Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes

It’s time to take a respite from theological discussions, so let’s review…

Atomic Batteries to Power, Flight Rings to Speed:
Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes
Created by Lee, Michael, and Laura Allred
DC Comics, September 2017

This one-off, crossover features the Batman and Robin characters as they were presented on the hokey “Batman” ABC television series (1966-1968) featuring Adam West (d. June 9, 2017) and Burt Ward, and the DC Silver Age version of the Legion of Super-Heroes as they were written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan.

Plot

Six members of the 30th century’s Legion of Super-Heroes track one of their arch-enemies, Universo, back in time to Gotham City in the year, 1966. The villainous super-hypnotist believes that by intervening in the past, he will be able to prevent the formation of the Legion in the future. The Legionnaires make a surprise visit to the top secret Bat Cave, hoping to enlist Robin into their club and to seek his help in apprehending Universo. When it’s discovered that one of the Legion’s time bubbles has been stolen, Batman deduces the culprit to be the criminal genius, Egghead. The team splits up with Batman traveling with three Legionnaires to 2966 to find Egghead, while the Boy Wonder teams with the three remaining LSH members to search for Universo in Gotham City.

Robin and his team find Universo but are no match for the combined police and military forces who are compelled to do the bidding of their mind-controlling master, and must retreat. Meanwhile, Egghead searches 30th-century science museums hoping to find some technology or information that will give him an advantage back in the 20th century, but comes up empty and returns to 1966. A meeting between Egghead and Universo reveals the former to be the ancestor of the latter.

Robin’s team engages Universo once again but is thwarted by the super-hypnotist’s powers. Just when all appears lost, Batman’s team shows up from the future and joins in the fracas. The battle appears to be a standoff until Batman suggests it’s time for the Legion to unleash its “secret weapon.” Universo is defeated and Saturn Girl once again invites Robin to join the Legion, but Batman insists the Boy Wonder is indispensable in the fight against crime in the 20th-century.

Commentary

This is as absolutely hokey as it gets folks with no redeeming value other than lots of laughs for fans of the old Batman television show and the Silver Age Legion. There are plenty of “insider” jokes and miscues that will resonate with aging baby boomers like myself who were glued to the family television set on Wednesday and Thursday evenings back in 1966 watching the Dynamic Duo. Many of the villains and “good guys” featured in the TV series make cameo appearances in this story. If you can remember the campy, tongue-in-cheek dialogue of the show and some of the outrageously complicated deductions West’s Batman would extrapolate from some ridiculously minuscule and vague clues, then you’ll enjoy this book. The Allreds capture Adam West’s Batman to a tee.

Final thoughts

A believer contemplates the Lord God in even the most “secular” of circumstances. The “legendary star” of the Batman television show, Adam West, died a couple of months ago at the age of 88 of leukemia. Out of curiosity, I googled “Adam West” along with “God,” “Jesus,” “Christian,” “faith,” and “religion” and came up empty. We won’t know if West accepted Christ this side of eternity, but we do know that fame, fortune, and good health do not last.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1


What does it mean to be a born again Christian?
https://www.gotquestions.org/born-again.html

“Catholicism Under the Searchlight of the Scriptures” by John Carrara

Catholicism Under the Searchlight of the Scriptures
By John Carrara
Zondervan, 1951 (Sixth Edition), 123 pages

Evangelist, John Carrara (1913-2008), was raised as a Roman Catholic but accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior as a teen and was called shortly thereafter to preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Brother Carrara traveled to every state of the U.S.A. as an itinerant evangelist and featured speaker at Baptist church revivals, reaching out to the lost for 77 years and warning of the errors of Roman Catholicism, with its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

Very few will recall the name of John Carrara these days but he was a faithful servant of the Lord and of His Good News!

I had already read Carrara’s biography and a booklet he had written regarding evangelical-Catholic intermarriage (see here and here), so I also ordered this slightly dog-eared, 1951 edition of his “Catholicism Under the Searchlight of the Scriptures.”

This short book is a decent examination of the main tenets of Roman Catholicism compared to Scripture, although I had the distinct impression that at least the first chapter was transcribed from a sermon because of several redundancies. But every Catholic and evangelical would benefit from reading this book.

Evangelical pastors back in 1951 generally had little difficulty distinguishing between the genuine Gospel of grace and Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. While none of Rome’s main dogmas have changed since that time, many of today’s pastors and para-church leaders now embrace the Catholic church as a Christian entity due to the work of compromising evangelical Judases (Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Jerry Falwell, Bill Bright, etc.) over the years. These days, Zondervan-Thomas Nelson is as apt to publish a book by a committed Catholic as it is a book written by an evangelical.

Chapters:

  1. The Roman Catholic Church Versus the True Church of God
  2. The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory Versus the Word of God
  3. Auricular Confession Versus the Word of God
  4. The Mass Versus the Lord’s Supper
  5. Peter The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church Versus Peter the Apostle
  6. Mariolatry or the Worship of the Virgin Mary Versus the Word of God
  7. The Roman Catholic Church and the Word of God (Catholicism’s view of the Bible)
  8. The Roman Catholic Church Baptism Versus the Word of God

For a much more thorough and up-to-date examination of Catholicism, see “The Gospel According to Rome” by James G. McCarthy, which is readily available from Amazon. See here.

Catholicism: Divided and getting worse

Catholics and ex-Catholic Christians who are older than sixty can remember the period of great turmoil in the church that followed the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965. In calling together the council, pope John XXIII was determined to “open the windows [of the Church] and let in some fresh air” by somewhat revising many of the church’s rituals and beliefs. There were many “window dressing” changes that did not affect core dogmas, but some revisions, such as the church’s new ecumenical outlook, were profound.

It took time before the Vatican II reforms, such as saying mass in the vernacular, filtered down to the parish level so when I became an altar boy in 1966 at the age of ten, I still had to respond in Latin to the priest’s prayers. I believe the mass switched to English the following year, in 1967.

Conservative Catholics deeply resented the many changes introduced by the church at Vatican II. A rift began in the church that continues today. On the one side are the conservatives/traditionalists who pine for the pre-Vatican II militant church with its exclusivist dogmas. On the opposite side are liberals who could be categorized as the Catholic version of the Protestant mainline “social gospel” followers, who downplay doctrine and regulations and emphasize social applications. Liberals welcomed the changes of Vatican II and press for further changes.

Between these two camps are the vast majority of Catholics, many of which might best be described as nominal members. They attend church for significant milestones – baptisms, weddings, funerals, major holidays – but that is the extent of their “spirituality.”

When a Christian witnesses to a Catholic, they must determine where the person falls on the extremely wide spectrum of Catholic belief and practice.

Catholic apologists like to present their church as a monolith united behind the pope but that’s very far from the reality. Conservative Catholics strongly resent the pragmatic, reform-minded Francis who plays fast and loose with cherished dogmas and traditions. They hope his papal reign ends quickly. Full-blown schism is not really an option at this point because, as much as conservatives dislike Francis, they’re restrained by their allegiance to church orthodoxy from considering a split from a duly-elected pontiff.


I was recently scanning through soon-to-be-published books at Amazon, and I came across the two interesting titles below from traditionalist Catholic authors that mirror the deep divide within Catholicism:

Among the Ruins: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Catholic Church
By Paul Williams
Prometheus Books, August 15, 2017, 366 pages

“This critical review of the Roman Catholic Church since the pivotal changes initiated in the 1960s by Vatican II paints a disturbing picture of decline and corruption. Dr. Paul L. Williams, a self-professed Tridentine or traditionalist Catholic, traces the various factors that have caused the Church to suffer cataclysmic losses in all aspects of its life and worship in recent decades. Williams illustrates the decline with telling statistics showing the stark difference between the robust number of clergy members, parishes, schools, and active church-going Catholics in 1965 versus the comparatively paltry number today.

The author is highly critical of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis for steering the church so far away from its traditional teachings and for a lack of oversight that allowed corruption to fester. Symptomatic of this failure of leadership are the recent pedophilia scandals, the ongoing financial corruption, a gay prostitution ring inside the Vatican, and criminal investigations of connections between the Holy See and organized crime.

This unflinching critique from a devoted, lifelong Catholic is a wakeup call to all Catholics to restore their church to its former levels of moral leadership and influence.” – Publisher’s summary

Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is Misleading His Flock
By Philip Lawler
Gateway Editions, February 12, 2018, 256 pages

“Faithful Catholics are beginning to realize it’s not their imagination. Pope Francis has led them on a journey from joy to unease to alarm and even a sense of betrayal. They can no longer pretend that he represents merely a change of emphasis in papal teaching. He seems to be engaged in a deliberate effort to undermine fundamental Catholic doctrines. Assessing the confusion sown by this pontificate, Lost Shepherd explains what’s at stake, what’s not at stake, and how loyal believers should respond.” – Publisher’s summary

Rather than placing your faith in an untrustworthy institution, place your trust in the unchanging Rock of salvation, Jesus Christ. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

DivC1 DivC2

The “king of cool,” Steve McQueen, meets the KING of kings, Jesus Christ!

Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon
By Greg Laurie with Marshall Terrill
American Icon Press, 2017, 302 pages

Okay, okay. Yes, I’m a big hypocrite! In the 5/27/17 edition of the Weekend Roundup, I posted a short criticism of Christians who make a big deal out of celebrity conversions. So why am I reviewing a book about a celebrity conversion? I usually catch the last five minutes of Greg Laurie’s radio show every day on my drive into work and as he peddled his biography of actor, Steve McQueen, daily for a couple of weeks, I found myself becoming “curiouser and curiouser.” I can’t say I was a huge fan of McQueen growing up, but I really enjoyed his portrayal of Captain Virgil Hilts in the 1963 film, “The Great Escape.” Neither am I a big fan of Greg Laurie but I’ll expound on that below.

This book traces the life of McQueen, from his very troubled childhood and young adulthood to his subsequent great success as an actor with all the “benefits” of life in the Hollywood fast lane, including wealth, fame, women, and easy access to drugs. McQueen’s popular, anti-hero persona elevated him to icon status in America as the “King of Cool” in the 1960s. Laurie writes that it was often said of the actor, “Every man wants to be like him, and every women wants to be with him.” But McQueen grew tired of the emptiness of the Tinseltown lifestyle and realized there had to be more to life than empty fame and fortune. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the witness of several people, he eventually accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1979 and died from cancer the following year.

This was a strange book to read. Laurie is clearly a HUGE fan of the “King of Cool.” It was a little bizarre reading a book written by an “evangelical” pastor that is so out-and-out…worldly. I don’t know how else to phrase it. Laurie is a Calvary Chapel pastor and periodically holds big evangelistic outreach events under his “Harvest” banner. He’s also a regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and, just like the Crouches and their associates, is quite ecumenical in his approach. Ecumenist, Billy Graham, clearly another one of Laurie’s heroes, gets a lot of positive ink in this book (he visited McQueen during his last days and presented him with his personal Bible). Controversial actor/director/producer, Mel Gibson, a Catholic ultra-traditionalist, is also warmly saluted and Laurie even identifies him as a “man of faith.” Huh? There’s also the requisite multiple quotes from ecumenical muse, C. S. Lewis.

It seems from what I read in this book that Steve McQueen genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and I praise the Lord for that. Maybe some cool cat-wannabe or fading Baby Boomer* will pick up this book about the “King of Cool,” pondering why the 60s “icon” who appeared to “have it all” wanted to become one of those “crazy born-agains.” That was clearly Laurie’s motive in writing this book. McQueen told friends that he wanted to use his celebrity to lead others to Christ and I pray his desire comes true with this book. Unfortunately, Laurie’s ecumenical brand of big-tent “evangelicalism” is so squishy doctrinally, a devoted Catholic or other works-religionist could read about Mel Gibson being a “man of faith” and think, “I’m good.”

I don’t recommend anyone get their theology from Laurie or the rest of the TBN crowd and this book was the first and the last I’ll ever read from one of those guys. I thank the Lord for anyone who genuinely accepts Jesus Christ as Savior through a TBN-affiliated “ministry” (with God it’s possible), but I deeply hope they find a solid, Bible-preaching church immediately afterwards .

*Speaking of fading Baby Boomers, the very large print type used in this book was appreciated.

Lies my parents and teachers used to tell me

The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism, (No. 0)
By Bennet Kelley (Catholic priest)
Catholic Book Publishing, 2012 edition (first printing was in 1963), 64 pages

Every month or so, I stroll through our local (c)hristian book store just to see if there’s anything interesting. They have a small Catholic section with prayer cards to saints, medals, rosaries, and statues of Mary and Joseph (they sell a lot of the St. Joseph statues, which are used as good luck amulets in selling houses – see here.) A couple of weeks ago I was walking through the store and they had a display set up of items for sale for children’s first communion ceremony including “The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism” booklet.

My grammar school classmates and I had our first confession and first communion in the first grade. Oh, it was a big event! The nuns had us jump through hoops in preparation. When the big day came, all the girls looked like angels to me, all dressed in white with their veils. I understand the Catholic church has now postponed first communion to the second grade.

I picked up the “The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism” booklet mainly so I could post about it. Notice the cover. There’s some kids kneeling in front of a character who looks an awful lot like the Anglo-Saxon Jesus we’re used to seeing, but he’s wearing the robes used by Catholic priests. Get it? The message to the children is their priest is an “alter Christus,” another Christ. And he is offering the consecrated Jesus wafer to the young supplicants. The children are taught they actually consume the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ into their mouths and down into their stomachs.

Inside the booklet are several short chapters (see table of contents below) involving the basics of Catholic doctrine, written for children in 1st grade and higher (6+). The young reader learns about the nature of God and mankind’s sinfulness. It’s stated that, yes, Jesus died on the cross for man’s sins, thus opening the door to Heaven, but in order for each person to successfully walk through Heaven’s doors, they must participate in the church’s sacraments so they can receive God’s graces in order to obey the Ten Commandments and merit Heaven.

This booklet teaches the Catholic child that their soul must be free of sin for them to enter Heaven, and that is only possible by receiving the sacraments and successfully obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!).

It’s all here in black and white (along with many Beaver Cleaver-era color illustrations), folks. There’s nothing in this booklet about coming to Christ as a helpless sinner and accepting Him as Savior by faith alone. Nothing. Zero. Nada. Zilch. It’s all about the sacraments and obedience leading to merited salvation. Yet some ecumenical evangelicals are somehow able to see clear to accepting Catholicism as just another Christian denomination???

It breaks my heart that millions and millions of Catholic children over the centuries have been taught to believe the lie of works salvation. I didn’t know Christ when I went through all that ritual and ceremony or afterwards. Neither did my classmates, friends, or siblings.

It’s a lie.

Cont

Poland: An unconventional nation

Poland: The First Thousand Years
By Patrice M. Dabrowski
Northern Illinois University Press, 2016, 506 pages

After I walked away from the Lord for a long “prodigal” season, I had to fill the vacuum with something so I turned to studying my Polish heritage. I’m 50% Polish from my father’s side and 38% German/12% Irish from my mother. Growing up during the Polish joke era in the late 60s and early 70s, I was frequently the target of “dumb Polak” humor. I quickly reached a point where I wished I could be anything but Polish. People poke fun at political correctness but I’m glad ethnic and racial intolerance are increasingly less acceptable. Anyway, in a complete turnaround, I embraced my Polish ethnicity back around 2002 and read everything I could get my hands on about Polish history and culture for the next twelve years.

When I returned to the Lord in 2014, just about all of my reading material reverted back to Christian topics. But last year I spotted “Poland: The First Thousand Years” at Barnes and Noble and picked it up for old time’s sake and finally got around to reading it.

Poland has a very strange history that most people are not aware of. Sandwiched between two extremely aggressive neighbors, Prussia/Germany and Russia, the country didn’t have much of a chance and in many ways contributed to its own subjugation.

Writing a general national history is a difficult undertaking and Dabrowski does a very good job. She outlines the major historical currents and provides enough human detail to keep the book from becoming just a dry exercise of dates and wars.

Poland began as a nation with the reign of Mieszko I (960-992). His conversion to Catholicism in 966, as in the case of many pagan monarchs, was due more to political expediency than personal conviction. As Poland grew in strength, the Piasts gave way to the Jagiellonian dynasty and an alliance with Lithuania. Poland-Lithuania was the largest state in Europe and, given its diverse population, was remarkably tolerant of all religious beliefs and ethnicities compared to its neighbors. The Reformation gained many converts to Christ among the nobility in Poland, but the Jesuits countered by establishing many schools throughout the country, resulting in the children of Christian parents choosing Catholicism.

The power of the Polish magnates and nobility grew in comparison to the elected monarchs. Every nobleman was empowered with the ability to invoke the liberum veto, the power to block any new law or reform put forward by the king or parliament. Neighboring countries took advantage of Poland’s deepening political impotence. The country was partitioned three times in the late 18th century by Prussia, Russia, and Austria, essentially removing Poland from the map of Europe.

Poles attempted to resurrect their nation by enlisting in Napoleon’s military campaigns and through various insurrections. During these years of complete political subjugation, the Polish Catholic church took on the role of repository of Polish nationalism.

With Russia, Germany, and Austria in complete disarray following World War I, the Western Allies re-established Poland as a nation. The interwar years were difficult for the fledgling country given the international economic depression. During this time, Poland became increasingly intolerant of non-ethnic Poles and non-Catholics.

Nazi Germany invaded Western Poland in 1939 to start World War II, followed by Soviet Russia’s land grab of Eastern Poland. The country was completely partitioned once again. Most of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust perished in Poland at the hands of the Nazi occupiers. The Red Army advanced westward as the Germans retreated, eventually occupying all Polish territory. Arbitrary postwar border shifts and wholesale population resettlements left Poland a largely homogeneous country, both ethnically and religiously.

Poles endured Soviet military and political domination from 1945 through 1989, until escalating strikes and protests over economic conditions and political freedoms forced the Polish communist government to negotiate its own demise. Poland has slowly begun to claim its place among European nations, joining NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. Citizens are still extremely wary of their German and Russian neighbors and given their history and the unpredictability of Vladimir Putin, who can blame them? Poland is still one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, meaning most of its citizens have never heard the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Many Americans mix religion with patriotism and nationalism but Poles take it to a whole different level. In the understanding of most, you cannot be a true Pole unless you are Roman Catholic.

I enjoyed this general history very much and I recommend it highly to anyone who is interested in an overview of the unconventional history of Poland. No other Western nation experienced the oppression and devastation that Poland endured between the years 1772 and 1989.

It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! You’re both wrong, it’s (gasp) Super-Bugs?!?!?!

No, I haven’t gone entirely “looney tunes.” With this post, I’m taking a short respite from theology, but I’ll be putting my “serious cap” back on very shortly.


When I was a little guy, my Dad used to bring home comic books for me every so often. “Sad Sack” and “Hot Stuff” were my favorites. As I got a little older, I began buying comics on my own at the local drug stores. They were only 12 cents back in the day (compared to $4.99 today!) so a loose quarter from my parents’ bedroom dresser* could buy me two. Oh joy! One title that I became a particularly big fan of was Adventure Comics featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of teenagers living in the 30th-century who hailed from different planets and had various super powers. Superboy and sometimes Supergirl traveled to the future to join the Legion on their planet-saving missions.

My first issue of Adventure was #350, “The Outcast Super-Heroes!,” published in November, 1966 (see photo below) and I eagerly bought each of the following issues up to and including #372, “School for Super-Villains!,” published in September, 1968. It was a coincidence that I just happened to pick up the Legion at the beginning of what many consider was its finest run, with the writing of Jim Shooter and the artwork of Curt Swan. The Legion and I drifted apart after that but every once in awhile I would check in just to see the latest team permutation. The franchise went dormant and was revived several times, but DC Comics finally pulled the plug on the Legion in August 2013 because of low readership. The main drawback of the Legion is its dizzying number of characters, names, powers, planets of origin, etc. However, the team continues to pop up in other titles every now and then.

Fellow blogger, Slim Jim, often posts about comics, which fueled my nostalgia and curiosity for the Legion, and whaddayaknow, the team had a new book recently published, sharing paper and ink with a rather improbable ally.


“The Imposter Superboy”
Featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes and…(gulp)…Bugs Bunny???
Written by Sam Humphries and pencilled by Tom Grummett
DC Comics, August 2017

The Legion’s resident genius, Brainiac 5, desperately struggles to save the sick and dying Supergirl. His robotic assistant, Computo 2, determines the only cure is Illudium Phosdex, an element that went extinct back in the 24.5th century. Brainiac orders Computo 2 to travel back in time to the 21st century and enlist the help of Superboy in acquiring the element, but rather than summoning the Boy of Steel, the robot inexplicably transports Bugs Bunny, yes, THAT Bugs Bunny, back to the future. The Legion is flabbergasted by Bugs’ appearance as is the rascally rabbit. Computo 2 blames the goof up on a mysterious “malfunction.” Brainiac attempts to convince Bugs to submit to a medical examination in the hope that he can provide the needed element, but the strong-willed and feisty hare refuses to cooperate and demonstrates that he has a few super powers of his own thanks to his special batch of super carrots. The tussle is interrupted with a BOOM! as one of the Legion’s most feared enemies, the gigantic Validus, crashes through the walls of the team’s compound. One by one, the Legion’s members succumb to the powerful and merciless blows of their legendary foe. All hope seems lost as Validus looms menacingly over the comatose Supergirl. But just in the nick of time, Bugs appears, clad in a Superboy-style outfit and with a half-eaten super carrot clasped in his hand…er, foot…er, paw. Super-Bugs predictably makes short work of the impressive villain. As the dust settles, Computo 2 admits it orchestrated the entire fiasco because it was jealous of Brainiac’s love for Supergirl and wished to eliminate its Kryptonian rival. Bugs’s super carrots prove to be an abundant source of the needed element. Supergirl is cured and Bugs is delivered back to the 21st century, a new hero in Legion lore.

As improbably looney as this crossover story was, it had its fun moments and that was the point. There are many, many comical allusions to Legion history, which fans will enjoy. For instance, the cover is a spoof of Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), the very first appearance of the Legion. Bugs is his delightfully sarcastic and rascally self that I remember from the 1960s. Bugs Bunny made his animated film debut in 1940 and his first comic book followed the same year.

The artwork from penciller, Tom Grummett, is actually pretty good and a big improvement over the disappointingly amateurish penciling in most of the Legion’s incarnations. But, of course, I was spoiled by the classic artwork of Curt Swan. A shorter version of the story, done in a faux Shooter/Swan style, is tacked on at the end of the book.

Coming up in a couple of weeks, the Legionnaires drop in on the Dynamic Duo in the year 1966. Ah, what a great year that was!

Thanks, Jim, for the fun!!!

Final thoughts from a Christian believer: People are strongly attracted to fictional (and non-fictional) stories in which “good” overcomes “evil,” and where “justice is served,” but they fail to acknowledge their own evil thoughts and actions, e.g., like *stealing money to support a comics habit. Jesus Christ is the ultimate victory over sin and evil. Won’t you repent of your sins and trust in Him as your Savior by faith alone?

 

Adventure350
Adventure Comics #350

The deep riches of the “simple” Gospel

The Gospel According to Paul
By John MacArthur
Nelson Books, 2017, 219 pages

Most everyone in America has heard of the “Gospel” (Greek, εὐαγγέλιον, euangélion, “good news”) but the word means different things to different people. The Mormons have their gospel, which is different from the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ gospel, which is different from the Catholics’ gospel, which is different from Biblical Christianity’s Gospel.

In this short book, pastor John MacArthur takes an in-depth look at Biblical Christianity’s Gospel of Jesus Christ using the apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament.

The bad news is we are all sinners and deserve eternal punishment. But God’s Word declares that Jesus Christ, God the Son, came down to Earth and lived a perfectly sinless life as only He could. He willingly went to the cross on Calvary and died as a sacrifice for our sins. But He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death and offers the gift of eternal life to all those who trust in Him as Savior.

That’s very Good News! No one can possibly merit their salvation but Jesus will save everyone who repents of their sins and accepts Him as Savior by faith alone.

MacArthur does a good job of breaking down the seminary terminology for all of us Theology 101-types but the Gospel in its bare essence is so simple a child could understand it.

Here’s a few of my takeaways and observations from this book:

#1 MacArthur describes Christ’s death on the cross as a part of “The Great Exchange.” The sins of men were imputed (ascribed to a person’s account) to Jesus as He hung on the cross. When we accepted Christ as Savior, His perfect righteousness was imputed to us. I know full well that Jesus “died for my sins,” but the concept that all of my unrighteousness, past, present, and future was imputed to Him just as His perfect righteousness was imputed to me at the moment I trusted in Him, well, that gives me a more clearly defined understanding of what transpired on the cross.

#2 MacArthur quotes Catholic novelist and apologist, G.K. Chesterton, regarding original sin:

“G.K. Chesteron referred to original sin as ‘the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.’ He decried the extreme illogic of liberals in the church who gave lip service to truths ‘which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.'”  – p. 101

Why would MacArthur favorably quote a Roman Catholic apologist who was certainly no friend of evangelical Protestantism? Chesterton, a promoter of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, was as lost as the liberal churchmen he criticized. Weren’t there any evangelical sources MacArthur could have referenced regarding man’s sin nature? I jest of course. MacArthur certainly knows better so how to explain this ecumenical “stumble”? I would have guessed MacArthur to be the last person in the world to succumb to Chesterton mania but it just goes to show we all have our spiritual blind spots.

#3 In this book about the Gospel there’s no invitation to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Why would that be? I know “decisionism,” leading people to trust in Christ via an invitation to pray a salvation prayer, is looked down upon by some Christian groups and I have some empathy for that viewpoint. I believe untold millions of people have come forward at Christian youth events, evangelistic crusades, and at church “altar calls” and made disingenuous professions in Christ out of pressure and in ignorance. However, I also believe untold millions genuinely accepted Christ by being led to the point of deciding to accept Him or reject Him. Feedback on this is welcomed. Perhaps this topic of evangelistic crusade-style “decisionism” deserves a post all by itself.

#4 MacArthur is of course a member of the Reformed tradition so he promotes the doctrines of predestination and election. Not a problem. I’m somewhere in the middle of the Arminius-Calvin debate and remain politely non-committal.

#5 Overall, I enjoyed “The Gospel According to Paul” very much. It was such a balm to my soul to contemplate with MacArthur some of the glorious depths of the Good News! of salvation in Jesus Christ as proclaimed by His apostle, Paul.

“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.“ – Romans 2:16

A warning unheeded from 22 years ago

Protestants & Catholics: Do They Now Agree?
By John Ankerberg and John Weldon
Harvest House Publishers, 1995, 312 pages

When Chuck Colson’s ecumenical Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) project released its first declaration in 1994, it shook evangelicalism to its core. Some evangelicals greeted the document warmly while many others were appalled by its apparent compromise and betrayal of the Gospel.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium basically declared that Evangelicals and Catholics both believed in the core teachings of Christianity and needed to unite in an effort to confront the onslaught of secularism.

Several books followed in response to ECT including those written by James R. White, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton, and this one by John Ankerberg and John Weldon. Remember John Ankerberg? His Christian apologetics show used to be very popular back in the 80s and 90s and it can still be found on cable and satellite TV (see website, far below).

This is a well-written response to ECT. The Catholic church has not officially changed any of its doctrines since Trent, including its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, so how could the evangelical writers and signers of the ECT document see clear to suddenly embrace Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ?

The authors compare many of the vague, conciliatory statements in ECT with Catholic and evangelical doctrine. Not only are there the contrary positions on justification, how a person is saved, but there are the many ancillary differences including the disagreements with Catholic teaching on authority, the papacy, transubstantiation, sacerdotalism, the mass, Mary, sacramental grace, confession, purgatory, indulgences, etc., etc.

The chasm between Catholic and evangelical belief is just too wide to bridge but the ECT writers and signers downplayed or completely dismissed doctrinal differences in their desire for ecumenical unity. But make no mistake, Rome’s understanding of unity has always meant acquiescence to the Vatican.

It’s been 23 years since the ECT controversy and ecumenism continues to make inroads into evangelicalism. At this point, many would wonder what all the fuss was about regarding ECT. A 2015 poll revealed 58% of evangelical pastors consider the pope their brother in Christ. Most Christians bloggers at WordPress probably consider a blog named “excatholic4christ” to be downright distasteful.

Steadfast evangelicals wonder where are the young pastors and para-church leaders who will take the baton from MacArthur, Sproul, D. James Kennedy (d. 2007), Ankerberg, and White in the battle to uphold the Gospel and withstand compromise with Rome? Or is the betrayal just a foregone conclusion at this point? Take heart Christian brothers and sisters who are faithful to the Gospel! The Lord is on His throne and He’s fully aware of the compromise and betrayal taking place.

“And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” – Acts 20:30

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” – 1 Timothy 4:1-3

Below are the “evangelical” signatories and endorsers of Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (1994):

  • Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship and Southern Baptist Convention affiliated
  • Dr. Kent Hill Eastern Nazarene College
  • *Dr. Richard Land, Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • *Dr. Larry Lewis, Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Dr. Jesse Miranda, Assemblies of God
  • Mr. Brian O’Connell, World Evangelical Fellowship
  • Mr. Herbert Schlossberg, Director of the Fieldstead Foundation
  • Dr. John White, Geneva College and the National Association of Evangelicals.
  • J. I. Packer, British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the low church Anglican and Reformed traditions.
  • Dr. William Abraham, Perkins School of Theology
  • Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier Union Theological Seminary (Virginia)
  • Mr. William Bentley Ball, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ
  • Bishop William Frey, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
  • Os Guinness, Trinity Forum
  • Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Mark Noll, Wheaton College
  • Dr. Thomas C. Oden, Drew University
  • Pat Robertson, Regent University and the 700 Club
  • Dr. John Rodgers, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry

*Both Land and Lewis eventually withdrew their endorsement of the document due to pressure from within the Southern Baptist Convention.


The John Ankerberg Show
https://www.jashow.org/

New book examines Mariolatry

Thanks to Maria at Pilgrim’s Progress revisited – Christiana on the narrow way for making me aware of this forthcoming book devoted to the topic of Mariolatry. “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: the Mother of God?” by evangelical pastor and leader of an outreach ministry to Roman Catholics, Leonardo De Chirico, is due to be published on December 1st. Amazon is currently accepting pre-orders. See here. De Chirico’s previous book, “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to the Papacy: Its origin and role in the 21st century” (2014), is excellent and is available at Amazon. See here.

The most important difference between Catholics and Bible Christians is their contrasting beliefs on how a person is saved. Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit while Bible Christians believe in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Another major difference between the two groups is their opposing views on Mary. Catholics believe Mary was sinless and shares in the offices of Jesus Christ as the Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, and Channel of all Graces. Catholics in error go to her regularly in prayer, asking for her help in their efforts to merit salvation. Bible Christians believe that while Mary was certainly blessed to be chosen as Jesus’s mother, she was still a sinner who needed to accept Christ as her Savior by faith alone. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say sinners must entreat Mary as Catholics do. In contrast, the Bible specifically warns against elevating Mary to a position she certainly would oppose.

“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” – Luke 11:27-28

In all its theological force and devotional ramifications, Mariology is an inescapable, all-embracing, and fundamental tenet of Roman Catholic theology and practice. Moreover, it is a deeply troubling development because it is impossible to see a linear and coherent connection between this Marian devotion and the more sobering account of what the Bible actually says […]

via Go read! Leonardo De Chirico — Pilgrim’s Progress revisited – Christiana on the narrow way

Postscript: It’s a small point but I must say I’m not a fan of the cover designs for the two books; far too nondescript.