Mary: A humble sinner saved by grace or an exalted semi-deity?

A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God?
By Leonardo De Chirico
Christian Focus Publications, 2017, 106 pages

There’s little doubt that the most important difference between Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism is how a person is saved. Christianity proclaims the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone while Catholicism teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit. But the difference between how each group views Mary is also quite significant. Evangelicals take the Biblical view of Mary as a humble believer who submitted to God’s will, but was still a sinner who needed to trust in Christ by faith alone for her salvation. In contrast, Catholics exalt Mary as Advocate, Mediatrix, and Co-Redemptrix, offices that belong to Jesus Christ alone.

“Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” – quoted from Lumen Gentium, paragraph 62

When Catholics read the New Testament for the first time, they’re amazed by the relatively small amount of emphasis Mary is given in Scripture in comparison to her exalted position in Catholicism, which rivals and sometimes even exceeds that of Jesus Christ (Mary is not mentioned directly in the last 170 chapters of the NT).

How did Mariolatry start? What sustains it? Leonardo De Chirico answers these questions and more in “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God?” Don’t let the size of this book fool you. It’s an excellent, well-written, well-researched primer on the origin and development of Mariolatry within Roman Catholicism.

Pastor De Chirico is an expert on the Roman Catholic church. He’s previously written a pocket guide on the papacy (see here), he writes an informative monthly blog about Catholicism (see here), and he leads a ministry, The Reformanda Initiative, which seeks to educate evangelicals regarding Roman Catholicism so that they will continue to reach out to Catholics with the Gospel of grace (see here). Praise God for Dr. De Chirico and I pray the Lord continues to use him to reach out to Roman Catholics.

Order “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God?” from Amazon, here.

RefIn

 

Advertisements

Watchmen signaled the alarm, while Judases opened the gates

Standing Room Only: A Contemporary Exposé of the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Agreement
By Philip De Courcy
Ambassador-Emerald International, 1999, 386 pages

Well known evangelical, Chuck Colson, and Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, forged an alliance back in the early 1990s that eventually included several others from their respective “camps” under the ecumenical umbrella called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT). In the group’s first declaration, published in 1994, both sides recognized each other as Christians and laid the groundwork for future rapprochement and cooperation.

Many evangelicals reacted swiftly to ECT’s stark compromise and betrayal of the Gospel. Several books were published including this one by Philip De Courcy who currently pastors in Southern California.

De Courcy does a good job of examining the claims of ECT in comparison to Scripture and historical Protestantism. Areas that are examined include:

  • The current lack of discernment within evangelicalism regarding Catholicism.
  • The authority of Scripture versus Catholicism’s reliance on tradition and its magisterium.
  • Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice for sin on Calvary compared to Catholicism’s ongoing sacrifice of the mass.
  • Purgatory
  • Mariolatry
  • Catholicism’s sacerdotal priesthood
  • The pope
  • Justification through the imputed righteous of Jesus Christ versus Catholicism’s teaching of the infusion of sacramental grace leading to higher levels of sanctification and subjective justification.

This book was very informative and would be helpful for anyone interested in learning the differences between Catholicism and Biblical Christianity. One criticism I have is the chapter headings could have been more sharply focused to assist the reader  (e.g., the chapter on purgatory is titled “Heaven By The Back Door”), but this is a minor issue.

While most evangelicals were unaware of ECT and its ecumenical efforts back in 1994, some theologians, pastors, and para-church leaders were swayed. Thanks to ECT and other ecumenical initiatives, the emphasis gradually shifted from evangelizing Catholics to “dialoguing” with them in order to “better understand and learn from each other.” The compromise and betrayal continues, but there are still many faithful pastors and Christians out there who have not bent the knee to Rome.

Used copies of “Standing Room Only: A Contemporary Exposé of the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Agreement” are available from Amazon, here.

God, Donald Trump, and a Catholic mystic? Oy vey!

This past Saturday afternoon, as I was browsing the (c)hristianity section at our local Barnes and Noble bookstore, a new offering on the shelf caught my eye; “God and Donald Trump” by Stephen E. Strang (Frontline, 2017, 238 pages). Readers of this blog know I don’t like to comment on politics very much because I believe that while Christians are to be responsible citizens in the nations we happen to be sojourning in, we are, first and foremost, ambassadors of our Father in Heaven. It’s my opinion that Christians in America made a tremendous mistake by intertwining faith with national patriotism over the past 240 years.

Well, with a title like “God and Donald Trump” and a forward by Mike Huckabee, I assumed this book represented the views of the “America for Jesus,” politically-focused evangelical crowd and as I browsed through the book it was clear that was the case. I didn’t want to waste the time (or funds) it would take to read this book from cover to cover, so the comments below stem from a twenty-minute perusal while I stood in the store aisle with pen and paper. Argh! All the comfy seats in the store were occupied.

Author Strang presents Trump as God’s instrument to “return America back to Him,” as if the United States was in a covenant relationship with the Lord, just like ancient Israel had been. This a favorite pet paradigm of politically-focused American Christians although it has zero Scriptural support. Strang is CEO and founder of Charisma Media, which publishes Charisma Magazine, so the book has a decidedly Pentecostal/charismatic bent. Positive remarks regarding Trump are presented from such dubious characters as Paula White, Sid Roth, Pat Robertson, Mike Bickle, Rick Joyner, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, and Strang’s good friend, charlatan Jim Bakker. From my perspective, this is an unadmirable “name it and claim it” rogues’ gallery. Strang offers several “prophetic words” from various continuationists meant to affirm Trump’s divine endorsement. There are also quotes from non-Charisma types, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Robert Jeffress. To be honest, I wouldn’t desire to read a book or hear a “sermon” from any of the above because of their heretical “prosperity gospel” theology and/or their strong desire for a church-state symbiosis. The author also includes several color photos of Trump visiting pope Francis at the Vatican in May 2017 as further evidence of the president’s divine approbation. Oy vey!

Strang saves his coup de gras for the very end of the book. It seems a mysterious Catholic “holy man,” Thomas Zimmer, had prophesied back in the 1980s that playboy and cutthroat casino builder, Donald Trump, would improbably “lead America back to God.” American expatriate Zimmer had lived in Rome, Italy for two decades before moving to Loreto, Italy, home of the famous Santa Casa (“holy house”), in the 1990s. Strang writes approvingly that Zimmer, the “hermit of Loreto,” was “very devout,” attended mass multiple times each day, and co-authored the popular (among Catholics) Pieta prayer book. Zimmer returned to America in 2008 and died in 2009. His prophecy regarding Trump was made known to Catholic priest, Giacomo Capoverdi, who publicized the startling prediction. Since when do “evangelicals” refer to Catholic mystics for validation? Oh, yeah, ALL THE TIME these days.

Yes, I know from Scripture that the Lord raises up political leaders and removes them.

“He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.” – Daniel 2:21

I also know we are to pray for our political leaders so that we may live peaceful lives so that the Gospel may go out unhindered.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

But none of Strang’s claims convince me that the Lord has anointed Donald Trump, of all people, as the man who is going to “lead America back to Him.” For me, they had the exact opposite effect. Given their sources, all of these claims regarding Trump appear to me to be of a misguided or even of a diabolical nature.

For more information on the bogus “holy house” of Loreto, see the postscript below and my post from a couple of years ago, here.

For more on Catholic priest, Giacomo Capoverdi’s claims regarding the “hermit of Loreto’s” premonition regarding Donald Trump, see here.

Postscript: Catholic tradition states that angels carried the Santa Casa (“holy house”), alleged home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, from Nazareth to Tersatto, Croatia, then to Recanati, Italy, and finally to Loreto. Modern Catholic revisionists understood the need for a more conventional explanation and concocted the story of a mysterious aristocratic family, the “Angelos,” sponsoring the relocation of the house from Palestine to Europe, which gradually gave rise to the popular myth of “angels” flying the house over the Mediterranean.

The Byrds in minute detail

Today, I’m taking a break from theological matters, but believers know that all things lead back to Christ.

Byrds: Requiem For The Timeless: Volume 2
By Johnny Rogan
R/H Publishing, 2017, 1248 pages

When my oldest sister came back home from college for the “holidays” in 1969, she brought her small LP collection with her. I took a listen to one of the albums, the one with three hippies sitting on a dilapidated couch on the cover, and became an instant fan of “Crosby, Stills, and Nash.” Being the Asperger’s nerd that I am, I wasn’t content with just casually enjoying the group’s music, I had to immerse myself in it, which meant delving into two of the trio’s previous bands; Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds.

The Byrds came to be in 1964 when young folk musicians, Jim McGuinn (lead guitar and vocals), Gene Clark (vocals), David Crosby (rhythm guitar and vocals), Chris Hillman (bass), and Michael Clarke (drums) caught the excitement of Beatlemania and charted a new course somewhere between Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Folk rock was born. This was significant because, up to that time, rock and roll music was considered to be strictly for teeny-boppers and beneath the dignity of “intellectual” college students. By adding a rock beat to folk sensibilities, the Byrds bridged the gap between rock and folk (strongly influencing both Dylan and the Beatles) and ensured rock music would be the soundtrack of the growing youth counter culture movement.

The Byrds peaked in 1965-1966 with two number-one singles, “Mr. Tamborine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” but the group actually enjoyed a long (1965-1973) and prolific (twelve albums) run. Although they’d become largely passé in the minds of fickle audiences by 1967, the Byrds continued to blaze trails by introducing different musical genres into rock, including jazz, Indian raga, psychedelia, and country. That kind of pioneering legacy encouraged a solid following that continues today.

By 1968, Jim/Roger McGuinn was the only remaining original member. Hired hands came and went. The band continued to tour and record albums, but the output was incomparable to that of the original line-up.

Byrds aficionado, Johnny Rogan, detailed much of the Byrds’ history in the 1200-page tome, “Byrds: Requiem For The Timeless: Volume 1, which was published in 2012. A 1200-page book about a rock-and-roll band, you ask incredulously? Ah, it was a feast for fans, but quite a bit of emphasis was given to best-known members, Messrs. McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman as might be expected.

In this 1248-page follow-up, Rogan devotes individual chapters to the remaining charter members, Gene Clark (d. 1991) and Michael Clarke (d. 1993), as well as to hired-hands, Kevin Kelley (d. 2002), Gram Parsons (d. 1973), Clarence White (d. 1973), and Skip Battin (d. 2003). All six of these men are deceased; the deaths of the first four were directly attributable to drug and alcohol abuse while White was killed in an accident and Battin succumbed to Alzheimer’s, but those two were also more-than-casual users.

Because the abuse of drugs and alcohol was a common theme among all six men, their stories are similar in many respects. Their professional and personal lives suffered dearly. Relationships with their wives and children were sadly broken. These men were talented musicians and Clark, Parsons, and White especially still have enthusiastic followers, but much of their talent went unfulfilled.

Rogan regrets that he was not able to devote chapters to the two surviving hired-hands, John York and Gene Parsons, so this book unfortunately has a glaring deficiency. Maybe Rogan should have trimmed some of the excessively detailed descriptions of the drug habits of the six and squeezed in York and Parsons? Just sayin’.

Nobody but a true Byrds fan would enjoy this gigantic opus so you may want to think twice before you head over to Amazon.

Additional thoughts from a believer

The Byrds included many Gospel-themed songs in their recorded repertoire and that had an unsettling effect on me as an unbeliever. Band leader, Roger McGuinn, hit rock bottom with his drug use in 1977 and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. “Oh, no,” I thought. “McGuinn has become one of those born-agains.” I accepted Christ six years later.

“F” is for false gospel

C Is for Catholicism: An Evangelical Primer on Catholic Terminology
By Kevin Reeves
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2016, 14 pages, $1.95

When comparing the church of Rome to evangelical Christianity, Catholic apologists often like to use the analogy that they feast on a seven-course, extravagent dinner while evangelicals must try to satisfy themselves with a greasy burger and fries, or worse yet, with cotton candy. According to Catholic thinking, volume > quality.

Although both Catholics and Bible Christians talk about “grace” and “faith,” the way they define those terms are diametrically opposed to each other. Bible Christians uphold the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone while Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Catholics often refer to the Gospel of Bible Christians as “easy believism.” In contrast, Catholicism is a complicated religious system of ritual and ceremony that hinges on its seven sacraments. It’s nearly impossible to find a concise summary of Catholicism’s salvation plan, but the church essentially teaches a person must be baptized and then must regularly participate in the sacraments of the mass and reconciliation in order for their sins to be forgiven and to receive grace so they may avoid sin and perform charitable acts so as to merit Heaven at the time of their death. The rubrics of the rituals, legalities, and ceremonies that intertwine with the essentials literally fill multiple thick volumes. Salvation in Catholicism is a lifelong process of trying to remain in a mortal-sinless “state of grace” until the moment of death, an impossibility as every genuine Christian knows.

In this pamphlet, Kevin Reeves briefly defines fifty-five Catholic terms for the curious evangelical. Many Bible Christians have been led to believe that Catholicism is basically a Christian entity with a few quirky beliefs and practices. Not so. This short pamphlet is a good primer regarding some of Catholicism’s many anti-Biblical doctrines and will hopefully lead the reader to further investigation.

Yes, Catholicism is a tremendously complicated religious system of rituals, sacraments, and legalities. Catholics like to compare their religion to a gourmet dinner, but no one sitting at their table can ever be satisfied or find true spiritual peace or joy. In Catholicism, it is a sin for a person to presume they are saved in Christ, for they must constantly try to merit their salvation right up until the moment of their death. Catholicism is no doubt a very elaborate “dinner,” but it’s all empty calories and laced with spiritual cyanide.

For many more resources on Roman Catholicism and other topics of interest to Christians, see the link below:

Lighthouse Trails Publishing
http://www.lighthousetrails.com/

Chasing after a spiritual “high” by following the “mystics”

Teresa of Avila: An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement
By Carolyn A. Greene
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2017, 19 pages, $1.95

Within the evangelical church, we see trends and gimmicks come and go. Others stay around for awhile. Some hip pastor dreams up a new, “cutting edge” spirituality technique and then appears on TBN hawking his new book and the next thing you know “progressive” pastors all over the country are climbing on board so they don’t get left behind at the “last year’s news” station.

Such is the case with the “contemplative prayer” (aka “spiritual formation” and “centering prayer”) movement. It wasn’t enough just to read God’s Word and go to the Lord in simple prayer. No, as Christianity in America began moving farther and farther away from doctrine-based faith to subjective experientialism, “cutting edge” pastors began looking into methods for their congregations to “deepen” their prayer/worship “encounter.” But there was no need to reinvent the wheel. “Hip” pastors read accounts of the old Roman Catholic mystics and discovered exactly what they were looking for.

Cloistered monastic religious orders encouraged their monks and nuns to practice forms of extreme asceticism including self-mortification (flagellation, chronic fasting, sleep deprivation, etc.). Under these conditions, the mystics often fell into deep swoons and trances and claimed to experience ecstasies and the miraculous phenomena of levitation, bi-location, and stigmata as well as being visited by Jesus and/or the “Blessed Virgin.”

One such Catholic mystic was the celebrated “saint,” Teresa of Avila, Spain (1515-1582). In this pamphlet, Carolyn Greene refers to some of the writings of Teresa to illustrate her “otherworldly” experiences. This short pamphlet is not a thorough exposé of “contemplative prayer” or of the alleged experiences of Teresa, but serves only as a brief introduction.

Many “hip” pastors and church leaders have jumped onto the “contemplative prayer” band wagon. They extol the writings of Teresa and other Catholic mystics as guides for their followers to experience a deep, subjective, often trance-like “encounter” while in prayer/meditation. This technique began in the “emerging church” with people like Brian McLaren and Richard Foster and has since spread into mainstream “evangelicalism” through people like Sarah Young, Rick Warren, Dallas Willard, Tim Keller, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer.

Contemplative/centering prayer promotes emptying the mind and experiencing a self-induced trance similar to the TM trancendental meditation practices taught in Hinduism. I believe voluntarily surrendering control of one’s mind exposes an individual to demonic influences. In contrast, God’s Word commands that we are to be ever sober and vigilant rather than slaves of hypnotic euphoria.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:22-24

The other great danger of the contemplative prayer movement is that it serves as a bridge between evangelical Christians and Roman Catholicism. Teresa of Avila was a faithful follower of Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation through sacramental grace and merit. If your pastor proposes a contemplative/centering prayer initiative, it’s definitely time to find a new church.

For many resources that examine the dangers of contemplative spirituality and Roman Catholicism, see the link to Lighthouse Trails Publishing below.

Lighthouse Trails Publishing
http://www.lighthousetrails.com/

the_ecstasy_of_saint_theresa
Sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1652, “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” purports to show the “saint” in the throes of swooning ecstasy as an angel prepares to thrust a golden lance into her heart.

The Gospel vs. a big smile and a positive attitude

Yesterday, we received our monthly mailer from our local (c)hristian bookstore and I couldn’t help but notice the new book from “Pastor” Joel Osteen, “Blessed in the Darkness,” which was published on October 24th. Osteen cranks out these “name it and claim it” manuals almost as fast as McDonald’s cranks out Big Macs. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I tend toward hyperbole when it comes to Olsteen. Just like his previous thirteen books, Olsteen’s “Blessed in the Darkness” won’t mention sin, repentance, and the imperative of accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior. Osteen sells a “health and wealth,” prosperity gospel, false version of (c)hristianity that has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and the Christian life.

Osteen leads one of the largest “churches” in America, Lakewood church in Houston Texas, with a Sunday attendance of 44,000, and his “sermon” broadcasts are consistently one of the highest rated shows on Matt and Laurie Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). There’s obviously a large demand out there for Osteen’s faux (c)hristianity, which proclaims the great benefits of “faith” in “jackpot jesus” without any repentance and trusting in the genuine Jesus Christ of the ENTIRE Bible as personal Savior.

“Blessed in the Darkness” is currently #13 on the (c)hristian doctrine-lite bestseller list and is undoubtedly headed to #1.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Postscript: Last night I was flipping through cable channels during the Knick-Hornets intermission and I caught several minutes of Matt and Laurie’s flagship “Praise the Lord” primetime show which featured TBN’s “superstars,” Osteen and Joseph Prince. Matt was hawking reservations for his upcoming tour of Israel and challenged viewers to call the 800-number and charge the down payment on their credit card and trust in the Lord for the balance. He tried to get an “Amen” from Prince, but the “name it and charge it” sales pitch was a little too predatory even for Joseph.

Shining a light on Catholic error

Simple Answers: Understanding the Catholic Faith – An Evangelical Primer
By Ray Yungen
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2017, 160 pages, $12.95

The spirit of ecumenical compromise is moving powerfully within the evangelical church. Several decades ago, believers were much more aware of the differences between the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit, but that discernment is now being dulled by the dilution of doctrine and the call for (c)hristian unity.

In this newly-published, short book, evangelical Ray Yungen points out some of the major differences between Biblical Christianity and Rome’s works religion. Chapters examine the following subjects under the light of Scripture:

  • The new openness of evangelicalism to Rome’s errors
  • The importance of the mass in Catholic salvation theology
  • The Catholic teaching that obeying the Ten Commandments merits salvation
  • The doctrine of purgatory
  • The worship of Mary
  • The papacy

At the end of the book are two helpful appendices, “The New Evangelization from Rome” by Roger Oakland and “My Journey out of Catholicism” by David Dombrowski.

“Simple Answers” is a well-written, succinct comparison of the main differences between Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism and would benefit both evangelicals who want to know more about Catholicism and Catholics who desire to learn more about the Gospel of grace. The title of the book is quite appropriate. Catholicism is a complex, convoluted religious system with a myriad of legalities and rituals that keep its large stable of canon lawyers quite preoccupied. The Catholic system of sacramental grace and works is a revolving treadmill that offers no spiritual assurance, peace, or joy. In contrast, the Gospel of grace is so simple a child can comprehend it, and salvation in Jesus Christ through faith alone brings assurance, peace, and joy that is beyond words.

I’m excited any time a new book is published which examines Catholicism from a Biblical perspective. Sadly, just about all of the larger “Protestant” publishing houses have succumb to ecumenical compromise and publish Catholic authors. The publication of “Simple Answers” was delayed for almost a year due to the death of its author, Ray Yungen.

Order “Simple Answers” directly from Lighthouse Trails Publishing here or from Amazon.com here.

See my list of over 330 books that examine Roman Catholicism from a Biblical perspective on my Books tab, here.

Betrayal in the camp

Ecumenism with religious error is rampant throughout the evangelical church these days. Over the last sixty years, the percentage of evangelical pastors, theologians, and para-church leaders who embrace Roman Catholicism with its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit as a Christian entity has steadily risen. One of the few remaining bastions of non-compromise with Rome was the conservative Reformed movement. I admired men like D. James Kennedy, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper for their unyielding defense of the Gospel of grace in the face of compromise and betrayal that surrounds them. But accommodation and compromise with Rome is now in the camp of even the conservative Reformed.

A brother and trusted friend in the Lord recently posted a brief review of a children’s book, titled, “The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith,” (photo middle). My thoughts below in no way reflect on this brother who initially posted the review completely unaware of the facts I will present.

The author of the book, Stephen J. Nichols (photo left), is a very prominent figure in the conservative Reformed movement. He serves as the president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries, both founded by R.C. Sproul. Nichols is also strongly connected to the ministry of John MacArther and has presented at multiple Shepherd’s Conferences hosted by Grace Community Church.

Being the nerd that I am, I was curious to see who Nichols included in his collection of 26 “heroes of the faith.” I did a little digging and had my answer (see here). I was somewhat familiar with 18 of the 26 individuals on the list and one of them really stood out: Francis Xavier (photo right). What? I had to do a double take. Francis Xavier? Are you kidding me? As an ex-Catholic, I am very much aware of Xavier. He’s one of Catholicism’s most prominent and revered “saints” and his name adorns many Catholic churches and institutions. Xavier was a close friend and associate of Ignatius of Loyola. Together, with a few others, they founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, in 1534 (the official formation was in 1540). That’s right, the Jesuits! The order of the Jesuits was created specifically to counteract the work of the Reformation in spreading the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Ignatius and Xavier patterned the Jesuits according to a military model (Ignatius was a former soldier). The order would be the pope’s personal “army.” Jesuit priests pledged absolute loyalty to the pontiff and would use whatever means necessary to neutralize and defeat the spread of the Gospel. Much of their counter-Reformation work was done via the establishment of schools and expeditions to remote areas to spread Rome’s false gospel. Xavier was very active in India and the Far East. In 1546, he requested that the Portuguese king send the Inquisition to Goa, the center of Portuguese colonialism in India. The infamous Goa Inquisition (see here) imprisoned, tortured, and executed “heretics” until its abolition in 1820. Xavier died in 1552.

So, given all of the above, I have a few questions. How can one of the “bright young stars” of the conservative Reformed movement possibly cite Francis Xavier as a “hero of the faith”? Which faith? Certainly not the “sola fide, solus Christus,” faith alone, in Christ alone that I know and that Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin preached. Xavier was bitterly opposed to the Reformation and to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Xavier worked tirelessly to spread Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit throughout Asia. He was absolutely no friend of the Gospel or of the Reformers. How exactly does Nichols square all of that in his head? What is he thinking? How in the world can he see clear to calling darkness light? And how can faithful shepherds of the church swallow what Nichols is dishing out? What does R.C. Sproul say about Nichols’ presentation of Jesuit Xavier as a “hero of the faith”? What does John MacArthur say about Nichols holding up the co-founder of the Jesuits as an exemplary Christian?

Rest assured that Stephen J. Nichols pondered very long and hard as to who he would present in his list of 26 “heroes.” Including such a controversial figure as the co-founder of the Jesuits in this collection was no mistake. It’s clear Nichols has an ecumenical agenda and he’s obviously not afraid to push it. Will Sproul and MacArthur call him on it or will they let it go? After all, it’s only a children’s book, right? What will we see next, the leaders of the conservative Reformed movement writing biographies praising the various popes of Rome?

My heart grieves and my stomach turns. I can only pray for Stephen Nichols.

From a nun to a child of God!

Sister of Mercy: From Serving God to Knowing Him
By Wilma Sullivan
Emerald House Group, 1997, 80 pages

In this short book, former nun, Wilma Sullivan, testifies of her journey from being a Roman Catholic nun to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Sullivan was born into a Catholic family and educated by the Sisters of Mercy at St. Agnes Catholic Grammar School in Towanda, Pennsylvania up until the sixth grade. The dedication of the nuns made a huge impression on her. Being an athletic girl, she chose to attend public schools from seventh through twelfth grades because of their superior sports programs and facilities, but continued with her CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) religious classes for Catholic children attending public schools. Sullivan desired to become a nun following high school, but fulfilled her father’s wish that she first go to college.

After graduating from a two-year college, Sullivan entered a Sisters of Mercy convent in 1967. Shortly afterwards, she was assigned to teach a second-grade class at a Catholic grammar school. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) brought many changes into the church including changes in religious orders. Nuns were given greater independence. Sullivan was disillusioned with what she saw as the disintegration of community life in her religious order and left the convent in 1971. But she remained faithful to the Catholic religion and volunteered for various assignments at two Catholic parishes.

During a hospital stay, Sullivan struck up a friendship with another patient, a born-again Christian. The two discussed spiritual matters often. Sullivan bought a Bible (her first) and attended weekly services at both the Catholic and the Baptist church of her friend. She eventually understood that salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and accepted Christ as her Savior. After several months, Sullivan found that she could no longer continue to attend the Catholic church services because so many of the beliefs and practices were contrary to God’s Word, including the false gospel of sacramental grace and merit.

For many years, Sullivan traveled across the country speaking to women’s groups about her journey from legalistic, institutional religion to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I enjoyed this short book quite a bit and read through it in only a couple of sittings. I was also taught by the Sisters of Mercy in Catholic grammar school. I praise the Lord that Sullivan accepted Christ as Savior and came out of Catholic legalism. Faithful Catholics and ecumenical evangelical Judases don’t know what to do with a testimony like Wilma Sullivan’s. If she is right, they are wrong and that just won’t do according to their way of thinking.

Order the Kindle edition of “Sister of Mercy” here.

Read a shorter version of Sullivan’s testimony here.