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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Protestant Popes

  In his commentary "The Baby and the Denominational Bathwater" Rev. Frederick W. Schmidt writes, "Spare us the pontifications of church leaders who don't want popes, but want to speak ex cathedra on countless issues."

  Rev. Schmidt refers to a particular custom practiced in the Roman Catholic branch of the universal Church, a custom that Protestant members of the universal Church criticize as being unbiblical.

  As it turns out, some Protestant ministers criticize the custom while practicing it themselves, being oblivious to their hypocrisy.

  Granted, these Protestant ministers do not openly say that they are speaking ex cathedra, but they act like they are any time someone dares to disagree with something that they preached.

  Ask yourself this question: Why should anyone believe anything that a Protestant minister says from a pulpit?

  Is it because the minister is ordained?

  Ordination by itself is no reason to believe a person who has it.

  The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "ordain" as "to invest officially (as by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority."  In other words, ordination merely means that the person who has it has the authority to teach, preach and officiate in the organization that provided the ordination.  Ordination does not mean that everything said by an ordained person is true.

  Plenty of people are ordained, but they disagree with each other about how to properly interpret the Bible.

  A Southern Baptist minister and a Methodist minister are both ordained, but they have opposing beliefs about the proper mode of baptism.  The Baptist will claim that the Methodist is wrong, but how could the Methodist be wrong if the Methodist has been ordained?

  It is no wonder that Roman Catholic Christians are sometimes bewildered by the beliefs of their Protestant brethren.

  If Protestant ministers act like mini-popes, then why shouldn't Roman Catholic Christians remain loyal to the Roman Catholic pope? At least Roman Catholics aren't being hypocrites.

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The Christian Middle

     In my writings I claim to be a member of the Christian Middle, as opposed to being a member of the Religious Right or the Religious Left. I have no doubt that my use of the expression Christian Middle has left at least one reader asking, “What on earth is he talking about?” Thus I would like to explain what the Christian Middle is.
     During the time that Jesus walked on the Earth, there were two distinct religious groups dwelling within Israel, and these groups were polar opposites. The people of the Religious Right were called Pharisees. The people of the Religious Left were called Saducees. In between these two groups were the people who made up the Jewish Middle.
     Regarding such religious polarization, the only differences between then and now pertain to the faith and the nationality of the people. The word Pharisee has been replaced with Fundamentalist, while the word Saducee has been replaced with Progressive.
     So what sets members of the Christian Middle apart from the Religious Right and the Religious Left? Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the Christian Middle is that it operates without notice. A parodox indeed, but a nice paradox. I liken the Christian Middle to salt in a serving of mashed potatoes. When eating mashed potatoes that have been properly salted, a person enjoys the taste of the potatoes and thinks nothing of the salt that has been added. However, should there be no salt, the person immediately senses the absence of it.
     How do the Religious Right and the Religious Left fit into this analogy? Imagine that you have mashed potatoes without salt. Now imagine that a person pours the entire contents of a salt shaker onto your mashed potatoes. What we have here is an example of the Religious Right. But suppose instead of an entire shaker full of salt, someone offers you a salt substitute. Now we have an example of the Religious Left.

     Granted, there are people who desire a complete elimination of spiritual seasoning in the world. But should that ever happen, then life would be rather bland, and even a spiritual skeptic might start saying, “Can someone please pass the salt?”

Spiritual Baptism

 In his book The Holy Spirit, Dr. Billy Graham makes the following comments.
  Many years ago when I was attending a small Bible school in Florida, I visited what was called a “brush arbor revival meeting.” The speaker was an old-fashioned Southern revival preacher. The little place seated about two hundred people and was filled. The speaker made up in thunder what he lacked in logic, and the people loved it.
  “Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?” he asked the audience during the sermon.
  Apparently he knew a great many in the audience because he would point to someone and ask, “Brother, have you been baptized with the Spirit?” And the man would answer, “Yes, bless God.” 

  “Young man,” he said, spotting me, “have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?”   “Yes, Sir,” I replied. 

  “When were you baptized with the Holy Spirit?” he asked. He had not questioned the others on this. 

  “The moment I received Jesus Christ as my Savior,” I replied.  He looked at me with a puzzled expression, but before going to the next person he said, “That couldn’t be.” 

  But it could! It was.    
  I do not doubt the sincerity of this preacher.  However, in my own study of the Scriptures through the years I have become convinced that there is only one baptism with the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, and that takes place the moment of conversion.1
  Every believer should have the same fruit as every other believer, but not every believer will have the same gifts as every other believer.   No, the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts in such a way that every believer has at least one gift which is uniquely his.  You may have been given a certain gift by God, but it would be a mistake for you to say everyone else should have that same gift.

… the gift of tongues is not necessarily a sign of the baptism of the believer by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. . . Nowhere in the Bible do I find it said that the gift of tongues is a necessary evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit into Christ’s body, the Church.3
  Although it is not commonplace, there are still people who claim that one has not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit if one does not have the gift of biblical tongues.

   Such a claim is what Dr. Graham refutes in his book and what the Apostle Paul refutes in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-30.
  Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. . . 

  … Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?

  The body of Christ is able to perform its mission because its members all have the same spiritual baptism but have different spiritual gifts.  
  It is childish to believe that having a particular spiritual gift makes one spiritually superior to those who don’t have the same gift.
  So, let us believers in Messiah Jesus put away such childishness and embrace each other as spiritual equals.  Doing so is one way for us to love one another as the Lord commanded us to.


1Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit (Word Publishing: 1988), p. 62.

2Ibid, pp. 133-134.

3Ibid, pp. 173-174.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.