This is the third in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
With an estimated 2.2 billion Christians in the world, worshiping in more than 41,000 denominations, one may legitimately wonder how we can possibly fulfill the prayer of Jesus that we all be as one (John 17:22).
But diversity does not necessarily mean division. The differences among the world’s Christian denominations generally have more to do with location, culture, worship styles, missionary efforts, and forms of church government than they do with major doctrinal differences.
Even so, it’s good to ask: What are the non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith?
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, refers to the process of discerning biblical truth as “theological triage.” On the battlefield and elsewhere, triage is the process by which medical personnel evaluate and prioritize the urgency of patient needs. A scraped knee can wait; a severed artery cannot.
Mohler suggests that a similar method be used in our churches to determine a scale of theological urgency – what some theologians call primary, secondary, and tertiary issues.
Previously: Those invited are fortunate – Revelation 19:9
Rev. 19:10 – Then I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow slave with you and your brothers who have the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, because the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (HCSB)
I fell at his feet to worship
In verse 10, John records, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘Don’t do that! I am a fellow slave with you and your brothers who have the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, because the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’”
In Exodus 20 the Lord tells His people to have no gods beside Him. He instructs them to make no idols for themselves and prohibits them from bowing down before them or worshiping them, “for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (v. 5). Throughout the history of Israel, God seeks to protect the integrity of His relationship with His people. The worship of Yahweh as the one true and living God is not designed to feed some massive divine ego; rather it is to ensure an intimate relationship with the One who created us, loves us, provides the balm for our sin, and ensures us a place at His banquet table in heaven.
God is never pleased with the construction of idols and will share His glory with no other creature. One clear sign of Jesus’ claim to deity is that He never refuses to be worshiped. In addition, He forgives sins, which only God can do; He calls God His Father, making Himself equal with God; and He admits to holy anticipation of the day in which He will once again receive the glory He shared with the Father before the world began. Jesus, as the God-man, is the only human worthy of worship.
If idols are not to be worshiped (Paul says they represent demons), neither are humans or even angels. Paul and Barnabas are grieved in Lystra when they are mistaken for the gods Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:8-18). The angel in Rev. 19:10 is quick to rebuke John for falling at his feet in worship: “Don’t do that!” John is told. Despite the warning, John repeats the mistake in Rev. 22:9, attracting another reprimand from the angel, who says, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow slave with you, your brothers and prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
This is the last in a three-part series on Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses regard The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures as “an accurate, easy-to-read translation of the Bible” (jw.org). What many don’t realize is that four of the five men on the translation committee producing the complete 1961 edition had no Hebrew or Greek training whatsoever.
The fifth, who claimed to know both languages, failed a simple Hebrew test while under oath in a Scottish court.
What all this means is that the Watch Tower’s official version of the Bible is “an incredibly biased translation,” writes Ron Rhodes in Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
British scholar H.H. Rowley calls it “a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated,” classifying the text as “an insult to the Word of God.”
Revisions in 1984 and 2013 have not improved the translation.
So, what’s wrong with the NWT? In a phrase, the translators consistently have sought to conform the text to Watch Tower theology, particularly with respect to the person and work of Christ.
A few examples should make this clear.
The Roman Catholic Church traces its beginning to the apostle Peter, claiming he is the rock upon whom Jesus built His church (Matt. 16:18). As the first pope, Peter is followed by an unbroken line of successors stretching to Pope Francis today. Non-Catholics establish the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church at A.D. 590 with Gregory I, who consolidated the power of the bishopric in Rome.
In any case, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian church, with 1.2 billion members. The Catholic hierarchy includes cardinals and bishops and is led by the bishop of Rome, also known as the pope.
The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true church divinely founded by Jesus Christ. In addition, it teaches that its bishops are the successors of Jesus’ apostles, and that the pope, as the successor to the head of the apostles (Peter), has supreme authority over the church.
Categories of Catholics
While the Catholic Church claims to be the one true church, Catholics worldwide hold to a diversity of beliefs. Researcher Ken Samples has concluded that there are six primary categories of Roman Catholics:
Ultratraditional Catholics defend historical Catholicism and are critical of recent changes such as those coming out of Vatican II in the 1960s.
Traditional Catholics resist liberalism and modernism within the church, yet they generally accept the reforms of Vatican II.
Liberal Catholics celebrate human reason over the authority of the church; they also question the infallibility of the pope, church councils, and the Bible
Charismatic/evangelical Catholics emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the importance of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit-filled life.
Cultural Catholics are “womb-to-tomb” Catholics – born, baptized, married, and buried in the church. However, they essentially go through the motions of their faith without much regard for its meaning.
Popular folk Catholics predominate Central and South America. They combine elements of animistic or nature-culture religion with traditional medieval Catholicism (Christian Research Journal, Winter 1993).
While these unbiblical views from our LDS and JW friends are not surprising, it may come as a shock to hear that some leaders of the Christian Word-Faith movement hold a similar view – and quote the Bible to support it
A case in point: Kenneth Copeland and Isaiah 40:12.
Copeland, perhaps more than any other prosperity preacher, has gone into great detail about God’s alleged bodily existence.
In a letter responding to an inquiry on the subject, Copeland lists a number of God’s bodily attributes, including back parts, a heart, hands, a finger, nostrils, a mouth with lips and a tongue, feet, eyes and eyelids, a voice, breath, ears, hair, head, face, arms, and loins.
Further, says Copeland, he wears clothes, eats, sits on His throne, and walks. Copeland has made the outrageous claim that God lives on a planet, of which the earth is an exact copy, only smaller. Says the televangelist: Earth is “a copy of the mother planet.”