The Catholic Church and the Bible
A 44-page booklet is in my possession bearing the title "The Bible Is NOT Our Sole Guide." It was published by the "Supreme Council, KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS Religious Information Bureau." It has the official approval of the church, as it carries the "Imprimatur: Joseph E. Ritter, Archbishop of St. Louis." That "Imprimatur" shows that the teachings of the book are approved by the high authorities of the church. It is my intention in this treatise to examine some of the statements and claims of the book, and show they are not consistent with the revealed will of God — the Bible.
We understand that the first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses, as he was instructed by God. In subsequent years, the prophets were also inspired by God to write laws, instructions for such matters as building the temple, the history of the judges and kings, etc. We believe the power of God has preserved these writings for us, even as Christ stated in Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Peter made a similar statement in I Peter 1:24-25: "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls: But the word of the Lord abides for ever…" This treatise is not intended to present the evidence supporting the inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures, but let it be known that there is abundant and convincing evidence for both.
The Attitude of Jesus Christ Toward 'The Law and the Prophets'
Fairly early in the book, we find this statement:
"The Bible was not regarded by the Jews as self-explanatory. Never would they have conceded that anyone who can read is therefore qualified to read the Scriptures and surely get the correct meaning out of them" [p. 8].
It is certainly true that some portions of Scripture are more difficult than others. In fact, Peter admitted this when he wrote concerning some of the writings of Paul: "as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16).
The writer of Hebrews mentions two categories of Scripture — the "milk" and "solid food." He rebukes his readers because of their immaturity — their lack of growth. "For when by reason of the time you ought to be teachers, you have need again that someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partakes of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14). What's the point? In time, with effort, those "every ones" should have been able to partake of the "solid food," the "meat" of the word. He didn't say they needed some degreed theologian to explain things to them.
Notice Paul's words to the church at Ephesus: "how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:3-4). Paul said his readers could have the same understanding that he had. There is no indication that his readers were theologians or scholars. Indeed, the evidence shows that the Christians in that first century were mostly common people, and Paul says these common people could read and understand even what Paul, a true scholar, had written.
There are reports, even in modern times, of missionaries going into remote parts of the world and finding New Testament churches existing, and the Christians there had no knowledge of like people in other parts of the world. How did this happen? The Bible had come into the hands of the people. They read it and were convinced by the message, and they didn't need some PhD. to "interpret" the Scriptures for them. But to quote from the KofC publication:
"In such circumstances many an individual would be hopelessly perplexed and would not know what the will of God required of him" [p. 8].
In the Bible, reference is made to circumstances where there was a dispute between individuals, and they were told to take the matter to their priests and judges to settle the matter. "If you perceive that there be among you a hard and doubtful matter in judgment between blood and blood, cause and cause, leprosy and leprosy: and the words of the judges within thy gates do vary: arise, and go to the place which the Lord thy God shall choose….to the priests of the Levitical race, and to the judge…And thou shalt ask of them. And they shall show thee the truth of the judgment" (Deuteronomy 17:8-12). The text indicates that these "doubtful matters" had to do with personal issues rather than understanding simple teachings of God's law.
Did they need teachers of the Law? Obviously so, for they did not have printed Bibles as we do, so that everyone could have his own copy. The people would come together for the teaching by the priests and scribes. Such a scene is described in Nehemiah 8:1-3: "And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women, and of those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law."
To further emphasize their point, the KofC book goes on to state that
"The Scribes who were professionally trained through long periods of study and instruction were the only ones who had competence in the interpretation of the Books of Moses. The Jews, contemporaries of Jesus, would have been horrified at the principle that anyone is qualified to read and interpret for himself…" (p. 10).
If we had been Roman Catholics and lived in Rome during the reign of Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903), we would have been compelled to adhere to the following edict: "That the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one's thoughts is not inherent in the rights of citizens, and is by no means to be reckoned worthy of favor and support" [Great Encyclical Letters of Leo XIII, page 126]. According to the pope, ordinary people are just not smart enough to figure things out on their own. They don't have the right to go to the Bible, God's Word, and read, reason and think for themselves. Thus by implication, individual study was forbidden to common people.
Rome's Popes have taught and continue to teach "complete submission and obedience of the will to the Church and the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself" [Pope Leo XIII, "Sapienteae Christianae," 1890]. The "Holy See" declares, "A Catholic State will not shrink from repressive measures to secure the domination of Catholic principles" [Monsignor Ronald Knox, quoted in Proud To Be A Protestant, by Alan Campbell, p. 14].
We quote again Paul's word to Ephesus: "how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ" (Ephesians 3:3-4). Can it be any clearer than that? Must we have a doctorate in Theology to explain what that means to us?
And what do we make of the apostle John's admonition given in I John 4:1, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world"? To whom was this written — to Bible scholars, theologians, religious experts? NO! It was written to ordinary Christians who were commissioned to listen to what they were taught, then compare that with what the Scriptures said to ascertain whether or not it was the truth. Yet the Catholic Church forbids the common people from doing that, as they do not have the mental capacity within themselves to understand!
Jesus Christ … The Bible and the Church
To further emphasize the need for an authority besides the Bible, the KofC book states that
"Jesus came to establish a Kingdom — the Kingdom of God on earth. The very term kingdom demands organization. A kingdom requires a king (or authorized ruler of some kind, call him what you will). There must be a supreme authority which will govern the Kingdom according to well-defined principles and laws. There is further need of duly appointed assistants, secretaries, heads of various departments and so forth, who will proclaim the laws after having enacted them…Is the Kingdom of God to be the only exception to this universal law?" [p. 14].
If someone can point to such an organizational structure to God's kingdom, or church, in the Bible, I will be glad to consider it. But in decades of reading and studying God's Word, I have seen nothing like this. The evidence from the Scriptures, as well as from the writings of the early church fathers, is that each church was independent, autonomous, and answering only to God, and that there was no hierarchal organization. The only "organization" we find in the Bible has to do with the appointment of spiritual leaders in each congregation, but not over the whole body of believers. Paul and his companions returned to cities where they had previously preached and "… appointed for them elders in every church" (Acts 14:23). Nowhere do we read of cardinals or archbishops, etc., having been appointed.
Just who were these "elders?" There are three Greek terms, basically translated by six English words that describe these men. "Episcopos" in English is "bishop, or overseer," referring to their responsibility in directing the affairs of the local church. "Poimen" in English is "pastor, or shepherd," referring to their responsibility to care for the "sheep" entrusted to them, and "presbuteros" in English is rendered "presbyter, or elder," referring to their status as older men and not new converts. All the terms apply to the same men, just referring to different aspects of their work.
In Acts 20:17, Paul called for the "elders" to meet with him. Then in Acts 20:28, he gave a charge to them as "bishops," that they were to "feed" (the verb form of the word for "pastor), the flock of God. Then in I Peter 3:1-2 we find Peter writing to the "elders," charging them to "shepherd," or "pastor" the "flock of God" which was among them, telling them in what manner to take the "oversight" (from "bishop or overseer"). Note that all terms refer to the same men or function. If you wish to read the qualifications one needed to assume this role, they are given in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 15-9.
In opposition to the biblical model of local autonomy, and no hierarchal machinery, the KofC book states that
"any kingdom where there is no supreme authority, but where everyone is his own interpreter in matters of conduct and principle is no kingdom at all. A kingdom is an organized unit of governor and governed, of leaders and those who submit to his leadership" (pp. 14-15).
What this means is that there must be a pope as governor of the church, or kingdom. If just one example can be cited in Scripture that suggests a pope, cardinals, archbishops, etc., I will be glad to consider it, but that cannot be done, as there is nothing in the Bible that suggests such an arrangement. There are reasons for this arrangement, but that is another topic.
The book goes on to define the word "church."
"What does the term "Church" mean? 'An organized body of Christians'" is one of the several senses in which the word is used" [p. 15].
In truth, the word in the original Greek carried no such meaning. The Greek "ekklesia" refers to a popular gathering, an assembly, people who are "called" (ek) "out" (kaleo). The term is used in the Bible to refer to the Lord's church (Romans 16:16) as well as to a mob that gathered to do violence to Paul who was preaching against their idolatry (Acts 19:32). The term just refers to a gathering of people, whether secular or religious.
The claim is made in the book that
"Jesus was to establish an hierarchical Church … There is still a clearer indication that Jesus intended to establish an organized society (or church) with leaders having power to make laws and to impose penalties …" [p. 17].
Again I ask, where is the evidence in the Bible? It may be in the minds of men, but evidently it was not in the mind of God, for he revealed no such plan. With respect to "leaders having power to make laws," there are scriptures that address that idea. "For Jehovah is our judge, Jehovah is our lawgiver, Jehovah is our king; he will save us" (Isaiah 33:22). "One only is the lawgiver and judge, even he who is able to save and to destroy …" (James 4:12). Notice that "one only is the lawgiver," not many men or church officials.
But then the KofC book goes on in an effort to support its claim of men having authority by quoting Matthew 18:18: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven." This charge was given to the apostles, so the conclusion is drawn that the apostles, in and of themselves, have the authority to make or break laws that God has given. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a misuse or twisting of the Scriptures.
In the passage cited, "shall be" is from the Greek "esomai," and it is first person, singular, future indicative [Harper Analytical Greek Lexicon]. So, what does that mean? Let me allow Young's Literal Translation to shed some light. "Verily I say unto you, Whatever things ye may bind upon the earth shall be, having been bound in heaven, and whatever things ye may loose on the earth shall be, having been loosed in the heavens." The point is, Jesus is not giving the apostles the authority to make laws on the earth, but rather telling them that whatever laws they make or loose are things that have already taken place in heaven.
This is another example of those who "wrest the scriptures … to their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16). A further note on this passage in Matthew is that these words in Matthew 16:19 are used to claim the primacy of Peter over the other apostles, but a reading of Matthew 18:18 uses the very same words and applies them to all the apostles, not just to Peter.
On this point, the KofC book claims that Christ
"appointed Peter supreme leader and of the entire group of Christians,"
thus the claim is made that Peter became the first pope of the church. This is based on the conversation Christ had with his disciples when he asked who people thought he was. Then he asked the disciples who they thought he was. Peter confessed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Christ then replies in Matthew 16:18: "And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
The Catholic claim is that "Peter" and "rock" are the same words in the Greek, thus Christ built the church upon Peter. The KofC book goes on to state:
"With His supreme wisdom and authority Jesus appoints one who would give to this new religious organization the same firmness and solidity that a solid foundation gives to a building … The foundation that was to withstand the most savage persecution was to be a strong leadership, a supreme and unquestioned authority, visible, recognizable, present, and within reach of all."
Thus the claim is made that when Christ said "that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," he was referring to Peter as the rock upon which the church was built. There are some problems with this. In the first place, "Peter" (petros) and "rock" (petra) are not exactly the same in the New Testament's Greek language. The first is masculine gender, and the second is feminine gender, so Christ is using two different words. It would not make sense for Christ to say, "You are Peter (male rock), and upon this (female) rock…" Furthermore, there is only one foundation of the church, not two. "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). The church is built on Christ, not Peter. Just what was the "rock" in the statement Jesus made? That had to do with the confession Peter had just made, that "Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God." That is the rock, the identity of Christ as God's Son.
But the KofC continues on about Peter:
"If there should be any doubt about the meaning of the Church's rock foundation, it is removed by the immediately following words about the keys of the Kingdom and the ratification in Heaven of whatever acts of jurisdiction the visible head of the Church [i.e., Peter—jdt] would perform. The master of the house keeps its keys. He opens and no one shuts (Rev. 3, 7). His authority is supreme … He has supreme judicial and legislative power within his jurisdiction. Thus Peter was given supreme authority in the Church, in the house of God which Jesus built" [p. 20].
What is it about the "keys?" Christ told Peter, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:19). Does that mean that Peter was given absolute authority as head of the church? We generally use keys to open doors, and that's exactly what happened in Acts 2, when Peter stood before a crowd of Jewish worshippers on the day of Pentecost and preached the first gospel sermon at the beginning of the church/kingdom. Thus Peter "opened the door" for entrance into the kingdom. That's what the "keys" were for, and not to enthrone him on some papal throne.
The claim is further made that since Christ prayed for Peter, his faith would not fail, that though the church would be threatened,
"the remedy and safeguard against diabolic attack was to be provided through one man, Peter, whose faith would not fail."
The book goes on, claiming that Peter
"would be an infallible guide…" [p. 21].
If Peter's faith would never fail, and he was in-fallible, as the KofC claims, then one wonders how it is that Paul had to rebuke Peter to his face. Peter had gone to Antioch with the gospel, and was meeting with the Gentiles, but when some Jewish brethren came up from Jerusalem, Peter (also called Cephas) separated from the Gentiles, as the Jewish Christians had not as yet fully accepted the Gentile Christians. Paul then came on the scene, and observed Peter and others practicing this hypocrisy. Galatians 2:14 records Paul's reaction: "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" Thus Paul rebuked Peter before the whole group, charging him with sin. That doesn't fit the claim the KofC makes for Peter. He was not "infallible."
The KofC book continues, claiming that Christ
"bestowed supreme authority in teaching and governing the Church on Peter as His personal representative on earth with full authority. Surely the result is an organized religious society. Church means exactly that" [p. 21].
Again, that is a flat misrepresentation of the meaning of the Greek word ekklesia, which is translated "church." As noted earlier, a mob gathered in Ephesus in retaliation against Paul's preaching against their idols. "Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was in confusion; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together" (Acts 19:32). The word "assembly" in verse 32 is from the Greek "ekklesia," which is the very same word which translators have also rendered "church" in English. If the KofC statement is true, then this mob that was intent on violence against Paul was "an organized religious society." Who can believe it?
The Church and the Bible According to Saint Paul
The claim is made that Paul did not
"entertain the idea that God and His Son Jesus Christ had left their revealed message in writing, and that the book containing these writings, called the Bible, would of itself be a sure and sufficient guide to God's will and revelation. On the contrary, the divine Founder of the Church appointed easily recognized representatives to speak in His name and by His authority …" [p. 31].
"The apostles then were the recipients of a divine message which is final and unalterable. How were they to pass this on to subsequent generations? Were they to draw up a full and complete statement in writing of this message, and leave it behind them for people to study and interpret as best they could without any aid outside their own poor fallible minds? One will search in vain through the pages of the New Testament for any such view. On the contrary the pages of the New Testament clearly indicate that the living authority of the Apostles was to be passed on to their successors down through the centuries" [p. 32].
The clear implication of that statement is that the popes were the apostolic successors down through the centuries. Therefore, we cannot rely on the Bible alone.
It is interesting to note that the KofC wrote that
"The Christian faith or doctrine came from God, revealed to mankind by God's own eternal divine Son, Jesus Christ. It accordingly constituted a body of doctrine which was supremely sacred and must at all costs be kept intact. Anyone who would dare to alter it would surely be guilty of a great sin of presumption, and would be striving in vain, as far as his salvation is concerned" [p. 33].
I wholeheartedly agree! But what do we see through the centuries but popes changing rules and laws left and right, and making up new laws along the way. Following are but a few of many examples that could be cited. In one list I counted 38 new doctrines or changes made by the popes over the centuries that were not in the Bible. And there are others.
Prayers dedicated to Mary, saints, angels – There is no indication that prayers were offered to anyone but God. In fact, God's Word says there is only one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5). But a new doctrine came in 600.
Celibacy of priesthood by Gregory VI – In the Catholic Church, priests are referred to as "pastors," "bishops," "shepherds," etc. There are several terms used in the Bible for the same office, as the different terms describe different aspects of their work. If you will look at I Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6, you will see that God requires these men to be married, not celibate. By what authority did Gregory change God's law? If the law has been changed, then why does the Bible still say "married?" The Bible actually predicted this would happen. "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude" (I Timothy 4:1-4)
Bible forbidden to common people according to Council of Valencia – There can be only one reason why this was done. Evidently the church did not want the common people in the pews to read and see that the church contradicted the Bible often. Early Christians were commended for studying on their own, as those in Berea "searched the Scriptures daily" to confirm the things Paul was teaching (Acts 17:11). In fact, William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536 for having dared to print the Bible in the language of the common man so they could read it for themselves.
In writing about the necessity for unity, we are told
"The only effective way to secure and maintain unity is the authoritative voice of the living Church … The written, mute, far from self-explanatory words of a book, even though it be the inspired word of God, can always be twisted and distorted, misunderstood and misinterpreted … The Bible as the sole rule of faith has led to religious confusion and disunity. God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33)" [p. 36].
If the Bible is not the sole rule of faith, then I am puzzled at the meaning of various Scriptures. Paul wrote to Timothy in these words: "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17). The inspired apostle Paul claimed that the scriptures furnished us unto every good work. If that is true, then what truth can be learned from other sources? Furthermore, Christ told the disciples that after his departure he would send the Holy Spirit: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). If the apostles received "all the truth" in the first century, that logically means there is no new truth, no new revelations, and therefore nothing to be changed, added to, or taken from. Jude also declared: "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). If we believe what Jude wrote, the system of faith was "once for all delivered" — once for all people for all time. That means there is neither nothing else nor nothing new to be delivered.
Yes, Bible teachings have been twisted and distorted. God said that would be done, and Peter acknowledged the same. Satan is still alive and working on Planet Earth. But even church leaders and popes have twisted and distorted the Scriptures, so to claim that we can only listen to their interpretation doesn't give me much comfort.
Following are some excesses practiced by the popes through the centuries. These statements are not from enemies of the church, but from within the Roman Catholic Church.
"The Roman Pontiff judges all men, but is judged by no one."
"We declare, assert, define and pronounce: To be subject to the Roman Pontiff is to every human creature altogether necessary for salvation." [Boniface VIII, 14th Century]
God long ago determined who would be our judge — Jesus Christ. "…because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). That judge is none other than Jesus Christ. Even the pope will be judged by Christ. "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy" (James 4:12) "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22).
Accepting the Bible as true, we see that the Roman Pontiff will not judge all men, and that he himself will be judged, contrary to the assertion of Boniface VIII. If God "has given all judgment to the Son," then that leaves the pope out, regardless of his claims to the contrary.
"That which was spoken of Christ … 'Thou has subdued all things under His feet,' may well seem verified in me. I have the authority of the King of kings. I am all in all and above all, so that God, Himself and I, the Vicar of God, have but one consistory, and I am able to do almost all that God can do. What therefore, can you make of me but God?" [The Bull Sanctum, Nov. 18, 1302, found in the registers of Boniface VIII in the Vatican archives, "Reg. Vatic.," L, Fol. 387, The Catholic Encyclopedia, © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc.].
If Boniface VIII has the "authority of the King of kings," then that places him on the same level as Jesus Christ, who was Divine, God in the flesh. The Bible would identify that as blasphemy.
Other statements are found in an ecclesiastical (Roman Catholic) dictionary by Lucius Ferraris, entitled Prompta Bibliotheca Canonica, Vol. VI, pgs. 438, 442, article "Pope." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 Edition, Vol. VI, p. 48 refers to this book as "a veritable encyclopedia of religious knowledge," "and precious mine of information." Following are some quotes.
"The Pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but as if were God, and the vicar of God."
"The Pope is of such lofty and supreme dignity that, properly speaking, he has not been established in any rank of dignity, but rather has been placed upon the very summit of all ranks of dignities. …"
"He is likewise the divine monarch and supreme emperor and king of kings."
"Hence the pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven and of earth and of the lower regions."
The truth is that only Jesus Christ occupies the position at the "summit of all ranks and dignities." He only is "the divine monarch and supreme emperor and king of kings." Notice the writing of the inspired Paul who wrote of Christ: "He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (I Timothy 6:15). If the pope claims he is the "divine monarch and supreme emperor and king of kings," then he has usurped the throne of Christ. God's Word clearly states that Jesus Christ is the "only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of Lords."
We find neither Peter nor Paul, nor any other apostle or prophet making such lofty claims about themselves. In fact, our Lord gave a strong rebuke to the Jewish leaders of his day who loved to wear special clothing and to be called by titles of honor to set themselves about other men.
"But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and length-en the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call any-one on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted" (Matt. 23:5-12).
It is clear that the Roman Pontiff "exalts himself" claiming "so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but as if were God." Jesus says that in time such a one "shall be humbled." Notice also that Christ forbids giving the religious title of "Father" to any man. In normal usage, we know that "father" is acceptable, as we are told to "honor father and mother." And so is the word "teacher," etc. But to make these terms religious titles is forbidden. Catholic priests request that they be called "Father." Jesus forbids it! He further forbids the wearing of elaborate garments that set themselves apart from other men.
"So that it if were possible that the angels might err in the faith, or might think contrary to the faith, they could be judged and excommunicated by the pope."
"The pope is as it were God on earth, sole sovereign of the faithful of Christ, chief king of kings, having plentitude of power, to whom has been entrusted by the omnipotent God direction not only of the earthly but also of the heavenly kingdom."
"The pope can modify divine law, since his power is not of man but of God."
The pope here sets himself above angels, and the implication is, intended or not, that the pope cannot sin. If the pope truly is "as it were God on earth, sole sovereign … chief king of kings … of the earthly but also of the heavenly kingdom," then he is above Christ. Since Paul described Christ as King of kings, then if the pope is "chief king of kings," then logically that would put him above Christ. Who can believe it?
How is it that "the pope can modify divine law?" Consider the words of Christ: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Should that have read "My words will not pass away, unless modified by the pope?" Where in the Bible do we find any hint that God gives the pope the authority to change God's law? It is not there! Consider the strong warning in Revelation: "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).
"We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty" [Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter, June 20, 1894].
"For thou art another God on earth" [History of the Councils, Vol. VIX, p. 109].
"We define that the Holy Apostolic See (the Vatican) and the Roman Pontiff hold the primacy over the whole world." [A Decree of the Council of Trent, quoted in Philippe Labbe and Gabriel Cossart, The Most Holy Councils, Vol. 13, col. 1167].
"The Pope is the Supreme Judge … He is the vicegerent of Christ …" [Vatican Council, p. 220].
Here are yet other claims of divinity on the part of the pope, as the claim is made that he is "another God on earth," and "the Supreme Judge." We need to be reminded of Paul's claim that Jesus Christ "… is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (I Timothy 6:15). We further note that Christ, not the pope, is the Supreme Judge: "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). Thus the question: which should we believe — the pope or God?
"The Pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, but he is Jesus Christ Himself, hidden under veil of flesh" [The Catholic National, July 1895].
Wait a minute. This statement brings to mind something the real Jesus Christ said: "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray" (Matthew 24:4-5). Is it possible Christ was describing someone like the popes who claim that they are in reality Christ?
Another passage that comes to mind is II Thessalonians 2:3-4 where the apostle Paul is warning about a falling away that was going to come: "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." Who, in history has done that? I think the answer is obvious.
So now we progress from the claim that the pope is "another God" to the claim that he is actually Jesus Christ in a fleshly body. If this is so, then Christ has returned to the earth. That presents a problem, for the Scripture comments about his return: "'Behold, He is coming with the clouds,' and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen" (Revelation 1:7).
Does the reader see the problem? If the pope is Christ on the earth, then the Bible makes a false claim, for the soldiers who pierced Christ have not seen the pope (they were long dead before a pope ever appeared), neither did every eye see the pope when he came. There is a clear contradiction here.
"The Pope is Christ in office, Christ in jurisdiction and power … we bow down before thy voice O Pius, as before the voice of Christ, the God of truth, in clinging to thee, we cling to Christ" [Vatican Council of 1870, January 9].
In addition to the foregoing, there are other serious problems that sincere Catholics must deal with, but which are not generally know to those who are members of the Roman Catholic Church. But an honest reading of history is available to those who are interested. There have been many scandals associated with the papacy through the centuries and are in print. We will note just a few of them.
10th century Pope John XII, appointed when he just 18 years old, is said to have indulged his teenage sex drive by throwing exotic orgies, causing outraged religious observers to describe the Lateran palace, the papal home, as a whore house.
Benedict IX, accused by his enemies of being a rapist and a murderous "demon from hell," reportedly whiled away his time in homosexual trysts before selling the papal office, and then trying to take it back again by force and being unceremoniously excommunicated.
History has recorded Ninth century Pope Stephen VI as digging up his predecessor, propping his corpse up on a throne and putting him on trial for becoming pope illegally - before finding him guilty and throwing the skeleton into the Tiber River.
Bad behavior has not been attributed to Pope Joan, who legend has it disguised herself as a man in the Middle Ages but was caught out when she gave birth, leading to a now-defunct tradition of checking under future popes' robes.
Question: How is it that popes, who claim to be Christ on earth, pass laws that contradict what other popes (Christ on earth) have done, and charge other popes (Christ on earth) with crimes? Is Christ against himself? Is God fighting with God? Who can believe it?
The foregoing is but a short list of excesses through the centuries committed by popes and councils. That is why we cannot put trust in men's claims to be the voice of authority, but rather put our trust in the Bible, the unchanging word of God. "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls: But the word of the Lord abides forever. And this is the word of good tidings which was preached unto you" (I Peter 1:24-25).
"Inadequacy of the Bible as the Sole Rule of Faith"
This is the title of the last chapter of the KofC book. In the preceding pages, the author has endeavored to build his case on the various quarrels, divisions and heresies that have come about in the 20 centuries since the beginning of the Lord's church in Jerusalem. The claim has been that the Catholic Church has been the divinely authorized interpreter and enforcer of the Bible.
"The determination of what the Bible should contain could never have been achieved except by the living voice of the authoritative Church, the pillar and ground of truth, the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Suppose Jesus Christ Himself had written the entire New Testament and handed it complete to us with the guarantee that it was His own divinely revealed or inspired teaching. While we would have had assurance from the beginning as to the contents of the New Testament, as to what books had the right to be included among the inspired Scriptures, yet that would never have been an adequate guarantee of unity in the body of Christ. That fact was proved every early in the history of the Church"[p. 43].
It is hard to fathom the disconnect in the foregoing statement. The claim is that even if Christ gave us a "guarantee" as to the authenticity of the books in the New Testament, that would not have been enough. But if we have the authority of the pope and the church, then we are safe!
To further emphasize the Catholic Church's attitude toward the Bible, note the following quote from a Catholic official:
"The Bible is not an infallible source book for rules and regulations"[Fr. Dwight Longenecker].
I would call that statement "blasphemy." That word is used in various places in the Bible, and is from the Greek "blasphemeo," being translated as "defame, rail on, revile, speak evil" (Strong's Greek New Testament). Did Longenecker "defame" the Bible? Obviously so, in that he claimed that God's revelation cannot be depended on to reveal truth. In other words, it is "fallible," or prone to error.
Then how can we know which is true and which is false? Was Jesus mistaken when he told the disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit, who would then reveal to them all the truth? "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:13).
Another quote magnifies the point that has been made.
"Of all the advice that we can offer your Holiness we must open your eyes well and use all possible force to the matter, namely, to permit the reading of the gospel as little as possible in all the countries under your jurisdiction. Let the very little part of the gospel suffice which is usually read in mass, and let no one be permitted to read more. So long as people will be content with the small amount, your interest will prosper, but as soon as the people want to read more, your interest will fail. The Bible is the book which more than any other, has raised against us the tumults and tempests by which we have almost perished. In fact, if one compares the teaching of the Bible with what takes place in our churches, he will soon find discord, and will realize that our teachings are often different from the Bible and oftener still, contrary to it" [preserved in the National Library of Paris, Folio #1068, pp. 650-651].
If one is looking for a reason to discourage the reading of God's Holy Word, the foregoing would be as good as any. In fact, the Church seems to think that the Bible may even be dangerous.
"The very nature of the Bible ought to prove to any thinking man the impossibility of its being the one safe method to find out what the Saviour taught" [Question Box, 67, 1913 edition, a Roman Catholic publication].
But the Catholics are not alone in their teaching. Other religious groups demand that their members must listen only to their leaders rather than learning from the Bible.
"Any Latter-day Saint [Mormon—jdt] who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the 'prophets, seers, and revelators' of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy ... Lucifer ... wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to 'do their own thinking.' ...
"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy." [Improvement Era, June 1945, p. 354].
The "Reverend Moon" of the Unification Church alleges to be divine and his devotees may not openly and publicly disagree with his "divine" proclamations.
"...people cannot see the Divine Plan in studying the Bible by itself...if he then lays them [Scripture Studies] aside and ignores them and goes to the bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures." [Jehovah's Witnesses, The Watchtower, Sept. 15, 1910, p. 298].
"Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible." [The Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587].
Dear reader, please consider carefully the things that have been written. My only interest is in upholding the truth of God's Word, and showing the error of those who try to diminish its power, its authority, and the ability of the common man to understand what God has revealed to us. Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32).
Our Lord warned of the dangers in listening to men rather than what God has revealed: "But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men" (Matthew 15:9). I maintain that any doctrine that is not found in the Bible is a doctrine of men, and Jesus said their worship is "in vain," that is, God will not accept it.
One writer put it in the following words:
"The 'no dissent' clause is contrary to all logic and common sense, for man was born with both the ability and the urge to dissent in cases where injustices are prevalent. His Creator granted him an unfettered will, and no man, whether Pope or King, has the God-given right to deny him the freedom to think, to question, to take issue, to dissent. But to return to the core of this theme, can we imagine what the world would be like if no one were permitted to take issue with the "powers that be"? Freedom would yield to slavery. Free speech would surrender to intellectual conformity. The right to dissent would be lost to authoritarian rule. This is counter to the very nature of man. The freedom we inherited by virtue of being born would be forfeited" [Buff Scott].
Wise Solomon wrote these words thousands of years ago: "That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
The changing of God's Word began in the Garden of Eden when Satan had a conversation with Eve.
"Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not die" (Genesis 3:1-4).
So it is not surprising today that men still seek to change in some fashion what God has said. So let us give heed to the word of Paul to the Romans: "let God be found true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4).
As Isaiah said to Israel long ago: "To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them" (Isaiah 8:20).