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." While 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." Luke 12:1 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 event.

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 work.

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 gospel.

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"

James 2:20,21
"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?"
James 2:24
"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 is popular.



Catholic Nepotism

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 life.

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.

Magical incantations.

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.

Imputed Guilt

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]

"If, 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 sin.

Infant Baptism

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 anabaptists.

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.

Idolatry

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 knead 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 7:18

Co-Redeemer?

Pope Benedict XV, in 1918 - "Mary suffered with Christ and nearly died with Him when He died, thus she may rightly be said to have redeemed the human race with Christ."

Pope Pius XI, in 1923 - "The virgin of sorrows shared the work of redemption with Jesus Christ."

Pope Leo XIII, in 1891 "No one can approach Christ except through His mother."

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, from her, redeemed; whom, together with Him, she herself co-redeemed.'

Pope John Paul II "Membership in the Militia means complete dedication to the Kingdom of God and to the salvation of souls through Mary Immaculate."

Pope Benedict XV: "One can justly say that with Christ, she herself redeemed mankind."

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.

Illiteracy

Among 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. 

Consider, 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 well. 

The "Dark Ages" was characterized by illiteracy.

With 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)

Up 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.


Luther

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.
Romans 4:4-6
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 works.
"Faith Alone"
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 boast." Not only so, but as Catholics make much of their theological Church "fathers", they seem to overlook their writings on this matter
 Chrysostom (349-407):
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.

Jerome (347-420)
 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 changed.

Luther's Theology

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.


Calvinism

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


Anabaptists

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

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 of matters:

CANON IX.-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.
CANON XX.-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."
CANON XXIV.-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 be anathema.
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.
CANON XXX.-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 be anathema
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 "Christianity".

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.
 

Wesleyan Theology
Legalistic Arminian
John Wesley
Charles Finney
"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 is sin."

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 back again."

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 forbidden.
"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 matter.

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:

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 leaders.


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."


Pentecostals

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: 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 real Christians.

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:
"If 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"

Non-Denominationals

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.


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Sep 26,2018