Wednesday, March 11, 2015

5 Tools for Conversing With Roman Catholic Friends

(Another page from our soon to be released Five Things You Should Know site.)

5 Tools For Conversing With Roman Catholics

The more acquainted we are with Catholics the more important it is to know and understand their background.  If you are new to our study, please take the time to read our Background footnote now1. We placed some emphasis on understanding Catholics in Section I. We now discuss the things Catholics need to better understand about us. Catholicism may rightfully be called a mystery religion with a complexity and language so expansive that few Catholics themselves have a grasp on it.  For this reason, it is important to keep our focus on root issues when talking with Catholics, and not to be caught up in esoteric, non productive, philosophical or historical issues.

1.) Catholics Need to Understand the Biblical words Justification and Righteousness.

Catholics often refer to their own term “Catholic guilt,” as a hint to the role guilt plays in their system.  This is not to say that Catholics own “the guilt business,” but it does point to an underlying condition. No Catholic may have assurance of eternal life and the Catholic is completely dependent upon the church for resolving his ongoing guilt issue and for any hope of future salvation.  Unlike the Catholic, the saved non catholic believes that Christ has, through His grace, freely given us eternal life and that our heavenly Father now lovingly disciplines us as Children.

No one needs to confront the discussion of the righteousness of God more than the Catholic. While many Catholics have already heard the question “If you were to die today do you know where you would go?” it still serves as a good starting point.  When the Catholic gives his usual ambivalent answer, it is important for us to follow through with a second similar question, “Just how good do you feel you have to be in order for God to accept you into His sinless heaven?”

These leading questions open up the discussion of the righteousness of God which is freely available to all, and there are two points you will want to drive home carefully:

1. God gives His righteousness, once and for all, to any who will receive it by faith. Romanism teaches infused righteousness, based on the idea that the believer lives in an ongoing pursuit of salvation, based on his submission to the sacraments. He does not see salvation as a permanent state. This means the non Catholic will want to be very familiar with the book of Romans, the Bible’s great thesis on God’s righteousness.

Romans 4:1-8 is a good starting place.  Verse 5 warns us that we add debt to our account when we try to please God with our works. 

Romans 5:1 tells us that we have been (the aorist tense here means that this action happened once and for all) justified by faith. We are presently being justified (enjoying the benefits of our justification) because we were justified once and for all when we came to Christ.

Romans 10:1-13 explains that just as the early Jews were ignorant of God’s righteousness and tried to establish their own righteousness, so many today have not submitted to the righteousness of God which is by faith, freely available in Christ.

2. When God gives us His righteousness, He places us in Christ and makes us a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). This is no small matter. It unveils a wide range of positional truth arising from this initial fact that we are new creations in Christ with new life because we have been born again (born from above). 

The Catholic believes that he is “born again” as the result of his sacramental baptism as an infant.  Non Catholics can overlook the point that Catholicism still requires a personal decision on the part of Catholics when they are mature enough to exercise their own “free will” and “come to faith.” That time of coming to faith is when Catholics would use the terms repentance and justification.   However, the Catholic does not see this as a one time, once for all event. His justification is seen as an ongoing matter, subject to his sacramental obedience2.  

The biblical term “born again” or “born from above” is important. The believer’s new life and new position in Christ is a result of his once-for-all justification.  Far more than justification is involved. As a result of being born again we become new persons in Christ. Our regeneration is the result of our justification (Romans 4:24-25). God commands us to appropriate and apply this truth to our daily lives (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). We are justified (made righteous) once and for all (Galatians 2:16-17; 3:24, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Romans 8:30). Each of the above references speak of justification in the Greek aorist tense, teaching that our justification is once and for all. 

2.) Understand Their Eucharist Does Not Save Men

Unlike the non Catholic who celebrates the Lord’s Table or Communion in remembrance of Christ our Passover who was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7, Greek aorist tense: once for all), the Roman Catholic also observes the Eucharist during the second liturgy of the Mass.  In this priestly celebration, Catholics believe the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ based on their interpretations of John 6:32-58; Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:17-23; and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. In this respect, Catholics make some assumptions simply not found in the Bible.

a. Catholics presume a priest can actually offer a prayer which will turn physical bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, a concept not found anywhere in God’s Word.

b. While acknowledging that Christ died on the cross only once, Catholics believe that His sacrifice on the cross and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one and the same sacrifice, thus Christ is being perpetually sacrificed. Even if we could follow the mental gymnastics required to see the sacrifice of Christ continuing perpetually through the Mass, we would be faced with the flat contradiction of the Bible which declares “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14.  The Bible, without exception, speaks of the offering of Christ in the past tense and in the context of one expression of one event. This is in contrast to the multiple sacrifices which were required to atone the consciences of Israel under Moses’ law. Hebrews further argues that if that one sacrifice was inefficient, Christ would have had to offer Himself continually from the foundation of the world. Instead, He offered Himself once for all (Hebrews 9:24-28).

c. The Bible is clear that a non-bloody sacrifice would not be efficacious (Hebrews 9:22). When it is suggested that Christ is being crucified 24 hours a day 365 days a year in the Catholic Mass, her priests remind us that His blood is not flowing all that time, because the mass is non-bloody.  Still, Catholic dogma insists the mass is propitiatory because it is the sacrifice of Christ, but without blood3.   

The simple truth is that we partake of the elements of the Lord’s Table in remembrance of Christ, looking forward to the day when all of His own will eat it again in His presence.

3.) Catholics Need to Understand Their Priestly Order is Unnecessary 

Even a first time Bible reader recognizes that the Bible did not establish any priestly orders, qualifications, or rites in the New Testament. This is not only because we are all kingly priests (1 Peter 2:5,9), but because there is no priestly sacrifice over which to officiate. Because the Catholic Church believes it is the true Israel, it has also sought to impose the Old Testament priesthood model. In an effort to further justify a priesthood not found in the Bible, Catholics went so far as to exchange the word elder (presbetuteros) for priest (hiereus). The Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible, for example, changes Titus 1:5, and James 5:14-15 from elder to priest.

4.) Catholics Need to Understand that Christ Alone is our Mediator

In the world of the Catholic, Jesus Christ is their mediator.  Priests are their mediators, and Mary claims to be their mediator. A mediator is not merely one who prays to God for us, a mediator is one through whom we access God, particularly through prayer. There are two reasons why we need no other mediator than Christ.

a. Christ claims to be the only mediator. Jesus not only claimed to be the only way to the Father, He gave us specific instructions that we were to pray to and through Him (John 14:6-13). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit assists us in our prayers (Romans 8:26).

b. Any other mediator would be superfluous. Paul adamantly declared that all men everywhere were to pray to the Father and that there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Neither Mary no any other saint could hear our prayers, and even if they could, they could only hear one prayer at a time. They are not God.

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. 1 John 5:14-15.

5.) Catholics Need to Understand They Can Know They Are Saved

We end where we began. Above all, our dear Catholic friends need to know that they can have eternal life and know it, in spite of a church which openly declares they cannot.  The Bible says:

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. -1 John 5:9-13

1. We must not take the witness of men over God’s witness.

2. God’s witness was the testimony of His Son.

3. To have the Son is to have life. To deny this is to make God a liar.

4. We can know that we have eternal life by believing on the Son.


1. Background. As noted in section I, chapter 4, Roman Catholicism, openly challenges the idea that the Bible alone is sufficient and that faith alone in Christ’s work is adequate for salvation. The Catholic church is the composite of its longstanding traditions, ancient pagan (creation based) religious practices, and Greek philosophy. The reader will want to study: Section II, chapter 8, Five Things About Works Based Systems, Section II, chapter 7, Five Things About Multiple Authorities, and Section II, chapter 5, Five Things About Creator Worship for a fuller treatment of these broad issues.

2. The following is a quote from Fr. Michael Garry in our personal correspondence. It clarifies the essential Catholic position: “...So, if things go as they ought, when the time comes this baptized person will choose to receive more deeply and personally the seed of faith that was infused in his soul at baptism. He will make it his own and thereby come to a personal faith, which is often (but not necessarily) marked by a dramatic experience of repentance from sin and trust in God. So, in the ordinary course of things (infant baptism, followed by growth to maturity) there always comes a point when a personal decision is necessitated. Keep in mind here that the Catholic understanding of justification is an ongoing process, not a single once for all event. Baptism is only the beginning and the simple fact that a Catholic was baptized will not save him any more than being a son of Abraham saves a Jew.”

3. Page 1367 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”  Cited from:


Additional Resources

Note: These are resources, not cart blanc endorsements

done. by Cary Schmidt,

Talking with Catholic Friends and Family, James G. McArthy, Harvest House. This book addresses the commonly found, every day Catholic.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Five Things You Should Know

The following is a single entry from our upcoming website entitled Five Things You Should Know.  It focuses on providing an open minded understanding of men and their beliefs and providing some biblical responses to those who share other views.

5 Things about the  Roman Catholic

Like previous groups mentioned on this site Roman Catholics can be nominal and secular or they can be knowledgeable and committed.  While both kinds of Catholics need to be understood differently, all genuine Catholics believe that Christ has provided the means for us to realize our salvation through exclusive obedience to the Catholic sacraments and that salvation by faith through the grace of Christ alone is anathema. For our purposes, we are focusing on the seriously committed Roman Catholic in this overview.

1.) Where We Find the Catholic

The Roman Catholic is the fourth most likely person we will meet on the street. Other catholic brethren, found in various Orthodox churches, are not as visible locally, but remain present in our culture.  Roman Catholics, in general, present themselves as warm and loving (especially since Vatican II) and share a love for Christ, a love for life, a commitment to strong morals and strong family values with evangelicals. For this reasons, evangelicals are tempted to see them as truly saved in spite of their church’s dogma.  These expressions vary from country to country and certainly from history when our non Catholic forefathers readily agreed with Jim Lincoln, “Rome when in minority is as gentle as a lamb, when in equality is as clever as a fox, and when in the majority is as fierce as a tiger.”

2.) How the Catholic Sees Himself.

The Roman Catholic Church is the composite of its history, and no one can understand Catholicism who will not take the time to view that history. Based on history, Roman Catholics believe that they represent Christ’s kingdom on earth and that the reigning pope is His temporal vicar. Three historic influences have effected the evolution of Rome over the centuries.
a. The rise of the bishopric.  Well intended early churches in a given region would group themselves under a single bishop in order to protect themselves from false teachings (a practice not taught in the Bible).  Later, these bishops themselves came under the head of a single bishop who was, even later, called the pope.  Catholics believe they can trace their papal lineage back to Peter and their claim that Christ has built His church upon Peter (a Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18). Non Catholics, on the other hand, believe this doctrine of apostolic succession is not substantiated, either in the Bible or in history.
As Catholicism moved forward the church rested upon its ecclesiastical traditions as the authority through which the Bible was to be interpreted. The Catholic Church openly declares the Bible alone is not a sufficient rule of faith.  When dissenters challenge this point, Rome cites our trust in the canon as a typical defense.  How do we know the canon is inspired? Rome argues the Catholic church determined that it was, thus elevating the authority of tradition.1 Non Catholics contend that church councils merely affirmed what believers already held and that the Holy Spirit, not men, has guaranteed and protected the validity of our Bible books down through history
.b. The infusion of barbarians.  The end of Roman persecution and efforts to accommodate  the infusion of great hordes of barbarians into the “church” not only changed the barbarians, it changed the church.  To accommodate the mass migrations and conversions of the barbarians, Catholic leaders retrofitted many of the pagan practices of the barbarians with Christian meaning.  Saturnalia (retrofitted as a Christmas celebration),  the veneration of statues, and a host of other practices were imported into the church and were validated later under the banner of tradition. Thus traditions, built upon “the piety of the people,” became an avenue through which change could come about in the church which is not beneath saying it has never changed. The church insists that it has authority to bind and loose certain practices but that this does not constitute doctrinal change. 2
c.The influence of Philosophy.  The infusion of Greek thinking into Catholic thought also changed Catholic tradition. At this point it is very important to understand two key thinkers who have shaped Catholic thought.
1. Perhaps the most influential early Catholic was Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354 -430). Augustine (a Neoplatonist)  was converted out of a profligate life. He was highly analytic, but the mystical and allegorical influences of his philosophy are also visible in his prolific writings as a church leader. Most significantly, Augustine moved from a more traditional form of literal interpretation of the Bible toward an allegorical system. This system (reflected in his City of God) cemented the Catholic view that the Church is the inheritor of Israel’s promises and the rightful temporal ruler of the world.  Theologically, Augustine further supported the growing belief that salvation could come only through the mother church and its priests in the dispensation of the sacraments. He also taught that Mary was sinless.3
2. Perhaps the second most important figure in Catholic thinking was Thomas of Aquino (1225-1274) one of the most prolific of all Catholic writers. Thomistic philosophy infused the assumptions (premises) of Aristotle and the subsequent extension of his views (western science and math) into Catholic thinking. The Church has embraced Aquinas to the point where its pope has openly declared all of the church to be Thomistic.  In the briefest of summaries, Thomistic thought argues for a constant in the creation based on the unchanging nature of God. This Greek first principle, (in contrast with the changing creation which the Bible exhibits) allowed the Catholic church to put science on the same authoritative level as theology.  By imposing Augustine’s allegorical interpretation and Thomas’ natural law on Genesis one, for example, the Catholic church embraces theistic evolution.

3.)  The New Catholic is Becoming the Old Catholic

Many older and younger Catholics have differing world views because of the extensive changes the Vatican II church council brought about.  Prior to Vatican II (1962-1965), the mood and tenor of the church remained very much under the influence of the earlier  Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the First Vatican Council (1868-1869).  The Council of Trent was both dogmatic and antagonistic to non Catholics as a result of the Reformation.  That council provided a long list of anathemas which made it indelibly clear that any who disagreed with Rome were eternally doomed.4
Vatican II squared up with the realistic fact that the Catholic Church was in a slide.  It had lost its vitality. While Vatican II affirmed the dictates of Trent, it set about to re-image a kinder, gentler church which labeled protestants as disaffected brethren, allowed for the Mass to be presented in the language of the peoples, and set a whole new relational or ecumenical tone in the Church and the world.5These external changes imposed by Vatican II confused many Catholics and non Catholics alike.  The dogma of Trent remained, but the ecumenicism of Vatican II seemed mutually exclusive.  Disaffected Catholics left the church while others returned. The question remained, could the church warm its dialogue, extend its reach to the disaffected (including divorced people, anti-celibates, and homosexuals), and woo evangelicals, all the while without changing dogma?

4. ) The Catholic Veneration of Mary

While non Catholics have not always given Mary her due honor, most of this neglect has been the result of over-reacting to the disproportionate stress they see Catholics placing on Mary.  It cannot be denied that this grassroots fascination with Mary has occupied Catholic attention and Mary more than at any point in history. Mary’s hands are openly depicted in Catholic art as being the instruments through which Christ’s blood flows.  While there have been scores of Marian apparitions (with various levels of official bishop approval) it is certain that Mary has called for her own veneration, declared that salvation is through her, and that she will be the instrument to bring about world peace. Catholics now believe Mary was conceived sinless, remained without sin, and was assumed into heaven.  A majority of Catholics have elevated Mary to the position of Co-Redemptrix, though there has been no papal declaration to that end.6The place of Marian adoration in Catholic history has been present for centuries, and is believed by many Catholics to supply a feminine side to Catholicism.  Some Catholics, for example, see the Father as having a fearful or angry face, Christ as having a serious and sober face, while Mary has a tender, beckoning, smiling face.  Non Catholics are quick to point out that love, tenderness, and compassion, are not uniquely feminine traits, and all are true of our deeply relational God. Femininity in religion has always related back to ancient pagan and gnostic practices.Clearly, it is impossible to give a full treatment of Catholicism in a short study.  Nevertheless, one does not have to be an expert on Catholicism to help Catholics understand the biblical issues.

5.) What the Catholic Needs to Hear

(The following represents some starting points for discussion. Please read the article: Section II: 5 Tools for Talking With Roman Catholics for more in-depth biblical responses.)

1. Catholics need to hear that if the Bible is God’s inspired Word, all subsequent traditions must be subject to it first. The onus is on the Catholic to show why his traditions supersede what the Bible says. Catholics need to hear what the Bible says, directly and succinctly.
2. Catholics need to understand that, in the end, there are only two views.  Either one must add his own efforts to the work of Christ, or one must rely on the work of Christ alone.  This should be the central talking point with all Catholics. More than anything in this world, Catholics need to know that the work has been done for them, and that there is nothing they can contribute to their salvation (Romans 4:1-8).
3. Catholics need to know that the Bible teaches we can have absolute assurance of eternal life.  (John 3:14-17;1 John  5:11-13.
4. Catholics need to know that the deep love of Christ which He showers upon the believer in a personal and intimate way, far exceeds the love that any human, even Mary, can offer (Romans 8:33-38).
2. Catholics argue: “There are many examples of this authority to bind and loose in the arena of Church discipline.”
3. See the Augustine supplement.
4. See the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. (See supplement or search for web link)
5. Though it goes beyond the intent of this paper, this teacher avers that Vatican II was really a return to ancient Catholic roots and the willingness to infuse pagan (creation-based) worship back into its worship regimen in an effort to revitalize it. The mystical side of the church had suffered too much under the influence of Greek materialistic thought, and a move was now in order to return the church to more creation-based thinking (as reflected in the Catholic work, The Cloud of Unknowing).  In the Catholic mindset, because we are all part of the same universe, we are all mystically connected at some level, and are all “brethren” at some level. Catholic ecumenism has always been based on Catholic pluralism (a mix of Creator based and creation based worship).  Catholicism has not one, but two first principles and has been argued by some to be essential panentheism.
6. The contemporary view of Mary as co-redeemer is an outgrowth of the early teaching that she was the New Eve, a virgin, just as the Catholic Church teaches Eve was a virgin in the garden, though married. See James White’s Mary, Another Redeemer? for a full discussion.
A side note: When purchasing study materials, keep in mind that, like non Catholics, Catholics tend to give poor reviews of books which disagree with their system.  We would expect nothing less and welcome legitimate criticism as no author is perfect.  Even so, the works recommended in this series are considered to be both trustworthy and reliable and are valuable tools for extending open minded discussion between Catholics and non Catholics.
We never set a price on our ministry and desire to go wherever the Lord leads.  However, we do ask that folks who use our ministry make a special effort to announce our Intensives and encourage attendance in advance of the scheduled dates, unless, of course, we are just conducting an all-day home-based seminar.

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