Many people wonder why Bible believing Christians attack many teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Respected evangelical leaders like Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Rick Warren, Hank Hanegraaff and even entire denominations like the Salvation Army and the Assemblies of God have embraced the Catholic Church as a true Christian church with maybe just a “tiny little bad history.”
This ecumenical tide has made it become “politically incorrect” to attack the church endorsed by such great evangelists. In fact, most people speaking against Catholicism nowadays are dismissed as rank Jehovah’s Witnesses or some bunch of wild-eyed, anti-Catholic fundamentalists who have had too much caffeine. So we need to emphasize that our disagreement with Catholicism is not based on irrational or uninformed hostility, rather from an adherence to the truth of Scripture.
Unfortunately, most cult experts today have omitted the inclusion of Catholicism from their assessments. In the book, Agony of Deceit (written by different evangelical leaders to address false teachings in the church), we read: “The Catholic church resisted the mounting heresies with regard to the Person of Christ, and … Protestants would continue to affirm Catholic Christology” (p. 111)
From my study of Catholicism so far, the above statement is false. One of the key doctrines of the Christian faith is what the Bible teaches about Christ (Christology). At a casual glance at catholic doctrines, it seem we both agree on this, but looks can be deceiving. Let’s examine the Christology of Roman Catholicism.
1. The Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ
According to Catholic doctrine, the communion wafer (host) becomes the body, soul and spirit of Jesus Christ when the priest ‘blesses’ it during Mass.
“In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (Catechism, 346 #1374).
The summary of what happens at the Catholic mass is summed up by Catholic priest, John O’ Brien:
“When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from his throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man” (The Faith of Millions, 255).
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with the disciples, He took bread and said ‘Take eat; this is My body’ The fact that He was still literally there with them and didn’t appear as bread and wine clearly shows His words here were figurative. And after He blessed the cup, He still called it “the fruit of the vine” – not literal blood (Mt. 26:25-29).
Paul the apostle emphasizes what Jesus said “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me…This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1Cor. 11:23-25).
Since this was to be done “in remembrance” of the Lord, “to show the Lord’s death until he comes” (v 26), definitely, He is not literally present in the bread and wine, body, soul or spirit. It’s a memorial and symbolic observance. God’s Law also forbids cannibalism and vampirism (Lev. 11, Dt. 12:16, Acts 15:20), thus it would be abominable for Christ to physically take His own flesh and blood.
Jesus is in heaven in a glorified body that can never die. He doesn’t need to offer Himself in daily sacrifice like the Old Testament priests “for this He did ONCE when He offered up himself” on the cross (Heb. 7:27). Christ is spiritually present “where two or three are gathered in His name” and doesn’t become pieces of wafer on catholic altars (Mt. 18:20).
2. Replacing Jesus with Mary
Catholicism subtly relegates Christ and exalts Mary in His stead. This is where Catholicism deviates from Bible Christianity, because true Christianity is based on Christ, while Catholicism is based on Mary.
(a) The titles of Christ are transferred to the Catholic Mary. Just as Jesus is the King, Mary is called “the Queen.” Jesus is our Lord, Mary is called “our Lady.” As He is the Second Adam, Mary is also called “the Second Eve.” The Genesis 3:15 in the Catholic Douay-Rheims bible has been misrendered to say: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: She shall crush thy head, and thou shall lie in wait for Her feet”. This is a blasphemy
(b) The attributes of Christ are transferred to Mary. Christ is sinless, Catholicism too teaches Mary was sinless. Just as Jesus ascended to heaven, Mary too was declared to have assumed into heaven. Just as Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, they teach that Mary also sits at the right hand of Jesus.
(c) Denying the exclusive Mediator-ship of Christ by teaching that Mary is a co-mediatrix with Christ. The doctor of the Catholic church, Alphonsos de Liguori wrote:
“There is no doubt’ the saint adds, ‘that Jesus Christ is the only mediator of justice between men and God … but because men acknowledge and fear the Divine Majesty… it was necessary to assign us another advocate, to whom we might recourse with less fear and more confidence, and this advocate is Mary, than whom we cannot find one more powerful…” (The Glories of Mary, 195)
This is false. Jesus’s role as our mediator is essentially and necessarily different. He has a ground to stand on as a mediator because He was “made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…and that he might make an atonement for the sins of the people” – attributes that no one, including Mary possesses (Heb. 2:17).
Roman Catholicism misrepresents Christ as mean and inaccessible in order to justify looking up to ‘another advocate’, the “virgin Mary”, who is supposedly more merciful. But the Word of God says that Jesus is our great High priest and we are all to come boldly to His throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace in the time of need (Heb. 4:16). Why look to anyone else?
(d) Making Mary a Co-Redemptrix
The Bible says we are redeemed through the blood of Jesus (Col. 1:14), but Catholicism exalts its Mary on the same footing with Christ by teaching that Mary also redeemed us with her blood and the agonies of her heart:
“That Woman [Mary] is the mother alike of the Redeemer and of the redeemed. It was first from her veins that the blood was drawn which now lies scattered cheaply about, but which has ransomed the world” (The Legion of Mary, 1975, 144)
3. Denial of Salvation by Christ alone.
Pope Pius IX said: “Our salvation is based upon the holy Virgin…so that if there is any hope and spiritual healing for us, we receive it solely and uniquely from her” (The Encyclical of February 2, 1849). One of the many prayers in the booklet Devotions in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help says “In thy hands I place my eternal salvation, and to thee do I entrust my soul” (p. 46).
But God’s Word says “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) God Himself said “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth” (Isaiah 45:22). Only God has the power to save. By attributing salvation to Mary, Catholicism elevates her to the status of a goddess.
4. Denial of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.
This is seen in the belief underlying the Mass and by the teaching that believers have always “carried their crosses to make expiation for their own sins and the sins of others…[to] help their brothers obtain salvation from God…” (Vatican II Council: The Counciliar and Post Counciliar Documents, Vol 1, 65)
Now, if “by ONE offering he [Jesus] hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” and “by his own blood he entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” how can any man add to that perfect sacrifice let alone save another? (Heb. 10:14, 9:12)
5. Replacing Christ with Men.
Catholic priests are said to be “Sacerdotus alter Christus” (the priest is another Christ) and Popes are called “Vicarius Christus” which means ‘another Christ’. A Catholic Dictionary says that the pope sits as Christ in the Vatican. Catholic priests are seen as representatives of Christ having the power to forgive sins and to re-sacrifice Jesus. These are all false teachings that hinder Catholics from having a saving relationship with the real Jesus Christ. He has warned us against following false Christs (Matthew 24:5, 23-24).
6. Replacing the Living Christ with a dead one.
For example Catholic crucifixes having a “dead” Jesus on it, which Catholics pray to. Such objects are accursed (see Deut. 21:23). The resurrection of Christ is one of the cornerstones of the Christian Faith, otherwise our belief is in vain (1 Cor. 15:13). If Jesus were to remain on the cross as Catholicism portrays, we would all be doomed. Other examples of false Christs in Catholicism are images of Christ and various “visions” of the “dying and agonizing face of Christ.”
Yes, there are true Christians within Catholicism who have been saved by believing the Gospel of the Bible “which is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), but still remain in that false church for one reason or the other. However, due to Rome’s false teachings, they are in a distinct minority. Logically, it’s impossible to believe two contradictory beliefs at the same time.
For example, how can one believe Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us is an accomplished fact of history and He is in heaven in a resurrected, glorified body and at the same time believe He is being literally “immolated in the sacrifice of the Mass?”
Or how can one believe Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is “Finished!” as He Himself said (John 19:30), and at the same time believe the Mass repeats Christ’s sacrifice?
Or how can one believe that by simple faith in Christ one receives eternal life and assurance of heaven as a free gift of God’s grace and at the same time believe that God’s grace and merits of Christ, Mary and the saints are contained in the treasury of the Catholic church and is dispensed in bits and pieces for attending Mass, penance or saying the rosary? It’s simply impossible. This is why true Christians who trust in Christ alone must renounce Catholicism and its false gospel.