For a definition of which Church of Christ is being referred to, please refer to the article "Is the Church of Christ a Christian Denomination?"
Church of Christ's Misconceptions of Catholic Doctrine
While I was a member of the Edmonton Church of Christ, I heard a great deal of discussion about the Catholic faith. This may be, in part, due to the fact that my wife's family was Catholic, a number of the people I talked to were Catholic before joining the church, and a sentiment that the Catholic Church was one of the main opponents of the Church of Christ. At the time, I knew virtually nothing about the Catholic faith, and believed all that I was told about the "evil" teachings of the Catholic Church. Now that I have been a part of the Catholic Church for almost six years, I see that most of the Church of Christ's understanding of Catholic doctrine is misinterpreted. This is very understandable since I never met a member of the Church of Christ that had actually studied Catholic theology, and the members that were ex-Catholics did not really understand their old faith. (This is one thing that I must praise the Church of Christ for, all of its members seem to know and understand their faith!) In an attempt to prove Catholic doctrine wrong, different Catholic teaching were reasoned out using a Church of Christ understanding. This produced very unsound doctrine that was not Catholic. In this article I will try to clear up some of these misunderstanding and show what the Catholic Church actually teaches.
I must first reprimand the Church of Christ for one thing, an attitude of ridicule and poking fun at the Catholic Church. An appropriate Christian attitude of other faiths is one of respect. You do not have to approve of another's religious beliefs, but you must respect them. If you believe that you have the true faith, and must give it to others, you should do so while respecting the present faith of others. Paul respected the Athenians when he witnessed to them, for he said, "You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious." (Acts 17:22b) Respect all religions because they are, although many times misguided, an attempt to find God.
A person cannot understand the doctrine of another church unless they study the doctrine of that church with the eyes of that church. I feel that I can attempt this because I was a member of the Church of Christ, and I am now a member of the Catholic Church. This article does not make any attempt to prove any teaching right or wrong, but only presents the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
In no way do I imply that all members of the Church of Christ believe these points about the Catholic Church. I am sure many of the Church of Christ's members know the errors in these points, and know the true teachings of the Catholic Church. However, I have been presented with these points many times by members of the Church of Christ. This is why I feel the need for clarification.
Background to Catholic doctrine
Before any one can begin to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church, they must know where they come from. It was during the Protestant Reformation that the idea of "Sola Scriptura", that is Sacred Scripture alone is the foundation of faith, gained great popularity. The Catholic Church, from the first century until the present, has always held Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Magisterium as the foundation of faith.
Sacred Magisterium is the Teaching Authority given to the Church by Jesus. "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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) "He said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.'" (Mark 16:15) The Sacred Magisterium, or Teaching Authority, remained in the Catholic Church when the Protestants left the Church. This means that only the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches have the authority to teach Christ's gospel.
Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are very closely related. In fact, before 156 AD, the only Sacred Scripture was the Old Testament, and the remainder of Christian teaching was based solely on Sacred Tradition. It was at a Roman Synod in 382 AD that the Catholic Church took twenty seven first century writings of Sacred Tradition and declared them as Sacred Scripture. This new addition to Sacred Scripture is the New Testament that most Christians use today, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Before opponents of the Catholic Church quote Matthew 15:1-9, Mark 7:1-16, and Colossians 2:8 against Sacred Tradition, they should understand that they would be applying these verses to Sacred Tradition that has become the very Sacred Scripture they quote. Their interpretation of these verses would also be in conflict with 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6. There are no theological conflicts in Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition; therefore, these opponents of the Catholic Church are in error.
Sacred Tradition is not unique to the Christian Church, the Jewish Church also had such tradition. The writers of the New Testament make references to this Jewish tradition that is not found in Sacred Scripture. No where in the Old Testament is it mentioned that the Messiah would be called a Nazorean, but in Matthew 2:23 it says, "so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazorean.'" In 2 Timothy 3:8, Paul names the Egyptian sorcerers who opposed Mosses, Jannes and Jambres. Paul knew their names not from Scripture but from tradition. Paul also knew, from tradition, that Isaiah was "sawed in two", and makes reference to it in Hebrews 11:37. In Jude 9, a dispute over the body of Moses between Michael the Archangel and the devil is related. The Jews would also know this story because of tradition. Jude 14 mentions another prophecy that was not a part of Scripture, but a part of tradition. Like the Jews, many teachings of the Catholic Church come from Sacred Tradition, that does not conflicts with Sacred Scripture, but completes it.
So it is with Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Magisterium that the Catholic Church teaches the complete Word of God. Christian churches that rely solely on Sacred Scripture teach an incomplete Word of God, and do not have the authority to teach. Only the Catholic Church has the complete Word of God, and the authority to teach it.
In addition to Sacred Tradition, there is also the tradition of the Catholic Church. These are teachings believed to be true; however, they are not articles of faith and Catholics are not required to believe them. An example of this is the perpetual virginity of Joseph, compared to the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is Sacred Tradition. So we must be careful when we talk about Sacred Tradition and simply tradition, they are not the same and should not be confused.
- Catholics worship pictures and statues
- Catholics worship and pray to Mary, angels, and saints
- Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the mediator of prayer
- Mary is the mother of God, therefore she is not a created being
- Mary was born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit
- So Christ could be conceived without sin, Mary was conceived without sin
- Mary ascended into heaven just as Jesus did
- Jesus is king and Mary is queen, therefore they must be married
- The Pope is infallible in everything he does and says
- The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church and not Christ
- Because the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, he stands between the people and Christ
- In the Catholic Mass, Christ is crucified all over again
- The bread and wine in the Catholic Mass are a sacrifice like the old covenant Jewish sacrifices
- The doctrine of original sin comes from Ezekiel 18:2
- Babies that die before being baptised go to hell because of original sin
- There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church
- The Catholic Church does not evangelize
- The Catholic Church does not want its members to read the Bible
- A Catholic community can only have public activities if a priest is present
- The error of indulgences was repealed, but it is still part of the Catholic history