The Catholic Church: A Friendly Discussion with our Catholic Friends (Part 1a)

The Catholic Church

A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends

(Part 1a)

  • What are the most important things
    that a Catholic needs to know?
  • What truths will a Catholic priest never tell you?
  • What are the amazing origins of the Catholic Church and Catholic doctrines?

Introduction

You are about to read an unusual and enlightening presentation of the truth of God in a way that you may never have seen before.  Many people go through life, entirely oblivious to the many Scriptural truths that you will find discussed on the following pages.   We encourage you to read with an open mind, a receptive heart, and an honest spirit.

The Bible says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  Be willing to expose yourself to that divine light and walk in it.  Scripture says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (v. 130).  Be willing to receive this spiritual light and seek the understanding it can give you.

We have attempted to be amicable in our presentation of truth in this book, showing a friendly attitude toward our Catholic acquaintances.  This is the way I would wish to be approached if I were in their spiritual shoes.  At the same time, we have attempted to be clear and forthright so that the Word of God may shine forth plainly before religious falsehood.

If you are a sincere Catholic seeker of truth, we welcome you to these pages.  God delights in the “honest and good heart” that seeks to know and do the will of God, regardless of the cost, and all for the glory of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Richard Hollerman

A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends

I well remember my early years.  Although I was part of a Lutheran family (since that time I departed from that denomination[1]), we lived among many Catholics.  Charlie, who lived behind our house, was a Catholic playmate.  The lady across the fence on one side of our house was also a Catholic—from Hungary or Poland, as I recall.  Charlotte, down the street, was Catholic and Barbara down the hill also was Catholic.  When our family moved a block away, the family who lived close to us was also Catholic, and her daughter was a close friend of my sister.

In elementary school, there were many Catholics, then when I went to high school, there were even more.  This was expected since many Italian Catholics had settled in the town a half century earlier, along with a large number of Polish Catholics and probably  German Catholics.  They had their own Catholic elementary parochial school and two large Catholic parishes.  Classmates would sometimes visit the priest for confession before class began, sometimes would wear the Lenten ashes on their forehead, and would observe the Catholic holidays.  My friends knew that only fish could be eaten on Fridays.  Traditional Catholic names were common.

Catholic membership in the United States and around the world far exceeds any other professing group in Christendom.  Recent statistics state that there are about 68 million members in the United States alone[2] and this number is slightly growing because of the influx of Latin Catholics.  Worldwide, out of about 2.1-2.3 billion professing “Christians,” some 1.2 billion of them are Catholics![3]  In other words, about half of those professing to be Christians are Catholics! Catholicism is a widespread enterprise.  Ron Carlson and Ed Decker observe: “Nations still send ambassadors to the Vatican just as they do to the great geographic powers. . . . The Catholic Church operates schools, universities, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged throughout the world.”[4]

As I think of devoted Catholics in our communities and in the country, I realize that we have a number of Biblical ideals, beliefs, and commitments in common.  While it is true that one cannot find totally unified beliefs and views among Catholics themselves, since there are an array of different practices and opinions in our own day, we do see some positions held by some Catholics that we believe are good and praiseworthy.  Notice a few of these:

  1. Catholic theology says that the Bible is inspired of God and needed to know God’s will (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Indeed, Catholics are correct that the Holy Spirit gave us the Holy Scriptures and we are to obey the Bible in all it affirms.  “So that we may more fully understand Him, God has revealed Himself to us, the account of which is preserved for us in Sacred Scripture. . . . The Bible is the collection of those writings which were inspired by God through the action of the Holy Spirit.”[5]  “Catholics believe the Bible is God’s sacred and inspired word.  God guided human writers to communicate important truths about Godself and about the destiny of the entire human community through biblical texts.”[6]
  1. Catholics are also more likely to read their Bibles in our day than in the past. Generally, members of this religious persuasion seemed to have little interest in the Bible up to the recent past, and Catholic authorities actually forbade reading in the distant past, and those who refused to comply were severely punished.  But today the situation is vastly different.  Today, there are contemporary Catholic translations (like the New American Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and Today’s English Version) and today’s Catholic people need not be bound to the older Douay-Reims version.  John Paul II wrote, “Biblical thought must be constantly translated into contemporary language so that it can be expressed in a way suited to its listeners.”  He said that Catholics “should be urged to read and reflect on God’s Word in the Bible every day.”[7] We heartily encourage Catholics to continue reading and even studying the Bible to determine God’s will for them.
  1. Catholics are more likely to condemn the killing of preborn children than others in this society. The Bible says that God gives us life (Acts 17:25), that He forms the child in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16), and that all human life is sacred (Gen. 1:27; 2:7; 9:5-6).  This includes unborn babies.  We appreciate the official Catholic position on this social issue, although individual Catholics sometimes violate this ban.  “Abortion is a fundamental evil.  The right to life is the most basic of all human rights; the right to life of the innocent is inviolable.”  Abortion is, “in the words of the U. S. Catholic Bishops, ‘an unspeakable crime, a crime which subordinates weaker members of the human community to the interest of the stronger.’”  Canon 1398 specifies that “a Catholic who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic excommunication.”[8]  “God’s command is ‘You shall not kill.’  The deliberate ending of human life, even though it is in the womb, even though it is in an early stage of growth, is a violation of God’s commandment.”[9]
  1. Catholics have traditionally labeled homosexuality or sodomy as mortal sin. Indeed, this is what God calls this immoral sexual orientation and practice (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:10).  It is true that some more liberal Catholics may be lax in condemning this sin, and say that “there is no moral guilt associated with being homosexual,”[10] but we are grateful that the church at least officially condemns homosexual activity
  1. Catholics have shown an interest in helping and supporting the poor and needy in society, including those around the world, in other countries. God loves people and has shown mercy and generosity toward them, including non-Christians  (Acts 14:16-17), even showing kindness to “ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).  Catholic charities have helped many in various places.
  1. Another area in which Catholics have officially taken a stand is the matter of pornography. We applaud their stance against this licentious literature that violates Christ’s clear command for purity and against lustful thought and activity (Matthew 5:8, 27-30; Romans 1:24).  Humanae Vitae, written by Paul VI, on the Regulation of Birth (July 25, 1968), states: “Everything in the modern media of social communication which leads to sense excitation and unbridled customs, as well as every form of pornography and licentious performances, must arouse the frank and unanimous reaction of all those who are solicitous for the progress of civilization and the defense of the common good of the human spirit.”[11]
  1. Catholics have traditionally taught a very high view of marriage and the permanence of the marriage bond. Jesus said that God is the one who instituted marriage and He warns that one who divorces a wife, except for immorality, and marries another person, commits adultery (Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-11; Romans 7:2-3).  While Catholicism may be wrong about their contention that the only marriage approved by God must be performed by a Catholic priest, we can commend the emphasis this church makes on marriage itself.  “Marriage as an institution of nature is considered by Christian theology to be essentially good because it was founded by one Creator at the beginning of human history.  It was subjected to the vicissitudes of history and experienced variations, some of which were contrary to God’s plan (infidelity, concubinage, polygamy, among others).”[12]
  1. Catholicism has often taken a strong stand on morality. This is particularly seen among those in “holy orders” who must live a life of “chastity.”  While we must reject the requirement of priests and nuns remaining unmarried (cf. Matt. 8:14; 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:1, 2, 12; 4:1-3), we do heartily commend the emphasis on moral uprightness. I remember reading a Catholic tract years ago that warned against kissing before marriage (although this view would surely now be considered puritanical). While the Catholic laity has not always lived up to moral integrity, we appreciate the official stance of the church for this ideal.  Although the pedophilia and homosexuality of many priests in the world have often made the news, and the licentiousness of some of the popes is well-known, we know that contemporary Catholic officials are apologetic for these abuses.
  1. The Catholic hierarchy officially forbids women to become priests. We know that presently, millions of  feminist Catholics seem to oppose this papal ruling, but it remains as a firmly established practice.  Although the view of priesthood may be faulty, we also recognize that the New Testament forbids women to become overseers or shepherds (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:5-7), and only males were chosen as apostles (Matthew 10:1-4).  Women are not permitted to speak in the assembly (1 Corinthians 14:33-37), and must not have authority over or teach men/males (1 Timothy 2:11-15).

“The exclusion of women from ordination is found in the expressed will of Christ, Who called men alone to be His Apostles.  With the rise of feminism there are some who have sought to reopen the question of the ordination of women; however, both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have reaffirmed the unbroken teaching of the Church as being in conformity with the mind of Christ.”[13]  John Paul II wrote, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”  “The matter of women’s ordination which had been debated up to that point was from then on definitively closed.”[14]

  1. Catholic theology firmly promotes certain basic doctrines of Scripture—such as the conception of Christ by a virgin (Mary) through the Holy Spirit, the full deity of Jesus Christ, the sinlessness of His life, His atoning death, His resurrection, and His ascension. These are truths taught repeatedly in God’s Word and it is very good that Catholics believe and teach them openly (cf. Luke 1:32-35; 1 Cor. 15:1-5, 20; Heb. 4:15; Acts 1:9-11).  Catholicism also accepts certain other basic Biblical truths, such as the existence of angels and demons and Satan, the reality of sin, and the existence of both heaven and hell.

These are some of the reasons that we appreciate the position of our Catholic friends, acquaintances, and neighbors.  We want to commend them for any good and positive aspects to their life and work.  Unfortunately many Protestants and others flatly reject some of these basic truths and principles.  Some of these non-Catholics reject Biblical creation, Christ’s virgin birth, the inspiration of Scripture, the redeeming death of Christ, the literal resurrection of the Savior, and Biblical morality.  In all of this, we commend Catholicism for their positive stand and we lament that frequently liberal Protestantism has denied Scripture and the Lord’s commands in many respects.

An Important Note of Clarification

Along with the positive points that we have just covered, we also need to express some matters of concern to Catholics.  We offer this discussion and explanation out of deep interest and sincere love, not from a desire to hurt feelings.  We urge any Catholic reader to keep in mind our desire to bless and not harm any Catholic who may be perusing these pages.  We commend your for taking this book in hand and reading it, and we urge you to read the entire presentation fully to the end so that you may be able to evaluate all that is said.

Let us begin with an illustration.  Germany was once a monarchy, ruled by kings who exercised authority and power.  There was also a time when this European country was ruled by a fascist dictator named Adolph Hitler who ruled with despotic power.  Today, Germany is a democracy with an elected president.  Suppose that someone would tell you that present-day Germany is identical with the Germany of several centuries ago.  We know that this is far from the truth for there have been dramatic changes over the years.  Many contemporary Germans may be genetically related to people who lived in that locale centuries ago, but it isn’t realistic to say that modern Germany is the “same” nation that existed there in the past.

Maybe another illustration will make a similar point.  Suppose that someone spoke of the Benz carriage, an early four-stroke gasoline engine that powered a vehicle in 1885.  Then he referred to an advancement of this in the electric car that was built by William Morrison in the early 1890s and produced in the United States.  After this, he cites the Panhard et Levassor, the first gasoline-powered car that had an engine mounted in the front and a rear-wheel drive, in about 1891.  The person then refers to an advancement over this—the Model T Ford that was introduced about1908.  Finally, the person states that these early vehicles were actually early forms of the Lexus car of the twenty-first century!

Do you see what we have done?  In the first case, is it really true that modern Germany is identical to the nation that existed several centuries ago?  Yes, it is in the same geographical area (although there are even changes in this), but entirely different forms of government exist, with different ideals, different agendas, and even different religions along with much immigration.  While there are a few small parallels, there is a vast difference between the two nations.  In the second case, is it really true that the modern automobile is really the “descendant” of these early vehicles?  The vehicle of the late nineteenth century was self-propelled and could carry passengers, but there is a vast difference between that car and a car of the twenty-first century!

What application do we wish to make?  Consider the following simple description.  We know that in the fullness of time, God sent His Son into the world (Galatians 4:4), to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14), by dying on the cross for our sins and rising again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-20).  This was vital because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  All of the world are guilty before a holy God (v. 19), under the sentence of death (6:23), and under the righteous wrath of God (1:18).  Jesus gave Himself in death to pay for our sins and deliver those who are helpless in themselves (5:6-11).  He died that we might be forgiven of sin and reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Those who are forgiven and accepted by God, and who become children of God the Father, constitute the people of God who have heaven as their destiny.  When Jesus was on earth, He said to Peter that on the basis of His identification as God’s own Son, He would form a redeemed body of people on earth.  He declared, “I will build my church [community or assembly[15]]; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).  Indeed, Jesus did begin to build this body of people, sometimes called the “body of Christ” (Romans 12:4, 5), the community [ekklesia] of God (1 Corinthians 1:2) and of Christ (Romans 16:16), or the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15).  Christ’s death for sin and resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11), and the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), all occurred about AD 30—which was about 2,000 years ago.

We know that not everyone is interested in historical matters, but this indeed would be an interesting study.  Suffice it to say that Jesus Christ began to form His body or believing community of people about AD 30 in the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judea.  Simply speaking, the body of believers or body of Christ is composed of believers in Christ who have been regenerated, saved, forgiven, and made heirs of the Kingdom of God.  However, Jesus knew that people tend to wander away from the truth, thus He made provisions to keep His group of people pure and secure, free from error, free from immorality, free from false teaching, and free from contamination by paganism and every other false way.

The Lord Jesus made provision for this continuing of His spiritual body or family in an amazing way.  First, He chose twelve men, to whom He gave the Holy Spirit, and directed that they teach His will to all of the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:46-48).  Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit to teach them all things: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).  Christ also promised, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12-13).  Do not miss what He is saying here.  Jesus said that the Spirit of Christ would teach these specially chosen apostles all things and would guide them into all the truth!  When the Holy Spirit was sent on the Day of Pentecost, in AD 30, Jesus was preparing the apostles to begin and continue the body of believers—the body of Christ—in just the way that He wanted.

We know that God specially chose Paul to be another apostle, and His words were just as authoritative as those of the other twelve (1 Corinthians 14:37; 15:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).  We must not overlook the significance of the apostles of Christ!  Paul says that the body of Christ is actually a house or household that has “been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).  Paul goes on to say that the truth of God’s Word “has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (3:5).

This is important.  Christ’s body or house is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, for they would be the ones who revealed God’s will to man in both spoken and written form (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6).  When these revelations from God were written down, they were in the form of writings or letters that we now have in our New Testament.  We want to make sure that you understand this point.  Jesus inspired these apostles (and prophets) to lay the foundation for the community of Christ (the ekklesia or “church”) and God’s people in our day must also be built on this same foundation of truth—or they cannot be considered part of Christ’s body of saved people!

Let’s continue our story.  As we read through the history of the early preaching of the gospel of Christ (the book of Acts), and as we read through the following letters (Romans to Revelation) and also read through Christ’s teachings found in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), we see God’s will for us today.  Jesus fulfilled the old covenant, found in the Law of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy) and the remainder of the Old Testament, so that He is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

My friend, it is so important that we spend time reading and rereading the twenty-seven (27) books of the New Testament—for this is God’s truth to you and me today.  It is the inspired word of God to us (2 Timothy 3:15-17), given by God Himself (2 Peter 1:20-21), so that we might know His will, believe His truth, and obey His teachings!

 

[1] My account of leaving this denomination is found in my booklet, Why I Left the Lutheran Church.

[2] chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/religion/6873775.html

[3] 4thepriests.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/worldwide-catholic-clerical-population-increases-in-this-century/

[4] Fast Facts on False Teachings, pp. 214-215.

[5] Albert J. Nevins, Catholicism The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 23.

[6] Reynolds R. Ekstrom, The New Concise Catholic Dictionary, p. 32.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Essential Catholic Handbook, pp. 119-120.

[9] Albert J. Nevins, Catholicism The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 83.

[10] Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 638.

[11] newadvent.org/library/docs_pa06hv.htm

[12] Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 626.

[13] Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 970.

[14] Albert J. Nevins, Catholicism The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 83.

[15] The Greek term ekklesia means group, assembly, congregation, or community.  Ekklesia is “from ek, ‘out of,’ and klesis, ‘a calling.’” (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary).  See also Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

Please check all of the articles in this series on the Catholic Church:

Part 1a

Part 1b

Part 1c

Part 2a

Part 2b

Part 2c

Part 3a

Part 3b

Part 3c

Part 4a

Part 4b

Part 4c

 

 

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