Evangelical scholars examine Roman Catholicism with spotty results

Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us
John Armstrong, General Editor
Moody Bible Institute, 1994, 345 pp.

3 Stars

In 1994, with American society increasingly heading towards secularization, influential evangelical para-church leader, Chuck Colson, and Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, founded Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), an ecumenical initiative meant to bridge/overlook/minimize theological differences and unite both groups against the perceived common threat. The effort elicited a wide range of responses within evangelicalism. Faithful pastors and theologians countered that the differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity were far too wide and even irreconcilable. Others were increasingly open to Catholic overtures, which began thirty-years earlier at the Second Vatican Council when the RCC radically altered its approach to Protestants, from militant confrontation to conciliatory rapprochement.

This book from Moody Press was published shortly after the release of the first ECT accord. Thirteen evangelical scholars examine the doctrines that continue to divide Catholics and evangelical Protestants. There are a myriad of un-Biblical Catholic doctrines that Gospel Christians could not submit to (e.g., papal authority, sacred tradition, baptismal regeneration, sacerdotalism, transubstantiation, Mariology, purgatory, etc.), but the opposing views on justification stands as the prime difference. Martin Luther famously argued that justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls.

Gospel Christians believe a person is justified/made righteous before God only by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and thereby receiving the imputed (alien, extrinsic, objective, forensic) perfect righteousness of Christ. Catholicism, in contrast, teaches that its sacraments infuse saving graces into an individual’s soul. By then “cooperating with grace” (i.e., obeying the Ten Commandments, performing acts of piety and charity) a person can become increasingly sanctified (personal, intrinsic, subjective) and can hope to “possibly” merit* salvation at the time of their death. Okay, let’s forget the theological terminology. Evangelicals believe they are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Catholics hope to be saved by sacramental grace and obedience to the Ten Commandments (impossible!). The two views are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled.

Several of the writers acknowledge that Roman Catholicism’s doctrine of justification is NOT the Gospel, yet still conclude that the RCC is a Christian institution and that Catholics are “brothers and sisters” in the Lord. This is a dichotomous accommodation that defies rationality and theology. In his article, Alistair McGrath goes to great lengths in an attempt to prove that the contrasting “approaches” to justification are two sides to the same coin. To his credit, McGrath also points out that in contrast to ecumenical “dialogues,” where Catholic representatives readily assent to theoretical “salvation by grace through faith,” Catholicism continues to teach such things as purgatory, indulgences, and masses and prayers for the dead, which reveal the RCC continues as a works-righteousness religious system.

The articles by S. Lewis Johnson, Kim Riddlebarger, Michael Horton, William Webster and John Armstrong are faithful to the Gospel of grace and do not make accommodations to Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. This book is a mixed bag, but valuable for revealing evangelicals’ increasingly accommodating attitudes towards Rome twenty-six years ago. There’s no doubt that ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel has made further inroads since then.

Chapters:

  1. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church – Thomas J. Nettles
  2. How Did the Church in Rome Become Roman Catholicism – D. Clair Davis
  3. What Really Caused the Great Divide? – W. Robert Godfrey
  4. Roman Catholic Theology Today – Robert B. Strimple
  5. Mary, the Saints, and Sacerdotalism – S. Lewis Johnson
  6. Is Spirituality Enough? Differing Models for Living – Donald G. Bloesch
  7. Unhelpful Antagonism and Unhealthy Courtesy – Harold O.J. Brown
  8. Evangelical and Catholic Cooperation in the Public Arena – Ronald Nash
  9. What Shall We Make of Ecumenism? – Alister E. McGrath
  10. No Place Like Rome? Why Are Evangelicals Joining the Catholic Church? – Kim Riddlebarger
  11. What Still Keeps Us Apart? – Michael S. Horton
  12. Did I Really Leave the Holy Catholic Church? The Journey into Evangelical Faith and Church Experience – William Webster
  13. The Evangelical Movement? – John H. Armstrong

*Back in the 1960s, when I was a young Catholic, the Roman church had no reservations about using the term, “merit,” in association with attaining salvation. Since then, the term has fallen out of favor (partly as a concession to evangelical proselytization) and Catholics will insist that they absolutely are not attempting to merit their salvation. However, the church’s catechism reveals merit is still the bottom line of Catholicism’s salvation system:

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion (i.e., baptism). Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” – CCC 2010

Throwback Thursday: Rick Warren and Rome

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on March 4, 2016 and has been revised.

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Rick Warren’s Dangerous Ecumenical Path to Rome
By Roger Oakland
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2015, 20 pages

Popular Southern Baptist, mega-church pastor, Rick Warren, aka “America’s Pastor,” has been courting the Roman Catholic church for many years. But even Rome-friendly, evangelical ecumenists were somewhat taken aback by Warren’s unabashed and forthright endorsement of Catholicism in his 2014 interview on EWTN (Catholic) television (see link below).

In the interview, Warren stated his personal fondness and endorsement of Catholic contemplative mysticism, the pope, ecumenical social projects, Catholicism’s New Evangelization program, spiritual directors, EWTN television, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

In this short booklet, evangelical apologist, Roger Oakland, examines Warren’s shocking statements in comparison to God’s Word and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The Catholic church teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit, a different “gospel,” but that’s definitely not a problem for Warren who is quite comfortable throwing correct doctrine out the window. He nebulously states that as long as you “love Jesus, we’re on the same team,” whatever that means.


World Over hosted by Raymond Arroyo
EWTN
4/10/2014
Guest, Rick Warren
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVCY8pW-ACs

Rick Warren’s comments on Roman Catholicism
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
https://carm.org/rick-warren-and-catholicism

Note: “Rick Warren’s Dangerous Ecumenical Path to Rome” is out-of-print, but other materials about Roman Catholicism from Lighthouse Trails Publishing can be found here.

When Catholics speak of “Christian Unity,” what they mean is the eventual conversion of Protestants

Christian Unity: The Next Step
By Kevin E. Mackin, OFM (Order of Friars Minor aka the Franciscans)
WestBow Press (A Division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan), 2020, 92 pp.

1 Star

I stumbled across this short book written by a Franciscan priest about the future of the ecumenical movement and was curious to see what he had to say. Based on its short length, I suspected this was some sort of academic dissertation, but was surprised to read the author is eighty-two years old.

Priest Mackin begins with a look back at the Roman Catholic church’s radical redirection at the Second Vatican Council with regards to its attitude towards Protestants, from that of militant confrontation to concerted rapprochement. But Catholicism’s concept of “Christian unity” has always meant Protestants’ eventual reabsorption. The goal since 1964 has been to bring the “separated brethren” back into the fold under the authority of the pope. Paranoia on my part? Read the RCC’s own words:

When such (ecumenical) actions are undertaken prudently and patiently by the Catholic faithful, with the attentive guidance of their bishops, they promote justice and truth, concord and collaboration, as well as the spirit of brotherly love and unity. This is the way that, when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.

– from Vatican II document, Unitatis redintegratio, (Restoration of unity), chapter 2, 1964

Mackin describes some of the post-conciliar ecumenical talks between Catholics and mainline Protestants focusing on the issues of Scripture, tradition, and authority. He notes that “progress” has definitely been made, but the hoped-for, large-scale reabsorption of Protestants remains elusive.

When Mackin speaks of “Protestants,” he’s generally referring to members of the old, mainline Protestant denominations. The RCC is also making a concerted effort to interface with evangelical Protestants. Ecumenically-minded evangelicals who embrace the RCC with its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit are pawns and polezni durak, “useful fools,” in this calculated endeavor. The genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone has nothing in common with Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

Mackin notes that the RCC has been sidetracked by the two-decades-long scandal involving pedophile priests and hierarchical cover-up and needs to “reform” and rededicate itself so that ecumenism can advance once again.

This book “disappointed” in that the theological jargon is sometimes as thick as mud and friar Mackin fails to provide much insight into what the concrete “next step/s” might be in the RCC’s plan for the reabsorption of Protestants. What will it take for Protestants to finally shutter their churches’ windows, padlock their doors, and mosey on down the street to the nearest Roman Catholic church on Sundays? I’m of the opinion that it will take some type of global, catastrophic event for unwitting non-Catholics to submit to the pope en masse and I do believe such an event is coming. In the meantime, misguided, ecumenically-minded evangelicals bemoan denominational divides and long for the day when all “Christians” can worship together under one roof. The pope and his prelates are most assuredly working on it.

Above: Cardinal Kurt Koch (2nd from right), President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, meets with representatives from the World Evangelical Alliance in 2018.

“Beware of ‘those’ false teachers, but ‘these’ false teachers are okay.” Huh?

One of the more enjoyable aspects of Christian blogging is being able to read the inspiring, informative, and creative writing of my fellow believing bloggers. However, I purposely limit the number of bloggers I follow because I try to read all of the incoming posts and there’s only so many hours in the day.

I’ve followed and subsequently unfollowed many bloggers over the years. I realize that few if any Christian bloggers are going to align exactly with all of my beliefs on secondary and tertiary doctrines, but there are some things that I can’t abide with and I can’t lend my support to by following a Christian blogger who propagates such things.

Case in point. I recently began following a blogger I’ll name “Mike” who I came across while reading the comments section of a post by another blogger. Back in mid-November, Mike posted an article warning about false teachers and false teachings, specifically citing the name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospelers, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Olsteen, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and Paula White. Amen! Yup, all five individuals are definitely false teachers.

A week later, Mike published another post decrying denominational divisions and the lack of unity amongst “Christians.” Hmm. I hold the view that genuine believers are quite united by our faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone despite secondary and tertiary differences. I see that unity demonstrated every day here at WordPress. I’m wary of Christians who decry doctrinal distinctives and appeal to a shallow unity according to a nebulous “We all just love Jesus” bottom line.

A couple of days after that, Mike published another post criticizing Christian sectarianism generally and “prejudice” against Catholics specifically. I certainly don’t support hatred or dislike of Catholics. I was a Roman Catholic for twenty-seven years and most of my family and friends still are Catholic. However, the Roman Catholic church unabashedly and unapologetically teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit and Gospel Christians should never accommodate the RCC or compromise with it. Lest anyone think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill regarding the aforementioned posts, I searched Mike’s archives using the word, “Catholic,” and immediately found a post from August 15th extolling full-bore ecumenism with the RCC.

It’s very clear that Mike views the RCC as a Christian entity. His mid-November post warning about false teachers is ironic and incongruous in retrospect, seeing that he easily embraces the false teachers of Roman Catholicism. Why the disconnect? The acceptable group-think/herd-mentality consensus within conservative evangelicalism these days is that, yes, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the prosperity shysters preach false gospels, but somehow the RCC’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit is fine and any objection is a sign of uncharitable “sectarianism.” This lack of discernment within evangelicalism is beyond alarming.

I unsubscribed to Mike’s blog because I can’t support his ecumenical propaganda. That kind of tolerance and acceptance of RC error is a misguided and ill-informed leaven that’s rampant throughout evangelicalism these days. Nope, I’m not trying to be the “who you can and can’t follow” blog police. Every Christian blogger must decide for themselves what they can and can’t support by “following” a particular blogger and “liking” their error-filled posts.

Postscript: I noticed that a staunch Roman Catholic blogger whom I have debated several times in the past lent her hearty “Amen” to the first three posts referred to above. If you’re an evangelical blogger and Roman Catholic bloggers are consistently “Amen-ing” your posts, then you’re not enunciating the Gospel clearly enough.

Ecumenist Norman Geisler Strikes Again

Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim
By Norman Geisler and Joshua Betancourt
Crossway, 2008, 235 pp.

2 Stars

One of the strangest books I ever read in my entire life was “Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences” (1995) by Norman Geisler (d. 2019) in which the evangelical theologian clearly defined the irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Gospel Christianity and Roman Catholicism, including the opposing views on justification, and yet still concluded the RCC was a Christian entity! See my associated post here.

In this book, published thirteen years later, Geisler specifically focuses on Catholicism’s claim to be the “one true church” based upon the notions of Petrine primacy, apostolic succession, and papal infallibility. Geisler examines Scripture, the writings of the church “fathers,” and to a lesser degree, church history, to make a very substantial case against Rome’s false claims. Adopting the Roman-Caesarian imperial model, the bishops of Rome sought to secure and consolidate their advantages and privileges.

The reader will repeatedly have a sense of déjà vu while reading this book as Geisler often uses the same references to counter different claims. But his arguments are substantive and convincing. As with his previous book, Geisler once again strangely concludes that the Roman Catholic church is a Christian entity despite the fact that it teaches a subjective, intrinsic view on justification and a salvation system based upon sacramental grace and merit. All ecumenical evangelicals must “leap frog” over this irreconcilable incongruity. Sadly, Geisler mentored a bevy of ecumenically-minded, pop-apologists (i.e., McDowell, Craig, Zacharias, Strobel, Turek).

Contents

  1. The Roman Claim to Be the True Church
  2. The Historical Development of the Roman Primacy Structure
  3. The Roman Argument for the Primacy of Peter: Stated and Evaluated
  4. The Roman Argument for the Infallibility of Peter: Stated
  5. The Roman Argument for the Infallibility of Peter: Evaluated
  6. The Roman Argument for Apostolic Succession
  7. Is Rome the True Church?
  8. Why Some Protestants Convert to Rome

Appendices

  1. Irenaeus on the Alleged Authority of the Church
  2. A Chronological List of Popes and Antipopes
  3. The Relation of Tradition to Scripture
  4. Sola Scriptura
  5. Irenaeus on Scripture and Tradition

Alistair Begg: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Back in August, my wife and I were in a position where we needed to find a new source for livestream Sunday morning church services. I chose the services at Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio (near Cleveland) with Pastor Alistair Begg (photo above). Yup, I had my misgivings about Pastor Begg because of his penchant for quoting C.S. Lewis (ecumenist) and G.K. Chesterton (Roman Catholic) and because of one particular incident that I posted about last year in which he favorably cited a book written by a Catholic cleric (see here). But I decided to give Pastor Begg another try because, well, he is such an enjoyable and inspirational speaker to listen to. Ach. I can be a real dummy sometimes.

My wife and I were pleased, make that VERY pleased, with the subsequent services UNTIL we watched the video of the Sunday, November 1st evening service. Begg had preached an excellent sermon earlier that morning on 2 Samuel 2:1-11 and the anointing of David as King of Israel at Hebron, which was followed by the insurrection of Abner and his installation of Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, as the competing king. Begg continued the message in the evening service, preaching on 2 Samuel 2:12-32 and the battle at Gibeon between the military forces of Abner and the forces of David, led by Joab. In the course of both sermons, Begg made the connection between the circumstances surrounding David’s anointing and the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Begg’s point was that all temporal political systems and nations are ultimately destined to fail because multiple forms of advancing corruption bring them down. Begg’s message was that believers should focus on Jesus Christ and the Gospel, not on political solutions and nationalism. Excellent! Here, here! Bravo! Amen! However, at the 52:00 mark, Begg made a disturbing tie-in reference to “the church”:

“(David) came to Israel, and the tribes lined up under Ish-Bosheth, to stand against God’s anointed king. The story incidentally of the development of the history of the church may be understood in these terms, too. I listened to a very fine address by a Roman Catholic priest just yesterday in order to help me in my life. And it was a political address and it was jolly good. And I was paying very careful attention. And he explained at one point that the organization and the commitment of the church runs all the way, he says, from pope Pius IX (papal reign, 1846-1878) to Benedict (XVI). I said to myself, Oh, so what happened to Francis? (That’s) exactly what happened to him!”

Huh? I replayed the remarks several times to make sure I had heard correctly. First, Begg favorably cites to his congregation an address by a Roman Catholic priest to “help me in my life.” He then notes that the priest favorably commented on the papacies of Pius IX* to Benedict XVI, while purposely omitting the controversial current pope, Francis. Begg presents this as a parallel example of how the condition of “the church,” like the nation, is also deteriorating.

Please catch the irony in this circumstance, folks. Begg is bemoaning the deterioration of “the church,” while he himself is contributing to the declining state of evangelicalism by his embracement of Roman Catholicism. What to make of this? I’m certainly not implying that Begg, by his comment, is endorsing the RCC on a wholesale basis, but his remarks here are beyond disturbing. What goes through his head?

Ach. I was disappointed, but not surprised. What a dummy I am. I should NOT have given Begg a second chance. No more listening to Alistair Begg for me. No third chances. Brothers and sisters, this kind of ecumenical accommodation and compromise is rife within evangelicalism.

Below is a link to the sermon in question. Begg’s remarks regarding the address by the Catholic priest begin at the 52:00 mark.

David anointed and opposed – part two (2 Samuel 2:12-32), Sunday evening, November 1st

*It was Pius IX who had himself and other popes declared infallible at the First Vatican Council in 1870. All popes and priests teach Rome’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Update: Brother Billy at the excellent “Soul Refuge” YouTube channel created a video based upon the above post. See below:

An awkward title, but an informative book about evangelical compromise

New Neutralism II: Exposing the Gray of Compromise
By John E. Ashbrook
Here I Stand Books, Second Printing, 2002, 110 pp.

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I’ve recently reviewed a couple of excellent books about the sad history of evangelicalism’s slow and steady journey towards compromise and accommodation with Roman Catholicism and other errors. See my review of “Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism” by Rolland D. McCune here and my review of “We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics” by Neil J. Young here.

Fundamentalist pastor, John E. Ashbrook (d. 2011), expanded upon the themes of the 1958 booklet, “The New Neutralism,” written by his pastor father, William Ashbrook, to produce this short book, which was first published in 1992. By “neutralism,” the author is referring to compromise with error and religious unbelief. As with “Promise Unfulfilled,” Ashbrook examines the rise of “New Evangelicalism” and its wayward journey. New Evangelicalism was the brainchild of Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, and Billy Graham. They determinedly broke from fundamentalist separatism in the late 1940s and plotted a course that would be more accommodating in relationship to modernists and Catholics. The initial idea was that “dialogue” would win more souls than confrontation, but, as might be predicted, accommodation with error gradually turned into acquiescence to error.

Ashbrook names many names and doesn’t pull his punches. His tone is angry, strident, and sometimes even sarcastic as befits a fundamentalist pastor with an ax to grind, but it’s hard to argue with much of what he’s written here. One need only turn on TBN to see the heterodox bitter fruit of Ockenga, Henry, and Graham’s “New Evangelicalism” vision.

Chapters:

  1. Why the New Neutralism?
  2. Separatism, Acceptance, and the Social Gospel
  3. The NAE, the WEF, and Camels
  4. Fuller Seminary – Exhibit A
  5. Billy Graham – The Mouthpiece of New Evangelicalism
  6. Billy Graham’s Catholic Connection
  7. Mr. Revolutionary (Bill Bright) and Campus Crusade
  8. Intellectuals in Residence
  9. The Popularizers
  10. Explos and Extravaganzas
  11. Jerry Falwell and the Gnu Evangelicalism
  12. The Institutions
  13. A View From the Top of the Hill

Politics and social morality trump the Gospel

I didn’t purposely schedule it this way, but on this post-election Wednesday, we’re going to review an excellent book that examines some of the regrettable aspects of evangelicalism’s dalliance with politics.

We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics
By Neil J. Young
Oxford University Press, 2015, 432 pages

Sixty-years ago, evangelicals generally had enough discernment to know that the Roman Catholic church propagated a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Today, a large number, or perhaps even the majority of evangelicals embrace the RCC as a Christian entity even though it has not changed any of its basic doctrines. What happened? What changed? In this extremely informative book, historian, Neil J. Young, examines how American evangelicals gradually became focused on cultural/political battles against rising secularism, with Roman Catholics as co-belligerents. The Gospel and doctrinal distinctives were gradually overshadowed by shared “Judeo-Christian values” and political expediency.

During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the RCC radically changed its approach to Protestants, from militant confrontation to semi-rapprochement. Because of the language of some of the V2 documents, many evangelicals unwittingly assumed the RCC was shifting towards a more Biblically-centered approach, which was not the case.

The Roe vs. Wade SCOTUS decision (1973) galvanized conservative Catholics into political activism. Evangelicals would take longer. The possible passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late-1970s presented another crisis. Theologian, Francis Schaeffer, challenged evangelicals and fundamentalists to become politically involved, prompting independent fundamental Baptist pastor, Jerry Falwell, to found the ecumenical Moral Majority organization in 1979. Moral Majority and evangelicals played a significant role in electing Ronald Reagan in 1980, but the anticipated pro-morality legislation wasn’t forthcoming. Moral Majority fizzled out and was replaced by Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, founded in 1989, which didn’t produce much in the way of tangible, legislative results either.

Politically-minded evangelicals and Catholics, though co-belligerents in the culture battles, largely kept their distance from each other throughout the 70s and 80s because of doctrinal distinctives, but Chuck Colson’s “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” ecumenical initiative (1994), sought to turn co-belligerency into co-recognition and co-acceptance. Many evangelicals objected to ECT, but the spirit of ecumenism has continued to erode spiritual discernment and ecclesiastical separation over the past twenty-six years.

Everyone who desires to learn the history of evangelicals’ ecumenical accommodation to and compromise with Catholicism via political involvement would benefit from this book. Author Neil J. Young is not favorable towards evangelicals, but he tells the story with an acceptable measure of objectivity. One of the most maddening examples of evangelical politicos spinning their wheels was the misguided crusade to return compulsory prayer back to public schools during the Reagan administration. Argh! Young includes the LDS church as the third player in the religious-right, conservative-political triumvirate, but the Mormons generally operated on the periphery, with the exception of Mormon Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Mormon Glenn Beck’s recent appearances at evangelical venues is further evidence of eroding discernment and of politics and nationalism taking precedence over the Gospel.

Excellent book. Very informative. Highly recommended. This short review does not do justice to the amount of historical detail that’s presented. Unbeliever Young has more discernment regarding the serious pitfalls of interfaith politics than many evangelicals do.

Throwback Thursday: Is the Reformation Over?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 5, 2016 and has been revised.

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Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism
By Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom
Baker Academic, 2008, 272 pp.

The title of this book is strictly rhetorical. For “evangelical,” Mark Noll, the Reformation is not only over, but it’s doubtful, in his opinion, whether it had all that much value. Along with Chuck Colson, Noll was one of the prime architects of the ecumenical initiative – Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) – so he begins this book with the presupposition that, yes, the Reformation is over and that Catholicism is a Christian entity. He argues that, while evangelicals and Catholics still differ on “secondary” doctrinal issues (the papacy, Mary, purgatory, sacerdotalism, sacramentalism, etc.), they now mainly agree on justification, the prime catalyst of the Reformation, and that “salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“If it is true, as once was repeated frequently by Protestants conscious of their anchorage in Martin Luther or John Calvin that iustificatio articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae (justification is the article on which the church stands or falls), then the Reformation is over” (p.232).

But Catholicism has NOT changed its views on justification since the Reformation. While Catholics will cautiously agree to salvation “by grace through faith,”* the vaguery of that term masks the unabashed works-righteousness precepts of their religion, as Noll knows full well and strategically alludes to only briefly in this book. As an integral part of their salvation system, Catholics must “cooperate with grace” and perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church laws in order to merit Heaven. Catholics object to accusations that theirs is a works-righteousness gospel, claiming that it’s only by the grace administered through their sacraments that they can possibly obey the commandments and church rules so that they can ultimately present themselves without the stain of a single “mortal” sin on their soul at the time of their death in order to merit Heaven. But the Bible says no one can become righteous by obeying the Law. It’s absolutely impossible. The Law only shows us we are sinners in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:19-21

“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

One day when I stand before a Holy God, I will not have a single plea other than the imputed perfect righteousness of my Savior.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Ecumenical compromisor, Mark Noll

Noll and fellow “evangelical” ecumenists have swept aside the Reformation and judge evangelicalism’s Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone and the post-Vatican II Catholic church’s gospel of sacramental grace AND merit to be “something close to the same thing” (p.232).  He dismisses evangelicals who continue to object to Catholicism’s works-righteousness soteriology as sectarians stuck in the 19th-century.

My soul weeps for “evangelical” ecumenical Judases like Mark Noll who betray the Gospel of grace and bid others to follow. Noll currently teaches at Notre Dame Catholic University** where I’m sure he fits in quite well. I suggest he stop the pretense and join the pseudo-church he clearly loves.

*When Catholics refer to “faith” and “grace” they’re generally referring to faith in their institutional church and sacramental grace.

**Noll left NDU in 2016 after teaching there for ten years.

Ecumenists Ravi Zacharias & J.I. Packer

Whenever I hear about an evangelical pastor, theologian, apologist, or para-church leader that I’m not familiar with, the first thing I want to know about them is where they stand on ecumenism with Roman Catholicism. If they view the Roman Catholic church as a Christian entity and the pope and Catholic prelates as “brothers in Christ,” then I’m really not interested in their views on anything else. Harsh? If it was you that had been saved out of a false gospel, pseudo-Christian institution, such as LDS, Watchtower, or Christian Science, only to witness certain evangelical leaders declaring that your former “church” was fine, you would not be pleased either.

Two very well-known evangelicals died recently. Apologist, Ravi Zacharias (b. 1946, photo left), passed away on May 19th and theologian, J.I. Packer (b. 1926, photo right), died on July 17th. Both were highly-regarded by many evangelicals.

There is no doubt that both men accomplished some incredibly good things. Indian-born Zacharias began his career as an evangelist in 1971 at the age of twenty-five. He impacted many in his 49 years of ministry. English-born J.I. Packer was ordained an Anglican minister in 1953 and had a large influence within evangelicalism as the writer of “’Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God” (1958), a defense of Biblical inerrancy and infallibility, and the popular, “Knowing God” (1973). Packer also served as general editor of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.

Regrettably, both men also promoted ecumenism with Roman Catholicism. Zacharias signed the Manhattan Declaration (2009), which affirmed the Roman Catholic church as a Christian entity. In his lectures, he often made it a point to cite Roman Catholics as exemplary Christians, including G.K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, Mother Teresa, St. Francis, and Henri Nouwen. In addition, Zacharias was a featured speaker at the Together 2016 ecumenical gathering, which also featured a video address by pope Francis. Zacharias’ evasiveness regarding the legitimacy of Roman Catholicism in comparison to genuine Gospel Christianity was more than troubling (see the article far below).

J.I. Packer was even more outspoken in his support of ecumenism with Rome. Packer began his accommodation with error in 1970 when he privately and publicly broke with Martyn Lloyd-Jones over the question of cooperation with unbelievers/modernists in the Anglican church. Packer would go on to be one of the principal leaders of the ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) initiative, from 1994 until 2012. Like Zacharias, he also signed the Manhattan Declaration.

Yes, Zacharias and Packer both did some good things, but they also muddied the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone by insinuating that Rome’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit was the same thing or “close enough.” They misled unwitting evangelicals and they did a tremendously grave disservice to Roman Catholics who needed and still need to hear the genuine Gospel.

We evangelicals may have differing views on secondary and tertiary doctrines such as predestination and dispensationalism, but embracing a false church, which unabashedly proclaims a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit is inexcusable.

In the following article, evangelical apologist, Matt Slick, critically examines Ravi Zacharias’ deferential approach to Roman Catholicism.

Ravi Zacharias and Roman Catholicism at Texas A&M, Veritas Forum
https://carm.org/ravi-zacharias-and-roman-catholicism-texas-am-veritas-forum

Below, evangelical Vatican-watcher, Leonardo De Chirico, examines Jim Packer’s regrettable reasoning for supporting ECT. De Chirico is respectful to a fault.

Why J.I. Packer signed “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (and why he was inconsistent)
https://evangelicalfocus.com/vatican-files/7406/why-ji-packer-signed-evangelicals-and-catholics-together-and-why-he-was-inconsistent

The article below is a glowing tribute to Jim Packer from a Catholic source. It’s not a testimony that any Gospel-honoring “evangelical Protestant” would desire as their legacy.

J.I. Packer and Evangelicals and Catholics in the Trenches
https://bccatholic.ca/voices/paul-schratz-life-in-the-schratz-lane/evangelicals-and-catholics-in-the-trenches