From Purgatory to Heaven in a Heartbeat: Why a Good Catholic Girl Became a Protestant
By Dorothy Brandt
Stonebridge Publications, 2014, 42 pages
The title of this small, self-published book naturally caught my eye a couple of years ago and it’s been on my Amazon wish list since then. I’m wary of purchasing anything from a self-published author but you never know where good information will turn up. My piekna zona was hospitalized recently so for something to read while visiting her I purchased the book via my Kindle for $0.99.
In this short account Ms. Brandt gives her testimony of being raised in the Catholic religion and trying to be a dutiful member, becoming a charismatic Catholic and accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior, and, finally, finding spiritual fulfillment in the Assemblies of God, Pentecostal denomination.
Ms. Brandt’s conflicted story is a very good example of how many in Evangelicalism view the Roman Catholic church. She acknowledges that Catholicism is a works-based religious system, which caused her great despair as a member because she “tried hard to be good but never could quite measure up.” After joining the charismatic movement, she dug into God’s Word and was convicted of her sin and her need to be saved by Christ. After accepting Christ, she discovered many discrepancies between God’s Word and the teachings of the Catholic church and decided she could no longer remain there.
So, on the one hand, Ms. Brandt seems to understand that no one can be saved by adhering to standard Roman legalism but then turns around and cuts the Catholic church an amazing amount of slack:
“This book is not meant as a put down to them (Brandt’s Catholic parents) or to any Catholic. This is simply a story of how I have come to believe a different way than the Catholic Church teaches. It does not mean that I am right and they are wrong. it just means that I have come to see things differently” (Kindle location 32).
“But they (Brandt’s Catholic family) seem happy as they are and continue to be weekly attenders of Mass. We don’t discuss our beliefs any longer, but I know they love God and are faithful to the light they have received. And because they acknowledge Jesus Christ as God’s Son and the world’s Savior, I know they have a place in heaven” (Kindle location 397).
From her own personal experience, Ms. Brandt understands the Catholic church formally acknowledges Jesus as “Savior” but, in practicality, mandates all of its members must merit THEIR OWN salvation by participating in their clergy-administered sacraments and by obeying the Ten Commandments and church law perfectly. It can’t be both, Ms. Brandt. Either salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone or salvation is by sacramental grace and merit earned through “obedience” to the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church tradition.
Ms. Brandt contends that her relatives are “faithful” to their works-righteousness religious system but, as she herself recognizes by her own testimony, no one can “faithfully” obey the Ten Commandments and earn their spiritual justification through the Law. Ms. Brandt understandably hopes her family will be saved but no one is saved by trying to obey the Law. Certainly, there are some Catholics who become so exasperated in their attempt to obey the Law that they throw themselves in desperation at the feet of Jesus and accept Him as Savior in spite of their religion. Let’s pray that’s the case for Ms. Brandt’s relatives.
As I’ve mentioned before, Pentecostals are especially prone to whitewash or overlook Catholicism’s non-Biblical works-based theology because Catholic charismatics also demonstrate the obligatory “gifts of the Spirit.”
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:19-21
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” – Romans 3:19-20