Throwback Thursday: Popular and influential evangelical, Joni Eareckson Tada, endorses ecumenical “First Things”

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 8th, 2015 and has been revised.

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I used to have a 25-minute drive to work each morning back when I was employed and while I was in my car I really enjoyed listening to a local Christian radio station. Oh, it was a blessing to hear about the Lord at the start of every day! One of the scheduled messages broadcast each morning was a 5-minute clip from Joni Eareckson Tada. I’m sure many of you have heard of her. Joni, a quadriplegic, provides daily messages of hope and encouragement for Christians who are struggling with challenges of all kinds.

However, one morning, my ears perked up when Joni cited “First Things” monthly journal as an excellent publication and strongly encouraged her listeners to check it out. Well, “First Things” was started by influential Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, in 1990. It describes itself as an “inter-denominational, inter-religious, ecumenical” journal featuring the writings of a broad spectrum of “Christians” (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) and Jews. All of the declarations issued by Chuck Colson’s and Neuhaus’s ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” project were initially published in “First Things.”

The ecumenical spirit of “First Things” mirrors the teaching of Roman Catholicism, which says all can be saved if they “seek the truth and do the will of God.”

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1260.

The Catholic hierarchy once taught that only Catholics could be saved, but, because they believe in salvation-by-merit, it was entirely predictable that they would eventually recognize all other works-righteousness religious systems – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. – as legitimate pathways to God. Making the already-broad path even wider, Pope Francis has said EVEN ATHEISTS will be saved if they follow their conscience and pursue “righteousness.”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” – Mark 10:18

But genuine believers are well aware that God’s Word clearly proclaims that salvation is ONLY by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is NO other way. Bible verses which state that salvation is only by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior can be found here.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing in common with the works-righteousness false gospel of Roman Catholicism and the ecumenism of “First Things.”

So why would a high-profile evangelical Christian, like Joni Eareckson Tada, irresponsibly recommend “First Things” and its ecumenical message to her unwary and trusting listeners? What goes through her head? Does she believe the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone or not? Respected Reformed theologian, Carl Trueman, also inexplicably lends his support to the wide-is-the-way mission of “First Things” as one of the journal’s regular contributors. The postmodern heresies of pluralism and relative truth continue to spread like cancer and more and more evangelicals ignore Biblical doctrine and succumb to accommodation, cooperation, and compromise.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 10/26/19

I somehow missed this news report from back in July about how LGBT radicals vandalized the Reformation Wall monument in Geneva, Switzerland with the requisite colors of the LGBT rainbow. LGBT activists will not rest until Gospel Christians deny/ignore the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. As a side note, the men who are memorialized by the monument – John Calvin, William Farel, Theodore Bèze, and John Knox – would have strongly objected to being glorified in such a fashion.

Liberal Catholic prelates are using the current three-week-long Amazon synod at the Vatican to push their progressive reforms. The synod has featured some “interfaith” events promoting the syncretism of Catholicism and indigenous Amazon paganism that included pope Francis blessing statues of naked “Pachamama” Amazon fertility goddesses (see photo below). Some conservative Catholics, offended by the accommodations to the pagan idols, absconded with them and then unceremoniously dumped them into the Tiber River. Hmm, the Vatican is already home to thousands of idolatrous and blasphemous statues and paintings including many naked characters. What’s a few more? Can anyone imagine Jesus Christ or even the apostle Paul “blessing” pagan idols?

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Pope Francis “blessing” Pachamama fertility goddess idol

The U.S. Catholic bishops were counting on Hispanic Catholics to pick up the slack as non-Hispanic Catholics increasingly abandoned the church, but newly-released statistics show that Hispanics are also stepping off the legalistic religious treadmill.

The Vatican’s finances are once again under scrutiny. Expect this latest financial scandal to mushroom.

As pope Francis and his progressive allies pragmatically institute their liberal reforms in an effort to make the Catholic church more “relevant,” they bend Catholic doctrine to suit their agenda. Catholic conservatives, heretofore passionate defenders of the papacy, are caught in a dilemma from which they cannot extricate themselves.

Besides many other important doctrinal differences, Gospel Christians and Roman Catholics are irreconcilably opposed in regards to the doctrine of justification. Catholics claim souls are justified by sacramental grace and subjective sanctification, i.e., actually becoming intrinsically “good enough” to merit Heaven. Gospel Christians proclaim the Biblical teaching that souls are justified only by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputed to them at the moment they accept Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Despite the accommodations and compromises of modernist mainline “Protestant” denominations, the Reformation continues. Unfortunately, Christians who attend “seeker-friendly” McMega churches hear very little (or nothing at all) about the Reformation or comparative theology.

Secular society is elevating ludicrousness to new extremes.

Brother Lawrence our example? Really?

I’ll begin by saying it’s grievous to have to write this…

One day last week, as I was preparing to do some work on our powder room, I set up my iPhone to play that day’s radio message from evangelical pastor, Alistair Begg (photo left), via the Truth for Life website. I used to listen to pastor Begg regularly, but I remember being put-off by some of the people he referenced in his sermons, C. S. Lewis being one of his oft-mentioned favorites. But I had recently taken to listening to pastor Begg again. During the course of this new sermon (“True Friendship,” broadcast 9/30/19), pastor Begg said something that was upsetting to hear.

But before I get into the meat of this post, let me start with an observation. We evangelicals live in a bubble. We tend to think we’re the only people who pray and the only people who write passionately and lovingly about our faith. I hate to break it to you my friends, but committed Hindus and Muslims write passionately about their religion as well. Likewise, members of pseudo-Christian cults, like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, are passionate about their religion. They too have devotional materials filled with lofty prose meant to motivate their membership to worship and praise their nonexistent faux deity. Writing pious words about Jesus does not make the writer a Christian. That being said, let’s return to pastor Begg.

As I was listening to the sermon, pastor Begg expounded on our Savior, Lord, and Friend, Jesus Christ. We thrill at being Jesus’s friend, but, as Begg points out, friendship with Christ is not just a doctrinal truth of objective, forensic position, but also experiential. Begg quotes John 15:14:

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Begg then refers to several authors who wrote about obeying Jesus. The first writer Begg mentions is Brother Lawrence (photo right). At the 18:20 mark, Begg says:

“If you read the writing, for example, of Brother Lawrence in “The Practice of the Presence of God,” and you say, now this is an inkling of what’s involved here.”

So what’s the problem? Well, Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) aka Nicolas Herman was an unordained lay brother of the Roman Catholic Discalced Carmelite religious order who resided at a monastery in Paris. Brother Lawrence lived his entire life as a faithful Roman Catholic and fully adhered to his church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Since Brother Lawrence adhered to Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit, I’m curious why a popular evangelical pastor like Alistair Begg would hold up such a person as a Christian example? Does he believe Brother Lawrence was a genuine Christian because of his pious religious prose? But what of Lawrence’s legalistic and anti-Gospel beliefs and religious practices that were not mentioned in “The Practice of the Presence of God”? Has Begg forgotten the cause and necessity of the Reformation, which began only 97 years before Brother Lawrence was born? What was going through Begg’s mind as he was writing this sermon and decided to extol the writings of a committed Roman Catholic to his audience as an exemplary resource on Christian obedience? Does Begg not consider the effect of recommending a Roman Catholic writer to his evangelical audience or is he well past that point? Can we also expect pastor Begg to recommend the eloquent devotional writings of other false gospel, works-religionists such as Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Smith, Jr., or Mary Baker Eddy? Can anyone imagine a Charles Spurgeon or a Martyn Lloyd-Jones recommending from the pulpit a book written by a committed Roman Catholic to their congregations?

All of the above questions are obviously rhetorical. Ecumenical accommodation and compromise are rampant in the Body of Christ. There’s more than ignorance and carelessness at work here.

Leonard Feeney opposed Catholicism’s drift into Universalism

One of the fundamental doctrines of Roman Catholicism is baptismal regeneration. The Roman church teaches that water administered in conjunction with the recitation of the trinitarian baptism formula actually cleanses a soul (in Catholicism, usually an infant) of all original sin and by which a person is alleged to be “born again.”

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1213

The Roman church teaches that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation. However, accommodations were made for two distinct cases:

  1. In the case of individuals who had been martyred, but had not yet been baptized, the Roman church made an exception and declared that those individuals had experienced a “baptism of blood,” that their bloody death had served as a legitimate baptism.
  2. Then there was the case of individuals who had been studying/preparing to be baptized and enter the church, but died before they could be baptized. The church declared that such persons were covered by “baptism of desire” (baptismus flaminis).

For 1500 years, the Catholic church taught that only people who were physically baptized as well as those two exceptions – unbaptized people who died as Catholic martyrs or people who died while desiring Catholic baptism – could possibly merit Heaven. But as modernism entered into the Catholic church in the 20th-century, the second accommodation began to be understood much more broadly among Catholic theologians and prelates. The notion that baptized Protestants could also merit Heaven was increasingly accepted by Catholic leadership and along with that accommodation came the belief that Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and those of other religions could also merit Heaven. The argument was that “good-hearted” people of those religions would desire Catholic baptism if they understood its importance, so, theoretically, they would also be covered by “baptism of desire.” These further accommodations were made official at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) via the declarations, “Unitatis redintegratio” and “Nostra aetate.” Pope Francis has since stated, although without a formal declaration to this point, that even “good” and “moral” atheists are covered by “baptism of desire.” Catholicism now upholds an impossible dichotomy; that a person MUST be baptized to possibly attain Heaven, and that a person needn’t be baptized to possibly attain Heaven if they don’t understand baptism’s significance.

Not all Catholics accepted this new, modernist-universalist understanding. Jesuit priest, Leonard E. Feeney (1897-1978), had been a very popular author and apologist for Roman Catholicism in the United States for twenty-years. However, he ran afoul of modern-leaning prelates, especially archbishop, Richard James Cushing of Boston where Feeney lived, when, in the 1940s, he began to publicly oppose this evolving new interpretation of “baptism of desire.” Feeney strongly defended the traditional, literal Catholic teaching of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation). Interestingly, it was Robert F. Kennedy, a young, Harvard undergraduate at the time, who led the campaign to censure Feeney. For his very public obstinacy, Feeney was formally excommunicated from the church in 1953, but was reinstated in 1972 in his old age and declining health.

The new Vatican II accommodations to Protestants and other religionists took many years to spread through the church and become accepted. I can vividly remember a specific incident while attending Bishop Kearney Catholic High School in Rochester in the early 1970s. Irish Christian Brother, John “Cookie” Gilchrist, was teaching our religion class and reiterated the traditional Catholic teaching that only baptized Catholics had a chance of meriting Heaven. One of my classmates, Dennis Kennelly, strongly challenged Gilchrist, stating that a Protestant friend of his was a “good person” and had as much of a chance at Heaven as anyone else. Gilchrist’s face turned scarlet as he struggled to control his anger. He insisted that the church taught that only baptized Catholics could possibly merit Heaven. Amazingly, the Catholic religious instructor was not aware of the Vatican II ecumenical reforms ten years after the fact!!!

Many conservative and traditionalist Catholics believe, as Jesuit Feeney did, that the RCC deviated into error at Vatican II by declaring that non-Catholics could also merit Heaven. However, neither the traditional Catholic teaching on baptism or the modern one are the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

I intend to continue studying the Feeney controversy. To see the interesting Wiki article on Leonard Feeney, click here.

Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome

Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome
By John Warwick Montgomery, Ph.D.
Zondervan, 1969, 113 pp.

2 Stars

While reading a booklet on the errors of Catholicism, “What’s Happening in the Roman Church?: A Report from Rome” by William C. Standridge (see my review here), I took note of the author’s favorable reference to what looked to be an interesting book, “Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome” and immediately ordered a copy from an Amazon third-party used book seller.

At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic church changed its stance regarding Protestants from confrontational militancy to conciliatory cooperation. Protestant theologians were quite surprised by the dramatic change and many were eager to enter into ecumenical dialogue with the RCC.

In this book, published in 1969, John Warwick Montgomery (1931-, photo right), a theologian affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), takes a look at the rising tide of Protestant ecumenism with Rome.

Friends, I’m a Theology 101 type of guy and this book was written for Theology 401 types. The academese is so thick that the lay reader must use a fork and knife to labor through it. Difficulties aside, what I catch from the grandiloquent prose is that Montgomery definitely favors dialogue with Rome. However, he doesn’t view ecumenical discussions as accommodation and compromise, but supposedly as opportunities to witness on behalf of the genuine Gospel of grace to Roman Catholic theologians with their false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit (p. 42). What Montgomery and other overly-optimistic and naive evangelical theologians failed to consider was that ecumenical dialogue is a two-way street and Roman Catholic theologians also relished opportunities to advance their false gospel.

Below are the chapters of the book with some comments from myself:

  • Evangelical Unity and Contemporary Ecumenicity

The author notes the change to the RCC’s approach to Protestants and argues for the value of ecumenical dialogue as a chance to witness for the Gospel. Montgomery strangely devotes several pages to complimenting Eastern Orthodoxy for its emphasis on subjective mysticism, but he ultimately rejects it in favor of the absolute authority of God’s Word.

  • Sixtus of Siena and Roman Catholic Scholarship in the Reformation Period

Montgomery is highly complimentary of Catholic theologian, Sixtus of Siena (1520-1569), and his encyclopedic overview of the Bible in his “Bibliotheca Sancta” (1566), but finally renounces the scholarship of Sixtus for his intellectual approach to Scripture rather than embracing the spiritual message of the Gospel therein.

  • The Approach of New Shape Roman Catholicism to Scriptural Inerrancy: A Case Study for Evangelicals

Montgomery notes the rise of “New Shape” theologians within the Catholic church by which higher-criticism/modernism was introduced into the RCC in the 20th century. As a result, Catholic theologians (and also, prelates and priests) increasingly viewed the Bible as myth and allegory rather than God’s literal Word.

  • Rome and the “Death of God”

Modernist RCC theologians of the “New Shape” argued that the church was “progressively unfolding” and was not anchored to “ancient manuscripts” (i.e., the Bible). The RCC’s untethering from Scripture has always allowed it to place its magisterium and its evolving “sacred traditions” above God’s Word.

  • Three Reviews: Hans Kung, Alonzo Schokel, Nathan Soderblom

Montgomery cites three books that were influential in promoting ecumenism and points out their particular faults.

This is a VERY strange book. Montgomery welcomes ecumenical dialogue while simultaneously warning against Rome’s heterodoxies. Via the efforts of theologians like Montgomery, ecumenism gained a foothold within evangelicalism and eventually reached a point where the author’s cautions and objections back in 1969 were no longer voiced or even considered (see William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, etc.). Ecumenism with Rome always, always, always results in accommodation, compromise, and betrayal of the Gospel. What looked to be an interesting book turned out to be a big disappointment.

Throwback Thursday: Another evangelical pastor caves to ecumenical apostasy

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 3th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

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Back in 2010, Pastor Robert Jeffress (photo above) of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas stated the Catholic church was an apostate church corrupted by the pagan Babylonian mystery religion:

“It is that Babylonian mystery religion that infected the early church, one of the churches it infected was the church of Pergamos, which is one of the recipients of the Book of Revelation. And the early church was corrupted by this Babylonian mystery religion, and today the Roman Catholic Church is the result of that corruption.”

Hear Jeffress’ 2010 remarks about the Catholic church here.

Now, let’s fast forward to 9/24/15. During pope Francis’ visit to America at that time, Jeffress appeared on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show and revealed quite a change in his views on Catholicism:

“I have great respect for Pope Francis. He’s a humble Christ follower. We all can learn from himWith the differences we might have with Pope Francis on some of these secondary issues, I’m not going to quibble about that because, here’s the fact, as this world becomes increasingly darker I find myself having much more in common with my Catholic friends than I even do with liberal Baptists because the fact is we are fighting together against a common enemy, the kingdom of darkness.”

See the video of Jeffress’ 2015 remarks about pope Francis and the Catholic church here.

Wow! Jeffress radically changed his views between 2010 and 2015 and compromised the Gospel of grace by joining a number of other evangelical pastors in embracing works-righteousness Catholics as co-belligerents and fellow-Christians in the conservative political crusade to “Reclaim America for Jesus.” At some point in those five years, Jeffress decided that temporal American political concerns were more important than the Gospel. Shame on him. Lost Catholic souls need the Gospel of grace, NOT crusaders for political conservatism.

Throwback Thursday: One of those old and angry ex-Catholics?

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 9th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

[The information in this post is closely associated with the “Throwback Thursday” post that was published just a few weeks ago. See here.]

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In 1994, Chuck Colson’s and, Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus’s ecumenical “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) alliance issued its first declaration; “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” The gist of the statement was that both camps recognized the other as “Christian” and resolved to join as allies in the culture war against secularism. Several notable evangelicals supported the statement, but perhaps the most surprising signatory was J. I. Packer (photo above), an influential Reformed theologian best known for his book, “Knowing God.” Packer’s endorsement of ECT was met with shock and strong criticism from many evangelicals.

One year later, ECT leadership released “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission,” a collection of articles defending the ECT declaration, written by six of the document’s signers, including Packer. In his article, Packer argued that his endorsement of ECT was not an approval of the doctrines of Catholicism. He stated, in so many words, that if Catholics are saved, they are saved in spite of their church’s standard theology, not as a result of it. But, as I noted in a previous post, as a signatory of ECT, Packer was quite willing to give every Catholic the benefit of the doubt.

In defending himself from his critics, Packer wrote:

“The most poignant expressions of these criticisms come from middle-aged and elderly individuals who found Christ and spiritual life in evangelicalism after failing to find either in the Roman Catholicism of their birth and who cannot believe that Protestants who back ECT know what they’re doing” (p.156).

Packer’s statement is condescending at best and insulting at worst. Well, J. I., who best to comment on a false religious system than one who was once held in bondage by it? Who best to answer whether Christ and spiritual life can be found in Catholicism than ex-Catholics who have accepted Christ and come out of that church with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit? On the one hand, Packer readily admits that salvation cannot be found in the standard theology of the Catholic church, but then he turns around and backhands the ex-Catholic critics of ECT as being a bunch of bitter, old fogeys! Well, it’s easy to see that J. I. was quite stung by the well-deserved criticism of his participation in ECT and lashed out irrationally and uncharitably.

In some cursory readings, I see Packer was always a bit of an ecumenist, being an ardent admirer of C.S. Lewis, which eventually led to his break with David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones! Now there was a man of God who knew the danger of cozying up to Rome and wasn’t afraid to speak about it!  To read Lloyd-Jones’ sermon, “Roman Catholicism,” see here.

It’s been twenty-one years since the first ECT document was published and the fruits of Colson’s, Packer’s and other ecumenists’ efforts are everywhere. It’s a rising tide. A recent survey found that 58 percent of self-identified evangelical Christian pastors agreed that pope Francis was a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ,” while another 19 percent responded that they were not sure. What that means is only 23 percent of the evangelical Christian pastors who were polled disagreed with the statement that the pope is a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ.” I shouldn’t be surprised at the rising apostasy. The Bible does speak about it. And, no, I shouldn’t be hateful towards Packer and other misguided evangelicals who embrace the RCC and serve as the Vatican’s “polezni durak” (useful fools). However, I love my Catholic family members, friends, and Catholics in general who endlessly toil to be “good enough” to merit Heaven. Ach! What a rat race they run! They need evangelicals who will confront them with their sinful state and present them with the genuine Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. They don’t need accommodating and compromising evangelicals like J.I. Packer, who betray them and the Gospel.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

I’m clothed with my Savior’s imputed perfect righteousness. Now THAT’S something to REJOICE about! Yep, I am a HAPPY guy! Repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ and trust in Him as your Savior by faith alone, not in your own efforts or the man-made traditions your church.

Back when Bible Christians began making erroneous assumptions about Catholicism – Part 2

Born-Again Catholics and the Mass
By William C. Standridge
Independent Faith Mission, 1980, 32 pp.

5 Stars

Yesterday, we reviewed the 1975 booklet, “What’s Happening in the Roman Church,” by William Standridge, in which the missionary-to-Italy commented on the growing misbelief within evangelicalism that the Catholic church was moving closer to Biblical Christianity (see here). Today, we’ll take a look at Standridge’s 1980 follow-up booklet, “Born-Again Catholics and the Mass.”

This publication provides some of the puzzle pieces that were missing in the previous booklet. The author begins by once again noting the confusion among some evangelicals caused by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement. Adherents were allegedly manifesting the Pentecostal “gifts of the spirit,” including speaking in tongues (aka glossolalia), healings, prophecy, and being “slain in the spirit.” CCR Catholics were also adopting the moniker of “born-again Catholics” although they still followed their church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. For Catholics who were involved in the Renewal, being “born-again” meant experiencing the emotional euphoria involved with the Pentecostal practices rather than trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone and being reborn spiritually in Christ.

In the chapters that follow, Standridge compares the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church, reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), especially as they pertain to the Catholic mass, with Holy Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches there is no longer any need for a sacredotal priesthood or perpetual sacrifice for sin. The Roman church’s teaching that its sacraments infuse grace to the recipients, so that they are able to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!), in order to possibly merit Heaven at the moment of their death is contrary to the Scriptures, which state that a person is only saved by repenting of (turning from) their sin and accepting (trusting in) Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. A Catholic who is genuinely born-again in Jesus Christ will increasingly understand from Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit that the mass, with its mediatorial priests, perpetual sacrifice, faux Jesus wafer, and merit-based false gospel, is antithetical to the Gospel of grace and he/she will leave the Roman church.

Standridge also credits Vatican II’s conciliatory gestures toward Protestants as the cornerstone of the subsequent ecumenical and interfaith movements that were evident in 1980 and would grow exponentially afterwards, all under the auspices of the RCC. Because of Vatican II’s winsome approach to Protestants and the subsequent Catholic Charismatic Renewal, evangelicals were increasingly deceived into believing that the Roman church was moving closer to Biblical Christianity.

It’s my subjective observation that charismatic Catholics are now much-less apt to refer to themselves as “born-again Catholics” as they did when this booklet was written in 1980. They’ve generally fallen in line with their church’s official terminology, that a person (infant, child, or adult) is “born-again” when they are baptized.

I appreciated this second booklet by William Standridge, which filled in some of the gaps missing in his previous effort.

Back when Bible Christians began making erroneous assumptions about Catholicism – Part 1

What’s Happening in the Roman Church?: A Report from Rome
By William C. Standridge
Independent Faith Mission, 1975*, 32 pp.

4 Stars

Several generations ago, evangelical Christians in America were under no illusions regarding Catholicism. The Catholic church unabashedly preached “another gospel” of salvation by sacramental grace and merit rather than the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. However, confusion was starting to grow among evangelicals back when this booklet was first published in 1975* and even before. Some Christians were erroneously claiming that the Roman Catholic church was reforming itself and moving towards Biblical Christianity. What were the bases of those claims? Were they accurate? William C. Standridge, an evangelical missionary to Italy, partially addresses those questions in this short and somewhat informative publication.

Standridge notes that throughout its long history, the Roman church has always been able to accommodate a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices underneath its broad tent as long as some basics are adhered to; most importantly, fidelity to the papacy and magisterium and belief in the efficacy of the sacraments. The author also notes that, as important to the church as its religious doctrines and practices are, its political influence and financial wealth are equally important. The church’s sprawling bureaucracy is focused as much on temporal concerns as it is on quasi-spiritual ones.

After building his case, Standridge gets to the crux of this booklet on page 20. In February 1967, some students at Catholic Duquesne University manifested the Pentecostal practice of speaking in tongues (aka glossolalia). The phenomenon spread quickly within Catholicism, resulting in many Pentecostals and charismatics wondering if the genuine Gospel had taken hold within the Roman church? The Catholic hierarchy accommodated the Catholic charismatics and their “gifts,” as it did with so many other enthusiasts dedicated to a particular “devotion,” because the Catholic charismatics still held to their church’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. In fact, Catholic charismatics characteristically displayed a greater zeal for the mass and Mary worship than non-charismatics. But Protestant Pentecostals and charismatics were now in a pickle. Because Catholic charismatics manifested the requisite “gifts of the spirit,” pressure mounted to embrace them as Christians and the RCC as a Christian entity despite irreconcilable doctrinal differences. Standridge also notes that many younger, “rebel” priests were using evangelical terminology that was giving the false impression that they were teaching the genuine Gospel.

I give this booklet an “A” for effort, but only a “B” for substance. There definitely WAS change taking place within Catholicism in the 1960s and 70s that was prompting some evangelicals to draw unwarranted conclusions. Chief among the change agents was the conciliatory approach of the Second Vatican Council, but, yes, the growth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement also had an influence.

Standridge would rightly address the powerful influence of Vatican II in his next booklet, “Born Again Catholics and the Mass” (1980), which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow.

*My edition of this booklet states that it was published in 1975, but some events from 1978 and 1979 are cited within, so this is certainly the subsequent 1980 edition.

Throwback Thursday: Ravi Zacharias impersonates Fred Astaire while compromising the Gospel

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on October 29, 2015, but has been revised substantially.

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Ravi Zacharias is a very familiar name to many evangelicals. The apologist has written several popular books, makes appearances all across the country, and his half-hour daily radio show is broadcast by many Christian radio stations. Mr. Zacharias* is an intelligent and very well-spoken orator and can be a pleasure to listen to regarding some topics. But, as an ex-Catholic saved by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone, it troubles me greatly that Mr. Zacharias often references committed Roman Catholics in his presentations as if they were Gospel Christians. I have personally heard him extol St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, and Malcolm Muggeridge. All three were committed to Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Mr. Zacharias also appeared as a speaker at the “Together 2016” ecumenical event in Washington D.C., which included a video-greeting from pope Francis.

Above is a 6-minute YouTube video that gives some additional perspective on Mr. Zacharias’ accommodation of Roman Catholicism. At an evangelical seminar, a young man has a question for Mr. Zacharias. He states that he’s been involved in street evangelism for six or seven years and has often encountered members of religious groups widely identified as cults, such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But he also mentions that he regularly encounters Roman Catholics. The young man asks Mr. Zacharias, albeit somewhat inarticulately because of nerves, to clarify for him whether Roman Catholicism is a cult or an apostate church?

Well, Mr. Zacharias tap dances around the question like Fred Astaire for about five minutes and manages to avoid giving anything resembling a forthright answer. It’s actually quite stunning to witness. Why the great hesitancy, Mr. Zacharias? Why the obfuscation? Can people be saved through the Catholic church’s standard theology of salvation via sacramental grace and merit or not? Is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone the only way to Heaven or not? What was so extremely difficult about the young man’s question, Mr. Zacharias, that caused you to hem and haw for five long minutes? Yes, Gospel-preaching churches and denominations have their secondary-belief distinctives, but, at its core, does the Roman Catholic church preach the genuine Gospel or not? That was the crux of the question as you very well knew.

The audience heartily applauded Mr. Zacharias for his “wise” and “gracious” non-reply, but that young man left the hall more confused than when he entered.

Catholic apologists and priests have absolutely NO problem proclaiming that their church is the “one true church” and that it alone possesses the “fullness of the gospel.” Catholic apologists and priests have absolutely NO problem disparaging “Bible-thumping evangelicals” and their “easy-believism” Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. So why then are evangelical preachers and apologists, like Mr. Zacharias, so deferential when it comes to Roman Catholicism? What are Mr. Zacharias and the others so afraid of? What spirit is driving them to cooperate, accommodate, compromise, and tap dance on egg shells? The young man mentioned Charles Spurgeon and his uncompromising stand regarding Catholicism. Where are the Spurgeons of today?

Lord, thank you for watchmen who are faithful to the Gospel of grace and who continue to work the ripe fields of the Roman Catholic lost.

*Some may be assuming that I am being disrespectful by referring to Ravi Zacharias as “Mr.” rather than “Dr.” in this post. In my first draft of this Throwback Thursday revision, I did refer to Ravi Zacharias as “Dr. Zacharias,” however, I subsequently learned that questions were raised recently regarding his academic credentials and, as per a statement on his own website, he is requesting that no one refer to him any longer as “doctor.” I point that out not as an attack (academic credentials can be absolutely meaningless as we all know), but for purposes of clarification.