|From Patchwork Gospel|
To Tradition's Trap
A CHAPTER FROM JOHN SCHROEDER'S
'HERESIES OF CATHOLICISM'
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
To professing Catholics of the 21st century, the Roman Catholic Church is the oldest - and in fact is the only - church founded by our lord Jesus Christ. The church's teaching ministry has been eminently successful in establishing and maintaining this belief as if it were an established fact of history. Utilizing what is termed "apostolic succession," Rome has convinced the faithful that their religion of today, in its leadership, its doctrines, and its liturgy, is virtually unchanged from what the Apostles left with their immediate successors. In Chapter 2 of the 1994 Catholic Catechism, Article 2 entitled "The Transmission of Divine Revelation," fosters the notion that Christ left His Gospel and the dissemination of it exclusively in the hands of the Catholic Church. The Apostles "own position of teaching authority" is alleged to have been passed on directly to those first bishops of the "Catholic" Church, and from them to all succeeding popes and bishops down through the annals of time.
In Part 2 of the '94 Catechism, Article 3, entitled "The Sacrament of The Eucharist," contains several entries conveying the impression that the Catholic Mass and the doctrine of bread and wine becoming Christ's literal flesh and blood had their origin in the apostolic church. The office of the popes is alleged to have originated with Peter, and by association, this teaching imputes great antiquity to the 19th century doctrine of papal infallibility. Christ is supposed to have instituted all seven of the Catholic sacraments before His ascension, and infant baptism supposedly was practiced right from the church's inception. Mary's Immaculate Conception, her sinless life, her cradle-to-the-grave virginity, all recent doctrinal additions, are taught as if they had been articles of faith preached by the Apostles. This deliberate "aging" of doctrines reflects the tireless efforts of Rome's apologists to create for Catholicism a reputation of great antiquity, stability, and holiness combined with absolute, God-given authority. Proof that these efforts have yielded the desired results is found in the fact that Catholicism as it presently exists is thought by a vast majority of the faithful to be the exact same faith instituted by Jesus and passed on by His Apostles.
Of course, if Catholicism really IS the one and only Church founded by Jesus, its organization, its doctrines, and its liturgies should dovetail with what is known about the apostolic Church. But, when we consult the written records - those found in the Bible, the history books, and the writings of early Church saints - we are hard pressed to find how today's Roman Catholic Church is even remotely related to the Church instituted by Christ and propagated by His disciples. What we do find is a religion, not of grace, but of works, governed not by independent bishops, but by a self-styled monarch, and "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mat 15:9) Hence, all of Rome's propaganda notwithstanding, Catholicism's antiquity is self-assumed, and has no relationship whatever to the truth. All the claims of longevity are just that, and only that - claims unsubstantiated by history, the Holy Scriptures, or the writings of early church saints. Rome is undaunted in the face of reality and truth, however, adamantly insisting that Catholicism is the one and only true church founded by Christ. Therefore, of Catholicism's numerous heresies, this must be considered the first, for it is the one from which all the others derive their existence. Moreover, it is a chief cause of Rome's well-documented antipathy to the Scriptures, a matter given extensive coverage later in this chapter.
What our Lord left on earth was left not just to 12 Apostles, but to 120 disciples who were in the same upper room together on the first Pentecost. These all were indwelt by and filled with the Holy Spirit who empowered them to carry the salvation message throughout the world. Not one of those 120 disciples was a Catholic. Nor were Peter, James, John, Thomas, or any of the other Apostles Catholics. Their immediate successors - Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Linus, Cletus, etc. - were Christians, not Catholics. When, in the middle of the 2nd century, Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was martyred, the crowd of onlookers called him the "father of Christians." Referring to himself, Polycarp declared, "I am a Christian!" In the Bible we read, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (Act 11:26)
The Council of Nicaea, AD 325 - 225 years removed from the apostolic church - was a synod of Christian, not Catholic, bishops. It was convened and supervised by the emperor, Constantine, an alleged convert to Christianity, not Catholicism. At the time, there were at least 1800 known Christian, not Catholic, churches, each one independent of the others, each led by its own bishop. The Council was attended by 318 of those bishops, but Sylvester, the sitting bishop of Rome, (who is listed by the Vatican as a Catholic pope,) was not among them. Historically, the designation "Catholic" is not found in common usage until the fifth century. Church historian, Eusebius, writing in the 4th century, recorded events of Christendom's early years without once mentioning a Catholic Church. Near the start of the 5th century, Augustine, bishop of Hippo in Africa, was called by his mother a "Catholic Christian."
Possessed of these facts, we conclude that what was passed on by Christ's disciples to their successors was not a religious denomination - Catholicism - but the simple grace-based Christian faith instituted by our Lord. History, the Bible, the writings of the early church saints, these offer no support whatever for Rome's claims that Catholicism was the one and only true church founded by Jesus; nor that Christ ordained Peter as bishop of Rome and the first pope. The so-called "holy sacrifice of the Mass," was unknown in the apostolic church; the Lord's Supper was a memorial, not a reenactment, of Calvary, and there were no priests allegedly endowed with the power to take the place of Jesus here on earth. Baptism was not mandatory for salvation or receipt of the Holy Spirit. No works were required of the individual who wished to be saved, only faith in Christ Jesus. "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:31) "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8)
No one, this writer included, disputes the fact that the Roman Catholic Church emerged from apostolic Christianity. So did the eastern branch of Christendom, known today as the Orthodox Church. So did the Anabaptists, the Arians, The Docetists, the Marcions, the Ebionites, the Gnostics, etc. All emerged from the same Christian roots and are eloquent proof that common beginnings do not guarantee truth will be the end result.
The Gospel Christ entrusted to His followers has never been added to, taken from, or altered in any way. It and it alone is the benchmark against which the one and only true church is measured and identified. What God's Word said in the first century is what God's Word says today: "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast." (Eph. 2:8, 9) Salvation faith is a free gift from God. It can't be bought with all the good works or penances in the world. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3) A new spiritual birth is necessary, and occurs when the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. "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) The new birth results from belief in all that Christ is, all that He said, and all that He did. It has never been limited to persons of any one particular denomination, but to "whosoever believeth."
This basically is the Gospel left to us by Christ, the one His disciples preached and recorded. Like Jesus, it is the "same yesterday, today and forever." (Heb 13:8) That verse should apply as well to Catholicism if it is the one true church founded by Christ. But it does not apply because of Rome's own self-generated problem - its "Patchwork Gospel" - which completely obviates that unsubstantiated claim. History is a hard task master, and it shows that from the time it assumed an identity of its own, becoming the Catholic, rather than the Christian church, Catholicism has been "patching" the immutable Gospel of Christ with one doctrine after another, none of which is supported in the Scriptures, nor was orally transmitted by Christ's Apostles. By inference, this makes the God of Scripture appear to be both inept and unjust. Inept, because His original Gospel allegedly was incomplete, insufficient, and had to be "patched" numerous times over many centuries. Unjust because the original converts were denied privileges and benefits enjoyed by later converts to the "complete Gospel" whose latest "patch" was added in 1965.
This "Patchwork Gospel" that Rome created, and now is forced to live with, actually is the strongest rebuttal to any and all claims that the Roman Catholic Church is the one and only Church instituted by Christ. It is painful to admit that in 52 years as a Catholic I never once realized that the God of Catholicism needed hundreds and hundred of years, and numerous "patches" to the original, to get His Gospel "right" in my generation. Neither did I realize that the Jesus of Catholicism is a wholly different Jesus than the Savior known and preached by His Apostles. In retrospect, I accepted all of the church's doctrines as having been a part of the religion since the time of Christ. I did not know, for example, that the critically important doctrine of transubstantiation - the assertion that ordinary bread and wine becomes the physical body and blood of Jesus - has been an article of faith only since the 13th century. Through the parochial school training I received, I fully believed the following, which is from a book entitled, "The Faith of Millions - The Credentials of the Catholic Church."
"When the priest announces the tremendous words of
consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down
from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up
again as the victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than
that of the saints and angels, greater than that of the Seraphim and
Cherubim. The priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders
Him present on our altar as the eternal victim for the sins of man -
not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ,
the eternal and omnipotent God, bows His head in humble
obedience to the priest's command."
Aside from the fact that the above is unscriptural, blasphemous, and utter nonsense, it points up the problem Rome has created for itself by periodically "patching" strange new doctrines into God's original and only Gospel, the one Gospel that identifies the Church He left on earth. Since transubstantiation was not declared an article of faith until 1215 AD, Catholic liturgy did not "bring Christ down from heaven" prior to that date. How, then, could this doctrine be a product of "apostolic succession" when, 1) there were no priests in the apostolic Church, and, 2) when a gap of more than 1200 years separates it from the Apostles? And, would God feed His flock mere bread and wine prior to AD 1215; then begin feeding them His actual body and blood after that date? Hardly. /Catholics, (me, too, when I was one) accept without question that the Apostle Peter was a Catholic and the first pope. They believe that Jesus ordained him with the words from Matthew 16:18, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." But the Bible itself, history, and the writings of the early church saints show this belief to be seriously in error. In fact, if it were not for some forged documents appearing in the third century, documents that even Rome admits are blatant frauds, there is little likelihood Peter ever would have been touted as a bishop of Rome and the first pope. The Apostle Paul was a far better candidate because of his lengthy, biblically recorded, stay in Rome, plus his own claim to having the oversight of all the churches. (2 Cor 11:28) All evidence considered, the papacy has not existed from the time of Christ. It was permanently "patched-in" many hundreds of years later when a second set of forged documents gained acceptance for a time as genuine and trustworthy.
In regard to the critical matter of church leadership, a monarchy headed by one individual called the pope was not what Christ bequeathed to His Apostles. In the book of Acts, in nine Pauline epistles and the First Epistle of Peter, it is evident that there were many churches, each independent of the others, all comprising the one Church whose unifying element was common faith in Jesus, His atoning sacrifice, and His bodily resurrection. That the existence of numerous independent churches met with Christ's approval is supported by our Lord's letters to seven of them in the book of Revelation. He did not address one letter to one church ruled by one bishop occupying a position of supremacy over all the churches. He addressed seven letters to seven "Messengers" who were the leaders of seven separate independent churches; and He revealed His very presence among them. "These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," (Rev 2:1) In his Galatians epistle, Paul acknowledges a multiplicity of churches in that area alone by addressing his letter "unto the churches of Galatia." (Gal 1:2)
Further evidence that the apostolic church was made up of many individual, independent, churches, is found in letters generated by Clement and Ignatius, two renowned first-century saints. Especially in letters of Ignatius, it is apparent the independent churches were headed by bishops, presbyters and deacons. Polycarp, bishop of the Smyrna church, awaiting arrest and martyrdom, prayed for the safety of the churches, not the Church singular. Regarding the installation of new bishops, Ignatius in his letter to the Philadelphia church, constrained the church members to elect a new bishop. In so doing he contradicts Rome's "apostolic succession" claim in which the faithful are led to believe bishops appointed by the Apostles appointed bishops to succeed themselves, who appointed bishops to succeed themselves, who then appointed bishops to succeed themselves, etc., all the way down to the present time. Likewise, in Clement's letter to the church at Corinth, he related how the Apostles wanted bishops they had appointed replaced, as death removed them. They were to be replaced by
"...other approved men...with the consent of the whole church."
Clement, a bishop of Rome, (AD 92-101) never claimed that he was a supreme bishop with authority over all other bishops. And, the cited quote from his letter to the Corinthian church shows to be in error the Catholic belief that new bishops could only receive their appointment from existing bishops, or a "pope." The churches obviously enjoyed the right to approve individuals who aspired to leadership positions, another serious blow to Rome's "apostolic succession" crutch. If, however, one measure of the true church founded by Jesus is, in fact, "apostolic succession," Rome is in really deep trouble because of the eastern branch of Christendom, existing today as the Orthodox Church.
Since the days of the Apostles, eastern churches have maintained absolute independence from Rome, and do not embrace Catholicism's "Patchwork Gospel." Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, and Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, were two of many eastern bishops, first-century successors to the Apostles. Both men were protégés of John the Evangelist. Through them and others, apostolic organization and authority would have passed to all succeeding Eastern Church bishops right down to the present time, thereby, obviating Rome's claim of exclusivity through "apostolic succession." For the record, today's Orthodox Church is comprised of independent fellowships each with its own governing bishop, an exact extension of apostolic church organization.
It was the 6th century - 500 years after the Apostles - before the doctrine of purgatory began to attract attention as a possible future doctrinal "patch." It was not made an article of faith until AD 1274 by the Second Council of Lyons. It was reconfirmed by the Council of Trent in the 16th century because of attacks on it by the Reformers. Indulgences, temporal punishment, mortal and venial sin - doctrines symbiotically related to purgatory - also were unknown to the apostolic church and were "patched-in" many hundreds of years later. Is it unfair to question where in eternity all the souls went who died before purgatory and its related doctrines were "patched-in?"
Unreported to Catholics is the fact that the apostolic church had no priests. Their Old Testament function - offering the sacrifices - was eliminated forever by Calvary. And early efforts aimed at re-establishing a Levitical-type priesthood were condemned by Jesus, Himself, in the Book of Revelation. (Rev 2:6, 15) The Roman Catholic priesthood, then is a much later development, another example of Rome's "patchworking." Likewise, confession of sins to another human being was unheard of in the days of the early church. The Bible says we are to confess sin directly to God. That was apostolic church practice according to the episode in Acts where Peter rebuked Simon for trying to buy power to confer the Holy Spirit. Peter said, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." (Act 8:22) If Peter was bishop of Rome and the first pope, and if Catholic Confession was a doctrine known to the Apostles, why didn't Peter "hear" Simon's confession, give him absolution, and send him on his way a forgiven sinner? Or, why did Clement's 1st century letter to the Corinthian church include the following observation?
The Lord, brethren, stands in need of nothing: and he desires nothing of anyone, except that confession be made to him. For, says the elect David, "I will confess unto the Lord..."
As doctrinal "patches" go, the one that mandated confession of sins to a priest was another late comer. First declared a doctrine in the 12th century, it was formalized as an article of faith 100 years later - in AD 1216 - during the Second Lateran Council, the same western-church synod that decreed the doctrine of transubstantiation. In my years as a Catholic I was uninformed and, therefore, unaware that - like the ones I have cited - doctrines I believed were instituted by Jesus, were, in reality, very late additions to the religion, and were simply "the commandments of men."
When Jesus bowed His sacred head on Calvary's cross, and in agony whispered, "It is finished," (John 19:30) the Gospel of salvation was complete. Animal sacrifice was ended; the Levitical priesthood was eliminated; the Temple was done away with. All replaced by simple faith in our Lord's sinless deity, His once-for-all-sacrifice, and His glorious resurrection from the grave. Through this simple faith came forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and adoption into His household for all eternity. Before the foundation of the world, before there was an Adam, an Eve, or an original sin, that plan of redemption for fallen mankind was in place. (1 Pet 1:20) Jesus, through His sinless life, sacrificial death and grave-conquering resurrection, executed and completed that plan. There was nothing partial about it. Nothing was left undone because God is a God of completeness. He did not create a partial universe, a partial world, or - as the evolutionists claim - partial people. Neither did Jesus leave behind a partial Gospel. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was left out of the Gospel entrusted to His Apostles and disciples. The New Testament, compiled and ratified long before there was a Catholic Church, contains every doctrine received, preached, and recorded by them; every doctrine a lost soul needs for deliverance from sin and admission into heaven's eternal bliss.
Catholics who firmly believe that their religion is the one and only founded by Christ are sorely mistaken and deliberately misled. The numerous doctrinal "patches" applied to Catholicism down through the ages are mute, unimpeachable testimony to the contrary. The sacraments, (works necessary for salvation), are "patches" added hundreds of years after the passing of the Apostles and their successors. Likewise, the priesthood, the papacy, Purgatory, mortal and venial sin, temporal punishment, indulgences, verbal confession, the Mass liturgy, transubstantiation. Canonization of "saints," the Marian doctrines, and "Tradition" as a doctrinal source equal to God's divine Word, also are late additions to a Gospel made whole, entire and eternal by those sacred words, "It is finished." Sadly, not even one of the aforementioned doctrines is supported by Scripture, nor by oral transmissions of traditions observed and practiced by the Apostles or the apostolic church. Catholicism's motto - semper eadem, (ever the same), - should be changed to nunquam eadem, never the same.
The fallacy of Rome's claim to be the one true church is clearly exposed by its own history of adding strange new doctrines from time to time. For Catholics, it means they've never had one complete set of truths, one, single, immutable pathway to salvation. What applies today may be altered, added to, or eliminated tomorrow. In fact, Rome has today's Catholics doing a lot more to be "saved" than Catholics living before most "patches" became articles of faith. For example, weekly Mass attendance was not mandatory until the 12th century. Holy Communion was not necessary for salvation before that, and neither was confession of sins to a priest. From all the evidence, only one conclusion is possible - Catholicism really isn't the one true church at all. Rather, it's a denomination whose roots can be traced to early Christianity, but whose "Patchwork Gospel" betrays it as a purveyor of heresy, an apostate church.
In subsequent chapters, Rome's most flagrant anti-Scriptural "patches" will be reviewed, starting in chapter two with the numerous Marian heresies. Chapter three will be devoted to the fraud-based papal office, and other chapters will critique Purgatory, temporal punishment, indulgences, mortal and venial sin, transubstantiation, Confession, the Mass, apparitions, etc. For the remainder of this chapter, however, a "patch" Rome calls "Tradition" will be the object of study, because the fallout from it produced the second of Catholicism's many heresies, and a fitting twin for the one just dealt with. Obviously meant to solve problems, "Tradition" has served only to emphasize the apostate condition into which Catholicism had lapsed by the 16th century when Martin Luther's Bible reading produced the launching pad for a Reformation that had been in the making for over 300 years. How "Tradition" came to be an article of faith, what effect it has had on the Roman Catholic view of Scriptures, the inescapable trap that has resulted, these comprise a fascinating but tragic story, one that began in AD 1546 in Trent, Italy.
By the 16th century, Catholicism had added so many doctrinal "patches" the Council of Trent, (AD 1545-63) had to take drastic action to justify their establishment as articles of faith. One of its most critical tasks was to protect and preserve at any cost the illusion that Catholicism is the true and only church founded by Christ, empowered by Him to "create" doctrines not found in Scripture. Reformers were challenging every "patched" doctrine. Justification and indulgences, which brought the opening sally, were only the tip of the iceberg. Purgatory, temporal punishment, sacraments, the priesthood, the papacy, the Mass, transubstantiation, and more, all came under fire from the Reformers. Their watchwords were four in number: sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, sola Christus. Only Scripture, only Grace, only Faith, and only Christ.
For Rome, the stakes were enormous. To admit sola Scriptura would have been an unmitigated disaster. Doctrines not found in the divine Word - all the ones that had been "patched-in" over a period of ten centuries - would have been exposed as man-inspired, and simply could not have been defended. Equally repugnant to the Vatican was the Reformers' insistence that justification is exclusively by the grace of God, whose free gift of faith in Christ's sacrifice produces forgiveness of sin and assures eternal life in heaven. Admitting to that would have wiped out the sacraments and all other works that had been "patched-in" as necessary for salvation. But the most perplexing problem of all for the assembled prelates, may well have been what to do about its own Office of the Inquisition, which office, for over 300 years, had been executing those very advocates of the four "only's" that the Council was convened to deal with.
One could have predicted that Rome would not capitulate without a fight, for the nearly absolute power Catholicism had wielded over western churches since the 9th century is not something willingly relinquished. But it is doubtful that anyone - even the most avid Reformer - had the slightest inkling that Trent's prelates would do the unthinkable. Compelled to deal with a challenge that had rapidly gotten out of control, deal with it they did. On the 8th of April, AD 1546, the Council issued a decree that met the sola Scriptura issue head-on, and, as far as Rome is concerned, disposed of it for all time. That wordy decree included the following excerpt:
(The Synod) "following the example of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books of both the Old and of the New Testament...as also the said Traditions as well those (traditions) appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated either by Christ's own word of mouth or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic church by a continuous succession. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of Faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities (Praesidiis) it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church." (Emphasis mine.)
With this astonishing "declaration of independence," Rome notified the Reformers, and all posterity, that Catholicism was free from reliance on divine Scripture alone, (sola Scriptura) for its doctrine, was not in the least encumbered or bound by it, and was, in fact, at liberty to use other "testimonies and authorities"...(read that, Tradition)..."in confirming dogmas." Thus was severed for all time whatever was left of Catholicism's relationship to the church instituted by Christ. The Word of God that Rome hadn't paid much attention to for ten centuries anyway, was formally evicted from its rightful position of exclusivity and preeminence, its value as the source of doctrine virtually eliminated. The numerous "patches" added to the Gospel from the 6th century on were - in retrospect - attributable to that which was venerated "with an equal affection of piety and reverence," - (the said Traditions ) - which allegedly had been "preserved in the Catholic church by a continuous succession."
Nor was that infamous Council content to stop at giving itself the authority to deviate from God's divine Word in matters of faith, doctrine, organization, etc. It must also appoint itself the sole custodian and interpreter of the very Scriptures it held in such low esteem. To wit:
"Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, it (Trent) decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall - in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine - wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church - whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures - hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established." (Emphasis mine.)
From these Council of Trent decrees it is clear that the second of Catholicism's many heresies is Rome's teaching that it alone has been entrusted with God's revelation of Himself to mankind - both the divine Scriptures and Catholicism's alleged Traditions - and the very interpretation of it to boot. Since escaping from the Roman Catholic Church I never cease to be amazed at these kinds of claims. During my years as a Catholic I was not aware of them. I would be surprised if one out of a thousand of the faithful today are aware of them, either. For example, to justify this second great heresy, Rome claims that the Catholic Church actually pre-dates the New Testament, and is responsible for the assembly and ratification of its canon. But historical fact gives the lie to such preposterous claims.
The renowned church historian, Eusebius, AD 260-339, writing early in the fourth century records the following in Book 1, Chapter 4:4:
".....but although it is clear that we are new and that this new name of Christians has really but recently been known among all nations, nevertheless our life and our conduct, with our doctrines of religion, have not been lately invented by us, but from the first creation of man, so to speak, have been established by the natural understanding of divinely favored men of old."
Had the Roman Catholic Church existed at the time it is certain Eusebius would have so noted the fact. He didn't. In AD 397, (still nearly 200 years before Catholicism) the Council of Carthage was convened, and Rome maintains that this convocation determined the New Testament canon. Not so says history. The representatives to that council merely confirmed the 27 New Testament books that were listed by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, (an Eastern Church) 30 years before, and had been confirmed in AD 393 at the Synod of Hippo. But even before that, in the very beginning of the second century, Polycarp, Clement, Justin Martyr and, a bit later, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, were quoting in their writings from most of our New Testament books. F. F. Bruce relates that the writings of Irenaeus alone in about AD 180, showed canonical acceptance of the four Gospels, the Acts, Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, I Peter, I John and the Revelation. In other words, at least 21 of our 27 New Testament books were considered Holy Scripture more than 400 years before the Roman Catholic Church became an identifiable entity. Catholicism did not pre-date the New Testament; did not spearhead verification of its canon; is not its exclusive custodian, nor its God-appointed interpreter.
It will come as no surprise that the Council of Trent declarations cited earlier remain in effect to this day. They have never been modified; never been abrogated. In fact the Second Vatican Council, (1963-65) enthusiastically embraced them along with the rest of Trent's myriad decrees and condemnations. Today, the church's official position is unchanged and is boldly reiterated on pages 26 and 27 of the 1994 Catechism.
"....the (Catholic) Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."
The baseless, unsupported claims and autocratic proclamations emanating from Rome are nothing but brazen falsehoods, ugly heresies that foster the one-true-church illusion held so resolutely by the laity. These far-fetched claims are accepted by Catholic faithful as justification for Rome's various, unscriptural mandates - in this case, that "Tradition" is to be given honor and reverence equivalent to the very Word of God. Not only are their claims lacking the support of history, the Bible, and saints of the apostolic church, they contradict the very Scriptures Rome claims authority over.
Our Lord told the religious Jews that, "the Scriptures cannot be broken." (John 10:35) By this He clearly indicated that His Word is not to be demeaned, avoided, ignored, changed, or added to. In Psalm 89:34, quoted on the first page of this chapter, He declared that He would not break His covenant - in the New Testament, His promise of salvation by grace and faith alone - nor would He change (or allow to be changed) a single one of His Words. In the Galatians letter of Paul, those who preach a gospel different from the one he preached - his came directly from the lips of Jesus - are cursed, not once, but twice. (Gal 1:8, 9) Additional warnings against tampering with Scripture are found in Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Revelation, and will be seen later on.
By exalting "Tradition" Rome has trapped the faithful in a belief system centered on "the commandments of men," not on the Gospel of the Savior who died for their sins. Since the word tradition is suggestive of long established customs and practices it is fair to insist that the many doctrines Rome has "patched-in" over a period of fifteen-hundred years be traceable to the early church, orally transmitted by the Apostles and their immediate successors. From all available records, however, such is not the case by any stretch of the imagination. And when the 1994 Catechism is consulted for Rome's definition of "Tradition," we see at once why none of the added doctrines is traceable to the Christian Church of the first four hundred years
(Tradition is) "...distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through tradition...the church, in her doctrine, life and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself IS, all that she BELIEVES. (Emphasis mine.)
"Tradition" as Rome sees it, is not a compendium of early church customs and practices at all. It's simply "all that she herself is," and "all she believes," masquerading as apostolic hand-me-downs. To rationalize fifteen centuries of error; to justify her heretical view that not all truths revealed by God are to be found in His Scriptures, Rome resorts to "Tradition" that really isn't traditional at all. The whole thing is suggestive of an incomplete Bible, a partial Gospel, a capricious deity who improvises as He goes along. In the Scriptures, however, tradition does not inspire what Rome describes as "sentiments of devotion and reverence." Quite the opposite. Eleven out of thirteen times the word appears in the New Testament, it refers to that which is displeasing to God. Cf. Mat 15:3,6; Mar 7:8, 13; Col 2:8; I Pet 1:18. Only twice is it used in a favorable sense. (2 Th 2:15, 3:6) But, in neither instance can it be construed as justification for "patching-in" doctrines never known to, nor verbally passed on by, the original 120 disciples and their successors.
It was mentioned previously that the Trent declarations of 500 years ago have never been abrogated, nor so much as modified in the slightest degree. On the contrary, they have been enthusiastically ratified and even reinforced with the passing of time. For instance, today's Catholics, besides being denied the liberty to interpret Scriptures for themselves, also are denied the freedom to interpret "Tradition," whatever that may be at any given time. The 1994 Catechism puts it this way:
"The task of giving an authentic INTERPRETATION of the Word of God, whether in written form or in the form of Tradition, has been ENTRUSTED to the living, teaching office of the CHURCH ALONE." (Emphasis mine.)
Way back in the dark ages, the Roman church began to recognize the danger to itself of exposing the laity to the Word of God. Experience showed that problems resulted when individuals got their hands on Scriptures produced in their own language. At first, this was successfully countermanded by making Latin the only approved language for Scripture, liturgical rites, prayer, communication, etc. This effectively kept God's Word out of the hands of the common people who were Latin illiterate. But later on, as the Scriptures began to appear in more and more native languages - Anglo-Saxon, Gothic, Germanic, Slavic, Coptic, Armenian, etc. - more stringent controls became necessary. Only Latin Vulgate Bibles were approved. Those published in other languages were condemned and ownership of them prohibited. Any native-language Bibles found were summarily confiscated and destroyed. Among those suffering that fate were the Gothic Bibles of the Ostrogoth, Theodoric, the Lollard Bibles of Wycliffe, and the Old English texts that became popular in England as far back as the 10th Century.
Rome's obsession to control both the message of Scripture and the interpretation of it has never been more evident than in its treatment of Godly dissenters such as Wycliffe, Tyndale, Savonarola, Huss, the Cathari, the Waldenses, etc. Wycliffe was excommunicated for translating the Bible into English in 1382. After death, his bones were exhumed, burned and tossed in the river. Tyndale, for his English translation of the Bible, Savonarola and Huss, for preaching sola scriptura and sola gratia, all were burned alive. The Cathari, also called the Albigenses, and the Waldenses, for their insistence on justification by faith, were exterminated as heretics.
The 16th century Council of Trent forbade publication of the Scripture except by those to whom Rome had issued a proper license. By the 19th century, no fewer than six different popes ruled against all efforts aimed at making the Scriptures available to the general public. Pius VII said that the indiscriminate distribution of Bibles in native languages "...produced more harm than benefits...was eminently dangerous to souls." Gregory XVI was vehemently opposed to making the Scriptures freely available to all people. Leo XIII in 1897 forbade the publication or reading of Scriptures in native languages.
There is an obvious antipathy to God's Word in the Vatican, expressions of which sometimes are nothing short of incredible. Ignatius Loyola who founded the Jesuit order, in his "Rules For Thinking With The Church," expressed his disdain for Scripture in Rule #13 which states:
"I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it." One of Loyola's fellow Jesuits had this to say about God's Word: Without the authority of the Church, I would believe St. Matthew no more than Titus Livius."
To Polish Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius, who presided over the Council of Trent, is credited the following statement about the value of God's Word: "Except for the authority of the Holy Mother Church, the Scriptures would have no more weight than the fables of Aesop."
In a recent general letter to Roman Catholic bishops from current pope, John Paul II, the church "party-line" regarding sola scriptura is rigidly adhered to. Addressing a "resurgence of fideism" (faith alone) that has been observed, he writes as follows:
"One currently widespread symptom of this fideistic tendency is a 'biblicism' which tends to make the reading and exegesis of Sacred Scripture the sole criterion of truth. In consequence, the Word of God is identified with Sacred Scripture alone, thus eliminating the doctrine of the Church which the Second Vatican Council stressed quite specifically. Having recalled that the word of God is present in both Scripture and Tradition, the Constitution Dei Verbum continues emphatically: 'Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture comprise a single deposit of the word of God entrusted to the Church...' Scripture, therefore, is not the Church's sole point of reference. The 'supreme rule of her faith' derives from the unity which the Spirit has created between Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church in a reciprocity which means that none of the three can survive without the others. (Emphasis mine.)
Imagine standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ and telling our blessed Savior that His divine Word - Sacred Scripture - was no more valuable than Aesop's Fables; that it could not have survived apart from Catholicism's "Sacred Tradition" and its Magisterium. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt 24:35) May God be merciful to such proud but horribly deluded men, and to all who are taken in by them. In that same letter to the bishops, John Paul II included the following admonition:
"Moreover, one should not underestimate the danger inherent in seeking to derive the truth of Sacred Scripture from the use of one method alone, ignoring the need for a more comprehensive exegesis which enables the exegete, together with the whole Church, to arrive at the full sense of the texts."
Evangelicals who have tried witnessing to Catholics without an understanding of the Catholic mentality, express dismay that unregenerate sinners can be so biblically illiterate and so arrogant at the same time. Often in the most contemptuous manner, Catholics will let it be known that their interest is not in what the Bible says, but in what the Catholic Church teaches. That is what I have come to call the "Tradition Trap." It has been created by Rome's numerous statements and mandates devaluing Scripture, while at the same time demanding "equal" honor and reverence for "Sacred Tradition." It holds Catholics tenaciously in the grip of what Rome says without regard, interest, or fear for what God's Word says. What Rome says and what the Bible says, however, are as far apart as Rome is from the true "eternal city" - Jerusalem.
Rome says it alone has been entrusted with Sacred Scripture. God's Word says: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (I Tim 3:16) No indication therein that Rome or anyone else is appointed exclusive custodian of Scripture. And, no indication in the following that it has been given exclusive interpretive authority, either. "...the anointing which ye have received of him (the Holy Spirit) abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (I John 2:27) It is the indwelling Holy Spirit that interprets and teaches, not the Roman church.
Taken as a whole, the Council of Trent decrees and the 1994 Catechism references previously cited, comprise a perfect blueprint for the establishment of a religious cult. Rome endows itself with absolute authority over what is taught, what is to be believed, how Scriptures are to be interpreted. New doctrines and teachings, products of "Tradition," can be introduced at any time. Yet none of this can be attributed or traced to the Church instituted by Christ. All of it is simply the Montanist heresy of the 2nd century reprised. Its founder, Montanus, was a mystic who experienced trances in which he allegedly received new revelations directly from the Holy Spirit. This implied what Rome's "patchworking" also implies - that Christ's Gospel was incomplete, that the Holy Spirit was adding to it via special revelations given only to Montanus and his followers. The early Church wisely declared Montanism a heresy. It still is. Christ's Gospel required no new revelations then or since then. Holy Spirit revelation ended with the Book of Revelation.
Some time ago, my wife and I had a conversation with a practicing Roman Catholic couple who knew that I was raised in a Catholic home. The subjects covered were of a doctrinal nature touching on numerous areas where Catholic teachings conflict with God's Word. Our friends continually referred to what they had learned from their Catholic education while my wife and I adhered strictly to Biblical truth. At one point the dear lady fairly shouted at me, "John, you were raised a Catholic! "You know better!" By this I was supposed to understand that all Catholic teaching is correct - the truth - and any conflicting beliefs have to be in error. When my wife suggested that a lack of Bible knowledge was seriously affecting their beliefs, the angry lady's husband exclaimed: "Ah, the Bible is just a bunch of words on paper!" I, for one, have nothing but fear for the pitiful soul who - at the seat of Judgment - tells our Lord His Bible was "just a bunch of words on paper."
While on the one hand Rome admits that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and even suggests that Catholics read it, little real enthusiasm for Scripture has been generated, and control of the message received is never relinquished. Catholics, under pain of sin, abide at all times by Rome's interpretations. In this way, Rome solidifies its position of absolute authority over the faithful, discourages in-depth Bible study, and prevents a mass exodus of its members into evangelical, Bible-directed Christianity.
In our day the Roman Catholic Church has further diminished the credibility of the Bible in Catholic circles by accepting as fact the Darwinian theory of evolution, and sanctioning the evil campaign of the infamous Jesus Seminar. By embracing the theory that all organisms - man included - are evolved from "primeval slime," the church capitulates to the forces of evil who promote the belief that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are nothing more than myth. So insensitive is Rome to Biblical truth that they fail to see - or choose to ignore - that every Christian doctrine has its foundation in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Destroy belief in the historicity of Genesis and you destroy the very foundations of Christianity! "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psa 11:3) The last time Rome dabbled in a scientific matter, Galileo was censured for agreeing with Copernicus that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice-versa. This time Rome has not only picked the wrong "horse" again, but by so doing has stepped all over the divinely revealed Word of God. (Cf. I Tim 3:16.) Following is a news item that must have had the atheists, agnostics and humanists jumping for joy. Words of John Paul II are in bold type.
NEWSBRIEF: Chicago Tribune, Friday 10/25/96.
POPE BOLSTERS CHURCH SUPPORT FOR EVOLUTION
By Stevenson Swanson, Tribune staff writer. Dateline: New York.
"In a major statement of the Roman Catholic Church's position on the theory of evolution, Pope John Paul II has proclaimed that the theory is 'more than just a hypothesis' and that evolution is 'compatible with Christian faith' In a written message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the pope said the theory of evolution has been buttressed by scientific studies and discoveries since Charles Darwin. '...it is indeed remarkable that this theory has progressively taken root in the minds of researchers following a series of discoveries made in different spheres of knowledge,' the pope said in his message Wednesday. 'The convergence, neither sought nor provoked, of results of studies undertaken independently from each other constitutes, in itself, a significant argument in favor of this theory... 'If taken literally, the Biblical view of the beginning of life and Darwin's scientific view would seem irreconcilable. In Genesis, the creation of the world, and Adam, the first human, took six days. Evolution's process of genetic mutation and natural selection - the survival and proliferation of the fittest new species - has taken billions of years, according to scientists...'The Pope's message went much further in accepting the theory of evolution as a valid explanation of the development of life on Earth, with one major exception: the human soul. 'If the human body has its origin in living material which pre-exists it the spiritual soul is immediately created by God,' the Pope said." (Emphases mine.)
In the foregoing, we see one of the self-appointed "guardians" of the Holy Scriptures, one of the self-styled "infallible" popes, denying the truth of God's revealed Word as recorded in the book of Genesis. He who claims for Rome, and for Rome alone, the right to interpret God's Word, publicly endorses the Devil's evolution lie with statements that refute the veracity of the divine Scriptures. This thinly veiled attack on the Bible concludes with doubt being cast upon the origin of the human body that God says in Genesis was formed on the sixth day of creation out of the dust of the earth - not over eons of time by way of ever advancing speciation.
Of all the ironies associated with the Vatican's claims (A) to be the one true church, and (B) to be the sole custodian and interpreter of the Scriptures, this one - the endorsement of Darwinian evolution - most visibly and successfully shatters the laity's trust in the Bible. Darwin's theory of evolution, which everywhere is taught as fact, is a blatant repudiation of God's Word, and in no sense or way is it "compatible with Christian faith." The "baggage" that accompanies it for the unsuspecting Catholic includes elimination of the six days of creation, replacement of them with a naturally occurring universe in existence for billions of years following an imagined "Big Bang" or a collapsed ultra-dense cloud. It presumes the existence of pain, suffering and death before Adam's original sin, thereby contradicting God, whose Word says death came as a result of Adam's sin. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Rom 5:12)
This endorsement of Darwinian evolution by the leader of nearly a billion souls amounts to a subtle declaration that God has deceived us; has led us to believe that the first eleven chapters of Genesis contain an historical account of ex nihilo creation, man's fall into sin, God's judgment via Noah's flood, the confusion of languages, and the migration of nations. Catholics who subscribe to their pope's doubts about the veracity of the Scriptures should ask themselves some hard questions. To wit:
Did our Lord purpose to deceive us when He referred to Genesis as historical? "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. (Mar 10:6) "For in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark." (Mat 24:38) Our Savior was not deceiving us.
The writer of Hebrews referred to the sacrifices of Cain and Abel recorded in Genesis 4. "By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous." (Heb 11:4) Was this an attempt to deceive us? Peter spoke of God's judgment on Sodom and Gomorrha. "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly." (2 Pet 2:6) Was Peter somehow misinformed? Not likely.
By accepting Darwinian evolution as fact, (with the stipulation that at some point in time God breathed a soul into some form of animal life that then became a man) the Roman Catholic church has committed doctrinal suicide. Without the initial chapters of Genesis as historical fact, there is no foundation for ex nihilo creation, (2 Pet 3:4, 5) original sin, judgment, suffering and death, blood atonement, clothing, marriage, the promised Savior, on and on.
Moreover, Darwinian evolution is bad science; it is, in fact, no science at all. True science is based on observation, testability, replication, and affirmation or falsification, none of which are applicable with respect to the origin of all things for the simple reason that there were no eye witnesses except God Himself. Former evolution supporters, though still unwilling to believe in ex nihilo creation, have been jumping Darwin's sinking ship by the dozens for several years now. Gould, Hoyle, Behe, big important figures in the scientific community, have, along with numerous others, abandoned entirely Darwin's gradualization ideas. And, unbeknownst to Rome, or deliberately overlooked by it, there is not a scientist living on this earth who can produce one unimpeachable proof that molecule-to-man evolution ever happened. Three immutable natural laws stand as insurmountable barriers against it, and, though John Paul II appears not to know it, all - not some - all genetic mutations are harmful! Most actually are fatal, thus eliminating entirely the possibility that genetic mutations result in the formation of new, advanced species. In truth, all real scientific evidence points to "intelligent design" - creation by a sovereign, omnipotent deity.
For the Catholic Church to so diminish the integrity, yea the very truth, of God's divinely revealed Scriptures is to spawn doubts that Rome has any respect at all for our Lord's Words."...had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believed not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46, 47) A critical question for the Vatican, especially when at the same time it is sanctioning the egregious work of the infamous Jesus Seminar. For those unfamiliar with this evil group, let me explain.
Some years ago, a collection of self-styled Bible scholars got together for the express purpose of determining which of the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible were, in fact, spoken by Him. The group is made up of individuals representing many denominations including Roman Catholics. Their efforts have been directed at analyses of the four Gospels with an eye to determining which of the words in red letters were actually spoken by our Lord during His earthly ministry. This, mind you, 2000 years after the fact! Meetings have been held every so often for several years, at least one of them at Catholic Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.
Reports coming out of these sessions indicate they don't put much confidence in the Holy Spirit's ability to inspire and direct the composition and compilation of God's divine Word. In 2 Peter 1:20, 21, credit for the Scriptures is given to the Holy Spirit, not to mortal men. "For the prophecy came not at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." In Paul's second letter to Timothy he instructs that young Christian as follows: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." (2 Tim 3:16)
It's clear that the Jesus Seminar participants do not subscribe to those Biblical assurances, for published progress reports indicate they have already determined very few of the words red-lettered in our Bibles were actually spoken by our Lord. This conclusion has been arrived at by majority vote. Certain passages containing the words of Jesus were reviewed by the group during each of the meetings, at the end of which, voting was done to establish whether or not the reviewed words came from the lips of the Lord. A participant casting his vote via a black ball was expressing his conviction that Jesus never said the critiqued words. A gray ball cast was notification a slim possibility existed that Christ said such words, while the casting of a red ball indicated agreement that Jesus really spoke the words in question. At last report, these people were in the process of producing their own version of the four Gospels. When it's published, our Lord may become known to its readers as the "silent Jesus."
These actions on the part of the Roman Catholic Church - giving credence to the bankrupt Darwinian evolution theory, and sanctioning the ill-conceived Jesus Seminar by participating in its evil enterprise - are merely modern examples of the Vatican's antipathy to Scripture. Such publicized endorsements effectively undermine the laity's confidence in the Bible, and are a clear indication why so few Catholics read it; why others say, "Ah, the Bible is just a bunch of words on paper!"
When Satan set out to destroy the man and woman God had created perfect in every way, his avenue of attack centered on the Word of God. "Yea, hath God said, 'Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'" This, or course, is an intentional misquotation of Genesis 2:17 in which God made only one tree off limits. "Ye shall not surely die:" A deliberate contradiction of God's admonition that eating fruit of the forbidden tree would result in certain death. Finally, "For God doth know that...ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:5) Here Satan infers God has a hidden motive not favorable to His creatures, and known only to Satan himself. This strategy - assaulting God's Word - successful there in the Garden of Eden - has remained Satan's most effective weapon for the corruption of souls through all the succeeding ages. In the Roman Catholic religion - in its practice of "patching" the Lord's Gospel while continually devaluing His divine Word - Satan has found a most useful ally.
"Yea hath God not said His Gospel is incomplete? Hath He not said it lacketh many truths? Hath He not periodically revealed new truths from TRADITION to the great high priest who sitteth in the Vatican?"
Three times - twice in the Old Testament, once in the New - mankind is forbidden to add to or to take from the Word of God. Yet this is exactly what the Vatican has done by: 1) adding dogmas not found in Scripture; 2) by adding books to the Bible that both the Jews and early Christians rejected as uninspired; and 3) by publishing Catechisms that have replaced the Bible as Catholicism's number-one teaching tool. These all are in violation of God's divine Word. "You shall not add unto the word which I command you neither shall you diminish aught from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (Deut 4:2) Clearly, mankind is prohibited from tampering with Scripture as given by the Holy Spirit.
In the book of Proverbs we find this admonition: "Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." (Pro 30:5,6) Because God's Word is true and everlasting, this Scripture bluntly decrees the Catholic Church is a liar!
Once again - in the very last book of the Bible, and in its very last chapter - God's warning is repeated, and its gravity emphasized by the addition of anathemas not previously stated. The divine Word of God - not the finite word of Rome - reads as follows:
"For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy (message) of this book if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of this book, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Rev 22:18, 19)
Unfortunately, for devout Catholics who are entrusting their souls to their religion instead of to their Savior, the Vatican "marches to the beat of a different drummer." Besides inventing so-called "Tradition" as justification for the numerous "patches" it has imposed upon God's Gospel, the Council of Trent added to the Bible itself by including books the Jews and the apostolic church had summarily rejected. These books known as the Apocrypha were excluded by the Jews from the Old Testament Scriptures for three reasons: 1) historical inaccuracies; 2) blatant heresy; and 3) absence of Holy Spirit inspiration. Ditto the early Church Christians who unanimously approved the long accepted Old Testament while settling on the canon of the New Testament. For fifteen centuries Christianity had a 39-book Old Testament and a 27-book New Testament. After Trent, the Catholic Church had a new expanded Bible that could no longer be called the Word of God. And to make sure this arrogant insult to a Holy God would be accepted by the faithful as "sacred and canonical," one of Trent's 125 curses was pronounced upon any who would dissent from the Council's action.
"...But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said (Apocrypha) books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid, let him be anathema (cursed). Note: Jerome's Latin Vulgate, a 5th century product, did include the Apocryphal books, but not as sacred Scripture.
Imagine for a moment doing something the Word of God expressly forbids, and then pronouncing a curse upon all those who disagree. Amazing. Catholicism, the self-appointed custodian and sole interpreter of God's Word, applies "patch" after unsupported "patch" to God's immutable Gospel for ten centuries, invents a thing called "Tradition" to justify their forbidden actions, tops these off with the addition of spurious books to their Bible, and then declares "cursed" all those who spurn such absolute folly. Thanks be to God for comforting Scriptures like this one: "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Rom 8:34)
The Council of Trent was the ultimate disaster for the Catholic Church. Not even one of the doctrinal "patches" attacked by the Reformers as unsupported in Scripture was repudiated by the assembled prelates. Luther's contention, based solidly on the Word of God, that justification is by faith alone, and not by works, not only was rejected by the Council, but also was condemned. Luther was excommunicated, and all were cursed who hold to his belief that, "The just shall live by faith." (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17)
"If anyone shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ's sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified, let him be accursed."
Not just anyone, but the very Holy Spirit of God said long ago, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8, 9) Does the Trent curse apply to the One who gave us that sweet promise? And this one: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Tit 3:5) And this one: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life." (John 6:47) Unlike Roman Catholic officials who are held captive in their own "Tradition Trap," the early Christian leaders clung tenaciously to the Scriptures. In his Book 4, Chapter 28:8, church historian, Eusebius, expresses the 4th century Christian view of contemporaries who were deserting and twisting the Word of God.
"...They have treated the Divine Scriptures recklessly and without fear. They have set aside the rule of ancient faith; and Christ they have not known. They do not endeavor to learn what the Divine Scriptures declare, but strive laboriously after any form of syllogism which may be devised to sustain their impiety."
Had the Roman Catholic religion existed in the 4th century when Eusebius wrote his history of the young Christian Church, the above-cited quotation may well have been aimed straight at the Vatican. There in the Lateran's hallowed halls, the Scriptures have been treated with reckless abandon, downgraded to mere equality with the words of sinful men, twisted, added to, ignored, and all without fear of the mighty, eternal, King of Kings from whom those Scriptures emanated. Not only has Catholicism failed to observe what God's Word declares, it has tried every way to keep the trusting laity from obedience to that Word as well. Faced with ever increasing availability of printed Bibles in more and more native languages, the Council of Trent chalked up one more mark against itself and Catholicism by authorizing a Jesuit, Robert Bellarmine, to produce an extra-biblical publication which became known shortly thereafter as the Trent Catechism. In it were found no contradictions to Rome's numerous heresies. None of the Reformers' Scriptural doctrines were found there, either.
Many Catholic Catechisms have been published since that first one in the 16th century. All have been, and continue to be, tightly controlled purveyors of the Vatican-approved Catholic "party line." They are extra-biblical, meaning they are not authorized - in fact, are condemned - by the Word of God. They offer, nonetheless, a fascinating study in how nimbly Rome skips through momentous doctrinal upheavals and changes, and how subtly they discourage the study of divine Scripture. My personal favorite has to do with papal infallibility which has been a declared article of faith only since the year AD 1870. In that 19th century, and prior to the First Vatican Council out of which came the infallibility declaration, a popular Catechism was one published in Scotland by Stephen Keenan, a Catholic priest. When first it appeared in 1851, it featured the following question and answer regarding papal infallibility;
Q. Must not Catholics believe the pope in himself to be infallible?
A. This is a Protestant invention; it is no article of Catholic faith.
In 1851, it seems, papal infallibility was nothing more than a Protestant "invention." Catholics were not bound under pain of sin to believe it. It was not a doctrine; not an article of faith. The pope was as prone to err in that era as any other mortal soul. But when the Keenan Catechism was reprinted just 20 years later - one year after Pius IX "patched" papal infallibility into the Catholic Church repertoire of added doctrines not supported by Scripture - its treatment of the same subject had undergone a major face-lift.
Q. Is the pope infallible?
A. Yes, the pope is infallible.
Q. But some Catholics, before the Vatican Council, denied the infallibility of the pope, which was impugned by this very Catechism.
A. Yes, they did so under the usual reservation, insofar as they then could grasp the mind of the church, and subject to her (the church's) future definitions, thus implicitly accepting the dogma.
A most amazing organism is the Roman Catholic Church. One day a doctrine is not a doctrine. The next day it becomes a doctrine. All who denied it yesterday must believe it today, because their denial yesterday was with the reservation that Rome might change its mind today. Such unmitigated insolence on the part of those who claim custodial authority over God's divine Word. Who dares trust his or her immortal soul to a church whose "mind" can be changed any time expediency dictates? How can one ever be certain that today's already heretical doctrine of Mary as co-mediatrix with Christ, will not tomorrow become the doctrine of Mary co-redeemer, co-savior with our Lord, of all who "believe on her name?" How long before today's "infallible" pope declares himself not just "vicar of Christ" but Christ Himself? These are very real possibilities, not in the least far-fetched. For a church that is not restricted in its beliefs and declarations by the Word of God, is a church unpredictable; a church unreliable; an apostate church, no less deadly than the "Mystery Babylon" of Revelation.
Another Catechism - the "Full Catechism of The Catholic Religion" - presents an excellent study in the art of discouraging Bible reading. Authored by Joseph Deharbe, and re-published in 1979, the hardbound version sells in Catholic book stores for 17.95. In it, the Catholic Church is projected as the lone "pillar and ground of truth," (Cf. 1 Tim 3:15) For this reason, the church allegedly cannot erroneously interpret the Word of God. Therefore, the individual Catholic is forbidden to interpret Scriptures, for two given reasons. First, no individual can understand the Scriptures like the Holy Spirit who gives the Vatican their true meanings. Second, "The Holy Scripture is a Divine and mysterious book," containing certain things not easily understood. (Cf. 1 Pet 3:16) Only those possessing the "learning and piety" necessary should read the Bible, and then only approved translations with annotations endorsed by Rome.
R.A. Torrey, the great 19th century evangelist, commenting on the concept that the Bible is a difficult book and hard to be understood, expressed his belief like this:
"I am always suspicious of profound explanations of Scripture, explanations that require a scholar or philosopher to understand them. The Bible is a plain man's book. (Cf. Mat 11:25) In at least ninety-nine cases in a hundred the meaning of Scripture lies on the surface - the meaning that any simple-minded man, woman or child who really wants to know and obey the truth would see in it."
When Vatican VIPS say in effect, "We only are the ones who compiled, preserved, and disseminated the Holy Scriptures, (none of which is true,) therefore we have the exclusive right to their interpretation," they can be compared to the telegraph operator who, upon starting his shift, finds a message for a group of people already typed out and packaged for delivery. As he delivers it, he declares, "I'm the only one who can tell you folks what this message means." In the case of God's divine Word, every born again believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit - the very author of the Scriptures - and by Him is empowered to interpret them quite correctly. (Cf. 1 John 2:27.)
It is apparent that Jesus did not consider His Word to be "mysterious" or difficult to understand, for he urged the unbelieving religious Jews to, "Search the Scriptures; for... they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39) Why would our Lord urge people - especially unbelievers - to search into what He knew they would be unable to comprehend? Such would only engender confusion, and the Bible tells us God is not the author of confusion. (Cf. 1 Cor 14:33) In a similar vein, Luke expressed admiration for the Bereans to whom Paul and Silas preached the Gospel. Of them he said, "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Act 17:11) Does Rome think its laity is of lesser intelligence than the common folk of Berea in Paul's lifetime?
This second great heresy of Catholicism - that Rome is the sole custodian and interpreter of God's Word - is, as has already been noted, propagated very effectively through Catechisms and the teachings they contain. Add to this the personal influence of the clergy, the trust placed in the priest by his parishioners, the Rome-fostered illusion that only in the pastor resides the "oracles" of God, and what you end up with is a brainwashed flock, unable and unwilling to contest even the most outlandish claims and dogmas - the Marian heresies, for example. On page 27 of the 1994 Catechism, even the manner in which the laity is to accept Rome's teachings is dictated.
"Mindful of Christ's words to His apostles: 'He who hears you hears me,' the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms."
How clever of the Vatican to suggest in the above that "hearing" the teachings and directives of their pastors is equivalent to hearing the very words of our Lord. For this reason, of course, the laity is instructed to accept whatever they are taught submissively and without doubting, questioning, or disputation of any kind. Unfortunately, this is exactly how the Vatican's teachings are received by multi-millions of the Catholic faithful, (me, too, when I was one). It accounts for the stonewalling experienced by evangelical Christians who try to witness to these sadly misled folks. A Catechism statement - "...the Church ...does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone," should have Catholics jumping out of their seats shouting, "Why not!? Why would God leave important truths out of His Bible!?" But, instead of demanding answers to that and numerous similar questions, Catholics (me, too, when I was one) find it easier to "receive with docility" only what Rome chooses to feed them. What Rome chooses not to feed them, though, is critical to the eternal destination of their souls.
In the epistle of Paul to the Galatians, God's Word reveals two vitally important facts that are hidden from the Catholic faithful. "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of (by) me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal 1:11, 12) Fact the first: what Paul preached he received directly from the lips of our Lord, and there is not the slightest suggestion it was anything less than a complete Gospel. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:8, 9) Fact the second: to preach anything other than what Paul preached is twice cursed in God's Word. The oft "patched" gospel of Catholicism is not even close to the complete Gospel Paul and the other Apostles preached. Those who preach and teach it do so at their own peril.
In His wonderful "Olivet Discourse" our blessed Savior said, "And THIS Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come." (Mat 24:14) Christ said, "THIS" Gospel, not an incomplete Gospel needing "patches" to perfect it. Later, toward the end of that famous sermon, Jesus said. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Mat 24:35) "Sacred Tradition," so-called by the Council of Trent bunch, has been granted equal status with the Word of God by the Vatican VIPS; but it was not so honored by our Lord. He said it was His Words that would not pass away; not His Words and the "Sacred Tradition" unveiled at Trent, Italy in the 16th century.
When a religion departs even partially from the written Logos - the Word as it is preserved in our Bibles - there is only one way it can go - astray. In each of the heresies discussed in this and following chapters, the Catholic church either has added to God's Word, twisted God's Word, taken away from it, or ignored it entirely, always to the detriment of its trusting members. Justification by faith alone in Christ's atoning sacrifice - the very foundation of the Gospel given to Paul directly by Jesus - has been replaced in Catholicism by a works-based, Tradition-driven theology not found anywhere in divine Scripture.
The Bible contains many warnings about false teachers and teachings, some of which have been referred to already. The one that follows seems especially apropos. "Now the SPIRIT speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy: having their consciences seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats." (1 Tim 4:1-3) In AD 1079, the Catholic Church forbade priests to marry; commanded them to remain celibate throughout their lives. That order has never been rescinded; continues in force to this day, and has resulted in the kind of shocking immorality previously associated only with pagan religions of bygone days and the cults of this generation. Catholicism completed fulfillment of the prophecy in First Timothy - about the same time as the celibacy decree - when Rome commanded the faithful, under penalty of serious sin, to abstain from meat on all Fridays and certain "fast" days throughout the year.
According to Eusebius, historian of the early Christian church, certain of the Apostles were married, among them both Peter and Philip. The latter had four daughters "which did prophesy." (Act 21:9) Obviously there was no such thing as celibacy in the early church. Nor were the early Christians bound to observe certain days of the week or abstain from certain foods. Says Eusebius in his Book 1, Chapter 4, the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:
"...did not care about observing Sabbaths, nor do we. They did not avoid certain kinds of food, neither did they regard the other distinctions which Moses first delivered to their posterity to be observed as symbols; nor do Christians of the present day do such things."
The early Christian church, predecessor to the Roman Catholic Church, was not under bondage to commandments not found in the Word of God. No one was placed under penalty of sin for missing a Lord's Day gathering. Bishops, deacons, elders, presbyters, could be married or not married as they themselves were led. No foods were forbidden them. No works were prescribed as necessary for salvation. "Sacred Tradition" was unheard of. The Scriptures alone contained their articles of faith, their doctrine. As a former Catholic who had no knowledge of the Word of God other than what Rome fed me, it now seems so appropriate to me that the longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119 which has 176 verses. Appropriate, because the entire psalm is focused on the wonder, the beauty, the comfort, the truth, the guidance, and the protection to be found in God's precious Word. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psa 119:11) "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." (Psa 119:50) "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psa 119:89) "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psa 119:105 "Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word." (Psa 119:114)
The Apostle, Peter, declared a bishop of Rome and the first pope by the Catholic church, believed what the Vatican seems not to believe. When a saddened Jesus asked the twelve, "Will you also go away?" it was Peter who expressed the group's sentiments. "Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:67, 68) They are found in every Bible, those wonderful words of eternal life. They are not found in so-called "Sacred Tradition," Catechisms, papal "bulls" and encyclicals, pastoral observations or "Patchwork" doctrines. Because they are God's Word, they are found only in God's Word.
In these pages we have seen overwhelming evidence that Rome lies when it claims to be the original, the true, and the only church founded by Christ Jesus. Its "Patchwork gospel" is a very visible contradiction to that claim, for it is not the Gospel given us by Jesus. It is not the Gospel preached by Paul, Peter, Philip, John, all the other Apostles, as well, and the early Christian Church. The Vatican's gospel is not the Gospel Jesus referred to in Matthew 24 as "THIS Gospel."
Furthermore, in its organization, its doctrines, its liturgies, and its extensive statuary, the Roman Catholic Church is radically different from the church left on earth by Christ. Is it descended from apostolic Christianity? Of course, just as numerous other sects, faiths and denominations are rooted in the early church. But is it the one and only true church? Not according to history and the Word of God. That's simply one of Rome's many lies. Another is Rome's claim to have been appointed sole custodian and interpreter of the divine Scriptures. This is Catholicism's second great heresy and is as unsubstantiated as the first, 1) by God's Word, 2) by history, and, 3) by the early church saints. Hundreds of years before there was a Catholic church, the Old and New Testaments were compiled and ratified. Rome had nothing to do with their compilation or approval, and any authority Rome claims with respect to the Bible is self-assumed and has not come from Jesus.
In all truth, the Vatican's well-documented antipathy to the Bible, reflected in its record of banning, and/or discouraging the study of it, more than disqualifies Rome from any kind of say-so with respect to the divine Scriptures. Its expedient manufacture of an umbrella called "Sacred Tradition," under which doctrines not found in the Bible can be introduced and justified, is just further proof of Rome's very active disdain for the Word of God, and its unswerving opposition to the Bible as the one and only rule of faith.
Would our Lord have entrusted His divine Word and its interpretation to a Vatican crowd that denies the historicity of Genesis by endorsing microbe-to-man evolution? Would He entrust His most precious Word to a Vatican crowd whose leaders say it's downright dangerous to seek for truth in the Word of God...who say the Bible is "...eminently dangerous to souls.?" Rome's audacity impugns the intelligence of a holy God, Creator of all things, for it implies the kind of stupidity that entrusts the wolf with the protection of the sheep.
"...I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Rom 1:16, 17)
The Apostle, Paul, was not ashamed of the Gospel Christ bequeathed to His followers, the complete Gospel clearly set forth in the Bible. Why should popes be so afraid of it if their motives are pure?
The twin heresies looked at in this chapter are deeply implanted in the minds of most Roman Catholics, even those not-so-devout souls for whom a forty-minute Mass on Saturday night or Sunday morning is a sufficient amount of spirituality for the week. And so long as they accept Rome's false claims of exclusivity, antiquity, and absolute God-given authority, it's nearly impossible to help them achieve a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They literally are caught in Catholicism's "Tradition Trap," and only an open-minded comparison of what they've been taught with what the Bible says can free them from it.
That in itself - gaining the Catholic's respect for God's Word - can prove difficult in the extreme and engender much disappointment. One missionary to a "Catholic Country" told me of instances where Catholics to whom he had given a King James Bible tore out a page right in front of him, rolled their tobacco in it, and smoked the resulting "cigarette," smiling smugly at him the whole time. Fortunately, most evangelical Christians attempting to witness to a Catholic will not be subjected to a similar experience. But they are likely to get a lot of, "Ah, the Bible is just a bunch of words on paper!" and/or, "I don't care what the Bible says, that's not what the Catholic Church teaches."
Catholics firmly believe that their church is the one and only true church founded by Jesus, but even if this were true, the Catholicism of today has very little in common with the Christian Church our Lord left to the Apostles. Today's Catholic Church is like the company that got started producing fine bread, but after a short time switched over to baking rum cakes. Likewise, the product Rome is marketing in this generation is a far cry from what early Christendom brought to the table. Some of the ingredients are the same, but the end product has an entirely different flavor. And, what bread-maker, converted to the production of rum cakes, would have the audacity to forbid others to produce fine bread? Rome is expert at claiming, forbidding, and condemning, but, as if ignoring an unsavory fact will make it go away, the Vatican maintains an uncharacteristic silence about the period of 800 plus years when pope after pope curtailed or banned entirely the reading of the Bible by the Catholic faithful. Nothing is said in Catholic educational institutions or the local parish church about the persecution - rather, the execution - of holy men of God who brought or sought to bring the Word of God to the general populace. Moreover, the rank immorality of popes, (those guardians of the Sacred Scriptures) that extended from the ninth to at least the 17th century is never mentioned in polite Catholic conversation.
In succeeding chapters, Catholic doctrines - all "patches" to God's Gospel - will be measured against Bible teachings, same as in this chapter. It's the way I was liberated from Rome's "Tradition Trap," the way former priests and nuns also have come to a knowledge of the truth. I pray it will be useful to evangelical Christians in helping Catholic relatives, friends, co-workers, etc., come to a realization that it doesn't take a cardinal with a red hat, or a pope with a staff and crown to grasp the salvation message found in the Word of a loving and merciful God.