Dear Pastor Warren Heckman:
I was at one of your Friday evening services and someone offered to give me a booklet on everything that's wrong with the Catholic Church and why I should come out of it. The name of the booklet is The Bible and Roman Catholicism put out by Christian Equippers International, authored by William R. Kimball. He suggested that I read it and contact one of the Pastors at Madison Gospel Tabernacle so that I could be saved and become a Christian.
The Bible and Catholicism: I did as he asked and read the booklet and am contacting you as the head Pastor, but not for the purpose of becoming Christian, since I already am one, but for the purpose of responding to this booklet. The booklet The Bible And Roman Catholicism does not accurately represent the teachings of the Catholic Church in relationship to the Bible. By referring to it as Protestant, it misrepresents many of the Protestant churches. In addition, the booklet quotes scripture passages out of context while leaving out those verses that actually point to the truthfulness of the Catholic Church, thus giving a distorted view of the Bible and the Catholic Church. Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism puts it this way, They memorize their lessons well but they memorize selectively because they are taught only certain things. A very good example of this is on Page 12 of the booklet. Mr. Kimball quotes (Mk. 7:7, 8, 13):
Tradition man-made and God made:
- However, Jesus rebuked the usurping and undermining of scriptures through man-made tradition when He said, "The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandment of God to cling to HUMAN TRADITIONS...In this way you make God's word null and void for the sake of your TRADITION which you have handed down" (MK. 7:7, 8, 13, J.B.V.) (Page 12 The Bible and Roman Catholicism).
Who can argue with this? Is Kimball not quoting the Bible? Is the Catholic or Protestant supposed to say, There you have it, the Catholic Church believes in tradition and therefore nullifies God's Word. The problem is that Kimball makes no distinction between divine and human tradition. Paul Whitcomb in his book The Catholic Church Has the Answer does a very good job of answering this.
- Observe that in the Bible there are two kinds of religious tradition--human and divine. Observe that when Christ accused the Pharisees He was referring to 'precepts of men' (Mark 7:7), to their human traditions. Christ wanted divine tradition preserved and honored because He made it part and parcel of the Christian deposit of faith as the Apostle Paul affirmed: 'Stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle' (2 Thess. 2:15. Also see 2 Thess. 3:6). This divine tradition to which Paul refers--this revealed truth which was handed down by word rather than by letter--is the tradition upon which, along with Sacred Scripture, the Catholic Church bases her tenets of faith--as the primitive Christian Fathers affirmed. Wrote St. Augustine: 'These traditions of the Christian name, therefore, so numerous, so powerful, and most dear, justly keep a believing man in the Catholic Church.' The New Testament itself is a product of Christian Tradition. No where in the New Testament is there any mention of a New Testament.
As you can see, the booklet forgot some things that just happen to be in the Bible. (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6). I once asked a pastor of a Four Square Church, why it was that every time that I heard the word tradition in a Charismatic Church, that it is always used in a negative context (Mark 7:7) when in fact Paul speaks of it also in a positive context (2 Thess. 2:15)? He said he had never thought of it before and admitted that he probably did it that way himself. I appreciated his very honest answer.
Kimball tries among other things to point a less than pretty picture of Catholicism in an attempt to make it appear contradictory to the Bible.
- "However, a closer examination proves that it is a system which actually nullifies and distorts scriptural truth by adding erroneous, man-made teachings which openly contradict the Catholic and non-Catholic Bibles (Page 6, The Bible and Roman Catholicism).
There is something that Kimball forgot to consider, and that is the leaving out of significant portions of scriptures in an attempt to invalidate the Catholic Church, actually invalidates his own words. Vatican II says that both sacred tradition and sacred scripture is to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence. Paul says to the Thessalonians, hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours (2 Thess. 2:15). Again, the problem for Kimball in quoting (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6), and others like it, is that it endorses the Biblical understanding of divine tradition, something that Catholics believe, and so he conveniently leaves it out.
Bible only (sola scriptura) authority: There is another problem with quoting. (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6) and that is it flies in the face of the Bible only (sola scriptura) theology because once we acknowledge (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6) we now believe not only in the Bible, but also in tradition. The Bible as the inspired word of God is believed by all Catholics and most Protestants. The main difference is in the word (alone). Most Protestants believe that the Bible alone is their full authority while the Catholic Church believes in both sacred scripture and sacred tradition as taught by the Church.
Scott Hahn, as a Presbyterian Minister and Professor, was once asked the question, Where does the scripture teach that the Bible alone is our full authority? Mr. Hahn successfully evaded the question because, offhand, he didn't know where it was. He searched his notes, checked the Bible, and called several theologians, and found that it wasn't there. He then asked his theological instructor, What do you think is the pillar and foundation of truth? His instructor knowing that he was struggling with the Catholic Church, said, Why the scriptures of course.
And Mr. Hahn said, Then why is it in 1 Timothy 3:15 that Saint Paul says the pillar and foundation of truth is the Church, the household of God? Mr. Hahn had a real problem. He was discovering truth in the Catholic Church, the very church that was supposed to be all wrong. But what was he going to do? Was he not one of the most anti-Catholic Protestants? Was he not the very one who led many Catholics away from the Church because of their doctrines, traditions and beliefs? If you want to know what he did, call (818) 331-3549 and ask for the tape, Protestant Minster becomes Catholic.
On page 1 of Kimball's booklet it says, The word of God (Bible) is the supreme authority from which all Roman Catholics must derive their beliefs and practices. This sounds nice; however, no where in the Bible does it say scripture is the supreme authority or the sole rule of faith. The Bible does say, All scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, refutation, for correction and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It does not say that Scripture is the supreme authority. However, this same Scripture says that the supreme authority comes from Jesus Christ, All authority has been given to me (Matthew 28:18).
I once stood in a kitchen, across from an individual who said, This is it, this is it!, while pointing at his Bible. Needless to say he was wrong. The Bible is not it; however, the Bible points to it. The Bible is not the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; God is. It was not a printed text that grew arms and legs and dwelt among us. It was Jesus Christ who was the living word that became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). It was the printed word (Bible) that points to the living word (Jesus). Jesus did not found a Bible to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19); he founded a body of believers, a church with a guarantee that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
All authority was given to Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18). Jesus then gave this authority, not to a paper text Bible, but to a church. As the father has sent me, so I send you (John 20:21), Whoever listens to you listens to me, whoever rejects you rejects me, whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me (Luke 10:16, Matthew 10:40). And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven (Matthew 16:18,19).
The Bible (New Testament) then came out of the church. It was written over a period of fifty or seventy-five years. And with the authority that Jesus gave the Church, the Catholic Church determined at the council of Hippo 393 and Carthage 397, the New Testament Canon. This is the same New Testament Canon used by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Churches. The Bible points to God and points to the Church, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).
This household of God, this Church of the living God, this pillar and foundation of truth then finds the Bible very useful. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching refutation for correction and for the training in righteousness so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16).
How the books of the Bible were determined: Kimball continues to provide more incorrect information on the history of the making of the Bible.
- Rome has even added a section of uninspired books to the Bible called the Apocrypha because they provide the only semblance of support for a limited number of their teachings, beliefs, and practices. These books are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament, and were never referred to as scripture by Christ or His disciples, and were not even sanctioned by the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. (Pages 11 and 12 The Bible and Roman Catholicism).
The Apocryphal books added to the Bible by the Council of Trent ......1546 (The Bible and Roman Catholicism).
The last statement is simply a falsification of history. There were no books added to the Bible at the Council of Trent (1546). In fact, the Deuterocanonical (Apocrypha) books were a part of the Bible (Septuagint) going back a hundred years before Christ. Neither did Luther remove the Deuterocanonical books, but grouped them together at the end of the Bible. The early King James Bible of 1611 printed the Deuterocanonical books between the Old and the New Testament.
It was as late as 1827 when the British and Foreign Bible Society decided to omit, what they called, the controverted books in future publications. The Greek Septuagint and Hebrew Bibles were both used and quoted in the Christian church from the earliest times with some scholars preferring the Hebrew and others the Greek. In 1534 Luther downgraded the Deuterocanonical books to secondary importance, not holding them equal to sacred scripture and yet held them as useful and good for reading. In the New Testament Luther formed three Groups: Romans, Galatians, and John; the other New Testament books, including the Synoptics, he relegated to second place; he severely censored Hebrews, Jude, 2 Peter, and Apocalypse, while he called James a straw Epistle.
Again, the Council of Trent (1546) did not add books to the Bible, but definitely settled the matter of the Old Testament canon and spoke in favor of the Septuagint which included the Apocrypha. Since 1827 most Protestant Bibles have been printed without the Deuterocanonical. In more recent years fragments of (Tobit and Sirach) were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also research by Protestant and Catholic Scholars strongly suggests that the early church opted for the Septuagint. For example, 80% of the New Testament citations and allusions to the Old Testament were taken from the Septuagint. It was not the intent of Luther to remove the seven controversial books from the Bible, and in fact, he did not remove them. This came later with the influence of scholars such as John Lightfoot who referred to those books as wretched Apocrypha.
Zwingli refers to Luthers Bible as a corrruption of the word of God. This is not the first time I have heard the erroneous statement that the Catholic Church adds to the Bible. But what I found most astounding was that Martin Luther actually did add to and change scripture to his liking. Zwingli, a leading Protestant reformer, after examining Luther's translation openly pronounced it, acorruption of the word of God (Amicable Discussion, Trevern 1, 129). Emser, who was given the task of writing a Catholic vernacular translation offered 607 marked places where Luther violated and distorted the text of the New Testament (The Cambridge History of the Bible, The West from the reformation to the present day, pages 106, 107).
Luther adds the word alone to his text: Most Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, believe Romans 3:28, (Justification by faith). However, there are millions of Christians who believe in justification by faith alone, something that is not in the Bible. I wondered how it was, that you can get millions of Christians who believe in the Bible as their sole authority, to believe something that is not in the Bible. It's easy; all you have to do is add one word, alone.
- Romans 3:28: 'We account a man to be justified by faith without the works of the Law' he renders by the interpolating of a word: 'We hold that a man is justified without works of the law by faith alone. His answer to Emser's exposition of his perversion of the text was: 'If your Papist annoys you with the word [alone], tell him straightway: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so: Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go by: the devil's thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom' (Amic. Discussion, 1, 127) (Luther and the Bible, Ohare).
Perhaps when Luther would have it so, he was declaring his own infallibility. And this is why Protestants believe in faith alone today; Martin Luther put it in there. There is only one place in the Bible where faith alone actually exists; however, it is preceded by two words not by. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (Jm 2:24).
So as can be readily seen, the Catholic Church by including divine tradition as part of their teaching, does not add to the Bible, but simply believes the Bible. However, the father of the Protestant Reformation (Luther) added to and changed the Bible to his liking and present day adversaries of the Catholic Church, such as Kimball have taken from the Bible, leaving out significant portions in an attempt to discredit the Church.
Pastor Heckman, in writing this letter, I am in no way trying to discredit you, your church, or the authenticity of your Christian faith. In fact, I have heard good things about you from more than one source. What I am trying to do is to at least touch on some of the many unfounded accusations against the Church that I have encountered in the past ten years. I do not believe it is fair to tell another church what they believe. It is far more fitting to ask what they believe.
Before I started writing this letter I was asked by a Protestant friend if I thought anything in this booklet was true. While writing this letter, I had this question in mind: Where is the truth, if any, in this booklet. The difficulty with false allegation is that it has within it, at least a half truth that makes it sound quite believable, for example, The Apocryphal books added to the Bible, Council of Trent 1546. Where is the half truth and where is the lie? The truth is that the Canon of scripture was dealt with at the Council of Trent. The lie is that the Deuterocanonical books were added at this time. This type of slanted information that has within it at least a partial truth, is laced throughout the booklet, giving an incorrect understanding of the Catholic Church and the Bible. Jesus made the statement, For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth (Jn 18:37). If we are to be followers of Jesus and imitators of Christ, we must speak the truth. Where Kimball fails in truth is in his unfounded accusations against the Catholic Church, his misuse of scriptures, and his distortion of Church history. It appears that this booklet is an outline of at least part of Lorraine Boettners Roman Catholicism (Bible of anti-Catholicism). Because of this Kimball may not be guilty of blatant wrong doing. He may have copied it without checking it out, believing it to be true.
Adversaries of the Church often times have the best of intentions: I define anti-Catholics as those people who have been taught hatred of the Catholic Church and propagate it. Hatred, is that perhaps a word too strong to describe the attitude of an anti-Catholic? I don't think so. I was talking to an individual across a kitchen table who said, Catholicism is contrary to the Bible. And I asked, Where does it say so in the Bible? Well come to find out it wasn't in the Bible; however, it was in a couple of booklets that he had read on Catholicism. Later on he said, I love you and I hate your Catholic Church. This is quite an interesting theology, while loving me as an individual, he was hating me in a group of people called the Catholic Church. Keith Greens, anti-Catholic Publications Catholic Chronicles, was having the effect of teaching hatred towards Catholics and creating division. He began to tone down the language of these publications and after Keith Greens death, Melody Green pulled the anti-Catholic publications completely and apologized in a letter to the Catholic Church. We are aware of Catholics who have been wounded by these tracts. We are also aware of others who have developed critical self-righteous attitudes towards Catholics. It is quite a compliment to Melody Green, that after seeing the effects of Catholic Chronicles that she had the humility and integrity to pull these publications.
I talked to one of my Protestant friends who said as she got to know me, her fear of Catholicism went away. I thought that this was an odd statement since I had never noticed any anti-Catholic attitudes in her at all. It then occurred to me that perhaps many or most Protestants some time in their life have encountered some very anti-Catholic literature that still colors their attitude toward Catholics, producing some fear.
I also must say that my definition of anti-Catholics is far too broad, because most people propagating an anti-Catholic message, sincerely believe they are spreading the truth and have no idea that what they are saying has little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church. When it is explained to them, they change quickly because of their eagerness for truth. An example of this happened one day when I was picketing an abortion clinic. I was approached by an individual who told me his story of how he had sent out an anti-Catholic publication to a family and said this is what Catholicism is all about. Later on when he discovered, from his Protestant Church, that this information was incorrect and distorted, he went back and apologized to this family. Was this man so guilty of willful wrong doing? Was he a true anti-Catholic? I don't think so.
- Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they think is the Roman Catholic Church.
Pastor Heckman, perhaps you have some things that bother you about the Catholic Church. If so, drop me a note in the mail. I would be happy to respond to anything you write. Pastor Heckman, God bless you.
Leonard T. Alt
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