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A Critique of Some of the False Teachings of the Catholic Church: #1 That the Catholic Church is the One True Church

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Some of the False Teachings of the Catholic Church

#1 That the Catholic Church is the One True Church

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Catholic Church declared in the Fourth Lateran Council that: “There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation”,[1] a statement of what is known as the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. The Church is further described in the papal encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as the “Mystical Body of Christ”.[2]

According to the Catechism, the Catholic Church professes to be the “sole Church of Christ”, which is described in the Nicene Creed as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.[3] The church teaches that its founder is Jesus Christ, who appointed the Twelve Apostles to continue his work as the Church’s earliest bishops.[4] Catholic belief holds that the Church “is the continuing presence of Jesus on earth”[5] and that all duly consecrated bishops have a lineal succession from the apostles.[6] In particular, the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), is considered the successor to the apostle Simon Peter, from whom the Pope derives his supremacy over the Church.[7] The Church is further described in the papal encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as the Mystical Body of Christ.[8] Thus, the Catholic Church holds that “the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic … This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.”[9]

In the encyclical Mortalium Animos of 6 January 1928, Pope Pius XI wrote that “in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors” and quoted the statement of Lactantius: “The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation.”[10] Accordingly, the Second Vatican Council declared: “Whosoever, […] knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”[11] In the same document, the Council continued: “The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter.”[12] And in a decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, it stated: “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognise the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.”[13]

The Church teaches that the fullness of the “means of salvation” exists only in the Catholic Church, but the Church acknowledges that the Holy Spirit can make use of ecclesial communities separated from itself to “impel towards Catholic unity” and thus bring people to salvation in the Catholic Church ultimately. It teaches that anyone who is saved is saved through the Catholic Church but that people can be saved ex voto and by pre-baptismal martyrdom as well as when conditions of invincible ignorance are present,[14] although invincible ignorance in itself is not a means of salvation.

The Catholic Church goes to great lengths to show that it alone is the Church established by Jesus. The problem is that it doesn’t square with the Book they say they follow and respect. As a matter of fact it doesn’t even come close. How is it possible that the simple, humble, primitive Church of Christ and the Apostles could become the harlot portrayed in Revelation 17 & 18?

The Old Testament Our School Teacher

There is a reason we have the Old Testament, and a reason we should study it, because it will teach us how a once pure virgin can become a prostitute, as typified by Israel. Solomon said that there is “nothing new under the sun, what has been will be again.” So when we read the Old Testament we shouldn’t read it in a vacuum as if it were isolated from the New Testament or our Christian world today. Man has the susceptibility to keep repeating the same mistakes. So, when we read about the life and times of Israel, their ups and down, their backsliding and their repentance, we should see it as a reflection of our own weaknesses. Their lives and their problems are an echo of what we can expect if we fall into the same traps. The book of Judges illustrates this point well. In Judges 2:18-19, the author says:

Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

The Christian Church is no different. From its very birth it was warned that wolves would creep in under the radar. Christ Himself said that “Many will come in my name saying I am He, deceiving many.” And, John pointed at Diotrephes, in 3 John 9-10, as one “who always sought the preeminence.” In addition to being ambitious, proud, disrespectful of authority, rebellious, and inhospitable, he turns his anger onto those brothers who wanted to show hospitality, and excommunicated them from the Church. The point is that we have a testimony from the Old Testament and New Testament that those men exist everywhere and in every period of time. The Bible teaches us to keep our guard up against Christians who would seek to have worldly power over us. Jesus says in Luke 22:25-26,

The kings of the Gentiles are deified by them and exercise lordship [ruling as emperor-gods] over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors [well-doers or gift givers]. But this is not to be so with you; on the contrary, let him who is the greatest among you become like the youngest, and him who is the chief and leader like one who serves.

That which has happened to the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church should not surprise us, if we are familiar with the whole Bible. The warnings are clear and numerous. Our ignorance will be no excuse when the clock strikes twelve.

Some Particulars

So, we see how impurity through power hungry men can sneak into a once pure Church. It has happened to the Catholic Church, and it has happened to the Protestant Church. No need to pretend, it is a fact. But, let’s look at some particulars.

The favorite passage and proof text used to “prove” that the Catholic Church is the one true Church is Matthew 16:13-19.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The use of this text as a foundation for their claim has some holes in it. They have built their house on the shifting sands of mortal men which history and the unchanging word of God will demonstrate.

First Things First

First, we must go all the way back to the primitive Church; surely those Apostles and early believers will have something to say about this. Paul is first, Galatians 1:6-8

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!…

Now let’s hear from Tertullian.

Tertullian: 160AD-220AD The Perscription Against Heretics


Let me return, however, from this digression to discuss the priority of truth, and the comparative lateness of falsehood, deriving support for my argument even from that parable which puts in the first place the sowing by the Lord of the good seed of the wheat, but introduces at a later stage the adulteration of the crop by its enemy the devil with the useless weed of the wild oats. For herein is figuratively described the difference of doctrines, since in other passages also the word of God is likened unto seed. From the actual order, therefore, it becomes clear, that that which was first delivered is of the Lord and is true, whilst that is strange and false which was afterwards introduced. This sentence will keep its ground in opposition to all later heresies, which have no consistent quality of kindred knowledge inherent in them–to claim the truth as on their side.

Taking Paul’s advice and not listening to any other Gospel, and using Tertullian’s test of truth, let’s consider the chronology of this strange and foreign gospel presented by the Catholic Church.

When did the teaching, that the Catholic Church is the one true Church, originate?

From we read,

The Roman Catholic Church contends that its origin is the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ in approximately AD 30. The Catholic Church proclaims itself to be the church that Jesus Christ died for, the church that was established and built by the apostles. Is that the true origin of the Catholic Church? On the contrary. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Catholic Church does not have its origin in the teachings of Jesus or His apostles. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the papacy, worship/adoration of Mary (or the immaculate conception of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the assumption of Mary, or Mary as co-redemptrix and mediatrix), petitioning saints in heaven for their prayers, apostolic succession, the ordinances of the church functioning as sacraments, infant baptism, confession of sin to a priest, purgatory, indulgences, or the equal authority of church tradition and Scripture. So, if the origin of the Catholic Church is not in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, what is the true origin of the Catholic Church?
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After the Edict of Milan in AD 313, when Constantine lifted the ban on the Christian religion it became politically expedient to incorporate the then large pagan religious population into the Christian religion. Constantine was first and foremost a politician, and after years of dealing with the Christians and not being able to destroy them, he decided to join them; he would employ the well-known Roman maxim of “Divide et impera,” divide and conquer, and defeat the Christians by corrupting them, much the same as Balaam’s advice to Balak, Numbers 31:16. After years of persecution the Christians were invited into every aspect of society, and with the wounds and scars still healing, earned in the service to their true King and Lord, Christians lowered the banner of truth and raised the banner of compromise, relaxing in their new freedom, and received instead seats of authority and honor, despising the days of their difficulty.

When the Catholic Church absorbed Roman paganism, it simply replaced the pantheon of gods with the saints. Just as the Roman pantheon of gods had a god of love, a god of peace, a god of war, a god of strength, a god of wisdom, etc., so the Catholic Church has a saint who is “in charge” over each of these, and many other categories.

The supremacy of the Roman bishop (the papacy) was created with the support of the Roman emperors. Constantine and his successors gave their support to the bishop of Rome as the supreme ruler of the church. The Roman bishop eventually rose to supremacy, due to the power and influence of the Roman emperors. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the popes took on the title that had previously belonged to the Roman emperors—Pontifex Maximus.
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Second Timothy 4:3–4 declares,

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Two Catholics have much to say in this respect, a respected historian, von Dollinger, and apologist, Peter de Rosa.

Peter de Rosa says,

It may jolt them [Catholics] to hear that the great Fathers of the Church saw no connection between it [Matthew 16:18] and the pope. Not one of them applies “Thou art Peter” to anyone but Peter. One after another they analyse it: Cyprian, Origen, Cyril, Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine. They are not exactly Protestants.

Not one of them calls the bishop of Rome a Rock or applies to him specifically the promise of the Keys. This is as staggering to Catholics as if they were to find no mention in the Fathers of the Holy Spirit or the resurrection of the dead. . . .

von Dollinger says,

Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matthews 16:18; John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter’s successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them whose commentaries we possess – Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas – has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter!

Dave Hunt in his excellent book A Woman Rides the Beast adds,

That the popes for centuries relied upon fraudulent documents (The Donation of Constantine and the False Decretals) to justify their pomp and power even after their exposure as deliberate counterfeits betrays how little these “vicars of Christ” cared for truth. It also tells us that the popes didn’t rely for justification of their papal authority upon Matthew 16:18 and alleged apostolic succession from Peter, or they would not have needed false documents to authenticate their position. Such an application of “Thou art Peter” was invented much later.

There is so much more that can be said on this subject. Let it suffice that Tertullian’s test of truth and the New Testament’s warning against impostures makes it perfectly clear that the Catholic Church’s claim that they are the one true Church is declared FALSE. Their own scholars, two of which I quote, the Church Fathers, and the New Testament have witnessed against them. But don’t think that there is not more evidence; we have only scratched the surface. The harlot has applied much makeup to hide the truth. She has made herself “attractive” to men through her gaudiness. Once the makeup is removed the monster is exposed, but the weakness of the flesh is the downfall of men, because men love deception and darkness.

Series Navigation<< A Critique of Some of the False Teachings of the Catholic Church: IntroductionA Critique of Some of the False Teachings of the Catholic Church: #2 The Infallibility of the Catholic Church >>

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