Also see the related article: Has the Roman Catholic Church changed?
As one person who grew up Roman Catholic stated, "Didn't the Baptists hold meetings telling their people not to associate with Catholics?" Perhaps overstated, the general concept used to be quite true. Throughout Protestant history (and it's multitudes of denominations) the majority have maintained a distinct and definite separation from Roman Catholicism. As another person put it, "Protestants don't have anything to do with Catholics and Catholics have nothing to do with Protestants."
In recent years things have begun to change -- and not just a little. Many churches and para-church organizations now promote unified events and services. Catholics are now welcome as those who merely practice Christianity according to their own traditions as do other denominations. One rapidly growing organization, Promise Keepers (whose expressed purpose of encouraging male leadership in the church and home is commendable, at least on the surface) has from its inception promoted the need for complete unity regardless of denominations, calling for repentance over denominational barriers. Point six of their seven promises drops "denomination" into the midst of an otherwise acceptable statement: "A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity." (Page 8, Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, 1994). Elsewhere (Page 19), they represent the Roman Catholic Mass as being just another form of Communion. An affiliated magazine, Men of Action, also states, "We have a God-given mission to unite men who are separated by race, geography, culture, denomination, and economics." (Fall '93, Page 5). These statements are not made about reaching past all these barriers for evangelism but rather for fellowship, as Christian brothers, regardless of them. No problem, up to a point... Can Biblical unity be based on anything less than the essential truths of biblical Christianity? The Promise Keepers, like numerous others, have succumbed to the "if you love Jesus that's all that matters" theology. Protestant or Catholic, they're all referenced together. In the words of Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney it sounds like this: "Promise Keepers doesn't care if you're Pentecostal. Do you love Jesus ... Hear me. Promise Keepers doesn't care if you're Catholic. Do you love Jesus ...?" ('94 "Seize the Moment" Men's Conference, Portland Oregon, 06/18/94).
We are not specifically singling out and picking on the Promise Keepers here. We are merely using a well-known organization and movement (which has been welcome in countless churches) to reflect a trend already established in many churches and denominations. We call this trend, "Lowest common denominator theology". In other words, what is the minimum we need to have in common to say we are brothers and sisters in Christ? Superficially the answer could be "if you love Jesus," but in reality this criterion is far to simplified. For example what do you mean by the word "love" or even the word "Jesus."? Virtually every Protestant, every Roman Catholic, every Mormon, every Jehovah's Witness and dozens of other cults and movements could honestly respond "I love Jesus." This statement is made and defined by their own terms of reference and doctrine. Even numerous abbreviated Christian statements of faith, and four step "quickie" plans of salvation (as listed in many books and tracts) are again so devoid of doctrinal absolutes that many of the same diverse groups would have no problem agreeing with them. But this is a topic better suited for a separate article. Our point at this moment is the importance of understanding what any individual, group, church, or denomination teach, believes, and practices. Only with this diligent examination and favorable comparison to the essential truths of scripture, can we choose to fellowship together with others as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Please be completely clear that we are not saying Christians cannot have interaction or personal friendship with people of other faiths; whether Roman Catholics or Mormons. Rather, if you know what you believe and are established in it, we encourage you to befriend others as a means of reaching them with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This is far different from joining with them in fellowship and calling it unity in the name of Christ... Colossians 4:5. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.
We have written this as a down-to-earth examination of Roman Catholicism so you may determine whether they should, justly, be called brothers and sisters in the Lord. Should their faith and practice fall short of, or oppose, historic and clear truths of scripture, our examination will endeavor to provide sufficient material to enable a Christian to express and contrast their faith and belief to a Roman Catholic.
Externally many would assume the Roman Catholic church to be a huge monolithic, indivisible, bastion of Christian faith and practice. Not surprisingly, most Catholics like to portray themselves in such a manner also. Many immediately cite the term "catholic," which means "universal," as showing that they are the universal church. We do not dispute that there is one universal church, but we hold with historic Protestantism, that the universal church is composed of all true believers. Local churches are God ordained portions of the body with a purpose of instruction, fellowship and accountability. Membership in any one local fellowship (or denomination) does not constitute membership in the universal church -- only one's individual relationship to Jesus Christ. Therefore, for clarity, we would like to establish our usage of these terms at the onset. Every time we use the terms "Catholic", "Roman Catholic" or the abbreviation "R.C.", we are referencing the church denomination that ascribes its allegiance to the Pope in Rome. (Likewise, all quotes of Roman Catholic sources using the word Church, i.e. upper case 'C', mean only the Roman Catholic church). Should we employ the term "catholic" or "church" (lower case c) we are using these terms to reference the universal church we have previously described. Long quotations are in italics .
Regardless of any assertions to the contrary, the Roman Catholic church can be subdivided into three primary divisions and additional sub-divisions. In a quick fashion we have attempted to provide you with summaries...
#1 - Orthodox Catholicism: Orthodox Catholics are those who ascribe completely without reservation, addition, or omission, to the doctrines of the Catholic church as presently detailed in its official documents and presented position by it's Roman leadership. A classic example of this is the Pope himself. No matter what any individual may claim, Roman Catholic or not, to be a "good" Catholic is to be an Orthodox Catholic. Ultimately this alone is the standard which Rome encourages it's membership to aspire to. Not to be confused with our second division (entitled "Cultural Catholicism"), Orthodox Catholicism has several official cultural branches or divisions. (The following divisions are quoted from Pages 2 & 3, "The Eastern Rite Churches", 1966)
a) The Syrian Rite of Antioch: Evolved at Jerusalem and Antioch and spread through Syria and India. Two sub-divisions include the Chaldean or Persian Rite and the Maronite Rite found primarily in Lebanon.
b) The Coptic (Egyptian) Rite of Alexandria: Evolved at Alexandria and spread through Egypt and Ethiopia.
c) The Byzantine (Greek) Rite of Constantinople: Evolved at Caesarea in Cappadocia and at Constantinople and spread through the Near East, Russia and the Balkans.
d) The Armenian Rite of Cilicia: Evolved at Caesarea in Cappadocia and spread through Armenia and Cilicia.
e) The Latin Rite of Rome: Evolved at Rome and finally unified and spread throughout Europe and the Americas.
Few Catholics in North America have any knowledge of the Eastern Rite churches (those labeled 'a' to 'd' in our preceding list). Some are actually surprised to find that there are widely varying practices allowed in other divisions of the Catholic Church. In fact, some churches in North America practice Catholicism according to the Eastern Rites; especially The Byzantine (Greek) Rite. Generally speaking, the Eastern Rites were sub-groups (by region or culture) that broke from Rome over issues of authority, practice or doctrine. Dependent on the Rite, these dates of separation range from 431 to 1054 A.D. From the 1600's to the 1900's these Rites have become reconciled with Rome, although not on all matters of practice. Functionally, Rome has allowed them to retain their own lines of authority and practice as long as they were willing to ascribe to primary Orthodox doctrines as defined by Rome. The return of these churches to the Roman fold strengthens Rome's position as being the only Church and its belief that the only reconciliation possible, with churches who break away, is for them to return to Roman authority. Some churches that were part of the Eastern splinters from Rome have continued to exist separately -- like the Greek Orthodox church. Most of their doctrine and practice are identical to the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church, yet they fail to acknowledge the Pope as head of their church. When they are willing to compromise on this, Rome will be waiting to take them back.
#2 - Cultural Catholicism: Cultural Catholicism is Catholicism that has been modified, at least in practice, by other influences. Often practice stands opposed to stated Orthodox beliefs. Some factions have adopted redefined interpretations of official church positions. Our following three subdivisions, although in many ways similar, attempt to show some principle mutations.
a) Nominal: A Nominal Catholic ascribes the term "Catholic" to themselves mostly because they were brought up Catholic -- yet rarely, if ever, practice their faith. Truly speaking, a nominal Catholic is no more a Catholic than a nominal Wesleyan is a Wesleyan or a nominal Presbyterian is a Presbyterian. To cite nominal Catholics as proof of the apostate state of the Catholic church is to bring indictment on your own Protestant denomination and many local churches with their substantial inactive membership rolls (also a good topic for a separate article). Perhaps the only thing that institutionalizes and welcomes this phenomena more so in the Catholic church is their teachings that say "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic" (short of excommunication by the Pope).
b) Classic Cultural: True Cultural Catholicism is Catholicism which has been intertwined with an individual's cultural identity. Many nations, including France, Spain, part of Ireland, plus the French speaking cultures of Canada (Quebec, Acadian) have become so intertwined with their Catholicism that to be (e.g.) Acadian is to be Catholic. Often times their Catholic practice has been intertwined with cultural festivals, etc. Most within cultural Catholicism, at least superficially, have the appearance of practicing their faith -- yet again it is often modified from Orthodox teaching. Most feel that to give up their Catholicism is to give up their cultural identity.
c) Merged Ethnic: This branch is an extreme extension of cultural Catholicism. These individuals would hold to being Catholic yet in actuality practice other cultic rites and religions also -- truly a blend of Catholic teachings with other pagan rituals. Brazil provides a classic example. Externally, Brazil is one of the world's largest Roman Catholic countries. In reality its more widely practiced unofficial religion is Macumba -- an afro-Brazilian cult that blends spiritualism, Catholicism, and voodoo. In it about 40 million Brazilians combine Christian beliefs with spirit worship. Although contrary to "Orthodox" Catholic doctrine, the Catholic leadership has found it easier to tolerate its widespread practice. (Macumba information, Pages 292 to 294, Larson's New Book of Cults, 1989). Fear of losing Catholic control of a nation, or region, has historically led to a number of tolerated deviations from standard Catholic teaching -- especially after the Catholic Church lost much of its ability to maintain such control by military might.
#3 - Radical Catholicism: Radical Catholicism is Catholicism which has been modified in belief or practice usually due to influences from outside the Church. Some of these, although technically deviant from Orthodox belief, are officially or unofficially tolerated (and occasionally encouraged) by the Roman leadership. The following subdivisions clearly show this category to include widely diverse groups.
a) Liberal: Maybe we should say "liberal by degrees". From moderate to liberal, this would include those who would tear down even further historic truths of scriptures -- including the deity of Christ, literal creation, and more. Even as Protestant denominations have their share of such theological liberals, so also the Catholics. Protestants have traditionally used further church divisions (splits) to separate themselves from churches or denominations which have become exceedingly liberal. Because of the Catholic church's assertion that they alone are the true church, they have tended to tolerate greater levels of liberalism within their ranks -- only choosing to excommunicate, or remove from office, those who get to vocal in their dissension with Rome. This has become widespread practice in recent years, especially in Western nations, where the church has no temporal means to force compliance as they have in the past (i.e. Inquisitions).
An influential (Roman Catholic) Jesuit journal has proposed that God may have spoken through books as diverse as the Muslim Koran, the Hindu Vedas and Bhagavad-Gita and the sacred texts of China's Taoism and Japan's Shintoism. The journal article suggests that such writings represent not mere literature or philosophy, but rather "revelation" -- God speaking through man. (Article by Daniel Williams, Washington Post, for November 4, 1995, Telegraph Journal)
b) Evangelical: A category which by itself includes great diversity. Some within hold "evangelical" to mean only those who aggressively proselytize their Catholic faith. Often there is more emphasis on small group fellowship. In more limited occurrences this may include some who (on the basis of scriptures) have discarded tenants of Catholicism progressing towards a more Protestant evangelicalism. Usually, however, the title has merely been applied to those who are zealous in spreading their mostly Orthodox doctrine and practice. Catholics, who by conviction of Scriptures, reform their beliefs on major Catholic doctrines and practices, by Roman definition cease to be Roman Catholic. Those teaching such beliefs end up being censured by the Catholic hierarchy.
The book Evangelical Catholics, by Keith A. Fournier, perhaps best shows how many Roman Catholics attempt to equate their evangelicalism with Protestant evangelicalism. First, (on Page 13) he reduces Christianity to a simplistic being a "follower of Christ." and downplays all but basic doctrine (i.e. nothing about justification by faith, etc.) Secondly, Fournier broadens the known and accepted definition of "evangelical" to "one who believes the good news about Christ and proclaims it (Page 21)." Of course, he asserts all differences in understanding regarding the "good news about Christ" as something that can be overlooked. With this broad criteria his opening conclusion should come as no surprise; to him Evangelical is merely a title which "should be -- and indeed is -- a most proper description for all Christians, be they Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic (Page 19)." With such a broad (liberal) definition of these terms, even while justifying standard Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, Fournier had no problem defending his understanding. But this is not true Evangelical Christianity which holds the Bible as complete and authoritative and salvation by God's grace through faith alone.
c) Charismatic: Charismatic Catholics are those who have experienced "gifts" of the Spirit in a Pentecostal way. Most often this is directly referencing glossolalia (speaking in tongues). In most other aspects they follow the characteristics of the Evangelical Catholic sub-group.
In this section we will define the major beliefs of Roman Catholicism; providing source notes from approved Catholic resources.
The Bible: 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (NKJ)
Protestants (excluding the liberal variety) have held scriptures to be fully inspired of God having complete authority concerning life, faith and practice. The standard 39 books of the Old Testament plus 27 of the New continued to be recognized as the only Canonical books of the Bible. From the early centuries of the church, only these 66 books were uniformly recognized as such. Yet to the Roman Catholic church, over time, many apocryphal books were held by subsequent church tradition to have value -- primarily to support doctrine and practice nowhere else recognized by the original 66 books. Though some of these apocryphal books and passages may have some historical value, many are of dubious origin and authorship, with at least one writer not even claiming inspired authority for his work (2 Maccabees 15:37). Even within the Roman Catholic Church many have historically called into question the apocryphal writings -- which on occasion has posed a problem for the R.C. Church and it's Tradition.
Tradition is the body of unwritten knowledge given by Christ to the Apostles and handed down by them to their successors, the Church's bishops, who teach it to everybody else. (Page 36, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994)
The result was the formal declaration, by the Council of Trent in 1546, that the Apocrypha along with church Tradition and the Holy Scriptures were placed on equal level and authority. Another related and very important distinction between Protestant and Catholic belief, concerning scriptures, is their assertions concerning an individual's ability to understand the teachings of scriptures. Protestants believe teachings of the Bible may be understood by the individual reader, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the Catholic church holds that they alone can properly interpret Scriptures and that such interpretation must be according to their Tradition. The results of this teaching flowed into the common practice and belief that there was no practical purpose of providing translations to the R.C. membership, as they could not understand it on their own -- only as taught by the priest. The following Catholic references show their Orthodox views concerning Holy Scriptures and the subsequent claims concerning Tradition and the Apocrypha.
Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. (Page 31, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994)
... the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. (Page 31, Ibid.)
It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament and 27 for the New. The Old Testament: ... Tobit, Judith..., 1 and 2 Maccabees..., Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch... (Page 40, Ibid)
... For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God. (Pg. 39, Ibid.)
In a chapter subtitled "Other Good Books Besides the Bible," an approved modern Roman Catholic scholar and author wrote about the logical extension of following and adopting other "gospels." While noting these books are not even necessarily historically accurate, he continues to explain how numerous additional beliefs, teachings, Saints, and traditions of the Church are based on these writings. Remember, these Traditions are held on par with Scripture under church doctrine.
A lot of books that didn't make the grade for the Bible are still valuable reading, even if they don't exactly correspond to our modern ideas of objective history. (Page 36, Why Do Catholics Do That? Formerly entitled Expressions of the Catholic Faith, 1994)
... the Gospel of the Birth of Mary sometimes attributed to St. Matthew... the Protevangelion attributed to St. James... In the Protevangelion you can also read about the presentation of the Virgin, another episode that you won't find in the Bible. It's still commemorated by the Church with a feast on November 21. ... the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, which runs to some twenty chapters on the childhood of Christ... the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus is another early Christian tract that gives us at least some interesting bits of information that aren't in the Bible... (Pages 38-39, Ibid.)
As we conclude our look at Catholic beliefs concerning God's Word, we need to note that Catholic doctrine and belief hold that no Tradition of the Church is innovation, merely "clarification". This even carries to their beliefs concerning Holy Scriptures (i.e. The Bible). Remember that we as Protestants teach things because they are in the Bible...
... remember, the Church doesn't teach these points because they're in the Bible; they're in the Bible because the Church always taught them. (Page 43, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994)
To the Protestant the formula and order of God's revelation to people is: God, Bible, Us -- to the Catholic it's God, Church, Bible, Church, Us
This continuing process of clarification -- not change -- has always been the Church's way. (Page 16, Ibid.)
The R.C. Church's assertions that it can never change automatically preclude it from reforming itself and aligning its beliefs and teachings with Protestant understanding -- something that anyone who says the Catholic church has changed would do well to remember. In apparent contradiction to this self proclaimed "inability to change," it should be noted that some of the Church's "clarifications," regarding at least some externals, have had the appearance of doing an about face. For example: the use of the Latin in the Mass (once mandatory by the Council of Trent), now not in use (they would say "reformed" by the Second Vatican Council). Perhaps we could best sum up the Catholic church's teaching of God's Word this way... Anything, at any time, that the church says is God's Word or Teaching, whether written or oral, is God's Word. After the Church has proclaimed it as such, it can never repeal its claims without exposing itself as being in error -- so never shall. One can only wonder how all the Catholics of old got by without the thousands of clarifications that have been made over the centuries (1752 laws in the Code of Canon Law as of 1983, 2865 entries in the 1994 Catechism).
In summary, the Bible is our only absolute point of reference -- the means by which God has revealed himself to us. By God's very nature, as One who is perfect, unchanging, Holy and true, God has revealed himself to us in perfect truth. To call the Bible anything less than absolute Truth is to deny scriptures and the very nature of God (John 14:6, John 1:1,14). When the R.C. church can add to scriptures in the name of Church Tradition and "Clarification", the absolute, complete, and perfect nature of God's revelation in Scripture is denied -- denied as being sufficient. The changing revelation, or understanding, of God's Word by the Roman Catholic Church can be seen in other aspects of R.C. doctrine; affecting major tenants and numerous essential of the Christian faith. Consider the following...
Man's State (Sin): Although created perfect (Genesis 1:31), Adam and Eve's willful sin and rebellion against their Creator brought sin, death and corruption to all creation (Genesis Chapter 3, Romans 5:12,17-19). Mankind's state before God was changed to being objects of wrath and all descendants of Adam and Eve bore the stain of original sin in their state and also in their very nature (Ephesians 2:1-3). Mankind's nature, due to sin, became depraved, bent towards sinning (Romans 3:10-12,23, Isaiah 64:6). In quick summary, this has been the Protestant understanding of the teaching of Scripture concerning the sinful condition of all mankind.
In glaring contrast, the Catholic Catechism goes into great detail, and takes great pains, to explicitly spell out something quite different. Because the wording is long and the phraseology is such that only theologians might fully grasp its complete meaning, we will provide much simpler supporting statements as they appear in two other approved Catholic works...
But note that original sin only changed man's state; it didn't change human nature. People were made in the image and likeness of God and created good; people can act badly, but people are by nature good. (Page 45, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994)
... original sin leaves unchanged all that man himself is by nature. (Page 31, Catholic Word Book -- Reprinted from the 1973 Catholic Almanac, 1973)
You have to be perfectly clear about this one point, because a lot of Christians separated from the (Roman) Church teach that humans are by nature depraved, sinful, and wicked -- this is the point that all those fire-and-brimstone preachers have tried to make for the past three hundred years. But it isn't so; that's not part of Christian teaching... (Parenthesis added, Page 45, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994)
When Catholics say that mankind's state has been changed, they say this is why we suffer consequences for sin and live in a fallen world. By saying mankind's nature is still good they imply, at least theoretically, that an individual could live a perfect (good) life. (This duality appears to be a late 'clarification' as some Catholic documents, carried forward over the years, speak of a fallen human nature -- which now appears to be held synonymous with fallen state. ) So when a Catholic tells you that mankind is sinful, they are merely saying mankind has the potential to sin. This versus a Protestant, who says mankind has no choice but to sin apart from Jesus Christ. The results of the Catholic view show themselves most clearly in their doctrines concerning salvation.
Baptism: The subject of baptism could have been covered under the topic of Salvation. Instead we felt necessary to examine it as a separate entity due to it's blatant misuse and key focus in Catholic theology. Scripturally water baptism was a display of faith and obedience. Believe and be baptized (Acts 2:41, Acts 8:12, Acts 18:8, etc.) is the way it is shown throughout scriptures -- an act following faith. Baptism can be scripturally shown to proceed incorporation in the local church membership (Acts 2:41-47). But baptism must never be misconstrued to be a condition of salvation (which is by faith alone -- Ephesians 2:8-9) and incorporation in the catholic (universal) church of God (Hebrews 12:23). (No one denies the thief on the cross was saved by faith without Baptism - Luke 23:39-43). Even Protestant denominations (i.e. Lutheran, Presbyterian), which practice Infant Baptism, for the most part would not claim that the infant automatically has become a member of God's church (i.e. a Christian) when baptized. Salvation requires personal faith (Romans 10:13-17, Acts 15:7, Acts 16:31).
As you will see in our following section on The Church, Catholics equate the visible church (i.e. them) and the universal church as being synonymous. Therefore, once an individual has joined the Roman Church, through baptism, they are a member of God's church -- a Christian. To the Catholic Church every infant and adult which has been baptized has become a Christian apart from any personal faith -- only through the faith of others (i.e. "faith of the Church", See Page 351, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994).
The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. (Page 341, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994)
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. (Page 350, Ibid.)
The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude... God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism... (Page 352, Ibid.)
By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. (Page 353, Ibid.)
Baptism makes us members of the body of Christ... (Page 354, Ibid.)
Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. (Page 352, Ibid.)
Any Protestant church which requires a profession of faith prior to Baptism view any infant Baptism as being invalid. Naturally they require the convert to be baptized (not "re-baptized", as they do not recognize the first as being baptism). Re-baptizing is considered a great heresy to the Catholic Church because it implicitly states that the individual was not saved and hence the Catholic church is incapable of bestowing salvation through Baptism as it claims. The method of Baptism appears to have less importance to Rome -- whether sprinkling, pouring or immersion -- they are all recognized as equal in the ancient Catholic Rituale Romanum (Referenced Page 222, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994).
"Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is able to be baptized." (Page 349, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994)
Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. (Page 356, Ibid.)
Thus a Catholic, baptized into the Roman Church, regardless of sin and lack of fruit of repentance or salvation can be assured they are saved. (Contrast with Galatians 5:22-24 & Luke 3:7-9). The fundamental difference between Catholic and Protestant Baptism cannot be reconciled -- they both cannot be right. Scriptures, apart from R.C. tradition, show the Catholic position to be opposed to justification by faith alone -- a subject we will examine further in the section on Salvation.
The Church & Pope: We have already mentioned the Roman Catholic belief that God's universal church and the visible R.C. Church are inextricably linked -- one and the same. This idea is tied directly to the belief that the Bishops of their church are the spiritual successors of the apostles. The Pope being the spiritual successor to Peter; whom they claim was given absolute authority over the church. Naturally the extension to all this is their belief in the infallibility of the Pope when speaking on behalf of his apostolic office. The "unbroken" succession of Popes, in Peter's office, in and of itself falls when examined historically. The earliest history of the church records no such belief (much less scriptures). The times when there were Popes who were blatant heretics (even by Catholic standards) or even two Popes simultaneously (each not recognizing the other) all show the flaws in this man-made system. Regardless of flawed succession, the very source of this doctrine is completely mistaken. In Matthew 16:16-20, where Peter acknowledges Jesus as being the Christ, and Jesus in turn states that He will build His church, one cannot misinterpret this to give Peter absolute and successionary authority. Yes, we can agree that Jesus referred to church authority and the establishment of His church, but the totality of scriptures show there to be only one foundation -- Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11, acknowledged even by Peter, himself, in 1 Peter 2:6). Yes the church, built upon Jesus, has next a foundation of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20) -- they who helped build the church and record God's Word -- but nowhere is Peter singled out as being the head. And no where can any assumed headship be shown to be spiritually absolute, or to be passed on to future generations. Note even Paul challenged Peter in regards to hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). Also, in accordance with other teachings concerning elders, Peter, James & John were elsewhere held to be equal in church authority (Galatians 2:9). Much more can be shown from scriptures and has been written on this matter by other Bible scholars -- suffice to say -- only extra-biblical Roman Catholic Tradition gives support for their beliefs.
It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation. From the Church he receives the Word of God containing the teachings of "the law of Christ." From the Church he receives the grace of the sacraments that sustains him on the "way." From the Church he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary... he discovers it in the spiritual tradition and long history of the saints who have gone before him... (Page 545 & 546, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994)
The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are "authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice." The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for. (Page 547, Ibid.)
The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed. (Page 547, Ibid.)
You need a reliable mechanism to articulate Tradition when you have questions about good and bad, about truth and heresy, about right and wrong. The Church does this for you, and she's done it consistently since apostolic times. (Page 8, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994)
... there's simply no mechanism in the Church for adding or deleting anything. The whole hierarchy of Pope, bishops, councils, and congregations is set up to do just the opposite, to keep any innovations from slipping in or any precept from slipping out... (Pg. 7, Ibid.)
... the Gospels and the Epistles all assume that you're familiar with Sacred Tradition, at least in its main lines. It isn't always easy to see the relationships between the Tradition and the Bible, though; basically, the Church doesn't hold any truth on the basis of Scripture without Tradition. ... You can't take one without the other because Sacred Tradition is the only source of information about fundamentally important ideas... (Page 5, Ibid.)
In fact, the Church has never changed her ruling on anything pertaining to faith and morals. (Page 13, Ibid.)
The numerous Roman Catholic quotations we have just provided confirm Church claims of absolute authority and infallibility. These statements of inability to change, combined with assertions of their inability to err, preclude any capability to reform. To admit that any teaching, doctrine, or practice "infallibly decreed" is wrong, and in need of reform, is to destroy the entire premise by which the Roman church is now founded (i.e. their absolute infallible authority). And don't try and tell the Catholic church that their more recently expressed Traditions are innovation -- they will be quick to tell you that they are merely formalizing unwritten practices and beliefs that have always been there. Without Scriptures as a sole, absolute, point of reference it is impossible to counteract their claims. Ultimately all this becomes an issue of faith and understanding as revealed by God in his complete unchanging Word.
Some have felt that Rome's willingness to call Protestants "separated brethren" in recent years shows a change towards their status and recognition of other denominations. In fact, this term merely expresses the Catholic view that all Protestant's are separated from the true Church -- apart from which they would say there is no salvation (or, at best, less hope of such).
"The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, 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." (Parenthesis theirs, Page 234, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994)
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..." (Page 234, Ibid.)
Although item 2089 of the
Catholic Catechism clearly defines as sin the acts which brought
about the Protestant Reformation, item 818 holds that all who were
"born into these communities" cannot be charged with
"the sin of the separation." In an absolute sense they
would say that all Protestant Christians, who have undergone a
Trinitarian Baptism, are by the act of Baptism (and the faith of the
community) brought into the true Church. One may deduce that only
willful separation, having once been a Catholic, or the willful
failure to embrace Catholic truths after Baptism, are sins (see items
818 & 819 of the Catholic Catechism). All Catholic interaction
and acceptance of Protestant "brothers" is only for the
purpose of bringing those "separated" back into the Roman
Catholic Church (see items 819-822 of the Catholic Catechism).
Salvation (Justification & Sanctification): The hope of salvation is at the heart of most, if not all, religious systems. Mankind either hopes for, attempts to ignore, or despairs of, the hope of salvation. The majority of religions offer salvation by human effort -- the idea that you can work for, or earn, your salvation (Romans 9:31&32). Some religions even combine a level of belief in a deity, or deities, with this requirement of human effort. What makes Protestant Christianity different from every other religion, is our belief in salvation apart from what we've done or can do. We believe, regardless of past sin (Romans 5:8), that all who will turn in repentance to Jesus Christ are saved by faith alone (Romans 3:22-24, 28). Faith in Jesus Christ alone justifies us -- meaning we are declared righteous in God's sight -- with no merit (before or after) on our part (Romans 5:1, Galatians 2:16, 3:24). All of salvation rests completely on the merits of Jesus Christ and is fully by God's Grace (2 Corinthians 3:5, Titus 3:7). Jesus paid the penalty for our sin past, present and future (Galatians 3:11-13, Hebrews 9:26). Not only are we judicially declared righteous by God (justified), we are sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2, Hebrews 10:10) and are being sanctified (Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 10:14, also read 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 6:11). Sanctification means to be set apart. We can say that the believer is sanctified because, again by Christ's merits, we are positionally sanctified -- in our standing before God we are accounted holy -- declared a saint. We can say that the believer is being sanctified, because we are brought into a process that is working to make us holy in mind and body through the working of the Holy Spirit day to day. In this we await the completion of our sanctification at the resurrection and return of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
The preceding paragraph shows the difference between non-Christian and Christian belief to hinge on the issue of salvation by faith alone. Sola Fides (Latin: faith alone) was and is the at the heart of Protestantism since the Reformation. If Roman Catholicism is shown to not believe in salvation by faith alone -- even if it's faith plus works -- one cannot view their beliefs as Christian (as understood by Scriptures). When faith is combined with anything else as necessary for salvation, or man's efforts are combined with God's grace, we have a fundamentally different gospel -- one which holds much in common with other non-Christian religions -- completely irreconcilable with historic & Protestant Christianity.
The Roman Catholic beliefs concerning Grace and Sanctification are quite different. Grace is given to the individual by faith and baptism into the Roman Catholic Church. Remember, the faith is not necessarily personal faith, but corporate faith. Justification and sanctification have been joined together by Catholicism. Baptism merely begins your justification and sanctification. No one can merit justification at conversion but all can receive it by Baptism into the Church. This justification establishes a cooperation between God and Man enabling you to work, together with God, towards your salvation (i.e. work to stay in a state of sanctifying grace). Should you fail by entering into gross (mortal) sin and die unrepentant you will go to hell. If you have some sins remaining which are not as serious (venial sin) you will go to purgatory to pay for that sin to complete your justification and sanctification. The only hope you have for salvation (heaven) immediately at death, is to have observed the commands of the church (primarily the seven sacraments) and to have no remaining sin which is un-confessed or without suitable penance performed (i.e. being in a state of sanctifying grace). Acts of Penance (stemming from Confession to a Priest) and even Purgatory are to complete atonement for your sins -- as such, Jesus' atonement was not sufficient. The primary sacrament (of the seven) is not really baptism, rather the Eucharist (Mass). Some would like to say that this is merely the Catholic form of Protestant Communion, or the Lord's Supper. Actually it's quite different in form and substance. Christ is actual said to be physically present in the Wine and the Bread (called transubstantiation -- the appearance stays the same but the substance changes). Christ is then sacrificed again and again (a non-bloody sacrifice) each time the Mass is performed. (Technically, Catholics would say this is only making Christ's "bloody, death-phase" of sacrifice complete in a "glorious consummation " -- Page 22 & 23, The Place Of The Mass In Catholic Worship, 1969). Taking of the sacrament is "spiritual" food, strengthening you in your journey towards salvation. Literally when you eat the host you are taking Christ into you -- this is why you need to do it regularly. Only when you have died and gone to Purgatory or Heaven do you know for sure "you've made it."
The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism: (Page 535, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994)
"Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man." (Page 536, Ibid.)
Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament... (Page 536, Ibid.)
Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. (Page 537, Ibid.)
... justification entails the sanctification of his whole being: (Page 537, Ibid.)
Grace is a participation in the life of God. ... by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ... (Page 538, Ibid.)
The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith... (Page 539, Ibid.)
... we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. (Page 542, Ibid.)
Hell is for mortal sin. ... If you die with some of these minor sins on your soul, or with your sins forgiven but unatoned, there's Purgatory. Purgatory is an essential part of the Cycle of Redemption... So Purgatory is for sins that don't deserve absolute punishment -- little venial sins... The souls in Purgatory suffer, all right, but they've got an advantage over us because they know that they're saved. (Page 52 & 53, Why Do Catholic Do That?, 1994)
... the liturgy of the Mass, perpetuating the sacrifice of Calvary in the sacrifice of the Mass. (Page 58, Ibid.)
... the priest repeats the words of Christ at the Last Supper, first over the bread and then over the cup, showing each to the congregation as they become the Body and Blood of Christ. This transubstantiation is the crux of the whole liturgy; it's the "clean sacrifice"... the sacrifice of Calvary continued, now unbloody, until the end of Time. (Page 66, Ibid.)
Of course, it's not enough to be a member of the Church through Baptism; you have to fully accept all of the Church's teachings, being fully aware that this is the Body and Blood of Christ, not merely a representation of them, and you have to profess this in your words and life. ... The whole idea is that Christ comes physically to the altar, then flows outward to the congregation, who carry him immediately out into the world. (Page 67 & 68, Ibid.)
With salvation based on faith plus a work (i.e. baptism) the very essence of Catholic salvation runs contrary to Scriptures. Combine this with a progressive justification, dependent upon sacraments (more works) and sins worked out by penance (more works) it is impossible to pretend that Roman Catholic doctrines concerning salvation are compatible with a scriptural and Protestant understanding of salvation. It is impossible to reconcile Ephesians 2:8-9, (For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.), with actual Catholic practice; regardless of what they say. Jesus' sacrifice does not need to be repeated over and over, it was finished once and for all -- complete atonement for sin (1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 7:27, 9:26, 10:10). Also, like any system of salvation which combines works, Catholics can have truly no assurance of salvation. Assurance of salvation is a reality for all who depend completely on God alone for their salvation (Romans 8:1-2, Romans 5:8-9, 1 John 5:13). In case you still don't believe that Catholic doctrine teaches works are necessary to complete your salvation, read one last statement as we conclude this section...
... Christ rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, to show us what we could look forward to if we kept his commandments. In other words, Christ redeemed mankind from sin. But salvation is another matter altogether, and its a two-way street. You see, Christ's sacrifice laid the foundation of redemption, but each of us has to build on it... and notice, incidentally, that nobody has any assurance of salvation. ... faith alone isn't enough to get you home safely after the journey of this life. (Pg. 48, Why Do Catholic Do That?, 1994)
Other Beliefs and Practices
Popular Roman Catholics beliefs and practices provide further insight into their doctrine. The following sections will not only explain the "approved" practices and meanings, as expressed in orthodox Catholic teaching, but also the common tradition and excess as interpreted and practiced by many (if not a majority) of the laity.
The Virgin Mary, The Rosary, Visions: Protestants hold Mary, the mother of Jesus, in high esteem as one who was "highly favored" and "blessed among women" (Luke 1:28). By scriptures we understand Mary to be the fulfillment to Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:22 & 23) that a virgin would give birth to the Messiah. Roman Catholics would agree with us thus far. Apocryphal books and other accumulated Traditions have enabled the Catholic Church to equate Mary with the Church and bestow her with characteristics and offices that go far beyond Scriptures. As such, the Virgin Mary is the patron Saint of the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. The Church holds the Virgin (as they have defined her) to be the model and example of holiness. The Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which proclaims Mary to have been born free from original sin (unaffected by the fall), was first institutionalized in 1854. The next logical extension of Mary's proclaimed perfection was formalized later. The doctrine of the Assumption, which states that "the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory," was formally proclaimed in 1950. The official pronouncements of these doctrines forever binds the R.C. Church to their belief -- because the Church proclaims itself to be infallible, authoritative and never changeable.
Mary. The Blessed Virgin was eternally predestined, in conjunction with the Incarnation of the divine Word, to be the Mother of God. By decree of divine Providence, she served on earth as the Mother of the divine Redeemer, an associate of unique nobility, and the Lord's humble handmaid. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him in suffering as He died on the cross. In an utterly singular way, she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a Mother to us in the order of grace. (Vatican II, On the Church, Quoted Page 29, The Mother of Jesus)
If the Church, the mystical body of Christ, is without stain, should not His virginal mother be without stain? Original sin did not stain the soul of Mary. (Page 15, Jesus Christ Is True Man, 1967)
The Roman Catholic beliefs concerning Mary, in order... Mary was born unaffected by original sin. She out of perfect will voluntarily consented and co-operated with God in enabling Jesus to be born -- therefore she made it possible for Jesus to save the world. "Jesus could say to Mary: 'By your consent, you made it possible for Me to redeem the world. (Page 20, The Mother of Jesus)" As a virgin she gave birth to Jesus. Although married to Joseph, she remained a virgin the rest of her life. Mary was mystically united with Christ as he died on the cross and is therefore co-redeemer (often called co-redemptrix or associate of the redeemer). Like Jesus, Mary was then bodily assumed into heaven when her work (life) was done; never experiencing death and corruption as decreed to sinful mankind. Now in heaven, as the Mother of God (all of God, not only Jesus), Mary is an eternal advocate and mediator between man (the Church) and God -- who, of course, would not do anything other than His mother's bidding.
In order, the Protestant response from Scriptures... Mary, like all of mankind, was born in sin (Roman 3:23). God selected the time and person to whom Jesus would be born (Galatians 4:4). Mary & Joseph, who had no sexual relationship prior to Jesus' birth, did so afterward with Jesus having brothers and sisters (Matthew 1:18 & 25, Matthew 12:47, Mark 3:32, Mark 6:3). Christ alone is redeemer (Galatians 3:13, 4:4 & 5, Titus 2:13 & 14, 1 Peter 1:18 & 19, Revelation 5:9). Mary, affected by original sin, died (Hebrews 9:27) -- having been told nothing else by Scriptures. There is only one advocate and mediator between man and God and it's Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).
In summary, the Roman Catholic doctrine concerning Mary is complete innovation to Scriptures, finding support only in Tradition (the majority of it quite late in R.C. history). Even though the R.C. church will occasionally offer a rare quote of early date (which presumes to support their beliefs) the rarity, in and of itself, testifies to the general non-acceptance of these doctrines and their later development. To find isolated writers to support any position should come as no surprise, as even today we have writers supporting virtually every possible idea of the imagination -- again what matters are Scriptures alone.
Orthodox church doctrine does not allow for the worship of Mary. Veneration is the correct term. Officially only God may be worshipped, Mary (and much else) may be venerated . To be venerated is to be held in special position and honored with devotion. The veneration owed Mary is spelled out as being greater than that of any other saint. As such, for lack of better words, it could be called "worship lite." In practice, especially throughout cultural Catholicism, most practitioners make no practical distinction between the way they venerate Mary and worship God. Prayer, of course, is more practical to be offered to Mary because she is more inclined to understand human frailty and commands God's attention as His mother. The result becomes, for many, the worship of Mary as Queen of Heaven (another R.C. recognized title of Mary -- consider Jeremiah 7:18, 44:17-25). Truly God commands all worship to only be directed to Him (Exodus 20:3-5, even warning the Apostle John about not bowing down before anyone but God in worship -- Revelation 19:10, 22:9). When any individual goes through all the motions of worship, and yet says it's not, sometimes actions speak louder than words (Isaiah 29:13).
Many seek visions or apparitions of Mary, with the number of sightings increasing yearly. At a minimum, most desire to own an icon (i.e. statue, picture, etc.). As the Mother of the Church, the faithful see no reason to not accept anything she would say or teach to the Church. Any teaching "she" gives becomes (and adds proof to) Tradition. We have numerous written copies of these "important messages" the Virgin has purported to have brought to the Church, over the years. Additionally we attended a gathering of more than 8000 people where a vision was said to have occurred (seen only by Vicka, the visionary from Medjugorje) and had the opportunity to listen to the subsequent message "given by Mary." In a cyclical fashion, these messages most often encourage the faithful to become more devoted to extra-biblical false doctrines (Roman Traditions) and encourage more devotion to the Lady (i.e. more veneration of Mary). The focus is mostly Mary and rarely God. Of course, the hearers are encouraged "by Mary" to spend more time in prayer. To God? No. To Mary, in the form of the Hail Mary or Rosary (-- using beads, mostly Hail Mary's repeated). These repetitious prayers are said to invoke extra grace on the individual praying.
Hail Mary -- Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. (Pg. 25, The Rosary: My Daily Prayer)
To repeat certain prayers sincerely and thoughtfully a number of times is pleasing to God. (Page 5, Let Us Pray)
The Rosary: ... while we recite the prayers over and over again automatically, we're supposed to meditate upon an episode in the life of Jesus and Mary ... the Annunciation, ... the Assumption, and the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven. All together, they sum up the life and mission of Christ and Mary. (Page 100, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994)
Our Lady herself made a series of extraordinary promises... among them, that regular practice of the Rosary "will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God... You shall obtain all you ask of me by recitation of the Rosary." And most intriguing of all, she said that "the Rosary shall be a powerful armor against Hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies." (Page 101, Ibid.)
When Our Lady appeared at Fátima in 1917, she introduced herself as the Lady of the Rosary, carried her own Rosary... And she told the children, "Say the Rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world and an end to the war." (Page 101, Ibid.)
In Scriptures we are
praying vain repetitious prayers like the pagans (Matthew 6:7) and
are told that prayers to the Father must be in Jesus' name (as our
only mediator -- John 14:13, John 16:23-24, Ephesians 5:20,
Colossians 3:17). The practice of praying to Mary is sanctioned and
commended by official, unchangeable, R.C. Church proclamation.
Others Saints & Images: Like the Virgin Mary, but to a lesser degree, saints (who are declared such by the Roman Catholic Church) may be appealed to (in heaven) for assistance. In other words you can pray to saints. (Technically you can pray to anyone who has died and you assume has gone to, at least, Purgatory or preferably heaven). The Protestant understanding, from scriptures, is that all Christians are saints and prayer is reserved for God. The Roman Church says that saints are only those who have gone to heaven and have proven it by having miracles associated with their name. So if you pray to a potential saint and a miracle takes place, and enough of these miracles stand up to Catholic investigation (over time), the Pope may declare the individual to be a saint. Once declared a saint, the church encourages others to appeal to that saint for favors -- of course saints in heaven are closer to God. Like Mary, saints also maybe venerated. (The best reference they cite for this practice is from the apocryphal passage of 2 Maccabees 15:11-16).
... you can ask friends who have died -- those that you know died "in friendship with the Church", anyway. You can probably assume, or at least hope, that they're with God, face to face, and therefore in a much better position to pray than we are down here... (Page 144, Why Do Catholics Do That?, 1994)
... the Church is the only religious organization in the world that has a regular, legalistic process for determining who's with God. ... the declaration of sainthood is reserved to the Pope. (Page 145, Ibid.)
There's still one more thing that the Church requires before declaring confidently that you're with God: miracles. If any happen during a person's life, they can be adduced as evidence, but the ones that really count toward canonization have to happen after the candidate's death. The idea is that if God wants this person known as a saint, he'll permit an extraordinary event in answer to prayers to the candidate... through the candidate's intercession. (Page 147 & 148, Ibid.)
... we don't have an exact word in English for the veneration that a saint gets -- English tends to be kind of stodgy when it comes to matters of the heart. Centuries ago, you might have said that a saint gets "worship"... Nowadays, of course, worship means only our attitude toward God Almighty. (Page 148, Ibid.)
Praying to saints, looking to them for miracles, hoping they can intercede on your behalf to God, all fall under the same biblical response as the ones we gave concerning Mary. We must mention, though, the common practice of making religious images in the form of Saints, the Virgin Mary and even Christ. Considering the clear statements in scriptures forbidding the making of graven images (Exodus 20:4-5) and the worship of them, the Roman Catholic church goes out of their way to say that their practice of "images" is not the same thing. In common practice, the veneration of these images looks and acts like worship. One must also wonder why the abbreviated Catholic 10 Commandments are missing the one concerning graven images (they would say it is merely part of the first commandment) replaced by another command which has been split into two.
... the seventh ecumenical council ... 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. (Page 573, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994)
The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone: (Page 573, Ibid.)
To claim worship (veneration) given to an object is okay, because it is passed on to the one it portrays, is a concept which cannot be found in scriptures -- only in R.C. Tradition. This is a classic case of Tradition nullifying the Word of God (Matthew 15:3-6).
Much more could be written about specific doctrines and practices (including other Sacraments, the Priesthood, relics, sacramentals and indulgences), but this examination must stop here. By now you should be able to see that the Roman Catholic faith is radically different and opposed to the faith revealed in Scriptures alone and as understood historically by Protestants. Most Christians are quick to say that cults and movements which are blatantly opposed to Christianity are wrong. Yet there appears to be a real lack of will to Biblically discern the truth behind groups and churches which claim to be Christian, yet in fact are not, as shown by their beliefs. The best assaults on Biblical Christianity will always come from within, and in the name of Christianity, as these require the most discernment to detect. The best lies always contain a whole lot of truth. Watering down the truth never can promote Biblical unity (the type Jesus' prayed for in John chapter 17) -- unity must be based on the Bible (John 17:17). For the sake of Truth, and the salvation of our Roman Catholic friends and neighbors, we need to wake up and start asking the hard questions.
Books cited in reference notes showing no publication date, were
provided in 1995 by the Catholic Information Service and had no
publication date on them. All stated the name of the Roman Catholic
Imprimatur (as did every Catholic resource utilized) -- the one
certifying that nothing taught in them is contrary to official Church Doctrine.
Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 1995-1997.