Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 11, 1960
NUMBER 14, PAGE 6,14a

Beyond The Horizons

Wm. E. Wallace, Box 407, Poteau, Oklahoma

Methodist Bishops Speak

When Roman Catholic bishops speak as a unit a great amount of interest and reaction is recorded in a variety of publications. The Methodist Church has her bishops also, and they speak, as a group. From the 1960 General Conference of Methodist Bishops comes "Highlights from the Episcopal Address", published in Christian Advocate, May 12. The 1960 "Episcopal Address" is generally a proposal to Methodists for "(1) a thorough-going re-examination of our doctrinal heritage and (2) the presentation of basic Christian beliefs which could serve our people as a guide and light in their quest for understanding the Christian Gospel and the Christian life."

The most significant things about the "Episcopal Address" are statements involving the revelation of God and scriptural authority. The bishops state: "But we also know that God did not cease to speak to his people when the canon of scripture was closed .. . we must make full use of the insight into biblical truth which has been disclosed to great Christian teachers and councils, ancient and modern, in the historic experience of the Christian community ... Any statement of Methodist doctrine should re-affirm the Wesleyan concept of religious authority: Scriptural truth experienced in life and interpreted by tradition and reason." These expressions reflect the attitude which disavows the all sufficiency of the Bible. (Incidentally, nearly, every major controversy involving the Lord's church has involved a denial of the all-sufficiency of some phase of God's plan: Judaism denied the all-sufficiency of the Gospel, Romanism denied the all-sufficiency of the local eldership, institutionalism denies the all-sufficiency of the congregation, et cetera.)

Does the bishops' philosophy on the voice of God mean that God speaks truth in addition to that which is revealed in the Bible, or, does it mean that God progressively reveals truth about Biblical truths? In either case the bishops would have "teachers and councils" paralleling the Bible in authority. If teachers and councils receive exceptional revelation from God about additional truths, or about Biblical truths, the New Testament loses its all-sufficiency.

How are we to know to what teachers and to what councils God has disclosed "insights into Biblical truth"? There are certain internal evidences of divine inspiration about the Bible, and certain external evidences, which convince us of its divine origin and authenticity. How are teachers and councils to be judged? If their pronouncements are to be judged by the Bible, then it cannot be said that God has given them an exceptional revelation — it is a matter of whether or not they have spoken in harmony with the Bible. If they have not spoken in harmony with the Bible, they must substantiate that which they claim to be God's revelation.

Paul told Timothy that "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." (II Timothy 3:16-17.) The New Testament joins the Old Testament as scripture and the two represent the "canon of scripture (which) was closed". Thus Paul declares that the scripture completely furnishes the man of God — no room for additional revelation. Peter wrote that God has given us "all things that pertain to life and godliness." (II Peter 1:3) Jesus promised the apostles that they would be guided into all truth (John 14:26, 16:13), and John wrote that the things which the apostles had heard, seen and handled were declared and written for us. (I John 1:1-6.)

Methodism, like other denominational philosophy, must look to sources outside the New Testament for authority for its denominational practices, hence its appeal to the idea that "God did not cease to speak to his people when the canon of scripture was closed."

There is indeed a sense in which God continues to speak. God is a "living God" and he speaks to us through his living word. Peter speaks of the word of the Lord as abiding forever. (I Peter 1:23-25.) Stephen referred to scripture as the "living oracles" (Acts 7:38), and we are admonished to speak as the "oracles of God." (I Peter 4:11.) Jesus is the WORD, the "incarnate" WORD of God. (John 1:1-14.) He called himself the bread of life (John 6:35), which means we are to feed on him. The written word of God constituting the "canon of scripture (which) was closed" reveals this "incarnate" word of God. The all truth to which the apostles were directed (John 16:13) is the faith which was "once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). So the living God speaks through his living word. Methodist teaching and practice measured by that which has been "revealed" to "great teachers and councils" may find some support, but when it is examined in the light of God's living word (I John 4:1), many things foreign to the faith for which Christ died will be found.

What's In A (Pope's) Name?

(This fine article was sent to me by its author, Joe Neil Clayton of Noble, Oklahoma. — wew)

A little over 18 months has passed since the Roman Catholic pope designated John XXIII was elected to his office. He has shown in that time a great deal of energy in advancing the influence of Roman Catholicism, mainly through the increasing of the College of Cardinals, or awarding the Cardinal's red hat in a more liberal way than most of his predecessors. These activities may be interpreted variously by Catholics, but they mean only one thing to the non-Catholic. Maneuvers of this sort suggest that this pope is more militant in his desire to increase the temporal and "moral," power of the Roman church.

There were some hints of these efforts in the very first actions of this man. Many predictions were made in the press along this line. Even the choosing of the name "John" indicates an effort to build prestige for the Roman church. The hypocrisy of the situation is suggested in a news article by Arnaldo Cortesi for the New York Times of October 29, 1958, which reported the election of John XXIII in this way:

"He will set on the throne of St. Peter as the 262nd supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church (The number of the popes is occasionally revised in accord with the efforts of Catholic historians to reconcile the discrepancies in counting them — JNC) and will rule the Church as Sovereign under the name of John XXIII. No Sovereign Pontiff has used the name John since 1334, when John XXII died."

In this manner, the press ignored the fact that the use of the name John also recalls a period of Catholic history in which the papacy was split three ways. Reams of explanations have been written on this period to take away the stigma of the schism, so now, as the Catholic press reporters profess, the new pope has taken the name to add his effort to that of many others. Such naive machinations do not impress those who are not awed by the pageantry of popery.

The point is this: There has already been a John XXIII in Catholic history! Modern Catholic historians tend to refuse recognition to him, because they recognize only the French popes who ruled from Avignon under the thumb of the French kings of the period. However, John XXIII, the first, had considerable political backing himself, reigned in Rome, the recognized seat of Catholicism, and even called the Council of Constance, considered as one of the most important in Catholic history. (John Huss, the famous reformer, was burned for heresy during the sessions.) Objective historians give the first John XXIII considerable importance, although he was morally corrupt. Many of the popes that have been recognized by Catholic historians as legitimate pontiffs have been little better, morally.

If it is reasoned by the present pope that this little idea of taking a so-called "anti-pope's" name will take away the stigma of this embarrassing period in the church's history, perhaps it would be a wise policy for succeeding popes to choose the names and numbers of other former popes who have caused embarrassment to the historians. In fact, several popes in line might choose the name John, and the numbers VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, and others of the period, to take away the stigma of the moral degeneracy of these "holy" rulers of the church. These Johns were guilty of every sin that can be imagined, and yet are counted in the papal "lists". It seems that the Roman Catholic Church is more concerned in removing the embarrassment of temporal schism than that of moral vileness.

One ceases, after such examinations as this, to be appalled at the glaring inconsistencies of the Roman heresy, but one is nevertheless caused to look with compassion upon the masses who have swallowed such lies with innocent sincerity. Let us pray for them, and work to the salvation of their souls.