Should a Believer Remain in Roman Catholicism?
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 CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research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here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.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
On October 29, 1977, the Bible Answer Man made several statements concerning Roman Catholicism and the believer’s relationship to it.
One woman, a Roman Catholic, called to question him concerning his attitude toward Roman Catholicism. The following are excerpts from his response:
You’re never going to find anything anti-Catholic in what I write or say. What you’ll find are criticisms of Catholic theology. There’s quite a difference in criticizing you as a person and having a different view with you on theology.
I have a tape on Mary…the mother of Jesus…I have a very high view of the Virgin Mary, very high. I was educated in Catholic schools, graduated from them.
I’m not anti-Catholic. I’m against some areas of Catholic theology and I think that has to be permitted…it’s just a difference of opinion on theology.
Later in the same broadcast, the Bible Answer Man received a call from a woman who asked if, as a born-again Christian, she could remain in the Catholic Church. He responded:
Yes, I believe that you can…. You can function in the Catholic Church by witnessing. But the more you witness and the closer you get to the Scriptures, the more difficult it is going to be for you to function. Eventually you are going to be pushed out…I would stay in there witnessing until they push me out.
On the one hand, the Bible Answer Man said in his broadcast of October 15, that he disagreed with the Catholic Church on such doctrines as the infallibility of the Pope, the celibacy of priests, transubstantiation, and purgatory. Yet on October 29, when responding to a caller who was offended by his remarks two weeks before, he discounted these differences as just a “different view,” a “difference of opinion on theology.” In fact, the Bible Answer Man’s differences of opinion with Roman Catholicism are apparently so insignificant that he encouraged the second caller to continue functioning in the Catholic Church until such functioning was impossible!
More Than Matters of Opinion
Are the differences between Roman Catholicism and the orthodox Christian faith really just matters of opinion?
Donald Grey Barnhouse, that distinguished Biblical scholar and personal teacher of the Bible Answer Man, didn’t think so. In his preface on the jacket of The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop, he said:
…almost all the practices of the Roman cult have been brought over from paganism …the center of the system is revealed to be Satanic [italics supplied].
In his book Cults and Isms, J. Oswald Sanders exposes and refutes many of the modern cults such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science. However the first cult with which he deals is Roman Catholicism. He gave the reason:
We place Roman Catholicism at the head of the list of heresies, since it is the largest and most influential of them all…The Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches…stand for totally, fundamentally, irreconcilably different religions which lead to goals as far separated as hell is from heaven (p. 20).
In his chapter on Roman Catholicism, Sanders goes on to list “seven reasons why no Bible-believing Christian can intelligently be or become a Roman Catholic.”
Among his seven reasons is Roman Catholicism’s “demand of submission to the Pope as an indispensable condition of salvation.” He quotes Pope Boniface VIII:
We declare, affirm, define, and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
Sanders continues by quoting Pope Pius IX:
I alone, despite my unworthiness, am the successor of the apostles, the Vicar of Jesus Christ…I am the way, the truth, and the life.
Sanders then points out that “Romanism admits many mediators” between God and man other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He quotes from Liguori’s book, Glories of Mary:
We often obtain more promptly what we ask by calling on the name of Mary, than by invoking that of Jesus.
If my Redeemer rejects me on account of my sins and drives me from His sacred feet, I will cast myself at those of His beloved mother, Mary… until she has obtained my forgiveness.
O immaculate Virgin, prevent thy beloved Son, who is irritated by our sins, from abandoning us to the power of the devil.
He quotes Saint Bonaventure, who said:
Mary so loved the world that she gave her only begotten son.
Are these mere differences of opinion regarding theology? No, these are the most disgraceful and damnable heresies (2 Pet. 2:1)! This is a demonic system of beliefs and practices that keeps men from the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Yet the Bible Answer Man maintains that Roman Catholicism is not a cult. There are other equally repulsive quotations that could be made, but these suffice to show that Roman Catholicism is not just another branch of the orthodox faith: she is worse than a cult, and all orthodox Christians should consider her such.
The Scriptural Attitude Toward Roman Catholicism
The Bible, unlike the Bible Answer Man, is unconditional regarding the attitude Christians should take toward Roman Catholicism. “Come out of her, my people,” cried the voice from heaven (Rev. 18:4). According to the Bible, Roman Catholicism “has become the habitation of demons, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev. 18:2). What child of God would desire to stay in such a place?
The Bible nowhere commands us to remain in a situation filled with idolatry, paganism, and sin. Lot was a righteous man (2 Pet. 2:8), but he fell into that filthy and immoral city, Sodom. Lot was never commanded to stay and witness to the citizens of Sodom. Rather, the angel said, “Up, get you out of this place” (Gen. 19:14).
As the Apostle said, “What communion hath light with darkness?…Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:14, 17).
Therefore, the Bible is uncompromising: no Christian should remain in Roman Catholicism.
A Personal Testimony
I am not without personal experience in the Catholic Church. I was the oldest of seven children in an Italian Catholic family. For years I went to confession, said the rosary, and prayed for the dead. Then one day, as a teenager, I saw the light from heaven as some friends shared what Jesus Christ had done in their lives: I was born again.
Two years later, I led my younger brother to Christ, and eventually my whole family was saved. At first it was difficult for my parents as they attempted to function within the Catholic charismatic movement. Their Christian experience eventually came to a standstill.
Today, my whole family is out of Roman Catholicism. One by one we all received grace from the Lord to see that what we were taught all our lives was not the truth. Although we are now on opposite coasts, we are one in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today I am thankful that no Christian teacher told me to remain in Roman Catholicism.
Ecumenism Not the Way
Certainly the Bible Answer Man is familiar with the heresies of Roman Catholicism. Why is it then that he does not take a clear stand on this issue? Perhaps it is because of a desire for an ecumenical kind of oneness.
The minister of truth should not be influenced by those who hear him. Politics belong in the world, not in the Body of Christ. If those who are employed in secular matters should not be menpleasers (Eph. 6:6), how much more those who minister God’s Holy Word? What true prophet of God ever sought praise of men? No, God’s truth must be proclaimed regardless of the consequences. If the Roman Catholic Church is, as she claims, the true Church of God, let us all embrace her; but if she is, as the Bible says, the Mother of Harlots, let us abandon her and not flirt with her.
God hates sin, but loves the sinner. In the same way, we must hate Roman Catholicism, but love the Catholics. Just as it is an act of love to enlighten the sinner of his sin, so is it the greatest act of love to earnestly admonish our brothers and sisters to abandon Roman Catholicism. Indeed, not to do so is to do them the greatest injustice. If we pray for the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientists, how much more we should pray for the Roman Catholics, that God would “open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the authority of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).
May the Lord give us “the spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7) to pray and to help bring all of our brothers and sisters to a full knowledge of the truth.
This is the third of five articles in this series.