Great Commission Publications Subverts Doctrine of Justification

August 2002

Great Commission Publications (GCP), a Presbyterian publisher, provides church bulletins to hundreds of churches, which distribute them to thousands of churchgoers each week.

Each bulletin carries an anonymous essay on the back (what printers call "cover 4").

Recently GCP published an essay (it is copyright 2002) titled "The Badge of Discipleship" on its bulletins. The essay undermines the central doctrine of the Gospel, justification by faith alone, as well as several other doctrines.

Here is what the anonymous writer wrote:

"What marks you off as a disciple of Christ? Baptism? That's a start. But then many baptized persons have renounced the faith. Joining a church? The same could be said here. Good works? Going forward in an evangelistic service? Reciting the Creed? Believing the Westminster Standards? All good things, important things. But they can still mask the heart of a fake."

Now, one can indeed be a baptized, dogooding, altar-call responding, Creed-reciting fake – there are many such fakes in the churches, including Presbyterian churches. But can one believe the Westminster Standards and be a fake? Notice that the anonymous writer does not say "recite the Westminster Standards" nor "profess the Westminster Standards." He says "believe the Westminster Standards." It is belief – faith – at which he takes aim.

Since the Westminster Standards include the most accurate statement of the Gospel yet put into confessional form, the bulletin writer implies that one can believe the Gospel and be a fake. Not only that, but one's belief "can mask the heart of a fake."

The Bible denies this. It explicitly says that if one believes the Gospel, one has already passed from death to life, one is already born again. It goes on to say that the saving belief itself is a gift from God, since no man in his natural state can believe the Gospel, for it is foolishness to him.

Notice how cleverly this attack on justification by faith alone is carried out.

The writer begins by mentioning an example that most would agree with: There are millions of baptized persons who are not Christians.

Then he mentions several other works, including good works, church membership, and reciting the Creed.

After building this momentum of agreement in the reader, the bulletin writer finally comes to his main point: belief is not enough – and he lumps belief in with all the rest of the false badges of Christianity that people wear. Belief of the Gospel "can still mask the heart of a fake." This borders on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

If the anonymous writer protests that he is contrasting "head belief" with "heart belief," he merely digs himself deeper into error, for the Bible makes no such distinction. To make such a distinction is itself a way to undermine justification by faith alone. After all, one can not only err in understanding justification, one can also err in understanding faith.

The writer is concerned to make and emphasize the point that belief alone is inadequate – what is needed is love. Love not only is the "badge of discipleship," but love, unlike belief, cannot "mask the heart of a fake." It is, the bulletin writer says, the "unmistakable badge of a disciple." Love is "what gives those signs [including belief of the Gospel] real blood and relish and verve and heart – real life in short."

This, of course, is Roman Catholic soteriology. It is the Roman Catholic doctrine that faith alone is not enough – that saving faith must be faith animated by love. Belief of the Gospel "can mask the heart of a fake," but faith animated by love is "real life."

The Council of Trent put it this way:

"If anyone saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity [love] which is poured forth in their heart by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them...let him be anathema. If anyone saith, that justifying faith [fidem] is nothing else but the confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence [fiduciam] alone is that whereby we are justified: let him be anathema."

There you have it: Rome and the GCP bulletin writer agree: It is love that gives "real life" to faith.

John Robbins
The Trinity Foundation
August 21, 2002

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