October 21, 2020

When the “Reached” are “Unreached”

UPDATE: I had to close out the discussion when the two infallible versions of Christianity started talking to each other. Since I can’t buy either one of them, I got annoyed.

(If you are one of the people assigned to monitor this blog and report anything unusual, I’d suggest you might want to drive to a store in the next county, get a soft drink and take the scenic route back. This probably isn’t going to be a positive experience.)

Last night, my wife and I ate dinner in our ministry cafeteria, and over our table was a poster left by ladies of our local Baptist church who had a missions study and prayer breakfast there each morning the previous week.

The denominationally produced poster, to be brief, proclaimed that nearly all of South American was “unreached.”

Now if you are not an evangelical or a Southern Baptist, let me attempt to translate this for you.

In simplest terms, this means that the vast majority of people in South America are not Christians and need to be evangelized, and one of the reasons for this is that 79% of South Americans are Roman Catholics who, according to the IMB web site, “practice syncretism” and “rarely attend church.”

The benchmark of being reached is being in an evangelical church. That’s clear enough. I’m all in favor of more evangelicals in South America, and I hope they win all the syncretists and people who have abandoned their Catholicism to a vibrant evangelical faith.

They have a big “amen” from me to preach and teach the Gospel and encourage others to do the same.

But if the default position is that Catholics aren’t Christians, because they aren’t evangelicals or Southern Baptists, I want to call that worse than unfortunate. It’s sincere, but it’s the opening act for bigotry.

My wife now faces the irony that a denomination she loves and whose missionary zeal she still endorses views her as probably “unreached,” right here in Kentucky. (Actually, when you go from evangelicalism to Catholicism, you need a special name. Maybe “No longer reached.”)

Southern Baptists are pretty sure Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and all other infant baptized, liturgical Christians are among the “unreached,” at least as groups.

But does it ever occur to anyone to ask if South America is the only place we find “syncretism?” That’s practicing Christianity and the local religion at the same time. Hmmmm?

I believe I’ve seen that a bit closer to home. We call it the Prosperity “Gospel” here. Or the “culture war.” or “Christian politics.”

And then there’s this matter of never going to church. Are we sure that Southern Baptists- with 10 million MIA- or any evangelicals at all, really want to talk about who actually shows up regularly for worship?

I think that our Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Orthodox friends could make a case that, based on our own criteria, we’re pretty “unreached” in Bible Belt America.

There’s nothing more indicative of our arrogant spirituality than this self-assured confidence that we can dismiss whole groups of Christians as “non-evangelical,” i.e. probably not Christians at all. Christians are what we are. And we know them when we see them by their special behaviors.

We need more of the Gospel around the world, in every denomination and among every people group. And that starts with those Christians who think it’s their job to judge whether other Christians really are Christians at all.

And for our first assignment, how about Southern Baptists figure out what the Good News of Jesus and his Kingdom is, and whether it’s an offer a person can get in on if they aren’t a Southern Baptist evangelical?


  1. Christopher – I can’t even beggin to wrap my head around what you just said.

    If you believe that something that is unpure can enter heaven, or that you can hide things from God. Then by all means throw away Purgatory.

    “The understanding of the Bible?” You mean “your” understanding of the Bible.

    Also your assertion “I will enter Heaven as a believer in Him…” interesting because the Bible that you are so fund of making your own word, tells us that even Demons believe,,, you will have prime company as you enter Heaven.

  2. Giovanni, your reply (as with most of Patrick’s earlier) is mean-spirited and illustrates the divide on this blog. The issue here is the Gospel and as I said much earlier, my fear is that the catholic church is losing their grasp on the Gospel. Instead of looking down your noses at us you should ask yourselves if your church truly practices the faith once delivered unto the saints. For you to admit you can’t wrap your head around what Christopher wrote is an all but open admission that you don’t understand what the Bible calls the Gospel. That’s not my interpretation of Scripture, it is the plain meaning of Scripture. To believe in a Person means to know Him, yet many of your comments and others I have read imply faith in something ro someone, but is it really the God of the Bible? You are right, even demons believe and shudder… so wouldn’t you like your belief to be biblical, not based on tradition alone? Christ’s death makes us pure… we are counted righteous by His sacrifice in our place… our faith is in Him, that He died for us and rose again… that’s why we don’t need to sacrifice Him again and again in the mass.


  3. I agree that the doctrine of purgatory is a pernicious and unBiblical addition to the Gospel, is nowhere taught in scripture and undermines the work of Christ in salvation.

    I don’t believe it is anywhere close to a denial of the Gospel. It’s an error. Unless you believe you’re saved by perfect doctrine, then you have to believe that any of us can believe an error but still trust in Christ for salvation.

    The Catholic articulation of purgatory has changed radically recently. Recent statements on purgatory, such as in the CCC, are not much different from an evangelical understanding of final sanctification.

    Catholic doctrine emphasizes that purgatory is final elimination of the temporal punishment for sin. Temporal. I believe most evangelicals agree that sin has temporal consequences which even forgiven people endure.

    The classic, Pre-VII doctrine of purgatory is controlling, fearful doctrinal error. I agree with Luther completely on it. But it does not mean Catholics aren’t Christians. (Or that C.S. Lewis wasn’t a Christian.)

  4. A basic rule on here is we don’t evangelize each other. I didn’t post about the salvation of commenters. So please stop discussing that topic NOW.


  5. Once again, is “the Gospel” just the Penal Substitution theory of the atonement articulated in a particular manner?

  6. C.S. Lewis made it clear in Mere Christianity that Christianity is not any of the “maps” we draw or the “recipes” we write. If you are saying that no one is a Christian who doesn’t buy someone else’s articulation of what happens on the cross, then you’ve tossed out 80% of professing Christians. Which is a very Protestant thing to do. Now we can go to work on the other 20%.

    The creedal language is enough. No one in the Bible is saved by believing something only theologians can understand. People get nourishment whether they understand theories of nutrition or not.

  7. You’re losing me on the point here. Several of you don’t think Catholics are Christians. Well…that’s where this post started. What are we doing now? Saying it more forcefully so everyone knows we’re really, really serious?

    If this is going to end up saying that I’m not a Christian, let’s just cut to the chase.

  8. Abraham believed God and it was ‘counted as righteousness.’ To believe God is to know, in some personal way, the person of God, in Christ, and by way of the Holy Spirit. Believing God requires some honest attempt towards buying in to the politics of God….His ideology…as well as one human can. The ‘cans’ vary with the individual. All who believe in the sovereignty of God….and His redemptive acts through Christ Jesus…are
    Christian. Honest effort is the key here. I love all of you from the depths of my heart….in God. Whatever denomination, interpretation, or doctrine…you are partakers with me in His immense mercy and Love.

  9. iMonk,

    I don’t get the sense that non-RCC posters are claiming that Catholics are unsaved by default (at least, I could find no such statements.)I think you are reading that into the conversations, including the IMBs position on SA.

    I think what is being said is that the RCC does not teach the true gospel.

    If a church, any church, does not teach the true gospel, there is no reason to presume that it’s adherents are “reached.”

    You once vehemently believed that the RCC does not teach the true gospel.

    “The Catholic Church has badly mangled the Gospel. Mangled it to the point that to become Catholic would be to forsake the Biblical Gospel…As much as I admire in Catholicism, I cannot believe its Gospel of salvation is the Biblical Gospel.”

    Based on the current conversation, you now seem to believe that, though the RCC teaches some error, it’s core gospel message is sound and it’s adherents “reached.”

    Certainly you remember why you once held so firmly to your previous conviction? And why others still hold such conviction?

  10. Joe: This discussion isn’t about what I’ve said in the past.

    If I believed Rome taught all of the Biblical gospel, I’d join the RCC. When I wrote those words, I thought Calvinism was the Biblical Gospel. I was wrong.

    I thoroughly understand why others believe Catholics don’t have the Biblical Gospel. I believe the Reformation was a tragic necessity. But if you think evangelicals have the Biblical Gospel, you can count me out of that party. We have plenty of our own problems.

    Now that you’ve set yourself up to use the term Biblical Gospel, I expect you ought to tell us exactly who has it and where we can hear it infallibly taught. ANd be sure that when you mention someone like Piper or Macarthur, I’m going to ask you if those guys are on target on everything, such as the relationship of faith and works.

    BTW- that’s the last comment about me that I will allow unedited.

  11. Joe: This post isn’t about saying all Catholics are Christians. It’s about the SBC’s default position that almost everyone besides themselves is lost.

  12. OK, I’m not reeeeaaally getting in to this, because, mostly, I think it’s fruitless bickering, BUT – here’s something that sort of needs logically teasing out…

    IF the Catholic Church has forsaken, or never had or believed, or taught, and does not now teach “the true biblical Gospel”…

    THEN no one – this is logic 101 people and I made like a 100% average in that class – then NO ONE who believes what it teaches, who is a part of it, who wants to be a part of it, who purposely remains a part of it, could possibly “be saved” as the definition is being put forth. It just doesn’t follow.

    THERFORE don’t say these things about “the biblical Gospel” in connection with the Catholic Church if you don’t mean what you’re saying. And if you don’t mean to say this, then perhaps be a little more careful how you say what you’re trying to say – that would be the only real point I would want to interject.

    Peace and Happy Advent to all ya’ll!

  13. In fact, considering that I’m going to have my last communion ever with my wife tomorrow (as she’s about to be received into the RCC) I’d suggest this is not a productive direction for this conversation. IM has hundreds of RC readers. You’ve made it clear that- surprise!- you believe they are trusting in a false Gospel. We get it. I get it. I’ll pass it along to my spouse whenever we can actually talk about this- which won’t be anytime soon.

  14. As a person who is not a Catholic you believe that we teach an unbiblical Gospel. For a Catholic this is not only an impossibility it is an act of open hostility.

    You don’t own the Bible, it is not personaly yours, it wasn’t your “tradition” that put it together. The Church, Tradition and Scripture are one and cannot be separated.

    This was the problem with Luther, he believed that the Church taught a false Gospel. Yet he thought something contrary to everything the historical Church in either West or East ever taught. He believed him self above the Pope, Magistarium, Councils, Bishops and Saints.

    I read the Bible and I see everything the Church teaches on it. How can that be unbiblical? if I see it on the Bible when I read it.

    Bill – I answered Christopher’s comment in the spirit in which he wrote it.

  15. End of thread. And what a shame. This was a pretty good discussion until it descended to mutual anathemas. I’m so glad we have TWO flawless religions represented here today. Praise God!

    Now I’ll go tell my wife that she’s not a Christian, and apparently never was, because she doesn’t believe someone’s theory of the atonement.

    (Not thinking of you here, Alan, btw. You have every right to defend your beliefs from this kind of denunciation.)

    A pox on both your houses. Ignorance and Arrogance are great dancing partners. Do you people really believe this is the way forward? Throwing each other into hell over theological minutia? Sheesh…..where’s the sign up list for Buddhism?