“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

A regrettable decision to “dialogue” with spiritually deadly error

Thanks to Chris at Wings of the Wind for his indirect contributions to this post.

In my last “Weekend Roundup” post, I commented on a recent “dialogue” session held in Idaho featuring evangelical and Mormon apologists. The purpose of that dialogue was to promote understanding between the two “parties” and find common ground. Argh! I’m definitely of the opinion that evangelical apologists should debate false religionists rather than dialogue with them. Accommodation and cooperation with error are slippery slopes that always lead to compromise and betrayal of the Gospel. Try to imagine the apostle Paul endeavoring to dialogue with the priests of 1st-century Roman paganism in order to benefit “mutual understanding and respect.” Imagine, if you can, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John R. Rice, or James R. White having dialogue sessions with clerics of false religions. Stop the tape! James R. White? I should definitely rewind that statement in light of recent events.

I truly appreciate the ministry of evangelical apologist, James R. White. He’s done some excellent work examining Roman Catholicism and other non-Christian groups. I have favorably reviewed several of his books on this blog. Where other popular apologists have accommodated and compromised, White has stood firmly on the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I can’t think of another apologist who has engaged in more debates with false religionists than James White. There are those who have criticized White for his sometimes brash approach but perhaps a debater needs a bit of a thick skin.

This past January, White inexplicably chose to hold two dialogue sessions with Dr. Yasir Qadhi, “one of the most influential conservative clerics in American Islam.” One of the sessions was held at an evangelical church and the other at a mosque. The purpose of the project was to increase understanding between Christians and Muslims. It appears that one of the specific goals of the dialogues was to convince the Christian audience that the extremist views of Al-Qaeda and ISIS are not representative of the majority of Muslims in this country.

Dr. White is currently catching a lot of flak from some concerned Christians for organizing the dialogue sessions with Dr. Qadhi. They wonder why a Muslim apologist was allowed to promote Islam in a church setting. They wonder why White felt obligated to help Muslims counter the general public’s negative perception of Islam due to jihadist terrorism. Is that White’s responsibility?

I believe Christian apologists should be debating false religionists, not dialoguing with them. Certainly, individual Christians “dialogue” all the time with unsaved friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances in order to ultimately lead them to salvation in Jesus Christ. But dialoguing with clerics of false religions in front of audiences in an effort to “increase mutual understanding and respect” is definitely not the mission of apologists of the Gospel. Despite this recent breach of prudence, I honestly don’t believe James White would participate in a dialogue session with Roman Catholic clerics. How then did he see clear to organizing friendly dialogue sessions with a Muslim cleric?

I believe Dr. White made a mistake in this case, a rather large one. But nobody’s perfect. We all have spiritual blind spots. We must pray for Dr. White as he deals with the repercussions of his regrettable choice. Unfortunately but predictably, some of the objections to Dr. White’s misjudgment are being posted on the internet in the form of ad hominem attacks.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” – Ephesians 5:11


Christian Muslim Dialogue Pt.1 | Dr. James White & Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Christian Muslim Dialogue Pt.2 | Dr. James White & Dr. Yasir Qadhi

White’s defense of his dialogues with Yasir Qadhi begins at the 27:50 mark of the video below:
https://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2017/06/19/epiphanius-bodily-assumption-facts-observations-continued-misrepresentations-yasir-qadhi-dialogue/

♫ …It was FIFTY years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play… ♫

The 1960s was an interesting period to grow up in as society was in major flux. Throughout the decade, Walter Cronkite reported on civil rights battles, Vietnam, the rising youth culture and drugs, the peace movement, the beginning of the fight for women’s rights, the growing awareness of the environment, the dawn of computer technology, etc. Young people were rapidly losing faith in traditional institutions and were turning elsewhere for answers.

Because of my five older sisters’ love of The Beatles, I constantly heard the group’s music on the family stereo from 1964 until the end of the decade. Every time a new Beatles album came out it would be played over, and over, and over again until we all knew the words of every song by heart.

I recently watched a PBS special on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” released in 1967. The album was a revolutionary recording at the time with its pioneering studio gimmickry. It was the first LP album cover which included the song lyrics and we were all transfixed by “heavy” wisdom of the far-out Beatles.

Jim McGuinn of The Byrds and a Beatles contemporary proclaimed in 1966, “Lord Buckley (comedic hipster) said that the entertainers now are the new clergy.”

Institutional religion appeared as passé and the rock and roll troubadours seemed to have all the answers. “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was the new religion of the young and rock concerts were the new churches. Albums like “Sgt. Pepper” were the new bibles.

John Lennon of the Beatles went even farther that same year when he declared, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

Lennon was right in some respects. Cultural (c)hristianity, the kind Lennon was familiar with, has all but disappeared in Europe and is declining in the U.S. But the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone continues to go out into the world.

Jim McGuinn changed his first name to Roger in 1967 as part of his initiation into an Eastern religion. But after hitting rock-bottom after years of heavy drug use, McGuinn accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1977.

The Beatles’ partnership was formally dissolved in 1975 after five years of bitter personal and legal acrimony. I guess the lads needed more than love after all. John Lennon was murdered by an insane fan in 1980 and his Beatles-mate, George Harrison, died of lung cancer in 2001.

People are still chasing after something to fill the spiritual vacuum in their soul. Jesus Christ is the ONLY solid Rock, yesterday, today, and forever!

“Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” – Acts 17:21

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads and Granddads out there!

I’m grateful for my Dad who passed away two years ago. Our relationship was a mixed bag as is the case with many fathers and sons. Dads, don’t push your sons too hard.

I’m very grateful for my wife and our two sons and their families which include our three grandchildren. And I’m so grateful for my Heavenly Father, for Christ my Savior, and for the Holy Spirit who indwells and seals me.

Our oldest son who lives here in town is coming over for dinner this afternoon with our two granddaughters and I’ll also be looking forward to a phone call from our other son stationed down in Texas. I hope all you Dads out there have an enjoyable day with your loved ones! Family is a great gift.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” – Romans 8:14-16

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 6/17/17

I would like to understand why Catholicism is so preoccupied with the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Great devotion and worship are accorded to these biological organs, all of which strikes genuine believers in Christ as very strange and idolatrous.

Pope Francis opened the door a crack and liberals are attempting to push it wide open. I anticipate the ordination of female deacons in the RCC in the next 5 to 10 years.

The LGBTQ rainbow alliance is pushing for acceptance in every part of public life. Churches that refuse to participate will be targeted.

The K of C was founded in 1882 as a Catholic benevolent fraternal organization. In some respects, it was the Catholic alternative to verboten Freemasonry. I remember the K of C newspaper advertisements when I was a kid that defended and promoted Catholicism. Most fraternals are in sharp decline these days but the K of C guys with the silly plume hats, capes, epaulettes, and swords are still going strong and wield a lot of influence. Any sign of Jesus Christ in all of this pageantry?

I’m not a big fan of “dialogue” with religious unbelievers. The aim of “dialogue” is to find common ground and build upon that while ignoring or minimizing important doctrinal differences. I don’t read about the apostles and disciples of Christ engaging in ecumenical “dialogue” with religious unbelievers in the New Testament.

These Nigerians priests who refuse to acknowledge a bishop appointed from outside their geographic area are still mired in tribalism. Francis should accommodate them just like Catholicism accommodates/syncretizes native pagan beliefs and practices elsewhere in the world, such as in Latin America.

People are surprised to learn the Muslim Quran references Mary much more than the Bible does. Muslims venerate Mary as a faithful follower of Allah and the mother of the “prophet,” Jesus. Will Marian devotion and worship be the catalyst for a one-world religion?

This past Thursday was the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) for Roman Catholics. This weekend many of the ethnic parishes will have an outdoor procession with the priest carrying a large consecrated bread wafer, which Catholics are taught is the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The faithful line the streets and bow in worshipful adoration to the passing Jesus wafer.

What is Jesus’ blood type? Defenders of eucharistic miracles claim the blood from bleeding wafers is consistently type AB. But where is the Gospel in all of this?

And while we’re on the topic of Southern Baptists…

…Did you hear the one about the Southern Baptist who decided to let his hair down and throw all caution to the wind on one particular day by reading only four chapters of the Bible instead of the usual five? Praise the Lord for the believers in the Southern Baptist Convention who remain faithful to Jesus Christ and His Word.

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

What’s going on with the Southern Baptist Convention?

News sources have recently reported that well-known Calvary Chapel pastor and evangelist, Greg Laurie, has decided to align with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  See the article below. I had wanted to write a post on the SBC at some future date, especially in light of reports about declining membership, but the news about Laurie got the ol’ brain synapses firing.

After my wife and I trusted in Christ in the early 80s, we attended an independent fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. I subscribed to an IFB newspaper for awhile and one of its favorite targets was the “liberal” Southern Baptist Convention. I became increasingly unhappy with the legalistic preaching at our church and eventually walked out. Sadly, I allowed the experience to turn me away from the Lord.

The Lord graciously took me back three years ago and where did we start attending church? You guessed it! At an SBC church! I know I was purposely looking for a fellowship that didn’t resemble our previous one.

The small SBC church was a breath of fresh year because the new pastor just out of seminary emphasized God’s grace and mercy as much as His holiness. Regrettably, he was also very ecumenically-minded and often praised Catholic theologians, which is why we left after one year and began attending our current non-denominational church (with Baptist roots) about 20 months ago.

The Southern Baptist Convention reports around 15 million members in 47 thousand congregations. After one year in an SBC church, I’m certainly not an expert on the convention but I do have some thoughts on why it’s experiencing a decline in membership:

It’s too conservative

I believe the SBC is not attracting new members because it’s perceived as too conservative. In this era of egregiously hip church names – Resurgence Church, Elevation Church, The Gathering, etc. – having “Baptist” in the church name just doesn’t cut it for many. Research from Lifeway, an SBC organization, shows unbelievers and especially millennial unbelievers have a comparatively low opinion of Baptists. When Hollywood needs an “overly-zealous” religious character, who do they turn to? The character is invariably a Baptist. Then there’s the completely crazy Westboro Baptist Church nightmare in Topeka, Kansas. People also still link the Southern Baptist Convention with the White slave owners of the antebellum South and post-Civil War segregation. The young pastor of our previous SBC church dropped the “Baptist” from the church’s name only one year after he arrived.

It’s becoming too liberal

I believe some people are walking away from the SBC because it’s drifting into liberalism. An intense battle raged between orthodox and liberals over control of SBC seminaries beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the late 1990s with the orthodox eventually claiming victory. But liberalism continues to nibble away at the convention. SBC leaders, Richard Land and Larry Lewis, were initial signers of the 1994 ecumenical document, Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Popular Southern Baptists such as Rick Warren, Steven Furtick (pictured with his polar opposite, Charles Stanley), Beth Moore, Ed Young, and Dallas Willard (d. 2013) continue their assault on Biblical orthodoxy. Former SBC president, Ronnie Floyd, joined with pope Francis at Together 2016. Now, with ecumenically-minded and TBN-favorite, Greg Laurie, joining the SBC, the orthodox/conservative members of the convention have another reason to be concerned.

Too conservative? Too liberal? Is there a Catch-22 going on here or what? The rising number of “nones” (no religious affiliation) nationally is also assuredly affecting the SBC.

I am a Baptist Christian and I love my Baptist brothers and sisters. There’s many excellent, godly pastors and para-church leaders (Charles Stanley, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Paul Washer come to mind) and Christ-loving members in the SBC. No doubt about it. But in such situations as we currently see with the SBC, there’s the danger of fidelity to the organization and numbers taking precedence over fidelity to Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and Biblical orthodoxy. My prayers go out to those in the SBC who continue to uphold the Gospel and God’s Word.


Greg Laurie, Calvary Chapel’s Big Crusader, Joins Southern Baptist Convention
http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/june/greg-laurie-southern-baptist-calvary-chapel-harvest-crusade.html

Southern Baptists have lost a million members in 10 years
https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptists-lost-million-members-10-years/#.WULHKuvyu1s

Southern Baptist Convention Deploys Theology Referees To Elevation Church (satire)
http://babylonbee.com/news/southern-baptist-convention-deploys-theology-referees-elevation-church/