There is something healthy about returning to one’s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

Is the Reformation over?

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  • Is the Reformation over?

    Dear Friend,

    Happy Reformation Day.

    When considering the events of October 31, 1517, I take fresh courage. The Reformation was significant because it brought the truth of the gospel out of the darkness and into the light. God blessed the study and preaching of His Word in a powerful way. And if He did it then, He can do it again in our day. At Ligonier Ministries, we seek to flood the culture with knowledgeable and articulate Christian men and women who stand firm amidst great opposition.

    In the final analysis, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed at Trent and continues to affirm now that the basis by which God will declare a person just or unjust is found in one's 'inherent righteousness.' If righteousness does not inhere in the person, that person at worst goes to hell and at best (if any impurities remain in his life) goes to purgatory for a time that may extend to millions of years. In bold contrast to that, the biblical and Protestant view of justification is that the sole grounds of our justification is the righteousness of Christ, which righteousness is imputed to the believer, so that the moment a person has authentic faith in Christ, all that is necessary for salvation becomes theirs by virtue of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. The fundamental issue is this: is the basis by which I am justified a righteousness that is my own? Or is it a righteousness that is, as Luther said, 'an alien righteousness,' a righteousness that is extra nos, apart from us—the righteousness of another, namely, the righteousness of Christ? From the sixteenth century to the present, Rome has always taught that justification is based upon faith, on Christ, and on grace. The difference, however, is that Rome continues to deny that justification is based on Christ alone, received by faith alone, and given by grace alone. The difference between these two positions is the difference between salvation and its opposite. There is no greater issue facing a person who is alienated from a righteous God." —Dr. R.C. Sproul
    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Chris Larson
    Reformed Theology from R.C. Sproul: Ligonier Ministries

  • #2
    I find that the statements from the Council of Trent are often misrepresented and misunderstood.

    I also don't understand what the post has to do with the question asked in the title.

    Is the reformation over? I think anyone looking at the results logically can see how fractured the reformation has made the body of Christ. The initial fractures and divisions have only multiplied exponentially over the last 600 years into 10's of thousands different denominations and groups all claiming to have the truth, all disagreeing on one or more points with each other even on basic doctrines such as how are we saved? Are we once saved always saved or can we lose our salvation? Is baptism needed for salvation? Can infants be baptized? What is the Lord's Supper. Do believers who die go to be immediately with the Lord or are they asleep? Etc, etc, etc.

    As scriptures state, a house divided cannot stand.
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    • #3
      I find productive conversation with Catholics seldom exists.I hope this doesn't follow in such observable patterns of behavior. It is difficult when Catholics redefine terms and declare the authority of the church as the sole interpreter while dismissing sound exegesis as an opinion.

      The title of the thread is actually the title of a letter I received from Ligonier ministries. It has about as much to do with the body of the letter as a Catholic to do with the theme of a Protestant forum.

      Obviously, you feel compelled to defend Roman Catholicism, I'm curious as to whether you view Protestants as I view Catholics? I do not view Catholics as co-laborers in Christ, but rather as part of the mission field. Certainly, one of the questions that arises is whether the Roman Catholic Church's teachings are in agreement with Scripture. Nowhere does Scripture state that, in order to keep the church from error, the authority of the apostles was passed on to those they ordained (the idea behind apostolic succession). Apostolic succession is “read into” those verses that the Roman Catholic Church uses to support this doctrine (2 Timothy 2:2; 4:2-5; Titus 1:5; 2:1; 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:19-22). Paul does NOT call on believers in various churches to receive Titus, Timothy, and other church leaders based on their authority as bishops or their having apostolic authority, but rather based upon their being fellow laborers with him (1 Corinthians 16:10; 16:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23).

      What Scripture DOES teach is that false teachings would arise even from among church leaders, and that Christians were to compare the teachings of these later church leaders with Scripture, which alone is infallible (Matthew 5:18; Psalm 19:7-8; 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). The Bible does not teach that the apostles were infallible, apart from what was written by them and incorporated into Scripture. Paul, in talking to the church leaders in the large city of Ephesus, makes note of coming false teachers. To fight against their error does NOT commend them to “the apostles and those who would carry on their authority”; rather, Paul commends them to “God and to the word of His grace” (Acts 20:28-32). It is Scripture that was to be the infallible measuring stick for teaching and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17), not apostolic successors. It is by examining the Scriptures that teachings are shown to be true or false (Acts 17:10-12).

      The problem you are recognizing with Protestantism doesn't come from not having a central authority or pope but that there are actually too many popes. As for the rest of your questions, they can be discussed elsewhere in the forum.

      God bless,
      William

      Sources: Gotquestions.org
      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by thereselittleflower View Post
        I find that the statements from the Council of Trent are often misrepresented and misunderstood.

        I also don't understand what the post has to do with the question asked in the title.

        Is the reformation over? I think anyone looking at the results logically can see how fractured the reformation has made the body of Christ. The initial fractures and divisions have only multiplied exponentially over the last 600 years into 10's of thousands different denominations and groups all claiming to have the truth, all disagreeing on one or more points with each other even on basic doctrines such as how are we saved? Are we once saved always saved or can we lose our salvation? Is baptism needed for salvation? Can infants be baptized? What is the Lord's Supper. Do believers who die go to be immediately with the Lord or are they asleep? Etc, etc, etc.

        As scriptures state, a house divided cannot stand.
        There's different kinds of division. In Protestantism, division is not very divisive. Protestants tend to revere the same teachers, share the same core theology, share hymns, books, movies, culture and don't have too much actual animosity towards Christians of other opinions. In many regards, there is a true catholicity of spirit- unity in essentials, diversity in non-essentials and in all things charity- to quote Augustine.

        For example, in my own tradition it is ok to have a multitude of different "denominations" because true unity is not based on outward organisation but in unity of confession. While there are different kinds of Lutherans, those who adhere to the Confessions see themselves as united in faith but perhaps divided in organisation, whether due to geography, history or difference of opinion. The division is not seen as something that condemns the other group to Hell, for example.

        So the idea that Protestantism is merely perpetuating fracture in the Body of Christ is rather shallow. There have always been differences in the Body of Christ. But there is always unity too. Denominations join together in many ways, sometimes even organically and by and large there is respect and friendship. The political machinations that formed the RCC were in our opinion more the works of men seeking political power by enforcing a false unity than a work of God for true unity in faith and fellowship.

        Comment>

        • #5
          Originally posted by RevT View Post
          There's different kinds of division. In Protestantism, division is not very divisive.
          Even though there's not a lot of hostility between Protestant denominations, Protestantism is deeply fractured due to deeply conflicting doctrines between Protestants. And, those doctrines we're in unity on are very few. The fracturing is so deep among Protestantism that I don't really regard many modern "Protestant" churches and Protestant. Many of these new churches protest against traditional Protestant doctrine.

          With regard to Lutheran denominations, I regard the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to be apostate because of their lack of commitment to the teachings of the Bible. What good is common confession when it's just faithless ritual? The ELC violates the teachings of what any good, modern Creed would say. Then, there are the vast majority of "Protestant" churches that don't share the Lutheran confessions.

          I have no desire to defend Protestant division as only shallow, to sweep under the rug the faithlessness and perversity that is behind a growing number of doctrines held by "Protestant" churches. If someone's church didn't have a certain doctrine 200 years ago, they probably shouldn't have it now -- word to the wise.

          Comment>

          • #6
            Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
            What good is common confession when it's just faithless ritual?
            Confessions without Confessional discipline is rather worthless. And I agree with you on your point, Cornelius.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Cornelius View Post

              Even though there's not a lot of hostility between Protestant denominations, Protestantism is deeply fractured due to deeply conflicting doctrines between Protestants. And, those doctrines we're in unity on are very few.
              I agree with this but only barely. Most Protestants I know would hold to the ecumenical Creeds, and that is the bulk of Christianity. So to say that we agree on "very few" doctrines would to me be a bit of an overstatement. The difference occurs only when we flesh out those points, and the degrees of difference vary.

              However, when one lives in an internet-based reality and knows only debate and discourse, of course all they see is disunity. Forums 101.

              Having said that, sure there are things we disagree with completely. But isn't that what 1 Cor 11:19 is about?

              My point- there are divisions in Protestantism, just like every other Church movement including Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. I just live with it.

              Also- yeah the ELCA does have a few apostate congregations and a very faulty core. Using the word "apostate" might fit, but if we use that word flippantly we are ourselves in danger of violating God's commandments. I prefer heterodox or heretical in the case of the ELCA, with very small few congregations being truly apostate.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by William View Post

                Confessions without Confessional discipline is rather worthless. And I agree with you on your point, Cornelius.
                Me too.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by RevT View Post

                  I agree with this but only barely. Most Protestants I know would hold to the ecumenical Creeds, and that is the bulk of Christianity. So to say that we agree on "very few" doctrines would to me be a bit of an overstatement. The difference occurs only when we flesh out those points, and the degrees of difference vary.
                  If we were to construct a list of the 100 most popular Christian doctrines, we'd find near universal agreement on maybe 5. Maybe none. Ask self-identified Christians if they accept the Trinity, I doubt you'd get even 80% agreement. For starters, millions of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Unitarians reject the Trinity. Millions of Christians would respond that they don't know, because the churches they go to (if even they go) totally ignore the subject (de facto non-trinitarians). Liberal Christians tend to reject the Trinity, out of doubt about the divinity of Jesus. And, what Christians agree on goes downhill from there.

                  Having said that, sure there are things we disagree with completely. But isn't that what 1 Cor 11:19 is about?
                  Yes, that's why we call Mormons a cult and PCUSA apostate. That's why I think most TV preachers are really Atheists, calculating what brings in the money rather than sincerely sharing the Gospel -- because they're Atheists, they lack the fear of God that would keep them honest about doctrine (same for people who start "cults"). Among churches that strongly believe the Bible is the word of God, division is shallow. When people start bringing outside doctrines to the Bible, then things getting pretty random and the differences get deep.
                  Last edited by Cornelius; 12-11-2015, 02:18 AM.
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cornelius View Post

                    If we were to construct a list of the 100 most popular Christian doctrines, we'd find near universal agreement on maybe 5. Maybe none. Ask self-identified Christians if they accept the Trinity, I doubt you'd get even 80% agreement. For starters, millions of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Unitarians reject the Trinity. Millions of Christians would respond that they don't know, because the churches they go to (if even they go) totally ignore the subject (de facto non-trinitarians). Liberal Christians tend to reject the Trinity, out of doubt about the divinity of Jesus. And, what Christians agree on goes downhill from there.
                    OK, world-view noted. Personally, I think that's a little overstated and impossible to verify.


                    Yes, that's why we call Mormons a cult and PCUSA apostate. That's why I think most TV preachers are really Atheists, calculating what brings in the money rather than sincerely sharing the Gospel -- because they're Atheists, they lack the fear of God that would keep them honest about doctrine (same for people who start "cults"). Among churches that strongly believe the Bible is the word of God, division is shallow. When people start bringing outside doctrines to the Bible, then things getting pretty random and the differences get deep.
                    I don't use the word "cult" like that- I consider groups with false doctrines heretical sects. Cults are groups which would fall under the criteria of Lifton, for example. Perhaps Mormonism could be a cult by that definition, but so would some Churches. As for the use of "apostate", that again is a term which should be used properly and not just thrown around for the heterodox and heretical sects. I doubt TV preachers are atheists. Just heretics.





                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RevT View Post

                      OK, world-view noted. Personally, I think that's a little overstated and impossible to verify.

                      I don't use the word "cult" like that- I consider groups with false doctrines heretical sects. Cults are groups which would fall under the criteria of Lifton, for example. Perhaps Mormonism could be a cult by that definition, but so would some Churches. As for the use of "apostate", that again is a term which should be used properly and not just thrown around for the heterodox and heretical sects. I doubt TV preachers are atheists. Just heretics.
                      Hello RevT,

                      I think you need to take in consideration where Cornelius lives. Here in America televangelist are nothing more than heretics promoting either "Word of Faith" or "Prosperity" doctrines. They are preachers peddling get rich schemes or the American dream. As for the rest of your comments, this is basically what I have followed in differentiating between Denominations, Sects, and Cults:


                      Denominations are movements that differ on doctrinal issues but hold to a common core of beliefs about God, Christ, and the Scriptures. They see God as trinitarian, Christ as unique in His human-divine person, and the Scriptures as the authoritative text passed down from the prophets and apostles. Sects agree with the denominations on these matters, but they often have some characteristic that places them on the fringe of Christianity, such as the radical separatism of the Amish. Cults are connected to Christianity in that they employ Christian Scripture and appeal to Jesus, but they also differ from the traditional faith in certain core areas. They may deny or reinterpret the Trinity. They may have novel views about Christ. They may reject part of the Christian Scripture, add new texts to it, or claim to have an infallible interpretation that replaces traditional doctrine with a new approach. World religions are those historic traditions that include the Christian religion as well as others, such as Islam and Hinduism.

                      Read More: Is Mormonism Compatible with the Bible?
                      God bless,
                      William
                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        Originally posted by William View Post

                        Hello RevT,

                        I think you need to take in consideration where Cornelius lives. Here in America televangelist are nothing more than heretics promoting either "Word of Faith" or "Prosperity" doctrines. They are preachers peddling get rich schemes or the American dream.
                        We get those preachers down here too, but I have never spent a minute checking them out! Not worthy of anyone's time, last I heard.

                        However, many years ago when I was at sem I attended a meeting by a crazy and very popular "evangelist" and got kicked out. :) Turns out you can't question their doctrine- that, to my mind, would be the behavior of a cult.

                        As for the rest of your comments, this is basically what I have followed in differentiating between Denominations, Sects, and Cults:
                        OK- fair enough.

                        I tend to view Lifton's criteria of mind-control as the basis of defining a cult- not theology. To me, denominations are either orthodox, heterodox or heretical- and by degrees more often than not.

                        Here's Lifton's criteria of thought Control, I can't link so here's an outline for future Google-ing (and you have to define these in context to get them right- because these tenets are in some regards common to orthodox religion too):
                        1. MILIEU CONTROL
                        2. MYSTICAL MANIPULATION (Planned spontaneity)
                        3. THE DEMAND FOR PURITY
                        4. CONFESSION
                        5. SACRED SCIENCE
                        6. LOADING THE LANGUAGE
                        7. DOCTRINE OVER PERSON
                        8. DISPENSING OF EXISTENCE 

                        Comment>

                        • #13
                          Originally posted by RevT View Post
                          Cults are groups which would fall under the criteria of Lifton, for example.

                          I don't know anything about Lifton. But, it sounds like he believes that cults are all about brainwashing. I define a cult as any group following doctrines based on supposed revelation outside of the Bible. Mormonism is a cult because it follows doctrines based on the Book of Mormon. You might call these groups heretical, and they are. But, my definition of cult doesn't require judgement calls about what is heretical and what isn't.

                          I do know some Christian churches, without heretical doctrines, are sometimes called cults. But, I tend to take that as disparagement of churches that are just trying to be faithful to the Bible. For example, if a church practices shunning, it might be called a cult, but they're just following their understanding of 1 Corinthians 5 (regarding the demand for purity). If Lifton calls a church a cult for something that church is doing in accordance to the Bible, I would suspect he's an Unbeliever. And, as an Unbeliever he wouldn't really care where a church gets its doctrine from, such as the Bible vs. the Book of Mormon, and so naturally this would not play a role in his definition of a cult.

                          All groups use mind-control techniques, without regard to religion. That's why Liberals create words like "homophobe" and hijack words like "gay", to manipulate the thinking of others. That's why TV commercials show beautiful people using particular brands. That's why public school history books give a great many pages to slavery and "civil rights." That's why your pastor smiles, even if doesn't feel like smiling, when he greets you. But, boo for a church that shuns a man for committing adultery?

                          Cults might be a little heavier handed with the mind-control techniques, but that's because they have a hard sell of doctrine that is unique to their groups, especially in selling the prophetic powers of their leader -- which is the guy who comes up with doctrine from revelation outside of the Bible.

                          Heresy is just any doctrine that isn't one of mine. :)


                          Comment>

                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cornelius View Post


                            I don't know anything about Lifton. But, it sounds like he believes that cults are all about brainwashing. I define a cult as any group following doctrines based on supposed revelation outside of the Bible. Mormonism is a cult because it follows doctrines based on the Book of Mormon. You might call these groups heretical, and they are. But, my definition of cult doesn't require judgement calls about what is heretical and what isn't.

                            I do know some Christian churches, without heretical doctrines, are sometimes called cults. But, I tend to take that as disparagement of churches that are just trying to be faithful to the Bible. For example, if a church practices shunning, it might be called a cult, but they're just following their understanding of 1 Corinthians 5 (regarding the demand for purity). If Lifton calls a church a cult for something that church is doing in accordance to the Bible, I would suspect he's an Unbeliever. And, as an Unbeliever he wouldn't really care where a church gets its doctrine from, such as the Bible vs. the Book of Mormon, and so naturally this would not play a role in his definition of a cult.

                            All groups use mind-control techniques, without regard to religion. That's why Liberals create words like "homophobe" and hijack words like "gay", to manipulate the thinking of others. That's why TV commercials show beautiful people using particular brands. That's why public school history books give a great many pages to slavery and "civil rights." That's why your pastor smiles, even if doesn't feel like smiling, when he greets you. But, boo for a church that shuns a man for committing adultery?

                            Cults might be a little heavier handed with the mind-control techniques, but that's because they have a hard sell of doctrine that is unique to their groups, especially in selling the prophetic powers of their leader -- which is the guy who comes up with doctrine from revelation outside of the Bible.

                            Heresy is just any doctrine that isn't one of mine. :)

                            All fair comments I would say.

                            Lifton (IIRC) worked out his criteria from interviewing people who were Korean War POWs. Some of them came back fully Kimist (N.Korean "communism") and I think his focus was very much on mind control/brainwashing. I used to work in counter-cult ministry and I found that a rather useful tool for exit counseling.

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