Ecumenism with religious error is rampant throughout the evangelical church these days. Over the last sixty years, the percentage of evangelical pastors, theologians, and para-church leaders who embrace Roman Catholicism with its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit as a Christian entity has steadily risen. One of the few remaining bastions of non-compromise with Rome was the conservative Reformed movement. I admired men like D. James Kennedy, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper for their unyielding defense of the Gospel of grace in the face of compromise and betrayal that surrounds them. But accommodation and compromise with Rome is now in the camp of even the conservative Reformed.
A brother and trusted friend in the Lord recently posted a brief review of a children’s book, titled, “The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith,” (photo middle). My thoughts below in no way reflect on this brother who initially posted the review completely unaware of the facts I will present.
The author of the book, Stephen J. Nichols (photo left), is a very prominent figure in the conservative Reformed movement. He serves as the president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries, both founded by R.C. Sproul. Nichols is also strongly connected to the ministry of John MacArther and has presented at multiple Shepherd’s Conferences hosted by Grace Community Church.
Being the nerd that I am, I was curious to see who Nichols included in his collection of 26 “heroes of the faith.” I did a little digging and had my answer (see here). I was somewhat familiar with 18 of the 26 individuals on the list and one of them really stood out: Francis Xavier (photo right). What? I had to do a double take. Francis Xavier? Are you kidding me? As an ex-Catholic, I am very much aware of Xavier. He’s one of Catholicism’s most prominent and revered “saints” and his name adorns many Catholic churches and institutions. Xavier was a close friend and associate of Ignatius of Loyola. Together, with a few others, they founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, in 1534 (the official formation was in 1540). That’s right, the Jesuits! The order of the Jesuits was created specifically to counteract the work of the Reformation in spreading the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Ignatius and Xavier patterned the Jesuits according to a military model (Ignatius was a former soldier). The order would be the pope’s personal “army.” Jesuit priests pledged absolute loyalty to the pontiff and would use whatever means necessary to neutralize and defeat the spread of the Gospel. Much of their counter-Reformation work was done via the establishment of schools and expeditions to remote areas to spread Rome’s false gospel. Xavier was very active in India and the Far East. In 1546, he requested that the Portuguese king send the Inquisition to Goa, the center of Portuguese colonialism in India. The infamous Goa Inquisition (see here) imprisoned, tortured, and executed “heretics” until its abolition in 1820. Xavier died in 1552.
So, given all of the above, I have a few questions. How can one of the “bright young stars” of the conservative Reformed movement possibly cite Francis Xavier as a “hero of the faith”? Which faith? Certainly not the “sola fide, solus Christus,” faith alone, in Christ alone that I know and that Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin preached. Xavier was bitterly opposed to the Reformation and to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Xavier worked tirelessly to spread Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit throughout Asia. He was absolutely no friend of the Gospel or of the Reformers. How exactly does Nichols square all of that in his head? What is he thinking? How in the world can he see clear to calling darkness light? And how can faithful shepherds of the church swallow what Nichols is dishing out? What does R.C. Sproul say about Nichols’ presentation of Jesuit Xavier as a “hero of the faith”? What does John MacArthur say about Nichols holding up the co-founder of the Jesuits as an exemplary Christian?
Rest assured that Stephen J. Nichols pondered very long and hard as to who he would present in his list of 26 “heroes.” Including such a controversial figure as the co-founder of the Jesuits in this collection was no mistake. It’s clear Nichols has an ecumenical agenda and he’s obviously not afraid to push it. Will Sproul and MacArthur call him on it or will they let it go? After all, it’s only a children’s book, right? What will we see next, the leaders of the conservative Reformed movement writing biographies praising the various popes of Rome?
My heart grieves and my stomach turns. I can only pray for Stephen Nichols.