Throwback Thursday: Evangelical Exodus?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on July 6, 2016 and has been revised.

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Evangelical Exodus: Evangelical Seminarians and Their Paths To Rome
Edited by Douglas Beaumont
Ignatius Press, 2016, 286 pages

1 Star

I returned to the Lord in 2014 after a two-decade prodigal “hiatus.” One of my first priorities was to find an evangelical, Gospel-preaching fellowship, but I wanted to avoid the kind of legalism we encountered at the independent fundamental Baptist church we had attended way back in the 1980s. I found a Southern Baptist church in our area that we liked a lot initially. It was a small church and the members were warm and welcoming. Our first Sunday was also the first Sunday for the new pastor; a young guy in his early-thirties, fresh out of seminary. His sermons were more about God’s grace and mercy than about shame, guilt, and accusations of not measuring up to God’s Holiness, which was what I had been used to. It was a balm to my soul.

But there was also a troubling aspect to this pastor. He wasn’t just “interested” in Roman Catholic writers and theologians, he was completely enamored with them. Over the course of the year we heard about his admiration for such Catholic figures as Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, G. K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Peter Kreeft. I pointed out to him that all of those people supported a religious system which taught salvation was through the Catholic sacraments and obedience to the Ten Commandments and church rules. He off-handedly dismissed my objections as one would who has been steeped in institutional education and must condescend to the level of the “unlearned.” Because of that issue and a few others we decided to leave the church in June 2015.

I was eager to read “Evangelical Exodus” after my experiences with that young pastor. What exactly are they teaching in evangelical seminaries these days? Editor Doug Beaumont recounts his story and the stories of eight other young men who attended Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, North Carolina. The seminarians allegedly all began as “evangelicals,” but ended up as members of the Roman Catholic church. How does that work? The founder of the seminary, evangelical theologian, Norman Geisler (d. 2019), is an unabashed admirer of Thomas Aquinas. Because of Geisler and his like-minded professors, the curriculum at SES was heavy on Thomist philosophy and theology. Some students naturally conjectured, “If Aquinas is so commendable for his non-Catholic-specific teachings, let’s check out his Catholic-specific teaching as well.” And one thing led to another. As I pointed out earlier in a review of one his books (see here), Geisler defies rationality. On the one hand, he fully supports the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, and also acknowledges that Catholicism teaches a skewed gospel of salvation by sacramental pseudo-grace and merit. Yet he also dichotomously embraces Catholicism as a Christian, albeit misguided, entity. It’s clear from “Evangelical Exodus” that Geisler’s schizophrenic infatuation with Aquinas has led many astray.

What about the nine ex-seminarians who contributed to this book? They all claim to have been blood-bought, born-again believers prior to converting to Catholicism, but how could a sinner saved by grace and a child of God take upon themselves the chains of spiritual slavery and try to once again earn their own salvation through the “beggarly elements”? It’s clear that the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone had only been intellectual head knowledge for these nine men. There was no genuine saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” – Galatians 4:9

Each ex-seminarian presents the Roman Catholic church’s long (and checkered) history, sacraments and liturgies, and claims to apostolic authority as arguments in favor of Catholicism. All of these points have been critiqued by knowledgeable evangelicals and shown to be deficient. See my list of books here which compare Catholicism with God’s Word. The ex-seminarians liberally quote the “church fathers” to support their viewpoint, but honest Catholic scholars will admit that the “fathers” present as many challenges to current Catholic dogma as they do affirmations.

Our former, Aquinas-loving pastor studied at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist), which is located in Wake Forest, North Carolina, just three hours from SES. I surmise Geisler’s obsession with Thomism also made its way up Route 85 to SEBTS.

Doug Beaumont and Ignatius Press demonstrate a lot of wishful thinking by titling this book, “Evangelical Exodus,” but as thousands of near-empty Catholic churches attest, the overwhelming exodus between Catholics and evangelicals has been the journey of millions of ex-Catholics out of religious legalism and ritualism to the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

This book was extremely hard for me to read. My heart breaks for Roman Catholics who are attempting the impossible task of trying to merit their way to Heaven. The Catholic church proclaims Christ is the “Savior,” but then teaches its members that they must merit their salvation by participating in the sacraments and obeying the Ten Commandments perfectly (impossible!). I couldn’t obey the Ten Commandments for a single day and neither can anyone else. A Catholic can never say they are “saved” (that would be the “sin of presumption”) because their salvation depends on if they can remain obedient and faithful to their church’s teachings right up until the moment of their death.

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:21

Catholic friend, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches the genuine Gospel without compromise. Find your salvation and rest from religious strivings in Jesus Christ.

http://www.gotquestions.org/sinners-prayer.html

Note from 2021: Many evangelicals misguidedly view Roman Catholics as “brothers in Christ” and view outreach to Catholics and debates with Catholic apologists as unnecessary and “divisive.” Yet, as exemplified by this book, Catholic apologists have no problem denigrating evangelicalism and the genuine Gospel.

An ex-Catholic invites Roman Catholics to accept Jesus Christ as Savior

Don’t Miss the Celebration in Heaven
By Philip J. Gentlesk
Xulon Press, 2021, 124 pp.

4 Stars

In this independently published book, the author, an ex-Catholic evangelical layman, examines many of the irreconcilable differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity. He remarks on such anti-Biblical Catholic doctrines as papal authority and infallibility, purgatory, prayers for the dead, indulgences, veneration/worship of Mary, confession of sins to a priest, praying to saints, the sacrifice of the mass and transubstantiation, and reliance on sacramentals (scapular, holy water, rosary). Most importantly, Gentlesk cites the difference between Rome’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental faux-grace and merit and the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

I give the author an “A” for effort, but there are several drawbacks to this book that I must mention. Some older, polemical Protestant works are referenced such as Hislop’s “The Two Babylons” and Boettner’s “Roman Catholicism.” Critical examinations of Catholicism have come a long way since those days (see Gregg R. Allison, Leonardo De Cherico, and James R. White to name a few). Also, in an attempt to appear as even-handed, Gentlesk grants that many Catholics will be in Heaven. “I know many fine Catholics who have surrendered their lives to Jesus and will be spending eternity in Heaven with Him – beyond any doubt” (p. 80). Fine Catholics? There are certainly some individual Catholics who have responded to a Gospel message from outside of their false religion and who genuinely trusted in Christ as Savior, but the Holy Spirit is drawing them out of Catholicism. It’s impossible to reconcile the Gospel of grace with Rome’s false gospel of works. Gentlesk is comfortable in pointing out the Roman Catholic church’s many heterodoxies, but draws back from condemning it as a totally apostate church.

I commend Gentlesk for his effort, but there are many other critical examinations of Roman Catholicism that present the evangelical view from a much more theologically knowledgeable (and forthright) basis.

Legion #7: “The Shifting Shape of Revenge”

It’s the beginning of a new month, so it’s time once again for some 31st Century frivolity as we review…

Legion of Super-Heroes #7: The Shifting Shape of Revenge
Writer: Paul Levitz, Pencillers: Yildiray Cinar and Wayne Faucher
DC Comics, January 2011

5 Stars

Plot

A contingent of Legionnaires – Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf, Tyroc, and Ultra Boy – is summoned to the United Planets Council Hall in Metropolis where a U.P. councilor has been assassinated. The heroes surmise the Durlans are behind the murder and their suspicions are confirmed when three shape-shifters suddenly attack.

Meanwhile, at Legion Headquarters, Dream Girl, Polar Boy, and Sun Boy discuss the upcoming election of the Legion’s new leader. Down the hallway, a jealous Earth-Man unwisely picks a fight with Shadow Lass‘ former boyfriend, Mon-El. A humbled Earth-man returns to Shady’s side, but the tranquility is shattered by the appearance of Dyogene, powerful minion of the Guardians of Oa.

Back at the U.P. Council Hall, the four Legionnaires defeat the Durlans and manage to take one shape-shifter prisoner. Science Police Chief, Kimball Zendak, feigns cooperation, but we know he’s a Durlan conspirator in disguise.

Brainiac 5 tests repaired Time Bubble #2 with disappointing results. Brainy and Chameleon Boy then take a trip to Naltor and confer briefly with Beren Kah, who has a prophetic vision of Chameleon Boy being attacked by his fellow Legionnaires. The two heroes seek out Professor Harmonia Li, who is overseeing the construction of the new Time Institute. The professor reveals she is an ancient being and asks Brainy for his help in a mysterious time project.

Comments

Levitz has some interesting plotlines brewing. In this issue we see the Durlan conspiracy begin to ramp up. What does Dyogene want with Earth-Man, who previously turned down the role of Green Lantern? Who is Professor Li and what time project does she have in mind? A blurb beneath the final panel promises the results of the election of the new Legion leader in issue #8. Good stuff! An entertaining issue.

News Bytes: LSH is back! But for how long? Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes, a six-issue limited series, begins January 11, 2022.

Also, HBO MAX announced a Legion of Super-Heroes, adult animated series, is being developed by Legion writer, Brian Michael Bendis, for 2023.

Postscript: Whoa! Time out! Recalibrate!

I began this monthly look-back series featuring the 2010-2013 Legion of Super-Heroes correctly thinking that the Legion of Super-Heroes title and the Legion tales in Adventure Comics were not interconnected. The Adventure plotlines featured a younger, Silver Age-era version of the Legion. I had planned to review the Adventure books after I finished reviewing the LSH books. However, I learned just in time that the young Legion idea was jettisoned by DC’s editors after Adventure #520 (January 2011). Adventure #521 picked up the plotline of LSH #7 (reviewed above) and set the table for LSH #8 and so forth. That meant that a decade ago, Legion fans got to read a continuous plotline every two weeks by buying LSH and Adventure Comics. What does that mean for us? Decipher! Okay, next month I’m going to recalibrate and begin reviewing the six Adventure books that were dedicated to the Silver Age-era young Legion. In August-September, I’ll be back on track with our current older Legion plotline, beginning with Adventure #521 and LSH #8. Sorry, readers. You won’t learn the results of the Legion election until September! Somehow in this reshuffle, I’m also going to fit in the new Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes series.

An IFBer criticizes Neo-Evangelicalism: Guaranteed to put you to sleep

Unchristian Christianity: An Exposé of Neo-Evangelicalism
By Dr. Jeff Farnham
Christian Family Press (Sword of the Lord), 2017, 212 pp.

1 Star

I bought this book from an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) publisher thinking it was going to be a critical history of Neo-Evangelicalism* from an IFB perspective, replete with dates and names, including references to Neo-Evangelicalism’s founders, Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, Billy Graham, Edward J. Carnell, etc., etc. Instead, the author soapboxes about how independent fundamental Baptists practice Biblical separation and evangelicals don’t.

I was a member of an IFB church from 1983 to 1991 and I would readily agree that independent fundamental Baptists do a good job of teaching and preaching God’s Word. Doctrine is key in the IFB. Attend an IFB church for several years and you’ll get to know the Bible pretty well. What the IFB gets wrong is that the pastors can get overly harsh to the point of being abusive. Many IFB church members cower under the pastor’s heavy-handed authoritarianism. I would go so far as to say the IFB is cultish in that respect. IFB pastors also tend to major on the minors. Differences over secondary and tertiary beliefs are sometimes presented as salvation issues in the IFB.

Dr. Farnham’s criticisms of Neo-Evangelicalism can largely be categorized as generalities, but when he does decide to focus on a specific separation issue, he predictably pontificates on the question of whether Christians can/should drink alcoholic beverages and devotes 35 pages to it. Farnham, like most IFBers, is also a KJV 1611-Only advocate and makes disparaging remarks throughout this book about modern Bible translations. For IFBers, arguing “separation issues” like alcohol consumption and Bible translations becomes their raison d’être to the exclusion of everything else and they become as disobedient as the drunken Christian with their self-righteous, circle-the-wagons, finger-pointing sanctimony. If I were forced to choose between an IFB church or a non-denominational, seeker, hipster church, I would…stay home.

I get Dr. Farnham’s criticisms of “big tent” evangelicalism. One need only watch TBN for a few hours to see there are very serious problems for what passes for “evangelicalism” these days. But the IFB has its big share of negatives as well. I’m one of those obsessive readers who tries to finish every book I start. However, I should have put this book down after the first chapter because I was so unenthusiastic that it took me over a month to finish it.

*Although IFBers use it as a disparaging label, Neo-Evangelical was a term originally coined by Carl Henry in 1947 as a banner for the break from fundamentalism to create a more “culturally-engaged” evangelicalism.

Throwback Thursday: James White on Roman Catholicism

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 3, 2016 and has been revised.

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The Roman Catholic Controversy: Catholics and Protestants – Do the Differences Still Matter?
By James R. White
Bethany House Publishers, 1996, 268 pages

5 Stars

The release of the first declaration from Chuck Colson’s Evangelicals and Catholics Together ecumenical project shook the evangelical church. The 1994 declaration basically recognized Roman Catholicism as a genuinely Christian institution and advised that evangelicals and Catholics should mutually end all evangelization efforts aimed towards the other camp. Several evangelicals signed the declaration and many applauded it. But many other evangelicals shouted, “Not so fast!”

Despite the enthusiastic ecumenism of some, evangelicals and Catholics widely disagree on a great number of doctrines; most importantly, on how a person is saved. Although the Catholic church often refers to “grace” and “faith,” what they actually teach is the dispensation of grace through its sacraments, administered by its priests. It’s required of Catholics to participate in the obligatory sacraments so they can receive grace, which allegedly enables them to obey the Ten Commandments and church rules. They refer to this as “cooperating with grace.” Despite the references to “grace” and “faith,” Catholics are taught they cannot have any “mortal” (grave) sin on their soul at the moment of their death in order to merit Heaven. The bottom line for Catholics is they must merit their salvation. That is NOT the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I can’t perfectly obey the Ten Commandments for even one, single day let alone a lifetime. The Ten Commandments only reveal that we are all sinners in need of the Savior. Trying to obey the Ten Commandments in order to merit salvation as the Catholic church teaches is NOT “Good News.” In fact, it’s VERY BAD news because it’s an impossible task.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” – Romans 3:20

Several books were written by evangelical apologists in the 1990s in reaction to Evangelicals and Catholics Together, including “The Roman Catholic Controversy” by James White. In this book, White examines several of the important differences between Catholics and evangelicals in regards to Catholicism’s perpetual sacrifice of the mass, purgatory, the papacy, the mediatorship of Mary, and justification via works, but he especially focuses on the evangelical doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Catholics argue that their teaching magisterium (the pope in union with the cardinals and bishops), and their ever-developing traditions are on equal par with Scripture. For Catholics, whatever their pope declares regarding faith and morals today carries the same weight as what the Holy Spirit revealed to the writers of the Bible manuscripts 2000 years ago. White does a very thorough job of examining the arguments both for and against Sola Scriptura, perhaps drifting into theological academese now and then. This is some challenging reading at times, but it’s well worth the effort.

Chapters:

  1. I Can’t Believe He Did That
  2. Cutting Through the Fog
  3. The Essential Issue: The Gospel of Peace
  4. Who Defines the Gospel?
  5. Sola Scriptura: God Speaks Clearly
  6. The Thousand Traditions
  7. Sola Scriptura vs. Sacred Tradition
  8. The Claims of the Papacy
  9. Justified Before God: Rome’s View
  10. Justified Before God: By Grace Through Faith Alone
  11. What of the Mass?
  12. The Divine Waiting Room
  13. When Sola Scriptura Is Rejected
  14. Sola Gratia

Since “The Roman Catholic Controversy” was published twenty years ago, more and more evangelicals have been fooled by Catholicism’s references to “faith” and “grace” and have purposely overlooked Rome’s anti-Biblical doctrines calling for “cooperation with grace” (aka merit) for salvation, the absolute necessity of priests, the perpetual sacrifice of the mass, transubstantiation of the bread wafer and wine, purgatory, the confession of sins to a priest, praying to Mary and the saints, and the elevation of the pope to the very seat of Christ.

But most Catholics are woefully ignorant of their own church’s teachings. If you were to ask 100 Catholics how a person gets to Heaven, I would hazard that 90% would respond with something like, “By being good” or “By obeying the Ten Commandments” or “By trying your best.” None of those responses is the Gospel. The relatively small percentage of pious Catholics who actually know their religion might answer, “By being baptized, receiving the sacraments, cooperating with grace, and having faith.” Faith? Faith in what or in whom? Faith in Mary and the church to help live a holy, perfectly sanctified life so that you can merit Heaven? That’s not the Gospel either.

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches the VERY “Good News.” You can’t POSSIBLY merit your way to Heaven, but Jesus Christ paid for your sins and offers you the the gift of eternal life and fellowship with God through Him.

http://www.gotquestions.org/got-forgiveness.html

“The Roman Catholic Controversy” is still in print and available from Amazon. See here.

Legion #5: “A Choice of Destinies”

It’s the start of a new month so time for some comics frivolity. Let’s board our time bubble for another adventure with that crime fighting team of the 31st Century, the Legion of Super-Heroes!

Legion of Super-Heroes #5: A Choice of Destinies
Writer: Paul Levitz, Pencillers: Yildiray Cinar and Francis Portela
DC Comics, November 2010

5 Stars

Plot

On Earth, a starliner transport crashes into a Titanfall refugee camp, but was it an accident? A Legion contingent of Colossal Boy, Sensor Girl, Sun Boy, and Timber Wolf responds to the crisis, but the situation quickly goes from bad to worse when an army of Earth Firsters attacks.

On Naltor, Dream Girl, Dawnstar, and Gates watch as Dyogene arrives and selects Professor Harmonia Li of the Time Institute as the next Green Lantern. She angrily declines, but…

Back on Earth, the small Legion squad valiantly battles the xeno army, but are close to defeat until Earth Man suddenly shows up with a squad of reinforcements – Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, Quislet, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Tellus, and Ultra Boy – and the Earth Firsters are subdued.

Confident that the other Legionnaires can handle the xeno army, Brainiac 5 remains at Legion HQ and continues repairing the Time Bubble recently used hard by the Ranzzes, assisted by his former teacher, Chronarch.

The anticipated conspiratorial attack against Earth begins as a shape-shifting Durlan takes the form of Science Police Chief Zendek.

Earth Man leads the Science Police to the xeno leaders responsible for the assault on the refugee camp. Impressed by his demonstrated loyalty to the Legion, Shady throws caution to the wind and begins a romantic relationship with enigmatic Earth Man.

Comments

Levitz continues some interesting plot lines with this issue. Is the unpredictable Earth Man sincere in his loyalties to the Legion or is it all a deception meant to gain the trust of the heroes? Will Professor Li end up accepting the Green Lantern ring? Then what? How far will the Durlans get in their clandestine attack against Earth?

I enjoyed this issue a lot. There’s actually some decent character development interspersed amongst the action. It was comical watching Brainy react jealously to Chronarch’s praise of Professor Li. Last issue, I pondered when Levitz would introduce the three remaining unnamed Legionnaires and we saw Violet in this story, leaving two others yet to be revealed.

Throwback Thursday: The “Other” Reformer

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 14, 2016 and has been revised.

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Ulrich Zwingli
By William Boekestein
EP Books, 2015, 163 pages

As I related in an earlier post, my wife and I visited Zurich, Switzerland as a side trip during our stay in Germany in early April (2016). My wife had an interest in Zurich because her grandfather originated from there and I was interested in the city because it was the home of the Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli.

After returning to the U.S., I wanted to read about Zwingli, but I didn’t want to get bogged down in an academic tome. This short book from the “Bitsize Biographies” series was perfect.

When it comes to Reformation history, most people know about Luther and Calvin, but Zwingli is far less familiar. Ulrich Zwingli was born in 1484 and ordained a Catholic priest in 1506. Young Zwingli was strongly influenced by the priestly scholar, Erasmus, who was a critic of the thoroughly corrupt church. Zwingli was one of the first to obtain a copy of Erasmus’s New Testament translation in 1516. When Zwingli was appointed pastor of the most important church in Zurich, the Grossmünster (Great Minister), in 1518 at the age of thirty-four, he was already pushing for reforms that would return the church back to New Testament faith and practice. Zwingli preached against ritualistic liturgy and the mass, indulgences, obligatory Lenten fasting, worshiping statues, the intercession of Mary and the saints, and the enforced celibacy of priests. Zwingli taught that salvation was not by sacramental grace and merit as Catholicism taught, but by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone as revealed in the New Testament. The Reformer won over the support of the civil government of Zurich and most of its citizens.

Zwingli and Luther met in 1529 in an attempt to unite the Swiss and German Reformation movements, but the two could not reach agreement on the issue of the Lord’s Supper. Luther held to the real presence of Christ in the elements while Zwingli believed the bread and wine were only symbolic.

Zwingi believed in a strong alliance between church and government. Anabaptists pushed for reforms beyond what Zwingli could accommodate and he persecuted them via the city magistrates. Several of the Swiss cantons followed Zwingli’s Reformation while others remained Catholic. Civil war ensued and Zwingli died in battle in 1531 as a chaplain to the Zurich troops.

I learned quite a bit about Zwingli in this short book. His belief in an ordained, church-state alliance is disappointing, but understandable given his RC foundation. Perhaps the most unusual information I learned about Zwingli was his belief that God elected some “heathens” for salvation, those who would never hear the Gospel during their lifetime.

As this book makes clear, Zwingli was an imperfect man. But as flawed as he was, the Lord used him in a mighty way to return the church back to the Gospel of grace. In America, with all of its freedoms, it’s hard for us to imagine the amount of faith and courage needed by Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers to stand up to Rome in the 16th century.

* An interesting (and even humorous) episode in Zwingli’s revolt against Catholic formalism and ritualism was the famous “Affair of the Sausages.” See here.

Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity: Same Words, Different Worlds

Same Words, Different Worlds: Do Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Believe the Same Gospel?
By Leonardo De Chirico
Inter-Varsity Press, 2021, 145 pp.

5 Stars

One week after receiving, reading, and reviewing Gregg Allison’s excellent new book, “40 Questions About Roman Catholicism,” came Leonardo De Chirico’s “Same Words, Different Worlds” in the mailbox.

I have said many, many times over the years that evangelicals need to be very, very cautious when it comes to Roman Catholicism. Catholics use many of the same terms as evangelicals – grace, faith, Savior, gospel, etc. – but what they mean by those terms is something entirely different from Gospel Christians. As just one example, when evangelicals speak about their “faith,” they’re generally referring to their belief and trust in God, encompassing their initial salvation in Christ Jesus and their continuing walk with Him. When Catholics refer to “faith” they’re largely referring to their trust in their institutional church and its sacramental salvation system to assist them in the possibility of meriting their salvation. In this book, De Chirico, one of evangelicalism’s most knowledgeable scholars on Roman Catholicism, fleshes out this idea of “same words, different worlds” much better than I could.

Throughout the book, De Chirico cite’s Allison’s hypotheses regarding Roman Catholicism’s two fundamental theological constructs, the nature-grace interdependence, whereby the RCC claims God uses nature/physical/material to confer grace (e.g., priests, water, oil, incantations, etc.) and the Christ-Church interconnection, whereby the RCC claims that it is the prolongation of the incarnation of Christ.

De Chirico examines both Catholic doctrine and church history to demonstrate that the RCC means something quite different from Gospel Christianity when it uses various Biblical terms. As the author points out, many unwary evangelicals have been duped into believing the common parlance represents shared beliefs. De Chirico comments on the current state of the RCC with pope Francis creating great confusion with his doctrine-bending, pragmatic progressivism.

This is such a good book, folks; a very accessible counterbalance to Allison’s more academic, theologically-focused book. I can’t recommend “Same Words, Different Worlds” highly enough. Order from Amazon here.

40 Questions About Roman Catholicism

40 Questions About Roman Catholicism
By Gregg R. Allison
Kregal Academic, 2021, 326 pp.

5 Stars

Is Roman Catholicism Christian? Such a question is repugnant to many evangelicals in this era of undiscerning pluralism. But how well do you really know Roman Catholicism and what it teaches?

In his previous book, “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” (2014), evangelical theologian, Gregg Allison, posited that the Roman Catholic church operates according to two basic constructs:

  • The Nature-Grace Interdependence, which claims the concrete conference of divine grace through nature, e.g., priests, water (baptism), oil (confirmation, last rites), laying of hands (ordination), bread (Jesus wafer), pilgrimage sites (healing), etc.
  • The Christ-Church Interconnection, whereby the Catholic church presents itself as the prolongation of the incarnation of Christ.

In this outstanding new book, published as part of Kregal Academic’s “40 Questions” series, Allison examines most of the major Roman Catholic doctrines and how they align within the Nature-Grace and Christ-Church constructs. The Catholic view on a particular doctrine is presented quite objectively followed by a Protestant/Biblical response. I would have loved to have listed the titles of all forty chapters to give you an idea of the scope of this examination, but I realize that few would have labored through it. Suffice to say Allison addresses the major doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity, most importantly, the opposing views on justification (infusion of sacramental grace and meritorious obedience vs. the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness) and salvation (by sacramental grace and merit vs. by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone). Merit was unabashedly taught as a component of Catholicism’s salvation system back when I was a young Catholic parochial school student, but the term has fallen out of favor within RC-ism because of its blatant anti-Gospel connotations and has been replaced with such sophistical phrases as “cooperating with grace” and “maintaining friendship with God,” but Allison accurately identifies merit as the bottom line of RC soteriology.

I wish there was more historical context in this book, but I realize Allison is writing from a theologian’s perspective rather than a historian’s. Allison’s tone is irenic almost to a fault, which comports with his view that confrontational evangelism is not effective. Praise God for a book such as this in 2021 when ecumenism with Rome is rampant within big tent evangelicalism. Much thanks to Dr. Allison and Kregal Academic Publishing. I’ve reviewed over 120 books on Roman Catholicism over the last six years and this one is easily one of the best. Be forewarned that this book is aimed towards academics, it’s not a breezy read for the beach.

“40 Questions About Roman Catholicism” can be ordered from Amazon here.

🎵 “‘When the pope says, ‘Don’t cry, rules we’re made to defy,’ that’s Amoris.” 🎵 [To the tune of “That’s Amore”]

Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies: Letters and statements addressed to Pope Francis, the Cardinals, and the Bishops with a collection of related articles and interviews
Edited by John R.T. Lamont and Claudio Pierantoni
Arouca Press, 2021, 433 pp.

3 Stars

After ascending to the papacy in 2013, Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio perceived that the Roman Catholic church was in a serious pickle. Official Catholic doctrine taught that remarried divorcees were adulterers and could not receive the eucharist Jesus wafer, the alleged “source and summit of Christian spirituality” as the Catholic catechism declares, or the other sacraments. That was not a big deal fifty years ago when few Catholics divorced, but these days close to 30% of adult Catholics are divorced and many obviously remarry. Then there are the many Catholic couples that cohabitate rather than marry. Rather than endure the church’s discipline, many remarried divorcees and cohabitators stop attending mass altogether. Progressive Catholics like Francis and his allies felt that scrupulous adherence to rules for rules’ sake was counterproductive when fewer and fewer were showing up for mass on Sunday mornings.

In 2016, Francis wrote Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), an “apostolic exhortation,” which among other things, declared that “in some cases,” those living in “irregular unions” were committing only venial sin rather than mortal sin due to mitigating circumstances (e.g., children) and that it was up to the discretion of the local parish priest as to who could receive the Jesus wafer and the other sacraments. The language of Amoris Laetitia was purposely vague so as not to be seen as flagrantly overturning traditional doctrine.

Conservative and traditionalist Catholics were appalled. They interpreted the pope’s apparent rescindment of the ban on the sacraments to remarried divorcees as an act of grave heresy. Four cardinals officially submitted five dubia (“questions”) to the pope, requesting that he clarify Amoris Laetitia in light of traditional Catholic teaching, but Francis refused to respond. Conservative prelates advised their priests to ignore Francis’ “bending of the rules,” however, when the Argentinian bishops published a guideline endorsing Francis’ pragmatic, rule-bending intentions, the pope cited the document as “authentic magisterium,” i.e., the authorized interpretation. Several petitions signed by prelates, priests, and laypersons followed the dubia, all accusing Francis of heresy, but they were also ignored by the pope. Conservative Catholics were now the ones in a pickle. What to do when the pope is a heretic? They were in a Catch-22 because absolute fealty to the papacy is a prime tenet of conservative Catholicism.

In this book, the conservative Catholic editors present the dubia, the various petitions, and many relevant articles. As an interested evangelical Vatican observer, I was fascinated from start to finish of this book. This is unparalleled papal drama that every evangelical apologist should be taking note of. There was considerable “technical jargon” (references to Catholic papal theology and canon law) throughout, but I managed to wade through without my eyes glazing over too often.

I watched the Amoris Laetita “crisis” unfold beginning in 2016 and have posted many articles over the years citing the mammoth (for Catholicism) dilemma. Francis has undermined the age-old boast that it was impossible for the pope to lead the RC church into error (as per St. Robert Bellarmine, d. 1621). Five years after Amoris Laetitia, the furor among conservative Catholics has somewhat abated. The pope’s strategy to outwait his opponents has partially worked, but the pot is still simmering. All that conservative prelates can do is continue to wring their hands and counsel their priests and lay followers to ignore the heretical pope. There are no mechanisms within canon law to impeach the pope. Missing in this internecine Catholic feud is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Postscript #1: I ordered this 2021 book from Amazon back in April, but five months later it is strangely no longer being offered. Does Amazon now regard this “Francis is a heretic” book as “hate literature.”

Postscript #2: It’s probably safe to assume that the vast majority of mass-going Roman Catholics are not aware of this Amoris Laetitia controversy. They clock-in and clock-out every Sunday and that’s about the extent of it. However, rest assured that some incensed Catholic Karen will be talking to “father” if she spots a remarried-divorcee standing in line to receive the Jesus wafer.

Relevant terms:

Papal infallibility: Some evangelicals mistakenly assume Catholics believe everything the pope teaches to be infallible. But according to the RCC, only when the pope speaks dogmatically on matters of faith and morals, ex cathedra, or “from the chair” of the Apostle Peter, is his teaching considered infallible. When have popes spoken ex cathedra? Catholic theologians can only agree on a handful of declarations, but no one, including pope Francis, considers Amoris Laetitia to be infallible.

Indefectability: The Roman Catholic church has boasted for 1500 years that it is “indefectacle,” i.e. that the church’s teaching magisterium (the pope in conjunction with the bishops) is incapable of leading the church into doctrinal error due to the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit. The five-year debate over Amoris Laetitia debunks that cherished claim.