Archive for the ‘Inclusivism’ Category

We are all children of God? Pope vs. Jesus

January 8, 2016

In his first video, Pope Francis asserts: “In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: we are all children of God.”

But Jesus’ rebuttal of this view is set forth in John’s gospel:

John 8:39-47
They answered and said unto him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus saith unto them, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father.”

Then said they to him, “We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.”

Jesus said unto them, “If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.”

Neither the pope nor the followers of the other religions he cites in the video (Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, etc.) are children of God. If God were their Father, they would love Jesus and hold to Jesus’ words. But the others explicitly reject Jesus as God, and while the pope claims to follow Jesus, he contradicts Jesus’ clear teachings.

Contrast that with our situation as the sons of God, distinct from the world, a privilege bestowed by the Father through the power of the Spirit and faith in Christ our Savior:

Romans 8:14-17
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Romans 9:8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

Romans 9:26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.


Tom Brown’s Response to David VanDrunen on Change and Rome

October 25, 2011

Rome’s Teaching Has Obviously Changed

Dr. VanDrunen recently made the unremarkable assertion:

For many years, the Roman Catholic Church taught that people could enjoy eternal life and escape everlasting damnation only by being received into its membership.  In recent generations, that teaching has changed.  Rome now embraces a very inclusive view that extends the hope of salvation to people of many different religions or even no religion at all, provided they sincerely follow the truth and goodness that they know in their own experience.

This is one of those statements that is obviously true.  The point of the statement is that there has been a massive paradigm shift in Rome’s external relations.  Mr. Tom Brown, of the Roman communion blog, “Called to Communion,” was bothered by this statement.  What bothered Tom Brown, though, was not the obvious paradigm shift, but Dr. VanDrunen’s statement characterizing Rome’s teaching as having “changed.”

“Change” in “Teaching” = Sky is Falling

You see, one of the things that some recent “converts” to Rome like to imagine is that Rome gives them certainty.  You can’t very well have certainty if Rome changes its teachings from time to time.  So, comments like VanDrunen’s are very much a fly in the ointment.

Salvation Outside the Church is compatible with No Salvation Outside the Church?

Tom Brown has a long row to hoe in order to persuade the reader that Rome’s teaching hasn’t changed.  Dr. VanDrunen naturally cited the Council of Florence (1438), and that council states the matter fairly explicitly (bold added by me):

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.

(Cantate Domino (1441))

Vatican II on the other hand wrote:

For they who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation.

 (Lumen Gentium, II, 16)

It seems that the only ways this contradiction could be clearer is if Vatican II had explicitly said “Cantate Domino was wrong,” yet Mr. Brown tries to argue that the two positions are consistent.

But Mr. Brown’s argument amounts to just asserting that Vatican II is consistent with a thread of historical dogma going back to Justin Martyr.  Whether or not this is the case, it hardly makes the positions of Florence and Vatican II any less contradictory.  Indeed, had Florence itself taught both positions, Florence would have been internally inconsistent.

Mr. Brown needs to demonstrate how someone being saved while not living and remaining within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church is consistent with Florence.  His appeal to Pius IX (identified for him by VanDrunen) is not compelling.  Pius IX states (the bold, added by me, is the part that Mr. Brown quotes, whilst the normal print is the context he does not include):

7. Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching. There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.
8. Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom “the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior.”[4] The words of Christ are clear enough: “If he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you a Gentile and a tax collector;”[5] “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me;”[6] “He who does not believe will be condemned;”[7] “He who does not believe is already condemned;”[8] “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”[9] The Apostle Paul says that such persons are “perverted and self-condemned;”[10] the Prince of the Apostles calls them “false teachers . . . who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master. . . bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”[11]

(Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, 7-8 (1863))

Tom Brown describes the bold part of that statement as “Here Blessed Pope Pius IX simply and skillfully articulates these two Catholic beliefs … .”  Perhaps the statement is simple and skillful, but it does not resolve the conflict between Florence and Vatican II.

It is interesting to note how Pius IX suddenly finds Scripture to be perspicuous when it comes to the authority of the church and the result of rejecting that authority.  Nevertheless, Pius IX has staked out a position different from that of Florence.  Florence enunciates a position that being within the fold of the church is necessary.  Pius IX suggests that rejecting church authority is lethal.  However, Pius IX finds room for people who don’t embrace unity with the church.

While Tom Brown’s line of argument that argues that there is a long history of teachings that there can be salvation outside the church is not a meaningful answer to the problem of the conflict between Florence and Vatican II, he does pose an interesting comment:

As explained by St. Augustine and maintained through to the present by the Catholic Church, unbaptized martyrs who shed their blood for the sake of Christ are saved nonetheless, receiving the fruits of Baptism.  Baptism of blood is an extraordinary method of fulfilling the soteriological prerequisite of being ‘inside the Church’ when Baptism is impossible.

 Mr. Brown, however, does not explain how this alleged teaching of Augustine is consistent with “no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”  That reference to shedding blood for the name of Christ appears on its face to be a reference to undergoing martyrdom.

Does Mr. Brown resolve this further apparent conflict that he has introduced?  No, he does not.  Instead he jumps on to the issue of baptism of desire.  Of course, baptism of desire (whether or not it conflicts with Florence – and it certainly appears to) is not what Vatican II is talking about.  In Vatican II, the person does not know about the church.

Mr. Brown raises the point that Trent endorsed baptism by desire.  He quotes Trent as saying (bold added by me):

This translation [from the state of birth to the state of Grace] however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the washing of regeneration or its desire, as it is written: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

 (See, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 4)

False Accusation of Ambiguity

Mr. Brown argues as follows:

For VanDrunen, Catholic doctrine “has indeed changed,” and he believes this change refutes modern Catholic appeals to the “unchanging character” of the Catholic Church.  The fallacy of his logic is in his amphibolous use of the term ‘change.’  By using the term ‘change’ ambiguously, VanDrunen leads the reader to the false conclusion that the Catholic Church has contradicted herself. 

Mr. Brown has not established that there is harmony between Florence and Vatican II.  The former says that there is no salvation outside the church, the latter says there is.  Moreover, Mr. Brown has not established that VanDrunen has used the term “change” in an ambiguous way.  So, Mr. Brown has not harmonized the councils, nor has he shown any error in VanDrunen’s account.

Development Hypothesis

Mr. Brown sets forth a sort of development hypothesis on this point:

However, by distinguishing between change as organic development and change as contradicting what was previously held, the conclusion that the Catholic Church has contradicted herself no longer follows.  In other words, if Catholic doctrine has changed by developing, this change does not lead to the conclusion that the Vatican II teaching (regarding the possibility of salvation for those not in full communion with the Church) contradicts what was previously held.

The problem is that Vatican II does contradict Florence.  It is not merely a problem that Rome’s doctrine has changed (which it certainly has) but that it is has changed from “no salvation outside the church” to “salvation outside the church.”

Mr. Brown continues:

This notion that Christian doctrines have developed should be no surprise.  Major theological and religious doctrines have developed, such as the Trinity, the nature and canon of Sacred Scripture, or the two natures of Christ. 

The canon of Scripture is not a doctrine per se, though Rome has made acceptance of a particular erroneous canon a matter of faith.  The canon changed because God inspired more books.  There have been different periods of recognition of the canon, but that issue of canon recognition is not a doctrinal development.

The discussion of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ has greatly increased over the years, but the doctrines themselves have not changed.  The Scriptures themselves teach the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. 

Mr. Brown continues:

While Reformed believers implicitly accept the notion of doctrinal development in those instances, they reject modern developments out of hand.  But this acceptance of primitive developments while rejecting modern developments is ad hoc.  There is no principled reason to accept development of Trinitarian doctrine while simultaneously denying the possibility of development on extra Ecclesiam after centuries of careful study and reflection.

Up front, Mr. Brown is wrong.  We don’t explicitly or implicitly accept the idea that there has been “doctrinal development” in the sense that we now hold to things that our forefathers in the faith didn’t.  We may use technical terms we didn’t before (like the term “trinity”) but the doctrines are the same.

Moreover, there’s a severe non-analogy between the doctrine of the Trinity developing a technical vocabulary and Rome’s position changing from “no salvation outside the church” to “some salvation outside the church.”  There’s simply no reasonable comparison between the two.

We don’t agree with Nicaea, for example, because Nicaea said it, just as we don’t disagree with Ariminum  because they said it.  Instead, we agree with the former and not the latter because the former teaches what Scripture teaches.  The Word of God is our ultimate standard, not the traditions of men.  

A Strange Conclusion

Mr. Brown concludes with: “The authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church are not contradictory on this matter, but carefully elucidate Sacred Scripture and our understanding of God’s mercy and justice.” Carefully elucidate?  Scripture is briefly cited in a few of Mr. Brown’s quotations, but hardly elucidated.  What Scripture does the error of invincible ignorance “elucidate”?  One couldn’t know either from the documents themselves or from Mr. Brown’s paper.

In short, Mr. Brown’s conclusion, like most of the rest of his paper, should be rejected.  Dr. VanDrunen was right to point out the paradigm shift between Florence and Vatican II, and Dr. VanDrunen is right to describe that as a “change” in teaching, even though Vatican II lacks the same authority as Florence (since there were no dogmatic definitions in Vatican II).

It is surprising, indeed, that Mr. Brown did not attempt to evade the problem of change by simply appealing to the fact that Vatican II does not claim to be an infallible document.  Instead, Mr. Brown falsely charged Dr. VanDrunen with fallacy and ambiguity, when Dr. VanDrunen simply provided an accurate historical assessment.


UPDATE: It seems there is no intuitive way to find Dr. VanDrunen’s original article.  Here is a link that Steve Hays provided recently on Triablogue (link).

Ratzinger vs. Hitler

September 24, 2011

The Pope went on: “In this place, remembrance must also be made of the ‘Kristallnacht’ that took place from 9 to 10 November 1938. Only a few could see the full extent of this act of contempt for humanity, like the Berlin Cathedral Provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who cried out from the pulpit of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral: ‘Outside, the Temple is burning – that too is the house of God’. The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in Him. The supposedly ‘almighty’ Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men. Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed”.

(Vatican Information System, 23 September 2011)

A few separate points:

1. It is interesting to contrast the rhetoric that Ratzinger quotes approvingly (“Outside, the Temple is burning – that too is the house of God”) with that of Christ (as revealed to John):

Revelation 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 3:9  Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

2. Remarkably, it appears that Rome never formally excommunicated Hitler.  It’s very nice to say nasty things about him now that he’s dead and gone, but when he was actually killing the Jews, Gypsies, and others, Rome apparently didn’t think it was appropriate to actually excommunicate this “pagan idol.” 

3. I suppose it is obligatory at this point to observe that Ratzinger was evidently conscripted into the Hitler Youth, was drafted into service in an anti-aircraft corps during the war, and was briefly made an American Prisoner Of War.  There’s nothing that I’m aware of that suggests that Ratzinger was particularly supportive of Hitler, even despite his (apparently involuntary) participation in those organizations. 

4. Moreover, it is actually Benedict XVI who wants to take the place of the Biblical God.  I can’t say whether Hitler ever called himself the very vicar of Christ and earthly head of the church, but Benedict XVI certainly claims that for himself.  I can’t say whether Hitler ever set up headquarters in what purported to be the temple of God, but the pope certainly attempts to exalt himself over all that is God’s and seats himself on a throne.  (see 2 Thessalonians 2)

5. The concentration camps were filled with death and horror, I am sure.  What if we compare those few years of Nazi cruelty with the cruelty with which Rome sought to persecute and kill European believers from the time of the Waldensians until the defeat of the Spanish Armada?  Were the Nazis as cruel as the Inquisition?  While there are no photographs to document the acts of cruelty perpetuated by Rome, one can read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to get some sense of what happened.  Perhaps Benedict XVI’s conscience will persuade him to accept the fact that the Roman church that authorized the slaughter of the Albigensians was one that denied God as much as the Nazi regime did.

All which shows why we must not put our confidence in princes or in the sons of men.  Instead, our hope must be in the name of the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth.


New Age Heresies

July 19, 2008

These days, from what I can see, the “New Age Movement” is no longer quite as hip as it was (under that name, at any rate) a decade or two ago. It has since branched out in various regards, and I would be unsurprised if crystal sales have either tailed off, or at least stopped growing at the same rate.

The “New Age Movement,” however, is part of a larger overall anti-Christ movement that seeks to avoid the authority of Scripture. It is a powerful movement. Gail A. Riplinger’s over-estimation of the movement should not lead us to dismiss its reality. As Scripture explains, we do not wrestle against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Today, thanks to the Internet as well as to satellite televisions, the more blatant manifestations of this spirit of evil are open for all to see. What many, particularly the younger folk, may not recognize is that this nothing new. Todd Bentley and the rest of the Lakeland gang of rogues and heretics are not original.

I hope that the videos below help to demonstrate that fact. The first is a montage of clips including Bentley’s “Revival” as well as the similar manifestations by earlier heretics, by Indian pagans, and by “New Age” cults (including those connected with certain branches of Yoga).

Notice that in this trailer for Religulous (Re-lig’-you-luss) the prominence of the anti-Christian religions and mockery of the true religion by way of linking and comparison to those false religions. It’s obviously an inflammatory documentary that will appeal mostly to liberal inclusivists, secularists, and militant atheists.

Nevertheless, we need to be ready to explain the difference between the true Christian faith (defined by Scripture) and the substitutes defined by the New Age movement, the Vatican, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda (who claims to be the second coming of Christ), Mohamed, Pelagius, and so forth.

We also need to be ready address the criticisms of scoffers like Bill Maher who refuse to see the difference between Biblical Christianity and Santa Claus. One may note that one prominent anti-Christian religion doesn’t seem to get much (if any) assault in the trailer: Judaism (though based on interviews Mr. Maher has done, it appears that footage of the “Wailing Wall” will be included).

Suffice to say that this film, which will undoubtedly exhibit Bill Maher’s excellent wit, and the high production quality that we’ve come to associate with Lionsgate movies. It will be watched, and it will confuse and mislead those who don’t know better.

Bill Maher’s point in making the film is to deny the reality of Hell. On Larry King, he explained that the thesis is to suggest that his answer to people who tell him what happens when you die is to tell them, “You don’t know.” Mr. Maher is wrong, of course. We do know what happens when people die: they come before the Judge of all the Earth to account for what they have done. If there is any sin in them, the just judgment for that sin is Hell. There is only one way that one will not suffer the just judgment for one’s sins, and that is the way taught in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. That one way is by repentance of one’s sins and faith in Christ alone for salvation. It’s a message that the world opposes, but it is the only way to be saved. If you are reading this and realize that you are trusting in something else to provide you with a proper standing before God when you die (whether that is your church, your personal holiness, or the general mercy of God) I strongly urge you to think again. Pick up a Bible and learn about God and the way of salvation from the guilt of sin.


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