Catholic Answers to the CofC
For a definition of the church being answered by this article, please refer to the article "Is the CofC a Christian Denomination?" As well, this article addresses the doctrinal errors of this church, and not the misconception this church may have regarding the Catholic Church. It is strongly suggested that you reading the article "CofC Misconceptions of Catholic Doctrine" before you begin reading this article, as this other article addresses some points not addressed in this article.
For the sake of clarity, the church being answered with this article will only be referred to using the abbreviation "CofC". This is in no way intended to be disrespectful. I did not invent this abbreviation, but saw it in correspondences written by members of this church. The reason I am doing this, is so that the name Church of Christ can be used in its original design, as a title of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. The Catholic Church has used the name Church of Christ from the first century until the present, and this name is found in many document of the Church. As well, this article is written solely from a Catholic perspective; therefore, the titles Christ's Church, the Christian Church, Christians, and the Church, refer only to the Catholic Church. Any church that is not in full communion with the Catholic Church, is referred to as a heretic church because of its belief in heresies that are not Christian.
St. Thomas defines heresy as this: "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas." A Christian is one who gives their voluntary agreement to all the teachings of Christ, as preserved by his Church. There are two way to deviate from Christianity: apostasy, where by the individual abandons the faith of Christ and embraces either Judaism, Islamism, Paganism, or completely neglects religion; heresy, where the individual retains faith in Christ, but restricts belief to certain points of Christ's doctrine, selected and fashioned according to their own pleasure. The Christian embraces the complete Word of God as defined by the Church. The heretic accepts only the parts of God's Word that satisfies, either through ignorance or pride, the will of themselves.
Heresy is a sin because it destroys the virtue of Christian faith. Faith is the most precious gift to man, as it is the root of his supernatural life, and the pledge of eternal salvation. Therefore, heresy is one of the greatest sins, as it perverts God's greatest gift of faith. All hope in salvation is not lost to the heretic however, Christ judges the degree of ignorance or pride that prevents the heretic from embracing the complete Word of God. The greatest sin is total rejection of faith in God; therefore it is better to be a heretic than to be an infidel, or worse yet, an apostate.
The goal of this article is to reach the heretics represented in this article by the abbreviation "CofC", and convince them to abandon the heresies they now embrace, either by ignorance or pride, and return to the fullness of the God's Holy Word. It is my prayer that the members of the CofC do not close their minds to the arguments of this article, but open their minds to the possibility of truth. My goal is only to present God's truth, and to give him all glory and praise.
I ask that you read this article in its entirety, from beginning to end, very carefully, before attempting to debate me on any point. Many of the points are interconnect and complement each other, therefore the entire article must be read to perceive the complete conclusion. As well, I wish that this article, unlike the others, is completely understood and not misquoted. I made an attempt to be very careful in wording so my points come across clearly; however, this is very difficult, and I do anticipate misunderstandings to arise. I have also made an attempt to include links from one subject to another, to help in understanding various issues. I suggest that you not use these links at first, but read the entire article in the order that it is presented. After reading this article in it entirety, the links become useful in reviewing the material to gain a full understanding of the various points. When using these links, please return to the link's origin using the back button of your browser, and not the "Back" link at the bottom of each page. The "Back" link at the bottom of all pages only takes you to the parent page of the one you are currently on.
I must confess that I am not as literary, or as well versed in the Bible and Catholic doctrine, as this article may suggest. I found that this article practically wrote itself, and many times I was shocked at the strength of the arguments and their conclusions. When I had completed the entire text of this article and was performing a final proof reading, a number of times I stopped reading in amazement at what I had just read. I did not fully understand some of the doctrine I had written about, and from reading what I had written I gained a much better understanding of how wonderful God is in creating such an incredible Church that is able to extend his graces. I did not know how well the Church's doctrines interconnect and complement each other. I truly believe that I was inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, who answer to my prayer that I may only write the truth. I will not take credit for something I am incapable of doing, only God can be credited with the origins of this article.
I would also like to thank all of the CofC members that helped me in writing this article. Without all the arguments and questions against the Catholic Church, I would never have been able to compile the number of points that needed to be addressed. I would especially like to thank those that answered my questions regarding CofC doctrine; I honestly wanted to present this doctrine correctly. If I have misrepresented CofC doctrine in anyway, please let me know so I can make appropriate corrections. There were a few CofC members that refused to wait for the completion of this article before debating me. At first I did not appreciate this, and believed that these personal debates were detracting my time from the completion this article. I now want to apologize to these individuals for being reluctant in engaging them in debate, as it was through these personal debates that I discovered how some of my arguments were incomplete. I hope that your reading of this article be as beneficial to you as it was for me to write it.
Further information can be found on Catholic doctrine at the following websites:
- The Holy See
- The Holy Bible
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Catholic Answers (Apologetics & Evangelization)
- Apologetics Links at Catolicos.org
- Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
- Encyclical Letters, Papal Speeches and Church Documents
- The Fathers of the Church (Councils, Synods, & Canons)
- All Catholic Church Ecumenical Councils - All the Decrees
- Code of Canon Law (The Laws of the Roman Catholic Church)
- The Catholic Liturgical Library
- Church Documents
- EWTN Library
- The Baltimore Catechism
The Word of God, the Foundation of Catholic Doctrine
The Word of God is the foundation upon which Catholic doctrine is built. The Word of God has been made known to man by Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Magisterium. Any church that does not accept all three of these, does not accept the complete Word of God; and therefore, is not in complete communion with God. The one holy catholic and apostolic Church is the true Church of Christ, and the only church with the complete Word of God.
Sacred Magisterium is the Teaching Authority given to the Church by Christ. "He said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.'" (Mark 16:15) "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20) Christ was addressing his Church and only his Church when he gave this Teaching Authority. The role of earthly leadership of Christ's Church, and therefore the principal conveyor of the Teaching Authority, was bestowed upon Simon Peter by Christ. "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 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 16:17-19) Peter, in communion with Christ's Church, has the Teaching Authority which Christ promised would never fail, but that "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." Christ said of his Church, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18) "The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." (John 14:26) "But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-15) The Holy Spirit will guide Christ's Church, and therefore Peter the earthly leader of Christ's Church, in "all truth". The Holy Spirit was not only sent to the apostles, but the Spirit of truth was sent "to be with" Christ's Church "always". The office of Peter, in communion with Christ's Church, has always been guided by the Holy Spirit in all truth, and is therefore infallible. No one outside the Church has "the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it." Christ had declared with his own words that his Church is infallible and has "always" had "all truth".
Sacred Tradition is the Word of God that has been handed on from the apostles either orally or in writing, that has not been included in Sacred Scripture. Before 156 AD, all Christian teaching beyond the old covenant were solely Sacred Tradition. Paul commanded Christians to hold on this Sacred Tradition. "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." (2 Thessalonians 2:15) "We instruct you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us." (2 Thessalonians 3:6) The office of Peter, in communion with Christ's Church, with the infallible power of Sacred Magisterium, cannot err in maintaining the truth found in Sacred Tradition. This is truly part of God's Word.
Throughout this article I will refer to Sacred Tradition only as "Sacred Tradition". When I use the word "tradition", with no capital "t", I am not referring to Sacred Tradition, but the tradition of the Church. The tradition of the Church refers to one of two things: history of the Church that is believe to be true, but is not an articles of faith, and Catholics are not required to believe in it, such as the perpetual virginity of Joseph, Jesus' step father; or practices of the Church that, although they may be regulated and therefore must be obeyed, are not necessary in fulfilling the Word of God, such as the celibacy of the clergy in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.
Sacred Scripture is a collection of sacred literature that Holy Mother Church, with her infallible power of Sacred Magisterium, has elevated above other records of Sacred Tradition. The catalogue of Sacred Scripture was canonized by a Roman Synod in 382, and confirmed at the synod of Hippo in 393, and the three synods of Carthage in 393, 397, and 419. This catalogue is divided into two parts: the Cannon of the Old Testament, and the Cannon of the New Testament. The Cannon of the Old Testament came from the Septuagint, which was the Bible of the Hellenist Jews, whose intellectual and literary center was Alexandria. The translating of the Hebrew Bible into Greek began about the middle of the third century BC. The time immediately preceding Christ, the Septuagint was the accepted Bible of all the Jews, including the Palestinian rabbis. The Cannon of the Old Testament was never in dispute until the sixteenth century, when heretics removed all books of the Old Testament that were not in found in the older Hebrew Bible. This subtraction from the Old Testament was never accept by the Church, and the original catalogue of the Old Testament was again confirmed at the Council of Trent in 1546. The Cannon of the New Testament is a collection of first century Christian literature. Attempts to compile a New Testament, to accompany the existing Jewish Bible, were made as early as 156. The Muratorian Canon of the Roman Church was catalogued in the last quarter of the second century. The Mommsen's Canon from the West African Church is dated around the year 360. But it was not until the Synod of Hippo in 393, that the Damasan catalogue became the universally accepted catalogue. This catalogue met with dispute, especially from the African Church, which is why it was necessary that the three synods of Carthage in 393, 397, and 419, had to confirm the catalogue defined by the Synod of Hippo. Unlike the Cannon of the Old Testament, the Cannon of the New Testament has see much dispute, beginning with the Synod of Hippo until well after the beginning of the Protestant heresy. The Syrian and Nestorian Churches exclude the four smaller Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse. The Armenians have one apocryphal letter to the Corinthians and two from the Corinthians. The Coptic Church includes the Apostolic Constitutions and the Clementine Epistles. The Ethiopian Church also includes the Apostolic Constitutions. The Anglicans, and the Calvinists always kept the entire New Testament, but for over a century the followers of Luther excluded Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Apocalypse, and even went further than Luther by rejecting II Peter, II John and III John.
So it is with Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Magisterium that the Catholic Church has the complete Word of God, from which all doctrine is based. All churches outside the Catholic Church do not have the complete Word of God, and all that they do have from God comes from the Catholic Church. Every doctrine of these churches that deviates from Catholic doctrine is not from God, but from man. The Greek Orthodox Churches share with the Catholic Church almost identical Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Tradition. However, the Sacred Magisterium of the Orthodox Churches is incomplete, as it is missing the infallible office of Peter. All other Christian Churches have an incomplete Sacred Scripture, have little to no Sacred Tradition, and absolutely no Sacred Magisterium, which means they have no authority to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Refuting CofC Charges Against the Catholic Church
The CofC does not have the complete Word of God, and therefore do not have the ability to find faults in Catholic doctrine. However, for the sake of this article, the charges of the CofC against Catholic doctrine will be considered and proven erroneous. The CofC does not accept Sacred Tradition, Sacred Magisterium, and portions of Sacred Scripture; for this reason, doctrine that rely chiefly on these parts of God's Word will not be defended. The CofC can debate these point simply by stating their reasons for refusing to accept the parts of God's Word that they do; which are Sacred Tradition, Sacred Magisterium, and portions of Sacred Scripture.
- The Bible does not need to be interpreted, just to be read
- The Bible alone is the Word of God and the foundation of faith
- The Catholic Church has added to the Bible, and these additions create contradictions
- The Catholic Church canonised the New Testament in the same way that Balaam's donkey spoke in Numbers 22:28-30
- The name "Holy Apostolic Roman Catholic Church" is not Christian, the words "Roman" and "Catholic" contradict each other, and the word Holy cannot be applied to a church that has seen so much corruption
- The CofC uses the name "Church of Christ"
- The Catholic Church was the first denomination
- There are many different Catholic churches, just like there are many Protestant churches
- Non-Biblical Catholic teachings can be given a date of conception
- The Catholic Church did not exist until 325 AD, after the First Council of Nicaea
- The Bishop of Rome was not the Universal Pontiff until 607, thereby creating the Universal, or Catholic Church
- The doctrine of papal infallibility did not exist until the Vatican Council of 1869
- Catholic teachings conflict with the New Testament
- Words like "Catholic", "Pope", "Cardinal", "Transubstantiation", "Eucharist", "Canonization", and "Mass" are not in the Bible; therefore they are not Christian
- Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, but Bible says she had children after Jesus
- Mary is not honored in the New Testament
- "Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven" (Matthew 23:9)
- The Catholic Church has Priests when the Bible says all Christians are "a holy community of priests" (1 Peter 2:9)
- There is no hierarchy of Pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons in the New Testament
- There is no celibate clergy in the New Testament
- Deacons and elders must be the husband of one wife: 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12, and Titus 1:6
- Deacons and elders must be the husband of one wife: 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12, and Titus 1:6
- Paul was not an elder because he did not have a wife
- The Catholic Church forbade people to marry and eat meat, just as was prophesied in 1 Timothy 4:1-3
- There was no monasticism (monks & nuns) in the New Testament
- The Catholic Church follows the traditions of men, which is forbidden in Matthew 15:1-9, Mark 7:1-16, and Colossians 2:8
- The use of musical instruments is forbidden in the New Testament, the Catholic Church was the first church to break this commandment
- The Catholic Church is the great apostasy described in 1 Timothy 4:1
- Peter was married; therefore he cannot be the first Pope
- Peter was not the leader of the apostles; Matthew 20:25-26 proves that there was no leader among them except Christ
- Peter could not be infallible because he is shown so weak and sinful in the New Testament
- Peter only wrote two books in the Bible, while Paul has several, therefore Paul had more influence in the Church
- Jesus gave the keys or words of authority to all the apostles, not just Peter
- All Christians were given the power that Peter was (Matthew 18:18)
- It was upon the truth that Peter spoke that Christ built his Church, not Peter himself
- The apostles were witnesses of Jesus, "beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us" (Acts 1:22); therefore they could have no successors
- If the papacy ever failed and collapsed, what would happen to the rest of the Catholic Church?
- The bread and wine in the Lord's Supper are physically bread and wine, not the Body and Blood of Christ
- The age of miracles was in the first century, after that they ceased to happen
- You do not have to confess your sins to a priest
- There is no purgatory
- Baptism means immersion
- Infants cannot be baptized because they are not able to have faith
- The CofC can trace its roots back to the first century
- Many heretic groups were actually the CofC, persecuted by the Catholic Church
- The restoration of the CofC can be likened to learning to play baseball from a rule book
Catholic Answers to the CofC
As I wrote this article, I was struck by two things: the prejudice and weakness of non-Catholic documents, and the abundance and strength of Catholic documents. The primary non-Catholic documents that I used were the New International Version Study Bible, and Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. I used the New International Version Study Bible because of its excellent text notes and cross-reference system. However, I found both the text notes and cross-reference system completely silent on a number of verses that can only be interpreted in support of Catholic doctrine. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words is very useful in defining Greek words, and citing their use in the New Testament. Vine's assumes that the different gender forms of words have the same basic definition, such as theos and thea for god and goddess, and adelphos and adelphe for brother and sister. The only exception is the Greek word for rock, petra, to which Vine's gives a completely different definition for the masculine form petros. In doing this, Vine's is declaring that all the different gender forms of Greek nouns have the same definition, except the noun petra, which has a different definition for it masculine form, petros. This is an obvious attempt to perpetuate a heretical interpretation of Matthew 16:18. Fortunately my prime sources of information were Catholic, and these flaws in non-Catholic documents did not impede my research, but actually demonstrated the flaws of anti-Catholic literature.
Before I began writing this article, I knew that a correct interpretation of the Bible could only support Catholic doctrine, and that there were a number of other earlier writings that also supported Catholic doctrine. But, I did not realize that a number of Biblical passages could only give a Catholic interpretation, and what a strong Catholic statement they make. As well, I did not realize how abundant and overtly Catholic the Christian literature of the first three centuries is. A study of this Christian literature from the first three centuries, including the New Testament, could only lead someone to the Catholic Church. I was aware of the large exodus from other churches to the Catholic Church, especially among ministers, but I still pondered why more non-Catholics do not come back to the Church. After writing this article, I am completely dumbfounded why anyone that accepts the Bible as the Word of God, would not rush to the Catholic Church.
I also find it hard to understand why anyone would chose the CofC over the Catholic Church. The history of the CofC makes it a product of the twentieth century, and when its roots are traced back to the sixteenth century, we find that it came from the Catholic Church. There is no historical evidence of the CofC beyond the nineteenth century, and upon closer examination of its doctrine, there is no historical evidence of its existence beyond the twentieth century. The Catholic Church has existed since Christ established it in the first century, and there is abundant historical evidence, including the New Testament, to prove its existence since that time. As well, the CofC's doctrines conflict with Scripture, and have no non-scriptural historical proof. Obvious conflicts are the lack of infallibility of the CofC, the lack of a position similar to the Pope, not honoring Mary, forbidding wine or strong drink, and the denial of Christ's physical presence in the Lord's Supper. It is amazing that the CofC rejects infant baptism when it is a historical fact that infant baptism was never questioned until the second millennium. It is also a historical fact that the idea that Sacred Scripture alone is the Word of God did not exist until the second millennium as well. It is also strange that the CofC would deny baptism to individuals and cultures where complete immersion in water is impossible. There is no conflict between Catholic doctrines and Scripture, and there is historical evidence of these doctrines. All Catholic doctrine can be followed by all individuals and cultures. In all, the Catholic Church has everything that comes from Christ, and the little that the CofC has from Christ has actually come from the Catholic Church.
The CofC is sincere in their attempt to follow Christ, and in some ways are in communion with Christ's Church. It is better to be a heretic than to be without Christ; however, it is still better to be in full communion with Christ's Church, which means full communion with Christ.