Roman Catholicism

Rome vs. Scripture: Apologetics Is Not the Issue

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The vast, life-and-death difference between Romanism and authentic Biblical Christianity is not an issue of apologetics, or who has the greater number of converts. The issue is Truth.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

The vast, life-and-death difference between Romanism and authentic Biblical Christianity is not an issue of apologetics, or who has the greater number of converts. The issue is Truth.

We frequently hear from people who are part of three different groups - staunch Roman Catholics who defend the alleged authority of Rome over Scripture; professing Protestants who have converted to Romanism; and former Roman Catholics who have been freed from the bondage of Rome's counterfeit authority and have come to true saving faith in Christ.

We praise God for opportunities to minister to all three. We proclaim authentic Biblical Christianity to the first two, praying that God by His Word and Spirit will bring them to spiritual life. We preach the edifying Word to the last group, true believers in Christ alone for salvation, as they seek to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and to avoid "being led away with the error of the wicked" (2 Peter 3:17-18).

A point that often comes up in our conversations with all three groups is the number of books and articles that have been written on both sides. Vatican apologists such as Patrick Madrid, Scott Hahn, and Karl Keating will tell of those who have left nominal Protestantism for Rome. On the other side, we provide people with literature such as Far From Rome, Near to God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Roman Catholic Priests, edited by former priest Richard Bennett, and Authority by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. [Both books are available from TeachingTheWord; contact us for more information.]

The fact is that we could also cite many individuals who have converted in other directions - from Islam, Judaism, or Buddhism to authentic Biblical Christianity, or from those false religions to Romanism. We could likewise cite those who have gone away from Rome to those other false religions, or professed authentic Christianity for a time but then rejected the truth to follow those spiritual counterfeits.

The Central Issue

All of these things point to a central fact: The vast, life-and-death difference between Romanism and authentic Biblical Christianity is not an issue of apologetics, or who has the greater number of converts. The issue is Truth. Truth is not a majority opinion. It is God's Word, "forever settled in Heaven" (Psalm 119:89).

The people who the Roman Catholics would cite to support their case have decided that Scripture is not sufficient. They have decided that they need the authority of a pope, and his counselors and servants, and their many and conflicting pronouncements over the centuries, to tell them what they must believe - and even how their beliefs and practices must change according to these men's dictates as they change their ground over time.

The former priests whose testimonies are recorded in Far From Rome, Near to God and the Biblical hermeneutic explained in Authority represent a diametrically different outlook: Scripture is the sole and final authority in all things. Or, as Peter and the other apostles put it to the false religious leaders of their day, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

In many Bible versions the word "must" is translated "ought". But in the original Greek it is far more emphatic. What the apostles were saying was this: The facts necessitate that we obey God rather than men. What facts? As Peter, Paul, Philip, Apollos, and the others said repeatedly in the book of Acts, the facts of Scripture. They stood on its authority, and no other.

Suppression of the Truth

Patrick Madrid and his fellow apologists for Rome repeatedly cite one verse out of context to supposedly settle the issue of the Vatican's authority over men: "...stand fast and hold the traditions you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Madrid and the others place this verse, out of context, as a lens over the rest of Scripture to build a completely invalid theology - a theology rooted in the traditions of sinful men.

They suppress the truth that the Apostle Paul wrote these words under Divine inspiration in a time when the canon of Scripture was not yet complete. Many teachings that built upon the foundation of the Old Testament Scriptures were even then not only being given by word of mouth to the churches by the apostles, but were also being placed forever on record in Holy Scripture as the permanent authority, after the apostles had gone on to glory, for the life and ministry of God's people until Christ returns. The "traditions" of which Paul spoke were not the inventions of popes or councils, or even of the apostles themselves. They were the New Testament Word of God given in verbal form, even as it was then being committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The apologists for Rome also suppress the truth that Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, commended these same believers because they recognized the supreme authority of the Word of God:

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

They also suppress the truth that Paul wrote these warnings and exhortations to other churches:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:8-10)

The apologists for Rome also suppress Jesus' condemnation of the religious leaders of His days on earth - the spiritual equivalents of the priests of Rome - in these words:

He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" - then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' " When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." (Matthew 15:3-11)

"Flee These Things... Lay Hold On Eternal Life"

Never forget, dear friend, that it is the Word of God, not the word of man that

is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner [literally, a critic] of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Beware of counterfeit authorities, whether those of Rome or of any other man, woman, group, or visible church that presumes to have authority over the Word of God. When you are confronted by the "useless wranglings [literally, the vain arguments] of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth...flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life..." (1 Timothy 6:5,11-12)

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