One of the strangest trends in evangelical Christianity is the increasing acceptance of Catholicism; I remember talking to one of my friends and implying that the Pope (any Pope) wasn't a Christian, oh boy, the reaction I got was as though I'd implied one of the great certainties of life was not so. Such are the days we live in, when following the biblical command to test confessions of faith and a person's teaching is met with derision. Any reading of the New Testament letters will reveal a better way: it is our duty as Christians to assess other claim's to Christianity. As Paul writes:
"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2 v 8
or as John writes:
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4 v 1.
The problem when it comes to the Pope, and to Catholicism in general, is that they speak the same language as us and we share similar moral views. Thus, it makes the work of discernment harder than in other cases especially today when a lot of Christians have been badly taught to begin with. Indeed, because Catholicism does clothe itself with Christians language and does teach some similar doctrines to Christianity then it worthwhile bearing in mind the following passage:
"For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." 2 Corinthians 11 v 13 - 15.
The fact that the Pope uses Christian language, shares some of our moral values, quotes from Scripture and will even occasionally teach correct doctrine does not absolve us from the duty of judging the entirety of his teachings nor him from the charge of false teaching. The central argument here is that the Pope is an anti-Christ; for his teaching is not in accord with Scripture, he acts to obscure Christ and he receives worship that should only go to God.
It is easy today to take a negative view over the future of the church in Britain; it isn't exactly doing well at the moment. Inside the church then errors abound, reformed truths have been cast aside and the church seems to be trying to conform more to the world than to the likeness of Christ. We're exactly like the woman in Songs of Solomon: "I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking." We hear the knock of Christ, we hear the thud of our conscience but as we stir we say: "I have taken off my robe - must I put it on again? I have washed my feet - must I soil them again?" We care, but not enough to fully wake up, we want to change but we're too lazy to put good intentions into practice, we know we're not what we should be, we're also unwilling to be more than we are.
Looking outside of the church will hardly encourage us to hope either. Our government has taken the first steps to legalizing gay marriage, not that it is surprising, we lost the battle for marriage decades ago; the tide of secularism is rising and persecution of Christians is a reality closer than we want to think. Society is falling into a type of madness only found when departing from biblical truth, good is called evil and evil good.
Yet despite the darkness of the day then we still have any reason to hope. Sure, looking upon things with the eye of sight gives us every reason to despair but the eye of sight is an uncertain, narrow, short sighted thing that has no foundation. If we look upon things with the eye of faith then we find a new picture, a sure and certain picture, and that of a God in complete control of everything.
“Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”
Psalm 86 v 1
By all accounts Bellevue Baptist Church is hardly what one would describe as a thriving church. Quite the opposite in fact: on a Sunday service a good congregation would be anything just into double figures, in September the capital we’ve been living off for the last twenty years runs out and my Father will have to stop taking a salary. Humanly speaking my Church is slowly but inexorable dying. We are quite literally poor and needy both financial and spiritually.
And it’s hard. Let this be the first thing I say. It’s very hard. I find it easy to get bitter about it hearing faithful biblical teaching week after week knowing that there are other churches out there with huge congregations and terrible theology. It is easy as well to get angry, why is my church so small? Why hasn’t God answered our prayers yet? Why has another week gone by with no new people coming in? And it’s also easy to feel depressed about it all – there’s no hope for the church, Bellevue Baptist is going to fade away and no one outside of the small congregation is going to notice let alone care.