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Book Review: Magnificent Obsession (with Roman Catholicism)

Guest Post

malignant [mah-lig´nant]

tending to become progressively worse and to result in death;[source]


David Robertson, the author of Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus is Great, has a malignant obsession with Roman Catholicism that will become progressively worse and result in certain eternal death unless he repents. David Robertson is a pope-promoting wolf in Reformed sheep’s clothing that has crept deceptively into the midst of Reformed circles to devour the sheep (Matt. 7:15 & Jude 3-4). He has the audacity to name his ministry Solas Centre For Public Christianity, stealing credibility from the historic Solas of the Reformation, and then using that credibility to mount a bold counter-reformation, in which he actively promotes the pope of Rome, the church of Rome, the apologists of Rome, and the baptism of Rome.

Robertson claims the pope, the chief proponent of Catholicism’s antichrist system, as a Christian brother. He claims the Catholic Church, the world’s oldest and most successful soul damning antichrist cult, as a true church. He claims scripture twisting, sacrament loving, soul-damning Catholic apologists as Christian brothers. He claims Roman Catholics that become members of his church have simply transferred membership from one church to another. He states emphatically that he and St. Peter’s Free Church accept Roman Catholic baptism, a heretical infant baptism that supposedly regenerates the soul and removes original sin, as a genuine baptism. David Robertson is a brazen counter-reforming wolf. This is not hearsay. This is not a disputable matter. It is fact. Hear his tragic and shameless apostasy for yourself in this six-minute video.


My first job was dairy farming. Yesterday, my son asked me if there was anything good in Robertson’s book. I answered him with a dairy farming illustration and a smile, “Yes, like a handful of undigested corn in the middle of a steaming cow patty.” What Magnificent Obsession makes abundantly clear is that David Robertson’s malignant obsession is with quoting the pope, Catholic apologists, Catholic writers, and apostates like Mark Driscoll and N.T. Wright as “friendly” sources, precisely because he sees them as friends and brothers in Christ.

Robertson comes out of the gate strong as a counter-reforming enemy of the gospel when he calls upon the pope in the very first “friendly” quote of his book in an attempt to proclaim “why Jesus is great” (pp. 16-17). Think on that for a minute. If you were writing a book on why Jesus is great, who would you quote first? Second? Third? Perhaps Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Paul. Perhaps Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Sproul, or MacArthur. The

The Magnificent Obsession’s first three friendly quotes are from the pope, a “wonderful Roman Catholic” apologist, and another Catholic writer (pp. 16-18). On page 36, still in chapter 1, Robertson pulls a supporting quote from Mark Driscoll to refute Rob Bell. Quoting a profane false teacher to refute a heretical false teacher only makes sense if you’re also prone to quote Roman Catholic antichrists (1 John 2:18-19) in an attempt to explain and magnify the greatness of Jesus Christ. To be clear, there are some real kernels of truth in Robertson’s book, but you’d have to possess the palate of an undiscerning pig to want to eat them. Discerning sheep have no appetite for cow patty contaminated kernels of

To be clear, there are some real kernels of truth in Robertson’s book, but you’d have to possess the palate of an undiscerning pig to want to eat them. Discerning sheep have no appetite for cow patty-contaminated kernels of truth, and walk right on by. Discerning and loving shepherds refuse to serve pig slop to the Lord’s sheep, instead, they lead them to green lush pastures of uncontaminated biblical truth.

Consider the following quotes from Charles Spurgeon, a true contender:

“False gods, attempts to represent the true God, and indeed, all material things which are worshipped, are so much filth upon the face of the earth, whether they be crosses, crucifixes, virgins, wafers, relics, or even the Pope himself. We are by far too mealy-mouthed about these infamous abominations: God abhors them, and so should we. To renounce the glory of spiritual worship for outward pomp and show is the height of folly, and deserves to be treated as such.” (C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 106:20)

“It is the bounden duty of every Christian to pray against Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the popery in the Church of Rome there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name. If there were to be issued a hue and cry for Antichrist, we should certainly take up this church on suspicion, and it would certainly not be let loose again, for it so exactly answers the description.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

“Popery is contrary to Christ’s Gospel, and is the Antichrist, and we ought to pray against it. It should be the daily prayer of every believer that Antichrist might be hurled like a millstone into the flood and for Christ, because it wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of His glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement, and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Saviour, and a few drops of water into the place of the Holy Ghost, and puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the vicar of Christ on earth; if we pray against it, because it is against Him, we shall love the persons though we hate their errors: we shall love their souls though we loath and detest their dogmas, and so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened, because we turn our faces towards Christ when we pray.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

 and the following quote from Dr. John MacArthur:

“In the long war on truth, the most formidable, relentless and deceptive enemy has been Roman Catholicism. It is an apostate, corrupt, heretical, false Christianity. It is a front for the kingdom of Satan.” – (Dr. John MacArthur)


Does Robertson’s book contain any edifying truth regarding the greatness of the person and work of Jesus Christ? Yes, but that only makes the book and Robertson more dangerous, because those precious kernels of truth are found covered with and contaminated by the filth of Roman Catholicism, the most insidious soul damning system of works righteousness in the history of the world. The most dangerous lie is not a lie mixed with truth. The most dangerous lie is the greatest truth (Jesus Christ) being mixed with the greatest lie (Roman Catholicism’s antichrist). By mixing a defense and declaration of “why Christ is great” (the chief truth of the Christianity) with incessant antichrist quotes and accolades, Robertson has concocted a diabolical and dangerous book.

Robertson’s malignant obsession is with Roman Catholicism, thus, Magnificent Obsession opens with a counter-reforming bang in the form of a “friendly” quote from the pope in the book’s introduction. Further, as if to prove his malignant obsession, fourteen additional “friendly” pope quotes and twelve bonus quotes from other Catholic men follow. These quotes are spread evenly throughout the book’s ten chapters. The end result is an introduction, ten chapters, and a conclusion that all confirm Robertson’s deadly infatuation with the pope and what Spurgeon calls “infamous abominations.”

It must also be noted that the pope is quoted more prominently than any other source, with both, chapters 3 and 6, opening with papal quotes. An argument could be made that David Robertson’s Magnificent Obsession serves more as a carefully crafted apologetic for Catholicism’s antichrist than for Jesus Christ. On page 232, in the book’s conclusion, Robertson reveals he is fully conscious that he’s a pope promoting wolf in Reformation Solas sheep’s clothing:

“There are some people who express surprise and even disappointment that I love [Pope Benedict’s] books. I’m afraid they will have to be disappointed…I find the Pope’s books to be scholarly, biblical and Christ-centered. Highly recommended.”


When confronted on Twitter about him referring to the pope as his “Christian brother,” this is how he responded:



Robertson’s theological double-minded madness is revealed succinctly on pages 90 and 91 where he quotes the pope and John Calvin (a champion of the Reformation) back to back, in an attempt to elucidate the magnificence of Christ’s atonement. While the absurdity of this should be obvious, Jesse Johnson of Cripplegate reminds us of what Calvin and the other Reformers ardently believed and passionately said about the pope:

Calvin devoted an entire section of The Institutes to this topic (Book IV, “Of the Popish Mass”). In that section, at length Calvin identifies the Pope as the antichrist for no other reason than he leads the Catholic Mass. “Let my readers understand that I am here combating that opinion with which the Roman Antichrist and his prophets have imbued the whole world—viz. that the mass is a work by which the priest who offers Christ, and the others who in the oblation receive him, gain merit with God.”

What is interesting in that section is that Calvin draws extensively from Augustine, who wrote (translated by Calvin into French, then into English): “It would be equivalent to Antichrist for anyone to make a bishop to be an intercessor between God and man.” There are other sections in The Institutes where Calvin simply uses the term antichrist as a synonym for pope.

Knox, who was a disciple of Calvin, shared Calvin’s equation of the pope with the antichrist. He wrote that for the gospel to make headway in Europe, the people there would first have to learn to identify the Pope as “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks” (The Zürich Letters, 199).

The Lutherans were not alone in codifying the identity of the antichrist as the Pope. Both The London Confession of Faith and The Westminster Confession use identical language: “the Pope of Rome…is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (chapter 26 of  The London Confession,and chapter 25, VI of the WC).


In Robertson’s thoroughly confused and compromised cowpie apologetic for Christ, he quite fittingly quotes the profane and pornographic false prophet, Mark Driscoll, on pages 36 and 165, and then recommends him as an author in his conclusion on page 228 (see: Pornographic Divination, see: video Mark Driscoll, “I see things”).


A casual look at David Robertson and his malignant obsession reveals that he and his book do not belong at Reformed conferences, in Reformed pulpits, or in Reformed bookstores. A thoughtful look at David Robertson and his book reveals the necessity for serious questions to be asked and answered.

I love Pastor Sinclair Ferguson, so I must ask:

How can Pastor Sinclair Ferguson share a pulpit with David Robertson at St. Peter’s Free Church, in Dundee, Scotland? Has he missed all of this? How can he tolerate his senior pastor welcoming the pope to Scotland as a brother in Christ? How can he tolerate his senior pastor calling Catholic apologists, who are actively seeking to lead protestants into Rome’s heresies, his brothers in Christ? How can he sanction St. Peter’s receiving Catholic men and women as mere “membership transfers” from one church to another? How can he sanction St. Peter’s acceptance of their Roman Catholic infant baptism that supposedly regenerated them and removed original sin? What is Sinclair Ferguson going to do to protect the flock at St. Peter’s and the body of Christ at large from the apostate enemy of the gospel that he shares a pulpit with?

I love Pastor Alistair Begg, so I must ask:

How did Pastor Alistair Begg find himself recommending Magnificent Obsessionand inviting David Robertson to preach at his Basics Conference with David’s apostasy so obvious? Did Pastor Begg not read the book he recommended?

Pastor Begg’s review of Robertson’s book states:

“Here is help for those of us who feel inadequate in responding when asked to give a reason for the hope that is in us. Having read it to our benefit we will share this ‘Magnificent Obsession’ so that our wondering and wandering friends may discover not only what it means but why it matters.”

What is Pastor Begg going to do to correct this?

 I appreciate Desiring God, so I must ask:

How did Jon Bloom, President of Desiring God, find himself saying “I love this book! It’s an excellent, conversational introduction to Christianity for non-Christians and new Christians who are wrestling with questions.” when it’s full of pope quotes and a broad and glowing recommendation for the writings of Rome’s antichrist? Did Jon Bloom not read the book that he loves?

What are John Bloom, Desiring God, and John Piper going to do to correct this?

I greatly appreciate Christian Focus Publications, so I must ask:

How did an otherwise faithful, Reformed publisher, let Robertson’s counter-reforming, antichrist promoting book go to print with their name on it? Did the publisher not even read the book? How can Christian Focus Publications continue to sell this book, or any other David Robertson book, in Bible believing, gospel believing, Reformed circles…or anywhere else?

What is Christian Focus Publications going to do to stop the spread of David Robertson’s bold counter-reformation, pope promoting apostasy from being propagated in the book they published and are making a profit from?

I love Ligonier Ministries and Dr. R. C. Sproul, so I must ask:

How did the counter-reforming, pope-loving David Robertson find acceptance into Ligonier’s publication, Tabletalk, a monthly magazine designed after the historic Reformed talk around Martin Luther’s dinner table? How is it that one of the world’s leading Reformed ministries is promoting a counter-reformer’s books and articles? It should be noted that Ligonier does not sell Magnificent Obsession. Perhaps somebody read the book and thought better.

The question remains, what is Ligonier going to do to expel the counter-reformer that has slipped behind their Reformed walls?

A Final Question:

How did this counter-reforming, pope-promoting, Mark Driscoll-promoting, N. T. Wright-promoting book end up in 3,500 book boxes going home with pastors at the Shepherds’ Conference? I have to hope nobody actually read the book and thought, “This needs to be in the box.” I have to hope the book slipped through because of the excellent reputation of the publisher and the reviewers inside the book cover. Still, my 25-year-old son and two men under my shepherding care came home from the Shepherds’ Conference with this book.

What is being done to warn those 3,500 pastors, elders, deacons, and men of God about David Robertson’s deadly malignant obsession with all things Roman Catholic? Is this not a providential opportunity to show 3,500 men and their representative churches an active commitment to Semper Reformanda before next year’s Shepherds’ Conference Summit celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation?


Brothers, these hard questions need to be asked and answered. The Reformation isn’t over. There are still over a billion Catholics that need to repent of and forsake antichrist transubstantiated wafers, antichrist priests, antichrist pope, and the whole antichrist sacramental system of Roman Catholicism (see: The Pope & the Papacy, by Pastor John MacArthur) .

May the Spirit of God compel us to love Christ and His gospel over and above unholy union with those who passionately and unapologetically promote the most successful soul damning antichrist the world has ever known. May the Spirit of God compel us to love a billion men, women, and children bound up under Catholicism’s pope and his soul damning sacraments. May the Spirit of God compel us to love Christ’s true Church and protect her from a shockingly well-connected Scottish apostate seeking to feed the sheep of the Lord’s fold his half-digested kernels of truth plucked from the midst of his mass of cow patty pope quotes, Catholic apologist quotes, Driscoll quotes, and N. T. Wright quotes.

May the Spirit of God compel us to love David Robertson and all like him, with action and truth, calling them to forsake double-mindedness, to forsake Roman Catholicism, and to confess Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, as revealed in the Scriptures alone, for the glory of God alone! May we not be so foolish as to accept empty claims to orthodoxy while apostasy is abundantly and flagrantly evidenced in word, in writing, and in deed. May we not be men who are mere quoters and celebrants of historic Reformers and the historic Reformation, but real Reformed men of God, committed to the present and ongoing real Reformation battle for Christ’s gospel to prevail in the earth and the hearts of men. Semper Reformanda!

May the Lord protect His Church from apostasy, may He grant a revival of Gospel truth and the Reformation Solas that the world and Roman Catholicism desperately need, and may he grant David Robertson repentance and genuine saving faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

[Guest Post by Pastor Chuck O’Neal]