I’ve been looking at Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology[1]. I was specifically looking at the definition of a church. While Dr. Grudem was pointing out his definition, he points to Martin Luther and John Calvin for a definition and sees that put together in the Augsburg Confession:

the congregation of saints in which the gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered.[2]

He points to the LDS church and Jehovah’s Witnesses as being a false church because the LDS church “does not hold to any major Christian doctrines concerning salvation or the person of God or the person and work of Christ.[3]” The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a “salvation by works and not by trusting in Jesus Christ alone[4]” according to Grudem. I find the LDS church problem circular. It points to the LDS church not being a Christian Church because it is not teaching Christian teachings.

This is where the fun begins.

Grudem goes back to the definitions of offering the sacrament fairly and teaching a correct Gospel. He says the Roman Catholic church was not a church when they were taking payment for sacraments in the form of indulges, yet he is lack to say they are a  false church due to non-uniform teachings. In his words, “they are too diverse. To ask whether the Roman Catholic Church is somewhat similar to asking whether Protestant churches are true or false today– there is great variety among them.[5]”

He is dodging the question and not defining certain Protestant groups and Roman Catholics because they will likely be the readers of his works. Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses will likely stick to their church doctrine.

Even so, he says the Salvation Army is an unusual case as they do not accept traditional sacraments in the Lord’s Supper or Baptism, yet “it seems in every other way to be a true church. In this case the organization has substituted other means and continuing participation in the church and these other means of signifying membership provide a substitute for baptism and the Lord’s supper.[6]”

My point is that this is an unsystematic cheer-on towards the Salvation Army. Either the sacraments are agreed on in his work or they are not. You can’t change them to allow the Salvation Army to be a church and not allow differences in belief in other churches to call them false churches. I don’t know much about the Salvation Army or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, yet the sufficiency of Jesus Christ is offered to all in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They believe in Universalism of sorts, with a tiered system in the Afterlife. I won’t go into universaism except to state the the atonement of Christ is there in LDS doctrine.

To call two churches “false churches” and balk at the option in Protestant and Roman Catholic churches is weak enough. We don’t need one church called a true church and the rest being questionable or false. The calling of the Salvation Army a “true church” is weak enough.

1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).

2. Ibid., 865.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid., 866.

6. Ibid., footnote on 866.