There are Roman Catholics in my family but I’m not one: why not?

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.

Romans 8:1
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:

Titus 2:13-14
…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.

1John 1:7b
…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1John 1:9b
…he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Hebrews 10:14
…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. Let’s see if that is in the Bible or in the early church.

Here’s what I found:

  1. To be a Roman Catholic, you need to believe in Papal infallibility in matters of dogma.
  2. In 1950, the Pope pronounced the assumption of Mary to be infallible dogma.
  3. This pronouncement was solicited by a petition featuring over 8 million signatures.
  4. There is no historical record of this doctrine in the Bible.
  5. No early church father mentions the assumption until 590 AD.
  6. Documents dated 377 AD state that no one knows how Mary died.
  7. 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?”

  1. I would add to this list the doctrine of transubstantiation. And with that the theology of the mass (in general). The idea that Jesus needs to be resacrificed by a human priest goes completely against the theology of the atonement in the book of Hebrews.
    The author of that letter specifically argues that the superiority of the new covenant compared to the old is at least twofold: 1.) That the human priesthood of the old covenant is inadequate to deal with sin adequately specifically because priests are both mortal and sinful themselves. And 2.) Jesus’ sacrifice does not need to be repeated whereas the OT sacrifices did by their very nature. See Hebrews chapters 7 through 10. Jesus Himself is our high priest interceding for us. Any natural unforced reading of these chapters goes completely against the theology of the mass.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also regarding the papacy issue of catholicism think they don’t even consider the verse or gal 2:9. When it talks of James Peter and John the esteemed pillars. It references their historical position in the church as a group.

    It is not just the name Peter the esteemed one and his side kicks. And I have heard many in history considered James in Jerusalem as very high, a logical view since the temple in Jerusalem existed at the time.

    Catholicism requires a faith in the pope and acceptances of him and since I reject the lineage and believe Jerusalem is the true homeland of the Christian faith and the land of Israel since it is where Jesus and the early church started.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. With total respect for the great work of Wintery Knight, there is here some noisy tilting at straw men.

    First, the notion of purgatory here controverted is wildly and fundamentally at odds with the doctrine of purgatory actually promulgated by the Church, so that the criticisms here proposed have in fact nothing to do with it.

    Second, the dogma of the Assumption, and the Church in general, are silent respecting whether Mary died; indeed, the common tradition is that she did die, or as they say in the East, that she “fell asleep.” The tradition that her body was assumed is buttressed, not so much by scripture, as by the fact that (in contrast to the Apostles, the True Cross, the Spear of Destiny, the Shroud, and so forth – all relics dating from the first century) there has never been a tradition of relics of the BVM. They just are not out there. Which, given her role in the Incarnation, and thus her importance to the early Church, is just astonishing. Especially so, since there are two competing *tombs* of Mary, one at Ephesus and one at Jerusalem.

    It should be mentioned also that the theology of the Mass controverted by commenter Theophilus is not the doctrine of the Church.

    Finally, the doctrine of the Real Presence – which logically requires transubstantiation somehow or other understood (or never quite understood!) – is not late, but rather first appears in the record of the Tradition in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, and 1 Corinthians 10:16, which were written circa AD 57.

    Thus stuff is easy to find online, at Catholic Answers, in the Catholic Encyclopedia, or in the Catechism. It is a good idea to read and understand the Catechism before critiquing Catholic doctrine.

    Mea culpa with respect to that sort of weakness. I once egregiously mischaracterized Zoroastrian metaphysics online because I relied upon what I had long ago read about it, and without first having checked to see whether my understanding of that metaphysics was in fact correct. It was not. I was embarrassed, and chagrined. Learned my lesson!


    1. The points that I made in my post were not defended in formal debates, featuring Catholic apologists (e.g. – Gerry Matatics, Mitchell Pacwa, etc.).
      I went to the best for a response, and came away empty-handed. And you haven’t replied to anything that I said using evidence, either.

      The historicity of the Feast of Dormition of Mary is more authoritative than your denial due to incredulity. Early on, the tradition was that Mary died. The first record about assumption is HUNDREDS of years later, in documents that were condemned as heretical by the Pope of the time. In the 20th century, Catholics thought it would be nice for Mary to not die, but to be more like Jesus, and be bodily assumed. There was a petition, and then the Church pronounced the assumption as infallible. So, you can either go with history, or you can go with petition-driven-infallibility. Protestants are rooted in history. It will be really interesting to see what happens if the Catholic church makes Mary “co-redeemer” with Christ. Will we have a petition to expand the Trinity? Anything is possible with man-made religion.

      “The tradition that her body was assumed is buttressed, not so much by scripture, as by the fact that (in contrast to the Apostles, the True Cross, the Spear of Destiny, the Shroud, and so forth – all relics dating from the first century) there has never been a tradition of relics of the BVM.”

      Yes, I get it. You think that a 10th century legend about a magical spear is real. And you think that the bodily assumption can emerge hundreds of years after the fact with no historical chain of custody, and also be real. You just believe things based on legends, and when I ask you about the historical chain of custody back to the first century, you talk about Spear of Destiny “and so forth”. This is so far from historical Christianity that it really is on the same level of Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      People who read the Bible will understand right away that Jesus had siblings, e.g. – James, and that Jesus taught that Christians should not give titles to other believers “call no man on Earth your Father”. Anyone can read the Bible and see right away that Catholicism is not there. You have to explain the Bible away. And that’s fine, but it’s not Christian. You are free to make things up as you go, based on what you like and don’t like, but that’s not historical Christianity. Just don’t mistake your love of metaphors and symbolism and mysticism and legends as objective truth.


    2. “It should be mentioned also that the theology of the Mass controverted by commenter Theophilus is not the doctrine of the Church.”


      The Mass as a Sacrifice
      Roman Catholics (and Anglicans) view the eucharistic feast as a sacrifice (albeit an unbloody one). This term is found as early as Gregory the Great (c. a.d. 540– 604), who was elected pope in a.d. 590. Gregory held that at every mass Christ was sacrificed afresh and consequently “This notion of the mass as sacrifice eventually became standard doctrine of the Western church—until it was rejected by Protestants in the sixteenth century.”
      In a.d. 831, a Frankish monk, Paschasius Radbertus (d. ca. 860), in a work titled On the Body and Blood of the Lord, addressed this issue. Radbertus taught that Christ is “corporeally” present during communion. The early church had considered the Eucharist a fellowship meal. Hence, “The new emphasis on the corporeal presence of Christ permitted the Church to begin to treat Christ as a victim, rather than as the host [of the feast], to think of itself as offering him to the Father, rather than as coming to be nourished at his table.” Thus, the Lord’s Supper—which the early church viewed as a fellowship meal—became a sacrifice. The remembrance of a sacrifice becomes a new enactment of that sacrifice. While, as Roman Catholics point out, the New Testament term “remembrance” (Gk: anamnesis) is often used in a sacrificial context, it does not justify their contention that communion is a sacrifice. What Jesus said was that, in participating in communion, we are remembering his sacrifice on the cross, not reenacting it.
      Lutheran theology also rejects the concept of the mass as a sacrifice: “Since Christ died and atoned for sin once and for all, and since the believer is justified by faith on the basis of that one-time sacrifice, there is no need for repeated sacrifices.” Sacerdotalism is also rejected: “The presence of Christ’s body and blood is not a result of the priest’s actions. It is instead a consequence of the power of Jesus Christ.” But even granting that God is the primary cause of the transformation, Protestants still object to the Roman Catholic sacerdotal belief that the priest is a secondary cause or instrument through which God accomplishes such a transformation. It is contrary to the known ways of God revealed in Scripture to grant any creature the power to transform a creation (the bread and wine) into the actual body of the Creator (Christ). The whole concept of re-enacting and re-presenting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is contrary to the clear teaching of Hebrews that this sacrifice occurred once for all time (Heb. 10:12–14). Thus, when the Council of Trent speaks of Christ being “immolated” (sacrificed) again and again in the mass, it violates the clear teaching of Scripture.

      Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Agreements and Differences by Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie p.266-267


  4. It’s an excellent article, WK! I wanted to try to bring the comments and article to a higher level wrap up – especially as it pertains to the doctrine of Mary, which is what I find most egregious, although the re-sacrifice of Christ is surely blasphemy too.

    Catholics had to make Mary sinless so that they could make her a Co-Redemptrix. Thus, when you see the license plates with Mary and Jesus side by side, they are affirming that Mary is a Co-Redemptrix with Jesus. (You can look up what that means, but it is pure unadulterated blasphemy.)

    How did Catholics accomplish this idea of Co-Redemptrix? First the Immaculate Conception, which is, contrary to popular belief, NOT the conception of Christ but of Mary. So, they had to make Mary’s conception without sin. Then there was her alleged perpetual virginity to keep her “clean.” Finally, her assumption into Heaven – why did they need that? Well, since the wages of sin are death, Mary, in their view, did not need to die, because she was not conceived in sin like the rest of us, and she lived a sinless life. Why she never even had sex, according to them! (I often ask my catholic friends why Mary wasn’t a good Catholic girl with lots of children? :-) Ironically, it is the Protestants who believe that she was!)

    This is all contrary to Scripture, of course, so there are small changes and additions made in the Catholic bible.

    What have the catholics done then? They have formed a Quadrinity of Mary, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s what all of those Marian statues and license plates are about. Who needs to pray to Jesus, after all, if they can go straight to His sinless mother?!?

    I honestly believe that when Catholics stand before the real Mary, she is going to slap them across the face for blasphemy and idolatry.

    BTW, you brought up your childhood, WK, and mine was exactly the same, always arguing, except that I was the sole conservative amongst marxists. As you know, I did not give my life to Christ until middle age.

    I hope this puts some of these issues into context. In a sense, the doctrine of Mary makes catholicism a feminist-goddess type of cult, IMHO. I say that with a broken heart, because I love catholics and am close to them and am thankful for what they do for the unborn and family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still think Catholics today can be great, but I don’t think they can argue that they arrived at their position with reason and evidence. I like Michael Behe and Jay Richards, but its not as rigorous as Protestant Christianity.


      1. They absolutely can be wonderful people – just like Mormons can be wonderful people and are beautiful families too – in both cases.

        But, are they saved? I know some who I think might be, but a lot of “good catholics” who I think do not “know the Lord.”

        One thing that I am sure of: all of the trappings of their faith make for a lot of complexity, works righteousness, and unnecessity.

        But, keep in mind that the Catholic catechism also says that there is no salvation apart from the catholic church. And when you join the catholic church, you make a profession of faith to the church and that all that the church teaches is infallible.

        I’ll stick with Christ instead.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I spent some time doing Catholic canon law and ecclesiology with one of their Archdiocese’s seminaries, and keep in touch with my professor occasionally (who was very nice). We read through canon laws, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and many encyclicals. And I was working on digitizing Johann Auer & Joseph Ratzinger’s book (Die Kirche: Das allgemeine Heilssakrament, or “The Church: The universal sacrament of salvation).

    I broke it down for some people including publicly:

    (1) So the Catholic Church declares certain doctrine as “de fide credenda” — meaning Catholics who wish to be in communion with Rome must FULLY hold these firmly:

    And two sets of items including papal dogmas and Marian dogmas. Since Vatican I (which they hold to be an Ecumenical Council) plus an encyclical in 1950 on the Assumption of Mary formalized a lot of the beliefs around these dogmas, I do not agree with them.

    The pope doesn’t have to make any pronouncement about his being infallible.* (However, there are times where there are ghost writers especially for encyclicals, rubberstamped by the pope, as well as “corrections” by the Vatican.) Cough.

    (2) It seems like it is cyclical argument:
    “We are correct because we follow Tradition, and even if Tradition is dynamic and changes the way we interpret something (like Vatican II changing how we view Protestants in light of Vatican I), we’re still correct because we follow Tradition.”

    (3) There are some minor differences e.g.,
    Ecclesiology (e.g., Magisterium, apostolic succession)
    Did Jesus have siblings
    Separating justification and sanctification

    But I think the first two points are pretty foundational.

    I want to also emphasize that de fide credenda and de fide tenenda cannot be dissented upon by Catholics i.e., Catholics who wish to be in good standing cannot say “I disagree with Nicene Creed” or “I disagree with Marian dogmas” or ” disagree with the papal teaching on X”.

    Granted, if there were a Protestant Magisterium that might squelch some heresies or heretical teachers (but then some other heretics might be championed as we see with the Vatican’s/pope’s selection of certain people)…

    Liked by 1 person

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