Before I start to present even one bit of information about Roman Catholicism, I do want to state very clearly, that I have no malicious dislike or hatred against anyone who is Roman Catholic. I simply don’t. The issue that I disagree with or do take exception to, are some of the doctrines and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
And while I am at it, I had better give you a heads up with regard to the amount of information presented on this page, that deals with the designated authorities, doctrines and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It is quite lengthy, even though I have made considerable effort to keep it relatively short, where ever possible. It will take a good amount of time to go through what I present. However, if you do want to gain a basic understanding of what we are actually dealing with, and why it is important to comprehend the ramifications of merging with our Roman Catholic friends, in Roman Catholic sponsored or guided worship and Roman Catholic sponsored or guided Christian fellowship, this page and the information presented herein, I pray, should be of value and assistance to you.
One of the most difficult mindsets to steadfastly maintain, is to separate discussing a disagreement or a differing perspective with someone, and not transferring one’s dislike or disagreement with the issue being discussed, to the individual to whom you are discussing it with. We are told to love our neighbour as ourselves, and that involves us exercising consideration (respect), love and compassion, towards all whom we interact with, much like the manner in which, we would have those with whom we interact with, show consideration (respect), love and compassion, towards us. We don’t see this too often these days within the visible Christian Church (all major branches), and there are numerous reasons for that. Among which, far too often, we who call ourselves “Christians”, take the lead and place Jesus and His teachings behind us, in our dealings with others. The truth that we hold to be true, does not negate our responsibility to do so with consideration (respect), love and compassion, irrespective of whether others may agree with us, or we with them.
The manner in which Jesus dealt with the Samaritans, is an important example that Jesus gave us, in how to interact with those that oppose Biblical truth, and I wrote an article on Jesus’ example recently, which I would sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read. You may view it here. In addition, there are many Scriptures that give us guidance on how we are to be patient and deal with one another, and I wrote an article on that also, which can be viewed here. Both of these posts are vitally important, as they relate to the topic of this page, and the tone in which disagreement should be presented. This Biblical guidance should always be at the forefront of our mindset, in our dealing with others, especially with those that we may have disagreements with.
The issue being discussed on this particular page of my blog deals specifically with the designated authorities, doctrines and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, that I and many others, both now and also throughout our Christian history, had and currently have disagreements with.
Voicing historical and current Protestant disagreement about doctrines or teachings, of the Roman Catholic Church, that were/are deemed as not supported in God’s Holy Word, these days, is not well received by most. Unfortunately, that includes both Roman Catholics, and many Protestants. Many now advocate that we should focus on our agreements and not dwell on that which divides us. We are encouraged to “build bridges, not walls” and while that sounds like an admirable mindset to pursue, the practical ramifications of following this particular mindset, can and does, in many instances, require us to either disregard, not draw attention to, or compromise our Biblical beliefs on the disagreements we have, as Protestants, with regard to, the designated authorities, doctrines and teachings, of the Roman Catholic Church. In far too many cases, many Protestants are not even aware of the different doctrines and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and the required acknowledgement of, and subjection to, the Roman Catholic authorities, that Protestants historically and even now, have and do oppose.
Clear directives within God’s Holy Word, to exercise Biblical discernment, defend the faith once given , teach sound doctrine and to rebuke those who teach or would have us follow “another Gospel“, that is contrary to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as laid out in God’s Holy Scriptures, can become either forgotten, or disregarded directives for many, because doing so might cause division or dissension, and the objective of most ecumenicism taking place today, is to seek unity, albeit, as I am about to propose, at the expense of compromising Biblical truth.
The differences in doctrines, teachings and related delegated authority, between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are NOT minor and one of the purposes of this page is to draw attention to the significance of these disagreements.
Unity in God’s truth, differs from unity in untruth, and they are not one and the same. One is achieved without compromising God’s truth, as revealed and in accordance with God’s Holy Word, and the other, of necessity, because we are dealing with untruths, requires compromise.
I have heard it said that finding or identifying fault or error, with others, is a lazy man’s path. In other words, it doesn’t take much effort to find fault or error, and literally anyone can do it. The inference is that seeking unity is more desirable, more difficult and a more productive path. I would submit that seeking unity is indeed a goal that we should always aim for, but not at the expense of compromising God’s truth.
I would also note that there is a distinct difference between accepting teachings which are viewed by most as open to differing perspectives, such as old or new age creationism or predestination/free will, where differences of perspective/interpretation can and are normally accepted, as non-critical issues, and subsequently open to different schools of thought, in the spirit of Christian unity, but accepting other doctrines and teachings which do appear to violate Biblical truth on a significant doctrine, such as the sole means whereby salvation is obtained, or what authority and process one must acknowledge and adhere to, is NOT of non-importance, or a non-critical issue, and of necessity, if found to be in contradiction to God’s Holy Word, it should be identified and accordingly challenged.
Ignoring these significant differing doctrines or teachings, where the clear teaching of God’s Word is not deemed to agree with the teachings or doctrines of another branch of Christianity, is not advocated in God’s Holy Word. If we, in truth, are all called on to exercise discernment, defend the faith once given, advocate sound doctrine and rebuke those who teach untruth, these Biblical directives require our action, not our avoidance.
Unity that is based on Biblical truth is desirable and advocated, unity achieved through passive disregard or indifference to Biblical untruth is not. There is a distinct difference.
While there will be a large amount of documentation and associated Scripture presented on this page, that will identify and address some of these significant differences between Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism, in doctrine, teachings and authority, it is not possible to discuss in detail, all the pros and cons that each facet of this topic, has available to take into consideration. The reality of this particular topic is that the issues are complex, multi-layered and inter-connected, and there is no shortage of documentation on the opposing perspectives.
This dedicated blog page serves only as an INTRODUCTION to some of the doctrines and teachings of Roman Catholicism, and some of the compromises Protestants will be required or expected to eventually accept, if these significant differences in authority, doctrines and teachings are ignored, in our quest for unity.
I have personally seen it stated by both Roman Catholics and even some Protestants, that the Gospel presented according to Roman Catholicism, as opposed to the Gospel presented according to the New Testament, is in actuality, one and the same Gospel, and to infer otherwise is nick-picking. And while, on the surface, there might appear to be some relevance to this statement, due to our shared common beliefs, the differences between the two presented Gospels are indeed very different and significantly contrary to one another. In short, the Gospel according to Rome and the Gospel according to the New Testament are not the same Gospel. For those who might want to examine this claim more closely, I would highly recommend the book entitled “The Gospel According to Rome” authored by James G. McCarthy.
With regard to documentation and Scriptures provided, I shall be briefly touching on some of the points of disagreement with limited documentation in support of the opposing case. Plus, in keeping with the standards of “Fair Use Copyright Law“, I will be making “selected” quotes or excerpts from an assortment of sources, which I shall identify as “Source Links“, at the bottom of this page. And it also should be noted that my quoting or excerpting a source does not, in and of itself, infer that I am in agreement with all of the documentation or opinions expressed on these identified source links. Additionally, I shall provide a list of “Recommended Resource Links” at the bottom of this page, for those who would like to access additional documentation.
NOTE: Due to the considerable amount of information presented on this particular page (over 25,000 words), I am creating numbered Sections, each section having a specific title, so as to assist you, in coming back to a particular part of this lengthy document, should you need to do so. The following Sections (identified in RED throughout the document) are as follows:
Brief General Historical Overview
Some Agreements Between Catholics and Evangelicals
Some Disagreements Between Catholics and Evangelicals
Summary of Protestant Evangelical Beliefs
Council of Trent
Pope Pius’s Creed
How Vatican II Looked Upon Council of Trent
The New Catholic Catechism
The Dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church
The Question Remains, Has the Catholic Church Changed?
Are Roman Catholics Christian?
BRIEF GENERAL HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
The Book of Acts records for us the birth of the New Testament Church, and some of the history of the first 30 years of Christianity. In spite of great persecution, by the end of the first century A.D., Christian churches had been established in numerous cities throughout the Roman Empire. In the first century, the churches followed the pattern of government laid down in the New Testament. The churches were independent, autonomous, local churches that met in homes and were led by a plurality of elders, also called bishops. There was no Pope, Cardinals, or priests in the Catholic sense. All believers were considered priests (1 Peter 2:5). The churches were generally simple gatherings of disciples who met to give attention to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer (Acts 2:42). Over the course of the next two to six hundred years, that changed.
Primarily because of its location in the capital of the Roman Empire, the church in Rome slowly began gaining some prominence. When the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized the Christian faith and ended the persecution of Christians with the Edict of Milan in 313, the church in Rome gained even further prominence. As the church in Rome allied itself with the Roman government, it continued to grow in size, authority, and influence. As early as the third century the leaders of the church in Rome were claiming for themselves supremacy over other churches throughout the Empire when it came to matters of doctrine. By the sixth century, the church in Rome was exercising jurisdiction over the churches.
In 590 AD, Gregory the First, the bishop of Rome, expanded the authority of the Church to include military and civil power. Though Gregory did not claim to be a theologian, some of his beliefs became essentials in Catholic theology. He believed in purgatory and taught that masses celebrated on behalf of the dead could relieve their pains there. After Gregory, these ideas would become widely accepted. A Christianity that looked to Rome for leadership, was definitely beginning to take shape.
Peter as the first Pope
There is no compelling evidence to support the widely held Catholic belief that Peter was the first bishop or “Pope” of the church in Rome. This commonly held belief is fraught with problems. Why do Evangelical Christians think that? Well, here are a couple of reasons.
In the first century AD the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Rome. It’s now called the Book of Romans. At the close of his letter (Romans 16:3-16), Paul greets more than two dozen people by name, but not Peter. That would be a strange omission if Peter was living in Rome, and especially if he was the overseer of the church there.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome from AD 60 to 62, he wrote four letters and he included in those letters the people who came to him. But again, no mention of Peter. In his last letter, 2 Timothy, written around AD 64, Paul gives a greeting to several people in Rome—but again, not Peter. This shouldn’t surprise us that Peter wasn’t the bishop of the church in Rome. Peter was never called to minister to the Gentiles. In Galatians 2:7, Paul said, “I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised [i.e., Gentiles], just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised [to Jews].” Peter was never called to pastor a Gentile congregation.
Another objection to the belief that Peter was the first Pope (or bishop) of the church in Rome comes from the early church historian Eusebius. Eusebius lived from about AD 260 to 340. He was a Christian pastor in Caesarea and a respected church historian who authored a record on early church history. It’s called Ecclesiastical History. He gives us fascinating and detailed information about the early church, including details about who pastored where and when. And he never mentions Peter as the bishop of Rome. He tells us that the first bishop of Rome was a man named Linus. Paul mentions Linus in 2 Timothy 4:21. Eusebius does give us some insight about Peter’s ministry, and even lets us know that Peter did eventually make it to Rome, but notice what Eusebius specifically writes:
Peter appears to have preached through Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews [that substantiates what Paul wrote in Gal. 2:7 about Peter’s ministry being to Jews] who were scattered abroad; he finally came to Rome and was crucified there with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way…After the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, Linus was the first who received the episcopate at Rome. –Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, p 120 3:1-2
And even, for the sake of argument, if it could be shown that Peter was the first bishop in Rome, it should be noted that it doesn’t mean he had ultimate ruling authority as a “Pope” over all the other churches, or that he or his successors were infallible, or that Peter would support the unbiblical teachings that came forth out of the church in Rome, in the centuries that followed.
For a more in-depth overview of the common arguments put forward by the Roman Catholic Church as to Peter being the first Pope, and the Protestant response, click here.
The church at Rome’s claim to supremacy and legal jurisdiction was vigorously resisted by other church leaders and could never be enforced in the eastern portion of the Empire. This finally led to a major split in the church in 1054, when the Eastern churches broke away from the church in Rome. The church in the East went on to be known as the Eastern Orthodox Church (also known as the Greek Orthodox Church). The Eastern Orthodox church maintains to this day that Rome strayed into heresy with the development of the papacy (the office of the pope) and its claims to absolute primacy (supremacy) over other churches.
Another major split came in the sixteenth century. In Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, a Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther (1483–1546) nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the local Catholic Church, protesting numerous teachings of the Catholic Church. That is the story that most of us are familiar with, but there is a very interesting overview of this historical event, that you can also view here, and I would encourage you to do so. Martin Luther’s disagreements with the Catholic Church sparked a fire of protest against the Catholic Church, by many others also, that eventually spread throughout Europe. That movement of course, became known as “The Reformation.” Far more than protesting trivial, debatable matters, the protest against the Catholic Church revolved primarily around:
• the power of the Pope
• the abuse involved in the sale of indulgences
• the teaching that souls are in Purgatory
• the gospel message itself
The Greek word for the word “gospel” is evangelion and, as you know, means “good news.” Martin Luther dubbed his breakaway movement the “evangelical church.” And the division that took place over 500 years ago between Catholics and Evangelicals exists to this day. (Evangelicals would include: Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, just about all Christians outside of the Catholic Church.)
Despite the Reformation and the large number of people who left the Catholic Church, the visible Christian Church (encompassing all branches) continued to grow.
The word “Catholic” comes from the Greek word “katholikos” meaning: universal. The Catholic Church began referring to itself as the Catholic Church because for so long it believed that it was the one and only true church universally. For centuries it was taught that there was no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Innocent III said in A.D. 1208:
“With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of the heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside which we believe that no one is saved.“
Pope Pius IX said in A.D. 1854:
“It must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no on can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood.“
For an expanded explanation of this doctrine from the Roman Catholic perspective, that salvation is only available through the Roman Catholic Church, please click on this link.
The Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the most important movement of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church’s first significant reply to the growing Protestants Reformation. The primary purpose of the council was to condemn and refute the beliefs of the Protestants, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, and also to make the set of beliefs in Catholicism even clearer. Approximately forty clergymen, mainly Catholic bishops, were in attendance during the twenty-five times over the next eighteen years that the Council convened.
Protestants endorse justification by faith alone (sola fide) apart from anything (including good works), a position the Catholic Church condemned as heresy. During the the sixth session, the Council issued a decree saying that, “If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.”
The Protestant Reformers rejected the Apocrypha as part of the biblical canon. (The term Apocrypha (Gr., hidden) is a collection of ancient Jewish writings and is the title given to these books, which were written between 300 and 30 B.C., in the era between the Old and New Testaments.) During the the fourth session, the Council issued a decree damning anyone who rejected these books:
. . . if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.
Many doctrines unique to Catholicism, such as the teachings of purgatory, prayers for the dead, and salvation by works, are found in these specific books.
During the Protestant Reformation, the doctrine of transubstantiation was heavily criticized as an Aristotelian “pseudophilosophy.” The 13th session reaffirmed and defined transubstantiation as “that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation.”
Protestants claimed that the only source and norm for the Christian faith was Holy Scripture (the canonical Bible without the Apocrypha). The doctrine of Sola Scriptura was rejected at Trent. The Council affirmed two sources of special revelation: Holy Scripture (e.g., all the books included in the Latin Vulgate version) and traditions of the church (including the “unwritten traditions”).
In Catholic theology, an indulgence is a remission of temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven. Under Catholic teaching, every sin must be purified either here on earth or after death in a state called purgatory. The selling of indulgences was not part of official Catholic teaching, though in Martin Luther’s era, the practice had become common. (Luther was appalled by the sermon of an indulgence vendor named John Tetzel who said, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”) The Council called for the reform of the practice, yet damned those who “say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them.”
In Catholic theology, purgatory is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who denied yet were not free from “venial” sins (a lesser sin that does not result in a complete separation from God and eternal damnation in hell). The council affirmed the doctrine of purgatory and damned anyone who claimed “that after the grace of justification has been received the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out for any repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be paid.”
In the 24th session, the council issued decrees on marriage which affirmed the excellence of celibacy, condemned concubinage, and made the validity of marriage dependent upon the wedding taking place before a priest and two witnesses. In the case of a divorce, the right of the innocent party to marry again was denied so long as the other party was alive, even if the other party had committed adultery.
At the request of Pope Gregory XIII, the Council approved a plan to correct the errors to the Julian calendar that would allow for a more consistent and accurate scheduling of the feast of Easter. The reform included reducing the number of leap years in four centuries from 100 to 97. Although Protestant countries in Europe initially refused to adopt the “Gregorian calendar” (also known as the Western or Christian calendar), it eventually became the most widely accepted and used civil calendar in the world.
Note: The declarations and anathemas of the Council of Trent HAVE NEVER BEEN REVOKED. The decrees of the Council of Trent are confirmed by both the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the official “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (1992). The documents of the Second Vatican Council cite the Council of Trent as an authority for doctrinal statements, both in the text and in the notes. The “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” states that the Second Vatican Council “proposes again the decrees of” three previous councils, one of which is the Council of Trent. [“Lumen Gentium” (“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”), paragraph 51. In Austin Flannery (Editor), “Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents,” Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 412.]
The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” was written for the purpose of summarizing the essential and basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and the English translation was released in 1994. It has numbered paragraphs, and has been published in many languages. The Council of Trent is mentioned in seventy-five paragraphs of the “Catechism”. It is always mentioned in a positive, authoritative way. Some paragraphs mention it two or three times. Paragraph 9 of the “Catechism” says that the Council of Trent was the origin of Catholic Catechisms. The other 74 paragraphs in the “Catechism” which mention it cite the Council of Trent as an authoritative source which supports their doctrinal statements.
In 1965 at an event known as “Vatican II”, a change took place. Pope Paul VI delivered a message that elevated protestant evangelical believers from being lost to being “separated brethren.” Unfortunately, it was also suggested that even non-Christians, in faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, might also be saved (see “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”). In addition, see “Lumen Gentium” from Vatican II concerning the “Dogmatic Constitution On The Church here. When one considers the exclusivity of Holy Scripture, pertaining to being saved only through the acknowledgement of who Jesus is and trusting in what He and He alone, has accomplished, as noted in John 3:16-18, John 14:6, and Acts 4:12, the inclusion of other religions, without the required acknowledgment of who Jesus is and trusting in what Jesus has done, irrespective of Pontifical Declarations, would of necessity, have to be challenged.
SOME AGREEMENTS BETWEEN CATHOLICS AND EVANGELICALS
There are a number of doctrines that Evangelical, Bible believing Christians, and Catholics agree upon. For instance, both Evangelicals (Protestants) and Catholics believe…
• The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe
• There is one God who exists eternally in three distinct, but co-equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
• Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, rose bodily from the grave, ascended into Heaven, and is returning in glory to judge mankind
• There is a future resurrection of the bodies of both the saved and the unsaved
• The Old and New Testaments are the inspired and infallible Word of God
• We agree on the sanctity of life and many of the moral issues of our day
We rejoice that we have so much in common with our Catholic friends. But in addition to our agreements, there are…
SOME DISAGREEMENTS BETWEEN CATHOLICS AND EVANGELICALS
DISAGREEMENT NO. 1 / The Gospel
According to the Catholic Church, salvation is not by grace alone through faith in Christ alone (as evangelicals believe). According to the Catholic Church, being justified (declared righteous) before God is a process that begins at the moment of baptism and then progresses and is maintained by a person’s participation in the Catholic Church’s “Seven Sacraments.”
The major difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic teaching was not whether God’s grace was necessary for salvation, but how God’s grace was received for salvation. The Catholic teaching was that the seven sacraments of the church are the actual means of grace, and they confer grace of themselves. The reformers not only denied five of the sacraments but argued that the sacraments couldn’t confer any benefit without the recipient having faith in Christ. (They rejected confirmation, penance, extreme unction, holy orders and marriage, leaving only baptism and the Lord’s supper.) They also argued that God would also give his grace through means other than the sacraments, such as the preaching of the Gospel.
The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church are:
B. Penance (According to the Catholic Church, penance must involve: 1. Contrition over sin. 2. Confession to a priest. 3. Following the instructions of the priest, typically involving praying ten “Our Fathers” or ten “Hail Mary’s”)
C. Participation in the Eucharist, also known as Mass. (Mass involves the re-sacrificing or re-presenting of the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father, in order to appease God’s wrath and cover people’s sins)
D. Confirmation (This occurs when a bishop lays his hand on the head of the Catholic. Confirmation is believed to impart the Holy Spirit to the recipient)
E. Matrimony (Marriage)
F. Holy Orders (Ordination to the office of a bishop, priest or deacon)
G. Anointing of the sick (Commending a person to the Lord so that He can relieve him and save him. Usually done near death)
Roman Catholic theology makes people dependent upon the sacraments for salvation and thereby dependent upon the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church teaches that as a person participates in these sacraments, grace for salvation is dispensed piece by piece from birth to death. The official Catechism of the Catholic Church, plainly states: “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.” (1129 p. 294)
In response to this, Evangelicals Christians believe that to make participation in any of these things as a requirement for salvation is to distort the Biblical gospel. Why?
The Bible, over and over, teaches that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, and not the result of our efforts, baptism, confession to a priest, or any other work of man (Ephesians 2:8-9). Listen carefully to the following verses which were all originally written to the believers in the city of Rome. Paul wrote:
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified [i.e., declared righteous in God’s sight—how?] by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”
“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness”
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
And of course Paul was not the only one who made this clear. Speaking to Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus Himself said there was only one condition for salvation and that was belief:
“…Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John the Baptist taught that there was only one condition for eternal life. In John 3 he said,
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
The apostle John taught that there was only one condition for eternal life. In 1 John 5 he said,
1 John 5:13
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…”
These verses and many others, clearly and I think forcefully, refute the Vatican’s teaching that salvation is obtained piece by piece through our ongoing participation in their Seven Sacraments.
But, at the Council of Trent in 1546 the Catholic Church stated something that stands to this day. Carefully consider this:
“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 [defined by Catholics as being excommunicated].”
This is the official teaching of the Catholic Church to this very day.
And I would be remiss if I did not include Romans 3:21-25 ESV
Romans 3:21-25 ESV
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
This would be a good place to introduce the five Solas that came forth out of the Reformation, which includes Sola Gratia (Grace alone), Sola Fide (Faith alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (To the glory of God alone). To read this overview, please click here.
Note that the Catholic Church’s position would appear to contradict the Scriptures. Is this considered a serious issue with regard to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The reformers clearly ended up concluding that it was.
And does this distortion change the Biblical Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ? Many, including myself, would have to say that it definitely does, because the Roman Catholic Church has placed itself as the dispenser of grace, between God and man. Keep this observation in mind, because we will definitely run into the positioning of the Roman Catholic Church as the express means whereby, the grace of God, is dispensed to the believers, explicitly through the Catholic Church, again and again.
I have, in the past, received criticism for supposedly turning away from spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ (as presented through the Roman Catholic Church), and being more concerned with what KIND of Good News is communicated. The inference being that the Good News is the Good News and of the major importance. But I would submit that when the Good News has been changed from what God’s Word clearly says it is, (By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for God’s glory alone) to a message of Good News that places a condition of obedience to the dispersion of God’s grace, through the dispensing of the 7 sacraments through the Roman Catholic Church, as a requirement for salvation, the message of the Good News has been changed. And yes, the KIND of Good News that is communicated is of major importance!
This changing of the Good News is NOT supported within the Holy Scriptures. And what does the Apostle Paul tell us about making changes that are contrary to the Gospel that they preached?
“But even though we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
The Greek word there for accursed is anathema. The word refers to that which is doomed to eternal destruction. That’s a serious warning to anyone who tampers with the gospel revealed in the Bible.
A second area that Evangelicals and the Catholic Church disagree has to do with…
DISAGREEMENT NO. 2 / Purgatory
The Catholic Church teaches that redeemed people who have trusted in Jesus Christ, will not go directly to Heaven when they die but to Purgatory to suffer through a time of purging that will prepare them to enter Heaven.
The Catholic Church says that time of suffering in Purgatory cleanses an individual of imperfections, sins, and faults. Catholics differ in their opinions as to the nature of the suffering in Purgatory. Some believe that suffering will include the physical pain of burning in fire.
Regarding Purgatory, the official teaching of the Catholic Church says:
If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged, either in this world or in Purgatory, before the gates of Heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. [Council of Trent]
In other words, the Church is saying: ‘If a person thinks someone can just go straight to Heaven after having their sins forgiven, without having to suffer for those sins first, let him be anathema!’ Well, unfortunately or fortunately, as the case may be, that’s exactly what most Protestant Evangelical Christians believe!
Evangelicals Protestants believe that the doctrine of Purgatory is a man-made tradition that denies the sufficiency of what Christ did on the cross for our sins. The Bible teaches that upon death, a born again Christian is immediately ushered into the presence of God in Heaven.
Where? Well, for one example, Luke 23:43.
If ever there was a person who deserved to go to “Purgatory”––if there was such a place––it would have been the thief on the cross next to Jesus (Luke 23). He was a brand new believer. He didn’t get baptized. He never attended Mass or confirmation classes (there weren’t any). He had no time to do any good works or pay people back for his crimes. But where did he go when he died? Jesus said to him…
“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Not Purgatory. Paradise.
Friend, if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, you too will immediately go into the presence of God in “Paradise” (Revelation 2:7) when you die. The apostle Paul knew this and that’s why he was able to say…
2 Corinthians 5:8
“We are of good courage, I say, and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
That is what happens when a follower of Jesus dies. He goes “home” to be “with the Lord.”
To say that a Christian must suffer in the future for the same sins Jesus died for is an insult to Christ’s sacrifice.
The Word of God says in Romans 8:1-6 NASB, as stated by the Apostle Paul to the church at Rome: “Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are in accord with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,”
That would be NO CONDEMNATION, because we have been SET FREE from the law of sin and death.
The Bible says in 1 John…
1 John 1:7
“…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Not most of it. All of it! What a beautiful truth that is! Purgatory is an unbiblical man-made doctrine and a second area that Protestant Evangelicals disagree with the Catholic Church.
For a more detailed overview of the arguments for and against purgatory, click on these two links here and here. For a wider scope overview click here.
A third area that Evangelicals and the Catholic Church disagree has to do with…
DISAGREEMENT NO.3 / Praying for the dead and to the saints
First, let’s consider praying for the dead. The Catholic Church teaches that Christians who are alive on Earth can and should come to the assistance of souls in Purgatory by intercessory prayers that can ease their suffering and speed up their release and send them on their way to Heaven.
Evangelical Protestants reject all of this on the basis that there is no Scriptural support whatsoever for these kinds of prayers; nor is there even a single example anywhere in the Bible of anyone praying this way. And for good reason:
There is no Purgatory where Christians are suffering.
So praying for the dead is unbiblical. How about praying to saints (believers who have preceded us into Heaven)?
The Catholic Catechism says:
The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives…They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them [the saints] to intercede for us and for the whole world. (p. 645, #2683, p. 249, #956)
The Catholic Church encourages its followers to pray to saints (humans who have preceded us into Heaven) and even gives us sample prayers to pray like this one wherein they encourage us to pray to Mary…
O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the gifts which God grants to us miserable sinners; and for this end He has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, in order that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee: come to my aid, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation, and to thee I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my judge, because by one prayer from thee He will be appeased. But one thing I fear: that in the hour of temptation I may through negligence fail to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, therefore, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace ever to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help. (This prayer is available on numerous Catholic websites, including this one.)
Catholics are encouraged to pray prayers like this—not to God, but to Mary. The Catholic Church’s instruction to pray to Mary and other saints is contradicted by the Bible. The Bible says in…
“Let your requests be made known to God.”
Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father who art in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9).
The apostle Paul writes, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
There are prayers recorded in the Bible from Genesis all the way to the Book of Revelation, and none of them are addressed to a saint, an angel or anyone other than God.
Numerous passages in the Old Testament condemn all attempts to communicate with the dead. Those verses include Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Leviticus 20:6, 27; 1 Samuel 28:5-18; Isaiah 8:19-20.
For a more in-depth overview of the reformers views on praying to the dead and to the saints, click on this link here. For a broader scope overview click here.
A fourth area that Evangelicals and the Catholic Church disagree has to do with…
DISAGREEMENT NO. 4/ Mary
The Catholic Church teaches that Mary…
• was immaculately conceived (that is to say, “preserved free from all stain of original sin” –Pope Pius IX, 1854)
• lived a sinless life
• remained a virgin after the birth of Christ
• was carried bodily up into Heaven at the end of her life
• plays a part in our salvation as a co-redeemer with Christ
Evangelical Christians reject all of these teachings. We believe Mary was a great example for believers and is to be honoured above all women for her faith and obedience to follow God’s will for her. But there are numerous Scriptures that contradict the traditions the Catholic Church has attached to her. For example, regarding the Catholic teaching on Mary’s supposed sinlessness, the Bible clearly contradicts this in Scriptures like Luke 1:46 where Mary herself states:
“My spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
Mary’s reference here to God as her “Savior” implies that she too was a sinner. You don’t need a “Savior” if you are not a sinner. Her statement here is in perfect harmony with Romans 3:23, where it states:
“All have sinned…”
“…For in Your sight no man living is righteous.”
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way;”
We have all broken a variety of God’s commandments.
There is also the passage in Luke 2:22-24, where Mary goes to Jerusalem “to offer a sacrifice…a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” for her sinful condition (fulfilling the requirement put forth in Leviticus 12). A sacrifice would not have been necessary if she had been sinless.
One of the most profound statements that Jesus gave us is found in Matthew 12:46-49 NASB and it reads as follows: “While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus replied to the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” And extending His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold: My mother and My brothers!”
Jesus used human associations that we could comprehend, our mother and brothers are terms we can all understand. These are people who are special and that we normally hold dear to our hearts. And Jesus used His own mother and brothers to serve as an example of who He holds dear to His heart, and accordingly who God the Father holds dear to His heart. And then Jesus indicated towards His disciples, who were in the process of coming to know who He was and what He and He alone would do. His disciples were of those “whosoever” who believed and trusted in Him (John 3:16). It is noteworthy that Jesus included His own mother and brothers as of equal association of internal value or worth, to His disciples, not venerated above them, but equal or similar to. The key connection of course, is that His disciples acknowledged Him for who He was and trusted solely in Him. Anyone who is swayed by Mariology would do well to consider this.
Furthermore, Jesus Himself issued a mild rebuke to a woman who cried out to Him, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you” (Luke 11:27), replying to her, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” By doing so, He curtailed any tendency to elevate Mary as an object of worship. He could certainly have said, “Yes, blessed be the Queen of Heaven!” But He did not. He was affirming the same truth that the Bible affirms—there is no queen of heaven, and the only biblical references to the “queen of heaven” refer to the goddess of an idolatrous, false religion.
And if one takes into consideration that Mary is deemed to have been born without sin and is associated with the woman in Revelation 12, which Roman Catholics do, they have a problem. If you notice the text in Revelation 12:1-2 it says that she was “with child and she cried out being in labor and in pain.” Labour and pain during child birth were some of the repercussions of a fallen world and fallen people (as in sinful), assigned to all of mankind after the fall as recorded in Genesis 3:16. This is a problem because according to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Mary did not inherit Original Sin.
The attributes assigned to Mary in Roman Catholicism are truly astounding. Consider the following:
Mary is the Queen over all things: “Queen over all things” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 966).
Entrust our cares to Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God . . . we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’ [Lk 1:38] By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: ‘Thy will be done,’ (CCC 2677).
Mary is Advocate, Helper, Mediatrix. “ . . . the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.’” (CCC 969).
Mary Delivers our souls from death: By Mary’s prayers, she delivers souls from death (CCC par. 966).
Mary brings us the gifts of Eternal Salvation: Mary, ” . . . by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . (CCC par. 969).
Mary is worshipped: ” . . . when she [Mary] is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her Son . . . ” (Vatican Council II, p. 420).
Mary sits at the right hand of Christ: ” . . . she is the supreme Minister of the distribution of graces. Jesus “sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Hebrews i. b.). Mary sitteth at the right hand of her Son . . . ” (Pope Pius X, 1835-1914, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, 14).
For a broad overview regarding the historical and doctrinal issues associated with Mariology, click on this link. For an overview of the Protestant objections to doctrines that have been assigned to Mary, by the Roman Catholic Church, click here. To view current invocations assigned to Mary, click here. For an introduction to the Development of Mariology in the Early Church, click here.
A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God? by Leonardo De Chirico
A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary offers a biblical account of Mary’s character, contrasting this with the Roman Catholic traditions which have developed throughout history, distorting her nature from an obedient servant and worshipper of God to a worshipped saint herself. De Chirico writes with the authority of thorough research as well as personal experience of the traditions surrounding Mary which have become so integral to Roman Catholic worship.
A fifth area that Evangelicals and the Catholic Church disagree has to do with…
DISAGREEMENT NO. 5/ The Bible
Evangelicals believe the Bible is made up of 66 divinely inspired documents that God determined would make up the canon of Scripture. In 1546 at an event known as the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church added 11 Jewish writings to the Bible known as the “Apocrypha.”
What is the Apocrypha?
The Apocrypha is a collection of fourteen Jewish writings that were written down between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100. Eleven of those fourteen books (see bullet point list below) were accepted by the Catholic Church as God-inspired Scriptures and were placed in the Catholic Bible. If you open a Catholic Bible today you will see the following books in there:
• The Wisdom of Solomon (Book of Wisdom)
• Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)
• 1 Maccabees
• 2 Maccabees
• Baruch (including the Letter of Jeremiah)
• Additions to Esther (10:4-16:24)
• Prayer of Azariah (Daniel 3:24-90)
• Susanna (Daniel 13)
• Bel and the Dragon (Daniel 14)
Not only has the Catholic Church added these books to the Bible, it states:
“If anyone, however, should not accept the said books as sacred and canonical [ i.e. part of the Bible], entire with all their parts…and if both knowingly and deliberately he should condemn the aforesaid tradition let him be anathema.” (Cited in Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, by Geisler and MacKenzie, p. 157.)
Well, that’s precisely what Evangelical Protestants do say. Why do we reject the Apocrypha as authoritative or divinely inspired? Why did the early Christians reject these writings?
1. Neither Jesus nor the New Testament writers ever quoted from the Apocrypha as Scripture.
Though Jesus and the apostles cite the Old Testament nearly 300 times in the pages of the New Testament, they never quote any of the apocryphal books accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.
In Jude 1:9, 14-15 there are some allusions to some extrabiblical writings, such as the Book of Enoch (v.14-15) and the Bodily Assumption of Moses. But this doesn’t lend any support to the Catholic position because even they reject those books as non-canonical. And none of these are cited as Scripture or as divinely authoritative. The New Testament simply refers to a truth contained in those books which otherwise may (and do) have many errors. These writings are rejected by Roman Catholics as well as Protestants. Remember that even the apostle Paul quotes pagan poets in Acts 17:28. However, it should be noted that when Paul cited their poets, whom they respected, he brilliantly turned it on the idolatry, that they then practiced. In essence, Paul did not take their truth and showcase it as authentic truth but rather showed it for what it was, their incorrect perception of truth. And Paul also identified what they worshipped in ignorance and pointed that to God’s truth. Paul used pagan sources to confirm the truth of the Bible, not the reverse. There is a difference. And the mention of the pagan poets definitely didn’t mean their poets were divinely inspired.
2. The Apocrypha contains numerous historical, geographical, and chronological errors.
For example, the Book of Judith 1:1–11 speaks of Nebuchadnezzar reigning over the Assyrians from the city of Nineveh. This contradicts the facts of history and the Bible. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon.
The Apocrypha claims that Tobit was alive when the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 B.C. and also when Jeroboam revolted against Judah in 931 B.C., which would make him at least 209 years old; yet according to the account, he died when he was 158 years.
Click here for additional information on errors in the Apocrypha.
3. The Jews themselves never accepted the Apocrypha as inspired.
The Jewish people—and the leading Jewish teachers of that era—recognized that this collection of Jewish writings did not belong in the Hebrew Bible. The first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, tells us in his writings that the Hebrew Bible was composed of the same books that make up our Old Testament today. Philo, an Alexandrian Jewish teacher, who lived from 20 B.C. to A.D. 40 quoted the Old Testament numerous times from virtually every Old Testament book. And he never once quotes from the Apocrypha.
4. The Apocrypha contains no predictive prophecy to help substantiate its claims.
The Bible over and over substantiates its claim to divine inspiration with hundreds of fulfilled prophecies. Unlike the books of the Bible, the Apocrypha contains none.
5. The Apocrypha never claims to be the inspired Word of God.
Unlike the Old Testament books that over and over say things, like “thus says the Lord” or “the word of the LORD came unto him” the Apocrypha never says anything like this. Since that is the case, it seems unwise to call the authors of the Apocrypha “prophets” or “spokespersons of God,” when that is something that they themselves did not claim to be.
6. The Apocrypha was rejected by many of the leading early church fathers.
The early church recognized a distinction between the Old Testament and the apocryphal books. Many of them, men such as Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Origen, spoke out against them.
7. Jerome rejected the Apocrypha and left them out of His Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate).
Jerome (who lived from 340-420 A.D.) was the man, who translated, for the first time, the Bible from Greek into Latin. Jerome is considered to be the greatest biblical and Hebrew scholars of the early medieval period. Jerome’s translation (known as the Vulgate) became the Bible translation for centuries to follow. It even became the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church.
So if Jerome left them out of his translation, how did the Apocryphal books end up in the Vulgate, the Catholic Bible? Jerome was compelled by the church to include them.
8. The Apocrypha contains numerous non-biblical and heretical doctrines.
The Apocrypha teaches…
• the erroneous unbiblical doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul, suggesting that the kind of body one now has is determined by the character of his soul in a previous life (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20)
• prayer for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:41-46)
• the doctrine of purgatory (that even the righteous must suffer after death for a time before they will be accepted into Heaven)
• that salvation is available through good works and giving money to the poor
“It is better to give alms than to lay up gold: alms doth deliver from death, and it shall purge away all sin”
“For alms deliver from all sin and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness.”
These are doctrines that are not supported in the Bible, and are clearly contradicted by authentic Scripture.
9. The Apocrypha was not formally declared to be authoritative and inspired by the Catholic Church until 1546.
…1500+ years after they were written! Why did they do this so late? They did it to counter the teachings of Martin Luther and the other reformers. These men were exposing the fact that the Catholic Church was basing certain teachings on the Apocrypha, and not the sixty-six books of the Bible. So, the Catholic Church, officially declared that the Apocrypha was part of the Bible.
So for these nine reasons, Evangelical Protestants reject the Apocrypha as divinely authoritative.
For a broad overview on the Apocrypha click here.
A sixth area of disagreement between Evangelicals and Catholics is…
DISAGREEMENT NO. 6 / The Authority of Church Tradition
The Catholic Church teaches that authority for faith and practice rests on two foundations:
1. The Bible (which includes 11 books they added to the Bible, the Apocrypha)
2. The Church (or what the Church calls “sacred church tradition”).
Sacred Church tradition includes the decrees of various councils (meetings of Church leaders) as well as certain sayings of the Popes.
The Catholic Church teaches that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra (literally “from the chair”) he is absolutely infallible. And throughout the history of the Catholic Church, the various Popes have said numerous things in this manner. Those teachings stand irreversibly to this day, as truths that are equal in authority to the written Word of God.
So, when you read something on the Vatican’s official website or in a Catholic book on theology, you’ll read a page that says something like “Such and such is true” and instead of giving you Scripture references at the end of the statement for justification for that particular belief, it will just say something like: “Pope Pius XII.” To the Catholic Church, the teachings of the Popes are absolutely equal in authority to Biblical revelation.
In contrast to this, Evangelical Protestants believe that authority for faith and practice rests solely upon one foundation, the sixty-six books of Scripture. This is something that the men who led the Reformation (i.e. Martin Luther and John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli) called sola scriptura, Latin for “Scripture alone.” We believe that Scripture alone is the final court of appeal on all doctrinal and moral matters. Evangelicals believe that any tradition or teaching that contradicts the Scripture it is to be rejected, no matter how “sacred” or old it is!
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power .”
Any “tradition” (Colossians 2:8) or ‘man-made idea’ that conflicts with God’s commandments or Christ’s teaching, as contained in Scripture, is to be rejected (Acts 17:11; Isaiah 8:20).
Read Matthew 15 with me. Listen to Jesus rebuke the Pharisees here for voiding the Word of God with their traditions…
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”– then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
This is a why Evangelicals reject many of the Catholic traditions. They often contradict the commandments of God, and of course God does not contradict Himself.
Another reason Evangelical Protestants reject most of the traditions of the Catholic Church as authoritative is because if tradition is needed to supplement God’s Word (as the Catholic Church teaches) then that means the Bible is insufficient as a guide for living. But that is exactly the opposite of what the Bible says about itself.
The Bible tells us that written “Scripture” is sufficient. Writing to Timothy, Paul said…
2 Timothy 3:14-17
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The Word of God, “the Holy Scriptures” (v.15) are able to make a man “complete” (v.17). The Greek word there for “complete” (in v. 17) can also be translated: adequate, capable, fully furnished, proficient in the sense of being able to meet all demands (The Bible Knowledge Commentary).
Jesus said, “The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).” He never said, “Tradition cannot be broken.”
Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till Heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).”
Again referring to the authority of written Scripture, not oral tradition. Jesus used Scripture as the final court of appeal in every matter under dispute.
• To the Sadducees He said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29).”
• To the devil, Jesus consistently responded “It is written…” three times in Matthew 4:4, 7, 10.
• To the Pharisees, Jesus said, “For laying aside the commandment of God [the written Word], you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do. He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition (Mark 7:8-9).”
It was the man-made traditions that people elevated above the written commandments of God that Jesus consistently had to condemn!
So, Evangelical Protestants follow Jesus’ lead and believe that Scripture alone is the supreme and final authority. The Word of God itself tells us that it will equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).
But what about those verses that uphold “tradition” as being valuable? Paul does tell the Thessalonians to: “hold the traditions” in 2 Thessalonians 2:15.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 Paul writes to the believers in Thessalonica…
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word [i.e. word of mouth] or our epistle.”
Paul seems to say here that believers should hold on to “tradition”!
But, notice the critically important word there in v.15: “our”
Paul’s not referring to traditions in general, but things that he, along with Silas, and Timothy [see 1:1] had taught them previously.
And notice, Paul said…
“…hold the traditions which you were [notice that it’s in the past tense] taught [that is, when Paul was with the Thessalonian believers], whether by word or our epistle.” (2:15)
Paul was writing to people here in this epistle that he had previously and personally “taught” (v.15, 1 Thess. 2:1-2, 13) as an apostle of God.
The apostles, for a time, communicated their teachings orally until those teachings could be permanently recorded in written form.
Those are the traditions that Paul had in mind, not the traditions that the Roman Catholic Church would develop hundreds and even a thousand plus years later!
Did you realize that many of the traditions of the Catholic Church have no ties to the apostles or to Jesus? Many of them were developed long after the apostles. Note when the following Roman Catholic Church doctrines came into being:
• The perpetual virginity of Mary: 553
• Purgatory: 593
• Prayer to Mary, the saints and angels: 600
• The practice of kissing the Pope’s foot: 709
• The canonization of the dead saints: 995
• Celibacy for priests: 1079
• Praying the Rosary: 1090
• Transubstantiation and confessing sins to a priest: 1215
• Belief in the seven sacraments: Late 13th century
• The Sinlessness of Mary: 1547 at Council of Trent
• The Infallibility of the Pope: 1870
• Mary being the co-redeemer with Christ: 1891 / Pope Leo XIII
• Mary being caught up to Heaven in bodily form: 1950 / Pope Pius XII
• Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church: 1965
And I could go on! Monks. Nuns. Convents. Cardinals. Lent. Ash Wednesday. The Catholicism that is practiced today does not resemble the Christianity of the New Testament or the first century church. (The dates above are largely taken from The Moody Handbook of Theology, p.404, 531-32; Roman Catholics & Evangelicals by Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie).
Another verse the Catholic Church points to in support of its view of tradition is 2 Thessalonians 3:6, where Paul writes: “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”
Again, notice the words “from us” here in this verse. Not from the church to come and the leaders that will come on the scene hundreds of years from now. The traditions or teachings that came directly from the apostles are the ones that are binding. Also, notice that Paul speaks again in the past tense (v.6): “according to the tradition which he received from us.”
Those are the traditions that are authoritative––and we believe that were even written down––not the Catholic traditions introduced centuries later! Paul said to hold to the tradition which “you were taught” (in 2 Thess. 2:15) and that which you “received from us” (in 2 Thes. 3:6). Those would exclude the traditions of the Catholic Church.
For an in-depth overview of the two different views held by the Roman Catholic Church and Protestants with regard to the authority of Church traditions, click on this link.
NOTE: These are just “some” of the areas, with a light overview, that Evangelical Protestants disagree with the Roman Catholic Church: The Gospel, Purgatory, Praying for and to the dead, Mary, the Bible, and the authority of Church tradition.
NOTE: For those who would like to review A RESPONSE TO “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard, please click here.
NOTE: In addition, A REBUTTAL TO “Forty Reasons Why I Am A Catholic”, authored by Peter Kreeft, a Catholic philosopher, may be viewed here.
SUMMARY OF PROTESTANT EVANGELICAL BELIEFS
In today’s spirit of ecumenism, many evangelicals have called for the Protestant church to lay aside its differences with Rome and pursue unity with the Catholic church. Is this possible? Is Roman Catholicism simply another facet of the body of Christ that should be brought into union as a counterpart Christian denomination?
While there are a significant number of non-Biblical teaching in the Catholic Church (for example its belief in the transubstantiation of the communion wafer and its view of Mary), two in particular, rise to the forefront and call for special attention: its denial of the doctrine of sola Scriptura and its denial of the biblical teaching on justification. To put it simply, because the Roman Catholic Church has refused to submit itself to the authority of God’s Word and with regard to embracing the gospel of justification, as taught in Scripture, it has altered the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Roman Catholicism, “the Word of God” encompasses not only the Bible, but also the Apocrypha, the Magisterium (the Church’s authority to teach and interpret divine truth), the Pope’s ex cathedra pronouncements, and an indefinite body of church tradition, some formalized in canon law and some not yet committed to writing. Whereas evangelical Protestants believe the Bible is the ultimate test of all truth, Roman Catholics believe the Church determines what is true and what is not. In effect, this makes the Roman Catholic Church and its designated authorities, a higher authority than Scripture.
Creeds and doctrinal statements are certainly important. However, creeds, decisions of church councils, all doctrine, and even the church itself must be judged by Scripture—not vice versa. Scripture is to be accurately interpreted in its context by comparing it to Scripture—certainly not according to anyone’s personal whims. Scripture itself is thus the sole binding rule of faith and practice for all Christians. Protestant creeds and doctrinal statements simply express the churches’ collective understanding of the proper interpretation of Scripture. In no sense could the creeds and pronouncements of the churches ever constitute an authority equal to or higher than Scripture. Scripture always takes priority over the church in the rank of authority. Scripture is indeed the benchmark to which all things are determined. Acts 17:11 NASB reads: “Now these people were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”
Roman Catholics, on the other hand, believe the infallible touchstone of truth is the Church itself. The Church not only infallibly determines the proper interpretation of Scripture, but also supplements Scripture with additional traditions and teaching. That combination of Church tradition plus the Church’s interpretation of Scripture is what constitutes the binding rule of faith and practice for Catholics. The reality is, the Roman Catholic Church sets itself above Holy Scripture in rank of authority.
According to Roman Catholicism, justification is a process in which God’s grace is poured forth into the sinner’s heart, making that person progressively more righteous. During this process, it is the sinner’s responsibility to preserve and increase that grace by various good works. The means by which justification is initially obtained is not faith, but the sacrament of baptism. Furthermore, justification is forfeited whenever the believer commits a mortal sin, such as hatred or adultery. In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, then, works are necessary both to begin and to continue the process of justification.
The error in the Catholic Church’s position on justification may be summed up in four biblical arguments.
First, Scripture presents justification as instantaneous, not gradual. Contrasting the proud Pharisee with the broken, repentant tax-gatherer who smote his breast and prayed humbly for divine mercy, Jesus said that the tax-gatherer “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). His justification was instantaneous, complete before he performed any work, based solely on his repentant faith. Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Eternal life is the present possession of all who believe. The one who believes immediately passes from spiritual death to eternal life, because that person is instantaneously justified (see Romans 5:1, 9; 8:1).
Second, justification means the sinner is declared righteous, not actually made righteous. This goes hand in hand with the fact that justification is instantaneous. There is no process to be performed—justification is purely a forensic reality, a declaration God makes about the sinner. Justification takes place in the court of God, not in the soul of the sinner. It is an objective fact, not a subjective phenomenon, and it changes the sinner’s status, not his nature. Justification is an immediate decree, a divine “not guilty” verdict on behalf of the believing sinner in which God declares him to be righteous in His sight.
Third, the Bible teaches that justification means righteousness is imputed, not infused. Righteousness is “reckoned,” or credited to the account of those who believe (Romans 4:3-25). They stand justified before God not because of their own righteousness (Romans 3:10), but because of a perfect righteousness outside themselves that is reckoned to them by faith (Philippians 3:9). Where does that perfect righteousness come from? It is God’s own righteousness (Romans 10:3), and it is the believer’s in the person of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). Christ’s own perfect righteousness is credited to the believer’s personal account (Romans 5:17, 19), just as the full guilt of the believer’s sin was imputed to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). The only merit God accepts for salvation is that of Jesus Christ; nothing man can ever do could earn God’s favor or add anything to the merit of Christ.
Fourth and finally, Scripture clearly teaches that man is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. According to the Apostle Paul, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Elsewhere Paul testifies, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added; see Acts 16:31 and Romans 4:3-6). In fact, it is clearly taught throughout Scripture that “a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28; see Galatians 2:16; Romans 9:31-32; 10:3).
In contrast, Roman Catholicism places an undue stress on human works. Catholic doctrine denies that God “justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5) without first making them godly. Good works therefore become the ground of justification. As thousands of former Catholics will testify, Roman Catholic doctrine and liturgy obscure the essential truth that the believer is saved by grace through faith and not by his own works (Ephesians 2:8-9). In a simple sense, many Catholics genuinely believe they are saved by doing good, confessing sin, and observing ceremonies.
Adding works to faith as the grounds of justification is precisely the teaching that Paul condemned as “a different gospel” (see 2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6). It nullifies the grace of God, for if meritorious righteousness can be earned through the sacraments, “then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21). Any system that mingles works with grace, then, is “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6), a distorted message that is anathematized (Galatians 1:9), not by a council of medieval bishops, but by the very Word of God that cannot be broken.
Note: For a more in-depth overview of the ramifications of compromising the Gospel, for the sake of Christian unity, I would recommend this link, along with the available free 31 page PDF booklet authored by Richard Bennett (1938- 2019), an ex-Catholic priest and former director of Berean Beacon Ministries, who examines the “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) declaration, with justification by faith alone considerations examined and the compromise of God’s Word in the effort to forge a false “Christian unity.”
For excellent, detailed, overviews of Christian History as it applies to the early Christian Church, the Council of Nicea, the universal Church throughout the Roman Empire, The Roman Catholic Church and the Reformation, I recommend the following websites:
The Vatican II Council was an official Catholic doctrinal convocation lasting three years (from October 1962 to December 1965) and attended by more than 2400 Roman Catholic bishops. It was led by two popes, John Paul XXIII and Paul VI. These are not just the pronouncements of a Catholic apologist or even of a pope. THESE ARE THE MOST AUTHORITATIVE DOCTRINAL PRONOUNCEMENTS OF MODERN ROMAN CATHOLICISM.
Many of today’s Protestant Evangelicals have an astounding ignorance of Catholic doctrine and of the nature of the changes by Vatican II. It is important to note that Vatican II did not change Rome’s doctrinal positions! The Roman Catholic Church has not rejected even one of its major heresies. Each major heresy of the Roman Church was strongly reaffirmed by the Vatican II Council, the very council which many believe opened the way for the Catholic Church to become “evangelical.”
Many are calling upon us to forget and forgive the history of Catholicism and to receive the “new Catholicism” with open hearts and arms. This is folly, because the “new Catholicism” is only the “old Catholicism” in new wrappings. The heart of Catholicism—the papacy, the centralized power of the Vatican, the Roman priesthood, sacramentalism, Mariology, and attendant heresies—remain unchanged.
The publication cited in the following quotes is Vatican Council II—the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. This volume is published by the Roman Catholic Church and contains the following Imprimatur [a Latin word meaning “let it be printed,” showing it has been approved for publication by the Catholic hierarchy]: Walter P. Kellenberg, D.D., Bishop of Rockville Centre, August 12, 1975.
NOTE: These are the current doctrines and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Mass a Re-sacrifice of Christ
“Hence the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, is at the same time and inseparably: a sacrifice in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated; a memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, who said ‘do this in memory of me’ (Lk. 22:19) … In the Mass, therefore, the sacrifice and sacred meal belong to the same mystery—so much so that they are linked by the closest bond. For in the sacrifice of the Mass Our Lord is immolated when ‘he begins to be present sacramentally as the spiritual food of the faithful under the appearances of bread and wine.’ … For in it Christ perpetuates in an unbloody manner the sacrifice offered on the cross, offering himself to the Father for the world’s salvation through the ministry of priests” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Introduction, C 1,2, p. 108). It should be noted that contemporary Catholic apologists strongly object to this phraseology and that they insist that their priests do not re-sacrifice Christ, but that they “re-present” Christ’s same once-for-all-time sacrifice on Calvary. A direct quote from this site reads as follows: “the sacrifice of the Mass is the sacrifice of the Cross, only presented in a different manner.”
Christ Present in the Elements of the Mass
“In this sacrament Christ is present in a unique way, whole and entire, God and man, substantially and permanently. This presence of Christ under the species ‘is called real, not in an exclusive sense, as if the other kinds of presence were not real, but par excellence” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Chap. 1, E, p. 114).
“In the celebration of Mass there is proclaimed the wonderful mystery of the real presence of Christ our Lord under the eucharistic species. The Second Vatican Council and other magisterial pronouncements of the Church have confirmed this truth in the same sense and the same words as those in which the Council of Trent defined it as an article of faith. … Christ becomes present through an essential change in the elements” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, General Instruction on the Roman Missal, foreword, 3, p. 154).
The Mass Is a Part of Salvation
“As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch is sacrificed’ (1 Cor. 5:7) is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 1, 3, p. 324).
The Mass the Center of Christian life
“The celebration of the Mass … is the centre of the whole Christian life for the universal Church, the local Church and for each and every one of the faithful. For therein is the culminating action whereby God sanctifies the world in Christ and men worship the Father as they adore him through Christ the Son of God” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, General Instruction on the Roman Missal, chap. 1, 1, p. 159).
Christ Is to Be Worshipped in the Wafer
“The reservation of the sacred species for the sick … led to the praiseworthy custom of adoring the heavenly food which is preserved in churches. This practice of adoration has a valid and firm foundation, especially since belief in the real presence of the Lord has as its natural consequence the external and public manifestation of that belief” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Chap. 3, I A, p. 131).
“The faithful should therefore strive to worship Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. … Pastors [priests] should exhort them to this, and set them a good example. … The place in a church or oratory where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle [place where the consecrated wafer is kept and worshiped between Masses] should be truly prominent. It ought to be suitable for private prayer so that the faithful may easily and fruitfully, by private devotion also, continue to honour our Lord in this sacrament” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Chap. 3, I B, p. 132).
“Devotion, both private and public, towards the sacrament of the altar even outside Mass … is highly recommended by the Church, since the eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the whole Christian life” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Chap. 3, III, p. 134).
“All the faithful ought to show to this most holy sacrament the worship which is due to the true God, as has always been the custom of the Catholic Church. Nor is it to be adored any the less because it was instituted by Christ to be eaten. For even in the reserved sacrament he is to be adored because he is substantially present there through that conversion of bread and wine which, as the Council of Trent tells us, is most aptly named transubstantiation” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Intro., C 6, pp. 109,10).
“It is necessary to instruct the faithful that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour and that the same worship and adoration given to God is owed to him present under the sacramental signs” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on Facilitating Sacramental Eucharistic Communion in Particular Circumstances, Piety and Reverence Towards the Sacrament, p. 221).
The Wafer to Be Carried in Processions
“In processions in which the Blessed Sacrament is solemnly carried through the streets to the singing of hymns, especially on the feast of Corpus Christi, the Christian people give public witness to their faith and devotion towards this sacrament” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Chap. 3, III, p. 134).
Masses for the Dead
“Holy Mother Church is extremely concerned for the faithful departed. She has decided to intercede for them to the fullest extent in every Mass and abrogates every special privilege in this matter” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, V, Indulgences not Attached to Things and Places, Norms, 20, p. 87).
“The Church offers the Paschal Sacrifice [the Mass] for the Dead so that … the dead may be helped by the prayers and the living may be consoled by hope” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, General Instruction on the Roman Missal, VIII, Masses for the Dead, 335, p. 197).
Mass Must Be Performed in Strict Accordance with Catholic Tradition
“To safeguard the success of these celebrations and to obtain a greater spiritual efficaciousness … attention must be given to the form. … The texts of the Mass should be taken from the missal or from approved supplements. Every change … is arbitrary and therefore rejected … The furnishings of the altar (cross, altar cloth, candles, missal, purificator, corporal, hand towel and communion plate), the sacred vessels (chalice, paten, pyx), the vestments (amice, alb, cincture, stole and chasuble) should be, in number, form and quality, as desired by present legislation. … The ritual gestures and the ceremonies of the celebrant, as well as the attitude of the participants should be those prescribed for the normal eucharistic celebration” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Instruction on Masses for Special Groups, 11a,b, p. 146).
The Wine Can Be Taken Only on Special Occasions
“First, they should be reminded that, according to the Catholic faith, Christ is received whole and entire in a complete sacrament even when people communicate under one kind only [take only the wafer without the juice]. And they are not thereby deprived of any grace necessary for salvation … With the bishop’s approval and after due instruction the following persons may receive Communion from the chalice … [there follows 14 groups of persons who are permitted to partake of the juice during special Masses performed at weddings, baptisms, ordinations, and certain retreats]” (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, General Instruction on the Roman Missal, IV, 241, 242, pp. 181-182). It should be noted that Vatican II allowed local bishops to decide if supplicants could receive communion “under both kinds: (wafer and wine). A 1989 Notre Dame study revealed slightly less than half of the US parishes in its survey offered the chalice to their congregations. Due to Covid 19, sharing of the chalice authorized by local bishops was temporarily discontinued in 2020. See this link for additional clarification with regard to sharing of the chalice.
Traditions on Equal Par with Scripture
“Sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal … Thus it comes about that the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal feelings of devotion and reverence” (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Chap. 2, 9, p. 682).
Salvation Is through the Sacraments and the Church
“Just as Christ was sent by the Father so also he sent the apostles … that they might preach the gospel to every creature and proclaim that the Son of God by his death and resurrection had freed us from the power of Satan and from death, and brought us into the Kingdom of his Father. But he also willed that the work of salvation which they preached should be set in train through the sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical [ritualistic] life revolves. Thus by Baptism men are grafted into the paschal mystery of Christ. … They receive the spirit of adoption as sons” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Chap. 1, I, 5,6, pp. 23-24).
“In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his passion and glorification. Through baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body’ (1 Cor. 12:13). In this sacred rite fellowship in Christ’s death and resurrection is symbolized and is brought about” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chap. 1, 7, p. 327).
“For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, ‘the work of our redemption is accomplished,’ and it is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Introduction, para. 2).
Salvation Distributed by the Pope
“For ‘God’s only-begotten Son … has won a treasure for the militant Church … he has entrusted it to blessed Peter, the key-bearer of heaven, and to his successors who are Christ’s vicars on earth, so that they may distribute it to the faithful for their salvation. They may apply it with mercy for reasonable causes to all who have repented for and have confessed their sins. At times they may remit completely, and at other times only partially, the temporal punishment due to sin in a general as well as in special ways (insofar as they judge it to be fitting in the sight of the Lord). The merits of the Blessed Mother of God and of all the elect … are known to add further to this treasury’” (ellipsis are in the original) (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, Chap. 4, 7, p. 80).
Salvation through the Catholic Church
“For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fulness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God” (Decree on Ecumenism, chap. 1, 3, p. 415).
“This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, II, 14, p. 336).
Salvation by Good Works
“From the most ancient times in the Church good works were also offered to God for the salvation of sinners, particularly the works which human weakness finds hard. Because the sufferings of the martyrs for the faith and for God’s law were thought to be very valuable, penitents used to turn to the martyrs to be helped by their merits to obtain a more speedy reconciliation from the bishops. Indeed, the prayers and good works of holy people were regarded as of such great value that it could be asserted that the penitent was washed, cleansed and redeemed with the help of the entire Christian people” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constution on the Revision of Indulgences, chap. 3, 6, pp. 78,79).
Salvation through Baptism
“By the sacrament of Baptism, whenever it is properly conferred in the way the Lord determined and received with the proper dispositions of soul, man becomes truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ and is reborn to a sharing of the divine life” (Decree on Ecumenism, chap. 3, II, 22, p. 427).
Salvation Is through Indulgences and Ritual
“By means of indulgences those members of the Church who are enduring their purification are united more speedily to the members who are in heaven … holy Mother Church again recommends the practice of indulgences to the faithful. … The remission of punishment by distribution from the Church’s treasury is incorporated into it. The Church recommends its faithful not to abandon or neglect the holy traditions of those who have gone before. They should be welcomed in a religious spirit as a precious treasure of the Catholic family and esteemed as such. … The Church reminds them constantly of the things which should be given preference because they are necessary or at least better and more efficacious helps in the task of winning salvation” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, chap. 4, 10,11, p. 82).
Salvation Can Be Achieved through Non-Christian Religions
“The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems. These profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day… Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 2, 16, p. 338).
Salvation Grace Is Not Free but Must Be Earned
“All children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 2, 14, p. 337). It should be noted that Catholics no long indicate that they must “merit” their salvation. Instead Catholics indicate that they must “cooperate with grace” or “maintain friendship with God”. However, Roman Catholic Catechism still refers to meriting salvation – CCC para.2010. For an explanation of the Roman Catholic theology from their perspective regarding the two types of “grace” and the three types of “merit”, click on this link. For an additional Roman Catholic perspective on meriting salvation, click here.
The Catholic Church the Only True Church
“This is the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care. … This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 1, 8, p. 329).
“For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fulness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God” (Decree on Ecumenism, chap. 1, 3, p. 415).
The Pope Is the Supreme Head of the Church
“The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, 22, p. 344).
The Pope Is the Infallible Teacher
“The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)—he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. For that very reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church… as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church’s charism of infallibility is present in a singular way” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, 25, p. 349).
“This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, 25, p. 348).
Mary the Sinless Mother of God, Perpetual Virgin, Bodily Assumed into Heaven as Queen over All
“Joined to Christ the head and in communion with all his saints, the faithful must in the first place reverence the memory of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ… Because of the gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth… The Immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Apoc. 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, I, 52,53; II, 59, pp. 378,381- 382).
Mary Is Co-redemptress, Intercessor
“As St. Irenaeus says, she being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert with him in their preaching ‘DEATH THROUGH EVE, LIFE THROUGH MARY’. THIS 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. She cooperated in the work of the Saviour in an altogether singular way to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result, she is our mother in the order of grace. Mary, sharing as she did even on Calvary, had a part even in the once for all acquisition of the great treasury. Now from this common sharing of will and suffering between Christ and Mary, she ‘merited to become most worthily the REPARATRIX [one who makes amends or atonement] for a lost world,’ and therefore, DISPENSATRIX [one who dispenses] of all the gifts which Jesus gained for us by His death and His blood (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, II, 56, pp. 380-381). It should be noted that although there is a movement within the RCC for Mary to be officially proclaimed Co-Redeemer (the title they normally use is “Co-Redemptrix”, the Roman Catholic Church has not officially done so. Pope Francis has stated publicly several times that he will not proclaim Mary as Co-Redemptrix. However, the Roman Catholic church has officially declared Mary to be “Mediatrix of all graces”. For a RCC overview on this title they have given Mary, click here.
“Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but BY HER MANIFOLD INTERCESSION CONTINUES TO BRING US THE GIFTS OF ETERNAL SALVATION. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of ADVOCATE, HELPER, BENEFACTRESS, and MEDIATRIX” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, II, 62, pp. 382-383).
Mary to Be Venerated
“Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honoured by a special cult in the Church. … The sacred synod teaches this Catholic doctrine advisedly and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and that the practices and exercises of devotion towards her, recommended by the teaching authority of the Church in the course of centuries be highly esteemed, and that those decrees, which were given in the early days regarding the cult images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, IV, The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church, 66,67, pp. 384-385).
Intercessions of and Prayers to Dead Saints
“The ‘treasury of the Church’ … is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. … This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body. … The union of the living with their brethren who have fallen asleep in Christ is not broken. … Now that they are welcomed in their own country and at home with the Lord, through him, with him and in him they intercede unremittingly with the Father on our behalf, offering the merit they acquired on earth through Christ Jesus. … Their brotherly care is the greatest help to our weakness” (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, chap. 2, 5, pp. 76,77).
“In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honoured with great respect the memory of the dead … she has always venerated them, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels, with a special love, and has asked piously for the help of their intercession. … When, then, we celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice [the Mass] we are most closely united to the worship of the heavenly Church; when in the fellowship of communion we honour and remember the glorious Mary ever virgin, St. Joseph, the holy apostles and martyrs and all the saints” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, I, 52,53; II, 59, pp. 375,377).
“Holy Mother Church is extremely concerned for the faithful departed. She has decided to intercede for them to the fullest extent in every Mass and abrogates every special privilege in this matter” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, V, Norms, 20, p. 87).
Purgatory Necessary to Purge Sin
“The doctrine of purgatory clearly demonstrates that even when the guilt of sin has been taken away, punishment for it or the consequences of it may remain to be expiated or cleansed. They often are. In fact, in purgatory the souls of those who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but who had not made satisfaction with adequate penance for their sins and omissions are cleansed after death with punishments designed to purge away their debt” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, chap. 1, 3, p. 75).
Priests Have Special Powers to Bestow Spiritual Blessing
“However, the Lord also appointed certain men as ministers, in order that they might be united in one body in which ‘all the members have not the same function’ (Rom. 12:4). These men were to hold in the community of the faithful the sacred power of Order, that of offering sacrifice and forgiving sins, and were to exercise the priestly office publicly on behalf of men in the name of Christ” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, chap. 1, 2, p. 776).
“Priests, while being taken from amongst men and appointed for men in the things that appertain to God that they may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins, live with the rest of men as with brothers” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, chap. 1, 3, p. 778).
“The purpose then for which priests are consecrated by God through the ministry of the bishop is that they should be made sharers in a special way in Christ’s priesthood and, by carrying out sacred functions, act as his ministers who through his Spirit continually exercises his priestly function for our benefit in the liturgy. By Baptism priests introduce men into the People of God; by the sacrament of Penance they reconcile sinners with God and the Church; by the Anointing of the sick they relieve those who are ill; and especially by the celebration of Mass they offer Christ’s sacrifice sacramentally” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, chap. 2, I, 5, p. 781).
Catholic Priests Share Christ’s Identical Priesthood
“All priests share with the bishops the one identical priesthood and ministry of Christ” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, chap. 2, II, 7, p. 786).
Church Has Power to Grant Indulgences; Those Who Say Church Has no Such Power Are Cursed
“Indulgences are … the taking away of the temporal punishment due to sins when their guilt has already been forgiven. … in granting an indulgence the Church uses its power as minister of Christ’s Redemption. … It teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences—a usage most beneficial to Christians and approved by the authority of the Sacred Councils—should be kept in the Church; and it condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them. … By means of indulgences those members of the Church who are enduring their purification are united more speedily to the members who are in heaven in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, IV, 8, 10, pp. 80-82).
Rituals and Superstitious Practices Encouraged
“The faithful who use with devotion an object of piety (crucifix, cross, Rosary, scapular or medal) after it has been duly blessed by any priest, can gain a partial indulgence. But if this object of piety is blessed by the Pope or any bishop, the faithful who use it with devotion can also gain a plenary indulgence on the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul. … When one of the faithful is in danger of death and no priest in available to administer the sacraments to him with the apostolic blessing … holy Mother Church still grants a plenary indulgence to be gained at the moment of death, on condition that they are properly disposed and have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. The practice of using a crucifix or cross while gaining this plenary indulgence is praiseworthy” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 8, V, Norms, 17,18, p. 86).
Confession and Penance Aid in Conversion
“The sacrament of Penance restores and strengthens in members of the Church who have sinned the fundamental gift of … conversion to the kingdom of Christ, which is first received in Baptism. … Those who approach this sacrament receive from God’s mercy the pardon of their offences and at the same time they are reconciled to the Church which they have wounded by their sins. The Religious should likewise hold in high esteem the frequent use of this sacrament … desiring closer union with God, should endeavour to receive the sacrament of penance frequently, that is, twice a month … To ensure legitimate liberty, all women religious and novices may make their confession validly and licitly to any priest approved for hearing confessions in the locality” (Decree on Confession for Religious, pp. 611,612).
“For these reasons, based on the mystery of Christ and his mission, celibacy, which at first was recommended to priests, was afterwards in the Latin Church imposed by law on all who were to be promoted to holy Orders. This sacred Council approves and confirms this legislation so far as it concerns those destined for the priesthood, and feels confident in the Spirit that the gift of celibacy, so appropriate to the priesthood of the New Testament, is liberally granted by the Father” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, chap. 3, II, 16, p. 802).
COUNCIL OF TRENT
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH STILL HOLDS TO THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
The Council of Trent was a Catholic council held from 1545 to 1563 in an attempt to destroy the progress of the Protestant Reformation. This council denied every Reformation doctrine, including Scripture alone and grace alone. Trent hurled 125 anathemas (eternal damnation) against Bible-believing Christians, including these:
FOURTH SESSION: DECREE CONCERNING THE CANONICAL SCRIPTURES: “If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts [the 66 books of the Bible plus 12 apocryphal books, being two of Paralipomenon, two of Esdras, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Sophonias, two of Macabees], as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA.”
SIXTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING JUSTIFICATION: “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 12).
SIXTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING JUSTIFICATION: “If anyone says that the justice received 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” (Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24).
SIXTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING JUSTIFICATION: “If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 33).
SEVENTH SESSION, CANONS ON BAPTISM: “If anyone says that in the Roman Church, which is the mother and mistress of all churches, there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on Baptism, Canon 3).
SEVENTH SESSION, CANONS ON BAPTISM: “If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on Baptism, Canon 5).
SEVENTH SESSION, CANONS ON BAPTISM: “If anyone says that children, because they have not the act of believing, are not after having received baptism to be numbered among the faithful, and that for this reason are to be rebaptized when they have reached the years of discretion; or that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be baptized in the faith of the Church alone, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on Baptism, Canon 13).
SEVENTH SESSION, CANONS ON CONFIRMATON: “If anyone says that the confirmation of those baptized is an empty ceremony and not a true and proper sacrament; or that of old it was nothing more than a sort of instruction, whereby those approaching adolescence gave an account of their faith to the Church, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on Confirmation, Canon 1).
THIRTEENTH SESSION, CANONS ON THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST: “If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Canon 1).
THIRTEENTH SESSION, CANONS ON THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST: “If anyone says that Christ received in the Eucharist is received spiritually only and not also sacramentally and really, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Canon 8).
FOURTEENTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE: “If anyone says that in the Catholic Church penance is not truly and properly a sacrament instituted by Christ the Lord for reconciling the faithful of God as often as they fall into sin after baptism, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, Canon 1).
FOURTEENTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE: “If anyone denies that sacramental confession was instituted by divine law or is necessary to salvation; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human contrivance, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, Canon 7).
FOURTEENTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE: “If anyone says that the confession of all sins as it is observed in the Church is impossible and is a human tradition to be abolished by pious people; or that each and all of the faithful of Christ or either sex are not bound thereto once a year in accordance with the constitution of the great Lateran Council, and that for this reason the faithful of Christ are to be persuaded not to confess during Lent, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, Canon 8).
FOURTEENTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE: “If anyone says that God always pardons the whole penalty together with the guilt and that the satisfaction of penitents is nothing else than the faith by which they perceive that Christ has satisfied for them, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, Canon 8).
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: “If anyone says that in the Mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 1).
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: “If anyone says that by those words, Do this for a commemoration of me, Christ did not institute the Apostles priests; or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer His own body and blood, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 2).
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: “If anyone says that the sacrifice of the Mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 3).
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: “If anyone says that it is a deception to celebrate Masses in honor of the saints and in order to obtain their intercession with God, as the Church intends, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 5).
TWENTY-THIRD SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRAMENT OF ORDER: “If anyone says that there is not in the New Testament a visible and external priesthood, or that there is no power of consecrating and offering the true body and blood of the Lord and of forgiving and retaining sins, but only the office and bare ministry of preaching the gospel; or that those who do not preach are not priests at all, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 1).
TWENTY-THIRD SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRAMENT OF ORDER: “If anyone says that the bishops who are chosen by the authority of the Roman pontiff are not true and legitimate bishops, but merely human deception, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 8).
TWENTY-FIFTH SESSION, DECREE ON PURGATORY: “Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, following the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught in sacred councils and very recently in this ecumenical council that there is a purgatory, and that the souls there detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful and chiefly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar, the holy council commands the bishops that they strive diligently to the end that the sound doctrine of purgatory, transmitted by the Fathers and sacred councils, be believed and maintained by the faithful of Christ, and be everywhere taught and preached.”
TWENTY-FIFTH SESSION, ON THE INVOCATION, VENERATION, AND RELICS OF SAINTS, AND ON SACRED IMAGES: “The holy council commands all bishops and others who hold the office of teaching and have charge of the cura animarum, that in accordance with the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion, and with the unanimous teaching of the holy Fathers and the decrees of sacred councils, they above all instruct the faithful diligently in matters relating to intercession and invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics, and the legitimate use of images, teaching them that the saints who reign together with Christ offer up their prayers to God for men, that it is good and beneficial suppliantly to invoke them and to have recourse to their prayers, assistance and support in order to obtain favors from God through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our redeemer and savior; and that they think impiously who deny that the saints who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven are to be invoked, or who assert that they do not pray for men, or that our invocation of them to pray for each of us individually is idolatry, or that it is opposed to the word of God and inconsistent with the honor of the one mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ, or that it is foolish to pray vocally or mentally to those who reign in heaven.”
POPE PIUS’S CREED
Pope Pius IV (1559-1565) issued a summary of the decisions of the council under the title “Pope Pius’s Creed.” I will quote part of this creed, which has ever since been regarded as an authoritative summary of the Catholic faith:
“I profess also, that there are truly and properly seven sacraments of the new law … namely, baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony, and that they confer grace. …
“I profess likewise, that in the Mass is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that, in the most holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ…
“I constantly hold that there is a purgatory, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful.
“Likewise, that the saints reigning together with Christ, are to be honoured and invocated; that they offer prayers to God for us; and that their relics are to be venerated.
“I most firmly assert, that the images of Christ, and of the mother of God, ever virgin, and also of the other saints, are to be had and retained; and that one honour and veneration are to be given to them.
“I also affirm that the power of indulgences was left by Christ in the church, and that the use of them is most wholesome to Christian people.
“I acknowledge the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman church, the mother and mistress of all churches. And I promise to swear true obedience to the Roman bishop, the successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, and vicar of Jesus Christ.
“I also profess, and undoubtedly receive all other things delivered, defined, and declared, by the sacred canons and general councils, and particularly by the holy Council of Trent. And likewise, I also condemn, reject, and anathematize, all things contrary thereto, and all heresies whatsoever condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the church.
These proclamations and anathemas were fleshed out in the murderous persecutions vented upon objecting Christians by Rome, and Trent has never been annulled. Vatican II referred to Trent dozens and dozens of times, quoted Trent’s proclamations as authoritative, and reaffirmed Trent on every hand. The New Catholic Catechism cites Trent no less than 99 times. There is not the slightest hint that the proclamations of the Council of Trent have been abrogated by Rome. At the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII stated, “I do accept entirely all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent.” Every Cardinal, Bishop and priest who became a member of the Council also signed that document (Wilson Ewin, You Can Lead Roman Catholics to Christ, Quebec Baptist Mission, 1990 edition, p. 41).
HOW VATICAN II LOOKED UPON COUNCIL OF TRENT
Consider a few examples of how Vatican II looked upon Council of Trent:
“The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent [remain] intact…” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, p. 37).
“Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of Vatican I, this present Council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine of divine revelation” (Constitution on Divine Revelation, p. 678).
“[Christ] is substantially present there through that conversion of bread and wine which, as the Council of Trent tells us, is most aptly named transubstantiation” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, p. 110).
“For under this form (leaving intact the principles of the Council of Trent, by which under either species or kind there is received the true sacrament and Christ whole and entire), the sign of the eucharistic banquet appears more perfectly” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, p. 124).
“The Roman Missal, promulgated by our predecessor St. Pius V in the Year of our Lord 1570 by decree of the Council of Trent, is universally acknowledged to be among the most useful of the many fruits which that Council brought forth for the good of the Church of Christ” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, p. 138).
“When issuing decrees that the Order of the Mass should be revised, the Second Vatican Council ruled, among other things, that certain rites were to be restored to the vigour which they had in the days of the holy Fathers. These are the very words used by St. Pius V in his Apostolic Constitution Quo primum whereby he promulgated the Tridentine Missal of 1570 [Trent]. The employment of the very same words indicates that the two Missals, though separated in time by four centuries, are nevertheless inspired by and embody one and the same tradition. … In those troubled days St. Pius V was unwilling to make any changes in the rites except minor ones; he was intent on preserving more recent tradition, because at that time attacks were being made on the doctrine that the Mass is a sacrifice present under the eucharistic species” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, p. 155).
“In this way the liturgical norms of the Council of Trent have in many respects been fulfilled and perfected by those of the Second Vatican Council” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, p. 159).
“This sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in the glory of heaven or who are yet being purified after their death; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea, of the Council of Florence, and of the Council of Trent” (Constitution on the Church, p. 377).
“The sacrament of baptism cannot be repeated … and therefore to baptize again conditionally is not allowed unless there is prudent doubt of the fact, or of the validity, of a baptism already administered (Council of Trent, Session 7, Can. 4)” (Decree on Ecumenism, p. 445).
“The Fathers of the Council, continuing the work begun by the Council of Trent, confidently entrust to superiors and professors in seminaries the duty of training Christ’s future priests in the spirit of that renewal promoted by the Council itself” (Decree on the Training of Priests, p. 654).
THE NEW CATHOLIC CATECHISM
As further evidence that the Roman Catholic Church has not changed doctrinally, we offer citations from the New Catholic Catechism, published in 1992 in Latin and in 1994 in English.
The following excerpts are the most recent and most official declaration of genuine Catholic belief in print.
We turn now to the Catechism itself:
Introduction by John Paul II—
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the result of very extensive collaboration; it was prepared over six years of intense work … The project was the object of extensive consultation among all Catholic Bishops, their Episcopal Conferences or Synods, and of theological and catechetical institutes. As a whole, it received a broadly favourable acceptance on the part of the Episcopate. It can be said that this Catechism is the result of the collaboration of the whole Episcopate of the Catholic Church … the harmony of so many voices truly expresses what could be called the ‘symphony’ of the faith.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, lastly, is offered to every individual … who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes.
Following are the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church that are reaffirmed in the new catechism:
Tradition Equal with Scripture
80 Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other.
82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.
Bible Interpretation the Sole Right of Pope and Bishops
100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.
Mary, Sinless, Perpetual Virgin, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Co-Redemptress with Christ
491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854…
494 … As St. Irenaeus says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”
495 … the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).
508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. “Full of grace,” Mary is “the most excellent fruit of redemption” (SC 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.
964 Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. “This 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”; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion. … enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her …
966 “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son …” The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection “the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death” (Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition, August 15th.).
968 “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Saviour’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”
969 “… Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us gifts of eternal salvation. … Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”
Rosary and Prayers to Mary
971 “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” The Church rightly honours “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. …” The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the Rosary, an “epitome of the whole gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Fullness of Salvation Only through the Catholic Church
The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism explains: “For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.”
846 Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation … thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
All Grace Comes through the Catholic Church
819 Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”
834 Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome “which presides in charity.” “For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres, 3,3,2:PG 7/1,849; cf. Vatican Council I: DS 3057).
No Christian Unity Apart from the Catholic Church
820 Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose … The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation Includes the Muslims
841 The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.
Supremacy of the Pope
882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”
891 The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. … The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. … This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.
Prayers of the Dead
956 “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. … They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus. … So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”
Prayers for the Dead
958 “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honoured with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them.” Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
Salvation through Baptism
1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. … The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism…
1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.
1267 … From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant…
Penance Necessary for Salvation
980 It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church: “Penance has rightly been called by the holy Fathers ‘a laborious kind of baptism.’ This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn” (Council of Trent (1551): DS 1672; cf. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 39, 17: PG 36,356).
The Church Can Forgive Sins
982 There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. … Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.
1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation, but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Council of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire. “As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire.”
Indulgences and Good Works for the Dead
1032 From the beginning the Church has honoured the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.
Sacraments and Liturgy Communicate Grace
1084 By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they [the sacraments] make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.
1131 The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.
Sacraments Necessary for Salvation
1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. … The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Saviour.
Infants Born Again through Baptism
1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God … The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.
The Mass a Re-sacrifice of Christ
1414 As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from God.
1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. … In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: … “In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner.”
The Mass Is a Conversion of Bread and Wine into the Very Christ
1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring “… by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”
1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).
1374 … In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.”
Priest Has the Power to Convert Bread and Wine into Christ
1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. Their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered. … The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed.
Mass Conducted in Communion with the Dead
1370 … In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Elements of the Mass to Be Worshipped and Carried in Processions
1418 Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar he is to be honoured with the worship of adoration.
1378 Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. … reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.
All Sins Must Be Confessed to a Priest
1493 One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and with the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience. The confession of venial faults, without being necessary in itself, is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.
1456 All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue. … those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, ‘for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.’
1497 Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church.
Forgiveness of Sins and Escape from Purgatory through Indulgences
1471 An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. … Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.
1478 An indulgence is obtained through the Church who the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the punishments due for their sins. …
1479 Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.
Salvation through the Good Works of the “Saints”
1475 In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others … Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.
1476 We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church’s treasury….
1477 This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints. … In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.
Veneration of Relics
1674 Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful … such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the Rosary, medals, etc.
Veneration of Images
2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons—of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new “economy” of images.
THE DOGMAS OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
These dogmas can be summarized in the statements that follow. These are not an exhaustive listing but a fair summarization of the teachings defined by the Roman Church by specific popes and these two councils. To deny any of these teachings and to refuse to embrace them with a positive faith is to come under an anathema and to experience loss of saving faith:
- An individual must believe that the popes are infallible when teaching ex cathedra.
- One must believe that the Bishops of Rome have been given authority by Christ to rule the Church universal.
- One must be submitted to the Bishop of Rome in all areas of faith, morals, discipline and government of the Church.
- The Roman Catholic Church alone has the right to interpret Scripture and its interpretations are infallible.
- One must accept the Apocrypha as Scripture and as part of the Canon.
- There is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church.
- One must believe that the Roman Catholic sacraments are necessary for salvation and that there specific number is seven.
- An individual must repudiate the teaching that the imputed righteousness of Christ is the basis for justification.
- One must embrace the teaching that justification is not by faith alone but by human works cooperating with grace and by participation in the sacraments.
- One must believe that human works cooperating with grace merit eternal life.
- One must accept the teaching that water baptism is necessary for salvation as it is the instrumental means of regeneration even for infants.
- One must believe that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice for sin.
- One must believe that in the eucharist the bread and wine is transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ at the words of consecration (Transubstantiation).
- It is necessary to believe that confession of sins to a Roman Catholic priest and receiving his absolution and performing acts of penance is the only way to receive forgiveness of sins after baptism.
- One must embrace the teachings of the immaculate conception and Assumption of Mary.
- One must accept the Roman Catholic teaching on Purgatory.
THE QUESTION REMAINS, HAS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CHANGED?
If you have read this far, you have read for yourself the solemn proclamations of Rome’s official Vatican II Council and the authoritative New Catholic Catechism. These are proclamations made by the Pope and the college of bishops, and according to Catholic teaching, there is no higher authority than “the Church’s dogma and interpretation of Scripture.”
Though some dramatic changes were made during and since the Vatican II Council, the Roman Catholic Church remains the same unscriptural institution it always has been. It is not possible to believe the previously quoted Vatican II pronouncements and think otherwise. Yet, the idea that Catholicism is becoming more evangelical, more biblical, and more spiritual continues to be propagated.
Rome hasn’t changed, but Protestant Evangelical Christianity certainly has with regard to how some value the importance and nonacceptance of what separates us! Beware of those who do not understand that a sacramental gospel is another gospel. Beware of those who think exalting Mary as the Queen of Heaven is not a damnable doctrine. Beware of those who claim that Rome teaches salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Beware of those who encourage us to focus on our agreements and disregard that which divides us. Roman Catholicism does not compromise its doctrines, teachings and engrained systems of control. Those who accept Roman Catholicism for what it states that it is, must of necessity, capitulate to its control, from birth unto death.
ARE ROMAN CATHOLICS CHRISTIAN?
I’ve deliberately left this last question until now. I’ve prayed and thought long and hard about this question and searched the considerations of many other professing Christians. I found a well thought out response that I can live with and I will share it with you in its entirety. It is authored by Matt Slick from CARM.ORG and the direct link is here: https://carm.org/roman-catholicism/are-roman-catholics-christian/ Emphasis added is mine.
Are Roman Catholics Christians? They are if they have trusted in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins. However, if they believe they are saved by God’s grace and their works, then they are not saved even if they believe their works are done by God’s grace since they then deny the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.
Being a Christian does not mean being a member of the Roman Catholic Church. It means being a member of the body of Christ, which is accomplished by faith and trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins. It means you do not add your works to His work. Sincerity doesn’t forgive sins. Membership in a church doesn’t forgive sins. Doing works of penance doesn’t forgive sins. Praying to Mary doesn’t forgive sins. Forgiveness is received in the faithful trust and acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. You must trust Jesus, God in flesh, for the forgiveness of sins–not a man-made ritual and certainly not the catholic saints. Even though the Roman Catholic Church affirms the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and His physical resurrection, it greatly errors in its doctrine of salvation by adding works to salvation.
- “The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments,” (CCC 2068)
The official Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation is that the grace of God is infused into a baby at baptism – making him/her justified before God.1 This justification can be lost through sin (venial and mortal) and must be regained by repeated participation in the many sacraments found in the Roman Catholic Church. These sacraments increase the measure of grace in the person by which he or she is enabled to do good works, which are in turn rewarded with the joy of heaven:
- “We can, therefore, hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ,” (CCC 1821).
- “Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification,” (CCC 2010).
No one can say whether a Roman Catholic is truly a Christian or not since we cannot know people’s hearts. However, if anyone, Catholic included, openly denies essential doctrines2, then he is not saved; and this is the problem. It appears that the Roman Catholic Church is denying the essential doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone since it adds keeping the commandments to obtaining salvation (CCC 2068). It says . . .
- “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema,” (Canon 9, Council of Trent).
- “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema,” (Canon 14, Council of Trent).
- For more on this, please see Council of Trent. Canons on Justification.
Notice that justification by faith alone is denied, and heaven is the reward for doing good works. This is the problem. The RCC does not teach the biblical doctrine of justification by faith. It teaches justification by faith and works. If you want to see more on this, go to The Roman Catholic view on justification.
What is the CARM position on Roman Catholics?
CARM’s position is simple. If a Roman Catholic believes in the official Roman Catholic teaching on salvation, then he is not a Christian since the official RCC position is contrary to Scripture. Therefore, as a whole, Roman Catholics need to be evangelized. They need to hear the true Gospel. They need to hear that they are not made right before God by being in a church or by being baptized but by receiving Christ (John 1:12), believing that Jesus has risen from the dead (Rom. 10:9); and that justification is by faith (Rom. 5:1) and not by our deeds (Rom. 4:5). It is only true faith that results in true works (James 2) – not the other way around. Roman Catholics, like anyone else, need to trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins and not the Catholic sacraments, not the words of the priest, not the Pope, not Mary, not the saints, not penance, not indulgences, not the rosary, etc. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Finally, I believe there are truly regenerate Christians in the Roman Catholic Church – truly Christians in spite of official RCC theology and in spite of the ritualistic offerings of this ancient church which has had too many hands meddling in it through the centuries–gradually moving it away from orthodoxy and into apostasy. Yes, apostasy. The Roman Catholic Church is no longer representing true Christianity.
Jesus alone saves. Jesus alone is Lord. Only Jesus’ sacrifice can cleanse us. Only by faith are we made right before God. Justification is by faith – not by anything we do.
Rom. 3:28-30, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
Rom. 4:3, “For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
Rom. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,”
Rom. 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
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As I mentioned at the very beginning of this overview on Roman Catholicism, it is absolutely imperative that in our discussions with those of the Roman Catholic faith, that we speak the truth of God’s Holy Word, in love, and the truth that we hold to be true, does NOT negate our responsibility to do so with consideration (respect), love and compassion, irrespective of whether they may agree with us or us with them. To do otherwise (become angry or hostile), is to disregard the clear teachings of God’s Holy Word. This mindset must be clearly understood and acknowledged. We are dealing with people, imperfect as we are, who hold differing opinions and perspectives on Biblical authority, doctrines and teachings, than Evangelical Protestants historically do. And even here, when using the terminology “Evangelical”, the meaning and connotation of that particular word, is changing before our very eyes. In many ways, it’s like trying to fix a problem with your car, while you are driving in it. The parts and problems are constantly changing.
If one thinks that having discussions with Roman Catholics citing Scriptures alone, will quickly eradicate any misunderstanding we have with one another, you’re going to be in for a bit of a shock. We don’t acknowledge the same sources, we don’t acknowledge the same authorities, we disagree in processes and we differ considerably in our understanding and use of terminology that is frequently used. The Roman Catholic Church has been around for a long time and it would be fool hardy to think that they have not dealt with the questions and objections that we may now lay before them. Coming to a good working knowledge of their understanding, not to mention our own, is going to take a considerable amount of prayer, time and intensive study. Piecemeal persuasion isn’t going to do it, not even close. You are dealing with a system that has developed over many centuries, producing arguments to support their doctrines and teachings. Also bear in mind that the Protestant Reformation also produced the Counter Protestant Reformation, where Roman Catholicism took earnest steps to solidify and re-confirm their doctrines, teachings and authority.
Ultimately, it is not us that brings about changes in peoples hearts. The acceptance of Biblical truth in God’s Holy Word is brought about by God and God alone. We who are the recipients of God’s grace, plant seeds and God alone can make them grow. The greatest tool we have at our disposal to further the reality of God’s ways and thoughts, is feeding ourselves daily, in His Holy Word, with earnest prayer and following the desired leading of God’s Holy Spirit. Step by step, day by day, one on one. And always remember, how we treat others, especially those with whom we may have disagreements, often validates or invalidates what we say.
I do have one final recommendation and request, and that is that you take the time to read and earnestly consider a sermon, given by the notable scholar, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, on the subject of THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, which may be viewed here. Although this sermon was presented over 50 years ago, the vast majority of its contents, still rings true. Especially, where it pertains to the TOTALITY OF THE SYSTEM, that imposes itself, between God and man.
IT IS THE COLLECTIVE, CONTROLLING MEANS WHEREBY, THE COMPLETENESS OF THE INDIVIDUAL DOCTRINES AND PRACTISES OF ROMAN CATHOLICISM, BINDS ALL ADHERENTS, UNDER ITS COMPLETE CONTROL, SUBJECTIVE AUTHORITY AND SUBMISSION, ESPECIALLY WITH REGARD TO POSSESSING THE MEANS WHERE THE GIFT OF SALVATION, GIVEN BY GOD’S GRACE, THROUGH THE DECLARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, AS WITNESSED TO AND DECLARED IN THE GOOD NEWS OF THE NEW COVENANT, IN GOD’S HOLY WORD, TO WHICH, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, ACCORDING TO ITS CLAIMED AUTHORITY, DECLARED PAPAL BULLS, DOCTRINES AND TEACHINGS, UNEQUIVOCALLY DECLARES THAT IT IS THE SOLE SOURCE AND ADMINISTRATOR, AND THE SINGULAR DISPERSER OF, GOD’S GRACE, BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, THAT THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS, ADAMANTLY DISAGREED.
Recommended Books (Many listed)
The Great Debate – Dr . James White – Ten Video Links PDF
Dr. James White – The Great Debate Videos – The Great Debate
Recommended Resource Links:
excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/links/ (many highly detailed and recommended links)
reformandainitiative.buzzsprout.com/ (numerous podcasts, very thorough)
vaticanfiles.org/en/previous-files/ (many posts, highly detailed, highly recommended)
indefenseofgrace.com/ (multiple posts)
Free Online Course “Essentials of Catholic Theology” by Dr. Gregg Allison (highly recommended)
christiantruth.com/home/beckwith-response-to-return-to-rome/ PhD William Webster
christiantruth.com/articles/papalism/ Edward Penny (PDF links are internal)
christiantruth.com/articles/category/roman-catholicism/ (***Multiple highly detailed and recommended documents***)
christiantruth.com/articles/apocryphapart1/ The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha
christiantruth.com/articles/apocryphapart2/ The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha
christiantruth.com/articles/apocrypha3/ The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha
christiantruth.com/articles/formalsufficiencyofscripturefinal/ Scripture and Tradition in the Early Church
christiantruth.com/articles/testimony/ PhD William Webster
christiantruth.com/articles/apocryphapart1/ A Biblical Defence of Sola Scriptura – Dr. Greg Bahnsen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZVHHmCOjOg Roman Catholicism: Contending for the Faith – Mike Winger
bereanresearch.org/catholicism/ (White Paper)
https://cwrc-rz.org/articles/ (Numerous articles)
oncedelivered.net/2015/02/17/who-are-roman-catholics/ (Four Parts)
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!