Only One Authentic Word
By David Norris
Peniel Fellowship, PO Box 22, Cannock, Staffs. WS12 4HR
E-mail address: DAVIDNORRIS@pen-fellow.freeserve.co.uk
Part 1: Introduction | Faith, Reason, and the Word of God | Rome and Scripture Authority
Part 2: Science, History and Scripture | Preservation and Scripture Authority | In Conclusion
When looking at any subject in Scripture, the approach is often to gather together as many proof texts as possible and hang them all out to dry next to each other like so many items of washing on the line left to blow about in the wind. In doing this, what we fail to capture is the big picture found in Scripture. The proof text method of argument usually ends with those on each side hurling one verse after another at each other. For every verse the protagonist finds, his opponent will find one that seems to say the opposite. This is the method used by many sects. Every verse in Scripture needs to be considered not only in the context of the immediate passage in which it is found, but also in respect of its place in the overall picture in Scripture of the unfolding redemptive purpose of God in His Son. In this way, we build a sure foundation and shall not be easily blown about by every wind of doctrine. Years ago, grocers used to stack up cans of food in a huge pyramid in the shop window. Only one critical can had to be removed for the whole lot to come tumbling down. There is nothing in Scripture that is superfluous or even in the wrong place. Remove one verse, or even alter it in some way, and the whole structure will be affected in one way or another. Those who tinker with Scripture cannot avoid the error, or the false teaching that inevitably follows such reckless behaviour. Every single verse is there, because its place in the overall structure is essential. God put it there. Those who tamper with Gods Word cannot do so without immediate consequences to the big picture of biblical belief. We alter Scripture at our peril. What at first seems to be just a tiny shift will have far-reaching repercussions. The ripples from a small stone thrown into a large pond will be detectable even at the furthest edges.
In the same way, no doctrine can be said to rest on an isolated verse of Scripture. This atomistic approach will lead to distortion, because each verse fits neatly and purposefully in its place as part of the much wider whole. At the centre of this overall structure is what the Bible says about God Himself.
When any biblical teaching is denied or changed, not only will all the teachings around it be affected, but ultimately the error will be traceable back to a misunderstanding about who God is in the first place.
Should this process continue, we shall be found in the end to be worshipping someone other than the God of Scripture. As an example, we cannot deny the literal historicity of the early chapters of Genesis without at the same time be saying something about the kind of God in whom we believe. We cannot assert that this God has revealed Himself in the pages of a book without at the same time implying that such a revelation is necessary to us. We must then ask ourselves what it is about us that puts us in need of such a revelation, and what it is about God that makes that same revelation authoritative. In this way, one teaching links intimately with all the others so that we cannot disturb one without affecting all the rest. That this authoritative Word should reach us without blemish or error, God inspired apostles and prophets to record perfectly in Scripture what He would have us know. As revelation and inspiration are linked to each other, so preservation is linked to them both. No one would sit for very long on a two-legged milking stool, all three legs are needed! We cannot remove what the Bible teaches about preservation without immediately affecting its teaching on inspiration or revelation. There seems little point in God inspiring original autographs, in making them infallible and inerrant, if they are no longer available to us today. Of what use to us is a Bible of which we can never be sure it is in every detail the Word of God? In the end the whole doctrine of Scripture will be undermined. By insisting that God preserves His Word, we are saying something about the kind of God in whom we believe. We believe in an almighty God to whom the transmission of the inspired text, the translation into any language on earth, all of which He created and comprehends more fully than any native speaker, is but a small thing to accomplish. What kind of a god do they worship who scrabble about among the manuscripts thinking to do the work of God themselves, relying on finite human reason? The God who holds the stars in place, who turns the earth on its axis, who holds the sun in the sky, shall He not also give us His own Word written in a book as it came forth from His own mouth, and that in a language we can understand?
"The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in the furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." Psalm 12:6-7
Bible critics have a very long pedigree. The first instance of an attack on the trustworthiness of Gods Word is recorded for us in the earliest chapters of the Bible itself. It all began in the Garden of Eden with the words of the serpent, "Yea, hath God said...?" (Genesis 3:1). Since that sad day when the seeds of doubt and denial were successfully sown in the human heart, men have sought to escape the voice of God, covering their sinful shame with the fig leaves of human ingenuity, hiding themselves in a futile attempt to escape His presence. God seeks still and calls, "Where art thou?". In a world torn and cursed by sin still can be heard the promise of salvation through cleansing in the Saviours blood, a promise found only in the written Word of God. Man cannot live without the Word of God, not before the fall, not after the fall, not ever. "Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" Deuteronomy 8:3.
We cannot live without it, we dare not die without it. Satans aim has ever been to separate man from the Word of God and so from God Himself and salvation. First he instills doubt, this is followed by denial, and then a defamation of God.
Faith, reason, and the Word of God
The attacks made on Scripture have always been made on the same basis as in the Garden of Eden, the pretended autonomy of the human mind, the illusion that one can think what one will about what God has said quite apart from God and still be right, the belief that human reason is the final arbiter of truth, and that we can be left to make up our own minds as to whether what God says is true. If God has said it, then it cannot be anything other than true. "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4).
To know anything about everything we need to know what God has said, and in particular we need to know what He has revealed to us about His Son.
The only proper stance where God speaks is unquestioned acceptance and willing submission. This is the only way we can be sure of knowing the truth about anything. Any other course than this means to accept the lie, to follow error, to rebel against our Creator. This false ideal of a free-booting human reason must be rejected, as this is the basic assumption supporting every type of infidel Bible criticism.
Our first parents were faced with the Word of God. They were told that they could eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were not to eat (Genesis 2:16-17). Satan was the original spin doctor, and his modern counterparts simply follow in their fathers footsteps. Look at the spin he puts on what God said to Adam, "Hath God said? ...God doth know..." Eve is quick to learn the technique, she appears to be adding to what God originally said with the words, "...neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." (Genesis 3:3). Human reason is no judge of the truth of revelation. Even to suggest that there is a need to test the Word of God for truth at the bar of human reason is to concede the possibility that God could be in error, or to imply He could even lie. It is to attribute to the human mind an authority and facility of judgment it does not possess. It is to assert that there can be truth that differs from the thoughts of God. It is to presume to possess the same attributes as God Himself.
In the pages of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments we have the infallible, inspired, revelation of God, all that we need to interpret everything we encounter. The Bible is an oracular book, when it speaks, God speaks. We can, we must, trust every word. As the Word of the living God, it demands we submit.
A mind that locates the final source of judgment within itself is an idolatrous mind, it has taken on prerogatives that belong to God alone.
It is to worship and serve "the creature more than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). Such a mind can only submit to Scripture and to God by first denying its own ultimacy. Those elevating their own critical judgment to a position of final authority will tolerate no rivals, especially one such as Scripture that claims to be a verbal revelation from the only source of truth. Whilst there are those who will seek to discount Scripture altogether, others adopt a kind of presumed objective neutrality and will seek to retain Scripture as one source among many from which truth is to be obtained; but in doing this, the ultimate decision about what is to be accepted or rejected they keep for themselves. God is placed on the same level as man and faces the same difficulties. This is the approach taken by all unbelieving Bible critics and so it must be challenged. The idea of a God is quite acceptable to unbelievers, but it will always be a god who leaves with them the final decision as to what is right or wrong. We preach the Word of God without compromise, we make no concessions to the rebellious, godless, natural thoughts and opinions of men. Everyone is not entitled to his opinion; anything not in accord with Scripture is in every possible sense wrong. Every thought is to be brought under the rule of Christ. We must show the thoughts of godless men to be what they are: falsehoods! There can be no middle road, no mixture of Gods thoughts with mans thoughts. There is no independent human thought to which God can add His. What is not of God is error.
We either submit unequivocally to God, or we oppose Him. There is truth and there is falsehood, with nothing in between, no midway position, no neutrality. God being the only source of truth, to claim a position of neutrality is itself to be in error, to be outside that truth. We can only arrive at the truth by relinquishing all presumed neutrality. The idea that one should go to God alone for the truth is not even considered as an option by unbelievers. In paradise Eve faced the choice: is God right or Satan? That she even entertained for a second the thought that Satan could be right demonstrated that she had already moved from the truth. Her position of neutrality in which she was free to make up her own mind was one of unbelief and denial. She was considering God and Satan on an equal level and making herself the final judge of both. The question could not be decided by taking a vote, one was for and one against! Having abandoned God as the only source of truth, she believed that she was in a position to decide from what God said whether what He was saying was true or false, good or bad. To assume that there is any such a choice to be made carries with it the thought that God could be wrong. Who is in a position to know? That is the question, one to which there is only one answer. To suggest there is a choice to be made is to call upon men to be obedient and to rebel at the same time.
Let no one imagine it is possible to accept God, receive His Son, and at the same time refuse the authority of His written Word. A refusal of Gods revelation as sole source of truth is a refusal of His person. An acceptance of Satans lies is an acceptance of his person, the two cannot be torn apart. We cannot claim at one and the same time to love God and yet doubt, deny, disallow, or in any way diminish the absolute authority of Scripture. On this point we heartily endorse the words of C. H. Spurgeon:
"I do not understand that loyalty to Christ which is accompanied by indifference to His words. How can we reverence His person, if His own words and those of His apostles are treated with disrespect?"
Satan had become the god of this world, the father of lies, in making himself an alternative source of truth. To whom would Eve submit, whom would she worship?
Whom we worship, His Word we accept. Whom we reject, his word we deny. Those who accuse us of bibliolatry thereby show whose children they are!
The Scriptures and the Lord
Bear one tremendous Name.
The Written and the Incarnate Word,
In all things are the same.
Joseph Hart, 1712-68
Deny the authority of the Scriptures, deny the authority of the Saviour, it is precisely the same. Writes the apostle Paul,
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13
The Bible is the one, authoritative, verbal revelation of God, there is no other. It speaks with absolute authority, no less than were we hearing the voice of God thundering down from the heavens. It is to be obeyed to the letter. It cannot be questioned.
"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." 2 Peter 1:16-19
It is this immovable, authoritative word before which sinful men will not bow, and therefore neither do they bow before the One whose Word it is. They reserve to themselves the right of veto.
Not everyone will reject the authority of the Bible outright. There are those who seek to add to Scripture or to supplement it in some way from other sources. Some even make the often blasphemous claim that this supplementary revelation comes from God in the form of dreams, visions, tongues or prophecies. Many in pentecostal and charismatic circles may deny that such revelation and prophecy supersedes Scripture, relegating it to a secondary level. Nevertheless, anything placed alongside Gods Word actually deprives it of its final authority in the same way as does tradition and the living voice of Christ in the church of Rome. Clearly, such people are not really submitted to the Word of God at all, rather they show themselves to be dissatisfied with what God has revealed in the Bible. Perhaps they do not like what He has said, it is certainly not sufficient for them.
There are many ways in which the authority of Scripture may be set aside even inadvertently and by some who ought to know better. Many read the Scriptures, but take account at the same time of church councils, creeds, the testimony of science, and Bible commentators and critics. We must remember that, whilst we may value the writings of saints now with their Lord, we may well have benefited from creeds and confessions formulated many years ago, they remain the writings and comments of men, however godly. Too many explain the Bible in terms of confessions and statements of faith, so that they have in practice acquired an authority virtually on a par with the Bible itself. Statements of Faith are important these days, when every heterodox sect the devil ever invented claims its teaching is based on Scripture, but we must not forget that the purpose of such Statements can only be to explain to others what we mean when we say we believe the teachings of the Word of God. They can never be more than their name suggests, Statements of Faith. They should never be used as the determining factor in the interpretation of Scripture, but they are themselves subject to correction by Scripture.
It would appear that for some, the results of long hours spent poring over hardbound tomes of Systematic Theology, along with a constant examination of the minutiae of historical theology, have been mistaken for the word of Scripture itself and submission to its authority. We need to be most careful in this respect. Many of us have reason to give thanks to God for the writings of godly men, when deprived of regular Bible teaching. We thankfully recognise with C. H. Spurgeon that not all light comes through a cracked tile in our own roof. Helpful though all these things may be, nothing can replace personal study of the Bible, and everything else we read must be subject to the scrutiny of Gods Word. Many, we fear, would not have fallen into imbalance and error had they, rather than dipping their noses deep into the writings of men, spent that same precious time prayerfully consulting the Scriptures. Some prophetic interpretations seem to owe more to newspaper blather and internet dross than to careful biblical exegesis. We must rather interpret what we read in the Telegraph or the Mail by the Scriptures and not the other way round. Some look to history and thank God for the wonderful way in which God has worked in the past, but they then go to Scripture and, hardly realising what it is they are doing, read into its pages what they have read of history. We must all be so careful. Yet others restrict the authority of the Bible, referring it only to matters of faith, thus marking out for themselves an area of autonomy where God does not have the last word. All these viewpoints have one thing in common: they will not allow the Bible its unique place of authority. Everything we do or even think is a matter of faith, "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).
Supplementary revelation also sometimes slips in under the guise of guidance. It is said that, as the Scripture speaks only in general terms, what is required in addition is individual revelation for specific and personal situations. Individual Christians do not need individual revelation, but each one of us does need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit in our study of the Scriptures. In Scripture we shall find deposited there all the revelation we shall ever need and more besides. As we read its pages under the influence of Gods Spirit, we shall begin to see and understand as God does. God has promised to believers, collectively and individually, that He will indeed lead us all into all truth, into a progressively more comprehensive understanding of the revelation He has given us. Let not those who throw Scripture back in Gods face by failing to study it, or by implying its inadequacy, suppose for one minute that God is going to stoop down from heaven and make a special revelation just to pander to their whim! It is misguidance, first to neglect Scripture then to claim to receive specific details about our lives directly from the throne of God!
Some set aside the authority of Scripture by interposing a human interpreter between the Word of God and the reader. At this point, the occasion for Satan to slip in his own falsehoods has arrived. This intermediary may be an infallible pope or church; it may be scholars and experts mediating Gods Word to us through a maze of manuscripts and supposed exegetical complexities. By intermediary we understand, a situation where the interpretative principle is the assumed autonomy of human reason, which must by definition be adrift from God and be functioning in unbelief and rebellion. An interpretation is being sought from within the mind and heart of the person making it instead of from Scripture. Such is the nature of a false prophet whose word we ought not to heed, he has no word from God.
Denying the need for a human intermediary is not to deny that there are those gifted by God to preach and expound the Word. The essential principle of exegesis remains, the Scriptures themselves provide their own infallible interpretation. The Word of God, even as His providence, is best explained by God Himself.
"God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."
If Scripture is to speak to our hearts with divine authority God intends, it will be both clear and immediately accessible to every believer. Saying that the Bible is clear in its meaning is not the same as saying every part can be understood with equal ease.
Does the Bible put an end to all use of reason? Not at all, but there is a marked difference in the use of reason by believers and unbelievers. The unbeliever makes his fallen reason the last court of appeal in all matters, whereas
for the Christian believer his ultimate source of authority is Gods infallible Word illuminated to his mind by the same Spirit who inspired it.
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:20-21
There is no conflict between reason and faith for the believer. He will recognise his mind to be a gift of God, but at the same time has faith in the divine Author of Scripture and an implicit and unquestioning trust in His Word. This is the continual cry to God from the heart of the believer:
"Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:4-5
"For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16
It is the Christian who is thinking as God does and in accord with Scripture who is the most rational of all His creatures.
The unbeliever throws most of his energies throughout his life into escaping from and denying the truth. Even as sinners men cannot live without God. He mercifully restrains them from living completely according their godless philosophies. Furthermore, in His infinite goodness, God continues to permit His sun to shine upon all men without distinction. He sends rain to water the ground and prospers what they do, all to the end that they may yet repent and turn to Him. It is of Gods mercy that sinful men are not left to reap right now what they sow daily in rebellious unbelief and wickedness. Even as the prodigal was able to spend each day in sin and riotous living only by misuse of his fathers substance, so the sinner daily abuses the good gifts of God.
If men are to know the truth about anything, they need to know what God thinks. To know what God thinks, He must tell us. We need revelation in the first place because we are finite creatures. Adam from the outset needed God to speak to him. The matter has now become more complex because of the entry of sin into the world. We now need revelation additionally, because we are guilty sinners. Sin has seeped into every corner of mans being, he is soaked in sin. He is born in sin, greets each day with sin in his heart, lives each day in sin, and each night lays down his head on the pillow with yet more guilt laid to his account.
"The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." Psalm 58:3
If he will not repent, it were better that such a person were cut off by God. He is cumbering up Gods earth, he is of little use to anyone, least of all to himself, and he is only storing up more judgment for the moment he stands before his Maker! Such a person as this, such as we all once were, will only submit to the authority of His Word when God, by a gracious working of His Spirit, breathes life where once death reigned. Only then will the light chase the darkness from the deepest corners of the mind, to see and believe.
The guilty sinner will do all he can to deny the truth, for to admit it leaves him condemned before God. His mind, along with the rest of his personality, has been twisted by sin so that it distorts everything it sees. The sinner will often understand very well what is being said to him in the Gospel, but his natural inclination because of sin is to pervert it. The sharper the mind, the more effective will be the distortion. The unrepentant sinner is thus hardly a person to be trusted to give us an unbiased opinion of the Scriptures. It is rather like asking an unreformed criminal to be judge and jury at his own trial! We are not going to get to anything like the truth out of such a person. A mind in flight from God is seeking only to hide in yet further darkness. Sin is synonymous with darkness and the truth with light. Presented with the Word of God, the powers of the unbelieving intellect will be set in motion to escape the light of truth.
Every fact of the universe interpreted in the light of Scripture conspires against the sinner, loudly proclaims his sin, his guilt, and thus his need of Christ.
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather then light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be manifest, that they are wrought in God." John 3:19-21
Not only is the sinner on the run from the truth, but he has allied himself with Satan against God. In return for his willing cooperation rather than making him wiser, instead of becoming as gods as promised, Satan has blinded his mind. He now moves across the face of Gods earth with all the vision and discernment of a man who has colluded in the removal of his own eyes in order to see better! Satan was a liar and a deceiver from the beginning!
"The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." 2 Corinthians 4:4
To ask someone to judge the truth of Scripture for themselves is to accede to their assumed ultimacy whilst all the time demanding they submit to God. Here is a clear contradiction, we cannot do both of these things at once. Only the acceptance of the authority of our Saviour speaking to us through the pages of the Bible provides any ground for fruitful discussion.
In view of the veritable Babel of contradictory claims to the truth, we need an infallible criterion by which the authentic Gospel of Christ can be immediately recognised, and that God has given us in the completed revelation given by the prophets and apostles.
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 3:11
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." Ephesians 2:20
That which has not come from the apostles must be judged by that which has. No non-apostolic writing stands on the same ground. There can be no other foundation. Without apostles there can be no further revelation. The prophets and apostles are long since gone, but we still have their teaching perfectly preserved for us in the pages of holy writ. We have no other source texts, and nothing can be added to what they have said. There is nothing else to be said. Indeed, an apostolic anathema rests upon everyone seeking to do such a thing. Adding to, or changing in any way, the Word of God once given is a perversion; it is another gospel, which is not another. Paul is most emphatic:
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:6-9
This anathema must also apply to those who tamper with the text of Scripture, mess with the manuscripts, transform translations to make them say what they would have preferred God to have said. Revelations other than the one final revelation of Scripture must in the nature of the case be bogus. There is no possibility of them being other than the product of the human imagination or worse, a demonic diversion destined to lead those who follow them away from the Gospel of Christ and into an endless fog of false mysticism. To add to Scripture is to bring down the apostolic curse upon ones own head. Scripture, when interpreted by Scripture, is clear, authoritative, and our necessary spiritual food. It permits no additions or alterations to it, and no subtractions from it. Every single interpretation is subordinated to Scripture as a whole. We cannot concentrate on some passages to the exclusion of others, if our understanding is to be balanced and accurate. Darker passages are to be explained in the light of those more readily understood.
Rome and Scripture authority
When our Lord was among them, the Jews had obscured and disallowed the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures by their vain tradition. Jesus tells them they are guilty of "Making the word of God of none effect through your vain tradition" (Mark 7:13). Moses had been elevated by the Pharisees almost to deity, yet even his writings were not sufficient for them. Their real allegiance was to a continuing, living voice of tradition, the product of apostasy, and so they were unable to see Christ in Moses and the prophets.
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. ...Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? ...But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." John 5:39, 45-47; 20:31
The Roman Catholic Church too has so obscured the Scriptures with tradition that Christ is no longer visible. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), arguably the most significant of all Roman Catholic theologians, wrote, "no error or untruth can be found in Scripture". Despite this, the living voice of Christ in the Roman Church is his real final authority. The Council of Trent (1545-63) determined to oppose the revival of Gospel truth and anathematised any thought of sola scriptura, cornerstone of the Reformation. The source of all saving truth and discipline of conduct is said to be "... contained in written books and in unwritten traditions, which were received by the Apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or, by the same Apostles, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were handed on and have come down to us; following the example of the orthodox Fathers, this Synod receives and venerates, with equal pious affection and reverence, all the books both of the New and the Old Testaments, since one God is the author of both, together with the said Traditions, as well those pertaining to faith as those pertaining to morals, as having been given either from the lips of Christ or by the dictation of the Holy Spirit and preserved by unbroken succession in the Catholic Church... if any one receive not [the books of Old and New Testaments, plus Apocrypha] as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. ...[no one must] presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother church, - whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, - hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never to be at any time published." On Scripture and Tradition, Session IV, 8th April 1546 [emphasis ours]
The Decrees of the First Vatican Council of 1870 open with the teaching that the church, meaning Rome, is the spouse of Christ and the teacher of truth and morals. In the second chapter the subject is revelation, where it is argued that some things may be known truly by the light of human reason on its own.
"The same holy mother church holds and teaches that God, the beginning and end of all things, may be certainly known by the light of reason, by means of created things; ...but that it pleased his wisdom and bounty to reveal himself, and the eternal decrees of his will, to mankind by another and supernatural way: as the Apostle says, God, having spoken..."
The Roman Catholic church recognises that, using the methodology of Aristotle, by the natural light of reason a proper understanding of nature and some knowledge of God may be acquired; what is then required additionally is the teaching of the church on things supernatural in order to acquire a comprehensive picture of reality. In things natural, reason is said to rule. Science and philosophy may uncover truth and knowledge in the natural realm, but their ultimate significance can only be ascertained through the living voice of Christ incarnate in holy mother church!
The Bible teaches that as man came forth from the hand of God, he was possessed of a righteousness that was a natural part of his overall make-up in every part of his being. God made man morally upright and good. When he fell every part of man was affected by it. Body, soul, and spirit were all warped by sin. Contrary to this, Roman theology supposes original righteousness to have been supernatural and additional to human nature. Following Greek philosophy, the body is said, even from creation, to be in constant conflict with the unseen spiritual part of man. In order that the flesh should be kept subject to the spirit, God gave original righteousness to keep everything under control. This original righteousness was lost to man at the fall. Spirituality was equated with denying the material and physical, the problem was not one of the sins of the heart (cf. Mark 7:15-23). Celibacy and monasticism were seen as ways of denying the demands of the body, escaping the material and physical world which was intrinsically flawed. The Roman Catholic view of sin and salvation is defective and must necessarily be other than biblical.
The meaning of all this is very straightforward: contrary to the teaching of the Bible, Rome maintains that although having this lost original righteousness the image of God in man remains intact, his mind, his will, and inclinations are largely what they were before the fall. Any imperfections are found in his non-rational physical make-up and that is simply the way he was created by God. Mans mind, his will, his heart, remain largely unaffected by the fall. What he does and thinks is therefore not affected by an inherently sinful nature as Scripture teaches, but by a less than perfect physical constitution for which he is not to blame. Sin is said to be only in part rebellion against God, it is also a non-ethical deterioration of natural ability. A man in this condition, were this the true nature of the case, stands in need of no revelation, no Scripture, no illumination of the Holy Spirit, in order to understand himself aright or the world around him. Christian teaching is just additional to what he is still able to find out for himself without God. Mans ability to reason, being part of his nonphysical make-up, has not been warped by an inherently sinful nature as Scripture teaches, anymore than his ability to do works pleasing to God has been altogether lost. Rome thus agrees with every godless unbeliever who relies on his reason and discards Scripture, and it also defends to the last, the filthy rags of homespun righteousness.
For all her formal acknowledgment of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the Roman Catholic church does not, and indeed cannot, call her people to submit to the authority of Gods Word.
All within Rome are bound not to the Word of the eternal God, but to the perfidious teachings of an apostate institution. In a chapter dealing with Faith and Reason, the Vatican I documents endorse the earlier decrees of Trent, retaining for Rome alone the right to determine and declare the sense of both Scripture and Tradition.
"For the doctrine of faith which God hath revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention, to be perfected by human ingenuity, but has been delivered as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared."
The relationship between faith and reason is not found in submission and trust in the infallible revelation of the sacred Scriptures, but each constitutes in itself an equally valid source of truth. Indeed, by mixing one with the other, the attributes of both are heightened. There is said to be a ... "...twofold order of knowledge distinct both in principle and also in object; in principle, because our knowledge in the one is by natural reason, and in the other by divine faith; there are proposed to our belief mysteries hidden in God, which, unless divinely revealed, cannot be known. ...And not only can faith and reason never be opposed to one another, but they are of mutual aid one to the other; for right reason demonstrates the foundations of faith, and enlightened by its light cultivates the science of things divine; while faith frees and guards reason from errors, and furnishes it with manifold knowledge." [emphasis ours]
So that we are in no danger of missing any of the infallible declarations of the church, the perpetuity of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs is added. What we are really left with is a Bible of very watered down authority; indeed, with no real authority left at all. After being filtered through Romes error, blasphemy, and heretical teaching, the precious Word of our God is set alongside a good mixture of autonomous Christ-hating human reason, but the final insult is that it is replaced as the ultimate word in all matters by a fraudulent successor to the apostle Peter, an impostor, a bogus representative of the Saviour on earth. Tradition, human reason, but crowing all, the pope is declared to be the supreme judge of the faithful with supreme jurisdiction over the universal church, possessing the supreme power of teaching. When he speaks ex cathedra, when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority his definitions of morals and faith are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the church. When the pope speaks, when the church speaks, the astounding claim is that it is the voice of Christ! What a lie, what sinful arrogance this all is! Unity with Rome? You have got to be joking.
It is often suggested that within the Roman Church since Vatican II (1963-65) there is now a new climate of open-mindedness towards Scripture and Protestants. A wind of change is blowing, some wind, some change! We are led to believe there has been a change of heart since Trent. Those who were once heretics have become departed brethren. The softened and beguiling tones call for dialogue. Are there really now more hopeful sounds coming from Rome than was the case in the 16th century? To find the answer we need look no further than the documents of Vatican II. By the confession of her own mouth there has been no change. What can be said on the theological level is that many Protestant theologians, in particular those in the neo-orthodox tradition, have joined their Roman Catholic counterparts in opposing the authority of Scripture. On the first day of the Council, 11th October, 1962 pope John made his opening speech and this was hardly encouraging.
"In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intended to assert once again the magisterium (teaching authority), which is unfailing and perdures until the end of time, in order that this magisterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world...."
The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.
"...the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council ... The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character." (all quotations from The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M. Abbott, London, 1966)
Given that the teaching magisterium is absolute and therefore above question, it follows that in Roman Catholic terms, it matters little that Scripture and tradition may be two equal sources of revelation, for both are subject to this infallible teaching office. The only changes we find in Rome are those of a shameless chameleon changing its outward appearance to accommodate the changed environment of our age, but essentially the beast is the same. The second chapter of the Vatican II documents deals with the transmission of divine revelation, where we read:
"Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God which is committed to the Church. The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church."
Clearly, no change! It is a reiteration of Trent without the anathemas. In the bosom of the Roman church alone can men hear through the pope or the body of bishops an authentic and infallible interpretation of the mysteries of God. The ends are the same though the means may have changed. The Catholic church now
"...desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren that are separated from her."
For the time being at least, the Roman church no longer openly anathematises and burns heretics at the stake, instead her siren voice lures them to destruction within herself. As martyrs were not terrified by her threats, no more shall we be deceived by her false charms.
If we read these documents from the Roman church with care, we shall see that she places herself not in submission to the Word of God, but in a very real way above it. She determines what it is that God has to say to men. By contrast, the Bible makes it very clear that it is the Holy Spirit alone who is the infallible guide to the believer reading Gods Word. Roman Catholic theology teaches that Christ is so identified with the church in His incarnation that it is actually continued in her, so full is she with the living Christ. There remains an ongoing incarnation, an ongoing sacrifice, an ongoing revelation, a living voice of Christ in the Church. In such a situation the idea of a finished salvation and a finished revelation is impossible. There is no finished history, no finished revelation, no finished salvation and man has a hand somewhere in them all!
To show that she really cannot submit to one, final authoritative revelation requires yet a little more investigation, and this will be something like disentangling a kitten playing with a ball of wool try not to lose the thread! Again, we must begin with creation. Important to a biblical understanding of creation is the divide that exists between God and all that He made. There is God and there is all He created. There are all those things God made, all have a beginning; there is God, who had no beginning, but exists in eternity. In becoming man, this divide between God and His creatures was crossed by the Lord Jesus, but this same divide has never been, and can never be crossed in the other direction. It is important to note that the Lord Jesus became fully man whilst at the same time retaining His deity, nor was there any mixture of His divine and human natures. They each remained distinct in one person and this must ever be so. Thomas Aquinas, however, established within Roman Catholic theology a synthesis with Greek philosophy, removing any distinction between the being of God and the created being of men. Being was all one, any difference is thereby made one of degree rather than of kind. The indissoluble distinction between the Creator and His creatures is blurred or completely disappears.
In absorbing this heathen notion, the Roman church seems to have some interesting bedfellows. The same idea lies at the heart of the mysticism of Meister Eckhart and Jacob Böhme, and the romantic philosophy of Schelling, who in turn influenced Coleridge. It is present in some Pentecostal and holiness teaching, and is characteristic of much New Age thinking. Feuerbach, the German philosopher, wrote,
"To predicate the personality of God is nothing else than to declare personality as the absolute essence" (in The Essence of Christianity).
All this is a futile attempt to bring God down to the level of man and elevate man to the level of God. Feuerbach again, "theology is nothing else than anthropology ... the knowledge of God is nothing else than a knowledge of man."
Divine attributes are to be snatched down from the skies to earth again from whence they were supposedly originally stolen, projected heavenwards onto a heavenly Being before whom man now falls in abject humility. Deity is to be restored to man. The deification of man could only have one outcome: the death of God in Western civilisation and the emergence of the superman in the blasphemous philosophy of the German pastors son, Friedrich Nietzsche, a man condemned by the God he so maligned to tragic and irreversible insanity. Atheism is redefined. No longer is atheism a denial of a God who anyway is long since gone from the scene, but it is a denial of His attributes as now being possessed instead by man. God has gone, and those who deny man has taken His place, they are the atheists now! Feuerbach:
"The true atheist is not the man who denies God, the subject; it is the man for whom the attributes of divinity, such as love, wisdom and justice, are nothing. And denial of the subject is by no means necessarily denial of the attributes."
Other members of this motley band of academic brigands include the Marxist disciple of Feuerbach, Bakunin, who spoke of the mirage of God; and the demythologising theologian, Rudolf Bultmann, who wrote, "I am trying to substitute anthropology for theology, for I am interpreting theological affirmations as assertions about human life." Kerygma and Myth, vol. 1
Quotations from men of similar ilk could easily fill our pages: Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and many more.
These men are worse than rank atheists for they would clothe their stinking theological corpses, their godless philosophies, in the garments of biblical language.
Those attributes thought to be the peculiar and distinguishing characteristics of deity are now said to be common to all human experience. Professor John Macmurray writes, "The conception of a deity is the conception of a personal ground of all that we experience. ...Religion is about fellowship and community. ...The task of religion is the maintenance and extension of human community."
Reading these words, it is easy to see why this man is so admired by new Labour prime minister, Blair; and we need to remember this is what he means when speaking of Christianity. We should beware of all those who speak of communal experience. This idea is somewhat reminiscent of a statement in Mao Tse Tungs infamous little red book, "Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people".
In the Roman Catholic version of these ideas, all being is said to be one, with God having fullness of being. This continuity of being enables man to ascribe to himself attributes and prerogatives that in reality belong only to God. When Roman Catholic theology declares that man is free, it means more than simply not being so radically affected by sin as the Bible says he is, it means man actually sharing the same being as God is to some extent ultimate. Man may have tripped, but he has not fallen very far. The will of man is of the same kind as that of God and so he is able to initiate that which is totally new. Men have autonomy and independence of thought and will of the same kind as God. Men can make decisions and generate thoughts that are right, without reference to God. God, therefore, does not have any real control over history as man can also determine what comes to pass. Any act, any thought of man is ultimate in its own right and is not dependent upon God. At first it appears there is an absolute authority in Rome in the figure of the pope. However, his authority is not absolute at all, but relative to the free and autonomous human will, his own and that of every human being. In Roman thinking, whilst the pope may be the highest on a sliding scale of human authorities, the will of every human being can be exercised alongside and outside the purposes of God and as such constitutes an independent authority in its own right. As the pope himself will also rely to some extent on his own autonomous mind, it being a source of knowledge of the same kind as that of God, even by his own standards it is not possible for him to speak authoritatively from God. The whole idea of an infallible pope is nonsensical and contradictory gobbledegook.
Roman Catholicism is a humanistic religion, it is also pure, unadulterated mysticism. This makes it one with many other false teachings and turns it effectively into the largest cult there ever was. It is in the nature of mysticism to claim that those initiated into the secrets enjoy direct access to God, effectively bypassing the Scriptures. This may be through the offices of a church or sect, or an inner light, intuition of some kind, mysterious teaching, experiences, dreams, prophecies, or visions. All who deny or limit the definitive once-for-all revelation of the Bible in this way have embraced a false mysticism. There is one faith, once delivered.
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write to you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 3
With the coming of the Son of God to earth, the revelation of God since the beginning was now brought to a climax. The revelation of all previous ages was now complete.
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Hebrews 1:1-3
Today our Lord is no longer on earth, but is seated at the Fathers right hand having finished the work His Father gave Him to do.
"I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work thou gavest me to do." John 17:4
There is no longer any personal, physical revelation of Christ in our midst outside of the Scriptures, nor can there be, for He is seated in heaven (Acts 2:33-36). After our Lords ascension into heaven and at a time before the canon of Scripture was complete, all who were granted a vision of the risen Christ saw Him reigning not on earth, but in heaven.
"But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." Acts 7:55-56
All claims to the contrary are bogus. Christ cannot be in more than one place at once in His physical body. Until that day when every eye shall see Him, He will not leave His Fathers side to return to earth.
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise many false Christs, and false prophets" Matthew 24:23-24
Such as lay claim to a physical revelation of Christ outside the Scriptures are false prophets. This fact alone reduces the Roman Mass to a blasphemous absurdity.
These eyes do not see our Saviour, nor these ears hear His voice. How then can we who are on earth have access to Gods final and perfect Word, who is no longer on earth? We need an authoritative Word. Where shall we find a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path? There is one objective, verbal, authoritative revelation of Christ today on earth, one direct line, one voice from heaven: the inspired Scriptures, preserved perfectly by God, and illuminated to our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. With this last inscripturation, revelation is completed. Men may cry to heaven for a word from God, they will hear nothing, and see nothing. The work of Christ is complete, God has nothing more to say than He has said in Christ and this we find infallibly recorded in the Bible. How can we possibly think we need more than is to be found in Christ, who is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30)? Shall we exhaust the riches in Christ and then still ask for more?
As all before pointed to a coming Christ, so all afterwards points back to His completed work. Without faith in that finished work there is no way to be saved. There is no blessing God has to give to anyone apart from in Christ. There is nothing that does not stem from our Saviours once-and-forever sacrifice of Himself. Even the godless experience Gods goodness day by day only for our Saviours sake, they would otherwise not be spared. Having given His Son, God has nothing more to say to anyone than that He has said in Him. What more must God do in demonstration of His love than to give His only begotten Son? To expect more is wicked and insulting.
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32
Only were the redemptive work of Christ still ongoing would we need further information, further revelation.
To say, or even to imply, that the revelation of Scripture on its own is insufficient or incomplete, and that more revelation is needed, is to suppose that the work of the Lord Jesus is also unfinished and continuing and that as a result we stand in need of being kept constantly up-to-date by a new word from God. Those trusting an unfinished salvation are most certainly not trusting Christ and are still in their sins.
Beware dear friend, if you are among those claiming new revelations, be clear what it is you are denying and the danger you are in.
"But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God" Hebrews 10:12
God will add nothing more to Scriptures, nor dare we. Those then who make such claims are liars.
"Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" Proverbs 30:5-6
What we are being told is that the Word of God must have something added to it. What is really happening is that men are heaping their own inventions upon what God has given us in Christ. The Scriptures say, "God imputeth righteousness without works" (Romans 4:6). Should our faith embrace Christ plus anything, then we remain lost sinners. There is nothing to be added to what Christ has done on our behalf, there is nothing new to be added to what God has said about what Christ has done.
Martin Luther said that he would rather obey than work miracles. Longing for more than is found in Scriptures is not a sign of spirituality and faith, but of apostasy and unbelief. This is as true of those who demand miracles, signs and wonders as it is of those who expect God to somehow step into our age and do something more than is to be found in the Gospel given in Scripture. There is nothing we can possibly need that is not already ours in Christ.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:3
All present blessings stem from what God has already given us in His Son. God has done all there is to do in Christ, and all we need to know about Him is in the Bible!
"An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whales belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:39-40
This is the only sign with power to save, we refuse it at our peril. If we refuse the greatest sign of all, let us expect no other from God. The truth is, if we are not ready to accept what God has already given, shall we respond any differently should He speak again? Clearly, we would not.
"If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" Luke 16:31
Those who ask for more would be no more ready to submit and believe even were God to grant their request. Those who would meet Christ Jesus today will receive no blinding flash from heaven. Would we be led to Christ? We shall meet Him as the Holy Spirit illuminates the pages of Scripture until what we read there becomes our own experience by faith.
Only when we adhere to the biblical teaching of a self-sufficient, unique, and sovereign God, dependent upon no one, can we call people to confess their sin and submit, repent, and turn in unreserved faith and dependence upon Christ alone for salvation. Only then does the voice of our Creator God come to us in the pages of Scripture with real authority. Because, according to Roman theology, men participate in one ultimate kind of being, man is free not under the sovereign will and plan of God as Scripture teaches, but because his own will is said to be of the same sort as that of God. Man, like God, can determine how history will turn out. So it is that the deeds of men can never in any final sense be subject to the will of God. God cannot even predict what is going to happen. He must wait and see what millions of people will first decide to do, each one able to do that which is entirely new and unpredictable. There can be no infallible final revelation in Scripture in such a situation. God needs to keep adding new information. Rome makes man sovereign in his own realm, and God in His. There is no sovereign grace in the Roman church and man can thwart Gods purpose at every turn, in the end he is above God Himself. Only where God has all things in His hands can there be a once-for-all revelation, and a once-for-all act of salvation on behalf of sinners. The biblical view of Scripture strikes at the heart of Roman error. The two stand together. His work is finished, and God has given us a completed interpretation of it in Scripture through the apostles. We have a finished work and a finished revelation in the Bible, a true and certain salvation. Believers submit to Scripture; no tradition, no pope stands between.
It is not surprising that Protestant charismatics should link arms with their Roman brethren for both recognise the authority of ongoing extra-biblical revelation.
The collateral to the authority in the Roman Catholic church of an apostolic succession is in modern Pentecostal churches the continuance in this day of apostolic gifts,
gifts that in fact passed away with the apostles. These so-called charismatic gifts not only make continued revelation possible but give it apostolic authority. There is no way round this conclusion, despite protestations to the contrary by more moderate Pentecostals. The authority of Rome is an apostolic office, whilst apostolic gifts constitute the authority of pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. The only apostolic succession recognised by true believers is the succession of apostolic teaching perfectly preserved for us by God in the Scriptures. A genuine gathering of the Lords people is very easily recognised.
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptised ...And they continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Acts 2:41-42
What is surprising to observe is the rush of so many evangelicals to kiss the pope; a Judas kiss, if ever there was one. Very recently this has been exemplified in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement in which Dr Jim Packer has been so prominent. Whilst it is sad to behold this shameful toadying to Rome, a careful reading of his book Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958) is enough to demonstrate that the foundation for such a move had already been laid long ago. His views on faith and reason share common elements with Rome.
"We shall, therefore, continue loyal to the evidence both of Scripture and empirical enquiry, resolved to do justice to all the facts from both sources ...The truth is that the facts of nature yield positive help in many ways for interpreting Scripture statements correctly, and the discipline of wrestling with the problem of relating the two sets of facts, natural and biblical, leads to a greatly enriched understanding of both." [Emphasis ours]
This is straight from Aristotle, straight from Aquinas! Here are two sets of authoritative facts. One set comes straight from the mouth of God, the other from the observations of a fallen human mind. Indeed, the musings of sinful man about the world in which he lives may help him to understand the Bible better! Unless submitted to Scripture, the thoughts of even the best of men will be as lost as their souls. The truth is that the facts we observe are what the Bible says they are.
Unity with Rome is sought on the basis of teachings supposedly held in common, particularly from the early Christian creeds. As we have already begun to see, whilst the labels may be the same that is where the similarity comes to an end. The Roman Catholic understanding of the incarnation or the atonement, two areas where there is said to be common ground, is far removed from what the Bible itself teaches; as is her understanding, for that matter, of the early Church creeds, particularly since Aquinas brewed his cauldron-mix of theology and philosophy. Roman grace is not the amazing free grace of God reaching out to wretched sinners, it is a heathen fabrication. Wrong in these matters means wrong everywhere else. We have nothing in common with these people, we do not even worship the same God!
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