I studied the adversaries of the Catholic Church and became even more Catholic.
While at an event at an Evangelical Church in Madison Wisconsin, I was handed some very interesting literature. It was a small booklet, put out by an organization called, Christian Equippers International and it was very adversarial. The booklet was about three by five inches in size and roughly thirty pages with two or three allegations per page. And so I said to myself, I can answer this! At the time, I didn’t understand that it takes about two to three pages to answer any one of these allegations. How can I respond to all of these allegations in a letter, when it would take a book to even begin to answer them? I finally wrote an eight page letter in response and sent it to the Pastor of this church. Needless to say, I only responded to a few of the allegations. This is what got me started writing about Christianity and the differences between Catholics and non-Catholics.
I then began collecting material and started to research the Church through the eyes of the adversaries of the Church. And I also continued to write letters in response to this literature. The interesting thing about my research is that the more negative literature, I read about the Church, the more Catholic, I became. This happened because I contrasted the allegations about the Church with actual Catholic teaching and there was often times a vast difference. There were three things that I noticed happening in this type of literature.
- The people writing this literature would often times misrepresent Church teaching and then say, on the basis of their own misrepresentation, that the Catholic Church is wrong.
- I also discovered that some people were quoting the Bible out of context and in so doing were coming up with a distorted understanding of Scripture. They were then using this corrupt understanding of Scripture and using it to speak against Catholic Church teaching.
- The third thing I noticed had to do with history and their criticism of certain Church Councils. After all, they could criticize Catholic councils because they existed in history going back to Christ and the Apostles. I, at the same time, could not criticize their councils simply because they did not exist in history going back to Christ and the Apostles.
Misrepresentation of Church teaching: The number one misrepresentation of Catholic teaching has to do with Jesus’ mother Mary. Some church traditions teach that that the Catholic Church deified Mary. While at work, I noticed one coworker who regularly seemed to be uneasy around me. One day it finally came out; he just started yelling at me, “Why do you Catholics put Mary on such a high pedestal?” And so I am yelling back at him, “Oh, do you mean where the Catholic Church makes Mary equal to God or even Greater than God?” And he said “Yes!” And so I answered him; “never in the two thousand year history of the Church has the Church ever made Mary into a God or equal to God!” He looked at me for a few seconds and walked away without saying anything. He, to his credit, later apologized for speaking in an area that he didn’t know that much about.
However, the question remains, why did he walk away without responding? The answer is simple. It says nowhere in the Bible that Mary is a God; she is the Mother of Jesus who is both God and man. Everyone agrees with this. And so if the Church deified Mary, it had to happen at some later date and if it happened later, at what Church council was Mary made into a God. In order for him to answer that question, he would have had to name a Church document or council where Mary was deified. The problem is that no such Catholic document exists. The deification of Mary is not Catholic teaching, but a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching, not to be confused with actual Catholic teaching. Mary as a God is not Catholic teaching, but non-Catholic misrepresentation of Catholic teaching. It is intellectually dishonest to misrepresent a church and then disagree with that church's teaching on the basis of the same misrepresentation.
Using the Bible out of context: I was once challenged by a friend, who wanted to know why the Church endorses tradition when Jesus very clearly speaks against tradition. By the way of response, I asked her this question “what man-made tradition was Jesus speaking against and what commandment of God was being violated?” She said that she didn’t know. When she said she didn’t know, I realized that she didn’t know the context and so I explained it to her. The tradition was called Corban. By following their corrupt “Corban” tradition they no longer have to take care of their parents in their old age.
- “but you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother. What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do” (Mk 7:12-13).
And so Jesus was not speaking against all tradition, but corrupt tradition that was in violation of the fourth commandment “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). I do not believe for one minute that my friend was deliberately taking the Bible out of context. She was just mouthing what her tradition had taught her, not knowing she was using the Bible improperly.
Furthermore, the Bible through the Apostle Paul speaks for tradition. “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2Thess 2:15). In order to speak against ALL tradition, they either do not know that Paul spoke for tradition, or they do know, but are ignoring that part of Scripture for the sake of their tradition. FOR A LARGER EXPLANATION GO TO PAGE _________
Criticizing Church history: On Facebook there are many adversarial groups speaking against the Catholic Church. One individual, in one of these groups, puts forth this historical question.
- “I would ask our Romanist visitors to name, please, a single bishop at the Council of Nicaea who believed as the Pope believes on each of these topics: Marian dogmas (Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, Bodily Assumption), Papal Authority (infallibility), Purgatory, transubstantiation?”
His question deserves an answer. As far as the topics he mentions, they were not dealt with at Nicaea. They were dealing with the nature of God, the Arian heresy, the day we celebrate Easter and other related topics. And in response to his question, I also asked him a question using some of his own language.
- “I would ask our Evangelical visitors to name please, a single Baptist minister at the council of Nicaea who believed in such topics such as faith alone, Bible alone or grace alone?” He had no answer because these topics were not discussed and the attendees were not Evangelical ministers, but Catholic Bishops.
What he didn't seem to realize is that in asking his question this way, he was unwittingly testifying to the fact that the Church of history is the Catholic Church (East and West). Notice that he is not talking about Evangelical Baptists meeting in a Protestant council. He is talking about a Catholic Council with Catholic Bishops. It was Catholic councils that went back to Jesus and the apostles, not Evangelical. With his adversarial attitude, I am sure he didn’t mean too inadvertently testify to the fact that the historical Church was Catholic. He apparently didn’t like it that I pointed this out and so he responded by kicking me out of the group.
It would always amaze me because time and time again these types of groups would bring up history and criticize the Catholic Church. And even if all the negative information that they were saying about the Church was true, they were still unwittingly testifying to the fact that the Catholic Church is the Church of history. I couldn’t criticize their church councils since they did not exist in history. And because they didn't exist, none of the Evangelical churches could have been the Church founded by Jesus and the Apostles. They have a real problem when they talk about the Church between Biblical times and the time of Martin Luther.
I believe that there is a major issue of intellectual honesty here. Is it right to misrepresent another church's teaching and then use this corrupt information to speak against it? Is it right to take the Bible out of context, and then use this faulty understanding against another church? Why would they criticize Catholic Church history, when they don't have any church councils of their own going back to the early Church? This is why, the more I studied the writings of the adversaries of the Church, I actually became more Catholic.
"To be deep in History is to cease to be Protestant”