We don't like to speak ill of the living, so we let others do it. A case in point: Peter Ruckman, known best to readers of This Rock as Karl Keating's opponent in a debate titled "What Divides Catholics and Fundamentalists?" [The debate is available from This Rock as an album of four audio tapes. The price, including shipping and handling, is $22.00. End of commercial.]
The Biblical Evangelist newspaper, which bills itself as "America's most conservative Christian voice," ran an ad for and a book review of The Ruckman Conspiracy, by L. Hymers, Jr., pastor of the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle in Los Angeles. The review is really just a lengthy quotation from the book's introduction. It's worth reproducing:
"This valuable study, The Ruckman Conspiracy, is a work of the utmost importance since it not only deals with the blessed Word of God, but how that word should be understood in translation. Dr. Hymers has done his homework, evidencing extensive research into what Dr. Peter Ruckman teaches. We think most knowledgeable ministers have long been alarmed at what the latter has been doing in claiming inerrancy for a translation [the King James Version].
"Evangelist Gary Hudson, in his recent book, Why I Left Ruckmanism, pointed out such Ruckman aberrations as 'advance revelation,' that the KJV English is superior to the original Hebrew and Greek, that the KJV should be used to 'purify' and 'correct' the available manuscripts in the original languages, and his penchant for castigating every scholar of reputation...whom he sees as holding a position other than his.
"In this work, Dr. Hymers also carefully examines these doctrines, then looks at what may be their source: demonism. Starting with 'samadhi' out-of-body experiences in Japan while involved in Buddhism, Dr. Ruckman is still wrapped up with demons to this day. Dr. Hymers, who has monitored many, many of his tapes, quotes him in describing what demons look like, their size, how no Christian can 'get through a day without getting infested' with them, and even his instructions to his followers about how he self-exorcises demons (in front of a mirror, then jumping into bed).
"Since so many have been wrapped up in the bizarre, cult-like teaching of Ruckmanism, we are glad for the careful, factual information set forth in this volume. We trust it will do much good in opening the eyes of dear Christians who have been confused by his strange, unscriptural philosophies."
The Biblical Evangelist runs lots of fun ads. Here's an alliterative one from The Conversion Center of Havertown, Pennsylvania: "A soul-winning mission to Roman Catholic priests, nuns, and people. [Priests and nuns apparently aren't people.] 800 million Roman Catholics lost without love, trapped by traditions, paralyzed by popery, deceived by the Devil. For free information regarding literature, seminars, and evangelism, contact Rev. Donald F. Maconaghie."
Bob and Gretchen Passantino are losing friends. The Evangelical couple used to work for the late Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute and radio's "Bible Answer Man."
Then they went off on their own, establishing their own ministry, Answers in Action, which produces a radio program. They have written several books, the most popular of which has been Answers to Cultists at Your Door. Now they've come out with Witch Hunt (Thomas Nelson Publishers), and lots of folks are mad. The cover of the book explains that "Christians are attacking Christians, charging one another with heresy. But are the accusations fair? Is the reasoning valid?" The Passantinos answer "No" to each question.
So just what's involved here? Within Evangelicalism there's been a minor war going on. On one side are vocal premillennial dispensationalists such as Dave Hunt, author of The Seduction of Christianity, and Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth and, most recently, The Road to Holocaust. On the other side is everyone else.
Last Days seers like Hunt and Lindsey have nearly read out of Christianity anyone who disagrees with their understanding of Bible prophecy, which is to say the large mass of Protestants, plus virtually all Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.
This reading out hasn't been gentle. Such Evangelical notables as James Dobson, Chuck Swindoll, and even Campus Crusade for Christ have been accused of succumbing to New Age tendencies.
The Passantinos examine the dispensationalists' writings and conclude they have degenerated from constructive criticism to ad hominem attacks. Hunt and Co. are thin on research, don't substantiate their charges, lack theological rigor, and engage in sensationalism. Other than that, no problem.
(In the interest of journalistic openness and all that stuff, we should note the Passantinos happen to be friends of ours, but in this fight they also happen to be right.)
You get off the plane, walk down the long corridor toward the baggage claim, and pass two displays. One is for flight insurance, the other welcomes you to the city. The first is sponsored by Mutual of Omaha, the second by the Mormon Church.
Since you've just ended your flight, you don't need insurance, but you might be tempted to pick up a brochure from the Mormon display. The front panel of the brochure is a reproduction of the cover of the Book of Mormon, which is subtitled "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." You unfold the brochure to find illustrations of highlights of Mormon history (or pseudo-history, depending on your point of view).
Under each drawing is a question, such as: "What does the Bible say about the Book of Mormon?" (Answer: "The Book of Mormon people were some of the 'other sheep' Christ spoke of in John 10:16.")
Or, "How does the Book of Mormon relate to the Bible?" (Answer: "The Book of Mormon is a companion to the Bible and another testament of Jesus Christ. It is the word of God from [sic] the people of the western hemisphere, even as the Bible is the word of God from [sic] the people of the eastern hemisphere.") The brochure includes a coupon by which you can get a free copy of the Book or Mormon or can arrange to have a missionary visit your home.
Question: Why doesn't the Catholic Church have such displays at airports?
Poland is said to be a Catholic country. If the Jehovah's Witnesses have their way, it won't be that for long. More than 166,000 people attended the Witnesses' "Godly Devotion" conventions in the cities of Poznan, Katowice, and Warsaw last August, with 6,000 new members being baptized. In 1928 there were only 300 Witnesses in Poland.
Biblical Errancy calls itself "the only national periodical focusing on biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists." The editor is Dennis McKinsey, who lives in Springfield, Ohio. McKinsey styles himself an atheist. The November 1989 issue begins with an article titled "Jesus, the Imperfect Beacon." It discusses "some major failings of Jesus" that "obviated any possibility of his claim to perfection and the messiahship."
For instance, says McKinsey, "Imagine! Jesus equated non-Jews with dogs." The citation is to Mark 7:27, which is part of the story of the Syrophoenician woman: "For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."
McKinsey is a diligent worker--the simply-printed newsletter is packed with scriptural citations--and has a loyal, if small, following. Biblical Errancy is the kind of publication that would not injure anyone who has studied his faith, but could throw for a loop anyone who takes his faith for granted.
John MacArthur, host of "Grace to You" radio has announced a new ministry, Word of Grace Europe, which "will be ideally located near England's south coast. Within two years a new tunnel under the English Channel will provide a direct link by road to France. It is a very strategic position from which to reach all Europe." Today England, tomorrow Die Welt?
Yours! Now! Free! Before it's too late! Yes, now you too can attend a Revelation Bible Seminar, just like the one held in Sacramento, California last month. ("Child care will be provided and everything is absolutely free!")
"This Revelation Seminar will satisfy your curiosity about the future. It will also give you specific and dramatic revelations of things to come--not from the psychics but from the unfailing Word of God. When you complete the Seminar, you will really understand the Book of Revelation." A garishly-illustrated folder proclaims "Time is running out! Know the future!" You can "understand the warnings of the 3 angels, discover new meaning in today's world events, know how you must relate to Earth's closing scenes, see the unfolding conflict of the ages--between Christ and Satan."
Your host will be Doug Batchelor, who, "after leaving a life of money, crime, and drugs, moved to a cave where he found a Bible." [No, we're not making this up.] He is now an author and songwriter, not to mention a top salesman.
You are promised lots of freebies: "a special Revelation Seminar Bible," free leaflets, free pens emblazoned with Revelation Seminar's logo, and even a free ruler so you can draw straight lines in your notebook--plus, a free hard-sell pitch for donations.
By the way, the cover of the folder shows, under the words "Mystic Babylon," a drawing of what appears to be St. Peter's Basilica.
Not all Mormon missionaries are young. The Mormon Church actively recruits retirement-age missionaries. "Currently there are nearly 1,200 mature members serving full-time missions, both single sisters and couples. The number of mature missionaries is growing, but unfortunately, it is not growing as fast as the need for them," reports the February 1990 issue of Ensign, the Mormon Church's monthly magazine for members.
(This country's Catholic lay missionaries of retirement age will be holding their annual convention June 15 in Waukegan; all sessions will be held in the phone booth at First and Main.)
The Secular Humanist Bulletin is a supplement to Free Inquiry magazine. The editors asked readers whether they wanted a "kinder, gentler Bulletin." They said they didn't.
"The worst mistake you could make would be to deal with religion by giving it a respect it doesn't deserve. To deal with the religious in a respectful manner is a concession that undercuts the superiority of a life of reason by granting a sort of moral equivalence between the rational and the mystical." So says J. David Pittman of Fullerton, California.
"Stay as tart as you are," urges Mark Dalton of Seattle, Washington.
"I would like to see more and stronger criticism of religion," says Stephen H. Frey of York, Pennsylvania.
Bob Fraley is a one-man crusade. He runs Christian Life Services and publishes a quarterly newsletter that goes out, free, to 95,000 people. He makes his money by selling copies of his book, The Last Days in America, which he hawks in the newsletter.
The latest issue contains an article which asks, "Should I Believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture?" A good reason not to believe in it, apparently, is that this Protestant theory is really the work of the Jesuits.
"I was shocked to discover," says Fraley, "that the pre-tribulation rapture concept germinated in the Jesuit sect of the Roman church. During the Dark Ages, the Jesuits were among the most unscrupulous men on Earth. They were a religious order founded by Loyola to undo the work of the Reformation. The results of their efforts include the Spanish Inquisition (1478) and the massacre of St. Bartholomew (1572) in which thousands of Christians were executed for their faith."
Yipes! How can one man put so many errors in one paragraph?
First, the Jesuits aren't a sect; they're a religious order.
Second, the Dark Ages, properly speaking, ran from the fall of the Roman Empire (476) to the start of the Middle Ages (roughly the beginning of the twelfth century). Some people use the terms synonymously, meaning the Middles Ages were the Dark Ages. Even then, the Dark Ages would end with the onset of the Renaissance, roughly 1400.
Ignatius was born in 1491, and the Society of Jesus was organized over the years 1534-1539. In other words, there were no Jesuits during the Dark Ages. And the order was formed half a century too late to be blamed for the Spanish Inquisition.
Although Jesuits did exist when the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre occurred, they had no part in it. The massacre was instigated not by the Church, but by Catherine de Medici, a woman almost completely irreligious. Pope Gregory XIII condemned the massacre. [Just to keep things straight:--which Fraley seems to have trouble doing--St. Bartholomew himself was not massacred; the massacred occurred on his feast day.]
Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, New Mexico recently said that "the latest statistics in the United States state that there are approximately 19 million Hispanics, of whom 71 percent are American born, with 85 percent being Catholic."
Put another way, one-sixth of the Hispanics in this country are non-Catholic, most of them members of fundamentalist sects, the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the Mormons. A generation ago it was hard to find any Hispanic who wasn't at least nominally a Catholic.
Archbishop Sanchez went on to say, "While most Church personnel are aware of the active proselytizing in their area, not everyone is making an effort to counteract it. Why? In some cases the local Church is not yet critically concerned; in other cases the pastors or Church leaders are not sure how to react or what to do; yet, in other cases the Church personnel are simply so overworked with serving the needs of their people that they simply do not have any reserve energy or resources (personnel or money) to plan and initiate a response."
What can we conclude from such observations? Here are three possibilities:
(1) If certain people are not "critically concerned" by this time, they probably never will be, even if St. Miscellaneous's closes down because all its members have joined Good Book Baptist. This suggests we shouldn't sit back and wait for others to do the work.
(2) It's true many pastors don't know what to do. Many of them resort to the expedient of setting up a committee to consider setting up committees, but that's a waste of time. The best thing they could do would be to start preaching the faith from the pulpit, answering directly questions bothering their parishioners. Direct catechesis is what's needed.
(3) The exodus from the Church to the sects is mainly a lay problem because the people leaving are lay people. This suggests the solution will be a lay solution. Put another way, if laymen don't solve the problem, it won't be solved.
God bless bishops, priests, and religious--but there aren't enough of them to go around. This is a problem we must tackle ourselves.
We wouldn't blame him if Fr. Robert Fox, author of Protestant Fundamentalism and the Born Again Catholic, decided to get an unlisted number.
He recently got a call from ex-priest Bart Brewer, head of Mission to Catholics, who inquired, as the conversation began, whether he had reached the author of "that wonderful book." Within a few minutes what had begun with unctuousness collapsed into acrimony, with Brewer screaming into the phone.
Fr. Fox had to hang up, and we quite understand, having had to do the same thing at times with Brewer, who seems to have gone into the Fundamentalist version of Never-Never Land.
Please pray for Brewer and those who think like him: They must be very unhappy.
Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari visited "los Mormones" in Chihuahua State last November, telling them, "I am very happy to have fellow patriots like you. We appreciate your dedication, honesty, sobriety, and respect for the law. You have contributed to the elevation of the welfare of the regions where you live together, work, and labor intensely, and with this you also elevate the level of our nation."
Salinas heads a government and a party which have been notoriously anti-Catholic. Even today the Catholic Church is not allowed to own property (church buildings belong to the government), and priests may not wear clerical garb outside church precincts and may not vote.
Although not persecuted as it was in the 1920s, when Catholics were mowed down with government machine guns and when Blessed Miguel Pro was executed merely for performing his priestly duties, the Church in Mexico has second-class status, and the government encourages proselytizing by the Mormons and others precisely because such proselytizing weakens the Church.
There is talk, as we go to press, that Article 130 of the Mexican Constitution--the anti-religion article--may be modified, but don't count on the Catholic Church being treated fairly any time this millennium.
Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan now number 130,000. There are fewer than four times that many Catholics in the country. Why the sudden success for the Witnesses and stagnation for Catholics?
Japanese Catholics haven't been active evangelists since the Church was legalized under the Meiji Era of the last century. But the Witnesses have been working hard. They have engaged in frequent street preaching and have stood outside major buildings, passing out their magazines.
In one month they passed out more than three million copies of an issue which told the terrible truth about Babylon the Great (and you know which religious organization that's supposed to be).
There are lessons here for the home front. When was the last time American Catholics distributed three million copies of Catholic literature in a month? In a year?
Challenger, the newsletter of Mission to Catholics, reports that $7,000 has been contributed toward a fund-raising goal of $65,000, the amount needed to begin construction of MTC's new center.
Meanwhile, at Catholic Answers, we've collected $1.35 toward our goal of $20 for a new El Cheapo bookcase from Sears. Further contributions welcome.
Gerald Matatics will debate John Warwick Montgomery on the theme, "Authority: The Bible Alone or the Bible Plus Tradition?" The debate, which is free and open to the public, will be held Friday, March 23, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, Nebraska. Matatics teaches theology at Christendom College. Now a Catholic apologist, he is a former Presbyterian minister. Montgomery, an Evangelical apologist and writer, teaches at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary. The debate is part of a weekend series of Catholic Answers' seminars on evangelization, Fundamentalism, Mormonism, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. For further information, please call Fr. Dennis Hanneman at (402) 551-2042.
Poland is one of the few countries producing more priests than it needs, or at least producing enough so it can afford to send missionaries overseas. You'd think that would mean Poland is pretty much a Christian country, right? Not in some people's eyes.
The Poles are about to be evangelized by "real" Christians. Masterpiece, the magazine of the Master's Fellowship, run by John MacArthur, reports that Janek Pazio "is preparing to minister in his Polish homeland. Because of the many economic and political changes taking place in Europe, Janek has never seen his nation more open to the gospel [translation: to Protestantism]. He keeps in contact with key Christian [again: Protestant] leaders there and has made several visits so that he might make the most out of his education at The Master's Seminary. Janek wants to help provide the people of Poland with the sound doctrine and Christian resources that they so desperately need [not being "real" Christians, you see].
"The Word of the Lord Stands Forever!" That's the headline on a full-page ad that appeared a few months ago in the Manila Bulletin.
The wordy ad begins this way: "We Evangelicals of the Christian Leaders' Alliance of the Philippines reiterate our desire for friendly relations with the Roman Catholic Church. . . We are thankful for this opportunity to clarify our position and to correct certain misimpressions that have been made. We want only `to speak the truth in love' (Eph. 4:15)."
Such an introduction is usually a prelude to a sharp attack on the Church--first, tell them you love them, then lunge for the throat--but not this time. The writers of the ad first say they aren't Fundamentalists, if by that term one means people who always interpret Scripture literally and who disregard traditions, creeds, and councils, but they are Fundamentalists if one means people who "believe in grammatical and historical exegesis" and who believe one is saved "by grace alone, through faith alone." In the American context they would be called Evangelicals, even though they say, "By this criterion, Jesus was a Fundamentalist."
The ad discusses "The Claims of Scripture," "The Necessity of Scripture," "How to Understand the Bible"--all in all, a fair account of the Evangelical position.
It would be nice to see self-styled American Fundamentalists, even those who really should call themselves Evangelicals, handle the issues as dispassionately. Alas--not all of them do. Even within Evangelicalism in the U.S. one finds, all too often, a disinclination to speak charitably to Catholics.
The Christian Leaders' Alliance of the Philippines doesn't fall into that trap. Its positions are not stated in such a way that a Catholic would shake his head in frustration. May our domestic separated brethren take a cue from this.
"If I had to choose between 'Easy Believe-ism' and Fundamentalism, I'd become a Catholic." That's what a Presbyterian minister in San Diego said after listening to Scott Hahn's tape "Presbyterian Minister Becomes Catholic" (see the ad for it elsewhere in this issue) and reading Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism.We're trying to figure out what else should be sent to him to complete his slide down the slippery slope to Rome.