Thursday, May 7, 2009

So What's the Difference- The Roman Catholic Church Part 2

In the last post we started on looking at the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and Bible believing Christians. While I have no doubt on the sincerity of many Catholics on their love of Jesus as their savior, there are enough differences between the Church teaching and the Bible, that I thought it deserved mention in this series on Religious comparison.

Just as Bible believing Christians rely on the Bible alone for our authority on the truth of God and faith alone (sola fide) in our salvation, the Roman Catholic Church relies on faith plus good works and God's grace mediated through the Seven Sacraments for salvation. While I won't list the seven here, it is important to note that two of the main differences are in the Catholic Holy Eucharist and Penance.

The Holy Eucharist, which in Protestant Church is the Lord's Supper, Catholics believe that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine during Mass, the bread and wine are "transformed" into the actual body and blood of Christ. This is called transubstantiation.Many Catholics attend Mass several times a week, or even daily. In the Catholic Catechism, the Eucharist is explained as a memorial and a sacrifice of Christ's passover and death on the cross. It is sacrifice because it re-presents or makes present the sacrifice of the cross, and the Eucharist is the offering not of the bloody sacrifice of the cross, but the unbloody. This means that during Mass, the Catholic believers can take part in the sacrifice of Christ.

Bible believing Christians believe there is no reason to continuously re-present Christ's sacrifice. He has already made us righteous though His sacrifice, and His one time offering of Himself has given us all His forgiveness. Hebrews 9:27- 10:14
To offer Mass as an ongoing sacrifice so people can "feel" closer and a fuller experience is a contradiction to what the Scripture says.

One of the other Sacraments which is doctrinally different is the act of Penance. These are acts which a Catholic must do for forgiveness. There are different "grades" if you will of sin to the Catholic Church. These are mortal and venial sins. Mortal sins are those which are serious and done with "full knowledge and deliberate consent". These end up in the loss of sanctifying grace. If mortal sin is not confessed and forgiven, the sinner faces eternity in hell. Mortal sins can range from adultery, fornication, stealing or lying, blasphemy, harmful religious discrimination, and hateful or lustful thoughts.Venial sins are minor which can weaken a believer's faith, but do not result in loss of sanctification. These include small lies, overeating or drinking, small stuff. Catholics are encouraged to confess these sins, especially when they "pile up"- to keep the believer from weakening their love for God or their families and neighbors.After confessing to a priest, he has the sinner do an act which fits the crime so to speak. This might include repeating a number of prayers, acts of self discipline such as fasting, or good works such as volunteering.

While there is nothing wrong with confessing of one's sin- all Bible believing Christians must seek forgiveness continually, but to the Bible believing Christian, our only confessor is Jesus Christ. Yes, it can also help to have someone who can help you stay accountable, but this person can not give forgiveness for sin. There is only one mediator between man and God- and that is Jesus Christ. (1Tim. 2:5)
And again, Jesus has already "done the work" by dying on the cross for our sins. No amount of what we can do to "atone" is not enough and is no match for what Christ has done for us already.This is not to say we should not do good works- but it is because of our faith in Jesus, which allows the Holy Spirit to impart His gifts and talents in us, to where we can do things for God's kingdom. It is not to do these things out of fear we are not quite saved without them.

I have heard from some people who are disappointed with Christians because when doing such services as working with the poor or homeless, the Christian seems rude, impersonal and/or uncaring in their work. I find this sad and it does a disservice to the purpose of loving one's neighbor as Christ asks us, and it sets a bad example of Christian discipleship in front of non believers. While it is not always the case, I believe some of the reason may be the person's perspective of their work. Obviously, if one is working out of a sense of duty, because they want to serve Christ, they will love, be kind and show a enthusiastic sense of giving. If they have the attitude of having to serve because they have to "make up" for their sanctification, they will feel a sense of having to be there, but not really wanting to be there. It's hard to show love and compassion when your heart is not in it.

We'll look at one more difference in this post to finish our comparison on the Roman Catholic church. This is the practice of Marian worship. We know that Scripture calls Mary favored and blessed among women. She was chosen by God to bear the Son, which is a huge and awesome responsibility. However, Mary was a woman, specially chosen, but not worthy of veneration and honor. Veneration and honor belong to God only- not one of His creations.

Catholics have different levels of worship. These are latiria, which is the adoration of the triune God alone, dulia, which is veneration given the angels and canonized saints. Then there is hyperdulia, which is super veneration given to Mary alone.
Early in the 4th century, it was taught that Mary's virginity continued after the birth of Christ. Out of that, grew the tradition of immaculate conception, which meant that Mary was born without sin and led a sinless life. This was proclaimed dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and the doctrine of Assumption was proclaimed dogma by Pius XII in 1950. Assumption meant that Mary was taken bodily and soul directly to heaven. Other popes have referred to Mary as Mediatrix, which means she is the "co-mediator" with Jesus between God and man. Redemptrix, which means she is Christ's "associate in redemption". Pope Leo XIII though, proclaimed in 1891, that "As no man comes to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by his mother."

Vatican II documents claim that special titles to Mary have no effect on the belief in Christ as sole mediator, but it is impossible for a Bible believing Christian to note the above proclamations by those in the Church to see anything but encouraging followers to place Mary equal with Jesus or even covering His function of our savior and mediator.Bible believing Christians respect Mary as the woman chosen by God, but that is where the similarity ends. Scripture is clear on the subject as the relationship between Jesus and His earthly mother, and more importantly, there are no scriptures which supports the Catholic beliefs about Mary, or the dependence on Mary and the canonized saints in our daily walk with Christ. The Bible is clear that ALL believers in Christ are His Saints. We don't need a Papal decree to state who is a Saint. We do not believe in the infallible man, whether he be the Pope or any other, as the Bible says ALL have sinned and NONE is righteous.

Bible believing Christians know God justifies the believer by declaring us righteous, and sanctification is a life long process as God works in us. Jesus has paid for all sin already, there is nothing we can add by good deeds. We believe we go straight to heaven where sanctification is completed in Christs presence. We do not believe in a purgatory, a place where the dead are still working through the sanctification process. We are either saved by the Grace of Christ by faith, or we are not saved because we do not believe. Once we die, there is no more chance to "make things right". We will not be benefited by prayers of others, nor of lit candles, nor of indulgence. Jesus Christ alone is the only way to God the Father, no one on this earth has ever been perfect except for Jesus Christ and no one on this earth has ever been sinless except for Jesus Christ. He is all we need!

Scripture References on Christ as head of the Church, searching scripture for yourself, Grace through faith alone in Jesus, the sinfulness of ALL men, righteousness through Christ alone- not through our own efforts, God working through us for His purpose, living by faith, immediate life after death with no purgatory, Jesus Christ as sole mediator.

Next time, we'll look at the differences between Judaism and Biblical Christianity.


Anonymous said...

Hi Carolyn,

Thanks for all your comments on my blog, I don't often comment on blogs I follow, but I do enjoy reading them. You have great apologetics blogs.

In Christ,

bryan said...

As a Catholic, I feel I should, for the sake of understanding mention the two words that drive our faith and our lives. Those are "Humility" and "Accountability".