The Twilight Zone: The hazy divide between reality and the supernatural?

Stories from the Twilight Zone
By Rod Serling
Bantam Pathfinder, 1970 (22nd printing), 151 pp.

3 Stars

The Twilight Zone was a successful television series, which ran five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. Rod Serling (many mistakenly thought his name was “Sterling”) served as executive producer and head writer. The stories always involved some type of bizarre supernatural circumstance that put the characters in a tense quandary. I remember watching the show as a young child and being creeped out and fascinated at the same time. Sixty-years later, Twilight Zone reruns still play on cable television and via streaming.

I bought and read this book as a thirteen-year-old and recently purchased a slightly dog-eared used copy from an Amazon third-party used bookseller as a lark. It presents five Twilight Zone episodes from the early years of the show in short-story format:

  • The Mighty Casey – A robot pitcher turns the cellar-dwelling Brooklyn Dodgers into a contender.
  • Escape Clause – Hypochondriac, Walter Bedeker, makes a deal with the devil to gain near-immortality, but immediately regrets it.
  • Walking Distance – A stressed-out, Madison Avenue advertising executive travels back in time to his idyllic childhood hometown, but gradually realizes you can’t go home again.
  • The Fever – A male version of the “uptight church lady” catches gambling fever in Las Vegas and becomes completely unhinged.
  • Where Is Everybody? – An Air Force sergeant is part of an isolation experiment and nearly loses his mind, or were his “imagined” experiences real?
  • The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street – Neighbors suspect an alien invasion and gradually succumb to paranoia, turning against each other.

Science fiction was at its peak in the early-1960s. People were trying to make sense of life in a culture where technology was rapidly advancing. It was all part of an empty search for “spiritual meaning” outside of God’s Word and Jesus Christ. People are still fascinated with the “paranormal” and “supernatural,” but scoff at true spirituality in Christ. The search for genuine spirituality begins with trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The closer a Christian walks with the Lord, the more the spiritual/eternal overtakes the natural/temporal.

The Twilight Zone joins my small collection of books that sat on my bookshelf when I was a kid in 1970: CIA – The Inside Story, Bump and Run (San Diego Chargers football), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (fiction), Arundel and Rabble in Arms (both Am Rev historical fiction), Uncle Tom’s Cabin (my grandfather’s copy), First NFL-AFL Illustrated Digest, We Came of Age (AFL football), and The Other League (AFL football).

When Some in the Church Came Down on the Wrong Side of History…and the Gospel

Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930
By Kelly J. Baker
University Press of Kansas, 2011, 326 pp.

4 Stars

When most people think of the Ku Klux Klan, they think of the original, Reconstruction-era (1865-1871) Klan and its unabashed aim to stymie the advancement of Blacks in the postbellum South via intimidation and violence. The reconstituted KKK was founded on Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1915. While Blacks were still a concern to the re-born KKK, the heavy influx of “ethnically-inferior” Catholics and Jews from Eastern and Alpine Europe was also perceived as a serious threat to White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant-American society. The 1920s Klan would largely use political means to oppose their perceived foes rather than violence.

In this book, Professor Baker examines the philosophy of the 1920s Klan through articles from its own publications. She focuses especially on the KKK’s image of itself as the defenders of the Protestant “gospel” against the onslaught of immigrant Catholic papists loyal to the Vatican and against the cosmopolitan Jew with their Christ-denying religion. But Baker unsurprisingly does not define the gospel other than a nebulous belief in Jesus Christ. According to her understanding, the Protestant and Catholic gospels were/are similar excepting Catholics’ fealty to the pope. She transfers her misunderstanding of the opposing gospels to the Klan, claiming they had no problems with Catholic doctrine except for loyalty to the papacy. That clearly was NOT the case. Some/many in the Klan were genuine Christians and were well aware of the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone in contrast to Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

While many Protestants of the era objected to the Klan’s postbellum legacy of violence, they strongly sympathized with the new Klan and its anti-immigrant message. Many White Protestants of the era shared the Klan’s belief in Anglo-Saxon ethnic/racial superiority and were anxious regarding the future of their daughters in a nation that was becoming a “melting pot,” with the increasing threat of “miscegenation,” the interbreeding of people of different racial (and ethnic) types.

The KKK was surprisingly popular in 1920s America and attracted a large number of members and sympathizers in the mid-Atlantic and mid-Western states in addition to the South (see chart). Many conservative-evangelical churches of the 1920s came down on the wrong side of history regarding the resurgent 1920s Ku Klux Klan. The chaplain of each chapter usually doubled as the pastor of a local, Protestant church. When did the appeal of the Klan start to wane? The scandalous news of the rape and murder of a young, single woman by David Curtiss “Steve” Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan, in 1925 precipitated the public’s loss of confidence in the organization.

Like many historians, Baker scoffs at 1920s-era Protestants’ suspicions of American Catholics’ dual loyalties, but makes no mention of papal condemnations of democratic forms of government and freedom of religion as late as pope Leo XIII’s Testem benevolentiae nostrae encyclical, written in 1890, which condemned “Americanism.” Baker feigns a lack of scholarly expertise regarding current events, but then proceeds to draw many comparisons between the Christian nationalism of the 1920s Klan and the Christian nationalism of the Tea Party (and by extension, Trump’s MAGA-ism). There certainly are parallels, but equating the Tea Party/MAGA-ism to the Klan is as slanderously inaccurate as saying all Democrats are Marxists.

Personal note: After I was saved out of Roman Catholicism and trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983, I began collecting reference materials about the Catholic church. One of the books I purchased was “House of Death and Gate of Hell” (originally published in 1918) about the horrors of Catholic convents written by evangelist and ex-Catholic, L.J. King. To my surprise, included in the text were several positive references to the Ku Klux Klan. I was also surprised when I learned the Klan wasn’t restricted to the South as I had previously thought. In my studies of Rochester history, I learned that the local chapter of the KKK burnt crosses near the newly-constructed Monroe Community Hospital in the early 1930s because the edifice was partially designed by the area’s first Black architect, Thomas W. Boyde Jr. Boyde would later design my wife’s maternal grandparents’ cottage at Henderson Harbor on Lake Ontario in 1954. The Rochester Klan held its rallies at a large field in East Rochester. The field, only a half-mile from our home, is now part of the East Rochester Public School Campus.


Negro and White: Desegregation – Right or Wrong? How Much? How Soon? Principles and Problems in the Light of God’s Word
By John R. Rice, D.D., Litt. D.
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1956, 22 pp.

1 Star

What a coincidence that this pamphlet was next in line in my reading queue following “Gospel According to the Klan.” As the publisher of The Sword of the Lord newspaper from 1934 to 1980, John R. Rice was one of the main leaders of the independent fundamental Baptist movement in this country. In this pamphlet published in 1956, Rice upbraids the Federal government for mandating the desegregation of public schools in the South. Rice concedes that the Jim Crow laws were problematic, but argues that it was up to each state to work out its own racial policies. He argues that Black folks were not yet ready to assume the rights and responsibilities that communist and socialist “agitators” were demanding. Rice also expresses his anxieties regarding the threat to the purity of White womanhood and the racial miscegenation that would inevitably follow radical desegregation, especially given what he posits as the voracious and unbridled sexual appetite of the Black man. Rice’s preacher father was a member of the violent, Reconstructionist-era KKK, a fact you won’t find in his authorized biography. The Sword of the Lord still publishes many of Rice’s pamphlets, but not this one. It’s an embarrassment. John R. Rice and the independent fundamental Baptist movement came down on the wrong side of history…and the Gospel…in regards to race and segregation. Rice asserts in the title of this pamphlet that his pro-segregationist views would be presented “in the Light of God’s Word,” but he actually presents no Scripture passages to support his racist views. This pamphlet is a good example of what happens when Christians become subservient to the surrounding culture rather than being obedient to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Postscript: Note the lofty (honorary) academic credentials appended to Rice’s name, a very common practice of pastors in the IFB. Rice’s honorary academic credentials weren’t much help in the writing of this racist diatribe.

New books about Roman Catholicism by Gregg Allison

I was perusing through Amazon the other day and stumbled across an upcoming book about Roman Catholicism. “40 Questions About Roman Catholicism” by evangelical theologian, Gregg Allison, is due to be published by Kregal Academic Publishing on September 28, 2021 as an offering in their “40 Questions” series. Allison has already given us the scholarly “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” (see my review here), one of the best (although challenging to read) examinations of Catholic theology.

The summary blurb posted at Amazon for this new book is below:

Straightforward answers about Roman Catholicism for a Protestant audience.

The Roman Catholic faith is one of the world’s most widespread religious traditions, yet the unique aspects of Roman Catholicism elicit perennial questions from adherents and outsiders alike. Such questions tend to fall into three major categories: historical backgrounds, theological matters, and personal relationships. Using Catholic Church documents and the writings of Catholic scholars, Baptist systematic theologian Gregg Allison distills the teachings of Catholicism around forty common questions about Catholic foundations, beliefs, and practices. The accessible question-and-answer format guides readers to the issues that concern them, including:

  • Where do Roman Catholic and Protestant beliefs differ?
  • What happens during a Roman Catholic Mass?
  • How does Roman Catholicism understand the biblical teaching about Mary?
  • Who are the saints and what is their role?
  • How can my Roman Catholic loved ones and I talk about the gospel?

40 Questions About Roman Catholicism explores theology and practice, doctrine and liturgy, sacraments and Mariology, contributions and scandals, and many other things, clarifying both real and perceived differences and similarities with other Christian traditions.

I’m very pleased to see this new and important book from Gregg Allison, which, unlike his previous book, is aimed at a non-academic audience. Pre-order from Amazon here.


I noticed yet another new book about Roman Catholicism by Gregg Allison at Amazon. “Essentials of Catholic Theology: Student’s Guide” was published this past May.

The summary at Amazon states…

This course takes a systemic approach to explain the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and gives a comparative assessment to evangelical theology in the areas of salvation, Jesus, the church, eucharist, baptism and Mariology. The quotes that Dr. Allison is reading are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an official catechism approved by the Roman Catholic Church. This Student’s Guide was created by BiblicalTraining.org to be used in conjunction with this class.

The course that’s referred to is a free, 7-part “Essentials of Catholic Theology” online course that can be accessed at BiblicalTraining.org here. The student guide can be ordered at Amazon here. I ordered and received the guide. It’s definitely not a stand-alone resource. Strictly complementary. Yes, my friends, I will be taking the course and providing reviews down the road. Praise God that Dr. Allison and other faithful evangelical theologians continue to point out the irreconcilable differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity.

Waaaay back to the future

With apologies to my über-serious brethren and sistren, today we engage in some very un-serious frivolity as we kick off our monthly series reviewing DC Comics’ 2010-2013 era of the Legion of Super-Heroes, that 30+ member team of teenage crime-fighters of the distant future, each with unique super-powers. So, without any further ado, let’s climb into our time sphere and journey way back to 2010 and then waaaaaaay forward to the 31st-Century with the Legion of Super-Heroes as they battle crime across the Universe.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1: The Scream Heard ‘Cross the Universe
Writer: Paul Levitz, Penciller: Yildiray Cinar
DC Comics, July 2010

5 Stars

Plot

31st-Century Earth had been overrun by a xenophobic culture* led by Earth Man and his Justice League. Earth Man is eventually defeated by Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, but as a concession to the remaining, large, anti-alien faction on the planet, the Legion agrees to allow Earth Man to become a member, albeit under the strict supervision of Brainiac 5. As events unfold, Saturn Girl visits her home moon of Titan and witnesses the relocation of the Time Institute there from the politically and socially unstable environment on Earth. Despite warnings, the foolhardy scientists at the institute decide to explore the origin of the Universe** and thereby unwittingly unleash a chain reaction that will ultimately destroy the moon. In the panic that ensues, Saturn Girl desperately searches for her twin sons.

Meanwhile, on the planet Oa, Sodam Yat, the last of the Green Lanterns, mourns as he perceives the coming destruction of Titan, but is visited by Dyogene, a being sent by the Guardians, who forcibly removes Yat’s Green Lantern ring.

Back on Titan, Saturn Girl locates her two boys, but they are kidnapped via a time-transport beam just before she can reach them. Saturn Girl absconds with a time sphere in desperate pursuit of her two children as the rest of the Legionnaires hurriedly direct a limited evacuation of Titan. The destruction of the moon along with the annihilation of most of its inhabitants reverberates throughout the galaxy.

Unperturbed by the destruction of Titan, Dyogene travels to Earth and presents the Green Lantern ring to the surprised Earth Man.

Commentary

This was a very entertaining inaugural for the 2010-2013 Legion and from here Levitz has the opportunity to develop many storylines. Saturn Girl plays a prominent role as she will a decade later in Brian Michael Bendis’ 2019-2021 Legion. Other Legionnaires appearing in this issue include Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Phantom Girl, Sun Boy, and Ultra Boy, along with very brief cameos by Blok, Bouncing Boy, Duo Damsel, and Polar Boy. Cinar’s pencils are decent, but not at the caliber we saw from Ryan Sook in the 2019-2021 Legion.

As with previous Legion incarnations, readers are asked to suspend their senses of sight and logic by characters who are supposed to be teenagers and are still referred to as “boy” and “girl,” but appear as PED-abusers in their late-20s. And the “girls” have more artificial enhancement than the Real Housewives of New Jersey (not to mention Saturn “Girl,” a mom with two pre-schoolers).

Criticisms aside, I enjoyed this introduction to the 2010-2013 Legion era and I hope you enjoyed my review. I’m looking forward to our monthly visit to the 31st-Century.

*Is the xenophobic culture on 31st-century Earth that’s presented by Levitz a thinly-veiled swipe at the populist Tea Party movement, which gained national prominence in 2009?

**In a scene at the Time Institute, the scientists ponder what time period they should investigate. One of them suggests that they examine “the Great Mystery in A.D. 33 and end the endless debate” (p. 12), but the beginning of the Universe is chosen instead. God gets His digs in, even in the most surprising places.

Throwback Thursday: Standing up for the Gospel when others push for false “unity” and compromise

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 12, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

capture30

Evangelicals, Catholics, and Unity
By Michael S. Horton
White Horse Inn Publishers, 2012, 60 pages

4 Stars

The “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) declaration issued in 1994 was an ecumenical effort by several evangelicals, led by Charles Colson, J.I. Packer, and Richard Land, and several Roman Catholics, which sought to minimize doctrinal differences and spur unity between the two groups as co-belligerents in the defense of social “morality.” The declaration inferred that Roman Catholicism was a Christian entity that “basically” preached the same Gospel as evangelical Christianity.

Many evangelicals expressed righteous indignation at the attempt to unite with Rome. The Catholic church has changed none of its doctrines since the Reformation and still teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. “Evangelicals, Catholics, and Unity” by Reformed theologian, Michael S. Horton, was first published in 1999 in response to ECT. Horton argues that the two main issues that fueled the Reformation, 1) Sola Scriptura , the authority of Scripture alone versus the Catholic church’s combination of Scripture, sacred tradition, and its magisterium, and 2) salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone versus salvation by sacramental grace plus works, remain as irreconcilable differences. There is no salvation through obedience to the Law as Catholicism teaches. Horton cites additional differences very briefly.

This is a very short book (60 pages) that you’ll finish in one sitting, but it serves as a valuable introduction to the differences between the Gospel of grace and the false gospel of Roman Catholicism. Order from Amazon here.

Interested readers may wish to follow up with a more thorough response to ECT and evangelical compromise with one of the books below. All are available from Amazon.com:

  • “The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God” (1995) by James G. McCarthy
  • “Romanism: The Relentless Roman Catholic Assault on the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” (1995) by Rob Zins
  • “The Roman Catholic Controversy” (1996) by James R. White
  • “Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification” (1999) by R. C. Sproul.
  • “Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism” (2012),  by R. C. Sproul.
  • “Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will To Discern” (1994) by John MacArthur

See my Books tab here for a list of over 360 books that compare Roman Catholicism to God’s Word.

Postscript: Michael Horton would later cause a stir with his fawning endorsement of “former-evangelical,” Roman Catholic apologist, Scott Hahn’s book, “Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI” (2009). Would the apostle Paul have endorsed such a book? The answer is clearly no. Evangelical theologians, pastors, and para-church leaders do some amazingly bizarre and stupid things in regards to Roman Catholicism and its false gospel.

The Lincoln assassination: a Jesuit conspiracy?

The Suppressed Truth About The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
By Burke McCarty
The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry, 2020, 332 pp. (Originally published in 1922)

2 Stars

Conspiracy theories abound these days, but they’re nothing new. After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, some conjectured that the murder was part of a Jesuit conspiracy to undermine Protestant America. I had read an interesting scholarly book about the Lincoln assassination plot multiple decades ago and when I saw this provocatively-titled book (ebook edition) that was originally published in 1922, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865 and died the following day. Booth’s attack on Lincoln was part of a larger conspiracy by a cadre of Confederate sympathizers that included an attempt on the life of Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, and unconsummated attacks on Vice President Andrew Johnson and General Ulysses S. Grant. Booth was killed on April 26th at the Garrett Farm near Port Royal, Virginia as he attempted to flee from Federal authorities. Ten of Booth’s co-conspirators were eventually arrested. Four were subsequently hanged – David Herold, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt – and four were sentenced to imprisonment at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys.

Above: St. Mary’s Roman Catholic church in Bryantown, M.D., cira 1901. John Wilkes Booth attended mass here along with co-conspirator, Dr. Samuel Mudd. Mudd set fugitive Booth’s broken leg, which the assassin fractured after leaping from the presidential box at Ford’s Theater.

Of the ten conspirators arrested, four were Roman Catholics. It was also alleged that Booth was a recent convert to Catholicism as he was wearing an “Agnes Dei” medal at the time of his death and had regularly attended mass at St. Mary’s Catholic church in Bryantown, Maryland. One of the main conspirators, young John Surratt, another Catholic, escaped to French Canada and to Europe with the direct assistance of Catholic clergy. Making his way to Rome, he became a member of the Papal Zouaves. Surratt was apprehended by U.S. agents in 1867 and brought to trial, but avoided conviction due to legal technicalities.

A number of books were subsequently written suggesting that the plot had been orchestrated by the Jesuits, including this book, which was published 57 years after the assassination. There is circumstantial evidence that may indicate something more than a coincidence on the part of the Catholic church in connection with Lincoln’s assassination, especially the church’s aid to fugitive, John Surratt. Despite the sensationalistic extrapolations by the author,* no credible evidence has ever been discovered demonstrating the Jesuit’s direct or indirect involvement in the conspiracy. I’m not a conspiracy mongerer. Such people as former-publisher, Jack Chick, did tremendous harm to Gospel witness to Roman Catholics by spinning conspiracies that blamed the Jesuits for every major calamity. That’s not to say the Jesuits were never involved in efforts to manipulate politics and to counter Gospel outreach. Even Catholic monarchs in Europe resented Jesuit interference and subterfuge to the point that they demanded that pope Clement XIV disband the order. The pope “suppressed” the Jesuits in 1773, but the order was reinstituted in 1814.

I read this conspiracy-themed book as a lark, but definitely would like to read another scholarly book about the Lincoln assassination plot.

*Perhaps author McCarty’s most outlandish claim is that the Jesuits orchestrated World War I in order to divert attention away from the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in 1917 (p.16).

Armstrong on Roman Catholicism and an ecumenical Judas in the making

A View of Rome: A Guide to Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Roman Catholics
By John H. Armstrong
Moody Press, 1995, 144 pp.

4 Stars

Chuck Colson (1931-2012) was infamous for being President Richard Nixon’s “hit man” and was sent to prison in 1974 for his efforts to cover-up the Watergate break-in. Prior to his imprisonment, Colson had read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” (see my unfavorable review here) and professed to have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior. After his release, Colson became involved in several “ministries,” including leading an effort to forge an ecumenical evangelical-Roman Catholic initiative. Colson’s wife was a Roman Catholic and Colson regularly attended mass with her. In the early-1990s, Colson partnered with Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus in creating the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) ecumenical initiative that fully embraced Roman Catholicism as a Christian entity. Many prominent evangelicals signed ECT’s first declaration in 1994. However, many other evangelical leaders, including John Armstrong, objected to ECT, citing the irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Gospel Christianity and the RCC.

In this short book published one year after the launch of ECT, former-pastor and professor, Armstrong, delves into church history and deconstructs the rise of Roman Catholicism and its subversion of the Gospel of grace. Armstrong cites the Reformation as a Holy Spirit-led movement to recover the genuine Gospel. The author examines the doctrinal differences between Gospel Christianity and Catholicism, including the prime difference; the opposing views on justification. Roman Catholics believe they are justified by sacramental grace and merit while evangelicals believe they are justified solely by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to them at the moment they accepted Christ as Savior by faith alone. Armstrong clearly demonstrates that Colson’s and Lewis’ “mere (c)hristianity” ecumenism leapfrogs doctrinal and spiritual realities that cannot be reconciled.

This book is a good primer for evangelicals and Catholics who desire to understand what divides them. However, I do have a qualifier. Armstrong’s approach is irenic in tone, even too irenic in my estimation. Armstrong encourages “dialogue” between Catholics and evangelicals in the quest for “better understanding” and sanctions “co-belligerency” in the culture battles against rising secularism. Such accommodation is a slippery slope that dangerously leads to the type of compromise and betrayal of the Gospel that is at the core of Chuck Colson’s ECT.

Chapters:

  • The Holy Catholic Church
  • The Dark Ages
  • The Great Evangelical Recovery
  • A Fallen Church
  • The Central Mystery of the Christian Faith?
  • Seven Sacraments?
  • Who Really Speaks for God?
  • Spiritual Life and Devotion
  • Death and Life to Come
  • The Present Hour
  • Is “Evangelical” Really Enough?
  • Recovering True Evangelicalism

Postscript: I take no pleasure in saying I told you so in this case, but Armstrong’s slippery slope clearly led to a fall off the cliff. His website states that “in the fall of 2018 (Armstrong’s) ACTS3 Network became The Initiative, an intentional missional and ecumenical community designed for assisting in the healing of the North American church. The Initiative is made up of pastors and lay members from all three major Christian traditions: Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox.” There are many other appeals to full-blown ecumenism with Rome scattered throughout the website. Armstrong became the Colson Judas he warned against. Open the door to false gospels, even just a crack, and the wolves will devour you.

Pope Francis’ annoying gadfly

Finding Viganò: In Search of the Man Whose Testimony Shook the Church and the World
By Robert Moynihan
Tan Books, 2020, 375 pp.

2 Stars

Following his election to the papacy in 2013, Jorge Bergoglio aka pope Francis increasingly demonstrated that he was not going to follow in the conservative footsteps of his doctrinaire predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. When Francis tacitly lifted the ban on sacraments for remarried divorcees via a footnote in his 2016 apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, conservative prelates were galvanized. In November of 2017, four conservative cardinals formally submitted five “dubia” (questions) to the pope, requesting that he clarify his “reform” in light of traditional Catholic teaching, but were met with silence. As conservative opposition to the pope increased, a major scandal erupted in the Catholic church in June 2018 when it was revealed that cardinal Ted McCarrick, one of the most powerful prelates in the American Catholic church, was removed from “public ministry” for a long history of sexually abusing boys and seminarians. The scandal was the tipping point leading to large numbers of former victims across the United States coming forward and filing claims of sexual abuse and cover-up against priests and dioceses.

Two months later, in August of 2018, Catholicism was rocked even further when archbishop and former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (2011 to 2016), Carlo Maria Viganò, testified that he had personally informed Francis of McCarrick’s predatory behavior back in 2013, shortly after he was elected, but that the pope had done nothing. Included in the archbishop’s statement were accusations of a powerful homosexual faction within the Vatican curia. Viganò called upon Francis to resign and forthwith went into hiding. In June and October 2020, Viganò issued additional statements supporting then-President Donald Trump and attacking the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Included were comments promulgating several outlandish worldwide conspiracy theories, which served to marginalize Viganò even among conservatives.

In this book, Catholic journalist, Robert Moynihan provides biographical information about Viganò and interviews the archbishop-in-hiding regarding his 2018 testimony and the state of the Roman church under progressive Francis. Conservative opposition to Francis has not coalesced mainly because one of the prime tenets of conservative Catholics is absolute fealty to the papal office. This book is an example. Conservative Moynihan, founder and editor of “Inside the Vatican” magazine, attempts to walk a tightrope by providing a sympathetic soapbox for Viganò without outright endorsing his views.

This book provides some interesting information on Francis’ most vocal critic and “insider” insights into the current conservative-progressive tug-of-war within the the RCC. The significant takeaway from this book is that conservative Catholic priests and prelates realize that Francis is undermining Catholicism’s historic claims to the alleged authority and prerogatives of the papacy. Nowhere in sight within the 375 pages is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this book only for evangelical Vatican watchers.

Throwback Thursday: KJV 1611-Only?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 19, 2016 and has been revised. I don’t usually dwell on disagreements over secondary issues, but sometimes they can’t be avoided, especially when proponents of a particular view insist it’s a salvation issue.

capture30

The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations?
By James R. White
Bethany House, 2009, 364 pages

5 Stars

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior way back in 1983. There were many people and circumstances that pointed me to the Savior along the way, including a couple of guys at work. Jose and Ray knew I was interested in God and spiritual matters and would eagerly stop me in the hallway to strike up a conversation. I must admit, sometimes when I saw them coming from a distance, I turned and walked the other way. Can anyone else relate? But the Lord had been drawing me to Him for quite awhile, and I eventually accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Jose and Ray were thrilled that I had accepted Christ, but they cautioned me that I needed to immediately plug into a good, Bible-believing church that only used the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. They advised me that all of the modern Bible versions were corrupt. Although I had just received Christ, I was no stranger to Christianity. I had done much reading and was already aware of the claims of the KJV 1611-only advocates.

Jose and Ray invited me to their church, First Bible Baptist* in Rochester, NY, and I visited a couple of times, but the church’s strong stance on the KJV bothered me. I asked Ray, “If the KJV is the only legitimate translation, then what about all the other people in the world who can’t read English? What do they do?” Ray answered that if modern translators used the KJV as their source-text for non-English Bibles then everything would be fine. Well, no translator is going to translate a translation when the ancient manuscripts are available. I also knew enough about translating to know that no two individuals would translate the KJV’s 17th-century English into another language using the EXACT same wording. Who then would judge which of the translations would be the “authorized” one? If the KJV 1611-only view was correct, then it appeared that God preferred English-speaking people over non-English-speakers. We Americans often have a parochial, myopic view when it comes to the rest of the world and I saw the KJV 1611-only mindset as another example of that.

Not wanting to attend a KJV 1611-only church, I looked through the yellow pages and chose another independent Baptist church close to our home. The pastor there used the King James Version, but he wasn’t dogmatic about it. Not once in the 8 years that we attended did he preach about the sole legitimacy of the KJV. I used the KJV at church like most everyone else in the congregation, but I read from my New American Standard Bible (NASB) at home. The archaic 17th-century English of the KJV seemed to me to be unnecessary baggage to have to deal with while reading the Bible.

I observed the KJV 1611-only controversy from a distance. Peter Ruckman spoke at week-long services at First Bible Baptist a couple of times. Anyone else remember him? Pastor Ruckman was based down in Florida and was one of the standard bearers of the KJV 1611-only movement. Ruckman’s weekly church services were televised in our area and his sermons always seemed to bring up the inerrancy of the KJV and the corruption of the modern translations. His messages usually included ad hominem attacks on anyone who didn’t agree with his KJV 1611-only viewpoint. Ruckman even went so far as to claim that if a particular text was found in the KJV, but not in the early manuscripts (and there are examples), then the additions to the KJV were divinely inspired!

So, I’ve been aware of the KJV 1611-only controversy for quite some time, but never gave it too much attention. After having walked away from the Lord for a very long “season,” I returned to Him two years ago. I continue to use the NASB in my daily Bible reading,** but also have a New International Version (NIV) since that is the translation used by our pastor. I began this blog last July and I’ve noticed from reading other blogs that there are still very strong advocates of the KJV 1611-only viewpoint. To educate myself a bit better, I recently read “The King James Only Controversy” by apologist, James R. White. I was already familiar with White because of his outstanding work defending the Gospel against the errors of Roman Catholicism.

I enjoyed “The King James Only Controversy” and found it to be very informative. I sincerely doubt those who hold to the KJV 1611-only viewpoint would consider it, but the reader who is curious about the controversy might find White’s book as helpful as I did.

Some thoughts from the book:

  • The English language Bible has a long history. The KJV translators relied heavily on the previous work of earlier translators such as Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza. The KJV translators never considered their work to be inerrant and inspired, but only the best possible translation at the time. Early KJV Bibles referenced textual variations in the margins.
  • KJV 1611-only advocates are actually using a revision first published in 1769.
  • Several passages in the KJV are shown to be errors or extremely poor translations.
  • Variations in the ancient manuscripts can and should be examined objectively.
  • Modern translations (NASB, NIV, ESV, NKJV) are dependable. There are good reasons for the differences between the KJV and modern translations, but no translation is perfect, including the KJV.

Emotions run high on this issue. This post will surely offend some. Because KJV 1611-only advocates see the KJV as the inerrant, inspired translation of the Bible, they see any disagreement with their view as a direct attack on God’s Word and an attack on God Himself. There are actually many in the KJV 1611-only camp who go so far as to claim that anyone who does not use the KJV exclusively is not a genuine Christian. I’m not a Bible manuscript scholar, far from it, but I offer White’s book as a thoughtful rebuttal to the KJV 1611-only argument. This post is NOT an attack on God and His Word, although, if you’re a KJV 1611-only advocate, I’m sure you’ll see it that way.***

I’m not claiming that all translations are equal. Christians need to be discerning and must do a little homework. I would never recommend that anyone use a paraphrase Bible as their primary Bible, but I occasionally check a paraphrase Bible (NLT) as a resource.

The Pilgrims and Puritan Protestants came to America with the Geneva Bible, not the KJV. The translators of the KJV were high-church Anglicans and the Puritans viewed the KJV with great suspicion. The article below gives an interesting history of the English Bible for those who don’t want to go to all the trouble of buying and reading White’s book.


http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/

* The pastor of First Bible Baptist church at the time was James Modlish, a key figure in the KJV 1611-only movement.

**Note from 2021: I’ve been using the ESV the last several years.

***Another note from 2021: KJV 1611-Onlyism is still a popular paradigm within what remains of independent Baptist fundamentalism. Because of this book, KJV 1611-Onlyists view James R. White as a pawn of Satan.

Sacrificing all on the sheer cliffs of Pointe du Hoc

Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc
By Patrick K. O’Donnell
Da Capo Press, 2013, 305 pp.

5 Stars

Several months ago, I was whiling away the hours by playing with the Google Earth app on my iPhone. I was checking out satellite views of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, the main site of the Allied amphibious assault against the German occupying forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944. I scanned a bit farther north along the French coast and stumbled across a promontory, Pointe du Hoc, with its six artilleriestands (artillery battery sites) and a heavily cratered landscape (see photo below). It wasn’t hard to guess that the site had been a German defensive artillery installation. Did it play a role in D-Day?

I subsequently searched Amazon using “Pointe du Hoc” and immediately found “Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc” by Patrick K. O’Donnell. The book tells the story of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion, which was formed in April 1943 and deployed to Great Britain in September of that year as a part of Operation Overlord, the code name for the eventual invasion of Normandy. As part of their training, the Rangers constantly practiced scaling cliffs. On D-Day, the 225 men of 2nd Ranger Battalion were given the near-suicidal mission of landing at Pointe du Hoc and scaling the 100-foot high cliffs and destroying the six 155mm artillery guns of the German installation. Allied bombers had earlier turned the promontory into a lunar landscape, but the Germans still fiercely defended the base. After two days of fighting, the Americans were finally able to secure Pointe du Hoc. Prior to the battle, the Germans had moved the large artillery pieces to protect them from the Allied bombing. However, the Rangers had found the repositioned and camouflaged guns and destroyed the firing mechanisms before they could be used against the Allied landing. The numbers vary according to the source, but when the fighting was over at Pointe du Hoc, only around 70-90 of the 225 Rangers were able to bear arms.

After rest and reinforcement, the 2nd Ranger Battalion again distinguished itself with the capture of another German artillery installation, the Lochrist Battery (aka Graf Spee Battery) near Brest, France as well as the capture of strategic Hill 400 near Bergstein, Germany.

War is rough and dirty business and a result of man’s sinful nature. Young men kill each other often for dubious reasons. But there clearly was a “moral imperative” on the side of the Brits and Americans to stop the German madman, Adolf Hitler. The story of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion is well-told by O’Donnell. Some of the traits we most admire; courage, tenacity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and love for comrades were on full display at Pointe du Hoc. However, in the heat of battle some men also became frightened and cowardly. Others became blood-thirsty and vengeful. I get to sit on my couch and spout off on my laptop and enjoy a multitude of freedoms because men like those of the 2nd Ranger Battalion sacrificed so much.

But temporal is temporal and spiritual is spiritual. As Christians, how much do we sacrifice on behalf of Jesus Christ and the Gospel in the spiritual battle that rages around us on a daily basis?

Above: A satellite view of Pointe du Hoc promontory with its artillery battery sites and heavily-cratered landscape. On D-Day, the Rangers landed on the stony beach on the right side of the promontory and scaled the sheer, one-hundred foot cliff wall as the German defenders sprayed them with rifle and machine gun fire from above.