The Catholic Church: A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends (4a)

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church

 A Friendly Discussion with Our Catholic Friends

(Part 4a) 

  1. Church Councils

Since the Nicene Council (called by Constantine in 325) until modern times, Church Councils have been held to establish church dogma, decide on church policies, settle disputes, and denounce anti-catholic heresies.  There have been 21 ecumenical (or worldwide) councils recognized by the Catholic Church (but the Orthodox Churches only accept the first seven).[i]  Some of the chief ones would include:[ii]

  1. Council of Nicaea (325)—settled Christological controversies regarding the nature of Jesus Christ.
  2. First Council of Constantinople (381)—reaffirmed the Council of Nicaea and condemned Apollinarianism.
  3. Council of Ephesus (431)—condemned Nestorianism, and affirmed Mary as the Mother of God.
  4. Council of Chalcedon (451)—condemned Monophysitism.
  5. Second Council of Constantinople (553).
  6. Second Council of Nicaea (787)—approved use of images and permitted veneration of images.
  7. Third Lateran Council (1179)—two-thirds majority of Cardinals necessary for the election of a pope.
  8. Fourth Lateran Council (1215)—penance required, and defined transubstantiation; designated special dress for Jews and Muslims.
  9. Council of Trent (1545-63)—dealt with every major element of Catholicism: tradition established as equal with Scripture, Church’s teaching authority, original sin, justification, sacraments, Eucharist.
  10. First Vatican Council (1869-70)—papal primacy (his authority over all other bishops and over the entire Church), and papal infallibility.
  11. Second Vatican Council (1962-65)—renewal of liturgy, role of laity, ecumenism, saving authority of God outside the Catholic Church.

The authoritative Encyclopedia of Catholicism says that “according to contemporary canon law, there can be no ecumenical council that is not convoked by the pope.”  Only those bishops who are part of the College of Bishops are given the privilege of voting in the Council, with the pope giving the “judicially binding confirmation of the definite resolutions.”[iii]

These ecumenical councils nicely fit into the scheme of a super ecclesiastical institution such as the Roman Catholic Church, but they do not at all fit into the pattern of the body of Christ as founded by our Lord and revealed on the pages of the New Testament.  Some may cite the gathering called in Jerusalem as precedent for such a council, but there are vast differences (see Acts 15:1-35).

  • A Catholic Church Ecumenical Council has representatives (bishops) from around the world. The Acts 15 gathering only had Jerusalem apostles and elders (v. 6), along with “the whole church” (v. 22).
  • The Catholic bishops of a council vote on various issues and doctrines. The Jerusalem gathering came to a consensus without a vote (vv. 22, 25).
  • The Catholic Councils are composed of unsaved men (see other parts of this book). The Jerusalem gathering consisted of saved men or brothers (vv. 7, 11, 13, 22).
  • The Catholic Councils result in human judgments and even new laws. The Jerusalem gathering issued a letter after the Holy Spirit made His will known (v. 28).
  • The Catholic Councils are led by the unscriptural pope who issues a decree. The Jerusalem gathering had two apostles (Paul and Peter), Barnabas, and James (the Lord’s brother) as speakers.  There are no apostles living today.
  • The Catholic Councils involve the entire institution on earth. The Jerusalem gathering was local (only the house gatherings in Jerusalem) and there was no inter-church relationship since each community was autonomous.

These are some of the reasons why we must reject Catholic ecumenical councils in favor of the New Testament model.  Even the Acts 15 gathering is not an example for us since we do not have authoritative apostles as they did, nor does one assembly have the right to make decisions on behalf of all of the assemblies scattered around the earth. A in all of this, we must abide by the pattern given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself.

  1. Catholicism Gave the Bible?

The Catholic Church

One of the devious ways the Catholic Church has attempted to establish credibility and claim authority over others is to teach that our Bible is a Catholic Book!  They assert that the Catholic Church determined which books were considered inspired and acceptable, which occurred in the Council of Hippo (in North Africa) in AD 292 and in the Council of Carthage (also in North Africa) in AD 297.  Catholic apologists Chacon and Burnham claim, “The canon of the Bible was officially determined in the fourth century by Catholic councils and Catholic popes.”[iv]  They continue, “Historically, the Catholic Church used her authority to determine which books belonged to the Bible, and to assure us that everything in the Bible is inspired.”[v]  Finally, these writers state: “The Catholic Church . . . used her authority around the year AD 400 to determine the official canon of the Bible.”[vi]  They assert:

The Bible is a Catholic book.  The New Testament was written, copied and collected by Catholic Christians.  The official canon of the books of the Bible was authoritatively determined by the Catholic Church in the fourth century.  Thus it is from the Catholic Church that Protestants have a Bible at all.[vii]

There are a number of misunderstandings and even false statements in these common defenses of the Catholic Church’s role in giving us the Bible.  First, it is clear that the New Testament was not “written . . . by Catholic Christians” as the above writers assert.  They were written by the apostles and prophets who had been given the Holy Spirit by Christ to communicate saving truth to God’s people (cf. study John 14:26; 16:7-15; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:1; 3:15-17; 2 Peter 3:2; Revelation 1:1; 22:18-19).

Second, these early writings were accepted as God-given and inspired of God as soon as they were written (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 3:15-17).  It did not take a Council 350 years later to officially accept these books.  God inspired them by using specially chosen writers, thus they were God-given immediately and the readers accepted them as such.

Third, these writings were copied and circulated by Christians and gatherings of disciples soon after they were written (cf. Colossians 4:16).  This would have been far earlier than the Catholic Church arose several centuries later.   Paul’s writings were circulated during his own lifetime (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16).

Fourth, the developed institutional Catholic Church didn’t “collect” these inspired New Testament documents for they began to be collected immediately when written and received.  They were quoted as inspired by the end of the first century and into the second century.  Mileto of Sardis (AD 175) and Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 185) had their own lists of recognized books.  Granted, there was debate over certain books (e.g., Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation) but they were inspired at the point of their writing and recognized as inspired by at least some or many immediately.

All that these Councils did in the AD 390s was to recognize the various inspired documents by noticing various “tests” of authenticity.  Thus, neither the developed Catholic Church of the fourth century (when the Catholic Church began to develop from the earlier apostate Church) nor the earlier apostolic church of the first century gave us the Bible, but God gave us His inspired 27 New Testament books or letters and because of this we are under their authority and final word.

  1. The Catholic Church an Official Interpreter?

It has been the contention of the Catholic Church that the Lord has made it the official interpreter of Holy Scripture.[viii]  In answer to the question of whether we are to accept the Word of God as our only rule of faith, they answer “’No!’  They are really asking you to reject Sacred Tradition and the authority of the Church.”[ix]  In other words, they plainly say that we should not accept only God’s authoritative Word, but we should also accept Tradition along with the authority of the Catholic Pope and the Bishops!

The Catholic Church repeatedly tells us that God uses the hierarchy of the institution to tell us what to believe and what not to believe.  It is not God’s Word, per se, but the teachings of the Church that become the absolute and infallible authority.  “We need the authority of the Church to tell us what belongs in the Bible.”[x]  They claim that God “would never have left a written document to be the only rule of faith without a living authority to guard and officially interpret it.”[xi]  Thus they see a need to have a God-given human “authority” to tell us what to accept in the Bible and what not to accept.  They don’t allow the common Catholic to read the Bible and accept what it clearly says; they require the common person to look to the Catholic authorities before accepting anything from God’s own Word.

The problems about this approach are many.  First, the Scriptures themselves are God’s infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word and they are true.  These inspired documents are not human sources of authority.  Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).  Paul said, “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13; cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17).  Second, while Paul said that believers are to accept his writings and teachings as authoritative, and these are called “traditions”[xii] (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6), we also know that human traditions were to be shunned (cf. Mark 7:5, 8, 9, 13; Colossians 2:8).  These Scriptural teachings can be understood.  Paul wrote, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (2 Corinthians 1:13).  He again wrote, “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7; cf. Ephesians 5:17).

Third, since many of the traditions of the Catholic Church conflict with or contradict the inspired Word of God, they must be rejected.  We should always know what to do if God’s authority is different from man’s authority. If such should occur (as it does in Catholicism), the person true to God knows that His authority must take precedence.  Fourth, we know that various teachings of the Catholic Church have changed, thus their “teaching authority” is fallible. Truth never changes over the years, since “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  Fifth, Peter warns that teachers may pervert or misinterpret Scripture.  With reference to Paul’s writings, Peter said that “the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16; cf. 2 Timothy 4:2-4).  In light of this, Peter writes, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness” (v. 17).  This warning directly applies to our present discussion.

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church asserts that we need “a living, continuing authority to guard, guarantee, and officially interpret” the Bible.[xiii]  Thus, it is taught that “Sacred Tradition is to be followed alongside Sacred Scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6).”[xiv]  This shows the danger of following this deceptive and devious doctrine.  They take 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6, which pertain to the apostle Paul’s teachings, and apply this to the Catholic Church’s teachings!  This entirely lifts the verses from their context and makes them say something that the apostle did not mean!  We need “honest and good” hearts to take what Scripture teaches, taught by honest and good teachers (cf. Acts 8:30-31; 2 Timothy 2:2). We do not need the faulty teachings of apostate Councils or “Fathers” or Catholic prelates to tell us what to believe and what not to believe.

The danger of believing that Catholic hierarchy and traditions are our ultimate authority may be seen in the life of a man I knew whom I’ll call James.  James left the Catholic Church of his childhood and seemed to take Scriptures seriously.  He made extensive changes in his life and beliefs.  I personally don’t know if he was saved but at least he claimed to be saved and forgiven and sought to lead his wife and nine home-schooled children aright.[xv]

Then something happened.  James began to believe that we are obligated to obey the elders/overseers of a congregation even if they should command us to sin.  It was a form of absolute authority and absolute submission.  He based this extreme form of submission on Matthew 23:2-3 where Jesus speaks of the Jewish authorities: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”  Evidently Jesus meant that the Jews were to heed the teachings of the Pharisees as far as they did not conflict with God’s Word (see Matthew 15:3-14).  But James took this principle to the extreme, believing that this pertained to the authority of the eldership—even to the extent of sinning if they should require this.  He carried this over to the family, claiming that his wife and children were to obey his authority even if this meant that they would sin against God!  I tried repeatedly to pull him from this unreasonable and unscriptural view of absolute authority but could never convince him.

From this perverted and extreme view, James decided to return to the Catholic Church and take his family with him.  He recognized that some teachings of the Catholic Church were wrong but believed that he and all people were obligated to obey them even thought he would be sinning by doing so.  His theory was that God set established authority in the apostles and this authority continued in their “successors” down to the contemporary Pope and his bishops.  Therefore, we are obligated by God to obey these Catholic authorities, along with Catholic tradition.  His theory was that any sin involved in disobeying Scripture by obeying Catholic authority would be a sin by the authorities rather than by him and his family.  James became a traditional, conservative Catholic, believing in the Latin Mass and other pre-Vatican II practices and teachings.  To this day, James and his family are zealous in this devotion to “God’s established Church,” Catholic leaders, and Catholic traditions.  He continues to hold his “absolute authority” and “absolute submission” teaching not only in the Church but also in the home, with the result that he is considered the absolute authority over his wife and children, regardless of what he may command.

This unusual example illustrates the extreme danger of taking Catholic teachings and traditions as superseding the inspired, true, and authoritative Word of the Living God.  In contrast, Peter declared, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

  1. Religious Images

The Catholic Church

The Lord God sternly warned Israel to abstain from the worship of images.  The second command states, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5a; cf. Deuteronomy 5:8-10).  In contrast, the Catholic Church freely uses multiple images—of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels, the apostles, and other “saints.”  They claim that this is entirely justified since God commanded Israel to make cherubim in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:18-19), to make a bronze serpent for their healing (Numbers 21:8), and to make various images for the temple (1 Kings 6-7).[xvi]

Catholicism claims that images in Catholic Churches and homes simply represent Jesus, Mary, and the other personalities, but they are not really “worshiped.”  I was shocked to discover the enumeration of the Ten Commandments in the official Catholic Catechism.  The Second Commandment is entirely eliminated (You shall not make for yourself an image), and the Tenth Commandment is divided in two![xvii]  In the “Traditional Catechetical Formula,” the average Catholic may not even notice that he is forbidden to make sacred images and bow down to them!  Later in the Catechism,[xviii] we see a defense of the Catholic promotion of images or statues:

Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons—of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints.  By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new “economy” of images.[xix]

The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols.  Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.”  The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” nor the adoration due to God alone.[xx]

Shall we just accept the use of images or statues and neglect God’s prohibition of such images?  Shall we willingly accept what a Catholic Council permitted or shall we heed the Word of God, without compromise?  Interestingly, the Israelites made an image of a molten calf when Moses was on Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments.  Aaron said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us” (Exodus 32:1).  The people said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt” (v. 4).  At the same time, Aaron said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD [Yahweh]” (v. 5).  They were combining an image of a calf—a false god—but at the same time they were holding a feast to Yahweh God!  They should have recognized that any image of any kind was forbidden since they were the people of the invisible God!

Why should we reject graven images?  We don’t know what Jesus looked like; therefore, any image that purports to be of Him necessarily is inaccurate—and false.  To make an image of Jesus that is not true is the essence of idolatry. The same would be true of other personalities.  Mary is depicted as a young and attractive woman—not the Mary of the Bible.  Catholic angels are depicted with wings, whereas Biblical angels looked like men (Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4).  Jesus is often depicted as a baby, whereas He is the glorified Lord of lords today.

Besides the inaccuracies, almost assuredly the worshiper cannot distinguish between the image and the personality it represents.  When the traditional Catholic knees before an image of Jesus or Mary or a Saint, they surely have the image in mind.  Or, if they do have Mary in mind, this is influenced by the image of Mary before them. Again, since we are forbidden to “venerate” (worship) anyone other than God or Christ, this necessarily excludes the “veneration” of Mary, angels, or Catholic saints—even if images were not involved.  Finally, God never permitted Israel to worship Him with the use of images.

Another point of note: The New Testament Christians never made or used images, so why should we?  The use of statues or images grew over the centuries (the Eastern Church rejected them but retained the use of paintings), to the point that a complete reversal of practice occurred.  By the eighth century, the Western Church proclaimed that forbidding of images was “iconoclasm” and the Second Council of Nicaea (AD 787) condemned it as heresy![xxi]   What was once a virtue (forbidding images) became heresy in Roman Catholicism!  In spite of this, Scripture is quite plain in its condemnation of images for worship—for idolatry is proscribed seven times in the Old Testament and three times in the New Testament.[xxii]

  1. Is the Catholic Church Apostolic?

One of the chief boasts of the Roman Church is that it is “apostolic”—that it has received its doctrines and practices from the apostles in the beginning.  Apologists Chacon and Burnham assert: “The Church founded by Christ must go back in history to the time of Christ; its doctrines must be the same as those of the Apostolic Church; and its leaders must be able to trace their authority back to the Apostles.  Thus, history, Apostolic doctrines, and Apostolic authority are the sure guidelines for determining which Church Jesus founded.   Only the Catholic Church meets these requirements.”[xxiii]  They continue, “Only the Catholic Church has existed since the time of Christ.”[xxiv]

Catholics give four “marks” of the “Church established by Christ,” and they are: “unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.”[xxv]  But are these four marks really descriptive of the Roman Catholic Church—or are they only presumed?  Consider these four “marks” or “tests” of apostolicity:

How can the Catholic Church profess to be “united”?  Roman Catholicism has some 223 different “denomination” and even these may be broken down into smaller groups, some 2,942 separate “denominations.”[xxvi]  This is something less than “unity”!

What about “holiness”?  Most people would observe that many and probably by far the majority of common Catholics are less than holy, in the Biblical sense of the word (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 12:14).  While some of the devoted clerics do strive for holiness—and this must be acknowledged—we can’t say that the Church as a whole is particularly holy (or separated from sin and the world).

What about “catholicity”?  This means “universal”—that the Church is worldwide.  Indeed the Roman Church is found in all parts of the earth, but surely this cannot be a test for orthodoxy. The early Christians were found only in Palestine, and then the Roman Empire, and not the entire populated earth—but yet they were Christ’s body.

Fourth, what about “apostolicity”?  This whole book you are reading has been demonstrating that the Roman Church fails to follow much of the apostles’ teachings in many different particulars and also violates a great many commands of the apostles in other particulars.  Surely it cannot be considered “apostolic” if we take that term literally.

What can we say about the bold claims that the Catholic Church is “the one true Church”?  What happens if we discover, through comparing the Roman Catholic Church with the New Testament body of Christ, that its doctrines are not apostolic?  What should we think if we learn that the gulf that separates the modern Roman Catholic Church from the community of Christ in the first century is indeed unbridgeable?   What about the claims of the Catholic Church?

First, we must acknowledge that there are a series of links that can be made by the contemporary Catholic Church, both through the corrupt Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, through the Constantinian apostate Church, and to the Roman Church that may have begun from Roman visitors on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:10).  But why would this claim be needed?

Suppose I claimed that my watermelon, grown in my back yard, was exactly like the watermelon that a friend of mine has 1,000 miles away.  Would we need to have a watermelon vine extending from his melon plant to my watermelon?  Not at all.  If we used the same kind of seed, we would have the same kind of watermelon.  Similarly, the spiritual “seed” that regenerates and saves is God’s Word and this same seed sown in the heart today will produce the same result—the new birth experience.  “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).  “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11; cf. James 1:21; 1 John 3:9).  We don’t need to be able to trace spiritual ancestry back to the apostles; we simply need the apostles’ “word”—the very Word of God.   The seed that produced a certain result 2,000 years ago will produce the same result today.

Second, as we compare the doctrines (teachings) of the modern Roman Church and “the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), we see an unbridgeable chasm.  Some of these departures from truth have been documented in this book.  Perhaps in hundreds of ways, the teachings, beliefs, and practices of today’s Catholic Church differ from those of the New Testament community of Christ.  This in itself proves that the Roman Catholic Church is not the New Testament body of Christ.

Suppose someone describes an animal that he has in his possession.  It is one that stands 58 inches high, has a golden coat and light blond mane and tail, with white face.  It weighs about 900 to 1,300 pounds.  It is an intelligent animal and is often used with a saddle to ride.  Another person describes the animal that he has.  It is a furry mammal that hops on its hind legs, although its front legs are small. It is a marsupial, and carries its young in a pouch on the belly of the mother.  It is six feet tall and weighs more than 100 pounds.  It has a deerlike head and pointed snout, with large and upright ears.[xxvii]  Regardless of those who might say that these are identical animals, we know that the first describes a palomino horse and the second describes a kangaroo.  They cannot be the same since they are so dissimilar.  In like manner, the modern Roman Catholic Church is vastly different from the body of Christ described on the pages of the Bible.

Third, modern leaders in the body of Christ have no inherent authority, but they only exercise leadership because of their position as overseers (episcopos) in the body.  In no way do these overseers need to be able to “trace” their position back to the apostles.  “Apostolic succession” is impossible and invalid, since even Catholics don’t know of the spiritual condition of each of the presumed links back to the apostles.

Since there are numerous ways that the modern Roman Catholic Church differs from the body of Christ in the New Testament as formed by the Lord Jesus Himself, we conclude that the Catholic Church cannot be identified as the community of Christ of 2,000 years ago.

  1. Liturgical Services

Anyone who is a faithful Catholic or who has visited a Catholic Church is aware of the liturgical worship that is prominent in every service.  As soon as one takes his seat, he sees a Catholic Missal awaiting his use in the worship.  Liturgy pertains to the Church’s public worship, including “all of the rites and ceremonies by which the Church expresses her worship to God.”[xxviii]

Liturgical Churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church (as well as the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, and certain other Protestant Churches), rely heavily on liturgical books which provide exact lines to be spoken by the Bishop or priest and other lines to be repeated by the congregation.  These rites include the missal (order of Mass and Lectionary, Sacramentary), ritual (Baptism of Children, Marriage, Funerals, Religious Profession, Adult Initiation, Pastoral Care of the Sick, Eucharistic Cult, Penance, Blessings), as well as pontifical (Ordinations, Consecration of Virgins and Abbatial Blessings, Blessing of Oils, Confirmation, Institution of Readers and Acolytes, Church Dedication), and Liturgy of the Hours.[xxix]

This liturgy is carried out “in the name of the Church by persons lawfully deputed to do so and according to ceremonies approved by Church Authority.”[xxx]  This Catholic liturgy is not only words, but much more: “Liturgical actions include the spoken word, gestures, actions and the inclusion of symbols and material things, such as vestments, incense and candles.  Sacred music also occupies a most important part of the liturgy.”[xxxi]  All of this is found in the Code of Canon Law and is regulated by the “Holy See”—the Pope.[xxxii]

Central to this Catholic liturgy is the liturgical Mass.  This developed after the time of Augustine.  Frank Viola explains:

The Catholic Mass that developed out of the fourth through sixth centuries was essentially pagan.  The Christians stole from the pagans the vestments of the pagan priests, the use of incense and holy water in purification rites, the burning of candles in worship, the architecture of the Roman basilica for their church buildings, the law of Rome as the basis of “canon law,” the title Pontifex Maximus for the head bishop, and the pagan rituals for the Catholic Mass.[xxxiii]

Anyone who has read through the Holy Scriptures and observed the glimpses of worship and edification in the New Testament assemblies, can see the huge chasm that separates New Testament practice from the extremely regulated and regimented ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church (and other liturgical churches).  The early disciples “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).  These early assemblies could be called households, composed of brothers and sisters, and they met in the simplicity of homes (cf. Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2).

These developed home gatherings were overseen by “elders” (also known as “overseers” or “shepherds,” Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3).  Yet before such elders could be appointed, perhaps because there were no local qualified men to fill the position (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5), the believers themselves maintained the public Christian gatherings.  These assemblies were for teaching and admonishment (1 Corinthians 14:12) and each brother could participate in simplicity and spontaneity.  “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.  Let all thins be done for edification” (v. 26).  Even if one or more spiritual gifts were not present, the main point of the gatherings was for the “building up” of the body in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The liturgical rites and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church developed over the years in the Latin language that the people could not understand.  But they have been translated into the vernacular languages in our day.  When Latin was used all through the Middle Ages until Vatican II (1962-65), this was a clear violation of Scriptural instruction that specifies that language should be understood by the people present (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:1-19).  As Paul put it, “In the church [assembly] I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19).  Did the Catholic hierarchy repent and acknowledge these many centuries of sinful disobedience that forced the Catholic people to listen to the “unknown” Latin language?

How simple the gatherings of Christians can be.  How beautiful that various brothers can participate—and not just an “ordained” bishop or priest who can read and repeat liturgical phrases according to ecclesiastical tradition.  The sincere Catholic should long for the simplicity of pure, simple, unadorned, but uplifting Christian worship, patterned after the New Testament norm.

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




[i] Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 267.

[ii] Encyclopedia of Catholicism, ed. Richard P. McBrien, pp. 452-454.

[iii] P. 455.

[iv] Beginning Apologetics I, p. 12.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid., p. 33.

[vii] Ibid., p. 12.

[viii] When the Catholic Church says that the “Church” teaches something, they do not mean the “church” as the assumed people of God but they mean the hierarchy over the Catholic Church.  In other words, they use “church” (ekklesia) very different from the way it is used in the New Testament.

[ix] Chacon and Burham, Beginning Apologetics I, p. 13.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] This is from the Greek paradosis, which means “a handing down or on” (W. E.Vine, Expository Dictionary), a “handing down or over” (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).

[xiii] Chacon and Burnham, Beginning Apologetics I, p. 13.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] The number of children may have been ten or even eleven.

[xvi] Chacon and Burnham, Beginning Apologetics I, p. 34.

[xvii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2052ff.

[xviii] Ibid., 2129-2141.

[xix] Ibid., 2131.

[xx] Ibid., 2132.

[xxi] Chacon and Burham, Beginning Apologetics I, p. 34.

[xxii] Ray Comfort, World Religions, p. 93.

[xxiii] Beginning Apologetics I, p. 39.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Revised, p. 239.

[xxvi] Eric D. Svendsen, Upon This Slippery Rock, pp. 59-60.

[xxvii] Descriptions come from World Book Encyclopedia.

[xxviii] Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 596.

[xxix] Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 777.

[xxx] Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 596.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] Ibid., pp. 596-597.

[xxxiii] Pagan Christianity, p. 40.

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