A Response to Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home

Dear grandpa and grandma,

I received your gift and the book you sent me. I am familiar with Scott Hahn and I hope you will not mind me sharing my thoughts about his book.[1]First I want to tell you that you will never understand what I believe if you see it through the lens of Scott Hahn. I am not sure if you have read the book or not, but the misrepresentations, the straw man arguments, the half-truths, and the double standards in his writings are far too many. For now I simply want to clarify the points where my faith has been misrepresented in Scott Hahn’s book so that you can understand more clearly what I believe.

For Scott Hahn it seems that prior to his conversion, being a protestant for him was all about being, as he says, “anti-Catholic;” but I do not read much about solid convictions concerning the heart of what shaped the Protestant Reformation. He knew what he was against, but not what he was for. One is not saved by being “anti-Catholic” but by believing that Christ is the only savior who died on a cross not just to make our salvation possible, but to actually save completely and to the uttermost! But as for the term, “anti-Catholic,” I am not sure what it means anymore, because it seems to me that almost anyone who disagrees with the Roman Catholic Church these days is labeled “anti-Catholic” and the term is thrown around to make us look as if we hate all Roman Catholics. So far I have never heard of those who disagree with the Jewish religion called “anti-Semitic,” but the truth is that by standing for the gospel we stand against not only the Roman Catholic Church, but against the whole world. When we say that Jesus Christ is the only savior, every other religion looks at us as being intolerant, bigoted, narrow minded, and for this reason even the early Christians were called atheists for proclaiming Christ as the only savior to the world!

What I find strange is that Scott Hahn’s conversion seems to turn around the issue of contraception. Although he is right when he says that all the reformers, like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and all the rest opposed contraception, he then goes on to say, “I grew disturbed. The Roman Catholic Church stood alone as the only “denomination” in all the world with the courage and integrity to teach this most unpopular truth.”[2]First, you run into problems when you see the church only as “denominations,” but I would like to know if Scott Hahn has ever looked for Protestants who oppose birth control. Has he ever conducted a pew research to see how many Roman Catholics not only think that birth control is okay, but who actually use birth control? Go look at the statistics and you will see that although the pope says one thing, it is only a public image because a large amount of Roman Catholics out there are using birth control. On the other hand, I have Protestant friends who oppose birth control more than Roman Catholics do. Some go as far as opposing what is often called “natural family planning” because it too is a form of birth control which is unnatural and mechanical. You can go online and find many articles written by Protestants who oppose all form of pills and injections, and others who oppose all forms of birth control. 1stCorinthians 7:4-5 speaks of times of abstinence for prayer, not for the avoidance of bearing children. But I wish that discussions about birth control went beyond this or that method and instead focused on the very issues of life and death. As for me, I believe that all pills and injections are the pharmaceutics of Satan! Research has shown that all forms of birth control pills are abortafacient. The IUD is the new instrument of infanticide. But I ask you to research how many Bible believing Evangelicals use these things compared to Roman Catholics. I’m not talking about the non-Bible believing liberals who have turned their backs on the Reformation. Doctors have often encouraged my wife’s uncle to start using birth control but he always refused. Why? Because he reads a Bible that tells him that children are a blessing from God and not a curse.

In the book you sent me it also becomes very clear that Scott and Kimberly Hahn do not care about accurately representing what Martin Luther believed concerning justification by faith alone. As for Scott Hahn, he has no excuse if he claims to have been a serious student of Luther. As for Kimberly, I wonder why she does not provide references to where Luther said the things he supposedly said, and why she also does not tell the whole story. She says that Luther “declared that a person is not justified by faith working in love, but rather he is justified by faith alone.”[3] I would like to know what exactly Kimberly is talking about, but no reference is provided. I also wonder why she does not tell the whole story concerning Luther calling James “an epistle of straw.” First, it must be understood that the common misconception that Luther did not believe that James was canonical is not true. For the Old Testament Martin Luther had a separate Apocrypha section in his German translation of the Bible. He had no such section for the New Testament. Luther made distinctions between the more important parts of the Bible which clearly communicate the gospel, and the less important sections concerning less important matters, which is why Luther called James an “epistle of straw” in his early preface for the New Testament. But I wonder why Kimberly does not provide the context of Luther’s comment. In context his comment on James reads as follows:

In a word St. John’s Gospel and his first epistle, St. Paul’s epistles, especially Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and St. Peters first epistle are the books that show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and salvatory for you to know, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine. Therefore St. James epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it. But more of this in the other prefaces.[4]

As you can see, the context really changes the meaning of that quotation, since Luther is comparing James to the other books of the Bible. Does this mean he thinks James is not a good book? Not at all, because in his preface to the epistle of James he says, “I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God.” He says that although he cannot include James among the chief books, he also says, “I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him.”[5] What Kimberly also fails to mention is that Martin Luther later removed his comment on James being “an epistle of straw” from his preface to the New Testament in all his later editions of his German translation. The comment only appears in his original 1522 edition. He removed the paragraphs that made value judgments among the books of the Bible in all his later editions. But I wonder why Roman Catholic apologists ignore the fact that the Roman Catholic Erasmus and Cardinal Cajetan questioned the authenticity of James. Kimberly also seems to be saying that Martin Luther did not believe that faith enables us to do the good works that God has planned for us to do.[6] But concerning what Martin Luther believed concerning the relationship between faith and works, here is Martin Luther in his own words:

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either. Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words. Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.[7]

In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Martin Luther answers the following spurious argument: “Faith without works justifies, Faith without works is dead. Therefore dead faith justifies.” Martin Luther answers as follows:

The argument is sophistical and the refutation is resolved grammatically. In the major premise, ‘faith’ ought to be placed with the word ‘justifies’ and the portion of the sentence ‘without works justifies’ is placed in a predicate and periphrase and must refer to the word ‘justifies,’ not to faith. In the minor premise, ‘without works’ is truly in the subject periphrase and refers to faith. We say that justification is effective without works, not that faith is without works. For that faith which lacks fruit is not an efficacious but feigned faith. ‘Without works’ is ambiguous, then. For that reason this argument settles nothing. It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works.”[8]

Martin Luther also wrote a treatise on good works, but instead many want to portray him as an antinomian.

For me it is very painful to see Scott and Kimberly Hahn misrepresent the reformers, but what is far more painful is when Scott Hahn misrepresents the very words of Christ in the Scriptures! Scott Hahn says,

But after lots of prayer and study, I realized that Jesus could not have been speaking figuratively when he taught us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. The Jews in his audience would not have been outraged and scandalized by a mere symbol. Besides, if they had misunderstood Jesus to be speaking literaly – when he meant his words to be taken figuratively – he could have easily clarified his point. In fact, since many of his disciples stopped following Jesus because of this teaching (v.60), he would have been morally obliged to explain the saying in purely symbolic terms. But he never did.[9]

I answer: but he did! In John 6 verses 60-63 it says,

Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that his disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

Furthermore, who is Scott Hahn to judge what Jesus would have been morally obliged to do? Scott Hahn continues saying, “Nor did any Christian, for over one thousand years, ever deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”[10] I want you to know that Martin Luther and John Calvin also believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they did not believe in transubstantiation; and in the same way just because the church fathers believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist does not mean they believe in transubstantiation. Scott Hahn is making giant leaps to jump to conclusions without doing a proper investigation. I have no idea how Kimberly Hahn’s interpretation of John 6:63 later in the book[11] makes any sense in light of the biblical context of the passage. If we can define physical existence as something that cannot be detected in time or space (as the doctrine of transubstantiation demands) then we can make out even Christ’s incarnation to be a mere phantom. Jesus was not telling us to eat his flesh and drink his blood only once a week but every single day and every single moment of our lives through faith! Jerome shows that my interpretation is not new. He says,

We have heard the sacred Scriptures. I think the gospel is the body of Christ; Holy Writ, His teaching. When he says: ‘He who does not eat my flesh and drink my blood,’ although the words may be understood in their mystical sense, nevertheless, I say the word of Scripture is truly the body of Christ and His blood; it is divine doctrine. If at any time we approach the Sacrament the faithful understand what I mean and a tiny crumb should fall, we are appalled. Even so, if at any time we hear the word of God, through which the body and blood of Christ is being poured into our ears, and we yield carelessly to distraction, how responsible are we not for our failing?[12]

There is no doubt that Jerome treats the Lord ’s Supper with much reverence so as not to let even a tiny crumb to fall, but he defines the gospel and the Scriptures as the body of Christ and says that these are poured into our ears.

Perhaps the part that shows most clearly that Scott Hahn had no solid convictions prior to his conversion to Roman Catholicism is when he says that he broke into a cold sweat when a student asked him “where does the Bible teach that “Scripture is our sole authority?””[13] First of all, if the student used these exact words it shows that he did not understand what sola Scriptura really means. Sola Scriptura does not mean that Scripture is our sole authority, but our sole infallible authority. Pastors have authority to teach the Scriptures and the church has authority to teach the truth so long as they agree with Scripture. Every doctrine must be tested in light of Scripture. Scott Hahn seems to be ignoring what 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 is saying. It says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” It says that the Scriptures make the man of God complete, not partially complete, but complete! The Scriptures contain the fullness of the truth which God has delivered to the church. What Scott Hahn also ignores is that for at least the first 500 years the church always understood the traditions it must follow to be nothing other than what is contained in Scripture. The problem is that in the later middle ages the word Tradition came to be known as something outside of Scripture. In the original Greek of the New Testament the word tradition can also mean teaching, and therefore 2ndThessalonians 2:15 can also read as follows: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the teachings which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” Why should we be surprised that the apostle Paul wants the Thessalonians to remember his teachings? He was an apostle and had authority to teach by writing or by word of mouth. But if the Roman Catholic Church claims to have some Tradition passed on by word of mouth which is not contained in Scripture, then the Roman Catholic Church bears the burden of proof. But this is the same claim made by the Gnostics of old. Scott Hahn’s translation of 1st Timothy 15 is also inaccurate. Scott Hahn quotes it as saying that “the church is the pillar and foundation of truth”, but in reality it says that the church of the living God is “the pillar and support of the truth.” Protestants have never denied that the church is “the pillar and support of truth”, but the question is, what is the church and how does it support the truth? The answer is that the church has always proclaimed the light of the gospel in this dark world, and the church is God’s chosen people called out of the world to proclaim the truth for his glory.

Scott Hahn also confuses the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:19 with the key of David spoken of in Isaiah 22:22.[14] Notice that one is plural and the other is singular. The keys of the kingdom of heaven spoken of in Matthew 16:19 represent the power of binding and loosing by the proclamation of the gospel. These keys are later given to all the apostles in Mathew 18:18 where Jesus says to all his disciples, “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” But who has the key of David? In the book of Revelation it says that Jesus has the key of David, as it says, “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens says this: I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8). Jesus says this long after he has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter and the other apostles. There is only one key of David and Jesus has it!

Scott Hahn says that he saw covenant at the center of Scripture.[15] I ask, what about Christ at the centre of Scripture? Scott Hahn says, “I’m absolutely convinced that the covenant is central to all of Scripture, just as the greatest Protestants like John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards have taught.”[16] I answer: They taught Christ crucified and God’s sovereignty as the centre, without which there can be no covenant.

Scott Hahn also makes a claim that has been refuted so many times, yet Roman Catholics keep using the same argument no matter how many times it has been refuted. He says, “Ever since the Reformation, over twenty five thousand different Protestant denominations have come into existence, and experts say there are presently five new ones being formed every week.”[17] Where is Scott Hahn getting his information from? No reference is provided. Many Roman Catholic apologists point to the World Christian Encyclopedia[18] as their reference for such a claim, but go and read it for your-self and see how many Roman Catholic denominations there are.[19] You’ll be surprised. Roman Catholic apologists jump to conclusions when they see such a big number and they assume that one is Roman Catholic, another is Eastern Orthodox, and the rest are Protestant. But I remind you that the word protestant came from a historical context where the heart of their doctrine was well defined. You cannot assume that just because one is not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox it makes them protestant. You cannot be a protestant if you deny the non-negotiable tenets of the Reformation. Unfortunately, many today do this very thing, and the world refuses to see the difference between them and us. The vast majority of denominations out there deny the principle of sola Scriptura, which shows clearly that the denial of sola Scriptura is the blueprint for anarchy! If only Roman Catholic apologists would do their research before making claims that are refuted when you look at the very sources they cite! Scott Hahn asks, “what would it take to govern a worldwide church?”[20] I answer: Christ!

Scott Hahn argues that one is born again by physical water baptism. If Scott Hahn’s argument that one is born again by physical water baptism were true, then it still stands true that the vast majority of Roman Catholics out there have never been born again, because in the original Greek of the New Testament the word to baptize literally means to dip, and the vast majority of Roman Catholics have not been baptized by immersion. But why is it so hard to see that to be “born of water and the Spirit”[21] refers to the spiritual cleansing waters of the Holy Spirit, especially when compared to Ezekiel 36? For example it says,

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

As you can see, the new birth is a change of heart. Jesus said that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But if one is born again by physical water baptism, how is it that the apostle Paul said “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel…”? (1 Corinthians 1:17).

Kimberly Hahn says that baptism highlights justification by grace alone,[22] but you cannot have justification by grace alone or salvation by grace alone without justification by faith alone, which Scott and Kimberly Hahn both deny and the council of Trent has anathematized![23] The Roman Catholic Church has redefined grace in a way that includes works. For example, the Council of Trent says,

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.[24]

The Catechism of the Catholic Churchalso says,

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and Justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increases of grace and charity and for the attainment of eternal life. (2010)[25]

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that we can merit grace. It sees God’s grace merely as God’s help to get merit to earn further grace. This is in total opposition to the apostle Paul who says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Grace cannot be mingled with works for salvation. When works are added, grace is lost. Grace must be the unmerited favor of God. Although grace produces good works, good works can never earn or merit grace! But as can be seen from the council of Trent and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church has rejected the biblical definition of Grace.

Scott and Kimberly Hahn say much about the intercession of saints. I can find one example in the Bible where the intersession a saint is sought, and that is where Saul seeks Samuel’s intersession through a medium at En-dor. What was Samuel’s response? The Bible describes Samuel’s response to Saul was as follows:

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.” Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (1 Samuel 28:15-19)

Samuel is obviously not happy that Saul sought his intercession. Where Scripture says, “Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?”[26] it is obviously speaking of those who are physically dead, not spiritually dead. But if Kimberly Hahn’s interpretation[27] were true, where then is the biblical support for prayers to the saints? Why is it that the only form of valid prayer found in Scripture is prayer directed to God?

Kimberly Hahn claims that the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary, but I ask, where does it say that’s Mary? Interestingly, Kimberly Hahn has come up with an interpretation that plainly contradicts the interpretation of the early church. The early church understood that the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars”[28] is the church. For example, Hippolytus says,

By the woman then clothed with the sun, he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the ‘moon under her feet’ he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, ‘upon her head a crown of twelve stars,’ refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded. And those, ‘she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,’ mean that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world. ‘And she brought forth,’ he says, ‘a man-child, who is to rule all the nations;’ by which is meant that the Church, always bringing forth Christ, the perfect man-child of God, who is declared to be God and man, becomes the instructor of all the nations. And the words, ‘her child was caught up unto God and to His throne,’ signify that he who is always born of her is a heavenly king, and not an earthly; even as David also declared of old when he said, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.’ ‘And the dragon,’ he says, ‘saw and persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.’ That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks conceal-meat in the wilderness among the mountains, possessed of no other defence than the two wings of the great eagle, that is to say, the faith of Jesus Christ, who, in stretching forth His holy hands on the holy tree, unfolded two wings, the right and the left, and called to Him all who believed upon Him, and covered them as a hen her chickens. For by the mouth of Malachi also He speaks thus: ‘And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.’[29]

In his commentary on the book of Revelation Marius Victorinus says,

The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people….[30]

The twelve stars can also be interpreted as being the twelve tribes of Israel. I wonder how the Roman Catholic Church can claim to be the 2000 year old church when it teaches things that are never mentioned in Scripture and are unknown to the church fathers.

In the conclusion of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s book they refer to Evangelical Christians as “separated brethren,” and this has been the talk of the Roman Catholic Church ever since the second Vatican council. But this will never mean anything until the Roman Catholic Church is at least willing to retract the anathemas of the council of Trent where the very gospel itself has been anathematized! For example the council of Trent explicitly anathematizes those who believe in justification by faith alone with the following anathema:

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.[31]

Until the Roman Catholic Church is willing to retract such anathemas then their referring to us as “separated brethren” is mere wolf talk and double talk. I do not say this because I have only read the anathemas without the explanation prior to them. I have read the entirety of the 6th session of the council of Trent. The Roman Catholic Church speaks from both sides of its mouth when it anathematizes us and then confuses the gullible by calling us “separated brethren.” As for me, I cannot endure such double talk any longer. Even Kimberly Hahn said that the Roman Catholic Church is “either true or diabolical.”[32] Until it is willing to retract the anathemas of the council of Trent I must say that it is diabolical because it has anathematized the gospel itself! Other religions have not gone that far.

There is more that can be said about Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s book, but I will refrain because I think I have already mentioned the most important parts. For now I think I will only say that I expect better from someone with a PHD. I understand that the book is meant to be a personal testimony, but no references are given where it really matters, and the misrepresentations, half-truths and straw man arguments are inexcusable. I at least thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my faith in light of Scott Hahn’s book, and hope that you will correct others who misunderstand us. But more importantly, I want you to know the gospel, and wish that one day you can have the same faith as I do. For now I will explain what our response is to those who use James to say that one is justified before God by faith and works.

James says, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). James thus makes it clear that such a faith is not a true faith but a dead and counterfeit faith which cannot save. True faith is not barren and inert but moves us to action, as he says, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15-16). James thus demonstrates the difference between a true and a counterfeit faith, as he continues saying, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may say, You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:17-19). With these words James makes it clear that true saving faith is not merely a faith in the existence of God or that God is one, or that God is three in one, for even the demons believe these things. True saving faith is a faith that trusts in Christ as our perfect high priest and in his finished sacrifice for our salvation. This kind of faith the demons do not have, for how can they trust in the mercy of God when they hate him and his gospel? James goes on saying, “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” (James 2:20-21). We must remember that James is not talking about how one is justified before God but how one is demonstrated to be genuine. It is useful to understand how the word “justified” is used in different ways throughout Scripture. Most are familiar with the sense in which the apostle Paul uses the word in order to teach that one is declared righteous before God even though he has no righteousness of his own. The context and the teaching of the apostle Paul make this understanding of the word ‘justify’ necessary. Another use of the word ‘justify’ is when one who is truly righteous is declared to be so, or demonstrated to be so, or when something that is genuine or true is demonstrated to be so. In some contexts, the word justified can also be translated as, “vindicated.” For this reason where James says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” the context makes it clear that a perfectly reasonable translation is “Was not Abraham our father vindicated by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” In other words, Abraham was demonstrated to be a man of genuine faith by his works. James goes on to say, “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23). Here we see clearly that James is in agreement with the apostle Paul that one is considered righteous by faith, for Abraham was declared righteous long before he offered Isaac on the altar. From this we can clearly see that Abraham’s works were a result of his faith. James then says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:24-25). Again, here James is not using the word “justified” to explain how one is justified before God, but how one is demonstrated to be genuine and true. Therefore a perfectly reasonable translation is, “You see that a man is vindicated by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also vindicated by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:24-25). Rahab’s faith was thus demonstrated by her actions, for she truly believed that the God of Israel was powerful and able to destroy Jericho and she would rather trust in the God of Israel than the walls of Jericho. James then says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). It is just as if James is saying, has your faith changed your life? because if your faith has not changed your life, then your faith is nothing more than a bunch of empty words! Christians long before the Protestant Reformation also interpreted James in the same way. For example, Bede says,

Although the apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works, those who understand by this that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith, have made a great mistake. James here expounds how Paul’s words ought to be understood. This is why he uses the example of Abraham, whom Paul also used as an example of faith, to show that the patriarch also performed good works in the light of his faith. It is therefore wrong to interpret Paul in such a way as to suggest that it did not matter whether Abraham put his faith into practice or not. What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith.”[33]

The Christian church believed in justification by faith alone long before Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other reformers. For example, Ambrosiaster (commenting on 1stCorinthians 1:4) says, “God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins.”[34] John Chrysostom says, “But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.”[35]When I look at the Christians of old I see that they believed all the non-negotiable tenets of the Christian faith, that they had the same faith I have; the same faith that survived the devouring lions of the Roman persecutions is the same faith that survived the burning fires of the Roman Catholic inquisitions.

I do not mind you sending me books, but I tell you that I will be more easily convinced by people like Augustine, John Chrysostom and Jerome than Scott Hahn. So far I have gone through all of Augustine’s confessions, his treatise On the Predestination of the Saints, Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Word, The Martyrdom of Polycarpand Polycarp’s epistle as well as parts of other books here and there. I see that their catholic faith is very different from what the Roman Catholic Church teaches today. I wish that instead of reading Scott Hahn Roman Catholics would go back and read the church fathers in their own books and in their own words; or better yet, that they would read the God-breathed Scriptures. As for me I tell you plainly, Rome is not my home. The heavenly Jerusalem is my home. The pope is not my father, because I am a child of God. Christ is the head of the church, not the pope. I know that I am not going to purgatory because I am not cleansed by purgatorial fires but by the blood of Christ! The testing fire is not a punishment (in 1st Corinthians 3), but the testing of the Spirit for eternal rewards! The Bible describes a hope that is far greater than what the Roman Catholic Church offers. A hope that is grounded not in a mere possibility, but in a reality! As it says in the epistle to the Ephesians,

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

In the letter to the Romans it says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1). The best the Roman Catholic Church has to offer is a mere ceasefire that can be broken anytime you commit a mortal sin, and according to Roman Catholic teaching even what they call venial sins must be punished. Roman Catholicism robs men of peace with God by denying the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus Christ did not come to make a ceasefire, but to make “peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20). I do not need an infallible list of infallible books because as a Child of God I can recognize the voice of the good Shepherd in the Scriptures, as Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me…” (John 10:27). And as he had said earlier, “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 9:5). I know that the voice of the Roman Catholic Church is the voice of a stranger because it teaches a false gospel that cannot save. In his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul says,

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-9)

But I am not surprised that Scott Hahn and many others like him are leaving the gospel of Christ for the false gospel of Rome. It is as it says in the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). From Scott Hahn’s own testimony it is clear that prior to his conversion to Roman Catholicism he hated the Roman Catholic Church, but did he ever love the gospel? It seems to me that strong delusion overcame him because he “did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). As for me, it does not matter if even the whole world were to convert to Roman Catholicism, I cannot desert him who called me by the grace of Christ for a different gospel. “The love of Christ controls” me.[36] I am his because he died for me. I am purchased by his blood, therefore my life is not my own. The decision has already been made. My Lord will not allow me to return to the Roman Catholic religion. I have crossed the ocean and burned the boat. I am not going back, but I press on to follow Christ to the heavenly Jerusalem, which is my home.

Sincerely yours,

Pierre Bruneau

[1] Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism. Ignatius Press, San Francisco. Copyright 1993.

[2] Chapter 3. P-28

[3] Chapter 3. P-41

[4] LW 35:362

[5] LW 35:395-397

[6] Chapter 3. P-42

[7] An excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546 Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from DR. MARTIN LUTHER’S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 (Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125] August 1994

[8] LW 34:175-176

[9] Chapter 4. P-50

[10] Chapter 4. P-50

[11] Chapter 8. P-139

[12] (FC, Vol 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms (at Psalm 147), Homily 57 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 410.

[13] Chapter 4. P-51

[14] Chapter 5. P-71

[15] Chapter 5. P-72

[16] Chapter 5. P-72

[17] Chapter 5. P-73

[18] The full title is: World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World.

[19] The encyclopedia states: “A denomination is defined in this encyclopedia as an organized aggregate of worship centers or congregations of similar ecclesiastical tradition within a specific country; i.e. as an organized Christian church or tradition or religious group or community of believers, within a specific country, whose component congregations and members are called by the same denominational name in different areas, regarding themselves as one autonomous Christians church distinct from other denominations, churches and traditions. As defined here, world Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries, these denominations themselves being composed of over 3,400,000 worship centers, churches or congregations.” (Barret et al, volume 1, page 16, table 1-5)

[20] Chapter 5. P-73

[21] John 3:5

[22] Chapter 8. P-137

[23] See the 6th session of the council of Trent

[24] Retrieved from http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html

[25] CCC, 2010.

[26] Isaiah 8:19

[27] Chapter 8: p-149

[28] Revelation 12:1

[29] Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 61

[30] Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 12:1-2

[31] 6th Session of the Council of Trent

[32] Chapter 8. P-142

[33] Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: James, 1-2Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 31.

[34] Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6.

[35] NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 7, vs. 27

[36] 2nd Corinthians 5:14

Taken from https://christcrucifiedforthenations.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/a-responce-to-scott-hahns-rome-sweet-home/

God’s Sovereignty Over Life and Death…

Anthony W. Brooks

Job 15: 1- “Man who is born of a woman
is few of days and full of trouble.
2 He comes out like a flower and withers;
he flees like a shadow and continues not.
3 And do you open your eyes on such a one
and bring me into judgment with you?
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
There is not one.
5 Since his days are determined,
and the number of his months is with you,
and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,
6 look away from him and leave him alone,
that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.”
(ESV)

///////

A while ago I made the claim that God is the only giver and taker of life. When I said this, all of the synergists jumped out of the woodworks and became defensive. Why? Because to say that God is the taker of life means that he must decree how we are to die as well.

I posted this scripture multiple times, but a majority looked past it in the spirit of John Wesley… “Whatever else this means, it can’t mean what the Calvinist says it means!” So let’s unpack it.

Job is in a prayer and speaking of the fallenness of man and says that man is few of days and full of trouble… He is a withering flower… A fleeing shadow… He won’t continue. He calls man unclean. Then he makes application to God’s sovereignty, “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass…” Specific language is used here such as “determined” and “appointed” and even stated that these are limits that we cannot pass. This should be simply understand, but it isn’t on the synergistic side.

To say that God decreed a life to be taken by murder is seen as God fathering evil because they don’t understand the claim of God having righteous purposes for all of his decrees… But what do we know?

Soli Deo Gloria!

How Peter D. Williams Denied Solus Christus and Sola Gratia in his Debate with James R. White on Indulgences

By Pierre Bruneau (1689 London Baptist Confession)

I just finished watching the debate between Dr. James White (the Protestant debater) and Peter D. Williams (the Roman Catholic debater) on the topic of indulgences. Throughout the debate both sides claimed to believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and the sufficiency of grace. I am not surprised by this because Rome has historically claimed to teach these things. What does this mean, that both sides have reached a kind of consensus or agreement? Absolutely not! The debate between James White and Peter D. Williams clearly demonstrated that while Roman Catholics and Protestants often use the same words and phrases they mean entirely different things by them. The difference between the two debaters can be summarized as follows: Peter D. Williams was saying that grace is sufficient to make our salvation possible but that we then have to do certain things to make it a reality, and although Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient we must do certain things for it to become effective or remain effective. Dr. White, on the other hand, was saying that grace not only makes our salvation possible, but an accomplished reality that requires no work on our part, and that it is on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice alone, which has actually removed the debt of all punishment and given us peace and access to God on that basis alone. You see, for Rome grace is only sufficient to make salvation possible, while the Reformation has always taught that it is sufficient to make it an accomplished reality. There is a vast difference between the two!
A good way to illustrate this is to use an illustration used by Peter D. Williams during the debate. I will summarize it here but you can watch the debate to listen to his full argument. He likened God to someone who provides all the necessary funds and materials to build a building, but the builders still have to build the building. But the analogy breaks down when you bring it to the light of Scripture, because if the builders have to build the building, it means that they have to work, but Scripture clearly tells us that “if it is by grace it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Not only that, but if the builders are working, then they deserve a wage, and if the funds provided are analogous to God’s grace or Christ’s merits, then the builders would be earning God’s grace and Christ’s merits! Is this the conclusion Peter D. Williams intended us to come to? Did he not realize how such horrible blasphemy can be communicated through his seemingly innocent illustration? But the reality is that the Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly asserts that we can use grace to earn further grace, and the Council of Trent and many other official Roman Catholic Church documents have consistently claimed the necessity of works for salvation (for example see the CCC section 2010 and the 6th session of the Council of Trent). But to make any kind of work necessary for salvation is to make God out to be our debtor, as Scripture says, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor but as what is due. But to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…” (Romans 4:4-5).
Towards the end of the debate Mr. Williams also plainly denied the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. While he affirms substitutionary atonement he denies its penal nature. Again, I am not surprised by this because I have heard and read many Roman Catholic apologists say the same thing. Although Dr. White responded adequately to this and other arguments made by Mr. Williams during the debate, I would also like to point out the passage of the suffering servant where it says that “he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him” (Isaiah 53:5-6), and it goes on to say that this was “for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due” (53:8), and it says very clearly that “YHWH was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief…” (53:10). Anyone who fails to see that God is punishing Christ for the sins of his people in this text is clearly wearing a blindfold of false presuppositions!
I will not summarize the whole debate between Dr. White and Mr. Williams here, but I recommend that people watch it because it clearly shows the difference between Roman Catholicism and the biblical gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Romans 8:1-8 and the Inability of Man…

 

By Anthony W. Brooks

**This is actually a “vintage” article from the old website. But I believe that it addresses the recent challenges that Dr. Leighton Flowers raised on his YouTube channel about the common Calvinist understanding of Romans 8:1-8. Does Romans 8:1-8 address how one goes from being in the flesh to being in the spirit? If so does is say that this process is irresistibly caused by God? Our answer is, no, 4 verses (5-8 in which he is referring to) do not address this massive question. But the entire Bible might. We call this “Tota Scriptura”.**

One day I was messing around on a debate page on Facebook and I came across a post over Total Depravity. It was asking Calvinists which verses best supported the doctrine. I saw many of the classic responses: Romans 3, John 8, Ezekiel 36-37, Ephesians 2:1-4… But I didn’t see my favorite, Romans 8:1-8 on the list… So I decided to post it.
Well, to my surprise, Leighton Flowers (pre-doctorate) was responding to the comments and he responds to mine. The man can normally talk, but this time it was a short conversation that basically ended in his saying that Romans 8 doesn’t say enough to support this assumption.
I was surprised because I believe that it does say enough. So, in the words of Dr. Flowers, let’s unpack it:

Romans 8:1-8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

This text is packed with truth from God. We have a contrast between the Life in the Spirit and the Life in the Flesh.

Life in the Spirit: they are set free, the law is fulfilled in them, they set their mind on the things of the Spirit, they have life and peace…

Life in the Flesh: they are condemned, they cannot fulfill the law, they set their mind on things of the flesh, they only have death, they are hostile to God, the will not and cannot submit to God’s law, they cannot please God.

Some say that the only application is the regenerated church member who has fallen into sin is this fleshly individual… But remember what they get, “death”. A regenerated individual will not get death… And the unbeliever will still live according to the flesh anyways because he doesn’t have the Spirit to live in.

But let’s focus in on the ability aspect for a moment. We have one aspect of this fleshly, carnal, individual that is pointed out here. That aspect is that they cannot please God. So I want to point out what the non-Calvinist says we must do to find salvation in the simplest of terms: Humility, Faith, and Repentance.

Humility is the act of denying oneself and humbling oneself to recieve his Grace. James 4:6 says “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” so this is something we must do to be saved. Well according to David, humility is pleasing to God, Psalm 149:4 “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” And no one will deny this.

Second is faith. Faith is an obvious requirement, Ephesians 2:8-9. And faith is the instrument by which we live. So it is extremely important to us and our relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 says this, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” That blatant statement is a repellent to the carnal man. He doesn’t have faith, it must be given, he can’t have it because he is an enemy of God.

The last thing is repentance. So much is said about Repentance… My favorite being Psalm 51 where verses 16-17 say this, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
So in this text, God is pleased with a broken and contrite heart (aka a repentant heart). And David spends the whole text repenting and being broken in his heart.

Now these three things are the items that Dr. Flowers would see as requirements of salvation. Humility, Faith and Repentance. All of them are pleasing to God, and the text says clearly that the carnal man cannot do them, because they are pleasing. They cannot do them unless the Lord gives them to him effectually. So I disagree with the assumption that this text doesn’t support Total Inability.

Soli Deo Gloria!

What is a Protestant?

Pierr Bruneau

(1689 London Baptist)

There are many people out there who think that the word Protestant is only negative word of opposition, and Roman Catholics often criticize the Reformation as being only a negative movement of protest based on this one word. This, however, ignores both the historical reality of what happened when Protestants were first called Protestants and the meaning of the word itself.
The historical reality is that the Second Diet of Speyer in Germany sought to forbid any further reforms in what was called the Holy Roman Empire. As a result the princes of the Lutheran states, known as the Protestant princes, opposed this and wrote the Letter of Protestation. But this was not just a protest; it was an affirmation of their right and duty to proclaim the gospel and to stand on the word of God when it was contradicted by the words of men. They believed firmly that when the law of God and the laws of men contradicted each-other “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, the protest resulted because they saw that the liberty to proclaim what they affirmed was endangered, and not the other way around. The Second Diet of Speyer in 1529 sought to repeal the Edict of Toleration from the previous Diet of Speyer in 1526 which allowed the free exercise of religion until a General Council was held. The Protestant princes saw that this repeal would mean the death of many Protestants throughout the empire. Their protest was actually a stand on the word of God for religious freedom, and the freedom to obey one’s conscience rather than the tyrannical laws of men.
When it comes to the word Protestant, it is important to note that the meanings of words often change or shift over time. This is what happened with the word protest which has led to some confusion as to what a Protestant actually is. The word Protestant comes from two words: Pro-testari. The word testari meant to testify, and the word pro meant forth, and thus a Protestant was one who testifies forth. The Online Etymology Dictionary shows us how this word has changed over time. It says, ” protest (n.) c. 1400, “avowal, pledge, solemn declaration,” from Old French protest (Modern French prôtet), from preotester, and directly from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest,” from pro- “forth, before” (from PIE root *per- (1) “forward,” hence “in front of, before”) + testari “testify,” from testis “witness” (see testament). Meaning “statement of disapproval” first recorded 1751; adjectival sense of “expressing of dissent from, or rejection of, prevailing mores” is from 1953, in reference to U.S. civil rights movement. First record of protest march is from 1959.” When it comes to the verb protest it says the following: “protest (v.) mid-15c., “to declare or state formally or solemnly,” from Old French protester, from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest” (see protest (n.)). Original sense preserved in to protest one’s innocence”

(Protest Etymology).

Therefore, even by the meaning of the word itself, a Protestant is one who testifies forth, and yes there are times when protest is necessary, but it it necessary because of what we affirm and testify forth, not the other way around. A protestant is one who testifies forth the truth of the gospel based on God’s Word. Anyone who does not do this is not a Protestant no matter how much he may be opposed to Rome’s papal claims. As Protestants, it is vital for us to keep our eyes on what we are for, and that is Jesus Christ, otherwise we run the risk of forgetting our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Instead, may our “love and faith and service and perseverance” and “deeds” grow “greater than at first” (Revelation 2:19) as we fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Lord’s Supper and the Real Presence… (What Many Evangelicals Have Forgotten and Forsaken)

One of the last things I found myself accepting in the Westminster Standards was the real presence of Christ in the Supper. Looking back on it now, I cannot reason why I ever had an issue with it in the first place, but, lo, I did.

One thing we as believers need to be balanced on before we look at this issue is that we shouldn’t be trying to look for a Jesuit behind every bush… aka… Just because we are discussing the idea of Christ being REALLY present in the Supper, does not mean that we are discussing the uniquely Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Mass as being propitiatory, or worshipping the consecrated host. Now, what are we talking about? Let’s look at what the traditional protestant position is from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

CHAPTER 29

Of the Lord’s Supper.

“I. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in his Church unto the end of the world; for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body.

II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

III. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the thigns they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and can not, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.”

And the Westminster Larger Catechism:

“Q. 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?

A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.”

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Okay… That is a lot to take in, I know, but it is necessary to understand 1. The doctrine of real presence and 2. How it fundamentally opposes the Papist doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Lets dive in…

What do Reformed Protestants traditionally believe concerning the Real Presence?

“V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the thigns they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.”

This is the doctrine in a nutshell. The first thing we see is the elements are set apart by the blessing of the ministers (art III & V) and have a relation to the Crucified Christ and so can be referred to as the Body and Blood of Christ. But, this is important, remain truly and fully Bread and Wine, even after they are blessed.

After they are blessed they are handed out only to worthy receivers (a topic for another time). These believers, when they consume the bread and wine, inwardly by faith, feed upon the true body and blood of Christ spiritually, not carnally or physically. Therefore, feeding on all the benefits of his death. The body and blood of Christ are spiritually present to the faith of the believer in the ordinance just as much as the elements are to the outward senses.

So, to summarize, Christ is spiritually present within the bread and wine so that when we consume the elements we are truly feeding upon his body and blood. Now, what is the scriptural proof of this:

Luke 22:19 (ESV)

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

So Christ said “This IS my body”. I know that is what a Lutheran would normally say, but I have the personal belief that consubstantiation (using this phrase for the sake of argument) is as illogical as the Catholic position. But we hold the belief that it really is his body that we are communing with…

1 Corinthians 10:16

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

So Paul is making an argument that when we take the Supper we are really and truly participating and communing with the body and blood of Christ. We are not merely taking a memorial that is empty of his being… that is a-scriptural. Paul is arguing that the participation is real, so we argue this as well.

How is it opposed to the Catholic position?

“II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.”

This isn’t all the confession as to say in opposition to the Romish Mass, but it will have to do.

First, we do not see the supper as a sacrifice. Christ is not being offered up to the Father on the alter of a priest, that is a blasphemous way to look at it. But it is something we look to in remembrance of his offering himself up, by himself, once for all time… There is no elevation of the elements or words of consecration. There is no lighting of incense, but a simple service of scripture and communion. The confession states, “; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.” Which is to say that it is idolatrous and heretical.

Second, we believe that we should celebrate the Supper in a corporate setting. Also, when we take the Supper, we take both elements. We do not worship them, adore them, or keep them past the time of the Supper. When the ceremony is done, they continue their ordinary use. All of these things are contrary to the purpose the Lord gave the Supper.

Third, the Confession speaks directly against the papist doctrine of Transubstantiation. It calls it Repugnant to Scripture, common sense, and reason. It says that it overthrows the nature of the sacrament and has been and still is the cause of superstition and idolatry. This is a massive charge. But it is a consistently Protestant charge.

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So we see now that the Reformed concept of real presence is not just Biblical, but also fundamentally opposed to the position that it normally gets confused with, the Roman Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation. So I hope this has been useful to you

Soli Deo Gloria!

Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda (or so we say)

One of the ideas that really kindles my wick is the idea of a perfect church… This is the idea that the church is perfectly formed with a perfect government, perfect hymnals, perfect Bible translations, perfect length sermons, perfect classes, perfect bulletins, perfect communion outlines… blah blah blah blah. This is called “infallible Tradition”, ya know, that thing that the Reformers were trying to REFORM!

Tradition is never a perfect set of beliefs and practices that can never be replaced. And the problem with many protestants today, is that they hold to their traditions so tightly that when someone challenges them, there is an all out split. I have seen church splits, and have heard great men say terrible things about other great men. I have counted votes to call and discharge pastors to and from the pulpit. Why is this ever necessary? Tradition…

Being a part of a Reformed Church does not guarantee one certainty that when the church needs reform, that it will be open to the idea. One of the safeguards is the presbyterian system of government that keeps these decisions in the hands of qualified elders, but, even then… Reform is never easy. The elder board can even split, the decisions can be overturned in Presbytery or Synod/Assembly and there could be rioting in the proverbial streets… So, why is reform so hard?

Comfort…

We are comfortable with what we know. And with a subject as important as our faith and practice, discomfort can be overtly concerning. Emotions get in the way of change and progress, its just life, bro. But what we need to do sometimes is not allow fallible emotions to get in the way of infallible truth. What the Church is tasked with Reforming are those things that are not in conformity with Infallible Truth. And when we as the believer get in the way of these Reforms, we are blocking Biblical progress, and safeguarding vanity and tradition. Comfy pews and comfy carpet is one thing, but comfy alter-calls and comfy Kari Jobe songs are another… Those things that can be Biblically dismissed as secondary (or tertiary) issues are not subject to reform, but those things that are Biblically outrageous and offensive should be cut down and dis-guarded.

The Church Reformed, Always Reforming is the title of this article. Mostly because those churches (like mine) who are reformed in name and practice need to be the example. We shouldn’t cry Semper Reformanda all the way up to someone actually trying it. We should repent of our sins before we demand others repent of theirs (i.e. Rome, PCUSA, and the Kardashians). Just a thought…

Soli Deo Gloria!