Discussing Catholic Theology

Have you noticed that, interestingly, converts to Catholicism tend to present themselves as experts on matters of Catholic theology and practice, while claiming that we who came from Catholicism don't understand or are not familiar with Catholic theology and practice?

I should be surprised to learn that any Catholic apologist, convert or not, were impressed by any ex-Catholic's former status. After all, to assign value to that condition would be to acknowledge that something may be wrong with Catholicism. Besides, it also would cast the Catholic convert's own revised affiliation in a bad light. After all, he would be acknowledging that he had "transferred in" to a cult that others were happy to have disassociated themselves from.

These converts to Catholicism often discount arguments that, regardless of what Rome teaches officially, a number of Catholic faithful actually do appear to believe and certainly do practice things that clearly are not in accord with God's doctrine as set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. They argue that, lamentably, many Catholics are not well-versed in the teachings of their faith. As an aside, when this defense is offered, I am prompted to wonder why these self-declared experts in Catholic theology and practice are busily arguing with non-Catholics over theological issues when they could be helping their Catholic brethren to better understand the teachings of their apostate church?

Back to the point: I doubt that any Christian who frequents this board would be surprised by this revelation. I imagine that most have seen, time and again, that even those who presume to speak for Rome have little idea what Rome teaches and holds as truth. Why is that? I like to think it is because Rome finds it easier to control those trapped in her web by feeding them only bits and pieces of her pagan theology. After all, those who come to knowledge of God's truth tend to flee the embrace of the Roman spider.

And what are some of the sticking points of Catholic teaching that help to create the gap that stands between the Catholic Church and orthodox Christianity? Some that jump instantly to mind include: the illusion of Mary's sinless conception and life; the illusion of her bodily assumption; the illusion of Jesus as a cookie; the illusion of baptismal regeneration; the illusion of apostolic succession.

Have not the Lord Jesus and the inspired writers of the canonical books cautioned us concerning the false teachings of men?

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.--Colossians 2.8

John MacArthur comments on this verse:

2:8 cheat you. Here is the term for robbery. False teachers who are successful in getting people to believe lies, rob them of truth, salvation, and blessing. philosophy and empty deceit. “Philosophy” (lit. “love of wisdom”) appears only here in the NT. The word referred to more than merely the academic discipline, but described any theory about God, the world, or the meaning of life. Those embracing the Colossian heresy used it to describe the supposed higher knowledge they claimed to have attained. Paul, however, equates the false teachers' philosophy with “empty deceit”; that is, with worthless deception. Cf. 1 Tim. 6:20; ... the basic principles of the world.. . Far from being advanced, profound knowledge, the false teachers' beliefs were simplistic and immature like all the rest of the speculations, ideologies, philosophies, and psychologies the fallen satanic and human system invents.--John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, Dallas: Word Publishing (1997).

A Catholic apologist might argue that Paul was not saying beware of Catholic tradition; that he was saying beware of a tradition that does not have Christ. The RCC has Christ, it is "after Christ"--that is its essence, to be after Christ.

I agree that the RCC has a Christ, but her Christ is not Messiah. Her Christ is a mythical being who can be ordered around in the Catholic heaven by the spirits of dead "saints" and who is at the beck and call of his dead mother.

". . .after Christ"? If this is meant in the sense the RCC is still searching for the Christ of Scripture, Whom she turned her back on some 1700 or so years ago, I do agree.

If pressed, the Catholic apologist might point out that the Catholic Church, in fact, is in Christ. He may add that the RCC tradition is not after the tradition of men, but after the tradition of Christ.

When I am confronted with the "not after the tradition of men" argument, it cracks me up. Rome, her "saints" and the vaunted Magisterium invent tradition with unparalleled alacrity. As an example, I offer the tradition of Mary's sinless conception, which is not even hinted at in Scripture. As one esteemed Catholic theologian and educator wrote:

Mary's freedom from original sin was an unmerited gift of God (gratia), and an exception from the law which was vouchsafed to her only (singulare)”-- Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma; St. Louis: B. Herder, 1962., p. 199).

If this declaration by noted Catholic theologian and educator Ludwig Ott is true, then either Paul or the Holy Spirit is a liar, for Paul wrote, at the Holy Spirit's inspiration,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God--Romans 3:23, RSV

Luke must also have been a liar, again with the Holy Spirit, for he quotes Mary as having said:

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior

Surely if Mary were conceived without sin and lived a sinless life, as Catholicism declares, then she would have had no need of a savior.

If we accept the teaching of Catholicism concerning Mary's sinlessness, then we also must label Matthew, Mark and Jesus Himself as liars, for the evangelists quote Jesus as having said:

No one is good but One, that is, God"-- Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18, RSV

Don't you just have to ask yourself, "Who is lying? Rome? Or Scripture?"

When that argument is rejected, the spokesman for Rome may declare that RCC tradition is the tradition of the apostles. If he is honest, he may even mention that this tradition has developed over time,

I suppose one could say that Catholic tradition has developed. It surely has grown over time, as the Catholic Church added to it all manner of new revelations that grew out of the inventive minds of the Magisterium. Makes me wonder whether every bishop of the RCC does not have hanging on his office wall a little sign that reads, "If God forgot to say it, we can fix it."

The Catholic apologist might then play his trump card by citing the Catholic foundational belief that Christ handed this tradition to the apostles. This would refer to the self-serving and hopelessly distorted Romish interpretation of Matthew 16:18.

There oughta be a law requiring RCC apologists who post to Christian message boards to pay at least a little attention to what has gone before. How many times have Christian apologists addressed Catholic Matthew 16:18 postulations? How many times have we provided quotations from the early church fathers who disagreed with the Catholic idea that Christ built His church on the man Peter. Some said the "rock" was Peter's confession of faith. Others said the "rock" was Christ Himself. None of those I quote claimed that the "rock" was Peter. Now, I am not arguing that the Roman Church has not built itself upon the claim that Peter was the foundation "rock." Whether that claim is true, is another issue entirely.

No need to go over that again. I invite readers to do a little research of their own and read some of the reams of Christian responses to this Catholic corruption of Scripture. It's all available online.

It is not out of the ordinary for a Catholic apologist to attempt to make the point that, as the Catholic Church is built, so is its tradition. This is, in addition to being sophistry, nothing more than a statement of the presuppositions one must bring with him if he is to swallow without gagging the Catholic claims concerning apostolic succession, developing tradition as authoritative, Mary's non-divine divinity, Christ as cracker, etc.

The Romanist may appeal to an anthropomorphic argument, perhaps calling it 'logic.' He may claim that common sense informs that, just as human beings are not static but always growing, so also, does the 'Mother' Church.

It could be that I am not worthy, for my common sense tells me that the Catholic Church is growing tradition in the same sense that mildew grows on a dark and damp wall. Rome's ever-increasing catalog of tradition appears often to have been added to as a consequence of the fevered imaginings of men and women who spent far too much time out of contact with reality and by the machinations of popes who needed to subdue a recalcitrant enemy or add to their own power.

The apologist may clarify his argument for growing tradition by declaring that it is only wrong when the essence of the tradition contradicts itself which, of course, is something that Roman Catholic tradition never does.

This argument smacks of mysticism. Must one practice transcendental meditation or some other form of Eastern contemplation in order to discover the essence of Roman Catholic tradition? Is it possible for the hoi poloi in the Roman Church to achieve understanding? Or must one be a bishop of the Church before enlightenment is possible?

This is just another attempt to dodge the bullet of truth. All who read this forum surely have seen that popes and the Magisterium frequently have contradicted themselves. Now, we are given a reason -- better, an excuse -- for this. They apparently only were contradicting externals, leaving the essence of the various issues unchallenged. This argument is lame; what Roman traditions frequently contradict is the Word of God.

When everything else has failed, the Romish apologist will attempt to re-focus the discussion by going on the attack; and his likely target will be one of the five solas, such as Sola Fide. He often begins by agreeing that Catholic teaching is that we are saved by faith in Christ; that it is by and through Christ we are saved. Sounds good, doesn't it? Then, however, he will go on to say that this does not mean once we are saved we are always saved.

God is such a joker. That is why He gave those whom He called full assurance that they would have eternal life. To make certain that all who read His inerrant Word understand He was only kidding, He put words such as these into the mouth of His only begotten Son:

And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.-- John 6:39,40 (KJV)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.-- John 5:24 (KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.-- John 3:16 (KJV)

And, once again, we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma: If we are to believe the Romish position, by default, we hold Jesus Christ, the apostle John and the Holy Spirit Who inspired him to be liars. Another no-brainer.

In his eagerness to discredit the doctrine of Sola Fide or, more specifically, Once Saved Always Saved, he may provide an example to prove that Once Saved Always Saved is a fallacy. The example may go like this:

Today, I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Tomorrow, I fornicate with my girlfriend, she becomes pregnant and procure for her an abortion, all in good conscience. After the abortion is performed I die without repenting of fornication and procuring an abortion for her (in good conscience). Am I still saved? even though I still accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior? I mean, I willingly had sex out of wedlock, although I know that such is against the teachings of Jesus, and we are taught by Jesus that to have faith is to obey His commandments.

Catholic apologists have a predilection for building straw men so that they might burn them down. Straw men, like red herrings and rabbit trails, likely do not fool folks who are paying attention.

Regeneration, justification and eternal life are not the consequences of a human decision to "accept Christ as one's Lord and Savior." That, of course closely parallels the RCC position that one's salvation is based on the works of men. It is not man, but God Who chooses who is to be forgiven and who will not be.

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. -- Romans 9:15-16

Were a person to be 'saved' by 'accepting' Christ and then go commit a series of grievous sins, it might give rise to many questions, principle among them: Was he really saved or merely professing? After all, as the Jesus of Scripture assured us, not all who call Him "Lord, Lord.", know Him. One also surely would have cause to wonder about the state of his conscience. After all, anyone who could participate in a cold-blooded murder such as is abortion in "good conscience,” would appear to have at least a few questionable social values.

Just about every Catholic apologist I have encountered has had a poor understanding of what salvation by faith alone is. God forbid any of them ever should read a Christian book on the subject, it being infinitely preferable to absorb the flawed official Roman party line. Responding to God's grace in faith does not imply that the regenerated person suddenly is living a sinless life. Far from it. What it does mean is that one's sins are forgiven, paid for by Christ's atoning death and covered by His blood. In the salvific process, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the redeemed sinner.

Catholic apologists tend not to grasp a rather significant point about the Bible. The New Testament was written for believers and to believers. Carefully read the pastoral letters. The writers are remonstrating with those to whom the letters were sent -- chewing them out for their failures and sinful ways. In all of man's history, only one Person has lived a sinless life, and He is the Jesus Christ of Scripture. Everyone else is a sinner -- even those who have been reborn. Were believers not sinners, would we have need for an Advocate before the Throne of Grace? Thing is, a true Christian tries to live a godly life. That he fails has been taken into account in God's plan of salvation.

Christ's atoning sacrifice was, and remains, sufficient payment for all the sins of all mankind. Sadly, but in accordance with God's will, not all mankind will benefit from this vicarious penance. And Christ's work is complete. It is not necessary that a priest or pope nor even the Virgin Mary help Him finish it --- unless, of course, we are discussing the pseudo-savior of the Roman Church.

A person's salvation has nothing at all to do with whether he accepts Christ as his Lord and Savior or Elmer Fudd. What counts is whether Christ has accepted him. There is an enormous difference here.

At this point, the Catholic apologist might close his argument with what must appear to him to be the clincher:

It does not seem that I have acted like Christ, or that I have become Christ-like. I am not saved.

How to respond to this assertion? One might begin by pointing out that no one, not even the Catholic pope when he beatifies someone who died years ago, can state with any assurance what the eternal state of another is. We know from Scripture (That's the Book of sacred writings that Catholics pay lip service to) that it is the Son of God Who will divide the sheep from the goats and exercise judgment over the goats at His White Throne (Matthew 25:32-33). I will leave that determination in His utterly capable hands for, after all, only God can read the heart of a man.

On the other hand, based on the soap opera sequence above, I would agree that the described behavior was not Christlike. As far as acting like Christ, I also would submit that even Catholics committed to acts of charity, do not act like Christ in some very significant areas: they embrace heresy and error. Christ, on the other hand, confronted heresy and error.

What is one of the heresies that Catholicism embraces? How about an example of Catholic teaching that denies the efficacy of Christ's atoning sacrifice and gives the lie to just about every salvation passage in the Scriptures? I am talking about the Romish idea that salvation is not something that happens in a moment of time but, rather, something that results from growth within a person's life to the point where he empties himself of selfish desires and self-centered egos and allows Christ to pervade his entire being. In other words, salvation results from one's own works, and is only incidentally effected by the work of Christ on the cross.

I really am made uncomfortable by the seeming nonchalance displayed by Catholic apologists when they, in effect, call the Christ of Scripture, the Holy Spirit and the various writers of the books of the Bible liars. They appear quite unaware of the significant differences between justification and sanctification. (which really gives me pause to wonder just what kind of church the converts to Catholicism were involved with before they turned to Rome.) As for the claim that salvation is not instantaneous; I turn to the Bible, where I read:

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
--Luke 23:39-43

On the other hand, the wimpy Jesus of the Magisterium cannot, though Mama Church does teach that, under limited conditions, Catholic faithful who call out to Rome's Christ in extremis might be saved -- and that even in this, he may need to call upon the aid of priests and popes and his mother. However, try as they all do, the justification only lasts for so long as the "saved" person does not lapse into another "mortal" sin. Sigh. Then the whole process must begin again.

This explains why the RCC maintains a "Treasury of Merit" containing the leftover grace accrued by it's Jesus and his mother and all the other dead 'saints.' And why the fallen once-saved require the help of a priest and the sacraments. And the Catholic sinner must continue striving to open himself to Rome's Christ and to allow him to help empty himself of ego. Think back to your own experiences with Catholic apologists. How many of them appeared to be striving to empty themselves of their egos or open themselves to Christ? Just word games that likely go down well in Catholic rooms, but which exude the stench of corruption when uttered among believers.

Is this talk about being open to Christ and emptying oneself of ego more of that Eastern religious stuff? Are all Catholics now required to obtain saffron robes to wear as they sit in the lotus position before burning tapers in an incense-saturated room seeking to empty themselves of all ego and earthly concerns? A "perfect" Christian would have no will but to please God. He would have no earthly concerns nor cares. He also does not exist.

Are some Catholics telling us that those within the Catholic Church who attain to Nirvana …, erh, uh, the saved state, have divested themselves of all the trappings of ego? Didn't that rich young ruler approach Jesus from much the same position, claiming he had kept the commandments and lived a godly life? How did Jesus respond to him, calling attention to his continuing love for the world?

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me. -- Matthew 19:21

Believers are called to be perfect (2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 3:15; 2 Timothy 3:17; James 1:4) Do any of us achieve perfection? I think not. Certainly, Paul was aware of the enormous difficulties in living a perfect life:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
--Romans 7:14-25

If Paul, that committed and holy man of God, anguished so over his sin, do you reckon it a simple matter to become "perfect enough” to find salvation? “Only through Rome,” the Catholic might respond. To which I respond. "Not Likely."

All men are responsible to God for their actions, including Christians. The big difference is that God has marked those debts created by our sins as "Paid in Full" by the atoning sacrifice of the Jesus of Scripture.

Catholic apologists might argue that men must perform Christ-like works; works that are informed by faith. They might urge us to carefully and without bias read James 2:20-24, Matthew 7:21, Romans 2:1-11, all of which, they claim explicitly state that faith must be shown through and by works.

Indeed, we are called, in James and Romans and elsewhere in Scripture to show our faith, to justify ourselves before man, by our Christian works. However, those works are the results of our regenerated state, not the cause of it.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
-- Ephesians 2:8-10

I hope that I have shown, at least a little, that no believer need be intimidated by the apologetics of Catholics who would defend their apostate faith by aggressively attacking biblical Christianity. At first blush, their arguments may appear invincible but, under close examination, they can be shown to be built of nothing more substantial than fabrications and distortions.

Stand firm on the Scriptures, and you will not go wrong.

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