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Posts Tagged ‘Justification By Faith Alone’

2020

Once again, I find myself looking back at the year past and peering forward at the one to come.   As is no doubt the case with many, this is for me a bittersweet annual experience.  By God’s grace, I can say that I have been partially successful in redeeming the time.  But a little honest reflection convicts me that I could have, and should have, done better.

Sin, it would seem, is ever present with me, tainting even my best works.

But thanks be to God, for it is not my own works that justify me.  Rather, I am acceptable to God “only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to [me], and received by faith [belief] alone.”

Truly, the grace of God is amazing toward sinners! It’s as if God were to say to us wretched rebels, “All your guilt, all your hopelessness, all your fear of death and of righteous judgment and of eternal punishment, these things I have taken away in my Son.  Only believe in him and be saved from the wrath to come.”

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“Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”

  • Robert Jeffress

 

“President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at tackling anti-Semitism on college campuses on Wednesday – but one of the speakers at the event said that Jews are going to hell,” thus reported the Huffington Post on Thursday.

Yes, the HuffPo was in a state of high dudgeon that Donald Trump dared to invite to the While House a Christian minister, who actually teaches Christian doctrine.

In this case, the guilty party was none other than noted Southern Baptist minister Robert Jeffress.  At times, I have been critical of Jeffress on this blog. I stand by my criticism.  But today I come not to bury Jeffress but to praise him.

What triggered the outrage at HuffPo and several other news outlets?  I’ll let the HuffPo’s headline speak for itself: “Pastor Who Says Jews Are Going To Hell Speaks At Trump’s Hanukkah Party.”

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Unplanned

Just to dispense with one item upfront, I have not seen the movie Unplanned, nor, despite the many encouragements from various conservatives to support the film, do I intend to.

To be clear, my lack of support for Unplanned is not because I’m pro-abortion. Far from it. I’m pro-life

I actually had considered going to see the film yesterday, but elected not to. So what stopped me? A little research on the internet.

Not knowing much about Unplanned other than snippets I’d see in the press, I decided to search the web for information on the central character in the movie, Abby Johnson. In just a few seconds, I’d found all I needed to know, a headline in the National Catholic Register that read “From Abortion Worker to Catholic Apostle.” As the subheadline went on to elaborate, “A former Planned Parenthood director, Abby Johnson, tells how an ultrasound of an unborn baby’s fight for life eventually let (sic) her to the Catholic Church and a new apostolate.”

A bit more searching led me to this interview on EWTN’s Facebook page – EWTN is a Roman Catholic organization that owns and operates the National Catholic Register – in which directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzleman speak openly of their Catholic faith. At one point, they even note that the “blessed mother” has promised to end abortion.

In short, it’s fair to call Unplanned a Catholic movie.

For Protestants, this represents an insuperable problem.

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Martin Luther

Just over a month back, Protestants celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was a noteworthy occasion. October 31, 2017 marked 500 years since a little known Augustinian monk nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door and changed the course of history.

But while as Protestants we look back with joy at Luther’s bold stand against the papacy and proclamation of the Gospel of Justification by Belief Alone, not everyone was or is so appreciative of his achievements and the achievements of the other Reformers. But to call them unappreciative is really far too mild. The truth is, Luther and his contemporaries were hated unto death by representatives of the Roman Church-State (RCS), who did everything in their power to frustrate the spread of the Gospel in the 16th century.

And their efforts to quash the preaching of the Gospel did not stop in the 16th century, but continue unabated to this day. One example of this is the way the Pope Francis and the RCS attempted to co-opt this year’s Reformation Day celebration and turn it into a great big group hugging, Kumbaya singing rapprochement between Rome and her erring children, the “separated brethren” of the Reformation.

But Rome isn’t the only false church singing a false Gospel siren song in the hopes of wooing Protestants onto the rocks of works righteousness. No, Eastern Orthodoxy wants in on the act too.

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Day 2 of The Trinity Foundation’s Reformation conference saw four separate presentations by two men whose work has long been associated with the Foundation.  Mark W. Evans, a minister from Faith Presbytery, the Bible Presbyterian Church presented a single paper in two sessions titled The Reformation:  Past, Present, and Future.

The other speaker of the day was Dr. Paul M. Elliott, president of Teaching the Word Ministries.  Dr. Elliott gave two separate talks, the first titled The Reformation is Not a Return to Pre-Reformation Positions, and the second The Reformation Is Not Co-Belligerence with Unbelievers.

For those interested, all four sessions from Day 2 plus the two sessions from Day 1 were recorded and will be available on the Trinity Foundation website.  The planned date of the posting is not known to this writer.

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Well, I just got back to my hotel room here in Johnson City.  Day 1 of the Trinity Foundation Reformation Conference, the full title of which is The Reformation at 500:  Is It Over or Is It Needed Now More than Ever?, ran a little later than expected, but this attendee isn’t complaining.

Trinity Foundation president Tom Juodaitis gave the opening talk.  In it, he focused on the two key principles of the Reformation – what some call the formal and material principles of the Reformation – Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) and Sola Fide (justification by faith alone).

Mr. Juodaitis made the important point that there is a close connection between the spiritual liberty that comes with the preaching of the Gospel and the political and economic liberty that the West has enjoyed over the past 500 years.

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Lutheran_RCCS Declaration

President of the Lutheran World Federation Bishop Munib Younan, left, conspires with Pope Francis, right, to overthrow the Reformation at a service in Lund Lutheran cathedral , October 31, 2016 (L’Osservatore Romano/AP)

 

You say you want a Reformation? Well, according to a recently released Pew Research Center survey of Western Europe and the US, many Protestants answer “Not so much.” Here are a few key findings:

  • About half of U.S. Protestants (52%) say both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven, a historically Catholic position. The other half (42%) say that faith alone is needed to attain salvation.
  • U.S. Protestants also are split on another issue that played a key role in the Reformation: 46% say the Bible provides all the religious guidance Christians need, a traditionally Protestant belief known as sola scriptura. But 52% say Christians should look for guidance from church teachings and traditions as well as from the Bible, the position held by the Catholic Church.
  • Just 30% of all U.S. Protestants affirm both sola fide and sola scriptura.
  • In nearly all of the European countries surveyed, majorities or pluralities of both Catholics and Protestants adhere to the traditionally Catholic view that both faith and good works are necessary to attain salvation. In fact, in every country except Norway (where 51% of Protestants say salvation comes through faith alone), belief in sola fide is a minority view even among Protestants.

The results of this survey, though disappointing, are hardly surprising. The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy among Presbyterians in first half of the 20th century ended with the liberal social gospelers seizing control of the mainline Presbyterian church and the subsequent purging of those who believed the Bible. Other Protestant denominations experienced upheavals. As a result, where Protestant churches once spoke with one voice on the critical issues of the source of authority in the church (scripture alone) and the means of justification (justification is by faith alone), Protestant witness has become greatly confused.

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