As of late, I have added the popular Roman Catholic call-in show Catholic Answers Live to my podcast retinue. The reasons are plenty, but the two primary reasons are 1) it is good to get a theology you are critical of directly from a reputable source (rather than just reading critical treatments) and 2) it is good to know what is going on in the contemporary world of a theology you are critical of.
Catholic Answers Live provides both those sources. But I was listening and heard something that I just could not pass up a chance to take a swing at. I played this clip of Jimmy Akin for my wife and her jaw literally dropped open. Give it a listen.
If you’re one of those people who is listening, and hasn’t donated… please do so, because you are taking in God’s word through the ministry of Catholic Answers, and Paul indicates that people who receive God’s word need to support the teaching of it. That’s what we’re here, that’s what we’re doing. He also indicates that you will get an eternal reward for supporting the preaching of God’s word. And an eternal reward means an infinite one because you will be able to enjoy that reward for all of eternity, which is infinite. So by making a finite investment right now, you can get an infinite return on that investment in heaven.
There are three main problems that I identified in this quick clip.
- Catholic Answers Live is considered a ministry or apostolate
- Catholic Answers Live twists the Scripture to obtain funds
- Catholic Answers Live promises eternal rewards for supporting them
Catholic Answers Live is considered a ministry or an apostolate
In Roman Catholic Parlance, and apostolate is the term often applied to those working in full-time Christian endeavors who are not ordained as members of the clergy. However, this is not just seen as something that an individual does as part of their Christian life, but as a formal ministry. The Second Vatican Council issued the decree known as Apostolicam Actuositatem and stated
Since, in our own times, new problems are arising and very serious errors are circulating that tend to undermine the foundations of religion, the moral order, and human society itself, this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen—each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning—to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church
Thus, while not a part of the clerical ministry of the Church, Catholic Answers Live, and similar apostolates, is considered an actual extension of the ministry of the Church at large. I won’t belabor the point, but things like podcasts and blogs are not ministries. As Reformed Christians, we do not believe that we have the liberty to invent things on God’s behalf and then claim that they are God’s activity in the world. While blogs and podcasts are definitely an active part of how individual Christians are proclaiming the Gospel and spreading God’s word, it is not a function of the Church. This kind of mission creep has led to all kinds of problems involving parachurch organizations, extra-ecclesiastical creedal statements, and a general watering down and minimization of the necessity of the need for precise theological formulation.
Catholic Answers Live twists the Scriptures to obtain funds
Now, here is where we start to get into the clearest and more egregious problems. In this clip, Jimmy Akin claims that when you listen to Catholic Answers Live you are taking in God’s word, and are obligated to support that. While this would be true if we were talking about the actual God-ordained ministry of the Church, and a faithful preaching of the Scriptures… that is not what we are talking about. But, even if we grant Catholic Answers Live somehow constitutes the spreading of God’s word, does God’s word really say that we reap an eternal reward for supporting that? Well, since Akin doesn’t tell us what passage he is referring to (if he even was referring to a passage… the term “God’s word” in Catholic theology doesn’t always refer to the Scripture) it is hard to tell. The closest thing I can imagine is Paul’s admonitions to support the work of ministry (which in Paul’s teaching is restricted to the official God-ordained ministry of the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers). But, is it true that your support for such a ministry somehow obtains you an eternal and infinite reward? Absolutely not. Of course, on Roman Catholic theology, this isn’t the case and temporal actions can earn you an eternal reward. However, even apart from the general twisting of the Scriptures that Papists must do to get there… nowhere in Paul is the reward for supporting the ministry connected to the act of support itself… but to the blessings of having the Word proclaimed to you.
Catholic Answers Live promises eternal rewards for supporting them
This covers largely the same ground as above, so I won’t belabor the point. I have remarked in the past that Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism, and the Prosperity Gospel Heresy are all species of the same genus. Where Pelagianism promises you eternal rewards for law keeping, and the Prosperity Gospel promises you temporal rewards for activating your faith… Roman Catholicism apparently offers you some flavor of eternal temporal rewards. Akin literally and explicitly tells you that if you donate to their ministry, you will earn an eternal reward that has infinite value because you can enjoy it forever. Just like the fact that Jesus isn’t enough to cover our sins in Pelagianism… and fellowship with Christ is not a sufficient reward in the Prosperity Gospel… in the flavor of Roman Catholicism that Akin is peddling you not only have to earn your own eternal rewards, but you also need more for the enjoyment of eternal life than union with Christ.
I don’t need to belabor these points, they are painfully clear. I do want to underscore here that this isn’t some strange variation of Roman Catholic thinking… this is just plain old traditional vanilla papistry. Do the right thing, for the right people, and you’ll get something shiny.
Papal Soteriology is fundamentally an exchange of goods and services, not a gracious Savior rescuing his people.