Faith Seeking Understanding

A Fragment on Why Unbelievers Seem to Subdue Sin

And the reason why a natural man is not always perpetually in the pursuit of some one lust, night and day, is because he hath many to serve, every one crying to be satisfied; thence he is carried on with great variety, but still in general he lies towards the satisfaction of self. John Owen, Mortification of Sin in Believers, in The Works of John Owen, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1967), 24.

Those of us who have walked long in the church are often horrified at the eruptions of sin within the church both among the laity and clergy. We look across at the orderliness and often even kindness of the world with jealousy and frustration. 

Our generation is not alone in this experience. The Apostle Paul and the church throughout history cries out, “there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans” (1 Cor. 5:1). Too often we can say the same of greed, backbiting, gossiping, and pettiness.

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All Things Continue as They Were?

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There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife” (Luke 20:27-33).

In the Jewish world of Jesus’ day, the Sadducees were the most skeptical. Their understanding of the Old Testament focused on the “literal” or normal meaning of the words and prioritized the first five books as more authoritative then the rest of the Old Testament.

Their method of interpreting the Bible led them to “deny that there is a resurrection” (Luke 20:27) and reject angels and spirits (Acts 23:8). We are informed by the Pharisee and Jewish historian Josephus (c. 37-c. 100) that they rejected the “belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades,” and the sovereignty of God (The Wars of the Jews, 2.8.14).

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Do You Agree with Jesus?

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Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus on the first resurrection Sunday, and they were distraught: “Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God” was dead (ESV, Luke 24:19). They “had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21), but now he was dead. Their grief touches us even across the years.

A stranger appears and walks besides them and berates them by saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken!” (Luke 25:26). And then Luke describes what the stranger, who was Jesus, said to them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus on the Emmaus road did not add to Scripture. He did not give them a new revelation like what we have from John in the book of Revelation, but rather he explained or interpreted the Scriptures to prove that the Old Testament requires that it be “necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory” (v. 26).

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Damnation by Faith

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As far as I can tell the Roman Catholic Church now teaches that the most likely way to go to hell is to believe Roman Catholic doctrine. Allow me to support this from a series of quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

The CCC teaches that Protestants who disbelieve the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church are likely saved:

CCC-818: However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ … . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ. (Brackets in original.)

CCC-819: Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church.

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church - Key Points

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Among Roman Catholics, Vatican II, and thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), is interpreted across a spectrum from essential rejection to continuity with the past to rupture.

Essential rejection is the position of extremely traditional Catholics who remain in communion with the Pope but who continue to give or take the Mass in the wafer alone and who gravitate toward the Latin Mass. Their interpretation of CCC has the greatest continuity with pre-Vatican II statements and tends to minimize the discontinuity.

Continuity with the past is the mainstream interpretation of serious Catholics. “Serious” does not include politicos who claim Augustine supported abortion or who have purchased multiple annulments. Pope Benedict XVI, now emeritus, appears to me to be a very conservative proponent of the continuity view, and he is the mind behind the current universal Catechism. This view is represented by Catholic voices like the magazine First Things.

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Christ and the Church in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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It was a warm spring day in DC, and my Catholic friend explained with great earnestness that if I were to be ordained prior to converting to Catholicism, then I might be able to be a priest and keep my wife and kids. Dispensations can be obtained.

My heart and mind toyed with the thoughts: the great creaking beauty of the medieval liturgy, the pageantry and fancy dress, the history, architecture, the universities, libraries, philosophy, and Latin. The specter of the Mass rose before me. Worshiping bread and the wine, bowing and kissing statues of saints excused with the thinnest of theological distinctions, Pilipino adherents nailing themselves to crosses. No, this is not the Way.

And I said, “The problem is that one of us is a blasphemer. Either I blaspheme Christ by not worshiping him at every available Mass, or you commit an act of idolatry by worshiping bread and wine. There is no middle ground. In heaven if allowed or required I will kiss and pray to Mary; in heaven I will adore the body of Christ, but until heaven or when Christ returns I will trust the Bible and my conscience.”

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The Bible vs Catechism of the Catholic Church on Nature Grace

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My intent in this article is to show from the Catechism of the Catholic Church a radically different understanding of nature and grace than what is taught by the Bible and held by Protestants. The Catholic view of grace and nature, along its view of Christ-Church interconnectedness, leads to a different gospel than found in the Bible. Lord willing, next week we will consider the Christ-church issue.

Our three main sources are the Bible, Allison’s Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

We are entering into the Byzantine substructures of Roman Catholic theology. And while I am attempting to make sure each article in the series can stand alone, the reader will be greatly assisted by reading the first article in this series.

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The Flexibility of Rome

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A few years ago, I stopped by a friend’s church in Washington, D.C. to walk to lunch with him. He had just finished a gut-wrenching meeting where a recent church member explained he had converted to Roman Catholicism without informing the pastors of the church.

The church member’s main justification for the conversion was the intellectual dearth among Protestants and particularly Baptists. And he held this out as the force that drove him to cross the Tiber.

My friend valiantly attempted to share the gospel with the young man from God’s Word and to pull him back to the true faith. But the deed was done, and the excuse was that Baptists lack intellectual and academic validity. And this excuse was given to a pastor with a doctorate in church history from Cambridge.

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A Fragment of Sublime Simplicity from Luther

One has sinned, Another has made satisfaction. The sinner does not make satisfaction; the Satisfier does not sin. This is an astounding doctrine. 

Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66 in Luther’s Works, vol. 17 (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1972), 99.

There is much to be said both for and against Luther (1483-1546), but he speaks to us of Jesus and he treasures the only gospel. 

We have sinned against an infinite God. Infinite in power. Eternal in wisdom. A burning fire of holiness; if the universe was sacrificed to appease the wrath of God (Isa. 40:14-18), it would be as nothing. The eternal duration of hell is merely the just approximation of our infinite debt. Eternal punishment in the scales of justice is merely just. It is the least possible and the only possible punishment.

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