False Religion: Protestantism

The Reformers

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

How do I broach this topic delicately and objectively without coming off as if I am way out there in far, far left field? After all, I claim that “I Am A Christian.” “I Am A Baptist,” so I can rightfully disclaim Protestantism. In my articles “True Religion” and “False Religion” I offer four common characteristics of false religion namely: (1) Rejection or denial of the God of the Bible, (2) Rejection or denial of the deity of Christ, (3) Rejection or denial of the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God, and (4) Rejection or denial of salvation by means of Grace alone totally apart from any works of man.

The obvious question is: how does Protestantism fit any of these four characteristics? After all, Protestantism gave us the “Five Solae”: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Solius Chirstus, Sola Gratia, Soli Deo Gloria. Furthermore, all Protestant denominations accept some form of the Apostle’s Creed which states:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

That pretty well establishes that Protestantism affirms the triune Godhead and the deity of Jesus Christ. However, there is nothing there affirming the Word of God, and although it affirms “the forgiveness of sins,” it does not specify how that happens. Well, alright, these are not specifically stated in the creed, but generally speaking, Protestantism holds “The belief in the Bible as the supreme source of authority for the church”[1] and “The belief that believers are justified, or pardoned for sin, solely on condition of faith on Christ rather than a combination of faith and good works.”[2]

So, all seems well. But is it? If we look only on the stated beliefs of Protestantism,[3] my charge is baseless. I concede that, at least for the conservative variants of these denominations, these charges are unjustifiable, so I need to narrow my allegation to “liberal” Protestantism, and not “throw out the baby with the bath water.”

Liberal Protestantism has fallen away into an apostasy that, while it professes its creedal beliefs, in practice it denies the authority of Scripture, emphasizes salvation though works (mainly through baptism), and “spiritualizes” and/or minimizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ thereby denying His deity.

The fall of Protestantism (and from here forward, I am referring to liberal Protestantism) into apostasy began around the 19th century AD with the rise of “higher criticism” of the Scriptures.

[Higher criticism] generally takes a secular approach asking questions regarding the origin and composition of the text [of Scripture]…The principles of higher criticism are based on reason rather than revelation (emphasis mine) and are also speculative by nature…The higher critical methods…grew out of a German [Lutheran] school of Biblical studies in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries…the origins of higher criticism are deeply intertwined with rationalism and naturalism (emphasis mine)…In later times, higher critical methods were deployed in conjunction with the contemporary philosophical trends to de-historicize Scripture (emphasis mine).[4]

Just a casual reading of the above statement leaves the impression that higher criticism elevates man’s reason above God’s Word, and this is the downfall of Protestantism. Strangely, in his autobiography, John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, Retired, talks about his love for the Bible from the time he received his first as a Christmas gift at the age of twelve. He recalls:

That Bible went on my bed stand and on that day a lifetime love affair with that book was first born in me. It has never yet departed. I began on that Christmas Day the habit of daily Bible reading. I have missed very few days from that one to this in which I did not spend some part of that day reading and studying the Scriptures. I suspect I have read the Bible through twenty-five time by now.[5]

Spong’s “love affair” with the Bible defies the normal understanding of that phrase. After becoming and ordained Episcopal priest he talks about holding Bible studies at his first church. Of his adult class he said:

A tradition of adult education had never been part of the life of this congregation. Their biblical knowledge was on a Sunday-school level. Christianity was, for the most of them, simply part of their culture and was exhibited by showing decency, good manners, and good citizenship.[6]

He describes his plan for “discipleship” as follows:

I would duck no issues, compromise no truth, and avoid no frontier to which my thought and study (emphasis mine) led me. I would resist no new insight out of some need to be defensive for God. I would adopt as my motto the words of my theology professor… “Any God who can be killed ought to be killed” (emphasis mine). I would allow every part of my faith system, its creeds, its Bible (emphasis mine), its sacred traditions, to be examined and questioned openly and honestly. If I discovered that any traditional belief could not stand the test of this challenge, I would abandon it publically. No protective barriers, no claim for inerrancy, infallibility, or divine revelation (emphasis mine) would be placed around any symbol of Christianity, including core doctrines like the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Resurrection (emphasis mine)…I would test in a parish church arena whether or not the total education a priest receives in the academy, including the questions it raises, can be made available to a congregation of pew sitters even if it reveals that the Christianity to which they are attached is not intellectually credible (emphasis mine)[7]

Besides Spong’s blatant arrogance, note how he elevates himself, his thoughts, and his intellect over and above Scripture so that he is willing to challenge the veracity of the Incarnation, the Trinity, and the Resurrection. Eventually, Spong abandons all those things to the point where he advocates for the ordination of the first homosexual Episcopal priest and later for female priests. What the Bible has to say on these matters becomes irrelevant, and the reason of man becomes supreme.

Spong is just a small sample, but he is indicative of what has happened to Protestantism. Granted, there has been a lot of pushback from conservative Protestant groups, which is commendable; but by and large, Protestantism has jettisoned the Word of God, and fallen into a great apostasy where theism has been replaced by humanism so that only the empty hulk of the Reformation remains. Protestantism has become, in the words of Jesus, “whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

“Salvation” in these denominations is typically through baptism (usually as an infant) followed by some sort of catechism, confirmation and church membership. In other words, it is a “works-based” salvation. Although their confession affirms justification by Grace alone, through Faith alone, the definition of those terms degenerates into “works.” The shell is there, but the essence is gone.

Protestantism, the liberal kind, is a false religion. It gives lip service to God as a “figurehead” and elevates man above God in the form of humanism. It rejects the deity of Christ by questioning His bodily resurrection. It rejects the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, when it elevates man’s reason above the Word of God. It rejects the clear teachings of the Bible against such matters as homosexuality, or the ordination of female clergy, and it rejects the miracles of the Bible including creation and the resurrection of Christ. Finally, it teaches a works-based salvation.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism (accessed August 18, 2014).

[2] Ibid.

[3] FYI: There are many “flavors” of Protestantism. Protestant Denominations include, but are not limited to: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal (Anglican), and perhaps some others. All of these, with the exception of Methodist, are direct breakaways from the Roman Catholic Church. The Anglican Church (the Church of England) broke away from the Roman Catholic Church so that Henry VIII could divorce Catherine, but it basically maintained Catholic practices. Methodists then broke away from the Anglican Church. Many Protestant Denominations maintain the liturgical form of the Roman Catholic Church without the Roman Catholic distinctive of the veneration of Saints.

[4] http://www.theopedia.com/Biblical_criticism (accessed August 19, 2014)

[5] John Shelby Spong, Here I Stand, (San Francisco, Harper Collins Publishers, 2000), 30.

[6] Ibid, 134.

[7] Ibid, 134-135.


Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Theology

6 responses to “False Religion: Protestantism

  1. Lee

    This is sad, but so true!

    • Thank you Lee. I’m glad you were able to discern that I was not trying to lump all Protestants together, but was really addressing the liberal apostates. We have very solid brothers and sisters in conservative Protestant circles and I did not mean to cast any aspersions on them. The sad truth is that we have apostasy increasing in all “Christian” denominations — Evangelical and Protestant. That is why we need to stay true to God’s Word and prefer it over the words of man.

  2. Don Terrell

    Well said Ernie
    This also goes back to the Age of Enlightenment that some of our founding fathers followed. Jefferson was praised for holding church in the capital building in DC, but most people don’t know that he rewrote the Bible and left out the parts that didn’t make agree with. Now we see the same thing with Bill Hibles, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, John Ortberg and the list of the emergent churches and leaders keeps growing. The TV evangelist, prosperity gospel, contemplative prayer, and the list goes on.
    Good work Ernie