Another betrayal of the Gospel in the push for “unity”

Justified in Christ: The Doctrines of Peter Martyr Vermigli and John Henry Newman and Their Ecumenical Implications
By Chris Castaldo
Pickwick Publications, 2017, 234 pages

I’m already acquainted with the author of this book, evangelical pastor Chris Castaldo. I’ve reviewed two books he wrote and one he co-wrote previously about Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics (see here, here, and here). I welcomed those efforts because there are very few books dedicated to outreach to Catholics published by major (c)hristian publishers these days. But the books were also disturbing because they came across as a bit too soft on Catholicism. It was as if, in the final analysis, Castaldo was saying to Catholics, “Yes, your church is legitimate to a degree, but evangelicalism is a better way.” Castaldo shares that kind of accommodating and compromising attitude with other notable evangelical pastors and para-church leaders. This new book is even more disturbing as it appears Castaldo is determined to formulate a “middle way” theology on justification that is acceptable to both Catholics and Bible Christians.

There are many irreconcilable differences between Catholicism and Biblical Christianity, but the most important difference is in regards to the doctrine of justification. Martin Luther rightly said that justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls.

In brief, Catholics believe they are initially justified by their infant baptism and that they must continue to receive their church’s sacraments in order to receive graces so that they may successfully obey the Ten Commandments and church rules so as to hopefully merit Heaven at the moment of their death. Catholics believe they can become subjectively, intrinsically righteous through the infused grace of the sacraments and the merit of obedience and good works.

In contrast, Bible Christians believe they are justified by repenting of sin and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. They believe that they become objectively, extrinsically, forensically righteous before God solely because of Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness that was imputed to them the moment they accepted Him as Savior. Bible Christians believe good works are the fruit (verification) of justification in Christ, not the basis of it.

The two views are diametrically opposed. One is wrong. One is right. They cannot both be right.

In this book (which was actually the author’s doctoral thesis), Castaldo presents two theologians from the past, one an Italian Protestant Reformer, Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), and the other a famous convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, John Henry Newman (1801-1890).

Castaldo attempts to find some agreement between the two theologians as a basis for ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and evangelicals. Vermigli taught that the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ was the “formal cause” of justification, however he also taught that God also “accepts and rewards Christian works as a necessary constituent of final justification.” Castaldo labels this as “double-righteousness” or “double-justification.” So Vermigli gave more credence to good works in salvation than Bible Christians would allow.

Over the years, Newman shifted in his theology from an “evangelical” to a high-church Anglican, to a Roman Catholic. Castaldo references Newman’s writing at the time he was an Anglican, when he still allegedly held to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as a “factor” in justification, while concurrently holding to baptismal regeneration and progressive sanctification as other contributing factors. Later, after he converted to Catholicism, Newman rejected his previous opinions about imputed righteousness and embraced Catholicism’s notion of sacramentally infused grace and subjective, intrinsic righteousness.

I’m only a Theology 101 type of guy and I don’t normally seek out theology texts that are loaded with Latin phrases to impress academicians like this book does, but I am well-versed in the Protestant-Catholic debate over justification and was able to follow Castaldo’s arguments pretty well. The attempt to blaze some kind of middle-road between evangelicalism’s and Catholicism’s views on justification using Vermigli and pre-Catholic Newman falls totally flat and the differences remain.

It’s sad that Judas evangelicals like Castaldo seek to advance unity with Rome through accommodation and compromise of the Gospel of grace. In the acknowledgements, the author credits Timothy George, one of the principals of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), as a strong supporter of this effort as well as three Roman Catholic priests. Save your time and your money.

10 thoughts on “Another betrayal of the Gospel in the push for “unity”

  1. Thanks for this review I have not heard of this author before and wonder what Seminary where he submitted his thesis to for his degree. His use of an Italian “Reformer” invention of a dual justification doctrine seems to be a way to sound Protestant and Catholic but in the end rejecting biblical justification by faith alone. Thanks for the review

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    1. I googled info on Castaldo and I see he earned his PhD from the London School of Theology. Yes, his attempt here to blaze a “middle way” that’s acceptable to both “camps” is very disappointing.

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      1. I wasn’t familiar with LST so I googled that too and I see Alistair Begg is an alum. I also see John Stott had a strong affiliation with the school and I know a book like this would have been right up his alley. From Wikipedia – Following (Stott’s) chairmanship of the second National Evangelical Anglican Congress in April 1977, the Nottingham statement was published which said, “Seeing ourselves and Roman Catholics as fellow-Christians, we repent of attitudes that have seemed to deny it.”[17] This aroused controversy amongst some evangelicals at the time.[18]

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  2. Indeed Castaldo is a Judas and a traitor to those of us who are true ‘ex-catholics’. I have read his book ‘Holy ground’ and was shocked to find how much he praises the Church of Rome! If I was Jack Chick I would suspect him of being a Jesuit plant. One wonders why he didn’t stay within the Church? I don’t know if you noticed, but in the acknowledgements he gives credit to two Jesuit priests with whom he collaborated? Also, in his book ‘Talking with Catholics about the gospel’, he states: “I am not among those who consider the RCC to be a cult”. So he doesn’t believe that a mere man who claims to be the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff over all Christians, isn’t the head of a cult? Shame on him! Thank you for exposing him.

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  3. Tom, hi! And thank you for reaching out!! We’re well. Hope and pray you, your wife and family are!

    It was disappointing to hear that Peter Vermigli was said to have a flawed understanding of our justification before God through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness because I respect him. Then I realized that this may be merely Castaldo’s understanding of Vermigli’s view, though I do know that baptism was very important to Vermigli. The newly released book I read by Vermigli, on Original Sin, was part of a much larger work, parts of which will be released over time. I would much rather hear Vermigli’s teaching on justification than Castaldo’s views of Vermigli’s. Thank you so much for introducing this discussion to us because these issues will always and everlastingly be important. As always your reading and teaching promote a sound understanding of the Gospel of grace. God bless you, bruderski!

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    1. Thanks, Maria! I’m definitely not a theologian or church historian. Castaldo’s book was the first I had heard of Vermigli and of course Castaldo’s goal in that book was very disappointing and dangerous. Danke, schwester, and God bless you and your husband!

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