God On The Net
There are fundamental
differences between Roman Catholicism and all
Protestant and Messianic
Note: This is a very general overview. For details see the Catholic Catechism Compared to the Bible--quote-for-quote.
WHO FORGIVES CATHOLICS' SINS?
Although I believe the Catholic Church has many false teachings, as a former Roman Catholic I want to make it clear what goes on when a Catholic "goes to Confession" (now called "Reconciliation"). Although I disagree with the need to confess to clergy (rather than directly to God, as Protestants do) or the need to do "penance" (Jesus' sacrifice paid our entire sin debt), I want to make it clear that devout Catholics do repent when they "go to Confession" and they repent to God. The Bible says that if we confess our sins and repent God is faithful to forgive them.
Confession is normally in a small enclosed darkened booth, with a screen between the priest and the person making the confession; they cannot see each others' faces. Confession can be done face to face, but that is not common.
Many Catholics develop an attitude that Confession is sort of like a "gas station". They can confess, get their sins forgiven, and then go right out and do the same things again -- "No problem, I'll just go to Confession next week." This is not what the Catholic Church teaches! This is one of the many areas where Protestants and Catholics do agree: repent means you are truly sorry and sincerely intend to try not to sin.
Note: Under Catholic church law a Roman Catholic priest can refuse to forgive sins if he thinks the person is not sincere. In some cases he is required to refuse, e.g., where the person uses birth control and states that s/he intends to continue doing so.
It is important to realize that in Catholic theology penance is a sacrament, not confession. In Catholic theology doing the penance is what 'absolves' a person of sin.
WHETHER MARY HAD OTHER CHILDREN
This seems like an insignificant point, but it isn't. It directly bears on the authority of the pope. According to the Catholic Church, one of the offices the pope holds is The Magisterium, i.e., teacher of Christian doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church claims that when the pope speaks in his official capacity as holder of The Magisterium, he is directly led by the Holy Spirit, and the teaching is infallible and has spiritual authority equal to the Bible. Therefore, if an "infallible" teaching contradicts the Bible, it proves the Catholic teaching of papal infallibility is false.
It is important to note that the Catholic Church has never claimed that all teachings of the popes are infallible, only those specifically declared infallible by being issued under the authority of The Magisterium.
The Catholic Church has declared "infallibly" that Mary had no other children. Therefore, if this contradicts the Bible, (e.g., Matthew 13:55) we are left with an "infallible" pope contradicting an "inerrant" Bible.
Exercise of the Magisterium is quite rare; in the entire twentieth century, the only pronouncement any pope made in this capacity was the Roman Catholic doctrine that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.
The following is from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, endorsed in writing by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992. Although the excerpt uses the term "the Church" in actuality it only expresses the official Roman Catholic position on the issue.
Mary -- "ever-virgin"
In section 500, the Catechism is referring to the following:
Matthew 27:56, 61  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
As can be plainly seen from the context, there is nothing "significant" about Matthew's referring to the mother of James and Joses as "the other Mary." He clearly means to distinguish her from Mary Magdalene, not from Mary, wife of Joseph.
Matthew 12:46-47  While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."
Mark 3:31-32  Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.  A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."
Matthew 13:54-56  Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked.  "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? [author of the New Testament book of Jude, not Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus]  Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"
The Catholic Church responds that the Greek word used can mean either sibling or close kin, i.e., cousins. In other words, the Catholic Church claims Mary and Jesus' cousins were looking for Him, and the people in His hometown were naming His cousins.
But consider these passages:
Psalms 69:8 I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother's sons
This is a Messianic prophecy, i.e., a prophecy about the coming Messiah. Evidence of its fulfillment is found here:
Mark 3:20-21  Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
John 7:1-5  After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.  But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near,  Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.  No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."  For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Also see Did Mary Have Other Children?
Here, the word is referring to all popes, not just the current Pope.
No, it is an office the pope holds, one of his titles. Similarly,
the president of the United States is automatically the Commander in Chief of
the United States military forces. Although the pope has councils of advisors,
his Magisterium pronouncements are not based on consensus and do not require
the approval of any councils. According to the Catholic Church, if all
Christians disagreed with an "infallible" teaching of a pope, all
of them would have to change their position to his position.
ARE BOTH PROTESTANTS AND CATHOLICS CHRISTIANS?
Satan certainly has no qualms about attacking the Church from the inside -- by twisting doctrines, etc. Jesus warned specifically about "traditions of men" and "leaven" or "yeast", i.e., false doctrine.
It takes centuries for false doctrine to permeate a large group
of God's people and become a generally-accepted teaching. Of course, by
the time this happens the religious leaders have the appearance of authority
-- "We have been the leaders for centuries.
Who are you to tell us we are wrong? You
are the one who is wrong. We need to protect the real
believers from your doctrine." (Note that this happened
with both the Jews and the Catholic Church.)
This doctrine was established at the Council of Trent.
Protestantism and Messianic Judaism and the Bible teach that when a person accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior and believes that God (specifically, the Holy Spirit) raised Jesus from the dead, God (the Father) forgives all that person's sins (even future sins) and gives that person everlasting life. This is referred to as "justification." God gives the sinner credit for the righteous life Jesus lived. This is called imputed righteousness. "Imputed" means that one person is given credit (or blame) for something someone else did.
Catholicism teaches that a person is justified by being baptized into the Catholic Church and that a person becomes holy by receiving grace. Catholicism teaches that a believer can earn God's grace, and that if the person has enough grace when he dies he will go to Heaven (usually, after a period in Purgatory). Every time a person commits a mortal sin he loses all the grace he was saving up. Of course, without such grace he will go to Hell. By going to Confession (now called "Reconciliation") and doing penance (works to make up for his sins), he can have his past sins forgiven and start earning grace again. In effect, this is "yo-yo salvation". The trick is to die after the last time you had your sins forgiven but before you commit another mortal sin.
For a general discussion of various differences, see Protestantism and Catholicism Compared
For a quote-for-quote comparison see Catechism of the Catholic Church Compared to the Bible (in Spanish, too.)
Also see Making Shipwreck of the Faith -- Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Together by Kevin Reed and the sources in Protestants and Catholics - more information.
I highly recommend the booklet The Facts on Roman Catholicism, available from ATRI. For a variety of materials on the errors of Roman Catholic doctrines, visit their website.
I want to make it clear that a blanket statement such as "Catholics aren't Christians." is definitely wrong. The Bible does not say "You will only be saved if you understand the theological intricacies."
Many practicing Catholics satisfy the requirements of Romans 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved."
True Catholics believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for the sins of mankind, that Jesus came back from the dead after three days, and that people should follow His commandments on how to live.
Sadly, because the Catholic Church doesn't talk about that scripture, Catholics who satisfy Romans 10:9 don't have the joy of their salvation. Many such Catholics are going to wake up dead and be very surprised to find themselves in Heaven even though they "died with a mortal sin on their soul".
It is important to understand that this is talking about 'average' Catholics. The 'average' Catholic does not understand the official teachings of Roman Catholicism. A Catholic who understands the official teachings and accepts them as true is rejecting biblical Christianity. He is putting his faith in a religion that directly contradicts the Bible. Official Roman Catholicism teaches salvation by works.
"Legalistic" refers to the practice of adding a substantial amount of detailed, technical rules that are applied mechanically and the practice of drawing super-technical and minute distinctions. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for such practices:
Matthew 23:16-22  "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, `If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'  You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?  You also say, `If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.'  You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.  And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.
Often such distinctions are based on uncommon meanings of a word. For instance, in the "other children" controversy, the Roman Catholic hierarchy insists that the word for "brothers" actually means cousins, although that clearly is not supported by the context.
There are two basic problems with any legalistic approach:
It is important to understand some things about both the Pharisees and the Roman Catholic hierarchy:
However, we must also consider related points:
However, among other things, both Catholics and Protestants believe:
Each side disagrees with the other on many fundamental theological doctrines, such as the existence of purgatory and whether the Old and New Testaments are the only divinely-inspired teachings. Neither side is willing to change its position; hence, there can be no genuine reunification of Protestantism and Catholicism.
Also, there is no unity of doctrine among the different Protestant denominations. For instance, Baptists (and other Calvinists) teach "Once saved, always saved." Methodists (and other Wesleyans and Arminians) teach that a person can lose his salvation by committing apostasy, i.e., falling so deep back into sin that he becomes convinced the God of the Bible is not real. Although these two teachings are directly contradictory, each group points to certain verses to support its view.
No, nobody wins by default! If Fred believes two plus two is five, Harry thinks two plus two is four, and Jane thinks two plus two is three, is Jane automatically right solely because Fred and Harry disagree with each other?
It is important to understand that the various mainstream Protestant denominations only disagree to some extent regarding the interpretation of some relatively minor passages of the Old and New Testaments. They all agree that only the Testaments are the authoritative word of God and for the most part they agree on the major doctrines.
For instance, Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME), African Methodist Episcopal (AME), and African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) are all predominantly black denominations. They arose in different parts of the United States around 1830-75 because of racial prejudice against blacks in the white churches. Their polity (organizational structure) is not identical. But their ministers often preach at each others' churches, and a person ordained in one denomination can easily switch to another denomination simply by applying, rather than having to go through the entire training and testing process again.
Often, denominational differences involve differences in ritual, music styles, preaching styles (there is a distinctive 'black preaching style'), language (e.g., Spanish in hispanic areas), etc., all of which have nothing to do with theology.
(c) 1998-2001 by Rick Reinckens