March 31, 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. I’d like to see, from the Catechism of the RCC, one statement that- by itself- means Catholics are not Christians.

  2. Let’s use the Catechism as the measuring stick.

    Do you think most Catholics worldwide adhere to the Catechism? Just pick one issue, regular attendance at Mass. Skipping mass , except for a narrow range of reasons, is a mortal sin. Do you think that most Catholics do this? Stats clearly show they do not.

    Even by the standards of Catechism, the average Catholic is out of communion and should be considered a mission field.

  3. Christopher,

    I bet that happens in any faith tradition. People grow up in a faith tradition which their parents grew up in, go through the motions yet really don’t take time to understand. They are called cultural Catholics, or cultural Orthodox or cultural Lutherans…. you get my drift. Some of us grow up, take on our faith as our own and do the work. Others rebel against what came before and go to another faith tradition for that discovery. Still others are evangelized about the evils of their current faith tradition and instead of digging deeper to understand simply say “hey, that guy sounds right so its got to be right” – without doing the work. Many Catholics don’t do the work.

    Now many will tell me their opinions of the truth based on how they feel. Although I respect someone elses feelings and opinions, they are just that and nothing more unless some work has been done. I have more respect for those who have learned scripture, studied Church history, secular history surrounding scripture and writings of the early church fathers. If we still disagree I can respect that. But I give little credence, except my attention and love as another human, to those who have just picked up a bible and now know everything because they consider themselves devinely inspired by the Spirit.

    The bottom line is that there are unreached in every faith tradition, there are those caught up in secular culture. And there are many just going through the motions. Catholics don’t have the corner on this.

  4. JohnB, lets use common sense as a measuring stick.

    If a lot of Catholics don’t do something that their church strongly recommends, are they:

    d.) average

    Hint: your first instinct is wrong. And Your second and third. The answer is ‘d’.

  5. JohnB5200

    I guess if you look at running christianity like a business and you are looking at your potential market them Catholics are good for the picking. And if you live close to New York so are them Jews. And if you live close to Detroit those Muslims are ripe too. And I bet there’s a bunch of Orthodox out there as well (got ’em here in Pittsburgh) – and lets throw in some of those infant baptism types, those lost protestants – like Lutheranas and Anglicans and Calvinists – look like they are all good fodder – because its all about the numbers.

    That is what I seem to be hearing here. Remember the sower and the seed.

    I am ribbing you a bit and understand some folks over-enthusiasm here – just remember – you can always make statistics say whatever you need them to say to support your point.


  6. “I don’t want to call a Christian a non-Christian because I am ignorant or because they are in error on some matter.”

    At least concerning gray areas. There are certain core areas where, yes, if a person or a system doesn’t believe that I do wonder.

    “You don’t have to say it the same way I do or belong to my church to belong to Jesus.”

    On side issues, I would agree. On core issues, such as who is the mediator between God and man,I will disagree whole heartedly.

    “I also believe scripture when it tells me that I should not judge as if I were God, which is what makes me quite nervous about saying the apostles’ creed with someone and then saying they are damned because I don’t like what someone says in a theology book they’ve never read.”

    Folks like Patrick and you are using the opposite tack, Michael. You both proclaim that Catholics DON’T believe or practice things that virtually everyone who has had extended contact with an RC sees them doing, using the argument it isn’t in some OFFICIAL book or another. Or it was in a book but they don’t REALLY believe that book anymore. I know this situation is close to home and I am really trying not to offend anybody here but….

    I’m sorry but the RCC promotes and pratices things that are so common that they have become the stereotype of what a good Catholic does and then some on this board simply argue that those belief’s aren’t OFFICIAL or not in his particular diocese. Sure evangelicals do this too but are all errors the same? Ancestor worship (praying to/venerating the saints) and having an alter call are on the same level? Because I believe in altar calls or the sinner’s prayer I can’t point out that praying to anyone other than the Most High God seeking blessing is probably what the First Commandment is talking about??? Or I’m supposed to ignore it because Prosperity preachers exist?

    Patrick: “And they’re OUR community, not yours.” Proving again what the Catholic guy told me years ago…we’re two separate teams not one body. Way to prove a point.

    “When you’re full of Holiness, you don’t do stuff like visit Jesus at the tomb or climb trees to get a look at Him.” What an arrogant statement. Walking on your knees for 40 clicks isn’t “seeing Jesus at the tomb”. Getting crucified on Easter isn’t “climbing trees to get a look at him” it’s sheer religious dogma. Have you tried flogging yourself so you can “touch the hem of his garment”?

    Let me make this clear…We can’t visit Jesus at the tomb because he ISN’T THERE. He left 2000 years ago. I can’t climb a tree to get a better look at him because he’s sitting at the right hand of the Father in would have to be a pretty tall tree or capable of planar travel. All I have at my disposal to see, find, touch Jesus is the written teachings of the people closest to him, some of the writings of people close to them, and the Holy Spirit. Praying every step of a church down the road from me on Good Friday doesn’t get me one step closer to that goal.

    Forgive me if I offend anyone.


  7. Jenny, the particular experience I was refering to earlier about walking on knees was a popular South American talk show host who walked 40 km on his knees from Buenos Aires to Lujan to ask the virgin Mary that his soccer team would win the championship that year. I don’t think he was really interested in the Master… more interested in his team winning so he got his investment back.

    Isn’t the whole nature of faith… believing? Isn’t the walking on knees a work that you think obligates God to answer your prayer? What is belief if we are not believing in a Person? What is believing a person if we are wrong? For example… what if you told me you met my son and thought he was a nice boy. You say, he’s tall, has blond hair, plays the trumpet… But I reply, my son is short, has dark hair, and plays no musical instrument… Did you really meet him? So doctrine does matter… the RCC would surely agree with that. The question is which doctrine is biblical… what is the Gospel…

    Patrick, you seem to have a snippy attitude in your replies… I’m surprised to learn I’m on the outside in your opinion as you so clearly indicate with your ALL BOLDS… and I’m not saying my “side” is the only one that counts. I know I’m not Luther before a council… I’m a simple pastor with no aspirations other than to study the Bible, point people to Christ (not my church or denomination), and love people of all types and varieties. This isn’t us versus them… to me it’s about all of us making sure we have the Gospel right.

    Am I not allowed to discuss Catholics? If you consider Baptists to be part of the Body of Christ, then don’t we have a place at your table? Or are we the ones you see as cut off, not a true church, as your current pope believes?

    Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–


  8. Dave and Bill,

    Catholics are easy targets – because there are so many of us around. And because of that you can pick out what is peculiar to you (veneration of saints and the like) and you can say – hey, look what those guys are doing, it’s wrong.

    So now imagine that God has taken all the Catholics away. If there are enough Orthodox around you can focus on them and say – hey, look what those guys are doing, it’s wrong.
    Now we imagine they are gone, or have all been “reached”. Next will be the Lutherans and Anglicans who still focus on sacraments and infant baptism… and those Pentacostals (substitute Baptist in there if you are pentacostal) and don’t get me started on those calvinists…

    Do you understand what I am saying here, all these groups do not agree with your individualistic view of the Gospel. – it’s easy to pick out Catholics exclusively because we have a Catachism you can point to. But there are other faith traditions withing you midst that you may find you don’t agree with either.

  9. Bill, feel free to discuss Catholics all you want – just as long as you keep an eye on the fact that Catholics don’t subscribe and aren’t accountable to American Protestant theological categories and normative constructs – and we don’t appreciate the idle critique to the effect that ‘Catholics don’t preach the Gospel’.

    We say we don’t worship Mary, we don’t worship Mary – that’s it. Insisting otherwise or doubting our sincerity on things like that, or darkly speculating that Catholics have no idea about the Gospel retards conversation. Lets not get retarded.

    Provincial Catholic culture (be it Peruvian or elsewhere) is hard for a lot of Protestants to understand or trust – I understand that, but I have to insist that Protestants enthusiastic to ‘teach’ our people check themselves and accept that they should speak last, if at all, on our parish life, precisely because the Catholic church makes so little sense to them to begin with.

    Bill, if you are seriously quoting Scripture at me about my church being “a different Gospel”, I’m throwing the Book at you.

    Baptists are welcome at the table – but if you act off, throwing Scripture impetuously around at people like we’re brand new in this, you’ll be sat down at the Kid’s Table. This is basic.

    I’m glad you want to teach people about the Bible; that’s high and noble and God will love you for it – at least as much as He loves Pharisees. Keep that in mind.

    And no, walking on your knees while praying shouldn’t sensibly obligate God to do anything, any more than fasting should – but fasting is everywhere in the Bible. If you can tell me why God values one type of discomfort over another, I’ll join your church.

    DaveD, if the point you understand is, “quit trying to convert Catholics to Protestantism as if you have a monopoly on Jesus and we never met the guy”, then by all means, take it and run with it. If you have Pauline letters to quote in some reply to justify theological busybodies looking down their noses at pidgin Catholic faith in places they’re not even from, I refer you again to Jesus.

    This isn’t a tough thing; it’s just a basic courtesy.

  10. Why is everyone picking on the Catholics?

    I am a Lutheran and have nothing but love and respect for my Catholic brothers. I always thought a Christian was someone who put their faith in Christ, that His suffering, death, and resurrection substituted that which I could never deliver. That the only God’s Only Son was what it was all about. That my faith in Him would deliver me. I never counted out anyone for the “extras” like the honoring of saints or perhaps praise and worship festivals, that operate on the same principles as a rock concert, on the Protestant side?

    People are quoting Luther, one of my heroes. But Luther originally had never intended leaving the Catholic Church. He just wanted to change a few things. He never said it was wrong to honor and depict the saints. Radical reformers like Muntzer were going around burning up Germany.

    All Luther meant was that when the extras get in the way of God, of the Message of Christ, that’s when it becomes a problem.

  11. Memphis Aggie says

    Quite a thread. First differences between the faiths matter. To say all faiths are the same is the equivalent of saying all differences between them are unimportant. This is disrespectful of the thought process and struggle with conscience that created the split, although disrespect is generally not intended. This indifferentism is an oversimplification generally born out of a desire for unity. Our differences are real and they matter or we could easily switch denominations. Clearly Michael is a faithful Protestant with no desire to become RCC so its absurd to argue that he is proposing that all faiths are equal.

    If we are Christians then we seek to imitate the behavior Christ and specifically His meekness and great charity. When we declare ourselves as sinners undeserving of grace we recognize our inability to correctly grasp the truth by ourselves. We require the gift of faith to remove the scales from our eyes and to see the Truth, which always surprises. Therefore when we meet member of another faith who disagrees with us yet claims to love Christ and be a Christian we should respectful withhold judgment and in recognition of our own limitations show respect. The chastised sinner should remember his faults and be slow to speak. If speech is necessary, because these issue do matter, then it must be offered in the manner which is most likely to help the listener not when it suits our own ego to offer it (I know this fault too well). In other words offer critiques respectfully gently and with patience in it’s proper time and only if you are the right person to do so.

    The view on this thread is very Protestant because it’s focused on the Gospels. This is not what being a Catholic is about. Being Catholic is about the Eucharist and the sacraments. The Bible is a crucial guide but is not central. What ex-Catholics remember is true, to varying degrees the Bible is not the main focus. The real presence, the reception and worship of Christ in Holy Communion: these are at the core of Catholicism and explicitly define the Church. The limits of valid Eucharist are the limits of the Church in Catholic understanding. Although John Paul II has made it clear that the graces of God go beyond the visible limits of the Church, in ways that surprise us that we do not fully understand – as He as always done.

    None of this has much to do with South America. However I think there are several important lessons in Catholicism in these countries where religion has been mixed up with politics and tainted. Many Catholics in South America are Cinos (Catholic in name only). They are not committed to their declared faith, rather it’s a cultural inheritance. We know this from low vocation rates (number of new priests) and low regular attendance at Mass. Perhaps for a faithless “Catholic” to becoming a believing Protestant is a real improvement because presumably they would now receive those mysterious graces JPII alluded to and reform his life in a Christian manner. Certainly any faithful Catholic would prefer that the wayward remain in the Church where the bread of life is found. We naturally prefer for the lost within our walls to repent and confess. However to remain faithless and to continue to receive communion is to eat your own condemnation. If for that person real repentance is only possible by leaving home then perhaps that is the best road to travel, a necessary detour.

  12. Radagast,

    I agree with your point. After all, that’s one of the BIGGEST flaws in the American Protestant church is the “us four and no more” mindset.

    Faith alone or faith plus works? I believe the Bible teaches both…or more exactly that faith that is capable of saving DOES things; it is active not merely a mental assent. Transubstantiantion. I think it’s weird but I don’t think the belief matters one way or another. I could go on about the things in the RCC that I disagree with but in no way cause me to question whether they are “reached” or not. I fully believe that there are Christians in the RCC that will be in heaven and will really honk off some Pentecostals and Baptists by being there…but the Baptists will already be upset by the tongue-talkers being there. 🙂 I also recognize that for around a 1200 years, the “church” WAS the Catholic Church so I have some respect for the tradition.

    I also believe that there is a big difference between individuals and denominations. The denomination’s teaching may be wrong, even alarming, but that does not mean that any given person from that denomination is wrong. Does it increase the chances, yes. Does it mean everybody in the pew is automatically wrong? Certainly no.

    I take shots at Protestants all the time where their teachings stray from the Bible, or against the Bible, even in some unimportant gray areas.

    However, there are SOME things that, regardless of who is doing them, raises some red flags to me. Praying to anyone or anything other than God is one of those things. In fact, the Bible specifically says NOT to talk to the dead. Worshipping anyone other than the Triune God raises a red flag, even if those doing it don’t call it worship. I don’t care if it’s a sports team, money, Mary, or a buffet.

    I just don’t understand why it’s acceptable to say that Prosperity Preachers are worshipping something other than the true God and are idolators but I can’t say the same thing about folks who pray to a long dead Jewish woman. Or, I’m not allowed to say it about either of them because it might make them feel bad.

    My original point was simple: You have no right to be bent out of shape by Protestants considering Catholics “unreached” unless you are equally bent out of shape because the RCC considers Protestants “unreached”. I was then told that’s not what they I produced quotes from CURRENT and past RCC teachings. That was ignored and I was told that any differences in doctrine were inconsequential, certainly nothing to question the “reached”-ness of a class of people.

    One particular Catholic supporter, while denying that they teach we are unsaved, consistantly has stated that we are, in fact, TWO bodies. This brings us to the point that there is ONE body in Christ. So one of us has to be wrong according to the “our team/your team” supporter and therefore “unsaved”.


  13. DaveD, you said:

    “I just don’t understand why… I’m not allowed to… make them feel bad.”

    “My original point was simple: You have no right to be bent out of shape…”

    “I was then told that’s not what they believe… I was told that any differences of doctrine were… certainly nothing to question the “reached”-ness of a class of people.”

    “So one of us has to be wrong.. and therefore “unsaved”.”

    Yeah, Dave. You tell the world why you’re mad.

  14. Jenny Bluett says

    Yes, I know of what you speak Bill. We have an influx of immigrants from South America coming up north to work the dairy farms. I have heard of some whom have continued the practice of pilgrimaging on their knees for miles and miles on country roads to a rural shrine in our county.

    I REFUSE to be allow myself to be so cynical towards every Hispanic Catholic knee-walker and judge their interior motives and not believe they are excercising a genuine faith in God (yes, they pray) in a very different cultural manner than we Americans are accustomed to.

    We just get in our cars on Sunday and go.

    To throw out that all believers feel God is beholden to them because of this act of devotion from the testimony of one individual is a sad stereotype. I also understand this practice is a Marian devotion (certianly will occur in mass numbers this very day) and respect it greatly yet understand we will most likely disagree on how that relates to our relationship with Jesus Christ.

    “Climbing a tree” refers to Zachias. You must have not had a lot of fun in Sunday school? “Zachias was a wee little man and a wee little man was he…”

    We Catholics DO believe Jesus is with us in the Blessed Sacrament so walking to our sanctuary early in the morning to be with Him, for us Catholics, is very appropriate and incredibly laudable.

    Memphis Aggie, good post.


  15. Regarding the accusation that Catholicism doesn’t preach the Gospel, I find myself wondering what the definition of “the Gospel” is in the eyes of the one making the accusation.

    Every time I’ve gone to Mass with my family and friends (or occationally by myself), I’ve heard/seen the Gospel in a way that is often sadly absent at my own (at the time) church. Not only is the entire liturgy of the Eucharist centered around the Gospel story of atonement and redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice, but almost every sermon has the story of Jesus (based on the Gospel reading for the day) at it’s foundation!

    This was especially true at my ex-girlfriend’s church with their new and zealous ex-cop priest who has a reputation for Baptist-like preaching (in the words of one parishoner), but it was also true (at the other extreme) with the ancient monseignor’s 5-minute thursday night homily at the parish closest to my home.

    I understand that different folks have different experiences. But maybe that’s WHY we have a variety of denominations/expressions of the faith: to suit our variety of needs and experiences. I think it’s a mark of maturity to be able to recognize the not everyone should be expected to think/respond/etc the same way. I’m reminded of a quote I heard the other day (I don’t remember who was being quoted): “If there’s the remotest possibility that I will be sharing a bunk with someone in Heaven, I should be able to fellowship with him here on Earth.”

  16. Patrick –

    I am glad to learn that Mass is only “strongly recommended” and not an essential sacrament.

  17. Johnb5200

    >…Even by the standards of Catechism, the average Catholic is out of communion and should be considered a mission field.

    Be careful where you’re pointing that gun. Several hundred million evangelicals (and about 10 million Southern Baptists) are in your sights.

  18. Memphis Aggie says


    Missing weekly Mass for a frivolous reason is a mortal sin for a Catholic. Reception of Communion and confession (the sacraments) is only required 1 time/ year.

  19. iMonk,

    I agree. Let’s evangelize the evangelicals too.

  20. Memphis Aggie says

    That said, being in need of repentance is not the same as being excommunicated – big difference.

  21. Brad Haggard says


    I wasn’t accusing you of any of those things earlier, I just thought that maybe you didn’t understand the situation “on the ground” in Latin America. From what I hear you have a clear commitment to the Jesus and the Bible.

    I guess it is a little to easy to take shots at the SBC sometimes, though. My own denomination, Independent Christian/Church of Christ, is pretty bad about “synchretizing” certain cultural elements as NT prescriptions. Particularly, we have in most of our churches a “board” (congress) comprised of “elders” (senate) and “deacons” (house). The politics that grow from that system have hurt many churches.

    I think it is a little different when a culture, such as the various Aztec tribes in Mexico (which don’t even speak Spanish BTW) take Jesus and add Him to their pantheon of gods. Those people need evangelization, the former groups need edification and discipleship (and that is also what I’d say to Catholic brothers who follow Jesus). It’s a small distinction, but I think its worth pointing out.

    Anyway, good article and great site. I’m looking forward to much more great content and discussion.

  22. True repentance is the medication, while excommunication is the prescription.

  23. Haggard you realy need to read up on the history of the Christian convertion of Mexico.

    If you realy think that Christian natives in Mexico realy just add Jesus to their patheon of gods then you realy need to read up.

  24. Brad Haggard says

    Forgive my ignorance, Giovanni. Can you recommend some good books on that subject? (I need it if I’m going to be more effective down there.)

  25. Brad Haggard says

    Hey, Giovanni, I think you may have misunderstood me a little. I wasn’t making a categorical statement on all conquest mission activity, but that there are some areas (I have seen them) in which this is the case. At any rate, I’d still like a lead on some of those resources.

  26. DaveD –

    James 5:16 tells us to support each other in prayer, and that the prayer of a righteous man is a powerful thing. If I asked you to pray for me because I am having a problem, would you do it? I suspect so, as I would for you.

    Praying for each other is a good thing, but neither of us is more righteous than the people who are already in heaven. They are perfectly united with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Until such time as we join them, their prayers are even more powerful than ours.

    Likewise, the woman who bore Christ in her womb and stood by Him at the Cross is not simply a “long dead Jewish woman.” Luke 1:48 tells us all generations will call her blessed. Surely you will agree that “all generations” includes us.

    When Catholics pray to Mary and the saints, we are not worshiping them. We are asking them to intercede on our behalf, just as Christians still on Earth do for each other.

    Indeed, in Revelation 5:8 we see these prayers being delivered to the throne of God by the elders already in heaven. In Revelation 8:3-4 we see an angel bringing prayers to God as well. Look at Psalms, too: many of those prayers are directed, not to God, but to angels and heavenly hosts. Psalm 103:20-21 is a good example.

    The early Christians clearly understood this. Visit the catacombs in Rome and you will see thousands of inscriptions on graves of people asking the departed to pray for them. There’s nothing idolatrous or un-biblical about it. Whoever put these ideas into your head was sadly misinformed.

  27. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Why is everyone picking on the Catholics? — BW

    Because the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Reformation Wars in 1648 some STILL haven’t gotten the news.

  28. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    When you’re full of Holiness, you don’t do stuff like visit Jesus at the tomb or climb trees to get a look at Him. Jesus left you a manual. Your job is to go around correctly applying the words in the manual to the lives of other people. IF you’re sure you said your Sinner’s Prayer right, anything you say to people is going to be guided by the Spirit. Don’t worry if the people you run into have their own copies of the manual – Jesus doesn’t speak through them, he speaks through You. You’ve got it right.

    Just act as you would normally act around people who are hopelessly wrong and need your input more than they could ever know. That’s your ordination – it’s how everyone will know you’re full of Holiness. — Patrick Lynch

    Especially because you’re so Holier Than Everyone Else, i.e. “Can You Top This?”

    Just like Apostle Marvin’s Big Team in the Reverse-Rapture spoof A Pagan’s Nightmare.

    Or the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

  29. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    think it is a little different when a culture, such as the various Aztec tribes in Mexico (which don’t even speak Spanish BTW) take Jesus and add Him to their pantheon of gods. — Brad Haggard


    A full third of my parish (St Boniface, Anaheim) is Mexican in my parish, and I’ve never seen (or heard of) Fr Marquez (or Bishop Soto when he was in residence) cutting out human hearts to feed Lord Left-hand Hummingbird or Lord Smoking Mirror…

    And the vestments and altarcloths there don’t include freshly-flayed human skin (not even at Easter Vigil High Mass)…

    Our copy of the Virgin of Guadalupe doesn’t show her headless with two red rattlesnakes sprouting from her neck, and a necklace and belt of human skulls and hands…

    Where are those Aztec gods you say Mexican Catholics bow to? The ones atop the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan with blood waterfalling down the stairways? The ones whose Nahuatl names “sound like Laughter in Hell” (Chesterton)? The ones that the subject tribes of the Mexica fled for the better deal they got with Christ, a god who sacrificed himself so that they wouldn’t need to?

  30. Giovanni, the mutual excommunications were lifted in the 1960’s. Romans are part of the Church just theologically mistaken on some issues; Romans see us Orthodox as being schismatic. However, we visit each other regularly because we now say those words to each other without “heat” in our words. That is called progress. And, yes, a Catholic priest who becomes Orthodox is not re-ordained.

    Brad, today is the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. If you read the story behind her, you will see that Jesus was not simply added to the pantheon, in fact, Jesus was resisted strongly by the Aztecs. But, here is a question. Is every adoption of a cultural practice syncretism? If so, shame on every Christian who uses a Christmas tree, decorates Easter Eggs, burns a Yule Log (that’s for you English), etc. Even the shape of our churches conforms to the preferred shape for a building in our culture. The question with syncretism is whether it is a pathological adoption of a cultural practice.

    Someone said the Old Testament forbade praying to the dead. I agree. But, something has changed. The New Testament said that Jesus went down to those being held, defeated Satan, and set them free. To say it in an old fashioned way, He harrowed hell. Then he led a victory procession to heaven (see Colossians). The quotes from Revelation picture a situation different than that in the Old Testament. The Old Testament believer was not yet in the presence of God. He/she now is because Christ harrowed hell. And, thus, Revelation pictures them as being aware of what is happening here and participating in the prayers and worship of heaven in a way that was not true in the Old Testament. Situation changed, and the rule changed.

    Because the truth is important we do, often, try to convert each other. Because the Christian life is important, we do try to correct the errors found in each other’s groups. However, that is different than declaring each other not to be Christian. We tried that in the Middle Ages in the West and it led to some horrible results. I am not Roman Catholic, but I deeply appreciate the clear effort of Vatican Council II to differentiate between what is true about the Church, about the Christian life, about various themes, while at the same time recognizing openly that many will be saved who are not and have never been Roman Catholics.

    We need to be able to separate the two. I have no problem believing that almost all of you on this discussion will be saved, maybe even all. But, I also have no problem trying to convince you, in a respectful manner that honors your dignity as a person created in the image of God, that you need to become Orthodox so that you can lead a full Christian life. The key is, “in a respectful manner that honors your dignity as a person created in the image of God.”

  31. I’m getting a kick out of Mr. Patrick Lynch’s statements. He has said this:

    “Ask God to remove the plank lodged in your eye so you can see the purpose more clearly.”

    And this:

    “If you want to keep your private judgments that Catholics are Being Lied To or that we worship Mary or whatever, you can at least do what Jesus told you to do and keep them PRIVATE. Your haunted reservations about our church aren’t going to get you any ‘Amens’ around here.”

    But, he has also said these:

    “Bill, developing some hesitation might be in your best interest. In other circles, we call that kind of thing “humility”.”

    “This has been a pretty good discussion so far; don’t wiener it up with statements like this..”

    “The irony is suffocating – please, give up this lame position before you die?”

    “JohnB, lets use common sense as a measuring stick.”

    “I’m glad you want to teach people about the Bible; that’s high and noble and God will love you for it – at least as much as He loves Pharisees. Keep that in mind.”

    “Yeah, Dave. You tell the world why you’re mad.”

    These are just a few. But the contradictions are striking.

  32. Johnb5200: “Let’s use the Catechism as the measuring stick”

    I would rather stick to using the cathechism as it was intended; as more of a flashlight. Luckily Jesus Christ is the only real “measuring stick” plus judge and jury in the life of any Christian.

    I was first Graced with the gospel of Christ, repented, and committed my life to him 8 years ago; and I was baptized in a community of Catholic Christians. I’m a well educated American that has had the benefit of unlimited access to books, computers, and a variety of learning tools. I have read the Holy Bible almost every day since I became a Christian, and for most of the past 8 years have seriously studied the Catechism of The Catholic Church and willfully follow it’s teachings the best I can. For the past 4 years I’ve been teaching a catechism class to junior high students, and though not easy it is a calling I approach with a grave sense of responsibility. I’ve also been blessed/enlightened by reading and studying a number of other non-catholic/evangelical books and online resources during that time period. (imonk is one of the tops on my list)

    I have faith in the Bible and the catechism, but I don’t understand it all (probably don’t even get to that 50% noted earlier). I’m at peace with not understanding or knowing all of what’s in those books that were written or taught by much smarter people than me hundreds of years ago; because I do know Jesus Christ.

    I’m also a pro-life republican that shoots guns once in a blue moon. What else do I need to know to get saved and be a real Christian?

  33. Fr. Ernesto – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. We need to understand that our denominational differences won’t keep us out of heaven as long as we’re following the Gospels with our faith in Jesus Christ. People can say that they run into alot of ex Catholics or ex Protestants that say they never really heard the Scriptures presented but obviously that goes for all sides, that is a common shared problem in the churches of all denominations.

    You could respectfully tell me that I can only live fully as a Christian in the Orthodox tradtion while I could respectfully say that you can only fully live a Christian life as a Lutheran. I think it boils down to a choice, what denomination do you feel best presents the Gospels, the message about our faith?

  34. I agree with you Father Ernesto and that is why I call you Father Ernesto and not just Ernesto or Mr. or Sir. Your orders are valid and so are your sacraments, though we may disagree on who is wrong and who is right. The respect is there and the love is there.

  35. If I hear one more person criticize group A for being wrapped up in the culture as if they are somehow miraculously exempt from being wrapped up in the culture, I’m going to put a pencil in my eye.

    “Catholics: Renounce your terrible alliance with the Mexican culture and be like us American fundamentalists. And be sure to watch out for the 50 foot flag hanging in our sanctuary.”

  36. “Catholics: Renounce your terrible alliance with the Mexican culture and be like us American fundamentalists. And be sure to watch out for the 50 foot flag hanging in our sanctuary.”


    My experience has been that some churches form their own (peculiar and insular) culture, which makes them distinct from the people they presume to reach. Often it’s the level-headed voices within these churches that suggest maybe a little accomodation with the outside culture is necessary. But such open-minded people do not fare well.

  37. John, thanks for your comments on Patrick’s replies… I thought it was interesting that we were all prideful hypocrites but he could say the very same things since he is in the “true” church.

    I am glad to know that all of us are concerning ourselves with the issue of what the Gospel is and what it isn’t. I believe this pleases God that His people are concerned with His Word.

    imonk, hats off to a great blog… and I’ll throw a nice suggestion for a future blog and ask if you are you of the beer-drinking Baptist variety…? If so, I’ll buy you a nice Belgian Trappist Ale if I’m ever near Oneida, KY. That’s a beautiful place to live.


  38. Patrick lynch: Wow. That was How honest of you. How certain of your truth you are that you need to edit my words like a porno edited to run on the Disney channel to make any sort of a point. I especially find it amusing since you have repeatedly said we are on two different teams, yet the logical conclusion of that way of thinking escapes you.

    Jenny, I know what the “climbing a tree” was a reference to. I never went to Sunday School. I was a heathen for the first 18 years of my life (18 years and just shy of one month to be exact) and have now been a Christian for the second 18 years of my life. Jesus abides in all believers, Imonk even did a several post series on it. Fasting is commanded by the Lord, at least indirectly. Any other form of self flagelation or abuse as a religious practice is not.

    PatrickW: I appreciate you taking the time to actually bring forth the Catholic arguments for the beliefs instead of just slinging insults and ingnoring anything sticky. I honestly do. I’ve heard them before, mostly.

    I understand that to a Catholic there is a difference between worship and veneration. While they look like the same thing, I am told they are different because of some teaching. But I can call adultery “getting a massage” all I want but in the end, it’s still adultery.

    Catholic teaching is, in fact, that Mary “was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.” (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia) Born without sin? Lived a life without sin? Yet repeatedly the Bible teaches that only God is without sin. How is ascribing a trait reserved for the triune God to a human, anything other than a) worship and b) false?

    Believers have the righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:22-25, Phl 3:9, Romans 5:17) so those who are dead in Christ are no more righteous than I, for they can not be more righteous than Jesus.

    Simply the OT forbade speaking to the dead. I respect Fr. Ernesto and enjoy reading his insights. However, the gymnastics one has to do, with a lot of “reading between the lines” to arrive at the idea that the command has somehow changed is clear.

    When Jesus was asked to teach his disciples how to pray, did he begin “Abraham, who art in heaven”? You can avoid the point with the idea that there were no “saints” in heaven yet to pray to. Jesus still taught to go directly to the Father. The writer of Hebrews says to come boldy before the throne of grace. Everytime prayer is mentioned in the NT it is directed to God. Not angels. Not dead folks. Not a statue. No where, EVER in the NT or other Apostolic Era (33-150 ad)writings that I am aware of is it taught to pray to dead people to get them to pray for you.

    Again, my point was not to discuss Catholicism. My point was that if it’s wrong for one side to call the other unsaved, isn’t it as wrong for the other to return the favor. To try to illustrate that point I have pointed out areas where the RCC might not want to throw stones because they have REALLY big, glaring windows in their house. I quoted the words of Pope’s and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith…which was ignored or they still insisted that even though the RCC rule book said so, the RCC didn’t really believe that. The response has mostly been to just label me a catholic basher and to shamelessly twist my words to avoid the point.

    I’m done on this one, I never wanted to argue the merits of Catholicism vs. Prostestantism. I just wanted to point out the hypocrisy of calling one of two sides doing the same thing “bigotry”.


  39. Bill, please. Anybody can tell I’m not an old-school, hardcore, Catholic-or-die type. Anybody can ALSO tell that I have zero patience for short-sighted Protestants calling me as a Catholic, or my Peruvian family as a group, ‘unreached’. I don’t come to your house and tell you that your kids are lost – don’t come to mine with that. I make no apologies for letting you know where I, personally stand, and I’m definitely not going to sugar-coat my replies to your suspicions and condescensions back for you.

  40. DaveD some of the words you are using are at the core of the problem of the communication that we are having.

    I am going to ignore the parts in which you call prayer to saints the same as prayer to God. This is simply not true and your analogy is not accurate.

    You use the word “unsaved” in order to qualify the Catholic attitude towards Protestants. Let me beggin by saying that as far as the “unsaved” go as far as the Church is concerned it does not just apply to Protestants but also Catholics and not just laymen but also clerics and the Pope him self will tell you that he remains “unsaved.”

    Just because I am a member of the Catholic Church does not make me “saved.” Just because you are Protestant does not make you “unsaved.”

    “There is no salvation outside the Church.”

    Remains true, does that mean that Protestants will not be saved? No, we are saved by Grace alone (although we differ on what that means) Man can do nothing on his own to save him self, so therefore salvation is a gift of God. However if you are saved meaning in Heaven praying to God and part of beatific vision in that case you will have been joined to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.

    “There is no salvation outside the Church.”

  41. Memphis Aggie says

    “Catholic teaching is, in fact, that Mary “was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.” (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia) Born without sin? Lived a life without sin? Yet repeatedly the Bible teaches that only God is without sin. How is ascribing a trait reserved for the triune God to a human, anything other than a) worship and b) false?”

    Weren’t Adam and Eve born without sin? So such a trait is not reserved for God alone. Of course only God knows the righteous and God is the source of all good but how many folk are “hailed” by Archangels in the Bible? It’s a singular moment that should give a Bible focused person pause. To Catholics Mary is the pinnacle of creation , the purified vessel meant to carry the bread of life just like ancient Jews had purified vessels carry sacrifices of grain (Isiah don’t remember the exact verse). She is likened to the Ark of the covenant that houses the law and now the word made flesh. There’s a clear distinction between the decorated treasure chest (Mary) and the treasure (Christ).

    Certainly I would not expect y’all to become Marian in outlook but it’s common sense not to to insult someones mother and then call yourself their friend.
    Of all the fights Protestants and Catholic battle over
    this one is especially sensitive. It’s the mark of someone who’d rather argue than disagree reasonably. Michael has disagreed on Mary without giving offense, it can be done, but it takes that respect Father Ernesto mentioned. If you’re sincerely interested in being heard on the merits it’s necessary to deliver the critique gently with charity.

  42. Virgen de Guadalupe. Heh. I told some Mexicans I know that I went to a monastery in Guadalupe, Spain with a shrine of sorts to the BVM. They said it wasn’t the real one. I told them it predated the vision in Mexico by 200 years. Hilarity did NOT ensue.

  43. Memphis Aggie says

    Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and vision of St Juan Diego at Teypac. Second Marian feast this week.

  44. Beth,
    Funny you should mention Vancouver — I’ve met SBC missionaries, from down south, in our fair city. Financed with US dollars, heading home now and then to give slide shows (I’m guessing it’d go something like “…here we tried the strange local food they call ‘sushi'”), and generally treating a bustling urban center, with churches of all sorts, like a forgotten corner of the 10/40 window.

    It is really, really, hard not to be cynical about a denomination that seems so willfully misinformed. Why should we be surprised with a SBC that discounts Roman Catholics when even their closest Baptist kin don’t make the grade?

  45. Jeremy

    I’d rather be sad about the SBC rather than cynical. I find it very saddening to see a group that I used to be glad to be a member losing some of the things that made it good. Losing its focus on reaching the unbeliever, respecting the rights of individual churches to make decisions about who is to lead them, etc. I have cried out to God for these people, my brothers and sisters.

    Joe (I believe) you said that our Catholic devotion to Mary looks like worship, even though we keep trying to tell you that it isn’t. How can you tell the difference between wine and grape juice, just by looking at the liquids? But, if you have experienced both with your senses you can tell.

  46. DaveD below are some interesting quotes from the Apostolic Era. But before you read them, please do read the book of Revelation. In chapters 5 & 8 it points out that both the 24 elders and the angels hold in their hands the prayers of the saints, and they are the ones who offer them to God as incense. That is as good an image as any of the intercession of the saints and the angels.

    “That it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow disciples! The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.” Martyrdom of Polycarp 17,18.

    “[Appealing to the three companions of Daniel] Think of me, I beseech you, so that I may achieve with you the same fate of martyrdom.” Hippolytus of Rome, On Daniel, 11:30 (A.D. 204).

    Clement of Alexandria – “In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]” (Miscellanies 7:12 [A.D. 208]).

    “As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours.” Tertullian, The Crown, 3 (A.D. 211).

    Origen – But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels… as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep (On Prayer II [A.D. 233]).

    “Nor is that kind of title to glories in the case of Celerinus, our beloved, an unfamiliar and novel thing. He is advancing in the footsteps of his kindred; he rivals his parents and relations in equal honours of divine condescension. His grandmother, Celerina, was some time since crowned with martyrdom. Moreover, his paternal and maternal uncles, Laurentius and Egnatius, who themselves also were once warring in the camps of the world, but were true and spiritual soldiers of God, casting down the devil by the confession of Christ, merited palms and crowns from the Lord by their illustrious passion. We always offer sacrifices for them, as you remember, as often as we celebrate the passions and days of the martyrs in the annual commemoration. Nor could he, therefore, be degenerate and inferior whom this family dignity and a generous nobility provoked, by domestic examples of virtue and faith. But if in a worldly family it is a matter of heraldry and of praise to be a patrician, of bow much greater praise and honour is it to become of noble rank in the celestial heraldry! I cannot tell whom I should call more blessed,–whether those ancestors, for a posterity so illustrious, or him, for an origin so glorious. So equally between them does the divine condescension flow, and pass to and fro, that, just as the dignity of their offspring brightens their crown, so the sublimity of his ancestry illuminates his glory.” Cyprian, To Clergy and People, Epistle 33(39):3 (A.D. 250).

  47. So rich is our Christian Faith, thank you Father Ernesto.

  48. IMONK’S WIFE: I love you in the Lord :BIG HUG: I never met a Christian I didn’t like. I meet the sweetest people everywhere I go. I never ask what denomination they belong to. And they never ask the question of me. It just doesn’t come to mind as we share our love for our Lord.

    IMONK: Don’t focus on the yuks you just described. Spend all your energies spreading the love and wisdom you know to be found in all denominations. Lift up that love and wisdom. There is an ‘opportunity cost’ to everything we do. When we choose one thing…we must give up another that could be done in the same time slot. Time spent giving space to ignorant ideologies is time one cannot spend unifying the brethren in love.

  49. Christopher Lake says


    Isn’t the heart of the Gospel that Christians are counted righteous before God because of the perfect life and the atoning death on Christ, in their place, on the Cross? If this is so, how does the Catholic doctrine of purgatory not severely distort the the aforementioned teaching?

    Speaking as a former Catholic myself, in the RCC system of doctrine, purgatory is necessary for the “purification” of remaining sinfulness at the time of death, so that one may be purified and fit to enter into God’s presence in Heaven. The understanding of the Bible on this matter, however, is that Christ’s work on the Cross is not only finished but also *completely sufficient* on my behalf for me, as a Christian, to be counted as righteous before God, *as if I had the righteousness of Christ Himself.* In Biblical terms, it is because of Christ’s work that I will enter Heaven as a believer in Him– not because of Christ *and* my “purification” through purgatory.

    I won’t say that the doctrine of purgatory destroys the Gospel, but it does undermine it– and unlike the admitted and lamentable silliness and “majoring on minors” that one will find in many evangelical churches (including many churches within the SBC– I agree with you, as a “9 Marks-friendly” Baptist), purgatory is *official Catholic doctrine.*

  50. Christopher Lake says

    That should be “the atoning death *of* Christ,” in the first sentence.