How to find Jesus' True Church
'An Interactive Biblical & Historical Investigation' Episode III
A detective that sets out to discover the church which Jesus established
would naturally have to do some research. Part of it would be Scriptural,
and part of it would be historical, as we've seen in the first two
'episodes' of our investigation. Since Jesus' Church was started
almost 2,000 years ago, would it be exactly the same today as it was
then? What clues does the Bible share on this point?
"To what shall we compare the kingdom of God?...It is like a mustard
seed that, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds
of the earth. But once sown it springs up, and becomes the largest
of plants and puts forth large branches..." (Mk. 4:30,31,32; cf. Mt.
13:31-32; Lk 13:18-19; Ez 17:23; Dn 4:7-9,17-19).
Jesus' began with a "...little flock..." (Lk. 12:32), yet we know
that God's Word: "shall not return to Me void" (Isaiah 55:11) and
is, "...living and effective, sharper than any double-edged sword..."
(Heb. 4:12). So a church that began with a few members, like good
seeds (cf. Mt. 13:1-17), would naturally have grown and multiplied,
until it would be "the largest of plants."
As we survey the world today, we find that there are some 1.7 billion
people world-wide that profess to be Christian, and are associated
with one of thousands of different churches. God's Word has proven
The largest Christian body is the Catholic Church. The word 'catholic'
comes from the Greek, meaning 'universal.' That's an apt description,
since the local branches (parishes and dioceses) of the Church combine
a total of nearly a billion official believers world-wide. Catholics
operate the world's largest private school system, the biggest hospital
system, and most extensive system of charities on earth. History
records many famous and saintly Catholics, such as saints: Francis
of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Thomas Moore; and scholars such as Augustine
and Thomas Aquinas. 'Mother Theresa of Calcutta' was known in our age for
her charitable work, which made her one of the most respected people
on earth according to various secular surveys. While these are 'good
fruit' favoring the Catholic Church, what about arguments against
that church? Let's dig deeper, detective, and find out!
TWO TYPES OF ARGUMENTS are generally used against the Catholic ("universal") Church; historical/factual assertions and Biblical arguments. As
'investigators' pressed for time, we can only touch on a few to get
you started. Let's begin with Scripturally based attacks. Consider
each category as starting with the allegation 'Catholics are wrong
to:' and see if they are true.
'Catholics are wrong to
Worship Mary, pray the 'Hail Mary.'
No official Church statement ever written about Mary can be found stating 'Catholics worship Mary.'
The Church points to the following Scriptures in support of the honor
(not worship) the Bible gives to Jesus' Mother: "And Mary said: My
soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in
God, my Savior...behold, from now on will all generations call me
'blessed.'" (Lk 1:46-47,48). Do you call Mary 'blessed', obeying
God's Word? Catholics faithfully fulfill that Scripture, as all Christians
Scripture says: "The fervent prayer of the righteous person is very powerful."
(Jas. 5:16), giving the example of saintly Elijah's prayer: so this
obviously doesn't take away from Jesus' role as our Mediator with
the Father. Christians are Biblically taught to pray for each other,
and we see in Revelations that the heavenly saints pray too. Mary
is revealed as crowned in Heaven in Revelations chapter 12. A Marian
prayer Catholics, and other Christians, say is Bible based: "Hail
[Mary], full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed are you among
women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb [Jesus]!." (Lk. 1:28
,42). Mary fulfilled prophecy: "...the virgin shall be with child..."
(Mt. 1:23; Is. 7:14). Jesus honored His mother from the cross, saying
to the beloved disciple: "'Behold your mother.' From that hour onward,
the disciple took her into his home." (Jn.19:27). Who in Scripture
attacks Mary? "Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went
off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep
God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus." (Rev. 12:17). Jn. 2:1-11
demonstrates Mary's Biblical role: "Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you."
Do you attack Mary, as the satanic dragon did, or take her into your
home, and pray with her to Jesus? We should be 'her [spiritual] offspring',
and 'keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus.' (cf. Lk.
'Catholics are wrong to
Use Reptitious Prayers.'
Scripture asserts Jesus said repetitious prayers! "Withdrawing again, He [Jesus] prayed, saying the same thing."
(Mk. 14:39; cf. Mt. 26:44). The Bible condemns vain, insincere prayers,
but commends any sincere prayer, including repetitious ones, like this Biblically commended example: "The
tax collector...beat his chest in sorrow, repeating: 'O God, have
mercy on me, a sinner!'" (Lk. 18:13). It should also be noted that many Catholics pray spontaneously, using their own words, besides saying learned prayers, such as the Lord's Prayer.
'Catholics are wrong to
Kneeling, Standing and Siting during their worship.'
Some complain that Catholics kneel, stand and sit too much in their worship. But Jesus himself did so! "After withdrawing about
a stone's throw from them, and kneeling, He prayed..." (Lk. 22:41);
"He stood up to read and was handed the scroll of the prophet, Isaiah."
(Lk. 4:16-17)"...after He sat down..." (Mt. 5:1). John's vision of
heavenly worship uses the same postures Catholics use too (see Rev. 5:6-14; 7:9-17; 8:3-4; 10:8-11;
15:1-8; 19:1-10; 21:1-8).
'Catholics are wrong to
Call Priests "Father."'
The Bible quotes Jesus as saying 'call no man on earth your father", a point raised by non-Catholics. Catholics Scripturally reply that: "we have
but one Father in heaven." (Mt. 23:8-9). Yet the Apostle Paul gave
himself the spiritual title of 'father': "Indeed, in Christ Jesus,
I became your father through the Gospel." (1 Cor. 4:15, see also 1 Thes. 2:11), in the same
way priests use it. Since 'father(s)' is used dozens of times in
the Bible after Jesus' statement in Mt. 23:8-9, and in cases like those noted above that parallel Catholic usage, Jesus' meaning could not
have been literal. Rather, Jesus was reminding us of God's Fatherly relationship to us, and that God should always have first place in our lives.
'Catholics are wrong to
Use 'Idols' (Statues and other Religious objects)
This issue is based on Exodus 20:4-5, but does it hold? Catholics reply that God commanded
the use of statues and religious objects (e.g.: Ex. 25:18; Num. 21:8;
Jn. 3:14; 1 Kgs. 6:29-35). John's vision of heavenly worship describes
harps, an altar, temple, incense and repeated prayers. If such things
are good in heaven, why not on earth? God's meaning in Ex. 20:4-5
is not to worship anything but God Himself; but doesn't forbid the
proper use of any religious object.
'The Pope and the Roman Catholic Church are called
the "Whore of Babylon" in the Book of Revelations.
This is an idea spread by a few professional anti-Catholics, who claim John's 'Revelations' make the Church, headquartered in Rome, 'the whore of Babylon', the 'city on the seven
hills.' Some think the title 'Vicarius Filii Dei,' Latin for 'Vicar
of the Son of God' makes the pope the anti-Christ, since that phrase
in Latin adds up to 666. First, note that is not one of the pope's official titles!
Also be mindful that Revelations states: "Wisdom is needed...for it is a number that stands for a person."
John was on the Roman penal island of Patmos (cf. Rev. 1:9) when he
wrote ''Revelations,'' so he had to write using 'code words.' Christians
were being persecuted, and John wanted to give them courage. One
persecutor of the early church was ''Caesar Neron'' (Latin for the
Emperor Nero), whose title and name (for that person) adds up to the
dreaded 666! The ''whore of Babylon'' was Rome, but it was the pagan
Empire, the persecutor of Christians, that was being condemned, as
a close reading of Revelations proves. The Catholic Church is not offically called, the "Roman" Catholic Church as some think. Finally, Catholics point out
that the Vatican isn't built on the seven hills of Rome! Good work,
Catholics claim that all of their teachings, properly understood,
are supported by the Bible. These Bible-based common sense replies
support the Catholic claim. We've briefly surveyed above perhaps the
most common Scriptural 'attacks' on Catholics, and since we don't
have time to run through all of the allegedly Bible-based attacks
let's do this: if your run across a Scriptural challenge to Catholicism
we haven't covered, then why not check it out with a Catholic priest,
bishop or an organization or publication with a question and answer
column? A free list of such organizations and publications can be
yours: just e-mail us, or check out our links. But now, let's move on to challenges against the Catholic Church that are based on factual/historical allegations. Ready, detective? Let's
check those out!
Catholics burned, chained and suppresed
the Bible for years.
In many ways, this accusation has seeds of truth, say informed Catholics! But why? First, an open minded investigator should note 1 Timothy 3:15, "the church
of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." The Church
is called to instruct believers in God's word (cf. Lk. 24:32; Acts
8:30-31; 2 Pet. 1:20; 3:16) to lead people "...into all truth." (Jn.
16:13), and heed John's words: "If anyone adds...takes away from
the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life..." (Rev. 22:18,19). John's intent here doesn't limit God's meaning; and surely God didn't want man adding to or taking away from the Bible! Yet Tyndale, Luther, and other 'Protestants' did just that, by adding words, and taking away seven whole books and parts of two others from the Bible! (Note: today, many non-Catholic Bibles have once again re-inserted the books once-removed; including the RSV and NRSV Bibles.)
To protect people from corrupted (false) and incomplete 'bibles' being
used to unScripturally divide Christians (cf. Jn. 17:20-21), the Church
for a time followed the zealous example of Acts 19:19 of burning such
books. True, complete copies of the Bible were chained to lecterns
in churches and libraries, so that they wouldn't be stolen, and would
be available to anyone, even the poor, who wanted to read God's Holy
Word. This is an important fact, since in the early days of printing
and before, most 'common' people simply couldn't afford to buy a Bible. It should also be noted that even Martin Luther admited that the Bible was preserved and safeguarded by the Catholic Church, especially during the dark ages and times of pagan Roman persecutions.
Anyone who accuses the Church of 'suppressing' the Bible, must wonder;
if that's so: 'Why did Catholic monks hand-copy the Bible, preserving
God's Word in the centuries before printing?' 'Didn't the 'inventor'
of printing, Guttenburg (a Catholic), begin by printing a Bible?'
'Haven't Catholics read the Bible aloud at daily Mass in their churches
for centuries?' The truthful answers should make biased anti-Catholics
blush with shame, but then Paul (Saul) persecuted the Church too!
Leaders have led sinful lives.
This is true, and something that the Pope John Paul II and other knowledgable
Catholic have admited and apologized for publically. But what does the fact that
some popes, bishops, priests or other Catholics sinned really prove?
What does excesses like the Inquisition, or selling indulgences and
the like really demonstrate? We learned in "A Perfect Church?"
Jesus didn't call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The Church
was established by Jesus to guide sinners into the truth, to help
save lost souls! In fairness, we should note that all religions have
sinners (cf. Rm. 3:23). So it is no surprise that the True Church will have sinners too.
At the same time, we should also keep in mind that their are many examples of saintly lives in all periods of Church history. Amazing stories of conversions from once sinful lives into living examples of good role models, such as
St. Augustine of Hippo recorded in his book, "Confessions," which
still inspires people today, more than 15 centuries after he died!
In this brief report, detective, we can't cover everything we'd like
to with you! But you can already see that the common anti-Catholic
attacks are easily answered, and if we will "Be Open!"
and have ears to listen (cf. Mk. 4:9), then we must admit these replies
make sense. But our investigation isn't quite finished yet!
In the next 'episode,' you will find out how you can take a ride on
a 'time machine,' back into the early centuries of Christianity.
See what the early Christians believed, and how they worshiped! They
were closer to Jesus' time than we are, surely they'd have a fresher
idea of Jesus' teachings; hot topics before TV, radio, and other 'entertainment.'
Until then, 'gumshoe,' like any good detective, think about the facts
in this report with an open mind, and check them out yourself. Let's
listen to Jesus: "they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock,
one shepherd." (Jn. 10:16).
Go to "Gumshoe" Episode #4