Catholics aren’t Christians

MattThis is a picture of me with my friend Jeff, (I’m the one on the right…always) and a singer named Matt Maher. About a year ago Jeff and I went to see Matt Maher in concert in Cincinnati. It was at one of those ultra-hip churches that don’t look like a church and has a name like Warehouse 310…this one was called “The Underground”, but that’s not the point of this story. Jeff and I got to meet Matt Maher before the concert, he’s a nice guy, pleasant demeanor, didn’t have the “I’m a rock star” attitude that a lot of guys  in the Christian music business do. I enjoy Matt’s songs very much so, in fact “Christ is Risen” and “Love will Keep us Together” are a couple of my favorite tunes. But there is a problem, Matt Maher is a Catholic. I pray that he would see the error in the ways of the Catholic Church and come out of it, but like so many in the Roman Catholic church he’s been led to believe that the church and it’s system are the means unto Salvation. I was uncomforatble with the entire situation.

As a Christian, I cannot fellowship, worship and ‘do church’ with Catholics. There are matters in the church we can disagree on and still fellowship and worship together. For instance:  Ecclesiology, how we “do church” how the church functions…we can disagree on and still fellowship. Eschatology, the study of the last things, we can disagree on and still fellowship, even Pneumatology, the study of the Holy Spirit we can disagree on and still fellowship and still worship the same God together. But there are two views with which we should never compromise on, one is our Christology-How we see the nature and work of Christ on our behalf. And the other is our Soteriology-the nature of our Salvation. Catholicism has a very different soteriology than Biblical Christianity. (and I’m not even speaking of their Semi-Pelagian view of man)

A good Catholic places all of their hope for salvation essentially in themselves, hoping, through faithful adherence to the sacraments they will merit salvation. From the middle ages even through today the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the sacraments work ex opere operato, or by the power of the completed act, and the validity of the sacraments does not depend on the orthodoxy of the minister, or his state of grace. Grace is infused into the sinner through the Sacraments making the sinner righteous; thereby God then justifies the sinner based on this real and inherent righteousness within the person. In Roman Catholic theology sanctification precedes justification; the sinner is infused with righteousness by cooperating with the grace found in the sacraments of the Church and this eventually brings justification or a right standing before God because the sinner has been made righteous. This view of sanctification preceding justification and our works being meritorious to our salvation is exactly backwards of what the Bible teaches.

The Roman Catholic Sacramental Means of Grace: Seven Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Order, and Matrimony. The following definitions taken from: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (1952) by Roman Catholic Theologian Ludwig Ott, approved with the Papal Impramatur.

Baptism

Baptism is the means of the remission of the guilt of original sin. In the case of adults, baptism also is the means of the eradication of all personal, mortal, or venial sins. Even when unworthily received, baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the —Baptismal Character“, and cannot be repeated. The Council of Trent (1545-1563), Session 7, Canon 14, condemned the denier of this doctrine.

Confirmation

In this sacrament by the imposition of hands, unction, and prayer, a baptized person is filled with the Holy Spirit for the inner strengthening of the supernatural life and for courageous outward testimony. By this sacrament baptismal grace is perfected. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) Session 7, Canon 3, condemned the denier of this doctrine.

The Eucharist

Eucharist is from a Greek word that means “thanksgiving”.  The Eucharist was an early name for the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. The Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, first propounded by Paschasius Radbertus (ca.785-860), was defined as dogma by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). The Eucharistic sacrifice was first defined as dogma by the Council of Trent in 1562 (Session 22, Canon 9) when the Roman Catholic Church also declared the condemnation of anyone who denies this doctrine.

The Council of Trent stated that the “Same Christ” is sacrificed in an “unbloody manner, who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross.” The effects of the Eucharist are unification with Christ and the preservation and increase of supernatural life, and it is a pledge of heavenly bliss and future resurrection.  As a sacrament Christ is partaken as nourishment for the soul. As a sacrifice He is offered as a sacrificial gift to God. Theologian Ludwig Ott wrote, “The purpose of the sacrifice is the same in the sacrifice of the Mass as in the Sacrifice of the Cross; primarily the glorification of God, secondarily atonement, thanksgiving, and appeal….the Eucharist is atoning…a sacrifice of propitiation and can be offered “not only for the living, but also for the poor souls in Purgatory.”

Extreme Unction (“Last Rites” or “Final Anointing” or “Anointing of the Sick”)

Ott wrote: “It is a Sacrament of the Living. It presupposes in general the remission of grievous sins. But if a person in mortal sin is seriously ill and can no longer receive the Sacrament of Penance, or if he erroneously believes that he is free from grievous sin, Extreme Unction eradicates the grievous sins per accidens, but still by reason of Christ’s institution.” Only Bishops and Priests can administer the sacrament of extreme unction. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) Session 14, Canon 4 made this doctrine the official teaching of Rome.

Penance (Reconciliation/Confession)

Penance is the act of confession on the part of the penitent, together with the priest’s pronouncement of absolution and his assigning of certain works to be done by the penitent. In a Roman Catholic training book called Instructions for Non-Catholics we read: “In the Sacrament of Penance, God gives the priest the power to bring sinners back into the state of grace and to prevent them from falling into the abyss of hell. Moreover, after confession some temporal punishment due to sin generally remains, and some of this punishment is taken away in the penance (prayers) the priest gives you to say. You should perform other acts of penance also so that you can make up for the temporal punishment due to sin and to avoid a long stay in purgatory. The Church suggests these forms of penance: prayer, fasting, giving alms in the name of Christ, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the patient sufferings of the ills of life, and the gaining of indulgences.” (Pg.95)

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there are three parts to penance: contritio, confessio, and satisfactio (contrition, confession, and satisfaction).  Contrition is the realization by the sinner because of the love of God that they have sinned, but one cannot be forgiven merely by contrition.  One must then confess, and in confession the penitent (the one who is contrite or repentant) accuses himself of his sins before an ordained priest (known as a —confessor“). After confession, the penitent prays an Act of Contrition and the priest absolves the penitent of their sins.  The priest then assigns a penance to be performed that will satisfy for their sins, commonly a series of recitations of prayers such as the Lord‘s Prayer or the Hail Mary, meditation on Scripture, and praying the rosary.

The Church of Rome demands acts of Penance before she grants forgiveness, inferring that the sacrifice of Christ was not sufficient to atone fully for sin and that it must be supplemented to some extent by these good works (faith + works –> Justification -faith plus works brings justification.- synergism). God demands repentance, which means turning from sin, vices, injustice and all wickedness in whatever form: Isaiah 55:7- “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon“ (cf. 1 John 1:8-2:2). From the Greek New Testament edited by Erasmus, Luther discovered that Jesus did not say “Do Penance,” as interpreted by Rome because of Jerome‘s Vulgate translation, but Jesus said “Repent.”

Rome teaches that salvation depends ultimately upon ourselves, upon what we do, that one can “earn” salvation by obedience to the laws of the church, indeed that the saints can even store up excess merits in heaven beyond the requirements of duty, through such things as regular attendance at church, masses, rosary prayers, fastings, wearing of crucifixes etc. These excess merits are called “works of supererogation.” Mary and the saints are said to have stored up vast treasures of merit, from which the pope can draw and dispense to the faithful as they perform the works assigned by the priests. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) in Session 14, Canon 15 and Session 25 made penance an official doctrine of the Roman Church.

The Roman Catholic Church has fallen far from its roots and thus we cannot and should not consider Catholics to be Christians in any sense of the term. We should not have fellowship with them and we certainly shouldn’t worship with them.  2 Cor. 6:14 says:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,” 2 John 1:10

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.” Romans 16:17

A good Catholic trusts in their own righteousness to earn their salvation, just like the liberal “Christians” and just like the legalistic “Christians” (as I pointed out in my post the Hell Raiser) and when you trust in yourself, you are rejecting Christ, for when men trust in their own righteousness they do indeed reject Christ’s. And if you have rejected Christ’s righteousness but still claim the term Christian as your own then you are a liar, for you are teaching what is contrary to the Gospel.

I am reminded of a couple of the Seven “Woes” that Jesus called down on the Pharisee’s when thinking of the leadership of the Catholic Church.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matt. 23:13

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:32

Furthermore, even if we could worship with Catholics, were it not forbidden in the Bible, it is considered a sin by the Catholic church for a Catholic to participate in a non-Catholic worship service (except Funerals and Weddings)  Furthermore according to the Catholic church all other churches are apostate. I quote to you from A Catechism of Christian Doctrine pgs. 123-124 (Copyright 1941 & 1949 St. Anthony Guild Press, Patterson New Jersey)

How do we know that no other church but the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ?

We know that no other church but the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ because no other church has these four marks:

(a) All other churches lack essential unity. They recognize no authority in religious matters vested in an individual who is the vicar of Christ (the Pope). In the worship of God many Christian sects are guided more by sentiment and personal conviction than by the objective truths given to the world by Our Lord.

(b) The founders of Christian sects were not saints and generally were not holy or edifying men. The sects have not given saints to the world. Their truths are but fragments of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. The holiness of their members is due to the means that sects have salvaged from Catholic worship. Moreover, these sects cannot point to miracles wrought in their favor.

(c) Not one of the Christian sects is universal .or catholic; that is, not one universality such as that of the Catholic Church.

(d) Not one of the Christian sects traces its origin to the apostles.

(e) The Greek Orthodox or Schismatic Church began in the ninth century its rejection of the authority of the Pope. From it have come various national churches, subject in some degree to authority. The Protestant churches began in the sixteenth century when their founders, rejecting certain doctrines of faith, broke away from Catholic unity. Many Protestant denominations are offshoots of the earliest sects. The Lutherans were founded by Martin Luther, the Presbyterians by John Knox, and the Methodists by John Wesley.

And on page 125 of the same book we see this claim as well.

Outside the Church there generally is no real recognition of authority in spiritual matters and this disregard for spiritual authority has lessened the respect for civil and domestic authority.

In short: The Catholic Church recognizes no other church but the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has never once refuted this stance.  As far as the Catholic church is concerned:

The chief attributes of the Catholic Church are authority, infallibility, and indefectibility. They are called attributes because they are qualities perfecting the nature of the Church.

You see, according to the Catholic Church, it is primarily the Church that sanctities you and makes you holy…not Christ and this is a grievous Soteriological error, one that prevents us from fellowshiping or worshiping together. For the true Christian believes the Gospel when it says that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone it is a gift of God, not of works.

I once preached a sermon on “Sola Fide” and extensively used the example of Martin Luther, mentioning the errors he had found in the Catholic Church and contrasting that with Biblical Christianity. After the message one of church members said “It sure sounded like you were slamming the Catholic Church.”  It should have, because the Catholic Church is by no means Christian.

AUTHOR NOTE: Before you get too uptight about whether or not I’m saying there won’t be any Catholics in heaven, just calm down, I’m not saying that. I don’t get to make those kinds of calls, God does. The Bible is clear we are saved by faith alone and there are some who attend a Catholic church that, I’m sure fall into this category; though not by anything they have been taught in their Catholic church, but by the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, I believe when they become aware of the sound teaching of the Gospel they should come out of that apostate denomination known as Roman Catholicism.

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24 thoughts on “Catholics aren’t Christians

  1. Honestly, I’m not sure how Matt Maher gets away with the music he makes while still being in the Catholic Church. The theological implications in many of his lyrics are sometimes downright Reformed and anti-Arminian in nature (“Alive Again” comes to mind). I’m personally of the opinion that he’s one of the 5 greatest things to come out of the RCC, along with G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien(due to his influence on C. S. Lewis), Augustine of Hippo(in snippets), and the Protestant Church.

    • I would agree and I like his music. I pray for him like I do for all Catholics, that they would see the dangers of the false doctrine and lies perpetuated by the RCC and come out of it to a true Christ-centered church.

  2. I would recommend that you discuss some of these claims you have against Catholicism with a priest or nun, because they are simply not true. Misunderstandings about what the Catholic Church teaches are rampant. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that there are maybe a hundred people in the world who hate the Catholic church, and millions who hate what they mistakenly believe to be the Catholic Church.

    Firstly, when a Protestant says someone is ‘saved’ they tend to mean a converted Christian, however when a Catholic says ‘saved’ they tend to mean a perfected saint.

    “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.”
    -RCC Catechism

    Colossians 1;24
    Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

    To do a very quick version of the Church’s stance on salvation: He is the Head of the Church, and we are members of His body which is the Church, and the head and the body are inseparable. As we suffer and join our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, His sufferings endows our sufferings with redemptive power.

    We share in Christ’s blessing and power just as before we shared in Adam’s condemnation and curse.

    P.S.
    grace “alone” and faith “alone” are not in the Bible. Martin Luther added ‘alone” himself 1600 years later.

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  6. Great post, John. Thanks for explaining some of the Catholic sacraments like Penance and Last Rites. As one raised Southern Baptist, I never understood Catholic traditions, so this article helped me better understand. I have many friends and acquaintances that are Catholic and sadly I must say that most of them (not all) seem to just go through the motions of what is expected in order to be a “good” Catholic. I was not making fun by that last comment….it is what many of my Catholic friends have said to me when explaining their beliefs and traditions.

    Thanks again for a great post!

  7. John, Daniel and others. Hi, I’m just getting back to this post, because it has had me in deep thought for awhile. I’m still working all this out in my own mind, so forgive a little rambling.

    See, what bothers me is I have a hard time worshipping (not merely listening for enjoyment, or taking in a concert or discussing with friends) to a song that I know comes from a different religious perspective than mine. Okay, that may seem narrow-minded. After all, Martin Luther and I might disagree on a few points, but I love “A Mighty Fortress.”

    The church I formerly attended sang songs by Maher, Crowder, Tomlin, Jesus Culture, Redman and Paul Baloche. The praise band liked the “rockin'” music, and most people loved the simple, repetitive lyrics. Over, and over, and over. Basically anything that was on the top of the CCLI charts, we sang.

    Each week they annoyed me to no end. Long guitar solos and guys bangin’ on a bongo like a chimpanzie. And those repetitive lyrics over and over again.

    To better understand where these writers were coming from, I started researching them a bit, and I found that I didn’t agree with some of what their home churches taught. Some came from a pentecostal background, others were more closely affiliated with deeply liturgical faiths. Some, like Jesus Culture, were pushing the edge more closely affiliated with the NAR and the like.

    When I heard their songs, I started wondering about the theology behind their music. Did they really believe in the Jesus or God of the Bible? Were they ascribing something to the Holy Spirit that really wasn’t there? How do the beliefs of their faith affect their music?

    I talked with several people about my musical questions, and they basically said similar things to what has been discussed here. They said we take what is offered in the song, and give it to God, the God of the Bible, not some lesser god that someone may believe in.

    Really? If we know a songwriter is Mormon, does it not make it more troubling to sing a song about God or Jesus, knowing they have different beliefs? Does that mean we can take a song like Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and offer it as worship to God? Or Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son”?

    I see I’m getting long-winded, so I’ll stop. These are genuine questions that have troubled me for awhile, so any advice you guys have will be most appreciated.

    • I would respectfully disagree. We can’t know what’s on anothers heart and mind when they write a song, at best we can only speculate. We DO know what we think of when we hear it. For example we’re in the Christmas season, some of the best known Christmas hymns and carols were written by Arminians, I whole-heartedly disagree with Arminianism, but that’s not going to keep me from singing a certain Christmas carol.

      Once you start putting parameters around what you “can” worship to and what you “cannot” worship to where does it end? For instance Phillips, Craig & Dean aren’t Trinitarians, but are you going to stop someone from singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” if they like it, if they are thinking of and worshiping the God of the Bible when they hear it? Are you going to tell them “Hey don’t worship God to THAT song, the guy who wrote it isn’t a Trinitarian…so stop.”

      I agree that i can’t worship specifically with Matt Maher or Hillsong because I know too much about their background, but, for one, that’s just me, and for another, I like their songs…so I can enjoy them. And i feel like I can worship to the songs if someone else, say the worship leader at my church, were singing them. Why should I let someone else’s misunderstanding of the God of the Bible interfere with my worship of the God of the Bible? Content wise there is nothing I disagree with. Even as you said, there are things about Luther with which you disagree, but you still enjoy “A Mighty Fortress” there is nothing about the content of the song you’d disagree with, so why should it keep us from worshiping God when you hear it. But that’s my opinion, as you have stated yours.

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  9. So you’ll listen to his music but not fellowship with him in any other way? What’s in those songs that you like so much? There must be a theological comminality, or you wouldn’t listen. It strikes me as slightly hypocritical that you would condem all Catholicism but them claim worship songs written by a Cathloic are some of your favorites.

    • I understand that it may seem hypocritical but my worship of God is a heart issue, Matt’s music has some deep resonating truths in it. There are no soteriological differences brought up ijn the songs themselves therefore I can enjoy his music.

      • I don’t think it’s hypocritical whatsoever. We all like music or art that isn’t “Christian”. The answer here is really rather simple. A Christian is someone who believes in Christ and is in relationship with God/Christ/Holy Spirit.

        A song, poem, painting, book, video game, movie, et al (heretofore “art”) is not capable of being in relationship with Christ. At very most art can aspire to be reflective of a tenant of God, or not at all. A song can reflect his mercy, grace, sacrifice, harshness, lovingness, our depravity or really anything or nothing related to Christ.

        What good art does is disturb the deepest levels of man. This results in an intellectual and emotional response which for some of us is worship, others is just appreciation, no reaction, or negative emotions.

        It is quite wrong to think you would be hypocritical for liking some music made by non-Christians. To think one is hypocritical for liking music outside any specific set of parameters demonstrates an immature understanding of art and self and Christ.

    • “There must be a theological commonality, or you wouldn’t listen.”

      Not true at all, dear sister! Art is man’s creation and resounds in us differently for different reasons. One does not have to agree with another to understand, appreciate, and be moved by art.

      Were the quote above true, there would be no point to music without words, abstract paintings, sculptures, or some short films, etc etc etc

      For the above quote to be true, or for a man to only be able to appreciate art that fit a certain parameter of belief or understanding, would require man to shallowly warp art into something it is not, or not intended to be.

  10. It’s all a matter of perspective since some would say that the one revealed in scripture was made up in the imagination. Certainly, Voltaire would agree with that statement. As for me, I don’t make God say anything – I simply listen and relate to people what I heard.

  11. True, but everyone wants to believe that they, and they alone, are the Chosen People or the true Christians. Do you really think that God cares about how we pray to him? Actually, it’s way beneath God to reduce himself to being merely an object of worship.

    • The God as revealed in the Bible does care about how he is prayed to. Or else Christ would not have said “When you pray, pray like this…” And it’s interesting that you say what you do about God since you don’t seem to follow the one revealed in scripture, but rather one made up in your imagination. It must be easy to make THAT god say whatever you want it to.

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