I was sitting in an Evangelical Sunday service several months ago and in the course of his sermon the pastor quoted Catholic philosopher, Peter Kreeft, and said he was one of his favorite philosophers. Boy, did the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Kreeft isn’t just a philosopher, he’s also one of the American Catholic church’s most prolific apologists and in that capacity has written MANY books promoting and defending his church’s theology of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. So how could an Evangelical pastor praise a Catholic author who defends and promotes justification by grace AND merit and, thirty minutes later, invite the unsaved members of his audience to receive the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE? How does that work, exactly? Unfortunately, there are many other Evangelical pastors who also compromise the Gospel and embrace Rome.
In this You Tube video Kreeft explains his conversion from “Protestantism” to Catholicism. At the 3:44 mark, he begins to recount an interesting experience from his childhood, which created serious doubt in his mind regarding Protestant attitudes toward Catholicism. On a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City with his parents, young Kreeft was completely awestruck by the grandiose architecture of the place. In a bit of a panic, he turned to his father, a Presbyterian elder.
Kreeft Jr.: “Dad, this is a Catholic church isn’t it?”
Kreeft Sr.: “Yes.”
Kreeft Jr.: “Catholics are wrong, aren’t they?”
Kreeft Sr.: “Oh, yes. Of course. They’re very, very wrong.”
Kreeft Jr.: “Then how can their churches be so beautiful?”
Kreeft relates that it was the first time in his life that his father didn’t have an answer to one of his questions. He was “just stumped.” The experience created a gnawing seed of doubt in Kreeft’s mind which eventually blossomed into his conversion to Catholicism.
Yes, many are drawn to the history (although much of it is VERY unflattering), the traditions, the ritual, the liturgy, the magnificent architecture, the art, and the pomp and ceremony of Roman Catholicism. The church definitely has fleshly, worldly appeal. When I first listened to Kreeft’s account, the Holy Spirit immediately brought Matthew 24:1-2 to mind. As Jesus and his ragtag band of disciples walked through Herod’s temple complex in Jerusalem, the disciples, Galilean hicks, were awestruck by the grandeur of the buildings. Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” The impressiveness of the temple complex obviously meant absolutely nothing to Jesus. Men have erected thousands of majestic religious edifices over the last two thousand years as they toiled to earn their redemption. But like the thief on the cross, accepting Christ as Savior by simple faith is the ONLY way to salvation, NOT membership in a “magnificent” religious institution. And just as Jesus had foretold, all of the buildings of the Jerusalem temple complex were destroyed by Titus and the Roman army in 70 A.D.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” – Colossians 2:8