I got a question from a woman who was struggling with the claims of Catholicism. She wrote, “What are your thoughts?”
Here’s my thoughts.
Are there Christians in Catholicism?
Definitely. Some have done so well in obeying our King throughout their lives that I cannot imagine how any Christian could dare question their salvation or their lives. I am horrified and angry at the judgment of some Protestants against Mother Teresa. She has the right to look down her nose at pretty much all the rest of us who name the name of the King, but of course she was above such behavior.
My wife volunteers weekly at a Roman Catholic church that has been feeding the homeless each morning for well over a century. Two saints run that ministry, and they take responsibility for it morning after morning, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks per year.
Rather than question the salvation of people who obey Jesus better than we do, we should call them saints, and maybe we’ll get to share in their rewards if we help them (Matt. 10:42).
That said …
Is the Roman Catholic Church what it claims to be?
No. No way. Their claim is outrageous, and their official stance on the role of the pope, that he is the “vicar of Christ,” is blasphemous. The history they have invented to support that claim is fictitious.
They claim to be those that have preserved apostolic truth unchanged (so says Vatican II), but the unchanged truth has needed some further revelation (again, says Vatican II), which has included the teaching that Mary was born without sin, lived without sin, and was assumed into heaven.
The further revelation has also included the idea that some saints have done so much good, that they have leftover merit from God that can be applied to others in order to relieve them of “temporal punishment.”
This is a lot of further revelation they are asking us to accept!
Let’s think about this.
Both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 tell us that overseers and elders (which are the same thing in Scripture) are to be the husband of one wife. The RCC teaches us that the office of overseer is what their bishops hold and that the office of elder is what their priests hold. Yet neither their bishops nor their priests are allowed to marry.
Now I admit that it might be plausible that an overseer or elder might be allowed not to marry. It’s possible that what Paul was trying to forbid was a church leader with more than one wife. In fact, the early churches believed that Paul meant that overseers and elders were not to remarry even if they were widowed.
What is not possible is that Paul meant that bishops or elders should be forbidden to marry at all!
If the RCC can’t get something as simple and obvious as this correct, then how can we trust them on their other claims?
The Ten Commandments
Let’s go one further. Did you know that the RCC has a different list of the ten commandments than the Protestants?
Yeah, that’s right. You won’t believe what the difference is.
The RCC ten commandments leaves out the Protestant’s second commandment: “You shall not make any graven image or any likeness that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them.”
Do they really expect us to believe that their magisterium left out that command because it’s hard to tell where to make the divisions in the commandments God gave on Mt. Sinai rather than because they were hiding this commandment from their members, who happened not to be allowed to read the Bible in their own language lest they interpret it wrongly?
The RCC replaced that commandment by splitting the Protestants tenth commandment into two. Only they didn’t actually split it into two.
Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor any thing that is your neighbor’s. (Ex. 20:17)
From this the Roman Catholic magisterium got:
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. (reference)
One might make a better argument that this command should have been split into two if one had actually split it, rather than pulling the second of a list of six items.
Roman Catholics, of course, are famous both for making statues (graven images) and for bowing down and praying in front of them. Think of “Our Lady at Fatima” or other Catholic shrines. I was in a Catholic school in 5th and 6th grades, and our entire class was made to walk up to a statue of Mary and bow down and kiss its feet.
I say “made to.” By that, I mean it was an obligation, like anything else in elementary school. I do not mean that any of us tried to object or to refuse.
I feel pretty comfortable drawing the conclusion that somewhere down the line, a pope, a group of cardinals, or an influential bishop decided a commandment, from Moses, forbidding both the making of statues and bowing down to them, was a bit more than what they wanted out in public; so they hid it away for centuries in their Latin Bible that only clergy were able to read.
Protestants vs. Catholics
Often, the answer I hear to these charges of mine is that Protestants have done worse things or that Protestants are just as far off or futher away from apostolic teaching than the Catholics.
Perhaps. Perhaps the followers of Confucious were worse than the Catholics.
I don’t see how any of that is relevant.
The Roman Catholics claim that their pope is the vicar of Christ, God’s representative here on earth. They claim that their magisterium has preserved the truth, and by the power of God has even explained and expanded it. They will not admit to “adding to” it, but their beliefs about Mary make that denial a lie.
With such grandiose claims ought to be grandiose results, not errors that could be corrected by anyone who has made one trip through the Bible while knowing Roman Catholic beliefs. Such grandiose claims should certainly not come with the hiding of one of the ten commandments!
We could do many more. It is not explanation, expansion, or revelation that leads to the Scripture calling all Christians saints and the Roman Catholic Church calling some Christians saints and only after death. It is not explanation, expansion, or revelation that leads to Scripture referring to all Christians as priests and the Roman Catholic Church referring to only elders as priests.
Those aren’t small errors. Those are egregious errors.
I am asked occasionally if I really dare trust my judgment against the judgment of this great and ancient church that has “preserved” the faith through the centuries (and murdered anyone who dared translate the Bible, along with pretty much anyone who publicly disagreed with them for centuries).
Yes, actually. I do dare.