Reblog: AfterThought Episode 7 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 2 — Biblical Beginnings

Last week, sister Lauren at Biblical Beginnings posted the second half of our interview regarding outreach to Roman Catholics and the dangers of ecumenism with the Roman church, which can be found via this link:

https://afterthoughtbybiblicalbeginnings.podbean.com/e/afterthought-episode-7-interview-with-tom-from-excatholic4christ-part-2/

Once again, I’m very grateful to Lauren at Biblical Beginnings for graciously presenting me with the opportunity to discuss these extremely important topics. I’ve been blessed by her informative blog postings over the past couple of years and I’m excited about her new podcast ministry and the guests she’s lining up for future podcast interviews. Thank you, sister!

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I’m so excited to share with you the last half of this interview, beloved brethren! Tom goes further into the differences between Christianity and Catholicism, and the unique ways in which the Roman Catholic Church teaches works righteousness. He talks about his own experience and gives invaluable advice on how to evangelize the Catholics in […]

via AfterThought Episode 7 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 2 — Biblical Beginnings

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Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 8/10/19

The recently-released documentary, “The Divine Plan,” and the same-titled, tie-in book, present the successful political alliance of quasi-Protestant, Ronald Reagan, and Karol “pope John Paul II” Wojtyla as a positive example of cooperation for today’s Protestants and Catholics. The film’s director, Roman Catholic, Robert Orlando, co-authored the book with National Catholic Register columnist, Paul Kengor.  Warning: evangelical alliances with Roman Catholics in political and culture battles always, always, always leads to the compromise and betrayal of the Gospel of grace.

Certainly, not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, but ALL do teach their church’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

Jesuit priest, James Martin, continues as progressive Catholicism’s point man in pushing for full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle by the church. No one from the Francis papacy is discouraging him.

Prior to World War II, members of ethnic/religious groups generally congregated in their own urban neighborhood enclaves. Returning vets began the exodus to the suburbs in a trickle that became a flood with the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This weakened the foundations of Catholicism in America, which always relied upon its close-knit ethnic communities for its perpetuation.

The three articles above, recently published in the local Catholic diocesan newspaper, are an attempt by the Rochester Catholic bishop to prepare the laity for the financial and public relations “challenges” ahead after the Child Victims Act opens up a one-year window for abuse survivors to sue the church with no time limitations beginning on Thursday, August 15th. Bankruptcy is a very real possibility. For the past couple of months, Rochester’s television stations have been carrying advertisements from law firms seeking to represent survivors of priest abuse. On the one hand, bishop Matano profusely apologizes for the abuse and cover-up by diocesan personnel, but the last of the three articles disparages the law firms and their advertisements. I have no illusions about the lawyers’ motives, but I’m grateful that these advertisements have blanketed the area and confronted credulous and increasingly disaffected Catholics. May many turn to Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Over the last four years, I’ve submitted articles about the persecution of Protestants in solidly Catholic Mexico. Here’s an article about a recent wave of violence. There was no religious freedom in Catholic-dominated countries well into the 20th-century, a situation sanctioned by the Vatican. That militantly anti-Protestant attitude can still be found in many regions of Latin America.

This coming December, the progressive German Catholic church will be embarking on an unprecedented “synodal journey” as the floundering church, which is leaking members like a sieve at an even faster rate than the American church, seeks to stanch the exodus. Pope Francis has already warned the German prelates not to get carried away, but, at the same time, he’s also very sympathetic to their doctrine-bending progressivism.

Back when my wife and I did the grocery shopping together several decades ago, I used to pick up a copy of “The Sporting News” upon entering the store to amuse myself for the following 90 minutes. Now, I just stay home whenever my wife goes shopping.

History in my own backyard

Sometimes we get so wound up in our daily routines, that we overlook or don’t appreciate some of the amazing things around us. We’ve all heard of the scenario of tourists coming from hundreds of miles away to check out something the locals have never bothered with. Our humble home is located about 1.5 miles north of the Erie Canal where it runs through the Village of Pittsford, New York. The canal was originally built in the early-19th century, mainly for commerce, but it’s now used exclusively as a resource for recreational boaters as well as walkers, runners, and bicyclists.

The Erie Canal played a huge part in the early development of the Rochester region and New York State in general. There were discussions of a canal linking the port of New York City with the expanding western frontier as far back as the 1790s, but it was Governor DeWitt Clinton who finally made the dream a reality. Plans were drawn up to link the Hudson River with Lake Erie over a 360 mile stretch that included several very daunting engineering challenges. Construction began in 1817 and was completed in 1825. Rochester was a small, frontier village when it was first incorporated in 1817, but the Erie Canal transformed it into the nation’s very first “boom town.” The Upper Falls of the Genesee River provided an ideal location for water-powered grist mills and newly-settled farmers throughout the region hauled their grain to the mills where it was processed into flour and transported via canal to New York City. The river would later be harnessed as a power source, enabling Rochester to outpace other nearby communities and become a burgeoning manufacturing center. The village of Pittsford, located nine miles southeast of Rochester, and originally settled in 1796, was also situated along the path of the Erie Canal, but it largely remained a sleepy, agricultural hamlet compared to its industrious neighbor to the west.

Rochester was once known as the center of the “Burned Over District” as numerous itinerant ministers traveled from town to town along the canal, preaching the Gospel and planting churches. Charles G. Finney,* a Wesleyan Arminian and Pelagian who popularized the “anxious bench” (precursor to today’s altar call), gained his notoriety with his well-attended Rochester revivals in 1830-31. The religious fervor in the area was part of what American historians refer to as the Second Great Awakening (1790-1840).

Railroads began to compete with the canal for commerce in the 1830s, but the Erie Canal, with its lower costs and ongoing expansions, remained competitive until after the Civil War. The canal underwent a major reconstruction and enlargement in 1918 in order to accommodate large barges and the new route entirely bypassed the old canal pathway that ran directly through Rochester. In 1927, innovative city leaders authorized the construction of a trolley line in the bed of the former canal path. The old canal aqueduct over the Genesee River and the 1.5-mile-long canal bed that ran through the city center were roofed-over by Broad Street and the trolley line became known as the Rochester Subway, which was utilized until 1956. Interstates 590 and 490 now traverse the former canal and trolley path from Monroe Avenue in Brighton (near Tom Wahl’s restaurant) to the east bank of the Genesee River. Careful observers can still spot vestiges of the old canal and subway system as they drive along the 490 interstate through the east side of the city.

The enlarged Erie Canal runs through Pittsford Village along the same route as the original 1825 canal. It’s such a nice resource. My wife and I have taken many walks along the peaceful canal over the years. There are several shops, restaurants, and small parks along the canal at Schoen Place. One would think there would be even more “gentle” development and public accessibility along such a great resource, but short-sighted planning is a consistent characteristic among civic leaders in Rochester and Monroe County. The vast majority of property that abuts the canal is privately owned.

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The Phoenix Hotel (c. 1820) in Pittsford was originally built as a stagecoach inn, but subsequently also served those traveling on the nearby Erie Canal. Anti-Mason activist, William Morgan, was fed a meal here before he was spirited away and murdered. The Marquis de Lafayette spent the night as a hotel guest.
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Old Lock 62, abandoned after the Erie Canal was rerouted in 1918, sits silently behind the Pittsford Plaza shopping center.
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A portion of old Lock 65 along Interstate 490 attests to the route having once been the path of the Erie Canal through the city of Rochester.
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The Genesee Aqueduct once carried the Erie Canal and, later, the trolley cars of the Rochester Subway over the Genesee River in Downtown Rochester. The “roof” over the 1.5-mile underground portion of the subway system became Broad Street.
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The “Sam Patch,” a tour boat designed to resemble an old canal packet boat, navigates the Erie Canal at night at the Port of Pittsford.

*For more on revivalist, Charles G. Finney, see “The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney” here.

Throwback Thursday: Does Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio wear a “cilice”?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a slightly re-edited post that was first published back on September 23rd, 2015.

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During the Middle Ages, the idea that extreme forms of asceticism aka self-mortification led to higher levels of sanctity and holiness grew in popularity within Roman Catholicism. In monasteries and convents throughout Europe, monks and nuns attempted to quell the desires of the flesh and offer penance for their sins through self-inflicted pain and suffering. Practitioners slept on cold stone floors, wore hair shirts, heavy chains, coarse ropes, or cilices,* a metal-wire device secured around the thigh that inflicts pain with inward-pointing spikes (see photo above). Self-scourging (flagellation) also became quite popular. Some famous “saints” went to an early grave as a result of voluntary starvation such as Catherine of Siena.

Some would argue these extreme forms of asceticism were confined to a less-enlightened, bygone era, but forms of self-mortification are still practiced right up into the present day by traditionalist-minded Catholic clergy and laity. Reports surfaced in 2010 that “saint” Karol “pope John Paul II” Wojtyla (d. 2005), had whipped himself daily with a belt. Defending Wojtyla’s self-scourging, cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins remarked, “It does seem like something from another age, but it is not. It is an instrument of perfection, not just in religious life, but in human life. It is not acting against oneself, but striving to perfect oneself.” Another modern Catholic, “saint” Anjeze “mother Teresa” Bojaxhiu wore a cilice strapped to her thigh every day. I’ve read that wearing the cilice is so painful that the wearers often restrict the time they endure it to a limited number of hours.

I wonder if the current pope, Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio also inflicts pain upon himself as part of a “spiritual” discipline?

Yes, accepting Jesus as Savior and following Him as Lord may mean physical persecution. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  The Bible does talk about self-denial and fasting, but nowhere does the Scripture teach Christians should intentionally inflict pain upon themselves. In contrast, the Bible identifies such practices with pagan idolatry:

“At noon Elijah began to taunt (the worshipers of Baal). “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.” – 1 Kings 18:27-28

Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit and mistakenly believe that by inflicting pain and suffering upon themselves they can effect spiritual perfection leading to their salvation.

I am so grateful the Lord freed me from the chains of Roman Catholicism and saved me by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

*The word, “cilice,” is derived from Latin cilicium, “a covering,” and originally referred to heavy shirts made from the coarse hair of goats of the Cilice region located in present-day Turkey, but eventually came to also reference the spiked garters worn by self-mortifiers.

Reblog: AfterThought Episode 6 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 1 — Biblical Beginnings

I’ve had the blessing of dialoguing with sister Lauren at Biblical Beginnings for quite a long time. Her postings and friendship have been a true blessing in my life.

Lauren has started a podcast in conjunction with her blog and she recently offered me the opportunity to speak about evangelical outreach to Roman Catholics and the dangers of ecumenism with Rome. She posted part one of our interview this past Monday and part two will follow tomorrow. The link to part one of the interview is below:

https://afterthoughtbybiblicalbeginnings.podbean.com/e/afterthought-episode-6-interview-with-tom-from-excatholic4christ-discussing-ecumenism-part-1/

I’m very grateful to Lauren for giving me the opportunity to speak on these topics that are so important and very dear to my heart. I encourage everyone to check out Lauren’s blog, Biblical Beginnings, and her podcasts. She already has six episodes completed. Lauren does an excellent job using this new podcast technology and she was an excellent interviewer.

Thank you, Lauren, for all that you do in serving the Lord!

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Today, dear ones, I dropped episode 6 of Afterthought! I’m so excited to have had the opportunity to interview Tom from ExCatholic4Christ. In this first part of this two part interview Tom shares his testimony, and explains the difference between Roman Catholicism and Christianity. He also details how ecumenism began, and progressed, in the mid […]

via AfterThought Episode 6 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 1 — Biblical Beginnings

Damage Control

Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis
By Robert Barron
Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, July 22, 2019, Kindle edition

1 Star

The American Catholic church had already experienced substantial setbacks prior to 2018. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) had introduced liberalizing initiatives that either thrilled or demoralized the membership, depending upon which end of the ecclesiastical spectrum they identified with. Advancing secularism and the relentless news reports of clerical sex abuse and cover-up then chipped away at the “faith” of millions of Catholics who remained. But in 2018, the flood of reports of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up turned into a tsunami, with accusations aimed at some of the church’s most powerful prelates. The irony was not lost on the average Catholic in the pew who ruminated, “Sunday after Sunday, the priests admonish me to attain personal holiness so that I ‘might’ merit salvation, yet they themselves commit abominable sins, and the bishops and cardinals have either enabled them or acted as predators themselves.”

The Roman Catholic church is a slow moving freight train, but some steps are being taken in an attempt to counter the damage from the 2018 scandal tsunami, including the widespread distribution of this new, inexpensive booklet from Catholic media darling, bishop Robert Barron.

Let’s take a look:

Chapter One – The Devil’s Masterpiece

In this introductory chapter, Baron outlines some of the details of the 2018 scandal tsunami and posits that the entire clerical sexual abuse and cover-up situation was a plot orchestrated by Satan himself to undermine the Roman church. I would reply that the RCC is a faux (c)hristian institution and that this scandal is one of the unmistakable fruits of its corruption.

Chapter Two – Light from Scripture

Baron cites passages of the Bible, especially the story of Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phineas in 1 Samuel, as Scriptural antecedents for scandalous clerical abuse and hierarchical enablement among God’s people. The difference is that the RCC does not have a mandate from God as Eli did.

Chapter Three – We Have Been Here Before

Baron then cites events from church history to show that church leaders and even several popes were involved in corruption in the past. It’s quite interesting that Catholic spokespersons like Barron now readily refer to dark and embarrassing episodes in Roman church history in order to mollify the sting of the current scandal. Such honesty and objectivity was not so forthcoming in the past.

Chapter Four – Why Should We Stay?

Barron holds up the Roman church, despite “shortcomings” by individual clergymen, as still the best way to salvation via its sacramental system.

Chapter Five and Conclusion – The Way Forward

Barron calls for increased tightening of clerical oversight and more participation by laypersons. He lays the ultimate blame for priests’ and bishops’ failings on the overall culture of the Catholic church: “The bottom line is this: if we want holier priests, we all have to become holier ourselves” (location 635). He challenges disaffected Catholics to recommit themselves to their church rather than bail: “This is not the time to leave; it is the time to stay and fight” (loc. 684). Fight for what? The impossible task of meriting their salvation?

My closing comments:

As would be expected, celibate bishop Barron dismisses the Roman church’s mandatory celibacy rule as a factor in the clergy sexual abuse phenomenon (loc. 626). Some Catholics who have studied the abuse problem in detail, like sociologist, Richard Sipe, have concluded otherwise. Between apologies, Barron is not above slipping in the oft-used canard that “the percentage of abusers among priests is roughly equivalent to the national average” (loc. 610). However, some researchers like Sipe have estimated the percentage of sexual abusers among priests to be nearer to twice the national average.

How effective will “Letter to a Suffering Church” and other efforts by the American Catholic bishops be in stemming the exodus of laypersons out the doors of local parishes? The negative impact of the clergy abuse and cover-up scandal continues with every new headline and revelation. There’s simply no putting the horse back in the barn. Here’s my bottom line, bishop Barron: The scandal is a refutation of the Roman church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. If the priests and prelates, with their alleged spiritual prerogatives that were divinely-bestowed upon ordination, are unable to lead holy lives worthy of meriting Heaven, as these scandals so boldly reveal, what chance have the laity? The Catholic church misleads souls by teaching works salvation. If a particular Catholic parish church never had an abusive priest problem, we could still say with absolute confidence that the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone was NEVER preached from its pulpit.

Alistair Begg – The Kingdom of God vs. the kingdoms of this world

After my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983, we began attending at our first Gospel-preaching church and remained there for eight years. The church had a lot of good points, but also some regrettable ones. The church patterned itself after Jerry Falwell’s brand of fundamentalism and mimicked Falwell’s penchant for mixing Christianity with politics and nationalism from the pulpit. This and several other factors grated on us until we finally had to leave.

The universal church of all believers (and also faux institutional (c)hristianity) has been trying to define its proper relationship with the state for close to two millennia and has largely erred on the side of close collaboration. Roman Catholicism set the trend by adopting the Roman imperial model, the Reformers continued it to a degree, and the Puritans imported it to the New World with America being cast in the role of the New Israel.

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Falwell and friends enlisted evangelical churches in the culture battles against advancing secularism and the war continues. The fallout? The church put the Gospel on the back burner and forged coalitions with political conservatives of various non-Christian traditions. More fallout? Growing ecumenism at the expense of the Gospel.

I’ve heard and read many presentations on the proper relationship between the church and the state, but the 25-minute sermon below, from evangelical pastor, Alistair Begg, might be the finest I’ve ever heard on the topic.

The Kingdom of God
Broadcast 7/24/19

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-kingdom-of-god/id91473880?i=1000445195961

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 8/3/19

Catholic apologists have always had a problem explaining away the horrific church-sanctioned inquisitions of the Middle Ages. In this article, apologist Dave Armstrong attempts to soft-pedal the inquisitions as simply a product of less-enlightened times. Yet, if popes and Catholic prelates were divinely-led in important matters of faith and morals, as Catholicism claims, they would not have sanctioned the murderous inquisitions. Can anyone imagine Jesus Christ or even the apostle, Paul, approving of the bloody inquisitions? See the index to my rebuttals of Armstrong’s book, “The Catholic Verses,” here.

Last January, New York State passed a new law that enables victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue the perpetrators and/or their enablers without any time limitations for a period of one year beginning on August 14th. The lawyers of over 100 former victims have already filed intent to sue the Catholic diocese of Rochester alone. Certainly, dioceses across the state have already explored the option of filing for bankruptcy in order to limit their financial “exposure.” The litigation will result in a continuous cavalcade of negative press for the church in the months and years ahead. In addition to the physical abuse, the celibate Catholic clergy spiritually abused trusting souls with their false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

Catholic high school student, Nick Sandmann’s defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post for its coverage of the controversial “confrontation” between Sandmann and Native American activist, Nathan Phillips, on January 18th, has been dismissed, but a couple of other lawsuits are still pending. If you remember, the press made assumptions about the event that were not accurate. Political roils dominate the headlines, but, from our perspective, both Sandmann and Phillips need Jesus Christ.

Cardinal Raymond Burke continues to drum up conservative Catholic opposition to pope Francis and his progressive “reforms.” However, neither the conservative or liberal wings of the Catholic church proclaim the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

It’s ironic to hear Francis pontificating on morality in light of the current priest sexual abuse and cover-up scandal tsunami. A Catholic archbishop and former Vatican ambassador to Washington, D.C., Carlo Viganò, has even accused Francis of covering up for predatory cardinal, Ted McCarrick. Catholicism’s mandatory clerical celibacy rule has always been a charade. David Deming notes in his “Science and Technology in World History, Vol. 3” that, in the 16th-century, there were more prostitutes per capita in the city of Rome than any other city on earth due to the patronage of Catholicism’s celibate clerics (p.64).

This is a long, but very interesting article. Suffice to say that many Americans, and even many of those claiming to be “evangelical,” don’t know the Bible or comparative theology.

Freedom Village U.S.A, a local Christian ministry for troubled teens located near the shores of Seneca Lake, has long been a focal point for controversy. How much of the controversy can be blamed on fraud and how much can be blamed on financial ineptness depends on who you ask. This reminds me of how important it is that we believers, with God’s grace, maintain a good witness before the observing world.

This satire that has more than an ounce of truth in it as numbers-driven, seeker-friendly churches strive to ape popular culture.

Legion mercenaries? 💲💲💲

Yes, my blogger friends, it’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Heroes for Hire!”
Adventure Comics #377, February, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

3 Stars

Plot

The story begins with the Science Police chasing a fugitive criminal to the planet, Modo. Legend has it that the entire planet is controlled by a powerful, evil entity, Modulus, and the incredulous officers quickly become believers when they are subdued.

Back in Metropolis, a contingent of Legionnaires –  Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – breaks up an attempted robbery of experimental mind gas from a research center. One of the criminals is captured and divulges that numerous criminal gangs utilize Modo as a base of operations because of Modulus’ protection.

Emboldened by their evil lord’s patronage, the criminal gangs of Modo wreak havoc throughout the galaxy with impunity. Meanwhile, in a shocking twist, the Legion begins to uncharacteristically extort money for their services. In a short period of time, the Legion amasses a fortune made up of various planetary currencies, storing it aboard one of its space cruisers. The teen heroes begin spending the money like drunken sailors at port, catching the attention of one of the Modo gangs.

Shortly afterwards, the gang attacks the Legion cruiser and tows it to Modo. However, Chemical King uses his powers to surreptitiously release the living crystalline currency from the planet Rojun that’s in stow. The metal-eating creatures, in turn, consume the protective casing of several other strange and volatile currencies. A chain reaction ensues, resulting in a paralysis ray that overpowers every criminal on the planet, including overlord, Modulus.

As the Science Police round up the dazed criminals, the Legionnaires celebrate the success of Brainiac 5’s improbable booby trap and resolve to return all of the money they had collected as part of the ruse.

Comments

Ach. What started out as a decent plot-line fell apart with the ham-fisted ending. Only three more Silver Age LSH issues left to review! Will writer, Jim Shooter, give us at least one more five-star tale?

Noteworthy: The full-page illustration on page 5 (see below) showing the effects of experimental mind gas on Brainiac 5 is a good example of late-60’s psychedelia art.

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Throwback Thursday: Did you ever wonder how early-Christianity devolved into Roman Catholic imperialism?

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re revisiting a re-edited post that was originally published back on August 9th, 2015.

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Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity
By James J. O’Donnell
Ecco/Harper Collins, 2015, 293 pp.

5 Stars

This book, by respected classicist historian, James J. O’Donnell, is an extremely interesting and informative examination of that period of the Roman Empire when the traditional pagan religion was gradually replaced by Christianity.

What Christians would refer to as Roman paganism was belief system in a large pantheon of gods, each of whom supposedly had jurisdiction over a particular realm, occupation, or activity (like the Catholic “saints” who followed). Prayers and sacrifices were offered to the capricious and unpredictable gods in temples throughout the empire in hopes of attaining success in business, warfare, and personal circumstances. People were apt to adopt the god/s favored by a particularly successful person in the hopes of replicating their good fortune. Paganism was an impersonal, pragmatic religion largely based on ritual and tradition. Zealots and “true believers” were few.

As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, its adherents encountered persecution due to its peculiar monotheistic and exclusivist claims. Christians had also refused to worship the emperor, which resulted in severe persecution. However, Christianity grew despite the opposition (or because of it), and was eventually legalized by Emperor Constantine in 313 AD and proclaimed the official religion of the empire by Theodosius in 380 AD. Between 389 and 391, the emperor issued the “Theodosian decrees,” which proscribed extremely harsh penalties for all remaining pagan practitioners.

As an extremely important pillar in the empire’s structure, the church became increasingly institutionalized, taking on the imperial trappings of its patron and focusing on the accumulation of wealth and power. Personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, as taught in the New Testament, devolved into sacramental ritual, complex liturgy, exacting legalism, and evolving “traditions,” all tightly controlled by the ascending clergy-class.

O’Donnell does an excellent job of presenting the tensions between the dying, old religion and the new. However, he also addresses the many accommodations made by the new state church to the old religion once it gained the advantage. As pagan “converts” streamed into the church for reasons of social, political, and financial expediency, the church made concessions and absorbed (aka “Christianized”) many of the beliefs and practices of the preceding religion. I’ve already referred to the replacement of patron gods with patron “saints” (see here), but another illustrative example of this syncretism was the appropriation of the title of the pagan religion’s high priest, “Pontifex Maximus” (Latin: greatest priest), by the Roman bishop. 

O’Donnell isn’t a believer, but he has provided an excellent introduction into the nuts and bolts of how the Christian church initially began its degeneration from the preaching of the Gospel and simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ into an iron-fisted, worldly institution focused on wealth, power, and absolute control, shielded by a veneer of ostentatious piety. Excellent. Highly recommended.

Postscript: I praise God for raising up the 16th-century Reformers to reclaim the Gospel of grace, however I believe there was always a remnant of genuine believers, even within the authoritarian Catholic institution, who were trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone.