by Chris Castaldo
Zondervan, 2015, 192 pages
Over the last couple of decades we have seen an increasing number of Evangelical leaders embrace Roman Catholicism in the interest of ecumenical “Christian” unity. But there are more than a few VERY critical doctrinal issues that divide Evangelicals and Catholics. Most importantly, Catholics believe in justification through ongoing sacramental grace and merit while Evangelicals believe in justification by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Thankfully, there are still Evangelicals like Chris Castaldo who are willing to point out that differences in doctrine matter.
With “Talking with Catholics about the Gospel” Castaldo continues where he left off in his previous book, “Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic” (2009), by offering specifics on how to engage Catholics in a discussion of the Gospel in a loving, respectful manner that is worthy of Christ. He offers a lot of very practical advice that would benefit anyone who desires to share the Gospel with Catholics. Castaldo argues that the aggressive, confrontational approach that many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists utilize when witnessing to Catholics is un-Christlike and counterproductive. Castaldo encourages friendly dialogue, relationship-building, and mutual understanding rather than conflict and heated exchanges.
Castaldo makes some great points. Most “cultural” Catholics (the vast majority of Catholics) are ill-equipped to debate theology and reactively cling to their church and its traditions. Aggressive confrontation often leads to retrenchment and bad feelings. Catholics, for the most part, rarely or never read a Bible and have no idea what you’re talking about when you mention words like “justification.”
Castaldo offhandedly dismisses fears that dialogue leads to compromise, accommodation and a “reduction of the gospel” (pp. 145-147) but that is exactly what has happened within Evangelicalism. If Castaldo were to look around he would notice very few books are being written by Evangelicals these days which examine the errors of Catholicism. Chuck Colson’s Evangelicals and Catholics Together project and other ecumenical endeavors did have a dampening effect upon the Gospel. As one example, and I could provide many more, Rick Warren, “America’s Pastor,” enthusiastically embraces traditional Catholic teaching as authentically Christian and has gone so far as to officially endorse Catholicism’s New Evangelization campaign. Warren’s viewpoint, increasingly popular in Evangelical circles, is that church-going Catholics don’t need to be evangelized.
But I get it. On a personal level our witness to Catholics should communicate Christ’s truth AND love. But, from our Evangelical leadership we also need more theologians and pastors who are willing to step out and bravely defy the lure of ecumenism, pluralism, inclusivism, and compromise and clearly distinguish between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Rome’s “gospel” of sacramental grace and works-righteousness. Yes, Evangelicalism needs people like Chris Castaldo to remind us to see lost Catholics with the love of Christ but we also need more men like John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, R. C. Sproul, James White, and James McCarthy to remind us to be vigilant in distinguishing between the Gospel truth and the works “gospel” of error.
Castaldo’s purpose isn’t to deep-dive into theology so for anyone interested in a more thorough critique of Roman Catholicism from an Evangelical perspective I suggest, “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” (2014) by Gregg R. Allison and “The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God” (1995) by James G. McCarthy. Also, please check out my “Books” tab for a very long list of books that examine the many differences between Catholicism and God’s Word.
I am very grateful for this recent book published by a major “Christian” publisher and for the testimony and ministry of ex-Catholic, Chris Castaldo.