Given the selection of a new Pope, the Roman Catholic Church is much discussed in the media and on blogs. Here is a random comment I replied to today in one place. It is a comment I can partly assent to, but rather more needed to be said:
Anglicans ARE Catholic. In fact, many of us secretly believe we are more Catholic than the Romans, though we’re usually tactful enough to mention this to them. And of course, we are ALL, Roman and English, “under Christ” in an ultimate sense – the question at issue is merely the more mundane one of how exactly one goes about delegating Christ’s authority on a day-to-day level.
My response was as follows:
Every Christian is a Catholic except those who believe that their denomination has a monopoly. If we be looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, as it says, we will all be looking at the right direction, the right leader, who needs no vicar, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The authority of Christ is not at this time a political one – the devil has the lease on the politics of this world and its nation states for now, so Churches in all cases should be separate from states.
I received the following letter from Jeni, which has blessed me a lot during my recent struggle with pneumonia (firstly misdiagnosed as bronchitis) – I have just emerged from a four day hospital stay with a large bag of different types of pills and I don’t feel fantastic – I have been given another estimate of two weeks before it all goes away, but it’s nothing like what it was. If you haven’t had a bout of pneumonia, you don’t want it. By the way, since the lovely WordPress interface lets me do this, lets just take a check at this point of those of you who had pneumonia already and who didn’t have it yet, that would be quite interesting.
Anyhow, the letter from Jeni which cheered me up a lot is in the comments to one of the trilogy of anti-Watchtower films on this channel. In order to give more prominence to the interesting issues I wanted to give my answer instead as a main article, and thanks to Jeni for waiting patiently for me to get a bit better. I’m not really well enough to be writing about this, but if Calvin can write letters all over Europe when he had about 200 illnesses going on, then who am I to not write a blog post while recovering from Pneumonia? Even if I come up with more than the usual levels of fallibility, surely the Lord will add his blessing, which is the only important thing.
Here’s Jeni’s letter:
I’m writing you because I watched all 3 You Tube videos on the Jehovah’s Witnesses back to back. I have been “studying” with a JW for a year now in my home and am trying to expose her to scriptures that will open her eyes. It’s a slow process. I think you and your theology is spot on and I wish you were my Sunday school teacher. Basically I just need your prayers as well as the woman with whom I’ve been studying. Please pray for her. I would love to have a house church or other ministry full of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses from my area and disciple them.
Side note, what do you think about the scripture in 2 Timothy where Paul says he doesn’t permit a woman to teach a man? I’ve listened to a little bit from both sides of the argument and I tend to lean toward the conservative view. However I’m a woman and so this is disappointing because I so want to pour out what I believe God tells me in the scriptures to others and there is no avenue for that presently at my church. All the women’s classes have plenty of teachers. Please tell me your view so that I can more fully examine my own.
Love in Christ,
First of all, many thanks to your compliments and desires that I could be your Sunday school teacher. I have in fact never been a Sunday school teacher and am afraid and greatly tremble at the idea of having that or any other position of “power” in an organised Church. It says in James 3.1 “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation“. A higher level is applied to those who have had the rule in the Church. In particular there are big condemnations awaiting people who have had carnal kickbacks from being rulers in the Church, and by “Carnal kickbacks” I refer to everything from taking advantage of the monetary gifts of the faithful, using the position to gain more tempral influence like improving your CV for a temporal role, and also the utility a person’s pride has from the receipt of a title – Elder This, Deacon That (the Mormons love to leverage that one!) and also the influence over others – the joy of exercising power, and how in many cases we see little popes appear in Churches all over Protestantism – people who rightly reject the Papal claims to be able to tell people what to do in Roman Catholicism above and beyond scripture, or to be the uniques interpreters of scripture to their flock, and in the end they are even more papal in the way they treat their flocks than the very Pope in Rome that they abhor. The worst case of power abuse in the Church and the ultimate “carnal kickback” of leadership of course is the sexual abuse that thrives wherever leadership is put on some unnecessary pedestal. That again we hear of mostly in the media related to Roman Catholicism, but never fear, I am sure that Protestantism contains cases that can absolutely run rings around the worst of them, so let us be humble and circumspect. Continue reading “The difficult area of women’s gifts in the Church.”→
I was asked in private mail in YouTube this week if I am a cessationist when it comes to the Charismata, or spiritual gifts such as glossolalia, healings, prophesyings, etc, as outlined in parts of the New Testament. A cessationist would argue that these gifts were for a certain period and then were withdrawn.
I am not sure I would say that I entirely am a cessationist, in that I believe in the sovereignty of God at all times and that God is able to make people speak in tongues or be healed today just as much as He was in apostolic times. The fact however remains that God does not always deal with His people in the same way at all times. When the people of God were led through the wilderness, God led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He gave them manna and quails to eat. When they arrived at the promised land there was no pillar of cloud, no pillar of fire, no manna and no quails unless people went and hunted for quails in the way they would today. So are we cessationist about the pillar of cloud? It’s a mere question of fact that it did indeed cease once it was no longer required and the Bible makes no attempt to cover that up. Therefore we see that particular miracles accompany particular historic events.
Once we entered into the fourth century and the Church was broadly established throughout the Roman Empire and beyond and gaining in popularity, the force of faith and the Gospel only were God’s will to carry the message forward. We don’t see much of the Apostolic Charismata applying to that period. Maybe that’s because they were no longer needed, and maybe they were only withdrawn because the Church sold out at that time to venality and carnal worliness, putting political power and Satan’s agenda before the claims of Christ and the Gospel for 1260 years, as prophesied in the Book of Daniel.
From the time of Constantine until Napoleon the true Church was engulfed by a political Church infiltrated heavily by Satan which nevertheless had many fine believers in it, and during the Reformation amazing things happened all by force of faith without much in the way of accompanying miracles or a charismatic movement.
Believers were put to death by the Roman false church in vast numbers for their proper Biblical faith, and yet none of this was accompanied by the outpourings which accompanied the Charismatic Revival.
After Napoleon, the way the battle worked changed a lot. Now the major seat of Satan was not the Holy Roman Empire invested in the Catholic Church anymore – Napoleon took back that political worldly role of the Catholic Church and handed it over to the New World Order – nation states in the main run by Freemasons and given the semblance of democracies even though their real nature was to enslave men and women as never before. From Bonaparte until the beginning of Tribulation we can trace this penultimate period of human history.
This modern period is hallmarked by the following:
1. Unparalleled numbers of people living on the planet, in fact probably over 90% of people who ever lived have had part of their lives in this period.
2. The sharp rise of secularism and the ubiquitous acceptance of the theory of evolution, and other connecting ideas all serving to undermine the view of a Creator.
3. Unheard of technologies enabling a free market of ideas and debate
4. A situation where those who believe the Gospel are able to communicate more easily than ever before with the world, so that now the Gospel has virtually been made available to every tribe and nation
5. Israel has been restored to something like its original place.
6. The world has increasingly crystallised into three camps, Gog and Magog (China and her allies vs America and the EU and other allies) and Ishmael (Islam) in between.
7. Christianity has splintered into more denominations than ever before and there are an equally large number of counterfeit sects which try to look like Christian denominations.
In the middle of this period the Charismata started to be an issue, with some people needing this boost to their faith rather than the pure faith arguments of the Reformation period. However there is little to compare the work of the Church in this period than in the pre-Constantine period.
At the same time Pentecostalist believers have contained a number of fine Christians who have done great things for the Kingdom. One only needs to look at the amazing growth of the Gospel in China to see their crowning achievement. They have also spawned more than their fair share of weirdos, charlatans and sects. That may not be a damning indictment as we know that the closer any group of believers is to being on the ball and really making an impact, the more Satan will attack that group, and deflecting onto additional revelations, wierd doctrines, venal practices and political divisions are all weapons in his armoury against Churches that make a difference. So-called Churches than make no impact for the Gospel are, on the other hand, largely left to get on with it or actively assisted by the evil one.
“By their fruits ye shall know them” says the Lord. This doesn’t mean that the evidence of satanic attack on part of Christianity should be regarded as bad fruit. The healthiest fruit is the most attractive for worms. The question is, what is the underlying fruit that is being attacked by the worms? Is it spiritual fruit, or spiritual gifts without real spiritual fruit?
I still say that the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, etc, as set out in Scripture should be any Christian’s priority. If a person can demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, then nobody should dare deny that persons Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It should be clear enough – how can a person who demonstrates the fruit of the spirit not be with the Holy Spirit? How can a person say they have had the Baptism in the Holy Spirit if they have not the fruits of the Spirit, even when months or years have gone by since they claimed such a Baptism? If a person lacks the fruit of the Spirit but seeks to make up the lack of them by fooling others and primarily themselves into thinking that they can speak with tongues of angels, then I’m sorry, but they need to do a heart audit and think again.
Nevertheless, a time is no doubt coming when the Spirit will be poured out again as at Pentecost. Joel 2.28 and Acts 2.17 which quotes it talks about this outpouring of the Spirit. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” and therefore Joel is likened to what is happening in Acts. However the following verses go on to outline the end of the world scenario, which we now know did not happen in the first few hundred years after the Death and Resurrection of our Lord, although disciples at the time expected it, and were intended to expect it.
I see a lot of the outpouring in Acts and which is in evidence in the Churches to whom Paul writes his Epistles as being a help in Evangelisation – and it surely was as people understood these languages as if they were being spoken to in their own languages. (This of course is not the case in most Pentecostal and other Evangelical churches today – the fact above all other I dare suggest, that leads to many serious-minded Christians who came to faith in Pentecostalism gradually transferring to other churches instead, which happens a lot.) But I also beyond that see them as a renewal of the Joel prophesy, a reminder and more information for us as to what will happen in the last days. I do like what the authors of the Left Behind books have made of the Tongues issue and other spiritual gifts – they show them as being revised in the last days and that is expressis verbis told to us in Acts 2.17ff and the Joel passage. They clearly refer to the end-times period. This is a period which has not started yet, but since all the pre-requisites for the starting of this period are now pretty much in place, and the pace of preparation of the coming Antichrist in this world is is palpably quickening from one week’s end to the next at this time, we can say with confidence that this is the penultimate period, and it is not long now before you really will see New Testament style miracles, unless of course the Church is first raptured in which case it will be only those coming to faith who were left behind who will witness them. And since I think that this planet has not seen the last of the true miraculous charismata, I can’t really call myself a cessationist.
However I do call myself a person who urges faith without the need for miracles, discretion in how we publish abroad the miracles which God does give us (the better we keep these secrets the more we will have of them, as it’s God’s will still for this time that the preaching of the Gospel not be accompanied by miracles in the main, but that He himself grants the holy gift of faith by the pure preaching of the word, nevertheless He is very merciful in alleviating the distresses of believers and answering prayers for them that have understanding…) and most of all in examining ourselves first and foremost for Spiritual fruit, and only after a satisfactory answer to that question (a rare event anyway) to worry about the advanced issue of Spiritual gifts.