A View of Rome

As anyone who has followed what I have written on blogs in the past six years or so will be aware, an issue about which I am very interested and concerned is that of a biblical approach to Christian unity. One of the most important and thorniest aspects of Christian unity, in my opinion, has to do with how we as Evangelicals (and as Baptists) should relate to Roman Catholics and to the Roman Catholic Church at large. Having served for 18 years as a missionary in Spain, a country which traditionally has had an overwhelming Catholic majority but which in recent years has become increasingly secular, I have studied quite a bit about Catholic doctrine, and specifically about differences between Evangelical and Catholic belief and practice.

Though a number of books have been written spelling out these differences in detail (some better than others), the key issues, as I understand them, are grouped around the five solae of the Protestant Reformation: Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”); Sola fide (“by faith alone”); Sola gratia (“by grace alone”); Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”); and Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”).

As I understand it, a key question related to Evangelical-Catholic relations has to do with whether or not the Roman Catholic doctrinal system truly leads to salvation. A big problem inherent in this question is that of different understandings of the term salvation itself, as well as with related concepts such as justification, regeneration, and sanctification. Particularly problematic for Baptists, other baptistic Evangelicals, and some Reformed paedobaptists, is the Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration, along with a supporting soteriological system that bases ongoing justification on habitual and faithful participation in the seven sacraments of the Church, especially Holy Eucharist (the Mass) and Penance (including auricular confession).

Though dialogue between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics has a diverse history, a large amount of attention has been directed to this endeavor by means of the various Evangelical and Catholics Together (ECT) meetings and documents cosponsored by Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus. While one significant area of focus of ECT is cobelligerence on social and moral concerns, the stated purpose of ECT is common witness to an alleged shared faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Of the various books and articles I have read on the subject, the following quotes from the book A View of Rome: A Guide to Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Roman Catholics by John H. Armstrong best sum up my own position:

Historically evangelicals have believed that three visible marks determine a faithful New Testament church: a proper preaching of the gospel; a proper doctrine of the sacraments; and biblical discipline. Evangelicals cannot, by their own confession and faith, believe that Roman Catholicism is a standing, faithful New Testament church. Hopefully the reader can now see why this position is confessed.

We must not personally judge the ultimate standing before God of any individual soul. As Scripture says, “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19), and, “To his own Master [each person] stands or falls” (Romans 14:4). What we do insist, however, is that the New Testament is neither vague nor ambiguous when it reveals what a church looks like and what its message and practice is to be. We believe that Rome neither confesses nor teaches the apostolic gospel biblically. We believe that Rome does not administer and teach the sacraments properly. Because of these theological beliefs we are, sadly, obligated to conclude with the Protestant Reformers that “Rome is a fallen church!”

Because we believe Rome is fallen, we must urge Roman Catholics to trust Christ alone for salvation. We must continue to clearly preach justification by faith alone, through grace alone. This means that individual Catholics must trust in Him, not their church and its system of sacraments and personal mysticism. We believe that some Catholics may well be trusting Christ savingly, but, if they do, it will have to be in spite of the teaching of their church, not because of it” (p. 113).

Let me illustrate further. Someone invites me to join a group called “Citizens for Life.” I gladly join with a number of folks from various religious backgrounds. We are cobelligerents. Another group invites me to join in. It is called “Christians for Life.” This is a different matter. Here we now use a word that has different connotations for different peoples. Evangelicals rightly wish to use the term Christian for those who are openly committed to the gospel of Christ and the authority of Scripture. But if they keep joining groups that use names and terms broadly, before long both the meaning of the names and terms will diminish. The name Christian already means little in our culture, and the name evangelical has virtually lost its meaning in the past several decades. If this continues, the reality behind the name will likely be drastically reduced as well.

Baptists and Presbyterians have differences regarding some important doctrinal issues. But they also agree on the doctrine of the authority of Scripture and salvation by grace alone. The fact that God is outraged by the murder of unborn infants moves them to be allies in the concern they have regarding abortion. In many cases they can be more than cobelligerents. Why? Because they share a common confessional stance and a common practical view of the grace of God and the Scriptures. They are true evangelical allies in spiritual battles for the Gospel of Christ.

Devout Catholics have a high view of life. This is grounded in their moral outrage against murder and their historical theological tradition. Because evangelicals and Catholics have such substantive theological differences, we cannot relate as true allies in the same Christian faith. We can be cobelligerents in important causes, and we can continue to talk to each other in the new spirit of openness. But we cannot, and dare not, overlook the differences that we still have between us. When the distinctives are surrendered, it is the evangelicals who will give up the most, as history demonstrates. We need to pray for greater clarity in this whole matter or we will soon lose far more than we gain” (pp. 111–112).

At times it seems that evangelicalism has turned into a massive coalition of uniquely nontheological ministries all aimed at “doing something” to rescue us before it is too late.

My greatest fear is not that we will lose the culture, or even a great nation. My greatest fear is that we will lose the gospel. If we lose the gospel we will have a fallen church. We will have no real power. And we will have nothing with which to truly change the culture, one significant person at a time” (pp. 135–136).

At this point, though, I must acknowledge, with a good dose of consternation, that Armstrong has since shifted his own position to one that is much more amenable to ecumenical ties with the Roman Catholic Church (see numerous posts on his blog here as well as his books Your Church is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church and The Unity Factor: One Lord, One Church, One Mission.) Formerly a Baptist, Armstrong is currently an ordained minister with the Reformed Church in America.

And in somewhat of an ironic postscript, I will add that, while I personally remain unconvinced with regard to the viability of gospel-based ecumenism with the Roman Catholic Church, I find many of the social, moral, economic, and political positions of the Vatican and some Catholic thinkers more biblically palatable than those held by the majority of Evangelicals, whether on the Right or the Left.

See, for example, the following:

http://www.acton.org/pub/commentary/2012/10/11/protestants-praise-catholic-social-teaching

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html

http://distributistreview.com/mag/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/morgan-guyton/sister-simone-pro-life-movements-best-witness_b_1959681.html

My main purpose in posting this is to solicit your response (and perhaps learn something in the process):

1. Do you think faithful Roman Catholics who consistently follow the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are our brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow members of the Body of Christ with whom we should work toward a greater spiritual unity? Why or why not?

2. What do you think of the quotes from Armstrong’s book, A View of Rome?

3. Do you think common social, moral, economic, and/or political agendas should lead to greater spiritual fellowship? Do you see any dangers in joining hands over these concerns while at the same time “sweeping under the carpet” important doctrinal differences?

Comments

  1. says

    1. Do you think faithful Roman Catholics who consistently follow the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are our brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow members of the Body of Christ with whom we should work toward a greater spiritual unity? Why or why not?

    I do not. I have known many Catholics who were very inconsistent in how they followed the teachings of the RCC. At least one became a Protestant. Many would be considered lost even if they were members of the SBC instead of the RCC.

    Those who I’ve known who were very consistent with the teachings of the RCC were not my brothers in Christ. Their praise and petition was directed to intermediaries – Saint Jude, the Virgin Mary, and others. They outright denied justification by faith alone and affirmed the Magisterium as the only true interpreters of the Scriptures. (With so many “spiritual” interpreations of the Bible within the RCC, it is no wonder the laity have such a hard time understanding the text). The list goes on, but, as you said, the strongest points of contention lie along the five solas.

  2. Bruce H. says

    Dave,

    To your first question I would say no. Individually, we have to work and live together on earth, however, for the purpose of faith there is no unity. If churches reach out to each other to assist or help, that is one thing. To seek unity sends a message that would weaken the faith of many in our churches. Even when I purposely attend a different faith there is an offense inside of me that is disturbing. We need to seek unity within our own faith to make us stronger.

  3. volfan007 says

    First of all, I do not hate Roman Catholics. I have friends, who are RC, and I love them as a a friend. I have also known some people, who seemed to be true Believers, and who belonged to the RC Church. But, they were saved in spite of the Church….thru high school and college campus ministries, instead of due to the teachings of the RCC. And, I really have a hard time seeing how a truly, Born Again, Believer could stay in the RCC after growing in their faith for a while.

    So, I’m saying that the RCC preaches a false Gospel of works.

    And, I can join with the RCC in fighting persecution, abortion, feeding the hungry, and other such moral issues. But, I could never join with them in ANYTHING that had to do salvation, or Bible teaching, or anything of a spiritual nature.

    David

  4. says

    Jesus said we must come to Him as little children, or we wouldn’t even see the Kingdom. He also commanded unity. Putting those together, I’m guessing our unity must be based on something a little child can understand, which is pretty well the minimum understanding for salvation. Sin, God’s remedy via Jesus, and confession & repentance. What “The Romans Road” says.

    If any group adds things to the mix as necessary for salvation, such as observance of certain rituals, they’ve made something into an idol.

    No thanks.

    • Adam G. in NC says

      I’m not sure “coming to Him as little children” is referring to the intelligence of a child. More like referring to the trust of a child to it’s parents.

  5. says

    When I lived in Cedar Rapids, I got to watching the Catholic channel some – EWTN? The more I watched, the more convinced I was that this was not the faith revealed in scripture but something completely different – superstitious, idolatrous even.

    On the other hand, I have know Catholics who I am sure were real believers.

    My basic belief is that there is just enough of the truth in Catholicism that God can and does graciously save some from it – in spite of the religion.

    But Catholicism itself is not a genuine and saving Christian faith.

    • says

      Do you think that perhaps ETWN is to Catholicism what TBN is to Evangelicalism?

      Also, what do you make of incredibly brilliant Southern Baptists (considered “orthodox” by most conservative evangelicals I know) like Timothy George who works so closely with Catholics and has make significant contributions to evangelical-Catholic dialogue as an ecumenical theologian?

      IMO, this conversation is not unlike the Calvinism debates. Some in both debates choose to interpret the differences between the two camps to be HUGE and rather SIGNIFICANT, significant might be an understatement. Clearly, folks like Timothy George and Charles Colson choose and chose a different path, a more charitable interpretation of differences from my vantage point.

      • volfan007 says

        Big Daddy,

        TBN is not the Evangelical station….it’s the charismatic, wild, out in leftfield station.

        Also, there’s a huge difference in the way I disagree with the Calvinists on minor, theological points; and the way I disagree with the RCC. Huge difference. The RCC teaches a works salvation….they idol worship, ie, praying to the saints….they teach that the Pope’s teachings are as authoritative as the Bible. They are a false religion.

        Calvinists are not a fase religion. More Arminian denominations, like some Charismatic Churches(Assembly of God, Church of God, etc.), and Methodists(Gospel preaching ones), and such are not false religions.

        The RCC clearly preaches a false Gospel of works.

        David

        • cb scott says

          “TBN is not the Evangelical station….it’s the charismatic, wild, out in leftfield station.”

          …..and nuts, flakes, and Wild Geese.

        • David says

          Volfan, TBN has had numerous evangelical preachers who are not charismatics. Are you saying that Franklin Graham and Dr. David Jeremiah are “charismat, wild, out in left field”? as they are preaching on TBN every week. I am not defending all of the teacching on TBN by any means, however, the reality is that TBN is about the only cable network which is broadcasting Christian televison worldwide.

          The elephant in the room is why were Paul and Jan Crouch the only folks (besides Jim and Tammy Faye Baker) who had the vision and persistence to create a Christian network worldwide. The SBC’s ACTS network has been history for 20 years, yet TBN is still on the air.

          Even though, I may disgree with a lot of the prosperity teaching they espouse, I have to give credit that they do provide a platform for Graham, Jeremiah and Max Lucado (among others) who teach a clear Gospel message. I also have ot admire their “entrepeneurial spirit and vision” in making a Global Christian cable network.

          • volfan007 says

            David,

            When they have someone good on their network…like Franklin Graham, David Jeremiah, and Max Lucado….then wonderful. But overall, they are a health and wealth crowd….thus, wild geese, out in leftfield, etc.

            David

      • Frank L. says

        “””a more charitable interpretation of differences””””

        I don’t see how anybody, including Timothy George or Charles Colson, could view the doctrines of the Catholic Church in a “charitable” light.

        While one can be “charitable” toward individuals, the heresies of the Catholic Church should be denounced in the strongest terms. The are “damnable doctrines,” and that’s being charitable.

        Even though a few people may actually trip over Catholicism and fall into heaven, the doctrinal heresies are every bit as “damnable.”

        I do not consider either George or Colson to be good representatives of conservative evangelicals.

      • cb scott says

        Big Daddy,

        Timothy George is not an “ecumenical theologian” who communicated well with Catholics.

        He is a Baptist theologian who communicated well with Catholics.

        Were he an ecumenical theologian, he would just been “one of the boys” among a multitude of evangelicals who hang our well with Catholics.

        He is respected by “some” Catholics because he is gifted in sharing biblical truth with people who do not understand biblical truth due to being spiritually blind due to much false religion.

        Timothy George is also gifted in being able to communicate well with Muslims.

        • cb scott says

          Too many hours without sleep.

          “Were he an ecumenical theologian, he would just been “one of the boys” among a multitude of evangelicals who hang our well with Catholics.”

          Should be: Were he an ecumenical theologian, he would just be “one of the boys” among a multitude of evangelicals who hang out well with Catholics.”

          • says

            OK, so he’s a Baptist ecumenical theologian.

            That’s how Steve Harmon describes himself. Harmon and George have worked together via Baptist World Alliance for years on ecumenical pursuits, etc. George hired Harmon at Beeson some years back. I doubt seriously that George would have a problem with being described as an ecumenical theologian. He is a Baptist theologian whose has contributed significantly to ecumenical pursuits and the field of ecclesial theology.

            What is this about George being respected by “some” Catholics? He’s represented by the Catholic leadership in this country. In a hierarchical denomination, that’s all the respect that really matters, right?

            George has also been invited to attend the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome where 200 Catholic bishops from around the world will convene. George will be there as a fraternal delegate to the Synod. A big deal indeed.

            So, Timothy George, perhaps the SBC’s most accomplished academic whose intellectual influence continues to be felt among Christian conservatives (he authored the Manhattan Declaration most recently), is about as neck-deep in the Catholic Church as ANY Protestant can get!!

            He doesn’t think the Catholic Church is some false church that teaches a works salvation. Quite the opposite.

          • cb scott says

            Big Daddy,

            That is a lot of words to use trying to crawfish out of getting caught in a bear trap.

            It makes me wonder if you were one of the debate coaches for Obama and Biden.

          • says

            Truth is, CB, you have some serious theological disagreements with Timothy George but, for whatever reason, you prefer to give him a pass. He is spared from your critique.

            I got some very real disagreements with Timothy George on a few things, including his hyperbolic rhetoric on cultural matters. But to his credit, he doesn’t see “liberals” under every rock like many of you fundys :-)

            George is more involved with the Baptist World Alliance than anyone in my corner of Baptist life.

  6. SBC in pioneer state says

    This is a most interesting subject to me as well. Where is the line? I know that Biblical SALVATION has to be at the heart. Our current Presidential nominee of the Mormon faith offers a similar issue.

    If someone has accepted Christ as their LORD and SAVIOR according to Scripture then they are of the body.

    I like some stuff I found from Dr John MacArthur….

    AW Tozer’s said
    “if you had four thousand pianos and tried to tune them to each other
    You couldn’t do it….. but

    If you had one tuning fork you could tune them all to that ONE standard.

    So what is the ONE tuning fork to which all of our lives are to be tuned?

    The Truth of the Word of God.
    When we are all tuned to that,
    THEN and ONLY THEN
    Will we all tuned to each other

    We will NEVER achieve true Biblical unity
    apart from sound doctrine and apart from godliness, holiness and the proper dealing with sin.

    So when WE are of the same mind
    and when we are with one accord

    We with ONE voice will glorify God together

  7. Jess Alford says

    I was talking to a high school principal, he said that he could always tell the children who were catholics by the way they looked. They were well dressed, well groomed, polite, and careing. He said the kids that were from other churches were wear anything, jeans were too tight, skirts too short, breasts showing, or anything that would reveal manhood or womanhood.

    I think we can take a few lessons from catholic friends.

    • Dave Miller says

      I think the point of this is about the doctrine of grace and salvation, not really how kids dress for school, Jess.

      • says

        I suspect the point in that is that the Catholic children seemed to be showing more Christlike fruit, in terms of character and modesty, than the children from other churches. It wasn’t just about the clothes.

      • cb scott says

        I think you are right, Dave. The Pharisees dressed well also and did some good things, but Jesus called them vipers and sons of Satan

  8. Jess Alford says

    Lets not forget to look at the underlying manuscripts of our KJV. Lets not forget where they came from.

  9. Adam G. in NC says

    How long before the SBC Voices article on the Graham’s removing the characterization of Mormonism as a “cult” from their website comes out?
    Want to see what others have to say about the timing and the role of politics in shaping our religious beliefs.

    • David Rogers says

      Adam,

      I, personally, am not a big fan of that decision, and especially not of the timing. And I think the topic of this post is related to what you ask here. Political expediency does often lead us to drop our guard with respect to even more important (in my opinion) doctrinal questions.

      • David says

        David Rogers, I understand your concerns, but would you rather Obama be elected for another four years and have several opportunities to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will vote to legalize same sex marriage in every state as well as force the Federal Govt. (or states) to pay for abortion?

        I don’t think that Billy Graham’s Wall Street Journal ad is saying anything about Mormonism being a part of Orthodox Christianity, but is rather asking which candidate will implement policies which are supportive of Biblical principles and which one will not?

        We are not electing a President to lead an evangelical revival in this country, so I don’t understand why there is opposition to Romney and a feeling that it will be better to write in a name. George W. Bush is a born again Christian, yet it is hard to see evidence that more Americans came to Christ as a result of his Presidency, so why do some think that Mormonism willl grow – Are there more Mormons in Massachusetts as a result of Romney being Governor?

          • David says

            David, I also think it was wrong that those who created the Moral Majority chose to make alliance with Mormons and others in order to achieve political success in the culture wars. I have even brought up on this blog that I was troubled when David Barton referred to Glen Beck as “my brother.”

            However, in the case of Romney, I don’t necessarily see a vote for him as an individual for a political office in the same light as Christians joining with a group of Mormons in the Moral Majority to achieve success in the culture wars. I also realize that some of Romney’s strongest backers are wealthy Wall Street financiers (many of whom are Jewish) and they are often in support of same sex marraige, abortion, etc., but are backing Romney for purely economic reasons. So, I don’t think of Romney as being the “Evangelical Christian” candidate. However, because he is running as the candidate of the Republican Party and as such is being elected to implement the policy statements of that party’s Platform, I definitely think, for me at least, reflects my beliefs as a Christian.

      • says

        I’m looking for more clarification to be published from BGEA on that. Not sure if they are fully endorsing Mormonism as Christianity or just not listing as a cult–

        Which might be a valid view: that it’s a false religion rather than a cult. Maybe. If I find time and get the research done, I’ll get you something on that.

        • says

          Anybody have a link to the actual list of cults from BGEA? I’ve been on their website for a while looking for it–and I can find general information about how to tell what is a cult–including a view of Jesus as less than He is, fully human and fully divine.

          But I can’t find a list that would have Mormonism missing from it.

          Searching for “Mormon” does bring you this link:

          http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=5124

          Which does seem to call Mormonism a cult without calling it by Mormonism–instead highlighting that cults tend to have “new books” discovered by their founders, which hits at the foundation of the LDS.

          Still looking for something other than an ABC News item.

          • Bart Barber says

            ABC News cites a statement from BGEA. I don’t think they’d make that up. Of course, it’s possible that they’ve been spoofed.

          • says

            Valid point. My point is this: if you look for Mormon on their website, you are going to come away thinking it’s a cult–because every search for Mormon brings up the cult information.

            The information about recognizing a cult highlights part of the Mormon story: founder finding “new” books that supersede the Bible.

            What I cannot find is a list of specific groups that the BGEA calls a cult–only a list of what qualifies a group as a cult. Which means that either they are not calling anyone a cult anymore, and just deleted that page, or they are calling anyone who follows the pattern of not accepting the Bible as God’s Word, claiming to be the sole interpreters of God’s truth, and claiming all other groups that claim to be Christian are wrong is a cult.

            All three of which hit what Mormonism claims.

            So, I don’t see how we can leap from there to “BGEA says Mormonism is not a cult.” BGEA lists the major claims of Mormon doctrine as evidence of being a cult.

            Perhaps they did have a list that they took down that said “These groups are cults.” If they did that only for the sake of helping elect Romney, that was foolishness in the name of political expediency. But the whole list appears to be gone at this point: not Mormonism deleted from the list.

            Unless I can’t find the list.

          • says

            Also, a few weeks ago didn’t news reports cite a statement from Chick-fil-A regarding a change in their beliefs and marriage views that then turned out to be wrong?

          • David Rogers says

            Doug,

            I think you may be missing the point. Whether you call Mormonism a “cult,” a “non-Christian religion,” or don’t even specifically address the question is not the issue. Otherwise we would be calling out every other Christian ministry in the country that says nothing about Mormonism on their websites. The problem is that the BGEA has clearly allowed political considerations to sway them in the way they choose to publicly portray Mormonism. It is the timing of this decision that makes this so troublesome.

      • says

        Ok: the ABC News item claims that they have removed language referring to Mormonism as a cult. They also claim it was listed with Scientology. A search through the BGEA website gives more results about cults from searching “Mormon” than it does “Scientology.”

        So, do we have better evidence of BGEA changing their view on Mormonism or are we buying papyrus from the same place as Harvard on this story?

        • Adam G. in NC says

          The BGEA article that was removed from the section “Looking for Answers: What is a Cult” (from archives.org)
          http://web.archive.org/web/20100605052727/http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?ArticleID=2072

          This is where that web address takes you now.
          http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=2072

          This is what was removed…
          A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith. It is very important that we recognize cults and avoid any involvement with them. Cults often teach some Christian truth mixed with error, which may be difficult to detect.
          There are some features common to most cults:
          • They do not adhere solely to the sixty-six books of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. They add their “special revelations” to the Bible and view them as equally authoritative.
          • They do not accept that our relationship to Jesus Christ is a reality “by grace through faith” alone, but promote instead a salvation by works.
          • They do not give Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, full recognition as the second Person of the Trinity, composed of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
          Some of these groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses, MORMONS (emphasis mine), the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others.

          This smells way too much for me. I dont like our current administration AT ALL and will NOT be voting in favor of it…but I hate doctrinal pragmatism even more. Its like suicide.

          • David Rogers says

            Wow, Adam! I didn’t realize Graham had said that. That is really disappointing. He is advocating full-blown inclusivism.

          • says

            Caution – if you watch this video (and it is sad to hear Dr. Graham saying that even those who do not know the name of Jesus and are Muslim and Buddhist and so on may be in the kingdom, etc.) watch the counter and stop it a few seconds before the end. The youtube video thumbnails that immediately come up after the video are pornographic – be careful. Or just skip it and believe Adam that Dr. Graham said those things. (let’s hope age just caused him to say those things and that he doesn’t actually believe them). It is not Adam’s fault – just warning you.

          • says

            Thanks, Adam. It is not your fault. I wish there was a way to watch youtube videos without having to risk a trip to Sodom and Gomorrah! Thanks for the note. Blessings.

          • Frank L. says

            David, et. al.

            Billy Graham has always leaned toward a subtle “universalism.” He was absolutely detested by John R. Rice and other staunch conservatives for precisely this reason.

            I don’t say that because I think John R. Rice will ring harmoniously with many on this blog, but to point out this charge against Billy Graham is not a new one.

            As heretical as it may sound, I think we give Billy Graham too much credit as an evangelist when in fact his legacy is more as an evangelistic icon.

            The Crusades did more to energize the base (churches) than actually evangelize sinners. There are, today, as David’s video from Nigeria shows, evangelists who are drawing crowds many times larger than any Billy Graham drew.

            I do not purport to know how God evaluates Billy Graham’s ministry, but the subtle–and perhaps not so subtle–doctrinal errors mixed in are no small matter.

            For the record, I also heard him say he believed in life on other planets.

          • Bill Mac says

            For the record, I also heard him say he believed in life on other planets.

            Someday I want to do a post on this and submit it to Voices.

            Frank: You didn’t indicate how you felt about the above statement. Do you think believing in extraterrestrial life is outside the bounds of orthodoxy?

          • says

            Bill Mac,

            I have a theological reason for thinking intelligent alien life does not exist. Plants? Perhaps. Animals? Sure, why not. A Zantorin version of us? Not likely.

            Romans 8:22 mentions that all creation has been subjected to futility because of the fall of Adam and Eve. All humanity inherits sin’s curse and all creation beyond humanity has been subjected to the curse as a result. I don’t think an intelligent, rational species separate from us would be subjected to the curse because of us yet if they exist they would have been since they are part of all creation. Thus I don’t think they exist.

            [Note: it occurs to me as I write this that angels would count as part of 'all creation other than humanity' but I would take Paul as meaning all creation belonging to this realm in which we live. All the physical, material stuff around us. Angels, belonging to the spiritual realm, would be a different issue.]

          • volfan007 says

            I’ve heard that Dave Miller hunts Bigfoots on a regular basis. Often, hunters have talked about the eerie sound they’ve heard in the darkness of the early morning…making the hair stand on their head….only to find out that it’s Dave doing a Bigfoot call. I’ve also heard….just a rumor, mind you….that one time, Dave gave that call, and all of a sudden, and Scott Gordon came walking out of the dark woods.

            Do yall find this as interesting as me?

            David ;)

          • volfan007 says

            lol

            BTW, I’ve had a drink of white lightening before, in the past…in my former life…. it’s got a lot of kick to it.

            David

  10. Jess Alford says

    Dave don’t you think the way we present ourselves has to do with what we believe, the way we carry ourselves, and our testimony.

    Besides I was not going to charge you for this information anyway.

  11. Jess Alford says

    Adam G.

    I cannot and will not go along with removing Mormonism as a cult.
    Never, never, and never…

  12. David Rogers says

    I really like Armstrong’s quote:

    “At times it seems that evangelicalism has turned into a massive coalition of uniquely nontheological ministries all aimed at “doing something” to rescue us before it is too late.”

    I think he pegs it with that one.

  13. says

    1. Do you think faithful Roman Catholics who consistently follow the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are our brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow members of the Body of Christ with whom we should work toward a greater spiritual unity? Why or why not?

    No. They believe a false gospel, worship a different god, and serve a different jesus. I’m not supposed to say they’re not Christians on this blog, so I won’t say that, but I will say that no Christian should seek spiritual unity with them.

    2. What do you think of the quotes from Armstrong’s book, A View of Rome?

    I have no opinion.

    3. Do you think common social, moral, economic, and/or political agendas should lead to greater spiritual fellowship? Do you see any dangers in joining hands over these concerns while at the same time “sweeping under the carpet” important doctrinal differences?

    I think I can work with them to advocate anti-gay right and anti-abortion policies without linking arms with them spiritually. Me saying they are right in standing for anti-gay legislation and wanting to make it harder* for women to have an abortion does not suggest that I agree with any of their doctrines.

    *They want to make it harder. I want to make it harder and more dangerous.

  14. says

    I can remember days in the 60s, when the members of my small church in Missouri were threatened by their catholic neighbors for opposing a school bus bill that would have allowed catholic students to ride the public school buses to their own schools. Having studied the Inquisition by that time, I was not too impressed by their friendliness (?). Then came Pope John and the rapid changes with a swing back under later popes. The other day, I had a catholic fellow and his sister (I am not sure of her alliance) bring a chair to my trailer for my wife, a far cry from the 60s and other attitudes. It does worry me that there are no protestants on the Supreme Court, that the full majority plus is catholic, that our vice-president is catholic, that the rival party candidate for v-p is catholic. Here we have the beginnings of a real turn to socialism, something catholics seem to be very comfortable with for the most part, though I know of some who are not. I appreciate your remarks, David. I heard a Moderate pastor several Sundays ago praise one of the Cathedrals in Spain, built for the glory of God, but all I could think about was the Inquisition and the horrible suffering of those burnt in the auto-de-fes….and they were building a temple to God’s glory!!!!

  15. Ron West says

    In 2007 I was living in Washington, DC. I forget the name of the evangelistic organization that invites presidential candidates to come and speak and then endorses one of them but that was taking place. I went down to hear Mike Huckabee speak. There were many evangelistic organizations represented with booths at the meeting billed as an evangelical Christian political organization. Mitt Romney was speaking and in the middle of the hall was a large booth with Mormon literature and explaining Mormon doctrine as Christian.

    We will see much more of this over the next few years if Romney wins. I am not saying that should be a factor in how you vote. I am just stating it as fact. Many evangelical Christian will be anxious to be invited to White House dinners and meetings and will find ways to say nice things about Mormons.

    In regard to Dr. Willinghams’ comments about the school bus issue in Missouri, I remember when Southern Baptist spoke out forcefully against public aid for private or Christian schools. That was when the vast majority were Catholic. When school integration came along and Baptist churches across the south started “Christian” schools to avoid sending their kids to school with backs, many begin asking for public tax money. Today the conservative position has changed 180 degrees to support vouchers and in many cases direct tax money support for Christian schools. Do you really believe politics doesn’t form our Baptist public stance on issues as much as doctrine does?

  16. Louis says

    I personally don’t believe that we help ourselves by focusing on whether to call this group or that a “cult” or whether to call churches or denominations “false churches” or what have you.

    We are better off teaching the Bible, saying where we disagree with other groups, and how we believe our understanding is a correct representation of the Christian faith.

    We will always be on focusing the merits, not labels, in those discussions.

    And we will be more persuasive.

    What influences a person more? Telling them that they go to a false church, or showing them, for example, the New Testament understanding of Baptism, how all Christians are saints and priests and have direct access to God or some other issue.

    Also, I do not believe it is proper for us to sit around and “decide” who is in and who is out. That is not our job.

    We should encourage all who name Christ to believe what Christ and his apostles taught, and thus, be consistent with Christ’s message and good disciples.

    • Bart Barber says

      Louis,

      You said, “Also, I do not believe it is proper for us to sit around and ‘decide’ who is in and who is out. That is not our job.”

      You also said, “We are better off teaching the Bible, saying where we disagree with other groups, and how we believe our understanding is a correct representation of the Christian faith.”

      Who is “we” and “our”? How do I know what groups belong in the category “other groups.” And how have you resolved these categories without making any decisions about who is in and who is out?

      Also, doesn’t your prescription here pretty much do away with what has been called “theological triage” in Southern Baptist blogging for several years?

  17. Louis says

    Bart:

    “We” and “our” are meant to include Christians who are tempted to engage in the framing of issues as I stated above.

    By “Other groups” I meant to include those who self identify as Christians AND adhere to what could be called “orthodoxy” in the broad sense. I realize it is a bit fuzzy. I would include Catholics in this group. I would not include Mormons, as their views of the nature of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are not at all consistent with historic Christian views.

    If by theological triage, you mean basically agreeing that some issues are first tier issues, and others are way down the line, I do not disagree that the issues were are discussing are first tier issues.

    What I am trying to say is that I personally find declarations that the Catholic Church is a fallen church, the whore of Babylon etc. are not necessary or helpful and probably go beyond what we should be declaring. There are much better ways for us to say things than making declarations that really sound as if they should proceed from the throne of God.

    I feel totally comfortable opening my Bible and describing what Jesus and the apostles taught about a variety of important issues and comparing that with what other groups may teach and saying that is the true representation of Christian teaching and inviting dialogue etc. But then to start declaring the Catholic Church is a fallen church, but then also saying that it’s possible for some Catholics to be saved sounds like a very Divine pronouncement.

    The truth is that we do not know a lot of things about what God is doing with regard to judgment. We know that there are many people, even in our own midst, who believe things that are incorrect. Just where the line is between believing something that is wrong and being in the Kingdom of Heaven is often difficult to know. How much room God allows for doctrinal error before one’s standing with God is affected is not known.

    There are bright lines that are easy to spot. There are other lines that are not so easy.

    So, I think that we should believe the right things – the things taught in the NT, and appropriate the promises based on such things.

    We can and should point out doctrinal error. It’s the declaration regarding the standing of churches or persons holding to such error that makes me uncomfortable. Obviously, as some point, a line is crossed. The person who doesn’t believe in Jesus, that’s one thing, and we have clear scriptural authority to which we should appeal. The person who gets things wrong about the nature of God and Jesus, that’s another matter. But I realize there is no fine line here.

    I am just advocating to adherence to the statements and promises of Scripture and teaching those, and leaving off on pronouncements of specific judgment.

    Hope this helps explain my position.

    • Bart Barber says

      Louis,

      What is is that other people are doing about Roman Catholicism that you are not doing about Mormonism? Aren’t both cases—your treatment of Mormonism and another’s treatment of Roman Catholicism—simply two instances of the same thing, of determining who is in and who is out?

  18. Louis says

    No. I am simply making a reasonable judgment.

    If a person’s faculties in distinguishing situations are not well honed, these might look the same situations. Or the similarities might be stretched to California for argument sake. But a reasonably discerning person would see the distinctions readily.

    I am not arguing for no discernment and evaluation, only reasonable discernment and evaluation.

    As I said above, we always have to determine how to be faithful to what Jesus and the apostles taught, and by that very act, will have to determine that some others are not being faithful to what Jesus taught (or are adding to it.)

    However, I submit that because we are able to determine that the Mormon faith (or some other faith) does not teach Orthodox Christianity and that we have to make determinations like that, does not mean that it is wise or appropriate for us claim to extend declarations to 1/2 of the world’s professing Christians.

    There seems, to me, to be some hubris in that. I believe that most people with walking around sense see the hubris in that.