Ever wonder what I think about Catholicism?


Then don’t bother with this blog…really, it doesn’t matter.

Have a great day!

But, if yes, read on.

I have been having an online discussion with a Roman Catholic theologian for sometime now. Recently I made some rather strong comments (though I believe our friendship will survive) and I thought I would share my remarks with the viewers at home.

Of course keep in mind we have been dialoging for over a year and we have a lot of history and I wrote this with him in mind and with no intention of sharing it with a wider audience, so if some of it doesn’t make sense, well, it’s alright, ma, I’m only blogging.

(I will call the Catholic theologian, “Zip” — which obviously is not his real name.)

Dear Zip,

Let me make something of a general statement regarding Roman Catholicism. I will speak more bluntly than I have previously. This is not from some anti-Catholic book, but from my heart, my head and my experience.

To begin with, Roman Catholicism has been on the periphery of my experience; my salvation, my growth in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as well as my labors to promote the gospel has been quite apart from Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism has added nothing to me apart from some of the thoughts from a few notable Catholic theologians, thinkers and writers.

But let me be a bit more forthcoming; I have traveled to countries where Roman Catholicism is the dominant religious affiliation over fifty times, and I have discovered that people who come into a vibrant and personal relationship with Jesus Christ nearly always do so outside of the Catholic church, and as they continue in their new personal walk with Jesus Christ they almost always leave the Catholic Church and connect themselves with churches that express the same vibrancy of personal faith in Jesus they have come to experience in their own lives. To put it even more bluntly: In many of these countries, Roman Catholicism has prevented people from coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In many cases the local Roman Catholic priests have warranted the rebuke that Jesus gave to the Pharisees when He said,

“You have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” (Luke 11:52)

I could give many anecdotal stories from people I know personally who were priests and nuns before discovering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not that you would find this convincing, necessarily, but I am simply making the point that this is not something I have merely read about, but these are people whom I personally know.

Now, let me press home a very important point: Every church rises or falls on the local level. The seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 were not judged on whether they had a particular ecclesiastical connection with Rome, but on their own faithfulness to Jesus. This is where the vast majority of Roman Catholic churches around the world are weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Zip, you are an exceptional Catholic. You know the Word of God, by which I mean you are obviously well acquainted with the Scriptures. I’m sure you realize how rare this is among Catholics in general; the average Catholic has an abysmal knowledge of the Bible — and that’s in America where Protestant Christianity has had an enormous impact on Catholicism. If I were to take you to, say, Bolivia, I honestly believe you would be appalled at the blatant idolatry, animistic practices and pagan beliefs that pass for Catholicism. So in places like Bolivia, those who come to regard the Bible as the sole arbitrator in matters of Christian doctrine and practice inevitably leave the Catholic Church.

Zip, there is a saying you may have heard; “God has no grandchildren.” It is very true. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” (John 3:3, 7) Every individual must have their own personal experience of receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is a spiritual truth that also contradicts the Catholic concept of Apostolic Succession. Spiritual authority is not conferred by an ecclesiastic hierarchal system of succession, but by the Holy Spirit. You know as well as I do, that by the Middle Ages the papacy was often essentially purchased by the wealth of godless men who had not the slightest interest in authentic Christianity. This is highly problematic for your interpretation of Apostolic Succession; i.e. when the succession falls to a man that bears absolutely none of the marks of a genuine Christian.

Whatever connection the local church in Rome may have had with authentic Christianity in the first four or five centuries, by the time of the Reformation, Romanism had become thoroughly apostate. If you insist on calling the Reformation a schism, and as such, a sin, then I will insist that the sin of schism was long ago on the part of the popes who embarked on a schism with Apostolic Christianity and Biblical truth. Remember, Jesus threatened the church of Ephesus with the removal of their lampstand if they did not repent (Revelation 2:5). No church can take refuge in their history; each church must be faithful to the Scriptures and the Lordship of Jesus in their own generation.

A few serious objections off the top of my head…

The worship of Mary is idolatrous. I know you will tell me the correct term is veneration, but I’m afraid that is too subtle for me; come with me to Latin America and tell me that they are not worshiping Mary. They are, and we both know it.

The myth of the perpetual virginity of Mary
is just that, a myth. It is a carry over from pagan fertility goddess worship. Alexander Hislop’s scholarly work, The Two Babylons, is perhaps the definitive book on this subject. And it means absolutely nothing to me how many Reformation theologians held on to this myth; they simply were not reformed enough, because it flatly contradicts Scripture.

“Then Joseph being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn son.” (Matthew 1:24-25)

“Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3)

Zip, you can throw at me dozens of Early Church Fathers who believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary; I will simply counter with Matthew and Mark. And Matthew and Mark’s Gospels trump every Church Father every time.

The doctrine of Mary as the Co-Redremptrix
with Christ is both aberrant and abhorrent.

“For there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

The doctrine of Purgatory
is a pure fabrication without any support in Scripture. Furthermore, the idea that the blood of Jesus is insufficient to provide redemption, but rather the suffering of the sinner and the prayers and contributions of friends and relatives can complete what the blood of Jesus was insufficient to accomplish, is blasphemous.

“With His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12)

I could go on and on. Especially if I were to delve back in history; e.g. indulgences, inquisitions, papal infallibility, etc.

As an Evangelical, I continually have the atrocities committed by the feudal Roman Church thrown at me as a reason why Christianity should be rejected. If that was the true church of Christ, I’m afraid the gates of hell prevailed.

Yes, Vatican II addressed and redressed some of these things; but why? Undoubtedly because of the influence of the Reformation, Protestantism and Evangelicalism. The Roman Catholicism of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI owes a great debt to the Reformation, Protestant theology and even Evangelical methodology; a debt, though, which contemporary Roman Catholicism seems loathe to acknowledge.

Zip, as long as I’m on this tear, let me say this: I think part of your zeal to defend the exclusive claims of Roman Catholicism based on Apostolic Succession is simply this: it’s all you have. The average Catholic across the globe today does not have an energetic experience with authentic Christianity, so you must tell yourself the Roman Catholic Church gains its authenticity, not from the fruit it is bearing, but from a supposed ecclesiastical hierarchy. But Peter’s mantle does not extend to apostate popes — and even you must admit that some of those popes were apostate. I’ll leave it to Catholics to determine their worst pope ever, but I would nominate Pope Alexander VI. Once you have a pope like that, where does that leave the theory of Apostolic Succession flowing exclusively through the Bishop of Rome? In shambles.

Jesus is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail. In fact, the church of Jesus is advancing more rapidly around the globe than at any time in history — by some estimates as many as 250,000 people a day are professing new faith in Christ, and almost all of them outside of the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps you will say, as you did the other day, “this is just statistics and statistics are not Christianity” — then I will say, this is fruit and Jesus said much about bearing fruit. Authentic Christianity must be fruitful or it is not faithful and fruitless, faithless “Christianity” will ultimately be rejected by Christ.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:1-16)

“Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receive wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life.” (John 4:35-36)

Zip, I have spoken very plainly. Nevertheless I am not a chronic Catholic basher; I know full well there are wonderful believers within the Catholic tradition and I am happy to call them my brothers and sisters despite my serious disagreement with many Catholic doctrines and practices. I am not one of those who insist the Pope is the Antichrist (though I think some of those cats from the Middle Ages were thoroughly antichrist — and again, this dismantles the Apostolic Succession = Bishop of Rome theory). I have great respect and admiration for Pope John Paul II — I think he was a man used by God. And the fact that Catholics and Evangelicals undoubtedly enjoy more unity today than ever before is a good thing. So, even though I have spoken very plainly about my serious misgivings regarding Roman Catholicism, I nevertheless respect you as my brother in Christ and admire your devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Your Friend,