The                                              
Christian Pilgrim

 

Blog 2011



Index

Replacement Theology

Eternally Begotten

Knowledge and Wisdom

The Christian Sabbath

Appeal to Disillusionment

The Church in China

Inghamite Church

Revelation TV



Replacement Theology

I notice that next Wednesday at 9pm on Revelation TV they are having a debate entitled "Has the Church replaced Israel." As I have mentioned in an earlier post, Revelation TV believe that God's chosen people are all those physically descended from Abraham, and that these together with some of us Gentiles who have been grafted in (i.e. those who have embraced Christ), are the ones going to heaven. No-one on the TV station will come out and say categorically that Jews who never come to Christ will end up in hell fire, just like everyone else who never comes to Christ.

Anyway, they are having a debate between someone who holds the view of the TV station and someone who believes that the Church has now replaced Israel as the inheritor of God's promises. Those who hold the view of the TV station call this alternative view "Replacement Theology," a term that I had never heard of before outside of these circles. When I first came across the term, I thought that this was what I believed, but thinking further, I really don't think it is.

Both Israel in the Old Testament and the church in our day are mostly apostate. All the promises in the Bible pertain to all those who have been truly born again of the Spirit of God and who have had a new heart put within them - both Jew and Gentile, from Adam onwards. Neither the Jews nor the Church are, or ever were, the people of God. Only those born again of the Spirit of God are.

So the debate is, sadly, pretty much a waste of time. Neither view on offer is correct. Yet those who believe that the Jews are the people of God cannot see the truth, and believe that the only alternative to their view is the equally erroneous one of "replacement theology."

I suppose we should take heed of this, and be wary of thinking that we know exactly what the alternative to our view is. We are just like the disciples and so slow to understand.

"O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken..." (Luke 24:25).

P.S. I have just discovered the following site, which explains what I am saying with regards "replacement theology" in a lot more detail: 

http://replacementtheology.org

November 2011

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Eternally Begotten

The phrase “eternally begotten” does not appear in the Bible, but does appear in several creeds:

Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 2, para. 3:
“III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost(1). The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding: the Son is eternally begotten of the Father(2): the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son(3).

(1) I John 5:7; Matt. 3:16, 17; Matt. 28:19; II Cor. 13:14.
(2) John 1:14, 18.
(3) John 15:26; Gal. 4:6.


The Nicene creed uses the phrase “begotten of the Father before all worlds,” and the Athanasian creed uses a similar phrase, “begotten before the worlds.”

As this statement is creedal, what can I do if I do not agree with this statement?

Two things here: first, why I do not believe the statement, and secondly, what can I do?

 
(1) “Eternally begotten”

The Bible never uses the phrase “eternally begotten.” The Bible uses the phrase “only begotten.”

John 1:14 – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:18 – “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:18 – “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

1 John 4:9 – “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”

The word “begotten” also occurs three times in the New Testament as a quote from Psalm 2 “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5).

Christ is also called the “first begotten”:

Hebrews 1:6 – “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”

Revelation 1:5 – “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.”

However, this merely means that he is the “firstborn among many brethren”(Romans 8:29), i.e. true believers are also called “sons of God,” but of course not in the same sense as Christ, because we are all adopted sons:

John 1:12 – “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name

Romans 8:14 – “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:19 – “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”

Philippians 2:15 – “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world

1 John 3:1,2 – “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

But, I really have a problem with the phrase “eternally begotten,” which is a creedal statement only, and not Scriptural.

I thoroughly understand that:

Galatians 4:4,5 – “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

and

Luke 1:35 – “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Surely, this was the time when Christ was “begotten,” i.e. when

John 1:12 – “...the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us...”

Before this time, Christ did not have a human nature. From eternity, the decree was there that He should, in the fulness of time, come into the world as a man to redeem His people, but He did not actually take on a human nature until the time of His conception. There was one specific day on which He was begotten:

Psalm 2:7 – “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”

The phrase “eternally begotten” is an oxymoron.

The proof texts from the Westminster Confession are:

John 1:14,18 – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth... No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

but these verses only talk about the “only begotten” and say nothing about this begetting being from eternity.

I have a similar problem with the eternal procession of the Spirit. The Westminster Confession proof texts are as follows:

John 15:26 – “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me

and

Galatians 4:6 – “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

but these verses only talk about the procession from the Father and the Son, again, nothing to do with eternity. In fact, Christ in John 15:26 says “I will send unto you...”, i.e. future tense - the Spirit has not yet proceeded from Him, but will at a time in the future, i.e. Pentecost (although we know of course that the Holy Spirit has always been working, but the text talks about Christ sending the Holy Spirit at a particular time for a particular purpose).

In eternity past, Christ and the Holy Spirit were in the Godhead. No subordination or confusion. Christ was always going to be begotten, and the Holy Spirit was always going to proceed from the Father and the Son, but these things occured in time as and when they were decreed that they should happen by the Father.

Prove to me I am wrong. In the meantime, I suppose I really am a heretic because I cannot subscribe to every jot and tittle of the orthodox creeds.

 
(2) Am I a heretic?

This leads on to a completely different question. The nature of true religion is that true believers are all those who have been born-again of the Spirit of God at a certain point in their lifetime. We start off our Christian life (after regeneration) knowing nothing, and we come slowly, as we are being more and more sanctified, to a greater and greater knowledge of the truth:

John 17:17: "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth."

Every believer, at any one time, is at a different point in their spiritual knowledge of the truth, but we are all, if we are being led by the Holy Spirit, heading in the same direction.

So, what happens if we come in the process of time to firmly not believe a creedal statement? (Note, this is more than simply being ignorant, it is wilfully believing something other than the stated creedal position). For example, if I embrace my view that the eternity of the begetting of the Son is wrong, that puts me out of line with the Westminster Confession, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed, to name but three. Does that make me a heretic?

I don’t mind if I am wrong, if someone can come along and convince me from Scripture of the opposite. I will then willingly change my belief to conform to the new knowledge that has been given to me. We are all learning. But, what if I am right? What if the Westminster Confession, the Nicene Creed etc. are all wrong, and I am the only one that is right? (which is surely at least possible).

This means that all my life, from when I come to embrace the doctrine until my death (or until I change my mind again), I will be outside of any orthodox visible church. This begs the question, are there any truly born-again people outside of the visible church, treated as heretics, but really they are right? The answer must be, Yes!!

True believers are all those who have been born-again of the Spirit of God. They are NOT those who have come to know a minimum amount of correct doctrine. We all come to know true doctrines at various points of time AFTER our regeneration. Believers:

"Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18).

Knowing correct doctrine is important only as part of our sanctification. But we are actually born-again knowing nothing.

As soon as one doctrine is adopted by a church, that church automatically excludes all those truly born-again believers who either have not come to a knowledge of that truth yet (i.e. they are ignorant of it), or who (correctly or mistakenly) believe something different. So, a visible church cannot exist which accepts all truly born-again believers into it.

SO:

(1) Creeds and confessions were only ever made to limit membership in visible churches. They will always exclude some new believers (i.e. those born-again but not having come to a knowledge of the creedal articles yet), and some more mature believers who at any one moment of time believe differently (rightly or wrongly).

(2) Creeds are always package deals. You are expected to embrace the lot. What if you don’t embrace one small article? You are thrown out of the visible church.

(3) This goes to show how stupid trusting in a visible church is. The Roman Catholics, for example, MUST be wrong in this.

October 2011

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Knowledge and Wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:18-29 states:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

I have always had a problem with the above passage. It seems to imply that believers have a different kind of logic to unbelievers, and this is the reason that unbelievers cannot understand them. But this is not what it is saying at all. We understand the meaning of this text by realising that we are here talking about wisdom, as opposed to knowledge. It is therefore very important to make sure we can distinguish between the two.

Put simply, wisdom is the application of knowledge. Worldly-wisdom is the wisdom of the unbeliever, which is totally opposite to the wisdom that the Holy Ghost puts in the believer’s heart upon regeneration. Yet both unbeliever and believer alike have the same source of knowledge, i.e. the Bible.

The Bible says that “knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Corinthians 8:1). A lot of churches today take this verse to mean that it is wrong to study doctrine. But the verse really means that knowledge can puff up if used wrongly, i.e. using the worldly-wisdom of the unregenerate heart. If used rightly, i.e. in the right application of knowledge, i.e. charity (Greek agape), it edifies. Only the true believer can love (Greek agape), as it is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The unbeliever cannot do this. This shows the difference in the application of knowledge (i.e. wisdom) between the believer and the unbeliever. Both have the same knowledge, but the application is totally different.

Let us take another example. Take the doctrine of election. This doctrine is clearly taught in the Bible. Most unbelievers do not want to believe this doctrine, because their carnal nature rails against it, but nevertheless, through logical deduction from the propositions of the Bible, it is possible for the unbeliever, by unaided reason alone, to come to a knowledge of the truth of this doctrine. Yes, it is possible to be a five-point Calvinist and still go to hell.

The true believer now has the Holy Spirit within him to guide him into all truth (John 16:13), so his natural bias against the truth has been taken away, and he can learn the truth far more easily than the unbeliever. But it is the same truth, it is not another truth because there is only one truth after all. The truth hasn’t changed, the logical deductions haven’t changed, both believer and unbeliever alike can come into a knowledge of the one truth that exists. But their application of the truth is totally different. An unbeliever who comes to the truth about the doctrine of election will end up being very proud of himself, just like the orthodox Jew, who despises Gentiles and thinks of himself as so superior. But the true believer who comes to a knowledge of the very same truth, will be humbled to the dust by it. “Why me, and not my neighbour?”It is a source of humility to the believer, not pride. It is this application of the truth, i.e. this wisdom, that the unbeliever cannot understand, because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

October 2011

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The Christian Sabbath

More and more Christians are coming to believe that Saturday is the Lord’s sabbath, having been persuaded that it was Constantine who changed the sabbath day to a Sunday, and that the church has been worshipping on that day ever since merely by tradition. I don’t think that is altogether true, because there is Biblical warrant for the use of the first day of the week for Christian worship:

John 20:19: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”

Christ visited them on the first two “Sundays” after his resurrection (Thomas was not there the first week, so Christ waited until eight days later before revealing himself to him v.26).

Acts 20:7: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

The word “when” here implies that it was a regular custom to come together to break bread on the first day of the week.

1 Cor. 16:2: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

Again, it seems that they regularly met on the first day of the week.

Rev. 1:10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet...

By John’s old age, the first day of the week had become colloquially known as the “Lord’s day.”

The Fourth Commandment states:

Exod. 20:8-11: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

The original instruction in the Ten Commandments was not to “remember the seventh day,” but to “remember the Sabbath day,” i.e. the rest day (‘Sabbath’ = ‘rest’). Then immediately after this instruction, the concept of resting one day in seven was established. There is nothing magic about the seventh day (Saturday), but there is the concept established here of the Lord wanting us to rest one day in seven. The sabbath rest day was thus left open for a change to the first day of the week after Christ’s resurrection.

Note the parallel passage in Deuteronomy does not mention what God did at Creation at all:

Deut. 5:12-15: “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”

I agree that Constantine and the Roman church (especially) did a lot of damage. There is certainly no Biblical warrant for the celebration of Christmas or Easter (or any of the other dates in the church calendar for that matter), but I don’t have a problem at all with the idea that the sabbath rest day changed from the seventh day to the first day of the week.

October 2011

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Appeal to Disillusionment

Take a look at the following Statement of Faith I came across recently (it is not important where I got it from):

"We believe:

    * 1. The Bible, consisting of the books of the Old and New Testaments but excluding the apocrypha, is the inspired Word of God and is the infallible, all sufficient authority for faith and practice.
    * 2. There is one True and Living God who is the eternally self existent "I AM" and who has also revealed Himself to be One being in Three Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    * 3. In the perfect deity and humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth and bodily resurrection.
    * 4. The Biblical account of creation.
    * 5. Man, who was created in God's image without sin and given dominion over creation, fell by voluntary transgression as a result of which all men are born with a sinful nature.
    * 6. Salvation is through faith alone in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born sinless of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was shown approved of God by His miraculous ministry, died once for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, raised from the dead in bodily form on the third day and triumphantly ascended to heaven. Through His blood we have redemption.
    * 7. The New Birth is an instantaneous operation of the Holy Spirit upon repentance toward God and the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    * 8. Baptism by immersion in water is enjoined upon all who have repented, believed with all their hearts and confessed that Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord.
    * 9. In the person of the Holy Spirit, His work of regeneration, baptism following the new birth, empowering, indwelling, and sanctification of the believer.
    * 10. In The Holy Spirit's enabling gifts (with fruit confirming) to the members of the Church individually as He chooses.
    * 11. In the true Christian Church, which is comprised exclusively of all who by virtue of repentance from sin and faith in Christ are born again of God's Holy Spirit and have become part of Christ's body. The identity of the Body of Christ on earth is primarily perceived through the local church.
    * 12. We strongly confess the local church to be sovereign and autonomous. At the same time we reject sectarianism and divisiveness as great evils.
    * 13. In the spiritual unity of all who are born of God as opposed to unbiblical "so called" interfaith/ecumenical unity.
    * 14. In the pre-millennial personal and visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the prophetic purposes of God for Israel and the Jews.
    * 15. That the Breaking of Bread is enjoined on all believers until the Lord comes and is a representation only of his atoning body and blood.
    * 16. In the final judgement of the living and the dead by Christ.
    * 17. In the everlasting conscious punishment of the wicked and unrepentant.
    * 18. In the everlasting conscious bliss of the redeemed."

What do you think of that? I agree wholeheartedly with 12 of the articles, but have problems with articles 7,8,10,11,12 and 14. It is the Confession of Faith of Arminian, antipaedobaptist, non-cessationist, congregationalist, premillennialists who think that there is still a special place for the Jews in God's economy.

I don't agree with any of these things at all, but I suggest that this Statement of Faith would be agreed to by most Pentecostals and Charismatics, most churches of a Brethren persuasion, and most of the churches in the U.S.A. and China. That is a lot of people - in fact, the vast majority of Bible-believing, evangelical Christians today.

Having said that, it is becoming obvious that the church is declining in our time, as either false doctrines are coming into the church, or indeed people are being taught that doctrine is no longer important at all. To counteract this decline, there is a movement afoot, mainly amongst Pentecostals, to bring back the above beliefs into the forefront of church life once more.

The most popular (and outspoken) proponent of this today is Jacob Prasch, but Revelation TV is also being used very successfully in this regard as well. In the main, these people are excellent on telling us about the decline in the church, and how we should stand up against it. They are very discerning - and correct - but then they also promote, as an alternative to the status quo, their false views.

I have come across this before. When the British Reformed Fellowship first started in 1990, they were excellent at alerting us to the decline in the Evangelical churches of the day. They certainly attracted people like me. But then they offer the false doctrines of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America (denial of the Covenant of Works, wrong view of divorce and remarriage etc.) as an alternative, and expect us to imbibe it without thinking.

It all sounds so good at first, because the church IS declining generally, and things DO need to be done, disillusioned people in these churches DO need to be catered for, rather than isolated on their own. But the whole way these movements work is by a logical fallacy - the "appeal to disillusionment."

Are you disillusioned with the state of the church today? Is this false doctrine creeping in? Is that false doctrine creeping in? YES!!!  you say. Someone understands me at last!! It is not just me on my own against the church establishment!! And so people are groomed and led into an umbrella organisation for disillusioned souls. What wonderful fellowship they receive now!! Like-minded people to talk about these things freely with!!

Then, when they are fully caught in the net, they get fed the equally false doctrines of their captors. This is very sad.

Are these people leading others astray deliberately? Or are they true believers, but mistaken, and inadvertently tagging people along with them into false beliefs (which they themselves genuinely consider to be the truth)? I am quite happy, in charity, to believe the latter. But then we must ask ourselves, How should we behave? The Lord leads every individual one of His children into the truth down separate, unique paths. Some are led into the truth about certain things sooner than others, and as long as we are on this earth we will always think and believe differently from each other, although we are all heading in the same direction if we are truly born-again of the Spirit of God. So again, I ask, How should we behave? Should we try to persuade people of our beliefs at all? We are convinced that our beliefs are true now, otherwise we wouldn't believe them; and we long for others to agree with us! But we could be wrong (we have been in the past), and the Lord might be leading us through falsehood for a time, in order to teach us the truth in a more powerful way later on.

Of course we should live our lives in the light of what the Lord has revealed to us at any one time - i.e. in what we believe to be the truth at the time. But this may well be different from what everyone else thinks - our own "Statement of Faith," if you like, might be unique to us! But we should all be willing to be changeable as the Lord leads us into more of the truth through His Word. Of course we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, and He is the one we must be taught by, but what do we do when a movement appears such as I have described, which has so much truth in it, but also some error? Try to join these groups, and you will be ostracised because you don't embrace everything they teach. Don't join these groups and you will be isolated.

These are just a few thought on these matters.

"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." (1 John 2:27)

July 2011

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The Church in China

The Western Christian press gives people a totally wrong idea about the church situation in China. We are led to believe that there are only two types of church in China - the government church (Three Self Patriotic Movement churches, or TSPM) and the unregistered churches, which are underground and otherwise known as "house churches." We are also told that the TSPM churches are Christian in name only, and are really tools of the government, churning out government propaganda; whereas the illegal, unregistered, underground "house churches" are where all the real Christians are, and they are being persecuted by the government, harassed, closed down and their leaders are unfairly put in jail, beaten and so on.

I would like to make it clear right from the start that the above description of the church in China is totally misleading, and is anti-Chinese government propaganda. Where does the Christian press get this information from? Why, the illegal, unregistered "house churches" of course. They hate the government, so they put out their lies about the church situation in China, making it seem far worse than it really is. And we in the West just take it all in without thinking.

Let us clarify the situation in this article.

The situation in the church in China today is as follows:

 
(1.) TSPM churches

I have been to maybe half a dozen TSPM churches in various parts of the country, and they are a bit like the Anglican church in England, i.e. they are the "established" church. Actually they are better than the Anglican church because all of the ones I went to (I assume it was a fair cross section of them all) had a minimum 45 minute sermon, i.e. 35 minutes longer than the typical Anglican sermon here in the UK. Admittedly, the quality of sermon varied depending on who was preaching, but that is only to be expected in an "established" church.

Incidentally, the Chinese government have "established" in this way, five religions in the land, namely, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. I like the fact that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are referred to as different religions, because they are. It is even more encouraging to find out that Protestantism is otherwise known as "Christian" and Roman Catholicism isn't! We were once visiting a strange city and saw a large church building. Upon asking what sort of church it was, we were told it was a "Christian" church (i.e. as opposed to a Roman Catholic church), so we duly realised it was all right to go there on the following Sunday! Praise the Lord that true Christianity and Roman Catholicism are kept separate in the Chinese mindset.

The propaganda in the Christian press in the West (fed to them by the unregistered churches) tells us that no-one is allowed into a TSPM church under 18 years of age. This is totally untrue. Many of the TSPM churches have thriving Sunday schools and children are freely allowed in to the services. Also, the Bible is freely available, sold in any TSPM church to anyone who wants one, and there are no restrictions of any kind placed on any part of the community. Having said that, street evangelism, open air services, handing out tracts on the street etc. would be frowned upon (as it would be for any religious group, not just Christian), but this is not a major restriction at all really, and can be easily worked around.

 
(2.) Registered house churches

There are not just two types of church in China, as we are told (i.e. TSPM and unregistered house churches), but a third type exists, namely the registered house church. But we don't hear about these. The fact is that anyone, yes, anyone, can set up a church in China. The only proviso is that you have to register with the government. This is not government interference, in fact it is a good thing. The registered house church I went to was in a 97% muslim area of the city. Given half a chance the muslims would have the church closed down. But they can't do anything about it, because the church is registered and therefore has state protection.

The man who set this church up, thought there was too much government interference in the established TSPM churches (as many independent pastors in the UK think about the Church of England), so he set up his own church, perfectly legally. In this church the sermon lasts typically two hours. And the meeting room is always packed with hundreds of people attending. No-one in the UK would be able to stomach such a long sermon, but the Christians in China love the Word of God being expounded, they can't get enough of it.

Now why does the state insist on registration, you may ask? Well, it is no different to the UK actually. In the UK, you don't have to register to set up a church, but you most certainly do have to have a licence from the government before you set up a TV or radio station. This is the same kind of restriction, yet we don't complain about it, we put up with it and work around it.

 
(3.) Unregistered house churches

The third type of church in China is the unregistered house church. I never went to one of these, as it would have been illegal activity on my part, which, as a Christian, it would be wrong of me to participate in.

Why do these churches believe in not registering? It is not simply because they believe that registration would mean government interference, because it doesn't. They could, if they chose to do so, register and still keep their autonomy. So why don't they do this? I can think of no other reason but that it is because they want to be free to criticise the government. The whole thing is political. Western Christians do not realise that these churches could register with the government at any time without compromising their autonomy. They keep this fact from Westerners to keep them on their side against the government.

 The Christian is taught always to obey the civil magistrate:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." (Romans 13;1,2).

The ONLY time when we should disobey the civil magistrate is when that civil magistrate forces us to sin - and then we take the (unjust) consequences of our actions rather than sin or fight the government.

All the unregistered house churches are in rebellion against the government, and we all know that:

"...rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry..." (1 Samuel 15;23).

The West ought to wake up, not believe the propaganda churned out by these illegal churches, but start supporting the registered churches in China, whether of the established TSPM churches or the independent house churches. We should never encourage rebellion and dissent.

And that goes for the Middle East as well, but that's another story.....

June 2011

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Inghamite Church

Last Lord's Day I went to the Inghamite church. Benjamin Ingham (1712-1772) was a member of the Oxford "Holy Club" along with John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield, James Hervey and several other well known names in the church. After leaving Oxford:

(1) He distanced himself from the Wesleys because of their doctrine of "Perfectionism," or "entire sanctification." This is something which is, of course, not possible whilst we are still in this world.

(2) He then joined the Moravians, but distanced himsefl from them because of their doctrine that assurance was of the essence of faith, i.e. that anything less than full assurance is no faith at all. To this end they taught their erroneous "stillness doctrine," which believed that those who lack assurance are to abstain from all means of grace (Bible reading, prayer, the Lord's Supper, etc.) until they had full assurance again. What a strange doctrine! Surely these things are meant to help us in our faith!

At the height of Ingham's influence, he formed over 80 congregations in the North of England. He believed that the members should remain in the Church of England, and that these "societies" were just set up as extra meetings for mutual edification, but eventually churches were formed which seceded from the C of E completely, the first of which was at Wheatley Lane, near Burnley, in 1750.

Later, Ingham and the rest of the elders of the church were influenced by Scotsman John Glas and his son-in-law Robert Sandeman. Their essential error was that they believed that saving faith is an intellectual assent to the truth only, and they played down the concept of an experimental knowledge of Christ in the heart.

As a result of this influence, many Inghamite churches embraced this teaching, and there was a split in 1762 over the extent to which the congregations should embrace peculiar Glasite doctrines, mostly to do with church order, such as:

- the non-use of the lot (Ingham believed that decisions should be either unanimous, or made by the use of the lot. No majority decisions were accepted)
- second marriages disqualifying one from the eldership
- the practice of footwashing

Ingham kept away from full union with the Glasites because of such doctrines, whereas James Allen, one of the other Inghamite ministers, embraced these doctrines and took many of the congregations with him into union with the Glasites, especially those from the north of the region (Cumbria and North Yorkshire).

Ingham died in 1772. The Inghamite churches united with the Old Scots Independents in 1813. The only Inghamite church left now in the UK is the one at Wheatley Lane, which celebrates its 261st anniversary next month.

Which brings me to mention my visit. Oh dear! Poor Mr Ingham! I wonder what he would be thinking if he came into the church today?! The main service started at 10.30am, and the first half hour of the service was all modern music. I sat at the back reading my Bible instead, although I didn't find myself too obtrusive, because a lot people sat down for the whole of this time anyway. At 11am, there was a distinct change in the atmosphere, and what I would term a "proper" service began. So if you ever came to visit, I suggest that you don't turn up until 11am.

The rest of the service was quite good actually. The sermon was 30 minutes long (which is about 20 minutes longer than most sermons around here!). And the senior trustee that gave it was quite good and very practical.

One major problem however, and that is a lack of seriousness. This is a trend in most churches today, not just the Inghamites. To be fair, when the communion came at the end of the service (they have communion once a month), the minister said that we should never joke or make light of this part of the service. Good. We should never joke or make light of ANY part of the service. When the situation occurs of the person up front (whether the worship leader or the person giving the sermon)  joking and having "witty banter" with the congregation, this is just not appropriate for divine worship.

We need to bring back proper worship and seriousness in worship. Benjamin Ingham would have wanted this. It has disappeared almost everywhere today, subsequently the world cannot take us seriously, if we don't take our God seriously. Let us pray for this situation in the modern churches to change. We can only lead by example as individuals.

May 2011

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Revelation TV

After spending 25 years without a TV, I decided last November to buy a TV licence and get one. The advent of Freesat was one factor in this decision. For the cost of a satellite dish (£80) and the cost of a box (£30) you can get the Freesat selection of satellite channels, plus the option of being able to manually tune in to many others. I think there are 17 so-called "Christian" channels broadcasting from satellites at 28degE (the direction in which the dish is installed), of which only 4 are on Freesat, 9 others I have programmed in manually. All are rubbish.

Having said that, there are one or two programmes that are worth watching, notably:
R.C.Sproul (9.30am Mon and Tues on UCB)
Peter Masters (5pm Sat on UCB)
Michael Youssef (4pm Sat on Daystar)
and Bible Study (9pm Mon and Tues on Revelation)

The Revelation channel attracts my interest. It is British, and run by a group of people from New Malden, which I think is near London somewhere. The good thing is that they are evangelical, young earth Creationists, and Bible believing. The Bible Study programme referred to above is one of the best programmes on television. Three people get together to study a Bible passage, and as it is live, viewers can email in their comments as the programme is progressing. They also have a phone-in time on the Monday, but the programme usually (sadly) degenerates at this point. They have had hoax callers in the past, and there is really no need for the phone-in at all in my opinion. As with all Bible study discussions, different people have different points of view, but it is a good thing to at least discuss these things, even if you don't agree with them.

However, there is a big problem with Revelation TV. Too many of the scheduled programmes are produced by Messianic Jews who have completely deluded the production team into believing that God still has a purpose for Jews (i.e. those claiming physical descendency from Abraham) today.

Romans 2-5 is so clear:
"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." (2:28-29).

All the promises that pertain to the Jews in the Old Testament never were really to all the physical descendants of Abraham, but to the true Jews, the True Israel, i.e. those who have truly been born-again of the Spirit of God, whether Jew or Gentile. Those physically descended from Abraham have no special privileges other than the fact that they were the "keepers of the oracles of God" (3:2) and were the line through which Christ would come. Now Christ has indeed come, these privileges are no longer there. Indeed their "house is left to them desolate." (Matthew 23:38).

But on the "Q&A Show" on 10/4/11, an email came in asking what happens to Jews if they die without Christ. The founder of Revelation TV Howard Conder and two guests from Jerusalem all said that "God will judge justly," deliberately going out of their way to make sure that they never said that they go to hell fire, which would be the correct answer.

On Bible Study on 18/4/11 they took time out from their usual study to have a special programme on the Passover. During this programme it was mentioned that some notes were available to anyone who asked, entitled "Passover or Easter?" This title alone "assumes the sale." It asks "Should we have Passover or should we have Easter?" It deliberately does not give the option that we shouldn't have either (which is the correct answer). We are all agreed that Easter is a pagan festival and nothing to do with Christianity, but they were all pushing for Christians to return to celebrating the Passover, and presumably all the other Jewish festivals as well. But "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). We don't need the typology of a sacrificial lamb any more. As for their argument that when the Passover was instituted in Exodus 12:14 it is stated that it was a "feast to the Lord" and that "ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever," well we do still keep it - in the celebration of the Lord's Supper or Communion.

Also, every Friday evening at 7pm they have a "Shabbat Meal." I don't know what they believe about which is the true Sabbath day - maybe they are Saturday sabbatarians, I don't know. I heard on this programme a few weeks ago, someone say "The doctrine that the church has replaced Israel is a doctrine from the pit of hell itself." Language like this is not suitable. All right, it was from one of the guests on the show, and he is entitled to his own opinion, but the presenter (a messianic Jew) never rebuked him or stopped him from displaying such an attitude live on TV.

On Bible Study 11/4/11 someone phoned in and asked "What is the difference between the Jewish religion and the Church of England?" Now, I thought is was just some ignorant person phoning in, as, I think, did the presenters. They told her that the Jews don't believe Jesus is the Messiah and the church does, which is the correct answer. However, I thought about this afterwards, and I thought maybe the person phoning in wasn't so stupid after all. They have maybe been watching Revelation TV for some time, and seen so many Jewish programmes on that she became confused. These programmes give the impression that there is little difference between Jews and Christians, whereas there is a vast difference between the two religions. Jews are going to hell (unless they embrace Christ) and truly born-again Christians (Jew and Gentile) are all going to heaven.

Last week (12/4/11) the TV station had their monthly fundraising programme "Building the Foundations." They told viewers that in March they had a £38,000 deficit, and so set up a "faith target" which they wanted to reach of £40,000. They actually got £40,700, and so they are all jubilant and saw this as an answer to prayer. I don't blame them, I would think that too, if I was in debt and suddenly the exact amount of money came in just on time. But my heart is broken. How can they get away with thinking this, and carrying on in their own sweet way with all the resources and finances available, to propagate their erroneous beliefs, whereas I (and indeed many others) haven't got these resources, so we end up with no-one listening to us? Of course it is all in the Lord's providence, but we need to think about this carefully.

April 2011

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