Evangelicals Adrift: Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism
By Matthew E. Ferris
Great Printing Publishing, 2015, 248 pages
There are a number of unsaved individuals who are involved in evangelical church culture in some capacity, who take stock of the comparative religious landscape and feel a mounting sense of personal intellectual crisis regarding some if not all of the following issues:
- Certainty – God’s Word is the final and ultimate authority in evangelical churches, but with the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible increasingly under attack from liberals, some of these souls are drawn to the authority of Roman Catholicism, where the Bible is subservient to the church’s supposedly unwavering and infallible teaching magisterium and its traditions.
- History – Mega-church, seeker-focused evangelicalism with its CCM rock music and light shows appears completely rootless in comparison to Catholicism’s ancient rituals and traditions and claims of direct lineage to the apostles and apostolic teaching. Famous convert to Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman, boasted, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”
- Unity – Evangelicalism appears as an unorganized and dysfunctional hodgepodge in contrast to Rome’s grandiose hierarchy and McLiturgy standardization.
- Interpretation – Within evangelicalism, it appears every individual has an opinion when it comes to Scripture, while Catholicism mandates standard doctrine and dogma through the pope and his bishops.
Some unsaved souls within evangelical church culture reach an intellectual crisis point because of these perceived deficiencies and leave for Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. In the last twenty years, a small number of high-profile “evangelical” academics converted to Catholicism, creating quite a buzz.
In “Evangelicals Adrift: Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism,” Matthew Ferris examines whether these apparent advantages some ascribe to Catholicism are accurate.
If the apostle, Paul, were somehow able to witness a contemporary Roman Catholic mass, he would not be familiar with the vast majority of associated rituals, religious props, and doctrines. When Christianity became legalized and was afterwards adopted as the official religious arm of the Roman Empire, sacramentalism, legalism, and ritualism eventually replaced simple saving faith in Christ. The institutional church became the arbiter of salvation rather than the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God’s Word. Sacraments and merit rather than saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior became the standard way to Heaven.
There are some within evangelicalism who are envious of Rome’s pompous, worldly “advantages,” but, as Ferris points out, this is an incorrect viewpoint. He addresses the previous concerns as follows:
- Certainty – God’s Word is our only unassailable authority, while Rome, untethered from Scripture, has created one un-Biblical (and often anti-Biblical) tradition after another. Yes, folks, popes have contradicted previous popes.
- History – Most of Roman Catholicism’s history documents an unflattering quest for temporal wealth and power. Catholic apologists appeal to the writings of the church fathers as evidence of their church’s direct connection to apostolic authority, but the patristic writers often contradicted Scripture and each other as well as modern Catholic theology.
- Unity – Catholic belief in actuality runs the gamut from liberal higher criticism and Marxist liberation theology to Tridentine ultra-traditionalism. Born-again followers of Jesus Christ may differ on doctrinal secondaries, but we are united in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The many denominations within Protestantism are the result of the continual reform of the church and guard against wholesale apostasy exemplified by Roman Catholicism.
- Interpretation – God’s Word says we are to personally study Scripture to show ourselves approved and not to cede that responsibility to another person or an organization. Roman Catholics are not exposed to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone because they accept the teachings of men rather than digging into to God’s Word themselves.
One need only examine the current heterodoxy of pope Francis to see how Rome’s claims of authority, doctrinal continuity, unity, and reliable interpretation are without merit. Catholicism’s worldly facade that appeals to the spiritually unwary actually veils a sepulcher full of dead men’s bones. Evangelicals, you needn’t be intimidated by Catholicism’s claims to institutional antiquity.
Could a genuine, blood-bought, born-again believer, saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, willingly enter into a religious system which teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit along with a plethora of other beliefs that seriously contradict Scripture? Impossible. Does not compute.
For everyone – saved and unsaved – who look at Catholicism and see comparative advantages, this book is an absolute must-read! I can’t recommend “Evangelicals Adrift” highly enough. In my studies of Catholicism, I perceive a dire need for resources that examine how the early church devolved from preaching the Gospel of grace to institutionalized sacramentalism and I’m so grateful that I stumbled upon this book. It deserves a much wider audience. Order from Amazon here.
“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28
Postscript: A chapter outline of this book is provided in the comments section.