By: Dr. Abiodun Jemilohun
A CASE FOR ANOTHER REFORMATION- PART 3
There are four critical questions the Reformers sought to answer in order to restore the Church to the pattern laid down by the apostles of Christ. These include:
- How is a person saved?
Where does religious authority lie?
What is the church? and
What is the essence of Christian living?
We shall from now on approach this treatise in line with these questions in order to bring clarity to the present chaos. We have to, again’ state here as we did in the past that the issues we shall be discussing do not apply to all the ministries and ministers of the Gospel so as not to fall into the error of overgeneralization. There are several ministers of the Gospel in Nigeria who are above board in these issues in their service to God. However, the pervasiveness of the problems is the subject of concern.
- How is a person saved?
In response to the critical question of salvation, justification or righteousness, the Reformers responded by siding with the Bible that salvation, justification or righteousness is obtained by grace through faith in Christ alone. They asserted that good works do not make man good, but a good man (righteous man) must of a necessity do good works.
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:24)
“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. (Eph 2:8-9)
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Rom 1:16-17)
It is to the work of salvation of mankind that four of the five popular slogans of the Reformation called the “five Solas” were directly related.
i. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). This implies that the scripture must always come over and above human authority or tradition.
ii. Sola Fide (faith alone). That is, faith takes precedence over works.
iii. Sola Gratia (grace alone). Grace over merit
iv. Solus Christus (Christ alone). Christ is the only mediator between God and man.
v. Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone). All the glory must be to God and not to man.
The second to the fifth Solas have since been weaved together to clearly portray the foundation upon which our salvation rests:
“Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.”
The medieval Church taught that righteousness before God is attained by both faith in Christ and good works. In addition to faith in Christ, the individual has to maintain good works and pay penance for sins committed. The doctrine of penance stipulates that the Christian should confess his sins to the priest who would then grant him absolution (pardon) after repentance. Not only that, the individual may need to inflict physical punishment in form of fasting, flagellation, and pseudo-crucifixion on himself as a sign of remorse in order to get God’s forgiveness. To reduce the severity of the penance the penitent needs to undergo, the doctrine of indulgence was introduced. This involves the performance of good works in replacement of penance. The doctrine of indulgence was eventually commercialized and interpreted to mean that monetary payments could be made to the Church for the release of the souls of relatives who are being held in purgatory for the temporal consequences of their sins into heaven. In other words, salvation could be procured for dead relatives with money by the living.
Why was the indulgence commercialized? We have stated earlier in the treatise on tithing that it was the Roman Church that introduced tithing to the Church. This was initially in form of agricultural produce like it was under the Mosaic Law but was eventually monetized in order to fund the elaborate priestly hierarchical order and the numerous building projects of the medieval Church. The commercialization of the indulgence became inevitable as large sums of money were needed to prosecute the crusades (holy wars) and the building of the medieval cathedrals.
In order to cajole more people to pay indulgence, Johann Tetzel, the Grand Commissioner for indulgences in Germany was reported to have overstretched the Church’s position on the doctrine and became known for the couplet:
“As soon as the gold in the casket rings
The rescued soul to heaven springs”
We see today that the Pentecostal movement has come in full circle to the same position of the medieval Roman Church that righteousness is obtained by both faith in Christ and good works. Although they may not say this explicitly, this inference could be easily made from several of their teachings and practices. For example, the Pentecostals teach that whoever does not pay tithe is a robber who is under God’s curse. We know that no robber or divinely cursed person can make heaven. So, we see that the Pentecostals are essentially teaching that we cannot be saved without good works. It should trouble any Christian who knows the truth that the salvation of mankind is now being tied to payment of tithe. How is this different from payment of indulgence? How is this different from the concept of procurement of salvation with money?
We know that all the attendant benefits of the life in Christ are freely given as the Bible says. The Pentecostals explicitly teach that to obtain the blessings of God one has to give money to Him. This comes in various forms: tithe, seed-faith offering, 24-hour miracle offering, first-fruit, firstborn redemption offering etc. We shall deal extensively with this concept in a later discourse (this has been done in the “Anatomy of the prosperity gospel”).
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32)
We know how the Pentecostals began to lay undue emphasis on tithing despite that the Roman Catholic Church no longer places much emphasis on it. They have also introduced various schemes of collecting money from their members in order to prosecute their own pet projects that are mostly not related to the core message of the Gospel.
Contrary to the teaching of the Bible that salvation and answers to prayers are obtained on the merit of Christ who is the only mediator between God and man, the Roman Church teaches that apart from Christ the mediator, there is the mediatrix in the person of the Virgin Mary and a retinue of canonized saints who the Christian can petition to pray on his behalf to God. They teach that the believer can obtain favor from God through the accumulated merits and virtues of these saints.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Ti 2:5-6)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)
We see this concept of secondary intermediaries between God and the Christian in the Pentecostal circle in the form of founders and leaders of denominations by whose names members of respective denominations now petition God.
In addition to the doctrine of penance and indulgence, there was the use of holy objects like the cross, the images of Jesus and Mary and holy relics (relics of dead saints) in prayer, worship and for protection as the case may be. The holy relics were eventually commercialized and became an important source of revenue. It is disheartening that practices that are similar to these have also become entrenched in the Pentecostal/Charismatic circle. The use of anointing oil, holy water, holy mantles (holy handkerchiefs) in prayer has been elevated to idolatrous level. Some now use pictures of their leaders for protection. These objects, together with other objects like olive oil and prayer shawl from the holy land, the water and sand of river Jordan etc. have also been commercialized.
To be continued………………….
RELIGION: A CASE FOR ANOTHER REFORMATION- PART 1
A CASE FOR ANOTHER REFORMATION- PART 2