An Analysis of the Cult of Image Worship


We are all familiar with the central roles religious images – statues, icons and works of art – play in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Stories of miracles and supernatural feats are so hinged with the cult of images that it’s obvious that one can’t survive without the other.

Such stories have been crystallized in many Catholic legends (e.g St. Mary of Egypt, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Faustina Kowalska etc.) and there’s no shortage of such today – from the spurious to the curious to the grotesque.

In 2014, the Associated Press reported on an “oil weeping” statue of Mary in a small town in Northern Israel which attracted over 2,000 pilgrims.

There have also been stories of statues or icons of “Jesus” and the various “saints” weeping blood, oils or water, nodding, blinking, effective miraculous cures, or surviving a disaster.

When Catholic believers listen to these tales they punctuate the air with chants of “Holy Mother pray for us!” while deliberately piping down on their own critical faculties to deny obvious questions.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that “through the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover our heads and kneel, we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likenesses they are” (8:636)

The Catholic Catechism (2132) also says: “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, ‘the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,’ and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.'”

We need to ask: why would any Christian kiss or kneel to worship an image in the name of God?

How do Catholics know for sure that the images they venerate are really the “likenesses” and “prototypes” of the persons they portray? Have they physically seen Jesus, Mary or the “saints” before? Did they pose for a photo shoot?

If the honour or worship rendered to an image passes to its prototype, what then stops one from worshipping the rocks in one’s backyards since one can paint a supposed image of ‘Christ’ or the ‘saints’ on them?

Different portraits of Jesus or Mary have been produced by different artists in different nations at different periods of history. Certainly, all these artistic renditions can’t be representations of the persons alleged. This is a fraudulent development.

Church history shows how the cult of images developed. The early Christians while not adverse to art, had no images of Christ. This is evident in the writings of the early church fathers who denounced religious images. For example:

Melito (d. 180 A.D.): “We are not those who pay homage to stones, that are without sensation; but of the only God, who is before all and over all, and moreover, we are worshippers of His Christ, who is veritably God the Word existing before time” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers III, 579).

Irenaeus (c. 125-202 AD): “They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world…” (Against Heresies 1:25:6)

Tertullian (145-220): “But some one says, in opposition to our proposition of “similitude being interdicted,” “Why, then, did Moses in the desert make a likeness of a serpent out of bronze?” The figures, which used to be laid as a groundwork for some secret future dispensation, not with a view to the repeal of the law, but as a type of their own final cause, stand in a class by themselves … It is enough that the same God, as by law He forbade the making of similitude, did, by the extraordinary precept in the case of the serpent, interdict similitude. If you reverence the same God, you have His law, “Thou shall make no similitude” (Of Idolatry, Ch. 5).

Origen (c. 185-254 A.D): “But Christians and Jews have regard to this command … ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me: thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath … It is in consideration of these and many other commands, that they not only avoid temples, altars, and images but are ready to suffer death when it is necessary, rather than debase by any such impiety the conception which they have of the Most High God” (Against Celsus, 7:65)

Lactantius (c. 250-325 A.D.): “Wherefore it is undoubted that there is no religion wherever there is an image. For if religion consists of divine things, and there is nothing divine except in heavenly things; it follows that images are without religion, because there can be nothing heavenly in that which is made from the earth” (The Divine Institutes, 2:19).

Notice from these quotes that the only groups of people who venerated images purported to be of Christ were heretics who had mixed Christian elements with occult Gnosticism.

The Synod of Elvira (305/306) prohibited images as a hindrance to the spiritual worship of God.

Ambrose, Jerome and Eusebius made references to people making images of “Christ” or “saints” in their time but they were seriously frowned upon. Epiphanus for instance, wrote:

“…I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person” (Jerome’s Letter, 51:9)

Catholic scholar, Ludwig Ott noted that: “Owing to the influence of the Old Testament prohibition of images, Christian veneration of images developed only after the victory of the Church over paganism” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books: Illinois, 1974, 320).

Even when images were introduced, several emperors condemned their use as heresy and ordered them destroyed.

In 784 A.D. Tarasius who was an advocate of images, became the Patriarch of the East and the Synod of Nicaea in 787 ascribed reference to images and worship to God through them.

This practice was sanctioned in the West through the Synod of Frankfurt in 794. Even then, several emperors, Catholic bishops and others were still opposed to image and relic worship. After 850, the cult of image worship began to grow in churches along with stories of “miracles” performed through them.

In 1188, it was declared that a denial of images was a denial of God. In 1225, it was said that Christ was not Christ unless He was graven.

Thomas Aquinas said in Summa Theologiae that an image of Christ claims the same veneration as Christ Himself. At the Council of Trent (1551-1552) idolatry was finally made a dogma (compulsory belief) for Catholics and so it remains till date.

What the Bible Says

In Scripture, none of the inspired writer ever mentioned the use of images in worship to God in the tabernacle or temple rites except when Israel was backslidden and served pagan gods.

The Bible denounced religious images as the works of man’s hands; imitations of creations, made of dead materials and a foolish worship (see Lev. 19:4 2 Kgs. 18:4 , Isa. 44:8-20; 46:6-7 etc.). The second commandment in the Decalogue says:

You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them” Exodus 20:4-5 (New American Bible)

This commandment has been slyly eliminated from the Catholic Catechism because of its implications on Catholic dogma. To properly bury the verse in the rat’s nest, they split the tenth commandment into two – making the part about not coveting your neighbour’s wife into the ninth and the rest, servant, etc. was grouped together to form the tenth.

Catholic doctrinal books also intentionally use the review of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy instead of the original giving of the commandments in Exodus.

These efforts prove that Catholic leaders too are aware that God’s commands condemn their use of images in worship.

You saw no form at all on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire. Be strictly on your guard, therefore, not to degrade yourselves by fashioning an idol to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or a woman…” (Deut. 4:15-16 NAB)

I shall pronounce my judgements on them because of all their wickedness, since they have abandoned me, offering incense to other gods and worshipping what their own hands have made” (Jer. 1:16 New Jerusalem Bible)

To whom could you liken God? What image could you contrive of him” (Isa. 40:18 Jerusalem Bible)

These were directives given to God’s people in the OT denouncing images made of God or any divine figure. In the NT, the same commands were given to Christians forbidding them from “Christianized” image worship:

Therefore, my beloved, avoid idolatry 1 Cor. 10:14 (NAB)

Others must stay outside [heaven]: dogs, fortune-tellers, and the sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, and everyone of false speech and false life” (Rev. 22:15, NJB).

God doesn’t need to go into semantic acrobatics or manipulation of terms. His Word is clear that any worship or veneration offered to an image is idolatry. Plain and simple. We spurn His commands only at our own peril.

During a discussion with an ex-Catholic friend, Rita, years ago, I asked, “What was the main factor that led you to reject Catholicism?” She answered, “Every time we prayed towards an image, something in me would ask, ‘Is this not idolatry? Is this not an abomination before God?’ Sometimes when I voiced out my inner protests, they would defiantly tell me it’s not idolatry. But their explanations couldn’t drown my inner voice. It was when I looked into the Bible, that I realized that God had been tugging at my conscience all along.”

This “Christian” idolatry persists because many religious people want to walk by sight rather than by faith. They want God or Jesus to be portable and manageable; in a form that they can see, touch and kiss rather than serving Him in spirit and truth.

The cult of image worship is simply a continuation of the traditions of pagans who made images of their deities.

The Catholic Encyclopedia‘s article on ‘The True Cross’ says:

“[I]n the first ages of Christianity, when converts from paganism were so numerous, and the impression of idol-worship was so fresh, the Church found it advisable not to permit the development of this cult of images, but later, when that danger had disappeared…the cult developed freely.”

The bigger the tales of miracles wrought through these idolatrous images, the bigger the income generated for Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy and the greater the number of souls led into spiritual bondage.

But God must be worshipped as He has prescribed in His Word not as we insist He should be worshipped.

Mithras, Zeus and Jesus Christ

One of the arguments used by anti-Christians to discredit the historicity of Christ, His atonement for sin and Christianity as a whole is that Jesus was “modelled” after older pagan deities like the Roman Mithras or the Greek Zeus.

One of them quoted Gerald Berry’s Religions of the World, saying:

“Both Mithras and Christ were described as ‘the Way, ‘the Truth,’ ‘the Light,’ ‘the Life,’ ‘the Word,’ ‘the Son of God,’ ‘the Good Shepherd.’ The Christian litany to Jesus could easily be an allegorical litany to the sun-god. Mithras is often represented as carrying a lamb on his shoulders, just as Jesus is. Midnight services were found in both religions. The virgin mother… was easily merged with the virgin mother Mary. Petra, the sacred rock of Mithraism, became Peter, the foundation of the Christian Church.”

These critics also allege that Mithras was born on December 25; was visited by shepherds at birth; had 12 apostles, instituted a last supper and died for humanity – all of which the New Testament allegedly adopted for Jesus.

First, we all need to understand the historical setting of the Roman Empire where Christianity and Mithraism thrived. The early church consistently refused to integrate with the surrounding syncretic religions. This was why for three centuries, Christianity was despised and persecuted.

In first century Roman Empire, four major classes of religions were embraced:

Nature religions – revolving around belief in supernatural power in natural things and worship of trees, sun, moon, rivers, stones and deities in charge of them e.g Greek paganism.

State religion – the Emperors were believed to be gods and accorded divine honours. Festivals were held in their honour and sacrifices offered to their images for the unity of the Empire.

Mystery religions – secret societies or cults that claim to help people out of difficult life situations and provide a bridge to the afterlife. They had certain ceremonial acts such as water rites, ritual meals, blood sacrifices which were kept secret to non-initiates e.g. Mithraism, Eleusinian mysteries, Bacchanalian mysteries, mysteries of Isis.

Judaism – the early Romans couldn’t initially distinguish Jews who practiced Judaism from Christian Jews. In Acts 18:12-17, Gallio the Roman governor, dismissed Paul’s case as a dispute within the sects of Judaism. But as unbelieving Jews increasingly opposed Christianity, the heathen also joined them. [1]

What impressed the pagan world of the new faith of Christianity was not its familiarity but its difference. Christianity was regarded  a “strange religion;” an illegal religion (religio illicita), and this led to the murder of many Christians.

If Jesus was a myth and Christianity was merely an offspring of paganism, the disciples and early Christians wouldn’t have laid down their lives instead of giving it up.

The pagans who killed and persecuted Christians during those times knew full well that what they believed was far different from what their victims believed.

Mithraism was a mystery religion practiced between 1st-4th century A.D. The religion had its roots in the Hindu Vedas. It developed in Persia about 500 years before Christ and further developed in Zoroaster’s (Zarathustra) movement about 200 years before Christ.

Mithraism reached its peak in third century Rome, during the same period Christianity was rapidly growing.

Those who claim Mithras was a prototype of Christ assume that Mithra worship was a cohesive, consistent and monolithic religion, but this is not so:

“The god is unique in being worshipped in four distinct religions: Hinduism (as Mitra), in Iranian Zoroastrianism and Manicheanism (as Mithra), and in the Roman Empire (as Mithras).” [2]

Not only were there variations in his name, each religion’s beliefs about Mithra also differed. The Persian cult differs markedly from the Roman one. The Roman Mithras is said to have slain a bull but there is no evidence that the Persian Mithra ever had anything to do with killing a bull.

Some writers agree that the bull-slaying Mithras must have been a god worshipped in the 1st century BC to whom an old name was applied. [3]

This eliminates any possibility of someone modelling Christ after Mithras.

Many critics also ignorantly conflate Mithra with Sol when they identify him as the sun god.

Various artworks depict Mithras dining with Sol; Mithras ascending behind Sol in the latter’s chariot and both deities shaking hands and at an altar with pieces of meat on a spit. One artwork shows Sol kneeling before Mithras who holds an object resembling a bull’s haunch. [4]

This difference is crucial, because the birthday of Sol Invictus was December 25, but that was not Mithras’ birthday. Amongst Roman mystery cults, Mithraism had no “public” face; its ceremonies were confined only to the initiates. The festival of Sol Invictus on December 25 wasn’t specific to Mithraism. [5]

Mithras wasn’t born of a virgin like Jesus. He was said to have been miraculously born from a rock and there are different accounts of this. One version said he leaped out of the rock as a child, another says as a youth, another says as flames yet another said he emerged as thunderbolt. But there is no account of Mithras born by a virgin mother.

The claim of Mithras visited by shepherds at birth or having 12 apostles lacks documented evidence. This is simply a cheap attempt by hostile critics to “christianize” the myths of Mithras and create a false parallel with Christ. A scholar admits:

“We possess virtually no theological statements either by Mithraists themselves or by other writers.” [6]

The alleged salvific death of Mithra is based on an inscription that says “and you have saved us … in the shed blood.” But no written narrative or theology from Mithraism survives and limited information can be derived from these inscriptions. “However, in the absence of any ancient explanations of its meaning, Mithra’s iconography has proven to be exceptionally difficult to decipher.” [7]

According to Robert Turcan, Mithraic salvation had little to do with the other worldly destiny of individual souls, but was based on the Zoroastrian pattern of man’s participation in the cosmic struggle of the good creation against the forces of evil. That is far from what the New Testament teaches.

The so-called “last supper” by Mithras is a fanciful deduction from the ritual meal observed by Mithraists. Modern critics, deploying a twisted logic, assume that since Mithraism had such ritual meals and was supposedly older, Christianity must have stolen the idea from them! This hypothesis falls flat on its face.

Most of the textual evidence for Mithraist doctrine dates after the New Testament was widely circulated. There is even the possibility that Mithraism adopted the communion rite from Christianity, because they had no concept of death and resurrection of their god.

Justin Martyr, in his First Apology (chapter 66) accused the Mithraists of diabolically imitating the Christian communion.

David Ulansey therefore concludes: “Owing to the cult’s secrecy, we possess almost no literary evidence about the beliefs of Mithraism. The few texts that do refer to the cult come not from Mithraic devotees themselves, but rather from outsiders such as early Church fathers, who mentioned Mithraism in order to attack it, and Platonic philosophers, who attempted to find support in Mithraic symbolism for their own philosophical ideas.” [8]

In light of the post-Christian origins of the mysteries of Mithras, Dr. Edwin Yamauchi states: “Those who seek to adduce Mithra as a prototype of the risen Christ ignore the late date for the expansion of Mithraism to the west.” [9]

Zeus and Jesus

Some uninformed critics and misguided Christians assert that Jesus was modelled after Zeus by some crypto-pagans in the early church who stripped Christianity of its Hebrew roots and changed the Saviour’s name into a pagan god’s so as to merge it with paganism.

A. B. Triana wrote in Origins of Christianity:

“They (the Graeco-Roman World) had worshiped Zeus as the supreme deity. Their savior was Zeus, so now they were ready to accept Jehoshua as Jesus – Ieosus, meaning hail Zeus. Now our translated scriptures say that Jahwah’s (Jehovah’s) Son’s name is Jesus, which is a compound word made up of Ie and Zeus (Hail Zeus)”

Proponents of this bizarre conspiracy theory (mostly Hebrew Roots adherents) are not only bereft of proofs, but also stumped by their own imaginations.

They teach that anyone who uses the name of Jesus instead of His Hebrew name, Yahshua, is worshipping a false god and is not saved. Actually, the Hebrew name of Jesus is Yeshua, a form of the name Joshua and both mean the same: “Yahweh is salvation.”

The similarity in pronunciation between Ieosus and Zeus doesn’t imply a borrowing of one from the other. To suggest that the name Bruno was derived from Juno is a phonetic fallacy. The Greek word for “hail” is xaipe or xaipete and it’s not a constituent of the Greek name Ieosus, so the “hail Zeus” accusation is hinged on wholesale ignorance.

Ieosus is the Greek name of Christ and that was the language in which the New Testament was written. First century works of Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius – written in Koine Greek – refer to at least 20 different people with the name Jesus (i.e Ieosus). [10] The Hebrew name of Jesus is not “too sacred” to be transliterated into another language neither does its translation change its meaning.

God’s name is not limited by human language; He created all languages and may not expect everyone to use the same name for Him. The name of Jesus given in Matthew 1:21 is the one by which men shall be saved from their sins. This name carries the same power and authority whether as Iesus (Latin), Yasu (Arabic), Jésus (French) or Jesu (Yoruba, Igbo).

The name “Jesus” is the Anglicized form of Ieosus or Yeshua and it has nothing to do with Zeus. No informed person with a modicum of intellectual honesty would claim Jesus is a copy of Zeus.

Zeus’ infancy narrative even has varying accounts. One version says he was raised by Gaia; another says by a goat named Amalthea; another says by a nymph Adamanthea; another says a nymph named Cynosura, yet another says by a shepherd family.

Some critics have also attempted to forge a link between Christ and Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, ritual madness, fertility and religious ecstasy. The mysteries of Dionysus was known as a ‘cult of souls’ in which priests forged necromantic links with the dead. But the Lord Jesus “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament. He has no link to any ancient pagan deity neither was Christianity built on the foundation of myths artfully spurn by pagans.

End notes

1. Titilayo Dipe, History and Doctrines of the Early Church, University of Ibadan Press, 1992, 2-4.

2. John Hinnells, Studies in Mithraism, Rome, 1990, 11.

3. David Ulansey, Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, Oxford University Press, 1991, 8.

4. Roger Beck, Mithraism, Ashgate Publishing, 2004, 287-287.

5. Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults, Harvard University, 1987, 10.

6. Clauss Manfred, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and his Mysteries, Richard Gordon Books, 2001, xxi.

7. David Ulansey, p. 8.

8. David Ulansey, The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras.

9. M. J. Vermaseren, Mithras, The Secret God, Chatto and Windos, 1963, 76.

10. Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, Baker pub., 2007, 129.

Examining Newman’s “Development” Theory

On November 1, 2016, during the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis further steered the Catholic ship towards New Age spirituality. In his speech, he called for the need “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus” and since new situations require “fresh spiritual energy,” modern Christians need a new identity card.

With that, he added six “new beatitudes for saints of a new age” to those taught by Jesus. One of them says:

Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others discover him.

Seeing God in every person is straight out of New Age paganism. The downward spiral path Catholicism descends to each day is not shocking. When a truth is being sacrificed for a lie, a time will soon come when there are no more truths left.

In case you are wondering how effortlessly the pope could officially import Hinduism into his system, Newman’s development of doctrine theory provided the ground. This development hypothesis was introduced by John Henry Newman, a former Anglican who embraced Catholicism, in his 1845 work, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

It stipulates that over the centuries, Catholic doctrines have become more detailed and explicit even though their essence or substance remained the same. That is, their doctrines evolve and develop – based on situations and the wisdom of Rome – like an acorn seed grows into a tree. This is a crucial aspect of modern Catholic apologetics and it needs to be deconstructed.

Before Cardinal Newman embraced Roman Catholicism, he had written some works attacking it, so not everyone was impressed with his conversion and subsequent work on doctrinal development. In fact, some Catholics received his book with suspicion and dismissed his theory as a threat to Catholic orthodoxy.

Although his hypothesis was crafted to explain the huge disparity between early church beliefs and Roman Catholicism in his time, it could also justify a departure from Catholic doctrines to modernist ideas.

This resulted in a controversy which made Pope Pius X issue an encyclical on September 4, 1907, to condemn “evolutionary” principles that may alter Rome’s dogmas. At the risk of losing their position, Rome’s clergy were made to swear an Oath Against Modernism:

I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously.

Eventually, Newman’s hypothesis won the day among Rome’s hierarchy, and it became a ground for changing some doctrines at the Vatican II council. From then on, the theology of the early church fathers became subordinate to those of the Scholastics and theirs became subordinate to post-Vatican II theology.

Now, Catholics no longer had the insurmountable problem of trying to prove everything they believed and practiced came directly from the apostles. They could just invoke the “development” magic word and whittle Protestant criticisms.

It also divided Catholicism into 3 main camps:
(1) the Magisterium, Pope and scholars of Rome who embraced Newman’s theory,

(2) the popular, Internet Catholic apologists (largely former Protestants) who embrace this theory but disagree with the liberal scholarship of Rome’s magisterium

(3) the “Rad Trads” – various groups of Catholics who regard Newman as a closet heretic,; Vatican II as a deviation from orthodoxy and the popes from that point on as anti-popes.

But does Newman’s hypothesis really stand up to Biblical, historical, logical scrutiny and doctrinal purity? Let’s see.

1. Biblical scrutiny

A certain Catholic apologist appealed to six Bible passages as support:

a) Matthew 5:17 – This speaks of Jesus fulfilling (Gr: plero) the law and prophets. To parallel this fulfillment with development of unbiblical ideas centuries after Christ or after the Bible’s completion is outrageous.

b) Matthew 13:31-32 – This is a parable likening the kingdom of heaven to a tree springing up from a mustard seed. The illustration of the kingdom in vs 24-30 was also being repeated here. Nothing is said about doctrine.

c) John 14:26 – Here, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will teach us and bring to our remembrance all that He taught. Do the Marian dogmas, purgatory or papal infallibility fall into this category? No.

d) John 16:13 – The Holy Spirit guides us to the truth. To assume Rome speaks by the Holy Spirit is circular reasoning since many of their “truths” contradict, distort and displace the plain teaching of the Bible. God is not the author of confusion.

e) 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 – This speaks of the things of the Spirit being revealed to the believer. In contrast to the cultic grid that whatever issues from Rome is from the Holy Spirit, these passages speak of each believer being personally led by the Holy Spirit to judge all things. This is private judgement and it grates against Catholicism.

f) Galatians 4:4 – speaks of the fullness of time when God sent forth Jesus. This appointed time is in line with Biblical prophecies (Is. 7:14, 9:6 etc). None of the proof text presented in support of this 19th century theory stands up on closer examination.

2. Historical scrutiny

Many Catholics fondly quote Newman: “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” This implies that Catholic dogmas – though unknown in the early church – exist in “seed form” at that period, unlike Protestants who can’t trace back their doctrines in history.

But when one factors the lack of historical evidence for the papacy, Marian, indulgences, purgatory etc., this narrative wears thin. Even Newman made some detours on the historical argument:

“Here then I concede to the opponents of historical Christianity, that there are to be found, during the 1800 years through which it has lasted, certain apparent inconsistencies and alterations in its doctrine and its worship, such as irresistibly attract the attention of all who inquire into it” (An Essay, 9).

In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, he said:
“No Catholic doctrine could be fully proved (or, for that matter, disproved) by historical evidence -‘in all cases there is a margin left for the exercise of faith in the word of the Church.’ Indeed, anyone ‘who believes the dogma of the Church only because he has reasoned them out of History, is scarcely a Catholic.”

Of course, this is the only way one can be Catholic or remain one – by blind “faith” in Rome’s authority, not by being deep in history. The main difference between the Catholic and the Protestant view of history is that while the latter appeals to history to show that many of the dogma foisted on Catholics today were made out of the cloth, the former reads back their modern dogmas into church history.

This is revisionism and until a Catholic takes this blinder off, he/she can’t consistently approach history. Interestingly, Newman noted this Catholic “double think” before his conversion:

“I am but showing how Romanists reconcile their abstract reference for Antiquity with their Romanism – with their creed and their notion of the Church’s infallibility in declaring it; how small their success is, and how great their unfairness is another question…they extol the Fathers as a whole, and disparage them individually; they call them one by one Doctors of the Church, yet they explain them away one by one their arguments, judgements, and testimony. They refuse to combine their separate and coincident statements; they take each by himself, and settle with the first before they go to the next” (Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church, 1838, 70-71).

This is an argument Newman never succeeded in refuting. When we point out to Catholics one or two church fathers who disagree with what Rome now says they must believe, they quickly dismiss them as “individually fallible.” They use denial as a shield to protect their minds from the reality that history is Rome’s enemy.

When Pope Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception (1854) and Papal Infallibility (1870) which lacked historical precedents as dogmas, Catholic scholars began to dig into their bag of tricks to see how they could reconcile them with the prevalent concept that all Catholic doctrines were complete from the apostles. This was why Newman’s theory became a necessity. History was too dangerous to behold.

Since ancient Catholicity is determined by modern Romanism, whatever direction the pope today blows is where Catholics must follow. Perhaps in the next few years when Mary will be made co-redeemer or co-equal with the Trinity, then it would become so obvious that the margin of faith in Rome is too wide after all.

3. Logical scrutiny

Up until the 17th century, Rome claimed that all her doctrines came unchanged from the apostles. So the Catholic church just sprang up like Athena from Zeus’ skull! In the 19th century however, Darwinian theories became popular and Newman’s theory was in tune with the philosophical spirit of that time.

When Newman suggested that the deposit of faith left by Christ had evolved into the 19th century church, it was a shift from the Athenian to the Darwinian view of church history. But if the logic here is valid for Catholicism, it must also be valid for Protestantism.

If the Latin church developed into Roman Catholicism, we can also say that it further developed into Protestantism. Unless Catholics want to tell us that there is a fixed direction that development must always follow.

The development theory is predicated on the argument that several doctrines in the Bible underwent development e.g. the afterlife, the Messiah, Trinity, the Holy Spirit as a Divine Person, equality of Jews and Gentiles and the Deity of Christ. But it’s theologically invalid to parallel the canonical progression of revelation with extra-canonical development of doctrine.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article V elucidates the Evangelical position:

We affirm that God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive. We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings” (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press: England, 1999, 476).

Dr. William Witt, an Anglican scholar, points out that Newman commits a fallacy of equivocation or ambiguity by not distinguishing between two different kinds of development. The first type of development adds nothing to the original content of faith, but rather brings out its necessary implications (e.g the Deity of Christ, Trinity) which is what took place at the councils of Nicea, Chalcedon etc.

The second type is the new development that does not proceed from the articulation of Biblical teaching e.g Marian dogmas, papacy, penance. The first is legitimate while the second is illegitimate.

Newman gave a sort of disclaimer: “the one essential question is whether the recognized organ of teaching, the Church herself, acting through Pope or Council as the oracle of heaven, has ever contradicted her own enunciations. If so, the hypothesis which I am advocating is at once shattered” (An Essay, 121).

Since the popes and councils have contradicted themselves and still do. Newman’s hypothesis is irreversibly shattered into pieces.

4. Doctrinal purity

Another chief flaw of Newman’s theory is how provides a cover for doctrinal errors and corruptions. The proponent himself said that the Montanist and Novatian heresies were “raw materials” for the church and conceded to Catholicism’s adoption of pagan worship:

“The use of temples, and these dedicated to the particular saints and ornamented on occasions … incense, lamps and candles, votive offerings on recovery from illness, holy water; asylums, holy days and seasons, images at a later date, processions, sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure … are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church” (An Essay, 373).

On page 355 he says: “feeling also that these usages had originally come from primitive revelations and from the instinct of nature … were moreover possessed of the very archetypes, of which paganism attempted the shadows; the rulers of the Church from early times were prepared should the occasion arise, to adopt, to imitate, or sanction the existing rites and customs of the populace as well as the philosophy of the educated class.”

Rehashing the same excuse, Karl Keating wrote in Catholicism and Fundamentalism: “We should expect true religion to be fulfillment of, but not a complete contradiction of, mankind’s earlier stabs at religious truth…on the positive side, ancient religions were remote preparations for Christ’s coming…”

With “development” on her sleeve, Rome has no qualms adopting pagan or cultic religions today. This is why Pope Francis peddles New Age doctrines like a hustler and no whimper is raised from all the Internet Catholic apologists.

But God warned His people “be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way” (Deut. 12:30-31).

The Christian Faith has been “once for all delivered” to us and it’s our duty to contend against any attempt of false teachers to re-tailor, add to or subtract from it (Jude 3). The word translated “delivered” in this verse is what Greek grammarians call an aorist passive participle indicting an act was completed in the past with no continuing element.

This leaves no room for a new faith or body of truth from a pope, organization or guru. God and His Word do not change.