Concerning Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism
The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.
From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man – Appendix
Testimonies from the Churches
The Bible Answer Man continually quotes Witness Lee’s statement that “Judaism is satanic, Catholicism is demonic, and Protestantism is Christless,” and publicly chastises him for making such an apparently bold and condemning statement. However, he neglects to present the context in which this statement was made with the scriptural basis used by Brother Lee for such a remark. Therefore, we take this opportunity to present to the public the basis, both from Scripture and historical facts, to support this statement.
In considering these matters, we must distinguish between people and organizations. Most certainly our Lord loves every human being, yet there are certain things, to which believers are related, which He hates and will judge (Rev. 2:5-6, 14-16, 20-23; 18:4-8). Thus, in condemning according to the Scriptures these religious systems, we do not condemn the believers who are in them. We recognize that there are many true, born-again believers in Catholicism and Protestantism. Their involvement does not in the least diminish the fact of their regeneration. However, it surely is a great hindrance to their progress in the Christian life, and is extremely offensive to the Lord. Thus, He repeatedly calls them to “repent” (Rev. 2:5, 16, 22; 3:3, 19) and to “come out” (Rev. 18:4).
The Case of Judaism
In Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 the Lord refers to the “synagogue of Satan” composed of those who “say they are Jews, and are not.” The members of the synagogue were Jews in the flesh, but not in the spirit (Rom. 2:28-29). Merely being the children of Abraham in the flesh does not constitute them as true children of God (Matt. 3:9; Rom. 9:7-8). Therefore the Lord says in Revelation that they “are not” Jews.
In the synagogues they stubbornly kept their old rituals and outward law. By refusing to give up their old religion, which had been replaced by Christ, they became one with Satan in opposing God’s way of life and grace. Under the control of Satan the synagogues persecuted and crucified the Lord Jesus (Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 4:28-29; John 9:22; Acts 2:23; 3:13-15). They also persecuted the Apostles (Acts 6:9; 13:43, 45-46, 50; 14:1-2, 19; 17:1, 5-6, 13) and the churches (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). Likewise today the synagogues resist the gospel and teach people to hate the name of Jesus. Because of this opposition the Lord has called them the synagogues of Satan. Therefore, when we say that Judaism is satanic, we are repeating the words of the Lord Himself.
The Case of Catholicism
The book of Revelation also gives a clear picture of Catholicism. In chapter 2 there is the evil woman Jezebel who leads God’s children into idolatry and fornication, and in chapter 17 this woman is the great harlot, the epitome of abomination. Every aspect of this woman corresponds to the situation of Roman Catholicism. Jezebel is in Thyatira, which means sacrifice of perfume or unceasing sacrifice, indicating the unceasing masses. Also, there is the emphasis on works and the teaching of Rome superseding the Bible (2:19-20). The description continues in chapter 17: an unholy association with worldly rulers (v. 2), purple and scarlet clothing (v. 4), outwardly holy (golden) but inwardly abominable (v. 4), guilty of the blood of many true believers (v. 6), and sitting upon the seven mountains upon which the city of Rome is built (v. 9). The identity of Roman Catholicism and the woman in Revelation 17 is the subject of a scholarly work entitled The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. In his words,
There has never been any difficulty in the mind of any enlightened Protestant in identifying the woman “sitting on seven mountains” and having on her forehead the name written, “Mystery, Babylon the Great” with the Roman apostacy (pp. 1-2).
In every respect, then, we see how justly Rome bears on its forehead the name, “Mystery, Babylon the Great.”
Catholicism does speak about God, Christ, and the Bible. This is signified by the precious things in Revelation 17:4. However, these materials are a gilding, an outward appearance not representative of the real nature and condition of Catholicism. Her actual condition is blasphemous, unclean, abominable, immoral, and full of demons and evil spirits (17:3-5; 18:2). Two well-known Catholic practices are even called “doctrines of demons,” “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats” (1 Tim. 4:1, 3). The Lord Himself in speaking of this system calls it demonic. Therefore, our attitude toward it must be based, not on appearance, but on the Lord’s appraisal as revealed in His Word.
History has shown the Roman Catholic Church to be the murderer of untold thousands of genuine believers in Christ. Moreover, she has been the perpetrator of a system, incorporating superstitious and pagan practices, which has kept millions in darkness, ignorance, and poverty for centuries. Worst of all, she has kept her multitudes from salvation which is by faith in Christ alone. Is such a system not properly called demonic?
The Case of Protestantism
To the church in Laodicea the Lord spoke the words, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). Here is an actual church, yet the Lord is not there; He is on the outside knocking to get in! It is very possible to be a church that has works, that claims to be rich and have need of nothing, yet that is lacking the presence of Christ. This does not mean that all the people are void of Christ; it means that in the church Christ’s presence and authority are missing. In spite of this, many things are still done in His name. You may be truly saved and be in a church that has no reality of Christ’s presence or authority. The church in Laodicea, as Christian teachers acknowledge, is a picture of the church in these last days before the Lord returns.
In thousands of churches week by week people sit and listen to sermons on politics, ethics and social issues, never realizing that they have a need to be saved and nurtured in the Christian life. What is this? This is Christless Protestantism. Many places that name the name of Christ have degenerated into social clubs, or ritualistic performances that merely soothe the consciences of those who visit them once a week. Is Christ there?
Even the more, some who are genuinely the Lord’s children have adopted practices that are very far removed from those of the Lord and the early disciples. In comparing the two, you must conclude either that the Lord has radically changed since then, or else that He is just not in what they are doing. How does the pastor in expensive attire and a big house, asking for money week after week, compare to the Man of Galilee who had but one coat and nowhere to lay His head? Is Christ there? How do the methods and appearances of Hollywood which have flooded Protestantism reflect the simple word and life of Christ and His disciples? Is Christ there? If the living Christ were there, would people come to church to show off their new clothes, listen drowsily for one hour, and hurry out to light up a cigarette, speak to each other of everything but Christ and hurry home in time to watch T.V.? This is what is meant by “Christless Protestantism.”
Reflect upon one of the last things written by A. W. Tozer in his book God Tells the Man Who Cares. The article is titled, “The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches” (pp. 163-172).
My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches…. Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. …I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals…. Nominally He is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions…. The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion…. He [Christ] is widely recommended as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist with remarkable powers to straighten people out…. Of course this strange Christ has no relation whatever to the Christ of the New Testament…. The causes back of the decline in our Lord’s authority are many. I name only two. One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups…. The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy.
A. W. Tozer concluded his book by saying that only confession and repentance “can remove the curse” which is on the churches today.
We are not against any person or group of persons. On the contrary, we hope all men can experience the salvation and transformation that is in the resurrected Christ. However, we refuse to tolerate systems that frustrate the knowledge of Christ in order to please other men. We must speak the truth. For this reason we have said: “Judaism is Satanic, Catholicism is demonic, and Protestantism is Christless.”
This is the second of five articles in this series.