Before I state my case, I want to be clear that I have great respect for the good things the Catholic church has done. The amount of social work that they put in is astonishing when it comes to adoption homes, hospitals, homeless shelters, etc. I also have to say that some of the sweetest people I have ever met in my entire life were devout Catholics. Not only that, some of the people that read up and follow The Reformed Alliance blog are Catholics, and I want to say thank you to them and hope that they continue to do so.
I don’t know what it is about Roman Catholicism, but I genuinely have compassion for those who are a part of it and caught in it. I can understand why someone would be drawn into its rich history and its magnificent beauty. The cathedrals, the art, the fiction, the traditions… it’s all breathtaking and genuinely wondrous. Catholicism has amazing historical figures such as Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, and even the great Augustine of Hippo. No matter how Protestant I am, I must admit that it is truly incredible!
However, if that was all that Catholicism was to me, then I would have no problem with it, and thus I’d probably be a Catholic. There comes a time when, despite your deepest compassion as well as your reverence for things surrounding Catholicism, I must tell the truth. There is one specific thing that is keeping me back from becoming a Roman Catholic, and it has been an ongoing problem since the days of its formation in Nicaea.
Is it the traditions? No. Honestly, I love traditions. I don’t mind some of the Catholic traditions, other than the ones that completely go against Scripture.
Then, it’s gotta be the sexual abuse allegations right? No. That is something that the Catholic church could easily fix with the proper administration of discipline. Not only that, but man’s sin doesn’t disprove truth. If Catholicism was true, then man’s sin would not hinder me from becoming a Catholic, but in order to do so it has to follow Scripture.
Oh, so it’s the Pope! It’s gotta be the Pope right? Eh… kinda. It’s more about what the Pope represents. I am honestly fine with the idea of a person being appointed by church officials to lead those in the religion toward a unified goal, as long as it would fit the Scriptures.
Did you notice a common theme in all of those points? Did you notice what my exception was? Scripture. Sola Scriptura to be exact. No matter what the Roman Catholic church will continue to say or do, until they believe in the principle of Sola Scriptura, I cannot be a Catholic.
It is because of the low view of Scripture that Catholics will have extra-biblical traditions like infant baptism and confessions, will cover up sins that are explicitly taught against in Scripture, and will put a man’s words against God’s.
To this day, the Catholic Catechism states the following things:
“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring…” (Catechism 80)
“The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.‘” (Catechism 882)
According to the Catholic Church, tradition is the same thing as Scripture. They are both coming from the same source of divine inspiration… but what does Scripture say? “I have applied all these things… for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” (1 Corinthians 4:6 ESV) Not only that, Scripture claims that it is sufficient for “…every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17 ESV)
What about the Pope? Is he the foundation of our faith? “It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus [meaning “one who loves God”], that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4 ESV) The Pope cannot do the work of the Scriptures. The Spirit has spoken in these last days through the Son of God, not through any of the popes.
There are Protestants who wonder why we are separated from them and that is because they follow a different gospel, but we also forget that they follow a different gospel because they don’t follow Scripture. The whole reason for the Five Solas was to give an account of the Gospel. They were not necessarily reasons for splitting up from the church, but to simply state the biblical gospel, and you cannot understand the Gospel without understanding Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
It is in the Scriptures that we find the work of Christ, it is in the preaching of the work that we see conversions happening, and it is by the authority of the Scriptures that we can boldly defend our faith. Without a strong admiration for the word of the living God, the inspired word of the King and Lord, the Catholic church will be carried away by the wave that is Jesus Christ. This is a sad truth because I wish I could call my fellow Catholics brothers and sisters in Christ, but until they renounce the church of Rome, there is very little basis on what their faith stands upon. Until they leave the church that uses extra-biblical means to achieve something miraculous and divine, they are caught up in a cult that has been around since 305 A.D.
When Martin Luther began the Reformation, he didn’t want to split away from the Roman Catholic church. It was quite the opposite in fact: he wanted to reform the truth from within, but the church refused to acknowledge the fact that they were denying the basic principles of Scriptures. No matter how much the Reformers tried to reason and debate with the Catholic church, it was no use. The church would rather unsheathe a sword than to open the Bible. Thus, history was made, and Rome still refuses to change.
I wish history turned out differently. I wish the Catholic church would’ve seen its flaws and returned to Scripture. Imagine how much different the world would be, not just the universal church! Pope Francis would’ve never been able to get away with his liberal theology or politics because there would be Catholics standing up saying, “No! Sola Scriptura!” But now, Catholics are standing by and wondering why the church is becoming more liberal and changing the traditions they had so loved, and it is because it never stood on Scripture, but it stood on the will of man. When man elevates himself above God, God will be left out of the planning process of the church.
For all of you who are still Catholics, I encourage you to rethink your faith and allegiance to a church that has failed God. It may have had a good history, its art may be beautiful, and its traditions too hard to give up… but this is not a time for nostalgia but a call to repentance and a reverence for Scripture. What are you prepared to do for God?
If you are a Protestant, please… PLEASE don’t forget Sola Scriptura. I fear that the new acronym for SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) is really “Slowly Becoming Catholic.” Please the importance of expository preaching and complete obedience to everything in the word from local church government to your child’s dating life.
If you are Reformed, keep with it. Stay the course, and continue to show grace to the people who are lost in this movement. Strive with those who are lost. Be the Martin Luthers, the John Calvins, and the John Owens of this generation.
Semper Reformanda. Sola Scriptura. And as always…
Soli Deo Gloria.