Martes, Hunyo 26, 2012

The Protestants’ View Of The Church

The Protestants’ View Of The Church

Vincent P. Florida

I REMEMBER TALKING to a friend about a year ago who moved from Long Island to New Jersey.  During our conversation, he expressed the disappointment of his wife in leaving their church.  When I asked him what name of the Church was and why was it so special, he remarked, “It’s just one of those local Christian churches, you know, one of the non-denominational churches where Jesus is preached and where there is good Christian fellowship.  We’ll really miss it.”  What will you do now?”  I asked.  “We’ll look far a church here in Jersey that is similar to the one we left.  We started looking last Sunday.  I’m sure we’ll find one close to the neighborhood.  They’re all the same anyway,” he answered.

     “They’re all the same” is an expression often heard by many people nowadays when describing their church with respect to other Protestant churches.  This has been taught to all by the evangelists of the so-called Christian faith.  These preachers claim that God deals directly with individuals so that faith is all that is needed for salvation and not membership in any particular church.  Furthermore, they also preach that all the different church denominations united together comprise the one true church built by our Lord Jesus Christ.  According to them, these beliefs are based on the Bible, sounded out through the writings of Protestants scholars.

The Accepted Belief
     The belief that Jesus Christ established only one church is scriptural.  This is recorded in Matthew 16:18.  All Protestants accept this basic truth.  Ask any Protestant how many churches did Jesus Christ build and their reply will undoubtedly be, “Why, one of course!”  Yet, looking at the many church denominations preaching on earth, it would not take long for us to realize that their “one church” has splintered, schismed, and divided itself into unrecognizable multitude of bodies.  A typical view of how these Protestant churches are considered collectively as one church is written in the book, Great Religions of Modern Man:  Protestantism, edited by Dr. J. L. Dunstan:

     “The position is, then that we believe together that there is a Church in the churches, but that we cannot say together how and where it exists, or how and where it functions.  For some, the marks of the Church are the traditional ones of acceptance of the creeds and the episcopal order; for others, they are in the exclusively Biblical purity of doctrine; for others, in the personal faith of the Church’s membership; for others again, in complete freedom of doctrine and worship.” (1969, p. 216)

     In spite of the many divisions of the churches in Protestantism they still claim that there is a Church in the churches.  According to them they don’t know how or where it exists, yet they are certain it does.  The confusion lies in the fact that there are now many churches having different doctrines and members who are diverse in their faith.  They believe that despite these differences, collectively they are the one true Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us see if this statement holds true for each Christian church-denomination.

The True Church:  A Protestant View
     Religions of America, a book edited by Leo Rosten contains quotations from different religious leaders about their belief and practices.  In this book, some quotations from Protestant leaders show how they consider the basic doctrines they hold in their organizations and—how each denomination considers itself when faced with the doctrine about the “true church.”

     The late G. Elson Ruff, an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church since 1926, had this to say when asked, “What are the basic tenets of the Lutheran Creed?”

     “Lutherans don’t claim any doctrines different from common Christian faith described in the New Testament and first summarized in the Apostles’ Creed.”

     To the question, “Do Lutherans believe theirs is the only true religion?” his reply was—

     “Yes, but they don’t believe they are the only ones who have it.  There are true Christian’s believers in a vast majority of the churches, perhaps in all.”

     On the other hand, Robert L. Friedly, director of the Office of Communications for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was asked about the basic beliefs of their Creed.  His response was:

      “The church professes no doctrine or dogma beyond belief in Jesus Christ; all other matters are therefore open to individual interpretation even the characteristics mentioned here as being distinctively disciple.”

     James E. Craig, honorary elder for life of the Park Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in New York City answered the question, “Do the Disciples believe that theirs is the only true Religion?”

     “Certainly not, they believe theirs to be the most nearly in accord with the practices of the early Christian Churches.  They also believe that their greatest mission in life is to bring Christians of all faiths into one Church of Christ.”

     W. Norman Pittenger, an Episcopalian professor at King’s College, Cambridge University in England who also taught Christian Apologetics at General Theological Seminary in New York expounded on the basic beliefs of Episcopalians.

     “They are affirmed in the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.  The apostle’s Creed is the ancient baptismal statement of faith.”

     Responding to the question, “Do Episcopalians believe that theirs is the only true faith?” he said,

     “No.  We hold that all who are baptized (whether by Episcopalian or other rites, provided it is with water and in the name of the Holy Trinity) are members of the Church of Christ.
     “Of the one Church, Episcopalians believe they are apart; they have never claimed they are the only part.”

     The director of Department of Public Interpretation of the American Baptist Churches, Frank A. Sharp was asked, “What is a Baptist?”

     “Baptists have never adopted one of the historic Christian Creeds—because Baptists have been dedicated to a high degree of personal independence and to the individual to interpret the New Testament for himself in matters of faith and practice.  It is difficult, therefore, to present one fix set of criteria by which to characterize a Baptist.”

     The Baptists are among those who believe in complete freedom of Christian doctrines.  This complete freedom is expressed by an individual’s faith and not in the membership to any church.  As a result, the Baptists term the Church this way:

     “Membership of the Church as an organism.  The word church literally means a called-out company, and therefore it comprises only those who are truly called out from the world by Christ unto Himself—in other words, all true believers wherever found.” [Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology, (Zondervan Publishing House, Co., 1976), p. 289.]

     The term “all true believers wherever found”, places the Church in a secondary position of importance.  This was reiterated by the Reverend Frank A. Sharp in the book Religions of America:

     “Baptists believe that every true believer in Christ as personal Savior is saved-without the intervention of preacher or church.”

     The Protestants say that the basis of the true Church may be is in the acceptance of these diverse approaches of creeds, traditions, personal faith of the church’s membership and complete freedom of doctrine and worship.  The comment of a Protestant theologian after viewing all these approaches concluded by the statement in the book Great Religions of Modern Man:  Protestantism is stated below:

     “It is therefore , humanly speaking, impossible to discover how out of these different approaches we may come to one common convictions as to what the Church in the churches really is, and how it should be concretely expressed in ecumenical form.” (p. 216)

The Truth:  The Biblical Point Of View
     Protestants are the first to admit that it is humanly impossible to show how so many different Christian organizations can together be the Church of Christ.  But they are the first to declare that they are all together true, and that there exists a true Church in the churches.

     If we read I Corinthians 12:25, Apostle Paul is explicit in saying:

     “That there should be no division in the body,…” (NASB)

The “Open Bible” published by Thomas Nelson equates the word “division” with the word “schism.”  The word schism, by definition, points directly to a formal division or separation in the Christian Church, a breach of unity among people of the same religious faith.

     The question of unity was a problem which arose in the first-century Church of Christ congregation in Corinth.  Paul, an Apostle of the Church, swiftly acted upon it.  His pronouncement to the Church of Christ at Corinth expressed the exact significance of unity and division.  In chapter 1 verse 10 of I Corinthians, he spelled out the meaning of “no division in the body…”

     “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (NASB)

     The conduct that must be followed is that Christians should have the same judgment or the same belief in every aspect of Christian life.  When Paul asks in I Corinthians 1:13, “…has Christ been divided?”, it means that the true Church of Christ is not divided.

     The Protestants view of unity through one Church in the churches is unscriptural and as must not be followed.  A review of some Protestant beliefs quoted from their own testimonies reveals the confusing basis of faith contradicting the words of God.  The Lutherans derived their belief in the membership of Christ’s body from the new Testament as summarized in the Apostle’s Creed. [G. Elson Ruff and Albert P. Stauderman, “What Is A Lutheran?” Religion Of America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975), p. 158.]  The Disciples of Christ profess no doctrinal belief beyond faith in Jesus Christ.  Aside from this doctrine, their members are free to interpret all other Biblical precepts.  The Episcopalian doctrine rests firmly on the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed. [W. Norman Pittenger, “What is an Episcopalian?”  Religion of America (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1975) p. 158.]  The creeds in which these churches express their faith in were formulated in the fourth century.  This was long after the death of the Apostles and the writing of the last book of the Bible.  The Baptists and many other non-denominational churches hold to an individualistic approach to their beliefs.  Each denomination had different and conflicting foundations of its faith.

     Look at the confusion of these churches which are all claiming to be collectively the Church of Christ.  Paul states in I Corinthians 14:33:

“For God is not a God of confusion…” (NASB)

The Protestant’s doctrinal stand that the one true Church is composed of churches varying in precepts and individualistic freedom is unscriptural.

     As pronounced by Paul, the true Church of Christ has only one faith, one belief and is one body which is the Church (Eph. 4:6; Col. 1:18).

     The scriptural doctrine upheld by the first Christians and the Apostles is that there are no divisions in the body.  This exposes the truth that God is not with the Protestants.  Further investigation into the doctrines of the so-called Protestant Christian Churches would reveal more disunity, more conflicts, more divisions, and confusions.

Where Do Protestants Stand Now?
     If God is not with these people claiming to have one church in the churches, Christ is also not with them.  They now find themselves outside the Church of Christ.  Hence, being outside the true Church puts them in a situation similar to that of the Gentiles before entering the Church, as recorded in Ephesians 2:12:

     “Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (NASB)

God does not consider these people as His children.  The Apostle John says in I John 5:19—

     “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (NASB)

Those outside the Church of Christ are apart from God and lie under the power of the evil one.

What Should Be Done For Salvation
     The teaching of God through the Apostle Paul to these ill-fated people is quite clear, as recorded in Ephesians 5:11,

     “Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead (let your lives be so in contrast as to expose and reprove and convict them.” (Amplified Bible)

     So if you are like my friend seeking for a church to worship God and has faith in the Savior our Lord Jesus Christ, don’t fall into the trap of Satan believing that all churches comprise the one true Church.  Beware of these so-called preachers shouting unity yet are divided.  This simply exposes their deeds of darkness which we must not take part in.  Instead seek for the one true Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo in Pilipino) and you will be sure of your union with our Lord Jesus Christ and obtain salvation.*****

Pasugo God’s Message, May-June 1983, pages 22-24.

Bible Study Suggestion: If you have further questions, please feel free to visit the Iglesia ni Cristo congregation nearest you. A minister or an evangelical worker would be happy to answer any biblical question you have in mind.