How Walter Martin sowed the seeds for the current Hank Hanegraaff controversy

Back in early April, I posted the news about Hank Hanegraaff (photo right), the successor to Walter Martin (photo left) as president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and host of “The Bible Answer Man” radio show, converting to the Greek Orthodox church. See here. The news caused no small stir among evangelicals, many of whom called for Hanegraaff to step down as the leader of what was always a distinctly evangelical para-church ministry. At least one Christian radio network stopped carrying “The Bible Answer Man.” But Hanegraaff refuses to consider giving up his position and maintains that the core beliefs of Greek Orthodoxy are the same as Bible Christianity.

Walter Martin’s two daughters have taken opposite sides in the ongoing controversy (see article far below). Jill Martin Rische, Martin’s oldest daughter, claims Hanegraaff “stole” the CRI presidency following the death of her father and that Martin definitely did not view Greek Orthodoxy or its cousin, Roman Catholicism, as Christian denominations/churches. See here for Rische’s You Tube video expounding on Hanegraaff’s “conversion.”

Rische makes many valid points comparing Greek Orthodoxy with Bible Christianity, but makes a serious blunder in her criticism of Hanegraaff’s claim that he still supports the core beliefs of Christianity as espoused by C.S. Lewis in his popular book, “Mere Christianity.” Rische states Lewis “might be rolling over in his grave, now,” knowing Hanegraaff was using “Mere Christianity” to support his conversion (7:15-7:22). In actuality, Lewis differed with evangelicalism on several important doctrines and certainly DID view Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as valid Christian institutions. See my review of “Mere Christianity” here. Rische’s and evangelicalism’s inexplicable love affair with C.S. Lewis actually fosters the kind of accommodation and compromise that leads to “evangelicals” joining works-righteousness denominations as Hanegraaff has done. Question: Why would Rische refer to C.S. Lewis in her argument when Lewis most certainly would have sided with Hanegraaff in this debate? Answer: Spiritual blindness.

In opposition to Rische, her sister, Cindee Martin Morgan, claims her father did recognize Greek Orthodoxy and Catholicism as Christian institutions and supports the continuation of Hanegraaff’s tenure as president of CRI. See her video here. At the 6:21 mark, Morgan inserts an audio recording of Martin as supporting evidence that he believed Catholicism was a Christian entity. In the audio, Martin states that he believes if any Catholics are Christians, “they are Christians not because of the Roman Catholic church, but despite the Roman Catholic church” (9:03-9:22). So far so accurate. But he then goes on to say that Catholicism teaches the basic core beliefs of Christianity including “justification by faith” (10:24-10:30). He continues by saying he believes pope John XXIII was a “sincere Christian” (14:33-14:35). It’s with these two points that Martin stumbles VERY BADLY. Catholicism has ALWAYS taught the doctrine of justification by faith AND works. Even Catholics will admit to that. Question: So how could the evangelical church’s leading apologist and “expert” on cults of a generation ago have been so ignorant of Catholicism’s teachings on justification? Answer: Spiritual blindness.

Martin’s confused and contradictory view of Catholicism helped open the door to future ecumenism with Rome and the current controversy involving  Hanegraaff. Martin’s examination of Catholicism, “The Roman Catholic Church in History” (1960), unexplainably sidestepped the issue of justification (see my review here), and now I know the reason why.


Daughter of CRI Founder Defends Hank Hanegraaff Amid ‘Fake News’ Charges That He Stole CRI Presidency

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 8/5/17

In this cleverly-titled book, the author attempts the impossible: to enliven the dead ritual of the mass in the minds of the spiritually shackled.

Based on the number of news stories it generated this past week, it’s clear the Vatican-approved La Civiltà Cattolica’s criticism of politically right-wing American Catholics touched a nerve.

Here we have two very interesting examinations of the current battle between Catholic conservatives and reformers from a liberal perspective. They provide good analysis of where Francis is attempting to drive the church.

Trying to prove the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation/confession from the Bible is like hammering the proverbial square peg through the round hole. This Catholic source admits the earliest isolated examples of auricular confession date to the sixth century.

In 1950, pope Pius XII declared the assumption of Mary bodily into Heaven as an infallible dogma. All Catholics must believe this un-Biblical, mythological doctrine under pain of mortal sin. The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated every August 15th, which falls on a Tuesday this year. The feast is a “Holy Day of Obligation” meaning all Catholics are required to attend mass that day under threat of eternal damnation, but Catholic surveys reveal 65% of members either seldom or never attend obligatory mass on HDOs.

There has been quite a bit of tension between Palestinians and Israelis over the Temple Mount recently. The tense standoff is akin to a case of nitro being transported over a rocky road.

Yes, I can remember the days when Catholic wakes and funerals included much more ritual. Now that most Catholics are nominal members of the church, it’s my observation that many families are opting out of a funeral mass or even a short prayer service officiated by a priest or deacon for their deceased loved one.

In our postmodern era with its idols of relativism and and plurality, its no surprise that heretic Bell can attract an “evangelical” audience.

Evangelicals adopt non-Biblical, culturally-approved aphorisms without even thinking about what they’re saying. Rest in peace? When I pass into glory I’m not going to be resting, I’m going to be busy praising and worshiping my Savior!

Catholic Shrines: “Holy” sites or whited sepulchres?

I listen regularly to Catholic talk radio show, “Calling All Catholics,” The Station of the Cross (101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY), and one of the priest-hosts is Peter Calabrese who works at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima here in Western New York

Making a pilgrimage to a “holy shrine” used to be a very popular endeavor for Catholics, although I’m sure much of the enthusiasm has faded among the younger generations. The Roman Catholic church teaches that its members can earn indulgences that remit temporal punishment in purgatory by visiting officially sanctioned, “consecrated” shrines.

There are many shrines all over the U.S., but the closest shrine to me is the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, NY, around 100-miles west of Rochester. The shrine church was completed in 1965. It’s a glass-domed structure that depicts the Northern Hemisphere. A 13-foot-tall statue of Mary, “Queen of Heaven,” stands atop the dome (see photos).

On the 16-acre grounds are 150 statues of Mary, Jesus, and various saints. Special prominence is given to statues depicting the alleged Marian apparition at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

Imagine the many thousands of souls who have walked the spacious grounds of this shrine over the last 52-years, stopping before the many statues and offering prayers to Mary and the saints, asking for their intercession and help in bringing them to salvation. Most of what is presented at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is un-Biblical and even anti-Biblical. Many would say the shrine buildings and grounds are beautiful and inspiring. The lights. The statues. It’s all meant to appeal to the flesh. But genuine Christians worship the Lord God in spirit and in truth. Salvation does not come by pilgrimages to shrines and other religious exercises. Salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Buildings crumble and fall but Christ is the solid Rock of eternal salvation. Put your faith in Him and nothing else. That is what Mary really desires.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Just imagine, if you can, the apostle Paul and Barnabas, walking together through Lewiston and coming upon this shrine with its many statues and its focus on the “Queen of Heaven.” They would think they were seeing an idolatrous pagan Roman shrine rather than someplace supposedly associated with Christianity.

Below is a listing of all the Catholic shrines in the USA:
http://www.catholicshrines.net/

Bas2 BAS1

Bas3

“Stop saying Catholics believe they must MERIT their salvation!”

Over the past two years, MANY Catholics have written to this blog objecting to my frequently repeated charge that Catholicism teaches its members must MERIT their salvation. They claim their church teaches salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But is that REALLY true? I’m no stranger to the Catholic faith, after having been a Roman Catholic for twenty-seven years and studying the religion quite a bit subsequent to my departure, and I know for a fact Roman Catholicism teaches its members must ultimately MERIT their salvation. So why the disconnect? How can myself and other ex-Catholic Bible Christians charge that Catholics believe they must MERIT their salvation while Catholics emphatically deny it?

This controversy is a slippery eel and I must cut through the semantics fog, so I ask the reader for a little patience as I state my case.

The Roman Catholic church (RCC) is fully aware of the many Bible verses which declare that salvation is a free gift and cannot be merited, and yet it is a religious system which demonstrably relies heavily on works. How does it address this dichotomy?

The RCC teaches that all sin is washed away by the sacrament of baptism. If a Catholic is baptized and dies immediately after baptism, the church teaches they will go straight to Heaven, which is why the emperor Constantine gambled by postponing his baptism until he was on his deathbed. However, the vast majority of Catholics are baptized as infants. Because the act of baptism is non-meritorious (the baptized infant is obviously quite helpless), Catholics can claim their initial salvation is an absolutely free gift.

After a Catholic is baptized and matures from a child to an adult, they must regularly participate in the church’s clergy-administered sacraments (confirmation, the eucharist, confession). Catholics are taught the church’s sacraments confer grace (in much the same way that water flows from a tap), which allegedly equips the Catholic to obey the Ten Commandments and avoid sin. The goal of every Catholic is to be holy – without any serious (mortal) sin on their soul. They refer to this as a sinless “state of grace.” Catholics are taught they cannot attain Heaven if they have any unconfessed serious sins on their souls. So, Catholics will readily admit they must obey the Ten Commandments in order to attain Heaven, but attribute the ability to obey the commandments and avoid sin to the grace they receive from the sacraments. They object to anyone who accuses them of trying to merit or earn their salvation because they ascribe their ability to obey the commandments (impossible!) to grace.

So what’s the bottom line for this discussion? Catholics believe obedience to the Law is required for salvation, with the caveat that obedience is dependent on sacramental grace. Evangelicals would rightly counter that obedience to the Law as a means to salvation, whether qualified as dependent on grace or not, is anti-Gospel, not to mention, impossible.

Catholics will eagerly agree that “salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ” but will NOT agree that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ ALONE. They would say instead that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ AND works.

Having said all that, Catholics will STILL insist their salvation is NOT merited or earned, although they undeniably believe that obeying the Ten Commandments is a requirement for salvation. Despite the caveats, qualifications, and double-speak, Catholics believe they must obey the Law (impossible!) in order to attain salvation.

Catholics counter by saying Bible Christians propagate easy believism; i.e., just say a prayer and live like the devil the rest of your life. Genuine Bible Christians would reply that we came to Christ as helpless sinners, without a single plea of our own, and accepted Him as our Savior by faith ALONE. After we accepted Him as Savior, we follow Him in obedience, albeit imperfectly. Any good works we manifest are the fruit of our salvation, not the cause. Catholics hope to die in a “state of grace” and appear before the Lord without any sin on their souls (or only minor “venial sins). In contrast, Bible Christians will appear before God covered by the imputed perfect righteousness of our Savior. The two approaches are worlds apart. One leads to hell, one leads to salvation.

“For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:3-4

Although “merit” is a dirty word in contemporary Catholic parlance, the official Catechism of the Catholic Church actually DOES recognize works and merit, yes merit!, as parts of its salvation system. See here and here.

Catholic friend, turn from institutional religion, repent of your sins, and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith ALONE.


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

Sketchy Catholic versions of the Bible were stepping stones to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone

I’ve mentioned many times previously that I grew up in a large Catholic family. I was the youngest child, a boy, with five older sisters. Oy vey! There were daily estrogen-fueled drama battles at our house like you wouldn’t believe. Our family wasn’t devout as some of my Catholic friends’ families were back then, with statues in every room of the house, in the yard, and rosaries hanging from rear-view mirrors, but we did attend mass every Sunday and I was even an altar boy from 5th through 8th grades. My sisters and I all attended Catholic parochial school and Catholic high school. In all of those years of Catholic indoctrination, the nuns and brothers never had us read from the Bible. We read short Bible quotes from Catholic booklets, but never from the Bible itself. I didn’t own a Bible and neither did my sisters. I don’t remember either of my parents ever reading the Bible. I don’t know if there was a single Bible in the entire house. I never saw one. The Catholic church did not promote Bible-reading among its members. In my experience, our religious teachers often recommended books about Mary and the saints but never the Bible.

I can’t explain it other than to attribute it to the Lord drawing me to Him, but in the mid-1970s, after I married my bride, I became curious about the Bible and began visiting the local (c)hristian book store, Alpha and Omega, which was situated in those days at the four corners of Penfield, NY. I was kind of embarrassed about entering the establishment and would look around first to see if anyone I knew was watching. Wow! I was amazed at the number of Bibles on display. “These Protestants really love their Bibles,” I thought. Well, I looked around a little bit and came across the Catholic version of the student edition of The Living Bible, called “The Way” (see the above photo), an easy-to-read Bible paraphrase.* I brought the Bible home but hid it from my nominally Catholic wife – I didn’t want her to think I was turning into some kind of a religious nut. I read that Bible on and off for several years.

After our two boys were born and we moved into our first house in 1979, I wanted to be a responsible Catholic parent so I started attending mass again. I even asked the co-pastor of our new parish, “father” Roy Kiggins, to come over and bless our house withNew Am holy water. Yes, I did! I also went back to Alpha and Omega and bought what I thought was a “real” Bible, the Catholic New American Bible version (second photo), which wasn’t a paraphrase. Catholic versions of the Bible contain seven more Old Testament books – referred to as the Apocrypha – than Protestant Bibles. I began diligently reading the New Testament, which, over time, led to a mounting personal crisis. God’s Word repeatedly contradicted Catholic doctrines. The more I read, the more the Holy Spirit convicted me that the Catholic church was wrong on many counts. I eventually stopped going to mass. A few years later, after being further led by the Holy Spirit, I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior! Praise the Lord!

Four of my sisters are now self-described atheists or agnostics, while the fifth one claims to be a Catholic (c)hristian although she has firmly stated a couple of times that she doesn’t believe the Bible is divinely inspired or that Jesus was and is God. Do you find that strange? Actually, you’ll find millions upon millions of similarly mixed up and confused people within Catholicism. She has zero use for the Bible but finds comfort in the familiar Catholic rituals and traditions she remembers from childhood. Looking back, I’m puzzled why I was the only one in my family to be drawn to God’s Word. I’m actually grateful for those spotty Catholic versions of the Bible that I initially read. They were stepping stones to the true Word and salvation by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone.

*Bible paraphrases, like the New Living Translation (NLT), are useful tools when studying the Bible, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone use them as a substitute for actual word-for-word translations of the Bible like the NASB or ESV.

“Catholicism Under the Searchlight of the Scriptures” by John Carrara

Catholicism Under the Searchlight of the Scriptures
By John Carrara
Zondervan, 1951 (Sixth Edition), 123 pages

Evangelist, John Carrara (1913-2008), was raised as a Roman Catholic but accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior as a teen and was called shortly thereafter to preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Brother Carrara traveled to every state of the U.S.A. as an itinerant evangelist and featured speaker at Baptist church revivals, reaching out to the lost for 77 years and warning of the errors of Roman Catholicism, with its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

Very few will recall the name of John Carrara these days but he was a faithful servant of the Lord and of His Good News!

I had already read Carrara’s biography and a booklet he had written regarding evangelical-Catholic intermarriage (see here and here), so I also ordered this slightly dog-eared, 1951 edition of his “Catholicism Under the Searchlight of the Scriptures.”

This short book is a decent examination of the main tenets of Roman Catholicism compared to Scripture, although I had the distinct impression that at least the first chapter was transcribed from a sermon because of several redundancies. But every Catholic and evangelical would benefit from reading this book.

Evangelical pastors back in 1951 generally had little difficulty distinguishing between the genuine Gospel of grace and Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. While none of Rome’s main dogmas have changed since that time, many of today’s pastors and para-church leaders now embrace the Catholic church as a Christian entity due to the work of compromising evangelical Judases (Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Jerry Falwell, Bill Bright, etc.) over the years. These days, Zondervan-Thomas Nelson is as apt to publish a book by a committed Catholic as it is a book written by an evangelical.

Chapters:

  1. The Roman Catholic Church Versus the True Church of God
  2. The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory Versus the Word of God
  3. Auricular Confession Versus the Word of God
  4. The Mass Versus the Lord’s Supper
  5. Peter The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church Versus Peter the Apostle
  6. Mariolatry or the Worship of the Virgin Mary Versus the Word of God
  7. The Roman Catholic Church and the Word of God (Catholicism’s view of the Bible)
  8. The Roman Catholic Church Baptism Versus the Word of God

For a much more thorough and up-to-date examination of Catholicism, see “The Gospel According to Rome” by James G. McCarthy, which is readily available from Amazon. See here.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 7/29/17

Up here in the fading Rust Belt, Catholic parishes are closing or merging faster than you can say, “Hoc est enim corpus meum.” But this week, in order to handle all of the Rust Belt transplants, the diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina opened the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, which seats 2000 at a cost of $41 million. Keep in mind that the parishioners of the new cathedral, like all Catholics, are obligated to attend mass every single Sunday upon pain of eternal damnation.

Earlier this month, a convocation of U.S. Catholic leaders brainstormed on ways to stanch the church’s membership freefall. This articles details some of the new programs Chicago parishes are going to try in response. But in stark honesty, the Catholic church has nothing to offer people. Its mandatory Sunday mass is boring beyond belief and the church doesn’t preach the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Who needs a religious treadmill? The pope says even atheists can go to Heaven if they are “good” and follow their conscience so who needs all of that liturgical rigmarole? Has anyone ever wondered why the Catholic church now devotes so much energy and resources trying to “evangelize” its own membership, 80% of which don’t bother with obligatory weekly mass? What was it doing all of those years?

Evangelicals should oppose any ecumenism with Rome and its false gospel. Ironically, there are many Catholics, like these converts, who fret over ecumenism diluting their cherished anti-Biblical traditions.

Trump threw his supporter, Newt Gingrich, a bone by appointing his wife as ambassador to the Vatican. Count on Francis to be querying Ambassador Gingrich about Trump’s much ballyhooed Mexican border wall and America’s retreat from environmental protections.

I’m very happy to read any article about Catholics reading the Bible. Catholics were discouraged by their church from reading God’s Word for themselves for centuries. As they read the New Testament, many Catholics will compare Scripture to their church’s teachings and discover “something is radically amiss.”

I’m encouraged by the ongoing efforts of Leonardo De Chirico, Gregg Allison, and others to educate evangelical scholars and leaders about Rome’s false gospel via the Rome Scholars Network and the Reformanda Initiative. Why aren’t similar works being done in the United States? Easy answer. Evangelical leadership in this country is so busy jostling in line for a private meeting and photo op with the pope that they have no time or interest in examining the differences between the Gospel of grace and Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

There’s no end in sight to Francis’ ongoing feud with church conservatives and traditionalists. Will Francis’ next move be to pull the plug on the traditionalists’ idolized Latin Mass as the last article speculates? Stay tuned.

The pope says one way, conservative bishops say another way. Who is right?

Catholics claim that they alone have an infallible magisterium to guide them in all matters of faith and morals. But when it comes to communion for divorced remarrieds, should Catholics follow the magisterium of pope Francis and his allied bishops, who allow communion…

or

…should they follow the magisterium of the conservative bishops, who deny communion?

For more arguments against the supposed infallibility of the magisterium, see…

  • The Crusades
  • The Inquisitions
  • Forced baptisms
  • Papal militarism
  • Church sponsored anti-Semitism
  • The condemnation of Galileo
  • Papal participation in slave trade
  • The persecution of Protestants
  • The condemnation of all democratic forms of government

Catholicism: Divided and getting worse

Catholics and ex-Catholic Christians who are older than sixty can remember the period of great turmoil in the church that followed the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965. In calling together the council, pope John XXIII was determined to “open the windows [of the Church] and let in some fresh air” by somewhat revising many of the church’s rituals and beliefs. There were many “window dressing” changes that did not affect core dogmas, but some revisions, such as the church’s new ecumenical outlook, were profound.

It took time before the Vatican II reforms, such as saying mass in the vernacular, filtered down to the parish level so when I became an altar boy in 1966 at the age of ten, I still had to respond in Latin to the priest’s prayers. I believe the mass switched to English the following year, in 1967.

Conservative Catholics deeply resented the many changes introduced by the church at Vatican II. A rift began in the church that continues today. On the one side are the conservatives/traditionalists who pine for the pre-Vatican II militant church with its exclusivist dogmas. On the opposite side are liberals who could be categorized as the Catholic version of the Protestant mainline “social gospel” followers, who downplay doctrine and regulations and emphasize social applications. Liberals welcomed the changes of Vatican II and press for further changes.

Between these two camps are the vast majority of Catholics, many of which might best be described as nominal members. They attend church for significant milestones – baptisms, weddings, funerals, major holidays – but that is the extent of their “spirituality.”

When a Christian witnesses to a Catholic, they must determine where the person falls on the extremely wide spectrum of Catholic belief and practice.

Catholic apologists like to present their church as a monolith united behind the pope but that’s very far from the reality. Conservative Catholics strongly resent the pragmatic, reform-minded Francis who plays fast and loose with cherished dogmas and traditions. They hope his papal reign ends quickly. Full-blown schism is not really an option at this point because, as much as conservatives dislike Francis, they’re restrained by their allegiance to church orthodoxy from considering a split from a duly-elected pontiff.


I was recently scanning through soon-to-be-published books at Amazon, and I came across the two interesting titles below from traditionalist Catholic authors that mirror the deep divide within Catholicism:

Among the Ruins: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Catholic Church
By Paul Williams
Prometheus Books, August 15, 2017, 366 pages

“This critical review of the Roman Catholic Church since the pivotal changes initiated in the 1960s by Vatican II paints a disturbing picture of decline and corruption. Dr. Paul L. Williams, a self-professed Tridentine or traditionalist Catholic, traces the various factors that have caused the Church to suffer cataclysmic losses in all aspects of its life and worship in recent decades. Williams illustrates the decline with telling statistics showing the stark difference between the robust number of clergy members, parishes, schools, and active church-going Catholics in 1965 versus the comparatively paltry number today.

The author is highly critical of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis for steering the church so far away from its traditional teachings and for a lack of oversight that allowed corruption to fester. Symptomatic of this failure of leadership are the recent pedophilia scandals, the ongoing financial corruption, a gay prostitution ring inside the Vatican, and criminal investigations of connections between the Holy See and organized crime.

This unflinching critique from a devoted, lifelong Catholic is a wakeup call to all Catholics to restore their church to its former levels of moral leadership and influence.” – Publisher’s summary

Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is Misleading His Flock
By Philip Lawler
Gateway Editions, February 12, 2018, 256 pages

“Faithful Catholics are beginning to realize it’s not their imagination. Pope Francis has led them on a journey from joy to unease to alarm and even a sense of betrayal. They can no longer pretend that he represents merely a change of emphasis in papal teaching. He seems to be engaged in a deliberate effort to undermine fundamental Catholic doctrines. Assessing the confusion sown by this pontificate, Lost Shepherd explains what’s at stake, what’s not at stake, and how loyal believers should respond.” – Publisher’s summary

Rather than placing your faith in an untrustworthy institution, place your trust in the unchanging Rock of salvation, Jesus Christ. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

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The “king of cool,” Steve McQueen, meets the KING of kings, Jesus Christ!

Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon
By Greg Laurie with Marshall Terrill
American Icon Press, 2017, 302 pages

Okay, okay. Yes, I’m a big hypocrite! In the 5/27/17 edition of the Weekend Roundup, I posted a short criticism of Christians who make a big deal out of celebrity conversions. So why am I reviewing a book about a celebrity conversion? I usually catch the last five minutes of Greg Laurie’s radio show every day on my drive into work and as he peddled his biography of actor, Steve McQueen, daily for a couple of weeks, I found myself becoming “curiouser and curiouser.” I can’t say I was a huge fan of McQueen growing up, but I really enjoyed his portrayal of Captain Virgil Hilts in the 1963 film, “The Great Escape.” Neither am I a big fan of Greg Laurie but I’ll expound on that below.

This book traces the life of McQueen, from his very troubled childhood and young adulthood to his subsequent great success as an actor with all the “benefits” of life in the Hollywood fast lane, including wealth, fame, women, and easy access to drugs. McQueen’s popular, anti-hero persona elevated him to icon status in America as the “King of Cool” in the 1960s. Laurie writes that it was often said of the actor, “Every man wants to be like him, and every women wants to be with him.” But McQueen grew tired of the emptiness of the Tinseltown lifestyle and realized there had to be more to life than empty fame and fortune. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the witness of several people, he eventually accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1979 and died from cancer the following year.

This was a strange book to read. Laurie is clearly a HUGE fan of the “King of Cool.” It was a little bizarre reading a book written by an “evangelical” pastor that is so out-and-out…worldly. I don’t know how else to phrase it. Laurie is a Calvary Chapel pastor and periodically holds big evangelistic outreach events under his “Harvest” banner. He’s also a regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and, just like the Crouches and their associates, is quite ecumenical in his approach. Ecumenist, Billy Graham, clearly another one of Laurie’s heroes, gets a lot of positive ink in this book (he visited McQueen during his last days and presented him with his personal Bible). Controversial actor/director/producer, Mel Gibson, a Catholic ultra-traditionalist, is also warmly saluted and Laurie even identifies him as a “man of faith.” Huh? There’s also the requisite multiple quotes from ecumenical muse, C. S. Lewis.

It seems from what I read in this book that Steve McQueen genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and I praise the Lord for that. Maybe some cool cat-wannabe or fading Baby Boomer* will pick up this book about the “King of Cool,” pondering why the 60s “icon” who appeared to “have it all” wanted to become one of those “crazy born-agains.” That was clearly Laurie’s motive in writing this book. McQueen told friends that he wanted to use his celebrity to lead others to Christ and I pray his desire comes true with this book. Unfortunately, Laurie’s ecumenical brand of big-tent “evangelicalism” is so squishy doctrinally, a devoted Catholic or other works-religionist could read about Mel Gibson being a “man of faith” and think, “I’m good.”

I don’t recommend anyone get their theology from Laurie or the rest of the TBN crowd and this book was the first and the last I’ll ever read from one of those guys. I thank the Lord for anyone who genuinely accepts Jesus Christ as Savior through a TBN-affiliated “ministry” (with God it’s possible), but I deeply hope they find a solid, Bible-preaching church immediately afterwards .

*Speaking of fading Baby Boomers, the very large print type used in this book was appreciated.