“Gregorian masses” – just more religious calculus

In the interest of thoroughness I’d like to elaborate a bit on a previous post in which I referred to “Gregorian masses” (see here). I usually try to pursue the rationale behind Catholic rituals and ceremonies beyond the superficial to their self-refuting conclusions but for some reason I failed to carry forward my argument regarding Gregorian masses to its finality.

Briefly, Catholics are taught they must spend an indeterminate amount of time in “purgatory” to be cleansed from the guilt of “venial” (minor) sins and to pay the penalty for any remaining temporal punishment for “mortal” (major) sins already forgiven by a priest. Catholic theologians once taught the flames of purgatory were as excruciating as those in Hell but contemporary teaching now tends toward viewing purgatory as more of a way-station where deep-longing has replaced suffering.

According to Catholic theology, time in purgatory may be shortened by receiving “indulgences” from the church. “Plenary” (full) indulgences pardon all of the punishment/cleansing due in purgatory up to the point of reception while “partial” indulgences remove only an indeterminate portion. Indulgences may be applied to oneself or to deceased loved ones in accordance with official guidelines.

Are you still with me? The vast majority of Roman Catholics could not explain their church’s teaching on indulgences.

Catholics are taught that individual masses offered up for the deceased souls in purgatory will shorten their stay, although no one can say for how long. The suggested “stipend” for a mass intention is $10-$15. A tradition arose in the 6th century which claimed that thirty masses offered for a deceased person over thirty consecutive days, termed “Gregorian masses,” would be sure to release a soul from purgatory. See here. But the tradition stipulates the thirty masses cannot be said intermittently. They MUST be said over the course of thirty consecutive days for the plenary indulgence to be granted. The suggested “offering” for this series of masses ranges from $150-$300 depending on the priest or monastery a person deals with.

Okay, so now we finally get to carry this ritual to its illogical conclusion as I should have done initially.

Let’s just suppose a pious Catholic named Joe pays…er…I mean, contributes $300 to his parish priest to offer up thirty consecutive masses for the soul of his deceased mother who may or may not be in purgatory. The priest subsequently says twenty-nine masses over the course of twenty-nine consecutive days for the soul of the mother. But on the twenty-ninth day, immediately following mass, a flash fire destroys the church, killing both the priest and Joe. The result? The thirtieth and final Gregorian mass in the series was never conducted. So what is the status of Joe’s mother? Must she remain in purgatory as the Gregorian mass tradition stipulates since the series was not completed or will her remaining time in purgatory be pro-rated because of the 29 masses that were said?

And let’s not forget about the suffering soul in purgatory whose relatives are too poor or too cheap to shell out $300 to the priest for Gregorian masses. What about him? Why do the wealthy receive preferential treatment?

Catholics will charge that I’m being outrageously petty here for the sake of argument but, no, if you build a legalistic religious system, you must account for all eventualities. Catholic rituals, ceremonies, and traditions are refuted by logic and God’s Word.

I’m so grateful my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, released me from the chains of Catholic legalism and ritualism. Jesus paid the penalty for ALL of my sins on the cross.

Accept Jesus as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:12


What does the Bible say about Purgatory?
https://www.gotquestions.org/purgatory.html

The deep riches of the “simple” Gospel

The Gospel According to Paul
By John MacArthur
Nelson Books, 2017, 219 pages

Most everyone in America has heard of the “Gospel” (Greek, εὐαγγέλιον, euangélion, “good news”) but the word means different things to different people. The Mormons have their gospel, which is different from the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ gospel, which is different from the Catholics’ gospel, which is different from Biblical Christianity’s Gospel.

In this short book, pastor John MacArthur takes an in-depth look at Biblical Christianity’s Gospel of Jesus Christ using the apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament.

The bad news is we are all sinners and deserve eternal punishment. But God’s Word declares that Jesus Christ, God the Son, came down to Earth and lived a perfectly sinless life as only He could. He willingly went to the cross on Calvary and died as a sacrifice for our sins. But He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death and offers the gift of eternal life to all those who trust in Him as Savior.

That’s very Good News! No one can possibly merit their salvation but Jesus will save everyone who repents of their sins and accepts Him as Savior by faith alone.

MacArthur does a good job of breaking down the seminary terminology for all of us Theology 101-types but the Gospel in its bare essence is so simple a child could understand it.

Here’s a few of my takeaways and observations from this book:

#1 MacArthur describes Christ’s death on the cross as a part of “The Great Exchange.” The sins of men were imputed (ascribed to a person’s account) to Jesus as He hung on the cross. When we accepted Christ as Savior, His perfect righteousness was imputed to us. I know full well that Jesus “died for my sins,” but the concept that all of my unrighteousness, past, present, and future was imputed to Him just as His perfect righteousness was imputed to me at the moment I trusted in Him, well, that gives me a more clearly defined understanding of what transpired on the cross.

#2 MacArthur quotes Catholic novelist and apologist, G.K. Chesterton, regarding original sin:

“G.K. Chesteron referred to original sin as ‘the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.’ He decried the extreme illogic of liberals in the church who gave lip service to truths ‘which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.'”  – p. 101

Why would MacArthur favorably quote a Roman Catholic apologist who was certainly no friend of evangelical Protestantism? Chesterton, a promoter of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, was as lost as the liberal churchmen he criticized. Weren’t there any evangelical sources MacArthur could have referenced regarding man’s sin nature? I jest of course. MacArthur certainly knows better so how to explain this ecumenical “stumble”? I would have guessed MacArthur to be the last person in the world to succumb to Chesterton mania but it just goes to show we all have our spiritual blind spots.

#3 In this book about the Gospel there’s no invitation to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Why would that be? I know “decisionism,” leading people to trust in Christ via an invitation to pray a salvation prayer, is looked down upon by some Christian groups and I have some empathy for that viewpoint. I believe untold millions of people have come forward at Christian youth events, evangelistic crusades, and at church “altar calls” and made disingenuous professions in Christ out of pressure and in ignorance. However, I also believe untold millions genuinely accepted Christ by being led to the point of deciding to accept Him or reject Him. Feedback on this is welcomed. Perhaps this topic of evangelistic crusade-style “decisionism” deserves a post all by itself.

#4 MacArthur is of course a member of the Reformed tradition so he promotes the doctrines of predestination and election. Not a problem. I’m somewhere in the middle of the Arminius-Calvin debate and remain politely non-committal.

#5 Overall, I enjoyed “The Gospel According to Paul” very much. It was such a balm to my soul to contemplate with MacArthur some of the glorious depths of the Good News! of salvation in Jesus Christ as proclaimed by His apostle, Paul.

“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.“ – Romans 2:16

An ex-Catholic evangelical speaks to Catholics but the Gospel was nowhere in sight

Religion is a tribal activity for most people, right? People affiliate with the same religion or denomination their parents belong to, preceded by their grandparents, and so on. Most don’t investigate the doctrines of their religion. Their thinking is, “If it was good enough for Mom and Dad (and Grandma and Grandpa) it’s good enough for me!” Within each family, religious piety and practice range from fervent to nominal but the most important rule, especially for Catholic families, is or used to be that no member join another church. Catholicism boasted that it was the “one true church” and warned that anyone who left its ranks was doomed to hell. Catholic parents felt guilty and remorseful if any of their children left the church.

For myself, as I read the New Testament as a Catholic in the early 1980s, I came upon many discrepancies between God’s Word and Catholic dogma. It was soul-wrenching. I eventually left the church, accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior (Yahoo!), and began attending a Bible-preaching church. My parents were not overjoyed but they took it in stride (except for whenever I witnessed to them). They were probably relieved that at least one of their six children was attending some kind of church. Looking back, I’m grateful for some of the information I was taught as a Catholic, but the church has done unimaginable harm over the centuries by leading billions of people away from Christ with its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Praise the Lord for saving me!

“Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'” – Luke 9:62

Speaking of ex-Catholics, news sources reported that the nation’s Vice President, Mike Pence, addressed the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday, June 6. The former Catholic parochial school student and altar boy accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1978 at a Christian concert when he was nineteen, although he continued to attend Catholic church. Following undergraduate school, Pence married his wife at a Catholic wedding ceremony in 1985, but the Pences were gradually moving away from Catholicism. In 1995, the couple joined Grace Evangelical Church in Indianapolis and eventually shifted their membership to College Park Church in the same city.

It may have been a little awkward to have an ex-Catholic speak at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, but Pence quelled any uneasiness by saying many flattering things about Catholicism (full transcript below). He was much more politically correct than I would or could have been, but I’m not a politician.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast would not have invited an ex-Catholic as the main speaker, but things are changing. For both evangelicals and Catholics, belief is becoming less doctrinaire and more relative. “If it works for you, that’s fine, I just went in a different direction,” was Pence’s sentiment.

“While my own faith journey has taken me and my family in a different direction, I want you all to know how much I cherish my Catholic upbringing and cherish the Church. In fact, I just attended mass with my mom this weekend when we were in Chicago with family.” – Mike Pence

No, Vice President Pence, either Catholicism’s gospel of sacramental grace and merit is correct or Bible Christianity’s Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is correct. They are diametrically opposed. They can’t both be right. Traditionalist Catholics cry foul when an “apostate” like Pence is the featured speaker at the Catholic prayer breakfast (see the “Mike Pence’s Catholic Mom” article below). True, there’s very little belief-wise that I share with the Michael Voris and his Catholic “Church Militant” cadre but at least I can say they’re trying to remain true to their untenable Catholic dogmas and have the courage of their convictions, which is more than I can say for some “evangelicals.”


 

Remarks by the Vice President at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/06/remarks-vice-president-national-catholic-prayer-breakfast

Mike Pence’s Catholic Mom
https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/episode/vortex-mike-pences-catholic-mom

Trying to nail down the elusive Catholic “gospel”

It’s a question that’s on the back of most everyone’s mind, even atheists if they were honest: “What’s going to happen to me after I die?” The vast majority of people on this planet believe in some kind of afterlife and they generally believe that “good” people will go to a good place (and most people would claim they are “good”) and “bad” people will go to a bad place.

If you were to ask 100 Roman Catholics how to get to the good place – Heaven – probably around 70 to 80 would answer something along the lines of, by being a “good” person. The remainder, who take their religion more seriously, would attempt to briefly describe the complicated salvation process put forward by their church: Get baptized, receive the sacraments, cooperate with sacramental grace by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules and performing works of charity, and hope at the end that they’ve done enough to merit entrance to Heaven or, at least, to purgatory.

Because the Catholic concept of salvation is a complicated, lifelong process with many caveats and pitfalls, it’s very difficult to find a succinct summary of “How to get to Heaven” or How to be saved” on a Catholic website. After all, Catholicism has 1752 Canon Laws and 2865 numbered paragraphs in its official catechism.

Because clear and succinct explanations of the Catholic process of salvation are soooooo hard to come by, I really do appreciate the 2013 article below from Catholic apologist, Brantly Millegan; “What must I do to be saved?” I enthusiastically invite my Christian brethren and sistren to check out this 1800-word article. After reading Millegan’s account, do you really think the Catholic system in any way resembles the simple yet profound Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe (πιστεύω. Greek transliteration: pisteuō – to believe, put one’s faith in, trust) in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31

Roman Catholics are a mission field, my friends.


What must I do to be saved?
By Catholic apologist, Brantly Millegan
https://aleteia.org/2013/01/17/what-must-i-do-to-be-saved/

“Faith alone will not save a person. To attain salvation, a person must, in response to God’s grace, fulfill the following: believe in God, put his faith in Jesus, repent of his sins, be baptized, remain within the fold of the Church, hope in God, persevere in charity, and finally, die in a state of grace….”

Must you still sign your kids away?

Back in December, I posted a message regarding marriages between Protestants and Roman Catholics under the auspices of the Catholic church (see here). I stated that in such a marriage, the Protestant party was required to sign a document in which they promised they would not attempt to convert their Catholic spouse and that any children from the marriage would be raised in the Catholic religion.

Yesterday, I was listening to the 06/02/17 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, WLOF (Our Lady of Fatima) 101.7 FM, Buffalo, N.Y.) featuring moderator, Mike Denz, and host, priest Dave Baker. Toward the end of the show, an anonymous listener called in with a question about inter-faith marriages. In the conversation, priest Baker mentioned that only the Catholic party was required to sign a document promising to remain faithful to the church and that any children would be raised as Catholic/s. The caller was as surprised as I was because she was also under the impression that the non-Catholic party was also required to sign a document.

So what exactly is the current protocol? I did a little research and learned the following:

The 1917 Code of Canon Law did require the Protestant individual to sign the agreement that I cited. But in 1970, in deference to burgeoning ecumenism, pope Paul VI dropped the requirement. The change was incorporated into the 1983 Code. For details, see the article below.

So, I definitely stand corrected. One must constantly stay alert to the changes in the church that boasts that it never changes – “Semper edem” (Always the same). If you’re a believer and plan on marrying a Roman Catholic, you’ll have a big problem on your hands once the thrill of the wedding and honeymoon wear off. Your future spouse may talk about “grace,” “faith,” and “Jesus Christ the Savior,” but how they define those terms is incompatible with the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Being in a marriage with an unbeliever, whether religious or atheist, is not an easy road. Are your children going to learn the Gospel or are they going to learn religious legalism with a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit?


Do Catholic Parents Have to Raise their Children as Catholics?
http://canonlawmadeeasy.com/2009/01/22/do-catholic-parents-have-to-raise-their-children-as-catholics/

The Most Post-Christian Cities in America

In yesterday’s post, I commented on Barna Research’s recent article regarding the most “churched,” “unchurched,” and “dechurched” cities in the U.S. Not to be missed is an accompanying article from Barna regarding “The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2017” (see below).

Not surprisingly, we once again find unbelief and atheism most prevalent on the East and West coasts. It’s interesting to me as a resident of Rochester, N.Y. that the I-90 corridor that runs the length of New York State connects some of the most atheistic communities in the country. From Buffalo #10, to Rochester #13, to Syracuse #41, to Albany #3.

Where does your city rank?

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:36-37


The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2017
https://www.barna.com/research/post-christian-cities-america-2017/

excatholic4christ

After I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior over three decades ago, I understood along with other Christians at the time that the world was divided between the saved and the lost; between believers and unbelievers. But through the efforts of the “purpose driven” church marketing guys (Hybels/Warren/Drucker, etc.) the distinction changed from “believers and unbelievers” to the “churched and unchurched.” It seems that the emphasis has shifted from preaching the Gospel and right doctrine to growing the attendance numbers.

Up here in the Rust Belt, we have PLENTY of churches that DON’T preach the Gospel (Catholic, Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian USA, United Methodist, American Baptist, United Church of Christ, Eastern Orthodox) and very few churches that DO preach the Gospel. In a recent sermon at our church it was stated that only 5% of the one-million people living in the Greater Rochester, N.Y. area attend a…

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The “churched,” the “unchurched,” the “dechurched,” and the believer

After I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior over three decades ago, I understood along with other Christians at the time that the world was divided between the saved and the lost; between believers and unbelievers. But through the efforts of the “purpose driven” church marketing guys (Hybels/Warren/Drucker, etc.) the distinction changed from “believers and unbelievers” to the “churched and unchurched.” It seems that the emphasis has shifted from preaching the Gospel and right doctrine to growing the attendance numbers.

Up here in the Rust Belt, we have PLENTY of churches that DON’T preach the Gospel (Catholic, Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian USA, United Methodist, American Baptist, United Church of Christ, Eastern Orthodox) and very few churches that DO preach the Gospel. In a recent sermon at our church it was stated that only 5% of the one-million people living in the Greater Rochester, N.Y. area attend a Gospel-preaching, Bible-believing church on Sunday morning. That’s a sobering statistic.

In the recent article far below, Barna Research ranks the most “churched,” “unchurched,” and “dechurched” cities in America. Barna defines the three categories of people as follows:

  • Churched – have attended a church service in the past seven days, not including a special event such as a wedding or a funeral.
  • Unchurched – have not attended a church service in the past six months, not including a special event such as a wedding or a funeral.
  • Dechurched – were formerly either very, somewhat or minimally active churchgoers, but have not attended a church service in the past six months, excluding a special event such as a wedding or a funeral.

As might be expected the highest-ranking “churched” cities are generally in the Southern Bible Belt with the exception of Salt Lake City where 38% of the population is Mormon/LDS religious non-believers.

The highest-ranking “unchurched” cities are generally located on the East and West coasts as are the highest-ranking “dechurched” cities. Well, what do you know! Lil’ ol’ Rochester ranks as #20 on the “dechurched” list. Yes, it’s pert near spiritually dead up here, folks. People have just stopped attending churches in the Northeast Rust/Unchurched Belt because they don’t see ANY advantage to going through all the rigmarole to hear a spiritually-dead message compared to just sleeping in and watching Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN.

Sitting in a church pew surely never saved anyone, but churches that preach the Gospel are so needed. There are even some believers who don’t attend a church because they cannot find a solid, Bible-teaching church in their area.

Those who still believe America is a “Christian nation” need to travel up here to the Rust/Unchurched Belt on a Sunday morning.


Church Attendance Trends Around the Country
https://www.barna.com/research/church-attendance-trends-around-country/