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"The study of God's word, for the purpose of discovering God's will, is the discipline which has formed the greatest characters." - James W. Alexander

AUTHORITY
Development of Doctrine
The Problem of Forgeries
The Deuterocanonical Books
Sufficiency of Scripture
Understanding Scripture
Doctrinal Infallibility

THE ORGANIZATION
Development of the Hierarchy
The Modern Hierarchy
The Pope as Head of the Church
Was Peter the First Pope?
Celibacy

SALVATION
Salvation for Catholics
Salvation for Non-Catholics
Salvation for Non-Christians
Baptism
Infant Baptism
Confirmation
Justification and Sanctification
Confessing Sins to a Priest
Penance (Reconciliation)
Purgatory
Indulgences
The Sin of Presumption

THE EUCHARIST
An Offering of Christ
Transubstantiation

MARIAN DOCTRINES
Veneration of Mary and other Saints
Praying to Mary and other Saints
Mary: Mother of God
Mary: Perpetual Virgin
Mary: Sinless from Birth
Mary: Co-Redeemer

Examining Catholic Doctrines
Written by Bob Williams


In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, "I will build My church." The Roman Catholic Church claims to be that one true church established by Christ. There is no denying that, as an organization, it has its roots in the early church of the New Testament. But has it remained true to what it is supposed to be; is it still the true church of Christ? Or has it become, by the hands of mere men, something far removed from the church we read about in the pages of the Bible? Jno. Francis Knoll said, "If it be not identical in belief, in government, etc., with the primitive Church, then it is not the Church of Christ" (Catholic Facts, Our Sunday Visitor Press, Huntington, Ind., 1927, p. 27).

This series of lessons is actually a work in progress and is a reflection of the author's own personal investigation into the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings. It is hoped that sharing them here will help non-Catholic readers to better understand Catholic teaching (and hopefully correct some common misconceptions) and aid in comparing such to what Scripture teaches. It is further hoped that these lessons will also encourage Catholic readers to examine their beliefs and make those same comparisons to the apostolic teachings of Scripture.

Surely the vast majority of Catholics are sincere, godly people who strive to live faithfully for the Lord. They have faith, not only in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, but also in the wisdom and authority of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. But it should also be noted that the Catholic Church does not appear to encourage its members to personally (without the aid of Catholic authorities) compare Catholic teaching with that of Scripture. In fact, one Catholic writer said, "Once [a person enters the Catholic Church], he has no further use for his reason. He enters the Church, an edifice illumined by the superior light of revelation and faith. He can leave reason like a lantern, at the door" (Explanation of Catholic Morals, John H. Stapleton, p. 76).

This author believes that all Christians should use their God-given reason and be like the Bereans who were "examining the Scriptures daily" to make sure they held only to the truth. If, after searching, it is determined that the Roman Catholic Church is indeed still the church as Christ originally established, then certainly all should acknowledge such and comply. But if, on the other hand, it is determined that the Catholic Church of today is not identical, nor even very similar, to the church of the 1st century and that its doctrines cannot be proved as consistent with apostolic teaching, then it is hoped that honest, God-loving Christians will recognize such and have the courage and integrity to return to New Testament Christianity.

The abbreviation RCC will be used throughout this work to refer to the Roman Catholic Church; it should be noted that there are other Catholic groups who may or may not recognize Rome as its authority and whose doctrines may be somewhat different from those mentioned herein. Quotations designated as CCC with a paragraph number are from the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. Quotations designated as CE are from the Catholic Encyclopedia and are most often taken from the online version (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen). CD refers to the Catholic Dictionary. Unless otherwise stated, all modern excerpts presented here are believed and intended to be from authorized Catholic literature having the imprimatur and are quoted verbatim. Every effort has been given to ensure accuracy and faithfulness to the context; any such failures are truly unintentional.


 

 

Development of Doctrine

 

The RCC and Tradition

The RCC teaches that, while many (if not most) of its doctrines are not clearly revealed or supported completely in Scripture, nevertheless all of its teachings and practices actually originated from the time of the apostles; such undocumented (in Scripture) teachings are called Tradition. CCC #84: "The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practising and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.""

John 20:30 is often used in support of this: "Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written I this book." John A. O'Brien, in his book The Faith of Millions, said, "The Bible does not contain all the teaching of the Christian religion, nor does it formulate all the duties of its members" (p. 153-154).

Another verse that is commonly cited is 1 Timothy 3:15, which says that the church is to be "...the pillar and support of the truth." The word "support" (NASB) is aptly rendered as "foundation" in the Catholic NAB, referring to the responsibility of the church to uphold the truth "which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Nevertheless, the RCC interprets this verse to mean that is has the right and authority to develop and determine doctrine.

CE - Tradition and Living Magesterium says: "The word tradition (Greek paradosis) in the ecclesiastical sense; which is the only one in which it is used here; refers sometimes to the thing (doctrine, account, or custom) transmitted from one generation to another... A given doctrine or institution is not directly dependent on Holy Scripture as its source but only on the oral teaching of Christ or the Apostles."

CCC #95: "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls." CCC #81: "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And (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."

 

John Henry Cardinal Newman

The information in this section is taken from Newman's book, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, Foreword copyright 1989. Newman was an Anglican who later converted to Catholicism, apparently after realizing that he could not justify many Anglican practices without accepting those of the RCC. His work thus seeks to justify the development of the various doctrines of the RCC.

In the foreword, Ian Ker refers to "...the fact that over the centuries Christianity appears to have undergone so many changes that the question arises how far it is the same religion as that preached by the apostles" (p. xxi). He cites the example of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and says, "...to imagine that St. Paul knew anything of it, let alone believed it, would be fanciful, not to say ludicrous" (p. xxii). He also refers to Newman's acknowledgement "...that the early Church was not 'conscious' of dogmas later defined [and] . . . that development is really synonymous with continuing revelation." Ker admits that such a theology would contradict current RCC teaching that "...God's revelation was completed once and for all in Christ." Nevertheless, Newman apparently believed: "For the fact that the Apostolic Church was not 'conscious' of later dogmas does not necessarily mean that she was not unconsciously cognizant of them, in the sense that she had an implicit though not explicit knowledge of them" (p. xxiii). In other words, Newman seems to suggest that the Apostles possessed all the knowledge of all the doctrines that would ever be taught by the Catholic Church (though they perhaps did not explicitly know that they knew them) and somehow passed it all down to the subsequent bishops for future development and understanding.

Newman said, "Here then I concede to the opponents of historical Christianity, that there are to be found, during the 1800 years through which it has lasted, certain apparent inconsistencies and alterations in its doctrines and its worship..." although he believes "...they are not sufficient to interfere with the general character and course of the religion..." (p. 9). "...Time is necessary for the full comprehension and perfection of great ideas; and that the highest and most wonderful truths, though communicated to the world once for all by inspired teachers, could not be comprehended all at once by the recipients, but, as being received and transmitted by minds not inspired and through media which were human, have required only the longer time and deeper thought for their full elucidation" (p. 29-30).

"Again, if Christianity be an universal religion, suited not simply to one locality or period, but to all times and places, it cannot but vary in its relations and dealings towards the world around it, that is, it will develope [sic]" (p. 58). "Certain doctrines come to us, professing to be Apostolic, and possessed of such high antiquity that, though we are only able to assign the date of their formal establishment to the fourth, or the fifth, or the eighth, or the thirteenth century, as it may happen, yet their substance may, for what appears, be coeval with the Apostles, and be expressed or implied in texts of Scripture. Further, these existing doctrines are universally considered, without any question, in each age to be the echo of the doctrines of the times immediately preceding them, and thus are continually thrown back to a date indefinitely early, even though their ultimate junction with the Apostolic Creed be out of sight and unascertainable" (p. 99). "I grant that there are 'Bishops against Bishops in Church history, Fathers against Fathers, Fathers against themselves,' for such differences in individual writers are consistent with, or rather are involved in the very idea of doctrinal development..." (p. 120-121).

Newman gives a few examples of RCC doctrines that were developed throughout time...

  • There is "...little definite, or at least but partial, testimony..." before the 4th or 5th centuries in regards to the doctrines of purgatory and original sin (p. 20).
  • Penance was a later development as the compliment of baptism (p. 63).
  • Original sin was "...a gradual process, not completed till the time of Augustine and Pelagius" (p. 126).
  • St. Chrysostom said, "We baptize infants, though they are not defiled with sin..." Newman said, "This at least shows that he had a clear view of the importance and duty of infant baptism, but such was not the case even with saints in the generation immediately before him..." and that such "...was less earnestly insisted on in early times" (p. 127).
  • There was "...no public and ecclesiastical recognition of the place which St. Mary holds in the Economy of grace; this was reserved for the fifth century..." (p. 145).
  • Papal supremacy "...did not at once show itself upon the surface of ecclesiastical affairs, and of which events in the fourth century are the development..." Newman went on to say, "While Apostles were on earth, there was the display neither of Bishop nor Pope; their power had no prominence, as being exercised by Apostles. In course of time, first the power of the Bishop displayed itself, and then the power of the Pope" (p. 148-149). "As the Church grew into form, so did the power of the Pope develope [sic]" (p. 154).

Throughout his book, Newman gives reasons for all these developments, indicating his belief (and that of Catholics in general) that all such developments are good and appropriate. Nevertheless, it cannot be stated that the RCC today is the same as the church as it was originally established by Christ. (Remember the words of Jno. Francis Knoll: "If it be not identical in belief, in government, etc., with the primitive Church, then it is not the Church of Christ.") It is these developments and alterations that have led many to go back to the writings of the apostles themselves and seek to restore simple New Testament Christianity.

 

The Problem with Oral Tradition

The RCC does admit to the possible unreliability of depending on oral traditions. Consider this statement concerning the traditions of early centuries: "This seems to be especially true of Rome, which possessed so few authentic Acta (Acts of the Martyrs) in spite of the number and fame of its martyrs; for the Romans had apparently lost the thread of their traditions as early as the second half of the fourth century" (CE IX, p. 744).

Another example of such unreliability is seen in CE - Canon of the Old Testament: "We are sure, of course, that all the Hagiographa were eventually, before the death of the last Apostle, divinely committed to the Church as Holy Scriptures, but we known this as a truth of faith, and by theological deduction, not from documentary evidence in the New Testament... Reasoning backward from the status in which we find the deutero books in the earliest ages of post-Apostolic Christianity, we rightly affirm that such a status points of Apostolic sanction, which in turn must have rested on revelation either by Christ or the Holy Spirit." In other words, there is no specific evidence of such, but the RCC still claims that such was passed down from the apostles.

 

 

The Problem of Forgeries

 

Numerous Fraudulent Writings

Another possible problem regarding Tradition and the development of doctrine is that much of it may be based upon forgeries. The RCC admits that much of its canon law, legislation, and teaching has its origin in fraudulent writings. The list of books and volumes known to be forged is immense. A significant admission is this statement: "The writers of the fourth century were prone to describe many practices as apostolic institutions which certainly had no claim to be so regarded" (CE III, p. 484). Consider also these statements regarding the extent of fraudulent writings:

  • "Quite a trade" (CE VI, p. 136)
  • "So often met with" (Outline of Dogmatic Theology, Sylvester Joseph Hunter, Benziger Bros., New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, 1894, II, p. 564)
  • "Many writings" (CE IV, p. 14)
  • "A great many" (CE IX, p. 224)
  • "Prolific in forgeries" (Com. Augustine, I, p. 27)
  • "Fife with fabrications" (Com. Augustine, I, p. 23)
  • "A large number of forgeries" (CE IV, p. 544)
  • "Alleged instances from earlier times" (CE XIV, p. 378)

And what was the purpose for such forgeries?

  • "Describe many practices as apostolic institutions" (CE III, p. 484)
  • "Secure the authority of the Roman Pontiff" (Com. Augustine, I, p. 25)
  • "Defend hierarchy" (Com. Augustine, I, p. 25)
  • "To supply documents" (CD, p. 388)
  • "Create impression... time of apostles" (CE V, p. 14)
  • "Produce alleged instances of earlier times" (CE XIV, p. 378)
  • "Defend hierarchy in all its degrees" (Com. Augustine, I, p. 25)
  • "The writer wished to thought to belong to the preceding generation (Hermas)" (CE VII, p. 270)

"There was need of a revision which is not yet complete, ranging over all that had been handed down from the Middle Ages under the style and title of the Fathers, the Councils, and Roman and other official archives. In all these departments forgery and interpolation as well as ignorance had wrought mischief on a great scale" (CE XII, 768).

 

Regarding Canon Law and Doctrine

CE 9056a says: "There were, however, in the East, from the early days up to the end of the fifth century, certain writings, closely related to each other, and which were in reality brief canon law treatises on ecclesiastical administration the duties of the clergy and the faithful, and especially on the liturgy. We refer to works attributed to the Apostles, very popular in the Oriental Churches, though devoid of official authority, and which may be called pseudo-epigraphic, rather than apocryphal. The principal writings of this kind are the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" or "Didache", the "Didascalia", based on the "Didache"; the "Apostolic Constitutions", an expansion of the two preceding works; then the "Apostolic Church Ordinance", the "Definitio canonica SS. Apostolorum", the "Testament of the Lord" and the "Octateuch of Clement"; lastly the "Apostolic Canons". Of all this literature, only the "Apostolic Canons" were included in the canonical collections of the Greek Church. The most important of these documents the "Apostolic Constitutions", was removed by the Second Canon of the Council in Trullo (692), as having been interpolated by the heretics. As to the eighty-five Apostolic Canons, accepted by the same council, they rank yet first in the above-mentioned "Apostolic" collection; the first fifty translated into Latin by Dionysius Exiguus (c. 500), were included in the Western collections and afterwards in the "Corpus Juris.""

From CE 1636a: "[The] Apostolic Constitutions [are] a fourth-century pseudo-Apostolic collection, in eight books, of independent, though closely related, treatises on Christian discipline, worship, and doctrine, intended to serve as a manual of guidance for the clergy, and to some extent for the laity... The Church seems never to have regarded this work as of undoubted Apostolic authority. The Trullan Council in 692 rejected the work on account of the interpolations of heretics. Only that portion of it to which has been given the name "Apostolic Canons" was received; but even the fifty of these canons which had then been accepted by the Western Church were not regarded as of certain Apostolic origin. Where known, however, the Apostolic constitutions were held generally in high esteem and served as the basis for much ecclesiastical legislation."

From CE 4781b: "[The Didascalia Apostolorum is] a treatise which pretends to have been written by the Apostles at the time of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts, xv), but is really a composition of the third century... The full title given in the Syriac is "Didascalia, that is, the Catholic doctrine of the twelve Apostles and the holy disciples of our Lord". The contents are the same as those of the corresponding books of the Apostolic Constitutions... The original Law of Moses is to be observed, but not the Second Law, or Deuterosis, which was given to the Jews on account of the hardness of their hearts... Next we find the whole work incorporated into the Apostolic Constitutions, at the end of the fourth century, and soon afterwards it is quoted in the Pseudo-Chrysostom's "Opus Imperfectum in Matt." But the work never had a great vogue, and it was superseded by the Apostolic Constitutions."

 

Regarding Penance and Purgatory

One of the earliest forgeries is "The Shepherd of Hermas," from which come perhaps the earliest references to doctrines such as penance, the celebration of Easter, and purgatorial pains. CE 7268b says: "(First or second century), author of the book called "The Shepherd" (Poimen, Pastor), a work which had great authority in ancient times and was ranked with Holy Scripture. Eusebius tells us that it was publicly read in the churches, and that while some denied it to be canonical, others "considered it most necessary". St. Athanasius speaks of it, together with the Didache, in connection with the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, as uncanonical yet recommended by the ancients for the reading of catechumens. Elsewhere he calls it a most profitable book... Perhaps the most probable view is that the historical data in the book are fictitious; the author was really the brother of Pope Pius, and wrote during his brother's pontificate. The evils of the Church in his day which he describes are not impossible in the first century, but they certainly suit the second better. There is a possible reference to Marcion's visit to Rome about 142, and there is a probable reference to Gnostic theories in Simil. viii, ix. The writer wished to be thought to belong to the preceding generation-hence the name of Clement, the most famous of earlier popes, instead of the name Pius. We cannot even be sure that the writer's name was really Hermas."

 

Regarding the Apostle's Creed

The Apostle's Creed is purported to be originally written by the apostles themselves, but was actually composed centuries later. CE 1629a says: "Throughout the Middle Ages it was generally believed that the Apostles, on the day of Pentecost, while still under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, composed our present Creed between them, each of the Apostles contributing one of the twelve articles. This legend dates back to the sixth century."

 

Regarding the Hierarchy

As already stated, writings used to justify the papacy and the RCC hierarchy as apostolic institutions are actually fraudulent. One major document used to demonstrate the ecclesiastical organization of one single bishop in each city as being apostolic comes from the Clementines, now known to be a forgery. "We must nevertheless abandon any attempt to argue from the Clementines, since the oldest parts betray themselves more and more as a product of the third century... He was guilty of arbitrary inventions and changes" (CE VII, p. 327).

CE 4039b says: "Clementines is the name given to the curious religious romance which has come down to us in two forms as composed by Pope St. Clement I. The Greek form is preserved only in two Manuscripts and consists of twenty books of homilies... The date of the original is therefore fixed as after Nicæa, 325, probably c. 330; that of H. may be anywhere in the second half of the fourth century. The Eunomian interpolator is about 365-70, and the compilation of R. about 370-80... It is now becoming recognized by all critics that the original writings were not intended for the use of baptized Christians of any sect. Most of the latest critics say they are meant for catechumens, and indeed the office of a teacher is highly commended; but it would be more exact to say that the arguments are adapted to the needs of inquiring heathens. Of baptism much is said, but of repentance little. There is little characteristically Christian doctrine to be found; atonement and the sacrifice of the Cross, sin and its penalty, forgiveness, grace, are far to seek. Once the Eucharist is mentioned by name: "Peter broke the Eucharist" (H. xi, 36, R. vi, 15). Christ is always spoken of as "the true Prophet," as the revealer to men of God, of truth, of the answers to the riddle of life. The writer knows a complete system of ecclesiastical organization. Peter sets a bishop over each city, with priest and deacons under him; the office of bishop is well defined."

Another major reference to justify the RCC hierarchy is that of Dionysius the Areopagite, a Greek writer of the 5th century: "The word [hierarchy] first occurs in the work of pseudo-Dionysius on Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchies... The signification was gradually modified until it came to be what is at present. A hierarchy now signifies a body of officials disposed organically in ranks and orders, each subordinate to the one above it" (CD p. 402).

Because of the vastness of such forgeries, despite the general claim of Catholicism, it is admitted: "The chronology of these bishops of Rome cannot be determined with any degree of exactitude by the help of the authorities today" (CE VII, p. 595). "A great many of the biographies of the predecessors of Anastasius II are full of errors and historically untenable" (CE IX, p. 224). Anastatius became bishop in Rome in 496, thus creating serious doubt regarding the purported 50 popes that came before him.

 

 

The Deuterocanonical Books

 

The Septuagint (LXX) and the Deuteros

There is a notable difference between the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible. The Catholic Bible contains several books, as well as additional sections in other books, interspersed throughout the OT that are not found in the Protestant Bible. The current RCC Bible contains the 39 books of the Hebrew canon plus additional material known as deuterocanonical (later or second canon). This deuterocanonical material consists of seven additional books (Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch), as well as other additions to the canonical book of Esther and the canonical book of Daniel (The Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon). Protestants (and some Catholics throughout time) refer to these books as the Apocrypha (books of doubtful authenticity).

These additional books are found in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT. The original work was apparently done around 250-150 BC by approximately 70 different scholars, hence the name and the designation LXX. Since many of the Jews of that time (including the days of the early church) were Greek speaking (having given up their own language), the LXX came to be commonly used by them. Furthermore, since the early church was largely composed of converts among these Greek speaking Jews, the LXX continued to be the OT Scripture of the early church. It was thus commonly used by Jesus, the apostles, and their converts.

The Greek scholars did take numerous liberties in modifying the text while translating from the Hebrew to the Greek; it is, in fact, in many places, a rather free paraphrase. When NT writers quoted from OT writers, they generally quoted from the Greek translation. This explains the variations found between the quotes in the Greek NT and the original wording found in the Hebrew OT (from which modern translations are generally derived).

In Historical and Geographical Background for the Development of the Two Old Testament Canons, Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl explain the differences between the Hebrew and Greek canons: "In Palestine, with the return of Ezra from exile (458 BC) and Nehemiah (445 BC), and the prophecy of Malachi (433 BC) there is established biblical silence-no further known divine revelation. . . There is no biblical silence in the Greek Septuagint: the Septuagint conveys the original text of some books (Wisdom, 2 Maccabees) and the basic canonical form of others, either in part (Esther, Daniel, Sirach) or as a whole (Tobit, Judith, Baruch, and 1 Maccabees). While the Septuagint was a collection of the books of the Old Testament and an attempt at a canon, it was not a fixed canon in the first century. It was a popular translation of scripture because Greek was the common language of the entire Mediterranean world by the time of the Apostolic Church."

In other words, the Hebrew canon stops at Malachi and contains only the same 39 books that most Bibles contain today. The Greek LXX, however, adds several more books that were written during the time of "biblical silence" that were apparently not accepted as inspired by the Jews of that time. Since the LXX was being used to prove Jesus as the Messiah, those Jews who did not convert to Christianity ceased their use of it around the end of the 1st century. Perhaps in further opposition to such, they met in A.D. 90 to confirm the long-accepted canon of 39 books.

The RCC takes the position that, since the LXX was largely the Bible of the early church, all its contents ought to thus be considered as canonical. It is not possible, however, to determine with certainty the exact contents of the LXX. Zondervan's Bible Dictionary says: "Little is certainly known about it, for our information is frequently based on ancient traditions of doubtful authenticity, and scholars are divided in their judgments both concerning its origin and its usefulness in textual criticism" (p. 770). Furthermore, CE - Canon of the Old Testament admits: "The oldest extant copies date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were therefore made by Christian hands." In other words, there are no copies of the LXX of any period close to the time it originated, and thus there are no absolute means of verifying its original contents. Some scholars argue that, lacking any contrary evidence of that time period, the original LXX was identical to the Hebrew canon of 39 books. Some even go so far as to suggest that the original LXX never contained more than the Pentateuch and that the rest of the OT books were added by Christians at a later time.

The available copies of the LXX contain the 39 books of the Hebrew canon plus a variety of additional material. Some are identical to the list of books now known as deuterocanonical to Catholics (as listed above). The Codex Vaticanus (the oldest copy of the LXX), however, does not have the two books of the Maccabees. Other copies also have the books of 1 & 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh. (These additional three books are not listed among the deuterocanonical books noted at the Council of Trent and are not in the current RCC Bible, but they were included in the Latin Vulgate.)

 

Debate Among Scholars

The canon of both the OT and the NT was argued by scholars throughout first few centuries of the church. It seems that many of that time held that the additional books of the LXX were of value to Christians, but there was widespread hesitation and even opposition to accepting them as properly canonical. This debate continued into the succeeding centuries with little attestation to the inspiration of the deuterocanonical books. CE - Canon of the Old Testament continues: "Following the precedent of Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, the saintly doctor [Athanasius] recognized no other formal canon of the Old Testament than the Hebrew one; but also, faithful to the same tradition, he practically admitted the deutero books to a Scriptural dignity, as is evident from his general usage." This seems consistent with the attitudes of many throughout RCC history: that the deuteros were highly valuable, but not worthy of canonicity.

Despite the many eminent scholars who disputed the canonicity of the apocryphal writings, "the official attitude of the Latin Church, always favourable to them, kept the majestic tenor of its way" (CE). Thus, a list of books was approved by Damascus (bishop of Rome) in 382. This same list was further recognized at the Synod of Hippo (393) and the three councils of Carthage (393, 397, and 419). It is noted, however, that these are not claimed to be ecumenical councils and thus not authoritative for the entire RCC.

According to the RCC, these lists contained the same 46 books that are identical to that given later at the Council of Trent and currently found in Catholic Bibles. Considering this, however, it seems strange that Jerome's Latin Vulgate (commissioned in 382 by Damascus and completed in 405) listed not only the seven additional books and other additional sections (as noted above), but he also included 3 other books: 3 & 4 Esdras (according to CE - Esdras) and the Prayer of Manasseh. However, he separated these additional books from the protocanonical (first or Hebrew canon) and designated them as the Apocrypha, apparently doubting their inspiration (as do Protestants today).

CE - Canon of the OT, on the attitude towards the deutoros in the Middle Ages, states: "In the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. There is a current friendly to them, another one distinctly unfavourable to their authority and sacredness, while wavering between the two are a number of writers whose veneration for these books is tempered by some perplexity as to their exact standing, and among those we note St. Thomas Aquinas. Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge their canonicity."

CE - Canon of the OT, on the reason for making a declaration at Trent, states: "It was the exigencies of controversy that first led Luther to draw a sharp line between the books of the Hebrew Canon and the Alexandrian writings. In his disputation with Eck at Leipzig, in 1519, when his opponent urged the well-known text from II Machabees in proof of the doctrine of purgatory, Luther replied that the passage had no binding authority since the books was outside the Canon. In the first edition of Luther's Bible, 1534, the deuteros were relegated, as apocrypha, to a separate place between the two Testaments. To meet this radical departure of the Protestants, and as well define clearly the inspired sources from which the Catholic Faith draws its defence, the Council of Trent among its first acts solemnly declared as "sacred and canonical" all the books of the Old and New Testaments "with all their parts as they have been used to be read in the churches, and as found in the ancient vulgate edition". During the deliberations of the Council there never was any real question as to the reception of all the traditional Scripture. Neither-and this is remarkable-in the proceedings is there manifest any serious doubt of the canonicity of the disputed writings. In the mind of the Tridentine Fathers they had been virtually canonized, by the same decree of Florence, and the same Fathers felt especially bound by the action of the preceding ecumenical synod. The Council of Trent did not enter into an examination of the fluctuations in the history of the Canon. Neither did it trouble itself about questions of authorship or character of contents. True to the practical genius of the Latin Church, it based its decision on immemorial tradition as manifested in the decrees of previous councils and popes, and liturgical reading, relying on traditional teaching and usage to determine a question of tradition."

It should be noted that, even at the time of Trent and the Reformation, not all Catholic scholars agreed with the decision to elevate the deuteros to canonical status. W. Hartono, in Canon of The Old Testament, says: "Even during Reformation, cardinal Cajetan of the Catholic Church (Luther's opponent) did not consider deuterocanonical books as equal to the rest of Old Testament books."

CE - Canon of the OT speaks on the issue of Tradition in regards to the deuterocanonical books: "Reasoning backward from the status in which we find the deutero books in the earliest ages of post-Apostolic Christianity, we rightly affirm that such a status points of Apostolic sanction, which in turn must have rested on revelation either by Christ or the Holy Spirit." In other words, there is no evidence of such, but the RCC still claims that such was passed down from the apostles.

 

Conclusion

Finally, it is acknowledged that the apocryphal/deuterocanonical books do provide some historical information regarding that time, but Protestant scholars (as did numerous Catholic scholars throughout history) believe that the inclusion of them in the Biblical canon is inappropriate as there is not sufficient evidence of inspiration.

Allow one example of such inferiority to be given from the end of 2 Maccabees (from which is found a passage that Catholics use to support their doctrine of Purgatory): "Author's Apology. Since Nicanor's doings ended in this way, with the city remaining in possession of the Hebrews from that time on, I will bring my own story to an end here too. If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do. Just as it is harmful to drink wine alone or water alone, whereas mixing wine with water makes a more pleasant drink that increases delight, so a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. Let this, then, be the end" (15:37-39). It is obvious that the writer claims to simply be writing a story; he claims no inspiration from God and sounds nothing like any inspired writer of Scripture.

For more information on this issue, please see The Canon of the Bible.

 

 

Sufficiency of Scripture

 

The RCC and the Bible

The RCC admits that it has not always held the same attitude towards the use of the Bible as that generally held by Protestant Christians (though the RCC now claims to have a greater use of Scripture). "There was far more extensive and continuous use of Scriptures in the public service of the early Church than there is among us" (CD, p. 509). "The very nature of the Bible ought to prove to any thinking man the impossibility of its being the one safe method to find out what the Savior taught" (Question Box, 1913 edition, p. 67). "Again, it has ever been practically impossible for men, generally, to find out Christ from the Bible only" (p. 70). "The Scripture indeed is a divine book but it is a dead letter, which has to be explained, and cannot exercise the action which the preacher can obtain" (Our Priesthood, p. 155). "[It is] a dead and speechless book" (Question Box, p. 67). (Note: Hebrews 4:12 says, "The word of God is living and active...") "The reformation produced indeed an exaggerated individualism, which by declaring every man equally competent to find out the doctrine of the Savior from his own private reading of the Scriptures, has led millions to the utter denial of Christ" (Question Box, p. 131).

There was actually a time (especially in the Middle Ages) when reading the Bible was even forbidden! "Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor of confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they much have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed them over to the ordinary" (Fourth rule concerning prohibited books, by Council of Trent, and approved by Pius IV, 1563 A.D., trans. By H. J. Schroeder, Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, p. 274).

"Reading of the Bible in the vulgar tongue has varied with varying circumstances. In earlier times the Bible was read freely by the lay people... New dangers came in during the Middle Ages... To meet these evils, the Council of Toulouse (1229) and Terragona (1234) forbade the laity to read the vernacular translations of the Bible" (CD, p. 82).

"As it has been clearly shown by experience that, if the Holy Bible in the vernacular is generally permitted without any distinction, more harm than utility is thereby caused, owing to human temerity: all versions in the vernacular, even by Catholics, are altogether prohibited unless approved by the Holy See, or published, under the vigilant care of the bishops, with annotations taken from the Fathers of the Church and learned Catholic writers" (Leo XIII, in Great Encylical Letters, p. 412-413).

 

Scripture is Authoritative

The RCC today proclaims doctrines and defines practices and claims authority to do so even without clear Scriptural or early historical evidence to support such. Protestants, on the other hand, cite that the apostles confirmed their word by performing miracles; they gave proof of their authority. Protestants therefore emphasize the sufficiency and authority of inspired Scripture.

The common proof text used to support RCC Tradition is 2 Thessalonians 2:15; there Paul said, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." But Paul was not referring to other teachings to be passed down throughout the centuries; he was specifically referring to the teachings of the apostles by inspiration. During the days of the apostles, some of those authoritative teachings were given orally; others were written and distributed to the churches. Notice that Paul wrote letters to several churches and stated that they should be read publicly when the Christians assembled (1 Thessalonians 5:27; Colossians 4:16). Early historical records indicate that apostolic writings were indeed read in the assemblies on a regular basis.

Peter, in 2 Peter 3:1-2 said, "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles." We see then that there was a time when people were guided both by the spoken words of inspired men as well as by their inspired writings. Both of these had equal authority because both were given by the Holy Spirit.

After the death of all the apostles and the end of the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the writings of the apostles obviously became more valuable. Though it would take a while before everyone agreed on an absolute canon, the writings of the apostles were already being collected (2 Peter 3:16). The apostles had left no other way by which Christians could directly obtain the law of God (although the RCC claims that other teachings were passed down through the bishops, though not inspired as were the writings of the apostles). The inspired writings were then the only undisputed authority. Paul said, "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment" (1 Corinthians 14:37).

The writings by inspiration of the Holy Spirit are Scripture. And Scripture is indeed an authoritative statement of God's will. Jesus Himself often referred to in the Scriptures as the final source of authority. He spoke of searching the Scriptures because "it is these that bear witness of Me" (John 5:39). He also said, "Have you not read in the Scriptures?" (Matt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31) and, "Is it not written in your law?" (John 10:34; Luke 10:26).

Furthermore, He often showed the consequences for failing to abide in Scriptures, e.g., "You err, not knowing the Scriptures" (Matt. 22:29), "Thus making void the word of God through your traditions" (Mark 7:13). His manner of refuting error was, "God said...but you say..." (Matt. 15:4-5; Mark 7:10-11). After Jesus mentioned, "God said," He then quoted Scripture. That was His manner of drawing a clear, sharp contrast between the written word of God and the teachings of men. Jesus was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures which the people were under at that time, but remember that the inspirational work of the Holy Spirit continued. The writings of the apostles were likewise inspired and are therefore also Scripture and authoritative.

 

Scripture is Sufficient

The Catholic Catechism for Adults says, "Can you learn to save your soul just by reading the Bible? No, because certain things in the Bible can be misunderstood, and because the Bible does not have everything God taught" (p. 52). John A. O'Brien said, "The Bible is not a clear and intelligible guide to all" (The Faith of Millions, p. 152).

But the Bible itself says that Scripture is all that is needed for salvation. As noted before, John 20:30 does indeed teach that not everything done by Jesus is recorded in Scripture. But notice the very next verse: "But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31). Not everything ever done or said by Jesus is recorded in Scripture, but we do have all that is necessary for salvation.

In 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Paul said, "From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." Notice two things:

  • Scripture in the early church typically referred to the OT canon. However, the writings of the apostles were also quickly recognized as being Scripture (see 2 Peter 3:16). Thus Paul's reference to "all Scripture" would seemingly refer to both the OT canon and what would become part of the NT canon.
  • Paul says that Scripture is profitable for doctrine, etc. and then says, "that the man of God may be artios (fitted, complete) and exertismenos (to complete, finish, to furnish perfectly). The KJV translates this as "thoroughly furnished." That which is deemed Scripture (as opposed to those books that lacked evidence for inspiration and therefore eventually left out of the canon) is able to completely and thoroughly furnish us with all we need for doctrine, etc.

The inspired writing of Paul was given so that "...when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ...as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" (Ephesians 3:4-5). In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul said he wrote so that they would know how to conduct themselves in the household of God. The apostle John in 1 John 1:1-4 declared that he was bearing witness to those things which they had heard, which they had seen with their eyes, which they had touched with their hands, concerning the Word of life. He said he bore witness to those things by writing them for us. "And these things write we unto you, that our joy may be full" (verse 4). He further said, "I am writing these things to you that you may not sin" (1 John 2:1), and, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).

Paul said in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." James 1:21 says, "Receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." Jude 3 says we are to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." 2 Peter 1:3 says that God "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness...." The Bible makes no mention of further revelation by way of uninspired men in the future.

 

Conclusion

No passage anywhere in the Scriptures gives the slightest hint that unwritten human traditions, teachings of any man, or legislation of any church, are the commandments of the Lord. Instead, the Scriptures repeatedly reveal that man's teachings, whether writings or otherwise, are to be rejected (Colossians 2:8; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Scripture itself shows that it is the authority as opposed to the teachings of man. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:6, said, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written." Man often wishes to introduce things contrary to Scripture, but there is no authority for such.

 

 

Understanding Scripture

 

The RCC Claims the Sole Right to Interpretation

CCC #85: "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. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome." CCC #119: "For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God." CCC # 100: "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him."

From Catholic Answers, Inc. (Starting Out as an Apologist): "Next you should read a systematic presentation of the Catholic faith. Virtually all of the Church's teachings are present, either explicitly or implicitly, in the pages of the New Testament, but they aren't organized in an easy to remember way. Now that you have read the New Testament and begun to absorb its material, you need to know how to organize and interpret that material. This is something we cannot do on our own. Many sects start precisely because someone reads the Bible and interprets a particular passage in an unusual way, then makes this normative for how they read everything else in Scripture. Rather than reading the passage in the context of the whole of Scripture's teachings (which only a few people have a real mastery of, and which takes years to cultivate), they lock on to a particular passage and give it a strange interpretation. They may be unaware of the rest of what Scripture has to say on the same subject, or if they are aware of it, they may twist the rest of what Scripture says to fit their interpretation of this passage.

"The Apostle Peter was very concerned about this problem, and addressed it in two places in his letters. In 2 Peter 1:20-21, he gave his first rule of Bible interpretation: "First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." Peter tells us that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private interpretation. By prophecy, he simply means anything that Scripture teaches (prophecy does not always mean predicting the future). For this reason, we must avoid the temptation to evaluate passages by simply asking "What does this passage mean to me?" Christ gave the Church teachers, and he did so for a very specific reason: to assist people in how to understand Scripture and its teachings. Therefore, rather than simply looking to private interpretations, we must look to the public interpretation of Scripture, which is what the Church has. We must read Scripture in the context of what the Church has historically understood it to mean, for it was the Church that Christ established as "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

"There are significant dangers if we do not do this. The Apostle Peter spoke highly of what his fellow apostle, Paul, had written, but he cautioned that Paul's letters can be difficult: "There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). So ignorant people (those who have not been taught the true interpretation of the Scriptures) and unstable people (those who do not adhere to the true interpretation that they have been taught) can twist the Scriptures to their own destruction. Strong words, indeed! Yet Peter wrote them so that we would know that we must not approach Scripture as an ignorant or unstable person would do, ignoring the context of how the Church has always understood them."

 

The Proof Text is Misinterpreted

The above Catholic writer, however, has misapplied the words of 2 Peter 1:20-21 in the attempt to claim that ordinary people are not able to interpret Scripture. The verb "is" in v20 is translated from the verb ginomai, meaning to become or spring into being. The context itself shows that Peter is stating that Scripture does not come from the writer's own personal ideas or interpretation, but from the Holy Spirit's inspiration only. The passage is about the writer; it has nothing whatsoever to do with the reader's understanding. Those who use this verse to claim that the RCC alone can properly interpret Scripture show a gross misinterpretation of their own proof text.

 

The Bible Written to Ordinary People

The Bible itself indicates that it is intended for ordinary people to understand. The letters which are assembled together to form the New Testament were originally addressed to ordinary Christians or to entire congregations of people. Consider a few examples:

  • "Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus...to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints." Romans 1:1,7
  • "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Colossians 1:1-2
  • "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:1
  • "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Colossians 4:16
  • "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." I Thessalonians 5:27
  • "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: the time is at hand." Revelations 1:3

 

The Bible Can be Understood

New Testament writings were written to ordinary members of the church and it was intended that the writings be read by or be read to those people. The divine instruction is "read", "hear", "read to", etc. Thus, the scriptures themselves tell us that we are to read them ourselves; no mention is made of needing an interpreter to understand them. It is God's will and desire that His word be studied and understood by each individual who would believe and become obedient to that will. Notice what Paul said in Ephesians 3:3-5: "By revelation (from God) there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit." Paul clearly states that we can understand what he wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

 

The RCC Method of Interpretation

The RCC appears to practice a method of finding proof texts that is often used by others with preconceived beliefs. Just as some Bible students often go to Scripture to find support for what they have already decided, so also the RCC seems to look at history and Scripture to find support for what it has now determined to believe and teach. This process is generally called eisogesis, which is defined as reading one's own meaning into a text. While those who practice this method of interpretation may do so with the most honest of intentions, it is nevertheless a dangerous practice if one is truly in search of the truth. A more productive and responsible method of Bible study requires a proper exegesis, which is defined as a critical examination and interpretation of Scripture based upon its historical setting and meaning to its original readers.

The Catholic Encyclopedia admits to eisogesis: "When the Church studies the ancient monuments of her faith she casts over the past the reflection of her living and present thought and by some sympathy of the truth, today with that of yesterday she succeeds in recognizing through the obscurities and inaccuracies of ancient formulas and portion of traditional truth, even though they are mixed with error" (CE XV, p. 10). In other words, the RCC gets the cart before the horse; it decides on "truth," and then goes in search of proof!

Likewise, Cardinal Newman, in An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, refers to "...passages which admit of a Catholic interpretation when the Catholic doctrine is once proved, but which prima facie run counter to that doctrine" (p. 26-27). He admits that many doctrines, after they have been developed and accepted, can find support in Scripture by interpreting those passages in light of what is now believed (p. 72-73). "[Since] doctrine cannot but develope [sic] as time proceeds and need arises, and that its developments are parts of the Divine system, . . . therefore it is lawful, or rather necessary to interpret the words and deeds of the earlier Church by the determinate teaching of the later" (p. 155).

 

 

Doctrinal Infallibility

 

RCC Claims Prevention from Teaching Error

The RCC teaches that it alone has possession of doctrinal truth and that it is forever preserved from teaching any error. The Catechism For Adults says, "Why can't the Catholic Church ever teach error? Because Jesus promised to be always with His Church to protect it from error" (p. 56).

Cardinal Newman said, "It is safer to acquiesce with, than without, an authority; safer with the belief that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, than with the belief that in so great a matter she is likely to err" (Development of Christian Doctrine, p. 133).

In an address of Pope John Paul II entitled "Truth in the Magisterium," (12 November 1988), he said, "The Church's magisterium is among the means which Christ's redeeming love has provided to avoid this danger of error. In His name, it has a real teaching authority. Therefore, it cannot be said that the faithful have embarked on a diligent search for truth if they do not take into account what the magisterium teaches, or if, by putting it on the same level as any other source of knowledge, one makes oneself judge, or if in doubt, one follows one's own opinion or that of theologians, preferring it to the sure teaching of the magisterium."

From Church News, June 7, 1999: "During the second day of his recent visit to his homeland-Poland, the Holy Father has reaffirmed the fact that only the teaching authority of the Catholic Church has the competency to infallibly interpret Holy Scriptures. The Pope, in a homily to the more than 300,000 faithful attending a Mass in the diocese of Pelplin, in the northern region of the country, urged Catholics to put a serious interpretation of the Holy Scriptures as a foundation of the mission of the Church in our days. He warned against "interpretations that even take away the meaning of the Scripture, such as the interpretations promoted by some present literature and by individualist philosophies. The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God ... has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone, whose authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ," said the Pontiff. "Those who assume responsibility for an authoritative explanation of revealed truth must trust not in their own, often fallible, intuition but in sound knowledge and unyielding faith."

CCC #889: "In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a supernatural sense of faith the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living magisterium, unfailingly adheres to this faith." CCC #890: "The pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals."

 

Claim of Papal Infallibility

CCC #891: "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful-who confirms his brethren in the faith-he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . 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. When the Church through its supreme Magistrium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself." CCC #2051: "The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed."

"Papal infallibility does not imply sinlessness, but means that the Pope, when speaking ex cathedra on a matter of faith and morals, cannot err. This was defined by the Vatican Council (I) as follows: The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra - that is, when in the discharge of the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding Faith or Morals to be held by the Universal Church - by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed with that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding Faith or Morals; and therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not in virtue of the consent of the Church... He speaks ex cathedra when, in virtue of his office and apostolic authority, he intentionally defines a doctrine which must then be held by the whole church. To speak ex cathedra, he must speak as the head of the Church in certain forms of words by which we know he is speaking ex cathedra, it must be to the whole Church and it must be on matters of faith and morals" (AN EXPLANATION OF THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM, page 136).

 

RCC Admits Doctrinal Knowledge Comes by Studying

The RCC claims doctrinal infallibility, yet it admits that knowledge of truth comes as it does for everyone-by studying the Bible. The December 1991 issue of This Rock magazine says: "If the Church has the power to interpret the Bible, why doesn't it just issue and inspired, infallible commentary on the whole Bible and be done with it? Then we would know exactly what each verse means. Your question confuses inspiration, revelation, and infallibility. Church documents aren't inspired the way Scripture is. God doesn't positively move the authors of Church documents so they write everything and only those things which he wants written, as he did with the biblical authors (Dei Verbum, no. 11).

"Furthermore, the Church's power to teach Christian truth infallibly isn't the same as revelation. It's not a matter of God miraculously illuminating the minds of the pope and the bishops to new or heretofore overlooked truths in Scripture. The pope and the bishops come by their knowledge of the Bible (and Catholic theology in general) the same way everyone else does-through study. Infallibility doesn't even guarantee the pope and the bishops will always know what a given biblical author means at a literal level (the meaning of some passages may be beyond biblical science's ability to penetrate with any certainty-what Paul refers to as "baptism for the dead," for example). What infallibility does guarantee is that when the Church puts forth a definitive interpretation of Scripture, this interpretation cannot distort or misrepresent what the Bible teaches. Although scholarship and study are needed for the Church to determine what the Bible teaches, once such a conclusion has been reached, the Holy Spirit protects the Church from teaching wrongly about it."

 

Doctrinal Decisions Determined by Voting

It is significant to note the actual manner in which "infallible" decrees and teachings are determined. CE - General Councils says: "Christ promised to be in the midst of two or three of His disciples gathered together in His name; now an Ecumenical council is, in fact or in law, a gathering of all Christ's co-workers for the salvation of man through true faith and holy conduct; He is therefore in their midst, fulfilling His promises and leading them into the truth for which they are striving. His presence, by cementing the unity of the assembly into one body-His own mystical body-gives it the necessary completeness, and makes up for any defect possibly arising from the physical absence of a certain number of bishops. The same presence strengthens the action of the pope, so that, as mouthpiece of the council, he can say in truth, "it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us", and consequently can, and does, put the seal of infallibility on the conciliar decree irrespective of his own personal infallibility."

Furthermore, notice the exact manner in which the RCC councils determine its "infallible" teachings; they vote on them! CE - General Councils continues: "The co-operative verdict embodies the opinion of the majority, including the head, and in law stands for the verdict of the whole assembly, it is communi sensu constitutum (established by common consent). A majority verdict, even headed by papal legates, if disconnected from the personal action of the pope, still falls short of a perfect, authoritative pronouncement of the whole Church, and cannot claim infallibility. Were the verdict unanimous, it would still be imperfect and fallible, if it did not receive the papal approbation. The verdict of a majority, therefore, not endorsed by the pope, has no binding force on either the dissentient members present or the absent members, nor is the pope bound in any way to endorse it. Its only value is that it justifies the pope, in case he approves it, to say that he confirms the decision of a council, or gives his own decision sacro approbante concilio (with the consent of the council). This he could not say if he annulled a decision taken by a majority including his legates, or if he gave a casting vote between two equal parties. A unanimous conciliary decision, as distinct from a simple majority decision, may under certain circumstances, be, in a way, binding on the pope and compel his approbation-by the compelling power, not of a superior authority, but of the Catholic truth shining forth in the witnessing of the whole Church. To exert such power the council's decision must be clearly and unmistakably the reflex of the faith of all the absent bishops and of the faithful."

 

Infallibility Not Always Believed

The official declaration of papal infallibility came from the Vatican Council in 1870. It is important to note that the RCC professes that all its teachings originate from Jesus and the apostles and have always been believed even if not formally declared. This, however, is certainly not true in regards to the doctrine of infallibility; history shows that the RCC has not always claimed infallibility.

The Catholic Dictionary says: "It would of course be a monstrous anachronism were we to attribute a belief in papal infallibility to Ante-Nicene Fathers" (p. 674). Bishop Purcell stated in 1837: "Appeals were lodged before the bishop of Rome, though he was not believed to be infallible. Neither is he now. No enlightened Catholic holds the Pope's infallibility to be an article of faith. I do not; and none of my brethren that I know of do" (Campbell-Purcell Debate, p. 26-27). Furthermore, several popes themselves (Vigilinus, Innocent III, Clement IV, Gregory XI, Adrian VI, Paul IV) disclaimed the attribute of infallibility.

The 1869 edition of KEENAN'S CATECHISM said: "Q. Must not Catholics believe the pope in himself to be infallible? A: This is a Protestant invention; it is no article of Catholic faith." But after the Vatican Council declaration of papal infallibility in 1870, the preceding question was omitted. But, in 1896, the following was added: "Q: Is the Pope infallible? A: Yes, the Pope is infallible. Q: But some Catholics, before the Vatican Council, denied the infallibility of the Pope, which was impugned by this very Catechism. A: Yes, they did so under the usual reservation, insofar as they then could grasp the mind of the Church, and subject to her future definitions, thus implicitly accepting the dogma."

 

RCC Admits to Erroneous Teaching

Despite all the previous claims of infallibility and protection from error, consider this admission by the RCC: "And history shows only too plainly that the Church, in their sense of the term, has varied in its doctrine, taught dogmas at various times and at various places at the same time, inconsistent with each other, and therefore to a considerable extent erroneous" (Plain Facts, Geo. M. Searle, Paulist Press, N.Y., 1915, p. 34).

 

The Bible Teaches the Infallibility of the Apostles

The RCC claims that the Holy Spirit guides its popes and councils "into all truth." However, that promise was actually and specifically given by Jesus to the apostles: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:13). The apostles were to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit as was promised (Luke 24:49). They would be "baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus said, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" (Acts 1:8). All of this was in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies which said, "...The law shall come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2).

The apostles were indeed filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance" (Acts 2:4). This was the fulfillment of what Jesus had earlier declared to Peter and the other apostles, "Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). Jesus did not mean that they would bind and loose whatever they themselves devised, but rather that, with the Holy Spirit guiding them, they would proclaim the things God wanted bound and loosed. Remember Matthew 10:20 says, "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."

The apostles had the authority to deliver God's law because God was speaking through them by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. To further demonstrate and confirm their authority, they were given the ability speak in other tongues (languages), prophesy, and work miracles. In defense of his own authority, Paul said, "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles" (2 Corinthians 12:12). The apostles left no doubt that they spoke as directed by God.

 

Bible Contradicts RCC Claim of Protection from Error

The RCC claims that infallibility in its doctrinal teaching was promised by the Lord. However, this is not what is taught in the NT; there are many passages which state that Christ's church would NOT be preserved from error. In Acts 20:28-30, Paul warns that "perverse things" would soon come from the bishops/overseers of the church. He further warned in 1 Tim 4:1-3 that some would fall from the faith. He even gives examples of such false teaching: forbidding to marry and abstaining from certain foods (both practices of the RCC). Paul repeated his warning in 2 Tim 4:1-4. Peter as well, in 2 Peter 2:1-3, warned that false teachers would arise from within the church and would lead many astray.

Notice in 2 Thess 2:3ff that Paul states that such apostasy was "already at work" (v7) and would continue until Christ comes again. Verse 8 says: "...Whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of his mouth and will destroy with the brightness of his coming." The letters to the seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation show that some were already turning from the truth. Thus the RCC claim that it could never teach error is contrary to what Scripture teaches. Error was being taught early on from without and within. Thus it would seem that those who seek to reject such error and hold to the truth shall be pleasing to the Lord.

 

 

Development of the Hierarchy

 

Organization of the Early Church

Acts chapter 2 tells about the day of Pentecost. It was the Jewish festival of harvest that occurred 50 days after Passover. It was a day when people from all over gathered in Jerusalem for a special celebration. And it was the day that Christ's church began! Jesus had said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church." On that day of Pentecost, it happened. The organization of that early church was simple. Christ Himself was the head of that church (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18). There was no further earthly head or headquarters. During the infancy of the church, the apostles were directly led by the Holy Spirit in their preaching and writing (John 14:15-18,26; 15:26; 16:7-8,13; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Following their death, the early Christians relied upon their inspired writings left behind.

Elders (presbuteros-Acts 14:23) were ordained in each church to care for the spiritual needs of the members (Hebrews 13:17). They were also called pastors (poimen-Ephesians 4:11) and bishops or overseers (episkopos-Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:7). Paul gave qualifications of such men in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Deacons were appointed to take care of the many practical concerns of each church (Acts 6:1-7). These servants were also required to meet certain qualifications as given in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. (The qualifications of elders and deacons are quite similar; one distinction is that elders were apparently to be older, more mature Christians, who had proven themselves by raising children who had become believers-1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6; notice this is not the pattern followed by the RCC at this time, but it was the pattern originally given by God.) The New Testament also speaks of ministers called preachers or evangelists, as well as other teachers of God's word.

 

2nd Century Changes

But in the 2nd century, following the death of the apostles, changes began to appear in this divinely-ordained pattern of organization. Paul had warned the elders in Ephesus, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:28-30).

It happened as Paul had predicted: the first change was in regards to the manner of church government, in particular, the eldership. According to Scripture (Acts 14:23; also confirmed by secular writings of that time), each individual congregation was governed by a plurality of elders (also known as bishops, overseers, or pastors). It was perhaps around 150 AD that some decided to alter this divine pattern by elevating one elder above the others and giving him alone the title of bishop. Ultimately the plurality of elders was replaced with only one bishop in each congregation. This was the beginning of what would eventually become the hierarchy of the RCC.

The RCC acknowledges that a simple organization with a plurality of elders in each congregation was the pattern originally given by God. "Toward the close of the apostles life the Church was still without bishops in the modern sense, for St. Paul addressed an epistle to the faithful at Philippi 'with the bishops and the deacons.' Here the plural number and the fact that no allusion is made to the presbyters as distinct from the 'bishops' are said to prove that in that age episcopos or 'bishop' meant presbyter" (CD p. 83). Numerous references in the early Church Fathers attest to this original pattern and the gradual changes that developed: Didache 15:1-4; First Clement to the Corinthians 42:1-10; 44:1-9; 54:6; 57:1; Epistle of Ignatius to the Smynaeans 8:2-9:3; 12:6; Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians 1:1; 6:1-2; 10:5; 11:1-2; Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book 3, Chap. 3 (c.130-200; still used term of presbyter and bishop interchangeably).

 

Bishop and Presbyter Interchangeable Terms in Early Church

The Didache or Teaching of the Apostles shows the original organization of bishops (elders) and deacons in each church, having been selected by the church itself following the death of the apostles:

15:1 Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, and true and approved; 15:2 for unto you they also perform the service of the prophets and teachers. 15:3 Therefore despise them not; 15:4 for they are your honourable men along with the prophets and teachers.

First Clement to the Corinthians (c.96) uses the term "bishops" in chapter 42 and then "presbyters" in chapter 57. They are used interchangeably as there was not as yet a distinction between them:

42:7 So preaching everywhere in country and town, they [the apostles] appointed their first fruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe. 42:8 And this they did in no new fashion; 42:9 for indeed it had been written concerning bishops and deacons from very ancient times; 42:10 for thus saith the scripture in a certain place, {I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith}. 44:1 And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the bishop's office. 44:2 For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, 44:3 and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. 44:4 Those therefore who were appointed by them, or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, 44:5 and have ministered unblameably to the flock of Christ bin lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration. 44:6 For it will be no light sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the bishop's office unblameably and holily. 44:7 Blessed are those presbyters who have gone before, seeing that their departure was fruitful and ripe: 44:8 for they have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place. 44:9 For we see that ye have displaced certain persons, though they were living honourably, from the ministration which had been respected by them blamelessly. 54:6 only let the flock of Christ be at peace with its duly appointed presbyters. 57:1 Ye therefore that laid the foundation of the sedition, submit yourselves unto the presbyters and receive chastisement unto repentance, bending the knees of your heart.

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians (c.130) speaks of a plurality of presbyters in the church at Philippi:

0:1 Polycarp and the presbyters that are with him unto the Church of God which sojourneth at Philippi; 6:1 And the presbyters also must be compassionate, merciful towards all men, {turning back the sheep that are gone astray,} visiting all the infirm, not neglecting a widow or an orphan or a poor man: 6:2 but {providing always for that which is honorable in the sight of God and of men,} abstaining from all anger, respect of persons, unrighteous judgment, being far from all love of money, not quick to believe anything against any man, not hasty in judgment, knowing that we all are debtors of sin. 10:5 Therefore teach all men soberness, in which ye yourselves also walk. 11:1 I was exceedingly grieved for Valens, who aforetime was a presbyter among you, because he is so ignorant of the office which was given unto him. 11:2 I warn you therefore that ye refrain from covetousness, and that ye be pure and truthful.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book 3 (c.130-200) uses the term of presbyters and bishops interchangeably:

2. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches. CHAP. III, 1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches...

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smynaeans (c.108?; there is some question as to the authenticity and date of these writings) shows the eventual change to elevating one above the rest. Notice that such is one is not only elevated above other elders, but also above the position originally given; not even an apostle claimed some of the things stated herein:

8:2 Do ye all follow your bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and the presbytery as the Apostles; 8:3 and to the deacons pay respect, as to God's commandment. 8:4 Let no man do aught of things pertaining to the Church apart from the bishop. 8:5 Let that be held a valid eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it. 8:6 Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be; 8:7 even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal Church. 8:8 It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love-feast; 8:9 but whatsoever he shall approve, this is well-pleasing also to God; 8:10 that everything which ye do may be sure and valid. 9:1 It is reasonable henceforth that we wake to soberness, while we have [still] time to repent and turn to God. 9:2 It is good to recognize God and the bishop. 9:3 He that honoureth the bishop is honoured of God he that doeth aught without the knowledge of the bishop rendereth service to the devil. 12:6 I salute your godly bishop and your venerable presbytery [and] my fellow-servants the deacons.

 

 

The Modern Hierarchy

 

Introduction

There was no hierarchy in the early church such as is found in the present-day RCC. In discussing the eventual development of the RCC hierarchy, the Catholic Encyclopedia says: "The divine institution of the threefold hierarchy... cannot in any way be proved directly from the New Testament; it is a Catholic dogma by virtue of the dogmatic tradition, i.e. in a later period of ecclesiastical history the general belief in the divine institution of the episcopate, presbyteriate, and diaconate can be verified and thence be followed on through the later centuries. But the dogmatic truth cannot be traced back to Christ Himself by analysis of strict historical testimony... St. Ignatius does not teach the Divine origin of this hierarchy in the sense of its institution by God, or by Christ... Many other additions made by later times to this concept of a Divinely originated hierarchy are to be ascribed to the development of the Church, her discipline, and her canon law. No serious historian would expect to find all that in the writings of Ignatius."


In other words, the RCC hierarchy of today is not the same as the simple organization of the early church (the apostles ordained a plurality of elders and deacons in every church). Remember the statement: "If it be not identical in belief, in government, etc., with the primitive Church, then it is not the Church of Christ."

CE 07322c: "The Council of Trent has defined the Divine institution of the first three grades of the hierarchy of order, i.e. the episcopate, priesthood, and diaconate (Sess. XXIII, De sacramento ordinis, cap. iv, can. vi). The other orders, i.e. those of subdeacon, acolyte, exorcist, lector, and porter, are of ecclesiastical institution. There is some controversy about the subdiaconate. The Council of Trent did not decide the question, but only declared that Fathers and councils place the subdiaconate among the major orders (loc. cit., cap. ii). It is now pretty generally held that the subdiaconate is of ecclesiastical institution, chiefly because of the lateness of its appearance in ecclesiastical discipline."

 

The Pope

CE 12260a: "The title pope (papa) was... at one time employed with far more latitude. In the East it has always been used to designate simple priests. In the Western Church, however, it seems from the beginning to have been restricted to bishops (Tertullian, "De Pud." 13). It was apparently in the fourth century that it began to become a distinctive title of the Roman Pontiff. Pope Siricius (d. 398) seems so to use it (Ep. vi in P. L., XIII, 1164), and Ennodius of Pavia (d. 473) employs it still more clearly in this sense in a letter to Pope Symmachus (P. L., LXIII, 69). Yet as late as the seventh century St. Gall (d. 640) addresses Desiderius of Cahors as papa (P. L., LXXXVII, 265). Gregory VII finally prescribed that it should be confined to the successors of Peter... The pope is distinguished by the use of the tiara or triple crown. At what date the custom of crowning the pope was introduced is unknown. It was certainly previous to the forged donation of Constantine, which dates from the commencement of the ninth century, for mention is there made of the pope's coronation. The triple crown is of much later origin... The kissing of the pope's foot-the characteristic act of reverence by which all the faithful do honour to him as the vicar of Christ-is found as early as the eighth century.

"In the middle of the third century St. Cyprian expressly terms the Roman See the Chair of St. Peter, saying that Cornelius has succeeded to "the place of Fabian which is the place of Peter" (Ep 55:8; cf. 59:14)... In the second century we cannot look for much evidence. With the exception of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement of Alexandria, all the writers whose works we possess are apologists against either Jews or pagans. In works of such a character there was no reason to refer to such a matter as Peter's Roman episcopate. Irenaeus, however, supplies us with a cogent argument. In two passages (Adv. haer. 1:27:1, and 3:4:3) he speaks of Hyginus as ninth Bishop of Rome, thus employing an enumeration which involves the inclusion of Peter as first bishop (Lightfoot was undoubtedly wrong in supposing that there was any doubt as to the correctness of the reading in the first of these passages. In 3:4:3, the Latin version, it is true, gives "octavus"; but the Greek text as cited by Eusebius reads enatos. Irenaeus we know visited Rome in 177. At this date, scarcely more than a century after the death of St. Peter, he may well have come in contact with men whose fathers had themselves spoken to the Apostle. The tradition thus supported must be regarded as beyond all legitimate doubt. Lightfoot's suggestion (Clement 1:64), that it had its origin in the Clementine romance, has proved singularly unfortunate. For it is now recognized that this work belongs not to the second, but to the fourth century. Nor is there the slightest ground for the assertion that the language of Irenaeus, 3:3:3, implies that Peter and Paul enjoyed a divided episcopate at Rome-an arrangement utterly unknown to the Church at any period. He does, it is true, speak of the two Apostles as together handing on the episcopate to Linus. But this expression is explained by the purpose of his argument, which is to vindicate against the Gnostics the validity of the doctrine taught in the Roman Church. Hence he is naturally led to lay stress on the fact that that Church inherited the teaching of both the great Apostles. Epiphanius ("Haer." 27:6) would indeed seem to suggest the divided episcopate; but he has apparently merely misunderstood the words of Irenaeus."

 

Cardinals

CE 03333b: "Until late in the Middle Ages the title of cardinal was given to prominent priests of important churches... In keeping with this custom we find the term Cardinalis applied at Rome from the end of the fifth century to priests permanently attached to the (twenty-five to twenty-eight) Roman tituli, or quasi-parishes... Given the position of the pope and his intimate relations both to the individual cardinals and to such a close corporation as the college itself, at papal functions, in papal elections, in synods, in the consistory, in the conduct of diplomatic negotiations, it is easy to understand how all cardinals, including cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons came to outrank bishops and archbishops, and after the fourteenth century even patriarchs, just as at Constantinople the syncelli eventually outranked bishops and archbishops. This pre-eminence, however, was a matter of slow and uneven development." It appears that the office of cardinal is similar to that of the archbishop, but with higher rank and responsibility (including election of the pope).

 

Archbishops

CE 01691a: "An archbishop or metropolitan, in the present sense of the term, is a bishop who governs a diocese strictly his own, while he presides at the same time over the bishops of a well-defined district composed of simple dioceses but not of provinces. Hence none of these subordinate bishops rule over others. These bishops are called the suffragans or comprovincials. The archbishop's own diocese is the archdiocese. The several dioceses of the district form the archiepiscopal, or metropolitan, province... Some writers wrongly point to Sts. Timothy and Titus, the disciples of St. Paul, as to the first archbishops in the Church. Probably they were metropolitans in the wider sense of the term, one for Asia Minor, the other for the island of Crete. But it remains impossible to assign the exact date when archbishops, as we now use the term, were first appointed. It is true that metropolitans are mentioned as a well-known institution in the Church by the Council of Nicæa (325) in its fourth, fifth and sixth canons, and by the Council of Antioch (341) whose seventh canon is a classical passage in this matter... But it cannot be denied that even at this period the term "metropolitan" was used indiscriminately for all higher ranks above the simple episcopate. It was thus applied also to patriarchs and primates. The same must be said of the term "archbishop" which does not occur in the present meaning before the sixth century, although the office of archbishop or metropolitan in the stricter sense, indicating a hierarchical rank above the ordinary bishops but below the primate and patriarch, was already substantially the same in the fifth century as it is today."

 

Bishops

CE 02581b: "The title of an ecclesiastical dignitary who possesses the fullness of the priesthood to rule a diocese as its chief pastor, in due submission to the primacy of the pope. It is of Catholic faith that bishops are of Divine institution. In the hierarchy of order they possess powers superior to those of priests and deacons; in the hierarchy of jurisdiction, by Christ's will, the are appointed for the government of one portion of the faithful of the Church, under the direction and authority of the sovereign pontiff, who can determine and restrain their powers, but, not annihilate them. They are the successors of the Apostles, though they do not possess all the prerogatives of the latter. (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII, ch. iv; can. vi, vii) The episcopate is monarchical. By the Will of Christ, the supreme authority in a diocese does not belong to a college of priests or of bishops, but it resides in the single personality of the chief.

"The historical origin of the episcopate is much controverted: very diverse hypotheses have been proposed to explain the texts of the inspired writings and of the Apostolic Fathers relating to the primitive ecclesiastical hierarchy... Holtzmann thinks that the primitive organization of the churches was that of the Jewish synagogue; that a college of presbyters or bishops (synonymous words) governed the Judaeo Christian communities; that later this organization was adopted by the Gentile churches. In the second century one of these presbyter-bishops became the ruling bishop. The cause of this lay in the need of unity, which manifested itself when in the second century heresies began to appear.

"J.B. Lightfoot, who may be regarded as an authoritative representative of the Anglican Church, holds a less radical system. The Primitive Church, he says, had no organization, but was very soon conscious of the necessity of organizing. At first the apostles appointed deacons; later, in imitation of the organization of the synagogue, they appointed presbyters, sometimes called bishops in the Gentile churches. The duties of the presbyters were twofold: they were both rulers and instructors of the congregation. In the Apostolic age, however, traces of the highest order, the episcopate properly so called, are few and indistinct. The episcopate was not formed from the Apostolic order through the localization of the universal authority of the Apostles, but from the presbyteral (by elevation). The title of bishop originally common to all came at length to be appropriated to the chief among them. Within the period compassed by the Apostolic writings, James, the brother of the Lord, can alone claim to be regarded as a bishop in the later and more special sense of the term. . . The earliest bishops, however, did not hold the position of independent supremacy which was and is occupied by their later representatives."

 

Priests

CE 12406a: "The Christian law also has necessarily its priesthood to carry out the Divine service, the principal act of which is the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the figure and renewal of that of Calvary. This priesthood has two degrees: the first, total and complete, the second an incomplete participation of the first. The first belongs to the bishop. The bishop is truly a priest (sacerdos), and even a high-priest; he has chief control of the Divine worship (sacrorum antistes), is the president of liturgical meetings; he has the fullness of the priesthood, and administers all the sacraments. The second degree belongs to the priest (presbyter), who is also a sacerdos, but of the second rank ("secundi sacerdotes" Innocent I ad Eugub.); by his priestly ordination he receives the power to offer sacrifice (i.e. to celebrate the Eucharist), to forgive sins, to bless, to preach, to sanctify, and in a word to fulfil the non-reserved liturgical duties or priestly functions. In the exercise of these functions, however, he is subject to the authority of the bishop to whom he has promised canonical obedience; in certain cases even he requires not only authorization, but real jurisdiction, particularly to forgive sins and to take care of souls. Moreover, certain acts of the sacerdotal power, affecting the society of which the bishop is the head, are reserved to the latter-e.g. confirmation, the final rite of Christian initiation, ordination, by which the ranks of the clergy are recruited, and the solemn consecration of new temples to God. Sacerdotal powers are conferred on priests by priestly ordination, and it is this ordination which puts them in the highest rank of the hierarchy after the bishop."

 

Deacons

CE 04647c: "According to the constant tradition of the Catholic Church, the narrative of Acts, vi, 1-6, which serves to introduce the account of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, describes the first institution of the office of deacon. . . St. Clement of Rome (about A.D. 95) clearly describes the institution of deacons along with that of bishops as being the work of the Apostles themselves (Ep. Clem., xlii)...

"DUTIES OF DEACONS:

  1. That some, if not all, members of the diaconal college were everywhere stewards of the Church funds and of the alms collected for widows and orphans is beyond dispute...
  2. Again, as the Apostolic Constitutions further explain in some detail, the deacons were the guardians of order in the church. They saw that the faithful occupied their proper places, that none gossiped or slept...
  3. The special duty of the deacon to read the Gospel seems to have been recognized from an early period, but it does not at first appear to have been so distinctive as it has become in the Western Church. Sozomen says of the church of Alexandria that the Gospel might only be read by the archdeacon, but elsewhere ordinary deacons performed that office, while in other churches, again it devolved upon the priests. It may be this relation to the Gospel which led to the direction in the Apostolic Constitutions (VIII, iv), that the deacons should hold the book of the Gospels open over the head of a bishop elect during the ceremony of his consecration. With the reading of the Gospel should also probably be connected the occasional, though rare, appearance of the deacon in the office of preacher. The second Council of Vaison (529) declared that a priest might preach in his own parish, but that when he was ill a deacon should read a homily by one of the Fathers of the Church, urging that deacons, being held worthy to read the Gospel were a fortiori worthy of reading a work of human authorship. Actual preaching by a deacon, however, despite the precedent of the deacon Philip, was at all periods rare...
  4. With regard to the great action of the Liturgy it seems clear that the deacon held at all times, both in East and West, a very special relation to the sacred vessels and to the host and chalice both before and after consecration...
  5. The deacons were also intimately associated with the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism. They were not, indeed, as a rule allowed themselves to baptize apart from grave necessity (Apost. Const., VII, xlvi expressly rejects any inference that might be drawn from Philip's baptism of the eunuch)."

 

Other

Monsignor, Prelate, Abbott, Mother Superior, Chancellor, Rector, Archdeacon, Subdeacon, Lector, etc.

 

 

The Pope as Head of the Church

 

RCC Says Pope is Vicar of Christ and Head of the Church

CCC #816: "The sole Church of Christ (is that) which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successors of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."

CCC #882: "The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."

CCC #937: "The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."

CCC #891: "The Roman Pontiff [is] supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful."

 

Bible Says Jesus is the Head of the Church

Regarding the head of the church, Protestants cite the following passages: "And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he (Christ) might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18). "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him (Christ) to be the head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1:22). "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church" (Ephesians 5:23).

The RCC, in acknowledging the clear teaching in Scripture that Christ is the head of the church, attempts to justify its position by stating that the pope is the visible head while Christ is the invisible. This, however, appears to contradict the Biblical picture of the church as a body; what body has two heads or a main head and a sub-head?! Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:14). He further said that there would be "one flock with one shepherd" (John 10:16). Not two shepherds!

 

The Pope Claims the Place of God

From Great Encyclical Letters: "But the supreme teacher in the Church is the Roman Pontiff. Union of minds, therefore, requires together with a perfect accord in the one faith, complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself" (193). "We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty" (304).

The Prompta Bibliotheca (an official Roman Catholic almanac), in its article under the heading of "Papa" states: "The Pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but, as it were, God, and the Vicar of Christ. The Pope is of such lofty dignity that, properly speaking, he has not been established in any rank of dignity, but rather has been placed upon the very summit of all ranks of dignities. He is likewise the Divine Monarch and Supreme Emperor, the King of Kings. The Pope is of so great authority that he can modify, explain or interpret even divine law." Pope Gregory said, "The Pope is the representative of God on earth; he should then govern the world. To him alone pertain infallibility and universality; all men are submitted to his laws, and he can only be judged by God; he ought to wear imperial ornaments; people and kings should kiss his feet; Christians are irrevocably submitted to his orders; they should murder their princes, fathers and children, if he command it; no council can be declared universal without the orders of the Pope; no book can be received as canonical without his authority; finally, no good or evil exists but in what he has condemned or approved."

In response, consider these words from 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (whether a direct or indirect reference, this passage does speak against exalting oneself too highly): "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

The Bible also says: "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Matthew 23:9). "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy" (Revelation 15:4). "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another" (Isaiah 42:8). "Holy and reverend is His name" (Psalm 111:9).

Vicar means deputy; one who takes another's place. The pope is called the Vicar of Christ as the Head of the Church on earth. However, in John 14:26, 15:26 and 16:7 we read of the true Vicar of Christ, the Holy Spirit. Why does man think it right to ascribe to a man that which is only rightly ascribed to God, His Son, or the Holy Spirit?!

 

 

Was Peter the First Pope?

Matthew 16:16-19

Catholicism contends that Peter was made head of the church by Christ Himself. In Matthew 16:13ff, Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" After discussing what some were saying, Peter made that great confession: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (v16). Jesus then responded similarly and said, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades [referring to His death] shall not overpower it" (v18).

The next statement was likely made to all the disciples (apostles) as well: "I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (v19). A similar statement is clearly made to all the apostles in Matthew 18:18. They were indeed all given the right to introduce the kingdom (church) as they did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Jesus' statement ought not be construed as giving them the right to make doctrine as they personally saw fit, for remember Jesus said, "It is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Matthew 10:20).

 

"Upon this Rock"

The RCC contends that Peter is the rock upon which the church would be built and that Jesus gave him alone exclusive power as head of the church. Some of the RCC have attempted to make a point that Jesus here changes Simon's name to Peter (in an effort to validate their claim that Peter is the rock), but such is not the case. Jesus had already changed Simon's name to Peter when Andrew first brought him to Jesus (John 1:42). In Matthew 16:16, Peter had correctly called Jesus by name; Jesus thus responds similarly by referring to the name by which Peter had come to be known.

In the original Greek language of Matthew 16:18, the word "Peter" is petros (Strong #4074), meaning " a stone, a rock, a ledge or cliff" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon). The word "rock" is from a similar, but distinct word petra (Strong #4073). Vine says it means "a mass of rock, ...a type of sure foundation. Thayer gives a similar definition for petra as he does for petros, but then says, "Some interpp. regard the distinction (generally observed in classic Greek...) between [petra], the massive living rock, and [petros], a detached but large fragment, as important for the correct understanding of this passage..."

In a further effort to defend their position, it is contended by the RCC that Jesus and the disciples actually spoke Aramaic and that there is only one Aramaic word that Jesus could have used for rock: kepha or kephas. Accordingly, Jesus supposedly said to Peter in Aramaic, "You are Kephas and on this very kephas I will build my Church," thus indicating that His church would actually be built upon Peter. To further support this argument, it is contended by some that the gospel of Matthew was originally written in the Aramaic language. The following responses are made:

  • First, there is no evidence whatsoever that Matthew was ever written in Aramaic; well-respected scholars disagree with the RCC contention of such. Donald Guthrie (New Testament Introduction, p. 37) says, "Almost all scholars are agreed that Matthew's gospel was written in Greek, not in Hebrew or Aramaic." Werner Georg Kummel (Introduction to the New Testament, p. 120) says, "Matthew is not a translation from a Semitic language, but was written in Greek." He further says that the "oft-repeated thesis that Matthew [was written in] Aramaic... is a completely groundless assumption. We must concede that the report that Matthew was written by Matthew "in the Hebrew language" is utterly false, however it may have arisen."
  • While it is likely (though not guaranteed nor verifiable) that Jesus was speaking Aramaic in this passage, is it true that He could have used only one word for "rock?" Apparently not. Protestants and Catholics alike have perhaps accepted the RCC contention without knowing any different or how to confirm such. But, according to Aramaic scholars, there are in fact several words for rock (not just kepha/kephas). One man in Jerusalem (who speaks Hebrew and Aramaic) suggests a couple of possibilities. First, he says that the Aramaic word tzur means "boulder" and would thus be very similar to the Greek word petra. More likely, however, he suggested the Aramaic word kefa and stated that there is a big difference between kepha/kephas and kefa. He said that, while kepha/kephas means big rock, kefa means the biggest possible rock, like a mountain, and that they (the Jews) use such to refer to God. This actually sounds very consistent with Thayer's comment about the difference between petros and petra! It also appears to show a similar play on words in the Aramaic as exists in the Greek.
  • Regardless of the language spoken by Christ, Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write in Greek and he was inspired to use two different words - petros and petra. (By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John 1:42 records Jesus as using the Aramaic term for Peter (Cephas). But, by the same inspiration of the Spirit, Matthew 16:18 records Jesus speaking two different words in Greek.) It was not a simple case of Matthew choosing to change a feminine noun to a masculine noun in an effort to clarify what Jesus said and meant. Matthew was not the definitive author of the words; the Holy Spirit was! Thus if Jesus used only one word (kepha - as contended by the RCC), why would the Holy Spirit lead Matthew to use two different words? Is it reasonable to contend that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to write something contrary to or different from what Jesus actually said?! Surely the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to say exactly what Jesus said! Peter was a rock, but Jesus was the even bigger Rock upon whom the church was established. Jesus said He would build His church "upon this petra," not "upon Petros/Peter."
  • Finally, the words of Matthew 16:18 have been preserved for us in Scripture, but we have no perception of voice inflection, facial expressions, gestures, or other information to convey the message as it was precisely given. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, suggests that Jesus perhaps pointed to Himself when He said, "Upon this rock I will build My church." Henry said, "Perhaps he laid his hand upon his breast, as when he said, Destroy this temple (John ii.19), when he spoke of the temple of his body." This, even if Jesus did use the same word twice, it is likely that He referred first to Peter and then to Himself. RCC scholars make a point of referring to the words "this very" before the word "rock" in that verse. While they use it to confirm their thinking that Peter was the rock, it seems more likely that Jesus was referring to Himself.

 

How did the Apostles Interpret Jesus' Statement?

In later centuries, as the doctrine of the hierarchy (and ultimately papal supremacy) began to develop, various Catholic writers would interpret Jesus' statement to mean that Jesus would build His church on Peter. But how did the apostles themselves interpret Jesus' words? They were, after all, right there when Jesus said what He said. They heard the words, they saw His mannerisms, they heard the tone of His voice. Did they think Jesus said that Peter would be the head of the church?

Consider what is recorded in Luke 22:24. The actions of the disciples in this passage show they had no such concept. "And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest." This is an undeniable contradiction to the RCC assertion that Jesus announced that Peter would be pope in the presence of the other apostles. They were present to hear and see exactly what Jesus said and did, and yet they obviously had no clue whatsoever that Peter was to be regarded as their superior. It may be obvious to the RCC what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:18, but it was not so obvious to those to whom He spoke. Then notice what Jesus said in v25-26: "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant." Jesus plainly told them that no one would occupy such a superior position within His church.

And what did these same inspired apostles write about this subject? By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they wrote that Jesus Himself is the Rock and the head of the church. Peter himself stated, "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth... This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner" (Acts 4:10-11). Peter also wrote, "The stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner" (1 Peter 2:7). Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:11, "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Christ Jesus." In 1 Corinthians 10:4, he said, "For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." He wrote in Ephesians 2:20, "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." All this is consistent with Psalm 118:22, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner."

Protestants therefore emphasize that the church was built on Christ (after all, it's His church), not on Peter. Notice the apostles and prophets are a part of that too, but since prophets are included, it is a further indication that it is their proclamation of the gospel upon which the church is continually built. There is nothing here giving supreme authority to any single apostle, but only a recognition that the church began as a result of the inspired teaching/preaching of the apostles and then later the prophets. This is consistent with understanding the "keys" to indicate opening the door, or opening the church as they were allowed to do (all the apostles, not just Peter) on the day of Pentecost.

Furthermore, Peter himself never aspired to a position of leadership over any other bishop or apostle. His very use of the term fellow-elder (sumpresbuteros, indicating equal stature) in 1 Peter 5:1 should be sufficient to disprove the belief that he was the head elder of the church. And if, in fact, he was an elder at a specific church, he would have only been one of a plurality of such (as noted already). Peter never acted like the popes of today; he would not allow men to bow down to him as is done to popes today. Acts 10:25-26 says, "And when it came about that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, 'Stand up; I too am a man.'"

Finally (as noted in the section on forgeries), many of the early writings which are used to justify Peter as the first pope are actually of suspect origin and cannot be truly authenticated (and some have been clearly proven to be fraudulent). CE 12272a says: "The "Liber Pontificalis", long accepted as an authority of the highest value, is now acknowledged to have been originally composed at the beginning of the fifth century, and, as regards the early popes, to be dependent on the "Liberian Catalogue". In the numbering of the successors of St. Peter, certain differences appear in various lists. The two forms Anacletus and Cletus, as we hare seen, very early occasioned the third pope to be reckoned twice. There are some few cases, also, in which it is still doubted whether particular individuals should be accounted genuine popes or intruders, and, according to the view taken by the compiler of the list, they will be included or excluded." CE VII, 593 admits, "The chronology of these bishops of Rome cannot be determined with any degree of exactitude by the help of the authorities today."

 

 

Celibacy

 

The RCC Forbids Marriage in the Clergy

CCC #1579: "All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate 'for the sake of the kingdom of heaven' ... Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God."

"Is it not becoming that a chaste Lord should be served by chaste ministers" (Faith of Our Fathers, Gibbons, 459)? (Is this an implication that the unmarried state is somehow superior to the married state? Hebrews 13:4 says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.")

"The priest who marries commits not only a grievous sin in itself, but incurs the additional guilt of sacrilege" (CE III, 481).

"All celibates are not chaste: celibacy is not necessarily chastity; by a large majority. Unless something other than selfishness suggests this choice of life, the word is apt to be a misnomer for profligacy. And one who takes the vow of celibacy does not break it by sinning against the sixth commandment (adultery), he is true to it until he weds" (Explanation of Catholic Morals, Stapleton, 149).

CE - Celibacy shows that the practice of celibacy was a development of post-apostolic centuries: "In the history of clerical celibacy conciliar legislation marks the second period during which the law took definite shape both in the East and in the West. The earliest enactment on the subject is that of the Spanish Council of Elvira (between 295 and 302) in canon xxxiii. It imposes celibacy upon the three higher orders of the clergy, bishops, priests, and deacons. If they continue to live with their wives and beget children after their ordination they are to be deposed... The Apostolic Constitutions (c. 400), which formed the principal factor of the church law of the East, are not particularly rigid on the point of celibacy, but whether through imperial influence or not the Council of Trullo, in 692, finally adopted a somewhat stricter view. Celibacy in a bishop became a matter of precept. If he were previously married, he had at once to separate from his wife upon his consecration..."

The RCC admits, however: "Clerical celibacy is not a precept of divine or natural law" (Question Box, Conway, 311).

 

The Bible Requires Marriage for Bishops

Two passages in Scripture give qualifications for those who would serve as elders/bishops. 1 Timothy 3:1 and Titus 1:6 both state that such a one must be "...the husband of one wife."

The Catholic Encyclopedia addresses these passages: "Turning now to the historical development of the present law of celibacy, we must necessarily begin with Saint Paul's directions (1 Tim. 3:2, 12 and Tit. 1:16) that a bishop or deacon should be 'the husband of one wife'. These passages seem fatal to any contention that celibacy was made obligatory upon clergy from the beginning, but on the other hand, the Apostle's desire that other men might be as himself (I Cor., vii, 7-8), already quoted) precludes the inference that he wished all ministers of the Gospel to be married. The words beyond doubt mean that the fitting candidate was a man, who, amongst other qualities which St. Paul enunciates as likely to make his authority respected, possessed also such stability of divorce, by remaining faithful to one wife. The direction is therefore restrictive, no injunctive; it excludes men who have married more than once, but it does not impose marriage as a necessary condition." (Cath. Ency., 111, 486).

There is no denying that Paul urged some to remain unmarried. But it should be noted that he did so "in view of the present distress" (1 Corinthians 7:26 - most likely referring to persecution) and that he did not make such an absolute requirement (7:28). But these words about marriage in general have nothing to do his inspired commands regarding the specific qualifications of bishops.

Despite the RCC explanation of the phrase "...husband of one wife," the passages as a whole seem to clearly show that Paul envisions (and indeed demands) a married man with experience in raising a family faithful to the Lord. In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Paul said of one who would be a bishop, "He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)." Titus 1:6 says that one who would be a bishop must have "children who believe." This is generally understood to refer to children who are believers (Christians), again showing that such a one has proven himself as a spiritual leader.

It should also be noted that Peter, regarded by the RCC as the first pope, was a married man. Mark 1:30 refers to his mother-in-law.

 

 

Salvation for Catholics

 

Modern RCC Teaches Fullness of Means of Salvation Through RCC Alone

CCC #816: "The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it.... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.""

CCC #824: "United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. "All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God." It is in the Church that "the fullness of the means of salvation" has been deposited. It is in her that "by the grace of God we acquire holiness.""

CCC #830: "The word "catholic" means "universal," in the sense of "according to the totality" or "in keeping with the whole." The Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. "Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church." In her subsists the fullness of Christ's body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him "the fullness of the means of salvation" which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of the Parousia."

CCC #837: "Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but 'in body' not 'in heart.'"

CCC #1113: "There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony." CCC #1129: "The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation."

 

Historical Position of RCC on Salvation

Numerous statements in RCC history seem to indicate a belief that salvation is to found only within the RCC. Boniface VIII, in his Bull on papal supremacy (known as Unam Sanctam, in Latin, meaning "the one holy," referring to the RCC) issued November 18, 1302, said, "Now, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff."

CE 15126a further explains: "The Bull lays down dogmatic propositions on the unity of the Church, the necessity of belonging to it for eternal salvation, the position of the pope as supreme head of the Church, and the duty thence arising of submission to the pope in order to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation. The pope further emphasizes the higher position of the spiritual in comparison with the secular order. From these premises he then draws conclusions concerning the relation between the spiritual power of the Church and secular authority. The main propositions of the Bull are the following: First, the unity of the Church and its necessity for salvation are declared and established by various passages from the Bible and by reference to the one Ark of the Flood, and to the seamless garment of Christ. The pope then affirms that, as the unity of the body of the Church so is the unity of its head established in Peter and his successors. Consequently, all who wish to belong to the fold of Christ are placed under the dominion of Peter and his successors. When, therefore, the Greeks and others say they are not subject to the authority of Peter and his successors, they thus acknowledge that they do not belong to Christ's sheep.

"The Bull is universal in character. As its content shows, a careful distinction is made between the fundamental principles concerning the Roman primacy and the declarations as to the application of these to the secular power and its representatives. In the registers, on the margin of the text of the record, the last sentence is noted as its real definition: "Declaratio quod subesse Romano Pontifici est omni humanae creaturae de necessitate salutis" (It is here stated that for salvation it is necessary that every human creature be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff). This definition, the meaning and importance of which are clearly evident from the connection with the first part on the necessity of the one Church for salvation, and on the pope as the one supreme head of the Church, expresses the necessity for everyone who wishes to attain salvation of belonging to the Church, and therefore of being subject to the authority of the pope in all religious matters. This has been the constant teaching of the Church, and it was declared in the same sense by the Fifth Ecumenical Council of the Lateran, in 1516: "De necessitate esse salutis omnes Christi fideles Romano Pontifici subesse" (That it is of the necessity of salvation for all Christ's faithful to be subject to the Roman pontiff)."

Consider the many papal statements indicating that salvation is to be found only in the RCC. Recorded in Enchiridion Symbolorum, "The Sources of Catholic Dogma," edited by Fr. Henry Densinger, B. Herder Book Co., Imprimatur, 1955:

  • Only Catholics can be Christians. Pius VI, 1500.
  • Without the Catholic faith, it is impossible to please God. Paul III, 787.
  • All outside the Catholic Church cannot be saved. Eugene IV, 714.
  • Belief that all have the right of religious liberty is heresy. Pius IX, , 1690,99.
  • The State must forbid non-Catholic religions. Pius IX, 1777, 1778.
  • Outside the Church there is no hope for salvation. Pius IX, 1717.
  • True morality and salvation are only in the Church. Gregory XVI, 1613.
  • False religions are separated from the Church. Eugene IV, 705.
  • Heretics are separated from the Catholic Church. Pius XII, 2286.
  • Heretics cannot live in the life of the Holy Spirit. Pius XII, 2286.
  • Salvation is found only in the Catholic Church. Boniface VIII, 468-469.
  • Catholics must anathematize all heretics. St. Martin I, 271-272.
  • If anyone does not condemn heretics, let him be anathema. Vigilius, 223.
  • Outside the Church the Truth cannot be found. Gregory XVI, 1617.
  • No one can be saved who is not in the Church. Pius IX, 1716.
  • No one can be saved outside the true faith. Pius IV, 1000.
  • The unbaptized are not members of the Church. Paul III, 895.
  • Outside the Church there is no remission of sins. Boniface VIII, 468.
  • The Catholic Church is the only way of salvation. Eugene IV, 714.
  • No one can be saved who is not in the Church. Pius IX, 1716.
  • Liberty of conscience is insanity. Gregory XVI, 1613.

The Council of Florence-Basel-Ferrara (1431-1445) gave the following decree: "It (the council) firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Catholic Church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church's sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church."

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, first released in 1566 in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, quotes St. Jerome: "Following no chief but Christ, I am united in communion with your Holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that on that rock is built the Church. Whoever will eat the lamb outside this house is profane; whoever is not in the ark of Noah shall perish in the flood." The Catechism later says of the RCC: "She is also called universal, because all who desire eternal salvation must cling to and embrace her, like those who entered the ark to escape perishing in the flood. This (note of catholicity), therefore, is to be taught as a most reliable criterion, by which to distinguish the true from a false Church... And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals, since it is guided by the Holy Ghost; so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral... Among these figures the ark of Noah holds a conspicuous place. It was built by the command of God, in order that there might be no doubt that it was a symbol of the Church, which God has so constituted that all who enter therein through Baptism, may be safe from danger of eternal death, while such as are outside the Church, like those who were not in the ark, are overwhelmed by their own crimes."

Fr. Arnold Damen S.J. (1815-1890), in his treatise entitled The One True Church, said: "Out of the Catholic Church there is no divine faith --- can be no divine faith out of that Church. Some of the Protestant friends will be shocked at this, to hear me say that out of the Catholic Church there is no divine faith, and that without faith there is no salvation, but damnation... The Catholic has divine faith, and why? Because the Catholic says: "I believe in such and such a thing." Why? "Because the Church teaches me so." And why do you believe the Church? "Because God has commanded me to believe the teaching of the Church; and God has threatened me with damnation if I do not believe the Church."

James Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic Archbishop said, "Jesus our Lord, founded but one Church, which He was pleased to build on Peter. Therefore, any church that does not recognize Peter as its foundation stone is not the Church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God." (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 82).

 

Heresy

CE 07256b: "[Heresy is] restricting belief to certain points of Christ's doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure... Pertinacious adhesion to a doctrine contradictory to a point of faith clearly defined by the Church is heresy pure and simple, heresy in the first degree... The guilt of heresy is measured not so much by its subject-matter as by its formal principle, which is the same in all heresies: revolt against a Divinely constituted authority... The sentence on the obstinate heretic is invariably excommunication.

The Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas (1273) states: "Of the first, it must be known that the Church is one. Although various heretics have founded various sects, they do not belong to the Church, since they are but so many divisions. Of her it is said: "One is My dove; My perfect one is but one." The unity of the Church arises from three sources: (1) the unity of faith. All Christians who are of the body of the Church believe the same doctrine. "I beseech you . . . that you all speak the same thing and that there be no schisms among you." And: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism..."

Following are the words from Pope Pius IX's Encyclical, Quanta Cura, Dec. 8, 1864, paragraph 1689: "And also, contrary to the teaching of Sacred Scripture, of the Church, of the most holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert "that the best condition of society is the one in which there is no acknowledgment by government of the duty of restraining, by established penalties, offenders of the Catholic religion, except insofar as the public peace demands... And, from this false idea of social organization they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, especially fatal to the Catholic Church and to the salvation of souls, called, by Our predecessor of recent memory, Gregory XVI, insanity; namely, that "liberty of conscience and of worship is the law in every correctly established society; that the right to all manner of liberty rests in the citizens, not to be restrained by either ecclesiastical or civil authority; and that by this right they can manifest openly and publicly and declare their own concepts, whatever they may be, by voice, by print, or in any other way." While, in truth, they rashly affirm this, they do not understand and note they are preaching a "liberty of perdition," and that "if human opinions always have freedom for discussion, there could never be wanting those who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the eloquence of human (al. mundane) wisdom, when faith and Christian wisdom know from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ how much it should avoid such harmful vanity" (The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Denzinger, B. Herder Book Co.).

Recorded in Pascendi, the Encyclical of Pope St. Pius X, Sept. 8, 1907, AAS 40 (1907):

  • It is heresy to say: Muslims can experience God. St. Pius X, 14.
  • It is heresy to say: Hindus can experience God. St. Pius X, 14.
  • It is heresy to say: Buddhists can experience God. St. Pius X, 14.

Recorded in Satis Cognitum, Encyclical of Leo XIII, June 29, 1896, AAS 28 (1896/96):

  • Catholics and heretics share no unity of faith. Leo XIII, 18,27-18.
  • The Catholic Church is the only apostolic mission. Leo XIII, 35.
  • The Holy Spirit does not give life to heretics. Leo XIII, 18.

 

Excommunication

CE 07256b: "When Constantine had taken upon himself the office of lay bishop, episcopus externus, and put the secular arm at the service of the Church, the laws against heretics became more and more rigorous... They were often proscribed and banished, and in many cases scourged before being sent into exile. In some particularly aggravated cases sentence of death was pronounced upon heretics, though seldom executed in the time of the Christian emperors of Rome... The burning of heretics was first decreed in the eleventh century... After 1243, when Innocent IV sanctioned the laws of Emperor Frederick II and of Louis IX against heretics, torture was applied in trials; the guilty persons were delivered up to the civil authorities and actually burnt at the stake... The present-day legislation against heresy has lost nothing of its ancient severity; but the penalties on heretics are now only of the spiritual order; all the punishments which require the intervention of the secular arm have fallen into abeyance."

CE 05678a: "In the first centuries excommunication is not regarded as a simple external measure; it reaches the soul and the conscience. It is not merely the severing of the outward bond which holds the individual to his place in the Church; it severs also the internal bond, and the sentence pronounced on earth is ratified in heaven. It is the spiritual sword, the heaviest penalty that the Church can inflict."

"All who have been baptized are liable to excommunication, even those who have never belonged to the true Church, since by their baptism they are really her subjects, though of course rebellious ones. Moreover, the Church excommunicates not only those who abandon the true faith to embrace schism or heresy, but likewise the members of heretical and schismatic communities who have been born therein. As to the latter, however, it is not question of personal excommunication; the censure overtakes them in their corporate capacity, as members of a community in revolt against the true Church of Jesus Christ."

 

 

Salvation for Non-Catholics

 

A Century of Change

From History of Catholic Ecumenism from Pope Leo XIII to Pope John XXIII; ©Copyright Eric Sammons 1994: "On the Catholic side, one major result of the modern ecumenical movement was Unitatis Redintegratio, a decree dealing with ecumenism handed down in 1964 by the Second Vatican Council. This was the first conciliar document ever to deal explicitly with Catholic ecumenism towards both Orthodox and Protestant brethren. However, Unitatis Redintegratio was not the start of Catholic ecumenism; in fact, it was not even the first official Vatican statement on the matter. The modern attitude of the Catholic Church toward ecumenism was inaugurated by Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). After him, official Catholic ecumenism progressed and developed, culminating in the promulgation of Unitatis Redintegratio."

Concerning ecumenical conferences with Protestants, Sammons continues: "Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) was the first to be forced to address this issue when the Catholic Church was invited to a Protestant ecumenical "Faith and Order" conference in 1919. He refused to participate in this conference; in fact, the Holy Office issued a decree on July 4, 1919 prohibiting Catholics from taking part in conferences dealing with Christian unity being held by separated Christians, unless the Holy See explicitly permitted such participation (George Tavard, "Two Centuries of Ecumenism", p. 117). This policy continued under Pope Pius XI (1922-1939), who in response to another unity conference, issued the encyclical Mortalium Animos. In this letter Pius XI completely rejected the Protestant Ecumenical Movement of his time: "...it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it anyway lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ" (Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, Art. 8). Following this strong discouragement of Catholic collaboration in Protestant unity movements, however, slow movement toward more active Catholic participation occurred in the years preceding Vatican II."

 

Modern RCC Teaches that Salvation Not Through RCC Alone

CCC #818: "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers .... All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."

CCC #819: "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth" are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements." Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity.""

CCC #838: "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist.""

It seems apparent to Protestants (and even to some "Traditional" Catholics) that the modern RCC holds a different position on salvation than it once did. However, it attempts to justify its current teaching on salvation by making a distinction between "normatively necessary" and "absolutely necessary." A good example of such is given by James Akin, in The Necessity of Being Catholic: "It is an absolute necessity-no exceptions at all-to be joined to the Church in some manner, at least through the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. However, it is only normatively necessary to be fully incorporated into or in perfect communion with the Catholic Church. There are exceptions to that requirement, as the Council of Trent taught (see below), though it is still a normative necessary." He later states: "Trent alone shows that the statement in Unam Sanctam teaches a normative necessity for formal membership, not an absolute one." Finally, Akin says, "Conservative Catholics [should] remind themselves of the fact that it is the Magisterium, not them and their private judgment, which is the interpreter of previous Magisterial statements." In other words, one is not allowed to use common sense and reason to interpret the historical teachings of the RCC; only the RCC can tell you what its previous writings meant in light of its present writings.

CE 07256b distinguishes between "formal" and "material" heretics: "The guiding principles in the Church's treatment of heretics are the following: Distinguishing between formal and material heretics, she applies to the former the canon, "Most firmly hold and in no way doubt that every heretic or schismatic is to have part with the Devil and his angels in the flames of eternal fire, unless before the end of his life he be incorporated with, and restored to the Catholic Church." No one is forced to enter the Church, but having once entered it through baptism, he is bound to keep the promises he freely made. To restrain and bring back her rebellious sons the Church uses both her own spiritual power and the secular power at her command. Towards material heretics her conduct is ruled by the saying of St. Augustine: "Those are by no means to be accounted heretics who do not defend their false and perverse opinions with pertinacious zeal (animositas), especially when their error is not the fruit of audacious presumption but has been communicated to them by seduced and lapsed parents, and when they are seeking the truth with cautious solicitude and ready to be corrected" (P. L., XXXIII, ep. xliii, 160). Pius IX, in a letter to the bishops of Italy (10 Aug., 1863), restates this Catholic doctrine: "It is known to Us and to You that they who are in invincible ignorance concerning our religion but observe the natural law . . . and are ready to obey God and lead an honest and righteous life, can, with the help of Divine light and grace, attain to eternal life . . . for God . . . will not allow any one to be eternally punished who is not wilfully guilty" (Denzinger, "Enchir.", n. 1529). X."

From The Documents of Vatican II, by Walter Abbot, Guild Press, New York, 1966: "The Church therefore is being faithful to the truth of the gospel, and is following the way of Christ and the apostles when she recognizes, and gives support to, the principle of religious freedom as befitting the dignity of man and as being in accord with divine revelation" (p. 692:12). "The Synod (of Vatican II) further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a civil right... Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation, not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it. Nor is the exercise of this right to be impeded, provided that the just requirements of public order are observed" (p. 679:2).

 

 

Salvation for Non-Christians

 

Modern RCC Teaches that Belief in Jesus Not Necessary

CCC #161: "Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'""

This appears to be another instance of "normatively necessary" as opposed to "absolutely necessary." The following statements show that the RCC currently teaches that some may be excused for not knowing about or believing in Jesus...

CCC #841: "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day." (This seems somewhat contradictory to the RCC position at the time of the Crusades, which began as an attempt to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims, and ultimately led to attacks not only against Muslims, but also against Jews, pagans, and dissident Christians. It also seems contradictory to CE 05678a, which states: "Among living persons, those who have not been baptized have never been members of the Christian society and therefore cannot be deprived of spiritual benefits to which they have never had a right; in this way, infidels, pagans, Mohammedans, and Jews, though outside of the Church, are not excommunicated."

CCC #843: "The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.""

CCC #846: "How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it." CCC #847: "This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation."

Pope John Paul II, on May 31, 1995, said: "The gift of salvation cannot be limited to those who, in an explicit way, believe in Christ and have entered the church. If salvation is destined for all, it should be in reach of all... the divine plan has also predisposed a path of salvation for those who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and do not see themselves as Christians" (Vatican Information Service).

 

The Bible Teaches that Believing in Jesus and Belonging to His Church is Necessary

Peter said in Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." The RCC agrees that all are saved through Jesus, but it teaches that believing in Him is not absolutely necessary (if it is through no fault of the individual). However, numerous verses of Scripture teach that belief in Jesus is necessary for salvation: Mark 16:15-16; John 1:10-12; 3:16, 36; 20:30-31; Acts 16:31; Galations 2:16.

Paul said in Romans 8:9-10: "However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, IF indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (who's righteousness? Jesus' righteousness, qualified in the following verse.) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you." Verse 14 says: "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." See also 1 John 5:1-5; v11-12 says: "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."

Numerous spiritual blessings are in Christ:

  • It is in Christ that we are "justified as a gift by His grace" and redeemed (Romans 3:24).
  • It is in Christ wherein there is "no condemnation" (Romans 8:1).
  • It is in Christ that one will find "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3).
  • It is in Christ that we receive "adoption as sons" (Ephesians 1:5).
  • It is in Christ that "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins" (Ephesians 1:7).
  • It is in Christ that "we have obtained an inheritance" (Ephesians 1:11).
  • It is in Christ that there is "grace" (2 Timothy 2:1).
  • It is in Christ that we "obtain salvation" (2 Timothy 2:10).
  • It is in Christ that we are given "eternal life" (1 John 5:11).

And we are "in Christ" when we are clothed with Him in baptism and thus added to His church, the body of Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Galations 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Acts 2:41, 47 teaches: "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls... And the Lord was adding to their number (KJV: the church) day by day those who were being saved."

Can one be saved and not be in Christ's church? Not according to the teachings of the apostles in Scripture. In Acts 20:28, the apostle Paul plainly declared that the church has been "purchased with His own blood." Paul further told the church in Corinth, "You have been bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). Peter reminds us that the price that was paid was "precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:19). Christ shed His blood to purchase the church; does that not make being in Christ's church necessary for salvation?!

Paul further taught: "Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body... Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:23-25). Colossians 1:18 states that the body of Christ is the church. Thus, Christ is the Savior of the church.

Numerous spiritual blessings are in the church:

  • It is the church that is delivered from the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13; the kingdom is the church - Matthew 16:18-19).
  • It is the church, the body of Christ, that is reconciled to God through the cross (Ephesians 2:16).
  • It is within the church that one will find "the unfathomable riches of Christ" and "the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:8-11).
  • It is the church that Christ will present to Himself at the end of time (Ephesians 5:27).

 

Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel

What about those who have never heard about Jesus and His church? The RCC says that those outside of Christ may still be saved if they have sought after God (in their own way). The Bible, on the other hand, shows that salvation is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The apostles taught no other way! No other way of salvation is given in the pages of the NT. And if all who now live are subject to the terms and conditions of the new covenant, then apparently no other way of salvation exists.

In Romans 10:1-3, Paul expresses his sincere desire for the salvation of his Jewish brethren. The implication is that they were not (then) presently saved because "they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge." Thus Paul continues to impress upon his readers the importance of preaching the gospel to those who have not heard (v8-16). "So then faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (v17).

Acts 10-11 speaks about Cornelius, who was "...a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually" (Acts 10:2). But despite his good works and desire to serve God, he was still lost until he heard and obeyed the gospel (Acts 11:14).

So how will God judge those who have never heard the gospel? Romans 2:12-16 is sometimes used to teach that God will judge will judge such people according to their consciences. But it actually appears that Paul is merely indicating that all are guilty of sin, whether they know the Law or not. He concludes that all will therefore be judged according to the gospel, thus making it imperative that the gospel be preached to all creation (Mark 16:15).

The fact remains that God is a just God, and since He is perfect and holy, He has to punish sin (which is why He provided One to bear that punishment in our place). And ignorance does not appear to be an acceptable excuse! Leviticus chapter 4 speaks often about people sinning "unintentionally;" they were still considered as guilty. Leviticus 5:17 says, "Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty, and shall bear his punishment." Furthermore, Acts 17 speaks about people searching after God; v30-31 says that God used to overlook ignorance, but "is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

But God is also a loving and merciful God, and He will surely also judge such people graciously. In Luke 12:47-48, in the context of being ready for the Day of Judgment, Jesus said, "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

Thus it appears that, while those who have never heard the gospel message of Christ will apparently be found guilty of sin, they may be "beaten with fewer stripes" because of their lack of knowledge.

 

 

Baptism

 

The NT Teaching on Baptism

There are numerous places in the New Testament that refer to baptism. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded His disciples to go and baptize all nations. In Mark 16:16, Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." In Acts 2:38, after the people asked what they needed to do, Peter said, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Verse 41 says "those who received his word were baptized" and there were about 3000 then added to the church. In Acts 22:16, Ananias told Saul, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

The Bible teaches that salvation is only through Christ, the Son of God (John 14:6; 1 John 5:11-13). It also teaches that we put Christ on through baptism. In Galations 3:27, Paul says, "All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Paul reminds Christians in Romans 6:3-4 that "all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death." He says that just as Christ died, was buried, and was raised again, so also we "through baptism [are raised to] walk in newness of life." Notice Paul does not say that baptism is symbolic of salvation; it is not our re-enactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It is, in fact, God's re-enacting such in us as He gives to us at that point a brand new of life in Jesus!

Colossians 2:12-13 says, "Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions."

1 Corinthians 12:13 teaches the same thing: "By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." Just as Paul said to the Romans, it is at the point of baptism that we come into the body, or church of Christ. 1 Peter 3:20-21 says, "In [the ark] a few, that is, eight persons, were saved by water. And corresponding to that (the like figure), baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

 

The RCC Teaches that Baptism is Necessary

The RCC correctly teaches that baptism, in the original Greek language, means "to immerse" or "to plunge" into water. The Catechism of the Council of Trent says, "Immersion... was for a considerable time the practice in the early ages of the Church." Despite this acknowledgement, however, RCC baptism is currently most often performed by pouring water over the candidate's head.

The RCC further correctly teaches "the necessity of Baptism and its connection with faith, for Baptism joins the believer to Christ's death and Resurrection." It teaches that "Baptism is necessary for salvation," that it "brings forgiveness of all sins" and it "brings new life, making us children of God, sharers in the divine nature, and temples of the Holy Spirit... Baptism joins us to the Church, the Body of Christ, giving us a share in the priesthood of believers... Baptism bestows a character, an indelible spiritual mark signifying that we belong to Christ" (The Catechism Handbook, Father Oscar Lukefahr, C.M., 1996, p. 52-54, referring in general to CCC #1213-1261).

The Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas (1273) says: "Baptism... is a certain spiritual regeneration. Just as there can be no physical life unless man is first born in the flesh, so spiritual life or grace cannot be had unless man is spiritually reborn. This rebirth is effected through Baptism: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

The Catechism of the Council of Trent also speaks of the necessity of baptism: "If the knowledge of what has been hitherto explained be, as it is, of highest importance to the faithful, it is no less important to them to learn that the law of Baptism, as established by our Lord, extends to all, so that unless they are regenerated to God through the grace of Baptism, be their parents Christians or infidels, they are born to eternal misery and destruction. Pastors, therefore, should often explain these words of the Gospel: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

Similar to its position on salvation (that belief is normatively but not absolutely necessary), the RCC also teaches that baptism is normatively but not absolutely necessary. CCC #1257 says: "The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments."

This last sentence seems a bit confusing to some. If God has indeed bound salvation to baptism (as the apostles clearly taught in inspired Scripture), then He Himself would have to be bound to what He binds. It appears, however, that the RCC teaches that they themselves are bound to teach the necessity of baptism for salvation, but they wish to leave open the possibility that God will not absolutely require such (a similar argument to that made by many Protestants who deny the necessity of baptism).


The RCC Teaches that Desire for Baptism is Sufficient

The RCC teaches: "Those who are martyred for Christ before they can be baptized are saved through Baptism of blood. Those who desire Baptism but die before receiving the sacrament also receive its benefits (Baptism of desire). Those who do not know Christ but seek the truth and strive to do God's will have an implicit desire for Baptism and can be saved" (The Catechism Handbook, Father Oscar Lukefahr, C.M., 1996, p. 52-54).

CCC #1258-1259: "The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament."

The Catechism of the Council of Trent taught that there ought not to be too long a delay before baptizing adult catechumenates: "If converted to the Lord God, they are then to be admonished not to defer the Sacrament of Baptism beyond the time prescribed by the Church. For since it is written, delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day, they are to be taught that in their regard perfect conversion consists in regeneration by Baptism. Besides, the longer they defer Baptism, the longer are they deprived of the use and graces of the other Sacraments, by which the Christian religion is practised, since the other Sacraments are accessible through Baptism only... They are also deprived of the abundant fruits of Baptism, the waters of which not only wash away all the stains and defilements of past sins, but also enrich us with divine grace which enables us to avoid sin for the future and preserve righteousness and innocence, which constitute the sum of a Christian life, as all can easily understand."

There is, however, no danger in delaying, because one's good intention is sufficient for salvation: "On adults, however, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the Sacrament of Baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants, which we have already mentioned; should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness... Nay, this delay seems to be attended with some advantages. And first, since the Church must take particular care that none approach this Sacrament through hypocrisy and dissimulation, the intentions of such as seek Baptism, are better examined and ascertained. Hence it is that we read in the decrees of ancient Councils that Jewish converts to the Catholic faith, before admission to Baptism, should spend some months in the ranks of the catechumens."

James Akin, in The Necessity of Being Catholic, explained his understanding of Trent: "Canon four of Trent's "Canons on the Sacraments in General" states, "If anyone shall say that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that although all are not necessary for every individual, without them or without the desire of them... men obtain from God the grace of justification, let him be anathema [excommunicated]." This is an infallible statement because anathemas pronounced by ecumenical councils are recognized as infallibly defining the doctrine under discussion... Trent teaches that although not all the sacraments are necessary for salvation, the sacraments in general are necessary. Without them or the desire of them men cannot obtain the grace of justification, but with them or the desire of them men can be justified. The sacrament through which we initially receive justification is baptism. But since the canon teaches that we can be justified with the desire of the sacraments rather than the sacraments themselves, we can be justified with the desire for baptism rather than baptism itself.

Akin further stated: "Only actual baptism makes one a formal member of the Church; baptism of desire does not do so. Since justification can be received by desire for baptism, as Trent states, justification and thus the state of grace can be received without formal membership in the Church. The desire for baptism is sufficient... Later Catholic teaching has clarified the nature of this desire and shown it can be either explicit or implicit. One has explicit desire for baptism if he consciously desires and resolves to be baptized (as with catechumens and others). One has an implicit desire if he would resolve to be baptized if he knew the truth about it."

Akin's statement, however, seems contradictory to the teachings of CCC #1249, which says: "Catechumens are already joined to the Church, they are already of the household of Christ, and are quite frequently already living a life of faith, hope, and charity. With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces them as her own." (Akin's statement is also contradictory to the teachings of the Bible, which says that we are "in Christ" when we are clothed with Him in baptism and thus added to His church, the body of Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Galations 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Acts 2:41, 47).

 

 

Infant Baptism

 

The RCC Teaches Original Sin

The RCC teaches that children are guilty of sin from the moment they are born and thus they must be baptized to remove the guilt of original sin. CCC #1250: "Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth."

The Catechism of the Council of Trent says: "The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death."

 

The Bible Denies Original Sin

The Bible teaches that one may at times suffer the consequences of another's sin, but not the guilt. This is clearly stated in Ezekiel 18:1-20. Verse 20 says: "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself." (See also Exodus 32:31-33; Deuteronomy 1:34-39.) Rather, the Bible teaches that each will be judged by his own actions (Matthew 12:36-37; Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 1:17).

If we are born guilty of sin, then why are children portrayed all throughout Scripture as pure and innocent?! In Jeremiah 19:1-6, the slaughter of children in sacrifice to Baal was called "the blood of the innocent." Jesus Himself said that we need to be like little children (Matthew 18:1-3) and that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Matthew 19:13-14). Paul also said that we need to be like babes concerning evil (1 Corinthians 14:20). Ecclesiastes 7:29 says, "God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices." Several other passages indicate that one is born innocent but, at some later point, becomes guilty by choosing sin (Romans 7:9-11; Ezekiel 28:15; Isaiah 59:1-2). In fact, the words "redeemed" and "reconciled" indicate that we are bought back and restored to a position of favor with God (see Colossians 1:14, 20; John 3:3-7).

 

Origin of the Practice of Infant Baptism

While baptism for the remission of sins was established by apostolic authority (as shown numerous times in the NT), there is no mention of infant baptism until sometime late in the 2nd century (and, as Cardinal Newman stated, there is little mention of the doctrine of original sin until the 4th or 5th century). "The apostolic fathers make, indeed, no mention of it" (History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff, Vol. II, p. 259). Justin Martyr expresses a view of baptism that was consistent with NT teaching; he wrote, "Those who are convinced of the truth of our doctrine, and have promised to live according to it, are exhorted to prayer, fasting and repentance for past sins; we praying and fasting with them. Then they are led by us to a place where is water, and in this way they are regenerated, as we also have been regenerated" (Apologies, I., c. 61).

CCC #1252: "The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on..." However, the National Catholic Alamanac (1943, p. 128) admits: "The Bible is silent or at least not clear on a number of matters such as baptism of infants and the exact number of the sacraments, concerning which the Church follows tradition."

It appears the earliest writer to mention infant baptism may have been Irenaeus (about A.D. 189): "He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Against Heresies, 2:22:4).

The Apostolic Tradition (about A.D. 215) says, "Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them" (21:16).

 

Baptism is for Believers

The RCC contends that the NT shows that entire households were baptized, and that such households probably included infants. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 1:16 about baptizing the household of Stephanas, but he gives no further information concerning that household. Acts 16:15 likewise gives little information; it simply states that Lydia and her household were baptized. The other example is Acts 16:31-33. Paul and Silas declared to the jailer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." Notice that they emphasized the necessity of belief before one is baptized. Notice also that before the rest of the household was baptized, the same "word of the Lord" was spoken to them. This is consistent with other NT examples of baptism which involved those old enough to personally believe in Jesus as the Son of God and repent of their sins.

The RCC, however, allows others to have faith on behalf of infants. This doctrine of vicarious faith is given in CCC #1253: "Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: 'What do you ask of God's Church?' The response is: 'Faith!'"

The RCC then places individual faith after baptism, rather than before (as in the NT). CCC #1254: "For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth."

 

Limbo

CCC #1261: "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,' allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism."

Some Catholics have interpreted this statement to mean that children who are not baptized might still go to Heaven. That would not, however, seem to be consistent with their overall teaching regarding original sin. It would also seem to contradict what is stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia. CE 2258b: "The fate of infants who die without baptism must be briefly considered here. The Catholic teaching is uncompromising on this point, that all who depart this life without baptism, be it of water, or blood, or desire, are perpetually excluded from the vision of God. This teaching is grounded, as we have seen, on Scripture and tradition, and the decrees of the Church. Moreover, that those who die in original sin, without ever having contracted any actual sin, are deprived of the happiness of heaven is stated explicitly in the Confession of Faith of the Eastern Emperor Michael Palæologus, which had been proposed to him by Pope Clement IV in 1267, and which he accepted in the presence of Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. The same doctrine is found also in the Decree of Union of the Greeks, in the Bull "Lætentur Caeli" of Pope Eugene IV, in the Profession of Faith prescribed for the Greeks by Pope Gregory XIII, and in that authorized for the Orientals by Urban VIII and Benedict XIV. Many Catholic theologians have declared that infants dying without baptism are excluded from the beatific vision; but as to the exact state of these souls in the next world they are not agreed.

"In speaking of souls who have failed to attain salvation, these theologians distinguish the pain of loss (paena damni), or privation of the beatific vision, and the pain of sense (paena sensus). Though these theologians have thought it certain that unbaptized infants must endure the pain of loss, they have not been similarly certain that they are subject to the pain of sense. St. Augustine (De Pecc. et Mer., I, xvi) held that they would not be exempt from the pain of sense, but at the same time he thought it would be of the mildest form. On the other hand, St. Gregory Nazianzen (Or. in S. Bapt.) expresses the belief that such infants would suffer only the pain of loss. Sfrondati (Nod. Prædest., I, i) declares that while they are certainly excluded from heaven, yet they are not deprived of natural happiness. This opinion seemed so objectionable to some French bishops that they asked the judgment of the Holy See upon the matter. Pope Innocent XI replied that he would have the opinion examined into by a commission of theologians, but no sentence seems ever to have been passed upon it. Since the twelfth century, the opinion of the majority of theologians has been that unbaptized infants are immune from all pain of sense. This was taught by St. Thomas Aquinas, Scotus, St. Bonaventure, Peter Lombard, and others, and is now the common teaching in the schools. It accords with the wording of a decree of Pope Innocent III (III Decr., xlii, 3): "The punishment of original sin is the deprivation of the vision of God; of actual sin, the eternal pains of hell." Infants, of course, can not be guilty of actual sin."

CE 9256a: "It is clear form [sic] Scripture and Catholic tradition that the means of regeneration provided for this life do not remain available after death, so that those dying unregenerate are eternally excluded from the supernatural happiness of the beatific vision (John 9:4, Luke 12:40, 16:19 sqq, II Cor. 5:10; see also "Apocatastasis"). The question therefore arises as to what, in the absence of a clear positive revelation on the subject, we ought in conformity with Catholic principles to believe regarding the eternal lot of such persons. Now it may confidently be said that, as the result of centuries of speculation on the subject, we ought to believe that these souls enjoy and will eternally enjoy a state of perfect natural happiness; and this is what Catholics usually mean when they speak of the limbus infantium, the 'children's limbo.'"

 

 

Confirmation

 

RCC Teaches Holy Spirit Given at Confirmation

CE 04215b: "In the Western Church the sacrament is usually administered by the bishop. At the beginning of the ceremony there is a general imposition of hands, the bishop meantime praying that the Holy Ghost may come down upon those who have already been regenerated: "send forth upon them thy sevenfold Spirit the Holy Paraclete." He then anoints the forehead of each with chrism saying: "I sign thee with the sign of the cross and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Finally. he gives each a slight blow on the cheek saying: "peace be with thee". A prayer is added that the Holy Spirit may dwell in the hearts of those who have been confirmed, and the rite closes with the bishop's blessing.

"The Holy Ghost is not given for the purpose of taking away sin but of conferring additional grace. This condition, however, refers only to lawful reception; the sacrament is validly received even by those in mortal sin. In the early ages of the Church, confirmation was part of the rite of initiation, and consequently was administered immediately after baptism. When, however, baptism came to be conferred by simple priests, the two ceremonies were separated in the Western Church. Further, when infant baptism became customary, confirmation was not administered until the child had attained the use of reason. This is the present practice, though there is considerable latitude as to the precise age. The Catechism of the Council of Trent says that the sacrament can be administered to all persons after baptism, but that this is not expedient before the use of reason; and adds that it is most fitting that the sacrament be deferred until the child is seven years old.

"It is clear from the diversity of practice at the present day, that there is much uncertainty as to the doctrine concerning confirmation. It is certain that the sacrament is validly and lawfully administered in the Church; but this does not solve the theological questions regarding its institution, matter, form, and minister. At the time of the Council of Trent the difficulty was felt to be so great that the assembled Fathers contented themselves with only a few canons on the subject."

CCC #1316: "Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church..."

CCC #1314: "If a Christian is in danger of death, any priest should give him Confirmation. Indeed, the Church desires that none of her children, even the youngest, should depart this world without having been perfected by the Holy Spirit with the gift of Christ 's fullness."

CCC #1285: "For by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church..." The Catechism Handbook adds: "Confirmation is a seal that marks us as belonging to Christ" (p. 55). However, the previous pages reads: "Baptism bestows a character, an indelible spiritual mark signifying that we belong to Christ." So which is it, baptism or confirmation?

 

Bible Teaches Holy Spirit Given at Baptism

Acts 2:38 states plainly that those who were baptized in the name of Jesus would receive 2 things: "remission/forgiveness of sins" and "the gift of the Holy Spirit." It appears that the "gift" is the indwelling of the Spirit Himself. Numerous verses throughout the NT teach that the Holy Spirit is given to those who become Christians (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Acts 2:38-39; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:11, 19; 12:13; Romans 5:5; 8:9, 11, 15-16; Galations 3:2; 4:6; Titus 3:5-7; Ephesians 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:14; Hebrews 6:4; 1 John 3:24; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16). Notice that all these verses speak of the Spirit being given at the time of salvation.

 

Justification and Sanctification

 

Defining the Terms

Justification - from the Greek word dikaiosis (Strong #2435) meaning "acquittal, the act of pronouncing righteous." It is the act of God by which the redeeming blood of Christ is applied to the sinner, thus making him clean and whole, deemed as righteous and released from the penalty of sin. Romans 3:24 says it is "a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (see also Titus 3:7). Justification is by/through faith (Acts 13:39; Romans 3:28, 30; 5:1; Galations 2:16) and occurs at the moment an individual is "born again of the water and the Spirit" (John 3:5). It is the moment that God makes us "alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions" (Colossians 2:12-13). It is the moment we are "saved" (i.e., come into a saved relationship with the Lord) and thus added to the Lord's church (Acts 2:37-47).

Sanctification - the word "sanctify" literally means to "set apart." In the OT, many things were sanctified or set apart and dedicated or consecrated to God: the first-born; the Levites; the priests; the alter; the Sabbath, etc. In the NT, the word "saint" comes from the same root and means one who is set apart to God or one who belongs to Christ. Sanctification is, in one sense, accomplished when one is born again by water and the Spirit (John 3:5 - the point in time of initial justification). This is seen in such passages as 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Hebrews 10:10, 14). In another sense, sanctification is an ongoing process that continues thereafter. In Romans 6:3-5, Paul talks about dying to the old life and rising to walk in newness of life when one is baptized. (He further speaks of sanctification throughout the next 2 chapters; see especially 8:28.) This new way of life is one in which the believer grows more and more (with the help of the Holy Spirit) into conformity with the image of Christ.

The following comparisons have been noted by several scholars:

  • Justification is free (Romans 3:24; 6:23). Sanctification is costly (Luke 14:25-33).
  • Justification is instantaneous (John 3:8). Sanctification is a life-long process (Philippians 3:12-15).
  • Justification is by faith (Ephesians 2:8). Sanctification is by faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2).
  • Justification is not of works (Ephesians 2:9). Sanctification is of works (Ephesians 2:10).
  • Justification involves Christ's love for me (John 3:16). Sanctification involves my love for Christ (1 John 4:19).
  • Justification concerns Christ's righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sanctification concerns my righteousness (Luke 14:25-33).
  • Justification involves my position in Christ (Colossians 2:11-14). Sanctification involves my practice in Christ (Colossians 3:1-11).
  • Justification considers what God has done (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Sanctification considers what I am doing (Luke 14:25-33).
  • Justification is God's commitment to me (1 John 5:9-13). Sanctification is my commitment to God (John 14:15).
  • Justification requires obedience to the gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, etc.). Sanctification requires obedience to all of Christ's commands (Matt 28:19-20).
  • Justification focuses on the cross which Jesus took up once for all (1 Corinthians 1:18). Sanctification focuses on the cross which I am to take up daily (Luke 9:53).

 

Justification Produces Sanctification

David J. Palm, in an article on Catholicism and justification, said, "The official Catholic position concerning justification is not in any way opposed to the idea that justification consists of God's declaration of righteousness. Nor does the Church oppose the idea that justification is in some sense forensic. The Council of Trent can speak of justification as declarative: "Finally, the one formal cause [of justification] is the justness of God: not that by which he himself is just, but that by which he makes us just and endowed with which we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and are not merely considered to be just but we are truly named and are just" (Council of Trent, Decree on Justification). So the problem is not in the insistence that justification is declarative. Rather, it is in absolutizing the forensic nature of justification, and in the insistence that the declaration does not effect a change in the one justified. For here Catholics believe that Protestants have introduced a false dichotomy. I note first that even certain Protestant scholars question whether justification is rightly limited exclusively to a legal sphere: . . . But the fundamental weakness of the Reformed view lies in not recognizing that while justification is certainly God's declaration of righteousness it is, by the very nature of the One who is speaking, an effective declaration. Thus in the Catholic view of justification: God's justifying sentence is regarded as effective and thus as producing what it declares."

Regardless of what Luther may have thought, not all Protestants hold to the specific position of which they are accused by the RCC. Indeed Scripture does teach that a change begins to take place (the process of sanctification) when we are born again...

  • Those who are buried with Christ rise to walk in newness of life, having crucified the old self; they are freed from being slaves to sin and are instead slaves to righteousness in God (Roman 6:1-23).
  • God's purpose is for His children to become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).
  • Being washed brought about sanctification, a dramatic change in action (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
  • "And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:49).
  • "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  • "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me" (Galations 2:20).
  • "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4).
  • "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; ...for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:1, 8).
  • "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (Colossians 2:6).
  • "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3).
  • "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (Colossians 3:9-10)
  • "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality" (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
  • "Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
  • "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:14-16).
  • "Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Peter 1:3-4).

 

The RCC Concept of Grace

CCC #1991-1992: "Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice") here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us. Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life." CCC #1996: "Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life."

Most Christians would agree with the above statements about our dependence on the grace of God for salvation. But there appears to be a difference between Catholics and Protestants in the way they each define grace. Protestants generally define grace as the overall favor of God bestowed upon us even though we could never be good enough to deserve any such favor (i.e., eternal salvation) by our own merits. The RCC, however, often speaks of graces in the plural tense and defines such as the various ways in which God helps us so that we can become good enough to personally deserve entrance into Heaven by our own merits. CCC #2000: "Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God..."

CE - Sanctifying Grace: "...[H]oliness and the sonship of God depend solely upon the possession of sanctifying grace. . . In the process of justification we must distinguish two periods: first, the preparatory acts or dispositions (faith, fear, hope, etc.); then the last, decisive moment of the transformation of the sinner from the state of sin to that of justification or sanctifying grace, which may be called the active justification (actus justificationis) with this the real process comes to an end, and the state of habitual holiness and sonship of God begins. Touching both of these periods there has existed, and still exists, in part, a great conflict of opinion between Catholicism and Protestantism. This conflict may be reduced to four differences of teaching. By a justifying faith the Church understands qualitatively the theoretical faith in the truths of Revelation, and demands over and above this faith other acts of preparation for justification.

"Protestantism, on the other hand, reduces the process of justification to merely a fiduciary faith; and maintains that this faith, exclusive even of good works, is all-sufficient for justification, laying great stress upon the scriptural statement sola fides justificat. The Church teaches that justification consists of an actual obliteration of sin and an interior sanctification. Protestantism, on the other hand, makes of the forgiveness of sin merely a concealment of it, so to speak; and of the sanctification a forensic declaration of justification, or an external imputation of the justice of Christ." (Note: Again, some of the Reformation may teach such, but this appears to be a misunderstanding of the view many Protestants have. Indeed our sins are entirely forgiven and washed away by the blood of Christ; they are not merely concealed.)

 

The RCC Teaches the Necessity of Perfect Sanctification

Catholics and Protestants are agreed that justification/salvation is a gift of God and His grace. They are further agreed that, with God's help, we can grow in sanctification, becoming more and more like Christ. There is disagreement, however, in regards to the relationship between sanctification and attaining eternal life in Heaven. The RCC teaches that one must become perfectly sanctified and sinless in order for one to personally merit and be worthy of Heaven. Several passages are suggested by Catholics as indicating that actual perfection is required to be acceptable to God and enter eternal life: Matthew 5:48; 19:21; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 13:9-11; Philippians 1:3-11; 3:10-14; James 3:1-2; 1 Peter 1:13-16 (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 12:14). Protestants indeed agree that perfection is God's standard and that such is to be our constant goal, but they generally believe that, because of our human limitations, perfect sanctification (actual sinlessness) is not attainable in this life and that eternal salvation is merited solely by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

From Catholic Answers, Inc.: "We've mentioned that we need sanctifying grace in our souls if we're to be equipped for heaven. Another way of saying this is that we need to be justified. "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). Unlike Protestants, who misunderstand Scripture's teaching about justification and confuse things by separating justification and sanctification, the Catholic Church has always recognized that in Scripture, justification and sanctification are two ways of speaking about the same thing. You're justified (made righteous by God's grace) so long as you're sanctified (made holy by his grace). You cease to be justified when you cease to be sanctified ("Grace: What it Is & What it Does")."

CCC #824-825: "United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. "All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God." It is in the Church that "the fullness of the means of salvation" has been deposited. It is in her that "by the grace of God we acquire holiness." "The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect." In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired: "Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state - though each in his own way - are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect.""

CCC #2013-2015: ""All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity." All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints. Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all. The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes: He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows."

CE - Sanctifying Grace: "Although the sinner is justified by the justice of Christ, inasmuch as the Redeemer has merited for him the grace of justification (causa meritoria), nevertheless he is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness..."

 

The Necessity of the Sacraments

The RCC teaches that sacraments are the means by which one is given sanctifying grace, thus enabling one to ultimately become perfectly sinless and thereby achieve eternal life in Heaven. CCC #1210: "Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life." CE - Sacraments: "All sacraments were instituted for the spiritual good of the recipients; but five, viz. Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, the Eucharist, and Extreme Unction, primarily benefit the individual in his private character, whilst the other two, Orders and Matrimony, primarily affect man as a social being, and sanctify him in the fulfillment of his duties towards the Church and society. By Baptism we are born again, Confirmation makes us strong, perfect Christians and soldiers. The Eucharist furnishes our daily spiritual food. Penance heals the soul wounded by sin. Extreme Unction removes the last remnant of human frailty, and prepares the soul for eternal life, Orders supplies ministers to the Church of God. Matrimony gives the graces necessary for those who are to rear children in the love and fear of God, members of the Church militant, future citizens of heaven."

CE - Sacraments continues: "Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification. . . The Council of Trent includes the substance of these two definitions in the following: "Symbolum rei sacrae, et invisibilis gratiae forma visibilis, sanctificandi vim habens"-A symbol of something sacred, a visible form of invisible grace, having the power of sanctifying (Sess. XIII, cap.3). The "Catechism of the Council of Trent" gives a more complete definition: Something perceptible by the senses which by Divine institution has the power both to signify and to effect sanctity and justice (II, n.2). . . The sacred and mysterious thing signified is Divine grace, which is the formal cause of our justification, but with it we must associate the Passion of Christ (efficient and meritorious cause) and the end (final cause) of our sanctification, viz., eternal life. "

 

The Necessity of Good Works

The RCC teaches that God helps us to do good works, and that those good works are to make amends for sin and to solicit God to give us further graces; those further graces then enable us to become more perfect and thus eventually achieve eternal life in Heaven. In an article entitled, "Faith, Works and Justification" (Organ of the Roman Theological Forum), Brian W. Harrison said, "Once we are in the state of grace, our good works carried out by God's grace not only become necessary in order for us to remain justified; they now also become truly pleasing to God, and merit a reward in Heaven (Mt 5:12; 10:41; Lk 12:21), because they share in the love and merits of Christ who now dwells in our souls by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what St. James means in saying that we are "justified by works" as well as by faith."

CCC #2001: "The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:" Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us."

CCC #2006-2008: "The term "merit" refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it. With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator. The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit..."

CCC #2009b-2010: "The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due.... Our merits are God's gifts." Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life."

Scripture Teaches Complete Justification and Eternal Life is in Jesus

As already stated, the RCC teaches that one must become perfectly sanctified/sinless in order to be worthy of Heaven. However, while Scripture does indeed teach the necessity of growing more and more like Christ, it also teaches that our eternal salvation is based solely on our being in Christ. Our own efforts at sanctification, as good as they may be, can never merit eternal salvation. We will never be worthy of such, nor truly deserve such because of how good we are. No matter how close we may come, we will still fall short of God's lofty perfection. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ! On that great Day of Judgment, our eternal destiny will be based solely on our relationship with Him. If we are in Christ, then we will we judged as righteous and worthy of eternal salvation; it we are not, then we will be eternally lost.

Paul said in Romans 6:23, "The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." He said in 8:9-11: "However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, IF indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you." Notice it is not our righteousness that merits eternal life, but rather the indwelling of Christ's Spirit within us. V13-14 says: "...If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." Notice again, it is not perfect completion of overcoming all sin, but it is living in Him and for Him and being led by Him that results in eternal life. 1 John 5:11-12 says: "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."

Numerous passages show that complete justification/salvation is in Christ:

  • It is in Christ that we are "justified as a gift by His grace" and redeemed (Romans 3:24).
  • It is in Christ wherein there is "no condemnation" (Romans 8:1).
  • It is in Christ that we are reconciled to God, our trespasses not counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19).
  • It is in Christ that one will find "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3).
  • It is in Christ that we receive "adoption as sons" (Ephesians 1:5).
  • It is in Christ that "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins" (Ephesians 1:7).
  • It is in Christ that "we have obtained an inheritance" (Ephesians 1:11).
  • It is in Christ that we "have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:18).
  • It is in Christ that we "have boldness and confident access through faith in Him" (Ephesians 3:12).
  • It is in Christ that there is "grace" (2 Timothy 2:1).
  • It is in Christ that we "obtain salvation" (2 Timothy 2:10).
  • It is in Christ that we are given "eternal life" (1 John 5:11).

 

Christ's Perfection is Sufficient

As already stated, sinless perfection is God's ideal standard, but the fact remains that we all still sin and thus God has provided a solution. "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Salvation is based on His perfection, not ours! Paul said he had no righteousness of his own, but that which is through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:9). The book of Romans begins by pointing out the sinfulness of all mankind. Both Jew and Gentile, all stand before God guilty of sin. But Romans 3:21-31 shows that justification is a gift through Jesus Christ. It is based upon His righteousness, not ours!

Christ alone was sinless:

  • "For he hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
  • "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10).
  • "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12).
  • "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).
  • "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin" (Galatians 3:22).
  • "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us... If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:8, 10).

Paul said in Galations 2:21, "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." If we could ever reach a state of actual sinless perfection, then Christ's crucifixion would be of no account when we stand before God on the Day of Judgment. Our own righteousness would be sufficient. But the fact remains: we can't do it on our own; we cannot be good enough. But Jesus is. 1 Peter 3:18 says, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."

The statement is often made that Christians are not perfect, just forgiven. Indeed that forgiveness made possible by the cross of Christ is all that is required to be eternally acceptable to God. Colossians 2:14 says that the "certificate of debt" has been canceled, taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross of Christ. Psalm 103:10-13 states that God does not deal with us according to our sins, but He has removed them "as far as the east is from the west."

Is not Christ's sacrifice and our resulting forgiveness sufficient for our eternal life? Must additional personal atonement and perfection be added to Christ's perfect atonement? According to RCC theology, it appears that Satan is the accuser (Revelation 12:10) who still stands before God and points out our already-forgiven sins. But Paul said in Romans 8:33-34, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us."

In Luke 18:9-14, the Pharisee stood before God and trusted in his own righteousness. The lowly publican, on the other hand, humbly confessed to God that he was a sinner and begged for mercy. Jesus said it was that humble publican who was justified before God, not the Pharisee who trusted that he was personally righteous. It is indeed a joyous blessing that God is willing to forgive us and take us "Just As I Am" as long as we are in Christ. It is recorded that Christ once said, "My grace is sufficient for you." Indeed we can never be good enough on our own.

It is interesting that the RCC teaches that a newly baptized person who dies before committing any sin goes straight to Heaven. But such makes no sense if a person is required to grow completely like Christ and become personally perfect before being worthy of Heaven (as generally taught by the RCC). The fact remains that such a person would indeed be worthy of Heaven despite being a babe in Christ. The reason is because that person was forgiven of all his sins and was indeed in Christ. And the same thing applies to all Christians who are walking in the light (1 John 1:7). Eternal salvation is dependent, not upon one's personal perfection, but upon being in Christ.

 

Our Works are Evidence of Being in Christ

As the RCC rightly teaches, it is God (through His Holy Spirit) who enables us to do good works. Thus our good works are the evidence of our justification and our right relationship with God/Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Acts 26:20 speaks of "performing deeds appropriate to repentance." In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptism similarly said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance." Galations 5:6 speaks of "faith working through love."

Paul said in Romans 4 that Abraham was not saved by works of the Law. But Jesus said in John 8:39, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham." If indeed they were his sons, then they would produce the natural fruits of sonship. Likewise, those who are sons of God will produce fruits of evidence showing that they do indeed belong to Him. Thus, in James 2:14ff, it is shown that Abraham's faith was evidenced by his works. Furthermore, without such works, he would not be justified. A faith that does not have such works is not a true saving faith (v14). As Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, [you will] keep my commandments." Obedience, sanctification, and good works are natural byproducts of justification and evidence thereof.

Since this is true, it is natural that inspired writers would also speak of being judged by our works:

  • Romans 14:12 "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God."
  • Matthew 25:31-46 Those who have fed, clothed, etc. will "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Those who failed to do so "will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
  • John 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."
  • Romans 2:6-7 "[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life."
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one of us may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Later Paul referred to false apostles, "whose end shall be according to their deeds" (11:15).
  • 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul said, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay (KJV: reward) him according to his deeds."
  • 1 Peter 1:17 "[God] impartially judges according to each man's work."
  • Revelation 20:11-15 "...And they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds."

There is obviously a direct correlation between a person's true character (whether in Christ or not) and his deeds. Thus to judge one according to his deeds is really to judge if he is truly in Christ! Again, such works are merely indicative of our faithfulness to Him. And if faithful, then we are found to be "in Christ" at the Day of Judgment and thus granted eternal life.

 

Our Works are Demonstrations of our Love for God/Christ

The gift of God's Son is so wonderful it is truly unspeakable and indescribable (2 Corinthians 9:15). And thus, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "For the love of Christ controls (compels) us..." In Luke 7:47, Jesus said that one who has been forgiven of much sin has much love. Genuine Christians are deeply touched at the wonderful grace of God and seek to return that love to God is some small way.

Romans 11:33 says, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" And then v35-36 says, "Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." Can we truly repay God? Everything is His and He has given all to us. Nevertheless, we try somehow to show our love and appreciation.

In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul spoke of his abundant work for the Lord; he said, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." Paul did not do the many good works that he did in an effort to gain salvation; rather it was the grace of God and salvation itself that motivated Paul to give his life in service back to God. Surely Paul was so moved at the love of God, so grateful for his salvation, that he determined to demonstrate his thankfulness in return.

 

Our Works Have No True Merit

Our entrance into Heaven is not conditional on our own good deeds or efforts at attaining perfect sanctification (even though true faith will result in a determined effort to become more Christ-like day by day); we are saved (and thus shall inherit eternal life) by justification through Jesus Christ. We indeed need to say (as Jesus taught), "We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done" (Luke 17:10).

  • Romans 4:3-5 says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness."
  • Romans 4:7-8 says, "Blessed are those who lawless deeds have been forgiven, and who sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."
  • Romans 11:6 "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast."
  • Titus 3:4-5 "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 "[God] has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity."
  • Isaiah 64:6 says, "All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment."

In Luke 15, Jesus told the story of the prodigal son who sought to come home and somehow make up for his sin. He felt he was unworthy of being a son and was prepared to work his back into the good graces of his father. But the story is really about the father who was waiting and watching and who joyfully received him back, not as a servant, but as a son. Some today feel they need to atone for their sins and work enough to be worthy of Heaven. But despite all our good works, despite all our accomplishments at sanctification, we still stand in need of a Savior. We will never deserve eternal life because of what we have done. Thank God for what He has done.

 

The Christian's True Plea

Because I am justified, I will strive to be more sanctified. Never let it be said that I am complacent about sin in my life. Because I am a Christian, I will try to be more like Christ everyday. Because He gave His life for me, I will joyfully give my life back to Him. But, I don't do these things to get into Heaven; that's already been promised to me. I just want to be holy because He is holy, and because I know that His way really is the best way!

I'm going to Heaven, not because of my goodness, but because of God's goodness. It is a gift... because I can never deserve it by my own sinlessness or good works. If I could somehow be good enough on my own, perfectly sanctified and completely holy, then I could stand before God and hold up my perfection for Him to behold. But I can't. And God knew that. And so He sent His Son to be what I am not and never will be.

And thus my plea on the Day of Judgment will have nothing whatsoever to do with me. Instead my plea will have everything to do with Jesus. When my name is called, I can offer nothing of my own to merit my entrance into Heaven. I can only plead the name of my Savior who paid the entire price for my eternal salvation. I will not say, "See; here is what I have done." I will only say, "See, there is what He has done." And then, with tears of sorrow for the price and tears of joy for my reward, I will softly say, "Thank you."

 

 

Confessing Sins to a Priest

 

The RCC Teaches Confession to a Catholic Priest

According to the RCC, minor sins are called venial sins and confession of such is not required (other than a regular overall confession of such). More serious sins, however, are called mortal sins and must be specifically confessed to a priest in order to be forgiven. CCC #1854: "Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity." CCC #1862: "One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave manner, but without full knowledge or without complete consent." CCC #1861: "Mortal sin... results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ' s kingdom and the eternal death of hell..."

CCC #1493: "One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and with the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience." CCC #1456: "Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance:" CCC #1457: "According to the Church's command, 'after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.'" CCC #1424: "It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament."

 

The RCC Teaches that Church and Priest Forgives

CCC #1441 rightly says, "Only God forgives sins," but then it goes on to say, "Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name."

CCC #979: "The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives." CCC #983: "Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come or eternal liberation. Let us thank God who has given his Church such a gift." CCC #982: "There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive." CCC #986: "By Christ's will, the Church possesses the power to forgive the sins of the baptized..."

CCC #1448: "The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ..." CCC #1495: "Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ." CCC #1461: "Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'"

The RCC claims authority to forgive sins because Jesus gave that charge to the apostles in John 20:21-23. CE 11618c: "It is therefore clear from the words of Christ that the Apostles had power to forgive sins. But this was not a personal prerogative that was to erase at their death; it was granted to them in their official capacity and hence as a permanent institution in the Church-no less permanent than the mission to teach and baptize all nations. Christ foresaw that even those who received faith and baptism, whether during the lifetime of the Apostles or later, would fall into sin and therefore would need forgiveness in order to be saved. He must, then, have intended that the power to forgive should be transmitted from the Apostles to their successors and be used as long as there would be sinners in the Church, and that means to the end of time."

 

Auricular Confession a Development Through Time

It is admitted, however, that this doctrine developed through time. CE 1061a: "But it is one thing to assert that the power of absolution was granted to the Church, and another to say that a full realization of the grant was in the consciousness of the Church from the beginning. Baptism was the first, the great sacrament, the sacrament of initiation into the kingdom of Christ. Through baptism was obtained not only plenary pardon for sin, but also for temporal punishment due to sin. Man once born anew, the Christian ideal forbade even the thought of his return to sin. Of a consequence, early Christian discipline was loath to grant even once a restoration to grace through the ministry of reconciliation vested in the Church."

The RCC further admits: "Auricular confession is nowhere expressly mentioned in the Bible" (Question Box, 1929, p. 287). Indeed the Bible teaches that Christians are to openly confess their sins to other Christians. James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed."

Other writings of the RCC speak of the change from public, mutual confession to private confession: "The mitigation of public penance is first indicated in a letter of Pope St. Innocent in the year 405. A similar trend of leniency is found in the East at the turn of the fifth century. One reason is due to the scandals which were sometimes consequent to public penance. For about a thousand years, there were modifications of the ancient usage. By the middle of the sixteenth century, public penance had practically disappeared. The Church found the patient more willing to accept exercises of prayer, piety and alms-giving which, in her clemency, she commuted from the enjoined penances once so severe" (Brooklyn Tablet, Jan. 20, 1962).

 

The Bible Teaches Confession to God Who Alone Forgives

Ezra the priest commanded God's people, "Make confession to the Lord God of your fathers" (Ezra 10:11). David said in Psalm 32:5, "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." In Psalm 51:2-3 he wrote, "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me."

In Mark 2:5, Jesus said to a paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." The scribes thought Jesus was blaspheming; they said in v7, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus stated in v10, "The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins."

Although the RCC teaches that the priest is a mediator between God and man, the Bible recognizes only one mediator: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).

1 John 1:7-9 teaches that walking in the light will result in a continual cleansing of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. V9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (See Acts 8:13-24 for example of such.)

 

 

Penance (Reconciliation)

 

The RCC Teaches Man Must Atone for Sin Through Temporal Punishment

Webster's Dictionary defines "atone" as "to make amends, as for an offense or sin." As briefly discussed before, the RCC does indeed teach that one must do certain good works in order to make amends or make satisfaction for their sins (such also is purported to further sanctification). Fulton Sheen, in his book The Seven Last Words of Christ, prayed to God, "Reconciliation is Thy work; atonement is mine."

"Roman Catholicism teaches that when we sin we steal from God. If we were to steal from a man we would not only ask his forgiveness but also pay him back, so when we tell God we're sorry we are forgiven the eternal punishment, but we still have to pay God back. This is called the temporal punishment. The eternal punishment, absolved in Confession, is Hell. The temporal punishment may be satisfied by good works, almsgiving, saying indulgenced prayers and bearing our Cross. Temporal punishment not fully paid on earth is completed in purgatory (Externals of the Catholic Church, Msgr. Sullivan, p. 376).

"The stain of sin is washed away in the sacrament of Penance and the life of Christ is fully restored. But the sinner must continue to make amends for his sins. The remnants and effects of sin still remain after it has been forgiven and the penitent must strive gradually to remove them by prayer, good works and acts of penance" (Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, Catholic Enquiry Centre, London, p. 109).

CCC #1459-1460: "Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must 'make satisfaction for' or 'expiate' his sins. This satisfaction is also called 'penance.' The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent's personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear."

CE - Penance: ""The effect of this sacrament is deliverance from sin" (Council of Florence). The same definition in somewhat different terms is given by the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, c. 3): "So far as pertains to its force and efficacy, the effect (res et effectus) of this sacrament is reconciliation with God, upon which there sometimes follows, in pious and devout recipients, peace and calm of conscience with intense consolation of spirit". This reconciliation implies first of all that the guilt of sin is remitted, and consequently also the eternal punishment due to mortal sin. As the Council of Trent declares, penance requires the performance of satisfaction "not indeed for the eternal penalty which is remitted together with the guilt either by the sacrament or by the desire of receiving the sacrament, but for the temporal penalty which, as the Scriptures teach, is not always forgiven entirely as it is in baptism" (Sess. VI, c. 14). In other words baptism frees the soul not only from all sin but also from all indebtedness to Divine justice, whereas after the reception of absolution in penance, there may and usually does remain some temporal debt to be discharged by works of satisfaction...

"The reconciliation of the sinner with God has as a further consequence the revival of those merits which he had obtained before committing grievous sin. Good works performed in the state of grace deserve a reward from God, but this is forfeited by mortal sin, so that if the sinner should die unforgiven his good deeds avail him nothing. So long as he remains in sin, he is incapable of meriting: even works which are good in themselves are, in his case, worthless: they cannot revive, because they never were alive. But once his sin is cancelled by penance, he regains not only the state of grace but also the entire store of merit which had, before his sin, been placed to his credit. On this point theologians are practically unanimous: the only hindrance to obtaining reward is sin, and when this is removed, the former title, so to speak, is revalidated. On the other hand, if there were no such revalidation, the loss of merit once acquired would be equivalent to an eternal punishment, which is incompatible with the forgiveness effected by penance...

"As stated above, the absolution given by the priest to a penitent who confesses his sins with the proper dispositions remits both the guilt and the eternal punishment (of mortal sin). There remains, however, some indebtedness to Divine justice which must be cancelled here or hereafter. In order to have it cancelled here, the penitent receives from his confessor what is usually called his "penance", usually in the form of certain prayers which he is to say, or of certain actions which he is to perform, such as visits to a church, the Stations of the Cross, etc. Alms, deeds, fasting, and prayer are the chief means of satisfaction, but other penitential works may also be enjoined. The quality and extent of the penance is determined by the confessor according to the nature of the sins revealed, the special circumstances of the penitent, his liability to relapse, and the need of eradicating evil habits. Sometimes the penance is such that it may be performed at once; in other cases it may require a more or less considerable period, as, e.g., where it is prescribed for each day during a week or a month. But even then the penitent may receive another sacrament (e.g., Holy Communion) immediately after confession, since absolution restores him to the state of grace. He is nevertheless under obligation to continue the performance of his penance until it is completed.

"In theological language, this penance is called satisfaction and is defined, in the words of St. Thomas: "The payment of the temporal punishment due on account of the offence committed against God by sin" (Suppl. to Summa, Q. xii, a. 3). It is an act of justice whereby the injury done to the honour of God is required, so far at least as the sinner is able to make reparation (poena vindicativa); it is also a preventive remedy, inasmuch as it is meant to hinder the further commission of sin (poena medicinalis). Satisfaction is not, like contrition and confession, an essential part of the sacrament, because the primary effect, i.e., remission of guilt and eternal punishment-is obtained without satisfaction; but it is an integral part, because it is requisite for obtaining the secondary effect-i.e., remission of the temporal punishment. The Catholic doctrine on this point is set forth by the Council of Trent, which condemns the proposition: "That the entire punishment is always remitted by God together with the guilt, and the satisfaction required of penitents is no other than faith whereby they believe that Christ has satisfied for them..."

"As against the errors contained in these statements, the Council (Sess. XIV, c. viii) cites conspicuous examples from Holy Scripture. The most notable of these is the judgment pronounced upon David: "And Nathan said to David: the Lord also hath taken away thy sin: thou shalt not die. Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee, shall surely die" (II Kings, xii, 13, 14; cf. Gen., iii, 17; Num. xx, 11sqq.). David's sin was forgiven and yet he had to suffer punishment in the loss of his child. The same truth is taught by St. Paul (I Cor., xi, 32): "But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world". The chastisement here mentioned is a temporal punishment, but a punishment unto Salvation."

As with many RCC doctrines and practices, the sacrament of penance (as currently practiced) is a post-apostolic development. This is true despite the obvious mistranslation by Douay of Acts 2:38 to read "do penance" rather than "repent." CE - Penance further states: "The Council of Trent expressly declares that penance was at all times necessary for the remission of grievous sin. Theologians have questioned whether this necessity obtains in virtue of the positive command of God or independently of such positive precept. The weight of authority is in favor of the latter opinion."

 

The Bible Teaches Christ Fully Atones for Sin

As noted above, the RCC teaches that man must "make satisfaction for or expiate his sins." But, in the same paragraph, it also (rightly) teaches: "Christ . . . alone expiated our sins once for all" (CCC #1460).

Zondervan Bible Dictionary (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1963) gives this definition for expiation: "the act or means of making amends or reparation for sin. The word is to be distinguished from its correlative term, "propitiation." From the Bible viewpoint sin is looked upon as a failure to meet obligations, a failure for which satisfaction must be provided. "Expiation" speaks of this satisfaction. Sin is also looked upon as that which awakens on the part of God a righteous anger which must be set aside before He can and will deal with the sinner without imposing judgment upon him. "Propitiation" views satisfaction as appeasing the wrath of God. The sinner's guilt, then, is expiated by satisfaction (i.e. by a vicarious punishment). God is thereby rendered propitious; i.e. He is now able to pardon and bless the sinner."

The Bible teaches clearly that Christ alone is the expiation, propitiation, and atonement for man's sins. Furthermore, not only is man not required to make satisfaction/atonement for his sins, he is not able to do so by the RCC-suggested works of charity, almsgiving, etc. Such would be grossly insufficient to meet God's demands of satisfaction for sin because, according to Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death." Death is the price of satisfaction required by God because of His absolute righteous and holy nature. But, because of His loving and merciful nature, He provided One to pay that price in our stead.

Paul said, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed" (Romans 3:23-25). "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:8-10). Peter said, "Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19; see also 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Hebrews 2:17; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Man is not required to pay the price, and in fact, cannot pay the price. Jesus paid the price for us!

 

Man's Works Cannot Save or Satisfy God's Demands

The Bible teaches that Christ paid the full price for our sins at Calvary. To believe that good works are necessary to recover one's "full spiritual health" (CCC #1459) is to deny God's Word. Isaiah 64:6 says, "All our righteous deeds are like filthy garments." Paul wrote in Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."

Ephesians 2:8-10 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Our good works have nothing whatsoever to do with satisfying God's demands for our salvation; all those demands have been paid by the blood of Christ. Our good works come only as a demonstration of God's goodness and our joyful thanksgiving to Him.

 

No Further Requirements After Forgiveness

The RCC teaches that, even though sins are absolved by a priest, one must still make amends to God as a satisfaction for that sin. The RCC thereby appears to keep its members in a constant state of indebtedness to the Church. The Bible, however, teaches that God no longer holds our sins against us; there is no further indebtedness after sins are forgiven. Revelation 1:5 says that Christ "released us from our sins by His blood." Hebrews 8:12 says, "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." Hebrews 10:17-18 says, "And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin."

In the OT, a scapegoat was used in connection with the atonement of sins. After making atonement in the holy place, Aaron was to "lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat into the wilderness" (Leviticus 16:21-22). Thus the guilt of sins was far removed from the people.

In Psalm 103:10-13, David speaks of the extent of God's forgiveness: "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him."

God said in Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins." Hezekiah praised God for His forgetfulness regarding sin in Isaiah 38:17: "For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back." Micah as well expresses his thankfulness for such in Micah 7:18-19: "Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2 in Romans 4:7-8; he said, "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."

 

 

Purgatory

 

Origin of the Doctrine

The earliest reference to Purgatory is not precisely determined. CCC #1031 says: "The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent." The Denver Catholic Register (11/10/90) said: "That purgatory exists is a clear solemn teaching of our Catholic faith. This doctrine was taught in the Second Council of Lyon (1274) and by Pope Benedict XXII (sic) in his Benedictus Dei (1336). It is defined as a dogma which all Catholics must believe by the Council of Trent in 1563, and the Church has never changed a dogma of faith once it has been declared. A dogma only reaffirms what Catholics have always believed. Back in the 5th century St. Augustine wrote that 'the prayers of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice and alms distributed for the departed, relieve those holy souls and move God to treat them with more clemency than their sins deserve. It is a universal practice of the Church, a practice which she observes as having received it from her forefathers, that is to say - the holy Apostles."

 

A Place or State for Purification

As noted before, the RCC teaches that one must reach perfect sinlessness before being able to enter into Heaven. Those who have accomplished such during this lifetime will apparently be allowed to enter Heaven immediately upon death (such would also apparently be worthy of sainthood). Those who die in a state of grace (not guilty of mortal sin) but who have not yet attained perfection are sent to a place (or endure a state) called purgatory for further purification before entering heaven. CCC #954: "But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory." CCC #1030: "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." CCC #1031: "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect."

CE 12575a: "Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions... and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar... God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God... The Catholic doctrine of purgatory supposes the fact that some die with smaller faults for which there was no true repentance, and also the fact that the temporal penalty due to sin is at times not wholly paid in this life."

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "Such persons must then be cleansed in the next life before entering upon their eternal reward. This cleansing is done by penal afflictions, as even in this life it might have been completed by penal works of satisfaction; otherwise the negligent would be no better off than the careful, if the penalty that men do not pay here for their sins is not to be undergone by them in the life to come.' If there is no sort of purgation after death, why bother trying to atone for sin in this life?"

Liguorian, November 1981: "Q: Why does God demand more punishment in purgatory after death? It's almost as if God carries a grudge over the sins he forgave in life. What purposes does purgatory serve? A: Rather than look at purgatory as a punishment for sin, could we not look at it in a different way? First, our salvation is a growth into the likeness of God. Our process of spiritual growth is so slow. Each time we move forward three steps, we slip back two. Our whole life is a series of successes and failures. For this reason, it seems the process of becoming worthy of God cannot stop with death. After death, we will be confronted by the majesty of God's presence. We will realize with total clarity how far short we fell in becoming 'like God.' This realization will be a suffering for us. We will long to be what we should be, a longing so intense it will be like a burning pain. The image of fire in purgatory describes well this inner suffering. Purgatory is not arbitrary punishment but the final stage of spiritual growth. Purgatory is really God's love-gift for the sinner. Father John Fasrnik, C.SS.R."

As mentioned in the section on penance, Fulton Sheen, in his book The Seven Last Words of Christ, prayed to God, "Reconciliation is Thy work; atonement is mine." St. Peter's Catechism (1972, p. 19) states, "All the souls in purgatory will go to Heaven when they have atoned for their sins."

Session VI (Jan. 13, 1547) Canons On Justification Canon 30: "If anyone shall say that after the reception of the grace of justification, to every penitent sinner the guilt is so remitted and the penalty of eternal punishment so blotted out that no penalty of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in the world to come in purgatory before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened: let him be anathema."

 

Descriptions of Purgatory

There is little agreement concerning the specifics of Purgatory. Some say that it is a most awful place, others not. Some say it will last for perhaps hundreds of years, some but for a moment. St. Catherine of Siena thought that a day in Purgatory, in spite of the pain of separation from God experienced there, is happier than all of one's life put together. Bellarmine maintained that the punishments of purgatory are more severe, grievous and bitter than the greatest punishments of this world. Damien taught that the inhabitants of purgatory pass rapidly and painfully in baths ranging from cool to tepid, from torrid to frigid, from freezing to boiling. Thurcal said that the sufferers have to pass over a bridge studded with sharp nails with points upturned. The souls have to walk barefoot on this rough road and many ease their feet by using their hands. Others roll with the whole body on the perforating nails until, at last, bloodily pierced, they complete their way over the painful course. Thus, in due course, they escape to heaven.

CE 12575a: "At the Council of Florence, Bessarion argued against the existence of real purgatorial fire, and the Greeks were assured that the Roman Church had never issued any dogmatic decree on this subject. In the West the belief in the existence of real fire is common. Augustine in Ps. 37 n. 3, speaks of the pain which purgatorial fire causes as more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life, "gravior erit ignis quam quidquid potest homo pati in hac vita" (P. L., col. 397). Gregory the Great speaks of those who after this life "will expiate their faults by purgatorial flames," and he adds "'that the pain be more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life" (Ps. 3 poenit., n. 1). Following in the footsteps of Gregory, St. Thomas teaches (IV, dist. xxi, q. i, a.1) that besides the separation of the soul from the sight of God, there is the other punishment from fire. "Una poena damni, in quantum scilicet retardantur a divina visione; alia sensus secundum quod ab igne punientur", and St. Bonaventure not only agrees with St. Thomas but adds (IV, dist. xx, p.1, a.1, q. ii) that this punishment by fire is more severe than any punishment which comes to men in this life; "Gravior est oinni temporali poena. quam modo sustinet anima carni conjuncta". How this fire affects the souls of the departed the Doctors do not know, and in such matters it is well to heed the warning of the Council of Trent when it commands the bishops "to exclude from their preaching difficult and subtle questions which tend not to edification', and from the discussion of which there is no increase either in piety or devotion" (Sess. XXV, "De Purgatorio")."

From THE CATHOLIC VOICE, Oakland, CA 5/18/81, Question Box by Father John Dietzen: "Purgatory is still very much a part of our faith as every Sacrifice of the Mass and every other prayer for the dead attests. The hoary pictures of torture, pain and a scourging God which made of purgatory a kind of mini-hell may literally scare the devil out of someone, but they are totally irrelevant to the doctrine of purgatory. It is very possible that in the burst of awareness of the reality of God and creation that might occur immediately after death, the pain that comes from our knowledge of our sins and shortcomings might be so acute and intense that an entire purgatory - or cleansing, which is what the word purgatory means - could occur in an instant."

 

Bible Texts Used to Support the Doctrine

CE 12575a: "The proofs for the Catholic position, both in Scripture and in Tradition, are bound up also with the practice of praying for the dead. For why pray for the dead, if there be no belief in the power of prayer to afford solace to those who as yet are excluded from the sight of God?"

2 Maccabees 12:46: "It is a good and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they might be loosed from their sins." First, even if the Jews did pray for their dead, there is no Scripture that says they should have. Second, the passage speaks about people who died because of the sin of idolatry, which is, according to RCC teaching, a mortal sin; thus those people would have gone to Hell, not Purgatory. A footnote in the New American Bible (The New Catholic Translation) agrees that the belief stated in this verse "was similar, but not quite the same as, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory."

Furthermore, the last paragraph of this book shows that it is not inspired: "Author's Apology. Since Nicanor's doings ended in this way, with the city remaining in possession of the Hebrews from that time on, I will bring my own story to an end here too. If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do. Just as it is harmful to drink wine alone or water alone, whereas mixing wine with water makes a more pleasant drink that increases delight, so a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. Let this, then, be the end" (15:37-39). It is obvious that the writer claims to simply be writing a story; he claims no inspiration from God and sounds nothing like any inspired writer of Scripture.

1 Corinthians 3:15: "If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire." The context of the passage is spreading the gospel message. Some will reap the joyous reward of winning souls, and others will disappointed, but the one who so works for the Lord will himself still be saved. The RCC has often attempted to use this passage to support the doctrine of Purgatory. Again, however, a footnote in the NAB says, "The text of v 15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this." CE 12575a admits: "While this passage presents considerable difficulty, it is regarded by many of the Fathers and theologians as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved." Regarding this verse, the Catholic Truth Society writes in their book Purgatory, page 7, "Now this passage of St. Paul refers to the 'fire' of judgment at the last day and cannot refer directly to Purgatory, which will then cease to exist. But it has been used in the Church as an apt illustration of the doctrine of Purgatory."

Matthew 5:25: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, (lest)...thou be cast into prison." This prison, Catholic theologians say, alludes to Purgatory, but the verse cannot prove Purgatory since it is the imprisoned one who must pay the uttermost farthing. According to RCC theology on Purgatory, such payments are generally made by people while alive here on earth.

Matthew 12:32: "This sin...shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come." Note that it doesn't say any sin will be forgiven in the world to come, and Purgatory is not basically a place for sins to be forgiven, but for temporal punishment, unpaid on earth, to be exacted.

Matthew 18:34-35: "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." This passage is about our willingness to forgive others, not repaying a debt for sin.

2 Timothy 1:16-18: "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus...the Lord grant that he may find mercy in that day..." Some Catholics say "in that day" refers to Purgatory. Some say this is an example of the Catholic habit of eisegesis (bringing a doctrine to a text).

Revelation 21:27: "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth..." The usual statements are: (1) All have sinned. (2) No sin can enter Heaven. (3) There must be a place we can go in order to get rid of our sin. The answer to all three is a definite "Yes." The only question is where do we go to get rid of our sin? The answer: to Jesus for forgiveness.

 

The Bible Teaches Purification is Accomplished by Christ

The Latin "purgare" is from the Greek katharismos (Strong #2511), meaning "to cleanse, make clean, purge, purify." The word is found in numerous verses of Scripture; a few speak of that which we are to do in our own lives as we strive to mature and grow more Christ-like...

Paul encourages us to "cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). James says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8). John speaks of Christ's return and says, "Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3).

The word is most often used, however, in reference to what is/was done by Jesus and His sacrifice...

  • Ephesians 5:26-27 The church is cleansed by Christ and presented to Him "having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless."
  • Titus 2:14 Christ "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." Notice the good deeds come after being purified.
  • Hebrews 1:3 Christ "made purification of sins."
  • Hebrews 9:11-14, 22 Christ's blood cleanses us.
  • 2 Peter 1:9 We grow spiritually and do good things because we have already been purified.
  • 1 John 1:7-9 We are continually cleansed from all sin and unrighteousness by the blood of Christ if we walk in the light (walking in the light includes confession of sin to Him).

The Bible teaches nothing about a need for further purification for those who die in Christ; they have already been justified by Jesus. Several passages (already noted in the section on penance) teach that Christ alone is the expiation, propitiation, and atonement for man's sins...

  • Romans 3:23-25 Justification is a gift by God's grace through Jesus Christ.
  • Romans 5:8-10 Through Christ we are justified and saved from the wrath of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11 We are washed, justified, and sanctified by Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 Christ was sin on our behalf so that we could be righteous.
  • Hebrews 2:17 Christ is the High Priest who makes propitiation for the sins of the people.
  • 1 Peter 1:18-19 We were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
  • 1 John 2:2; 4:10 Christ is our Advocate and the propitiation for our sins.

All this seems quite contradictory to the RCC doctrine that says even though Christ paid it all, we still need undergo temporal punishment in order to purify ourselves to get into Heaven. Thus we ought to gladly rejoice in the good news that Christ did indeed pay the whole price for sin. We can gratefully acknowledge that we can stand before Him fully cleansed and purified, not by our own good deeds, but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ!

 

 

Indulgences

 

The Catechism on Indulgences and Temporal Punishment

CCC #1471: "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. 'An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.' Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead." CCC #1472: "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 the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the 'temporal punishment' of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain." CCC #1473: "The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the 'old man' and to put on the 'new man.'"

CCC #1475: "In the communion of saints, 'a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.' In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin." CCC #1476: "We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church's treasury, which is 'not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries. On the contrary the 'treasury of the Church' is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ's merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their effficacy.'" CCC #1477: "'This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.'" CCC #1478: "An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity." CCC #1479: "Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted. "

CCC #1498: "Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory."

CCC #1032: "This teaching is also based upon the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead."

 

Other Catholic Writers on Indulgences

From the Wanderer, Catholic Replies, 10/6/94: "An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sins that have already been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. This temporal punishment exists because 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. Indulgences are obtained through the Church, which opens to us the treasury of merits of Christ and the saints. The remission can be plenary or partial, depending on whether it removes all or only some of the temporal punishment attached to sin. The indulgence can be applied to the person performing the works of devotion, penance, and charity or to a soul in Purgatory. According to Pope Paul VI's 1967 Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, the conditions for obtaining a plenary indulgence are: the person must be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin; must perform the indulgenced work as perfectly as possible; and, within several days before or after doing so, must receive sacramental Confession and Eucharistic Holy Communion, and offer prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father. One Our Father and one Hail Mary would satisfy the latter requirement. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day and, if each condition is not fulfilled perfectly, the indulgence gained will only be partial. The number of indulgenced works and prayers was reduced by Paul VI in his 1968 Enchiridion Indulgentiarum to about 70. Some of these are good works, such as acts of charity for those in need, but most of them are traditional prayers and devotions. The previous practice of attaching a certain number of days or years to a specific task is no longer in effect."

John Hardon, in Catholic Catechism, writes, "As the church extended the mitigation, i.e., indulgence, in the form of equivalent prayers and good works, abuses crept in, and by the sixteenth century they had become the focus of justifiable criticism. 'Unfortunately,' admitted Paul VI, 'the practice of indulgences has at times been improperly used either through "untimely and superfluous indulgences" by which the power of the keys was humiliated and penitential satisfaction weakened, or through the collection of "illicit profits" by which indulgences were blasphemously defamed.' The Pontiff was paraphrasing the Council of Trent in its own denunciation of the 'traffic of indulgences' that helped provoke the Reformation."

The RCC also admits, "The Church has no certainty, nor do those who pray have any certainty that their prayers will infallibly assist this or that particular soul for whom the prayers are offered, nor that they will infallibly achieve an immediate effect." The Catholic Truth Society writes, "The Church has no jurisdiction in Purgatory. The Pope could not empty Purgatory by granting an indulgence" (Pargatory, D'Arcy, p. 14).

 

The Pope on Indulgences

On November 29, 1998, pope John Paul II issued a document, "The Mystery of the Incarnation," with an appendix explaining how Catholics can obtain indulgences: "The church will offer a plenary (full) indulgence during the coming Holy Year (December 24, 1999 to January 6, 2001). The requirements are much simpler than ever before, and their simplicity provoked displeasure from Catholic liberals. They see in this decree a return to "a calculating, egocentric approach to Christian destiny, where an individual is concerned primarily with the accumulation of spiritual 'credits.' While gaining a plenary indulgence during a Holy Year used to demand visiting one of the four major basilicas in Rome, this part of the penitential rite may be satisfied by visiting one of the cathedrals or other churches throughout the world designated by the local bishop. It is always, as usual, necessary to have gone or to go to Confession and Communion during the last seven days or in the proceeding seven days. An act of penance was always demanded, but during this Holy Year this can be met by one of the following: (1) Visiting people in need or in difficulty, and making a profession of faith and reciting the Lord's Prayer or a Marian prayer. (2) Abstaining for at least a whole day from unnecessary consumption, such as drinking alcohol or smoking, and giving the money saved to the poor. (3) Giving a "significant contribution" to religious or social works or (4) Devoting time to activities benefiting the community."

 

The Bible on Indulgences

Numerous passages of Scripture refuting this practice have already been cited in the sections on Penance and Purgatory. The Bible clearly shows that man cannot expiate or atone for his own sins or the sins of others; Christ alone is the expiation, propitiation, and atonement for man's sins. One other verse will be given here: "No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him - for the redemption of his soul is costly" (Psalm 49:7-8a).

 

 

The Sin of Presumption

 

The RCC Condemns Presumption of Salvation

CCC #2092: "There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God's almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit)."

St. Peter's Catechism further explains: "This is being absolutely sure of Heaven, regardless of future sins or works. This is a Mortal Sin, a sin against hope. We sin by presumption when we trust we can be saved 'without our own efforts.'"

In an article entitled, "Faith, Works and Justification" (Organ of the Roman Theological Forum), Brian W. Harrison said, "The Catholic Church understands the Bible as teaching that, since the eternal salvation of a Christian depends on his perseverance in both faith and good works until the end of his life, none of us can in this life be completely sure that he will eventually reach the eternal happiness of Heaven. There is a possibility that we will fall into grave (mortal) sin, and lose our soul forever. So we must remain "calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat" (1 Pt 5:8). St. Paul warns against presumption: "The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall" (1 Cor 10:12)~ and makes it clear that he himself has to make constant spiritual efforts: "for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified" (1 Cor 9:27). St. Paul also explicitly warns believers against "passing premature judgement" regarding their own spiritual status before God. He continues, "Leave that until the Lord comes: he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men's hearts. Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves from God" (1 Cor 4:5). Our Protestant brethren often tend to minimize or explain away such passages as these, placing selective emphasis on other passages where St. Paul shows great confidence in gaining his eternal crown of glory (e.g., 2 Tim 4:8; Rom 8:38-39). A balanced appraisal of all the relevant passages brings to light the Catholic doctrine: we should have great trust and confidence in the grace and mercy of God, who wishes us to be saved; but at the same time we must avoid the presumption of prematurely claiming an absolute certainty of our own personal salvation."

 

The Bible Teaches Confidence in Salvation

The RCC is correct in teaching against the commonly-held belief of "once saved, always saved no matter what." The Bible does indeed warn against rejecting Christ and failing to continue faithfully. However, the Bible does teach that faithful Christians can have confidence in their salvation; the confidence is in God's promises and Jesus' sacrifice, not in themselves.

1 John 5:11-13 says, "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." Earlier in the letter John wrote: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:6-7). It is God's will that we have great confidence in our eternal salvation as long as we are faithfully walking in the light. We are to be confident in the continual cleansing by the blood of Christ.

As Paul approached the end of his life, he spoke with great confidence regarding his eternal salvation. "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Was Paul guilty of the sin of presumption? James Drummey answers from the RCC perspective: "Presumption usually means that one expects to receive forgiveness from God without doing anything to deserve it, and even when deliberately enjoying a sinful life. St. Paul, on the other hand, had lived a very holy life since his conversion on the road to Damascus. He was not being presumptuous since he had indeed "kept the faith," even enduring five floggings, one stoning, three shipwrecks, numerous imprisonments, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, before he was finally beheaded. There are few people more deserving of the "merited crown" that awaited him in Heaven because of his fidelity to Christ" ("The Wanderer," Catholic Replies, 3/6/97, p. 3).

 

Conclusion

It may be that the issue of presumption is also related to the Catholic theology of the necessity of perfection. If indeed (as the RCC teaches) one must be perfectly sinless in order to enter into Heaven, then indeed it would be presumptuous for anyone to ever claim confidence is attaining such a high position. But it should be noted that Paul had great confidence, not in his own perfection or works of righteousness, but in the saving grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

 

 

An Offering of Christ

 

Instituted by Christ

Exodus 12 records the institution of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was to be a "memorial" for all future generations in memory of what God had done for them in delivering them from bondage. They were to take an unblemished lamb and slaughter it, apply the blood to the doorposts and lintel of their houses, and eat the flesh that remained. Verse 14 says, "Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance." Verse 17a adds, "You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt."

Matthew 26:17ff records how Jesus and His disciples gathered on the night before He would be sacrificed as the unblemished Lamb of God; together they celebrated the Passover meal. In the midst of that meal, Jesus took items common to that memorial feast, bread and wine, and used them to institute His own memorial of His sacrifice upon the cross.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Notice how that verse ends: "...do this in remembrance of Me." This is consistent with the Protestant understanding of the Lord's Supper as a memorial (rather than as a reenactment or subsequent offering to God of that original sacrifice as discussed below).

Paul continued in v25-26, "In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." Again, this is consistent with the understanding of the Lord's Supper as a remembrance of Christ's work at Calvary.

 

RCC on Frequency and Manner

It is generally agreed by Catholics and Protestants alike that the early Christians gathered every first day of the week to partake of the Lord's Supper. Acts 20:7 says, "And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread..." The RCC, on the other hand, states in CCC #1389: "The Church obliges the faithful "to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days" and, prepared by the sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season. But the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily."

Furthermore, it is evident that Christ instituted the Lord's Supper to include two elements: bread and wine (Matthew 26:27-27). However, CCC #1390 says: "Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But 'the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.' This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites."

 

RCC Teaches that the Mass is a Re-Offering of the Sacrifice of Christ

CE - Sacrifice of the Mass: "In regard to the physical character there arises not only the question as to the concrete portions of the liturgy, in which the real offering lies hidden, but also the question regarding the relation of the Mass to the bloody sacrifice of the Cross. To begin with the latter question as much the more important, Catholics and believing Protestants alike acknowledge that as Christians we venerate in the bloody sacrifice of the Cross the one, universal, absolute Sacrifice for the salvation of the world. And this indeed is true in a double sense first, because among all the sacrifices of the past and future the Sacrifice on the Cross alone stands without any relation to, and absolutely independent of, any other sacrifice, a complete totality and unity in itself; second because every grace, means of grace and sacrifice, whether belonging to the Jewish, Christian or pagan economy, derive their whole undivided strength, value, and efficiency singly and alone from this absolute sacrifice on the Cross. The first consideration implies that all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, as well as the Sacrifice of the Mass, bear the essential mark of relativity, in so far as they are necessarily related to the Sacrifice of the Cross, as the periphery of a circle to the centre."

CCC #1365-1367: "Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: "This is my body which is given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood."[185] In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit: [Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit. The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.""

Many non-Catholics have misunderstood this doctrine and have erroneously believed Catholics teach that Christ is re-sacrificed on the cross at each mass. The RCC, however, actually teaches that the same (not another) sacrifice of Christ on the cross is re-presented before Catholics and before God at each mass. Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice when He died on the cross; the RCC teaches that it is that same (timeless) sacrifice that Christ offers again at each mass.

 

Purpose of Re-Offering the Sacrifice

The Council of Trent stated: "Therefore, the holy Council teaches that this sacrifice is truly propitiatory, so that, if we draw near to God with an upright heart and true faith, with fear and reverence, with sorrow and repentance, through it 'we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.' For the Lord, appeased by this oblation, grants grace and the gift repentance, and he pardons wrong-doings and sins, even grave ones" (Session 22, 2).

This explanation was given at Vatican II: "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his body and blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47).

John A. O'Brien, in The Faith of Millions, said, "The manner in which the sacrifices are offered is alone different: on the Cross Christ really shed his blood and was really slain; in the Mass, however, there is no real shedding of blood, no real death; but the separate consecration of the bread and of the wine symbolizes the separation of the body and blood of Christ and thus symbolizes his death upon the Cross. The Mass is the renewal and perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross in the sense that it offers [Jesus] anew to God . . and thus commemorates the sacrifice of the Cross, reenacts it symbolically and mystically, and applies the fruits of Christ's death upon the Cross to individual human souls. All the efficacy of the Mass is derived, therefore, from the sacrifice of Calvary" (p. 306).

Robert Sungenis, in an article entitled "Christ's Sacrifice in the Mass Once for All" (September/October 1999 issue of Envoy magazine), said, "This means the sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood (under the appearance of bread and wine) is offered to God in order to appease Him for sins we've committed, and to receive grace from Him to keep from sinning again."

Sungenis points out that, in the sacrifice on the cross, "...God opens up an avenue of grace that can enable man to repent of his sins and reconcile with Him." He states: "Christ's suffering and death did not "pay" for man's sins. Rather, they were a pleading to God to pull back His wrath and offer His grace to man." Thus, he concludes, "At the Mass, Christ's one sacrifice on the cross is made present again. The priest offers it up as a propitiation, to appease God for the sins we commit in our lives. In exchange for this offering, the Father gives us the grace to remain His children, the grace to keep ourselves from sin. And all of this, because Christ has entered the Most Holy Place once for all."

The RCC rightly teaches that we put on Christ in baptism and enter a state of grace. The RCC further teaches that the Mass is a means of acquiring more grace. Thus it is termed a sacrament; according to CE - Sacraments, "Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification." A sacrament then is a means by which grace is bestowed, a way of getting more grace; the RCC teaches that grace is given little by little, in portions rather than one complete gift.

CE - Sacrifice of the Mass: "Since, according to the present economy of salvation, no sin whatsoever, grievous or trifling, can be forgiven without an act of sorrow, we must confine the efficacy of the Mass, even in the case of venial sins, to obtaining for Christians the grace of contrition for less serious sins." In other words, grace is bestowed that will help the recipient, whether living or dead, to increase in sanctity.

The CE further states that the effects or benefits of the Mass are generally applied to those present or it can be "...applied to particular living or deceased persons according to the intention of the celebrant or the donor of a stipend."

Perhaps a reasonable distinction between the Catholic and Protestant views is as follows... When Protestants partake of the Lord's Supper, they generally contemplate that Christ died because they are not perfect and therefore not good enough on their own to enter into eternal life. Catholics, on the other hand, when partaking of the Eucharist, perhaps generally contemplate on their belief that doing so will give them further grace to help them (or others if vicarious) to become perfect and thus good enough to enter into eternal life.

 

Christ Offered One Sacrifice for All Time

The RCC suggests primarily two passages from the book of Hebrews in defense of their position that Christ continues to offer sacrifices. Hebrews 8:1-3 and 9:23-24 refer to the plural "sacrifices" made by Christ, the High Priest of the new covenant. Robert Sungenis (in the above-mentioned article) states concerning 9:24: "This verse shows that the sacrifices are occurring now in heaven, where Christ is offering them in the presence of God Himself. Clearly then, the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross doesn't rule out His continual offering of sacrifices to God in heaven. If it did, Hebrews 9:23-24 would be in contradiction... What do sacrifices do? We've already learned from St. Thomas that they're designed to appease God for our sins. Whenever Christ offers sacrifice, it's to propitiate God for our sins, only now, it's occurring in heaven in the presence of the Father... According to Hebrews 8:1-3, however, Christ's high priesthood is continuing even now." Sungenis goes on to refer to Hebrews 2:17 and 1 John 2:1 and says the propitiation is ongoing. He says, "Hebrews 2:17 uses a present tense Greek verb for "propitiation." The present tense means that the propitiation is ongoing (for the purpose of appeasing God for the present "sins of the people")... According to John, we need a continual propitiation for our present and future sins."

The RCC emphasizes the use of the plural "sacrifices" as evidence of Christ continuing to offer Himself over and over again. Protestant scholars would note, however, that one should not make such a conclusion simply on such a manner of speech. It is not uncommon to alter an otherwise singular term into a plural one in order to fit the plurality of other part of the verse. Milligan, in his commentary on Hebrews, suggests Luke 16:9 as an example of such and says, "The plural is put for the singular by synecdoche, because of the plurality of the Levitical sacrifices which are spoken of in the same verse."

Furthermore, that there is an ongoing propitiation for sins in not in dispute. The RCC teaches that Christ (by way of the Catholic mass) makes continual offerings of His sacrifice. But the propitiation of Christ is not continual, meaning repeated over and over consistent with the time of the masses. It is rather continuous, meaning that there is a constant (with no interruption) application of the cleansing blood of Christ's sacrifice. Thus it is true that the propitiation of Christ is ongoing and continuous, not because of further and continual offerings of the mass, but because of that one perfect sacrifice on the cross. That sacrifice was offered one time before the Father and its power remains constant. Furthermore, in contrast to the RCC suggestion that the mass gives repetitive help to overcome sin, the Bible teaches that Christians have the constant (again, with no interruption) help of the Holy Spirit to grow spiritually and to overcome sin.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 1 Peter 2:24 says, "And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." (See also Isaiah 53.)

Hebrews 7:27 says, "[Christ] 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." The priests under the Law offered up animal sacrifices on a daily basis to make atonement for the sins of the people. The people sinned daily, thus making daily sacrifices under the Old Law a necessity. The Hebrew writer, however, states that the sacrifice of Christ Himself was singular and sufficient.

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." While scholars have suggested various meanings to the "greater and more perfect tabernacle," it seems reasonable that the writer is comparing the inferior sacrifices of the animals to the supreme sacrifice of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. As the priests entered the holy place to offer sacrifices, so also did Christ symbolically do so in offering His own blood. Notice again that such was done "once for all."

Hebrews 9:25-28 also refers to this issue. Just as men die only once, so also did Christ die only once. He did not "offer Himself often," but rather He was "offered once to bear the sins of many." This again relates to the point that Christ's sacrifice was far superior to those of bulls and goats. His shed blood, offered that one time only, was sufficient to cleanse all sins for all time to all who accept that cleansing power.

Hebrews 10:12 says, "[Christ], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God." V18 says, "Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin." Finally, Paul said in Romans 6:9-10, "Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God."

 

 

Transubstantiation

 

A Literal Application of Jesus' Words

The RCC teaches that the bread and wine, at the command of the priest during mass, miraculously change into the actual body and blood of Christ as was sacrificed. This is based primarily on a literal interpretation of John 6:53-58, where Jesus talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

 

The RCC Teaches the Real Presence of Christ

CCC #1374-1377: "The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares: It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered. And St. Ambrose says about this conversion: Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed.... Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature. The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ."

 

Bread and Wine are Today Called the Body and Blood

Catholics generally refrain from referring to the bread and wine of the Eucharist as such. Since they believe there to be a literal transformation into the physical body and blood of Christ, they generally use such words to describe such. However, it should be noticed that the CCC, in referring to the celebration in the 2nd century, does not follow that practice. CCC #1345 says: "As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration... When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss. Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren. He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts. When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.' When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.

 

Literal or Figurative?

The RCC interprets John 6 literally, but Jesus often spoke in a figurative manner: "I am the bread of life (just a few verses earlier in the same chapter); I am the door; I am the vine; I am the light; I am the good Shepherd..." Speaking in a figurative manner is quite common.

It is further argued that Jesus' words must be taken literally to explain why some decided to turn away. Indeed it would cause some to turn away if they took Jesus' words to mean truly eating real flesh and drinking real blood. After all, such would be most distasteful for the Jews (and against the Law). But perhaps even more are turned away from following Jesus (then and still today) by the demands of being so completely filled with Jesus. Jesus elsewhere said that we need to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33), and that the cost is giving our all back to Him.

Jesus said that He is the bread that gives life, and that such is necessary to sustain spiritual life. Thus it seems reasonable that, when He said that we need to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He likely meant that we need to make His life to be our life. We need to fully partake of Him and accept Him and His ways; we need to be completely filled with Him and be completely committed to Him! Sadly, that was and is too high a price for many to pay.

 

Points Contrary to a Literal Application to the Eucharist

  • The RCC teaches that the Eucharist is a means of obtaining grace and is thus a source of spiritual and eternal life; v48 says that Jesus, not the Eucharist, is the source of spiritual and eternal life.
  • V53 says that one who does not fully partake of Him will not have eternal life; a literal interpretation in regards to the Eucharist would make partaking of such an absolute requirement.
  • V54 says that one who does fully partake of Him will have eternal life. This, however, cannot be literally said in regards to those who partake of the Lord's Supper (the Eucharist, as taught by the RCC). 1 Corinthians 11:27ff speaks of those who did so in an unworthy manner and were thus apparently spiritually weak and dead.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:16 says, "Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer."

 

Questions to Consider

How was it possible for the physical body of Christ to be fully present at the Last Supper in both the human body of Christ and in the bread and the wine? And how is it possible for the physical body of Christ to be actually and completely present in both species (the bread and the wine; wouldn't that be 2 complete Christs?)? And if He is complete in one species, how is He "more complete when given under both kinds" (CCC #1390)? How is it possible for the physical body of Christ to be actually and completely present at different masses at the same time? How can it be that the sacrifice of the mass "is offered in an unbloody manner" (CCC #1367) if it is the same sacrifice as that of the cross? If the one, original sacrifice was bloody, then an unbloody sacrifice must be something more than just a re-presentation of the same sacrifice of the cross. There is no denying that Christ as spirit is omnipresent, but the RCC teaches that His physical body and blood were and are present. Catholics respond by saying that such things "cannot be apprehended by the senses" (CCC #1381) and should not be questioned, that they are mysteries and should be accepted by faith. But the RCC gives specific teachings on this issue, teachings which invite an academic and sensible examination of the issue.

What is the theological necessity of continued offerings of the one sacrifice on the cross? It has already been offered up to God for all sins of all time. Why must it be offered again and again? Does God somehow forget or cease to apply the cleansing blood of that initial sacrifice? The NT shows that the Lord's Supper is a memorial for us as Christians, but the RCC seems to teach that it is for God, that it is something He requires in order for our sins to be forgiven once again.

 

 

Veneration of Mary and other Saints

Bible Teaching on Saints

According to Scripture, anyone who is born again by faith in Christ is rightly called a saint. Numerous passages of Scripture attest to such:

  • "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7).
  • "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8).
  • "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints" (Jude 1:14).
  • "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12).
  • "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:21).
  • See also Acts 9:13; 9:32; 9:41; 26:10; Romans 8:27; 12:13; 15:25; 15:26; 15:31; 16:2; 16:15; 1 Corinthians 6:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, plus dozens of other New Testament references.

 

RCC Teaching on Saints

CCC #828: "Catholicism teaches that a saint is one of a select few who, because of good works while alive, is declared a saint after death: "By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.""

CE - Beatification and Canonization: "The true origin of canonization and beatification must be sought in the Catholic doctrine of the worship (cultus), invocation, and intercession of the saints. As was taught by St. Augustine (Quaest. in Heptateuch., lib. II, n. 94; Contra Faustum, lib. XX, xxi), Catholics, while giving to God alone adoration strictly so-called, honour the saints because of the Divine supernatural gifts which have earned them eternal life, and through which they reign with God in the heavenly fatherland as His chosen friends and faithful servants. In other words, Catholics honour God in His saints as the loving distributor of supernatural gifts. The worship of latria, or strict adoration, is given to God alone; the worship of dulia, or honour and humble reverence, is paid the saints; the worship of hyperdulia, a higher form of dulia, belongs, on account of her greater excellence, to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church (Aug., Contra Faustum, XX, xxi, 21; cf. De Civit. Dei, XXII, x) erects her altars to God alone, though in honour and memory of the saints and martyrs. There is Scriptural warrant for such worship in the passages where we are bidden to venerate angels (Ex., xxiii, 20 sqq.; Jos., v, 13 sqq.; Dan., viii, 15 sqq.; x, 4 sqq.; Luke, ii, 9 sqq.; Acts, xii, 7 sqq.; Apoc., v, 11 sqq.; vii, 1 sqq.; Matt., xviii, 10; etc.), whom holy men are not unlike, as sharers of the friendship of God."

CCC #971: "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship."

Catholics state that they do not worship Mary and the saints; the RCC prefers to use the word "veneration." According to Webster's dictionary, venerate means "to regard or treat with reverence." The same dictionary says that worship means "reverence for God, a sacred personage, or a sacred object." Thus, veneration is quite similar to worship. It is to show a reverence for something or someone, apparently something beyond respect. We rightly show respect to many people. Reverence, on the other hand, is the utmost respect and awe to be shown to God, for "holy and reverend is His name" (Psalm 111:9).

 

Bible Teaching on Worship/Veneration

Numerous passages show that God Almighty and His Son Jesus Christ are to be exalted:

  • "Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth" (Psalm 57:5).
  • "Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all" (1 Chronicles 29:11).
  • "...let the God of my salvation be exalted" (Psalm 18:46).
  • "Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength" (Psalm 21:13).
  • "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10).
  • "...the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted" (Psalm 47:9).
  • "The LORD is exalted; for he dwelleth on high" (Isaiah 33:5).
  • "I will not give my glory unto another" (Isaiah 48:11).
  • "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him (Jesus), and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth" (Philippians 2:9-10).
  • "And he (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).
  • "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain (Jesus) to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5:12).
  • "...that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever" (1 Peter 4:11).
  • "Him (Jesus) hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31).

Jesus Himself seemed to condemn the undue veneration of His earthly mother. Luke 11:27-27 says, "And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed. But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those that hear the word of God, and observe it.""

 

RCC Teaches Veneration of Images

CCC #1161: "Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets."

CCC #1192 "Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented."

 

Bible (OT) Teaching on Images

Protestants usually cite several passages that forbid the use and veneration of idols or graven images:

  • "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" (Exodus 20:4).
  • "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:5).
  • "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves... Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female" (Deuteronomy 4:15-16).
  • "Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee" (Deuteronomy 4:23).
  • "Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth" (Deuteronomy 16:22).

 

The Ten Commandments

The 10 commandments are listed differently by Catholics than by Protestants. The typical non-Catholic way of listing the 10 commandments follows the most natural way of dividing them. To abbreviate from Ex 20:3-17: 1. No other gods (v3). 2. No idols (v4-6). 3. Not take His name in vain (v7). 4. Remember the Sabbath (v8-11). 5. Honor father and mother (v12). 6. Not murder (v13). 7. Not commit adultery (v14). 8. Not steal (v15). 9. Not bear false witness (v16). 10. Not covet (v17).

The RCC does a very curious thing; it does not list the condemning of idols as a command. Instead, it jumps to "Not take His name in vain" and lists it as #2. Then, in order to still arrive at a total of 10, it separates v17 into two separate commands. The Catechism cites the ninth commandment as: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's." CCC #2514 then states, "St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. In the Catholic catechetical tradition, the ninth commandment forbids carnal concupiscence; the tenth forbids coveting another's goods.

The Catechism then cites the tenth commandment as: "You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor's..." CCC #2534 then states: "The tenth commandment unfolds and completes the ninth, which is concerned with concupiscence of the flesh. It forbids coveting the goods of another, as the root of theft, robbery, and fraud, which the seventh commandment forbids. "Lust of the eyes" leads to the violence and injustice forbidden by the fifth commandment. Avarice, like fornication, originates in the idolatry prohibited by the first three prescriptions of the Law. The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart; with the ninth, it summarizes all the precepts of the Law."

Notice that the same verse is repeated, but somehow it becomes a different command!? This seems illogical. Again, Protestants acknowledge that v17 naturally speaks of one simple command forbidding coveting. Several examples are listed: your neighbor's house, his wife, his servants, his donkey, or anything that belongs to him. Despite what the RCC has determined, God did not say to somehow divide this one sentence into two commands.

Protestant scholars ponder the reason why the RCC felt it necessary to contrive one commandment into two in order to somewhat overlook another. Actually, the command forbidding idols is mentioned as a final point regarding the first command. In order to justify the adoption of images, CCC #2131 says: "Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images." CCC #2132 then says: "The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols." In other words, it was agreed that God forbade such originally, but since Jesus came as a man, it must now be permissible.

It appears that the veneration of images was not a part of the early church, but was rather a development of about the 4th century. Some have suggested that it was about that time that Catholics began to take possession of many of the heathen temples. Rather than destroy the beautiful statues therein, it was decided to alter their representation for pagan gods to the apostles, Mary, and angels. Later this was expanded to include those declared to be saints.

 

 

Praying to Mary and other Saints

 

The RCC Teaches Praying to Mary and the Saints

The RCC refers to the "communion of saints;" this designation is intended to include all Catholics, both living and dead. The RCC teaches (as discussed under the section on indulgences) that the prayers and good works of the living can benefit those who have already died. It likewise teaches that Mary and the dead saints can hear the prayers of the living and intercede before God on their behalf. CCC #957: "Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ..."

CE - Beatification and Canonization: "And if St. Paul beseeches the brethren (Rom., xv, 30; II Cor., i, 11; Col., iv, 3; Ephes., vi, 18, 19) to help him by their prayers for him to God, we must with even greater reason maintain that we can be helped by the prayers of the saints, and ask their intercession with humility. If we may beseech those who still live on earth, why not those who live in heaven?"

CCC #2675: "Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries. In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another: the first "magnifies" the Lord for the "great things" he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused." CCC #2677: "By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the 'Mother of Mercy,' the All-Holy One... May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise."

CCC #2679: "MARY is the perfect Orans (PRAY-er), a figure of the Church. When we PRAY to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus' mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can PRAY with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of MARY and united with it in hope." CCC #2683: "The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives... They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world."

 

The Bible Teaches Praying to God

  • "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:3).
  • "And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Psalm 50:15).
  • "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:22).
  • "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice" (Psalm 55:17).
  • "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (Psalm 145:18).
  • "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6).
  • "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
  • "As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me" (Psalm 55:16).
  • "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

 

 

Mary: Mother of God

 

RCC Teaching on Mary, Jesus, and God

CCC #495: "Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus", Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord". In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos)."

From the Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius: "So then he who had an existence before all ages and was born of the Father, is said to have been born according to the flesh of a woman, not as though his divine nature received its beginning of existence in the holy Virgin, for it needed not any second generation after that of the Father (for it would be absurd and foolish to say that he who existed before all ages, coeternal with the Father, needed any second beginning of existence), but since, for us and for our salvation, he personally united to himself an human body, and came forth of a woman, he is in this way said to be born after the flesh. . . This the declaration of the correct faith proclaimed everywhere. This was the sentiment of the holy Fathers; therefore they ventured to call the holy Virgin, the Mother of God, not as if the nature of the Word or his divinity had its beginning from the holy Virgin, but because of her was born that holy body with a rational soul, to which the Word being personally united is said to be born according to the flesh."

From Catholic Answers, Inc.: "Since Mary is Jesus' mother, the fact that she is also the Mother of God is inescapable, for if Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the Mother of God. There is no way out of this logical syllogism, whose valid form was recognized by classical logicians since before the time of Christ. Mary is thus the Mother of God not in the sense that she is older than God or the source of the Son's divinity (for she is neither), but in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine Person-Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)--and in the sense that she contributed genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ."


The Logical Syllogism

The quote just given mentioned a logical syllogism; it is as follows: 1) Mary was/is the mother of Jesus. 2) Jesus is God. 3) Therefore, Mary was/is the mother of God. All Christians acknowledge the truth of the first premise (although Protestants would generally clarify that Mary was simply the earthly mother of Jesus). Furthermore, most Christians also acknowledge the truth of the second premise even if they don't fully agree on the specifics. A brief consideration of this point will here be given...

 

Names of God

To better understand the nature of Jesus, it is helpful to first consider what the Bible says about God. Several names are given in Scripture for God. In the OT, the Hebrew word Elohim (Strong #430) is found 2606 times and is translated as "God." Its form is plural (seemingly indicating a plural of majesty and divinity), though its construction is singular. The singular form Eloah (Strong #433), found only 57 times, is used generally as an expression in poetry and is found most often in the book of Job. Corresponding to that is Elah (Strong #246), which is found 95 times in the Aramaic passages of the OT.

The word El (Strong #410) is found 245 times and was a common designation for deity in general, whether the one true God or other gods. Thus it is often combined with other terms to identify God (El Shadday, etc.). Also found numerous times is the Hebrew word Adhon (Strong #113, 334 times) or Adhonay (Strong #136, 439 times), which means "lord" or "master."

The most commonly used and distinctive word used in reference to God is the tetragrammaton YHWH (Strong #3068, found 6828 times), which is transliterated into English as Jehovah or Yahweh. This is the name by which God was to be known to the generations of Israel, as given to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15: "And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" And God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD (YHWH), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations."" "I AM" is derived from the verb "to be" (hayah, from which is derived YHWH), and thus refers to the eternal nature and self-existence of God. The Jews would not pronounce this name, however, but instead would say Adhonay (Lord). Accordingly, it is generally translated in Scripture as Lord (in many translations rendered LORD or LORD; a few use the transliteration Jehovah).

The Hebrew Elohim (and at times YHWH) is typically translated as theos (Strong #2316) in the Greek Septuagint (an example of such can be found in Matthew 22:32 where Exodus 3:6 is quoted). The Hebrew Adhonay and YHWH (Jehovah or Yahweh) are typically translated into Greek as kurios (Strong #2962). In the Greek NT, theos is usually translated into English as "God"; kurios is usually translated as "Lord." Thus the following generally applies: Elohim = Theos = God; Adhonay and YHWH (Jehovah or Yahweh) = Kurios = Lord.

 

Jesus is called God

Deuteronomy 6:4 says, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" The Jews developed the practice of reciting these words twice a day (called the Shema). Indeed in the midst of a world full of man-made gods, Jehovah God stands as the one true God. In Exodus 20:2-6, He commanded Israel to have no other gods before Him. When asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5, affirming His conviction that God is the one Lord (Mark 12:29-32). He did so once again in John 17:3 when He prayed to "the one true God."

And yet the Bible also refers to Jesus as God:

  • John 1:1 "the Word (logos-context shows this to refer to Jesus) was God (theos)"
  • John 20:28 Thomas called Jesus "my Lord (kurios) and my God (theos)"
  • Hebrews 1:8 (quotation of Psalm 45:6-7) Jesus the Son is called "God (theos)"
  • Titus 2:13 "our great God (theos) and Savior, Christ Jesus"
  • 2 Peter 1:1 "our God (theos) and Savior, Jesus Christ"
  • 1 John 5:20 "...the Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God (theos) and eternal life."

Notice that Jesus is referred to several times as theos. Again, as already shown, this is generally the same as the Hebrew word elohim, the plural word for God and divine majesty. In Genesis 1:26, the Bible says: "Then God (elohim) said, "Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness" (see also Genesis 11:7). This plural form may be intended then by the use of theos in referring to Jesus, the Son of God. Regardless, these verses show that both the Father (Jehovah or Yahweh to Israel) and the Son are to be considered to have the nature of divinity, the nature of God (elohim). There is indeed only one true God, but apparently (in a way that is difficult to understand as humans), He consists of both the Father and the Son. Indeed the Lord (YHWH) is God (Elohim), and so also is His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Conclusion

To refer to Mary as the mother of God implies (to those ignorant of RCC teaching) that the RCC teaches that Mary is somehow the mother of God the Father. But such is apparently not the intent of the RCC on this issue. It is true that Scripture says that Jesus is God/theos/elohim. But theos/elohim means divine majesty. Is it theologically accurate to say that Mary was/is the mother of divine majesty? No; in fact, the RCC appears to deny such. So what is the purpose of calling Mary the mother of God? Protestants would say that it serves only to create confusion and to needlessly elevate the stature of Mary.

 

 

Mary: Perpetual Virgin

 

The RCC Teaches that Mary was Always a Virgin

CCC #499: "And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the 'Ever-virgin.'"

CCC #510: "Mary remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin." Notice the RCC defines virginity in a unique manner; it actually teaches that Mary not only never had marital relations, but also that she remained physically intact even throughout childbirth!

However, in referring to the perpetual virginity of Mary, Burghardt states, "...the data at hand do not reveal that the Christian West at the dawn of the fourth century was conscious of an obligation to represent Mary as a virgin, save for the years before Bethlehem" (Carol, Mariology, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1954. Vol 1, p. 128).

 

The Bible Teaches that Mary Did Not Remain a Virgin

"And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin UNTIL she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus." Matthew 1:24-25

But the Bible gives 12 specific passages/verses that show that Mary bore other children: Matthew 12:46; 13:55; Mark 3:31-35; 6:3; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12; 7:3; 7:5; 7:10; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Galations 1:19.

CCC #500 responds by saying: "The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, 'brothers of Jesus,' are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ..."

Protestant scholars would respond further by citing two Greek words that could have been used if cousin was actually intended rather than brother: anepsios (Strong #431) and sungenis (Strong #4773). Surely, had Mary truly been the eternal virgin as she is purported to have been, the Holy Spirit would have inspired the use of such words to avoid the inevitable confusion.

 

 

Mary: Sinless From Birth

 

The Bible Teaches that Mary was Highly Favored

In Luke 1:28, an angel said to Mary, "Hail, favored one (kecharitomene - from Strong #5487)!" Then in v30, the angel said again that Mary had "found favor with God" (both these quotes are directly from the NAB; interestingly, the Saint Joseph Edition, a Catholic Bible, has a footnote that says v28 is omitted in some notable MSS).

Some prefer to translate kecharitomene as "full of grace" (as rendered in some Catholic Bibles). Thayer gives this definition: "1. To make graceful i.e. charming, lovely, agreeable. 2. To pursue with grace, compass with favor; to honor with blessings." Strong says it means: "to grace, i.e. indue with special honor; make accepted, be highly favoured." In other words, the meaning of the word is consistent with the practice of honoring Mary as a special person in history. Protestants indeed agree that Mary was highly favored to be chosen as the earthly mother of Jesus. But Protestants also acknowledge that, as special as Mary was in her role, there is no further mention of her in Scripture after Acts 1:14.

The RCC teaches that being "full of grace" means that Mary was sinless (perhaps in connection with their teaching that grace is given little by little to help one become sinless). Protestants, however, believe that all those who are Christians are full of grace. We don't need a little grace, we need to be full of grace, because without the grace of God we stand guilty of sin and can have no relationship with Him. Furthermore, God wonderfully keeps us in a state of grace, and away from the stain of sin, as long as we are walking in the light (1 John 1:7). Thank God that we can all be thus favored with His grace that comes through Jesus Christ.

 

The RCC Teaches Mary was Sinless

CCC #490-493 "To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: 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 of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. The "splendour of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son". The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love". The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature". By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long."

CCC #722 states that Mary had to be sinless in order for her to be a fitting vessel for the sinless Christ: "The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" should herself be "full of grace." She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty."

 

Statement by Pope

On December 8, 1854 Venerable Pope Pius IX solemnly defined the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a dogma of faith in the bull Ineffabilis Deus. The decree of the bull reads:

"Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ Our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and our own, We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her Conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

"Our Lady was "full of grace" (Lk 1:28) from the first instance of her existence. She always possessed the Divine life of God within her soul. God bestowed this "singular grace and privilege" upon Mary because He had predestined her to be the Mother of the Divine Savior.

"The Fathers of the Church spoke of the sinlessness of Mary, but they did not explicitly assert that she was free from original sin. But the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception was implied in many of their statements. St. Ephraem wrote that "Certainly you alone and your Mother are from every aspect completely beautiful, for there is no blemish in thee, my Lord, and no stain in thy Mother."

"During the Middle Ages, many theologians opposed the belief that the Virgin Mary was always free from original sin. (The Church had not taught it as a revealed doctrine at that time.) Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan theologian, made a significant advance in the development of the theology of the Immaculate Conception. He indicated that Mary could have been and indeed was pre-redeemed by Christ. In other words, the remarkable grace of the Immaculate Conception was accorded to the Virgin Mary in view of the redemption that Christ was to effect for the human race. Our Lady therefore was "pre-redeemed" by the anticipatory merits that Christ would win through the Cross.

"The royal House of Spain exerted much influence on the Papacy in support of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. And the Society of Jesus made important contributions in defending and promoting the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The Papacy proved to be more and more receptive to the doctrine over the centuries culminating in Pope Pius IX's solemn definition of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

"Two authentic private revelations in 19th century France aided in the spread of popular devotion to the Immaculate Conception: The Holy Virgin's gift of the Miraculous Medal (originally known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception) to St. Catherine Laboure and the apparition of the Immaculate."

 

Historical Teaching on Mary

Donald Flanagan, in "The Theology of Mary" (published by Clergy Book Service w/imprimatur), said, "Mary's holiness is viewed as an exception to a universal law of sinfulness... In the writings of some of the Fathers we find certain reservations about Mary's complete holiness expressed. Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Chrysotom find certain faults in her, like motherly ambition or wavering in her faith... Some of the greatest names in the history of Christian theology took sides against the doctrine, e.g., Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure. Their reason for opposition was their fear that to say that Mary was without sin was to say she was not in need of Christ as her Redeemer."

Flanagan went on to say, "Mary occupies a peripheral place in the gospels. She does not appear as a public figure taking part in Jesus' public mission in an official capacity. The evangelist John underlines this point very clearly in the way he constructs his gospel. He very significantly introduces Mary at the opening of the public life of Jesus Christ at Cana, and then very pointedly re-introduces her at the Cross when Christ has already been 'lifted up' (Jn. 12:32) and all is accomplished. The one who accomplishes all is the Son. Mary appears in the gospels basically as a hearer and a doer of the word (cf. Lk. 11:28). She is disciple, follower of Christ, receiver of his grace. She is not a redeeming or saving figure. The praise which Jesus directs at her during his public life focuses precisely on her fidelity in hearing and keeping the word of God."

Some scholars have stated that many of the church fathers, as well as many early popes, opposed this doctrine (such as St. Bernard, St. Augustine, St. Peter Lombard, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Antonius). Pope Leo I (440) said: "The Lord Jesus Christ alone among the sons of men was born immaculate" (Sermon 24 in Nativ. Dom.). Pope Gelasius (492) said: "It belongs alone to the Immaculate Lamb to have no sin at all" (Gelassii Papae Dicta, vol. 4, col.1241, Paris 1671).

 

The Bible Teaches that Christ Alone was Sinless

  • "For he hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
  • "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10).
  • "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12).
  • "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).
  • "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin" (Galatians 3:22).
  • "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us... If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:8, 10).

Furthermore, the Bible says that Mary needed a Savior. "And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:46-47). The RCC responds by saying that Jesus saved her from original sin and kept her from never sinning, but that as well contradicts basic Scriptural teaching that we need a Savior because of sin. If Mary never sinned, then she didn't need a Savior.

 

 

Mary: Co-Redeemer

 

The RCC Teaches that Mary is the Cause of Salvation

CCC #494: "At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace: As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race." Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith." Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."

CCC #966 speaks of Mary's assumption: ""Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians: In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death."

CCC #967-970 teaches that Mary "...is our Mother in the order of grace. By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to his Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity. Thus she is a "preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church"; indeed, she is the "exemplary realization" (typus) of the Church. Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace." "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation .... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it." "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.""

CCC #1172: "...Holy Church honors the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, with a special love. She is inseparably linked with the saving work of her Son. In her the Church admires and exalts the most excellent fruit of redemption and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image, that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be."

Pope Pius IX (Ineffabilis Deus) said, "Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot." This teaching is reflected in the Latin Vulgate and Douay Rheims version of Genesis 3:15 which reads, "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." Modern translations, including the NAB, more accurately use the masculine pronoun, thus referring to Christ instead of Mary. The RCC teaching, however, persists.

 

The RCC Teaches that Mary Shared in Christ's Sufferings

CCC #964: "Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. "This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death"; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion: Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: "Woman, behold your son."

Pope Benedict XV (Inter Sodalicia) said, "It was God's design that the Blessed Virgin Mary, apparently absent from the public life of Jesus, should assist him when he was dying nailed to the Cross." Pope Pius XII (Mystici Corporis) said, "[Mary], immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever more closely united with her Son, offered him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love." Pope Benedict XV (Inter Sodalicia) said, "Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother's rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind."

Pope John Paul II (Salvifici Doloris, 25) said, "In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith but also a contribution to the Redemption of all... It was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world."

The RCC further teaches, "She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son's sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls" (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," 61).

 

Scripture Teaches that Christ Alone Suffered Death for Our Sins

  • "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'" (Galations 3:13).
  • It was Christ who was "...smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4). "But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isaiah 53:6).
  • "We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10).
  • "[Christ's] death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions" (Hebrews 9:15).
  • "[Christ] released us from our sins by His blood" (Revelation 1:5).
  • It was Christ who came "...to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
  • "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).

 

Scripture Teaches Christ is the True Cause of Salvation

  • "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
  • "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).
  • "... we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42).
  • "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
  • "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
  • "Him (Jesus) hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour" (Acts 5:31).
  • "Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus" (Acts 13:23).
  • "[We are] justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).
  • "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20).
  • "For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14).
  • "But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 1:10).
  • "Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Titus 1:4).
  • "Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Titus 3:6).
  • "... through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1).
  • "... into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11).
  • "... through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 2:20).
  • "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen" (2 Peter 3:18).
  • "... ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
  • "... the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (1 John 4:14).

 

Scripture Teaches Jesus is Advocate with God

  • "...if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).
  • "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
  • "And for this cause he (Christ) is the mediator of the new testament" (Hebrews 9:15).
  • "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands... but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).
  • "Wherefore he (Jesus) is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
  • "... It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34).
  • "... he (Jesus) maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:27).
  • "For through him (Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:18).
  • "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access" (Ephesians 3:11-12).
  • "But now hath he (Jesus) obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Hebrews 8:6).

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Bob Williams is the pulpit minister for the Rose Hill Church of Christ in Columbus, Georgia. He is an alumnus of York College in York, NE (1977-1979), Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN (1982-1985), and Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, TN (1986-1990). Since its inception in 1998, thousands of people throughout the world visit BibleLessons.com every month, and Bob is privileged to conduct in-depth Bible studies with a great many of them.