This is a brief update of the Lord’s activity through the Ministry of Gospel Renewal over the last month.
Off and Running. The Billy Graham Center Board unanimously approved the Ministry on May 20th. We are now actively planning for the upcoming year.
What is Happening? Last month I taught at Moody Bible Institute and I have been presenting workshops in area churches. In a couple of weeks, I’ll deliver a set of lectures at Biola University and finish writing curriculum for our class, Relating to Roman Catholics with the Gospel. Several initiatives for training and mobilization are also on the horizon.
In the Rotunda. This fall I’m scheduled to deliver monthly lectures in The Billy Graham Museum Rotunda (pictured here) on Gospel Renewal through the Centuries. Details will follow. It will also be filmed and posted on our website.
Finally, thank you for your financial support, which makes this ministry possible. Through the generosity of God’s people, we are currently halfway toward our annual goal of $96,000. We’re trusting the Lord to bring us through the remainder of the Red Sea.
With sincere gratitude,
Chris & Angela Castaldo
Chris as a Catholic, I have to tell you that the title of the curriculum “Relating to Roman Catholics with the Gospel” is a bit off-putting to me. The problem is that the title makes an assumption that Roman Catholics don’t know what the gospel is. That may create a barrier for ecumenical discussion at the outset. Would you be offended if I presented a discussion on my blog called “relating to reformed Christians with the gospel? I suspect a reformed Christian would be offended because they may conclude that, I am saying they don’t know the gospel.
Would you be willing to run the title of your series by Father Moishe to see how he feels about it?
Thanks Russ, I appreciate your feedback. What would you suggest as a better option? I certainly don’t want to be off-putting. The essence of the training has to do with constructively relating to Catholics in conversations about the gospel. I value your input. Sincerely, Chris
I think we both can agree that establishing a vital life-changing personal relationship with Jesus is the key. I want that for my Catholic and Protestant brethren and I am sure you do also. It is the the way that relationship happens which is what we disagree about. Is there a way to present your material as “Helping Catholics to Re-vitalize their Faith” etc. If a Catholic person hears you teach a course like that, they may even want to go! But when they hear “relating to the Catholic with the Gospel”, it kinda gives them the feeling, (at least it did me,) that we don’t know the gospel. Your blog post inspired me to write about the gospel in the mass on my blog.
Thanks, Russ. This is helpful. I will revise the title with your suggestion in mind. Best to you and yours! Chris
Thanks Chris for being so open to my concerns. God bless your and yours as well.
What is it, exactly, that you feel Catholics are missing in regard to the gospel message? And what is your ultimate goal for such a ministry?
Thanks, Amber. The purpose of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal is to serve the 99 million “partially evangelized” in America–those Protestant, Catholic, & Orthodox who have familiarity with the church, but for whom the gospel (in terms of the new birth, Bible, and outreach) are not central. This designation is certainly not true of all Catholics; but it is for some.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but your title “Relating to Roman Catholics with the Gospel” doesn’t appear to include evangelization to Protestants and Orthodox. While it seems your ministry might be good-willed, it is strange to me that you wish to evangelize members of the original Christian church, who already have the fullness of the Gospel given to them by Jesus Christ. You explicitly assume that most members of the Catholic Church are only “partially evangelized” when our mass, in and of itself, repeats the Gospel message to it’s parishioners on a daily basis. This asserts that all those people listening to the gospel message daily/weekly, are completely ignorant to it despite hearing and seeing it hundreds of times. I believe the only Catholics your ministry might apply to are the Christmas and Easter Catholics, who clearly are missing the message or they would be regular attendees. No one who truly understands all that the Catholic Church teaches would EVER dream of leaving her for symbol-only ideologies and traditions which have only surfaced in the last couple hundred years. It is clear that you wish to evangelize Catholics right out of their parishes and into churches that fit with your theological understanding of the Gospel… I find this fully disheartening.
I’d be happy to have an open dialogue with you as I firmly believe that there is nothing the Catholic Church teaches which contradicts reason, Scripture or an historical account of Christianity. The only thing that contradicts are the false misconceptions that most Protestants have of the Catholic Church. I know this is the case because I was once on your side of the coin… I bought all those lies hook, line and sinker until the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the truth about Christ’s church.
I truly desire to discuss the issues you have with the Catholic faith. If nothing else, it could prepare you for what it is you’re really getting yourself and others into with your ministry.
Thanks Amber. The curriculum on Relating to Catholics is one of a few pieces that we are offering under the auspice of gospel renewal. A book to which I contributed is due out in March titled Journeys of Faith. It has explanations of belief by a Catholic (Frank Beckwith) Anglican (Lyle Dorsett), Orthodox (Wilbur Elsworth) and Evangelical (yours truly). It’s precisely the kind of resource that promises to shed light on the questions that you’re raising. Of course, my first book, Holy Ground, also speaks to these issues. Best, Chris
Would you agree with this definition of the Gospel?
Other than 621 on the Eucharist, I am not sure what evangelical Protestants would disagree with here.
619 “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” (I Cor 15:3).
620 Our salvation flows from God’s initiative of love for us, because “he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (I Jn 4:10). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19).
621 Jesus freely offered himself for our salvation. Beforehand, during the Last Supper, he both symbolized this offering and made it really present: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19).
622 The redemption won by Christ consists in this, that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28), that is, he “loved [his own] to the end” (Jn 13:1), so that they might be “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [their] fathers” (1 Pet 1:18).
623 By his loving obedience to the Father, “unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfills the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will “make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities” (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19).
Thanks Russ. Yes, I recognize these biblical statements in the catachism to be a helpful summary of the gospel. My disagreement has mainly to do with the sacramental role in salvation… that it’s not Christ accruing superabundant merits to be stored in a heavenly treasury and dispensed to me as I participate in sacramental rites, but that the good news is the complete satisfaction of God’s wrath and forgiveness of my sins on the basis of Jesus death and resurrection, accessed by faith.
Chris, so it would be fair to say that the gospel is indeed taught and promoted by the Catholic Church. I hope that in Relating to Catholics, you will let your audience know that the Catholic Church believes the same tenets of the gospel that you can agree with. You differ with Catholics on how that gospel is apprehended by each person, but it is only fair to teach others what the Catholic Church says about itself regarding the actual gospel.
Sounds like you disagree with the “sacramental role in salvation.” In my 7 years back to the Church I have never yet heard sacraments described the way you did and am concerned that the verbiage could be mis-understood by your audiences. I don’t think you will disagree with this statement by Thomas Aquinas regarding “superabundance” of merits as it relates to salvation:
“He atones appropriately for an offense who offers whatever the offended party equally loves, or loves more than he detested the offense. But Christ by suffering out of love and obedience gave to God more than was required to compensate for the offenses of the whole human race. First, by reason of the tremendous charity from which he suffered; second, by reason of the dignity of his life, which he gave up in atonement, for this was the life of one who was both God and man; third, on account of the extent of the passion and the greatness of the sorrows suffered….and so Christ’s passion was not merely sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race.”
As you know there is also the treasury of merit, but that refers to the teaching of indulgences which is a whole other discussion. I am not familiar with the verbiage of the sacraments being Christ’s merits stored up and dispensed but perhaps that’s how they were described in an older catechism?
Catholics(And Orthodox and some Anglicans) believe that Sacraments were instituted by Christ himself and for the first 1500 years of Christianity were considered to be the normative way of accessing God’s grace and being apprehended by Him. I am aware you don’t agree with this but even non-Catholic Church historians (Kelly, Schaff) describe early Christian belief as sacramental and the writings of the ECF, particularly on baptism and the Eucharist are fairly consensual regarding the sacramental nature of their belief system. The book you reviewed on Worshiping With the Fathers I think supports his also.
For me as a Catholic, I experience Jesus in the sacraments. The sacraments are the way in which Catholic Christians experience God. The Church refers to them as the masterworks of God. Can I experience Him outside the sacraments? Sure, and for 31 years as an evangelical I did, but as a Catholic Christian I feel like my connection to God has been enhanced. (Why does he choose to use the stuff of earth to convey His grace? I don’t know but I think the answer lies in the mystery of the Incarnation.)
The grace I receive from the sacraments are the result of my interacting with Jesus himself. Jesus is operative in the sacraments and through the Holy Spirit, he pours his grace out to me in a powerful way I never experienced before. When I receive the Eucharist, I am touching God, he is touching me and allowing me to be consumed by him and he consumes me. When I go to confession, I “whisper in the ear of God”, and Christ forgives me my sins through a man . The priest doesn’t forgive sins, but Christ operating through him does with the authority given to him from Christ himself. The blood of the Cross shed once and for all is applied to me through the working of grace in the confessional. If we are of the proper disposition, meaning we believe and have faith and are docile to the work of the Holy Spirit, our lives change. If we receive the sacraments without faith, just going through the motions as “cultural Catholics” do, they miss out on His grace .
Would you read what the Church says about the sacraments from the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
1118 The sacraments are “of the Church” in the double sense that they are “by her” and “for her.” They are “by the Church,” for she is the sacrament of Christ’s action at work in her through the mission of the Holy Spirit. They are “for the Church” in the sense that “the sacraments make the Church,”35 since they manifest and communicate to men, above all in the Eucharist, the mystery of communion with the God who is love, One in three persons.
1123 “The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it. That is why they are called ‘sacraments of faith.'”44
1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.48 They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.
Faith is a vital part of the “sacramental economy” and without faith it is impossible to please God. This is what the Church teaches.
Chris you say:
that the good news is the complete satisfaction of God’s wrath and forgiveness of my sins on the basis of Jesus death and resurrection, accessed by faith. That is what Catholics believe as well. But we also believe in the obedience of faith and that “faith alone” or just an assent to tenets of faith, is not part of the gospel of salvation. Catholics believe in cooperation with God but this is yet another discussion.
My main reason for engaging you on your blog is because I would hope and pray that you would be willing to present the Catholic faith as it teaches about itself, instead of the caricature of the faith that often comes across from disgruntled Catholics who never understood or practiced their faith. I left the Church at 14 years of age having no idea what Catholics believed and then when I had my born again experience, I was taught by Protestants what Catholicism was about, which turned out to be quite different from what the truth was.
Hope and pray you have a glorious 4th of July weekend,
Thanks, Russ. I enjoyed reading your response. You are a clear thinker and writer. Point taken with regard to the faith alone response. Maybe a clearer way for me to have said it was in terms of penal substitution… that a Refomed evangelical understanding of salvation understands God’s wrath to have been fully propitiated, the sacrifice is finished, and the penalty fully paid so that there is no need for temporal punishment of God’s children. In plain English, the practical outcome of a Catholic position on justification leaves you with ‘salvation on probation’ which opens the door to various forms of injurious religious guilt.
I appreciate your feedback, Russ. Best, Chris
“In plain English, the practical outcome of a Catholic position on justification leaves you with ‘salvation on probation’ which opens the door to various forms of injurious religious guilt”
Thanks for your kind comments on my writing. Chris your statement above is not the case for all Catholics. Would it be more fair to say that “some catholics I have interviewed have expressed a sense of guilt”
I am not sure it is completely fair to assume a guilty Catholic has come to that place in their life because of Catholic theology. Rather, its the poorly taught Catholic who never appropriated the grace available to them in the sacraments. There are 2000 years of godly Catholics whose life and writings would not support your conclusion. From personal experience I can tell you that the sacramental life has given me a freedom that I have heretofore not experienced in my life as an evangelical.
I do believe the issue og guilt is not one that can be tied solely to Catholicism. Any formal theological system can breed guilt when the adherent struggles to follow it or just follows rotely without experiencing the grace in their life. Hal Linsdsey a writer and grad of the Dallas Theo School in the early 80’s wrote a book called The Guilt Trip. He was trying to get evangelical protestants free of their guilt.
My point is that Catholic Theology doesn’t lead to guilt but to true freedom. The misunderstanding and misuse of a theology can lead to guilt or God knows what. But my experience as well as the experiences of others who have “crossed over” does not support the salvation on probation concept. I don’t desire to be purposely argumentative but truly desire to show you a side of Catholicism that perhaaps you or others that were interviwed did not experience. God bless thanks for your time and consideration of these vital issues.
Thanks Russ, I agree that destructive guilt is a human problem more than a Catholic one. My experience is that to the extent that one takes the precepts of the Catholic church seriously, he or she is unduly susceptible to experiencing unhealthy religious guilt. Still, I agree with your point concerning its broader scope.
Thanks Chris for considering my point above. I appreciate your willingness to correspond with me. Your last comment about serious Catholics being more susceptible to experiencing unhealthy religious guilt got me thinking, again. I am the administrator of a group called “Catholics Are Christians!” on facebook which I started as a response to a group sadly called “Catholics are not Christians.”
In less than a few weeks from inaugurating the group we had several hundred members and in one month we had over two thousand members. These folks are what I believe you would call Catholics that take the precepts of the Church seriously.
So borrowing on your research methodology used in “Holy Ground”, I assembled an on-line “focus group” and asked them if they felt more guilty since they converted to Catholicism, or growing up Catholic. I used your quote above as a starting point for the discussion.
The responses I received were quite different than what you would expect based on your thoughts about guilt and serious Catholics. Rather than clog up your combox with comments, I assembled them on my blog (please see the link below) I can give you the identity of each respondent if you would like off-line. God bless you and thank you for reading and posting my thoughts on your blog.
Well done! I enjoyed reading the comments on your website, Russ, and it has me thinking. As you know, most of the folks whom I interviewed for Holy Ground were former Catholics, some of whom would say of themselves that they were not regenerate as a Catholic (I realize that this isn’t an acceptable assessment of the state of the baptized Catholic from a Catholic point of view); others, however, asserted that they were indeed born again as a Catholic. In the case of the former, they were extremely susceptible to religious guilt. Among the latter group, the concern about guilt also arose, but not as much. When I read the comments of folks who responded to your question, they sound to me like they belong to the second group: men and women who understand the Catholic sacraments in more of an Augustinian sense, that is, with an awareness that salvation is ultimately of grace from beginning to end. In Holy Ground I describe this person as an “Evangelical or Charismatic Catholic.” It’s an imperfect title, one that Catholics and Protestants will critique for different reasons; but it’s the language that sociologists commonly use for a person who values personal relationship with Jesus, the Bible, and an understanding of salvation that has grace at the center. It is, for instance, the terminology that people like Frank Beckwith use of themselves. Quite honestly, I have more in common with these brothers and sister than I do with some Protestants.
Thanks again, Russ.
You are welcome Christ, thanks for reading the comments.
When you present your findings of your studies, perhaps you can recall some of these thoughts by Catholics who live their faith, in particular regarding the guilt issue. It would truly be just and fair that your audiences don’t come away thinking that “as a rule” Catholic theology breeds guilt. It is the application of mis-understood and confused theology without imbibing in the grace available in the sacraments that leads to guilt. I have experienced the opposite as did my mini focus group.
Thanks again for listening,
When you come east for a presentation, let me know, I would like to come out and meet you.
Thanks Russ, I would like that. Please feel free to give me a buzz if you’re passing through the Chicago area. Blessings to the Rentlers!
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