Romanism and True Faith

True faith is believing God, because he has said it. Faith in God believes in His word without any other authority than His word itself. If you require the church’s sanction of the word, you do not have faith in God. Anything else is human superstition.

To my dear Roman Catholic Brethren

I admire the devotion of many simple souls in the Roman Catholic church. Your sacrificial generosity is evident from buildings which, I am sure you have in good faith dedicated to the glory of God.  You also hold some correct doctrine:  the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, Christ’s atonement for sin – and more.romanism

But I am sorry for you. The teaching of your church leaves you with uncertainties, the prospect of purgatory, and a dependence on God’s word being set aside by unscriptural practices. Indeed, Christ’s true church of which you individually are members, if you have faith in the perfect work of Christ on the cross does not teach – it testifies and worships.

I have produced the following based on a paper by J N Darby entitled Superstition is not Faith; or, The True Character of Romanism. Though written in the 19th Century it is applicable to the 21st.

Forgive my using the word ‘superstition’. Darby uses it. It may have changed its meaning over the years but I am sure you will understand its use over against that of God given ‘faith’.

May you, after prayerful consideration of this, realise that your sins were born by Jesus on the cross. Your standing before Him is secure. No mass is needed, no confession to the priest, no extreme unction and certainly no purgatory is necessary for you to enjoy Christian blessings NOW. And who more tender to speak to directly than your Lord and Saviour, Jesus?

Sosthenes

May 2015

 

What do we mean by ‘Superstition’?

Superstition is the unwarranted religious subjection of the mind of man.

This may be:

  1. Man’s rational thinking
  2. Something of man’s own imagination;
  3. A real, evil and malignant satanic influence
  4. Something or some one good, but the object of worship.

There is no warrant for such worship in scripture. Faith, on the contrary, is the reception and belief of God’s testimony to the soul.

Superstitious reverence includes:

  1. Animals (the Egyptians)
  2. The earth, sun, moon, planets and stars
  3. Mythology (fauns, satyrs etc – the Greeks)
  4. Serpent (evil power) worship (Africa, American Indian)
  5. Saints and angels.

Even John nearly fell for the latter when he fell down to worship at the feet of the angel. Paul speaks of ‘a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels’ (Col 2:18).

Superstitious reverence acknowledges God, even if it does not know Him. Because it gets between the soul and God, God is hidden and usurped. It is often called faith, but really it is the opposite. Faith brings us into God’s presence – we receive God’s authoritative testimony. Faith is the revelation of a loving God, who has revealed Himself in Christ our Saviour. God gave His own Son who, on the cross, purged our sins, thus freeing us from guilty consciences, and giving us peace and reconciliation with God, so we can walk in newness of life. Hence faith is exactly opposite to superstition.

Superstition hides the true God, giving false notions of Him, attaching the authority of His name to moral degradation. Human conscience revolts against this, as it is contrary to what even an unbeliver would consider God to be. Superstition would tend to exalt man above his own religion, producing infidelity and even atheism (if such a thing exists which Darby doubted). The human will is always atheistical, for it is not subject to God’s will, and will seek to reason against the existence of whatever it does not like. But God has given man a conscience, which the will can never get over. As a result people use religion – that which bears God’s name, as an excuse for throwing off God’s authority.

 

What is Faith?

Faith must be founded exclusively on the testimony of God, otherwise it is not God who is believed. I must believe when God Himself has spoken, or I do not believe God at all. John says, ‘He that received his [the Lord’s] testimony hath set to his seal that God is true’ (John 3:33). Had God’s testimony been founded solely on the miracles, it would have been without value, since man is unchanged. ‘Many believed in him when they saw the miracles which he did; but Jesus did not commit himself to them, for he knew what was in man’ (John 2:23).

Having received the testimony of the God of love we know the Saviour, are reconciled, and have peace and communion with Him. We know the Father, through the Son, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and we approach God without fear, however poor and guilty we may be. Such is the Christian’s portion.

God has reconciled us to Himself, and we freely enjoy His perfect and gracious love, even in our weakness. Because we are reconciled, we have a direct relationship with God, so anything that is put in the way militates against the entire, perfect putting away of sin by the blessed Saviour. It is a human invention and a denial of Christianity. There is one Mediator between us sinners and God – Christ. Anything else is infidelity.

 

Why Rome is not based on Faith

Now we will see that the Roman system is not founded on faith. Romanism is in doctrine and practice, really infidel, though of course it would claim otherwise. A sincere person may believe that the liturgical worship of God is right and conform to religious habits. This is not faith. Alternatively, a poor ignorant, but pious, soul might even believe the in system, but be almost overwhelmed by its errors.

Between the Romanist and the Evangelical Christian is vast system of apostate error. Two questions are at issue:

  1. Are the doctrines that Rome teaches true?
  2. How can any one be sure of the authority of what is taught?

We shall see that the teaching is false and without authority. For example:

 

Roman Catholic Teaching The Truth
An unbloody sacrifice (the Mass) is efficacious for the remission of sins The blood of Jesus Christ his [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Purgatory is needed to complete our cleansing (except for some special cases) We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:10).
The Mass is an offering for the sins of the living and the dead. By one offering Christ has perfected for ever those that are sanctified. (Heb. 10:14.)
The saints and the Virgin Mary are more accessible and tender-hearted than Jesus We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)

 

 

The Mass

Christ suffered and shed His blood. His perfect offering was so efficacious, that it never needed to be repeated – He did it only ONCE. The Roman Catholic Mass pretends to offer this sacrifice again and again, therefore denying the efficacy of Christ’s offering of Himself on the cross. God’s word declares that there is no more offering for sin (see Heb 10:18). Furthermore, as the Mass is an unbloody sacrifice, which Rome maintains to be efficacious for the remission of sins. However, scripture says that ‘without shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22). Consequently the Catholic doctrine contradicts scripture.

 

Purgatory

Now another false doctrine, that of of purgatory, teaches that the blood of Jesus does not purge me completely, even though I have accepted the gospel, and have lived a good religious life. I must suffer in some fire in order to be fit for God’s presence. Even if I have confessed to a priest, received absolution, the last rites and extreme unction (which is supposed to wipe away the remains of sin), and have had masses said for the repose of my soul, I still need to go through purgatory and pay the last farthing. As a result I retain a guilty conscience down here, and sadly the church maintains its power over me.

But scripture says ‘He has by HIMSELF purged our sins’ (Heb 1:3). The doctrine of purgatory is infidelity as to the efficacy of Christ’s blood and God’s word. The blood of Christ has cleansed the true Christian from all sin, so that we might have peace in our souls through His Name.

 

Jesus, the Mediator

The scripture declares there is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. It teaches us that a divine and gracious person, the Son — one with the Father, who is God over all, blessed for evermore — came down so low in grace, that even the poorest and vilest sinner could find free access to Him. Such grace and tenderness, was in Jesus. Now to us He a merciful High Priest, bearing our infirmities, and sympathising with our sorrows, entering into them as none other could, with a heart such as none other had (Darby’s words) (See Heb 2:17).   He was without sin, so we can come boldly to a throne of grace as He intercedes for us.

 

Mary

But how does this tally with the doctrine of Mary? Can I not go to Jesus directly and count upon His tenderness? Is He too high and far off?   Has Mary a tenderer heart as being a woman, must I go to Him either through her or the saints? Did Mary, however blessed, come down from heaven to seek me in my sorrow and in my misery? Or has Christ changed, and become hard-hearted, since He ascended up on high? No; the doctrine of many mediators, including the Virgin Mary, is infidelity as to the grace of Christ. It denies His glory as a compassionate High Priest.  I trust His kindness more than that of all the Marys and all the saints, however blessed they might be. (Darby’s words)

 

The Word of God

These are just a few examples of the way in which Rome, on the authority of what is called the church, undermines the truth, taking away all the value of the precious truth of the gospel. It calls you to believe things that are not in scripture, and, in doing so, makes you disbelieve the truth of God. However, because Rome does not deny the expiation for sin made at the cross – or the Trinity , – or the incarnation, or the divinity of Christ, one would not suspect it of infidelity. But because it has denied the actual value and application of these wonderful truths, it has destroyed the them, and taken away the way of peace to the sinner’s soul.

But another point: everything in the above discussion has been based on the premise that the true believer accepts the authority of the inspired word of God. But Rome does not agree. It tells me that I cannot know the Bible, or the word of God, without the authority of the church. If God has written a book, and addressed it to men in general or to those called Christians, He has put them under the responsibility of receiving and submitting the authority of His word. If the teachings of Rome were right, no ordinary Christian could know that it is the word of God, and receive it as such. He must either deny it to be God’s revealed word, or assert that it is not binding on those to whom it is addressed. Otherwise God would have failed in His word: What blasphemous infidelity!

What kind of church it can be that makes itself more competent, and its authority more obligatory, than that God Himself?  If I need the church’s authority in order to believe the word, I do not believe God at all. I am not to judge God’s word: it judge me. The Lord said, ‘The words that I have spoken unto you, the same shall judge you in that day’ (John 12:48). Whether it is the church, the pope, or a general church council, it is something besides the word, without which God’s own word is not binding on the conscience. This is high treason against God and His truth.

 

Accepting God’s Testimony

If Paul wrote an inspired epistle to a certain church, say to Corinth, the Christians there were bound to receive it as God’s word. The church has to receive the apostle’s letter, not pronounce on it. If God gives a testimony of Himself, the church is bound to believe it. If not, it is despises the testimony of God. Woe to it if it refuses the testimony; woe to me if I do too.

Even in creation, God has given a testimony. Man is guilty if he does not see God in it. There may be many things that he cannot explain; but the testimony is sufficient to condemn those who do not believe in God the Creator.

So when the blessed Lord appeared, many infidel hearts refused to accept who He was. But He said, ‘If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins’ (John 8:24). John said that by not believing we make God a liar, and are therefore guilty of infidelity (See 1 John 1:10). So in the word God has given a testimony, and man is bound to believe it. Difficulties may be raised by infidel minds; but God’s testimony is adequate to bind men and women to believe it, and for it to govern the conscience.

True faith is believing God, because he has said it. Faith in God believes in His word without any other authority than His word itself. If you require the church’s sanction of the word, you do not have faith in God. Anything else is human superstition.

Romanism is infidelity as to the most precious and fundamental truths of Christianity: it is infidelity as to the authority of God’s own word.

 

Based on Superstition is not Faith; or, The True Character of Romanism. By John Nelson Darby (1800-82).

 

A summary by Sosthenes.

 

The original is published in Collected Writings of John Nelson Darby Volume 17 (Doctrinal 4). Kingston Bible Trust, Lancing, England. Downloadable from Stem Publishing.

For some further reading I recommend J N Darby’s Familiar Conversations on Romanism:

 

Familiar Conversations on Romanism

J. N. Darby.

Conversation  1 Faith is in God and His Word, not in the Church
Conversation  2 The Forgiveness of Sins: Purgatory 1
Conversation  3 The Forgiveness of Sins: Purgatory 2
Conversation  4 The Word of God and the Church 1
Conversation  5 The Word of God and the Church 2
Conversation  6 The Word of God and the Church 3
Conversation  7 Infallibility
Conversation  8 Infallibility
Conversation  9 Holiness
Conversation 10 Apostolicity and Succession 1
Conversation 11 Apostolicity and Succession 2
Conversation 12 Apostolicity and Succession 3
Conversation 13 Apostolicity and Succession 4
Conversation 14 The Mass
Conversation 15 Transubstantiation 1
Conversation 16 Transubstantiation 2

The World cannot Continue the Way it is.

 

Based on John Nelson Darby’s paper ‘What is the World, and What is its End? A serious question for those who are of it.’ – by Sosthenes

Note – This paper was written in 1862. Though much of what Darby wrote has relevance today, circumstances, especially in technology, have changed, and these have been reflected in this summary. Changes I have made are shown in blue.

judgment-dayDespite Christianity, the world has not changed since Adam. Things have progressively deteriorate, but man’s worst sin was the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. Men fear what might come, but the Christian is restful, trusting in God. Some might try and loosen human restraints, whilst others tighten them. Some say that commerce or education is the answer. Religious superstition and extremism, and infidelity may oppose one another, but the world is the same. It is under judgment. God is patient and merciful, but evil will not prevail. Flee the wrath to come.

 

The World is Unchanged

Men are apt to think that have continue unchanged in this world since creation (or since the so-called ‘big bang’). Man has been more prosperous and civilised, making great strides in technology, travel, communications, ammunitions and medicine. All the time, though, man himself is unchanged, his passions remain, and the essential differences in the world since biblical times are not so great as is supposed. Children are not more obedient; families are not more united; the relationship between employer and employee is no better. The world thinks itself better, and vaunts its progress – but is it progress? Underneath the veneer, it recognises that things cannot go on long as they are; we are heading for yet another a crisis of the world’s history, which must result in great disruption.

Christianity has made a difference. But if we look beneath the surface, even that is not much. The world is not Paradise, as God made it. Since Adam, the world has developed through man’s departure from and independence of God.  Men posture their solutions, some advocating democracy and others authoritarianism.  But though judgment is inevitable, God is patient – and over all.

Throughout history men have worried about the future of the world, but their fears, are the fruit of the restless working of principles beyond their control. The world is inherently unstable: regimes have ended violently because man’s passions were stronger than that which controlled them. The bonds of society are either too tight or too weak. Power is not in them, but in the force beneath them. As a result, some would slacken the bonds to give people more independence, whilst others would tighten them through repression. Furthermore, others just give up in fear, hoping for the best.

Man desires to be in control, or at least, control what is within his reach. This can be seen in modern times in the matter of climate change. Despite his fear, man has an exaggerated estimate of his self-importance. The true Christian, on the other hand, he does not fear in this way: he knows that God is over everything. He is more calm and clear-sighted, more interested in the needs of his fellow men, and less interested in politics. In spite of this though, many Christians are deluded into believing that they can meet the world’s needs by their own good works. They even worship them!

 

What is the World?

What is, then, the world? It is a vast system, grown up after man had departed from God, nd Satan is the god and prince of it. At the fall, Man was driven out of the place in which God had set him in innocence and peace. God had made him a vagabond, and barred His way back to the tree of life. Man gave up God for his own lusts and, under the influence of Satan, built a city, Enoch (Gen 4:17), adorning it with art and music. Left without law, the world became so bad that God had to destroy mankind by the deluge, leaving just eight persons. Then under law, man plunged into idolatry, ignoring every prophetic warning. Ultimately God sent His Son, but man would not have Him: He was cast out of the vineyard and slain. Man turned God out of the world, as far as he could, when He had come into it in mercy.

Now when we look at the principles and motives which characterise the world, are they “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) – pleasure, gain, vanity, ambition, etc. When we speak of men getting on in the world, is it not ambition and gain which motivates? There cannot be much difference in what Cain did in his city, and what men are now doing in theirs. If, say, a Chinese person came to London to see what Christ and Christianity was, he or she would find men governed by the same motives that govern the masses back home in Beijing or Guangzhou. In short, he would find a system in which men honour one another more than God. The world rejected the Son of God when He was here, but the Father set Him at His right hand . Jesus said, “Oh, righteous Father, the world hath not known thee...” (John 17:25). Then, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

There is no point in looking to heathenism or Islam for the world; we must look to Christendom. What characterises its state is pleasure, gain, ambition, vanity, without conscience, like the Pharisees. A man is morally what he pursues: if gain, He is covetous: if power, he is ambitious; if pleasure, he is hedonistic, and so on. At the beginning, of Christianity, God’s grace and power of the Holy Spirit raised people above normal human values, and united them in the enjoyment of heavenly things, displaying a care for one other in a way the world never knew. They were dead to the world, pure in walk and unselfish in their ways, so the church got the attention of a hostile, yet admiring, world. Now for centuries, what in infidelity calls itself the church, is marked by ambition, crime and deceit, haughty power and worldly luxury. It makes no difference whether we are looking at Catholicism, Greek orthodoxy or Protestantism. Of course the Spirit of God is active, and that, thank God, good is done in the midst of all this. However, that is not the world, but a distinct power which works in the midst of the world, influencing it and its government. The world is far more guilty,  having had Christianity in its midst – it has not ceased to be the world.

Remember that it was at the death of Christ that the devil received the title of prince of this world, and as to his religious influence, is called the god of this world, When God’s throne was at Jerusalem this was impossible; but, when the true Ruler of the world was rejected, it became plain that Satan was its prince. No doubt the cross gave Satan’s power its death-blow in the sight of God, but not in the in the sight of the world.

Satan’s worst reign is his religious one, as we see from the beasts in Revelation. He reigns only by the corrupt motives of man’s heart, the fears of a bad conscience being the means of his power. He leads men astray by their lusts, and then gives them religion to assuage their consciences, for he cannot cleanse them. Hence wickedness becomes religious wickedness, and the conscience even thinks it is doing God service, while Satan craftily directs all this to his own end, the governance of the world – the Christian world – by men’s lusts. In unbelief and defiance of Christ, the pursuit of gain and pleasure is more ardent and unrestrained than ever. War rages as it ever did.

What, then, is its end? Judgment, speedy judgment. Of the day and the hour, no man knows: it comes as a thief in the night. The self-confident thoughts that men have of improving the world by human development and energy are evil in the extreme. Man sees himself and the world as getting better. He views Christianity as only a phase of man’s history; better is to come. Where from, and how?

 

Commerce and Education

Commerce, we are told, civilises. Commerce appears to have made the world less violent; but gain is its selfish motive. It has not elevated the tone of society, but the contrary. Fraud and corruption are major problems. It has not stopped exploitation and wars; it has caused many, especially where oil is concerned.

What has education done? It certainly has enlargesd the mind, but has it changed man’s values?  People are more educated than they used to be; but to what end? Has the influence of superstition really diminished? The infidelity produced by dependence on man’s mind has forced men, who are not personally established in divine truth, back into a different type of superstition. They call it liberalism, which is bound by no truth, knows no truth, and doubts all truth. It is simply destructive. Go anywhere and everywhere, to India, England, Italy, Russia or America: deliverance from superstition is not by truth, but by disbelief of all known truth. Even Christians rely, not on the Spirit, the gospel and word of God, but on human progress.

 

Superstition and Infidelity

The present conflict is between superstition and infidelity – the mere pretensions of man’s mind.  Neither superstition nor infidelity know or respect truth. One recognises authority; the other rejects it. One is the church, so called (with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, I would venture to include this – Sosthenes); the other, free thought. Faith in the truth is known to neither. Where it is no one knows; the business of man’s mind being to disprove any claim to it.

It is a striking phenomenon that liberalism or infidelity prefer Popery to truth. Truth is divine, Popery is human, and liberalism will be liberal as to it. So governments, pander to Popery, because it is a strong, unscrupulous political power, not concerned with the truth. When centralised power fails, it falls back on modifications, witness Liberation Theology in Latin America, and formal protestant religion which has given up scripture and all moral values.

Even if we turn to America, which many would regard as the most attractive part of the new world, what do we see? There is a large profession and much religious activity, even large-scale tele-evangelism, but Christians are often the most worldly of all.   Money is the number one influence; overrun with alcoholism, immorality and family breakdown.

 

So where is God in all this?

The world, then, has been evil from its origin. Christianity has been corrupted by man.   It has not reformed the world, more it has become the seat of its greatest corruption. Commerce, a partial civiliser of men, absorbs them with the basest of motives – avarice, indifferent to truth and morality.  Education has not improved man’s motives or morals either, nor has it freed him from the bonds of superstition. It has merely set aside all positive truth, by infidelity.

So where is God in all this? God is patient with men, a testimony to His grace. He continues to testify, so long as souls can be won and delivered. But He will not allow the power of evil to last for ever. He declares that evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse; filling up the cup of wrath for themselves. He is patient till no more can be done. God says, “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Gen 15:16). Finally He will remove all evil and bless the earth.

 

Judgment of the World

The object here is not to enter into prophecy in any detail; that has been amply done elsewhere. But the course of the world’s history points to judgment, the removal of the power of evil by power being the only remedy. This is clearly stated in scripture. This is not the judgment of the dead before the Great White Throne, but the judgment of this visible world. ‘Because he [God] hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him [Jesus] from the dead’ (Acts 17:31). Sin will increase till judgment comes. But the world’s greatest sin  was the rejection and crucifixion of Christ.  However, He whom the world rejected, God has raised from the dead, and committed all judgment to Him. Every knee will bow to Him; and the more boldly men have rejected and opposed Him, the more terrible will be their judgment.  All man’s pride, vanity and pretension must come to nought.

Read:

Such is the end of the world as we know it. Its profession of Christianity will only have increased the severity of its judgment. They that have known their Master’s will, and not done it, will be beaten with many stripes. (See Luke 12:47). Christendom fell from the heavenly state in the early chapters of the Acts. Now it will wax worse and worse, ripening for the judgment that so surely awaits it. Flee from the wrath to come.

April 2015

The Irrationalism of Infidelity –Objections Dependent on “Science”

There is no inconsistency. As regards man, the science of physiology can only examine man as he is — in a state of mortality. This is not, according to scripture how God created him. To suppose that God could not have sustained man in an immortal condition, is to put limitations on God, who cannot be limited. We are taught that following the fall, man became a dying creature, subject to ‘wear and tear’

Although JND used the word ‘science’, this objection surrounds more the anthropological background to beliefs worldwide.

It is not related to technological developments about which JND could not have known. These are however irrelevant to this discussion. I do not believe anything of the bible has been disproved by the discoveries of the past 150 years.

Objection – The biblical account is inconsistent with modern knowledge.

The_Fall_of_Man-1616-Hendrik_GoltziusAnswer. There is no inconsistency. As regards man, the science of physiology can only examine man as he is — in a state of mortality. This is not, according to scripture how God created him. To suppose that God could not have sustained man in an immortal condition, is to put limitations on God, who cannot be limited. We are taught that following the fall, man became a dying creature, subject to ‘wear and tear’.

If we look into ancient texts we find various references consistent with the account in Genesis. For example Plato wrote, ‘They lived naked in a state of happiness, and had an abundance of fruits, which were produced without the labour of agriculture, and men and beasts could then converse together. But these things we must pass over, until there appear some one to interpret them to us.’ [I cannot locate Source – maybe the Republic]. Fragments of truth, amidst the mass of superstition, exist in Egyptian, Greek, Mexican and Hindu fables. However, none of the written accounts are older than about 700BC [National Geographic refers to Mycenaean writing around 1450BC, the time of the exodus, but that makes no difference].

The millions of years of Hindu chronology, or the more moderate thousands of Chinese dynasties, have disappeared before increased information. Indeed, we have some Chinese dynasties and some dark Hindu traditions, which tend to confirm the early Mosaic accounts.

God, however, has given us a concise, simple account of immense moral import, infinitely elevated above the whole range of the heathen fables which pervert its elements, placing the supreme God — man —  good — evil —  responsibility — grace —  law — promise —  the creatures — marriage, all in their place. The Mosaic account brings out the innocence at creation, the knowledge of good and evil, conscience, judgment, the closing of the way to the tree of life, and the promise in the woman’s seed.

In so many fables there is the conflict between good and evil, with good prevailing. However in scripture, the drama was a reality; all involving one man and his failing companion. Yet from her who failed recovery was to spring; grace was to be brought out and magnified.

Another thing is evident, that Mesopotamia, and the country north of it, is the area from which the world was peopled.   Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, all are grouped round it. Indeed the Phoenicians even went to Ireland. [Skeptics might argue nowadays that early man came from Africa, but this is not the subject here].

No creature can subsist per se, that is, independently of God.