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An Appeal to Roman Catholics

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Posted 06 November 2006 - 01:09 PM



Alfred Norris



The first edition of this booklet was duplicated for local use; the second was printed by the present Publishers 18 years ago. It is now time for reprinting and (in the author’s view) for rewriting, too. In my own land, at any rate, the public image of the Catholic Church has changed greatly in the period since the Second World War, and some of the things which I wrote about free discussion in the earlier editions are (for the present at all events) now outdated. Besides which, helpful comments from some friends who used to be Catholics, and candid criticisms from some who continue to be Catholics, have helped to make me feel that changes are called for. The Scriptural basis of the earlier editions is, I believe, as sound as ever it was, but I feel that a new approach is called for.

Amongst major changes in this edition is this, that I have now presumed to talk to my Catholic readers, instead of about them, and I hope you—my Catholic readers—will feel that this is an improvement, and will be willing to heed the appeal at least to this extent, that we may come and reason together. To make matters a little easier, I have made my Scripture quotations from Catholic translations, usually that of Ronald Knox.


GREAT changes in the Catholic church have been consolidated since the Third Edition was prepared. Services are largely in the common tongue; the very modernistic Jerusalem Bible has become more widely accepted. Movements designed to permit marriage of ‘priests’, and temper the doctrine of papal supremacy so as to make it more acceptable to non-Catholics, have gained strength. Of necessity this booklet has had to assume that traditional Catholic doctrine is still maintained in the Roman Catholic Church, but it is to be feared that the lapse from firm doctrinal foundations which afflicted many non-Catholic churches a couple of generations ago has now deeply affected sections of the Catholic Church itself. These facts have not been lost to view, but since this booklet continues to reason from Scripture we have had no choice than to continue to reason with that section of the Catholic Church which continues to believe, de facto as well as de jure, that the Bible is what Vatican I declared it to be, given by God and fully reliable throughout.

North Cave 1975



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Posted 01 August 2007 - 12:59 AM


The Reason for the Appeal

You have rich traditions, Catholic reader. Your church claims a long history, and boasts the Apostle Peter as its first Pope. Only one or two of the very ancient churches could compete with you seriously for historical priority. And your church is very large: in all Christendom there is none to match it.

My community and I do not make any such claims. We have existed under our present name less than 150 years. We have no Pope and no bishops (as you understand the term), and claim no organic link with Peter at all. And we are very small. You might go around and scarcely notice us at all: unless, that is, you happened to pick up this booklet, or one of us gave it to you.

You love your church. Amongst the large churches of Christendom it is yours which can boast the biggest proportion of regular worshippers: it is at your places of worship on Sunday mornings that masses have to be held in relays to accommodate all who would offer their devotions. Perhaps my community has a fairly good record of loyalty, too, but that gives us no claims in your eyes. So what is our idea in preferring our claims before you?

Actually, that is not what we are doing. We are saying, “We come to you with the Bible—your own Bible if you like—and ask you to read it with us. We should like you to show us whether your system of faith is found there; and we should, on our own part, like to show you what we think the Bible actually teaches on such matters. We offer you nothing except the Bible, and ask from you no evidence outside that Book. If, on reading it, you find your church’s teaching established, you will judge that we are mistaken; but if you find otherwise, you may be glad that you accepted the invitation to enquire.”

For perhaps you do not know the Bible very well? It is referred to in your services, of course; and your Missal, too, is plainly dependent on it for much that it contains. When your priest says, “Hoc est enim corpus Meum”, or, in the new style of service, the equivalent words in English, “This is My body” (Matt 26:26), he is quoting from the Bible; but do you, personally, know the Book well, reading it for yourself and understanding its message on your own account?

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:01 AM

The Catholic Church and the Bible

If you do not know your Bible well, you will not lack respectable company. The majority of members of most churches do not regularly read their Bibles either. But then, in many of these churches the Bible is no longer treated with the respect which used to be shown to it. Even bishops of such churches can be found who do not admit that God would speak to men by a miracle, or work any miracle at all. It is possible to be a worshipper in one of those churches, and still think that much that is in the Bible does not come from God.

This was formerly not the case with your church. Then your Bible differed a little from the ones accepted in non-Catholic churches*, but for our immediate purpose that difference can be left out of account. For it was the teaching of the First Vatican Council in 1869 that “the Bible is held as sacred and canonical, not because approved by the Church’s authority, but because written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, having God for Author, and delivered as such to the Church herself”.

This is a perfectly splendid declaration. For not only does it recognize the authority of the Scriptures, but it tells us that they have this authority because God gave it to them, and not because the Church says so. The Bible is the Word of God in its own right, and as such is worthy of all the attention that we can give to it. As Peter puts it: “It was never man’s impulse, after all, that gave us prophecy; men gave it utterance, but they were men whom God had sanctified, carried away, as they spoke, by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). or in the words of Paul: “Everything in the scripture has been divinely inspired, and has its uses; to instruct us, to expose our errors, to correct our faults, to educate us in holy living.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Everything is divinely inspired—to instruct us and expose our errors. That is an excellent reason why the Bible should be our guide, and why we should refuse to leave the reading of it in the hands of others. It is to this Book that we must go if we would do as Peter asks us, and, “if anyone asks you to give an account of the hope which you cherish, be ready at all times to answer for it, but courteously and with due reverence” (1 Peter 3:15-16). Unhappily there are signs that the modernism which long ago invaded Protestantism is making itself increasingly felt in the Catholic Church too. Yet the increasing liberty among Catholics is not without some gains, for there is apparently no longer any discouragement against your reading the Bible for yourself. There used to be restrictions which almost prevented the circulation of the Bible amongst Catholics in the common tongue, and, rightly or wrongly, many Catholic laymen were under the impression that it was wrong for them to read the Bible for themselves. But the preface to some approved translations now indicates that “indulgences” are to be obtained as a reward for Bible-reading. So we may freely look at the Book together and see what it teaches. (It has been the long-standing practice of members of my community to read the Bible daily in such a way that the Old Testament is read through in a year, and the New Testament twice in the same period. We have a booklet of tables called The Bible Companion to help our memories, and it is available free from the publishers.)

Now you have a difficulty which-does not affect us in the same way. For in addition to believing in an inspired Bible, you also believe in an inspired Church. If your Church speaks authoritatively on matters of faith and morals you are under duty to accept her voice; and if your Pope speaks ex cathedra on the same topics he was declared at the First Vatican Council to be beyond the reach of error. It is awkward for you in such circumstances to look at the Bible without wondering what the Church has to say about its message: and this could very easily lead to the Bible not being given a fair hearing. For it would be impossible to discuss reasonably together if you were to be tempted to say, “I know that the Bible is the Word of God, but I may only know what it means when the Church has interpreted it for me”. This would not really be accepting the Bible at all, would it? And, since we are about to discuss whether the Bible does, or does not, support what the Catholic Church teaches, it would be making your Church judge in its own cause if we had to ask the Church what the Book meant.

This is not how the Bible asks to be used. It is “divinely inspired, able to instruct”, as we have read. When Paul set about his preaching, the best among his hearers “welcomed the word with all eagerness, and examined the scriptures, day after day, to find out whether all this was true; so that many of them learned to believe”. (Acts 17:11-12). This could not be bettered today. Whether we have been taught rightly or wrongly, to “search the scriptures day after day” is the surest way of coming to a true faith, and of making that faith securely our own.

In this spirit, then, let us consult the Bible on some of the really important teachings of the Catholic Church, and see whether the two agree together.

* The Catholic Bible contains some part of the Apocrypha, books not found in the Hebrew Bible, but present in the Greek Old Testament. These books, or additions to other books, are not recognized by Jews or non-Catholics, and do not appear to have been recognized by our Lord.

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:02 AM

1. The State of the Dead

The Catholic Church teaches that all human beings (from the moment of conception onwards) have undying souls, which leave the body at death. The souls of the wicked, dying in mortal sin, go to Hell for perpetual torment until, reunited with the body at the last day, they are consigned to resumed torment which will know no end. The souls of those who died with unforgiven venial sin, or with undischarged penalties for forgiven sin, go to a painful purification in purgatory before being admitted to Heaven. These also will be united with the body for eternal blessing at the last day.

Some of these things, of course, are taught by other churches too, but it is not our purpose to prefer one church to another, so much as to show what the Bible teaches, whether it agrees with the teachings of others or not.

And the facts are that the Bible does not teach that we have undying souls; that its “hell” is generally the grave where, when men go, they lie in the sleep of death; that its hell-fire is a description of the punishment of wilful sinners at the day of judgment; that it denies to any except the Lord Jesus access to heaven; and that it knows nothing of Purgatory at all.

As to our souls, “from the clay of the ground the Lord God formed man, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and made of man a living person”. (Genesis 2:7).

The whole man was the living “person” (or “soul” as older versions, including the Douay Catholic Bible, give it), and what happens to this living person at death is told in the same record: “Thou shall earn thy bread with the sweat of thy brow, until thou goest back into the ground from which thou wast taken; dust thou art, and unto dust shall thou return.” (Genesis 3:19).

As to hell, its qualities are best given in the words of King Ezechias: “Thou hast no praise in the world beneath, death cannot honour Thee. Those who go down into the grave have no promise of thine to hope for; it is living men, as I am a living man to-day, that give Thee thanks.” (Isaiah 38:18-19)

Neither for blessing nor for cursing are the dead conscious: “When death comes, There is no remembering of Thee; none can praise Thee in the tomb.” (Psalm 6:6 – the Douay Version has “hell” in both these passages, but the Knox version is more informative, it has “tomb”)

Hell-fire is an expression peculiar to the New Testament, but is certainly associated with the suffering which will come to the rejected at the day of judgement, (Mark 9:46; cf. Matthew 25:31-46) and has nothing to do with a fate immediately after death. It is “many that now lie sleeping in the dust of the earth” that shall awake, “some to enjoy life everlasting, some to be confronted for ever with their disgrace”. (Daniel 12:2) Heaven is the home of God and His angels, and the present abode of the Lord Jesus Christ, but as to others we are informed that “no man has ever gone up into heaven”, even the righteous David himself. (John 3:13; Acts 2:34)

And as to Purgatory, the Bible knows nothing about this at all. It is true that a purging by fire at the day of judgement (1 Corinthians 3:13) is to be the lot of all whose lives contain anything displeasing to God before they can be accepted, but the doctrine of Purgatory is completely baseless in Scripture.

The whole fabric of after-life doctrine is based on the scripturally indefensible doctrine that the soul is immortal. The true Bible doctrine is quite simply that when men die they sleep; and that those whom it pleases God to raise to judgment must awaken from sleep before the blessed amongst them shall be allowed to dwell and reign with the Lord Jesus on the earth al his return. (Apocalypse 5:0, Matthew 5:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

The Roman Catholic doctrine of the after-life is much more elaborate and complete than that of most other churches; but the important thing is that the doctrine is not taught in the Scriptures. Where it came from is not really important to this discussion, but what we have discovered makes an important point: the great antiquity of your Church is not a sufficient justification for its change from Bible leaching: for the Bible is older still, and its Christian teaching (coming from the Lord and his very apostles) the most ancient of all: and that is how the antiquity of a Church should be estimated.

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:03 AM

2. Sufferings for sin and their relief

The Catholic Church teaches that the sufferings of Purgatory may be relieved or shortened by Indulgences. These may be gained by good deeds done in lifetime, or by intercessions and masses for the dead.

Thus, one may see in the introduction to a Catholic Bible that certain Bible readings convey an indulgence of a number of days, or even a “plenary indulgence”; or one may in some countries see effigies by the roadside, the saying of prayers before which can have the same effect. It is not necessary to say much about the scandalous “sale of indulgences” which took place about the time of the Reformation, since no one in your Church would wish to defend these. Indeed, there is evidence that the very existence of Indulgences is an embarrassment to sensitive men in your Church, but it is difficult for a church which claims to be teaching under divine direction to rid itself of the practice without admitting to serious mistakes of doctrine in the past.

There is nothing in Scripture, however, to warrant the practice at all. We must give account for our own lives before God, (Romans 2:4-16), and though the prayers of our believing friends may well help us in our lifetime (1 John 5:14-16), “man’s destiny is to die once for all; nothing remains after this but judgment”, (Hebrews 9:27) Passages may be quoted in which the apostles are granted power to forgive sins, and to lay down rules for the guidance of the Church, but these have no bearing whatever on the practice of Indulgences. (Passages needed are; Matthew 18:15-20; John 20:21-23)

Apart altogether, however, from the baselessness of the practice in itself, the fact that it presupposes a consciousness in death, which the Bible does not admit, is a fundamental reason why the doctrine of Indulgences must be discarded. (It is only fair to add that indulgences are not as much in favour among intellectual Catholics. One priest said to the author that the whole doctrine of indulgences was overdue for abandonment).

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:05 AM

3. The Virgin Mary and the Saints

The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was conceived immaculate, and assumed bodily into heaven. It teaches believers to pray to her and accord her extreme reverence (“huperdouleia”). They may also with profit pray to the saints.

The Scriptures do not devote a great deal of space to a discussion of the Virgin Mary. She is described as “a virgin, betrothed to a man of David’s lineage” (Luke 1:27), and greeted as “full of grace, blessed among women” (Luke 1:28). She says of herself when she learns that she is to be the mother of the Son of God that “all generations will count me blessed” (Luke 1:48). But of her birth and death the Bible tells us nothing at all.

It is quite astonishing that two professedly infallible pronouncements (made in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) should be concerned with matters on which the Scriptures are absolutely silent. Even the supposed mother and father, Anna and Joachim, are nowhere referred to in Scripture, and are actually found only in an apocryphal Gospel (The Protevangelium of James), which apparently once stood in the Index of Prohibited Books.

Indeed, the matter is worse than this. For though the Scriptures say nothing specific about the birth of Mary, or her departure from this life, all the evidence they contain suggests that she was a woman like the other women of our race—a peculiarly virtuous and faithful woman, well-suited for the exalted task of bearing the Son of God, and worthy of the highest esteem—but a woman with our race’s weaknesses and dispositions. She nurtured her Son well, but when the days of his call to service came was apparently among those who, for a while, doubted him in his mission. (Mark 3:20-35). If the Lord uses her as an example at all, it is for the admonition of others, for when a woman cried, “Blessed is the womb that bore thee, the breast which thou hast sucked!” the Lord answered rather, “Shall we not say, Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27-33). When she stood waiting for him with his brothers, he once again shared her privilege with those who believed in him: “Who is a mother, and who are brethren, to me? If anyone does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50).

It is worse yet. For if one thing is certain about the manhood of the Lord Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures, it is that he was not different from his brethren. His temptations were like our temptations, (Hebrews 4:15) and “he must needs become altogether like his brethren”. (Hebrews 2:17).

It is true, of course, that your Church has sought by the Immaculate Conception to preserve the Lord from all contact with “original sin”, but it shows a truer respect for the nature, work and achievements of Jesus if we freely acknowledge what the Scriptures plainly teach, that the Lord started with our weakness and fleshly disabilities, and conquered them in fair battle by his faithful life and his death of crucifixion. The Lord was “made perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10 - This time it is impossible to use the Knox Translation where the rendering “crown with suffering the life of that Prince” seems designed to avoid the significance of “make the Author of Salvation perfect”. The Douay version has it right however: “to perfect the author of their salvation, by his passion”.

What we have already said about the nature of the dead is an altogether sufficient reason why we must reject the idea of the Virgin’s ascent to heaven, whether in the body or not, and no Bible evidence to this effect can be produced. The same is, equally, true of all faithful men and women who die and sleep in Christ, and this reason is sufficient to dispose of the practice of praying to the Virgin, or to the saints.

But there are other reasons also. In the Scriptures the Lord Jesus is presented as the sole and sufficient Mediator for the faithful. “There is only one God, and only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, who is a man like them.” (1 Timothy 2:5). The Lord himself invites us to approach the Father in his name (John 16:23), and there is no case in all the New Testament of any prayer being offered or invited through any other intermediary. It is, one might properly say, to show little respect to the power and the charity of the Lord Jesus to suppose that other mediation is required, even were it possible. And when it is suggested, as it has been suggested by writers of your Church, that the tender mediation of “the Queen of Heaven” is needed so that the wrath of the Son of God might not be wreaked upon sinners like those who crucified him, then we see how perilous the intrusion of Mary’s mediation can become for the understanding of the true character of our Saviour: for “it is not as if our high priest was incapable of feeling for us in our humiliations; he has been through every trial, fashioned as we are, only sinless” (Hebrews 4:15 – It is a pity that the Lord’s battle against the temptation to sin should be obscured in the Knox translation by the substitution of “humiliation” for “infirmity” and “seen through every trial” for “tempted in all things” – the Douay is more faithful here also).

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:07 AM

4. Saints

The Catholic Church claims the right to examine the lives of dead believers, and through a process of beatification and canonization to pronounce them saints, who may then be appointed days in the Saints’ Calendar and be approached in supplication.

The right to judge men and women is reserved in the Scriptures to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The standing of believers in the sight of God cannot be in any way affected by the judgements of men, however exalted, on their characters and works. In carrying out the functions claimed, the Church may sometimes be led into remarkable decisions, such as the canonization of “St. Anna and St. Joachim”, the supposed mother and father of the Virgin, of whose lives, or even existence, nothing whatever is known for certain.

In any case, the word “saint” in the New Testament is not reserved for any special category of believer. It is the normal title for all those who have been “sanctified” by faith and baptism into Christ. “All ye are brethren” places the disciples on a common level so far as this life is concerned, and the ultimate blessedness of all faithful saints, in the day of resurrection and judgement, rests in the hands of God, through the Lord Jesus, alone. (Specific references would be superfluous here. There are some scores in the New Testament, all to the same effect.)

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:09 AM

5. Priests

The Catholic Church distinguishes sharply between priesthood and laity. The former may normally not marry (though see note in the Foreword), are addressed as “Father”, and may alone administer the “sacraments” (with the rare exception of baptism in emergency).

The Jewish people had their priesthood, from the tribe of Levi, and the house of Aaron. These priests married, and their children inherited the priestly office. Yet in a certain sense all the People were priests in relation to the world: “I will single you out among the peoples to be my own. You shall serve me as a royal priesthood, as a consecrated nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6).

The New Testament introduces a new situation, in which the Christian Church is taught that the old priesthood of the children of Aaron has had its day. In place of the High Priests who died and were succeeded, we have the one immortal priest, the risen Christ who, “his full achievement reached, wins eternal salvation for all those who render obedience to him. A high priest in the line of Melchisedech, so God has called him” (Hebrews 5:9-10 – the Knox translation is still most unreasonably reluctant to admit that Jesus was “made perfect” by his successful resistance to sin and his death).

But there are no other priests in particular. When the word “priest” is used about any other than Christ, it is used about all believers, and the very words of the Sinai covenant are employed of the true Christian: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people God means to have for himself.” (1 Peter 2:9).

It is true that the early church had bishops, but these married and guided their own houses (1 Timothy 3:1-7), and were several bishops to a church — the elders of the community who had nothing in common with the authoritative bishops of dioceses in the Episcopal churches of today (Philippians 1:1 - The Knox Bible renders “pastors” instead of “bishops”, and has a most informative note on the significance of the word). The duty of such leaders was in no way to act as lords over the flock of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-3), though it was; the duty of those whom they guided to treat them with gratitude and respect.

“Father” was an unknown title for such men. It is difficult to see how it could ever have been accepted by those wishing to fulfil the spirit of Christ, in view of the Lord’s clear counsel: “Nor are you to call any man on earth your father; you have but one Father, and he is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9)

Our natural fathers are our fathers by right, but if we are to bestow the title on any one it should be on God alone, who becomes the Father of all such as become His sons through faith in Jesus Christ.

Each Christian man, and each Christian woman, has the right to decide for himself or herself whether marriage shall be accepted. Paul may well advise on the benefits of celibacy, freely chosen, but not only does he not require of the officials of the Church that they shall be unmarried, but lays down rules for the behaviour of married “bishops”, and writes with disapproval of those who “bid them abstain from marriage” (1 Timothy 4:3). In no particular, in fact, does the Catholic priesthood reproduce the pattern of the early church. However great the antiquity of the organization, all these things represent innovations on New Testament teaching and practice.

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:13 AM

6. The Eucharist

The Catholic Church teaches that, as the words of consecration are pronounced, the elements of the Host and Chalice become so transformed as to become the substance of the body and blood of the Lord, whose offering is performed anew with each sacrifice of the Mass.

It is true that the Lord Jesus said, “This is my body”, and “This is my blood” (Matthew 26:26-27) as he offered thanks for bread and wine at the Last Supper. But the words were spoken before ever body had been offered or blood shed. At the time when they were spoken they could not have been given a literal significance, which is an abundant reason why they should not be so interpreted afterwards. Moreover, Paul describes the bread which is broken as being “a participation in Christ’s body”, a symbol of the unity which the true believer should feel and know as he engages in an act which links him with the dying of his Saviour. Both the Lord and Paul describe the Communion as a “remembrance” or “commemoration” of what Christ did (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:24-25; Luke 22:19-20), and the Lord’s sacrifice is a unique affair of history, something which occurred “once for all” (Hebrews 9:28).

There is nothing in Scripture which offers the Eucharist to us as a miracle. It is offered to the true, baptized believer as a great privilege to partake of the feast in remembrance of the Lord, a privilege which carries with it heavy responsibilities if the act is performed unworthily, so that one who is guilty of this “will be held to account for the Lord’s body and blood”. (1 Corinthians 11:27). That is, to partake contemptuously of the memorial of the Lord’s atoning death is as bad as though we had helped to bring the death about. But it is still “bread” that is eaten, and a “cup” (of wine) which is drunk: the Bible seems to know nothing of any idea that it is only the accidents of bread and wine which are there, the true substance being quite different. The elements of bread and wine remain the same before and after consecration, in the Bible’s teaching.

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Posted 01 August 2007 - 01:14 AM

7. The Chalice

The Catholic Church in normal circumstances forbids the chalice to the laity, and allows it to the priests alone.

There is nothing in the Bible to warrant this. The Lord’s command at the Last Supper embraced all who were there, and Paul’s comment on it embraces all baptized believers afterwards. “The tradition which I received from the Lord, and handed on to you, is that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was being betrayed, took bread ... so it is the Lord’s death that you are heralding, whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Do you not think that it is an astonishing thing that your Church should have accepted the grave responsibility of varying the commandment of the Lord? Whatever you might believe to be the privilege of the Church, would you not expect that it would stop short of changing the very ordinance which the Lord himself laid down?

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 04:51 AM

8. The Popes and Peter

The Catholic Church teaches that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, and the first Vicar of Christ on the earth. It teaches that the Popes descend in an unbroken succession from him, and that they, the succeeding bishops of Rome, are the Vicars of Christ and head of the Church in their turn. It is not necessary to discuss whether Peter ever was an elder of the Church at Rome (for the word “bishop” does not, in the Bible, mean an autocratic ruler, as Knox well recognizes in a footnote to Philippians 1:1). The only Bible passage which might indicate that he was, “The church here in Babylon, united with you by God’s election, sends you her greetings” (1 Peter 5:13) uses a very unpleasant name for the city of Rome if it is so understood, and the descriptions of this “Babylon” given in the Apocalypse (Apocalypse 14:8; 17:5; 18:2-3) are not favourable to the view that the true Church would want to claim the title! What we do need to do is to find out whether Peter is set out in the Scriptures as a Pope at all. It is true that the Lord said to Peter: “Thou art Peter, and it is upon this rock that I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-19). But we should note the following facts about this:

  • Peter has just confessed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (16:16). This is the true foundation of the Church of God, as Paul recognizes on two occasions: “The foundation which has been laid is the only foundation which anybody can lay; I mean Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11), and, “Apostles and prophets are the foundation on which you were built, and the chief corner-stone of it is Jesus Christ himself. In him the whole fabric is bound together, as it grows into a temple dedicated to the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:20-21).
  • Peter himself never recognizes any head to the Church other than Christ, to whom he refers as “the stone which men rejected, which God has chosen and prized. You too must be built up on him”, supporting his word with reference to an ancient prophecy which speaks of Jesus as “a corner-stone, chosen out and precious”. (1 Peter 2:4-8; Isaiah 28:16).
  • Though it is true that the Lord gives to Peter the power of “binding and loosing”, this same power of establishing laws for the church is given to the other apostles as well (Matthew 16:19; 18:18). And though it is true that he gives unto him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”, we find Peter personally using those keys when he opens up the way to salvation in Christ to the Jews (Acts 2) and to the Gentiles (Acts 10). They are never needed again, save in the ultimate judgement by the Lord himself, who shutteth and no man openeth, and openeth and no man shutteth (Apocalypse 1:18; 3:7).
  • Peter appears in the very passage under discussion in two very different aspects. When he is content to speak the things which God had revealed to him, he reveals the rock on which the church is to be built (Matthew 16:18). But when he opposes himself to that very crucifixion which shall make the building possible, he is a “stone in my path”, a stumbling stone, says the Lord (16:23).
  • There is no sign that Peter sought to exercise the power appropriate to a Pope, or that the other Apostles were prepared to grant it to him. It is true that the Lord invited him to strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32) but this conveys no authority. It is true that the Lord authorized him to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17), but this was a special restoration after Peter’s special weakness, and again conveys no authority. The council at Jerusalem listen patiently to Peter’s witness about the preaching to the Gentiles, but it is they, and not Peter, who take the decision needed (Acts 15:6-29). Paul relates his commission to preach to the Gentiles, and altogether excludes the idea that Peter, or any of the other apostles, had any say in the authority which he possessed (Galatians 2:6-10). Paul even, in fact, allows himself to rebuke Peter for setting a bad example to Jewish and Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-17). And as to Peter, all he has to say for his own position in the Church is that he is a “presbyter like themselves” as he addresses the other presbyters (1 Peter 5:1).
No worse foundation, surely, could be laid for what is one of the major claims of your Church than this. Peter never was a Pope, never thought of by his own contemporaries as a Pope, and received commissions which were personal to himself and envisaged no successor. Is not this a matter for very serious thought, as to how it can be that such large claims can be made for your church, on such very shaky foundations? It is not the Bible, is it, which justifies your church’s Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia (Latin – wherever is Peter there is the church)?

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 04:51 AM

9. The Sacraments

The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments - baptism, confirmation, communion, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony.

The Bible does not speak of “sacraments”, in the sense of actions which convey active grace from God when they are performed. But it does speak of many of the things here mentioned. The mention made is so different, however, from the practice of your Church that it is sometimes almost impossible to recognize the one in the other.


The Bible has baptism indeed. But it is the baptism of believers—“he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16) — and not of infants. And it is a baptism which involves being buried in water, not sprinkled with water, in token of a death and resurrection of the penitent with Christ (Romans 6:1-7). Because of this, the Bible does not speak of “confirmation” at all. The believer confirms his faith in his own willing baptism. Hands are laid on, indeed, to bless, or to send on specific errands, or to signify the conveyance of the gifts of the Spirit, but not to “confirm” many years after baptism. The one error in this matter arises out of the other (Matthew 19:13; Acts 6:6; 13:3; 19:6; Hebrews 6:2).


The Bible has repentance, too, both in the sense of being sorry for ill deeds done, and in the sense of turning over a new leaf and beginning a new life. Repentance is, indeed, an essential preliminary to baptism (Mark 1:4, 14; Luke 24:47).

But “penance”, in the sense of making confession to a “priest”, or “doing penance” as a condition of forgiveness, it does not have. It is one of the virtues of the Knox translation that it does away with the “do penance” of the Douay, and replaces it with “repent”. There is a duty laid upon all who would please God that they should repent of their old life and turn to Him through Christ and be baptized: there is no duty laid upon them to offer confession to a human priest and accept such a man’s “Absolvo te”, (Latin - I absolve thee) or the now more common English or the equivalent.

Extreme unction.

The Epistle of James (James 5:13-15) certainly advises prayer and anointing in the case of those who are believed to be mortally sick, at the hands of the “elders of the church”. But this is no basis for a “sacrament” of Extreme Unction to provide for the safety of the sick one against dying in mortal sin and going to hell. Orders is based on a conception of the meaning of priesthood which we have already shown to be non-Christian. And while marriage is said in the Scriptures to be honourable in all (Hebrews 13:4) —bishops and elders included (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:5) - it is given no sacramental sense.

In fact, the system of sacraments which the Catholic Church has erected emphasizes the profound difference between the elaborate structure of Catholic teaching and practice, and the simple practice and doctrine of the early Church. It affords a suitable opportunity to emphasize the point and motive of the present appeal.

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 04:52 AM


Will you now, Catholic reader, look for a brief moment at what we believe the Scripture really does teach about the Church, the believer and the future life?

It tells us that God is One (Ephesians 4:6), and that Jesus Christ is His Son whom He begot and brought into the world as our Saviour (Luke 1:30-35). It tells us that Jesus was in all points like his brethren, overcoming sin in fair battle as he fought its attacks within and without (Hebrews 4:14-17). It tells us that he died to overcome its power and become perfect in all respects, though he had done no sin (Hebrews 5:9). It tells us that he ascended to heaven, and will return to the earth to conquer and reign (Acts 1:11). It tells us that we are sinners and dying (Romans 5:12). It asks us to confess our nature and our sins, repent, and be baptized as grown believers in water which buries us to an old life as we are covered by it (Colossians 2:12). It offers us the hope that, if we do these things, the Lord when he returns will accept us at the day of judgement, and permit us to rejoice in his kingdom on the earth (Matthew 25:31-46). It tells us that the true church consists of humble men and women who look to one High Priest alone (Hebrews 3:1). It tells us that this church has but one Head, one Master, while all we are brethren (Ephesians 2:15). It tells us that the members of that church meet regularly, gladly and obediently, and all partake of bread and wine in memory of the Lord who died for them (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)

And it tells us that, though the Head of the Church is at present at the right hand of the Father, he will return and receive his Church to himself as a man receives his bride, blessing its members with immortality on the earth (Apocalypse 19:7-9).

It offers us no present pomp, but only simplicity and humility. It gives grand power to no earthly potentate within the church, but bids us live together as strangers and pilgrims in an unconverted world until the Lord comes to reign (1 Peter 2:9-12). It teaches us no ultimate triumph of any religious authority on earth, but rather that the Lord himself will triumph for his faithful. He it is who has the keys of hell – which is the grave (Apocalypse 1:18). And he it is who will loose the bands of death so that, when he has gathered his faithful to himself, it will really have come to pass that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against his true church or any of its faithful members (Matthew 16:18).

Weigh carefully the evidence we have offered, will you? Consider carefully whether, after all, it is not in the splendour and might of your imposing church, but in the simplicity, weakness and humility of the faith outlined here, that the will of God is to be sought and done. It is all too easy for men to turn aside from the simplicity which is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3.) it is terribly prophesied that the Lord will need to reject religious organizations which have corrupted his teaching, whichever they may be (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4); but it is gloriously promised that, when he comes and takes vengeance on those who oppose him, he will come also “to be glorified in his saints and be admired in them that believe” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)


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