Previous article in this series: December 1, 2008, p. 100.
n this concluding article we turn to the doctrine of justification and the fatal concession that the new evangelicals (as members of the ECT group) have made concerning it, a modification of definition that is both crafty and un-apostolic, which is to say, Romish to the core.
But before we do that we want to say something yet about baptismal regeneration. It is worth noting that the concessions that the evangelicals have made to Rome concerning baptismal regeneration and automatic sacramental grace have also brought them into full accord with the Federal Vision men on this doctrine.
The Federal Vision movement has also adopted what amounts to the heresy of baptismal regeneration.
Steve Wilkins is representative of this group and its neo-Reformed (which is to say, anti-Reformers) views.
Following the controversial Auburn Avenue Pastors’ Conference of 2002, questions were put to various participants about their new teachings. One question put to Wilkins was:
Question: Can we be in the church but not united to Christ?
Steve Wilkins: That’s a distinction the Bible doesn’t make. [!] I see what they’re trying to preserve, but the distinction is not biblical. The visible, historic church is the body of Christ and thus to be joined to it by baptism is to be united to Christ. By baptism God offers and gives Christ to us. But this good gift must be received by faith or our baptismal union with Christ will bring judgment not salvation. (quoted by John H. Otis in his book Danger In the Camp, p. 204—an excellent treatment of the Federal Vision error with extensive quotes from its promoters themselves.)
Just prior to this statement Wilkins had stated:
Obviously, by baptism we become members of the church, but to be a member of the church is to be a member of the body of Christ and biblically speaking that means that the baptized are united to Christ (emphasis ours—kk) (Ibid., pp. 203-204).
Keep in mind, Wilkins is speaking of all who are baptized in the name of the triune God. They are all (everyone of them) united to Christ by that sacramental act! And that means the Holy Spirit has been imparted to them by water baptism. I do not care what ‘nuances’ these learned fools try to hide behind (self-justifying, evasive Adam hid behind a nuance too. It was called a ‘fig leaf’ and didn’t cover too very much for all its nuance!), it takes the Holy Spirit to unite one to Christ, and that means that according to their ‘new’ covenantal doctrine the Holy Spirit is automatically imparted by the act of baptism. That’s baptismal regeneration. And that’s Rome!
Wilkins admits as much when later he states:
The Bible teaches us that baptism unites us to Christ and . . . to his body by the power of the Spirit. By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, we’ve all been made to drink of one Spirit.
Paul says that at baptism you are clothed with Christ Jesus. For as many of you as are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ…. Union with Christ is a real, vital blessed union. With our union with Christ, we have all spiritual blessings (Ibid., p. 204).
Wilkins does not stand alone in this Romish view. His compatriots do as well. John Barach, also a speaker at the Auburn Avenue Conference, expresses it this way:
Every baptized person is in covenant with God and is in union then with Christ and with the triune God.
The Bible doesn’t know about a distinction between being internally in the covenant . . . and being only externally in the covenant, just being in the sphere of the covenant. [!] The Bible speaks about reality, the efficacy of baptism . . . . [E]very baptized person is in Christ and therefore shares in his new life, shares in the new summons to life and still receives, not only the covenant promises, but also the covenant demands and covenant warning (Emphasis J. Otis, Ibid., pp. 225-226).
So, baptism is always efficacious, and “every baptized person is in Christ,” sharing his new life.
Baptismal regeneration! I don’t care how you ‘nuance’ it.
It becomes plain that all the apostatizing Protestant tributaries are flowing back towards Rome.
Now to return to the ECT and its betrayal of justification by faith alone, the very heart of the gospel and the doctrinal hinge upon which the whole Reformation swung.
Rather than simply quoting the pertinent statements from the ECT I and ECT II documents and offering our own criticism, we will quote the former priest Richard Bennett and offer his commentary on the pertinent statements. To hear a former RC priest expose with great insight the craftily worded statements for what they are—thoroughly Romish and “another gospel”—carries its own special weight.
Those who drew up the ECT I and ECT II documents began the second document by informing the reader that even after all their work there were still “differences that cannot be resolved here.” Evidently this was to reassure their respective constituencies that neither side had completely ‘given away the store,’ so to speak. From the Protestant side, however, such a reassurance rings hollow in light of what the Protestant contingent was willing to ‘give away.’
Bennett is to the point.
The primary fallacy of the lengthy [ECT I] document is its declaration on the Gospel. The signers state what they believe comes closest to the Gospel of Christ when they declare, “We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing less than the love of Christ…” (p. 5).
To be Biblical, this statement should read, “We affirm together that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” The word “alone” signifies that the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus—and that alone—is sufficient before the Holy God to justify unholy sinners. To so define justification, however, would exclude the Catholic sacraments and the Priests who control them, both of which are necessary for the Catholic people. Thus a subtraction had to be made from the Gospel of Christ in excluding what is signified by the word ‘alone’. In a similar manner an addition had to be made to the Gospel. The ECT addition that redefines faith is, “living faith active in love.” “Living faith” implies works and Baptism in particular. This is documented in present day official teaching of the Church of Rome where Rome teaches, “the very root of the Church’s living faith [is] principally by means of Baptism” (www.bereanbeacon.org, The Alignment of New Evangelicals with Apostasy).
We love Bennett for that word “alone.” Here is a man who was in bondage in the darkness and emptiness of Catholicism until the gospel significance of the Sola’s dawned on him and set him free. Would to God that the signers of the ECT (and the Federal Vision men as well!—who disparage the Sola’s) had the same unfettered insight and that the scales would fall from their eyes. They, however, appear more and more to be related to Bar-Jesus, upon whom a great mist of blindness fell, than to that great Apostle who first began to sing “. . . but now I see” on the street called Straight. The ECT II document of 1997 (called The Gift of Salvation) was more explicit in setting forth a definition of justification. It is worded with subtle carefulness. See if you can detect the error.
Justification is central to the scriptural account of salvation, and its meaning has been much debated between Protestants and Catholics. We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is entirely God’s gift, conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness, out of love that He bears us in His Son, who suffered on our behalf and rose from the dead for our justification. Jesus was ‘put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification’
In justification, God, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends, and by virtue of his declaration it is so. (ECT II)
Sounds orthodox? Justification is not “earned” or of “merits”; the phrase “Christ’s righteousness alone” is used, and the statement even speaks of justification in terms of God’s “declaration it is so.”
Bennett cuts through the verbiage and gets hold of the statement by its (poisoned) roots.
The subject under review is stated clearly in the first sentence, “We agree that justification…is conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness.” Then by careful reading one comes to see what the two pivotal sentences state grammatically, “It [justification] is entirely God’s gift, conferred [rather than imputed]…and by virtue of his [God’s] declaration it [justification conferred] is so.”
This is traditional Roman Catholic doctrine. To employ the Roman Catholic word “conferred” instead of the Biblical word “imputed” is tantamount to putting aside Scriptural authority on the issue of justification. Since medieval times, the Roman Catholic Church has clearly distinguished between the concept of imputation and the Thomist concept of God’s grace conferred as a quality of the soul. Since the Council of Trent she has condemned the Biblical doctrine of Justification by faith alone . . . . Trent proclaims the following curse: “If anyone shall say that by the said sacraments of the New Law, grace is not conferred [emphasis Bennett’s] from the work which has been worked [ex opera operato] but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices to obtain grace: let him be anathema” [emphasis Bennett’s] (Bennett, op. cit.).
As Bennett notes in a companion article:
Anyone with theological or historical training is quite versed in the crucial distinction and would be aware of the history of the distinction. The exact reading of the RCC term, “conferred”, in the classic and historic context of the issue of justification, in the ECT II is a lie documented. That . . . four educated [Reformed] men should agree to use it in a document concerning acceptance of the Roman Catholics as “brothers and sisters in Christ” is unfathomable, almost. (Attempts to Reverse the Reformation)
It couldn’t be said better. And coming from Richard Bennett, who writes what he does on behalf of a group who call themselves Ex-Catholics For Christ (who, by the way, had a conference a few years back calling J. I. Packer et al. to repentance), simply adds to its weight. It is as if the ‘ghost’ of a certain German ex-monk of the early 1500s still speaks. And what he might say to J.I. Packer et al. about their mutilation of the gospel of justification so precious to his own eye-opening conversion we might well hesitate to publish unedited in the SB!
Let no one think that the ecumenical efforts of the ECT (which received its impetus back in the Billy Graham crusades, remember) is merely a ‘theological’ quarrel and of little practical significance. The implications are far reaching, in particular into the realm of missions as it affects bringing the Apostolic gospel to those lost in Catholicism. And this is what the ECT signers have agreed to, a moratorium on evangelism amongst the Roman Catholics, acquiescing to a complaint by Romish leaders that evangelicals were engaged in missions in countries and communities heavily Roman Catholic. And this was brotherly, how?
Once again, Richard Bennett brings it home.
The devastating effect of the New Evangelical compromise with the Gospel is to put a stop to the evangelization of Roman Catholics across the world. If this compromise of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is accepted, then Bible believing Churches will refrain from evangelizing Catholics. The impact on the true Church in third world Catholic countries in Central and South America, in Africa, as well as in Spain, Portugal, and the Philippines, is already apparent. If this anti-evangelical trend continues unchecked it will become ruinous to the spiritual welfare of millions of souls. But this is exactly the policy the ECT signers promote when they state [emphasis ours—kk]: “. . . it is neither theologically legitimate nor a prudent use of resources for one Christian community [church] to proselytize [evangelize] among active adherents of another Christian community” (ECT I, Introduction p. 1).
As Bennett points out:
Since when has it been theologically illegitimate to expose error and heresy? Because these intelligent and educated men have contradicted the very Gospel of Christ, it is time to state that the biblical mandate of separation from such men must be observed! (Alignment of New Evangelicals with Apostasy).
We thank God that there are still men like Richard Bennett who mince no words when it comes to a betrayal of the gospel of justification by faith alone. Would to God there were more like him and his.
Men such as J.I. Packer, Chuck Colson, et al. may argue their good intentions as they will—”To save the Christian West from being overrun by the secular forces of immorality within our post-Christian society, we need an institution having the clout of Rome!”—but the reality is that behind this seeking to renew ecumenical relations with Rome is the Prince of Darkness himself. With this the evangelicals of the ECT must come to grips.
This is not a wild accusation.
Let those of the ECT ask themselves what the Dragon’s great purpose in the New Testament Age has been. Has it not been to prevent the spread of the gospel and the gathering of Christ’s church? And who over the past millennium has been more instrumental in thwarting this spread with greater cruelty and fury, all the while holding her own members in chains of biblical ignorance and spiritual bondage, than Rome, the Dragon’s mistress?
And now Protestantism should cease evangelism amongst the multitude of Rome’s members lost in the maze of their quasi-pagan superstitions and biblical ignorance? And this attempt to silence the gospel and hinder its spread is of the Spirit of the ascended Lord Christ, having His approval, rather than of the Great Deceiver?
To ask the question is to answer it.
So the outcome is—an ecumenical gesture (of compromise) by Billy Graham and the evangelicals towards modernistic, liberal Protestants in the interests of more successful missions culminates in a moratorium of missions. Talk about irony. But such is the price of compromising biblical principles and sacrificing truth for size.
We conclude this brief series with some ringing words of Bennett, words liberally sprinkled with quotes from God’s Word.
In this day of Apostasy, and of alignment of famous names with Apostasy, it is imperative that in the Lord’s grace we remain faithful to “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Together we commit ourselves to the Lord in His Sovereignty and His Gospel of grace alone through faith alone, and to His Word, proclaimed as it is written, “my sheep hear my voice.” The distortion and perversion of true doctrine leads to false Christianity and deceitful ecumenism. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Ibid.).