Christians who are not Roman Catholic are usually referred to as Protestants. The word Protestant comes from the word protest, so another word for Protestants could be protesters.
So, what are the Protestants protesting against? Most of today’s 21st-century Protestants probably do not think of themselves as protesters against anything, but the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century were certainly protesting against some things. That’s how they got their name. The Protestant Reformers were protesting against certain doctrines and practices in Roman Catholicism, doctrines and practices which they considered erroneous, because those doctrines and practices contradicted the Scriptures.
There are many differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Christianity – different doctrines, different practices, different customs and traditions, etc. All these differences, however, all boil down to just one single difference which is the basis for all the differences. That one single difference is in regards to the question of the authority of the church versus the authority of the Scriptures.
In Matthew 16:19 Christ gave authority to church leaders “to bind and to loose” (i.e., to forbid and to permit things, to establish halachah for members of the church). He said that whatever church leaders bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. In other words, heaven will require church members to abide by the church leaders’ decisions.
The important question is this: When Christ gave this authority to the church to bind and to loose, did He mean the church has authority to forbid even things which the Scriptures permit, and to permit even things which the Scriptures forbid?
The Roman Catholic Church says, in effect, “Yes. And this is why we can forbid priests to marry and why we can permit working and conducting business on the seventh-day Sabbath.”
Protestants, on the other hand, say, in effect, “No. The authority of the church must operate within the boundaries of the written Scriptures. Church leaders have no right to make decrees or to teach doctrines which contradict the written Scriptures.”
The motto of the Protestant Reformers was sola scriptura, “only the Scriptures.” For Protestants, the Bible is the supreme and final authority for establishing doctrine and worship.
The various differences that exist between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Christianity are the result of this difference of opinion about the authority of the church versus the authority of the Scriptures. Do the Scriptures have authority over the church, or does the church have authority over the Scriptures? If the Scriptures contradict church teaching, should members obey the Scriptures and disobey church leaders, or should they obey church leaders and disobey the Scriptures?
For me, this is a no-brainer, because I look to Yeshua (Jesus) as my example. He constantly pointed to the written Scriptures as His authority, saying things like “It is written” and “Have ye not read…?”
When Yeshua was on earth, He was in a situation very similar to ours. God’s people had the written Scriptures. They also had their traditions, which were based on decisions and rulings that had been made by religious leaders in the past. The Pharisees insisted that their established traditions were just as binding as the commandments of the Scriptures. Some of them went so far as to claim that their traditions had even more weight and authority than the written Scriptures. And if anyone questioned their right to establish traditions which were contrary to the Scriptures, they could appeal to Deuteronomy 16:18 & 17:8-13 as the proof of their God-given authority.
Yeshua recognized the fact that the religious leaders had been given authority: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat [i.e., seat of authority]. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matt. 23:2f).
Yeshua recognized the authority of the religious leaders, yet He rebuked them for abusing their God-given authority: “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men… Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:8f).
The Pharisees, as the religious leaders of Israel, did indeed have authority from God, but when they went beyond the written Scriptures and replaced the commandments of God with their own traditions, they overstepped that authority. The Roman Catholic Church made that very same mistake. If you doubt this, I suggest you read the book Catholic Customs and Traditions, A Popular Guide by Greg Dues, a Roman Catholic (ISBN 780896 225152). This Roman Catholic writer, like other Roman Catholic writers have done, freely talks about the pagan origins of just about every Roman Catholic custom that exists.
Because Roman Catholics believe that Christ gave absolute authority to the church, authority to decree anything at all, even if it contradicts the Scriptures, Roman Catholics feel no need to deny the fact that many of their traditions contradict the Scriptures and/or are borrowed from pagan idolatry.
The Roman Catholic view leads not only to the abolishing of some of God’s laws written in the Scriptures and to the establishing of laws which contradict the Scriptures. The Roman Catholic view also leads to some very bizarre claims.
The most widely-known bizarre claim by the Roman Catholic Church is Transubstantiation – the claim that the communion wafer becomes the actual, literal flesh of Christ, even though it still looks like a wafer.
But there are other bizarre claims. In the latest issue of Media Spotlight, Albert James Dager, a former Roman Catholic, writes about his Roman Catholic upbringing. Dager talks about his wearing of the Scapular, “a devotional icon typically consisting of two rectangular pieces of cloth, wool or other fabric, connected by bands. One rectangle rests on the chest, while the other rests on the back, with the bands running over the shoulders.” On the rectangles are images of Mary and the words “Whosoever dies clothed in this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
Dager began wearing a Scapular when he was a high school student, and never took it off, not even to shower. “We were told that Mary would take us from Purgatory to Heaven on the Friday after our death,” Dager says. “Naturally we all hoped to die on a Thursday night, as close to midnight as possible.”
I first saw a Scapular in the mid-1980s. A Protestant Christian friend of mine had gotten a few from a Roman Catholic lady who had a whole bag of them, and my friend gave me one. I mailed it to a missionary friend of mine in Mexico, and jokingly told him, “Hey, I’ve got great news. You won’t need to evangelize Mexicans anymore to get them saved. Just get a bunch of these Scapulars and tell them to wear them.”
Another bizarre claim the Roman Catholic Church makes is that the capybara, a furry mammal which is the world’s largest rodent and resembles a giant guinea pig, is actually a fish. Why is it a fish? Because the Vatican declared it to be a fish. Why did the Vatican declare it to be a fish? Because Roman Catholics in Venezuela love capybara meat, and they couldn’t stand giving it up for the forty days of Lent, when faithful Roman Catholics abstain from meat but are allowed to eat fish. The Venezuelan Catholics appealed to the Vatican to declare it a fish so they could eat it during Lent, and the Vatican complied with their wishes.
I’m not making this up, nor did I read it on the Internet nor in some tabloid. This information was in an Associated Press story by Bart Jones, “Venezuelans say, ‘Pass the rodent dish, please.’” I read it some years ago in our local newspaper the Peoria Journal Star. If you doubt me, send me a SASE and I’ll mail you a photocopy of the article.
In the Roman Catholic versus Protestant debate, if you ask me which one has the more correct form of worship and doctrine, I will answer that the Protestants do, because theirs is more Biblical than that of the Roman Catholics. Therefore in regards to worship and doctrine, I have more respect for Protestants. However, in regards to honesty and consistency of beliefs, I have more respect for Roman Catholics than I do for Protestants. Let me explain why.
Even though I strongly disagree with the Roman Catholic view of the authority of the church versus the authority of the Scriptures, the Roman Catholics are at least honest and consistent in their beliefs. Informed Roman Catholics believe and do the things the Roman Catholic Church leaders tell them to do because they believe that is what God wants them to do – even if it contradicts the Scriptures. Roman Catholic Church leaders are honest about abolishing the Sabbath commandment and sanctifying Sunday as a substitute. They believe the church had authority from Christ to do that, just as they believe the church has authority to say that wearing a Scapular will save the wearer from eternal fire, or to say that a sanctified communion wafer is the actual flesh of Christ, or to say that the furry capybara is a fish. Even though I strongly disagree with them, I can’t accuse them of dishonesty or of inconsistency between what they do and what they say they believe.
Such is not the case with Protestants, though. Protestants claim that they have rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. They claim that they base their doctrines and traditions and worship on the Bible, without recognizing the authority of the Vatican. If that is true, then why do the great majority of Protestants continue to hold on to so many un-Biblical Roman Catholic traditions, traditions which were for the most part borrowed from pagan idol worship?
Protestant Christians who say they do not recognize Rome’s authority, yet continue to follow Rome’s un-Biblical traditions, are inconsistent at best and hypocritical and dishonest at worst, if they are aware of the facts. Roman Catholic writers point this out. Consider these quotes from Roman Catholic writers:
“Question: How do you prove that the [Catholic] Church hath power to command feasts and holy days?
“Answer: By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church.” (Daniel Ferres, ed., Manual of Christian Doctrine, 1916, p. 67)
“Regarding the change from the observance of the Jewish Sabbath to the Christian Sunday, I wish to draw your attention to the facts: That Protestants, who accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and religion, should by all means go back to the observance of the Sabbath. The fact that they do not, but on the contrary observe the Sunday, stultifies them in the eyes of every thinking man … It is always somewhat laughable, to see the Protestant churches, in pulpit and legislation, demand the observance of Sunday, of which there is nothing in their Bible.” (Peter R. Kraemer, Catholic Church Extension Society, 1975, Chicago, IL)
“I have repeatedly offered $1,000 to anyone who can prove to me from the Bible alone that I am bound to keep Sunday holy. There is no such law in the Bible. It is a law of the holy Catholic Church alone. The Bible says, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ The Catholic Church says: ‘No. By my divine power I abolish the Sabbath day and command you to keep holy the first day of the week.’ And lo! The entire civilized world bows down in a reverent obedience to the command of the holy Catholic Church.” (T. Enright, C.S.S.R., in a lecture at Hartford, KS, Feb. 18, 1884)
The three above quotes are taken from the pamphlet Roman Catholic and Protestant Confessions About Sunday. For a copy, send a SASE.
A Roman Catholic Sunday substitute for the Bible’s seventh-day Sabbath is not the only area where Protestants are inconsistent. Other Roman Catholic traditions borrowed from pagan idol worship include Lent, Easter, and yes, Christmas, the tradition that is the hardest to forsake, even though it is saturated with more customs borrowed from pagan idolatry than any other Roman Catholic holiday.
A member of our local Messianic congregation works at a Christian ministry based here in Peoria. Nearly 100% of his co-workers are Protestant Christians, many of whom proudly claim that their faith is based on the teachings of the 16th-century Protestant Reformers who broke away from the Catholic Church. During this Messianic brother’s first year working there, he was asked by a Protestant co-worker, “What are you going to be doing for Christmas?” “Oh, I’m not Roman Catholic,” the Messianic brother replied. “I don’t celebrate Christmas.” A great answer!
I love my Protestant brothers. I just wish they would take sola scriptura to its logical conclusion and entirely shake off the shackles of Rome. For years, I’ve told Protestant Christians that we Messianic disciples are just continuing the Protestant Reformation that the 16th-century Reformers started. We are just taking sola scriptura to its logical conclusion, which results in abandoning Roman Catholic customs and holidays and coming back to the Biblical holy days of God’s calendar as summarized in Leviticus 23.
I also love my Roman Catholic brothers. Yes, I said brothers. I certainly do not believe that all Roman Catholics are saved, but I believe that some of them are. Why? Because in Revelation 18:4 God says to those in Babylon, “Come out of her My people.” So obviously some of the people in spiritual Babylon are God’s people. Yes, they need to hear the call to come out and they need to come out, but until they do, they are in the meantime still God’s people. If not, God would not call them “My people.” In spite of all the error in the Roman Catholic Church, sincere seekers can hear the gospel and be saved while still in the Roman Catholic Church.
I met a brother from Malaysia about ten years ago. He was raised as a Sikh. He met a Roman Catholic who told him about Jesus and shared the gospel with him. He believed and was baptized and became a Roman Catholic. Sometime later, he met a Jehovah’s Witness who showed him from the Bible why the Roman Catholic Church was in error. So he got baptized a second time and be-came a Jehovah’s Witness. Sometime later, he met an Assembly of God preacher who showed him from the Bible why the Jehovah’s Witnesses were wrong. So he got baptized a third time and became a Pentecostal. Sometime later, he met a Seventh Day Adventist who showed him from the Bible why the Assemblies of God were wrong about the Sabbath. So he got baptized a fourth time and became a Seventh Day Adventist. Sometime later, he met a Messianic brother who showed him from the Bible that the Seventh Day Adventists were wrong about some things. So he got baptized a fifth time and became Messianic.
This Messianic brother’s pilgrimage started with a Roman Catholic telling him the gospel. So don’t think that God cannot or will not use a Roman Catholic to bring someone to saving faith. And don’t think God cannot or will not use a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Sunday-keeping Pentecostal, or a Seventh Day Adventist to bring more light to someone who is walking in the light they have.
-By Daniel Botkin