Don’t Believe in Satan

For a while now, Satan’s strategy has been to keep himself off the minds of most people. The idea of witchcraft and paganism and evil itself is trivialized in television shows and other media to relegate the notion of sin to the realm of fiction. We’re so bombarded with the promotion of sin and of blind tolerance today, that even Christians are bashing other Christians for opposing works of media that trivialize sinful behavior. It is now more respected for a Christian to be tolerant, and thus “enlightened,” than it is to be righteous.

I’ve strayed from my original point, Jack. The overt glorification of Satanism and paganism in music & horror stories trivializes evil. It doesn’t “draw kids into the camp,” as it were, but rather desensitizes them to it. The imagery you depict in your comic makes evil a joke and less real.

Satan is not out recruiting people. He doesn’t need people to sign up for his crew. They’re automatic members. They start off on his team. He just has to keep them from jumping ship. And the best way to do that is to make them as comfortable as possible right where they are—to keep them happy, to make them think that they’re admirable, and talented, and educated—and that they don’t need God or anything else.

The last thing Satan wants is for people to be aware of him.

Soli Deo Gloria

All of the “sola’s” so far discussed have led to one inevitable conclusion: Soli Deo Gloria (or To God Alone be the Glory). When the reformers declared Sola Scriptura, they declared that all doctrine must align with what is taught in Scripture, alone—than no teaching of Rome or any other church is to be considered mandatory or “God-breathed.” Since it was God who inspired the Bible’s writers, through the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura pointed directly to God, giving Him the honor.

When the reformers declared Solus Christus, they said there is only one Way to Heaven, and that’s through Jesus Christ alone. There is no other mediator than Christ—not Mary and not the so-called saints. Because Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God, and since God was the One who sent Christ, God alone gets the glory in this doctrine as well.

The doctrine of Grace Alone established God’s initiative in redeeming man. Since man was corrupt by nature (every desire of his heart was to reject God), he already warranted eternal damnation. There is no righteousness in man, in and of himself. It was strictly out of grace alone that God thought of redeeming man. It was out of grace—not obligation—that God sent His Son to die for the sins of His elect. The doctrine of Sola Gratia clearly gave glory to God alone.

The reformers’ flag ship doctrine, Sola Fide (or Faith Alone) declared that man in no way warranted salvation due to his “good works.” There, in fact, is nothing a man can do to even contribute to his salvation. Justification is gained by faith in Christ’s death alone. And as Paul states in Ephesians 2:8-9, even the faith is something God gives us—not something we come up with on our own: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that [faith] not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” All the glory is clearly given to God in this doctrine.

So, the culmination of Reformed Theology is the honoring of God alone in the process of redemption. It is He who reveals Himself to His elect, and it is He who provides His elect the necessary qualifications to bring them to Heaven.

Though the believer, with his limited point-of-view, sees faith in Christ as a decision he makes on his own, the reformers of the 16th Century searched the Scriptures and found redemption to be a sovereign plan initiated by God before the foundation of the world. They realized that even their apparent choosing of God was really God choosing them. It was to this revelation that they declared so boldly, “Soli Deo Gloria!”

Sola Fide

The debate over justification by faith alone was the benchmark of the Reformation. The doctrine itself was said by Martin Luther to be “the article with and by which the church stands, without which it falls” (articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae). No single declaration was more prominent and more central to the Protestant movement than the declaration “sola fide!” (or faith alone). The validity of such a doctrine had major implications for the Roman Catholic Church, which stood to lose much in the way of funds and reputation.

When the reformers declared “sola fide,” they were directly opposing the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on venial & mortal sins, priestly absolution, penance, and indulgences. While the reformers said that justification was gain by faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, alone, and that the works of a man had no bearing on his justification, Rome taught that justification was gained when one possessed a faith “made perfect in love,” or a faith that was accompanied by “works.” Rome also believed that a person could lose his justification when he committed “mortal sins.” To regain justification, he had to confess to a priest, receive absolution, then commit acts of penance to regain favor with God.

In efforts to raise funds, Rome also sold indulgences (or stored-up merit from overly-righteous saints and leaders in the church) to those who felt they needed more righteousness to gain justification. Rome eventually marketed the indulgences as righteousness the people could buy for dead loved ones—in case they needed some extra righteousness to get out of purgatory. Johann Tetzel (a peddler of indulgences) claimed, “Every time a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs!” All of these acts (indulgences, penance, absolution, confession) were seen by the reformers as “works,” and were rejected as adding anything to justification. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Though the reformers declared that works did not contribute to justification, they believed that true faith always resulted in good works. In other words, works did not help justify a man, rather they were necessary results of his justification and faith. As James 2:17 states, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” The equation would thus look like this for the reformer:

Faith = Justification + Works

And the Roman Catholic view would be diagrammed like this:

Faith + Works = Justification

The placement of “Works” in these equations meant the difference between two entirely different systems of Theology. It was on this issue in the 16th century that the church was split and hundreds of Christians lost their lives, standing up for what they believed to be the true, biblical doctrine of justification.

Sola Gratia

The doctrine of Sola Gratia (or Grace Alone) requires one to think in legal terms. Grace is, by definition, unmerited favor. In this case, it is unmerited favor given to a trespasser of God’s Law. Mankind is the trespasser and God gives a part of mankind salvation, freely as a gift of grace, rather than the punishment due them, namely death.

The number one ingredient in the reformer’s declaration of Sola Gratia! is this fact that no one deserves God’s salvation—that all men have sinned, and have thus warranted eternal damnation. The most frequent objection to Reformation Theology (or Calvinism) is, “That’s not fair!” People believe that, if God shows mercy to some individuals and saves them, He should show that same mercy (or grace) to everyone—that it would be unfair of Him not to.

Here’s where the definition of grace is so important. Grace is unmerited favor. That means God is not required to bestow grace on anyone. When objections are made, such as “God should bestow grace on everyone, if anyone,” we’re no longer talking about grace. God doesn’t treat everyone equally, but that doesn’t mean He treats anyone unfairly. To some, He bestows grace, and to others, He bestows justice. In all cases, He is never unjust. Even the sins of those He gives grace to are paid by Jesus Christ’s death. So there is absolutely no room to ever call God unjust. All sin is punished with death. It is grace, however, that God has His Son pay for the sins of some.

Another ingredient to Sola Gratia is the declaration that it is only by grace that someone can come to the Father. There is no righteousness or goodness inherent in anyone that leads them to the Father. Without grace, everyone would hate God and shun Him. This doctrine humbles a man, and leaves no room for pride or self-satisfaction in one’s own salvation. John Calvin puts it this way in his Institutes of Christian Religion: “God’s grace is illustrated by the fact that he does not give away salvation indiscriminately, but gives to some what he denies to others. Ignorance of this great truth detracts from God’s glory and prevents true humility (XII.1).”

It is this emphatic declaration of Sola Gratia! that reiterates what Paul says in the book of Ephesians and Romans: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (2:8,9). So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (11:5,6).”

Solus Christus

The doctrine of Solus Christus (a.k.a. Christ Alone) touched on several debates the reformers had with the Roman Catholic Church. During the Reformation, the Church’s homage to the Virgin Mary and to the Saints was condemned by the reformers, as was the Church’s apparent “works” righteousness.

As the supreme High Priest of His people, Jesus, the reformers argued, was the only Mediator between God and man. To pray to Mary or the saints was not only disrespectful to Christ and His sacrifice, but was flat-out idolatry as well.

As Christ, alone, is the Mediator between God and man, it necessarily followed that any religion that proposed another way to God, apart from Christ, was completely invalid. Christ alone, declared the reformers, is the Mediator—He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—not Mary, the saints, or any other religious figure. To attempt to get to God by any other way was unbiblical and futile.

But the debate between the reformers and the Church on this matter did not stop with matters dealing with traditional customs of worship and prayer. The doctrine of Solus Christus also had much to do with essential matters of faith.

The over-all banner of the Reformation was “Justification by faith in Christ alone.” With such emphasis on penance, indulgences, and faith-plus-works doctrines, the Roman Catholic Church was accused by the reformers as adhering to a doctrine that did not place faith in Christ’s sacrifice alone. A faith-plus-works gospel was “another gospel” to the reformers, or rather no gospel at all. The Church was thus deemed anathema, or accursed, and the reformers felt justified to leave the Roman church to worship with the true, Christ-centered Church.

Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura was the reformers’ rejection of the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church believed that its interpretation of the Word of God was infallible (or without error), and that it was the Church’s role alone to read and interpret the Scriptures. The reformers, however, believed that it was the duty of the Christian to read the Scriptures for himself and to make interpretations based on this first-hand reading, rather than taking the Church’s word for it. This notion of private interpretation was utterly scandalous to the Roman Catholic Church, and those who endorsed it were deemed by the Church as heretics.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura goes even further, though. The reformers also wanted to make it clear that the 66 books of the Bible contained all that was necessary for salvation—it was the sole infallible rule of faith, and that no other revelation was needed for the Church. This dismissed all “other” forms of revelation (i.e. private revelations from God, angels, etc.) as unnecessary and subordinate to the Holy Scriptures.

Because the Bible contained all that is necessary for salvation, the reformers felt that whatever the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church in general taught and said had to be compared to what the Bible taught. In order to keep a check on the Church, the common people (or laymen) had to have the Scriptures translated in their own, common tongue. This, again, was scandalous to the Church, and those who were caught translating the Scriptures were imprisoned, burned at the stake, or punished in other horrible ways.

The traditions of the Church (no matter how customary or ingrained in the Church’s past they may be) also had to be checked with the Scriptures. Many of the Church’s traditions were declared unbiblical by the reformers, and hence the reformers arguably overcompensated by doing away with all traditions and symbols of traditions found in church worship.

It is important, also, to point out what Sola Scriptura isn’t. Namely, the doctrine does not claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. It is not a science textbook. It does not contain instructions on how to plant and grow daisies. The doctrine does not claim that all traditions are bad—only those whose roots cannot be found in the Scriptures. It does not deny the Church’s authority to teach God’s truth—only that the Church’s authority comes from and is subordinate to God’s Word.

Martin Luther sums up the doctrine with these words, spoken in his own defense at the Diet of Worms:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves)—unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.”

How Jesus achieves salvation according to Paul

According to Paul, Jesus achieves salvation by representation. Jesus’ sacrifice atones for those who have faith in it. When one acknowledges one’s own inadequacy at following the Law and accepts Christ’s sacrifice as sufficient, in and of itself, for redeeming fallen man (that works cannot and do not add anything to salvation), one is saved.

Man, by nature, is fallen and sinful. Right-off-the-bat, man has already violated the Law of God and can, thus, never keep the Law perfectly. Any hope of gaining righteousness by doing any good deed is utterly futile, because man can never change the fact that he has not kept the law perfectly. Thus, salvation must be achieved by something other than following the Law.

Since man does not keep the Law perfectly, man’s punishment is Hell. This damnation to Hell is the righteous and just judgment of God, because the wages of sin is death, and if God didn’t punish sin with death, He would not be just. But because God loved man, He offered His Son up as a sacrifice to satisfy His own judgment on the select group of people, who have faith in Christ’s sacrifice.

God doesn’t simply forget about the sins of some to let them into Heaven. Their sins still have to be paid for. So, instead of sentencing some people to eternal damnation, He punishes Christ for their sins in their stead.

Christ is the center of salvation, because all God is concerned with (as far as people getting to Heaven is concerned) is whether or not there is still sin accounted to a person. Either a person has faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and his sins are thus paid for by Christ, or a person doesn’t have faith in Christ’s sacrifice, alone, and his sins are still accounted to him. Works have nothing whatsoever to do with it. Doing good works is nothing, because as soon as a man sins once in his life, works can no longer be considered in gaining access to Heaven.

When a man has faith in Christ’s sacrifice alone for his salvation, that man’s wickedness is then accounted to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is accounted to the man. God’s justice simply demands that the sins be paid for—it doesn’t necessarily have to be the man who actually committed the sins who pays for them. Since Christ lived a life completely perfect under the Law, He had the ability and authority to do this “sin-for-righteousness swapping.”