It means that Christian truth in its fullness and proper expression resides only in the Roman Catholic Church. It also means the Roman Catholic Church alone contains the fullness of salvation. Any other form is incomplete and diminished. It also means that non-Catholic churches are not true churches. And, finally, it means anyone who dies knowingly rejecting this and other Catholic dogma will suffer eternal punishment! So much for the ecumenical spirit. What remains before us now is to determine the truth or falseness of this unique Roman claim to being the one true church and its conviction that those who knowingly reject its claim will be punished forever in hell. We begin with an examination of the development of the authoritarian episcopal form of government.

Is Rome the True Church? A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim

Copyright © 2008 by Norman L. Geisler and Joshua M. Betancourt
Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.


1. See Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 4: The Church and Last Things (Bloomington, MN: Bethany, 2005), chap. 4.

2. Ott, in ibid., 288. Of course, Ott believed that Irenaeus and others did “attest the decisive teaching authority of the Roman Church and of its Pontiff.” But there are good reasons (see Appendix 1) to believe that this is a misinterpretation.

3. See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica.

4. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.3.2 in Philip Schaff, Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI:

Eerdmans, 1885).

5. See Norman L. Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), part 2.

6. Cyprian, The Epistles of Cyprian (72.10) in Philip Schaff, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5

(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1957), 72:10; 72:24; 73:6; 73:7; 73:11.

7. Augustine, On Baptism, 4, 17 in Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 4:458.

8. Augustine, The Correction of the Donatists, 11, 50, in Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church.

9. Augustine, On Baptism, 4, 21–28, 459.

10. Ibid., 22–30, 460.

11. Philip Schaff, ed., “Seven Ecumenical Councils,” in A Select Library, vol. 14, 353.

12. Ibid., 547.

13. Ibid.

14. Cited in Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis, MO: Herfer, 1957) no. 430, 169–70.

15. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 3a 68, 2 (Blackfriars with McGraw-Hill, 1975).

16. Ibid.

17. Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, No. 999–1000, 303–4.

18. Ibid., 312.

19. Austin Flannery, Vatican Council II (Northport, NY: Costello, 1982), vol. 2, 568–69.

20. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 1994), no. 822 (218).

21. Cited in ibid., 215.

22. Ibid., 216.

23. Flannery, Vatican Council II, 367.

24. According to Catholic authority Ludwig Ott, many others held that “membership of the Church is necessary for all men for salvation” (p. 112). In addition to those mentioned above, he lists The Council of Florence (AD 714), Popes Innocent III, Clement VI, Benedict XIV, Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pius XII (Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, p. 312).

25. Flannery, Vatican Council II, 367.

26. Ibid., 162.

27. Ibid., 449.

28. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 216.

29. Ibid., 223.

30. Ibid., 216.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid., 239.

33. Flannery, Vatican Council II, 313.

34. Ibid., 367.

35. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 216.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., 220.

40. Ibid., 230.

41. Flannery, Vatican Council II, 449.

42. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 216.

43. Ibid., 221.

44. Ibid., 222.

45. Flannery, Vatican Council II, 370.

46. Ibid., 389.

47. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 235.

48. Ibid.

49. Ibid.

50. See Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 245.