The Gospel According to Rome. By James G. McCarthy. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995. 397 pp. Paper, $11.99.
“The Turks are at the Gates of Vienna!” These dramatic words from the Louis de Rochemont film “Martin Luther” (1953) are relevant today. In the 16th century Lutherans were pressed to reunite with Rome to form a solid front against the encroaching Muslims. Today the Muslims—not to mention the New-Agers, Hindus, cultists, and secularists—are at the gates of London, Paris, and New York.
The handsome young Irish-American (from a family of eight, both of whose Irish-born parents were also from families of eight) has written the best book on why Evangelicals should not and cannot unite with Rome, even on lesser levels. Unlike some books, this one is compassionate and loving rather than excessively harsh.
McCarthy is a teacher at the small but influential Discipleship Internship Training Program at San Leandro, California. His book is up-to-date (using the recent Catechismus Ecclesiae Catholicae), covers all the main problems (salvation, the mass, Mary, and authority—the four main parts of his book), and has important appendices on infant baptismal regeneration, the seven sacraments, the Roman Catholic Bible, NT references to tradition, and Sola Scriptura. It also has 558 notes and documentation, plus Scripture and subject indices.
The following samples of Roman Catholic doctrines (with page numbers from The Catholic Catechism) versus biblical teachings on salvation should show the quality of the book:
Salvation: Error Versus Truth
The Catholic Church Teaches
The Bible Teaches
|Justification is a transformation of the soul in which original sin is removed and sanctifying grace infused [1987-1995].||Justification is an act of God in which He declares a sinner to be righteous in His sight, having forgiven his sins and imputed to him God’s own righteousness (Rom 3:21-4:8).|
|Initial justification is by means of baptism [1262-1274].||Justification is by faith alone (Rom 3:28).|
|Adults must prepare for justification through faith and good works [1247-1249].||God justifies ungodly sinners who believe (Romans 4:5). Good works are the result of salvation, not the cause (Eph 2:8-10).|
|Justification is furthered by sacraments and good works [1212, 1392, 2010].||Justification is the imputation of the perfect righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). In Christ the believer has been made complete (Col 2:10).|
|Justification is lost through mortal sin [1033, 1855, 1874].||Justification cannot be lost. Those whom God justifies will be saved from the wrath of God (Rom 5:8, 9).|
|Catholics guilty of mortal sin are justified again through the sacrament of penance [980, 1446].||There is no second justification. Those whom God justifies He also will glorify (Rom 8:30).|
|Salvation from the eternal consequences of sin is a lifelong process [161-162, 1254-1255].||Salvation from the eternal consequences of sin is an instantaneous and secure act of God coinciding with justification (Rom 5:9).|
|Salvation is attained by cooperating with grace through faith, good works, and participation in the sacraments [183, 1129, 1815, 2002].||Salvation is attained by grace through faith apart from works (Eph 2:8, 9). Good works are the result, not the cause, of salvation (Eph 2:10).|
|Sanctifying grace is a quality of the soul, a supernatural disposition that perfects the soul [1999-2000].||Grace is the undeserved favor of God (Eph 1:7, 8).|
|Grace is merited by good works [2010, 2027].||Grace is a free gift (Rom 11:6).|
While it is popular to have a foreword by someone with “name recognition” (usually, but not in this case, advertised on the cover), the use of John MacArthur, Jr., seemed a questionable choice in light of that preacher-writer’s less-than-orthodox views on the blood atonement and the eternal Sonship of our Lord. Also, MacArthur’s views on the gospel, in this reviewer’s opinion, do not reflect first generation Reformation clarity on Sola Fide. In fairness, however, MacArthur’s foreword is well done (though less irenic than the book), as it points up the real issue. Like R. C. Sproul’s November, 1993 Table Talk, he shows that the ten differences listed by the recent Colson-Robertson-Packer-Bright accord with Roman Catholic leaders (agreeing not to try to evangelize one another) are nothing compared to the real difference: the Gospel. Just how is one saved? (See Dr. Wilkin’s article-length review in this issue of JOTGES.)
As the efforts to blur the distinction between salvation by grace through faith alone and salvation by faith plus sacraments plus works, etc. increase, the importance of this and similar books becomes evident.
McCarthy also has a fine video featuring interviews with former Catholic clergy, monks, and nuns who are now strong evangelicals. Like The Gospel According to Rome, “Catholicism: Crisis of Faith” is Catholic-user friendly, and not an “over-the-wall” exposé of scandals. JOTGES readers who live in heavily Roman Catholic areas especially may want a copy. It is available in English and Spanish.
McCarthy’s book is powerful, documented, irenic, and biblical. It deserves wide distribution.
Arthur L. Farstad
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society