“Living Biblically” misses the main point of the Bible – the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ!

Living Biblically
Created by Patrick Walsh and featuring Jay R. Ferguson, Ian Gomez, Lindsey Kraft, and David Krumholtz
CBS, Monday nights, 9:30 p.m. EST

In the last Weekend Roundup, I mentioned CBS’s new television show, “Living Biblically,” and last night I caught up with Monday night’s pilot episode via on-demand.

The show begins with “lapsed” (non-practicing) Roman Catholic, Chip Curry (Ferguson), who is very troubled by the recent death of his best friend. In the midst of his depression, he decides to start reading the Bible in an attempt to lift himself out of his doldrums and “make sense of it all.” His new “spirituality” consists of endeavoring to live his life in strict accordance with all of the Bible’s precepts. Chip’s local parish priest, “father” Gene (Gomez), tries to humor the zealot into mitigating his rigorous chosen path, while his atheist wife, Leslie (Kraft), is worried her formerly religiously indifferent husband has turned into a fanatical “Bible banger.” Chip takes things too far when he literally “stones” (i.e., small pebble to the forehead) a notorious womanizer who he works with, but his “obedience” seems to be divinely rewarded by a job upgrade at a higher salary. More “comical” clashes between Biblical literalism and secular culture are sure to follow as the series continues.

A couple of moments in the the show really captured its overall spirit:

  • In one of the initial scenes, Chip visits priest Gene in a confessional (photo above) and declares that he’s already a “good” person who desires to be “even better” by following the Bible literally.
  • In the final scene, Chip, Leslie, priest Gene, and Jewish rabbi, Gil (Krumholtz), gather together at a local watering hole and philosophize about Chip’s new “spirituality.” Leslie has just found out she is pregnant and is worried about how Chip’s newfound “faith” will affect their child. The rabbi and priest agree the important thing is that both parents just focus on raising the child as a “loving human being” and everything will be fine.

So what we see in “Living Biblically” is the prevailing gospel of works righteousness with the essential requirement of being a “good” person in order to merit a reward. Jesus Christ was not mentioned once during the entire thirty minutes, which was certainly not a surprise. The Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is the red thread that runs through the entire Bible, but Chip doesn’t get it and neither do the show’s writers and creators. The letter of the Law is emphasized rather than the Gospel that the Law points to. In future episodes, viewers will no doubt witness many other examples of Biblical precepts pulled out of their context and made to look comically ridiculous just like the faux “stoning” of the adulterer in this pilot episode.

Few Catholics will have an axe to grind with Living Biblically’s view of religion because it’s largely in sync with the notions of popular Catholicism, but Biblical Christians will certainly have a problem with what this show communicates about the Bible. We can only hope that some souls might be inspired by “Living Biblically” to actually start reading the Bible and that the Holy Spirit will enlighten them to the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

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The idolatry of “Thomism” among some evangelical intellectuals

I like to tell people I’m a Theology 101 kind of guy. Praise the Lord that His Good News! is so simple even a child can understand it. But I appreciate the work that godly theologians have done over the years and I have picked up a few things here and there.

One thing that bothers me, though, is how some evangelical theologians are enamored with Roman Catholic medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Those who specialize in studying Aquinas proudly dub themselves as “Thomists.” Three very influential evangelical theologians who embraced Thomism are Norman Geisler, and the late John Gerstner and R.C. Sproul.

R.C. Sproul passed into Heaven only a couple of months. I really appreciated R.C.’s ministry and his fidelity to the Gospel of grace. Every once in a while, I’ll listen to the daily broadcast from R.C.’s Ligonier Ministry, “Renewing Your Mind,” and this morning the topic was “Why Didn’t Jesus Know?” (see link below) in which R.C. explained why Jesus didn’t know the time of the Second Coming as it’s written in Matthew 24:36. R.C. explained that Thomas Aquinas had a wrong understanding of the verse, but emphatically qualified that statement with the following:

“I respect Saint Thomas Aquinas as much or more than any other theologian that’s ever lived. I think Saint Thomas was astonishing in his brilliance and in his consistent understanding of the things of God.”

[Pausing wearily]

As I said, I’m certainly not a theologian, but I do know several things about Thomas Aquinas. The Catholic church considers him their preeminent theologian. He promoted and defended the teachings of baptismal regeneration and sacramental grace, auricular confession of sins to a priest, purgatory and indulgences, the invocation and intercession of the saints in Heaven, and papal primacy. Borrowing heavily from Aristotelian philosophy, Aquinas defined, among other things, the spiritually deadly false dogma of eucharistic transubstantiation.

Thomas Aquinas was certainly no friend of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone. Many of the other doctrines he promoted, defended, and defined were un-Biblical and even anti-Biblical. What is it exactly that attracts these evangelical theologians to Aquinas?

I love R.C. Sproul and I’m grateful for his ministry in my life. I am not trying to besmirch the reputation of a departed brother who was faithful to the Gospel in many other ways, but I am very disappointed by R.C.’s unqualified great praise of Thomas Aquinas in today’s taped radio message and elsewhere. R.C. wasn’t perfect. This infatuation with Thomas Aquinas and Thomism among some evangelicals is a spiritual blind spot that I believe is rooted in intellectual pride.

In all things, we must always follow the Lord, Jesus Christ and His Word, rather than men. If Christian teachers, even otherwise solid Christian teachers, depart from the truth, we must follow the Lord.

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” – Psalm 118:8


“Why Didn’t Jesus Know?”
http://renewingyourmind.org/2018/02/27/why-didnt-jesus-know

Warren Jeffs: Fundamentalist Mormon Monster

Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil
A&E Cable Channel, 2018, 120 minutes

The documentary, “Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil,” premiered February 19th on the A&E cable channel and I finally caught up with it via on-demand on Saturday night.

Readers of this blog may remember that I had a strong historical interest in the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (LDS, Mormons) because we live only 23 miles from Palmyra, New York, where the “church” had its beginnings. Mormon apologists say the church’s founder and first prophet, Joseph Smith, received divine revelation at some point in the 1830s to revive the Old Testament practice of polygamous/plural marriage and that the “principle” continued within the church until Wilford Woodruff, the fourth prophet, claimed he received divine revelation in 1890, which ended it. My, the Mormon god appears to be quite indecisive. In practical terms, the Mormons ended polygamy due to mounting pressure from the federal government. Although officially banned, Mormons continued polygamy under wraps until it eventually fizzled out within the “official” LDS church. However, several “fundamentalist” Mormon groups split from the church in order to continue the practice.

Warren Jeffs is the president and prophet of one of those groups, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which was concentrated in the Hidale (UT)-Colorado City (AZ)-Short Creek (AZ) area with around 15,000 members. This documentary traces the rise of Jeffs within the FLDS. He had a penchant for marrying underage girls as plural wives (78 wives total! Oy vey!), which eventually led to his arrest, conviction, and sentencing to life in prison in 2011.

This is a sad, sad story of a religious cult wreacking havoc in the lives of its members. Jeffs was a monster of nightmarish proportions who cloaked his pedophilia in “religious authority.” Ultimately, every false religion is spiritually deadly. I’m mindful that such “respectable” religious institutions as Roman Catholicism dealt in abuses and persecutions that surpassed those of the FLDS. Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ, for His genuine Gospel and His genuine Church! Praise the Lord for His easy yoke and light burden! I think it’s useful for Christians to watch “Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil” to remind us that we should be very wary of placing any leader on a pedestal. In the first Biblical church my wife and I attended after accepting Christ, there were elements of authoritarianism and leadership idolatry. We must follow the Lord rather than any man.

For my previous posts on the fraudulent claims of Joseph Smith and Mormonism see here.

Lent is no match for Super Rodent!

Most of the topics I write about on this blog are serious matters involving spiritual life and death, but there are occasions when I come across something that can only be categorized as sadly comical. Case in point:

This year, the Catholic church’s Lenten season runs from Wednesday, February 14th to Thursday, March 29th and Catholics are strictly forbidden from eating meat on all six of the Fridays during that span under the threat of committing mortal sin, which they are told will doom them to hell. But getting down to the nuts and bolts of what actually constitutes “meat” can get a little tricky as I alluded to in the infamous Chicken in a Biskit post (see here.)

Well, now we have another very strange twist to this rule regarding abstention from meat during Lent.

A few days ago, I was listening to the 2/21/18 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show. Moderator, Tom Price, and host, David Anders, were discussing Lenten abstinence restrictions and Anders unflinchingly mentioned that Venezuelan Catholics are allowed to eat the meat of a capybara on Fridays. Capybara? What’s that? Well, it turns out that capybara (photo above) are the largest living rodent in the world, ranging anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds full grown and they like to hang out near or in water. They are a dietary staple of Central America and some say they taste like pork with a slightly fishy accent. As the tale goes, Padre Sojo, Venezuela’s most influential Catholic cleric at the time, traveled to Rome in 1794 and petitioned pope Leo XII to allow his countrymen to eat the meat of the capybara during Lent because, he argued, the animal spent so much time in the water that it was more like a fish than a warm-blooded mammal. Remember, fish are okay to eat on Fridays during Lent, but not the meat from mammals or birds. Sojo’s absurd argument evidently made an impression on the credulous pope because he granted his request and actually issued a Papal Bull decreeing that Venezuelans were free to eat capybara during Lent without incurring a mortal sin.

So Venezuelan Catholics can gorge themselves on capybara burgers on Lenten Fridays with an absolutely clear conscience, but if an American Catholic takes even one bite of a Big Mac, they are doomed to Hell forever!

But this sinner who was freed from the chains of Catholicism and is saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a hypothetical question for my Catholic friends. Let’s suppose an American Catholic travels down to Venezuela on business during Lent. He’s walking the streets of Caracas on a Friday at noon and smells the wonderful aroma of barbecue in the air. In a few minutes, he discovers the source of the olfactory bliss; a sidewalk food vendor who beckons him over to try some of his smokey barbecued capybara. The American, mouth watering, declines with noticeable regret, saying in broken Spanish that he is prohibited from eating meat on Friday during Lent. But the vendor reassures him that the pope himself declared it was okay to eat capybara in Venezuela during Lent and another native walking by confirms the information. The American then hungrily orders a double-plateful of barbecued capybara and eats his fill. The next day, the American begins his journey back to the U.S., but his plane crashes and all aboard perish. Which now brings us to our question: Did the American Catholic go to hell for eating capybara on a Lenten Friday because he was still under the jurisdiction of his American bishop or did Leo XII’s papal bull cover all the bases?

Catholic friend, if you ever get tired of spinning in Catholicism’s legalistic hamster (another rodent) wheel, turn to Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and ask Jesus Christ to save you by faith in Him alone.

Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?
https://www.gotquestions.org/catholicism.html

Postscript: Some may object to my interjection of humor in this discussion, but folks, seriously, I couldn’t have come up with this “capybara dispensation” in my wildest dreams.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 2/24/18

At our church small group meeting this week, a member enthusiastically mentioned this upcoming television show, “Living Biblically,” about a character “who drastically changes his life to live strictly by the Bible.” Don’t get your hopes up, believers. The main character decides to become a “better” Catholic by living out his life according to all the commandments in Bible, in close consultation with his parish priest. The producer states that an actual Catholic priest and Jewish rabbi are the show’s expert consultants. I don’t expect to see anything resembling the Gospel, but I do expect to see a lot of religious legalism.

The Catholic church insists that myself and others who have left aren’t “truly” ex-Catholics. They claim, “Once baptized a Catholic, always a Catholic.” But Almighty God had other plans. When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone, I was born again and washed clean and I now count all of my old connections with Roman Catholicism as rubbish (Philippians 3:7-8).

This year, Catholic conservatives are celebrating the 50th anniversary of pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” encyclical, which banned all forms of contraception under threat of mortal sin, even non-abortifacient methods. When it was published in 1968, church liberals and many moderates thought “Humanae Vitae” was insane. Recent polling research shows 82 percent of American Catholics believe birth control is “morally acceptable,” and 98 percent of U.S. Catholic women of childbearing age have used contraception at some point while they’ve been sexually active. Meanwhile, conservatives continue to march to the official drumbeat, with doctrinaire priests even advising married couples in which one partner has an STD to forgo condoms.

German cardinal, Reinhard Marx, continues to push the envelope. Be assured that Marx has pope Francis’ full approval.

Hillsong, like most entities on the TBN network, is pushing ecumenism with Rome. Many megachurches borrow Hillsong’s music. I’ve watched Hillsong’s prosperity gospeler, Brian Houston, “preach” a few times on TBN and on each occasion I had the sense that he didn’t believe a word he was saying.

The above article is a good overview of Francis’ first five years. Many Catholic conservatives hope for a quick end to his tenure.

What? Benny Hinn is admitting he went a bit too far with the “name it and claim it” false prosperity gospel? Why now? After selling snake oil for 35 years, it’s beginning to set in that he’s never going to garner the adulation accorded to Billy Graham.

Living in a world of unbelief can be a challenge, but being yoked to an unbeliever in marriage has to be really tough. My prayers for everyone with an unbelieving spouse.

Interesting article. The biggest takeaway for me is that members of nondenominational churches apparently have feelings of rootlessness. No surprise there. Nondenominational pastors are often negligent in teaching church/Reformation history and the Five Solas.

Those of you who attend more traditional churches might not get this, but ripped skinny jeans are de rigueur at “progressive” churches. Jacket and tie? Forget about it. Khakis and a polo shirt? You’ve got to be kidding! That’s strictly frumpy “old school.”

The well-spoken man: An allegory of Billy Graham

Yesterday afternoon, I was under the impression that I had posted all of my thoughts regarding Billy Graham (see here and here), until the short allegory below came to mind. Thank you for your interest. I won’t be posting anything more about Billy Graham.

Imagine yourself being on a large ship, the Queen Mary, in the middle of the ocean. It’s a warm, sunny day and you’re relaxing on deck, enjoying the ocean breeze, but suddenly the big ship shudders violently as it hits a reef. You scramble as you get into the Lifeboat* and warn your fellow passengers to do likewise. But a well-spoken man appears on deck and counsels the frazzled passengers with his confident and soothing voice to stay on the ship, telling them that it remains seaworthy and dependable. The passengers let out a collective sigh of relief and express their gratitude to the well-spoken man for allaying their fears. The ship’s captain also extends his enthusiastic thanks. Everyone returns to the ship’s interior. You yell from the Lifeboat, “What are you doing? The ship is sinking! Get into the Lifeboat!” The well-spoken man looks back for a quick second and gives you a wink and a smile. From your Lifeboat, you watch the ship sink into the ocean and all passengers appear to be lost.

*In this allegory, the Lifeboat has room for “whosoever will.”

Billy Graham warmly eulogized by Roman Catholic leaders. Is there anything strange about that?

Yesterday, I posted a few thoughts on Billy Graham. See here. This morning, I scanned the internet and I was not surprised to find many glowing articles from Catholic sources eulogizing Graham, including the ones far below.

Bible Christians uphold the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Rome propagates a different gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The two gospels are not the same. They are, in fact, opposed to each other. But Billy Graham completely dismissed doctrinal distinctives and embraced Roman Catholicism with its false gospel as a Christian entity. He invited local Catholic bishops to participate in his crusades and directed Catholics who came forward at his altar calls to go back to their Catholic churches.

“Billy Graham risked a great deal with his core evangelical constituency when he began building bridges with Catholics” – from “How Billy Graham shaped American Catholicism,” below.

The Catholic hierarchy’s praise and approval of Billy Graham, especially for his ecumenical efforts, should be a red flag for Bible Christians who continue to honor Billy Graham. The Lord, Jesus Christ, and His apostles did not receive the approbation of the Jewish and pagan works-religionists of Palestine and the Roman Empire, neither did they seek it. But in today’s topsy-turvy world, ecumenism with Rome is viewed by many as a good thing, and those who object are ignored or even criticized. Can anyone imagine Catholic bishops of yore weeping at the gravesides of John Knox, Charles Spurgeon, or Martyn Lloyd-Jones as they will be doing at the graveside of their friend and ally, Billy Graham? Was the Catholic press full of accolades for Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones when they died? No? Then what has changed?

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10


REV. BILLY GRAHAM BELMONT COLLEGE
Billy Graham and Catholic priest, John Oetgen, president of Belmont Abbey Monastery in North Carolina, are pictured in 1967 after the popular evangelist was invited for a talk and to receive a degree from Belmont College. Graham called the gathering “a time when Protestants and Catholics could meet together and greet each other as brothers, whereas 10 years ago they could not.”

The troubling enigma that was Billy Graham

I see that Billy Graham died today (news article far below). There will no doubt be MANY laudatory tributes to Graham in evangelical Christian and religious circles and even in the secular media. Few people on this planet were as widely revered as Billy Graham over the last sixty years. He was the friend and counselor to American presidents and the face of evangelical Christianity to hundreds of millions if not billions.

But Billy Graham leaves behind an enigmatic and troubling legacy. On the one hand, there’s little doubt that thousands genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior as a result of attending a Graham crusade or by watching on television. On the other hand, Graham was instrumental in opening the door to ecumenical cooperation and “fellowship” with religious unbelievers, most significantly, with the leadership of the Roman Catholic church. Much of the ubiquitous ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel that we see all around us today within evangelicalism can be traced back to the example of Billy Graham.

Few evangelicals are of a mind to tolerate any criticism of Billy Graham, especially on the day of his death, but I have no qualms, especially considering the great damage done within the church by his accommodation, cooperation, and compromise with error.

Below, are a couple of posts I’ve published previously regarding Billy Graham:

Billy Graham – Part 1
https://excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/billy-graham-part-1/

Billy Graham – Part 2
https://excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/billy-graham-part-2/

 


Billy Graham, 99, Dies; Pastor Filled Stadiums and Counseled Presidents

 

“I certainly don’t need to be saved. I’m a good person.”

Have you ever shared the Gospel with a religious unbeliever and they shot back with something along the lines of, “I don’t need to be saved! I think I’m a relatively good person”? An unbeliever, whether religious or not, just does not see their depraved, sinful state and their desperate need of the Savior.

I’ve been slowly reading through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.” It’s page after page of blessed teaching on the Lord’s great sermon that many people misunderstand. In the section I read last night, Lloyd-Jones compared the thoughts of the unbeliever with the attitude of a Christian. Here’s just a short excerpt:

“The natural man’s attitude towards morality is generally negative. His concern is that he should not do certain things. He does not want to be dishonest, unjust, or immoral. The Christian’s attitude towards morality is always positive; he hungers and thirsts after a positive righteousness like that of God Himself.

Or again, consider it in terms of sin. The natural man always thinks of sin in terms of actions, things that are done or not done. The Christian is interested in the heart. Did not our Lord emphasize that in this Sermon, when He said, in effect: ‘As long as you are not guilty of physical adultery you think you are all right. But I ask, What about your heart? What about your thoughts?’ That is the view of the Christian man. Not actions only, he goes beyond that to the heart.

What about the attitude of these two men towards themselves? The natural man is prepared to admit that perhaps he is not entirely perfect. He says: ‘You know I am not a complete saint, there are certain defects in my character.’ But you will never find a man who is not a Christian feeling that he is all wrong, that he is vile. He is never ‘poor in spirit,’ he never ‘mourns’ because of his sinfulness. He never sees himself as a hell-deserving sinner. He never says, ‘Were it not for the death of Christ on the cross, I would have no hope of seeing God.’ He will never say with Charles Wesley, ‘Vile and full of sin I am.’ He regards that as an insult, because he claims that he has always tried to live a good life. He therefore resents that and does not go as far as that in his self-condemnation.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones from “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount,” Eerdmans Publishing, 1984, pp. 278-279

Roman Catholics and all religious unbelievers think they’re pretty good people and that they do a decent job of obeying the Ten Commandments. If you ask them, they will tell you.

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12

Am I good enough to go to heaven?
https://carm.org/am-i-good-enough-to-go-to-heaven

Observations on two current news items

A couple of topics come to mind on this lovely Monday morning that I would like to discuss:

As most of you know, the 2018 Winter Olympics are currently underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Olympics will conclude this coming Sunday, February 25th. I must admit that I’ve watched very little of the competitions up to this point. But some of the athletic skill that’s on display is absolutely amazing. These Olympic athletes train incredibly hard for four long years in order to qualify and compete in contests that are sometimes decided by a margin of nanoseconds. One must admire the athletes’ complete dedication to their goal.

The striving for an Olympic medal reminds us of the apostle Paul’s words in First Corinthians:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul’s Christian walk was disciplined and purposeful. What about us? Is our Christian walk even one-tenth as disciplined as those Olympic athletes who compete for a temporal medal? How much time do we spend in God’s Word. How often do we commune with the Lord in prayer? How often do we seek opportunities to share the Gospel and build up other believers? It’s a matter of the heart and desire. These Olympic athletes put us to shame, brothers and sisters.


This past Wednesday, a troubled teenager killed 17 people and injured another 14 in a shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I chose not to include this tragic story in the last Weekend Roundup. Why not? We live in a fallen world and it’s reported that 150,000 people around the world die every single day, many from tragic circumstances. I believe we should focus on spreading the Gospel rather than constantly reacting to the circumstances around us.

But I don’t have a heart of stone. I’m saddened for the victims of the Parkland shooting and for their families and friends and for all the children at the school who survived the mayhem. A nineteen-year-old with a well-documented, troubled past should never have been allowed to purchase a semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle. It’s my opinion that no one needs to own a semiautomatic assault rifle, but the freedom to buy any type of firearm is so sacrosanct in this country that we’ll even allow an extremely troubled teen with a checkered record access to them.

When we board an airplane, we expect all proper precautions have been taken to ensure none of the other passengers have brought aboard a firearm or explosive device. We’re rightly concerned about our personal safety. Something also needs to be done to curtail these ongoing school massacres. Some type of restrictive measure needs to be in place to deny very troubled people like Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz (photo right), and Adam Lanza a basic firearm let alone an assault rifle! This is a difficult issue but this latest catastrophe demonstrates once again that politics trumps rational precautions at the expense of children. Guns should not be absolutely sacrosanct.

Sigh.

That said, let’s get back to the only thing that will save any soul, the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.