Prominent teachers from the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, many churchmen professing the designation of ‘Protestant’, and churchmen in the anabaptist nonconformist tradition are constantly affirming that the soteriological issues of the Reformation are dead. All of these want to promote a ’new theology’ that basically affirms the significant differences of each ‘church’ tradition on the matter of WHICH WORKS please God and prepare a soul for justification in the last judgment. But all retain the notions of Augustine on the matter of final justification by character. This is in reality an unstated basis of ‘unity’ that theologians regressing into traditional Latin and Rabbinic theology are professing will move Christianity forward into 21st century ‘unity’ and beyond. Luther did not help the situation with his conflicting and confusing views of ‘losing salvation.’ Although he stood excellently for the truth of the gospel in ‘The Bondage of the Will’, due to the influence of Augustine, he still maintained elsewhere a ‘'lose salvation’' doctrine in the matter of justification. Like Gus, he taught that a person fully justified in Christ initially might later forfeit salvation through long-term neglect of participation in the ‘sacraments’, works of ‘charity’, and devout personal devotion to the word and prayer. So there is no question about where these doctrines of men that fascinate people today came from.
Pharisaic (Rabbinic) theology denied the revelation of God on pure salvation doctrine for centuries before Christ, so the continuation of their tradition and murder of opponents when Christ was present in the flesh and afterward, is no surprise at all. Christ, like John the Baptist and his father Zechariah who was murdered by the Pharisees, stood in the tradition of just nonconformity to Pharisaic doctrine. The suppressed writings for many centuries of the Hodayot and the Two Ways in the Dead Sea Scrolls give us some indication of the doctrine of salvation opposite of Rabbinic teachers that the nonconformist YAHAD communities leading up to Christ (who was raised in their midst in His humanity) held to.
The salvation doctrine of Christ and His apostles has nothing to do with Rabbinic, Latin, or Eastern theology at all. All of these three consist of a doctrine of final salvation achieved by the merit or condition of ‘righteous’ character. They are focused on ’spiritual navel watching’ that is obsessed with proving a person’s worthiness of salvation by achieving either ‘perfection of character’ or at least ‘diligent faithfulness’ in this life. So the following contrasts the difference between the apostolic gospel and the gospel taught by churchian tradition:
Apostolic: Focus on completed salvation in Christ and the confidence in this reality evidenced by faith given by the Holy Spirit
Church: Focus on experience and internal holiness that are the basis of final confidence of salvation. Faith in Christ and the confidence resulting from it is only the beginning, final salvation is by character.
All of these movements since the apostolic testimony teach the ‘Church’ position:
- Patristic: this theology promotes the notion of sanctioned ‘church fathers’ that are assumed to be so infused with the Holy Spirit they can’t teach heresy. The doctrine was perfected by Tertullian. It started with Ignatius and never receded. All of the well-published ‘early fathers’ teach the Church position on salvation.
- Augustinian: —this theologian represents the crux of teaching on final salvation by character. He is well-loved by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and many Protestants on the issue. Those who have the courage to challenge his doctrine are very few and rare in number. His teaching stood for more than 1000 years without compromise (according to historians) within the traditional ‘church’.
- Lutheran:— Although Luther vigorously opposed the Papal doctrine of salvation by the merit of internal holiness, he still maintained that grace can be lost by neglect of the sacraments, practice of charity, and personal piety after it is received in faith. His doctrine on this point was later a basis of Mennonite, free-will Baptist, free-will Congregationalist, Arminian, and Wesleyan theology.
- Apostate Reformed: Presbyterian and Reformed theology initially taught by Calvin rejected the ‘lose salvation’ doctrine of Luther, however, it later apostatized and became obsessed with it. The post-modern ‘Federal Vision’ movement is completely given over to the ‘'lose salvation'’ theology by neglect of personal faithfulness.
- Arminian — No surprise here, the theology of Jacob Arminius teaches that the ‘justification’ taught by the Reformation is only ‘initial’ and can be later overridden by a lack of personal internal holiness. No difference here between Rabbinic and Roman Catholic theology except for a dumb debate on which ’sacraments’ communicate grace to achieve such holiness.
- Wesleyan and Pentecostal — There is no difference in essence between Wesleyan and Arminian theology, except for a technicality on the ‘timing’ of initial justification. One teaches that regeneration is before initial justification and the other teaches it is after. But in the case of both, since ‘initial’ justification is not real and can be overridden by unfaithfulness in performance later, the issue is completely irrelevant. The point is this: final justification is by character evidenced by perfect faithFULNESS in life and conduct. So Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anabaptist, and Arminian/Wesleyan theology are all the same in this regard.
A return to the apostolic gospel will abandon all of these theories of men that obsess with internal ‘holiness’ and spiritual navel-watching. We should not minimize the importance of submission to Christ’'s teaching in our personal lives, however, the traditions of churchianity are entirely consumed with meditation on whether personal perfection (absence from and victory over sin) has been achieved. Focusing on the true gospel can only occur when such traditions are entirely denied and thrown out.
The Reformation doctrine of salvation will be viewed as dead as long as the focus of mankind is on the achievement of grand and perfect personal holiness, in advance of Christ’s final return.