Throwback Thursday: Whatever happened to St. Christopher medals?

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 2nd, 2015 and has been revised.

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Does anyone remember St. Christopher medals? Ho, boy! They were EXTREMELY popular within Catholicism when I was a young boy back in the 1960s. Well, Catholic tradition has it that Christopher was a 3rd-century Christian living in Palestine who served God by helping people ford a dangerously swift river. One day, a young boy needed help getting to the other side of the river so Christopher hoisted the lad up on his shoulder and carried him across. But Christopher staggered because the boy was so inexplicably heavy! Well, it was alleged that the child was actually the incarnate Jesus Christ who was so heavy because he was weighted down with the cares of the entire world! The legend of Christopher spread far and wide throughout the church.

Christopher was never formally canonized as a saint (the Roman church didn’t officially canonize its first saint until 993 AD), but was presumed to be one because of his longstanding popularity. He was designated by the church as the patron saint of travelers and millions of Catholics wore St. Christopher medals that had been blessed by their priest as protection in their daily commutes or on trips. Catholics were told they would never die in a travel accident if they wore a St. Christopher medal.

However, in 1969 the Catholic church reviewed and reorganized its liturgical calendar. Feast days of saints who were determined to have been largely based on myth and legend, like Christopher, were quietly removed from the calendar. Although Christopher is still considered to be a saint by Rome, he has been demoted to third-string and, except for a few traditionalist die-hards, his protective medal has become a memento of a bygone era.

The Catholic church likes to present itself as the unchanging foundation of spiritual truth but even a casual study of church history reveals the fallacy of that claim. What about the millions of Catholics who prayed to St. Christopher for safe travel prior to his demotion? Did wearing a “blessed” St. Christopher talisman actually protect people from being injured or killed in travel accidents? Did any Catholics die in travel accidents while wearing St. Christopher medals? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Friends, Catholicism’s veneration of “saints” and trust in sacramental rabbits’ feet are rooted in Roman paganism. Nowhere in the Bible does a follower of God pray to anyone other than God. Nowhere in the Bible does a believer wear a “good luck” talisman. In pandering to its heathen “converts,” Catholicism became a mixture of apostate Christianity and pagan superstition.

Praise the Lord for freeing me from the chains and superstition of Roman Catholicism and saving me by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone!

Throwback Thursday: If you read only one book about the Reformation, this would be an excellent choice.

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, in honor of Reformation Day, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on August 26, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation
By Michael Reeves
B&H Publishing, 2010, 207 pages

After Christianity became legalized by the Roman Empire and subsequently adopted as the official state religion, the early Christian church gradually began adapting and incorporating many of the beliefs and practices of its pagan predecessors. By the 14th century, the Roman Catholic church had very little in common with the primitive, New Testament church. The Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace though a personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ had devolved into clerical imperialism, legalism, and ritualism. In addition to its hopelessly compromised theology, the Roman church had become an open cesspool of greed, corruption, political intrigue, and immorality.

But then something absolutely wonderful happened. Beginning in the 14th century (some would argue for an even earlier date), men and women began rising up to challenge the church’s autocratic position through the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. The flame of reform reached a tipping point in the early 1500s when Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin broke from Rome completely in their endeavor to return the church to the Good News! of salvation via saving faith in Jesus Christ. With the translation of the Latin Bible into the vernacular and the invention of the printing press, the Roman church was unable to return the horses back into the barn despite the anathemas, inquisitions, and executions.

I’ve read several general histories of the Reformation and this easy-to-read primer is one of the best. Reeves writes with much wit while also delivering on the historical essentials. He doesn’t put the Reformers on a pedestal. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the rest were all flawed sinners saved by God’s grace. Some monarchs definitely exploited the movement for political and economic advantages and it took succeeding Reformers to move the church even farther from Roman error. But the Holy Spirit accomplished a great work through these early Reformers and we should be grateful for their courage and fidelity to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In addition to the three principals, Reeves devotes quite a bit of attention to the Reformation movement in England.

Those who attend today’s “seeker-friendly” evangelical mega-churches generally hear little or nothing about the Reformation. They are not aware of the irreconcilable differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity. Roman Catholics talk about Jesus, “grace,” and “faith” and that’s good enough for many. Sadly, these days we even have popular evangelical pastors recommending books by committed Catholics to their unwary congregations and media audiences. But Catholicism hasn’t changed any of its important doctrines since 1517. It still teaches the same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Catholics can never say they are saved because they are taught they must continue to attempt to merit their salvation right up until the day of their death. Reeves confronts those evangelicals who declare the Reformation is over. In this era of ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel, the Reformation must continue. Roman Catholics (and unsaved “Protestants”) remain as a mission field.

Today, we mark the 502nd anniversary of the Reformation. I praise God for raising up Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the other early Reformers to restore the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. If you should decide you would like to read a non-academic introduction to the Reformation, this well-written, short book would be an excellent choice. It’s readily available from Amazon here.

Throwback Thursday: Flying nuns and flying priests?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on July 20, 2015, and has been slightly revised.

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I’ve heard of “The Flying Nun” but has anyone heard of flying priests? ABC’s “The Flying Nun” television comedy ran from 1967 to 1970 with Sally Field starring as Sister Bertrille, the young, 90-pound nun who was often levitated by the strong tropical breezes of San Juan, Puerto Rico (where her convent was located) that lifted her up into the air by her highly-starched cornette (see photo above). Wow, that nun must have had neck muscles like aircraft cables! Few, if any, shows in the history of television have had a more ridiculous premise.

But Sister Bertrille wasn’t the only Catholic flying around the atmosphere. The Catholic church claims quite a few of its “saints” were prone to levitate while in contemplative, rapturous swoons. Below is an incomplete list of “frequent flyers” from Catholic sources:

St. Francis of Assisi, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis Xavier, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, St. Angela of Brescia, St. Antoinette of Florence, St. Bishop Arey, St. Peter Celestine, St. Colette, St. Margaret of Hungary, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Joseph Oriol, Bl. Bentivolio Buoni, St. Francis of Paola, St. John of St. Facondo, St. Martin de Porres, St. Gerard Majella, St. Paul of the Cross, and St. Gemma Galgani.

Perhaps the “saint” most famous for levitating was Franciscan friar, Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663). It’s claimed that Pope Urban VIII witnessed Joseph’s levitations firsthand when the friar visited the Vatican. Did these people actually float or are these just more Catholic “sacred tradition” folk tales? The Bible records that Jesus and Peter walked on water and that Jesus ascended into Heaven, but there’s no other mention of any other kind of “levitation” in the New Testament. Levitation has long been a staple of pagan religions and is cited as a frequent phenomenon in cases of demonic possession. Joseph of Cupertino and the others mentioned were Catholic “mystics” who deprived themselves of food, water, sleep, and other necessities and normal comforts in an effort to enter into a psychological state of religious ecstasy/euphoria/hysteria. These “mystics” lived in a society dominated by religious superstition. Why do we not hear of any verifiable cases of levitation among Catholic priests or nuns today?

Catholicism is overflowing with fanciful tales and legends of religious miracles, but proclaims a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Pay no attention to the “bright lights” of false “mystical” spiritualism/experientialism and heed the Biblical Gospel of Grace! Repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church where the Gospel is preached without compromise!

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Above: “Saint” Joe of Cupertino, fancifully portrayed flying onward and upward.

 

Throwback Thursday: Charles Spurgeon on Roman Catholicism

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 September 17th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

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Geese in their Hoods: Selected Writings on Roman Catholicism by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Edited by Timothy F. Kauffman
White Horse Publications, 1997, 206 pages

5 Stars

English Baptist Pastor, Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), was known as the “Prince of the Preachers” for his eloquent and often fiery oratory. In this volume, Timothy F. Kauffman has collected some of Spurgeon’s uncompromising views on Roman Catholicism and the pro-Romanist faction of the 19th-century, Anglican church (aka the Oxford Movement aka Puseyism). Spurgeon’s grandiloquent prose is far from breezy reading, but the material is well worth the effort.

Where are the Spurgeons of today to warn evangelicals of accommodation with Rome’s ritualism, legalism, and false gospel of merited salvation? In stark contrast, several of today’s evangelical leaders stumble over each other in their determined efforts to embrace Rome in the interest of ecumenical “Christian” unity. If Spurgeon were with us today, he would be roundly criticized as being uncharitable and ungracious for his uncompromising views on Roman Catholicism. However, Rome has not changed any of its salvation-by-merit doctrines since the Reformation, so why have some of today’s evangelical pastors and para-church leaders changed their view of works-righteousness Rome and betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

“Reader, do you believe that men like yourself have priestly power? Do you think that they can regenerate infants by sprinkling them, and turn bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ? Do you think that a bishop can bestow the Holy Ghost, and that a parish clergyman can forgive sins ? If so, your head can be seen in the picture peeping out from the cowl of the fox. You are the victim of crafty deceivers. Your soul will be their prey in life and in death. They cajole you with soft words, fine vestments, loud pretensions, and cunning smiles, but they will conduct you down to the chambers of death, and lead you to the gates of hell. Silly goose, may grace make thee wise! Jesus Christ is the true Priest who can forgive all your sins; go to him at once, without the intervention of these pretenders. Make confession to him! Seek absolution from him! The Holy Ghost alone can cause you to be born again, and the grace of God alone can bring you to glory. Avoid Puseyite and Romish foxes, for they seek to make a gain of you, and lead you not to Jesus, but to their Church and all its mummeries. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in these deceivers.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Used copies of “Geese in their Hoods” are available at Amazon.com starting at $4.23. See here.

Below is a link to Timothy F. Kaufman’s blog:
http://www.whitehorseblog.com/

Throwback Thursday: Another evangelical pastor caves to ecumenical apostasy

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 3th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

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Back in 2010, Pastor Robert Jeffress (photo above) of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas stated the Catholic church was an apostate church corrupted by the pagan Babylonian mystery religion:

“It is that Babylonian mystery religion that infected the early church, one of the churches it infected was the church of Pergamos, which is one of the recipients of the Book of Revelation. And the early church was corrupted by this Babylonian mystery religion, and today the Roman Catholic Church is the result of that corruption.”

Hear Jeffress’ 2010 remarks about the Catholic church here.

Now, let’s fast forward to 9/24/15. During pope Francis’ visit to America at that time, Jeffress appeared on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show and revealed quite a change in his views on Catholicism:

“I have great respect for Pope Francis. He’s a humble Christ follower. We all can learn from himWith the differences we might have with Pope Francis on some of these secondary issues, I’m not going to quibble about that because, here’s the fact, as this world becomes increasingly darker I find myself having much more in common with my Catholic friends than I even do with liberal Baptists because the fact is we are fighting together against a common enemy, the kingdom of darkness.”

See the video of Jeffress’ 2015 remarks about pope Francis and the Catholic church here.

Wow! Jeffress radically changed his views between 2010 and 2015 and compromised the Gospel of grace by joining a number of other evangelical pastors in embracing works-righteousness Catholics as co-belligerents and fellow-Christians in the conservative political crusade to “Reclaim America for Jesus.” At some point in those five years, Jeffress decided that temporal American political concerns were more important than the Gospel. Shame on him. Lost Catholic souls need the Gospel of grace, NOT crusaders for political conservatism.

Throwback Thursday: Catholics called it the “anti-Catholic bible”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on October 1, 2015, and has been slightly revised.

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Roman Catholicism
By Loraine Boettner
Presbyterian & Reformed, 1962, 466 pp.

4 Stars

“Roman Catholicism” is a classic, evangelical Protestant assessment of Catholicism in general and American Catholicism in particular, written at the pinnacle of that church’s power and influence in this country. Reformed theologian, Loraine Boettner (1901-1990, photo right), expresses the early-1960s viewpoint of evangelical Protestantism, which feared the encroaching catholicization of the nation at that time, epitomized by the election of John F. Kennedy to the White House. Boettner’s tone approaches draconian hyperbole at times and is quaintly alarmist in contrast to today’s ecumenically-correct standards, but it’s important to note that the Catholic church at the time this book was written was far more militant than today’s version. In 1962, one could cite Spain and Portugal along with most Latin American countries and the still-vivid memory of the European Catholic clerical fascism of the 1920s and 30s as concrete examples of the reality and danger of Catholic hegemony. Boettner quotes Catholic clerics and writers of the period who still claimed Rome’s God-given right to suppress Protestant churches in cooperation with civil governments in countries where Catholics were in the majority. Since those days, the Catholic church’s political influence has waned dramatically.

Boettner outlines how the Catholic church evolved from New Testament Christianity into apostasy and examines the ritualism and legalism of Catholic belief and practice in comparison to Holy Scripture and Protestant evangelicalism. His sources include theologians as well as pamphleteers, which makes for some entertaining if not always objective reading. Catholic apologists attempted to completely dismiss “Roman Catholicism” over a few questionable dates, but for many of his arguments Boettner references Catholic sources. Boettner doesn’t shy away from detailing some of Catholicism’s most bizarre and superstitious beliefs and practices, material that today’s religiously-correct evangelical apologists are apt to avoid lest they be accused of being uncharitable.

For several decades “Roman Catholicism” remained as the primary resource on Catholicism for evangelical Protestants. Catholics referred to it spitefully as the “anti-Catholic bible” but there have been several important changes to the religious landscape since this book was first published in 1962:

* Both the orthodoxy of the mainline Protestant denominations and the American public’s interest in organized religion have declined tremendously.

* Vatican II softened the Catholic church’s outspoken militancy towards the Protestant “separated brethren.”

* The Catholic church no longer wields anywhere near the degree of political power and influence it had in some parts of the world.

* Catholic religious vocations have rapidly declined resulting in a severe shortage of priests. The number of priests in the US: 58,534 in 1981, 52,227 in 1991, 45,713 in 2001 and 38,275 in 2014. More than 40% of today’s priests are over the age of 65.

* The mushrooming scandal of pedophile priests, including the cover-up by the hierarchy, has rocked the RCC to its foundations and demoralized its membership.

* Fewer and fewer Catholics actively attend services leading to the closing of a high number of churches. Recent research shows that only 24% of Catholics go to obligatory weekly mass compared to 75% in 1958. That’s a LOT of “mortal” sin. 1000 American Catholic churches have closed since 1995.

* 4000 U.S Catholic parochial schools have closed since 1965.

* A rising percentage of Catholics either question, disagree with, or ignore official church doctrine (see birth control, divorce, male hierarchy, unwed cohabitation, obligatory participation in the sacraments, etc.). A New York Times survey revealed 70% of Catholics between the ages of 18 and 44 do not believe the “consecrated” eucharist wafer is the literal body of Christ. Only 12% of Catholics go to confession at least once a year as they are required to do. That’s a LOT MORE “mortal” sin.

Boettner could not have possibly foreseen the lowly depths American Catholicism has sunk to only 57 years after his book was published.

However, while Catholicism faces many daunting challenges at the local and national levels, the current pope enjoys worldwide prestige and popularity (excepting conservative Catholics). News sources run to the pope for his comments following every major catastrophe to get the “religious” perspective. Are there any thoughts on how that will all play out down the road?

While many of Boettner’s other-era arguments are no longer applicable, this book provides a valuable glimpse into early-1960s Protestant angst when Catholicism’s power and influence crested in this country. There certainly is no danger these days of a weakened Catholic church gaining political control over America as Boettner repeatedly warned against. Such a notion is now completely outside the realm of plausibility. The real danger to Christian witness began decades ago when some evangelical pastors and para-church leaders began embracing Catholics as co-belligerents in social causes, which transitioned to compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ and embracing works-righteousness Catholics as fellow Christians (see Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Rick Warren, etc.). Catholicism currently teaches the same fundamental doctrines that it taught at the time of the Reformation. Most importantly, the Roman church teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit while Gospel Christians hold to salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Given this irreconcilable difference, how can some evangelicals now embrace Rome?

For more-current critiques of Catholicism I recommend:

The Gospel According to Rome by James G. McCarthy
The Roman Catholic Controversy by James R. White
Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment by Gregg R. Allison

Also, check out my Books and Links tabs for many additional resources.

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.

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

Throwback Thursday: The Dark Side of the Papacy

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was first published back on September 22nd, 2015 and has been slightly re-edited.

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Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy
By Peter De Rosa
Crown Publishing, 1988, 484 pages

3 Stars

The Roman Catholic church presents a fanciful, pollyannaish, idealized version of itself as the “one true church,” perpetually guided by the Holy Spirit through an infallible pope from an unbroken line of apostolic succession all the way back to Peter, the alleged first bishop of Rome. But history tells quite another story.

In “The Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy,” former Jesuit priest, Peter De Rosa, plays the “devil’s advocate” by examining the role of the papacy throughout history. Credulous Catholic readers will be shocked to learn that many popes were devoted only to furthering their political, financial, and ecclesiastical power by whatever means necessary. De Rosa refutes claims to divine guidance and papal infallibility by recalling the early church’s metamorphosis into an all-powerful, authoritarian institution which initiated the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo (an unbreachable repudiation of infallibility), mandatory clerical celibacy, condemnation of civil democracies and freedom of religion, and the ban on contraceptives. Further historical embarrassments for the papacy and the RCC include:

  • Previous popes were sometimes denounced as heretics by their successors.
  • For centuries, popes reigned over a church that was ferociously anti-Semitic.
  • The Bible was placed on the Catholic church’s Index of Forbidden Books.
  • In their personal affairs, popes were often paragons of avarice and debauchery.

When this book was written, De Rosa was not privy to the pedophile priests and cover-up scandal tsunami that followed and that has rocked Catholicism to its foundations.

De Rosa is not an academic historian (no footnotes), but he credits a lengthy bibliography of scholarly sources. Intransigent Catholic traditionalists have slandered this book, but the muck is just too deep to overcome.* What is liberal Catholic De Rosa’s aim in exposing the papacy’s dark side? By demonstrating that the alleged vicars of Christ were not divinely guided, the author hopes Catholics will realize many of the current controversial dogmas (ban on contraceptives, clerical celibacy, male-only hierarchy, exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments, etc.) are concocted traditions without foundation that the hierarchy perpetuates to its own peril.

De Rosa pines for the liberality of pope John XXIII who “threw open the windows of the church” at Vatican II. But the church is reluctant to abandon its allegedly inspired doctrines for fear of losing credibility, for Rome has always boasted that it never changes. But didn’t Rome once teach that everyone not baptized a Catholic would go to hell? The current pope, Francis, now says even atheists will go to heaven if they lead “good” lives. Of course! If works are the means to salvation as Catholicism teaches then, taken to its logical conclusion, everyone who tries to lead a “good life” will merit heaven. So why should Catholics bother with their scrupulously legalistic religion if even atheists are “good to go”? Recent surveys reveal 75% of Catholics wonder the same thing and no longer bother to attend obligatory Sunday mass. But the house of cards came down decades ago for many Catholics when pope Paul VI forbade all forms of contraception while eagerly endorsing the natural family planning (aka rhythm) method. Most married Catholics legitimately asked, “What’s the difference?”

What is an evangelical Christian to make of the “Vicars of Christ”? Despite exposing the dark side of his church’s history, De Rosa is still an advocate of Rome’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit with priests as the ordained mediators between God and men. The Catholic church’s story is that of early-Christianity’s transformation into a legalistic, authoritarian institution whose cruelties, depravities, and corruption eventually overshadowed even pagan Rome.

The Reformers abandoned the legalism and ritualism of Catholicism and reclaimed the beliefs of the early church, which were based upon the scriptural Good News of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Unlike pope Francis who preaches Universal salvation for all who are “good,” the Reformers pointed to the Bible, which proclaims that there are none who are good or righteous and can earn their way to heaven (Romans 3:10). But the Good News! is God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die for our sins, and that whoever places their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16).

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*Since the above post was written four years ago, several conservative Roman Catholics have written books which cite embarrassing and unflattering episodes in their church’s history. An absolutely amazing development! Their strategy? By showing that the church has survived corrupt and/or heretical prelates in the past, the authors contend that the church will also survive the heterodoxy of progressive pope Francis.