by Matt Slick
Neither Protestantism or Catholicism is the true religion. It is not an issue of a movement or a position or being a member of the "right church." Instead, true religion, as it relates to Christianity, is that which agrees with the Bible and does not violate the essentials of the Christian faith. The question, in the case of Protestantism and Catholicism, is which view is most Biblical. At CARM we say that without a doubt the Protestant movement is far more Biblical than the Catholic Church since the Catholic Church has added many doctrines that are not found in Scripture. In fact, so many were added that eventually God ordained the Protestant Reformation as an effort to get back to what Scripture says.
But, generally speaking, Roman Catholics will say that their church is the most Biblical because they include "sacred tradition" as part of the revelation given by God. They will say that there are verses that support tradition (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6, 1 Cor. 11:2), the source of their teachings which are not found in Scripture. However, the same Scripture they appeal to in order to support tradition also says to beware of tradition.
- Matt. 15:3-6, "And He answered and said to them, 'And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, Honor your father and mother, and, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death 5 But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or mother, Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God, 6he is not to honor his father or his mother. And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.'"
- Mark 7:8-9, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. 9 He was also saying to them, You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."
- Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."
Tradition is only good if it conforms with Scripture. It is bad if it contradicts Scripture. In fact, we are told in the Bible to not go beyond what is written in its pages. In other words, we are not to teach as Christian doctrine that which is not confirmed in Scripture.
"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other," (1 Corinthians 4:6).
So, we have an explicit statement in the Bible not to exceed what is written in Scripture. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church has--without a doubt--exceeded what is written in the Word of God. Please consider the following Roman Catholic teachings that cannot be found in Scripture.
- Only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret Scripture: "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 100)
- Forgiveness of sins is by faith and keeping the commandments: "so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments," (CCC 2068)
- Grace can be merited: "Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods." (CCC 2027)
- Penance is necessary for salvation: “This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn." (CCC 980)
- Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ: "Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38)," (CCC 510). (Contrast this with Matt. 1:25)
- You must go through Mary to get to Jesus: "so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother." (Vatican Website: Encyclical of Pope Leo 13th on the Rosary, Octobri Mense, Pope Leo 13th, 1903-1914)
- Becoming gods: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods," (CCC 460). (See the article The CCC paragraph 460 and becoming a god)
- Muslims worship the true god: "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day, " (CCC 841).
- Purgatory: The 2nd Vatican Council, p. 63, "The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. Gods holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments."
- Indulgences: "An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity," (CCC 1478).
So which is the true religion, Protestantism or Catholicism? It cannot be the Roman Catholic Church since it not only adds to Scripture but also violates it. As far as Protestantism goes, there are many denominations within the overall movement, and each would have to be examined against Scripture. There are good churches and bad churches within the Protestant movement. So again, they are only as good and true inasmuch as they agree with Scripture.