A Look at Catholic Teaching

Catholic CatechismThis article seeks to compare some of the teachings of Rome with a mainstream evangelical Christian understanding of Scripture. Scripture references are from the New International Version and references are taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1984. Pocket Edition reprinted 1985.

INTRODUCTION

The Catholic Church has faced sometimes vitriolic attack from non-Catholics but this only serves to reinforce historic divisions. This article seeks to present the differences between Catholic Tradition and the Word of God, according to an evangelical Christian understanding, in order to illustrate how deeply Jesus loves them. However in order to appreciate the depths of His love, we believe that individual Catholics need to question the relevance of certain historic traditions of Catholicism to their faith.

1. The “Word of God” consists not just of Scripture but also of Catholic Tradition.

… the Church… does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. (CCC 82)

The Bible teaches us neither to add to, subtract from, or change God’s Word. Catholic Tradition is clearly adding to God’s written word…

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and call you a liar. – Proverbs 30:5-6.

I warn everyone who hears the words of prophecy of this book. And if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. – Revelation 22:18-19.

… Do not go beyond what is written – 1 Corinthians 4:6

Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away. – Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33

“… the word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the word that was preached to you – I Peter 1:25

The above quotes refer principally to the written word of God, the Scriptures. However, let us not forget who the Word of God is – Jesus, the Incarnate Word in Person.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of men… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:1-3,14.

If we have any doubts about anything, including the meaning of Scripture, we have the ultimate authority available because He doesn’t just know God’s word – He IS God’s Word. Anybody claiming higher authority than Jesus, on the interpretation of Scripture, is only deluding themselves. The only reason He will withhold an answer, is if it is not in our interest to know the answer at the moment, for example, who is 666? God promises that by His Holy Spirit He will guide us into truth – not give it all at once.

2. The Catechism claims to summarise and synthesise Catholic Tradition with the most important parts of Scripture.

Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. (CCC80)

Jesus taught that:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)

“All Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:15-16)

3. The Catechism teaches that Catholic Tradition is infallible.

… [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. (CCC81)

The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the church alone. (CCC85)

Jesus taught the Pharisees (and us) to reject traditions that nullify God’s Word:

And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!… you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. (Mark 7:9,13)

The Bible teaches that only traditions which do not violate the Word of God are acceptable. Catholic teaching can be shown to be a blend of biblical truth and traditions that nullify God’s word.

Jesus’ seemingly harsh rebuke of the Pharisees shows that “sacred” traditions were not necessarily viewed by God as being sacred at all, if they broke inspired Scripture. He also called them “whitewashed tombs” due to having an external appearance of purity, but an impure heart. Religious observance can sometimes be a substitute for actual repentance. However, God reads the heart.

4. Catholicism teaches that the Pope, by an unbroken line of succession, is the successor of the apostle Peter.

… the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. (CCC85,869)

The Bible does not teach that Peter should have a successor, his mission was to establish the church.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church… and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19)

The statement “whatever you bind” is assumed to read “whatever you and your successors bind”, but Jesus did not say this, here the Catholic Church puts words in Our Lord’s mouth. This is taken by the Church as their authority to make binding changes to Christian doctrine through Peter and his successors.

The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope. (CCC881)

However, successively changing doctrine is incompatible with Jude’s admonition…

“I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 3)

Another difficulty with the idea of “binding and loosing” is that the gospel can no longer be regarded as ‘Absolute Truth’ if it is subject to historical change. The first believers would be operating with only Scripture with no historical traditions, and today with a combination of Scripture plus tradition.

It is seldom pointed out that the same words “bind and loose” were addressed to the Apostles as a group, followed by an explanation of their meaning…

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18-19)

The “binding and loosing” clearly applies to the plans they would carry through in establishing the church – their prayers would be supported from heaven. It does not imply the ability to change doctrine, by supplementing God’s inspired word with church tradition.

Church history indicates that Peter did not have a successor in the early church. The succession lists in the first two to three hundred years are notoriously inaccurate, have been revised several times, and are at best guesswork. The lists were compiled after the event to support the idea of continuity of leadership, and there is no reliable historical evidence for them. Only when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and appointed himself “Pontifex Maximus” (supreme high priest – Latin root of “Pontiff”) has there been more reliable historical evidence of succession.

The claim of unbroken succession also conveniently side-steps the issues of (1) The Great Schism, when there was more than one “pope” claiming St Peter’s chair, (2) the fact that the Papacy was vacant for a year, on more than one occasion, while a successor was found, and (3) the problem of the so called “Antipopes” (illegal occupants of the post).

Therefore, to suggest that there has been unbroken succession from Peter is impossible to substantiate with reliable historical evidence, although it is a claim that is repeatedly made by the Catholic Church. This is to support the idea that Christ personally established the Catholic Church alone. However, it should be remembered that the first Christians were actually Messianic Jews who believed Jesus’ claims to be the promised Messiah, and the gospel was offered first to the Jews throughout the book of Acts before being offered to the Gentiles. To use the term “Pope” to describe Peter is to use Latin Church (Gentile) terminology of the early Fourth Century, applied to a first century (Jewish) leader. This presents an oversimplified view of the development of Christianity. What Jesus established was His wider “church” or called-out group of believers, not the priesthood of the Latin Church, which later attained ascendancy, headquartered in Rome.

5. The Catechism teaches that the Pope has an infallible teaching office for the Church.

The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office… The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium’, above all in an Ecumenical Council. (CCC891)

The Bible teaches that not even Peter himself was infallible in matters of faith. For example, shortly after his appointment as leader, he misunderstood and opposed Christ’s crucifixion.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

Peter also tried to force the first Gentile converts to adopt Jewish customs when they converted to faith in Christ.

“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them “You are Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We .. know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Gal 2:11,14-16)

The resulting decision was announced at the Council of Jerusalem, detailed in Acts 15.

Peter’s initial teaching was shown to be wrong, Paul’s teaching prevailed, so even he could not have been regarded as infallible. Paul’s first letter to Timothy also advises him to watch his own doctrine closely, rather than uncritically accept Peter’s

“Watch your life and doctrine closely… ” (1 Tim 4:16)

His “successors” can also be shown to be fallible by their adoption of human traditions which cannot be regarded as Sacred as they contradict Scripture.

6. The Catechism teaches that the Catholic faithful cannot err in matters of faith.

The whole body of the faithful… cannot err in matters of belief (CCC92)

This statement encourages self-pride whilst the Bible which teaches humility and sober self assessment:

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov 16:18)

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Rom 12:3)

7. The Catechism teaches that Christianity is not primarily a religion of “the book”.

…the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book’. Christianity is the religion of the ‘Word’ of God, not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living (CCC108)

As shown earlier, the Word of God is Christ, not the church’s blend of Scripture and tradition.

The Bible teaches the value of the Scriptures…

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: First for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written : “The righteous will live by faith”.” (ROM 1:16-17)

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (ROM 10:17)

“Sanctify them by the truth – your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

“..and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim 3:15)

“If you remain in me and my word remains in you, ask what ever you wish and it will be given to you” (John 15:7)

The Bereans were described as having “noble character” for their scripture study…

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

However, we must not put faith in our ability to understand Scripture, but in Jesus himself…

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you have eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)

8. The Catechism teaches that saints are intercessors with God. It teaches believers to pray to saints.

The witnesses who have preceded us into the Kingdom especially those whom the church recognises as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer… We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world. (CCC2683)

The Bible teaches that saints are faithful believers in Christ, and that Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. Jesus taught us to pray to God, not to saints.

“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (ROM 1:7)

“To the saints at Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:1)

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus …” (I Tim 2:5)

“This then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name ….'” (Matt 6:9)

A further problem with the intercession of saints is that it requires us to accept that the Papal decision to canonise a saint is binding upon God. This seems unlikely in view of what the Bible teaches about God’s wisdom and judgements.

“Oh, the depth of riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” (ROM 11:33-34)

The Virgin Mary

The Virgin Mary is a sensitive topic to many Catholics. Clearly the image presented by Catholic tradition holds a wide appeal, but as can be shown, the Catechism adds substantially to God’s inspired word to create that image.

9. The Catechism teaches that the Virgin Mary was Immaculately conceived by the Holy Spirit (without the spot of original sin).

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue and merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin (CCC491)

The Bible makes no reference to the immaculate conception, and teaches that all humans are born sinners.

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (ROM 3:23)

“There is not one righteous, not even one.” (ROM 3:10)

10. The Catechism teaches that Mary committed no sins throughout her entire life.

By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. (CCC493)

As shown above, the Bible teaches that, without exception, all are sinners, born with a sinful nature. If Mary did not sin she would not have required a Saviour yet, to her cousin Elizabeth in the passage traditionally referred to as the “Magnificat”, she refers to God as her Saviour .

And Mary said: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…” (Luke 1:46)

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

God would not choose a servant who deceived herself by claiming to be without sin. The humility of Mary is the most striking feature of the Scriptural account of her, and this stands in contrast to the Mary of Catholic tradition.

11. The Catechism teaches that Mary remained a Virgin throughout her life, and Jesus had no half-brothers or sisters.

The deepening faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. (CCC499)

The Bible teaches that she remained a virgin until after she gave birth to Jesus, and after that had other children conceived normally with her husband Joseph.

“But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matt 1:24)

The “New English Bible” translation makes their marriage union more explicit…

“… he took Mary home to be his wife, but had no intercourse with her until her son was born. And he named the child Jesus.” (Matt 1:24)

“Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? aren’t his sisters here with us? And they took offence at him. Jesus said to them, “Only in his home town, among his own relatives, and in his own house is a prophet without honour.” (Mark 6:3-4)

The Catechism argues that the references to Mary with other children are to “another Mary”. (CCC500) The above Scriptures show this was definitely referring the Virgin Mary, as Jesus was her son, in His own home and among His own relatives. There have also been attempts to justify the “perpetual virginity” doctrine by suggesting that “brothers” actually means “disciples”, but in some of the following verses both brothers and disciples are mentioned as being present at the same time. The words for disciple, follower and brother are as different in Greek as they are in English.

(See also : Matt 12:46-47; Mark 3:31-32; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12; Acts 1:14; Gal 1:19)

12. Catholic Tradition teaches “the Assumption” that Mary ascended both body and soul into heaven.

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven… (CCC974)

The Bible reveals that Jesus’ bodily Ascension into heaven was unique…

“No-one has ever gone into heaven except one who came from heaven – the Son of Man” (John 3:13)

No other scripture contradicts this one, and so the Assumption as a tradition nullifies the written word of God.

13. Catholic Tradition states that Mary has been crowned Queen of Heaven.

(She)… was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things… (CCC966)

The only reference to the “Queen of Heaven” in Scripture is not to Mary but to a pagan Goddess in Jeremiah chapter 44. Worship of the Queen of Heaven was disobedient, and was clearly condemned by God.

“Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said “Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!” (Jer 44:4)

But Jeremiah’s warnings were rejected…

“We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her…” (Jer 44:16-17)

Titles such as “Queen of Heaven” are said to honour both God and the recipient. It seems unlikely that God would be pleased with the same name being given to His chosen servant as had been given to a pagan Goddess who’s worship He described as “detestable”. (v4)

14. Catholic Tradition teaches that Mary is a Mediatrix (female mediator).

The Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix (CCC969)

The Bible teaches that there is only one mediator between man and God (Jesus).

“There is only one God and one mediator between man and God, Jesus Christ…” (I Tim 2:5)

15. It is Catholic teaching that Jesus conformed with his Mother’s will at the marriage at Cana.

The Bible teaches that Jesus always conformed with his Heavenly Father’s will, not His earthly mother’s.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)

“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

“I do nothing on my own, but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:28-29)

This was the case from childhood, when His parents thought He was lost.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

And right through until His death…

“Going a little further, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed “My Father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will” (Matt 26:39)

A careful reading of the “Cana” passage in John Chapter 2 shows that Mary passed information to Her son (“They have no more wine”), not direct instructions. She gave the instruction to the servants (“Do whatever He tells you”), but not to Jesus.

16. It is Catholic tradition to refer to Mary as the “Mother of God”.

From the most ancient of times the Blessed Virgin has been honoured with the title ‘Mother of God’, to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs… (CCC971)

The Bible refers to Mary as the mother of Jesus. God does not have a mother. The danger in a title like this is that it may convey the idea that Mary is not just “Mother of God”, but actually is a God. The Bible is strictly monotheistic (one God), the God of the Bible is the Triune Godhead of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – alone.

The Catholic Church has rightly upheld the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ that He was “Fully Human and Fully Divine”. In order to be consistent with this doctrine, the Virgin Mary must be human, as Christ required a human mother and a heavenly Father to become both “Son of Man” and “Son of God” described in Scripture.

As shown above, Catholic tradition has already embellished the Bible by giving Mary several attributes which could be taken to suggest her deity – namely, supernatural involvement in her birth, her sinlessness, her Assumption to heaven, her coronation as Queen of Heaven, her will being obeyed by Jesus, and her role as mediatrix. None of these qualities have any Scriptural support – the equivalent qualities rightly belong to Jesus alone. To be fair, the Catechism does not teach that Mary is a God, but these qualities from church tradition suggest otherwise, and it not surprising that many Catholics address their devotion to her rather than Christ.

The danger in titles such as “Mother of God” and “Our Lady” is that they suggest the equality of Mary with Christ, when the Bible reveals that Jesus is clearly unique.

“For in Christ all the fulness of Deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9)

“…God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:9-11)

17. Catholic Church teaches that the infallible magisterium of the church guides the faithful into truth with reliable doctrine.

It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. (CCC890)

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit guides the believer into all truth.

“But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)

18. The Catholic Church teaches that good works are required for salvation.

After the fall, [God] buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well doing. (CCC55)

The Bible teaches that we are saved by God’s grace (unmerited pardon) through faith in Christ.

“It is by grace you are saved through faith. It is the gift of God – not by works lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

“He saved us not through any righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5)

Salvation is clearly a gift from God, not earned. Any Bible concordance shows that the term “earn” does not appear in the New Testament. Our own merits would allow us to boast.

19. Historical Catholic teaching anathematises believers in salvation by faith. (Justification by Faith).

If anyone says that the faith which justifies is nothing else but trust in the divine mercy, which pardons sins because of Christ; or that it is that trust alone by which we are justified: let him be anathema. (Council of Trent)

Justification by faith is clearly a biblical teaching. Virtually all of the book of Romans is an extended exposition of the doctrine by Paul, as well as parts of his letters to the Ephesians and Galatians.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (ROM 5:1)

“Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (ROM 5:9)

“So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified” (Gal 2:16)

“It is by grace you are saved through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no-one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9)

Not surprisingly, none of the scriptures mentioning justification by faith are considered to be sufficiently important to be cited in the Catechism. Rome does not rebut justification by faith, it simply avoids its discussion, and anathematises it. The Catechism does not even have a separate index entry for it – as far as Catholic teaching is concerned, it doesn’t exist.

This is not true of individual Catholic believers. Martin Luther was still part of the Catholic Church when he rediscovered it. Also Therese of Lisieux recognised that good works were not required to have an assurance of one’s salvation.

OFFER TO GOD THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING. Jesus claims no more from us; He does not need our works, only our LOVE (The Story of a Soul, p.152)

Here is inconsistency in Catholicism. Martin Luther refused to recant his thesis on justification by faith and the Reformation was sparked, more recently Hans Kung accepted justification by faith and was excommunicated, but here we have Therese of Lisieux professing a “faith not works” theology. Was she anathematised? No, she was canonised.

20. Catholic teaching classifies sin into Venial and Mortal sins, and sin is said to have both temporal and eternal consequences.

To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God, and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the ‘eternal punishment’ of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in a state called Purgatory. (CCC1472)

The Bible makes no distinction in the severity of sin – all sin is against God, and all sin has eternal consequences.

“Against You, You only, have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4)

The Catholic Church weakens the severity of sins, with it’s “venial” category, whilst the Bible shows how serious God is about sin.

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10)

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ROM 6:23)

“…If a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would have certainly come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:13)

It is a sobering thought for anyone trying to earn their salvation by commandment keeping that they will have to keep the commandments perfectly, never committing a sin in their entire life – otherwise the slightest sin results breaking all of the law, and thus the death penalty applies. Fortunately, there is an alternative. We can accept the gracious gift of eternal life offered by Christ Jesus who has paid the penalty of sin for us.

The message of the Bible is clear, God’s offer is “Redemption or Judgement!”.

21. Catholicism teaches that the temporal consequences of sin must be remitted by the sacraments during life and/or expiated in purgatory at death.

The Catechism insists that the current seven sacraments were given to us directly by the Lord Jesus Christ. (CCC1210) There is no scriptural support for this contention. Sacraments are not mentioned by this terminology in the Bible. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and marriage all appear in the Bible, but confirmation, penance, extreme unction and holy orders do not appear by name. Neither do indulgences.

Church history shows that the seven sacraments were not given directly by Jesus, they were refined from a longer list of sacraments by scholastic theologians such as, Thomas Aquinas and Peter Lombard, in the Middle Ages. There is no biblical support for the longer list of sacraments and mysteries being given by Jesus either. They came into Christian thinking in the post-Constantine era.

Not only do the sacraments and indulgences fail to appear in the Bible, but they are incompatible with its teachings.

The only provision that is made for forgiveness of sin in the Bible are the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament which foreshadowed the sinless sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament.

God’s justice demands blood sacrifice resulting in death…

“The wages of sin is death…” (ROM 6:23)

“Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.” (Heb 9:22)

God viewed animal sacrifices as an interim measure.

“Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). (Hebrews 10:8)

Until the sacrifice of Christ…

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:11-12)

Sacraments, indulgences and purgatory do not involve bloodshed and death, and therefore cannot expiate sin in God’s eyes. If the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, instituted by God, failed in reality to take away sins, it is not likely that humanly devised rites such as penance and indulgences will be effective either.

22. Many Catholics do not have an assurance of salvation, and think they must wait until Judgement Day to find out if they are saved.

The Bible reveals that we can know, before death, that we are saved.

“I write to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13)

Catholics seem to think it immodest to say that you are saved. This is possibly because the Church teaches that good works are required for salvation – that it is earned rather than received as a gift. Having assurance of salvation is not boastful for a Christian who believes that salvation is a gift from God.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18)

As the apostle Paul said,

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14)

23. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the “true faith”, the pre-eminent Christian organisation.

May the light of the true faith free humanity from the ignorance and slavery of sin… (Introduction by John Paul II, p 6)

For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord (CCC834)

The Bible teaches us to put our trust in Jesus not human teachers, creeds, doctrines or organisations. All examples of true faith were when people put personal faith in Jesus. Conversion in the Bible is to Christ not to a church, priesthood, or even Christianity.

“Greet my dear friend Epenetus who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia” (ROM 16:5)

“And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle- I am telling the truth I am not lying- and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.” (1 Tim 2:7)

Our faith in Him is true, because He not only knows the truth – He is the Truth.

“I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life- no-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

“Salvation is found in no-one else. There is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

“The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Pet 2:6)

The Catholic Church claims to be the Universal Church, but actually implies exclusivity by claiming to be the “true faith”. The term “Catholic” as used by the Church actually describes believers who are in accord with Roman Orthodoxy.

The Bible is truly catholic and universal in it’s teaching. I reveals that Jesus will not turn anyone away that comes to Him in faith, and that all with faith in Him are equal in God’s sight.

“… whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37)

“We are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus … There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, all are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26,28)

24. It is Catholic Tradition to refer to the Church as the “mother church”.

We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation. Because she is our mother, she is also the teacher in the faith. (CCC169)

The main biblical analogy used for the church is the Bride of Christ. In several of Jesus’ parables, He refers to Himself as the bridegroom, and His return is to “marry” the bride, His church.

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.” (John 3:29)

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Rev 19:9)

There is no biblical support for the idea of a mother church. As noted earlier, the Church of Jesus Christ was initially born from within Judaism , not a Gentile organisation.

The idea of the mother church is also used to promote the idea of exclusivity of Catholicism. For example, the Catechism quotes St Cyprian, “No-one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother”. (CCC181) Actually, this is a re-wording of a biblical quote…

“No-one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23)

If the Catholic Church had said that you cannot have God as your Father unless you acknowledge the Son of God, it would have received widespread support among Christians. As it stands it is an attempt to imply the exclusivity of Catholicism.

25. The Catholic Church teaches that Mass is a re-Sacrifice of Christ.

The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated… (CCC1382)

The Bible teaches that Christ’s death was a once for all sacrifice, the Lord Supper is a memorial of Christ’s death, not a perpetuation.

“Unlike the other high priests he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Heb 7:27)

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18)

“…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb 10:10)

“And he took bread gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them and said “This is my body given for you: do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19)

26. The Catechism teaches that Asceticism and mortification are of value in spiritual progress.

Spiritual progress entails ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes” (CCC2015)

The Bible teaches that harsh treatment of the body is of no spiritual value.

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch”? These are all destined to perish with use because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:21-23)

The extent of self denial taught in the New Testament is occasional fasting, to draw closer to God, but not to earn His favour.

27. The Catechism claims to teach authentic Apostolic teaching.

By including non-biblical traditions in it’s theology, synthesising these with selected Scriptures, and by progressively changing it’s teaching over the years (“binding and loosing”), the individuals historically responsible within the Catholic Church now risk the judgement of God for evolving and preaching a “different gospel”.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:6-9)

Doctrines such as the Assumption, the Intercession of Saints, and Purgatory are non-biblical and were not taught in the early church, they were later additions. This surely makes the “gospel according to Rome” one which is different from the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and is therefore “other than the one we preached to you”.

Martin Luther rightly described John 3:16 as, “the gospel in a single verse”

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Paraphrasing this verse, to incorporate Catholic Tradition it might read, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him, and is baptised, catechised, confirmed, sacramentalised, uses indulgences, performs enough good works, dies in a state of grace, expiates residual sins in purgatory, and is judged to be good enough, shall not perish but will earn eternal life.”

A Different Gospel ? Would you stake your eternal life on it?

JESUS LOVES CATHOLICS

How do we know that Jesus loves Roman Catholics? Look to the Bible and Jesus’ dealings with the Romans prior to the conversion of Constantine. Luke Chapter 7 gives details of a meeting between Jesus and a Roman centurion whose servant was sick. The centurion who was in a position of authority over men asked Jesus to heal his servant, and Jesus commended him for his faith (i.e. his unquestioning belief and trust in Jesus and his ability to heal). He said…

“..I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” (Luke 7:9)

When the Roman authorities (who at the time were an oppressive occupying military power) physically nailed Jesus to the cross, He was watched and abused by the religious authorities the Scribes and Pharisees, but what did our Saviour say?

Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)

If Jesus can die for, and offer immediate forgiveness for the sins of the brutal Roman authorities who physically nailed Him to the cross, and to the religious leaders of the day who helped put Him there; then how much more will he show love to the members of church that recognise Him as Lord, but have acquired and retained some distracting traditions that nullify His inspired word?

To the Catholic reader: Although the term “Catholic” does not appear in Scripture, I think we can safely infer “Jesus loves you this we know, for the Bible tells us so”. But do you love Him enough to set aside any historical church traditions which prevent you from accepting your salvation from Him on His terms – namely, as a free gift by God’s grace through faith? It is unlikely that the Church authorities will change their view, but will you ?

The most common argument against salvation by faith alone is “That’s too easy!”. But it certainly was not easy for Jesus who paid the ultimate penalty for us all, and His self sacrifice was totally consistent with His own teachings, for instance; if any of you wants to be great, he must become the servant of all; it is greater to give than to receive; many who are last will be first and first will be last; no greater love is there than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.

There was, and is no hypocrisy in Jesus. He showed His greatness by serving us all by His saving work on the cross; He became last in the eyes of this world to become first in the next. Any attempt to add our own merit to His gift would diminish the magnitude of His work on the cross, and potentially prevent us from accepting our salvation.

Faith is often thought to mean articles of faith, or doctrines – when it should really mean trust.

Ask yourself, if you cannot trust such a loving Saviour as Jesus the God made man – Who can you trust?

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ROM 5:8)

Consider carefully

“…How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:3)

If you are in doubt that your faith has the correct focus, it is hoped that the following prayer will dispel any of your fears.

A PRAYER FOR SALVATION FOR THOSE WHO HEAR HIS CALL

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry, if until now, I’ve put my trust in something, or someone, other than in you. Please save this sinner, and become my Saviour.

Like St Peter I acknowledge that, “You are the Christ – the Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16)

Like St John I acknowledge that, “You are the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the World” (John 1:29)

Thank you for dying on the cross for me, paying the penalty for all my sins (Col 2:13-14) and rising again to present me free from condemnation in God’s sight. (Col 1:21-22)

Come into my life as my Lord and Saviour, I’ll gladly receive you. (John 1:12) Accept me as a member of God’s family, and make yourself known to me. (1 John 3:1-2) I promise that with your help I’ll follow you, and I’ll do the good works (John 10:27) that you have prepared in advance for me to do. (Eph 2:10)

I confess now with my lips, “Jesus, you are my Lord” (ROM 10:9-10) Please give me an assurance of my salvation in my heart. I ask this for your sake, Amen.

“If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)

“To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12)

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