Comparative Religions

The existence of and disagreement between religions and philosophies can be daunting and depressing. Yet we should not give up trying to understand because of the difficulty of the task… Let’s interpret the cosmic implications of the many religions, and understand why they contradict each others mutual truth claims.

If I were an Atheist

Believers

If I were an atheist, I would try to really believe it and live it. What do I mean? Well, first of all, most atheists would pull out their first debate card right here and retort “Atheism isn’t a thing to believe and live! It’s non-belief – it’s a non-identity!” This is their favorite first chess move, because they really do see themselves as neutral observers on a seemingly ungoverned universe. They believe they are making no positive claims about what is, only what is not, namely, a supernatural realm, gods, or a God.

This push of the pawn into the center of the chessboard seems strong at first glance, but with a little examination, it fails to deliver on its promise. First of all, no human being can escape a life of -beliefs-. We are all believers by nature, inescapably, because no person has all knowledge. If one does not have all knowledge, and if that one is going to make any, any claim about the universe that cannot be objectively known and proven, then that person is swimming in the realm of belief.

No atheist can avoid this life of belief without evidence. My atheist friend on Twitter confirmed this for me here:

Agnostics, not atheists. So what’s the reason to call oneself atheist (or as some do, anti-theists)? My guess is that for some, it’s the feeling of satisfaction, and for others, a lack of self awareness. To be “atheist” by self label is to be a bold unbeliever, to strike at the heart of the vast majority of one’s human family with a shocking “you’re all way off!” (which is a positive claim of belief, mind you)…

Yet this seemingly bold statement of unbelief is nothing more than a belief in a philosophical materialism – that is, a belief that all of reality is a physical phenomenon – and that everything can be explained in terms of purely natural origin and conclusion.

Among the many and fatal logical problems with this belief system is perhaps the most emotionally unsatisfying of them: the atheist is forced into the twin buzz saws of Nihilism and radical subjectivism.

And it was recently in an extended conversation with the same atheist as noted above that I pressed the problem of Nihilism. Here I will post a snatch of our conversation (with his permission) where I was pleading with him to see and embrace the implications of his atheism, hoping that to do so for any person would lead to the abandonment of said atheism. Have a look:

I’m in blue, our atheist in gray.

I remind you that in the cosmic scale of our existence, rape and murder are just things that happen given enough time and chance. Moral value cannot be assigned to these things beyond the subjective sensations of the individual primate, in this case, you.

You’re jumping WAY ahead

Let’s baby step through this.

I know how difficult it is to remain in the abstract, false world of philosophical materialism, but you’re the one who has the lock and key. Yet I keep finding you out here with me, arguing from the bases of true meaningfulness in the moral categories!

It’s like you’re a man arguing against the existence of numerical objectivity but can’t help wanting to discuss mathematics.

I disagree. I don’t see any reason why a moral framework cannot be reasoned out in the absence of a deity.

Just because there is no cosmic prohibition against certain actions does not mean we cannot figure out how the best way to treat others.

What that means, with respect and care for you, is that you cannot reason through your stated beliefs. You’re bound to borrow mine.

I can’t? That’s news to me.

“Best” implies a scale of “good” and “bad” – how do you get these categories from stellar explosions and future thermonuclear winter?

Because human beings have preferences. We can know what can be universally preferred and what cannot.

It doesn’t take an advanced degree to understand if someone steals from you, a negative outcome had accrued to you = bad

What if by some cosmic calculus you cannot fathom, stealing benefits the race? What if the death of certain groups is a feature of evolutionary progression?

What do you mean, “what if?”

Utilitarianism is not in the realm of morality.

It seems that when stars explode, several aeons later carbon-based bipedal protoplasmic organisms sometimes turn off each other’s biological functions in physical conflict. What does it matter to a blind, pitiless, indifferent universe?

It doesn’t matter to the universe. It’s not a sentient being.

I think this view helps make us more focused on morality than less.

And in your worldview, we are little eyeballs of the universe that appear for a fraction of a second, then disappear back into the abyss.

In a way, yes. Like I said yesterday, consciousness is a deep mystery and highly profound.

That we are actually the universe coming to perceive itself. It’s beautiful.

I’m trying with all my might to convince you of the implications of philosophical materialism. If it were me, I could see no problem embracing these things.

Which implications am I missing in your estimation?

Am I supposed to be dragged down into the dark pit of Nihilism?

You should be believing: Morality is *merely* a trait selected blindly by chance evolutionary progress.

Morality is an illusion that we pull over our eyes to stave off the true nature of our existence: unknowable, meaningless, extremely fleeting, and forgotten.

All sensations of meaning, love, and beauty are the desperate paroxysms of agonized, highly self-aware biomechanical robots, like us.

We’re dying. We’re about to disappear from all hope. All memory. We are atomic accidents.

What is a species’ benefit in a world that will be eaten by its own star?

What exactly is your problem with this fact?

I understand the desire to want to live forever. Man…you’re dark.[1]

These are the implications of philosophical materialism. Atheists & antitheists should be brave enough to embrace them, in my opinion.

Life is short. It’s precious. It’s special.

Precisely because of how fleeting it is.[2]

And it’s comforting to believe we’ll live forever, but it’s just not true.

I embrace those things.[3] I’m just not depressed by any of it. I’m energized by it. And I soak in every second of this amazing life.

[1] Note – he calls me dark for explaining the implications of his own worldview! [2] Really, this makes me very sad. He instinctively uses all the categories of a theist, because of course he is one by nature. He knows the value and beauty of life because he is not an animal, but rather a human being made in the image of his personal Creator. [3] The atheist “embraces” hopeless Nihilism in the same breath as he assigns meaning and value to life. The terminus of atheistic thought is pure contradiction.

So there you have an astonishing bit of honesty from our atheist friend. He sees my description of atheistic Nihilism, and “embraces” it (and the bold lettering is all my emphasis). Yet he tries with the other hand to force meaning, value, beauty, and a standard of goodness into the world.

Well sir, you can’t have it both ways.

If I were an atheist, I’d go for it. None of this “let’s make something nice out of a hopeless, meaningless situation.” No, if I were an atheist, I’d really live like there is no meaning, no external moral, no hope, no love. I’d pull off my best Jim Morrison impression (of course with far less success, ha). I’d be eating and drinking and filling myself with pleasures. I’d be the nothing I was born to be.

But you see, most atheists can’t be consistent within their claims. It’s too hard to do while living under the sovereign presence of our personal, unchanging Creator. We all have an awareness of His primacy and judgment. We know Him, and we fear Him.

Anyways, I’ll leave it off there. This is a really mediocre post with a need for wit or some unifying story that pulls you in, but if you got this far, I must’ve done something right.

Love to you all, including my atheist buds. Go easy in the comments, because I’m very reasonable to talk with.

  • Adam

 

Categories: Comparative Religions, Meaning Woven into Nature | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Apes in a Meadow (Christian – Atheist Exchange)

My interlocutor’s name on Twitter is @saykojack – a friendly atheist who enjoys a vigorous exchange of ideas – but I get tired of trying to discuss weighty matters in miniature form, so I am inviting him to talk more broadly here in the comment section with me. If anyone else wants to join in, please wait for our conversation to come to an end before you jump in. It’s really hard talking through the internet to even one person who is intelligent and serious about his or her message, let alone two or more.

So…

apes

Here’s a recap from Twitter (and I may accidentally omit something) –

1) Jack (as I’m calling him) asked me to defend/explain the purity of the New Testament text. We went back and forth with questions and answers of the nature of the New Testament. He asserts corruption of the original NT writings through the process of hand-copying transmission (the Bart Ehrman thesis), and I countered with the argument of multiple copies made and disbursed throughout extensive regions of the Roman world (thus securing the independent copying of all NT documents in isolated regions, therefore allowing the later comparison of these isolated text traditions for the purposes of ascertaining the original writings, always and still present within the whole family of 6,000 Greek, handwritten copies.)

Our disagreement is on whether or not some central control came upon the canon of the NT such that other, legitimate parts of the Christian tradition were discarded. I suggest reading Philip Comfort, Daniel Wallace, Richard Bauckham, and James White for further considerations here.

2) Jack asked me what I think of Thomas Jefferson’s edited NT, wherein the Founding Father and third president of these United States actually cut the miracles out of the pages of his Bible, to make it more amenable to his own presuppositions of anti-supernaturalism.

My answer Re: Jefferson directed our conversation to the question of our underlying, foundational assumptions, here:

I fully affirm the brilliance & blessing of the many humans who are not Christians. It’s just they are living upon a world constructed by the Son of God, for the Son of God, and which will be consummated in a restored earth to reflect the beauty of the Son of God. Folk like T Jefferson simply miss the reason for the world and their [own] brilliance – [which is] sad to me.

3) This led to Jack strumming the strings of his favorite guitar (I’m guessing) – evolutionary, atheistic psychology. But before I hit that, I want to note a really funny slip by my friend:

He asks me “So if all your senses are not enough to understand the world what do you use? All that is left is imagination. Do you have some “other” sense?”

He then continued “I sense the answer will be Super-natural but again with what do you sense that?”

So my question, to continue our discussion, is “what do you mean “I sense,” Jack? Which of the five physical senses did you mean to indicate here?

I hope to see you in the comment section…

 

Categories: Comparative Religions, Meaning Woven into Nature, Personal Stuff, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Christianity as the True Worldview pt. 1

Allow me to Defend Christianity

Many times I hear folks dismiss the Bible as an accurate record of history because the Old Testament stories are too far-fetched. What rational person in 2013 believes that God created this entire universe in six days?

For one, I do. I believe that Genesis is all true, very true. I believe a donkey talked in the book of Numbers. I believe Moses really wrote the body of the first five books of the Bible, and that the sun stood still while Joshua led the Israelites into battle, and on and on. And my I.Q. is well over 100 – I’ve been tested a number of times since a boy.

What gives? I was a biology major for my first 2 1/2 years in college, taking plenty of chemistry, genetics, evolutionary theory, and math. I have a degree in English and creative writing, and I have an extensive library in my home. I’m working through a Master’s degree in Theology. I’ve traveled much more than the average person, and I understand at least three languages on a functional level, with reading comprehension in more.

What’s up with me? Many atheists tend to get huffy and rude, making light of anyone who believes in an inerrant Bible (and I can understand why – 9/10 Christians in the West seem to be about as able to argue their beliefs as an elephant is able to compose a symphony, leaving themselves wide-open to ridicule and scorn).

Yet there are many of us who are nobody’s fool. I believe in the full inspiration of every word of the Bible – nothing false or incorrect, and I am happy to argue for it.

Simple but not Easy

Being smart about consistencyyour faith does not mean being complicated. The simple fact is that without God we cannot know anything. The Christian worldview is the only way of looking at our world that is fully consistent. That is your mark of truth. Ultimate truth.

That doesn’t mean people will agree or recognize the consistency of the Christian worldview. There are major obstacles in the way:

  1. Every person conceived is fallen in the sin of Adam and Eve, and therefore their rationality is skewed. We can’t think straight. We won’t think straight, for as we do, our knowledge leads us right to the God against whom we have sinned. The Bible tells us that no one (outside of the work of the Holy Spirit) seeks for God, no not one. This means that every form of worldview that does not start and conclude with the God of the Bible is a demonstration of futile rebellion. We strive to escape the sovereignty of the God we all know, and our religions, philosophies, and educations are our main tools to do so.
  2. Christians are poorly equipped and educated. Many times I float around the internet looking at how Christians are arguing for the faith. It is a miracle anyone is a Christian who has ever seen the internet. The majority of the Christian voice out here is totally silly – plagued with straw-man arguments, baseless assertions, logical fallacies, and worse. This is not a failure of Christianity to be able to stand as the consistent explanation of all things – it is a failure of her adherents to know what they believe and why they believe it.
  3. Most of the Western world’s Christianity is a misrepresentation of the faith and thinking of the historical church. As I often do, I lay the lion’s share of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the anti-intellectual carnival barkers passing for pastors and theologians. Men and women within the church are far more destructive to the Christian message than anyone outside of it: Ed Young Jr. the 50+ screecher trying so hard to be 25, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Peter Lumpkins, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Ergun Caner and on and on it goes. We are absolutely outshouted by heresy, idiocy, prosperity hawking, and general provincialism. It’s no wonder we’re a joke to so many.

And there are even more obstacles. Christian truth is generally buried beneath a mountain of cultural trash in the church. Yet by God’s grace, there are many of us who still stand. We don’t have all points agreement on all things, but the best of Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, and Baptist Protestantism are still producing women and men who know how to defend the faith and worldview of Christ’s religion.

Next time I post, I’ll delve into the arguments for the Christian worldview. Keep in mind, I’m not a philosopher by trade; there are many others who do a better, more thorough job of defending Christianity. Yet as I do my best to explain our religion in all its glory, I provide another committed voice to the equation, showing that the words of Jesus are ever true: “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” (Matt. 16:18b).

Until next time,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, Foundations of ItC blog, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both (Repost)

Originally posted 4/5/12, this was a part of a debate I had with a Roman Catholic. The original question was “Do Roman Catholics Have the Gospel?” Please read and share – I put a lot of work into this post.

The reason I deal a lot with Roman Catholicism is because we interpret the cosmos in much the same way they do – One God who is Trinity, Scripture is His Word, and His Church is the means of communing with Him on earth, etc. Yet it is in the additions to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they have departed from a true interpretation of spiritual, human reality. They lead many to damnation, tip-toeing inches from eternal life.

And so I write. Enjoy, rejoice:

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this burden for my Roman Catholic friends

Over the course of my nine year life in Christ, my heart has become heavy for the Catholics. Each day recently I have been pondering these issues, thinking hard about both sides, and trying to pray for wisdom. To most of you dear readers, this is perhaps an intellectual, interesting, or maybe slightly dry discussion which is all probably right up your alley if you’ve read this far.

Yet I hope it is a little more than that to you – it is to me. These Catholic folks with their internet nicknames who have taken the time to talk with me… they are made in the image of God – and they are deceived by an antichrist spirit. I know that sounds harsh to our postmodern ears, but to be true to Jesus Christ I must be direct. Letting Smoke Out (my debate opponent) in particular has referred to me as a Christian who is “outside of the Church.” I appreciate his recognition of the Holy Spirit in me, but with all due respect, the Bible knows nothing of a Christian who is outside of the Church. I believe if we dig at this a little bit, maybe – by God’s wonderful grace – He may use it to unravel a little of the string holding together their bonds in darkness. I know, heavy sounding words… but this is life and death!

Daddy, what’s a Church?

One of the main problems here is that Letting Smoke Out and his Roman Catholic brethren have an unbiblical, twisted definition of “Church.” From LSO found here:

Read Matt 18:17 again.  See how Jesus instructs the apostles to tell the “church”.  Clearly He is not referring to some theoretical entity, but to an established organization – His church. Our Lord gave definitive instruction at this passage and yet you believe He was referring to an “invisible body”.  How can someone tell or listen to an invisible body?  “Tell the church”…”listen even to the church”… now that’s clear.

When I say that the Body of Christ is “invisible,” I mean that no one but God knows exactly all who is the wheat, and who are the tares. Remember how Jesus warned (Matthew 13:24-30, and basically the entire New Testament carries the same warnings) of unbelievers (hypocrites) who come into the fellowship with us, who pretend to be real Christians, but are not? We don’t really know who many of those “fakers” are… because they can look very convincing. That’s why the true Church of Jesus Christ is “invisible.” Those who have received the grace of adoption into the family of God are only known in our full number by God. This leads us to our point, namely that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a building, not an organization, but it is the Body of Christ made up of individuals.

Would any Roman Catholic really say that every single individual who claims to be a Catholic is really, truly “in the Church”?

Don’t Run Away! It’s Just an Eeeeeensy bit o’ Greek!

So what is the definition of “Church” from the Bible? The Greek word ἐκκλησία (ecclesia), from Thayer’s Lexicon:

(from ἔκκλητος called out or forth, and this from ἐκκαλέω); properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly; so used.

Also, from the  Bible:

ek, “out from and to” and 2564/kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

[The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). 1577/ekklēsía (“church”) is the root of the terms “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.”] (All emphases mine).

In light of the definition of “church,” and not to mention the word comes from the same Greek word used for “elect,” should we not see the Church as the whole Body of believers, and not an organization or institution in Rome? How could LSO think of me as a sincere Christian who is simply “outside of the Church”? Being a Christian means I have been “called out” of the world and into the assembly of God’s people – it does not mean I am a Roman Catholic, Baptist, Amish farmer, or any other denomination. See the confusion of categories?

OK – so that was a bit sloggy, but I had to do it – and if you are still with me, I think this will be worth it for all involved. The Roman religion defines the Church as the Roman religion, and no other. If someone is not in the Roman religion, Rome does not see him or her as in a state of salvation. What’s that teaching called? Salvation by institution. Just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are scared stiff to even think thoughts about stepping into a real church for fear of Jehovah God annihilating them. Look here:

Classical, true Roman Catholicism has preached that there is no salvation outside of the Roman religion. From catholicism.org:

“Outside the Church there is no salvation” (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that was taught By Jesus Christ to His Apostles, preached by the Fathers, defined by popes and councils and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church. Here is how the Popes defined it:

  • “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
  • We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
  • “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

Let’s be honest. Rome believes that she is the one true Church of Jesus Christ as an institution – not defined by faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins, but only defined by belonging to its number – to be saved you have to be in the Roman organization, and then cooperate fiercely with the prescribed ladder of sacramental righteousness to “make it.” And all of this off of an obscure verse about building the church on “this rock” – which may mean Peter, or his confession of faith, or Jesus may be talking about Himself… but even if He meant Peter, this still does not demonstrate a papacy!

Most importantly though, the gospel of Christ is not found in Rome’s teachings. In some ways, it is very close – an almost gospel, yet the Apostles fiercely condemned counterfeit gospels which had merely added little bits and pieces to the gospel of Christ – while Rome has added dozens of things to it. Catholicism is a religion of lies, and it is taking its people to hell by the billions. That’s not funny – and believing Christians need to stop toying around with Rome. We are to stand up and call our Roman Catholic friends to repentance of dead works into a living, secure relationship with Christ based solely on His works and one time atonement.

Here’s the hard, cold truth: I, Justin, and numerous others like me are not Roman Catholics, and yet we are the Body of Christ.  I do not believe and in fact vehemently reject Romanist theology – I am walking in the footsteps of the millions who have gone before me, and in the footsteps of the Reformation Christians who shed their blood to salvage the gospel out from Rome. I have these convictions because of the gospel, because of God’s Word, and because He has chosen me unto an everlasting salvation, accomplished by Christ outside of and before me. I do not merit the grace He gives, otherwise it would no longer be grace but a debt He would owe. God will be no man’s debtor, believe that.

So that is all to say to LSO and my other Roman Catholic readers; you may feel yourself generous and magnanimous for granting to me that I am a Christian, just simply outside of the Church, but your own papal doctrines really don’t allow for such. Either I, as a gospel believing Christian, am wrong and outside of His Body, or you are, or we are both in mythology. It cannot be that our mutually exclusive truth claims are the same gospel or ecclesiology!

Finally, and most importantly, what does God’s Word say?

What does it take to become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ invisible and universal?

Belief in who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. A very few of the many Scriptures on this subject:

  • Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9[e]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [f]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [g]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [h]DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
  • John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
  • John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • John 5:37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. 39[i]You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive [j]glory from one another and you do not seek the [k]glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
  • Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(All Scripture NASB)

What does becoming a member of the Church/the Body of Christ result in?

Justification, sanctification, and glorification. Good works which justify the reality of faith.

  • Romans 8:28 And we know that [k]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was [l]raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of [m]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
    WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (real faith which saves will always produce good works as a fruit).
  • James 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [n]that faith save him? (No!)
  • James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [p]dead, being by itself. (saving faith is always accompanied by works)
  • James 2:18 But someone [q]may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that [r]God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and [s]as a result of the works, faith was [t]perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (Context and harmony with the entirety of Scripture!)

 

Thanks for reading an extremely long, but heartfelt post.

-Justin

P.S. I am aware that the Reformation was only 500 years ago and that Roman Catholicism has been in its present form for over 1,600 – but when I say “Reformation” in reference to the true Church, it is a synecdoche for Apostolic, original Christianity.

P.P.S. I know that this in not the world’s greatest apologetic attempt, and that many of you could do better, but in all sincerity it is dedicated to the beautiful lover of my soul, Christ Jesus. May He do with it as He wills.

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Interpreting the Cosmos Turns 1

It has been a thrill to begin blogging, and to see thousands of people from almost 80 different countries visit here over my first year. I know I am nowhere near a “big” voice on these here interwebs, but as I write, I pray that I am reaching someone, or someones who desperately need to tune into a passionate Christian voice. God has blessed this endeavor, and I hope you have experienced that with me in some way. Thanks to my subscribers and loyal readers for joining with me in this project. Please come back often to share your thoughts with me, and may God richly bless you in 2013.

Here are my 10 personal favorite posts from 2012 (hard to pick!). Please read them and share with someone who may be benefited by my writings. Grace to y’all!

-Justin

10. Darwin with Cataracts

9. The Bible is the Best Telescope

8. Cozying up to Goliath: Evangelicals and the Military

7. Why Not World Peace?

6. Poem: A Glance at Man

5. The True Meaning of Hanukkah

4. Government in the Image of the People

3. Do Roman Catholics Have the Gospel of Christ?

2. To Crush the Head of Cynicism: Christmas

1. God Wants You Really Filthy Rich!

Categories: Artistic Creations, Comparative Religions, Foundations of ItC blog, Interpreting Christian Hypocrisy, Jesus the Pinnacle of History, Meaning Woven into Nature, The Message of the Bible, The Nature of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Another Dead “Messiah” Sun Myung Moon Dies at 92

Sun Myung Moon

Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church and self-proclaimed Messiah of humanity, has died at 92. In Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus warned “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many (NASB).” For those who don’t know, “Christ” was not Jesus’ last name; it is a title meaning “the anointed one,” or in Hebrew, “Messiah.”

Mr. Moon became wildly successful in his creation of a religion, amassing of tremendous wealth, and making of friends among the world’s most powerful people. For this wicked, lying, false interpreter of the cosmos, Jesus has this to say:

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Mark 8:34b-37 NASB)?”

You can be sure Mr. Moon would like another chance at answering that question… By the way, what are you willing to give in exchange for your own soul?

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Of NASCAR and Nukes: What of Islam?

Americans, broadly speaking as a culture, tip-toe like chubby Athenians at the Old Country Buffet of news and philosophy. We fill our plates with some CNN, a bit of Fox News, a spoonful of Rush Limbaugh, NPR, and for dessert whatever the latest rage is on The New York Times best-seller list. We’re airport news-stand learners.

The once great pillars of intellectual and theological depth in our colleges and churches have been traded for “if it feels good do it” – just ask the average Vanderbilt University senior some basic questions about their world, or the average evangelical to articulate a Christian worldview.

Sex with every other person on campus? Yes, please! Detailed statistics on every member of the Boston Red Sox for the past 58 years? Oh my, yes! Critical thought and a mature understanding of society and life? Well, I do read Time at the doctor’s office… whenever NASCAR isn’t on the TV in the corner.

This ought not to be so for Americans – a once educated and formidable people.

Yet this ought not to be so for Christians, especially. We are entertained to death, and frankly, we have little patience to wade in above our ankles when it comes to the difficult work of analyzing and understanding our world and the doctrine of Scripture. It’s all too confusing and crazy – who can keep up with it all? Let’s keep things light!

I like Budweiser!

The Bachelorette!

Obamney!

Facing Koranic, Radical Islam

What does this general unwillingness (or inability) to think critically look like when we examine the relationship between the average American and the bogey-man of radical Islam? Ugly. It’s not a simple challenge.

On the one hand the left wing types generally give radical Islam something of a pass. They are too busy today in their own jihad against Christianity in the West to worry about their kids being beheaded tomorrow.

On the other hand, the right wing types many times would deal with the problem through neo-colonial shock and awe. We see too often the broad-brushing of the Middle East as “the bad guys” so that we can then send our overpriced firepower “over there” to keep us safe “over here.” This is pure Bull-oney, blind pragmatism, and a failed foreign policy, empirically – not to mention at best quasi-constitutional.

Yet Christ’s people ought not to make sense to this secular left-right paradigm. We ought not to be either coddling Islam as if it were an equally valid expression of culture, nor should we be trying to make friends and influence people through deadly drone strikes at Afghani wedding parties.

The Military Church

So what are we doing in evangelicalism? I remember a year or two after we invaded Iraq again, my church brought in a member of the Israeli Mossad pretending to be a Christian convert from Judaism. He preached for an hour about Israel’s special right to be protected by the United States, and very much praised the military, our President, and us churchlings for our unquestioning support of all things war+Israel. After all, we know that God is on our side, right?

I was mortified, but not because of him. Him I could explain. It was the atmosphere of “us vs. them” in the church which made me sick. An atmosphere which mimics the right-wingers on talk radio which barely disguise their most patriotic desire to see the Middle-East dealt with by nuclear glass parking-lot creation.

Out with the Great Commission and up with the conquest of the Muslims! I’m surprised there wasn’t an Army recruiter in the lobby afterwards.

And isn’t this the atmosphere in conservative evangelical churches throughout the land? We salute the new-Christ made in the image of Uncle Sam, and turn to catch a few hours of Sports Center.

What of the wars, though? America has bombed, subverted, toppled, and destroyed Muslim countries for 70 years now – how’s that going for us?

Most of us have also heard the frantic reports of Islam taking over western Europe by sheer breeding capacity. The average Muslim family in western Europe has an average of over 6 children, while the natives top out at about 1.8. Within 40-50 years at this rate, Europe will be a brown, Muslim continent.

I say good. What’s the matter with that? God will make His Church in the beautiful brown and olive people of Europe and dispose of the spoiled, death-loving whites. And what about it? We’ve squandered our heritage as a Christian culture (speaking of the west in general), and we’re dying out accordingly.

Meanwhile today, Muslim countries are the least evangelized in the world. We would much rather send our teenagers on a short-term missions trip to the Bahamas than lose their lives for Christ in Karachi.

So let me see… we will send Americans to Muslim lands as long as they are authorized to kill them to keep us safe over here, but when it comes to missionaries who are authorized to be killed for the sake of the elect, we can’t get volunteers. Well, I shouldn’t say no volunteers. Those who study the numbers report about 1 evangelical missionary for every 1,000,000 Muslims in the world.

Hypocrisy.

And it stems from an ignorance of Scripture. An ignorance of the Author of the Scripture and what He demands. An ignorance of Church history and all that has happened in the cause of Christ. An ignorance of how the world works. A messed-up, self-esteem centered public education system. An unwillingness to interpret the cosmos according to the lens of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected for the salvation of Muslims who might cut your head off.

The Biblical Church

…obeying the Lord Jesus Christ for 1,980+ years.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NKJV)

…making every effort in prayer, in fasting, in sacrifice to bring the gospel to our Muslim neighbors, not settling for simplistic “us vs. them” tribal mentalities. Not settling for MSNBC and Fox as our source of worldview. Not settling for church gatherings which look entirely like ourselves – but instead loving some ethnic flavor in the mix.

Let’s be different. Let’s be biblical. Let’s step out of political Christendom and into Christianity. Let’s love those wild sons of Ishmael and give them Christ. Let’s refuse to be understood by the left-right politics in America. Let’s love like Christ.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, Interpreting Christian Hypocrisy, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living in the Death of Jesus – Death to False Hope

This is the last of a series of posts and interactions I have had with a few Roman Catholics. Please do take a few moments to read and think through the things previously said, although this post will be pretty much self-contained.

There could be few things more opposed to true Christianity than Roman Catholicism. True Christianity is unique and wonderful in the claim to a salvation completed, granted by grace through faith alone; all in and through the God who became Man, Jesus Christ alone. Roman Catholicism is the most potent force of Satan on earth in that the best deception always appears as truth – and Romanism uses the currency of truth to sell her lies. Satan’s favorite tactic is not booze, prostitution, and murder, but rather religion, dressed up in robes, smells, and rules to keep the people occupied… and looking anywhere but the finished work of the cross of Christ.

Ah yes… the cross.

The End of Counterfeit Religion

It is finished.

What happened at the cross? In general, torture. There are not too many historical examples of anything worse for capital punishment… but beyond the physical suffering of Jesus, why does His cross-work set His religion apart from everything else? Let’s contrast the cross with a general group of religions:

Buddhism = struggle to be a good person, and to be free of desire… (do)

Atheism = struggle to find reason within non-reason, and be a good person although “good” must be borrowed from theism… (do)

Hinduism = struggle to practice the never-ending rituals of appeasement for your 300,000,000 gods… (do)

Roman Catholicism = struggle to remain faithful to an institution which governs and doles out the bits and pieces of grace necessary to earn right standing with God, which apparently Jesus earned, but you must earn through doing the sacraments enough and by not sinning… (do)

Mormonism = struggle to follow the rules, believe and work hard enough – temple rites, sacraments, works of piety, etc… (d0)

Jehovah’s Witnesses = struggle to do enough of a number of things in order to receive the bits and pieces of grace necessary to not be eliminated by God at the judgment… (do)

New Age Mysticism = struggle to free oneself from ego and illusions, be a good person, find peace with the Universe through rejecting bad energy and attracting/producing good energy… (do)

Judaism = struggle to keep the Law and practice lots of rituals, be a good person… (do)

Legalistic, counterfeit forms of Christianity (can come in any package under any label) = because of what God did for you, now get to work to earn the receiving of salvation, be a good person… (do)

Get the picture?

However, Christ crucified, bare-naked faith in Him (the gospel) = be saved by a gracious act of divine, free-will sovereign grace…

(DONE)

And then live in a growing state of freedom from sin because everything necessary for your salvation is finished for you by Christ.

How Does it Happen?

From my previous posts, I show a little of how the Bible indicates that salvation is initiated, carried out, secured, and done for the glory of God, all by God without a splinter added to it by us, the redeemed. Yet the central question of the ages is how does God solve this problem:

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

&

Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

If you don’t see God’s problem, it’s this:

man is wicked, God hates when the wicked is counted as just, and then God counts the wicked as just simply on the basis of faith.

HUH?! HOW DOES GOD REMAIN JUST WHEN HE JUSTIFIES THE WICKED?!

The entire host of heaven and hell is left breathless: the One who is righteousness and perfection has justified (counted as if righteous) the men and women who are anything but righteous. Everything outside of the gospel of Christ leaves us in the lurch, needing our effort and accomplishment to be made right… but in the truth, the gospel, God freely justifies and makes us righteous apart from who we are, what we have done or will do, and any other condition in us.

In Roman Catholicism, the basics of who Jesus is and who God is have really been kept intact.

Something seems... different.

Remember that the best, most effective lies present a large part of the truth as the sugar coating on the poison.

Yet in Rome the work of God in Christ is absolutely destroyed and replaced with a sacramental systems of works salvation. It’s the ol’ switcheroo – we’re told it is the same as the original, but when we go to the original source (Bible), our Roman Catholic friends tell us there is a better source… which is of course secondary and different than the Bible (Church teachings), but which they say trumps the original (but we can never admit it).

But in total contrast, Jesus says “this is the work of God; that you believe on the One whom He has sent.” John 6:29 Faith alone accomplishes the “work” of salvation in us. Faith in what, though? Should we exercise faith… in our faith?

No – our faith is to be in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. That is what God counts as just. When Jesus became a Man, He was worth an infinite value – no limit to His worth. He lived a perfect life and was worthy to then willingly lay down His life as a substitution for the redeemed people of God. When Jesus was tortured and crucified, He somehow took into Himself the actual guilt of all of the sins of all of His people who would ever live before, during, or after His life on earth. When Jesus became our guilt in a mysterious, perfect work of selflessness – the Father then broke fellowship with Jesus as would have happened to each of us in hell – but Jesus carried the burden of our sin debt, paid the penalty for it in our place, and absorbed all of the justice and anger of God against sinners.

Jesus died physically by willingly paying with His life the entire debt of our sin by becoming a curse for us. God treated His Son like He would have justly treated us for eternity in hell – and because He is infinitely valuable, Jesus was able to offer Himself for a period of 3 – 6 hours under that holy wrath of God… and the entire penalty for our sin and rebellion was completely paid and finished.

John 19:30 “It is finished.”

When He died, Jesus declared that the entire payment was complete. What would have taken Justin Esposito a trillion years times a trillion trillion years times infinity to pay off (the debt of having rebelled against a perfect, holy, lovely Creator), Jesus paid for me and completed the entire work of salvation there. Nothing left to pay. No religious piety to count for a penance or for the expiation of sins. Jesus paid it all, and to Him I owe all.

Yet there is more. In order to have all of the credit for salvation given to God, even our entry into covenant with God is secured by His decision and act of free-will grace. Our will is always to rebel and run from Him – yet in unfathomable love He rescues us from that blind, dead revolt by giving us a new heart in regeneration. While we would look at the cross of Christ and call Him a fool and spit on Him, God decides to call us out of our insanity by the proclamation of the good news – everything I just spelled out about the cross… and the fact that He rose from the dead three days later. When men and women hear that gospel, the Holy Spirit gives new life and new hearts to His elect people – those whom the Father has given the Son (John 17:2, 6). This is all to the “praise of His glorious grace,” as Paul says in Ephesians 1.

Elsewhere, Paul puts it very, extremely, absurdly clearly in Titus 3:

3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs [a]according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (NASB)

The cross of Jesus was the end of man’s climb to God, and the revelation that God, although high and mighty, decided to come down to us in grace and love. From that day on, (and in reality, from the beginning), the works of man became and have always been futile and vain. Nothing can repair our relationship with God except the blood of Christ Jesus – and nothing can make us stand right before Him except Him standing in our place at the cross, guilty, condemned, and slain in our place.

Do you not see the freedom and beauty here? Please look carefully – go deep in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are still determined to live out your Roman Catholic faith, be assured you will stand before God uncovered in guilt, offering up the filthy rags of your religious piety as an attempted sacrifice – blasphemy in the face of Jesus’ finished work at the cross. Turn from the way of works righteousness, turn from the sin of self-morality, and place your full faith and confidence in the crucified Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Take us home, brother Paul… from Romans 3

21 But now apart [k]from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [l]who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all [m]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a [n]propitiation [o]in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, [p]because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who [q]has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28[r]For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works [s]of the Law. (NASB)

Find out what “propitiation” means, and revel in the joy.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, Foundations of ItC blog, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Salvation by Grace Alone: Reformed View pt. 2

The Joy of Sharing the Gospel – a Thanks to the Readers

In part 1 of this title, I attempted to give a biblical, glorious, joyous overview of man’s condition in sin and God’s role as initiator, Savior, and majestic, merciful, gracious, loving Lord of salvation.  My Roman Catholic opponent Letting Smoke Out diverted the discussion back to issues of where doctrine comes from – which is understandable. He cannot get past the different assumptions we have in starting out in order to then discuss salvation, and so our dialogue has come to a stand-still of sorts.

That, as unfortunate as it is, has not stopped me from being filled with the overflowing desire of joy to share the gospel with him, and with all of you other readers. It has been a fulfillment of a great pent up energy in me to begin this blog – and by the grace of God, to His glory, I have seen around 2,000 visitors since January come and read these posts. What a great privilege and responsibility I have been given! It is my humble hope that the Lord would be pleased to use something written on this website to bring great honor to His Name. This dialogue between the Roman Catholic perspective and my own of the Reformed has been perhaps somewhat amateur, but all the while a privilege and joy. Thank you to everyone who has read, responded, and/or prayed for me in this venture. Please continue to pray for our Roman Catholic friends who have visited and interacted with me here. No, seriously – please stop and pray for them before you continue 🙂

God the Judge – God the Initiator – God the Path – God the Destination – God the Savior

My first post laid out our need for salvation – and how it is initiated by the very One who is our fearful Judge. This is the great mystery of the Christian faith – that God is both our greatest enemy because of our sins, but also our only hope and salvation because He is gracious and merciful. Every false religion or philosophy cannot reconcile these things – and every false religion, Roman Catholicism as chief, reconciles sinful man with God through man’s response, effort, and cooperation.

The stand-alone truth out of all religions is found in the Bible: that God the offended Judge initiates the reconciliation of Himself with His sinful, rebellious creatures… but not only does He initiate and make a way for us to “get right,” He then Himself becomes the path of that salvation in the Man Jesus Christ. LSO (my Roman Catholic opponent) had named our proposed debate “the path to salvation,” which is wonderful since then our focus would be squarely on Christ who said of Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life”! Wonderful! See, there is not “a path to salvation” except if we are talking about the Person Jesus the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. So far Rome would agree…

We begin to radically depart from one another from here – God the destination and God the Savior. The (inspired, inerrant, infallible) writing of Paul in Ephesians 1 begins to cut through the surface of religion, way past the man-centered doctrines of Romanism, and into the unfathomable depths of God… look:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Did you see that? Read verses 3 – 6 again slooooooowly and with all of your mind engaged with what is being said – go on! Let’s answer a few questions to get us to the point:

1) Who is doing the blessing? Answer: God the Father.

2) Who is getting the blessings? Answer: us.

3) What are the blessings? Answer: every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.

4) How is He blessing us? Answer: in Christ, having chosen us in Christ before the world began.

5) What is His goal for us in all of this? Answer: that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love!

6) What was God’s motive in all of this unspeakable kindness and power and glory and love? Answer: the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

7) Why was all of this done by God? Answer: For His glory, by His grace, for our good.

8) How did He bring us into Christ while satisfying justice? Answer: stay tuned for my next post on the cross 😉

Listen friends, no religion in history can touch these truths. Roman Catholicism comes so close to these truths, but basically in word only, not in practice. When we begin to inspect the meanings and dogmas underneath their words, Romanism could not be further from the Apostle Paul and the rest of the Word of God. Look further:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Who is the worker in all of these things so far? God – and God alone. This defines “grace.”

which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

His grace for His glory and for our good…

10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

This is the interpretation of the cosmos: all things by Christ, for Christ, and ultimately back to Christ.

11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

According to verse 11, who is working our salvation? Us, or God? Whose will is determinative in our salvation? By His grace, for his purposes, because of love, for our good. Yes!!!

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.(NKJV)

Can a person walk away from salvation once God has applied it to us? Paul? What say you, dear Apostle? “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” And why has God done all of this? Paul? “To the praise of His glory.”

God is the destination of salvation – He has begun it, worked it out, He is working it out right now, it was His covenant, His initiative, for His fame and glory, because He is good, because He is love, because Christ Jesus is worthy… for the praise of His glorious grace.

But what does Rome say?

From the Roman Catholic catechism section 2010:

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (emphases mine)

Sly, slick, almost true. That is always Satan’s best move – the truth with a twist… a little something extra, a little poison in your milk… and billions have been captured by it. It sounds so good – “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace…” Great! Wow! One problem: the Judaizers of Galatia were saying the same thing, and what does Paul say to them?

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (NKJV)

The gospel is a gift of grace, a love gift which is not merited in the start of it, the middle, or the end. It is all of grace, thank You Jesus my Lord!

This gospel is good news for you, dear Catholic friends. Not against you, never! Don’t be ashamed of having to repent of your religion and good works – they will not save you and it is not worth it to trust in them. I love you because of Christ’s grace and mercy – and I call you in the name of Jesus to repent of your religious works and trust Christ for the righteousness He alone has earned, and receive His forgiveness of sins. He is enough, He is enough for your salvation.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

P.S. My next and most likely last post on this subject will be focused on the cross of Christ.

P.P.S. I realize many of you would take the time to deconstruct the basket full of logical, historical, biblical fallacies presented by LSO. I would like to do that too, but I do not want to only post and write on Roman Catholicism on this blog… but perhaps I will return to it someday. Feel free to pay him a friendly visit and interact with his ideas.

———————-

Previous posts in this series, starting at the first:

Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?“- Interpreting the Cosmos

Apologetics” – Letting the Smoke Out

Dialogue with a Roman Catholic – Introductory Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Bible Only” – Letting the Smoke Out

Roman Catholic Opening Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

A Word on Interpreting Scripture and Church Authority” – Interpreting the Cosmos

What is the Biblical Path to Salvation? Reformed View pt. 1” – Interpreting the Cosmos

On Clarity and Authority” – Letting the Smoke Out

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Sola Scriptura Stalemate” – Letting the Smoke Out

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both

Long post ahead – please read it all. I’ll wait while you go get your coffee and slippers…

As many of you know, I’ve had the blessing of dialoguing with a Roman Catholic nicknamed Letting Smoke Out. See any of the previous few posts here on this blog for details. As of now, LSO has decided that the only issue we are able to discuss is the authority of Rome as sole interpreter and infallible dispenser of biblical truth. To be fair, it was his explicit attention to me on Twitter and resultant invitation to dialogue which led us to set out to discuss “The path of salvation.” As I attempted to set the stage for that discussion, I think he realized that he could not in honesty receive the slightest proposition of truth from my reading of the Bible because of my rejection of Roman authority and legitimacy. “DOA” stands for “dead on arrival,” as our discussion of salvation is as of now.

Our discussion has continued on his blog, only it is stuck on issues of authority, which is fine, but it is not going anywhere too productive… mainly because of our extremely different starting assumptions. That’s sad to me – but I entrust it and our friend LSO to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he seems to have so generously done for me. I do, however, find I am obligated to finish my initial intent to make a better contrast of Roman Catholic salvation theology and that of the Christian/Reformed Church. This is in part to honor the helpful, respectful input of two Catholic gentlemen on my blog, vivator and Sparki. I will post on salvation and justification next.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this burden for my Roman Catholic friends

Over the course of my nine year life in Christ, my heart has become heavy for the Catholics. Each day recently I have been pondering these issues, thinking hard about both sides, and trying to pray for wisdom. To most of you dear readers, this is perhaps an intellectual, interesting, or maybe slightly dry discussion which is all probably right up your alley if you’ve read this far. Yet I hope it is a little more than that to you – it is to me. These Catholic folks with their internet nicknames who have taken the time to talk with me… they are made in the image of God – and they are deceived by an antichrist spirit. I know that sounds harsh to our postmodern ears, but to be true to Jesus Christ I must be direct. LSO in particular has referred to me as a Christian who is “outside of the Church.” I appreciate his recognition of the Holy Spirit in me, but with all due respect, the Bible knows nothing of a Christian who is outside of the Church. I believe if we dig at this a little bit, maybe – by God’s wonderful grace – He may use it to unravel a little of the string holding together their bonds in darkness. I know, heavy sounding words… but this is life and death!

Daddy, what’s a Church?

Many members, one Body

One of the main problems here is that LSO, and his Roman Catholic brethren have an unbiblical, twisted definition of “Church.” From LSO found here:

Read Matt 18:17 again.  See how Jesus instructs the apostles to tell the “church”.  Clearly He is not referring to some theoretical entity, but to an established organization – His church. Our Lord gave definitive instruction at this passage and yet you believe He was referring to an “invisible body”.  How can someone tell or listen to an invisible body?  “Tell the church”…”listen even to the church”… now that’s clear.

When I say that the Body of Christ is “invisible,” I mean that no one but God knows exactly all who is the wheat, and who are the tares. Remember how Jesus warned (Matthew 13:24-30, and basically the entire New Testament carries the same warnings) of unbelievers (hypocrites) who come into the fellowship with us, who pretend to be real Christians, but are not? We don’t really know who many of those “fakers” are… because they can look very convincing. That’s why the true Church of Jesus Christ is “invisible.” Those who have received the grace of adoption into the family of God are only known in our full number by God. This leads us to our point, namely that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a building, not an organization, but it is the Body of Christ made up of individuals.

Would any Roman Catholic really say that every single individual who claims to be a Catholic is really, truly “in the Church”?

Don’t Run Away! It’s Just an Eeeeeensy bit o’ Greek!

So what is the definition of “Church” from the Bible? The Greek word ἐκκλησία (ecclesia), from Thayer’s Lexicon:

(from ἔκκλητος called out or forth, and this from ἐκκαλέω); properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly; so used.

Also, from the Bible:

ek, “out from and to” and 2564/kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

[The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). 1577/ekklēsía (“church”) is the root of the terms “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.”] (All emphases mine).

In light of the definition of “church,” and not to mention the word comes from the same Greek word used for “elect,” should we not see the Church as the whole Body of believers, and not an organization or institution in Rome? How could LSO think of me as a sincere Christian who is simply “outside of the Church”? Being a Christian means I have been “called out” of the world and into the assembly of God’s people – it does not mean I am a Roman Catholic, Baptist, Amish farmer, or any other denomination. See the confusion of categories?

OK – so that was a bit sloggy, but I had to do it – and if you are still with me, I think this will be worth it for all involved. The Roman religion defines the Church as the Roman religion, and no other. If someone is not in the Roman religion, Rome does not see him or her as in a state of salvation. What’s that teaching called? Salvation by institution. Just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are scared stiff to even think thoughts about stepping into a real church for fear of Jehovah God annihilating them. Look here:

Classical, true Roman Catholicism has preached that there is no salvation outside of the Roman religion. From catholicism.org:

“Outside the Church there is no salvation” (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that was taught By Jesus Christ to His Apostles, preached by the Fathers, defined by popes and councils and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church. Here is how the Popes defined it:

  • “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
  • We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
  • “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

Let’s be honest. Rome believes that she is the one true Church of Jesus Christ as an institution – not defined by faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins, but only defined by belonging to its number – to be saved you have to be in the Roman organization, and then cooperate fiercely with the prescribed ladder of sacramental righteousness to “make it.” And all of this off of an obscure verse about building the church on “this rock” – which may mean Peter, or his confession of faith, or Jesus may be talking about Himself… but even if He meant Peter, this still does not demonstrate a papacy!

Most importantly though, the gospel of Christ is not found in Rome’s teachings. In some ways, it is very close – an almost gospel, yet the Apostles fiercely condemned counterfeit gospels which had merely added little bits and pieces to the gospel of Christ – while Rome has added dozens of things to it. Catholicism is a religion of lies, and it is taking its people to hell by the billions. That’s not funny – and believing Christians need to stop toying around with Rome. We are to stand up and call our Roman Catholic friends to repentance of dead works into a living, secure relationship with Christ based solely on His works and one time atonement.

Here’s the hard, cold truth: I, Justin, and numerous others like me are not Roman Catholics, and yet we are the Body of Christ.  I do not believe and in fact vehemently reject Romanist theology – I am walking in the footsteps of the millions who have gone before me, and in the footsteps of the Reformation Christians who shed their blood to salvage the gospel out from Rome. I have these convictions because of the gospel, because of God’s Word, and because He has chosen me unto an everlasting salvation, accomplished by Christ outside of and before me. I do not merit the grace He gives, otherwise it would no longer be grace but a debt He would owe. God will be no man’s debtor, believe that.

So that is all to say to LSO and my other Roman Catholic readers; you may feel yourself generous and magnanimous for granting to me that I am a Christian, just simply outside of the Church, but your own papal doctrines really don’t allow for such. Either I, as a gospel believing Christian, am wrong and outside of His Body, or you are, or we are both in mythology. It cannot be that our mutually exclusive truth claims are the same gospel or ecclesiology!

Finally, and most importantly, what does God’s Word say?

What does it take to become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ invisible and universal?

Belief in who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. A very few of the many Scriptures on this subject:

  • Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9[e]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [f]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [g]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [h]DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
  • John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
  • John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • John 5:37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. 39[i]You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive [j]glory from one another and you do not seek the [k]glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
  • Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(All Scripture NASB)

What does becoming a member of the Church/the Body of Christ result in?

Justification, sanctification, and glorification. Good works which justify the reality of faith.

  • Romans 8:28 And we know that [k]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was [l]raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of [m]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
    WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

    37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (real faith which saves will always produce good works as a fruit).
  • James 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [n]that faith save him? (No!)
  • James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [p]dead, being by itself. (saving faith is always accompanied by works)
  • James 2:18 But someone [q]may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that [r]God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and [s]as a result of the works, faith was [t]perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (Context and harmony with the entirety of Scripture!)

How does one come to have saving faith? I’ll write about that in my next post.

Thanks for reading an extremely long, but heartfelt post.

-Justin

P.S. I am aware that the Reformation was only 500 years ago and that Roman Catholicism has been in its present form for over 1,600 – but when I say “Reformation” in reference to the true Church, it is a synecdoche for Apostolic, original Christianity.

P.P.S. I know that this in not the world’s greatest apologetic attempt, and that many of you could do better, but in all sincerity it is dedicated to the beautiful lover of my soul, Christ Jesus. May He do with it as He wills.

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