Tom McMahon welcomes back guest Mike Gendron as they continue their discussion on Roman Catholicism and whether it differs from Biblical Christianity.
In today’s program, Tom continues his discussion with Mike Gendron, whose ministry Proclaiming the Gospel focuses on reaching Catholics. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. This week, we’re doing part two of our discussion with Mike Gendron. Mike, as I mentioned last week, along with his wife Jane, have a ministry that addresses Roman Catholicism called Proclaiming the Gospel. He’s the author of Preparing for Eternity: Should We Trust God’s Word or Religious Traditions? And Mike was one of the cofounders with—we mentioned last week Jim McCarthy and Greg Durell—and [is] really a cooperative ministry trying to get ministries that evangelize Roman Catholics to circle the wagons, because, Mike, as you remember during those days, and I think you ought to mention this in detail, you guys were getting beating up. You guys were being—through organizations that were trying to promote unity between Catholicism and biblical Christians, and that would be…Promise Keepers was one, we mentioned Evangelicals and Catholics Together—but they were really putting the rush on you guys to turn you away, saying that you were offending our brothers and sisters in Christ, Roman Catholics. But anyway, that ministry was called Reaching Catholics for Christ. So, Mike, again, thanks for returning for this, I think, a really important two programs on Roman Catholicism.
Mike: Well, Tom, thanks for having me back. It’s important for a couple of reasons: number one, we’re looking at a mission field that contains over 1.2 billion souls throughout the world, and if the evangelical church is confused about whether or not they’re a mission field or they’re our brothers and sisters in Christ, as so many leading evangelicals now are stating, then we need to set the record straight. We not only need to equip the saints to reach out to Roman Catholics throughout the world, but we need to educate evangelicals as to the false and fatal gospel of the Roman Catholic religion. We cannot have unity with Roman Catholics because they stand opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and, in that sense, they’re actually enemies of the Cross.
Tom: Yeah. Mike, you bring up a really important point—it’s great, and we thank the Lord for our missionaries who go to South America, who go to different parts of the world, and so on—but you don’t even have to go out of your neighborhood, you know, if you’re living in this country. What is it—one in every four Americans is a Roman Catholic. So, there you go. But if you don’t know what they believe—and it’s interesting, many Catholics don’t know what they believe. I mean, I could say that for me growing up as a devout Roman Catholic. You know, I know what the nuns told me and certainly the priests and so on, but basically…
Mike: Well, Tom, bottom line, you and I were trusting our religion to save us.
Tom: Right, right.
Mike: We…you know, Christ—if you asked a Catholic today how they hope to get to heaven, nine times out of ten they won’t even mention the name of Jesus. They’re trusting their priests to distribute salvation through the sacraments, they’re trusting their religion, they’re trusting the “one true church” to save them. So it’s not about Christ, it’s about their religion.
Tom: No, and it’s about a belief—“Well, I’m basically a good person.” So now we’re into not only works salvation, but somehow they believe their good works is enough to get them to eternity, to get them to heaven. But they want to stop by purgatory, of course, to eradicate, supposedly, the works that weren’t so good—actually, their sins. But, Mike, again, back to this mission field: in the workplace, at school, wherever it is—again, one in four of every American that you’re going to meet is going to be a Roman Catholic. So they’re all over the place, and if you don’t know what you believe—we could start there with evangelicals: if you don’t understand the false gospel of Rome and then the biblical gospel—hopefully, if you’re a true believer, I mean, you had to understand it, because you couldn’t receive it if you didn’t understand it. But basically, with that foundation of knowing the Word of God, knowing that is the gospel of Christ, then that’s what needs to be ministered to their Roman Catholic neighbors, friends, relatives in some cases, in-laws, you know, whatever the case may be. So, Mike, that’s critical.
Now, Mike, I want to jump on this because it’s really important. What do you think are the reasons for such a huge shift among evangelicals toward accepting Catholics as fellow believers?
Mike: Well, Tom, I believe the primary reason is because of disobedience to and ignorance of the Word of God. You know, all Christians have the responsibility of earnestly, not passively, contending for the faith. But you know what, many Christians don’t even know that any perversion of the gospel leaves people under the condemnation of God. You know, Paul drove a stake in the ground in Galatians 1. The Judaizers came into town believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they pointed to the Gentiles and said, “If you’re a Gentile, you not only need to believe, but you need to be circumcised.” Did Paul call for unity with the Judaizers because they were believers? No, he condemned them because they added one requirement to the gospel of grace. Well, if you look at the Roman Catholic gospel, it’s added seven requirements to the gospel of grace. It’s hard work for a Catholic to get to heaven. In fact, it is so difficult that Catholics don’t even know in this life whether or not they’ve done enough to get to heaven. The Catholic Church goes so far as to say if you know for sure you’re going to heaven, you’re committing the sin of presumption…
Mike: …which is such irony, because if you believe the promises of God, then you’re committing a sin if you’re a Roman Catholic. And so I believe the primary reason is an ignorance of God’s Word, but secondly we talked about the Unity Accords that started coming out in 1994, and that really blurred the issue. It once was black and white from the Reformation all the way up until maybe the 1940s, but now you’ve got evangelicals signing accords stating that we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ.
But you ask the question “Why are evangelicals compromising the gospel? Why are they embracing Roman Catholicism?” and I think a lot of it has to do with the flesh. These leaders want to be loved by all, they want to become more popular and more influential not only in their community but nationwide, and they’re seeking to please men rather than please God, and ultimately they’re seeking the approval of men over God. You and I know they really need to be ashamed for what they’re doing, because, in a sense, they’re compromising the very gospel that the Reformers gave their lives defending, and so we need a new reformation. We need to educate evangelicals as to why the Reformation took place, and those same doctrines that they died defending are still in place today.
Tom: Right. Mike, somebody says, “Well, you’re being so doctrinaire.” Well, wait a minute. Let’s take the inspired words of Paul to Timothy, the young pastor Timothy. This is 2 Timothy:4:3: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” He’s not talking about nonbelievers here, he’s talking about believers who have gotten away from the Word of God. As Hebrews says, “They have drifted away,” for whatever reasons, and you’ve given reasons—the flesh, whatever it might be—but the point is that if they don’t understand, if they don’t have a good understanding of sound doctrine, we’re talking about the essentials of the faith, not a doctrine that—“well, we can’t fully grasp it, or there are issues; it’s more complicated.” We’re talking about the simple biblical gospel: “What must I do to be saved?” And Paul lays it out, what we must do to be saved. So that’s a critical point here that if believers—I’m talking about Bible-believing Christians—if they don’t really have a good understanding of that, they have been disarmed. They can’t, as you mentioned, Jude writes to us, “earnestly contend for the faith,” because they have no basis in which to do it.
Mike: That’s so true, and one of the most disheartening quotes that I’ve ever read actually came from a pastor here in the Dallas area, pastor of Irving Bible Church. He also was a graduate of the same seminary I graduated from, Dallas Theological Seminary, and so that’s why this quote really just cuts to the heart. Let me just read it. This came out in his church magazine shortly after John Paul II died. He said, and I quote, “I am aware that a certain rift occurred between Protestants and Catholics 500 years ago, but why both sides can’t still appreciate the good in each other and cooperate where possible in building the kingdom of our common Lord Jesus Christ is beyond me. I think we’ll have plenty of time in heaven to figure out who was right about purgatory and Mary.” And then he goes on to say that the doctrines that the Reformers died for were “theological pettiness between Catholics and Protestants.” And then he says, “John Paul II, in my opinion, was a great man whom all Catholics and Christians should admire, thank, and emulate.” Does that just cut to the heart?
Tom: Mike, that’s worse than tragic! How somebody—for all the respect that I have and, you know, you graduated from DTS, Dallas Theological Seminary—I mean this guy should have been given a test afterwards to [laughter]…I mean, if this would have been part of his answer on a test, he doesn’t get the degree, whatever degree he may have received, because it is so contrary to the simple Word of God, that it’s stunning. It’s shocking.
Mike: Well, and, Tom, you read scripture from Paul and, you know, the end times people will depart from the faith and follow doctrines of demons. That’s called apostasy, and only God knows people’s hearts, but when a person such as Andy McQuitty, pastor of a church that really has about 5,000 people, when he makes a statement like this, one must wonder—he either doesn’t know the pure gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, or he doesn’t know the false and fatal gospel of Rome…
Mike: …but to be able to make a statement like this and to call what the Reformers died for “theological pettiness” just goes beyond the pale.
Tom: And it’s…did you say that the name of the church has “Bible” in it, a Bible church?
Mike: Irving Bible Church.
Tom: Wow. I mean, that’s shocking.
Mike: But this is what happens when you start embracing false gospels, and you start wanting to become more popular and get more people into your church. You have to start compromising things, and this is what happens…
Tom: Folks, I say this for Mike, I can speak for Mike. Mike, I’ve known you for twenty-some years, but our background as Roman Catholics…folks, we were in bondage to the Church of Rome, and I am talking bondage here. And we were delivered from that bondage, and delivered into—what I thought, at least at the time—into the evangelical church. Look, we were Bible-believing Christians, but I’m just talking about the fellowship of evangelicals. This was like coming out of having the chains broken and coming into a fellowship of fellow believers, and it was, like you said, Mike, in last week’s program, it was one of the greatest things that’s happened in our lives. And now to see the evangelical church turning to Rome, accepting Rome, and you just gave one example, we gave other examples last week, this is—I mean, this breaks our hearts, right, Mike?
Mike: Well, it does, and you and I both know how discouraging it is when we see leading evangelicals start embracing a false religion. But, Tom, we also need to recognize it is encouraging, because the Lord Jesus said these things must take place before He comes for His church, and as we see the Protestant church drifting into apostasy the same way the Roman Catholic Church did, we’re seeing the building of the global religion that will one day worship Antichrist, and they’re going to be called Christians—they’re professing Christians…
Mike: …and the Antichrist will come on the scene claiming to be the Christ, and everybody will follow him because they don’t know the true Christ.
Mike: And that’s what your ministry and my ministry wants to do: point people to the true Christ.
Tom: Right. Mike, just to underscore what you just said, it’s not called anti-Buddha, or anti-Muslim, or anti-Hinduism, it’s called Antichrist, anti-Christianity, and we’re seeing these things in spades. Now, Mike, I just want to throw something else in there. We have mentioned Billy Graham and the beginnings—I can’t say it’s the absolute beginnings, but certainly the beginnings of the evangelical church turning toward Rome. We talked about evangelicals and Catholics together, which involved the late Chuck Coulson and the late John Richard Neuhaus, a Catholic priest, among others, those who signed that agreement. We could talk for ten minutes on all those evangelicals who signed that agreement. And then we had Promise Keepers: “Let the walls fall down, let the walls fall down,” they sang that over and over again. It was the walls between Roman Catholicism and biblical Christianity. But, Mike—now, I’ll see if you agree with this—for all the influences, the great influence that those movements, those things had, I don’t think in the last ten years there’s been anything that has moved evangelicals toward Catholicism as the movie The Passion of the Christ. Now…
Mike: Yeah, I would agree with you. That was such a catalyst.
Tom: Well, Mike, listen, you know that movie and I know that movie was about—it wasn’t really about Jesus. It was about the Stations of the Cross, it was a Marian movie, it was about Mary and her involvement. Now, let me give you a quote from Inside the Vatican. This is a pro-Vatican magazine. After the movie came out, this is what they said: “For evangelicals, the film has given them a glimpse inside the Catholic soul, even the traditional Catholic soul. Many evangelicals, reflecting on what they saw in the movie, say they are beginning to ‘get the whole Catholic thing.’ Lent, the ashes on the forehead, no meat on Friday, the sorrowful mysteries, the Stations of the Cross, the emphasis on the Eucharist, the devotion to Mary, the enormous crucifix hanging above every Catholic altar. They may not be rushing out to buy rosaries necessarily, but some of the things no longer seem so strange, so alien.”
And, Mike, after that movie came out, we had Stations of the Cross in the basements of evangelical churches…we had so many things that had encouraged and moved them to Catholicism as the Emerging Church came along—the bells and smells, the candles, the prayer altars, the incense—all of these things were showing up in Emerging churches, which claimed to be a part of evangelical Christianity, and so on. So that was a huge boost. And then, Mike, as you remember, why was this movie a success? Because evangelicals bought out theaters—churches bought out theaters to bring not only their own congregation, but friends, to see this incredibly Catholic movie.
Mike: Well, Mel Gibson did an amazing marketing job. He would actually appear in person at many of these mega-churches and they would give him the pulpit, and he would talk about the movie and encourage everybody to come. And you’re right: the movie would have been a flop if it weren’t for the evangelical church and the money that they poured into it.
Mike: And you know what Mel Gibson did with the money: he built a pre-Tridentine church in his hometown in California. But all the things that you just mentioned, Tom, really appeal to the unregenerate flesh, and that’s really one of the drawing cards of Roman Catholicism. People can go to a Catholic religion and they can smell the incense, they can see the Eucharist, they can hear the bells ringing, and they can look at the statues and worship and adore them and venerate them, and these are all things that appeal to the flesh. But we go to a Bible church where the pastor stands behind a pulpit instead of behind an altar, and they preach the Word of God. So there’s such a contrast, and yet so many people are drawn to this false religion.
Tom: Right. Now, Mike, when we were putting on Reaching Catholics for Christ conferences, we had two primary objectives: one was to inform evangelicals about the anti-biblical dogmas, or doctrines, of Roman Catholicism, and two, to teach evangelicals how to witness to Catholics. Now, what, Mike, in your mind, what Catholic dogmas would you say should be obvious to biblical Christians as contrary to the biblical gospel, and I want to start you off. Let’s go with purgatory, okay?
Mike: Yeah, I think purgatory is really an invalidation of the efficacy of the blood of Christ, because in 1 John:1:7, we see the blood of Christ purifies us from all sin, so anyone who’s trusting in the blood of Christ would recognize that purgatory is really a fraud. It’s one of Rome’s ways of making money. They sell Mass cards to families who had their loved ones die, and this is supposed to expedite their removal from the flames of purgatory. And so the blood of Christ is sufficient, but Catholics don’t know that.
It really comes back, though, Tom, to the doctrine of justification, because if you get justification wrong, you’ve got a wrong gospel, and as you mentioned last week, the Catholic view of justification is by faith plus works and the sacraments and purgatory and all the things added to the faith in Jesus Christ.
So I would say that if you’re witnessing to a Roman Catholic, you really need to focus on getting them into the Word of God. I would encourage Christians to use Catholic Bibles if they have those available, because you want to remove any obstacle that causes a Catholic to doubt what you’re doing, so they trust their own Bible. They recognize their Bible is the Word of God, so I would encourage Christians to use the Catholic Bible and point them to Scriptures like 1 John, where we see the blood of Christ being sufficient and efficacious, and show them John:19:30 when Jesus cried out in victory, “It is finished,” and the continuation of the sacrifice of Christ on Catholic altars is superfluous. In fact, we know the whole Catholic priesthood is superfluous, because when Christ gave up His Spirit, God in heaven tore open the veil separating sinful man from the holy God, showing that now through faith and the shed blood of Jesus, we have access to the throne of grace. We can go boldly into the Holy of Holies, trusting Christ. He’s our one Mediator between God and man. So these are all the things that we need to be encouraged to do.
But, Tom, if there’s two things that I would encourage your listeners in witnessing to Catholics, number one: they need to establish the Bible as the supreme authority in all matters of faith, and secondly: they need to show that Christ is sufficient to save sinners completely and forever.
Mike: Only when they embrace Christ as the all-sufficient Savior will they be willing to repent or to forsake all the things they’re doing to save themselves.
Tom: You know, Mike, sometimes evangelicals are invited to a Catholic wedding, and so maybe for the first time, they enter a Catholic Church. Well, one of the things that should strike them first and foremost is every Catholic Church I’ve been in has a large crucifix with Christ hanging from the cross. Well, that should tell them right away it’s not the finished work of Christ. He’s still hanging on the cross. He still has to be sacrificed over and over and over again through the Mass and through the Eucharist and so on. So that should be an eye opener—that Jesus did not pay the full penalty for their sins according to the church of Rome. There are things that they have to do.
Quick story here: our buddy Jim McCarthy was a missionary to Ireland. He was on a bus with a Roman Catholic, a nun, and they were talking about it, and at points, Jim thought, “Well, maybe this nun really believes what I believe. She’s an evangelical.” But she stopped him. She said, “Look, here’s the difference between what you believe and what I believe: you believe that Christ paid the full penalty for our sins. I believe that He paid 99 percent and I need to pay that 1 percent.” That’s an impossibility. What’s 1 percent of death? What’s 1 percent of eternal separation from God, which is the penalty for sin? So it makes no sense, but there it is, and [in] every Catholic Church, staring you right in the face, [is] a large crucifix, Christ still hanging there. That’s tragic.
Mike: Well, you’re so right, Tom. If the—we know the punishment for sin is eternal death, eternal punishment, so if you have to pay 1 percent of something that’s eternal, you still have an eternal debt that has to be paid.
Tom: That’s right, that’s right.
Mike: So Christ had to do it all; He did do it all, and then He cried out in victory, “It is finished!” He now sits at the right hand of God interceding on every believer’s account. When the devil comes accusing, we have a defense attorney. He’s alive; He says, “Paid for, 2,000 years ago. I’m no longer on the cross, I’m no longer offered every day. The work was finished, it was perfect.” The perfect High Priest offered Himself the perfect Sacrifice to a perfect God who demands perfection. And we should rejoice in that and point Catholics to the true Christ.
Tom: Absolutely. Now, Mike, that’s our heart’s cry, and from our vantage point, it seems overwhelming. But you know, this is a rescue operation. This is God’s deal. We certainly are thrilled to be used of Him. We’re just clay pots, His vessels, and so on. Nevertheless, this has to be a work of God, and we need to be used. That’s our great encouragement to all out there. I said earlier that one in every four Americans is a Roman Catholic. They’re in our neighborhood, at our workplace, at our schools—friends, relatives, whatever it might be—but we need to witness, we need to minister to them, and God has given us all that we need to witness. All we need to do is be willing, and the Lord will do the work in us and through us, and that’s our heart’s cry.
Mike, thanks for being with us today. [If] people want more information, they can contact us at The Berean Call, but certainly they can reach you and Jane at Proclaiming the Gospel. Can you give your website?
Mike: Yeah, our website is proclaimingthegospel.org, and one of the topics we discussed today, Tom, was reversing the Reformation, and I actually did a message on that that’s become our most popular DVD: Evangelicals and Catholics Reversing the Reformation. So I would encourage your listeners to learn more about what’s happening so that they can contend earnestly for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.
Tom: Mike, again, thanks for being with us.
Mike: Good to be with you, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7, with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, OR, 97708; call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org.
I’m Gary Carmichael. Please join us again next week, and don’t forget to Search the Scriptures 24/7.