The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What Does the New Pope Mean for Protestants?

By: Andrew Gilhooley

Last week, Cardinal Bergoglio of the Jesuit order from Argentina was elected to the Pontificate in Rome and took on the name Pope Francis I. This was an important event for the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics throughout the world; but what does it mean for Protestants? Does the fact that a new Pope is enthroned in the Roman See have any importance or significance for the sons of the Reformation? Before answering such a question, it is essential to first briefly discuss the Roman Catholic teaching concerning the papacy’s foundation and its evolution throughout history.

Peter and the Papacy

Traditional Roman Catholic dogma teaches that Jesus declared He would build His church upon the Apostle Peter (Matt.16.17-19). Following this, Roman Catholics then claim that Peter spent a quarter-century in Rome where he founded the Church of Rome and presided as bishop over it, thus being the first Pope. Furthermore, Roman Catholics assert that Peter bequeathed his papal authority to the succeeding Bishop of Rome; and since then there has been an unbroken line of Roman bishops who possess the papal authority of Peter passed down to them from previous generations.

These claims of Roman Catholicism listed above concerning Peter and the papacy are anti-biblical, ahistorical, and possess no validity. Firstly, the claim that Jesus declared He would build His church upon the Apostle Peter is a false interpretation of Matthew 16.17-19. In this text, Jesus is not stating that the church will be built upon the person and authority of Peter, but rather that the church will be built upon the confession of Peter, as found in Matthew 16.13-16. Secondly, there is no biblical or historical evidence that even suggests Peter presided over the Roman church as bishop, nor is there evidence that our Lord Jesus Christ imputed to Peter special papal authority which was to be passed down throughout generations. There are a plethora of other arguments against Roman Catholic claims concerning Peter and the papacy, but these will suffice.

A Brief History of the Papacy

The Roman See rose in prominence in the post-Nicene era due to its situation in the ancient, grand, and splendorous city of Rome. While Emperor Constantine moved the Roman Empire’s capital to Constantinople in 330 AD, the city of Rome was still held in high esteem due to its geographic situation, political importance, and reputation for doctrinal and moral probity; and therefore the Roman See warranted great respect from the surrounding churches. Over the centuries, this esteem from the churches eventually led to the idea that the Roman See held ecclesiastical predominance; and as a result, the Bishops of Rome began making bold claims to authority.

As centuries waxed, the Roman See became so bold in its claims to authority that eventually a schism ensued after years of confrontation in 1054 between the Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) churches. The East refused to submit to the papacy and later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, while the West continued in its submission to the papacy and has since been distinctly referred to as the Roman Catholic Church.

By the thirteenth century, the term ‘Vicar of Christ’ became commonly used in reference to the Pope—the blasphemous notion that the Pope is the visible head of the Church on earth and acts for and in the place of Christ with His authority. To support this claim, Rome perversely interpreted sundry texts such as Matthew 16.19 to mean that the Pope—Peter’s supposed successor—owned the keys of heaven and that God’s will was made manifest by his decrees.

It was also during the thirteenth century that the papacy rose to its zenith under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), who claimed supreme authority over the entire Church and even over all of Europe’s kings. By this time, the papal office had abandoned all cares in regards to spiritual matters and instead directed all their efforts toward the increase of their power, wealth, and glory. The papal office was not only diabolically corrupted in regards to authority, but also in regards to morality. The popes disregarded every aspect of God’s moral law to such a degree that they were even often publically recognized to be the fathers of numerous illegitimate children. They were idolaters, murderers, adulterers, thieves, and led the church in perverted religion.

From the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, the papacy steered the Roman Catholic Church almost into complete idolatry and apostasy with the fervent worship of Mary, superstitious ceremonial rites, indulgences, and many other atrocious practices contrary to true religion. The gospel of free grace in Jesus Christ which is received by faith alone was buried in the sands of time and the Holy Scriptures were locked away in the basements of the Vatican. Many priests were not even literate and most had never read the Bible.

In the sixteenth century, the Lord raised up a German monk named Martin Luther who began the greatest religious movement in the history of the world: the Reformation. He denied the authority of the papacy and the superstitious religion of Rome; and by the grace of God recovered the lost doctrine of ‘Justification by Faith Alone.’ God raised up men such as Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox who followed in Luther’s steps and devoted their lives to the recovery of the Gospel and true religion which the papacy and Roman Catholic Church had almost completely obliterated.

By the seventeenth century, the papacy lost the majority of its sway over the West and was devastated due to the Reformation; and as a reaction convened the Council of Trent (1545-1563), whose canons and decrees condemned the Reformation and anathematized any person or institution that refused to submit to Rome. The clincher which resulted in the complete apostasy of the papacy and Roman Catholic Church was the anathematization of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone at Trent:
“If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification . . . let him be anathema” (Canon Nine of the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent).

Every Pope from the Council of Trent to the present day has upheld the council’s heretical canons and decrees.


Now back to my original question: Does that fact that a new Pope is enthroned in the Roman See have any importance or significance for those of us following in the tradition of the Reformation? By looking at the biblical and historical evidence, the answer is clear: no. Firstly, as explained earlier, the papacy has no biblical (or even historical) warrant to authority, and therefore Christians are not required to submit to any institution that God has not ordained. Secondly, the Pope is not the head of the church as he claims to be, but rather our Lord Jesus Christ is (Col.1.18; Eph.1.22); and neither is the Pope or any other man the Vicar of Christ, and therefore no Christian is required to submit to his authority. Thirdly, the Pope is the head of an apostate institution that upholds the heretical decrees and canons of the Council of Trent which deny the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore no Christian ought to submit themselves to such a pagan who denies true religion and possesses no authority from heaven above.

In summation, the papacy is the most perverted, idolatrous, and blasphemous office in the history of the church and is in complete opposition to Christ, the Gospel, proper worship, and true religion; and therefore the only thing that the election of Cardinal Bergoglio to the Pontificate means to Protestants is: the world’s largest pagan cult and apostate institution has yet another leader. I end with statements from Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and the Westminster Confession of Faith:

"The pope and his crew are mere worshippers of idols, and servants of the devil, with all their doings and living; for he regards not at all God’s Word, nay, condemns and persecutes it, and directs all his juggling to the drawing us away from the true faith in Christ. He pretends great holiness, under color of the outward service of God, for he has instituted orders with hoods, with shavings, fasting, eating of fish, saying mass, and such like: but in the groundwork, `tis altogether the doctrine of the devil.” –Martin Luther

"It [is] far better to not be a Christian than to think Popery to be Christianity, for it is one of the vilest forms of idolatry that ever came from the polluted heart of man!" –Charles Spurgeon

“There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ (Col.1.18; Eph.1.22). Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof (Matt.23.8-10; 1 Pet.5.2-4); but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God (2 Thess.2.3-4,8-9; Rev.13.6)” –Westminster Confession of Faith 25.6

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Forgiveness Needed Even After Salvation

By: Thomas Fletcher Booher

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16). Those who crucified Jesus were cut to the heart after Peter told them that Jesus was Lord and Christ, which prompted them to ask Peter what they should do, to which he replied, "repent" (Acts 2:37-38). When we were saved, it was because we heard the gospel, and understood that we were sinners, and we felt guilt and shame. We saw the sinfulness of ourselves, and we didn't want the stain of sin any longer, so we received the good news of the gospel with gladness and trusted in Christ for salvation. 

My question is one of sanctification. If we are saved by first responding to the gospel with conviction of sin, with feelings of guilt and shame, only to have it all washed away by Christ, shouldn't we return to this again and again in order to grow as believers? Surely the more we feel in our hearts the sins our hands commit and our minds conceive the more we will repent of our sins afresh and cling more tightly to Christ. In my experience, the most sanctifying moments have been when I have seen my sin in a powerful way, so powerful that I am convinced the Holy Spirit was being extra gracious to me. This occurred in high school once, where for many months I had been living to get revenge on my ex-girlfriend who broke my heart and slandered me. It took a phone call from the girl's mother to my mother and the sorrow that my mother had because of my wickedness for me to see how nasty and wretched I really was. I was a wicked, wicked man. And I still am. I remember breaking down into tears, sobbing into my Dad's shoulder repeating over and over, "I am a horrible person. I am a horrible person." I was. And I still am. 

Seeing my sin was the the Spirit sanctifying me. Seeing my sin and sobbing like a baby was the beginning of healing. If we are to tell unbelievers out of love that they are wicked sinners who deserve the wrath of God, we better keep preaching to ourselves that we are wicked sinners who deserve the wrath of God, and we better be looking at the sin that remains in us and take great pains to see our sins as heinously as possible. Why? Because in reality they are more heinous to God than we can possibly imagine. 

Some, even in reformed circles, seem to advise avoiding this at all costs. They seem to jump to the gospel and would have you suppress your feelings of guilt and shame, saying its all been done away with by the blood of Christ and thus guilt and shame are unnecessary, even wrong. This, I want to say, is a dangerous teaching, and the way it is expressed I simply do not believe is biblical. 

It is true that once we are in Christ we are a new creation, and in Christ we are free from the wrath of God. This is because God punished His Son in our place, to save us and redeem us from sin unto good works for Himself. It remains true, however, that when we commit sin we are the guilty party, and we should feel guilty. Otherwise, how could we ever repent of our sins to those we have sinned against? More importantly, how could we ever repent and confess our sins to God again and ask for His forgiveness? In Christ we are forgiven, but the fact remains that we are commanded to confess our sins, even as Christians (1 John 1:9). I believe, in some sense, when we confess our sins even as believers, we experience actual forgiveness afresh. Not salvific forgiveness, we already have that and cannot lose that. Rather, it is the forgiveness that I need every time I sin against my wife, and the forgiveness she needs every time she sins against me. We are already in covenant with one another, and our sins do not negate our love for one another. Our sin does not undo the covenant, but it does create a breach in the covenantal relationship, which ought to be repaired. When I repent to my wife, when I confess my sins against her, she will forgive me, she will pardon my unrighteousness. So there is a pardoning of unrighteousness even within the covenant of marriage, and I would argue, since it reflects Christ and the Church, within the New Covenant written in the blood of Christ as well. 

We should take pains not to sin against others, how much more so God. We should take pains to eradicate even little sins against one another, how much more so God. Marriage has helped me see this even more. The peccadillos I commit on a regular basis are brought into focus when committed against my wife, who I am constantly around, who is bound to see me when I am not feeling well, when I am in bad moods, when I am not trying to keep up righteous appearances in the public eye to maintain a reputation. This may be impatience, this may be rudeness, this may be selfishness on a small scale, but you begin to see how wicked these sins are when you commit them against your wife whom you have chosen to love sacrificially. You also begin to see how often you commit them. Sometimes, I still miss the sins I commit against her, and after a while she tells me and is upset. This, when I am not hardening my heart, convicts me. It makes me feel guilty. I feel ashamed. And what do I do? I repent, and she forgives me, because she loves me and is gracious to me, and has promised never to leave nor forsake me, though I often forsake her in the sins I commit against her. 

Do you see the connection? Jesus never sins against us, but we sin against Him. He keeps covenant by forgiving us, we keep covenant by repenting, by confessing our sins and seeking His forgiveness afresh. Up front the man and wife, in saying their vows to one another, are essentially saying they will forgive their spouse of all future sins committed against them. This is the covenant that is being made. But the forgiveness is a genuine forgiveness. The man and the wife also agree up front to repent to one another when they sin. This is what it means to love your wife and to love your husband as Christ loves the church and the church is to love Christ. So when a husband and wife forgive one another, they are not to forgive the sin until their spouse repents of the sin, because God does not forgive sin until it is repented of. Forgiveness brings about reconciliation, but if I sin against my wife and she "forgives" me without rebuking me and trying to bring me to repentance, then I am still unrepentant and have not confessed my sin so that I may be forgiven. If I am unrepentant, I am not forgiven by God, and despite what my wife may try to do and say, I am not forgiven by her either. This is because without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sins. The husband and wife are to seek out the repentance of their spouse by rebuking their sinning spouse, so that the Spirit will work on the spouse and bring them to conviction of sin and repentance. This is why we have church discipline. We don't ignore the sins and say to unrepentant members of the church "don't worry, even though you aren't repentant, we forgive you." No, they bar the table, and if the sin is serious enough and goes unrepented of long enough, disassociation may occur per 1 Cor. 5. This isn't being mean, this is being loving, because the purpose is to act as a rebuke and charge against the unrepentant church member so that he or she may see their sins and come back to the church in sorrow and repentance, so that actual forgiveness and restoration can transpire. 

There are many implications to draw from this beyond the simple fact that we should be repenting daily and striving to see how wicked we are so the Spirit can convict us of our sins and bring us afresh to genuine repentance. When we first came to Christ for salvation, we were repenting of all sins, past, present, and future. When we first came to Christ, we said we don't want to sin against Him ever again, and if we do, we will repent. Christ took us from our sins and says He will forgive us when we sin, but as He demands that we repent before He will save us, so He demands that we repent before He forgives us within the covenant as well. Again, this isn't to say that every time we sin we lose our salvation. Rather, it is to say that every time we sin we do damage to our covenantal relationship with Christ in the same way a husband and wife do damage to their covenantal relationship with each other when they sin, even though the sin doesn't create divorce and the need to be remarried. 

How is this fixed when the husband sins against the wife? By the wife forgiving the sin without attempting to bring her husband to repentance? Of course not; it is by lovingly exposing and pointing out her husband's sin to him so that he can see his sins and repent, in order that true reconciliation and forgiveness can occur. The wife is forgiving the breach in the covenant, she is not destroying the covenant by withholding forgiveness, but actually taking steps to mend it! I repeat, the forgiveness extended after repentance within man and wife marriage is not re-establishing the covenant or making a new one. This is because the wife has already promised to never leave nor forsake her husband, and ultimately to restore him (by God's grace) again and again to repentance out of love for the husband. By withholding forgiveness, not out of bitterness or spite, but out of love, and pursuing to bring her husband to repentance by rebuking him and helping him see firstly his sin against God and secondly his sin against her, the wife is actually keeping covenant. So Christ with us.      

Likewise, we must confess and repent of our sins in spirit and in truth to our Lord and Savior, to our spiritual groom, when we create tears in the covenant by the sins we commit while in covenant with Christ. The passages Scripture speaks of do not tell us that we will be saved if we do not continually repent and grow in holiness. Rather, Scripture says that those who are truly saved never shrink back permanently, but will continually persevere in the faith and grow in holiness; meaning that, like David when confronted by the prophet Nathan, we will turn from our sins at some point, repent of them, and confess them to Christ. It is good for the soul in the way that it is good for husbands and wives to repent and confess their sins to one another rather than pretend they don't have any sins against one another or to try and "forgive" their spouse even though their spouse is unrepentant- because repentance is actually needed for forgiveness to occur! So we can experience forgiveness afresh when we confess our sins to Christ our Lord and Savior, even while in covenant with Him. Is this not exactly what David was seeking from God in Psalm 51, when He pleads for God to restore the joy of his salvation? It wasn't that David had lost his salvation. Rather, he had lost the joy of salvation because he had lost some of the intimacy he had with God because of his prolonged unrepentant sin. Sin, even forgiven sin, affects us negatively. Indwelling sin affects our intimacy in our relationship with Christ as much and probably more than it affects our intimacy in our relationship with our spouse. 

This is how we draw closer to Christ. Not by ignoring our sins against Him and reassuring ourselves that Christ has already taken care of them on the cross, but by recognizing that the sins we commit in covenant with Christ now have another dimension to them. Our sins in covenant with Christ, though paid for on the cross, still affect our relationship with Christ. Does it cause Him to love us less? Never. When my wife sins against me, I do not love her less (and if/when I do, I am breaking my vows and must repent). Nevertheless, I do get upset, I do get angry, and I do wish she would not sin against me, because it creates a rift in our marital relationship. Do we seriously think that because Christ has paid for our sins on the cross that our sins we commit against Him once we are covenantally united to Him do not upset Him or hurt Him (and us) in any way? They do, and we need to repent of them, so that He can forgive us of them, and so we can have the joy of our salvation refreshed. 

To reject this is to do violence, serious violence, to our sanctification. We have a severely flawed understanding of sanctification and even salvation if we think that our sins don't affect anything once they have been paid for by Christ on the cross. Scripture teaches that we will persevere in the faith, and after persevering, we will receive final salvation. Scripture says nothing of a Christian who is unrepentant and unfaithful to the vows he or she has made when they received Christ as Lord and Savior. The difference between the old covenant and new isn't that we don't have to keep covenant but that because of the power of Christ and the working of His Spirit within us, we will keep covenant. The One who paid for our sins and kept covenant for us in respect to God the Father is the One who is working within us now, enabling and guaranteeing that we will keep covenant in respect to our new covenant and union that we have with Him. This New Covenant transcends the Old Covenant, and has a deeper demand than the old. Before Christ bought us with His blood, we had no obligations to keep covenant as a faithful spouse to Christ, for we were not His spouse, we were not in union with Him. But now we are. And in the new covenant we must be faithful spouses of Christ, living for Him, serving Him, loving Him as His bride. When we fail, we must repent and do better. We agreed to do this and wanted to do this when we said "I do" to Christ at the point of our salvation. Our confidence of salvation and covenant fidelity to Christ isn't found in saying we don't need fidelity, but rather that the mystical union is of such greatness that Christ being in us guarantees that we will continually be brought to see and feel our guilt and shame every time we sin against Christ. Then we will remember the gospel, and how Christ has paid for even these sins, and that, though He hates these sins, He loves us. 

Yes, for the saved person, Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin. He will extract it from us, but it will hurt. He hurts us because He loves us. We endure and even want the hurt because we love Him. We will look for the sin even though it hurts because we love Him more than we love ourselves, and we love Him more than we love ourselves because in Christ dying for us, He loved us more than He loved Himself and that loving Spirit is now in us! 

This is our calling in the New Covenant: to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to run from sin and cling to Christ in order to live for Him. To see the filth of our remaining sins, be disgusted and feel guilt and shame because of them, repent and believe the gospel, and experience refreshment of salvation day after day. And with that refreshment, to be inspired by the Spirit all the more to put on Christ and do good works for Him.   

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Protestant Reformation, Arminianism, And The Doctrines Of Grace

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

The Protestant Reformation and the Doctrine of Justification
Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), has its theological roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which essentially began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses (points of dispute) on the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. It was common to post such notices for public viewing. Luther’s theses were directed primarily against the Church’s practice to sell indulgences for the dead. An indulgence, it was said, satisfied the temporary punishment of purgatory[1] so that a departed loved one could be released and enter the glory of heaven.
The sale of indulgences was actually a scheme to fill the coffers of the church to fund lavish building projects. Pope Leo X (1475-1521) needed money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Pope made John Tetzel the commissioner of indulgences for Germany. Tetzel’s marketing technique included the slogan, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
With the posting of his theses, Martin Luther lit a fire that spread through Europe, and in a few years time, the Protestant Reformation was in high gear.
But Luther eventually confronted an even deeper problem.
The predominant view of the Roman Catholic Church was that through faith and works one could arrive at a state of being righteous. Luther opposed this. He believed the Bible taught that one is immediately righteous at the moment he savingly believes in Christ. He held that when a person trusts in Jesus Christ to save him from his sins through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God not only forgives that person of all their sins, but God also imputes the righteousness of Christ to him. That means that God places Christ’s righteousness on the believer’s account. Thus, when God looks upon him, He sees him as righteous as Christ is. With Christ’s righteousness having been put to his account, God the Great Judge legally declares the believer righteous, and he is thereby justified (Rom 3:20,26,28; Gal 2:16; Phil 3:9). Justification is both the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us and God’s judicial declaration that we are thereby righteous.
Justification also changes our standing before God. Before justification we are fittingly under his wrath and condemnation. But Paul writes, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” (Rom 5:1) Is there any wonder why we now have peace with God? Why we are nevermore at odds with God and the object of his anger? It is because God no longer looks upon us as vile sinners but as holy, righteous saints, as righteous as Christ is, because it is Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that He sees. Because we are at peace with God, we may “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help,” Heb 4:16 (NET).

The Reformation, Arminianism, and the Doctrines of Grace
Perhaps you have heard of the term, “The Doctrines of Grace.” Theologians[2] use it to describe certain teachings that came out of the Protestant Reformation. With the posting of the ninety-five theses by Martin Luther, the Reformation began as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church. It soon escalated to objections over certain Church dogma (official and unquestioned teachings). As the Reformation gained momentum, there arose clergy[3] within its own Protestant ranks whose doctrine (theological teachings) were questionable.
One such churchman was Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Arminius was a Dutchman whose father died early. He became an orphan at age 15 when  his mother was killed in 1575 in a Spanish massacre of Protestants. He studied theology at the University of Leiden, Netherlands. Arminius was ordained in 1588 and took a pastoral call in Amsterdam. In 1602, an outbreak of plague removed two faculty members from the University of Leiden, and in 1603 Arminius was called to fill one of the vacancies.
While a pastor, Arminius preached several sermons on Paul’s letter to the Romans, in particular, Romans 7 and 8. Through this, he developed ideas that were contrary to the mainstream theology of the Reformation. Eventually, Arminius gained a substantial following.
The Reformation theology that Arminius opposed became known as Calvinism, named after a Frenchman, John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin was a prominent theologian whose writings and sermons had a far-reaching influence over the theology not only of his day, but also of the present. That includes our own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
Arminius called for a national synod[4]  to convene and resolve the conflicts between his movement and the Calvinists. No such gathering took place, and Arminius died in 1609. His followers published the Five Articles of Remonstrance in 1610 in which Arminius’s teachings were systematically explained.
Nine years after Arminius’s death, the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) examined the Five Articles and condemned Arminius’s teachings. It also responded with what is now famously known as The Five Points of Calvinism. These five points are popularly represented in the acronym, TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints). These five points are also known as the Doctrines of Grace.
Most Methodists today are committed to Arminian theology. Free Will Churches of the ‘Bible Belt’ are also heavily influenced by Arminianism.

[1] Purgatory, according to Roman Catholic teaching (since 1033 AD), is a place of temporary punishment for small sins not fully repented of in this life, though their guilt has been eternally forgiven by God. We hold that it is an unbiblical teaching.
[2] A theologian is a person who has spent years in the formal study of theology, that is, the systematic arrangement and exposition of biblical truth.
[3] Clergy are the pastors and theologians of a religious denomination or movement.
[4] A synod is an official gathering of Church leaders to create church policy and examine theological views.