Saturday, March 16, 2013

Christian Distinctives #1

    I've had several ideas floating around my skull, and this one won the race to get out first;  I thought it would be profitable to start an intermittent series on the doctrines that make Christianity unique, what is absolutely essential and nonnegotiable, the truths that must be defended and, if necessary, that we must be martyred for.
Rick Warren's biggest fan?!?
     When God first changed my heart and gave me an appetite for His truth, this general field was probably the one that I explored the most;  I read books like "Mere Christianity" by Lewis and "The Almost Christian Discovered" by Meade, and "The Religious Affections" by Edwards.  I even tried repeatedly to get through Calvin's Institutes (I eventually made it to the middle of Book 4).  As I grew and learned and was exposed to more and more variety/disagreement on different doctrines, I saw both how important it was to have a firm grasp to what was truly central to following Christ, and how common it was to see that slip through the fingers of whatever public figure or authority on Christianity was in the spotlight at the time.
     So it's with that air of recurrent disappointment that we introduce our first distinctive with this awful confusion of Christ's Church with its most formidable counterfeit by the best known spokesman for Christianity of our day:
"Join me today in fasting and prayer for the 115 Cardinals seeking God's Will in a new leader. "  Rick Warren on Twitter
"What is thy bidding, my master?"
     Mr. Warren was speaking of the recent conclave of bishops in Rome to select a new leader for that religion.  They have since picked one, a man I've heard described with the words "holy", "godly" and most regrettably, "a man of the gospel".  I don't want to dwell Mr. Warren, and why he should know better, but inherent in his plea for prayer is the assumption that these men in Rome can recognize God's will and desire to do it when revealed to them.  If however, Roman Catholicism is deficient in one of these distinctives, these essentials of Christianity, these men who embody all that Rome is are still slaves of sin and bound to do its bidding (John 8:34-36).  So for this reason, I want to clearly express the first, most basic reason that Christianity and Roman Catholicism can not and must not be confused, a doctrine which is the most well-known distinctive of true Christianity but at the same time, the most misunderstood:


     It's slightly funny that 2 simple words could be so important;  the second means "faith" and the first "only/alone" in Latin.  Now, the Bible is positively littered with references to faith:  in the O.T., the synonym "trust" is most often used, and the N.T. has whole chapters dedicated to faith.  So anyone with even a surface exposure to Scripture has to at least give lip service to this doctrine;  and that's exactly what we see groups like Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses doing.  And to give them credit, Rome goes even further, saying in so many words that faith is absolutely critical to justification, that no one can get to heaven without it.
     But Rome goes astray in 2 clear, distinguishable areas, and thankfully, has documented their position better than most.  They are:  the definition/origin of faith (or "what is faith, and where do we get it from?") and the potency of faith (or "is faith enough?").  We'll explore these next post, but I want to ask something of you in the meantime...  In the generic, "check-the-box on the survey" sense, Roman Catholicism is classified as a Christian denomination, one of many.  But Jesus isn't coming to your door with a clipboard... He's returning with blood-stained robes and a glistening sword (Rev 19).  He will separate the sheep, His true followers, from all those who might be associated with His name, but in reality, are not His.  So the only sense for the term "Christian" that matters is His, and He's given us ample testimony in His Word.  So let's check our baggage at the desk, and see what He says.

Photos courtesy of whiffer, anneheathen

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