School’s out! Superboy finally completes his Legion orientation

Yup, we’re all allowed a little frivolity, even amidst a pandemic.

Last month, LSH #4 concluded with Superboy’s orientation being interrupted by the theft of Aquaman’s trident and the Science Police arriving at Metropolis to shut down the Legion under orders of the United Planets’ Madame President Brande. Let’s pick up the action in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencillers: Ryan Sook and Scott Godlewski, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics,  March, 2020

5 Stars

Plot

As the Science Police surround Legion headquarters and a conflict appears inevitable, Brainiac 5 is able to talk down the S.P. commander. Brainy then instructs Superboy to complete his orientation and sends out a contingent of Legionnaires led by Ultra Boy to search for the stolen trident. Back in orientation-mode (coordinated by Computo, the Legion’s AI control system), Superboy experiences Madame President’s former appearance before the U.P. Council calling for the creation of the Legion based upon the revered heroes of the 21st century, the Justice League. In the next revisited scene, Superboy experiences Brande in conference with Rokk Krinn/Cosmic Boy, Imra Ardeen/Saturn Girl, and Garth Ranzz/Lightning Lad, requesting that they form the Legion. After Brande leaves, the trio agrees to organize the Legion, but are wary of Madame President’s motives. The three founders immediately seek to enlist Brainiac 5 of the planet Colu, who is already renowned throughout the galaxy for his intellectual prowess. Brainiac 5 surprises the trio by not only enthusiastically accepting the offer of membership, but then delivering a soapbox soliloquy by which he asserts the need to bring Jon Kent/Superboy to the 31st century in order that the heroes of both ages are aligned in the effort to defend the galaxy. As Superboy’s orientation ends, we learn that Aquaman’s trident has been found. In the final panel, an alarm sounds for the entire populace to evacuate New Earth immediately.

Comments

Bendis is doing a nice job of introducing the reader to the Legion’s origins while simultaneously interweaving the plotlines involving the Legion’s increasingly antagonistic relationship with Brande and Aquaman’s trident. A few interesting sidebars in this issue were 1) the introduction of Dr. Fate and Monster Boy to the Legion roster, 2) Invisible Kid resigning from the Legion in a huff, and 3) Chameleon Boy revealing Madame President Brande is his mother. There are also references to Sir Oliver Queen the Eleventh (aka Green Arrow) and the Watchmen that only DC Universe nerds* are going to pick up on. I’m definitely enjoying all of the plot twists of this inaugural epic. I’ve seen several Legion relaunches/reboots over the decades, but Bendis’s dialogue and characterizations are the best yet. Penciller, Scott Godlewski, decently spells Ryan Sook in the Superboy orientation frames, although Sook is definitely the master.

Personal sidebar: Our local comic shop is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I was forced to download the LSH #5 e-comic to my Kindle, which has a screen size of only 7.25″x 4.75.” I’m glad to have it, but it’s definitely not an ideal way to read a comic book.

*I’m definitely not a DC Universe expert (like Sheldon Cooper). I initially glossed over the aforementioned references, but later learned their significance via some internet articles.

The Keys to Spiritual Growth

The Keys to Spiritual Growth
By John MacArthur
Crossway, 2001, 196 pp.

5 Stars

You’ve just accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and have been spiritually reborn as a child of God! Now what? It’s very helpful for new believers to read a good book on the basics of spiritual growth. It’s also helpful (and needful) for “seasoned saints” to periodically “go back to Bethel” for personal reexamination and encouragement. This book on the keys/basics to spiritual growth by Pastor John MacArthur is an excellent resource. If you’re one of those “seasoned saints,” pass it along to a new believer after reading it yourself.

Chapters

  1. The Master Key – A Presupposition
  2. The Master Purpose   – The Glory of God
  3. The Master Plan – How to Glorify God
  4. Obedience – Unlocking the Servants’ Quarters
  5. The Filling of the Spirit – Unlocking the Power Plant
  6. Confession – Unlocking the Chamber of Horrors
  7. Love – Unlocking the Bridal Suite
  8. Prayer – Unlocking the Inner Sanctum
  9. Hope – Unlocking the Hope Chest
  10. Bible Study – Unlocking the Library
  11. Fellowship – Unlocking the Family Room
  12. Witnessing – Unlocking the Nursery
  13. Discernment – Locking the Security Gate

Thanks to Pastor Jimmy at The Domain for Truth for alerting us to free downloads of this book from Crossway Publishing here.

Throwback Thursday: 50 priests who left Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on November 19, 2015 and has been revised.

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Far From Rome, Near To God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Catholic Priests
By Richard Bennett
The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009, 346 pp.

5 Stars

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvific grace is provided through its seven sacraments administered by its priests and that it is then up to each Catholic to merit their salvation. Contrary to Catholic doctrine, the Bible teaches salvation comes freely to all those who repent of their sin and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior by faith alone. Justification was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation and continues as the main difference between today’s evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics, along with many other irreconcilable doctrinal differences.

One might expect that, if anyone, Rome’s priests would be able to find contentment in Catholicism, but religious legalism offers no spiritual peace, either for clerics or their followers. In this book, Richard Bennett,* ex-priest and director of the Berean Beacon Gospel outreach ministry to Catholics (see website here), has compiled the testimonies of fifty ex-priests who turned from Catholic legalism and ritualism to Jesus Christ.

Each testimony is short, averaging about seven pages, so there are no lengthy examinations of Catholic theology. The men’s stories are similar in many ways: they entered training for the priesthood at an early age, they were surprised when they found the priesthood did not bring spiritual contentment, they were introduced to the Bible and were amazed at the differences between God’s Word and Catholic teaching, they struggled with the many ramifications of leaving the priesthood, and they finally rejected Catholic legalism and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Because the testimonies are so similar they tend to blend together, but we keep in mind that Heaven rejoices over every single sinner who trusts in Christ. Many readers, Protestant and Catholic, will be surprised to learn from this book that most priests have only a cursory knowledge of the Bible.

Many of these testimonies are dated. I imagine several were culled from the pages of “The Converted Catholic” and “Christian Heritage” magazines published several decades ago. In an age of growing ecumenism spurred on by the experiential charismatic movement, some may be surprised that anyone is still arguing that Roman Catholicism is not Christian. Many Christians have been fooled by the window dressings of Vatican II and its conciliatory overtures, but Rome has not changed any of its major doctrines or rescinded any of its anathematizing proclamations from Trent. In his opening speech at Vatican II, pope John XXIII declared “adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council.”

“Far From Rome, Near To God” is available through Amazon here. For a thorough examination of the doctrinal differences between Biblical Christianity and Catholicism, I would recommend “The Gospel According to Rome” by James G. McCarthy (see here). Check my Books tab here for a long list of resources which compare Catholicism to God’s Word.

*Richard Bennett went home to be with the Lord on September 23, 2019.

When John R. Rice “Seemed To” Bend the Knee to Rome

1. Was Pope John Paul I a Born-Again Christian? 2. Pope John XXIII Seemed to Put His Trust in Christ
By John R. Rice
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1979, 176 pp.

1 Star

Argh, what a disappointment!

I’ll begin this painful review with some personal background. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, but began to understand that Catholicism did not align with God’s Word when I began reading the New Testament for the first time. In 1983, I repented of my sinful rebellion against God and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. After accepting Christ, I began attending an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church that was only a few miles from our house. The church often had complementary copies of “The Sword of the Lord” bi-weekly newspaper on its information table and I quickly became a subscriber. The paper was edited by evangelist, John R. Rice (1895-1980, photo above right), who was one of the leaders of the IFB movement. The “Sword” carried a lot of weight in IFB circles in those pre-internet days. Thousands of IFB pastors received the Sword and looked up to Rice as an example. By the time I started subscribing to the “Sword,” Rice had already gone home to be with the Lord, but I really enjoyed reading the reprints of his folksy sermons. But then I came across this regrettable 1979 booklet penned by Rice. Ach. What a great disappointment it was at the time. For the sake of this blog post, I recently acquired a dog-eared, used copy from an Amazon third-party seller.

In the first article, brother Rice asks if the then-recently-deceased pope, John Paul I, was a born-again Christian. JPI, aka Albino Luciani, was elected pope on August 26, 1978, but died only 33 days later on September 28th. In the 21-page article, Rice shows that JPI dutifully propagated the Roman Catholic works-righteousness religious system of salvation via sacramental grace and merit, which contradicts the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone on many, many levels. Brother Rice rightly concludes that as a life-long defender of merited salvation, JPI certainly was NOT a born-again Christian, unless he possibly accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone on his death bed.

In the second article, Rice ponders if pope John XXIII, aka Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (d. 1963), was born-again. What prompted this strange reevaluation of Roncalli? Rice states that he had read “Journal of a Soul, The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII” (1965) and was thoroughly impressed with Roncalli’s pietistical writings. As I’ve written about before, some evangelicals are easily duped by the eloquent prose of religious non-believers (see here). Joseph Smith Jr., Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell, and Ellen White also wrote very eloquently about their “faith” in “god.” In this short, 8-page article, starry-eyed Rice presents several quotes from Roncalli and makes the argument that he “seemed to put his trust in Christ.” While the quotes that Rice provides demonstrate Roncalli’s grandiloquent religious piety, there is nothing that would directly confirm that Roncalli believed the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Rice naively swims into very dangerous waters by attempting to extrapolate from Roncalli’s flowery religious prose a belief in the genuine Gospel. Throughout his fifty-nine years as a Catholic cleric, Roncalli propagated and defended ALL of the same works-righteousness doctrines of the Catholic system that JPI/Luciani did, so why does Rice expose Luciani and embrace Roncalli. How does that work?

John XXIII/Roncalli introduced sweeping “window dressing” reforms into the Catholic church by inaugurating the Second Vatican Council (1961-1965). One of the biggest changes instituted by the council was Catholicism’s abrupt switch from militant confrontation in regards to Protestants to accommodating collegiality. MANY gullible Protestants were bewitched and bedazzled by “Good Pope John,” and his call for Catholic-Protestant rapprochement. Cults “expert,” Walter Martin, was one of those credulous evangelicals who hopped on the Roncalli bandwagon, even referring to him as a “sincere Christian” (see here).

If Roncalli were genuinely born-again, he would have stepped out on the balcony at St. Peter’s in Rome and renounced his office and his works-righteous religion and would have pleaded with his followers to accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and leave the RCC. Instead, Roncalli personally officiated at daily mass throughout his papacy as well as presiding over hundreds of other anti-Biblical ceremonies and rituals that perpetuated Rome’s works-righteousness false gospel.

It’s very regrettable that the highly-respected John R. Rice allowed himself to be snookered by “Good Pope John.” Rice muddied the Gospel and became a “polezni durak,” a useful fool, for the Vatican by suggesting to his independent fundamental Baptist readers and followers that pope John XXIII “seemed to put his trust in Christ.” This booklet was written by Rice at the age of eighty-four, just one year before his death. It’s very probable that he was losing some of his cognitive capabilities at the time.

Catholic author: Catholic seminaries are snake pits

Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church
By Michael S. Rose
Regnery Publishing, 2002, 276 pp.

2 Stars

Since beginning this blog, I’ve often remarked that Catholic seminaries, with their rule of mandatory celibacy, both attracted and fostered sexual deviants. Despite the ongoing claims from Catholic apologists that pedophilia among priests is the same as the general public, the ongoing scandalous headlines appeared to indicate otherwise. In fact, noted Catholic sociologist, Richard Sipe (d. 2018), estimated the percentage of priest pedophilics could possibly be as high as twice that of the general population. Sipe also estimated the percentage of homosexual-oriented priests to be about 33%.

This book, by conservative Catholic, Michael Rose, was published way back in 2002, when the Boston Globe first broke open the priest abuse and cover-up scandal in Greater Boston. Rose’s argument is that Catholic seminaries had been infiltrated by a “queer culture.” He presents anecdotal story after story of former-seminarians who were sexually harassed or abused by their classmates and/or by their teachers. Interviewees indicated their seminary populations were anywhere from 30 to 50 percent gay. Be forewarned. The testimonies are somewhat graphic.

Rose speculates that, following the Second Vatican Council, many/most seminaries were increasingly staffed by church liberals/progressives armed with a conspiratorial agenda; in order to move the church closer to the goal of married priests and female priests, they needed to create an artificial priest shortage and they accomplished that by systematically rejecting red-blooded, religiously-conservative candidates. But certainly, young Catholic gay men saw the all-male priesthood as a very desirable option prior to Vatican II.

Rose is a defender of conservative Catholic tradition and predictably does not cite obligatory clerical celibacy as a factor in the large percentage of sexually maladjusted at Catholic seminaries. However, researchers like Sipe readily acknowledged the correlation between the mandatory clerical celibacy rule and the sexually deviancy of Catholic clerics.

This is a revealing look at life within Catholic seminaries and vindicates my many anecdotal assessments that the institutions are “snake pits” of vice. However, the conservative Catholic writer’s opinion that mandatory clerical celibacy is not at least partially to blame for the radical “queer culture” within said institutions is beyond ludicrous.

Catholics always looked to their priests as shining examples of intrinsic holiness on the journey to merited salvation, but headlines over the past twenty years have proven that priests and all men are sinners and are incapable of meriting salvation. I recommend this book to all Catholics. Despite its own agenda-fueled, conspiratorial assessments, it’s a stunning eye-opener into the sordid environment at Catholic seminaries. “Goodbye, Good Men” is a vindication, and then some, of my past hyperbole.

Rose states that there are still a few “decent” Catholic seminaries, but our bottom line is that the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, is not taught at ANY Catholic seminary.

Introducing the Legion’s Founding Trio, Redux

Last month’s LSH tale ended with General Nah’s incarceration, Aquaman’s trident being stolen, and a thoroughly confused Superboy FINALLY on his way to his Legion orientation. Let’s pick up the action in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencillers: Ryan Sook and Mikel Janin, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger and Mikel Janin, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics,  February, 2020

5 Stars

Plot

Superboy begins his orientation courtesy of Computo, the Legion’s AI (artificial intelligence) system. He is able to experience the memories of the founding members immediately prior to the establishment of the Legion:

  • Imra Ardeen/Saturn Girl (super power – telepathy) of Titan, a moon of Saturn, is discontented with her life, yearning for greater adventure, and successfully applies to the new Young United Planets (YUP) intergalactic youth organization.
  • Garth Ranzz/Lightning Lad (super power – electrical manipulation) of Winath comes to the attention of U.P. President, R.J. Brande, because of his and sister Ayla’s activism on behalf of persecuted minorities on their planet. Both are invited to join YUP, but only Garth accepts.
  • Rokk Krinn/Cosmic Boy (super power – magnetism manipulation) of Braal is a planetary champion and is chosen by Braal’s congress to to be that world’s representative at YUP.

As the three travel together to the Young United Planets headquarters on Earth, the U.P. President, R.J. Brande, appears and informs the trio she envisions a special role for them as personal counselors. However, an abrupt attack by Horrazian pirates ends the meeting – the Legion’s inauguration – and Computo also ends Superboy’s orientation because of pressing business; the remaining Legionnaires learn of the theft of Aquaman’s trident from one of the team’s vaults. As the contingent debates whether to allow Superboy to finish his orientation or to begin the hunt for the trident, the U.P. Science Police abruptly arrive and place the Legionnaires under arrest by orders of Madame President, Brande. When Superboy questions why the Legion’s former patron and benefactor is now opposing the team, Cosmic Boy informs him that the answer was in the second-half of the orientation.

Comments

Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad were the Legion’s founding members in the Silver Age, making their first appearance in the inaugural Legion tale in Adventure Comics #247 way back in April 1958. Bendis pays his respects to Legion tradition by presenting the same trio as founders in this latest LSH permutation. I’m anxious to find out what soured the Legion’s relationship with Madam President and where this Aquaman’s trident-storyline will end up. Great story with snappy dialogue. Great pencils and colors. Bendis, Sook, and Co. have done an excellent job to this point.

The Protestant Crusade? The sensationalistic title is a dead giveaway to the author’s biased views within

The Protestant Crusade, 1800-1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism
By Ray Allen Billington
Macmillan, 1938, 514 pp.

2 Stars

Back about a month ago, I noticed a reference to this book on a Catholic blog. I’m always game for history books about alleged “anti-Catholicism” in America and was delighted that our county library had a copy of the 1938 initial printing (the photo above is of a later, paperback edition, circa 1960s).

Historian, Ray Allen Billington (d. 1981), begins this book by noting the antipathy towards Roman Catholicism that the early Puritan and Anglican settlers had brought with them to colonial America. There were relatively very few Catholics in early-America, so conflicts were uncommon. However, when Irish and German Catholics began emigrating en masse to America beginning in the 1840s, problems ensued.

Native Americans (in this pre-politically-correct-era book, the term was used to refer, not to Indians, but to descendants of the original Puritan and Anglican settlers) were concerned about the influx of Roman Catholic immigrants for several reasons:

  • Religious – Roman Catholicism propagated a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit that was antithetical to the Protestants’ Gospel of grace. Protestants of that era, in contrast to today, were acutely aware of the anti-Biblical nature of Catholicism’s peculiar institutions and ceremonies (priestcraft, sacrifice of the mass, confessionals, nunneries, statue worship, etc.).
  • Economic – Native Americans resented the competition of cheap, Catholic immigrant labor.
  • Political – Catholicism ultimately demanded loyalty to a foreign “pontiff.” Protestants questioned if Catholics could ever be good American citizens holding such divided loyalties. In European countries where Catholicism held sway, Protestants were not tolerated.

Antipathy towards Catholics and Catholicism reached a crescendo in the 1850s with the rise of the nativist American (aka Know Nothing) Party, which sought to limit immigration and prolongate naturalization residency requirements. The Know Nothings initially had a degree of success, but that success was very short-lived because of the rising and overriding national political tensions regarding slavery.

I appreciated this book for its historical detail, but it has some MAJOR faults. Billington devotes a single chapter, only 26 pages, to Catholic “blunders”/provocations that led to Protestant reactions. He makes little mention of Rome’s militant, hegemonic intolerance in Catholic Europe. Popes openly condemned democratic forms of government and the democratic principle of freedom of religion as late as 1899 with the papal encyclical, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae – Concerning New Opinions, Virtue, Nature and Grace, With Regard to Americanism, issued by pope Leo XIII. American Protestants had very legitimate reasons to be concerned about Catholic encroachment and possible domination.

It’s the responsibility of every objective historian to acknowledge the wider context of a circumstance/turmoil instead of ignoring the antecedent causes and focusing, almost exclusively, on the consequences, as Ray Billington does. The unbiased reader will note the irony involved with Billington’s portrayals of 19th-century American Protestants in which he uses the very same type of invective and draconian hyperbole that he accuses them of employing. It’s also quite ironic that the alleged “sensationalism” and pruriency of 19th-century Protestant literature regarding the corruption of Catholic clerics and their institutions has been vindicated many times over in the last twenty years by newspaper headlines. With all of those major shortcomings, it’s regrettable that this disappointing book is often cited as THE standard in examinations of American Protestant “anti-Catholicism.”

Without any argument, antebellum Protestant attitudes towards Catholics sometimes did cross the line into outright hatred and bigotry. That was regrettable. We witnessed a similar type of religious partisanship with the popularity of Jack Chick’s disreputable Jesuit-world-conspiracy publications in the 1970s and 80s. But never did 19th-century American Protestant sectarianism approach anything near the magnitude of European Catholicism’s intolerance, as exemplified by such events as the Massacre of Wassy (1562), the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), the massacre following he revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and the various permutations of the Inquisition.

We must reach out to Roman Catholics with the truth of the Gospel and with the love of Jesus Christ. Sadly, these days a growing number of evangelicals are unaware of the irreconcilable differences between the Gospel of grace and Roman Catholicism and view Gospel outreach to Catholics with disdain and repugnance.

Contending for the Gospel (in an era when MOST Christians would rather “get along” with false teachers than contend with them)

Contending for the Gospel: For the Glory of Christ and the Sanctity of His Church
By Mike Gendron
Proclaiming the Gospel, 2019, 288 pp.

5 Stars

In this recently published book, evangelist Mike Gendron compares the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone with Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Gendron leads a Gospel outreach ministry to Roman Catholics called Proclaiming the Gospel (see here). While this book is not as well-structured as “The Gospel According to Rome” by James. G. McCarthy (see here), it is still, overall, a very good analysis of the irreconcilable theological differences between the Gospel of grace and Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. In this book, Gendron also addresses the accommodation, compromise, and betrayal of the Gospel by ecumenical “evangelical” Judases who eagerly accommodate and embrace Rome and its false gospel.

Chapters are as follows:

  1. The Foundation for the Gospel
  2. The Message of the Gospel
  3. The Person of the Gospel
  4. The Exclusivity of the Gospel
  5. The Promise of the Gospel
  6. The Compromise of the Gospel
  7. The Opposition to the Gospel
  8. The Departure from the Gospel
  9. The Catholic church and the Gospel
  10. The Urgency of the Gospel
  11. The Proclamation of the Gospel
  12. The Response to the Gospel

I’m very grateful for this new book and for Mike Gendron and his ministry to Roman Catholics. However, I do have a few minor qualifications: 1) As in the later editions of Gendron’s previous book, “Preparing for Eternity,” there’s nothing in the title or the cover graphics of this new book that would indicate that it’s a rebuttal of Rome’s false gospel. That’s obviously by design, but I’m not in favor of that kind of roundabout stratagem. 2) Gendron warns his readers to be cautious of Roman influences seeping into the evangelical church, yet favorably quotes A. W. Tozer on multiple pages. Huh? It was Tozer who introduced Catholic mysticism into the modern evangelical church, and now hipster, mega-church pastors are offering “contemplative, centering prayer” and “spiritual direction” classes to their congregations. In a book that warns about accommodation with Rome, why was Tozer chosen as an oft-cited favorable reference? Gendron should know better. 3) As in other materials I’ve read from Gendron, he scolds those who exhort lost souls to “accept” Jesus as their Savior, something that I do quite regularly. He objects to the word because he sees it as promoting Arminian free-will. However, it’s abundantly clear from Scripture that in order to appropriate the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, a person MUST receive/accept it!!! Check your concordance. Receiving/accepting (Greek, λαμβάνω, lambánō) Christ is a thoroughly Biblical doctrine.

“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept (lambánō) me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.” – John 5:43 (NIV)

“But to all who did receive (lambánō) him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12 (ESV)

Gendron admonishes his readers to use only “believe in Christ” in Gospel outreach, but I don’t choose to use “believe” because every Catholic argues that they certainly “believe” in Jesus. An argument over this kind of tertiary preference doesn’t belong in a book like this.

Those minor qualifications aside, this is an excellent book that would benefit both Roman Catholics who are curious about Gospel Christianity and believers who are interested to know the basics of Rome’s false gospel. Mike Gendron is generally not well-received within today’s mega-church “evangelicalism” where pastors would rather teach theological cotton candy than warn and equip the sheep regarding false teachers and false gospels. Order from Amazon here.

Roman Catholicism – Shrouded in lies, hypocrisy, and darkness

The Sacrament
By Olaf Olafsson
Ecco/HarperCollins, 2019, 292 pp.

4 Stars

I’m not much of a fiction reader, to put it mildly, but I stumbled across a very favorable review of “The Sacrament” that was featured in the progressive Jesuit monthly, “America,” and became intrigued. The reviewer indicated the story revolved around the investigation of a pedophile priest, so why would the American Jesuits’ official magazine promote such a novel? I saw that our local library had a copy and gave it a whirl.

Plot (spoiler alert)

The novel opens in Reykjavík, Iceland with a young, Catholic grammar school student witnessing the school’s priest-principal falling to his death from the adjoining church’s bell tower. Rewind to several weeks earlier. An anonymous letter sent to the Icelandic bishop accuses the principal of the school, priest August Frans, of sexual abuse. Sister Johanna Marie, a French nun, is commissioned by the Vatican to investigate the allegations because of her proficiency in the Icelandic language. The nun is assigned a young, agnostic priest, Pall, to assist her. She interviews several children and their parents, but shame, guilt, and loyalty to the church hinder their cooperation. The nun becomes absolutely convinced of the priest’s guilt, but the investigation is closed for lack of explicit evidence. Sister Johanna then dispenses vigilante justice by stealthily following the priest up to the top of the bell tower and pushing him to his doom. She subsequently comforts the young student who had witnessed the priest’s fall, but what details did he see?

Twenty-years later, the nun is summoned back to Reykjavík because of further developments in the case. The child who had witnessed the priest’s death is now thirty-something-years-old and is struggling with his past. Unnar had also been victimized by priest Frans and, through therapy, discovers he had been suppressing a detail of the priest’s death that he had witnessed. In a meeting with the current bishop and sister Johanna, the abuse survivor tacitly acknowledges that, yes, he had seen her at the top of the bell tower and discreetly thanks her for her intervention.

Comments

This novel is challenging for the reader because the author constantly skips back and forth between the two time settings. If that confusion were not enough, an additional sub-plot and timeline is introduced involving the nun in her pre-ordination days and her growing same-sex attraction to her college roommate who hails from Iceland (which explains why the nun had learned Icelandic). Pauline/Johanna Marie never acts upon her urges, which precipitates her joining the convent and “haunts” her the remainder of her life.

Because of the discombobulated, multiple timelines, this story felt VERY convoluted until the very end when all of the sub-plots converge together in the powerful, runaway-freight-train denouement.* I felt sympathy for all of the characters who are caught in the lies, hypocrisy, and filth of the Roman religion. The rampant abuse of children by pedophilic Catholic priests is now out in the open and can no longer be swept under the rug as in decades and centuries previous. I am so grateful to the Lord for delivering me from the darkness of Roman Catholicism and saving me by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

After reading “The Sacrament,” it’s very easy to understand why the Jesuit periodical, “America,” would promote it. The editor of “America” is progressive Jesuit priest, James Martin, who is Catholicism’s #1 crusader for affirmation of LGBTers and their “lifestyle” within the church.  Progressive Catholics have no compunctions about discussing the clerical sexual abuse and cover-up scandal because they view the “problem” as a result/symptom of conservative Catholicism’s strait-jacketed rigidness. I’m sure that Martin and others at “America” were absolutely delighted that the heroine of this abuse-busting story was a crypto-lesbian nun. The lesbianism (aka “particular friendships”) that was widespread within Catholic convents, including predatory abuse by those in authority, is another distasteful story that still needs to be honestly addressed.

I had scant knowledge of Iceland (population, 360,000) previous to reading this novel so one of the upsides was frequently checking the locations mentioned in the book with my Google Earth app. Iceland is an amazing, little (size of New York State) country with a formidable climate (the temperatures in Reykjavík during the summer usually reach only into the high-50s Fahrenheit).

While I wouldn’t generally recommend this book, it is an interesting and revealing view of Roman Catholicism from the Catholic Left, especially in regards to the current scandal tsunami, that might appeal to some other evangelical Vatican-watchers.

*Hurrah for blogging! Where else but in a blog post can the average person use such a powerfully descriptive word as “denouement”?

Scripture is Sufficient

One Foundation: Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture
Edited by Jeremiah Johnson
Grace to You, 2019, 199 pp.

5 Stars

I had the pleasure and blessing of reading this collection of articles, which expound on the sufficiency of God’s Word. This book was published by Grace to You to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John MacArthur’s ministry.

The Roman Catholic church entered into great error when it subordinated God’s Word to its “Sacred Tradition.” Most pseudo-Christian sects/cults likewise appeal to some type of extra-biblical “revelation” or authority in addition God’s revealed Word. The writers in this collection make clear that the Bible is our sole authority in matters of faith and practice and is fully sufficient to equip God’s servants:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The articles and authors are as follows:

  • Based on God’s Word Alone – R.C. Sproul
  • Why You Can Believe the Bible – Voddie Baucham
  • The Finding of an Old Book – Jack MacArthur
  • The Sufficiency of Scripture – John MacArthur
  • Not Ashamed of the Gospel – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • The Standard of Sound Words: A Mandate for the Pulpit – Steven Lawson
  • In Praise of God’s Word – Mark Dever
  • Evangelicals, the Challenge of Modernity, and the Quest for a Christian Worldview: Lessons from a Century of Hope and Disappointment – R. Albert Mohler*
  • The Folly of Adding to Scripture – Conrad Mbewe
  • We Must Obey God Rather Than Men: Scripture, Authority, and the Reformation – Nathan Busenitz
  • Hearing from Heaven: How God Speaks Today (And How He Doesn’t) – Justin Peters
  • The Foolishness of the Cross – Phil Johnson

I appreciated all of the articles, especially “Hearing from Heaven” by Justin Peters. My blog deals in discernment ministry issues and I appreciate Peters’ calling to defend God’s Truth amidst the rampant error and deception outside and inside the church. Peters is not afraid to name the names of false teachers and apostates, as did the apostle Paul in his epistles.

*As a cautionary note, I don’t endorse Albert Mohler’s bent towards political activism/Christian nationalism and his eager willingness to ally with non-Christian “co-belligerents” (e.g., Roman Catholics) in cultural/morality wars. We’ve already seen how this type of accommodation and compromise in the interest of preserving “Christian America” ultimately leads to embracement of the Catholic church and betrayal of the Gospel (see Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, etc.).

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