Modern Roman Catholicism
Modern Roman Catholicism is commendable in other ways as well. For example, socially, the Church has consistently maintained a high view of the sanctity of life and of marriage. Biblically, it has continued to defend the inerrancy of Scripture, at least as an official doctrine of the Church. Theologically, it accepts the orthodox view of the Trinity, Christ's deity, and His atonement. Spiritually, it has a good understanding of the seriousness of sin and its consequences in eternal judgment.
Nevertheless, all this does not mean that the Church is without problems. Perhaps the most serious issue in Roman Catholicism is its unwillingness to accept biblical authority alone as the final determiner of Christian doctrine and practice. For example, by accepting Catholic Tradition as a means of divine revelation, even biblically correct teachings in the Church become hedged about with unbiblical trimmings, which in turn tend to either revise, neutralize, or nullify these truths.
The problem "is not so much a matter of 'denial' of the truth, but rather such an addition to the truth that eventually it becomes a departure from it." This truly unfortunate situation illustrates a principle Jesus Himself taught that even heartfelt religious traditions could actually become a means of leading people away from God's best for their lives. On one occasion Jesus told the leading religious figures of His day, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:8).
Regardless, no one can argue with the statement that "... the Roman Church has been one of the most powerful influences in the history of all civilization ...." Thus, because Roman Catholicism is a major world religion having some 800 million adherents, and because its influence in the world is sizable, a biblical evaluation of the teachings of the Church is vital.
1. Why the Confusion?If God has revealed Himself to mankind, can we know where that revelation is found? Can we identify it? In other words, can we truly know what God has spoken to us?
No subject is more important to men and women of religious persuasion, in any religion. The subject of what constitutes divine revelation is crucial because without it, very little can be known about God-who God is, what He has communicated to us, or what He expects of us. Thus, the issue of divine authority is inseparably bound to the issue of divine revelation. Only that which comes from God has divine authority. In other words, only God's revelation has authentic and inherent power to command obedience.
So, has God spoken? And if so, where has He spoken?
the True Christians have traditionally maintained that God has spoken solely in the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament. Only these books are divinely authoritative.
In contrast, Roman Catholicism teaches that in addition to the the True Christian Bible, there are five other sources having divine authority.the True Christian rejects these additional sources of divine authority, and this underscores the single most important division between the two churches. Neither the True Christians nor Catholics can deny this issue. Divine authority cannot be found in the Bible alone and at the same time in various additional sources of alleged revelation, if these deny the Bible. Because God does not contradict Himself (2 Corinthians 1:17-20; cf. Psalm 145:13; Galatians 3:21; Hebrews 13:8) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2), He cannot affirm one set of teachings in the Bible and then declare them wrong through additional forms of revealed Tradition. Therefore, the True Christians believe that if the Bible truly is God's Word (as Catholics also maintain), then anything that conflicts with biblical teaching cannot possibly be from God.
First, there are additional books written between the Old and New Testaments, known to Catholics as the deutero-canonical books and to the True Christians by the term "Apocrypha." Roman Catholics consider these books as genuine Scripture and thus include them as part of their Bible. Second, Catholicism maintains that divine authority is to be found in the authorized Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, which is also classified as the "Word of God." Third, divine authority (infallibility) is given to the Pope when he speaks officially on matters of faith and morals. Fourth, when speaking or teaching in conjunction with the Pope and orthodox Catholic Tradition, Roman Catholic bishops are also held to be infallible, and hence, divinely authoritative. Finally, official Roman Catholic interpretation of the Bible (Catholic teaching) is considered to have divine warrant and authority. In essence, all five of these sources can be summarized by the term "Roman Catholic Tradition."
In short, this issue is crucial because Catholic Tradition and biblical revelation conflict with one another on matters of vital importance, such as the means of salvation. In the end, this may have great personal consequence, including the uncertainty about or even the unintended rejection of the true means of salvation.
No one can deny that devout Catholics, like the True Christians, sincerely wish to do God's will; they desire to know what is pleasing to God so they may live their lives accordingly. This is why the issue of biblical authority is so crucial.
2. Sola ScripturaAs we will see, the Bible asserts or assumes its inerrancy throughout its pages. But it is important to realize that inerrancy is inseparably bound to both the doctrine of revelation as well as to the nature of God Himself. Why?
First, because God's revelation of Himself occurred through a very specific manner, what is termed "verbal, plenary inspiration." This means that the divine inspiration of the Bible involves its very words (Matthew 4:4; Romans 3:2) and extends to every part of Scripture. This is why the Bible claims "All Scripture is inspired by God..." (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB).
Second, the Bible reveals that God's nature is holy; therefore, He is incapable of lying. If divine inspiration extends to every word of the Bible, the entire Bible must be considered free of error. In other words, if God is incapable of inspiring error, whatever is inspired is inerrant.
Finally, the Bible also reveals that God is omnipotent or all powerful. This means He was able to safeguard the process of inspiration from error even though it was given through fallible men. In light of all this, it must be concluded that whatever God speaks is inerrant, and since every word of the Bible is God's word, therefore the Bible is without error.
Thus, in order to establish the Bible alone as the only source of divine authority, we need to prove that
a) the Bible claims to be the inerrant Word of God,
b) these claims are justified, and
c) anything which contradicts what the Bible teaches cannot logically have divine authority.
1. The Old Testament
A. Does the Bible claim to be the Inerrant Word of God?
The Old Testament is either God's Word or a fraud because it repeatedly asserts its divine authority (e.g., Isaiah 40:8). The term "thus says the Lord" or similar expressions are used some 2,800 times (Jeremiah 1:2; cf. Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 18:18; 1 Kings 22:14; Isaiah 8:19-20; Jeremiah 36:28; Amos 1). Inspiration (i.e., inerrancy) is explicitly asserted for almost 70 percent of the Old Testament, or 26 of 39 books.
Further, New Testament assertions to the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Old Testament provide additional corroboration. Here we find that more than 90 percent of the Old Testament books "have their authority and/or authenticity directly affirmed by the New Testament." For example, in the book of Hebrews the phrase "God said" or its equivalent occurs many times just prior to quoting specific books of the Old Testament such as Psalms (Hebrews 1:6-12; 4:7), Jeremiah (8:8-12; 10:15-17), Haggai (12:26), Deuteronomy (13:5), and others. Particularly relevant are the pronouncements of Jesus, who, as God incarnate, speaks infallibly (Matthew 24:35; John 5:46; 7:16; 8:14-16,26, 28; 12:48-50; 14:6; cf. Philippians 2:1-8; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21; John 1:14). In John 17:17, Jesus said, "Thy Word is Truth" (NASB), and in Matthew 4:4, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of GOD" (NASB). In both instances He could only have referred to the Jewish Scriptures-our the True Christian Old Testament (cf Luke 24:27). Jesus Himself, then, affirms 100 percent of the Old Testament as inspired and inerrant.
2. The New Testament
Jesus Himself indicated more than once that new revelation from God was forthcoming. For example, He promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and bring to remembrance the things Jesus taught them (John 14:26), referring to the Gospels (cf. Matthew 24:35). He also promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth (John 16:12-15), referring to the remainder of the New Testament. Thus, it is not surprising that:Virtually every New Testament writer claimed that his writing was divinely authoritative....The cumulative effect of this self-testimony is an overwhelming confirmation that the New Testament writers claimed inspiration.Indeed, the fact that the New Testament writers assumed their writing was as binding as the Old Testament asserts a great deal. Such writers were orthodox Jews who believed God's Word was heretofore confined to the known Old Testament canon. To add to this body of holy writings was a terrible presumption unless inspiration were clearly present. But their recognition of inspiration is not so surprising. The very fact of the arrival of the long prophesied Messiah and the New Covenant (as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) coupled with the incarnation and atonement of God Himself (John 1:14; Philippians 2:1-9) virtually demanded a corresponding body of divine literature to explain and expound these events, just as was true for the activity of God in the Old Covenant (e.g., Galatians 3:8; cf, John 16:12-15). God had no more likely candidates for this revelation than the apostles of His own Son, or those they approved. And for perhaps even more credibility, the former skeptic and persecutor of the Church, the great apostle Paul, was commissioned by God to write a full fourth of the entire new revelation.
Is it credible to believe Jesus thought the Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of Truth," who inspired the New Testament (cf. John 16:13-15) would corrupt His own words, or inspire error?
How could the incarnate God teach the infallibility of the divinely inspired Old Testament and not know the same condition would apply to the divinely inspired New Testament? Perhaps one reason Jesus Himself never wrote anything was because He knew it was unnecessary: the Holy Spirit would inspire an inerrant Word. How else could He teach (or could we reasonably believe), "My words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35)?
Regardless, is it proper to call errant writings "holy"? How is inspiration divine if it allows for the presence of truth and error? Is it not simply human, and, like every other book, to be treated like every other book? If we answer "no" by appealing to its unique theological content, how do we really know such content is true?
If God's Word is eternal, can it be flawed? What did God mean when He called His Word "holy," "perfect", "true," "righteous," "good," "trustworthy," and "pure"?
On this issue of inerrancy, the great expositor Charles Spurgeon once stated, "This is the book untainted by any error, but is pure, unalloyed, perfect truth. Why? Because God wrote it. Ah! charge God with error if you please; tell Him that His book is not what it ought to be ...."
There are many converging lines of evidence which strongly indicate the Bible really is God's only revelation to mankind. For example, scores of detailed predictions of the future which are later fulfilled are found only in the Bible and can only be explained on the basis of divine inspiration. But the area we wish to stress is simply the authority of Jesus Christ Himself. Did Jesus ever express any doubts about Scripture? Did He warn His Church that the New Testament canon would be incomplete or corrupted? It is an historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead, something no one else has ever been able to do in all of human history. This proves the truth of His claims to be God incarnate. If so, then He is an infallible authority, and in that role He declared the Old Testament the inspired Word of God, pre-authenticated the New Testament (Matthew 24:35; John 14:26), and personally inspired its final book (Revelation 1:1-3).
B. How do we know claims of Bible Inspiration are Justified?
Indeed, the strength of the case for inerrancy can only be seen by a detailed study of Jesus' absolute trust in and use of Scripture. For Jesus, what Scripture said, God said. Not once did He say, "This Scripture is in error" and proceed to correct it. If Jesus was God, then He was correct in His view of Scripture: The Bible truly is the inerrant, revealed Word of God.
If God cannot lie, never changes, and can be trusted to never contradict Himself, then only one conclusion follows: Whatever denies what God has revealed in the Bible cannot be from God. Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to accept anything which contradicts what He has said is true in His Word. All this is why the True Christians logically maintain that our spiritual allegiance is to God and to His Word alone. To give our allegiance to church traditions or men who claim divine authority-but never establish it-is to take away the rightful place God should occupy in our lives.
3. What are the different categories of modern Roman Catholicism?There are same nine categories of Roman Catholic people around the world. The distinctions between them are not often clear because they can overlap or merge or blur into one another. Nor would individual Catholics necessarily appreciate or agree with such labels. But they will serve as convenient definitions for purposes of discussion:
1. Nominal or Social Catholicism: the Roman Catholicism of the largely uncommitted-perhaps those born or married into the Church but who have little knowledge of Catholic theology and who are, in practice, Catholics in name only.
2. Syncretistic/eclectic Catholicism: the Roman Catholicism that is, to varying degrees, combined with and/or absorbed by the pagan religion of the indigenous culture in which it exists (e.g., as in Mexico and South America).
3. Traditional or orthodox Catholicism: the powerful conservative branch of Roman Catholicism that holds to historic church doctrines such as those reasserted at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.
4. "Moderate" Catholicism: the Roman Catholicism of Vatican II which is neither entirely traditional nor entirely liberal.
5. Modernist, liberal Catholicism: the post Vatican II "progressive" Roman Catholicism that to varying degrees rejects traditional doctrine.
6. Ethnic or cultural Catholicism: the Roman Catholicism often retained by migrants to America who use "their religion to provide a sense of belonging. They feel that not to be Roman Catholic is not to belong and to lose [their] nationality and roots."
7. Lapsed or apostate Catholicism: the Roman Catholicism which involves alienated, backslidden, or apostate Catholics who are largely indifferent to the Catholic Church.
8. Charismatic Catholicism: the Roman Catholicism which seeks the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" and speaking in tongues and other spiritual gifts as signs of a deeper Catholic spirituality.
9. Evangelical "Catholicism": the branch of former Roman Catholics who are truly evangelical and who have rejected the unbiblical teachings of Rome, often deciding to remain in the Church as a means to evangelize other Catholics.
The traditionalists are arguably the most influential segment of the Church because through the Pope, bishops, and orthodox priests, they occupy the center of power in Catholicism. Traditionalists believe that by being obedient to the Church, they are being obedient to God and Christ. This is because they have been taught that whatever the Church decrees as orthodox belief and practice through its tradition is, by definition, the will of God.
4. Have the basic Doctrines of the Roman Church changed today?With such a variety of modern Catholic expression, many people might assume that the doctrines of Rome itself have changed since Vatican II (1962-1965). While it is true the Church has undergone significant alterations, major, permanent doctrinal change is not one of them. This is conceded by both knowledgeable Catholics and non-Catholics. For example, Catholic apologist Karl Keating confesses, "The Catholic Church did not change any of its doctrines at Trent and it did not change any at Vatican II," and "... there has been no alteration at all in basic doctrines .... The Catholic Church is still the sole true Church....." A recent Evangelical Council on Catholicism likewise concluded, "...there are many indications that Rome is fundamentally the same as it has always been." In 1964 no less an authority than Pope Paul VI himself affirmed that "nothing really changes in the traditional doctrine ." Another commentator noted, "Roman Catholicism does not change. At heart, it is the same as it ever was."
Nevertheless, Rome is still not entirely what it used to be. Vatican II did institute many non doctrinal (e.g., ecclesiastical) changes as well as significant alterations in the interpretation of traditional doctrine. These new interpretations have such elasticity that they have the practical effect of permitting fundamental doctrinal change for those who wish it. As the True Christian theologian Millard J. Erickson observes in his Christian Theology,[Examining Catholic theology] is difficult because, whereas at one time there was a uniform, official position within Roman Catholicism on most issues, now there appears to be only great diversity. Official doctrinal standards stil. remain, but they are now supplemented, and in some cases, are seemingly contradicted, by later statements. Among these later statements are the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council and the published opinions of individual Catholic scholars.However, in spite of changes made at Vatican II 30 years ago, it is clear that the historic doctrines of Rome, which are handed down from its centralized teaching authority, remain the same. One area of concern to the True Christians is the doctrine of salvation. We will introduce this subject with a discussion of the Catholic sacraments.
5. What are the Sacraments and how do they function in the life of a Catholic believer?The sacraments of Catholicism involve particular spiritual activities partaken of by believers, such as baptism, confirmation, penance, and participation in the Mass. They are presided over by a Catholic priest who acts as a mediator between God and man. These special activities are held to dispense God's "grace" (here, as a spiritual substance or power) and God's favor.
Rome's sevenfold sacramental system was apparently initiated for the first time in the twelfth century. And today, "For the Roman Catholic his whole life from the cradle to the grave, and indeed beyond the grave in purgatory, is conditioned by the sacramental approach." Thus, understanding the sacraments is essential to understanding Catholicism itself.
Through the sacraments, "...internal grace is that power, received in the interior of the soul, enabling us to act supernaturally." Further, "The supernatural gift of God infused into the very essence of the soul as a habit is habitual grace. This grace is also called sanctifying or justifying grace, because it is included in both ...."
Thus, the real difference between the the True Christian and Catholic view of sacraments is not in the number of sacraments, two versus seven, but rather in the meaning and purpose of the sacraments themselves. the True Christian sees its sacraments, baptism and communion, primarily as symbols and memorials of vital theological truths. But Catholicism sees the sacraments as actually changing a person inwardly, as if through a form of spiritual empowering. In True Christianity a sacrament underscores a promise of God; in Catholicism the sacraments infuse a special grace into the soul in order to meet a special need. Catholic sacraments are, therefore, an outward sign of an infused grace.
We have summarized the results of each of the sacraments below:The Catholic Council of Trent (1545-63), whose decrees remain authoritative, declared as "anathema" (divinely cursed) anyone who would deny the seven sacraments of Rome: "If anyone says that the sacraments ... were not all instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, or that there are more or less than seven ... or that any one of these seven is not truly and intrinsically a sacrament, let him be anathema." Further, "If anyone says that the sacraments ... are not necessary for salvation ... and that without them... men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification... let him be anathema." Further, Canon Five reads, "If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema.
Baptism (which is not repeated) cleanses from original sin, removes other sin and its punishment, provides spiritual rebirth or regeneration (John 3:3), begins the process of justification, and is "necessary for salvation." Confirmation (not repeated) bestows the Holy Spirit in a special sense, leading to "an increasing of sanctifying grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit" as well as other spiritual power and a sealing to the Catholic Church. Penance removes the penalty of sins committed after baptism and confirmation. Thus, mortal or "deadly" sins are remitted and the "justification" lost by such sins is restored as a continuing process. Holy Eucharist is where Christ is re-sacrificed and the benefits of Calvary are continually applied anew to the believer. Marriage is where grace is given to remain in the bonds of matrimony in dictates with the requirements of the Catholic Church. Anointing the sick (formerly extreme unction) bestows grace on those who are sick, old, or near death and helps in forgiveness of sins and sometimes the physical healing of the body. Holy orders (not repeated) confers special grace and spiritual power upon bishops, priests, and deacons for leadership in the Church as representatives of Christ "for all eternity."
What this means is that Catholicism offers what is termed a sacerdotal salvation-a salvation that is given through the functions of the priesthood, namely the sacraments. In the end, salvation is a function of 1) God's grace, 2) individual faith and works, and 3) the Roman Catholic system of sacraments. (This is why the Church has traditionally taught that there is only one true Church-Rome-and that those outside of the Church cannot be saved since they are partakers of neither the one true Church nor the sacraments, both of which help procure salvation.) In our next two questions we will see what the Bible teaches about salvation and then compare this with the Catholic view of salvation in greater detail.
6. What does the Bible teach concerning Salvation?The Bible teaches that salvation is something that comes freely to any individual who simply places genuine trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins. Thus, the Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith alone, entirely apart from personal merit or works of righteousness. Please read the following verses:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, emphasis added).Do any of the above verses teach that salvation-or forgiveness of sins-comes by good works, or through religious sacraments, or by any other means of human merit? Do these Scriptures even hint that salvation comes by being good or by personal effort? No. God's Word teaches that complete salvation occurs solely by faith in what Christ already accomplished on the cross 2,000 years ago.
All the prophets testify about him [Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43, emphasis added).
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace ... (Ephesians 1:7, emphasis added).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added).
[Jesus was] sacrificed for [our] sins once for all when he offered himself (Hebrews 7:27, emphasis added).
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25, emphasis added).
... but he [Jesus] entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.... [He] offered for all time one sacrifice for sins .... because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this ... he says: "...Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more" (Hebrews 9:12; 10:12,14,15,17, emphasis added).
Because salvation is by grace through faith alone, this means that once a person has trusted in Christ, then he may know that his sins are forgiven-all sins-past, present, and future. "He forgave us all our sins..." (Colossians 2:13, emphasis added). (When Christ paid the full divine penalty for our sins 2,000 years ago, all our sins were future. If the Bible teaches our sins are forgiven at the point of true faith in Christ, this must include all of them, even future sins.) Therefore, come what may in life (see Romans 8:28-39), the person who trusts in Christ alone for salvation will go to heaven when he dies, because God Himself informs that person he now possesses "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade" because it is "kept in heaven for you..." (1 Peter 1:4-5, emphasis added).
The salvation God offers is perfectly secure precisely because it involves a gracious act of God and is in no way dependent upon human merit or works for its accomplishment:I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24, emphasis added).Again, these verses teach that people can know they now possess eternal life merely by their personal trust in Jesus. If any person has eternal life, it cannot be lost, can it? Nor can it subsequently be earned, can it? However, the above Scriptures do not reflect the teaching of the Catholic Church which maintains that salvation is a provisional, lifelong process partially earned by a person's own good works and individual merit.
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life (John 6:47, emphasis added).
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13, emphasis added).
Biblically, full salvation in the sense of forgiveness of all sins and a right standing before God occurs at a point in time-the point of receiving Christ as personal Savior even though the practical implications of salvation (e.g., progressive sanctification or growth in holiness) are worked out over a lifetime. Thus,
1) complete reconciliation with God (full forgiveness of sins and cancellation of the penalty of sin),
2) regeneration (being made spiritually alive to God and the imparting of eternal life), and
3) justification (the crediting of Christ's full and complete righteousness to the believer) all occur in an instant, at the moment of saving faith. Further, they are irrevocable since they are all gifts from God, and God says that He never takes back what He gives (Romans 11:29).
Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches that a right standing before God is not something that can happen fully in this life, nor can it occur in a moment of time. Rather, it is something that comprises a very lengthy process that is earned only after a lifetime of good works and obtained merit and-in all likelihood-tremendous personal suffering in purgatory after death to cleanse the remnants of sin and judicially perfect the believer.
Here, the contrasts between the biblical view of salvation and the Roman Catholic view could not be clearer. The material below will prepare us for the next three questions:
Bible: A disposition of God toward men expressing His mercy and love so that the believer is now treated as if he were innocent and perfectly righteous.
Catholicism: A substance or power separate from God which is placed into a believer to enable him to perform meritorious works and earn the "right" to heaven.
Bible: The instantaneous reception of an eternally irrevocable right standing before God, secured at the point of faith entirely by grace. Salvation is given to those whom the Bible describes as "ungodly," "sinner," "enemies," and "children of wrath" (e.g., Romans 5:6-10; Ephesians 2:1) and thus to those who are not objectively righteous.
Catholicism: The lifelong process whereby God and men cooperate in the securing of forgiveness of sin. This is achieved only after death (and/or purgatorial cleansing from sin) and is dependent on man's personal securing of objective righteousness before God; otherwise, there is no salvation.
Bible: All sins are forgiven at the point of salvation-past, present, and future-because Christ's death satisfied all God's wrath against sin. (See Colossians 2:13.)
Reconciliation (through atonement):
Catholicism: Sins are only potentially forgiven and so must be worked off through a process mediated by the Church and its sacraments over the lifetime of the believer.
Bible: The instantaneous imparting of eternal life and the quickening of the human spirit, making it alive to God.
Catholicism: (In part) The lifelong process of infusing grace (spiritual power) to perform works of merit.
Bible: The legal declaration of Christ's righteousness reckoned to the believer at the point of faith solely as an act of God's mercy.
Catholicism: Spiritual rebirth and the lifelong process of sanctification which begins at the point of the sacrament of baptism.
7. What does the Catholic Church teach concerning Salvation?Catholic popes and bishops have historically emphasized the belief that, in the words of John Paul II, "Man is justified by works and not by faith alone."
Despite changes in Catholicism, most priests remain loyal to Rome. Perhaps this explains why, according to one of the most thorough polls of American clergy ever made, "Over three-quarters of Roman Catholic priests reject the view that our only hope for heaven is through personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They hold instead that 'heaven is a divine reward for those who earn it by their good life.'" Priestly loyalty to Rome may also explain why this poll revealed that "four-fifths of all priests reject the Bible as the first place to turn in deciding religious questions; rather, they test their religious beliefs by what the Church says."
The majority of Catholic priests deny the biblical doctrine of salvation because as priests-loyal to the Pope-they are required to reject the idea that divine authority resides only in the Bible. For them, divine authority resides in the Catholic Church and Tradition. Priests, therefore, look primarily to the Church for answers to religious questions because they believe only the Catholic Church can infallibly determine proper doctrine through its interpretation of the Bible. Thus, a study of Catholic history will show that it is the Church, and not the Bible, which has developed Catholic doctrine over the years. These doctrines are, in part, upheld by the unique definition Rome gives to biblical words.
For example, Catholic writers often speak of "salvation by grace" or state emphatically that "good works can't earn salvation"-and they will cite biblical Scriptures to that effect. But again, they mean something different than what the Bible means. They are simply reiterating the position of the Council of Trent that no one can do good works or please God apart from the prior infusing of sanctifying grace. But-and this is key-Catholic theology goes on to teach that these very works which are inspired by grace are, in the end, what helps to save a person.
It is crucial to realize that once terms such as "Faith," "grace," "salvation," "redemption," and "justification" are interpreted through larger Catholic theology, they become so altered that they lose their biblical meaning.* *
Karl Keating is entirely correct when he points out, "As in so many matters, fundamentalists [e.g., conservative Christians] and Catholics are at loggerheads because they define terms differently.
Devout Catholics do not question their Church's teaching about its definition of biblical terms because the Catholic Church emphasizes that, "Over the Book [Bible] stands the Church...." The Church has final authority over the Bible and, therefore, it is the Church's interpretation of biblical words that are authoritative. In the end, it is the Church's definition of biblical terms-and not the Bible's that wins the day.
Thus, The Papal Encyclicals correctly confess that while the True Christians turn to the Bible to determine whether or not a doctrine is true,This is just the reverse of the Catholic's approach to belief. As the Catholic sees it, he must accept God on God's terms and not his own. It is not for him to "judge" the divine message, but only to receive it. Since he receives it from a living, teaching organ, he does not have to puzzle over the meaning of the revelation because the ever present living magisterium [teaching office] can tell him exactly what the doctrine intends.Again, Catholics turn to the Church because they have been promised that the Church exercises an inerrant authority to properly interpret the Bible. In other words, the Catholic believes he can, in full trust, accept whatever the Church teaches and never have to worry that the Church might be wrong.
However, in his definitive critique of the Council of Trent (a council convened to oppose the True Christian teaching), eminent Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586) correctly noted that the Catholic popes and teaching office had reserved for themselves the prerogative of a biased interpretation of Scripture predicated primarily upon Catholic Tradition. The end result was an entirely new interpretation "so that we must believe not what the Scripture says simply, strictly, and clearly, but what they through their power and authority interpret for us. By this strategy they seek to escape the clearest passages [of Scripture] concerning justifying faith ... the intercession of Christ, etc."
In sharp contrast to the Bible, the Catholic doctrine of salvation teaches or implies that actual forgiveness of sins comes not only by faith in Christ, but also through many or all of the following:
a) the sacraments, such as baptism and penance,
b) participation in the Mass,
c) the help of the virgin Mary,
d) the recitation of the rosary, and
e) purgatorial suffering after death.
Because the true merit of man, achieved through these and other means, is in some sense responsible for salvation, Catholicism cannot logically deny that it teaches a form of salvation by works. A brief discussion of these five points will bear this out.
In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott observes, "The Sacraments are the means appointed by God for attainment of eternal salvation. Three of them are in the ordinary way of salvation so necessary that without their use salvation cannot be attained [i.e., baptism, penance, holy orders]."
A. The Sacraments
1. Baptism. The Catholic Church teaches that baptism remits original sin, actual guilt, and all punishment due to sin. The Catholic Church also teaches that baptism confers
2) spiritual rebirth or regeneration, and
Catholic apologist Karl Keating says, "The Catholic Church has always taught that justification comes through the sacrament of baptism" and "baptism is the justifying act." Thus, "The justification that occurs at baptism effects a real change in the Soul ...."
The Catholic Encyclopedia further explains the importance of baptism in the scheme of salvation:The effects Of this sacrament are:Baptism, however, is only the beginning of justification because in Catholic teaching subsequent good works increase grace (spiritual power) and help perfect justification.
1) it cleanses us from original sin;
2) it makes us Christians through grace by sharing in Christ's death and resurrection and setting up an initial program of living...
3) it makes us children of God as the life of Christ is brought forth within us ....
Vatican II declared: "... baptism constitutes a sacramental bond of unity linking all who have been reborn by means of it. Baptism, of itself, is only a beginning. [But] ... baptism is necessary for salvation...."
2. Penance. Penance is a particular act, or acts, considered as satisfaction offered to God as a reparation for sin committed. Penance may involve mortification, such as wearing an irritating shirt woven of coarse animal hair, prayer, a religious pilgrimage to a shrine of Christ or Mary, or any number of other deeds.
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, Jesus Christ Himself instituted the sacrament of penance for "the pardon of sins committed after baptism." Thus, "In the sacrament of penance, the faithful obtain from the mercy of God pardon for their sins against Him...."
As noted, the sacrament of penance is designed specifically to deal with sins committed after baptism. Why?
Because the grace that is received or infused in baptism can be entirely lost by mortal ("deadly") sin. Mortal sin is held to be deadly because it actually destroys the grace of God within a person, making salvation necessary again. Thus, a new sacrament (penance) is necessary in order to restore an individual to the state of grace first received at baptism.
In fact, without penance a person cannot be restored to salvation. Penance is related to the concept of justification in such a way that it actually "restores" the process of justification. In one sense, this is why the Council of Trent actually referred to the sacrament of penance as the "second plank" of justification.
Through penance the Roman Catholic believer (in part, on a human level) actually makes atonement or satisfaction for his own sins. This would seem to say that, in a very real sense, the death of Christ alone was insufficient to cover the penalty of those sins completely.
3. Priestly Confession (dictated by Holy Orders). Although it is frequently lost upon the faithful, the Catholic Church has made it clear that in personal confession of sin, the priest does not have intrinsic authority to forgive a person's sins. His only authority is a derived one in that he is a representative for Christ, and that Christ is working through him. Thus, when the priest says, "I absolve you," he does not mean that he alone is absolving a person from his or her sins; it is Christ through him. Nevertheless, priestly confession is said to be necessary for salvation.
Further, because Christ actually is, in Person, working through the priest (who may be called "another Christ"), his absolution is as valid as if done by Christ Himself. In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma we read, "Confession is the self-accusation by the penitent of his sins before a fully empowered priest, in order to obtain forgiveness from him by virtue of the power of the keys .... The Sacramental confession of sins is ordained by God and is necessary for salvation."
Although the Catholic Church claims that the Mass in no way detracts from the atonement of Christ, it nevertheless believes that it is principally through the Mass that the blessings of Christ's death are applied to believers. Catholics teach that in the Mass Christ is actually, in a real sense, re-sacrificed. It is not a re-crucifixion of Christ (He does not literally suffer and die again), but it is much more than merely a memorial service. Karl Keating, director of "Catholic Answers," cites Rev. John A. O'Brien as correctly describing the Mass: "The Mass is the renewal and perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross in the sense that it offers anew to God the Victim of Calvary... and applies the fruits of Christ's death upon the cross to individual human souls."
B. The Mass
Because the fruit of Christ's death is actually applied at the Mass, one can see why Catholics attach such importance to this practice. The Catholic Catechism cites the Council of Trent as providing the standard Catholic view: "This sacrifice [of the Mass] is truly propitiatory ... through the Mass we obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For by this oblation the Lord is appeased... and he pardons wrong doing and sins, even grave ones."
Another standard Catholic work observes, "in the Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ's sacrifice on the cross is made present, its memory is celebrated, and its saving power is applied." Thus, "As a propitiatory sacrifice ... the Sacrifice of the Mass effects the remission of sins and the punishment for
Catholicism officially teaches that Mary's role in salvation in no way detracts from that of Christ. However, the Catholic Church also teaches that Mary played a vital part in the forgiveness of sins and in the salvation of the world. In The Christ of Vatican II we are told that both the Scriptures and Tradition "show the role of the Mother of the Savior in the economy of salvation," that she freely cooperated "in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience," and that therefore, "The union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to His death. "
C. The Role of Mary
As The Catholic Encyclopedia observes, "Mary was not subject to the law of suffering and death, which are penalties of the sin of human nature, even though she knew these, experienced them, and endured them for our salvation." (For more information on the role of Mary)
According to Tradition, the Rosary supplies a Catholic with spiritual power, as well as many blessings and graces from God. Pope Paul VI affirmed in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus (February 2, 1974) that the Rosary was the pious practice which is "the compendium of the entire gospel." Thus, he emphasized "the Rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers ... that the Christian family is invited to recite." The Rosary is made up of both mental prayer and vocal prayer. In mental prayer the participant meditates on the major "mysteries" (particular events) of the life, death, and glories of Jesus and Mary. The vocal aspect involves the recitation of fifteen "decades" (portions) of the "Hail Mary" which involves contemplating fifteen principal virtues that were practiced by Jesus and Mary. One Catholic author writes, "... the Rosary recited with meditation on the mysteries brings about the following marvelous results: it gradually gives us a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ; it purifies our souls, washing away sin; it gives us victory over all our enemies.... It supplies us with what is needed to pay all our debts to God and to our fellow men, and finally, it obtains all kinds of graces for us from almighty God."
D. The Rosary
Catholicism believes that penance may be performed by good works in this life or through hellish suffering endured in purgatory after death. Those in purgatory are labeled as "the Church Suffering ... who have died in grace and whose souls are being purged in purgatory." Thus, "The temporal punishments for sins are atoned for in the purifying fire [of purgatory] ... by the willing bearing of the expiatory punishments imposed by God."
Purgatorial suffering is justified on the following basis: Because no one can enter heaven with any stain of sin whatever, "anyone less than perfect must first be purified before he can be admitted to [heaven]." Although technically the souls in purgatory cannot make true satisfaction for their sins, the fact of being in purgatory and enduring punishment for them is believed to both cleanse individuals of the remnants of sin and permit such persons' entrance into heaven as newly perfected people.
Thus, in purgatory the person pays for the penalty of venial or mortal sin, even if the guilt of those sins has already been forgiven by the sacrament of penance.
The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches,The souls of those who have died in the state of grace suffer for a time a purging that prepares them to enter heaven .... The purpose of purgatory is to cleanse one of imperfections, venial sins, and faults, and to remit or do away with the temporal punishments due to mortal sins that have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. It is an intermediate state in which the departed souls can atone for unforgiven sins before receiving their final reward .... Such "purgatorial punishments" may be relieved by the offerings of the living faithful, such as Masses, prayers, alms, and other acts of piety and devotion.We have now briefly examined what the Catholic Church teaches concerning forgiveness of sins and
1) the sacraments, such as baptism and penance,
2) the Mass,
3) the Virgin Mary,
4) the Rosary, and
5) purgatorial suffering.
In some sense, Catholicism teaches that all these practices remit sin or the guilt of sin.
But the Bible teaches that full forgiveness of sin, including its penalty, occurs solely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, based upon the complete adequacy of His death on the cross, which was a full propitiatory atonement. Catholic teaching, on the other hand, implies (at least) the death of Christ was in some sense insufficient in these areas. While Catholics may disagree with this assessment, it seems to be the logical conclusion of their own beliefs and practices.
Karl Keating's book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, offers the standard Catholic position on salvation. He opposes the biblical teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone. He emphasizes that, in Catholicism, men and women learn that they will merit heaven by their good works and personal righteousness, but that to merely "accept Jesus" as Savior accomplishes nothing:For Catholics, salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. Christ ... did his part, and now we have to cooperate by doing ours. If we are to pass through those [heavenly] gates, we have to be in the right spiritual state .... The Church teaches that only souls that are objectively good and objectively pleasing to God merit heaven, and such souls are ones filled with sanctifying grace .... As Catholics see it, anyone can achieve heaven, and anyone can lose it .... The apparent saint can throw away salvation at the last moment and end up no better off than the man who never did a good deed in his life. It all depends on how one enters death, which is why dying is by far one's most important act .... [What this means is that] "accepting Jesus" has nothing to do with turning a spiritually dead soul into a soul alive with sanctifying grace. The soul [that "accepts Jesus"] remains the same [i.e., dead] .... The Reformer saw justification as a mere legal act by which God declares the sinner to be meriting heaven. ... The Catholic Church, not surprisingly, understands justification differently. It sees it as a true eradication of sin and a true sanctification and renewal. The soul becomes objectively pleasing to God and so merits heaven. It merits heaven because now it is actually good .... The Bible is quite clear that we are saved by faith. The Reformers were quite, right in saying this, and to this extent they merely repeated the constant teaching of the Church. Where they erred was in saying that we are saved by faith aloneBut if the Bible teaches that salvation is entirely by grace, then salvation is by faith alone. To add meritorious works would mean that salvation is by faith and works. And the Bible clearly indicates that the concepts of "grace salvation" and "works salvation" involve opposing principles. One cannot have a salvation based 75 percent on grace and 25 percent on works-it is entirely one or entirely the other. Thus, Scripture itself emphasizes, "And if [salvation is] by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6).
8. What does the Bible teach about the Doctrine of Justification?This is perhaps the most important subject in this book because no doctrine is more crucial-nor more misunderstood and neglected, even by the True Christians-than the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone.
The Bible teaches that any person who simply and truly believes in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior from sin is at that point irrevocably and eternally justified. What is justification? Justification is the act of God whereby He not only forgives the sins of believers, but He also declares them perfectly righteous by reckoning or imputing the obedience and righteousness of Christ Himself to them through faith. It might help to look at it this way: If a wealthy uncle deposits a million dollars to the checking account of his young nephew, that money is now the property of his nephew even though the lad never earned it, worked for, or even deserved it. In justification, God "deposits" the righteousness of Christ to the believer's account-He credits the Christian with the moral perfection of His own Son. Justification is thus a completed act of God, and because it is entirely accomplished by God, once for all, it is not a lifelong process as is personal sanctification (individual growth in holy living).
The following Scriptures clearly show that justification is
1) a crediting of righteousness on the basis of a person's faith,
2) a completed act of God, and
3) something that occurs wholly apart from personal merit or good works.... to the man who ... trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.... [How blessed is] the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works (Romans 4:5-6, emphasis added).Unfortunately, some Catholics have misunderstood the the True Christian position here, thinking it means that mere assent to doctrine saves entirely and that the True Christians have little concern for good works or sanctification. To the contrary, Scripture is clear that good works and sanctification are crucial-indeed it is the very knowledge of grace it itself (in a the True Christian sense) that produces good works and growth in holy living (see Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Peter 5:12; 2 Peter 3:18; Colossians 1:6; cf 2:23). But good works and sanctification have nothing to do with our justification. What justification means to the True Christians is that believers are to plead the merits of Christ before the throne of God, instead of their own merits. This is why biblical Christians accept the "gift of righteousness" (Romans 5:17) and "glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3, NASB).
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:28, NASB, emphasis added). (See Philippians 3:9.)
Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5: 1, NASB, emphasis added).
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Romans 5:9, NASB, emphasis added; d Romans 9:30-10:4; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Galatians 2:16; 3:8-9, 21,24).
Justification means that a Christian may be assured that, in God's eyes, he now possesses the perfect holiness necessary to gain entrance to heaven. Why? If the death of Christ forgave all sins and fully satisfied the divine penalty due them, and if God declares believers absolutely righteous on the basis of their faith in Christ, then nothing else is needed to permit their entrance into heaven. Thus, because of justification-i.e., because Christ's righteousness and merits are reckoned to the believer (as far as God is concerned)-the Christian now possesses perfect holiness in this life, and he possesses it from the moment of saving faith. He cannot nor does not need sacraments, indulgences, the Rosary, or purgatory in order to enter heaven. This is what the biblical doctrine of justification means.
9. What does the Roman Church teach about the Doctrine of Justification?The Catholic Church has never denied that justification is by an act of God's grace. In fact, Catholic writers often sound perfectly biblical-and this is what leads to confusion. For example, consider the plain answer given to the question, "How is the sinner justified?" in Stephen Keenan's Doctrinal Catechism: "He is justified gratuitously by the pure mercy of God, not on account of his own or any human merit, but purely through the merits of Jesus Christ; for Jesus Christ is our Only mediator of redemption, who alone, by his passion and death, has reconciled us to his Father."
The problem here is not that Catholics teach that "justification occurs by grace" The problem is that the Catholic definition of "Justification" and "grace" is different from what the Bible teaches. The Catholic Church teaches that justification is the infusion of sanctifying grace or supernatural ability which actually works to help make a person objectively righteous and pleasing in the eyes of God. If sustained until death, this grace permits one to merit entrance into heaven because of the righteous life he lived: One actually deserves heaven because one's own goodness, in part, has earned it. This explains why the basis for justification in Catholic theology is not the fact of Christ's righteousness being reckoned (imputed) to a believer by faith alone. Rather it is the fact that-through the sacraments-Christ's righteousness is infused into our very being so that we progressively become more and more righteous. And on that basis-the fact we have actual righteousness now-we are declared "righteous." Thus, in Catholicism justification occurs primarily by means of the sacraments and not exclusively by personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, the Church argues that because this infusion of sanctifying ability is not merited by anyone, it is therefore entirely a free gift of God's grace. But all this really seems to be saying is that God gives the means by which individuals can help to earn their own salvation. In the end, what saves us is the works we do after conversion that have been energized by grace. Let's explain this more fully.
In Catholic theology infused grace is a spiritual power or strength given to believers which enables them to perform meritorious works. When believers cooperate with this grace and make good use of it, they gain the power to become just and righteous in themselves. If we have this "grace" (i.e., a power or substance) within us, we can then literally earn our way to heaven. How? By cooperating with the habitual grace within us, we can arrive at a state of actual righteousness. It is at this point only that we are then "declared" to be "just" because, in fact, we are objectively righteous. By further cooperating with God's grace and through individual performance of merit, we actually increase our grace and justification. Because "the soul becomes good and holy through the infusion of grace" as these are increased throughout life, a person naturally dies in a state of grace. Then he enters purgatory to pay the final penalty for his sins and to await his heavenly reward. In a very real sense, then, Catholic justification is simply God's recognition of human merit or goodness.
Perhaps a review would be helpful at this point. In Catholicism, justification is an internal renovation and empowering of man-both a regeneration and sanctification. It comes through an infusion of God's grace and it means that man himself, in his own being, is made just or pleasing to God. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers the following as the definition of justification: "Primarily and simply justification is the possession of sanctifying grace .... We are justified by Christ ... and by good works...."
According to Catholic teaching, justification is the gracious act of God whereby an individual-in cooperation with God-makes himself righteous. Another way of saying this is that justification is the work of grace within a man which assists in making him internally and externally holy:... the Bible shows that justification is a rebirth. It is a generation of a supernatural life in a former sinner (John 3:5; Titus 3:5), a thorough inner renewal (Ephesians 4:23), and a real sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11). The soul itself becomes beautiful and holy. It is not just an ugly soul hidden under a beautiful cloak [a reference to the the True Christian view of imputed righteousness]. Because it is beautiful and holy, it can be admitted to heaven where nothing unclean is allowed.But unfortunately, Catholicism has only confused justification with sanctification and regeneration. As Catholic P. Gregory Stevens writes in The Life of Grace, "First of all, justification is a real and profound transformation of man [regeneration], a genuine gift of sanctification to him." But this is wrong because justification (Romans 3:28-4:6; Philippians 3:9), regeneration (John 3:6-7; 6:63; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), and sanctification (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Peter 3:18) are three distinct and separate biblical doctrines. To confuse them is to distort the very essence of biblical salvation.
The Bible teaches that justification is God's work of grace in Christ declaring the believer righteous. It is not God's work of grace in man to actually make him righteous, which is sanctification. (See Romans 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:30.) The lexical documentation and discussion in footnote 75 proves the Catholic view of justification is wrong.
10. Do True Christians and Catholics now agree on the Doctrine of Justification, or are the teachings of the Council of Trent still authoritative?In 1983 a group of Lutheran and Catholic theologians made the newsworthy announcement that they had come to agreement on the meaning of justification. Although this widely publicized statement caused many people to believe that Catholics and the True Christians were now agreed on this doctrine, this was far from true.
First, whether or not some individual Catholic scholars accept the biblical doctrine of justification is not the same as having Rome accept it. Second, those involved did no such thing. Although their statement sounded evangelical, a careful reading of the report proves that what was upheld was the traditional Catholic doctrine of justification. For example, the report clearly equates justification and sanctification: "By justification we are both declared and made righteous. Justification, therefore, is not a legal fiction [a reference to the the True Christian view]. God, in justifying, effects what He promises; He forgives sin and makes us truly righteous."
But as W. Robert Godfrey, professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, correctly observes, "The report yields to the Roman Catholics on the doctrine of justification, and compromises too much what is essential to the gospel." Thus, the report did not unite Lutherans and Catholics on the nature of justification; it simply upheld the Catholic view.
In essence, the decrees made by the Council of Trent on justification remain the standard of Roman Catholic theology. These decrees have never been modified, altered, or rescinded by Rome. This is why Karl Keating maintains that the views of Trent on justification are not only true Catholic doctrine, but that they are true biblical doctrine as well.
The Catholic doctrine reiterated by the Council of Trent (1566-1572) is principally a reply to the "heresies" of the the True Christian Reformation. A careful reading of the sixth session on justification will clearly show that, despite Catholic claims, its pronouncements are not only unbiblical, but anti-biblical as well.
Trent decreed that whoever does not "faithfully and firmly accept this Catholic doctrine on justification ... cannot be justified...." Thus, in the section "Canons Concerning Justification," we read, for example:Canon 9-If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification ... let him be anathema [cursed by God].Not surprisingly, Trent also decreed that good works increase our justification. For example, in Canon 24 we read,
If anyone says that the justice received [i.e., justification] is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.Trent establishes perhaps the most subtle form of justification by works ever devised. This subtlety may explain why some Catholics actively encourage the True Christians to read the decrees of Trent-to "prove" that Catholicism does not teach a form of salvation by works. We do think that every the True Christian should read these decrees carefully and then determine for themselves whether or not the gospel of grace has been rejected.
Unfortunately, because Roman Catholic teaching denies that justification is the past and completed declaration of God the Judge, it thoroughly undermines a believer's certainty of salvation. If "to justify" means to make a person righteous, a person is left to his own subjective condition for the basis of his acceptance before God. This explains why Catholic justification fluctuates in the life of a believer. It is not a completed act of God. Rather, it is based on the grace empowered works of sinful people for its maintenance. Thus, it can hardly provide any sense of security of salvation. For example, since the Catholic Church teaches that justification can be lost by mortal sin, a person can only know he retains his justification if he is certain he has not committed mortal sin. But in Catholic teaching, such knowledge is problematic at best. Mortal sin is not always clearly defined, so definite knowledge of having committed such a sin is not always possible.
Clearly, Catholics and the True Christians are not in agreement on this matter.
11. How is the Roman Catholic view of Biblical Authority and Inerrancy Compromised?Doctrinally, the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally taught that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and Catholics continue to maintain that they have the highest regard for Scripture. Rev. John A. O'Brien of Notre Dame University writes, "Far from being hostile to the Bible, the Catholic Church is its true mother ... The simple fact is that the Catholic Church loves the Bible, reveres it as the inspired word of God, gives to it a loyalty and intelligent obedience greater than that of any other religious body in the world... -a loyalty of which history knows no parallel."
But this position was compromised at Vatican II which restricted biblical inerrancy to a more narrow spectrum of biblical teaching and also allowed for further encroachment of neoorthodoxy. In effect, the Church now holds to a position of "limited inerrancy": Scripture is inerrant, but not all of it. (Exactly where it is and is not inerrant is left for the interpreter to decide, an example of "private judgment" the Church claims it rejects.)
But regardless, in practice, even the traditional view of inerrancy had been compromised by
1) the Church's acceptance of the Apocrypha,
2) a belief in inerrant Tradition, and
3) the claim that the Church alone properly interprets Scripture.
1. The Apocrypha undermines Inerrancy.Catholicism teaches that Scripture involves more than the canon accepted by the Jews, Jesus, and the Church of the first four centuries, i.e., the 39 books of the the True Christian Old Testament. It adds new portions to the books of Esther and Daniel plus seven additional books, which were written between the Testaments: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Ben Sirach, (also called Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and Wisdom. The Catholic Church refers to these extra books as "deuterocanonical works"-those that are canonical or scriptural for Catholics but which were never part of the Jewish Bible.
The Apocrypha undermines a doctrine of inerrancy because these books contain historical and other errors. Thus, if the Apocrypha is considered Scripture, this identifies error with God's Word. This is why neither the Jews, Jesus, the apostles, nor most of the early Church fathers ever accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture.
Biblical scholar Dr. Rene Pache comments, "Except for certain interesting historical information (especially in 1 Maccabees) and a few beautiful moral thoughts (e.g., Wisdom of Solomon), these books contain absurd legends and platitudes, and historical, geographical and chronological errors, as well as manifestly heretical doctrines; they even recommend immoral acts (Judith 9:10,13)." Errors in the Apocrypha are frequently pointed out in standard works. For example,Tobit ... contains certain historical and geographical errors such as the assumption that Sennacherib was the son of Shalmaneser (1:15) instead of Sargon II, and that Nineveh was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus (14:5) instead of by Nabopolassar and Cyaxares .... Judith cannot possibly be historical because of the glaring errors it contains.... [In 2 Maccabees] there are also numerous disarrangements and discrepancies in chronological, historical, and numerical matters in the book, reflecting ignorance or confusion ....For 1,500 years no Roman Catholic was required to believe that the Apocrypha was Scripture, until the Council of Trent made its fateful decree. Unfortunately, the Council adopted its position "for reasons of expediency rather than evidence." Thus, it was "unmindful of evidence, of former popes and scholars, of the Fathers of the church and the witness of Christ and the apostles" in making its decision to include the Apocrypha as Scripture.
Dr. Pache points out that one of the reasons Trent accepted the Apocrypha was merely in response to the arguments of the Reformers who were attempting to defend the principle of "sola scriptura"-that the Bible alone is the believer's authority.Why, then, did Rome take so new and daring a position? Because, confronted by the Reformers, she lacked arguments to justify her unscriptural deviations. She declared that the Apocryphal books supported such doctrines as prayers for dead (II Maccabees 12:44); the expiatory sacrifice (eventually to become the Mass, II Maccabees 12:39-46); alms giving with expiatory value, also leading to deliverance from death (Tobit 12:9; 4:10); invocation and intercession of the saints (II Maccabees 15:14; Bar. 3:4); the worship of angels (Tobit 12:12); purgatory; and the redemption of souls after death (II Maccabees 12:42,46).
2. Catholic Tradition undermines Inerrancy.As noted before, Catholicism accepts sacred Tradition as having divine authority: Vatican II emphasized that Catholic Scripture and Tradition "form one sacred deposit of the word of God." Thus, "Both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence." Karl Keating thinks that "...the trouble of [the] fundamentalist [e.g., evangelical] is that he labors under the misconception that Scripture has the last word..." and that Tradition "counts for nothing."
Of course, biblically, there is nothing wrong with tradition. Even Scripture acknowledges its usefulness, but only when it is based upon apostolic teaching (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6) or not in conflict with Scripture itself. When tradition reflects the truths of Scripture, this is fine. But when it denies and opposes God's word in the Bible, we have a problem.
Catholic Tradition comprises a massive body of literature-the teachings of the early Fathers, historic creeds, the writings of Church scholars and leaders, laws given by synods and councils, papal decrees, etc. Today, one of the Catholic Church's normal functions is to continue this refinement of doctrine and practice.
Several problems are created by the Church's claim that this mass of data is, in some sense, necessary for salvation and/or infallible.Finally, the testimony of Church history itself proves time and again that when any other source of authority is put on par with Scripture, Scripture becomes a secondary authority. According to Keating, "Fundamentalists say the Bible is the sole rule of faith .... Catholics, on the other hand, say the Bible is not the sole rule of faith and that nothing in the Bible suggests it was meant to be." However, "We need only read Church history to discover that when another source of authority is placed alongside Scripture as of equal importance, Scripture eventually becomes relegated to the background."
First, there is the insuperable difficulty in authoritatively determining where infallible Tradition lies. As Keating confesses, "The big problem, no doubt, is determining what constitutes authentic tradition." Second, the large amount of data itself poses a problem. Papal "Bulls" alone from 450-1850 comprise more than 40 volumes. This has led to "almost inextricable difficulties" for Catholic theologians. Third, problems relating to the fact of errors, demonstrable self-contradictions, and even denials of biblical teaching are inescapable. Fourth, contradictory Tradition and differences in the historical interpretation of Tradition have plagued the claim to infallibility. For example, even popes have disagreed on such subjects as religious freedom, the validity of civil marriages, the legitimacy of Bible reading, the order of the Jesuits, Galileo's scientific data, and other topics. On rare occasion, popes have even sided with heresy, as did Pope Liberius (352-66) when he accepted the Arians who rejected Christ's deity (cf, Zozimus and the Pelagians, Honorius I and the Monothelites, or Vigilius and the Monphysites and Nestorians).
If Catholic Tradition were, in fact, "inerrant" and "sacred," then it would not deny Scripture. Perhaps this explains why many of the Church's unscriptural doctrines were added in the midst of debate and dissension among Catholics themselves. For example, at the Council of Trent not all participants thought it credible that the Apocrypha was Scripture. And at the first Vatican council, not all believed the Pope should be considered infallible.
3. How Catholic interpretation undermines inerrancy.In The Documents of Vatican II, under the category of "Revelation," we find the following:
The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [i.e., Tradition], has been entrusted exclusively to the living, teaching office of the Church ....Here we see that the Catholic Church allocates to itself the sole power to properly interpret the Catholic Bible and Tradition. The the True Christian view of the individual's right to devoutly interpret the Bible by diligent study (2 Timothy 2:15) and under the illumination of the Holy Spirit is rejected. as false.
Keating claims that the evangelicals' understanding of the Bible as the sole authority is irrational because "the individual is the least solid of all interpreters." And he believes that the only manner in which we can know the Bible really is inspired is if an infallible Church tells us it is.
Of course, we must ask the question-is the Catholic Church truly infallible? Is its Tradition inerrant? Does it always interpret the Bible correctly? It claims so. This is why Keating and other Catholics refer to "the authoritative and infallible Church" and "the fact of an infallible teaching Church." But where is the evidence?
It is important here to understand what the Catholic Church means by infallible. Infallibility is officially defined as "immunity from error, excluding not only its existence, but even its possibility." This infallibility extends not only to the Pope in matters of faith and morals, but also to the bishops in teaching and, by implication, interpretation. But the problem is that, as history proves, the Roman Catholic Church has not been infallible-despite its claims. As Hans Kung, the dissident Catholic theologian, points out, "The errors of the Ecclesiastical teaching office in every generation have been numerous and indisputable. ... And yet the teaching office constantly found it difficult to admit these errors frankly and honestly ..."
Consider a modern example. Most Catholic literature contains the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimature, Church seals which designate authority. They are defined as a "declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error." Yet The Catholic Encyclopedia, which contains these seals, teaches the following:
1. Salvation is by works (and other theological errors);
2. Muslims worship the biblical God;
3. The book of Daniel was written in 165 B.C.;
4. Mormons "believe in the Trinity";
5. Papal infallibility is true; and
6. The Catholic Church is the only true Church.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also includes positive reviews of Transcendental Meditation, the religion of Islam, and the destructive approach to Scripture known as Form Criticism. Such teachings indicate that The Catholic Encyclopedia cannot possibly be free from doctrinal error.
Books such as Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism, which seek to critique evangelical Christianity from the perspective of Catholic dogma, have this problem in common: Catholic doctrine precedes exegesis. The Bible is interpreted primarily in light of Church doctrine, and not its own teachings. Where the Bible conflicts with Catholic dogma, no appeal to Scripture is sufficient because in the end, Scripture is not the final authority-only what the Church interprets and teaches is the final authority.
The fact that "infallible" popes have consistently upheld unbiblical Roman Catholic doctrine proves that it is Catholic doctrine derived from Tradition which interprets the Bible, and not standard principles of exegesis.
In other words, while Tradition has authority over Scripture, the teaching office of the Church has authority over Tradition because it decides what Tradition is (and thus what Scripture is) and how to properly interpret them both. This is why Catholics hold that it is their Tradition which "gives life to Scripture."
This also tells us why, in a very real sense, Church Tradition is considered necessary for salvation: "Magisterium of the Church is the power given by Christ to the Church together with infallibility by which the Church teaches authoritatively the revealed truth of the Scripture and holds forth the truth of tradition for salvation.
Unfortunately, Rome has left her Church without the divinely given means to determine truth from error, namely the inerrant authority of the Scriptures alone. The Church herself becomes the standard of truth in whatever she teaches or does, and thus there is no higher authority to which she must submit or standard by which she must be judged.
In conclusion, by
1) adding the errant Apocrypha to the canon,
2) accepting errant Tradition as divine revelation,
3) claiming that proper interpretation of Scripture/Tradition resides only in the Catholic Church, and 4) asserting infallibility for herself,
the Catholic Church has effectively undermined the inerrancy and authority of the Bible.
12. Is the Pope Infallible?The Catholic Church teaches that when the Pope speaks "ex cathedra" (i.e., "from his chair" or authoritatively), he is infallible in matters of faith and morals.
Papal infallibility was officially defined and promulgated on July 18, 1870 at the first Vatican Council. What this means is that for 1,870 years the Catholic Church did not officially teach that the Pope was infallible. Even within the Council itself, there were many protests, and a large number of other faithful Catholics rejected it as well, earning for themselves the title "Old Catholics."
We grant that most papal statements are not made under the strictures of the 1870 ex cathedra definition. But that is not the issue. Rather, the issue is that such pronouncements in general uphold the doctrinal position of Catholicism overall.
A thorough discussion of the Vatican I Council can be found in August Bernard Hasler's How the Pope Became Infallible. Hasler served for five years in the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity where he was given access to the Vatican Archives. There he uncovered crucial documents relating to the council which had never been studied before. As a result of his research, this learned Catholic scholar concluded:
It is becoming increasingly obvious, in fact, that the dogma of papal infallibility has no basis either in the Bible or the history of the Church during the first millennium. If, however, the First Vatican Council was not free, then neither was it ecumenical. And in that case its decrees have no claim to validity. So the way is clear to revise this Council and, at the same time, to escape from a situation which both history and theology find more and more indefensible. Is this asking too much of the Church? Can it ever admit that a council erred, that in 1870 Vatican I made the wrong decision?Papal infallibility has never been a credible doctrine. As Carson points out in his study of contemporary Catholicism, the doctrine of an infallible Pope and/or Church reasonably assumes that the infallible guide will first of all be clearly recognizable; second, that this guide will act with reasonable promptitude in discerning truth from error; and third, that this guide can never be responsible for leading the Church into error. But in the history of the Catholic Church, this has not been the case.
13. What is the unique role of Mary in Roman Catholicism, and is it Biblical?Significant areas of Catholic doctrine and practice are related to the person and work of Mary, Her unique relationship to God is usually discussed in a trinity of functions:
2) Mediatrix, and
3) Queen of Heaven.
As Co-redemptrix, she cooperates with Christ in the work of saving sinners. As Mediatrix, she now dispenses God's blessings and grace to the spiritually needy. As Queen of Heaven, she rules providentially with Christ, the King of Heaven. Although views in the Roman Church vary, Mary has usually been elevated above all the prophets, apostles, saints, popes, and even the Catholic Church itself. In the words of Pope Paul VI, "... the place she occupies in the Church [is] 'the highest place and the closest to us after Jesus.'"
With the honored blessing given by Vatican II,139 Mariology is as firmly entrenched in Catholicism as ever. Vatican II declares: "It admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered." But the Catholic view of Mary is not scriptural; to the contrary, it is entirely traditional. Some of the unbiblical teachings relating to the Mary of Catholic Tradition include the following:
1. Mary's immaculate conception: This doctrine teaches that she was born without original sin and was, therefore, sinless throughout her life.Space permits discussion of only these last two points.
2. Mary's perpetual virginity: This dogma asserts that she had no children after Jesus.
3. Mary's bodily assumption or physical ascension into heaven: This teaches that because of her sinlessness, Mary never experienced physical death. Instead she was raised bodily into the presence of Christ.
4. Mary's role as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces: This doctrine holds that the obedience and sufferings of Mary were essential to secure the full redemption bought by Christ.
5. Mary's right to veneration and/or worship: This teaching argues that because of her unparalleled role in the economy of salvation, Mary is worthy of special adoration.
Mariology is defined as the study of that theology "which treats the life, role and virtues of the Blessed Mother of God" and which "demonstrates ... her position as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces." Thus, Catholic popes have always glorified Mary.
Is Mary a "Savior" in the Roman Church?
Pope Leo XIII stated in his rosary encyclical, "Octobri mense"(1891): "Nobody can approach Christ except through the mother." Pope Pius X (1903-1914) asserted that Mary is "the dispenser of all gifts which Jesus has acquired for us by His death and His blood." Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) says, "With Jesus, Mary has redeemed the human race." The conclusion of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) in his encyclical, "Mystici Corporis" (1943), was that Mary willingly offered Christ on Golgotha: "Who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always most intimately united with her Son, offered him on Golgotha to the eternal Father ... for all the children of Adam."
All this is why Vatican II declared that, "Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving role, but by her manifold acts of intercession continued to win for us gifts of eternal salvation. " And in The Catholic Response, Stravinskas remarks that, "One cannot ignore this woman, lest one risk distorting the gospel itself."
Although Mary did not literally die for the sin of the world, by giving birth to the Messiah and by giving Him moral support and other things, Mary can be seen as indirectly helping to atone for the sins of the world. Thus, of her temporal earthly sufferings, The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that she "endured them for our salvation." 149 Further, "In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her Divine Son for men, made atonement for the sins of men and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind."
Although Catholic theology attempts to draw a line between the worship offered to God and that offered to Mary, in practice these frequently become indistinguishable. The specific terms used are latria-adoration which is due God alone; dulia-veneration offered to the saints; and hyperdulia-special veneration given to Mary. As Carson remarks,
Is Mary worshiped in the Roman Church?The development of Mariology has been accompanied by an ever-increasing tendency to accord Mary a worship that, in much popular devotion, is indistinguishable from that offered to God alone.For example, when the average Catholic invokes the aid of Mary as a heavenly, all-powerful intercessor, or to beseech Jesus for them, or to forgive their sins, it is hard to imagine that in that precise moment they are distinguishing between latria, dulia, and hyperdulia:
Rome may deny that Mary is worshipped as God. But to attribute to her powers which involve omniscience and omnipresence, if she is to hear [and answer] the prayers of millions, is to accord to her what belongs to God alone. Furthermore, the prayers themselves are phrased in such a way that it is hard to distinguish them from those offered to God.Millions of Roman Catholic people in this world today worship Mary, and in doing so, believe that they are doing what the Church is telling them to do."
Again, the Catholic Church officially claims that its Mariology does not subtract from the worship due Christ as God and Mediator. But strictly, this must be questioned. As an Evangelical Council on Catholicism observed, "In effect many Roman Catholics put her on the same level as the persons of the Trinity."
The Mary of Catholic teaching has little to do with the Mary of the New Testament. Given Mary's supreme importance in the Catholic Church, it's amazing to consider the complete absence of even the mention of her name in the New Testament epistles.
The Biblical Mary
Apart from Acts 1:14, Mary is mentioned nowhere else outside the Gospels. And even in the Gospels, her spiritual power and authority are almost non-existent. Neither Jesus Christ, nor Paul, nor any other biblical writer ever gave Mary the place or devotion the Catholic Church has given her for a thousand years. This is all the more incredible when we consider that the New Testament letters were written specifically for the spiritual guidance of the Church, and that they have a great deal to say about both doctrine and worship. How then is it possible? If Mary performs the many vital spiritual functions we have just discussed, how could Mary's name be entirely absent from the very heart of the New Testament teaching-exactly where one would expect her to be most prominent? Even Catholics are forced to confess that scriptural support for these doctrines is lacking.
Luke relates an interesting incident in the life of Jesus. In effect, the story tells us that apart from her role as bearer and mother of the Messiah, Mary was not unique or especially blessed. In fact, by Jesus' words, "on the contrary," we see that those who obey God are more blessed than if they had given birth to Jesus. It is almost as if God were speaking to Catholic dogma: "... one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.' But He said, 'On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it"' (Luke 11:27-28, NASB). Jesus often referred to Himself as "the Son of Man," but never once, as Catholics do, as "the Son of Mary."
14. What about "Evangelical Catholics" who accept Rome as Authority?There are many contemporary voices attempting to bring evangelicals and Catholics together as common brethren of a common faith. One of the more prominent examples of this is seen in Keith Fournier's text Evangelical Catholics.
Catholics and evangelicals may indeed work together in support of promoting Christian values in the larger society. But what bothers us about Fournier's book is that it is basically an encouragement for evangelicals to return to the Mother Church.
Despite his claim to be an evangelical, Fournier's commitment is fully to Rome: "I am a Roman Catholic, not by accident or mistake but by heartfelt conviction"; "I have submitted myself to the teaching office of the Church and its leadership'; and "[I have] rooted myself in a sacramental and incarnational Catholic/Christian world view."
The problem is that Fournier's "evangelical/Catholic" faith is merely a Roman Catholicism that he has falsely claimed as evangelical. In a review of Fournier's book, theologian E. Calvin Beisner wisely writes:
Despite Fournier's good intentions in attempting to bypass them [doctrinal differences] for the outward unity of the body of Christ, he really will do both Catholics and evangelicals only a disservice if he successfully persuades them that one can be evangelical and Catholic in the proper sense of those words.This is not to say that the Catholic Church is devoid of genuine Christians-there are many. The real question, though, is one of commitment to biblical truth and the importance of spiritual growth based on it. The issue then becomes, "Can Christians remain in the Catholic Church without compromising their faith and/or their spiritual growth?"
We can hardly say that God would never allow Christians to remain in the Catholic Church in order to lead others to personal faith in Christ. But in order to do so effectively, these believers have to be thoroughly informed on the issues, weighing them carefully, resolving not to partake in practices or to accept doctrines that are not biblical. Further, we would suspect that for the vast majority of Christians in the Catholic Church, acquiring such discernment may necessitate a lengthy absence from Rome.
Thus, we think it prudent for Catholics who receive Christ as their personal Savior to find a place where they can receive biblical teaching and Christian fellowship that will encourage their commitment to Christ and His Word alone. Once grounded in those beliefs, a program of closer ministry to Rome may be possible.
Today, far too many Christians and evangelical organizations are accepting Roman Catholicism as a fully Christian religion. Perhaps what is needed is a much closer look at Catholicism-and with it a much closer look at New Testament Christianity.
A Personal Word to Catholics
Catholics, perhaps more than anyone else, believe that it is not possible in this life to have assurance of salvation (except perhaps in very rare circumstances). You have been taught that the belief in the assurance of salvation is a "presumption upon the mercy of God" and that mortal sin results in "eternal separation from God," requiring penance for restoration. You have heard about the personal hazards of "triumphalism," something that arises from an "assurance of having been saved," which "is a dangerous position" to hold. But the "assurance of having been saved" is a biblical doctrine, as 1 John 5:13 proves.
You also know that because Catholicism teaches that a Christian may lose his or her salvation, it argues that "not even faith ... or conversion... or reception of baptism ... or constancy throughout life... can gain for one the right to salvation..." and that all these are held to be only "the forerunners of attainment" toward salvation.
But again, this is not biblical teaching. Jesus Himself taught that faith does bring the right to salvation: "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12, NASB, emphasis added). The Bible clearly teaches that by faith alone people can know that they are eternally saved because they, at the moment of saving faith, possess eternal life. You can know this by truly trusting in Christ for forgiveness of sins and making Him your personal Savior.
If you are a Catholic and desire to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, we would urge you to say the following prayer:
Dear God, it is my desire to enter into a personal relationship with You through the death of Your Son Jesus on the cross. Although I have believed many things about Jesus, I confess that I have never truly received Him individually as my personal Savior and Lord. I have never realized that salvation uses a gift that You offer me freely. I now receive that gift and believe that Christ died on the cross for my sins-all of them. I believe that He rose from the dead. It is my desire that He now become my Lord and Savior and so, I now receive Him into my life. I make Him Lord over all areas of my life, including any personal beliefs or practices that are not biblical.
Help me to be committed to study Your Word and to grow as a Christian in ways that honor You. Give me the strength to face difficulty or rejection when it comes to making a stand for You. If it is Your will, and necessary for me to leave this Church, guide me into a good church and fellowship so that I might know and glorify You the more. In Jesus' name I pray this, trusting in Your guidance. Amen.
True Christianity CATHOLICISM The Old and New Testaments are the only sources of Christian doctrine.
(Messianic Judaism refers to these by their Hebrew names, Tanakh and B'rit Hadasha ["New Covenant"])
Sources of doctrine include:
- Certain papal declarations
- Bishops in conjunction with the pope
- Old Testament
- New Testament
- Apocrypha (some additions to the Bible)
- Catholic Church Tradition
- Catholic interpretation of the Bible
We are justified (saved) by faith alone, not by good works. Good works will result in greater rewards in the afterlife but have no effect on getting saved. When a person gets baptized his "original sin" is forgiven and God gives him some grace. This grace enables him to do good works. God appreciates the good works and rewards them with more grace. Because the Christian has more grace, he can now do even better works. This pleases God even more, so He gives even more grace, etc. Purgatory is totally unscriptural. Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was the only offering necessary and the only offering sufficient to provide salvation. There are two types of punishment after death: temporal (temporary) and eternal. If a person dies with just one "mortal" sin on his soul he will be condemned to Hell for eternity. If he dies with only "venial" sins on his soul he will be sent to Purgatory, perhaps for millions of years.
Purgatory is exactly like Hell except that it doesn't last forever. Eventually, the person will be released and enter heaven.
"Mortal" sin is an extent of sin, a pervasiveness of sin, sinning as a way of life, sinning as a regular practice, not a single sin, regardless of how serious that sin might be, e.g., murder. There are two types of sin: mortal and venial.
A particular sin is either mortal or venial, depending on the severity. (For instance, stealing one dollar from a rich man would probably be a venial sin.)
See the box above for the consequences of Catholic mortal sin
Only God can forgive sins. Catholic priests have been given the power to forgive sins, acting as representatives of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Jesus' representative. The pope is Jesus' representative on Earth. The pope speaks for no one. The pope speaks for all Christians. It is clear from scripture that there was no "head" apostle in the New Testament churches. Paul expressly and publicly rebuked Peter, the alleged first pope, on one occasion. There is no biblical or historical evidence that Peter was ever the bishop of Rome. Anyone who denies the authority of the pope despises the one who (allegedly) appointed him (i.e., Christ) and therefore despises the one who sent Christ, (i.e., God the Father). Mary had children by Joseph. Jesus' brothers are expressly named: Joseph,. James, Simon, and Jude. Mary remained a virgin her entire life. The Greek word can mean either "brother" or "close relative." The Bible is talking about Jesus' cousins, not brothers. This is totally unscriptural. Mary was bodily assumed into heaven, like Elijah and Enoch. This is totally unscriptural. Mary is the "spiritual mother" of all men.
WHO FORGIVES CATHOLICS' SINS?
INSIDE A CATHOLIC CONFESSIONAL
Although I believe the Catholic Church has many false teachings, as a former Roman Catholic I want to make it clear what goes on when a Catholic "goes to Confession" (now called "Reconciliation"). Although I disagree with the need to confess to clergy (rather than directly to God, as True Christians do) or the need to do "penance" (Jesus' sacrifice paid our entire sin debt), I want to make it clear that devout Catholics do repent when they "go to Confession" and they repent to God. The Bible says that if we confess our sins and repent God is faithful to forgive them.
Confession is normally in a small enclosed darkened booth, with a screen between the priest and the person making the confession; they cannot see each others' faces. Confession can be done face to face, but that is not common.
The confessor kneels in front of the screen makes 'the sign of the Cross', reciting "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ..." and then begins:
"Bless me, Father [referring to the priest, not Jehovah], for I have sinned. It has been <length of time> since my last Confession and these are my sins:"
The person then describes all sins he can remember that he has committed since his last Confession.
After that, the priest asks the person if he is truly sorry for his sins, repents of his sins, and intends to try to lead a new life.
The person replies that he does.
The priest tells him what to do for penance. Usually, this involves saying the Lord's Prayer (generally called the "Our Father" by Catholics) several times and/or saying Hail Mary's (a prayer to Mary, Jesus' mother) several times.
The priest then 'gives absolution', telling the person "Your sins are forgiven" and something along the lines of "Okay, let's have a good Act of Contrition."
At that point, the priest prays for the confessor and the confessor recites the following prayer:
THE ACT OF CONTRITION
(Catholic prayer at end of Confession/Reconciliation)
"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all, because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen."
Many Catholics develop an attitude that Confession is sort of like a "gas station". They can confess, get their sins forgiven, and then go right out and do the same things again -- "No problem, I'll just go to Confession next week." This is not what the Catholic Church teaches! This is one of the many areas where True Christians and Catholics do agree: repent means you are truly sorry and sincerely intend to try not to sin.
Note: Under Catholic church law a Roman Catholic priest can refuse to forgive sins if he thinks the person is not sincere. In some cases he is required to refuse, e.g., where the person uses birth control and states that s/he intends to continue doing so.
It is important to realize that in Catholic theology penance is a sacrament, not confession. In Catholic theology doing the penance is what 'absolves' a person of sin.
WHETHER MARY HAD OTHER CHILDREN
"Does it really make any difference whether the Virgin Mary had other children?"
This seems like an insignificant point, but it isn't. It directly bears on the authority of the pope. According to the Catholic Church, one of the offices the pope holds is The Magisterium, i.e., teacher of Christian doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church claims that when the pope speaks in his official capacity as holder of The Magisterium, he is directly led by the Holy Spirit, and the teaching is infallible and has spiritual authority equal to the Bible. Therefore, if an "infallible" teaching contradicts the Bible, it proves the Catholic teaching of papal infallibility is false.
It is important to note that the Catholic Church has never claimed that all teachings of the popes are infallible, only those specifically declared infallible by being issued under the authority of The Magisterium.
The Catholic Church has declared "infallibly" that Mary had no other children. Therefore, if this contradicts the Bible, (e.g., Matthew 13:55) we are left with an "infallible" pope contradicting an "inerrant" Bible.
Exercise of the Magisterium is quite rare; in the entire twentieth century, the only pronouncement any pope has made in this capacity is the Roman Catholic doctrine that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.
The following is from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, endorsed in writing by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992. Although the excerpt uses the term "the Church" in actuality it only expresses the official Roman Catholic position on the issue.Mary -- "ever-virgin"
499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual [italics added] virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin." [italics added ]
500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus," are the sons of another Mary , a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary." [italics added] They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.
501 Jesus is Mary's only son, [italics added] but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom he came to save. "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is the faithful in whose generation and formulation she cooperates with a mother's love."
In section 500, the Catechism is referring to the following:
Matthew 27:56, 61  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
As can be plainly seen from the context, there is nothing "significant" about Matthew's referring to the mother of James and Joses as "the other Mary." He clearly means to distinguish her from Mary Magdalene, not from Mary, wife of Joseph.
True Christians dispute the Catholic doctrine based on passages such as these:
Matthew 12:46-47  While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."
Mark 3:31-32  Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.  A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."
Matthew 13:54-56  Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked.  "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? [author of the New Testament book of Jude, not Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus]  Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"
The Catholic Church responds that the Greek word used can mean either sibling or close kin, i.e., cousins. In other words, the Catholic Church claims Mary and Jesus' cousins were looking for Him, and the people in His hometown were naming His cousins.
But consider these passages:
Psalms 69:8 I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother's sons
This is a Messianic prophecy, i.e., a prophecy about the coming Messiah. Evidence of its fulfillment is found here:
Mark 3:20-21  Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
John 7:1-5  After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.  But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near,  Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.  No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."  For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Also see Did Mary Have Other Children?
"Why don't you capitalize the word 'pope' on this web page?"
Here, the word is referring to all popes, not just the current Pope.
"What is The Magisterium? Is it a group or council?"
No, it is an office the pope holds, one of his titles. Similarly, the president of the United States is automatically the Commander in Chief of the United States military forces. Although the pope has councils of advisors, his Magisterium pronouncements are not based on consensus and do not require the approval of any councils. According to the Catholic Church, if all Christians disagreed with an "infallible" teaching of a pope, all of them would have to change their position to his position.
"Are both True Christians and Catholics Christians, even though they have different beliefs?"
Catholicism gives the appearance of being Christianity covered by a thick outer layer of "traditions of man."
Satan certainly has no qualms about attacking the Church from the inside -- by twisting doctrines, etc. Jesus warned specifically about "traditions of men" and "leaven" or "yeast", i.e., false doctrine.
It takes centuries for false doctrine to permeate a large group of God's people and become a generally-accepted teaching. Of course, by the time this happens the religious leaders have the appearance of authority -- "We have been the leaders for centuries. Who are you to tell us we are wrong? You are the one who is wrong. We need to protect the real believers from your doctrine." (Note that this happened with both the Jews and the Catholic Church.)
Catholicism teaches salvation by grace and good works, not by faith alone.
This doctrine was established at the Council of Trent.
True Christianism and Messianic Judaism and the Bible teach that when a person accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior and believes that God (specifically, the Holy Spirit) raised Jesus from the dead, God (the Father) forgives all that person's sins (even future sins) and gives that person everlasting life. This is referred to as "justification." God gives the sinner credit for the righteous life Jesus lived. This is called imputed righteousness. "Imputed" means that one person is given credit (or blame) for something someone else did.
Catholicism teaches that a person is justified by being baptized into the Catholic Church and that a person becomes holy by receiving grace. Catholicism teaches that a believer can earn God's grace, and that if the person has enough grace when he dies he will go to Heaven (usually, after a period in Purgatory). Every time a person commits a mortal sin he loses all the grace he was saving up. Of course, without such grace he will go to Hell. By going to Confession (now called "Reconciliation") and doing penance (works to make up for his sins), he can have his past sins forgiven and start earning grace again. In effect, this is "yo-yo salvation". The trick is to die after the last time you had your sins forgiven but before you commit another mortal sin.
Many practicing Catholics satisfy the requirements of Romans 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved."
True Catholics believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for the sins of mankind, that Jesus came back from the dead after three days, and that people should follow His commandments on how to live.
Sadly, because the Catholic Church doesn't talk about that scripture, Catholics who satisfy Romans 10:9 don't have the joy of their salvation. Many such Catholics are going to wake up dead and be very surprised to find themselves in Heaven even though they "died with a mortal sin on their soul".
It is important to understand that this is talking about 'average' Catholics. The 'average' Catholic does not understand the official teachings of Roman Catholicism. A Catholic who understands the official teachings and accepts them as true is rejecting biblical Christianity. He is putting his faith in a religion that directly contradicts the Bible. Official Roman Catholicism teaches salvation by works.
Catholicism is a "legalistic" distortion of biblical Christianity.
"Legalistic" refers to the practice of adding a substantial amount of detailed, technical rules that are applied mechanically and the practice of drawing super-technical and minute distinctions. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for such practices:
Matthew 23:16-22  "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, `If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'  You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?  You also say, `If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.'  You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.  And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.
Often such distinctions are based on uncommon meanings of a word. For instance, in the "other children" controversy, the Roman Catholic hierarchy insists that the word for "brothers" actually means cousins, although that clearly is not supported by the context.
"What is wrong with being 'legalistic'?"
There are two basic problems with any legalistic approach:
If we truly love God, we should not be trying to be "right on the edge." and . . .
Good faith is irrelevant -- legalistic distinctions and traditions of men are still wrong.
It is important to understand some things about both the Pharisees and the Roman Catholic hierarchy:
They both act(ed) in good faith.
They both honestly believe(d) they are/were doing the right thing.
None of them intentionally make rules contrary to the will of God.
However, we must also consider related points:
- Good faith is irrelevant -- an error is an error.
- Traditions of men still contradict the word of God, even if done in good faith.
- Legalism is still legalism, no matter how well-intentioned.
However, among other things, both Catholics and True Christians believe:
AREAS OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN
True Christians and the Catholicism
There is only one God. This one God consists of three distinct persons:
- The Father
- The Son (Jesus)
- The Holy Spirit
Each person of the Godhead is fully God, yet there is only one God. All men have sinned against God, thereby pushing themselves away from God. Jesus became a man, with a flesh and blood body. Jesus voluntarily sacrificed Himself, dying on the Cross to pay for the sins of all mankind.
After being dead three days, Jesus was resurrected from the dead in a living, physical body.
As a result of Jesus' sacrifice, salvation is available to all mankind. There is nothing man can do on his own to obtain salvation -- no amount of good works, kindness, charity, etc., is sufficient. To obtain salvation, a person must do all of the following:
- Admit he is a sinner
- Sincerely repent of his sins
- Sincerely intend to try to lead a new life without sin
Belief in a Supreme Being is not enough; God will only save those who accept Him. "Believing in Jesus" means believing that Jesus is God, not just a messenger from God such as a prophet or apostle. We are in the midst of a spiritual war but the outcome of that war is already determined. Jesus conquered death and sin for all eternity by His sacrifice on the Cross. He proved it by coming back from the dead.
Each side disagrees with the other on many fundamental theological doctrines, such as the existence of purgatory and whether the Old and New Testaments are the only divine teachings. Neither side is willing to change its position; hence, there can be no genuine reunification of True Christians and Catholicism.
Also, there is no unity of doctrine among the different True Christian denominations. For instance, Baptists (and other Calvinists) teach "Once saved, always saved." Methodists (and other Wesleyans and Armenians) teach that a person can lose his salvation by committing apostasy, i.e., falling so deep back into sin that he becomes convinced the God of the Bible is not real. Although these two teachings are directly contradictory, each group points to certain verses to support its view.
But the catholic Mass is the ongoing crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus said "it is finished". This ritual is ongoing.
Catholicism teaches that the priests have the power to actually bring Christ into the wafer and wine. When they give the mass, they are giving what they teach is the literal "body and blood", by the power of the priests (as opposed to 'in remembrance').
This is one of the sacraments (works) that they teach are necessary for salvation.