Two nights ago as I was contemplating the topic that will be addressed in this post, I turned on my radio. Providentially, it was tuned to a station to which I rarely listen. I believe it was God ordained because a Roman Catholic lay leader was giving what might be called a sidewinder sermon had he been Baptist. He cogently condemned abortion and upheld the sanctity of life, citing Scriptural references that man is created in the image of God. He then turned to the subject of evolution, carefully elucidating the problem of natural selection and citing that man has a soul. Several times he peppered his talk with, “Can I get an Amen?”
This Catholic discussed Mary in a very unique fashion. He said that God honored women by choosing to send His Son to be born of a virgin. He said that much of society’s denigration of women would decline if only they realized the honor that God bestowed upon all women by choosing Mary to bear the Savior.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been researching First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and to my absolute shock I have discovered that the church's pastoral staff has a terribly low opinion of Catholics. Perhaps that's why this wonderful Catholic sermon had such a profound effect on me. The pastors and congregants at FBC Jax might be surprised to learn that most evangelical theologians do not agree with their assessment of Catholicism. In fact, Jimmy Smryl’s “teachings” on Catholicism might be considered “fringe". And he has the gall to call Catholicism a cult?
What follows are remarks made from the pulpit at FBC Jax. I have provided the links to these inflammatory statements at the bottom of the post. It's extremely important to note that FBC Jax has removed these sermons from their web site. If they are so certain of their teaching, why would they censor their own sermons?
1. "And Catholics and Muslims and Hindus, and Buddhists and Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses can come to Jesus Christ and be saved." Note that Catholics are listed with Hindus and Buddhists, which are non-Christian faiths.
2.”Our struggle with assigning such a title (editor’s note: cult) to Catholics is not due to a lack of evidence, but rather to a lack of theological conviction as well as relativistic infection within the body of Christ. Translated: we are no longer passionate about the integrity of Jesus and are so afraid of offending a friend that we allow the nature and character of God to be demeaned in the name of peaceful relationships.”
Note: Smyrl claims that all Christian who disagree with his position are either “afraid” or "lack theological conviction”. He does not even consider that there are those, myself included, that believe that he is both theologically and historically incorrect.
3. Smyrl then quotes one such “cultish leader” to compliment him. I doubt Father Newman is thrilled with this backhanded endorsement.
“Do not make it a regular practice to quote cult leaders in a positive manner. [Yes I believe the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church are cultish, but that is for another day.]
However, one Catholic Priest got it right, even though his solution is theologically flawed. In a letter to his church members, Jay Scott Newman of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina took a bold stand towards those who voted for the continuous murder of the unborn. A portion of his letter (Newman’s) states:
“Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the Judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.”
Note: What I find disconcerting is Smryl’s lack of respect towards Jay Scott Newman, the Catholic priest. It is customary to refer to such a priest as "Father". One of the reasons why I am labeling “Jimmy” as a "redneck" is because he is showing disrespect by not using the priest's official title.
Secondly, I am concerned that Jimmy links voting against a pro-life candidate as cooperating with evil. Deb and I always vote for the pro-life candidate in each Presidential election; however, we both know committed Christians who voted for the opponent in the hopes of providing relief from hunger and health care for all. We strongly disagree with their conclusions, but we don't go around slamming them.
Just how does Jimmy prove theologically that Catholicism is a cult?
Interestingly, Jimmy uses criteria developed by Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We have contacted Dr. Akin’s office for a response, and he will hopefully provide some insight when he returns in a week. We have e-mailed Dr. Akin, asking whether he considers Catholicism to be a cult and if his criteria were properly used in this particular case. We will post his response when and if it is received and promptly forward it to Jimmy Smyrl.
However, there is no judgment on Catholicism, positive or negative, to be found on Dr. Akin’s “official” web site or in a Google search. Here are the criteria from Jimmy’s sermon. The words in blue are a direct quote.
“Brooks Alexander, co-founder of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, notes that a cult has a false or inadequate basis of salvation and/or a false basis authority. Dr. Akin lists four criteria of a cult that includes Alexander’s criteria. These four will be used for our analysis.
Books equal to the Bible either as corrections or additions.
Either from Christ’s perfect Divinity or His perfect Humanity, so He is either not God or not sinless.
Of the paths to salvation, bringing in adherence to variant and extra-biblical steps, usually in allegiance to the movement. Salvation is not by grace but continuing works.
Of the Body of Christ, so they are the only group through which man can be saved. Allegiance is usually to a particular leader.”
Jimmy then elaborates on these categories. This is when it gets interesting!
1. “The CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) also teaches that only the Bishops in communion with the Pope can accurately interpret both Scripture and Tradition. This is called the Magisterium, or teaching ministry of the church. Such a belief is in direct opposition to Peter’s assertion in I Peter 2 that all believers are a royal priesthood. I will address Papal authority in another post, but needless to say, Magisterium places the authority of man on the same level as Scripture. The CCC states that Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium “are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others” (CCC, no. 95). Again, we would have no problem calling a group a cult if we opened the newspaper and read of a group of people that believed their leader’s words were equivalent with the authority of Scripture.”
Note: Tomorrow we will be posting some of Mac’s sermons in which he claims he knows what God is doing and why. For example, he claims that God is causing the recession because people aren’t tithing. Tune in tomorrow for all of these “special” insights. If Mac claims he knows exactly what God is doing, isn’t that kind of like Jimmy’s concern about the Magisterium and Catholic tradition? Mac’s extra-biblical pronouncements are no different than the Catholic’s claim that Mary is a perpetual virgin.
2. ”The second mark of a cult is subtraction. One may question whether or not Catholics truly take away from either Christ’s perfect deity or His perfect humanity. Catholics affirm Jesus as the second Person of the holy Trinity, as well as His full deity and full humanity (CCC, no. 464). That affirmation stands as the current official dogma of Catholics. However, in practice, Catholics are moving towards subtracting from Christ’s deity by subtracting His sole sufficiency as Savior.”
Note: Smyrl makes a claim he does not back up. He says they affirm in writing that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Then he says they are moving away from this. If this were true, it would have been removed from their statement of faith. About ten years ago, I spoke with Father Bernardi of The Cistercian School, located in Dallas, Texas. I asked him what is the basis of salvation for all men. He said that it is only through the sacrifice and resurrection Jesus Christ. Nothing else.
3. ”This veneration of Mary is on the slippery slope of sin moving towards a title for Mary as “Mediatrix” or “Co-Redemptrix.” The definitions of these titles include Mary as co-author of salvation along with Christ. In the Vatican News on the Mediatrix Petition to the Pope, we read that in the 1990s more than six million signatures, including Mother Teresa and Cardinal John O’Connor, were gathered in support of Pope John Paul II declaring Mary, “Co-Redemptrix.” A lay movement called Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici (”The Voice of the People for Mary Mediatrix”) provides petitions that can be signed by Roman Catholics at large and sent to the Pope in support of officially declaring Mary, “Co-Redemptrix.” There is little doubt that this movement will migrate like all other sinful movements (James1:14-15) towards the denigration of Christ and the elevation of man or, in this specific case, Mary.”
Note: There was a petition sent to the Pope to declare Mary as Co-Redemptrix; however, this papal declaration has not yet occurred. In the meantime, we have the Barna poll claiming that over half of all Christians do not believe in a personal Satan; furthermore, they do not believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. During the brouhaha over the book The Shack, in which theologians roundly decried the book’s view on the Trinity, I quipped, “They should ask all the people in their own congregations to define the Trinity. If they did, they would probably find more heresies in their own churches than in the book.”
According to most sources, the number of self-identified Catholics in the world numbers around one billion (http://www.adherents.com/adh_rb.html). Six million “Co-Redemptrix signatures are hardly a mandate! Before Jimmy makes these claims, he'd better have carefully documented evidence.
The most egregious claim Pastor Jimmy makes is as follows:
Jimmy gave an interesting explanation of the root cause of the Catholic Church pedophile priest scandal in a recent sermon on the decline of the church in America :
"…how could that happen [12,000 pedophile priests]?….There was a little historical event called the reformation that was denied. And when you deny the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only mediator and the sufficiency of scripture alone as the only authority you will unleash all your sin."
Note: I am very familiar with a church that was found to have a seminary student who was molesting young teenage boys. A number of professors from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) attend that church. Interestingly, SEBTS has, as its president, Dr. Danny Akin, the author of the criteria that Jimmy used. So, is SEBTS a cult like he claims about the Catholic Church? Is that why all of this sin was unleashed?
There has been some talk that Tom Rich was investigated because his writings could be considered to be inciteful. What this means is that his writings might cause someone to do something harmful. Well, I have read all of Tom’s blog. If Robby Hinson considered Tom’s words “inciteful”, then Jimmy’s words are even more so. I think we should call on the state attorney to do an investigation into the potential threat that these words might represent to Roman Catholic churches in the Jacksonville area. Hmm, anybody listening?
The following is a list of articles that we used in this post.
It is imperative that we listen carefully to what our pastors teach and then verify that their teachings are accurate. It is ridiculously easy to research theological claims today with the availability of the Internet. Ignorant Christians remain that way through sheer inertia. Here is one article that gives a different perspective.
Is the Roman Catholic Church a Cult?
Roman Catholicism — some say it’s a cult, while others believe that it is a bona fide Christian denomination. So, which side is correct? While Protestants continue to disagree over the issue, CRI firmly maintains that Roman Catholicism is a religious system, which includes both orthodox biblical Christianity and elements of unbiblical or “cultic” doctrine and practice. In other words, we recognize that Roman Catholicism historically has affirmed the essential teachings of the Bible, while also teaching doctrines, which are inconsistent with that affirmation and which seriously compromise the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We acknowledge in Roman Catholicism the presence of many genuine brothers and sisters in the Lord, while also recognizing that many of those within Roman Catholicism worldwide appear to be lost. Although certain doctrines and practices in Roman Catholicism might properly be termed “heretical,” we would not label them as a cult — for example, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. The errors of Roman Catholicism are heretical in that sense that they compromise or undermine the orthodox confession of the church. In short, we regard Roman Catholicism as neither a biblically sound Christian church nor a cult, but a Christian church with a mixture of orthodox and erroneous teachings. We take this stand fully aware that many are going to criticize us for it. In fact, Catholics will take issue with us because we are critical of many of their teachings. Protestants label us because we don’t strongly criticize Roman Catholicism. In fact, there have been some Protestants that have even accused CRI of being Jesuit-controlled! Well, our concern, is not to please men, but to speak the truth in love. Obviously we are not in any way controlled by the Roman Catholic church, but on the other hand, we are not afraid to speak out against its heresies either. One thing we are unwilling to do is to misrepresent Roman Catholicism or to exaggerate its faults. That would be patently unfair, at CRI we’ve always striven for balance. On Roman Catholicism, that’s the CRI Perspective. I’m Hank Hanegraaff.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CRI has available a wide variety of materials on Roman Catholicism, including a three-part tape series by Walter Martin on the subject (C108), and a book Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences by Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie (B196). These resources are available through CRI. For shipping and handling information, please refer to our Resource Listing. To place a credit card order, call toll-free (888) 7000-CRI. To receive a free copy of our Resource Listing, fax us at (704) 887-8299 or write us with your request at P.O. Box 8500, Charlotte, NC 28271.”
Tomorrow we will build on this article and point out some rather odd statements made by Mac Brunson that some might find “unbiblical”.