A Trending Concern
As a seminary student, preacher, and overall theology lover, I have the opportunity to engage with individuals on a “street-level” quite often. One of my pressing concerns amongst pastors and theology students I have seen as of late is the lack of firmness against Roman Catholicism. Seemingly, many are willing to capitulate in acceptance of Rome’s doctrine, or at least give a halfway nod of approval. In many ways, this reality is shocking and bizarre to me as an individual who has not budged an inch from the position that the Catholic church is a heretical church and is not preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Nonetheless, situations like these, shocking as they are, need to be addressed so that the truth is upheld and error is clearly seen. With that being said, in this post, I want to highlight some of the pivotal errors of Rome by pointing the brilliant rays of Scripture’s pure truth upon them. Let me be clear, we must not back away from this issue. This hill is not one of secondary or tertiary matters. Rome’s gospel is a false gospel, her worship is idolatrous, her doctrine is false, and the Roman Catholic church is not pointing people to the God of the Holy Scripture. Let us dive into some of the major heresies in Catholic doctrine together.
The Catholics’ have no issues in testifying to the effect that the Council of Trent clearly asserted a denial of justification by faith alone.1 This council was convened in response to the proclamation of the true gospel by the Protestant reformers. In fact, the council went so far as to declare the following:
“If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”2
According to the teaching of Rome, if you assert that we are justified by faith alone in Christ, then you are counted as a dangerous false teacher. Yet, this notion would cast the Apostle Paul himself as a false teacher. For he says:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-10
Clearly, if we are saved, or justified, by the grace of God through faith apart from works, that is exactly the same statement as asserting it is by grace through faith alone. Therefore, according to Catholic doctrine, the plain teaching of the Apostle Paul is declared to be “anathema” or heretical. The very teaching of God in His Word is denounced by Catholicism. How about another passage just to make it abundantly clear:
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” -Romans 3:28
Without a doubt, Rome runs contrary to the plain proclamation of Scripture. The Catholic doctrine of justification is not the biblical doctrine of justification. Friends, this point, is central to the heart of the Gospel. We dare not shrink back on this issue. Rather, we march forward heralding the truth and pointing out the error!
Doctrine of Prayer and Worship
We must also examine the Catholic doctrines of prayer and worship in order to see clearly more problematic issues with their theology. I quote from Catholic Answers for their views on this subject:
“This article will deal with Christian worship according to the following definition: homage paid to God, to Jesus Christ, to His saints, to the beings or even to the objects which have a special relation to God. There are several degrees of this worship: if it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature it would become idolatry. When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honors the creatures of God for their peculiar relations with Him; it is designated by theologians as the worship of dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration.”3
We see Catholicism attempting to differentiate between different levels of worship. The Scripture, however, knows of no such distinction. When Satan tempted Christ by offering the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if He would worship him, the Lord responded by saying:
“And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’” -Luke 4:8
It is certainly interesting to note that Christ does not differentiate between levels of worship, but says worship is due to God and God alone! Another point on this issue, at the end of Revelation we read:
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” -Revelation 22:9
Unlike Catholicism, the angel knew nothing of a “subordinate worship” in this text. He does not tell John that it is right for him to bow down before him so long as he merely offers a lesser act of worship. No, he clearly mentions the reality we are called to “Worship God.” Our prayers, our worship, are to be solely unto God for His glory! Not only does Scripture prohibit us from worshipping angels, but we are not to worship men either:
“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “’Stand up; I too am a man.’” -Acts 10:25-26
The Apostle Peter had a clear understanding of the reality that no one except God is worthy of worship. Peter did not condone Cornelius worshipping him in any fashion whatsoever. Catholicism is in grave error to support any form of worship to anyone other than God. Frankly, this doctrine held by Rome is nothing short of blasphemous idolatry.
The mass, or eucharist, is the Catholic doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper. Multiple issues arise as we begin to examine Catholic teaching on this issue. Perhaps the first of which is the idea of Real Presence which asserts that Christ is truly present, in a physical way, in the bread and the wine. Here is a quotation from Catholic Answers:
“The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist Jesus is literally and wholly present—body and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. Many Protestants attack this doctrine as ‘unbiblical,’ but the Bible is forthright in declaring it (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16–17, 11:23–29; and, most forcefully, John 6:32–71).”4
So, we see here that Catholicism teaches Christ is present in the mass in the appearances of the bread and the wine. I want to examine one of the texts they cite here claiming it supports their view. 1 Corinthians 11:23-29:
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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.’ In the same way also he took the cup, 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. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” -1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Notice the key point being placed upon the “remembrance” of Christ as emphasized in this passage. No doubt, when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, he physically picked up the bread holding it with His physical body, and said “this is my body.” Now, how someone can look at Christ physically at the institution of the Lord’s Supper saying the bread is His physical body is beyond me. It is interpretive gymnastics of the highest degree. Paul said the Lord’s Supper was a remembrance, not a sacrificial act where the Lord’s body is present in the bread and the wine. Christ’s body was not present in the initial bread and wine, He was holding them in His hands, thus obviously He was speaking symbolically. Clearly, this doctrine of Catholicism is dangerous, but they even go a step further seeing the Mass as sacrificial. Thomas Aquinas stated:
“Consequently, according to the first reason, it is true to say that Christ was sacrificed, even in the figures of the Old Testament: hence it is stated in the Apocalypse (13:8): “Whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world.” But according to the second reason, it is proper to this sacrament for Christ to be sacrificed in its celebration.”5
Lest anyone think this is an off-moment for Aquinas, here is another quote:
“Then, regarding the consecration, performed by supernatural power, the people are first of all excited to devotion in the ‘Preface,’ hence they are admonished ‘to lift up their hearts to the Lord,’ and therefore when the ‘Preface’ is ended the people devoutly praise Christ’s Godhead, saying with the angels: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’; and His humanity, saying with the children: ‘Blessed is he that cometh.’ In the next place the priest makes a ‘commemoration,’ first of those for whom this sacrifice is offered, namely, for the whole Church, and ‘for those set in high places’ (1 Tim. 2:2), and, in a special manner, of them ‘who offer, or for whom the mass is offered.’”6
The problematic issue facing Catholics like Thomas is the reality that Christ is the once for all sacrifice. There is no sacrificial ordinance for the church in any sense, because the atoning work of Christ our Lord is completely sufficient. The author of Hebrews is resoundingly clear:
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. -Hebrews 10:10
The Mass, like the Catholic doctrine of justification and worship as well as prayer, is a horrifically erring doctrine. It runs blatantly contrary to Scripture and has no valid basis in the Word of God whatsoever. Certainly, once again, we must not waver at all on this issue.
Roman Catholicism is Still Heretical
I conclude where I began, the Roman Catholic church is a false church that does not proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ nor does it hold to accurate theology according to Scripture. For all of my fellow Protestant, Evangelical, and Reformed friends out there, my question is why are you lacking clarity and so often crumbling on this issue? Do you not understand the Gospel is at stake here? Surely you can see the drastically heretical doctrine Catholicism holds to. These issues I presented are only the tip of the iceberg. One could yet still dive into the issues with the Catholic doctrine of Scripture, papal infallibility, church tradition, and countless others. Friends, for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of Christ, do not go down this path. If you are a Protestant tinkering with Catholicism, you need to realize the fire that you are playing with. Don’t run to Rome for answers, go to the authoritative Scripture God has given to us!