Creeds, Confessions and What not
We Presbyterians are a stuffy group. I don’t say this as a compliment, mind you. We could all stand to learn more from other groups. We need to hug more. We need to tell each other that we love them. Reach out and give the holy kiss. We are to be complimented on a few fronts; we are high church people and generally very liturgical in our approach to worship. We are intelligent people. We place a high regard on education. Our pastors are educated in elite seminaries. We understand doctrinal phrases such as polity, election, sola scriptura, regeneration and conversion, the ordo salutis. These things are taught form the pulpit. We read a lot! We fully understand that God uses these things to sanctify His saints and we pursue it with vigor. In example, take for instance the first creed produced: The Apostles Creed.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
So much theology is couched in this creed. We can see the Trinity, The incarnation via the third person of the Trinity-the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, the hypostatic union, The deity of Christ; His crucifixion, His resurrection, His subsequent ascension the the right hand of the Father, His Kingship, His Bride, the church. Sins are forgiven to all that believe, our glorification and final resting place in glory. You will notice that this creed is essentially a summary of what God’s word states in regard to these doctrines. It is not scripture, but a commentary of sorts. It is a easy reference point that the church has used for thousands of years. It is an assist tool that we can use to answer assaults on these doctrines.
It was made mention to me this past Lord’s day that I should do a class on why TULIP and the Sola’s came about. Much like our formal creeds, the Sola’s and Tulip were spawned in response to illicit theologies. In that, creeds are valuable to the body of Christ. yes, we all know that the creeds are not divinely inspired. They are in no way to be considered equal to God’s word, yet they have a place in our walks and we need to study these documents.
The Reformation began in 1517. The first time we have any reference to TULIP was in 1905 by Reverend Boyd McAfee. The sola’s were Latin phrases that were most definitely born out of the Reformation but not systematized as we know them until the 20th century. The earliest reference point on some of the Latin titles was back in 1554, by Melanchthon: “sola gratia justificamus et sola fide justificamur” (only by grace we are justified and only by faith we are justified).
Whatever the case, the reason why these treatments rose to an efficacious prominence was essentially the same reason why we have creeds in the faith; to combat error, specifically related to Rome. I did make mention of this idea in the beginning of this particular series but it was brought to my attention that I should revisit it as it is an important facet.
The other distinction I believe is important to mention, do not make the mistake in equating those that hold to these things, outside of Presbyterianism and paedobaptism with actually being reformed. There are 5 point credo Baptists; they hold to the solas and tulip. They are not Presbyterian in polity nor are they paedobaptist, hence, they are not reformed. We want to call a thing what it is. We can comfortably call them ‘Calvinistic’, but never reformed. We can call the credo’s who hold Calvinistically to these doctrines ‘particular’, but again, never reformed.
Total Depravity and Rome:
The reformed view is that man is totally depraved.
Gen 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,
Romans 3:10 None is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one…
We talked of this recently. Man’s will is bound to sin due to the fall and scripture rightly calls it slavery. Those outside of Christ are at enmity with God, separated. The father of lies is their God.
Rome’s view is much different:
From their catechism:
“405 Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.”
What we have here are a few things to note:
1) A redefinition of original sin
2) A rejection of Total Depravity-men are not totally depraved according to Rome. Men are ‘wounded’ only. Ignorant.
This doctrine is known as CONCUPISCENCE
“Insubordination of man’s desires to the dictates of reason, and the propensity of human nature to sin as a result of original sin. More commonly, it refers to the spontaneous movement of the sensitive appetites toward whatever the imagination portrays as pleasant and away from whatever it portrays as painful. However, concupiscence also includes the unruly desires of the will, such as pride, ambition, and envy. (Etym. Latin con-, thoroughly + cupere, to desire: concupiscentia, desire, greed, cupidity.)”
The next area we will discuss is Unconditional election:
The reformed view is as stated last week or explained in Titus 3:5 and Eph 2:8-10.
Titus 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The reformed view is that God chooses men in Christ for no other reason than His divine will.
EPH 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 2:1 says:
“There is but one only, living, and true God who is…most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will…” “CH 3, sect. V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.”
Rome’s view states:
1037 “God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”.
What do we say about passages such as:
Rom. 9:10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
Rom. 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Rom. 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
As well, as previously discussed, the term election is discriminatory; it is excluding. Surely everyone is not elect as the scriptures show a level of exclusion:
Matt. 24:22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
Matt. 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Matt. 24:31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13:20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.
Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Mark 13:27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.
Does everyone understand that all men are elect. Some are elect unto glory and others unto destruction. At face value, that grinds against one’s conscience. It seems unfair. This is where we understand the gravity of God’s grace towards those who deserve nothing greater than hellfire. In light of this, it elevates and illuminates the glory of God, the mercy of God and God’s sovereignty. Those that have been chosen for glory should never think along typical lines ever again. We should repent if we become complacent. We will live with God for eternity; in glory, peace, love, kindness, perfection. In that, it should not be about God electing men to hell, but God saving any men at all.
Rome says: “God predestines no one to go to hell”, even though all men have fallen short of the glory of God via Adam’s fall and rightfully deserve hell. In this denial, Rome rejects an election; in that, they by default, show their Arminian tendency in that the responsibility of men being saved at all rests on the creature and not the creator-possibly Heaven would be empty in this lopsided decree of the God of Rome.
Next will be limited atonement:
You do understand that the sacrifice of Christ was sufficient to save every single person that ever lived. In light of the doctrine of election, God decreed not to save every person. Christ came to save His people alone:
Matt. 15:24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
John 17:9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
Matt. 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
In Rome’s catechism is reads:
608 “After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.422 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes…”
613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,439 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”
Rome’s position is Arminian; Think about this; Christ died for every single soul yet not every single soul will be saved. This is not based on the faithfulness of God but on the faithfulness of the creature. In light of this, as I have said earlier, in light of this idea, God and Christ are in heaven, wringing their hands in terror that possibly heaven will be empty. Rome’s doctrine is that men choose God and based on the faithfulness of men, they remain in favor with God-that is, until there is a mortal sin and then they fall away from the faith.
Understand that Arminianism is the antithesis of Calvinism. All theologies that are not Calvinistic are by default Arminian. Arminianism is heresy as it changes the character of God. It puts the creature in charge. God is a bystander, not intervening.
There is so much more that could be said in regards to these distinctives and aberrant theologies. Rome is not the only one guilty of it. Much of these issues are born out of Arminius and his theology. If one is not Calvinistic, they are by default Arminian. It is quite possibly that there are elect people in Arminian setting, who are not theologically inclined to Arminianism per se, who will eventually leave Arminian settings; in these cases, they are not actually ‘practicing’ Arminianism. If one rejects Calvinistic teachings for Arminianism, even in a level of ignorance, they are then embracing Arminian error and it is then that it becomes problematic at a soteriologic level.
I pray this short paper blesses you and draws you closer to the savior.