Sunday, August 1, 2010

Catholicism: An Introduction to Their Worldview Part II


The teaching of salvation is probably the most misunderstood between Catholics and Protestants. Both use different “models” to understand how we are saved. Both of them believe basically the same things but emphasize different aspects. There are differences which I will attempt to explain.

Protestants, in general, teach Jesus came to conquer death and sin for us and now we by faith can accept this free gift and upon death enter eternal life. This is done as an individual. Emphasis of salvation is release from eternal damnation. Protestants believe a “born again” experience is the entry way into salvation, in which the Holy Spirit come to sinner as an accountable person and they have a supernatural experience in which they become “saved” from eternal damnation. They then are assured upon death that they will enter the Kingdom of heaven. From then on all their sins are covered by the blood of Christ and they will--until death--struggle with sin and though the will remain sinners stained with original sin, Jesus’ merits stand in their place and when called into Judgement, Christ’s life stands in place of their life. At some point after death, their characters will be miraculously transformed into perfection without any attempt of their own and without their realizing it. Hell are for those who did not have a faith experience and applied the blood of Jesus to their lives.

Catholicism teaches that a person enters the Kingdom of God when they are baptized either by the faith of their parents or their own faith. Faith is not only personal but community-based. A parent’s faith can save his child, a husband’s faith can sanctify his wife. There is a storehouse of faith within the Church which we can draw from. Christ allows us, as His Bride to be intimately involved in the saving of men’s souls. Angels and saints in heaven do his bidding to plant the seeds of faith, just as a preacher and all the Christians on earth do as witnesses for Him.

Upon baptism, a person is now inside the family covenant and have entered the Kingdom of God. Baptism cleanses the person of original sin and now, living the Kingdom, they are no longer enslaved by sin, but able, through God’s grace to become perfect. Within the Kingdom, sacraments are freely given to encourage, uplift and perfect the saint. At the second coming or death is judgement. If one is not perfect and remain attached to certain sins, they then go to purgatory to learn repentance. After that they are able to stand face to face with God in his glory as a perfected and beautiful bride. Emphasis of salvation is release from slavery of sin--transference from one kingdom to the next.  
While Protestants believe if you are not “saved” you go to hell, Catholics believe that God’s mercy is available for all and we cannot say who goes to hell, it is His judgement not ours. Hell is for those who reject all light of love, faith and hope until death.

The Bible

Premise: The formation of the Christian canon (Old and New Testament) as processed through the Roman Catholic church is reliable based on the faith-belief that God will protect His Word.

To defend the Christian Bible we must look well before Christ himself. During the Babylonian exile certain sacred scrolls were saved by the rabbis and taken with them, this formed a canon that was slightly different from the one that was brought to Jerusalem from Greek rabbis who had translated the Hebrew sacred scriptures for the Alexandrian library. This Greek translation, called the Septuagint, included several books that were not a part of the Babylonia canon. These books included Baruch, I and II Maccabees, Judith, Ben Sirah (Ecclesiasticus), Wisdom, Tobit and Judith. At that time, the people living in Jerusalem did not particularly require a set “canon” of sacred scrolls, so the differences caused little controversy.


Jesus and his Apostles and disciples were aware of the different canons, but because the majority of Hebrews living in Jerusalem in the first century spoke and read Greek, by in large they used the Greek Septuagint to read and quote from. Many Protestant scholars claim Jesus rejected the “extra” books in the Septuagint and never alluded nor quoted from them. These scholars are unaware that not only did Jesus allude to them, but his Apostles and the early church fathers quoted from them and considered the deuterocanonical (often called apocrypha) books sacred.

Paul’s first two chapters in Romans is taken from his studies of Wisdom. Also the author of Hebrews based his horrible accounts of martyrdom for the faith in Hebrews 11:35, 36 on II Maccabees 6:18--7:41. In the Protestant scholar, Lee Martin McDonald’s book, The Biblical Canon: Its Origen, Transmission and Authority (p. 452-464) it lists literally hundreds of places that Jesus and His Apostles cited or alluded to the deuterocanonical books. We know from the quotes of Christ and the apostles that Jesus preferred the Greek canon. Of the 350 quotes from scripture, 300 of them were from the Greek canon as opposed to the Palestinian or Babylonian (which were translated slightly differently). It is stunning to realize that 90% of the New Testament quotations of the Old Testament came from the Septuagint version (p. 35 McDonald).

Reading the complete Bible, these books rejected by the Protestant reformers enrich a study of the New Testament. For instance, in the book of Maccabees, the Greek leader Antiochus stood and publicly announced that He was GOD and would prove it by controlling the “wind and the waves.” He is then struck dead on the spot. This underscores what was meant by Jesus calming the winds and the waves. It was for the point of saying that He was GOD! It was a claim to divinity--he didn’t just say he was going to do it, but did it! Another is the book of Wisdom. Wisdom says come and eat from me and you will thirst and hunger again. Jesus claimed that if we come to Him we will be satisfied! The wording is almost identical. If you were a first century Jew, you would have been aware of these deuterocanonical passages and it would have been clear that Jesus was claiming divinity.

One last point. Right now there is a group of Harvard scholars in union with some archeologists who have decided to come out with an “authentic” Bible based on Historical critical methods of finding out what Jesus actually said. They are going to take out all the parts that are “uninspired.” That is sickening! Our Bible is being corrupted! But the problem is, if we give the Reformers the right to cut down the Bible to what they believe to be inspirational, what basis do we have in criticizing the Harvard elites?

There is no place in scripture that would allow anyone to make personal or corporate decisions as to what is sacred or not. Would God allowed His Holy Word to be corrupted for thirteen centuries of Christians looking to it for guidance and doctrine? Surely God protected His word. The entire Old and New Testaments is the authoritative and inspired word of God. Paul states in II Timothy 3:16, "ALL scripture is meant for correction, God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Paul was specifically referring to the Greek scriptures that Mark would have been reading--the Septuagint--the complete Old Testament scrolls. He says all, not a portion. Paul could have easily corrected the canon if he had thought it corrupted by extra “apocryphal” books.


After the death of Jesus, the gospel was spreading like wildfire. In the late first century, the rabbis who had fled the AD 70 Jerusalem massacre formed a synagogue (a rabbinical school based on Rabbi Hillel) in under the leadership of Yohanan ben Zakkai in Jamnia. These scholars decided to fix the limits of the scriptures in reaction to persecutions. For centuries the OT sacred scroll collections had varied among the different Israel factions. There were several collections of scripture that we know of: Babylonian (Palestinian), The Essenes at Qumram’s version, the Samaritan scrolls and the Greek Septuagint.

The Rabbis chose the Babylonian/Palestinian collection for three major reasons. 1. As a defensive measure, to differentiate between themselves from the Christians as they Christians had adopted the Greek Septuagint. They also also sought to undermine the Messianic texts that the Christians were using to prove Jesus the Messiah. 2. To get rid of the Apocalyptic prophecies that they felt were threatening their very existence--no more looking for a specific messiah, only a “messianic” utopian age. They felt the Greek canon was much more "messianic" in its tone. 3. They accepted only scrolls originally written in Hebrew. (Later, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, several of the books such as Judith and Tobit were found to have been originally written in Hebrew.) So from the first century the Hebrew canon began to look different than the Christian canon. This was one of the arguments later posed by those who disagreed with how the Christian canon formed. They said it was NOT like the Hebrew canon.

How strange, indeed, to adopt the Hebrew canon--they who rejected Christ and chose their scriptures for the purpose of discrediting Jesus as the Messiah? Why should their authority usurp Christ and the Apostle’s choice for scripture? (The Hebrew version of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah....the Lord’s mother is called a “maiden” instead of “a virgin will give birth to a child” found in the Septuagint.)

Some Protestants argue the Septuagint wasn’t “sacred” to Hebrews. Yet, the Hellenized Jews spoke Greek and most could not read Hebrew. “The scripture that the early Christians inherited [LXX] were considered sacred in the Synagogue” (p. 29 McDonald.) “The Septuagint had plowed the furrows of the gospel seed in the western world” (The Canon of Scripture, F.F. Bruce, p.50).

(Note of interest: the Hebrews before Christ called any books that exposed any priestly bad behavior “apocryphal” or hidden, not because they thought them inauthentic because they didn’t want the public to read them and find out their leaders had been less than perfect.....)


In the first through fourth century, there was no "official" Christian bible. Sacred writings were recorded on vellum or papyrus scrolls or on paper codices then circulated through the churches. Usually on a book, or couple of small books could fit on a single scroll. Since this was an expensive and time-consuming process, most churches only had a few scrolls or codices. Very few had the money to purchase a complete set of sacred scrolls. (Also, most people couldn't read, so church was where they heard scriptures.)

Also, because the there was no official New Testament, early church groups adopted different NT books as part of scripture. The Shepherd of Hermas, and the Epistle of Clement, the Apocalypse of Peter were read in certain churches as scripture and debates broke out as to what writings were really holy and God-breathed. This was important question because during persecution a Christian bishop or deacon were threatened with jail or worse if they didn’t hand over their sacred scrolls. Which books were worth defending and even dying over? Which could you hand over without hurting your conscience? Were Paul's letters sacred? What about the bishop Clement of Rome's letter or Bishop Ignatius of Antioch letters? Some leaders tried to clarify the books accepted as sacred and their lists are still extant.

The church really needed a a regulated canon of sacred scripture to be read in church. Finally, in the fourth century (Council of Hippo and another at Carthage, AD 397) a decision had to be made. They already used the Septuagint, but should there be a Christian set of sacred scripture? They decided that only the letters and gospels written by the apostles or by their scribes (Luke, Mark) would be accepted as equal to the Old Testament, creating what we know today as the Bible. This was not an easy undertaking. The bishops began researching which letters were authentically the words of an Apostle.

How did the fourth century leaders know which letters were actually written by the Apostles? After all, more time had passed in Christianity than America has been in existance! Around three hundred years and fifty years! Who could they trust to let them know which gospels were authentic, which letters of Paul were authentic? There was a III Corinthians going around that wasn’t the real 3rd Corinthians that Paul speaks about in his letters. The real one has been lost to history. The church looked to the writings of the early bishops to verity what books were apostolic as there were many books out there claiming that title. The church went to Polycarp and Ignatius, Tertullian, Origen that recorded which books Matthew actually wrote, Mark actually wrote. They even, when in doubt, compared the quotes these men made out of the gospels and letters of Paul to positively identify which letters were authentic.

The other letters and sermons (the Didache, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, Shepherd of Hermas) written by true Christians, were not discarded as erroneous, but they were used as "inspirational." The early church encouraged these other books to be read, just outside the church’s divine worship.

Other books were actual forgeries by heretics. There was a "gospel of Matthew" that had been rewritten by the Ebionites and it was forbidden to the Christians because they didn't want the two to get mixed up. There were a profusion of letters that claimed to be written by the apostles or Mary, but were falsified. (And believe me, many Christians believed they were real and fought to get them in the canon.)

Today, this puts us in a predicament about the Catholic Bible, we absolutely must believe these early fathers (Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Polycarp) were inspired by God in their letters or we cannot trust them to point out which gospels or Paul’s letters were authentic. The church leaders of the fourth century looked back and believed what the first and second century leaders wrote in order to choose the New Testament books.

Virtually all Christian scholars accept the Ante-Nicene Fathers' writings as authentic and historical. These bishop’s writings discerned truth from falsehood at a time when many people penned gospels under the name of an apostle. Even still, some anti-Catholic groups believe because the Roman Catholic church was in charge of choosing the Biblical canon, that it cannot be trusted. That the Bible has been compromised and cannot be the true Word of God. It is tempting to believe the Bible is not sacred when one reads the interesting twists and turns the canon of the Bible took through the centuries. But Catholics believe by faith that God cared for His Word. It as a miracle.


From the fourth to the sixteen centuries (over a millennia), the canon had been fixed and all Bibles had the same books in them. It was not until the Protestant Reformation that parts of scripture began to disappear.

personal note on the Septuagint and its deuterocanonical books): My husband and I visited several “Bible shrines” including the one at Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College. We also got permission to do research at the private Archives at the Library of Congress (Bible Manuscripts Department) and spent hours studying old Bible manuscripts, quizzing the curator. There is no disagreement anywhere. The facts are that these books Protestants denigrate as “apocryphal” were in ALL Bibles from the 4th century onward until some Reformers began to dismantle scriptures. It was truly explosive to my theological perspective when I saw manuscript after manuscript of scripture with these books included. The Bible, the Holy Word of God had been larger for the Christians for thirteen centuries. 

Evidently many of the reformers doubted God’s involvement with the Word of God. The The Westminster Confession was the first to officially tear scripture apart. Zwingli authorized his followers to rip Catholic books out of the Bibles. The Protestant Bible instantaneously inerrant and infallible at that point? Yet, Paul said "ALL scripture is meant for correction." If ALL scripture for over a thousand years was the Roman Catholic canon what do we do about those who decided to take several books out?

Protestants are usually not aware that the original printed versions of these translations were Catholic in their canon and not Protestant: Gutenberg, Wycliffe, Coverdale, Tyndale, Matthew’s, The Great Bible, Geneva, Bishops, KJV (authorized) and The first American Bible of 1782.

The abridged Protestant version only became ubiquitous in the 1830's when the American Bible Society decided to print on the incomplete Protestant Bibles. Today, though, many Protestant versions are going back to the original books--like the Millennium Bible.

Reformers who taught the only true authority was scripture (sola scriptura) felt free to toss out the books that did not agree with their doctrines. Who is the real authority here?


The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce
The Old Testament: Its Formation and Development by Arthur Weiser
The Biblical Canon: Its Origen, Transmission and Authority by Lee Martin McDonald
Whose Bible Is It Anyway? A Short History of the Scriptures by Jaroslav Pelikan
The Book: A History of the Bible by Christopher De Hamel
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible by John Rogerson
History of the Bible by Bart D. Erman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Story of the Bible by Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory University
and correspondence with Dr. J. I. Packer


For Catholics and Protestants to ever communicate, the Catholic and Protestant perception of how we received truth from God and who He ultimate put in charge is fundamental. Protestants view the Bible as a book God gave to His followers to lead people to Christ and define truth. Individuals interested in salvation read scripture, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and find truth independently.

The Catholic church accept God’s Word in totality. Jesus words to his Apostles are all authoritative. Only a portion of those were written down in the Bible. As a inerrant source of Jesus instructions, Catholics deeply respect and obey God’s words in scripture. But they also believe we must obey the Word of God that was spoken and never written down. [So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thess. 2: 15].

Jesus said himself that there was much more he wanted to tell his disciples but they were not ready for it yet. John in his last chapter says that there was much Jesus taught and did that was not written down. In Acts we learn that Jesus taught his discipline for forty days and none of this was written down. Why didn’t Jesus instruct his disciple to write down everything he said, nor does scripture tell us that it is an exhaustive compilation of Jesus words. (See John 16:12). The disciples were ordered by God to spread the gospel via spoken word--preaching and teaching The Catholic church believes it is because He deliberately wanted the church to look to His appointed leaders rather than a partial set of His words as the ultimate authority. Catholicism NEVER contradicts scripture but knows the Word of God that was spoken, and never written. When Protestants accuse Catholics of dismissing or having a doctrine that is in conflict in with scripture, it is not really a contradiction, but a matter of how scripture is interpreted.

Protestants see scripture as having the ultimate authority. II Tim. 3:16

Catholics see the church as having the ultimate authority. I Tim. 3:15

[Note: Paul writes Timothy giving authority to both scripture AND the church. So the question is which is preeminent when two people have different interpretations of scripture, the person’s opinion or the church’s opinion?]

When we speak to each other, Protestants constantly appeal to scripture and tell Catholics to “prove” what they believe by scripture. Catholics see that as odd, why should they have to when they see themselves as being the ones who wrote it and copied it, translated it, protected it? It is their writings. They absolutely believe the Bible supports their beliefs, to suggest that their interpretation is wrong, doesn’t compute. Catholics find it a little presumptuous to use the Bible against the group that it was given to. They believe God whispered truth into His Bride’s ear (Catholic Church) when He left and put her in charge. (By the way, that is exactly what scripture reveals also. Scriptures do not point to themselves as the final authority, but the church and its leaders.)

The church Christ left in charge recorded a part of the instructions to her, not all of His instructions, so it confuses a Catholic when you insist everything--all truths--MUST be found in scripture. Catholics see no discrepancies between having both the Bible as infallible nor the dogmas of the church. They see a perfect unity in the two, like to legs working in unison to walk. Protestants see Catholicism as ignoring the Bible.

Yet, Protestants accept the Trinity which is not clearly in scripture. Protestant’s accept that marriage is between one man and one woman--which can be confusing in scripture when the Old Testament has many of God’s chosen men having several to many wives.

[Remember Paul (II Tim., Titus) insists only church leaders have one wife, the assumption being that the lay people can do otherwise. It is Catholic tradition and authority that made the pronouncement that only one wife for each Christian man. c. 7th century.] Going to church on Sunday is a tradition the Catholics started--they claim by Apostolic authority--yet that is not found clearly in scripture.

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