The Bible Is God’s Infallible Word

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw 2 April 2018

The Bible Is God’s Infallible Word

In this day when some churches are turning away from the Bible, it is refreshing to know that many are not. Those who reject the Bible as God’s revelation of Himself to us must have a new concept of God. And where do they get this standard? They must invent it. Often I hear these people say God is like . . ., and they rattle off something. But how do they know God is like whatever they say? And how can we know the details of what God is like unless He tells us? Indeed, how can we know anyone unless that person reveals himself or herself to us?

Many years ago I worked at an investment and insurance firm while I was helping to start a church. The man who hired me claimed to be a Christian, knew the language of Christians, and could pray quite well. (He prayed in order to prey on Christians!) After a short period, I discovered that he was a con man, selling faulty investments to those he could deceive. I and others thought we knew him, but he had not revealed his true self. Likewise, we cannot dream up concepts of God, and say what He is like, for that would be creating a god after our own image. The only way we can know Him is if He reveals Himself to us, and the Bible makes that claim hundreds of times. Of course, in theory the Bible could be wrong in its claim—and that is way beyond this short article—but at least we must see that the Church has also presented the Bible as God’s revelation for 2,000 years, and it has challenged anyone to show its errors.

Then there are those who say the Bible is only infallible in theological matters but not in history, science, and so forth. But like those who invent a concept of god, these people transfer infallibility to themselves, for they assume that they can infallibly discern which portions of the Bible are infallible and which are not. In other words, infallibility does not go away—it only gets moved around.

And what does the Bible say about itself? There are two passages in particular that are key in the Bible’s presentation of inspiration. First, is 2 Peter 1:20-21:

  • 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved [or borne up, carried along] by the Holy Spirit.

There are several points here. Peter is emphatic that God is the source of the holy Scriptures even while men wrote them. Moreover, God used their human personalities of the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles to accomplish an infallible result. In other words, the Bible is both human and divine. Like the Son of God who was both God and man in one person, so the scriptures are both human and divine, yet one, and infallible. Furthermore, Peter says that the scriptures were not “private interpretation,” which means not initiated by men for their own personal doctrines. No, they received them from God Himself. Peter is not saying they were passive pens so that God dictated every word, but that the source was from God. This indicates that the human authors did not originate the message, but rather they were carried along by the Holy Spirit when writing Scripture, receiving the message from Him. They were passive in the message, but active in the writing, using their own vocabulary and personalities.

The second key passage of the Bible regarding its own inspiration is:

  • 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.

The word “inspired” means “God-breathed” in the sense that God is the source. It does not carry an active idea so that Scripture is inspiring (though surely it is!) but the passive sense, meaning “inspired,” a body of truth that is fossilized, delivered, and now unchangeable. Nor does it mean “every Scripture inspired by God is . . .” so that there may be some Scripture not inspired by God. The idea is that every part of the Bible is equally inspired, breathed out from God Almighty, and therefore infallible.

Moreover, Christ agreed that the Bible was infallible when He spoke about the Old Testament.

  • For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt 5:18).

The word “jot” most likely means “yod,” the smallest Hebrew letter, and “tittle” means part of a Hebrew letter, perhaps the difference between similar letters, like the difference between the number zero “0” and the letter “O” in English. But the Lord’s view was that the Old Testament’s infallibility was clearly down to the very words and letters. For example, in John 10:35, He stated: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” He often rested His final argument on the infallible authority of the Old Testament (see John 5:39; Luke 24:44-45; Matt 22:29; John 7:19; Matt 4:1-11:

  • You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. (Jn. 5:39)
  • 44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Lk. 24:44-45 NKJ)
  • 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matt. 4:1-11 NKJ)

Let us confess with our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Church of all ages, that the Bible is God’s gift to us, that we know God because in its pages is revealed this one, Triune God: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Let us not seek to invent a god who is more palatable to modern people. Let us fear this God, not people who may control our salaries as gospel ministers. AMEN.

 

 

 

The Church Is for Sinners

((c) The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D., January 2006)

In my first pastorate, a man said to me that he would not go to church because there were too many hypocrites there.  I had enough rapport with the man to say: “You’re right so join us—we need another one.”  Sometimes we have the idea that Church is just for those who have no problems, for those whose life is always rosy, who never have rebellious children, whose spouses are models of virtue, whose bosses love how they do things, such as never late, who never have an impure thought.  If that is who you think you are, you don’t need the Church; but then, you don’t need the Triune God, either, or so you think.

And we Christians should be willing to admit that we have a long way to go in our growth in holiness.  Pretending to be something we’re not is hypocrisy, though we should not tell everyone all our problems, for that is destruction.  Yes, we have been forgiven by God through the merits of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, but we are still growing.  We have been adopted into God’s family, but like legal adoption today, that does not automatically make the child instantly and perfectly holy.  It does make the child an heir to our estate, and if we are rich so is the child.  But it takes a lifetime to train a child and for the child to grow into the kind of person we as parents desire him/her to be.  Likewise, God the Father adopts us into His family based on the legal attorney Jesus Christ, who puts up the bond, the surety, who is Himself our pledge, our guarantee of the adoption.  This gives us a change of legal status, but inwardly we are the same as before the adoption.  But the Father and the Son gave us the Holy Spirit to make us different over time—but that is the key word, TIME.

Consider that our heavenly Father is seeking to “rear” us in the faith our whole  lives, that He brings about problems so that we can learn to be mature, to respond in faith and love to one another and to His providence, that His priorities are not money, farms, cars, bank accounts, though there is nothing wrong with these in themselves.

And this heavenly Father has adopted us into His family, in His Church, the bride of His Son, so that we can care for one another.  And consider further that our sibling Jesus has already been through all the trials we have and knows what they are like, but also as God He gives us the grace we need to grow.  We are in a family that is supposed to love its own as the badge of our relationship with God: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  What do you do when loved ones are sick?  You care for them.

We are called to live by a different set of priorities from the world, to consider the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to be the highest priority and church and family second.  (Church and family actually go together.)  Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads: “He who dies with the most toys wins”?  That is the philosophy of the world, but our riches belong to another family—the Church.  Our estate and inheritance are from Christ, not in pursuing more and more schemes to make money.  Our security is in the Lord, not in our bank accounts that can quickly evaporate.

The world does not expect Christians to be perfect, but it does expect us to be genuine, which means we must be willing to confess mistakes when we make them and then seek to make things right.  Remember the case of the televangelist caught with a prostitute?  At first he was contrite, submitted to the discipline of his brethren, and agreed to the time suspension from the ministry that they placed on him.  This was a good start, but then he rebelled, rejecting their authority, and put himself back in the ministry under a new church.  It was a great testimony to the world to see the Christian Church at work, helping a fellow brother to grow in grace, exercising the authority of Christ, saying to everyone: “Yes, we are sinners, but we are willing to forgive when a brother repents.”  Who could have faulted that?  But the preacher rebelled and neutralized the great testimony.

In the early 1970s, Ruth and I were living in Dallas while I attended seminary.  W. A. Criswell was a great Baptist preacher in Dallas, TX, who loved the Lord, preached great Gospel sermons, and had a large congregation in downtown Dallas.  He was highly respected in the community.  Dr Criswell was interviewed on a local TV station on one occasion when I was watching.  The interviewer was very caustic, and assuming all the self-righteousness she could muster, she forcefully demanded to know why it had only been in the recent past that his church had opened their doors to African American Christians.  I’ll never forget Criswell’s answer, for it stopped her cold, and she stuttered for a come back.  His answer was something like this: “We sinned, and we’ve asked the Lord to forgive us.  Now we are glad to have our black brothers and sisters worship with us.”  That was genuineness!  The interviewer changed the subject!  We are not perfect but sinners, so let us recognize that!  But let us be confessing sinners, not arrogant or rebellious ones.  Pride will destroy us, but humility will lift us up in great favor with God and man.  AMEN.

Lent Is Repentance

Week 5 Memory Verse GoodMorningGirls.Org
((c) The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D.)
6 March 2018

Lent Is Repentance

We intuitively respond positively (or more so) to those who own their sin and negatively to those who hid or justify them. It is noteworthy that those who confessed their sins to Jesus received forgiveness, but those who justified themselves, like the Pharisees, were condemned by Him.

The season of Lent in the Church calendar is designed to make us think of our sins and of the grace of God in Christ.  It is not that we don’t think of these the rest of the year, but there is an emphasis on God’s holiness and our sins that is healthy, for this drives us even more to the Cross of Christ and His forgiveness.

But what is repentance?  In Acts 26 Paul describes repentance as “turning from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” and “that they should repent, turn to God, and to do works befitting repentance” (vv 18, 20).  Notice these things about repentance.

First, it is negative, and its object is sin—what one turns from.  Belief is positive, what one turns to, and expresses trust—in Christ.

Second, repentance means a turning from something and to something else.  It is as if the person is on a path leading to hell and he realizes his plight, which causes him to reverse directions, taking a U turn.  Now he is walking in the opposite direction toward heaven.  In changing directions, he turned from hell to heaven, from his sins to the forgiveness of Christ, from Satan to God.  This “turning” necessarily involves both from and to.  It is not possible to change directions 180 degrees in one’s life without turning from something and going to something else, and this “from” is repentance and the to is “faith.”  Repentance and faith are like two sides of one coin: the “tails” is the negative that refers to one’s sins, and “heads” is the positive side that refers to faith in Christ.  If one has the “coin,” he has both sides.

By the word “turn” the Bible does not mean that the sinner has to do so many works to merit God’s forgiveness.  Repentance is a mental recognition of one’s current condition that leads one to fear God, to hate his sins, and thus to seek a solution.  The faith grants the solution, which is faith in the substitutionary death of Christ for one’s sins.

Third, works are not merit to gain repentance, but the demonstration that repentance is genuine.  James states that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), but he never says works merits us forgiveness.  They are the barometer that reveal if faith is alive, but not the eternal life itself.  If faith and repentance are of the same “coin,” then works will be the fruit of repentance just as works are the fruit of faith.

So what is repentance?  It is a change of mind about oneself, about one’s sins, and about God, especially Christ.  We call this whole process conversion.  As a non-Christian, one is satisfied with himself and his life.  But once the Holy Spirit enters a person’s life, the sinner becomes convicted of his sins, that they are contrary to God and deserve His judgment.  This in turn leads the person to consider a solution, which is to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior who died for his sins.  The “process” may be long or almost instantaneous, but it is there.

To put this another way, when one comes to faith in Christ, why does He trust in Jesus (faith) if not to have his sins forgiven (repentance)?  In repentance the sinner turns from himself and his sin, and in faith he turns to Christ and His righteousness.  Moreover, these two go together; one cannot have one without the other.

And it is the season of Lent that brings to our attention this aspect of the Gospel; namely, our sins and the grace of God in Christ.  It is decidedly not the purpose of Lent to have a Mardi Gras so that we can indulge in our favorite sins and then go ask God for forgiveness.  This is playing games with God—and with our souls.  Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, which is a service to remind us of our mortality, that we will die, and that we must be prepared.  It also reminds us of what it cost God to save us: the death of His Son on the Cross.

Finally, Lent also reminds us of the battle of light against darkness, of Satan versus God.  We are involved in spiritual warfare for the souls of people, and the Gospel is the weapon that brings them to surrender to the Triune God.  There is no neutrality here.  One is either in God’s army or Satan’s, and when one repents and believes the Gospel, he leaves Satan’s army and joins God’s.  That is what St. Paul said as quoted above.

Moreover, the Lord Jesus (quote above) said He came to save sinners, not those who thought they were ok as they were. As He put it, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In other words, we must present something to the Lord Jesus, and without this “work” on our part, we cannot be saved. IT IS WITH OUR SINS THAT WE GO TO GOD FOR WE HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO GO WITH THAT WE CAN CALL OUR OWN (Horatius Bonar)AMEN.

How to Interpret the Bible, part 2, or Rescuing 2 Peter 1:20-21 . . .

((c) Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, ThD)

16 Jan 2018

This post is the conclusion from last time. I don’t hope to do an exhaustive course on hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible), but just to make some comments on these two verses that I began last time.

Here again is my translation of 2 Peter 1:20-21:

Knowing this first,

that no                  prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own [private] interpretation,

                             for prophecy never came by the will of man,

BUT

                       holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

  1. By “no prophecy of Scripture” that  I mean the written revelation as given in Holy Scripture.
  2. Moreover, “from one’s own” by which I mean no one conjours up revelation from his imagination. I understand “own” to mean “private”. In other words, a reader or one who imagines is not allowed to invent Scripture. How many times have I had someone tell me, “This is what this passage means to me [then follows some interpretation]; what does it mean to you.” Peter is telling us that a passage ripped from its context is not really Holy Scripture, but someone’s imagination. As one friend of mine often quotes another scholar:

    “A wrong interpretation of Scripture is not Scripture; 

     … only the TRUE meaning of the Bible can properly be called the Bible.” 

    Once I was managing a Christian bookstore in Memphis, TN when a lady came in to shop. She kept saying that the Lord had told her such and such (don’t recall now what it was). Finally, I said, “The Lord told me the opposite.” She looked stunned.  One must never challenge another’s “revelation” or “word of knowledge.” She said something like “How can you say that?” I walked over to our Bible section of the book store, picked up a Bible, and read her a few verses that said the opposite of what she was claiming. She said something like, “Well, this is what it MEANS TO ME.” I replied that God the Holy Spirit was not into relativism. To show how objective she was, she never came back. By her will or imagination, she was inventing a meaning that was not in the text of the Bible; it was a private interpretation.

  3. There is one Greek word for “as they were carried along,” which is a present tense, passive voice, participle, masculine, plural, indicating continuous action. In this context, “they” refers to “holy men” of God. Passive voice refers to the Holy Spirit superintending one’s thought processes to enable him to give divine revelation. It does not mean the person just sat down one day and said something like, “I’m gonna write me some Scripture.” No, God the Holy Spirit was in charge. Present tense means an ongoing process, at least at that time. Now that revelation is complete, there is no more scripture being written.
  4. To the lady mentioned above, the Bible was a wax nose to be molded to fit her “private interpretation.” As for the finality of the Bible, I have a chapter on that in my book, Man as God: The Word of Faith Movement, in which I point out that the Bible says of itself that very thing; namely, it is final in its now current form.
  5. “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other”. (1 Cor. 4:6 NKJ)
  6. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (Jas. 4:12 NKJ)
  7. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20 NKJ) We are always to listen and obey former revelation.
  8. One of the great problems with today’s new revelations, or word of knowledge, is that these “new” prophets separate the Holy Spirit from the written word, which is what Peter does not allow: “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21 NKJ) Peter does not allow new revelation based on one’s own imagination.
  9. We must recognize whether the Bible IS the word of God, CONTAINS the word of God, or BECOMES the word of God. We can see these three ideas in a plate umpire calling balls and strikes. A father yells at the umpire when his son is at bat, (1) “That was no strike. Did you get new glasses yet?” To which the ump says, “I call them as they are.” This means there is objective truth in the pitch. He does not make up his own “private interpretation.” (2) Another father yells at another ump, “What’s the matter with your eyes?” The ump yells back, “I call them as I see them.” This means his interpretation is the eye of the beholder.  (3) Finally, another father screams, “O come on, you can’t be serious. You’re blind as a bat and twice as ugly.” With equal fervor the ump yells, “They are not balls or strikes until I call them.” This is no truth here, just perspective, and the ump has the final respective. This is the problem with much of Christianity in the USA. Some really seek to understand and apply Holy Scripture as given. Others think each person can make up his own mind. And finally,  with others there is no truth, but let’s just play the game.
  10. In the first case, the ump sees truth as it is. In the second case, another ump sees truth as somewhere in the situation. Finally, in the third case, truth becomes what the ump wants it to be. We are in the third stage in the churches in the USA.

AMEN

How to Interpret the Bible, Part 1

© The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th. D., 2017

We live in one of the worst times of church history: it seems that every few years there is a new movement and a new interpretation of the Bible. And there is a new study Bible published every few years to promote this new “private interpretation.”

Several years ago, I had lunch with a young man who was on a quest. He was studying the Bible by himself and teaching others his views. Toward the end of a long conversation, I asked him what church he attended, and he said “None.” I strongly advised him to find a good gospel church to attend, and he indicated he would not. He has no Bible training, no training of Hebrew and Greek, no training in theology, no training in church history, especially regarding the heretics down through the centuries; in other words, he would be a law unto himself. Mark it down that those who think they can go it alone are sure to repeat the errors and heresies of the past. Here we have one who may start another Christian cult. This young man is teaching that there is no hell and that all will be saved, everyone who has ever lived. Now this young man has quit his job, and is studying the Bible at home. He has a wife and children. His idea of sola scriptura is just the Bible and me.

The history of the church must be taken into consideration when we study the Bible and theology. It is tragic that some who think so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to them, think so little of what He has revealed to others. The interpretation of the Bible belongs to the Church and has been ongoing for 3,500 years, going back to Moses. We must not divorce ourselves from the church’s history.

Sola Scriptura was a watchword for the protestant Reformers, but they did not mean “just the Bible and me.” In other words, the Bible was the ultimate authority but not the only authority. Even the great protestant Presbyterian Charles Hodge stated: “If the Bible be the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and if . . . the Spirit guides the people of God . . . into the knowledge of the truth, then the presumption is invincible that what all true Christians believe to be the sense of Scripture is its sense” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:437).

Or, as R. C. Sproul has said: “Although tradition does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. If, upon reading a particular passage, you have come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for two thousand years, or has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation.” (Dr. R.C. Sproul, The Agony of Deceit, pp. 34, 35)

In other words, Hodge and Sproul are saying that there must be some closure to Christian truth, not begin again with each new generation. So what doctrines should be final? We see those doctrines in the three creeds of the Church, especially the Nicene Creed. Indeed, all branches of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism) hold to the Nicene Creed formally, and most confess it in their worship services. The Apostles’ Creed is also broadly used, and the third creed, The Athanasian Creed is confessed in the West by Rome, Anglicanism and others.

If one reads the doctrinal statements of independent churches who naively say “no creed but Christ”, one can see that they really hold to the Apostles’ Creed. In fact, it is quite impossible not to have a creed, for that is just what one believes. Better to be in line with all Christians than to reinvent the wheel. Can you imagine a young man wanting to enter medicine, and he says he does not believe any of the research of others before but that only he has the truth? Would you want him to do heart surgery on you? That is precisely what is happening with new movements, such as the word-faith movement, and with this young man who quit his job. He is ignoring all who have gone before, cast aside their wisdom and biblical understanding, and is now wanting to do spiritual heart surgery on others. He first needs to learn from others more qualified than himself and be approved by them. In other words, he needs to submit to their authority, learn from their approved studies, and only then have the seal of approval on them.

Here is an example. When I was starting a church in TX, a young man and his new family were attending worship. We had a liturgical worship, which he very much appreciated. After attending several times, I asked him and his wife to dinner after church. Toward the end of lunch he asked me this question: “May we join the church if we are preterist?” Now preterism has several forms. It can mean that all the passages in the New Testament on the Second Coming were fulfilled in AD 70. Another view is that most of the passages in the New Testament were fulfilled in AD 70, but some await His return. I asked him which view he held. He said he held the first view, that basically the Second Coming was over since AD 70. I said, “You may not join because the Church has spoken over the millennia that the Second Coming is yet in the future. I don’t care if you’re amil, premil, postmil, but you can’t deny the Second Coming.” His response was, “I can show you good reasons for my position.” I responded, “No you can’t, but if you are really interested in how the Church has understood those passages, I’ll be glad to meet with you. For now I request that you get some good modern, conservative commentaries and restudy the issue.” He did restudy, and became a member, and the whole process was about three months. He and his family never gave us any trouble and made excellent members.

Basically, I brought the authority of Christ through His Church to bear on him, and he responded in a godly way. We are not to be a law unto ourselves or to be autonomous individuals, thinking sola scripture means just the Bible and me. So how do we interpret the Bible? From a covenantal position of being under authority.

There are other things that must be considered also, such as knowing the Old Testament language of Hebrew, the New Testament language of Greek, the cultural background, knowing the whole Bible, and many other things. But this is enough for this short blog.

Next time, Lord willing, I shall rescue 2 Peter 1:16-21 from false interpretations, but for now here is my translation:

 

knowing this first,

that no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own private interpretation,

                             for prophecy never came by the will of man,

BUT

                       holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

 

We shall look at this next time, Lord wiling.

AMEN.Ω

 

 

 

 

Is the Reformation Still Needed?

October 31, 1517

© The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, ThD

When Martin Luther began his ministry of the priesthood and teaching (PhD) in the early 1500s, there were only two branches of Christianity: The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy. When Luther died, there were three branches, the third one being Protestant. When Luther nailed the 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, it was an invitation to other scholars to debate indulgences. The church door was like a bulletin board for announcements, and Luther wrote the Theses in the scholarly language of the day: Latin. He was as surprised as anyone when they were taken down, translated into German, and spread throughout Germany. Now Luther was forced to defend his teaching.

What Was the Reformation?

It was the greatest revival in the history of the Church (and still ongoing). I don’t mean to be unkind, but the Roman Catholic Church had fallen into really bad teachings and practices. They were basically selling forgiveness of sins. Several weeks ago I saw on TV a documentary of Martin Luther where a current Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church admitted that the Church in Luther’s day had indeed fallen into decadence and bad doctrines. Now in our day, the Protestant Church has fallen into various heresies, as has the Roman Catholic Church and just about every other Christian church or organization. Here are some of our protestant problems:

  • We present a positive message without judgment.
  • We’ve turned the Bible into a popular psychological manual for self-improvement.
  • With the right words spoken audibly, we can manufacture our own providence. In fact, the word-faith movement thoroughly disdains the word “providence.”
  • Catholics pray to Mary, and Protestants pray to themselves.
  • Every passage in the Bible has become a “secret” to have victory, if we only . . .

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the word-faith movement, The compromised protestant megachurches proclaim a form of indulgences, which is positive confession. If you say words into the air with faith, you’ll bring riches into your life; but of course you must send the word-faith preacher his share. Robert Tilton used to require a thousand dollar vow, and if you made that vow and sent him money, he would send you a cloth to put in your billfold that would bring you money. You could reap a 100 fold harvest. Their followers are being fleeced as much as those poor peasants in Luther’s day. (If you want a copy of my book on the word-faith movement, please CLICK HERE. You can see the thorough Table of Contents when you click the link.)

 

Need for the Reformation

The Reformation was a return to the Bible and to the old gospel the fathers of the church had preached the first thousand years (or more) in the Church’s history. The Roman Catholic Church had degenerated into various false teachings and practices, not the least of which was the selling of forgiveness of sins in the form of Indulgences.

In the 1300s there was a man called Jon Wycliffe. He was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, Biblical translator, reformer, and seminary professor at Oxford. He was an influential dissident within the Roman Catholic priesthood during the 14th century. He had followers that went around preaching the pure Gospel who were called the Lollards. Wycliffe also translated the Bible into English from the Latin. He was the evangelical of his day, and died in 1384. About a hundred years after he died, he was declared a heretic, and his bones were dug up and ground.

After Wycliffe came Jon Hus. The Roman Catholic Church martyred him in 1415 after giving their word they would not do it if he would just appear before them to defend his views. He was a Czech priest, philosopher, Master, dean and rector at Charles University in Prague, church reformer, inspirator of Hussitism, a seminal figure in the Bohemian Reformation and a key predecessor to Protestantism. Luther claimed, 100 years later, to be a Hussite.

Enter Martin Luther and Tetzel, the latter who was selling indulgences on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church that granted a release of some temporal punishment due to sin. Martin Luther vehemently challenged indulgencies. The money collected was for the Pope to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Here is what Tetzel would proclaim:

As soon as the gold in the casket rings,

The rescued soul to heaven springs.

Here is another version:

As soon as the coin in the coffer rings,

the soul from purgatory springs.

 

What is an indulgence? It gets complicated, but suffice it to say that it is something you do (works) that will lessen your time in purgatory, which is not heaven or hell, and not a desirable place to go. But Tetzel was selling indulgences to the poor to use for their deceased loved ones to get out of purgatory early. It was salvation by proxy after death by money. For example, in one Roman Catholic catechism one can get a full indulgence by saying the Rosary before Holy Communion, or a partial indulgence for reading the New Testament 15 minutes a day. It is a mechanical works system where one can get his ticker card punched.

You might find it interesting that just several weeks ago there was a documentary of Martin Luther and the beginning of the Reformation. It was very positive, and there was a Roman Catholic Cardinal on the program who stated that the church at that time had become corrupt and was in need of reforming. I would add that it still needs reforming, along with worldwide Anglicanism and Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. Worldwide Christianity is in pitiful ruins in its beliefs and practices.

In the early 1500s there was a priest with a troubled conscience. Tomorrow, October 31st, 1517, 500 years ago, Martin Luther, who had an earned Ph.D. in biblical studies, at the age of 34, nailed up the Ninety-Five Theses on a church door in Wittenberg. He wanted to debate other church scholars regarding certain teachings and practices, especially Indulgences. Thus began the greatest revival in the history of the Church, which has lasted now for about 500 years. Other revivals have been sparked, such the ones of the Wesleys, Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, here in this country in the 1700s, and many others in the last 100 years throughout the world. And let us not forget the godly women the Lord had raised up, such as Luther’s wife, Katherine, Edwards wife, and so on.

Do We Still Need the Reformation?

The first Reformation changed the Western world—Germany, continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, and so on. The world will never be the same now that God raised up Luther to preach the free gospel with such power and fearlessness. Likewise, with many other great men, Luther’s right-hand man, Melanthon (Germany), Calvin and Beza (France), Zwingli and Bullinger (Switzerland), John Knox (Scotland, Presbyterian), and certainly not least, those in England: Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Bucer, etc. Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer–all clergy in the Church of England–the Roman Catholic Church martyred.

The reformers faced not only theological heresy, but also they were persecuted by the civil authorities, the same as we are today. Our whole Western culture hates (and I mean hates with a devilish fiendness) anything Christian. There is a huge spiritual warfare going on in the West in general and also in our culture in particular. The gospel is being called hate speech, sexual perversion is freedom of expression, murdering babies is a woman’s choice, and so on. Moreover, ministerial success is measured in how big your parking lot is, though there is nothing wrong with having a large church in itself, but the tendency is to compromise the gospel so you won’t lose members.

We need a whole generation of D. James Kennedys to arise and march on our modern Jerichos. Many preachers today wimp out by saying that we must not be involved in political matters! Right, so we let the culture perish.

There are two ways to destroy the gospel: by addition and by subtraction. Most of the Christian cults subtract things, like the deity of Christ, the Holy Trinity, His bodily resurrection, and so on. But during the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church added many things, thus it was necessary to correct the errors by pointing out that each of the solas were not just necessary, but enough.

What were some of the big issues in the Reformation that are still needed today? I’ve written some articles in this blog about the “ONLYs”, the solas. The ONLYs emphasize the sufficiency of what they present, not just the necessity.

  • The Bible is not only necessary, but it is also enough (only).
  • The grace of God is necessary for us to come to Christ, but it also enough (only).
  • We are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, so that faith is not only necessary for our salvation, it is also enough (only).
  • Christ is not only necessary for our salvation, but He is enough. Only He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). We don’t add Mary to Him.
  • God’s glory alone must receive the emphasis, not us also.

The Bible is all the revelation we need, not the additions of the Roman Catholic Church in their traditions. The Bible is enough. The grace of God is all we need to gain salvation, not the merits of Mary and others. His grace is sufficient. We are saved through faith and not by our merits, which in turn means faith is enough. The person of Christ is the only mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), the only way to the Father (John 14:6). This further means that His once for all death was and is enough. We don’t need the sacrifices of Mary or others. Finally, our salvation is to God’s glory alone because only He has saved us, lest anyone should boast in his own merits.

But there has been tremendous progress made in the last few decades, or at least in my lifetime. (I’m now 72.) Roman Catholics and Protestants do not want to kill one another. Within my lifetime, even in the past several decades, evangelicals and Catholics have come together to a great extent. In Amarillo, the local Roman Catholic bishop and I marched together at the front of the line each year for pro-life. Other ministers were there incognito, out of uniform, so the media did not know who they were. I’ve worked with Roman Catholics in various pro-life endeavors, side by side, praying wonderful prayers while for our sake leaving out the Hail Mary.

I read Pope Benedict’s XVI excellent work titled Jesus.

I sure I’m not a prophet, but I’ve been saying for several decades that Christians all over the world must come together if we’re to survive the onslaught of Islam, Atheism, Liberalism, hostile politicians, etc. Satan is making an all-out push against us. But does that mean I’m going to Rome any time soon? There ain’t no way, for there are still substantive areas of disagreement: transubstantiation, purgatory, prayers to humans, works to gain heaven, papal infallibility, Mary as co-redeemer and co-mediator, Son of God as only one mediator out of many. Yet they hold the same three creeds we do, Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian. My plea is not for conversion to that system, but for tolerance on both sides, but without compromising the solas.

So, is the Reformation still needed? I would say Yes, but it is not just around the solas. Without giving up the progress we’ve made in 500 years as of today, we must change the culture by preaching the gospel, changing our culture as Luther and others did by engaging the culture. We must proclaim the crown rights of King Jesus, because

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
                                       baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
                                           20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matt. 28:18-20 NKJ)

AMEN.

 

Last Time Polyamory, This Time Sologamy

(c) The Very Rev.Dr.  Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. Polyamory is two or more in a “committed” relationship. I thought polyamory was far out enough, but I did predict it in my book on the Ten Commandments (NOT Ten Suggestions) as basically group sex. I recently saw on Forensic TV a real case where three young men in their 20s gave rings to one another and vowed to remain true for life to one another. But disobedience to God’s law brings self-destruction. It was not long that one of the male lovers murdered one of the three, and the two who remained broke up. That was not a shock.

As for sologamy, instead of “marrying” two or more, you marry yourself. I’m not joking. It is a movement in Russia, Europe, Japan, and other nut case countries, like the good ole USA. Here is a link to it:

If you follow the link, you’ll find a woman marrying herself, with 500 people attending. So what will she call herself, “Mrs. Me”? What were the vows like, “I promise to love me in life and in death, in sickness and in health, until I nullify this marriage from me?” Was the “marriage” sealed with “I promise to love the Lord myself with all the narcissism I can muster?” Now this is one marriage I did not anticipate in my book!

Here is a quote from the article in the link above:

At its core, self-marriage is a classic rite of passage with three obligatory stages: separation, liminality and incorporation. The first stage – symbolic death – serves to break all ties that no longer serve you. The second stage is all about ‘discovering’ your new love for yourself, through techniques such as self-addressed love letters and poems. And, finally, the third stage, the big shebang: the wedding ceremony, meant to seal the bond between You and You, through your choice of self-declared vows.

This is the height of narcissism, or the depth. How can there be any legal status to such a “marriage”? “Love” has been completely eviscerated of any meaning, for by definition love is directed to another person. I found this bit of news on the Internet:

  • State and Government Recognition. Self-marriages do not require a marriage certificate. This is because self-marriages are not recognized by any states in the United States. . . .  That means that if you are already married to another person, you can still self-marry without implicating anti-bigamy or polygamy laws. Jan 28, 2015

But it gets worse.

Now, some people are marrying their pets! Again, I’m not making this stuff up. As far as I know, you cannot marry your dog or cat in the USA, but you can in Bali. I predicted marriage to pets, group marriage, and even euthanasia for those who for whatever reason cannot cope with life.

In France, one woman was allowed to marry her dead fiance, and they can still do so if it can be proved that they had formally planned for their wedding. There seems to be no end to degeneration. Here is what one wise man said:

John Dryden, the seventeenth century English poet, said:

“For those whom God to ruin has design’d,
He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.”

Today we might say it this way:

“Those whom God would destroy, He first makes mad.”

AMEN.