|"A GREAT RETURN TO THE BIBLE" |
by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DENOMINATIONAL DOCTRINES AND THE BIBLE - PART 1
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
"Is Christ Divided?" I Cor. 1:13
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of your saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (I Cor. 1:10-13)
It will be the aim of this lesson to examine in detail some of the denominational doctrines and compare them to Bible truth. While all of these doctrines are not taught by every denomination in existence today, they have been widely followed, and the influence has been far reaching even among denominations who do not claim to be following any or all of them. The seven doctrines discussed have had their roots deeply embedded in the early Reformation movement and are largely attributed to the influence of Luther and Calvin. The first two are generally associated with Luther. The third teaching evolved from Catholicism and was supported by Calvin. The last four originated with Calvin. In this study, we will also notice the evolution of doctrine -- how one teaching develops out of the premises of another teaching.
Salvation by Faith Only
Martin Luther was the first to teach the doctrine of salvation by faith only. He did it because of his bitterness and opposition to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church practiced salvation by works of merit. Luther said, NO, it should be justification by faith -- faith only.
Is Salvation by Faith Only?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|Faith without works cannot save (James 2:14).|
Faith without works is dead (James 2:17,26).
If faith only could save, all the devils would be saved, for they believe (James 2:19).
Faith is made perfect by works (James 2:22).
We are not justified by faith alone (James 2:24).
Faith gives us power to become a son of God (John 1:12).
We are saved by grace through faith and not of works (of the law) lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8).
But, we are his workmanship, created unto good works (good deeds) (Eph. 2:10).
We are justified:
By God Rom. 8:33
By Christ Acts 13:39
By faith Rom. 5:1
By Christ's blood Rom. 5:9
By name of Christ I Cor. 6:11
By grace Titus 3:7
By works James 2:24
|Genuine translation of Rom. 3:28: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law."|
Luther's translation of Rom. 3:28: "We hold that a man is justified without works of the law by faith alone." (He inserted alone even though this word does not appear in the original text from which Luther made his translation).
Methodist Discipline, Art. 9: "Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort."
Most denominations have their own version of this idea in their doctrine.
Consider: The circumstances behind the origin of this doctrine have already been discussed, in Lesson 18. But, there is one point of clarification which needs to be brought out. There is no contradiction in Biblical teaching about faith and works.
Faith vs. Works?
Luther's opinion that there was a conflict between James and Paul in their teachings on "justification" was baseless. There would have been no problem if Luther had discarded his doctrine.
"It should be carefully noted that James is not dealing with the doctrine of justification, or the grounds of justification which is one of the great doctrines of the epistle to the Romans. The doctrine of James is in no sense in conflict with the doctrine of Paul. They are treating two entirely different things. Justification by faith, Paul's doctrine, is not the same thing as justification of faith, or faith justified by works, the doctrine of James. We are not justified by works but by faith, is the Pauline teaching. That faith is dead and useless unless it expresses itself in a true life and true Christian activities, is the teaching of James. Both doctrines are in perfect agreement" (New Analytical Bible, p. 1049).
Paul is saying that one is not justified by "works of the law". It is against this background that he makes his argument on salvation by faith (Rom. 3:28; 5:1 and Eph. 2:8-9). It was faith expressed in obedience that made them Christians, and he admonished Christians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). In other words, their justification was not contingent upon a humanly devised scheme but upon faith which led to obedience (Rom. 6:17-18).
Had it not been for Luther's assumption that salvation really was by faith only, he would have had no difficulty reconciling the seeming contradiction. But, by starting with the conclusion that faith alone saves and trying to interpret the rest of the Bible in the light of that alleged truth, he found it impossible to reconcile. And, because he was honest enough to recognize and admit the problem, he resorted to a very dishonourable thing -- deliberately and willfully adding a word to the Scriptures -- a word which he knew, the world knew, and God knows was never in the original text. It was only one word -- alone -- but what a change it made in the scriptural meaning of Rom. 3:28. Luther admitted: "It would have been pointless to tell me that the word 'alone' is not found in the Latin or Greek texts here, for I was well aware of it … But the word has to be added if the sense of the passage is to be expressed clearly." (Stewart, p. 32).
This is a perfect illustration of the weakness of men -- courageous enough to defy certain death at the hands of his persecutors, yet weak to the extent that he would bring dishonour to his good name, by deliberate and willful fraud.
It should be said of Luther that he rendered a great service for man. His leadership out from under the shackles of Roman Catholicism was a blessing to the world, but why venerate his name or his doctrine. Luther died for the sins of no one. No one is baptized in Luther's name. He can impart eternal life to no one. And, why protect his doctrine if it is false? He was a man -- admit it -- attribute his short-comings to the frailties and weakness of man, "but look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our salvation." Men should not hesitate to expose the falsity of this soul-condemning doctrine -- salvation by faith alone -- to ALL, that the world might be brought out from under the influence of its poisonous web.
Baptism is Not Essential to Salvation
If the assumption that salvation by faith alone is true, then it naturally follows that baptism must be relegated to a position of relative insignificance, especially if you consider baptism a work (which it is not).
Is Baptism Essential?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).|
"Repent and be baptized everyone of you, … for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38)
"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us …" (I Peter 3:21).
|Because of the position taken with regard to salvation by faith alone, most denominations teach that baptism is not essential to salvation.|
Consider: Luther's doctrine of salvation by faith alone was in reaction to the Catholic doctrine of salvation by works of merit, whereas much of the more recent denominational positions on the doctrine came as a result of the rejection of the Catholic practice of baptismal regeneration (although the Catholic Church insists she does not teach it). For example, because of their natural interest in the subject of baptism (as seen by their name) the Baptist denomination, while correctly maintaining that there is nothing efficacious about water as far as spiritual cleansing is concerned, had assumed that the Bible does not teach that baptism is essential to salvation. They reason that if it were necessary for salvation it follows that the purpose of the baptism must be to literally "wash away the sins" of a person. This is not taught in the Bible. Paul was told to be baptized and "wash away his sins" but that does not mean physically or literally. They maintain further that the physical cannot provide for spiritual cleansing, and thus (physical) water cannot cleanse the soul (spiritual). It is true that there are no mystical properties in the water to effect the cleansing of the soul, but can we cast it (baptism) aside as a non-essential simply because we do not understand fully the part which baptism plays in salvation? Is it not enough that Christ commanded it? And, is not the real test of whether we believe and trust Him or not at the very point of whether we will take Him at His word -- doubting nothing -- simply saying, "Thou hast said, I will obey.?
Is Obedience to the Gospel Essential?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|Peter said, "What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:17). |
Paul says that Christ shall take "vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 1:7-8).
The Hebrew writer said that if we will obey Christ, we can be saved because Christ "is the author of salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9). Same as baptism.
|Same as baptism.|
Consider: Since obedience to the gospel is important, what is the gospel? It is defined for us in I Cor. 15:1-4 -- Christ died for our sins, was buried, and arose again the third day. These, then, are the facts of the gospel to be believed. We cannot obey them since facts cannot be obeyed. Rom. 6:17-18 explains that we obey the "form of doctrine" -- not the facts.
What is a "form" of the doctrine that can be obeyed? The only "form" of the doctrine of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ which God has provided is baptism in water. When baptized in water, we die to sin (death), we are buried in the watery grave (burial), and we are also raised out of the watery grave (resurrection). Thus, we see that faith does save, but that it must be an obedient faith, or obedience of faith (Rom. 16:26). Read carefully Rom. 6:17-18.
The Mode of Baptism is Immaterial
It is well understood by scholars that Bible baptism is by immersion only, but with the concept that all are in "original sin" and the impractical if not impossible, idea of putting babies completely under water, this mode was changed. It took over a thousand years from 251 A.D. (baptism by sprinkling for Novation) to the Council of Ravenna in 1311 A.D. to put this doctrine into the Roman Catholic Church officially. And although it was a major factor in the great split with the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1054 A.D., the Reformers, (except the Baptists who practiced immersion) seldom questioned it.
Is Baptism by Immersion Only?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|Bible baptism is:|
A "coming to" -- Acts 8:36 Luther's own statement, which agrees with every lexicographer of any reputation supports baptism by immersion. He said, "First, baptism is a Greek word. In Latin, it can be translated immersion, as when we plunge something down into water that it may be completely covered with water" (Thompson, p. 39)."
A "going down into" -- Acts 8:38
Requires much water -- John 3:23
"a coming up out of" -- Acts 8:39
A "burial" -- Rom. 6:4
A "planting" -- Rom. 6:5
Only one -- Eph. 4:5
|Lutherans hold that the mode of baptism is no essential part of the sacrament, any more than the mode of the Lord's Supper is essential to it. Neither the meaning of the word baptism, nor the occasion of its administration in the scriptures show the sacrament was administered" (Note under Question 325, Lutheran Standard Catechism).|
Other denominations justify the use of sprinkling for baptism in much the same manner.
Consider: The Bible is very clear on how a person is baptized and who may be baptized. Except for the doctrine of "original sin", it is unlikely that any mode other than immersion would have ever been widely accepted. When the purpose of baptism is correctly understood there should be no difficulty with this doctrine.
Predestination or Election
Because of his position regarding the sovereignty of God in matters of salvation, Calvin introduced this doctrine which is neither taught nor implied in the Scriptures. The word "election" means to choose, and does not imply that God makes the choice. God chooses only those who chose him.
Who Can Be Saved?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|Salvation is for all who believe and obey the gospel. Whosoever believes can be saved (John 3:16).|
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).
Make our calling and election sure (II Peter 1:10).
Man can repent instead of perish (II Peter 3:5).
These and other scriptures clearly show that man's salvation is conditional, based upon his own acceptance or rejection of the gospel.
|Calvin's doctrine: "By decree of God -- some men and angels are predestinated into everlasting life and others foreordained into everlasting death. These men and angels, thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain that it cannot be either increased or diminished" (Westminister Confession of Faith, Art. 3, 4, 5, chap. 3; Act. 2, Chap. 10). |
Consider: This doctrine violates the Biblical principle of the dignity of man and reduces him to the state of a mere machine. By insisting that God has chosen some to be lost and some to be saved and there is nothing man can do to effect that decree one way or another, the free moral agency of man was removed, and his dignity with it. Having no choice in the matter, he became a tool in the hand of God who had already declared him to be saved or lost. Thus, we are immediately in conflict with the Scriptures -- Acts 10:34 -- which says that "God is no respector of persons", and the falsity of the doctrine is exposed.
The Bible does teach that man is a free moral agent (Phil. 2:12).
The Bible does teach that men can be saved if they obey God's will (Heb. 5:9).
The Bible does not teach that our fate has been sealed by God (John 3:16 and II Peter 3:9).
The Bible does teach that men may disobey and be punished (Lev. 10:1-3).
The Bible does teach that Christians can fall and be lost (I Cor. 10:5-12).
This doctrine has given rise to some other doctrines by the same Roman Catholic procedure of following it out to its logical conclusion. In other words this (predestination or election) being true, this (for example -- impossibility of apostacy) must also be true. If this (presdestination) is true, then this (impossibility of apostacy) is true; But if it is not, then what? Although this doctrine is not widely accepted today, it has been the foundation rock for much kindred false doctrine which flourishes freely.
Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit
The first outgrowth of the concept of predestination and election is the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of man. As the theory goes, since man is wholly irresponsible and unaccountable -- God alone saves, God alone damns -- then man can do nothing to be saved. Thus, man must have the direct influence of the Holy Spirit to regenerate him.
Does the Holy Spirit Convert Us?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|The Holy Spirit is promised to all who obey the Lord (Acts 5:32). |
The Holy Spirit is promised to those who repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38).
Thus, the Holy Spirit does not act on the unbaptized to convert them, but comes to baptized believers. Check each case of conversion in the book of Acts to see that it was the Word of God by which they were converted -- not the direct operation of the Holy Spirit.
|"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who moves everywhere upon the hearts of men to restrain them from evil and to encite them to good and whom the Father is ever willing to give unto all who ask Him … And to persuade and enable them to obey the call of the Gospel" (Brief statement of the Reformed Faith for the Better Understanding of our Doctrinal Beliefs, General Assembly in Los Angeles, California, 1903).|
Consider: The theory is in conflict with many passages in the Bible which will be discussed together with the doctrines of predestination and the impossibility of apostacy at the end of the next section.
The Impossibility of Apostacy
The second step in the process of evolution of the doctrine of predestination was the teaching that it is impossible to apostatize. This means that once a person is saved, he is always saved, and cannot be lost. Calvin reasoned that if God "saves" and God "damns" without man's choice in the matter, and the Holy Spirit operates directly upon the person to regenerate him, then after his conversion he cannot do anything to be damned. Thus the theory was--man cannot fall from grace.
Is Salvation Certain?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|Salvation is conditional. Willful sin causes us to fall (Heb. 10:26).|
Those who "fall away" cannot be renewed to repentance, showing we can fall" (Heb. 6:1-6).
Paul saw the danger of "falling away (I Cor. 9:27).
Those Christians who chose to be under the law were considered to have "fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).
See also II Peter 1:5-12; I Cor. 10:12; II John 2:1-2; I John 1:9
|Salvation is certain. |
Once saved, always saved.
Once in grace, always in grace.
A saved person cannot so sin as to fall from grace (and be lost).
"If you seek it you can't find it; if you find it you can't get it; if you get it you can't lost it, and if you lose it you never had it." It is otherwise known as the doctrine of the security of believers.
Consider: Man's initial step for salvation from sin is contingent upon his meeting certain prescribed conditions carefully and clearly outlined by God in His Bible. The doing of the required things are not such as to merit salvation, otherwise salvation would be "earned" and we cannot "earn" our salvation.
Even as being saved from past sins is provisional "remaining saved" is also conditional. "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). In II Peter 1:5-12 a number of things are listed which are additional requirements for salvation. There are multiplied numbers of scripture references which establish this point.
The question then arises: If salvation is certain, how can it be conditional? The answer is: It cannot be so; one must be wrong. Which can we accept, the one taught in the Bible or the one taught by denominationalism?
Some groups teach that once a person is saved, he is always saved, but that, at the same time, he must be faithful, and live a good life in order to secure his salvation. Their point of view, when confronted with an example of a man who accepted Christ, was baptized, and then "fell away", is that he was never really converted in the first place. However, this manner of defense for the doctrine, and the doctrine itself has been brought under serious analysis by a major denomination in recent years and is causing an extensive re-examination of the position. Robert Shank, a Baptist, in his book, Life in the Son, challenged the doctrine. One leader of this denomination, Walter William Adams, recently stated: "We now have no warrant for entertaining positive convictions on the doctrine of perseverance (of the saints)" (Shank, book cover flap). Who knows, but that further investigation will bring about the elimination of this false doctrine in much the same manner in which the false concepts of "original sin" and "predestination" have ceased to be a part of the beliefs of some denominations. Perhaps, further study of the doctrine of salvation by faith only will cause still more wide-sweeping changes.
But the question remains: Why do men have to weave their way slowly, painfully, gradually, working their way out of a maze of denominational error and false doctrine? If men would only turn to the Bible, refusing to accept any premise or doctrine, no matter how many people believe it, or how reasonable it appears at first glance, determined to know the Bible truth on a subject, nothing added, nothing subtracted, this confusion could be avoided. God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33) and men always suffer when they choose to follow the traditions and doctrines of men in preference to God.
Total Hereditary Depravity
Another part of Calvin's related doctrines has to do with "inherited sin". Calvin contended that every person is totally depraved (lost in sin) at birth, having inherited it. Thus, man is supposedly depraved by nature and deserves to be damned. It is just another extension of the same thing the Catholics had taught for centuries -- "original sin" -- and it has been at the base of more false teachings and practices in religion than perhaps any other idea.
Do Infants Meet the Biblical Requirements for Cleansing from Sin?
|BIBLE TEACHING||DENOMINATIONAL TEACHING|
|Faith required (Rom. 10:13-17 and Heb. 11:6).|
Repentance required (Luke 13:3 and Acts 17:30).
Confession required (Matt. 10:32).
An infant cannot do these things and yet they are essential to salvation. If they are essential and an infant cannot do them how can he possibly be saved if he was born in sin as the theory so states.
Infants are pure and innocent. Jesus said, "of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 10:15).
|"Almighty and immortal God, the aid of all who need, the helper of all who flee to thee for succor … we call upon thee for this infant, that he coming to holy baptism, may receive remission of sins, by spiritual regeneration" (Book of Common Prayer, p. 230).|
"Calvinism teaches that a soul is born into this world as black as midnight darkness … Rob the world of the idea of depravity, and there would never have been any kind of a reason for the preacher laying his dirty ecclesiastical hands upon a spotless babe" (Hardeman, p. 94).
Consider: The best illustration of the failing of the doctrine is seen in the case of the change in doctrine for the Methodist Discipline. (See Lesson 18). Before 1908 babies born to Methodist denomination families had to be baptized to be saved but after that date, with a full realization of the error in the teaching, it was no longer required. This is just one example of the inconsistencies and confusion which arise when men replace the word of God with their own thinking and decisions.
Psalms 58:3 is sometimes used as a proof-text to support this teaching, but in reality it proves just the opposite. David said "the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." He did not say they are born astray; they go astray. They are not estranged in "the womb", but "from" the womb and they "go astray" after they can "speak" and became estranged. Therefore, the man goes astray after he is born. Which way does he go -- to God, or to the devil -- in order to "go astray"? If he were born totally depraved -- in complete sin -- he would already be with the devil, therefore, if he goes anywhere it would have to be toward God. But, he is said to "go astray", thus "going to God" and "going astray" would be the same thing according to this doctrine.
The problem is that this doctrine has the person located at the wrong place in the beginning. The Bible teaches that man is born pure and innocent. Hebrews 12:9 says that God is the "father of spirits". Then, when man reaches the age of responsibility and understanding, he goes "astray". He leaves God and goes "astray", to the devil.
Paul says that the devil "seduces" men. (See I Tim. 4:1 and II Tim. 3:13.)
Question: How can the devil seduce a totally depraved man? How could a totally depraved man "wax worse and worse"? There would have to be degrees in total depravity but the phrase itself means completely and utterly lost in inherited sin. He is totally depraved and what more can be said -- he cannot "wax" any worse than that. These scriptures refute and expose the false doctrine of original sin and total depravity. (Argument from Wallace, pp. 122-123).
In Ezekial 28:15 the Bible says, "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." Man is "perfect" TILL the day that iniquity is found in him. There is, quite obviously, a period of time (from birth TILL the age of accountability when a person is able to understand right and wrong) in which man is "perfect", "pure", and without sin. The idea, therefore, that man is born a sinner, is NOT supported by God's word. Man sins when he disobeys God. A little child must be able to ascertain right from wrong before he can be under the condemnation of sin. He is "perfect" TILL iniquity is found in him.
Conclusion: (For the doctrines of Calvin). Wallace calls these three doctrines the "theological triples" -- hereditary total depravity, the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, and the impossibility of apostacy.
Assume that before a person can be saved he is totally depraved and assume further that God has selected some to be eternally saved and others lost, then you must have the direct operation of the Holy Spirit which cannot be resisted by man in order to remove that original sin. Finally you must have an "impossibility of apostacy" after the old sinfulness has been removed. These four doctrines then are interrelated and lean upon each other.
But, consider this: The Bible says that God:
Shall reward every man according to his words (Matt. 16:27).
Will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2:6).
Judgeth according to every man's work (I Peter 1:17).
Judges every man according to his works (Rev. 20:13).
If the doctrine of unconditional election and predestination of souls is true -- the above statements from the Bible are false.
If direct regenerating power of the Holy Spirit which cannot be resisted is true -- the above statements from the Bible are false.
If the concept of impossibility of apostacy is true -- the above statements from the Bible are false.
Because according to Calvin's doctrine God does not judge the sinner according to his works -- he cannot do anything to be saved; and furthermore God does not judge the saved man according to his works -- he cannot do anything to be damned according to this doctrine.
Question: How then, according to these doctrines can God judge every man according to his works? If the sinner cannot do anything to be saved and the saved cannot do anything to be damned, what is there left upon which God is to pass judgment.
The inconsistency of these teachings are clearly seen and the theological background of these theories is that before a sinner is saved he is totally depraved. (Arguments from Wallace pp. 120-121).
direct operation of Holy Spirit - the coming upon one of the Holy Spirit without one's choice.
doctrine - teachings.
free moral agent - free to choose of one's own volition.
impossibility of apostacy - cannot so sin as to fall from grace and be lost.
predestination, foreordination, election - the notion that God has selected the lost and saved people and they cannot be changed.
regenerate - to cause to be reborn spiritually.
theory - an idea, or opinion for which definite proof has not been established.
Dickson, John A., New Analytical Bible
Howard, V.E., Gospel Radio Sermons
Shank, Robert, Life in the Son, Walcott Publishing Co., Springfield, Mo., 1960
Stewart, J.D., The Living Word Series, A Study of Major Religious Beliefs
Thompson, L.G., Churches of Today
Wallace, Foy E., Jr., Bulwarks of the Faith, Vol. II
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