By Wayne S. Walker
It is difficult to pinpoint certain items of Catholic doctrine as to time since its dogma is an ever evolving thing and the church of today is not the same organization as the one of a hundred or a thousand years ago. Catholicism, like Mormonism, believes in continuous revelation and the primary mode of this revelation is the tradition of the church. In Question Box (p. 75), we read, “By what right do you teach doctrines not found in the Bible? Because the origin of our faith is not in the Bible alone but the Church which gives us both the written and the unwritten word.”(1) Jesus condemned this attitude when He told the Pharisees, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mk. 7:9). Furthermore, “the faith . . . was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3, NASB). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). So is His word and so should be His church. There is one item where we agree with the Catholics – that there is only one true church (Eph. 4:4). However, we would disagree as to which one it is!
It was around 110 A.D., when one bishop in each church began to assume greater authority, as noted previously, and the word `Catholic” began to be applied to a religious organization. The true church should be called after Christ (Rom. 16:16). The practice of confirming infants started around 200. Originally they were completely immersed! But only “men and women” (i.e., believing, penitent adults) should be baptized according to Acts 8.:12. Anthony of Egypt was the first monk (in 250 A.D.) and the practice became popular around 450. Jesus taught that instead of hiding our lights under a bushel (in a monastery?) we should let them shine (Matt. 5:14-16). Severity to the physical body is of no value against the lust of the flesh but is a display of will worship after the doctrines and commandments of men (Col. 2:20-23). The first instance of sprinkling an adult for baptism was in 253. It was approved for emergencies in 753 but not officially adopted as the standard practice until 1311 at the Council of Ravenna. The Bible says “we are buried with him by baptism” (Rom. 6:3-4).
In 306; certain aspects of Christmas came into the church and by 325 the same was true for Easter. Gal. 4:10-11 and Col. 2:16 teach that we are not to celebrate religious holidays. Augustine of Hippo, who lived from 354-430, developed the doctrine of original sin and it was solidified at the Council of Trent in 1545. God’s word tells us sin is something we do (1 Jn. 3:4) not inherit, and that it is not passed on from father to son (Ezek. 18:19-23), let alone from Adam. Each man is responsible for his own sins. Little babies are not born in sin but are pure “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). The concept of the Mass arose in 394 and transubstantiation in 1215. In this, the bread and wine allegedly become the literal body and blood of Christ which are then sacrificed over and over again, day after day as the Eucharist is performed. Yet the New Testament teaches, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). Besides, Jesus was no more talking literally when He said of the bread, “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26) than when He said, “I am the door” (Jn. 10:9). It is figurative language – the bread represents His body.
Mary was defined as “the Mother of God” in 421. Prayers to Mary and other saints were authorized in 553. Her immaculate conception (1854) and bodily assumption (1950) are also Catholic dogma. She is adored as Queen of Heaven, divine Mary, perpetual Virgin (which is false, Matt. 1:24; “till” implies that after she gave birth to Jesus she did know Joseph in the conjugal relationship; cf. also Matt. 13:55), and Mediatress. Catholic authorities deny Mary is worshiped but a book written specifically for Catholics reads, “The Holy Church commands a worship peculiar to Mary.”(2) Jesus taught, “Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). And Paul wrote, “There is . . . one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
Most reference works ascribe the introduction of instrumental music into worship to Pope Vitalian I (657-672). “The organ is said to have been first introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian I in 666.”(3) Some doubt the validity of this statement, and even if true it represents as isolated event.(4) The first known use of instruments in a church is 757 when “a great organ was sent as a present to Pepin by the Byzantine emperor, Constantine Copronymus, and placed in the church of St. Corneille at Compagne. Soon after Charlemagne’s time, organs became common.”(5) The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 edition) states, “A strong objection to the organ in church service remained pretty general down to the twelfth century . . . . But from the twelfth century on the organ became the privileged church instrument.”(6)Scripture authorizes only singing (vocal music) in worship (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). John Calvin rightly noted, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews.”(7)
The second Nicean council of 787 authorized the veneration of holy images and relics in the churches. These icons are in effect idols (graven images, Ex. 20:4) and are condemned in the New Testament (Acts 17:29; 1 Jn. 5:20). The doctrine of celibacy was ordained in 1123, prohibiting the marriage of the priesthood. We know Peter was married (Mk. 1:30; 1 Cor. 9:5). “Forbidding to marry” is one of the signs of the great apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Marriage is honorable in all otherwise scriptural circumstances (Heb. 13:4; cf. Gen. 2:18). Certainly being unmarried is not wrong (Matt. 19:12; 1 Cor. 7:1-8) but it is never commanded for anyone. In 1215 the dogma of auricular confession, confession to a priest, was passed by a council in Rome. Catholics say they do not really confess to a priest but to God through the priest. But all Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:5) and confess directly to God (1 Jn. 1:9). They may also confess one to another (Jas. 5:16) but nothing is said of having to do so in the present of a “clergyman” who then pronounces forgiveness.
The year 1414 saw the end to using both bread and wine in the communion, and using only bread. Yet when Jesus took the cup He told His disciples, “Drink ye all of it”; that is, all of you drink some of it. In 1431, the doctrine of purgatory was defined with its corollaries of praying for the dead and the ungodly practice of selling indulgences. This says that there is a time of purging of venial sin after death. If it were so, Lk. 16:19-31 is false. Heb. 9:27 states, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Then in 1870 the dogma of papal infallibility was accepted. The pope is supposedly infallible when he speaks publicly on matters of a religious nature ex cathedra (from the throne). However Paul taught in 1 Cor. 4:6, “That ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written” (KJV).
Around 157 the Biblical concept of repentance (Acts 8:22) started turning into the false doctrine of penance. This, in turn, gave rise to the seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, marriage, eucharist, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction. When these administered by a properly ordained priest. Catholics believe the church becomes the dispenser of God’s grace. This is not true. Neither term “sacrament” nor the idea is found in scripture. This means of receiving God’s grace is obedience to “the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32). A similar teaching is that the church is the dispenser of God’s word. when one discusses the Bible with a Catholic, he may respond, “But the Catholic Church gave us the Bible.” This is not true either. The men who wrote the Bible were not Catholics. While a “Catholic” council did approve the canon of Scripture, they made no new decisions but merely put their stamp of “approval” of what was already generally accepted. Neither do we depend on Catholic manuscripts or translations. The Bible is not the product of the church, but the true church is a product of the Bible. However, the Catholic church is not a product of the Bible because the majority of her doctrines and practices are condemned by it – even by the Catholic versions!
The story is told of a Catholic priest who met a little girl riding her bicycle on the sidewalk. She politely said, “Hello, sir.” He replied, “Hello, little girl. Do you know who I am. I am a priest and you should address me as Father.” The girl, who attended Bible school and had read her Bible, then quoted Matt. 23:9 saying, “Call no man your father upon the earth.” As he walked away, the priest was heard to exclaim, “She knows too much Bible for her own good.”
The Roman Catholic Church is not the church of the New Testament. Rather, it is the fulfillment of numerous predictions in the Scriptures concerning apostasy. It arose because of false teaching and has been sustained through the years by Biblical ignorance. It has corrupted nearly every aspect of true Christianity and is definitely “of this world” (Jn. 18:36). God said that His church would never be destroyed (Dan 2:44). It was not. It has always existed through the written word (Lk 8:11). Whenever and wherever anyone read, believed, and obeyed the Scriptures, he became a Christian, a member of Christ’s church without the aid of any ecclesiastical organization. This is exactly what churches of Christ are trying to do today.
It has always been a characteristic of mankind, from the beginning of creation, to depart from God’s Ways. We can see this in Adam and Eve, the post-deluvian world, the Hebrew people during the period of judges, the Jewish nation as a whole under their kings, and the church of the Lord beginning around the second century. But it is not over. Even today, some of the same departures that led to the formation of the Catholic church are being practiced by brethren: sponsoring churches, area-wide meetings, church-supported institutions, and “Mission congregations” where the elders of one church directly oversee the work of another church. The spirit of lawlessness is at work today just as it was back then. Brethren, let us learn from history and beware.
1. What is the major source of doctrine in the Catholic church?
2. What are the qualifications of a proper candidate for baptism?
3. How can we know that babies are not born with inherited sin?
4. Describe the doctrine of transubstantiation.
5. When was the first known use of an organ in a church service?
b. What sin is involved in the veneration of images and relics?
T. How should Christians confess their sins?
8. Cite some Scriptures that would refute the idea of purgatory.
9. Is there any sense in which the Catholic Church gave us the Bible?
10. Why should we not address Catholic priests as “Father”?
Guardian of Truth XXV: 10, pp. 152-154
March 5, 1981