Solving the “Willis Weatherford” Caper

I thought some might enjoy this very unusual tale of how and why I began this blog two years ago, so here goes:

During my “prodigal” years away from the Lord, I attempted to fill my spiritual emptiness by reading and posting reviews of books on Amazon; mostly historical non-fiction dealing with Poland and Polish-Jewish relations. I continued posting reviews after I returned to the Lord but the books that I was reading after my “homecoming” were mostly related to Christianity. Among the books I reviewed was one which criticized the mixing of Christianity with nationalism, a topic dear to my heart as readers of this blog are aware. But mainly I reviewed books which examined Catholicism, including *Norman Geisler’s disappointing ecumenical treatise, “Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences.”

One day the pastor of our Southern Baptist church and I were discussing Christian nationalism and I mentioned the book referred to above. A short time later I started receiving rebuttal comments on my review of Geisler’s book from a “Willis Weatherford” who used words and phrases that were uncannily similar to what I was accustomed to hearing from our pastor. I immediately suspected the pastor had gone to Amazon to check out the Christian nationalism book, saw my review, and followed my profile to the Geisler review. After I mentioned to “Willis Weatherford” that his writing was oddly similar to our pastor’s phraseology, the comments stopped. Out of curiosity, I googled “Willis Weatherford” and discovered the gentleman is widely revered as a Christian folk hero down in Tennessee and North Carolina where our pastor grew up and attended seminary. But nothing was ever said between the pastor and I about this episode because I wasn’t absolutely sure of my suspicions.

Our pastor’s ecumenical attitude regarding Catholicism was very much in line with Geisler’s. Over the course of a year he had approvingly referred to such notable Catholics as Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, G.K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Peter Kreeft, all of which was becoming increasingly problematic for me. When I confronted him about his admiration for Aquinas, the pastor quickly brushed aside my objections.

Several months later, I was involved with the church’s name change committee and when there was a need for a lengthy article to be written, the pastor immediately piped up, “Give it to Tom, he likes to write.” Wow. One of the deacons, a close friend of the pastor, then turned to me and said something to the effect of, “You like to write so much, you ought to start a blog.” Double wow. I sat there with a knowing smile on my face. The thing was I had NEVER mentioned my Amazon reviews to either one of those guys, thus confirming my suspicions.

But I still didn’t confront the pastor with the “Willis Weatherford” incident because I was already anticipating leaving the church due to his ecumenism (as well as a few other reasons). But the deacon’s comment is what gave me the motivation to eventually start this blog. A month after we left the church, excatholic4christ was born. It had become very clear to me after one year in that church that another voice was needed warning against ecumenism with Rome and inviting Catholics to accept Christ.

If anyone is interested in reading the exchange between “Willis Weatherford” and myself regarding the ecumenical compromise of Norman Geisler and others, I’ve posted it in the comments section.

*Ecumenical theologian, Norman Geisler, has mentored notable apologists, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, and Lee Strobel, who also espouse ecumenism with Rome.

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18 thoughts on “Solving the “Willis Weatherford” Caper

  1. My review of “Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences,” by Norman Geisler, posted on Amazon, October 16, 2014:

    This is a REALLY strange book. On the one hand Evangelical scholar Norman Geisler cites many areas in which Roman Catholicism is not in accord with the New Testament Gospel: justification by works, sacramentalism, Mariolatry, sacerdotalism, purgatory, etc. But from the other side of his mouth Geisler insinuates that Catholicism is Christian; e.g. “(the Jesuits’) original mission concerned preaching Christ to the unconverted in the world. They became great missionaries, winning many to Christ in Africa, Asia, and the New World. Many were martyred for their faith” – p.444. Really, Professor Geisler? Did the Jesuits preach Christ or did they preach a works-based religion masquerading as “Christianity”? How exactly is teaching people they must merit their salvation “winning” souls to Christ?

    The “gospel” preached by the Catholic church claims salvation comes through its clergy-administered sacraments and by obedience to the law. But Geisler argues, even quite adamantly, for the true Gospel message of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. So which is it, Professor Geisler? Grace or works? It can’t be both. “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” – Romans 11:6. Geisler, a passionate devotee of Catholic priest and theologian, Thomas Aquinas, struggles schizophrenically to cut Catholicism as much slack as possible while also upholding the Gospel of the Reformers. When it comes to Rome, Catholic-friendly Evangelicals like Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Bill Bright, Os Guinness, Mark Noll, J. I. Packer, Harold O. J. Brown, Max Lucado, Timothy George, and Geisler are all seriously misguided (Colson, Bright, and Brown are now deceased).

    Postscript: See Robert Zins’ “On the Edge of Apostasy: The Evangelical Romance with Rome” for a thorough rebuttal of Geisler’s and MacKenzie’s compromising of the Gospel.

    COMMENTS

    Willis Weatherford: In the interest of a humility, wisdom, and good theology, I venture one (among many) actions more “simply delusional” than being “Catholic-Friendly” is calling Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Bill Bright, Os Guinness, Mark Noll, J. I. Packer, Harold O. J. Brown, Max Lucado, and Geisler “simply delusional”. The combined weight of their teaching, speaking, and writing, along with the influence of the organizations they lead and founded, must surely give us great pause before disrespecting these fellow followers of God.

    Tom: Thanks for your comment, Willis. The men I mentioned are all signers of ECT documents, which identify the Catholic church as Christian. The Catholic church has not changed any of its doctrines since the Reformation. Most importantly, Catholics still teach justification comes through the infusion of grace through its sacraments. If the Catholic church has not changed then why do the aforementioned Evangelical leaders now embrace Catholicism as Christian? Yes, these men have attracted many admirers through their teaching, speaking, and writing. Unfortunately, these leaders have done a tremendous disservice to their followers and admirers and to Christian witness in general by compromising the Gospel and accepting a works-righteousness religion as “Christian.” These men have somehow become deluded regarding Catholic theology. Eagerness to enlist Catholics as co-belligerents in social causes has apparently relegated theology to the back burner. You speak of good theology. Is justification by grace AND works good theology? Don’t you think that the compromise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a “gospel” of sacramental grace and merit by some Evangelical leaders will have a profoundly negative effect on the body of Christ? These men have done some good and admirable things but this blurring of the Gospel is surely not one of them. In your opinion “disrespecting” these gentlemen is a more serious offense than their compromise of the Gospel! I’m almost speechless. The Evangelical ECT signers are deluded and are delusional. Their example has led many astray and has done great damage to the cause of Christ. I was actually using quite a bit of retraint in saying they were only “simply delusional.” As for humility, there’s a place for humility but the altar of ECT is not the place.

    “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Galatians 1:8-10

    Willis Weatherford: Certainly right doctrine is essential to right theology and right practice. Traditions and religions which claim to be based on the Bible and the work of Christ, yet are not true to them, distort God’s word and confuse and mislead onlookers and participants alike. There is a place and a need for a loving and critical rebuke of wrong doctrine. Yet surely this rebuke will be most God-honoring, winsome, and authentic when it comes from a charitable and humble attitude, and within a relationship (if not of brotherhood, at least of courtesy and goodwill). Surely Gracious words and attitudes must be primary in the communication, demonstration, and defense of the gospel of Grace.

    I share many of your concerns and convictions concerning Roman Catholic doctrine and theology. I suppose the possibility that those who share our concerns may not act with grace in the defense of the truth, is an even higher concern. For if we demonstrate the gospel to be ineffectual by our actions, of what worth will it seem to those who watch, no matter how clearly defined and defensible we make it?

    Tom: Thanks for your reply but while we quibble the train has already left the station. The church became so preoccupied with the spirit of graciousness, kindness, and tolerance in regards to Catholicism that twenty years after ECT Catholic priests, bishops, and the pope are routinely identified as Christian leaders and spokesmen by important Evangelical sources such as the Christian Post and Christianity Today. It would seem there’s been far too much graciousness and far too few Evangelical leaders who were willing to take a stand for the uncompromised Gospel. Yes, graciousness and accommodation of error have certainly gained the upper hand within the church. In this culture of ours where politically correct kindness and acceptance are the rule, every pastor and theologian who points out that the gospel of Catholicism is not the Gospel of Christ will be attacked and pushed to the margins of Evangelicalism. Perhaps my term, “simply delusional,” was a bit harsh and off-putting. Undoubtedly my emotions got the best of me at the thought of these trusted, influential, and highly respected Christian leaders taking the church down the wrong path. Fine. I will re-phrase my statement and say these leaders were seriously misguided when they embraced Catholicism, but now we just mince words. When some in the early church began teaching that the observance of the Mosaic Law was a requirement the Apostle Paul was zealously opposed. I would hardly call his attitude gracious. But these days Roman legalism seems to be okay and anyone who objects is ungracious. Certainly we cannot categorize Paul’s objections to the legalistic Judaizers as winsome, gracious, charitable, and humble.

    Willis Weatherford: Brother Tom, I think it is necessary to clearly distinguish between grace and tolerance/accommodation of error/timidity. I actually think Paul seems exceptionally gracious in Acts 15, 1)devoting time to dialogue before addressing those with whom he disagreed, 2)calling them brothers, 3)assuming and recognizing their knowledge of God’s movement and will, 4) using “we” rather than “you vs. us” in his words. Yet he certainly included pointed words of rebuke as well! As you know, Christ’s grace to us included sharp rebuke and condemnation of sin as well as tender care and healing. I think you’ll agree that, in our pursuit of truth, we must practice that kind of grace: rooted in love and striving for reconciliation, while holding fast to the truth and rebuking falsehood.

    Tom: Willis, you’re starting to sound a lot like my pastor. I get your points, especially at a personal level, but it’s also very clear from the current situation regarding Catholicism that the church in general has been extremely generous with the accommodation portion and extremely light with the rebuke part. From what I can see there is very little rebuke involved when it comes to Evangelicalism’s current relationship with Catholicism. But thanks for reminding me that Christ’s grace includes sharp rebuke and condemnation of sin as well as tender care and healing and that my attitudes need to reflect Him. His grace I certainly don’t deserve.

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  2. I think your pastor met his match, Tom. Good job!!! Sadly, I’ve had to end two blogger relationships recently due to ecumenical ties and recommendations that I couldn’t ignore.
    “…Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, and Lee Strobel, who also espouse ecumenism with Rome. “. J.I. Packer is another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot, Hope! All praise to the Lord for saving me out of Catholic legalism and then guiding my wife and I out of blatant evangelical ecumenism. As you know, there are a LOT of pro-ecumenism people in the church and if you’re not on board, you’re a definitely square.

      J.I. Packer drives me nuts. He said in an interview justifying his signing of ECT that he wouldn’t be caught dead at a Catholic mass because it was all unbiblical BUT that many Catholics were saved. Lloyd-Jones ended his friendship with Packer because he couldn’t abide with Packer’s ecumenism. Here are the other Judases I pointed out in my review of Geisler’s book that Weatherford strenuously objected to: Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Bill Bright, Os Guinness, Mark Noll, J. I. Packer, Harold O. J. Brown, Max Lucado, Timothy George, all signers of ECT.
      These guys are all highly respected within evangelicalism so pointing to them as compromisers won’t win any friends.

      I realize we all have our beloved secondary doctrines and we need to cut each other a lot of slack but ecumenical compromise with Rome and KJV-1611 Onlyism are two things I can’t stomach. The problem is the KJV-1611 Onlyists are one of the few remaining groups that don’t tolerate ecumenism!

      I’m guessing most Christian bloggers here at WP think a guy like Zacharias is fantastic and I don’t get too upset if his website is in their favorite links, etc. Maybe I can enlighten them. But, yeah, I really can’t carry on an exchange with an evangelical who believes the pope is preaching the Gospel.

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  3. I might as well mention more names, too. Josh McDowell is on the downhill slide, too. He used to be so solid, but has followed David Jeremiah’s path. I think I mentioned that I watched Mac Brunson lead his congregation into the “silence” one morning. That was a shocker to me, but looking back, I should have seen it coming when he paraded Roma Downey on stage a few weeks earlier. He references Packer over and over, too. When I went back to watch the rerun, they had edited it all out. Made a liar out of me! 🙂

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    1. We’re on the same page, Hope. McDowell has teamed up with Geisler on several projects. He also accompanied Zacharias to “Together 2016” which featured a video message from pope Francis. Jeremiah wrote the evangelical version of the book that accompanied Catholic/New Age film producer, Roma Downey’s “A.D.: The Bible Continues” television mini-series. There was also two books for Catholics that came out with the series. Everybody gets a book. Everybody’s happy. Just one big, happy (c)hristian family!

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      1. Yup. Going the ecumenical route is much more lucrative in the way of book sales and contributions via TBN and Christian radio. Guys who still uphold the exclusivity of the Gospel of grace and warn of ecumenism with Rome are becoming fewer and fewer.

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  4. Tom. Concerning some notable individuals mentioned above: Zacharias, McDowell, Lucado, Geisler, Guiness, Jeremiah, Strobel, Lane Craig. I’ve read at least one book by each of those I just listed and beside obviously not agreeing with or condoning their ecumenism (which never appealed to me, anyway) would you say there’s nothing one can find in their writings worth sharing or learning something from, or is it their ecumenism that’s their big problem and shouldn’t be supported but rather exposed and addressed?

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    1. I can only claim that I’ve read Geisler’s book, two books by Strobel, and one by Jeremiah but I’m very much aware of the ministries of the rest. In answering your question, I’ll use Zacharias as an example. I could easily listen to his radio show and enjoy it just about every day of the week. He’s a wonderful speaker and obviously very intelligent with some great insights. But every once in awhile he will make reference to Chesterton, or St. Francis, or Mother Teresa, etc. The ecumenical references don’t come every day but they do come. What are his evangelical listeners to think? Ravi holds up these people as exemplary Christians to his audience. Listeners must conclude that Roman Catholicism is Christian and preaches the Gospel. I could say the same of all these gentlemen. They all have valuable teaching and insights but they all lead their audiences toward ecumenism with Rome. It’s difficult for me to separate the good from the bad since the bad has some very dangerous consequences for evangelicals who should be witnessing to Catholics, and for Catholics who need to hear the Gospel.

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