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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).

These Catholic Franciscans are praying outside the chapel at the 4th Station.

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, " 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."

Painting of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus - Mt. 27:32, the 5th Station.   The altar of the chapel at the 5th Station on the Way of the Cross.

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 fruitful!

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!

Chapel interior at the 6th Station.

An ancient tradition tells us Veronica gave Jesus a cloth and...

...Jesus miraculously left His Image ('Veri Icon'-True Image) for 'Veronica'.

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.

Altar in the 7th Station Chapel.

Jesus falls a second time - reflect on Psalm 22:15-16

Contemporary open air market outside the 7th Station Chapel.

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

'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 should.

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. 11:28)!

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

'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.

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

'Catholics are wrong to alternate
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).

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

'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.

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

'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.

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

'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." (Rev. 13:18).

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, 'gumshoe'!

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!

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

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.

English Catholic Bible. Printed years before the King James version. Check!

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!

Anti-Catholic Allegations:

Many Catholic
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?" that 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!" (Mk. 7:34) 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.

Franciscans leading prayers @ 8th Station-'Via Crucis'='The Way of the Cross.'

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


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