Monday, May 07, 2007

How to Know if You Are a Real Christian
...a response to Dr. Francis Beckwith's defection to Romanism

Romanism is a false religion, that constitutes a false church, led by a false pastor, that preaches a false gospel. It is the most profound religion that Satan has to offer of man-made and man-centered faith that sees salvation by joining grace plus merit, faith plus works, and Christ plus an infused righteousness. The theological term is called semi-Pelagianism and is a gospel of works righteousness which is no gospel at all (Gal. 1:6-9)

Tridentine Roman Catholicism is a faith centered in prayers to the dead, the centrality of the Latin Mass, confessionals, and the specter of purgatorial suffering. It is a firm belief in the Immaculate Conception, the Bodily Assumption of Mary, and the "5th Marian Dogma" - the idea that Mary is co-redemptrix, co-mediatrix, and advocate for the people of God.

Indeed, consider for just a moment the wording of the petition that has been submitted to the Pope, signed by more than six million Roman Catholics worldwide, that expresses this view:

"With filial love, we the faithful wish to humbly petition you, the Vicar of Christ, to solemnly define as Christian dogma the Church's constant teaching on Mary's co-redemptive role with Christ the Redeemer of humanity. It is our belief that such a definition will bring to light the whole truth about Mary, Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Spirit, and Mother of the Church. Therefore, it is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide you, Holy Father, to define and proclaim the Blessed Virgin Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate for the people of God."
Indeed, one could also go into his belief in indulgences, the treasury of merit, and so many other things. But, let's get to the heart of the matter.

The issue of peace is truly the major difference between the biblical gospel and that promulgated by Rome. Rome's teachings on key issues are so far removed from their biblical definitions that the resultant gospel becomes one that is based upon human performance rather than the finished work of Christ (Romans 3-4; Hebrews 9:14ff). Romans 5:1 is key: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"

Question: How can a Roman Catholic have true peace, true shalom with God? In Dr. Beckwith's return to Romanism, justification is not claimed to be the divine, forensic declaration that a sinner is right in God's sight based upon faith alone in the work of Christ alone, including the imputed righteousness of Christ which provides us with a perfect standing before God. Instead, justification and sanctification are made the same thing, so that one is justified by baptism initially, causing one to enter "the state of grace." You can do good works in the state of grace that are meritorious before God, but, the commission of a mortal sin destroys that state, and makes you an enemy of God once again. You can become re-justified through the sacrament of penance, though the temporal punishment of sins remains. Anyone should inquire of Dr. Beckwith, "upon what basis he could have peace with God when he could go to sleep that night as God's enemy? How is that true peace, true shalom?"

Romanism believes that the Mass is still a bloody, propitiatory sacrifice.

"If anyone says that the sacrifice of the mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 3).

It is unfathomable to believe that this is now what Dr. Beckwith, by confession to Rome, must affirm.

Biblical Christianity clearly teaches that the sacrifice of Christ was a once for all sacrifice, never to be repeated, and is sufficient for the redemption of all the elect. Consider the following verses:
Heb. 7:27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Heb. 9:12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Heb. 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Heb. 10:10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Salvation, beloved, is found by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and His once for all propitiatory sacrifice on the cross - plus or minus nothing. He was then raised bodily from the dead "for our justification" (Romans 4:25).

The point here is simple and tragic: a man of Dr. Beckwith's learning has abandoned historic, biblical Christianity to embrace a false religious system that cannot save, but can only damn.

In a recent article, Dr. Beckwith, commenting on his defection from Protestantism and his return to Romanism says the following:
"I became convinced that the Early Church is more [Roman] Catholic than Protestant and that the [Roman] Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible. Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible,..."
Those statements, beloved, are in direct conflict with one another. It is impossible to affirm that Romanism and the Reformed view BOTH represent what is "biblically and historically defensible." That is like trying to pick up a tub while standing in it--you can't do it. This kind of reasoning is nothing short of spiritual schizophrenia. To paraphrase Tertullian, "what does Rome have in common with Wittenberg?"

All to say, may I encourage you to pray for this dear man--for only the Lord knows the state of his soul; only the Lord sees the future clearly as to what this will mean for him; only the Lord can turn his heart toward the truth and the genuine gospel once again. This is not casual fodder for the blogosphere -- nor is this about winning some theological discussion surrounding his departure from biblical Christianity. This is about the gospel and the nature of saving faith.

From whatever Protestant church Dr. Beckwith hailed from, they should consider beginning church discipline immediately due to his heterodox actions.

In light of this very sad spiritual treason by Dr. Beckwith and embracing of doctrines of demons in Romanism, the following article by Jonathan Edwards is a must read. I would encourage you to email this to your pastors and friends as well. And especially to those you might know who are still burdened under the heavy yoke of Romanism. May the Lord Jesus Christ grant them saving faith to leave the wayward bride of Benedict XVI and embrace biblical Christianity, the true gospel of Jesus Christ, His Word, and repent of their sins.

Sola Fide,
Galatians 1:6-9

by Jonathan Edwards
"You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that—and shudder." -James 2:19

How do you know if you belong to God?
We see in these words what some people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God. Some people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church membership to show that God approves of them. There is an evangelism programme in common use that asks people certain questions. One of the questions is, "Suppose you were to die today. Why should God let you into his heaven?" A very common response is, "I believe in God." Apparently the apostle James knew people who said the same thing: I know I am in God's favor, because I know these religious doctrines.

Of course James admits that this knowledge is good. Not only is it good, but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn't believe in God; and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for those who had the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle, someone who could tell them of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a person, who knew James, and then refused to believe in God! Certainly this would make their damnation greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the One God is only the start of good things because "anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Heb. 11:6.)

However, James is clear that although this belief a good thing, it is definitely not proof that a person is saved. What he means is this: "You say you are a Christian and you are in God's favor. You think God will let you into heaven, and the proof of it is, you believe in God. But that is no evidence at all, because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be punished in hell." The demons believe in God, you can be sure of that! They not only believe that He exists, but they believe that God is a holy God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth, who has promised judgments, and who will carry out his vengeance upon them. This is the reason the demons "shudder" or tremble— they know God more clearly than most human beings do, and they are afraid. Nevertheless, nothing in the mind of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God's grace in our hearts.

This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have, or find within themselves, something of God's saving grace—proof they would go to heaven. This would prove James wrong. But how absurd! The Bible makes it clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their believing in God does not take away their future punishment. Therefore believing in God is not proof of salvation for demons, and it is safe to say, not for people, either.

This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The devil is perfectly wicked.
"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

"He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning." (1 John 3:8 )
Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)
So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts— indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they "shudder." But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.

Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God's existence is more concrete than any man's knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus cast out some demons. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.

Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn't make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly that Jesus will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God's grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way.

We may make several conclusions based on these truths.
First, that no matter how much people may know about God and the Bible, it is no sure sign of salvation. The devil before his fall, was one of the bright and morning stars, a flame of fire, one excelling in strength and wisdom. (Isa. 14:12, Ezek. 28:12-19) Apparently, as one of the chief angels, Satan knew much about God. Now that he is fallen, his sin has not destroyed his memories from before. Sin does destroy the spiritual nature, but not the natural abilities, such as memory. That the fallen angels do have many natural abilities may be seen from many Bible verses, for example Eph 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." In the same way, the Bible says that Satan is "more crafty" than other created beings. (Gen 3:1, also 2 Cor. 11:3, Acts 13:10) Therefore we can see that the Devil has always had great mental ability and is able to know much about God, the visible and invisible world, and many other things. Since his job in the beginning was to be a chief angel before God, it is only natural that understanding these things has always been of first importance to him, and that all his activities have to do with these areas of thoughts, feelings, and knowledge.

Because it was his original employment to be one of the angels before the very face of God, and sin does not destroy the memory, it is clear that Satan knows more about God than just about any other created being. After the fall, we can see from his activities as a tempter, etc., (Matt 4:3) that he has been spending his time increasing his knowledge and its practical applications. That his knowledge is great can be seen in how tricky he is when tempting people. The craftiness of his lies shows how clever he is. Surely he could not manage his deceit so well without an actual and true knowledge of the facts.

This knowledge of God and his works is from the very beginning. Satan was there from the Creation, as Job 38:4 7 shows: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. . .while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" So he must know much about the way God created the world, and how He governs all the events in the universe. Furthermore, Satan has seen how God has worked his plan of redemption in the world; and not as an innocent bystander, but as an active enemy of God's grace. He saw God work in the lives of Adam and Eve, in Noah, Abraham, and David. He must have taken a special interest in the life of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men, the Word of God incarnate. How closely did he watch Christ? How carefully did he observe his miracles and listen to His words? This is because Satan has set himself against Christ's work, and it is to his torment and anguish that Satan has watched Christ's work unfold successfully.

Satan, then, knows much about God and God's work.
He knows heaven first-hand. He knows hell also, with personal knowledge as its first resident, and has experienced its torments for all these thousands of years. He must have a great knowledge of the Bible: at the least, we can see he knew enough to try tempting our Saviour. Furthermore, he has had years of studying of the hearts of men, his battlefield where he fights against our Redeemer. What labours, exertions, and cares the Devil has used over the centuries as he has deceived men. Only a being with his knowledge and experience of God's working, and the human heart, could so imitate true religion and transform himself into an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)
Therefore we can see that there is no amount of knowledge of God and religion that could prove a person has been saved from their sin. A man may talk about the Bible, God, and the Trinity. He may be able to preach a sermon about Jesus Christ and everything He has done. Imagine, somebody might be able to speak about the way of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners, perhaps even enough to show others how to become Christians. All these things might build up the church and enlighten the world, yet it is not a sure proof of the saving grace of God in a person's heart.
It also may be seen that for people to merely agree with the Bible is no sure sign of salvation. James 2:19 shows that the demons really, truly, believe the truth. Just as they believe there is one God, they agree with all the truth of the Bible. The devil is not a heretic: all the articles of his faith are firmly established in the truth.

It must be understood, that when the Bible talks about believing that Jesus is the Son of God, as a proof of God's grace in the heart, the Bible means not a mere agreement with the truth, but another kind of believing. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." (1 John 5:1) This other kind of believing is called "the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness." (Titus 1:1) There is a spiritual holding to the truth, which will be explained later on.

Some people have strong religious experiences, and think of them as proof of God's working in their hearts.
Often these experiences give people a sense of the importance of the spiritual world, and the reality of divine things. However, these, too, are no sure proof of salvation. Demons and damned human beings have many spiritual experiences which have a great effect on their heart attitudes. They live in the spiritual world and see first-hand what it is like. Their sufferings show them the worth of salvation and the worth of a human soul in the most powerful way imaginable. The parable in Luke chapter 16 teaches this clearly, as the suffering man asks that Lazarus might be sent to tell his brothers to avoid this place of torment. No doubt people in hell now have a distinct idea of the vastness of eternity, and of the shortness of life. They are completely convinced that all the things of this life are unimportant when compared to the experiences of the eternal world. People now in hell have a great sense of the preciousness of time, and of the wonderful opportunities people have, who have the privilege of hearing the Gospel. They are completely aware of the foolishness of their sin, of neglecting opportunities, and ignoring the warnings of God. When sinners find out by personal experience the final result of their sin there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt 13:42) So even the most powerful religious experiences are not a sure sign of God's grace in the heart.

Demons and damned people also have a strong sense of God's majesty and power. God's power is most clearly displayed in his execution of divine vengeance upon his enemies.
"What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?" (Rom 9:22)
Shuddering, the devils await their final punishment, under the strongest sense of God's majesty. They feel it now, of course, but in the future it will show to the greatest degree, when the Lord Jesus "is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels." (2 Thess 2:7) On that day, they will desire to be run away, to be hidden from the presence of God. "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him." (Rev 1:7) So everyone will see him in the glory of His Father. But, obviously, not all who see him will be saved.

Now it is possible that some people might object to all this, saying that ungodly men in this world are quite different from demons. They are under different circumstances and are different kind of beings.

An objector might say,
"Those things that are visible and present to demons are invisible and future to men. Besides, people have the disadvantage of having bodies, which restrain the soul, and keep people from seeing these spiritual things first-hand. Therefore, even if demons do have a great knowledge and personal experience of the things of God, and have no grace, the conclusion does not apply to me."
Or, put another way: if people have these things in this life, it may very well be a sure sign of God's grace in their hearts.

In reply, it is agreed that no man in this life has ever had the degree of these things as the demons have them. No person has ever shuddered, with the same amount of fear that the demons shudder with. No man, in this life, can ever have the same kind of knowledge that the Devil has. It is clear that demons and damned men understand the vastness of eternity, and the importance of the other world, more than any living person, and so they crave salvation all the more.

But we can see that men in this world can have experiences of the same kind as those of demons and damned people. They have the same mental outlook, the same opinions and emotions, and the same kind of impressions on the mind and heart. Notice, that for the apostle James it is a convincing argument. He claims that if people think believing in one God is proof of God's grace, it is not proof, because demons believe the same. James is not referring to the act of believing only, but also to the emotions and actions that go along with their belief. Shuddering is an example of emotions from the heart. This shows that if people have the same kind of mental outlook, and respond from the heart in the same way, it is no sure sign of grace.
The Bible does not state how much people in this world may see God's glory, and not have God's grace in their hearts. We are not told exactly to what degree God reveals himself to certain people, and how much they will respond in their hearts. It is very tempting to say that if a person has a certain amount of religious experience, or a certain amount of truth, they must be saved. Perhaps it is even possible for some unsaved people to have greater experiences than some of those who have grace in their hearts! So it is wrong to look at experience or knowledge in terms of amount. Men who have a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts have experiences and knowledge of a different kind.

At this point, someone might answer these thoughts by saying,
"I agree with you. I see that believing in God, seeing His majesty and holiness, and knowing that Jesus died for sinners is not proof of grace in my heart. I agree that demons can know these things as well. But I have some things they don't have. I have joy, peace, and love. Demons can't have them, so that must show that I am saved."
Yes, it is true that you have something more than a demon can have, but it is nothing better than a demon could have. A person's experience of love, joy, etc., may not be because they have any cause in them different from a demon, but just different circumstances. The causes, or origins, of their feelings are the same. This is why these experiences are no better than those of demons.

To explain further:
All the things that were discussed before about demons and damned people, arise from two main causes, natural understanding and self-love. When they think about themselves, these two things are what determine their feelings and response. Natural understanding shows them that God is holy, while they are wicked. God is infinite, but they are limited. God is powerful, and they are weak. Self-love gives them a sense of the importance of religion, the eternal world, and a longing after salvation. When these two causes work together, demons and damned men become aware of the awesome majesty of God, whom they know will be their Judge. They know that God's judgment will be perfect and their punishment will be forever. Therefore, these two causes together with their senses will bring about their anguish on that judgment day, when they see the outward glory of Christ and His saints.
The reason many people feel joy, peace, and love today, while demons do not, may be more due to their circumstances, rather than any difference in their hearts. The causes in their hearts are the same. For example, the Holy Spirit is now at work in the world keeping all of mankind from being as wicked as they could be (2 Thess 2:17). This is in contrast to demons, who are just as wicked as they can be all the time. Furthermore, God in his mercy gives gifts to all people, such as the rain for crops (Matt 5:45), heat from the sun, etc. Not only that, but often people receive many things in life to bring them happiness, such as personal relationships, pleasures, music, good health, and so on. Most important of all, many people have heard news of hope: God has sent a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died to save sinners. In these circumstances, the natural understanding of people can cause them to feel things that demons never can.

Self-love is a powerful force in the hearts of men, strong enough without grace to cause people to love those who love them,
"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." (Luke 6:32) It is a natural thing for a person who sees God being merciful, and who knows that they are not as bad as they could be, to therefore be sure of God's love for them. If your love for God comes only from your feelings that God loves you, or because you have heard that Christ died for you, or something similar, the source of your love to God is only self-love. This reigns in the hearts of demons as well.

Imagine the situation of the demons. They know they are unrestrained in their wickedness. They know God is their enemy and always will be. Although they are without any hope, still they are active and fighting. Just think, what if they had some of the hope that people have? What if demons, with their knowledge of God, had their wickedness restrained? Imagine if a demon, after all his fears about God's judgment, was suddenly led to imagine that God might be his Friend? That God might forgive him and let him, sin and all, into heaven? Oh the joy, the wonder, the gratitude we would see! Would not this demon be a great lover of God, since, after all everybody loves people who help them? What else could cause feelings so powerful and sincere? Is it any wonder, that so many people are deceived this way? Especially since people have the demons to promote this delusion. They have been promoting it now for many centuries, and alas they are very good at it.

Now we come to the question, if all these various experiences
and feelings come from nothing more than demons are capable of,
what are the kinds of experiences that are truly spiritual and holy?
What do I have to find in my own heart, as a sure sign of God's grace there?
What are the differences that show them to be from the Holy Spirit?

This is the answer:
those feelings and experiences which are good signs of God's grace in the heart differ from the experience of demons in their source and in their results.
Their source is the sense of the overwhelming holy beauty and loveliness of the things of God. When a person grasps in his mind, or better yet, when he feels his own heart held captive by the attractiveness of the Divine, this is an unmistakable sign of God's working.

The demons and damned in hell do not now, and never will experience even the tiniest bit of this. Before their fall, the demons did have this sense of God. But in their fall, they lost it, the only thing they could lose of their knowledge of God. We have seen how the demons have very clear ideas about how powerful God is, his justice, holiness, and so on. They know a lot of facts about God. But now they haven't a clue about what God is like. They cannot know what God is like any more than a blind man can know about colors! Demons can have a strong sense God's awesome majesty, but they don't see his loveliness. They have observed His work among the human race for these thousands of years, indeed with the closest attention; but they never see a glimmer of His beauty. No matter how much they know about God (and we have seen that they know very much indeed) the knowledge they have will never bring them to this higher, spiritual knowing what God is like. On the contrary, the more they know about God, the more they hate Him. The beauty of God consists primarily in this holiness, or moral excellence, and this is what they hate the most. It is because God is holy that the demons hate Him. One could suppose that if God were to be less holy, the demons would hate Him less. No doubt demons would hate any holy Being, no matter what He was like otherwise. But surely they hate this Being all the more, for being infinitely holy, infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful!

Wicked people, including those alive today, will on the day of judgment see all there is to see of Jesus Christ, except His beauty and loveliness. There is not one thing about Christ that we can think of, that will not be set before them in the strongest light on that brilliant day. The wicked will see Jesus "coming in clouds with great power and glory." (Mark 13:26) They will see his outward glory, which is far, far greater than we can possibly imagine now. You know the wicked will be thoroughly convinced of all who Christ is. They will be convinced about His omniscience, as they see all their sins replayed and evaluated. They will know first-hand Christ's justice, as their sentences are announced. His authority will be made utterly convincing when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord. (Phil 2:10,11) The divine majesty will be impressed upon them in quite an effective way, as the wicked are poured into hell itself, and enter into their final state of suffering and death (Rev 20:14,15) When that happens, all their knowledge of God, as true and as powerful as it may be, will be worth nothing, and less than nothing, because they will not see Christ's beauty.

Therefore, it is this seeing the loveliness of Christ that makes the difference between the saving grace of the Holy Spirit, and the experiences of demons.
This sight or sense is what makes true Christian experience different from everything else. The faith of God's elect people is based on this. When a person sees the excellence of the gospel, he senses the beauty and loveliness of the divine scheme of salvation. His mind is convinced that it is of God, and he believes it with all his heart. As the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 4:3 4, "even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." That is to say, as was explained before, unbelievers can see that there is a gospel, and understand the facts about it, but they do not see its light. The light of the gospel is the glory of Christ, his holiness and beauty. Right after this we read, 2 Cor 4:6 "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." Clearly, it is this divine light, shining into our hearts, that enables us to see the beauty of the gospel and have a saving belief in Christ. This supernatural light shows us the superlative beauty and loveliness of Jesus, and convinces us of His sufficiency as our Saviour. Only such a glorious, majestic Saviour can be our Mediator, standing between guilty, hell-deserving sinners such as ourselves, and an infinitely holy God. This supernatural light gives us a sense of Christ that convinces us in a way nothing else ever could.

When a most wicked sinner is caused to see Christ's divine loveliness, he no longer speculates why God should be interested in him, to save him.
Before, he could not understand how the blood of Christ could pay the penalty for sins. But now he can see the preciousness of Christ's blood, and how it is worthy to be accepted as the ransom for the worst of sins. Now the soul can recognize that he is accepted by God, not because of who he is, but because of the value God puts on the blood, obedience, and intercession of Christ. Seeing this value and worth gives the poor guilty soul rest which cannot be found in any sermon or booklet.

When a person comes to see the proper foundation of faith and trust with his own eyes, this is saving faith. "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life." (John 6:40) "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me." (John 17:6-8)

It is this sight of the divine beauty of Christ that captivates the wills and draws the hearts of men. A sight of the outward greatness of God in His glory may overwhelm men, and be more than they can endure. This will be seen on the day of judgment, when the wicked will be brought before God. They will be overwhelmed, yes, but the hostility of the heart will remain in full strength and the opposition of the will continue. But on the other hand, a single ray of the moral and spiritual glory of God and of the supreme loveliness of Christ shone into the heart overcomes all hostility. The soul is inclined to love God as if by an omnipotent power, so that now not only the understanding, but the whole being receives and embraces the loving Saviour.

This sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert.
This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God's nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God.
These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ's beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God's grace from the false.

False spiritual experiences have a tendency to cause pride, which is the devil's special sin. "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil." (1 Tim 3:6) Pride is the inevitable result of false spiritual experiences, even though they are often covered with a disguise of great humility. False experience is enamored with self and grows on self. It lives by showing itself in one way or another. A person can have great love for God, and be proud of the greatness of his love. He can be very humble, and very proud indeed of his humility. But the emotions and experiences that come from God's grace are exactly opposite. God's true working in the heart causes humility. They do not cause any kind of showiness or self-exaltation. That sense of the awesome, holy, glorious beauty of Christ kills pride and humbles the soul. The light of God's loveliness, and that alone, shows the soul its own ugliness. When a person really grasps this, he inevitably begins a process of making God bigger and bigger, and himself smaller and smaller.

Another result of God's grace working in the heart is that the person will hate every evil and respond to God with a holy heart and life.
False experiences may cause a certain amount of zeal, and even a great deal of what is commonly called religion. However it is not a zeal for good works. Their religion is not a service of God, but rather a service of self. This is how the apostle James puts it himself in this very context, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ?" (James 2:19 20) In other words, deeds, or good works, are evidence of a genuine experience of God's grace in the heart. "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (1 John 2:3 4) When the heart has been ravished by the beauty of Christ, how else can it respond?

How excellent is that inner goodness and true religion that comes from this sight of the beauty of Christ! Here you have the most wonderful experiences of saints and angels in heaven. Here you have the best experience of Jesus Christ Himself. Even though we are mere creatures, it is a sort of participation in God's own beauty. "Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature." (2 Pet 1:4) "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." (Heb 12:10) Because of the power of this divine working, there is a mutual indwelling of God and His people. "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:16)

This special relationship has to make the person involved as happy and as blessed as any creature in existence. This is a special gift of God, which he gives only to his special favorites. Gold, silver, diamonds, and earthly kingdoms are given by God to people who the Bible calls dogs and pigs. But this great gift of beholding Christ's beauty, is the special blessing of God to His dearest children. Flesh and blood cannot give this gift: only God can bestow it. This was the special gift which Christ died to obtain for his elect. It is the highest token of his everlasting love, the best fruit of his labours, and the most precious purchase of his blood.

By this gift, more than anything else, the saints shine as lights in the world.
This gift, more than anything else, is their comfort. It is impossible that the soul who possesses this gift should ever perish. This is the gift of eternal life. It is eternal life begun: those who have it can never die. It is the dawning of the light of glory. It comes from heaven, it has a heavenly quality, and it will take its bearer to heaven. Those who have this gift may wander in the wilderness or be tossed by waves on the ocean, but they will arrive in heaven at last. There the heavenly spark will be made perfect and increased. In heaven the souls of the saints will be transformed into a bright and pure flame, and they will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.



Mark said...


You can also ask Dr. Köstenberger about the ETS statement since he was one of the signers. He's posted it on his blog:

Several people have commented that this letter from ETS was weak. It's almost as if it's not that big of a deal to these learned protestants.


SJ Camp said...

Thanks for the heads up on this... You can read my questions to him HERE

I appreciate you brother,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Joel said...

Steve, you quote the anathemas of Trent a lot, but have you ever read the actual canons? I don't ask that in a spirit of belligerence, but I'm honestly interested to know how much familiarity you have. The way in which you quote them (citing only the anathemas) suggests you haven't, as the anathemas are more like a summary and don't adequately represent the actual canons.

Joel said...

Steve, this question also isn't meant to be belligerent. You seem to be a good person to ask about Calvinism, and you're familiar with this situation.

If Dr. Beckwith has become Roman Catholic, that means he has not persevered, and hence was never a Christian at all, is that right? If so, what effect does that have on the teaching he imparted to those who thought he WAS a Christian? Is it now false teaching, because he had no real understanding of the Gospel truth?

Had Dr. Beckwith been an ordained pastor (I gather he wasn't), if he in turn ordained other pastors at the seminary, would their ordinations be invalid, as coming from a non-Christian source? (Or are the ordinations actually from the seminary, and his agency irrelevant?)

If Dr. Beckwith had been struck by a car and killed a few years ago, would he have been saved, because he had not yet switched to Rome, or would he have been damned because he wasnt really born again, and just hadn't manifested it yet?

I know these questions sound like I'm baiting you, but I've been commenting here a while and I don't think I've ever been disrespectful, so please believe that I mean no disrespect now. But I would like to know what you think is the Calvinist approach to conversions/reversions of this kind. Is his apostasy retroactive, or was it there all along, or what?

Marcia said...

I would be interested in hearing the answers to Joel's questions as well.

SJ Camp said...

Great questions and I will do my best in answering them.

1. If Dr. Beckwith has become Roman Catholic, that means he has not persevered, and hence was never a Christian at all, is that right?

Time and truth go hand in hand. We will have to see if he maintains this course of action permanently--or if he repents of this error.

2. If so, what effect does that have on the teaching he imparted to those who thought he WAS a Christian? Is it now false teaching, because he had no real understanding of the Gospel truth?

Truth is truth no matter who says it. If the devil himself could read Scripture publicly and accurately that would not nullify its truth though that wicked serpent's motives would not be to glorify God in the reading. (To be clear, I am not comparing Dr. Beckwith to Satan, just using a dramatic example to illustrate the point.)

HIs current defection to Rome does not render his previous teachings or convictions as false that without question clearly squared with God's Word just because his own convictions have changed. That would ultimately make the truthfulness of the divine truth of God's Word dependent and subject to our own theological proclivities and moorings on any given day- (cp, 2 Peter 1:16ff). God is not subservient to us; but we are accountable to His Word - especially to those who are teachers of its truth (James 3:1).

I would hope that Dr. Beckwith's previous Protestant local church would begin a process of church discipline for him to see if by God's grace the truth of his current convictions can be uncovered thoroughly and specifically to confirm how drastic his departure from orthodoxy really is.
If he fully denies the biblical view of justification by embracing the Romanism view, then he would be in error. That is the conclusion we can only derive at this point. Dr. Beckwith is not a man slow of mind and unfamiliar with sound doctrine on the essentials of the faith. That is what makes this departure so disturbing.

To date, we are left to qualify his actions based on two things: his own testimony through interviews and a detailed public statement he crafted AND the ETS press release. By that statement, he is embracing, by public confession and Roman process, Romanism full on--therefore we must pray for this man for his repentance...

And I do say that with love understanding except for the grace of God there go I.

3. Had Dr. Beckwith been an ordained pastor (I gather he wasn't), if he in turn ordained other pastors at the seminary, would their ordinations be invalid, as coming from a non-Christian source? (Or are the ordinations actually from the seminary, and his agency irrelevant?)

Ordination is classically done through the local church by a body of godly men - an eldership. His one voice in the affirmation of anothers ordination is not the foundation by which that ordination rests or given authority. IOW, there is no Protestant Pope who solely possesses that authority over another. Ultimately, biblically God alone is the One who calls any one to ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-9; Gal. 1:10-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-12).

4. If Dr. Beckwith had been struck by a car and killed a few years ago, would he have been saved, because he had not yet switched to Rome, or would he have been damned because he wasnt really born again, and just hadn't manifested it yet?

Only the Lord nows the state of his heart based upon his own words. We do not. It would wrong for any of us to make a dogmatic eternal judgment on his or anyone else's soul based upon what has happened here. BUT, it would be loving and fair to ask of him what Paul asked of the Corinthian church "test yourselves to see if you are in the faith." (2 Cor. 13:5). His faith is and should suspect based upon his recent change in convictions and actions thereof.

Just as in a step four discipline (Matt. 18:15-20); when someone is "put out of the church" - we are not to declare them as nonbelievers due to their unrepentance; but we are to treat them as nonbelievers because of their unrepentance. There is a difference. Make sense?

I hope this helps a bit more. I always appreciate your questions... I prayerfully trust these answers were equal to the inquiry.

Yours for the Master's use,
Col. 1:9-14

SJ Camp said...

For those interested: here is a recent interview where Dr. Beckwith is trying to qualify his recent return to Romanism.


Joel said...

Thanks, Steve. Your answers clear up a lot. I'm afraid my understanding of Calvinism looks a little cartoonish, but I wanted to understand some of the reactions I've seen to this situation.

I particularly wondered about judgments on the fate of Dr. Beckwith's soul. Catholics typically are very cautious about speculating on another's salvation, because our soteriology is much less cut-and-dried. I've known a few Protestants who weren't nearly so reticent. :)

I know there's been a lot of talk, much of it angry, about Dr. Beckwith and that some Protestants are feeling betrayed by his switch. I was expecting to see judgment of his soul around the blogosphere (although I don't think I've seen any yet), but I didn't know if that would be an actual expression of Calvinist theology or just people speaking out of their hurt.

Joel said...

FWIW, from a Papist (and ex-Evangelical) point of view, Dr. Beckwith's interview gives an excellent explanation. Even if I were absolutely opposed to his switch, I think I'd respect the reasons for it.

SJ Camp said...

The betrayal is not personal, but doctrinal. I haven't heard any Protestant in Calvinistic circles say, "why did he betray us?

The issue is doctrinal. I agree that Rome's soteriology is "because our soteriology is much less cut-and-dried" because it is not rooted in Scripture alone but in the traditions and moorings of men. There is a comfort in a dogmatic soteriology--salvation should not be subjective nor speculative--but absolute. When any of us move away from sola fide, then it becomes a matter of degrees of faith plus works doesn't it? IOW, Rome's soteriology grades on the curve where biblical soteriology does not.

So to reiterate, the betrayal and defection that we "feel" for Dr. Beckwith is one of genuine concern for him and his moving away from what we would consider as orthodoxy to heterodoxy as I outlined in this article.

Good to speak with you...
Col. 1:9-14

Noel said...


First off, thanks for your ministry while at the Toledo Conference. I am sharpened. Thank you.

I have a huge burden for an uncle-in-law. He is Roman Catholic. We have been debating about Protestant vs. Catholic theology for some time now. It is so defeating when all of his rebutals are the same, "Well that is how you interpret the Bible" or "I know the verses are in their, I just don't know where." AHHHHHHH how difficult that is when Scripture is clearly shown. Truth is clearly provided. Yet still deadness prevails through the fog of traditionalism and defeatism in a works based religion. Steve I am encouraged by your willingness to proclaim truth. Keep serving the Lord!

SJ Camp said...

Thank you Noel and I will be praying for your uncle-in-law.

Phil. 1:21-27

Dana~Are We There Yet? said...

I've read and re-read with desperate interest the paragraphs by Edwards, as I have struggled mightily with the question, "How do you know if you belong to God?"

I know that I want to. I need to.

Combing over Edwards' words, I am no more sure than I was before. I recognize myself in the "self-love" and "experiential" references. I got lost in the "feelings and experiences which are good signs of God's grace in the heart differ from the experience of demons in their source and in their results."

My question for you is, do you have a recommendation for me now? More personal discipline? Longer sessions of daily Bible reading and prayer? Is there a book, counselor, or other outside source that you've found useful in situations like mine?

I long to "know that I know." I'm 39, professed faith at 13, and I've striven for assurance since that time. Perhaps this isn't the forum, and if so, please excuse the comment.

Watcher's Lamp said...


As a former Roman Catholic, I greatly appreciate your effort in revealing essential issues with Catholicism as a false religion.

Why the SBC endorses ecumenical men such as Chuck Colson, is beyond me.

Thank you for your effort.

God Bless & protect


Marcia said...

Clemntine, I don't know if this is the forum or not, either, but I was struck by the same thing in reading Edwards' words. Other people's certainty is amazing to me.

cyd said...

Dear Clemntine,

Our assurance of salvation rests solely in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is faith in Him alone that gives our hearts peace, rest and assurance. When we place our faith in anything else, i.e., faith in our own faith, our sincerest professions of faith, our own good works, feelings or experiences, we are hoping in vain. So, how do we get to the place where we can say with full confidence, “I know that I know”? The answer is always found in God’s word.

Romans 5:1,2 says this: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Justification is the wonderful judicial act of God pardoning sinners (see Romans 3:10– 26; Rom 4:5; Rom 5:15 – 17; 2 Corinthians 5:21) based solely on the meritorious ground of Christ.

It is because of Christ alone that we receive divine pardon and acceptance (see Galatians 2:16; 3:24 – 26)

The necessary means of justification is personal faith in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord. Romans 10:8 -11 says this: “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 3:25, 26:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

1Corinthians 15:3, 4: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (see also John1:29; Gal.1:4; Heb.5:1; Heb.3:1; 1Pt.2:24; Is 53; Hos.6:2; Mt.12:40; Jn2:22

Titus 3:3- 7 says we were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, HE SAVED US (emphasis mine) not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

The word of God says we were DEAD in our sins, BUT GOD intervened. We can do nothing to save ourselves; it is all based on faith alone in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Put your faith IN CHRIST ALONE for your salvation. He will not fail you! You can trust Him; you must trust Him. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Oh, believe Him Clemntine!

Now regarding some books – I love books!! A few suggestions:

Jerry Bridges:
1. Growing Your Faith 2.Transforming Grace (living confidently in God’s unfailing love)

A.W. Tozer:
The Knowledge of The Holy

A.W. Pink: The Attributes of God

D.M. Lloyd-Jones:
Faith Tried and Triumphant

Kay Arthur:
1. Our Covenant God 2. LORD, I Want To Know You

I am praying for you!


Rick Frueh said...

No one who reads the New Testament without historical perspective would embrace what Roman Catholicism teaches. So many of the reverse converts who go back to Rome use a study of the early church as one of the deciding factors in their change. This was so with Beckwith also.

So in essence they add early church history as authoritative as the Scripures themselves. Many also get consumed with intellectualism and the writings of the early church fathers. This trend accelerates and with all the blatant nonsense that Rome teaches we would assume that they would have long since lost any credibility among evangelicals.

Their continuing strength that is seeing respected and proven believers go back to Roman Catholicism must come from somewhere. The days are evil and this is just the beginning of birth pangs.

Joel said...

So in essence they add early church history as authoritative as the Scripures themselves.

I wouldn't put it that way, Henry. I'm one of those converts, and what I found was that if there were two ways (or more) to interpret a given scripture, I usually had a choice between what the Church taught in the first few centuries, or what the Reformers taught in the 16th.

The early fathers were well familiar with the Bible, and certainly knew it better than I do. They weren't just pulling doctrines out of thin air, after all. So if they considered a given teaching consonant with the Bible, it seems a bad idea simply to dismiss it out of hand simply because the Reformers rejected it later.

It's not a question of replacing the Bible, but of choosing between teachers for interpretation. Do you go with the Apostles' own disciples, or do you go with Luther and Calvin?

Joel said...

Woops! Should I have said "Rick?" I didn't see two names there. Sorry.