Thursday, March 29, 2012


I first wanted to call this article ‘The Catholic Church and other Cults' but decided to simply use "Catholicism" as the header, because I mention other cults only briefly at the end while I focus on the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. You might want to ask: “What do you mean: You are not saying that the Catholic Church actually is a cult, aren't you?” But yes, that's exactly what I am saying.  I find it frightening how little is known about the Catholic faith in evangelical/charismatic circles. We have entire prayer movements targeting the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist world, and rightly so, as these lies hold many people in bondage. There are also plenty of books and tracts written about the heresies of the Mormon Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses and other more or less well-known cults. However, if it comes to groups that by their teachings deceive their members and keep them from entering eternity through simple faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the biggest group of all slips through most Christians' attention.

Just a sobering fact before I look at the reasons why the Catholic Church is indeed a cult: 

Of the world's 7 billion people, there are 1.181 billion Roman Catholics (1). That's more than 1 out of every 7 people! In comparison (2), there are about 1.028 billion Hindus, 492 million Buddhists, 728 million people who practice various ethnic religions (including Animism), and 651 million “nonreligious” people. Only the Muslim religion has more followers than the Roman Catholic Church, with 1.531 billion adherents, but Muslims (like the estimated 1.153 billion other people that identify themselves as Christians in some other form of Christianity) are split into various groups while the Catholics are united under the sole leadership of the pope. Thus, as true followers of Christ, we can hardly afford to overlook a vast group like that, and we should be very careful simply to assume that every Catholic is our “brother” or “sister”.

Personal background

About a year after I became a Christian in 1989, I asked the Lord which church HE wanted me to join. Until then I had simply gone to the church all my new friends had gone to (a very good, Bible-believing church in my hometown). After a few weeks of prayer, fasting and many talks with friends from a wide variety of backgrounds, I understood - to my very surprise - that the Lord wanted me to go back to the Catholic Church that I had grown up in. Okay, so I started going there again. I had a lot of opportunities to talk to people, as well as to get an insight perspective. Being a student of Political Science, it had become second nature for me to study and research. Now as I was in the Catholic Church, I wanted to really know what kind of “club” I am in, which meant to me that I wanted to learn as much as possible about the history, the doctrine and the present state of the church. Something I can only encourage every church member to do at some point, no matter whether you are a Baptist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or attend an “independent” church. As I did my research, I compared everything with the truth of scripture, and the more I studied, the more I found how far the Catholic Church is away from the truth of the word of God.

Doctrinal errors in the Catholic Church

Sure, Catholics have basically the same Bible (even though in their own translations, and a few books are added that are not recognized by most other Christian churches). The first problem within the Catholic Church is, however, that hardly anybody actually reads the Bible. Instead, it is encouraged, and absolutely essential to the faith, that the normal Catholic trusts “The Church” to rightly interpret the scriptures. If anybody disagrees with the official interpretation of the scriptures as well as other teachings of the church, which are documented as “dogmas”, the church declares these people “anathema” - excommunicated. To be "excommunicated" does not simply mean to be excluded from fellowship and the sacraments in the Catholic Church, but, as the NIV translates the Greek word correctly, to be "cursed” or “eternally condemned”.
Dogmas that have been declared over the centuries are plenty. Among them are:
  • The transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the true body and blood of Jesus in the mass: Everyone who says that this is only symbolically and that the communion is simply done in remembrance of the death of Jesus on the cross is declared anathema!
  • The virginity of Mary beyond the conception of Jesus: Everybody who believes that Mary had other children after Jesus is declared anathema!
  • The physical ascension of Mary to heaven: Everybody who believes that Mary died a normal death and was not taken up to heaven like Jesus is declared anathema!
There are plenty of other “anathemas” that have been declared over the centuries, and none of them have been revoked, or can ever be revoked, as they are by definition “eternal truths” in which the church, led by the pope, can not err. In fact, some of the most obvious unbiblical dogmas have been declared just within the last 150 years, and most of them deal with the person of Mary.

Martyrs by the hand of the Catholic Church

There are plenty of things that Protestants over the last 500 years have pointed out about the Catholic Church that are contrary to scripture, and hundreds of thousands of people, possibly millions, have died by the hands of the Catholic Church because they were not willing to back up from what they found and believed to be biblical truth and submit to the Roman Church (you can download a free version of "Fox's Book of Martyrs" here - a must read!). The Roman Catholic Church for the longest time rigorously opposed the translation and the use of the Bible in any other language but Latin, and the death penalty was threatening everybody who tried to translate the scriptures (see e.g. an article by John Piper about William Tyndaleand even on those who simply owned a Bible in whatever translation, unless they were authorized by "The Church". Sure, the days when people were burned on the stake or tortured in the most gruesome ways are over, at least by the hands of the Catholic Church. Didn't the pope even ask for forgiveness for mistakes done in the past? He kind of did, indeed, but he solely apologized for things that were done in the name of the church by individuals, but he never reversed a dogma or acknowledged that the Church itself was in error at times.

The teaching on salvation

The most dangerous deception, however, is the Roman Catholic understanding of salvation. Here is where everything else falls and stands. Jesus said that a man must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). According to the Catholic Catechism from 1993 (number 1257), this takes place in the baptism of a person, no matter how old or young this person is. That is why in Catholic nations throughout history people were (and still are) so concerned if somebody was not baptized in the moment of death. And for the same reason the more than 1.1 billion Catholics alive today believe with all their hearts that they will go to heaven when they die. Because they have been ‘baptized' as a baby, and the Church is telling them that they are indeed ‘born again'. With this they deceive millions and millions of precious souls into an eternity without Christ! If Catholics should ever get worried about their eternal destiny, they are ‘comforted' with the fairy tale that there will indeed be a place of suffering after death - in purgatory. However, so people are told, this time will be relatively short and can even be shortened by their loved ones on earth, as they can pray for the deceased and have masses read in their honor (for a little donation, of course). Oh, what horrible awakening it is every day for dying Catholics to find out that they will not only be temporarily in a place of suffering, but for all eternity! Without any hope to ever be released or even get a glance of the glory of God and the riches that He has prepared for those who love him and have washed their clothes in the blood of the lamb! 

Because as a Catholic, you do not rely solely on the substituting death of Jesus on the cross, but also on good works. If they believed that Jesus' death on the cross had been sufficient, then Catholic priests would not have to sacrifice the body and blood of Jesus every day thousands of times all over the world, as it is done in every 'mass'! Catholics are taught to rely on the sacrifices that are administered by the Church, on their own good works and also on the good works of others, for example the prayers of people that will live after you die, as well as on the deeds and prayers of those who have gone before: Because it is believed that the “Saints” (first and foremost, but not exclusively Mary) now have access to the throne of God, and can intercede on behalf of others… However, as much as the Bible encourages good deeds and prayer, it also teaches very clearly, that no one will be saved (= go  to heaven) because of one's own or other's deeds or prayers, but "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Similarities between the Catholic Church and other cults

Lastly, I want to point out what the Catholic Church has in common with all other cults that are somehow based on Christianity: It has established an authority besides or above Scripture that is absolute and demands submission by its followers. In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, it is the pope with the body of teachers within the Church and the traditions that have been established over the centuries. Officially, these have equal authority to the Bible, but, in reality, they are superior, because only the teachers of the Catholic Church can rightly interpret the scriptures. For the Mormon Church, it is the body of the twelve elders who determines how to rightly interpret the scriptures of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, while the “jay double u's” (Jehovah's Witnesses) have the Watchtower Society who is the final authority. All smaller cults had their own authorities that declared themselves the sole interpreter of truth, and thus took the place of the Holy Spirit! Whether they were called Jim Jones, David Koresh, or whatever: Anybody who grieves the Holy Spirit and preaches a different gospel than what the Apostle Paul did, they are the ones who indeed will be “anathema” (Galatians 1:8-9), not because a body of teachers deems it to be so, but because the Holy Spirit has spoken so through the ink of the Apostle Paul!
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