Throwback Thursday: Is the Reformation Over?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 5, 2016 and has been revised.

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Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism
By Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom
Baker Academic, 2008, 272 pp.

The title of this book is strictly rhetorical. For “evangelical,” Mark Noll, the Reformation is not only over, but it’s doubtful, in his opinion, whether it had all that much value. Along with Chuck Colson, Noll was one of the prime architects of the ecumenical initiative – Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) – so he begins this book with the presupposition that, yes, the Reformation is over and that Catholicism is a Christian entity. He argues that, while evangelicals and Catholics still differ on “secondary” doctrinal issues (the papacy, Mary, purgatory, sacerdotalism, sacramentalism, etc.), they now mainly agree on justification, the prime catalyst of the Reformation, and that “salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“If it is true, as once was repeated frequently by Protestants conscious of their anchorage in Martin Luther or John Calvin that iustificatio articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae (justification is the article on which the church stands or falls), then the Reformation is over” (p.232).

But Catholicism has NOT changed its views on justification since the Reformation. While Catholics will cautiously agree to salvation “by grace through faith,”* the vaguery of that term masks the unabashed works-righteousness precepts of their religion, as Noll knows full well and strategically alludes to only briefly in this book. As an integral part of their salvation system, Catholics must “cooperate with grace” and perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church laws in order to merit Heaven. Catholics object to accusations that theirs is a works-righteousness gospel, claiming that it’s only by the grace administered through their sacraments that they can possibly obey the commandments and church rules so that they can ultimately present themselves without the stain of a single “mortal” sin on their soul at the time of their death in order to merit Heaven. But the Bible says no one can become righteous by obeying the Law. It’s absolutely impossible. The Law only shows us we are sinners in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:19-21

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” – Romans 3:20

One day when I stand before a Holy God, I will not have a single plea other than the imputed perfect righteousness of my Savior.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Ecumenical compromisor, Mark Noll

Noll and fellow “evangelical” ecumenists have swept aside the Reformation and judge evangelicalism’s Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone and the post-Vatican II Catholic church’s gospel of sacramental grace AND merit to be “something close to the same thing” (p.232).  He dismisses evangelicals who continue to object to Catholicism’s works-righteousness soteriology as sectarians stuck in the 19th-century.

My soul weeps for “evangelical” ecumenical Judases like Mark Noll who betray the Gospel of grace and bid others to follow. Noll currently teaches at Notre Dame Catholic University** where I’m sure he fits in quite well. I suggest he stop the pretense and join the pseudo-church he clearly loves.

*When Catholics refer to “faith” and “grace” they’re generally referring to faith in their institutional church and sacramental grace.

**Noll left NDU in 2016 after teaching there for ten years.

Ecumenists Ravi Zacharias & J.I. Packer

Whenever I hear about an evangelical pastor, theologian, apologist, or para-church leader that I’m not familiar with, the first thing I want to know about them is where they stand on ecumenism with Roman Catholicism. If they view the Roman Catholic church as a Christian entity and the pope and Catholic prelates as “brothers in Christ,” then I’m really not interested in their views on anything else. Harsh? If it was you that had been saved out of a false gospel, pseudo-Christian institution, such as LDS, Watchtower, or Christian Science, only to witness certain evangelical leaders declaring that your former “church” was fine, you would not be pleased either.

Two very well-known evangelicals died recently. Apologist, Ravi Zacharias (b. 1946, photo left), passed away on May 19th and theologian, J.I. Packer (b. 1926, photo right), died on July 17th. Both were highly-regarded by many evangelicals.

There is no doubt that both men accomplished some incredibly good things. Indian-born Zacharias began his career as an evangelist in 1971 at the age of twenty-five. He impacted many in his 49 years of ministry. English-born J.I. Packer was ordained an Anglican minister in 1953 and had a large influence within evangelicalism as the writer of “’Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God” (1958), a defense of Biblical inerrancy and infallibility, and the popular, “Knowing God” (1973). Packer also served as general editor of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation.

Regrettably, both men also promoted ecumenism with Roman Catholicism. Zacharias signed the Manhattan Declaration (2009), which affirmed the Roman Catholic church as a Christian entity. In his lectures, he often made it a point to cite Roman Catholics as exemplary Christians, including G.K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, Mother Teresa, St. Francis, and Henri Nouwen. In addition, Zacharias was a featured speaker at the Together 2016 ecumenical gathering, which also featured a video address by pope Francis. Zacharias’ evasiveness regarding the legitimacy of Roman Catholicism in comparison to genuine Gospel Christianity was more than troubling (see the article far below).

J.I. Packer was even more outspoken in his support of ecumenism with Rome. Packer began his accommodation with error in 1970 when he privately and publicly broke with Martyn Lloyd-Jones over the question of cooperation with unbelievers/modernists in the Anglican church. Packer would go on to be one of the principal leaders of the ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) initiative, from 1994 until 2012. Like Zacharias, he also signed the Manhattan Declaration.

Yes, Zacharias and Packer both did some good things, but they also muddied the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone by insinuating that Rome’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit was the same thing or “close enough.” They misled unwitting evangelicals and they did a tremendously grave disservice to Roman Catholics who needed and still need to hear the genuine Gospel.

We evangelicals may have differing views on secondary and tertiary doctrines such as predestination and dispensationalism, but embracing a false church, which unabashedly proclaims a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit is inexcusable.

In the following article, evangelical apologist, Matt Slick, critically examines Ravi Zacharias’ deferential approach to Roman Catholicism.

Ravi Zacharias and Roman Catholicism at Texas A&M, Veritas Forum
https://carm.org/ravi-zacharias-and-roman-catholicism-texas-am-veritas-forum

Below, evangelical Vatican-watcher, Leonardo De Chirico, examines Jim Packer’s regrettable reasoning for supporting ECT. De Chirico is respectful to a fault.

Why J.I. Packer signed “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (and why he was inconsistent)
https://evangelicalfocus.com/vatican-files/7406/why-ji-packer-signed-evangelicals-and-catholics-together-and-why-he-was-inconsistent

The article below is a glowing tribute to Jim Packer from a Catholic source. It’s not a testimony that any Gospel-honoring “evangelical Protestant” would desire as their legacy.

J.I. Packer and Evangelicals and Catholics in the Trenches
https://bccatholic.ca/voices/paul-schratz-life-in-the-schratz-lane/evangelicals-and-catholics-in-the-trenches

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.

Screenshot 2020-08-12 at 12.16.21 PM
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

The Rise and Decline of Neo-Evangelicalism

Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism
By Rolland D. McCune
Ambassador International,  2004, 398 pp.

5 Stars

At the onset of the 20th-century, the old, mainline Protestant denominations were drifting into Bible-denying, theological liberalism. In reaction to the growing apostasy, Bible-believing theologians and pastors produced “The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth,” a series of ninety essays, published between 1910 and 1915, that affirmed the five fundamentals of the Christian faith that were being attacked by theological liberals and modernists, those being:

  • The inerrancy of the Bible.
  • The literal nature of the biblical accounts, especially regarding Jesus Christ’s miracles and the creation account in Genesis.
  • The virgin birth of Christ.
  • The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ.
  • The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.

Understood to be included along with the five fundamentals was the Biblical mandate of ecclesiastical separation from churches and denominations that denied the basics of the Christian faith. Theologically-orthodox Christians* rallied around “The Fundamentals” and the movement gained momentum and advanced the genuine Gospel message throughout the United States and the world.

However, in the late-1940s, some fundamentalist theologians and pastors began to bridle against the separation principle. Their thinking was that fundamentalism had become fanatically insular and partisan and that they needed to be more accommodating with the unbelieving world. The founders of this self-dubbed Neo (or New) Evangelicalism, Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga, enlisted evangelist, Billy Graham,** as the public face of the movement and also established Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California as its intellectual/academic base. Edward John Carnell oversaw the early years of Fuller. In contrast to fundamentalists, who had openly disparaged academia and intellectualism, the Neo-Evangelicals craved academic respectability.

Neo-Evangelicals and fundamentalists were initially uneasy allies, but Graham famously broke with fundamentalism completely when he cooperated with Bible-denying, liberal clergymen in the organization of his four-month-long, 1957 New York City crusade. Graham defended himself saying, “I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the gospel of Christ.” However, fraternity and dialogue with apostasy is a two-way street and Neo-Evangelicalism gradually strayed from foundational Biblical principles and found itself enmeshed in debates over Scriptural inerrancy and the other basic tenets of Christian orthodoxy. Former restraints were gone, leading to the following:

  • Billy Graham blazed ecumenical trails with Roman Catholicism. Ernest Pickering accurately wrote in 1994, “Much of the current theological confusion with regard to the Roman Catholic Church can be laid at the feet of one man; Billy Graham.”
  • Pentecostal/charismatic beliefs and practices rapidly spread throughout evangelicalism. Pentecostalism got its start in 1901 at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas.
  • The divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible have been increasingly contested. These days, Bible-believing students at apostate Fuller Theological Seminary must constantly parry attacks against their faith by the faculty.
  • Secular marketing methods have replaced traditional church.
  • Most evangelical Protestant churches have cut ties with the church history, avoiding any mention of the Reformation or the Five Solas.

Baptist fundamentalist scholar, Rolland McCune (1934-2019), does an excellent job of tracing the rise and decline of Neo-Evangelicalism. The first half of the book is devoted to the history of the movement, which I found most interesting. The second half focuses on the theological disintegration of Neo-Evangelicalism, which was challenging reading for this layperson, but not impossible. I’d been hoping to find an American counterpart to Iain Murray’s excellent “Evangelicalism Divided” (see my review here), and this book comes close.

*The Fundamentalist movement was comprised largely of Arminian-leaning conservative Baptists and Wesleyans. Mainline Presbyterianism had also begun drifting into liberalism in the 1910s and 1920s, just like the Arminian mainline denominations. In response, J. Gresham Machen and others founded the breakaway Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Firebrand pastor, Carl McIntire, was also a leader of the fundamentalist movement within Reformed churches. It’s interesting that both Baptist and Presbyterian fundamentalists revered the previous interdenominational leadership of D.L. Moody (1837-1899). As Neo-Evangelicalism has generally devolved into varying degrees of heterodoxy, the Baptist fundamentalism represented by McCune has declined steeply in numbers and influence.

**Billy Graham began his evangelistic career as a Baptist fundamentalist under the mentorship of John R. Rice and William Bell Riley.

Postscript: My wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church from 1983 until 1991 after we were first saved. I enjoyed several aspects of the experience, but the pastor exemplified some of the stereotypical negative characteristics of IFB preachers including arrogance, pridefulness, leadership via coercion, majoring on the minors, conflating faith and nationalism, and an emphasis on guilt rather than on God’s grace. McCune understandably does not mention any of the problems within Baptist fundamentalism.

p.s. If you don’t think “evangelicalism” is in major trouble these days, just sit down on your couch and watch a day’s worth of TBN.

Chapters:

Part 1: Historical Antecedents

  • The Rise of Theological Liberalism
  • The Great Controversy

Part 2: The Formation of the New Evangelicalism

  • Four Crucial Issues
  • Other Contributions

Part 3: Ecumenism

  • Ecumenical Evangelism
  • Ecumenical Church Councils
  • Ecumenical Accolades and Ecumenical Journalism
  • The Charismatic Movement
  • Roman Catholicism

Part 4: Ecclesiastical Separation

  • The Rationale of Evangelical Non-Separatism
  • The Biblical Idea of Ecclesiastical Separation

Part 5: The Bible and Authority

  • Biblical Revelation
  • Biblical Inspiration and Inerrancy
  • Further Issues, Events, and Publications Related to Inerrancy
  • The Aftermath of “The Battle For the Bible”

Part 6: Apologetics

  • The Development of New Evangelical Apologetics
  • An Analysis of New Evangelical Apologetics

Part 7: Social Involvement

  • New Evangelical Social Activism
  • The Biblical Idea of Social Action

Part 8: Doctrinal Storms

  • The Status of the Unevangelized
  • The Destiny of the Finally Impenitent
  • The Open View of God

Part 9: Conclusion

  • Evaluation and Prospects
  • Addendum 1: Review: The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World
  • Addendum 2: Major Events in the New Evangelical Movement: 1942-2003

The Ecumenical Hall of Shame

Some evangelical Christians will find this post incredibly offensive. They will ask, “How could anyone besmirch the character of these great men and women of God?” It’s not surprising that the evil one would bring deadly error into the church via popular pastors, theologians, and para-church leaders. We have a Biblical mandate for pointing out those who accommodate and compromise with false gospels.

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A month ago, I presented a series of posts examining the inaptly named, “Christian Hall of Fame” (see here). That series gave me the idea me to compile a list of “evangelicals” who have played prominent roles in the betrayal of the Gospel in the cause of ecumenical unity with Roman Catholicism, with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The confusion and damage caused by these twenty-five men in their embracement of Roman Catholicism as a Christian entity cannot be overstated. While most of these people accomplished some good things, all of them muddied the Gospel of grace.

Many would categorize all of the individuals on this list as “evangelicals,” but it’s doubtful if several of them were/are redeemed. This is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list, but only a collection of some of the most influential ecumenists that come to mind. Additional suggestions are welcome.

The names below are hyper-linked to their respective Wiki articles.

Bill Bright (1921-2003) – Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and one of the ten evangelical formal endorsers of the initial “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (1994) ecumenical declaration.

Edward John Carnell (1919-1967) – Theologian, apologist, and former president of Fuller Theological Seminary. Along with Harold Ockenga and Carl Henry, Carnell provided the intellectual “clout” behind Billy Graham’s popular ecumenical outreach.

Chuck Colson (1931-2012) – Founder of Prison Fellowship ministry and The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and co-founder of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) ecumenical initiative.

Kenneth Copeland (1936- ) – Pentecostal televangelist and purveyor of the prosperity gospel. In 2014, Copeland partnered with Tony Palmer in organizing highly publicized meetings of Pentecostal and charismatic leaders with pope Francis.

William Lane Craig (1949- ) – Theologian and philosopher. Disciple of influential ecumenist, Norman Geisler. Outspoken in his acceptance of the RCC as a Christian entity.

Paul Crouch (1934-2013) – Pentecostal founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), which has consistently championed the cause of ecumenism with its programming.

James Dobson (1936- ) – Founder of the nationally popular Focus on the Family radio-book ministry, who undiscerningly enlisted Catholic clergy and laity in his culture battle to “save the family.”

Jerry Falwell, Sr. (1933-2007) – Baptist pastor and founder of the Moral Majority who melded evangelicalism and American nationalism, thereby subordinating Protestant and Catholic theological differences in the interest of conservative political activism.

Norman Geisler (1932-2019) – Theologian and philosopher who steered evangelical pop apologetics (see Craig, McDowell, Strobel, Turek, Zacharias, etc.) toward ecumenism with Rome.

Timothy George (1950 – ) – Theologian who co-authored the ecumenical Manhattan Declaration and was a prolific contributor to Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT).

Billy Graham (1918-2018) – The most famous evangelist of the 20th century. Graham discreetly enlisted the support of local Catholic bishops for his crusades, beginning as far back as the 1950s. His cooperation with the Roman Catholic church became increasingly less cautious in the 1960s. The personal information collected from Catholics who came forward at Graham’s crusades was turned over to Catholic workers, who informed the “seekers” that they had merely rededicated themselves to their baptism and/or confirmation.

Franklin Graham (1952- ) – Continues his father’s ecumenical legacy although with a stronger emphasis on Christian-American nationalism.

Carl F. Henry (1913-2003) – Theologian and first editor of Christianity Today magazine. Henry, in partnership with Billy Graham and Harold Ockenga, founded the “Neo-Evangelical” movement, which distanced itself from separatist fundamentalism and advanced a more accommodating and compromising approach to Roman Catholicism. It was often said that Henry was the “brains” behind the less-academically-inclined Graham.

Richard Land (1946- ) – Prominent Southern Baptist and founder of The Christian Post internet news site, which routinely presents Roman Catholicism as a Christian entity. Land was one of the three evangelical signatories of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), along with Chuck Colson and J.I. Packer.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) – British author, apologist, and high-church Anglican who determinedly paved the way for ecumenism between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Chuck Colson cited Lewis as the inspiration behind Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT).

Walter Martin (1928-1989) – Considered THE evangelical authority on cult religions. His book, “Kingdom of the Cults” (1965), famously did not reference Roman Catholicism. Martin said of pope John XXIII that he believed he was a “sincere Christian.”

Mark Noll (1946- ) – This “evangelical” historian has been at the center of the ecumenical movement with his book, “Is the Reformation Over?” (2005) – Noll definitely thinks it is – and as one of the ten evangelical formal endorsers of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT).

Harold Ockenga (1905-1985) – Pastor and theologian, who, along with Billy Graham and Carl Henry, pioneered the “Neo-Evangelical” movement, which advanced conciliatory rapprochement with Roman Catholicism.

J.I. Packer (1926- ) – The influential theologian lent his considerable reputation to the ecumenical movement as one of the three evangelical signatories, along with Chuck Colson and Richard Land, of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT).

Tony Palmer (1966-2014) – South African Anglican who brokered the landmark 2014 ecumenical meetings between pope Francis and Pentecostal and charismatic leaders.

Pat Robertson (1930- ) – Charismatic (theology not personality) founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and host of The 700 Club. Along with Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, Robertson was a leader of the Christian nationalist movement of the 80s and 90s and was one of the ten evangelical formal endorsers of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). Robertson has consistently identified the Roman church as a Christian entity.

John Stott (1921-2011) – Influential English-Anglican priest and theologian who steered English (and American) evangelicals towards rapprochement with Rome.

Billy Sunday (1862-1935) – Prominent evangelist of four generations ago who set the stage for Billy Graham by sending the personal information collected from Catholics who came forward at his evangelistic services back to Catholic workers for follow-up.

Rick Warren (1954- ) – Influential leader of the seeker-friendly, church-growth movement. Often referred to as “America’s Pastor.” Warren has close connections with the U.S. Roman Catholic hierarchy and has often spoken at Catholic institutions.

Ravi Zacharias (1946-2020) – Pop apologist and disciple of Norman Geisler, who routinely referred to prominent Roman Catholic clergy, laity, and “saints” as Christians in his talks.

Dishonorable mention: Jerry Falwell, Jr. (following in his father’s footsteps of propagating ecumenical Christian nationalism), Richard Foster (popularized Catholic mysticism, contemplative prayer, and Ignatian spiritual formation among evangelicals), Nick Hall (Pulse founder and organizer of ecumenical “Together” events), Robert Jeffress (Baptist pastor and Christian nationalist), David Jeremiah (pastor, contributed to the Catholic-controlled “A.D.” project), Greg Laurie (charismatic pastor and evangelist fully embraces the RCC as a Christian entity), Bill McCartney (founder of the ecumenical Promise Keepers), Eric Metaxas (author and radio host, regularly refers to Roman Catholics as Christians in his messages), Beth Moore (popular writer and speaker fully embraces the RCC as Christian), Stephen J. Nichols (Reformed theologian and author of a children’s book listing Jesuit co-founder, Francis Xavier, as a “hero of the faith”), Nancy Pearcey (theologian, co-wrote the pro-ecumenical, “How Now Shall We Live?,” with Chuck Colson), David Robertson (Reformed pastor and theologian), Lee Strobel (pop apologist and disciple of Norman Geisler and Rick Warren who propagates ecumenism with Roman Catholicism in all of his materials), Carl Trueman (Reformed theologian and featured writer for Catholic ecumenical journal, “First Things”), Frank Turek (apologist, Geisler disciple), Dallas Willard (along with Richard Foster popularized Catholic mysticism, contemplative prayer, and Ignatian spiritual formation among evangelicals). This list is admittedly limited, but the folks mentioned above are some of the more notable offenders I’ve come across in my 5-years of blogging.

Throwback Thursday: Trying to force a square peg (Catholicism) through a round hole (the Gospel)

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on December 9, 2015 and has been revised.

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Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences
By Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie
Baker Academic, 1995, 538 pp.

1 Star

This is a strange book. I mean, REALLY strange. On the one hand, evangelical scholar, Norman Geisler, cites many areas in which Roman Catholicism is not in accord with the New Testament Gospel: justification by works, Mariolatry, sacerdotalism, purgatory, etc. On the other hand, Geisler insinuates that Catholicism is a Christian entity; e.g., “(the Jesuits’) original mission concerned preaching Christ to the unconverted in the world. They became great missionaries, winning many to Christ in Africa, Asia, and the New World. Many were martyred for their faith” – p.444. Really, Professor Geisler? Did the Jesuits preach Christ or did they preach a works-based religion masquerading as “Christianity”? How exactly is teaching people they must merit their salvation “winning” souls to Christ?

The “gospel” preached by the Catholic church claims salvation is attained through its clergy-administered sacraments and by obedience to the Ten Commandments. Yet Geisler argues, even quite adamantly, for the true Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. So which is it, Professor Geisler? Grace or works? It cannot be both.

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” – Romans 11:6.

Geisler, a passionate devotee of Catholic priest and theologian, Thomas Aquinas, struggles schizophrenically to cut Catholicism as much slack as possible while also upholding the Gospel of the Reformers. When it comes to the Roman church, Catholic-friendly evangelicals like Geisler, Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Bill Bright, Os Guinness, Mark Noll, J. I. Packer, Harold O. J. Brown, Max Lucado, and Timothy George are all simply delusional (Note: Geisler, Graham, Colson, Bright, and Brown are now deceased).

How is it that Catholic apologists are never shy about proclaiming theirs is the “one true church” with the “fullness of the gospel” while accommodating and compromising evangelical apologists and pastors meekly tiptoe around the all-important justification “issue” that irreconcilably separates Catholicism from the genuine Gospel of grace?

Addendum: My original posting of this book review on Amazon.com back in 2014 led to the infamous “Willis Weatherford Caper.” See here.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones examines “Church and the State”

After returning to the Lord in 2014 after my very long prodigal “season,” the Lord introduced me to some solid Bible teachers, past and present, including D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). I’ve read several books by and about MLJ and also enjoyed the 2015 documentary, “Logic on Fire,” about the life and ministry of the Doctor.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I desired to read some more about/from MLJ so I Screenshot 2020-05-19 at 6.59.44 AMdownloaded “Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life” by Jason Meyer to my Kindle (review to follow). While reading that book, I thought about another resource, the MLJ Trust. I was vaguely aware that Lloyd-Jones’ former ministerial assistant and biographer, Iain H. Murray, had collected the Doctor’s recorded sermons and made them available via the MLJ Trust website. I was curious if MLJ Trust had a smart phone app and, sure enough, they do! I downloaded the free app to my iPhone and, voilà, I now have access to 1600 of the Doctor’s sermons. Wow!

I quickly browsed the list of MLJ’s sermons and stumbled across a series of six sermons on “Church and the State” delivered on successive Friday evenings in January-February, 1967. Friends of this blog know the topic of the church’s relationship to the state is something I am very interested in. Roman Catholicism took its cue from Constantine and the Roman imperial model and continued to fuse together church and state. The early Reformers regrettably continued this error to a degree and when the Pilgrims and Puritans settled in Massachusetts, they established semi-theocracies. The Puritans preached that America was the New Israel and that its citizens were in covenant relationship with God and enjoyed special blessings and prerogatives thereby. That thinking was perpetuated from American pulpits for four-hundred years, although the genuine Gospel preached by the Puritans was gradually replaced over time in mainline denominations by a watered-down, social gospel. The God of the Bible was replaced by the nebulous deity/higher power of American “civil religion.” American civil religion infiltrated the church resulting in national citizenship superceding spiritual citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Americans of all denominations, Protestants and Catholics (and even Jews), could harmoniously join together in singing “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

After Americans became increasingly secularized in the 60s, 70s, and 80’s, Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority drew a line in the sand and attempted to return America back to “Judeo-Christian” values. Some high-profile ministers like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. continue Jerry Sr.’s crusade to “return America back to Jesus.” Regrettably, alliances formed with pseudo-Christian religionists in the cause of shared political and cultural concerns has led many temporal-minded evangelicals to overlook doctrinal differences and compromise the Gospel via ecumenism.

The church has been struggling for two-thousand years to define its proper relationship with the state, but it’s clear from history that the church has erred way too far on the side of church-state alliance. I fully realize that the deeply-rooted concept of America as a “Christian nation” continues to be quite popular amongst American Christians.

Okay, time to step down from my soap box and get to the crux of this post.

In the six sermons below, Martyn Lloyd-Jones thoroughly examines the relationship between church and state including the regrettable historical record and what the Bible teaches. It’s one of the best treatments I’ve ever seen or heard on this topic. Lloyd-Jones has much to say about the Roman Catholic model and the dangers of ecumenism. I’ve provided a link to the MLJ Trust website for each individual sermon. You can also download the MLJ Trust app to your smart phone and search “church and the state” to easily find the six sermons:

Church and The State (1)
Church and state; ecumenism; church and state under Christ’s authority; Constantine; Roman Catholic teaching; Wycliffe; the Reformation; Erastianism; Luther; the Church of England; religious toleration.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233337

Church and The State (2)
Church and state essentially different; common grace; the differences explained; value of history; Luther; Zwingli; Calvin; Belgic Confession on magistrates; Puritans; Presbyterians; Westminster Confession on magistrates; Melville; two kings; two kingdoms.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233338

Church and The State (3)
Pilgrim Fathers and American colonists; Separatists; Cromwell; the ‘Free Church idea’; Roger Williams; the Commonwealth; democracy; the Ejection of 1662; established churches.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233339

Church and The State (4)
Church-state relations unknown in New Testament; Old Testament appealed to; Israel’s position unique; Christ’s kingdom not of this world; confusing the world and the Church.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233340

Church and The State (5)
Summary of teaching; lesson of history; traditionalism; the state cannot Christianize society; parable of the leaven misunderstood; no gradual advance; except in the Church.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233341

Church and The State (6)
The lordship of Christ; tension between the two kingdoms; the Church should lay down principles; freedom; education; the arts; science; law; morality; individual Christians may influence society.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233342

Pope Tells “Christians” to NEVER Try to Convert Unbelievers

The Roman Catholic church has always taught, contrary to the Bible, that salvation is attained via sacramental grace and merit. Back in time, the Catholic clergy taught that only baptized Catholics could possibly merit Heaven, but in the modern era, that stance has softened, and the RCC now grants that all “good” and sincere religionists – Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. – can also possibly merit Heaven. Pope Francis has said on several occasions that even “moral” atheists can merit Heaven.

Last month, Francis met with a group of Italian high school students and advised the (c)hristians among them to NOT to try to convert* those of other faiths. Below are some quotes from Francis’ remarks:

  • [Speaking of having Jewish and Muslim friends]: “We are all the same, all children of God.”
  • “It didn’t occur to me, and it doesn’t have to be like, saying to a boy or a girl: ‘You are Jewish, you are Muslim: come, be converted!'”
  • “We are not in the times of the crusades.”
  • “In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never.”
  • “But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing.”
  • “If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus.”
  • “The Church does not grow by proselytism.”

None of the above is surprising in light of Catholicism’s wide-is-the-way teaching that EVERYONE is a child of God. Contrary to what the pope claims, God’s Word declares that only those who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and are born again spiritually in Christ become God’s children:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12

Should we believe the pope or God’s Word?

Let’s see what evangelist, Ray Comfort, has to say about the pope’s un-Biblicalness in the 15-minute video below:

For more information, see the news article here.

*Please, no angry letters. I readily agree that it’s the Holy Spirit Who converts, not Christians, who merely sow the Gospel seed. I’m only conveying the pope’s words.

Throwback Thursday: Walter Martin was no admirer of Catholicism, but dropped the ball in “The Kingdom of the Cults”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 7th, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Roman Catholic Church in History
By Walter Martin
Christian Research Institute, 1960 edition, 87 pp.

Most of today’s younger believers have never heard of Walter Martin (1928-1989), but the man played an important role in modern evangelicalism. Martin wrote the booklet, “The Roman Catholic Church in History,” in 1958, two years prior to the founding of his once-influential evangelical apologetics ministry, Christian Research Institute (CRI). This booklet is extremely critical of Roman Catholic theology as it examines the papacy, the preeminence of tradition over Scripture, Mariolatry, confession and penance, the mass, and purgatory. While Martin implies there is no salvation in works-based Catholic legalism, he regrettably does not address the primary issue of justification directly.

Martin’s “The Kingdom of the Cults,” published initially in 1965 and still in print and widely available, is considered the most important reference on cults over the last 55 years. Surprisingly, there is hardly any mention of Catholicism in that book. I wonder what happened that caused Martin to retreat from his uncompromising criticism of Catholicism in his 1958 booklet to accommodation and silence? The current director of CRI, Hank Hanegraaff, teaches that Catholicism has many un-Biblical doctrines, but is, fundamentally, a Christian church.

Because Hanegraaff and CRI would like to forget “The Roman Catholic Church in History” was ever written, the booklet has not been republished since 1960 and copies are nearly impossible to find. However, I was able to obtain a photocopy from Christian Answers of Austin, Texas (biblequery.org). See here.

Martin’s accommodation and compromise with Roman Catholicism was one of many contributing factors to the rampant ecumenism we see today. For more details, refer to a subsequent post, “How Walter Martin sowed the seeds for the current Hank Hanegraaff controversy,” published on August 7, 2017, here.

Addendum: People are still curious about Walter Martin. The original, 2015 posting of “Walter Martin was no admirer of Catholicism, but dropped the ball in ‘The Kingdom of the Cults”‘ continues to receive visitors regularly and is this blog’s third-most-viewed post with 1866 all-time hits currently.

Christian unity? But at what cost?

Seventy-years ago, following the ravages of the Second World War, people across the world were scandalized by the divisions within “Christianity.” They saw the thousands of denominations as defiance of the prayer of Jesus Christ in John 17:20-23 that all believers be united. To that end, the World Council of Churches (WCC) was created in 1948 and the National Council of Churches (NCC) was founded here in the U.S. in 1950. In 1964, at its Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic church reversed its former militant approach and issued the document, “Unitatis Redintegratio” (Restoration of Unity), which called for the unity of all Christians. In the decades that followed, nominal Protestant denominations have increasingly joined together and with Rome in an effort to unite all “Christians”

What are Gospel Christians to think about these ecumenical efforts? The mainline Protestant denominations that comprise the NCC and WCC drifted into liberalism/modernism generations ago. They no longer hold to the Bible as the Word of God and they no longer teach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. As for the Roman Catholic church, it teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. And while it pleads for unity, the “unity” that it refers to equates to eventual submission to the Roman pontiff:

“…when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.” – Unitatis Redintegratio, Section 4.

Gospel Christians may differ on various secondary beliefs, but WE ARE UNITED in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. God’s Word warns us not to join with false teachers and pseudo-Christians who propagate false gospels.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” – Matthew 7:15

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting.” – 2 John 10

Christians should NEVER join together with religious unbelievers who call themselves “Christians,” but who propagate false gospels. We need to evangelize these lost souls, not embrace them as fellow believers.

Preacher, writer, and teacher, Will Graham (photo above), recently contributed the five excellent short articles below to Evangelical Focus magazine that summarize the guiding principles to Christian unity. When it comes to uniting with others who profess to be Christians, we must never, never, never accommodate false gospels or compromise Biblical truth.

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A Manifesto of Church Unity – Introduction: Part One of Five
http://evangelicalfocus.com/magazine/4766/_A_Manifesto_of_Church_Unity

Church Unity is Unity in the Truth – Part Two of Five
http://evangelicalfocus.com/magazine/4800/Church_Unity_is_Unity_in_the_Truth

Church Unity is Unity in the Light – Part Three of Five
http://evangelicalfocus.com/magazine/4817/Church_Unity_is_Unity_in_the_Light

Church Unity is Unity in the Spirit – Part Four of Five
http://evangelicalfocus.com/magazine/4834/Church_unity_is_unity_in_the_Spirit

A Manifesto of Church Unity – Conclusion: Part Five of Five
http://evangelicalfocus.com/magazine/4847/A_Manifesto_of_Church_Unity_Conclusion