Who would desire Catholicism’s “smells and bells” over the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

Via its many media outlets, Roman Catholicism likes to boast about alleged “evangelicals” who converted to the Catholic religion.* On the EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) cable channel, one particular show, “The Journey Home,” is devoted exclusively to showcasing converts and returning reverts (aka “lapsed” Catholics). The stated purpose of the EWTN radio show, “Called to Communion,” is to convince Protestants to convert to Catholicism. This all might seem a little unsettling until you check the numbers. A 2015 Pew Research study (see here) found that 10 percent of people raised as Catholics become evangelicals while just 2 percent of people raised in evangelical church culture wound up as Catholics.

I was a member of the Roman Catholic church for 27 years (1956-1983) and was educated at a Catholic grammar school and high school. In 1983, after having read the Bible for several years, I renounced Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. I no longer believed that salvation was dependent on receiving the sacraments and “cooperating with grace” by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in an effort to merit Heaven. Instead, I believed as God’s Word taught, that I was a totally depraved sinner destined for eternal damnation and I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone.

But we do hear about people from evangelical churches who “convert” to Catholicism. How does that happen? Could a person who is genuinely trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone choose to join Catholicism, which teaches a person must receive sacramental grace and obey the Ten Commandments in order to merit their salvation? How do we explain those who leave evangelicalism for Catholicism?

I don’t believe a person who genuinely understands the Gospel of grace and trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone would voluntarily join Catholicism or any other works religion. Yes, there are people who were brought up in evangelical church culture or who attended an evangelical church for a period of time and left without ever having actually trusted in Christ. They somehow got a taste of Catholicism and began making worldly-minded comparisons like the six below:


“Drawbacks” to evangelicalism “Advantages” of Catholicism
1 No elaborate ritualism and ceremonialism – just some singing and a sermon 1 Plenty of ritualism and ceremony to impress the eyes and stimulate the senses
2 The genuine Gospel seems far too easy – the natural man is inclined to attempt to merit salvation via a long legalistic laundry list 2 A massive collection of 1752 Canon Laws and 2865 numbered paragraphs in its official catechism that all testify to Catholicism’s world-pleasing complexity.
3 Little history. Nondenominational mega-churches are getting farther and farther away from mentioning the Reformation and the Five Solas 3 Oodles and oodles of history, although vast portions of it are unflattering at best
4 No “impressive” visible authority, just the Bible, Pastor Smith, and the small elder board 4 An organizational hierarchy and structure that would put to shame any Fortune 500 company. Topping it all off is an allegedly infallible leader!
5 Plain, drab church architecture 5 Grandiose church architecture and ornate decorative artistry
6 “Just” the Bible to study 6 Volumes and volumes and volumes of rich church traditions to “supplement” (aka supplant) the Bible


Yes, there are some people who were part of evangelical church culture but never genuinely accepted Christ, who surveyed all of Catholicism’s “smells and bells”** and decided they would rather ride in the Catholic “Cadillac” than evangelicalism’s “Hyundai.”

“For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” – Luke 16:15

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Yes, some choose the elaborate “smells and bells” over (simple but GLORIOUS) salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Don’t make that mistake. Salvation is not through grandiose, worldly ceremonialism, but through a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are Roman Catholics Christian?

*Catholicism likes to sound the trumpets when a quasi-evangelical joins its ranks, but, most ironically, many evangelicals think it’s ungracious, divisive, and very bad form to acknowledge those folks who accepted Christ and left Roman Catholicism because it does not preach the genuine Gospel and who testify about their experience.

**Even the Catholic church readily acknowledges that today’s elaborate mass liturgy bears little resemblance to the simple worship gatherings of the early church. Some may think I am being offensive by using the term, “smells and bells,” to describe Catholic practices, but this is a term often used by Catholics themselves.

16 thoughts on “Who would desire Catholicism’s “smells and bells” over the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

  1. I am sure I have shared with you how shocked I was when the Good Lord led me out of catholicism how many were ether going back in or were going in 😥

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for the comment and for sharing, sister! Yes, it’s so joyful to get off the Titanic to Solid Ground, but then so heartbreaking to see others queuing up to board it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, so sad. And, as we’ve discussed, it’s also sad that many evangelicals are offended when ex-Catholic believers point out that Rome does not preach the Gospel.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement in the Lord, sister! Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts from a different Catholic apologist who is much more militant and openly critical of Biblical Christianity, which is providing fodder to post about.

  2. Wow, what a powerful message brother! Your clear Gospel message here nearly brought me to tears. This is good work that you’re doing here, my friend, desperately needed distinctions between the Gospel of grace and the RCC’s gospel! I thank our God daily for what you’re doing here, dear brother! I continue to pray for your sons as well as, that God would grant them the gift of repentance and faith. I pray also for your readers that hearts would be pricked and conscious’ would be pierced! God bless you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, what a blessing your words are, sister, to begin this Lord’s Day! Thanks so much, for your encouragement in the Lord and for your prayers! I appreciate both very much! Your prayers for our sons means a lot.

      Unfortunately, many of our evangelical brothers and sisters are not sympathetic to the information I present regarding the RCC so I really appreciate that you “get it” and for your support. Roman Catholic souls so desperately need to hear the Truth rather than the wishy-washy message of tolerance that they hear from many evangelicals.

      I am very grateful for your blog ministry. Your posts have really strengthened my stand on the Biblical account of creation.

      Have a blessed Mother’s Day, sister! I pray for you and your family that the Lord blesses you all as you strive to serve Him. Thank you and God bless you as well!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Bravo! Another great one, Tom.

    Like so many others, I was once so proud to be riding the Catholic Cadillac, and definitely looked down on those evangelicals in their Hyundia’s (Lol, I like how you put that). “Smells and bells” is also pretty funny.

    Thank you for your ministry. (By the way, my name is Lisa.).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa! That post was in reply to a blogger who was “Protestant” but converted to Catholicism and is thrilled with the ritualism. Spiritual blindness. I often hear Catholic apologists use “smells and bells” as fond shorthand for their church’s ritualism and ceremony.
      I’m grateful for your ministry. I appreciate all my ex-Catholic brothers and sisters in the Lord who stand up for the Gospel and reach out to Catholics when so many within evangelicalism today are being blinded by ecumenism.

      Liked by 1 person

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