I am re-posting this post because recently a well-known Christian apologist changed his worldview from Protestant to Catholic, and I thought I would explain why I have not done so.
In this post, I explain why I’m not Roman Catholic. And I also explain how Protestant Christians arrive at their beliefs. We’ll start with J. Warner Wallace on Purgatory, then I’ll go second.
Here’s the first article from Cold Case Christianity, by the Master of the Evidence J. Warner Wallace. He writes about the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, and his experience with studying and then rejecting it.
Here is his introduction:
The notion of purgatory assumes many of us die with unforgiven sins that need to be purged from our account; some of us are not good enough to go to heaven, but not bad enough to go to hell. Purgatory, therefore, is a temporary, intermediate place (or state of being) where good deeds and works can be performed in order to purge our impurity prior to our final destiny with God. Although millions of Catholics believe purgatory to be a reality, the idea needs to be tested in light of the Scripture. Is purgatory something we, as Bible believing Christians, should accept as true?
He’s got a stack of Bible verses to make two points against Purgatory: first, that Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient to atone for all our rebellion against God, and we don’t need to endure any suffering or punishment to supplement it. And second, the teaching about the afterlife in the Bible says that believers are immediately ushered into the presence of God after they die (without resurrection bodies, yet), while unbelievers are separated away from God.
Here’s what he says about the first point:
Our Salvation Isn’t Based On Our Good Works
According to the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, forgiveness is not based on the good works of the believer. For this reason, deeds or works performed for those in purgatory are both unnecessary and ineffectual:
Romans 3:21-24, 27-28
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus… Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
Our Salvation Is Based On Jesus’ Work on the Cross
According to the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, Jesus’ work on the cross (His blood) purifies us from allsin. For this reason, there isn’t a lingering sin problem requiring the existence of a place like purgatory:
…we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
…he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Our Salvation Has, Therefore, Already Been Guaranteed
According to the Biblical doctrine of Salvation, Jesus has already purified and purged believers of sin based on our faith in Him. For this reason, there is no need for a place like Purgatory where additional purging must be performed…
[…]The Biblical doctrine of Salvation clearly eliminates the need for purgatory.
I was never able to find anything in the Bible to support purgatory. It’s a very very late doctrine that was unknown to the early church until the late 2nd / early 3rd century, where it is spoken about by a handful of people. But lots of weird doctrines were creeping up on the fringe around that time, so we shouldn’t be surprised… the point is that they have no support from the Bible, and not in the community of believers for the first 150 years after the death of Jesus.
The bodily assumption of Mary
Anyway, my turn now. The Roman Catholic church teaches that Mary was “bodily assumed” into Heaven after her death, i.e. – she didn’t just stay in her grave. Let’s see if that is in the Bible or in the early church.
Here’s what I found:
- To be a Roman Catholic, you need to believe in Papal infallibility in matters of dogma.
- In 1950, the Pope pronounced the assumption of Mary to be infallible dogma.
- This pronouncement was solicited by a petition featuring over 8 million signatures.
- There is no historical record of this doctrine in the Bible.
- No early church father mentions the assumption until 590 AD.
- Documents dated 377 AD state that no one knows how Mary died.
- The assumption appears for the first time in an apocryphal gospel dated about 495 AD.
I only cite Roman Catholic sources for my facts.
6. “But if some think us mistaken, let them search the Scriptures. They will not find Mary’s death; they will not find whether she died or did not die; they will not find whether she was buried or was not buried … Scripture is absolutely silent [on the end of Mary] … For my own part, I do not dare to speak, but I keep my own thoughts and I practice silence … The fact is, Scripture has outstripped the human mind and left [this matter] uncertain … Did she die, we do not know … Either the holy Virgin died and was buried … Or she was killed … Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and He can do whatever He desires; for her end no-one knows.” (Epiphanius, Panarion, Haer. 78.10-11, 23. Cited by Juniper Carol, O.F.M. ed.,Mariology, Vol. II (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1957), pp. 139-40).
7. “The idea of the bodily assumption of Mary is first expressed in certain transitus–narratives of the fifth and sixth centuries. Even though these are apocryphal they bear witness to the faith of the generation in which they were written despite their legendary clothing. The first Church author to speak of the bodily ascension of Mary, in association with an apocryphal transitus B.M.V., is St. Gregory of Tours.” (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma(Rockford: Tan, 1974), pp. 209–210).
It should be noted that the apocryphal gospel in which the doctrine of the assumption of Mary first appeared was condemned as heretical by two Popes in the 5th and 6th centuries. However, I was not able to find a CATHOLIC source for this fact, so I deliberately chose not to use it in my case.
The first thing I want to say is that the Bible is not the only place you look to decide these issues. You also look in church history, and you are looking for a clear chain of custody of the doctrine as far back as it can go. Purgatory and the perpetual virginity of Mary have some track record, but the bodily assumption of Mary is just nowhere – not in the Bible, not in the Early Church fathers. So that’s the silver bullet against Roman Catholicism, since they made it “infallible”.
This post is more directed to non-Christians to sort of show you how we do our homework. I am the first Protestant in my family. We have half the family who is Muslim, and the other half mostly Hindu, with some Catholic. I had to debate all these people growing up, and I wiped the floor with them. It was not even close. I simply settled on the beliefs that allowed me to win every argument, every time. That’s how you do religion. If you have to go against your whole family in order to be right, you do it. It’s not good to be wrong about things just because that’s what your family believes. These things were not pushed hard on me by my parents, I studied them on my own in order to win arguments. After a while of winning, I found myself acting consistently with what I was arguing for. Although that might sound really weird to you, that’s probably the right way to do this. Don’t listen to parents and church, find your own way forward by winning arguments, and believing only what the evidence supports.
Although most people think that if I had kids, I’d bully them into my beliefs, I actually would not. Because that’s not what worked on me. What really works is fighting about evidence, welcoming questions, and allowing differences of opinion. Being free to pursue truth is more important in the long run than coercing your kids to act nicely.
11 thoughts on “There are Roman Catholics in my family but I’m not one: why not?”
I also don’t even get the supreme claim of the papacy as innernant.
In the scriptures it is all about the holy city of Jerusalem until after the fall of Jerusalem under Nero.
But it doesn’t seem like the apostles had a big thing for Rome other than to continue in a path to spread the gospel when Paul wanted to preach to Caesar during an appeal.
Catholicism also requires a belief in the Vatican as high importance and with how many Christians tended to put little effort into protecting holy locations. Choosing instead to preach and be more peaceful.
I consider the homeland of Christianity to be Israel where Jesus lived died and walked and the majority or Jesus lfe was spent.
But to Roman Catholic Church ideas the church is more important to protect, I see the gospel as what we live and die for.
Who was the famous apologist who “converted” to Catholicism?
Catholics do a lot more with Mary than just say she was assumed into Heaven. They say that she was conceived without sin and led a sinless life (thus, the assumption – she didn’t need to die if she was sinless), they pray to her, they say she is a co-redemptrix, and they set her up as a 4th “Person” of a Quadrinity. I can’t help but think that the real Mary is going to slap them silly for worshipping her. (They say they don’t worship her, of course, but their deeds, and statues, say otherwise.)
I was talking to a former Baptist who converted to Catholicism at a LifeChain one year. We had a healthy loving discussion. But as we were wrapping up, he told me that he “had a lot of work to do to get there,” meaning Heaven. It seems that he traded the antinomianism of many Baptist churches for the works “righteousness” of catholicism. He will never be at peace, I am afraid.
This is why the catholic faith is so complicated – it has to mix up salvation with sanctification and give the catholic no assurance of salvation so that they rely on the catholic church for their comfort. That is the purpose of purgatory too.
Good post, WK!
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Cameron Bertuzzi. I tweeted this post and tagged him on Twitter so he would see it.
People have all sorts of reasons for being interested in Catholicism, but they almost never focus on the testable parts like I did. They talk about what is different from protestantism, but thats not important. What’s important is testing the testable claims of Catholicism that are “infallible”, because one mistake there sinks the whole ship.
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He is a smart guy but he talked a while back about he believed the issue of papacy was everything to him and he tried to tie a logical numerical claim to his study. He never laid out for others that I saw any evidence beyond a small bit of isolated church tradition that gave a leader in Rome a hundred years after Jesus at least an elevated position in the church and somehow he leaped to steps of it being true.
I don’t care one way or the other as I see the rcc as a Christian denomination that even with errors in a denomination it is possible to enter heaven
But I do see that in modern catholic clap back to reformation and in attacking reformers they won’t admit that without a reform they would still only have a Latin Bible in the hands of the priest, no option for different worship styles and even modern changes they liked would be less common as most positive changes to their church were forced onto them by the existence of other denominations
Yeah so he is looking at something that is debatable, and ignoring the things that are testable and that falsify the whole thing, like the one I talked about in my post.
We all have our blindside to logic.
Even before he had talked about an app catholic in style that promoted things to do in a day and it seems like he enjoys the liturgy and rilitual side of catholicism.
To me if that is a big factor just admit that and it is fine. Some people like churches for old hymns others want a rock show. . Many of the things we make a choice on have little to do with logic it is to be something we like.
It we have choices we don’t make to keep people happy too.
I see no salvation issue in Cameron’s choice. It only becomes big because the rcc wants to be exclusive.
In Protestantism you can move churches and denomonstions depending on where you live and many factors and there is no issue.
But converting to catholicism it is as if they save a wayward soul and I just don’t understand that view
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Purgatory: Place of purging. The mortal world is where one is purged of the old man into the Mind of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Anyone in my family who became RC did so because they needed to hide from outsiders that they were witches. Islam believes in a purgatory, where those who cannot cross the bridge of the sword fall. For six months one burns in eternal fire before angels carry him/her to paradise. All blacks will go there to be cleansed of the curse of being black.
Who claimed Mary had gone bodily to Heaven knows nothing of Hebrew burial practices. Yes, the tomb was empty because her family had to make room for the next death. To be gathered up to the bones of your fathers is very simple; a special branch of the Cohenim cared for the dead. After a set period of time, the tomb was cleansed and men’s bones went in one ossuary carved into part of the tomb, while women’s bones went in another. There is no mother goddess or 4th part of the Trinity. Perhaps foreseeing this, Jesus stated any woman who loves Him and obeys Him is AS HIS OWN MOTHER. I cannot comprehend how deeply ashamed Mary, a traditional Hebrew, must be at people venerating her.
Agreed complete, the Bible is final authority. As my parents were atheists, we were not bullied into attending church. Opposite, rather, because most of my people blamed Christians for all the evils done us. Yet, today, most of us are born again believers. God works in mysterious ways. His peace be on you, and a very Happy Thanksgiving. niio
My views are simple: Any ‘religion’ that raises up anyone but Christ, be it Mary or any other disciple or saint, is doing it wrong. Sure we can look to ‘saints’ as heroes of faith, perhaps, but to wear tiny figures of them or to place miniature statues of them in your home or garden is, quite simply, idol worship. They are not there. They cannot hear you. They provide nothing of substance between man and God. Only ONE stands and intervenes between man and the Father and that is the Son, Jesus Christ. This one simple thing destroys Catholicism, imo, and all of their other points become moot.
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Despite all the issues Protestants critique Catholics for (purgatory, deification of Mary, prayers to saints, etc.) I’m convinced that the most important doctrine of Catholicism that goes uncritiqued is the doctrine of the Eucharist. Quoting directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice…the same Christ who offered Himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner” (1367).
“The body, blood…soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ…is truly, really and substantially contained in the Eucharist” (1374-78).
In other words, per the official doctrines of the church, Jesus death on the cross was INSUFFICIENT to achieve salvation. Instead, one can only be saved by Jesus being re-sacrificed on a daily basis by priests in churches around the world. Only then by ingesting the literal body and blood of Jesus can a Catholic earn their salvation.
It shouldn’t be hard to see that this doctrine is completely foreign and contradictory to Scripture. For this reason, I don’t consider Roman Catholicism to be just another Christian denomination. It is a counterfeit religion in the vein of Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In fairness, there may be some truly saved believers who attend the Catholic church, but if they are truly saved, then they necessarily reject the official doctrines of the church. If you reject the official doctrines of the church, why call yourself Catholic?
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That’s a really good point and excellent apologetic. I will use that, as I know many catholics.
I have had some catholics tell me that the eucharist is EVERYTHING to them. Well, it would be if that is actually Jesus in the bread and wine and it is necessary for salvation.
They will, of course, respond to the passages in John 6 about Christ being the Bread of Life and the necessity to eat His flesh and drink His Blood. I’ve never taken that literally for two reasons:
1. Jesus later says that His Words are Spirit that gives Life and the flesh counts for nothing.
2. The disciples did not start munching on Him, which would, on a literal view, be necessary for them to be saved.
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I came back to the Roman Catholic thread from before to post a new testament section I find interesting. Galatians 2 verses 6 to 9 as the apostle Paul talks about his conversion to christ and ministry he talks about Peter and other important members.
He says Peter had a ministry to the Jews and Paul to the gentiles.
To a Catholic poor should not his ministry be focused mostly to the gentiles. It is Catholics trying to make the first pope to be Peter to get some papal authority.
Then as Paul lists the main leaders he says the list as James, Peter, John.
In that order there is no record of Peter as the apostle being above the others in the early church.
The proof of a their leader being above all is a proof they need since he is not just any denominational leader. A good Catholic must give him a level of respect and submission not required if any other church leader.
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