The Dangers of Drifting

A review by Stuart Brogden   Evangelicals-Adrift-94x150

We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1 (HCSB)

Matthew E. Ferris’ book, Evangelicals Adrift – Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism, is a fairly comprehensive examination of the differences between biblical Christianity and that which is based on sacramental rituals. He also provides examples of people who have crossed the Tiber River from both sides. For the evangelical who drifts into sacramentalism, the dangers are pointed out with the concern of one manning a lighthouse in treacherous waters, where sailing vessels are bound to be broken on the rocks if they drift away from the narrow channel.

In ten concise chapters, our author covers the theological crises in evangelicalism, the nature and authority of the church and Scripture, and the various departures from biblical truth posed by sacramentalism. In the first chapter, Ferris tells us, “My task is to the show that the definition of the bride of Christ put forth by sacramentalism is an erroneous one, and that Scripture is the only sure guide for the way forward in the Christian life. … I am not writing as “anti-Catholic” or “anti-Orthodox”, but rather as pro-Scripture.” (page 25) This is an important point that evangelicals need to keep in mind, as it is far too easy to drift into being against error instead of in favor of truth; and our mission is to be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20).

In his discussion about the nature of the church, Ferris contrasts the Apostles’ teaching found in God’s Word with the progressively developed extra-biblical traditions of the sacramental church, concluding, “The final arbiter for sacramentalism returns once more, not to the Scriptures, but to the church.” (page 35), giving us quotes from Roman Catholics that explicitly confirm this. He then asks, “in what sense can the Church be apostolic if it runs counter to the model the apostles themselves left us?” (page 37) Ferris supports the plurality and equality of elders and the priesthood of all believers in the local church, pointing out the word “clergy” is applied in Scripture to the entire church, not only the elders (page 42). Anticipating the claim that there is unanimity amongst the Church Fathers, our author provides a few quotes to show they had as much variation on issues as do any group of Christians, observing that anyone who wants a clean and supporting historical record to support their view must pick and choose which bits of history to rest on, ignoring those which do not line up with their case. “The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth only in that she upholds and defends it; she does not originate truth.” (page 74)

One way that Christians fail to stay on the narrow road is to neglect church history and conclude that their traditions are biblical. Ferris bemoans the fact that many research or know church history only as far back as the Reformation (page 84), leaving them adrift in the historical influences left unexamined. In commenting on how tradition overshadows Scripture in sacramental churches, he sums up a good quote from Oscar Cullman by saying, “there is no need for a canon at all if the ultimate arbiter of truth is the Church and its magisterium.” (page 86) “Roman Catholic doctrine claims to affirm the inspiration of Scripture and that the Bible is authored by God, yet in practice it severely undermines both of these positions.” (page 102) The Roman Catholic Church demands its dogma be accepted as authoritative, while denying the self-attestation of Scripture. Rather than holding to a proper understanding of Sola Scriptura, the Roman Catholic Church is shown to truly hold to sola ecclesia (page 103). This is compounded by the long-standing position of Rome that only its select clergy can interpret the Scripture, which undermines the authority of the Bible. If the Bible is God’s Word to His people, all of whom are indwelt by His Spirit, does it make sense that only a small number of people selected by a small number of religious leaders would be able to rightly comprehend the essentials of the Christian faith? History records that these select leaders, charged with interpreting the Scriptures for the common folk often disagreed with one another and many changed their minds on topics over time. Heretics and false sons have been in the temporal church since the apostolic era and it flies in the face of history, human nature, and the Bible for Rome to claim immunity from the frailties that each son of Adam faces.

Ferris also discusses how the various sacraments within many churches claim to impart grace, robbing the gift YHWH gives of its meaning. Baptism is one of these, with infant “baptism” having its basis in the false belief that it is needed for salvation. “Sacramentalism practices infant baptism as both an entrance into the new covenant with God and as that which cleanses from sin.” (page 160). If this were true, why was the Apostle Paul’s priority on gospel proclamation (1 Cor 1:14 – 17 & 9:22)? Further, he asks, “If baptism is indeed effective in imparting new life, in washing away sin, in putting one into the church, how is it that so many people who have undergone infant baptism manifest no signs of divine life whatsoever?” (page 166)

Chapters 7 and 8 are excellent reviews of the unbiblical view that sacraments convey grace and that mystical doctrine of Mary worship and veneration. Chapter 9 explores the spurious notion that there is theological and doctrinal unity within the Roman Catholic Church – pointing out there is as much variety within that religion as they claim there is amongst evangelicals.

The final chapter asks, “To Whom Shall We Go?” – and points out that “By insisting on the mediation of the Church in every aspect of the believer’s interaction with God, sacramentalism replaces the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.” (page 223) Ferris gives the reader an excellent, concise review of the difference between the Roman view of infused grace and the biblical view of imputed grace as the means of saving sinners. The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church declares that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. Our author observes, “There is no experience of God, no conversion, and indeed no final salvation apart from engaging in the ritual acts defined by the Church. This is diametrically opposed to justification by faith in Christ alone. It is the system, rather than the Savior that assumes the importance in sacramentalism.” (page 225) In light of these dangers that we can drift into, to whom shall we go? As Peter rightly understood, we must flee to Christ Jesus – He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). And so our faithful author points us to the Word Himself. “Every problem, every shortcoming, every doctrinal aberration with evangelicalism, and indeed with any branch of the church, is solved only by an intentional and sustained engagement with scripture. … Embracing sacramentalism will only lead believers further away from the truth that a relationship, not a ritual, is the scripturally ordained way of growth in Christ. Those who drift away can only regain their moorings by once again submitting to the Bible for everything in their Christian live.” (pages 228 & 229)

This book is a most excellent encouragement to the saints of God and, I pray, a wakeup call to those who are drifting into dangerous waters in the Tiber River. To God alone be the glory and honor and dominion and power – now and forever!

Christ and the Gospel

A review by Stuart Brogden. Book available on Amazon.

The subtitles of Jon Cardwell’s book must not be overlooked or you will be confused. The focus Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.43.03 AMof this book is the proper understanding of the biblical gospel – that is the title: The Simple Gospel. What our brother rightly understands is that one cannot have a true understanding of the gospel if one does not have a true understanding of the person and work of the Lord Jesus. Without a biblical Jesus, faithfully fulfilling the requirements of the Law and the Prophets and taking our place in facing God the Father’s wrath for our sins (Him being without sin), we do not have the biblical gospel. The subtitle, Including Other Essays Exalting Christ’s Person and Work, gives us advance notice that we will spend some time reading about essentials that provide the foundation of the true gospel.

In this title chapter our author gives us his summary of what the Bible presents as the gospel:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, according to the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which focuses on the Person and work of Jesus Christ in His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and restitution of all things in His bodily return. 1

Note this: the gospel is about the redemptive work of Christ and our need of Him; the gospel is not the entire Bible, although all Scripture has this meta-plan as its ultimate purpose. A little later in this chapter, while reviewing the meaning and significance of the crucifixion, Jon pleads the sufficiency of Christ’s blood, saying, “The power of the purity of Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse the redeemed soul from every confessed sin he has committed after he has been saved by God’s grace (1 John 1: 7-10).” 2 While I agree with the intent, I think this idea would be better stated as “The power of the purity of Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse the redeemed soul from every sin he has committed or will commit, and is applied when he is saved by God’s grace (1 John 1: 7-10).” For we are commanded to confess our sins, all the sins of the redeemed are forgiven when he raised from spiritual death to new life, not just those committed after salvation and not only those confessed.

Still in this section, Jon brings to our mind the picture of Christ suffering God the Father’s wrath for our sins – a much more horrifying punishment than physical death on the cross, as painful and horrible as that is. If we don’t see Jesus being punished spiritually for the sins you and I committed, we are taking His sacrifice too lightly. This is closely tied to this statement: “The shame that comes to our souls in the light of the revelation of the offense our very lives bring to God, far exceeds the shame of Adam and Eve when their nakedness was revealed to them.”3 Far more powerful than our shortcomings in our foolhardy attempts to keep the law or earn God’s favor by our own strength, seeing the glory of God in Christ will undo us as it did Isaiah and the Apostle John and others who were privileged to see Him clearly. This is the power of the cross!

When he quickly reviews the resurrection’s part in the biblical gospel, our brother tells us two dear truths: “The resurrection of Christ is God’s open display to the entire creation of His seal and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice.” 4 and “When we speak of the resurrection of Christ we also speak of God’s assurance of a resurrection to come. God promises to all whom He has saved in Christ will one day be resurrected from the dead. The importance of the resurrection is such that a denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ means a denial of the faith altogether (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).” 5 Let no one who claims Christ forget the import of the resurrection – if Christ be not raised from the dead, we are to be most pitied.

His last section on The Simply Gospel is about the restitution or restoration of all things. We cannot, Jon tells us, fully comprehend the recreation of heaven and earth and the Lord’s glorious return without understanding the biblical doctrine of hell. And, he goes on, we cannot rightly comprehend either the new earth or hell if we do not rightly comprehend God! “The same presence of God that is a consuming fire for the wicked dead, Christ’s presence is peace and comfort (2 Corinthians 1: 3), and fullness of joy with pleasures forever more at His right hand (Psalm 16: 11).” 6 This oft-repeated exhortation to see the Lord as He is in His glory and power is a welcome one that does the souls of the saints much good.

Chapter 2 – Propitiation through Faith is an enlightening walk through Romans 3:23 – 27. Our faithful author tells us, “Romans 1: 17 is the key to this epistle, Romans 3: 23-27 is most certainly the door the key unlocks.”7 and “It is through this door one must pass in order to enter life eternal. In one way, it may be here that the Lord’s cryptic words become especially insightful: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10: 9; cf. 10: 7). The door of this passage is that wicket gate Mr. Bunyan’s allegory refers. Jesus Christ is that door, that wicket gate, and His cross, His propitiation, is eternal treasure.”8 Such exegesis is welcomed in this day of shallow, superficial reading, as is this: “To sum it up, God’s righteousness was openly displayed and manifested in the… Person of Christ Presentation at the Cross Power of Christ’s resurrection Perfection in Christ’s ascension.”9 As the Apostle Peter told us (2 Peter 1:12), we need to be reminded of the essential things even though we already know them. Cardwell does well in this regard, as he desires to stir up the saints of God to dig into the Word and walk as those who have been raised from the dead. I do wish Jon had spent some time on exploring what Paul meant by the phrase, “the law of faith” in verse 27. I think it is tied to what he elsewhere calls “the law of Christ,” which (I believe) is defined by the Lord’s answer to the Pharisee in Matthew 22:37 – 40 (I highly recommend Charles Leiter’s excellent book, The Law of Christ).

Cardwell emphasizes the fact that the life of a person who has been raised from spiritual death will be evident: “the result of the saved life will be evidenced by, but not limited to these things: a growing resemblance to the life of Christ in sanctification (1 John 1: 7); repentance of sins as the illumination of His light reveals them (1 John 1: 8-10); a love for God’s Word (1 John 2: 3-5); abiding in the Holy Spirit-led life (1 John 2: 6); exhibiting a sacrificial love for fellow-believers (1 John 2: 9-11); a hatred for the things of this world and hatred for the lusts of the flesh because those things are at enmity with the Father (1 John 2: 13-17); and a love for and discernment of the truth (1 John 2: 20-21).” 10 Let no one go easily on with the lie that one can be saved yet unchanged.

I will only touch on the topics of the balance of the book, each chapter will challenge the reader to examine his belief in the Word and the meaning of specific passages and traditions as Cardwell examines the meaning of the sign of Jonah, the Shroud of Turin, traditions of men, and a few other topics.

The fifth chapter examines the Chief End of Man, and Jon does well to debunk the seeker sensitive madness Rick Warren is famous for, but he also takes the Westminster Shorter Catechism without question to answer the question. The problem with the catechism and its answer is the lack of defining the audience. About which man is it asking about the chief end – fallen man or redeemed man? In the context of the catechism, the very beginning, the catechism must be talking about man in general, not the redeemed. And because of this, their answer fails – because those who are bound for eternal torment do not have, as their chief aim “enjoying God.” Further, I find no support in Scripture that our benefit (the redeemed enjoying God forever) is our chief end. All of creation has as its chief end the glory of God. They should have put a period after the first phrase and worked out the latter portion in a later part of the catechism, making it clear enjoying God is a blessed benefit the redeemed will reap. Jon does point out that, to “enjoy God forever did not mean that man’s ultimate happiness comes as the result of what we receive from God. Following this thought toward its logical conclusion would ultimately suggest that God exists for man’s good pleasure and not the other way around.”11 Amen!

Christian – are you satisfied with your understanding of God’s Word and how it applies to you? I trust that is not the case. This short book is a good one to provoke any believer to dig deeper into the Scriptures, to pray for God’s wisdom, and examine some of those things we have been taught but never have thought about. Take and read!

 

Footnotes:

1 Cardwell, Jon J. (2014-11-15). The Simple Gospel – Including Other Essays Exalting Jesus Christ’s Person and Work: The Gospel Truth of Jesus Christ According to Scripture (The Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ Book 2) (Kindle Locations 172-174). Vayahiy Press. Kindle Edition.

2 ibid; Kindle Locations 210-211

3 ibid; Kindle Locations 241-242

4 ibid; Kindle Locations 252-253

5 ibid; Kindle Locations 259-262

6 ibid; Kindle Locations 299-301

7 ibid Kindle Location 332

8 ibid Kindle Locations 339-342

9 ibid Kindle Locations 361-365

10 ibid Kindle Locations 504-509

11 ibid Kindle Locations 915-917

Beth Moore – A False Teacher

I believe this speaks volumes about the truth of where Beth Moore has gone. I have a great deal of respect for Justin Peters and appreciate his willingness to address the false teaching that Beth Moore has accepted and has been teaching for a long time.

http://www.worldviewweekend.com/tv/video/has-beth-moore-become-false-teacher

Biblical Christianity vs. Roman Catholicism

There will always be, until the Lord returns with a triumphant shout and the sound of trumpets (1 Thess 4:16), people who confuse one false religion or another for the biblical faith Creator God revealed to us in His Scriptures and His Son. To help us keep in focus some of the essential differences between biblical Christianity and one of the largest, widely accepted false religions in the world, here is a handy chart comparing 9 facts of the faith as taught by the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church. An extract is below, to give you a preview.

I thought I would add to this a bit with a wonderful quote from a book I read last week:

“Now where the Scripture has not a Mouth to speak we must not have an Ear to hear.”
Thomas Patient, The Doctrine of Baptism and the Covenants. 1654 A.D.

Slide 1

The Dogma of Papal Infallibility

What Roman Catholics refer to as “the Dogma of Papal Infallibility” is one of the most  Papalstunning of all of RCC doctrine. According to this dogma, the Pope-when he speaks on matters concerning the church-is protected from the possibility­ of error. Note that it is not that what he says is always true, but something more radical is claimed: there is not even the possibility of him speaking something untrue.

When this dogma was first codified (the first Vatican Council in 1870) they obviously defined it in more constrained terms than it had been practiced through history. Now, it only applies to matters concerning “faith and morals,” and when the Pope binds “the whole Church” to the declaration. While it was codified by the First Vatican Council, it in effect has been practiced throughout much of Roman Catholic Church history.

In fact much of RCC doctrine rests on nothing other than this authority. For one clear example, in 1950 Pope Pious XII declared that Mary did not die a physical death, but was “assumed” (assunta) up to heaven. This is a teaching with no biblical evidence (although Pope John Paul II did allege that it was the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in John 14:3), and even less credible historical evidence. Actually, no one in the first 300 years of church history had even claimed such a thing had happened.

Because it is such an important part of what separates the RCC from Protestants, an obvious question to ask is, “are there times when the Popes have contradicted each other?” If so, that would be a glaring piece of evidence that the RCC’s claims to authority and doctrine are indeed fallible.

First, let me explain why this is important to me. Discussing theology with a Catholic can be frustrating, and usually goes in one of two ways. Either they claim to believe everything I believe, but they just also claim to have an unbroken tradition of history behind them. Or they respond to my biblical objections to RCC doctrine by saying Protestants are wrong because their interpretations contradict the interpretations of the RCC, which we know to be infallible.

Read the rest of this article here.

Debate: Mariology – Who is Mary according to Scripture?

When you build a theology on pagan goddess worship, man’s traditions, a dead religion of works, and arguing from silence, you will always lose the debate when faced with God’s Word.

See also: It’s All About Mary?

HT: Cup of Joe

Roman Catholic cardinal claims Adam and Eve were a mythology.

Below is the article from The Australian:


AUSTRALIA’S Cardinal George Pell has described the biblical story of Adam and Eve as a sophisticated myth used to explain evil and suffering rather than a scientific truth.

Cardinal Pell last night appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program, where he was debating British evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins.

Cardinal Pell said humans “probably” evolved from Neanderthals but it was impossible to say exactly when there was a first human. “But we have to say if there are humans, there must have been a first one,” he said.

According to Genesis, God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman.

Asked by journalist Tony Jones if he believed in the existence of an actual Garden of Eden with an Adam and Eve, Cardinal Pell said it was not a matter of science but rather a beautiful mythological account.

“It’s a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and the suffering in the world,” he said.

“It’s certainly not a scientific truth. And it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”

Cardinal Pell argued that the “great atheist movements” of Hitler and Stalin were the personification of social Darwinism.

“It’s the struggle for survival, the strong take what they can, and the weak give what they must and there’s nothing to restrain them.” he said. “And we’ve seen that in the two great atheist movements of the last century.”

Professor Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, rejected the notion as “ridiculous”.

He said Stalin was an atheist and Hitler was not, and they each perpetrated their acts for different reasons.

Towards the end of the debate, the head of the Catholic Church in Australia appeared to lament his struggle to promote Christ.

“My life would be much easier if I didn’t have to go into bat for . . . Christian principles,” he said.

Cardinal Pell then mused that he sometimes wondered if he should regret his life’s work, before asserting: “No, no.”