Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Ventura County Star, March 1, 2003, with the headline: “Catholic-Turned-Evangelical Sparks Controversy at Church Gathering—Mike Gendron explains that he says the things he does are out of love and kindness. ‘The only reason I do it is out of compassion for Roman Catholics, who believe a different gospel,’ he said, from the headquarters of his Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries in Plano, Texas. ‘The Bible says there is only one way to heaven.’
“A week ago Thursday night, the Catholic-turned-evangelical Christian delivered a presentation on his former faith that caused the senior pastor of a Simi Valley church to say it was a mistake to host the event. It also prompted offended Catholics to challenge the practice of people of one faith passing judgment on another.
“Before an audience of about 200 people at Cornerstone Community Church, Gendron contended evangelical Christianity is based on the Bible’s gospel and the belief Jesus is the only way to salvation. He said scriptures do not support many Catholic teachings, including the road to heaven, purgatory, views of Mary, and the role of the Eucharist.
“‘It’s more than wrong,’ said Janice Daurio, a church-trained instructor of Catholicism, as well as a Moorpark college professor of philosophy and religion. She contends one-perspective teachings on religious differences only pull people apart. ‘I think it’s harmful,’ said Daurio, who complained about Cornerstone’s previous presentations on Catholic beliefs and asked church leaders to cancel Gendron’s event. ‘I think Jesus would look in the eyes of someone of a different tradition and say, ‘How happy am I that God made you!’
“Daurio’s husband, Paul Ford, is a Catholic theologian who earned his doctorate at evangelical Fuller Seminary in Pasadena and now teaches at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. They challenged many of Gendron’s claims. ‘Catholicism teaches that Jesus and not Mary is the only mediator between people and God,’ they said. ‘People’s good deeds don’t earn them salvation but can be used to measure the strength of their faith. The Eucharist is complicated, but suggesting as Gendron does, that Catholics believe Jesus returns to church altars around the world many thousands of times every day in the form of a wafer is offensive,’ they said. ‘Each Eucharist ceremony is a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s not that they read the Bible and we read something else, but that we don’t agree on certain interpretations,’ said Daurio, calling some scriptures ‘vague’ and ‘ambiguous.’
“But Gendron sees the Bible’s gospel as black and white, just like his obligation to show people what he believes is absolute truth. He left the Catholic Church in favor of evangelical Christianity 19 years ago. He says his teachings are based on formal Catholic resources, including the Church Catechism.
“A Catholic from a Westlake Village Church hid his name but stayed long after the lecture to vent frustration. ‘I felt bad for the other 200 people in there,’ he said. ‘They went away with the impression that this is the way Catholics believe.’
“The Reverend Francis Chan, senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, said he agreed with what some of what Gendron presented but was worried because parts felt cold and sarcastic. He heard from Catholics who agreed with Gendron, Chan said, but he worried others felt belittled. ‘We thought by bringing in a guy who had been part of the Catholic Church that long, it would give us a different perspective,’ he said. ‘In hindsight, I wish I had one of my pastors do the seminar.’
“Chan is considering a follow-up forum dealing with Catholicism to ‘sort of set the record straight.’ Chan said, ‘People can’t use a broad brush to characterize the way all Catholics believe.’ He said, ‘Some are certainly Christians and some probably aren’t, the same as with any church that builds itself as Christian. And virtually every doctrine that can be found in evangelical Christianity is also reflected in Catholicism.’ But Chan believes Catholics have padded their Bible teachings with other traditions and lessons. ‘At some point, if you keep adding it’s no longer the same,’ he said.”
Tom: Dave, earlier I mentioned that…you’re pulling your hair out…this article really upsets me, not just because I’m a former Catholic and that I know Mike, but there are issues here: Mike was invited to this church to present the differences between Roman Catholicism and what the Bible teaches and so on. We’ve seen his presentation many times—I have, especially—and he’s laying it out.
They have some Catholics here who are being interviewed, and they are presenting a view of Roman Catholicism that is not true to the Catechism, to any of the teachings of the Church that I know. Then the pastor is upset because they’re upset. Now, this relates to what we were talking about earlier, that Mike is presenting the truth—he knew he was going to meet opposition prior to coming to the church, and he was very sensitive to that. So he wanted to lay out as objective a presentation as he could. But 40 Catholics that were involved in this—they didn’t want to hear it.
Dave: But the problem, Tom, is in this article we don’t get his objective presentation. All we get are the criticisms of other people, and reading it, you would have to sympathize with them, unless you know the facts. They say, “Well, one philosophy is as good as another.” Well, that’s not true. “Jesus would look in the eyes of somebody from another faith and say, ‘I’m glad that God made you.’” No, Jesus would present the truth to them.
Tom: What about the Eucharist? Their presentation of the Eucharist as it is thought by the Roman Catholic Church is so far removed from any of the official teachings to be ludicrous. And this man—well, he studied…got his degree at Fuller Seminary—there’s an interesting deal. And now he’s teaching in a Catholic seminary.
Dave: But Tom, the problem with this article is it doesn’t give the real Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. So all you can do is say, “Well, I guess these guys are telling us the truth because they’re Catholics.” That’s the same thing we have with Muslims today saying Islam is peace. You never get the other side in a newspaper article. Mike is not given a fair shake in this article. He has laid out the evidence that the Catholic gospel is a false gospel. It adds works and rituals, sacraments, and so forth, but you wouldn’t get that. I don’t see that Mike has been able to respond at all in this article.
Tom: No, not at all, but nevertheless he had this experience of going to this church and then, he was about to give a Q and A, and say, “All right, now let’s have an interaction.” The pastor stood up and said, “No!” He was offended by what Mike had to say, and he began ten minutes of apology to the audience! Wow!
Dave: It’s sad that political correctness seems to rule the day. When it comes to Islam, we must be politically correct; when it comes to Catholicism, we must be politically correct. Rather let someone go to hell than offend their feelings. There is something really sad out there, Tom. Christians don’t think—we don’t recognize that truth is truth. It is black and white; you can’t compromise, you don’t dialogue with God, you don’t re-negotiate with God. The Bible has made it very clear exactly what the gospel is. It’s a matter of justice. God is the one who makes the rules. He created this universe; He created us. We’re going to have to go His way, and Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” But these people think that’s too narrow minded.
The Catholic Church is not true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as you know, but we don’t want to point that out because that might offend someone. Let’s let them go to hell.
Tom: See, Dave, there’s another point here. First of all, the pastor is right. You don’t want to present something in such an offensive way that you’re taking away from the truth that you are presenting. But then he says, “And virtually every doctrine that can be found in evangelical Christianity is also reflected in Catholicism.”
Dave: That’s simply not true. They have different meanings for words. They can use the same words—like a Mormon can talk about God, but God for him is a man who was redeemed by another Jesus on another planet. They talk about “God,” but they all hope to become gods. So Catholicism can talk about Jesus Christ, but He didn’t pay the full penalty for our sins. They deny what the Bible says that the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ was sufficient, and they are re-offering Christ, re-presenting Him—Christ is being sacrificed on their altars over and over and over. It’s exactly true what Mike says….
Tom: According to their teachings.
Dave: Exactly, but sadly, this article doesn’t give you the true perspective.