CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom, I’ve read and appreciated Dave’s book on Roman Catholicism, A Woman Rides the Beast, and also Tom’s book Showtime for the Sheep? which has much in it about his experiences as a Roman Catholic. But both books made me all the more curious as to how the Catholic Church developed in the early centuries. What can you tell me?”
Tom: I was always fascinated by that after I became an evangelical, because I just figured the Catholic Church was all there was and ever was. But as an evangelical, you know, I tried to read some things with regard to the early church and how certain things developed into the Roman Catholic Church, and from my understanding, it really had to do with taking the ordinances that Jesus commanded us to do: baptism, celebration of the Lord’s Table—or the Lord’s Supper—and turning those into something more than He intended—ritualizing them, making them efficacious. And over a period of time, the first couple of centuries, until—what would it be, the fourth century—those things developed to the point where there needed to be a priesthood; there needed to be a certain group of people who could—through their power or through their position, whatever it might be—these would be the only individuals who could preside over these events, but far and away removed from what we find in the Scriptures. But I think that’s how it developed. What do you think?
Dave: Well, Tom, before it was even called the Roman Catholic Church, it was already developing. Acts 20, Paul said to—it must be his favorite elders, he trained them for three years—“Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” So the problem is they want disciples. That’s why we have some of these positive confession teachers, or various ones: Benny Hinn, teaching peculiar doctrines. So then you become a follower of Benny Hinn. We’re supposed to be followers of Jesus Christ and go according to the Bible.
So this was—any of them: the first century, second century, and so forth, third century—they are developing various traditions in order to get men to follow them. Then you had a bit of an argument: who is the chief bishop? You had the bishop of Antioch, bishop of Jerusalem, the bishop of this, the bishop of that, the bishop of Rome. And of course Rome was the headquarters for the Roman Empire, and Constantine was there. And he’s the one that gave freedom to the church, and he became, really, the first Vicar of Christ, Vicarius Christi—he called himself that—he headed up the church. That’s the Emperor, actually. He called the council of Nicea, gave the opening address, decided who would be there—and so forth. So, there was a dispute—a tug-of-war—for a long time as to who was the chief bishop.
And it was not until probably the 800s or 900s before the bishop of Rome managed to finally—you know, well, Peter was here, Paul was here—managed to finally gain the ascendancy so that everybody had to follow him. All right, now that, of course, created a split [in] 1054. Michael Cerularius, who was the patriarch there in Constantinople—he was excommunicated by the pope in Rome over this very doctrine.
So you had the split between Rome in the West and Eastern Orthodoxy in the East. But it all involved—exactly as you were saying, Tom—a group of men who want to lord it over others, and you have to follow them, and they decide. Now we have a magisterium in the Catholic Church. They began to develop these doctrines. Infallibility of the pope—that wasn’t declared until 1852, wasn’t it? The first Vatican Council.
Tom: Pius IX.
Dave: Yes. Earlier you had the Council of Constance there in Germany. They threw out three guys who all were claiming to be popes and they put in a pope. So you had a council that was over the popes, and if it hadn’t been, you might still have three or four popes today rivaling one another. But now we contradict ourselves. Now, the councils that had decreed things now said, “Oh yeah, but we are all subject to the pope because he’s infallible, so we must follow him,” and so forth.
So, Tom, over a period of time there developed not the faith that was once for all given to the saints, but a new faith with new traditions. So the Catholic Church says the traditions are as authoritative as the Bible. Then we’ve got a false gospel.
And there were millions—millions of Christians, true Christians—down through history who did not follow the pope, who were never part of this Roman system, and they were slaughtered by the millions. Martin Luther himself said, “We are not the first.” And if anyone out there is interested, we’ve dealt with this in The Berean Call; [we’d] be happy to send them some of the things that we have dealt with documenting the people who were slaughtered by the popes down through history—not just Jews, but evangelical Christians, whether Albigensians or Waldensians—
Dave: Yes, millions of them who would not give allegiance to the pope. So now this became the focal point, and how do we know you are okay? Because you give your allegiance to the pope, you take your orders from the Catholic Church, and ultimately they are going to finally, you know—they will give you extreme unction, last rites, and they will pray for you when you are in purgatory, and they will say Masses for you, and you had better stick with them because they’ve got the inside track to get you to heaven. It’s a violation of everything that the Bible teaches.
Tom: The sad thing for me, coming out of Roman Catholicism, is I see the evangelical church moving in the direction of Rome like never in my lifetime. It’s almost hard to fathom, but that’s the case. Whether it be the liturgies, the sensual things, the sacraments—all of these things—these ritualisms are attracting the evangelical church. I cannot believe it!
Dave: And deliberate documents: “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” or “Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith,” signed by the Lutherans and the Catholic Church saying we are in agreement, when, in fact, that’s not true.
Gary: Please stay with us, and at the end of the program we’ll let you know where to send your questions for Dave and Tom to respond to in a future Contending for the Faith. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a radio ministry of The Berean Call.