Friday, April 08, 2005

On Evangelical Comments Concerning the Death of the Pope: An Apology

So far I have not commented on this blog about the evangelical response to the pope's death, but the responses have become so conspicuous by their predictability that I think it's time to comment. By now, I have heard/seen all the responses by James Dobson, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson et al. But it didn't really come home with me until I saw Franklin Graham on Hannity and Colmes a few nights ago. Graham, as always, attempted to get the gospel in at every turn (for which I commend him). But when directly asked by Sean Hannity what still divides Roman Catholics and Protestants, Graham danced around it ("well there are still some doctrinal issues we don't fully agree on") and then quickly added (paraphrasing from memory), "BUT, Catholics and Protestants agree on what's important. We agree on the cross, we agree that Jesus died and rose again."That's what's important?

That's what unites us? That's the gospel upon which we agree?

Is it important that Jesus died and rose again? Of course--in fact, it's essential to salvation to believe it. Is that all one needs to hold to be within the pale of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus died and rose again. Of course, they interpret "rose again" slightly differently; and, yes, they seem to have a "different Jesus." But what's really important--what unites us in the faith, after all--is that they believe Jesus died and rose again. Mormons believe Jesus died and rose again. Yes, it's true they believe we are saved by grace "after all you can do"; but what's really important, after all, is that they believe in the cross . . . isn't it?

Let me be very clear here. The official teachings of Roman Catholicism stand in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ--no less than the teachings of the Judaizers in Paul's own day stood opposed to the gospel. Indeed, Roman Catholicism has added so many obstacles to salvation that have to be hurdled as a prerequisite to salvation, that the Judaizer heresy anathematized by Paul in Gal 1:8-10 looks like a Christian denomination by comparison!I wonder if Paul, upon learning of the death of the head of the Judaizers, would have appeared on JNN (Jerusalem News Network) to say what a great leader this man was, and, "yes, we had our differences on some things, but we held so many other things in common!" Or, perhaps John would have appeared instead to sing the praises of Cerinthus, that great evangelist of the Gnostics! "He was such a great evangelist because he preached the gospel to millions and did so much good!"

What gospel? What good? How can we speak of the "good" a man does if his life is dedicated to another gospel, one we have not received, and one that is in fact based on those "good" things he did? What "good" is there in standing up for moral causes if in the end the people you've won over by those moral causes end up believing a "gospel" that cannot save?

This kind of thing is truly enigmatic to me. And this is just what prompted my comments a few days ago on the NTRMin Discussion Forum. In response to Jason Engwer asking, "Can any Evangelical give a logical explanation for preferring the approach of Billy Graham to the approach of Albert Mohler?", I wrote:

What does logic have to do with it, Jason? Don't you know by now that the Evangelical way is to come to Christ by faith alone, give personal testimony that God and God alone saved you by his own grace and apart from any good thing you have done, insist in your testimony that you merely believed in Christ and trusted in him alone for your salvation, forsaking any good works as a means to your salvation--and then forget all that and confidently assert that the pope, who spouted Roman Catholic reliance on good works, baptism, the sacraments, Mary and the saints, and believed in a universalism, has "gone home to be with the Lord" and is now in heaven? What's wrong with you anyway? It doesn't have to be logical, as long as it sounds spiritual!
For that response, several of the postmodernists at "reformed catholic dot com" took it upon themselves to "apologize" for me at the usual anti-evangelical forums (only the hypersensitivities of the “reformed catholics” could misconstrue a criticism of Evangelicals as a criticism of Roman Catholicism). So let me say something about that. I would indeed like to offer an apology. But the apology I would like to offer is in behalf of the misguided Protestants--both those who have appeared on the media as well as those who have appeared on the Internet and presumed to apologize on my behalf (thank you very much, but please restrain yourselves in the future)--who have misled people into believing Roman Catholicism is just another option for those wanting to be Christians, who have abandoned fidelity to the gospel, and who have become the cause of stumbling to those who have looked to them for validation of following a false gospel. My apology is to the truth, to the gospel, and to the Lord Jesus Christ who has entrusted each of us with fidelity to his word, and has charged each of us to uphold it without fear, without wavering, and without giving in to the spirit of this age--the spirt that screams at us to be "broadminded" about the narrow way that saves. I want to apologize on their behalf for their shameful abdication of truth. I want to apologize on their behalf that they were too ashamed of the offense of the gospel to uphold it faithfully. I want to apologize on their behalf that they gave in to the pressures of political correctness and did not remain faithful to his word. And mostly, I want to apologize on their behalf that they, as a result of their "embarrassment" over the proclamation of the truth, have numbered themselves with those of whom Jesus himself will be ashamed at his coming. I pray they would be spared from that which in the end will be truly shameful.

James White posted this link to Dr. Bahnsen’s sermon on Roman Catholicism the other day. I want to repost it here just to remind the so-called “reformed catholics” that what they’ve abandoned is not “sectarian Baptist” theology, but the truth itself.