Tom and his guest, Ron Merryman, continue their discussion on the church, focusing on Roman Catholicism, the Reformation, and where the church stands today.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in. In today’s program, Tom continues his discussion with Ron Merryman, author, conference speaker, and former Bible College professor and president. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Our guest again is Ron Merryman. He’s the…well, he’s an author, former Bible college professor and president, and longtime pastor, and is currently involved with writing as well as speaking at Bible conferences. Ron’s website is merrymanministries.org.
Ron, before we get onto where we left off last week, I’ve got a question for you: didn’t you say that your mom and dad were Czechoslovakian?
Ron: My mother came from Czechoslovakia, an immigrant family—both her parents were from Czechoslovakia. My father was not. My father had a long history in his family [of] generations in the United States. They came to Virginia colony very early on in the 1600s.
Tom: Yeah. Well, the reason I bring that up is because I guess I misunderstood you last week. I was saying, “So Ron, where did the name ‘Merryman’ come from?’ [laughing] It’s a terrific name…
Ron: Right. Merryman is not…[laughing]
Tom: Where did that come from?
Ron: You’re right.
Tom: It doesn’t sound Czechoslovakian. But anyway, I’m excited to have you on the program. Last week—well, we talked about the Roman Catholic Church in terms of, really, how it got started, and it didn’t start with an overt church of Rome, it started with a misunderstanding, the misapplication, the erroneous dealing with the two ordinances that Jesus gave: water baptism and then the Last Supper, remembering Him for what He accomplished, and how this all developed in the hands of men. Ron, what’s your understanding of the Nicolaitins? Would this apply to what we addressed last week about—does it mean “rule over the laity,” or how would you understand that with regard to Roman Catholicism?
Ron: Yes, that’s the way I understand it. “Nico” means to conquer, and that’s of course where the famous athletic company gets their symbol from, Nike. And “laos” means the laity, and that is nowhere as obvious as in a system that elevates the priesthood and then creates on top of that a hierarchy with a man who can speak ex cathedra and never make an error, the papacy. So you take separation and the elevation of the priesthood, and then you just run rampant with it until you have a hierarchical system that you have in the Western or the Latin church, the Catholic Church.
Tom: Right. And we see that not just in the Catholic Church, but many within so-called Protestantism that have…some have become cults or some are cults.
Ron: Or, “cultic” would be also another expression, where an individual becomes elevated, he becomes like the high priest of hermeneutics. This guy has a special insight that nobody else has, so that’s cultic. Yes, that’s often found within fundamental circles. It’s a very unhealthy thing, and it’s wrong, so we just have to face it for what it is, not make excuses for it. The final authority, and this will be in all doctrinal statements, are the Scriptures, and we’re all learning, we’re all growing. So we have to learn what the Scriptures say and what they mean, so we’ll be doing that, and also then we have this infinite subject, our Lord Jesus Christ. So we’ll be doing it into eternity!
Ron: So while we’re here, the authority is His Word, period!
Tom: You know, again, I’ve done a little video, I hope, for youth. I hope they’re picking up on it. I deal with spoon-feeding, you know? That can be a problem. We’re all personally accountable for what we think, for every thought, word, and deed, and it’s wonderfully that way. So we keep looking to the Lord, we keep looking to His Word, not to a man, even though God has raised up teachers and certainly we can be edified by individuals.
Ron: Well, they’re necessary, and that’s part of the Holy Spirit’s thing, too. But there’s also the capacity for every thought to be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ.
Ron: Imagine that! Oh my gosh! I mean, that is a most wonderful thing to envision happening in us. So yes, our opportunities are great, and fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit and His Word and all these grace capacities, so we need to capitalize on teaching His Word. That’s it. That’s what’s going to get the job done, not our cleverness or our wisdom. It’s a grace operation.
Tom: Amen. Now, Ron you mentioned last week your love of history, church history, and you know, as I said, you’ve really given me some terrific insights by what I’ve read in your books. Now, last week, we dealt with the Roman Catholic Church. (I mentioned that I was a Roman Catholic for thirty-some years.) Yet then came the Reformation, which attempted to get the church, the body of Christ, back on biblical track. Now, in your view, how successful was the Reformation in doing that?
Ron: Well, let me use a term here and try to qualify it. The term is what’s called the magisterial reformers, which would be Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, and any of their associates, and the reason they’re called in church history, or by intellectual historians, “magisterial reformers” is they did not only reform or attempt to reform the church and certain doctrines of the church, but they used the magistry to back them up. That is, they used the police force. Let’s put it that way, break it down into terms that people can understand. They would use the local police and the political structure to enforce their dogma, which meant that they had a church-state, state-church relationship, just as did western Roman Catholicism, or the Latin church.
So that doesn’t get broken till you have America, but that’s another wonderful thing about our country: we started out without that, because they knew the danger in it. So number one, they carried over this magistry-theological combination to enforce whatever doctrine they had. Your question, however, related largely, I think, to what they did with the Scriptures, and they—all the magisterial reformers claimed to lean on sola scriptura, sola vide, sola…all these…faith alone, Christ alone, sola Christos and so on. And so the Scripture…and their concern was largely how does one have his sins forgiven, and two, what is the church? This was something that all of these three areas or three reformers taught or taught on, tried to correct the errors of their day. Now what they didn’t do is deal with eschatology—last things.
Ron: They all felt that the pope was the antichrist, and they all adapted the amillennialism of Augustine, which had permeated the Latin church, the Catholic church. So they carried past the Reformation the amillennialism of the church they were trying to reform. The second thing that they carried past the Reformation--didn’t reform--was the issue of baptism: how you performed it, who was eligible to be baptized--they all continued the baptism of infants which, of course, is contrary to the New Testament. The only people in the New Testament that were water baptized were people who had trusted Christ as their Savior.
Tom: Sure. It was believer’s baptism.
Ron: Exactly. And so in some ways, there was a reformation, and some ways there was not a reformation. In areas--a large portion of Scripture dedicates itself to it. There’s more in Scripture on eschatology and the Second Coming than there is on the First Coming. So how one could miss this is a little bit difficult. In other words, how--why didn’t they deal with eschatology? They were prolific in terms of their ministries, the broadness of the…but somehow, they just let that go by, and thanks to men like John Nelson Darby, there was a--he finished the Reformation in terms of that doctrine.
Tom: But interestingly--because you mentioned last week, and we don’t have time to define all our terms, but you mentioned replacement theology. When you believe that you’re in the millennium, or that the millennium itself will go on and on, you know, and everything will be getting better and better, which is absolutely a lie to anybody who’s got their eyes and ears open. But still, these things--they get serious. Replacement theology: now you’ve put the Jews and the promises of God to Israel--you’ve just blown that away from Scripture. And worse, it leads to anti-Semitism, doesn’t it?
Ron: Yes! And what you’ve raised is the major issue that manifests itself in that eschatology, and that is the issue of interpretation, of hermeneutics, because if you follow a consistent, literal hermeneutic, you will be a premillennial Christian. You’ll believe that Jesus is coming back to set up His millennial kingdom! And there is no escaping this. Even men like Oswald Allis, who was a famous teacher when the fundamentalists taught at Princeton and these men did believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. They did believe the gospel. But in his book entitled Prophecy in the Church, Allis admits that if one follows a consistent, literal interpretation of Scripture, he will be a premillennialist…
Ron: …and he’s writing in the 1920s. Here’s an interesting sideline on this that’s pertinent to what we’re talking about: here’s something that dawned on me when I was writing my book called Millennial Eschatology…
Tom: Which is terrific, by the way. I recommend it to everyone, absolutely.
Ron: Thank you, Tom.
Ron: Listen to this, Tom. The best work on the kingdom is written by a man named George Peters. It’s a three-volume work, and he just follows a literal hermeneutic, and George Peters was a German Luther. He wrote his book in German! He’s the best thing on the kingdom there is. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Seminary, was a Presbyterian song leader. Alva J. McClain, who founded Grace Theological Seminary, where my good friend John Whitcomb taught for many years, they were Grace Brethren, and John Whitcomb told me, I asked him what was the source of this, and he said, “The German Baptist.” Henry Lord Alford was an Anglican. All these people follow a literal hermeneutic. It didn’t matter what their background was; didn’t matter what their training was. They followed a literal hermeneutic, and they become premillennialists. John Nelson Darby was ordained at the lowest level of the Anglican church, and then it isn’t long he’s teaching a literal coming of Jesus, and he’s kicked out of the Anglican church and the brethren don’t want to say that he was their founder, but in a real sense, he was the guy the Lord uses.
But Henry Morris was an Independent Baptist. Donald Gray Barnhouse was Presbyterian USA. He never left Presbyterian USA--the Bible Presbyterians Faith Seminary in Philadelphia, Allen MacRae was the president, I don’t know who was…all of these men had different backgrounds, but they all followed the same hermeneutic.
Tom: Wait, now let me just stop you right there. Ron, just give us a simple--because maybe you’re throwing some people off with hermeneutics; it’s a really simple thing--but just give us a simple definition of what you mean “hermeneutics.”
Ron: The Golden Rule of Bible interpretation is that you interpret the Scriptures just like you interpret any paragraph you’re reading, you interpret literally for what it says, unless in the context, it uses a simile like, “like,” or, “as,” “this is like this,” “this is like that,” or, “that is that.” So you don’t spiritualize Israel. You don’t spiritualize the church, you see. When it talks about the church, there is no Jew nor Greek nor barbarian in the church; we’re all one in Christ. Well, in the Old Testament, there is Jew and Greek. You see what I’m saying?
Ron: So illustrative or literal interpretation is Israel and the church. So the Golden Rule is you interpret the Scripture in its most common understanding literally. And if you do that, you will be, as all of these men, despite all of those names that I quoted were late 19th or 20 century. These are contemporaries of us. They all had different backgrounds theologically, but they all come to this concept, they’re the same idea, Jesus Christ is coming back for His church. He’s going to take His church out, there’s going to be a tribulation, and then there’s going to be a millennial kingdom.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Ron, let me just interject this, because when I use the term, I stop myself. I say, “Folks, how many of you know what the term ‘hermeneutics’ is?” You know, a church, a conference, or something like that, and only a few people raise their hand. I say, “Well, here’s the good news, you’ve been practicing hermeneutics since you began to talk and listen!” It goes back to conversation. All these things that you’ve said people would apply without even thinking about it in their conversation with other people. They don’t spiritualize, they don’t allegorize, they just take it for what it is. What do you think?
Ron: I think that’s excellent. I recently had a very nice--here I go on a rabbit [trail], but…I was selling a piano. I was moving from Colorado, and I couldn’t take this piano, and I had somebody call me, and they came and they saw all my books and everything, and they asked if I was interested in the church and all that, and I said, “Yeah,” and they said, “Well, we’re going to buy this for our church.”
And I said, “What church do you go to?”
And they said, “We go to Lutheran Church.”
I said, “What synod is it in?”
“The Missouri Synod.”
And I said, “What branch?”
And they said, “The Wisconsin Branch.”
And I said, “Well, that’s encouraging to me, because you at least believe the Bible!”
Ron: And the man’s wife then came, and she couldn’t wait to tell me. She said, “Do you believe that only believers were baptized in the New Testament?”
I said, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what I believe personally. My answer to your question is yes, but what’s important is what does the text say? Everybody in the New Testament that got water baptized, they had accepted Christ; they were believers.”
Ron: She said, “Well, we’ve come to that, too, and I went to my pastor and I asked him would he immerse me, and he said he would. So my husband and I, we figured when we were baptized as babies it didn’t count, so we got baptized.”
So I said—this lady was, now, she was about fifty—and I said, “Have you talked to your parents about this?”
She said, “Oh, I haven’t had the courage.” [chuckles]
Ron: Isn’t that interesting?
Tom: Well, you know, Ron, along that line, when we’re talking about the Reformation, the solas, here’s some of the ironies, or contradictions. Yeah, the cry of Luther, sola scriptura! But when it plays out, you find that Lutherans, Wisconsin, Missouri Synod, or whatever, you’re going to find within any denomination churches having autonomy and so on, and they may go by the Scriptures, some may not. But more often than not within Lutheranism, you’re going to find, “Oh, you’ve got to be baptized in order to be saved!” Now, that’s not sola scriptura!
Tom: It’s a problem.
Ron: And the perfect illustration of that which I taught over the last ten years, I was speaking in Northern Minnesota, and the pastor said, “Well, I was baptized as a baby, and let me show you my baptism certificate.” And it actually--I have a photograph of this now; I made an overhead projection of it--it said that he was regenerated and now a part of the body of Christ in his baptismal certificate of being baptized as a baby--yes, again, this is one of the carryovers again, confusion relative to these two things Jesus asked us to do. It’s not cleared up even in non-Catholic circles.
Tom: Right. Now, I’m going to bring our rabbit trail back to something…
Ron: Okay, sorry.
Tom: No, no! Listen, hopefully our listeners, they’re getting something out of all this no matter where we go. But one of the things that you mentioned that really hit me is how important an eschatological view is. Now, folks, there’s another big word. All it means is the “last days,” what’s going to happen, how are things going to play out. And the Bible doesn’t make anything esoteric; it just lays it out simply--you know, what is going to take place, when it’s going to take place, not in terms of date setting or whatever, but in terms of the order, and it’s huge today.
You know, I became a Christian thirty-some years ago, and I remember just learning about the Rapture. That blew me away! You know, as a former Catholic, I’d never heard anything like that. I’d never heard about prophecy. These things were not taught in the Church except maybe for the “secrets of Fatima,” and so on, which we won’t go there. But anyway, eschatology, millennial eschatology--Ron, back then even people were saying with regard to the Rapture, “Well, I’m a pantribber. Whatever pans out, whether it’s pre, mid, post, whatever it might be.” But your eschatology, your view of eschatology today is more important than ever, because of the agendas, the programs that are going on to either restore the earth, the kingdom theology stuff, the post-millennialism—we’re seeing that all over, and it’s not going away; it’s getting bigger, but it’s antithetical to the simple eschatology, the true eschatology of Scripture. Wouldn’t you agree with that?
Ron: Yeah, not only even in our circles, but in Shia Islam, you have an eschatology, too, where the Imam’s coming back…interesting in that circle is that Jesus Christ is going to come with him, so to speak, as like an assistant. Obviously they have…
Tom: Yeah, Isa, right. They’ve got the wrong Jesus.
Ron: …yeah, an incorrect view of Christ, but because so much of Scripture somewhere between 26-30 percent of Scripture is dealing with the triumphant kingdom of Messiah. So to misunderstand, or to misapply almost a third of Scripture--it just doesn’t make sense. In fact, it’s indicative of how apostate a large portion of Christendom is, even in circles that claim to believe the authority of Scripture.
Tom: Well, let me give our listeners a practical example of what we’re talking about here. Again, there are so many programs, so many agendas, whether it be the Evangelical Green Movement, or Kingdom Dominionism, or Rick Warren’s Fifty Year Global Peace Plan, we’ve got the progressive Christianity, which is the new left: all of them about trying to restore or save the earth. Even within Calvinism, you have Christian Reconstructionism, all of these kinds of things. Now, here’s the problem: if you buy into this, and these aren’t true to the Word of God, inadvertently, unwittingly, however you might want to call it, because I don’t think anybody does this on purpose, but you’re actually contributing to developing the kingdom and the religion of the antichrist. Now, is that an outrageous statement, Ron?
Ron: No, I think you’re right on target. And, again, the utopian dreams, often of good people—they’re delusional! They’re delusional in the sense they’re absolutely contradictory. Somehow, it’s hard for human beings, even some Christians, to realize that Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling. Jesus says, “Marvel not that the world hates you. It hated me before it hated you.” And the word that’s used there [unintelligible] means a vicious, aggressive hatred, hostility. And to try to bypass that as though that’s not a reality, as though we’re going to change the world when all the Scriptures, all the words of Jesus in John indicate that this world is heading toward a judgment of Almighty God, and that judgment is expressed in all the writing prophets of the Old Testament and all the writing prophets of the New Testament and it climaxes in the Great Tribulation period, and the entry of this great, triumphant kingdom of Messiah when He returns.
Ron: So, so anybody propagating this is—they’re on the exact opposite emphasis of Scripture. It’s just delusional.
Tom: Right. And the sad thing is, again, these things are very clear in Scripture. This isn’t some kind of secret. You know, you don’t need a Bible code to figure these things out. This is just straightforward stuff. The next kingdom that the world will be facing is not the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, but the kingdom of the antichrist. I didn’t make that up, you didn’t make that up, Ron, that’s what Scripture says. You mentioned delusional. If we think that we’re going to restore the earth, or we’re going to solve all the problems of the world, you know, social injustice, all of these things, peace, all of these things—it’s not going to happen until the King of peace, the Prince of peace, comes. That’s my understanding.
Ron: Yeah, see, in the meantime, you have His church. Now, the Ecclesia, again, you have these two words: clesia, “called,” and ec, “out.” “Called out ones.” Called out from what? Called out from a world that’s perishing so that we who make up the body of Christ, we are called out from a world that is delusional and perishing and is going to come under the judgment of God. So even in a very basic--I mean, we’re down at the basic thing, the church of this age, we’re called out from the world. So, our churches have quit teaching—they’ve given themselves over to music programs and entertainment and whatever. It’s a social gathering, so to speak, instead of gathering to Christ and to His Word and to truth. It’s a place where we go to smile a lot or something to this effect, or be stimulated by the rhythm of music, or whatever. It’s kind of gotten off track.
Tom: Yeah. Well, Ron, we’re about out of time for this segment, but again, the solution is not—it’s not all that complex. It’s getting back to the Word of God, to the law and the testimony. Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word, you’re My disciples indeed. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” If we’re not headed in that direction, if we’re not taking advantage of what we have in regard to the Word of God now and making a habit of getting into His Word, seduction is--we’re ripe for that. But God has given us a way out, a way to be fruitful and productive in these last days.
Hey, Ron, thanks a lot for joining me. The Lord willing, we’re going to do this again. We’ve got a lot more to cover.
Ron: Well, thank you for having me, and I hope it’s helpful to the listeners.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at P.O. Box 7019 Bend, OR, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael, we’re glad you could tune in and we hope you can join us again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.