Sunday, July 26, 2009

Response to Fairwinds Baptist Church July 26, 2009

[Welcome new readers.  Before you go, please don't forget to check out the links to thirteen other Fairwinds responses listed on the right side of this page.  May the Holy Spirit be with you all!]

This sermon was part of the "Getting to Know God Better" series; it was the second sermon focusing on the "peace of God."

Because of time, I will not be able to dictate every word of the sermon for comment, but I'll try to provide as much context as possible and include a verbatim quote of the texts under discussion. My apologies if my own post seems a bit scattered; this post reflects a kind of stream-of-consciousness Catholic response to a very good (though in some places, quite problematic) Baptist sermon.

Right at the beginning of the sermon, after brief introduction, Pastor Carlo makes the statement:

"The best way of knowing God better is to be in God's word."

As a Catholic, I would agree with Pastor Carlo that God's word allows us to know God better. St. Jerome once said, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats (in CCC133), that "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." The Catholic Church venerates the Sacred Scriptures as the very word of God and encourages all her members to become intimately familiar with this love letter from God to His people.

But I fear that Pastor Carlo limits "God's word" to the Bible. Thus, Pastor seems to mean by his statement (which, in context, is said to direct his congregation's attention to the words of Scripture) that "the BEST way of knowing God better is to be IN THE BIBLE."

This is an unfortunate position because 1) some of God's word has not been transmitted to Christians today through the Bible (Sacred Scripture) but through Sacred Tradition, and 2) because the Bible itself commands us to hold fast to both the written and oral traditions (see, for ex., 2 Thess. 2:15), and 3) because the Bible itself gives us evidence that "the best way of knowing God" might not, in fact, be through experiencing him through the Scriptures, as awesome a way that this is.

Notice, for instance, that on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35, Jesus (whose identity remained hidden) taught his disciples about himself from the scriptures (the Old Testament at that point), and their hearts reportedly "burned within them" (v. 32). No matter how good the preaching might be on Sunday morning, it will never be as good as hearing our Lord preach about Himself from the Bible. It is true that good preaching might cause our hearts to burn with love for our Lord, just as the disciples experienced that day on the Emmaus road. Yet, the disciples still did not recognize Jesus at that point. It was not until the breaking of the bread that Jesus's identity was revealed to them. What was our Lord teaching us here?

We should not be surprised when we see the liturgy of the earliest Christians focusing not exclusively around the breaking of the "word" but rather around the "breaking of the bread," which from the earliest times was a code for the Eucharist. In the first chapters of the book of Acts, we see how the early Christians met on the Lord's Day (Sunday) for the breaking of the bread. Some of them even met every day in their homes for the Eucharist. It is through the Eucharist that Jesus is revealed in his fullness, since, through the incarnation, the eternal word has become flesh. While many of today's Christians have successfully modeled the earliest Christians in the book of Acts insofar as they devote themselves to (at least some of) the apostles teaching and to the prayers (though not necessarily the liturgical prayers passed down through the ages), not so many practice the weekly and even daily practice of the Lord's supper. Only the two churches that have direct historical ties to the apostles maintain the daily offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Thus, we need to be careful to both appreciate the sentiment of what Pastor Carlo says but also realize that Jesus has more to give us than the Bible, as important as it is. Jesus is not satisfied until he has given us HIMSELF. And this he does through through the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. That is why, in the Mass, the breaking of the word flows directly into and prepares us for the breaking of the bread. The worship of Christians need not be an either/or: either a focus on the Bible or a focus on the Eucharist. Rather, let our liturgy be a both/and! Lord give us everything your Sacred Heart desires! Give us your Word and your Body. Let our liturgy be modeled on the liturgy of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Let us join the angels and saints in singing "Holy, Holy, Holy!" Let us break the seals of the word and let our worship culminate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Lamb of God, you come to take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us!


The verses read by Pastor Carlo were from Phillipians 4:4-7:

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When Pastor Carlo makes it to the end of verse 5, he comments on "the Lord is near" saying:

"The Lord is at hand. Boy, I believe that it isn't going to be long; he's going to come and take us home, Amen? Now, there's two ways of looking at that. The Lord is at hand as far as His coming is concerned, and the Lord is at hand meaning he never leaves us and forsakes us. He's always here with us. He is always there. All we have to do is go boldy into the throne of Grace."

Here, we get a slight touch of "rapture" mentality, as if Christ's second coming is right around the corner. As (former fundamentalist) David Currie has pointed out, however, preachers have been predicting that Christ's return is "right around the corner" ever since the second century. (I'd recommend Currie's book Rapture: The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind.)

We do well to remember that Paul was telling Christians almost 2,000 years ago that the Lord is near. If this verse's primary meaning was applicable only to today's Christians, then we have a verse of Scripture that would be utterly confusing to the listeners to whom it was actually written. To disconnect the text of Scripture from its historical audience--and to then read it with the assumptions of an audience 2,000 years later--is ultimately to skew the original intention of the author (St. Paul) himself. Most importantly, it is to risk missing potentially deeper or more relevant aspects of what the verse means. For instance, it may be more important to prepare our hearts for the truly inevitable death that we each will soon experience rather than fixate on the however remote possibility that a rapture will occur in our lifetimes.

That being said, there is a very real sense in which Christ is forever present to His bride, the church. Whether that exhausts the fullness of what Paul was communicating, I'm not sure. A very real threat at the time was Rome's persecution of Christians, and the Romans' later turn against the Jews that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple has been read by many as the fulfillment of the early prophecies of Jesus's pending arrival. However, the arrival is not as a second coming (which will happen at the end of time) but as the coming of a king in judgment. The end of the micro-cosmic world of the temple indeed happened in 70 A.D., and the events that led up to this surely could have inspired Paul to warn his readers that Jesus's return was at hand. I doubt he was saying that the "second coming is near," because it simply wasn't (or, Paul was simply mistaken...but I found this position so unbelievable!)


Pastor Carlo is right on in his emphasis of the peace of God that passes all understanding, a peace that should allow us to rejoice always! He is right that our lives tend to revolve around a variety of concerns, when they ought to revolve around Christ alone. The first sentence of Pope John Paul II's very first encyclical letter "The Redeemer of Man" reflects the same idea, though on an even larger scale:

"The redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history."

Jesus Christ is at the center, and when he is there, he brings peace to all who find their center in Him.


Pastor Carlo then reviewed what his previous sermons in the series had covered (the Grace and Peace of God), which allows him to cover (yet again) his conception of Justification. Pay attention to the clarity of thought in the following presentation, and notice that he falls back on the same verses he pointed to last week and in practically every sermon on this topic. Then ask yourself, is he really unpacking what the verses he is citing say, or is he treating them more like proof-texts for his own understanding of justification?

"We talked about the judicial gift of peace, last week; it was the first point we covered. And we see that in Romans 5:1 'Therefore, having been justified by faith, we havea]">[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' You have been justified this morning, as I said last week, not because of anything you have done, because it says, if you go back to Ephesians 2, he says 'for by grace you have been saved, through faith, not of yourself.' Justification is not through you; justification is something that God has provided through Jesus Christ, not of ourselves. It is a gift of God, lest any many should boast. So you have to understand that the mercy of God and the grace of God is a gift of God that was bestowed upon us through Jesus Christ even though while we were yet sinners, the word of God says, Christ died for the ungodly, he died for us on the cross--us who deserved death and hell--he justified us as a result of us coming to know Christ as savior. We are justified, the payment has been paid, the penalty has been taken care of, the debt has been paid. Jesus Christ has hung on the cross for you and for me. He shed blood...justified...he was our justification. If He had not died on the cross, we would have all gone to hell. There is no way we can get into heaven on our own, because we are sinners. We are sinners in need of a savior. We are sinners who can only be saved by the grace of God."

And then Pastor Carlo returns to his excellent discussion of the peace of God.

Looking at the above passage, the vast majority of it is thoroughly Catholic, and I thank God for that! Praise His name for all of the ways in which we Christians are truly unified!

Catholics could not agree more that we are saved 100% by God's grace alone. We are sinners who are completely lost without God's grace and mercy. For God so loved the world...

Unfortunately, I think that Pastor's discussion of justification contains at least one internal contradiction. Further, his piecemeal quote of Ephesians 2:8 leaves out one of the most important parts of the verse that provides an important textual clue about what Paul means.

First, the internal contradiction becomes apparent once we acknowledge that "coming to know Christ as savior" IS SOMETHING WE DO. Thus, we are justified when we come to know Christ as savior (something we do), yet in the same paragraph, we are told that we are justified NOT BECAUSE OF ANYTHING WE HAVE DONE but because of what Ephesians 2:8 says (that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works, lest any man should boast). See how important that piecemeal quote of Ephesians 2:8 is in all of this?

I think these fine details are worth discussing because although Pastor Carlo is actually quite Catholic in the way he thinks about all of this, Pastor Carlo seems to think there is a great distance between his view of justification and a Catholic's view. Indeed, there may be areas of difference that might appear large at first, but in my experience, if we can iron out the areas of agreement, it may be that the areas of difference begin to shrink as well.

Let's look at the points of agreement:
1. We are not justified by any "human" work (be it physical or intellectual)--in other words, nothing done apart from God's grace can merit salvation. The wages of sin is death, after all.
2. Having faith, then, can not be viewed as a work done apart from God's grace. Actually, the faith itself is a gift of God's grace, so, as Ephesians says, no man can boast...of our works OR our faith. Both faith and works are God's grace working through us. (A careful reading of Ephesians 2:8 reveals that Paul is distinguishing between being SAVED BY GRACE versus being SAVED BY WORKS. Both Protestants and Catholics agree that we are not saved by works. We are not even saved by faith. We are saved 100% by grace...THROUGH faith and works. No where does the Bible say we are justified by faith alone, and James explicitely tells us that we are justified by works--once again, works accomplished through us and motivated 100% by God's grace, lest no man should boast.)
3. When Paul refers to "works" in Ephesians, Romans, Galations, and elsewhere, practically all scholars agree on textual evidence that he is referring to the "works of the Law," or as Jimmy Akin put it in his book The Salvation Controversy, "works of the Torah." (I'll adopt Akin's term.) I'm sure that Pastor Carlo would agree that we are saved by grace alone. We are NOT saved by faith, and we are NOT saved by works. We are saved through faith, exactly as Paul says. The Catholic church says the exact same thing! Notice, however, that Paul not once adds the word "alone" after the word faith. It is very difficult for Protestants to read Eph. 2:8 without mentally adding the word alone, as if we are saved by grace "through faith alone." Actually, God's grace works in us to produce the fruits of both faith and works, and it is through faith and works that we are justified, which in Catholic parlance means "growing as a child of God."

This is where Pastor's false wedge between faith and works (which becomes a stumbling block for him between Protestant and Catholic theology) starts to become evident. For instance, notice in the above quote that he actually leaves out the part about "works" from his paraphrase of Ephesians 2:8. I think this is significant, since the "works of the Torah" (which some Jews were using to try to obligate God to save them) are the things that Paul is putting on trial, not anything and everything related to a human's response to God's grace. And it is this very response to God's grace which results in justification--in our becoming and growing as adopted sons and daughters of the most high God.

Do you see how Pastor's message is confusing then? He seems to say in one breath that we are justified by something we do (accept Christ as savior) and then that we can not be justified by anything we do. I think Catholic theology explains justification in much more elegant terms, and it is able to do this because it doesn't read more into verses like Ephesians 2:8 than are really there.

Finally, notice that once again, Pastor Carlo says that Jesus "justified us a result of us coming to know Christ as savior." See, once again, how justification here "resulted" from something we seemed to do (though really our coming to know Christ as Savior is an action wrought by grace)? Catholics would say that our faithful act of accepting Christ is itself the work of God's saving and justifying grace in our souls. The two things (justification and salvation) occur simultaneously in the soul. Although the mechanics of this may be harder to describe, it becomes easier to understand how our initial act of faith (for adult converts) is a result of grace, and not that grace is somehow a result of that act of faith.

Further, let it be noted that if you keep reading Romans 5 and see how it flows into Romans 6, you'll see that this moment of justification and salvation is associated by Paul NOT with accepting Christ as Savior but with BAPTISM! See Romans 6:3 and following.

Unfortunately, as I've discussed on another post, Pastor Carlo doesn't speak about baptism the way the Bible speaks about it. Or, one could say, Paul doesn't speak about the first moment of our salvation as Pastor Carlo does. I'm afraid that if Paul and Carlo suddenly found themselves in a room together, a fairly heated debate would ensue over the meaning of baptism.

If you don't think this is so, imagine if a Catholic walked up to Pastor Carlo and said, "as many of us who are baptized have been baptized into Christ's death and resurrection. Baptism now saves us." I imagine that Pastor Carlo would object (based on the position he has taken in his sermons), yet the Catholic is using entirely Biblical language applied to the very notions of salvation and justification being discussed!


Next, Pastor Carlo goes on to describe all the things we ignored before we were saved, such as the Bible, being saved, bringing people to Christ as savior, and the ministry of the church.

Like it says in 2 Cor. 5:18, it says the ministry of reconciliation came into play. That is bringing two together that have once been separated. So the Bible says that if any man be in Christ, he is what? A new creation, a new creature. Old things…He lived in the world with the old things, prior to knowing Christ as savior. You were doing the bidding of the devil many times… (and so on)

1. This is a good example of throwing a verse into the mix way too fast for anyone to look it up and actually see what it is talking about. Notice that throwing in the verse gives the sermon the feeling of being grounded in the Bible, but at a closer look, it becomes apparent that Pastor Carlo is drawing almost nothing from this verse.

2. Notice that this verse becomes the head of a paragraph in which Pastor Carlo continues repeating the same things he has been saying. I state this not because I do not think that Pastor Carlo or any other Christian should never repeat key elements of the Gospel message, but rather to highlight that 45-minute-long Protestant sermons don’t necessarily contain more Biblical exposition than a 15-minute Catholic homily. In the Mass, we actually hear far more of the Bible itself, and the homilies are usually kept shorter and to the point so that they do not begin putting more emphasis on the Pastor giving the sermon (and his particular dramatic flare) than the sacred truths contained therein.

3. Finally, it is important to note what is lost when verses are skimmed over in the way that often occurs at Fairwinds Baptist: even though many verses are touched upon, there become many parts of the Bible that do not get the sustained critical attention from year to year that is necessary to come to a "well-rounded" knowledge of Christ. Although many congregants at Fairwinds Baptist may come away from their sermons feeling like they have heard a Bible-based message, in reality, they have been thrown too many verses to digest without getting a clear handle on the significance of each verse.

As a Catholic, I feel like I am not being fed by Pastor Carlo’s sermon, or at least fed a well-balanced diet. (In all fairness, I have been to many Masses where the priest did an extremely poor job in opening up the profound mysteries contained within the Bible. I would go even further to state that many Protestants' committment to the Bible would be a good influence on Catholics if these same Protestants were to join the Catholic Church. Yet, I would emphasize that no preacher, no matter how good, can put God into words in the way God deserves. Thank God that our reception of Him doesn't depend on how good the message is on Sunday morning. Rather, we receive Him in fullness when we receive his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity through the Most Holy Eucharist.)

Let me pick up where I left off: As a Catholic, I feel like I am not being fed by Pastor Carlo’s sermon, or at least fed a well-balanced diet. Sure, I’m hearing the same message about “being saved” and “faith verses works” that I hear week after week, but I am not getting the richness of the Bible verses that are getting the short shrift. For example, Pastor Carlo quotes Eph. 2:8 in practically every sermon I have ever heard, yet I have not once hear him preach the Gospel using the language Jesus employs in John 6. Another example occurs just now. The early church read 2 Cor. 5:18 as a very meaningful passage referring to the ministerial New Covenant priesthood. The first Christians understood “ministry of reconciliation” in terms of the power to forgive and retain sins that Jesus gave to the apostles in John 20:21-23 just as the true apostolic church does today. While we all should do our part to help reconcile the world to Christ, only the Bishops and priests can share in Christ’s particular ministry of forgiving and retaining sins.


Pastor references the inevitable suffering that saved people experience, noting that suffering draws us to God. He is indeed right that suffering, in drawing us to God, takes on a salvific dimension, though I wish he would enunciate that dimension more than he does. Unfortunately, the way that Pastor Carlo seems to understand suffering is that it is something that we have to “get through” or “bear” with God’s help, not that it is something that could actually be spiritually beneficial in and of itself in our lives.

St. Paul says in Colossians 1:24, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” This verse is striking in that it states there is something lacking in the affliction of Christ. What could that be? According to Paul, it is the suffering that the members of Christ’s body, the Church, must experience in order to follow Him. As Catholics, we join our suffering to that of Christ on the cross; we enter into His Good Friday so that we may be raised up with Him on Easter Sunday. In this sense, suffering has a deeply significant role in the life of the believer, far more than a mere troubling time to be endured.


Next, Pastor Carlo again highlights the “judicial act of faith” that supposedly marks the first moment of justification. Note well: “judicial” carries with it the trappings of a courtroom, where God judges us righteous by a sort of legal decree. He signs away our debts, though we ourselves remain exactly the same (according to Martin Luther, we remain piles of dung covered with snow).

For Catholics, our justification occurs not so much in a courtroom as in a family room, where God is a father who adopts us as sons and daughters, imparting to us and infusing in us His divine nature, thereby making us holy, making us piles of pure white snow. God grants us a new family name—the name of the most Holy Trinity itself. We are baptized (the sacrament of faith) in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Justification, although it involves the justice (and mercy) of God, is no mere legal decree. It is no mere “imputation” of Christ’s righteousness whereby, upon our death, God only sees Christ and not us.

No! God loves US! He loves YOU and ME! He makes us holy and, if we confess our sins, he continues to wash us with his saving Blood, purifying us as we grow as his children. Indeed, we grow as His beloved children by a lifetime of “faith working in love,” as St. Paul puts it to the Galations (5:6). We are indeed justified by faith (Romans 3:8), but not by a one-time experience of faith. (Note that the New Testament writers reference at least three different points in Abraham’s life where the latter’s faith was “reckoned unto him as righteousness.”) God continues to justify us as our faith grows throughout our lives. He justifies us by the works wrought by His grace and love--His works--that flow through our lives (James 2:24).

Unfortunately, Protestant theology tries to turn justification—the process of becoming a child of God—into a legal decree that has no effect on the person’s soul. As a legal decree, justification is then viewed as being a one-time event (which would make sense if it was a legal decree). Since, according to this view, God now only sees the blood of Christ, it would make sense that once a person is justified and saved, there is nothing that person could do to lose their salvation. Why? Because God would not be able to see that person's soul no matter what that person did anyway!

The question for every Protestant is: does the Bible fit the entire theological vision that has developed around the notion of justification as a “judicial act of faith?” For example: does the Bible speak of justification as a one-time event? Does the Bible say that one can never lose their salvation? Does the Bible portray salvation in contractual terms (implying the giving of goods) or rather is its language that of covenants (the self-giving of persons)?


Wrapping up the first section of his sermon, Pastor Carlo reiterates the “assurance” his followers have that they will all be in heaven one day, and that they will there be able to leave all the troubles of the world behind. One wonders if any of Pastor Carlo's congregants who believe this are actually living in a state of mortal sin (addicted to pornography, divorced and remarried, etc.) and lack the motivation to leave their sin behind since they believe their future in heaven is sealed.


Pastor Carlo then turns to consider what he calls the “experiential peace with/of God.” The idea is that peace with God is a fact of our justification. Peace of God is an experience that happens over and over after becoming saved.

He reads out of a book about peace. Then, he tells a story about a King and two natural scenes that paint pictures of peace, though in different ways. The second painting reflects an oasis of peace (as a bird nest behind a raging waterfall) amidst the ruggedness of mountains, waterfalls, etc.

He then references 2 Cor. 4:8 (very good verse!)

He has much good stuff to say about relying on Jesus (and the church family) during suffering. It fills me with joy to hear of this glorious union with Catholic teaching!

Next comes a quote from John Philips about peace being something on the inside, despite troubles around us on the outside.

And then another anonymous quote…

Next, Pastor Carlo quotes John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Another powerful verse! Amen!

As a Catholic, I LOVE how this verse is prayed in EVERY SINGLE MASS. This verse is spoken right as part of the Eucharistic prayer right before the Agnus Dei and the reception of Jesus in the Eucharist, through which he makes his dwelling in us (John 14:15-24, esp. v. 23). How awesome is this parousia of Christ in the Eucharist, and how our Lord continues to bring us through the gift of his Real Presence a peace which truly surpasses all understanding. How beautiful is the Mass which allows the Scriptures to come alive through liturgical expression!


Finally, Pastor Carlo begins the closing part of the sermon, which consists of minor variations on a common theme:

I see many Christians our there this morning, but some of you are not and need to trust Christ as savior. Here is what he says exactly, with a few in-line comments of my own:

“Yes, we’re saved. Many of us here this morning as I look around know Christ as Savior. [I'm always confused how one can look around and "see" the state of another's soul.] That’s a good thing. If you have never trusted Him as savior, you need to be saved. You need to be born again this morning. [This much is true. But how do these people become born again?] You need to trust Him as your Lord and Savior. [According to the Bible, we are born again in baptism.] That’s the only means of getting into heaven, because there is no other way. But you may be sitting here this morning and you’re not saved. [something about being concerned and Pastor being concerned for them…]…because that means you are not on your way to heaven. The Bible only talks about two places: heaven or hell. [The Catholic Church agrees. However, the Bible does talk about a painful state the soul may experience before entering heaven in which its soul is made perfect. Just see 1 Cor. 3:10-15.] You are not on your way to heaven if you don’t know Jesus. Do you have that assurance of peace and rejoicing in your heart. [With hand raised…] Yes I’m saved! Yes I’m born again! Yes, I have trials and troubles. But yes I know that if I died right now, at five minutes to twelve, that I would go right to heaven with the Lord for all eternity. [He seems more sure of his own salvation than St. Paul did of his own!] Do you have that kind of peace this morning? Do you? DO YOU? You’d be amazed at the number of people who come in here every Sunday morning and do not. And they sit. And they’re in turmoil. Sometimes doubting their salvation, wondering if they are saved. They don’t have that perfect peace of salvation in their heart. Yes we’re sinners. Yes we’re going to have problems. Yes there is always going to be something, but yes, I know that I am going to heaven. Saved? Yes. But if you are looking for perfection, you are in the wrong place. You aren’t going to find it anywhere on this earth anyway. The only perfect person who ever walked the face of the earth was Jesus Christ, and we crucified Him, and He was perfect. [Makes the argument that if they crucified perfect Jesus, what do we think that we are going to go through. This argument is entirely good and correct. I just wish Pastor Carlo would share more about the MEANING of the suffering that we do experience.]

He then talks a bit about that our call to be faithful in life, and that we never know just when our life will come to an end.

He reminisces about his age, and then comments that it is all part of life, since things are always changing.

But, then, he quotes one of my favorite Old Testament books, Malachi.

Malachi 3:6: “I am the Lord; I change not.”

This verse offers a powerful argument for the catholicity of the true faith. The Lord does not change, and thus, the doctrines that the Lord has taught from the beginning can not change. The truth, who is the Lord himself, can not change! Where can we find this unchanging truth today? In the thousands of different and changing interpretations of the Bible blowing around within non-Catholic denominations?

Praise be to Jesus for founding his church on a Rock! (Matthew 16:18; see also Isaiah 22:20-23.) That rock remains to this day just as sure a foundation as it was when Jesus prayed for Peter back in Luke 22:31-32. (Also important for meditation here would be John 21:11.)

Keeping this unchanging church in mind, isn't it interesting what is left out of the list Pastor Carlo then gives:

"Presidents change, situations change, congressman change, money situations change, problems change, cars, change; we change homes, we change clothing, and all kinds of things. Hebrews 13 says that "He is the same yesterday, today and foever." He never changes.

I find this list extremely interesting because I wonder if Pastor would think that the church can change. Can a Christian church ever change its doctrine or moral teachings? The only church I know of on earth that has never once changed its doctrinal or moral teachings is the Catholic Church (with the Orthodox being a tight second, praise be to God!). To the sure Rock of Peter and his successors may we turn! Thank God for a church that doesn't change (at least in its doctrinal and moral teaching)!

Pastor finishes his sermon with a brief recapitulation with the main points of his sermon.

Then comes the alter call…

Here, he hammers in the supposedly black and white distinction between people who “know they are saved, know they are going to heaven, know their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” and those that are not saved or perhaps not sure that they are going to heaven.

I invite my readers to read my tract about eternal security to consider whether the assurance Pastor offers is truly Bible-based.

While I join Pastor Carlo in praising Jesus for those people who made a decision that morning to convert (or perhaps convert again) to Christ, I pray that both Pastor Carlo and his congregants will come to see the contradiction between the idea of “once saved, always saved” and the clear, Biblical teaching that it is possible for a “saved person” to lose their salvation through committing serious sin and turning their back on God. I pray that these converts quickly receive the "washing of regeneration" in the waters of baptism and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Carlo cites 1 John 5:12 as “support” for his position, which reads, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Pastor Carlo comments on this verse by saying, “that’s pretty easy to understand. He who has the Son has heaven, and he who has not the Son is not going to heaven. That’s basically what he is saying, because you have life in Christ, you go to heaven. If you don’t have life in Christ, you don’t have heaven.”

Pastor’s brief comments contain a number of problems.

First off, he says this verse is easy to understand, as if everyone who reads this verse can only come to a single interpretation. He says it is easy to understand as if nothing (including an understanding of the specificity of the original verb tenses used) could have any baring on the interpretation Pastor Carlo draws.

Turns out, if Pastor would have done a Google search for “1 John 5:12 verb tense” (I would recommend running the same search for every verse used to support the doctrine of eternal security), he would have found at the top of the list a website ( that explains that the verb used here is in the present active (also known as “present linear”) tense, which means that the verb tense assumes or implies a continuing action. Thus, 1 John 5:12 should be taken to read (as it has been historically read in an UNCHANGING manner by Christians for 2,000 years): “He who continues to have the son continues to have life; he who does not continue to have the Son of God does not continue to have life.”

The problem this creates for Pastor Carlo is his equivocation of “life” with “heaven.” While someone who at this moment continues to have the Son will continue to have life, this does not necessarily mean that this person will, in the future, have heaven. After all, such a person might DISCONTINUE having the Son, and, according to this same verse, would then DISCONTINUE to have life, and might NOT go to heaven.

I would urge Pastor Carlo’s listeners to pay careful attention to all the times he says things like: “this verse is very easy to understand,” or “that’s basically what this verse is saying,” or “any one who would deny this has never read the Bible.” In my experience with Pastor Carlo’s thinking, these are the very moments where Pastor’s argument is the most vulnerable to cross-examination and most at odds with what the Bible actually says! The effect of these verbalizations is to draw the listener’s attention away from doing the very thing Protestants usually to promote: that Berean act of “searching the Scriptures.”

Sadly, these moments tend to occur in his discussion of the most important topics known to mankind—the salvation of our souls. As St. Paul says, “test everything; hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). While I am thankful for the good that Pastor Carlo's sermon contains, there are elements that need to be done away with--elements that do not reflect the authoritative interpretation of God's Word faithfully passed down unchanged for 2,000 years (many centuries before the Baptist faith even came into existence!)

May the Lord Jesus draw all Christians to a true knowledge of His saving plan! To Him be the glory, now and forever.

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