Throwback Thursday: Walter Martin was no admirer of Catholicism, but dropped the ball in “The Kingdom of the Cults”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 7th, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Roman Catholic Church in History
By Walter Martin
Christian Research Institute, 1960 edition, 87 pp.

Most of today’s younger believers have never heard of Walter Martin (1928-1989), but the man played an important role in modern evangelicalism. Martin wrote the booklet, “The Roman Catholic Church in History,” in 1958, two years prior to the founding of his once-influential evangelical apologetics ministry, Christian Research Institute (CRI). This booklet is extremely critical of Roman Catholic theology as it examines the papacy, the preeminence of tradition over Scripture, Mariolatry, confession and penance, the mass, and purgatory. While Martin implies there is no salvation in works-based Catholic legalism, he regrettably does not address the primary issue of justification directly.

Martin’s “The Kingdom of the Cults,” published initially in 1965 and still in print and widely available, is considered the most important reference on cults over the last 55 years. Surprisingly, there is hardly any mention of Catholicism in that book. I wonder what happened that caused Martin to retreat from his uncompromising criticism of Catholicism in his 1958 booklet to accommodation and silence? The current director of CRI, Hank Hanegraaff, teaches that Catholicism has many un-Biblical doctrines, but is, fundamentally, a Christian church.

Because Hanegraaff and CRI would like to forget “The Roman Catholic Church in History” was ever written, the booklet has not been republished since 1960 and copies are nearly impossible to find. However, I was able to obtain a photocopy from Christian Answers of Austin, Texas (biblequery.org). See here.

Martin’s accommodation and compromise with Roman Catholicism was one of many contributing factors to the rampant ecumenism we see today. For more details, refer to a subsequent post, “How Walter Martin sowed the seeds for the current Hank Hanegraaff controversy,” published on August 7, 2017, here.

Addendum: People are still curious about Walter Martin. The original, 2015 posting of “Walter Martin was no admirer of Catholicism, but dropped the ball in ‘The Kingdom of the Cults”‘ continues to receive visitors regularly and is this blog’s third-most-viewed post with 1866 all-time hits currently.

29 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Walter Martin was no admirer of Catholicism, but dropped the ball in “The Kingdom of the Cults”

  1. Thank you for this throwback, brother! I was equally shocked to see that he hadn’t done any work on the RCC. Of all the false churches, this ones the easiest to document. Very discouraging when men don’t stand for truth, and then to see the lasting affect that can have. This is a reminder to us, a reminder of what compromise can accomplish after we’ve gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, sister! Yes, Martin took a semi-critical yet overall accommodating approach to the RCC. He even referred to pope John XXIII as a genuine Christian for inaugurating a conciliatory approach to Protestants at Vatican II. He also stated on the linked video that “the RCC also teaches justification by faith just like we do” [my paraphrase]. So sloppy and compromising for a man considered to be THE EXPERT on cults. Yup, his accommodating stand had a disastrous impact on Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Your welcome. Yes I agree and ECT was something that never should have been signed and we don’t know what Walter would have said about the document.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Martin falsely believed that the RCC also taught “salvation by faith” but was opposed to it because of its many “sacred tradition” secondaries. It’s not clear whether Martin would have signed ECT, but Hank Hanegraaff definitely would have had they asked him.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to listen to Hank’s radio show, The Bible Answer Man, when I was in an area that could pick up a Christian radio station. In the early 1990s, it was so helpful for me in sorting out the confusion I was experiencing in a charismatic Christian assembly, particularly in regard to the Word-Faith movement. Oy! What a mess that was. Hank’s book (and I call him by his first name because I can never spell his surname) “Christianity In Crisis” was greatly helpful in getting things ironed out in that regard. Prior to finding that book, I was regarded as a rebel in the assembly with which I shared fellowship.

    How sad I was to learn that Hank has departed from the simple faith in Christ I thought he had, when he wandered down the road of Catholicism (or whatever name it’s got in the form he has embraced).

    I remember Walter Martin. He was often referenced by Hank on the radio, and I think I heard him speaking on some of the shows, though I don’t recall any of the content.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PS: I should add that even after that book I was still regarded as a rebel, but it no longer bothered me because I learned exactly what was wrong in the Word-Faith arena. My indignation and disagreement with it was not just due to my imagination. It did NOT line up with Scripture.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me, too. I was a relatively new believer at the time, having not read the entire Bible yet, but was in the process of doing so. The more I read, the more WoF (an initialism that looks aptly like the word “wolf”) teachings didn’t sit right with me.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks, Steeny. I have heard several believers refer to Walter and Hank very approvingly because of the Bible Answer Man radio show. But both of them definitely took a wrong turn with Roman Catholicism. It was consistent for Hank to join the Greek Orthodox church because he didn’t object to its cousin, Roman Catholicism, and its salvation system of sacramental grace and merit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t understand how one can believe the Bible and then suddenly fall into a false doctrine. Maybe they were never really heart-believers, going through the motions of what they think they ought to show others about their knowledge of Scripture in order to make themselves look great and wise?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. There are many examples of high-profile evangelicals “converting” to Roman Catholicism. Yup, it was all head knowledge. Who could knowingly exchange salvation in Christ and spiritual freedom for religious chains and bondage? Does not compute.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL! I learned many facts about the company and went over the job posting requirements many times, and thought about how they linked up with my knowledge, experience, etc. Will do some more review tonight, but I also don’t want to overdo it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Walter Martin struggled to call RC a cult because of its size. Hanegraaff on the other hand is off. There’s a debate CRI had their editor for their journal whom I believe was Elliot Miller debate Robert Morey and whether Rome is a cult and I was surprised that Hank can’t even get himself to debate Morey directly. Hanegraaff made CRI terrible, if you know of some of the controversies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get why Martin didn’t categorize Catholicism as a cult because it doesn’t fit the classic definition, but the references to the RCC in “The Kingdom of…” are favorable/neutral. Martin’s remarks in the video of the other post I linked to are extremely disappointing and ill-informed; that pope John XXIII was a “sincere Christian” and that the RCC also teaches “justification by faith.” So wrong. Yes, Hanegraaff and Miller took the betrayal even further.

      Liked by 2 people

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