Monday, September 25, 2006
I discovered this at the A-Team Blog today - a link for some electronic books. Perhaps many of you are aware of this already, but the folks at stilltruth.com have some Libronix books available for free. You’ll have to go there to see their list, but they have the works of Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, John Flavel along with some other individual works. I have already downloaded many of these and I must say that they appear to be very well formatted. What a rich resource - many thanks to stilltruth.
Friday, September 22, 2006
In 1997, my father passed away while I was living in Minnesota. When this happened, our whole family boarded a plane and returned to California. I had never dealt with death in our immediate family before this. In fact, I had never performed a funeral service up till this time - this would be my first. Unfortunately, my father had made few preparations before his passing - there was no will and no indication about his burial preferences; his finances, taxes and property debt had to be decifered by going through his paperwork. There was a life insurance policy that we eventually found that would help with the funeral expenses - I’m glad that we didn’t throw that box away.
The whole event was heart-wrenching; if I weren’t a Christian, it would have been crushing. Having to perform my father’s funeral without any assurance of his eternal state; having to sort through the maze of paperwork, receipts and files in order to determine his financial liabilities; and having to deal with a mortuary over the handling of his body - all of this was a rather bitter pill to swallow. With this experience I found that the prospect of having to do business with a mortuary can be particularly offensive. To be quite blunt here - when having to deal with the pain of death, the last thing that someone should have to do is do business with mortuary salespeople. What I experienced at the mortuary, I wasn’t at all prepared for. [In describing this event, I am not suggesting that all mortuaries are the same, or that there is no place for these services - however, I came to realize that it is important that people should be made aware of what they will probably face in the event of a death in their family]. I literally felt as though I had been transported into the worst sort of used car dealership imaginable. When I attended their “counseling session” on behalf of my deceased father, I was quickly presented with a list of options and packages for either burial or cremation. The timing of this meeting couldn’t have been better though. I had just come to the end of my research about my father’s financial standing, and realized that I would have to handle most of the out of pocket funeral expenses until the insurance premium could offer assistance. Because of this, I realized that we needed to be very frugal in our dealings with the mortuary. Thus, I was amazed at how easy it would have been to sign some papers, amidst the emotion of the moment, and find ourselves with a debt that would have been overbearing. That I recall, their “options” ranged anywhere from $4000.00 to well over $15,000.00 for a simple casket and burial - of course, the sky’s the limit if you want it to be.
What was also disturbing was the carefully crafted sales pitch that came with our “counselling session”; the eerie “Casket Room” with the special lighting; and the pressure of the salesman who would whisper things like, “Oh, but this would be a wonderful way to remember your father!” (as if to say - “anything less would be a disgrace”).
To make a long story short, I ended up getting some very good help from a friend who performs autopsies. This person warned me about doing business with the mortuary and helped me to understand that mortuaries typically veil your rights and freedoms when it comes to the transport and burial of a body, or even the spreading of cremains. But in order to understand what your individual rights are, you would need to contact your state’s Board of Funeral Service and read the local statutes which govern your area. Here is a website that has compiled such links for the United States: link.
As a note to pastors who may read this - this is an important thing to become aware of, especially when you experience a death of a member in your church (or one of their friends/ family members). If your church facilities includes an on-site burial ground, then you don’t need this counsel. For the rest of us who have to deal with off-site cemetaries etc, this is more needful.
As a pastor, the last thing you would want is to have your sheep being fleeced by a profit-hungry mortuary, especially when they are enduring the loss of a loved one.
I think that some folks have been a little unfair in their criticism about the upcoming debate at Lynchburg concerning “Baptists and Calvinism.” As you can see from the picture above, all seems to be well. There are no subliminal messages here, no distorted images or anything like that. Everything is on the up and up as they say. This is the final edit of another picture that received a good amount of criticism:
The graphic above drew a good amount of attention. Some folks cynically complained about the relative sizes of the men pictured, suggesting that the Calvinists (White and Ascol) are smaller than the Caners’.
More than this, there is the picture of the abandoned and dilapodated church in the background. As you can see, the pews are empty, tattered and falling apart. The bareness of this scene led some to believe (cynically) that this was an implicit dig by some at Calvinism and its supposed destructive effects on the local church.
For those of you who thought such things - how utterly pessemistic of you!
At least they didn’t stick with the original picture below...
The nerve of some people...
Monday, September 18, 2006
While it must be said that the Lord can even use very flawed means to bring about the salvation of His people (Phil. 1:15-17), I must express great concern over what appears to be a growing trend in our nation. Some may call it evangelism - I call it Christian Jihad...
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I’ve seen some rather odd things this week concerning the 5th year memorial of 9/11 - mostly from the conspiracy theorists who are convinced that this was an inside job involving the president, his cabinet, Christians in general and all the disenfranchised former employees of Petsmart. Their callous denials of this real and tragic event is a sad mockery.
But not to take these debunkers too seriously, I thought I’d share with you all a light moment of debunking the debunkers...from Cox & Forkum...
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
As many of you are aware, ABC’s recent program “Path to 9/11” begat quite a furor with our former president - Bill Clinton. Apparently, he and his legal advisers were seriously concerned about the political fallout that might ensue as a result of the storyline presented in this television docudrama. They charged that much of the program pursued a degree of artistic license that corrupted the truth of the historical record, and therefore, the legal letters began flying just on the eve of the program’s scheduled air time. In one interview, Mr. Clinton was quoted as saying:
“We just want people to tell the truth.”
His brief comment put me in a reflective daze. It wasn’t what he said, but who was saying it that put me in this contemplative trance. I couldn’t help but to think of the many national tragedies that have ensued in our land in the wake of this man’s “leadership” as our president: the wholesale legitimization of homosexuality; the increase in license for abortion; the cultural demoralization of sex and marriage, not to mention the fact that he singlehandedly took the grave office of the presidency and turned it into a fiasco through his repeated lies.
This is the man who wants people to tell the truth.
If this were really Mr. Clinton’s standard (i.e., telling the truth) then his record should be reflective of this, but it is not. Our former president, who was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice, is perhaps one of the last people in our nation qualified to speak to us about the matter of truth-telling. Even if ABC has incorporated some embellishment in its miniseries (I can’t say for sure) I must cast my doubts on Mr. Clinton’s desire for truth. Historically, his greater desire has been for popularity rather than truth; and now that his term of office is over, he has evidenced a greater desire to preserve his reputation and “legacy” more than anything else. The fact that he has professed to be a Christian has only increased the popular view which says that Christian discipleship is all about well articulated words, rather than a life of loving devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. If he has a legacy to speak of, it is not one worth repeating.
When the impeachment proceedings were under way, I couldn’t help but to send off some thoughts to the House Judiciary Committee. I did this, not because I was certain that it would go very far - or anywhere at all; rather, I did it as a matter of conscience before God, knowing that as a citizen of God’s kingdom, I needed to offer a warning of some kind - again for conscience sake. I managed to find the letter, the contents of which are below:
To: The members of the House Judiciary Committee -
I believe that the responsibilities of the House Judiciary Committee are deeply profound. I am convinced that the fundamental issue at hand is the battle for truth, not politics. Let's clear away the smoke and rubble of the opinion polls just for a moment and resolve this single matter: That the Judiciary Committee's principal responsibility is that of vindicating the standards of justice. While the nation is clamoring for various conclusions to this matter concerning the president, it must be resolved that the demands of justice must be satiated [absolutely], rather than the felt needs of the people. A classic, historical example of our present crisis comes to us from the annals of Roman history in the Emperor Nero. Nero was one of the most popular Emperors that Rome ever had (possibly next to Julius and Augustus). Nero was loved by the people and in droves they rendered their support to him without wavering. However, Nero, unbeknownst to the greater masses, quietly wreaked havoc upon the nation by depleting the national resources, disregarding the powers of the Senate, abandoning his duties often for the sake of recreation and ultimately by destroying the fabric of justice in his own life and in the lives of those closest to him. The majority of the Senate loathed Nero, and did nothing to him when he (among other infractions) forsook his wife Octavia for the married woman Poppaea. This event was nothing more than an illustration of the many ways in which Nero practiced deceit; but as long as the people hailed him as a competent leader, the Senate kept their hands off of him. It wasn't until Nero's professional abandon came to an extreme that the Senate formally declared Nero to be the Republic's number one enemy. Before he was finally removed from office, he had successfully diminished the power of Rome so severely that the government barley had the ability to recover from his seeds of destruction. While the correlations between 1st century Roman government and the governmental systems of the United States are not one to one, there is a serious parallel: The Roman Senate tolerated injustice until it was too late. They listened to the opinions of the masses rather than to the voice of justice. I believe that the pregnant lessons of history have been so severely forgotten that we are nearly doomed to repeat them. It is sad to think that this matter must be so hotly contested. Apart from the tabloid nature of this crisis, there is the very real crime of deceit and lying. I feel very sorry for Mr. Clinton, and it is my responsibility to honor and pray for the king (i.e., the president in his presidency); but when I talk to my oldest child about the nature of our president's "leadership" I am forced to explain to her that he is a man who is comfortable with his deceit and lies. As he continues to hide behind his diagrammatical analysis of deponent verbs, he is showing all the more his willingness to deceive and lie, knowing that he probably won't face any consequences wrought by means of true justice. I would issue the challenge of the priority of truth and justice, believing that the lack thereof renders any would-be-leader as impotent and useless. As a Christian and a pastor, my greater concern is for Mr. Clinton's eternal soul, not his political career. And, should America decline and fall as did the nation of Rome, my citizenship will not be at all challenged, for my citizenship is a heavenly one and the Monarch that I serve will never waiver in the matter of justice and equity. But I have shared these matters with you in order to present the lawful matters at hand, knowing that even temporal governments are given as a minister of God to accomplish His purposes no matter what happens in this life.
Praying for the leadership of this nation (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and knowing that God's justice will prevail in the end.
Pastor Michael Beasley
Our family often prays for the Clintons, and for many of those in governing authority whose convictions and lives stand in clear opposition to the teachings of Scripture. This we do because we know that the Lord has the power, grace and mercy to save them. For myself, I know this biblically and experientially, after all the Lord saved this wretch by that same power, grace and mercy. His grace is sufficient to save any - and that is a fact.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon
Evening, December 24
We anticipate the happy day when the whole world shall be converted to Christ; when the gods of the heathen shall be cast to the moles and the bats; when Romanism shall be exploded, and the crescent of Mohammed shall wane, never again to cast its baleful rays upon the nations; when kings shall bow down before the Prince of Peace, and all nations shall call their Redeemer blessed. Some despair of this. They look upon the world as a vessel breaking up and going to pieces, never to float again. We know that the world and all that is therein is one day to be burnt up, and afterwards we look for new heavens and for a new earth; but we cannot read our Bibles without the conviction that
“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun Does his successive journeys run.”
We are not discouraged by the length of his delays; we are not disheartened by the long period which he allots to the church in which to struggle with little success and much defeat. We believe that God will never suffer this world, which has once seen Christ’s blood shed upon it, to be always the devil’s stronghold. Christ came hither to deliver this world from the detested sway of the powers of darkness. What a shout shall that be when men and angels shall unite to cry “Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrows of the bow, and to have aided in winning the victory for our Lord! Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with him, doing their little in his name and by his strength! How unhappy are those on the side of evil! It is a losing side, and it is a matter wherein to lose is to lose and to be lost for ever. On whose side are you?
Thursday, September 07, 2006
This article is scheduled to be printed in the Winston-Salem Journal on September 8th, 2006.
Most Americans were deeply impacted by the tragedy that struck our nation on September 11, 2001. Nearly all of us experienced a deep sense of shock, bewilderment, and grief as we absorbed the horrific events of that day - even live on national television. Now, as we approach the 5th year anniversary of that event, many will once again pause and remember the wickedness that begat this dark memory, as well as the nearly 3,000 souls who perished in the calamity that is now referenced as just 9/11.
Now I ask you - Will you take time to pause and reflect too?
I hope you will, but with a proper focus - and this is what I mean. While I am deeply repulsed by the thought of men who celebrate the murder of women, children - or any civilian they can kill in the name of their “god,” I also recognize that such calamities as these afford us with an important opportunity to learn the lessons of history if even from recent history. Now some would say that the most important lesson to learn from 9/11 is that we need to revitalize our war on terror. Others would say that 9/11 should re-energize our efforts to protect our nation’s borders, or to increase our technology for homeland security. I would absolutely agree that, as a nation, these are important reflections since government is a minister of God to bring “wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:1-4) - and 9/11 was certainly a day when men practiced great evil. But I would suggest to you that there is a much more significant meditation that should govern our thinking with respect to 9/11 and it has to do with a form of evil that is far greater, and more carefully hidden, than any terrorist organization on earth: Ephesians 6:12: “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” This text Romans 3:10 "There is none righteous, not even one...”ought to remind us that the true realm of terrorism in this world is the spiritual evil that is ultimately governed by Satan himself, being supported by a world of men who march in lockstep with the Devil (Eph. 2:1-3). I am concerned that modern day terrorism is actually Satan’s sucker punch designed to distract us from the right hook of mankind’s universal wickedness. You see, not only are religious murderers the cobelligerents of the Devil, but anyone who stands against the true knowledge of God in Christ Jesus is counted as the co-laborer of the world forces of darkness (2 Corinthians 10:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:3-6, Romans 3:9-18). Satan’s tactics must not be ignored here. He delights in distracting the masses away from the real front lines of spiritual battle by diverting our attention in any way he can. But do not be deceived - the Devil’s terror cells saturate every corner of the globe and can be found wherever the truth of Christ is undermined in any way (Galatians 1:6-9). Thus, where the doctrine of salvation alone by grace alone in Christ alone through a knowledge of the Scriptures alone, is under attack - there you will find the Devil’s terrorists. Where you find the denigration of God’s Word, the exaltation of lawlessness or the praise of mankind’s works-righteousness over the perfect righteousness of Christ Himself - there you will find Satan’s covert operators laboring tirelessly (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). And such spiritual terrorism as this is infinitely more lethal, since physical terrorism can only threaten a person’s physical life; but Satan’s terrorism against the truth can forever lay claim on any soul who is willing to follow his murderous lies (John 8:44). Yes, many jihadists may escape justice in this life, however none of Satan’s cobelligerents will escape the justice of Almighty God. Theirs is a fiery grave that will burn without end.
Let no-one think that I wish to make light of the horrific crimes committed by those murderers who made 9/11 a grievous household expression - may it never be! But what I am emphasizing here is this simple truth the whole world is filled with wickedness, and all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); therefore mankind has only one hope and that is to believe in the only One who has the power to wipe away our every sin and offer forgiveness for our every manifestation of evil in this world - and that One is the Lord Jesus Christ. I do encourage you to pause on Monday and remember the events of 9/11, but only to the end that you remember that in this world of perpetual violence and bloodshed, there is only One who can bring about everlasting peace to the heart of man that One is the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6).
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
David Kjos, of The Thirsty Theologian fame, recently asked a question on behalf of his son (or, that is, his friend's son) about some real life applications to the following three concepts in math:
1. Negative Exponents.
2. 0 Exponents.
3. Absolute Value.
As I began to consider some possible answers to this question, I couldn’t help but to expand this a bit for the sake of my own family, and just for the joy of meditating on the Lord’s creation overall. Let me offer the following physical applications as illustrations of God's wisdom and glory in Creation:
1. Negative Exponents: Let me offer a contrast first - In cosmology, positive exponents help us to avoid speaking of stellar distances in terms of septillion, sextillion, quintillion, quadrillion miles etc. It is much easier to refer to a quasar that is 13 billion light years away (or 13 Sextillion miles, or 13 X 10[exp21]). At the other end of the scale, negative exponents make the description of the atomic scale much easier - and the study of quantum mechanics depends a great deal on this. Take for example the zeroth law of thermodynamics. The zeroth law suppositions that a substance cannot reach absolute zero (at the quantum level) because this would require the absolute cessation of all kinetic energy within a substance. Because of this we could say that a substance could only approach 0 Kelvin asymptotically (becoming very small, but never reaching zero at the quantum level). When dealing with asymptotes, negative exponents are very important. I believe that the lowest recorded temp established at MIT is 500 picokelvin or 10[exp-12] Kelvin. Now consider this: In Christ all things consist or "hold together." Men may be able to slow such processes down, but they cannot terminate what is perpetually sustained by the Creator: Colossians 1:16-17: 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
2. 0 Exponents: I'm no astrophysicist, but I do know that there is a beautiful application (experimentally speaking) concerning a zero exponent. An exponent of zero means that you have the situation where a numerator is divided by a denominator of identical value such that the exponents (of equal value) resolve to zero. So what?! Well, take the question concerning the shape of the universe. The grand question for some time has been - will the universe hyper-accelerate in its expansion, or will it collapse upon itself. The third option is that it will continue on in a “flat” or steady state. This question is regulated by a factor called Omega which is a ratio of the average density of the universe divided by the critical energy density. If the Omega ratio is much greater than one, then the universe will begin to collapse upon itself; if the Omega ratio is much less than one, then the universe will hyper-expand unto...the Lord's return (of course, we know how the Universe will end, but I digress…). But at Omega = 1 (r/rc, where r = rc), the universe will continue in its favourable state of steady expansion.
In exponential terms, Omega's exponent is either equal to zero or very close to zero - which is baffling to scientists. A number of scientists have tried to measure (based upon the premise of the big bang) how the universe could possibly be in such a steady state. Some have suppositioned that the degree of accuracy required in the initial r/rc ratio at the supposed “big bang” would have to be (at 1 ns after the big bang) set to an accuracy of 1 part in 10[exp59] in order to sustain the present factor of Omega. Figures such as these have led some scientists to begin to use the term "anthropic principle" in order to describe the unimaginable precision in which our universe has “evolved” in order to sustain life.
Genesis 1:14-18: 14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.
3. Absolute value: As you know, an absolute value strips a number of any coordinate direction - it is simply asking the question "how far have we travelled from zero?" Let me broaden this concept by bringing up the subject of vector and magnitude. A vector possesses both magnitude and direction. The magnitude of a vector (in a sense) would correspond to the idea of absolute value – it only answers the question of “how far” rather than “where.” In cosmology, we often refer to stellar objects in terms of the absolute value of their distance. In a sense, Earth is the zero point, and (for example) Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away from earth. In this statement, there is nothing said in terms of the coordinate directions of Alpha Centauri (from the earth) - all that is offered is the magnitude (distance) of the star from Earth. Such considerations of stellar magnitude have their Scriptural application as well - Isaiah 55:9: 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts."
Romans 1:20: 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen...
Friday, September 01, 2006
When the Savior began His earthly ministry, He entered the temple in Jerusalem and made an alarming pronouncement concerning the organized religion of the day:
John 2:13-16: 13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business."
This sad diagnosis, made by the Great Physician Himself, tells us plainly that Judaism was a dead and lifeless business by the time the Savior walked this Earth. Now by all external appearances Judaism was a booming, bustling religious organization, under-girded by a highly developed hierarchy; regulated by mountains of legal structure and supported by a vast army of religious pilgrims who faithfully attended the annual feasts. In that day, anyone who would dare question the success of Judaism would surely be deemed as a madman or heretic - such a person might even run the risk of being persecuted and ultimately crucified…
This historic example should remind us that there is a great difference between the religious structures of men versus the true household of God’s people. What men may call a success may very well be, in the eyes of the all-seeing and all knowing God, an utter sham. Clearly, the Lord Himself is not deceived by the thin veneer of religiosity. I begin here with this biblical precedent in order to call attention to some interesting articles that have been published on the Internet recently. Let me begin with an article written by Catholic Answers entitled Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth. In this article it is argued that historic Catholicism is the one and only true church. This is nothing new, but it has generated some interesting discussion:
"Jesus said his Church would be ‘the light of the world.’ He then noted that ‘a city set on a hill cannot be hid’ (Matt. 5:14). This means his Church is a visible organization. It must have characteristics that clearly identify it and that distinguish it from other churches. Jesus promised, ‘I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’ (Matt. 16:18). This means that his Church will never be destroyed and will never fall away from him. His Church will survive until his return. Jesus established only one Church, not a collection of differing churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, and so on). The Bible says the Church is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23–32). Jesus can have but one spouse, and his spouse is the Catholic Church."
Rome has always maintained the idea that it is in fact the true and only church. Of course, here in America, such dogma isn’t always held so tightly, however, this is the official view of Rome - Roman Catholicism, they portend, is the only way - and they have a long history of organizational unity and doctrinal coherence to prove it. Or do they?
When reference is made to this idea of a visible organization, rather than to the spiritual household of God, then one must question the meaning and validity of such a thought. Without a doubt, the spiritual household of God does have a visible manifestation in the world - if it didn’t, then it could not be called a lampstand in this dark world (Matt. 5:14, Revelation 2-3). However, it must be understood that there is both a visible and invisible manifestation of the church in this world. Such a biblical distinction is needful for our understanding:
The Church Invisible: It is invisible in the sense that only God can infallibly know who are genuine possessors of faith, whether speaking of a local church or of all professing believers throughout the world (Matt. 13:18-30). It is invisible to the extent that only God perfectly knows, by His electing grace, those whose names are written in the book of life from all eternity (John 10:14-15, Acts 2:47).
The Church Visible: To say that the true church is principally invisible in no way denies that it has a visible manifestation in the world. The church is seen by the world within the realm of two ministerial realities: 1. The ministries of its individual members who serve as individual priests and ambassadors in this world (1 Peter 2:4-5, Eph. 4:12-13, John 17:18) and 2. The ministries of corporate assemblies (local churches) throughout the world (Eph. 1:1, Phil 1:1, Rom. 1:7, Gal. 1:1-2, 1 Peter 1:1-2, Col. 1:2, Rev. 2-3). As to this latter category, the local church, the Savior promised that there would always be a great struggle over the purity of membership within its organizational structure (Matt. 13:24-30).
In the article by Catholic Answers we noted their treatment of Matt. 5:14 where they say: "This means His Church is a visible organization." Clearly, such a statement only affirms a small portion of truth concerning the church. Thus, a statement such as this is an oversimplification since the church has its visible and invisible aspects.
It is crucial to understand that the true universal church (worldwide) is ordained by God’s sovereign decree. Men may profess the Lordship of Christ, but this does not mean that they are His genuine disciples (Matt. 7:21-23). Therefore, local churches will always struggle with this matter of purity within their ranks (Matt. 13:24-30). All one has to do is examine the early church in order to comprehend that as soon as God’s wheat of the true church was planted (Acts 2), the enemy had already planted his tares of false brethren (Galatians 2:4, 2 Cor. 11:26) who were hidden reefs (Jude 12) and the disguised enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil 3). The N.T. epistles are dripping with reminders of this distinction between the visible and invisible manifestation of the church. Because of this, it is important that we consider some of the foundational realities that will be found within a true church (Ephesians 2:19).
1. The Gospel, the Holy Spirit and Regeneration: Simply put: God does not raise up new life out of corrupted seed. Instead, the Holy Spirit uses the seed of the Gospel message in order to beget new life in the sinner: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:18 NIV). We see this so clearly displayed on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, where the Apostle Peter was preaching the genuine Gospel and the Holy Spirit brought about the regeneration of some 3000 souls that day - here again we see the church’s threefold foundation in action - the Gospel, the Holy Spirit and regeneration (John 3:3–8). Clearly, where there is no Gospel preached or heard (Romans 10:14), there can be no fruit of salvation. Men can build their basilicas, inhabit them with tares, preach an alternate Gospel (Gal. 1:6-7) and call it the church all they want, but all that they produce in this is a man-made institution that is worthy of God’s eternal condemnation (Gal. 1:8-9). The fact that Rome proclaims a false Gospel is the clearest evidence that its organization is man-made, rather than it being the work of the Spirit through regeneration and truth. Ultimately, where the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness is replaced with a doctrine of infused righteousness - there is no true Gospel (Gal. 3); and where the finished work of the cross is added to in any way - there is no Gospel; and where the Lord’s table is made into a canabalistic mockery - there is no true Gospel. But where the genuine Gospel is proclaimed and where Spirit-born brethren assemble - there you will find the genuine church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil Johnson has a good article addressing this point (as it relates to denominationalism) - it is a profitable read.
2. The Supremacy of Christ: The genuine church will herald Christ as the Supreme “head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Contrary to this, Catholicism teaches that the Pope is the “Holy See” who presides as the “supreme pastor” of the church - thus endowing him with the title that is worthy of Christ alone who is, by name, The Chief Shepherd of the church (1 Peter 5:4). Historically, Catholic popery has been guilty not only of ascribing the title of Christ to mere men, but it has also been guilty of attempting to confer the Savior’s power and authority upon them as well. Martin Luther addressed this matter in his 95 Theses: “We assert...that the pope's pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.”
3. The Chief Priesthood of Christ: The genuine church will gladly confess that it has but one Priest who is seated at the Father’s right hand and who intercedes on our behalf - The Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:34). He is our “great priest over the house of God” (Heb. 10:21) whose intercessory ministry came at the cost of His own shed blood, for “through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18). However, this clear doctrine of Scripture has been contradicted by Rome for centuries through the doctrine of penance and absolution: “Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same.”
4. The Sole Rule of Faith: The genuine church will defend the truth that she has but one foundation of authority. It is a foundation that is fixed, without variation or shifting shadow. It is the revelatory foundation that was once for all established by “the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Thus, the true church will recognize that she does not have the authority, by any tradition or human decree, to add to the completed canon of God’s Holy Writ. Anyone who adds to or takes away from this sure revelation of God will face His condemnation for doing so (Rev. 22:18-19), for all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Despite the principle of Sola Scriptura, Rome continues to teach the doctrine of Ex Cathedra, asserting that when the Pope speaks “from the chair,” he speaks a dogma that is divinely revealed and is equally authoritative with Scripture itself.
Just taking the question of organizational unity alone, we should observe the following.
1. Catholicism fails to give any proof that it is the product of any Gospel/Spiritual unity. Its repeated denials (without repentance) of the core tenants of the Gospel itself testifies to this fact.
2. Catholicism fails to establish a legitimate spiritual-hierarchial structure from the very top since they corrupt the true office and authority of Christ as the Head and Chief Priest of the Church. Simply put, Catholic popery is a derogation of Christ’s rule over the church.
3. It generates an unspiritual hierarchy and authority in the church via its teaching of church tradition. Rather than having a firm foundation of authority where Christ is the unwavering Cornerstone, the Catholic foundation of “truth” consists of the shifting sands of church tradition and Papal declarations.
4. It establishes an unspiritual hierarchy amidst the members of the church through a failure to understand the N.T. doctrine of the believer’s priesthood. Its advocacy of an exclusive and limited priesthood nullifies the blood-bought sufficiency of all genuine believers, thereby denying the proper participation of many in the work of the ministry.
All in all, Rome fails to affirm the true substance and structure of the church through an absence of Gospel preaching and a hierarchial structure that is defective from the its head down to its entire body. By this it should be obvious that when a Catholic speaks of organizational unity, they are not talking about an organizational unity of the true church; instead they are speaking of the organizational unity of a man-made organization.
It is clear that Rome’s vast religious empire is impressive - visibly speaking. Rome’s monetary vitality, its hierarchy, its legal and constitutional structure, along with its extensive array of traditions and culture, make it an amazing organization by the world’s standards; but not by the standards of God’s Word. As a business, it is indeed impressive, and it’s been around for a long, long time. But when we examine this empire in view of God’s Word we find that Roman Catholic unity is utterly bankrupt, such that those who come to saving faith from within such an organization do so despite the organization itself – as in the case of Martin Luther.
Finally, in my next post, I will expand upon this difference between the appearance of unity, versus the genuine unity of the true church which is scattered abroad throughout the earth. In particular, we will consider how church unity is to be seen amidst the contexts of denominationalism and persecution. Along with this we will examine this question concerning the continuity of Catholic doctrine throughout the centuries. Until then, some articles have been generated that you should look at: this article at PulpitLive and then this article by Dave Armstrong at Cor ad cor loquitur.