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Posts Tagged ‘Romann Catholicism versus Christianity’

Catholic

Please see the last post on the series, “Doctrine of Salvation,” Doctrine of Salvation: Conversion.

As more and more confusion arises concerning the beliefs Roman Catholicism during these dark times, I think that it is important that I interact with Roman Catholicism’s view on salvation.  Christianity and Catholicism are not the same and those in the evangelical world that consider the Roman Catholic Church to be a Christian church should be ashamed of themselves. Basically they are undermining the Reformation and ultimately the authority of the Bible.

Roman Catholicism is a religion that is significantly different from Christianity because they do not believe in salvation as the Bible states.  But because there are so many differences in regards to Roman Catholicism, we will cover only a few areas that I think has major implications.  In order to effectively deal with it, I will cover their view concerning sola Scriptura and sola ecclesia/magisterium. With that said, let’s first cover the Roman Catholic definition of the magisterium.

The Latin word magister for the English word magisterium means, “master.”  The meaning master is not only in the sense of “teacher” but it also means in the broader sense, someone who possesses authority or mastery in a particular field.  In the contemporary Roman Catholic usage, this term basically means that the teaching is reserved exclusively for the office of the pope and bishops.  It is important that we consider the topic of the magisterium, because without it, we would not be debating the subject of tradition versus Scripture in the first place.  In regards to the magisterium, the Catholic Church considers themselves the master or the entity that possesses the authority—whether it be the written Word of God or in the form of tradition.  The concept of the Roman Catholic Church being the master dates back to the fourth session of the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D.  For example, in the first decree of the Council of Trent, it states that the Old and New Testament were not the only inspired source, but the traditions concerning faith and morals are also inspired because the Roman Catholic Church believes it came from the mouth of God; and it believes that it is preserved by the Holy Spirit in continuous succession in the Catholic Church.

When defining their source of authority, the Roman Catholic Church continues by saying, “The totality of the Bishops is infallible, when they, either assembled in general council or scattered (has to be unanimously agreed by the bishops) over the earth, purpose a teaching on morals as one to be held by all the faithful.”  That is a dangerous teaching because only God and the Bible is infallible.

Moreover, the pope, who is part of the magisterium and who is the icon of the magisterium is believed to be infallible when he defines doctrines concerning faith and morals.  To question the pope in matters of infallibility is to second-guess him.  The so-called divine promise given to him through the succession of Apostle Peter, concerning the pope’s definition of doctrine concerning faith and morals cannot be revised or altered.  For example, papal infallibility in the area of making saints is final and irrevocable.  The pope who is the iconic leader of the magisterium can speak ex-cathedra, which means, that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the Pope speaks without error.  Next we will cover the Roman Catholic Church so-called proof that the Magisterium has divine authority.

For the Roman Catholic Church, this is more than apostolic succession, but it is the gift of inspiration itself.  Here is what the Roman Catholic Church says concerning the very gift of inspiration itself being passed down to them, “But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, ‘handling over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place.’”  Dei Verbum 8 says, “This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything…”

Because apostolic succession is key to this belief of authority, let’s take a look at how the Roman Catholic Church validates this claim.  For example, they try validating their claim by using the apostles as an example to validate apostolic succession.  They claim that all of the activities such as delegating authority (2 Cor. 3:5-6; 5:18-6:1; Eph. 6:28) in matters such as the proper interpretation of the Gospel (2 Peter 2:20-21), the norm of sound teaching (2 Tim. 1:13) that is to be found with the apostles, the eye-witnesses of Christ and His resurrection (Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8-9; Jn 20:31; 1 John 1:3; 4:16), delegated authority to others within the church of God.  The leaders appointed by the apostles within the church, that received delegated authority from the apostles (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:22; cf. Titus 1:6-9) would assume the tasks such as teaching and government duties in the church of God.  This thinking results in the logic that the Catholic Church too received delegated authority that was passed down to the bishops of the church.  The biggest proof they have in order to validate the infallibility of the magisterium is Apostle Peter.  They believe that their apostolic succession came from the line of Apostle Peter.  Because Christ promised that Hades will not prevail against the church that is founded on the faith of Peter (Matthew 16:18); and that God will remain with the successors of the apostles to the end of time (Matthew 28:20), then the magisterium can be reliable and will never lead the church into doctrinal error.  Another major issue is their view of tradition.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that tradition is everything that contributes to the holiness of life and the increase of faith of the people of God.  Tradition is key to Catholics because the Bible would not be understood rightly if we limit it to sola Scriptura.  They will go on to say that the church’s history and experience cannot be excluded if the Bible is to be rightly understood.  According to Vatican II Council, the Catholic Church believes in the unity and consistency of Scripture because tradition and Scripture are closely connected.  Scripture and tradition are illustrated as the two streams flowing from the same divine well-spring; and they actually merge together.  They say the apostles handed down the traditions to them.

Another category that is important when it comes to the Vatican view of tradition is the context of locations or loci of tradition.  There are four loci of tradition: rite of baptisms accompanied with prayers, repetition of the Eucharist, the writings of the church fathers, and the life of the church.

The loci of tradition in the area of liturgy for example such as baptism, imparts a sense of the universal need for redemption and the removal of sin by grace; and the Eucharist, together with the elevation of the consecrated elements impresses a realization of the real presence of God.  Church Fathers are also important sources of tradition, because they are believed to be the one’s who established the canon of Scripture, articles of the creed, the basic dogmas of the faith, the basic structures of the church, and also the essential forms of the liturgy.  The last location of tradition, which is the life of the church, is key, because the Roman Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit gives inspiration to the church in producing faithful members a sense of what is agreeable and disagreeable when it comes to salvation.  Vatican II says this about the faithful members of the church, “The sense of the faithful is not a totally autonomous source of doctrine, since it depends in part on the other bearers of tradition and overlaps with them, but it can often help identify the true content and meaning of tradition, especially when it confirms what is also attested by other sources.”

The Roman Catholic Church also contests that traditions are important.  For example, they believe that Paul spoke about tradition when he wrote to the Corinthian Church (1 Cor. 11:2).  However, they Roman Catholic Church misinterpreted that passage.  The Catholic Church traditions are unbiblical and different from what Paul is referring to.

It is clear that the Roman Catholic Church sees that tradition, the magisterium, and Scripture cannot be without the other.  They have a problem with the idea of sola Scripture.  They are three reasons why the Catholic Church rejects the doctrine of sola Scriptura: the Bible does not argue for the doctrine, the Bible teaches the authority of tradition, and the Bible cannot be interpreted correctly without tradition.  In light of their unbiblical foundation, there are negative implications on salvation.  Salvation can only be rightly understood through sola Scriptura.

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Rosary and Bible

On February 14, my friend posted this on her Facebook wall.  Her purpose was not to pick a fight.  But here is the background- she is surrounded with many unbelievers during her weekdays most of time.  In her environment, she gets confronted with many different types of topics.  One of them had to do with Catholicism.   Because she is concerned for many who are lost in their sins, she wanted to voice her concerns about the lost.  Here is what she posted:

CATHOLICISM vs. CHRISTIANITY: To friends who has voiced their opinions about whether or not a true Catholics are “saved”. Here, I pulled out from the Catechism of the Catholic church. If you don’t believe in this, you’re not a Catholic. Here the link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2E.HTM

Here is the explanation:

977: This teaches that water baptism by the Roman Catholic Church is necessary for forgiveness of sins.

978: This teaches that when one receives baptism, all their sins are removed – perfection is accomplished. It also teaches that the Catholic is now sinless and given the task to try to live a good enough life for God.

979: This teaches that not only baptism is necessary for salvation, but the Roman Catholic Church is necessary for the remission of sins committed after baptism.

980: This teaches that Penance – human works that supposedly offset your sins against God – is necessary for salvation.

Conclusion: So just from this section alone, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that for salvation a person must…

Believe in Jesus Christ + be baptized by the Roman Catholic Church + have the Roman Catholic declare that their sins are forgiven + the acts of penance

This is in no way salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It is the work of Christ on the cross plus numerous, legalistic works imposed by the Roman Catholic Church. This is what the letter of Galatians warns against.”

It did not take to long to get responses back.  I had a few comments from my own end too.  I will not be quoting every comment for the sake of the length of this post.  And just as a footnote, whenever you see this: “[my friend]” that is a substitute for my friend’s real name out of respect.  But here are some of the comments from the responders who are either Catholics, professing Christians who think Catholics are Christians, and Christians who do not believe true Catholics are Christians:

Zach: [My friend] you are beating a dead horse.

EvangelZ: Do you subscribe that salvation is by Faith alone?

Matthew: Yes. But that’s beside the point.

Many Reformed people argue that Arminianism and Catholicism are essentially the same when it comes to salvation, because if faith is not gift of God’s grace, or is a gift that can be refused, then salvation does really come down to works in Arminian theology as well.

I would also like to note that Catholic theology strongly affirms that salvation and faith are gifts of God’s grace. The issue where we differ is how that gift of salvation is received; and honestly, when it comes down to it, the difference is more linguistic than many are willing to admit.

EvangelZ:  Please quote the source and please define your understanding of God’s grace from Scripture.

Matthew:  I’m not really interested in getting into an exegetical debate here. I’m simply challenging [my friend’s name will be unknown out of respect] consistency on this issue, so I’ll wait for her response.

*Matthew thinks my friend is inconsistent because Matthew thinks that if we label Catholics as not being Christians, then we must label Arminians as non-Christians too.  That is why he is challenging my friend’s consistency on this issue.  Clearly, Matthew has a distorted view because many Arminians believe in that salvation is by Faith alone, not faith + plus works, as the Catechism puts it.

Katie Hurd: Who are you to say who is and who is not a Christian? Isn’t “God” supposed to decide those things on “judgement day”?

Ellen: It’s good you are using the Vatican website but the “explanations” are not accurate. For example the very first doesn’t even mention water. We believe there is more than one kind of baptism. Again all of you who think you know our beliefs and you believe we are going against God talk to practicing Catholics in person.

EvangelZ: Matthew, what are your thoughts on the Catholic Church? Do you believe they are Christians? If so, please state your reason.

Matthew: They are Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ; that he is one person with two natures; that he is the second Person of the Trinity; that he lived, died, and rose for us and our salvation; that we can be saved only through faith in him; that he is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

There are many things wrong with the Roman Catholic Church in my opinion; that doesn’t mean that it’s not a Christian church.

[My friend]: Just got home from the movies. Sorry for a late reply. Matthew, I do believe that bad theology can send you to Hell, especially the ones that involve salvation. I am going to trust what the Bible says about salvation, that is, repentance and faith in Christ alone.

You asked whether or not I believe Arminians are Christians. I have to tell you it is a case by case examination. In the case of the Catholics, I don’t understand why you are defending the validity of their faith. I presented to you the Vatican above showing their understanding of salvation- Saved, in part, by good works. It doesn’t match up with what the Bible say salvation is. And if you believe the Bible is THE Word of God and nothing else is, you have to take how the Bible qualifies as salvation, and not how you think salvation should be.

The Catholics tell about us who they are in black and white on paper. I am using that as my evidence against them.

I do have a couple questions for you: Do you have any case from the Bible that proves your point of salvation is saved in part and finished off by human works added on? What about the idea of being able to pay for your own sins by punishing yourself?

[My friend]: Ellen, a practicing Catholic must have read the Vatican, right? That is what they profess that they are. And if that is what they profess they are, then the Bible is clear that they are not saved. Not saying you aren’t. When I do the side-by-side comparison, the list of necessity of salvation clearly does not match. Penance, purgatory, and so forth..

Ellen: Again [my friend] the “summaries/explanations” you providers of the little paragraphs in the Vatican are not true. Just read it as it is and things like purgatory talk to a few well knowledgable practicing Catholics. These little explanations are mostly assumptions.

I alone am no going to be able to offend every attack you have on our Christian faith and I don’t want to keep trying forever. So you and you other guys need to go talk to at least a few different REAL Catholics in person. Attacking our religion by things you will not understand by Protestant biases will lead you and others no where. Talk to those in a local Catholic Church community before you carry on further.

[My friend]: Okay, Ellen. I am reading the Vatican by itself: “This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism,….”

Ellen:  Yes. Penance for us is usually prayer and reflection. From my understanding that is how we believe we can show remorse for our sins and to keep us sinning in the future. Jesus opened this possibility for us, but we must still be responsible for the times we have offended God. Once we confess to a priest by the power of the Holy Spirit (which was given to us by Christ) our sins are completely washed away. But like I said please talk to other practicing Catholics as well because I do not know everything.

Christine Rios: This is absurd. I’m catholic and proud. I’m sorry [my friend] I can’t support this and I’m going to have to remove you from my friends list.

EvangelZ: Matthew, if you read [my friend’s] earlier post of what Catholicism believes concerning salvation, it would be a categorical fallacy to say Catholics who believe in the teachings of Rome are Christians. You seem to subscribe to a theory of coherence concerning Catholics that does not correspond to divine revelation (66 books). Therefore, your statement that Catholics are Christians is not coherent. Please explain their teachings concerning salvation accurately. Otherwise, I will consider it as a sweeping generalization on your part.

Matthew Neal: Well I guess my definition of Christian and yours are clearly not the same. I stated above what I believe (and what historically has been defined) to be the core of the Christian faith; if you want to believe that no one before 1517 was a Christian then I have nothing else to say, other than to note the fact that both Luther and Calvin used the term “Christian” in reference to the Roman Catholic faithful.

Peace out.

[My friend]: But isn’t Luther the one that nailed the 95 thesis against the Roman Catholic Church?

EvangelZ: Matthew, please quote the source where Luther and Calvin would consider a Roman Catholic that subscribes to works righteousness and Tradition (as being over and equal to sola Scriptura), as being Christians.

Ellen Kemper: Seriously you guys are missing the big picture. Catholics believe in Christ and are Christians. ANYONE who believes in Christ and follows the commandments are Christians. Why try to pervert someone’s genuine belief and love for God by saying they are not truly loving and following Christ when they themself KNOW they are. So much time is wasted with argument of what someone THINKS when real focus should be on what someone DOES. If you could talk to Mother Teresa face to face right now would you really tell her to stop being Catholic because she is not following Christ? What are you trying to accomplish here?

The most important is that we LOVE God with everything and that we love our neighbors as ourself. This is exactly what Jesus taught us. Why not focus on this.. Looking at what we have in common rather than our differences in showing God our love for Him and His creation. It’s pointless to “predict” who is saved and who is not because that is God’s decision and God’s decision alone. We do not save others, God does. Our job is to love one another, and by our love we will glorify God. It doesn’t matter what language someone speaks, how much I.Q. they have, or even how many bible verses they can memorize. What matters is that they truly love God and others as them self. This is what Jesus Christ taught us, and this is what it means to be a Christian. Do not criticize what you do not understand.

Also I just want to say I was extremely blessed to be raised Catholic from birth. I grew up in traumatizing and confusing situations at home, more than anyone should have to go through.

But my religion saved me because at a young age it taught me about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It convinced me and still does that there is life after death. It gave me a mother (our blessed Mother) who was trustworthy and brought me peace when my mom in the world couldn’t. It taught me about other people in history (saints) who had been incredibly blessed with Gods strength in their own personal ways and gave me something to relate to. It gave me much needed faith in a guardian angel when I was young. It taught me that “Jesus is always with us”. I can honestly say it made me survive.. If I wasn’t raised with this I could have ended up a crazy homeless lady addicted to drugs. I am so grateful to my religious educators and my family. And I will forever defend my faith. So if you want to keep driving people away from the original and unified church of Christ be my guest, but you are sadly mistaken and doing more harm than good.

[My friend]

Ellen, we try because we know to path to Heaven is very narrow. We try because we love you. This sounds cheesy, but it is not. Satan is out there getting every soul he can to go down with him. I am not driving anyone away; they are already away. There is one road to Heaven, and that road is through the life, ALONE the death, and the resurrection of Christ ALONE.

Here is where you and I differ, Ellen: Where the Bible describes salvation begins and ends in Christ ALONE, you say salvation begins in Christ and ends with human righteousness.

You help me prove my own point. You said, “Once we confess to a priest by the power of the Holy Spirit (which was given to us by Christ) our sins are completely washed away.” What if I die on the way to church and haven’t gotten the chance to confess?

You religion pays for the sins PRIOR to conversion and leave YOU to pay for your own sins after conversion via penance and purgatory. My Jesus pays for my sins once and for all, before/during/after conversion. My record of sin is empty. It doesn’t mean I don’t fall short as a human, but it means that I am relaying on Him and not myself for my deliverance when I die.

I never once said that you have to have a great IQ to be a follower of Christ. But I did say that you have to rely on Christ and Christ alone for your salvation.

I am going to go video type a priest and let him tell you that the Catholic Church believes in the necessity of penance and purgatory for salvation. I don’t do this to spike you; I do this because I love you.

As you can see this debate will never end.  It has been going on for ages.  But what is sad is that many who profess to be part of the Protestant camp or profess to be Bible believers, are saying that Catholics are Christians.  But a true Catholic who subscribes to the teachings of the Catechism as mentioned above are not Christians because it is not a true salvation based through God’s grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8).

Not too long ago, The Domain for Truth wrote some articles on Catholicism.  For more information, please see these links:

Observations from Irenaeus’ Against Heresy Book Three Chapters 2-4 in light of the argument that it is against Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura Versus Sola Ecclesia: Introduction

Sola Scriptura Versus Sola Ecclesia: Part II

Sola Scriptura Versus Sola Ecclesia: Part IIISola Scriptura Verses Sola Ecclesia: Part IV

For some other great articles on this subject, please see these links:

Can you be saved and still be Roman Catholic?

Catholic Christians – is this an oxymoron?

For those, reading this blog, please feel free to share your comments.

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