On March 29, 1994, wire services
around the world broadcast the conclusions of an unofficial declaration
by 40 leading evangelicals and Roman Catholics titled,
"Evangelicals and Catholics Together: A Christian Mission in the
Third Millennium." This report began by stating, "We are
Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who have been led through
prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions about Christian
faith and mission." 1
It also made the following declaration:
All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are
brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are
brothers and sisters in Christ.... We recognize that we are called by
God to a fuller realization of our unity in the body of Christ. The
only unity to which we would give expression is unity in the truth,
and the truth is this: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as
you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord,
one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all
and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4) 2 *
Among the other declarations were the following two
In this search to understand the truth more fully
and clearly, we need one another. 3
... we are bound together in contending against all
that opposes Christ and his cause. 4
Finally, it observed that "we as Evangelicals and
Catholics affirm that opportunity and means for growth in Christian
discipleship are available in our several communities." 5
This landmark document has not only been circulated
"among top Vatican officials," it has also received the
apparent blessing of "leading evangelical figures on the world
scene" in addition to those who signed the document itself. 6
Through the wire services, millions of people have
read the essence of the above conclusions. But are we truly entering
into a new era wherein Catholics and Evangelicals can agree that they
share a common faith? Are the barriers of the past now torn down so that
Catholics and Protestants can freely worship together in the same
churches, no longer questioning one another’s faith?
Perhaps as a Catholic you are encouraged to see this
new openness toward other Christian churches; perhaps as an Evangelical
you now wonder about what you have been taught and whether or not, all
along, your eyes should have been a bit more focused toward Rome?
In light of several recent declarations similar to the
one just issued, perhaps there are millions of both Catholics and
Protestants who want to know what all this means. Are Protestants really
part of the Body of Christ and heirs of full salvation apart from Rome?
Are Catholics really brothers and sisters in Christ whom Protestants
have neglected far too long?
We hope to answer these questions by examining what
the Bible declares is true. Since both conservative Catholics and
Protestants believe the Bible to be the Word of God, both can welcome an
investigation into what the Bible says about their respective beliefs.
If Roman Catholicism and Evangelical faith are both biblical, then fine;
we can both worship together in each other’s churches without fear of
violating our conscience or scriptural standards. But if the Bible
reveals that either Protestantism or Catholicism is wrong, then one or
the other should conform itself to biblical standards.
Of course, even the most liberal Evangelical would
agree that there are significant aspects of Protestantism as a whole
that are unbiblical and oppose the teachings of Christ. And even the
most traditional Catholic would agree that there are powerful elements
within Modern Catholicism that do the same.
So how do we know the truth and where do we find the
answers? We will examine both Modern Catholicism and Protestantism in
the light of God’s Word, the Bible.
As far as Roman Catholicism is concerned, the purpose
of this these articles is twofold: 1) to help non-Catholic Christians
better understand what Roman Catholicism believes and practices and 2)
to help Roman Catholics evaluate their own Church on the basis of
biblical teaching. This is necessary since, as Catholic apologist Karl
Keating correctly points out in What Catholics Really Believe—Setting
the Record Straight, "Catholics are required to hold and
believe all the declared doctrines of the Church." 7
All sincere Christians have a desire to honor God in
their lives as much as possible. It is the hope of the authors that the
information will be useful to Catholics and non-Catholics as a means to
evaluate what is or is not biblical, as well as an encouragement to
greater commitment to God and His word.
No one can deny that substantial changes have occurred
in the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II, the major Roman Catholic
council which was intended "to usher in the beginning of a new era
in Roman Catholic history." 8
Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has increasingly
encouraged its members to read the Bible and apply it to their lives.
Also, it is no longer a serious sin to attend non-Catholic churches.
Perhaps the most important change in Rome is its allowance of a new
freedom for the biblical gospel itself.
Modern Roman Catholicism is commendable in other
areas. For example, socially, the Church has consistently maintained a
high view of the sanctity of life and of marriage. Biblically, it has
continued to defend the inerrancy of Scripture, at least as an official
doctrine of the Church. Theologically, it generally accepts the orthodox
view of the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and His atonement. Spiritually,
it has a good understanding of the seriousness of sin and, apart from
salvation, its consequences in eternal judgment.
Nevertheless, all this does not mean that the Church
is without problems. Perhaps one of the most serious issues in modern
Roman Catholicism is its unwillingness to accept biblical authority
alone as the final means of determining doctrine and practice. For
example, by accepting Catholic Tradition as a means of divine
revelation, even biblically correct teachings in the Church become
hedged about with unbiblical trimmings which, in turn, tend to either
revise, neutralize or nullify these truths.
We agree with Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that in many
ways the problem "is not so much a matter of ‘denial’ of the
truth, but rather such an addition to the truth that eventually it
becomes a departure from it." 9
This unfortunate situation illustrates a principle
Jesus Himself taught—that even heartfelt religious traditions could
actually become a means of leading people away from God’s best purpose
for their lives. On one occasion Jesus told even the devoutly religious
leaders of His day, "You have let go the commands of God and are
holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:8).
Regardless, no one can argue with the statement that
"...the Roman Church has been one of the most powerful influences
in the history of all civilization…." 10
Thus, because Roman Catholicism is a major world
religion having some 800 million adherents, and because its influence in
the world is sizeable, a biblical evaluation of the teachings of the
Church is vital.
Some of the subjects we will examine in future
articles are: What do Roman Catholics believe? Is the Church of Rome the
one true Church established by Jesus Christ? Are there different
categories of Roman Catholics and why does this matter? Does the
"average" Roman Catholic understand Catholicism as it really
is? What is the infallible source of authority for Catholicism today?
What about those who are called "evangelical" or
"charismatic" Catholics? Does more common ground exist between
Evangelicals and Catholics than commonly assumed?
Some people maintain that because of its unique
doctrines and practices, the Roman Catholic Church cannot logically be
considered a Christian religion, at least according to biblical
standards. Are their arguments credible? In other words, do unique
Catholic doctrines work together to define Roman Catholicism as a
non-Christian religion—or not? (These doctrines include the veneration
of the Virgin Mary and the saints, the Catholic concept of
justification, Catholic tradition as the "word of God," faith
in the Apocrypha as the word of God, belief in purgatory, the Pope as
the Vicar of Christ, the infusing grace of the seven Catholic
sacraments, the Catholic approach to forgiveness of sins, the
priesthood, the Host and Mass).
What about the hundreds of recent appearances
throughout the world of miraculous apparitions of the alleged Virgin
Mary? What is she teaching Catholics and why is this important? Does
Roman Catholicism see other religions, such as Hinduism and Islam, as
acceptable paths to God? What about the prayers for the dead and to the
saints? Was Peter truly the first Pope, and have Catholic Popes actually
been infallible in matters of doctrine and practice? Is the Catholic
papacy valid biblically?
These and other subjects will be discussed later. We
hope they will better enable the reader, Catholic and non-Catholic, to
accurately understand and evaluate contemporary Roman Catholicism.
1. "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The
Christian Mission in the Third Millennium," released March 29,
1994. Available from B.A.S.I.C., Truth Ministries, P.O. Box 504M, Bay
Shore, NY 11706.
2. Ibid., 5-6.
3. Ibid., 9.
4. Ibid., 11.
5. Ibid., 22.
6. Arthur H. Matthews, "Cooperation Not
Communion," World, April 9, 1994, 10.
7. Karl Keating, What Catholics Really Believe—Setting
the Record Straight (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant, 1992), 112.
8. Robert C. Broderick, ed., The Catholic
Encyclopedia, revised and updated (NY: Thomas Nelson Publishers,
9. In Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism:
The Attack on "Romanism" By "Bible Christians" (San
Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988), 150.
10. Emmett McLoughlin, Crime and Immorality in the
Catholic Church (NY: Lyle Stuart, 1964), 19.