary we find in the Bible. There are four dogmas about Mary, and a fifth one being petitioned for, all with their origins in Gnosticism. Here are the dogmas about Rome’s “Mary.”

1. Mother of God: Roman Catholicism elevates Mary, the mother of Jesus, to a status virtually equal to Christ himself. The origin of this unique doctrine seems to have been the Council of Chalcedon in 451, where the title Theotokos was given to her. This title means “God-bearer” or “mother-of-God.” The original purpose of this title was not to exalt Mary but to counter a heresy by the Nestorians which said Christ was actually two separate persons - the divine Word and the man Jesus. Supposedly, “the divine Word clothed himself with the man Jesus” while on earth (The Cult of the Virgin, by Elliot Miller and Kenneth R. Samples, p. 20). Since the Council of Nicea in 325 asserted the divinity of Christ, the debate was how the two natures of God and man co-existed, which brought controversy leading to the Nestorian heresy. Chalcedon’s title for Mary was to assert that the man Jesus was born both man and God.

Although there are two natures in Jesus, a woman does not give birth to natures, but to people. Since Jesus is indeed God, in a sense Mary is the mother of God. Yet, this title has to be used with qualifications because Jesus as God the Son existed for eternity, while the title could be taken to mean he came into existence when Mary gave birth to Jesus. However, Rome has used this title to elevate Mary above all other humans. Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott, in his book, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, says, “As the mother of God, Mary transcends in dignity all created persons, angels and men, because the dignity of the creature is the greater the nearer it is to God. … As a true mother she is related by blood to the Son of God according to His human nature.” (p. 197) Is this biblical?

We do know that in the Bible, Elizabeth said Mary was blessed among women (Luke 1:42), and indeed she was, “But this is due more to the important role she was elected to play (bringing the Messiah into the world) than the mere fact of a physical relationship. Actually, with what would appear to be divine foresight, Jesus consistently sought to counter the natural human tendency to esteem carnal relationship with him higher than spiritual (Matt. 12:46-50; Luke 11:27-28; 2:48-50). Rather than emphasize his physical relationship with his mother, he seemed to go out of his way to downplay it, even calling her woman (John 2:1-4; 19:26), which…was not a customary address for a Jewish son to use. Furthermore, Paul and the other New Testament authors do nothing to counter this impression that Mary is not to be exalted on the grounds of her physical relationship to Christ.” (The Cult of the Virgin, pp. 22-23)

2. Perpetual Virginity. Catechism Para. 499: “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth ‘did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it.’”

In A.D. 553, the Second Council of Constantinople declared Mary “ever virgin.” The idea for this had begun to form as early as the end of the second century, but by the fourth century there was a lot of debate about it. It appears the belief triumphed because of the rise of asceticism and monasticism, which revered celibacy over marriage as being more spiritual. Gnostic beliefs that the material world was evil led to the idea that sexual relations were part of evil pleasures and not good for spiritual growth. Therefore, the idea that Mary could ever have had sexual intercourse was seen as something that would have corrupted her, and that Jesus would never have been born from a woman who would afterwards be soiled with sexual relations.

Ludwig Ott tells us the Catholic teaching that, “Mary gave birth in miraculous fashion without opening of the womb and injury to the hymen, and consequently also without pains.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. p.205). Somehow the idea that a baby passing out of the womb and breaking the woman’s hymen would bring corruption to her, even without her having sexual relations!

James McCarthy cites Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Part III (The Gospel According to Rome, p.192) reasons why Mary had to be a perpetual virgin:

a. Since Jesus was the Father’s only son, He should also be the mother’s only son.

b. Sexual relations with Joseph would have “desecrated” Mary’s virginal womb, which would have been an insult to the Holy Spirit whose shrine was Mary’s womb.

c. “It would have been below ‘the dignity and holiness’ of Mary to forfeit her miraculous virginity by carnal intercourse with Joseph.” It would also have shown that Mary was ungrateful and not content with being Jesus’ mother.

d. “It would have been ‘extreme presumption’ for Joseph to have attempted ‘to violate’ Mary.”

In response to this teaching, we have to first ask what the Bible says about sexual relations inside of marriage. Gen. 2:24 says the husband and wife are to become one flesh, which Jesus reiterated in the Gospels. Hebrews 13:4a says, “Marriage is honorable among all…” 1 Cor. 7 tells us that the wife’s body belongs to the husband and his body belongs to her, and that they are not to deprive each other of sexual relations. The Song of Solomon exalts the marital relationship. So we see that while Scripture condemns sexual relations outside of marriage as immoral, sexual relations within marriage are right and proper and intended to make the husband and wife “one flesh.”

What does the Bible say about Mary’s virginity? Firstly, to be married to Joseph and never consummate the marriage would violate the “one flesh” desire of God’s for marriage, let alone violate the teaching that the wife’s body belongs to the husband and she is not to deprive him of relations. Matthew 1:25 says that Joseph did not have relations with Mary “till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.” The fact that it says “till” (NIV “until”) Mary had her first son implies that afterwards they had relations. Additionally, Matt. 1:18 says “before they came together,” also implying that Mary and Joseph later “came together.” Finally, Jesus is called Mary’s “firstborn” in Matt. 1:25 and Luke 2:7, implying more children followed. Numerous passages in the Gospels and some of Paul’s letters report on Jesus’ “brothers” and “brothers and sisters.” While Rome claims these passages refer to cousins, there is a Greek word for cousins which isn’t used, while the Greek for brothers and sisters are. Sometimes Catholic apologists claim these were half-siblings, children of Joseph from a previous marriage; this is bringing personal bias into the text because there is no hint in the Bible that Joseph was previously married.

The plain reading of the Bible demonstrates that Mary was in every sense a normal wife and mother after the birth of Jesus.

3. Immaculate Conception: Catechism Para. 411: “Mary…was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.” Para. 491-93 “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary…was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ,…preserved immune from all stain of original sin.’…By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”

Once the church had decided on Mary’s divine motherhood and perpetual virginity, there needed to be another way to show her complete holiness. Early church fathers said Mary was guilty of many sins, but by the early 4th century “the Latin fathers refrained from charging Mary with sin.” (The Cult p. 31) At first it was taught that Mary had no personal sin, but at the beginning of the 12th century the idea that Mary was preserved from original sin (the sinful nature) was first propagated by a British monk, Eadmer. Virtually all the leading theologians opposed the idea because it contradicted Scripture’s truth of the universality of sin. “A major portion of the credit for establishing the immaculate conception as Catholic dogma goes to John Duns Scotus (1264-1308). He argued that to hold that Mary was preserved from original sin would not depreciate the atonement but rather would magnify it: it would be an even greater work of redemptive grace for Mary to be born without sin than to be given the power to rise above it.” (The Cult, pp.31-32)

This doctrine remained controversial for several more centuries until 1854 when Pope Pius IX defined it. This was the first dogma ever pronounced on the authority of a pope without official sanction of a council. Pius’ statement claimed this “was revealed by God, and is, therefore, to be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.” As a result of this dogma, the church says “Mary possesses all gifts, knowledge, and fruits in their fullness, and is exalted above all men and angels.” (The Cult, p.32).

What does the Bible say about Mary and sin?

Firstly, the Bible tells us that all people sin. This evidence is found in both Old and New Testaments. Here are some passages to examine: 1 Kings 8:46a; 2 Chron. 6:36; Job 4:17ff; Job 19; Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 143:2; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23; Rom. 5:12; 1 John 1:9.

Secondly, Mary calls God her savior in Luke 1:47. If she was sinless, why would she need a savior?

Thirdly, in Luke 1:26-38 May is troubled and in wonderment. Why would this be so if she was sinless?

Lastly, in Luke 2:22-24 Mary presents an offering for her sinful condition.

4. The Assumption. Catechism para. 966 “‘Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.’”

If Mary was conceived without sin and remained sinless, then death would have no hold over her. This reasoning began by the 5th century in apocryphal literature, and was accepted into church teachings by the beginning of the 6th century. The Feast of the Assumption was first appointed by Gregory I (540-604). This doctrine was accepted and promoted over the centuries until 1950, when Pius XII declared the teaching to be dogma: “We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

There is no biblical warrant for this teaching. In fact, if this was true for Mary, it is highly doubtful that something so miraculous would not have been mentioned by any writers of the New Testament books.

5. Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix. While this is not yet dogma, the Pope is indeed being petitioned to make it so; for now it is just doctrine. The idea of co-redemptrix began as early as the 2nd century, while the teaching of Mediatrix began in medieval times. “The title coredemptrix has been in use since the fifteenth century, and was first officially sanctioned by the papacy when Pius X ascribed it to Mary in 1908. Catholic theology understands Mary’s role in redemption to be directly related to her status as the mother of God. Pius XI stated: ‘The most blessed Virgin, conceived without original sin, was chosen to be the Mother of God so that she might be made an associate in the Redemption of mankind.’” (The Cult.. p.48)

Pope Pius XI stated that Mary “participated with Jesus Christ in the very painful act of redemption.” Benedict XV further stated, “Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother’s rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind.” (both citations from McCarthy, p.202)

What this teaching leads to is prayers to Mary; she mediates between us and Jesus. She then intercedes on our behalf to her son so that our prayers will be answered. This leads to Mary’s other title, “Queen of Heaven” (a title ascribed to a pagan goddess in Jeremiah).

Rev. John Ferraro, in his, Ten Series of Meditations on the Mystery of the Rosary, said, “All grace is passed from God to Jesus, from Jesus to Mary, and from Mary to us. The grace of God, cure for our ills, comes to us through Mary like water through an aqueduct.” (cited by Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, p.357)

Catechism para. 2679: “Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus' mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.”

What does the Bible say? There is one mediator between God and man - Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). Therefore, Mary can not be a mediator. Additionally, there is no biblical support for Mary being a co-redeemer; Christ alone redeemed man from sin by his death and resurrection (Rom. 3:24; Col. 1:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Mary did not offer Jesus, he offered himself (Heb. 9:14)

Some questions to contemplate: 1) Why is there no mention of praying to Mary in the Bible? 2) If Mary hears and responds to all prayers addressed to her, she would have to be omniscient and omnipresent, which would make her a god. In fact, to answer all the prayers she would also have to be omnipotent. So doesn’t making Mary omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent violate the command against idolatry? 3) What about the Bible’s instructions against talking with the dead (Deut. 18:11-12, et. al)?

Catholic teachings about Mary lead to worshiping her (although Catholics claim “veneration”), hence the many occultic visions of Mary seen around the world. She is ranked next to Jesus in exaltation in heaven and treated by Catholics almost the same as they treat Christ. This has no biblical foundation and ends up being nothing less than idolatry.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Catholic Eucharist: Unbiblical and Idolatry

Roman Catholicism teaches that Jesus instituted the Mass at the Last Supper. According to Rome, Jesus actually turned the bread and wine into his physical body and blood. Since that time, whenever the priest says the same words Jesus said at the Last Supper, the bread and wine of the Mass miraculously turns into the actual body and blood of Christ. While the outer appearance of the bread and wine remain the same, supposedly the inner essence - the substance - changes to Christ’s body and blood and remains that way as long as the bread and wine remain “incorrupted.” According to Catholicism, the Eucharist - popularly called Mass - is a means of God’s sanctifying grace which enables the faithful to keep the commandments and do good works. It also helps the faithful to attain salvation. Let’s look at some teachings on the subject from the Catechism:

Para 1365: “Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: ‘This is my body which is given for you’ and ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.’ In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”

Para 1368: The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.

Para 1376: “The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: ‘Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.’"

Para 1377: “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.”

Para 1378: Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. ‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.’"

Para 2181: “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”

In addition to teaching that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, Rome teaches that the Eucharist is to be worshiped as Christ. The Code of Canon Law states that the faithful are to “hold the Eucharist in highest honor…worshiping it with supreme adoration.” According to Vatican II, this is to be with “the same worship of latria or adoration that we offer to God.” (both citations from James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome, P.131). Yet worshiping objects such as wine and bread is nothing less than idolatry, which Scripture specifically prohibits.

Let’s use a little common sense and reasoning here. If the Last Supper was in actuality a Mass, then how could Jesus be sitting there with the elements at the same time saying the elements were his body and blood? Do you think the disciples understood Jesus to be speaking literally, since the Law prohibited the eating of blood? And if the human body of Christ is located in heaven at the Father’s right hand, how can it be at the same time in millions of places in Masses all over the world? Isn’t it more likely that Jesus was using the bread and wine figuratively so as to provide Christians with symbols to celebrate with as a memorial?

Rome also claims that in the Eucharist Christ is sacrificed to God, and that the Last Supper was in itself a Mass. If the Last Supper was indeed a sacrifice of Christ, then we have an illogical situation of Christ sacrificing himself before he was sacrificed on the cross. Additionally, if each Mass is a sacrifice of Christ, then we have a direct contradiction of the Bible which says that Christ was sacrificed once for all time, and that this eliminated the need for continual sacrifices.

Hebrews 7:26-27: For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Hebrews 9:24-28: For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

Hebrews 10:14: For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

1 Peter 3:18a: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God

Lastly, notice also that deliberately failing to participate in the Sunday Eucharist is a mortal sin, which would mean the person was in a state outside of grace and in danger of going to Hell. This would also mean that the Mass is necessary for salvation, thereby adding to the plain teaching of Scripture that we are saved by faith apart from works. (Acts 16:30-31).

The Roman church has many reasons why they claim this is all true, and twist the Scriptures to justify much of it. However, once the reasons are examined in light of Scripture in context, one is able see that the whole basis of this teaching is because the Church says so - because they are the Magisterium, and they have the authority to speak for God, while the Pope is Christ’s representative on earth. Of course, by examining the history of the papacy and of the Catholic Church, one sees immediately the fraudulent nature of these claims.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Unbiblical Catholic Sin, Purgatory and Indulgences

Roman Catholicism teaches that there are two types of sin, mortal and venial. As described in the Catechism: Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.” (Para. 1855)

James McCarthy sums up the teaching thus (bracketed numbers are paragraphs in the Catechism): “Roman Catholic theologians compare the manner in which mortal and venial sins affect the soul to the way in which illnesses affect the body. Most ailments are minor. The body’s immune system fights them off and eventually restores health. A venial sin is like a minor sickness of the soul. It hinders spirituality and lowers resistance to temptation, but the vitality of the soul survives [1863]. Mortal sin is a deathblow. It kills the soul as surely as a fatal disease kills the body. When a Catholic who has received sanctifying grace through baptism commit’s a mortal sin, he loses that grace [1861]. Though by baptism he had been justified, because of mortal sin he forfeits the grace of justification, or, it might be said, is dejustified. He becomes a child of wrath and destined for hell [1033, 1861, 1874]. And just as a dead body has no capacity to restore itself, the Church teaches that a soul struck dead by mortal sin cannot revive itself. The sinner must turn to the Church and to the sacrament of penance [1446, 1856].” (The Gospel According to Rome, pp.75,76)

Biblically-speaking, all sin is mortal in that all sin not forgiven through faith in Christ condemns one to eternal separation from God. While under Catholic teaching one is required to confess mortal sins to a priest, who will prescribe a work of penance for forgiveness and release from eternity in Hell, Scripture says we confess our sins directly to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9; Heb. 4:16, 1 John 2: 1,2) and our salvation has never been in danger.

Purgatory: Invented by Pope Gregory the Great in 593, this didn’t become dogma until 1439 because of so much reluctance to accept such an unbiblical idea. Catholicism teaches that Christ’s death made it possible to be forgiven of sin, but the sinner must still undergo some pain and torment in order to be purged and made acceptable to enter heaven. This “purging” is of unknown intensity and duration. “While Catholicism says it is theoretically possible to be cleansed through the sufferings of this life and one’s death, no one, not even the pope himself, can know whether that has occurred. Consequently, almost all Catholics expect to spend some unknown length of time in purgatory.” (Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, p.475)

The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, which was held from 1962 to 1965, stated this about purgatory: “The doctrine of purgatory clearly demonstrates that even when the guilt of sin has been taken away, punishment for it or the consequences of it may remain to be expiated or cleansed. … [I]n purgatory the souls of those who died in the charity of God and truly repentant but who had not made satisfaction with adequate penance for their sins and omissions are cleansed after death with punishments designed to purge away their debt.”

Paragraphs 1030-1032 of the Catechism say, “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. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: ‘As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.’ This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: ‘Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.’… The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”

Catholics are taught that the living can help those in purgatory by saying prayers, giving alms and doing good works, which merits are then offered on the behalf of those in purgatory. Requesting a Mass on the behalf of the dead is supposedly the most effective means (usually money is provided to the priest for this service).

What does the Bible say?

[Christ] being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3, NKJV)

But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. (2 Peter 1:9, KJV)

Since Christ died to purge our sins, there is no need for a purgatory. Additionally, Scripture says that when we die, we go to be immediately with the Lord and not in a place of purging (Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:23-24; 2 Corinthians 5:8).

Indulgences: “Another way in which the living can help the dead is by acquiring special credits, called indulgences, that cancel out temporal punishment [1032 1471]” (McCarthy, p.94)

“The doctrine of indulgences arises from Catholicism’s strange and unbiblical insistence that Christ’s sufferings for our sins upon the cross at the hands of man and God could only obtain forgiveness of guilt but still left the ‘forgiven but repentant sinner’ under the obligation of suffering for his own sins either in this life or most likely in the ‘purifying flames of purgatory.’ An indulgence presumes, through the power given to the Church, to reduce the time or intensity of the suffering in purgatory by some unknown length or amount.” (Hunt, p. 522)

Catechism, Para 1471: …“‘An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.’” ‘An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.’ The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.”

Catechism, Para 1478-1479: “An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.”

As you can see, this doctrine says that Christ’s atonement was insufficient for the total forgiveness of sin, and that we must therefore do additional works.

Scripture tells us our sins are forgiven in Christ and that He paid the penalty for that sin. Since Christ was purged for our sin, there is no need of purgatory, and if there is no need for purgatory, then there is even less need for indulgences to pay for lessened time in purgatory.

Rome controls its members by legalistic rules which make them fear the loss of salvation and continued punishment for sin. Additionally, Rome has enriched itself over centuries by taking money from members who think they are paying to have less time served in an imaginary purgatory. These are not actions of a church of Christ, rather they are the actions of a religious organization of man.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Roman Catholic Baptism Is Unbiblical

The Catholic teaching on Baptism begins with the idea that the very act of baptism “erases original sin,” and that it is required for one’s salvation. This is why babies must be baptized as soon as possible. Some quotes from the Catechism demonstrate this teaching:

Para. 1250 “Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.”

Para. 1257 “…The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…”

Para. 1261 “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God… Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.”

Another interesting aspect of Catholic baptism is noted in Para. 1237 of the catechism: “Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate.”

Of course none of this is found in Scripture. Baptism is what the Christians do because they have become Christians by being justified by faith in Christ; it is an outward, public sign of the person’s confession. There is nothing about baptism that saves a person who has not placed their faith in the atoning work of Christ. One is forced to ask why Christ never baptized anyone, and why Paul baptized only a few, if baptism was required for salvation? Faith in Christ alone is what saves us from sin (John 3:16, 36; John 5:24; John 6:47; John 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom. 1:16; Rom. 3:22,25; Rom. 10:9; Tit. 3:5; Eph. 2:8-9, 16; et al).

And, of course, there is no biblical teaching for the idea that exorcisms should be pronounced at the time one is baptized.

Baptism saves no one, and that is what the Bible teaches.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Avoiding Spiritual Danger

I’ve done some more reading in William MacDonald’s Believer’s Bible Commentary and came across another very thought-provoking section on Ephesians 4:14. As MacDonald points out, it is very important that we have solid teaching and leadership in the Church or it will suffer the consequences:

When the gifts [given to the Church] operate in their God-appointed manner, and the saints are active in service for the Lord, three dangers are avoided—immaturity, instability, and gullibility.

Immaturity. Believers who never become involved in aggressive service for Christ never emerge from being spiritual children. They are undeveloped through lack of exercise. It was to such that the writer to the Hebrews said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again
--.” (Heb. 5:12).

Instability. Another danger is spiritual fickleness. Immature Christians are susceptible to the grotesque novelties and fads of professional quacks. They become religious gypsies, moving to and fro from one appealing fantasy to another.

Gullibility. Most serious of all is the danger of deception. Those who are babes are unskillful in the word of righteousness, their senses are not exercised to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:13, 14). They inevitably meet some false cultist who impresses them by his zeal and apparent sincerity. Because he uses religious words, they think he must be a true Christian. If they had studied the Bible for themselves, they would be able to see through his deceitful juggling of words. But now they are carried about by his wind of doctrine and led by unprincipled cunning into a form of systematized error.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Papacy, “Infallibility” and the Magisterium

Constantine was known as the “vicar of Christ” (another Christ - representative of Christ) and the papacy took over this title. He was also the head of the pagan priesthood, with the title of Pontifex Maximus, another title taken by the papacy. During the middle ages, “the bishops of Rome began to claim that they were the sole representatives of Christ upon the earth.” (Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, p.46).

If the papacy did indeed represent God on earth, we should expect the office to be in conformance with God’s will. Some examples of the behavior of popes throughout history show just how out of conformity with Scripture the office has been:

“Sergius III (A.D. 904-911). Said to have had a mistress, Marozia. She, her mother Theodora, and her sister, ‘filled the Papal chair with their paramours and bastard sons, and turned the Papal Palace into a den of robbers.’ Called in history The Rule of the Harlots (904-963).

“…John X (914-928) ‘was brought from Ravenna to Rome and made Pope by Theodora for the more convenient gratification of her passion.’ He was smothered to death by Marozia, who, then, in succession, raised to the Papacy Leo VI (928-929), and Stephen VII (929-931), and John XI (931-936), her own illegitimate son. Another of her sons appointed the four following Popes, Leo VII (936-939), Stephen VIII (939-942), Martin III (942-946), and Agapetus II (946-955). John XII (955-963), a grandson of Marozia, was ‘guilty of almost every crime; violated virgins and widows, high and low; lived with his father’s mistress; made the Papal Palace a brothel; was killed while in the act of adultery by the woman’s enraged husband.’

…“Boniface VII (984-985), murdered Pope John XIV, and ‘maintained himself on the throne…by a lavish distribution of stolen money.’…

“Benedict VIII (1012-1024), bought the Office of Pope with open bribery. …

“John XIX (1024-1033), Bought the Papacy. He passed through all the necessary clerical degrees in one day.

“Benedict IX (1033-1045), was made Pope as a boy 12 years old, through a money bargain with the powerful families that ruled Rome. ‘Surpassed John XII in wickedness; committed murders and adulteries in broad daylight; robbed pilgrims on the graves of martyrs; a hideous criminal, the people drove him out of Rome.’ …

“Gregory VI (1045-1046), Bought the Papacy. …

“The Inquisition, called the ‘Holy Office,’ was instituted by Innocent III [1198-1216]….

“John XXIII (1410-1415), called by some the most depraved criminal who ever sat on the Papal Throne; guilty of almost every crime; as cardinal in Bologna, 200 maidens, nuns and married women fell victims to his amours; as Pope he violated virgins and nuns; lived in adultery with his brother’s wife, was guilty of sodomy and other nameless vices; bought the Papal Office; sold Cardinalates to children of wealthy families; and openly denied the future life….

“ Pius II (1458-1464), was said to have been the father of many illegitimate children, spoke openly of the methods he used to seduce women….

“Sixtus IV (1471-1484). Sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition…. Was implicated in a plot to murder Lorenzo de Medici, and others opposed to his policies. Used the Papacy to enrich himself and his relatives. Made eight of his nephews Cardinals, while as yet some of them were mere boys….

Innocent VIII (1484-1492). Had 16 children by various married women. Multiplied Church Offices and sold them for vast sums of money. Decreed the extermination of the Waldenses….

“Alexander VI (1492-1503), called the most corrupt of the Renaissance Popes, licentious, avaricious, depraved; bought the Papacy; made many new cardinals for money; had a number of illegitimate children, whom he openly acknowledged and appointed to high church office while they were yet children, who, with their father, murdered cardinals and others who stood in their way. Had for a mistress a sister of a Cardinal, who became next Pope, Pius III (1503)….

“Julius II (1503-1513)…with vast income from numerous bishoprics and church estates, bought the Papacy…. [note from Hunt, p.169, was that Julius was a notorious womanizer who had many illegitimate children and was so eaten with syphilis that he couldn’t expose his feet to be kissed.]

“Paul III (1534-1549). Had many illegitimate children… (Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 24th Edition, pp.774-780)

As you can see from this abbreviated list, many popes purchased the position and many were very immoral and wicked, yet this office claims to be a representative of Christ. The papal office declared a war on Germany which lasted for 200 years in the middle ages, and over the centuries popes have had hundreds of thousands of people murdered for refusing to accept Rome’s teachings, and had hundreds of thousands more imprisoned for the same reason. For centuries Rome has persecuted - and very often murdered by hundreds - Jews, outlawing commerce or any association between them and Christians, and marriage between a Jew and a Christian was punishable by death. (In fact, ahead of the Nazis by centuries, Rome required Jews to wear an identifying badge, including a yellow circle of cloth in the 16th Century). Rome outlawed reading of the Bible by the individual and punished those caught doing so. Rome has declared there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, condemned all religious freedom, and also condemned the translation of the Bible. And, as Dave Hunt said, the “popes have built an unrivaled worldwide empire of property, wealth and influence.” (Hunt, p.70)

Jesus told us in Matthew 7:15-23 that false teachers can be known by their fruits, and the office of the papacy is rife with bad fruit, including numerous popes who taught heresy. Let’s look at a small sampling of some decrees from the papal office, which also demonstrate their bad fruit and anti-biblical/unbiblical teachings.

Liberius (352-366) said Jesus was less than God - the Son was less than the Father.

Innocent I (401-417) taught that un-baptized babies went directly to Hell.

Gelasius (492 -496) taught that baptized babies went to Hell if they never had communion.

Urban II (1088-1099) decreed that heretics were to be tortured and killed. This became a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.

Innocent III (1198-1216) stated that “Every cleric must obey the Pope, even if he commands what is evil; for no one may judge the Pope.” (Hunt, p.86)

Boniface VIII (1294-1303) in his Bull Unam Sanctam in 1302, “claimed authority over all temporal powers, made absolute obedience to the pope a condition of salvation.” (Hunt, p.235)

Gregory XI (1370-1378) issued a decree in 1372 claiming “papal dominion over the entire Christian world, secular and religious, and excommunicated all who failed to obey the popes and to pay them taxes. [It] was confirmed by subsequent popes and in 1568 Pope Pius V swore that it was to remain an eternal law.” (Hunt, p.70)

Martin V (1417-1431) “commanded the King of Poland in 1429 to exterminate the Hussites” (Hunt, p.247)

Although previous popes granted indulgences for those living, Sixtus IV (1471-1484) granted indulgences for the dead; relatives could buy an indulgence for a dead family member to be released from purgatory sooner.

Innocent VIII (1484-1492) granted a 20-year indulgence for “purchasing the privilege of eating favorite dishes during Lent and at other times of fasting. It was a way to be credited with fasting while indulging oneself in the richest of foods.” (Hunt, p.185)

“Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) claimed that all undiscovered lands belonged to the Roman Pontiff, for him to dispose of as he pleased in the name of Christ as His vicar.” (Hunt, p.70) This pope divided up most of the world between Spain and Portugal, except for North America, which was settled mostly by Protestants.

Clement XII (1730-1740) prescribed the death penalty for members of Freemasonry, as well as to those giving any sort of aid to them.

Pius IX (1846 -1878) in his 1864 Syllabus of Errors, decreed the union of Church and state, that Roman Catholicism must be the state religion everywhere, and that the Church may use force to compel obedience. He also reiterated that there was no salvation outside the Catholic church. It was he who declared the dogma of Papal Infallibility.

Pius X (1903-1914) said he could not sanction Jews going to Jerusalem because, “The Jews have not recognized our Lord; we cannot recognize the Jews.” (cited in Hunt, p.292)

Paul VI (1963-1978) told influential Hindu leader Sri Chinmoy, “The Hindu life and the Christian life shall go together. Your message and my message are the same.” (Hunt, p.417)

John Paul II (1978-2005) declared that images of saints have power: “A mysterious ‘presence’ of the transcendent Prototype seems as it were to be transferred to the sacred image…. The devout contemplation of such an image thus appears as a real and concrete path of purification of the soul of the believer…because the image itself, blessed by the priest…can in a certain sense, by analogy with the sacraments, actually be considered a channel of divine grace.” (Hunt, p.184)

Now that we have looked at several examples of how many popes acquired their office, the behavior of popes, and the unbiblical teachings of popes, let’s look at the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope.

Originally, infallibility was ascribed to the Roman emperor. Pope Leo I (440-461) said, “By the Holy Spirit’s inspiration the emperor needs no human instruction and is incapable of doctrinal error.” (Hunt, p. 156). One of the first popes to claim infallibility was Nicholas I (858-867) who said, “It is evident that the popes can neither be bound nor unbound by any earthly power, nor even by that of the apostle [Peter], if he should return upon the earth; since Constantine the Great has recognized that the pontiffs held the place of God upon earth, the divinity not being able to be judged by any living man. We are, then, infallible, and whatever may be our acts, we are not accountable for them but to ourselves.” (Hunt, pp.153-154)

Although many popes over the years claimed infallibility, This doctrine was defined dogmatically in the First Vatican Council of 1870. It has been reiterated in Vatican II. And The Code of Canon Law, Canon 333, par 3, says, “There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff.”

So, just what does this doctrine teach? Whenever the pope speaks ex cathedra, that is, from his chair of authority, he cannot and does not teach false doctrine. Vatican II goes so far as to say that even when he does not speak ex cathedra, Catholics are still expected to obey him without question. Bearing in mind this teaching, look again at some of the teachings and decrees made by popes in the past and then ask yourself if the pope is really infallible, whether or not he is speaking ex cathedra? Do the examples of actions of the papacy in the past (and numerous more examples could be cited) demonstrate that the papal office has any special connection with God, or that it represents Christ on Earth? The answer must be, “no.”

As part of the teaching of infallibility, when all the bishops agree on a doctrine, then they are also considered to be infallible in that decision. This leads to the idea of the teaching Magisterium, which “is a body made up of the bishops and the pope. It functions as the authoritative teaching body of the Church that safeguards doctrines. … It alone has the right to interpret and judge the correct meaning of God’s Word.” (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning From the Scriptures with Catholics, pp.89-90) As cited by Rhodes, the book Dogmatic Theology for the Laity declares, “the teaching office of the Church is more important than the Bible; only an infallible Church can interpret the true meaning of Sacred Scripture; no one can do this for himself.” (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p.90).

Some questions to ask about the papacy and the teaching Magisterium:

1. Why is there no mention of the papal office in Scripture if God wanted this office? Scripture gives us Apostles, prophets, teachers, elders and deacons, yet no popes.

2. Throughout history, there were 35 times when there was more than one pope, each condemning the other; how could this be if the office is infallible and the true representative of Christ on earth.

3. “If the pope is infallible, how can it be that Pope Honorius I (A.D. 625-638) was condemned for teaching heresy by the Sixth General Council?” (Rhodes, p.97)

4. If the individual is unable to understand Scripture without the Church, why does the Bible praise the Bereans for searching the Scripture? (Acts 17) Why does the Scripture tell us to individually examine teachings? (1 Thes. 5:21, et al). Why would Scripture tell us to handle the Word of God rightly? (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Cor. 4:2)

Rome teaches that their authority comes from their claim that Peter was the first bishop - or Pope - of Rome, and that those who succeed him as bishop also succeed him as Pope. They teach that he was given primacy over all the other apostles, yet in Acts 15 we see that James is the one in charge of the Council of Jerusalem. Rome also teaches that Matthew 16:18 states that Jesus was building his church on Peter, while the actual context is that Jesus was going to build his church on Peter’s confession of faith (in fact, Ephesians 2:20 states that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone, rather than being built on one apostle). In fact, no place in Scripture is Peter elevated to any supremacy over the other apostles. So we see that, far from Rome’s claim that Peter’s position was supreme and that he was the Bishop of Rome (with no supporting historical evidence) and that by virtue of this the Roman bishop became the authority for the church, the real reason the Roman bishop became the head of the church was because of his political position in the Roman Empire.

It is very important to understand that the pope is just another man with no special teaching authority from God, especially when it is understood that the unique teachings of the Roman Church derive from the Pope and his councils. Now that we’ve looked at the Pope and his supposed gift of infallibility, as well as the teaching Magisterium, in the future I will discuss some of the unbiblical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which places them in the category of being cultic.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Defend the Faith!


Last night I began reading a new book I picked up in April at the St. Louis Conference on Biblical Discernment. The book is a new one by Ron Rhodes, titled 5-Minute Apologetics for Today: 365 Quick Answers to Key Questions. It is designed as a daily reader, one page per day, but I never do those things - I just read right on through.  If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Rhodes or his Reasoning From the Scriptures Ministries, you are missing out on some excellent apologetics teachings.

Anyway, I read the first 15 days last night and came across a couple items I really wanted to share with my readers. The following is Dr. Rhodes’ entry for Day 11, Non-Rock-a-Boatus:

Many Christians today seem to be secret-agent Christians who are afraid of blowing their cover before an unregenerate world. Such Christians apparently have a hideous disease called non-rock-a-boatus. This disease has so effectively neutralized Christians that the cancer of false religion has spread at an incredible, unprecedented pace in this country.

Many Christians are so fearful of rocking the boat that they clam up and keep their Christianity to themselves. They think that if they speak out for Christ and for Christian values in this predominantly anti-Christian culture, they may offend someone or perhaps be ridiculed and embarrassed.

If this disease continues unchecked, we can count on the continued spiritual deterioration of our country. If Christians do not act, the followers of false religions will. The war is on - and we Christians will be soldiers in the midst of the conflict or casualties left behind.

The task cannot be left in the hands of the professional clergy. The challenge is too massive for church leaders alone. The involvement of every Christian is necessary if the growth of false ideas in this country is to be turned back (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). The task begins with a single person - you. If you really want to see things get better in our country, why not take the first step - you, without waiting for others to act - and commit to being an agent of change (see Mathew 28:19; Acts 1:8)?

Please note that the context is slowing the decline of the spiritual condition; Rhodes does not believe we can make the country a better place, rather he believes, as do I, that it is possible to reach more people with the truth if we get active about it. We need to put false teachers out of business as much as we can, rather than sit by and watch our churches collapse spiritually. Of course we know we will never be 100% successful because Scripture tells us of the spiritual decline in the last days. But we can certainly slow it down! Dr.. Rhodes tell us how to do this in the last paragraph of his entry for Day 10, Contend for the Faith, discussing Jude 3.

How can you and I contend for Christian truth? The word translated contend (Greek: agonia) was often used in New Testament times to refer to competition in athletic contests. The English word agony comes from the noun form. The idea behind the word is of an intense and vigorous struggle to defeat the opposition. Believers are to engage in an intense and vigorous struggle in defending Christianity.

Let’s all get out there and CONTEND!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't Be A Spectator

I’ve been studying Ephesians 4 and reading William MacDonald’s Believer’s Bible Commentary along with the Bible. In MacDonald’s notes for vs. 12 he cites the following from Vance Havner:

Every Christian is commissioned, for every Christian is a missionary. It has been said that the Gospel is not merely something to come to church to hear but something to go from church to tell - and we are all appointed to tell it. It has also been said, ‘Christianity began as a company of lay witnesses; it has become a professional pulpitism, financed by lay spectators!’ Nowadays we hire a church staff to do ‘full-time Christian work,’ and we sit in church on Sunday to watch them do it. Every Christian is meant to be in full-time Christian service… There is indeed a special ministry of pastors, teachers and evangelists - but for what? … For the perfecting of the saints for their ministry.

I thought this was a really good statement about how so many today go to church to get their weekly dose of Christianity and then go about the rest of their week as if they learned little or nothing about their faith (of course, in churches like Joel Osteen‘s they don‘t learn about the faith). I have learned from experience, sad to say, that most Christians are not interested in evangelism, rather they tell friends and acquaintances to go to church; after all, isn’t it the job of the church to evangelize? NO! that is the job of the individual Christian.

What about you; are you a “lay witness”? If you really believe that Jesus is the only way, and that all unbelievers are destined for Hell, should you not be doing what you can to bring as many as possible into the Kingdom?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Revelation 22:18-19

I got such great response on my last post about an abused Bible passage that I thought I’d discuss another one. Let’s read the subject passage:

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of this book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (NKJV)

Contrary to the common out-of-context use of this passage, it does not apply to the Bible. This passage is only in reference to the book of Revelation and nothing else. You have to remember that this was written long before the New Testament was collected as a book, and the subject of the text is “the prophecy of this book.” I hate to say this, but many good teachers have misused this passage to apply it to the whole of Scripture; I have seen it over and over again in commentaries.

Mormons hear this so much that they have learned to respond by pointing out the context, which really says nothing about their Book of Mormon or their other standard works. Of course what they don’t understand is that this does indeed apply to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, because he did add to and subtract from the book of Revelation!

Jehovah’s Witnesses change Revelation in their New World Translation, so we can say this applies to them also.

Now that I have your attention, does this mean we can add to or subtract from the Bible with no consequences from God? Of course not! Let’s look at some other passages from the Bible (all NKJV):

Deuteronomy 4:2: You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

What is the context? This is Moses talking to Israel in reference to all the Law given to him for Israel. Can we say this applies to the Bible as a whole? No. In context it only refers to the Law - the commandments of God given by Moses to Israel.

Deuteronomy 12:32: Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

As with the other passage from Deuteronomy, this is Moses talking to Israel about the Law.

Jeremiah 23:31: “Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’”

The context is God telling what He hates about false prophets. This passage says God is against those who claim God said something that He didn’t say.

I think these passages tell us a principle - that God does not want His Word messed with by either adding to it or taking away from it. Now let’s look at one last passage:

Proverbs 30:5-6: Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.

This is a general statement about God’s Word. It says don’t add to it! By extension I think we could also say this would certainly apply to taking away from His Word, because when you take away from the Word you add a new meaning.

So then, the lesson for today is this: use the Bible in context because that is where the truth lies. Tradition often leads us into error, and when we take passages out of context because we’ve heard them traditionally used this way, then we become no better exegetes than members of cults.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Deception by Investment

This morning I was catching up on my mail from yesterday, and I read the monthly MRM Update newsletter from Mormonism Research Ministry. The lead article was about a survey of Mormons as to what they would do if they learned Brigham Young really was behind the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The results were not surprising, yet they were sad nevertheless. Most of those surveyed wouldn’t change their view of the Mormon Church because they “have a testimony.”

The most interesting part of the article was an excerpt from an e-mail by a Mormon who said, “If Thomas S. Monson [current LDS president and prophet] were to announce in an address in front of the world that it was all a joke, a fraud, a conspiracy, etc. it would not change my testimony in the slightest because he did not give me my testimony or have anything to do with it.” The author of the article correctly pointed out that, “This is what happens when your worldview is shaped by subjectivism and not biblical truth.”

People in cults and followers of other false teachers all have the same problem: they are deceived by their investment in the false teachers or cults. If they admit that the teacher or cult is in error, then they have to admit they were deceived and their self-pride couldn’t take that. I’ve seen it right here on my blog with the followers of Beth Moore - they can’t admit her teachings are rife with error because that would make them realize all they invested in her teachings was more to their detriment than to their betterment.

In a way I have a difficult time understanding this thinking; I’ve never had that problem. Whenever I discover my beliefs are in error, I want to leave the error behind. That’s why I left the Mormon Church when I learned what a fraudulent origin it had, and that it’s teachings didn’t line up with Scripture. I once thought abortion was okay because it wasn’t a baby until the last couple months - something I learned as an unbeliever. When I began maturing in my faith and learned about life really beginning at conception, I immediately discarded my old beliefs and told people I was wrong. There have been teachers I heartily subscribed to as a new believer because I trusted Christians around me, but as I matured in the word I was able to recognize where some of these teachers were in error and admitted I was wrong to follow them.

Truth is what I am always looking for, not subjective feelings, ideas, beliefs, etc. I want to see objective truth. Why is that so difficult for others? I have so often encountered people who do not want to know the truth because it doesn’t go along with their beliefs. It doesn’t matter if the issue is theology or politics, people will go with what feels good whenever it conflicts with truth.

The person cited in the MRM letter demonstrates exactly why the Emergent movement and mysticism are invading the Church - people invest their time and effort into them because the teachings feel good, and they don’t want to admit they are wrong when they are given the biblical truth.

“Deception by investment” holds people prisoner to false belief systems. We need to work hard at breaking that hold by boldly proclaiming the truth.