Throwback Thursday: One of those old and angry ex-Catholics?

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 9th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

[The information in this post is closely associated with the “Throwback Thursday” post that was published just a few weeks ago. See here.]

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In 1994, Chuck Colson’s and, Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus’s ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) alliance issued its first declaration; “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” The gist of the statement was that both camps recognized the other as “Christian” and resolved to join as allies in the culture war against secularism. Several notable evangelicals supported the statement, but perhaps the most surprising signatory was J. I. Packer (photo above), an influential Reformed theologian best known for his book, “Knowing God.” Packer’s endorsement of ECT was met with shock and strong criticism from many evangelicals.

One year later, ECT leadership released “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission,” a collection of articles defending the ECT declaration, written by six of the document’s signers, including Packer. In his article, Packer argued that his endorsement of ECT was not an approval of the doctrines of Catholicism. He stated, in so many words, that if Catholics are saved, they are saved in spite of their church’s standard theology, not as a result of it. But, as I noted in a previous post, as a signatory of ECT, Packer was quite willing to give every Catholic the benefit of the doubt.

In defending himself from his critics, Packer wrote:

“The most poignant expressions of these criticisms come from middle-aged and elderly individuals who found Christ and spiritual life in evangelicalism after failing to find either in the Roman Catholicism of their birth and who cannot believe that Protestants who back ECT know what they’re doing” (p.156).

Packer’s statement is condescending at best and insulting at worst. Well, J. I., who best to comment on a false religious system than one who was once held in bondage by it? Who best to answer whether Christ and spiritual life can be found in Catholicism than ex-Catholics who have accepted Christ and come out of that church with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit? On the one hand, Packer readily admits that salvation cannot be found in the standard theology of the Catholic church, but then he turns around and backhands the ex-Catholic critics of ECT as being a bunch of bitter, old fogeys! Well, it’s easy to see that J. I. was quite stung by the well-deserved criticism of his participation in ECT and lashed out irrationally and uncharitably.

In some cursory readings, I see Packer was always a bit of an ecumenist, being an ardent admirer of C.S. Lewis, which eventually led to his break with David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones! Now there was a man of God who knew the danger of cozying up to Rome and wasn’t afraid to speak about it!  To read Lloyd-Jones’ sermon, “Roman Catholicism,” see here.

It’s been twenty-one years since the first ECT document was published and the fruits of Colson’s, Packer’s and other ecumenists’ efforts are everywhere. It’s a rising tide. A recent survey found that 58 percent of self-identified evangelical Christian pastors agreed that pope Francis was a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ,” while another 19 percent responded that they were not sure. What that means is only 23 percent of the evangelical Christian pastors who were polled disagreed with the statement that the pope is a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ.” I shouldn’t be surprised at the rising apostasy. The Bible does speak about it. And, no, I shouldn’t be hateful towards Packer and other misguided evangelicals who embrace the RCC and serve as the Vatican’s “polezni durak” (useful fools). However, I love my Catholic family members, friends, and Catholics in general who endlessly toil to be “good enough” to merit Heaven. Ach! What a rat race they run! They need evangelicals who will confront them with their sinful state and present them with the genuine Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. They don’t need accommodating and compromising evangelicals like J.I. Packer, who betray them and the Gospel.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

I’m clothed with my Savior’s imputed perfect righteousness. Now THAT’S something to REJOICE about! Yep, I am a HAPPY guy! Repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ and trust in Him as your Savior by faith alone, not in your own efforts or the man-made traditions your church.

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Back when Bible Christians began making erroneous assumptions about Catholicism – Part 2

Born-Again Catholics and the Mass
By William C. Standridge
Independent Faith Mission, 1980, 32 pp.

5 Stars

Yesterday, we reviewed the 1975 booklet, “What’s Happening in the Roman Church,” by William Standridge, in which the missionary-to-Italy commented on the growing misbelief within evangelicalism that the Catholic church was moving closer to Biblical Christianity (see here). Today, we’ll take a look at Standridge’s 1980 follow-up booklet, “Born-Again Catholics and the Mass.”

This publication provides some of the puzzle pieces that were missing in the previous booklet. The author begins by once again noting the confusion among some evangelicals caused by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement. Adherents were allegedly manifesting the Pentecostal “gifts of the spirit,” including speaking in tongues (aka glossolalia), healings, prophecy, and being “slain in the spirit.” CCR Catholics were also adopting the moniker of “born-again Catholics” although they still followed their church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. For Catholics who were involved in the Renewal, being “born-again” meant experiencing the emotional euphoria involved with the Pentecostal practices rather than trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone and being reborn spiritually in Christ.

In the chapters that follow, Standridge compares the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church, reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), especially as they pertain to the Catholic mass, with Holy Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches there is no longer any need for a sacredotal priesthood or perpetual sacrifice for sin. The Roman church’s teaching that its sacraments infuse grace to the recipients, so that they are able to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!), in order to possibly merit Heaven at the moment of their death is contrary to the Scriptures, which state that a person is only saved by repenting of (turning from) their sin and accepting (trusting in) Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. A Catholic who is genuinely born-again in Jesus Christ will increasingly understand from Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit that the mass, with its mediatorial priests, perpetual sacrifice, faux Jesus wafer, and merit-based false gospel, is antithetical to the Gospel of grace and he/she will leave the Roman church.

Standridge also credits Vatican II’s conciliatory gestures toward Protestants as the cornerstone of the subsequent ecumenical and interfaith movements that were evident in 1980 and would grow exponentially afterwards, all under the auspices of the RCC. Because of Vatican II’s winsome approach to Protestants and the subsequent Catholic Charismatic Renewal, evangelicals were increasingly deceived into believing that the Roman church was moving closer to Biblical Christianity.

It’s my subjective observation that charismatic Catholics are now much-less apt to refer to themselves as “born-again Catholics” as they did when this booklet was written in 1980. They’ve generally fallen in line with their church’s official terminology, that a person (infant, child, or adult) is “born-again” when they are baptized.

I appreciated this second booklet by William Standridge, which filled in some of the gaps missing in his previous effort.

Throwback Thursday: Ravi Zacharias impersonates Fred Astaire while compromising the Gospel

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on October 29, 2015, but has been revised substantially.

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Ravi Zacharias is a very familiar name to many evangelicals. The apologist has written several popular books, makes appearances all across the country, and his half-hour daily radio show is broadcast by many Christian radio stations. Mr. Zacharias* is an intelligent and very well-spoken orator and can be a pleasure to listen to regarding some topics. But, as an ex-Catholic saved by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone, it troubles me greatly that Mr. Zacharias often references committed Roman Catholics in his presentations as if they were Gospel Christians. I have personally heard him extol St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, and Malcolm Muggeridge. All three were committed to Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Mr. Zacharias also appeared as a speaker at the “Together 2016” ecumenical event in Washington D.C., which included a video-greeting from pope Francis.

Above is a 6-minute YouTube video that gives some additional perspective on Mr. Zacharias’ accommodation of Roman Catholicism. At an evangelical seminar, a young man has a question for Mr. Zacharias. He states that he’s been involved in street evangelism for six or seven years and has often encountered members of religious groups widely identified as cults, such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But he also mentions that he regularly encounters Roman Catholics. The young man asks Mr. Zacharias, albeit somewhat inarticulately because of nerves, to clarify for him whether Roman Catholicism is a cult or an apostate church?

Well, Mr. Zacharias tap dances around the question like Fred Astaire for about five minutes and manages to avoid giving anything resembling a forthright answer. It’s actually quite stunning to witness. Why the great hesitancy, Mr. Zacharias? Why the obfuscation? Can people be saved through the Catholic church’s standard theology of salvation via sacramental grace and merit or not? Is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone the only way to Heaven or not? What was so extremely difficult about the young man’s question, Mr. Zacharias, that caused you to hem and haw for five long minutes? Yes, Gospel-preaching churches and denominations have their secondary-belief distinctives, but, at its core, does the Roman Catholic church preach the genuine Gospel or not? That was the crux of the question as you very well knew.

The audience heartily applauded Mr. Zacharias for his “wise” and “gracious” non-reply, but that young man left the hall more confused than when he entered.

Catholic apologists and priests have absolutely NO problem proclaiming that their church is the “one true church” and that it alone possesses the “fullness of the gospel.” Catholic apologists and priests have absolutely NO problem disparaging “Bible-thumping evangelicals” and their “easy-believism” Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. So why then are evangelical preachers and apologists, like Mr. Zacharias, so deferential when it comes to Roman Catholicism? What are Mr. Zacharias and the others so afraid of? What spirit is driving them to cooperate, accommodate, compromise, and tap dance on egg shells? The young man mentioned Charles Spurgeon and his uncompromising stand regarding Catholicism. Where are the Spurgeons of today?

Lord, thank you for watchmen who are faithful to the Gospel of grace and who continue to work the ripe fields of the Roman Catholic lost.

*Some may be assuming that I am being disrespectful by referring to Ravi Zacharias as “Mr.” rather than “Dr.” in this post. In my first draft of this Throwback Thursday revision, I did refer to Ravi Zacharias as “Dr. Zacharias,” however, I subsequently learned that questions were raised recently regarding his academic credentials and, as per a statement on his own website, he is requesting that no one refer to him any longer as “doctor.” I point that out not as an attack (academic credentials can be absolutely meaningless as we all know), but for purposes of clarification.

Throwback Thursday: ECT – Toward a Common Mission of Apostasy

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on September 19th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

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Evangelicals & Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission
Charles Colson, Richard John Neuhaus, editors
Word Publishing, 1995, 236 pages

1 Star

Before I begin discussing this book, I’d like to provide a little background. In the late 1970s, influential evangelical theologian, Francis Schaeffer, challenged American pastors and para-church leaders to enter the political arena in order to “reclaim America for Jesus!” Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and other popular figures picked up the gauntlet, determined to stem the tide of “secular humanism.” Evangelicals soon found themselves as co-belligerents with conservative Roman Catholics in culture and morality battles. Predictably, political alliances paved the way for religious accommodation and compromise. Irreconcilable doctrinal distinctives were overlooked and some evangelicals began to accept unabashed salvation-by-merit Catholics as “brothers in Christ.”

Bombastic Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority eventually flamed out, but another evangelical would soon carry the ecumenical torch. Chuck Colson had been Special Counsel to President Nixon, but his involvement in the Watergate scandal landed him in prison where he claimed to have had a born-again experience. His 1975 memoir, “Born Again,” was a national bestseller and launched Colson’s new career as a popular para-church leader. Taking his cue from C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” ecumenism became increasingly dear to Colson’s heart.*

In 1994, Colson and Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, began “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT), an ecumenical project calling for evangelicals and Catholics to unite in the battle against secular humanism and to recognize each other as Christians. The organization’s 1994 declaration was signed by a number of influential evangelicals and Catholics. However, a number of other evangelical leaders voiced their strong opposition to the declaration, which embraced works-righteousness Catholicism as a Christian entity and called for an end to evangelizing Catholics.

This book, “Evangelicals & Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission,” was published in 1995 to explain and defend the controversial ECT declaration. The evangelical contributors were Colson, Mark Noll, and J. I. Packer, and the Roman Catholic contributors were George Weigel and priests Avery Dulles and Neuhaus.

I really don’t care to expend too much energy reviewing the details of this book. In my view it’s a tragedy from the first page to the last. The three evangelicals who participated flagrantly accommodate error and compromise the truth. What is the Gospel? For genuine evangelicals faithful to God’s Word, the Gospel is salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In contrast, the Catholic gospel is salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The two views are irreconcilable and cannot be bridged. Colson and Noll heard Catholics concede that “salvation is by (sacramental) grace through faith” and eagerly jumped the gun, declaring, “Close enough,” yet also knowing full well that Catholics actually adhere to “cooperation with grace,” aka merit or works, as an essential component in their salvation system. Packer? He correctly writes that if any Catholics are saved, they are saved IN SPITE of their church’s standard theology, but he’s willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” – Romans 11:6

ECT went on to publish several additional declarations over the years (via Neuhaus’ conservative Catholic and ecumenical journal, “First Things”), although it faded from view after the deaths of Neuhaus in 2009 and Colson in 2012. But, regrettably, Colson did accomplish some of what he set out to do. He would be pleased that works-righteousness Catholicism has been embraced as a Christian entity by a large number of Gospel-compromising evangelical pastors and their followers.

*I’m speculating that Chuck Colson’s great desire to unite evangelicals and Catholics was at least partially motivated by his 48-year marriage to Patty Hughes Colson, a “devout” Roman Catholic. Colson regularly attended mass with his Catholic wife. To see more on Colson’s proclivity for Roman error, see here.

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Partners in ecumenism: Chuck Colson, left, and priest, Richard John Neuhaus

Twisted logic from an ecumenically-minded evangelical

Over the years, I’ve engaged with many Roman Catholics and ecumenically-minded evangelicals who took umbrage at my outreach to Roman Catholics with the Gospel of grace.

One incensed, ecumenically-minded, evangelical blogger smugly put it to me this way:

“Going to a Catholic church doesn’t make anybody a non-Christian, just like sitting in a pew at a Baptist church doesn’t make anybody a Christian.”

Well, that argument is a logical fallacy. Yes, we certainly agree that just by attending church services or by being a member of a particular religious denomination or church doesn’t make anyone a Christian. According to the Bible, God’s Word, an individual becomes a Christian only when they repent of (turn from) their sinful rebellion against God and accept (trust in) Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. A person must be born-again, spiritually reborn in Jesus Christ, in order to become a Christian.

Many of the old mainline Protestant denominations drifted into modernism many decades ago and no longer teach that the Bible is God’s Word and no longer preach the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. People who still bother to attend those dead churches are not going to hear the Gospel. But thankfully, there are still many conservative-evangelical Baptist, Presbyterian, old-school Lutheran, and non-denominational churches where the genuine Gospel of grace is preached. At least unsaved people who attend those churches will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel. They must then decide whether to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior or not.

In the case of Roman Catholic churches, the Gospel is NEVER preached in ANY of them. Roman Catholicism teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Catholics are taught by their priests that they must receive graces from the church’s sacraments, so that they can successfully obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!), in order to hopefully merit their salvation at the moment of their death. That is a false gospel, NOT the genuine Gospel!

There are certainly some individuals who still identify as Roman Catholic who have genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone after hearing the Gospel of grace from a Christian friend, by reading a Gospel tract, by hearing a Christian preacher on television or radio, or by reading God’s Word themselves and responding in faith. But their salvation in Jesus Christ by faith alone is always, always, always in spite of their church’s teachings and not because of them. As they grow in Christ and His Word, the Holy Spirit will draw them out of the false (c)hristianity of Catholicism.

So, my indignant, ecumenically-minded, evangelical friend, I totally agree with you that sitting in a church pew Sunday after Sunday makes no one a Christian, BUT that doesn’t preclude the fact that the 1.3 billion souls who sit in the pews of Catholic churches around the world NEVER get to hear the genuine Gospel of grace from their church’s pulpit. Many evangelicals today just don’t know a lot about the particular teachings of the Catholic church and wrongly interpret Gospel outreach to Catholics as sectarian intolerance.

Throwback Thursday: “From Antichrist to Brother in Christ: How Protestant Pastors View the Pope”*

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on September 26th, 2015 and has been revised with some new material.

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In anticipation of pope Francis’ visit to the United States from September 22nd to September 27th, 2015, Lifeway Research (affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention) conducted a poll of 1000 Protestant pastors asking if they considered the pope to be a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ.” As would be expected, 80 percent of liberal, mainline Protestant pastors answered affirmatively that they did consider pope Francis to be a genuine Christian and their “brother in Christ.” What was disappointing was that 58 percent of self-identified evangelical Christian pastors agreed that pope Francis was a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ,” while another 19 percent responded that they were not sure. What that means is only 23 percent of the evangelical Christian pastors who were polled disagreed with the statement that the pope is a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ.”

As I mentioned to sister Lauren of Biblical Beginnings in our recent podcast discussion, I imagine that if evangelical pastors had been polled back in 1960 as to whether they believed the pope was a genuine Christian and their “brother in Christ,” that maybe 5 or 10 percent would have erroneously responded in the affirmative. So, what changed in the interim whereby now almost 80 percent of evangelical pastors either believe the pope is a Christian or are unsure? Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic church still teach the exact same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit that the RCC taught back in 1960. That has not changed at all. So what has changed??? The downplaying of irreconcilable doctrinal differences by many compromising, Judas evangelical pastors, theologians, seminary professors, and para-church leaders over the past several decades has opened up the evangelical church to the spirit of ecumenical false unity and discouraged outreach to lost Catholic souls.

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Pope Francis improves Protestant pastors’ views of Catholic Church
By Lisa Cannon Green
Lifeway Research
9/25/15

“…Evangelical pastors report more skepticism about Pope Francis than their mainline Protestant counterparts. While 80 percent of mainline Protestant pastors believe the pope is a true Christian, only 58 percent of evangelical pastors agree.

Pope Francis improves Protestant pastors’ views of Catholic Church

*The article cited in my original 2015 blog posting was “From Antichrist to Brother in Christ: How Protestant Pastors View the Pope” from Christianity Today, hence the title of this post. That article has since been restricted to CT subscribers only, so I referenced a different article for the purposes of this Throwback Thursday re-posting.

Reblog: AfterThought Episode 7 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 2 — Biblical Beginnings

Last week, sister Lauren at Biblical Beginnings posted the second half of our interview regarding outreach to Roman Catholics and the dangers of ecumenism with the Roman church, which can be found via this link:

https://afterthoughtbybiblicalbeginnings.podbean.com/e/afterthought-episode-7-interview-with-tom-from-excatholic4christ-part-2/

Once again, I’m very grateful to Lauren at Biblical Beginnings for graciously presenting me with the opportunity to discuss these extremely important topics. I’ve been blessed by her informative blog postings over the past couple of years and I’m excited about her new podcast ministry and the guests she’s lining up for future podcast interviews. Thank you, sister!

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I’m so excited to share with you the last half of this interview, beloved brethren! Tom goes further into the differences between Christianity and Catholicism, and the unique ways in which the Roman Catholic Church teaches works righteousness. He talks about his own experience and gives invaluable advice on how to evangelize the Catholics in […]

via AfterThought Episode 7 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 2 — Biblical Beginnings

Reblog: AfterThought Episode 6 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 1 — Biblical Beginnings

I’ve had the blessing of dialoguing with sister Lauren at Biblical Beginnings for quite a long time. Her postings and friendship have been a true blessing in my life.

Lauren has started a podcast in conjunction with her blog and she recently offered me the opportunity to speak about evangelical outreach to Roman Catholics and the dangers of ecumenism with Rome. She posted part one of our interview this past Monday and part two will follow tomorrow. The link to part one of the interview is below:

https://afterthoughtbybiblicalbeginnings.podbean.com/e/afterthought-episode-6-interview-with-tom-from-excatholic4christ-discussing-ecumenism-part-1/

I’m very grateful to Lauren for giving me the opportunity to speak on these topics that are so important and very dear to my heart. I encourage everyone to check out Lauren’s blog, Biblical Beginnings, and her podcasts. She already has six episodes completed. Lauren does an excellent job using this new podcast technology and she was an excellent interviewer.

Thank you, Lauren, for all that you do in serving the Lord!

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Today, dear ones, I dropped episode 6 of Afterthought! I’m so excited to have had the opportunity to interview Tom from ExCatholic4Christ. In this first part of this two part interview Tom shares his testimony, and explains the difference between Roman Catholicism and Christianity. He also details how ecumenism began, and progressed, in the mid […]

via AfterThought Episode 6 – Interview with Tom from ExCatholic4Christ: Part 1 — Biblical Beginnings

Troubling accommodation, compromise, and betrayal at an SBC church

A few days ago, I was thinking about our one-year (May 2014-June 2015), increasingly troubling stay at a small Southern Baptist church in town and I thought I’d write a short post about the experience.

I’ve referred many times to my very long prodigal “season” away from the Lord after I had become exasperated with the teaching at our first Bible-preaching church. However, the Lord kept calling me back to Him and when we became reconnected with some old Christian friends and they invited us to their evangelical Free Methodist church, I finally returned to the Lord.

Hallelujah!

However, we were prevented from continuing at our friends’ church because of differences involving some important secondary belief issues, so after some searching, we finally settled on a small Southern Baptist church (photo above) about four miles from our house. Our first Sunday in attendance was also the first service for the newly hired pastor; a young guy (35), fresh out of seminary, with lots of enthusiasm for the Lord. I very much appreciated that, in his sermons, he emphasized God’s grace. That was a balm to my soul in comparison to the heavy guilt-trips that were regularly laid upon the members at our first church. Sign me up!

Everything was going fine initially, but then the pastor began to reveal a disturbing fondness for Catholic theology. Here’s some specific examples I can remember:

  • In casual conversation, the pastor said that he desired to set up a men’s discussion group that would bandy about theological topics in the same tradition as English intellectuals, Anglican C.S. Lewis and Roman Catholic G.K. Chesterton. Well, Chesterton was actually of the generation preceding Lewis’s, but his books had a profound effect on Lewis’s openness to ecumenism. The pastor’s penchant for Lewis and, especially, Chesterton, was troubling.
  • A men’s group was subsequently started and the pastor chose “The End of Christendom” (1980) written by Malcolm Muggeridge as our first study material. Muggeridge was a British journalist and a convert to Catholicism who was largely responsible for turning Mother Teresa into an international celebrity. After finishing the Muggeridge book, the pastor began showing segments of Francis Schaeffer’s film series, “How Should We Then Live.” Both materials were inappropriate for a casual, non-academic men’s church group, especially Muggeridge’s book for its Catholic connections. I inquired of the pastor about Muggeridge’s Catholic affiliation, but was brushed off.
  • During one of the men’s get-togethers, the pastor referenced Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) as his “favorite theologian.” Huh? Aquinas is venerated as Catholicism’s premier theologian and his “Scholasticism” (a system of theology and philosophy based on the syncretism of Aristotelian logic and the writings of the early church fathers) was the dominant theological viewpoint of the Catholic church for seven-hundred years. I questioned the pastor on how he could admire Aquinas when the theologian propagated all of the major doctrines of Catholicism (e.g., the priesthood, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, purgatory, the papacy, indulgences, salvific merit, auricular confession, etc., etc.). Again, I was brushed off.
  • The pastor was also a strong admirer of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) and frequently referenced his “Pensées.” Pascal was a Catholic, but also a member of the heretical (according to the popes of that era) Jansenist movement.

I liked the pastor personally and I appreciated most of his sermon messages, but all of these accommodations and positive references to Roman Catholicism increasingly troubled me and I began to seriously contemplate leaving the church.

  • The last straw came when, from the pulpit, the pastor cited Peter Kreeft as his “favorite philosopher.” Kreeft is a convert to Catholicism and, as one of that church’s most popular apologists, has written many books promoting the Catholic gospel of sacramental grace and merit. I knew at the moment the pastor recommended Kreeft to the congregation that I had to find a new church home for my wife and I.

We stayed at that church for a year, but, looking back, we should have left sooner than we did. The pastor was so enamored with and so deferential to Roman Catholicism, he would have been more consistent in his beliefs had he just padlocked the doors of his SBC church and told the 30-some adults in the congregation to transfer to the RC Church of the Transfiguration just a half-mile down the road.

The Southern Baptist Convention is a wide umbrella and certainly not all SBC pastors are enmeshed in ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel the way this young pastor was. Some Southern Baptist pastors and para-church leaders shun unity with Rome, but others, like the names that follow, are not only open to ecumenism with Rome, they even pursue it: Ronnie Floyd, Timothy George, Franklin Graham, Richard Land, Beth Moore, and Rick Warren.

See my previous post here about how the pastor and his deacon friend inadvertently motivated me to begin this blog.

Another betrayal of the Gospel in the push for “unity”

Justified in Christ: The Doctrines of Peter Martyr Vermigli and John Henry Newman and Their Ecumenical Implications
By Chris Castaldo
Pickwick Publications, 2017, 234 pages

I’m already acquainted with the author of this book, evangelical pastor Chris Castaldo. I’ve reviewed two books he wrote and one he co-wrote previously about Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics (see here, here, and here). I welcomed those efforts because there are very few books dedicated to outreach to Catholics published by major (c)hristian publishers these days. But the books were also disturbing because they came across as a bit too soft on Catholicism. It was as if, in the final analysis, Castaldo was saying to Catholics, “Yes, your church is legitimate to a degree, but evangelicalism is a better way.” Castaldo shares that kind of accommodating and compromising attitude with other notable evangelical pastors and para-church leaders. This new book is even more disturbing as it appears Castaldo is determined to formulate a “middle way” theology on justification that is acceptable to both Catholics and Bible Christians.

There are many irreconcilable differences between Catholicism and Biblical Christianity, but the most important difference is in regards to the doctrine of justification. Martin Luther rightly said that justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls.

In brief, Catholics believe they are initially justified by their infant baptism and that they must continue to receive their church’s sacraments in order to receive graces so that they may successfully obey the Ten Commandments and church rules so as to hopefully merit Heaven at the moment of their death. Catholics believe they can become subjectively, intrinsically righteous through the infused grace of the sacraments and the merit of obedience and good works.

In contrast, Bible Christians believe they are justified by repenting of sin and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. They believe that they become objectively, extrinsically, forensically righteous before God solely because of Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness that was imputed to them the moment they accepted Him as Savior. Bible Christians believe good works are the fruit (verification) of justification in Christ, not the basis of it.

The two views are diametrically opposed. One is wrong. One is right. They cannot both be right.

In this book (which was actually the author’s doctoral thesis), Castaldo presents two theologians from the past, one an Italian Protestant Reformer, Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), and the other a famous convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, John Henry Newman (1801-1890).

Castaldo attempts to find some agreement between the two theologians as a basis for ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and evangelicals. Vermigli taught that the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ was the “formal cause” of justification, however he also taught that God also “accepts and rewards Christian works as a necessary constituent of final justification.” Castaldo labels this as “double-righteousness” or “double-justification.” So Vermigli gave more credence to good works in salvation than Bible Christians would allow.

Over the years, Newman shifted in his theology from an “evangelical” to a high-church Anglican, to a Roman Catholic. Castaldo references Newman’s writing at the time he was an Anglican, when he still allegedly held to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as a “factor” in justification, while concurrently holding to baptismal regeneration and progressive sanctification as other contributing factors. Later, after he converted to Catholicism, Newman rejected his previous opinions about imputed righteousness and embraced Catholicism’s notion of sacramentally infused grace and subjective, intrinsic righteousness.

I’m only a Theology 101 type of guy and I don’t normally seek out theology texts that are loaded with Latin phrases to impress academicians like this book does, but I am well-versed in the Protestant-Catholic debate over justification and was able to follow Castaldo’s arguments pretty well. The attempt to blaze some kind of middle-road between evangelicalism’s and Catholicism’s views on justification using Vermigli and pre-Catholic Newman falls totally flat and the differences remain.

It’s sad that Judas evangelicals like Castaldo seek to advance unity with Rome through accommodation and compromise of the Gospel of grace. In the acknowledgements, the author credits Timothy George, one of the principals of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), as a strong supporter of this effort as well as three Roman Catholic priests. Save your time and your money.