It is Impossible!

We do not like the word ‘impossible.’  We like to think that all things are possible.  Here is what some have said.  Tommy Lasorda is quoted as saying, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in man’s determination” (brainyquote.com).  Roger Clemens is quoted as saying, “I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put the time in” (ibid).  Michael Phelps is quoted as saying, “I think everything is possible as long as you put the work and time into it.  I think your mind really controls everything” (ibid).  Venus Williams, “In life, there is no such thing as impossible, it’s always possible” (ibid).  Selena, “If you have a dream, don’t let anybody take it away, and always believe that the impossible is possible” (ibid).  Miley Cyrus, “If you believe in yourself, anything is possible” (ibid).

The Bible is sometimes misused to support this idea.  Philippians 4:13 is not about winning football games, bending metal bars and tearing thick phone books.  It concerns being able to live the Christian life no matter the circumstances in life (cf. Philippians 4:11-12).  Wayne Jackson comments that “all things” means all things “consistent with Christ’s will” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 412).  Matthew 19:26 is not about man being able to do anything.  It is not about God’s making everything possible for man.  It concerns salvation of the rich (cf. Matthew 19:23-25).  Tom Wacaster comments, “Yes, it is literally impossible for a camel to go through a needle’s eye.  It would take the help of God to accomplish such a feat.  In the same way, it is impossible for a rich man to be saved, were it not for the help that God provided him in overcoming the love of money, in teaching that man the proper use of riches” (Tom Wacaster, The Majesty of Jesus, Vol. 2, p. 249). 

In the book of Hebrews we are warned that in God’s plan, and according to His nature, there are some things that are impossible. 

1.  Impossible to Renew

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6). 

What does this teach?  Does this teach that one who has fallen, after becoming a Christian, cannot be forgiven even if he repents?  Some have feared that this is the case.

However, such an interpretation seems to conflict with other passages.  Many passages encourage us that we can repent and be forgiven (e.g. Luke 15:11-32; Luke 17:3-4; Acts 8:22-24; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; James 5:19-20; 1 Corinthians 5:3-6 cf. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8; 1 John 1:9). 

This may be teaching that so long as one continues to live in sin that it remains impossible to renew them.  Wayne Jackson comments, “Under the present circumstances it was impossible to bring these apostates to repentance.  Why?  Because they kept on crucifying (a present tense participle) the Son of God afresh, and they kept on putting (present participle) Him to an open shame.  These present participles represent action that is simultaneous with that of the verb (renew).  In other words, as long as they maintain their hateful attitude toward the Son of God, they cannot be renewed to repentance (because He is the motivation for repentance)” (Wayne Jackson, Notes From The Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, pp. 142-143).

This may be teaching that there was nothing left for them under the old system.  Gary Workman comments, “The writers point in Hebrews 6:4-8 is that the Jewish sacrificial system cannot spiritually renew his Hebrew-Christian readers, if they should happen to go back” (ed. Devin Dean, Studies in Hebrews, p. 696).  Tom Wacaster comments, “If these Christians abandoned the system of Christianity and went back under the old system of things, it would be impossible for them to be brought to repentance and salvation under that system” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews, p. 219). 

This may refer to a willful choice and a hardened condition.  Jeff Archey comments, “One has made the conscious decision to leave Christ” (ed. Devin Dean, p. 132).  Robert Milligan comments, “Hatred has taken place of love in his heart, and esteeming the blood of the covenant where with he was sanctified an unholy thing, he tramples it under his feet in contempt, and if it were possible he would even crucify again the Son of God, and expose him to public reproach” (Robert Milligan, p. 223, cf. Hebrews 10:24-31). 

2.  Impossible for God to Lie

It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).

It is against His nature to lie.  His word is trustworthy (Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:13). 

Evidence of His trustworthiness is found in His promise to Abraham (Hebrews 6:13-15 cf. Genesis 22:17-18).  He kept His land promise (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:15-18; Numbers 34:1-15 cf. Joshua 21:43, 45; 23:14; 1 Kings 4:21).  He kept His promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 22:17 cf. Stars – Deuteronomy 1:10; 28:62; Sand – 2 Samuel 17:11; Isaiah 10:22).  He kept His seed promise to bless all nations (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18 cf. Acts 3:25-26). 

This should give us hope.  This hope is like an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19-20).  Neil Lightfoot comments, “Hope is to the believer what the anchor is to the ship.  Hope sustains and braces the Christian in the midst of all his trials; but when hope fails, he is left to drift aimlessly and falls victim to the merciless ocean” (Quoted by Tom Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews, p. 235).  “We have an anchor that keeps the soul / Steadfast and sure while the billows roll / Fastened to the rock which cannot move / Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love” (Song: We Have An Anchor by Priscilla J. Owen). 

3.  Impossible that Bulls and Goats Take Away Sins

It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

The annual sacrifices never ceased according to the law (cf. Leviticus 23:27, 29; Numbers 29:7, 11).  There was no once for all sacrifice.

Christ’s sacrifice was a once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:12).  It did not need to be repeated year after year (Hebrews 9:24). 

Animal sacrifices were required by God under the Mosaic system (e.g. Leviticus 1-7, 16, 23),  and apparently even before (e.g. Genesis 4:1-5 cf. Hebrews 11:4; Genesis 8:20; 12:7; 12:8; 13:18; 22:7-8; Job 1:5; Exodus 18:12).  These sacrifices reminded men of their sins (Hebrews 10:3), and were “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1).  It is true that God counted those of old forgiven when they offered these sacrifices (e.g. Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; 19:22; Numbers 15:25-26, 28).  However, the blood of these animals really in and of themselves had no power to remove sin. 

A much greater sacrifice was needed to save humanity (Hebrews 10:5-7 cf. Psalm 40:6-8).  Royce Frederick has written, “The blood of Christ flows both ways from the cross.  It flows forward to all who obey the gospel today, and if flows backward to the godly people who died before the cross” (article: The Blood Flows Both Ways by Royce Fredrick, International Gospel Teacher).  We are redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).  His blood was also for those who lived under the previous covenant (Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:15; 11:39-40).  He willingly offered Himself (John 10:18; Matthew 26:52-54; Philippians 2:5-8).  No animal ever willingly offered itself. 

4.  Impossible to Please Without Faith

For without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). 

Twenty-five characters are set forth in Hebrews 11 as examples of faith.  These men and women were not sinless.  However, they did live by faith. 

Living by faith means more than mental assent.  It includes “diligently seek(ing) Him.”  It includes trust (Hebrews 11:7), obedience (Hebrews 11:8, 17, 30), courage (Hebrews 11:23, 27), and endurance (Hebrews 11:15-16; 12:1-2). It includes living a life which pursues peace and holiness (Hebrews 11:6 cf. 12:14). May we so live.

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Denominations: Anabaptist/Mennonites, and Amish

The Mennonite World Conference (MWC) reports that there were 2.13 million Anabaptists in their fellowship in 2018 (membership, map and statistics, mwc-cmm.org).  Africa is the continent with the most members, approximately 36%.  North America is second, approximately 31% (ibid).  Anabaptist is a broad term which includes Mennonites, Amish, Brethren, Hutterites and a number of other associated churches.  There are more than 350,000 Mennonites in the United States (Who Are The Mennonites?  firstmennoniteiowacity.org). There are about 350,000 Amish in North America.  More than 62% of North American Amish live in three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana (Amish Population profile, groups.etown.edu). 

History

1.  Anabaptist

The name is derived from Greek: “Ana” = again.  “Baptist” = one who baptizes.  In refers to one who baptizes again.  It was a pejorative name used to describe those who did not accept infant baptism and insisted on believers being re-baptized who had been baptized as infants.

The name was broadly applied to various churches.  These churches were not united in doctrine.  Some sprinkled, while others immersed.  Some denied private property and lived in communes, while others did not.  Some relied on an “inner light” to guide them and believed that the Holy Spirit provided guidance apart from the word of God; others rejected this idea.  Some were Adventists, while most were not.  Some were Arian, while most were not. Some were polygamist, while most were not.  Some may have practiced the truth, or been very close to it; others were not.

However, there were certain things that they did have in common.  One was the rejection of infant baptism.  Another was the autonomy of the local church.  Many believed in the separation of church and state. 

The Mennonites and Amish both have their roots in the Anabaptist of Sixteenth Century Europe.  Therefore, we will study them together. 

2.  Menno Simons (1496-1561)

He was a Roman Catholic priest in Friesland, Netherlands.  “Though educated in a monastic school and trained for ministry, he had never even touched the Scriptures.  ‘I feared if I should read them they would mislead me,’ he later wrote, ‘Behold! Such a stupid preacher was I for nearly two years.’” (Menno Simons, christianitytoday.com).

He began to question transubstantiation.  “Finally, I got the idea to examine the New Testament diligently.  I had not gone very far when I discovered that we were deceived” (ibid). 

Next, he began to question infant baptism.  An Anabaptist, named “Sicke Freerks Snijder was executed in 1531 for having been re-baptized as an adult” (Menno Simons and the Mennonites, christianinstitutes.org).  This prompted him to examine the scriptures.  He said, “I examined the scriptures diligently and pondered them earnestly but could find no report of infant baptism… I realized that we were deceived” (christianitytoday.com).

Some Anabaptists were violent revolutionaries.  In 1534-1535 the city of Munster, Germany was taken over by anabaptist and proclaimed the “New Jerusalem.” All who refused adult rebaptism were expelled from the city. Polygamy was adopted (Munster Anabaptist, gameo.org; Munster Rebellion, military.wikia.org; Ryan Reeves, Menno Simmons YouTube). In 1535, 300 Anabaptists died while trying to take Oldeklooster (or Bloemkamp), a monastery near Bolsward, Friesland, Netherlands.  Among them was a Peter Simons.  Some historians believe that this was Menno’s brother.  “This was a life-changing event for Menno.  While blaming the leaders who had misled these poor people, Menno also blamed himself for not having shown them the right way” (christianhistoryinstitute.org).

In 1536, Menno Simons left Roman Catholicism.  He began to work with Anabaptist.  He preached that they should not fight with physical weapons (christianitytoday.com).

During the 1700’s and 1800’s, many Mennonites fled religious turmoil in Europe and sought freedom in the New World” (Mennonite Church, ohiohistorycentral.org). 

3.  Jakob Ammann (1644-between 1708 and 1730).

Jakob Ammann was an Anabaptist/Mennonite leader in Switzerland/France.  In 1693, he became concerned over the lack of discipline among the Swiss Mennonites/Brethren.  He took issue with Hans Reist and Benedict Schneider over the fact that the ban (excommunication) was not being implemented against those who had left the church. 

This led to division among them.  Those who were with Ammann became known as Amish. 

Other issues developed.  “Ammann was highly influenced by Dutch Mennonite beliefs, and instituted the practice of feet washing in connection with communion, which was not practiced by the Swiss Mennonites.  He also increased communion to twice a year, instead of the Swiss practice of annual communion services” (Jakob Ammann, en-academic.com).     Later in life, Jakob regretted the division.  He desired reconciliation.  “Despite admissions of being rash and overzealous, the Amish would not give up the belief of practicing ban.  Because of this, the main body of Amish and the Swiss Mennonites were never able to reconcile” (ibid). 

“Many Amish and Mennonites accepted William Penn’s offer of religious freedom as part of Penn’s ‘holy experiment’ of religious tolerance.  They settled in what later became known as Pennsylvania.  The first sizeable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720’s or 1730’s” (Amish History, lancasterpa.com). 

Authority

1.  Bible

I found this statement from the Mennonites, “The Anabaptist and their Mennonite heirs share the protestant principle: Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”).  As such their primary authoritative referent is the Bible, rather than scripture plus tradition as understood by Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy” (Authority, Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia online, gameo.org).  This seems to be the Amish position as well. 

2.  Confession

The Mennonites have Confessions.  Examples are Schleitheim (1527), Dordrecht (1632), and the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995).

The Amish have the Ordnung (meaning order or discipline).  These are unwritten rules for daily living (What is the Amish Ordnung?, amishamerica.com).  These concern such things as dress, hair and facial hair, recreation, technology, and transportation (6 Examples of Amish Ordnung, amishamerica.com).  The rules vary from community to community (The Amish: 10 Things You Might Not Know by Harry Scull, Jr., usatoday.com).  They affirm the Dordrecht Confession (1632) before baptism (Beliefs/Amish Studies, groups.etown.edu).

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Salvation

“We receive God’s salvation when we repent of sins and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord” (Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 8). 

2.  Baptism

“In most (Mennonite congregations, B.H.) baptism is by pouring” (Frank Mead, Handbook of Denominations, p. 149).

“We confess that all penitent believers, who, through faith, regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, are made one with God… must, upon scriptural confession of faith… be baptized with water” (Dordrecht Confession, 1632, Article 7).  Notice that being one with God comes before baptism.     “Baptism by water is a sign that a person has repented, received forgiveness, renounced evil, and died to sin” (Confession of Faith, Article 11).  Notice it is a sign that one has received forgiveness. 

3.  Lord’s Supper

“The Lord’s Supper is served twice a year in almost all Mennonite congregations… most also observe the feet-washing ordinance in connection with the Supper, after which they salute one another with the ‘kiss of peace.’  The sexes separated in the last two ceremonies” (Frank Mead, p. 149). 

4.  Pacifism

“As disciples of Christ, we do not prepare for war, or participate in war or military service (Confession of Faith, Article 22). 

5.  Pictures and Technology

“Old order Amish and Mennonites forbid photography of their people based on the Second Commandment, Exodus 20:4” (Amish Faith Beliefs, lancasterpa.com).

Some Amish believe that James 1:27 “Means to stay away from things the ‘world’ does – like driving autos, having TV’s, going to movies, wearing make-up, and the enjoying the conveniences of electricity and phones.  They often use generators to create power to run their equipment and use horses, instead of tractors to do farm work” (Who Are the Amish, and What Are Their Beliefs?, gotquestions.com).  Not all so believe. Those who do are not completely anti-technology, but seek to limit technology in their lives. “The Amish don’t believe technology is evil in and of itself…What concerns the Amish is that unchecked or used improperly, technology can negatively impact, and even destroy the things they hold most dear…For example, they do not own automobiles because they believe the ability to move quickly and travel longer distances would cause them to move farther apart from each other, and separating families and eroding their tight-knit community” (Dallin Crump, What the Amish are teaching me about technology, dallincrump.medium.com). “Many outsiders assume the Amish reject all new technology. But that’s not true…The difference between the Amish people and most other Americans is the deliberation that takes place before deciding to embrace new technology…The Amish don’t automatically embrace what’s new, they evaluate it and decide if it’s a good fit for the lives they want to live” (Jeff Brady, Amish Community Not Anti-Technology Just More Thoughtful, npr.org). “Amish see threats in technologies which provide easy contact with worldly ideas and values (television, automobile), or those which break down the family or community, by serving as distractions or eliminating the need of relying on others in one’s community. Amish also feel that certain labor-saving technologies take more than they give, robbing their children of the ability to learn the value of hard work, for example” Do Amish Use Technology, amishamerica.com).

6.  Falling From Grace

“While Mennonites hold tightly to the belief that we are saved through God’s powerful gift of grace, we don’t subscribe to the ‘eternal security,’ or ‘once saved, always saved’ theology” (Eternal Security, thirdwaycafe.com).

7.  Original Sin

“Anabaptists have a unique approach to Original Sin… They affirm the historical reality of Original Sin, but deny that its power over the individual is final or absolute… What is the view of Anabaptists regarding the salvation of children?  Generally, it is held that while children are conceived and born in sin, they are protected by the grace of God until such a time as they are able to take a conscious and informed stand, in confession and action, for or against the saving work of Christ” (Salvation, gameo.org). 

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Determining God’s Will

How does one determine God’s will for one’s life?  Many are looking for subtle signs.  Consider: (1) I once heard of someone who was trying to decide which church to attend.  One day, while driving through town, the person noticed a rainbow in the sky.  Then, he noticed a church building was in sight as he looked at the rainbow.  He determined from this that it was God’s will for him to attend that church.  It was a church that was teaching and practicing things which were odds with the scripture. When an attempt was made to reason with this one from scripture, the reply came “but, I saw the rainbow.” Was this a sign from God? Or a drawing of unwarranted conclusions? (2) I once knew of someone who had been so busy with her hobby that she seldom had time for regular attendance and involvement in the local church.  She promised that she would slow down and make time for involvement in the local church, and its work.  She did for a short period of time.  However, an opportunity came along in her hobby.  This was taken as a sign that it was God’s will to once again get more involved in this hobby.  The hobby took more and more time.  Little, if any, time was left for the local church. In truth, if all members behaved as she, then there would be no local church. Was it a sign from above? Or a temptation from below? Or wishful thinking?

God’s will is not so subtle.  He has revealed His will to us.  Micah said, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).  Solomon said, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  Paul taught, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 cf. 5:11-22).  He stated, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  He has revealed His will to us in the scriptures.  It is our responsibility to learn His will and do it (Ezra 7:10; Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:22)

No, I am not denying that God providentially operates in this world.  He can open doors, and He can close doors. 

However, His basic will for us is revealed in His word.  One should not set aside the plain teaching of God’s word to follow subtle signs which he infers from nature.

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Denominations: Anglican and Episcopal Churches (part 2)

Authority

1.  The Bible

“The Bible is acknowledged as the ‘ground’ on which any expression of Christian faith must be founded” (A Building With Foundations, anglicancommunion.org).  “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, or may be proved to be thereby, is not to be required of any man, that is should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation” (Article 6 of the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion). 

Concerning the Apocrypha, “the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish doctrine” (Article 6).

Concerning the Old Testament, “as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor civil precepts… yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral” (Article 7). 

2.  Three Creeds (ancient)

“The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’ Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture” (Article 8).

3.  Thirty-Nine Articles

“In 1571, Parliament made adherence to the 39 Articles a legal requirement, and though the statue no longer holds, they remain the basis of Anglican Faith in England to this day” (The 39 Articles, britainexpress.com).  “In 1571, the Thirty-Nine Articles were finalized and placed in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer… The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion were established to show the difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England” (The 39 Articles of Religion, englishhistory.net).

4.  Catechisms

“There are also catechisms in which a series of questions and answers are posed to young people or adults who seek baptism or confirmation normally set out, in context of teaching, key beliefs which a professing Anglican might be expected to hold.  “To Be A Christian” is the latest Anglican Catechism.  It is copyrighted 2020. 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Original Sin

They believe in original sin.  “Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam… but it is the fault and the corruption of the nature of every man.  Man… is of his own nature inclined to evil… every person born into this world… deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.  And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated… although there is no condemnation for them that believe and is baptized” (Article 9). 

They believe that man of his own lacks free will.  “The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith… without the grace of God by Christ preventing (going before – B.H.) us, that we may have good will” (Article 10).

2.  Justification

“We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works of deservings.  Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort” (Article 11). 

3.  Predestination

Article 17 concerns predestination.  It was not especially helpful to me.

Who do they believe is elect?  “If you want to know whether you are elect, all you need to know is whether or not you have been baptized” (The Anglican View of Predestination, Part IV, conciliaranglican.com). 

4.  Two Sacraments

“Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effective signs of grace, and God’s good will toward us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.  There are two sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, baptism and the Supper of the Lord” (Article 25). 

5.  Baptism

“Baptism is not only a sign of profession… It is also a sign of Regeneration of New Birth… that they receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church.  The Promises of the forgiveness of sins, and of adoption to be the sons of God” (Article 27).  Notice that their justification by faith only does not exclude the necessity of baptism.  

The young are baptized.  “The Baptism of young children is… to be retained in the Church” (Article 27).

Sprinkling is common.  “Baptisms by immersion are not common in the Episcopal Church” says Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck, Vicar, The Episcopal church of Advocate, Carrboro, North Carolina (Baptism by Immersion, theadvocatechurch.org).   

6.  Lord’s Supper

“The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death” (Article 28).

“Transubstantiation… in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture… and hath given occasion to many superstitions” (Article 28). 

“The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both parts of the Lord’s sacraments, by Christ’s ordinances and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike” (Article 30, Note: The Roman Catholics have at times offered the bread alone to the Laity and have withheld the Cup arguing that the blood was in the flesh.  The intent may been to prevent members from spilling the cup – B.H.).

“The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all sins of the whole world… wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it is commonly said, that priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits” (Article 31). 

7.  Sin after Baptism

Man may depart from the grace he has received.  Thank God, he can also be forgiven.  “We may arise again, and amend our lives” (Article 16). 

8.  Purgatory, etc.

“The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well as Images as of Relics and also the Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented and grounded upon no warranty of scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God” (Article 22). 

9.  Marriage of Priest

“Bishops, Priests and Deacons, are not commanded by God’s Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at the own discretion” (Article 32). 

10.  Tradition

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly alike… Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, abolish, ceremonies or Rights of the church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying” (Article 34). 

Differences: Anglican v. Episcopal

1.  Slightly different prayer book and 39 Articles of Religion

While they are close, there are slight differences.  One difference is that the U.S. version of the 39 Articles omits reference to the king (Article 37).  The Anglican version reads, “The King’s Majesty hath chief power in this realm of England, and other his Dominions… The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.”  The U.S. version reads, “The power of the civil magistrate extendeth to all men… in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual.”

 2.  Doctrine   

“In regards to doctrinal beliefs, the Anglican Church is far more conservative than the Episcopal Church” (The Anglican Church and The Episcopal Church, differences.net).  In 2016, the Anglican communion decided to temporarily suspend the Episcopal Church U.S.A. from full participation in the Anglican Communion.  “The move comes at the behest of conservative bishops – mostly from Africa – who are unhappy with the American church’s stance on same-sex marriage and gay clergy” (Tom Gjelten, Anglican Communion Temporarily Suspends U.S. Episcopal Church, January 15, 2016, npr.org).

Organization

1.  Anglican Communion

“The Anglican Communion is an organization of autonomous national (or regional – B.H.) churches connected with the Church of England” (Anglican organization, religiousfacts.com).  There are 38 provinces which make up the Anglican Communion.  Each province is overseen by a chief Bishop or Archbishop, also known as a Primate (Jessica Elgot, What is the Anglican Communion and Why is it Under Threat?, theguardian.com).  Each province is made up of Dioceses or districts of churches called parishes.  Each Diocese is overseen by a Bishop (The Episcopal Church: Who We Are, Past and Present, stjohnsroanoke.org).  In each parish is under a priest called Vicar or Rector (vocabulary, anglican.org).

2.  Church of England

“The Church of England is headed by the King or Queen of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury”  (Anglican Organization, religionfacts.com).  “The role (of King or Queen – B.H.)  is primarily symbolic, but the King or Queen of England does have a hand in selecting the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as legal jurisdiction over all properties of the Church of England.  The British Prime Minister plays a more significant role, as he nominates his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury” (ibid).  The Archbishop is considered the spiritual and moral leader of the Anglican Communion.  He is considered first among equals.  He has no direct authority over other Provinces.  “His authority is similar to that of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople with respect to Greek Orthodox churches” (ibid). 

3.  Episcopal Church U.S.A.

The Episcopal Church is organized much the same way.  It has a presiding Bishop or Primate.  It is organized into Diocese which are overseen by Bishops.  It is explained, “In the English colonies of North America, the Church of England was often referred to by other Christians as ‘that church with Bishops.”  The Greek word for bishop is episkopos, and in the common speech the colonial Church of England became known as ‘the Episcopal Church”… Thus, our very name means that the Episcopal Church is structured around bishops.  Episcopal bishops, like bishops in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, trace their authority all the way back to the generation of Christ’s apostles, through a historical process of the laying on of hands known as apostolic succession” (The Episcopal Church: Who We Are, Past and Present, stjohnsroanoke.org).

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Denominations: Anglican and Episcopal Churches (part 1)

The Anglican Church numbers about 85 million (Countries With the Largest Anglican Populations, worldatlas.com).  The top five countries, by number, are: (1) Nigeria; (2) United Kingdom; (3) Uganda; (4) Sudan; (5) Australia.  The United States is seventh, counting the Episcopal Church U.S.A. (ibid).

The Episcopal Church U.S.A. numbers 1.8 million as of 2019 (2019 Parochial reports show continued decline by Egan Millard, episcopalnewsservice.org).  It is rapidly declining.  An Episcopal priest, Rev. Dwight Zscheile suggests, “At this rate, there will be no one in worship by around 2050 in the entire denomination” (ibid). 

History

1.  Arthur and Catherine

Arthur married Catherine in 1501.  Arthur was the Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VII, and the apparent heir to the English Crown.  Catherine of Aragon was the daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, who reigned in Spain.  She was also the aunt of Charles V, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  The marriage lasted only a few months.  Arthur died of some illness in 1502.

2.  Henry VIII and Catherine

Spain did not want to lose this alliance with England.  It was politically valuable to Ferdinand and Isabella.

England did not want to lose the dowry.  Half of the promised dowry had been received, but it must be returned if Catherine returned.  The other half of the dowry was still to be received.

The Pope was petitioned to allow Prince Henry VIII to marry Catherine.  His approval was needed since Henry would be marrying the widow of his elder brother.  This was not ordinarily allowed by the Roman Catholic Church.  Catherine insisted that the marriage had never been consummated.  Pope Julius II granted this dispensation in 1504.

The two were married in 1509, after young Henry had matured.  The marriage occurred shortly after Henry had become King of England.

Over time, Henry became convinced that the marriage had not been pleasing to God.  The marriage had produced multiple miscarriages and still births.  Catherine was pregnant at least six times.  However, only one child survived, a girl, Mary.  No male heirs survive (The pregnancies of Katherine of Aragon by Sarah Bryson, tudorsociety.com).  Henry read Leviticus 20:21 and 18:16.  He was convinced that the papal dispensation, which allowed him to marry Catherine, should never have been granted. 

3.  Anne Boleyn

Sometime around 1525-1526, Henry became infatuated with Anne.  She served as a maid of honor to Catherine.  She refused to be Henry’s mistress, as her sister Mary had been.  She wanted more.  She wanted to marry Henry.

Henry petitioned Pope Clement VIII for an annulment for his marriage to Catherine (c. 1527).  This placed the Pope in a difficult position.  It was difficult politically.  Catherine’s parents ruled in Spain.  Her nephew was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  It was difficult ecclesiastically.  He was being asked to say that a previous Pope was wrong in allowing the marriage to Catherine.  This potentially would erode confidence in the church.  In 1531, the annulment petition was denied.  Moreover, Henry was threatened with excommunication if he married Anne.

Henry would not be deterred.  He banished Catherine from his presence.  She lived out her days in Kimbolton Castle.  Henry married Anne.  Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, annulled the marriage to Catherine in 1533. 

4.  Break with Rome

Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534.  If officially removed the Church of England from papal authority.  It also declared the King and his successors to be “the Supreme head of the Church of England.”    He had at one time been a defender of the Roman Catholic Church, and papal authority.  In 1521, Henry was declared “Defender of the Faith” (Fidei Defensor) by Pope Leo X, after Henry wrote a book entitled Defence of the Seven Sacraments (Assertio Septem Sacramentorum). “Henry’s treatise was intended as a defense of the church and the supremacy of the papacy from Luther’s ideas and writings” (Defender of the Faith, blogs.bl.uk).  [Note: The title Defender of the Faith (FD or FID DEF) was carried over into the Church of England.  It is used to refer to the head of the Church of England].

The Church of England under Henry VIII might be considered Catholicism without the Pope.  Doctrinally there was little obvious difference.  “Henry did not intend any real reformation within the English Church.  During his reign there was a cleavage from the papacy, but there was not any official acceptance of Protestantism” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 271).  “Under the initial leadership of King Henry VIII, the Church of England broke with the Pope… not with the Catholic faith” (Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 1, p. 887).

Wealth was transferred.  In 1539, Parliament closed all Roman Catholic monasteries in England.  The land and possessions were sold. This is called the Dissolution of the Monasteries. This further separated England from Rome. 

5.  Edward VI

Henry VIII had a difficult time producing a male heir.  Catherine produced a daughter, Mary.  Anne Boleyn produced a daughter, Elizabeth.  His third wife, Jane Seymour, gave him a male heir, Edward.  Henry married three more times, but had no more children. 

Edward was not yet ten when his father died.  He had been tutored and would continue to be influenced by Protestants.  During his short reign (1547-1553) the Church of England became more Protestant. 

6.  Mary and Elizabeth

Mary’s reign (1553-1558) attempted to bring England back under the Papacy.  Protestants referred to her as “Bloody Mary” due to the persecution of Protestants and reformers.  Archbishop Cranmer and bishops Ridley and Latimer were among those who died during her bloody reign.

Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603) removed England from Rome once again.  In 1559, another Act of Supremacy was passed.  “In her efforts to bring peace to Britain she did all she could to satisfy both the Catholics and the Reformers.  In her chapel she had a crucifix, burned candles and had private mass, but she pleased the Protestants outwardly by making it possible for them to have legal existence… As Luther had retained… many outward forms of Romanism, Elizabeth seemed to want to follow this pattern and not offend the Catholics any more than necessary.  It is likely that she sincerely desired a middle ground position” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 274).

7.  American   

“As the colonies broke with England, many who had been Anglican took the name Episcopalian and established the Episcopal Church.  Their doctrine and organization, however, remained that of the Church of England” (Mattox, p. 304).  The Episcopalian Church USA (ECUSA) or officially The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA) is a part of the Anglican communion.  However, it is self-governing.  The national headquarters is located in New York, New York (episcopalcafe.com).

[The following works are among the works consulted in presenting this material: Owen Chadwick, The Reformation; Anglican Community, Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 1 © 1979; Charles M. Jacobs, The Story of the Church; F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom; Susan Doran, Henry VIII and the Reformation, bl.uk; Barton Gingerich, What Do I Need to Know About the Anglican Church?  Christianity.com; Crystal Ponti, Who Were The Six Wives of Henry VIII, history.com; Catherine of Aragon, biography.com; Anne Boleyn, hrp.org.uk; Ryan Reeves YouTube Channel Historical Theology For Everyone, Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary].

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Thoughts on Backsliding

John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a Puritan preacher in England.  He is best known for writing The Pilgrim’s Progress (From This World to That Which is Come), in 1678.  The book sold perhaps 100,000 copies in its first 15 years (Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress – The British Library, bl.uk). 

In this book, Bunyan lists four reasons some backslide.  Consider:

1.  “Though the conscience of such men are awakened, yet their minds are not changed: Therefore, when the power of guilt weareth away, that which provoked them to be religious ceaseth” (Part one, p. 175). 

It is true that some never develop the love that they should for God, Christ, and His word.  The greatest commandment is to love God with all of one’s being (Matthew 22:36-37 cf. Deuteronomy 6:5).  Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).  Some do not love the truth as they should (Psalm 119:97; Matthew 13:44-46; 15:7-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:1-5).

2.  “Another reason is, they have slavish fears that do over-master them; I speak now of the fears that they have of men: For the fear of men bringeth a snare” (p. 176).     Jesus taught, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).  John tells us, “Even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43 cf. 7:13; 9:22).

3.  “The shame that attends Religion lies also as a block in their way; they are proud and haughty, and Religion in their eye is low and contemptible” (p. 176).

Some think that they have outgrown the message.  They think that they are wiser than the message.  Paul writes, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).  The Proverbs reads, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12 cf. Proverbs 3:5). 

4.  “Guilt, and to meditate terror, are grievous to them” (p. 176).

Many do not like to look in the mirror of God’s word (cf. James 1:22-25; Hebrews 4:12).  We are told, “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed (John 3:19-20).  Many do not want to have their sins pointed out to them. 

Bunyan also lists nine manners (or stages) of backsliding.

1.  “They draw off their thoughts… from the remembrance of God, death and judgment to come” (p. 177). 

They cease to think about spiritual matters.  They neglect and even avoid such thoughts.

However, of the blessed man, we’re told, “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

2.  “Then they cast off by degrees private duties, as closet-prayer, curbing their lusts, watching, sorrow for sin and the like” (p. 177).

They stop spending time with God.  They cease spending time in prayer and Bible study.

They change their attitudes about sin.  Remember, we are to “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). 

3.  “Then they shun the company of lively and warm Christians” (p. 177).

They avoid true Christians, They are no longer comfortable in their presence.

Fellowship is important.  The early church spent much time together (Acts 2:42-47).  We are taught to “exhort one another daily… lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). 

4.  “After that they grow cold to public duty” (p. 177).

They begin to miss the assemblies of the church.  They do not have the attitude of David, who said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1).

Attendance is important.  We are taught, “let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves… but exhorting one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

5.  “Then they begin to pick holes, as we say, in the coats of some of the Godly” (p. 177).

They begin to find fault with members of the church.  This may be an attempt to justify their lack of involvement or attendance.  Often the preacher or elders become the target.

We should not be like this.  We should use our words to build up, not tear down (Ephesians 4:29).  Some do not endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:29).  Paul warned, “If you bite and devour one another, beware let you be consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15).  Many churches have been destroyed by murmurers. 

6.  “Then they begin to adhere to, and associate themselves with carnal, loose, and wanton men” (p. 178). 

We are warned, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  The Proverbs says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20 cf. Psalm 1).

7,  “Then they give way to carnal and wanton discourses in secret; and glad are they if they can see such things in any that are counted honest, that they may the more boldly do it through their example” (p. 178). 

Let us remember that there are no real secret sins.  You may hide things from men; but, you cannot hide things from God (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 2:16; 1 Timothy 5:24-25; Hebrews 4:13).

Let us also remember that other men’s sins do not justify our own (Matthew 15:14; Exodus 23:2).

8.  “After this, they begin to play with little sins, openly” (p. 178).

They test the waters.  They see how much they can get away with in the open. 

9.  “And then being hardened, they show themselves as they are.”

They become bolder.  They no longer blush at sin (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12; Proverbs 30:20).

However, let us remember, “Sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).  If one lets sin grow in his life, this is where it leads.

Question: Do you see yourself in any of these points?  If so, it is time to repent.

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Denominations: Lutheran Church (Part 2)

Name

The name Lutheran appears to have first been used by Catholic opposition.  One Lutheran source says, “It is a mistake if it is believed that Lutherans took this name for themselves.  History reports to us instead that they were first given this name by their opponents in order to insult them.  Dr. Eck, who held that well known disputation with Luther in Leipzig, was the first to call those who held to Luther’s teachings by that name” (C.F. W. Walther translated by Mark Nispel concerning the Name Lutheran, lutherguest.org).  Another has written, “The name ‘Lutheran’ was coined as a pejorative by the papal theologian Johann Eck sometime between 1520 and 1522.   It was also used by Pope Hadrian VI, the successor to Leo X” (Larry Beane, on the Name “Lutheran”, gottesdienst.org).

In time the name was adopted.  Kyle Butt writes, “This name, meant originally to castigate and mock the adherents of the new movement, was soon adopted as a badge of honor” (Kyle Butt, What the Bible Says About the Lutheran Church, p. 1). 

It is clear that Martin Luther did not want this.  He wrote Admonition Against Insurrection in 1522.  In it he pleaded, “I ask that my name be left silent and people not call them Lutherans, but rather Christians.  Who is Luther?  The doctrine is not mine.  I have been crucified for no one.  St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 would not suffer that the Christians should call themselves of Paul or of Peter, but Christians.  How should I, a poor stinking bag of worms, become so that the children of Christ are named with my unholy name?  It should not be dear friends.  Let us extinguish all factious names and be called Christians…” (gottesdienst.org). 

Authority

1.  The Bible

“1.  We believe, teach, and confess that the sole standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone… other writings… must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures…” (Epitome of the Formula of Concord, p. 1).

2.  Three Creeds (ancient)

“2. And because… false teachers and heretics arose, and symbols, i.e. brief, succinct [categorical] confessions, were composed against them in the early church… namely the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, we pledge ourselves to them, and hereby reject all heresies and dogmas which, contrary to them have been introduced into the Church of God” (ibid, p. 2).

3.  Confession (modern)

“3. As to schisms in matters of faith, however, which have occurred in our time, we regard as the unanimous consensus and declaration of our Christian faith and confession… the first, unaltered Augsburg confession, delivered to the Emperor Charles V at Augsburg in the year 1530… together with its Apology and the Articles composed at Smalcald in the year 1537, and subscribed at that time by the chief theologians” (ibid, p. 2). 

4.  Catechisms

“3.  …we also confess the small and large catechism of Dr. Luther, as they are included in Luther’s works, as the Bible of the laity” (ibid, p. 2, oursaviorschadron.com). 

“The Lutheran Church – Missouri: Synod accepts the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and the LCMS subscribes unconditionally to all the symbolic books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the true unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.  We accept the Lutheran confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580 because they are drawn from the word of God, and on that account we regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod” (The Lutheran Confessions, lcms.org). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Original Sin

They believe in original sin.  “This heredity evil is the guilty [by which it comes to pass] that, by reason of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are all in God’s displeasure, and by nature children of wrath (Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, p. 7. lcms.org). 

They believe that man lacks free-will until regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  “The pure teachers of the Augsburg confession have taught that by the fall of our first parents man was so corrupted that in divine things pertaining to our conversion and the salvation of the soul he is by nature blind, that, when the Word of God is preached, he either does nor can understand it, but regards it as foolishness; also he does not draw himself nigh to God… until he is converted… is regenerated and renewed, by the power of the Holy Ghost through the word… out of pure grace, without an cooperation of his own” (ibid, p. 15). 

2.  Two Sacraments

Lutherans believe there to be two sacraments.  “The two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are not merely signs or memorials, but channels through which God bestows his forgiving and empowering grace upon humankind” (Frank Mead and Samuel Hill, Handbook of Denominations, p. 140).

3.  Baptism   

a.  Purpose.  Modern Lutherans believe that baptism is important.  “Baptism is one of the miraculous means of grace (another is God’s word as it is written or spoken), through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart” (Frequently Asked Questions – Doctrine, Baptism FAQ’s, lcms.org).  However, they do not believe that baptism is absolutely essential to salvation.  “The LCMS does not believe that Baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation… Still, baptism dare not be despised or willfully neglected, since it is explicitly commanded by God and has His precious promises attached to it.  It is not a mere ‘ritual’ or ‘symbol,’ but a powerful means of grace by which God grants faith and the forgiveness of sins” (ibid). 

Martin Luther seems to have held a different position.  He said in his small catechism, “What gifts or benefits does baptism grant?  It brings about the forgiveness of sins… and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it” (Small Catechism, catechism.cph.org).  The Augsburg Confession which was written in 1530 by Martin Luther’s supporter and close friend Philip Melanchthon reads, “Of baptism they (our churches, see preface of work) teach that it is necessary to salvation… they condemn the Anabaptist who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without baptism” (Article IX, christian.net). 

Kyle Butt has written, “Modern religious people mistakenly identify their version of ‘faith only’ with Luther’s version of ‘faith only.’  The truth of the matter is, “Luther never taught that a person could be saved by believing in God without being baptized in water.  Luther’s teaching focused on the fact that meritorious works could not earn a person’s salvation… He did not, however, teach that a person could be saved without being baptized … unfortunately, the Lutheran Church (both ELCA and LCMS) seems to be changing its beliefs about the necessity of baptism for salvation of sinners” (Kyle Butt, What the Bible Says About the Lutheran Church, pp. 16-17).

b.  Candidate.  Infant baptism is practiced.  “Of the baptism of children we hold that children ought to be baptized” (The Smalcald Article, p. 18, oursaviorschadron.com).  “Infants are included in ‘all nations’ who are to be baptized (Matthew 28:19)” (Baptism FAQ’s lcms.org).  “We believe that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant… Lutherans do not believe that only these baptized as infants receive faith.  Faith can also be created in a person’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s (written or spoken) word” (ibid). 

c.  Mode.  Lutherans believe “the manner of Baptism (that is, immersion, pouring, sprinkling, etc.) does not determine whether a baptism is valid” (ibid).

However, Luther penned, “Baptism, then signifies two things – death and resurrection… when the minister immerses the child in the water, baptism signifies death.  When he draws the child forth again, baptism signifies life” (Martin Luther, A Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Translated by Albert T.W. Steinhaeuser, pdp.sjsu.edu). 

4.  The Lord’s Supper

Lutheran’s believe in consubstantiation.  It is the idea that the real presence of Christ’s body and blood are present with the bread and wine.  It differs from transubstantiation in that it is not a transformation which comes through the priests.  The Augsburg Confession states, “Of the supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and distributed to those who eat of the Supper of the Lord and they reject those who teach otherwise” (Article X).  Philip of Hesse tried to unite protestant. A meeting occurred at Marburg in October 1529.  The Marburg Colloquy failed to produce the desired unity.  “Luther would not budge from his position that the plain meaning of Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:26 was that His body is somehow literally present with the bread of communion.  Zwingli and his followers remained convinced that communion is a memorial of Christ’s death and His actual body is not present (What Was the Marburg Colloquy?, gotquestions.org).  The ELCA no longer binds this.

5.  The Five Solas

(1) Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).  The Bible alone is the ultimate source of authority.  (2) Sola Fide (Faith alone) man is saved through faith alone.  (3) Sola Gratia (grace alone) Man is saved by the grace of God alone, through faith.  (4) Sola Christus (Christ alone) Jesus Christ alone is Savior.  (5) Soli De Gloria (to the glory of God alone).  Man is to live for the glory of God alone (Exploring the Five “Solas” of the Reformation, (bethesdalutheranchurch.com). 

6.  Falling From Faith

“The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, teaches that it is possible for a believer to fall from faith… A person may be restored to faith… by repenting of his or her sin and unbelief and trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation (Frequently Asked Questions – Doctrine, lcms.org).

7.  Amillennial

“Lutherans understand the 1,000 years of Revelation 20:11-15 to be a figurative reference to Christ’s reign here and now in the hearts and lives of believers” (ibid).

Organization

“Congregations are united in synods composed of pastors and lay representatives elected by the congregations and have authority as granted by the synod constitution.  In some instances there are territorial districts or conferences instead of synods, operating in the same manner… Synods (conferences or districts) are united in a general body that may be national, or even international.  Some of these general bodies are legislative in nature, some consultive…” (Mead, p. 140). 

Types of Lutherans

1.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest branch of Lutheranism in America.  It is based in Chicago, IL. 

2.  The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) is the second largest branch of Lutheranism in America.  It is based in Kirkwood, MO.  Unlike the ECLA, the LCMS do not ordain women as pastors; they take a stronger stand on homosexuality; they take a stronger stand on the inerrancy of the scriptures; they hold closed communion (Frequently Asked Questions-Denominations, lcms.org).

3.  The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) is the third largest branch of Lutheranism in America.  It is based in Waukesha, WI.  Unlike the LCMS, the WELS do not allow women suffrage in the church; they deny pastoral ministry is specifically instituted by the Lord in contrast to other forms of public ministry; they hold to a stricter understanding of fellowship (ibid).

4.  There are other groups (See Frank Mead, Handbook of Denominations).

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Denominations: Lutheran Church (Part 1)

   The Lutheran World Federation reports that there were more than 77 million Lutherans in the world, and 3.6 million in North America in 2019 (lutheranworld.org).  However, it should be kept in mind that the Lutheran church is greatly divided.  Not all Lutheran churches are members of the Lutheran World Federation.  For example: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is the largest branch of the Lutheran church in America, is a member.  Other churches, such as – The Lutheran Church –Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), are not.  These two groups, if counted, would add between two and three millions.  The country with the greatest numbers of Lutherans is Germany, almost 11 million (lutheranworld.org).  “Lutheranism is the largest religious group in Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, and Namibia.  Lutheranism is also a state religion in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands” (The Lutheran Church -15 Facts to Know About Martin Luther, Lutheran History and Beliefs, christianity.com).  In the U.S. the greatest concentration of Lutherans are in northern states.  The states with the greatest percentage of Evangelical Lutherans are: North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin (thearda.com, 2010).  Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod members find their greatest percentage in these states: Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota (thearda.com, 2010).  The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s Top States by Percentage of Concentration are: Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, and Nebraska (thearda.com, 2010).

History

1.  Sale of Indulgences    What is an indulgence?  Philip Schaff explains, “In the legal language of Rome, indulgentia is a term for amnesty or remission of punishment.  In ecclesiastical Latin, an indulgence means the remission of the temporal (not the eternal) punishment of sin (not of sin itself) on condition of penitence and the payment of money to the church or to some charitable act… God forgives only the eternal punishment of sin, and he alone can do that; but the sinner has to bear the temporal punishments, either in this life or in purgatory; and these punishments are under control of the church or the priesthood, especially the Pope as its legitimate head.  There are also works of supererogation performed by Christ and by the saints, with corresponding extra-merits and extra-rewards; and these constitute a rich treasury from which the Pope, as the treasurer, can dispense indulgences for money” (Philip Schaff, History of The Christian Church, Vol. 7, pp. 147-148).  F.W. Mattox explains the theory this way, “The purchasing of an indulgence for a specific sum of money by one who had sinned enabled the Pope to draw on the ‘treasury of merits’ in heaven and apply the goodness of departed saints stored in this treasury to the sins of the penitent individual.  One might even shorten the time of a departed friend in purgatory by purchasing an indulgence in his name” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 220).  This is the theory.  It is based on works of merit.  Some have laid up an excess of merit.  The Pope can draw on this excess of merit for a price.  The whole thing is foreign to scripture. 

What is the origin of this?  “The practice of indulgences grew out of a custom of the northern and western barbarians to substitute pecuniary compensation for punishment of an offense” (Schaff, vol. 7, p. 147).

When did the Roman Catholic Church begin to sell indulgences?  “The first instance of such pecuniary compensations occurred in England under Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury (d. 690).  The practice rapidly spread on the Continent, and was used by the Popes during and after the crusades” (Schaff, vol. 7, p. 147). 

The practice evolved over time.  “The practice arose in connection with the crusades as enticement to enlist.  The Pope granted full indulgences guaranteeing the remission of sins to anyone who would go on a crusade.  During Martin Luther’s day the practice was revived and greatly exaggerated in an attempt to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.  It was commonly stated by indulgence sellers that ‘as soon as a coin in the coffer rings, another soul from purgatory springs’ (a slogan credited to Johann Tetzel, cf. Indulgence, britannica.com) …overly enthusiastic salesmen finally offered the forgiveness of sins not yet committed to those who would purchase an indulgence” (F.W. Mattox, pp. 220-221).  There is an humorous story of a man who bought an indulgence from Johann Tetzel for a sin he had on his mind to commit.  The man then robbed Tetzel.  This was the sin that he had on his mind to commit (Philip Schaff, History of The Christian Church, vol. 6, p. 766). 

2.  Martin Luther (b. 1483-d. 1546).    Martin Luther was a devoted Catholic for many years before becoming a reformer.  In 1505, he became a monk, entering the monastery in Erfurt of the order of Hermit of St. Augustine.  He had just completed a Master’s degree in (liberal) arts from the University of Erfurt.  His father had expected him to enter law school.  Instead, he decided to enter the monastery.  His explanation for his decision was that he had made a vow to St. Anne (the patron saint of miners; note: his father was a copper miner) in the midst of a violent storm that if he survive he would become a monk.  In 1507, he was ordained a priest.  In 1510-1511, he traveled to Rome representing his monastery.  In 1511, he began to preach in his monastery.  In 1512, he earned his Doctor of Theology degree from the University of Wittenberg.  He became a professor of Theology in this university soon after this.  In 1514, he added the work of preaching in a local parish church in Wittenberg.  In 1517, Luther was holding three jobs.  He was teaching in the university.  He was preaching in the parish church.  He was an official in the Augustinian order, an inspector of monasteries. 

However, concerns and inter-conflict was growing.  “By the year 1508 he had come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church and its system of ‘work righteousness’ was contrary to the teaching of the New Testament” (F.W. Mattox, p. 244).  In 1510, while visiting Rome, he “was shocked by the levity of the Roman clergy and by the worldliness so evident in high places” (Encyclopedia Britannica, © 1979, vol. 11, p. 189).  Some of his parishioners began to purchase indulgences at a booth set up by Tetzel.  This troubled him greatly. 

On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of the church building in Wittenberg (Note: the door served as a bulletin board).  He offered to debate the issues with any who differed with him. On the same day, he preached a sermon against indulgences.  He also sent a copy of the 95 Theses to Archbishop Albert Albrecht of Mainz, who was secretly profiting from indulgence sales.  “Aided by the printing press, copies of the 95 Theses spread throughout Germany within two weeks and throughout Europe in two months” (Martin Luther, biography.com). 

Here is a sampling on the 95 Theses: 21. Those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the Pope’s indulgences.  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of purgatory immediately the money clings at the bottom of the chest.  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of Indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the Pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets today which they use to fish for the wealth of men.  72.  Let him be blessed who is on his guard against wantonness and license of the pardon – merchants words.

Luther was summoned to meet with Cardinal Thomas Cajetan in Augsburg.  He did so in October, 1518.  Luther was asked to retract his words and submit to the Pope.  He refused.

A debate occurred in Leipzig in June – July 1519.  Andreas Kalstadt and Martin Luther faced Johann Eck, a professor of Theology at the University of Ingolstadt.  “Here for the first time he denied the divine right and origin of papacy, and the infallibility of a general council” (Schaff, vol. 7, p. 182).

In 1520, the Pope issued an ultimatum threatening excommunication.  Luther publicly burned it on December 10, 1520.    In January, 1521. Pope Leo X issued a bull of excommunication.  It was issued against Luther and his supporters.

Luther was summoned by the Emperor, Charles V, to appear at the Diet of Worms.  He was assured safe passage (Jan Hus or John Huss received such a promise but was burned at the stake).  Luther appeared in April 1521.  He declared, “Unless I am refuted and convicted by the testimony of scriptures or by clear arguments… I cannot and will not recant anything” (Schaff, vol. 7, p. 305).  On May 8, 1521, the council released the Edict of Worms, banning Luther’s writing and convicting him as a heretic, which meant death.

Friends hid him in a castle at Wartburg.  He grew a beard and dressed in disguise.  He went by the name Junker Georg or Knight George.  He did much writing, and began his work on a German translation of the Bible. 

In 1525, he married Katharina Von Bora.  She was a former nun (bio info, biography.com; history.com, britannica.com, Encyclopedia Britannica © 1979; Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian church, vol. 6 and 7; F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, Ryan Reeves’ YouTube channel Historical Theology For Everyone. He is an associate professor of historical theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary).

3.  Diet of Speier

In 1526, the Diet of Speier took place. “Most of the nobles were Lutheran, and they were able to decree that each German prince had the right to decide which religion would be supported in his principalities.  Many princes immediately legalized the Reformation” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 249). The Edict of Worms was temporarily suspended.

There would be continued struggles.  For instance: In 1529, there was a second Diet of Speier. This time the Catholic nobility was in the majority.  The decision of the first Diet of Speier was reversed. A formal Protestatic (Letter of Protestation) was submitted to the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria (who had presided over the Diet for his brother Charles V) by the Lutheran minority. Those who protested were called “Protestants” (John Patrick Fogarty, Count Down To Unity, p. 55; F.W. Mattox, p. 250; The Lutheran Church, christianity.com). 

The Emperor, Charles V, wanted to crush the Reformation.  However, his attention was turned to other matters.  The Turks were trying to invade through the Balkans. The Spanish were in rebellion. The French were in rebellion. He twice waged war against German Lutheran princes (Schmalkaldic League). In 1547, he was victorious. Allowances were given to Protestants temporarily pending the Council of Trent. In 1552-1555, the Lutherans princes were victorious being supported by French (Charles the Fifth, museeprotestant.org; Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, holyromanempireasscociation.com).

4.  Peace terms

“In 1555 peace terms were drawn up in the Peace of Augsburg.  This document stated that Lutheranism and Catholicism could both be tolerated in the Empire and that each Prince could decide which religion would be legal in his territory.  It was further stated that if a citizen did not like the decision of his Prince he would move without loss of property and take up residence under the Prince he desired” (F.W. Mattox, p. 251).  This was a great victory for freedom of religion.

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What’s Your Cause?

It is normal for one to want a cause in life.  By “cause,” I mean: “a goal or principle served with dedication and zeal” (yourdictionary.com).  A person desires meaning and purpose in life.

A Christian has a cause.  Jesus taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  Paul taught, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).  Again, he instructed, “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  He said, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).  Peter taught that Christians should conduct themselves in such a way that others are led to “glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

However, others look elsewhere for a cause.  Here are some modern causes: politics, marxism, environmentalism, humane treatment of animals, civil rights, feminism, lgbtq activism, etc.  Some causes are compatible with Biblical teaching.  Others are not. 

Here are some things to consider: First, all should be tested by the word of God.  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  “Test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).  A Christian should not be supporting a cause which is opposed to God’s revealed will, as revealed in His word.

Second, one should carefully evaluate his priorities in light of the scripture.  Consider: (a) S.P.C.A. ads.  They are emotionally stirring ads.  Sarah McLachlan is the spokesperson, suffering animals are showed.  Music plays.  Some of the songs used in these ads are religious songs such as Silent Night and Amazing Grace.  These ads have effectively raised money.  I have no problem with this.  We should be good stewards of God’s creation (e.g. Genesis 1:27-30; 2:15).  We should be concerned about animal life (e.g. Proverbs 12:10; Deuteronomy 22:4; cf. Luke14:5).  However, I wonder how many who give to the S.P.C.A. are motivated to give and support the effort to save man.  Man is even greater than animal according to the Bible (cf. Matthew 6:26; 10:29-31; 12:11-12; 18:12-14; Luke 13:15-16; 14:1-5; 15:1-7).  Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  The commission was proclaimed “Go… make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  The early church “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).

(b) Angus Reed 2020 Poll.  The Angus Reed Institute, one of Canada’s leading poll companies, published on April 15, 2020 the results of a poll on modern morality.  The sample size was 1,528 Canadian adults.  When asked about the issue of abortion – 59% said it was always or usually morally acceptable; 15% said that it was not a moral issue; 26% said that it was always or usually morally wrong.  When asked about the issue of doctor-assisted suicide – 69% said that it was always or usually morally acceptable; 11% said that it was not a moral issue; 20% said that it was always or usually morally wrong.  When asked about using single-use plastic cutlery – 18% said that it was always or usually morally acceptable; 31% said that it was not a moral issue; 51% said that it was always or usually morally wrong.  When asked about buying a gas-guzzling SUV – 29% said that it was always or usually morally acceptable; 30% said that it was not a moral issue; 41% said that it was always or usually morally wrong (angusreed.org).  Really?  Plastic and fossil fuel use is seen by the respondents as more of a moral issue than the issue of taking life. 

Third, many things in life are a trade-off.  Are coal and oil evil products?  One writer suggests that they have been better than the alternatives.  Michael M. Rosen writes, “In the 1860’s wood accounted for 80 percent of American energy.  That proportion plummeted to 20 percent in 1900, and 7.5 percent in 1920.  Coal packs twice as much potential energy per kilogram as wood… ‘fossil fuels were thus key to saving forests in the United States and Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth century,’ (Michael) Shellenberger reckons… Similarly, the mid-19th century discovery of petroleum likely prevented the extinction of whales, whose oil produced 600,000 barrels per year at the peak of whaling in 1845” (Michael M. Rosen, Apocalypse Now?, the-american-interest.com).  Yet, coal and oil have their own problems.  The SUV may consume more fuel per mile.  However, it may be able to carry more passengers and/or cargo.  There are trade-offs in life.  Not everything is black or white. 

Fourth, human thought is fallible.  What is ‘woke’ today may not be tomorrow.  For example: In the 1990’s, the use of plastic bags was thought to be better for the environment than using paper bags.  It would save the forests.  Now the use of paper is thought by many to be better for the environment than the use of plastic.  The truth is it may be for more complicated to determine which is better for the environment than many realize (Plastic or Paper: Which Bag is Greener? By Tom Edington, bbc.com).  Moreover, when California banned plastic bags for carryout, the sale of garbage bags skyrocketed (Why Banning Plastic Grocery Bags Could Be A Bad Move, npr.org).  What about reusable bags?  This too is complicated (bbc.com).  “One study from the United Kingdom (UK) found that, regarding bag production, cotton bags have to be reused 131 times before they reduce their impact on climate change to the same extent as plastic bags.  To have a comparable environmental footprint (which encompasses climate change as well as other environmental effects) to plastic bags, a cotton bag potentially has to be used thousands of times” (Sustainable Shopping – Which Bag is Best? nationalgeographic.org).  Who knows if this assessment is accurate?  Yes, we are to be good stewards.  However, some things are complicated. 

This isn’t complicated.  Man needs the Gospel.  Become an activist for the cause of Christ.

Fifth, are you looking at yourself?  It is easy to look at issues outside oneself.  It is much harder to soberly look at self, and what needs to be changed there.  “Examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Don’t let conquering cities be a distraction to conquering self (Proverbs 16:32; 1 Corinthians 9:27).

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Denominations: Eastern Orthodox Church (Part 2)

Authority

1.  The Bible

They claim high regard for the Bible.  Orthodox Church in America states, “The Bible is central in the life of the church and gives both form and content to the church’s liturgical and sacramental worship, just as to its theology and spiritual life.  Nothing in the Orthodox Church can be opposed to what is revealed in the Bible.  Everything in the church must be biblical” (Bible, oca.org). 

2.  Traditions

They also claim tradition as a source of authority.  Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America states, “The Orthodox Christian should know the content of his religion as taught by the church.  He should be guided in studying that the church has in its written (Bible) and unwritten (sacred tradition) teaching… The Church approves of each member reading alone and in general talking about his religion.  But it discourages conclusions based on the individual’s personal interpretation (The Basic Sources of the Teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church Rev. George Mastrantonis, Edited by Fr. George C. Papademetriou and Dr. David C. Ford, goarch.org).  Christianity Today writes, “The Bible itself needs interpretation, and this interpretation occurs through the action of the Holy Spirit working through the entire believing community” (What is Eastern Orthodoxy Anyway? By Alexander Melnyk, Christianitytoday.com).

They say, “The main sources of orthodox teaching are the Bible and Sacred Tradition.  The third source is the writings of the so called Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists.  The fourth source is the decisions of the canonical synods, local and ecumenical, and their utterances of faith, especially the symbol of faith (Nicene Creed) and some of their canons pertaining to faith. The fifth source is the discourses written at the time of disputes and schisms,  especially the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western parts of the undivided church (1054).  The sixth source is a variety of discourses written after the Protestant Reformation; these documents critique the various errors of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism” (The Basic Sources of the Teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church by Rev. George Mastrantonis, edited by Fr. George C. Papademetriou and Dr. David C. Ford, goarch.org.

They recognize seven ecumenical councils.  These include: (1) The Council of Nicea, 325 A.D..  (2) The Council of Constantinople, 381 A.D. (3) The Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D. (4) The Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D. (5) The Second Council of Constantinople, 553 A.D. (6) The Third Council of Constantinople, 680 – 681 A.D. (7) The Second Council of Nicea, 787 A.D. [Roman Catholics recognize an eighth council before the Great Schism, the Fourth Council of Constantinople, 869 – 870 A.D.  They also recognize 13 later councils as ecumenical (Council, Christianity, britannica.com)]. 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Original Sin

“Orthodoxy believes that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin, the foremost of which is death, only Adam and Eve are guilty of that sin.  Roman Catholicism teaches that everyone bears not only the consequences, but also the guilt of that sin” (original sin, oca.org).

2.  Seven Sacraments

They define the term sacrament.  “Sacrament comes from the Latin word sacramentum, which means ‘a consecrated thing or act,’ i.e. ‘something holy’” (Holy Sacraments In The Orthodox Church, saintjohnchurch.org).     The Orthodox Church does not restrict the number to seven.  It says, “any action designed to bring us closer to the presence of God and done through the church has some degree of sacramentality about it.”  (The Mysteries, orthodoxfaith.co.uk).  However seven are generally recognized (Seven Sacraments, oca.org).  These include: (1) Baptism.  Baptism “brings us into the church… As the priest submerges us into the waters three times (in the name of the Trinity) …our sins are forgiven, and we are born again to a new life in Christ.  Following the custom of the early church, we encourage the baptism of infants because we believe baptism bears witness to God’s action of choosing a child to become part of His people’ (Holy Sacraments in the Orthodox Church, saintjohnchurch.org).  (2) Chrismation.  “Chrismation (called confirmation in Roman Catholic tradition) immediately follows baptism… It is through this mystery that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through the church.  In Chrismation, the priest anoints various parts of the body of the newly-baptized with Holy oil.  The oil is a sign of strength and consecration to God… After baptism and Chrismation, the newly baptized usually receives Holy Communion, especially infants. There is never a time when the young are not part of God’s people” (ibid).  (3) Eucharist.  “We partake of the Eucharist during every Divine Liturgy” (ibid, This is each first day of the week, and special feast days, The Divine Liturgy, oca.org).  “Unlike most other Christians, we believe the bread and wine used in this sacrament become the literal body and blood of Christ” (Holy Sacraments in the Orthodox Church, saintjohnchurch.org).  “Communion is given in a spoon containing both the bread and the wine and is received  standing” (Eastern Orthodox Church, bbc.co.uk).  (4) Confession/Penance.  “All orthodox churches use the mystery of penance or confession, but in Greek speaking churches only priests who have been blessed by the Bishop as ‘Spiritual Fathers’ are allowed to hear confession (Eastern Orthodox church, bbc.co.uk).  “the Church often reserves confession for periods of fasting, especially Great Lent.  At a minimum, Orthodox Christians should confess at least once a year…” (Holy Sacraments in the Orthodox Church, saintjohnchurch.org).   (5) Holy Unction.  “It reminds us that when we are in pain, Christ is present with us through the ministry of His church… As with Chrismation, clergy uses oil in this sacrament as a sign of God’s presence, strength, and forgiveness.  Those near death, and those with any physical or mental illnesses typically receive this sacrament” (ibid).  (6) Marriage.  “Through the sacrament of holy matrimony in the orthodox church, God (through the priest) joins a man and a woman as husband and wife” (ibid).  (7) Holy orders.  “Following the custom of the Apostolic Church, there are four major orders of the church’s ministry… Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Laity.  The bishop is a successor of the Apostles… only a bishop may ordain others to the Deaconate or the Priesthood.  The Orthodox Church ordains only men to become deacons, priests, or bishops.  She permits men to marry before they enter the Holy orders, but not after.  This practice goes back to the earliest period in the history of the church” (ibid). 

3.  Differences

While the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have much in common, here are a few of the most obvious differences: (1) Organization.  The Eastern Orthodox Church has Patriarchs or Bishops presiding over a geographic territory.  They work closely together, almost as an oligarchy.  The Roman Catholic Church has a universal Bishop, over all.  (2) Involvement of small children.  Orthodox children participate in communion from a very young age.  Roman Catholic children are confirmed later, usually after the age of seven.  (3) After-life.  The Eastern Orthodox Church does not have purgatory.  The Roman Catholic Church does have purgatory.  (4) Modern changes.  The Roman Catholic Church has made many changes since the 1960’s.  The Eastern Orthodox Church has not.  “What was the normal Catholic life prior to the 1960’s is no longer the normal Catholic life, after this period.  For the Orthodox Christians there’s very, very little difference… what you’re experiencing in day to day life, as a Catholic, changed significantly in terms of what you are expected to eat or not to eat.  Whereas for the Orthodox, we’ve never really had that big changes” (5 Differences Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, theorthodoxfaith.com).

Organization

There are currently 16 autocephalous (self-headed) churches in Eastern Orthodoxy.  These are the church of: (1) Constantinople; (2) Alexandria; (3) Antioch; (4) Jerusalem; (5) Russia; (6) Serbia; (7) Romania; (8) Bulgaria; (9) Georgia; (10) Cypress; (11) Greece; (12) Poland; (13) Albania; (14) Czech and Slovak land; (15) America; (16) Ukraine.  The first nine are led by Patriarchs, while the others are led by Archbishops or Metropolitans (Eastern Orthodox church, bbc.co.uk).  In addition there are a number of autonomous churches in Orthodox communion.  These include the church of: (1) Sinai; (2) Finland; (3) Estonia; (4) Japan; (5) China; and (6) Ohrid (ibid).  Autocephalous churches are fully self-governing.  Autonomous churches are self-governing to a certain degree, but their head is appointed by an autocephalous church.

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