26 May 2019
This writing contains a rebuttal to the biblical origin of Catholicism as presented by three Catholic apologists.
Ever since Bram Stoker published his novel Dracula in 1897, vampires have been the subject of many popular books, comics, movies, and TV shows. Who isn’t familiar with the recent TV series The Vampire Diaries or The Originals? Of course, this is not a recent phenomenon, the classic Dracula was released by Universal Studios in 1931. People can’t seem to get enough vampires.
Along with vampires, another current craze is zombies, not the Haitian Voodoo (Vodou) type but the George A. Romero Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead variety. Unlike the Voodoo zombie, the Romero zombie needs to eat the flesh of the living, probably out of compulsion rather than need.
Nevertheless, who would have guessed that vampires (undead) and zombies (walking dead) can trace their origins back to the Bible. Yes, I said the Bible. The proof verses are found in the Gospel of John—the disciple whom Jesus loved.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.
This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-56 NASB)
John clearly lays out the case for vampires and zombies by the drinking of blood and the eating of flesh respectively. He states that the no one has life unless they eat Jesus’ flesh and drink HIs blood. If anyone was to participate in this activity they will live forever. Since Jesus is no longer literally present on earth in the flesh, a convenient substitute needed to be found and that substitute just happens to be all living humans.
So, isn’t it true that vampires live forever so long as they drink blood and likewise with zombies eating flesh? Okay, so zombies don’t die even if they don’t eat flesh—minor point.
As with vampires and zombies, the Bible also supports redistribution of wealth and socialism:
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. (Acts 2:44-45)
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. (Acts 4:32)
Some would argue that what I’ve just proposed is really a stretch; but is it? How much more of a stretch is it to believe in the doctrine of Transubstantiation? I propose that belief in Transubstantiation is even more implausible than the vampire/zombie argument.
So, as the reader can see, anyone can find some Bible verses to support almost anything they want them to support. But shouldn’t it be the other way around? That is, shouldn’t Scripture be used to establish a doctrinal position rather than taking a doctrinal position and then searching for a proof verse or verses in Scripture? This is a temptation that supposedly learned men and women are more susceptible to fall into. As they say “To much knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
Evangelicals are not immune to this practice either. For example, many Fundamentalist-leaning churches preach the following derived doctrines which are not explicitly taught in the Bible including The Trinity, The Pre-tribulation Rapture, and free-will salvation. I’ve already written position papers on The Rapture and Salvation; however, I still plan a paper on The Trinity.
I direct the reader to my blog post on Catholicism as a primer for understanding the basis for many of the arguments being proposed is this writing.
History records for us the Church of Rome’s sordid past, namely the 700-year Inquisition which was active from 1231 until 1826 AD. The Catholic Church’s centralized authority in Rome under the Pope gave its consent to local clergyman to carry out their sanctioned punishments. According to the JVL website:
Punishments included confinement to dungeons, physical abuse and torture. Those who reconciled with the church were still punished and many had their property confiscated, as well as were banished from public life. Those who never confessed were burned at the stake without strangulation; those who did confess were strangled first.1
In Spain, the office of Inquisitor General was established after King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were granted papal permission to setup an inquisition in their country.2 I wonder if the Bible contains verses supporting the establishment and succession of that office.
According to some accounts, millions died as a result of the 700-year Inquisition. The JVL website attributes around 32,000 who were burned at the stake during the Spanish Inquisition alone.3 Since the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, that is, he holds the same authority over the Church as Jesus did (or does). Is it conceivable that Jesus would condone the atrocities committed in His name as mentioned previously? Would any of the Apostles? Papal infallibility is untenable.
But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.
The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’
But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.’ (Matt. 13:26-29)
Think about it; the Inquisition didn’t end until almost the beginning of the American Civil War! Ironically, in Europe it was Napoleon Bonaparte, a Catholic, who ended Catholicism as the state religion of France in 1801 and ended the Spanish Inquisition in 1808.
So, does the Church of Rome really believe that God is who He says He is? Does God get tired? Does He on occasion need help? Consider the following verses from Acts:
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation… (Acts 17:24-26)
I could stop right now without providing any further arguments since the above verses are all that needs to be said. But then the only question that would need to be answered is why the Catholic Church chooses to pass over these verses?
Even so, the Church of Rome persists in its use of the reprobate conjunction “and” as in Faith and…; Jesus and…; Bible and… Catholicism refuses to allow God to stand on His own.
This position paper attempts to refute the claims of some Catholic apologists that the Bible supports Catholic doctrine, practices, and beliefs.
I’ve chosen three books by Catholic apologists and they are:
- Stunned by Scripture: How the Bible Made Me Catholic by Dr. John Bergsma
- Fulfilled: Uncovering the Biblical Foundations of Catholicism by Sonja Corbitt
- The Case for Catholicism: Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections by Trent Horn
Stunned by Scripture
Bergsma by writing his apology is in fact violating Catholic teaching that only the Pope and the bishops, that is, the Magisterium, can interpret Scripture.4
Bergsma attempts to make the case for papal infallibility based upon Peter’s God-given authority to “bind and loose” claiming Peter being the first Bishop of Rome.5 If Heaven were to confirm Peter’s actions and decisions on earth, then how is it that Peter was confronted by the Apostle Paul over his [Peter’s] hypocrisy.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. (Gal. 2:11)
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? (Gal. 2:14)
I suppose you could say that Peter was infallible if you believe that Peter’s hypocritical decision to compel Gentiles to live like Jews was not hypocrisy and that Paul was the one in error. But wasn’t Jesus the one, who on many occasions, confronted the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees?
Bergsma continues his defense for the office of Bishop of Rome using the unity argument from John 17:20-21. I remember the professor who taught a seminary course I took at Biblical Theological Seminary say that the moment Jesus spoke that prayer in John 17:20-21 it was answered. I believe Jesus provided the backdrop in John 4:23-24 for what He would later pray for in John 17 concerning His petition for unity.
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)
I find it disturbing that Bergsma would call this unity in spirit and truth concept a “cop-out!”6
Not unlike the advocates of centralized government in the secular realm, the Church of Rome claims to have centralized control over all spiritual matters. There are many who prefer centralization because it relieves them of the burden of exercising independent thought. But is a centralized church really the biblical model? Those who think it is should read Revelation 1:1-3 where John records Jesus’ message to the seven churches, none of which are in Rome ironically. When reading these messages, the one phrase that is clearly repeated is “And to the angel of the church in…” which is followed by the particular city in which members of the church were residing. This would imply local churches having no centralized authority since each message delivered addressed separate issues. If Peter was in fact the rock upon which the church was built, why wasn’t a message delivered to his church, the church in Rome according to Catholic teaching? Nevertheless, I know that there are some who spiritualize the meaning of Revelation, but the language in Rev. 1:1-3 is obviously literal, being directed at real people.
The Church of Rome claims the Apostle Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, that is, the first Pope. However, Alexander Hislop is his book The Two Babylons writes that Peter being the Bishop of Rome “has been proved again and again to be an arrant fable.”7. Hislop goes on to argue that Peter having ever even been in Rome “is at best highly doubtful.”8
So, who’s got the keys? It’s interesting to note that the Pope never publicly claimed to possess Peter’s keys until 432 AD.9 Up until that point, one key each belonged to the Roman divinities Janus and Cybele; it was these keys that the Pope appropriated for himself to establish his credibility after Constantinople threatened to usurp Rome’s authority.10
Jesus clears up the issue of who has the keys in His message to the church in Philadelphia:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this… (Rev. 3:7)
Bergsma goes out of his way to defend the role of the priests based on the Old Testament model. While there are many verses that could be used to refute Bergsma’s assertions, I’ll rest my case with just these three from Hebrews:
For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;
who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (Heb. 7:26-28)
Sonja Corbitt in her book Fulfilled derives her arguments for the defense of the Catholic faith from the Old Testament Tabernacle. It’s unusual for leaders in any church to teach at any length from the Old Testament so Sonja should be commended for her efforts in this regard. However, I disagree with all but one of her conclusions.
I was immediately struck by Corbitt’s opening discussion on the Liturgical Year, where she describes celebrating her first Easter season as a Catholic:
I had spent that entire Lent in quiet. I gave up coffee. I meditated on the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary every day. I watched the Passion of the Christ. I did the Stations of the Cross. I attended every Liturgy of Holy Week.11
Her phraseology is remarkably similar to that in Isaiah:
But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isa. 14:13-14)
In Isaiah, the emphasis is on the “I will…,” but in Fulfilled, the emphasis is on what I did, “I had spent,” “I gave up,” “I meditated,” “I watched,” “I attended,” all these phrases from both writings emphasize the “I,” what I will do or what I did. I leave it to the reader to decide.
Corbitt argues that the Old Testament liturgical schedule was a foreshadow of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year.12 Her arguments seem persuasive enough until you read what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans—ironically.
One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. (Rom. 14:5)
Note the second part of the verse that states, “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” The individual needs to convince themselves, and not to be under compulsion by any centralized church bureaucracy.
Speaking of foreshadowing and fulfillment, you could argue that the woes Jesus harshly pronounced on the scribes and Pharisees were a foreshadowing of the Magisterium being fulfilled in the Church of Rome.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matt. 23:27-28)
Mariology is alive and well and defended in Fulfilled. Corbitt quotes another Catholic writer who claims Mary is the new Miriam and places Mary in the order of salvation.13
Jesus died once for all as the writer of Hebrews has proclaimed. (Heb. 9:28) Therefore, we have a high priest that doesn’t need to offer up sacrifices daily for himself or for the people as was done in the Tabernacle. Even Peter reinforces this claim, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust…” (Peter 3:18)
Corbitt writes a contradictory statement that “At Jesus’ command, the Catholic priesthood has always offered the only true sacrifice possible on Catholic alters…” (Corbitt, Fulfilled, 104.)) What additional sacrifice would Jesus require since the Scripture teaches that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22).
Corbitt has taken it upon herself to supersede what Peter (the first Pope?) has written. She proudly continues her contradictory statements by writing that “his [Jesus’] sacrifice continues presently on the altars of every Catholic Church every day, at every hour, throughout the world until he returns.” Some Protestants can overlook many aspects of Catholic doctrine but almost all consider this teaching of Jesus’ continual sacrifice as sacrilege.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Heb. 9:22)
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;
and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Heb. 9:11-12)
Corbitt also writes that Purgatory is not a place but “a state of the soul in God”14 which she states is also referred to as salvation and sanctification—sanctification being a lifelong process. I can agree with her position that Purgatory can be equated with sanctification, although no Protestant would call it Purgatory.
Purgatory as sanctification seems to contradict the notion of Purgatory in the Supernatural TV series where Purgatory is a “supernatural dimension created by God”15 to contain the souls of monsters and a person or two—the character Dean Winchester being one. The Catholic Answers website claims that Purgatory is “an after-death purification from sin and the consequences of sin” which is more inline with the Supernatural concept and what I remember being taught in childhood. So, we have at least three different interpretations of what Purgatory is; so much for the unity of Catholic teachings.
Baptism as Sacrament,16 or which came first: the chicken or the egg? In Catholicism, baptism comes first, then salvation; in most Protestant denominations, salvation comes first, then baptism. Since I’ve already written extensively on the modes of salvation, I’ll refer the reader to my blog post on Election. As is taught by some apostate Protestant churches, the Catholic church teaches that a person, even a baptized person, can lose their salvation which is nothing more than the old “salvation by works” heresy.
The Case for Catholicism
The whole, i.e., the entire, case for Catholicism rests on the authority or lack of authority of the Scriptures. Most Protestants place the utmost, i.e., the highest, authority on what God has said because they believe God is who He says He is. After all, God is God, who else is there with whom we have to deal?
So, what better Protestant doctrine to attack first than Sola Scriptura? And what better means to attack Scripture than with Scripture itself? This is the approach Trent Horn has taken in his book The Case for Catholicism.
Right out of the gate, Horn proceeds to attack the well-known and famous “All Scripture is inspired…” (2 Tim. 3:16) verse by splitting hairs with the word “all” which he claims is better translated “every” in the verse mentioned.17 Horn goes on to argue that 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn’t support Sola Scriptura because Paul uses the word “profitable” instead of necessary or sufficient.18 Forget about transistor manufacturing, Horn’s line of reasoning is a perfect example of how to apply nanotechnology to apologetics.
Horn goes on to defend priestly celibacy using 1 Timothy 3:2 which states that a leader in the church must be “the husband of one wife.” Horn argues that the verse doesn’t require the clergy to be married nor does it disprove the celibacy requirement for priests.19 Again, Horn applies this line of reasoning to other verses as well. Of course, we all recognize that it would be somewhat difficult to apply Timothy’s caretaking test (1 Tim. 3:4) to a priestly candidate whose been living a celibate monastic lifestyle since that candidate wouldn’t be managing a household or having to keep any of his own children under control.
Paul writes that celibacy is a gift from God, but not all have this gift (1 Cor. 7:7) confirming what Jesus taught earlier concerning “eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” (Matt. 19:12) obviously speaking of celibacy. This concept was driven home in the popular TV series The Thorn Birds where the character Father Ralph de Bricassart struggles with his desire for Meggie and his devotion to God and the Church. Father Ralph never realized, until maybe the very end, that he wasn’t given the gift that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians, although his wiser, older friend and fellow clergyman Archbishop Vittorio seems surprisingly empathetic.
Needless to say, Protestants find the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation difficult to swallow (pun intended). Horn argues that the literal body and blood of Jesus being present in the Eucharist doesn’t imply cannibalism.20 Horn explains that when the Eucharist is consumed, it is not destroyed in the usual manner through chewing and digestion.21 I remember from childhood being told by my Catechism teachers not to chew the communion wafer, but now I understand why.
Just because Jesus didn’t say that the bread and wine was symbolic of His body and blood doesn’t disprove that it wasn’t symbolic…or something else. There is an idiomatic expression “eat it up” that is used today. One of its meanings is “to believe unquestionably that something is true.”
I believe that when someone participates in Lord’s Supper without believing who Jesus claimed to be and what He accomplished on the cross, then that person would be partaking in an unworthy manner. A person who partakes in a state of unbelief would be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord as written in 1 Corinthians 11:27. Why, because participating in the Lord’s Supper is an outward expression of belief and done for any other reason would be a lie.
As Catholicism has demonstrated, Scripture is not complete or sufficient, meaning God’s Word is not complete or sufficient, meaning Jesus being the Word made flesh (John 1:8) is not complete or sufficient. This line of reasoning is allegedly found throughout the Bible, according to Horn. The Catholic position, implied or otherwise, is that Holy Tradition and the Magisterium are equal to Scripture according to the Catechism. While this teaching may be true in theory, however, in practice Tradition and the Magisterium seem to carry more weight.22
As can be seen, the Catholic apologists were successful in presenting heresy in the most pious way possible. Nevertheless, Scripture makes it perfectly clear that we as Christians shouldn’t automatically believe every prophet or teacher that comes along, but we should test the “spirits” to determine whether they are from God or not (1 John 4:1) and how can you test anything unless you have an authoritative source to test against? (Maybe one should ask a professional tester for advice.) For Protestants, the only authoritative source is Scripture, for Catholics, it’s Tradition and the Magisterium along with Scripture.
All the apologists presented in the writing attempt to parse Scripture verses in order force fit them into the Catholic mold. Naturally, they, particularly Horn, accuse Protestants of doing this very thing and in some cases, I would agree. However, there are some Catholic interpretations that are really a stretch, for example, which interpretation of Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother is more biblical, that she was a normal married woman who received God’s special attention at the time, or that she is the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven?
The Catechism teaches that the Magisterium is the sole interpreter of Scripture eliminating the need for the laity to read the Bible let alone understand it. Catholicism is a collectivist religion.
Catholicism historically attempted to keep its adherents ignorant of the Scriptures since Masses were celebrated in Latin until March 7, 1965. Consequently, the Latin Vulgate is the official Bible of the Catholic Church.
It’s easy for the apologists to use Scripture to make a seemingly strong case for their beliefs, but many times they take a verse or verses out of context such as verses where Jesus spoke about not calling anyone on earth your father:
But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (Matt. 23:8-10)
Looking at verses 8-10 above in context, it’s clear that Jesus is obviously not referring to biological fathers because He also includes rabbi and leader in the same discourse.
I challenge any Catholic apologist to show from Scripture where judgement will be pronounced collectively. That is, will the Pope stand-in for each Catholic at the judgement seat of Christ? Will Peter? Or, how about Mary? If each person will be judged individually, then each individual will be responsible for what they believed or didn’t believe and for what they did or didn’t do.
In Protestant denominations, if one church gets it wrong, it may only affect those members of that church, maybe a few thousand, but if the Pope gets it wrong, it could affect a few billion.
A current article in the Biblical Archaeological Society also throws doubt as to whether Peter ever travelled to Rome citing Peter’s lack of education, lack of Greek and Latin language proficiency along with the fact that Peter was a co-leader of the church in Jerusalem and that Rome was a long way off.23
Finally, the Church of Rome has become a somewhat radical left-leaning political system in addition to a religious denomination. This is evidenced by the following Papal Encyclicals supporting Environmentalism, Evolution, and Social Justice.
- Encyclical supporting man-made climate change: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
- Encyclical supporting evolution: https://religionnews.com/2014/10/27/pope-francis-evolution-inconsistent-notion-creation/
- Encyclical supporting social justice and redistribution of wealth: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html#V.%E2%80%82A_mother_with_an_open_heart
I hope Sonja Corbitt is right about Purgatory not being a literal place because I have a feeling I could be there for a long…long…long, long, long…long time.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2019 Gerard Sczepura
“Christian-Jewish Relations: The Inquisition,” Jewish Virtual Library, accessed May 4, 2019, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-inquisition. ↩
U. S. Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Complete and Updated, (Image, New York, 1995), 32. ↩
Dr. John Bergsma, Stunned by Scripture: How the Bible Made Me Catholic, (Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Indiana, 2018), 28. ↩
Ibid., 29. ↩
Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons; or, Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife, Complete and Unabridged, 7th ed., 1871, (CrossReach Publications, 2017), 98. ↩
Ibid., 97. ↩
Sonja Corbitt, Fulfilled: Uncovering the Biblical Foundations of Catholicism, (Ascension, West Chester, PA, 2018), 38. ↩
Ibid., 55. ↩
Ibid., 74. ↩
Ibid., 118. ↩
Corbitt, Fulfilled, 132. ↩
Trent Horn, The Case for Catholicism: Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections, (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2017), 24. ↩
Ibid., 26. ↩
Ibid., 156. ↩
Ibid., 170-171. ↩
Gerard Sczepura, “GOD & the Gods: Catholicism,” Theological Ruminations (blog), April 13, 2019, https://gerardsczepura.com/god-the-gods-catholicism/. ↩
“The Apostle Peter in Rome,” Nicola Denzey Lewis, Bible History Daily, May 08, 2019, https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/the-apostle-peter-in-rome/. ↩