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Calvinism? Arminianism? What’s all the fuss about? October 14, 2010

Posted by Henry in Denominations.
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In spite of Christ’s desire that we should all come into the unity of the faith, the church today has found itself in a place that is at odds with New Testament Christianity. The church today (i.e. the “protestant” church) seeks to assume the role of the true church (the ecclesia of Christ) yet it could not be any more divided on theoretical perspectives and denominational dogma. Not only did the reformation movement engender a split from the Catholic church to form the Protestant movement but it also create a schism within itself along theological schools of thought. Thus today we have descriptive terms such as Lutheranism, Calvinism or Arminianism by which Protestants may define themselves. Personally I refuse to subscribe to such limiting terms though fully recognising that it is not about personal sentiments but rather what the scriptural position should be. I therefore resent any notion that one cannot truly understand what Christianity means (or should mean) unless view through the eyes of Martin Luther, John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius, from whom the three theological schools aforementioned have been named.

It is interesting to note however that the divisions along doctrinal lines are nothing new to the church, since even the apostle Paul had to address this very same issue of division within the ranks of the Corinthian church. Paul writing to the Corinthian church therefore says this:

10Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1)

We see from this passage that the Corinthians were displaying the same behaviour being displayed in the church today, whereby one says I am of Luther, another of Calvin and another of Arminius. But I implore the church to heed Paul’s admonition here. Afterall is Christ divided or was Calvin or Arminius crucified for you or were you baptised in their name?

11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. (John 17:11)

22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:22-23)

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Christianity: A Personality Cult? April 11, 2010

Posted by Henry in Denominations.
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In Christendom today it seems as though many people have somewhat “outgrown” the local church and instead flock to churches and leaders whose messages they think they identify with more. It would seem that the message in the local church is no longer “adequate” to meet the needs of these congregants hence they seek leaders whose messages would appear to be more relevant to where they are currently at and points to where they want to be – moving to the “next level” and all that jazz. Preaching “Christ crucified” has become a bore so they want a more vibrant and exciting message that speaks to their personal situation and circumstances. In this age it is all about which minister do you follow and whose teaching do you “apply” to your life and circumstances. Christ seemingly has left center stage, or rather pushed aside and it is the minister that is now hogging the limelight. It is the minister who is now saying, “I am the anointed one.” Interestingly enough though, this is nothing new to the church as Paul had to deal with similar issues in his day and we see this in 1 Cor 3:3-7:

 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

 We see in this portion of scripture that church people were divided amongst themselves saying I am a follower of Paul, and others say they were followers of Apollos yet Paul’s response was that neither he nor Apollos were anything. In so doing Paul decreased himself so that Jesus might increase. What a wonderful testimony of a true follower of Christ? We could also learn a lot from John the Baptist’s attitude also as in a similar vein to Paul. He testified of Jesus in John 1 saying: 27 “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” What a blessing it is to have such humility? When the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus replied (Matt 18:3-4), “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” In stark contrast to what Jesus has said here though the greatest in the kingdom are perceived to be the “movers and shakers” in Christendom today. It is these men and women who are regarded as “great men and women of God” and they are elevated to godlike status. In this regard the celebrity obsessed culture in our world today is no different from that displayed in “churchianity”.

 Most Christian conferences today, like the IGOC (International Gathering of Champions), for example, is little more than an ostentatious display of pomp and circumstance and instead of the people coming to “meet with Christ” they come to see these would be gladiators of Christendom. The net effect of this is that a Christ-centered Gospel has thus become replaced by idolatry. Indeed one proof of this is that it has become popular for church ministries to be named after the pastor who is the president or CEO. But imagine Paul in his day setting himself up as Chief Apostle over Apostle Paul’s Ministries Inc.? From a personal point of view I do not want to be a member of any man’s ministry but rather a member of the First Church of Jesus Christ.

 In the words of John:

 He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

 May we extricate ourselves from this personality cult that seeks to replace true Christianity and return to the truth of God’s word.

Are Denominations Important? January 14, 2010

Posted by Henry in Denominations.
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There are many different Christian denominations across the globe today, be it Baptist, Methodist, Apostolic or Oneness Pentecostals, Reformed, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, just to name a few. The interesting thing to note however is that none of these names existed during the early birthing and consequent growth of the Church. So why then do we have so many different denominations today and are denominations important?

Certainly for some people denominations are important to them because they feel that theirs is the “true church”. In my own experiences when having discussions with members of denominations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist and Oneness Pentecostals, they all are of the view that their own denomination is the true church and consequently everyone else is on the wrong path. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have made claims suggesting that they are the Elect and the 144,000 who will be saved. A closer look at scripture will show however that in actual fact the 144,000 mentioned in the Bible constitutes 12,000 men of each of the 12 tribes of Israel who did not “defile themselves with women” (Rev 7: 4 – 8, 14:1 – 4). It is clear to see then that these 144,000 are not Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In contrast the Seventh Day Adventist say they are the true church because they have kept the Biblical Sabbath which they claim is Saturday (the seventh day) and that those who attend Sunday church do so in direct opposition and disobedience to God. They ignore the fact that the calendar we now use was instituted by Pope Gregory the Great, hence the Gregorian calendar. As such it would be very difficult to ascertain whether the seventh day as we know it today coincides with the seventh day God instituted as the Sabbath from the time of creation. The key point that the Seventh Day Adventists seems to have missed however is that God set aside the 7th day as a day of REST, what ever that day is or was. God did not say that we should attend church services on the Sabbath but to REST and do no work in it. The other point to note though is whether New Testament Christians are obliged to observe the Sabbath since Jesus fulfilled the Law thereby abolishing it, which also included the Sabbath. In any event Romans 14:5-9 has this to say:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.

The Oneness Pentecostals on the other hand believe that one should be baptised in Jesus name only, as opposed to Jesus’ instruction in Matt 28:19-20 where he told the disciples to go out and teach all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Oneness Pentecostals however uses Acts 2:38 as one of the central pillars of their faith. This is what they use to support their claim that one should be baptised in Jesus name only because Peter said so. But who is Peter? Do we obey Peter or do we obey Christ? Notwithstanding, it is doubtless whether what Peter said was meant to be a baptismal formula since Jesus already gave us the baptismal formula that we should use. Peter was more concerned with telling the Jews of their need to be baptised in the name of the very Man whom they had crucified. After all scripture tells us there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved except Jesus.

The points highlighted above, although not exhaustive, do demonstrate some of the ways in which denominations do differ on points of doctrine. It may be argued that some of these points are not “foundational” to the gospel but the question should be asked, why do denominations differ on points of doctrine and beliefs? I believe the answer to this question lies in the fact that Bible tells us that heresies will creep into the church over time. This can be the only explanation for why there are so many different denominations, each with their own “brand” of Christianity, which differ in some way from another. It is interesting to note however that even from the early days, the Church was being divided up into denominations and Paul had to deal with this very issue in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 1:10-13):

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Instead of being haughty and puffed up about this denomination or that, we need to heed the words of Paul here and get back to the “basics” of Scripture. As Paul makes it clear, Christ is not divided, therefore no divisions should be found amongst us and we all should be speaking the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement. It is my prayer that we who call ourselves the true church should heed Paul’s admonition.