Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mel Gibson's Perspective on Salvation

Salvation is by faith alone through grace alone. It is faith plus nothing. Anything that adds to faith alone is another gospel. Performing certain religious rituals or membership to a certain church is not necessary.

While I respect Mel Gibson’s effort with the film The Passion of the Christ, we need to understand his perspective on salvation. Mel Gibson is a devout Roman Catholic who adheres to fundamental Catholic doctrine. You could classify him as “old school” Catholic, meaning pre-Vatican II. This is not to say that post-Vatican II is really any more Biblical. Post-Vatican II Catholicism, for the most part, just reiterates the traditional doctrines of the Catholic church. The real difference is with the ecumenical dialogue that was the intended outcome of that effort.

Mel Gibson believes that all who are non-Catholic are not able to experience salvation. This includes his Anglican wife. This came out in an interview with the Herald Sun in Australia.

“Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” Mel Gibson in interview- MSNBC

It is interesting that the Catholic Church, in the outcome of Vatican II, now teaches that salvation is possible outside of the RCC. In fact, they have broadened it to include even sincere Buddhists, Muslims, or anyone from any other faith. This is just as erroneous as the Catholic Church’s previous stance that salvation was for only those within the RCC. The Bible gives us the words of Jesus when He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, except by me.” (John 14:16) Biblically, faith in Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, not membership to any church or religious observance.

I find it amazing how many evangelicals readily confirm Mel Gibson's supposed saving faith. While there have been many changes in his life in recent times, salvation is not merely "turning over a new leaf" in one's life. Genuine salvation also includes embracing the truth of Scripture. While I am certainly appreciative of many changes in Mel Gibson's life, I certainly hope that he truly comes to genuine saving faith in Christ. But it seems that many evangelicals are far too quick to affirm anyone's proclamation of faith, merely because they take a moral stance on an issue or exhibit some change in their life.

The Gospel is by Grace alone apart from any works on our part, whether it be righteous deeds or religious observance. Paul addressed the Galatians concerning the Judaizers who were infiltrating their ranks, adding the works of the law to the plan of salvation by faith. These men were teaching that believers needed to observe the mandates of the Old Testament law including circumcision.

“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

Paul uses strong language condemning those who add anything to faith in Christ for salvation. The term accursed means “eternally condemned”. This is a very strong condemnation. Notice that the Bible does not say that they were denying the trinity or the virgin birth. They were just merely adding to the plan of salvation. But this is a serious point. To add anything to simple faith alone is to interject man’s effort to make himself righteous before God, which nullifies the finished work of the Cross of Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 emphasizes that we are saved by faith alone, not by any works that we do.

“8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Crucial Differences - Salvation

Many Evangelicals have a tendency to downplay the significance of the differences between evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism. But the differences are extremely important since they are at the core of Biblical faith. One of the crucial differences is the plan of salvation. The Bible emphatically states that our salvation is based solely on the finished work of Christ through faith alone. However, Roman Catholicism teaches that faith is not enough, that it must be a combination of faith plus works.

The Bible teaches that salvation comes by faith 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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
( Titus 3:5)

This is a crucial point. Unfortunately, many evangelicals treat this and other differences like the in-house debates that evangelicals differ on such as the details of end-times prophecy or whether the “sign” gifts (such as tongues) are for the church today. This is an important point that determines one’s eternal destiny. This is one point that you do not want to be wrong about.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Thoughts on the pope.

As everyone already knows, the Pope passed away this past weekend. There is no denying that the Pope was certainly a man of outstanding character and was undoubtedly a champion of the family and promoter of the sanctity of life. He made a strong stand on moral issues of our day including abortion and euthanasia and was an influential figure worldwide.

But his doctrinal stance was clearly another matter. This is particularly true when it comes to the doctrine of salvation. Pope John Paul II, like the church that he led, rejected the Biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone. He also promoted inclusivism and Marian devotion, promoting the belief that Mary was a co-mediator along with Jesus. In general, the Pope defended the doctrinal stance that the Roman Catholic Church has held for centuries. Many comments that I have heard by some Evangelical leaders creates the illusion that the pope embraced Biblical doctrine. I do not think that this is actually intentional, but when Evangelicals go too far in their attempt not to alienate Catholics, it tends to minimize the crucial differences in Evangelical doctrine and Catholic faith. While they may mention that there are certainly differences in doctrine between evangelicals and Catholics, comments are presented in such a way that minimizes the significance of these differences. In light of what the pope believed, this is extremely reckless on the part of evangelical leaders who should know better. There is nothing wrong with recognizing and admiring the work that the pope accomplished in his life. We certainly can be thankful and appreciative of his strong stand on crucial issues affecting society today, and we can certainly express our appreciation. But to affirm the beliefs of the pope is wrong on the part of evangelicals. If this is the way evangelicals are showing love toward Catholics, this falls terribly short of that effort. To affirm the false teachings is to allow people to continue to walk in severe doctrinal error, and in the end to forfeit eternal life. This is in no way an expression of genuine love.

Jude 1:3 commands us to earnestly contend for the faith. The word “contend” means to do battle. We must be prepared to battle for the truth. This does not mean that we should try to be obnoxious with our faith, but it does mean that we should take a strong stand without compromise. We need to lovingly confront those who embrace false doctrine.

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 1:3, NASB®)</span>

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A New Kind of Christian? - Part 2

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2Ti 4:2 KJV)

The word “preach” comes from the Greek word “kerusso”. It means to proclaim something openly, with seriousness and authority as that of a herald, an urgent message of utmost importance that needs to be obeyed. This is to be done “in season, out of season”, meaning whether or not it is conducive to what the culture wants. This is a binding command to the church regardless of what is popular with the culture. The dictates of the culture should never suppress the open proclamation of the truth of God’s word. It seems that the church today has become far too influenced by the culture that it has become prone to toning down the proclamation of Biblical truth. The Greek word translated here “instant” carries with it the meaning of readiness and urgency, being prepared at any moment. The pastor must be prepared always at any moment to boldly proclaim Scriptural truth. 2 Timothy 4:3 - 4 warns that there would come a time that people would not endure or in other words tolerate sound teaching.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NKJV™)

This certainly describes many people today. People are willing to flock to any preacher that offers them some consolation apart from God’s truth according to their own desires. The fleshly desires of the people influence what these teachers proclaim rather than the Bible dictating what is taught. The term “fables” includes any philosophy, concept or theory that is opposed to sound doctrine. Many of the ideas being promoted by the postmodern teachers certainly fit this category of “fables”.

In another article by Bill Easum, he explains what he sees as the characteristics and trends of the 21st century church.

“The church of the 21st century... focuses worship primarily on what a person experiences about God instead of what a person learns about God. This trend is confirmed by the growing unchurched, biblically illiterate, ethically void, population growing up outside of the influence of Christianity. Their basic need is to experience the presence (immanence) of God, not to be educated about God or the church. Emphasis is placed on stirring the heart and emotions, not educating the head.”(Emphasis Added) 4

“The Church of the 21st Century”

By Bill Easum

This is in contrast to what Scripture teaches us; that we should renew our minds. It needs to be noted that those who lack a relationship with God – in other words, the unsaved – cannot experience God (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), so it is fruitless to try to “manufacture” an experience. The church cannot truly manufacture a legitimate experience for the lost. That can only be achieved by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit when the lost experience salvation by accepting the finished work of Christ for the atonement of their sins. They must be born again into the Kingdom of God. The only thing that the church should and can offer is to display the joy and admiration for God and His truth. By doing this, the lost can observe the reality of our experience as believers genuinely worshipping God. But the lost are outside any legitimate experience of God, being separated by their sin and lack any capacity for true worship. (Romans 8:5-8, 1 Corinthians 2:14) Romans 12:2 does not instruct us to renew our emotions or feelings, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2 KJV)

The word “mind” is translated from the Greek word “nous”, and it refers to our intellectual faculty, our understanding. This is not just mere intellectual understanding, but it also means in the much narrower sense, capacity to discern spiritual truth, the ability to perceive spiritually divine things. This enables us to recognize and discern between truth and error. This also employs feeling, but it is feeling driven by objective divine truth, not feeling in the pure emotional sense. This process can only take place when we exercise our senses spiritually to be able to discern between truth and error. This means renewing our minds by focusing on God’s truth and by constant practice or use, train our self to exercise discernment.

“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14, NASB®)

The concept of relying on subjective experience to validate our faith also runs contrary to Scripture. It is important to realize that the word of God is the standard by which we should judge any experience. It is greater than any so-called “experience”. (2 Peter 1:16-21 – compare with Matthew 17:1-9)

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19, KJV)

The above verse is correctly translated here in the King James Version, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy”, given the order of the underlying Greek words. This verse therefore supports the fact that Scripture takes precedence over any experience we might have. According to Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-21, the word of God is “more sure” than the fact that the disciples themselves heard the audible voice of God and experienced the events they witnessed.

In the same article, “The Church of the 21st Century”, Easum also makes the following bizarre statement concerning his observation of where the 21st century church is headed.

“.....is theologically conservative and technologically liberal. The trend today in almost everything is conservative, except when it comes to technology. Most of the growing churches and quasi-denominations that are already emerging are theologically conservative with two basic differences from conservatism of the past. One, they are more accepting and less bigoted than most existing established churches. Two, they are eagerly incorporating many forms of technology. The actual pieces of this conservatism and technology are fads, such as abortion, homosexuality, and email.” (Emphasis added) 4

“The Church of the 21st Century” By Bill Easum

Is he therefore implying that the stand by conservative evangelicals against such moral issues like abortion and homosexuality is merely a passing fad? That these things can be replaced like components of technology? It is obvious that Bill Easum has no clue about what “theologically conservative” means! Abortion and homosexuality are moral issues that scripture does indeed address. This reflects the attitudes of the postmodern culture which teaches truth changes over time and conforms to the current cultural climate. It is an attitude that rejects any notion of absolute truth. Scripture in no way teaches this nonsense.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, KJV)

It is clear from the Bible that God has made his truth binding for all generations. It doesn’t make any difference what kind of culture we live in; the truths of scripture stand the test of time.

The word of God is to be diligently taught. Not so we can merely know it in our head, but so that it is planted in our heart. If it is close to our heart, we will obey it. (Deuteronomy 6:6&7; 11:18) The word of God is to be our spiritual food necessary to sustain us, even more important than our physical food. (Job 23:12, Jeremiah 15:16, Proverbs 7:1-3, 1 Peter 2:2, Psalm 119:103, Luke 4:4)

The Bible was given to us long before the modern and the subsequent postmodern era we now live in. The truths of scripture are absolute authority by which we must live. While it is true that we do not worship the Bible, it does point us toward God whom we do worship. It defines who God is and it is the means by which we know Him. It is our roadmap to God. The Bible is 100% infallible, without error and is the word of God; it is not just a collection of good stories and principles that merely contains truth, but rather it is truth. The word of God is foundational to Biblical Christianity. It is essential that we believe the Bible to be that actual word of God. To deny this truth means that anything taught in scripture can be called into question. It is foundational to our faith. Satan knows this and he will do anything he can to erode that foundation. Once the foundation is gone, we have no basis for our faith. Satan caused Eve to doubt the word of God in Genesis and ultimately disobey God; he is using the same strategy today.

The inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture is one of the battles that have been waged in the past against liberalism. The failure to accept this doctrine is the reason so many churches drifted from God. It occurred in most of the mainline denominations and now it is infiltrating evangelical churches that once battled and stood for the truth. This is the philosophy of the new postmodernism which is nothing more than repackaged liberalism. The principles being laid out by men like Brian McLaren and Bill Easum are nothing more than spiritual poison from that repackaged liberalism cleverly concealed in a seemingly delicious coating of truth. It seems that the church does not learn from history that the departure from truth in favor of worldly wisdom inevitably leads to the same spiritual bankruptcy. Of course, the church today does not study history, so we end up making the same mistakes.

While I disagree with much of what these postmodern teachers propose, there are certain things that they do point out that I do agree with. Here are a few of those things that I have observed from various sources in this postmodern movement:

1. The need for the ministry to be centered on building community through relationships. Any careful reading of Scripture would reveal that this was a reality in the early church and is most certainly God’s plan. Unfortunately, this has been lost in the church over the years. I believe much of fundamentalism is just as guilty in this respect as some of the more liberal churches. Tragically, fundamentalism became too focused on programs rather than building Biblical relationships so that believers can build each other up in the faith. A certain amount of accountability needs to be established between believers. I must add that this community must be based on Biblical truth.

2. A team leadership approach in the church. This is Biblical. The Bible teaches a plurality of leadership comprised of a qualified eldership, not a “one man band” approach focused on one man carrying out the ministry.

3. A church ministry that includes the role of engaging all members in active service. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

4. Evangelism that is not so concerned with getting people to merely make a profession of faith, but to fully embrace the Gospel leading to a changed life. In other words, to become true disciples of Christ. True Biblical salvation always leads to a changed life. The Great Commission does not end with getting converts. People must become disciples. This evangelism includes believers engaging in a lifestyle that attracts people to the Gospel, not relying so much on an “in your face” confrontational style of evangelism. However, there are certainly situations where a confrontational style may be warranted, so this style certainly should not be ruled out in all cases. But I certainly agree with the concept that most people are more likely to be brought to Christ by the example of our daily lives. (1 Peter 3:15)

What is interesting is that if we would just read our Bibles – and I do not mean just picking out our favorite verses or having our quick devotionals - we would be able to come to the same conclusion on these points. I believed these principles long before the postmodern teachers began popularizing them. I also know of churches that adopted these principles simply from studying the text of Scripture. I was part of such a church way back in the 1980s.

Unfortunately, the positive aspects espoused by the postmodern teachers are intermingled with the errors, so much that it has a way of providing a cover for the egregious errors that they introduce. Many believers today are so Biblically illiterate that they are easily duped into accepting ideas that counter Scriptural teaching. The men and the teaching that I have outlined here are just the tip of the iceberg. There are others that I have discovered that further build on these ideas, taking them to even more heretical extremes.

Importing postmodern thought into the church poses great danger to Christianity. If this takes root in our church, the next generation of leadership that rise up will no longer take seriously all the commands in Scripture. If books like this are being utilized by future leaders, then it is only a matter of time before it starts coming out of the pulpit; especially from those leading future church plants. This, coupled with the lack of Biblical training of those aspiring to leadership on how to study and teach the Bible, is certain to eventually erode true Biblical faith. A sound knowledge of Scripture and how to teach it to others is essential if those in leadership are going to be faithful to the Biblical command to “feed the flock”.

Good books approaching postmodernism from a more Biblical perspective:

“Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenge of Postmodernism” by Douglas Groothuis

“No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?” by David Wells

“Escape from Reason” by Francis A. Schaeffer

“Truth or Consequences – The Promise & Perils of Postmodernism” by Millard J. Erickson


1. “A New Kind of Postmodernist” Christian Research Institute;

Book Review by Douglas Groothuis, 2001


2. “21st Century Worship” article by Bill Easum, August 1996


3. “Preaching in the 21st Century” article by Bill Easum, August 1997


4. “The Church of the 21st Century” article by Bill Easum,


Last Accessed: 11/3/2004

5. Amazon.com; “A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey” by Brian D. McLaren. Includes some book reviews and descriptions.


Last Accessed: 11/3/2004

6. LeonardSweet.com. The Advances. “The Next Water Advance—March 11 & 12, 2005”

This will be an event that will be hosted by Len Sweet and Bill Easum. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the event listed.