Question: Norm Geisler has recently published a new book titled Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences. It is endorsed by some of the same evangelical [Chuck Colson] and Catholic [Richard John Neuhaus] leaders who signed “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.” CRI’ s Hank Hanegraaff (who derides “the pitiful scholarship” in A Woman Rides the Beast) praises Norm’s book as “accurate and balanced...must reading for thinking Christians....” Have you read the book, and if so, what is your opinion?
Answer: I carefully read it as soon as it appeared. Unfortunately, due to such endorsements, this book will further the destructive ecumenical movement. Norm Geisler has done excellent work in the area of Christian apologetics. In this book, however, he engages in the same scholarly doubletalk that we are hearing on the subject of Catholicism from evangelical leaders such as Colson, Packer and Bright as well as from CRI and others involved in the countercult ministry. Geisler correctly points out grievous errors in Catholicism—but then, each time, he excuses the errors as not so serious after all.
Take, for example, his chapter on justification. Surely nothing is more central to the Catholic-Protestant controversy nor more important to the destiny of souls. On page 231 Geisler points out that Catholicism “makes works a condition of eternal life,” whereas in the Bible “only one condition is laid down for obtaining eternal life: belief (e.g., Jn:3:16,36; 5:24; 20:31).” He also points out that “in direct opposition to the Catholic position, the Bible guarantees that eternal life is a present possession of those who believe...,” whereas the Roman Catholic “must await a final justification at death to know whether one has eternal life....” Again on page 233 he declares in no uncertain terms, “...the official Catholic position is unbiblical. For it insists that works are necessary for salvation....” That fatal flaw is precisely why Paul cursed the Judaizers (Gal:1:6-9) and why the Catholic “gospel” damns rather than saves.
On pages 242-43 Norm reinforces his proof that Roman Catholicism’ s gospel damns souls because “salvation is by sacraments...[it] is dependent on performing the works of the sacramental system.” He also shows that “The Roman Catholic Church is an institution of salvation”—i.e., salvation comes through the Church rather than through Christ alone. He further declares that “The Catholic view of the Eucharist as a sacrifice vitiates [i.e., corrupts, invalidates] salvation by grace.”
How astonishing, then, that having spent a 28-page chapter proving that Roman Catholicism teaches a false, unbiblical justification “similar to the error of Galatianism [Gal:1:6-9]” (p 236) and which therefore cannot save, he reverses himself and gives it his approval! Under the heading “Summary and Conclusion,” his last two sentences in the chapter state, “Nonetheless, at least officially, though not in practice, Rome has always held the common Augustinian belief of salvation by grace. In this way they have avoided even more serious doctrinal error.”
What could be “more serious” than a false gospel that promises heaven by works and sacraments but takes Catholics who believe it to hell!? Norm’s whitewash is like saying that because rat poison only contains .4 percent poison, it could deliver a “more serious” blow to rats if it had 10 percent poison. You can’t kill a rat deader than dead. Nor can there be any fate worse than hell. Apparently, in spite of the falseness of its gospel, Norm still believes that Catholicism will take Catholics to heaven and that evangelicals can therefore join Catholics in proclaiming the gospel!
Indeed, the book ends (prior to the Appendices) with encouragement to Catholics and Protestants to work together not only in social and political activism but “in fulfilling our Lord’ s Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20)”! Incredibly, Norm’ s final two sentences state, “Catholics and evangelicals do not have to agree on everything...before we can cooperate in proclaiming the power of the uncompromised gospel (Rom:1:16)”! Yet he has proved over and over that Catholicism is a compromised and false gospel of works and sacraments which is condemned in Scripture!
At the end of the last Appendix, the book finally ends with this statement: “The bottom line, then, is...while affirming the necessity of grace, Catholicism denies the exclusivity of grace as a condition for receiving the gift of eternal life. This, in the eyes of historic Protestantism, is a false gospel.” Never mind “historic Protestantism.” Catholicism is a false gospel according to the Bible and in the eyes of the Lord—a fact which Norm has repeatedly proved throughout the entire book.
Then what do we make of his exhortation for evangelicals to join with Catholics in “fulfilling our Lord’ s Great Commission” by “proclaiming the power of the uncompromised gospel”?! At the end of 502 pages, the reader is left with the impression that in spite of Catholicism’s errors evangelicals are Rome’s partners in the Great Commission. Please understand! Our concern is not to pursue an academic debate with Colson, Packer, Bright, et al. Our concern is for the salvation of nearly a billion Roman Catholics, deceived by their Church and heading for a Christless eternity, while evangelical leaders make common cause with Rome, and Geisler, CRI, et al. straddle the fence.