Catholicism.

 

I was raised Catholic. Being from an Italian/Irish lineage, I was given ample opportunity to be submerged into the culture and doctrine of The Roman Catholic Church. The traditions, the expectations, the habits, the components of religious duty, all surrounded me…but was never explained to me. I was about 17 or 18 when I begin thinking about god in some fashion. It would not be until I was twenty-one that I was seized by God with His truth being face to face with His Word, the Bible and what it teaches. I then heard about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I remember sitting in that church building, being invited by my neighbor from the dorm, listening, knowing, and affirming that I deserved Hell, I was a sinner, and that Jesus died. I absorbed all of that during my short years in cognitive interaction with The Roman Catholic Church. However, that day I visited that little Bible church in Bozeman, Montana was the day that the pastor mentioned the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The reality of that, and its significant implications, hit me deeply (to put it mildly), and immediately I was given faith to believe and submit to that Lord of Glory. I remember it well.

However, the years prior to that, I was struggling. In so many ways I was lost-angry, frustrated, hopeless. I remember thinking one particular question over and over again, “If Jesus was such a nice guy, then why did the people kill Him?” I could never get an answer to that nagging question from any Mass I attended, any discussion I heard, or any ritual I observed. There was never any sense in which you could really understand what Jesus did in my time attending the Roman Catholic Church, only that He did it. He died, gave His body, laid to rest in a tomb, held by his mother, conferred religion to mankind…all of which was enshrouded in absolute impregnable mystery. That is not for us to know, only accept. The life, death, and resurrection is not for people to understand only accept. The Jesus of the Catholic Church I attended in Kansas City, MO. and the variety of feasts as well was simply acts of response to our religion. Why? I didn’t know. It was never explained. I am convinced that if I were to ask the average Catholic “Why did Jesus die on a cross? Why was He raised from the dead? Who benefits from His death? What does the Bible say about all of these things?” they would not know either.

Pagan religions have one stick to beat people with-mystery. It is mystery that keeps you attending. It is mystery that keeps you giving. It is mystery that keeps you fearful about ever questioning, or simply understanding, the purposes behind the religion. I am convinced that The Roman Catholic Church is a Pagan religion, primarily for that fact. The leadership of Catholicism does not divulge the purposes for its decrees, nor is it compelled to. They cannot tell you why they do what they do. They cannot tell you where they can find Jesus’ words concerning the Mass, Indulgences, or the Rosary. They cannot demonstrate, exegetically, how Peter was the “Papa” and head of the church. They cannot explain how ex Cathedra can be supported in light of Scripture. Thus, like the life of the church itself, it is all a mystery. And that is the way they like it. Furthermore, this is the foundational component to its “unity.” The reality is that the Catholic church is a shell, a crust. The so-called unity found there, that they say Protestants don’t have because we have so many denominations as if proof of our erroneous doctrines, is only external unity because most Catholics cannot explain Jesus Christ or what He has accomplished. So, in order to keep order, they enshroud the Church with mystery and thereby maintain their idea of unity. It is not unity. It is utter chaos. The Apostle Paul taught that the means of unity is the knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). Those who do not believe, and thus teach against, what the Scriptures teach about Jesus Christ cannot remain in fellowship with God’s people (Romans 16:17-18). When a church says the same things about Christ, the kingdom, and all that Christ taught, it is unified. That demands extensive knowledge of those things, the very thing Rome despises.

I want to address a few typical considerations that I have heard over the years from Catholics concerning the differences between them and us, those who are termed “Protestants.” Martin Luther and his actions drove a wedge between us that needed to be driven. I praise God for his conscience that led him to stand alone that day in the face of the anger and tyranny of the leadership of the Catholic Church. What a man. But, just what were the teachings that made up that wedge? What was it that compelled this scholarly monk to renounce The Roman Catholic Church in such stark terms? I believe it comes down to a few teachings (although, admittedly, volumes could be, and have been, written):

  1. THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF JESUS CHRIST.
  2. THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
  3. THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN.

The Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Rome cannot understand the kingdom of Jesus Christ. If we can know a tree by its fruit, then we can surely see this in Rome. Rome seeks to introduce the kingdom to the world by means of subduing people to the Mother Church. Or, to say it another way, Rome wants everyone to “come home.” That is not the announcement of the kingdom. We, those truly born from above, may have to enter eternity by means of a sword. Jesus said,

Matthew 10:34–36

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35  “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36  and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Jesus never gave the illusion that somehow the world would be subdued by His church. He never indicated that the church is the vehicle by which the world is made peaceful. That was not His goal in coming to this earth. By His own words He came to this earth to divide the earth. Jesus purposefully initialized the animosity that would arise between family members because some would believe in Him and some would not. What is the good news in that? It is this: when division does happen, a person can be in the family of the One who will ultimately rule. Compared to the alternative, which is to be judged by Him, it is good news. To be reconciled to Jesus Christ, the Judge (John 5:25-27) is the announcement that true Christians have and Rome does not. The gospel that Jesus Christ preached is the announcement of the kingdom. Indeed, it is often referred to as “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 16:16). It is the announcement that Jesus Christ has received a kingdom and He is inviting the world into it (see Matthew 22:1-14). That is not to say that everyone will, or can, enter into it. Jesus Himself said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The gospel demands the call to the world to repent from its sins (Matthew 4:17; Acts 17:30-31). The world, which loves darkness (John 3:19), is the recipient of this announcement and is obligated to obey (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8). The heart of the gospel, and the provision for men to enter into Christ’s kingdom is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This provision, and this alone, is what “merits” man’s entrance into the kingdom. Catholic theology teaches that our works also merit our entrance (Council of Trent, Session VI, Justification, Canons 4, 7, 32). They condemned those who teach that the requirement for entrance into the kingdom was met by Jesus Christ alone, without cooperation from manas heretical (Ibid, Canon 12). In doing so, they condemned Christ Himself because Jesus taught, in context, that man cannot even know how to justify himself nor accomplish it, even by the cooperation of Christ (John 3:1-8). If a man could birth himself physically, then sure, he could cooperate with Jesus Christ for good works that produce eternal life and more of it. But, no man ever cooperated in his physical birth, and no man can cooperate in his spiritual one either.

The Authority of the Scriptures.

The written Word of God has the same authority as the spoken Word of God from His throne (which is not in Rome, by the way). That is to say, God has spoken through His prophets and they recorded what was to be recorded into books and letters and those have been preserved and collected into a mini-library called the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews wrote that God spoke in many portions and in many ways to His prophets, and ultimately in His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1). This speaking of the Father is what we are after. His speaking was recorded by “men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The office of prophet is no longer in the church (1 Corinthians 13:8). Thus, for the Pope to speak a new form of doctrine or liturgy, and to ascribe the same level of authority upon it as Scripture is simply not possible. Thus, in the same vein of Deuteronomy 13:1ff. that person who says that they now speak on behalf of God as if God Himself is speaking in him, or recognizing his own words as His, then that person is to be rejected. God has closed the canon. Surely, if there was ongoing revelation through a prophet, of which the Pope would have to be labeled, then we have the right to test all that he writes and says against the Word of God (all 66 books-see 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; cf. Deuteronomy 13:1ff.). However, Catholicism admits that, in a very real sense, the canon is not closed. By that I mean that they believe that they have unbroken succession of traditions from the Apostles down to this very day (Trent, session IV, ‘Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures’). Not only do they accept the Apocrypha, which has been proven non-canonical internally, but they list them as authoritative and binding. So, the authority of Scripture, which is unique to the Scriptures alone, is now shared with spoken tradition and the Apocrypha (as well as the early church fathers, as they call them). Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote,

2 Timothy 3:16–17

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

17  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

What is validated as Scripture, not by council but by the Scriptures themselves, is Scripture. Human tradition and extra-canonical writings cannot, and should never be, placed upon the same level as the written Word of God.

The Depravity of Man

Finally, Rome does not believe in the teaching of Scripture regarding the depravity of man. If they did, they would not anathematize those who teach the mercy of God (Justification, Canons 4, 9, 12). Rome says,

It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight (Ibid, Chapter 5, emphasis mine).

Although the Council of Trent affirms what seems to be a sound understanding of human depravity, by definition of other doctrines, namely sanctification, they deny it. That is, as Paul said, the righteousness that makes one holy is only by faith in Jesus Christ, worked out in us by God who generates obedience in us by His power alone, not with our cooperation (Philippians 3:7-11; 2:12-13; See Romans 1:5 & 16:26). God certainly works in us for righteousness, not to aid our flesh, but to live out the regeneration which comes by His Holy Spirit through His Word by faith (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The depravity of man is not that his innocence is lost by Adam. It is that he hates God, is His enemy and despises righteousness with his whole heart (John 3:19-20; cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 8:6-8). This is why millions run to the Catholic churches, as well as a multitude of other cults, because of their refusal to submit to the righteousness of God which is by faith (Romans 10:1-4). They build their own set of righteousness, all by the imitation of the righteousness of God, which is in the Scripture, and they do what they think Scripture says (John 5:39-40), but they do it by means of their own depravity. The righteousness to which they attain is not from heaven, but earth, and is therefore condemning, not meritorious.

The most righteous act imaginable is to believe God. The Bible teaches that this act is not possible, either by man, nor in a mixture of his will and God’s (John 1:12-13), nor in any other fashion. The faith that must be in man as proof of eternal life (John 3:15) must be given to man, as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), and is not earned. If it were earned, the death of Jesus Christ would not have been necessary. Besides, the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, which has come to the Gentiles, is only by faith, and not by the fruit of faith which is righteous behavior (Galatians 3; esp. vv. 8-9). Catholic doctrine demands that the sinner must cooperate with God in the regeneration that is required to enter the Kingdom of Christ. However, if that were the case, then the Apostle Paul was wrong when he taught that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor the perishable the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). That is why the Lord taught that a man must die in order to follow Him (Matthew 10:37-39) and then must be born from above, from God (John 3:3-8; cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27). What could possibly make a Catholic think that he could assist God in this endeavor? God does not remodel a sinner-the sinner must die and be reborn. He must be a “new creation” in order to be acceptable to God and enter God’s kingdom (see Matthew 5:48).

For any person who believes Catholic doctrine, and has believed in the teaching of the Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, of centuries past or today, read and re-read what I have written. I am not asking you to become a Protestant. I, as a pastor of Christ’s flock, am instructing you to submit to Jesus Christ by means of repentance from erroneous doctrine and dead works and believing in what He actually did teach-you must be born from God, not man, in order to enter His kingdom.