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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comment Posted at VirtueOnline: Salvation: A Different Way?


A fellow Evangelical, Steven Cooper, has posted Salvation: A Different Way? at the VirtueOnline website. I made the following comments there with further comments made below in this article.


While the above article is short and unclear, I must say that it is not "Catholic bashing" to point out that Vatican II "apparently" decided that other religions may lead to God by virtue of their worship of Jesus even though they don't know it. Even the likes of Billy Graham has said similar things in an appearance on Robert Schuller's Hour of Power some years ago.


I have to ask, "Do you or do you not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven?" (Acts 4:11-12; John 14:6). Scripture appears to plainly say that He is the only way to heaven. Not only so, but the 39 Articles unequivocally teach that other religions are not salvific:

THEY also are to be had accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

According to the 39 Articles Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, even for Jews and Muslims. How "intolerant"! I would go further and say that the Roman Catholic Church is inconsistent with its pre-Vatican II stance that salvation is only through the Roman Catholic Church. Hint: The RCC at one time anathematized Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestants. Officially, the canons of the Council of Trent still condemn the doctrines of grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is plainly taught in Holy Scripture. All Protestants are "officially" anathematized at Trent based on the doctrinal content of the Protestant message. (See: Canons Concerning Justification).


I would go even further here. Anyone who anathematizes the doctrines of grace--whether it be a church, a minister, or an individual lay person--cannot be saved. And what are the doctrines of grace? Well, there are at least five which are absolutely essential to true Christianity:


1) Sola gratia. We are saved by God's grace alone apart from any cooperation on our part. God gives us everything prior to our believing and conversion.


2) Sola fide. We are saved by faith alone and justified by faith alone as a legal/forensic declaration of "not guilty". Good works have absolutely nothing to do with our justification now or in the future judgment.


3) Sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is the final rule and measure of all doctrinal truth and teaching of local churches, ministers, and members of the church. While it is true that the churches have authority, their authority is secondary to Holy Scripture. All tradition must therefore be tested by canonical Scripture and those traditions contradicting Scripture or repugnant to Scripture are to be rejected.


4) Solus Christus. The only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ. God has appointed that since we are unable to merit salvation, Christ merited it for us by living a sinless life. God has also appointed that since we are unable to pay the penalty for Adam's sin or our own sins, Christ died on the cross for the sins of His elect as their substitute.


5) God alone is to be glorified. This means that we have absolutely no room for pride or boasting since God saves us absolutely and totally by grace and grace alone. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. He gave birth to the New Testament churches through Jesus Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. God is not obligated to save any and those who pretend to share the glory with God to any degree whatsoever--including prayers to the saints, to Mary, etc. or through penances designed to earn merits for forgiveness--are in fact committing idolatry by putting the creature on equal status with the Creator of heaven and earth and all that exists.


In light of that I have to agree with the late Broughton Knox that it appears that Vatican II has gone in the "pelagian" direction:


Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)


Now, if you will read the entire document, the position of the Roman Catholic Church at Vatican II, even though it claims that Jesus is the only way, implies that salvation can come from good works:

2. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.


Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.


I fail to see how the Roman Catholic Church can escape the charge of "pelagianism" when you couple the Declaration on Non-Christian Religions with the position of the RCC that "proselytization" of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. is wrong.


I would contend that not only Jews, Muslims and Buddhists need to be "evangelized" with the Gospel and the doctrines of grace but also the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholic Church, and Anglicans in general. Those who teach that salvation can be merited or earned or that there are other ways to achieve heaven through other religions cannot but accept the label of "pelagian."


It is for this reason that the Anglican Church in North America is simply another apostate religion with no light of the true Gospel of grace. Justification is by grace alone through faith alone and through Christ alone. Therefore, since ACNA refutes the doctrines of the Scriptures, the 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer by compromising those documents through dissimulation and equivocation, I can only conclude that ACNA is another TEC only without the homosexuals.


Another commenter, Larry Wells, aka "Inwells", (I love how these Anglo-Catholics prefer to post anonymously or semi-anonymously), said:

In Dominus Iesus, the Pope solidly affirmed what was/is unpopular with liberal RC's: the sound Biblical teaching that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ--even if that salvation is graciously given outside the confines of the RCC, or even beyond the boundaries of conscious Christianity.

I guess Larry thinks that the unsaved don't need to hear the Gospel (Romans 10:13-15). Clearly, the idea that there is an "unconscious" acceptance of Christ in "ignorance" is diametrically opposed to Paul's teaching in Romans that natural revelation is insufficient for salvation (Romans 1:18-21). Not only so, but the Bible teaches that accepting Jesus Christ and His Gospel is essential to a conscious conversion to Christianity as a "personal relationship" with God (Acts 4:11-12; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Jude 3).


But to make it even more clear it is necessary to read the Dominus Iesus document carefully. First off, the document was written by Joseph Ratzinger prior to his becoming Pope Benedict XVI and the writing was authorized and endorsed by Pope Paul II. Clearly the document seeks to clarify the position of the Vatican II declaration on non-Christian religions, which theological liberals took to mean theological pluralism. Dominus Iesus, contrary to what Mr. Wells says, actually refutes the idea that there is any sense of an unconscious acceptance of Jesus Christ in other religions or "even beyond the boundaries of conscious Christianity":


15. Not infrequently it is proposed that theology should avoid the use of terms like "unicity", "universality", and "absoluteness", which give the impression of excessive emphasis on the significance and value of the salvific event of Jesus Christ in relation to other religions. In reality, however, such language is simply being faithful to revelation, since it represents a development of the sources of the faith themselves. From the beginning, the community of believers has recognized in Jesus a salvific value such that he alone, as Son of God made man, crucified and risen, by the mission received from the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit, bestows revelation (cf. Mt 11:27) and divine life (cf. Jn 1:12; 5:25; 5:26; 17:2) to all humanity and to every person.

In this sense, one can and must say that Jesus Christ has a significance and a value for the human race and its history, which are unique and singular, proper to him alone, exclusive, universal, and absolute. Jesus is, in fact, the Word of God made man for the salvation of all. In expressing this consciousness of faith, the Second Vatican Council teaches: "The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself.

Ibid.


And to make it even more clear please note several places where Ratzinger refutes the idea of salvation apart from Christ:

20. From what has been stated above, some points follow that are necessary for theological reflection as it explores the relationship of the Church and the other religions to salvation.


Above all else, it must be firmly believed that "the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door".77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); "it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation".78


It seems to me that liberals like our friend Larry Wells cannot help themselves from twisting, distorting and dissimulating even papal statements from the Roman Catholic Church, which they "claim" to support and agree with. If anything, this only proves the point made by Protestants that having a pope, a magisterium, and an allegedly infallible teaching office guarantees absolutely nothing. Larry is ample proof of this. Clearly, Pope John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger saw the danger of liberal view that there can be an "unconscious" conversion to Christ through other religions in the Vatican II statement, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.


Let me further clarify my own position, however. While I agree with the gist of the Dominus Iesus document and that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and that conscious acceptance of the Gospel is absolutely necessary to salvation, I disagree that the Roman Catholic Church is preaching the true Gospel since the Canons Concerning Justification made at the Council of Trent anathematize the very Gospel itself. Obviously, I reject Ratzinger's thesis that the Roman Catholic Church is the only way of salvation as well. It cannot be ignored that the official position of the Roman Catholic Church has not changed since the Council of Trent where the Protestant understanding of the Gospel and justification by faith alone is anathematized in the Canons Concerning Justification:

Canon 4.
If anyone says that man's free will moved and aroused by God, by assenting to God's call and action, in no way cooperates toward disposing and preparing itself to obtain the grace of justification, that it cannot refuse its assent if it wishes, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive, let him be anathema.


Canon 5.
If anyone says that after the sin of Adam man's free will was lost and destroyed, or that it is a thing only in name, indeed a name without a reality, a fiction introduced into the Church by Satan, let him be anathema.


Canon 6.
If anyone says that it is not in man's power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil as well as those that are good God produces, not permissively only but also propria et per se, so that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of St. Paul, let him be anathema.


Canon 7.
If anyone says that all works done before justification, in whatever manner they may be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins, let him be anathema.


Canon 9.
If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone,[114] meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

Canon 11.
If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost,[116] and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.


Canon 12.
If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy,[117] which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.


Canon 13.
If anyone says that in order to obtain the remission of sins it is necessary for every man to believe with certainty and without any hesitation arising from his own weakness and indisposition that his sins are forgiven him, let him be anathema.


Canon 14.
If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified,[118] or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.


Canon 15.
If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound ex fide to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined,[119] let him be anathema.


Canon 16.
If anyone says that he will for certain, with an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance even to the end, unless he shall have learned this by a special revelation,[120] let him be anathema.


Canon 17.
If anyone says that the grace of justification is shared by those only who are predestined to life, but that all others who are called are called indeed but receive not grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema.


Canon 18.
If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace,[121] impossible to observe, let him be anathema.


I could go on but it should be obvious to any Anglican who has read the 39 Articles that many of these canons condemn the doctrines laid out during the English Reformation. In particular one should pay attention to Articles 9-18 which deal with personal salvation. These canons not only condemn the English Reformation but the Lutheran and the Swiss and Dutch branches of the Protestant Reformation. This is particularly why I cannot understand the statements made by James I. Packer and others who wish to relegate the doctrine of justification by faith alone to the "fine print" of the Gospel. Obviously, the Reformation is not over and the doctrine of justification by faith alone is not a secondary matter. It is absolutely a primary matter of the Christian faith.


With that in mind, I fail to see how Anglo-Catholicism is in any way a "via media" between Rome and the English Reformation. On the contrary, Anglo-Catholicism is a sell out on two fronts. First of all, Anglo-Catholicism gives place to the Roman Catholic doctrines of justification, purgatory, prayers to the saints, apostolic succession and other unbiblical positions which are not supported by Holy Scripture. Secondly, as our Anglo-Catholic friend, Larry Wells, shows above the Anglo-Catholics have sold out to theological pluralism which in turn leads to moral relativism and the emphasis on social justice and human rights in the here and now. Such an emphasis then naturally gravitates to the idea of homosexual rights as a basic human right rather than a perverse immorality condemned unequivocally in Holy Scripture. Thus, Anglo-Catholicism is a dismal failure from the point of view of both Roman Catholicism and from conservative and reformed Protestant views drawn from Holy Scripture as the only infallible and authoritative rule for faith, doctrine, and practice.


Sincerely in Christ,


Charlie


Charlie is a bi-vocational minister with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology and bible from Southeastern University, Lakeland, Florida, 1991 and a master of divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, 1995. While studying at Asbury, a Wesleyan holiness and Arminian school of theology in the Evangelical tradition, Charlie read Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion in a seminar with church history professor Dr. Thomas O'Malley. He also took a Christian philosophy class with Dr. Jerry Walls in which Walls argued for the primacy of "free will" above God's sovereignty in all matters of salvation and providence. These two classes in conjunction with reading the entire Bible from cover to cover convinced him that the Reformed interpretation of Scripture is in fact the most faithful to God and to a complete and systematic understanding of Holy Scripture. Charlie teaches a Sunday school class for adults and does occasional pulpit fill for Christ Church Longwood, in Longwood, Florida, whose rector is David Knox. Charlie also maintains a reforming Anglican blog at Reasonable Christian.


The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.


O LORD, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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