Defining “Church”: “Exchange” w Anti-Catholic Zealot

Defining “Church”: “Exchange” w Anti-Catholic Zealot March 9, 2020

An anti-Catholic Protestant who goes by the delightfully charitable nickname, pearlsb4swine, roused himself out of inactivity on Disqus (over a year) to comment underneath my article,  Blessed Virgin Mary Will Soon be Promoted to Godhood? (vs. Douglas Wilson). He made nine comments over the span of three days. Knowing the usual tactics of anti-Catholics (and trollers in general) — from my 24 years of online apologetics — , I made a few replies and challenged him:

Your choice is this: either deal directly with my explicit, in-depth biblical arguments about the meaning of “church” and baptism in Scripture, and my question about Athanasius and Augustine [i.e., are they Christians?], or you will be banned as an anti-Catholic troll and I will delete all of your comments.

I want to see an anti-Catholic actually grapple with Catholic bible-based arguments for a change.

You wanna talk Bible? I have given you plenty of it. Now please get to work and back up what you say under scrutiny. If your view is so truthful and ours supposedly so unbiblical and false, it should be short work for you. You should welcome the challenge, and be ecstatic about the golden opportunity to set us ignorant papists straight — from the Bible — , right on one of our own web pages.

That was written about 30 hours ago, as of this writing. Oddly enough, we haven’t heard a peep from pearlsb4swine since. Sound familiar? I’ll give him to the end of this day to respond (another 13 hours). If he hasn’t by then, I will delete all his comments from that thread (but retain them here). If he does respond, I will — rest assured — add his words to this paper, and refute them, too. His words will be in blue below (I’ve made a few spelling corrections, and have retained his lack of capital letters).

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One must believe the gospel to be a born again Christian. Religion and labels are the problem, denominations and human tradition are man’s perversion of Christianity called “the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” by the Bible. every individual should join themselves to the savior not to a religious system or event. God looks at the heart. There are many christians and church goers from all denominations that are not born of God. going to church doesn’t save you only repentance and faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ can save anyone. Jesus himself said “you must be born again” The Core issue is what is the gospel and who is a part of the Body of Christ, not which label or religious ritual defines christianity. “you are my disciples if you obey my teaching ” Jesus said “they will know we are christians by our love for one another. anyone identifying themselves by anything other than the Jesus revealed in the gospels and the rest of the Bible is not a christian. you must have the Christ and the real Christ.

Christian unity comes only through the holy spirit inside a believer. all other externals cannot bring unity. those who are his have a new nature at work in them reconciling them to the light. “if we live in the light as HE is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins.” baptism is an outward sign of an inward change. read the bible for yourselves as you surrender to the savior and then test everything including your church and its leaders. God gives us all the same bible to test truth and the same Holy Spirit to discern family by that same spirit. the devil works feverishly to counterfeit christianity and to create many other counterfeit Christs through false religions.

What does this have to do with the topic of my article?

any debate about who is a true christian starts with being in Christ and applying biblical definitions to terms. it has everything to do with your article because your article focus on labels and denominations rather than on the gospel and the holy spirit.

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we are individuals “saved” and a body together. “the church” how it has become commonly used in culture is a place you go or a claim of authority and succession, but that is never how its defined in the new testament. The church are real christians not the visible church (institution) all though many genuine believers attend “church”. i am not against church just against wrong definitions which distort christian life and leaders use to control people and cultures. The point of this article opens up with a false dichotomy with “labels” and definitions that aren’t biblical.

the issue of whether “Catholics” are “christians” or not. neither label makes one IN CHRIST only repentance of sins and faith in Jesus Christ as total payment for the debt we deserve makes someone a part of the body of Christ. wearing a label or entering a building called “church” or joining any denomination doesn’t make one a Christ follower. my point is that opinions matter not we must have biblically defined “Church” . . . the word is “gathering” “assembly” of believers.

We are the church by being IN JESUS and the Holy Spirit makes us born again when we believe and receive the gospel of Jesus by faith.

“The Church” defined biblically are individuals who are in Christ, not an institution, organization or people wearing that name. you can be inside the building or in the pulpit and not filled with the Holy Spirit. The gospel is preached by individuals not churches.

This is exactly the opposite of how St. Paul uses the term in his epistles, following Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares:

The Apostle Paul on the Galatians as Miserable Sinners
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Galatians 1:6 (RSV) “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel”
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Galatians 3:1-3 “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? [2] Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? [3] Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?”

Galatians 4:9b “. . . how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

Galatians 5:4 “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

Galatians 5:7 “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

The Apostle Paul on the Galatians as Fellow Christians

Galatians 1:2 “To the churches of Galatia”

Galatians 1:11 “For I would have you know, brethren, . . .”

Galatians 3:25-27 “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; [26] for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. [27] For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Galatians 4:4-7 “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. [6] And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” [7] So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.”

Galatians 4:9a “but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, . . .”

Galatians 4:12 “Brethren, I beseech you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong”

Galatians 4:19 “My little children, . . .”

Galatians 4:28 “Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

Galatians 4:31 “So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.”

Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, . . .”

Galatians 6:18 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.”

There are similar dynamics with the Corinthian church as well. Our Lord Jesus also calls all seven assemblies of Revelation “churches” (2:1; 2:8; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1; 3:7; 3:14; along with the repetition of “what the Spirit says to the churches” in 2:7 and similar passages), yet excoriates several of them in no uncertain terms (2:4-5; 2:14-16; 2:20-22; 3:1-3; 3:15-18).

Jesus Himself rebukes six of the seven churches of Asia He addresses. Most scholars think that the Book of Revelation was written no later than 100 A.D. Yet look at all the serious problems we already observe in these apostolic churches, before the last Apostle (John) died:

a) The church at Ephesus “abandoned the love [they] had at first” (Rev 2:4), and are urged (corporately) to repent, lest their “lampstand” be removed (2:5).

b) Pergamum was accused of idolatry and fornication: “the teaching of Balaam” (2:14) and for allowing some of their ranks to adopt the Nicolaitan heresy (2:15). “Nicolas” is the Greek equivalent of “Balaam.”

c) Thyatira is also accused of idolatry and fornication (2:20-23).

d) Sardis is rebuked as spiritually dead (3:1-3), but Jesus says “yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.” (3:4). Even so, Jesus calls this group “the church in Sardis” (3:1), just as He refers to all seven as “churches.”

e) Philadelphia had “but little power” (3:8).

f) Laodicea was “lukewarm, . . . wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:15-18).

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Related Reading

Sins and Sinners in the Catholic Church [1998]

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