Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Catholicization of Evangelical Christianity

Not many evangelicals or fundamentalists or independent Christian denominations would consider themselves Roman Catholic (RC).  Most would probably resent being associated or labeled with Roman Catholicism.  I’m not trying to poke at the bee hive here.  It’s not my point.  I want readers to think about this.

As most of you know. RC dominated much of the world and all of Christendom for centuries.  Some of Christendom remained separate, but most of it folded into RC until the Protestant Reformation.  Protestants retained and still retain a lot of RC.  They know it.  Many, if not most, don't mind your saying it.  However, they are more RC then they think or claim.  And then even those who don't see themselves as Protestants have also been affected.

Jesus at different times warned against the leaven of either the Pharisees, the scribes, or Herod.  These were different types of detrimental influences from these sources.  Paul warned the Corinthians and even other churches about the influence of Babylonian paganism and mysticism.  We should always understand the possibility of influences, not assume that our belief and practice has not had a wrong influence.

Roman Catholicism (RC) either remains within or has infiltrated evangelical Christianity (EC), seen in many different ways and not necessarily in the following order.

One, the Allegorizing or Spiritualizing of Scripture

Allegorical interpretation has been the domain of RC, an integral part of being RC.   RC doesn't take scripture literally, rejecting plain meaning of the text.  I'm not going to explain why RC does this, but it is RC.   There is so much allegorization in EC, taking the RC approach.  How?   In a more technical sense, covenant theology itself is the influence of RC to accept allegorization and spiritualization.  We could just park there.  However, more specifically, churches and men continue to spiritualize "the church."  They don't take ekklesia literally.  This is a leftover of RC.

When someone comes to the word "church" in scripture, he should read it as a visible, physical assembly.  You can't find a spiritualization of it, a universalization of it, anywhere in the Bible.  You definitely have to read in the catholic idea in order to get it out.  It's not there without reading it into the Bible.  So why or how is it read in?  It's RC.  RC allegorized scripture.  A universal, invisible church is one of the leftovers not eliminated by the Protestant Reformation.  They kept that in play, and why not?  They didn't mind a state church.  It was convenient.  The church as a replacement of Israel was fine with them too.

Men also spiritualize a quarter of the Bible in the way of the eschatological or prophetic passages.  That has become acceptable, not a separating issue.  You can be wrong on thirty percent of the Bible and that's not going to be a deal breaker with many, if not most.

Another type of example of this is preaching a book like Song of Solomon as an allegory about Jesus and the church.  This kind of spiritualizing has seeped even into unaffiliated Baptists, who would totally decry the above examples.  They don't even know that they too have been influenced by reading covenant theologians or by those reading covenant theologians.

Two, the Emphasis on Buildings

The emphasis on buildings comes out of Roman Catholicism.  It is again related to covenant theology.  Old Testament Israel built a temple.  RC builds temples, cathedrals, and in them priests make sacrifices.  The people come into these temple cathedrals.  People associate the church with a building, because they associate the church with Israel.  This is all, again, RC interpretation.

Evangelicalism, fundamentalism, most of Christianity has taken this and run with it in line with how people feel.   RC has influenced people's expectations of a building.  Notice how Mormonism has played off of this too with their buildings.  They know that people think the building is the church and that there is something more spiritual to walking within its walls, like you've just entered the holy of holies or holy place.

The New Testament advocates financial support for church leaders and for needy saints in the churches.  There is not one teaching about support of a building.  And yet, look at how churches spend their money.  The building is crucial to churches when it is absolutely absent from the NT.

Three, the Acceptance of Infant Sprinkling

Infant sprinkling isn't in the Bible unless you allegorize scripture.  And allegorization opens the door to almost anything.  But why does it need to be in scripture?  The church is Israel.  Israel is the kingdom of God.  The church is the kingdom.  This is all RC.  You become a part of Israel through circumcision.  Infant sprinkling is the New Testament circumcision.  Catholics and Protestants teach infant sprinkling as a means of grace.

I agree with the estimation that more people have been condemned to hell by the doctrine of infant sprinkling than any other doctrine. And today it doesn't matter.  Ligon Duncan and Carl Trueman and R. C. Sproul go everywhere with great adulation.  On the other hand, in the colonial period, Baptists were whipped and banished in the Massachusetts Bay Colony because they would not sprinkle their infants.

Four, the Focus on Experiences

RC is a history of extra-scriptural authority, not just traditions.  You've got the apparitions of Joan of Arc, weeping statues, bleeding ones, Juan Diego finding miracle flowers and his miracle visions of the virgin of Guadalupe, and many more.  This shows up all over in the Charismatic movement, in revivalistic evangelicalism, now in reformed continuationists, and even in the regular "the Lord spoke to me" or "the Lord told me to do this" with unaffiliateds.

It doesn't stop there.  The most dangerous form is the advent or escalation of the ecstatic or euphoric manufactured by the "worship music."  People replace true spirituality with feelings and sentimentalism, at the loss of reverence.  The microphone handling pop singer in church stays.  People need the feeling.  They don't think they've got something authentic or legitimate without it.  They're fooled.

Have you noticed the newer yodel-like, Celtic voice-hitch (lilting) that is utilized by pop singers, often the country singers?  Is this just something that God likes to hear?   They can't just sing a note anymore. You hear them hit the note and slide down or hit below the note and slide to it.  It creates a kind of artificial yearning noise, like someone's voice cracked out of utter earnestness and overwhelming feeling.  There's also something of the noble savage here, because it's Jethro, who just walked out of the backwoods, unspoiled by humanity, who talks this way.  It's fake.  It's contrived.  It's also connected to new-age gobbledygook (Enya is a good example of this).  This is just one example of the type of manipulation for emotional effect.  It causes an experience that is taken as spiritual.  Granted, almost everyone who does it is just impersonating somebody from the world, who started it in pop music, but in pop music it's being used like I'm describing.  The people who copy it must be real like goths with dark clothes and heavy pewter crosses must be real.

The Jews sought after signs.  Men seek after signs.  A wicked generation seeks after signs.  Signs will be sought after.  This isn't just RC, but it is RC, nonetheless.

Five, the Acceptance of Amillennialism

I've already touched on this, but there is a big push toward Amillennialism in evangelical Christianity today.  If it isn't believed, it's accepted as a legitimate alternative.  RC developed a theology to fit its view of government and power.  The covenant theology arose to defend it.  No one in the Bible believed this.  This is continued RC influence.

Six, Clerisy

Clerisy works for this, perhaps sacerdotal society, or nicolaitinism.  A certain class arises, respected beyond scripture.  The Bible is the authority, but the clerisy trumps scripture.  Men become enamored with these Christian celebrities, where their word becomes of greater value than a point from God's Word.  Carson says.  Grudem says.  Piper says.  Mohler says.  Daniel Wallace says.  Hyles says.  Warren says.  Bauder says.  Chappell says.  The Gospel Coalition says.  The FBFI says.  With RC, it's the Pope says or the Bishop says.

Seven, Social Work

You hear the widow and orphan and poverty passages taken out of context.  They mix Old Testament Israel with the church again.  When Acts 6 and 1 Timothy 5 talk about widows, they mean true widows alone, and true widows in the church.  Postmillennialism, a hopeful or optimistic form of amillennialism, influences toward transforming the culture or society.  This is where evangelicalism starts mirroring Mother Teresa.  The New Testament does not teach this.  This is not the mission of the church.  I'm fine with culture changing.  I'd be glad for postmillennials to succeed.  They won't.  They could only succeed by preaching the gospel, and that's not how they're getting it done.

Another form of postmillennialism that has mixed with RC is the communist form of liberation theology.  They have a different view of how to get it done than the reconstructionists, but both are attempting to change the world through social programs.  They allegorize the Bible to back up their view.  The popularization of liberalism in our culture has lead churches, it seems, to join them, rather than fight them.

Eight, Centralized Authority

You see this in our government, but it is also in evangelical Christianity.  A simple assembly, the government in the New Testament isn't enough.  You've got to have something bigger -- the mission boards, the colleges, the universities, where these parachurch organizations have more power and influence than the church.  RC didn't start this, but it is the major form and influence since Christ.  It started at the Tower of Babel or maybe before that when Cain wouldn't replenish the earth.


I often hear two positions as to the meaning of Babylon -- one is Roman Catholicism -- the other is pagan religion.  The two are dovetailed now to the degree that they aren't even different anymore.  I could argue both and I might not be arguing something different.  I don't know, and it probably doesn't matter whether the false prophet will lead a Catholic church or a one-world paganism.  Roman Catholicism could work just nicely.  Evangelical Christianity seems to be helping to pave the way.


Steve Rogers said...

This is again SPOT ON discernment. Catholicism is indeed the foundation of the Anti-Christ religion of the Tribulation and we are told it is already at work in the church age. It is infiltrating every aspect of life, preparing people to accept the lie and worship Satan's superman. I am shocked at the number of professing Bible believers who cannot discern this influence and are part of the muddying of the waters between Biblical Christianity and Apostate/Pagan Christendom. There are definitely IFB popes who like this top down mindset, where they issue decrees that are infallible and above testing.

This week Paul Chappell posted on FB and Twitter, about all the "Christians" being martyred for their "faith" in Egypt.

The problem is that apart from a very very few unknown Bible believers, the thousands of "Christians" and "Christian" churches being burned are Coptic Catholics, who preach and teach a religion of works that sends more people to hell than Islamist jihadists. Truth be told, that Catholicism and it's daughters, have persecuted and killed more actual Bible believers than Islamists. And yet, the ecumenical minded "evangelical Christianity" of America, including some fundamentalists, either don't know or cannot discern the difference between Catholicism, like the Coptics, and True NT Bible believers.

Our Baptist forefathers sure knew it, and died for it. We shame them by embracing and integrating and downplaying the Biblical distinction.


Great post brother Kent.

Regarding amill., either the devil is "bound" (Rev. 20:2) or he is walking "about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). He can't be both and I beleive the latter.

I've often wordered what the amill folks are going to think when the temple starts going up.

If you are going to allergorize Rev. 20, why not John 3:16?

John Gardner

Anonymous said...

But keep in mind also that the false gospel of "lordship salvation" is also from RC.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Steve and John.


I don't publish every anonymous comment, but I will if it isn't some kind of personal slam, which I don't consider yours. For awhile, I've known that Lordship is actually the problem for Roman Catholics. Our area is populated with many Roman Catholics and Lordship is a huge issue for them. I've talked to converted Catholics and their problem was Lordship, more than with Jesus as Savior. Authority is a big problem with Catholics. They won't submit to scripture, because of the Pope and tradition. Jesus isn't their Lord, but the Pope and tradition are.

Consider this. I would posit to you that there are many, many false professions among Catholics, because of an exclusion of the Lordship of Christ. They continue Roman Catholics, even though they have been "saved," i.e., prayed the prayer.

Terry Basham, II said...

nice one.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Terry. I hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

"Some of Christendom remained separate"

Millions upon millions remained separate long before the "protestant reformation" ever existed, that is who the catholic establishment was killing during all that time. The true Bible believers existed outside of the catholic machine for all generations.

Carol said...