Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Biggest Beef with the Catholic Church

If you have spent enough time around me you have probably heard some of the issues I have with Catholicism. Pope Francis has shown Communist philosophies and advocated limits to free speech after the Charlie Hebdo shooting. I could probably name a list of decent length of the issues I have with Catholic teaching.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a number of Catholic friends whom I love dearly. I have spent countless hours working alongside some of them in the pro-life movement. It is because of my love for them, however, that I must voice my disagreement with them.
Most of the differences between a Catholic and an evangelical Christian are not worth arguing over, because they don’t get down to the root of the issue. One thing is serious enough to bring up no matter what. Jesus has a very defined role in our salvation and walk with Him, and this role is somewhat diminished in Catholic teaching. It is vital that we have this particular conversation because this can literally be the difference between Heaven and Hell, and that truth is worth sharing in love.

Christ’s Role in Salvation
The starting point for a Christian is believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death, burial and resurrection took our sin and through repentance and faith in Jesus we are forgiven our sins and grafted into the family of God.
Catholicism believes that the starting point is baptism by sprinkling. However, the Greek word “baptizo”, where “baptism” comes from, means to dunk or to immerse. There is then a confirmation later. If someone is born to a Catholic family, their baptism happens soon after birth.
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” –John 3:5
This refers not to a baptismal birth but to natural birth. In the verse before, Nicodemus was confused by Jesus telling him that he must be born again. He asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?” Jesus tells him that not only must a man be born from the womb but also through the Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
Catholic tradition in this case has taken precedence over Christ’s sacrifice. There is ritual involved in becoming part of the church, and there is the exclusiveness in that they believe salvation is only through the church. There is no division made in the Bible. Someone’s church – Baptist, Church of God, Pentecostal, non-denominational, Catholic, Orthodox, etc. – makes no difference in terms of salvation. Being a member of a church does not make someone Heaven-bound. Salvation comes solely through Jesus Christ.
Christ’s atoning sacrifice is a difference that cannot be ignored:
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” –I John 2:1-2
Here the Bible calls Christ our propitiation. This word has roots in the Levitical trespass offering:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbor…he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” –Leviticus 6:1-2, 7-8
A blood sacrifice was used to atone for the sin of the individual. This sacrifice propitiates, or satisfies, God’s wrath. Christ, our propitiation, was sacrificed to take God’s wrath for mankind. Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us is a major motif throughout scripture.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” –Isaiah 53:4-12
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” –I Peter 2:24
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” -I Peter 3:18
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” -Colossians 2:13-14
“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:” –Galatians 1:3-4
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?...So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” –Hebrews 9:11-14, 28
Christ took our sin so that in salvation we can be found blameless before God. There is no faith + good works; salvation comes only through faith (for an explanation of James 2, follow this link):
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” –Galatians 2:21
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 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.” –Ephesians  2:4-9
The law required works to redeem oneself, but redemption was only possible by perfectly keeping it. It was used by God and is still used by God to show man’s inadequacy to fulfill it. Because mankind is incapable of redeeming himself through his own works, Christ had to sacrifice Himself, taking on our sins and facing the full wrath of God. If man was capable of achieving salvation through any means of His own, Christ would not have come. Ephesians chapter two gives another reason – if mankind was redeemed through works, we would have a reason to brag. There would be some glory given to us when it rightly all belongs to God:
“And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.” –Judges 7:2
Why is salvation solely through faith? Because God desires and deserves the glory for saving us. Our sin nature prevents us from giving anything to God on our own:
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” –Isaiah 64:6
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” –James 1:17
God created humans as the pinnacle of His creation, all of which He created for His glory. Why would God, who again wants to be glorified, create a salvation that did not bring Him the maximum amount of glory? Sin made us inadequate and broken. The remedy does not come out of someone who is inadequate and broken. It comes through a God who is more than adequate. In this way, all glory belongs to Him.

Christ’s Role After Salvation
Jesus should play no less of a role after salvation. I believe the Catholic church truly believes that Jesus’ role is not diminished. However, let us make the biblical comparison to their doctrine. Remember back in I John:
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” –I John 2:1-2
Not only is Jesus our propitiation, but He is our advocate. This is a legal term meaning that Jesus is our lawyer. He is the defense against God’s justice because of Christ’s sacrifice. So when we sin, Christ is our advocate.
This is where Catholic dogma runs into problems. Confessionals take away the position that is rightfully Christ’s and places it with a priest. The entreatment of the priest is not necessary. I take no issue in confessing our faults one to another as the Bible commands. But confessing my sins to a man does not get me forgiveness:
“And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” –Luke 5:20-21
“I [God speaking], even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” –Isaiah 43:25
The Pharisees knew the scriptures. They were not wrong in their saying but were wrong in denying the deity of Jesus. Only God has the power to forgive sin. Jesus, as God in the flesh, had that power. So when a priest tells someone that their sins are absolved, he runs into one of two problems. One, he could be saying that on his own authority he absolves the sin, which would be giving himself the duty that God reserves to Himself. Or, the priest could be speaking on behalf of God in absolving the sin, which is, again, unnecessary:
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” –I Timothy 2:3-6
Jesus, as a result of being our ransom for our sins, is also the mediator between mankind and God:
“If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” –Hebrews 7:11-28
There is an important truth in this passage, and the whole of it is needed for its proper context. The Levitical priesthood consisted of humans, who are finite. They are insufficient for redemption. Someone who is everlasting has a priesthood that is everlasting. When the vail to the Holy of Holies in the temple was torn from top to bottom, its symbolism is that a human priest is no longer needed to serve as an intercessor between God and man. Instead, Jesus took that position forever to intercede for Christians on Earth. With the priesthood of Jesus now established, He is the mediator between us and God. Hence, no man is needed as a go-between. Our confession of sin does not go through a man, but through Jesus. No confessional or penitence is necessary because Jesus is now our advocate.
There is one more thing to be learned from this passage:
“Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” –Hebrews 7:27
With the priesthood of Christ established, there is no longer a need for a daily sacrifice. Rather, Jesus Himself was the sacrifice, and it was a once-and-for-all sacrifice:
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Christ was ONCE offered to bear our sins. Not only is the method of salvation described here, the frequency is as well. We are redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice, and He is only offered once. This is a key difference in the Earthly priesthood versus the Heavenly priesthood. Sacrifices were needed often then, but one sacrifice was enough for today.
Where does this run contrary to Catholic teaching? Communion.
There is nothing wrong with communion in and of itself; in fact, it is commanded of us. But the Catholic belief is that the bread and wine become the literal, physical body and blood of Jesus, though they retain the properties of the bread and wine. There are a number of things wrong with this that you can read about separately. But the belief is that, through the transformation of the bread and wine, Christ is being re-offered for sin. Each communion is Jesus being sacrificed again. This is a clear contradiction to the teaching of Hebrews that states that Christ was once offered for sin. If Jesus took upon Him the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2), what is left to be offered? The implication is that Jesus’ sacrifice on the night of His crucifixion was not enough, that He must continually be offered to have sin forgiven.
The role of Christ is diminished both in the initial entry into the Catholic church and afterwards. Born-again, faith-alone Christianity offers a personal relationship with Jesus. He is the offering for our sin, the way to salvation (John 14:6), our daily help, and the mediator between us and God. There is direct access to Jesus. It does not come through another man but through repentance of sins and faith in Christ.
There is peace and confidence in knowing Christ:
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” –I John 5:13-15
The confidence is that Jesus directly hears our prayer. The peace is that we can have the assurance that we will be in Heaven when we die. This is only through being born again through Jesus.
Don’t allow anything to get in the way of this. It is difficult to choose a different road than family and friends. But with eternity at stake, what reason is worth holding back your decision?

Do Paul and James Conflict?

There are few trickier portions of scripture for a Baptist, or anyone that believes in salvation through faith, than the second chapter of James. Many take it, or at least use it to justify (no pun intended), that salvation is by faith and works. But if James were able to hear it in his earthly body, he’d roll in his grave. This is not at all James’ intent with his words.
Do James and Paul somehow conflict? The Bible says that God does not lie, so He would not present two conflictions. And the Christian knows the Book is infallible. How then do we look at Paul, who clearly outlines over and over salvation through faith alone, and harmonize him with James, who states that we are justified by works?
First, before we even get to chapter two, James in the very first verse of his letter call himself a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was his half-brother, yet he calls himself Christ’s servant. What would a servant of Christ believe? Jesus’ words, of course. Jesus tells us that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life…He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. In another instance: When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Jesus tells us men cannot save themselves, but it is only through belief not just in, but ON God.
Some think of James as a late work that conflicted Paul. But actually, most scholars date it in the forties A.D. – before most of Paul’s writings. There is no mention of any Jew-Gentile conflict. It is addressed to the twelve tribes (1:1). The Greek word for “synagogue” is used for the church (“assembly”, what church actually is). Furthermore, if James were conflicting Paul’s teachings, circumcision would have come up, since it is the common work added to faith that Paul had to deal with. But no mention of circumcision anywhere.
We know this because Paul and James address totally different things, the differences in which will constitute the remainder of this essay.
James sees two kinds of faith: a saving faith and a professing faith. He believes, and the rest of scripture confirms, that true faith will be seen in post-conversion works. That is, when a person places their faith in Christ, their sanctification experience will lead to a life that shows they are one of God’s children. Many Jews had believed that works saved, and some had an extreme reaction by believing that works had no part in the salvation experience. Salvation does not need works, but faith demands works (so too does God from His children). The Greek text suggests that James poses the question, “Does THAT faith save him?” in verse 14. That faith being the faith without works that he mentions earlier in the verse. James goes on to answer in the negative; a profession of faith means nothing. Only a true faith does. And true faith produces works.
Paul and James use “justification” in different contexts. We think of justification as being God’s act of declaring all believers righteous- Paul’s usage of the word. But there is another definition of the word, used in the Old Testament and the gospel. It is that of demonstrating or showing something to be righteous.
“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned , and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest , and be clear when thou judgest.” –Psalm 51:4
David speaks to God here, Who obviously does not need to be declared righteous. Rather, God demonstrates that He is righteous.
“But wisdom is justified of all her children.” –Luke 7:35
Wisdom, too, is already righteous, and already in possession here. Her children show that wisdom is righteous by their actions.
“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” –Romans 3:4
This again speaks of God, telling us that God is truthful so that through His words He is shown to be righteous. James uses “justification” in the same manner here. Works are not for declaring us righteous, but to demonstrate that we are righteous through the blood of Christ.
Though both Paul and James use Abraham as an example, different events are used by the two writers.  Paul says Abraham was declared righteous when he trusted God (Genesis 15:6). James says that Abraham demonstrated his righteousness (already attained by his trust in God in chapter 15) when he was willing to offer up Isaac (Genesis 22:9).
We are beginning to see how James’ words fit in with the gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught, rather than contradict it. Faith without works is dead (vv. 17, 20, 26). This is true. What good is our faith on Earth if it doesn’t produce something? James uses the analogy of a body without the spirit. What does the spirit (little “s”) do? It energizes the body. So too do works energize our faith. Look at the real kicker in this chapter, verse 24: Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. We are justified, that is, demonstrated righteous (as we discussed before), by our works, not just by saying we have faith. This is how someone can show their faith by their works (v. 18). It must begin with faith.
You might be thinking it is convenient to make this distinction between the two types of justification. Let’s continue then. Paul, when he speaks of works and faith, speaks of the works of the law. He plainly says that one is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith (Romans 3:28). “But I’m not following that law.” Paul writes to the problems of the time, but the principle still applies. Whatever good works men want to add to faith is wrong. James writes about works of love that follow faith (v. 16).
Finally, Paul and James have two different audiences for two different subjects that were leading to two different problems. Paul writes to oppose Judaizers who taught that works of the law (namely circumcision, at the time) must be added to faith. (Now days Pentecostals, Catholics and Orthodox among others add works to salvation.) He proved to his Gentile audiences that no extra works were needed. James wrote opposing professing, nominal Christians. He proved to them that faith must manifest itself in works of love – that simply saying one has faith means nothing.
So we find that Paul and James were not contradicting each other, but rather they fighting different incorrect ideas. Faith must go hand-in-hand with works – but not for salvation. Salvation – true conversion – must and will lead to works. Faith declares us righteous, and works demonstrate us righteous. It is easy to take verses like these out of context, but it is imperative that we find what they truly mean. It can mean the difference between Heaven and Hell.