What is the “True” church? #5

What is the definition of a true church? Here we will continue our discussion of what a legitimate church. We will also ask Is the Catholic Church a cult? In particular this time we will talk about the first two marks of a false church:

1. Radical Exclusivism

This is where the question Is the Catholic Church a cult? comes in. Radical Exclusivism is evidenced by those churches who claim that it is only in their denomination or tradition that salvation can be found. They have all the right answers, right practices, and right ordinances/sacraments. Once this is claimed then the institution itself becomes the determining factor of salvation. Ironically, as we argue in the broadcast, this is a mark of a false church.

2. Radical Inclusivism

Radical Inclusivism is just the opposite of Radical Exclusivism. Here you will find a “no holds barred” approach to the church. People can be a part of this type of church irregardless of their confession or practice. It is the church of the open door where toleration is the primary virtue. This, again, is a mark of a false church as we argue.


Listen to the podcast and feel free to comment here. You can subscribe to this podcast at iTunes. Simply search for “Theology Unplugged.”

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    21 replies to "Theology Unplugged: “Marks of a False Church” (What is the “True” Church #5)"

    • chrismw

      Remember…the Roman Catholic Church MUST be the true Church in order for prophecy to be fulfilled. The AntiChrist (read Pope) will deceive the Church, not a false version of it.

    • Sean

      Oh boy. This is going to be fun.

      /Pulls up lawn-chair and popcorn to enjoy the fireworks.

    • A Lover of Truth/Your Soul

      The Bible clearly tells us that one must, “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21). That is, one must measure a doctrine/religious espousal by the “good” standard of God’s Word, not by some “tradition of men” (John 17:17; Matt. 15:18-19).

      The following is written as a concerned effort for the soul(s) reading the article on “…true church” and love of the truth (Eph. 4:15), please consider the following…

      The writer (of the preceding “…true church” article) is apparently calling “evil good and good evil” (Isa. 5:20), attempting to “set straight what God has established as crooked”, and (by his implications) attempting to “set as crooked what God has established as straight” (Eccl. 1:15; 7:13), by saying that anyone who defends that there is a standard for what the Bible says about the church (as well as salvation, worship, et al) makes its adherents “cultish”, if his doctrine be true, please call Christ the “cult leader” (his implications, according to his doctrine, John 14:6; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23-25). The position implies many false doctrines (and thus will be proven false).

      Either Christ is the one head of the one church (group of saved, faithful followers) or He is not (there is no middle ground, law of excluded middle).

      God’s Word is “truth” (John 17:17). The “apostles’ doctrine” (John 17:17-21) is the standard for the church that is found in the New Testament (Matt. 16:18-19).

      If the church COULD continue in the apostles doctrine (and they did, at least momentarily as recorded in the New Testament, Acts 2:42), then it was/is the TRUE CHURCH.

      The true church DOES continue (without addition to or subtraction from) in the apostles’ doctrine,

      THEREFORE it (they/those in the group) IS (are) the true church (QED, the premises are true and the argument is valid, therefore it is sound).

      ANY group that places even ONE addition or subtraction to the “apostles doctrine” (what one finds in the New Testament) is a FALSE GROUP (that which is unauthorized by God and yes, any group that names themselves after any mere mortal man/religious practice rather than taking upon them the name/ownership of Christ is a false/unauthorized group). Please be consistent and accept (or give up) the implications to your doctrine.

      Basically, what he (the above writer) is saying (by implication), “anybody that is saying that, ‘the Bible does not teach, ‘choose the church/god of your choice’, is a member of a cult” (please find where the Bible says any group that says they are ‘the group’ is not authorized/not taught in the Bible, then you may have some room for argument)”!

      I Guess Luke was “wrong” in recording that “the church” was considered by denominational Judaism as “a sect” and that “everywhere it is spoken against” (Acts 28:22). I wonder what gave those Jews coming to Paul that impression (could it be the claim of “exclusivity”)?

      This (the espousal that “there is no true church”) is ad-hominem/the straw man/as well as “begging the question” at its very worst (he must FIRST prove that there IS NOT an “exclusive group” in the Bible, who are the ONLY ones able to offer acceptable worship to God (too bad for him the Bible affirms that there IS an “exclusive group” [I Pet. 2:5, 9]), rather than assuming there is not (to even make his argument non-fallacious). Denying there is such a thing as “true worship” or a “living way”, as opposed to the “dead way” of an “unauthorized religious group/church” (Heb. 10:20) is an attempt to justify denominationalism (which is idolatrous in itself, because it accepts “true division” as “true unity”). This philosophy is a reworking of ecumenism/religious pluralism. If there is not a “true/right standard (the Bible)”, there is no “true/worship” (for the “true GOD”). This explains the statement, “attend the church of your choice!” (Please find where Jesus authorizes this concept, as opposed to being added to HIS “one” church by the “one” Lord Himself, in consequence to obeying the one Gospel “by faith”, Acts 2:41-47).

      All the name calling/finger pointing/boo-hooing in the world will never justify demominationalism/religious division (the love of Christ constraineth me to beseech you, II Cor. 5:14), please accept that it (denominationalism) is not authorized by God (Matt. 16:18-19; John 17:17-21) and be a CHRISTIAN only (Acts 11:26), a member of the church for which Jesus died, as a consequence to your obeying the Gospel “by faith” (Acts 20:28; Rom. 1:5; 16:26; II Thess. 1:7-9).

      If one chooses to refute, make sure that one proves it false (with the Bible), not with this Pluralistic philosophy (that evidently is accepted by the “majority”, Matt. 7:13-14).

      Every person who obeys the Gospel “by faith” (being immersed, as one who believes in Christ and His work [Mark 16:16], repents of sins [Acts 2:38], confesses faith in Christ [Acts 8:37], will be saved).

      Paul affirms “as many as”, (logically equivalent to) ONLY those immersed into Christ (this is the one water baptism of Acts 8:38-38; Eph. 4:4; I Pet. 3:20-21) can possibly “put on” Christ (Gal. 3:27). No man who has not been baptized by the authority of Christ post Pentecost can be saved (remember, all things are possible “with God” [by His Word], not with men [fabricating a “sinner’s prayer” gospel, Gal. 1:6-9]).

      In Love of God Through Christ,
      A Lover of Truth/Your Soul

    • A Lover of Truth/Your Soul

      And no, the “Catholic Church” is not the “true church”

    • C Michael Patton

      A lover, I don’t think that the first comment was serious. Also, I really don’t understand what you are saying in your post. What are you referring to?

    • chrismw

      my my
      thanks, CMP,
      but this argument has been used before when folk say that Papa is the big A-C. If He is the A-C, then his Church must logically be the true church that he deceives (following the illogic of the prophecy conference movement); for why would he deceive a false version of the Church?
      [hint: He is not the antichrist]

      It was not a serious reply to your podcast, but I knew the reaction it would get. tisk tisk.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      The following are precisely stated propositions (either true or false, “v” stands for “or”):

      TvF: Christ promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18)

      TvF: Christ built His church (Acts 2:1-47).

      TvF: Christ said His church would be a body led by the apostles’ teaching (John 17:17- 21).

      TvF: Christ promised to build only one church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4).

      TvF: Any group that calls themselves a name that is not Christ’s is lost (Acts 4:12).

      TvF: “Protestantism” is not found in the Bible

      TvF: “Roman Catholicism” is not found in the Bible

      TvF: Neither “Roman Catholicism” nor “Protestantism” are found in the Bible.

      TvF: Both the “Catholic church” and “all protestant churches (‘denominations’)” are not found in the Bible.

      TvF: The term “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) IS found in the Bible.

      TvF: Any group hoping to call themselves the “true church” must at least have a designation approved by the Bible (one must find God approving His church after the designation in the New Testament).

      TvF: Adding to or subtracting from any New Testament doctrine is a sin (II John 9-11; Rev. 22:18-19).

      TvF: Paul told his readers that the music accepted in worship is “singing” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

      TvF: “playing” is not “singing”.

      TvF: The only instrument designated for the music is the heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

      TvF: Reading the words of a song from a “song book”, while ONLY singing is not adding to “singing” (it remains only “singing”).

      TvF: Reading the words of a “song book” while singing AND playing a mechanical instrument is NOT only singing.

      TvF: “Playing” a mechanical instrument is not “singing”.

      TvF: “Playing” a mechanical instrument is ADDING to the “singing” command (Eph. 5:19).

      TvF: Old Testament worship is not authorized in the apostles’ doctrine (Heb. 10:9-10; Col. 2:14-17).

      TvF: The doctrine of Christ is the apostles’ doctrine (II John 9-11).

      TvF: Those who add Old Testament worship into New Testament worship (I Pet. 2:5, 9) are adding to the apostles’ doctrine.

      TvF: If it is a sin to add to the apostles’ doctrine and since playing Mechanical Instrumental Music is an addition (“borrowed” from the Old Testament), it is a sin to add Mechanical Instrumental Music to the “singing” command”.

      TvF: “Singing” is the only acceptable music (to the exclusion of “playing”) found in the New Testament.

      TvF: If Jesus asked you to sit at a piano and SING, “Mary had a little lamb” and you proceeded to PLAY, “Mary had a little lamb” then you did not obey what He said.

      TvF: If Jesus asked you to sit at a piano and SING, “Mary had a little lamb”, you proceeded to SING AND PLAY, “Mary had a little lamb” then you did not obey what He said.

      TvF: If Jesus asked you to sit at a piano and SING, “Mary had a little lamb”, you proceeded to SING, “Mary had a little lamb” then you obeyed what He said.

      The following all true propositions have demonstrated:
      1. That it is wrong to take any other name than Christ (naming a religious group after a mere mortal is a sin).
      2. That it is wrong to add any component to the apostles’ doctrine (it is a sin to play instrumental music in worship to God, if unrepented, it will condemn any soul [one who does not repent of it] to hell).

      If all dropped “Mechanical Instruments of Music” in worship to God, it would lead all one step closer to the “true church”.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      BTW, I meant “foregoing”, yet mistakenly posted “following” before stating (with ‘1…’ and ‘2…’) that which the “foregoing” propositions demonstrated.

    • chrismw


      I wondered if by changing the comment feature you intended to prevent rants like we see from the gnostic Lover.

      Bible, Bible, Bible. If we follow the regulative principle [Lover’s method] we might as well quit now.

      I cannot believe that within thirty years of the death of the last Apostle the universal government and polity of the Church could have become Episcopal if such a system had been repugnant to the Apostles’ own teaching and practice.

      According to *some*, the Apostles’ Teaching was not very good [authoritative] since their own followers came up with such crap so soon after they all died.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      A very lovely ad-hominen I see from a sincere seeker of truth (this of course is facetious, it is outright repugnant, instead of a logical/rational encounter, one is encountered with childish “playground” behavior)


      TvF: the apostles’ fostered denominationalism (the “naming” of a group outside of what one sees in the New Testament).

      TvF: The naming of “parties” after mere men is sinful (I Cor. 1:10)

      TvF: God wants all to be united under the name of Deity (i.e., Christ [Acts 4:12])

      I will repeat what was said in the first, it is equally and will always be true (it is “axiomatically” Scriptural):

      All the name calling,finger pointing,boo-hooing in the world will never justify demominationalism/religious division (the love of Christ constraineth me to beseech you, II Cor. 5:14), please accept that it (denominationalism) is not authorized by God (Matt. 16:18-19; John 17:17-21) and be a CHRISTIAN only (Acts 11:26), a member of the church for which Jesus died, as a consequence to your obeying the Gospel “by faith” (Acts 20:28; Rom. 1:5; 16:26; II Thess. 1:7-9).

      Evidently, there has been an acceptation of pluralism/subjectivist philosophy from which ANYONE claiming to know ANY truth is a “gnostic”.

      TvF: I KNOW you I exist

      TvF: I KNOW God exists

      TvF: I KNOW the Bible (Old and New Testaments) is the Word of God (II Tim. 3:16-17; I Cor. 14:37; II Pet. 3:15-18)

      TvF: I KNOW Jesus is Christ and the Son of God, making Him (as God in the flesh) Deity as equal in nature as the Father (John 1:1-14; 17:3-4)

      TvF: I KNOW that by continuing/being faithful (obedience of faith; not obedience by “meritorious works” [Eph. 2:8-11; John 8:40-44]) in the Word of Christ one will know the truth/be free/saved from sin (John 8:32).

      TvF: I can KNOW that those not obeying/transgressing the doctrine of Christ are lost (not/no longer walking in the light, I John 1:6-9).

      TvF: Those “brethren” who “err” (by continued unfaithfulness) are no longer saints but “sinners” who need to be converted (By teaching them what they are misunderstanding/misapplying, Jam. 5:19-20).

      By denying (saying “false” to) any of these all true propositions, one has denied:

      1. You exist.
      2. God exists
      3. Jesus is Christ/the Son of God/His Deity
      4. The Bible is God’s Word
      5. The character/honesty of God
      6. Any type of “Biblical” salvation

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      It is:
      “TvF: I know I exist”

    • chrismw

      For those watching, lookie here.

      Why does lover continually refer to this thing called “Bible”?

      Doesn’t s/he know that word does not occur within itself?

      TvF: The leather-bound collection of Ancient near eastern texts commonly placed behind church pews mentions the word “Bible”

      TvF: Jesus or his Apostles refer to “biblical salvation” in the “Bible”

      TvF: The Theology Program is mentioned in the “Bible”

      good grief

    • C Michael Patton

      T on the last one 🙂

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      Acts, I qualified my term of Bible (Old and New Testament Scriptures, II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 3:15-18).

      The Hebrew word “sefer” AND the Greek word “biblos” (from which our translation of the word “book”/Bible originate) ARE found in the Bible.

      So that was a mis-premised point off the bat 🙂

      Mar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
      Mar 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.

      Act 2:41 They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.
      Act 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.

      Eph 2:8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
      Eph 2:9 not of works, that no man should glory.
      Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

      1Jn 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
      1Jn 1:7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
      2Jn 1:9 Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.

      Sounds like “Biblical” salvation if I ever heard it.

    • chrismw

      the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother

      Philemon 7

    • Paul M

      lover:, so by this logic, wouldn’t singing anything except psalms,
      hymns or spiritual song written after the writting of Eph./Col. be
      adding to the apostle’s instructions?

      What about any written inbetween those two books?

    • Paul M

      Sorry, I meant singing any songs, etc. written after Eph./Col.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” implies that they are:
      1. Based upon the character and truth of divine revelation.
      2. They are to “teach and admonish” (Col. 3:16).
      3. There were inspired songs (revealed by those with divine inspiration which were based upon the New Testament revelation [I Cor. 14:15]).

      There was no “written” complete New Testament in the 1st century until it was completely written (I Cor. 14:37; II Cor. 4:7). Therefore their songs were based upon the prophetic, revealed truth of the “apostles’ doctrine” (with further implicit spiritual character of the “psalms”).

      Any song sung by any man which “could” be acceptable to God must:

      1. Have its basis in propositional revelation (Col. 3:16-17).
      2. Be consistent with propositional revelation (God would not desire one to sing/teach/admonish with “error”, I Thess. 5:21; I John 4:1).

      So therefore “spiritual songs” could be recorded by men, based upon propositional, revealed truth.

      The same is also the case in prayer (God does not want one to pray or lead a prayer with words based upon false doctrine, rather his prayer must be based upon revealed truth).

      Hope that helps

    • C Michael Patton

      Lets keep things on track.

    • mark

      I believe there is no “True” church or “False” church, only “ONE” Church. I regard denominations as “religion organizations” not as churches.
      There are “True” believers and “False” believers, and only “GOD” can judge who is true, who is false.
      But as believers we can know wheather we are God’s children through Holy Spirit.
      Roman 8:16
      The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      Mark, please observe the following,
      By you saying only “ONE” Church, you are saying that any group that is not the “ONE” church, is a false (not a true) church. There is a “true” dollar bill and also such a thing as a “false” dollar bill (this is called counterfeiting). Just because somebody would like to call a group “X church” or “church X” does not make it the church of Christ (the “true” [as opposed to “false”] church which continues in the apostles doctrine of the New Testament [John 20:21-23; Acts 2:42]).

      Further, your comment,
      “But as believers we can know wheather we are God’s children through Holy Spirit.
      Roman 8:16
      The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.”

      This verse is obviously MIRACULOUS (there has to be some “proof” for a witness), it does NOT apply to YOU (or any person on earth today).

      The parallel passage is:
      Joh 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me:
      Joh 15:27 and ye also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

      Jesus was speaking with soon-to-be miraculously endowed apostles (see Acts 2-rest of the recorded New Testament). The miracles would cease once the completed written form was finished (I Cor. 13:8-12).

      Hope that helps

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