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

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

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

5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback Thursday: Going camping or going to mass?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Spring is in the air and despite the current pandemic, some optimistic recreationists are already starting to plan their Summer camping trips. With that in mind, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on November 17, 2015 and has been revised.

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Like all works-righteousness religions, Catholic legalism leads to all kinds of unresolved questions that would make a canon lawyer’s head spin. Case in point:

This morning, I was listening to the 5/20/15 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” radio show broadcast by The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, out of Buffalo, NY. A listener called in with an interesting question for priest-host, Peter Calabrese, asking if it was a “mortal” sin to miss mass on Sunday if a person was camping on a particular weekend and there wasn’t a Catholic church nearby.

“Father” Pete replied that if it’s “impossible” to get to mass on Sunday, then it’s not a “mortal” sin. But this curious ex-Catholic wonders why it would not be a “mortal” sin? Isn’t it reasonable to expect a Catholic camper would have checked ahead to ensure a potential campsite is close to a church? Are Catholics obligated to attend mass on Sunday or not? With all the smart phones and internet tools available these days, a Catholic can easily determine if there’s a Catholic church close to a particular camping site.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s say a camper has good intentions and gets to a campsite only to find out the nearby Catholic church was struck by lightning the day before and burnt to the ground. How many miles away from the campsite would the nearest Catholic church have to be before the Catholic camper could legitimately say it was “impossible” to get to mass? 50 miles? 100 miles? 200 miles?

Catholics are taught they must obey a long laundry list of rules, including obligatory Sunday mass attendance, to merit their way to Heaven. As the above scenario demonstrates, Catholics must consult their church’s fine print to determine whether they’re fulfilling their legalistic obligations. And the answer to the caller’s question above will change depending on the priest who’s consulted. A strict priest will say, “Yup, you absolutely must drive 100 miles to the nearest church for obligatory mass!,” while an easy-going priest will say, “Skip it. No big deal.” Who is right?

Ach, so much legalism! So much scrupulosity! But no amount of scrupulosity will make ANYONE holy. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that all of us are guilty of grave sin because even our thoughts constantly condemn us.

Yes, sin is a terrible thing and will be judged by a Holy God. But God so loves us He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins by His death on the cross. Then Jesus conquered sin and death by rising from the grave. All those who accept Jesus as their Savior by faith alone will have their sins forgiven. You cannot merit Heaven by trying to be good, or by going to mass every Sunday, or by attempting to check off a long religious laundry list. None of us are righteous and none of us can earn our salvation.

“As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” – Romans 3:10-11.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” – John 1:12

“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one  whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” – Romans 4:4-8

After accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone, a person will then desire to follow the Lord in obedience, albeit imperfectly. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

Throwback Thursday: REALLY dumb advice

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on November 11, 2015 and has been revised.

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The pastor of the independent fundamental Baptist church that we attended back in the 1980s had a story about counterfeit money that he must have thought was quite clever because he trotted it out about three or four times a year. It went something like this:

A person happened to meet a Secret Service agent who specialized in counterfeit currency. The person asked the agent how much time he spent studying counterfeit money in order to be prepared to spot a fake bill. To his surprise, the agent replied that he didn’t spend any time studying phony bills. He said that he devoted all of his time studying the characteristics of genuine bills so that the imperfections of fake money would be immediately apparent.*

Using this bogus analogy, the pastor stated that Christians needn’t waste their time and energy learning about the details of cults and apostate churches. Just study the Word diligently, he said, and you’ll be able to spot counterfeit Christianity immediately. Everyone in attendance always shook their heads in agreement with a few hearty “Amens” thrown in for good measure. Good advice?

I’ve heard this “counterfeit” analogy MANY times since those old days. In fact, I heard it just this morning from a very popular evangelical pastor on a Christian radio show. To be honest, I think it’s REALLY DUMB advice. Fifty years ago, the great majority of evangelical pastors KNEW the difference between the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone versus Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. I’m sure evangelical pastors have been studying God’s Word diligently over the last fifty years, but somehow a large number now believe Catholicism is a Christian entity. How did that happen? What went wrong? Today’s accommodators, like Rick Warren, say, “Well, Catholics also believe in God, sin, and Jesus. Close enough!”  Really? So are people saved by accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone or by meriting their salvation as the Roman church teaches? Only one way is right.

Maybe if pastors had spent JUST A LITTLE time studying the distinctives of Roman Catholicism’s false gospel over the years there would now be a lot less inclination to embrace it. Instead of warning their flocks to be watchful for the ravenous works-gospel wolves in sheep’s clothing circling the flock, evangelical pastors gave out fleshly advice that appealed to itching ears. “Just keep your eyes on Jesus. No need to be concerned about all those unusual looking sheep approaching from the distance.”

“This past week, I preached in the great Catholic Cathedral a funeral sermon for a close friend of mine who was a Catholic, and they had several Bishops and Archbishops to participate, and as I sat there going through the funeral Mass that was a very beautiful thing, and certainly straight and clear in the gospel. There was a wonderful little priest that would tell me when to stand and when to kneel and what to do.” – Billy Graham, 1993.

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” – Matthew 7:15

*The counterfeit currency illustration is fallacious. The Secret Service actually DOES study counterfeit currency. See an excellent post on the topic from Slim Jim at The Domain for Truth here.

Throwback Thursday: The Immaculate Deception

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 15, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Catholic church likes to present itself as the holy repository and guardian of God’s unchanging truths, but even a casual study of the church’s history will quickly burst that bubble. This post will illustrate how “unchanging” Catholic truths have evolved over time.

God’s Word makes only relatively minor mention of Mary, so how did devotion to her within Catholicism grow to match and even eclipse the devotion offered to Jesus Christ? Capture112In the early years of Christianity, a fringe, heretical group called the Collyridians (from collyris, Greek: the ritual offering cakes used in goddess worship) adapted elements of pagan mother-goddess worship into the worship of Mary. Beginning in the late-300s, aspects of this Mariolatry began to creep into the mainstream church. Because Marian worship had no explicit support in the Bible or in the writings of the early church “fathers,” Marianists spawned their extra-biblical novelties with the syllogistic argument that since it was possible for God to do thus-and-thus regarding Mary, then He “must have.” Devotees were soon extolling Mary as the new Eve, Mary as a type of Elijah, Mary as Wisdom, Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary as God’s beloved spouse, etc., as they advanced the new Mary-goddess ideology. The common folk eagerly embraced Mother Mary as the “Christian” alternative to their former, beloved pagan mother goddesses. For information on the Collyridians and the pagan roots of Mariolatry see the excellent, “The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess” (1976), by historian Geoffrey Ashe.

Marian devotion continued to grow within Catholicism and was flourishing by the Middle-Ages. Constantly pushing the envelope, her enthusiastic followers began to claim that Mary was born without sin, just as Christ was. Devotees could not conceive of Mary, the alleged “ark of the new covenant,” being a sinner yet carrying the sinless Jesus in her womb. Catholic religious orders routinely opposed each other on a wide variety of doctrinal issues and this evolving belief in the “immaculate conception” of Mary was no exception. The Franciscans strongly supported the notion of Mary’s immaculate conception while the Dominicans strongly opposed it. Dominicans Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, who were both eventually canonized as “saints,” denied the theological novelty as did fellow Dominican “saint” and “mystic,” Catherine of Siena. Now here’s where it gets really interesting. Catherine claimed to have been visited by Christ many times and the church enthusiastically acknowledges those visits as authentic credentials of her sainthood. However, in 1377 Catherine asserted that Christ had visited her and personally informed her that Mary was NOT conceived without sin as the Franciscans and the others claimed! Click here for more information.

Over the centuries, opposition faded and popular demand for the official recognition of the doctrine of the immaculate conception reached a feverish pitch and was finally defined as binding dogma by pope Pius IX in 1854. As an official dogma of the church, Catholics are bound to believe Mary was born without sin. Denial of the dogma is a “mortal” sin and is alleged to incur eternal hell fire.

But who is right about the dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception? Is pope Pius IX correct or is the jesus apparition who visited “saint” Catherine in 1377 correct? If Catherine’s jesus was wrong about this issue, what else was he wrong about? The church canonized Catherine in 1461, although she did not believe in the dogma of the immaculate conception. So did God send her to hell in 1854 when the doctrine was officially defined? And whatever happened to the jesus who appeared to Catherine in 1377 and told her Mary was not immaculately conceived? Did he appear to other saintly mystics and give them erroneous information, also? Or was that jesus actually right about the immaculate conception and the pope wrong? If it was necessary for Mary to have been immaculately conceived in order to be the sinless “ark” of Jesus Christ, wouldn’t it logically follow that her mother, and grandmother, and great-grandmother and so on would also have had to been sinless as well?

Catholics around the world are compelled to “celebrate” the feast of the immaculate conception by attending mass on December 8th every year under threat of mortal sin, although the majority don’t. But Catholics still pray to Mary as their mediator and co-redeemer. Mary would be sorely grieved by the worship Catholics accord to her.

“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” – Luke 1:46-47

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.” – Romans 3:10

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9

Throwback Thursday: Lent is no match for Super Rodent!

Welcome to this week’s Throwback Thursday installment! Last week we had a prelude to Lent; that old chestnut, “Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Fridays during Lent?” Today, we have what is quickly becoming another Lenten oldie-but-goodie that was first published on February 25, 2018 and has been slightly revised.

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Most of the topics I write about on this blog are serious matters involving spiritual life and death, but there are occasions when I come across something that can only be categorized as sadly comical. Case in point:

This year, the Roman Catholic church’s Lenten season runs from Wednesday, February 26th to Thursday, April 9th and Catholics are strictly forbidden from eating meat on all six of the Fridays during that span under the threat of committing mortal sin, which they are taught will doom them to hell. But getting down to the nuts and bolts of what actually constitutes “meat” can get a little tricky as I alluded to in the infamous Chicken in a Biskit post (see here.)

Well, now we have another very strange twist to this rule regarding abstention from meat during Lent.

A few days ago, I was listening to the 2/21/18 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show. Moderator, Tom Price, and host, David Anders, were discussing Lenten abstinence restrictions and Anders unflinchingly mentioned that Venezuelan Catholics are allowed to eat the meat of a capybara on Fridays. Huh? Capybara? What’s that? Well, it turns out that capybara (photo above) are the largest living rodent in the world, ranging anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds full grown and they like to hang out near or in the water. They are a dietary staple of Central America and some say they taste like pork with a slightly fishy accent. As the tale goes, priest-composer, Pedro Ramón Palacios y Sojo aka “Padre Sojo,” Venezuela’s most influential Catholic cleric at the time, traveled to Rome in 1794 and petitioned pope Leo XII to allow his countrymen to eat the meat of the capybara during Lent because, he argued, the animal spent so much time in the water that it was more like a fish than a warm-blooded mammal. Remember, fish are okay to eat on Fridays during Lent, but not the meat from mammals or birds. Sojo’s absurd argument evidently made an impression on the credulous pope because he granted his request and actually issued a Papal Bull decreeing that Venezuelans were free to eat capybara during Lent without incurring a mortal sin.

So Venezuelan Catholics can gorge themselves on capybara burgers on Lenten Fridays with an absolutely clear conscience, but if an American Catholic takes even one bite of a Big Mac, they are doomed to Hell forever!

But this sinner who was freed from the chains of Catholicism and is saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a hypothetical question for my Catholic friends. Current political problems aside, let’s suppose an American Catholic travels down to Venezuela on business during Lent. He’s walking the streets of Caracas on a Friday at noon and smells the wonderful aroma of barbecue in the air. After a few minutes, he discovers the source of the olfactory bliss; a sidewalk food vendor who beckons him over to try some of his smokey barbecued capybara. The American, mouth watering, declines with noticeable regret, saying in broken Spanish that he is prohibited from eating meat on Friday during Lent. But the vendor reassures him that the pope himself declared it was okay to eat capybara in Venezuela during Lent. Another native walking by confirms the information. The American then hungrily orders a double-plateful of barbecued capybara and eats his fill. The next day, the American begins his journey back to the U.S., but his plane crashes and all aboard perish. Which now brings us to our question: Did the American Catholic go to hell for eating capybara on a Lenten Friday because he was still under the jurisdiction of his American bishop or did Leo XII’s 1794 papal bull cover all of the bases?

Catholic friend, if you ever get tired of spinning in Catholicism’s legalistic hamster (another rodent) wheel, turn to Jesus Christ. Repent of your sin and ask Jesus Christ to save you by faith in Him alone.

Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?
https://www.gotquestions.org/catholicism.html

Postscript: Some may object to my interjection of humor in this discussion, but folks, seriously, I couldn’t have come up with this “capybara dispensation” in my wildest dreams.

Capture17Dog meets Capybara

Throwback Thursday: Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Fridays during Lent?

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40-day Lenten season for Roman Catholics. So for today’s Throwback Thursday installment, we’re rolling out this old chestnut that was originally published back on February 22, 2016 and has become an annual Lenten staple here at excatholic4christ. Enjoy!

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This morning, I was listening to the 10/30/15 podcast of the Calling All Catholics talk radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, out of Buffalo, New York. Catholic priest, Dave Baker, was taking questions, assisted by moderator, Mike Denz.

One of the listeners had a question regarding the church’s rule on abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, which I thought was quite timely because we’re currently in the Lenten season. Because the Catholic church absolutely forbids meat on Fridays during Lent, any Catholic who defiantly consumes meat commits a “mortal” sin and is doomed to hell for eternity unless they confess the sin to a priest.

But the rule’s not always as cut and dry as a juicy rib-eye steak or a succulent pork chop. The listener wanted to know if the ban on meat even included something like beef bouillon. Priest Baker irresolutely suggested that beef bouillon was “probably” okay to eat, but encouraged the person to visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site to get the specific details.

Well, being the curious sinner-saved-by-grace that I am, I went to the USCCB website and found the following information:

Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?

A. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm

So while the bishops say it’s “technically” OK to consume meat-based broths, gravies, and seasonings, they add that Catholic moral theologians have traditionally taught that Catholics should abstain from all animal-derived products with the exception of products that don’t taste like meat.

Yikes! I’m still confused. This is getting more complicated than college calculus. Okay, let’s try to break it down using my favorite cracker, Chicken in a Biskit, as an example. One of the ingredients listed on the box is “dehydrated cooked chicken.” So, is it a “mortal” sin for a Catholic to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Friday during Lent? The U.S. bishops say meat-based seasonings are OK, but then turn around and say the church’s moral theologians forbid any meat derivative that tastes like meat. And, yes, Chicken in a Biskit crackers taste somewhat like chicken. So, which is it? I WANT TO KNOW! Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers or not? Will a Catholic go to hell for all eternity because they ate a Chicken in a Biskit cracker on Friday during Lent????

Ridiculous? Absolutely. The Bible doesn’t say anything about abstaining from meat on Fridays, but it does warn against religious leaders who forbid certain foods. All of these complicated abstinence rules remind me of the Pharisees who took the Mosaic Law that no one could obey absolutely anyway (except for Jesus Christ), and made it even more intricate and burdensome.

Praise the Lord for freeing me from the legalistic chains and man-made traditions of Roman Catholicism! We sin every day by breaking God’s Biblical commandments. But God loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Then Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent (turn from their rebellion against God) and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Accept Christ and seek out an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.

For more of my thoughts regarding Lent see here and here and here.

Next Thursday: The attack of the Capybara!

Throwback Thursday: Catholic church celebrates 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” but let’s not forget its anti-Semitic past

Last month, the world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz even while we’re concurrently witnessing a rising trend in populist, anti-Semitic violence. For this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 29, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences
By Anthony J. Sciolino
iUniverse, 2012, 270 pp.

On October 28, 1965, pope Paul VI issued Nostra Aetate (Latin, “In our Time”), the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. The document was a RADICAL change in the “unchanging” Roman Catholic church’s approach to “non-Christian” religions. Instead of viewing Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism as false religions, as it had in the past, with this document Catholicism declared there was a certain amount of truth in all religious faiths and that it was possible for people of other works-righteousness creeds to earn their salvation as well. Nostra Aetate took an especially conciliatory tone towards the Jews.

In October, 2015, many Jewish leaders commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate declaration with its startlingly dramatic change in church policy. Regrettably, many of today’s Catholics are entirely unaware of the church’s long history of militant anti-Semitism. Jews throughout Europe were harassed and persecuted by the Catholic population over the centuries. Intolerance was often incited and encouraged by the Catholic clergy. Jews were the victims of involuntary baptisms, enforced segregation, boycotts, exclusionary quotas, pogroms, massacres, and expulsions. When European anti-Semitism reached its culmination in the 20th century Holocaust, Adolf Hitler defended himself by appealing to church history:

“As for the Jews, I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic church has adopted for fifteen hundred years, when it has regarded the Jews as dangerous and pushed them into ghettos, etc., because it knew what the Jews were like.” – Adolf Hitler

In “The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences: How Christian Anti-Judaism Spawned Nazi Anti-Semitism,” family court judge and Roman Catholic deacon, Anthony Sciolino, objectively examines how the Catholic church’s systematic, anti-Semitic policies led to Hitler’s Holocaust.

But this ex-Catholic has a question regarding Catholic anti-Semitism: If the RC church has always been guided by the Holy Spirit and is the “foundation of truth” as Catholics claim, and if the Catholic popes have been infallible in vital matters of faith and morals as they also claim, then how could the church have been SO TERRIBLY WRONG, for century after century, when it came to its anti-Semitic policies and practices? Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all officially apologized for the anti-Semitic policies and practices of their predecessors. What does that say for the claims of a divinely-led Magisterium?

I praise the Lord daily that He has freed me from the chains of the worldly-minded Catholic church and saved me by His grace through simple faith in Jesus Christ alone. Contrary to Nostra Aetate, God’s Word says salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” – John 3:18

But we reach out to the lost with the love of Jesus Christ, not with hatred.

Throwback Thursday: What defines an Evangelical vs. what defines a Catholic?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on November 24, 2015 and has been revised.

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The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), hardly a bastion of uncompromising orthodoxy, and Lifeway Research (affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, SBC) recently teamed up to develop a “standard definition for what it means to be an ‘evangelical.’” See the article here. With input gathered from a diverse group of evangelical theologians, pastors, and sociologists, and tested via “scientific survey,” the NAE and Lifeway assembled a list of four core beliefs that they say define an evangelical. They are:

  1. The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  2. It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  3. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  4. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

Well, I must say, that’s a pretty good list! I strongly believe in all four statements, although they could have been worded a bit more precisely. But how does Roman Catholic doctrine square with these four beliefs? I’ll be happy to answer for Catholics because I was one for 27 years.

1. The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
Like evangelicals, Catholics also believe the Bible is God’s Word. But for Catholics, their church’s teaching office, the magisterium, which includes the pope and his bishops, is the highest authority. Catholic are also obliged to believe the church’s extra-biblical “sacred tradition” and to accept the church’s interpretation of Scripture. In practice, the Roman church has subordinated God’s Word to its clerical authority and its man-made traditions. Catholics aren’t generally encouraged to read the Bible and most don’t.

2. It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and obedience to the Ten Commandments and church law (i.e., merit). Catholics believe God gives them the graces, administered by their church through the sacraments, by which they can be saved, but they must also “cooperate with grace” and perfectly obey the commandments and church rules to merit their salvation. So Catholics don’t encourage non-Catholics to just “trust Jesus as their Savior.” What they might do is encourage interested non-Catholics to enroll in their year-long RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program, be baptized by a priest, and systematically participate in their works-righteousness sacramental system. But since Catholics are now taught that EVERYONE, even atheists, can merit Heaven as long as they “follow the light they have been given” and are “good,” the conversion of non-Catholics to Catholicism is no longer the priority it once was.

3. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
Catholics believe they must strive to keep their souls completely free from all sin. They believe this is actually possible! They believe the sacrifice of the mass provides the grace to help them avoid “mortal” sin and cleanse “venial” sin. The mass is repeated hundreds of thousands of times daily throughout the world. Catholics insist they don’t “repeat” Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary. Rather, they engage in sophistry and call it a “re-presentation” of the same sacrifice. Catholics call Jesus their “Savior” but they essentially believe they must save themselves by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments and church law. If they ever do happen to commit a “mortal” sin, Catholics believe the sacrament of reconciliation/confession removes some of the penalty of sin, but not all of it. They believe any remaining temporal punishment will be meted out in purgatory.

4. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
Catholics will say they believe eternal salvation is “a gift,” but will then insist they must merit the “gift” by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments and church laws. They believe people of all religions, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even atheists are also able to merit heaven as long as they “follow the light they have been given” and are “good.” Catholics readily claim that they also “trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior,” but they WILL NOT agree that they are trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior THROUGH FAITH ALONE because they unabashedly insist salvation must be merited through works. The NAE should have been more precise with their wording in this qualification.

Roman Catholicism fails on not one, not two, not three, but all four of these faith principles. Despite that, some ecumenically-minded evangelicals associated with the NAE, the SBC, and Lifeway readily embrace apostate Roman Catholicism as a Christian entity!!! How is that possible? Spiritual blindness and deception.

Throwback Thursday: An Early Catholic Rabbit’s Foot

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 15, 2015 and has been revised.

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Although the use of sacramentals in the Roman Catholic church isn’t what it was back in the 1960s when I was going to Catholic grammar school, sacramentals are still quite popular. What’s a sacramental? According to the Baltimore Catechism, sacramentals are “anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart to remit venial sin.” Sacramentals include blessed crucifixes, rosaries, scapulars, religious pictures, medals, holy water, liturgical candles, statues, and palm fronds.

Let’s now look at a once very popular sacramental that has fallen a bit out of favor; the Agnus Dei. The Agnus Dei (Latin for “Lamb of God”) is a piece of beeswax taken from a paschal candle blessed by the pope and used previously at the Basilica of St. Peter or in one of the papal chapels that has been embossed with an image of a lamb bearing a cross or pennant. It is usually encased in a small locket and worn around the neck (photo above). Catholic vendors claim that those who carry or venerate the blessed Agnus Dei are promised protection from “tempests, lighting, fire, water, malice of demons, adversity, pestilence, sickness, and sudden death.” It also allegedly protects “women bearing children that they may be preserved from all harm and are favored with a happy delivery.” See here.

Church tradition has the Agnus Dei sacramental making its first appearance in the 5th-century, making it one of the oldest of the church’s sacramental objects. But there’s actually no written record of the Agnus Dei until the 9th-century. Catholic apologists readily admit that the Agnus Dei was a “christianized” replacement for pagan charms and amulets “from which the ruder populace were weaned by the enjoyment of this Christian substitute blessed by prayer.”*

The Agnus Dei, like the church’s other sacramentals, is essentially a Catholic rabbit’s foot, allegedly warding off evil and eliciting good fortune.

Relatively few Catholics read the Bible, but if they did they would be surprised that there is absolutely no mention of Jesus or His followers ever using religious charms or talismans. Neither were amulets used by the faithful Israelites of the Old Testament. Rather, such objects were always linked to pagan sorcery. As early Christianity transitioned into the institutionalized, official state religion of the Roman Empire, it adapted many of the practices of the pagan religion which preceded it. Simple faith in Jesus Christ devolved into ritualism, legalism, and “christianized” superstition, all tightly controlled by an increasingly powerful clerical class.

Can any believer who knows God’s Word with any degree of intimacy possibly imagine Jesus Christ passing out “blessed” charms and amulets to His followers?

Thank you, Father, for freeing me from religious superstition and saving me by Your grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone!

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church where the Gospel of grace is preached without compromise.

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.” – Deuteronomy 18: 9-12

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23-24

*Agnus Dei article, Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01220a.htm

Throwback Thursday: No Meat On Friday Nonsense

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is only a month away, so for this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this post that was originally published back on August 2, 2015 and has been revised.

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Back when I was a young tyke growing up in the early-1960s, the Catholic church prohibited eating meat on Fridays throughout the entire calendar year. The obligatory abstinence had something to do with Jesus dying on a Friday and the restriction on eating the meat of warm-blooded animals was supposedly a commemoration of His sacrifice. Disobeying the church and eating meat on Friday was a “mortal” sin that would stain your soul and send you to eternal damnation, no excuses. Even just one bite of a cheeseburger meant an eternity of perpetual torment! We “good” Catholics were scandalized when we heard about a Catholic neighbor who defied the church and barbequed hot dogs on the grill on a Friday. My Dad often picked up a big batch of very tasty fried whitefish and french fries at Karl’s Fish Store at 1314 Culver Road (see photo below) on Fridays so it wasn’t like we felt any kind of deprivation. I actually preferred the store-bought fried fish to Mom’s meat dishes the rest of the week.

However, all of this changed in 1966 (Sorry, Karl!) when pope Paul VI, in his PAENITEMINI document, left it up to the national bishops to determine abstinence policy in their particular country. The U.S. bishops ruled on November 18, 1966 that Catholics were able to eat meat on Fridays except during Lent.

Most Catholics are unaware that the Canon Laws prohibiting meat on Fridays throughout the year are still on the books (see Canons 1250-1252) with the provision that the national bishops are able to “determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety” (Canon 1253).

So the MONUMENTAL question is, What about all the U.S. Catholics who died before 1966 who had disobeyed the church and ate meat on non-Lenten Fridays without ever confessing this “sin?” Are they still in Hell or did the pope give them a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in 1966 in light of the new policy? Skeptical Catholics should definitely smell a rat with this one.

In contrast, the Bible is pretty clear on this abstention-from-meat business:

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:1-5.

So eating meat on Friday is definitely NOT a sin according to the Bible, but the rule to abstain from meat is a man-made commandment subject to whimsical alterations (with *unexplainable complexities) as we saw in 1966. Are we to believe the Bible or the Catholic church?

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9

Regrettably, Catholics are taught they must merit their salvation by jumping through legalistic religious hoops such as refraining from meat on Lenten Fridays. Praise the Lord for His Word and for His salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE!

*Postscript 1: Let’s suppose that in 1967 an American Catholic traveled to a foreign country where he knew the national Catholic bishops dictated the abstention from meat on non-Lenten Fridays was still in effect. If the American traveler ate a cheeseburger in that country on a non-Lenten Friday did he commit a soul-damning “mortal” sin? Oy vey!!! Just give me Jesus!

Postscript 2: We’ll soon be rolling out our annual posts on the inanities of Lenten dietary restrictions including “Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Fridays during Lent?” and “Lent is no match for Super Rodent!” Also, there may be a new post this Lenten season called “Muskrat Love.”

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The retail space to the right, above the arrow, was once Karl’s Fish Store. Meat-abstaining Catholics in our neighborhood used to dutifully queue up in front of the building and along the sidewalk every Friday afternoon throughout the year to buy Karl’s fried whitefish, french fries, and coleslaw.