Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal

Monday, December 14, 2015

Major Differences Between Protestants & Catholics

Wayne Grudem
Class handout for Theology 501, Phoenix Seminary

While Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants would agree on many points of theology (such as the Trinity, and the deity and humanity of Christ), we also differ with our Catholic friends about some very significant doctrines, including the following:

Numbers refer to pages in Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) and to paragraphs in Catechism of the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 1994).


1.      Authority of the Pope and the church Magisterium (= Pope + bishops).**
ST 129, 132 

CCC 882-883: “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor,...by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.... ‘The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.’ As such, this college has ‘supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”

CCC 889-891: “Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates.  To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.  The exercise of this charism takes several forms: ‘The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith–he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.’”

Response: The apostles left their writings (= the New Testament) to take their place as the governing authority over the church; thus, the Bible, not any human person, has ultimate authority over the church:

1 Cor. 14:37 “the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord”;
2 Tim 1:13 “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me”; 4:2;
2 Pet 1:19; see lecture on canon

2.      Tradition (= the authoritative teaching of the church through history) as an authority alongside Scripture.
ST 21-22, 127-135

CCC 77-86: “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors.  They gave them ‘their own position of teaching authority.’...80 ‘Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together …. 82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures aloneBoth Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.’

Response: The canon of Scripture is closed and no later teachings have authority equal to it (see lecture on canon and Heb 1:1-3)

Hebrews 1:1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

3.  Apocrypha as part of the Bible.
     ST 57-59

CCC 120, 138: “The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,...Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job,...the Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah,...Lamentations, Baruch,...138: The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.”

Response: The Apocrypha is not the Word of God and should not be part of the Bible: not counted as such by first century Jews, by Jesus, by NT authors; or by the RC church until 1546. (See lecture on canon.)


4.  Prayer to Mary and to other saints.
Not discussed in ST

CCC 2675-2682: “2675: Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God,...In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another:...the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused. 2679: Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church.  When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father,... We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.”

Response: We should pray to God alone, through Christ alone:

1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

5. “Veneration” of Mary (which seems to Protestants to be worship of Mary).
Not discussed in ST, but see p. 531 note 3

CCC 971-972: “‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’  The Church rightly honors ‘the Blessed Virgin with special devotion...This very special devotion...differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the Incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.’”

Response: We should worship only God, not any created being:

Isa 48:11 “My glory I will not give to another”
Revelation 22:8 “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God."


6. Continuing sacrifice of Christ in the mass.
ST 578

CCC 1364-1367: “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present: ‘As often as the sacrifice of the Cross … is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.’  …. the Eucharist is also a sacrifice …. In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice.

Response: Christ’s sacrifice was finished once for all time on the cross:

John 19:30 “It is finished!”
Hebrews 10:12-13 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.”
Hebrews 9:24 “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

7. Mary as “co-mediatrix” with Christ.
    Not discussed in ST

CCC 968-969: ‘In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls.  For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.’  969: ‘This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect.  Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation...Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.’”

Response: Salvation is earned for us by Christ alone, and the NT is saturated with praise to Christ alone, not to Mary, for our salvation: 1 Tim. 2:5; John 14:6; Acts 4:12

Philippians 2:8 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


8. Justification not by faith alone, but by faith plus use of means of grace to produce moral purity in us, and not completed in this life.
ST 722, 727-729

CCC 1129, 1989: “1129: The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. 1989: ‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.’”

Response: Justification is by faith alone (this is the heart of the Gospel):

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Galatians 2:16 “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

9.      Regeneration and justification come through baptism.
      ST 971-975

CCC 1213, 1215, 1250, 1263-1266: “Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: 1250: … children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God ... 1263: By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.  1265: Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Response:  Baptism is only an outward physical symbol of an inward work of God, and, like all other outward “works,” it does not save anyone: Eph 2:8-9; Gal 2:16; 4:10-11; 5:2-4, 11 

Galatians 5:2 “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

10. Saving power of the sacraments.
      ST 951, 971-75

CCC 1127-1128: “Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.  They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. 1128: This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: ‘by the very fact of the action’s being performed’), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all.”

Response: No works (or sacraments) can earn us merit before God or contribute to our salvation: Eph. 2:8-9; Gal 2:16

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

11.   Purgatory as a place of suffering before people can enter heaven.
        ST 817-819

CCC 1030-1032: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.  1031:  The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent.”

Response: Believers who die go directly to heaven to be with Christ at once: Acts 7:59; Rev 14:13

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Luke 23:43 “And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Philippians 1:23  “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

12. People who have not heard of Christ or do not believe in him can be saved.
ST 116-118

CCC 839-848: “847: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as the know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

Response: The Bible gives us no grounds for believing this or encouragement to believe it: Rom 10:13-17; John 14:6; Acts 4:12

John 14:6  “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Romans 10:13  “For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …. 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”


13.  Roman Catholic church as the one true church.
ST 855-856

CCC 815-819, 837-838: “816: ‘The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it...This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.’”

Response: The true church is wherever the Gospel is truly preached and baptism and the Lord’s Supper are rightly observed: Heb 3:6; 1 Tim 3:15; Gal 1:8-9; Rev 2:9

Hebrews 3:6 “but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
Galatians 1:8 “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. 9 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.”

14.  Priesthood as a necessary system for dispensing grace.
ST 951

CCC 1120: “The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church.  The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.”

Response: All God’s people are now a kingdom of priests (1 Pet 2:9) and all minister grace to one another through the gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1 Cor 12:4-7

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,”
1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.”

*Several of the sections noted in Systematic Theology also include quotations from and references to Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Herder, 1955), a standard pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic textbook.

**Items in bold are more significant differences because they have more effect on other doctrines and on one’s Christian life. 

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