A Berean's View of Church History
"A little yeast works through
the whole batch of dough." Gal 5:9
Paul gives this warning to Christians concerning the false doctrine
of the Circumcision who claimed that one had to be circumcised and
follow the Law of Moses to be saved. He also uses the same phrase in 1Cor 5:6-8
where he associates the yeast with malice and wickedness in contrast to
sincerity and truth, and speaks particularly of Christians who are
living overtly sinful lifestyles. These examples also teach us what
Jesus meant in his parable of the leaven. Luke 13:20,210 Again he said, "To what shall I compare
the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast, which a woman took and hid
in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened."
some have misinterpreted the parable as a positive connotation, it is
clearly a negative connotation. Something to avoid. And this is further
supported in Jesus saying, "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy."
found in the chapter just prior to the parable of the
leaven. Thus, a little bit of malice, wickedness, false
teachings, hypocrisy will become pervasive throughout the Church.
In the following I scrutinize Church history from that standpoint.
"Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast— as you really are.
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us keep the
Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth." 1Cor 5:7,8
Real Christians are characterized as unleavened bread. Yeast is a
fungus. When it's put in dough the yeast feeds to produce carbon dioxide
which causes the dough to become inflated with hot air, making it
appear as if it is bigger than it is. And while leavened bread is
palatable and popular, what is popular is seldom Biblical and often made
to conform to the world's viewpoint.
Popular Christianity is not Biblical Christianity. Throughout history
popular Christianity has tinkered with the gospel starting in the first
Century. Paul warned, "I know that after I leave,
savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even
from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to
draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!" Acts 20:29-31
How did he know? Because he saw it happening in his own time and he was
practically the only person on guard against such things. And thus
yeast took over the Church because the watchmen were not watching.
We can see how it all started through negligence on the part of the
apostles and through the agency of James with regards to the events of
Acts 15 in conjunction with Galatians chapter 2. Men coming from the
church at Jerusalem, the church if the Eleven apostles and James, and
teaching Gentiles that they must be circumcised and follow the Law of
Moses to be saved. "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1
So Paul went to the church at Jerusalem to investigate. And what did he find there? Some
of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up
and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law
of Moses." Acts 15:5
Paul says of them in Galatians 2:4 "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves."
James the Heretic
But where did they get the idea from? How is it that the apostles at
Jerusalem were so negligent in teaching the gospel and confronting this
false teaching in their own church? And how could these people stand up
in church and say that kind of stuff if it wasn't endorsed with some
authority? The answer is: JAMES.
What happened next? "The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion .." Acts 15:6,7
What was there to discuss? These idiots were actually trying to decide
whether or not that is the gospel! Salvation not by faith in Christ but
rather by one's involvement in religious rituals and compliance to
religious regulations. This was the origin of that most yeast filled
denomination known as CATHOLICISM. This council was the origin and
justification of their magisterial concept that one can tinker with the
gospel through meetings of the religious elite.
But first, note the content of the meeting. Paul presented his gospel.
Peter agreed with Paul. James objected. James went on to make a
compromise with the gospel of the Circumcision as applied to Gentles by
decreeing "that we should not make it difficult
for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to
them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual
immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." Acts 15:19,20
So according to James, if you are a Gentile, your salvation is
dependent upon whether or not you eat the meat of strangled animals. In
fact three out of four of these regulations have to do with Mosaic
regulations concerning eating and drinking. This in contrast to Paul's
teachings that "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking" Rom 14:17
Note the phrase James uses, "we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles".
The reason why he said that because Peter had just spoke of his
experience in the conversion of Cornelius and went on to say concerning
Gentiles, "He made no distinction between us and
them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to
test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:9-11
So, clearly, Peter (and Paul) saw no distinction between Jew and Gentile
with regards to how to be saved. James did made a contrast between
Gentile and Jew in this regard. He disagreed with Peter (and Paul) on
this point. Secondly while Peter noted that the Law was too difficult
for even Jews to fulfill. James' solution with not embracing the gospel,
but rather tinkering with the law, to make it easier for Gentiles to be
saved by compliance to his watered down regulations. What James
proposed is clearly heresy. Not only so, what is implied about what
James thought the requirement for Jews to be saved? Seems clear to me
that he thought that Jews must be circumcised and follow the law of
Moses to be saved. And that's where the so called "believers" among the
sect of the Pharisees got the idea that that was the gospel for them.
Given the rhetoric of this council and the fact that James comes up with
his decree and the others simply rubber stamp it, it's clear to me that
James is treated as if he were in charge and that the apostles, yes
including Peter, were afraid of James. What Peter says at the meeting
contradicts what James says. And yet Peter backs down resulting in the
gospel eventually being lost for over a millenia. Paul notes James'
association with the group of the circumcision in Galatians 2:11,12 "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group."
So James sent men from the group of the circumcision, probably to make
sure his decree was being enforced. Paul noted that Peter was afraid of
them. Why was he afraid? What was he afraid of? It's like a revisiting
of the time he denied Christ three times out of fear of public opinion.
And why hadn't he confronted James concerning this heresy James
promoted? And why does Peter tolerate having these heretics put in
charge of overseeing what was going on in the church at Antioch? What
the hell is the matter with these people?
And here's an interesting question. Paul rebuked Peter publicly to his
face for something that Peter did unconsciously implied due to fear. Why
didn't Paul rebuke James to his face for the heresy that James imposed
intentionally disregarding the gospel that both Peter and Paul
advocated? Since he rebuked Peter, why didn't he rebuke James. What was
Paul afraid of? The only thing I can think of is that he may have been
afraid of was being banned from the Jerusalem church in light of James
having had such a strong hold over the members and the apostles. Peter
was an apostle and Paul found he had to rebuke him. Paul is an apostle.
And while his doctrine was inspired, his administrative decisions may
not have been the best when subjected to his own fears.
Throughout the history of Christianity, false teachings have dominated
the Christendom being maintained by FEAR. As I see it, it all started
with Peter's complete negligence due to fear and Paul's incomplete
negligence due to his fear. James was the yeast of the early
church. If Peter and Paul had united to get rid of that yeast, there
would be a much different history of Christianity.
The Epistle of James
The Epistle of James gives further evidence of his heresy. Martin Luther noted "this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients"
and "I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow. In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24).
It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son
Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary
that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before
he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6.
Although it would be possible to "save" the epistle by a gloss
giving a correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, it
is impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses' words in Genesis 15
(which speaks not of Abraham's works but of his faith, just as Paul
makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham's works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle." Martin Luther
This particularly becomes an issue in the second part of chapter 2 where
James' ACTUAL statements are in contradiction to Paul's writings,
particularly Romans 4. In both cases they apply Gen 15:6
to their argument which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
In Romans 4 Paul uses this verse as proof that justification is by
faith alone apart from works, interpreting the Gen 15:6 as being
fulfilled right then in Gen 15:6 prior to Abraham doing any works.
Whereas James views Gen 15:6 as a prediction, a prophecy not being
fulfilled until Gen 22
, when Abraham did a work of faith. For to James, justification is not attained until one has both faith and works.
Note how James phrases James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
Every time in the Bible when this kind of phrase is used it's ALWAYS
referring to the scripture as being a prophecy, a prediction of a future
Thus James views Abraham as either not believing God in Gen 15, or believing God, but not being reckoned righteous until Gen 22,
prior to which Abraham had faith but no
works, of which James refers to as dead faith and not able to save. Thus
James views Abraham as not saved until Gen 22 when he offered Isaac as a
If James interpretation is correct concerning Gen 15:6, then Paul can't
use it to prove his point in Romans 4. Conversely if Paul's
interpretation of Gen 15:6 is correct and thus Abraham was justified by
faith alone apart from works, then James is wrong. And thus Luther said
and I agree concerning James, "it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works
In fact why would James bring up Gen 15:6 to begin with? It doesn't lend
support to his argument. Unlike Paul he's not using it as "proof"
validating his point, rather he's simply imposing an interpretation of
Gen 15:6 which is explicitly and intentionally contrary to Paul's
Furthermore consider the phrasing James chose in direct contradiction to Paul:
Paul in Romans 4:2-6
"if Abraham was justified by works, he has
something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the
Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for
righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace
but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who
justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as
David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes
righteousness apart from works"
"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that
faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by
works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?"
"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."
And regarding the law, while Paul says in Gal 3:10 "All
who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in
the Book of the Law.'"
and being under the law he refers to as bondage. yet James again contradicts Paul by saying, "speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty." James 2:12.
And yes he is talking about the law of Moses as he quotes Deut and Exodus referencing the Law of Moses.
It appears on all these points that James is writing to intentionally oppose Paul.
Is the Curse of the Law Freedom?
James 2:10-13 "For whoever shall keep the
whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who
said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you
do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a
transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
James advocates the idea that we will be judged by the law, and that
such law brings freedom (that is, if you follow it perfectly) In
contrast Paul views the law as a curse. "For as
many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is
written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which
are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law
in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." Yet
the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by
them." Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law." Gal 3:10-13
According to James justification is by works, and yes, the works of the law, and that in opposition to Paul.
The Hypocrisy of James and the Most Important Thing
James 2:1 "My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality."
He goes on to speak of not treating the rich with partiality over the
poor. But if you were to replace "rich" with "Jew" and "poor" with
Gentile, James is guilty of that very thing, as noted previously.
But let's consider even in his epistle, does James treat the rich impartially? No.
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your
miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your
garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their
corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like
fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of
the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry
out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of
Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have
fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you
have murdered the just; he does not resist you." James 5:1-6
He categorically condemns the rich. While he commands "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned." James 5:9
, yet he grumbles against the rich. In James 4:12
he asks rhetorically "Who are you to judge another?"
Well who are you James to judge another? Who do you think you are? He says, "Do not speak evil of one another" James 4:11
Yet he speaks evil of the rich.
James is partial to the poor, and how conveniently being one of them.
And this is how James responds to the generosity shown him by rich
Gentile Christians whom he would never have welcomed into his church
without them first getting circumcised (see Gal 2:3) who had sent
donations to the poor saints in Jerusalem.
Where do you suppose Cornelius - a Gentile convert who was generous to
the Jews - went to church? Certainly not in James' church. He would have
never been welcomed there despite being converted by Peter himself.
James shows himself partial, ungrateful, proud and demeaning towards
Gentile Christians, of whom he imposes his own personal cherry picked
regulations upon while washing his hands of them with regards to
ministry. (See Gal 2 an Acts 15)
The Most Important Thing
What is the most important thing to James? "But
above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or
with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment." James 5:12
The most important thing to James is to not swear an oath. Compare that with Paul. Col 3:14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
James obsesses about the external - words, works. But Paul emphasizes attitude. James obsesses over condemnation and judgement. "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned." James 5:9
While Paul emphasizes attitude, grace, hope, love, one's security in Christ.
Gloss Readings of James
As Luther notes, there are gloss readings of James, but such do not
resolve the contradiction between Romans and James. Non-Catholic
Christians tend to read James in light of Paul, misreading James to
agree with Paul. Catholics read Paul in light of James, misreading Paul
to conform to James. But the fact is if you read Paul in light of Paul,
and James in light of James, these two are incompatible and
contradictory. And while it is not a popular idea, what is popular is
seldom Biblical. The priority for the Berean is what is true, not what
The concept of Nepotism is the reason why Mary is viewed as being the
"Queen of Heaven" in Catholicism. I think it's the reason why James was
treated as if the head of the Church, who could arbitrarily impose
regulations upon it. Interesting fact Eusebius, the Christian historian
writing in the early 4th century, notes that the Roman Emperor Domitian
presumed the Church to be a monarchy, and wanting to rid the empire of
it located the descendants of the Lord's family, namely descendants of
Jude, who along with James, were two of the half brothers of Jesus.
Eusebius says, "Treating them with contempt, seeing them as
simpletons, commanded them to be dismissed, and by a decree ordered the
persecution to cease." But what is of particular note is what Eusebius writes next, "Thus delivered, they ruled the churches, both as witnesses and relatives of the Lord."
They ruled simply because they were relatives. That's nepotism.
Catholicism started off as a monarchy ruled by Jesus' relatives. It is
not what Jesus endorsed. Just as James arbitrarily added man made
regulations to the Church, so also the Catholic Church. They corrupted
the gospel consequently leading to "church" filled with false brethren,
both in leadership an among the assembly.
James started it. Paul failed to sufficiently stand against it. The
result being thousands of years of the gospel largely being lost and
marginalized. The "rulers" not being allowed to be scrutinized on any
basis but one's pedigree.
The Rise of the Neo-Circumcision
While the Circumcision claimed that one had to be circumcised and follow
the law of Moses to be saved, there arose through James' decree a new
version of the Circumcision, the Neo-Circumcision sects. And while there
has been some diversity among the Neo-Circumcision over time and
between denominations, all conform to the basic tenet that one's
salvation is dependent upon one's involvement in religious rituals and
one's compliance to religious regulations.
The Rise of Sacramental Theology
Along with the corruption of the gospel came the emphasis on the
material things, putting symbolism over substance, shadow over reality.
Sacramental theology, put into practice not only in large degree in
Catholicism, but also to a lesser degree even in Protestantism, turned
Christianity into a sort of Harry Potter occultic religion and the
institution Church into a sort of Hogwarts. In the Catholic "Sacrifice of the Mass"
as they refer to it, a Catholic priest dresses up in his wizard robes
and goes through a magic ceremony turning a wafer and a cup of wine in
the body and blood of Christ, the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the
LORD God Creator, being contained in the wafer, not symbolically, but
in actuality. That's what Catholicism supposes. While communion was
intended as a memorial service "do this in remembrance of me." 1Cor 11:24
Catholicism has turned communion into an occultic ceremony, the wafer
being a sort of drug Catholics have to take to maintain their spiritual
Likewise regarding water baptism. Not only Catholics, but there are many
non-Catholic Neo-Circumcision sects who claim that you have to get wet
to get saved, misreading the Bible in light of their sacramental
theology. But Catholicism trumps all others regarding the practice of
the occultic sacramental rituals.
Jesus said, "In praying, don’t use vain repetitions" Mt 6:7
Jesus was not talking about persistent in prayer, but rather was
teaching against prayer being used like magical incantations, treating
God like a divine vending machine in which you simply say the right
words to get what you want. An example is the Catholic ritual of penance
in which the priests instructs one to pray so many "Hail Marys" and so
many "Our Fathers", the number of which he fabricates on a whim. And not
only Catholics, but there are non-Catholic sects involved with is
essentially magical incantations. The Bible speaks of "calling on the
name of the Lord". Watchman Nee's Local Church practices this as a
magical incantation, simply repeating the words "O Lord Jesus" as a sort
of Hindu mantra.
The heresy of the "imputed guilt" version of the doctrine of Original
Sin as a number of denominations believe today and it's corresponding
application of infant baptism could be found all the way back in 253 AD.
Cyprian of Carthage [A.D. 253]
in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much
against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins
is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much
more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently
been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to
Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first
being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more
easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another"
In 400 AD Augustine elaborated upon both the idea of imputed guilt and
infant baptism. And it's Augustine's opinion that made its way into
Luther and Calvinists denominations along with Catholicism. Augustine
based his conjecture upon a misreading of the second
part of Romans chapter 5, along with the unjust idea of guilt by
association justified by the heresy of traducianism whereby a person is
viewed not a separate individual, but rather a compilation of the souls
of their ancestors. Heresy based on heresy. That pretty much summarizes
the theology of post-Biblical Christianity.
The idea of imputed guilt is embraced by Catholics, Lutherans and
Calvinists. This in contrast to, for example, the Baptist view of
Original Sin whereby it wasn't the guilt but the sinful nature was
transmitted to Adam's offspring, and in which one was guilty only when
one acted upon the influence of the sinful nature in committing personal
Historically all of those who embraced the heresy of imputed guilt
also believed in the heretical practice of infant baptism. Though in
modern times there are Calvinists who don't practice infant baptism. But
in the 1500's infant baptism was considered such an essential doctrine
that Calvinists, including John Calvin, would involve themselves in
murdering those who didn't believe in infant baptism, like the
Catholics and Lutherans viewed infant baptism as dealing with an
escape from the guilt of original sin. Calvinists didn't view it that
way, but rather as a new form of Circumcision, which under the Mosaic
Law was applied to infants. And that along with the idea, not unlike
that of the heresy of Traducianism, that being born of Christian parents
automatically makes you part of the "Church" and thus babies were
baptized as members of the Church.
Very early on, the bread of communion became known as "the eucharist"
which became an idol. The basis of such is the idea that, according to
Catholicism, Christ in reality inhabits the wafer and given the deity of
Christ, the wafer becomes treated like the god of Catholicism. The
practice is much in line with what the Bible says of idolatry.
Isa 2:8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.
Part of the Catholic Mass involves Catholics saying about the Eucharist, "Accept this offering made by our hands"
Not only the Eucharist, but Catholics worship statues and crucifixes.
The Queen of Heaven?
Many Catholics refer to Mary as "the
Queen of Heaven".
"She has been appointed by God
to be the Queen of heaven and earth", Pius IX, 1854
Oh yes, the Bible does refer to the "Queen of
Heaven". Mary worshipers are like the people Jeremiah spoke of saying,
"The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women
the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They
pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger." Jeremiah
Pope Benedict XV, in 1918 - "Mary suffered with Christ and nearly
with Him when He died, thus she may rightly be said to have redeemed
human race with Christ."
Pope Pius XI, in 1923 - "The virgin of sorrows shared the work of
with Jesus Christ."
Pope Leo XIII, in 1891 "No one can approach Christ except through
Bishop of Asti: 'the dogma of the singular privilege granted by the
Divine Redeemer to His pure mother, the Co-redemptress of the world.'
Bishop of Gallipoli wrote, 'the human race, whom the Son of God,
her, redeemed; whom, together with Him, she herself co-redeemed.'
Pope John Paul II "Membership in the Militia means complete
to the Kingdom of God and to the salvation of souls through Mary
Pope Benedict XV: "One can justly say that with Christ, she herself
St. Germanus: "No one is saved but through Mary."
Pope Pius IX: "Our salvation is based upon the holy Virgin..."
Veneration of Saints
Not only Mary was idolized but both Catholics and Orthodox worshiped
historic Christian celebrities. The Orthodox worship icons made in the
image of old Christian celebrities whom they pray to in order to get
what they want. Catholics make statues of such people and pay homage to
them. It's all in line with their idolatrous practices.
the many techniques to insulate themselves from scrutiny and propagate
their heresies, Catholicism employed illiteracy. By making people
illiterate, taking the Bible away from them and making the "Mass" to be
in Latin, people became ignorant of what the Bible actually said. So the
religious elite could replace the Bible with their own ideas.
in Jesus day people were literate. It was not extraordinary that a
carpenter's son would be able to read the scriptures. "He
went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day
he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read." Luke 4:16 Children
were taught not only to read but memorize scripture. And both in
Judaism and in first Century Christianity ordinary people would stand up
and be welcomed to comment upon the scriptures in the synagogue and
churches. How things have changed! Catholicism introduce the idea that
only an elite few can speak. A practiced continued among Protestants as
The "Dark Ages" was characterized by illiteracy.
the introduction of the printing press Catholicism could no longer
suppress literacy. So they just indoctrinated people into the idea that
only the Catholic elite could understand the Bible and avoid the
populace from viewing the Bible. (Note that the Reformation started the
same time as the printing press)
to today, Catholics are largely ignorant of the Bible, being taught
that only the religious elite Catholic officials can understand it, and
so they should rely on them to interpret the Bible for them. So why read
it? Catholics have no reason to read the Bible as they are
indoctrinated like a bunch of mindless drones with the idea that they
will not understand it.
The Reformation of the 1500's contained two major branches - Lutheran
and Calvinist. In some ways these two differ significantly.
Luther advocated justification by faith apart from works, as Paul taught in Romans and Galatians.
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited
to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does
not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited
as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the
blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from
Catholics typically object to this phrase used by Luther, but in fact
they have little basis for such an objection in light of the faith that
justification being a free gift, the sole requirement being faith apart
from works as the Bible clearly state in many places such as Eph 2:8,9
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not
from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can
Not only so, but as Catholics make much of their
theological Church "fathers", they seem to overlook their writings on
The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone:
before circumcision, the text says, “Abraham believed God, and credit
for it brought him to righteousness.” Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82,
Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 27.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic
University of America Press, 1990), p. 167.
“And this he removes, with great skill and prudence, turning
their argument against themselves, and showing that those who relinquish
the Law are not only not cursed, but blessed; and they who keep it, not
only not blessed but cursed. They said that he who kept not the Law was
cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept
it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was
cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed.
And how does he prove all this? for it is no common thing which we have
promised; wherefore it is necessary to give close attention to what
follows.” NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Commentary on Galatians, 3:8.
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384)
commenting upon 1 Cor. 1:4b [Open in Logos Bible Software (if
available)] : “God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can
be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of
sins.” Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New
Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,
1999), p. 6.
Oecumenius (6th century),
“Abraham is the image of someone who is justified by faith alone, since
what he believed was credited to him as righteousness. But he is also
approved because of his works, since he offered up his son Isaac on the
altar. Of course he did not do this work by itself; in doing it, he
remained firmly anchored in his faith, believing that through Isaac his
seed would be multiplied until it was as numerous as the stars.” Gerald
Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament,
Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity
Press, 2000), p. 33.
on Romans 10:3: “God justifies by faith alone.” (Deus ex sola fide justificat). In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.
Thus very clearly Catholicism had abandoned the gospel and by the time
of the Reformation Catholicism was about as far from Biblical
Christianity as was Islam.
Reading the Bible Changed the World
Much as Catholicism had taken away the Bible from the people so they
could replace it with their own heretical ideas, they neglected to
consider what would happen if one of their own read the scriptures with
integrity and in the fear of God. The Reformation started with Luther,
as a Catholic Monk, reading the Bible, and in particular the book of
Galatians and found that Catholicism was incompatible with Biblical
Christianity on a number of points. This may have led to nothing had it
not been for the printing press. Word got out, and the Christendom was
Luther's main contribution was returning to the belief in
justification by faith apart from works. But he still held on to some of
the trappings of Catholicism, such as imputed guilt, infant baptism,
and the eucharist not being symbolic but containing the reality of
Christ's presence. That is, Luther continued on the Catholic tradition
of sacramental theology. Regarding Free Will, Luther spoke of the
presalvation bondage of the will. But after a person comes to faith they
have free will and with that free will they can chose to lose their
salvation. Thus Luther didn't believe in Eternal Security.
Calvin didn't believe in salvation by faith, but rather salvation by a
pre-birth election by God. That is people were born either predestined
for eternal life or predestined for eternal damnation, and not choice or
circumstance would change their faith. Thus Calvinism is a fatalistic
religion. God sees to it that those predestined for eternal life end up
hearing and believing the gospel, but not as a matter of choice. God
controls such things in puppet like fashion. There is no free will in
Calvinism. Faith doesn't save but rather reveals one's elect status.
Along with these heresies Calvin also taught that one is born of God
prior to coming to faith in Christ, which is contrary to scriptures such
as Gal 3:26 and John 1:11-13. And Calvin continued the Augustinian tradition of advocating imputed guilt and infant baptism.
Though there's an interesting tweek to the concept of justice under
the puppet theology of Calvinism. For given that people are merely
puppets having no free will, then throwing them into hell is not a
matter of justice but simply a matter of God's arbitrary whim as one may
throw away a toy. And this can be seen in Jonathan Edwards famous
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". Though one wonders what God
could be angry about as under Calvinism he's the puppet master. By
Edwards speaks of people being dangled over the fires of hell like one
would dangle a spider over a fire. Is it because of a matter of justice
that the spider is treated in such a manner? No, it's just because it's
disgusting. So under Calvinism God doesn't send people to hell as a
matter of justice, but rather because he's simply disgusted with them.
Taken in this light it seems Calvinism is not much of an improvement over Catholicism
These also came out of the Reformation. Their main point was
believers baptism as opposed to infant baptism. And for that one issue
they were highly persecuted from all sides. But in terms of their
theology, their soteriology, how they otherwise differed from Lutherans
and Calvinists, it is difficult to speak of Anabaptist theology because
they resisted any attempt to formulate either doctrine or creedal
declarations, though from what can be determined they were free will
advocates in opposition to Calvinism. And Robert Friedmann who
wrote on the anabaptists says, "A forensic view of grace, in which
the sinner is forgiven and undeservedly justified, is simply
unacceptable to the existential faith of the Anabaptists", which if true means that anabaptists didn't believe the gospel.
Baptists came about in the 1600's. They were basically Calvinists who
didn't believe in infant baptism. However because of the emphasis on
personal interpretation of scripture, over time Baptist theology
evolved. Also other sects came from Baptists - Adventists and then 7th
Day Adventists and others.
The Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was Catholicism's reaction to the Reformation.
Statements like the following make clear Catholic's position on a number
.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified;
in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in
order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not
in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement
of his own will; let him be anathema.
Compare with above with what Paul said in Romans 4:5 "to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness"
Thus the Catholic church anathemas the apostle Paul.
.-If any one saith, that the man
who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the
commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed
the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without
the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.
Compare to Romans 4:6-8 David
also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes
righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds
are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the
LORD shall not impute sin." Or Rom 3:20-22 "Therefore
no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law;
rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a
righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which
the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes
through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
.-If any one saith, that the
justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through
good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of
Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him
Catholicism views works as not the fruit or sign of one's
justification, but the cause of it. They believe in justification by
faith + works.
.-If any one saith, that, after
the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner
the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out
in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to
be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before
the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him
Compare again to Rom 4:6-8 above and to Jesus who said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" John 5:24
Catholicism rejects the Biblical concept of forgiveness and advocates
the idea that one must be punished for their sins in order to be saved.
Just as with regards to the gospel of James, Catholicism is contrary to Paul's gospel.
Indeed on many levels Catholicism is so far from Biblical Christianity
that one questions whether it could be even called a sect of
Where were the Real Christians?
Rom 9:27 Isaiah cries out
concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand
by the sea, only the remnant will be saved."
Christendom is like Israel. It's filled with a multitude of people
who call themselves "Christian", but among whom few will be saved. An in
light of the fact that to be a Biblical Christian one needs access to
the scriptures, there may not have been a single saint at all between
500 AD to the 1500's. And after the Reformation, as I noted, the
popular theologies were heretical. But due to the printing press, many
more people had access to the scriptures, and so I have little doubt
that there were pockets of saints.
Wesley and Finney
Living in the 18th Century John Wesley started the Methodist
church. He was against Calvinism and his emphasis was on holiness and in
the achieving of a state of perfect sanctification. To me Wesley was
significant in Christian history for being both the originator of modern
Charismatism and the originator of the idea of the concept of the dual
class system among Christians. That is, many modern Evangelicals,
including Charismatics view "real" Christians as divided into two
classes. First class Christians, being in some sense spiritually
superior to Second class Christians.
Charles Finney came along in the 19th Century. He also focused
on holiness, but in a more legalistic sense than Wesley. Finney I view
as kind of the origin of UPC Pentecostalism with its legalistic viewpoint.
It was a legalistic version of Arminian theology in which a person loses salvation
each time they sin, and which incorporates rituals in much the same sense
as the legalists in the New Testament incorporated them. Among them are
Holiness groups which deny having a sinful nature and deny sinning at all.
John Wesley argued against such groups. In his paper "On Sin in Believers"
he mentions "many well-meaning men, particularly those under the direction
of the late Count Zinzendorf, ran into another; affirming, that
"all true believers are not only saved from the dominion of sin, but from
the being of inward as well as outward sin, so that it no longer remains
in them:" And from them, about twenty years ago, many of our countrymen
imbibed the same opinion, that even the corruption of nature is no more,
in those who believe in Christ." And Wesley goes on to affirm that sin
remains in us, but doesn't reign in us.
But Wesley differs from Traditional Arminian Theology in his view of
Perfectionism, leading his theology to be only a shade different from the
Legalistic Arminian theology (of Finney for example), and as such is perhaps
not the best example of Traditional Arminian Theology.
|"But can Christ be in the same heart where sin is?" Undoubtedly
he can; otherwise it never could be saved therefrom. Where the sickness
is, there is the Physician,
Carrying on his work within,
Striving till he cast out sin.
Christ indeed cannot reign, where sin reigns; neither will he dwell
where any sin is allowed. But he is and dwells in the heart of every believer,
who is fighting against all sin; although it be not yet purified, according
to the purification of the sanctuary.
However Wesley does teach perfectionism, interpreting 1John 3:9 to
mean that those born of God never commit any acts of sin, this being an
effect of the new birth. (This goes beyond Calvinism, which interprets
the verse merely to refer to the person's overall lifestyle) Wesley
does expect perfect behavior, but not as a condition for salvation, but
rather as an effect of salvation. However his concept of perfectionism
allows for sins of ignorance and "mistakes" or "errors in judgment".
(Sounds like a fudge to me)
"Christians are saved in this world from all sin, from all unrighteousness;
that they are now in such a sense perfect, as not to commit sin, and to
be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers." John Wesley
This cannot be directly labeled "legalism" as it's speaking of the effect
rather than the cause of our salvation. However it seems to me that under
this system, much like in Finneyism, a person would be reckoned unsaved
if they commit any act of sin, or any evil thought or evil temper.
|"It certainly cannot be true, that God accepts and justifies the
sinner in his sins."
"the penitent soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted
consecration continues. If he falls from his first love into the spirit
of self-pleasing, he falls again into bondage to sin and to the law, is
condemned, and must repent and do his "first work," must return to Christ,
and renew his faith and love, as a condition of his salvation."
"Whenever he sins, he must, for the time being, cease to be holy.
This is self-evident. Whenever he sins, he must be condemned; he must incur
the penalty of the law of God ... If it be said that the precept is still
binding upon him, but that with respect to the Christian, the penalty is
forever set aside, or abrogated, I reply, that to abrogate the penalty
is to repeal the precept, for a precept without penalty is no law. It is
only counsel or advice. The Christian, therefore, is justified no longer
than he obeys, and must be condemned when he disobeys or Antinomianism
is true ... In these respects, then, the sinning Christian and the unconverted
sinner are upon precisely the same ground."
For Finney perfect behavior is a condition for salvation and this
even includes a complete awareness of one's sinfulness.
"If there is sin in such a case as this (ignorance), it lies in the
fact, that the soul neglects to know what it ought to know. But it should
always be understood that the sin lies in this neglect to know, and not
in the neglect of that of which we have no knowledge. Entire obedience
is inconsistent with any present neglect to know the truth; for such neglect
Finney's Inconsistent Position
Finney is perhaps not the ideal person to pin down as a legalistic Arminian.
For he has not taken a consistent position on these matters. On the one
hand Finney believes that a Christian can lose their salvation if they
sin. But on the other hand he believes in the Calvinistic concept of the
Perseverance of the Saints, which implies Eternal Security. He says,
"Another effect of gospel justification is to ensure sanctification.
It not only insures all the means of sanctification, but the actual accomplishment
of the work so that the individual who is truly converted will surely
persevere in obedience till he is fitted for heaven and actually saved."
Logically if we combine this statement with those above it appears that
Finney's position is that once a person is "truly converted" they will
no longer commit any act of sin, conscious or unconscious. For he previously
said that if a person sins then they are no longer justified. If such a
person were to die at that point they would go to hell.
Furthermore Finney also claims to preach "perpetual justification",
which is a complete contradiction of his other position! He says, "...
God never changes his mind when once he undertakes the salvation of a soul.
I know that this is thought by some to be a very dangerous doctrine, to
teach that believers are perpetually justified - because, say they, it
will embolden men to sin."
He speaks of this perpetual justification in the context of Christians
actually sinning. Finney writes, "If he sins, now, he is not thrust
back again under the law but receives the benefit of the new covenant.
If he is justified by faith and so made a child of God, he receives the
treatment of a child and is corrected and chastised and humbled and brought
Which is it Finney? Are Christians perpetually justified inspite of
their sinning, or do the "truly converted" never actually sin at all and
thus that is not even an issue?
These kind of inherent contradictions are due to a basic flaw in his
theology. And so also with Wesley.
Wesley's Error of Perfectionism
The problem even with Wesley's theology is that if sinlessness is an effect
of salvation, then such a person born of God would certainly never fall
away. For falling away is the worst of sins. But Wesley believes one can
be unborn of God. He says, for example,
It is plain, in fact, that those whom we cannot deny to
have been truly born of God, (the Spirit of God having given us in his
word this infallible testimony concerning them,) nevertheless, not only
could, but did, commit sin, even gross, outward sin. They did transgress
the plain, known laws of God, speaking or acting what they knew he had
"those who were made the children of God by baptism, but
are now the children of the devil, may yet again receive power to become
the sons of God; that they may receive again what they have lost, even
the Spirit of adoption. Amen, Lord Jesus! May every one who prepareth his
heart yet again to seek thy face, receive again that Spirit of adoption,
and cry out, Abba, Father! Let him now again have power so to believe in
thy name as to become a child of God; as to know and feel he hath redemption
in thy blood, even the forgiveness of sins; and that he "cannot commit
sin, because he is born of God."
So in Wesley's theology one bounces in and out of being born of God each
time one sins. He contradicts himself saying at one point that those born
of God do not commit any acts of sin, but here admitting that they do!
But let me point out a more obvious contradiction:
In his sermon on Christian Perfectionism Wesley responds to counter
argument that King David sinned by simply pointing out that it was a different
dispensation and so David should not be equated with Christian in this
we cannot measure the privileges of real Christians by those
formerly given to the Jews. Their "ministration," (or dispensation,) we
allow "was glorious;" but ours "exceeds in glory." [2 Cor. 3:7-9] So that
whosoever would bring down the Christian dispensation to the Jewish standard,
whosoever gleans up the examples of weakness, recorded in the Law and the
Prophets, and thence infers that they who have "put on Christ" [Gal. 3:27]
are endued with no greater strength, doth greatly err, neither "knowing
the Scriptures, nor the power of God." [Matt. 22:29]
But in his sermon on 1John 3:9 he tries to prove that this verse doesn't
mean that sinlessness is inevitable or permanent by pointing out that King
David sinned and therefore implies that David should be equated with a
Christian! The contradictions come up because he's trying to reject Eternal
Security, or more precisely the concept of the Perseverance of the Saints,
and yet embrace perfectionism. It can't be done.
Furthermore if one's sin has an effect on their salvation status, they
cannot claim to ever having been saved from sin. Wesley appears ambiguous
to me on this issue, and I can only guess that his actual position is that
one is only potentially saved from sin, having been born of God. That is
that he is given the power to overcome sin, but if he fails to do so, such
a person loses his salvation. But that ties a person's performance to his
justification and not simply to his sanctification. It sounds like a works
based salvation system. Though Wesley may claim that salvation is lost
only by faith, and that sin is just a reflection or effect of the loss
of faith. But when he describes the loss of salvation he puts the loss
of faith third saying:
First, into negative, inward sin, not "stirring up the gift of
God which was in him," not "watching unto prayer," not "pressing on to
the mark of the prize of his high calling:"
Then, into positive inward sin, inclining to wickedness with
his heart, giving way to some evil desire or temper:
Next, he lost his faith, his sight of a pardoning God, and consequently
his love of God; and, being then weak and like another man, he was capable
of committing even outward sin.
So it was a giving into inward sin which Wesley sees as first cause and
then the loss of faith, though outward sin follows. Thus under Wesley's
model a person can maintain their salvation status by not giving into inward
sin. Loss of faith is secondary to maintaining one's salvation status.
Wesley is even more explicit on this point saying,
To give a clear and incontestable answer to a question which
has frequently perplexed many who were sincere of heart. "Does sin precede
or follow the loss of faith?" Does a child of God first commit sin, and
thereby lose his faith? Or does he lose his faith first, before he can
commit sin?" I answer, Some sin of omission, at least, must necessarily
precede the loss of faith; some inward sin: But the loss of faith must
precede the committing outward sin.
Though I think the positive inward sin he spoke of previously should be
categorized as a sin of commission, which also precedes loss of faith under
his theology. Finney is more explicitly legalistic.
As for the Legalistic Arminians, aspects of their gospel may be likened
to that of the circumcision and that of the self-righteous Jewish religious
The Great Missionary Movement of the Late 1800's
Because of their fatalistic philosophy Calvinists took a back seat
when it came to evangelism. But with the rise of Free Will
Anti-Calvinist sects came to rise of missions. That is the idea that
people have free will to believe or disbelieve the gospel rather than
their destiny being predetermined. William Carey, a Baptist minister,
was arguably the founder of modern missions. At a ministers'
meeting in 1787, Carey raised the question of whether it was the duty of
all Christians to spread the Gospel throughout the world. A Calvinist
is said to have retorted: "Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine."
While revived through Wesley and Finney, Charismatism
had its origin in Monatism in the late second century. It's all about
one's experience, personal inspiration and hypothesizes that one's own
words is the Word of God. In fact adherents to Monatism used to refer to
it as the New Prophecy,
Pentecostals are the general category of modern
Charismatic sects, such as Assemblies of God. Along with being
anti-Calvinist and rejecting the concept of Eternal Security, the
highlight of modern Charismatism is its conjecture of the Baptism of the
Holy Spirit being a "second experience" empowering one for ministry,
evidenced by speaking in tongues and not the same as receiving the Holy
Spirit upon conversion. For them if you've only been converted, you're a
second class Christian. But if you've gone on to receive the
Charismatic version of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, you're a first
class Christian and allowed to do ministry if you speak in tongues. For
example a friend of my attended a Charismatic church briefly, but was
not allowed to do ministry there because he didn't speak in tongues.
Consequently Charismatics tend to have a shallow
religious elitism, being based simply upon a sign that one can easily
fabricate by babbling and yet reckoning themselves holier and
spiritually superior to other Christians. Much can be learned from the
book of 1Corinthians in which much of the subject matter was Paul
criticizing the Corinthians for inflating the gift of tongues above that
of more constructive gifts like teaching. And even in the context of
validating the diversity of spiritual gifts says,
"in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets,
third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of
healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration,
and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are
all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have
gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" 1Cor 12:28-30
Clearly showing that tongues is just one of the many gifts and not to
be inflated above others. And where he goes from there into chapter 13
shows that love and humility is rather deficient in the Charismatic
community with their elitist dogma.
The United Pentecostal Church
This is one of the sects of Pentecostalism. But I separate them out for their particular heresies, the main being
- They believe that the ability to speak in tongues is a necessary indication of a valid religious conversion. This as opposed to other Charismatic sects which view it as only in indicator of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- They along with the "Oneness Pentecostals" reject the Trinity.
- They believe you have to get wet to get saved, water baptism being viewed as a condition for salvation.
UPC is particularly heretical among the Charismatic sects.
Free Grace Evangelicals
Having its origin in Antinomianism of old, Free Grace Theology
is the idea:
- That "Faith in Christ" means faith in Christ as Savior, but accepting Christ as Lord is optional.
- related to which is also the misconception concerning Rev 3:20 - inviting Christ into your life.
- That the faith that is acceptable to God for salvation is a shallow non-application oriented mental assent to ideas.
- That repentance is viewed simply a "change of mind" without necessarily any intention to change one's behavior
- That there is not necessarily any correlation between a person's behavior and their salvation status
the object of faith is one's own assurance of salvation, and thus one
should never doubt or question whether they are saved or not.
Grace" theology sees a distinction between the New Testament
expressions "entering the kingdom" (being saved) and "inheriting the
kingdom" (reigning). Related to this, Free Grace theology incorporates
various versions of a purgatory scenario.
Their fundamental flaw is rejecting the concept of the power regeneration has. (1John 3:9
In fact they basically ignore what John teaches throughout 1John about
the correlation between behavior and regeneration and misread much of
Paul's writings concerning characteristically sinful Christian not being
Typical of many modern sects, Free Grace theology advocates dual class
citizenship in the Kingdom, first class Christians being spiritual,
overcomers, while second class Christians are unspiritual, not filled
with the Spirit, overcome by the world.
There are a variety of sects among the Free Gracers distinguished by,
among other things, their Purgatorial viewpoint, from a mild form of
characteristically sinful Christians being subjects of the kingdom
rather than ruling the kingdom, which is reserved for the first class
Christians, to the more extreme view point of the Free Grace sect of
Watchman Nee's Local Church, or the "Recovery Movement", in which the
second class Christians are thrown into hell fire for the 1000 year
millenial kingdom, for their sins which had not been forgiven.
"The Gospel of God, Volume 3" pg 443, Watchman Nee says:
a person has become a Christian but his hands or feet sin all the time,
he will suffer the punishment of the eternal fire in the kingdom of the
heavens. He will not suffer this punishment eternally, but will suffer
it only in the age of the kingdom"
There are many sects which refer to themselves as
"non-denominational". Some tend to be a denomination unto themselves.
Others are characterized by toleration of differences. I attended one of
those for many years and noted both Free Gracers and Calvinists among
their ranks, even among the elders. What I notice they do is simply
avoid any topics which conflict between Calvinism and Free Grace. 1 was
asked to teach a Sunday School class on 1John and consequently was banned from that church for
doing so, not compromising the truth to tolerate heresies. I was also
banned from another free grace non-denominational church when I first
introduced myself and told them my views of free grace theology.
As I see it all institutional churches are anti-Berean in that they refuse any scrutiny of their denomination.