Everyone who knows me knows that I am not a Roman Catholic. It should be said that I respect the Roman Catholics and I do believe them to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, it was through watching EWTN 5 years ago that The Lord revealed to me that I wasn’t saved! I believe they have a handful of things wrong in their theology (and these will be things I’ll discuss in this blog post) but are they so wrong that they are disqualified from being called Christians? I’m not comfortable with saying that. They don’t seem to deny doctrines that your typical heretic denies (e.g the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the resurrection, Heaven and Hell, etc). But this blog post is not to defend Catholics as Christians. I've already done that in an older post. Rather, this post is meant to point out the flaws of their theology. There are very good reasons I’m an Evangelical rather than a Catholic. Here are my reasons:
1: There’s No Basis For Confession To A Priest.
Roman Catholics have a practice that once a week, they come a priest at their church, and they enter this thing called a confession booth. They then confess all of the bad things they’ve done that week to the priest who is in the booth with them. There’s a wall separating them. Roman Catholics consider this practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest to be a sacrament. But is this doctrine biblical? Does the holy, inspired Word of God say we should do this? No.
There’s no reason to think that we should have to go to a priest to have our sins forgiven. The Bible teaches that “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5) Scripture says that just as there is only one God, so also there is only one mediator between God and man. And who is that mediator? Who is it that intercedes to the Father on our behalf? Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only (high) priest (Hebrews 4:14) that I need to confess my sins to in order to be forgiven (1 John 1:9)
Jesus Christ is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15; Hebrews 10:21) and the only mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5). The New Testament teaches that there are to be elders (1 Timothy 3), deacons (1 Timothy 3), bishops (Titus 1:6-9), and pastors (Ephesians 4:11) but not priests. Even back when God appointed priests (in the old testament times) people didn’t confess their sins to the priests. They would confess their sins to God (like King David did, read Psalm 51) and then sacrifice an animal in the temple and offer it up to the Lord (see my post “How Did People Get Saved Before Jesus Came” for more information). They never confessed to a priest as far as we know.
Some Catholics do try to find biblical support for the practice of confessing to a priest. The Catholic realizes that if he's going to make a convincing argument for his doctrines to the protestant/evanglical, he's going to need to find biblical grounds for practicing the thing in question. Appealing to church tradition will not serve because we evangelicals adhere to the principle of Sola Scriptura. In a debate with a Roman Catholic in a Facebook group recently, the Catholic I was talking to appealed to James 5:16, which says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” However, this verse does not support confession to a priest. What James is saying is that we should confess our sins to fellow Christians so that they can pray for us and help us to overcome our sinful habits. For example, if one is struggling with a pornography addiction, he would confess that addiction to his fellow Christians so that they could pray for him and perhaps even give him helpful advice on how to overcome his porn addiction. Talking to a Christian counselor/psychiatrist would also be another form of heeding the exhortation James is giving here. “Confess your sins to one another” James says “and pray for one another” he says “So that you may be healed.” Notice what James does not say. He does not say “Confess your sins to one another and intercede for one another, so that you may be forgiven” No. James does not say that. If he did, then this would a good proof-text for confession-to-priests. No. James says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
2: There’s No Basis For Believing In Purgatory.
Catholics also believe in the existence of a place called Purgatory. For the Catholic, Heaven and Hell are not the only places a person can go to when they die. There’s also a place called Purgatory. Now, what is Purgatory? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory is “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” To summarize, in Catholic theology Purgatory is a place that a Christian’s soul goes to after death to be cleansed of the sins that had not been fully satisfied during life. This is unbiblical.
Jesus died on the cross to pay for ALL of our sins (Romans 5:8). When Jesus was just about to breathe his last, He said “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus said “It is finished”. Done! Over! Your sins have been atoned for! Any punishment you deserved was dealt with at the cross! If you turn away from your misdeeds (Isaiah 55:7) and ask Him for forgiveness (1 John 1:9) you will be forgiven. The problem with the doctrine of Purgatory is that it implies that Christ’s death was not 100% efficient to cleanse us from our sins and grant us admission into the kingdom of Heaven. What we have to do, according to Roman Catholicism, is go to Purgatory and pay the rest of the debt ourselves. Christ’s death was only semi-sufficient to get us into Heaven. Apparently, it is not finished. We need to finish it up ourselves.
Once again, the Catholic tries to find a proof-text in scripture to convince his protestant friend that this has a biblical foundation. A common proof text for Purgatory is 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. GotQuestions.org wrote a nice criticism of the Catholic interpretation of this verse. GotQuestions.org wrote:
“"The primary Scriptural passage Catholics point to for evidence of Purgatory is 1 Corinthians 3:15, which says, “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” The passage (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) is using an illustration of things going through fire as a description of believers’ works being judged. If our works are of good quality “gold, sliver, costly stones,” they will pass through the fire unharmed, and we will be rewarded for them. If our works are of poor quality “wood, hay, and straw,” they will be consumed by the fire, and there will be no reward. The passage does not say that believers pass through the fire, but rather that a believer’s works pass through the fire. 1 Corinthians 3:15 refers to the believer “escaping through the flames,” not “being cleansed by the flames.”” -- http://www.gotquestions.org/purgatory.html
In the same article quoted and linked to above, GotQuestions.org writes:
“For believers, after death is to be "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). Notice that this does not say "away from the body, in Purgatory with the cleansing fire." No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord's presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.”
3: There’s No Basis For Sending Prayer Requests To People In Heaven.
I worded the bold letters above the way I did for a very good reason. Far too often, the Catholics are misrepresented by protestants/evangelicals as praying to the saints who are in Heaven. That is not correct. Any Catholic you talk to about this will quickly correct you and tell you that they do not pray to the saints. Rather, they ask the saints or Mary to pray for them. The official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that asking saints for their prayers is no different than asking someone here on earth to pray for us. It’s essentially sending up a prayer request to a disembodied soul in the intermediate (pre-resurrection) Heaven. Although I find this Catholic belief questionable, it’s important that we accurately represent what they believe. No one likes a straw man argument.
The problem with this view is that there’s no reason (biblical or otherwise) to adhere to this view. There is biblical reason to disbelieve this view and there’s no biblical reason to believe it. 1 Timothy 2:5 says "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." There is no one else that can mediate with God for us. If Jesus is the only mediator as scripture tells us, that indicates that the saints cannot be mediators. To say otherwise is to contradict the Word Of God. Moreover, there is no biblical reference to anyone asking a person in Heaven to pray for them. In the New Testament, The Apostle Paul asks those whom he’s writing to to pray for him (in Ephesians 6:19) and many other passages in scripture talk about believers praying for one another (2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:19; 2 Timothy 1:3), but all of the instances of people praying for another is of people still walking around in this world, not Heaven.
In addition to that, Mary and the other saints are not omniscient. They are finite creatures just like the rest of us. How can they possibly hear the prayer requests of millions of people around the world? God can hear the prayers of everyone in the world because He’s omniscient and omnipotent. In fact, He knows what you were going to pray for even before you said the prayer (Matthew 6:8). The saints, however, don’t.
4: There’s No Reason To Think Jesus’ Mother Was Sinless.
The Roman Catholics believe that Mary is without sin. The problem with this view is that there’s no reason to take this view and there are at least a couple of reasons to reject this view.
The Word Of God very loudly and plainly declares that nobody is sinless (Romans 3:23, Psalm 14:2-3), with the exception of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 1:18-19). There is absolutely nothing to suggest otherwise.
This is a point that even Mary acknowledged, for in Luke 1:47, she referred to God as her Savior. If she was without sin, then why in the world would she need a Savior?
5: There’s No Reason To Think Mary Was A Perpetual Virgin and Had No Other Children.
The Bible says very clearly that Jesus had several siblings. Among these were James, Jude, Simon, Joseph and some sisters who weren’t mentioned by name. There’s no biblical basis for concluding that these were merely Jesus’ “cousins”. The reason Catholics believe that these were either Jesus’ cousins, or Mary’s children from a former marriage has to do with their belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary. Obviously if Mary remained a virgin her entire life, she could not possibly have had other children. The only way to explain the existence of James, Jude and the others is to say that either Joseph had a marriage prior to his marriage to Mary and that Joseph had these children in the prior marriage OR these weren’t really Jesus’ biological siblings, but they were merely Jesus’ cousins.
For me, I don’t really care one way or the other if these were really Mary’s children, Joseph’s children from a former marriage, or Jesus’ cousins. The Bible nowhere states that Mary was a virgin her entire life or that she had no other children. Biblical inerrancy is not harmed no matter what position we may take on this. Because of that, I don’t sweat it. I do find it more plausible to think that these were Mary’s biological children and Jesus’ biological siblings. Mainly because that’s what a plain reading of the text seems to indicate and the Catholic explanations for these references to “brothers” seem quite ad-hoc in nature. But again, I don’t find it a problem for The Bible’s inerrancy either way.
In fact, one verse of scripture seems to hint that Mary did not in fact remain a virgin forever. “But he (Joseph) had no union with her (Mary) until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25). It says that Mary and Joseph had no union UNTIL Jesus was born. This is not irrefutable proof that Mary was a perpetual virgin (I'm sure Catholics have found some means of explaining it away), but it does seem to imply that she wasn’t. Matthew 1:25 seems to suggest that Mary was a virgin up to the point of Jesus’ birth, and then Joseph and Mary had union. It seems to imply that. Just as if I said “I had eaten no pizza until I got home” you would assume that what I meant was that I had no pizza at all that day, but then when I got home, I decided to eat some. I didn’t have any pizza prior to getting home, but I did have some after I got home.
So there you have it. 5 Reasons I’m Not A Roman Catholic.