There is a growing trend among today's evangelicals to embrace and promote a benign view of Romanism that contradicts the convictions held by Protestants for more than 400 years. The Reformation, if remembered at all, is being portrayed as an unnecessary separation from a Church which was biblical and evangelical. Statements by various evangelicals today impugn the faith and convictions of the millions of martyrs who died rather than accept transubstantiation, purgatory, indulgences, worship of saints, and the remainder of Rome's false and destructive gospel of ritual and works. If Catholicism stands solidly for "the great fundamental doctrines of Christianity," then what was the Reformation all about?
If the view held by many of today's evangelicals is right, then those millions put to death by Rome throughout the centuries died not for their faith but for a semantic misunderstanding. How tragic! If evangelical and Catholic doctrines are "essentially the same," then the Reformation was based upon an incredible mistake which is only now being recognized after more than four centuries.
But if that is not the case, and there were indeed clear and vital differences between Catholic and Protestant views on essential doctrines at the time of the Reformation, why not today? Has Catholicism changed?
We have seen that the dogmas of Roman Catholicism which the martyrs could not embrace have not changed. Nor have evangelicals as a whole opted for a different gospel from salvation by grace through faith alone as it was preached by the Reformers. Certainly men such as Billy Graham and W.A. Criswell have demonstrated through long lives of service to Christ and winning thousands to Him that they would not knowingly compromise the gospel of God's grace through Jesus Christ. This makes it difficult to understand how they and other evangelical leaders profess a commonality of faith with Roman Catholicism which would have been unthinkable to past generations of Protestants.
A major reason for this book is to dispel the gross misunderstandings about Catholicism. Rome adeptly covers her real intentions with sweet words and hides her true character behind beautiful art and moving manifestations of piety. Much of what we have revealed thus far-even the truth behind events so current as the war in Yugoslavia, widespread sexual promiscuity of priests, and marriage annulments by the tens of thousands-has likely shocked, perhaps offended, many readers. This is because through its media dominance, Rome projects an image that makes the truth difficult to believe.
Having joined forces in political and social action, why shouldn't Catholics and Protestants evangelize the world together as well? At least they subscribe to the same creeds and many of the same morals. Whatever "slight differences in doctrine" exist can hardly be of any great importance and should not be allowed to separate Christians. Such is the thinking of many evangelical leaders, and their followers, through the same misconceptions, gladly accept it.
History Forgotten, Truth Suppressed
The Reformation is so far removed in time that its issues have been forgotten. We need to be reminded of all of the facts, no matter how unpleasant, in order to dispel the misconceptions which the new ecumenism is based upon and promotes. Most Protestants have only the sketchiest idea of what was "protested" so long ago and even less understanding of its significance today. Even so staunch an evangelist as Billy Graham, like so many other leading evangelicals, seems to have been persuaded by Rome's new posture. Having visited Pope John Paul II three times, and apparently based upon the pope's representations to him, Graham calls him "the world's greatest evangelist" and says that any differences in their theology "are not important as far as personal salvation is concerned." That the Pope has been less than honest with Graham is clear from what we have seen is the official teaching of Rome, a teaching about which so many evangelicals seem to be poorly informed.
So eager are many evangelicals to work with Catholics that they accept Rome's self-serving revision of history without checking the facts for themselves. Surely Rome's protestations of peace, love, and brotherhood in Christ are sincere, so let us forgive and forget the past.
Even well-meaning evangelical organizations and leaders at times have suppressed the facts in order not to offend the Catholics whom they hope to evangelize. Wilson Ewin gives a classic example:
The BGEA [Billy Graham Evangelistic Association] acquired the printing rights [for a special edition] of ... the classic Henry H. Halley Bible Commentary entitled, Pocket Bible Handbook.... [It] described [Rome's] martyrdom of millions.... [In its 1962 Billy Graham Crusade Edition] the Graham Association ... removed all these pages ....
The same deletions were made from the additional special Crusade editions in 1964 and 1969. As a result, readers were denied dozens of pages of vital historical fact. Those pages recited the evil of some of the popes as well as of Rome's persecution and slaughter of Christians for centuries even before the Reformation. The following is a sample of facts carefully presented by Halley and still found in copies sold in bookstores today, but which were eliminated from the special Crusade editions:
[The Albigenses] preached against the immoralities of the [Catholic] priesthood, pilgrimages, worship of saints and images ... opposed the claims of the Church of Rome; made great use of the Scriptures.... By 1167 they embraced possibly a majority of the population of South France.... In 1208 a crusade was ordered by Pope Innocent III; a bloody war of extermination followed, scarcely paralleled in history; town after town was put to the sword and the inhabitants murdered without distinction of age or sex ... within 100 years the Albigenses were utterly rooted out.
[Two centuries later] between 1540 and 1570 no fewer than 900,000 Protestants were put to death in the Pope's war for the extermination of the Waldenses. Think of monks and priests directing, with heartless cruelty and inhuman brutality, the work of torturing and burning alive innocent men and women, and doing it in the Name of Christ, by the direct order of the "Vicar of Christ"!
... on the night of August 24, 1572, 70,000 Huguenots, including most of their leaders, were massacred [St. Bartholemew's massacre]. Some 200,000 [more] perished as martyrs ... [and] 500,000 fled to Protestant countries.
Why the Reformation?
We have already noted that for centuries before the Reformation simple Christian fellowships existed outside the Catholic Church. These believers abhorred the heresies and hypocrisy of Rome and refused to honor the pope. For this they were hounded to terrible deaths by the hundreds of thousands. Crusades to exterminate these "heretics" were organized just as they were for driving Jews and Muslims from the Holy Land. Remember, in one day Innocent III massacred 60,000 people in the "crowning achievement of his papacy."
Through the testimony of these persecuted Christians and from the Bibles they gave out, men like John Wyclif (1329-84), Jan Hus (1373-1415), and Johannes Geiler von Kaysersberg (1445-1510) believed the gospel and began preaching it to their fellow Catholics. Multitudes of them believed and remained true to their faith in the flames. These were the forerunners of the Reformation.
Though in the Western world today the death penalty cannot lawfully be exacted against heretics, it is still difficult to be an evangelical in parts of Latin America and in Catholic strongholds of Europe. There the truth is suppressed and the average Catholic will likely never be confronted with the biblical gospel in his or her entire lifetime. When visiting such areas one sees firsthand the antagonism of Rome against the gospel and is able to appreciate better what it must have been like in Reformation times.
Talking with acquaintances in Spain recently, I asked them what life had been like as Roman Catholics, what they had believed, and how they had become Christians. The stories would make one weep! They went to confession and Mass, prayed to the images of Mary and the saints, lit candles, crossed themselves frequently, and hoped the Church would somehow get them to heaven. They could only trust that after they died friends and relatives would continue to have Masses said to get them out of purgatory.
One man heard the gospel in a cemetery, where Catholics went on holy days to pray to the saints and their ancestors. Knowing this pagan custom, a small group of despised evangelicals had come there to give out literature. Another young man learned the gospel from a tract which a friend had torn up in anger and thrown to the ground. So starved was this devout Catholic for truth that he laboriously pieced the tract back together, read it, and was saved.
Even long after the Reformation had gained a foothold, becoming a Christian could cost one's life in a Catholic country such as Spain or Italy or in the large areas of Europe which remained fanatically Catholic. Having dealt mainly with Europe in previous chapters, we turn our attention to England to see how the Reformation came to that land and how it is dishonored today.
England was unique. The entire country eventually came under Protestant control. It therefore became a refuge for those who could reach it. D. Antonio Gavin, a Spanish Catholic priest who escaped to England after becoming a Christian
[When] it had pleased God by his grace to overcome in me the prejudices ... in favour of that corrupt church, in which I had been bred ... I [had to] immediately quit Spain, where all persons who did not publicly profess the Romish religion were condemned to death.
Henry VIII, England's New "Pope"
Even before Martin Luther's awakening, England had its own Reformers who called the consecrated host "merely bread," denied that the priests had special power to absolve sin, that "the sacraments were necessary to salvation" or that "pilgrimages, holy shrines and prayers for the dead" had any value. They testified that "man can be saved by faith alone ... [and] the Bible, not the Church, should be the sole rule of faith...." For their deviation from Catholicism, many of these "heretics" were consigned to the flames even before the Reformation began in Germany in 1517.
In contrast to the holy lives of these martyrs, the corruption of the English clergy and their Church was all the more obvious to the common people. Even some Church leaders spoke out against the rampant immorality. In 1489 Archbishop Morton denounced abbots "living publicly and continuously with harlots and mistresses" in their abbeys and accused monks of "a life of lasciviousness ... nay, of defiling the holy places, even the very churches of God, by infamous intercourse with nuns. ..." The Church was hated for its taxes and great wealth that had impoverished the people. By 1500 the supposedly "heavenly-minded" Church, the largest landowner by far in Europe, owned about a fifth of all property in England.
Thus popular sentiment favored Henry VIII when he confronted the pope over the matter of a divorce from his Spanish consort. A staunch Catholic, Henry had been honored by the pope with the title "Defender of the Faith" (still retained, oddly, by England's Protestant monarchs) for his fervent polemic, Assertion of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther. The King wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry the younger, more beautiful, and hopefully more fertile Anne Boleyn. Rome had recently granted Henry's sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland, an annulment. But Pope Clement VII, held captive and pressured by Catherine's nephew, Emperor Charles V, refused to grant Henry's wish. So Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself head of England's Catholic Church.
Backing the King, the House of Commons pronounced numerous valid accusations against the Roman hierarchy: "that the clergy exacted payment for the administration of the sacraments; that the bishops gave benefices to `certain young folks [their bastard sons], calling them their nephews' . . . that the episcopal courts greedily exploited their right to levy fees and fines; that these courts arrested persons, and imprisoned them, without stating the charges against them [etc]." The document ended by "begging the King for `reformation' [in no way Protestant] of these ills."
Parliament eventually voted the Statute of Supremacy (November 11, 1534) which effectively put Henry VIII, who was still every inch a Catholic, in the pope's place as head of the Church of England. Ironically, England's Protestant monarchs still retain that position. Will Durant writes:
Henry was now the sole judge of what, in religion and politics, the English people were to believe. Since his theology was still Catholic in every respect except the papal power, he made it a principle to persecute impartially Protestant critics of Catholic dogma, and Catholic critics of his ecclesiastical supremacy... .
Theological bonfires continued to the end of the reign ... One [engulfed] a young woman, Anne Askew, who kept to her heresy through five hours of questioning.
"That which you call your God," she said at her trial, "is a piece of bread; for proof thereof let it lie in a box three months, and it will be moldy."
She was tortured till nearly dead to elicit from her the names of other heretics; she remained silent in her agony, and went to her death, she said, "as merry as one that is bound toward heaven."
For the burning of Protestant heretics the Bishop of Lincoln even offered an indulgence of forty days to good Christians who would carry a faggot to feed the fire." The reign of England's royal pope became one of terror. Henry's subjects never knew whose head would roll next, Catholic or Protestant. Catholics (such as Bishop John Fisher and Thomas More) were executed for opposing the King as head of England's Church. Protestants, too, would oppose later Protestant monarchs for holding such a position, but no Protestant monarch would execute any subject on those grounds.
Preparation for a Unique Role
Henry's tyrannical rule prepared England to play a unique role. Her religion thereafter would be that of her monarch. When the Protestant Reformation finally came to England it became the religion of the entire country, thus making that island a refuge for those fleeing Catholic persecution elsewhere. The Huguenots, escaping from Catholic France, where they were being massacred, transformed English industry and brought great prosperity. Evangelical missionaries sent out from England's shores would take the gospel to every corner of the earth. Durant summarizes it well:
[Henry] thought to replace the pope while leaving unchanged the old faith ... but his successful defiance of the papacy, his swift dispersal of monks and relics, his repeated humiliation of the clergy, his appropriation of Church property, and his secularization of the government so weakened ecclesiastical prestige and authority as to invite the theological changes that followed in the reigns of Edward and Elizabeth....
The elimination of the papacy from English affairs left the people for a time at the mercy of the state; but in the long run it compelled them to rely on themselves in checking their rulers and claiming, decade after decade, a measure of freedom.... Perhaps Elizabeth and Shake-speare could not have been had not England been set free by her worst and strongest king.
The major preparation for the Reformation in England, however, would be through the circulation of Scripture. Even during the reign of Henry VIII, copies of William Tyndale's English New Testament were smuggled in from Germany, where it was printed. The Bishop of London gathered all the copies he could find and publicly burned them at St. Paul's Cross. Nothing, however, not even a government ban on "importation or possession of heretical works," could stop the influx of Scripture or the flame of redemption and freedom that its truth ignited in hungry hearts.
When reproved by an ardent Catholic for his desire to translate and print the Bible in English, Tyndale had replied earnestly, "If God spare me life, ere many years I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than you do." That prayer was answered and the smoldering embers of truth in England were fanned into a conflagration that nothing could extinguish.
Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536. Henry VIII was still on the throne. The martyr's last words were, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes." Henry died in 1547, eyes still unopened. He "left a large sum to pay for Masses for the repose of his soul."
England's Reformation Martyrs
Henry VIII's death opened the door to a weak Protestantism. His son, Edward VI, was but a boy of ten when he succeeded his father to the throne. He became the pawn of unscrupulous counselors in a struggle between selfish landlords and nobles still in power and tenants and peasants being ground into poverty. Real freedom in either politics or religion was still a dream.
Sickly since childhood, Edward died at age 15, still too young to be blamed for his unfortunate reign. Lady Jane Grey, a devout Protestant, was forced onto the throne against her will in 1553 and was removed five days later when popular opinion swept the rightful heir, Mary Tudor, into power. A fervent Catholic faith had sustained Mary during years of illness and exile. She soon earned the name by which history still remembers her-Bloody Mary.
By law, Catholic worship became the official religion and all Protestant preaching or publication was prohibited." One of the first unfortunate victims was Jane Grey, who, before laying her head on the executioner's block, testified to the watching crowd:
I do look to be saved by no other means, but only by the mercy of God in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ; and I confess that when I did know the Word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world ... and yet I thank God, that of His goodness He hath given me respite to repent.... Lord, into thy hands I commit my spirit.
At first much of England favored the return to Catholicism. (Most of the people did not understand the issues.) Ironically, the persecution of dissenters during Bloody Mary's five-year reign would make the truth known. "The sufferers looked upon their trials and executions as providentially ordained forms of public witness to the gospel." Church historian R. Tudor Jones writes:
The majority of the martyrs were ordinary people, including many women.... The lengthy interrogations of scores of these people have survived and they concentrate on such topics as their beliefs about the Bible and its authority, transubstantiation, their attitude towards such Roman Catholic practices as the cult of saints, prayers for the dead and purgatory.
One cannot but be impressed by the vigour and ability with which [simple] people ... defended themselves, as well as by the immense courage of the sufferers in the face of unspeakable agony.
John Foxe was an eyewitness and earnest historian of this fierce persecution. His Book of Martyrs gives detailed accounts of many public trials and executions. After Queen Mary's demise a copy of that classic was chained to every pulpit in England to make it available to all. Foxe tells how imprisoned Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, out of fear, signed a submission to Rome and affirmed transubstantiation. On March 21, 1556, he was brought before an overflow crowd at St. Mary's Church in Oxford to publicly recant of his "heresies." Gathering the courage he had previously lacked, Cranmer turned the tables on his oppressors by boldly declaring:
And now forasmuch as I am come to the end of my life ... I see before mine eyes either heaven ready to receive me, or else hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith how I believe....
And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce ... as written for fear of death....
And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire it shall first be burned.
And as for the pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine.
The shocked papists shouted him down and led him off to his execution outside Oxford University's Balliol College, at the same spot where Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley had been burned six months before. Foxe relates that Cranmer made good his pledge: "stretching out his right hand, he held it unshrinkingly in the fire until it was burnt to a cinder, even before his body was injured, frequently exclaiming, `This unworthy right hand!' ... as long as his voice would suffer him" interspersed with the words of Stephen, "'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,' [until] in the greatness of the flame, he gave up the ghost."
In front of Balliol College in Oxford there is a stone cross built into the cobblestone street and a small plaque on the wall of the building opposite. It marks the place where Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer were burned for rejecting transubstantiation. Around the corner on a larger avenue a weathered monument has stood in silent witness for 153 years. It is scarcely noticed or visited these days. Those few who pause read these words:
TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION OF HIS SERVANTS THOMAS CRANMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY AND HUGH LATIMER, PRELATES OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, WHO NEAR THIS SPOT YIELDED THEIR BODIES TO BE BURNED, BEARING WITNESS TO THE SACRED TRUTHS WHICH THEY HAD AFFIRMED AND MAINTAINED AGAINST THE ERRORS OF THE CHURCH OF ROME, AND REJOICING THAT TO THEM IT WAS GIVEN NOT ONLY TO BELIEVE ON CHRIST BUT ALSO TO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE. THIS MONUMENT WAS ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD GOD MDCCCXLI.
Durant writes that "as the holocaust advanced it became clear that it had been a mistake. Protestantism drew strength from its martyrs as early Christianity had done, and many Catholics were disturbed in their faith, and shamed in their Queen, by the sufferings and fortitude of the victims." As for "Bloody Mary," she "showed to an England still Catholic the worst side of the Church she served. When she died England was readier than before to accept the new faith that she had labored to destroy."
Mary was succeeded on the throne by her half-sister Elizabeth, who turned England back to Protestantism, ending the pope's power on English soil. A refreshing breath of freedom was blowing across that land and had to be stopped. The pope vented his rage from Rome, confident that his vast army of loyal subjects, reinforced with promises of plenary indulgences, would do his bidding.
As already mentioned, in February 1570, Pope Pius V pronounced Queen Elizabeth a heretic, deprived her of her kingdom, forbade her subjects to obey her, and excommunicated all who remained loyal to her. But Elizabeth and most of England simply ignored the pope's fulminations. Many of Rome's fanatical zealots, however, were inspired to attempt to overthrow the Queen.
The plot was uncovered, the conspirators were arrested, and about 120 priests and 60 laity were executed. These were not persecuted believers martyred for their faith, but revolutionaries executed for treason. Ironically, these traitors are honored each year as the "English Martyrs," while the hundreds consumed in the flames for their faith in Christ under Catholic monarchs are forgotten.
To mention evangelicals martyred for their faith would offend Catholics and threaten the ecumencial dialogue with Rome. So history is being rewritten. The martyrs of the Reformation are, in effect, being mocked by evangelical leaders who now join with Rome in a new spirit of mutual trust and cooperation. Author Michael de Semlyen writes with passion from England:
Many of us were brought up to believe that the martyrs of our faith were those who died in the fire unable and unwilling to compromise their trust in the Scriptures ... But in November 1987, in uncharacteristic fashion, the serious newspapers, TV and radio were giving prominent coverage to "the honouring of English martyrs."
[We were] startled to discover that they referred to 85 Roman Catholic "heroes of resistance to the Protestant Reformation." These men were beatified by the Pope in Rome in the presence of Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, Mark Santer.
De Semlyen informs us that "at the time of the extensive press coverage of the 1987 beatification of the 85 `English martyrs,' the London-based United Protestant Council" sent the following to all of England's national newspapers, yet none printed any part of it:
No one who is concerned for historical truth can be satisfied with the claim, by the Church of Rome, that the 85 English subjects that have been "beatified" by the Pope were martyrs, which means that they suffered for their faith alone. The 288 martyrs who were put to death during Mary I's five year reign suffered solely for their faith. They were condemned on purely religious charges, being principally that they refused the doctrine of transubstantiation.... They never denied that Mary was the lawful Queen of England, nor maintained any of her open and foreign enemies, nor procured any rebellion or civil war. They did not sow sedition in secret places....
Such charges of treason, however, were legitimately brought against those Roman Catholics who were put to death under the reign of Elizabeth and succeeding monarchs, and whose names are included in the recent list of those "beatified" by the Pope in Rome....
No Roman Catholic was executed in the first eleven years of Elizabeth I's reign, prior to Pope Pius V inciting all Roman Catholics to rebellion, commanding them not to obey her, on pain of excommunication. It is an unchallengeable fact that no Roman Catholic was executed solely on account of his religious beliefs. The truth is that most of those laymen "beatified" were put to death for assisting the "seminary priests" in their design to bring down the throne; 63 out of the 85 "English martyrs" were "seminary priests," trained abroad and sent back to further the plots of the Pope to undermine the English throne. These had been stepped up after Pope Gregory XIII's sanctioning of the assassination of Elizabeth in 1580 and the organising of the [Spanish Armada] invasion [of England] of 1588....
With this background in mind it is impossible to agree that these men were martyrs in any proper sense of the word. On the contrary, what the Church of Rome is engaged in doing is glorifying traitors, spies and conspirators.
The Reformation Betrayed
It seems inexplicable that the English, of all people, carefully avoid any mention of genuine martyrs and instead honor seditious traitors. When George Carey was enthroned as the new Archbishop of Canterbury in April 1991, he reached far back into England's pre-Reformation past to praise by name some of the Catholic archbishops of Canterbury. In doing so he deliberately passed over many of his predecessors in that office who had firmly stood against the evils of Rome. Most conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, martyred for the very faith which Carey had sworn to defend.
History is sacrificed on the altar of ecumenism as an oblation to Rome. No sacrifice is too great to further the "unity" movement that is drawing the non-Catholic church back under the pope. Recently the Duchess of Kent, seven Anglican bishops, and more than 700 English clergymen converted to Catholicism. The same historical revisionism is being practiced by American evangelical leaders who dishonor the memories of those who preserved the gospel with their blood.
Catholic apologists in America promote the same revisionism. Peter Kreeft writes of the noble "Catholic martyrs" but doesn't explain that they were executed for treason, not for their faith. And he never mentions the far more numerous martyrs slain by Catholics-an omission all the more inexcusable when found in a book that purports to argue for the truth. Such an omission is scarcely recognized by one in a thousand Protestants for the misinformation it is, and is instead passed on as truth by evangelical leaders.
While Rome pretends to have changed and thereby deceives many evangelicals, Catholic apologists such as Karl Keating, Jerry Matatics, Scott Hahn, Thomas Howard, and others are stepping up their efforts to educate Catholics against what they boldly proclaim are the errors of the evangelical gospel. The pope himself is in the forefront of the denunciation of the evangelical faith to Catholic audiences, while he tells the "separated brethren" of his love and desire for unity with them.
Love and Dialogue?
We are told to love one another as Christ has loved us. Pop psychology trivializes that command by equating it with a "positive" attitude. Forgotten is the first duty of love: to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15). Real love does not flatter or soothe when correction is needed but points out the error which is blinding and harming the loved one. Christ said, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19). Instead, the idea is now current that love excludes rebuke, ignores the truth, and seeks unity at any price. Only disaster can result.
Eugene Daniels, World Vision International's senior adviser for church relations, recently said, "We discovered that we could work with the Catholic Church in terms of the spiritual needs of the people in much the same way that we have traditionally worked with the Protestant churches." Other major evangelical ministries that have been working with Catholics as fellow Christians include the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship, Youth With A Mission, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and others. Obviously this recent development, peculiar to our generation, is extremely significant and is gaining momentum as Rome increases its campaign to present itself as "evangelical."
A Christian with the love of Christ in his heart would be willing to forgive past history, even of oppression, torture, and death. But forgiveness has not been asked nor has any wrong been admitted. As for the present, Rome's dogmas have not changed and her false gospel is still sending souls to eternal judgment by the millions. The salvation of souls is the great issue: how man can be forgiven and assured of eternity in heaven. All else is secondary. Catholicism is a counterfeit gospel. No amount of dialogue can change that fact but only sets the stage for eventual compromise.
"Dialogue" is a popular folly unheard of in the days of the martyrs. Dialogue? It was either bow to Rome's imperious authority and accept her false gospel without question or else die at her hand. Nor has Rome changed in her dogmas, though she has had to change her tactics. Vatican II clearly states that Rome's teachings are "irreformable." Her agents in these "dialogues" insist that in the final analysis the Roman Catholic Church is the only true Church, that it has the sacraments which lead to salvation, and that it can never share this distinction with others.
The purpose of dialogue is to draw the "separated brethren" back under the pope-clearly the road upon which evangelicals have set foot. In January 1986 the Roman Catholic Church and 29 Protestant denominations announced "plans for a nationwide evangelistic effort called Congress '88." The steering committee included members from many Protestant denominations. Would the apostle Paul have joined the Judaizers in evangelism? In 1992 an ecumenical team of 19 U.S. religious leaders met with Pope John Paul II "to explore possibilities for an international interfaith effort to combat child and hardcore pornography." Would Luther and Calvin have joined the papists to fight immorality? Of course not, because morals and even the solution to social ills cannot be divorced from the gospel.
Two major articles (13 pages) in the February 1992 Bookstore Journal, the "Official Publication of the Christian Booksellers Association," urged members to cultivate Catholic customers as "brothers and sisters in Christ." Tragically, this will prevent the gospel Catholics need to hear from being given to them. Even some leading evangelical watchdog groups, which otherwise do a commendable job of warning the church of false doctrines and cults, lose their cutting edge when it comes to Roman Catholicism, and Christian media is becoming a major promoter of compromise.
On Trinity Broadcasting Network, the largest Christian television network, network founder Paul Crouch and popular televangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn declared that Roman Catholic doctrine is no concern, for, after all, Catholics "love Jesus." So did Ghandi; so do many Muslims, to say nothing of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. But what "Jesus"? The Bible warns of "another Jesus" and "another gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6,7), and Rome surely has both. On another program Crouch told two priests and a leading Catholic laywoman who were guests:
In the essentials our theology is basically the same: some of these even so-called doctrinal differences ... are simply matters of semantics. One of these things that has divided us [referring to transubstantiation] all of these years shouldn't have ... we were really meaning the same thing but just saying it a little differently....
So I say to the critics and theological nitpickers, "Be gone, in Jesus' name!" Let's come together [with Rome] in the spirit of love and unity.... [Audience applause.]
Even such admired evangelicals as J. I. Packer and Os Guinness have embraced Roman Catholicism as basically Christ and advocate working with Catholics in evangelizing world together as is evidenced by their recent signing of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document. One of the most highly regarded evangelical apologists, Norman L. Geisler, stated recently that Catholics "believe in justification by grace" and that differences between Catholics and evangelicals "are not as great as generally perceived and they are not crucial ... [nor do they] involve heresy ... the whole theological core of historic Christianity is held in common." We have demonstrated that not to be the case.
The Unchanging Issue-Salvation of Souls
Some evangelists, including Billy Graham and Luis Palau, have long pledged not to attempt to proselytize Catholics, who "usually make up the largest single denominational group" at Graham's crusades. That certainly makes sense if Catholics are now considered to be Christians. The names of Catholics who come forward are turned over to local Catholic churches for followup. Catholic bishops across the country announce that such crusades are the best means they know of to bring lapsed Catholics back into the Church once again. Says Graham, "We're delighted that the Roman Catholic Church now cooperates with us wherever we go." That cooperation involved about 400 Catholic "counselors" in Graham's mid-September 1990 crusade at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island. The local Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office announced that the crusade would "provide opportunities for Catholics who attend to be reconnected to their parishes via Catholic Bible study." The 1991 St. Louis crusade was cosponsored by the St. Louis Archdiocese and involved 300 to 400 parish volunteers.
Upon receiving an honorary doctorate at Belmont Abbey (a Jesuit college), Graham said, "The gospel that built this School and the gospel that brings me here tonight is still the way of salvation." Certainly both those who were martyred and those who consigned them to the flames were convinced there was a great difference between the Catholic and Protestant view of salvation.
Charles Dullea, a Jesuit and Vatican official, assures Catholics attending Graham's crusades, "A Catholic will hear no slighting of his Church's teaching authority, nor of papal or episcopal prerogatives, no word against Mass or Sacraments or Catholic practice." (Yet the pope and his apologists denounce Fundamentalism and the evangelical gospel. The Vatican has financed construction of the most powerful radio transmitter in South America to be used specifically to combat evangelicals.) Other evangelists have adopted the same stance toward Rome. A Southern California newspaper recently noted:
Puerto Rican-born evangelist Dr. Raimundo Jimenez is back on television in Los Angeles with a unique multilingual Gospel outreach to both the Spanish and Englishspeaking communities of this huge area of some 17 million people....
The broadcaster says that he realizes that most Hispanics are nominally Roman Catholic. "In fact, in Southern California, out of six million Hispanics, there are said to be less than 200,000 [about 3 percent] evangelicals," said Jimenez. "However, we do not allow any attacks on the Catholic Church.... We just present the positive Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Catholicism is a counterfeit Christianity which in some respects so closely resembles the truth that, unless a clear distinction is made, one presents "the positive Gospel of Jesus Christ" in vain. A major problem is that while Catholics believe so much of the gospel, they also believe much that has been added which destroys the truth. Paul "disputed in the synagogue with the Jews, and with devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him" (Acts 17:17). Jesus firmly corrected the rabbis and those deluded by them in His day. Shouldn't we do the same? It is no kindness to Catholics to leave them doomed in their error.
More Than a Misunderstanding
Even worse than not pointing out Catholicism's errors candidly and with love is accepting Catholics as Christians and denying that they need the gospel at all. Such is the grievous opening of this book, titled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the 3rd Millennium." That historic document, signed by evangelical leaders, implies that the Reformers must have been deluded, that all active Catholics then as presumed today were saved but didn't know it, and that Rome's gospel of transubstantiation, sacramental rituals, prayers to the saints, good works, indulgences, and purgatory saves souls.
If that is true, then the martyrs mistakenly opposed a gospel they were convinced came from hell but which we are now assured is actually from heaven. The tens of millions of Catholics who since the Reformation have received Christ by faith alone and left the Catholic Church have also been deceived. The whole evangelical church of today is equally deluded about what it means to be a Christian. Rome has been correct all along and we must join her in evangelism. Yet even Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft admits:
Over the past twenty-five years I have asked hundreds of Catholic college students the question: If you should die tonight and God asks you why he should let you into heaven, what would you answer? The vast majority of them simply do not know the right answer to this, the most important of all questions, the very essence of Christianity. They usually do not even mention Jesus!
Here we have an admission that the Catholic Church does not teach "salvation by grace through faith" in such a manner that most Catholics understand it. Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers did not come to know the biblical gospel from their many years as devout Catholics. In fact, they claimed that Rome didn't teach this truth, and they appealed to her to do so. Her answer? "No!"
In the same book, Kreeft claims that Rome has always taught and still teaches the true gospel and that the Reformation was based upon an unfortunate misunderstanding. Yet that "misunderstanding," by his own admission, persists to this day in the minds of intelligent college students who have grown up in the Catholic Church. Why? Because it is not a misunderstanding: Rome has added to justification by faith a complex system of religion by which Catholics embrace a false gospel. This is the very perversion of the gospel that Paul cursed in Galatians 1:6-9.
A missionary friend of the author who has spent years in door-to-door and street evangelism in Spain related sadly:
I have yet to talk to a single Catholic over here who can explain what the gospel is, or just what it takes to be saved.... they are incredulous when I explain that I am assured of going to heaven after I die because the Scriptures say so and God doesn't lie. None of them would say that it is sufficient only to believe in Jesus to be saved, or that the blood of Jesus alone is, in itself, a sufficient price paid to redeem them from the curse of sin. The more involved they are in Roman Catholicism, the more firmly it seems that they hold to the necessity of works added to their "faith."
A Flickering Candle of Truth
If we truly love the lost souls about us, no matter what their religious affiliations, we will increase our efforts to bring them the truth of the gospel before it is forever too late. Such was the passion of Bishop Hugh Latimer, England's most powerful preacher in his day. He had dared to explain the errors of transubstantiation and of Rome's false gospel even during the reign of Henry VIII, for which he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Released when Edward came to power, Latimer continued his passionate preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ until, under Bloody Mary, he was imprisoned again and burned at Balliol College on October 16, 1555.
Bound back-to-back with iron chain at the same stake with Bishop Nicholas Ridley, Latimer was heard to call out to his companion in martyrdom as the flames engulfed them:
Be of good courage, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day, by God's grace, light such a candle in England as I trust will never be put out!
Such is the heritage of today's Protestants, which evangelical leaders are now dishonoring and even repudiating. Christian leaders who likely would not have known the gospel but for the martyrs who bravely stood up to Rome are now joining in an unholy partnership with that very institution which shed the martyrs' blood!
Yes, the woman rides the beast, and part of that ride is in unholy alliance with those who ought to know better. Let us stand firmly against the descending darkness as that candle ignited by the immolated bodies of countless martyrs flickers ever more dimly in our day.