Is the Pope a False Teacher?

Francis As Christian blogs go Tim Challies is one of the bigs. He’s a Canadian blogger who some think has a become a slave to his own success. He’s linked in my own sidebar and I make reference to his writing from time to time. By his own claim he is “Informing the Reformed” but I’ve never encountered him being hyper-calvinist. He has raised a few red flags with his current series on false teachers, most notably by calling out Pope Francis. While mentioning Francis specifically he really means all popes and the entire Catholic Church as a promoter of a false gospel. You can read his original post here. 

I grew up in independent, fundamental Baptist churches in which there were three unpardonable sins: drinking beer, divorce and being Roman Catholic. I’m not sure which, if any, was worse. The men had short haircuts, the women wore dresses and we all read the King James Bible. (There were no versions of the scripture, only the Bible and a bunch of other books.) The Jack Chic tracts made it clear that Catholics were all going to hell and needed to be saved and the pope was characterized as nothing short of a world leader and/or the Antichrist. The arguments made by Challies are the strongest indictment I’ve heard of the RCC since leaving fundamentalism.

While there are slightly different versions of the wording, the Apostles’ Creed is the confession of all Christians everywhere across time. Half of that text describes the person of Jesus as Christ. Whatever else they do right or wrong there is no way to believe so many things correctly about the office of Christ and there not be a chance that many Catholics are saved. After my post on Roman Catholic Christians in 2008 I was invited by Catholic Answers to join their answers forum and they are still linked in my sidebar to this day. Catholics may have their justification mixed up with sanctification, but so does any legalist you may encounter in any church including Baptists. As pointed out by Chaplain Mike (Internet Monk) the Catholic Church catechism states: “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” That teaching on justification doesn’t sound as false to me as Tim Challies seems to think it is. 

If I agreed with everything the Catholic Church teaches I would leave my church and join (but I do follow Francis on Twitter). To say the least I am more Catholic friendly than my fundamental friends, in no small way due to the influence of Michael Spencer. I’ve already mentioned Chaplain Mike, you should also read his response to Challies at iMonk. In the United States the Catholic Church is both vocal and very clear on issues such as abortion and homosexuality. Ecumenical is a dirty word in some circles, but there are occasions it would be to all our advantage to focus more on the ways we are alike than the ways we are different. “The fields are white unto harvest but the laborers are few.” And some of those labor against each other.

UPDATE: I had totally forgotten about this post – Catholics, Protestants and 400 Denominations. Another from 2008 that says some things well.

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6 thoughts on “Is the Pope a False Teacher?

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with this post. I too grew up in a denomination that singled out the Catholic Church so much that the core eschatology teaches that Vicarius Filii Dei spells out 666. And while I don’t agree with the Catholic church’s official premise that the Bible, their Magistrate and Traditions/Early writings have equal authority I believe there are saved people in the church. Furthermore, the rest of the body of Christ unofficially does what the Catholic church officially has declared. How many protestants rely on their pastors as if they were a pope? How many protestants have more dependence on good Christian books more than the Bible? Works is a spirit that comes even if your doctrinal interpretation of the Bible is sound. We have to pray that God will show people error and also pray that we don’t fall into it.

  2. Oh wow, I just started reading Challies’ post. I really don’t agree with this: “Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul, and officially damns those who believe anything else”.

  3. Now I am riled up because I read his posts on Ellen G White and Benny Hinn. lol. I think he intentionally does a bit of shock value writing. But anyway,I grew up SDA(Seventh Day Adventist) and I just left an extreme Pentecostal church. Though I no longer attend either church I am still a sabbatarian and a continuationist. SDAs and Sunday church goers mix together two concepts: the Biblical Sabbath and your official day of weekly gathering. To me they are mutually exclusive. The Mosaic Law never commanded Jewish gathering on Saturday and the new testament never commands weekly gathering on Sunday. Though SDAs officially advocate the former many in the rest of the body of Christ advocate the latter.

  4. As you know, I was a Roman Catholic, about to become a nun, when God dramatically called me to Himself and gave me understanding of His amazing work of salvation through Christ.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that many Catholics are born again, but I must say that the teaching there makes it VERY difficult.

    Here in Australia we have extremes among the top men in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Pell, on Q&A (a serious panel show on TV) denied the existence of hell, of Adam and Eve, and of original sin, and said he believed everyone – even Hitler – would one day get to heaven. (Pell is moving to the Vatican to take up a top position in finance, third in power to the Pope). On the other hand, we have heard thrilling things from other Catholic leaders who stress the totaal efficacy of the atoning death of Christ and of salvation ONLY through Him.

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