The Pope, The Church, and The Debate Over Salvation-Part II
Paul Dean Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog
- 2005 Apr 08
There is no disagreement that the Roman Catholic Church espouses a mixture of grace and works when it comes to the way of salvation. Yesterday, we noted that one cannot have assurance of salvation in that system as one can never be sure he has enough merit to gain Heaven. The sacramental system was discussed to a point including a few words regarding penance, indulgences, baptismal regeneration, and the Mass. While we have hit these issues and the one's today in a cursory manner, our hope is that persons will see that Roman Catholics and Evangelicals have a very different view of salvation. While we might be able to stand together in some sense against certain social evils, we certainly cannot stand together when it comes to the gospel.
At a personal level, I have truly struggled as to whether or not I should have posted this article. My rational for proceeding forward is that I feel compelled as a Christian to clarify the tremendous error being propagated over the airwaves via talk radio especially. By way of example, just this morning I heard Protestants saying that Catholics believe in Christ just like we do. Conservative, evangelical talk show hosts and listeners are incredulous at the suggestion that Catholics don't believe in Christ. One individual cited Mel Gibson and his movie The Passion saying that Catholics worship Christ just like we do and that "the movie was certified by the Pope and others as being biblical and if that movie doesn’t tell you what their beliefs are, I don’t know what will." The problem with that statement is three fold. First, the movie was far from biblical. Second, the movie does not tell us what Catholics believe. A whole sacramental system of works and superstition lies behind that movie. Third, who gave the Pope or anyone else the authority to "certify" the movie as biblical?
The issue is which Christ do Catholics or any other folk worship and how do they worship Him. The Jews believe in the God of the Old Testament, yet, they are lost because the God of the Old Testament has revealed Himself to us in Christ and they reject Christ (as a religion, we certainly understand individual Jews have come to Christ). The Liberals in mainline Protestantism believe in Christ but they are lost because they do not believe in the Christ of the Bible. They believe in a Christ who was not born of a virgin, performed no miracles, did not die, nor is coming again. Do Catholics really believe the same as we Evangelicals?
One of the more popular questions of the week is, "where is Pope John Paul II now?" Light may be shed on that subject as one considers the Pope in the Roman Catholic system. For one thing, the Pope was an avowed and practicing idolater. In Gal. 5:19-21 we read, "now the works of the flesh are evident, which are…idolatry…heresies, of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Was the Pope such?
Lutzer points out that with the rule of Constantine, pagan ideas were absorbed into the Roman Church including superstitions and rituals. Mary became another pagan goddess, a statue to bow to like Isis or Dianna. Babylon had a mother-child cult that was accepted by the church. Titles of honor were borrowed from the pagan religions wholesale. Thus, Mary became the "Queen of Heaven," a title taken from the mentioned mother-child cult.
The Bible speaks to this issue. "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger (Jer. 7:18)." "Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: 'As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.' The women also said, 'And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands' permission (Jer. 44:15-19)." The practice of worshipping the queen of heaven is outlined and certainly condemned by God. This practice is condemned by God in Jer. 44:25 as well.
Further blending of Christianity with paganism by the Roman Church is seen in the doctrine of patron saints as ancient religions had gods for everything. Saints in the Catholic system are given their areas of responsibility as well. Catholics the world over pray to different saints depending upon different needs.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived without original sin and had a special soul unlike the rest of humanity created by God and infused into a body prepared by her parents. She still had to be redeemed but in a more perfect manner. The suggestion is that she is free from sin. In 1854, Pope Pius IX in a Papal Bull said the doctrine was revealed by God and therefore is to be believed by the faithful. He declared, "the Most Holy Virgin Mary was in the first moment of her conception by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind preserved from form the stain of all original sin."
Further, the Church indeed holds that Mary was free from personal sin. Because she lived sinlessly, she had no inordinate sexual desires and acquired special merits that can be of benefit to the saints.
The Roman Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin even though the Scripture says otherwise. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven and is "resplendent in glory in body and soul and reigns in heaven with her Son (Pope Pius XII, 1950)." None of these things changed with Vatican II either. Pope John XXIII declared that the meeting occurred under the auspices of Mary Mother of God and he closed in prayer to her. Of her, he said, she "served the mystery of redemption. Because of her obedience, she became the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race. She cooperates with her Son in the saving of souls."
In The Glories of Mary, Cardinal Alphonse de Litouri gave a summation of Roman Catholic belief. Among other things, in regard to Mary, he said "we can never praise Mary too highly for what ever we say in praise to the Mother is equally praise to the Son…She is truly a mediatress of peace between sinners and God. Sinners receive pardon by Mary alone…The holy church commands a worship peculiar to Mary…Mary is called the gate of heaven because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her…Our salvation is in the hands of Mary. He who is protected by Mary will be saved, he who is not will be lost…All power is given to thee in heaven and on earth, so that at the command of Mary all obey, even God, and thus, God has placed the whole church under the domination of Mary…Mary is the advocate of the whole human race, fit for this office, for she can do what she wills with God, the most wise, for she knows all the means of appeasing him…The whole Trinity, O Mary, gave thee a name, above every other name, that at thy name, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." Can any evangelical hold out any hope of being saved for one who holds to such? It is absolutely unthinkable. That Name that is exalted above all other names is reserved for Christ Jesus, the Lord. In addition, the Bible is clear that "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5)." Some may claim that Catholics do not worship Mary. The truth is that they do, and even the Catholics who believe they do not worship her, view her as the mediator between us and Christ, that is, between us and God. If we in our modern sensibilities were ever going to charge a person or group with heresy, this would be it.
At the same time, the Pope violates Scripture in that he receives worship and takes glory from God. The Scripture addresses this issue: "Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, 'See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God (Rev. 22:8-9).'"
Furthermore, space will not allow us to dissect apostolic succession (Peter being the first Pope) and papal infallibility. It is enough to say that the Pope maintains that he is the Vicar of Christ on earth and when he sits ex cathedra, his pronouncements are the infallible word of God. It is no exaggeration to say that he "opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2:4)." Of course, the Holy Father runs into trouble with another biblical text, particularly as one ascertains the significance with which he receives the title as the head of the church on earth: "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven (Matt. 23:9)."
In short, the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church adhere to another gospel. While we affirm the social good wrought by the efforts of John Paul II, and while we cannot judge his heart at the moment of death, we can certainly affirm his position the last moment any of us saw him alive on television. Nothing had changed. His actions give us little hope that change occurred thereafter.
Why are we so hard-pressed to speak the truth in love? Do we fear man? Paul said, "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ (Gal. 1:6-10)."
I have honestly struggled with whether or not I should have written this post. So many are singing the Pope’s praises and I for one affirm his moral stance. I hosted a talk radio show myself this morning and was very gracious and complimentary to the Pope in regard to his social stand. I certainly don't want to be viewed as some malcontent with a bad attitude and a lack of sophistication when it comes to the social graces of speaking of the religious. Yet, I also said we should not compromise the truth of the gospel. How many evangelicals have shocked me by saying outright that the Pope is in Heaven? But, honestly brethren, can we be content with saying nice things when people listen to what ministers of the word have to say? Do not the eternal destinies of other men and women hang in the balance? Do we want to sound an uncertain trumpet when it comes to the nature of the gospel? One may ask, "how much of the Roman Catholic system did John Paul II really affirm?" He’s the Pope! If he did not affirm it he would not be the Pope, or at least he would have made sweeping reform. He did not. For the sake of Christ, the truth, and the future of missions and evangelism, let us speak the truth in love here.
Having quoted Gal. 1:6-10 as my authority, it should be clear where Paul stood on the issue of ECT or the Pope's destiny barring a highly doubtful deathbed miracle. Even so, we do affirm the Pope’s lostness with tears.