There is something healthy about returning to one’s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

Roman Catholicism

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  • Roman Catholicism

    John MacArthur


    In today's spirit of ecumenism,unity with the Catholic Church. Is that possible? Is Roman Catholicism simply another facet of the body of Christ that should be brought into union with its Protestant counterpart? Is Roman Catholicism simply another Christian denomination?

    While there are many errors in the teaching of the Catholic Church (for example its belief in the transubstantiation of the communion wafer and its view of Mary), two rise to the forefront and call for special attention: its denial of the doctrine of sola Scriptura and its denial of the biblical teaching on justification. To put it simply, because the Roman Catholic Church has refused to submit itself to the authority of God’s Word and to embrace the gospel of justification taught in Scripture, it has set itself apart from the true body of Christ. It is a false and deceptive form of Christianity.

    The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura

    In the words of reformer Martin Luther, the doctrine of sola Scriptura means that “what is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.” Roman Catholicism flatly rejects this principle, adding a host of traditions and Church teachings and declaring them binding on all true believers—with the threat of eternal damnation to those who hold contradictory opinions.

    In Roman Catholicism, “the Word of God” encompasses not only the Bible, but also the Apocrypha, the Magisterium (the Church’s authority to teach and interpret divine truth), the Pope’s ex cathedra pronouncements, and an indefinite body of church tradition, some formalized in canon law and some not yet committed to writing. Whereas evangelical Protestants believe the Bible is the ultimate test of all truth, Roman Catholics believe the Church determines what is true and what is not. In effect, this makes the Church a higher authority than Scripture.

    Creeds and doctrinal statements are certainly important. However, creeds, decisions of church councils, all doctrine, and even the church itself must be judged by Scripture—not vice versa. Scripture is to be accurately interpreted in its context by comparing it to Scripture—certainly not according to anyone’s personal whims. Scripture itself is thus the sole binding rule of faith and practice for all Christians. Protestant creeds and doctrinal statements simply express the churches’ collective understanding of the proper interpretation of Scripture. In no sense could the creeds and pronouncements of the churches ever constitute an authority equal to or higher than Scripture. Scripture always takes priority over the church in the rank of authority.

    Roman Catholics, on the other hand, believe the infallible touchstone of truth is the Church itself. The Church not only infallibly determines the proper interpretation of Scripture, but also supplements Scripture with additional traditions and teaching. That combination of Church tradition plus the Church’s interpretation of Scripture is what constitutes the binding rule of faith and practice for Catholics. The fact is, the Church sets itself above Holy Scripture in rank of authority.

    Because the Roman Catholic Church
    has refused to submit itself to the
    authority of God’s Word and to
    embrace the gospel of justification
    taught in Scripture, it has set itself
    apart from the true body of Christ.
    The Doctrine of Justification

    According to Roman Catholicism, justification is a process in which God’s grace is poured forth into the sinner’s heart, making that person progressively more righteous. During this process, it is the sinner’s responsibility to preserve and increase that grace by various good works. The means by which justification is initially obtained is not faith, but the sacrament of baptism. Furthermore, justification is forfeited whenever the believer commits a mortal sin, such as hatred or adultery. In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, then, works are necessary both to begin and to continue the process of justification.

    The error in the Catholic Church’s position on justification may be summed up in four biblical arguments. First, Scripture presents justification as instantaneous, not gradual. Contrasting the proud Pharisee with the broken, repentant tax-gatherer who smote his breast and prayed humbly for divine mercy, Jesus said that the tax-gatherer “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). His justification was instantaneous, complete before he performed any work, based solely on his repentant faith. Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Eternal life is the present possession of all who believe—and by definition eternal life cannot be lost. The one who believes immediately passes from spiritual death to eternal life, because that person is instantaneously justified (see Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1).

    Second, justification means the sinner is declared righteous, not actually made righteous. This goes hand in hand with the fact that justification is instantaneous. There is no process to be performed—justification is purely a forensic reality, a declaration God makes about the sinner. Justification takes place in the court of God, not in the soul of the sinner. It is an objective fact, not a subjective phenomenon, and it changes the sinner’s status, not his nature. Justification is an immediate decree, a divine “not guilty” verdict on behalf of the believing sinner in which God declares him to be righteous in His sight.

    Third, the Bible teaches that justification means righteousness is imputed, not infused. Righteousness is “reckoned,” or credited to the account of those who believe (Rom. 4:3–25). They stand justified before God not because of their own righteousness (Rom. 3:10), but because of a perfect righteousness outside themselves that is reckoned to them by faith (Phil. 3:9). Where does that perfect righteousness come from? It is God’s own righteousness (Rom 10:3), and it is the believer’s in the person of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ’s own perfect righteousness is credited to the believer’s personal account (Rom. 5:17, 19), just as the full guilt of the believer’s sin was imputed to Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). The only merit God accepts for salvation is that of Jesus Christ; nothing man can ever do could earn God’s favor or add anything to the merit of Christ.

    Fourth and finally, Scripture clearly teaches that man is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. According to the Apostle Paul, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). Elsewhere Paul testifies, “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” (Eph. 2:8–9, emphasis added; see Acts 16:31 and Rom. 4:3–6). In fact, it is clearly taught throughout Scripture that “a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Rom. 3:28; see Gal. 2:16; Rom. 9:31–32; 10:3).

    In contrast, Roman Catholicism places an undue stress on human works. Catholic doctrine denies that God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5) without first making them godly. Good works therefore become the ground of justification. As thousands of former Catholics will testify, Roman Catholic doctrine and liturgy obscure the essential truth that the believer is saved by grace through faith and not by his own works (Eph. 2:8-9). In a simple sense, Catholics genuinely believe they are saved by doing good, confessing sin, and observing ceremonies.

    Adding works to faith as the grounds of justification is precisely the teaching that Paul condemned as “a different gospel” (see 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6). It nullifies the grace of God, for if meritorious righteousness can be earned through the sacraments, “then Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:21). Any system that mingles works with grace, then, is “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6), a distorted message that is anathematized (Gal. 1:9), not by a council of medieval bishops, but by the very Word of God that cannot be broken. In fact, it does not overstate the case to say that the Roman Catholic view on justification sets it apart as a wholly different religion than the true Christian faith, for it is antithetical to the simple gospel of grace.

    As long as the Roman Catholic Church continues to assert its own authority and bind its people to “another gospel,” it is the spiritual duty of all true Christians to oppose Roman Catholic doctrine with biblical truth and to call all Catholics to true salvation. Meanwhile, evangelicals must not capitulate to the pressures for artificial unity. They cannot allow the gospel to be obscured, and they cannot make friends with false religion, lest they become partakers in their evil deeds (2 John 11).

  • #2
    Originally posted by William View Post
    While there are many errors in the teaching of the Catholic Church .....two rise to the forefront and call for special attention: its denial of the doctrine of sola Scriptura and its denial of the biblical teaching on justification.
    Considering that no-one believed in sola scriptura before the protestants invented the unbiblical doctrine I find it perverse to claim that it was the Catholic Church that seperated itself from the body of Christ. Similarly with the protestant doctrine on Justification.

    However as John MacArthur is not here to defend his errors and ignorance of Catholic teaching I will leave it there.
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    • #3
      If one doesn't believe in the Scriptures first and foremost, they have either a false standard or no standard by which to based their beliefs. Believing on a person who can change the rules on a whim (i.e., the pope) is like being a ship tossed to and fro as the wind blows, not steering a steady course toward its destination. The Scriptures are the Standard for Christianity, not the pope.

      Like the Scribes and Pharisees, the pope makes his own religiosity, which Jesus hated in Matthew 23.

      How do you define "Protestant"? That is a generalized term that does not cover every non-Catholic. After my experience with RCC, I am redoubtable in my views of the RCC, which I have barely begun to express. For the sake of the forum being one to be enjoyed while being uplifting, I don't wish to go beating down on anyone. I want to think how best to express myself without causing undue anger.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Bede View Post
        Considering that no-one believed in sola scriptura before the protestants invented the unbiblical doctrine
        Okay, forget scripture-only. Where do you place the Bible as a doctrinal authority, above or below the Catholic Church?
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
          If one doesn't believe in the Scriptures first and foremost, they have either a false standard or no standard by which to based their beliefs.
          The Catholic Church has a very high regard for scripture. It is the word of God.

          From The Catechism of The Catholic Church
          "...the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body."
          "In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, 'but as what it really is, the word of God'".

          Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
          Believing on a person who can change the rules on a whim (i.e., the pope) is like being a ship tossed to and fro as the wind blows, not steering a steady course toward its destination.
          The Pope doesn't change rules on a whim.

          Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
          The Scriptures are the Standard for Christianity, not the pope.
          The Standard for what?
          Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
          Like the Scribes and Pharisees, the pope makes his own religiosity, which Jesus hated in Matthew 23.
          Untrue
          Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
          How do you define "Protestant"? That is a generalized term that does not cover every non-Catholic.
          Basically any Christian who is not Catholic or Orthodox. Protestants came into being at the Reformation.

          Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
          After my experience with RCC, I am redoubtable in my views of the RCC, which I have barely begun to express. For the sake of the forum being one to be enjoyed while being uplifting, I don't wish to go beating down on anyone. I want to think how best to express myself without causing undue anger.
          And why cannot you express your opposition to Catholic doctrines without getting angy?

          It seems you have a lot of opinions but none of them are backed up by evidence to justify them.

          From the Concise Oxford English Dictionary
          prejudice
          noun
          1 preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
          Last edited by Bede; 07-10-2015, 04:11 AM.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
            Okay, forget scripture-only. Where do you place the Bible as a doctrinal authority, above or below the Catholic Church?
            'Above' or 'below' the Catholic Church doesn't make much sense.

            From The Catechism of The Catholic Church
            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. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.". This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

            86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."

            Note my emboldening




            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by Bede View Post
              Considering that no-one believed in sola scriptura before the protestants invented the unbiblical doctrine I find it perverse to claim that it was the Catholic Church that seperated itself from the body of Christ. Similarly with the protestant doctrine on Justification.

              However as John MacArthur is not here to defend his errors and ignorance of Catholic teaching I will leave it there.
              Likewise, since those having communicated your Councils and Catechism are dead and none are here to defend any ignorance - I too will leave it there.

              God bless,
              William
              Comment>

              • #8
                Originally posted by Bede View Post

                'Above' or 'below' the Catholic Church doesn't make much sense.

                From The Catechism of The Catholic Church
                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. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.". This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

                86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."

                Note my emboldening

                The question is, "Where do you place the Bible as a doctrinal authority, above or below the Catholic Church?" You quote Catholic doctrine saying that Bible is above the church. But, if you accept the Catholic Church is the definitive authority on what the Bible says, that means you put the Catholic Church above the Bible. If the two conflict, you go with the Catholic Church and deny there's a conflict.

                What you quote is nearly the doctrine of scripture-only. The quibble is who gets to interpret the Bible. I'm fine with erring on the side of church tradition for the sake of unity and deference to the judgement of saints before me, but there is a breaking point.






                Comment>

                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
                  The question is, "Where do you place the Bible as a doctrinal authority, above or below the Catholic Church?" ...

                  I'm fine with erring on the side of church tradition for the sake of unity and deference to the judgement of saints before me, but there is a breaking point.
                  The only question of any significance when discussing Catholicism is where does the Church teach the bible is in relation to authority and not what does some individual opine about it. If opinion is all that rates as important then why bother asking at all because everybody has an opinion but collecting opinions will tell one exactly nothing about what the Church actually teaches. It is no wonder that so many misconceptions arise when this is the quality of interrogation on offer.

                  With regard to the second underlined portion of text from your post ... if it is true that accepting holy tradition for the sake of unity were the actual position that mattered then why not act on it and join the Catholic Church? One's actions speak far more eloquently and convincingly than one's comments in a discussion forum.
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    "Roman Catholicism" Don't get me started.
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
                      What you quote is nearly the doctrine of scripture-only.
                      Not it isn't because the word of God is not just Sacred Scripture but also Sacred Tradition (not to be confused with man made traditions). As the quotes from the Catechism says:
                      "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition......." - note the part I have underlined

                      Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
                      But, if you accept the Catholic Church is the definitive authority on what the Bible says, that means you put the Catholic Church above the Bible.
                      No it doesn't. It means I put the Catholic Church above you (or any other individual who interprets the Bible).

                      Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
                      If the two conflict, you go with the Catholic Church and deny there's a conflict.
                      No it doesn't mean that because the two cannot conflict.

                      I have said this before.
                      No Catholic doctrine (correctly undertsood) contradicts Scripture (properly interpreted).
                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        Originally posted by William View Post

                        Likewise, since those having communicated your Councils and Catechism are dead and none are here to defend any ignorance - I too will leave it there.

                        God bless,
                        William
                        But I will defend Catholic teaching. Previously when someone has challenged one of your cut and paste's you have not been willing to defend it.
                        Comment>

                        • #13
                          Or you're just not listening.
                          Comment>

                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Stratcat View Post
                            Or you're just not listening.
                            To what am I not listening?

                            Comment>

                            • #15
                              The Scriptures, for example, "9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." - Matthew 23:9. In other Scriptures, we call our biological fathers "father" but when referring to church leaders, not to call them Father. This is rather obvious. Further, does not the RCC call the pope "Holy Father"? Only God is holy, and only God is the believer's true Father. Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me. Yet does not the RCC pray to Mary, indeed deify her? And praying to other saints and angels, which we are not to do, for that is a form of worship. As the angel in Revelation told John when he bowed down to the angel, the angel said to arise, I am but a servant, worship God only. So praying is a form of worship and the RCC prays before stone images to the saints they are supposed to represent. I have witnessed this. We are to pray only to God. Why do priests not marry, as forbidding to marry is a doctrine of the devil. Why do nuns believe they are married to Christ? The entire church of believers is one body, to be the bride of Christ in glory, not now.
                              Comment>
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