Are Catholics Wrong?

Question from a Site Viewer
Hello. I am practising Roman Catholic Christian. What is your view on the various doctrine of the Catholic Church? Lately I have been worried because I do not want to mix men’s doctrine to what is contained in the Bible.

Tim’s Answer
Thanks much for your question. First of all, I am not a Roman Catholic, although I have good friends who are. There are a lot of variations within the Roman Catholic church. I find myself more closely aligned with some aspects of the church than with others.

From my communications with priests in the church, I understand that the church views itself on equal footing with the Holy Scripture. That is, the church believes that official pronouncements of the church are equally authoritative as Scripture. I do not believe this is true. I find repeated statements in Scripture of its own authority, but I never find Scripture saying that the church would be authoritative. Jesus said that Scripture cannot be broken (John 11:35). The Apostle Paul states that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Apostle Peter states that prophecies of old were given by holy men moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). Jesus, in dealing with Satan at the temptation, quoted Scripture as authoritative (Matthew 4:1-10). Jesus saw that even the smallest letters of Scripture were from God (Matthew 5:18). The Word of God is powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and pure (Psalms 12:6) and true (John 17:17).

But the church can and does make mistakes. Even Peter made mistakes and at one point the Apostle Paul had to rebuke the Apostle Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Yet, Peter and Paul remained jointly committed to the Word of God and the building up of believers (2 Peter 3:14-18).

Because I find the Scriptures to be authoritative, I will always gauge all churches and doctrines in light of what Scripture teaches. I do not think that the Roman Catholic church would disagree with this, but I find their interpretations of Scripture sometimes troubling. For instance, Scripture says that there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Why then do people pray to Mary or the saints, when Jesus is the only mediator? Never once, in Scripture, is there a positive example of someone praying to one who has died, except to Jesus. It is almost as if people believe that Jesus is too busy or that the saints or Mary are more compassionate or more likely to listen to us than Jesus Himself. We talk about loving Jesus but then the Roman Catholic church encourages its people to speak to the saints and to Mary rather than to Jesus Himself. I find that a bit odd. I do not denigrate Mary. I hold Mary in very high esteem. But I do not pray to her, talk to her, or otherwise focus on her. I want my focus to be where the focus of Scripture is, on Jesus.

However, I also suspect that I hold beliefs that are a bit odd. I often say that one day, when we die, we will all have our doctrine straightened out.

In any event, the purpose of the church and the purpose of believers on earth is to draw people into a personal and loving relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the first and great command and the great commission. It is not the doctrine, but that relationship that will be ultimately important. If we are His children, we are accepted in the Beloved. If we are not His children, we are already condemned by our sin. We want to be accepted by God.

The Apostle Paul tells us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). It is not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), but solely by committing our lives and taking our nourishment from Him. He is the vine; we are the branches (John 15:1-8). We want to be sustained by Him. The Apostle Paul also tells us of His own journey from works to faith and following Jesus in Philippians 3:4-10. His desire was to know Jesus. Jesus tells us in John 17:3 that to know the Father and the Son is eternal life. The Apostle Peter encourages us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

All of the doctrine in the world, no matter how correct, all of the teaching of the great church leaders, no matter how impassioned and excellent, and all of the righteous works that we can do, no matter how noble, can bring us into a right relationship with God. Only Jesus can do that. And we need to cling to Him. He is our righteousness, He is our sanctification, He is our redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30) and our life (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:4). We want to live in Him.

Thus, whether we are in a church with a great deal of history and liturgy and lots of doctrine, or we are in a new church with a short history, no developed liturgy, and not much written doctrine; that is, whether we are in a modern mature church or in a church like the early churches in the 1st century, the issue is whether we are trusting in Jesus. People who attend some ancient churches tend to trust in the church. When asked if they are going to heaven, they will answer that they hope so since they are members of such and such church. That is wrong. The church can save no one (Acts 4:12). Those who trust in the church are no different than the Jews who trusted in their institutions or in the temple. Institutions, including churches, do not save. Churches do their best work when they point people to the Savior. There is only one Savior who died for our sins. He wants to love us intimately, personally, and deeply. And He will do so if we draw near to Him by faith and seek to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind.

I hope this is helpful. I know there are several areas of church doctrine where I would not be in agreement with the Roman Catholic Church. But there are many more where I would be in agreement. Any church that upholds the sinless, spotless Lamb of God as the Savior of the world who came to us and died for our sins, who was buried, and rose again, and now lives to intercede for us and one day will welcome us all home, is a church I can agree with. Any church that agrees that He is God of God, true God of true God, and Man of man, true Man of true man, and who seeks to follow Jesus in truth and not only in form, who accepts Scripture as being true and authoritative for our lives – I will praise God for that church.

I note that there are many ancient churches. The Orthodox Church, the Nestorian Church, and the Coptic Church among others are all equally as ancient as the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, as in any group of churches, there are some local congregations that evidence the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and there are local congregations that evidence the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). We want to be those who walk in the Spirit and do not give occasion to the flesh.

May the Lord Jesus guide you as you turn your eyes to seek only Him.

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Hebrews 12:2

tim

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