In this era of widespread ecumenical accommodation and compromise of the Gospel, it’s extremely rare that you’ll hear a sermon/lecture on Roman Catholicism’s false gospel at an evangelical church. That’s why I was very pleased when I recently stumbled across an excellent 53-minute sermon/lecture audio, “Catholicism & Protestantism: The Differences, Why They Matter, & What’s At Stake” (link below), presented by Elder Charles Hedman at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. on February 17, 2019. There are MANY irreconcilable doctrines dividing Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity, but Hedman focuses on the two most important; 1) authority and 2) salvation.
What Every Catholic Should Know By A.J. Gary WestBow Press, 2015, 136 pp.
In the introduction to “What Every Catholic Should Know,” author A.J. Gary explains that she was raised as a Roman Catholic, but accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior by faith alone through the outreach ministry of a nearby evangelical church. She then witnessed to her family and some also professed to have trusted in Christ, including her mother. However, Gary’s mother was determined to remain in the Roman Catholic church. But how can a reborn child of God remain in a religious institution that unabashedly teaches works-righteousness and many other anti-Biblical doctrines? Gary states that she wrote this self-published book with her mother in mind and therein examines the irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity.
Gary hits upon the main doctrinal differences (see chapter headings below), including the prime doctrine of justification; how a sinner is justified/made righteous in their standing before Holy God. Catholics believe justification is a lifelong process whereby a person must avail themselves of their church’s sacraments in order to receive graces, which are alleged to enable them to become intrinsically, subjectively sanctified/holier in their thoughts and actions in order to hopefully merit salvation at the moment of their death. In contrast, Gospel Christians believe they are justified at the moment they accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and received His imputed perfect righteousness. Christians then follow the Lord in obedience as the fruit/evidence of their spiritual re-birth, albeit imperfectly.
It’s apparent that Ms. Gary does not have any formal theological training. Her arguments are quite basic. However, by comparing official Catholic teaching with Scripture, she more than adequately makes her points and draws her valid conclusions. Gary’s basic approach would actually be an asset for anyone looking for an easy-to-understand primer on the doctrinal differences between the RCC and Gospel Christianity while avoiding heavy theological jargon. One criticism I have is the brevity of her chapter on justification. It’s the shortest chapter in the book at only three pages, whereas the all-important topic deserves the lengthiest exposition. That aside, I do recommend “What Every Catholic Should Know.” Well done, sister A.J.!
You can order “What Every Catholic Should Know” at Amazon here. The price of the Kindle version is very reasonable at $3.99.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 11, 2016 and has been revised.
Catholics often boast that theirs is the UNCHANGING, “one true church,” but even a casual student of church history knows that is not the case. And now we have another example.
In the past, any Catholic who divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment was said to be living in a state of mortal sin and was officially barred from receiving the eucharist Jesus wafer. But in his new “apostolic exhortation,” Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), released last week, pope Francis tacitly suggests via an obscure footnote that it’s now up to the local parish priest to evaluate the circumstances of each remarried divorcee parishioner and decide if they are able to receive the sacraments (see article below). With so many Catholics divorcing these days, Francis was compelled to change the policy in an effort to keep the church viable.
But this ex-Catholic saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a couple of important questions regarding this new policy. First, what about all the divorced Catholics who remarried and died in a state of mortal sin prior to this change? Do they all now receive a “Get Out of Hell, Free” card or is the declaration not retroactive? Also, how could such an important doctrine affecting faith and morals that was upheld by all previous infallible popes now be so conveniently discarded? Catholics would rather not confront such questions.
I’m so grateful to the Lord for leading me out of Catholic legalism, ritualism, and man-made traditions. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to direct you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.
Note from April 2021: I couldn’t have possibly known when I wrote the above post in April 2016, that pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia encyclical would have MAJOR repercussions within the Roman Catholic church. Conservative Catholic prelates, priests, and laity did in fact note the doctrinal incongruity of Francis’ lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees and reacted with zealous indignation. Formal protests were submitted and ignored by the pope. Cautious conservative prelates and priests advised their followers to ignore Francis’ doctrinal novelty while a few went so far as to openly call Francis a heretic. Amoris Laetita was the start and Francis has continued to roil conservatives with his progressive reforms.
I had originally planned to present the following thoughts in a much shorter version as part of a weekend roundup, but the idea developed into a full-blown post.
“For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” – 2 Corinthians 11:4
Most of us are aware that recent investigations into the Ravi Zacharias scandal confirmed not only many “improprieties” at the two day spas that the popular evangelical apologist co-owned in Atlanta, but also that Zacharias preyed upon women in foreign cities, primarily in Asia, as he traveled on behalf of his ministry. Zacharias led a double life and some are legitimately questioning whether he was genuinely born-again.
Many Christians were devoted fans of Ravi and their faith has been shaken by these revelations.* Some are reacting by wisely tossing his books into the garbage can. In the article far below, we learn that publisher, HarperCollins, has decided to pull all sixteen of its books authored by Ravi. In the same article, evangelical apologist, Lee Strobel, indignantly states that he is going to revise future editions of his popular book, The Case for Faith, by excising a chapter devoted to Ravi (Zacharias and Strobel were fellow disciples of influential ecumenical theologian, Norman Geisler). Hmm. Keep that thought in mind.
Careful investigations have revealed that Ravi Zacharias was a sexual predator who systematically preyed upon many women. Disgusting. Reprehensible. But that wasn’t Ravi’s only failure. As long-time readers of this blog know, Ravi was favorable towards ecumenism with Roman Catholicism and regularly cited Catholics as exemplary Christians in his talks. Mentioned by Ravi that I’m personally aware of were Malcolm Muggeridge, Mother Teresa, G.K. Chesterton, St. Francis, and Henri Nouwen. Ravi also participated in the Together 2016 ecumenical “happening” featuring a video address by pope Francis. As bad as Ravi’s sexual abuses were, and they were horrific, also serious and consequential was his embracement of Roman Catholicism with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit as a legitimate Christian institution.
Let’s now get back to apologist, Lee Strobel, and his plan to excise a chapter extolling Ravi from future editions of The Case for Faith. I personally read Strobel’s The Case for Faith in 2014 and I was dumbstruck to see Roman Catholics, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, G. K. Chesterton, and Teresa of Avila lauded as exemplary Christians. Strobel even devoted an entire chapter praising contemporary Catholic philosopher and apologist, Peter Kreeft (see below), who has written MANY books promoting and defending Rome’s false gospel. Speaking of John Paul II, a recent Vatican investigation concluded that the former-pope enabled ex-cardinal and serial-abuser, Ted McCarrick. So when Strobel excises the chapter praising Zacharias from The Case for Faith, is he also going to excise his remarks extolling abuse-enabler, John Paul II, and works-religionists Mother Teresa, G.K. Chesterton, Teresa of Avila, and Peter Kreeft? Methinks not.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Yes, Christians are rightly indignant over Zacharias’ systematic and long-term predatory behavior. Yes, I sincerely sympathize with Ravi’s hundreds of victims and I’m not trying to dismiss them. However, while temporally-minded believers become rightly indignant over sexual abuse, they overlook the even-more damaging and spiritually deadlier effects of accommodation with and embracement of false gospels. Ravi was a soft-ecumenist while Lee Strobel is quite forthright in his dalliance with Rome. Ravi was more discreet in his accommodations of Romanism while Strobel is boldly unapologetic. Many won’t like this question, but I have to ask it: Who did/does more damage in the larger spiritual picture, serial sexual predator, Ravi Zacharias, or hardcore, serial ecumenist and spiritual adulterer, Lee Strobel?
In the 11-minute video below, Todd Friel weighs in on the Ravi Zacharias scandal and points out that there were serious problems with Ravi’s “ministry” that SHOULD HAVE raised questions and objections, including his inoffensive, milquetoast address at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City in 2004, his low-key acceptance of Roman Catholicism as a legitimate Christian entity, and his no-comment approach to the LGBT crusade. Friel’s point is that the proverbial “somebody” should have been raising a stink about Ravi’s ministerial shortcomings and compromises long before these scandals broke. That’s true. So, Todd, why didn’t YOU and other discernment ministry commentators raise a stink about Ravi years ago, and about Lee Strobel, et al, now?
*I experienced a spiritual crisis myself after attending an independent fundamental Baptist church from 1983 to 1991 and realizing that I and the rest of the membership had been spiritually manipulated by the megalomaniacal pastor. I subsequently walked away from the Lord for twenty-three years. I don’t put men on pedestals anymore.
Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us John Armstrong, General Editor Moody Bible Institute, 1994, 345 pp.
In 1994, with American society increasingly heading towards secularization, influential evangelical para-church leader, Chuck Colson, and Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, founded Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), an ecumenical initiative meant to bridge/overlook/minimize theological differences and unite both groups against the perceived common threat. The effort elicited a wide range of responses within evangelicalism. Faithful pastors and theologians countered that the differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity were far too wide and even irreconcilable. Others were increasingly open to Catholic overtures, which began thirty-years earlier at the Second Vatican Council when the RCC radically altered its approach to Protestants, from militant confrontation to conciliatory rapprochement.
This book from Moody Press was published shortly after the release of the first ECT accord. Thirteen evangelical scholars examine the doctrines that continue to divide Catholics and evangelical Protestants. There are a myriad of un-Biblical Catholic doctrines that Gospel Christians could not submit to (e.g., papal authority, sacred tradition, baptismal regeneration, sacerdotalism, transubstantiation, Mariology, purgatory, etc.), but the opposing views on justification stands as the prime difference. Martin Luther famously argued that justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls.
Gospel Christians believe a person is justified/made righteous before God only by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and thereby receiving the imputed (alien, extrinsic, objective, forensic) perfect righteousness of Christ. Catholicism, in contrast, teaches that its sacraments infuse saving graces into an individual’s soul. By then “cooperating with grace” (i.e., obeying the Ten Commandments, performing acts of piety and charity) a person can become increasingly sanctified (personal, intrinsic, subjective) and can hope to “possibly” merit* salvation at the time of their death. Okay, let’s forget the theological terminology. Evangelicals believe they are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Catholics hope to be saved by sacramental grace and obedience to the Ten Commandments (impossible!). The two views are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled.
Several of the writers acknowledge that Roman Catholicism’s doctrine of justification is NOT the Gospel, yet still conclude that the RCC is a Christian institution and that Catholics are “brothers and sisters” in the Lord. This is a dichotomous accommodation that defies rationality and theology. In his article, Alistair McGrath goes to great lengths in an attempt to prove that the contrasting “approaches” to justification are two sides to the same coin. To his credit, McGrath also points out that in contrast to ecumenical “dialogues,” where Catholic representatives readily assent to theoretical “salvation by grace through faith,” Catholicism continues to teach such things as purgatory, indulgences, and masses and prayers for the dead, which reveal the RCC continues as a works-righteousness religious system.
The articles by S. Lewis Johnson, Kim Riddlebarger, Michael Horton, William Webster and John Armstrong are faithful to the Gospel of grace and do not make accommodations to Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. This book is a mixed bag, but valuable for revealing evangelicals’ increasingly accommodating attitudes towards Rome twenty-six years ago. There’s no doubt that ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel has made further inroads since then.
One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church – Thomas J. Nettles
How Did the Church in Rome Become Roman Catholicism – D. Clair Davis
What Really Caused the Great Divide? – W. Robert Godfrey
Roman Catholic Theology Today – Robert B. Strimple
Mary, the Saints, and Sacerdotalism – S. Lewis Johnson
Is Spirituality Enough? Differing Models for Living – Donald G. Bloesch
Unhelpful Antagonism and Unhealthy Courtesy – Harold O.J. Brown
Evangelical and Catholic Cooperation in the Public Arena – Ronald Nash
What Shall We Make of Ecumenism? – Alister E. McGrath
No Place Like Rome? Why Are Evangelicals Joining the Catholic Church? – Kim Riddlebarger
What Still Keeps Us Apart? – Michael S. Horton
Did I Really Leave the Holy Catholic Church? The Journey into Evangelical Faith and Church Experience – William Webster
The Evangelical Movement? – John H. Armstrong
*Back in the 1960s, when I was a young Catholic, the Roman church had no reservations about using the term, “merit,” in association with attaining salvation. Since then, the term has fallen out of favor (partly as a concession to evangelical proselytization) and Catholics will insist that they absolutely are not attempting to merit their salvation. However, the church’s catechism reveals merit is still the bottom line of Catholicism’s salvation system:
“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion (i.e., baptism). Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” – CCC 2010
Below is the complete index to our year-long series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard. My sincere thanks to everyone who supported and encouraged this project. May Catholics prayerfully compare the doctrines of their church with God’s Word and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and come out of the Roman Catholic church.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on March 29, 2016 and has been revised.
Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism By R.C. Sproul Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012, 130 pages
Are Catholics Christians? “Well, that’s an ignorant question right out of the 1950s,” some “open-minded” evangelicals would annoyingly respond. “Of course they’re Christians! They also believe in God, the depravity of man, and Jesus Christ,” they would argue. Especially in our post-modern era of tolerance, inclusiveness, relativism, ecumenism, and doctrinal carelessness and indifference, it’s seen by some as unacceptable, impolite, and overtly sectarian to exclude anyone who names the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, Roman Catholicism also teaches about God, Jesus, sin, “faith,” and “grace,” but upon closer examination we find that the gospel taught by the Roman Catholic church is NOT the same Gospel taught in the New Testament and preached by evangelicals. For faithful Catholics, the gospel equates to participating in their church’s sacraments administered by their priests, followed by “cooperating with (sacramental) grace” by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in the hopes of meriting salvation. All of that is in contrast to the genuine Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. That is not a minor, picayune difference. It’s actually the difference between being saved or not. Now, there’s probably some Roman Catholics who have genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and are trusting in Him by faith alone, but in doing so they are defying their church’s standard theology.
“None of us can say …I am already saved.” – Pope Francis, Saint Peter’s Square, December 6, 2015
In “Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism,” Sproul continues his defense of the Gospel of grace, providing a concise analysis of the major differences between the teachings of Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity. Chapters examine the opposing views on Scripture, justification, the role of the church, sacraments, the papacy, and Mary. In the past, some evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant critiques of Catholicism were unnecessarily belligerent in tone and did not always accurately present official Catholic teaching. Sproul’s tone is charitable throughout (almost to a fault for this ex-Catholic) and he carefully cites Catholic doctrine as it’s officially defined by Rome. Readers won’t find any “straw man” arguments in this book.
If you’re a Catholic who sincerely seeks to understand the differences between your church’s teaching and the Gospel of grace or if you’re an evangelical who suspects today’s popular view, “We all just love Jesus and that overcomes all differences,” may not honor the truths of the Gospel or be helpful to the religious lost, this short book would be an excellent starting point. It’s readily available from Amazon.com. See here.
Postcript: R.C. Sproul went home to the Lord in 2017.
Today, we have the final installment in our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. This week, the Catholic apologist concludes his last section of the book, “Catholic Life and Practice,” with this chapter, in which he attempts to defend the Roman church’s use of religious statues and paintings when the Bible says we should have “No Graven Images.”
Multiple statues and/or paintings of Jesus Christ, Mary, and the saints are present in every Roman Catholic church and many Catholics also have these icons in their homes. Catholics bow down and pray before these images. Yet, as Protestants point out, the Bible strictly forbids the use of graven images in worship:
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” – Exodus 20:4-6
Broussard responds with two arguments:
(1) Broussard argues that “God can’t be condemning religious statues and images because elsewhere he explicitly commands making them” (p. 271). He cites such examples as the angelic cherubim statues placed over the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18-20), the large cherubim statues placed in the holy of holies inner sanctum of the Jerusalem temple built by Solomon (1 Kings 6:23-28), and the crafted bronze serpent used in the healing of Israelites who had been bitten by venomous snakes (Numbers 21:6-9).
(2) Broussard states that what Exodus 20:4-6 expressly forbids is the creation of physical idols for worship. He writes, “Catholics don’t treat statues or the people whom the statues represent as gods. As such the Biblical prohibition of idolatry doesn’t apply” (p. 272).
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
(1) It’s obviously true that God authorized the creation of the angelic statuary for the ark of the covenant and for the holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple and the creation of the bronze serpent recorded in Numbers 21. However, these objects were NOT created for worship. In both cases of the graven cherubim, only the high priest and his assistants were allowed to view them.
(2) Broussard insists that Catholics do not “worship” their graven images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, but, of course, that is precisely what they do. They prostrate themselves before the icons and offer their prayers to them. Catholics insist they are not worshiping the icons, but rather “venerating” the persons that the icons represent. This is Catholic sophistry. Bowing and praying are certainly acts of worship. The pagans of antiquity worshiped their statues of false gods in the same way that Catholics worship statues of Mary and the saints, believing that the graven icons were conduits to deity. Nowhere in the Old or New Testament is there an example of genuine believers prostrating themselves before or praying to an icon in worship.
We’ve already discussed at great length Catholicism’ egregious error of worshiping Mary and the saints in our previous examinations of chapters 30 through 39 so there’s no need to repeat the arguments here. Suffice to say that Catholicism’s claim that it doesn’t worship Mary and the saints is based upon a circular reasoning fallacy, i.e., “We don’t worship Mary and the saints (despite the clear evidence to the contrary) because we say we don’t.”
My deep thanks to everyone who supported this “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist” weekly series, which began all the way back on December 6, 2019. I thank the Lord for leading me out of the spiritually deadly errors of Roman Catholicism to the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Please remember to witness to Catholics and pray for them, that many will accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone and come out of the Roman false church.
Next Friday, I will publish a comprehensive index to the 50 posts included in this series.
Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next-to-last installment, the Catholic apologist continues his section on “Catholic Life and Practice” as he responds to the criticism of (some) Protestants that the Roman Catholic church permits the drinking of alcoholic beverages when the Bible says “Wine Is a Mocker.”
Protestants who believe in complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages cite Proverbs 20:1 among other passages:
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
Broussard responds with three arguments:
(1) Broussard argues that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is not forbidden by the Bible in an absolute sense because the following verses and others seem to allow it: Deuteronomy 14:22-26, Genesis 14:18, Ecclesiastes 10:19, Psalm 104:15, 1 Timothy 5:23. Some evangelicals claim that the Israelites’/Jews’ standard table wine was diluted with so much water that it was nonintoxicating, but if that were the case, Broussard argues, there would not be so many admonitions against drunkenness in the Bible.
(2) Broussard then argues that Jesus was not absolutely opposed to fermented wine in His earthly ministry and presents the following proof texts: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking…,”Luke 7:34, and “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now…,”John 2:1-11. Broussard forgets to include Jesus’s analogy of the wine skins and fermented wine in Mark 2:22.
(3) Broussard offers Isaiah 5:11 to argue that the Bible doesn’t forbid drinking alcoholic beverages, but only warns against overindulgence.
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
I’m one of those evangelicals who believes that the Bible doesn’t teach absolute abstinence when it comes to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but that it warns against overindulgence and drunkenness. I wrote a post on this controversial topic way back in 2016 with supporting references (see here). Suffice to say that each believer must follow his/her own understanding and convictions regarding this matter and also must strive to not be a stumbling block to believers who hold to a different conviction.
Let’s not get sidetracked. The permissibility of consuming alcoholic beverages is a tertiary issue. The primary issue is Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.
Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim By Norman Geisler and Joshua Betancourt Crossway, 2008, 235 pp.
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).
The Roman Claim to Be the True Church
The Historical Development of the Roman Primacy Structure
The Roman Argument for the Primacy of Peter: Stated and Evaluated
The Roman Argument for the Infallibility of Peter: Stated
The Roman Argument for the Infallibility of Peter: Evaluated