The Catholic Church has the Vatican Counsel, which decrees policy, belief and practice. In the early 60s the Counsel convened in what is known as Vatican ll. Here is an excerpt from the results of this convening…
Perhaps the most famous and most influential product of the council is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.
In its first chapter, titled “The Mystery of the Church,” is the famous statement that “the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth.’ This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (Lumen Gentium, 8). The document immediately adds: “Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines.”
Wow that almost sounds like something that comes from Bible Doctrine and Practice…”the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth.’
This sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it. Notice this part: “The document immediately adds: “Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines.” This would appear to correlate to the Holdeman theory of the dot within the circle. You know, the old church vs kingdom theory. You can be in the kingdom, but not yet in the church. Who really defines these territories, man? All churches that claim exclusivity know that they have to grant some credibility to the random stray searcher out there so they make this small disclaimer. They have to grant a certain amount to those who are not within their boundaries, and yet they claim an ironclad right to be right about everything in the whole world. It is all about dominance and control.
Scripture and divine revelation
The council sought to revive the central role of Scripture in the theological and devotional life of the Church, building upon the work of earlier popes in crafting a modern approach to Scriptural analysis and interpretation.
Here we have the lineage thing popping up again. “Building upon the work of earlier popes….” We have criticized Holdeman and Menno for building upon the work of earlier men. These are men. This is not what God calls for. He calls for men who will read the Bible, teach the Bible, stand on the Bible, and promote only the Bible.
Let us make some further comparisons between the book of the Catholic Catechism and the Bible Doctrine and Practice. There is also the venerable “Conference Reports,” which lays out the rules of the Holdeman Church in very explicit terms. This book covers practice in every area of life. And lest you reply to me that the Conference Decisions are “only guidelines,” let me refer you to page 107, in the decisions for the General Conference of 1974. “Article 6 Conference Decisions: Resolved, that Conference Decisions are mandatory, and that we teach and practice them.” Oh my! This adds a powerful load to the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ. This adds a ton of authority to the ministers of the church, authority to beat the sheep, control the sheep and do away with the sheep. This is a powerful legal document. Does it matter who is doing this, if it is the Catholics with their Vatican Counsel, or the Holdemans with the General Conference?
The ministers of the Holdeman church like to use the 15th chapter of Acts to justify the actions of the General Conference and claim the right to make decisions that are binding for the members. They love to quote verse 28: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us;” They like to use the statement, when justifying the rules that they have made, “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us…” In defining this meeting of the early church, it is said that this was the first General Conference of the church, and the Holy Ghost was present with them and helped them to make decisions, and endorsed everything they said and did. There are elements of truth in this, but there is also a subtle deception. In this first “general conference” the decisions that were being made had to do with bringing the early church out from under the law. There were disputes about circumcision. The Pharisees, who were the lawyers of the church were wanting to stay with the law. They were loath to grant the freedom of Christ to the new Christians. The apostles were unraveling legality, not adding to it. They were not adding rules and regulations, legislating behavior and practice, but rather endeavoring to set people free from the bondage of the law. Verse 1 of the chapter tells us that “certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” These men were wanting to keep the early Christians under their thumbs. They wanted to enforce the law. They were trying to keep people from understanding the freedom that Christ brought to them. The apostles, newly anointed with the Holy Ghost were striving to set men free. They themselves had had a powerful conversion and now understood what it meant to be free from rules and regulations, and from prescribed behavior. God set up the law so that when Christ came, men would be able to understand what it meant to be set free. In verse 10 Peter puts forth a rebuke and says “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” He is pleading with the brethren to remove the yoke of bondage. He reminds them that the load was too heavy for their fathers to bear. There is a thing about the law, and that is that it cannot be borne. This is the reason that even though the Conference Reports states that the decisions of the conference are mandatory, yet they are not strictly enforced. They are impossible to keep. Laws cause people to stumble and sin. Freedom in Christ elevates people and causes them to see the best that they can be in Christ. The yoke of bondage built into the law bears down on people with an awful weight.
In verse 13 James begins to preach. He’s telling the people that now the Gentiles are to be gathered in. There is now no wall that separates them, if they will believe. How different this is from today, where the actions of the conference seek to build up walls and make distinctions between what are presumed to be God’s chosen people and the rest of the world. The work of the apostles in the early church was to gather in, to make God’s people one. The former distinctions were gone. There are stories told now of a dot within a circle, overlapping circles, the kingdom and the church, those in the waiting area, limited amounts of time for people to proceed from the waiting area into the true church and on and on. This is not what the apostles were preaching in this chapter. They were doing away with the law that separated and bound them and they were declaring the freedom that Christ brought. In Col. 2:14 Paul speaks of the “handwriting of ordinances.” He declares that Christ took away the “handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and took it out of the way, blotted it out, and nailed it to the cross.” Who then empowered men to create another handwriting of ordinances and make it mandatory for salvation? This is worse than absurd, this is a terrible sin. This does away with the efficacy of Christ’s death. This returns us to the days of touch not, taste not, handle not. Who has the authority to do this? The Vatican Counsel? The General Conference? The Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Southern Baptist Convention? None of them, my friend, it is all apostasy.
In a future post we will examine some of the similarities between the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Bible Doctrine and Practice. Which claims are correct? I used to believe that such claims were valid, it was simply deciding whose claim was more correct than someone else’s. I have come to understand that all such claims are wrong. Elevating your denomination over another one because of a belief that you have the more correct version of the truth leads to only one thing; control, hierarchical leadership, arrogance and pride. To truly fellowship with all Christians, wherever they may be requires a grace and a humility not often found in those who were raised in such an environment, This does not mean all who claim the name of Christian, but all those who are Christians. They are scattered all over the earth and they love God with all of their heart. Those who have met them and fellowshipped with them know this to be true, and they are forever changed by the experience.
Just remember that many groups have their writings and ordinances. All of the groups claim a degree of exclusivity. Many of the claims are similar or exactly the same. All of these groups disdain others who make the same claims. Do you scorn the book of the Catechism? Then stop to think that you have one of your own, if you are a Holdeman. A book of man’s writings, which are claimed to be only the interpretation of God’s Word anchor this group. It is only possible for men to write their own version once they move away from the Bible. They may quote long dead brethren, they may hark back to practices of years and centuries gone by and claim they are built on this foundation, but the Bible says “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11) Attempting to build on anything else will put you far from the truth. Heed this warning. Jesus Christ is the only foundation. Forget church fathers, lineage, counsels and conferences. Cling only to the hand of Jesus.