Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Redefining the Faith?

If any of you have ever read "1984" by George Orwell, you will remember that poor Winston Smith worked at the strangely named "Ministry of Truth." The main job of the place was basically pro-regime propaganda, even to the point of constant re-definition of terms to be sure things fit the official line. When an inconvenient truth happened to pop up, it was placed in a "memory hole," where it burned up in a flash, never to be remembered again.

There are times when I feel that this is happening within evangelicalism to a certain extent. Perhaps an extreme example, but you'll get my point. A ruthless regime is out to replace biblical Christianity with a new one, changing word meanings and long-held biblical doctrines to buttress their position. Read this excellent column by Dr. Al Mohler, and you'll see what I mean. Dr. Mohler does a tremendous job showing how a cadre of "theologians" has over time attempted to change the very nature of biblical Christianity.

I can almost see Brian McLaren as "O'Brien," and a whole host of these revisionist types engaging in a "Two Minutes Hate" daily at those who want to preserve the true faith "once and for all delivered to the saints."

Yeah, maybe that's an unfair comparison for the time being, but let's wait a while. I hope it doesn't end up that way.


John Stegeman said...


Interesting blog. I actually found you through Dungy.

I agree that there is a terrible redefining of Christianity going on.

My question to you is this. What is wrong with this redefinition, compared to previous redefinitions?

Why should questioning the concept of hell, for example, be seen as an unacceptable idea when say, rejecting the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist by early protestants?

I'm not looking to get into about hell or the Eucharist, just using those things as an example.

Why was it OK to reject doctrine once, but not now?

Also, I've enjoyed what I've read so far.

Solameanie said...

Hi, John..thanks for stopping by. Much to my extreme annoyance, the reply I took several minutes in writing on my lunch hour failed to post due to some Blogger error and it wiped out everything I wrote. GRRR.

When I get home tonight, I'll try again. Right now, have to get back to work.


John Stegeman said...

Gotta love blogspot. I await your reply sir.

Solameanie said...

Finally, home after a long day. I'll try to answer your query and hope it makes some sense, although I can't vouch for my brain right now. The office was ridiculous today!

You no doubt realize that I approach these issues from the vantage point of a Bible-believing, conservative evangelical perspective. I have no problem with the untaught asking questions, or people who are new to the faith asking questions. But I have an enormous problem with so-called teachers waxing eloquent with this kind of stuff when they ought to know better.

The authority for the Christian faith is the Bible, which we believe is God's written revelation to man. If, as we believe, God inspired the authors of Scripture through the Holy Spirit, we believe He is capable not only of communicating His intent but also preserving His Word. That doesn't mean there aren't some hard passages with which to wrestle, but there shouldn't be any real argument with core doctrines that the church universal has believed for 2,000 years. Most of the creeds of the early church were not written to establish new teaching, but rather to reaffirm what was already believed and to correct error.

The early church fathers (the ones who came along after the apostles who were directly taught by Jesus) had their issues and debates, and those who were heterodox were largely rejected by the church. It is interesting to note that even the Roman Catholic Church did not unanimously accept the Apocrypha until the Reformation, when they needed some of its books to justify their unbiblical doctrines. I would stake my life on it that if you were to ask Jesus or the apostles if they taught transubstantiation, they would deny it heatedly. There is a huge difference between exegesis of Scripture (interpreting it by intent of the writer) and eisegesis (interpreting by reading your own meanings into it).

It's also interesting that until the Reformation, the average Joe had no access to Scripture. Those who tried to give the common man access to the Bible often paid a high price, some with their lives. The Reformation was sparked by Martin Luther and others who saw that official church teachings at the time did not comport with what was taught by Jesus and His apostles in Scripture. If you've never read the biography of Luther written by Roland Bainton, you should. It's excellent.

Jesus taught more on Hell than anyone in the entire New Testament. I think most of these modern guys throwing up objections do so not because of genuine biblical scholarship or correct interpretation, but because they themselves just can't bring themselves to believe that God could possibly judge someone in that fashion. They have a false view of who God is because they reject His self-revelation in Scripture and in His Son.

Anyway, that's my take on this and I hope you find it helpful, or at the very least you can see where I'm coming from.

Solameanie said...

BTW, John - if you are personally a Roman Catholic, please understand that when I write my comments on this, it is disagreement with Catholic teaching, not disrespect. There is much where I can hold common ground with Roman Catholics, i.e. moral standards and other views we hold in common. But conservative evangelicals such as I don't agree with the Catholic view of justification and soteriology (how one is saved). We think the differences here are important because the Gospel itself is at stake. Sadly, when discussions like this get started, people get mad and insulted, and then genuine discussion becomes fruitless.

BTW, there is plenty within Protestant churches in need of rebuke these days. In fact, I try to do as much of that as possible! ;)

John Stegeman said...

First, no disrespect taken. I am Catholic but I wouldn't venture into such waters ignorant of our likely disagreements.

I appreciate your response and while I can equally stake my life that the real Presence is true and that ECM Luther believed in a version of it, and while I ofmcourse agree that there is hell, I'm afraid you didn't answer my question all the way.

Semantics aside, the reformation was a vast redefining of what Luther and others believed it meant to be a "correct" Christian and that involved abandoning what until then all Christians believed.

While I agree the people you mention are wrong, I don't see how conceptually their actions are different than luthers.

John Stegeman said...

Even Luther... Auto corrected to ECM

Solameanie said...

Thanks, John. I am encouraged by your irenic spirit. I don't see that very often these days! (smile)

I didn't mean to duck or not answer your question. I thought that I had, but I'll try again. First and parenthetically, I, of course, wouldn't agree with some of Luther's stances on various issues, but he did recover in general a biblical view of justification.

I would also argue that not "all" those wearing the label of Christian agreed on what being a "correct" Christian meant. The writings of the post-apostolic church fathers demonstrate that.

I guess it depends on what we mean by permissible "questioning" or "redefinition." These issues are not new. The same errors keep coming up again and again in each generation, it seems. And with each generation, we have to keep on correcting the errors. I believe we are bound by Scripture as to what correct core doctrine is, and in general, there has been agreement among small "o" orthodox Christians on what those core beliefs/teachings are. The true church has the right to define itself, and when I say true church, I am speaking in a universal sense of those who are born again, called out, true saved believers, and those exist within most denominations irrespective of label. As I see it, the non-negotiables are soteriology (how we are saved), Christology (the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ) and the Godhead (Trinity). For instance, there are a growing number these days who deny the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross, and that is a vital doctrine to the faith, touching on the work of Jesus Christ. This is not a new issue, but a new generation has discovered the error, and it must be corrected.

Other doctrines might be more secondary than those areas, but that doesn't mean other doctrines aren't important. But there are some issues where you really have to draw a line in the sand.

John Stegeman said...

Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond to all this.

You didn't really duck the question, maybe I wasn't clear.

You are right that it depends what we mean to be permissible questioning/redefinition but I think this is the problem of the current protestant/evangelical model.

Somethings simply are, and cannot be denied. We probably both agree with that.

But I, with scripture as a source, believe the Catholic view, while you, with scripture as your source do not.

Neither one of us appears to be a leader of our respective viewpoints nor an author or anything who stands to gain materially from pushing our respective views.

So we can then assume, that we are both devout and genuine in our beliefs. But because they don't line up, only one of us can be correct?

I venture that the Catholic view, that the things that were redefined first by Luther and more-so by those who came after altered what God gave us to be preserved by his church (which of course I claim to be the Catholic one).

You venture that those redefinitions, to a degree, were valid but now the same thing (conceptually) that happened to Catholics is happening to mainstream protestant/evangelical Christianity.

People are fiddling with what you consider core precepts of the faith.

That Looooooong winded thing is my way of saying/showing two things.

1. A church without and earthly structure for leadership will be involved in never ending schism and..

2. That the situation is the same. They are in good conscience attempting to review and redefine doctrine and I don't see how that's any different from previous redefinitions.

Last, I am terribly sorry for how long that was, but I hope it made sense, even though I assume we won't agree on that matter.

John Stegeman said...

I didn't type that so clearly.

Ignore the question mark in the seventh paragraph.

Then i wrote
"You venture that those redefinitions, to a degree, were valid but now the same thing (conceptually) that happened to Catholics is happening to mainstream protestant/evangelical Christianity."

I meant to end that at, you viewed those redefinitions as valid and then start a new thought saying that I think the same thing conceptually is happening now.


Solameanie said...

Hi, John..I'm at the office at the moment. I'll answer in more depth later.

In the meantime, you might find this amusing.


John Stegeman said...

That was amusing.

Solameanie said...


Maybe I am taking a broader or longer over time view, and maybe that is causing some of the confusion. The "redefining" you mention in earlier years I would call more a rediscovery of true biblical doctrine. Today's "redefining" is more a departure AWAY from biblical truth. The battle cry of the Reformation is "Semper Reformanda," or "always reforming. And the idea of reformation is to get closer to biblical Christianity, not farther away.

My remarks here will be is VERY generalized. It's a generalization, but not a hasty one. My "nutshell" version of church history is basically this: Jesus and the Apostles handed down the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Those who came afterward over the next 100 to 300 years (some of them anyway) corrupted the true faith, others tried to hold on to it, while others redefined it far away from what Jesus and the Apostles taught.

Finally the abuses got so bad that the Reformation came along, churches and laypeople began having access to Scripture, and being taught in an expositional fashion from Scripture. That recovered biblical soteriology i.e. that we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, by Christ alone, and to God alone be the glory.

Scripture nowhere indicates that one person should be the final rule and arbiter for the church at large. You mention churches without an earthly structure for leadership, and most local churches actually do have such a structure within their fellowships. It's a plurality of elders, which is biblical, but not a pope-like figure. There is no Protestant magisterium per se.

Another thing to note is that most orthodox Christians — despite their denomination differences — agree on most core doctrines and are able to fellowship with one another. I can worship at an Assembly of God Church, and then go worship at a Baptist Church and an Evangelical Free Church, and feel that I am worshipping God with other true believers. Because we agree on core doctrine, and leave the secondary doctrines for our denominational distinctives. We're still all part of the family of God.

Roman Catholicism regards Protestants as outside the church, and none of the hundreds of anathamas leveled against Protestants at the Council of Trent have ever been rescinded. And some of those anathemas (curses) are "fightin words."

The key disagreement between Protestantism and RC has been over justification and soteriology. And thus far, the expectation is that Protestants have to give ground on those issues. This one will not give ground on those issues, though I might find many issues on where I can join Roman Catholics in being co-belligerents i.e. abortion, euthanasia etc.

In closing, let me surprise you. I believe there are truly born-again, saved individuals in the Roman Catholic church, but they are saved in spite of official teaching and not because of it. Likewise, there are many warming pews in Protestant churches who are NOT saved, because they are either legalistic, or who have never come to the realization that they need a saving relationship with Christ.


John Stegeman said...


Thanks again for taking the time to respond. Clearly we aren't going to agree on this but I don't suppose either one of us thought we would.

Of course I could argue the evidence in scripture of Peter's primacy or the statements concerning the importance of the Eucharist for salvation, but you won't buy those any more than I buy that the reformation brought things to a more biblical level.

You believe that the first/concurrent reformation was valid and more biblical, you believe these current changes are the opposite.

That answers my question.

Just one more thing, the Church might have said a lot of things in the past, but current RC belief is much kinder to protestants than you might think.

Perhaps I/the RC church will surprise you to know that we believe that many non Catholic Christians are saved as well.

May you and I be so lucky sir.

Thanks for your time.

Solameanie said...

Hi, John..

Thanks for being such an agreeable disagree-er! ;) Too bad our politicians can't be so civil with each other.

I'm glad to hear that i.e. the friendlier attitude, and I suspect you are correct at least in terms of individual Catholics and even individual priests. It would help if the official anathemas would be repealed, but Vatican II only re-affirmed Trent, so the Magisterium has a ways to go on the subject!

In the end, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and rose again for my justification. My faith is in His finished work on the cross, and nothing else, especially my own works. If you believe that, then I trust you are my brother in the Lord.