18 July 2013

The Catholic Look at bible Studies: In their Own Words

My pastor just a few weeks ago while teaching through Luke, took the opportunity to address the issues of false doctrine, false teachers, 'wolves' in the church and how these issues are not only prominent, but imminently dangerous. Focusing more on the issue that we must ourselves know the truth in order to defend it, he made it clear that from the day of the inception of the church, that these false doctrines, false teachers and their dangers have been ever-present and ever-active.

Look at scripture. The Bible is replete with examples of false teachers and the problems they cause the church and individuals. There are stories of false doctrines spreading, false teachers leading people astray, and of course the resultant effects. There is a great deal of text in the NT especially devoted to this issue. It is mentioned in almost every book. The writers felt it important to warn us frequently to be aware of false doctrine and to be prepared to work against it as individuals and as a church.

While mentioning this subject is very important, I think my pastor may have fallen short in this teaching.  While I know his diligence is equal to mine in protecting the people of the body of Christ from false doctrine (of this I have no doubt), in an effort to better protect God's people - sometimes it is important to name names. It is not "unloving" to reveal, and to specifically point out false doctrine.

I'll grant you that calling out false teachers and the false teachings of other churches and teachers can seem arrogant and unloving. Nonetheless, it is necessary, and in the end, one of the most loving things one Christian can do for another. Protect them from the evils of false doctrine and its inviting temptation to lose faith. Perhaps the main Sunday Sermon may not  be the best time to do this this (especially repetitively), and the context of the message and mood of the church may dictate otherwise depending on the circumstances. However, not specifically mentioning some of the greater threats at all is a greater disservice to the body, and is not following the examples we have in scripture. How best to defend ourselves, than to know specifically where the false doctrines are coming from, and what they are.

While searching the internet for some possible bible study curriculum that I might use in  upcoming group studies, I ran across this article. "Should Catholics Go to Non-Denominational Bible Studies?" (please read this). While not surprising, the author Mr. Ray (a self-professed convert to Catholicism) makes some interesting points about the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. To his credit, he is correct on every point where he espouses differences. However, he is equally inaccurate as to why, and tragically incorrect when it comes to the facts he appoints to Protestants.

I'm glad I came across this as this article authored by a respected  Catholic writer. It really helps to point out the dramatic differences between Catholicism and, well, the balance of the Christian faith outside of Roman Catholicism, all from a Catholic perspective. Before we move forward to look at these differences in detail, let me simply point this one thing out. This is an quasi-official Catholic revelation as to the fact that the Catholic Church is different, and that all other Christian Church outside of Roman Catholicism teach false doctrine.

Strangely, the Catholics never seem to extrapolate this out to it's most common denominator. What this means in layman's terms is that the Roman Catholic Church is, by their own definition the only true church in the world, and in the history of the Christian faith. Or in even more simpler  terms, all churches other than the Roman Catholic Church are false churches. To be boldly blunt,m what they are saying is this - Only the Roman Catholics have Truth.

Now when you read the preceding paragraph, and I had replaced "Mormon Church", or "Jehovah's Witness" or "Jim Jones" with Roman Catholic, it probably would have brought a different reaction from you than the one you are more than likely having right now. Had I been talking about Jim Jones, or the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses, you would immediately thought (and rightfully so) - CULT. But because this is the Roman Catholic Church, in all their grandeur and history and 1.5 Billion followers, you're not so willing to allow your logic to make that leap. Well, let it.

Mr. Ray professes:
  1. Catholics are different from the rest of the Christian Church (any denomination outside of Roman Catholicism).
  2. Catholic leadership does not want their congregants to have anything to do with Protestant believers (i.e. non-Catholics) for fear that they might be influenced by "false doctrine".
  3. Non-Catholics pose a danger to the "proper instruction" of Christians.
Now on to some of the specific points of difference:

The Supreme Authority of the Bible
Mr. Ray, in the list of perceived negatives of the non-Catholics he refers to as "Bible Christians", he lists, "There is no binding authority but the Bible alone." This is correct. Most Christians outside the RCC do hold the Bible as to be the true and infallible word of God. From the Bible all truth is to be drawn, and God as promised, will reach His people by the Work of the Holy Spirit in their own hearts (John 16:7-15). It is true that a laymen may not at first grasp the full meaning of a passage, but being lead and guided by the Holy Spirit the truth that God requires will be given to those who seek it. God promises that His word will not come back void.

Contrarily, the RCC sees things differently. Their belief is that the bible does contain the absolute truth of God, but they add caveats. The RCC official doctrine states that the Pope chosen by men, has equal authority to God on earth with regard to Church doctrine and the dogmatic Catechism of the Church. Additionally, the Pope has ability to speak new doctrine or new truths on behalf of God. His title actually includes 'Vicar of Christ', a term that means "person acting as parish priest in place of a real parson."[1]  The definition here is that the vicar speaks on behalf of the true authority, as if he were the true authority. When applied to the circumstances of the Pope, his words are to be followed with the same authority as if they had come from God Himself.

A third layer to "truth" for the RCC is the Tradition of the Church. In their Catechism, Church Tradition (only their church mind you...), holds equal status of truth as the Bible, and the Pope. The reasoning for all of this, is intent to have a single source for church and doctrinal truth. That source through their on doctrine has been divided three ways, held equally, with two of those three bases relying on sinful man for the standardizing, and in many cases the creation of Gospel truth itself to then be held as "Church tradition". This allows the caveat of, "well we know you won;t fuind this in the Bible, but it has been Church Tradition for 'x' number of years, and pronounced by the Pope".

The Bible IS ENOUGH. I'll grant you that in days of yore, Bible understanding was minimal. The handing down of the gospel through oral tradition all but died with the collapse of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. As the Romans routed the Jews and burnt the temple, the diaspora carried with them God's Word, but with each new generation, that tradition was weakened further, yet the writings still remained. As time went on and decades became centuries, the available ancient bible manuscripts to read and study has increased exponentially. The Dead Sea Scroll findings alone nearly doubled early ancient texts, and also provided much in the way of extra-biblical content on which to judge the contemporary vernacular. With today's advances in Bible Study Software like Logos, the idea that any reader cannot get original intent meaning from the scriptures without the support and correction of the Catholic Church is ludicrous to the point of deception.

The Infallibility of the Pope
While the RCC not only believes that the Pope, a human being born of sin, can speak on behalf of God Himself with regards to doctrine,  believes in the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.  as a creaky-crutch to in part stand on this doctrine, they also use one verse from all scripture that purportedly supports this doctrine. John 16:18-19:
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” 
Literally thousands of volumes have been written on this topic which has consumed the minds of greater scholars than I on the true meaning of this phrase. In short, the RCC thinks that at this point, Jesus, alive in the flesh, before the church was even created, made Peter the first Pope, and bestowed upon him the authority of Jesus Himself to speak on behalf of God the Father in matters pertinent to the church on Christ's behalf. While an initial reading of this passage might leave the average reader believing that some authority had been bestowed upon Peter, to extrapolate from it what the RCC does, is a bit of a stretch to say the least. More directly, the RCC is the only Christian church that recognizes or interprets this passage in such a manner.

I could go into a lot of reasons as to why the RCC interpretation of this passage is incorrect based on biblical and extra-biblical understandings and use of the Greek language here, the fact that the Christ appointed Pope has yest to deny Christ Himself in anathema, the fact that Peter was not the head of the church after this event based on passages in the book of Acts and etc (even rebuked publicly by Paul, relenting to the rebuke). But again, the RCC is the only Christian church to interpret these two verses in the book of John to mean that Christ is hereby appointing Peter to be His earthy representative, speak on His behalf with equal authority, and be heads over the only true church for the remainder of history. 

To use the authors terms, Bible Christians most certainly do not recognize the Pope as infallible, or Christ's one and only Rightful representative and interpreter of His Word, the bible. Scripture says that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That the hearts of men are evil. That we are predisposed to sin because of the sin nature born into each one of us. Roman Catholic History itself is full of examples of sinful men, most notably Popes who fathered multiple children with multiple mothers during their Papacy, and Popes who were accused of having homosexual lovers while Pope. There were Popes who gained their office through bribery and still others through nepotism.

I point these things out about the Popes not to bring particular disdain on them, just simply to show that they are sinners like every other man, and prone to the same failings as all others. Lust, bribery, peer pressure, politics, societal forces etc. How could these men, chosen by other sinning men, be infallible and speak with the authority of Christ? Yes, Bible Christians deny this, and proudly so.

This has gotten a bit long winded so I'll end it here. Yes, there are differences between the Roman Catholic Church and other "Bible Christian" churches. These differences are numerous and profound. Some of these differences are so profound as to defy Christian orthodoxy. Examples of RCC doctrine in areas such as the sacraments, baptism, salvation by works, Christ's limited atonement, the Adoration of Mary, Mary being sinless, etc, etc, stand as proof of this.

I just thought it was important to show what the Catholic look is with regards to their thoughts on non-Catholics and their place in the Christian faith. To them, Biblical Christians are to be looked down upon. Biblical Christians cannot know bible truth because it is too confusing, technical, and because their priests are the only ones truly authorized or trained to properly interpret it. To the Catholic, the Biblical Christian is not saved, does not have a right relationship with God, and if not converted to Catholicism, cannot go to heaven.

These are the truths as THEY teach them. These facts do not come from a "Biblical Christian" that has a bone to pick with the RCC, it comes from their Catachism, their doctrine, and from their authors.

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