A Word to Roman Catholics - A Challenge to Challenge
It has been a very interesting experience for me to have debated a Roman Catholic priest on a particular radio station over a period of months. I did not invite the debate, but it was the result of the radio show host desiring to have another point of view about the bible other than my own. It was a wonderful opportunity to dispel the myth that Roman Catholicism was truly a bible-based church.
As we debated, the priest made it clear there was no difference between the authority of scripture and the authority of church tradition. Soon, doctrine after doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church was seen to be based more in the teaching of the Magisterium, (The teaching authority of the RCC) than scripture itself. I discovered that the RCC (Roman Catholic Church) doesn't allow any personal opinion where the Magisterium has made an official teaching, which of course, in the RCC is infallible. Roman Catholics can't question this at all, but must accept it by faith that the Magisterium's official teachings are as infallible as scripture.
As a bible believer it has been my understanding of scripture that God calls and encourages people to search the scriptures, study the scriptures, and to test all things. (Acts 17:11; I Thess. 5:21; II Tim. 2:15; I Jn. 4:1) Every Christian is called by God to experience the illumination of the Holy Spirit as he/she prays for understanding. (Eph. 1:17,18)
There is a right attitude for approaching truth and a wrong attitude. Genuine truth lovers love to examine a thing to see if it is really true. They invite opposing ideas and test those ideas against scripture. They are invited by godly leadership to study the scriptures to see if what the leadership says is true or not. As a pastor I am never intimidated or threatened when I discover people in the congregation getting into serious bible study. It has never created a problem and has always led to engaging, informative, and stimulating dialogue. I encourage people to read material from opposing views and to compare those views with scripture. Is there a possibility they could be led astray and accept a non-biblical view? Of course, the answer is yes. However, I know that I am not responsible for their final decision; they are responsible before God and will reap the results of any false teaching. It is my responsibility to engage them with my understanding and to challenge them from the Word of God.
Leadership must always leave the results of individual study to God. Freedom of thought and freedom to be taught by the Holy Spirit must be maintained in the church. When leadership begins to control the minds of the people by telling them that the leadership alone is the final word of truth, and that any dissention could result in death, punishment, or a myriad of other responses, then the individual becomes a mindless follower who blindly trusts in the views of others. Not out of faith but out of fear and coercion. We must never forget that our faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Our faith must be established in the word of God, which alone has the capacity to produce faith in the seeker as the Holy Spirit teaches and guides.
Every true believer has an anointing of God for personal discovery of God's truth. The apostle John told his people in I Jn. 2:27 that they weren't dependent on any man for teaching, but that their inner anointing (the Holy Spirit of God, the author of scripture) would teach them all things. Let me make it clear that this verse isn't saying that human teachers within the church shouldn't teach people. God Himself has established teachers in the church to help build up the body of Christ, His true church.(Eph. 4:11) The apostle John is merely saying that no believer is absolutely dependent upon teachers because they have the greatest teacher living within them, namely, the Holy Spirit.
The RCC teaches that the bible isn't enough in itself to lead people into necessary truth. The traditions handed down through the Magisterium are also necessary and are equal to scripture. When a Roman Catholic goes against the uninspired teachings of the Magisterium it is seen by the Magisterium as equal to going against the word of God. Such individual responses are met with anathemas and ex-communication still today. All personal opinions are disallowed and unacceptable because these magisterial teachings of men have already been declared infallible. To admit any other possibility would declare the RCC as being fallible, and her whole house of cards would come tumbling down. This is control on an extraordinary level. It rules by fear, threat, and intimidation.
Yet the bible declares in II Tim. 3:115-17 that within itself is everything that a person needs to know in order to be saved from sin, to live a godly life, and to be equipped for service. Only the Word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit. When man makes his writings authoritative, as does the Magisterium, then immediate dangers arise that make void the authority of the word of God by the word of man. The Jews were guilty of this in Jesus' day through their traditional writings called the "Talmud". As a result it invited our Lord's condemnation in the strongest terms. (Mat. 15:9; Mk.7:7)
In churches everywhere, whether they be RCC or some other brand, I find people resting in the leadership for all their truth. They don't follow the biblical admonition of II Tim. 2:15. They aren't Berean style Christians that search the scriptures daily to see if the things they are being told by men are true. Yet the Bereans checked the scriptures over the words of the apostle Paul.
As I speak on the radio and share the doctrines of the RCC (and other groups) as opposed to the true teachings of the bible, I find that some accuse me of hatred. An for what reason, solely because I declare that the institution's teachings are in error. The anger comes because the people put their faith in an institution that declares itself without error. Any possibility of error becomes an immediate threat to millions and millions of people who hang onto the security of RCC for their future and salvation. Roman Catholics often respond with deep anger and see even the slightest criticism of their infallible church, so called, as hate mongering. This couldn't be more wrong. My cry is for people to go to God's word for themselves and pray for His guidance and light. Examine everything, test everything, and never let the word of man override what God has plainly revealed in His Word.
People, like myself, who call others to exercise the mind and will God gave you to seek the truth are not haters, but rather, we are challengers to pursue God's truth. I finish this with a quote from the bible. It is an infallible statement from God's own heart. "But let God be true, and every man a liar". Rom 3:4a. Peace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ.
God bless all God pursuers, may He be found by all who seek.
By His grace alone,