Welcome to the twenty-second installment of our weekly Reformanda Initiative podcast series! I’m excited to present the ministry of Dr. Leonardo De Chirico and his associates at Reformanda Initiative as they examine Roman Catholic theology in order to inform and equip evangelicals.
Season 1, Episode 22:Summer Special – J.I. Packer and Roman Catholicism: What Evangelicals Should Know
Listen as we talk with Leonardo De Chirico about the late, great theologian, J.I. Packer’s involvement with Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), and why Packer was inconsistent according to his own criticisms of Roman Catholic theology.
J.I. Packer (1926-2020) was an influential Anglican-Evangelical who shocked many evangelicals when he signed the initial “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” declaration (1994), which claimed evangelicals and Catholics believed the same Gospel. Packer would go on to sign off on all eight of the ecumenical-affirming ECT declarations published up to 2012.
The Reformanda Initiative guys spend the first eight-minutes of this podcast extolling Packer as a “great” theologian and a spiritual “giant.” In the twenty-seven minutes that follow, they do a good job of examining Packer’s dissonant theology, whereby he taught the RCC propagated a false gospel while simultaneously declaring the RCC was a legitimate Christian institution via his ongoing support of ECT.
The Reformanda Initiative guys are far too irenic and deferential regarding bi-polar Packer. Polemical backbone is called for when a supposed “great” and a “giant” compromises and betrays the Gospel. Stalwart pastor and teacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, broke personal ties with Packer because of the latter’s ecumenical compromise. For academics/intellectuals like Dr. De Chirico, the heretical ecumenism of people like Packer and John Stott is viewed as a regrettable subset of an otherwise “great” career, as if souls aren’t at stake. This “atomistic” view ignores the irredeemable muddying of the Gospel that took place in 1994 (and afterwards) and the incredible damage done to Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics. To a certain degree in this podcast, the RI guys are as dichotomous as Packer, with their lofty opening praise of the “great” ecumenist. If you think I’m being extreme, try to imagine the apostle Paul signing an “Evangelicals and Judaizers Together” declaration. Paul was consistent and unwavering in his defense of the Gospel.
With that said, the last twenty-seven minutes of this podcast are spot on.
Back in the Fall of 2021, I became aware of a new book by evangelical theologian, Dr. Gregg Allison, entitled, “40 Questions About Roman Catholicism” (Kregal Academic, 2021, 326 pp.). Allison, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky, is one of evangelicalism’s premier experts on RC-ism. See my review of the excellent “40 Questions” here. Around the same time, I also noticed BiblicalTraining.org was offering a free, online course on the “Essentials of Catholic Theology,” with all seven classes taught by Allison. A student’s guide/workbook was available as well.
I was on the L3Harris fast track at the time, so I resolved to take the classes after I retired. Well, I’ve been retired for four months and now have the time. So for the next seven weeks, I’ll be taking the classes and reporting back to the WordPress blogosphere on Sundays.
Most evangelicals know very little about the RC basics. There’s a real need out there. Far too many evangelicals believe the RCC teaches a variation of the genuine Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, when it actually teaches a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.
I invite you to follow along with me each week as we examine the Essentials of Catholic Theology. In fact, I encourage you to take the classes as well. The average length is only 28 minutes. The video lessons are not available at YouTube, but you can access all seven of them free of charge (your email address is the only requirement) at BiblicalTraining.org. Once you have your free account, just type “Gregg Allison Class” in the searchbox and it will take you right to the “Essentials of Catholic Theology” main page. The student’s guide/workbook is not essential.
Time is precious and I understand many won’t have time to take the classes, so I will be providing the lesson outlines and some brief commentary with each installment.
Essentials of Catholic Theology– Seven Lessons
Lesson 1: What Unites and Divides Protestants and Roman Catholics – 32 minutes
Lesson 2: Roman Catholicism as a System Grounded on Two Axioms – 21 minutes
Lesson 3: Roman Catholicism’s Authoritative Divine Revelation and Interpretation – 20 minutes
Lesson 4: The Seven Roman Catholic Sacraments – 15 minutes
Lesson 5: The Roman Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist – 31 minutes
Lesson 6: The Roman Catholic View of Salvation – 36 minutes
Lesson 7: Roman Catholic Mariology – 39 minutes
Essentials of Catholic Theology– Student’s Guide/Workbook
Essentials of Catholic Theology: The basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as taught by Gregg Allison By Gregg Allison Biblical Training.org, 2021, 64 pp. Available from Amazon here.
See you next Sunday with Lesson 1: What Unites and Divides Protestants and Roman Catholics.
One-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which commenced on February 24, 2022. I don’t usually comment on temporal national politics or international geopolitics, but I wanted to remind people that prior to the invasion, some American Christians got sucked into the bizarre “rehabilitation” of Putin propagated by far-right pundits and were hailing the Russian dictator as the defender of “Christian morality” in Europe. How many people have been killed, injured, or displaced by Putin’s invasion in the past twelve months? How many billions of dollars of infrastructure have been destroyed by this alleged “Christian crusader”?
Conservative Catholic clerics and laypersons are not pleased that pope Francis is instructing priests to absolve everyone who comes to confession. The confessional and priestly absolution are un-Biblical. Only God can forgive sins.
Catholic writers self-servingly present the anti-Catholicism of 19th century America in a vacuum, never acknowledging that the bias was a reaction in large part to the persecution of Protestants in Catholic-controlled countries. Popes formally condemned freedom of religion and democratic forms of government into the early-20th century.
Why would Catholic parents care about their children’s religious beliefs when their pope, prelates, and priests tell them all religionists – Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and even atheists – can merit Heaven?
According to RC doctrine, a Catholic who eats meat on a Lenten Friday commits mortal sin. Last roundup, we learned that the Catholic archbishop of Washington D.C. announced he was granting a dispensation to Catholics in his diocese to be able to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, which happens to fall on a Lenten Friday this year. Other bishops are following suit, including the bishop of nearby Syracuse, Douglas Lucia. Will the bishop of Rochester, Salvatore Matano, also grant a dispensation? If a Rochester Catholic drives 90 miles to Syracuse on St. Patrick’s Day for a corned beef and cabbage restaurant dinner, will they be covered by Lucia’s dispensation or will they still be under Matano’s jurisdiction and thereby incur mortal sin?
President Joe Biden made sure to get his ashes on Ash Wednesday while in Poland. A self-described “devout Catholic,” Biden is also a passionate supporter of the ongoing abortion genocide.
The Asbury Revival – 8 Crucial Questions We Need to Ask
Last weekend, I posted an article, which described how Catholic clerics in Kentucky were enamored with the Asbury Revival, a big red flag. This week, Catholic archbishop of NYC, cardinal Timothy Dolan, also put his stamp of approval on the Asbury Revival (see here). Todd Friel of Wretched Radio has put together the 11-minute video below which asks some solid questions about this alleged revival.
Thanks for joining us today as we continue to examine and respond to Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard’s book, “Meeting the Protestant Response” (2022). This week, Broussard continues his second of two chapters defending transubstantiation and the eucharist, this time using Matthew 26:26-28 as his proof-text:
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Protestant response #39: “In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says Christ is the rock in the wilderness, yet we don’t take that literally.”
Writes Broussard, “This sort of counter was often made by older Protestant authors, and it’s been reproduced online on modern websites for biblical commentary. Basically, it goes like this: ‘Wait a minute. If we take the bread and wine to be really Jesus’ body and blood because he says, ‘This is my body . . This is my blood,’ then we’re gonna have to say Paul meant the rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness to be really Jesus, since he says, ‘the rock was Christ’ (1 Cor. 10:14). But most Christians don’t believe that the rock really was Jesus, as believers in the Real Presence believe that the consecrated host really is Jesus’ body. Therefore, we shouldn’t take Jesus to mean that the bread and wine really became his body and blood because he says, ‘This is my body . . . This is my blood.'”
Broussard’s eight-page rebuttal is easily the longest, by far, in this book. I will attempt to summarize his arguments as succinctly as possible. Says Broussard,
Whether the “is” in “This is my body” and the “was” in “the rock was Christ” should be interpreted literally or figuratively depends upon the context. Protestants correlate the figurative interpretation of “the rock was Christ” with “This is my body” using the supposition that Jesus is not performing a miracle at the Last Supper. Broussard argues that there is “an abundance of…evidence” that Jesus performed a miracle of transubstantiation at the Last Supper.
In the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus compared the consecrated elements to the miraculous manna provided by God to the Israelites (John 6:49-50), thus implying the miraculous transubstantiation of the communion elements.
“That the Eucharist is supernatural is further confirmed by Jesus’ teaching that (divinely bestowed) faith is required to accept his command to eat his flesh and drink his blood.” Broussard presents John 6:65 as his proof-text: “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” He cites John 6:63 as an additional proof-text for divinely-granted faith for belief in transubstantiation. Broussard argues it requires no faith to believe the communion elements symbolize Jesus’ body and blood, therefore Jesus references to faith/belief in John 6 prove the supernatural/miraculous nature of the Eucharist.
Some Protestants reject a connection between the Bread of Life Discourse and the Last Supper gospel accounts because sarx is used for “flesh” in John 6 while sōma is used for “body” in the Last Supper accounts. Broussard then cites several New Testament passages to show the words are used interchangeably.
The connection between John 6 and the Last Supper accounts is further affirmed because “both narratives are the only places in the New Testament where Jesus speaks of drinking his blood.” Broussard also states that Jesus spoke of eating his flesh in the future-tense in John 6, which found its fulfillment in the “Take, eat,” present-tense text of the Last Supper accounts.
Given his arguments above, Broussard concludes that Matthew 26:26, “this is my body,” and 1 Cor. 10:14, ‘the rock was Christ,’ are disanalogous and that there is ample evidence that miraculous transubstantiation took place at the Last Supper.
Am I feeling a sense of déjà vu? Yes, in this torturous transubstantiation marathon, Broussard previously attempted to counter the “metaphorical parallels” argument back in Protestant response #34: “Jesus meant his words figuratively, as he did in John 10:9, when he spoke of himself as a ‘door,’ and in John 15:5, when he spoke of himself as ‘the vine.’” See here. There’s absolutely no need for us to go down that road again.
Contrary to Broussard’s boast, there isn’t “an abundance” or even a slight amount of evidence that Jesus performed a miracle at the Last Supper. Broussard must go outside the Last Supper accounts and appeal to Jesus’ reference in John 6 to the Old Testament miraculous manna in an attempt to draw a parallel. However, Jesus referenced many Old Testament miracles in His teachings without performing a miracle. In John 3:14-15, Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” In this passage, Jesus refers to the miracle of the bronze serpent (Numbers 21:8-9) without performing a miracle. We also see clearly taught in John 3:14-15 that it is belief/trust in Jesus as Savior by faith alone is the key to salvation, not eating Jesus.
Broussard attempts to further develop his argument that “believe,” used multiple times in John 6, refers to faith divinely-bestowed for a person to accept that the transubstantiated communion elements are the actual body and blood of Christ. That is a thoroughly fallacious argument. “Believe,” used nine times in John 6, refers to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. It does not refer to faith in transubstantiation, as the sample verses from John 6 below clearly and unmistakably communicate:
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Broussard suggests that some Protestants reject a connection between the John 6, Bread of Life Discourse and the synoptic gospels Last Supper accounts. There’s obviously a connection. Both use the metaphorical language (and action in the case of the Last Supper accounts) of eating and drinking as symbolism for belief/trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Believing/trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior is the key to salvation, not eating him.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40-day Lenten season for Roman Catholics. So for today’s Throwback Thursday installment, we’re rolling out this old chestnut that was originally published back on February 22, 2016 and has become an annual Lenten staple here at excatholic4christ.
This morning, I was listening to the 10/30/15 podcast of the Calling All Catholics talk radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, out of Buffalo, New York. Catholic priest, Dave Baker, was taking questions, assisted by moderator, Mike Denz.
One of the listeners had a question regarding the church’s rule on mandatory abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, which I thought was quite timely because we’re currently in the Lenten season. Because the Catholic church absolutely forbids meat on Fridays during Lent, any Catholic who defiantly consumes meat allegedly commits a “mortal” sin and is doomed to hell for eternity unless they confess the sin to a priest.
But the rule’s not always as cut and dry as a juicy rib-eye steak or a succulent pork chop. The listener wanted to know if the ban on meat even included something like beef bouillon. Priest Baker irresolutely suggested that beef bouillon was “probably” permissible to consume, but encouraged the person to visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site to get the specific details.
Well, being the curious sinner-saved-by-grace that I am, I went to the USCCB website and found the following information:
Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?
A. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.
So while the bishops say it’s “technically OK” to consume meat-based broths, gravies, and seasonings, they add that Catholic moral theologians have traditionally taught that Catholics should abstain from all animal-derived products with the exception of products that don’t taste like meat.
Yikes! I’m still confused. This is getting more complicated than college calculus. Okay, let’s try to break it down using my favorite cracker, Chicken in a Biskit, as an example. One of the ingredients listed on the box is “dehydrated cooked chicken.” So, is it a “mortal” sin for a Catholic to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Friday during Lent? The U.S. bishops say meat-based seasonings are OK, but then turn around and say the church’s moral theologians forbid any meat derivative that tastes like meat. And, yes, Chicken in a Biskit crackers taste somewhat like chicken. So, which is it? I WANT TO KNOW! Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers or not? Will a Catholic go to hell for all eternity because they ate a Chicken in a Biskit cracker on Friday during Lent????
Ridiculous? Absolutely. The Bible doesn’t say anything about abstaining from meat on Fridays, but it does warn against religious leaders who forbid certain foods. All of these complicated abstinence rules remind me of the Pharisees who took the Mosaic Law that no one could obey absolutely anyway (except for Jesus Christ), and made it even more intricate and burdensome.
Praise the Lord for freeing me from the legalistic chains and man-made traditions of Roman Catholicism! We all sin every day by breaking God’s Biblical commandments. But God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Then Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent (turn from their rebellion against God) and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Accept Christ and seek out an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.
For more of my thoughts regarding Lent see here and here and here.
It’s time once again for some 31st century frivolity, so let’s board our time bubble and head to the future for another adventure with the Legion of Super-Heroes! Nope, we’re not reviewing an LSH comic this time, but rather a new LSH animation film that was released on February 7th. The plot is rather complex, so rather than wrack my aged brain, I borrowed a 1700-word review from fugitives.com and pared it down to 950-words along with some major wordsmithing.
Legion of Super-Heroes Directed by Jeff Wamester and featuring Meg Donnelly and Harry Shum Jr. Warner Bros./DC, 2023, 1h 23m.
As Kara Zor-El enjoys some rare leisure time with her mother, General Alura Zor-El, the High Defender of Krypton, the planet’s red sun suddenly begins emanating destructive flares. As the planet’s core starts crumbling, Alura manages to secure a single interstellar pod to save her daughter. A distraught Kara watches helplessly as her mother spends her final moments assuring her daughter of her love and asking her to watch over her baby cousin, Kal-El, the future Superman, who is also being transported to safety. As Kara’s space pod rockets away, debris from Krypton’s destruction knocks it off course, and the craft drifts into the vast cosmos.
Due to her pod’s wayward journey, Kara arrives on Earth much later than Kal-El. Unlike her cousin, who has since learned to master his super powers, Kara, now known as Supergirl, struggles to control hers. During a scuffle with the villainous Solomon Grundy, Kara causes significant property damage due to her recklessness. Batman shares his skepticism about her with Superman, which Kara overhears. Superman sets out to console her, while Batman spots the futuristic weapon previously wielded by Grundy and senses suspicious activity, as someone with Grundy’s intellect wouldn’t be able to acquire something so advanced.
Superman tries his best to comfort Kara and takes her on a journey to the 31st century to the academy of the Legion of Super-Heroes where he advises she can receive valuable training. The Legion is a team of young crime fighters with unusual powers who banded together after being inspired by the past heroics of Superman. While Superman encourages Kara to join the academy, a team of mysterious assassins attacks Star Labs in the 21st century. Batman subdues them, but they consume suicide pills before he is able to interrogate them. However, their involvement with the previous attack is confirmed by their weapons, which match Grundy’s. A severed head of the supervillain Brainiac can be seen in the labs.
At the Legion academy, Kara befriends several aspiring cadets, including Bouncing Boy,Dawnstar, Invisible Kid, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, and (no foolin’) Arms-Fall-Off Boy. Kara mistakes another trainee, Brainiac 5, a twelfth-level-intellect descendent of the original Brainiac, to likewise be a threat and immediately confronts him. Later, upon learning that B5 is trying to redeem his infamous heritage, Kara starts acting sympathetically towards him.
Three Legionnaires, Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass, and Chemical King, safeguard the Legion complex, as the rest of the bloated roster are missing in action. Timber Wolf expresses his distrust of B5, as all the past clones of Brainiac have turned out to be villainous.
A group of assassins attempts to infiltrate Legion HQ and murders Triplicate Girl. Despite his plea of innocence, the three Legionnaires suspect B5 is the culprit after discovering he orchestrated his admission to the academy and remand him to a security cell.
After learning the assassins belong to the “Dark Circle,” a space terrorist cult of unknown origin, Kara visits the confined B5 and inquires about a course of action. He confesses he joined the Legion academy to stop an attack by his villainous Brainiac clone family, who were associated with Dark Circle, and were planning a heist of the Legion vault where an ancient reality-bending mechanism called the “miracle machine” is stored. B5 admits he used subterfuge because he surmised the Legionnaires would not have believed him due to his familial stigma. Kara frees him, and the duo sets out to secure the miracle machine before it falls into the wrong hands. Mon-El spots them and offers to assist in their effort.
The trio manages to override the Legion vault security due to B5’s twelfth-level intellect. However, Mon-El betrays them and stabs Kara with a Kryptonite dagger. He reveals himself to be a race supremacist linked to the Dark Circle. Meanwhile, the Legionnaires are ambushed by hordes of Dark Circle assassins and, after being defeated, are held captive along with the trainees. The leader of the Dark Circle emerges as supervillain, Brainiac. After his death in the 21st century, he created the Dark Circle to sustain himself by preserving his consciousness and incorporating several clones into his body—thereby creating a monstrous composite version of himself. Brainiac confesses that he used B5’s intelligence to unlock the impregnable security of the Legion vault and that he will use the miracle machine to change reality according to his will.
B5 escapes with the injured Supergirl and uses his advanced technology to restore her health. The duo regroups with the trainees who escaped the Dark Circle’s clutches, and it is revealed that Triplicate Girl’s other two selves survived. They manage to rescue the other trainees, and Dawnstar sends an SOS signal to the missing Legionnaires. The team launches a retaliation against the Dark Circle as B5 and Supergirl confront Brainiac. However, Brainiac successfully links himself to the machine and starts changing the universe according to his will. B5 manages to foment discord among the integrated Brainiac clones and as they fight for supremacy, the clones tear their host body apart, thereby killing themselves and Brainiac. In her effort to undo the effects of the machine, Kara accidentally enters its alternate reality where she encounters her mother. For a brief moment, Kara contemplates bringing Alura and Krypton back, but B5 convinces her that the priority is to save the universe. Kara wills the miracle machine out of their reality—thereby saving the universe. After a brief scuffle, Mon-El is taken into custody, and the missing Legionnaires return to HQ. Because of their demonstrated bravery, all of the trainees are inducted into the Legion’s ranks. Kara communicates with Superman through a time portal and relates her enthusiasm for her new Legion role and for her new boyfriend, Brainiac 5.
Despite the title, this is actually a Supergirl flick with the LSH as the supporting cast. The plot was loosely based upon the Silver Age LSH tale, “No Escape from the Circle of Death!,” Adventure Comics #367 (April, 1968). Yes, I actually bought and read that comic when it first came out 55-years ago. Writer, Josie Campbell radically messes with LSH lore by presenting veteran members as cadets and Mon-El as a villain. Yes, Arms-Fall-Off Boy actually tried out for the Legion as somewhat of a lark in Secret Origins Vol 2 #46 (December, 1989). The Legion’s founders, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl have cameo roles. Other Legionnaires spotted very briefly include Blok, Comet Queen, Element Lad, Ferro Lad, Gates, Gold Lantern, Karate Kid, Polar Boy, Power Boy, Sensor Girl, and Star Boy. Overall, this is a good, low-budget animation flick with an interesting storyline that holds the viewer’s attention. Although the LSH currently doesn’t have a book, it’s good to see DC carry on the franchise’s 65-year-old legacy.
Welcome to the twenty-first installment of our weekly Reformanda Initiative podcast series! I’m excited to present the ministry of Dr. Leonardo De Chirico and his associates at Reformanda Initiative as they examine Roman Catholic theology in order to inform and equip evangelicals.
Season 1, Episode 21:Summer Special with Tim Challies
Listen as we talk to evangelical pastor, blogger, author, and speaker Tim Challies (challies.com) about Roman Catholicism and his latest book, Epic: An Around-the-World Journey Through Christian History, Zondervan 2020.
I appreciated the Reformanda Initiative guys’ informative discussion with Pastor Tim Challies regarding Roman Catholicism. I’ve read many of Pastor Tim’s articles on various platforms and he’s a solid theologian. While Tim and the RI guys endorse cautious co-belligerency with Roman Catholics in the cause of “culture battles,” I believe that’s a slippery and dangerous slope that should be avoided. We must not yoke together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Great damage has already been done in the past because of undiscerning eagerness to form “culture battles” alliances. During the course of this podcast, Tim refers to an anti-Protestant sculpture in Rome. You can find my post on that sculpture here.
This is the final post in our short, three-part Sunday series dealing with abuse within the IFB. My review below first appeared as a comment at Amazon.com on May 31, 2014 and has been revised.
I Fired God: My Life Inside—and Escape from—the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult By Jocelyn Zichterman St. Martin’s Press, 2013, 304 pp.
In “I Fired God,” author Jocelyn Zichterman recounts the terrible physical, sexual, and psychological abuse she suffered as a young child through adulthood from her father, brothers, and others within the framework of independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches and colleges she was associated with.
Zichterman’s accounts of abuse at the hands of her mentally ill father are sickening. My heart goes out to her. Unfortunately, she has thrown the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. So embittered by her experience, she has turned from the God of the Bible and has embraced the New Age, smiley-face spiritualism of Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, and Oprah Winfrey (p.215). She states that she knows for sure that God, whom she also refers to as “She/Energy/Source/The Divine” (p.278), is not angry and judgmental, but is “good, loving, kind, and compassionate.” Now, I can certainly understand why a victim of abuse within the framework of the IFB might be embittered, but Christianity is bigger than Zichterman. Yes, Jesus Christ is “good, loving, kind, and compassionate,” but He also came to save sinners. The Bible teaches we must repent (turn from our sinful rebellion against God) and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone, while New Age gurus like Chopra proclaim that the idea of sin is “toxic” to our well being. According to neo-Hindu Pantheist, Deepak Chopra, there is no sin, only higher levels of knowledge. Hmm. Of course our fallen nature favors a world where there is supposedly no sin and no judgment. Whether Zichterman and Chopra like it or not, there will be a judgment for all those who have not accepted Christ.
Zichterman disparages IFB members by using quotation marks in referring to “born again” Christians. but it’s clear from God’s Word that becoming a follower of Christ requires a spiritual rebirth (John 3:3), something she evidently did not experience despite her many years of church activity. Granted, it would be amazingly difficult for anyone to comprehend the grace of God while being raised in a home where their “Christian” father, a church leader, was a psychopathic abuser.
There are several inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the book that detract from its credibility. Zichterman portrays Bob Jones University as the Vatican of the IFB. That may have been the case in the particular churches that she was involved with, but it’s a false generalization. The independent fundamental Baptist churches I attended and was aware of had absolutely no connection to BJU. There are other fundamentalist seminaries besides BJU. There may be a loose network among some IFB churches (pastors’ conferences, missionary boards, etc.), but certainly nowhere near the extent that Zichterman suggests. Each independent church has its own unique set of ancillary beliefs, usually based upon the pastor’s predilections, which doesn’t allow for strong confederation. The “First Bible Baptist” megachurch in our area was in a very loose fellowship with KJV-Only curmudgeon, Peter Ruckman, hardly a fan of the Joneses. When Bob Jones Jr. and influential fundamentalist leader and publisher, John R. Rice, had a falling out over the issue of separation, the relationship was never repaired. Despite Zichterman’s best efforts, there simply is no pope or centralized leadership over the IFB. Even using “IFB” as some type of denominational banner is inaccurate. Zichterman swings for the fences, to put it mildly, by citing the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas as a member of the BJU or IFB network (p.272), a glaring overreach that would have been caught and corrected by a more knowledgeable editor.
I was a member of an independent fundamental Baptist church from 1983 until 1991. That church was not quite as hardcore as the ones described in this book, but the pastor was definitely a megalomaniac who used the pulpit to bully his congregation into submission. The man was a martial arts enthusiast who incorporated his ultra-macho viewpoint of the world into the ministry. His son has since taken over the pastoral whip and has drawn the church into an even deeper association with mixed martial arts. Currently, the son is embroiled in a personal sex abuse scandal, which includes allegations that his father covered up sexual abuse of children during his tenure.* I left the church in 1991, soured by the manipulative arrogance of the pastor, and drifted away from the Lord for 23 years. The hardcore, legalistic rhetoric took its toll. It is only within the past year that I have come back to a gracious God and found a caring church home within the Southern Baptist denomination.** However, I certainly would not suggest or insinuate that all independent fundamentalist Baptist churches are like the one I attended or are like the ones the author describes.
Despite its many shortcomings, every Christian should read this book. There is potential for abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, spiritual) in every church, especially where pastoral authoritarianism and lack of oversight is the rule. I’m very sorry Ms. Zichterman, her siblings, and other children and adults were victims of abuse in supposedly Christian settings. Zichterman’s efforts to educate the public and prevent further abuse are necessary and laudable despite some misinformation in this book.
*The son was sentenced to one-year probation in 2018 as part of a plea deal after being arrested and charged with four counts of forcibly touching four young women. In 2021, the 71YO father was sentenced to six years of sex offender probation after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree sexual abuse. He had been initially arrested and charged with sexually abusing two victims under the age of 14 over spans of multiple years.
**My wife and I left this SBC church in 2015 due to the pastor’s infatuation with Roman Catholic theologians.
Postscript: Steve Pettit was appointed president of BJU in 2014 and has been moving BJU away from fundamentalism to a conservative-evangelical position, but the fundamentalists on the school’s board strongly oppose him, including Bob Jones III. However, I see the conservative-evangelical majority on the board recently voted to extend Pettit’s contract for another three years.