Ecumenist Norman Geisler Strikes Again

Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim
By Norman Geisler and Joshua Betancourt
Crossway, 2008, 235 pp.

2 Stars

One of the strangest books I ever read in my entire life was “Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences” (1995) by Norman Geisler (d. 2019) in which the evangelical theologian clearly defined the irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Gospel Christianity and Roman Catholicism, including the opposing views on justification, and yet still concluded the RCC was a Christian entity! See my associated post here.

In this book, published thirteen years later, Geisler specifically focuses on Catholicism’s claim to be the “one true church” based upon the notions of Petrine primacy, apostolic succession, and papal infallibility. Geisler examines Scripture, the writings of the church “fathers,” and to a lesser degree, church history, to make a very substantial case against Rome’s false claims. Adopting the Roman-Caesarian imperial model, the bishops of Rome sought to secure and consolidate their advantages and privileges.

The reader will repeatedly have a sense of déjà vu while reading this book as Geisler often uses the same references to counter different claims. But his arguments are substantive and convincing. As with his previous book, Geisler once again strangely concludes that the Roman Catholic church is a Christian entity despite the fact that it teaches a subjective, intrinsic view on justification and a salvation system based upon sacramental grace and merit. All ecumenical evangelicals must “leap frog” over this irreconcilable incongruity. Sadly, Geisler mentored a bevy of ecumenically-minded, pop-apologists (i.e., McDowell, Craig, Zacharias, Strobel, Turek).

Contents

  1. The Roman Claim to Be the True Church
  2. The Historical Development of the Roman Primacy Structure
  3. The Roman Argument for the Primacy of Peter: Stated and Evaluated
  4. The Roman Argument for the Infallibility of Peter: Stated
  5. The Roman Argument for the Infallibility of Peter: Evaluated
  6. The Roman Argument for Apostolic Succession
  7. Is Rome the True Church?
  8. Why Some Protestants Convert to Rome

Appendices

  1. Irenaeus on the Alleged Authority of the Church
  2. A Chronological List of Popes and Antipopes
  3. The Relation of Tradition to Scripture
  4. Sola Scriptura
  5. Irenaeus on Scripture and Tradition

40 thoughts on “Ecumenist Norman Geisler Strikes Again

  1. I have several of Geisler’s books and consider them to be solid. I wonder what his reason is for saying the RCC is a Christian entity. Could it be, perhaps the bottom line, that they consider Jesus as the true Lord and Savior and the only way to salvation? (If indeed this is what they think.)

    In either of these two books, does Geisler give a bottom-line explanation as to his reasoning?

    On another front, the book, “New Neutralism II” arrived yesterday, and I read quite a bit so far. Even though I could tell it’s going to boil my blood, I’m glad you wrote about it. Will let you know when I’m done.

    Thanks for the excellent posts, Tom!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, David. Geisler does a good job in both books of defining the irreconcilable differences, but then leapfrogs all of his efforts by concluding with a bottom-line reconciliation. Inexplicably incongruous. I have heard/read other ecumenical evangelical apologists make the same “leap” without explanation.

      Catholics will readily agree that, yes, “Jesus is the true Lord and Savior and the only way to salvation,” but what they would mean by those phrases is something entirely different than what evangelicals understand. How does one appropriate the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ? Evangelicals believe it is by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Catholics unabashedly and unapologetically strongly disagree with that and argue salvation is appropriated by sacramental grace (beginning with infant baptismal regeneration) and merit (although contemporary Catholicism is disinclined to use the word, “merit,” instead favoring such terms as “cooperation with grace” and “active friendship with God”). Despite the shared Christian parlance, Catholicism shows its true colors by having officially declared (in Vatican II documents) that people of all religions and even atheists may also merit salvation if they follow their religion or conscience with sincerity and are “good.”
      Thanks for your update re: New Neutralism II. While I don’t agree with all of Ashbrook’s assertions, he does make many valid points.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Why Geisler leapfrogs as he does is too bad, but could it be that either he or his publishers do not want to offend Catholics and hurt sales on Geisler’s plus other books?

        Regarding Roman Catholic practices, a particular expression really fits here: “Faith in Christ alone plus nothing equals salvation. Faith in Jesus plus anything at all is not salvation.”

        Much thanks, Tom.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks, David. Crossway is one one of the few orthodox evangelical Christian publishers that’s left, so it’s disappointing that they allowed this ultimately compromised view. However, Crossway did publish one of the very best examinations of Roman Catholic theology that I’ve ever seen, “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” (2014) by Gregg R. Allison.

        https://excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/throwback-thursday-roman-catholic-theology-and-practice-an-evangelical-assessment/

        Regarding you last comment, absolutely! Although the RCC attributes the ability to obey the moral law to sacramental grace, Catholicism’s bottom line is a person must merit their salvation via obedience to the Ten Commandments and church tenets.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So Papa Tom, I gotta make a confession, I have learned a lot from Geisler and the first time you mentioned Geisler and his ecumenicism/ compromise my heart broke. I wanted to unsee what you said. For a brief moment I really did consider either not following or unfollowing your blog (this was a while back so I can’t remember when it was I first learned of your site) and then I decided that would be really wrong. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber (which seems to be the horrid norm today-no pun intended!). I just don’t understand why Geisler would write/promote this. Geisler got in a feud with another ETS member in which he (Geisler) rightfully defended the Inerrancy of Scripture. This was pretty public. It amazes me how Geisler could support the RCC and their low view of Scripture and yet cause division in the ETS, it makes no sense. I am thankful that you have brought this issue to my attention!

    Are you campaigning, rallying, railing against your neighbors leaves today?! Does Corinne decorate for Thanksgiving? My mom gave my brother all her decorations. Love and blessings to both of you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not at all, Mandy! We were out walking the dog and then it took me awhile to finally get situated at the laptop and compose my thoughts! 😊 See previous reply!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Not at all! After 5.5 years of doing this blog, I’m VERY used to questions and objections from evangelicals and Catholics regarding my posts on the RCC and ecumenism. Given the widespread popularity of ecumenism these days, I know my posts come across as shocking and “backwater fundamentalist” to many.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I get it. It was so disturbing for me, after I left Catholicism and trusted in Christ back in 1983, to hear a few of the leading evangelicals say (or infer) the RCC taught the genuine Gospel. The compromise has gotten so much worse since then.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! I appreciate your candor. I understand that many/most evangelicals would not appreciate my criticisms of Rome and ecumenism since accommodation and acceptance have become the popular views. It breaks my heart that Geisler and many other Christian leaders accommodate the RCC’s gospel, even though Rome unabashedly proclaims salvation by sacramental grace and merit. One of the most blatant examples of this incongruity that I’ve ever seen was when William Lane Craig (Geisler’s pupil) sat on stage with popular RC bishop, Robert Barron, as brothers in Christ, discussing how evangelicalism and Catholicism could jointly confront growing secularism. At one point, Barron turned to Craig and asked him why he doesn’t just convert to Catholicism. Craig responded that, among other things, he didn’t believe in the Catholic teaching on justification (intrinsic, subjective holiness taught by Rome vs. the extrinsic, forensic, objective, perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to the believer at the moment of genuine conversion). If a church or denomination is wrong about justification, and Craig and Geisler readily admit that the RCC is wrong about justification, then it is not a Christian entity. If a person believes salvation must be merited to any degree, as the RCC straightforwardly teaches its members, then they are not saved. Below is a link to my 2018 post on the Craig-Barron discussion if you’re interested. If you click on the video and go directly to the 1:41:22 mark you can hear Craig’s mystifying response to Barron. He “leapfrogs” the irreconcilable issue of justification just as Geisler does in this book. It’s really worth the effort to hear Craig’s remarks for yourself.

      https://excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/big-tent-compromise-a-conversation-between-william-lane-craig-and-catholic-bishop-robert-barron/

      I appreciate your comments and the opportunity to “flesh out” this post a little more.

      RE: leaves
      Thanks for asking! I’m itching to get out there and give the whole yard another once over, but it’s only 30F outside so I’m going to wait until tomorrow’s predicted 57F.
      Corinne has always loved to decorate, but is scaling back a bit, especially as we won’t be having company over. She really “overdid it” in my opinion, but she enjoyed it. How about you and decorating?
      Thank you and love and blessings to you and Nathan!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed with your statement, “If a church or denomination is wrong about justification, and Craig and Geisler readily admit that the RCC is wrong about justification, then it is not Christian entity.” I will def check out this discussion! I do not know Dr Craig, one of my PhD professors taught with at Talbot for many, many years and based on some of what was said I had questions about Craig’s apologetics/theology.

        I want to do more decorating! I have all my mom’s Christmas decorations and I can’t wait to see them displayed! I am trying to convince Nathan we (he) want to put out lights and a Nativity! I am so thankful for you and Corinne!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know that Craig is not popular with Calvinists-pre-suppositionalists because he takes an Arminian-evidentialist approach, but my biggest problem with him is his ecumenism. If you start the video a little earlier at the 1:40:30 mark you’ll hear some comments from Barron about Craig’s relationship with Geisler.

        Enjoy your decorating! I used to dread when Corinne wanted me to hang lights outside when it was usually freezing cold outside. It’s now a very small operation. Thanks, Mandy, and I’m thankful for you and Nathan!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. One of my colleagues who is 5 point to the max made a comment on Craig for exactly that reason!

        Where does John Stott fall on the spectrum of ecumenism? I don’t know much other than Stott and Lloyd-Jones had a public spat over ecumenicism one in which Lloyd-Jones may have had a lasting impact on his ministry. Any help or resources to guide me in this would be great!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yup, John Stott is about as ecumenical as a person can get. Lloyd-Jones’ assistant, Iain Murray, wrote an excellent treatment of the rising ecumenism in the U.K. including the Stott-MLJ clash, “Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000.” The ecumenical compromise in the U.K. preceded the compromise in the U.S. by 30-40 years.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Commenting real quick: Day is going well, reading a booklet from Chapel Library to go over with someone from my church today as part of discipleship as today’s my long range pastoral visitation day. Does that 30 degree temperature drop and rise messes with you guys or are you so use to it?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this review I read this in 2009 and noticed it repeats arguments for different points he’s responding to, like word for word for entire paragraphs. I’m surprised when I first learn from you that Norman believes RC is still a true church even as he rejects their understanding of the Gospel, means of grace, authority structure, etc. Strange…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, the multiple word-for-word rebuttals gave the sense that I had read the entire book before, although I knew I had not. Very disconcerting that Geisler put so much effort into rebutting points of RC theology in the two books, yet ultimately embraced it as a valid Christian entity.The co-author of this book, Joshua Betancourt, subsequently “converted” to Roman Catholicism, the fruit of such dichotomous reasoning. I’d been keeping an eye out for a cheap used copy of this book for years and one finally dropped. The lowest price currently at Amazon is $69!!! Definitely not worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A number of students from that seminary, SES, apostasized to Rome. I think one even wrote a book “Evangelical Exodus”. Funny they conveniently ignore that according to Pew Research, Romanists leave Romanism in far greater numbers to Protestantism.

        Anyway, I am reminded of 1 John 2:19, 2 Thess 2:10-12 with regards to those “converts” (apostates).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, SB. Yes, ecumenist Geisler primed the pump at SES by propagating his hyper-Thomism. I reviewed “Evangelical Exodus” back in 2016:

        https://excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/evangelical-exodus/

        I agree that these seminarians were never genuinely born-again. No one would or could exchange salvation in Christ for a legalistic religious treadmill. Nine seminarians hardly constitutes an “exodus” and yes, I think the comparative ratio is one “evangelical” converts to Catholicism for every six Catholics who are born-again and become evangelicals.

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    1. Thanks, Crissy! Like all ecumenical apologias (“We don’t agree with all of your doctrines, but we accept you as Christians”) the book was ultimately disappointing and sad reading.

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      1. Sad to see. It’s like the reformations and all those servants of God that paid with their blood if they refused to agree with the Roman church, have been totally forgotten.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. As I learn about the ever growing list of those who consider Roman Catholicism a Christian denomination my heart is sad. After all is said and done they wrongly conclude that Roman Catholicism is truly Christian. All I can think of is the poor soul “that cannot discern between their right hand and their left” suffering eternal consequences because they have been influenced by such men.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy. Yes, the RCC unapologetically admits their salvation system is based upon sacramental grace and merit. One needn’t have a theology degree to understand the difference between Rome’s false gospel and the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, with Jesus Christ alone. So then why do these learned academics and churchmen with multiple theological degrees not get it? Spiritual blindness AND the knowledge that opposing ecumenism these days is occupational suicide.

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