Today marks the sixth month anniversary of CampOnThis. During that time, I have written and posted 148 articles (some of which were very long). I've tried to mix humor, with biting sarcasm, along with provocative thoughts to stir up the status quo--hopefully all based on the sure foundation of biblical truth and sound doctrine.
The response from all of you to the articles posted here at COT has been very encouraging. We have had several articles receive over 50 comments each; a handful of articles over 100 comments each; and one article that had well over 300 comments from you in the blogosphere. We haven't always agreed on the issues at hand; but that is part of the benefit of this kind of communication. I know that I for one am richer for your interaction and contributions made here; and trust the Lord the next six months will be just as rich and rewarding. I am truly honored and humbled to be a part of this biblical discussion with you all. I would also appreciate your prayers for this blog-ministry that we continue to guard the trust, speak biblically on the issues of the day; not be driven by playing politics with others for sake of name, notoriety, or platform; and cause others to be faithful Bereans in examining all things, by anyone, according to the truth of God's Word alone. And as always, the evangelical spin stops here.
Now, on to today's post...
Romanism is Big Winner Among Evangelicals in 2005!
This past year has been quite a year: the Chicago White Sox won the world series (sorry Phil); the war in Iraq is still politically charged and controversial; the tragedies caused by hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. will be felt for years to come; Live-8, Rick Warren, and world leaders didn't cure world hunger; the movie industry is stuck on fantasy; podcasting is Webster's Dictionary newest buzz word; Southern Baptist leaders still think that Finneyesque invitationalism, raising a hand, signing a decision card, singing forty choruses of "Just As I Am", letting Jesus "love on ya", and Arminianism represents biblical evangelism and the gospel; the iPod is revolutionizing how we listen to music, read books and engage the arts; the Emerging Church is submerging; political remedies for moral maladies-courtesy of Dobson and company-are proving impotent in battling the sinful moorings of the heart; CCM is still searching for significance and approval from mainstream pop music rags; and sadly, evangelicalism is still looking for an identity.
BUT, 2005 will go down in evangelical history as being the year that Romanism captured the hearts of evangelicalism. Consider the following key events of this past year:
• “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson. (Though released in 2004, its effects are still fresh today and will be profound in years to come). The movie was compelling and riveting through Gibson’s amazing directors talents, but, was Marian in its assertions and focus and thoroughly Roman in its representation of departure of the biblical record. By Gibson’s own words, the main inspiration for the film was not the gospel accounts, but the dreams, visions and meditations of “The Dolorous Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ” by an 18th century nun, the Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerick.
• The death of Pope John Paul II and the over the top gracious praise afforded to him that followed, not just by other Romanists, but sadly by several leading evangelical leaders who showered illustrious raptures of commendation to him for his “moral courage, standing for truth in a postmodern age, and for his contribution to uphold a culture of life in a culture of death.”
• Justice Sunday I and Justice Sunday II where key evangelical figures co-partnered with unbelievers, Romanists, to address political/social concerns from the pulpits of two large SBC churches. This was profound. Planned Sunday evening worship services were turned into a political rally to address the themes of a democratic filibuster (JSI) and supreme court nominees (JSII). Think of it, the worship of God, the preaching of His Word, the proclamation of the gospel, praise to our Lord through song, etc. were all placed on the back burner to accommodate the church being treated as a political action committee. (Justice Sunday III is scheduled on January the 8th).
• The appointment of Benedict the XVIth as the next Pope—once again heralded by evangelical leaders for his moral and family conservatism. He is a very conservative Romanist in matters of their doctrine, because of which the title of antichrist can be without hesitation given to the Pope once again. Eggs Benedict, as I refer to him, is a false religious leader, occupying a false religious office, representing a false church, based upon a false gospel. The saddening reality that evangelical leaders speak highly of him, even if limited to political/social/cultural themes, is evidence that the Downgrade has begun again in our day.
• The revival of E.C.T. (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) offering ecumenical remedies for moral maladies through political alliances and conservative legislation upholding family values absent of the proclamation of the gospel and the preaching of God’s Word is disgusting. The leading proponent of this social philosophy is Dr. Dr. James Dobson of focus on the family; he and his band of merry men I have rightly named “Evangelical Co-Belligerents.” This will prove to be the most devastating suasion from sound doctrine, the authority of God’s Word, and the gospel of Jesus Christ to a political pragmaticism in our generation.
• The hosting of Joseph Pearce, a devote Romanist (Writer-in-Residence at Ave Maria University and Associate Professor of Literature. He previously taught at Ave Maria College in Michigan. Mr. Pearce has published numerous books on the great Christian intellectuals including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, and Oscar Wilde, to name but a few. Several of his books have won literary awards. He lectures widely around the United States and Europe on many topics and has published several articles. He is the Co-Editor of the St. Austin Review and the Editor-in-Chief of Sapientia Press.), as the key lecturer on Tolkienian literature, in specific “The Lord of the Rings” sponsored by The Henry Institute for the Gheens Lectures at Southern Seminary. The fact that a Romanist was the key contributor at these lectures to seminarians training for the ministry at an orthodox, Southern Baptist Seminary was inexcusable and earthshaking.
• On a lesser note but important one, the inclusion of devout Romanist, Father Richard John Neuhaus (co-founder of ECT with Charles Colson) as part of an online Christian Ethics Symposium addressing the issue of “The Truth about Torture” being considered as one of several Christian voices to listen to on this issue. This is preposterous that a Romanist like Neuhaus is given a seat at the table for this discussion--and mind you, under the title of it being a Christian Ethics Symposium. What makes Neuhaus Christian? Has he rejected the Fifth Marian dogma; repudiated works righteousness; denied purgatorial cleansing; abandoned The Treasury of Merit? Of course not. Including Nuehaus in this symposium maybe PC and ecumenical--but certainly not honoring to the Word of God. (BTW: Dr. Al Mohler's article on this symposium is excellent--you don't need Neuhaus when the body of Christ has been blessed with Mohler). This symposium was sponsored by Joe Carter (of the “evangelicaloutpost” blog) and Justin Taylor (of the “betweentwoworlds” blog. Justin is also the Director of Theology and Executive Editor at Desiring God Ministries for John Piper). May I suggest that Joe and Justin reread Tridentine doctrine and then give a biblical reason for Neuhaus being included on a Christian Ethics Symposium.
Rome Sweet Home
As you can see from the above (and not all the events of 2005 were listed) Romanists are in demand by evangelicals. Didn’t the Reformation actually take place? When did the gospel become a politically correct document to be reduced to cultural/social pabulum absent of its truth claims? Who are these men that they are willing to give a seat at the evangelical table to any Romanist on any issue being discussed from a Christian world-view for the sake of academic engagement?
This without question has been a banner year for those of the Romanistic faith being welcomed wholeheartedly into mainline Christian evangelical circles. Due to their actions, Romanism—amongst most evangelicals, is now considered as being a legitimate part of orthodox, historical, biblical Christianity. This is unthinkable!
Should Romanists be given a seat at the biblical table of Christianity to discuss from a distinct Christian worldview issues about culture, art or faith with other evangelical leaders? The orthodox answer is no; the pragmatic one by leading evangelicals today is an undeniable yes.
In response to this seismic evangelical shift facing us today, I offer you the tried and tested words of John Owen to give clarity and sobriety to this disturbing issue. May such courage permeate the cowardly leadership within evangelicalism this year to repent of these unholy alliances and stand for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ once again—even if it means being denied the cultural, pragmatic insights of the likes of Romanist Father Richard John Neuhaus.
If we are really going to be “Together for the Gospel”, then we can have no affiliation or partnership with antichrists of Rome. May 2006 breed a new dedication to the gospel of sola fide, sola gratia and solus Christus away from the works righteousness of Romanism. Here is John Owen on “The Apostasy From the Gospel” in regards to Romanism.
By John Owen
1. Romanists are the supreme example of those who have turned away from the holy ways of gospel obedience into paths which they have made for themselves
None boast more of holiness than does the Roman Catholic Church. They claim their church is the true church because of its sanctity. But because of the unholy lives of the majority of Roman Catholics, and also of many of their chief rulers and guides, they point to those who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and who have dedicated themselves to a monastic life and to stricter rules and duties than others reach up to, or are obliged to submit to. These alone have obtained the name of religious among them. But many have already discovered the vanity, superstition and hypocrisy of their daily routines in which they generally spend their time. But this holy obedience is not that required and commanded in the gospel.
2. Romish vows of holiness do not show the spiritual freedom of gospel holiness
The first thing that truth does in our minds is to free them from all error and prejudices (John 8:32). Truth is the principle of all holiness, enlarging the mind and spirit. So it is called “true holiness” or “ the holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:24). So “where the Spirit of the Lord (or the Spirit of truth) is, there is liberty“ (2 Cor. 3:17).
Men are, since the fall, “servants of sin”. Willingly giving themselves up to its service, satisfying its lusts and obeying its commands. In such a state, they are ”free from righteousness.” They refuse to serve and obey the demands of the righteousness. But where the Holy Spirit works with the Word of truth, men are feed from sin and become servants to God, producing holy fruit in their lives (Rom. 6:20, 22). So it is said of all believers that they “have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry Abba, Father (Rom. 8:15). They have not received the “spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).
The teaching of the whole of Scripture is that the hearts of believers, by God’s grace, are freed from fear of judgment, to a free, willing, cheerful spirit that loves to do all the duties that holiness requires, moved by gratitude for mercies received. They are not driven by fear to a scrupulous bondage to outward duties, but with delight and true freedom of will they gladly obey. Because they have received the “Spirit of adoption” they live as children of God, honoring their Father by doing His will gladly and out of gratitude for the great salvation which He has wrought for us in and through Christ.
But there are strong proofs that those who place themselves under Romish vows and strict monastic rules of life and who spend their days in many outward religious duties, which the Church of Rome calls holiness, are not free, but are ruled by a servile, slavish spirit. They are forced to bind themselves and to be bound by their vows if they wish to live in that community, which is contrary to al true Christian fellowship. In obeying these vows, they are not their own masters, free to discipliner and rule themselves, but are under the strict discipline of others who administer outward punishments incases of failure. Those are the servants of men in religious duties are not God’s freemen, nor do they have Christ for their Lord who subject themselves religiously to men.
What drives these men to a monastic life, and in strict religious rules of life invented by men, are vows and rules of life nowhere requited by God or our Lord Christ in the gospel. And the chief reason why they continue in this life is the obedience, which they have vowed and so owe to their superiors.
It is easy to see how opposite this way is to true spiritual freedom of mind, which is the root of all true gospel holiness. Romish vows and rules of religious life are also motivated by thoughts of achieving merit, which stimulates them to further religious disciplines. The desire to achieve merit also makes for a servile, slavish spirit in all that they do, for they cannot but know that everything done in order to achieve merit must not only be tried by the strict, relentless standard of perfect sincerity, but also weighted in the balance of absolute perfection. This thought utterly destroys that free, willing, cheerful, glad obedience given out of gratitude for the free gift of justification and eternal life. Thos under Romish vows are also driven to obedience by the tormenting thought that they have no assurance either that they are accepted by God in this life, or ever shall be accepted by Him in the next. so in all their duties, they ae of necessity driven by “a spirit of fear” and not “of power and a sound mind.”
3. Romish vows and rules of religious life bind men to observe that which is not commanded by the gospel, but is a system of laws and rules invented by men.
So some obey the rule of Benedict, some of Francis, some of Dominic, some of Ignatius and the like. This proves that all that they do has nothing to do with gospel holiness, for that holiness is conformity to the rule of the gospel, which is the will of God. Thus, like the Pharisees of old whom Christ rebuked, they add duties not commanded by God. So, “in vain they worship God, teaching for doctrines the commands of men” (Matt. 15:6-9). Let the number of false, invented duties of religion be ever so great, let the manner of their performance be ever so exact or sever, they only divert the minds of men from the obedience which gospel requires. “As plants which the heavenly Father never planted, they shall, in due time, be rooted up” and cast into the fire (Matt. 15:13).
There is nothing in all that is prescribed by the masters of these rules and vows, or practiced by their disciples, but may all be done without either faith in Christ or a sense of His love to souls.
On the other hand, the obedience the gospel requires is the “obedience of faith”. On that and on no other root will gospel holiness grown. And the chief nature of gospel holiness is “the love of Christ” which alone “constrains” to it (2 Cor. 5:14).
But what is there in all these monastic vows and rules of life that makes it necessary for them to be carried out for the love Christ? May not men rise at midnight to repent a number of prayers, or go barefoot, or wear sackcloth, or abstain from meat on occasions or always, or submit to discipline from themselves or others and, if strong enough, undergo all the horrid and indeed ridiculous hardships without the least dram of saving faith or love? All false religions have always had some among them who have loved to amuse others with their self inflicted punishments and penances.
All the good that these Romish vows and rules of life do is utterly corrupted by the proud thought of gaining merit and doing works of supererogation, works above all that was required by them, which can then be used to help others to achieve the required standard of merit. The whole idea of merit and works of supererogation utterly weakens the covenant grace, treats with contempt the blood and mediation of Christ, and is totally inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the gospel.
And when we add to these vows all the gross superstition and idolatry to which they give themselves up in their devotions, then we can see that, notwithstanding al Rome’s claims to holiness and a more strict obedience to duties than other men, yet it is clear that the best of their works falls far below the standard of the holiness required by the gospel and without which no-one shall see the Lord.