This article is the final part of a 3 part series.
2. The doctrine of Christ. The uniqueness of the person of Christ and the place which He occupies as the only mediator between God and men lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. On this there can be no compromise. To shed light on this glorious person, we cannot do better than quote the Confessional statement in full: “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.”
Wonderful indeed, and without compeer, is this glorious Person in the eyes of all who have been taught by the Holy Spirit. “O if I had paper as broad as heaven and earth,” Samuel Rutherford wrote, “and ink as the sea and all the rivers and fountains of the earth, and were able to write the love, the worth, the excellency, the sweetness and due praises of our dearest and fairest Well-beloved!” “None but Christ! None but Christ!” were the words heard from the dying lips of John Lambert as his persecutors stoked the Smithfield fire which was to reduce to ashes what was mortal of him. Eighteen-year-old Margaret Wilson, knowing and declaring whose she was and whom she served, bore witness to the crown rights of Christ her King as the incoming tide overwhelmed her, bringing her sufferings to an end and releasing her soul to depart and to be with Him whose love is stronger than death. Time will not permit the mention of others. Christianity is the only religion that has at its very heart the incarnation of the Deity. Judaism is still vainly waiting for a Messiah who has already come, and we are waiting for the arrival of the day when the veil shall be taken away and they shall look upon Him whom they pierced and shall mourn for Him.
Satanic opposition to the truth of the gospel is especially directed towards the Person of Christ, and it is intended to obscure His glory and the nature of His finished work. The title Antichrist signifies not only opposition to Christ but a supplanting of Him. If life eternal is to know the living and true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, it is not surprising that the god of this world – aware of this – has done his utmost to blind the minds of men, and especially wherever the name of Christ has been made known and His gospel proclaimed. Not only has Rome sanctioned the exaltation of Mary as co-mediatrix but has also introduced a multitude of so-called saints who, in the spiritual realm, are supposed to occupy some sort of intermediary place between God and men. Then we have, in the temporal realm, the man of sin, that usurper who takes to himself Christ’s title, Prince of the Kings of the earth, and displaces the Holy Spirit as the true Vicar of Christ on earth. J A Wylie, in proving the papacy to be the Antichrist, declared its appearance in the world to be a Satanic attempt to become incarnate in a surrogate, it being the nearest that he could possibly come to being personally manifest in the flesh.
Islam teaches that, next to Mohammed, Christ is the greatest prophet. “He was conceived”, they say, “by the Virgin Mary, at the appearance of Gabriel, under a palm-tree, but only a man.” (2) The history of Mohammed makes it evident that his personal life was far from exemplary, and to mention him in the same breath as – far less assign him a place above – the holy, sinless, incarnate Son of God, is the very height of blasphemy.
So far we have not mentioned the cults. Without enlarging, it may be said that they, in general, hold views of the Saviour similar to those held by Islam. They may assign him a high place but it is enough for us that they deny His divinity and reduce Him to the level of a creature, and their proper place is among the “many deceivers” whom John speaks of as having “entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh”.
3. The doctrine of Salvation. The Christian doctrine of salvation is summed up in three words: By grace alone. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” This scripture excludes and condemns all Pelagian and Arminian heresies, which deny the sovereignty of God in regard to salvation and attribute to fallen man the ability to make some contribution towards it. All schemes and systems devised by deluded men, which rob God of His glory as the God of salvation, are no more than cunningly devised fables. On this matter also, compromise is impossible. The statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me”, makes that plain. In addition we have the plain assertion: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”.
The Romish system is Arminian to the core. Grace, according to Rome, is a substance which is infused for moral renewal; it can be increased and lost; it is dispensed through the sacramental system, and is offered to the faithful in return for their obedience to the system. Baptism is the “instrumental cause” of justification. “It removes original sin and infuses sanctifying grace into the soul.” (3) The sacraments – and Rome has seven of them – are each of them a channel of God’s grace and are declared to be absolutely necessary for salvation. Penance, for instance, “is necessary for restoration of the life of grace should a [Roman] Catholic forfeit grace through serious sin. Confirmation, anointing of the sick, and especially the Holy Eucharist, or the mass, provide grace needed to avoid sin and do good”. In short, Rome’s view of justification – a process rather than an act – is diametrically opposed to that of true Christianity. We quote from the Canons of the Council of Trent: “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning thereby that no other co-operation is required for him to obtain the grace of justification, and that in no sense is it necessary for him to make preparation and be disposed by a movement of his own will: let him be anathema”. (4)
Most Eastern religions consider that all the resources necessary to salvation or liberation, in their terminology, are inherent to human nature. Under that delusion, the Hindu thus sets out to transcend the world of suffering by the “acceptance of a personal god as Ultimate Reality, the performance of a certain ritual in order to worship him, invocation of his help to attain salvation, and understanding salvation as uniting with a god or attaining a perfect and eternal relation with him”. The Buddhist believes that there is an “eight-fold path” to salvation, relying exclusively on his own “inner strength”. There is no grace available from a personal god, because any personal existence belongs to the domain of illusion:
“Oneself, indeed, is one’s saviour, for what other saviour could there be?
With oneself well-controlled one obtains a saviour difficult to find”.
This is from one of their own so-called sacred writings (Dhammapada 160). Such is vain man: his foolish heart darkened, professing himself to be wise, he has become a fool.
4. Eschatology. Man, created as he is, a rational creature, is naturally inclined to reflect seriously on human life. He has therefore been found endeavouring, not only to discover how it began – how he as an individual, or the human race, came into existence – but also where and how it is going to end. The question has been raised, as Berkhof points out, “What is the end, or the final destiny, of the individual; and what is the goal towards which the human race is moving? Does man perish at death, or does he enter upon another state of existence, either of bliss or woe?” Philosophers have speculated – Plato, for instance, believed in the immortality of the soul – but the correct answers to these profound questions are only to be found in the Word of God.
Christianity, in harmony with Scripture teaching, not only explains that death entered into the world on account of sin. It also explains that, as result of the atoning, substitutionary death of Christ, “the souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection”. There is no place here for the Romanist doctrine of Purgatory, nor for the equally fabulous doctrine of reincarnation held in Eastern religions, where the hope is held out that Nirvana, or absorption into Ultimate Reality, will eventually be achieved. The cults, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, have their own peculiar eschatological views, all of which are at variance with Christianity and therefore to be rejected by all who love the truth.
After clarifying what is the state of man after death, whether righteous or wicked, and drawing attention to the fact that there is to be a resurrection of the dead both of the just and the unjust, the Westminster Divines bring their Confessional statement to an end in this manner: “As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgement, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity; so will He have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen.”
Conclusion. Christianity then is fundamentally opposed to all other religions and this needs to be emphasised when we find Britain now continually described as a multi-faith and multi-cultural society. The ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) movement in the USA was an attempt to bridge the gap between Roman Catholicism and so-called Evangelicals representing Protestantism. In Scotland we have ACTS (Action of Churches Together in Scotland). Rome collaborates in the building of such bridges because she sees them as bridges for one-way traffic – built to suit her purpose, which is to make it easier for “separated brethren” to return to the fold. But what saith Scripture? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
After assuring His disciples that all power was given unto Him in heaven and in earth, the risen Saviour said to them, “Go ye therefore, and teach (5) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” It may well be asked, Why would He have given such a command, or have declared that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, if the religions of all nations had been valid ways to God. Why, it might also be asked, would so many Christian martyrs have died in order to proclaim one of the many alternative ways to God? Christianity plainly, clearly and emphatically therefore does not accept religious syncretism.
1. The third section of a paper given at the 2002 Theological Conference. The first article was introductory and provided a scriptural definition of Christianity. The second article dealt with the exclusive nature of Christianity in relation to the doctrine of God. This final article continues this approach and looks at three further doctrines.
2. P Schaff (ed), Religious Encyclopedia, vol 2, p 1543. `
3. James G McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome, p 39.
4. Session 6, Decree on Justification, canon 9, quoted in McCarthy, p 47.
5. Teach: that is, make disciples, or Christians, of.
This article is the final part of a 3 part series.