Tom: Today and next week, we’re going to discuss some of the things related to the Roman Catholic Church, and, in particular, the increasing relationship that it has with evangelicals and, in particular, the influence of Pope Francis. My guest to talk about this is Greg Durel. He’s the pastor of Heritage Bible Church of Gretna, Louisiana, and he has a weekday radio ministry that is devoted to educating Catholics in biblical doctrine. Greg, like me, grew up as a Roman Catholic, so he knows Catholicism experientially as well as from his study of Catholic Church tradition and its dogmas.
Greg, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Greg: Well, Tom, it’s always a privilege to be with you.
Tom: Greg, how long have you been a born-again Christian, and how did that come about since, as I mentioned, you were formerly a Roman Catholic?
Greg: Well, Tom, I got saved back in 1981 – can’t do the math off the top of my head, but it’s been a long time – and I got saved uniquely. You know, a lot of people will tell you they got saved because someone shared the gospel with them and they believed. I got saved because I got married – not in the Catholic Church – married my wife, who was a third generation Jehovah’s Witness; and that was no big deal for me, because I was a “casual Catholic,” so to speak, at that period of time. And, you know, love is blind. I didn’t care what she was. She could have been, you know, into Voodoo or whatever. I didn’t care; I was in love. And then children come along, and then the issue is: “Wait a minute – we have to get the children baptized. They have to do this, they have to do that.” And then a conflict arose, because she would say, “Oh, no! My children are never going to be Roman Catholic. That’s wrong. They’re going to be going to the Kingdom Hall and being Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
And I said, “Far be it for my children to go to a Kingdom Hall and be a Jehovah’s Witness.” So it got to the point where it was combative, and it was even – got so severe where we couldn’t even talk about it without fighting, and to the point where it was either going to be reconciled or the marriage was going to end. So I sat her down and said, “Listen: I’m going to prove to you from the Bible that you’re always quoting to me – I’m going to prove to you that Roman Catholicism is correct, it’s biblical, it’s the Church that Jesus Christ established. And if I do that, will you convert to Roman Catholicism?”
And she said, “Oh, surely I will.” She says – “But,” she says, “if I prove to you that you’re wrong and Jehovah’s Witnesses are right, will you become a Jehovah’s Witness?”
I said, “Oh, yeah, sure.” I figured she couldn’t prove that in a million years. And so then I proceeded to study. I became Mr. Catholic: Mass every day, two rosaries a day on most days, studying everything – every catechism, everything I could lay my hands on. I had sit-down conversations with Jesuit theologians, had a long-distance communication with a priest by the name of Father William Most, who wrote some of the introduction to Vatican II. He taught at Loras College of Classical Studies.
Anyway, by and large, the bottom line was that I recognized that Roman Catholicism was not biblical. None of the theologians could demonstrate – their theologians – could demonstrate to me from the Word of God that what I was doing was biblical. And they would always say, “Well, that’s why the Church is here. The Church tells you…”
As a matter of fact, a priest – a Jesuit priest by the name of McGill – one Saturday afternoon in almost a three-hour sit-down discussion with him at a church in downtown New Orleans kept giving me a Latin phrase (I can never remember), which simply means, “You believe it or you don’t.”
And I would say, “Well, Father, I can’t go tell my wife that!”
And he says, “Listen, let me explain something to you.” He says, “The Church is here to tell you what to believe.” He said, “If people were just to believe the Bible, Greg – the Bible says, ‘If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.’” He said, “There’d be people standing on the corner of Verona and Carmen in the front of Sears-Roebuck plucking their eyes out if not for the Church.”
And I said, “Oh.” And I left. Now, I had to go home, and I couldn’t tell my wife that, because she would have laughed at me. I couldn’t use the Latin phrase on her, which I remembered back then, because she would have laughed at me. And at that point I said, “I’m not going to believe anything or anybody. I’m going to empty my brain of everything I was ever taught, and I’m going to begin reading the Book.” And that’s what I did, and I came to Christ that way, and came to the realization that the gospel was a simplistic reality that Jesus is God in the flesh. He died for the sins of mankind, and if one puts personal faith in Him, makes Him the object of their faith, then they’re the recipient of everlasting life and that cannot be undone. And at that point, I was willing to be a Jehovah’s Witness, because I assumed that that’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses believed. So I had a sit-down with my wife, and she said, “Well, I’ve got to tell you something.”
I said, “No, me first.”
She said, “Me first.”
And I said, “Okay, go ahead.”
She said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong.” She says, “I proved everything wrong.”
I said, “Wait a minute: I proved Catholicism wrong.” So we looked at each other and said, “Well, where are the Christians? If Catholics aren’t Christian, if Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t Christian….” And then it began a search to find Christians, people who truly believe the Bible and the Bible alone was the authority, and the end result is I left the business world and here I am today.
Tom: Yeah. Wow. Now, along that line, Greg, what’s the difference between being a born-again Christian and a Roman Catholic? Now, the reason I’m asking you that is because I’m hearing more and more from those who call themselves “born-again Catholics.” How does that work?
Greg: Well, the difference is religion. You know, I tell people all the time I don’t have a religious bone in my body. Again, religion involves empiricism, it involves the physical realm, it involves work. Irrespective of the denomination, Catholics being the biggest example of it, there’s always some sort of physicality to your salvation; there’s something that you have to do. And obviously, the reality of the gospel is that the work is finished. John:19:30, Christ exclaims, “It is finished!” Paid in full, for time and eternity. And so now to inject into “Christianity” some formula or something that you have to do in order to get saved, then that negates the grace of God. That negates the gift.
Catholics, what do they say? “Well, you have to be baptized, you have to participate in the sacraments, you have to eat his flesh, drink his blood,” so forth and so on. Go across even many denominational lines: “You have to be baptized in water, you have to use this formula, you have to do this; you can’t go to church on Sunday, you have to go on a Saturday. If you go on a Sunday, you take the mark of the beast, you go to hell,” or whatever – across the board.
And I tell people day in and day out that that’s the devil’s backyard. That’s where he lives: in the physical realm. He injects into your conscience, your mindset, that you are doing something, and that puts the significance back to you. You become, in essence, a little god. You’re a co-savior, if you will. You know, God needed a helper, and you’re His helper. You’re helping Him save you. That’s the frustrating thing today, because – what’s a born-again Catholic? What does that mean? Well, if one’s born again, they’ve accepted the remission of sins, they’ve accepted the redemption that’s to be found in Christ. Well, the last time I read the Book, it said, “Where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews:10:18). So if that’s the case, then why does Roman Catholicism teach you have to continue to sacrifice for your sin?
Greg: So then we don’t have remission, so then we don’t believe the gospel. So you can call yourself whatever you want. The bottom line comes down to the fact – it’s what do you truly believe? That’s the issue.
Tom: That’s right, and that’s what makes a person born again. It’s by faith and faith alone.
You know, Greg, just going back to your testimony, I find it fascinating that both you and Cindy, your bride, you were on the same page! You were both into works-salvation…
Tom: …and that’s the problem. As I mentioned, some who say, “Well, I’m a born-again Catholic,” well, when I ask them more questions about it, they haven’t given up anything, but…. You know, so I will say, “Well, when were you born again?”
They say, “Well, when I was baptized as an infant.”
No. That’s just what you said: it’s works-salvation, and that’s the huge difference between…and I love this term – people will say, “Well, what are you?” I don’t say I’m an evangelical; I don’t say I’m a Protestant, although you and I are Protestants. We protested against the Catholic Church, because we were Catholics. So that term, Protestant, doesn’t really apply to most Christians. So what am I? I’m a biblical Christian, and I want to talk to people who call themselves biblical Christians in terms of fellowship and so on, because we’re going to be going back to the same Book! Biblical Christian. But sadly, many who call themselves Christians are not biblical Christians. That’s a problem.
Greg: Well, you know, the term that I use, if you’ll allow me, it’s called “cafeteria Christian” or “cafeteria Catholic.” And it’s the person who goes in and they go up and they say, “Well, give me a little bit of the French fries, and a little bit of this, and a little…give me some chocolate cake, but I’ll pass on the broccoli and all the other stuff.” And they want to pick and choose and pick and choose, and you just can’t have that.
I remember years back, I did a lecture at Purdue University, and we had to place [?]. It was packed with people, and I did a presentation on Roman Catholicism, and I took questions and answers that went on for an hour and a half after. But a guy stood up, and he’s a Roman Catholic he said…and he kept badgering me. He would hit me with a question, and I would attempt to answer it, and then he would hit me with another one, and this went on for like fifteen minutes. And I said, “Pardon me, just stop for a second.” I said, “Let me ask you one question.” I said, “Do you believe that when that priest says the words of consecration, that that bread and that wine supernaturally literally become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
He said, “No, I don’t.”
I said, “Well, then you’re not even Roman Catholic! The Catholic Church says that you are a heretic! That’s a mortal sin, and you’ll die and go to a Christless eternity.” He stood up and walked out. Now, what did that demonstrate to me? That there’s a host of people who identify with the Catholic Church, but they’re not Catholics at all! They’re not Catholics at all.
I’ll give you another illustration: Years back (I’m not going to mention his name), I don’t know if he still does, but right after – maybe 2004, he was working for the archdiocese of New Orleans. He called my office, asked me could he quote me in a book that he was writing, and I figured it was a pro-Catholic apologetic-type thing. And I got his name, we talked, and I said, “Well, what’s the book about?”
He says, “Well, I’m trying to demonstrate why Roman Catholicism is not correct.”
And I said, “Wait a minute…” I said, “You work for the archdiocese and you’re writing a book showing why the Catholic Church is not correct?”
And he said, “That’s true. That’s what I’m doing.”
And I said, “Well, where do you fellowship? Where do you ‘go to church?’”
He said, “Well, the Catholic Church.”
I said, “I don’t understand here. Help me: you’re writing a book explaining the errors of the Catholic Church, how it’s not correct, it’s not biblical, but…”
He says, “Well, look: I go to the High Mass.” And he says, “It’s just something about the incense and the Gregorian chants,” or whatever. He said, “It’s magnetic to me.” He said, “I know what you’re thinking — I’m crazy. No, I don’t believe it’s a sacrifice, but I just identify with that.”
So again, if you met this guy on the street and you said, “What religion are you?” he’d say, “Well, I’m Roman Catholic.” But in reality, he’s not! And so that’s what we’re up against today. And then when you go into the Protestant realm, you get no contradictions there, because, “Oh, you’re Catholic? Oh, well, you’re one of us!”
Well then, “what do you believe?” is the fundamental issue today. Once upon a time, if you said, “I’m Catholic,” we knew what that meant. Today it could mean anything. In your introduction, Pope Francis is stereotypical of that: you can believe anything you want and be a Catholic today.
Tom: Yeah. But again, it says something about where the Catholic Church is and where it’s going. But I would ask you: how would you describe the relationship between evangelicals and the Catholic Church when you became a believer, all right (and this is really where you’re going), compared to today? Is there a difference, or is it just the same old, same old?
Greg: No, it’s a big difference, big difference. And I guess, you know, from a historical bent, if you went back 60-70 years, it would be even much more severe. You go pre-Vatican II, if you are sitting in a First Baptist Church in New Orleans, from a Catholic’s perspective, you are a Baptist, and that was a terrible, terrible term, and you were going to hell in a handbasket because you had to be Roman Catholic to be saved. And now post-Vatican II, now you have, “Well, we don’t say…” In other words, the Baptists and whoever were called “heretics” before Vatican II, and then after Vatican II, then it was just “separated brethren.” You know, the whole Pentecostal movement was heresy, and then it suddenly starts to become favorable.
And so when I – you know, early ‘80s, there was a dividing line there. There was still the doctrinal issue of salvation. Salvation had to be defined. Now that doesn’t apply anymore. You know, you go in some of these megachurches, and you’ve got Catholics sitting there because they like the music; you’ve got somebody else sitting there because they like the whatever. From a doctrinal perspective, in many of these institutions, half the people on the pew can’t define the gospel. And that’s where we’re going: a big (obviously, ecumenism), but a big ecumenical spirit is pervasive today, and that’s how things – that’s the agenda that the pope has.
Listen: when he says even an atheist can be saved if they’re a good person, I mean, how do you respond to that? That’s the head of the Roman Catholic Church says an atheist can be saved if they’re a good person? And then who defines “good?”
Tom: Yeah. You know, Greg…
Greg: And so it’s an open door.
Tom: Yeah. Greg, thinking back, when I was in elementary school at St. Mary’s Church, and I would walk home, I wouldn’t pass through the shadow of a Protestant church. I mean, that’s where the issues were. And now, as you point out, we see this – and we’re going to talk about this more a little bit later – but we see this development that’s growing. We’ve moved from – right or wrong, there was an objective teaching of the Catholic Church. I mean, you were obligated to believe certain things and to do certain things, and that’s gone by the boards.
And in addition to that, it’s moved into such a subjective realm, and I want to talk about where you think this is leading the Church, and then what Francis is – how he’s leading the way. But he’s not the only one: we could go back to Pope John Paul II, and we can see him starting these things. I mean, talk about ecumenism, and, “Yeah, well, it’s for everybody,” and so on and so forth. And you’re absolutely right: this began – this change started at Vatican II. You know, it moved from the objective obligations, the laws and teachings of the Church, to something – well, now it’s really a matter of your conscience. And now, there were those who objected to that, and we’re going to talk about conservatives within the Catholic Church – still wrong, but at least they had an objective perspective that we don’t see anymore. Well, here’s my question: who changed in that time? Today and yesterday, who changed between then and now? Was it the Catholics or the so-called Protestants in terms of getting together? Of course, what we hear today is, “Well, come on, Tom, they love Jesus!” Well, who changed?
Greg: Well, both, both! It’s a two-way street here, and you see that. The Kenneth Copelands now embracing the pope, other people embracing the pope – but principally, Rome started it. Rome started it with Vatican II. And again, you hear that John Paul II was really the pusher of the ecumenical spirit, and you’re seeing it today epitomized in Francis, which is, you know, just unbelievable things. But don’t forget Benedict XVI…
Greg: …between there. He was the theologian behind the last official Roman Catholic catechism that I think was published – if memory serves me – around 1996, and in that catechism definitively, it says that Muslims will be saved because they believe in a creator. Now, you think about this for a second: again, if Muslims can be saved simply because they believe in a creator, who they determine is Allah, the moon god, then if atheists can be saved, so says the sitting pope from the chair of Peter – and that’s directed in matters of faith and morals, so that’s declared to be infallible – if an atheist can be saved because they’re simply a good person, then what do you need any religion for? What do you need anything for?
And that was – Benedict XVI, when he came out of the tomato fields a few years back – last year, year before last one – came out of retirement to object to some of the things Francis had put forth. And basically, what Benedict XVI said: If Francis keeps on this pathway, it makes no sense to be a Catholic. Well, it makes no sense to be any particular religion, because when you have the Kenneth Copelands embracing Catholicism and other people embracing Catholicism, then it’s not about the -isms, it’s just about the oneness, and that’s the driving force behind the ecumenical spirit.
Tom: Well, you know, going back to Benedict XVI, we thought that – well, we, you know, just in terms of observation, we thought, “Well, here’s a guy who’s going to get them back on track and maybe be different than the ecumenism of John Paul II.” But he wasn’t! He didn’t! The problem now is he continued that. Now, this is the man who headed up what was called – well, what was the Office of the Inquisition! You know, this was supposed to be the chief theologian who’s going to keep it on track, but he opened that door, and opened that door, and I want to talk later, maybe in our next session, about – isn’t he still a pope? Or can you retire as a pope? Anyway, we’ll deal with that next week.
Now, Greg, we’ve got about five minutes left: I have the question that…things going this way not only impacting – or changes within the Catholic Church, and there are definitely – this is an infallible Church, according to them! And they don’t – they can’t make any mistakes. But now you have a battle going on between the conservatives, like, as you say, Benedict XVI coming out of retirement, sort of, to address some of these things within his Church – he’s still the Vicar of Christ! I don’t think you can step away from that position, at least the way they make it up, and so on. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen? Where is this going to go with regard to the position of the Catholic Church? I mean, is it going to just implode, or are they going to come up with something else? Because remember, they still maintain that everybody’s under their umbrella, whether you call yourselves Anglicans or Episcopalians or Baptists or whatever, you know, they’re trying to draw everybody in and it’s going to be ruled by Rome.
Greg: Well, the second half of Revelation 13 answers that for you, because that has to come to fruition. And what is that about? It’s about the individual who’s going to be the head of a religion and the head of a country. And as we said for years, thank Ronald Reagan for that, because Ronald Reagan gave the pope a seat at the diplomatic table. We even have an ambassador to Rome as we’ve referenced many times. So what you’re seeing is a pseudo-political, pseudo-religious organization being founded inside of Roman Catholicism. The agenda ultimately is going to be – it’s going to be political. And you’re seeing that with Pope Francis – his comments and everything he’s commenting on, whether it’s immigration or whatever, it’s all political. It has nothing to do with people getting saved or being Catholic, per se, but it’s political. And that’s where it has to go, and the door has to be open to let Muslims in, to let everyone in, because a one-world “religion” is going to be the end result here, and that’s the path. I don’t think he’ll be the leader when that really comes to fruition, but, boy, he’s been instrumental in laying the pathway to that without reservation.
Tom: Yeah, and as far as the evangelicals go, and… You know, that term is kind of meaningless…
Greg: Yes, it is.
Tom: …but I like to use it for the sake of just separating – well, you have Catholics and you have evangelicals, but as I mentioned earlier, now we have some Catholics calling themselves “evangelical Catholics.” So, you know, it’s just a term that I would use to make a distinction between Catholics and non-Catholics of the “Protestant variety.” But in that process, for the evangelicals, the Scripture says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” and we’re seeing that in spades. And that’s why they’re up for seduction; that’s why when somebody says, “Oh, Catholics love Jesus!” they don’t ask the question, “Well, what Jesus do they love?”
Greg, as you know, last time you were in a Catholic Church, or I was, there’s a body still hanging on that cross. Well, why is the body still there? Well, because the Catholic Jesus didn’t pay the full penalty for our sins. That’s why we have – you know, Catholics have purgatory. They have to expiate their own sins through suffering and all of that. Well, evangelicals are not asking that question, because they – as you pointed out earlier, grab a group of them and then have them individually tell you what the gospel is. It’s – many can’t do it.
Greg: Yeah. Evangelical is an inappropriate term, because it has with it the connotation that these are people who evangelize. On either side of this, these groups here, none of them evangelize, because they don’t have anything to evangelize. It’s all about the here and now. It’s about how to live well and how to have a – you know, how to enjoy everyday life. Well, you can’t find a biblical passage for that! It’s not about this world, it’s about the world that’s coming, and we’re supposed to be telling the good news of faith alone in Christ alone and get people in the ark of Christ, because obviously if the Book’s true, the wrath is forthcoming.
Tom: Yeah. Greg, we’re out of time for this segment, but I want to invite our listeners: we’re going to deal with more of these issues. They’re incredibly important, and I think, Lord willing, we’ll give you some information that perhaps you’re not aware of. So, Greg, thank you for being with me in this session, and I look forward to next week.
Greg: Thanks, Tom.