Walter Martin was no admirer of Catholicism but dropped the ball in “Kingdom of the Cults”

The Roman Catholic Church in Historydownload (2)

By Walter Martin

Christian Research Institute, 1960, 87 pages

Most of today’s younger believers have never heard of Walter Martin (1928-1989) but the man played an important role in modern Evangelicalism. Martin wrote the booklet, The Roman Catholic Church in History, in 1960, the same year he founded his once-influential Evangelical apologetics ministry, Christian Research Institute. This booklet is extremely critical of Roman Catholic theology as it examines the papacy, the preeminence of tradition over Scripture, Mariolatry, confession and penance, the mass, and purgatory. While Martin implies there is no salvation in works-based Catholic legalism he unfortunately does not address the primary issue of justification directly.

Martin’s “Kingdom of the Cults,” published initially in 1965 and still in print and widely available, is considered the most important reference on cults over the last 50 years. Surprisingly, there is hardly any mention of Catholicism in that book. I wonder what happened that caused Martin to retreat from his uncompromising criticism of Catholicism in his previous booklet to accommodation and silence? The current director of CRI, Hank Hanegraaff, teaches that Catholicism has many unbiblical doctrines but is, fundamentally, a Christian church.

Because Hanegraaff and CRI would like to forget The Roman Catholic Church in History was ever written the booklet has never been republished and copies are nearly impossible to find. However, photocopies can be obtained from Christian Answers of Austin, Texas ( See here.

For a video clip from a 1980 John Ankerberg Show episode featuring Walter Martin and a Catholic priest debating justification by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone versus Rome’s sacramental grace and works, see here.


17 thoughts on “Walter Martin was no admirer of Catholicism but dropped the ball in “Kingdom of the Cults”

  1. Hi Tom,
    Thank you for reading and following holdingforthhisword. I remember Walter Martin, and I used to listen to him on his radio program all of the time. He would not label Catholicism as a non-Christian cult because they believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, that He died upon the cross and rose again from the dead. Yes, they say they believe these things, but the doctrines attached to these beliefs are not biblical. I know the Catholic church is a cult and very dangerous to the spiritual health of any person. May God in His mercy deliver those beguiled by this cult from their imprisonment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eliza, Right. Catholicism doesn’t fit the shoe-box definition of a “cult” like the Mormons, JWs, etc. because they’re doctrinally sound on some foundational truths. But it always struck me as sadly ironic that Martin devoted so much space to relatively small religious groups in Kingdom of the Cults when the much greater danger, Catholicism, was barely mentioned. And the few references to Catholicism in the book were completely innocuous.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. In the late 70s, I bought The Kingdom of the Cults and it contained a large section on RC. In more recently editions, Roman Catholicism is removed.


    1. Your comment had me flying to the internet.

      Catholicism isn’t listed in the contents table of the 2nd edition (1977) of KOTC. See link below.

      If Martin had included RC in the 1965 edition but removed it from the 1977 edition it would have been a MAJOR issue, especially for those times, but there’s zero mention anywhere that ever took place.

      Perhaps you read Martin’s “The Roman Catholic Church in History” at one time and your memory is confusing it with KOTC?


    2. You are correct! I had an old copy of KOTC, and Roman Catholicism was included in the list. I even checked with a fellow believer, and she confirmed my assertion.


      1. Francisco, please send a copy of the contents page of the 1965 edition of “The Kingdom of the Cults” showing Roman Catholicism listed as one of the cults. Thanks.


  3. RE: “Maybe Walter said little about the Catholic Church in Kingdom of the Cults because he discovered at some point in his life that the Catholic Church is actually the Church that was founded by Christ.”

    Actually, on other occasions Martin was spot on regarding Catholicism such as in the debate below.


    1. I don’t believe this was the issue but that he has already written on it before in great detail. This does not say that he didn’t mention roman catholic but that he hardly mention. No true child of God can side with false doctrine knowing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hank Hanegraff (& thus CRI) is welll off the rails…now he & his family are Eastern Othodox convert/s, and thus a Mary idolater, a believer of works for salvation.
    Eastern O. backs up the Vatican 100%.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, the history of Martin’s booklet, “The Roman Catholic Church in History,” is very strange except when you consider ecumenism with Rome picked up steam throughout the 60s and 70s.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “The current director of CRI, Hank Hanegraaff, teaches that Catholicism has many unbiblical doctrines but ” The mass and purgatory ALONE disqualifies the rome catholic church as the real body of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

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