Western Christianity and Reformed Theology vs The Pharisees: Two Sides Of The Same Coin

If you have ever read the Gospels in the Bible or gone to Sunday school at church as a child, you have no doubt heard of the Pharisees. Jesus harshly criticized the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day, calling them “hypocrites”, “a brood of vipers”, and other harsh terms. The reason for this was because Jesus knew their hearts.

You see, the Pharisees were a deeply religious people, who often knew most or all of scriptures in the Bible by heart. They knew all the laws of God because they had memorized vast portions of the law and studied it intensely, and moreover they were excellent at following the letter of the law “to the t”, so to speak.

However, Jesus knew that despite the Pharisees’ deep knowledge of scripture and rigorous discipline in following the law, in their heart they were evil, vain, prideful, arrogant, spiteful, malicious, greedy, self-indulgent, and who knows what else. We know at least the aforementioned based on Jesus’ description of them. Jesus said they were clean on the outside, yet filthy on the inside, like a cup that has been washed only on the outside (Matthew 23:25). He also said they were “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).

As a result, we know from Jesus’ harsh criticism of the Pharisees that it is not enough to live perfect lives on the outside by following the letter of the law. Essentially, this type of practice is called legalism, where one follows the law so closely that they forget the real meaning behind the law. Legalistic people like the Pharisees focused so much on outward actions that they completely overlooked their heart and the actual reasons why the law was created.

The heart of the issue

Perhaps, you know about the Pharisees already. Perhaps not. However, what I am about to say next is not taught in any of our Sunday school, it is not taught in any of our church sermons, and it is scarce found in any so-called “Christian” literature. So what is this? It is the fact that Western Christianity is just as bad as the Pharisees, if not worse – but to the opposite extreme.

The Pharisees had a problem that the focused only on outer issues but neglected their heart. Western Christianity, on the other hand, neglects to place emphasis on outer actions, claiming only in the heart is what matters. This ideology is rooted in the teachings of John Calvin, who was instrumental in helping start the Reformation and the Protestant movement several hundreds years ago in the 1500s.

During the Reformation, the Catholic church of the day had gone the way of the Pharisees. The church had become corrupt, largely because the people were unable to read the Bible because it was in a language no one was educated in. This centralized the power of the Catholic church to only the religious leaders of the day.

In an effort to bring people out of this error of the Catholic church which focused largely on a works-based salvation that was inconsistent with the Bible, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and others formed the Protestant movement, by translating the Bible into German and other languages making the scripture available to all people, as well as coming up with the primary tenets of what would later be called “Calvinism”.

The doctrine of Utter Depravity

The core belief at the heart of Calvinism is the principle of “Utter Depravity”, also called “Total Depravity”. This is the idea that humans have inherited sinfulness due to the “Original Sin” of Adam and Eve, and as a result, mankind is unable to do good of his own will.

The idea is that humans are “totally helpless” and do not even have the choice to turn to God due to this Total Depravity. The idea is that all that humans do of their own will is worthless to God. (Please see my other article, “The Terrible Dangers of the Doctrine of Grace” for more about this.) From this primary tenet comes four other tenets of Calvinism which depend on this. It is not necessary to delve into those for the purpose of this article, although I will delve into these at a later time.

Now, the doctrine of Utter Depravity was intended to teach people that a solely works-based salvation is indeed not the way to salvation. That is to say, we cannot “earn” our way into heaven. On one level, this is certainly true. We can’t just “do enough good” to get into heaven – not without the saving grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, this is not entirely true, as I discuss in my article on the Doctrine of Grace referenced above.

A consequence of the doctrine of Utter Depravity is that it requires the modern doctrine of Unconditional Grace. This is because if it is impossible to do anything to earn salvation, then the only way to achieve salvation would be a completely Unconditional Atonement – that is, a Grace which contains absolutely no conditions in order to receive it. Under Unconditional Grace, the idea is that forgiveness is available no matter what, and we don’t have to do anything at all to receive it – it is “free”.

However, as I said earlier, modern Christianity is the other side of the same coin of the Pharisees. So, how can this be? The reason, as I have elaborated upon in my previous article on the fallacies of the “Doctrine of Grace”, the absence of works is just as bad, if not worse, than the staunch legalism of the Pharisees. The reason for this is rooted in the fallacy of the Total Depravity doctrine. You might be asking, “why?”

Two sides of the same coin

There are two sides of the coin which are evil. The first neglects to address the heart issue such as the Pharisees. The second side of the coin neglects the works side of things. The problem with modern Christianity is that it tells people that works do not matter for salvation, because we are “saved by the unconditional grace of Jesus”. This is taught from Sunday school to little children all the way up to adulthood in sermons. Western Christians are indoctrinated in this ideology – even going so far as to call anyone who opposes it heretical.

The same problem happened in the day of the Catholic church. The Reformers were called heretics because their doctrine that saying “hail Mary” seven times or other arbitrary actions that the Catholic church had falsely deemed “atoning” isn’t going to do anything to help earn salvation. In their original opposition of this, they were correct.

The problem of the Reformers was not that they opposed a purely works-based salvation. That much is biblically sound. The problem is that they went too far in the other direction. By completely dismissing all conditions of works, they have removed the biblical requirements for salvation and essentially condemned millions of Christians to hell by this heresy.

Here is the Biblical evidence for this. The primary refutation for Calvinism and the idea that works are not a condition for salvation comes in the same passage, just immediately before. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus said, plainly, “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” This is reiterated in Luke 11:42 where Jesus said, “You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

To what end shall I do works?

Jesus was saying that the Pharisees should have practiced addressing their evil hearts – as Jesus put it, “cleaning the inside of the cup”, as well as cleaning the outside of the cup, that is, to “not leave the other undone”. This analogy is referencing to make sure to follow the law as well as to address the heart. It is clear here that Jesus gave a plain qualifying statement, saying that they still needed to do the outer actions, because they were important.

Now why would Jesus say that it was important to do works and follow the law, if it did not matter for salvation? To what end should anyone do anything good if there is “absolutely no condition for salvation”, as Calvinism and Western Christianity teaches? The answer is quite clear and plain, but people would have to accept the reality that they have been lied to by the modern church for their entire lives. And this is something that would be extremely difficult for any Christian who is indoctrinated in this teaching to accept.

The truth is found not just in this verse, but also in many other verses in the New Testament; Jesus and other writers in the New Testament gave qualifying conditions that must be done to achieve salvation. That is, to be clear, qualifying works that must be performed to achieve salvation.

Reaction of modern Christians

The modern church would call such a teaching as I have just spoken an absolute heresy. Modern Christians indoctrinated in the ideology of Unconditional Atonement and Total Depravity and Unconditional Grace will likely scream at me, pull at their hair, and quite literally go berserk that I have said such a “heresy”.

Not all modern so-called “Christians” will react in this aggressive outward manner, but inside their hearts when they hear it they are fuming. You can practically see the smoke coming out of their ears despite the fact they may even smile from their complete and total fear of conflict, but inside they are raving and they probably will not speak to you again.

Why do they do this, and why do they behave in this way? Frankly this type of behavior is only evidence for the depraved and ungodly state of modern so-called Christians in following the ungodly teachings of Calvinism in the modern western church. In a word, they are not truly Christians, and they are not saved nor on their way to heaven.

This is because since modern western Christians are taught from childhood that works don’t matter, they don’t have to feel guilt for sin, and they don’t have to follow the law of God. It has made modern self-proclaimed “Christians” into ungodly, complacent, hateful, squirmy, vindictive, prideful, arrogant people with closed ears and closed eyes that are unable to see the truth in the scriptures written plainly before their very eyes. They may at the end of the day even apologize to God in prayer, but God is not listening, because they have not changed their heart. As Jesus quoted from Isaiah, “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’” (Matthew 15:8).

Behavior of modern Christians

Instead of listening and weighing truth by the Word of God and inquiring to God for truth and understanding in prayer on a daily basis, instead these modern Christians react with an ungodly rage and self-righteous arrogant indignation that anyone would dare to say anything that contradicts what they so confidently believe.

They arrogantly cling to they unbiblical doctrine of unconditional grace while daily continuing in their filthy, depraved, horrible lifestyles where they treat everyone like trash, never read the Bible or pray to God from the heart, and make no attempt to fix their actions because they are so convinced that it does not matter because they are on their way to heaven despite their evil and ungodly lifestyles. This may sound harsh, but consider it from God’s perspective.

They are blind and deaf to the truth of God and therefore dead in their sins, despite believing so fervently that they are saved and headed to heaven. As Jesus reiterated from Isaiah in Matthew 13:14, “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’

Modern Christians of today are blind and deaf to the truth because despite believing in Jesus they make no true attempts to change their heart. They are reinforced by the doctrine of unconditional grace that they are on their way to heaven just because one time they recited some words called the “sinners prayer”. They thought that accepting this “free gift” as the modern church called it was all they had to do.

Are all Christians on their way to heaven?

Do you really believe that 1 billion self-proclaimed Christians who prayed the simmer’s prayer (or many whom did not even do that) are on their way to heaven? If you believe that, you are in for a big shock. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Is 1/6th of the world’s population “few”? I certainly do not believe so. In fact, Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’” (Matthew 7:22). Clearly Jesus is not talking just about ungodly people. Jesus even said people who claimed to be Christians and even did great wonders, wonders that many modern Christians don’t even believe are possible anymore such as doing “miracles” and “prophesying”, and yet still even many of these will not make it to heaven!

Certainly, someone who is doing miracles in the name of Jesus believes themselves to be a born-again Christian. Surely they would have prayed the “sinner’s prayer”. How then, if salvation is totally unconditional and there are no conditions of works required for salvation, could someone who has prayed the sinner’s prayer still not get into heaven? The only answer is that total depravity and unconditional grace is false.

Beyond the First Condition of Salvation

Below are just a few of the many conditions and qualifications for salvation that go beyond just “believing in your heart”. You cannot just take Romans 10:9 which says “Believe in your heart and you will be saved” and then ignore the rest of the Bible. If that was all that mattered, then why give us a whole Bible? Why wouldn’t God just give us that one verse if all that mattered was just “believing”? The answer is plain. The whole Bible matters.

Believing in your heart is only one condition. Romans 10:9 does not say that all you have to do is believe in your heart and you will be saved. There is no qualifying statement that believing is all you have to do. Rather, that implication is implied by modern-day Calvinism. However, that is not what the Bible says. People interpret it to say that but it is not what it says. It is only one of the many conditions for salvation.

I encourage you to do your own research and pray to God several times a day from the deepest of your heart for God to give you understanding and help you see the truth in the midst of a broken world. Here are some other critical qualifications and conditions for salvation that you will never hear in Sunday school or modern western church sermons.

Seven Conditions of Salvation

Condition 1: Forgiving Others. (Matthew 6:15)
Condition 2: Doing The Will of God. (Matthew 12:50)
Condition 3: Continue Following God Until Death. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Condition 4: Humility Regarding Your Salvation. (Romans 11:18-22)
Condition 5: Maintain Sexual Purity. (Ephesians 5:5)
Condition 6: Refrain From Covetousness. (Ephesians 5:5)
Condition 7: Faith / Believing In Your Heart. (Romans 10:9)

Please go to God in prayer and open up your Bible to confirm the truth. Please do not just take my word for it. Go each day to God in prayer, read (or listen to) the Bible daily, and ask God to reveal the truth to you and give you understanding. After all, your eternal salvation depends on it.


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