Thursday, March 14, 2013

Six Inches or Sixty Feet? Both can be Fatal!

Does it really matter if you drown in six inches of water or in sixty feet of water? Or, does it really matter the degree of darkness that causes one to stumble into an unseen whole in the ground? I dare say that it does not matter. Having drowned is fatal in any measurement of water.

As you can imagine the web, Facebook, Twitter, printed media is a blaze with varying reaction to the recent election of a new “pope.” The reaction is ranging from the extreme negative coloring of the pope as the anti-Christ to neo-evangelicalism ever-so-growing love affair with the Roman Catholic organization to papal worship by the Catholic faithful.

One blog being copied, shared, and re-posted on Facebook is entitled, Why an Evangelical Protestant Pastor Cares about the New Pope. Of course the perfunctory differences between Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism are noted by the author. The author then makes the following statements:

I have always said that when we die and stand before God, he will not ask for our church membership card. We will not care about denominations or affiliations in that moment. He will care about one thing: who is Jesus Christ to you? What have you done with Christ? Is he alone your Savior? Or are you clinging to a thousand other so-called-saviors too? Have you been saved by the blood of Christ shed on Calvary’s hill or not?

So, if you’re going to be a Baptist, be a saved Baptist. If you’re going to be a Lutheran, be a saved Lutheran. And if you’re going to be a Catholic, be a saved Catholic. My old Italian dad never left the Catholic church. But he was saved, and wanted us all to know it. I baptized him at age 82, in the evangelical, non-denominational church I founded in Chicago, not for salvation, but from salvation… as a public symbol of a prior inner reality.”

This author missed the real point! The question is not whether Roman Catholics or evangelicals for that matter care of about who Jesus Christ is, or what has been done with Jesus Christ, or what one believes about the blood of Jesus Christ. Yes, those things are important. However, they are not rallying points for unity.

The real point which seems to be consistently missed by those who desire to call Roman Catholics “brothers” and “sisters,” is what do you believe about justification? This is the dividing issue between Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity. Is one declared to be just by God through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ? Or does one become just through a cooperative process with God as God infuses justification into the faithful who work for it by observing sacraments and by works of righteousness.

When asked what he would say if he had two minutes to talk to “pope” Francis, John Piper replied,

O my, I have never asked myself that question at all.

 I would say, "Could you just, in one minute, explain your view of justification?" And then on the basis of his one minute, I would give my view of justification.

 I think Rome and Protestantism are not yet ready — I don't think the Reformation is over. I don't think that enough change has happened in Roman understanding of justification, and a bunch of other things.

 I'm just picking justification because it's so close to the center. You could pick papal authority or the nature of the mass or the role of sacraments or the place of Mary.

 But those seem to be maybe a little more marginal than going right to the heart of the issue of, "Do you teach that we should rely entirely on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith alone as the ground of God being 100% for us, after which necessary sanctification comes? Do you teach that?"

 And if he said, "No, we don't," then I'd say, "I think that right at the core of Roman Catholic theology is a heresy," or something like that.

We cannot forget this truth. When one is wrong on justification one is just as lost as if one feverishly denies God and Jesus Christ all together. Darkness is darkness. Six inches of water or sixty feet of water can be just as fatal.

At the core of Catholicism is heresy. Roman Catholics need the gospel, not platitudes from ill-informed evangelicals.


Scott said...

As I've frequently said, the key issue in most of our theological debates is: what happened on the cross? What did Jesus do? Did He accomplish salvation for His people? Did He just make it possible for salvation, if we add faith, works, etc. to it? What did He mean by "it is finished?" This colors everything else in our soteriology. Good post, brother.

Yvonne at Poetry from the Heart said...

As you so rightly say as long as you have faith what denomination you are does not matter. We are all equal in the eyes of God.


Diane said...

Hear hear!

Mike said...

I have long respected John Piper, but I won't defend a mere man for what he says.

I was disappointed one afternoon when I sat in a sanctuary to listen to an intimate Q and A with Piper and Kevin DeYoung.

Basically, Piper said in response to a question about voting for Obama, "I couldn't vote for anyone who endorses those things that send someone to hell."

I posted on it here:

I was honestly shocked that Piper would say such a thing, as if our actions are what save or condemn us. I love his passion, but coupled with what you have written I am a bit concerned about his message.

Thank you, brother!