Is The Roman Catholic Church Apostolic? (Part Three)
We continue our investigation into various elements of the Roman Catholic religion to learn upon which foundation it is built, the apostolic foundation or another.
Pouring of Water for Baptist Not Apostolic
Let's attempt to understand what "baptism" consists of from the viewpoint of Catholicism.
In Roman Catholicism, baptism is administered by the pouring of water on the head and the use of the formula, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (The Roman Catholic Church, John L. McKenzie, p. 176).
Once again, though, McKenzie shows that the apostolic practice differed considerably from their present practice.
The rite of infusion does not enjoy the same antiquity; and the Roman Catholics here find themselves confronted by several Protestant churches which maintain that immersion, the only rite attested for early Christian centuries, is the only valid rite. The Roman Church has certainly modified the rite in this respect (McKenzie, p. 176).
And who gave them the right to change this element of the apostolic foundation? Again, we have a case of man substituting his will for the will of God.
The truth that baptism is immersion is partially obscured by the fact that the word "baptism," as it appears in the translations of our Bible, is not an actual translation of the Greek text, but rather a transliteration (a carry over, letter for letter) of a Greek word into the English language. As such, it is meaningless except as defined by usage.
The Greek word, baptisma, is defined as "consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip)" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine, p. 96). However it is not necessary to obtain a knowledge of the Greek language in order to learn what baptism actually is. This knowledge can be gleaned by observing its usage in the scriptures. By such a method we can learn the following.
(1)Baptism is necessary in order to be saved (to obtain the remission of sins) - Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21.
(2)Baptism requires the presence of "much water" (John 3:23).
(3)Baptism involves going down into the water and coming up out of the water (Acts 8:38-39).
(4)Baptism is described as a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).
The only action which can meet all these requirements is immersion. This was the practice of the apostles, and such is admitted by the Catholic Church. Thus, pouring of water for baptism is not apostolic.
Infant Baptism Is Not Apostolic
It is the practice of Roman Catholicism to "baptize" children in infancy. But again this is admitted by them to be a post-apostolic development.
The Roman practice of infant baptism has been a point of contention between Romans and some Protestants since the Reformation. Here also the Protestants seem to have antiquity on their side; not only the New Testament but also the catechetical homilies of the fathers of the church presuppose adult candidates (McKenzie, p. 177).
And so another stone in the foundation or Roman Catholicism is found displaced.
Infant baptism was not the practice in New Testament times for a very good reason - they did not believe the doctrine which teaches that a child is born with the guilt of sin. Since an infant does not have sins to be washed away, he does not have to be baptized. The doctrine of original sin is another invention of the Catholic Church, and one which contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture, "The son shall not be charged with guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of the son. The virtuous man's virtue shall be his own, as the wicked man's wickedness shall be his" (Ezek. 18:20). If the guilt of a father's transgression cannot be transferred to his son, then neither can the guilt of Adam's sin be transferred to his posterity.
As McKenzie, the Roman Catholic authority whom we have been quoting, states, the Bible presupposes adult candidates for baptism. Baptism is a command to be obeyed, not merely a ceremony to undergo, by those who are capable of being taught and capable of expressing faith in God and repentance for their sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Heb. 11:6). The conclusion of all this is that those who were simply "baptized" as infants have not been scripturally baptized. If they have not been immersed into Jesus Christ, after having believed in Him, they have not been baptized and are still in their sins. They still need to make themselves right with God.
By their own admission, the Catholic Church has changed the form of doctrine delivered to us by Jesus and his apostles. Let us not be guilty of transgressing the commandments of God for the sake of man-made doctrines and traditions (Matt. 15:9).
Instrumental Music in Worship Is Not Apostolic
A practice introduced by Roman Catholics and adopted later by most Protestant churches is the use of instruments of music in the worship of the church. But this practice cannot be traced back to apostolic origins. A cathechism of the Catholic Church tells us the following.
For the earthly-minded Jews instrumental music was necessary on account of their weakness; for only through the pleasures of their senses could they be stimulated to strive after nobler aims. In the early days of Christianity no instrumental music was heard at the time of divine worship, for the Christians would not have their prayers mingle with the notes of instruments which were associated with pagan dances and idolatrous ceremonies. Organs were first used in churches in the eighth century (The Catechism Explained, Spirago & Clarke, p. 568).
It takes very little reasoning to realize that what began eight centuries after Christ cannot be considered apostolic.
Indeed, New Testament Christians lifted their voices in praise to God, making melody in their hearts (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). But their voices were not mingled with the sound of musical instruments. It was not that such instruments were not available to them, but that such had not been commanded of them by the Lord. And so Christians today who worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24) refuse to transgress what has been revealed in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 4:6) by going beyond those things taught to us by Jesus and his apostles. "Anyone who advances and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, has not God" (2 John 9). The use of instrumental music in worship is an addition to the divine foundation, and thus is not apostolic. Once again the Roman Catholic Church confesses that it is built upon a different foundation.
Deny the Apostolic Belief in the Completeness of Scripture
Paul expresses for us the apostolic belief in the completeness of scripture. He says, "Thou hast known the Sacred Writings which are able to instruct thee unto salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice; that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:15-17). One would expect that a church that claims to be apostolic would concur with what is here stated by an apostle of the Lord, that through the Scriptures we may be "perfect, equipped for every good work." But the Catholic Church denies the completeness of the Scriptures.
A rule of faith, or a competent guide to heaven, must be able to instruct in all the truths necessary for salvation. Now the scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practice (The Faith of our Fathers, James Gibbons, p. 72).
And so, although Paul says that the Scriptures are "able to instruct you to salvation," the Catholic Church says the Scriptures "do not contain all the truths" and fail to be a "competent guide to heaven." And although Paul says that the Scriptures will equip one for "every good work," the Catholic Church says, "Nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practice."
McKenzie expresses the Catholic view that truth is to be found not only in the Scriptures, but also in Roman tradition.
The Council of Trent admitted frankly that the Roman tradition contains propositions which cannot be found in the Bible. It countered the Protestant charge by asserting itself, so to speak; it denied that either in the Bible or in its own traditions is there any affirmation that the Bible is the sole source of revealed truth. It appealed to the historic behavior of the Roman Church from apostolic times and equivalently said that the Roman Church confirmed itself by its very reality. The divine truths are contained in scripture and tradition, and they have always been found there (McKenzie, p. 266).
To sum it up, he says,
The Bible is superior in dignity, but tradition is superior in completeness (McKenzie, p. 266)
And just what is "tradition"?
Tradition, as content, then, is simply the body of Roman Catholic belief taught by the teaching authority (McKenzie, p. 266).
Thus, whatever the Catholic Church has taught in the past or chooses to teach in the future becomes part of its "tradition."
And just how "complete" is the tradition of the Catholic Church? Well, evidently not complete enough to be free from error.
In general Roman Catholics are expected to accept the teaching authority of the Roman Church because it is a safe guide, even if it is not perfectly free from error and because in the critical areas of faith and morals it will not fail them. There is no other guide to whom they can turn, and they are not personally responsible if they submit to the church, even when in a particular case the position of the church could change (McKenzie, p. 261).
Can you hear that? The church can propagate error, but you will;not be damned for believing it because "they are not personally responsible if they submit to the church." Jesus may as well step down. He did not have to suffer and die. Jesus is no longer the Saviour of the church; the church is its own saviour. Who can believe it? Jesus said, "If a blind man guide a blind man, both fall into a pit" (Matt. 15:14). Can we follow one who teaches error and still be saved? The Catholic Church occupies totally different ground than the apostles concerning the completeness of the Scriptures. They are built upon another foundation.
Roman Catholic Church Built on Human Institutions and Pagan Traditions
Despite their claim to be apostolic and of divine origin, they admit that their church is built upon something other than a divine foundation.
Our Church is a spiritual kingdom, indeed, but it is a human society as well. Even considered as a mere worldly institution, it is a truly remarkable example of efficiency and orderly development. No other society on earth is so well organized - so well adapted to its work. Some of the parts of the governmental system of the Catholic Church are of Divine origin; many of them are human institutions (The Externals of the Catholic Church, John F. Sullivan, pp. 18-19).
And yet they claim to be the church of God. They believe that they have arrived at the perfect institution by mingling the divine with the human, the sacred with the profane. Their admission that parts of their system are divine (which they would be hard pressed to prove) and parts are human is a tacit acknowledgement that they are not the church of Christ. "For other foundation no one can lay, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 3:11).
Likewise, the Catholic Church has derived many of her practices and ceremonies, not from the book of God, but from the rites of paganism.
And because a religious practice happened to be of Jewish origin or had been used in the rites of paganism, the Church does not look upon it as something to be necessarily condemned or forbidden. She has taken some of the details of her liturgy not only from the ceremonial law of Moses, but even from pagan worship (Sullivan, p. 211).
How different are the teachings of the apostle Paul from the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. He says, "Do not bear the yoke with unbelievers. For what has justice in common with iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what part has the believer with the unbeliever?
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God . . . . Wherefore, come out from among them and being separated, the Catholic Church has walked into the pagan temples, sat down next to them, accepted their worship, and now is trying to pass this off on the world as being the truth of God.
The Catholic Church cannot support its, own claim of being an apostolic church. By its own admission, it is built upon a foundation mixed with human wisdom, pagan tradition, departures from the divine foundation, and beliefs formulated centuries after the foundation was first laid by the apostles. They claim to be apostolic, bur their claim is a fraud, their own testimony bearing witness.
The claims of the Roman Catholic Church to be the one church founded by Jesus Christ have been tested and have been found wanting. This is not to deny that Jesus has only one church. But it is to deny that the Catholic Church is that one church. The origins of Catholicism are found among post-apostolic departures from the faith, manmade creeds, doctrines and traditions, Jewish ceremonialism, and pagan worship. But the origins of Christ's church are found in the word of God, the Holy Scriptures.
The church of Christ is built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2;2o, Christ alone is its head (Eph. 1:22-23), His word alone its rule of faith (Rom. 10:17). Jesus founded only one, church. We can learn about it in the Holy Scriptures, and understand what Jesus desires His church to be like. The church of Christ follows this pattern. It is His church because it follows what He teaches.
We do not encourage you to become a Catholic, because Jesus never instituted the Catholic Church. But neither do we suggest that you become a Protestant, because Jesus also never instituted a Protestant church. Every Protestant denomination has had its beginning in the past 500 years. But the church of Christ began over 1900 years ago. Thus, we urge you to become neither a Protestant nor a Catholic, but to become a Christian, and in so doing become a member of Christ's one church. As you repent and are baptized God will forgive you of your sins and add you to His church (Acts 2:38, 47). Come out of the realm of darkness and into the light of God's kingdom.
St. Joseph Edition of the Holy Bible (Confraternity Version). New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1963.
John Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers. New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1917.
John L. McKenzie, The Roman Catholic Church. Garden City: Image Books (A Division of Doubleday & Co. Inc.), 1971.
Hugh J. O'Connell, ed., What Every Catholic Should Know. Ligouri, Missouri: Redemptorist Fathers, 1961.
Francis Spirago (Richard F. Clarke, ed.), The Catechism Explained. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1927.
Maxwell Stanishforth, trans., Early Christian Writings. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1972.
John F. Sullivan, The Externals of the Catholic Church. New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1942.
W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 7, pp. 120-122