APO-05 NR6-15 (RC-5)
WHY I’M NOT A ROMAN CATHOLIC PART FIVE “THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURES”
About noon on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and a professor of theology, posted on the doors of the Cathedral of Wittenberg, Germany, his 95 theses (complaints). These questions were written in Latin on the subject of indulgences, and invited a public discussion about possible errors in the teachings and practices of the medieval Roman Church. At the same time he sent notice of the fact to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz. He chose the eve of All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), because this was one of the most frequented feasts, and attracted professors, students, and people from all directions to the church, which was filled with precious relics.
With this event, the 16th century Protestant Reformation was formally born.
No one accepted the challenge, and no discussion took place. The professors and students of Wittenberg were of one mind on the subject. But history itself undertook the disputation and defense. The Theses were copied, translated, printed, and spread as on angels” wings throughout Germany and Europe in a few weeks.
After serious deliberation, without consulting any of his colleagues or friends, but following an irresistible impulse, Luther resolved upon a public act of unforeseen consequences. It may be compared to the stroke of the axe with which St. Boniface, seven hundred years before, had cut down the sacred oak, and decided the downfall of German heathenism. He wished to elicit the truth about the burning question of indulgences, which he himself professed not fully to understand at the time, and which yet was closely connected with the peace of conscience and eternal salvation. He chose the orderly and usual way of a learned academic disputation.
The rapid circulation of the Reformation literature was promoted by the perfect freedom of the press. There was, as yet, no censorship, no copyright, no ordinary book-trade in the modern sense, and no newspapers; but colportors, students, and friends carried the books and tracts from house to house. The mass of the people could not read, but they listened attentively to readers. The questions of the Reformation were eminently practical, and interested all classes; and Luther handled the highest themes in the most popular style.
The Theses bear the title, “Disputation to explain the Virtue of Indulgences.” They sound very strange to a modern ear, and are more Catholic than Protestant. They are no protest against the Pope and the Roman Church, or any of her doctrines, not even against indulgences, but only against their abuse. They expressly condemn those who speak against indulgences (Th. 71), and assume that the Pope himself would rather see St. Peter’s Church in ashes than have it built with the flesh and blood of his sheep (Th. 50). They imply belief in purgatory. They nowhere mention Tetzel. They are silent about faith and justification, which already formed the marrow of Luther’s theology and piety. He wished to be moderate, and had not the most distant idea of a separation from the mother church. When the Theses were republished in his collected works (1545), he wrote in the preface: “I allow them to stand, that by them it may appear how weak I was, and in what a fluctuating state of mind, when I began this business. I was then a monk and a mad papist (papista insanissimus), and so submersed in the dogmas of the Pope that I would have readily murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope.”
The Protestant Reformation movement was built on three main tenets:
- The re-establishment of the Scriptures.
- Clarifying the means of salvation.
- The restoration of congregational singing.
In the spring of 1521, a Roman Catholic monk and professor of theology was summoned to appear before Emperor Charles V and the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire. For the previous few years, Martin Luther had fearlessly criticized the abuses of the Roman Church. His criticisms had fanned into flame the long smoldering resentments of the German people toward Rome.
Determined to put an end to the popular religious uprising Luther had sparked, the young Emperor summoned him to Worms, where the Diet would convene. There he would stand trial, and if convicted, he faced execution. Luther’s friend Spalatin warned him against going to Worms, although he had a safe conduct pass from the Emperor. A century earlier, John Hus had been burned at the stake at the Council of Constance, his safe conduct pass notwithstanding. In reply, Luther wrote that he would enter Worms in spite of the “gates of hell and the powers of darkness,” even if there were “as many devils in it as there were tiles on the roofs of the houses”
On the following day at four o’clock Luther stood before “Charles, heir of a long line of Catholic sovereigns—of Maximillian the romantic, of Ferdinand the Catholic, of Isabella the orthodox—scion of the house of Hapsburg, lord of Austria, Burgundy, the Low Countries, Spain, and Naples, Holy Roman Emperor, ruling over a vaster domain than any save Charlemagne, symbol of the medieval unities, incarnation of a glorious if vanishing heritage.” Most men of God would have been intimidated. Luther was not.
After an exchange between the Archbishop of Trier, Johann Eck, and Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk, overwhelmed by the immensity of what he was doing, requested and received the night for prayer and consideration. We can be sure Luther really prayed that night. From his own pen comes this prayer he later recalled as having been his plea:
How frail and sensitive is the flesh of men, and the devil so powerful and active through his apostles and the wise of the world!… O Thou, my God, my God, help me against the reason and wisdom of all the world! Do this! Thou must do it, Thou alone! For this cause is not mine but Thine. For myself I have no business here with these great lords of the world. Indeed, I too, desire to enjoy days of peace and quiet and to be undisturbed. But Thine, O Lord, is this cause. And it is righteous and of eternal importance. Stand by me, Thou faithful, eternal God! I rely on no man.…
O God, stand by me in the name of Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, who shall be my Protector and Defender, yea, my mighty Fortress, through the might and strengthening of Thy Holy Spirit.
Wouldn’t we wish we could have been at Worms on April 18, 1521, when Martin Luther stood against his world, contra mundum? There before him were arrayed the princes and theologians of the Church, and along with them, Charles, heir of a long line of sovereigns—of Maximillian, of Ferdinand the Catholic, of Isabelle—the orthodox-scion of the Hapsburgs, Lord of Burgundy, Austria, Naples, Spain, the Low Countries, Holy Roman Emperor!
Only the Emperor was allowed to sit because the hall was absolutely packed full. Eyewitnesses report that Luther stood at the far end, a ray of sunlight lighting him as he spoke with the boldness of a lion. To the questioning of Johann Eck, Archbishop of Trier and his antagonist, Luther refused to recant what he had written. He would take back nothing, he asserted, that his accusers could not prove wrong from Scripture. And then in that place and at that momentous point in history came this famous dialogue:
ECK: Martin, how can you assume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? Would you put your judgment above that of so many famous men and claim that you know more than they all? You have no right to call into question the most holy orthodox faith, instituted by Christ the perfect lawgiver, proclaimed throughout the world by the apostles, sealed by the red blood of the martyrs, confirmed by the sacred councils, defined by the Church in which all our fathers believed until death and gave to us as an inheritance, and which now we are forbidden by the pope and emperor to discuss lest there be no end of debate. I ask you, Martin—answer candidly and without horns—do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?
LUTHER: Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (For I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.
Tonight we, like Luther, have some questions we want answered about Roman Catholicism. Who would be better to answer them than the supposed first Pope, founder of the Roman Catholic Church, the Apostle Peter? First was he really the Pope? Not as the Roman Catholic Church represents him. Why?
- Peter was married and had a wife and mother-in-law (Mark 2, 1 Cor. 9:5).
- Peter never thought nor taught that the church was built on him (I Pet. 2:4-7). Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.
- Then, what did he teach? Well, let’s ask him by way of the New Testament inspired books and see:
An Interview with St. Peter
St. Peter played a prominent part in the early Church. The book of Acts records several of his early sermons. He authored two books in the Holy Scriptures.
A study of his sayings casts much light on his attitude toward the Church and its teachings.
How would he have answered questions both Catholics and Protestants ask in this ecumenical age? We have written and addressed some, as it were, to St. Peter.
His replies are all taken from his own speeches and writings as we have them in the Holy Scriptures. We have used only the approved Confraternity edition of the Scriptures in giving St. Peter’s replies.
- Could you tell us simply, St. Peter, how we can be saved from our sins?
- “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
Set your hope completely upon that grace which is brought to you in the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 St. Peter 1:13).
“To him all the prophets bear witness, that through his name all who believe in him may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43).
- Do those who have trusted the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins have to anticipate purgatory when they die?
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has begotten us again, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a living hope, unto an incorruptible inheritance–undefiled and unfading, reserved for you in heaven. By the power of God you are guarded through faith for salvation, which is ready to be revealed in the last time. Over this you rejoice” (1 St. Peter 1:3-6).
- But surely, St. Peter, even the true believer has a residue of sins for which he has to make restitution to God in penance?
- “Christ…has suffered for you,…who himself bore our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died to sin, must live to justice; and by his stripes you were healed” (1 St. Peter 2:21, 24).
- St. Peter, is it possible for grace to be purchased by us in any way?
- “You know that you were redeemed from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, not with perishable things, with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 St. Peter 1:18-19).
“Thy money go to destruction with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money. Thou hast no part or lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness…and pray to God, that perhaps this thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:20-22).
- What is your opinion on baptismal regeneration, St. Peter? Are we brought into the family of God through a sacrament of baptism? Is this how we are born again?
- “For you have been reborn, not from corruptible seed but from incorruptible, through the word of God who lives and abides forever” (1 St. Peter 1:23).
- Do you think all men will eventually be saved?
- “But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by that same word have been stored up, being reserved for fire against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (II St. Peter 3:7).
- St. Peter, do you think a Christian should be expected to keep all the ordinances and traditions which grow up around even the true faith?
- Why then do you now try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers not we have been able to beat? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:10-11).
- “Pray to God” (Acts 8:22).
“Invoke as Father him who without respect of persons judges according to each one’s word” (1 St. Peter 1:17).
**Q. Who is it that brings us to God,. St. Peter?
- “Christ also died once for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 St. Peter 3:18).
- St. Peter, do you think we should give great prominence to the Holy Scriptures in speaking to men about God?
- “The word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word of the gospel that was preached to you” (1 St. Peter 1:25).
** Q. Did you ever consider yourself any higher than other Church leaders, St. Peter?
- “Now I exhort the presbyters among you–I, your fellow presbyter” (1 St. Peter 5:1).
- Is it true Sovereign Pontiff Christ Himself? If so, how will He reward faithful Church leaders, St. Peter?
- “And when the Prince of the shepherds appears, you [The presbyters] will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 St. Peter 5:4).
- Would you subscribe to the teaching that the Church should have a separate priesthood distinct from other Christians?
- “Be you yourselves as living stones,…a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 St. Peter 2:15).
- If we are to regard every true believer as a priest, what is the priestly function of the believer?
- “You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that you may proclaim the perfections of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (First Peter 2:9).
- Do I need some other mediator or intercessor?
- “Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
- St. Peter, what should be our proper concept of the Lord Jesus now that He has ascended to God? Should we still think of Him as depicted in the crucifix of as a Babe?
- “Jesus Christ…is at the right hand of God, swallowing up death that we might be made heirs of eternal life; for he went into heaven, Angels, Powers and Virtues being made subject to him” (1 St. Peter 3:22).
- And Peter, what about the church being built on you?
- “And coming to Him as a living stone (Jesus Christ) chief cornerstone”. (1 Pet. 2:4-7). And as St. Paul said: 1 Cor. 3:11 — Other foundation can no man lay….
Seeking to win a Roman Catholic is much like talking to an Orthodox Jew about the merits of boneless hams. They won’t even hear you because of their culture. Roman Catholicism is a culture and identity as much as it is a religion. The key is to get to God’s Word and stay there. The only hope is to be a loving friend who has found some verses in the Bible and wants to share them. You can use their Bible if they have one as easily as your own
- Use the Bible as the Guide for Your Discussion
In any witnessing opportunity, a major issue that needs to be dealt with is authority. Resolve the question: “In what or in whom will you trust for your eternal destiny?” Each person ultimately must choose between man and his teachings or Jesus and His word. To choose the latter is the safest and wisest decision anyone will ever make because Jesus is the truth (John 14:6); His word is truth (John 17:17) and He came to testify to the truth (John 18:37). Furthermore, every religious leader must be held accountable to Scriptural authority (Acts 17:11). No man or pope is infallible (Gal. 2:11-14) and tradition must never suppress the authority of God’s word (Mark 7:7-13; Col. 2:8).
- Use the Bible to Define Truth
Make sure you have agreement on the meaning of essential terms of the Gospel because the Vatican has redefined many of its key words. To a Catholic:
- “justification” is not God declaring one righteous but the process through which one becomes righteous;
- “sin” is not always mortal because lesser sins do not cause death;
- “repentance” is not a change of mind but penance or punishment Catholics must do to be absolved of their sin and
- “eternal life” is not eternal because it terminates whenever a mortal sin is committed.
- Start with Sin
What does God’s justice demand as punishment for sin? In all my years of asking Catholics this question, not one has ever given the correct answer. The truth must be made known — God imposes the death penalty when His law is broken. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The second death is the eternal lake of fire where the unredeemed will pay the eternal punishment for sin (Rev. 20:14). People must first understand they are condemned before they will see their need for a Savior. They must know they are hopelessly lost before they seek God’s provision.
It is so easy to get lost in the complexity of the Catholic religion. Therefore, avoid any trails that lead you away from the saving power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). Proclaim the sufficiency of Christ — His perfect and finished sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10-14), His grace (Rom. 11:6), His word (2 Tim 3:15), His righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30) and His intercession (Heb. 7:25). This is of utmost importance because Rome adds so much that denies Christ’s sufficiency. To His word they add tradition; to His headship they add the pope; to His unique role as mediator they add Mary; to His finished and complete sacrifice they add the Mass; to His high priestly office they add the confessional box; to His righteousness they add their own; to grace they add merit; to faith they add works and to heaven and hell they add purgatory. It is only when Jesus is presented as the all-sufficient Savior that Catholics can be called to repent of these ungodly perversions of the Gospel and be saved by Christ alone.
- Explain the Free Gift
There are three promises Jesus offers to repentant sinners which are totally foreign to most Catholics. They are: 1) the complete forgiveness of sins; 2) the imputation of His perfect righteousness; and 3) the assurance of eternal life. These promises are foreign to Catholics because their church opposes them with a vengeance. Any Catholic who believes these promises of God is condemned with anathema by his church councils (Trent and Vatican II). Rather than trust Jesus for the complete forgiveness of sins, Catholics look to purgatory and indulgences to pay for the residual sin and punishment that still remain. Rather than receive the perfect righteousness of Christ by faith, Catholics seek their own righteousness through good works and sacraments. And finally, rather than believe God’s promise of eternal life, Catholics are taught they are committing the “sin of presumption” if they claim to know with certainty they have eternal life. By offering Catholics what Jesus offers, we are proclaiming the Good News which has never been proclaimed from their church. Clearly, for a Catholic to believe the Good News, they must repent of the false gospel of works. Only then will Jesus save them completely and forever and only then can they stand before a Holy God in the perfect righteousness of His Son.
- Emphasize by Grace Alone
Since grace is the only means by which God saves sinners, anyone who attempts to merit salvation actually nullifies God’s grace (Rom. 11:6). We must, therefore, persuade Catholics to come to Jesus with empty hands of faith. One illustration that has been effective in doing this is to imagine a set of monkey bars suspended over hell. Catholics are hanging and swinging from different rungs labeled baptism, good works, sacraments, indulgences and the Mass because they are taught that these things will keep them out of hell. Now picture Jesus suspended between them and hell saying: “I am the only one who can save you but I can’t until you first let go.” For Catholics this is a giant step of faith because it goes against everything they have been taught. If they are still hanging on when they die, it will be too late. They must let go and believe Jesus will save them before they perish. This is a picture of the very first command of Jesus when He said, “Repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).
- Stick to God’s Word
Finally, always remember to use the word of God. It is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Let it speak for itself. Avoid using your own words because they are void of power. Ask Catholics to read selected Scriptures out loud and then ask them to tell you what God is saying through His word. This eliminates your interpretation and removes you from the middle. A good way to get them into the Bible is to ask them how they hope to get to heaven. If they give the wrong answer, ask them if they would like to know the only way, according to their own Bible. If they say “yes”, take them to The Roman Road, an excellent outline to follow because it presents the bad news first, then the Good News!
|The Romans Road
from the eternal lake of fire. . . to eternal life with Jesus