947 East Avenue – Rank has its privileges

Readers of the New Testament know Peter and the apostles were mainly uneducated,bh working-class men. But the Good News! they declared, the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, was of greater value than the combined knowledge and riches of the entire ancient world.

Early Christianity faced great persecution, but eventually was legalized by the Roman Empire and then adopted as the official state religion. Unfortunately, the church, with its simple, saving Gospel of grace, devolved into a religious institution with an increasingly powerful hierarchy. The bishops of Rome consolidated their control in the West and, as the self-proclaimed vicars of Christ, indulged themselves at a level of pomp and extravagance that hadn’t been seen since the Caesars.

Last week, I came across the article far below regarding Francis’ plan to transform the papal summer palace, Castel Gandolfo, into a tourist stop. Has anyone else seen photos of this place? Unbelievable! Francis has definitely down-sized his personal living quarters, but that may be more of an accommodation to the scrutiny of an increasingly incredulous public than a desire for less ostentatious trappings.

If popes deported themselves as emperors, their subordinate bishops acted as princes. Their wealth matched and often surpassed that of temporal rulers. Centuries passed and bishops still retained a level of affluence that would have shocked and disgusted Peter, James, and John. Here in Rochester, New York, James E. Kearney (Bishop of Rochester, 1937-1966, d. 1977) resided at a mansion located at 947 East Avenue (see photo), just a stone’s throw from the estate of Kodak founder, George Eastman.

I was already vaguely familiar with the bishop’s mansion but I drove by yesterday to reacquaint myself with the grandiose structure. Rochester’s working-class Catholic families donated their hard-earned money every week so Kearney could live like a capitalist tycoon. The pastor of our parish drove a Chrysler Imperial. Anyone else remember those? It was Chrysler’s version of the Cadillac. I recall many negative comments about the priest driving a car that cost twice or triple the amount his parishioners paid for their cars. But he probably thought, “Hey, if the bishop can live in a mansion on East Avenue, I can drive an Imperial.”

But Kearney wasn’t alone. It was standard practice for Catholic bishops to locate their mansions on the same street as the wealthiest denizens of the diocesan see (seat). Bishops were always favored with places of honor at civic functions. Catholics and even non-Catholics formally greeted a bishop by kissing his episcopal ring and addressing him as “Your Excellency.” Traditionalists still consider it proper form to kiss a bishop’s ring but many bishops now discourage the practice although the “Your Excellency” title is still  de rigueur.

Some contemporary bishops are following Francis’ lead and selling their mansions and moving into less ostentatious quarters while TBN’s prosperity preachers (Myers, Copeland, Duplantis, etc.) are exceeding the opulence of yesteryear’s Catholic bishops. Very strange. Jesus had no place to lay his head.

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk'” – Acts 3:6

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am a man.’” – Acts 10:25-16

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

“But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” – Matthew 20:25-28

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24

Postscript: Bishop Kearney’s former palatial digs at 947 East Ave. have been divided up into nine 800-square-foot condos.

Weekend Update – News and Views – 10/29/16

The presidential election continues to dominate the news but there’s plenty of other interesting storiesc1 out there:

Caught in a vice between Prussia/Germany and Russia, Poland was removed from the map of Europe. Yet Poles retained their national identity mainly via the Catholic church. The “Our Lady of Czestochowa” icon (see photo), presented to credulous Poles as having been painted by Luke, the Gospel writer, became a national symbol. Poles all over the world still make pilgrimages to Czestochowa or other shrines like the one in Doylestown mentioned in this article. It’s all sheer idolatry and empty religious ritual.

The early American Protestants were extremely leery of Roman Catholics and no wonder. The Catholic church persecuted and suppressed non-Catholics in every European country where it held a majority and controlled the civil government. Persecution of Protestants in Catholic countries in Europe and Latin America continued right into the 20th-century (and continues still in such areas as rural Southern Mexico).

Catholics love to bring up Luther’s anti-Semitism but he and the rest of Europe were shaped by one-thousand years of Catholic bigotry and intolerance that was never properly rebuked by the church’s infallible popes. See an earlier post on the topic here.

Here’s another article regarding a recent poll which shows many “evangelicals” actually have very little Bible knowledge. Could they be attending Lakewood, Saddleback, Willow Creek, etc.?

Although Catholic apologists twist the story every which way to meet their needs, the condemnation of Galileo by two popes for his support of heliocentrism thoroughly debunks claims of papal infallibility. See an earlier post here.

The Catholic church declared cremation was a mortal sin until 1963. See here. Did the pope issue a “Get Out of Hell Free” card to everyone who was cremated prior to 1963?

Yes, it’s going to be increasingly hard for Christians who stand on God’s Word to live in this society.

As this article states, the majority of Catholics “are not certain they are able to have a relationship with God,” while another large percentage of Catholics believe their church’s lifeless ritual and ceremony constitutes a “relationship” with God. I believe there is a small percentage of Catholics who have genuinely accepted Christ in spite of their church’s teachings but why they remain amidst the false doctrine is baffling.

Above is another usual batch of weekly articles regarding the ongoing struggle between reformer Francis and the Catholic traditionalists.

One of the reasons the majority of Catholics will vote for Hillary is because of their continuing identification with the Democratic Party in spite of its support of the “non-negotiable” abortion genocide. Trace it all back to the immigration of the Irish, Catholic Germans, Italians, and Poles to America and the Democratic-supported unionization of factories and the trades.

Ecumenism is a steam roller with no “off” button. Robison, Zacharias, and others betray the Gospel of grace and join with religious unbelievers to defend American Christendom. For more on evangelicals’ infatuation with C.S. Lewis, see here.

Dear Catholic friend, How good is “good enough”?

Dear Catholic friend, I have a question about one of your church’s teachings that I’m veryge curious about. But I need to flesh this out a bit before I get to my question.

First of all, we recognize that Roman Catholicism teaches that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation.

“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament” (CCC 1257).

The church then says after a person is baptized a Catholic they must regularly participate in the church’s sacraments in order to receive grace so that they can successfully obey the Ten Commandments and church rules so they are able to merit Heaven.

“Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life” (CCC 2010).

In previous centuries, Rome insisted that only baptized Catholics could merit Heaven but then widened its restrictions after Vatican II and recognized as valid the baptisms of approved Protestant “ecclesial communities” (Rome will not call them churches) as well.

At this point some people might say, “Wait! Doesn’t the Catholic church also now teach that everyone on Earth can merit Heaven?” Yes, it does. We know that since Vatican II, Rome teaches that people of all non-Catholic religions and even atheists can merit Heaven if they “follow the light they’ve been given,” although they have never been baptized. If someone has never heard or understood the Catholic gospel – salvation by sacramental grace and merit (aka “cooperation with grace”) – through no fault of their own, Rome says God will judge them according to how well they obeyed the estimable portions of their religion or conscience.

I think we can at least agree everyone is a sinner and follows their religion or conscience only imperfectly. So here’s my question about this philosophy: At what point will a non-Catholic or atheist be able to merit Heaven? Do they have to follow the precepts of their religion or the dictates of their conscience at least 50% of the time? No, that seems too low. Is it 75% of the time? 90%? What is the cutoff? At what point exactly will God say, “Good enough”?

Okay, it’s a rhetorical question. I don’t expect an answer because there is none. Yes, we are all sinners and because we are sinners none of us can possibly merit Heaven. I break God’s commandments in thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day. But God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for our sins. Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and offers eternal life and fellowship with God as a free gift to all who repent of their sins and accept Him as Savior by faith. Once you have accepted Christ as Savior, then you can follow Him, albeit imperfectly.

When are you going to accept Him? A church that teaches people can earn salvation by being “good” is a false church. God’s Word says no one is good. Accept Christ and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches and teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-24

Am I good enough to go to heaven?

Jack Chick dead at 92

Chick Publications has announced that its founder, the mysterious Jack Chick, died this past Sunday at thechick age of 92.

Several months ago, I posted my memories of Chick tracts. See here. Chick took a conspiratorial approach to Rome and managed to blame every calamity that beset the Western world on the Vatican and/or the Jesuits.

“According to Chick, the Vatican was responsible for creating Islam, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He also accused the Catholic Church of having been responsible for the Holocaust, the founding of Communism, Nazism, and the Ku Klux Klan; starting the World Wars; masterminding the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Great Depression and the assassinations of U.S. Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.” – from Wikipedia

Whoops! The author/s of the Wikipedia article forgot to mention that Chick also claimed the Vatican created Freemasonry and Christian Science and that Jim Jones of the People’s Temple was a secret Jesuit who orchestrated the Jonestown Massacre in order to discredit Protestantism.

Chick’s outrageous allegations against the Vatican and the Jesuits impeded the efforts of responsible outreach to Roman Catholics. Taking a cue from his conspiracy mania, could it be that Chick was secretly a Jesuit agent, under orders to undermine credible Gospel witness to Catholics? No, I’m not serious, but who can argue with the end results? In the final analysis, Jack Chick was the Jesuits’ best friend by making outreach to Catholics look ridiculous in the minds of many.

Jack Chick, fundamentalist Christian cartoonist, dies at 92 – Associated Press article

Jack Chick – Wikipedia article

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

In the course of his sermon yesterday, our pastor used a visual that I’ve seen a few timeskc on the internet: the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. Maybe you’ve seen it, too? The British government printed up millions of copies prior to the start of the Second World War as a morale booster but they were scrapped in favor of other posters with different slogans. Rare copies of the “Keep Calm…” poster came to light in 2000 and it’s become an internet sensation (see far below for a link to the history of the poster).

The poster strikes a chord for those of us who know the Lord, doesn’t it? The crown at the top signifies our King in Heaven. Despite the chaos, the calamity, the evil, the sadness, and the terror we see around us in this world, we know our King is on His throne. He is our Peace and our strong tower. Our mission is to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel. We’re not to get caught up in the cares and concerns of this world. We’re not to give up in this spiritual battle. We’re not to give any opportunity to the enemy. As the rising popularity of this poster testifies, those who don’t know the Lord are desperately searching for the kind of peace that we have in Jesus Christ.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” on behalf of our King. That’s a pretty good message for us Christians.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27


A Catholic bishop’s favorite growth consultant

On the drive home from work I enjoy listening to sermons from local evangelical pastor, David Crespo,Rick Warren, Kevin William Vann on the radio. David’s messages are very simple and straightforward, and always with practical life applications. Unfortunately, the station hasn’t played David’s sermons the past couple of weeks so I’ve resorted to listening to Al Kresta’s talk show on the local Catholic station. I already listen to Catholic talk radio at work every day for at least one hour, to get the Catholic slant and to keep abreast of what’s going on, so I don’t relish hearing more of the same on the drive home. But there’s no other evangelical preaching on the air at 4:30. Maybe I’ll start bringing the many John MacArthur CDs that I have but haven’t listened to yet for the drive home. Yup, that’s the ticket!

Anyway, I was listening to Kresta the other day and he had a priest as a guest on the show. Sorry, I don’t recall his name or where he was from. This priest said that the churches in his diocese have been experiencing significant drops in attendance so the bishop turned to a famous evangelical pastor with a growing mega-church for advice on how to bring the membership back and even attract new converts. Who was this evangelical pastor? Of course, it was Purpose Driven, Rick Warren. Rick flew out to this diocese and conducted a seminar to help the bishop and his parish priests boost their numbers. I drove down the road shaking my head but I wasn’t at all surprised. Warren has shown many times in the past that he is a very good friend to Rome. Can anyone imagine a Spurgeon or a Lloyd-Jones or a John MacArthur acting as a consultant to a Catholic bishop? Oy vey! Catholicism teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. The only consulting those gentlemen would have done would have been to advise the priests and remaining pew sitters to repent of their sins, accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith, and remove themselves from Roman error. The priest said those in attendance were excited by Warren’s advice and looked forward to putting it into practice.

Warren and many other mega-church pastors bow down to the idol of numbers. It’s all about growing attendance. Is there any place for right doctrine and right salvation theology? Naw, just turn the service into a rock concert and preach a lowest-common-denominator message and they will come! No need for divisive doctrine because “we all just love Jesus!” Isn’t that right, Rick?

Weekend Update – News and Views – 10/22/16

Time to sort through my in-basket full of news stories I’ve collected over the past sevensg days.

In another era, some Protestants theorized that the Superior General of the Jesuits, nicknamed the “Black Pope,” was the de facto ruler of the church of Rome. That was probably never the case but there’s no doubt the Jesuits wielded great power and played a significant and not-always-charitable role in the church’s counter-Reformation. In fact, the Jesuits were founded specifically in 1540 by saint Ignatius of Loyola (see picture) to fight the spread of the Gospel preached by the Reformers using whatever means necessary. Many books were written that speculated on Jesuit conspiracies. Fact or fiction? Suffice it to say that the Jesuits became so heavily involved in political intrigue and skullduggery that even monarchs of Catholic nations demanded their expulsion.

Purpose Driven Rick Warren may have baptized 45,000 people but what kind of teaching do those who attend his multi-satellite mega-church hear from his pulpit? There’s probably not a more ecumenically-minded and Rome-friendly evangelical pastor than Rick Warren.

A week doesn’t go by without several reports of the catfights between Francis and his pragmatic reformers and church traditionalists.

Catholic statistics reveal only 12% of its members go to confession at least once a year, the mandatory minimum. The system is a complete sham and there’s no doubt Francis is considering such alternatives as silent group confession as this article mentions. My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, paid my debt in full for all of my sins on the cross at Calvary. I have been saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. When I disobey my Lord, I can go directly to the throne of grace for forgiveness.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

And yet another story about ecumenist, positive-gospel minister, Robert Schuller’s former Crystal Cathedral being transformed into a Catholic showpiece; a feel-good oasis for a church in deep trouble.

U.S. bishops were hoping Francis’s 2015 visit would result in many disaffected members returning to the fold. Results have been less-than-stellar and conservative church critics claim Francis is actually undermining the Catholic religion.

Fifty-one years ago at Vatican II, the Catholic church sacrificed fidelity to its doctrines on the altar of ecumenical primacy. Evangelicals who know God’s Word know where all of this is headed.

Geisler and Land represent a mindset that has done tremendous harm to the Gospel witness in this country. Geisler is an influential theologian who embraces Roman Catholicism as a branch of Christianity and Land was one of the signers of the original 1994 “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” ecumenical document. Their focus is the Falwellian “Reclaim America for Jesus” culture war and they’re not particularly fussy about who they link arms with. In the top article, Geisler even exhorts Christians to bring prayer back to public schools as if this was 1950. What lunacy! By embracing Catholicism and its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, Geisler, Land, and other ecumenically-minded leaders have betrayed the Gospel of grace. As I’ve commented previously, evangelicals are so wrapped up in winning the culture war, they’re even allowing Mormon Glenn Beck to speak on their television shows and platforms as an ally in the fight to “Reclaim America for Jesus.” It appears evangelicals are willing to sign a pact with the devil himself if it means retaining “Christendom’s” control of America. What spiritual blindness!!!

Hillary and a “Catholic Spring”

Normally, I would include the story below as part of my usual weekend update collection,hillary but the firestorm that it’s created has been so huge that I’ve decided to devote a single post to it.

Several days ago, Wikileaks released some email exchanges dating back to 2011 and 2012 between Hillary Clinton’s current campaign manager, John Podesta (Catholic), political organizer and president of Voices for Progress, Sandy Newman (Jewish), Clinton’s current campaign communications director, Jennifer Palmieri (Catholic), and Democratic strategist, John Halpin (Catholic). In the emails, the Catholic church is criticized for its ban on contraception, its lack of gender equality, and its general dearth of progressive tendencies. The correspondents ponder if the controversy over the Catholic hierarchy’s objections to federally mandated coverage of contraception in employers’ insurance plans could possibly be used to spark a “Catholic Spring,” bottom-up revolution within the church.

Reaction from Catholic conservatives was swift (see far below).

My take: Political interference in religion is theoretically verboten but it’s a cherished American tradition. However, it’s more than a stretch to try to directly link Clinton with this “Catholic Spring” controversy. But let’s be honest. The Catholic hierarchy is certainly out of step with much of its membership in regards to a number of issues. The vast majority of Catholics approve of contraceptives and use them. However, abortion and the use of abortifacients  are certainly murder. Should priests marry? Should women be ordained as priests? Should homosexual behavior be accepted? Should same-sex marriages be performed by the church? These are the issues that drive Catholic liberals. While Catholic spokespersons would like to have the public believe the membership is in lockstep, there is actually a very wide range of beliefs within the church, both among the clergy and the laity. Catholicism will pragmatically cave to pressure as we saw with Francis’s recent enigmatic ruling on the debate over communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. However, despite the sturm und drang, the vast majority of Catholics have only an extremely shallow understanding of their church’s teachings and only 24% attend obligatory mass every Sunday.

What’s missing in this controversy is Jesus Christ and God’s Word. Catholicism is all about the church, the hierarchy, the magisterium, the pope, the institution, the system, the rituals, the rules. Conservative Catholics vie with liberal Catholics for the future of their institutional church, but only a very small number from either side have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Instead of worrying about politics, they need to obey the Holy Spirit and remove themselves from an apostate system. Being a Catholic means trying to be a Christian without Christ.

A few Catholics may switch their vote to Trump because of this controversy but in the big picture it doesn’t matter either way. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. That’s the important thing! Then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:13 

Books on Catholicism, cheap!

For several decades, evangelical apologist, James R. White, has done an outstanding jobwhite-1 comparing Roman Catholicism with Biblical Christianity. I recently became aware that three of White’s earliest books on Catholicism, all currently out of print and with used copies selling at exorbitant prices, are now available as downloadable Kindle ebooks at Amazon. The best part is the price is only $0.99 per volume.

The three books were all originally published by Crowne Publications, which folded in 1993:

The Fatal Flaw: Do the Teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel?
1990, 225 pages

Answers to Catholic Claims: A Discussion of Biblical Authority
1990, 164 pages

Justification by Faith
1990, 56 pages

I haven’t read the books myself but I look forward to reading and reviewing them down the road.

white-2   white-3

Other books by White available through Amazon (although at a higher price) include The Roman Catholic Controversy (1996), and Mary-Another Redeemer? (1998).

It’s like driving to the grocery store and finding the candy aisle full but the meat display empty

I’ve got the kind of job where I sit in a chair and stare at a computer screen all day. It’sSupermarket Feud a pretty good gig as I head towards retirement because there’s zero stress, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t help with the metabolism if you know what I mean.  Another benefit is I’m able to listen to Christian podcasts quite often throughout the day using an earbud.

Yesterday, I was searching through some Christian apologetics sites for some good audio on Roman Catholicism. I ended up listening to a recent radio podcast from The Berean Call web site titled, “What is the New Catholicism with Greg Durel (Part 1),” originally broadcast on 8/19/2016. This was a very good discussion on the current direction of Catholicism, especially with its increasing drift from traditionalist doctrine and its growing emphasis on contemplative and experiential spirituality.

The Berean Call apologetics ministry has hundreds upon hundreds of articles, videos, and audio messages on its web site which compare Roman Catholicism to God’s Word. As does James White’s Alpha and Omega site. As does John MacArthur’s Grace to You site.

Then I thought about one of evangelicalism’s leading apologists, Ravi Zacharias. I wondered how many resources Ravi has on his RZIM site that critique Roman Catholicism, although I was already pretty confident on what I would find. I went to RZIM.org and conducted a search using “Catholic” and “Catholicism” and came up with only a handful of resources, none of which reference Rome directly or are critical of Catholicism. Surprised? Well, I’m not surprised whatsoever. Ravi, Lee Strobel, and other disciples of ecumenist theologian, Norman Geisler, proclaim that Rome teaches the same Gospel as evangelicals or at least something that’s “close enough.” But how could that be? Rome teaches a gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit while evangelicals proclaim the GOOD NEWS! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. They are different gospels. They are not the same. In fact, one is diametrically opposed to the other. This difference was at the very heart of the Reformation.

Dr. Zacharias is a highly educated and articulate man. Has he not heard of the Reformation? Does he believe the main disagreement at the heart of the Reformation – whether salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone or whether salvation is by sacramental grace and merit – has been resolved in favor of the genuine Gospel? Rome still preaches the same false gospel that it preached before the Reformation. So how can one of evangelicalism’s most popular apologists be so wrong on something so important, thereby leading so many astray? I’d like to know what goes through Ravi Zacharias’s head.

The Berean Call

Alpha and Omega Ministries

Grace to You

Visit my Links page here for additional resources on Roman Catholicism.