Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Institutional Church and Orthodoxy

Recently I've been re-reading Hans Kung, "The Catholic Church". If you've not read it then it is a must! It's got me thinking about Church and what its role is. Now its very easy to sit in our protestant chairs and point fingers and the Pope in his chair, or at Roman Catholics in general but when we look at ourselves we are becoming the very thing that we denounced from the days of corruption. Of course, 'Roman Catholic' and 'Protestant' are very broad terms, an even in one denomination there is still reasonable variance but these together, this collection of misfits are what we call Church.

Some of you may have noticed, especially those who actually know me, that I have had a slight obsession in regards to Orthodoxy recently. What does it mean to be Orthodox? What happens if someone doesn't fit into that role? What should I do to respond to that? What should the Church do in response to it? Honestly, I've not got very far. If someone teaches someone false are they immediately deemed a heretic? Every time that I think I’ve sorted it someone (thankfully) throws something into the works.

There is a certain preacher who I disagree with quite seriously. I believe him to be rather sincere but all the same to be teaching heresy. So for a while if people asked me what I though of him I would tell them straight, "He is a heretic!" Someone pointed out to me the dispute between Peter and Paul(Galatians 2:11-21) which made me question when a false teaching becomes a heresy and when that person becomes a heratic. Was Peter a heretic before he was rebuked? Would be have been removed if he continued to disagree with Paul?

The reason I bring these up here (aside from wanting your opinions) is that I feel we too long have been afraid to question what the church teaches and look to what the Bible teaches. No I am definitely not saying that its one or the other. Usually they are the same thing and the church has a pivotal role in teaching the body but what when one sees something different in the Bible in terms of secondary issues? Views on Soteriology (Calvinism, Arminianism, Governmental view, etc), or Ecclesiology (Hierarchical, etc), or Ethics (Drinking, war, Euthanasia)? The churches general line over the ages has been to expel and when they could get away with it kill those who differ and squash underfoot anyone who feels like disagreeing to deter others from doing so. There are various examples. Famously Nestorius who claimed that we shouldn't call Mary the mother of God, but rather the mother of Jesus in case it causes confusion. The Church then claimed he was teaching what is now known as Nestorianism (Jesus and Christ as two different natures)as excommunicated him as a heratic. This is pretty well disputed now but I suppose its a case for making ones viewpoints clear. How about Ramihrdus of Cambrai, the first European 'heratic'? He refused to take Communion from corrupt Priests and was killed for his troubles. Then we have the famous case of Martin Luther who was only recently removed from the list of heretics by the RC church.

Before we get on our high horses again take a modern day example. Steve Chalke. He disagrees with Penal Substitution; in fact he called it cosmic child abuse. Now most evangelicals have shunned him as a heretic (although they may not use that word). He teaches Chritus Victor, a view held but many of the Early Church Fathers so why, even if we disagree with him have we shunned him so far over a view which is equally legitimate to hold?

I suppose what I am getting at is we need to be careful to judge on what God has said and is saying. Even if the Church teaches it as wrong is that what God says? We need to be careful that our actions, thoughts and beliefs are in-line with all that God is and not just who we are told he is.

Sorry if that was a rant. I may try and order that a little better later.

Till next time.


  1. Penal Substitution is a heretical and unBiblical doctrine, so Steve is right.

    Here is a debate I'm having with a Reformed Baptist apologist on Penal Substitution:

  2. I couldn't speak for others in the evangelical world, well rather I shouldnt but I shall.

    A lot of times I have seen his name mentioned it has been by evangelicals who are sorely saddened that he has gone this way, and who pray for him to come back to orthodox faith (ie the truth about Jesus vicarious atonement) It is because he doesnt teach PSA, not because he does teach Christus Victor, that he gets sidelined and shunned I think...

    and as for Nick's comment, with all due respect if Christ's dying in my place is heretical then the Bible is heresy.

  3. Larry,

    I don't deny Christ died for our sins, nor do I deny Satisfaction-Propitiation was made to God. What I deny is the specific method popularly called Penal Substitution.

  4. Sorry Nick, I'll rephrase but the gist of my comment still stands.

    If God did not put Christ forward in my place as a propitiation to pay the penalty for my sins by bearing the wrath of the Father, then the Bible is heretical.

  5. I don't think you need to say the Bible is heretical if P-Sub is not true. Going with terms the Bible uses, I fully believe propitiation from/by Christ took place, but I don't see any Biblical evidence saying Jesus was the object of God's wrath.

  6. Hi gents,
    Thanks for your posts.

    Nick,I read the essays and found them quite interesting. However I do feel it was slightly unfair that you soley had the concluding remarks.

    As for the above discussion:
    I believe Penal substitution to be Biblical, and not all that different to the satisfaction theory. We need to be careful of a few things:

    1) Our theories on how Jesus' death atones for us do not become dogma. The Bible is clear that is does and beyond that there are theories which tend to fit the culture they are written in, but they are nothing more.

    2) Not to confuse theories. Penal Sub is not a Catholic theory, neither are all reformers calvinists. Likewise Satisfaction is not a soley catholic view.

    3) Within all these views there are an array of variations. I for example hold to penal sub but believe that ones works are proof of that salvation i.e. Christ died for our sins and payed for them. that becomes efficient when we have faith in him. Faith him him is shown by works.(james 2)

    They key point here then is to be stern about what the Bible ACTUALLY teaches (exogesis) and what we THINK it teaches (eisogesis). The Bible is very clear that we are sinners and that that sin causes a seperation from God. God sent Jesus, who died and rose again and through this we are redeemed. The hows are at best biblically vague and unless someone is clearly going against biblical truth then we must agree to disagree (with meaningful discussion of course).

    I do not believe steve to be right but neither do I deem him a heretic as it is a secondary opinion.

    Also, on a side note, this post was about church holding orthodoxy and not about atonement theories.

    thanks again,

  7. pchurcher,

    I don't have the final remarks on the debate, the affirmative side does, and his essay is due the end of this week.

    I'm glad you don't want to make this a dispute over words, but the truth is they are different concepts. And these concepts directly impact doctrines like Sola Fide, so they don't 'stand alone'.
    And P-Sub involves serious claims as well, such as Jesus getting damned in your place. Satisfaction and Catholicism don't go anywhere near that.

  8. Hi Nick,

    Sorry that I miss understood about the essays. I'll look at the other-one when its out.

    I agree that they are different concepts and shouldn't be confused but my point is that unless they are detrimental to the gospel we shouldn't split over them.

    Incidently P-sub doesn't say that Jesus was damned in our place and I agree that if it did then it is indeed heresy. What is does say is that Jesus paid the price for us. The idea of Jesus going to hell (which is a highly debated issue even within p-sub believers- see Grudem) is based on a verse from 1 Peter and is believed that Jesus went to preach is victory over sin, not that he was damned.

    It's worth reading Grudem on this, not that I agree with his conclusion but he does outline various positions and most Protestants view him as an authority.


  9. You might be shocked to hear this, but Psub certainly does teach Jesus was damned in your place. It follows logically from the fact your sins deserve not only physical death but hellfire.

    And I have many quotes available from Protestants ranging from Luther to Calvin to Sproul to MacArthur to Piper and more clearly saying Jesus was damned in the Christian's place. There are also many knowledgeable Reformed protestants on various blogs that affirm it as well.

  10. It is certainly a view which some people hold but it is not a necessary conclusion. P-sub is about, as you say, Christ dying in our place, taking our punishment for our sins. The hellfire argument is sometimes added on but is not necessarily part of p-sub.

    It is like saying that many R.Catholics taught that one can pay for thier sins financially (indulgences) which is true, however that is not to say that this is what R. Catholicism is, not that they are intrinsically linked. I can point you to various R.Catholic authors, including Popes which taught this.

    Now this is not true, as I'm sure you will admit. We must take out associations and deal with the issue itself. A large part of your issue seems to be with Calvinism too. I personally disagree with it and hold to Arminianism but again these are not linked together.