Purity of Doctrine

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Gentle Reader,

As I touched on in Friday’s post, I have been confronted with the need to, once again, examine some of the things I believe and to reconsider some of my stances on those beliefs. This is always an uncomfortable place to be, but it’s not a bad thing. After all, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

The wording isn’t past tense; he does not say, “you did your best and presented yourself.” The sentence carries with it the sense of a present, ongoing action. This verse couples well with the sentiment expressed in Deuteronomy 11:16:

Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.  (NASB)

Again, it is not, “you were aware and so you were not deceived.” We must be aware now and continue to be aware.

Here, my friend, is where I am. Listening to a single webcast at work last week brought to my attention a place of blindness. A place where I was not aware.

For the past few months I’ve been listening to Dr. James White’s webcast, the Dividing Line. Dr. White is a stanch Calvinist, and so there are definitely things I disagree with him on. (To balance out the listening time, I went on the hunt for a non-Calvinist who was as good a presenter as Dr. White. I came across Dr. Michael Brown, a Messianic Jew. I haven’t listened to as much of his stuff yet, but what I have, I’ve enjoyed). Despite these disagreements, I really enjoy Dr. White’s teaching, which is primarily focused in the realm of apologetics and, currently, dialoguing with Muslims. He is knowledgeable about the subjects he addresses, does not engage in bashing those on the “other side” of whatever it is he’s talking about and has a sarcastic sense of humor, which I always appreciate.

I haven’t gone through the Dividing Line episodes in chronological order, so the topics have been wide-ranging, to say the least. Last Thursday I found this floating around the YouTubeness. If you have the opportunity right now, take an hour and listen. For those of you who don’t have the time, the webcast was aired the day that Pope Francis was elected. Dr. White delves into his own view of that event while remarking on his surprise that many Christians (honestly, myself included) failed to understand the issues.

Let me make something very clear: I am not about to get into Catholic-bashing. I absolutely, one-hundred percent believe that there are true, sincere Christians within the Catholic Church. If someone were to ask me, “Are Catholics Christian?,” I would have to respond with, “Let’s go talk to some and see what they say.” And with that we have the other thing I need to make clear: While I truly believe that there are real Christians within the Catholic Church, I do not believe that the Catholic Church teaches the true Gospel.

And I just lost some readers.

I considered not writing this, but I can’t be so cowardly. The seed for this post was planted when Dr. White went through some of the Pope’s titles in the webcast. I was brought up short when he illuminated the implications of calling him “Holy Father,” two words used in Scripture to describe God Himself. (Before you object, yes, Christ calls His people to holiness. Yet we would be real idiots to think that our daily striving for set-apartness and cleanness comes anywhere near the perfect purity of the Lord). Are Catholics actually calling the Pope God? I don’t think so. I don’t think they mean it that way. Nevertheless, it makes me squirm.

I’ve never met Pope Francis. I have no idea who he truly is. Like much of the rest of the world, I was interested when he came to power. I tracked the proceedings that day and I prayed for him. There have been moments when I’ve said, “I like that he said ___________” or “I like that he did _____________.” I’m not trying to pass some sort of judgment on the man. Yet he stands in a position with accompanying titles that take my breath away.

It’s not just the “Holy Father” thing, either. How about “Vicarious Iesu Christi,” or Vicar of Christ? The term vicarious means “acting or done for another.” Tertullian, writing in the third century, applied to the term to the Holy Spirit, in Prescriptions Against Heretics, Chapter 28. And rightly so, for Jesus said that the Father would send the Spirit “in My name” (John 14:26).

But this was not the big problem for me.

“Alter Christus.”

That’s the big problem for me.

I have been to Mass before. There were things about it that I liked: the sense of sacred space, the beauty of the architecture. But I had no idea just what it was the people in attendance believed about the priest. In paragraph 1548 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “Now the minister comes by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the High Priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of Christ himself.” The priest is an alter Christus, meaning “another Christ.” I can feel the heat rushing to my cheeks as I think about that. Another Christ.

No.

In paragraph 1549: “The bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father.”

The living image of God the Father?

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyedus into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwelland by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. – Colossians 1:3-20 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Pretty sure all of that refers to Jesus, not a bishop.

In brief, consider:

* Transubstantiation, the dogma that declares the bread and wine to become the literal body and blood of Christ, which one must ingest in order to be saved. Thus Communion becomes a “re-sacrifice” of Jesus Christ for our sins, or as a “re-offering” of His sacrifice. This defies several passages of Scripture, most notably Hebrews 7:27, which states:

Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins for all when He offered Himself. (NKJV)

And Hebrews 10:10:

…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (NKJV, emphasis mine)

– John 6, particularly verses 53-57, is interpreted in an extremely literal way in order to arrive at the conclusion that the bread and wine must become the body and blood, because Jesus appears to be saying that we must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood. Yet verse 63 has Jesus declaring:

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (NKJV)

Jesus uses physical concepts to teach spiritual truth.

* The Marian dogmas, particularly the teaching that Mary is a mediator between God and mankind. Catholicism also asserts that she intercedes for people. Both deny the truth of 1 Timothy 2:5 & Hebrews 7:25:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…He always lives to intercede for them. (NKJV)

– Mary is often referred to as “the advocate,” a title given to the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).

– Mary is seen as the “co-redemptrix,” meaning that she “uniquely shared in the work of Jesus to redeem the human family, both by giving Jesus His body, the very instrument of redemption, and by suffering with Him at Calvary in a way unparalleled by another other creature.” Reading that sentence actually makes me angry. Nobody – NOBODY – but Christ engaged in the work of redemption.

* Oral and written tradition. Catholicism heartily rejects sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone, and instead insists upon the existence of an oral tradition that is just as authoritative as Scripture. This means that the source of authority can (and does) come from somewhere other than the substantiated Word of God that anyone can access. This may not directly cross into Gnostic territory, but it certainly flirts with the line.

What truly baffles me is just how little Catholicism considers Judaism, the very roots from which the Christian faith grew. All of the Apostles were Jewish. Every single one of the concepts discussed here would have been absolutely blasphemous to them. There is no way they taught any of that.

There are many other points of deep concern, but this post is already nearing the 1900 word mark.

I am not a trained apologist. I don’t know the original languages. I don’t know the ins and outs of all the sophisticated, philosophical arguments. But I can read the teaching of the Catholic Church and assess it next to the teaching of the Bible. Doing so leads me to this conclusion:

There are true Christians in the Catholic Church, but they became Christians by reading Scripture and through the grace and mercy of God, not through anything the church teaches. Rome preaches a false gospel. 

I just lost some more readers.

Due to this conclusion, I will be going back over the Sola What? series I wrote two years ago and doing extensive editing. My thoughts on the subject have definitely changed. However, the direction of this blog is not taking a big turn or leap. I don’t intend to focus exclusively on Catholicism. I’m not out to “stick it to” anyone. I simply want everyone and anyone who comes across my writing to be presented with the true message of the Gospel: Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

My journey to faith. (15)

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8 thoughts on “Purity of Doctrine

  1. Many of the doctrinal problems you are describing in Catholicism, I came from the desire to force the conversion of others after it became a state religion. If the Pope is God on Earth then he has the last word on all issues, maintaining a vast amount of power for the Catholic church. Mary is an intercessor and Catholics pray to saints because many of the polytheist religions the church was trying to replace had deities of both male and female persuasions and it was harder to convince them of the loving nature of God without the ability to show them important women, women on the level of God. These doctrines didn’t come from the will of God, but rather the will of man to impose his will and control on society.

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  2. So my dear fiend,

    If your REALLY wising to share God’s TRUTH [singular]

    Please explain the following:

    Eph. 4:1-7
    “[1] I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, [2] With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity. [3] Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. [5] One Lord, one faith, one baptism. [6] One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. [7] But to every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ”

    JUST ONE: How Could God be “good” and wait more than 1,500 years for Protestantism to be “birthed”? What about the Church [singular Christ founded today,s Catholic Church]

    Matt 16:16-18-19 who ALONE were given and possess the key’s to Christ Kingdom.
    ” And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

    And to whom Christ passes His Own Power and authority:
    John 17:18 & 20:21
    ” Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. [18] As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” GOD CAN’T DENY HIMSELF and what we see here is God giving His Godly powers to His One Church

    John 20:21-22 “He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. [22] When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost”

    “God sends the Apostles who HE CHOOSE, gave His Godly powers [READ Mt 10:1-8 if you doubt this], and then COMMANDS THEM!
    To go out and teach the world.

    Mt. 28:16-20 “[16] And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. [17] And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. [18] And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world”

    To THEM alone and exclusively is this Command given along with the promise to be with THEM until the end of time.

    THEN READ John 17: 14-21 ” I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world; as I also am not of the world. [15] I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.

    [16] They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. [17] Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. [18] As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. [19] And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. [20] And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me;

    [21] That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

    Christ gives HIMSELF as a PERSONAL WARRANTY of Catholic Teaching HIS TRUTH on ALL matters of faith and Morals.

    I FEAR my friend, that your post is NOT the WILL of God, and both History and the Bible prove it.

    May God enlighten you to HIS truth.

    One God
    One TRUE Faith
    and One true Church

    is ALL God desires, founded and protects.

    Love and prayers,
    Patrick
    working4christtwo

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    1. Hi, Patrick!

      I’ll respond to you by quoting some of your comment –

      “Please explain the following:

      Eph. 4:1-7
      “[1] I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, [2] With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity. [3] Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. [5] One Lord, one faith, one baptism. [6] One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. [7] But to every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ”
      JUST ONE.”

      Right. I love that Scripture. Where we differ is whether the Church is one visible entity or an invisible entity.

      “How Could God be “good” and wait more than 1,500 years for Protestantism to be “birthed”? What about the Church [singular Christ founded today,s Catholic Church]”

      I don’t at all believe that everyone within the Church between the years of 313 and 1517 was unsaved. Not in any way. I do, however, believe that those years saw the addition of strange doctrines, doctrines that cannot be traced back to the Apostles themselves. So the Catholic Church of today does not look like the Church that Christ founded. Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone within the Catholic Church is unsaved. I don’t believe that, either. I do believe that the pure teaching of Christ and the Apostles has been corrupted.

      As for the bulk of what you wrote, I have questions: Why is not enough for me to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, wiping out the penalty of my sin and making me right before God? Why is it not enough for me to say that salvation comes by grace, through faith and is expressed in works?

      This is what I don’t understand. If Jesus is enough, more than enough really, as the Scripture makes plain, then why do I need Mary, the repository of the saints, Purgatory, etc? I fully appreciate what Mary did in submitting to the will of God in the plan of salvation, but I just don’t see how she had any part in redemption other than the being Jesus’ mother. I don’t see how the righteousness of anyone other that Jesus can be accredited to my account. I don’t see how, if Christ is enough, why I have to go through Purgatory.

      “I FEAR my friend, that your post is NOT the WILL of God, and both History and the Bible prove it.”

      Okay, so a question as a way of addressing that: What of the Marian dogmas is explicitly taught in the Bible?

      “One God
      One TRUE Faith
      and One true Church
      is ALL God desires, founded and protects.”

      I absolutely agree with you.

      In closing, please know, my friend, that I don’t in any way question your salvation. I want to make that very clear. We’ve never met in person and, even if we had, I can’t see into your heart. I can’t see what transactions have taken place between you and God. As far as I’m concerned, our disagreement is not in any away personal.

      Marie

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  3. I grew up Catholic and as a result I am never not truly Catholic. However I do see where you are coming from. The Catholic church has done a lot but the biggest thing I have with them is them becoming a political power. I understand it was needed in some ways but I think that overpowers the faith a lot and I am not okay with that. That being said, I am very happy with the current pope. He is doing amazing work and seems to be genuine. I may not be Catholic anymore but I am glad I have that heritage.

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    1. I am glad that you can away from your time in Catholicism with a sense of appreciation. I think that’s a good thing.

      You’re very right that the Catholic Church engages in politics and that tends to muddy the waters of faith. I think that’s true of any church. It’s a fine line that we walk, being people of conviction. We must participate in life in the ways that God leads, but we have to be so careful that our motives and means of operation are always pure. Always what He’s called us to.

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