Catholic apologist frazzled by Francis’ latest reversal of church teaching regarding the banning of capital punishment

As many of you know, on Thursday, August 2nd the Vatican announced that pope Francis had officially changed the church’s catechism regarding capital punishment. See my post here. Prior to the change, the catechism stated that the death penalty was allowable only in cases in which the execution of the offender was an absolute necessity. Francis’ revision states that the death penalty is now “inadmissible under any circumstances.”

While liberal Catholics hailed the change, conservatives were once again dismayed by their pope, who has already overturned other doctrines that were held to be infallible (i.e., the ban on both communion for remarried divorcees and intercommunion with Protestants). I was anxious to hear how Catholic apologists would address this latest controversy and I didn’t have to wait very long for my answer.

A few days ago, I was listening to the 8/9/18 podcast of the “Called to Communion” (EWTN) Catholic talk radio show with moderator, Tom Price, and host, David Anders (photo above). The stated purpose of “Called to Communion” is to convince Protestants to convert to Catholicism.

At the 20:18 mark, Misty from Bloomfield, Indiana called into the show with a concern. She stated that she was a Protestant, and had been very strongly considering converting to Catholicism, but Francis’ banning of the death penalty was, for her, an impediment to moving forward with that decision. She said she was experiencing a “crisis of faith before even coming to the faith” because she is aware the Roman church allowed the death penalty for centuries prior to August 2nd. From the tone of her voice, it was obvious that Misty was emotionally upset regarding this dilemma.

Anders then embarked on a long, drawn out, twelve-minute reply to Misty. Firstly, he stated that Scripture teaches, and previous popes taught, that capital punishment was not only allowable, but required in some cases. Anders cited several popes who directly authorized the use of the death penalty in their role as sovereign of the Papal States. Pope John Paul II had limited the use of capital punishment to very rare cases in his 1995 encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” but Anders argued that the encyclical was a “policy recommendation” and a “prudential judgement” on the part of JPII and not a dogma of the faith. In 2004, in his role as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as the Inquisition), cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later pope Benedict XVI) wrote that Catholics could disagree with JPII’s “prudential judgement” limiting capital punishment to very rare occasions without incurring mortal sin.

Anders admitted that he doesn’t know how to interpret Francis’ complete ban on capital punishment. He is not sure if Francis’ new teaching is infallible or simply another “prudential judgement.” A flustered Anders even pondered over the airwaves what few Catholics openly dare to say; if Francis’ ruling is dogmatic and infallible, then how does that mesh with previous infallible popes who not only allowed church members to use capital punishment, but authorized it themselves?

Anders spent twelve minutes replying to Misty’s concern, but she was no further ahead than she was prior to the call and neither was he. At the very end, a stuttering, frazzled Anders advised Misty that “my Catholic faith is unaffected. I mean, I’m not troubled by this in the sense that it would make me go, ‘Oh my, maybe I made the wrong decision (in converting to Catholicism).’ Not at all.” But the diffident tone of Anders’ voice betrays his words.

We live in amazing times when pious Catholics are repeatedly rattled by their pope. Catholic friend, this mounting controversy in your church that is being spearheaded by your own pope reveals the danger of placing your faith in a religious institution with its man-made traditions. Place your trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior by faith alone and in His Holy Word. Your church is built on sinking sand.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” – Psalm 118:8-9

75 Catholic priests and scholars ask Francis to backtrack on death penalty
https://www.vox.com/2018/8/15/17693518/pope-francis-death-penalty-open-letter-first-things

Answering the alleged “Catholic verses” – #s 2 & 3: The Binding Authority of Church Councils?

Today, we’ll look at the next two verses that allegedly “confound” Protestants, as presented by Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong, in his book, “The Catholic Verses.”

With the two verses below, Armstrong argues for the binding authority of church councils, led by the Holy Spirit.

#2) “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” – Acts 15:28-29

#3) “As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.” – Acts 16:4

Directly beneath these verses, Armstrong writes, “These passages offer proof that the early church held to a notion of the infallibility of church councils, and to a belief that they were especially guided by the Holy Spirit (precisely as in Catholic Church doctrine concerning ecumenical councils). Accordingly, Paul takes the message of the conciliar decree with him on his evangelistic journeys and preaches it to the people. The Church had real authority; it was binding and infallible.” – p. 7.

Read the entire Bible passage pertinent to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15:1-35 here.

We know from the passages preceding Acts 15:28-29 that “some men came down from Judea” into Asia Minor, who were teaching the new Gentile believers that they needed to be circumcised and to observe the Mosaic Law as a condition of salvation. Apostle Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem around 50 AD for a council with the apostles and elders of the church to decide on the controversy. Peter spoke first at the council, then Paul and Barnabas, and finally, James, who rendered the judgement mentioned in verses 28-29.

As Scripture affirms, the Holy Spirit used the apostolic council of Jerusalem to ensure that the Gospel – the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone – would not be bastardized by false teachers who had attempted to make circumcision and the rest of the Law a requirement of salvation. James decided that Gentiles should only abstain from certain practices that would be especially offensive to Jewish Christians along with an admonition against sexual immorality, which was commonly accepted in the pagan world.

A few thoughts:

  • Armstrong argues from the presupposition that 1st century believers were Catholics and that the council at Jerusalem was a Catholic council. But that is an impossible claim when all of the facts are examined objectively. The council of Jerusalem upheld the Gospel of grace and ruled against the Judaizers who were attempting to add obedience to the Law as a requirement for justification. It was the Catholic church that eventually did formulate a false gospel that required obedience to the Ten Commandments (impossible!) as a requirement for justification. Like the Pharisees before them, the 1st century Judaizers were the forerunners of Catholic legalism. Armstrong misses the great irony in these passages. The council of Jerusalem ruled against the very kind of salvation legalism that he and his church propagate!
  • The Catholic church argues that Peter was the pope of the early church, yet it was James, the half-brother of Jesus (Catholics claim he was Jesus’ cousin in order to preserve the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity), who issued the final ruling at the Jerusalem council.
  • Both Catholics and Bible Christians agree that the council of Jerusalem was infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit, just as Scripture states. Which of the early church councils that followed were guided by the Holy Spirit? Some early councils were important for successfully opposing certain heresies, but as the church became increasingly institutionalized, subsequent councils both formulated and propagated heresy. We know from history that church councils have contradicted previous councils and that popes have contradicted previous popes (see here). Both popes and councils have promulgated dogmas that were either un-Biblical or anti-Biblical. For obvious reasons, Armstrong conveniently omits any mention of the church’s unflattering history regarding popes and councils. Just in the last several years, the current pope, Francis, has undermined dogmas once held to be infallible by previous popes and councils.

Since popes and councils have again and again proven to be unreliable and contradictory, what then is our rule and standard of faith? God’s Holy Word has guided true believers throughout the centuries. Not councils. Not popes. Not repackaged Judaizers.

While Armstrong presents Acts 15:28-29 and Acts 16:4 as irrefutable “Catholic verses,” these passages actually vindicate Protestant doctrine.

For more information, see the article below:

What was the meaning and importance of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)?
https://www.gotquestions.org/Jerusalem-Council.html

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 8/18/18

Roman Catholics are REELING, and for good reason, over the recent revelations of sexual abuse by cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick followed by the Pennsylvania grand jury report citing over 300 pedophile priests. Catholics are trusting in their institutional church for their salvation, but it has proven itself to be a false and corrupt entity over the centuries. A few Catholic “laypersons” are saying that they need to put together a comprehensive plan to address this pedophile priest and cover-up disaster since the hierarchy has proven itself incapable of doing so (aka the inmates running the asylum).

Too late and way too little. Sixteen long years after the Boston Globe broke the pedophile priest and cover-up scandal wide open, the Catholic heirarchy has done nothing substantive to clean up its house.

What a strange coincidence that Richard Sipe died during this recent tsunami of pedophile priest scandals. The ex-priest and psychotherapist connected priest sexual abuse to Rome’s mandatory rule of celibacy for its clergy and to its seminaries that both attracted and fostered deviancy.  Sipe attempted to warn Catholicism of the problems inherent within its priesthood in his 1990 landmark book, “A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy” but no one paid attention.

As evangelical mega-churches continue to deemphasize Biblical doctrine, the push will be to replace the Gospel with social justice concerns, just as spiritually-dead mainline Protestant churches began doing one-hundred years ago.

Saddleback church boasts of 50,000 baptisms, but attendees there are hearing a water-downed, man-centered gospel and the advantages of rapprochement with Rome.

Progessive, seeker-friendly mega-churches looked to Bill Hybels and Willow Creek  as their example, but that hasn’t worked out so well.

Next week is Catholicism’s World Meeting of Families conference in Dublin, Ireland featuring an appearance by pope Francis. Jesuit priest, James Martin, point-man for the LGBTQ lobby within the church, will be delivering a speech subtly pushing for inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ church members.

Some might object that a satire of Francis’ unwillingness to address his church’s widespread problem of priest sexual abuse is in poor taste given the headlines of the past few weeks, but the truth therein is overwhelming.

How I turned my Polish heritage into an idol

Last week, I posted about some of the diversions that I had used to fill the gaping hole in my soul during my long prodigal “season” away from the Lord (see here). Today, I’d like to present another one as I submerged myself into my Polish heritage.

My father’s parents* immigrated from Poland in the early 1900s. As a child, I was intrigued by my grandparents who spoke only limited English. However, growing up with a last name ending in “ski” during the 1960s and 70s at the height of the “dumb Polak” joke craze was not easy. In school, I was often singled out as the “dumb Polak.” Hardy har har. I swore to myself for years that the very first thing I was going to do when I turned eighteen was change my last name to “Smith” or “Jones.” Of course, when I finally did turn eighteen, I had other priorities.

After I turned away from the Lord and was journeying through the parched landscape of my prodigal “season” in the early aughts, I happened to spot a book at our local Borders bookstore that documented the history of Rochester’s Polish community. That was the start of it. From being embarrassed and ashamed of my ethnic roots, that book was the kickoff to REVELING in my heritage, which, fasten your seat belts, included the following:

  • I read everything I could get my hands on regarding Polish history and culture including the weekly Am-Pol Eagle and monthly Polish American Journal newspapers as well as three academic quarterlies. I eventually amassed over one-hundred books about Poland and Polonia (i.e., the Polish American diaspora) in my personal library.
  • I joined local and national Polish American organizations and helped plan andCapture11 coordinate several Polish events in Rochester.
  • I began attending the annual Polish festivals in Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse. Between festivals, I regularly explored the Polish sections of those cities (or what was left of them) as well as the very-much-intact Polish neighborhoods up in Toronto and St. Catherines, Canada. Buffalo had a mammoth Polish population compared to Rochester and many, many Polish organizations, but assimilation has taken it’s toll with Poles moving to the suburbs and losing interest in their cultural roots.
  • I listened to Ray Serafin’s two-hour, Polish Polka Bandstand show on one of our local radio stations every Saturday morning and eventually amassed a collection of over fifty polka CDs. I also accumulated a large number of subtitled Polish films on DVD.
  • I hosted an internet forum for five years which discussed issues involving Poland and Polonia.
  • A 3’x5′ Polish flag flew proudly from our front balcony just in case someone wasn’t sure about my ethnicity. Also, one of my clothes drawers was full of Polish-themed t-shirts and my hat rack was full of Polish-themed caps.
  • I became a regular customer of the two Polish delis here in Rochester and also became proficient at making several delicious Polish recipes. They’re hearty dishes so I’ll share the recipes in a couple of more months when the temperatures are more appropriate. Strangely, there are no Polish delis in Buffalo (although it does have a few Polish restaurants), but there are several delis in St. Catherines and Toronto.
  • If anyone made the mistake of telling a “dumb Polak” joke in my presence, I responded with both barrels and made them feel as uncomfortable as I possibly could.
  • On our trip to Germany to visit our grandson in 2007, we were able to take a 5-day detour to Krakow, the historic capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596. Unlike many other Polish cities, Krakow was largely spared from shelling and aerial bombing during World War II and its grand historic buildings including the royal castle remained intact.

Did you get all of that? Can anyone say idol?

Bottom line: I was nostril-deep in things-Polish for well over a decade. Not to brag, but I believe the knowledge I accumulated was equivalent to a bachelors degree in Polish Studies. My family and friends thought it was EXTREMELY weird that I became so infatuated with my ethnic heritage, but I believe it all stemmed from two things. 1) My shame at being Polish when I was young and 2) the pressing need to fill the vacuum in my soul while I was away from the Lord.

After I returned to the Lord in 2014, my frenetic need to study my ethnicity was lifted from me. Unsaved people have no foundation in the Lord, so they’re increasingly turning to DNA tests and Ancestry.com to try to establish some type of meaningful foundation for their lives. Everything besides Jesus Christ is sinking sand and ultimately won’t satisfy.

I’m very glad I learned about my heritage, but now I’m able to put it all in its proper perspective.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” – James 4:14

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

*My Mom was seventy-five percent German and twenty-five percent Irish, so during this period I also spent some time researching German history and the German American diaspora.

Postscripts: 1) While I’m definitely not a follower of pop social morality, I do appreciate how bullying, for any reason, is no longer acceptable (at least ideally). 2) Perhaps no ethnic group is more tightly intertwined with Roman Catholicism than the Poles. That was a circumstance I had to constantly ignore during my hyper-Polish phase.

If you’ve hung in there with me to this point, I offer you a sincere dziękuję bardzo!

Polish joke – Wikipedia article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_joke

The Adult Legionnaires???

Today, we’ll take a break from theological topics and continue reviewing classic tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes from DC Comics’ Silver Age.

It would be reasonable to assume that writer Jim Shooter would have a very difficult time following up what still stands, fifty-one years later, as the greatest Legion tale of all time; “The Fatal Five” and “The Doomed Legionnaire.” Amazingly, Shooter immediately delivered another iconic story with…

The Adult Legionnaires!
Adventure Comics #354, March, 1967
Writer and Layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

Superman is summoned to that period of the Thirtieth Century when the Legion of Super-Heroes are no longer teenagers but grown adults. Immediately after he arrives, Superman walks the grounds of the team’s unfamiliar new headquarters, encountering tributes to fallen Legionnaires and to Legionnaires who have married (see details below). He’s soon greeted by a pipe-smoking Brainiac 5, who reintroduces the Boy…er…Man of Steel to his old teammates, many of whom have retired from the Legion (see details below).

At an emergency meeting, Cosmic Man, the Legion’s current leader, reveals to Superman why he was summoned. An anonymous foe who is apparently privy to the Legion’s secrets has been systematically destroying the team’s massive headquarters. As the team vows to catch the criminal with Superman’s assistance, the mysterious villain secretly monitors the proceedings and swears to exact his ultimate revenge on every member.

The villain creates a diversion at the Metropolis Spaceport, hoping to draw away Superman. He then cuts all power to the Legion’s headquarters and commences a direct attack upon the team, shielded by darkness. The Legionnaires have no answer for the powerful foe and are quickly overcome. Superman’s unexpected arrival forces the scoundrel to flee and saves the heroes from certain death.

As the Legionnaires desperately search for any clues as to the villain’s identity, a stroll through the tribute to the fallen Legionnaires provides Superman with a hunch.

Once again, the hooded criminal attacks the Legion’s base, commencing his assault with reflex-inhibiting gas. Slowed by the noxious agent, the Legionnaires are felled by the intruder, one by one. Superman is pinned helplessly to the wall by large Kryptonite staples and Cosmic Man’s magnetic powers are rendered ineffective by flame pellets. Just as the intruder prepares to kill the Legionnaires with an explosive, Superman and Cosmic Man reveal they had switched identities previous to the attack and are able to subdue their opponent with their intact powers.

Superman removes the hood from the criminal, revealing him to be the twin brother of Ferro Lad, who had sacrificed his life decades earlier battling the Sun Eater (see my review of Adventure # 353 here). Superman had guessed the villain’s identity while strolling past the memorial to Ferro Lad and arranged, with Cosmic Man’s assistance, to foil his attack. Initially tormented by his brother’s death, the living twin who shared his sibling’s powers, swore to exact revenge on the Legion, but his irrational anger soon subsided. Several decades later, the rage inexplicably resurfaced. The reader is then made aware that Ferro Lad’s twin was under the control of the Legion of Super-Villains, a segue way to the next issue; “The War of the Legions!”

Commentary

This was simply a great story, seeing the Legion members all grown up. Kudos to penciller, Curt Swan for nimbly aging the characters. Here’s some of the revelations:

  • Fallen Legionnaires – Ferro Lad, Chemical King, Power Boy, Quantum Queen, Reflecto, and Shadow Woman. Ferro Lad we know about. The other characters would be introduced in subsequent Legion lore.
  • Married Legionnaires – Lightning Man (active) and Saturn Woman (active), Ultra Man (reservist) and Phantom Woman (retired), Timber Wolf (active) and Light Lady (inactive), Cosmic Man (active) and Night Woman (retired), Shrinking Violet (retired) and Duplicate Boy (never joined the LSH), Star Boy (retired) and Dream Girl (retired), Bouncing Boy (retired) and Duo Damsel (retired).
  • Additional Retired – Mon-El, Colossal Man, Matter-Eater Lad
  • Additional Active – Brainiac 5, Element Man, Polar Man

Fans of the teenage Legion were thrilled to get a glimpse into the future of these characters. The macabre cover illustration, with Superman walking solemnly through the memorial to fallen Legionnaires, was unlike any cover seen in the Silver Age era. But nothing was sacrosanct at DC and future permutations of the team would ignore or alter Shooter’s revelations.

Flubs

Why would the Legion have built an elaborate tribute hall to married members replete with statues holding hands? Very corny. Why do paper blueprints, mechanical controls, and card files still proliferate in the Thirtieth Century? Why wasn’t Legion reservist, Ultra Boy, summoned to active duty for this calamitous situation? C’mon, is anyone going to be smoking a pipe one-thousand years from now?

Trivia

Who are the five Legionnaires whose futures were NOT revealed in this issue. Answer below.

 

Answer: Capture8

PA grand jury report cites 300 pedophile priests, multiple high-level enablers, and 1000 victims

I had planned to take a break from theology today and publish a post about a fun but frivolous topic. However, given yesterday’s headlines, I felt such a post would be totally inappropriate.

The grand jury report released in Pennsylvania yesterday states that 300 pedophile priests sexually abused 1000 children in a limited region over a limited time-span. Many of the priests were enabled by their clerical superiors.

The priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes of Roman Catholicism have been guilty, directly or indirectly, of sexually abusing children and also adults in their charge for centuries. They have also spiritually abused billions of trusting souls by teaching them a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit rather than the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

I weep in my soul for these victims of sexual predators and spiritually deadly wolves. I pray that evangelicals will reach out to Roman Catholics as the mission field that they are.

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” – Mark 10:13-16

This post is not for the dyed-in-the-wool Catholic who will blindly swear allegiance to their religious institution no matter the circumstances. No, I am reaching out to the Catholic who hears the “still small voice” that’s telling them this entire system is corrupt and that they need to turn to Jesus Christ. For more information, see here.


Catholic Church Covered Up Child Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania for Decades, Grand Jury Says

The improbable “return” of Jimmy Swaggart

Disclaimer: I do not endorse Jimmy Swaggart Ministries (JSM). I offer this posting strictly as a summary of my recent observations.

Back when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in the early 1980’s, (c)hristian television was pretty bad, just like today with all of the shenanigans going on at TBN. The biggest name in (c)hristian television back then was Jim Bakker, who preached a nascent prosperity gospel with his flamboyant wife, Tammy Faye, on their PTL network. Another big-name televangelist at the time was Jimmy Swaggart. It was Swaggart who helped bring down his fellow-Pentecostal, Bakker, when financial improprieties and sexual scandals began coming to light in 1987. But Swaggart wasn’t immune from scandal himself. Just a year later, in 1988, he was caught with a prostitute, and again in 1991. Swaggart should have resigned, but he had a mini-empire down there in Baton Rouge and kept the wheels rolling. Defrocked by the Assemblies of God, Swaggart faded into semi-obscurity.

Flash forward to 2018. My wife and I just purchased a new mattress with an adjustable base. Wowza! It’s a fine thing to recline in bed with my head and feet raised up. Ahhh! I usually wind down my day by aimlessly channel surfing in bed until I turn out the lights, but lately I’ve been pausing on Jimmy Swaggart’s SonLife Network (SLN) cable channel. Jimmy Swaggart? Is he still around? Yes, brother Swaggart is now 83-years-old, and has actually revived his once very-troubled ministry with the help of his son, Donnie, and grandson, Gabriel.

I’ve watched the SLN channel irregularly for about a month and I do have a few observations:

  • Pretty much forgotten after his scandals, Swaggart’s ministry was deep in the dumps – Sunday attendance at his 7000-seat Family Worship Center was only a couple of hundred in the early aughts – until he improbably revived the enterpri$e through his SLN cable network. Read the amazing story here.
  • Swaggart is a Pentecostal and I am a cessationist in regards to the apostolic gifts of the Spirit. Jimmy and his associates refer to glossolalia and healings quite a bit, but I take all of that with a grain of salt, no offense intended to my Pentecostal and charismatic brethren.
  • Swaggart does preach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but he delivers it packaged as “The Message of the Cross,” a slogan he uses repeatedly. A viewer gets the impression that he’s had the phrase trademarked, he uses it so often. For every time Jesus’ name is mentioned by Swaggart, “the cross” is mentioned ten or fifteen times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not not saying we should never mention what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross, it’s just that the cross is given a strange preeminence at JSM.
  • Swaggart constantly hawks his “Expositor’s Study Bible,” in which his commentary in red lettering is intermixed with Scripture instead of being placed as footnotes. That’s just wrong.
  • Speaking of hawking, during the program breaks, JSM materials are constantly promoted by Jimmy, Donnie, and Gabe. It also seems like there’s a never-ending plethora of telethons for the support of JSM and SLN.
  • To his credit, Swaggart indirectly refers to his past failings with remorse.
  • The prosperity gospel is not pushed hard by the Swaggarts compared to televangelists like Copeland, Dollar, or Meyer, but it’s still a part of the message. A young Donnie Swaggart notoriously rebuked prosperity preachers twenty years ago (see video here), but he’s now saying financial prosperity is part of the believer’s inheritance in Christ.
  • Speaking of financial prosperity, the Swaggarts do not divulge any of JSM’s financial records. If you’re sending your money to JSM, you have no idea if it’s going towards ministry or Donnie’s new Rolex. The Lord commands us to be good stewards. If a ministry refuses to allow its financial records to be scrutinized, we shouldn’t contribute one red cent.
  • The other night, I was listening to Donnie praising the work of the Holy Spirit in regards to the proliferation of the manifestations of the Pentecostal gifts of the spirit throughout the world. He specifically mentioned the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement as an example. Donnie makes my point for me. One-hundred and sixty-million Catholics, including tens of thousands of priests, belong to CCR. They still strongly believe in Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit, yet Pentecostals and charismatics embrace them as believers because they manifest the requisite gifts. To be fair, many cessationist evangelicals also embrace Rome.
  • The music/worship segments that are broadcast are generally very enjoyable. Swaggart employs some talented singers and musicians and ol’ Jimmy can still tickle the ivories. You won’t hear any Hillsong music during one of Swaggart’s worship segments. I imagine many Christians who otherwise would not devote any time to Swaggart tune in for the music segments.
  • All of the shows on SLN are slick. There’s nothing amateurish about the production quality. The operative word here is slick. Jimmy, Donnie, and Gabe are exceptional communicators and entertainers. If they were selling cars, they would have the most profitable dealership in Louisiana.

Final thoughts: I wouldn’t recommend that anyone get their teaching from Jimmy or the other Swaggarts. As I mentioned previously, Jimmy should have resigned from the ministry following his scandals. However, there is “some” good information that does come through SLN. I imagine some people have genuinely accepted Christ after listening to the Swaggarts give out the Gospel. But a believer definitely needs to be cautious and discerning while watching SBN and must be constantly engaged in “chewing on the meat and spitting out the bones.”

Postscript: A couple of months after writing the above post, I happened to catch a telecast of a “classic” (pre-scandal) telecast from the Family Worship Center and I was amazed to see a mammoth balcony stretching across the auditorium filled with people. The balcony is still there but current telecasts of services at the FWC purposely limit the camera angle so as not to expose the empty balcony.

Answering the alleged “Catholic verses” – #1: The Church is the Pillar of All Truth?

This post is the first in a long series in which I will respond to Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong’s book, “The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants” (photo above). I completely agree with Armstrong’s argument that the gospel preached by Catholicism  (salvation by sacramental grace and merit) and the Gospel preached by Biblical Christianity (salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone) are not the same, but are, in fact, diametrically opposed. Armstrong cites ninety-five Bible verses to justify the Catholic view. Over the course of a year, I plan on responding to all of the verses he cites as evidence for Catholicism that supposedly “confound” Protestants.

Without any further ado, let’s look at the first of the Armstrong’s “Catholic” verses by which he claims the church is the pillar of the truth:

#1) “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 3:15 (NIV)

From this verse, Armstrong argues that the Catholic church “is the foundation of truth; it is infallible; it is specially protected by the Holy Spirit so that it can be the Guardian and Preserver of apostolic tradition and truth and doctrine” (p. 3).

But is it reasonable to construe all of those claims from this verse? Catholicism is prone to greatly overreach with its Bible interpretations as we shall see going forward.

If we examine the original Greek used in this verse, we find that the words for pillar and foundation, stulos and hedraioma, mean “pillar, column, prop, or support” and “prop or support” respectively. The church (all genuine believers in Christ, not just leaders) is not the foundation of the truth, but is the steward of the truth, which we have in God’s Word.

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth” – John 17:17

A better translation of 1 Timothy 3:15 is the ESV:

“If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (ESV)

Paul makes it repeatedly clear throughout his epistles that Scripture is our standard, not weak, fallible men inside the church.

“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” – 1 Corinthians 4:6

The pope and his bishops have set themselves up as the foundation and source of belief, leading to the creation of a plethora of spurious traditions throughout the centuries, but it is Jesus Christ and His Word that are our spiritual foundation.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:11

It’s ironic that Catholicism extrapolates great powers and privileges for itself from 1 Timothy 3:15 while it conveniently ignores 1 Timothy 3:1–13, preceding it, which declares that church leaders ought to be the husband of one wife and able to effectively parent their children. That’s hardly a description of Catholic priests and prelates. In the following chapter, in 1 Timothy 4:1–3, Paul condemns the type of clerical celibacy mandated by Catholicism.

Armstrong wrote this book back in 2004 and it’s very interesting that Catholicism currently finds itself in an awkward situation that strongly argues against his claims. In the past few years, pope Francis has changed sacrosanct Catholic teaching by lifting the ban on communion for remarried divorcees, permitting intercommunion with Protestants, and, most recently, by completely banning capital punishment. Many conservative Catholics would enthusiastically agree that this pope is NOT their foundation of faith.

While Armstrong presents 1 Timothy 3:15 as an irrefutable “Catholic verse,” we Protestants are far from being “confounded.”

For this post, I am indebted to the article below from GotQuestions.org:

What does 1 Timothy 3:15 mean when it says that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth?
https://www.gotquestions.org/church-pillar-foundation-truth.html

See also:

The Pillar and Ground of Truth by Joe Mizzi
http://www.justforcatholics.org/a91.htm

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 8/11/18

There are some secondary doctrinal issues that well-meaning Christians disagree on, but the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is a sin. With the introduction of such slippery slopes as this Revoice Conference (hosted by a PCA church in St. Louis), it’s not difficult to foresee that many of today’s doctrine-lite “evangelical” churches will eventually cave on this issue.

Catholicism’s saint-making machinery isn’t indifferent to celebrity and public opinion. Well-known candidates for “sainthood” are put on the fast track (e.g., JPII, Mother Teresa, Fulton Sheen), while lesser knowns must wait in limbo indefinitely. The American Catholic church has no Black saints, which is an embarrassment in today’s politically correct culture, so a few Black Catholics are being pushed to the head of the class to appease the plurality police. Bible Christians know that everything about this Catholic sainthood business is anti-Biblical.

On August 2nd, Pope Francis officially changed the Catholic catechism from allowing capital punishment in rare cases to being “inadmissible under any circumstances.” As we can see from the sample articles above, conservative Catholics are already beginning to protest this latest example of Francis’ ongoing efforts to realign the church with liberal/progressive politics and theology. Prior to Francis, conservative Catholics routinely boasted that a pope could never lead their church into doctrinal error. Relatively few, if any, are making that claim these days. Instead, they anxiously hope Francis’ reign will end before he has a chance to overturn another cherished infallible doctrine.

American Catholics were rocked by recent revelations that cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick had sexually abused multiple male children. Overshadowed was the investigation of 300 pedophile priests in Pennsylvania. Sickening. Catholicism explained in a nutshell is,  1) receive the sacraments and 2) try to live a mortal-sinless, holy life in order to 3) hopefully merit Heaven. As these headlines prove, not only do the Catholic clerics fail to live up to their own teaching, they fail in the most heinous fashion. We’re all sinners, folks, and none of us can merit Heaven. If we could merit Heaven, Jesus Christ wouldn’t have had to die on the cross. See more here.

With pope Francis chipping away at their cherished dogmas together with this latest wave of sexual abuse scandals involving pedophile priests, bishops, and cardinals, conservative Catholics feel like their foundation is crumbling beneath them. This Catholic leader advises everyone to keep their head down and just keep trusting in their institutional church, but the current circumstances defy such reasoning. A relativist pope and deviant clerics are the fruit of an absolutely corrupt system. Come out of Catholicism and place your faith in the Solid Rock, Jesus Christ! See more here.

An interesting article on how Catholicism shifted from theological and political militancy in the 1930s to modernism by the 1960s.

During the first year at our new church, this brother usually ended up sitting a row or two in back of us. Hey, it was a blessing!

The Sad Misadventures of Magazine Man

Over these past three years of blogging, I’ve sporadically referred to my prodigal “season,” when I walked away from the Lord for a very long period, but I’ve never gone into great detail. With this post, I’d like to share one specific memory from that time.

For those of you who are already familiar with this intro, I’ll keep it short. I came out of Catholicism in the early 1980s and my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983. We subsequently attended an independent, fundamental Baptist church for eight years. It had some good points, but also tended toward legalism. I became sooooooo exasperated that we finally quit the church and I walked away from the Lord for twenty-three years. I’m not proud of that, but I offer it here as a testimony of the Lord’s great patience and mercy.

Anyway, there I was all those years, trying to live without the Lord. The problem was, I had a gaping hole in my soul and I had to fill it with something. I tried several things and one of them was magazines. Yes, magazines! I felt that if I had my paper “friends” dropping in on me throughout the month, keeping me informed of everything that was going on in the topics I was interested in, then I would be a happy camper (and they would help me keep my mind off of God).

As I sat down to write this post, I tried to think of all of the monthly periodicals that I had subscribed to in the early aughts during my “magazine man” phase, and came up with the list below.

  • American Art Review
  • American Artist
  • American Heritage
  • American History
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Esquire
  • GQ – It’s hysterical that I subscribed to this magazine because I’m the farthest thing from a GQ guy that you could ever imagine.
  • Smithsonian

I’m sure I’m missing a few more.

Here’s the thing; a person couldn’t possibly hold a job and do all the things they needed to do on a monthly basis and still have time to sit down and get through all of those magazines. But it felt good to see the new issues arrive in the mail throughout the month, even if I read only a small portion of the information inside.

What a sorry soul.

I returned to the Lord in 2014 and He embraced me with open arms just as the father did in Luke 15:11-32.

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20

I still love to read about history and I still have a slight interest in art, but all things in my life are now in subjection to Christ (or I’m working on it through His grace).

There is some disagreement among believers as to whether the prodigal son in Luke 15 was meant to represent a saved or an unsaved person when he ran off into the world, which alludes to the question of whether a genuine Christian can backslide for an extended period of time, but I am convinced my Lord never let go of me.

“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” – John 10:29

I haven’t brought up my “dumb” prodigal season too often because it’s a shameful period of my life that caused or contributed to great spiritual trouble for myself and my family.

The moral of the story? Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ. Christians may let you down. Pastors may let you down. Churches may let you down. Circumstances in your life will not always be pleasant. But Jesus will never let you down. Commune with Him daily through His Word and in prayer and grow with other Christians in a Bible-believing fellowship, but never put any human being on a pedestal.

Down the road, I’ll post on another interest that I tried to use to fill my spiritual vacuum during my long prodigal “season;” my ethnic heritage.