Archives For Apologetics

Over the past few weeks, I have received no less than three inquiries regarding the early church’s celebration of the Lord’s Table and its implications for the evangelical church today. Two of these inquiries have come from Roman Catholics, each of whom has suggested that the Roman Catholic practice of transubstantiation best represents the way the Lord’s Table was observed in the first few centuries of church  history.

This two-part post is intended to provide an initial response to such assertions.

last_supper

The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving” and was an early Christian way of referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Table. Believers in the early centuries of church history regularly celebrated the Lord’s Table as a way to commemorate the death of Christ. The Lord Himself commanded this observance on the night before His death. As the apostle Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

In discussing the Lord’s Table from the perspective of church history, at least two important questions arise. First, did the early church believe that the elements (the bread and the cup) were actually and literally transformed into the physical body and blood of Christ? In other words, did they articulate the doctrine of transubstantiation as modern Roman Catholics do? Second, did early Christians view the eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice? Or put another way, did they view it in the terms articulated by the sixteenth-century Council of Trent?

In today’s post, we will address the first of those two questions. Continue Reading…

Gregory_of_NyssaArius was arguably the most notorious heretic of the early church.

Though Arius’ heretical views were soundly condemned by the Council of Nicaea (in A.D. 325), the controversy he sparked raged for another fifty years throughout the Roman Empire. During those tumultuous decades, the defenders of Trinitarian orthodoxy often found themselves outnumbered and out of favor with the imperial court. Yet they refused to compromise.

Among them, most famously, stood Athanasius of Alexandria—exiled on five different occasions for his unwavering commitment to the truth. He was joined by the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzas, and Gregory of Nyssa.

But how did these early Christian leaders know that the doctrine they were defending was, in fact, a truth worth fighting for? How did they know that they were right and the Arians were wrong? Was it on the basis of oral tradition, a previous church council, or an edict from the bishop of Rome?

No.

They defended the truth by appealing to the Scriptures. Continue Reading…

The following is a testimony of the self-authenticating glory of the Word of God as the Lord made known the power and authority of His Word to G. Campbell Morgan (1863–1945), the renowned British preacher and evangelist, predecessor of Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Westminster Chapel in London. The account is compiled by his daughter-in-law, Jill Morgan, from her biography, A Man of the Word: Life of G. Campbell Morgan (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), 39–40.

G Campbell Morgan

For three years this young man, seriously contemplating a future of teaching and ultimately of preaching, felt the troubled waters of the stream of religious controversy carrying him beyond his depth. He read the new books which debated such questions as, “Is God Knowable?” and found that the authors’ concerted decision was, “He is not knowable.” He became confused and perplexed. No longer was he sure of that which his father proclaimed in public, and had taught him in the home.

Continue Reading…

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Tim. 4:1-2).

When you read these verses, what do you picture the Spirit describing? What images come to your mind when you think of these later times? In what activity will these deceitful spirits and demons be involved? In other words, when you hear of demonic activity, what is the worst thing you can imagine?

imagine2

Were you imagining pentagrams and candles, human sacrifice and such?

If so, I’m afraid you might be outwitted by the devil’s schemes. Paul explicitly tells us in the next verse what demonic activity he is concerned about: “[those] who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” 1 Timothy 4:3.

What?!? Doesn’t that seem like a bit of an exaggeration? A bit over the top to say that the most demonic activity possible in the latter days is a teacher forbidding his congregation from eating a certain food?

Continue Reading…

In 2005 a Russian man made the news with his claims of being able to bring dead people back to life. This was no Miracle Max resuscitation of the “mostly dead” nor a psychic sixth sense of channeling revenant spirits. His claims were audaciously clear: he could bring your deceased loved ones back to life, body and soul—for a price.miracle max

The fee of such sought-after services would limit his clientele to a select few who possessed an unfortunate composite of wealth, desperation, and gullibility.

One grieving widow paid 118,000 rubles (about $40,000 at the time) for Grabavoy to resurrect her two deceased boys. A cheaper package is the “prevention is better than cure” option, for which one man shelled out 40,000 rubles to heal his dying parents. In an unprecedented callousness this self-proclaimed necromancer marketed his services to the distraught parents of the 300 children who died in the Beslan school terrorist siege of 2004. Continue Reading…

With a new pope elected, the eyes of the world are on the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt many evangelicals find themselves confused as to the critical differences between the biblical gospel and the gospel according to Rome. Hence today’s post:

In Romans 11:6, Paul says of salvation, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”

rosaryBy contrast, Roman Catholicism finds itself in the impossible position of advocating a gospel in which salvation is offered by grace plus works. The Catholic church promotes a synergistic sacramental soteriology in which human good works, along with God’s grace, contribute to the sinner’s justification.

This is in distinct contrast to the evangelical understanding of the gospel, in which salvation is received by grace through faith alone.

Despite the eccumenical efforts of some, the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Evangelicalism is one of substance not merely semantics.

Today’s post is intended as a summary of Roman Catholic teaching with regard to the essence of the gospel (in order to demonstrate how it strays from the biblical message of salvation). Catholic sources are included under each of the following points.

* * *

I. According to Rome, salvation is not by grace alone through faith alone; it does not come through the sole imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner.

Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9: “If anyone says, that by faith alone the impious is justified . . . let him be anathema.”

Council of Trent, Canon 11: “If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the favor of God, let him be anathema.” Continue Reading…