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Cults and World Religions

More on Roman Catholics


Tradition becomes the source of doctrine which may not be expressly discovered in Scripture. Has the Roman Catholic Church become like the Pharisees of biblical Judaism? Have the church’s tradition gotten in the way of God’s teachings, producing bad doctrine and practice? To the Catholic Church, tradition appears to justify their methods and views of the Mass, Penance, Veneration of Mary, Purgatory, Indulgences, the Priesthood, the Confessional, the Rosary, Venial and Mortal Sins, and statues in the Church.

"Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God."(paragraph 97).

The reasoning goes like this:

1. "The apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them ‘their own position of teaching authority.&" (Paragraph 77)

2. "This living transmission, accomplished through the Holy Spirit, is called tradition." (Par. 78)

3. "Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence." (Par. 82).

The Roman Catholic Church has elevated Tradition to the level of God’s revealed Word. Tradition justifies the teachings of the church. This, to a great extent, is the same tradition which led to the Reformation. The church itself refers to the “living Tradition of the whole Church.” It is the basis for interpreting Scripture.

Tradition has become the source of many new, “revealed” doctrines, including the veneration of Mary, the apocrypha, transubstantiation, praying to saints, the confessional, penance, and purgatory.

Is there a difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Pharisees? Tradition must be interpreted in light of the Scripture, not the other way around. Does not the history of the Roman Church show just the opposite? The Church uses tradition to interpret and apply Scripture. To this extent, the teachings of the Church are unbiblical and the doctrines which arise from these Traditions are false doctrines.

"Sola Scriptura," or, "Scripture Alone" was the battle cry of Luther and others during the Reformation. Catholics hold fast to tradition, asking the question, "Is Sola Scriptura biblical?"

It is true that major doctrines accepted by all Christians do not find direct, supportive statements in the Bible. These include the Trinity, the two natures of Jesus (God and man), and the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Godhead. Yet, all of these doctrines, developed over many years in response to false teachings, are supported by Scripture and do not contradict Scripture. Compare this to Catholic doctrines, such as the praying to Mary as an intercessor. Scripture teaches that only God deserves worship (Matt 4:10). Is not prayer a form of worship? Do the Catholics really teach Mary is God?

The Roman Church uses its own terminology, words which in many cases mean different things from their Protestant counterpart, or which do not exist in Protestant theology. Attached at the end of this chapter is a list of such terms.


The Roman Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments. These were formalized in the present form around the twelfth century, although most had been practiced in their present form from about the sixth-to-eighth centuries. It should be noted that many churches of all denominations practice some of these sacraments, but not as sacraments. The real difference between “the Protestant and Catholic view of sacrament is not in the number or sacraments, two versus seven, but rather in the meaning and purpose of the sacraments themselves. Protestantism sees its sacraments, baptism and communion, primarily as symbols and memorials of vital theological truths. But Catholicism sees the sacraments as actually changing a person inwardly, as if through a form of spiritual empowering.” 116

The sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, and their meaning are:

The effect of all of this is to redefine salvation.

Man is justified by works and not by faith along.

Pope John Paul II 118

But, even the quote of the Pope is not accurate. Salvation to the Catholic Church has become faith in Jesus Christ plus works plus the application of the sacraments!

And, then there is Mary

While Christians admit Mary’s uniqueness, the Catholic Church has, in its own words, "clarified her position and nature through Sacred Tradition". Through the centuries, more and more doctrines concerning her have been “revealed.” For example:

As an example, the Roman Catholic Church maintains that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus and that biblical references suggesting Jesus had siblings are really references to cousins (paragraph 510). However, Scripture contradicts this position. For example,

Matthew 13:55
Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?

Other scriptures to consider include Matthew 1:24-25; 12:46-47; Mark 6:2-3; John 2:12; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor 9:4-5, and Gal 1:19. While it is true that in the Greek, the words used for brother and sister can and does refer to the cousins, the context of these versions gives the meaning that these are actual blood brothers of Jesus.

This is especially true when considered against the background of Old Testament prophecy.

Psalm 69:4-9
4 Those who hate me without a cause Are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it. 5 O God, You know my foolishness; And my sins are not hidden from You. 6 Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me; Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel. 7 Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Shame has covered my face. 8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children; 9 Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.

This Messianic psalm clearly shows that the Messiah would have natural brothers and sisters.

There is sufficient biblical doctrine to refute each of the other Mary teachings as well.


According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1030, "All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation, but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." What this amounts to is a statement that the grace of the Cross is insufficient to wipe away sin. Thus, in purgatory, a believer pays for the penalty of sins, even if the guilt of those sins have already been forgiven by the sacrament of penance. According to Catholic doctrine, purgatory is not supposed to be a place of punishment, but of purification. The nature of this purification, according to different Catholic theologians, ranges from an extreme awareness of loss to an intense, excruciatingly painful "purifying fire."

This doctrine detracts from justification by faith. In fact, the entire Catholic doctrine detracts from justification by faith and the power of the Cross. The concept of purgatory effective says that there are sins of believers not covered by the Cross or by the Catholics own sacrament of baptism. It is not baptism that justifies, but the gift of God by His grace (Rom 3:24). Purgatory effectively teaches that we must complete salvation through our works of suffering.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

And, one might ask – does purgatory amount to a second chance for salvation?

Vatican II

“The council met in four sessions—1962, 1963, 1964, 1965—under John XXIII and Paul VI (about twenty-five hundred delegates came from 136 countries, in addition to Orthodox and Protestant observers). The council was characterized by a new spirit of openness A total of sixteen constitutions or decrees came out of Vatican II. Of special importance to laypersons was permission to use vernacular languages in the liturgy, adaptation of rites to differing, non-Western cultures, and simplification of the liturgy. Whereas the Council of Trent in 1546 had declared that Scripture and tradition were equal bases of authority, Vatican II did not distinguish between the two, but emphasized their interplay or interrelatedness. In the spirit of greater sharing of authority in the church, the council declared that infallibility of the church resides in the pope and also “in the body of bishops when that body exercises supreme teaching authority with the successor of Peter.” The decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, declared that both Roman Catholics and Protestants must share the blame for the division among Christians, called on Roman Catholics to play their part in the ecumenical movement, and set forth the importance of renewal as a prelude to unity. Supplementary to Vatican II was the Extraordinary Synod of November 25-December 7, 1985. While giving assent to Vatican II, its two documents stressed the duty of every Christian to engage in evangelization and to participate fully in the struggle to build a “civilization of love.” The Synod declared evangelization to be the first duty of all Christians, and it called for personal communion that existed between Catholics and other Christians and sought to manifest and increase it as much as possible with a view to eventual restoration of full communion. The Synod also addressed the social needs of the world and spoke of the need to defend human rights, but cautioned against falling into a “this-worldly humanism”; it accepted the principle of inculturation, the regeneration and transformation of culture in the light of the Gospel. Thirty years after the calling of Vatican II the Roman Catholic church looks quite different from what it did before the Council. Now worship services are conducted in the language of the people. The priest often distributes both elements to participants in the communion and faces the congregation as he leads them in celebration of the sacrament. Biblical exposition and congregational singing are common elements of Catholic worship services. A Bible in the language of the people may at least be found in most American Catholic homes. Interaction between Catholics and Protestants has been much more pronounced as they have cooperated in social and political action, and as charismatics in both camps have enjoyed a common experience.” 119

Did the Council actually change the Roman Catholic Church? Outwardly yes. It made Christianity more accessible to the laity of Catholicism by giving them the Bible in their own language. This makes it easier to hold discussions with Catholics over Scripture, although the Catholics have their own translations of the Bible. But, the same sacraments, the same Tradition still prevails. There are certainly saved, believing Catholics. But there are a lot of Catholics who have not placed their faith in Christ, but in the rituals of the church.

Catholics Today

Catholicism today is a vast mix, not a unified umbrella. While it is true that there still is but one pope, one governing body, and one set of priests, at the local level, Catholicism suffers from the same fractures as Protestantism.

Consider the possible list as given by Ankerberg: 120

The Apostles’ Creed

This well-known creed lies as the basis of most other religious statements of belief. The origin of this creed is unknown. Although it bears the name of the apostles, it did not originate with them. It was written after the close of the New Testament. The creed sets forth the original tenets of the Christian faith and appears to have been used by the early church as both a part of the liturgy and as a defense of the faith.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic 121 Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.


Catholic Terminology


This list of terms used by the Catholic church is brief and succinct. It should help those who are learning about Catholicism and who desire to be conversant with Catholics on their terms.                

Absolution - the act of releasing someone from their sin by God, through the means of a priest. 

Actual sin - any sin that a person commits.

Annunciation - When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.

Assumption - the taking of the body and soul of Mary, by God, into glory.  Catholic doctrine, apparently, does not state whether or not Mary died.

Baptism - One of seven sacraments that takes away original sin and actual sin.

Bishop - the head of a diocese, successor of the apostles.

Blessed Sacrament - the elements of the communion supper, bread and wine, which become the body and blood of Christ. It is offered at the altar in the church.

Capital sins - the seven causes of all sin: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth.

Confession - telling sins to a priest and the Lord forgives the person through the priest.

Confessional - a small compartment where the priest hears the confessed sins of a sinner.

Confirmation - a ceremony performed by a bishop that is supposed to strengthen a person and enable him to resist sin. It is usually done at the age of 12. The Bishop dips his right thumb in holy oil and anoints the person on the forehead by making the sign of the cross and says, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Consecration - a moment during the ceremony of the mass where God, allegedly through the priest, changes bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.

Contrition - extreme sorrow for having sinned with a deep repentance concerning that sin.

Diocese - an area of many parishes presided over by a bishop.

Eucharist - The elements of the communion supper where the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ.

Extreme Unction - A sacrament given to a person who in danger of dying. It is intended to strengthen the person&s soul and help his love be pure so they may enter into heaven. It is done through prayer and the anointing of oil. This is also known as Anointing of the Sick

Guardian Angel - a special angel assigned by God to each person in order to protect and guide that person with the goal of reaching heaven.

Heresy - denial of the truths found in the Catholic Church.

Holy Chrism - the special oil used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.

Holy Orders - one of the seven sacraments by which men, bishop, deacons, and priests, are given the power and authority by a bishop to offer sacrifice and forgive sins.

Holy Water - Special water that has been blessed by a priest, bishop, etc. or a liturgical ceremony.  It is used to bring a blessing to a person when applied.

Host - the bread in the communion supper that is changed into the body of Christ.

Immaculate Conception - The teaching that Mary was conceived without original sin.

Indulgence - a means by which the Catholic church takes away some of the punishment due the Christian in this life and/or purgatory because of his sin.

Laity - the members of the Catholic church who are not in the clergy.

Lent - a forty day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Usually it is accompanied by some form of prayer and fasting.

Mass - a reenactment of the sacrifice of Christ cross in a ceremony performed by a priest. This ceremony is symbolically carried out by the priest and involves Consecration where the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus.

Mortal Sin - a serious and willful transgression of God&s Law. It involves full knowledge and intent of the will to commit the sin. If left unrepentant, can damn someone to eternal hell.

Original Sin - the inherited sin nature of Adam that resulted from Adam&s sin.

Parish - a subdivision of a diocese with the priest as its head.

Passion - The sufferings of Christ from the time of the Last Supper to His Crucifixion.

Penance - a means by which all sins committed after baptism are removed. The means are assigned by a priest and usually consist of special prayers or deeds performed by the sinner.

Peter - the first pope.

Pope - Christ&s representative on earth. He is the visible successor of Peter.

Priest - one who mediates between God and man and administers the sacraments and graces of God. He has received the Holy Orders.

Purgatory - a place of temporary punishment where the Christian is cleansed from sin before they can enter into heaven.

Relic - a part of the body of a saint including clothing, jewelry, etc. The relic is considered holy due to its association with the saint.

Rosary - A string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set of ten is separated by another bead. It also contains a crucifix. It is used in saying special prayers, usually to Mary where the rosary is used to count the prayers.

Sacrament - an outward sign of God&s grace.

Sacramentals - Special prayers, deeds, or objects used to gain spiritual benefits from God.

Saint - A very holy person. Usually, it is someone who has been dead for many years and has been canonized by the Catholic Church. Saints do not have to pass through purgatory.

Scapular - two small cloth squares joined by a string. One cloth is positioned in the front and the other in the back. Indulgences are attached to the them.

Sign of the Cross - A sacramental. It is the movement of the right hand from the forehead to the chest and then left and right upon the shoulders.

Tradition - handing down through the centuries from mouth to mouth of the teachings of Jesus. It

began with the apostles and continues unbroken to the present bishopric of the Catholic Church.

Transubstantiation - The teaching that the bread and wine in the communion supper become the body and blood of the Lord Jesus at the Consecration during the Mass.

Venerate - to honor, admire, and regard with respect.

Venial Sin - A sin but not as bad as Mortal Sin. It lessens the grace of God within a person&s soul.

Vicar of Christ - the Pope.


116. Ankerberg, The Facts on Roman Catholicism, 13.
117. Luther did not believe in this definition of the communion elements. His views were that the body and blood of Christ “surrounded” the elements, but that the elements did not actually become the body and blood of Christ. This doctrine is called consubstantiation. Luther was opposed by many of the other Reformers, notably Zwingli of Switzerland, who viewed the elements as bread and wine, mere memorials.
118. Ibid., 18, quoting the Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1983, Part I, 10.
119. Howard Frederic Vos, Exploring church history [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994 by Howard F. Vos.
120. Ankerberg, The Facts on Roman Catholicism, 11.
121. The term “catholic” does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. The word “catholic” in its original sense means “universal,” so the phrase could be read as “the holy universal Church,” that is the world-wide church of Jesus Christ.




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