NOTE: This is not an indictment against Catholics. I believe that there are many Christians who belong to the Catholic church. If this describes you, please prayerfully consider these objections as an impediment to your walk with Christ. This is however, an indictment against the institution of the Roman Catholic church.
According to a 2010 Pew study (link), 32% of the world’s population are considered Christian. However, this cumulative total is derived from a variety of faiths including Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons. The two largest subsets are Catholics and Protestants. Out of the world’s 2.18 billion Christians, 50% are Catholic, and about 37% are Protestant.
Christians are diverse theologically as well as geographically, the new study finds. About half are Catholic. Protestants, broadly defined, make up 37%. Orthodox Christians comprise 12% of Christians worldwide. Other Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, make up the remaining 1% of the global Christian population. (See Defining Christian Traditions.)
This article will demonstrate why I believe that when it is said that a third of the Earth’s population is Christian, it is in reality much less than that. Such a loose definition of Christianity attempts to be inclusive of beliefs that do not comply with God’s Word. We will examine Roman Catholicism under this examination, although much could be said regarding other faiths such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness as well. Consider the following doctrines of Catholicism as why I believe it is not simply a varied form of Christianity, as we examine it through a Biblical lens.
In exploring the issue of papal infallibility, let us first examine an introductory statement given on the issue by Catholic.com:
The Catholic Church’s teaching on papal infallibility is one which is generally misunderstood by those outside the Church. In particular, Fundamentalists and other “Bible Christians” often confuse the charism of papal “infallibility” with “impeccability.” They imagine Catholics believe the pope cannot sin. Others, who avoid this elementary blunder, think the pope relies on some sort of amulet or magical incantation when an infallible definition is due. http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility
It is interesting to note the animosity toward “Bible Christians”, otherwise referred to as “Fundamentalists”, and how they are regarded as “outside the church”. Immediately, we are given the impression that one must go outside of the Bible in order to grasp this concept, lest they be regarded as a fundamentalist – or someone that only adheres to scripture for truth. Nevertheless, we need to dig deeper to understand exactly what this doctrine is, and what exactly it proclaims. From Wikipedia:
Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church which states that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error “when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility
Immediately, we see where this is a dangerous precedent, as we are all fallible before the Lord. Romans 3:11-12 states, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” As a man, made of flesh, and subject to the same curse of sin as every other man, save Christ Jesus Himself, the pope is as flawed and imperfect as anyone else. This includes his positions on morals and dogma. The current pope, Pope Francis, has taken his doctrine to new levels of moral relativism. This is clearly a result of his personal societal views, rather than his biblical exegesis. But according to Catholic tradition, he is infallible when he states,
“I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” (Link)
The theological flaws in this statement are astounding, and clearly contradict Biblical truth. The sliding scale of one’s conscience is in no way a measure of sin. This is purely moral relativism, as it implies that an act done in one’s own “good” conscience cannot be sin. If one believes that murder is a just and proper way of handling an altercation, and doing so does not violate their conscience, then the act can be followed through with and not be considered sin. Isaiah 64:6 states, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” It is Biblically clear that only God’s Word is the measure of what is righteous, and in it are the moral absolutes that define sin. Without the doctrine of papal infallibility, this absurd position from the pope could be debated and rejected by Bible believing Catholics. However, protecting the pope from error, through the implementation of papal infallibility in dogmatic issues such as this, leads people astray from Biblical truth, as it places final authority in the office of the pope, rather than God’s Word. Even in the case of the apostle Peter, whom the Vatican claims was the first pope (a suspect assertion in and of itself we will deal with another time) we see that he was not infallible before the Lord. Matthew 16:21-23 reveals an interesting dialogue between Christ and Peter:
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
This scathing rebuke of Peter by the Lord Jesus demonstrates that even the so-called “first pope” was not infallible, and was as capable of faulty judgement and sin as anyone else. It was also Peter who denied Christ three times at His impending crucifixion. Roman Catholicism also extends the doctrine of papal infallibility into an area of sheer heresy by claiming that the pope is not only as God’s representative on earth, but literally God Himself!
“The Pope is not simply the representative of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, he is Jesus Christ Himself, under the veil of the flesh, and who by means of a being common to humanity continues His ministry amongst men … Does the Pope speak? It is Jesus Christ Who is speaking. Does he teach? It is Jesus Christ Who teaches. Does he confer grace or pronounce an anathema? It is Jesus Christ Himself Who is pronouncing the anathema and conferring the grace.” –Evangelical Christendom, January 1, 1895, pg. 15, published in London by J. S. Phillips.
“All names which in the Scriptures are applied to Christ, by virtue of which it is established that He is over the church, all the same names are applied to the Pope.” – On the Authority of the Councils, book 2, chapter 17 “The Pope and God are the same, so he has all power in Heaven and earth.” Pope Pius V, quoted in Barclay, Chapter XXVII, p. 218, “Cities Petrus Bertanous”.
“The Saviour Himself is the door of the sheepfold: ‘I am the door of the sheep.’ Into this fold of Jesus Christ, no man may enter unless he be led by the Sovereign Pontiff; and only if they be united to him can men be saved, for the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ and His personal representative on earth.” (Pope John XXIII in his homily to the Bishops and faithful assisting at his coronation on November 4, 1958). Many more examples can be found here.
These shocking claims have never been refuted by the Roman Catholic Church, and are considered part of its sacred tenets. Claiming the pope is God on earth is a defiant, proud rejection of Biblical truth, and a mocking insult to the Lord’s divinity. These claims coincide with the deception of the serpent in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:5 when he stated, “…you will be like God”. The Bible addresses those who sought to deify anything other than Almighty God. Romans 1:25 explicitly states, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen”. Jesus Himself in Matthew 24:23-28 warns of those who will claim that He is among them prior to His glorious second coming:
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
As demonstrated here, the doctrine of papal infallibility purely heretical, and strays dangerously from Biblical truth.
The Immaculate Conception
Perhaps more than any other element associated by and large with the Catholic church, is its devotion and reverence to Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus. The issue of Marian worship has been contentious throughout the ages, yet vehemently defended by the Catholic church.
“What will it cost you, oh Mary, to hear our prayer? What will it cost you to save us? Has not Jesus placed in your hands all the treasures of His grace and mercy? You sit crowned Queen at the right hand of your son: your dominion reaches as far as the heavens and to you are subject the earth and all creatures dwelling thereon. Your dominion reaches even down into the abyss of hell, and you alone, oh Mary, save us from the hands of Satan.” Pope Pius Xl
The doctrine of the immaculate conception is probably the most misunderstood of all of the elaborate Catholic customs. Ask any Protestant, and most likely he or she will describe it as having to do with Jesus’ miraculous conception in the womb of the virgin Mary. This is patently false, and demonstrates the inherent deception in such doctrine.
The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of the Catholic Church maintaining that from the moment when she was conceived in the womb, the Blessed Virgin Mary was kept free of original sin, so that she was from the start filled with the sanctifying grace normally conferred in baptism. It is one of the four dogmas in Roman Catholic Mariology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception
Scripture makes no exception for Mary being exempt from the stain of original sin that cursed all of mankind in the Garden of Eden. This is purely a fabrication designed to deify Mary, and distract one’s focus away from the only perfect person to have ever lived, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In Genesis 3:16, the curse of original sin is placed upon women specifically, when God tells Eve that He will “multiply her pain in childbirth”. We see no Biblical support for Mary not experiencing pain in childbirth, and in fact could probably infer that she did given the need for a comfortable place to give birth, hence the stable and the manger that Joseph secured for her when there was no room in the inn in Bethlehem. Perhaps not evidence of sin per se, but the Biblical account of Mary searching for Jesus when He was a child reveals an interesting quality about Mary – that she was in fact human, and had no divine knowledge. Luke 2:48-50 states:
His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them.
Surely a woman as divine, sinless, and perfect as we are told Mary was by the Catholic church would have inherently known exactly where her Son was, why He was there, and fully understood every reason why. More evidence of Mary’s imperfection is found in John 2:4, at Cana, when the wine was exhausted at the wedding party:
“And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”
Again Mary’s shortcomings are evident, and calls into question the flawed Catholic doctrine declaring that Mary was kept free of sin and enjoyed divine perfection. Mary certainly had favor with God, as was proclaimed by the angel Gabriel when he visited her to announce that she would give birth to Jesus, but she was human like anyone else, and was just as subject to sin and imperfection. The Catholics offer absolutely no scriptural support for their belief in the immaculate conception, but consider you accursed if you don’t accept it as sound doctrine. Once again, we are confronted with a similarity to the serpent’s words in the Garden – “you shall be as God”. First, in assigning infallibility and godhood to the pope; and now divinity to Mary.
Relic Worship & Reverence
Relic worship has been a time-honored tradition among Roman Catholics, and one that has not waned in the modern age. Just recently, the purported bones of the apostle Peter have been circulating the world with much religious fanfare. On November 24, Fox News reported,
No pope has ever definitively declared the fragments to belong to the Apostle Peter, but Pope Paul VI in 1968 said fragments found in the necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica were “identified in a way that we can consider convincing.” – http://fxn.ws/1i5HJN
This example is just the latest of many that have been circulated through the ages. At this point, a trend seems to be developing within Catholicism. It seems that the religious periphery enjoys more reverence, honor, and respect than God Himself. So much focus is assigned to allegiance to the pope – instead of to Christ; worship of Mary – instead of Christ; and the honoring of relics and even body parts – instead of honoring the sacrifice of Christ’s flesh and blood for our sins. The idea of relic veneration and worship precedes Christianity by thousands of years, going back to paganism. The Catholic Encyclopedia itself admits,
The veneration of relics, in fact, is to some extent a primitive instinct, and it is associated with many other religious systems besides that of Christianity. As for the Far East, the famous story of the distribution of the relics of Buddha, an incident which is believed to have taken place immediately after his death, seems to have found remarkable confirmation in certain modern archaeological discoveries. (See “Journ. of R. Asiatic Society”, 1909, pp. 1056 sqq.). In any case the extreme development of relic-worship amongst the Buddhists of every sect is a fact beyond dispute. –http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12734a.htm
St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential of all Catholic thinkers, considered relic worship a necessity:
It is written (De Eccles. Dogm. xl): “We believe that the bodies of the saints, above all the relics of the blessed martyrs, as being the members of Christ, should be worshiped in all sincerity”: and further on: “If anyone holds a contrary opinion, he is not accounted a Christian, but a follower of Eunomius and Vigilantius.” –http://www.sohmer.net/GoR/19-relics.php
Some of the more disturbing relics that have circulated through history were what was touted as the Holy Prepuce, or Jesus’ foreskin; and the breastmilk of the virgin Mary. Vials of the latter became extremely popular during the middle ages, prompting John Calvin to quip, “Had the virgin been a cow her whole life she could never have produced such a quantity”. So what does scripture tell us concerning this practice? When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Matthew 4:10 states, “Then Jesus *said to him,“Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’”. Perhaps the most obvious Biblical reference against the practice is found with in the 10 Commandments, in Commandments one and two:
(1) “You shall have no other gods before Me.
(2) “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them…” – Exodus 20:3-5
It is very telling that the official Catechism of the Catholic Church conveniently leaves out the second Commandment of the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God! In their rendering, not taking the Lord’s name in vain becomes the second Commandment, and the 10th Commandment becomes two separate commandments in order to achieve the total number of 10. This unbelievable rewriting of the sacred Law of God written in His hand on stone tablets is officially sanctioned as this:
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. –http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/command.htm
The anti-scriptural doctrine of relic worship is obviously even recognized by Catholic leadership, as they saw it necessary to revise and omit sections of the 10 Commandments in order to justify it. This can in no way be resolved with traditional Christianity, which accepts and honors the 10 Commandments as written in the Word of God. The serpent’s lie in the Garden of Eden is now extended to even include dead, lifeless objects such as bones and relics.
The Eucharist & Transubstantiation
The Eucharist is commonly interchanged with what Protestants refer to as Communion. The practice in both camps is derived from the last supper, in which Christ offered the bread and wine to His disciples as representative of His flesh and blood. Christians take part in this tradition in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice. The difference between the Protestant and the Catholic traditions lie in what is called transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is
…the doctrine that the substance of the bread and the wine used in the sacrament of the Eucharist is changed, not merely as by a sign or a figure, but also in reality, into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesus… –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation
The doctrine teaches that the power of the priest is so incredible, that when he prays over the bread and wine, a miraculous transformation takes place, and the bread and wine become in the most literal sense, flesh and blood. But it gets much worse. Recounted in the book Faith of Millions, by John A. O’Brien, are the words of St. Thomas on the Eucharist:
In this essential phase of the sacred ministry, the power of the priest is not surpassed by that of the bishop, the archbishop, the cardinal or the pope. Indeed it is equal to that of Jesus Christ. For in this role the priest speaks with the voice and the authority of God Himself. When the priest pronounces his tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from his throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of monarchs and emperors: it is greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim. Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man—not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priests command. –http://www.cuttingedge.org/News/n2248.cfm
This description reaches new levels of outright blasphemy, even for the Catholic church. This perceived act can be described as nothing more than sorcery or black magic. To propose that Jesus Christ, fully God Himself, bows before a human priest to do his bidding sends shudders through the spine. To purport to sacrifice Christ for our sins over and over again through this sacrament is equally blasphemous, and demonstrates the absurd levels of pride and pomposity demonstrated by the church in these acts. Consider Hebrews 7:26-28:
For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (emphasis added)
The roots of this practice are situated deeply in ancient paganism, where human sacrifices were eaten in order to absorb their power.
“The savage commonly believes that by eating the flesh of an animal or man he acquires not only the physical, but even the moral and intellectual qualities which were characteristic of an animal or man; so when the creature is deemed divine, our simple savage naturally expects to absorb a portion of its divinity along with its material substance. It may be well to illustrate by instances this common faith in the acquisition of virtues of vices of many kinds through the medium of animal food, even when there is no pretence that the viands consist of the body or blood of a Jesus. The doctrine forms part of the widely ramified system of sympathetic or homeopathic magic” (“The New Golden Bough”, Frazer and Gaster, 465).
The theme continues, as bread and wine are now made divine through Catholic witchcraft, no doubt pleasing the serpent who tempted Eve in the Garden.
Ecumenism is described as unity among the churches, and has been a quest of Catholicism for centuries. Sounds harmless enough, right? The American Heritage dictionary gives two definitions for ecumenism, and the devil is literally in the details.
1. A movement promoting unity among Christian churches or denominations.
2. A movement promoting worldwide unity among religions through greater cooperation and improved understanding. –http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ecumenism
The first definition is what the Catholic church claims that it is doing. The second describes the effort as it actually exists. It is one thing to try and get past petty theological details among groups of Christians touting different denominations as their basis; it is quite another issue altogether to attempt to bring in all faiths, all religions, and all soteriological differences under the banner of the supposed Christian church.
The word “catholic” itself is derived from the Greek καθολικός (katholikos), literally meaning “universal”. From its outset, the Catholic church has sought to be the universal worldwide church of all, embracing all faiths and incorporating them into the fold. Consider, for example, the words of Pope Benedict speaking in Turkey to a Muslim audience:
“we believe in one God, albeit in a different manner, and because we praise him and worship him every day as the Creator and Ruler of the world.” (LINK)
This statement is nothing more than an effort in ecumenism conforming to the second definition above. Catholic doctrine holds a belief in the one true God of Abraham, who, along with His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit form the Christian Trinity. Islam teaches that Allah had no son, and is not part of any trinity. The two are clearly not the same god.
In 1965, Pope Paul VI issued the ecumenical work Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. In discussing the differences in worship and theology among religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, the church declared,
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. (LINK)
So according to the Vatican, the “Truth” is found in all religions, as long as it is considered holy. One doesn’t even have to accept the divinity of Christ in order to be embraced and recognized by the Catholic church. The document then turns it attention to Islam.
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.
Again, it is claimed that Islam worships the same God of Abraham as the Catholics; while also stating that they reject Christ’s divinity. How can these be the same god? The Christian God has a Son, who is God Himself, named Jesus Christ. The Muslims reject any idea of their god having a son; and even the divinity of Jesus. This passage clearly contradicts itself in its zeal to accept all religions under the Catholic mantle.
Turning to scripture, we get some clear insight into this type of ecumenism. 1 John 2:22-23 states:
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
2 Corinthians 6:14-16:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
Clearly, God has not intended for His people and His message of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ to be intermingled and diluted with the beliefs and practices of other religions. But the universal Catholic church has in its sights a world in which every man, woman, and child should swear allegiance to Rome, and further empower the Vatican with their loyalty.
Perhaps it is best summarized in Colossians 2:8, which seems to be indicting Catholicism directly:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Philosophy, deceit, human tradition, and elemental spiritism/esotericism describes in large part the Catholic doctrine of adherence to pagan-inspired tradition, rather than the Word of God.
As demonstrated here, and based on these characteristics, I do not accept Catholicism as Christianity. Again, let’s make it clear that this is not a tacit condemnation of all Catholics. Certainly there are Catholic believers who are truly saved, and truly love the Lord Jesus. It is a shame that they are under such a power as the Vatican, which demands loyalty to itself and its precepts first and foremost, and requires religious idolatry in all its various forms in order to be in good graces with the Catholic faith. Truly, we should lift them up in prayer, and ask the Almighty to reveal Himself as apart from the doctrine of Catholic chaos.