Tagged: Catholics

A survey of Roman Catholicism

Jesus with lambThe Roman Catholic Church traces its beginning to the apostle Peter, claiming he is the rock upon whom Jesus built His church (Matt. 16:18). As the first pope, Peter is followed by an unbroken line of successors stretching to Pope Francis today. Non-Catholics establish the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church at A.D. 590 with Gregory I, who consolidated the power of the bishopric in Rome.

In any case, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian church, with 1.2 billion members. The Catholic hierarchy includes cardinals and bishops and is led by the bishop of Rome, also known as the pope.

The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true church divinely founded by Jesus Christ. In addition, it teaches that its bishops are the successors of Jesus’ apostles, and that the pope, as the successor to the head of the apostles (Peter), has supreme authority over the church.

Categories of Catholics

While the Catholic Church claims to be the one true church, Catholics worldwide hold to a diversity of beliefs. Researcher Ken Samples has concluded that there are six primary categories of Roman Catholics:

Ultratraditional Catholics defend historical Catholicism and are critical of recent changes such as those coming out of Vatican II in the 1960s.

Traditional Catholics resist liberalism and modernism within the church, yet they generally accept the reforms of Vatican II.

Liberal Catholics celebrate human reason over the authority of the church; they also question the infallibility of the pope, church councils, and the Bible

Charismatic/evangelical Catholics emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the importance of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit-filled life.

Cultural Catholics are “womb-to-tomb” Catholics – born, baptized, married, and buried in the church. However, they essentially go through the motions of their faith without much regard for its meaning.

Popular folk Catholics predominate Central and South America. They combine elements of animistic or nature-culture religion with traditional medieval Catholicism (Christian Research Journal, Winter 1993).

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How Can 4.5 Billion People be Wrong?

Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Is this view narrow-minded, outdated, or even bigoted, as some suggest? Quite the contrary. The words Christ speaks are “spirit” and “life” (John 6:63). To disregard them is perilous. Yet many do. 

 

According to Adherents.com, there are 6.6 billion people in the world today. Among these are 1.5 billion Muslims, 1.1 billion nonreligious people, 900 million Hindus, nearly 400 million Buddhists, 7 million Baha’is, and millions of adherents to countless other faiths. The Web site also says there are 2.1 billion “Christians,” a broad category that includes Catholics and Protestants, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so-called “nominal” Christians.  

 

If the exclusive claims of Jesus are true – and I believe they are – and even if everyone who claims to be a Christian really is, then 4.5 billion people still stand outside the kingdom of heaven. By all appearances, these people are sincere. They want to know the truth, and many believe they have found it. How can 4.5 billion people be wrong? Every Christian can answer this question by understanding the Biblical descriptions of those who do not know Christ. 

 

A Godly purpose 

Our purpose in this study is not to condemn anyone or to assume God’s role as sovereign judge of the universe; rather, it is to compare the teachings of some of the world’s major religions and cults with biblical, historical Christianity so that we might be more effective in praying for and witnessing to the lost, and wiser in our ability to discern false doctrines. Every person, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, is precious in the eyes of God and is someone for whom Christ died. Our attitude as we study these false religious systems should be one of humility, love, and grace. 

 

A look at 2 Cor. 11:1-4 

The words of the apostle Paul are clear: Those who are not grounded in the Word of God are subject to deceptive teachings about “another Jesus … a different spirit … a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4 HCSB). Every world religion and every cult that we study professes belief in Jesus and has an exalted place for Him in its theology. But without exception, each of these belief systems fails to correctly answer the key question Jesus asked in Matt. 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?” 

 

In his classic book The Kingdom of the Cults, the late Dr. Walter Martin tells about a training program held by the American Banking Association. Each year the ABA sends hundreds of bank tellers to Washington to teach them to detect counterfeit money. Writes Martin: 

It is most interesting that during the entire two-week training program, no teller touches counterfeit money. Only original passes through his hands. The reason for this is that the American Banking Association is convinced that if a man is thoroughly familiar with the original, he will not be deceived by the counterfeit bill, no matter how much like the original it appears. It is the contention of this writer that if the average Christian would become familiar once again with the great foundations of his faith, he would be able to detect those counterfeit elements so apparent in the cult systems, which set them apart from Biblical Christianity (pp. 16-17). 

 

This is a great lesson for us. Even though we will spend some time looking at the history and teachings of major world religions and cults, our focus should be on the truth of the Word of God. Then it won’t matter what the counterfeit religions are; we’ll be able to identify them and lovingly steer their proponents toward the truth. 

 

The state of the lost 

Back to our earlier question: If we believe Jesus is the only way of salvation, and if so many people reject that belief, how can so many people be wrong? The answer lies in what the Bible teaches about the state of those who don’t know Christ. Specifically, the Bible says the unbeliever is:

  • Natural (vs. spiritual) – a man or woman who regards the things relating to God’s Spirit as foolishness  (1 Cor. 2:14).
  • Blinded in his or her mind by Satan (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
  • Bound by Satan (2 Tim. 2:26).
  • Alienated from God (Eph. 4:18).
  • An enemy of God (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21).
  • Condemned (John 3:18).
  • In spiritual darkness (Acts 26:18; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9).
  • Spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-2).

What hope exists for these 4.5 billion people? As we speak to them about the things we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20), the Holy Spirit must do the necessary work of convincing them of their need for Christ (see John 16:7-11). As we learn to share our faith with unbelievers, we must remind ourselves that winning the lost requires patience, perseverance, a clear understanding of scripture, and above all the work of the Spirit.  

Rob Phillips 2008

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How Can 4.5 Billion People be Wrong?

            

We are beginning an 8-week study of world religions and cults. Our stand will be on the truth of Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Is this view narrow-minded, outdated, or even bigoted, as some suggest? Quite the contrary. The words Christ speaks are “spirit” and “life” (John 6:63). To disregard them is perilous. Yet many do. According to Adherents.com, there are 6.6 billion people in the world today. Among these are 1.5 billion Muslims, 1.1 billion nonreligious people, 900 million Hindus, nearly 400 million Buddhists, 7 million Baha’is, and millions of adherents to countless other faiths. The Web site also says there are 2.1 billion “Christians,” a broad category that includes Catholics and Protestants, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so-called “nominal” Christians.  If the exclusive claims of Jesus are true – and I believe they are – and even if everyone who claims to be a Christian really is, then 4.5 billion people still stand outside the kingdom of heaven. By all appearances, these people are sincere. They want to know the truth, and many believe they have found it. How can 4.5 billion people be wrong? Every Christian can answer this question by understanding the Biblical descriptions of those who do not know Christ. 

A Godly purpose 

Our purpose in this study is not to condemn anyone or to assume God’s role as sovereign judge of the universe; rather, it is to compare the teachings of some of the world’s major religions and cults with biblical, historical Christianity so that we might be more effective in praying for and witnessing to the lost, and wiser in our ability to discern false doctrines. Every person, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, is precious in the eyes of God and is someone for whom Christ died. Our attitude as we study these false religious systems should be one of humility, love, and grace. 

A look at 2 Cor. 11:1-4 

The words of the apostle Paul are clear: Those who are not grounded in the Word of God are subject to deceptive teachings about “another Jesus … a different spirit … a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4 HCSB). Every world religion and every cult that we study professes belief in Jesus and has an exalted place for Him in its theology. But without exception, each of these belief systems fails to correctly answer the key question Jesus asked in Matt. 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?” 

In his classic book The Kingdom of the Cults, the late Dr. Walter Martin tells about a training program held by the American Banking Association. Each year the ABA sends hundreds of bank tellers to Washington to teach them to detect counterfeit money. Writes Martin: 

“It is most interesting that during the entire two-week training program, no teller touches counterfeit money. Only original passes through his hands. The reason for this is that the American Banking Association is convinced that if a man is thoroughly familiar with the original, he will not be deceived by the counterfeit bill, no matter how much like the original it appears. It is the contention of this writer that if the average Christian would become familiar once again with the great foundations of his faith, he would be able to detect those counterfeit elements so apparent in the cult systems, which set them apart from Biblical Christianity” (pp. 16-17).

This is a great lesson for us. Even though we will spend some time looking at the history and teachings of major world religions and cults, our focus should be on the truth of the Word of God. Then it won’t matter what the counterfeit religions are; we’ll be able to identify them and lovingly steer their proponents toward the truth.

The state of the lost 

Back to our earlier question: If we believe Jesus is the only way of salvation, and if so many people reject that belief, how can so many people be wrong? The answer lies in what the Bible teaches about the state of those who don’t know Christ. Specifically, the Bible says the unbeliever is:

 

 

  • Natural (vs. spiritual) – a man or woman who regards the things relating to God’s Spirit as foolishness  (1 Cor. 2:14)
  • Blinded in his or her mind by Satan (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
  • Bound by Satan (2 Tim. 2:26)
  • Alienated from God (Eph. 4:18)
  • An enemy of God (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21)
  • Condemned (John 3:18)
  • In spiritual darkness (Acts 26:18; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9)
  • Spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-2)

What hope exists for these 4.5 billion people? As we speak to them about the things we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20), the Holy Spirit must do the necessary work of convincing them of their need for Christ (see John 16:7-11). As we learn to share our faith with unbelievers, we must remind ourselves that winning the lost requires patience, perseverance, a clear understanding of scripture, and above all the work of the Spirit.