I. Brief history
A. Catholicism as we know it today gradually developed over many centuries. Its roots can be traced back to digressions from the original church.
1. As a result, Catholics will claim that their church started in A.D. 30 on the day of Pentecost.
2. Most scholars, however, date its beginning when some of its major beliefs were codified, such as the council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 or the election of the first Pope in A.D. 606.
B. Catholic means “universal” and for most of the middle ages it was the one religion recognized by most western governments.
C. A time line of Catholic doctrines
1. Having the water blessed before usage - A.D. 108-112
2. Separation of clergy (preachers and elders) from laity (members) - early second century.
3. Special days set aside for fasting (leads to the practice of Lent) - A.D. 140
4. Special vestments for clergy - second century.
5. Regional elders began meeting - second century
6. Sprinkling accepted as an alternative for baptism for the sick and others who had special needs - A.D. 180
7. Babies are baptized - A.D. 180
8. Making the sign of the cross when praying - late second century
9. Belief in purgatory - A.D. 230
10. Prohibition of clergy to marry - third century
11. Head of regional elders called bishop - third century
12. Constantine calls for a council, starting the joining of church and state - A.D. 325
13. Celebration of Easter - A.D. 325
14. Confessing of sins to a priest - A.D. 329
15. Bishops of from major cities called archbishops - fourth century
16. Monastic orders - Fourth and fifth century
17. The mass replaces the Lord’s Supper - A.D. 350
18. Celebration of Christmas - A.D. 360
19. Theodosius declares Christianity to be the state religion - A.D. 380
20. Doctrine of inherited sins, salvation by faith only, and once saved always saved - A.D. 400
21. Candles are used in worship as a sacred element - A.D. 417
22. Worship of Mary as the mother of God - A.D. 470
23. Transubstantiation, the belief that the elements of the Lord’s Supper become the literal body and blood of Christ - A.D. 492
24. Veneration and bowing to images of saints - A.D. 500
25. Extreme Unction, the anointing of the dying or dead for spiritual forgiveness - A.D. 528
26. Gregory I became archbishop of Rome which was declared the center of the universal church - A.D. 590
27. Boniface III accepts the title of Pope - A.D. 606
28. Organ introduced into worship, but removed when division was threatened - A.D. 670
29. Organ reintroduced and remained - A.D. 775
30. Pope Leo IX excommunicated Michael Cerularius, the archbishop of Constantinople, causing the formation of the Eastern Orthodox Church - A.D. 1053
31. Rosary beads introduced - A.D. 1090
32. Sprinkling accepted as a form of baptism for all people - A.D. 1311
33. Laity does not partake of the cup in Mass - A.D. 1414
34. Immaculate conception of Mary - A.D. 1845
35. Infallibility of Pope - A.D. 1870
II. Some Key Beliefs
A. The church is the source of authority
1. This is why Catholic doctrine evolves over the years
2. It also encourages splinter groups introducing new concepts, such as women in the priesthood and permitting abortions.
3. The Bible is seen as a source of authority, but the church can modify it through its traditions.
4. Answers in the Bible
a. II Peter 1:3 - God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus
b. II Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is from God and is able to furnish us for every good work.
c. John 12:48 - The words of Jesus will judge us on the last day.
d. Matthew 28:20 - We are to observe all things
e. Galatians 1:8-10 - No one can alter God’s word (see also I Corinthians 4:6, Deuteronomy 4:2)
B. The belief that children are born sinful - inheriting Adam’s sin
1. This justifies the practice of infant baptism, though the practice also creates a “captive” membership. People grow up thinking of themselves as Catholic simply because they were sprinkled as infants into the Catholic Church.
2. Catechism is used to teach children the ways of the Catholic Church. When completed, children are confirmed into the church.
3. Answers in the Bible
a. Ezekiel 18:20 - Sin is not inherited.
b. I John 3:4 - Sin is lawlessness
c. Romans 5:12-14 - Death comes to all because all sin, implying that all are under law.
d. What sin then has a new born child broken?
e. Children are innocent - Matthew 18:3
C. Forgiveness of sins comes by confessing those sins to a priest. The priest will then assign acts of penance, which when done are suppose to remove the consequences of those sins.
1. Answers in the Bible
a. I John 1:9 - We must confess our sins to be forgiven
b. James 5:16 - Confess to one another
c. No mention of priest involved.
d. All Christians are priests - I Peter 2:9
e. We cannot live as we please - Titus 2:12-14
D. Purgatory is a in between state where all the dead go. Unconfessed sins must be worked off before going on to paradise. The prayers of the living on behalf of the dead is believed to speed up this process.
1. Purgatory is not mentioned in the Scriptures
2. Luke 16:19-31 shows the dead in two states: paradise and torments. There is no way to go from one to the other.
E. Past saints, especially Mary, are venerated. It is believed they function as intermediators between the living and God.
1. Images are used to pray before. All Catholics deny that this is idol worship, stating that the images are just representations to focus the mind. They do not believe the saint is physically there. Yet, this is the same argument idol worshipers would make.
2. Many common Catholics take the images to superstitious levels. A statue of Mary or St. Joseph is supposed to keep your house in good order. Medallions of St. Christopher is supposed to prevent injuries.
3. Answers in the Bible
a. There is no example of prayers being offered to anyone but God
b. Luke 9:32-35 - The disciples wanted to offer worship to Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. God said Jesus only.
c. Luke 4:8 - Worship God only
d. Acts 10:25-26 - Peter refused worship
e. Rev 19:10, 22:8-9 - An angel refused worship
f. The foolishness of idols - Isaiah 44:9-20
III. Talking with a Catholic about Catholicism
A. There are two basic groups of Catholics
1. The common Catholic who was born into the religion. He does some of the practices and perhaps goes to services a few times a year, but doesn’t have any firm belief in the teachings of the church.
2. The devote Catholic firmly believes the teachings of the church on an intellectual level. They may disagree with the church in certain areas, but since the church can evolve, believe it is their duty to encourage the change.
B. Calling the worship of images as idol worship will not work. Too many terms are redefined. Those caught up into the superstitions will ignore all logic.
C. Emphasize the authority of Christ and the importance of man not to tell God what to do.
1. Show that the Scriptures teach God’s full plan and that no one has the right to change them.
D. Then show the plan of salvation.
1. Many Catholics are relieved to learn that infants are not born in sin.