The Principles of Protestantism, Part 3 – Scripture Alone

I – Scripture Alone

The first point of protest against the Roman Catholic Pope concerned the place of the Bible in the Christian church. The Bible then as now is regarded by the Roman Catholic church as the Holy Scripture of God. That was never in dispute. However, the issue in dispute between the Reformers and the Pope was the place the Bible occupied in the church’s dogma and practice.

The words “Scripture alone” was penned by the reformers to mean that the Holy Scriptures as given by God, are alone sufficient and authoritative, for all things pertaining to the faith and worship of the Christian church. Indeed, the Bible itself makes this very assertion. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Tim. 3:16,17). This is an extremely comprehensive assertion for it to make. The reason for it is found in the context of the letter, and the person to whom it was written. The context of this statement by the apostle Paul here in this text is that of pastoral instruction to Timothy.

It seems that after Timothy had accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys, he found himself at Paul’s request, remaining at Ephesus and undertaking the role of a minister there on his behalf (I Tim. 1:3,4). That he was not in any sense a Popish figure is born out by the fact that Paul gave to him the qualifications that are required of both Bishops and Deacons, as a means of assisting the church in the calling of its own officers (I Tim. 3:1-13). The instruction Paul gave to Timothy in these two letters addressed to him by name, had this purpose in mind. It was to teach him the various duties and principles that are incumbent upon him and others as Christian ministers in service to the Lord and His church (I Tim 3:15, 4:6). Also, its in order to show how the duties and principles, relate to the rest of the teaching of Holy Scripture, he had learned from his youth (II Tim. 3:14,15). Paul wanted Timothy to know that everything he will need as a good minister of the Christian church is contained in this word or revelation of God (verses 16,17).

The Bible is a Divine revelation that “is given by inspiration of God.” As such, it conveys the mind and will of God to mankind and His church in particular. It tells us about Him, who and what He is for without it, no one would have this knowledge, but be left to the imagination of their own finite minds. Scripture reveals the nature of God to us. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever.” (I Tim. 1:17). Also, it reveals the marvel of the incarnation of His Son in human form. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. Amen” (I Tim. 3:16).

Notice four things Paul says to Timothy about the comprehensive nature of Scripture and what use it has in the church.

1. Scripture “is for doctrine.” This means that everything pertaining to Christian Philosophy, Theology and Ecclesiology is contained within its pages. Another word for doctrine is dogma. The Christian faith is based on unchanging absolute truths or dogma that comes from God. This includes every necessary consequence as well as every explicit statement found in its pages. Without Bible doctrine mankind is resigned to the view that the world created by God is material in nature only (Ps. 19:1-6). Philosophical speculations that arise from nature alone are deceitful and lead one to what Paul refers to as “the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:10). Therefore, the Psalmist states most clearly that Divine revelation in Scripture is what leads one to God, salvation and proper worship (Ps. 19:7-14). As exalted and Holy the name of God is as revealed and codified in the law, yet the Psalmist says this about Scripture. “I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” (Ps. 138:2). The name of God and His word are to be held in absolute reverence, for it is Holy, unchanging truth by which He alone is known and worshiped.

2. Scripture is “for reproof.” This doctrine regards the truth of Scripture as providing evidence that is sufficient to convict someone of sin and turn them to God. “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Ps. 19:7-9). The law of God is not simply a laundry list of prohibitions in the form of commandments, but it contains all the duties that are incumbent upon God’s people in the form of statutes. Therefore, it enlightens the eyes and imparts wisdom.

Along with it however, are its judgements upon those who do not conform to its teaching. Every sinner comes up short before the Holy standard of God. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:19,20). The word Paul used in this passage of Scripture for “knowledge” is Epignosis. Gnosis in Greek means knowledge in the general sense of the term. But Epignosis is a knowledge that goes far beyond that, it is a knowledge of the law that includes both the ramifications and the consequences of not obeying it. This is the kind of knowledge the Scripture imparts that makes it sufficient “for reproof.”

The word of God acts as the eye of God into the soul of man. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12,13). This is why the guilty shun the teaching of God’s word. But when those who are given grace are brought under its scrutiny, they agree with its judgement seeking forgiveness of their sins.

3. Scripture is “for correction.” This function of Scripture doctrine is disciplinary in nature. God is a Father to those whom He saves. Therefore, He corrects His own accordingly (Heb. 12:5-7). The Scripture acts as the voice of God to His children. When hardship and trial come, it speaks as the voice of love to them. “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” (Verse 6). The waywardness that remains in every true child of God is brought under this process of providential correction which only the word of God can interpret.

The word of God whether it is preached, taught or read explains the mind of God so as to inform the mind of a believer of His will, which is our duty, and that which displeases Him regarding it. Each trial we endure has some precedent in Scripture by other saints who have gone before us, so that the specific intent of God in every trial is brought into the view of the faithful believer (James 1:2-5). Providential correction according to Scripture, is designed to test, to prove and to purify the faith of God’s elect. In the end, it produces a “joy and peace in believing” that can only come from the Lord (Rom. 15:13).

4. Scripture is “for instruction in righteousness.” The word of God instructs both the mind and the conscience of the proper course of our conduct. The first course of instruction is in relation to God. It involves how He is to be regarded, worshiped and served. God is revealed as the Creator (Gen. 1:1) and the Sustainer (Heb. 1:1-3) of heaven and earth. As such, it is an utter offense to regard or worship Him in any other way than He has revealed. “And God spoke all these words, saying: ” I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. ” You shall have no other gods before Me. ” You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Ex. 20:1-6).

The word of God instructs the church concerning its function, ministry and the authority by which it does this in the world. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Mat. 28:18-20). Notice that Jesus does not instruct the church to go forth and evangelize, but go forth and make disciples, which presupposes the effectual calling of God’s elect people first. In other words, we are instructed to go forth and plant churches.

The word of God instructs the church of its doctrine, discipline and its sacraments. “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:38-42). Only that is a church which bears the marks set forth by the Lord and His apostles as its proper definition.

The word of God instructs the Christian of their duty to be holy. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ” I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore ” Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” ” I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Cor. 6:14-7:1). The church is made up of saved, sanctified worshipers of the one living and true God. It is a sacred assembly, called out to be the peculiar people of God (I Pet. 2:9).

A. The Church, the Bible and Luther

The doctrine of Scripture alone was framed by the Reformers in direct repudiation of the Roman Catholic view of revelation and authority. The Roman Catholic church had set aside the teaching of Scripture and replaced it with a collection of teachings and traditions they had crafted. This is what lead to the establishment of an all-powerful figure like the Pope, who declared and enforced of what those teachings and traditions consisted. To be sure, the Roman church did maintain a semblance of the Bible in what it taught and practiced. But everything about the Christian faith had been corrupted by their dogmas over a period of time, which spanned well more than a thousand years before the start of the Reformation.

This is the five-hundredth year since the Reformation officially began, as is recognized by the Protestant church. It was in October of 1517 that a dispute between Martin Luther, and the church began, precipitated by the practices of a certain priest who was out selling salvation in the form of Papal indulgences, so that a new palace in the Vatican city could be built. Martin Luther posted his objections to the indulgence system publicly in the form of 95 theses or theological disputations on the Wittenburg castle door. There was nothing unusual about this as it was the customary way in which theological issues were disputed at the time. It was also written in Latin which only the clergy could read and respond to by their own public posting. But the substance of the theses was so controversial that someone, presumably another monk, took it and translated it into German, then had it printed and distributed to the public.

Martin Luther had come to recognize from his own study of the Scripture that the church had veered way off-course from the teachings of the apostles, in allowing and promoting salvation to become nothing but a commodity to be hawked on the street for money, as though it rested in the hands of church officials, instead of a Sovereign Holy God. The Roman Catholic church had become an apostate organization, as it concerned the clearly revealed word of God. By withholding the word of God from the people for centuries, the Pope and his Bishops were able to construct a religious system that was based almost entirely upon human philosophy. In fact, the greatest teacher of the Catholic church, Thomas Aquinas had taken the writings of the Greek pagan Aristotle and incorporated them into the teachings of the church. This had gradually been done centuries before him, but he turned it into a fully developed system of natural religion. Aquinas believed as Aristotle did, that the study of nature could lead one to a knowledge of God through the observation of causes and effects within it. However, most people were not educated as he was, and therefore, were not capable of doing this. So in his estimation God provided other means in the form of traditions, sacraments, and yes, even the Bible to help inform them. All three were considered of equal force as the magisterium of church’s authority to teach. The office of teaching was vested in a divinely appointed Pope, along with the Bishops under him, who maintained it by the claim that it was received from Jesus Christ through the apostle Peter.

The Roman Catholic church had come to believe and teach that the only way to God and heaven was through the mediation of the church. In this way, a person’s interest in their eternal state was relegated to the institution of the church rather than to specific teaching from the Bible, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ. If a person did what they were told by the Priests, they were made to believe in the possibility of salvation. So what it amounted to was an implicit faith in the institution of the church. And it was only a possibility of salvation that was given, not a certainty, as the church of the middle ages had succumbed over time to the ancient heresy of Pelagianism. After a good Catholic studiously performed every ritual of the church their entire life, the church taught that it was necessary after death to enter into an intermediate place called purgatory. There, the sins that remained in them would be purged by a process of fiery refinement before they could enter heaven, if indeed, that was to be their eternal destiny. The key to this final outcome however, depended on the church, by way of its mediation with God through the merits of departed saints, the virgin Mary, and Jesus. The idea and power of an indulgence were to buy the good favor and prayers of the church on behalf of departed loved ones.

Needless to say to anyone who reads the Bible, such ideas as these are not only false as it concerns God’s word, but are downright blasphemous. If not for the fact that salvation is the sovereign prerogative of God, granting it to whomever He wills (Ex. 33:19; Rom. 9:18) apart from any natural means, no one would have ever been saved during the long years of spiritual darkness which had prevailed in Europe. And it was most certainly the sovereignty of God at work which led to the Protestant Reformation with its first principle of Scripture alone. But this begs the question, how did the church arrive at such a teaching and practice as the indulgence system? The Roman Catholic church has always claimed its magisterial authority based on tradition and history. It has always pointed to the apostles with the claim that they left the church with an oral tradition as well as the Bible, one that is equal to special revelation in authority. Also, the institution of the church was invested with the power to determine of what that tradition was to consist. From the fourth century on there were numerous church councils which met to deal with heresy. The first four dealt primarily with the doctrine of God, the nature of the Trinity and the incarnation of the Son of God. The determination of these four councils was based on Scripture teaching and became a standard of orthodoxy in the church, both Catholic and Protestant, to this day.

But as the church institution gained political prominence within the Roman Empire, it also increased in power as the sole arbiter of what constituted Christian faith and practice. There was a division that took place between the eastern and western Catholic church within the empire that occurred not only because of differences of view on these things, but as a result of competing claims to authority. In the west the Roman Catholic church emerged with a Pope that claimed absolute authority over all of Christendom. The eastern church resisted this claim to supremacy. Under Papal domination in the west Scripture ceased to be read or studied by any but monks and church doctors. Roman Catholic dogma developed from the collective opinions held by these church fathers over the course of many centuries, opinions which in many instances lacked any original support from the Bible.

So when Martin Luther came along and challenged the egregious practice of selling indulgences, he was calling into question centuries of developed tradition, and ultimately, the authority of the Pope himself.

B. Tradition and Authority

The issues raised by Luther in the 95 theses brought the whole matter of church authority and tradition into public view. It led to a disputation in Leipzig that took place in 1519 in which these issues were debated. Luther did not participate in the debate directly but was present as a spectator. He was however, certainly a part of the debate as it centered around the issues that had been raised regarding the nature of salvation. The main disputants were Andreas Karlstadt (1486-1541), a critic of church corruption, and John Eck (1486-1543), a staunch defender of the Catholic tradition. It was here at this juncture that some people think that Martin Luther was responsible for formulating the Protestant concept of Scripture alone.

Luther’s challenge to the errors of Rome in his writings resulted in an accusation of heresy made against him by John Eck. It became obvious to both sides that the question at hand had to do with the place Scripture in the church in relation to tradition, and who is its rightful interpreter. Is it the individual who reads it and comes to their own conclusion, or is it the institution presided over by the Pope? Luther was dragged before a council at Wurms by the Holy Roman Emperor and commanded to repent of his position. Luther knew that not to do this would result in certain death for him. However, as he had struggled over this in his mind before God, Luther had come to the conviction that has became the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation.

“The doctrine that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority was the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. In 1521 at the historic interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms, he declared his conscience to be captive to the Word of God saying, “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.” [1]

The principle of Scripture alone established at the Reformation was a return to biblical, apostolic authority in opposition to church tradition consisting of human invention. The mind of sinful man even when it is influenced by some sort of true Christian religious tradition tends toward the development of pragmatic and ungodly reasoning which lacks any authority from God. Such was the case with the start of the Protestant Reformation of the Roman Catholic church. This was certainly one of the main issues of the Reformation taken up by Martin Luther at first, then developed further by the rest of the Reformers. But before dealing with the question of tradition, let us first consider what Scripture has to say about itself regarding authority.

“And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Is. 8:19,20). Here in this text from the book of Isaiah we see that those who reject the authority of Scripture seek to find it somewhere else, if not in themselves, then in some other form of so-called knowledge. In Isaiah’s day many were turning to forbidden knowledge as a source of wisdom instead of God in His word. The occult has always been a popular source of wisdom for the superstitious, as was true of Judah while in the midst of a national crisis which was the result of God’s judgement upon them for it (verses 7,8).

The Bible records a number of instances where pagan leaders appealed to the occult in order to interpret their dreams and visions, only to discover its total inadequacy regarding the truth (Gen. 41:1-38; Dan. 2:1-47, 4:1-27, 5:1-29). Each time God provided an inspired prophet to interpret the vision regarding His will and authority over them. In the first instance Pharaoh discovered the truth of his dream through God’s servant Joseph. “And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Gen. 41:38). In the second and third instances Nebuchadnezzar discovered the truth of his dream through God’s servant Daniel. “The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” (Dan. 2:47); “But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying: “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation.” (Dan. 4:8,9). Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar was given a vision of judgement over his kingdom, in which its understanding came once again through God’s appointed prophet. “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father — your father the king — made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” (Dan. 5:11,12).

Now these were all instances of direct revelation being given to both Joseph and Daniel. What then do they have to do with Scriptural authority if anything? These all relate to Isaiah chapter eight which establishes God’s standard of authority for all time over His people and indeed, the entire world. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Is. 8:20). Of course, God has given direct revelation at times in past history to His people. But it would be of no benefit to any except to those who received it at the time, if not for the fact that He also committed it to the written word! In this way it is preserved for the benefit of all His posterity. Light is an essential property of God’s nature (I John 1:5). It is intimately connected to His word (verse 6). As a characteristic attributable to Him, along with certain others, it is communicable to the creature made in His image (verses 7,8). This is done in the form of written truth which He communicates propositionally through His word. Truth is light imparted to us according to the condition of our nature. It is to be received from God in a discursive manner, in order to obtain any benefit from it (Is. 28:10,13).

Ahaz wasn’t the first King of Israel to offend by consulting a medium instead of God. “Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.” (I Sam. 28:7). Unlike the pagan kings previously mentioned Saul was not ignorant of the Scriptural injunction against occultism (Deut. 18:9-12). It was recorded in the Pentateuch as God’s permanent record of authority to His people. Saul’s disregard for God’s revealed will in turn resulted in his death. “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance.” (I Chron. 10:13).

In the days of the apostles another form of so-called knowledge presented a challenge to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. This was in the form of humanistic philosophy associated with Hellenism. The apostle Paul provided a warning about reliance on humanistic philosophy to the predominantly Hellenistic church at Colossae. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8). It was not philosophy itself which was at issue for Paul, but humanistic philosophy “not according to Christ.” The philosophy to which he referred is that associated with Plato and Aristotle, or in other words Greek pagan philosophy as opposed to that which comes from Scripture. The Greeks weren’t just philosophers. They were pagans whose false religion involved the practice of idolatry. It is important to make this connection because idolatry and occultism have always existed side by side in the world. The difference between the Greeks and those who went before, is that they sought to explain their false religion by the use of natural philosophy. This is important to point out as this is the very thing that Rome did in the middle ages as its tradition was developed. Of this verse in Colossians chapter two John Calvin writes:

According to the tradition of men. He points out more precisely what kind of philosophy he reproves, and at the same time convicts it of vanity on a twofold account—because it is not according to Christ, but according to the inclinations of men; and because it consists in the elements of the world. Observe, however, that he places Christ in opposition to the elements of the world, equally as to the tradition of men, by which he intimates, that whatever is hatched in man’s brain is not in accordance with Christ, who has been appointed us by the Father as our sole Teacher; that he might retain us in the simplicity of his gospel. Now, that is corrupted by even a small portion of the leaven of human traditions. He intimates also, that all doctrines are foreign to Christ that make the worship of God, which we know to be spiritual, according to Christ’s rule, to consist in the elements of the world, and also such as fetter the minds of men by such trifles and frivolities, while Christ calls us directly to himself.[2]

The word philosophy means a love of the truth. And as we have already iterated, truth is a quality that pertains to God and Him alone. That quality is one that is an inherent original knowledge as opposed to the discursive one found in the creature. God is omniscient which means He knows all things at all times, all at once. There is no development of thought as it concerns God. Therefore, when He inspires the writers of Holy Scripture, He directs them in writing His mind on paper in propositional form which is suitable to the condition of our nature. We do not assert the dictation theory here necessarily as some have done, but rather, that God sovereignly used the natural faculties of men, in order to write His mind down for us through theirs. The Bible is the product of God’s revelation given to many men over a period of some fifteen hundred years. And although it was written through the instrumentality of the human mind and pen, it was nevertheless, sovereignly superintended by the Holy Spirit. This makes it a Divine composition. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (II Pet. 1:20,21).

The Scriptures are communicated to us through the instrumentality of men, but they originate with and are directed to them by the Spirit of God (John 14:25,26). This is where Scripture derives its authority from. It is not the opinions or philosophy of men, no matter how wise or educated any of them might be. In fact, God often used rather uneducated men for this very purpose, like Peter, James and John who were all fishermen. And when Paul, who was an educated former Pharisee spoke God’s word, he was careful not to couch it in the terminology of the Greeks. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (I Cor. 2:1-5). Paul recognized the difference between the words of Scripture and the words of the Philosophers, the one testifying of the cross of Christ and the other the genius of sinful men (I Cor. 1:18). In fact, the word of God is superior in every respect to the wisdom of men simply because it originates with Him, the eternal God and Creator of men and all things in nature that the Greeks studied. Therefore, its authority is such that it shuts the mouth of the arrogant disputant who disregards it as just another philosophy of men (I Cor. 1:19-21).

Paul went on to say in Corinthians that the inspired words of God once communicated to us in the form of Scripture, are then interpreted by the same Holy Spirit that communicated them in the first place (I Cor. 2:6-16). There is a spiritual activity at work in both. The words of Scripture are God’s words and therefore, spiritual in nature. Unless one is born of the Spirit, he cannot see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3,6). And since the Spirit of God is the originator of Scripture only He can interpret its contents. The unregenerate man of the world can read and see what it is saying, but rejects it out of hand because he is a natural man and does not possess the mind of God in Christ (I Cor. 2:15,16). The fact that so many unregenerate men are religious explains why human tradition which is idolatry infects the church of God in every generation. The things of God are taken out of context and twisted to suit the perverse thinking of hypocrites in order to fashion a false religion based on natural principles. These are usually works-based principles which give glory to man who invents them out of whole cloth, like the Romanists.

This brings us now to the matter at hand concerning the Protestant Reformation and the formal declaration of the principle of Scripture alone. Just as philosophy as an intellectual discipline is not foreign to Scriptural authority, so neither is tradition. It is “the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world” that was at issue regarding the Roman Catholic church. Martin Luther was not on a crusade to condemn all tradition, so long as it had a Scriptural foundation to it. What constitutes tradition consistent to the biblical standard is a matter for another essay. Suffice to say here however, that it was unbiblical tradition that Luther decried. Jesus had made the very same complaint in His day while on earth that Luther made of the Roman church in his. “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘ This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” (Mark 7:5-9). There is nothing wrong with washing hands, pitchers and cups. But when religious value not prescribed in Scripture is ascribed to it, it is nothing but an offense to God. The commandment of God which the Pharisees overthrew is stated in the next and following verses. “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban” — ‘ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Verses 10-13). Here, in this instance Jesus condemns the overthrow of God’s commandment by a perverse interpretation of it which became a matter of tradition to the Pharisees. When false traditions are introduced into God’s church, they usually replace a sound understanding and practice of His specific commands.

Just like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, the Romanists could not understand the nature of the complaint Martin Luther made, and why was this so? It was because their minds were blinded by the intractable sin of self righteousness associated with their works. The word of God was not rejected by them altogether, but became an authority placed alongside that of tradition, a tradition that included many things not found anywhere in the Bible. In effect, tradition served to undermine what the Bible teaches on every major doctrine. It shifted the place of authority away from Scripture, and ultimately God, to the Pope and the doctors of the church. So how did it do this? It did this by setting human authority above Scripture in terms of interpretive judgement. But this begs the question, isn’t that supposed to happen, weren’t we given the Scriptures as the voice of God that requires interpretation? The answer to this question is of course, yes. But the Roman church did not just seek to interpret the word so that it might submit itself to it, it set itself above the Scripture as an infallible interpreter, hence, usurping the role and authority of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture then became subordinate to the opinion which undergirded the traditions of the church.

So how did such a thing come about in the early church? The Roman Catholic view came about as a development of thought over the course of many years. However, its development in terms of causation can be traced back to the end of the first century. The end of the first century quite interestingly coincided with the end of the apostles, along with what they meant to the church. The last book of the New Testament is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, believed to be written some time between 95 and 97 AD. The Revelation was written by John the last surviving apostle. The end of the first century marked a great turning point for the New Testament church on two accounts. First, it marked the end of God giving His people any new revelation from that time going forward in history. In other words, it meant that the Bible was complete in terms of it being the mind of God revealed to mankind. The book of Revelation ends with this amazing statement by John in certification that the Canon of Scripture was ended. It was completed and closed. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18:19). Second, along with the closing of the Canon of Scripture, the end of the first century marked the end of the apostolic office. The office of the apostle served two functions in the church of Jesus Christ. First, the apostles were prophets of God, just as those were of the Old Testament (Heb. 1:1-4). As such, the New Testament church was founded upon their testimony of Jesus (Eph. 2:19-22). The office of the apostle carried a certain authority with it as well (I Cor. 9:18; II Cor. 10:8,14, 13:10; II Thess. 3:9). Apostolic authority can be compared roughly to that which Moses exercised in leading Israel out of Egypt, or Joshua leading them into the land of Canaan.

The combination of these two characteristics of the apostolic office, in the formation of the New Testament church, acted in parallel to the formation of the Old Testament kingdom. As both were in their formative stages, they received prophetic instruction of the Lord which was collected into the existing Canon of Scripture at the time. However, when it came to the implementation of that revelation, there were many questions of interpretation and application. In both cases, Old and New Testaments, the prophets and apostles inquired of the Lord for this. In the Old Testament there is a great deal of historical narrative given to show this very thing. In the New Testament, there is narrative in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles too. But primarily, teaching and application of the gospel is given in the form of letters written to specific churches or individuals within them. The book of Revelation which ends the New Testament is given to the church which follows the apostles until the Lord returns.

Here is the dramatic difference between the apostolic era and that which followed it. Once the apostles were gone, it was the duty of the church to seek the Lord’s will through the diligent study of the Scripture, with prayer to Him for understanding regarding its interpretation and application. There was no more human prophet or inspired writer to appeal to when it came to various problems of interpretation or disputes over differences in the church, everything needed for this was given in the completed text of the Bible. But here too, there was a fundamental problem which the church would face in the age that followed. The noetic effects of sin upon the mind of even God’s redeemed are such, that there must always be a proneness to error that will forever plague even the best of men. So in other words, although there is no insufficiency whatsoever in the Holy Scripture as God left it to the church, there is always a profound insufficiency in man concerning its perfect interpretation.

So for that God provided the church what it needed in terms of certain blessings and means that it might be able to arrive at every essential truth contained in the Bible. The first and foremost thing is the abiding presence of God’s Spirit, which illuminates the mind of His elect regarding the spiritual things contained in Scripture. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (I Cor. 2:12). Second then is the method by which the Holy Spirit works among God’s people in arriving at the knowledge of the truth. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (Verse 13). This is the method of systematic learning, aided by the Holy Spirit. By systematizing the various doctrines of the Bible, an obvious contrast between truth and error emerges from Scripture to the mind when the process of comparing texts is employed. There is a certain rule of interpretation or analogy of Scripture that is present within the pages of the Bible. Third, God had provided the New Testament church with various officers with the necessary spiritual gifts that attended their particular function. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). When the need for “apostles” and “prophets” ended, those that remained were for the primary function of leading and teaching the people of God “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verses 12,13).

These remaining offices are ordinary in that they have no supernatural gifts like the apostles and the prophets had. They are to perform their function of teaching in an ordinary way, by first learning themselves, then communicating it to others. Now, the way that the ordinary function of teaching works, in the New Testament church, is by its collective witness and acknowledgment of the truth. This was done first in the early church in the form of councils which met in order to deal with errors in the church. The apostles themselves established this process of church wide meeting for the same purpose in the first century. “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.” (Acts 15:6). This was a meeting at Jerusalem by both “the apostles and elders.” The Elders who are also known as Pastors came from all the churches that existed at the time to deal with certain errors that troubled its peace. After the first century such meetings continued to occur but with one exception, they would be attended by the ordinary ministers without an inspired apostle.

This is also where the early church following the days of the apostles began to go wrong. Immediately following the end of the apostolic era with the sealing of the canon of Scripture (Rev. 22:18,19), the church found itself besieged by various controversies involving both doctrine and practice. Up until the fourth century the Christian church within the Roman empire suffered repeated persecutions. Also, the original letters written by the apostles were held in residence in the churches to which they were addressed. Copies were made and sent around to the other churches. However, without an approved collection of these letters held together in a single book a certain problem occurred. There were letters sent around that were not inspired nor from the apostles that caused concern on the part of believers. Paul mentions one of them in the second of his letters to the church at Thessalonika (II Thess. 2:1,2). Someone had claimed the Lord had already returned! There were also writings of an apocryphal nature that circulated around, some claiming to be from the apostles too. In spite of these various issues the church nevertheless prospered and spread throughout the empire, kept by the power of God.

Then in God’s providence, the emperor Constantine (272-337) adopted Christianity for himself and by default, the Roman empire in 312. This providence brought about a dramatic change for the Christian church. For starters, the problems associated with persecution ended. One of the early controversies related to this had to do with large numbers of church members who lapsed (left) when persecution came, then desired to return when it was over.[3] This circumstance brought the challenge to the church of defining whom among them was or wasn’t actually a Christian, and, what to do about it by way of church policy if receiving them back. Some ministers would take the lapsed back attributing their defection to the weakness of the flesh. We have to consider that early Roman persecution often involved Christians being tossed to the lions in the public arena. This was a daunting trial no matter how strong a person’s faith and commitment might be. But some ministers wouldn’t receive them back, but considered them as having left because they weren’t actually saved (I John 2:18,19), so that this created a controversy regarding church authority and discipline that lasted until the conversion of Constantine.

Adding to this was a lack of agreement among the ministers throughout the empire on some of the most fundamental aspects of the Christian faith in terms of precise theological definitions. These were the nature of the Trinity and of the Person of Jesus Christ, specifically, their essence and relationship to one another. Compounding the problem associated with this was the lack of an accepted canon of Scripture by the entire church, as well as the influence of Greek philosophy upon the thinking of its theologians. It might be added too, that though the early church fathers had the Old Testament Scriptures in their possession, little, if anything about the original Hebrew was known among them, the text they possessed being the Greek Septuagint translation. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD there were far fewer Jewish converts to the Christian faith until by the second century, they vanished altogether. This left the Gentile church without the ability to consult Jewish believers on their understanding of Scriptural matters of interpretation revealed in the Old Testament.

When the Christian faith found acceptance on the part of the Roman authority, two things happened in regard to these problems. First, Constantine sought to consolidate his rule as Rome’s Christian emperor by settling a variety of disputes among the ministers of the church over doctrine. Christianity wasn’t decreed as the state religion automatically, but because Constantine favored it he granted it certain privileges over and above the other existing pagan religions. This was done much to their chagrin. Wanting to eliminate unnecessary problems in relation to this, he couldn’t tolerate any amount of schism within the church. A council of the ministers was called by imperial decree in 325 in order to do this. It would have met at Constantinople, the imperial seat of the eastern empire, except for the fact that its church building was under construction, so it was held a short distance away in the city of Nicea. Second, Constantine set out to settle disputes over the proper church canon of Scripture, for it was regarded by Christians as the written revelation from God, and therefore, sufficient and authoritative in determining the truth in all doctrinal disputes. It is reported by Eusebius in his church history that fifty copies of Constantine’s Bible were commissioned in 331.[4] It is important to note here that these actions taken by the emperor were largely political in nature, as it was expedient for him to do so in order to unify the church leaders under his rule.

Concerning church councils, there were many that had been held since the days of the apostles throughout the empire, in order to settle such matters. Before Constantine these could only be held in a regional manner, due to difficulties encountered in travel and public displays of church attendance by large numbers of people. Such councils or synods as they became called as these continued to be held throughout the middle ages in Europe. Empire-wide councils of the type Constantine called at Nicea continued over the course of many centuries as well.

Concerning the council at Nicea, it had been called largely to address a church wide schism associated with the heresy referred to as Arianism, which denied the eternal Deity of Christ by saying that He was a created being.[5] This was in reaction to another widely recognized heresy called Monarchianism which asserted the single essence of God implied the Trinity was not three separate but equal Persons, but merely three manifestations or modes of the one Being.[6] The Nicene council condemned Arianism and issued a creedal statement that was thought to have settled the matter from Scripture.[7] The Nicene Creed affirmed that Jesus was indeed in possession of the eternal nature of God.

The next heresy to rock the peace of the church was that of Apollonarianism, which accepted Christ as the Divine Logos, but asserted that since He was Divine, therefore He was not human.[8] Another council was needed to settle this, so another one met in order to do so in 381 at Constantinople. It was here that the Nicene Creed was upheld and the biblical doctrine of the complete humanity of Christ was affirmed. Apollonarianism, along with several other heresies were condemned, including Monarchianism. In addition, the Nicene formula was improved by an affirmation of the Deity of the Holy Spirit.[9]

The church was troubled once again in the fifth century with the heresy of Nestorianism. This heresy was against the idea of Christ being the Divine Logos born of a woman in union with a nature affected by sin. Also, how could this nature be human if absent a human soul? Therefore, the Christ must be the union of two persons as well as two natures.[10] The council of Ephesus was called in 431 in order to deal with this as well as the heresy of Pelagianism that taught against the doctrine of original sin claiming that the human will, was not affected by the fall and therefore, was capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid.[11] This council condemned both the Nestorian and the Pelagian heresies issuing no new creed, by simply upholding the affirmations of Nicea.

The absence of any positive doctrinal statement at Ephesus led in turn to another heresy that arose in reaction to it. This teaching was called Monophysitism, and it denied the two natures of Christ by claiming the union of the two natures produced another new and distinct nature.[12] This heresy was taken up and condemned in 451 by the council of Chalcedon. It was here that the hypostatic union of two natures, both Divine and human, unmixed in the one Person of Christ was positively affirmed.

The first four councils did not end the Christological controversies. One more that followed on the heels of the Monophysite error was that of Monothelitism.[13] It could not accept the idea of two wills within the one Person of Christ. So this too was resolved toward a two-person solution. The Emperor Justinian (482-565) called a second council of Constantinople in 553 to deal with the matter. It was asserted here that orthodoxy required two wills as necessary to Christ’s two natures, while at the same time preserving orthodoxy by maintaining the unique but singularity of His Person.

Monothelitism did not go away and this led to yet another council of Constantinople in 680. Here the Chalcedonian creed was expanded by stating both the dyophysitism and the dyotheletism of Christ. This means that Jesus Christ has two wills as well as two natures. There are both a human and a Divine will, both of which work in complete harmony. The human is subordinate to the Divine which means the will is an attribute of nature rather than of a person.

These councils are considered extremely important in church history in establishing orthodoxy in regard to the doctrine of the Trinity and of Christ. But it is here that an important question arises concerning the matter of authority. Clearly, the apostolic tradition set down for us in Acts chapter fifteen of universal church councils meeting in order to address doctrinal error and schism in the church is established in Scripture. This same practice of church authority can be observed in the first six historical instances of it in the fourth and the fifth century. That is, when state involvement is removed. But it is with one other notable exception, as already stated, there were no inspired apostles present, only their inspired word. However, the Spirit of Christ was indeed present with these men as Scripture attests. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20). And the broader passage from which this promise is given is that of the church being assembled for the matter of discipline (verses 15-19). So where is the authority in this, is it not in the word of God, understood properly and applied by the collective witness of the church? But it is not an infallible authority as it concerns men, but the collective witness of men led by the Spirit of God. Scripture is the final absolute arbiter of faith and practice. This means that the councils of men may and certainly do err as inspiration only pertains to Scripture. And err they eventually did as time went on.

Once the tradition of determining doctrine and practice through the church council became the accepted way of discipline, the general assumption made by churchmen was that the outcome would necessarily be valid. The Scripture was still considered inspired by theologians, and therefore, authoritative. But the interpretive aspect of it fell on the church to decide what it should believe and practice through the means of the council. The consequence however was that the decisions of councils were not always universally accepted.

Something that developed from the various Christological controversies was that regional factions became drawn up over them, most notably along the lines of the eastern and western churches. The western churches tended to hold to orthodoxy concerning the doctrine of Christ while the eastern churches were where these heresies seemed to flourish. But it is evident in viewing history that a tendency toward error in the whole of ancient Catholicism occurred just the same. Take for instance, the seventh Ecumenical and second council of Nicaea in 787. Over time the eastern churches had adopted the use of icons (pictures) in worship. The second Nicean council rightly condemned this as idolatry. However, both the eastern and western churches did many other things that were unbiblical such as venerating the sign of the cross, pictures of Jesus, the virgin Mary, saints and angels. While condemning icons the council affirmed the veneration of these other things. By the end of the fourth century the eastern and western churches had become hopelessly divided over the issue of authority as well as others like that of worship. The decision of this council divided them for good.

It is important to point out that the first seven councils were ordered and conducted by the political authority of Rome and not the Bishops of the church. Because they were the product of a political decree, the findings of the councils were incorporated into Roman constitutional law.

So what do we think of it in terms of the advance of Christianity in the early centuries of church history? This is an important question to ask as it played a major role in the development of the Roman Catholic church and its view of tradition and authority. With the political ruler of Rome serving the interests of the church in this manner, it also helped to establish what became the Medieval concept of the Roman church state, one in which the two worked together in a tandem as joint systems of authority.

There is also no doubt but what Constantine and other subsequent rulers accomplished, in these two areas concerning the canonization of Scripture, and orthodoxy in doctrine in resolving disputes, was something that was providentially ordered by God. Over the last two thousand years Christians throughout the world have accepted Constantine’s Bible canon and the Nicene creed as legitimate tests of orthodoxy. But it also set in motion the conditions that contributed toward the rise of papalism and the eventual shift away from the apostolic doctrine of Scripture alone (II Tim. 3:15-17). This happened by the relationship which developed between the Roman head of state and the Bishops of the Christian church. The church could now look to the state to assist them in settling their disputes while helping it to unify its doctrine and organization in the process. The state on the other hand, could count on the support and good favor of their subjects through the ecclesiastical control of the Bishops over them.

The net result of this situation was what led to the Roman Catholic view of tradition and authority. When a political ruler can be petitioned to order a council, and its findings become not only ecclesiastical law but civil law as well, there’s no more need for Scripture to be consulted. Within the space of a couple hundred or so years, by the replacement of Scripture with the decrees of councils the church had begun down the long dark road toward apostasy. From the fourth century on the Roman church adopted many practices and teachings which had no biblical basis, and consequently no authority whatsoever. In the interest of space we can’t cover all of them here, however, Presbyterian Theologian Lorraine Boettner (1901-1990) has provided us with a list of errors by the Roman church along with the dates they were adopted. The number of errors on the list is forty-five, starting at the beginning of the fourth century and going right up to the twentieth, the one in which he lived and died. The first thirty-nine go to the time of the reformation, the rest to the twentieth century. We list them here in order of their dates.

1. Prayers for the dead: began about A.D. 300.

2. Making the sign of the cross: A.D. 300.

3. Wax candles: about A.D. 320.

4. Veneration of angels and dead saints, and use of images: A.D. 375.

5. The Mass, as a daily celebration: A.D. 394.

6. Beginning of the exaltation of Mary, the term “Mother of God” first applied to her by the Council of Ephesus: A.D. 431.

7. Priests began to dress differently from laymen: A.D. 500.

8. Extreme Unction: A.D. 526.

9. The doctrine of Purgatory, established by Gregory I: A.D. 593.

10. Latin language, used in prayer and worship, imposed by Gregory I: A.D. 600.

11. Prayers directed to Mary, dead saints, and angels: about A.D. 600.

12. Title of pope, or universal bishop, given to Boniface III by emperor Phocas: A.D. 607.

13. Kissing the pope’s foot, began with Pope Constantine: A.D. 709.

14. Temporal power of the popes, conferred by Pepin, king of the Franks: A.D. 750.

15. Worship of the cross, images, and relics: authorized in A.D. 786.

16. Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest: A.D. 850.

17. Worship of St. Joseph: A.D. 890.

18. College of Cardinals established: A.D. 927.

19. Baptism of bells, instituted by pope John XIII: A.D. 965.

20. Canonization of dead saints, first by Pope John XV: A.D. 995.

21. Fasting on Fridays and during Lent: A.D. 998.

22. The Mass, developed gradually as a sacrifice, attendance made obligatory in the 11th century.

23. Celibacy of the priesthood, decreed by pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand): A.D. 1079.

24. The Rosary, mechanical praying with beads, invented by Peter the Hermit: A.D. 1090.

25. The Inquisition, instituted by the Council of Verona: A.D. 1184.

26. Sale of Indulgences: A.D. 1190.

27. Transubstantiation, proclaimed by Pope Innocent III: A.D. 1215.

28. Auricular Confession of sins to a priest instead of to God, instituted by Pope Innocent III, in Lateran Council: A.D. 1215.

29. Adoration of the wafer (Host), decreed by Pope Honorius III: A.D. 1220.

30. Bible forbidden to laymen, placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of

Toulouse: A.D. 1229.

31. The Scapular, invented by Simon Stock, an English monk: A.D. 1251.

32. Cup forbidden to the people at communion by Council of Constance: A.D. 1414.

33. Purgatory proclaimed as a dogma by the Council of Florence: A.D. 1439.

34. The doctrine of Seven Sacraments affirmed: A.D. 1439.

35. The Ave Maria (part of the last half was completed 50 years later and approved by Pope Sixtus V at the end of the 16th century): A.D. 1508.

36. Jesuit order founded by Loyola: A.D. 1534.

37. Tradition declared of equal authority with the Bible by the Council of Trent: A.D. 1545.

38. Apocryphal books added to the Bible by the Council of Trent: A.D. 1546.

39. Creed of pope Pius IV imposed as the official creed: A.D. 1560.

40. Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX: A.D. 1854.

41. Syllabus of Errors, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX and ratified by the Vatican Council; condemned freedom of religion, conscience, speech, press, and scientific discoveries which are disapproved by the Roman Church; asserted the pope’s temporal authority over all civil rulers: A.D. 1864.

42. Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals, proclaimed by the Vatican Council: A.D. 1870.

43. Public Schools condemned by Pope Pius XI: A.D. 1930.

44. Assumption of the Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly after her death),

proclaimed by Pope Pius XII: A.D. 1950.

45. Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church by Pope Paul VI: A.D. 1965.

Add to these many others: monks, nuns, monasteries, convents, forty days Lent, holy week, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, All Saints day, Candlemas day, fish day, meat days, incense, holy oil, holy palms, Christopher medals, charms, novenas, and still others.[14]

None of the practices and teachings mentioned on this list have any Scriptural origin, although Romanists would argue otherwise against the assertion. They all came about either by the introduction of human tradition, or by church doctors and councils, then later on in history advanced as official church dogma by the pronouncements of Popes. In fact, Rome does still accept Scripture as inspired, but for them it is not sufficient enough for faith and practice alone. Therefore, they add their tradition to Scripture, claiming that it too is authoritative, even to the point of being greater.

Much of this tradition comes from the uninspired books of the Apocrypha.[15] The apocryphal books were excluded from Constantine’s canon, but later on were used in conjunction with it. The Roman Bishop Damasus (305-384), often referred to as the first Pope, commissioned the publication of a new Latin Bible in 382. The translator of this Bible was a church scholar by the name of Jerome (347-420). Even though none of the apocryphal books was considered inspired, and therefore not canononical, Jerome added portions of it to his new Latin version. Within a hundred years or so Bible reading had fallen out of use among the laity, due to expense of owning one and increasing illiteracy. This left it in the possession of the clergy who were only trained in what they had to know about it for their priestly functions. Throughout the Middle Ages it was primarily Monks who read it, and from there arose many of the teachings of the church.

1. The papacy and church authority

The papal system arose in conjunction with all of these unbiblical teachings and practices. The papacy was a product of Episcopalian church polity, another unbiblical invention of men that places absolute authority in their hand and traditions. The Greek word Episcopos is where we get the word Episcopal, and it simply means Bishop. Scripture teaches us there are but two offices in the Christian church, Bishops and Deacons (Phil. 1:1; I Tim. 3:1-15). Scripture also uses two different titles for the office of Elder, Presbuteros for Presbyter or Pastor, and Episcopos for Bishop or Ruler, these are one and the same office with slightly varying functions but equal in authority (Acts 20:28; Tit. 1:5-9). That being the case, Scripture teaches that church government is Presbyterian in nature, as it is ruled by a plurality of Elders. Furthermore, church officers are chosen by the collective witness of the church, the authority of their witness being congregational competence made so by the presence of Christ’s Spirit and the direction of His inspired word revealed in the New Testament (Acts 6:1-6).

2. The primacy of the institutional church

Episcopalianism divides the two terms of Bishop and Presbyter used in Scripture and turns them into two different offices with two different degrees of authority. A Bishop is a ruler who is above the Presbyter and the Deacon. And even among the Bishops there are degrees of authority. The Roman church developed the office of a supreme Bishop, who is the Pope. Next in line of authority there are Cardinals and then there are Bishops under them. This whole system began to develop as a result of circumstances that existed in the second half of the fourth century.

The church was divided as we’ve seen between the east and the west. Adding to this was a great many divisions existing between varying sects associated with one heresy or another. It seems that Arianism was especially prevalent in the east, but there were some in the west that imbibed in it as well. At the time the church was also divided into various spheres of influence associated with large cities. The Bishops of these churches all vied for recognition and preeminence within the empire. But competition between them all was none more than that between the eastern church situated in Constantinople and home of the councils, and the western church situated in Rome. Eventually, the entire church of the empire after the end of the fourth century divided this way with the others associating with one or the other.

The Emperors defended the orthodox creeds of the early councils in the Roman civil code. But after the Constantinople council, they did a lot more than that by throwing their political weight in the direction of the Roman Bishop. For it was the eastern Emperor Theodosius that closed the Arian churches in Constantinople and expelled their Bishops in 380, then a year later he issued an edict (edict of Thessalonika) declaring Damasus the Bishop of Rome as Pontiff, above his contemporary in Constantinople.

Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius Augusti. Edict to the People of Constantinople.

It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.

Given in Thessalonica on the Third Day From the Calends of March, During the Fifth Consulate of Gratian Augustus and First of Theodosius Augustus[16]

This amazing edict reveals a great deal to us about the formation of the Roman papacy and the Episcopalian church of the fourth century. Episcopalianism is founded on the belief in autocratic rule by Bishops based on the practice of succession. The Roman church according to tradition, makes its claim to authority by the transmission of apostolic power through Peter, whom they say was the first Roman Pope. This claim is clearly expressed and supported by the Emperors in the edict. However, there is not a single bit of evidence in Scripture that proves this assertion. It is based solely on their claim to oral tradition handed down by the apostles. And it is here for the first time in history we see the title of Pontiff (Pope) assigned to the Roman Bishop. The fact that it was enshrined in Roman law is what gave the false assertion its traction. Anyone who disagreed with the Roman Bishop disagreed with the Roman Emperor. So the development of Roman Catholic tradition apart from Scripture gained its authority in the Middle Ages through this joint church/state system.

C. The Church, Scripture, and the Reformation

The Reformation begun by Martin Luther and furthered by others in Europe recognized the supremacy of Scripture over tradition. Luther, as we’ve said before did not denounce all tradition, but that which was diametrically opposed to Scripture. For that, Martin Luther has the honor, and the distinction of being the one to reestablish the apostolic principle of Scripture alone in the Christian church. For one thing, Martin Luther was not looking to start a new and separate church denomination from Catholicism, but he was forced, into it just the same by the circumstances. Hence, the Lutheran church maintained its Episcopalian character, but with one huge difference, it is without a Pope. Second of all, with it they maintained much of the outward formality of the Roman church, changing the meaning assigned to certain doctrines and practices in order to bring them more into conformity to the Evangelical spirit of the New Testament. Luther denied the Eucharist is changed into the literal body and blood of Christ by the Priests to be offered as a saving sacrifice. Instead, it signifies a spiritual offering of praise and worship.

So how were Luther and his successors able to this, holding onto so much of the former Roman style and yet, stand on the formal principle of Scripture alone? This was done through the introduction of what is termed in Greek as adiaphora, meaning, a thing that’s indifferent. While Luther was concerned to eradicate certain errors from the church that clearly corrupted the gospel, he viewed the practice of things not recommended in Scripture as matters of indifference. In other words, if the Scripture does not condemn a practice, the church through its leaders is free to establish it as a non saving tradition. However, the subject of adiaphora was a hotly debated topic among the Lutherans.[17] The broad approach of Luther won out in that church while other reformers took the principle of Scripture authority much further than he and the Lutherans.[18]

John Calvin, a French Protestant exile became the second main reformer of importance after Luther. Calvin published the first systematic theology since Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theoligica, and the first one of the reformation in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Institutes were addressed to the King of France and someone judicially placed a copy of it on his bed. This enraged the Roman Catholic King who proceeded to round up Protestant heretics and put them to death. Calvin fled for his life to Switzerland, where he became the minister at Geneva for many years. He was under no illusions about the need to separate from Rome and establish a new reformed church based upon the writings of the apostles in the New Testament.

Calvin became the ideological leader of the reformed movement associated with Presbyterianism in Europe. His view of Scripture alone was far more radical than that of Martin Luther. For Calvin and his ideological heirs the Scripture is not just something descriptive of what practice is in the Christian faith, but rather prescriptive in the sense that not only what it commands we should do, but what it does not command, is therefore forbidden. Now this view does not exclude the doctrine of logical inference as put forth by Jesus to His disciples (Luke 24:25-27). The disciples had up to that point failed to see how the death of Jesus as the Messiah was consistent with Scripture. So Jesus explained it to them from the entirety of the Old Testament, showing that it was clearly inferred. And it also does not exclude matters of true adiaphora as it was expressed by Paul to the Corinthian church (I Cor. 14:33,40). Evidently, there were chaos and disorder in their worship services. So Paul laid down some directions for order that were consistent with nature. How do we determine the difference between traditions that violate the regulative principle of Scripture and those that do not? The difference is determined by essence and circumstance. That which accords, with the essence of worship, must rely exclusively on specific commands, or the lack thereof. But circumstances are according to nature, and therefore, practice may be lawfully regulated by the specific tradition adopted by a church.

Through Calvin’s more proper interpretation of Scripture, Presbyterian church government was reintroduced back into the Protestant church. Episcopalian church government chooses its Bishops by the Bishops, so it’s a top down form of authority. Since Scripture shows that Christ is Head of His church, the place of top down authority is already satisfied in Him without imposing any other sort of human intermediary or replacement. The Scripture shows that the Bishops and Deacons are chosen by the collective mind of the congregation of each local church, so that ministerial authority is under Christ, but nevertheless, accountable to Him through the entire congregation.

Presbyterianism whether it is denominational or more local in character views the presbytery as a representative body, as opposed to the type of authoritarian rule seen in Episcopal government, and certainly that found in popery. When the Presbytery made up of multiple men, meet together, it forms a council, whether it is a local consistory, a regional synod or a national assembly.

The continental reformed and those who subsequently followed after sought to utterly remove every vestige of popery from the church and its worship. Instead of an altar in which to offer an unbiblical sacrifice of the Mass, a lectern was placed in order to support the Bible by which the minister preached to the people. The apostolic method of the centrality of preaching was re established by the regulative principle of Scripture alone in the worship. The substance of the preaching commanded in Scripture covers every doctrine put forth in its pages. But central to it is the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the ordinances or government of the church no matter how important they are to it. And certainly, the authority of church discipline exercised by the presbytery as outlined by Paul to Timothy in his second epistle (3:15-17), is the substance of the inspired word of God.

1. The return of Scriptural authority

The formal principle of Scripture alone restored God’s rule to the Christian church that was lost during the Middle Ages as a result of the rise of Romanism and its system of human tradition. The result of this led to the Protestant understanding of the rightful place of Scripture in the church based on its own interpretive authority, rather than on an interpretive authority placed over it by men. This view did not discount the fact that sinful man may and does err in its interpretation. This was the fear and reason put forth by Rome as to why Scripture was not sufficient alone for faith and practice among Christians. They feared that if the people had freedom to possess and read Scripture on their own, it would inevitably lead to multiple interpretations and corrupting error. Therefore, the institution of the church was turned to in order to provide control over what should be taught and understood as legitimate dogma and practice among Christians. So the church took the Bible away from its parishioners and subjected it to human tradition and philosophical speculations which they taught the people to observe.

Protestants recognized the inherent sinfulness of man in his tendency to err as well. But God gave the church an inspired infallible revelation by which to know and serve Him. Therefore, the Bible must have a method of instruction that is inherent within itself, by which we as fallible creatures might learn and submit to it. The first step was in recognizing that the Bible is the connecting link in terms of revelation between God and man. In fact, this recognition made sense of what the apostle John taught in his gospel about whom and what Jesus Christ is as the God man and only “Mediator between God and men” (I Tim. 2:5). John opens his gospel with these words. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5). John identifies Jesus, as the “Word,” the revelation of God that gives both life as Creator and light in knowledge to men. This was not simply a clever use of analogy, but an answer from God to the speculative notions of the philosophers about the need for a connecting link between the unknown God and man (Acts 17:22-31). In other words, God and His Word are one!

There are several inherent qualities found within the word of God that establishes it as a unique authority above us, and that can be understood by His people and depended on.

1. God the Holy Spirit is the Divine author of Scripture and infallibly used men as His instruments in its communication (II Pet 1:20,21).

2. The Bible is a Divine book and is therefore inerrant, infallible and internally consistent with itself (Tit. 1:2; John 10:35; I Pet. 1:22-25; Acts 15:15).

3. The Bible as a Divine book is its own solely infallible interpreter (John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27).

4. The Bible is propositional in nature and is therefore, rationally understood through study and the illumination of the Holy Spirit who authored it (Is. 28:10,13; I Cor. 2:9-13).

5. The Bible is the revelation of God’s mind to man and therefore, it is entirely univocal in nature (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4; Rom. 11:34; I Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5).

Recognition of these fundamental characteristics of the authority and usefulness of Scripture led to a restoration of the first century, apostolic Christianity among Protestants. It became the source book of knowledge for Christians in the centuries that followed the reformation. Protestants not only elevated Scripture to its rightful place in the church, but encouraged its people to possess and study the Scriptures on their own as well, with the idea that a well-informed laity is then capable of discerning the difference between truth and error (Acts 17:10,11). Protestants recognized that it was the individual that God elected and saved through the atoning work of Christ’s sacrifice, and not an institution. Therefore, the formal principle of Scripture alone reestablished the apostolic New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of the believer, over and against the Roman teaching of the need to approach God through a human priest (I Pet. 2:5) A Christian is at liberty to come to God through Christ, and submit himself and his conscience to God based on the truth of Scripture alone (II Cor. 3:17; Rom. 14:22; I Tim. 1:5,19)

2. Confessional authority under Scripture

The formal principle of Scripture alone among Protestants following Luther and Calvin led to the legitimate custom, established by the early church of producing written creeds or confessions. We see warrant for this from the word of God itself, though in seed form. The earliest form of creedal statement for God’s people comes from the Old Testament in the Shema. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4). This was a creedal statement given by God to His people to establish the singularity of His Being, over and against the false idolatrous ideas of the pagan world. It was and still is said by observant Jews in the form of a prayer each day. The Shema was given by God as the basis for His further commands (Ex. 20:2,3) and as such, is an essential part of faith. Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary defines the word Shema (hear 6:4) as “to hear intelligently” signifying what the purpose of a creed is, it is to inform the mind of an essential truth in the form of a summary statement. Not surprisingly, we see this creed restated in the New Testament by Paul to Christians (I Cor. 8:4,6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; I Tim. 2:5). The importance of the Shema for Paul was threefold: 1) Paul was preaching the gospel to Jews, 2) Paul was preaching the gospel to Gentiles who were steeped in idolatry, and 3) Paul was preaching the Trinity to them both.

Another creedal statement which naturally follows the Shema is concerned with the nature and Person of Jesus Christ. Paul’s first epistle to Timothy gives us two creedal formulas concerning the nature of Christ. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (I Tim. 3:13). “I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” (I Tim. 6:13-16). If Timothy was to be a preacher and teacher of God’s word, it was necessary for him to have a right understanding of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ.

John did the same thing as Paul in his first epistle, which was written largely in order to combat the false teachings about Christ by the Gnostics. “This is He who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” (I John 5:6-7). Part of verse seven is disputed over its absence in many of the extant manuscripts, but the creedal nature of the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly evident within these three verses when they are taken together, providing internal evidence for its acceptance.

Matthew recorded two instances of which the truth about Jesus and the Trinity are given in creedal form. The first one arises from Peter’s response to Jesus’ question “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matt. 16:13). Peter’s answer to the question forms the biblical basis for catechetical instruction. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Verse 16). The second one recorded by Matthew is of Jesus instructing the disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). From these several examples we can see the proper biblical foundation that was set by the apostles for the Ecumenical creeds that followed concerning the nature of God and Christ.

Adoption of the formal principle of Scripture alone led to an explosion of Bible learning among Protestants in the sixteenth and the seventeenth century. This was fueled in part by the creation of formal confessions of faith, adopted by the many different denominational perspectives that traced their origins to the Protestant Reformation. The Lutherans were monolithic in that they remained a single church identity though residing within various kingdoms. The Augsburg Confession of 1530 was written and adopted as the first confessional standard of the Lutherans. The Calvinists were different in that there were several Calvinistic confessions produced among them in Europe throughout the sixteenth and the seventeenth century. These all substantially reflected the same theology. The First Helvetic Confession (Basle) was produced in Switzerland in 1536. The French Confession Of Faith was produced in 1559. The Scotch Confession was produced in 1560. The Belgic Confession was produced in the southern part of the Netherlands which is now Belgium in 1561.

The church of England, though remaining an Episcopal church, was the first formal Protestant institution in that land. Upon its separation from Rome, a brief set of ten articles, five concerning doctrine and five concerning ceremony were drawn up in 1536. A number of articles were added to it in subsequent years until the current confession containing thirty-nine was adopted in 1571. Since there were both Lutheran and Calvinistic thinking Christians in the church of England at the time these thirty-nine articles reflected certain aspects of both positions. Outside of the Anglican church, a family of related confessions emerged that were associated with the particular denominations that adopted them. In 1597 Calvinistic Separatists from the church of England adopted ‘The True Confession of Faith.’ In 1644 the Separatists split into Paedo and non Paedo Baptist communions, so the Baptists produced their own confession which was an adaptation of the True Confession. In 1646 the Westminster Confession was published, reflecting the Presbyterian government and church order of the continental reformed churches. The Congregational separatists published the Savoy Declaration, which was an edited version of the Westminster Confession, in 1660. And finally, the Baptists adopted a new and second confession in 1689, which was an edited version of both the Westminster and Savoy confessions. There were many other confessions made during this period of time not mentioned here, along with various catechisms and church orders that all contained the larger more varied Protestant perspectives and principles re established by the Reformation.

These confessions by and large, although reflective of different positions in certain areas of Theology and Ecclesiology all reflected the same essential truths of Christianity as propounded by the early reformers, such as justification by faith and the Sovereignty of God in salvation. This can be said no less about the doctrine and place of Holy Scripture in the church. In fact, each and every Protestant confession of faith produced in the sixteenth and the seventeenth century asserted the formal principle of Scripture alone as the starting place of all true Christian faith. This makes everything else that follows in a confession of faith subservient to it alone as the overriding authority. The purpose of a confession and catechism is to provide a summary of doctrine and a teaching method of that doctrine to church members. The authority of a confession is only as good as it reflects the Scripture. It acts as a way of maintaining orthodoxy, admission to membership and discipline within the church. It acts as a limit by the congregation to ministerial authority and misconduct as well.

One of the criticisms made by Roman Catholics about Protestantism since those days has to do with the fact that it appears to be factional, as evidenced by the many denominations and confessions produced as a result. Roman Catholics have always claimed they are the true universal apostolic church, and therefore, legitimate in all of their teachings, rites and traditions. The Protestant Reformation seriously challenged this claim by pointing to their many deviations from Scripture, along with a tremendous amount of corruption and immorality which seemed to accompany the institution of the Medieval church. The effect of the Protestant principle of Scripture alone and its emphasis on the gospel and spiritual liberty served to draw many people away from the Roman communion to become Protestants. Of course, many people did this for political or other purposes alone, but the effect this had upon the Roman church was significant. It actually led to an attempt by the Catholics to institute certain reforms within their church that came about by a council at Trento, Italy (1545-1563), in which they condemned the teachings of the Protestants while asserting the official doctrines of the church. A counter reformation was launched by the advent of a new order called the Society of Jesuits whose aim it was to foment Political and Ecclesiastical opposition to the spread of the reformation within Roman Catholic countries throughout Europe and the Americas. By the publication of the canons of Trent, the Roman Catholic church showed herself to be at odds with the apostolic church of the New Testament.

3. Decline of the doctrine of Scripture

Protestantism flourished for several centuries as a result of the formal principle of Scripture alone being taught and embraced. This brought it under attack by sceptics, practical atheists and formalists who despised its authority and doctrines in favor of man-made religion “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (II Tim. 3:5). This attack presented itself to the Protestant church in the rise and development of the Enlightenment movement in Europe and America. The Enlightenment came about in much of the same way as the Reformation did, it was the result of the Renaissance return to classical literature and learning. The Protestant Reformation was largely fueled by the providential act of God in flooding Europe with Greek literature, brought there by Christians fleeing the Muslim invaders of Asia Minor in the fifteenth century. They brought many extant Greek manuscripts with them which ended up in the hands of the Reformers, who then translated them into their own languages.

Why this was so significant is simply this, the Roman church had effectively kept the Scriptures from the people in their own languages. They were kept in Latin and locked away in the monastery, out of reach by the common man. Now the Latin vulgate, though not a bad translation, was not taken from a single properly preserved text, or family of texts, such as the Eastern church had maintained over the previous fifteen hundred years. But it was translated from a collection of different texts held by the Vatican some of which contained many textual problems or deletions of words altogether. So God brought His providentially preserved extant manuscripts from the East where they had been kept since the days of the apostles in the Greek language. It was used by God as the basis for the start of and furtherance of the Protestant Reformation and its primary principle of authority in the doctrine of Scripture alone. The invention of the printing press in the same decade that the Muslims invaded Asia Minor (Turkey), certainly added to this phenomenon in a providential way.

But along with the Scripture came a plethora of Greek literature containing Pagan philosophy and religion. This served to fuel that aspect of the Renaissance associated with humanism, which is often ascribed improperly to the Reformers. They were not humanists but Theists. Humanism associated with classical Greek literature became the foundation for speculative religious thought that gave rise to the entire Enlightenment movement. In Europe it was more decidedly Atheistic, and ultimately communistic, while in England and America it held to the pretense of Theistic belief, at least for a period of time. The time frame of its formal development is traceable too about the mid seventeenth century, and it has continued on with its effects still felt to modern times. This movement we call the Enlightenment was made up of scholars, Philosophers and skeptics, usually from the nobility and upper classes. They attacked Christianity in writing and sought to undermine it at its foundation, namely the authority of Scripture alone. Listed below are a number of the chief characteristics of the Enlightenment which are antithetical to biblical Christianity that contributed to its decline.

1. The beginning of scientific history.

2. Any truth must justify itself before the bar of reason.

3. Nature is the primary source of answers to the fundamental questions of human existence.

4. Freedom is necessary to advance progress and human welfare.

5. Literary and historical criticism are necessary to determine the legitimacy of our historical legacy.

6. The need for critical philosophy.

7. Ethics as separate and independent from the authority of religion and theology.

8. A suspicion of and hostility to all truth claiming to be grounded in some kind of authority other than reason, e.g. tradition or divine revelation.

9. Raising to the value of science as the avenue by which man can find truth.

10. Toleration as the highest value in matters of religion.

11. A self-conscious continuation and expansion of the humanism first developed during the Renaissance.[19]

The foundational principle of the Enlightenment is that man through reason and scientific observation of nature is capable of attaining a higher level of knowledge and experience regarding his life and environment, than was previously accomplished through the confines of scholastic dogmatism wrapped up in biblical tradition. The Bible they posited, were sufficient only to provide us with a system of morality. Indeed, Jesus is the greatest moral teacher that ever lived. But as to its (Bible) teaching on such things such as The Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, miracles, creation, the fall of man, salvation through substitutionary sacrifice, at these they balked and worked at to tear the integrity of the Scripture apart. The way this was done first of all, was through the denial of an inspired, infallible, inerrant text from God that we can rely on. So they set out within the academic institutions to criticize and explain away everything in the Bible which portrayed God as the Sovereign Creator, Sustainer, and Judge of His universe. The book of the Bible in the view of the Enlightenment critics was thought to be nothing but a human invention, fraught with error and contradiction, which in their minds proved that all claims to a dogmatic theology by the church should be rejected. A method of interpreting Scripture that developed in the latter part of the eighteenth century in Germany, in order to undergird this claim was called Biblical or Historical Theology. The biblical theological method separated the historical development of the Bible from the logical system of doctrines arrived at through an examination of its unity, as embraced by the Reformers. In other words, the Bible was not the product of a single divine mind, but that of a number of fallible interpreters of it. The biblical theological method viewed the writers of the Bible as offering their own opinions of divine revelation, suited to their own times and hearers, so as to make it unsuitable to apply to our own in a universal sense. So the idea of a system of absolute truth derived from the biblical literature is nothing more than the opinions that dogmaticians have created from them.[20]

The Biblical Historical Theology method was the product of Enlightenment rationalism. It gave rise to an entire school of thought regarding the Bible that after its development in Germany, then was imported to America in the second half of the nineteenth century. This school of thought took on the title of Higher Criticism, or the higher critical method of examining the biblical text. These critics viewed Scripture as a development of various traditions of numerous human authors, connected together by late editors and compilers. Whereas, the church had previously accepted the Divine authorship of the Bible, by the instrumentality of known inspired writers, now, the higher critics found in it many unknown authors and redactors.

This was an attack not only on systematic Theology, but on the integrity of the text itself. So the way for them (critics) to study the Bible was purely by literary analysis. The Bible was now under the requirement to prove its authenticity to the academician purely on scientific grounds rather than taken by faith in the God who created us and gave it to us that we might know and worship Him. Never mind that no other ancient writing in history has ever been subjected to the same sort of requirement in order for it to be accepted as legitimately authentic.

Time and space do not permit us here to fully criticize this position. However, to those who might read this and agree with such a position we would point to this one thing. Since the days of the beginning of the Enlightenment, scientific ‘facts’ have continually been proven wrong over and over again by newer and better ‘facts’ that have come along. The reason being is that empirical evidence is wholly inadequate at arriving at truth.[21] Truth, as it is revealed in Scripture pertains to the very nature of God (Ps. 138:2). Truth like God Himself is eternal, absolute, and unchanging far above creation, yea, even above His own Holy name! Man on the other hand is created, made of the same stuff as that in which he proposes to study and arrive at some sort of information he can call knowledge. This so called knowledge, acquired through empirical evidence is at best vague and insufficient to bring us to a right understanding of ourselves, our world and ultimately our God.

Enlightenment philosophy resulted in a separation of the religious world from the natural in terms of Epistemology. Its creed is that a person can believe whatever they want, either from the Bible or strictly from nature, but the two are never to be understood in relation, so as to have Theology, the overriding factor in determining truth (Ps. 19). The natural world, observable by the scientist is the only infallible source of knowledge and interpreter of what is real or fact. So many of the Enlightenment men from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century would remain within a traditional Christian denomination, while at the same time believing only in the inherent goodness of humanity, and its perfectability according to the progress of scientific achievement.

Early on in the Enlightenment era there was an attempt by the popular philosophers at maintaining some sort of an ambiguous idea of Theism while rejecting the Protestant view of Scriptural authority. This gave birth to a number of false religious philosophies such as Deism, Universalism, Unitarianism, Transcendentalism and ultimately Liberalism. The denial of an inspired, infallible revelation from God provided a totally corrupting influence to orthodox Christianity that led eventually down the road to a complete and total apostasy into either Pantheism or Atheism by many of the Enlightenment thinkers. This is entirely understandable given the shift in epistemological authority away from Scripture to either empirical or non empirical reason in religious thought. While the empiricist reasoned that truth was obtainable by sensory experience, the skeptics reasoned more rightly that absolute truth was unobtainable by mere observation of nature. So the Pantheists believed that God was in everything, while the Atheists believed God was in nothing. In their rejection of God, the pure unadulterated Atheism of the skeptics launched a vicious attack against the legitimacy of any idea of Theism. It is interesting to note that two of the most well known Atheists of the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Karl Marx (1818-1883), began as Theists. However, they both abandoned whatever religion they had as a result of being influenced by earlier skeptics, who viewed the natural world as the key to understanding the mysteries of life.

There were men in the nineteenth century who tried to defend the Christian faith against skepticism in one of two different ways. The first of the two was begun in Germany by scholars within the Lutheran tradition called Liberals. They introduced a new and novel idea, that faith did not depend upon any sort of written propositional revelation at all, nor was it necessarily rational in its content. Instead, faith was something so entirely subjective that the experience of it constituted revelation in and of itself. Also, subjective faith was an entirely authoritative commodity to the person who had it. It was thought that this gave a certain infallibility to Christian faith that could not be gainsaid in any way by skeptics. So by separating faith from Scripture, higher criticism was free to remain an academic discipline by the religiously motivated Liberal theologian. This new twist within the Lutheran church enabled the continuation of epistemological separation between the natural and the religious world that the Enlightenment had established. While higher criticism of the Bible asserted a rational empirical approach to viewing it in terms of the natural world, Christian faith was something that existed within the realm of the mystical, pietistic and irrational. This translated naturally into a moralistic social-based idea of Christianity, one which laid stress on the life and good works of Jesus as an example, while denying His Divinity and miracles.

Bible criticism flourished in the nineteenth and early twentieth century to produce an entire school of academics that essentially denied the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, while purporting to be engaged in furthering biblical studies. Theological Liberalism associated with Higher Criticism in Germany was imported to America through academic cooperation in the seminary system. Americans studying abroad in Germany and other places influenced by the Liberals came under the same sort of influence. Some who returned to America followed and taught Liberalism, while others who rejected it sought to integrate much of what they learned from the Liberals with a more historic orthodox understanding and commitment to the Christian faith. Which brings us to the second, other side of the equation as it concerns us in the church today.

4. Scripture in the hands of modern Evangelicals

One such prominent American scholar who studied under the Liberals in Germany in the nineteenth century was Charles Hodge (1797-1878). Hodge, wanting to further his education, and being disposed toward the idea that the Germans were more advanced theologically than we in America, went and studied there. However, unconvinced of the modern theology being taught in Germany, Hodge returned to America and was thereon in a staunch defender of Christian orthodoxy. Charles Hodge eventually became the principle of Princeton, the leading Seminary in the country at the time.

But Hodge was not left unscathed by what he was exposed too in Germany. Nor was he left uninfluenced by his surroundings in the broader academy. Charles Darwin had published his now famous book, ‘On the Origin of Species’ in 1859, and was the leading proponent of naturalism in the middle of the nineteenth century. Hodge rejected the Atheistic implications of Darwin’s musings, but not the underlying idea of a natural evolutionary process as the work of God. Naturalism as embraced by an empiricist like Darwin, seemed to provide a challenge to the literal interpretation of creation that is found in the early pages of Scripture. So Hodge, accepting the creation account in Genesis 1:1, but seeing a conflict between the verses that follow and the claims of science, succumbed to the naturalists by agreeing there was indeed an evolutionary process that better explains it.[22] For Hodge, this was viewed as a concord between the two, the laws of nature and the Divine activity of God.

To his credit, Charles Hodge maintained a sound commitment to the Scriptures as the inspired, infallible word of God.[23] His commitment to the word of God involved defending its system of doctrine in spite of what the higher critics claimed. There was another branch of criticism however, to which Hodge did take notice, but was only mildly influenced.[24] This was a lower form of textual criticism. Lower criticism centered around the question of what extant text or family of texts should be considered historically accurate or the best. So while the higher critics were concerned with the internal literary integrity of the Bible, the lower critics were concerned with the actual physical evidence of its authenticity as ancient literature.

New discoveries of extant Greek manuscripts of the New Testament had been found, and were thought by the modernist critics to be older and therefore, more accurate than the Byzantine text of the Reformers.[25] The manuscripts used by Erasmus in the sixteenth century, in order to compile the church approved text from which the English Authorized Version was translated, was thought at the time to be of the text family that originated with the apostles. It was providentially preserved in the eastern church where Greek was maintained as the language of the New Testament for millennia, unlike the west where Latin had replaced it by the early middle ages.

These newly discovered texts were Alexandrian in origin and had been rejected in the early church as having been corrupted by Gnostic influence, to the extent that they deleted many words and phrases, replacing them with others more reflective of that particular heresy.[26] Jerome had used a number of sources in the translation of his Latin Vulgate, some of which were Alexandrian in origin.

However, the discovery of the supposedly older manuscripts, coupled with the nineteenth century interest in textual criticism, gave way to an interest in revising the Greek text, and hence, the eventual production of a new English version of the Bible. The textual critics took a reverse position from that of the early church fathers concerning the idea of corruption. They argued that the extant Byzantine manuscripts which were newer in age had been conflated by the copyists. Their problem in this however, were that the Byzantine texts which numbered more than five thousand, were all in substantial agreement with each other. The older Alexandrian texts, far fewer in number contained thousands of contradictions and obvious copyist errors. So they had to correct and collate an entirely new eclectic text made from the Alexandrian manuscripts, one which deleted or changed many words from the previously received text. In the face of all this Charles Hodge maintained his commitment to the earlier received text and the authorized version of the Bible translated from it. He died before a new English revision was completed, based entirely on the older manuscripts.

By this time controversy over Theological Liberalism had thoroughly engulfed not only Princeton, the leading Seminary of America’s largest Christian denomination (Presbyterian), but all the other denominations as well. This brings us to another important, instrumental figure in the history that followed it leading up to the present time in terms of the maintenance of the Protestant principle of Scripture. This was a successor of Charles Hodge as the last principle of Princeton Seminary, Benjamin Warfield. Warfield had studied in Germany as well, but rejected Higher Criticism in favor of the Protestant position of Scripture alone as the sole source of all saving knowledge and practice of the Christian faith.

Like Hodge before him, Warfield was a staunch defender of the Christian faith and the doctrinal standards of Princeton which was the Westminster Confession of Faith. However, in spite of this commitment, he would go much further than Hodge in adopting and employing empirical science as the philosophical foundation to his understanding of the created order, while at the same time maintaining his Christian orthodoxy. This was entirely understandable, as Princeton had fallen prey from its outset in the eighteenth century, to an apologetic method referred to as Scottish Common Sense philosophy. Scottish philosophy was a product of the Enlightenment, in that it attempted to reconcile philosophical questions raised about the relationship between nature and religion. Instead of separating the two, nature and faith, in the way it was being done, the Scottish school attempted instead to integrate the two in forming an apologetical defense of Theism. The Scottish philosophy in the eighteenth century was based on the idea that nature provided both revelation in terms of knowledge in relation to religion, and law in terms of knowledge in relation to science. It was formulated in reaction to the empirical philosophy of John Locke (1632-1704) which undergirded Deistic Theism, and the skeptical philosophy of David Hume (1711-1776) which undergirded Atheistic rationalism.

The main proponent of the Scottish school was Thomas Reid (1710-1796). He rejected Locke’s empiricism as insufficient to provide a system of knowledge from nature alone, and Hume’s skepticism by virtue of reason as the consequence of its inadequacy. Scottish philosophy tried to defend the positive elements of the former over and against the negative deductions of the latter, while at the same time defending reason. The result of this thinking when employed by Christian Theists was a view of nature and reason, that while insufficient in itself to provide saving knowledge, nevertheless was sufficient to provide knowledge that lead to the acceptance of the Christian position where it is actually found. In this way, nature and reason can be used to defend both Theism and Science.

The definition assigned to the term “Common Sense” was that it entailed the universal innate understanding all men have of themselves and God within the created order. Its goal was really to provide a rational explanation and basis for practical ethics in the world. However, since it seemed to assert the biblical concept of the ‘imago Deo,’ it was easily accepted by those seeking a way to use nature and reason as a philosophical defense of religion. In theory, if one is to examine nature in its apparent wisdom, goodness and power, one cannot help but conclude that it came from God. The place one learns of this God is from Holy Scripture, which is His self revelation to the world.

So the Princetonian scholars like Benjamin Warfield had adopted the Scottish position as the one philosophical foundation that best defends the Christian faith. But the Scottish Common Sense philosophy did not preclude the Princeton men from accepting naturalist arguments such as evolution, which Warfield did just like Hodge before him.[27] Except that once again, Warfield just like Hodge believed the Creator God brought the original creation of matter into existence in an instance as it says in the first verse of Scripture. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1). What followed this in the rest of the account however, was indication of an evolutionary process by which God used the laws of nature to form what became the finished product.

Benjamin Warfield, unlike Charles Hodge radically departed from the Reformed understanding of inspiration. The departure for Warfield was not that of the Liberal higher criticism, which asserted the Bible was the product entirely of men, and that somewhere, somehow tucked within its pages we might find inspiration as a sort of canon within the canon. No, Warfield defended Scripture as an entirely inspired document from God. Since Scripture is inspired according to its own testimony (II Tim. 3:16), it is therefore, inerrant and infallible.

However, this is where Warfield departed from the Reformed tradition.[28] Since it (Scripture) was preserved through the copies of many uninspired men, and since there are obvious differences found in all the known manuscripts in our possession, it is up to the textual critics to ascertain exactly what belongs in them and what does not. Since the oldest and therefore, presumably the best extant manuscripts in our possession contain these many differences and sometimes obvious errors, it means that inspiration as a quality pertains only to the original documents, and not to the copies of them. Now, it is important to point out that Warfield believed in and defended the providential preservation of the original texts through the efforts of uninspired copyists. Hence, the Scripture in our present possession is therefore, the word of God to us. But as to the exact quality of the inspiration found in that written revelation it is dependent on the scholarship and work of the textual critics to determine or ascertain what the original documents contained. In other words, the textual critic must correct the available extant manuscripts using the techniques of science and reason.

Warfield assumed this on the basis of reason and literary analysis, rather than the Reformation principle of Scripture expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Westminster position on Scripture presumed the texts held in their possession to be the providentially preserved, inspired word of God. This presumption was supported by the 5,200 Byzantine manuscripts brought to them from the east, which they harmonized by comparison to the earliest translations and more than eighty thousand citations from the early church fathers. This approach led to the production of the Received Text of the Greek New Testament by the sixteenth century church scholar Erasmus (1466-1536). Received meant that it was a church recognized, church approved testimony of the Holy Spirit’s providential preservation of Holy Writ. This presumption was faith based rather than literary or scientific in nature. If the Holy Spirit, who communicated the word of God to inspired prophets promised its preservation, and the Holy Spirit is He who reveals God and Christ in the Scripture, then it is He as well that witnesses to its authenticity to the church (Ps. 12:5,6; I Pet. 1:12,22-25).

The textual critics, of which Warfield was in agreement, believed the older Alexandrian manuscripts were more accurate than the Byzantine based on their closer proximity to the apostolic era. They ignored the reasons given for the early churches rejection of them. Instead, they rejected the Byzantine manuscript evidence as newer, and therefore, less reliable even though it was accepted by the church since the beginning of the reformation. This was in effect, a rejection and modification of the Westminster standard.

We now present the pertinent sections of The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, Of the Holy Scripture that support this assertion with accompanying observations.

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;1 yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.2 Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;3 and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;4 which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary;5 those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.6

1 Rom. 2:14,15, 1:19,20; Ps. 19:1-3; Rom. 1:32,2:1

2 I Cor. I:21, 2:13,14

3 Heb. 1:1

4 Prov. 22:19,21; Luke 1:3,4; Rom. 15:4; Matt. 4:4,7,10; Is. 8:19,20

5 II Tim. 3:15; II Pet. 1:19

6 Heb. 1:1,2

Section I asserts that natural revelation is wholly insufficient for anything but to convict the world of sin and judgement. The way of salvation however, is most certainly revealed by God to His church in Scripture, which He through the Holy Spirit has committed to writing for this purpose. The onus of its preservation is upon God who communicated it to the church in the first place.

II. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: Of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra,Nehemiah, Esther,Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes,The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; Of the New Testament: The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles Paul’s Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians I, Corinthians II, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians I, Thessalonians II, To Timothy I, To Timothy II, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation of John, All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.7

7 Luke 16:29,31; Eph. 2:20; Rev. 22:18,19; II Tim. 3:16

Inspiration is ascribed to all the books of the Bible listed in section II. These are not listed for the churches benefit as a canon that once existed but is now lost. No, these are the books that now appear in the authorized English Bible, the 1611 King James Version. A clear statement of authority to Christians is made of these books which comprise the church-recognized canon of Scripture.

IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.9

9 II Pet. 1:19,21; II Tim. 3:16; I John 5:9; I Thess. 2:13

A clear statement is made in this section regarding the right view Christians ought to have concerning questions of textual criticism. It is not by the testimony of human reason, nor of science that the written word is to be received, but according to its own testimony by God within its pages. Therefore, adding or subtracting words from a manuscript or a family of manuscripts held by the church for hundreds of years is in conflict with Scriptures own testimony about itself.

V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture.10 And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.11

10 I Tim. 3:15

11 I John 2:20,27; John 16:13,14; I Cor. 2:10-12; Is. 59:21

The reliability of the historically preserved word of God is a matter of faith in its truth, as we are convinced of it by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, those who don’t believe in the testimony of Scripture have nothing to say of importance regarding it. And even those who are believers are remiss in reverting to the methods of infidels when seeking to answer any criticisms that arise concerning the preservation of the manuscripts.

VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical;17 so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.18 But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them,19 therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come,20 that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner;21 and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.22

17 Matt. 5:18

18 Is. 8:20; Acts 15:15; John 5:39,46

19 John 5:39

20 I Cor. 14:6,9,11,12,24,27,28

21 Col. 3:16

22 Rom. 15:4

Here in section VIII of the WCF’s chapter on Holy Scripture we find a definitive statement regarding the nature of those providentially preserved writings. The original Hebrew Old Testament, and Greek New Testament are preserved through all ages by God’s providential care. They are to be translated into the languages of every nation and as such, do not lose the quality of original plenary inspiration and authority as a result.

So this is where Benjamin Warfield departed from the Reformed understanding of Holy Scripture. The proper view of inspiration, according to the Westminster standards, considers not only the original documents as inspired, but the faithful translations and copies of the originals as well. There is a difference to be sure between the two, but not in the way that Warfield and the other textual critics at the time saw it, and still see it today. Warfield’s position requires us to read Paul’s words to Timothy on Scripture in a different light than it appears in the text, to whit “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Tim. 3:16a) meaning no more than the original documents. However, this view overlooks the previous verse, which establishes the context and true meaning of Paul’s words. “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (verses 14,15). What Bible did Timothy read from since his childhood that Paul refers to as “Holy Scripture,” if not the same one referred in the following verse? Was it the original Hebrew text Paul had in view that Timothy read and learned from? That copy most likely vanished as a result of the destruction of Jerusalem in 597 BC. But even if it didn’t, Ezra the scribe is believed by the Jews to have made a new copy, one which appeared with the vowel point system in it in order to preserve Hebrew pronunciation during the period of the captivity and the era that followed it. In fact, as a result of Greek influence on Judaism right up through the first century, most Jews were more familiar with the Greek translation of the Bible than of their own Hebrew. So it could only be either a copy of the original Hebrew, or the Greek Septuagint translation that Timothy read. Apparently, either one or both of the latter were included in Paul’s designation of “Holy Scripture.” And furthermore, how else was Paul able to assert its authority “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” in the same verse (16), if it is not that which arises from inspiration, applied to the copies and translations?

Warfield and the other textual critics, some who were orthodox and some who were not, believed that whatever quality of inspiration existed in the original documents was lost to antiquity, and that their job as scholars was to try and restore it. Warfield, who was conservative in his thinking and wanting to defend the inspiration and authority of the Scripture, over and against the liberal attacks against it, saw this view rather as a defense, by separating the originals which were lost from the copies in our possession albeit with inconsistencies from human error. Obviously, from a review of the Westminster Confession of Faith it is plain to see the men who wrote it did not agree with this assessment of Warfield. Their position was to accept the preservation of Scripture based on its chain of custody in the church, without regard to the minor discrepancies in the proper text. This was resolved through consultation with the witness of the early church and internal evidences.

But how could he depart so radically from what the Reformers and the framers of the confession believed? First, it is a view of Scripture that assigns dual origin to its production in the sense that the words written on paper reflect the human element in terms of the specific thoughts and circumstances of the writers. Second, the human factor comes through in the copies made over generations, differences in families of texts as well as differences within the families themselves. Even what appears to be inconsistencies within the text regarding certain details. These are attributable to the human factor. This leads right back to the unbelieving critics.

We know that God used the instrumentality of men. Peter states this clearly in his second epistle (1:21). But he also qualifies it by asserting that it did not originate with men, meaning the specific words and circumstances originate with God (verse 20). So how do we reconcile the two? If God moved men to write then He is the direct cause of what is written. So the men who wrote did so in response to God as the effect or fruit of His work. In this way both the sovereign will and power of God is upheld, while the human instrument is used without any denial or contradiction of that humanity. This excludes any human factor when considering the matter of inspiration and its consequences. It maintains infallibility and authority either in the original documents or the copies. Though providential preservation is different from original inspiration, as the copyists are not inspired, the quality of inspiration is maintained by God in the ruling hand He exerts in ensuring that careful attention is made to the copies.

Here is where Warfield went completely astray in his thinking. Just like the field of apologetics, an entire field of scholarship developed around textual examination. Most of the Seminary men involved in textual criticism at the time were primarily theological liberals who did not subscribe to orthodox Christianity as it is put forth first in the Bible, then in the historic creeds and the reformed confessions. Textual scholarship brought the English-speaking church to a new place in the nineteenth century when an interest arose in academia in updating the 1611 King James Version of the Bible to contemporary English. The scholars involved in this undertaking took the charge as an opportunity to create a new Greek text from the Alexandrian manuscripts that were formerly rejected hundreds of years earlier.[29] These men were Anglicans who had no personal commitment to the orthodox Christian faith. They certainly had no commitment to the Reformed confessional standard of the church in which Benjamin Warfield subscribed. So they jettisoned the Received Text and replaced it with a new eclectic text of their own devising, based solely on human opinion rather than the longstanding witness of the church. The sad truth is that Warfield and others at Princeton accepted their opinions based on the authority of their scholarship.

Why do we present the reader with so much historical data on this aspect of the Protestant principle of Scripture, and its relationship to us today? It is for this reason we do so, what was wrought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by scholars in regard to Scripture, has had a lasting adverse impact on the church. For starters, and for the most part rightfully so, Benjamin Warfield is highly esteemed throughout modern Evangelicalism and considered a defender of Christian orthodoxy. However, this honor has led many within the Reformed church toward an acceptance of his false logic in areas surrounding the doctrine of creation and the inspiration of Scripture. By entertaining the opinions of men on the subject of Scripture based on their supposed scholarship, an entire generation of believers has adopted a view of the integrity of Scripture that is less than Scriptural. This has happened through consequence rather than by outright attack, such as the higher critics had originally launched.

Let us explain what is at issue. The idea of eclecticism in the construction of a so-called corrected text of Scripture has led to the newly minted doctrine of dynamic equivalence in Bible translation. This is the idea that it is not important what the exact words of God are, only that an approximate idea of it is preserved in translation. This idea is directly related to the textual critics who changed not only the Greek text, but began to produce new Bible translations in the following years. The need to update the English of the 1611 KJV is not in dispute. Nor is the idea of producing new translations of the Bible. What is at dispute is the textual philosophy that developed in the nineteenth century that has led to the concept of dynamic equivalence. If the actual Greek text of the Scripture is subject to alteration at the hand of scholars, so isn’t the choice of words they use in order to produce new Bibles.

Now, so as too not develop a strawman argument here, it is acknowledged that the Received Text was an eclectic composition to a certain point as well. The difference here is that there were multiple evidences consulted by believing scholars and subsequent translators, who were concerned about maintaining the providential witness and record God left to His church. The textual critics ignored all those evidences such as the internal witness of the analogy of doctrine, the historical witness through the citation of the church fathers, and the witness of the earliest translations.[30] The critic’s approach was to apply a literary analysis based on the age of documents, then render their opinion as to what must have been in the original apart from anything else relevant to the custody of the documents. In short, it is based solely on a subjective witness, rather than a broad church witness. Consequently, textual critics have changed their minds over the years on what belongs or doesn’t belong in the eclectic text.[31] The modern eclectic text championed by Benjamin Warfield and others altered upwards of 20 percent of the Scripture previously found in the Reformation Bible.

The fruit of textual criticism has led to a number of problems for the Christian church today in terms of Bible reading. The principle of dynamic equivalence has produced the publication of a number of different Bibles that are paraphrased versions rather than actual translations. And great liberties are taken by the publishers in the words they choose, often using vulgar or culturally conditioned language, rather than proper words that convey doctrinal truth in an accurate way.

The abandonment of a single English version of the Bible has created problems too. Especially since most of the newer translations are derived from the eclectic Greek text based on Alexandrian manuscripts, which have dropped many words, phrases and even whole verses. The verse numbering in the original, Authorized Version is certainly not inspired. They were put there in order to help the reader in learning and memorizing Scripture. All the new Bibles that emanate from the eclectic text compensate for the loss of words by merging verses together as either in the paraphrased versions, or in skipping sequential numbers in the versions that qualify as translations. In every church there might be a half dozen different versions of the Bible used. So no one bothers memorizing Scripture anymore, even though it is a spiritual discipline recommended by God (Ps. 119:11, 145:7; John 14:26).

The attack on the integrity of Scripture over the last two hundred years or so have led to a number of serious consequences in the Protestant church.

1. It has led to an attitude toward Scripture which denies its infallibility, and hence, its authority over the church, in both its message and its practice. An entire movement emerged in the early twentieth century that relegated Scripture to something that is lesser in stature than a personal ‘word’ from God, received through some sort of supposed authoritative prophetic gift. Never mind that God closed His canon of revelation with these words from a truly inspired prophet. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18,19).

2. It has led to an attitude toward Scripture that is destructive of a systematic theology. With all the different Bible versions using different words and phrases, what the Bible says to the entire church is less important than what it says to the individual. Conformity to a theological system becomes something that is merely academic, considered dead orthodoxy rather than a personal encounter with God which is deemed more spiritual. Never mind that the inspired apostle Paul said these words to Timothy. “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.” (I Tim. 4:6). “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (Verse 13). “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (Verse 16). Doctrine, according to Paul is inseparably connected to faith and salvation. This is because Jesus joined that which is personal and spiritual to that which is doctrinal, based on exacts words. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

3. It has led to an improper attitude about the nature of revelation. A low view of Scripture tends to integrate nature and revelation together as that which exists on a lateral plain. To be sure, the Bible does ascribe something which is revelatory to creation (Ps. 19:1-3). But it is not something positive to man who is estranged from God in his sin. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Rom. 1:18-23). The witness of God to man in creation is of his sinful condition which has made him a fool, rather than wise. And there is no defect in it, but the defect is in man, the fact that man was made by God to receive propositional revelation from Him, but instead sets his heart on nature (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4).

An integrationist view of revelation makes man more dependant upon nature than upon the word of God. This is seen in the modern Christian acceptance of such things as medicine and psychology as a replacement for biblical ethics and counseling. Authority in matters of faith and life have now become separated, compartmentalized from the Bible. Christians are referred to the secular realm and it’s the academic disciplines’ for help, while spiritual matters, as though they were something different, are confined to the religious sphere.

An integrationist view of revelation on the other hand, equates that which is worldly with that which is religious, in terms of its idea of spiritual profitableness. Everything worldly is now deemed to have something advantageous in it to the Christian. Worldly things may be imbibed in by an ultra spiritual Christian who supposes that it is all sanctified by his piety, no matter what it entails without regard to the word of God. So entertainment is now brought into the public worship in the form of rock music and drama. Instead of singing doctrinally sound praise from a solid hymnal, the church now has a big wide screen in front that shows a bouncing ball moving above each word of a shallow ditty, designed to make everyone feel good. The point of it is to keep the attention of the worshiper, who cannot abide closely reasoned expositions from biblical texts anymore or tolerate deeply theological hymns. Never mind that the inspired apostle John said these words. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:15-17). How does one know “the will of God” without reading and listening to Scripture?

An integrationist view of revelation has made politics and economics the central theme of many modern day church sermons, dressed up in Christian culture. In fact, the idea of preaching the gospel message to people as hell bound sinners apart from Christ, with an appeal for them to believe in it (Christ) for salvation, is now eclipsed by a message of cultural morality. So there has become more interest by Christians in plying people to come into the church based strictly on worldly enticements, than in upholding the narrow distinctive of orthodox biblical faith. Never mind that Jesus said to His disciples “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13,14).

An integrationist view of revelation has determined the Bible to be historically outdated. Biblical Theology, the study of Scripture according to its historical development rather than its system of doctrine, has supplanted theologically sound teaching as to its use as a sacred document. Perhaps the most egregious aspect of this view is in the widespread acceptance in the Protestant church today of science as the supreme arbiter of truth. This has translated into a view that Scripture provides us with religious knowledge, but it’s wholly lacking from a practical standpoint in terms of understanding the cosmos. So Theistic evolution is the popularly held interpretation of the Scriptural account of creation and earth’s early history. Instead of using the genealogical system of dating the Bible provides, which shows a young earth of six thousand years, the ‘science’ minded Christian today accepts the old earth theory of the evolutionists. And that, even though there is not a shred of scientific evidence to support it. Never mind that the inspired writer of Hebrews said that “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Heb. 1:1-4). God in Christ, is not only the Creator of the cosmos just as it is revealed in Genesis chapter one, but the Sustainer of every molecule of it “by the word of His power.” There is no blind power or law in nature independent of God that operates within the cosmos. Nor is there any change in it He does not directly bring about by Divine intervention.

5. Reversal of the Reformation

The recovery of apostolic Christianity by a return to Scripture at the Reformation, is now being eclipsed by the exact reversal of it by the abandonment of the principle of Scripture alone. Without a high view of Scripture and its authority, there is no standard anymore in which to examine and discern that which is truly Christian and that which is not. Protestants seem to have become oblivious to their reformed history and theological foundations upon which it has been established. Even worse, they have become wholly insouciant to the fact, being both ignorant and unconcerned about it. Perhaps there is no better gage of this than the attitude shared by many if not most Protestants today about Roman Catholicism. And we are not talking about the poor people who are deluded by this false religion, for they need the saving knowledge of Christ as much as the rest of the world does. But we are talking about the fact that Roman Catholicism is in fact, an apostate organization, in almost everything they think and teach about Christianity.

The council of Trent formalized all of the deviations from the Christian faith which had crept into that institution during the middle ages. What it did in effect at Trent, was to officially declare it another church entirely, by defining its doctrines and practices, showing its distance and disdain for true apostolic Christianity. The apostasy which has taken place since those days beginning with the Enlightenment, but not confined to it by any means, has tried to undermine Protestantism and ultimately the Christian faith itself through philosophical and theological perversions that were not understood immediately by the church at the time. Liberalism for instance, never openly stated exactly what it was they were trying to do when they attacked the Scripture. They maintained that they were Christians, even in the face of criticism that came from the orthodox when the deviations became fully understood. Liberals and neo liberal Evangelicals today try to cry foul. It’s unloving when they are criticized for their false teaching and practices according to the word of God and the confessions. So many within Christendom are simply fooled by the false teachers, led astray by their teaching unless brought to a better understanding of Scripture over time.

This is not so with Roman Catholicism. They have never attempted to hide what they believe or why they practice what they do from the world. The canons of the council of Trent provide the Protestant church with a clear opportunity to discern the differences that lie between the two church establishments. It is the lack of Scripture knowledge at work in Protestantism which makes even this historical fact of no practical use to the average churchgoer today.

So today after five hundred years, sadly, there are many Protestants who think nothing of regarding Roman Catholicism as just another Christian denomination. But such teachings and practices of Romanism are so corrupt and so far from Scripture truth that it calls into question whether there is a Protestant church left after five hundred years or not. Here is a brief list of the unbiblical doctrines that are held by this so called “Christian communion.”

1) Baptism – Romanists teach that children are regenerated by the waters of Baptism, which washes away original sin. However, this is not an effective work by any means, as the young congregant needs to add six other church sacraments throughout his or hers lifetime, in the hope of attaining some level of perfection necessary for eternity. This is because Rome does not teach salvation by faith alone according to the imputed righteousness of Christ’s merits, but an infusion of righteousness in and by the sacraments, one that needs to be furthered by the faith and works of the worshiper. There is no foundation anywhere in Scripture for this kind of works-based salvation. Martin Luther was kept in bondage to such error until he read and understood the apostle’s words in Romans chapter three, which clearly show that salvation is of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (verses 19-28). Luther then understood what Paul meant at the beginning of his epistle when he spoke of faith as synonymous with the righteousness of salvation (1:16,17).

2) Purgatory – This is a place of torment that every Christian must pass through following this life in order to purge them of remaining sin. There is not one shred of biblical evidence for this doctrine for after death people go directly into the presence of the Lord or straight to Hell (Luke 16:19-31). The eternal destiny of each is determined by God’s judgement written beforehand in a book (Rev. 20:12,15).

3) Mariolatry – This is a belief in the sinlessness and perpetual virginity of Mary. This is despite the fact that she had other natural children fathered by Joseph (John 7:3-5), and her own testimony to being saved from sin by her son Jesus (Luke 1:46-50). Mary is venerated and prayed too as an intercessor in heaven, along with other venerated saints. This is completely unbiblical as Scripture joins the function of mediation with redemption in only one Person, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

4) Prayers to departed saints – This is a belief that the accumulated merits of saints may be applied through prayer to others. It is based on the false notion that all Christians are not saints, only those who’ve attained a high degree of personal piety. The Bible refers to all Christians as saints, not just to a select few (Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; II Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; I Thess. 3:13; II Thess. 1:10). Scripture teaches that prayer is to be offered to God alone as Father, from whom all things come (Matt. 6:5-13). And that there is only one Mediator (I Tim. 2:5).

5) Veneration of relics and statues – This is a belief in the spiritual efficacy of religious objects, even the bodies of the departed. This is a direct violation of the second commandment which forbids such veneration as idolatry (Ex. 20:3-5; Deut. 5:7-9).

6) Infallibility of the Pope – This is a belief that the Pope’s word is infallible while sitting in the chair of Peter. It then becomes the magisterium of the church. Since the Pope is a sinner, he is not good in any respect, nor to be taken as such. In fact, Jesus who is the God Man, would not even take the title of “good Teacher” upon Himself in His humanity, but placed this honor on God alone (Matt. 19:16-19). Jesus directed the young man in this text to hear the infallible voice of God in Scripture.[32]

These and many other major errors are taught in the church of Rome. There was a time when Protestants understood this and would never have considered the Roman church state to be Christian. Yet today, we see the specter of a joint affirmation such as the ‘Evangelicals & Catholics Together’ document that declares the church of Rome to be just that! In 1994 a group of Protestant and Catholic leaders got together and crafted this joint agreement, in order to show just how much they could agree on. They did this presumably, to find some common place on which to stand, so they could undertake “the common task of evangelizing the non believing world,”[33] because “the aim is to proclaim Christ the Saviour together.”[34] The Protestant men who conspired, to make this joint affirmation, did so on the notion that in the Roman church “are indeed our brothers and sisters in Christ, despite Rome’s official position.”[35] Since both sides are recognized as fellow Christians, there is a tacit agreement in ECT that the proselyting of each others members are off limits. And what is the definition ECT assigned to becoming a Christian? “All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.”[36] The subjective phrase to “accept Christ” has become the one size fit all qualification of modern Evangelical Christianity. Anyone who says this is to be considered a Christian, regardless of what their theology or practice entails. All the creeds and confessions of five hundred years of Protestantism are swept away by this one shibboleth (Judges 12:6).

The affirmation of ECT begs the question, how is it that Protestant church leaders today could believe the Roman Catholic church is Christian and do such a thing as this, knowing the history of the Reformation and the principles involved? Especially since one of the two main actors associated with this modern innovation is the highly respected Protestant theologian J.I. Packer. Dr. Packer has spent his academic career defending the Calvinistic doctrines of grace, even writing a modern introduction to John Owen’s great work on the nature and extent of the atonement entitled: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

Packer’s mind set regarding the ECT, irrespective of the reasons he himself gives within the document can be more rightly ascertained from a consideration of his church affiliation. Dr. Packer is a member of the Anglican church state. As such, he is considered part of what is termed the Evangelical wing of that establishment. From its beginnings in the sixteenth century there have always been different theological factions within the church of England. Before the 1689 Act of Toleration was enacted there was constant infighting between three main competing factions, which identified with either the Lutheran, the Catholic or the Puritan movements. Eighteenth century Enlightenment Liberalism spawned a movement within Anglicanism called the Latitudinarians. These folk wanted to recognize different theological positions all under the same roof, but who also adhered to the formal identity of the English church. The Oxford movement in the nineteenth century resulted in those that self identified as Anglo Catholics, and in those who identified as Evangelical Anglicans. In the mid twentieth century Billy Graham brought his revival campaign to England, leading to a modern day Ecumenical movement of disparate groups within the English state church. Evangelicals may be Calvinistic or Arminian, conservative or charismatic in their theological perspective. There are Catholics and Liberals that both identify as Anglicans today. There is also the designation of High and Low church Anglicanism, depending on how much commitment one has to the formal rites and traditions of the church. High churchism is usually associated more with Catholicism. So J.I. Packer’s personal theological conviction reflects but one, out of the many different points of view that all exist within the organization that calls itself Anglican. Modern Anglicans have become completely adept at forming working agreements of cooperation among the various factions that all share the same name.[37]

The other Protestant leader of note responsible for the ECT is Charles Colson. Colson is a well-known Evangelical speaker and writer who went to be with the Lord a number of years ago. He is remembered for his part in the Nixon Watergate coverup, and his subsequent conversion to Christianity while serving a prison sentence for the same. Unlike Dr. Packer, Charles Colson was not a theologian. He was involved in numerous Evangelical organizations in which his name recognition catapulted him into public prominence. The result was that Colson was considered a major Christian leader, at least by those identifying with modern Evangelicalism. Anyone who has read Charles Colson will at once notice his commitment to the advancement of Christian culture. Unfortunately for Colson and those who follow him, the Bible does not promote Christian culture. The Bible promotes the gospel of Jesus Christ and His kingdom, which is not of this world (John 18:36). Needless to say, there is little serious theological substance to be found in Colson’s writings. There is however, a generous portion of moralism to be found. Charles Colson’s affinity to Catholicism is easily determined by the fact that his wife is a practicing Roman Catholic. This is not to be held against him in any way, as he clearly identified himself as a Protestant Evangelical. But what is to be held against him is the fact that he did not maintain the Protestant view that Catholic dogma is nothing more than the doctrine of demons, which the apostle Paul condemned (I Tim. 4:1).

6. Concluding analysis

So to sum up the begging question of why modern Protestants seek to enter into cooperative agreements with Catholics, it is because of their capitulation to the attitude of modern popular culture that says faith is something that is merely personal, and therefore, not necessary for any formal union. This is an attitude that is quite foreign to what Jesus taught the apostles (Matt. 28:18-20). Of course, this text we cite does not imply that forced subscription to orthodoxy is to be employed by the Christian church in society, something the Roman church surely exercised over the people of Europe for hundreds of years. The command in it is clear however, that the Christian church is to teach whatever Christ commands. It is to be set as the only standard of communion and cooperation among those who profess to be Christian by name. Only those who receive and submit to His commands and ordinances are qualified to be called disciples. And where do we find the commands of Jesus, but in the word of God alone?

Furthermore, it also betrays a spirit of humanistic pragmatism in our modern philosophy of association, clearly dealt with in Scripture (II Cor. 6:14-18). Pragmatism has no regard for right or wrong, truth or error. All that matters is that it works. And isn’t this what the philosophy of modern man entails? What works for one person don’t for another, therefore, judgement is to be set aside in the interest of joint cooperation. In the case of the ECT document, it has directly led to Protestants and Catholics forming joint organizations such as Operation Rescue in order to combat the social evil of abortion. Now any thinking Christian should understand that abortion is legalized murder, and therefore, despised as a curse upon civilized society. But since the matter of abortion dwells within the realm of politics which has no relevance to the church’s mission, ECT was not necessary for individuals within the church to oppose it.

It seems that every aspect of the church today is driven by popular culture rather than the word of God. Instead of Scriptural exhortation by ordained ministers we have therapeutic counseling sessions administered by Christian psychologists. Instead of biblical exposition in the pulpit we have topical, issue-oriented, political, and psychological sermons given by those who aspire to become pop stars in the radio, book selling and conference circuit. Instead of a systematic theology we have political ideology, sociology and other secular means of marketing the Christian message to the world.

The situation that prevailed in the church at the time of the Protestant Reformation was such that the worship was empty and the preaching was completely devoid of content. The sermons were spoken in Latin, which disappeared as a commonly used and understood language in Europe in the early middle ages, except on the part of the academics and the clergy. This mattered little, for the content of the Roman homily as it is called consisted of little more than what amounted to “profane and idle babblings” (I Tim. 6:20; II Tim. 2:16). Because only the scholars understood what was said in Latin, and there was little if any of the Bible in it, the people were left in total ignorance of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On the surface there seems to be a vast difference between the message and style of the Catholic church then and now and that of modern Evangelicalism. But this is a superficial difference at best. Absent a clearly articulated and systematic teaching on the word of God, the Protestant church has become nothing but a hollow shell of an institution, just like that it was supposed to have reformed, five hundred years ago. Its focus now is primarily on the methods and means of promoting church growth and wealth, rather than manifesting the kingdom of God. In this it differs little from the sixteenth century church of Rome. Romanism as an institution came into existence for no other purpose than to serve itself and its leaders at the spiritual and financial expense of the people. Without the word of God ruling it, the Roman church became a system of superstition. It ascribed power to sacraments and relics by which veneration the people were to be made subjectively holy, rather than objectively redeemed through the blood and imputed merit of Jesus Christ.

Rome is not without its claim to supernatural miracles which supposedly give attestation to their authenticity. After all, Jesus and the apostles performed miracles on occasion giving attestation to theirs. So among the Catholics there are exorcisms of demons by the clergy, apparitions of Mary by the people, and many other claims that fill their popular folklore. But what about Protestants, are they free from superstition? The profound absence of the word of God in most Protestant churches today is just as rampant as in the Roman Catholic church state. And its fruit is just as obviously corrupting to biblical Christianity too. Today, there is the spectacle of charismatic gifts being claimed and exercised in so called Christian churches. If one attends a Charismatic church service today, they will often find people babbling nonsensical gibberish out loud, while others are overcome by some sort of ecstatic experience attributed to the Holy Spirit. Also, the claim is made in these churches that God speaks directly to people apart from the word of God.

There is power ascribed to certain ministry methods in the Evangelical church today. The philosophy is that if certain methods and procedures of a psychological nature are implemented, it will inevitably result in the establishment of a successful mega church empire. And of what spiritual substance can this kind of church consist? For this philosophy is based on mass marketing techniques and programs that are geared to persuade spiritual consumers to join the said church. Spiritual disciplines such as contemplative prayer are taught as the way to a personal subjective experience of Jesus. And there are an endless number of charlatan preachers who promise health and wealth to those who fork over their money to them, thinking they have obtained God’s favor by doing so.

Why are these things so? It is because the modern evangelical church has abandoned the doctrine of Scripture alone. It was given to us as a heritage by the apostles first, then recovered by the Reformers as its formal principle of doctrine and practice. The Protestant church needs a renewed interest in it once again.


[1] Quoted from Luther, “Luther at the Diet of Worms, 1521” in WA, 7:838 (LW, 32:112). Excerpted in The Five Solas of the Reformation – A Brief Statement, Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D. This document was originally written for the 1993 Reformation Celebration at Audubon Drive Bible Church in Laurel, MS, as part of a worship service.

[2] Commentary on Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, by John Calvin (CCEL Edition, p117).

[3] Cyprian (200-258) Letter 33: The Problem of the Lapsed (Early Latin Theology, S.L. Greenslade Editor, The Westminster Press 1956, p143).

[4] Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine, Philip Schaff (Editor), NPNF2-01, CCEL Edition, Book IV. Chapter XXXVI.—Constantine’s Letter to Eusebius on the Preparation of Copies of the Holy Scriptures. (p831).

[5] Named after the Alexandrian, Egypt Presbyter Arius (256-336). A modern form of Arianism is maintained by the Unitarian and the Jehovah Witness church.

[6] Named after the little known third century teacher Sabellius. Sabellianism is also known as Modal Monarchianism or Modalism. A modern form of Modalism is maintained by the Unitarian and Oneness Pentecostal church.

[7] The Nicene Creed of 325 (Creeds of Christendom, Philip Schaff, Editor, CCEL Edition, p50).

[8] Named after Apollinaris of Laodicea (died 390). A modern proponant of Apollonarianism is Philosopher William Lane Craig.

[9] Ibid Creeds. The Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 (p50).

[10] Named after Nestorius (AD 386-450) a Patriarch of Constantinople. Modern Chaldean (Eastern) Christianity is Nestorian. Also, Presbyterian Philosopher Gordon Clark (1902-1985) has been accused of being a Nestorian according to a posthumous book entitled The Incarnation. Clark’s biographer Douglas J. Douma shows his view is not the same, pointing to his acceptance of the Chalcedonian creed and the Westminster confession.

[11] Named after English Theologian Pelagius (360-418). Semi Pelagianism continued in the Roman Catholic church on into Lutheranism, which drifted toward it through Luther’s successor Philip Melanthon. Arminianism in the seventeenth century, Methodism in the eighteenth century, and Pentecostalism in the twentieth century have all retained a form of semi Pelagianism.

[12] Associated with Eutyches (375-454) a monastic superior at Constantinople. Modern expressions of Monophysitism according to an entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica are found in the Coptic Church, the Jacobite Church of Syria, the Armenian Church…..the Eritrean and Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox churches and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India.

[13] Associated with Sergius I (610–638), a Patriarch of Constantinople. There are no modern expressions of Monothelitism.

[14] Roman Catholicism, by Lorraine Boettner, Section One, Chapter I, Introduction, 3

Romanism an Age-Long Development, Some Roman Catholic Heresies and Inventions and the dates of their adoption over a period of 1,650 years, (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., p7).

[15] Ibid. Chapter IV, Tradition, 3 The Apocrypha (p80).

[16] The Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code, by William Kenneth Boyd (Columbia University Press (1905), Codex Theodosianus, xvi.1.2, p7).

[17] “Yet Luther had hardly begun translating the Bible from his Patmos at Wartburg when the emerging Radical and Reformed movements began to twist Sola Scriptura, but still claimed to adhere to it. His colleague Andreas Karlstadt (ca. 1477–1541) disturbed the Wittenbergers by advancing liturgical reforms that forbad any traditions and practices that were not expressly found in Scripture. This regulative principle of worship, 57 a mark of the Radical and Reformed Reformations, undermined Christian freedom and reinterpreted Sola Scriptura as a prohibition of the use of even good church traditions that supported the Gospel. This misunderstanding of Sola Scriptura meant that crosses, images, vestments, chant, etc., all had to go.” (Proclaim the Wonders God Has Done: Sola Scriptura, Evangelical Lutheran Synod Convention, Rev. Timothy R. Schmeling, Ph.D. pp 17,18).

[18] Ibid. Note: “57 John Calvin later articulated the concept as follows: “I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressively sanctioned by his Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honour of God. But since God not only regards as fruitless, but also plainly abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to His worship, if at variance with His command, what do we gain by a contrary course?” John Calvin, “The Necessity of Reforming the Church, 1543” in Ioannis Calvini Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia, ed. Guilielmus Baum et al. (Braunschweig: C.A. Schwetschke, 1863–1900), 6:461; Calvin, John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, ed. Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet, trans. Henry Beveridge (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 1:198.

[19] 3 Bernard Ramm, After Fundamentalism, (New York: Harper & Row, 1983) 4-5. (Reprinted in Liberalism, by M. James Sawyer, The Roots of Liberalism, The Effects of the Enlightenment: (The Age of Reason; The Aufklärung) 1998 Biblical Studies Press, p2).

[20] “In this way it may finally be established whether all the opinions of the Apostles,

of every type and sort altogether, are truly divine, or rather whether some of them, which have no bearing on salvation, were left to their own ingenuity.” (J. P. Gabler and The Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology, Scottish Journal of Theology 33 (1980) 133-44. Translated by John Sandys-Wunsch and Laurence Eldredge).

[21] See Indiana Jones, the Holy Grail. In it Indiana is teaching archeology to college students and he writes the word fact on the blackboard. Here he says (paraphased), we deal in facts. If truth is what you want the philosophy class is down the hall. This distinction between the two, facts and truth was intended to convey to a secular audience the superiority of empirical evidence over truth claims. However, archeological finds have never disproved a single thing in the Bible, while it has changed older theories many times when new discoveries are made.

[22] Systematic Theology – Volume I, by Charles Hodge, Chapter X. Creation. 6. The Mosaic Account of the Creation. Geology and the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, p552).

[23] Charles Hodge, Inspiration, Textual Criticism, and the Princeton Doctrine of Scripture, by John A. Battle (WRS Journal 4/2 (August 1997) 28-41).

[24] Ibid. The Text of Scripture (p6).

[25] The Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. The Vatican was in possession of Vaticanus since the fifteenth century. However, it was not realized that it dated from the fourth century until the nineteenth. Sinaiticus were discovered in an Egyptian Monastery in 1844 by Constantin von Tischendorf (1815-1874) a leading German scholar at the time. Sinaiticus is believed to be a fourth century manuscript as well.

[26] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, b. 5, ch. 28, found in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.

Chapter XXVIII.—Those who first advanced the Heresy of Artemon; their Manner of Life, and

how they dared to corrupt the Sacred Scriptures.

[27] B.B. Warfield Evolution, Science, and Scripture: Selected Writings, Edited by Mark A. Noll & David N. Livingstone (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000).

[28] The Ecclesiastical Text, Theodore P. Letis (The Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Biblical Studies 6417 N. Fairhill, Philadelphia, PA 1997). Reviewed by Louis F. DeBoer.

[29] The new critical text of the Greek New Testament published in 1881 was the work of Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892). They ignored the fact that not only did the early church reject the Alexandrian texts as full of Gnostic corruptions, but Erasmus rejected them as well, having full access to Codex Vaticanus which underlaid Jerome’s Latin Vulgate at least in part.

[30] The King James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills, Chapter Five, The Facts of New Testament Textual Criticism (Christian Research Press, 1956, p92).

[31] One example is in the last verses of the Gospel of Mark (9-20). The eclectic text brackets these verses as not in the original. They do not appear in either Codex Vaticanus or Codex Sinaiticus even though most other manuscripts contain them. After years of producing many new and different Bible versions based on this text, scholars now are disposed toward including it.

[32] The Roman State-Church: An Inside View, by Bishop Josef Strossmayer (Trinity Foundation Article 052a).

[33] Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Towards a Common Mission’ Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus edd (Word Publishing: Dallas 1995, 236pp). (p36).

[34] Ibid. (p167).

[35] Ibid. (p159).

[36] Ibid. (p18).

[37] Evangelicalism Divided, A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000, by Iain H. Murray (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000).

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