Roman Catholicism is a religion that hits home with me and my family. I was raised, baptized, catechized and was an altar boy in the Roman Catholic Church. I still have many family members who are stuck in this religious system and many who have died while in this religious system. I do not believe that all Roman Catholics are damned and therefore going to hell. But I do believe that official Roman Catholic teaching is damnable heresy. Thankfully not many laypersons get too deep into the doctrine or pay attention during mass. I also believe that the Gospel is powerful and can cut through the fog of this system. I only hope for the best of loved ones that have died while in this system, we do not know the heart of anyone who has died, Protestant or Catholic. I am writing this because of the danger that I believe exist in this religious system in the hopes that people may see the errors of the papacy.
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims to have Papal succession and infallibility, they teach tradition and scripture, salvation my meritorious good works and many other horrendous doctrines. This organization goes very far back, but the question must be asked; Is this the same church as it was from the beginning?
The Roman Catholic Church uses the Bible as an authority but also believes that the Pope speaks for God authoritatively. This does not mean that everything that the Pope says is infallible. It is only when he speaks “ex cathedra” or “from the chair” that his words are infallible. This chair is both physical and metaphorical. It refers to the position that they claim Jesus gave to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19. The fuller context of this starts in verse 13.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19 ESV)
Here we see Peter confessing Jesus to be “the Christ Son of the living God”. This may be the first time Christ calls him “Peter” and adds “on this rock I will build my church”. The word “rock” and the name “Peter” used in this passage are the same word with different endings (Petra vs Petros). We know from Ephesians 2:20 that the household of God is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” Peter is the first to confess the divine truth of the identity of Jesus. This Rock is the confession that Peter made, the other apostles add on to this confession and build on the foundation (Eph. 2:20). Four verses later Peter proves his fallibility by trying to disrupt the very plan of salvation. The keys refer to binding and loosing. This points to some future point in time when the keys will be given. Matthew 18:18 seems to be the fulfillment of this passage and is spoken not only to peter but to all the Apostles referring to Church discipline[i]. Even if we grant the point that Peter is the rock it still says nothing about his succession and infallibility. He could just be referred to as the master church planter.
The rest of scripture does not back up this claim of papacy. We would expect the other disciples to refer to Peter as the Pope or give him a special reverence. In Galatians 2:11-14 Paul says that Peter stood condemned and he acted hypocritically. In Ephesians 5:23 Paul says that Jesus is the head of the Church and not the Pope.
The early church did not see Peter as the successor of Christ. The Church in Rome was the largest and wealthiest church and with this came influence[ii]. When Leo, in the 5th century was elected to the position of the Bishop of Rome he first came up with the interpretation of Peter as the successor of Christ to be passed down[iii]. This was a self serving interpretation. The Roman Church has a list of Popes that goes back to Peter[iv]. In this list they use the Bishops of Rome and claim that they were the Pope, although Rome, at times, had a plurality of Elders/Bishops.
When this position started it was the beginning of the slippery slope that led Roman Catholicism into apostasy. Once fallible man is given the power of an institution to make what he thinks are infallible statements, it rips Jesus Christ from its foundation and fills in the holes with sand, takes the cornerstone out and replaces it with plastic cups.
The Eucharist exposes the heresies of the Romanist church. They believe that the bread and the wine are physically the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that the priest is RE-presenting this sacrifice. In other words every time they take communion they are one again sacrificing Jesus Christ.
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Purgatory (The place where venial sins are burned off[v] (like fat in a sauna)), Penance (the way sins are forgiven by the priest after baptism[vi]), and any other system that claims to perfect someone outside of faith in Jesus Christ is heresy. Jesus Christ paid for the sins of his people FULLY. To ask for another payment would be unjust and blasphemous. This is the equivalent of saying that “the greatest sacrifice ever was not enough to save you, you must now do ______ to complete it.”
Christ said on the cross “It is finished”! this was the same words that were put on a legal document when a debt was paid so that the opposite party cannot ask for any more. The Bible says that we are imputed with the righousness of Christ.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
This means we are forensically declared righteous by God because of the work of his son.
The Romanist view is that of Infused righteousness, this is where a process happens in the believers life where he progressively has his sins forgiven through baptism, penance etc. although this is a works based system the roman catholic will say that God is giving them the grace to carry out these works. This, however is contrary to scripture.
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
These are clear passages and yet are able to be looked over by the Romanist church because they don’t operate on scripture alone (sola scriptura[vii]). The Roman catholic’s and frankly, any other religion likes to pound James chapter 2
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
At this point we run into a problem; either, James contradicts Paul in the previous mentioned verses or we harmonized James with Paul. Historically James chapter 2 has been known to show the differences between Ascentia and Fiducia. Ascentia is the mental knowledge of the facts or a historical faith. This does not save you because as James points out that even the demons believe. Fiducia this is a more than a historical faith, it is coupled with trust and repentance and produces fruit, this is the faith that comes from God. So the Protestant can look at James chapter two and give a hardy “Amen”.
The Question “how are we made right with God?” is an important question and worth debating over. this isn’t simple an issue of a different denomination this is an issue of a different religion, a false religion. In the book of Acts when Paul was preaching to the Bereans they searched the scriptures to see if the things that Paul preached was true (Acts 17:11). Let us do the same when looking at our own religion. we need to compare the claims of Roman Catholicism (and any other religion or worldview) to scripture to see if it lines up.
[i]James White, The Roman Catholic Controversy. pp. 118
[ii] Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd Edition pp.134
[iii] Ibid pp.137