95 theses, apostasy, biblical scholarship, christianity, church, crusades, cults, earmarks of a cult, excommunication, false doctrine, heresy, indulgences, Islam, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther, outlaw, papal bull, penance, pope, Protestant Reformation, religion, Roman Catholicism, salvation by grace, theology
Some people, after reading some of my blog articles, might get the impression that I am anti-Catholic. Others might go so far as to say that I’m being divisive, promoting schism within the Body of Christ by calling the Catholic Church out on their false doctrines, saying that we need to play nicy-nice with one another in the name of unity against a common foe (secular humanism, abortion, etc.) in a religious variant of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Let me be very direct in clearing that up: I am not anti-Catholic, however I have a major problem with Roman-Catholicism and there is a huge difference between the two!
Let me explain.
- To hate Catholics would be violating Jesus’ command to love — and not judge — my fellow human beings and therefore that would be a sin in and of itself. Whether any given Catholic is truly born-again and heaven-bound — or not! — is a question that can only be answered by that individual’s Creator, not by me!
- To oppose the heresies and false doctrines of the corrupt and apostate Roman Catholic Church organization is simply continuing in the spirit of the original Protestant reformers who broke away from Catholicism in the first place back in the late 1500s and thereafter.
It is perfectly consistent to detest and expose the perfidy and abuses of Roman Catholicism while loving and caring for those precious souls trapped in the grip of its bondage.
Does that mean that Protestants are perfect? Not a chance! The sad fact is that, as they themselves have strayed from biblical truth in their desperate and futile search for cultural relevancy and social acceptance, many Protestant denominations and leaders have become just as corrupt and flaky as the Catholic leadership. There are more than a few ex-Catholic Protestants who have become severely disillusioned with American Protestantism and returned to the Catholic Church for that very reason, one of my closest friends being one of them.
Along with him, there is indeed a small minority of true born-again believers who remain in the Catholic church — insignificant in terms of percentage of the Catholic population as well as being of insufficient numbers to influence any reform of Catholic doctrine, but precious in the eyes of God nonetheless — the last holdouts of true faith among an otherwise totally apostate organization. Such believers are scattered throughout the Catholic community and the vast majority of them are charismatics.
What Are the Earmarks of a Cult & How Does Roman Catholicism Compare Against Them?
All that is beside the point I am making here. My point is that Roman Catholicism is the world’s single-largest cult system. If my claim is indeed accurate, then I am in fact not promoting schism in the Body of Christ because cults are by definition not part of Christ’s Body.
How can I say this? It’s easy! It simply boils down to answering 2 questions:
- What are the major earmarks of a cult system?
- How do the official documents and behaviors of the Roman Catholic Church measure up when compared against such a list?
Here are my answers and, in reading them, you can judge for yourself:
1. A Cult Exalts Extra-Biblical Writings or Traditions as Equal or Superior to the Scriptures
These are doctrinal writings or sayings that cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, but are exalted to the same level as Scripture. Excellent examples would be the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, all of which are accepted as equal to the Bible by the Mormons. Other examples would be the so-called Christian Scientists’ (a double misnomer: it is neither Christian nor scientific) exaltation of the writings of Mary Baker Eddy to scriptural status or the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ similar regard for the writings of Joseph Franklin Rutherford.
In the case of Roman Catholicism, we have papal bulls issued over the last several centuries, commands issued by the pope ex cathedra establishing doctrines contrary to the New Testament and regarded as superior to and superseding the Word of God. Want proof? Here are quotes from official Catholic publications:
“…the Church is above the Bible, and the transference of Sabbath observance is proof of that fact.” — Catholic Record of London, Ontario Sept 1,1923.
“The authority of the Church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the Church had changed…the Sabbath into Sunday, not by command of Christ, but by its own authority.” — Canon and Tradition, page 263
(82) As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. — Catechism of Catholic Doctrine page 31
“The Scriptures indeed is a divine book but it is a dead letter, which has to be explained, and cannot exercise the action which the preacher can obtain.” — Our Priesthood, p. 155
“The doctrines of the Catholic Church are entirely independent of Holy Scripture.” — Familiar Explanation of Catholic Doctrine, Rev. M. Muller, p.151.
2. A Cult Will Have an Unscriptural View of the Person & Works of Jesus Christ
Some classic examples of this are: the Gnostics’ view that Jesus was all God, while denying that He was truly human in every sense of the word yet without sin; the Arians’ position that Jesus was indeed a human being, while denying His divinity, or; Roman Catholicism, which teaches that the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross and His shed blood are insufficient to cleanse us from all sins, past, present, and future. Here is a quote from The Original Catholic Encyclopedia
Christ’s saving work did not at once blot out every individual sin and transform every sinner into a saint; it only procured the means thereto. Personal sanctification is effected by special acts, partly Divine, partly human; it is secured by loving God and man as the Savior did. Christianus alter Christus: every Christian is another Christ, a son of God, an heir to the eternal Kingdom. Finally, in the fulness of time all things that are in heaven and on earth shall be reestablished, restored, in God through Christ (Eph., i, 9-10). The meaning of this promise is that the whole of creation, bound up together and perfected in Christ as its Head, shall be led back in the most perfect manner to God, from whom sin had partly led it away. Christ is the Crown the Center, and the Fountain of a new and higher order of things: “for all are yours; And you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (I Cor., iii, 22-23) – Article entitled “Christ as Mediator”
3. A Cult Will Impose a System of “Salvation by Works” Upon Its Followers
True, biblical Christian salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, period, and that it is a free gift from the One True God and cannot be earned, bought, or deserved.
One of the earliest attacks on Christianity, predating the Gnostics and Arians, were the Judaizers addressed by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Galatians. Their position was that, in addition to submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ for salvation, all believers also had to follow the laws of Moses as practiced by the Jews. These included the rite of circumcision, observing Jewish dietary laws (keeping kosher), and celebrating all the feasts prescribed in the Old Testament, among others.
Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, refuted this heresy quite thoroughly in his letter to the Galatians, the summation of which is that grace + works = works. The Catholic Church believes that its members must follow their rules to go to heaven and that Catholics can purchase their way there through something called indulgences, if they don’t.
Salvation by Works
The following passages are quoted from the Council of Trent held in AD 1545-1563 (FYI, the Council of Trent was convened to counter the Protestant Reformation):
If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the favour of God, let him be anathema. – Canon 11
If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema. – Canon 12
If anyone says that the justice (righteousness) received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema. – Canon 24
If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. – Canon 30
If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (of whom one is a living member), the justified does not truly merit an increase of grace, and eternal life, provided that one dies in the state of grace, the attainment of this eternal life, as well as an increase in glory, let him be anathema. – Canon 32
It’s interesting to note that the NT Greek word anathema used in the texts quoted above is the same word used by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians (chapter 1, verses 8-9) when he said:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema). As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (anathema).
The word anathema literally means, “a man accursed, devoted to the direst of woes.”
The bottom line: according to the official doctrines of Roman Catholicism, anyone who trusts solely in the shed blood and completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross is under the direst of curses. On top of that, the Apostle Paul calls down the same curses upon anyone who preaches a gospel other than the one he preached, a gospel that bears precisely ZERO resemblance to the teachings of Roman Catholicism.
Here are direct quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning indulgences:
The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance. What is an indulgence? An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” “An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead. — Item# 1471 Page 411
An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. — Item# 1478 Page 413
Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted. — Item# 1479 Page 413
It is important to emphasize here that indulgences are sold for money and that this was one of the primary issues raised by Martin Luther in his 95 Theses that were foundational to launching the Protestant Reformation.
4. A Cult Imposes its Belief System Upon Its Followers Through Psychological Manipulation and/or Physical Force
For centuries, the Roman Catholic church excommunicated, outlawed, tortured, and murdered people who it declared to be “heretics.”
Excommunication has always been the “big stick” in the arsenal of manipulative tools available to Roman Catholicism. Excommunication literally means to be “separated from communion.” Since communion has been transformed into a dead religious work by Roman Catholic doctrine, that work having sway over one’s eternal destiny, being excommunicated meant eternal damnation. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, there was no alternative doctrinal viewpoint on this issue, so for centuries the Vatican was able to manipulate and control vast areas of Europe and elsewhere — rulers and subjects alike — through this threat.
Declaring someone as an “outlaw” meant something completely different from the modern definition. A modern-day outlaw is just a criminal, but today’s criminals still have basic human and legal rights under the law. Back in the day, your being declared an outlaw meant that you were outside the law. The implication of that is that you had zero human or legal rights. Someone could kill you and your family and steal all your possessions for any reason whatsoever, even with witnesses present, and the perpetrator could not be held legally accountable for his actions. In fact, such a person was often rewarded and esteemed.
While over the course of several centuries there were of course a few genuine heretics who espoused doctrine contrary to God’s Word, there were literally hundreds of thousands of people tortured, burned at the stake, and massacred in open warfare during the Protestant Reformation for simply daring to believe the tenets of that move of God in the earth — a move that is still in progress, I might add.
Both secular and church histories all document these bloody and evil events.
5. A Cult Often has a Single Powerful Leader Who Declares Himself to be God on This Earth
David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones of the People’s Temple, Moses David of the Children of God, Charles Manson of the Manson Family, Victor Paul Wierwille of The Way Bible & Tract Society, and Sun Yung Moon of the Unification Church (aka the Moonies) have all claimed to be Christ.
Amazingly, the Pope claims the same thing! Here are the astonishing claims of various Catholic publications:
“The Pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, he is Jesus Christ himself, hidden under the veil of flesh.” — Catholic National, July 1895.
“We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty” — Pope Leo XIII Encyclical Letter of June 20, 1894
“For thou art the shepherd, thou art the physician, thou art the director, thou art the husbandman, finally thou art another God on earth.” — Labbe and Cossart’s “History of the Councils.” Vol. XIV, col. 109
The title “Lord God the Pope” is found within a gloss of Extravagantes of Pope John XXII, title 14, chapter 4, In an Antwerp edition of the Extravagantes, the words, “Dominum Deum Nostrum Papam” (Our Lord God the Pope) can be found in column 153. In a Paris edition, they are found in column 140.
“The pope is the supreme judge of the law of the land…He is the vicegerent of Christ, and is not only a priest forever, but also King of kings and Lord of lords” — La Civilta Cattolica, March 18, 1871
“It seems that Pope John Paul II now presides over the universal Church from his place upon Christ’s cross,” said Bishop Dunn, who traveled with seven other prelates to Rome. — Taken from an article entitled, “Auckland Bishop Says Pope Presides From the Cross” Aukland, New Zealand, September 20, 2004
- Roman Catholicism’s and the Protestant Reformation’s roles in church history
- A refutation of the Catholic heresy of penance
- A refutation of the Catholic heresies of pilgrimages to “holy places,” the veneration of “holy relics,” and salvation by works, specifically through the pillaging, rape, and genocide of non-Christians
- An examination of blatant idol worship within Catholic churches
- A refutation of the false doctrine used by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches to justify persecution of Jews
- The pervasive pedophilia in the Roman Catholic priesthood as well as decades of coverups to protect the perpetrators from justice can be explored through any secular news outlet.
As you can see, I’m not just dragging up old history. These false doctrines and abuses are very much alive and well within modern-day Roman Catholicism, none of them ever having been recanted of to this day. The single exception to this has been a halt to the mass torture and murder of so-called heretics as secular Western governments have cast off Roman Catholic political domination and rightfully forbidden such atrocities.
The truly monumental travesty is that the rest of the world equates Roman Catholicism with Christianity.
And that is simply not true.
Thanks for reading!