Paradigm Shift: How Gospel outreach to Catholics became “anti-Catholic bigotry”

Paradigm. The word became extremely popular in business circles in the 1990s. It can mean how a person or group views or understands or conceptualizes a particular situation or set of circumstances. A paradigm may be accurate or inaccurate. It may remain stable over time or change.

It occurs to me that a dramatic paradigm shift involving eternal consequences took place in evangelical churches in America and throughout the world over the last sixty years.

I believe it would be accurate to say that back in the early 1960s, close to all evangelical and fundamentalist pastors agreed that the gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit taught in all Roman Catholic churches was NOT the Biblical Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Bible Christians agreed across denominational lines that Roman Catholics, like all other works-religionists, were a mission field. This widely-shared viewpoint WAS an accurate “paradigm” of the circumstances.

But several powerful influences began to change this paradigm:

*Billy Graham and his like-minded allies within evangelicalism (e.g., Carl Henry, Edward Carnell, Harold Ockenga, Bernard Ramm, etc.) began embracing Roman Catholicism as a Christian entity despite Catholicism’s own admission that its salvation system was based on sacramental grace and meritorious works. Graham never addressed in print or by interview how he was able to reconcile in his mind the two opposing gospels.

*Roman Catholicism’s Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) dramatically reversed the church’s stance regarding Protestants from that of militant opposition to ecumenical cooperation. Rome openly admitted at the time that the purpose of its switch to ecumenism was to eventually recover Protestants back to the fold. Rome’s new approach was hailed by many (naive) evangelicals.

*In February 1967, about 25 college students from Duquesne Catholic University attended a retreat in which they claimed they received the Pentecostal/charismatic gifts of the spirit. The Catholic charismatic renewal movement has since grown to 160 million members including tens of thousands of priests. Charismatics and Pentecostals were in a compromising pickle; although Catholics believed in a different gospel, they demonstrated the requisite gifts of the spirit. Pope Francis has praised Catholic charismatics as a vanguard for evangelical-Catholic ecumenism.

*By the early 1970s, influential theologians, most notably, Francis Schaeffer, began to warn of the “spiritual and moral” decline of the West, and called on evangelical Christians to actively engage in the political realm. Leaders such as Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson accepted Schaeffer’s challenge and encouraged pastors to organize and to mix faith and politics from the pulpit. In battles with advancing secularism, politically-minded evangelicals were not opposed to teaming with conservative Roman Catholics against the common foe. Once-important doctrinal differences took a back seat to the immediate cultural and political shared concerns. It wasn’t long before doctrinal differences were ignored altogether. Charles Colson attempted to formalize this alliance of expediency with his Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) movement beginning in 1994.

*In the 1970s and 1980s, tracts, comic books, and books from Chick Publications, which strongly attacked Roman Catholicism, became popular among some Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. Much of the information was sensationalistic and based upon unverifiable conspiracy theories (e.g., the Catholic church created Islam, Marxism, Mormonism, the Jehovah Witnesses, etc.). Chick’s irresponsible extremism weakened the efforts of credible, Gospel-focused outreach to Catholics.

*In addition to the ecumenical push by Graham and Co., Catholicism’s softened stance toward Protestants, Moral Majority’s ecumenism in the trenches, shared charismatic experientialism, and irresponsible conspiracy theorists, society entered into the post-modern era in which all truth is supposedly relative, and “inclusiveness” and “tolerance” are the buzzwords. Post-modernism has also impacted the evangelical church. Criticism of a religious group, even if they propagate a false gospel, is perceived by many evangelicals as negative, divisive, and completely distasteful.

As a result of all of the above influences, the evangelical church’s paradigm of Roman Catholicism has radically shifted over the past 60 years. Roman Catholics, who still believe in the same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit that was taught by their church back in 1960, are no longer viewed by many evangelicals as a mission field, but as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ! While Catholics perish without hearing the Gospel of grace, evangelical organizers invite Catholic priests to speak at their events. Books by Catholic authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, Peter Kreeft, and Thomas Merton are widely disseminated within evangelical circles and even recommended from pulpits. The widely-shared viewpoint that Catholicism teaches the Biblical Gospel is NOT an accurate “paradigm” of the actual circumstances. But in evangelicalism today, those who criticize Rome and its false gospel are increasingly looked upon as the loony fundamentalist fringe and anti-Catholic bigots.

This embracement of Catholicism by evangelicals over the last 60 years is an absolutely stunning 180-degree change in perception. Satan himself could not have designed it more perfectly. The bottom line in all of this: Catholics don’t hear the genuine Gospel and evangelicals are moving closer to Rome.

18 thoughts on “Paradigm Shift: How Gospel outreach to Catholics became “anti-Catholic bigotry”

  1. Great post!
    They can “Paradigm Shift” all they want BUT God says in His Word:

    Isaiah 40:8
    8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

    Hebrews 13:8
    8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

    ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow I think you did a good job outlining the factors that contributed to this paradigm shift. One thing did surprised me: Carl Henry being named as one of those who also compromised. I don’t know much of Henry though I have always heard good about him but I do plan to look it up more his compromises…but first order of business for me at 2:43 AM: Sleep.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! Yeah, Henry worked closely with Graham and was editor of Christianity Today from 1956-1968 in which he helped steer evangelicalism toward a more ecumenical path.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. “Criticism of a religious group, even if they propagate a false gospel, is perceived by many evangelicals as negative, divisive, and completely distasteful.”

    That’s a very accurate comment, unfortunately. Many clergy and their followers here in Ulster are chasing unity for unity’s sake. Serious questions have to be asked, certainly in Ulster, as to how many of these clergy are actually saved. The message seems to be: “We may all be going to hell, but we’ll all go together, smiling over a cup of coffee and holding hands”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Yes, as doctrine becomes increasingly diluted, one has to wonder whether some of these ecumenical “evangelicals” are truly trusting in Christ since they are so willing so embrace propagators of a false gospel.


  4. I was raised Catholic, and never heard the true gospel until I attending a meeting on August 6,1971 at which time I prayed to receive Christ and have never been the same (understatement) I was 17 at the time (giving away my age :))
    I was so happy to be part of the Protestant church for a long time! But in the past decade, I find there is an atmosphere that strikes me as irreverent. The worship times are loud and it is not uncommon for the young women who are “worship leaders” to be dressed in a way that could cause brothers to stumble. But more than that, grace and God’s love is often preached to the exclusion of God’s other attributes. And so we find we have an exact opposite problem from salvation by works.
    I recently took my 93 year old mom to a Catholic service, since her nursing home is Catholic, and I was drawn to the meditative atmosphere and apparent reverence. And I’ll tell you something else, I have heard that the average Protestant sermon includes about 3% God’s Word (not counting stories about God’s Word) and the average Catholic service includes about 30% God’s Word. I would say in the Catholic service I attended it was more like 40%. They sang God’s Word, the spoke God’s Word, they prayed God’s Word!
    I know I could never go back to Catholicism. But I’ll tell you, it is confusing indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comments, Bev! I understand your concerns about the style of worship at some evangelical churches. Some have adopted the methods of the church growth movement and the main focus has become attracting the worldly seeker rather than admonishing and edifying the saints. Is there an evangelical church in your area that offers a more traditional style of worship? It may take some investigating but it will be worth it for you.

      Many are attracted to the reverential atmosphere of the Catholic mass. But, as you know, intimately entwined with the liturgy of the mass are such things as prayers to Mary and saints, prayers for the dead in purgatory, statuary idolatry, the repetition of rote prayers, priests as mediators, the perpetual sacrifice of Christ for sins, the alleged transformation of the bread wafer into the literal body of Christ, and the propagation of the Catholic gospel, which states that the sacraments provide grace to help the supplicant refrain from “serious” sin so as to remain in a “state of grace” and hopefully merit Heaven at the moment of their death.

      Yes, the combined Scripture readings at a mass are often quite lengthy compared to an evangelical service. An evangelical pastor sometimes will spend 30 or 40 minutes expositing a single verse. Priests’ homilies, in comparison, are usually very short, averaging around 8 minutes, because the liturgical ritual leading to the alleged transubstantiation of the bread and wine is the main purpose of the mass. I don’t see that the sometimes lengthier amount of Scripture read at the mass is an advantage because, despite all of that, the congregants are never presented the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I appreciate that a spirit-filled evangelical pastor can mine great truths and many life applications from a single Bible verse.

      My wife and I are close to your age and we attend an evangelical church that gears its services to a younger crowd, so I can relate to some of your concerns. We may have to investigate attending a more traditional church in the future ourselves. But the Catholic mass is so abhorrently wrong on so many levels and all of the poor souls sitting in the pews are being taught they must “cooperate with grace” and merit their salvation. Over the years I have attended Catholic mass in conjunction with family weddings and funerals, but each time I cringed at the spiritually-fatal blasphemy that was being fed to the lost Catholic souls.


  5. Yes, everything you said is true. I myself am greatly ministered to just hearing God’s Word spoken and sung, but I have the advantage of knowing that the moment I close my eyes in death, the cross alone and the proclamation, “It is finished” will be my entrance to heaven. “Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling.” Thank you for your comments!

    Liked by 1 person

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