As I’ve related several times before, I had walked away from the Lord for a very long “season” after we left our first church in 1991. But the Lord is merciful and patient beyond measure and kept drawing me back to Him. Toward the end of that pitiful “journey,” my wife had reconnected with old friends, an evangelical Christian couple from our old neighborhood. They invited us to their church for Sunday worship four years ago and it was at that service that I returned to my Abba Father who had been watchfully and lovingly waiting for His prodigal son. But we didn’t consider attending our friends’ church following that Sunday because it upholds several secondary doctrines that we don’t believe are Biblical, which I mention in all humility.
We have spent a lot of time with this sweet couple over the last four years: sharing meals at our homes and at restaurants, traveling, seeing movies, visiting each other during sickness, and just hanging out together. They love the Lord and try to serve Him with their lives. However, one of the things that we don’t see eye to eye on is in regards to ecumenism. They are of a viewpoint that Roman Catholicism is a Christian entity and that it preaches the genuine Gospel. Argh! I’m sure this is what they unfortunately receive from the pulpit of their church. We have had many brief, polite discussions about this, but they attribute our “attitude” to being disgruntled, former members. No, Rome’s gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit is NOT the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through in Jesus Christ alone. Despite what Billy Graham and other ecumenists say, it’s impossible to fit the square Roman peg through the round Gospel hole. Our discussions on this issue have been brief and polite, but I’ve noticed their eyes tend to glaze over when we present our arguments.
Last Saturday, we went out to dinner with this couple at an Italian eatery (linguini and red clam sauce is one of my go-to dishes) and then attended a local high school production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”* The musical dramatization is based on Victor Hugo’s famous 1831 novel. Hugo (1802-1885) was a French politician and one of country’s most celebrated writers. He was a deist and strongly anti-clerical and anti-Catholic. The villain of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is the pathologically conflicted character, Archdeacon Claude Frollo, who represents the rigid, legalistic religiosity that Hugo abhorred. Is there a sadder figure in fiction than the forlorn hunchback, Quasimodo,** rejected by all? Too bad Hugo did not know the Lord.
We all enjoyed the show. The high school kids put on a tremendous performance far beyond their years. As we were all riding home in the car together, I half-jokingly mentioned that the moral of the play was never to trust a priest. Everyone shared a good guffaw, but then the wife friend commented with something to the effect of, “It’s just too bad the good priests have to deal with all the bad publicity from the bad-apple pedophiles.”
Huh? Good priests? Again and again we encounter this unscriptural understanding from our friends. Over and over. Patience, Lord, patience.
My wife quickly responded by saying that, according to Scripture, there is no longer any need for priests or sacrifice.
That was the end of that particular exchange, but the debate is never-ending as evangelicals and evangelicalism continue to march onward toward Rome.
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:11-14
*Notre Dame in Paris is probably the second-most famous Catholic church in the world after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Many Americans don’t know that “Notre Dame” means “Our Lady.”
**The GIF clip above shows Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” RKO Radio Pictures, 1939. The name, Quasimodo, comes from a Latin phrase, “quasi modo,” which translates as, “Almost merely” or “Merely almost.” The name refers to Quasimodo’s several deformities and that he supposedly “almost” looked like a human or was an approximation of a human. The meaning “half-formed” isn’t correct, but that’s the right idea. Society has gone backwards in many respects recently, but at least there is much more respect shown to those with disabilities and disfigurements. Quasimodo, you are not alone! We are all spiritually disabled and disfigured by sin and we all, every single one of us, need salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Christ is REAL sanctuary for sinners!!! Why won’t you repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior today? What are you waiting for?