I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
The Church Of Rome Condemned The Gospel
When dealing with the subject of the Roman Catholic Church as evangelical Protestants it is imperative to understand that absolutely nothing substantial has changed within the Church of Rome regarding their official core dogmas of Roman Catholicism as they were pronounced by the Council of Trent. Trent was the historic Council held by the Roman Catholic Church in response to Luther and the Reformers and ran from 1545-1563.
One would certainly have to admit that eighteen years is more than enough time to formulate the doctrines of your organization. And it’s also adequate time to make sure that these dogmas are then articulated to the public at large in a clear enough manner for them to be completely understood.
In his article Thoughts on the Conflict over Justification the late Dr. Carl F.H. Henry, a leading evangelical Protestant theologian, brings out a rather salient point when he says:
In the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent (1545–1563) the Roman church officially approved and canonized the doctrine of justification by faith–and–works, and thus condemned what had earlier been one strand in its own message, justification by faith.
The opportunity that the Reformers offered of a reformed church that would remain unified and universal was therefore rejected. A historic moment for theological dialogue and a major opportunity for doctrinal understanding were squandered. In consequence, evangelical-Catholic dialogue must now begin with [the Council of] Trent. Trent cannot be bypassed as merely the time-bound echo of one spectrum of influential Catholic dogmatics, since it expressed Church doctrine that Rome identified as authoritative and irreformable.” (Online source, emphasis added).
In their informative little booklet The Facts On Roman Catholicism respected evangelical Protestant apologists Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon are absolutely correct when they inform us:
In essence, the decrees made by the Council Of Trent on justification remain the standard of Roman Catholic theology. These decrees have never been modified, altered, or rescinded by Rome (39,40, emphasis added).
In fact, by using words like irreformable the Church of Rome has backed itself into a theological corner from which there is no return. Indeed, these dogmas of Roman Catholicism cannot be changed. Jimmy Akin, Director of Apologetics and Evangelization for Catholic Answers, a premiere pro-Roman Catholic apologetic organization, confirms this. Writing in the December 1997 issue of This Rock Akin correctly points out:
The anathemas [of Trent] do not apply today, since the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) abolished the canonical penalty of anathema, which was a form of excommunication. This does not mean that the [Roman Catholic] Church no longer rejects the beliefs that had been anathematized. The formula “let him be anathema” is a traditional expression that ecumenical councils used when making infallible definitions.
Therefore, the dropping of the canonical penalty of anathema does not “undo” the infallible definitions expressed in Trent’s canons. An infallible definition, by its very nature, can never be “undone.” The [Roman Catholic] Church still believes and teaches all the definitions Trent issued.
Furthermore, even though a person no longer incurs anathema by violating the canons of Trent, he still may incur excommunication. Many of Trent’s definitions concern articles of faith, and for a Catholic to doubt them culpably or to deny them constitutes heresy (CIC 751), which in turn incurs excommunication (CIC 1364 §1) (Online source, emphasis added).
Here from the online Vatican Library is Trent’s official proclamation concerning the doctrine of justification, which was at the heart of the Lord’s Protestant Reformation. Notice that the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church is that the “works” of man are thought to have merit. In other words, he cooperates with God to become justified:
The Catholic Church maintains, moreover, that the good works of the justified are always the fruit of grace. But at the same time, and without in any way diminishing the totally divine initiative (5), they are also the fruit of man, justified and interiorly transformed. We can therefore say that eternal life is, at one and the same time, grace and the reward given by God for good works and merits (6). This doctrine results from the interior transformation of man to which we referred in n.1 of this “Note”. These clarifications are a help for a right understanding, from the Catholic point of view, of paragraph 4.7 (nn. 37-39 ) on the good works of the justified. (Online source, emphasis mine)
The following words from the late Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989) a recognized authority in the area of Comparative Religion will shed light on how the Roman Catholic Church operates here in the United States. He brings out something that is extremely critical for us to understand in trying to reach those who would consider themselves Roman Catholic with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr Martin said:
The American Catholic is a different breed of cats from the Irish Catholic; the Spanish Catholic; the Italian Catholic. Different because there [in Europe] you find the theology I’m talking about now–today. Just as much as alive as when Boniface the VIII and…the popes of yesteryear wrote it, and said it had to be believed.
You must understand what you are seeing in this country is not pure Roman Catholic theology. What you are seeing in this country is a watered down version adapted to the American mind so that the Americans will live with it.
Rome is a great chameleon. She changes color on what ever surface you place her. Here in this country she cannot do the things she does in Spain and Italy and survive. And so, she is different. The face is different, but underneath the theology remains unchanged. The statement [in 1964 by Pope Paul VI – “nothing really changes in the traditional doctrine.”] is true.
They never change on the basics. They will change on the peripherals, [but] never on the centrality, the authority of the papacy” (Walter Martin, Roman Catholicism – Part 2 of 3, side 1, cassette #4011, Walter Martin’s Religious InfoNet, emphasis added).
Incidentally Dr. Martin was speaking in the 1970’s some ten years after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which people are still under the misguided impression changed Roman Catholic dogmas such as the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. As you will see below from official Church of Rome sources Dr. Martin was quite correct in his assessment of the Roman Catholic Church. For as Ankerberg and Weldon point out while discussing the changes made during Vatican II – “While it is true the Church has undergone significant alterations, major, permanent doctrinal change is not one of them” (ibid., 16, emphasis added).
To Be Or Not To Be The True Church; This Is The Key Question
And as we attempt to understand Roman Catholicism, precisely the problem we run in to immediately, are the word games. The image is presented through various media to the American public that there has been a change away from their dogmas, but upon closer examination this does not prove to be true at all.
In a recent article entitled Vatican II—The Myths from the library of the “Global Catholic Network” EWTN we read:
All that the Church taught when Vatican II began is still [Roman] Catholic teaching. The changes whether made by the Council or decided upon since, are [only] in practical matters such as the liturgy or discipline, but always leaving doctrine unchanged (Online source, emphasis added).
Then there is this by Rino Fisichella Auxiliary Bishop of Rome in L’Osservatore Romano, which happens to be the newspaper of the Holy See. On page 10 of an article called Vatican I’s Teaching As Timely As Ever that ran September 13, 2000 we read:
on 8 December 1869 Plus IX brought the Council back to the centre of the Church. Holding it at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican was equivalent to recovering the great tradition of the medieval Councils, … The First Vatican Council, from this symbolic standpoint, initiated an event that would remain in the Church’s history as a point of no return for the growth of faith (Online source, emphasis added).
Again, as you can see, Roman Catholicism by their own sources remains the same. Auxiliary Bishop Fisichella continues:
The [Roman Catholic] Church presented the divine nature of her institution…a decision of historical import was reached. The proclamation of infallibility embraced and expressed that sense of faith of all the baptized, which sees in Peter the rock on which Christ has indefectibly and infallibly established his Church (ibid., emphasis added).
Regardless of what we may think of some of his other activities, before a worldwide audience on the The John Ankerberg Show, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy at least had the intestinal fortitude to be willing to put all this all into its proper perspective when he tells us:
The Council Of Trent [was a full] 18 years…spent examining the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation…[and] this has never been altered or denied by the [Roman] Catholic Church – “if anyone says that the faith which justifies is nothing else but trust in the divine mercy–which pardons sins because of Christ or that it is trust alone by which we are justified” – which is what every Evangelical Christian would say… “Let him be anathema.”
Which means let him be accursed. Every Evangelical Christian in the world stands under the official–[and] never changed curse of the Roman [Catholic] Church. (Online source).
What everyone needs to do at this point is to stop equivocating; because the truth is, the Roman Catholic Church is trapped by her own misapplied logic. Here’s the issue: If, when the Pope “speaks ex cathedra– that is, when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians,” and he thus “defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church,” then by definition those “definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable.” Thus the apostate Church of Rome can never change unless she admits that the above is, in fact, wrong.
And as such those who would truly call themselves evangelical Protestants have no real choice but to heed the words of the great Reformer Martin Luther who said:
The negotiation about doctrinal agreement displeases me altogether, for this is utterly impossible unless the pope has his papacy abolished. Therefore avoid and flee those who seek the middle of the road. Think of me after I am dead and such middle-of-the-road men arise, for nothing good will come of it. There can be no compromise (Online source, emphasis added).