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Papal Presumption

Question: The Pope recently [7-10-07] essentially put down evangelical churches as not deserving to be called churches (Orthodox churches are held as defective, while other Christian denominations are declared “not churches in the proper sense”: dominus-iesus, 2000). What do you think ?

In all honesty it is quite the opposite.

To Scripturally qualify as a church, which in the Bible is a called-out-assembly of true believers (Acts 5:11-13; 11:26), one must at least believe the Biblical, apostolic “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), for it is only when one does that he/she become part of Christ's body the church. (Jn. 3:3-7; Acts 2:38; 10:34-47; 15:7-9; 1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:13)

"The word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph. 1:13)

While the religions of this world teach various forms of salvation by personal merit and or trust in false gods and institutions, the Biblical gospel is principally distinctive in that the God of the Bible is the sole object of faith for salvation, and which is not based upon one's own merit or that of a church. Rather, coming before God as guilty sinners, destitute of any means whereby he may escape Hell and gain Heaven, (Gn. 15:6; Rm. 3:9-5:1; Gal. 2:16; 3: Eph. 2:8,9; 2Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5) when the repentant soul effectually casts His faith upon Christ and His blood to save him (which faith is from God), then he is washed from all his sins, sanctified by God's life-giving Spirit (which then indwells him), and is justified by the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ (1Cor. 6:11; Rm. 3:25; 4:1-8; 2Cor. 5:21) And which decision is shown by baptism by immersion. (Acts 8:38 – and which requires things an infant cannot exercise: Acts 2:38; 8:12, 37.) While God enabled souls to believe and confess the living and true God in the Old Testament without having the Holy Spirit in them (but not without His aid), and receiving the “gift of the Holy Spirit” and being baptized are sometimes concomitant events in Scripture, it is the faith in the Lord Jesus which baptism “confesses” (in “body language”) that appropriates forgiveness and justification, and thus is shown to precede baptism. (Acts 10:43-47; 15:7-9)

The believing soul is confirmed as regarding having true saving faith by works of faith. (Gn. 22; Ja. 2) Abraham''s faith was “counted for righteousness" before he offered up Issac, (Gn. 15:6; 22; Rm. 4:3-6) yet he is also said to be justified by works done in faith, as God justifies the unGodly by faith, but works “justify” one as having true faith. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. " (Romans 10:10) One can even be saved/born again in the desert without even being introduced to a church (Acts 8:26-40), yet if such faith is real they will look for a Bible believing/preaching church and continue in the Word. (Acts 2:41-47; 9:26-28)

This is all of grace as God draws those He chooses to Christ, (Jn. 6:44; cf. 12:32), opens hearts, (Acts 16:14), and grants repentant faith. (Acts 11:18) Thus God moves and enables the lost to do what they otherwise would not and could not do, yet damnation must be based upon what evil a soul did but could have resisted (at least initially) or the obedience he could have chosen (Gn. 4:7) and did not or turned from, (Rv. 20:12-14; Mk. 6:20ff) versus being condemned for what their fathers did. (2Kg. 14:5-6; 2Chron. 25:4; Jer. 1:29-30; Ezek. 18:20)

Westminster Shorter Larger Catechism, Question 72 teaches,

What is justification?

Answer: Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

Faith versus works

Strictly speaking, eternal life is either a gift (Rm. 6:23) on God/Christ's expense and righteousness, received by faith which is counted for righteousness (but with works attesting to faith), or it is something morally attained by one's works, by themselves being good enough for Heaven, avoiding the abasement of coming to Christ as one damned and destitute, and who can only cast themselves upon the mercy of God, trusting His Son to save them by His sinless shed blood.

Under “the law” salvation was to be gained by fulfilling all the Law, (Gal. 3:10) which only Christ did. The Law was designed to define sin (“for by the law is the knowledge of sin”) and manifest God's holiness, and thus humble self righteous man as one who is guilty and in need of God's mercy, and as a consequence be enabled to be truly holy. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul shows how those who did not know the Law disobeyed the light they did have (which was in accordance with the Law), and in Romans 2 He indicts those who had the Law as guilty of breaking it, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.“ (Rm. 3:19,20)

This disallowance of gaining justification before God as actually attained by moral worthiness, versus imputed righteousness through faith which effects obedience, applies to any like system of works-righteousness. The apostle Paul, in dealing precisely with this difference, states "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the unGodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. {6} Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, {7} Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. {8} Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. " (Romans 4:4-8)

Rather than God justifying souls because they are Godly, this states that He justifies the unGodly. And rather than eternal life being truly earned by good works, it states salvation is “Not of works,” (Eph. 2:9) “not by works of righteousness that we have done, by according to His mercy.” (Titus 3:5a)

In contrast to salvation by works is God-given confidence in His mercy in Christ, which justifies those who are of a poor and contrite heart, who are damned because of their works, and destitute of any merit whereby they may be gain eternal life, and who thus trust in the crucified and risen Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ to save them by His sinless shed blood.

"Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. " (Romans 3:25-27)

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: " (1 Peter 3:18)

The manner of justifying faith

However, it is also clear that the manner or quality of God-given faith which appropriates justification is one that shows obedience towards its Object, and thus the faith which justifies is normatively first shown in baptism, and then in living it out. Therefor the same Paul who stated "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast," (Ephesians 2:8-9) also stated "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." (Romans 2:13) And grace is purposed to work so that "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. " (Romans 8:4) That is not because works actually gain justification, so that one is actually good enough to be with God, but because faith is manifested by works, and which serve as the barometer of what we believe. For what we do reveals what we truly believe, overall and at the time we do (or refrain from doing) something.

In regards to this a distinction may appear to be seen between essential justification, which, as seen in its initial act, is not appropriated because of any merit one brings, and that of having works which confirm one as having faith and is recompensed, but it is still faith that gains acceptance with God, and then is rewarded. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. " (Hebrews 10:35)

Roman Catholicism does believe that a soul initially comes to God with nothing to offer, but it is held that the formal cause of justification consists of a actual interior holiness, and then such must become perfect to enter Heaven (see further below). To be sure, regeneration does effect an interior change, but this was not the basis for Abraham being declared righteous, as if that was when he was born again or made holy inside, but “his faith is counted as righteousness.” If regeneration was required to be accounted righteous, then no one could be until the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all believers, which John 7:39 indicates was not the case before the Lord's resurrection.

In support of justification by works, Roman Catholics invoke James 2:21-24, but which, unlike Romans 4 (which deals with what actually appropriates justification, faith or works), focuses on those who claim they are saved by a faith that has no works, and states, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? {22} Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? {23} And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." (James 2:21-24)

The key issue here is in what sense a man is justified by works. It is true that, as Paul stated. without contradicting himself, “the doers of the law shall be justified,” as works “justify” one as having true faith, and which faith God counts as righteousness, but if this is referring to the basis for man's essential justification then it contradicts Gn. 15:6 and Rm. 4:3, in which, although Abraham had done works of faith beforehand, it states that he was justified because he believed God's promise to do what he could not do.

"And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: {20} He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; {21} And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. {22} And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. {23} Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; {24} But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; {25} Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. " (Romans 4:19-25)

And like as Abraham could not bear children let alone a nations of multitudinous people, neither can man actually morally merit eternal life. But it can be said that Abraham was justified by works in the sense that only a kind of faith which works obedience is salvific, though it is the faith that is behind works which procures justification. Abraham showed he had a type of faith which was “confessed,” or exhibited in obedience towards its Object, confirming that he was saved.

Though I am not dogmatic in all my understanding of Rm. 3:8-5:1 with Ja. 2:21-25, and here is a rather extensive and objective analysis of it, I see this as relating to Rm. 10:10, in that God justifies the unGodly by God-given faith, not justifying them because they morally earned it, but by faith which results in being declared Godly and thus overall practically living so, which life of virtue justifies or fulfills that he is one of true saving faith.

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. {10} For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. {11} For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. " (Romans 10:9-11)

Here we see that a faith that justifies and is salvific is one that is confessed, though God, which knows the heart, and the faith that He gives, does not need to see the outward response to count this faith as righteousness. As with 1 John 5:13, salvation is assured based upon a faith that overall follows, and which includes repentance when convicted of not following the Lord in some way.

As was said by Protestant reformers, and who preached the necessity of works if one is to be considered as having true faith, one is justified by faith alone (as regards what appropriates justification) but not by a faith that is alone (meaning a faith that will not effect corresponding fruit.) Thus Christ is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him," such as evidence “things that accompany salvation.” (Hebrews 5:9; 6:9)

For again, saving faith must be a kind of faith that is not inert, but will confess Christ (if anyways able), and which confession certainly goes beyond words, with baptism being normatively the first formal expression of that faith. And as such, it can even be the occasion but not the cause of conversion, of effectual confession of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.

A faith is not salvific that will not overall follow the Lord, and repent when convicted of not doing so, as does true faith. (Jn. 10:28,28; Heb. 3:6,14; 5:9; Jer. 31:18,19; 2Cor. 7:9-11) And believers are called to “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end,” as it is an overcoming faith that is salvific, (Rv. 2:7,11,17; 3:4,5,21; 21:7) which is in contrast to what believers are warned against, that of having “an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God,” and impenitently sinning willfully, of “drawing back into perdition,” having “fallen from grace,” and making Christ of “none effect,” and forfeiting what faith appropriated, (Gal. 5:1-4; Heb. Heb. 3:12; 10:19-39) inferring that this is possible.

Therefore believers must be chastened unto repentance, “chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1Cor. 11:32) Saving faith trusts God to keep one in the faith, to perfect that which concerns him, (Phil, 1:6; Ps. 138:8) and responds to His love and discipline. Yet while saved souls do grow in holiness, and which justifies the claim to be part of the elect, (1Thes. 1:3-10) this is a fruit of justification by faith, not the actual basis for it. Otherwise neither the penitent publican or the s-called “good thief” could have been justified. (Lk. 18:10-14; 23:39-43)

The place of merit

As the faith that appropriates justification, and by which the unGodly are counted righteous, is the kind of faith that will be evidenced (presuming opportunity), therefore it is by such evidence that one is declared to be a true believer, or “worthy.” And as God is faithful to recompense faith, so believers are rewarded according to their faith.

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: " (Matthew 25:34-35)

"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. " (Luke 21:36)

"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 3:4; 21:7)

However, any idea of believers being “worthy” and having any “merit” for salvation must not be understood as meaning they actually deserve rewards and salvation, as in reality what all culpable mortals deserve is damnation, but ass it pleases God to recompense faith, He being the author of it and of all good works, and faithful to His promise, so under this economy He judges souls as having real faith and thus as worthy to be rewarded.

But it is only those who rest in Christ and His work for salvation that do “things which accompany salvation. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Hebrews 6:10)

Having gone into the issue of faith, works and merits, we can next examine Roman Catholic teaching on these, both what it said and what is conveyed. In which it can be seen that this is not a matter of Rome simply teaching the necessity of having real faith in the Lord Jesus to save the lost on His expense and righteousness, and which effects works which “merit” rewards, but that “merit” in Roman Catholicism as part of a vast bureaucratic religious system effectually promotes a church full of souls expecting to merit salvation due to their moral worthiness, and or the power of Rome, which at best is seen as being part of an ambiguous idea of God's mercy.

Roman Catholic salvation

The salvation process in Roman Catholicism normally begins when she sprinkles infants to baptize them (which mode Biblically is immersion: Mk. 1:10; Acts 8:36, as the word denotes), supposing by the act itself (ex opere operato) this takes way "original sin" (even if they themselves cannot exercise faith), and gives the baptized the Holy Spirit by which he is justified.

There is an exception clause to baptism being the act by which one is regenerated. Roman Catholicism officially teaches that by a "by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner, or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance" (the latter of which can be appropriated by proxy), the justified are "really made just [righteous], and not merely declared or reputed so." (Catholic Encyclopedia>Salvation>Baptism)

Note that regeneration by a “perfect act of charity” means “if the contrition be perfect (contritio caritate perfecta), then active justification results, that is, the soul is immediately placed in the state of grace even before the reception of the sacrament of baptism or penance, though not without the desire for the sacrament (votum sacramenti). If, on the other hand, the contrition be only an imperfect one (attritio), then the sanctifying grace can only be imparted by the actual reception of the sacrament (cf. Trent, Sess. VI, cc. iv and xiv). (Catholic Encyclopedia> Sanctifying Grace)

This exception clause (and the “baptism by desire aspect sees dispute) is the closest that Rome is to Scriptural salvation by grace, in which a soul is born again by the kind of faith that baptism properly requires and expresses, yet it is the faith and not actually the act that appropriates forgiveness and can precede the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:43-47)

Roman Catholicism does acknowledge that in initial justification the soul has no merit, yet she holds that the formal cause of justification is not faith which is counted for righteousness, with works following, but one's own personal interior holiness:

Although the sinner is justified by the justice of Christ, inasmuch as the Redeemer has merited for him the grace of justification (causa meritoria), nevertheless he is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness (causa formalis). (Catholic Encyclopedia> Sanctifying Grace)

This would mean that every baptized baby, even Hitler, was born again, and consistent with what we see regeneration effecting in Scripture (though there are no manifest examples of infants being baptized), we would expect to see baptized Roman Catholic children overall evidencing superior morality and holy behavior more than those raised in non paedobaptism faiths, other things being equal. But having lived and outreached in a predominate Catholic area for decades, I do not see this as the case, and while Roman Catholicism focuses upon works as justificatory, yet Roman Catholicism overall fosters a faith that testifies of less commitment and conservative values than her evangelicals counterparts, even while both faith see increasing declension overall.

The idea that the ritual of baptism effects a change but which formally justifies a soul begins a process of salvation through a system and in which confidence in ritual and the church and one's own merit is greatly fostered.

As regards merit, the Roman Catholic catechism states,

"Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification and for the attainment of eternal life (Catechism of the Catholic church, Part 3, Life in Christ, Merit, 2010)

The term “merit” refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members..., (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2006)

Regarding those who cooperated with grace, Trent concludes that,

"nothing further is wanting to the justified [baptized and faithful], to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life." (Trent, Chapter XVI; The Sixth Session Decree on justification, 1547)

Canon 32 similarly states,

"If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema." (Trent, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 32. Also see The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1919 ed., Decree on Justification, Chapters V, VI, VII, X, XIV, XV, XVI) (emphasis mine)

Shortened, this teaches, "If anyone says that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God does not truly merit eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself, let him be anathema."

An additional teaching is that this justification can be increased by doing works which are enabled by the grace of God dispensed through Catholic sacraments, and which grace includes that of the merits of saints. (Indulgetiarum Doctrina 4)

The Roman Catholic Council of Trent "infallibly" defines that one is,

"justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ", and that his justification is increased by personal works. (Council of Trent, Canons 24, 32)

While there is growth in grace, and stronger evidence for his justified condition and thus one can be a brighter light for Christ (and which difference I think will be for eternity), the reason the new believer is washed and justified is because God purified his heart by faith, (Acts 15:9) and counted faith as righteousness, and also sanctified Him by His Holy Spirit. (1Cor. 6:11)

Moreover, said, in one sense it can be seen that believers are “justified” by works as regards having true faith, and are thus “worthy” of reward, however, this doctrine and emphasis upon works is not simply an imbalanced reaction against Reformation emphasis on works, but it provides a presumption that (normally) one has become a child of God by infant baptism (and with the effect of regeneration being the basis for being accounted righteous), and which begin a process which makes grace a means or meriting heaven through the Roman Catholic system, which teaches that she has a “Treasury of merit” out of which she dispenses grace via her sacraments which enable one to do works which are meritorious for salvation. (The church is a channel of grace “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,” [Eph. 4:16] but in Rome this becomes an institutionalized system with unwarranted faith in “The Church” and her rituals, and and which fosters perfunctory professions.)

While Roman Catholic theologians labor to try to articulate the distinction between two ideas of merit, (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10202b.htm) interpreting Trent as to mean “merit” as meaning due to God's faithfulness, this and the fine distinction Rome makes between “causa meritoria' and “causa formalis' is unknown or effectively lost upon almost all of her members (as well as those without), whose natural disposition is to believe they are children of God and who will accepted into glory because they are pretty good people (compared to their neighbors who think likewise). Thus, apart from stressing the depravity of man and his moral destitution by which he may escape Hell and gain Heaven, and his desperate need for a “day of salvation” (2Cor. 6:2) by person and direct repentance toward god and faith in the Lord Jesus to save Him on His expense and merit, then few man ever come to that point, but will suppose he will enter glory based on his relative goodness, with some mercy thrown in, usually do to his connection with the Catholic church and faith in its power with God.

The latter reality is fostered by the preaching of Rome as well as its theology. Catholics are seldom preached to lost sinners in need of a day of salvation, but typically are treated as believers from the point of infant baptism onward. And for all its emphasis upon works, what is effectually conveyed is that the power of Rome and one's own goodness will eventually obtain eternal life with God for even the most nominal of Catholics, from the Ted Kennedy type politicians to the parishioners who evidence no real repentance, but which Rome treats as members in life and in death. This speaks louder than words.

Purgatory

In Roman Catholicism, for those who do not cooperate with grace enough to gain Heaven directly upon death (as canonized saints are held as having done), Rome provides a place called ''Purgatory'', where they are said to suffer to various degrees for an indeterminate time, before being granted entrance into the abode of God. “It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God's sanctity and justice. These must be expiated [atoned, be compensated] either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or 'purifying' punishments.” (INDULGENTIARUM DOCTRINA; cp. 1. 1967)

whosoever comes into God's presence must be perfectly pure for in the strictest sense His "eyes are too pure, to behold evil" (Habakkuk 1:13). For unrepented venial faults for the payment of temporal punishment due to sin at time of death, the Church has always taught the doctrine of purgatory.” (Catholic Encyclopedia>Purgatory)

CCC 1023: Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ...(provided they were not in need of purification when they died . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death...)

While it is true that God despises the sight of sin (though He sees all, [Prov. 15:3], with Habakkuk 1:13 not being literal), and one must be perfect to see God, the salvation by grace is not a means of enabling man to become practically perfect so that he can be saved, but one that justifies the unGodly by faith, and even it is Godliness that validates true faith, this does not require or perfection of character or provide for it postmortem (after death) or chastisement, but one that enabled even the “good thief” could go to be with the Lord that day. RCs will argue he went through enough suffering to purify him, but it is not simply suffering that makes one righteous, and does not happen in a few hours. And in Scripture what is taught clearly about the postmortem place of believers is that they are with the Lord immediately, while perfection of character takes place in this word with its temptations and trials, and thus even the Son was made perfect (complete in overcoming every way we were tempted) yet without sin. (Heb. 2:10; 5:9) See here for more on this.

Indulgences

This begats another unBiblical practice, that of “indulgences,” prayers, sufferings, or offering$ which promise to make one's stay in purgatory shorter, but which can be transferred to another person now in purgatory. An indulgence is held to offer the penitent sinner the means of clearing the debt he must pay during his life on earth, for sins which he/she has been forgiven of. "An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints, through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”

Partial as well as plenary indulgences can always be applied to the dead by way of suffrage. (INDULGENTIARUM DOCTRINA; Norms, n. 1;3; cf. Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, Normae de indulgentiis, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1999, p. 21; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1471)

Abuse of the Catholic teaching on indulgences, including selling them (although the Pope sanctioned it, and the pope's palace was partly built by extorting monetary indulgences), was a seminal objection by Luther in beginning the Protestant Reformation. Catholicism also teaches that departed believers in Purgatory may be helped by prayers for the dead. (New Advent; Purgatory, Indulgences)

The papacy

The perpetuated Petrine papacy

Some other false doctrines flow from Rome, but as as her principal error of fostering faith in one's merit and in the power of Rome for salvation flows from her perpetuated Petrine papacy, I will deal more with that foundation.

Rome asserts that Peter was made the supreme head of the church, and whose power and position is to be perpetuated through a progression of ecclesiastical papal progeny. We shall see that Biblically this is a presumptuous sin, yet it should be stated that even if a Romish Petrine papacy did exist, the authenticity of the one (or a) true church is not based upon physical ecclesiastical linkage, any more than the authenticity of a true Jew rests upon physical lineage back to Abraham. Rather, in both cases (Rm. 2:28, 29), it rests upon Abrahamic-type faith in the apostolic gospel of the grace of God, by which one enters the church, but which again Rome manifestly does not preach.

The R.C. exaltation of Peter is foundationally based upon Mt. 16:13-19, wherein there is a play on the word "rock" by the Lord, in which the immovable "Rock" upon which Christ would build His church is the confession that Christ was the Son of God, and thus by implication it is Christ himself. The verse at issue, v.18, cannot be divorced from that which preceded it, in which the identity of Jesus Christ is the main subject. In the next verse (17) that is what Jesus refers to in telling blessed Peter thatflesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,and in v. 18 that truth is what the “this rock” refers to, with a distinction being made between the person of Peter and this rock. This is the only interpretation that is confirmed, as it must be, in the rest of the New Testament. For in contrast to Peter, that the LORD Jesus is the Rock (“petra”) or "stone" (“lithos,” and which denotes a large rock in Mk. 16:4) upon which the church is built is one of the most abundantly confirmed doctrines in the Bible (petra: Rm. 9:33; 1Cor. 10:4; 1Pet. 2:8; cf. Lk. 6:48; 1Cor. 3:11; lithos: Mat. 21:42; Mk.12:10-11; Lk. 20:17-18; Act. 4:11; Rm. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; cf. Dt. 32:4, Is. 28:16) including by Peter himself. (1Pt. 2:4-8) Rome's current catechism attempts to have Peter himself as the rock as well, but also affirms: On the rock of this faith confessed by St Peter, Christ build his Church,” (pt. 1, sec. 2, cp. 2, para. 424) which understanding some of the ancients concur with.

While men can argue about the significance of the difference between the Greek (the language the Holy Spirit chose to express the New Testament revelation in) words “Petros” (Peter, or stone in Jn. 1:42) and “petra” (rock) in Mt. 16:18, and what the LORD might have said in Aramaic, the phrase “this stone” (“touton lithosis”), used to identify the cornerstone which is the foundation of the church, (Mt. 21:42) is only used of Christ as regarding a person. (Mt. 21:44)

It is by the “rock of this faith” that the church not only exists but it gains its members. (1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13) And it is by the essential faith which Peter expressed that church overcomes: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1Jn, 5:5; cf (1Jn. 2:13,14,25) And which Peter himself confirms: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (1 Pet 5:8-9)

While men will fail us, the church has a more sure foundation,(Is. 28:16) which is Jesus Christ, (1Cor. 3:11) upon which cornerstone the LORD placed His true apostles (plural, and whose authenticity depended upon being sovereignly called of God, and having physically seen the LORD: Acts 1:21,22;1Cor. 9:1; cf. Rv. 21:14; and manifesting purity, power and Scriptural conformity: Acts 4:33; 17:2,11; 2Cor. 6:1-10; 12:12), and prophets in building His church and upon them the “living stones of believers in general (Eph. 2:20; Gal. 2:9; 1Pt. 2:5)

That God uses man to share the faith and strengthen others in it is clear, but it was not through an infallible office that the faith of Israel was preserved, as their leaders were manifestly not infallible, but God sovereignly raised up prophets to reprove them. And men like Luther, despite their faults, partly operated in that office, in forth-telling if not fore-telling. And by such servants of God essential salvific faith was preserved, and thus the church, which is most essentially a spiritual entity. This will be expanded upon further below.

That Peter was the initial chief apostle should be without dispute, but while Peter is manifest as the initial brethren type leader of the apostles and leader of the early church in Jerusalem, and exercising a pastoral car of the churches, he is not presented, declared to be, or venerated as a supreme, singular infallible head, much less a demi-god over all the church (and even the secular world for hundreds of years), which the Roman pontiff grew to be exalted as. And in contrast to the Roman papacy, humble and pious Peter was evidently poor (Acts 3:6), and was married (Mt. 8:14; 1Cor. 9:4), and would not even let a man bow down to him (Acts 10:25, 26). And rather than providing any example of the church looking to Peter as its supreme infallible head, as holy as he was, his declension as regards treating the Gentiles as one with the Jews, and his need to be publicly rebuked by the apostle Paul (Gal. 2:6-13) is clearly noted. And whose words in vs. 5-9 serve to warn against exalting men as Caesar-popes.

Proper exegesis requires that we interpret the Old Testament as well as the gospels by the future revelation promised by Christ (Jn. 16:12-15) in the rest of the New Testament, in which we see the application and the doctrine behind what Christ declared. Searching therein we do not find even one command ever given to the New Testament churches to submit to Peter as the singular supreme universal head, nor one example of a universal submission to Peter as one (in Acts 15, it is James who gives the definitive sentence), nor does Peter ever refer to himself as such, but as "an" elder and "an apostle”, and "a servant" (1Pt. 5:1; 2Pt. 1:1).

In addition and critically so, no formal provision is given in the New Testament for that particular office to be perpetuated, such as is seen in the Old Testament, with only elder/bishops (same office: Titus 1:5-7, the division between the two was a later development) and deacons being ordained. While a replacement for Judas was made, by lots and not be election as per Rome, this was in order to maintain that the original number of the foundational twelve apostles, and required one to have been personally discipled by their Lord. (Acts 1:16-26; cf. Rev. 21:14). However, no successor is mentioned for James the brother of John after his martyrdom. (Acts 12:1,2; cf. Mt. 4:21,22) Apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church, (Eph. 2:20) and were sovereignly called and ordained by God, their election not being based upon genealogical lineage and their worthiness of that title was manifest by a holiness and teaching which conformed to that which was written, along with powerful supernatural attestation. (2Cor. 4:2; 6:1-10; 12:12)

Also, among many other things, absent in the New Testament is Rome's separate sacerdotal class of clergy titled “priests” as well.

Some Roman Catholic apologists seek to invoke Isaiah 22:21-25 in support of a perpetuated Petrine papacy. The Targum, Jerome, Hitzig, and others assume that Eliakim is the peg, which, however glorious its beginning may have been, comes at last to the shameful end described in Isa. 22:25, and which position classic commentators Keil and Delitzsch contend is the case. And whether or not v. 25 refers to Eliakim or Shebna, it is evident is that being fastened in a sure place does not necessarily establish perpetuation.

In addition, nothing is provided by way of literal fulfillment of this prophecy in the Old Testament, nor in the New in support of Peter, and when perpetuation of any office is the case then the Scriptures makes that evident. And what is evident as concerns perpetuation is that to Christ it is promised that His kingdom will never cease, (Lk. 1:32,33), who shall be an everlasting father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that being their holy Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah, out of which our Lord sprang and made a new covenant with. (Heb. 7:14; 8:8 ) And upon Him shall hang “all the glory of his father’s house”, for “in Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9) And who “hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” (Rev. 3:7) Thus this what best corresponds to the prophecy of Isaiah.

While the lack of the manifest establishment for a successor to Peter or the apostles in Scripture may not disallow a leader among brethren, as part of a supreme magisterial office such as evidenced in Acts 15, it is not by formal ecclesiastical lineage in one organic body that a leader or the office would not be qualified, nor by defining oneself as infallible, and then effectively relying on such to give authority to “infallible” teachings, but by demonstrable, Biblically substantiated faith, and its effects. (2Cor. 6:1-10)

Moreover, discipline by such could not by physical force, such as was sanctioned by Rome in the Inquisitions (and even a few Protestants, having learned from her). This is necessary due to the fact that authority by a central group of overseers over all churches could not be enforced, except by spiritual means. Unlike Rome, the New Testament never used physical punishment in disciplining it members, nor did it establish theocracies where the church ruled over those without it, which was what was behind the Crusades, or use carnal force to defend or expand its rule. (1Cor. 5:12,13; 1Pt. 2:14; Eph. 6:12; 2Cor. 6:1-01; 10:4) And without which temporal power, by which it also persecuted and killed Christians who were constrained by the Scriptures and conscience to oppose her, Rome would not be the presence it is today. And which testifies to its predominate nature, (Gal. 4:29) in contrast to the New Testament church.

Rather than Rome's perpetuated Petrine papacy being established or expected, what we do see is the ordination of men like Timothy, (1Tim. 4:14) and the LORD building his church using such “stones,” who like Peter, effectually confess who Christ is, and faith in Him according to the apostolic gospel of the grace of God. While on a practical level, formal ecclesiastical means by qualified leaders are used to ordain others, and many Protestant denominations began with leaders so ordained, yet the church being essentially a spiritual entity, its authenticity is not based upon formal ecclesiastical linkage to one organic body, for as stated before, the authenticity of a true church, like that of a true Jew, (Rm. 2:28,29) is based upon apostolic faith in the gospel, for it is by such that the church exists and one gains its members. (1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13) Therefore, unlike the theocratic earthly kingdom of Israel, the body of Christ is not restricted to one organic union, and if one of the latter becomes corrupt or institutionalized, the church that holds to essential salvific doctrine and effectual salvific faith, which the apostles and prophet laid, overcomes by faith in its chief cornerstone and head, Jesus Christ.

While evangelicals overall confess agreement to the basic salvific truths such as are articulated in the Apostles Creed, along with the gospel of grace (versus works themselves helping to merit salvation for souls), and the supremacy of Scripture, divisions based upon secondary issues do exist, and are undesirable (even though such “cell division” may overall have resulted in an expansion of the general Body). Yet separation is sometimes necessary, (1Cor 11:19) and unity based upon essential truth, which results in the essential unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3) which only born again believers enjoy, is of a higher quality than unity in basic error (Rome), no matter how great its quantity.

[In respect to unity*, Roman Catholicism actually manifests a greater degree of variance as regards essential doctrines and moral views (and less evidence of regeneration) than its evangelical counterparts. And Roman Catholics are allowed varying degrees of disagreement in non-infallible teachings, and very little is infallible defined. While it must be confessed that the latter today (we and I) comes much short of the prima New Testament church in purity, power and passion, yet due to Rome's false gospel, officially and effectually preached, it does not qualify as a true church, even as one with some false doctrine, but is decidedly more a false church with some true beliefs.]

Another attempt by Rome which attempts to use Scripture — even though submission to it requires implicit trust in its teachings, not in any teaching from Scripture apart from it — is one which seeks to extrapolate support for Rome's assuredly infallible magisterium out of 1 Tim 3:15. However, this is hardly a text that can be used to do so due to its ambiguity as regards doctrine. The church is simply called “the pillar and ground of the truth,” with both “pillar” and “ground” basically denoting “support,” with the word most commonly rendered as “ground” (KJV, DRB. etc.) or “mainstay” (Vatican 2) “foundation” “buttress,” etc., occurring no where else in Scripture. Not only that, but the word behind “of the” occurs 868 times and can be justly translated many ways (approx 30 in the KJV), with “which” being the most common while terms such as “footstool” also occur.

Therefore while we can see the church supporting and being grounded in or resting upon the truth, this does not provide support for making the Roman church assuredly infallible whenever it teaches in accordance with its formula, but its subject is conduct in the house of God. Moreover, it is the church of the living God, not an institutionalized form of it.

Overall, as concerns Rome pretensions to supremacy, considering how major a doctrine Rome's papacy is - and it is indeed major - and how faithful the Lord is to give us much evident substantiation for major doctrines (such as Jesus Deity, etc.), then the lack of any evident substantiation in the rest of the New Testament for it - as defined and exampled by Rome - is highly conspicuous. In reality, Rome's papacy comes more from the Roman Empire and it's Caesar (a Caesario-Papacy, even as Boniface VIII claimed to have), which led to Catholicism becoming a vast, autocratic institution, which used the carnal means of the Roman empire to physically harm her enemies, including those who separated due to commitment to the Bible over men. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now” (Gal. 4:29) In foisting her papacy and related things upon Christendom and persecuting those who disagreed with her, Rome did (and is doing) what the Lord Jesus reproved the presumptuous and Christ-killing Pharisees for doing: "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." (Mark 7:7, 13). They likewise supposed their magisterial office, which in this case was affirmed to be valid, (Mt. 23:2) sanction them to promulgate doctrines such as the Corban rule (Mk. 7:11) as if they were from God.

Traditions of men

When Scripture critically fails to support her, Rome must and does rely upon "tradition," that of an boundless, nebulous oral tradition of stories and fables outside of Scripture, and which often contradict it, but which they make of equal authority with Scripture, which transcendent, material source of Divine revelation is alone affirmed to be wholly inspired (1Tim. 3:16). And which the instruments of both its writing and preservation must themselves be subject to, and be able to withstand Scriptural examination. (Acts 17:11) The Roman exaltation of church tradition thereby negates the effectiveness of a closed canon in separating the "wheat" from the "chaff." In making the two of equal authority Rome is essentially adding to the very canon they take credit for closing (but she is not responsible got, nor would that make her the infallible interpreters of it, any more than it did the Jews). While the apostles could indeed add to what then consisted of Scripture, due to it yet being open and their manifest authority, once that body is closed all other “revelation” must be subservient to it.

Rather than promoting the example of the noble Bereans, for hundreds of years Rome, (by commission and omission) did not promote public Biblically literacy and typically restricted access to the Bible or in certain places and times banned it, and taught and teaches that only her magisterium can be trusted to correctly interpret Scripture. (Rome even erroneously invokes 2 Pt. 1:20 in support, but which pertains to the basis of the writing of Scripture, not its interpretation). Rather than this being dependent upon Scriptural evidence and thus persuading souls by “manifestation of the truth” and its attestation, Rome declares that she is the unique and supreme interpreter of Scripture, and infallibly defined that she herself is infallible whenever she “speaks” in accordance with her infallible defined (scope and content-based) criteria, though no infallible list of all such teaching is provided. But out of this authority numerous doctrines have been promulgated which lack Scriptural warrant, and are even contrary to it, from her works-merit salvation (confidence which Catholics attest to), to her perpetuated Petrine papacy, to infant baptismal regeneration (no infants are seen baptized, by sprinkling no less, and such cannot fulfill the stated requirements for this: Acts 3:38; Acts 8:37), to a sacerdotal priesthood (all believers are priests in the New Testament, as saith 1 Peter 2:9, while again, only pastors, termed bishops and elders, are ordained, denoting the same office: Titus 1:5-7), to the Lord's supper, annulments (consummated marriages in the Bible were such, even when done under conditions that would qualify as grounds for Roman Catholic annulments), to prayers to souls in Heaven (in the Bible the only prayers toward Heaven are to God, and only pagans prayed to those who died).

The primary manifestation of the practice of the latter is that of prayers to Mary. While the Bible commands us not to think of people “above that which is written”, (1Cor. 4:6), the progressive exaltation of Mary by Roman Catholicism beyond what Scripture affords is an illustration of what can happen when one will not be bound by Holy Writ.

The famous Protestant church historian Philip Shaff comments,

After the middle of the fourth century it [Roman Catholicism] overstepped the wholesome Biblical limit, and transformed the mother of the Lord into a mother of God, the humble handmaid of the Lord into a queen of heaven, the highly favored into a dispenser of favors, the blessed among women into an intercessor above all women, nay, we may almost say, the redeemed daughter of fallen Adam, who is nowhere in Holy Scriptures excepted from the universal sinfulness, into a sinlessly holy co-redeemer. . . . Thus the veneration of Mary gradually degenerated into the worship of Mary; and this took so deep hold upon the popular religious life in the Middle Age, that, in spite of all scholastic distinctions between latria, and dulia, and hyperdulia, Mariolatry practically prevailed over the worship of Christ. . . .

The Romish devotions scarcely utter a Pater Noster without an Ave Maria, and turn even more frequently and naturally to the compassionate, tenderhearted mother for her intercessions, than to the eternal Son of God, thinking that in this indirect way the desired gift is more sure to be obtained. To this day the worship of Mary is one of the principal points of separation between Graeco-Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. It is one of the strongest expressions of the fundamental Romish error of unduly exalting the human factors or instruments of redemption, and obstructing, or rendering needless, the immediate access of believers to Christ, by thrusting in subordinate mediators. Nor can we but agree with nearly all unbiased historians in regarding the worship of Mary as an echo of ancient heathenism. It brings plainly to mind the worship of Ceres, of Isaiah, and of other ancient mothers of the gods; as the worship of saints and angels recalls the hero-worship of Greece and Rome.” (Philip Shaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume III, pages 410-411.)

To Mary are ascribed multiple attributes and titles (900+) beyond what the Bible describes, some of which only belong to God, and Mary may often be seen receiving more popular devotion than Jesus Christ. (Eric D. Svendsen, “Is Mary Co-Redemptress of the World?”; Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon, “What Is the Unique Role of Mary in Roman Catholicism, and Is It Biblical?”—Part 3; John MacArthur, “Exposing the Idolatry of Mary Worship: Catholic Dogma, Pt. 1”; Eric D. Svendsen, ''Is Mary Co-Redemptress of the World?'') In addition to teaching that she was sinless, Rome holds that she remained a virgin all her life, contrary to Scripture. (Ps. 69:8; Mt. 1:25; 12:46; 13:56; Mk. 6:3 Jn. 2:12; 7:3,5,10; Acts 1:14; 1Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19; also Mt. 19:4,5;1; Cor. 7:2-5) (CARM ''Mary's virginity and Matt. 1:25''; Moisés Pinedo, ''Was Mary a Virgin Her Whole Life?'') A psychological factor in such devotion can be that of seeing Mary as a mother more compassionate intercessor than the male Jesus Christ. However, not only is God the only Heavenly object of prayer in the Bible, but the Holy Spirit explicitly declares Christ as the only one who “was all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”, and therefore sets Him forth as our all-sufficient and compassionate high priest, who “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (heb. 4:14,15; 7:25). To God be the glory.

Effects

Paradoxically, but not surprisingly, while Rome promotes herself as the one true church, and as one that emphasizes work, her adherents evidence much less fruits of regeneration than her Evangelical counterparts (though both are in decline), and less unity in certain core truth and moral values, in addition to being typically politically liberal (and thus supporting immoral agendas).

This fruit of this gospel has been past generations and a present populace of souls, whom Rome counts as members, that are largely (very sadly) evidentially spiritually dead, showing very little fruit of having been born again, and are often antagonistic to those who sincerely seek their conversion through the Biblical gospel, Thus, rather than being a true church that withstood the gates of Hell, it has tragically become the great gates of Hell for millions, whom Rome had led to trust in their and her merit as a basis for eternal life, rather than abasing themselves as utterly unworthy sinners, and with a deeply contrite and repentant heart calling upon Christ to be their Lord and Savior, and thus experiencing the new birth and manifesting its distinctive fruit.

The Holy Spirit warned of such a false Jesus and gospel 2,000 years ago: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him" (2 Cor 11:3-4).

It must again be stressed, that if our hope of eternal life is based upon confidence in our moral worthiness as good persons, and or the power of the church, then we are thus climbing up some other way, (Jn. 10:1) escaping the abasement of a sinner who is damned because of his sins before an infinitely holy and just almighty God, and is destitute of any righteousness by which he may gain heaven, and who thus must rest upon the mercy of God in Christ, trusting and confessing the Lord Jesus to save him by His sinless shed blood and righteousness, and which faith is expressed in baptism. (Rm. 3:8-6:4ff; Eph. 2:8,9;)

Apostolic manifestation and means

Rather than "infallibly" defining that the Bible declares them infallible, as Rome does, when speaking in accordance with their infallibly defined criteria, and relying on this premise to give authority to “infallible” defined teachings, the apostles means of veracity, as noted before, relied upon the manifest supernatural power of God, purity of life, and sacrificial love, and Scriptural probity (2Cor. 6:1-10). In addition to miracles, in seeking to saved lost souls and defined doctrine, the Lord and His apostles quoted or alluded to the Scriptures abundantly. Jesus exhorted the Jews, "search the Scriptures" (Jn. 5:39; cf. Mt. 4:4; Lk. 24: 27, 32), and regarding His disciples He opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” (Lk. 24:45) In obeying the LORD, "Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures," "persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening" (Acts 17:2; 28:23). In addition, the Holy Spirit commended as "noble" the common Bereans, "in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).*

Such seeking, done with an honest and contrite heart, will bring one to find and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, by trusting in His sinless shed blood and righteousness to save them and not the presumed power of their church and or personal merit.

However, you must search your own heart. How many of God's laws have you broken? Do you suppose your good deeds and or your church will allow you to escape your just punishment in Hell and gain Heaven? Be assured neither of them will! Instead humble yourself as a guilty sinner under the mighty hand of God, confess to Him your sinfulness and decide you want a new life with the Lord Jesus Christ (rather than your sins), and ask Him to save you by His precious blood that was shed for you! He will do so if you mean it with all your heart, and you will know His forgiveness and the life-giving power of His Holy Spirit (Rm. 3:25-5:1; Acts 10:34-47). You show this by being baptized under water (Acts 8:36-39) and following Him (despite persecutions) who alone can promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). Praise ye the LORD.

Further reading:

http://www.christiantruth.com /

http://www.aomin.org/Roman.html

http://www.reformationtheology.com/2007/08/before_you_convert_to_roman_ca.php

http://www.gnfc.org/

http://www.excatholicsforchrist.com

(These recommended sites have much sound teaching to offer, though any such referrals do not assure that i necessarily agree with every single position that may be presented therein).

*Rome contends this methodology is the cause of divisions within Protestantism, which she contrasts with her “unity.” However, defining Protestants in accordance with the "sola fide" (which eliminates multitude others Rome classifies as Protestants), born again, Evangelical Christians manifest a doctrinal unity on essential salvific truths, such as the Nicene creed articulates, and which are arguably equal to the essentials the Sacred Magisterium defines, and which require "full assent of faith" (though Rome has not infallibly defined much of the Bible), while the things in which evangelicals allow a limited amount of disagreement on roughly correspond to things which fall under the Ordinary Magisterium, and which may contain errors, but not damnable ones, and require submission of will and intellect, but allow for a limited amount of dissent. And finally, there are those areas which fall under the General Magisterium, which includes the possibility of significant error, and so .call for assent to a sincere search for truth. While neither Rome or Protestantism offers a full definitive list of which, they are generally discernible by official statements, or lack thereof. Moreover, the majority of Catholics indicate disagreement with Rome and each other on one or more major issues, which Evangelicals typically show more unity on.

In addition, while Romanists must defend a church, as that is their authority, and much their trust for salvation, classical Protestant faith can only defend a doctrine insomuch as it can be Scripturally warranted. Without negating the need for pastors and teachers and obedience to the former, the New Testament Biblical model does not promote a type of implicit faith in men or an ultimately infallible authority (outside God), such as Rome does indeed promote herself as, rather it presents the word of God as the authority, and in such a way that truthfulness and honestly of the Biblical gospel is so manifest that it convinces true seekers who are encouraged to determine it's veracity by their own examination.

"For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Cor 2:17).

"But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor 4:2)

The unity that results is of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3), and is of a far greater quality than the unity of nominal Christianity that is the fruit of passive acceptance of the authority of men. There are basically 2 kinds of relevant unity that can be considered here:

  1. A unity that is the fruit of implicit acceptance of a proclaimed earthly power, which may be one of either a resigned ambivalence or active blind zeal, such as seen in Germany under Hitler, and which usually appeals to man's idea that he can justify himself before God.

  2. A unity that, although it can be less that unanimous, is the result of love for truth and free and objective inquiry, and which exalts God in His infinite holiness and abases man.

It is the latter form of unity that Scripture promotes under the New Covenant. We see the LORD Jesus engaging men to use Scripture and their reasoning powers, in all honesty, to determine truth, quoting or alluding to the Old Testament Scriptures over 100 times. And reproving His disciples for their lack of faith when He had provided evidence for such warranted trust. It was also the apostolic manner to reason with men “out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:3; 18:28; 28:23). In addition, we see the commendation of the Holy Spirit for the “noble” Bereans, "in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11) ― even though it was the very apostles whom they checked out.

However, it is more difficult to create this unconstrained and discerning superior unity, as it is far easier to foster faith in men and their visible organizations. Such organizations allow man to suppose they can in some way merit acceptance with almighty God, rather than requiring man to humble himself before God as a sinner helpless to save Himself. And in faith and surrender to Christ, personally receive Jesus as their LORD and Savior. The latter method is counterproductive to earthly men who seek implicit trust in themselves and their system, as they cannot enjoy such acceptance by souls for whom the Scriptures are the ultimate authority. "It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes" (Psa 118:9). And as Rome's own doctrine makes the Bible a second class authority ― after it's own teaching magisterium and equal to the “chaff” of human (church) tradition ― therefore her history is one of suppressing Biblical literacy among it's people, as well as (recently) suppressing it's authority as a basically literal document. And thus, having debased the Bible she fosters implicit trust or resigned faith in her presumed powers and errors, perpetuating a false gospel and sterile church, all the whole attacking the evangelical church which, even in it's present condition, is manifestly superior to institutionalized churches (Rome and mainline denominations like it) in every quantifiable fruit of Biblical regeneration.

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