Answering Roman Catholicism

The church at Rome enjoys the high privilege of having an epistle named for itself. That was long before there was one solitary bishop in town. Has this ancient church kept its first faith? The faith of the apostles is the right faith: "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." (Galatians 1:8). Any "other" gospel is not a better gospel, informed by superior insight, but a ruined and distorted one. Does the modern church of Rome preach and practice as the apostles did, or has it allowed elements of the faiths of the nations to infiltrate?

No one with an internet connection can be unaware of the triumphalist claims made in the modern era by web ministries such as Catholic Answers. The contemporary Roman Catholic apologetic enterprise wants it understood that 'fundamentalists' are not only anti-intellectual: ". . .fundamentalism's spirit is antitheological. . .This makes for endless difficulties when Catholics and fundamentalists sit down to talk, since the latter are suspicious of syllogisms." (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 278),— but they are wrong, wrong on the Bible, their guide and foundation. Has this highly visible and very noisy contingent made good on its claims to demonstrate the error of others' ways?

Some people are under the impression that the Roman church is conservative and traditional, but the perplexed observer must wonder if there is any novelty, from Marian apparitions to images to indulgences, to which this church is not open and welcoming. Is the church at Rome ancient and conservative as its defenders claim, or does it wander restlessly into novelty and innovation?

Catholic Heaven


Communion of the Saints

A visitor to a Roman Catholic church notices right away an unusual feature: the congregation devotes a great deal of time in directing praise and petition to deceased persons remarkable for their achievements in life, the 'saints' (in the Bible, the saints, the holy people, are just us: the church folk). By contrast, in my own Baptist church, there is no attention at all given to any object of worship or petition other than the living God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Which of these two very different worship patterns is likely to be the heritage from the apostles?

Definition One Only
Talking to Dead People Paganism
As the Romans Do Joan of Arc
The Witch of Endor Veneration
Dead Men's Bones Nailed to the Cross
Saints that Ain't Maggid
Santeria Spiritism

  • "Truly my soul silently waits for God;
    From Him comes my salvation.
    He only is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my defense;
    I shall not be greatly moved. . .
    My soul, wait silently for God alone,
    For my expectation is from Him.
    He only is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my defense;
    I shall not be moved.."
  • (Psalm 62:1-5).


Mary   Mary: Mediatrix?


The single most striking feature of Roman Catholicism is its devotion to Mary. To evangelicals she is a heroine of the faith, but her status in Roman Catholicism may seem to outsiders almost that of a goddess. What are the teachings by which Rome justifies the elevation of this woman to such a high and exalted status?

Mediatrix Co-Redemptrix
Terroristic Threats Temple
Queen Spouse of the Holy Spirit
Assumption Jesus on Mariolatry
Practice What You Preach Who Is
Everywhere Present Queen Mother


Perpetual Virginity

Roman Catholics believe that Mary was a virgin, not only at the time of Jesus' birth as the scriptures teach, but throughout her life. Unlike the Immaculate Conception, which is a medieval doctrine, Perpetual Virginity finds supporters in the early church, though much of the early support is based on works like the Protevangelium whose authenticity cannot be defended. Is there any evidence for Mary's perpetual virginity in the Bible?

'Cousins' Theory
Taxonomy Mother's Sons Adelphos
Cousins Parallelism Abraham and Sarah
Consanguinity Unconstitutional Twelve
Spare a Dime Jonathan and David Abraham and Lot
James the Just Race-Baiting Error Checking

'Elder Brothers' Theory
Protevangelium Nepal Birthright
At the Cross Till Firstborn
Postpartum Fathers Know Best So What?

Mary Ever Virgin

Immaculate Conception

Since the middle of the nineteenth century Roman Catholics have believed and taught as dogma that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin. Is this concept Biblical?:

Immaculate Conception


Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, was scandalized when, in his travels, he came across something unheard of in a church. Knowing the scriptures, he removed the offending object right away:

  • "When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect, after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. They, however, murmured, and said that if I made up my mind to tear it, it was only fair that I should give them another curtain in its place. As soon as I heard this, I promised that I would give one, and said that I would send it at once. Since then there has been some little delay, due to the fact that I have been seeking a curtain of the best quality to give to them instead of the former one, and thought it right to send to Cyprus for one. I have now sent the best that I could find, and I beg that you will order the presbyter of the place to take the curtain which I have sent from the hands of the Reader, and that you will afterwards give directions that curtains of the other sort — opposed as they are to our religion — shall not be hung up in any church of Christ."
  • (Epiphanius, letter to John, Letter 51, Letters of Jerome, Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume Six, Section 9).

What did this holy man know that modern Catholics have forgotten?:

Graven Image And, or Or?
Practice Pictures of God
As the Pagans Do Fathers Know Best
Excluded Middle Synod of Hieria
Second Nicaea Proskynesis
The Kabah Reformation

Graven Image

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image -- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Exodus 20:4-6).
The Second Commandment

Call a Spade a Spade

Some Roman Catholics insist that they do not "worship" Mary, they "venerate" her. But look it up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and you'll discover that 'veneration' is a "kind of worship": "In the theological sense veneration means the kind of worship given to the saints and Mary as distinct from the kind of worship given to God alone." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1965). And some Roman Catholics freely admit to "worship" of Mary in any case: "Equally easy is it now to understand why the Christian heart overflows with love and gratitude to Mary; why Christians recur to her with so much confidence in the efficacy of her prayers, the success of her intercession; and why Catholics offer her the highest worship below the supreme worship offered in the Holy Sacrifice, but never offered except to God alone." (Orestes Brownson, Selected Writings, p. 282). Confronted with such quotes, Roman Catholics bring up instances where 'worship' is used carelessly in common speech, like 'I worship the ground you walk upon,' and 'Your Worship,' addressed to an English judge. This seems a perilous game, because there is no more fundamental command God gave to His people than to worship Him only.

Catholics and the Bible

Who compiled the canon of scripture? Was this a creative act, giving a certain status to books which would have lacked it had they not been placed on a list?

Canon of Scripture Hebrew Oracles
Inspiration of God What is Written
Bad Precedent Addition and Subtraction
Godly Forgery Quotation
Every Time I Feel the Spirit All the Scriptures
New Testament Council of Florence
People of the Book Bible Contradictions

Who translated the scriptures into Latin? Did this translation ever enjoy any special status, and should it have done so? What are some of the quirks of this translation?:

Georges de La Tour, Saint Jerome Reading

Catholics and History

History is the strongest claim made by Catholics. By contrast with evangelical churches who can trace their continuous institutional existence back no more than a few centuries, the institutions that define Roman Catholicism have been around a long time. But history is also the most implacable accuser of Roman Catholicism. Only by averting one's eyes from much of this history can one continue to see Roman Catholicism as a church, much less the church:

Fruit of the Spirit Mass Murder
Apostolic Succession

Fruit of the Spirit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22).

So if someone claims to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we know what fruit to look for...and what not:

"Cadaver Synod. One of the most gruesome events in papal history, held in January 897 by Pope Stephen VI (VII) during which the corpse of Pope Formosus (891-896) was exhumed and placed on trial...Having stirred up anti-Formosan sentiment among the populace and nobility of Rome, Lambert commanded Stephen to convene a synod to try the dead pope on assorted charges such as perjury, canonical violations, and ambition in seeking the papacy. What made the proceeding so grotesque was Stephen's decision to have Formosus appear personally. The rotting corpse was taken out of the tomb, dressed in vestments, and propped up in a chair. A deacon, standing behind the body, answered on its behalf. To no one's surprise, Formosus was found guilty." (The Pope Encyclopedia, Matthew Bunson, p. 58).

What is missing in this account, is not only any reminiscence of the early church writers' pastoral tale of one bishop sitting at the feet of his predecessor, learning the faith, but even any veneer of civilization. One must marvel at the vogue for swimming the Tiber; given all the bodies down there, it's a wonder the Board of Health doesn't shut it down for swimming.


Mass Murder

Jesus gave a simple test for discerning His followers: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35).

The long history of the Roman church is Catholicism's main selling point. But inspection of this lengthy history is not for the faint of heart. Does the history of the Roman Catholic Church show the Lord's principle in action?:

New Testament Early Church
Albigensian Crusade Waldensians
Michael Servetus What Went Wrong?
Canaan Constantine
No True Scotsman Pagan Intolerance
Atheist Mass Murder Islam
The Crusades All or Nothing
Peter the Hermit Iraq

Mass Murder

In some cases Bible-believing Christians can agree those the Roman Church persecuted were actually heretics, though they did not deserver their fate; for instance, the Cathari believed Satan had created the world. But the Bohemians who insisted upon receiving both bread and wine at communion? This is a heresy? On what possible basis? The victims whose blood cries out for justice include many true Christians.


Apostolic Succession

When Marcion arose in the early church, claiming that his gnostic theology was just what the apostle Paul meant by his letters, critics realized that inspecting the churches founded by Paul, or guided by Paul subsequent to their founding by others (like Rome), represented a useful way of checking this claim. Would Paul have taught the congregations he was gathering a different gospel than he described in his letters? So why was Marcion's novel, unheard-of gospel not the gospel anyone could remember hearing on grandma's knee? In the early years of the church, the doctrine taught at churches of apostolic foundation did provide a useful check against 'wild' interpretations of scripture.

Everyone has heard of the child's game of telephone, which shows how to garble a message:

"Think of the party game Telephone, in which one person in a circle whispers something to the next, who whispers it to the next, and so on around. The last person tells the group what he or she heard, and inevitably it differs comically from what was originally said. The more links in a chain of transmission, the greater the message degradition." (Tamim Ansay, The Invention of Yesterday, p. 78).

Did the early church writers who mention the apostolic origin of various churches in order to confute the gnostics intend to deny this general principle, or make use of it? Since they tend to emphasize how short the chain of transmission was from the apostles' day to their own and how few the links, it seems that they accepted the validity of the principle. If there had been fifty changes of regime between the apostolic church and their own, rather than three or four, their point would have been vitiated, not established. The modern Roman Catholics who adopt this argument believe, rather, that fifty links would make their point even more unassailable! They have inverted the argument, turning it inside out.

These early authors stressed how short was the chain and how few the links leading back to the apostolic generation. Modern Roman Catholics invert this claim, looking at it through the wrong end of the telescope. They glory in how many links there are in the chain, even though a transmission chain with many links gives no guarantee the message hasn't been garbled. Apostolic succession supposes that each bishop of Rome in turn learned his doctrine by sitting at the feet of his predecessor. Even in a healthy state of the church this was not always so. But in those ages when bandit chieftains vied over this lucrative office, buying it outright, of what worth is such a 'succession'?:

"Gregory VI Pope 1045 to 1046, the godfather to the infamous Pope Benedict IX, John Gratian (or Giovanni Graziano) was a participant in the reprehensible effort of Benedict to sell the papacy in 1045. John possessed a reputation for virtue and was known in some circles for his reforming zeal. He was consulted by his godson as to whether it was possible to resign the papacy because Benedict had become infatuated with a woman and was anxious to wed. John replied in the affirmative, and was suddenly offered the throne himself in return for a large payment of money. While technically paying the pope to step down, John in effect purchased the throne of St. Peter." (The Pope Encyclopedia, Matthew Bunson, p. 157).

This office would change hands for money many times in years to come. Norman Rockwell produced an illustration showing a long line of tale-bearers, calling one another up and reporting a juicy bit of gossip. The chain ended where it began, with the first gossip starting back in shock at what she heard. What she heard was not the same tale she had told at the start of the chain. That is what is prone to happen with long transmissions chains.

Thriceholy Radio

The Bishop of Rome

This distinctive institution almost defines the modern Roman Catholic Church. Unlike my own church, the Baptists, who govern themselves democratically, Rome is a strict autocracy, governed from above. A stronger contrast could not be imagined in form of government. Which practice is Biblical? Which apostolic? When did these practices start?:

New Testament Fathers Know Best
Upon this Rock Heretic Popes
Antipodes Galileo Affair
Cadaver Synod Popes in Hell
Beatific Vision Renaissance Popes
Anders Behring Breivik

  A Catholic Miscellany  

Call no Man Father Upon this Rock
Where the Spirit Is Temple of the Lord
Purgatory Sow the Wind
Once and for All Authority Figures
Forbidding to Marry Transubstantiation
On the Altar Immersion
End Times The Thirty Thousand
Geocentrism Socrates the Christian
Sistine Ceiling


The idea that there is a physical change in the elements of communion is a controversial Roman Catholic teaching, disputed at great cost by heroic men like John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. Is it Biblical?

Bible Background History
Substance and Accidents Literally Speaking
Thomas Aquinas Bishop Berkeley
Vines and Branches Fathers Know Best
Figure Where is it?
The Mouse and the Dog Part and Whole
Eternal Life Miracle Sign
Failure to Communicate

Saved by Faith

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • “And so we, having been called through his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we have done in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which the almighty God has justified all who have existed from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
  • (First Clement, 32.4).

  • “For the pouring out of the blood of the righteous on behalf of the unrighteous was so powerful in its effect, so rich a ransom that, if the whole body of us prisoners only believed in their Redeemer, not one would be held in the tyrant’s bonds: since as the Apostle says, 'where sin abounded, grace also did much more abound.'”
  • (Leo the Great, Letter 124, Section III).

Saved by Faith Righteousness from God
The Just Abraham
The Heart Ashamed
Tower of Babel Merited Favor?
What is Faith? What are Works?
Devils Antinomianism
Surely He has borne our Griefs Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
Without One Plea Piece-Work
Everyone What must I Do?
What have you Got? Savior Will?
Altoona Ungodly
Justified by Faith Faith Plus Works
Whosoever Believeth Cannot Sin
Show Me The Work of God
Supernatural Watchmaker God
All our Works Nothing
Leopard's Spots His Mercy

Baptismal Regeneration

The theory of baptismal regeneration, which originated with Cyprian and other early church writers, teaches that baptism is an effectual sign: that it causes that which it signifies. Roman Catholics, followers of Alexander Campbell and 'Oneness' Pentecostals teach this doctrine. The phrase 'baptismal regeneration' is not a slur, but a recap of what adherents of this doctrine are prone to say: "When the recipient has the correct disposition, baptism produces a spiritual rebirth." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Article 'Baptism,' 1965). Is it Biblical?

Baptismal Regeneration

Baptismal Regeneration

Dead Men Walking The Like Figure
Flag Factory Living Waters
Thief on the Cross Frozen Lake
Preach the Gospel Wind Blows
Martin Luther John Calvin
Answer New Lives for Old
Heart of Flesh Prayer Wheels
Born Again John Gill
Whosoever Believes Synonym
Nature of Sin Mark 16
Infant Baptism

  • "Cornelius was a just man, who was honored with a vision of Angels, and had set up his prayers and alms-deeds as a good memorial before God in heaven. Peter came, and the Spirit was poured out upon them that believed, and they spoke with other tongues, and prophesied: and after the grace of the Spirit the Scripture saith that Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; in order that, the soul having been born again by faith, the body also might by the water partake of the grace."
  • (Cyril of Jerusalem, The Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 3.4).

Notice Cyril's order: First the soul is born again by faith, then the born-again believer submits to baptism. This is what my own Baptist church expects the candidate for baptism to testify. Catholics, however, think that baptism is, or rather effects, the new birth:

“Q: What is a good way to respond to door-to-door evangelists who ask if I've been 'born again'?
A: . . .All baptized Catholics have been born again, so you can answer 'yes.'” (Catholic Answers).

There are consequences that follow from this assertion, namely, that there are born again persons in Hell; surely there are baptized persons in Hell, like Adolf Hitler. Are any such known to the Bible? For what sin have they been condemned?:

"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (1 John 3:9).

Catholics will find it surprising to see what the Bible actually says about who is born again and who is not:

Is Baptism the New Birth?

Salvation Plan No-Faith
See Malta and Die What is the Question?
Go to Damascus Watch a Video
Messianic Expectations They Don't Get It
Into For
John the Baptist Savior Peter?
Fallacy of Composition Cornelius and the Gentiles

The War on Christmas

Certain Roman Catholic and Mormon commentators employed by Fox News have uncovered a war on Christmas. Is there a war against Christmas? If so, should Christians declare their neutrality?

Universal Birthday Clement of Alexandria
Epiphanius of Salamis Speculation vs. Revelation
Bible Evidence The Case Against Christmas
The War On Christmas O Christmas Tree
Why December 25th? Census
Gee Whiz Columbus Day
Easter and the Equinox

What's in a Name?

The word 'catholic' means 'universal.' It's a wonder more churches don't use the word. My regular commute used to take me past a somewhat dilapidated structure with a great big sign outside that read, 'THE CHURCH OF GOD.' I used to wonder, if that's the church of God, then what are all the other churches?

Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Evangelicals are belatedly waking up to the flood of derogatory material about their faith unloosed upon the world by Roman Catholic apologetic ministries like

"The expression 'personal relationship' comes neither from the language of the Bible nor from the history of Christian faith. The expression comes from the humanist psychology of the last hundred years, principally that of Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Eric Fromm. It also has its roots in over emphasis on the attitude of rugged individualism of the early development of America. In using the expression 'personal relationship' there is a danger in attempting to harmonize the formulas of the Bible with the formulas of psychology, psychiatry, and/or American nationalism." (

Here we read that the evangelical quest for a 'personal relationship' with Jesus "comes from the humanist psychology." Hmmm...

"But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and his goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart." (Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, Section 9).

Unto the Least

To end on a positive note, here's one thing the Roman Catholic Church does right:

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:34-40).

To their shame, many evangelical churches make no special effort to assist the poor. In addition, some evangelicals seem to believe the Lord said, 'Blessed are the war-mongers' (provided the name of the country targeted for invasion begins with the letter 'I,' not 'L'), while the Roman Catholic Church can seem more consistently to do the Lord's work in witnessing for peace. It's a shame that this good testimony is vitiated by unworthy practices like the veneration of Mary, not to mention atrocities such as those committed in the Irish orphanages. A good start for this church to make in restoring its first love would be to return to the ancient practice of electing bishops by the popular suffrage of the clergy and laity of the place; the adoption of autocracy and top-down governance during the Middle Ages would seem to be at the root of many of their problems.

The Protestant Reformation was beneficial in many ways. It demanded a return to the sources and cleared away a lot of the unbiblical doctrine which had accumulated surrounding salvation. But, just as when a driver, discovering that his car is wandering into the ditch, can over-correct and end up driving into oncoming traffic, some of the Reformers went above and beyond what was required to correct by the Bible and evolved man-made systems of doctrine, like Calvinism. To the extent that Catholics criticize this system, many of their criticisms I would find trenchant, while not agreeing that their own system hits the mark to be aimed at with a bulls-eye either. And while the magisterial Reformers over-corrected in some respects, they also under-corrected in others, leaving intact such unbiblical accretions as infant baptism and the perpetual virginity of Mary. Best to neither go beyond, yet to fully come up to, the Biblical standard, though that is a balancing act indeed. Steering clear of Scylla while avoiding Carybdis is difficult but is in the end the desirable course.