Critique of Mariolatry quickly turns into ecumenical hug fest

The Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Marymaaaa
By Elliot Miller and Kenneth B. Samples
Baker Book House, 1992, 188 pages

“The Cult of the Virgin” is an interesting examination of Roman Catholic Mariolatry. Catholicism’s elevation of Mary to semi-deity as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix has absolutely no scriptural foundation and seriously detracts from the work of Jesus Christ. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Medjugorje and the other alleged Marian apparitions.

However, a serious problem with this book is that the authors, Elliot Miller and Kenneth Samples, approach Roman Catholicism as a legitimate branch of Christianity. Both authors are connected with the Christian Research Institute, an evangelical apologetics ministry that researches cults and non-Christian religions. The founder of CRI, Walter Martin, stated in 1980 that “if any Catholics are saved they are saved not because of the Roman Catholic Church but in spite of it.” Since the death of Martin in 1989, CRI has progressively softened its stance toward Catholicism. Despite Rome’s many unscriptural doctrines, CRI refuses to categorize Catholicism as a heretical church. Hank Hanegraaff, Martin’s successor, believes that while Rome teaches several doctrinal errors it is, at its core, a Christian church. There’s a recording of Elliot Miller, co-author of this book, on You Tube stating it’s possible for Catholics to be saved by following official Catholic doctrine (see here).

But for many evangelicals who remember the reasons for the Reformation, it’s still quite clear that the gospel of Rome is fundamentally different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ of the New Testament. For Rome, salvation comes by receiving its clergy-administered sacraments and by obeying the Ten Commandments. In contrast, evangelical Christians believe the Biblical message of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Is justification by faith or by works? It can’t be both (Romans 11:6). Yes, Rome does espouse some orthodox doctrines, but its position is wrong on so many others, most importantly regarding justification, that it doesn’t warrant the respect and legitimacy offered by Miller and Samples.

The accommodating authors even go so far as to include a short rebuttal from popular Jesuit priest, Mitch Pacwa! They introduce Pacwa by asserting that his “manner of life evidences a strong personal relationship with Christ” (p.161). Hmm. As a Catholic priest, Pacwa teaches the Catholic faithful that they must merit their salvation by receiving the sacraments and by refraining from mortal sin. Even one unconfessed “mortal” sin dooms a Catholic to an eternal hell. How does that square with having a “personal relationship with Christ” who came to save sinners, not the self-righteous, works-religionists? Pacwa is a fiercely traditionalistic Catholic apologist who has frequently debated evangelical Christians and appears regularly on the conservative Catholic EWTN cable network. I have personally witnessed Pacwa on EWTN promoting the Catholic doctrine of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Search Amazon for books authored by Pacwa and you’ll find he has written many, many titles which promote Catholicism’s standard, unbiblical doctrines, unchanged since the Reformation. By embracing Pacwa as a “brother in Christ,” Elliot and Miller are burying their heads in the sand since Pacwa and his church clearly teach a “different gospel” of sacramental grace and merit. Speaking as an ex-Catholic who left religious ritualism and legalism for the GOOD NEWS of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, I am perplexed by Elliot’s and Miller’s blindness.

Rome has changed none of its doctrines since the Reformation so why do some evangelicals now embrace it? Co-author Samples has pointed elsewhere to theologian Peter Kreeft as an example of a Catholic who allegedly holds the Reformation in high regard and supposedly believes the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone. As a Catholic, Kreeft is obliged to believe God’s salvific grace is dispensed through the sacraments like water from a tap. Search Amazon for books authored by Kreeft and you’ll find an amazing number of titles written by him which all promote Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and works-righteousness.

The authors openly confess that “The Cult of the Virgin” is an effort to promote “ecumenical dialogue.” Miller, Samples, Norman Geisler (who wrote the forward to this book), and other compromising evangelicals can quibble with Catholics over issues like Mariolatry, but the bottom-line issue for evangelicals is Catholicism’s works-based justification, which is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, Catholic apologists object to accusations that their religion teaches works righteousness. They claim their teachings on salvation are also based on faith and God’s grace. But the truth of the matter is Catholics believe God’s grace, infused into their souls via the sacraments, enables them to perform meritorious works and avoid sin in order to earn their way to heaven. Despite the sophistry it all boils down to works and merit.

Hanegraaff and CRI have devoted a large amount of energy and resources confronting the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and smaller groups but the number of souls led astray by these cults are but a tiny fraction compared to the number of souls deceived by the legalism of Rome.

16 thoughts on “Critique of Mariolatry quickly turns into ecumenical hug fest

  1. I too am an ex-Roman Catholic, and have witnessed the mind control that the RCC puts on it’s followers. By the Grace of God I was taken away from it. The Way God took me away from it was ( as strange as this may sound), to be swayed away by another cult; The World Wide Church of God.

    Where I am going with this is that as heretical the WWCOG is, it still took me away from the RCC and encouraged me to research and study actual Bible Scripture and that lead me to Christ. The RCC actually discourages Bible reading just like the Mormons and JW’S!

    As a Christian Apologist I find that the Roman Catholic is the hardest to reach. Samples and Hannegraaff, unfortunately are leading souls to Hell.

    God Bless

    Brian Mason

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks a lot for the comments, Brian. I have a cousin who was heavily into the WWCOG also. I believe he is now a member of a splinter group; Gerald Flurry’s Philadelphia Church of God. We’ve talked many times and he is completely focused on the “end-times.” It’s all about end-time prophecy and nothing about accepting Christ as Savior.

      Regarding Catholicism: Evangelicals are united in their belief that Mormonism and the Watchtower are cults but a recent poll shows around 58% of evangelical pastors consider the pope to be their “brother in Christ.” Great apostasy in the church.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I have 5 older sisters who all went through 12 years of Catholic education like myself but now confess to being atheists. As you said, we had no Biblical foundation, so when Catholicism’s rules and rituals were no longer viable for them, they dismissed God completely. Me on the other hand, the Lord led me to buy a Bible when I was in my early twenties. I couldn’t reconcile Catholicism with the God’s Word, so I junked that, and I eventually came to Christ. The Bible was the key and my sisters didn’t have that.

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      2. My Mother is still a Roman Catholic, however she like many more “identify” as RC. When so-called people that “identify” as RC are challenged with Bible Scripture they become either curious or defensive. Many more that “identify” as RC don’t even go to Mass! I also find those whom say they are reformed don’t go to Worship in the Church, only on Easter , etc. I don’t believe that all who are in the RCC are not saved, but those whom believe the gospel of the RCC are lost. I keep challenging, as I am commanded to teach the true Gospel. I can only pray the Holy Spirit comes upon them.

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      3. Recent polls say only 24% of US Catholics attend obligatory weekly mass. I also believe some Catholics have accepted Christ in spite of their church’s teaching. Yes, mainline Protestant churches (Presbyterian USA, American Baptist, etc.) no longer preach the Gospel but at least the Gospel is still preached in conservative Reformed churches. The Gospel is never preached in Catholic churches.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The Gospel is what it is all about. I am still working on my Mother, that is praying the Holy Spirit show her the way. I know she knows the Gospel in spite of it all. She does not go to mass any more, however the guilt in her heart is easily seen. She was told by the Nuns when she was first in grade school that God would break her Mothers back if she was ever late for school! My Grandmother had a St. Christopher pin in her car to protect her while driving. These heresies and idol worship was huge in my family. We had a Jesus “Sacred Heart” statue that actually had brought into the house demons! The wall was banging and the head of the statue was broken off as a result of one wall shaking! We had guests in the house once and they left during one of these events. One visitor left without his shoes. While all this was happening, I at the age of 12 was not in the least frightened. It all made sense to me when I started reading the Bible and learning the Truth.
        Thank you Tom for your blog, it is truly a testament and inspiration from Jesus!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks a lot, Brian. Yes I remember the nuns and people in my family had many stories about supernatural occurrences. Just prayed that the Holy Spirit work in your Mom’s heart and she’ll accept Christ.


    1. A 2015 poll revealed that around 60% of evangelical pastors considered the pope to be their “brother in Christ.” It’s my guess that the percentage was half of that when I accepted Christ 33 years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

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