Unknown to the world at large is the fact that millions of bible taught Christians care little about ecumenical dialogue with Catholicism. Because they believe in the promised “apostasy” of the church in the last generation of time they will do anything to stay clear of all the best efforts of ecumenicists to pull them into ecumenicism, syncretism, liberalism or anything else the papacy has to offer.
In the present climate of political correctness the responses from protestant ministers and others seems cautious, apologetic and perhaps even a bit squeamish. Even the Catholic clergy has prefaced many of their assessments of the Popes statements with what seems like disclaimers.
Fox News published an explanation by Father Jonathan Morris, July 11, 2007. Morris said he received a barrage of e-mails after the Pope made his statement and felt compelled One true God to address the concerns of the inquirers. Just in case Protestants may have thought the Pope just condemned them all to hell, Morris said, “…Pope Benedict does not believe, and has never suggested, non-Catholics are all going to hell because they are not members of the Catholic Church.”
Morris takes his concerns a step further and says, “Speaking of salvation, from the sight of things as I see it, it is quite possible that many present day non-Catholic Christians who are fervent believers in, and practitioners of, the teachings of Jesus will get to heaven before the throngs of wishy-washy, nominal Catholics who only show up to the church doors for infant baptism, the taking of marriage vows, and their own funeral. Of course, I don’t know who will be on the other side of the pearly gates, but I believe, with the Pope, that there is more to the challenge of personal justification and salvation than calling oneself a Catholic — or a Christian, for that matter.”
Following the Pope’s remarks Dr. Gerald Kieschnick president of The Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod said, that it was this kind of thinking in the Catholic papacy that precipitated the very 16th century reformation that produced reformers like Luther and Calvin. Dr. Kieschnick said “At that time, Martin Luther said ‘Popes and councils can err.’ Kieschnick said that this is still true today.
Weighing in on the controversy R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Kentucky made repeated reference to the fact that he was not offended. In remarks made in an article to the Baptist Press July 13, 2007, Mohler was not reticent to point out that while he appreciated the Pope’s concern he was sure the Pope was “not right on the papacy, not right on the sacraments, not right on the priesthood, not right on the Gospel, not right on the church.” Like many other Protestant leaders Mohler seemed guided by maturity and Christian love in his response but would make no concession for the Pope’s arrogance or error.
The Washington Post had little new to say about the release of the document but the New York Sun said in an article by Daniel Johnson, July 11, 2007, “Some critics see this new document as part of a ‘traditionalist’ counterrevolution that includes the ending of restrictions on the use of the old Tridentine Mass, which they claim signals a reversion to old-style Catholic anti-Judaism.”
Responses from notable televangelist’s like Pat Robertson, John Hagee or Rod Parsley seem all too conspicuously missing from the media. One lengthy but superb article on the subject of the Pope’s document is found on The Christian Worldview Network website. Ministries Doctor and writer Dennis Wright offers a balanced, fair and informative article entitled “What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate!” posted on July 13, 2007. Wright holds no punches and reminds Christians that it is the Pope’s authority that was first questioned during the reformation and the same questions remain to this day.
Dr. Wright reminds believers of something that is taught in most conservative or mainstream Pentecostal, Evangelical and fundamentalist churches throughout America and other countries around the globe. He says, “Part of the problem stems from what Jesus said to Simon Peter in Matthew 16: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Every Greek scholar understands that “Peter” is the Greek word “petros” (which means “a little rock”) and that Jesus used a different word for the “rock” upon which he would build his church. This is “petra” (which means “a massive strata of rock”). Distinguished Greek scholar A.T. Roberston says: “On this rock [epi tautei tei tetrai] Jesus says a ledge or cliff of rock like that in 7:24 on which the wise man built his house. [Petros] is usually a smaller detachment of the massive ledge.”
Thus, Jesus is not saying that He will build His church upon Peter, but upon Himself! Ephesians 2:20 says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” It should also be pointed out that Peter never claimed supremacy for himself.”
Not mentioned by Dr. Wright is the fact that Peter was never even the leader of the first church in Jerusalem but it was pastored by James the half brother of Jesus. Thirty or more years after his ministry began Peter had to be rebuked by the apostle Paul for his refusal to keep company with Gentiles. Not only is this not the record of a great leader but no where does the bible itself recognize a papacy, a first pope or the call for the succession of popes. This non biblical doctrine has never disturbed Catholic theologians because by putting the Pope on an equal par with Christ as his Vicar or “earthly representative” the Popes can declare anything they want to and it becomes canon or “the word of God.”
It is this pompous and flawed presumption that produced dozens of other non-biblical doctrines and dogma. It is also what led to the reformation.
Men like Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Zwingli and many others should never have been labeled “Protestants.” They were not protesting they were calling for a return to the original message of the Bible and complete recognition of Christ’s supreme authority in his spoken word. Christ and the apostles gave stern warning to anyone who would add to or pervert his words. In Fact Christ said the basis of judgment for every man will in the end be his word and his word alone. (John 12:48)
The Catholic hierarchy not only agreed to put the statements of the Pope on the same level as the words of Christ but they managed to keep God’s word even from the clergy themselves. The few bibles that were available were chained down in the Catholic Cathedrals and could not be removed for study until the seventeenth century.
Although the Bible is no longer chained Catholics have been well conditioned not to seek it out for themselves right up to the present day. In a July 2007 Barna Report that surveyed 4000 Catholics it was discovered that they are 38% less likely to read their Bibles as Protestants. The report did not ask the question of whether they would trust what they read but even a cursory examination of most Catholics would prove that belief in biblical authority is almost non existent among them.
When the Bible was translated and published for “the common man” into English by reformer Martin Tyndale, his reward was to be burned at the stake by the Catholic Church. Martin Luther’s life was threatened for drawing attention to the Bible but other reformers were not so lucky and the list of those who were martyred by the papacy is a matter of historical record.
The sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church was only the beginning of the reformation. It was seen by Luther and others that this notion was not just unbiblical but was a form of mind control based on the fear of hell. No protestant preaching of “hell fire and brimstone” produced as much fear as the Catholic idea of both limbo and purgatory, both which are also not biblical. As the reformation theologians progressed into the latter part of the sixteenth century they discovered that not much of what Catholics were being taught was even remotely biblical.
Both then and now it is believed by many Catholics that the additional teachings added to scriptures by patristic additions, ex-cathedra or papal encyclicals is supplemental to the Bible and thus would only be very helpful. A careful look at these teachings is enough to see that they do more to supplant the Bible truths than to supplement them.
In most cases the Catholic dogma is diametrically opposed to the scriptural teaching as in Mariology, observances of sacraments, repetitive prayers, offering repeated sacrifice in masses, the priesthood, celibacy, and the list goes on. The worst aberration of God’s word is the dangerous and conflicting teaching of penance. Penance not only is unbiblical but it makes God appear as a complete dunce who can be bought off by repeated confessions and mumbling of prayers instead of repenting. Good hearted Catholics know that this doesn’t cover them but the numbers of those who never realize this is frightening to imagine. Those souls have surely been victimized by the very religion they thought was delivering them as they skip along sinning through life between visits to the confessional.
Sadly it is not just the Bible that Catholics have had kept from them but it is their own dark history that remains unspoken. As the reformation progressed Catholic inquisitors tortured and murdered tens of thousand of men and women for the slightest descent from papal dogma.
The uninspired and totally unbiblical foundation for the Crusades was born of the papacy but the blame is placed on all Christendom by the secular world. This is something Protestants neither earned nor deserve.
No Catholic catechism class or message from Catholic pulpits ever contains reference to the hundreds of thousands of Protestants that were brutally hunted down and murdered by papal armies. Albigensis, Waldensis and others were slaughtered until nearly a half million of them had been martyred. In one night papal armies pulled 100,000 French Huguenots out of their homes and killed them.
Catholic history is never taught correctly to the laity which is reflected in the fact that the average Catholic has no idea when their church began. It was not till the edict given by Emperor Constantine to make Christianity the state religion that Catholicism began. That edict was more than 300 years after Christ’s resurrection. For over three hundred years the believers were meeting in homes and buildings with only the scripture as their guide exactly as Protestants do today.
It is impossible to escape the parallels between the ancient Judaic system of worship and modern Catholicism. God gave his laws and commands to Moses who handed them down to the Israelites. The entirety of those laws is contained largely in only two books of the first five books of the Bible. The Jewish priesthood added oral traditions to those first laws that fill dozens of books.
By the time Christ came to earth he had to spend a large portion of time rebuking, refuting and rejecting the huge and lumbering weight of the uninspired and man made traditions of the priesthood. He wasn’t as gentle with the priesthood as PC guided Protestants are with Pope Benedict XVI today. He called them a generation of snakes and a bunch of hypocrites. Jesus would surely be censored by today’s standards. It seems reasonable to assume that he would be just as upset by what we have added to the beauty and simplicity of his gospel, not to mention the twists, perversions and foolish interpretations that we have attached to it in this day.
Yet for all this it does not mean that Catholics are not saved or heaven bound. Fortunately Christ has placed only one prerequisite on us all for entrance into heaven. It is the same for Catholics or Protestants. Jesus said “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) This speaks not to the universality of Catholicism but to the universality of Christ’s salvation. It also reminds us of the oft quoted phrase “God saves us not because of our religion, but in spite of it.”
The more important question than “which is the true church” is “which is the true salvation.” Peter was the first to say that it was not his own name that provides salvation but it is the name of Jesus only. To wit; “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The name is not Baptist, or Catholic or Evangelical or Pentecostal, the name is Jesus.