These Truths?

These Truths: A History of the United States
Jill Lepore
W.W. Norton & Company, 2018, 933 pp.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – from The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

I’m a bit of a history buff and I’ve read a good number of history books over the decades. Histories of the United States tended toward heavily-varnished hagiography with men like Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln reverenced in almost-religious terms. Of course, those men were products of their times. Jefferson could write the above words with the widely-understood qualification that Native American “Indians,” Blacks, and women did not share in “these truths.” The hypocrisy and inconsistency are glaring from our vantage point today, but also consider that only eighty-years ago, millions of American G.I.s were sent to Europe to defend the world from Nazi tyranny and persecution at the same time that Black Americans in the South lived under the tyranny of Jim Crow.

Harvard professor, Jill Lepore, wrote “These Truths” partially from the perspective of the oppressed and disenfranchised and some might dismiss it as a “woke” version of U.S. history. However, the book is necessary because most hagiographical U.S. histories of the past neglected or skimmed over the stories of the oppressed, voiceless, marginalized groups. Lepore isn’t shrill and angry (as I recently encountered with Kristin Kobes Du Mez in her critique of American Christian Nationalism, “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” see here), but presents the material in a “mostly” objective manner that’s worthy of consideration. Lepore’s last several chapters that examine the increasing polarization of American society along the Red vs. Blue divide are informative and very well done.

Because of its size, “These Truths” was a major effort to get through and it occupied much more of my reading time than I like to devote to a single book. It deserves a longer review, but my time is more limited these days. A couple of closing thoughts:

  • Washington, Jefferson, et al, were certainly fallible men and products of their times. I imagine that if Lepore had been brought up in the Antebellum South of the 1840s and 1850s there would have been an extremely good chance that she would have aligned with the societal mores of the region and times as well.
  • The conflation of faith and nationalism has been the predominant paradigm among Christians living in America since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620. Deconstructionist examinations of U.S. history are not well-received by many. But great wrongs were done and deserve examination. Christians know from God’s Word that all men are sinners and there’s abundant evidence of that in America’s unvarnished history. Deist Thomas Jefferson’s “truths” were laudable, although certainly not applied fairly. However, Christians know of the infinitely greater Truths of Jesus Christ and the Gospel that are not restricted by national boundaries, times, or societal mores. Jefferson is memorialized in a manner that approaches idolatry, but he was a spiritually lost soul who aligned himself with humanistic “enlightenment” (including some glaring inconsistencies as a slaveowner) rather than with Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

“Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1″ (and some possible good news)

No, my friends, I’m NOT turning this blog into the Legion of Super-Heroes frivolity blog. Yes, I realize I reviewed LSH #12 only last week, but there’s a good reason for this latest installment. DC Comics just launched its three-month-long, “Future State” reconfiguration with this two-part LSH tie-in. It’s been rumored that several titles won’t emerge from Future State intact, including the Legion of Super-Heroes, which just completed a one-year, twelve-issue relaunch. With that in mind, let’s go ahead and see what DC and Bendis have in mind for what many (including myself) thought might be the Legion’s final tale.

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 [of 2]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils and Inks: Riley Rossmo, Colors: Ivan Plascencia
DC Comics, January 26th, 2021

Plot

At some indeterminate point in the 31st Century following the events described in LSH #12, former Legion leader, Ultra Boy, arrives on Planet Gotham to rendezvous with Shadow Lass, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 7, and Colossal Boy. We learn that the Legion had previously disbanded and that the United Planets are in almost total chaos. On Planet Daxam, the only remaining U.P. stronghold, Chameleon Boy is brought before a council comprised of former Legionnaires Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Polar Boy (see postscript below), Princess Projectra, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Superboy, Sun Boy, and Timber Wolf in an effort to ascertain the whereabouts of Jan Arrah, the former Legionnaire, Element Lad, who is responsible for an “incident”/”event” that precipitated the current crisis. On Planet Winath, a group of newly-empowered beings (who refer to the previous cataclysm as the “elemental rapture”) bands together as a pseudo, rogue Legion to exploit the chaos and also oppose Arrah and the crippled U.P., but are thwarted by the former Triplicate Girl (one of her identities was killed in the crisis) who is searching for Element Lad. She is joined by Blok who is on a similar mission. Brainiac 7 invites the duo/trio to join the reconstituted Legion and capture Arrah and also recruits a reluctant Bouncing Boy. On one of Planet Trom’s moons, Arrah interrogates his prisoner, Lightning Lad, who had attempted to kill the traitorous ex-Legionnaire. The proceedings are suddenly interrupted by Lightning Lass along with a contingent of Legionnaires including Blok, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 7, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Duo Damsel, Ferro Lad, (see postscript below), Monster Boy, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Superboy, and Timber Wolf. Argh! We must wait one month for the results of this showdown!

Comments

Bendis doesn’t provide a lot of information about the cataclysmic attack upon the galaxy and the Legion orchestrated by the traitorous Jan Arrah. I’m expecting more details in “Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 [of 2].” All of the Legionnaires are presented in different permutations including alternate uniforms and different physical characteristics, with a reconstituted Brainiac 5/7 being the most radical. Rossmo’s pencils are nowhere near the caliber of regular LSH artist, Ryan Sook. A redesigned Superboy stays noticeably in the background in this book. I counted a few Legionnaires in the mix who I could not identify. Silver Age Legion fans will note that the death of one of the triplicates hearkens back to similar grim circumstances in “Computo the Conquerer” in Adventure Comics #340 (January 1966). It was sad to read the first issue of this two-part Future State series knowing DC is probably going to pull the plug on the Legion following the second installment.

Postscript

After writing the above, I came across a very recent interview with LSH writer, Brian Michael Bendis, in which he reveals some of the unidentifiable characters in this issue as being members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes and that the black-suited character on the cover with a laser sword is Ferro Lad. Okay. I had thought the character on page 8 in silver and red was Ferro Lad when it’s actually Polar Boy of the Subs. The writer hints that Superboy will play more of a major role in issue #2. To my great surprise, Bendis also reveals that DC definitely plans on continuing the Legion at some point after Future State despite the title’s notable absence in the publisher’s April solicitations. See the interview here.

Legion of Super-Heroes #12

It’s time once again for our monthly, LSH frivolity break (in fact, we’re three weeks past due because of DC’s ongoing publishing issues), so let’s climb aboard our time cube and travel to the 31st Century for another LSH adventure in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #12:
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Ryan Sook, Inks: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, January 19, 2021

Plot

At the end of LSH #11, Superboy and Saturn Girl arrived on New Krypton and confronted planet-destroyer, Rogol Zaar, as all of the other Legionnaires lay strewn about on the battlefield, bloodied and vanquished. As we pick up the action in #12, Superboy engages Rogol Zaar, but he too is subdued. Saturn Girl uses her mind powers to “psychically wake” the entire battered Legion corps, who then engage Rogol Zaar. Just as the Legion appears to be gaining the upper hand, Mordru the Sorcerer appears along with a large contingent of Horraz pirates and a full-scale battle ensues with multiple vignettes highlighting individual Legionnaires and their unique powers. The combined forces of Rogol Zaar and Mordru prove too much for the heroes and defeat looms. Mon-El suddenly appears, returning from his self-imposed exile, to buy the Legion a little more time. Saturn Girl, Dream Girl, and White Witch then confront Mordru with their combined powers, but the showdown is interrupted by Dr. Fate who easily subdues the evil sorcerer. A defeated Rogol Zaar is then returned to the Phantom Zone. As Element Lad leads the effort to rebuild New Krypton, a few Legionnaires ponder whether the preceding battle was the “Great Darkness” that had been foretold and conclude that was not the case. Gold Lantern returns to Earth to retrieve Brainiac 5 for the victory celebration, only to learn that his ring is NOT a Green Lantern ring (gasp!) and that those who issued it to him are not elders of Oa (double gasp!).

Comments

Writer Bendis did a nice job with this showdown between the Legion and Rogol Zaar and Mordru and he tied up some dangling loose ends with the return of Mon-El, Dr. Fate, and Blok. Ryan Sook’s pencils are top-notch as usual. The entire 34-person Legion roster was included in this issue with appearances by Bouncing Boy, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawn Star, Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Matter-Eater Lad, Monster Boy, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Rose Forrest, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Timber Wolf, Triplicate Girl, Ultra Boy, and Wild Fire. The as-of-yet-unidentified-skeleton-in-a-containment-suit character was also present. The fact that Bendis has not identified this anonymous hero after twelve issues must be his idea of an insider joke.

Well, folks, this issue wraps up the first year of the Legion’s comeback. My hat is off to DC and the creative team of Bendis, Sook, Von Grawbadger, and Bellaire for a very entertaining ride. There was some speculation on the web that DC was pulling the plug on the LSH after this issue, however, a full-page “Future State Checklist” at the end of this book lists “Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1 [of 2]” on sale, tomorrow, January 26th and “Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 [of 2]” on sale February 23rd. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that DC will be continuing the LSH franchise after “Future State.” No titles are safe given the publisher’s severe financial troubles except for its flagship Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman franchises.

Jesus and John Wayne?

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
By Kristin Kobes Du Mez
Liveright Publishing, 2020, 356 pp.

2 Stars

Readers of this blog know I’m not a supporter of the still-popular “America the Christian Nation” paradigm. The conflation of faith and fervent nationalism by American Christians has led to a multitude of wrong turns, errors, and abuses ever since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620.

The unusual title of this book caught my attention, so I borrowed a copy from the library. The author documents the preliminary origins and rise of militant Falwellian Christian nationalism in the 1970s, which has continued in various permutations into the Trump presidency. Where does Hollywood actor, John Wayne,* fit in? The author posits that post-WWII-era Christians substituted Wayne, or rather the über-masculine and nationalistic ethos that the actor symbolized, for Jesus Christ and the genuine Gospel. The main propagators of Christian nationalism receive plenty of mention, including Pat Buchanan, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Sr., Jerry Falwell Jr., Bill Gothard, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, D. James Kennedy, Al Mohler, Oliver North, Tony Perkins, Doug Phillips, Pat Robertson, Rousas Rushdoony, Phyllis Schlafly, and Doug Wilson, among others.

The author, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University** (Grand Rapids, MI) and a self-described “Christian feminist,” is at the opposite end of the spectrum of the Christian nationalists she critiques. Throughout the entire book, the reader must endure her shrill rants against “white patriarchalism.” I’m definitely not a supporter of Christian nationalism or inflated machismo, but Kobes Du Mez also frequently takes aim at doctrines that are basic to Biblical Christianity. According to her view, evangelical Christian nationalists are also misguided because they preach against homosexuality, desire to evangelize Muslims, and believe the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

I would have awarded this book only 1-star due to its theological heterodoxy, however I bumped it up to two stars because I did appreciate the author’s critical examination of the history of Falwellian Christian nationalism. Evangelical scholars are not apt to tackle this subject material either because (A) they’re sympathetic to Christian nationalism themselves or (B) they don’t want to alienate the bulk of American Christians who still hold to that paradigm in some form or fashion. However, the author’s own ax grinding on behalf Christian feminism and theological liberalism draws its own abundant criticisms.

I’ll be focusing on a very recent example of misguided Christian nationalism in the upcoming Weekend Roundup.

*John Wayne was a nominal Presbyterian before “converting” to Roman Catholicism two days before his death.

**Christian parents send their teens off to some “Christian” colleges such as Calvin University mistakenly assuming the faculty believes and teaches Biblical orthodoxy.

An Unlikely Spy

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
By Sonia Purnell
Viking, 2019, 352 pp.

Just about everybody loves a good spy story, right? What can be more dangerous and nerve-racking than someone going “incognito” behind enemy lines to obtain intelligence and/or wreak havoc? This book recounts the exploits of Virginia Hall, one of the most improbably effective Allied spies of World War II.

In 1931, at the age of twenty-five, Parkton, Maryland native, Virginia Hall, entered into service at the State Department, holding various lower-level positions, but desiring a post in the diplomatic corps. She lost a lower-leg from complications due to a hunting accident while on assignment in Turkey. When Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940, Virginia desired to assist in the war effort and volunteered with the United Kingdom’s Special Operations Executive (SOE), the clandestine organization created to gather intelligence and to assist and direct resistance groups within France and other occupied territories

In 1941, Virginia was assigned to the city of Lyons in the unoccupied Vichy zone, where she developed an effective resistance network. Virginia encountered much push-back from French resistance operatives because of her gender, but she overcame misgivings through her intelligence and steely resolve. With Virginia’s help, the Lyons-area underground constantly harassed the Vichy quislings and German forces. At one point, Virginia even orchestrated the bold escape of twelve Maquis/resistance fighters from a Vichy prison.

As a defensive response to the Allied invasion of Northern Africa in November, 1942, the German military forces flooded into previously-unoccupied Vichy, and the Gestapo and Abwehr (German military intelligence) were on the hunt for the female they were convinced coordinated the resistance forces in the region. Gestapo officer, Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyons,” was hot on Virginia’s trail. She barely escaped by walking 50 miles on her artificial lower-leg prosthesis, dubbed “Cuthbert,” through the Pyrenees Mountains to “neutral” Spain.

Because the Germans had come so close to apprehending Virginia, the Brits were reluctant to send her back to France, despite her pleas, so she signed up with the newly-formed U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Her most notable assignment was in the mountainous Haute-Loire region in south-central France where she coordinated resistance/espionage efforts in 1944.

Following the war, Virginia joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, but was largely relegated to mid-level desk jobs despite her impressive war-time resumé. She retired in 1966 and died in 1982. Virginia’s outstanding service was recognized posthumously by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Where the tire meets the road: The spy game is highly romanticized in fictional books and films (e.g., James Bond, Agent 007), but the author reveals that Virginia and other agents battled the overwhelming and unrelenting anxiety involved with their duties with the regular use of sedatives and alcohol.

Postscript: In reading this book, I was struck by the dedication and sacrifice of Virginia Hall and others of that era to the cause of temporal political liberty. Are we believers as dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ and His eternal Kingdom?

Legion of Super-Heroes #10

It’s time for our monthly, LSH frivolity break, so let’s climb aboard our time cube once again and travel to the 31st Century for another LSH adventure in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #10: First Kiss
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Ryan Sook, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, October 27, 2020

5 Stars

Plot

Via vignettes on various planets, we see the Legion pick up the pieces after its long “Aquaman Trident” saga and the subsequent trial before the United Planets Council:

  • On Gotham Planet, Superboy and Saturn Girl become better acquainted while on a date and discuss the escape of Mordru with GP Police Commissioner, Sevenbergen. Dr. Fate is summoned and he determines Mordru is on the planet, Xanthu.
  • Gold Lantern, Brainiac 5, and Blok deliver prisoner, Crav the General Nah, to the Elders of Oa and we hear discussion once again of a looming Great Darkness.
  • The Legion contingent of Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Karate Kid, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, and Wildfire arrive on New Krypton in search of Mon-El and are greeted by Zod who takes them to their teammate. After the contingent learns from Mon-El that he has three daughters, he beats an angry retreat when he finds out his rival, Superboy, is still a member of the Legion.
  • Ultra Boy leads a team of Legionnaires (Bouncing Boy, Dawnstar, Lightning Lad, Monster Boy, and Timber Wolf) to Rimbor in an attempt to return his home world back to normalcy, only to be chosen as leader of the planet.
  • Back in Metropolis on Earth, Brainiac 5 attempts to encourage reluctant Legionnaire, Lightning Lass, to remain on the team.
  • On Xanthu, Mordru the fugitive meets up with…uh-oh…(gulp)…planet destroyer, Rogal Zaar!

Comments

Writer Bendis does a nice job of intermixing the various sub-plots in the march towards the ominous Great Darkness. Knowledgeable DC fans will appreciate all the ramifications and tie-ins involved with a 31st-Century New Krypton much more than I can. It’s a bit disconcerting to learn teenager Mon-El already has three children! Say what?!?!?! While it’s entertaining to see Bendis introduce new twists to the Legion’s lore, that’s definitely an over-step. I’m already looking forward to issue #11. The deadly tag-team of Mordru and Rogal Zaar will present a serious challenge for the Legion in the immediate future.

I enjoyed Bendis’ usual snappy dialogue and after the revolving-door, guest artistry of issues #s 8 & 9, it’s great to once again settle back and savor the masterful pencils and pens of the Legion’s regular artists, Sook and Von Grawbadger.

Dopesick

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America
By Beth Macy
Little, Brown and Company, 2018, 376 pp.

addiction: a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects.

dopesick: slang for opiate withdrawal symptoms.

There’s all kinds of addictions out there, including gambling, shopping, eating, exercise, pornography, hoarding/collecting, video gaming, and, yes, even blogging. But some addictions are downright deadly.

We’ve all heard about the dramatic rise of heroin addiction in the U.S. In this book, investigative journalist, Beth Macy, takes a look at heroin abuse from the perspective of a few small towns in the Appalachia region of Virginia and West Virginia.

As the coal mines shut down and the manufacturing jobs in the region were shipped overseas, the unemployed workers of Appalachia increasingly drowned their miseries in opioids, both street heroin and doctor-prescribed Oxycodone.

Macy gives a short history of the medical use of opioids as a painkiller and focuses on pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma’s development of OxyContin in 1995 into a goldmine as well as a nationwide abuse problem. Many people who were prescribed OxyContin for pain became addicted and subsequently “graduated” to street heroin.

Macy follows several heroin addicts from “fix” to criminal activity in order to sustain the habit, to court, to jail/rehab (repeat cycle). Several of the individuals either died from the heroin or were victims of violence experienced while living homeless on the streets. The author crusades throughout the book for MAT (medication-assisted treatment), the use of alternative drugs to help addicts break their addiction cycle, but the use of MAT is controversial.

This was a sad and depressing book to read. Substance abuse and addiction is a dastardly business. I’ve had some experience with friends and family members who were addicted to alcohol. I also had a niece who died eight years ago from a drug overdose at the age of thirty-three.

People need salvation in Jesus Christ and God’s power to overcome all kinds of addictions in this world. However, sometimes even Christians can fall back into addiction. We must walk according to the Spirit and circumspectly lest we become entangled by the snares of this world.

High-tech scammer

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
By John Carreyrou
Random House, 2018, 541 pp.

5 Stars

Elizabeth Holmes was a very bright, chemical engineering major at Stanford University. She dropped out of college in March, 2004 at the age of 20 because she had an amazing idea: to develop a compact blood analysis machine that could run hundreds of tests with only a few drops of blood drawn from a single finger prick.

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Elizabeth Holmes

Holmes founded the Theranos corporation in Silicon Valley to turn her dream into reality. She leveraged her youthful good looks and confident demeanor (which included a feigned deep, authoritative voice) to attract a bevy of big-name investors eager to get in on the ground floor of another high-tech start-up success. Holmes accomplished her dual dreams of becoming famous and a billionaire (on paper). There was just one small problem. Her idea wasn’t viable. Try as they might, Holmes’ team of scientists could not get reliable test results from a few drops of blood. Behind closed doors, Theranos actually used large blood analyzers built by competitors to test the blood samples that were sent to them. Holmes kept the truth from investors and regulatory agencies as long as possible, but whistle blowers confided in John Carreyrou, a suspicious investigative reporter working for the Wall Street Journal, who broke the story in 2015. Holmes denied the allegations, but mounting scrutiny eventually forced the shutdown of Theranos in 2018. Holmes was indicted on charges of fraud and awaits trial in March 2021 (the trial date has been rescheduled several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Recent filings indicate her lawyers may attempt a “mental illness” defense.

Holmes was quite a character; absolutely driven to be the “next Steve Jobs” and impressing potential investors with her trademark ninja black turtleneck shirts and her affected masculine voice, but with zero credibility. It was all “smoke and mirrors.” As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think about how society worships at the altar of fame, wealth, and attractiveness.

The Plot Against America

Today, we’re going to play hooky from house painting and head over to the shores of Lake Ontario, settle into our beach chair in the sand, and enjoy some breezy summer fiction. Okay, “breezy” isn’t the most appropriate adjective for…

The Plot Against America
By Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin, 2004, 400 pp.

4 Stars

Plot

It’s 1940 and Nazi Germany is overrunning Europe and implementing its anti-Semitic policies throughout the continent. President Franklin D. Roosevelt desires to enter the United States into the war in support of the frazzled Brits, but there’s a growing isolationist movement led by aviation hero, Charles A. Lindbergh. In his speeches around the nation, Lindbergh is guardedly circumspect, but in private it’s clear he has pro-German and anti-Jewish sympathies. Lindbergh defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 election and begins to implement anti-Semitic reeducation and resettlement programs, which are defended by a few high-profile, opportunistic, quisling, pro-Lindbergh Jews as being ultimately beneficial.

The tire meets the road in Newark, New Jersey with the Jewish Roth family who watch in horror as the nation turns increasingly fascist and anti-Semitic. The parents are mortified when their teenage son is duped into voluntarily participating in a Jewish youth reeducation program. When the father’s employer selects him and his family for resettlement as part of a government initiative, he quits his job and contemplates moving his family to Canada, as several Jewish families in their neighborhood have already done. Pogroms ensue and Jews must increasingly take up arms to defend themselves. Just as circumstances reach critical mass, Lindbergh disappears while piloting an airplane. Conspiracy theories abound and the fascist administration uses the opportunity to further crack down on Jews and arrest dissenters. Lindbergh’s sensible wife makes a radio appeal to the nation and the fascist elements are successfully checked. Emergency elections are held in 1942 and Roosevelt is reelected to a third term. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor the following month and the United States declares war against the Axis alliance.

Comments

I enjoyed this alternative history. Few people today are aware of the extent of the popularity of the pro-German, isolationist, and anti-Semitic network in America prior to WWII (see Lindbergh, Henry Ford, radio-priest Charles Coughlin, Senator Burton Wheeler, German-American Bund, etc.). The pace at the conclusion of the novel, after Lindbergh’s disappearance, is a jarringly frantic roller coaster ride, as if Roth suddenly tired of the project and just wanted to get it over with.

Postscript: President Franklin Roosevelt is portrayed as the hero of this novel as the defender of the American Jews. An ironic historical twist is that FDR directed that between 110,000 to 120,000 people of Japanese ethnicity living mainly in the Western States be forcibly consigned to internment camps during most of WWII.

Throwback Thursday: R.C. Sproul thought he could hold ecumenist compromisers’ feet to the fire, but they trumped him instead

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 10, 2016 and has been substantially revised.

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Have you ever been involved in a debate/argument where you presented what you thought was an irrefutable point, only to have your opponent turn the tables and cleverly use that point against you? That happened to R.C. Sproul in…

Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
By R.C. Sproul
Baker Books, 1999, 208 pp.

5 Stars for the contents of this book

1 Star for R.C. Sproul’s naive attempt to hold his compromising, ecumenist friends’ feet to the fire.

Theology? Most people don’t want to discuss theology, right? But it’s extremely important to know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ IS and what it ISN’T.

As the Word of God says…

  • We are all sinners.
  • The wages of sin is death and eternal separation from God.
  • But God the Father so loved us He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to live a sinless life and pay for our sins by dying on the cross.
  • Jesus defeated sin and death by rising from the grave.
  • Jesus offers the free gift of salvation and eternal life.

https://carm.org/what-gospel

But HOW exactly does one appropriate the free gift of salvation? Some claim by baptism. Others say that Jesus only opened the doors of Heaven and that people must do their part by obeying the Ten Commandments and being “good” in order to merit salvation. But what does the Bible, God’s Word, say?

Back in 1994, Chuck Colson and his ecumenical Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) initiative boldly declared that both evangelicals and Catholics believed in the same Gospel. Many evangelicals were rightly shocked by ECT’s claim. Evangelicals believe, as the Bible teaches, in salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, while Catholics unabashedly believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The two views are diametrically opposed and are absolutely irreconcilable.

In 1995, evangelical theologian, R.C. Sproul, responded to ECT with the book, “Faith Alone,” which accurately contrasted the opposing salvation theologies of evangelicalism and Rome. See my review of that book here.

Colson and ECT’s next chess move was to publish their “The Gift of Salvation” declaration in 1998, which reiterated that both evangelicals and Catholics believe in salvation “by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Sproul then countered by writing this book, “Getting the Gospel Right,” in 1999, which critiqued the studied ambiguity of “The Gift of Salvation” and clarified even further evangelicalism’s view on justification and salvation in comparison to Rome’s false view.

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R.C. Sproul, 1939-2017

“Getting the Gospel Right” was published in conjunction with the release of  “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration,” a declaration from Sproul and other evangelical Protestant leaders that defined the Gospel from an evangelical perspective. The STRANGE thing is that Sproul enlisted a couple of the most prominent ECT ecumenists, Timothy George and J.I. Packer, to help draft the declaration (!!!!) and more than a few ECTers subsequently signed it (i.e., Gerald Bray, Bill Bright, Harold Brown, Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Max Lucado, Richard Mouw, and Pat Robertson). Sproul had unwittingly allowed the ECT ecumenists to trump his efforts at delineating the genuine Gospel. Their rebuttal/counter-move could be described as, “Oh yeah, R.C., we believe all that, and WE STILL embrace Roman Catholicism as Christian.”

Sproul obviously had good intentions, but he didn’t think it through. He allowed himself to be “outmaneuvered” by the ecumenical Gospel-compromisers.

This theological “chess match” might seem like a lot of gobbledygook to some Christians, so let’s break it all down to its bare essentials:

Evangelicals believe justification and salvation come before sanctification (being more obedient, more Christ-like). You can’t know God or please Him until you acknowledge and repent of your sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Once you accept Christ and are born-again as God’s child, then you can grow in obedience to the Lord. But “good” works won’t save you.

“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

Catholics believe the opposite. They believe sanctification comes before justification and salvation. By receiving the sacraments and obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules, Catholics believe they can become intrinsically righteous and justified and can hopefully merit salvation.


Below: A simple summary of the difference between Gospel Christianity and Catholicism:

A. The evangelical position: Justification and salvation in Christ by faith alone, then sanctification.

B. The Catholic position: Sanctification via sacraments and meritorious good works, hopefully leading to justification and salvation.

The two theologies are opposed. They cannot both be right.


The Catholic position is basically the same philosophy shared by natural man and all of the world’s religions, which teach that people must become increasingly “good” in order to possibly merit Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise, etc. R.C. Sproul understood the clear difference between the genuine Gospel and Rome’s false gospel, but he took the wrong tack, an accommodating one, in dealing with the ecumenical, Judas compromisers.

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Religion won’t save you. Trying to be “good” won’t save you.

“I have not come to call the (self) righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32