Category Archives: Catholicism

Saturday Sampler: October 29 — November 5

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An essay by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word reveals One Temptation of Digital Searching that had never occurred to me. His admonition might spare you from misinterpreting God’s Word.

I enjoy pretty much everything Candi Finch writes on Biblical Woman, but Meet Katie Luther, One of the Protestant Reformation’s Leading Ladies has to be my all-time favorite piece I’ve read of hers. Once again,  we see that history can not only inspiring, but downright fun! I dare you to get through this piece without cracking a smile.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us The Cry of the Reformation: Jesus is our Sufficient Savior!  His article goes to the heart of the Reformation, directing us  back to the Lord Jesus Christ as all a sinner ever needs.

What should 21st Century evangelicals learn from the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura?Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder answers that question with What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think. This article taught me a few things that deepen my appreciation for this doctrine of grace.

On her blog,  The End Time, Elizabeth Prata analyzes the state of present-day evangelicalism against the backdrop of the Reformation. Reformation Day 500 and counting! affirms the sad reality that the Reformation is far from over. Her essay will enhance your conviction that we absolutely must stand on God’s Word, using it as an instrument of discernment.

Reprising an article from Tabletalk Magazine (which I read all the time), the blog from Ligonier features The Holy Spirit’s Ministry by Sinclair  Ferguson. If you struggle with the idea that some of the Spirit’s gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era, this piece may help you.

I’ve definitely sinned in my attempts to perform discernment ministry. So Lara d’Entremont’s blog post in Renewed in Truth Discipleship, Where Discernment Goes Wrong, rightly convicted me. Please take a look at the post yourselves and see whether or not the Lord would have you reconsider your approach to discernment.

Erin Benziger once again correctly uses Scripture to expose a sin that all of us fall into — usually without realizing it. In Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy on Do Not Be Surprised, she illustrates the dangerous potential in this seemingly innocuous sin.

I’m including a second article from The Cripplegate because Jesse Johnson’s Semper Reformanda? addresses seven serious problems in 21st Century evangelical churches. My regular readers will notice that some of his concerns echo issues that I’ve been writing about for years. Please take a look at this thought-provoking blog post.

Commenting on events in the news, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day concludes that Sin makes people stupid, and explains the world we live in. Her essay matches the power of its title!

I struggle with sinful, self-centered anger.  But Michelle Lesley reminds of 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger. She makes very interesting and unexpected observations that most Christians overlook.

As someone who has been severely disabled since birth, I read Tim Challies’ essay,  No Better (Or Worse) Time To Be Disabled with tremendous interest. Although he specifies people with intellectual disabilities, don’t think for a moment that these ideas couldn’t eventually carry over to anyone with severe birth defects.

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Divided By Faith Alone

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When faced with recent discussions about the Protestant Reformation this past week, many evangelicals have defended Catholics by offering anecdotal stories of Catholic friends and family members who love Jesus. They consequently object to statements that the Roman Catholic Church teaches a false gospel. Furthermore, they plead for evangelicals to lay aside our differences with Catholics and focus on the things that unite us.

Certainly, a few people in the Catholic Church may, by God’s grace, possess genuine salvation. Before I say anything else, I must acknowledge that very real possibility. Last time I checked, the Holy Spirit hadn’t given me His ability to look into anyone’s heart to assess their standing with the Lord.

Having said that, intellectual honesty demands that we recognize the many unbiblical teachings that Roman Catholicism promotes. Most notably, as I’ve stated repeatedly on this blog, Catholic doctrine adds the works of penance and the sacraments to faith as conditions of salvation.

People of any religion may feel love for Jesus, and yet trust in false religion for their salvation. Every time John and I go into Boston, we see Jehovah’s Witnesses standing in populated ares with their literature, smiling invitingly at tourists and locals alike in hopes of engaging someone in conversation. These people most assuredly preach heresy, but every single one of them sincerely believes he or she loves Jesus. Sadly, they love a false Jesus and trust in a system of salvation by works that will lead them straight to hell unless God intervenes.

Loving Jesus isn’t the criteria for salvation, my friends. Trusting Him, and Him alone, is. His finished work on the cross completely paid the penalty for the sins of all who place their faith in Him, and His resurrection guarantees that believers will one day be raised with Him. The apostle Paul said that this simple message, without embellishment, is the whole Gospel.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)

Catholic doctrine, much like the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and pretty much every religious system other than Biblical Christianity, adds to Christ’s work on the cross, assigning human responsibility to the salvation event. But, as we’ve been learning in our Monday Bible Studies on Titus, good works are a result of salvation, not a means of obtaining it.

Roman Catholicism, I regret to say, has yet to recant the Council of Trent, which pronounces damnation on anyone who insists on salvation by faith alone. Despite declarations of love for Jesus, Catholics who participate in the sacramental system of the Catholic Church implicitly demonstrate that they trust something other than Christ’s finished work on the cross. Therefore, like the 16th Century Reformers, modern-day evangelicals must not disregard this fundamental difference in doctrine.

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After Darkness, Light

Post Tenebras Lux

Even among Christians who genuinely love God’s Word and have a passion for Him, I feel like a certifiable nerd these days. Hardly anyone outside on my blogging and Twitter associates seems aware that today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And the few who actually do know don’t show a great deal of concern (let alone excitement) over the matter. That was 500 years ago, they reason. They remind me that not everyone enjoys history as much as I do.

A few longtime friends have (if I correctly understand their Facebook comments) expressed hope that I’m not idolizing theology instead of loving Jesus. Certainly, dead orthodoxy poses a danger to any Christian, and therefore self-examination has a place for those of us who write zealously about the issues involved in the Reformation. I don’t want to exalt anything above the Lord Jesus Christ.

I wonder, however, if people accused Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other 16th Century Reformers of idolizing theology.

Actually, they accused them of heresy, even though it was the false teachings of Roman Catholicism that caused the Reformers to go back to Scripture and question the Church’s teachings in the first place. Those men and women stood against the errors in the Roman Catholic Church because they loved Jesus and had a passion for His Word.

In order to appreciate their passion for Biblical theology, it helps to understand the development of the Roman Catholic Church. Outlining that history goes well beyond the scope of today’s essay, but I strongly encourage you to read What is the origin of the Roman Catholic Church? from GotQuestions.org. Suffice it to say that Roman Catholicism kept most people in spiritual darkness for approximately 600 years, withholding Scripture from all but the elite so that Rome could maintain political power.

The Reformers began reading Scripture translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, and consequently saw huge discrepancies between what the Word taught and the teachings of Rome. As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this Tuesday series, they risked their very lives (and many died as martyrs) over the theological differences between them and the Roman Catholic Church.

They rightly took the motto, Post Tenebras Lux (after darkness, light), to describe God’s wonderful work of restoring sound doctrine to His people.  The light of God’s Word had at last dispelled the darkness of Roman Catholicism, and the Reformers preferred persecution and death to compromising their theology. Does that mean they idolized theology over the Lord?

I would argue that the Reformers’ love and passion for Christ emanated from their return to Biblical theology. As they rediscovered the doctrines of grace in the pages of Scripture, the light shone brightly, leading them to know and love the Lord, Who had been in the shadows of Catholic tradition for almost six centuries.  To those Reformers, the theology that shed light on the Lord and His will caused them to rejoice in His remarkable grace. They gave Him all the glory. Indeed,  the appearance of light after darkness fueled their passionate love for Him.

Oh dear 21st Century believers, don’t let people discourage you from loving the theology that leads you to a clear understanding of Who Jesus is and what He teaches. As John said to me yesterday, we can’t really love the Lord apart from right theology. Praise God for the courageous Reformers whom He used to bring His people from darkness into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

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Saturday Sampler: October 22 — October 28

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Ligonier posts R.C. Sproul’s article, What Does the Roman Catholic Church Believe About Justification? This helpful piece brings us to the core issue of the Protestant Reformation and encourages Christians to continue declaring the Gospel.

Firmly but gently, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day answers the question, But what if my husband isn’t a believer? by opening the Bible and examining what the Holy Spirit says through the apostle Peter on this subject. I appreciate her approach to this important topic.

With Halloween coming quickly, Michelle Lesley reprises Should Christians Participate in Halloween? 7 Scriptures to Consider (which she originally published in 2014). I really like her application of Biblical principles to this controversial question.

Writing for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Rebecca VanDoodewaard outlines 5 Lessons from Reformation Women as an encouragement to us. Women don’t have to be in pulpit ministry in order to serve the Lord mightily.

In his moving blog post for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge writes about The American Priest who Proved the Reformation is Not Over. Please, if you’re tempted to minimize the differences between Catholics and Protestants, make time to read this eye-opening piece.

If you like impassioned writing, don’t miss Elizabeth Prata’s The Reformation shows us why we need expository preaching in The End Time. Thankfully, Elizabeth hasn’t bought into the pervasive attitude that church history is boring and irrelevant. In fact, she applies lessons from the Reformation to current evangelical trends.

Biblical counselor Lara d’Entremont of Renewed in Truth Discipleship helps us see that Letting Go of Self-Suffiency is a necessary act of repentance. It also alleviates some pretty big burdens.

For a slightly different take on the Reformation, read David Qaoud’s piece, 5 Common Misconceptions of Reformation Day in Gospel Relevance. I learned a few things. So might you.

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What We Don’t Know Will Definitely Hurt Us

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I’ve been asking questions on Twitter and Facebook in an effort to understand what most evangelicals think about the Reformation. Having spent most of my Christian life in Charismatic and Armimian churches, many of my friends (though genuinely saved) don’t subscribe to Reformed Theology. Curiously, some of them quote  Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotions, but they also quote Oswald Chambers, Rick Warren and Charles Finney, leaving me to wonder if Spurgeon makes that much of an impression on them.

Sometimes things make you scratch your head in bewilderment.

Anyway, few of my friends have responded to my questions. Perhaps their silence speaks volumes about their indifference to the Reformation. And I get that. I need to confess my own indifference to the Reformation before the Lord brought me into Reformed Theology.

I did receive one response that disturbed me. The person declared that the Reformation was indeed very important to her, citing several changes in the Roman Catholic Church. Those changes, however, resulted from Vatican II, which happened about 450 years after the Reformation, and only made surface level changes within Catholicism.

Perhaps I misunderstood my friend’s comment. If so, I hope she’ll publicly correct me and better help me understand the point she wanted to make. But the fact that nobody else questioned her apparent confusion of the Reformation and Vatican II causes me to wonder if people really make a distinction between the two events. I realize that not everyone enjoys history, but these two major events really have little to do with one another.

Perhaps my friend isn’t representative of most 21st Century evangelicals. Sadly, I suspect she just may be. If so, I fear that modern-day evangelicals are headed into new Dark Ages, every bit as apostate as the centuries leading up to 1517.

Ignorance about the Protestant Reformation explains much of the compromise among present-day evangelicals. If we don’t know at least how the issues of justification by faith alone and the authority of Scripture caused the Reformers to stand against the papacy (often losing their lives in the process), we will quite probably compromise our own doctrine and seek fellowship with people who embrace a different gospel. I pray that my friends, as well as evangelicals in general, will look at the Reformation and see the critical importance of doctrine. May they then glorify the Lord Jesus Christ for restoring His Word to His beloved Church.

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500 Years Later, And Why We Dare Not Forget

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So it’s the week before the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation’s official start, and I’ve been blogging almost every Tuesday since November 1, 2016 about it. I’d hoped, when I first started this series,  to get well past Luther in order to show the Reformers who actually surrendered their lives for the sake of God’s Word.

I didn’t meet that goal.

Daily blogging left me little time to research the men and women of the Reformation.  I had good intentions, mind you, but I just couldn’t budget my time appropriately. For that reason, a few months ago I shifted my focus to merely trying to keep the Reformation before you. In recent months,  I tried to demonstrate that the Reformation impacts Christian thought today, and that ignoring its emphasis on faith alone and Scripture alone places us in grave danger of repeating the apostasy that the Reformers protested in the first place.

As I’ve written countless times throughout this series, the Reformers each stood against the distorted teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism as a result of reading the Word of God. Once they saw how far Rome had deviated from the Bible, they sought to make Scripture available to everyone both through preaching and through translating it into common languages.

Of course,  I’ve oversimplified matters. The Reformation was far more complex,  and years passed before Reformed Theology reached its full development. As a Reformed Baptist (admittedly something that would have made Calvin’s skin crawl), I appreciate the move away from infant baptism, for example. Most 16th Century Reformers actually persecuted the Anabaptists for refusing to baptize their babies, and they probably would be quite perplexed that some 21st Century Baptists claim the Reformed tradition.

I hope any Presbyterian women reading that last paragraph won’t write me off!

Anyway, my point is that,  although I realize how varied the issues involved in the Reformation are, the two primary issues of justification by faith alone and the exclusive authority of Scripture remain the watershed issues that divide Protestants from Catholics. And evangelicals dare not compromise on either.

Sadly,  we indeed have compromised. For the most part, professing Christians regard the Roman Catholic Church as simply another Christian denomination. That perspective, while it certainly seems charitable, forgets the Reformers who risked (and sometimes gave) their lives in order to stand against the erroneous teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism. The dividing lines that they once drew in reverence for the Gospel,  we now blur for the sake of a unity with those who follow a different gospel.

The Reformation, 500 years ago, brought Christians back to the Bible, which in turn lead people to the Gospel of justification by faith alone. If I continually plead with you to remember the Reformation, I do so because the purity of the Gospel depends on it. Well after next Tuesday (a glorious day of celebration), I will continue periodically blogging about the Reformation. I pray you’ll continue thinking about it and that you’ll stand firmly for the Gospel that motivated the Reformers.

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What John Calvin And Martin Luther Say To Rick Warren And Beth Moore

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Yesterday I tried to demonstrate that today’s popular teachers who promote new paradigms and/or claim to receive personal revelations from God are completely different from the Reformers of the 16th Century. I noted that, while these present-day teachers distract us from Scripture, the Reformers called Christians back to God’s Word.

So why should we bring up 500-year-old people instead of tackling Beth Moore, Rick Warren and the others directly?  How does understanding a group of religious dissenters from the Renaissance help us combat the false teachings that permeate 21st Century evangelicalism? Most Christians (even those who have excellent discernment abilities) ask such questions.

And in some respects, the people asking those questions have a point. Yet many of the errors that Beth Moore, Rick Warren and others make run parallel to errors that Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other Reformers had to correct.

For example, Beth Moore often bases her teachings on visions and personal revelations she claims to have received from the Holy Spirit. A simple Youtube search on “beth moore visions from god” will document this fact. One of the reasons discernment bloggers warn so strenuously against Beth Moore is precisely because of her extrabiblical revelations.

But did you know that John Calvin devoted Chapter 9 of his seminal book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, to the very topic of extrabiblical revelations? It’s a short chapter, which you can read by clicking this link, but it offers a Scriptural argument (as long as you know that he understands prophecy to mean the Canon of Scripture) against personal revelations.

On a wider scope,  Rick Warren’s statement that Catholics and Protestants have the basic doctrines of Christianity in common probably would have perplexed an older Martin Luther. Hadn’t Luther risked his very life refuting Rome’s teaching that grace came through the sacraments and through purchasing leftover merits accrued by Mary and the saints? Hadn’t he insisted that justification comes through faith alone?

Until the Catholic Church rescinds the Council of Trent, which stridently condemns the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, Protestants must recognize that Catholics preach another gospel. Therefore we cannot accept Rick Warren’s embrace of Roman Catholicism. The very Reformation itself exposes Rick Warren as, at best, a seriously compromised evangelical.

Of course, we must ultimately measure truth by the Bible, not by the Reformers. Calvin and Luther had a few blind spots of their own. But the Reformers teach us how to apply Scriptural principles to teachers like Beth Moore and Rick Warren. Studying the Protestant Reformation enhances our discernment. Don’t underestimate its value.

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