What Every Catholic Should Know By A.J. Gary WestBow Press, 2015, 136 pp.
In the introduction to “What Every Catholic Should Know,” author A.J. Gary explains that she was raised as a Roman Catholic, but accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior by faith alone through the outreach ministry of a nearby evangelical church. She then witnessed to her family and some also professed to have trusted in Christ, including her mother. However, Gary’s mother was determined to remain in the Roman Catholic church. But how can a reborn child of God remain in a religious institution that unabashedly teaches works-righteousness and many other anti-Biblical doctrines? Gary states that she wrote this self-published book with her mother in mind and therein examines the irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity.
Gary hits upon the main doctrinal differences (see chapter headings below), including the prime doctrine of justification; how a sinner is justified/made righteous in their standing before Holy God. Catholics believe justification is a lifelong process whereby a person must avail themselves of their church’s sacraments in order to receive graces, which are alleged to enable them to become intrinsically, subjectively sanctified/holier in their thoughts and actions in order to hopefully merit salvation at the moment of their death. In contrast, Gospel Christians believe they are justified at the moment they accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and received His imputed perfect righteousness. Christians then follow the Lord in obedience as the fruit/evidence of their spiritual re-birth, albeit imperfectly.
It’s apparent that Ms. Gary does not have any formal theological training. Her arguments are quite basic. However, by comparing official Catholic teaching with Scripture, she more than adequately makes her points and draws her valid conclusions. Gary’s basic approach would actually be an asset for anyone looking for an easy-to-understand primer on the doctrinal differences between the RCC and Gospel Christianity while avoiding heavy theological jargon. One criticism I have is the brevity of her chapter on justification. It’s the shortest chapter in the book at only three pages, whereas the all-important topic deserves the lengthiest exposition. That aside, I do recommend “What Every Catholic Should Know.” Well done, sister A.J.!
You can order “What Every Catholic Should Know” at Amazon here. The price of the Kindle version is very reasonable at $3.99.
It’s nauseating to see influential Southern Baptist, Richard Land, weighing in on whether abortion supporter, President Joe Biden, is a “devout” Catholic or not and whether he should be allowed to receive the faux Jesus wafer. Land, one of the three Judas evangelical signatories (along with Chuck Colson and J.I. Packer) of the 1994 Evangelicals and Catholics Together ecumenical accord, views Roman Catholicism as one of many valid Christian “traditions.”
As a young theologian, Hans Kueng, had an inordinately influential role at the Second Vatican Council in moving the Roman Catholic church toward modernism. Kueng would later incur the wrath of popes and prelates by challenging the RCC’s claim of papal infallibility. One of these days I need to read Kueng’s “Infallible?: An inquiry.”
The issue of mandatory Sunday mass attendance for Catholics keeps popping up in the media. Will Catholics return to mass after the COVID-19 virus subsides? After foregoing the allegedly essential Jesus wafer for thirteen months and noticing no change in their “spiritual condition,” will Catholics put two and two together and just stay home?
Yes, another reoccurring headline in the Catholic media is the German Catholic church’s current Synodaler Weg (Synodal Path) effort to steer the national church towards radical reform. This is a boiling pot that conservative Catholic prelates and theologians are viewing with trepidation.
Last weekend, Pope Francis celebrated “Divine Mercy Sunday” with a mass in Rome. A Polish nun, Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), claimed Jesus visited her several times and instructed her on the rubrics of the increasingly popular “Divine Mercy” devotion. In his homily, Franics urged all Catholics to be missionaries, but they have little incentive to be ambassadors of their religion when their church officially propagates that all religionists and even atheists may also merit Heaven.
Evangelical Protestants followed the lead of Jerry Falwell in the 70s and 80s and became enmeshed in temporal politics. The misguided conflation of faith and nationalism continues. But Falwell’s Moral Majority wasn’t the first time Christians in America got their priorities mixed up. The radical conservatism of the reconstituted Ku Klux Klan appealed to many Christians back in the 1920s. A large field about a half-mile from our home was used as the site for multiple Klan rallies here in Rochester, New York in the 1920s. Some might be surprised that the KKK wasn’t restricted to the South. I placed a library hold on “Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930″ by Kelly J. Baker that’s mentioned in this article.
There were few things more strikingly cultish in the largely-Protestant American landscape of yesteryear than groups of virginal Catholic women living communally together as nuns in convents and practicing severe forms of asceticism including wearing 12th Century garb. Early American Protestants were appalled by the convents, but eventually became inured to the cultish extremism.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 11, 2016 and has been revised.
Catholics often boast that theirs is the UNCHANGING, “one true church,” but even a casual student of church history knows that is not the case. And now we have another example.
In the past, any Catholic who divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment was said to be living in a state of mortal sin and was officially barred from receiving the eucharist Jesus wafer. But in his new “apostolic exhortation,” Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), released last week, pope Francis tacitly suggests via an obscure footnote that it’s now up to the local parish priest to evaluate the circumstances of each remarried divorcee parishioner and decide if they are able to receive the sacraments (see article below). With so many Catholics divorcing these days, Francis was compelled to change the policy in an effort to keep the church viable.
But this ex-Catholic saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a couple of important questions regarding this new policy. First, what about all the divorced Catholics who remarried and died in a state of mortal sin prior to this change? Do they all now receive a “Get Out of Hell, Free” card or is the declaration not retroactive? Also, how could such an important doctrine affecting faith and morals that was upheld by all previous infallible popes now be so conveniently discarded? Catholics would rather not confront such questions.
I’m so grateful to the Lord for leading me out of Catholic legalism, ritualism, and man-made traditions. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to direct you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.
Note from April 2021: I couldn’t have possibly known when I wrote the above post in April 2016, that pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia encyclical would have MAJOR repercussions within the Roman Catholic church. Conservative Catholic prelates, priests, and laity did in fact note the doctrinal incongruity of Francis’ lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees and reacted with zealous indignation. Formal protests were submitted and ignored by the pope. Cautious conservative prelates and priests advised their followers to ignore Francis’ doctrinal novelty while a few went so far as to openly call Francis a heretic. Amoris Laetita was the start and Francis has continued to roil conservatives with his progressive reforms.
Devil in the Baptist Church: Bob Gray’s Unholy Trinity By Tim Gilmore JaxbyJax Literary Arts, 2016, 333 pp.
Four decades ago, the “Sword of the Lord” bi-weekly newspaper was the standard of the independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement and I was a loyal subscriber. Transcripts of Pastor Bob Gray’s sermons were regularly featured in the Sword along with a photo of Gray and his distinctive, black-rimmed glasses. Gray took over pastorship of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida in 1954. Trinity eventually became the first mega-church in Florida and one of the largest churches in America with a membership of approximately 6000. The fiery Gray was considered one of the preeminent leaders of the IFB.
But rumors began spreading of Gray’s sexual abuse of children at Trinity. In the early-1980s, Gray was secretly sent to the Narramore Christian Foundation in Arcadia, California for counseling. He returned back to Trinity and the abuse continued. In 1992, Gray was allowed to…or rather encouraged to resign the pastorate and take the role of Trinity’s missionary to faraway Germany. Thirteen years later, in 2005, Gray returned to the United States, but was arrested the following year on charges of sexual abuse of multiple children. Eighty-one-year-old Bob Gray died in jail in November 2007 while awaiting trial.
Former Trinity member, Tim Gilmore, wrote this self-published exposé. To say the book is amateurishly written and that Gilmore has an ax to grind against Christianity would be understatements, however the information is important. The IFB culture of pastoral authoritarianism and arrogance, and the total lack of any pastoral oversight afforded a creep like Gray to run roughshod for almost forty years. The church’s “leadership” was complicit in Gray’s crimes by attempting to silence the victims, whisking Gray away to Germany in order to diffuse the escalating controversy, and denying his culpability even at the side of his grave. Read the glowing tributes to Gray in his 2007 obituary here.
Christians tend to want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to these types of “improprieties,” which helps to enable and to perpetuate the abuse. Church leaders sought to “deal” with scandal “internally,” rather than contact civil authorities, which they thought would bring ignominy to the cause of Christ. The leadership at Trinity coddled the predator and threw his young victims under the bus.
While today’s Sword of the Lord regularly features sermons from IFB pastors of yesteryear, it understandably does not publish sermons from Bob Gray. There is no honest transparency at the Sword of the Lord in regards to preachers who were once put on pedestals, but fell (Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Truman Dollar, Gray). They just disappear with no comment.
It’s a bit disconcerting to me that a local church would spend $23 million dollars on renovations to their fire-damaged building (see photo above). Churches lose their focus by trying to outdo the world in extravagance. Jesus Christ had nowhere to lay His head. I imagine the coercive arm-twisting that was done to procure the funds from the membership for this renovation project was painful.
The Catholic “wafer wars” continue over pro-abortion and pro-LGBT Catholic president, Joe Biden. Catholics believe consuming the transubstantiated Jesus wafer is essential to their salvation. While 55% of Catholic Republicans believe Biden’s views on abortion should disqualify him from receiving Communion, only 11% of Catholic Democrats say he should not be allowed to receive the alleged sacrament. Overall, 67% of U.S. Catholics believe Biden should be able to receive communion in contrast to their conservative prelates and priests.
This past “Good Friday,” some Filipino Catholics continued the tradition of flagellating themselves as an act of penitential self-mortification. Self-flagellation was popular in Medieval Europe and continues in monasteries and convents to the present day. Catholic sources report that pope John Paul II whipped himself daily with a belt as an act of penitential self-mortification. That’s not the Gospel, my friends.
LGBTers and their supporters continue to fume over the Vatican’s recent declaration banning the blessing of same-sex “marriages.” This article draws a comparison to pope Paul VI’s infamous “Humanae vitae” encyclical of 1968, which banned all forms of contraception under threat of mortal sin. The membership ignored the encyclical en masse and thus began the steep decline in the credibility of church authority in the minds of most Catholics.
Catholics are normally obligated to attend Sunday mass under threat of mortal sin, but COVID-19 has played havoc with that mandate. Bishops were forced to grant Catholics “dispensations” from compulsory mass attendance in light of the pandemic. But with coffers nearly empty, Catholic prelates are eager to rescind the dispensations and force members back to mass.
It’s ironic that Catholics make such a HUGE deal about Easter, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Savior, but insist they must essentially save themselves by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in order to hopefully merit salvation at the moment of their death.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 10, 2016 during a trip to Germany and Switzerland and has been revised.
There’s only a few days left on our 12-day trip to Martinshöhe, Germany to visit with family. It’s been very enjoyable, especially the time we’ve been able to spend with our grandson. We’re so grateful to the Lord to be able to be with him.
This was our third visit to Germany and each time my wife and I have taken a side-trip somewhere by ourselves to break things up. This time we visited Konstanz, Germany and Zürich, Switzerland. My wife’s grandfather was originally from Zürich and she had always wanted to visit there. I knew that the Swiss Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli, had been based in Zürich and that also sparked my personal interest. While researching our 5-hour trip to Zürich, I discovered the Bohemian/Czech pre-Reformer, Jan Hus, had been martyred in Konstanz, a city on our route. The house Hus had briefly lived in is now a museum, so we decided to visit there also.
We rented a car Tuesday morning and started off to Konstanz, a trip of 4 hours. When we arrived there we discovered parking was impossible, just like all European cities. We drove around looking for a hotel, but found nothing suitable; no big hotel chains in this small city. But we drove by the famous Konzil (Council) building where the Catholic church’s infamous Council of Constance (1414-1418) had convened. The Council found Jan Hus guilty of heresy and delivered him to the magistrates to be burned at the stake. The Council also elected a new pope because no one could figure out which of the three rival popes claiming the office at the time was the “legitimate” pontiff. The house where Hus lived prior to his trial was located in the pedestrians-only, old town section of the city and could not be seen from the road. With all the hassles of trying to find a hotel, we decided to push on to Zürich and stop again at Konstanz on our return.
We arrived in Zürich an hour later and relaxed for the rest of the evening. On Wednesday morning we were up bright and early and took a commuter train to the old town section. Our seven-hour walk took us through the winding, very narrow streets of the old town. The highlight for me was visiting the Grossmünster (“Great cathedral”) where Zwingli preached. While reading Erasmus’ New Testament translation, the Holy Spirit led Zwingli, like his more well-known contemporary, Martin Luther, to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and to pursue several reforms to return the church to the simple yet sublime Gospel of grace. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Grossmünster with its stark interior (Zwingli had removed and destroyed all of the idolatrous Catholic statuary). Not far from the church we saw Zwingli’s parsonage. After several more hours of strolling through Zürich’s old city section, we returned to the hotel happily exhausted.
Thursday morning, we began our trip back to Martinshöhe. We stopped at Konstanz once again, but decided the hassle of trying to find a parking spot and the long walk to the old town was not worth it for just a quick photo of the Hus house. I would have happily made the sacrifice had I been traveling alone, but, unfortunately, my wife does not share my enthusiasm for history.
I am so grateful to the Lord for raising up Reformers like Hus and Zwingli. Defying the Roman Catholic church usually meant certain death in those days. If you haven’t read about Hus and Zwingli, I would encourage you to do so. Succeeding Reformers would move the church even farther away from vestiges of Roman legalism and ritualism, but these brave men took the first very dangerous steps. Although Rome has not changed any of its major doctrines, some contemporary evangelical leaders are lining up to betray the Gospel and embrace Catholicism, as if the Reformation had never occurred. Many evangelicals would rather indulge in spiritual cotton candy rather than bother with any of the nitty gritty history of the Reformation.
Postscript: In a speech delivered in Prague, Czech Republic on December 18, 1999, pope John Paul II expressed “deep sorrow” for the death of Jan Hus. How can a modern pope apologize for the ruling of a RC church council? What does that say about the RCC’s vaunted Magisterium?
The Convert’s Guide to Roman Catholicism: Your First Year in the Church By Keith Nester Independently published, 2019, 229 pp.
Religious proselytes are generally wildly enthusiastic about their newfound “faith.” That includes Muslim converts, Hindu converts, Mormon converts, Watchtower converts, and, yes, Catholic converts. In this book, Catholic convert and YouTuber, Keith Nester, offers words of zealous enthusiasm and encouragement to fellow nominal “Protestant” converts to Roman Catholicism. Nester was a youth minister at a United Methodist Church in Iowa and through a series of circumstances, especially through the efforts of a Catholic business associate, he developed a growing interest in Catholicism and eventually joined the RCC in 2017.
Nester doesn’t go deep into theology in this book, but he does expound upon some of the alleged advantages of Catholicism such as:
The RCC’s claim to authority as the “one true church.”
Sacred tradition and the magisterium trumping “Sola Scriptura.”
Receiving the “actual” Body of Christ (aka eating the faux Jesus wafer), the pinnacle of Catholic “spirituality.”
Nester knows there are many facets of Roman Catholicism that nominal “Protestant” converts will struggle with and he attempts to head off any objections at the pass with an array of positive comments. Addressed are the problematic issues of:
Compulsory Sunday mass attendance
Constant change of postures at mass – kneeling, standing, and sitting
General ineptitude of priests’ homiletics skills compared to those of Protestant ministers
Rote liturgical prayers and rituals
The sacrifice of the mass cunningly heralded as a “re-presentation” of Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice rather than a repeat of the sacrifice
Confession of sins to a priest
Annulments and con-validations of marriages
Praying the rosary
Praying to saints
Veneration (aka worship) of Mary
Nester repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly attempts to allay misgivings about Catholicism’s anti-Biblical doctrines by exhorting converts to check their brains at the door. Here are just a few examples, there are many, many more: That’s OK. You will get over that. (p. 49). But that’s OK. (p. 52). That’s OK. (p. 71). It’s OK. (p. 80). The fact is, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be better than OK. (p. 136). That’s OK. (p.203). It’s OK…just roll with it. (p.209). It will all be fine. (p. 214).
Nester presents a commonly heard analogy of the Catholic church as a “full tool box” to be used in the work of building a life worthy of salvation, while Protestantism is presented as a deficient tool box with many tools missing. However, salvation is not a matter of being a skilled religionist with a full toolbox. According to God’s Word, salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The old mainline Protestant denominations, like Nester’s United Methodist Church, stopped teaching the genuine Gospel decades ago. Nester never was genuinely saved or he wouldn’t be exhorting souls to put on the chains of Catholic legalism.
Nester barely mentions the preeminent difference between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity: the issue of justification. Catholics believe they are justified by their church’s sacraments and by obedience to the Ten Commandments (impossible!) aka meritorious works. Gospel Christians believe they are justified ONLY by the imputed perfect righteous of Jesus Christ received at the moment of salvation. This is an irreconcilable difference that even the most determined evangelical ecumenical Judas cannot bridge.
Nester bids all “Protestants” considering conversion to Catholicism to joyously follow him aboard the Catholic works-righteousness salvation system. That is akin to lowering a canoe into the Niagara River immediately above the famous falls and exhorting all those on board to joyously paddle against the deadly current with all of their might. As a former Catholic for twenty-seven years, I can testify from first-hand experience that there is no joy in the impossible task of trying to merit salvation.
Reading this book was a sad undertaking. Reject works religion. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.
Nester is a Catholic neophyte and, as might be expected, he get’s several Catholic facts wrong. Here’s just a few with my comments added:
“All I needed to find was one (Catholic) doctrine that could be proven false; one time the Church changed an official decree of dogma; or one instance of a pope officially teaching heresy” (p. 59).
From this statement, one might conclude that Nester is not aware of the voluminous critical commentary from conservative Catholics directed at progressive pope Francis, which accuse him of the very things Nester mentions: changing dogma and teaching heresy. In fact, Nester specifically commends to his readers Dr. Taylor Marshall (p. 147), a passionate conservative critic of the Second Vatican Council and of pope Francis (see here). Nester’s claim that the RCC never changed an official doctrine is patently false. As just one example, the Roman church once officially taught that only Catholics could be saved (Papal Bull Unam Sanctum), but changed that doctrine at the Second Vatican Council in 1964 after Catholic leaders succumbed to theological liberalism.
“Pope St. John Paul II…went to confession weekly.” (p. 124).
JPII went to confession daily.
“Marian devotion dates back to the earliest writings of the Church Fathers.” (p. 186).
There is actually no evidence/documentation of Marian veneration/worship until the assimilation of the pagan mother goddess-worshiping Collyridians into the church in the late-4th century.
MANY books have been recently published from conservative Catholic authors, such as this one, exhorting nominal Protestants to convert to Catholicism. In contrast, there are relatively few books published in recent years from evangelical authors encouraging Roman Catholics to leave their works religion and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Evangelicals have been brainwashed by Rome-friendly accommodators (i.e., Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer, etc.) into believing such efforts are distasteful and impede the cause of “Christian unity.”
Since the Roman Catholic church officially teaches that adherents of all religions and even atheists may also merit their salvation, a type of semi-Universalism, the sectarian zealousness of Nester and other conservative/traditionalist, militant-Catholics is an incongruity.