Throwback Thursday: Catholic church celebrates 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” but let’s not forget its anti-Semitic past

Last month, the world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz even while we’re concurrently witnessing a rising trend in populist, anti-Semitic violence. For this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 29, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences
By Anthony J. Sciolino
iUniverse, 2012, 270 pp.

On October 28, 1965, pope Paul VI issued Nostra Aetate (Latin, “In our Time”), the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. The document was a RADICAL change in the “unchanging” Roman Catholic church’s approach to “non-Christian” religions. Instead of viewing Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism as false religions, as it had in the past, with this document Catholicism declared there was a certain amount of truth in all religious faiths and that it was possible for people of other works-righteousness creeds to earn their salvation as well. Nostra Aetate took an especially conciliatory tone towards the Jews.

In October, 2015, many Jewish leaders commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate declaration with its startlingly dramatic change in church policy. Regrettably, many of today’s Catholics are entirely unaware of the church’s long history of militant anti-Semitism. Jews throughout Europe were harassed and persecuted by the Catholic population over the centuries. Intolerance was often incited and encouraged by the Catholic clergy. Jews were the victims of involuntary baptisms, enforced segregation, boycotts, exclusionary quotas, pogroms, massacres, and expulsions. When European anti-Semitism reached its culmination in the 20th century Holocaust, Adolf Hitler defended himself by appealing to church history:

“As for the Jews, I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic church has adopted for fifteen hundred years, when it has regarded the Jews as dangerous and pushed them into ghettos, etc., because it knew what the Jews were like.” – Adolf Hitler

In “The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences: How Christian Anti-Judaism Spawned Nazi Anti-Semitism,” family court judge and Roman Catholic deacon, Anthony Sciolino, objectively examines how the Catholic church’s systematic, anti-Semitic policies led to Hitler’s Holocaust.

But this ex-Catholic has a question regarding Catholic anti-Semitism: If the RC church has always been guided by the Holy Spirit and is the “foundation of truth” as Catholics claim, and if the Catholic popes have been infallible in vital matters of faith and morals as they also claim, then how could the church have been SO TERRIBLY WRONG, for century after century, when it came to its anti-Semitic policies and practices? Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all officially apologized for the anti-Semitic policies and practices of their predecessors. What does that say for the claims of a divinely-led Magisterium?

I praise the Lord daily that He has freed me from the chains of the worldly-minded Catholic church and saved me by His grace through simple faith in Jesus Christ alone. Contrary to Nostra Aetate, God’s Word says salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” – John 3:18

But we reach out to the lost with the love of Jesus Christ, not with hatred.

The abduction of a Jewish boy by the Catholic church that caused an international uproar

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara
By David I. Kertzer
Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, 350 pages

The Roman Catholic church has an extremely uncomplimentary history in regards to its relationship with the Jews. There’s a lengthy and sordid record of persecution, pogroms, forced baptisms, ghetto quarantines, and expulsions. Popes, prelates, and priests were not only aware of the intolerance, they were more often than not the instigators. Adolf Hitler credited the Catholic church with fomenting anti-Semitism throughout Europe, which culminated in his Final Solution:

“The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc, because it recognized the Jews for what they were …. I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the Church.” – Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933.

By the mid-19th-century, autocratic, monarchical governments in Europe were being overturned in favor of democratic republicanism. The Papal States on the Italian Peninsula represented one of the last vestiges of one-man-rule tyranny. In the midst of this revolution was an incident that became an international symbol of the struggle between the old rule versus the new.

In this excellent book, the author describes in detail the “Mortara Case.” In 1858, in the city of Bologna, which was part of the Papal States, information reached the office of the Roman Catholic Holy Inquisition that a six-year-old Jewish boy had been baptized as a baby by the family’s Catholic servant. Church law forbade that a “Christian” child could be raised by Jews. With permission from the Vatican, the inquisitor directed the civil magistrates to forcibly remove the boy from his family. The child, Edgardo Mortara, was immediately sent to Rome to be raised and indoctrinated into the Catholic religion by clerics. The abduction of Jewish children who had been secretly baptized was not uncommon.

Edgardo’s father strongly protested the kidnapping of his son. Such acts had been accepted as prerogatives of the Catholic majority in previous generations, but as Western Europe moved increasingly toward democracy, the affront became an unacceptable symbol of old rule. Jewish communities around the world were galvanized via their own newspapers. Ambassadors of many national governments lodged complaints with the “Holy See.” In the United States, Protestant pastors and journalists pointed to the Mortara Case as an example of the depravity of the papacy and Catholic system. Champions of Italian unification used the incident as a cause célèbre in the effort to relieve pope Pius IX of his significant territorial holdings (approx. 7000 sq. mi). Despite the mounting international outrage, Pius resisted returning Edgardo to his parents and actually took a personal role in raising the the boy (Edgardo eventually entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1873). When Italian military forces of the “Risorgimento” captured Rome in 1870, pope Pius IX reacted by excommunicating everyone who participated in or assisted the “rebellion.”

This is an excellent history of a very sordid affair. The author successfully juxtaposes the heartbreaking predicament of Edgardo’s parents and the father’s determined but unsuccessful efforts to rescue his son alongside the growing international pressure against the pope and his arbitrary religiosity. The author did his homework. The references to various records and testimonies are voluminous. Perhaps the only drawback to the book is the thirty-one pages devoted to the unrelated investigation and trial of Edgardo’s father on murder charges in 1871. The material detracts from the main topic, but it’s not a show-stopper.

This book was a finalist in the 1997 National Book Awards. Steven Spielberg is currently developing the story of the Mortara Case into a feature film.

Most contemporary Catholics would view the Mortara Case as an embarrassment and a product of “unenlightened, sectarian religiosity.” But how do today’s conservative Catholic apologists explain their church’s institutional anti-Semitism, which was advanced by allegedly Holy Spirit-guided popes and prelates and included the abduction of Edgardo Mortara from his parents that was personally upheld by the “Vicar of Christ”? They’ve shown they can shamelessly rationalize away every unflattering sensibility and event in their church’s past.

Postscript: In 1998, John Paul II became the first pope to issue an apology to Jews for all of the Catholic priests, prelates, and infallible popes of previous generations who promoted and supported anti-Jewish persecution. Click on the link below for a very recent story regarding pope Francis’ apologies for the anti-Semitism of popes and prelates in the past:

Catholics must continue seeking pardon for anti-Judaism, pope says
https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/01/16/catholics-must-continue-seeking-pardon-for-anti-judaism-pope-says/

What??? You still work at Kodak?!?!?!

I started working at Kodak back in 1976 when I was 19-years-old. Back then, the company was THE place to work in Rochester with 60,000 local employees, yes, 60,000! Everyone in the Rochester metropolitan area either worked at Kodak or had a close relative who did. In the 70s, the company was still a Dow Jones, blue chip giant that had a virtual monopoly on the consumer and professional photography businesses. But in the early-80s, foreign competition began chipping away at the profits. The layoffs started in earnest in 1985 and would continue unrelentingly.

I had started out in the consumer camera production portion of the business and worked my way up to a white collar job, but when the layoffs began in 1985, I was knocked back down to an entry-level position. Possibly just a tiny bit bitter about having to start from scratch again, I also sensed the future of the consumer division was less-than-tenuous, so in 1988 I transferred to an entry-level spot in the copier production division. I slowly worked my way up the chain and even attended night school to earn a degree in production management. I was promoted to first-line supervision in 1999 and did that stressful and thankless job for 10 years. By 2009, foreign competition had reduced the copier division to a shadow of itself and I was laid off in one of the ongoing cost-cuttings. My boss was improbably able to find a job for me within the company and only two weeks later I was back in a service support role where I’ve been for the last nine years.

Foreign competition, followed by the faster-than-expected switch from analog film to digital technology was a one-two punch Kodak couldn’t overcome. The layoffs began in 1985 and they’ve continued just about every year right up to the present. That’s 33 years of perpetual layoffs, folks. The company has been reduced to about 2000 employees in Rochester, a far, far cry from its glory days. To borrow a cliche, the company is currently “running on fumes” with the end definitely in sight. When I tell Rochesterians that I’m still at Kodak, they can’t believe anyone is still working there. They tell me I must have been a super employee to have survived all of those layoffs, but the truth of the matter is that employees much better than me were laid off decades ago. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I’m 62 years old now with 42.5 years at Kodak. My wife and I only have one year left to pay off our 15-year mortgage, so we’re starting to set our sights on retirement. We hadn’t seen a financial planner in several years, so last February I made some half-hearted inquiries to our old CFP and this past week we began to seriously collect all the financial records and documents we need to begin that process again. I enjoy collecting all of that paperwork about as much as a root canal, but my wife is becoming increasingly frustrated with her work situation and is prodding me into action. I know our CFP will tell us we’ll need to work until we’re 65, but I seriously doubt whether Kodak or my employment there will make it that far.

Some advice for my younger friends:

  • Start contributing to your 401K account as soon as possible. Before my wife started working, we lived from paycheck to paycheck and I didn’t start contributing until I was 34. When I first started at Kodak, many of the older guys were able to retire in their late-50s because of the company pension plan, company-paid medical insurance, and retirement incentive packages. That’s all gone now.
  • See a financial planner periodically. Yeah, I know it’s expensive, but it doesn’t need to be every year. You’re not going to have a realistic retirement plan without some professional guidance.

The Lord God provided me with good employment at Kodak for 42 years, but that could end tomorrow. No matter the outcome, I’m grateful for everything He’s blessed me with. I look forward to retirement, but I also know every day is a gift. The Lord could take me home tonight. People put their faith in temporal institutions, like Kodak used to be, but nothing in this world is rock solid. Everything could change in a moment. Your big 401K nest egg won’t mean a thing when you breathe your last breath.

Are you ready to stand before a Holy God? We’re all sinners and our sin separates us from God. We all deserve eternal punishment. But God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to pay the penalty for our sins when He died on the cross. But Jesus overcame sin and death when He rose from the grave and He offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent of their sin and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Won’t you pray to Jesus and ask Him to save you?

“And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:16-21

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 6/2/18

Observers weren’t all that surprised that Ireland passed a national referendum legalizing abortion by a 2-to-1 margin. It wasn’t all that long ago when Ireland was THE bastion of Catholicism in Europe, but the banning of all contraceptives, including non-abortifacients, by the church and the widespread scandals of abusive Catholic clergy caused many to turn against the church and organized religion. Pope Francis was noticeably silent in the build-up to the vote. In the past, he has echoed the viewpoint of the progressive wing of the church regarding abortion, saying that he doesn’t want Catholicism to be known for being a “one issue” institution.

The growing emphasis on emotionalism and experientialism within evangelical (c)hristianity has opened the door to all types of aberrant phenomena.

Anyone who’s been around Catholicism long enough is aware that quite a few of its priests are effeminate. Francis and the progressives are moving the church towards blessing gay unions (which are undoubtedly already being performed on the QT by liberal priests).

Jim Bakker and his cousins on TBN are a blight on the body of Christ.

Have you noticed this newest squabble over Catholic-Lutheran intercommunion in Germany has taken the spotlight off of the controversy over Francis’ lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees? Francis’ agenda keeps rolling along. Will the conservatives eventually just run out of ammunition and acquiesce to the progressive steamroller or will they break away?

I’m convinced a number of these Marian phenomena are of demonic origin.

The former primate of Poland, cardinal August Hlond (d. 1948), is being proposed for canonization to sainthood. In interwar Poland, anti-Semitism was accepted as common currency and supported by the Catholic church. Hlond vilified Jews in his infamous 1936 pastoral letter, but such behavior is not considered scandalous in contemporary Catholic Poland where anti-Semitism still runs deep.

Are there any genuine, blood-bought, born-again believers who attend Osteen’s church or faithfully watch him on TBN? Are they reading God’s Word? What goes through their mind and spirit when they encounter Biblical passages that are totally contrary to Osteenism?

Prayers of TBN regulars open U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

Yesterday, the United States officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem (photo above) on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the modern nation of Israel.

President Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is highly controversial and sparked criticism and protest throughout the world. The nation of Jordan had controlled East Jerusalem until 1967, when Israel took possession of the entire city during the Six Day War. Palestinians desire to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future, totally independent Palestinian state and that plan has the support of most of the international community.

Despite discussions in previous peace negotiations regarding the future status of East Jerusalem, there is little doubt that Israel will never willingly cede part of its capital to Palestinian/Muslim control.

I’m not one who focuses on endtimes eschatology a great deal, but the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, especially on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, strikes me as an act of important spiritual significance.

I noticed that a pair of controversial American pastors were invited by President Trump to address the opening ceremonies at the Jerusalem embassy:

Robert Jeffress led the opening prayer. He’s a TBN regular, although the conservative Southern Baptist pastor is somewhat unusual in that he doesn’t share any of the cable network’s “Word of Faith” and prosperity gospel proclivities. However, Jeffress is probably the prime advocate today for church-state symbiosis. Jeffress gladly took on the mantle of the deceased Jerry Falwell, Sr. in the crusade to “reclaim America for Christ.” Jeffress was at one time openly critical of Roman Catholicism and its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit, but he did a 180-degree about-face (see here) in his efforts to enlist political conservatives of many denominational stripes in the culture war against secularism. Jeffress has been one of President Trump’s most unwavering and vocal supporters.

John Hagee delivered the closing “benediction.” Hagee is also a TBN regular and one who aligns much more closely with the cable network’s heterodoxies. Hagee is a leading proponent of the “Word of Faith” prosperity gospel and specializes in endtimes predictions. In his 2013 bestseller, “Four Blood Moons,” Hagee prophesied that the four lunar eclipses, which took place in 2014 and 2015, would signal the immediate beginning of the endtime apocalypse.

Together, Jeffress and Hagee represent some of the most unfortunate movements within evangelicalism today.

 

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Robert Jeffress and John Hagee at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

Television Update

Time to get caught up on our Catholic-themed television shows…

Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History
Episode Five: The Wartime Popes (this title is a misnomer because the episode is almost entirely about Pius XII)
CNN, originally aired 4/8/18

This episode focuses on the extremely controversial papacy of Eugenio Pacelli aka Pius XII. Previously the papal nuncio/ambassador to Germany, Pacelli was appointed Cardinal Secretary of State by pope Pius XI in 1930. In that capacity, he negotiated a number of concordats (treaties) with various European and Latin American countries, most of which contained clauses that recognized Catholicism as the state religion and suppressed Protestant churches. Pacelli’s brother, Francesco, had been instrumental in negotiating the Lateran Treaty in 1929 between the Vatican and fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. Eugenio Pacelli negotiated the Reichskonkordat with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany in 1933. Eugenio was elected to the papacy in 1939 for his diplomatic experience in the face of increasing international volatility.

Pope Pius XII has been strongly criticized over the last 70 years for his deafening silence in the face of the Nazis’ genocide of European Jewry during the Second World War. His defenders insist the pope chose to work quietly behind the scenes in attempting to help Jews rather than risk additional persecution with a public denunciation. While Hitler’s brutality affected Catholics throughout Europe, the church also recognized the German fascist dictator was a bulwark against its most feared and hated enemy, Russian Soviet communism.

Pius XII would later define the doctrine of the physical assumption of Mary into Heaven as dogma in 1950. Admirers have been pressing for Pacelli’s canonization despite his controversial papacy.

Those who aren’t aware of the controversy surrounding Pius XII and the Holocaust will find this episode quite interesting.

Next and final episode: “Courage, Change, & the Modern Papacy,” airs tonight, 4/15/18


 

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Living Biblically
Episode Seven: Let Us Pray
CBS, originally aired 4/9/18

Chip confides to his “god squad” (a priest and rabbi) that he has some difficulties with praying (he mentions the “Hail Mary” prayer as one of his regulars). Priest Gene advises Chip to keep trying and promises prayer will eventually come naturally. Shortly afterwards, Chip is stuck in an elevator with some of his co-workers and his prayer seems to facilitate their rescue. Chip is not happy about his atheist mother-in-law staying with him and his wife for a short time, including her constant jabs at his religion. When she suffers an apparent heart attack, Chip’s prayer for her seems to result in her medical stabilization (the heart attack turned out to be a peptic ulcer).

No Gospel here, folks. It’s all about the religion of Cain.

Next episode, “Show Hospitality,” airing 4/16/18

“Yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament
By John MacArthur
Crossway, 2018, 224 pages

Isaiah 52:13-15, Isaiah:53

I remember reading through the Old Testament for the first time and coming upon chapters 52 and 53 of Isaiah. Wow! Here in a book written 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ was a detailed description of the coming Messiah as the “suffering servant.” I was absolutely floored!

In this (mostly) excellent book, John MacArthur breaks down the end of chapter 52 and the entirety of chapter 53 which entail Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah. Chapters are as follows:

  1. The Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament
  2. About Whom Does the Prophet Say This?
  3. Astonishing! (The Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a dynamic religious/political/military leader, not Jesus!)
  4. What if Some Did Not Believe?
  5. The Substituted Servant
  6. The Silent Servant
  7. The Suffering and Exalted Servant
  8. The Sin-Bearing Servant
  9. Here I Am! Send Me
  10. Judah’s Demise

Many call Isaiah 52-53 the “Fifth Gospel” because therein we have the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His death for sins and His resurrection.

I regularly listen to Catholic apologist, David Anders, and one of his pet peeves with evangelical belief is the doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Anders regularly mocks evangelicals for their view of God the Father as a “bloodthirsty tyrant,” but as MacArthur points out, Isaiah 53 presents one of the strongest proofs of Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” – Isaiah 53:4,10-11

One of the many interesting facts that MacArthur points out is that Isaiah 53 is NEVER read in Jewish synagogues. Ever. That is not surprising because darkness always runs from the light.

Every believer would benefit by following along with JMac as he breaks down this glorious prophecy of our Savior, verse by verse.

Postscript: In support of his claims regarding the future salvation of Israel, MacArthur appeals to the writings of Thomas Aquinas, whom he cites as “the most influential (and probably the best) of the medieval Roman Catholic theologians” (p. 136). What? Is the evangelical infatuation with Thomism now rubbing off on MacArthur, too? Why would JMac feel the need to appeal to Aquinas on this issue when Aquinas was SO WRONG on SO MANY other theological issues? I don’t get it. JMac previously felt the need to favorably cite Catholic apologist, G.K. Chesterton, in his 2017 book, “The Gospel According to Paul.” See here. What motivates these conservative evangelical leaders, ESPECIALLY someone like John MacArthur, when they commend Roman Catholic sources to their readers? Spiritual forces are at work. It’s sad that I have to write the following in connection with MacArthur, but savor the meat and spit out the bones.

Good Friday? Easter?

Today is “Good Friday,” a day in which many memorialize Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, and I have a few thoughts about that:

I was a member of the Roman Catholic church for twenty-seven years, and like all Catholics, I was heavily steeped in the church’s liturgical calendar. Every day was either a “solemnity,” “feast day,” or “memorial.” The most important days on the Catholic liturgical calendar were obviously Christmas and Easter.

After reading God’s Word for several years, I found it increasingly difficult to reconcile Catholic teaching with Scripture, so I stopped attending mass. After a couple years of personal spiritual turmoil, I finally prayed to Jesus Christ, repented of my sins, and accepted Him as my Savior by faith alone! Thank you, Jesus!

As a new Christian, I found that the calendrical religious celebrations that were a staple of Catholicism no longer appealed to me. In Christ, one day is the same as the next. The formalism and ritualism of these “holidays” were empty substitutes for a personal relationship with Christ that comes only by trusting in Him as Savior by faith alone. My faith in Christ was/is not based on a calendar. There were also a couple of other objections I had to these “holidays.” As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, it (c)hristianized pagan religious celebrations in order to attract and appease new converts. Some of the traditions of these “holidays” are rooted in paganism. Not only that, but in modern times, “holidays” like Christmas and Easter have been increasingly commercialized and secularized and have lost their religious connection in the minds of many/most.

Yet, there are many blood-bought, born-again believers who treasure these calendrical celebrations. Their thinking is different from mine. They see nothing wrong with commemorating the birth and resurrection of Christ. Instead, they see these celebrations as positive affirmations of their faith that they can share with family and friends.

For a few years following my acceptance of Christ as my Savior, I was strongly opposed to celebrating these “holidays,” but I’ve since changed my thinking. While I don’t go out of my way to celebrate these popular “holidays,” I understand many of my brothers and sisters in the Lord see them as a good thing. In Christ, we have the freedom and liberty to view these matters differently. Each individual Christian must follow the Lord’s leading and decide for themselves without condemning others. I personally view these “holidays” as fantastic opportunities to get together with unbelieving family and friends and bring up Jesus and the Gospel. I have done so many times and will again this weekend, Lord willing.

Today is Good Friday, but I’m not thinking about my Lord’s death on the cross for my sins any more than I do any other day. That’s the glorious, indescribable beauty and joy of walking with my Lord, Savior, and Shepherd on a daily, make that hourly, make that heartbeat-to-heartbeat, basis. There’s no need to anticipate religious “holidays” on the calendar when you’re walking hand-in-hand with the Lord every single day. But many of my brothers and sisters in Christ really enjoy these days, so I say, peace, and have at it in the Lord! When you wish me a “Merry Christmas” and a “Happy Easter” with love and goodwill in the Lord, I will reciprocate in kind.

I know there are some believers who feel very strongly about not recognizing these “holidays,” and I get it. But each Christian must determine what is right for them.

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” – Romans 14:5-9. See all of Romans 14, a wonderful instruction from the Lord on this issue, here.

IMPORTANT: Most people have heard of Jesus Christ and know that He died on a cross two-thousand years ago, but they don’t understand what that means for them personally. The Bible says we are all sinners and we all deserve eternal punishment, but God loves us so much He sent His Son to this Earth to live a perfect life and die for our sins as our substitute. But He didn’t stay dead. In three days, He rose from the grave, beating sin and death. He now offers the free gift of eternal life to everyone who repents of their sin and trusts in Him as their Savior. Jesus died for you. He was thinking of you when He was hanging on that cross two-thousand years ago. Will you pray to Jesus on this Good Friday and accept Him as your Savior? After you have accepted Jesus, ask Him to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” – John 1:12

Many, many people will attend a church service this Easter Sunday, but only a fraction of them will be trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Going to church doesn’t save. Being a good person doesn’t save (because no one is actually good). Believing intellectually about a man who died on a cross two-thousand years ago doesn’t save. Each and every person must come to Jesus Christ in prayer and accept Him as their Savior by faith alone.

Film about Steve McQueen symbolizes Gospel compromise

A short time ago, I reviewed Greg Laurie’s book about actor Steve McQueen’s conversion to Jesus Christ. See here.

I usually catch the last five minutes of Laurie’s radio show every morning as I’m driving into work and lately he’s been pumping the movie follow-up to the book. “Steve McQueen: American Icon” will be playing in selected theaters across the country on Thursday, September 28th only. This is an evangelism tool with Laurie giving an invitation to accept Christ at the end of the film. See the official website here.

I enjoyed Laurie’s book about McQueen and I was even contemplating going to the theater to see the movie. But as one of his pitch points, Laurie mentioned that actor/director/producer, Mel Gibson, is interviewed during the film. Mel Gibson? Again? Laurie featured Gibson on his last TBN-televised Harvest crusade and there’s a quote

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Laurie and Tridentine Catholc, Gibson, kibitzing for the audience at a Harvest crusade

from Gibson recommending “Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon” on the book’s dust jacket. But Mel Gibson is an ultra-traditionalist, “Tridentine” Roman Catholic, meaning he believes in salvation by sacramental grace and merit and he also believes the last six popes were imposters because of the changes adopted by the church at the Second Vatican Council. Mel Gibson is certainly not a supporter of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE. So why has he been rubbing shoulders with Laurie so much? Gibson might be a sedevacantist, but he’s also a busine$$man. Evangelicals strongly supported his film, “The Passion of the Christ” (2004), and Gibson is pragmatically counting on their support for the sequel, “Resurrection,” which is slated for release in 2019.

Greg Laurie, a TBN regular, does preach the Gospel of grace, but he also troublingly embraces as Christians those who promote a false gospel. A lot. Many evangelical pastors and para-church leaders do the same thing. Is it that Laurie looks the other way and compromises the Gospel for the sake of money and numbers? He’s just following in the footsteps of his hero, Billy Graham. Laurie and Gibson are using each other for their own purposes in an ungodly, symbiotic dance.

No, I won’t be attending “Steve McQueen: American Icon.” Maybe instead I’ll watch McQueen’s 1968 classic action thriller, “Bullitt,” which I bought on Blu-ray several weeks ago. At least there’s no Gospel-compromising shenanigans going on in that movie!

The Mortara Case: When the pope stole a child from his parents

Roman Catholics like to imagine their popes were holy and pious men who were always guided by the Holy Spirit and correctly led the church in all matters of faith and morals, but even casual students of papal history know that the reality was far from this fanciful idealization.

I’m currently reading a book by a Catholic author that mentions one of the more bizarre episodes of papal history, known as the “Mortara Case.” Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti aka pope Pius IX was elected to the papal throne in 1846. In 1857, the church inquisitor for the city of Bologna, then part of the Papal States, heard after-the-fact that a Catholic woman had secretly baptized the infant son of Jewish parents who had employed her as a servant. The laws of the Papal States prohibited the raising of Catholics by members of other faiths, so 6-year-old Edgardo Mortara was taken from his family by the police at the instigation of Pius IX. The boy was brought to the Vatican’s Esquiline Palace and his upbringing was personally managed by the pope. When Edgardo’s frantic parents finally discovered where their son was located, the pope allowed them to occasionally visit, but only under close supervision.

The abduction became a cause célèbre throughout the Western world. The international OUTRAGE was tremendous. But the pope, claiming “the blessed Virgin (was) on (his) side,” refused to return the child to his family. However, the pope soon had even bigger fish to fry. To Pius’ great chagrin, the upstart Kingdom of Italy began annexing territory belonging to the Papal States via military means, beginning in 1859 and ending in 1870 when the city of Rome fell to the “Risorgimento” forces. Public sentiment had turned decidedly against the pope partially due to the indignation over the infamous “Mortara Case.” In reaction to the rebellion, Pius issued his declaration, “Syllabus Errorum” (The Syllabus of Errors), in 1864, which condemned freedom of religion and all forms of democratic government. In 1869, Pius convened the First Vatican Council in order to define the infallible doctrine of papal infallibility.* The defiant “libertines” may have absconded with the 16,000 square miles that comprised the Papal States, but pope Pius IX made sure everyone knew HE still stood supreme in all spiritual matters.

But what of the young Jewish boy stolen from his parents and raised in the Vatican? Edgardo was eventually ordained a priest at the age of 21 and died in Belgium in 1940 at the age of 88. Both Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein are currently developing separate films based on the infamous “Mortara Case.”

But this ex-Catholic saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a few questions regarding this sorry chapter in papal history:

  1. Did pope Pius IX do the morally correct thing by abducting the Jewish child as well as encouraging the abductions of other Jewish children in similar cases? Obviously not. I certainly realize the “ex cathedra” clause doesn’t pertain in this example, but can’t we assume that the Holy Spirit would have done a much better job of guiding Pius IX in this scandalous child abduction issue if he actually had been the “Vicar of Christ”?
  2. When Pius IX absolutely condemned freedom of religion and all democratic forms of government in “The Syllabus of Errors,” was he speaking ex cathedra/infallibly or was the declaration his own personal opinion, and who decides?
  3. Pope Pius IX stood up to defiant Italian nationalists by having himself declared infallible in all teachings regarding faith and morals. But it’s puzzling that Pius, like all other popes up until 2016, taught that no remarried divorcees could receive holy communion, while, Francis, the current infallible pope, has declared that remarried divorcees are able to receive communion. Who is right? And if Francis is right, what about all the remarried divorcees who committed mortal sins by receiving communion prior to the publication of “Amoris Laetitia” in 2016 and died? Do they all receive a “Get out of Hell Free” card?

*Catholics boast that only their church is led by an infallible pope, but are hard pressed to cite examples of infallible teaching. Catholic theologians can only agree that the papal declarations on Mary’s immaculate conception (1854), papal infallibility (1870), and Mary’s assumption (1950) are unequivocally infallible.