Theology

  1. The difference between Christianity and gnosticism: - Both Christianity and gnosticism believed in the battle against good and evil and the necessity of the spirit overcoming the passions of the flesh.  Classic dualism views good and evil as essentially equal in power; the Christian truth acknowledges God as sovereign, even over the powers of darkness.  Gnosticism also held all matter to be evil.  Another critical difference between Christianity and gnosticism was the nature of man's redemption.  The gnostic believed that man's true self, his soul, held a portion of divintiy.  They believed each person was essentially connected with primal man, or first man.  Primal man's fallenness was inherited, but so was the spark of divinity which he had before his fall into darkness.  This, too, has Christian overtones.  However, for the gnostic, redemption came through man's refusal of all things associated with evil - namely, physical existence and matter.  It was also achieved through man's personal efforts at maximizing his inherent spirituality.  In contrast, the Christian acknowledges that he cannot achieve spiritual life or maturity without the intervention of a personal God.  Once God has renewed his spirit, the goal of the Christian is to extend this redemption to all created order.  The physical world is not to be shunned but rescued until that day when Christ himself will redeem his world.  By knowing the popular theories of life, origins, and ultimate purpose, Paul was able to detect deviations from truth and protect the purity of the gospel.  We must also proclaim and live the righteousness of Christ.  - From the Holman New Testament Commentary - 1 Timothy 4 pg. 214. 
  2. Differences between Catholic and Protestant Theology - The chart below provides a quick-reference guide to the major differences between Catholic and Protestant theology, especially at the time of the Reformation. As is always true with charts and other summaries, the information is oversimplified for the sake of brevity and should be used alongside more complete explanations.
    1. The Protestant positions listed here are based primarily on the historical Lutheran and Reformed perspectives. The beliefs listed for both Catholics and Protestants by no means represent those of all churches or individuals within that tradition.
    2. For more detailed comparisons that take into account differences within Protestantism, see the comparison charts on Facts and Stats, Beliefs, Practices, and Social and Ethical Views of Christian Denominations.
    3. Catholic vs. Protestant
      1. Authority
        1. Catholic - Scripture and tradition
        2. Protestant - Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone
      2. Bible
        1. Catholic - Includes apocrypha
        2. Protestant - Excludes apocrypha
      3. Results of Fall
        1. Catholic - Corruption and tendency to sin
        2. Protestant - Total depravity and guilt
      4. Free will
        1. Catholic - Free to do good or evil
        2. Protestant - Free only to do evil
      5. Predestination
        1. Catholic - Related to God's foreknowledge
        2. Protestant - Related to God's decrees
      6. Atonement
        1. Catholic - Death of Christ created merit that is shared with sinners through sacraments
        2. Protestant - Death of Christ was a substitutionary sacrifice that satisfied God's justice
      7. Divine grace
        1. Catholic - Prevenient grace helps one believe; efficacious grace cooperates with the human will to do good
        2. Protestant - Common grace enabling good works given to all; sufficient grace for salvation given to elect only
      8. Good works
        1. Catholic - Meritorious
        2. Protestant - Results of divine grace and unworthy of merit
      9. Salvation
        1. Catholic - Received at baptism; may be lost by mortal sin; regained by penance. Those who have never heard of Christ may be saved. (Catech 847)
        2. Protestant - Result of divine grace; unconditional. Those who have never heard of Christ may be saved.
      10. The Church
        1. Catholic - The Catholic Church is "the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation" (Catech 845) but those baptized in other Christian denominations are in communion with the Church (Catech 838).
        2. Protestant - There is a distinction between the visible and invisible church. God saves anyone he chooses, or anyone with proper faith, regardless of church membership.
      11. Sacraments
        1. Catholic - Convey grace by their operation (ex opere operato).
        2. Protestant - Means of grace only if received with faith.
      12. Priests
        1. Catholic - A special vocation for some believers; mediators between God and man
        2. Protestant - Priesthood of all believers.
      13. Transubstantiation
        1. Catholic - Affirmed
        2. Protestant - Rejected
      14. Purgatory
        1. Catholic - Affirmed
        2. Protestant - Denied
      15. Prayer to saints
        1. Catholic - Accepted
        2. Protestant - Rejected
  3. Another school of thinking, especially in the Roman Church, overemphasizes the birth of Jesus and the exaltation of His mother.  It lessens the importance of His later work, practically concluding with His death, and putting little emphasis on the resurrection. - from page 51 of the book Illustrating Great Themes of Scripture by Donald Grey Barnhouse.
  4. This is the point of the atonement that has always figured prominently in Protestant presentations of the meaning of the death of Christ, as over against Roman Catholic theology. The Roman church (and many unsound protestant churches too, for that matter) maintains that the death of Christ does not relieve the believer in Christ of making satisfaction for sins he has committed. More precisely, it distinguishes between sins committed before and after baptism, and between temporal and eternal punishment for those sins. So far as sins committed before baptism are concerned, both the temporal and eternal punishment are blotted out through the application of the benefits of Christ’s death to the individual through the baptismal rite. So far as sins committed after baptism are concerned, the eternal punishments are blotted out. But the temporal punishments require the making of satisfaction by the individual himself either in this life (through a faithful use of the sacraments and by a meritorious life) or else in purgatory. While this system of salvation allows the greater part of the work to be God’s and even acknowledges that the faithfulness and merit of the believer are attained only through the prevenient grace of God, it nevertheless requires the individual to contribute to his own salvation in some measure. So it is not possible to say that the work of Christ is finished. More is needed. This outlook is evident in the Mass, in which the sacrifice of Christ is reenacted constantly. - From the commentary on John 19:30 from the Boice Expositional Commentary Series (27 volumes) by James Montgomery Boice.
  5. All world religions require their followers some method by which they attain favor with a god or acceptance and good standing in the spiritual hierarchy.  Christianity alone puts all the work and effort upon God for Salvation.  Often, this very grace becomes the stumbling block for some people.  It is hard to admit absolute need and powerlessness, yet this is what God requires of us.  - From the Holman New Testament Commentary - 2 Timothy 1:9 pg. 268. 
  6. "The Word of God" as a Person: Jesus Christ - Sometimes the Bible refers to the Son of God as "the Word of God." In Revelation 19: 13, John sees the risen Lord Jesus in heaven and says, "The name by which he is called is The Word of God." Similarly, in the beginning of John's gospel we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1: 1). It is clear that John is speaking of the Son of God here, because in verse 14 he says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." These verses (and perhaps 1 John 1: 1) are the only instances where the Bible refers to God the Son as "the Word" or "the Word of God," so this usage is not common. But it does indicate that among the members of the Trinity it is especially God the Son who in his person as well as in his words has the role of communicating the character of God to us and of expressing the will of God for us. - From the Olive Tree Bible Reader app of the book "Systematic Theology" by Wayne Grudem.
  7. Other religions and worldviews, if they intersect meaningfully with reality at all, have something to say. But their deepest intention is not to glorify God on God’s terms. The only truth is the one that glorifies God as God. Everything else is compromised with idolatry. And God intends to put all rival glories out of business, because the idols of the modern world are life-depleting, joy-killing disappointments. God says in verse 11, “Besides me there is no savior.” Every idol, if you don’t toe the line, demands its pound of flesh. If you’re serving the idol of career, for example, and you don’t sacrifice to that idol as it demands, your career is over. If your idol is political utopianism, and you don’t sacrifice to that idol as it demands, your hoped-for world is shattered. If your idol is a perfect body, and you don’t sacrifice to that idol as it demands, your self-image is devastated. But when we have defied the one true God, what does he do? He saves us. Why? To make us witnesses that he is not just good; he is the only goodness anyone will ever experience. - From the reading of Isaiah 43:10-11 from Preaching the Word Commentary Series (40 Vols) from R. Kent Hughes et al, Crossway Publishers
  8. One popular question that’s being thrown around in theological circles these days is, “What is the Gospel?” Well, whenever I’m asked that question, I always respond the same: “The Gospel is Jesus Christ.” 
    Now  what do I mean by that? Well, think of it this way: you can take Buddha out of Buddhism and still have the basic tenants of that religion. You can take Muhammad out of Islam, and you’d still have the same principles. But if you take Christ out of Christianity, there is nothing left because our faith is not in a system, but in a person.
    Christianity at its very heart is not a code; it’s not a cause; it’s not a creed; and it’s not a church. Christianity is Christ! It is the Gospel concerning Jesus. So when we’re asked that question, “What is the Gospel?”, we know our answer doesn’t consist of a list of rules or a philosophy on life. The Gospel is a person. 
    Stop trying to just live according to rules. Instead, live according to the life of Christ in you. Allow Him to determine your steps. And as you press into Him, He’ll transform the way you think, how you act, and will give you joy like you’ve never experienced!

    THE GOSPEL IS JESUS CHRIST – NOT A LIST OF RULES OR A PHILOSOPHY. BELIEVE IN HIM AND ALLOW HIM TO LIVE HIS LIFE THROUGH YOU. - From the May 25, 2017 PowerPoint Today devotional reading by Dr. Jack Graham.   
  9. "The Word of God" as Speech by God - A decree of God is a word of God that causes something to happen. These decrees of God include not only the events of the original creation but also the continuing existence of all things, for Hebrews 1: 3 tells us that Christ is continually "upholding the universe by his word of power." - From Chapter 2 of the Olive Tree Bible Reader app of the book "Systematic Theology" by Wayne Grudem,
  10. Titus 3:9: But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. - Mormons - spend multiplied millions of dollars and countless man- hours researching genealogies in order that they might baptize for the dead. That is, they believe benefits of baptism can be experienced by those who are already deceased. Cult leader Garner Ted Armstrong tries to prove through genealogies that America constitutes the lost tribes of Israel. It’s all foolishness. Stay away from these tangents. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is Jesus. - From Titus 3:9 from Courson’s Application Commentary by Jon Courson.
  11. The Qur’an is a hopelessly flawed document full of faulty ethics and factual errors. In Sura 4:3, for example, Muhammad allegedly received a revelation from God allowing men to “marry women of your choice, two, three, or four.” And in Sura 33:50 he received a divine sanction to marry “any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her.” While other men were permitted to marry up to only four wives, Allah provided Muhammad with a divine exception for his marriage to at least twelve women—including Aishah, whom he married at the tender age of eleven.4 Also troubling is the fact that the Qur’an allows men to “beat” their wives in order that the women might “return to obedience” (Sura 4:34). - By Hanegraaff, Hank (2011-08-30). Has God Spoken?: Proof of the Bible?s Divine Inspiration (Kindle Locations 147-152). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. .
  12. The Qur’anic denial of Christ’s crucifixion - The denial is explicit and emphatic: “They killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them” (4:157). As will be established, truth points in the opposite direction. The fatal suffering of Jesus Christ as recounted in the New Testament is one of the most well-established realities of ancient history. In today’s modern age of scientific enlightenment, there is virtual consensus among credible scholars, both conservative and liberal, that Jesus did in fact die on a Roman cross. - By Hanegraaff, Hank (2011-08-30). Has God Spoken?: Proof of the Bible?s Divine Inspiration (Kindle Locations 153-157). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. 
  13. The Book of Mormon - While Mormons claim that their prophet, Joseph Smith, found golden plates containing the “fullness of the everlasting gospel” written in “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics,” the facts say otherwise. Not only is there no archaeological evidence for a language such as “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics”; there is no archaeological support for lands such as the “land of Moron” (Ether 7). Nor is there any archaeological evidence to buttress the notion that the Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites migrated from Israel to the Americas. On the contrary, both archaeology and anthropology demonstrate conclusively that the people, places, and particulars chronicled in the Book of Mormon are little more than the products of a fertile and faulty imagination. - By Hanegraaff, Hank (2011-08-30). Has God Spoken?: Proof of the Bible?s Divine Inspiration (Kindle Locations 158-164). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. 
  14. It is Finished (John 19:30) - What was finished was the atonement by which the righteous demands of God for sin’s punishment had been fully satisfied and the righteousness of God was now able to be freely offered to all who would believe on Jesus. 
    This is an aspect of the atonement that has always figured prominently in Protestant presentations of the meaning of the death of Christ. The Roman Catholic Church (and many unsound Protestant churches, too) maintains that the death of Christ does not relieve the believer from making satisfaction for sins which he or she has committed. More precisely, it distinguishes between sins committed before and after baptism, and between temporal and eternal punishment for those sins. So far as sins committed before baptism are concerned, both the temporal and eternal punishments are blotted out through the application of Christ’s death to the individual through baptism. So far as sins committed after baptism are concerned, eternal punishment is blotted out. But the temporal punishments require the making of satisfaction by the individual himself either in this life (through a faithful use of the sacraments and by living a meritorious life) or else in purgatory. Although this system of salvation allows the greater part of the work to be God’s and even acknowledges that the faith and merit of the believer are attained by the prevenient grace of God, it nevertheless requires the believer to contribute to his own salvation in some measure. More must be added. The importance of the Mass, in which the sacrifice of Christ is constantly reenacted, is evidence of this outlook.  But this is not right. Consequently, Protestant thought has always contended rightly that “the satisfaction of Christ is the only satisfaction for sin and is so perfect and final that it leaves no penal liability for any sin of the believer.”
    - Excerpt from section “It is Finsihed” Psalm 22:30 from Boice Expositional Commentary Series (Psalms (3 volume set).
  15. Comparisons between Islam, Mormonism and Christianity Central to Muhammed’s message was the subjugation of the kafir (unbelievers) under Islamic law. Muhammed established Islam as a complete and total world system. It impacts one’s beliefs, diet, dress, work, home, politics, and allegiances. As such, Islam is completely theocratic. Simply put, Islam and democracy are mutually contradictory; they cannot coexist. In true Islam, the laws, protocols, ethics, and teachings of Islam are the law of the land.
    ….  
    Central to Muhammed’s teaching was a repudiation of all other gods. This was not just a repudiation of the polytheists, but also a rejection of the Jewish and Christian systems. Muhammed believed that Judaism had the truth at one time but was corrupted, and that Christianity had the truth at one time, but it was corrupted as well. Therefore, Jews and Christians who do not convert to Islam will go to hell. Islam does not believe that Christianity or Judaism are “sister systems.” The fifth and sixth levels of hell (in Islam) are reserved for Jews and Christians who reject Islam, respectively.
    …..Islam emphasizes many of the characters found in the Bible. How does the Christian understand this seeming reliance on biblical revelation? Islam is best understood as a form of “medieval Mormonism.” By that we mean that both Joseph Smith and Muhammed assumed the classic stance of a cult: they were going to correct and replace Christianity. In that vein, both men took the characters of the Bible, changed the stories of the Bible, omitted what they did not like, and replaced the rest. The parallels between Mormonism and Islam, in light of biblical Christianity, are legion.
    Both Islam and Mormonism change significantly the teachings of the Bible, including the prophets and stories. Both Islam and Mormonism declare that Jesus was a prophet but not God, and place their prophet as the final prophet. Both systems deny the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ and grace as the means of salvation. Both Islam and Mormonism assess a second-class status to women, both temporarily through polygamy, and eternally as sexual servants (called celestial brides in Mormonism and perpetual servant virgins in Islam).
    …..All cults attempt to either correct Christianity or replace Christianity, and all cults view themselves as the sole voice for God on the Earth. Islam does this as well.  
    …..In full review, the Allah of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible have little in common, and certainly are not the same God. Islam explicitly denies the Fatherhood of God, the divinity of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit. Muhammed was not ignorant concerning the Trinity; he specifically denied the Trinity, and in so doing, denied the God of the Bible.
     - Hindson, Ed (2008-05-01). The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (p. 280). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.  Caner, Ergun, and Emir Caner, Unveiling Islam. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003.     Caner, Ergun, and Emir Caner. More Than a Prophet. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004.     Geisler, Norman, and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
  16. Agnosticism Agnosticism is a philosophy that views the truth claims that deal with the metaphysical realm—such as theology, the existence of God, and eternity—as unknown or unknowable because man is subjective. Agnostics claim it is either impossible to have absolute knowledge of God or, though it may be possible, it is rarely probable because each person has experiences that color their understanding. …… The term agnostic was introduced in 1869 by Thomas Huxley to describe his system of belief that rejected absolute truth.  Agnostics such as Huxley believe it is intellectually dishonest to state emphatically that you believe something to be true when it cannot be proven by science or ascertained by reason. In our current culture, agnosticism exists in three primary forms: (1) those who do not believe in God and do not believe a god is necessary; (2) those who do not believe in God because a Supreme Being is not knowable; and (3) those who do believe in the possibility of a god, but do not see any need for that god. Hindson, Ed (2008-05-01). The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (p. 17-18). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  17. We should never forget that all religion in the world that does not accept fully the person and work of the Lord Jesus is Satanic religion.  The New Testament significantly sets forth the fact that spirits controlled by Satan are behind the shrines of the earth religions, and that all prayer that is made at these shrines is prayer to Satan and that all worship that is offered there is garnered by him (I Corinthians 10:19, 20). - from page 149 from the book Invisible War by Donald Grey Barnhouse.
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