Roman Catholicism and the Bible

The last post, dealing with the Nephilim of Genesis 6, ended up touching on both the creation story and on modern doctrines versus the early traditions of the church.

By the way, someone sent me a link free online translation of the Book of Enoch. I forgot to mention that I was not that impressed with the Book of Enoch. I do not want to add it to our Bible! But it does give a version of the Nephilim story and the origin of demons that’s in the New Testament and held to by the early Christians (previous post).

So, while we’re transitioning towards tradition, let’s discuss Roman Catholicism.

Warning: There’s nothing very nice about this post. It’s just honest without any real regard for the feelings of Roman Catholics. I make no apology for that. This is, after all, a blog, not a discussion in my living room.

I got a newsletter for the Christian history section of Christianity Today that included this article on Pope Benedict XIV. It begins:

By decree on this day June 13, 1757, Pope Benedict XIV said the nations could have the Bible in their own tongues.

Wow. 1757?

So, what do you reckon happened? The pope got a sudden revelation that after 1700 years God had changed his mind, and now it was okay for Catholics to read the Bible in their own language?

Of course not. What happened is that the Roman Catholic Church was finally losing to the Protestants badly enough that it had to give up some of its more egregious errors and offenses against humanity and against the teachings of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. (Quite similar to when the Latter Day Saints had a sudden revelation in the 1970’s that God had removed the curse from blacks, and now African-Americans could be priests.)

Let’s not forget that not only did the Roman Catholic Church burn people for giving the Scriptures to common people (e.g., John Huss, but there were many others). They even dug up John Wycliffe’s bones to burn them posthumously 12 years after he died.

Nothing against individual Roman Catholics. They’re the ones that I pray will be delivered from bondage to the magisterium and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church (which is neither Scriptural nor an apostolic tradition).

But let’s face it. To suggest that an organization which has burned people to death for translating the Scriptures is the one, true commissioned church of Jesus is just nonsense.

Yes, they’ve utterly disqualified themselves forever over just that one centuries-long bit of tyranny. But don’t worry, if you need more before you join me in rejecting them, you can study a little medieval history and grow far more disgusted with the magisterium and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Real Church

In Scripture, and in the earliest church fathers, the churches–it was usually plural in the 2nd century fathers, not singular–consisted of all the Christians in a local area, committed together as one family, sharing each other’s lives, that interacted in a network without any hierarchy above the local church.

That’s Biblical and traditional ecclesiology—if the tradition you’re concerned about is apostolic tradition.

If that’s offensive, too bad. They shouldn’t have murdered thousands or millions of people for trying to serve God and (of all things!) for giving out the Scriptures (free of charge!) to the common people.

Oh, wait. Let’s not forget what that hierarchy and magisterium did to the Muslims during the crusades.

No sense pretending. We might as well face what we have to face.

I don’t know what you’re looking for. I’m looking for that wonderful love and unity that marked the church in Acts 2:42-47. I believe God offers it, and the place it is found is in the local church, among Christians who have been taught to follow Christ according to the Scriptures and by the Spirit.

If it’s at all possible, read the next post, which is written and scheduled for Wednesday. It’s on a completely different topic, and it will certainly be among the most unusual posts you have ever read. If you’re on my personal mailing list, though, then you’ve already read it.
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12 Responses to Roman Catholicism and the Bible

  1. Bob Duggan says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful post John Michael.

  2. Bob Duggan says:

    John Michael,

    Not that it was a big deal, I was just curious because you said “Have you read the book you call the Apocalypse of John?” In other words, how do you know what I call the last book in the Bible? I figured I must have made a reference I didn’t remember. Is there something odd about calling it “The Apocalypse of John” or “John’s Apocalypse”? At any rate I have read it and heard it read many times by attending the daily Eucharist in the Catholic church. I understand it to be an historical allegory and a profoundly mystical and spiritually prophetic book.

  3. John Michael says:

    Hi Bob.

    Yes, I am part of Rose Creek.

    I did not say you referenced John’s Apocalypse.

    I implied, since you seemed to have some knowledge, that you had read how Jesus had commanded the churches to repent or have their light from God removed, so that they would no longer be a church.

    Maybe I was wrong to assume that you knew the story.

    Like Shammah, I was also an altar boy and spent two years in Catholic school.

    My grandfather was the president of the local Knights of Columbus, a Lector, and a drunken two-faced bigot, with whom nobody got along except when he put on his false public persona.

    In his wife’s last years, while she was in intense pain, he hid her pain pills, so he wouldn’t have to buy more, because of the expense.

    He apparently managed, however, to find money to take his own pain pills.

    While I remember a few exceptions, most of the RC’s that I knew were worldly and talked about saints, the Pope, and Notre Dame, but seemed to care little about either their own life glorifying God by the way they lived, nor the church glorifying him.

    People who were exceptions were canonized and were expected to be the exception, rather than the rule.

    I love the exceptions, like Mother Teresa.

    But the early Apostolic churches could boast about godly people being the rule.

    The New Jerusalem that God is building is inhabited by people who glorify and satisfy God by their lives given in the love and service that represent Jesus in a real, tangible way.

    Spiritual Babylon is inhabited by people who seek to glorify and satisfy themselves.

    I agree that it is hard, and we start with ourselves.

    But we also want to wake people up to the truth, whatever they call themselves.

    One interpretation of the passage where Jesus says a bad tree cannot produce good fruit says that, by bad, he means full of disease and corruption.

    A very sick tree like that might occasionally be able to put out the odd fruit that is healthy, but most of the fruit will be inedible.

    Someone who had had to live off the fruit of the sick tree all their life might not know that there is something better.

    Shouldn’t those who have tasted the fruit of a sweet, nutritious, healthy tree invite those who can’t even imagine that it can exist?

    We are not against people. We are for them knowing and being what they were meant to be, and being it.

    The church is not supposed to be a few serious disciples surrounded by a lot of people who have their own worldly agenda.

    The church, by definition is all saints. Not that they don’t ever sin, but that their hearts, lives and actions are geared toward pleasing God in all they do, constantly growing toward making their lives a clearer picture of Christ in the earth.

    It is not, by definition, mostly sinners who have no intention of working to quit rebelling against God.

    Sorry. That is not a light to the world.

    It is not from God, Apostolic, scriptural, nor does it make good sense or help anybody.

    Would it be love, to let people continue to walk in lies, and let others bring them into the same system, where their chances of becoming worldly and ungodly are much better than becoming a saint, when it doesn’t have to be that way?

    If you would like a list of the RCC’s bad fruit of the last century, I will be glad to make you one, though it would have to be condensed, because it would be so long. Or you could do a search yourself. It takes some time, but it’s not that hard. I urge you to do an in-depth study, then see if you still think it is so small of a deal.

    Incidentally, if churches failed to turn back to God before they had their light taken away, and ceased to be a spiritual entity of Christ, would they neccessarily stop calling themselves a church, or is it possible that they would continue on, as if nothing happened, doing the works of man, without God?

    Yes, God saved sinful Isreal, time and again, but he didn’t do it through “sweet optimism,” but by confronting them with their sin, and bringing judgement.

    They were hard of hearing, and hard of heart, excusing themselves, and failed to judge themselves, or listen to the still, small voice of God, so he got their attention.

    But, though a few listened, mostly they didn’t.

    In the end, they were “grafted out,” in favor of those of all nations that would repent and turn to him and his ways.

    Those that listened came out and became part of these people.

    Chastisement is painful while it happens, and is antithetical to our western sensibilities that make us out as answerable for our actions to no one, but when we get past the emotions and self-justification, we find life without measure.

  4. Bob Duggan says:

    Just want to say thanks to John Michael. I suppose you are a member of Rose Creek or Village? You can call me Bob. When did I reference John’s Apocalypse?

    Shammah, I really like the idea of your ministry. We need a story, a narrative another Bible in a way that includes our whole history.

  5. Bob Duggan says:

    Thanks, I appreciate the back and forth. Whatever you have to offer in dialogue is fine whether long or short. You are probably a fairly busy guy though, so just let me know if this is not the proper forum for this type of discussion.

    What do you suppose is the reason we find in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus is speaking about those who sit on the seat of Moses and how Jesus disciples should do as they say even if not as they do? What does this teaching mean for Jesus followers today?

    How is it that the Apostolic tradition has come down the churches of today if not through the institutional churches, namely the Latin church (and then to the Protestant churches onward)in the west, and through the various orthodox churches of the east?

    Do really suppose that the codifying of the canon of scriptures was not in keeping with Apostolic tradition? Wasn’t the whole point of codifying the canon (whether “unofficially” by the ecumenical fathers or even by the council of Trent) a matter of sticking to what was clearly considered true to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles coming from reliable sources? Is that not a good thing?

    I have a hard time thinking that God was waiting a long time to reject Israel or anyone for that matter. Isn’t it we who reject him and not the other way around?

  6. Bob Duggan says:

    THE REAL CHURCH

    I don’t think anyone can argue with your understanding of early ecclesiology.
    Apostolic succession should also be understood as adhering to the living tradition of those commissioned by Christ. The legalistic view of laying on of hands without intended obedience to the understood tradition of the apostles should be disregarded as a flawed and dangerous line of thinking. (The Orthodox and Anglican churches share this view in common and are actively dialoguing with the Roman church on the nature of apostolic succession and on the nature of the hierarchy of the various “local” churches or “patriarchates” in relation to the Pope, the Bishop of Rome)

    I just can’t agree that the Roman church is only about spreading ignorance in order to rope people into it’s system of empty legalism and ritualism. It sounds to me that you all need to meet some real Catholics who actually know as much history as you do AND know what the church actually teaches and is doing today.

    Are you against the ecumenical councils though?
    How do “Bible” Christians reject the hierarchy which secured for us the canon of scriptures?

    There are a lot of sinful characters in the Old Testament. At what point has Israel ever cease to be Israel? How could it be that they didn’t forever disqualify themselves as God’s chosen people? If that be possible then why not give up reading the Old Testament as inspired?
    Didn’t God “threaten” Israel through the prophets and then save her again and again?

    Do you not believe there is at least something similar going on when the Lord tells Peter “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” and when he says “They sit on the seat of Moses” Is the Lord not referring to the TEACHING AUTHORITY of the hierarchy of Israel in the realm of oral Torah?

    The Catholic church (along with the other “apostolic” churches) has not gone away and is not going away. Yes, it is losing temporal power. Thank God. It is also open to the Holy Spirit. It always has been. The Church is not only made up of sinners but also saints. It is made up not only of hierarchy but laity. It has gone wrong but there is always a remnant, a heart, which follows the Way.

    You don’t need to drag up the past in order to condemn. You don’t need to defend the beauty and purity of the revelation you’ve received by putting down others. I think we’ve come far enough to realize as humans and as Christians, as the Church, we are all heirs to a great inheritance which is the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father and we need to all take responsibility for not dividing any more than has been. Yes, God will judge and cleanse and purify. Let us not be instruments of His wrath. We can be zealous to guard our revelations and charisms with out cutting down whole other parts of the Church which are going through trials enough to understand what the history of man and the kingdom of God have or don’t have in common.

    Peace and thanks again for the blog and forum.

    • Shammah says:

      I don’t think I’m being an instrument of God’s wrath. I think I’m opposing a strong, public, persistent claim by the Roman Catholic Church and many of its members. Most who write me are unthinking, unreasonable, and rude … and there have been MANY. Most begin with unthinking, unreasonable insults, but a few pretend to be open-minded, then resort to insults as soon as they find out I’m more knowledgeable of Catholic apologetics than they are.

      I know people who have believed their persistent and inaccurate (and often dishonest) spin on church history and the apostolic view of the church.

      The damage of that message is great.

      As far as bringing up the historic opposition to the Bible of the RCC, there is good reason for that. That hierarchy would immediately go back to banning anything that prevented their complete sway as soon as it were possible. Then, possessing absolute power, they would rapidly swing back to the absolute corruption that marked the Dark Ages.

      They haven’t changed, Bob. Not the system. It’s exactly the same, and as far as I can tell, its members are just as captive and unthinking as they’ve ever been. Yes, there’s exceptions, but they’re exceptions, not the norm.

      Don’t forget, I was raised Catholic. I was an altar boy. I went to a Catholic school for two years. Now, I’m an adult, and I write publicly about church history and talk to Catholic apologists. I am very aware of the state of the Roman Catholic Church.

      As far as the comparison between Jesus’ promise to Peter and what he said about the Pharisees, no, I don’t think there’s any link. I think the Old Covenant involved an earthly nation and an earthly priesthood and people. They were visible, and it took a very long time for God to reject them (Matthew 21:43), but he did.

      In the New Covenant, God’s people are spiritual, and his nation is spiritual and from heaven. They are spread throughout the world and drawn from every people. He will always have a church, but he was apparently quite ready to reject individual churches pretty quickly. In Revelation 2-3, he twice threatens to make a church not a church. One of them was even Ephesus, an apostolic church.

      Either way, the whole idea that Christians ought to attach themselves to a hierarchy rather than attaching themselves to Christ in the *local* church is a false idea that is not founded in the Scriptures or in early Christianity. It is harmful, and hierarchies will always be prone to corruption. They have no grace because they are not of God, and they have nothing to do with the church.

      I have to say, though, that your statement that the Catholic church has always been open to the Holy Spirit seems completely false. I see no evidence of that whatsover anywhere. Can you give me one example that hasn’t been forced on it by worldly governments or by being embarrassed by churches that have fled from it?

      Finally, I don’t know what Bible Christians do about the councils. I don’t agree with the cover of the Bible. I don’t think the Bible should have been determined by anyone to be 66 books … or 73 … or the up to 80 that some Orthodox churches have. I think Christians were doing fine without a decree from councils, and, in fact, there was never an authoritative decree from any council until the Council of Trent in the 16th century (says the Catholic Encyclopedia). There may be a few disputed books, but on the basic canon, the churches have been agreed since long before any council decreed a certain set of books.

      That’s a lot. I’m sure that’s way too much for a comment section, but I don’t know what else to do.

  7. John Michael says:

    Mr. Duggan,

    Our difference, apparently, is that while you equate the Roman system with, “the body of Christ,” we don’t.

    And, though we know that there are some who are in the Roman system that love and serve God: they are the exception, rather than the rule. That the system, as a whole, is corrupt and leading people astray by teaching and deed.

    We don’t even need to tell you the specifics. You already seem to know.

    Make you’re own list, then ask King Jesus if he would overlook it as just, “A few negatives.”

    Maybe the problem is that no one is interested in calling the many “negatives” that have accumulated, and continue to accumulate, by the name God calls them: rebellion against God and his ways.

    Is it love to gloss over the bad fruit that shows that the tree is bad, as the master taught?

    Have you read the book you call, “The Apocalypse of John,” where churches are warned that they will have their candlestick (church) taken away if they continue in their evil ways?

    Do you think Rome was exempt?

    For over a milennia?

    Yes, God is merciful and calls those that will listen to turn to him and his ways.

    Is a system gone wrong more important than the message that God wants a people who, as a whole, represent him: that he requires them to be set aside as a people who are “a light to the world,” that, “If your light be darkness, how great is that darkness?”

    Is it love to let people continue to accumulate guilt and shame, when it doesn’t have to be that way?

    Or do you believe it has to be that way?

    The problem being addressed here is that many Roman Catholics are out there promoting the corrupt system as the answer, rather than a problem that needs correction.

    If you want to hear people talk about exclusivity, you need to look no further than them, and their responses on this blog.

    We live this “beautiful life” submitting ourselves to correction from God through His Spirit, and through each other.

    (Believe me, it’s not always easy! Nor does it always “feel good.”)

    We believe that this IS the love of God, that he will not allow us to excuse ourselves from continuing in disobedience and rebellion, but that he calls us continually higher, to grow more like himself.

    As Paul writes, ” I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”

    And, there is the proverb: “He who hates correction will die.”

    Don’t you know that it is for discipline into sonship that we follow Christ?

    While corrupt systems sidetrack people who seek the truth with arguments over things like the mechanics of “the atonement,” they miss the plan of God’s fatherhood to correct them and grow them up into his likeness.

    While the great Father is speaking, people are too busy with their religion to hear the message.

    Why not just abandon it?

    The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul commands us to cast aside every weight that slows us down, and run the race to win.

    Why not go back to the simple, unencumbered teaching and example of the Apostles over anything else?

    The way of the Master is hard. It costs everything. It takes time and effort.

    But it is his way. That is the truth.

    Even if it sometimes seems rather impossible to us.

    The first step in love is honesty: not religion, not allegiance to a system. Truth.

    The Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness, peace, and joy.

    Notice which comes first in God’s economy.

  8. Shammah says:

    Opposing the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t have anything to do with exclusivity. Just because I’m pointing out that the organization has a long history of corruption and bad motives, and that therefore I point out they couldn’t possibly be the true church, has nothing to do with whether I’m exclusive or not. The organization and its leadership should not be trusted, they are dangerous, and their claims to being the church should be summarily rejected.

    By the way, we do not want to get into today’s problems. It’s not gotten a lot better. They just have less power.

  9. Bob Duggan says:

    In digging up the past in such manner, you fail to speak of the good of both the past and the present. You judge the past not with understanding and forgiveness but with condemnation not only of the past but also the present. In effect, this view expresses both arrogance and ignorance by taking for granted the very patrimony which you rest your feet on. That is the Church by whatever name maintained BY GOD’S MERCY throughout history until the present day. Your criticisms of the past remind me of the digging up of of the bones of men only to burn them! Beware the exclusivity you so despise.
    The suffering servant, the prophets of God can not be busy condemning a past which must be forgiven and learned from. God is not working in the past. Criticize fairly the hypocrites of today if you must. But don’t forget that there is much good beyond only your camp and PLEASE don’t think that in order to share the Beautiful Revelation of the Local, Visible and Communal Church you have to focus on the negatives elsewhere within the Body of Christ. There is so much good to be shared and built upon. Peace and thanks for the blog.

  10. Shammah says:

    Let’s put this in perspective. The Roman Catholic Church, to this day, says that all Christians should submit themselves to the pope. I get emails every week from Catholics arguing that position. For 500 years or more, the entire continent of Europe tried that, and the RCC threw out every bit of Christian teaching and ruled with one of the most tyrannical regimes in the history of mankind.

    Then, I hear a report that “on this day in 1757” the RCC allowed the nations to have the Scriptures in their own language.

    In response, I point out that prior to that they put people to death for making the Scriptures accessible. This, I argue, completely disqualifies their aggressive, public claim to be the one true church. I tell people not to trust them because they are purveyors of ignorance, oppression, and cruelty, not the light of God.

    And I’m judgmental for this? I’m spreading words of ignorance for this? I’m supposed to love them, so they can get more people in their grasp, with their eyes on organization and ritual rather than Christ?

    To answer your question, I will put down the sword of my tongue when there are no enemies of Christ to be upbraided and overthrown with it.

  11. Bob Duggan says:

    Wow! That was hardly original. Bashing the Catholic Church? Yes, there is history to be learned from and there are grievous errors and evil in the hearts of all men in all ages including you and whatever group you belong to. Thank God that he doesn’t abandon a single one of us. The Catholic Church as well as other major churches are in a process of seeking out the meaning and importance of Christian unity and ecclesiology. I understand that your group has been given a particularly beautiful and simple understanding of those things which institutional churches will approach from a different angle. There is a serious flaw to your line of thinking which consists of mixing the nature and history of man with that of the Church which made up of sinful men in every age is also not abandoned but rather forgiven and sustained by God . You could focus on the good and true without being so negative. You make yourself out to sound like someone from the Twelve Tribes cult. Don’t take such a dim view. The Catholic Church has been seeking true ecclesiology and unity in a posture of repentance since the 1960’s. There is so much positive to focus on if you are interested and that doesn’t have to diminish the import and urgency of your own community’s revelation which is very beautiful indeed. But with words of ignorance instead of love perhaps whoever reads your words may be inspired to disdain, hate, and God forbid violence. It happens all throughout history that God’s people do violence and receive violence. When will we put down the swords of our tongues?

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