Nelson Greene and Gary W. Summers
[Editor’s note: Brother Nelson Greene was raised as a Roman Catholic. After various changes in church laws (eating meat on Friday, changing the mass from Latin to the language of the people, etc., he started to question things. After learning something about various religious groups, some friends put him in touch with Roanoke Bible College in Elizabeth City, North Carolina (which was then a conservative Christian Church college). He was taught that the non-instrumental congregations had caused the split over a subject that could not be proven from the Bible. Eventually, he found his way to the Lord’s church. Someone asked him to prepare the following material, which he did. The claim of the Catholic Church is in italics; brother Nelson’s comments follow; mine will be in brackets.]
1. Papal Infallibility was proclaimed by the Vatican Council of 1870. This culminated in the authority of the church for the traditions of the hierarchy. Some doctrine and proclamation is in direct violation of Matthew 15:7-9, in which Jesus denounced the “doctrines and commandments of men.” [People may have assumed that the Catholic Church has always taught this doctrine, but it has been in effect only since 1870. When Alexander Campbell debated the Roman Catholic Bishop Purcell in Cincinnati in 1837, Purcell said the concept of papal infallibility would never become part of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church; 33 years later it did.
The reader must realize that all else that Catholicism teaches hinges on this one point. If the pope is truly infallible, then a Catholic has no choice but to abide by every tradition he institutes, since his word would be equally valid with the Scriptures. This is a dangerous doctrine, depending on what he says, but one thing it does—it allows a multitude of teachings to be regarded as from God though they have their origin from man. Nothing could more clearly fit the concept of adding to the Word of God (Deut. 4:2).]
2. Authority and The Bible: Tradition is to be held as the highest authority in the church, even above the Bible. Deuteronomy 4:2 and Isaiah 8:20 warn that man must not add to nor take away from the Scriptures inspired of God. Matthew 15:3, 6, 7-9 warn man that traditions of men make void the Word of God and make worship based on tradition vain. 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Revelation 22:18-19, and 1 Corinthians 4:6 state that the Scriptures are alone sufficient for the man of God. [Many of the traditions were introduced in the second, third, and fourth centuries—far too late to be authorized by the New Testament.]
3. The founder and head of the church is Peter. In 1 Peter 2:4-8, Peter denied the church was built by him or on him. Peter was not superior to the other apostles (see 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Cor. 11:5; Acts 15:13-19; Matt. 20:25-26). To be a successor to an apostle one must have the same qualifications as the apostle, which no man after Peter’s death could claim (not even Francis). See Acts 1:21-22. When James was beheaded, no one was selected to succeed him as in the case of Judas. See Acts 1:15-26, 29.
[The church was built by Jesus (Matt. 16:18), and He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Furthermore, the Scriptures clearly claim that Jesus is the Head of the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). Sometimes Catholics will say, “Jesus is the head of the church in heaven, but the pope is the head of the church on earth.” Yet in Matthew 28:18, Jesus said: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”
Furthermore, where is the Scripture that talks about a pope? It does not exist. The only organization for the church involves elders and deacons, and they are to be in every congregation (1 Tim. 3:1-7).]
4. Effusion or sprinkling is as sufficient for baptism as immersion is. This man made doctrine violates and contradicts God’s Word, which teaches that baptism is a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). That baptism is a planting Romans 6:5 teaches. That baptism is a resurrection Colossians 2:12 points out. That baptism is a washing Acts 22:16 declares. Baptism is a Greek word which is translated to “dip,” “plunge,” or “submerge.” There is only one baptism (Eph. 4:5)
[Like most of their teachings, Roman Catholicism relies upon traditions that developed 100 or more years after the entire New Testament was written. No one was ever sprinkled in those days in connection with salvation. All were baptized—that is, immersed (Acts 8:35-39).]
5. Infants should receive baptism. This is in direct violation to the Word of God (see Rom. 10:10; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16).
[All of these passages show that a person must be able to think and reason. He must have enough intellect to believe; he must have enough speech ability to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; he must be able to understand what sin is and his need to repent of it; and he must be able to comprehend that in baptism his sins will be washed away. Infants do not have the ability to do any of those things. In the New Testament, there is no command to baptize an infant; neither is there even one example of such.]
6. Original sin, inherited from the sin of Adam and Eve, is forgiven when an infant is baptized. This doctrine is heretical. Original sin is not taught in God’s Word. No sinful act or deed can be transmitted from one person to another person (Ezek. 18:20; 2 Sam. 12: 23; Matt. 18:10; 19:14; Ps. 127:3-5). Children are innocent until they themselves sin by their own lust (James 1:13-15).
[The idea of original sin arose at least three centuries later with Augustine, which is the reason it cannot be found in the Bible.]
7. In the sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit is received by the hands of the bishop when the child reaches the age of accountability (around 11 or 12). Confirmation can not be found in God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is given when a believer is immersed (Acts 2:38; 5:32). Only Christ prayed for the Holy Spirit to be sent (John 14:15-17), and the apostles received what He prayed for.
8. The Priesthood: The priest is another Christ—the means of access between the sinner and God. The Word of God teaches that there is only one mediator between God and man—Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2: 5). Christ Jesus has the only unchangeable high priesthood (Heb. 7:11; 10:11-12; 12:22-24). All Christians are priests who have access to God through Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:5-9, Rev. 1:5-6). Catholics and non-Catholics are expected to call the priest “Father,” yet God’s Word teaches that we are to call no man “Father” in a religious sense (Matt. 23:9-10).
The priest has the power to forgive sins (declared by the Council of Trent and Lateran Council of 1215). God’s Word teaches that forgiveness of sins belong to the Godhead (Mark 2:6-10; 1 John 1:9; 2:1). Priests may receive gifts (basically monetary gifts) to say prayers (a mass, a rosary for the dead, etc.). The gift of God cannot be purchased with money or any other gift (1 Peter 1:18).
[“Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (some asked in Mark 2:7). That was precisely the point Jesus wanted them to see—that He was God. So what point is a Catholic priest making today when he forgives sins? Whether or not he intends to, he is saying, as Jesus did, that he is God.]
9. The church claims that there is an intermediate state called purgatory where the dead go to suffer punishment until they have been purified from their sins (Council of Florence, 1439). Those in purgatory have not fully made amends for their failings (sins); so they must atone for them by suffering before being admitted into heaven. Those in purgatory can have their sufferings lessened (reduced) by prayers, rosaries, and masses by the living. Hebrews 9:27, however, states: “And it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” which implies that the prayers of saints cannot change our destiny after death. The righteous acts of others cannot be transferred and/or given by the living to one who has died. A person must answer for his own sins (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:6). After one’s death, there is no changing from a place of punishment to a place of bliss (Luke 16:19-31). There is no mention of purgatory in God’s Word (Heb. 2:3).
[When this editor’s aunt died in New Orleans, and his family had the unpleasant task of going through the possessions remaining in the house, he came across an official certificate from the Roman Catholic Church, guaranteeing that a mass would be said for his uncle (who had preceded the aunt in death) on a regular basis. It had been bought and paid for by the aunt, who was not even a Catholic. One wonders how much money it takes to get a loved one out of torture before he can enter into paradise. The Bible teaches no such doctrine.]
10. Moral Issues: (a) Stealing is permissible when it is an extreme necessity—when a person takes only what is necessary.
[This precept is not found in the Scriptures. The eighth commandment does not read: “Thou shalt not steal except when it is an extreme necessity.” This is the philosophy of situation ethics, in which Divine law is replaced by allowing a situation to determine morality. Who defines necessity?]
(b) The doctrine of “Mental Reservation” permits Catholics to lie if by so doing they can further their religion/faith. Yet the Bible says: “Do not lie to one another” (Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:15).
(c) Lying about one’s faith: A Catholic who, on being asked whether he is a Catholic, may lie about his faith and in so doing not necessarily deny the faith (2 Tim. 4:4; 2 Thess. 2:10; 1 Tim. 4:2).
[This is a strange teaching in light of the fact that Christians in the first few centuries were put to death for acknowledging the truth concerning their faith. We admire them and are confident of their reward. Revelation 21:8 says that the cowardly (or fearful) and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire.
It is always a dangerous precedent to attempt to lessen the force of what the Scriptures clearly teach. Man is not supposed to add to them or take away from them, and these modifications do that very thing. When people get into the habit of justifying sin (particularly based on a particular situation), is there any sin that might not be justified?]
11. Holy Eucharist: The doctrine of transubstantiation refers to the bread and fruit of the vine changing into the actual body and blood of Christ, performed at the consecration of the mass (adopted at the Lateran Council in 1215). One must remember that Christ Jesus was materially present at the Last Supper with His disciples when He gave the bread and fruit of the vine and said, “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood.” This is obviously a figure of speech (a metaphor), the same as when Christ Jesus referred to Himself as a “door” and as a “vine.” Christ Jesus was not literally a vine or a door (John 10:7, 15).
12. Holy Communion (Eucharist) is an “unbloody” sacrifice performed during a mass by a priest. The Scriptures teach that Jesus was offered once for all—not that He would continually be sacrificed (Heb. 9:25-26; 10:11-12). Hebrews 6:6 does say that those who have fallen away crucify Him afresh, but this is figurative rather than literal.
13. The Last Rites (used to be known as Extreme Unction) is a tradition involving holy oil, blessed candles, and a priest; its purpose is to give strength to the soul and body at the point of death. It can also be given to one who has just died. It is also believed that sins are forgiven by the ritual of Last Rites even though one has not repented nor asked to be forgiven. 1 Corinthians 4:6 teaches that one must not go beyond what is written in God’s word. There is no such ritual/practice/tradition in the Bible. (See Deuteronomy 4:2, Isaiah 8:20, Matthew 15: 3, 6, 7-9. Also see 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Revelation 22:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 4:6.)
14. Doctrine of Holy Orders: One of the seven sacraments involves Holy Orders, which is the means of ordaining bishops and priests. The word sacrament is not in the Word of God. It is difficult for all of us to speak the same thing when some are using vocabulary words not in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 1:10).
[Sacrament is a word used by church leaders in the early centuries after Christ to refer to religious ordinances which were obligatory to Christians, and they conferred grace to the recipients of it.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1994, defines Holy Orders as “the sacrament which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the church until the end of time. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate” (383).]
These orders involve special attire (known as “habits”), which distinguish those individuals from others. Matthew 7:20 teaches that by fruits (not white collars or robes) we shall be known.
15. Sacrament of Matrimony: Marriage is void unless performed by a catholic priest. All married non-Catholics are living in “concubinage” (sin) instead of Christian Matrimony because their marriage was not performed by a catholic priest. One might ask: Where was the priest at the wedding of Cana that Jesus attended? (John 2:1-11). Marriage is neither a “church ordinance” nor a sacrament, according to the Bible. Children born in “concubinage” are not considered legitimate.
[Marriage was established in the Garden of Eden, and no special group of men conducted marriage ceremonies in the Old Testament. Jewish priests did not perform weddings. Jesus gave no instructions in the New Testament to His apostles for the performance of marriages. Paul gave no charges to Timothy or Titus, either. The main emphasis of Jesus was that some are disqualified from marriage because of adultery and unlawful divorce.
The question had apparently been asked of Paul: “If I am a Christian married to a non-Christian, is my marriage a valid one?” Paul answered: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Cor. 7:14). Paul had never heard of “concubinage,” as applied to marriage. If a man and a woman are eligible for marriage, then they are married, regardless of their religions affiliation or the beliefs of the man who conducted a ceremony.]
16. Divorce: There is no cause for which the marriage bond may be broken. Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 teaches that Christ Jesus allowed fornication as the sole cause for divorce.
17. Annulments: Nothing in the Word of God gives anyone the right to dissolve a marriage for causes other than fornication. Annulments are granted usually by the Bishop of a region. Most of them are reviewed thru the Vatican before a decision is rendered.
18. No Artificial Birth Control: No method of birth control may be employed in marriage—even if the life of the mother is in jeopardy. Artificial contraceptives violate the teaching of the Bible because it prevents procreation—to populate the earth. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 teaches that the Christian is to care for the body which is the temple of God. Anything done intentionally and deliberately which endangers health is sin. Furthermore, the husband is to give honor to his wife (1 Peter 3:7), which does not mean putting her life in jeopardy.
[Abstinence would not be a good solution to the problem because such a measure would violate another command—for the husband and the wife to render the affection that is due each other (1 Cor. 7:1-5). The fact is that the earth has been filled; so that command has been obeyed. Various birth control techniques do not violate any Scripture, so long as conception is prevented. Using RU486 or abortion would be wrong because both destroy a life that has already been created.]
19. Celibacy: The law of celibacy for the “clergy” (the word clergy is not in the Bible) is not a divine institution but is a rule of the Roman Catholic Church. Marriage between an eligible man and woman cannot be regarded as sinful (Heb. 13:4). The Bible actually teaches that bishops must be married (Titus 1:5-6; 1 Tim. 3:2). Forbidding marriage is a doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1-3). [The recent sex scandals prove that this idea of man is faulty.]
20. Doctrines of Mary (which are several):
(a) Mary alone can obtain pardon for those who pray to her. Prayers are to be addressed to the heavenly Father—not Mary (Matt. 6:9). Furthermore, 1 Timothy 2:5 teaches that there is only one mediator between God and man—Christ Jesus.
(b) One cannot be saved without Mary. Colossians 3:17 teaches all must be done in the name of Christ. [The name Jesus means “Savior” (Matt. 1:21), and there is no Scripture that states or remotely implies that Mary can save anyone.]
(c) Mary was a Perpetual Virgin—not defiled by man. Matthew 1:25 implies that her husband knew her after the birth of Jesus. [Furthermore, Jesus had other brothers, whose names are listed in Matthew 13:55. Are we to believe that Mary refused to do what Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5? Could Joseph have received an “annulment” if, in fact, the marriage was never consummated? Could he divorce her and remarry without committing adultery if they had never been intimate? Would it have been lawful to impose on this husband and wife celibacy? This false doctrine raises a number of questions and is difficult to defend.]
(d) Mary was not subject to Christ Jesus. How can such a thing be alleged, since Jesus Himself stated in Matthew 28:18: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth”? Peter affirmed that Christ Jesus is Lord of all—not all but one (Acts 10:36).
(e) Mary is the Mother of God. God always was, is, and will always be. Nothing in Scripture gives or bestows this title on Mary. [Elizabeth called Mary “the mother of my Lord,” which is accurate (Luke 1:43). Jesus did become Lord of all, as referenced above. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:14), while He was upon the earth. He was part of the Godhead before He came to earth. Mary gave birth to Jesus’ fleshly body—not His Divinity, which came from the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). To call her “the mother of God” is to say what the Scriptures do not say and to imply something that is not true.]
(f) Mary is the Queen of Heaven. This doctrine teaches that Mary ascended (known as the Assumption of Mary) to heaven after her passing and was crowned by Christ Jesus as Queen of Heaven. Mary now sits at the right side of God and Christ Jesus. Nothing in Scripture teaches that several apostles and disciples were present at her passing, witnessed her assumption, or were privileged to see the alleged coronation ritual. The Bible was being written at this time as letters to congregations, and yet nothing is said or implied about this purported concept.
Something this big would no doubt have been included to the congregations in the letters. Thus it would have been in the Bible, but it is totally silent on the matter.
[For this reason it was noted at the outset that, once the words of the “pope” (who likewise is not mentioned in the Scriptures) are regarded as infallible and traditions and legends are regarded as equal with the truth, any doctrine could be established. What would prevent a person with this kind of power from claiming that the apostle John lived another century after the first one and was given seven truths to guard which a band of followers have through the millennia preserved, which can now be revealed in our day? The point is that, once the authority of the Scriptures is undermined, any doctrine or practice is permissible.]
(g) Mary had an “Immaculate Conception”: This doctrine originated in England. Mary was born without the stain of “original sin,” concerning which the Bible says nothing. [Augustine invented the doctrine of original sin in the late fourth century; it was adopted by Luther 1100 years later and refined and popularized by Calvin—so much so that most of us refer to the doctrine as Calvinism.
Of course, if all people come into the world tainted (rather than pure), then Jesus, as a human being, had to be born with original sin also. Nobody wants to draw that conclusion, but there is no way around it. Some Protestants simply say that, as the Son of God, Jesus did not come into the world with original sin upon Him, but this explanation does not suffice. Jesus was fully human as well as fully Divine. If babies enter the world with original sins, then Jesus entered the world that way, also.
Catholicism thinks they have a way around this predicament. By Mary having a miraculous conception, their theologians argue, Jesus was able to be born without original sin. Of course, this rationale fails because it is not found in the Scriptures. Although theologians today scramble to rid Jesus of this problem, the gospel writers never saw a problem because none of them believed in the mamade doctrine of original sin. For that reason one will never find a single reference to Jesus either having original sin or needing to be absolved from it.
Making Mary’s birth “immaculate” is totally without Scriptural warrant. It was not prophesied; neither is it mentioned by any New Testament writer. Mary was a spiritual woman; Jesus loved her and made provision for her—even on the cross. She deserves respect and admiration; so do all the obedient (Matt. 12:46-50).]
21. “Limbo”: this doctrine teaches that infants and those not baptized (christened) pass into a state of Bliss called Limbo. The doctrine declares that God does not reside in Limbo. There is no punishment and no presence of God. In the latter part of the twentieth century, this doctrine was downplayed to the point that it is rarely mentioned. There is no Scripture for this doctrine.
[Since brother Greene assembled this material, the Roman Catholic Church has changed its view. On April 21, 2007 she made an announcement regarding the doctrine: “According to a Reuters news story, written by Philip Pullella, “the Church’s International Theological Commission said limbo reflected an ‘unduly restrictive view of salvation.’” (For more information see “Limbo No Longer Rocks” in the May 7, 2007 Spiritual Perspectives.) The reason this doctrine was invented in the first place was because, once again, of original sin. If babies inherited Adam’s sin and were never “baptized,” they could not be allowed to enter heaven. Yet, obviously, they had done nothing worthy of torment in hell; so limbo became the place for those souls to inhabit. The Bible teaches that hell is a place without the presence of God (2 Thess 1:7-9).]
[The reader is encouraged to study these 21 points in connection with the Scriptures. We thank brother Greene for putting together this material, and we ought to be sufficiently warned concerning what happens when we depart from the Scriptures God gave to us.]