Is Catholicism Christian? According to Scripture and Biblical Doctrine, absolutely not.
Again, it is the old, old story: “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Mat. 15:14).
Unfortunately, I have been branded anti-Catholic. I do not, however, consider this to be a valid assessment of my feelings.I love the Catholic people with a deep and abiding love. I also feel that the ultimate test of love is to work for the eventual good (and happiness) of those we love. Unfortunately, when we truly love someone, it can be necessary at times to cause momentary unhappiness in order to bring about long-term good.
This is what has happened as I sincerely have tried to direct my Catholic friends toward a Bible-based relationship with God.
To my way of thinking, the term anti-Catholic describes someone who does not approve of or like someone simply because he is Catholic. I can honestly say that I have never met a Catholic I disliked. Having said that, I would like further to state this fact: I do not feel that pointing out errors in basic doctrine – caustic as it may seem at the moment – is anti-Catholic. I agreed as a young man to accept the God-given calling of evangelist. In his epistle, the Apostle Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist and then laid down the blueprint for this job:
“Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Tim. 4:2).
Sometimes it is not easy to follow God’s directions. It is imperative, however, for the minister (or anyone else for that matter) who desires to walk in total obedience to God and His will. It is my God-given imperative (and calling) to reprove and rebuke – all the while with long-suffering and doctrine. Sometimes this is not well received, so I am resigned to having my efforts castigated within the organized arms of the Catholic empire.
Still, as the Apostle Paul said:
“I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).
This question is far more than just a good-natured discussion on doctrine, for there is nothing more tragic than a false path to salvation – a shimmering mirage that lures men to their death as they die of thirst. I firmly believe that the primary doctrines of the Catholic Church portray a fraudulent path to salvation, and I can think of nothing more tragic (however well-intentioned) than a promise of salvation that delivers eternal torment instead of eternal life.
I am convinced that many, many Catholics have been truly born again. Naturally, they will make heaven their eternal home, just as born-again Protestants will. However, for every one who is saved, scores of others are trusting in a false sense of salvation, which will, sad to say, cause them to be eternally lost.
This is my only reason for writing on the subject. Even though I know beforehand that it will not produce any extended hands of love and appreciation from the Catholic hierarchy (or from many of my Protestant brethren either for that matter), I write because I feel led of the Lord to do so. I only hope and pray that at least one precious, seeking soul will read what will be presented and find himself directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ – the only source of salvation under heaven. For this I will accept gladly whatever vilification may be heaped upon me.
“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).
THE HOLY BIBLE
Let us consider for a moment just what the Word of God – the Holy Bible — really is. The Bible is, in actuality, God speaking to reveal His inner nature and His design for creation. There is a self-revelation of God throughout nature, which is His creation.
The Bible tells us:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handywork” (Ps. 19:1).
“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
Further, the conscience of man is a moral guide, inbuilt by God to tell us whether we are doing right or wrong.
“The Gentiles … show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Rom. 2:14-15).
It must, however, be expressly understood that man cannot find God through nature alone – even though nature is a divine witness – because man is blinded by sin and thus fails to read accurately the creation that continually proclaims the eternal Creator.
“When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image … Wherefore God also gave them up … Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator … even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (Rom. 1:21-28).
This same sin blinds man and distorts and lacerates his conscience until it can no longer serve as an accurate barometer of the divine moral law. So, for sinful man (and without the Saviour, we are all sinners), there is the necessity for self-revelation from God (special revelation) beyond that of conscience and creation (general revelation). That revelation comes to us in the form of the Word of God. The Word of God consists of two parts: (1) the written Word of God, which we call the Holy Bible or Scripture (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:20-21) and (2) the Word of God as manifested in Jesus Christ, who is the Eternal Word incarnate (Jn. 1:1-5). To reconcile sinful man to Himself, God sent His only begotten Son, who is the eternal Word. He assumed human form in the person of Jesus Christ (compare Phil. 2:5-11):
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:16-17).
He was (and is) the Word of God incarnate:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1).
The written Word of God (the Bible) and the Word of God incarnate (Jesus Christ) forever are united, inseparable, and in agreement. They must stand in eternal unity and agreement, or they are not of God! Of course, the written Word and the incarnate Word are of God, so they do stand in perfect agreement and unity.
It must be clearly understood that there is no Jesus other than the Jesus revealed in the Bible. If anyone states anything about the Lord Jesus Christ that does not agree with scriptural revelation, it is at best speculation and at worst a blatant lie!
“I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaching another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him” (II Cor. 11:3-4).
“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).
Any source (be it the church, the pope, or a religious fanatic or cult leader) promulgating a statement or doctrine about the Lord Jesus Christ that cannot be supported by the clear and concise language of the Bible should be dismissed out of hand!
THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD
Just what do we mean by the word inspired? In the strictest interpretation, inspired simply means “breathed.” So, statements which we sometimes hear preachers use – such as “God-breathed” – are nothing less than literal interpretations of this word. By this we mean that God utilized certain men to put down physically the words of the Bible, but they did so under the influence of the Holy Spirit. God actually breathed on them as they wrote. They (and the work they produced) were God-inspired. They were moved and influenced within their own intellect to put down on paper (or papyrus or parchment, as the case may be) exactly what God wanted written.
Oddly enough, one of the most beautiful explanations of this is found in an encyclical of Pope Leo XIII (A.D. 1810-1903), which states:
“God so moved the inspired writers by His supernatural operation that He incited them to write, and assisted them in their writing so that they correctly conceived, accurately wrote down, and truthfully expressed all that He intended and only what He intended; and only thus can God be the author of the Bible.”
Does this suggest some form of mechanical dictation by God, where men functioned as little more than robot tape recorders? No! All human instruments of God retain their individual personalities and writing abilities. However, these men were overshadowed by the Spirit of God, even to their choice of specific words. In this way, their manuscripts were free of error doctrinally, historically, geographically, scientifically, or whatever. This is what is meant (and correctly so) that the Holy Bible is inerrant.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16).
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the Day Star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:19-21).
The entirety of the Bible is true, trustworthy, and dependable – even in matters not directly related to doctrine or salvation. (It is also interesting that the Bible, although physically set down by scores of individuals of widely varying backgrounds and experiences, and over a span of millennia, has a cohesive, recognizable meter and style that cannot be mistaken – even when read or heard out of context.) Oddly enough, the statements concerning inspiration and inerrancy in the Word of God are accepted without reservation by Catholics, Protestants, and all of evangelical Christianity.
As a qualification of the above statement, it should be noted that evangelical Christianity is back-pedaling in this area. Certain liberal elements are making efforts to soften the formerly firm stand on biblical inerrancy.
It may also be noted that while official Roman Catholicism continues to affirm the principle of scriptural inerrancy, there is a large percentage – perhaps even a majority – of Catholic priests (especially in these modern times and in certain orders) who are finding their beliefs eroded in this area.
When faith in inspiration and inerrancy are destroyed by liberal concepts, the churches accepting these apostate (liberal) views inevitably find themselves bereft of divine guidance through the Holy Spirit. The result is always coldness, indifference, social busyness (not to mention such spiritual aberrations as liberation theology), and a marked indifference to the proclamation of God’s message of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Some “great, intellectual theologians” state that the Bible is not an “intellectual certainty.”
I do not believe this is true.
The word intellectual here infers knowing of a certainty – as opposed to sensing, thinking, or feeling. So, while their statement may hold technical truth, it misses the whole point of a relationship with God.
Their statement derives from the fact (and it is a fact) that the Bible cannot be understood on an intellectual basis alone; there must be an underlying faith in God before His written Word becomes quickened (brought to life) in our heart. This can only be brought about through the power of the Holy Spirit acting on our intellect and will.
“It is the Spirit who quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6:63). “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Elsewhere we read:
“God has dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3).
It is through this specific (albeit, small) measure of faith that man can accept the beginnings of believing in God, and this is what eventually burgeons into a full understanding of the person of Christ and the Word of God. Naturally, this comes through faith, and it comes automatically at every person’s salvation experience. So, anyone who tries strictly through intellect (undergirded often with a preconceived skepticism) to understand the Word of God on a cold, rational basis is almost surely doomed to fail. On the other hand, those persons with true intellect, who come armed with an underlying desire to know truth (or at least with an unbiased neutrality in their position) will almost surely find themselves coming away from their investigation as Bible believers.
AREAS OF AGREEMENT
We have already alluded to two areas of agreement between Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity: (1) The Bible is truly God’s Word – His written revelation to man, and (2) the Bible is inspired and inerrant.
A BASIC FLAW IN ROMAN CATHOLIC TEACHING
The primary Roman Catholic teaching on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible is sound, but immediately a Roman fallacy intrudes. The church teaches (and this has been reaffirmed as recently as the Second Vatican Council) that “there is but one revelation from God, but it has two sources: the first is written, which is the Bible, and the second is the ‘traditions’ of the living church.”
Here we have an obvious (and awesome) contradiction. The Bible has been officially endorsed by the Catholic Church as the inspired, infallible Word of God, but then, an adulterant is allowed to intrude, which is, in fact, the basis for all Roman Catholic error!
This is tradition!
The end result is that the (humanly inspired) traditions of the church not only are placed on parity with the genuine Word of God, but they are actually given precedence over it! When tradition and God’s Word fail to agree, the Roman Catholic Church chooses – without fail – to accept their human traditions and reject the true Word of God!