Another of Catholicism’s self-mortification practices

The Roman Catholic church teaches its members to offer up their pain and suffering to God as an atonement, united with Christ’s atonement, for personal sins and the sins of others.

“Offering up our troubles to God is a great way to remember that, in our faith, suffering is never wasted or meaningless when it’s united with Christ’s suffering on the Cross, for atonement for sins.” – from “Prayers for Offering Up Suffering,” ourcatholicprayers.com

Not content with natural aches, pains, and illnesses, zealous Roman Catholics began to inflict pain and suffering upon themselves as acts of penance for themselves or others or as attempts to mortify the flesh, via the following examples:

  • Wearing hair shirts
  • Sleeping on the bare floor
  • Wearing a cilice – a metal contraption worn around the thigh which inflicted pain. See my post here.
  • Practicing self-flagellation – Catholics used a “flagrum,” a specially made whip, or ropes or belts to whip themselves. See my post here.
  • Walking barefoot – The “discalced” (shoeless) religious orders require their members to go barefoot or wear only sandals.
  • Practicing extreme fasting leading to illness and even death – St. Catherine of Siena is one of several saints who fasted to death

Lest anyone think these practices ended with the dark ages, mother Teresa wore a cilice daily and both she and pope John Paul II regularly scourged themselves.

The other day, I had googled “strange Catholic practices” and came across another method of self-mortification that I wasn’t aware of known as the “confraternity of the cord” (see bottom articles). Catholics can join a confraternity (i.e., pious association) created to honor specific saints (St. Francis, St. Joseph, St. Thomas, etc.) in which the members constantly wear a cord or belt (aka “cincture”) around their waist (presumably underneath their clothing). The cord can be tightened to cause discomfort and the resulting sufferings can be offered up to God. Confraternity cords are still available from Catholic religious orders (see here) and from Catholic religious supply houses (see here).

God’s Word directs believers to fast, but nowhere in Scripture are believers instructed to harm themselves as an act of penance or piety. That kind of harmful behavior was found among pagan religionists like the priests of Baal in 1 Kings, chapter 18:

“And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.” – 1 Kings 18:26-28

These days, Catholic self-mortification practices are not widely publicized for obvious reasons. The only reason we’re aware that mother Teresa and JPII harmed themselves in acts of daily “piety” is because of their extremely high public profile.

Catholic friend, the Lord does not require you to harm yourself. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Repent of your sin and pray to Jesus Christ to be your Savior by faith alone, and come out of Catholicism. Jesus atoned for ALL of your sins if you will only accept Him. After you have trusted in Christ, ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

Confraternities of the Cord
https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/confraternities-of-the-cord

Top 10 Bizarre Aspects of Catholicism
http://listverse.com/2007/09/12/top-10-bizarre-aspects-of-catholicism/

My foray into sorcery/shamanism

I’m approaching sixty-two-years-old, so some of the details of my long spiritual journey from Catholic religious legalism to trusting in Jesus as my Savior by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone in 1983 are getting a little hazy.

I do remember that I lost interest in Catholicism during my teen years, even though the Catholic high school I was attending was run by the Irish Christian Brothers (who declared bankruptcy in 2011 after payouts to victims of sexual abuse). On Sunday mornings, I would head out the door by myself, telling my parents I was going to an early mass, and then walk around the neighborhood for an hour, picking up a church bulletin on the way home to “prove” I had been to mass. In my mind, walking outside in the rain and snow was better than sitting through mass. After a while, I stopped that charade and told my parents that I wasn’t going to go to mass, period. They must have thought forcing the issue would have done more harm than good, so they let me stay home (my older sisters had already done some of the trailblazing in this department for me).

My wife and I were married in 1974 shortly after high school by a liberal priest who didn’t ask about our mass attendance. I don’t remember what I was thinking about God at that point, but I definitely had no desire to attend mass and neither did my wife. In 1976, I began working at Eastman Kodak and I started car-pooling with Kevin, a co-worker. He was a long-haired hippie who was stereotypically into jogging, health food, photography, liberal politics, marijuana, and transcendental meditation. We had many interesting discussions on our rides to and from work.

Kevin was always reading strange books and one day he began telling me about his latest book, “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” (1968) by Carlos Castaneda. The book was about an anthropology student (Castaneda), who encounters a “powerful” Native American shaman, Don Juan Matus, who uses plant hallucinogens as a catalyst to physically change form (into birds and other animals) and to increase “awareness” and “connection to cosmic energies.” But did Don Juan really change into a bird or did chewing on peyote buttons make him think he had changed into a bird? Well, we all know the answer to that one, but back in 1977 it seemed like fascinating, mystical stuff. I ended up buying and reading Castaneda’s first five books (see below), which were all variations of the same theme: that there is a magical reality hidden beneath the material reality that is accessible to the indoctrinated and it was only in this magical/mystical realm where self-actualization and achieving “oneness” with the Universe could take place. Interestingly, ol’ Don Juan seemed to be perpetually available for whenever Castaneda needed to crank out another book for his credulous audience (he would go on to write seven more books after the initial five). This New Age shamanism/mysticism continues in many forms today. Many Catholics are susceptible to sorcery, divination, necromancy, spiritism, and occultism because of their religion’s heavy focus on mysticism.

Kevin, our workplace guru, quit Kodak in 1977 and began a long career at the county’s library system. After tiring of Castaneda’s shamanism, I drifted back into my Catholic semi-agnosticism, but the Lord would soon give me a desire to start reading His Word.

Are you fumbling around with stagnant institutionalized religion, New Age mysticism, Eastern spirituality, etc., etc. Spiritual fads come and go, but there is the Rock who will never change and who you can follow and trust in eternally, Jesus Christ!

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” – Psalm 18:2

What are the steps to salvation?
https://www.gotquestions.org/steps-to-salvation.html

 

Capture9

A semi-epiphany in a Catholic church vestibule in 1967

I have previously alluded to an unusual childhood experience in my “About” profile and also in a post written several months ago that I’d like to elaborate on a bit more.

I was born into a Catholic family and baptized as an infant. My parents were not rich and sacrificed greatly to send my five older sisters and myself to a Catholic grammar school and high school where all of us were thoroughly indoctrinated into the church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. As a young child, I was mesmerized by the ritual and ceremonialism of the mass. I observed the great respect and even adulation that adults and children extended to the parish priests and I decided to become a priest when I grew up. In fifth grade, I became an altar boy and served at masses on Sundays and weekdays and Saturdays until the end of eighth grade. Looking back, I was probably a bit more religious than your average boy at that age.

As far as I know, we didn’t have a Bible at our house. I never saw one. When I cleaned out my parents’ house four years ago, I didn’t come across a Bible. But my sisters and I received plenty of Catholic religious instruction from the nuns (technically, they weren’t nuns but “religious sisters”). There were both sisters and lay teachers at our school.

In 1967, I was in sixth grade and Mrs. Ellis was my teacher, but for religious instruction, all of her students moved next door to the classroom of the other sixth grade teacher, Sister Gemma. We had to squeeze in with the other students in those old-fashioned wrought iron and wooden desks with holes for inkwells that were created before the days of ball-point pens. There were sixty to seventy of us children packed into that single classroom like sardines.

Despite the large amount of children in tight quarters, things stayed relatively calm. Sister Gemma was not a happy woman and you definitely did not want to cross her. During one particular class, she told us a bizarre and extremely inappropriate story about an occurrence at a hospital emergency room (the details I will withhold), which caused me, even at the age of eleven-years-old, to wonder about her sanity! Anyway, I digress.

One day, Sister Gemma taught us about Luke 23:39-43 and the repentant thief on the cross. The lesson had a huge impact on me. I, like all of my classmates, had been taught up to that point the standard Catholic teaching that salvation began with baptism, which was followed by reception of the additional sacraments, followed by obedience to the Ten Commandments and church rules in order for a person to be in a mortal-sinless “state of grace” so as to hopefully merit Heaven at the moment of death. But the nun was now telling us about a man who had never been baptized and was a criminal to boot, but who repented of his sin and humbly appealed to Jesus to save him on the last day of his life. Even in my young mind, I realized this story was very significant, and the more I thought about it the more troubled I became. Soon afterward, I was standing in one of the church’s vestibules (see photo), and a question hit me full force, “If attaining Heaven is a matter of obeying the Ten Commandments and church rules as I’ve been taught, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross?”

I was totally overwhelmed by this question (I can still remember the circumstances from 51 years ago like it was yesterday) and I wondered if I was the only Catholic who had ever had this thought? I felt totally alone. Although it bothered me deeply, I knew I could not ask the question of Sister Gemma or one of the priests or even my parents because to do so struck me as being defiant and disrespectful. So I held my peace, but with the thought that I had stumbled upon something very significant, although I couldn’t be aware of the ramifications at the time.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not boasting about what happened to me. This was not something that I did. My life didn’t change dramatically after this insight. It would be another sixteen years before I accepted Christ. But looking back, I can see that this unresolved question I was given, which sharply contrasted Catholicism with God’s Word, was the working of the Holy Spirit and would grow and eventually bear fruit. Praise God for His Holy Word and for freeing me from the chains of works-righteous religion and granting me the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ through faith alone!

Catholicism is not oblivious to how Luke 23:39-43 contradicts it’s complex salvation system. Catholic apologists argue that the thief would have gotten baptized and would have received the other sacraments and would have sought to merit salvation through obedience to the Ten Commandments if he could have done so, therefore, they say he was saved by his “baptism by desire” and by his “act of perfect contrition.”

Catholic friend, salvation is not through baptism or trying to merit your way to Heaven. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized and devolved into Roman Catholicism, it replaced the simple Gospel of grace with legalism and ritualism. Follow the example of the thief on the cross. Repent of your sin and ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior today!

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” – Galatians 2:21

Postscript: The Catholic church actually identifies the penitent thief on the cross as Saint Dismas, another tradition that has its source in religious fakery.

A priest and nun trust in Christ by faith alone and come out of Catholicism

From Darkness to Light
By Frank and Joan Testa
Xulon Press, 2012, 173 pages

This book is the testimony of Frank and Joan Testa, a former Roman Catholic priest and nun.

Frank grew up in Newark, New Jersey as part of a Catholic family and states that he “came to know the Lord Jesus as (his) personal Savior” in his early teen years, but that he remained in Catholicism out of ignorance. He determined to become a priest and attended seminary in the U.S. and Europe and was ordained in 1964. He quickly became involved with Catholic social agencies and was drawn to urban activism in several New Jersey cities, often earning the disapproval of his more traditionally-minded superiors. But by reading the Bible and through contact with Christians in the communities he was serving, Frank came to understand that many of the doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism are opposed to Scripture. He resigned from the priesthood and left Catholicism in 1977.

Joan grew up with her Catholic family in Newburgh, New York (sixty miles north of NYC) and entered a convent of the Dominican order in 1955, immediately following her high school graduation. She earned college degrees and subsequently taught in Catholic schools in the States and Puerto Rico. She was drawn to studying God’s word and also became involved in community activism in New Jersey, where she became acquainted with Frank on a strictly professional basis. Through the study of God’s Word and the witness of Christian friends, Joan accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior by faith alone in 1978 and left her religious order and the Catholic church.

Although they were both out of Catholicism, Frank and Joan were still involved in urban activism and their paths crossed regularly. A special friendship developed and the two were married in 1980. Together, the couple founded an urban mission church, ministered to addicts through the Teen Challenge program, and became involved in foreign missions. In 1999, they began their “Repent America” ministry, which involved guest-speaking at churches and street preaching all across the U.S.

While I enjoyed this book, I do have a few qualifications. Firstly, Frank says he entered into a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ as a young teen while reading the book, “God Goes to Murderer’s Row” by “father” M. Raymond, a Trappist monk. I am curious how a person could trust in Jesus Christ by faith alone, and then go through eight years of Catholic seminary and thirteen years as a priest without ever comprehending that Catholicism’s legalistic calculus and ritualism have no connection with the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Perhaps Frank had had a preliminary insight into salvation in Christ as I had as a child in 1967 (see here), although I would not actually accept Jesus as Savior until 1983. Despite the confusion, it appears from his writing that Frank eventually acquired a full understanding of the Gospel and genuinely accepted Christ as his Savior by faith alone.

Secondly, both Frank and Joan are outspoken Pentecostals. I’m a cessationist in regards to the apostolic gifts of the Spirit, so there are several passages in the book that I read with a good amount of skepticism. I generally avoid discussing the apostolic gifts in a general forum such as this because there’s nothing to be gained by debating this topic involving secondary beliefs with my Pentecostal and charismatic brethren, but I do need to point out that in this book, Frank refers to believers who are cessationists in a negative manner.

Despite the above qualifications, I enjoyed this book overall.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 6/16/18

Last weekend, I posted that seventeen individuals had recently come forward here in Rochester, N.Y. with claims of sexual abuse against eight Roman Catholic priests. These new claims are in addition to those made by many other victims in the past regarding some of the same as well as different priests. There is no chance of prosecuting the priests involved because of our state’s ridiculous time limitations on reporting crimes of sexual abuse. But as a public relations move, the diocese of Rochester has contracted retired judge, Robert Lunn (photo left), to review these seventeen claims and award settlements to the victims as he (and bishop Salvatore Matano – photo right) sees fit. Excuse me, but isn’t that like putting the inmates in charge of the asylum? Most of these predatory crimes happened in previous decades, but while fewer priests may act out their deviant urges because of the heightened public scrutiny, the incubator for that deviancy, the rule of celibacy, is still in place.

Our lost Catholic friends celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) on Thursday, May 31. Catholics are taught that their priests change bread wafers and wine into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ during the mass and that the Jesus elements are then offered up to God the Father by the priest as a sacrifice for the sins of the congregants. On this feast day, Catholics give extended worship to the Jesus elements and in many parishes, a large Jesus wafer is placed in a transparent monstrance and paraded through the nearby streets, where the credulous faithful bow low in worship as it passes by. Pope Francis says only the eucharist satisfies hearts, but eating the consecrated Jesus wafer effects no change, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. It’s all a sham.

Unwary and undiscerning evangelical pastors are prone to quote English intellectuals, C.S. Lewis and Roman Catholic apologist, G.K. Chesterton, even though both held heterodox beliefs. Chesterton (1874-1936) was clearly not a friend of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It appears some Catholics are now championing the popular Chesterton for sainthood despite his documented anti-Semitic views.

As reported previously, Francis committed a huge gaffe when he accused Chilean victims of priest pedophiles of being “slanderers.” He subsequently needed to throw a few Chilean bishops under the bus for PR purposes.

This article categorizes converts to Catholicism as 1) intellectual converts, 2) converts by marriage, 3) aesthetic (smells and bells) converts, 4) social media converts, and 5) Muslim converts. All of the above are searching for works-righteousness religion rather than salvation in Jesus Christ by grace alone through faith alone. The article fails to mention that for every person who converts to Catholicism, 6.5 leave. See here.

This Catholic appeals to obstinate Protestants (and Baptists!) to shed their sectarian views and jump aboard C.S. Lewis-style, “wide-is-the-way” Mere Christianity.

Cardinal Burke remains pope Francis’ most vocal critic and gives him a jab for not coming out publicly against the recent pro-abortion referendum in Ireland (like all political progressives, Francis favors population control). But opposition to Francis is still largely confined to conservative prelates and priests with the credulous faithful keeping their heads down and going through the motions every Sunday as mandated.

Liberal mainline Protestants and compromising “evangelicals” view Francis’ upcoming visit to Calvin’s Geneva and the pope’s other ecumenical gestures as simply wonderful. Calvin would rebuke them all.

Go get ’em, Babylon Bee!

 

Superboy and Supergirl kicked out of the Legion? Well, not really.

Today, we’re going to take a break from theological discussions and continue our series on the classic Legion of Super-Heroes tales from DC Comic’s Silver Age.

The Outcast Super-Heroes!
Adventure Comics #350, November, 1966
Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

Superboy and Supergirl are summoned to the Legion of Super-Heroes’ clubhouse in 30th-century Metropolis where Brainiac 5 informs them that a dust cloud composed of Kryptonite, an element deadly to the cousins, surrounds the Earth. The Legion attempts to remove or neutralize the threat with their super powers, but to no avail. Legion leader, Invisible Kid, informs the two that they must be discharged from the team for their own safety. Prior to sending Superboy and Supergirl back to the 20th-century, Brainiac 5 coordinates a medical procedure on the pair which removes all of their memories of the Legion in order to keep the team’s secrets out of the hands of potential enemies. In a scene straight out of “Fantastic Voyage” (1966), Shrinking Violet performs non-intrusive brain surgery on Superboy and Supergirl by shrinking to microscopic size and implanting tiny Kryptonite capsules into their brains, specifically affecting only their memories of the Legion. Before the capsules take effect, the Super cousins insist the Legion accept two mysterious persons, Sir Prize and Miss Terious, as their replacements, and Invisible Kid reluctantly accepts their terms.

No sooner are Superboy and Supergirl departed than the two new Legionnaires arrive at the clubhouse door in full-body, identity-concealing armor. But the puzzled Legionnaires are immediately summoned to thwart a bank heist in progress. Prince Evillo rules over a small planet and has assembled a group of criminals, aka the Devil’s Dozen, to wreak havoc in the galaxy. The group includes the Hag, who rides a rocket propelled broomstick, the Wild Huntsman, who resembles a half-man, half-horse Greek Centaur, Sugyn, who we’re told resembles a hero of Welsh tales, and lastly, Apollo, who is supposed to resemble the mythological Greek god. Evillo sends Apollo along with some henchmen to conduct the bank heist.

The Legion overcomes the formidable beasts guarding the bank and interrupts the robbery, which involves some very strange, other-worldly currencies. But Apollo overpowers Saturn Girl with his telepathic charms, thereby luring Lightning Lad into a trap, which was his aim from the beginning. Apollo abducts the unconscious and injured Lightning Lad and the Legion must contemplate it’s next move. Sir Prize and Miss Terious demonstrated some formidable powers in the preceding fracas and some of the Legionnaires conjecture they may even be Superboy and Supergirl in disguise. Unable to stand the suspense, Ultra Boy decides to use his penetra-vision to ascertain the identities of the mysterious new members.

Will Ultra Boy find out who is hiding behind those masks? Will Lightning Lad be rescued? Are Superboy and Supergirl really permanently out of the Legion? Find out in a couple of weeks when we review Adventure #351 and “The Forgotten Legion!”

Commentary

Adventure #350 was my introduction to the Legion. For whatever reason, I picked out this issue from the comics rack at Daw’s Drugs on Empire Boulevard and was immediately hooked. For this two-part “Outcast” saga, recently hired, young writer, Jim Shooter, was spelled by DC veteran, E. Nelson Bridwell. Curt Swan’s artwork is outstanding as usual.

Fumbles

Once again we have a cover that’s completely out of sync with the plot, with Legion members happily ignoring the sobbing “outcasts.” The diameter of the clubhouse portrayed on the cover appears to be only about eight feet wide and Colossal Boy’s shirt is yellow instead of green! Evillo has a “Dirty Dozen” gang, but there are only four members. Why didn’t the Legion travel back in time to the 20th century to alert Superboy & Supergirl of the dangerous circumstances rather than making them jump through hoops? Why did the Legion present the discharged Super cousins with a trailer load of parting commemorative trophies only to take them back because all traces of the Legion had to be removed from their memories? When Superboy’s invulnerable antibodies began attacking Shrinking Violet, why didn’t she just enlarge herself a smidgen? Why didn’t Bridwell anticipate that banks would not be dealing in hard currencies in the 30th century or have bank tellers?

Legion roll call for this issue

Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Superboy, Supergirl, and Ultra Boy.

Papal tiara symbolizes Catholicism’s worldly apostasy

Last week, I posted a message about the ill-advised presentation of a music-video at our church, which featured several Catholic-themed images, including a statue of a smiling pope wearing his three-tiered papal tiara (aka the “Triregnum”). See here. In light of that regrettable “controversy,” I thought it might be interesting to briefly examine the infamous papal tiara.

Historians believe that popes were crowned with the papal tiara beginning in the 8th century. The tiara initially had a single crown at the base, but a second crown was added around 1200 A.D. to signify the pope’s absolute authority over both the spiritual AND temporal realms. A third crown was added in the 1300s. What does the third crown signify? Some conjecture that because the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor had three crowns, signifying Germany, Lombardy, and Rome, the pope, not to be upstaged, also added a third crown. The official Vatican website explains the three crowns symbolize “the triple power of the pope: father of kings, governor of the world, and Vicar of Christ,” although “father of kings” and “governor of the world” appear to be one and the same claim only using different words, lending support to the preceding theory about keeping up with the Emperor. There are also some who contradict the Vatican ( a favorite pastime among Catholics these days) and conjecture the three crowns represent the threefold offices of Christ; priest, prophet, and king.

Popes appeared with the three-tiered tiara at all ceremonial papal functions for six-hundred years. However, Paul VI (photo left), famously removed his tiara from his head during the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council in 1963 as a gesture of collegiality with the bishops of the church and, some assume, as a renouncement of the papal claim to temporal power. Catholic traditionalists cite Paul VI’s act as a providential sign from God that symbolized the removal of apostolic authority from the papacy due to the heretical declarations of Vatican II.

Paul VI’s tiara is on permanent display at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Although the papal tiara is no longer worn by popes, it is featured on the flag of Vatican City (the Holy See), which is prominently displayed at the front of all Roman Catholic churches (photo right). Despite Paul VI’s ceremonious act, modern popes have never officially renounced the papacy’s claim of absolute authority over all temporal rulers dating back to pope Gregory VII in the 11th century.

When early Christianity was legalized and then adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD, it rapidly followed the imperial model with the bishop of Rome eventually becoming the temporal leader of Western Christendom. The Good News! of simple saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior was replaced with legalism and ritualism controlled by an increasingly powerful church hierarchy and clergy class. After reading through the New Testament, try then to imagine the apostles, Peter or Paul, focusing their efforts on the accumulation of temporal wealth and power and accepting earthly crowns and the regal veneration of their subservient subjects. SMH.

The triple-crown of the papacy, still displayed in every Catholic church, reminds us of the many centuries when Catholicism ruled Europe and lands beyond with an iron fist. Every blood-bought, born-again follower of Jesus Christ should be revolted by the papal tiara rather than displaying videos of it at their churches during worship services.

The Papal Tiara – Wikipedia article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_tiara

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” – Hebrews 11:24-26

Catholic sacramentalism: Like a moth drawn to a flame

Evangelicals Adrift: Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism
By Matthew E. Ferris
Great Printing Publishing, 2015, 248 pages

There are a number of unsaved individuals who are involved in evangelical church culture in some capacity, who take stock of the comparative religious landscape and feel a mounting sense of personal intellectual crisis regarding some if not all of the following issues:

  • Certainty – God’s Word is the final and ultimate authority in evangelical churches, but with the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible increasingly under attack from liberals, some of these souls are drawn to the authority of Roman Catholicism, where the Bible is subservient to the church’s supposedly unwavering and infallible teaching magisterium and its traditions.
  • History – Mega-church, seeker-focused evangelicalism with its CCM rock music and light shows appears completely rootless in comparison to Catholicism’s ancient rituals and traditions and claims of direct lineage to the apostles and apostolic teaching. Famous convert to Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman, boasted, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”
  • Unity – Evangelicalism appears as an unorganized and dysfunctional hodgepodge in contrast to Rome’s grandiose hierarchy and McLiturgy standardization.
  • Interpretation – Within evangelicalism, it appears every individual has an opinion when it comes to Scripture, while Catholicism mandates standard doctrine and dogma through the pope and his bishops.

Some unsaved souls within evangelical church culture reach an intellectual crisis point because of these perceived deficiencies and leave for Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. In the last twenty years, a small number of high-profile “evangelical” academics converted to Catholicism, creating quite a buzz.

In “Evangelicals Adrift: Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism,” Matthew Ferris examines whether these apparent advantages some ascribe to Catholicism are accurate.

If the apostle, Paul, were somehow able to witness a contemporary Roman Catholic mass, he would not be familiar with the vast majority of associated rituals, religious props, and doctrines. When Christianity became legalized and was afterwards adopted as the official religious arm of the Roman Empire, sacramentalism, legalism, and ritualism eventually replaced simple saving faith in Christ. The institutional church became the arbiter of salvation rather than the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God’s Word. Sacraments and merit rather than saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior became the standard way to Heaven.

There are some within evangelicalism who are envious of Rome’s pompous, worldly “advantages,” but, as Ferris points out, this is an incorrect viewpoint. He addresses the previous concerns as follows:

  • Certainty – God’s Word is our only unassailable authority, while Rome, untethered from Scripture, has created one un-Biblical (and often anti-Biblical) tradition after another. Yes, folks, popes have contradicted previous popes.
  • History – Most of Roman Catholicism’s history documents an unflattering quest for temporal wealth and power. Catholic apologists appeal to the writings of the church fathers as evidence of their church’s direct connection to apostolic authority, but the patristic writers often contradicted Scripture and each other as well as modern Catholic theology.
  • Unity – Catholic belief in actuality runs the gamut from liberal higher criticism and Marxist liberation theology to Tridentine ultra-traditionalism. Born-again followers of Jesus Christ may differ on doctrinal secondaries, but we are united in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The many denominations within Protestantism are the result of the continual reform of the church and guard against wholesale apostasy exemplified by Roman Catholicism.
  • Interpretation – God’s Word says we are to personally study Scripture to show ourselves approved and not to cede that responsibility to another person or an organization. Roman Catholics are not exposed to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone because they accept the teachings of men rather than digging into to God’s Word themselves.

One need only examine the current heterodoxy of pope Francis to see how Rome’s claims of authority, doctrinal continuity, unity, and reliable interpretation are without merit. Catholicism’s worldly facade that appeals to the spiritually unwary actually veils a sepulcher full of dead men’s bones. Evangelicals, you needn’t be intimidated by Catholicism’s claims to institutional antiquity.

Could a genuine, blood-bought, born-again believer, saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, willingly enter into a religious system which teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit along with a plethora of other beliefs that seriously contradict Scripture? Impossible. Does not compute.

For everyone  – saved and unsaved – who look at Catholicism and see comparative advantages, this book is an absolute must-read! I can’t recommend “Evangelicals Adrift” highly enough. In my studies of Catholicism, I perceive a dire need for resources that examine how the early church devolved from preaching the Gospel of grace to institutionalized sacramentalism and I’m so grateful that I stumbled upon this book. It deserves a much wider audience. Order from Amazon here.

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28

Postscript: A chapter outline of this book is provided in the comments section.

Ozzie and Harriet serve up some hot dogs!

A couple of Sundays ago, I posted a message about Zweigle’s pop-open red and white hot dogs, the best hot dogs in the U.S.A., made right here in Rochester, N.Y. (see here). After writing that post, I was jonesing for a Zweigle’s white, so I grilled one up for lunch, served on a bun with Rochester meat hot sauce. Delish! But that wasn’t the end of the hot dogs for that day by any stretch!

That very same afternoon, I ventured down to the basement for some manly work. I had a basket of clean laundry that had been piling up for weeks and needed folding. So I set up my trusty Amazon Kindle next to me and searched for an old episode of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” television show on YouTube. For you youngins out there, “Ozzie and Harriet” ran from 1952-1966 on ABC. It was about a middle-aged couple, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, playing themselves, and their two real-life sons, Dave and Ricky, and life in the bucolic White, Anglo-Saxon, and nominal-Protestant suburbs. In every episode, Ozzie would always become flustered about something and Harriet would end up diffusing the situation. The Nelsons’ acting and dialogue were as stiff as a two-by-four. I enjoyed the series as a child in the early-60s and I thought I’d dial up an episode on YouTube for a stroll down memory lane to simpler times while I folded laundry. As I was scanning through the many episodes, what should catch my eye but an installment titled, “The Hot Dog Stand.” Ha! What could be more appropriate while digesting my Zweigle’s white hot? So, without further ado, I bring you…

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
“The Hot Dog Stand”
Episode # 152,
ABC, originally aired on February 13th, 1957

Plot

Dave and his two buddies, Steve and Wally (played by one of my cast favorites, Skip Young), take a snack break between college classes at a hot dog stand near the campus. The owner, Uncle Ben, relates to the boys that he’s thinking of selling the stand. The three consider buying the business together. Dave asks Ozzie for his opinion and his father gives his blessing right before Dave relates that they’ve already signed a contract.

The entire family pitches in to help advertise the grand re-opening under new management and the subsequent business is good, too good. The hours the boys devote to the business begin to interfere with their college studies, social lives, and sleep time. Stretched to the max, Dave contemplates quitting college and devoting himself full-time to the hot dog stand. However, Ozzie dreams of bigger things for Dave and hatches a scheme to introduce him to a number of financially successful businessmen and professionals in town so as to convince his son of the importance of a college education. To his dismay, he discovers that none of the men he had in mind had graduated from college.

Harriet saves the day with her own plan. She imposes upon some attractive co-eds to invite the three boys to a sorority party that very evening. The guys unsurprisingly come to their senses and happily concede that, going forward, their studies and social lives will take priority over the hot dog stand. To help ease the load, they take on Uncle Ben as a fourth partner, who is in the process of enrolling as an adult student at the college.

Commentary

Critics of these early family sit-coms say they represented a way of life that was unknown to many Americans. Minorities were rarely represented, if at all. Serious topics were never broached. From my perspective at the time, Dave always seemed to treat his younger brother, Ricky, with remarkable kindness and caring, which was amazingly unlike life with my siblings. Shortcomings aside, Ozzie and Harriet and similar shows did convey positive lessons in morality that are noticeably missing from today’s entertainment. The respect the two Nelson boys show to their parents and other adult characters is breathtaking to behold from our 2018 perspective.

Capture29
The Nelson Family: Ricky, Dave, Ozzie, and Harriet circa 1957

Off the set, the Nelsons had their share of problems, like any real-life family. Ozzie was said to be an autocratic tyrant who ruled the clan with an iron fist. He shocked the nation in 1973 when he confessed in his autobiography that he was an atheist. Ozzie died in 1975 from liver cancer at the age of 69. Youngest son, Ricky, became a huge recording star in the late-1950s (30 Top-40 hits from 1957-1962), but his career fizzled with the arrival of the British Invasion. He struggled to rebrand himself as a country music artist in the 1970s. A divorce from his wife, Kris (who had been a regular on the TV show from 1963 to 1966), in 1982 left him financially devastated. He died in a plane crash in 1985 at the age of 45.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, with the post-war national economy booming, everyone was pining for their slice of the American dream as exemplified by the Nelsons. But the temporal success and happiness portrayed by Ozzie and Harriet was a mirage. Sixty years later, the national optimism of the 1950s has turned into jaded pessimism and foreboding. Then and now, if your foundation is not Jesus Christ, you really have nothing.

Postscript: Eastman Kodak Company sponsored “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” It’s interesting to watch their old commercials and to note how the corporate giant (where I have worked for the past 42 years) has been largely reduced to a memory due to changing technology.

A good example of how ecumenism with Rome is even seeping into the Protestant “bulwarks”

Ulster Bulwark
The Magazine of the Evangelical Protestant Society
April-June 2018 Edition

Back in early-May, I included a news story in the Weekend Roundup about an article in a Northern Irish evangelical publication that was creating some controversy in the Irish press. An evangelical pastor had written an article for the “Ulster Bulwark,” which warned of the blasphemous nature of the Roman Catholic mass. See the story here.

I sincerely appreciated that the publication was standing up for the Gospel of grace, so I searched for the Ulster Bulwark web site, submitted my subscription to the publication, and received my first copy a short time ago, which included the following short articles:

  • Don’t Despise the Days of Small Things: Some Reflections on Zechariah 4:1-10.
  • The Protestant at the Mass – The article which generated all of the controversy. Excellent!
  • Lessons from Luther – A discussion about Marin Luther with Carl Trueman who teaches at Westminister Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. In light of the other excellent articles in this issue about the mass and Billy Graham, it’s sadly ironic that the Ulster Bulwark chose to interview Trueman who advances the cause of ecumenism with Rome as a regular featured writer for the Catholic ecumenical journal, “First Things.”
  • News – Short bits of news of interest to evangelicals in Ireland.
  • The Legacy of Billy Graham – A critique of Graham’s ecumenism and Universalism.
  • Book Reviews – In this edition, “Pierre Viret: The Angel of the Reformation” by R.A. Sheats and “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary” by Leonardo de Chirico (see my review of that book here).

I enjoyed this small (20 pages) publication although the discussion with Trueman was puzzling. Perhaps the interviewer and editor weren’t aware of Trueman’s connection to “First Things”? Ecumenism’s talons are so deep into the church these days that it’s difficult to keep track of who’s in Rome’s back pocket and who’s not.

You can receive a free subscription to the “Ulster Bulwark” via the website below:

http://www.evangelicalprotestant.org/the_ulster_bulwark/