Anyone who reads the catechism of the New Apostolic Church (NAC), published in 2012, will find a lot of truth interspersed with old errors and false doctrines. These have not changed, but are presented in a “new dress” and are cleverly packaged. Those who do not study them intensively are in danger of being deceived.
On the surface, one might get the impression that the NAC is on a good path, towards Christ and towards an “ecumenical” doctrine (whatever that means). Therefore, it is important to present its doctrine clearly, as it really is and always has been:
- hierarchically led by people who call themselves apostles,
- trusting in the effect of their sacraments, mediated by New Apostolic ministers,
- recently also entangled in bible criticism
- and with their doctrine of the deceased dangerously close to occultism.
This article is about the new understanding of the church in the NAC. Before 2006 it was still said:
“The New Apostolic Church is the church of Jesus Christ, like the apostolic congregations at the time of the first apostles.” (Questions and Answers No. 167)
It was understood to be the “work of God.” What has changed since then? The public information evening on January 24, 2006 by the then incumbent Chief Apostle Dr. Wilhelm Leber was the starting signal for several doctrinal changes. The NAC accepts now the baptism of other churches, provided that it was performed in a “Trinitarian” manner. Previously, this had to be confirmed by a priestly minister of the NAC in order for a baptized person to be accepted into the NAC congregation. Only after this confirmation could the sealing (= reception of the Holy Spirit) then be carried out by the laying on of hands of an NAC apostle. The ecumenism in Germany saw the recognition of baptism as an opening of the church and hoped for a turning away from its exclusive claim to salvation. In the publication of the Catechism, the initiated doctrinal changes found their provisional conclusion. The basic creed, consisting of 10 articles of faith, was also changed. In particular, the understanding of the Church found a new expression. Here, indeed, a significant change was made. One defines the church of Jesus Christ now as
the “assembly of those who are baptized, live their lives following Christ, and confess Jesus Christ as their Lord” (Catechism p. 67). People are “incorporated into the Church of Jesus Christ” through baptism and thereby become Christians. “Through baptism, original sin is washed away and the believer is brought out of God’s remoteness” (Catechism p. 320).
Thus, it is no longer the NAC that is seen as the church of Christ, but the community of all those baptized in the Trinity. If there were no further explanations, it would be the same understanding that the major churches have. But there are other explanations. The emphasis on baptism (whether infant or adult baptism) already shows the importance that the NAC attaches to the sacramental acts and consequently to the institution of the church:
“Without church it is not possible to be a Christian” (Katechismus S. 269).
How does the New Apostolic Church see itself? The third article of faith says:
“I am believing in the Holy Spirit, the one, holy, general and apostolic church, the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the dead and eternal life.”
The NAC thus refers first of all to the Church of Christ as presented above (= all Christians), but in its catechism it distinguishes between the visible side of the Church (which is “established on earth by the Lord Jesus” – cf. cat. p. 269), and the invisible side of the Church, which is “perceptible in the salvific effects of the sacraments and the Word of God” (cat. p. 270). But since the NAC now claims the attribute “apostolic” for itself as “historically realized,” it still sees itself as the one institution within the church of Christ that is necessary for salvation:
„With the restoration of the apostleship, the proper administration of the sacraments has also been restored.. Also, “the preaching of the Word by ambassadors in Christ’s stead has increased authority; this is especially expressed in keeping alive the certainty of Christ’s near return. Likewise, the forgiveness of sins can again be proclaimed by apostles.”(Kat. S. 275)
The Church of Christ was thus allegedly not complete before, it lacked “the ministry and the right administration of the sacraments connected with it as well as the right proclamation of the word as essential elements of the Church of Christ”, which are now “completely present again in the historical reality” (see Kat. page 276).
Here are some more excerpts from the NAC catechism to understand this theological sophistry:
“It (the church of Christ) is most clearly perceptible where there is the apostleship, the administration of the three sacraments to the living and to the dead, and the right preaching of the Word. (pages 68-69).
“The term ‘the Lord’s work of salvation’ is generally understood to mean Jesus’ act of salvation, which has been completed. When this term is used here, it means that part of the church in which the apostles work and impart those gifts of salvation that serve to prepare the firstfruits, the bride of Christ.” (footnote on page 69)
“The apostles are sent to all nations to teach and baptize. They call upon all, both non-Christians and the baptized, who believe in Jesus Christ and confess Him as their Lord, to be baptized of the Holy Spirit and prepared for the return of Christ.” (page 277)
The last sentence means quite clearly: All Christians from other churches, free churches or other communities, even if they are baptized, should allow themselves to be “sealed” by an NAC apostle in order to receive the Holy Spirit!
According to this New Apostolic understanding, a Christian who is not New Apostolic has the defects:
- this Christian has no forgiveness of sins (because he does not come under the “acquittal” of his individual sins in the NAC worship service),
- this Christian has no Holy Spirit (because he did not get the sacrament of sealing from an NAC apostle)
- this Christian has little hope of being able to take part in the rapture because he does not belong to the “Bride of the Lord”, because the bride has to be prepared for the return of Jesus by apostles of the NAC (through “word and sacrament”).
You see that with this new understanding of the church, the exclusivity of the NAC has by no means been relaxed. In conversations with outsiders, it is always emphasized that all baptized Christians are now recognized as the church of Christ, but the official catechism is decisive for assessing the teaching. Even though the new Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider, who has been in office since 2013, increasingly preaches general Christian truths in his services (perhaps also in the hope that this will speed up acceptance as a full member of the ecumenism in Germany), he also refers to the catechism as a binding basis of faith.
Interestingly, there are few ordinary members of the NAK who fully believe this teaching. Many are embarrassed to speak about it, and only a “hard core” truly embraces these teachings. Instead, many believers in the NAC represent views that come close to universal reconciliation. “If you make an effort, you will be accepted by God” seems to be a common belief. This is the fruit of decades of preaching that emphasized one’s “striving” to attain salvation. The cross of Christ recedes into the background, and the necessity of a personal decision for Jesus Christ (“conversion”) and a life in His discipleship is not taught. One sees the NAC as the “safest way” with a realistic chance of being accepted by God, as long as one remains faithful to the NAC – however, one does not know a certainty of salvation.
What if these NAC claims are false? “You shall recognize them by their fruit” (Jesus in Matthäus 7, 16-20)!