Sunday, December 27, 2009


“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. Indeed, the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #77; referencing “Dei Verbum,” a document of the Second Vatican Council)

One of the foundational claims of the Catholic Church is that of “Apostolic Succession,” which means that they (supposedly) possess an unbroken, uninterrupted, and lawful chain of legitimate successors (popes) from the Apostle Peter all the way down to the present pope, and this will last until the return of Jesus Christ. But is this claim true? Does such a continuous, lawful chain of popes really exist?

Much could be said about the incredible amount of corruption in the lives of some of the popes while in office. But rather than deal with the lives of popes after they got in office, the focus of this article will be on some of the actual methods which were used to obtain this office. Even if the office of “pope” were a valid and biblical one (and it is not), there is still a serious problem in the way that some popes acquired this position.

According to some church scholars / historians, a number of popes have obtained their positions 1) by buying their office [a form of simony], 2) through the working of influential prostitutes, or 3) by the use of force, even murdering the previous pope! These facts are validated by some eye-opening books (written by Catholics or former Catholics), which include Peter De Rosa’s “Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy”; “Lives of the Popes” by Richard P. McBrien; Former Catholic priest Joseph McCabe and his “A History of the Popes”; J. H. Ignaz von Dollinger’s “The Pope and the Council”; and “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church,” by Malachi Martin.

Lest anyone say that these authors / scholars / historians were not good Catholics, or that they are not credible historians, we also provide the following quotes from these official Catholic sources

1) Concerning Simony:

To uproot the evil of simony so prevalent during the Middle Ages, the Church decreed the severest penalties against its perpetrators. Pope Julius II declared simoniacal papal elections invalid, an enactment which has since been rescinded, however, by Pope Pius X. (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, online, under “Simony.”)

“The worst period was from the ninth to the eleventh century when simony pervaded the monasteries, the lower clergy, the episcopacy, and even the papacy.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIII, page 228)

Pope Benedict IX and simony:

“He was a son of Alberic III, leader of the Tusculani, and he simoniacally succeeded his uncles, Benedict VIII and John XIX.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. II, page 274)

“Then on May 1 Benedict sold his papal office to his baptismal sponsor, the reforming archpriest John Gratian, Pope Gregory VI.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. II, page 275)

Benedict IX not only purchased his office, but he later sold it to another pope-to-be when he was finished with it. Remember, for every “transaction” in simony, there are two guilty popes, a “buyer” AND a “seller.”

In one of his papal documents, Pope John Paul II states that if simony occurs in the election of a pope, then those guilty will be excommunicated. But at the same time, he still honors the outcome of that election, so that the validity of the election of that pope “may not… be challenged.” (“Universi Dominici Gregis,paragraph 78, Feb. 22, 1996)

May not be challenged? Why should the validity of any simony-induced election NOT be challenged? Doesn’t such an election COMPLETELY DISPROVE the idea of God-ordained “Apostolic Succession”? In his statement, Pope John Paul II was (unsuccessfully) attempting damage control in light of an embarrassing past (when simony was common among popes). So he rebukes those who commit simony (as he should), but he then declares that it’s really not a problem for the papacy. To the Catholic Church, such an election is still “official” because “Apostolic Succession” needs to remain intact at all costs, right? Is it just me, or does anyone else see the inconsistency here?

2) Concerning the prostitute Marozia, who was the mistress of Pope Sergius III, during the era commonly known as the “pornocracy” (Rule of the Harlots):

“She imprisoned Pope John X in Castel Sant’ Angelo, where he died in 928 either by assassination…or from other causes. In 931 she had her son, probably by Sergius III…elected to the papacy as Pope John XI.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. IX, page 253-54)

Concerning the prostitute Theodora (the mother of Marozia):

“Besides being personally avaricious, she – together with her family – exercised undue influence on Pope Sergius III and Pope John X, thus causing grave harm to the authority of the popes.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIV, page 15-16)

Here, influential prostitutes were able to place in office the pope of their choice, or put him in prison, if they so desired. Indeed, “grave harm” was done to the papacy, since this influence of prostitutes reveals to all of us the false nature of this claim of “Apostolic Succession.”

3) Concerning the papal office being taken by force:

In the beginning, the Bishop of Rome was elected by the local clergy and laity along with neighboring bishops. In time, this process came under the influence of secular leaders with negative results. Influencing papal elections, powerful lords and kings hoped to manipulate the office of the papacy in order to advance their temporal ambitions. (The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, Liturgical Press, page 653)

“From the fourth to the eleventh century the influence of temporal rulers in papal elections reached its zenith… This civil intervention ranged from the approval of elected candidates to the actual nomination of candidates (with tremendous pressure exerted on the electors to secure their acceptance), and even to the extreme of forcible deposition and imposition.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XI, page 572)

So, here we see heathen kings exerting their military might to forcibly depose (remove) and forcibly impose (put in office) the popes they wanted!

Should we consider any of this “lawful” or “legitimate” Apostolic Succession? Were these popes ordained by God? Anyone who obtains an ecclesiastical (church) office illegally, immorally, or violently has wrongfully acquired that position, and simply cannot be considered a legitimate holder of that office.

Would we tolerate any of this from those seeking a position in “non-religious” fields? Would you trust a medical doctor who purchased his degree? Or a schoolteacher who committed fornication to get his teaching position? Or how about a senator who took his office by force, or killed the previous senator to obtain that office? Of course, no honest institution would allow their people to obtain an office in such a way. Should we not expect far more from the “Vicar of Christ,” the (supposedly) highest ecclesiastical office of all? We rightfully demand moral accountability in the business, financial, political and medical fields, so why should a religious institution like the Catholic Church not likewise be morally accountable? There are definitely some illegitimate “links” in this “apostolic chain of successors.” But then again, all it takes is one “infected” link to make this Catholic claim (and the whole system) collapse.

Interestingly, the New Catholic Encyclopedia also states, “But it must be frankly admitted that bias or deficiencies in the sources make it impossible to determine in certain cases whether the claimants were popes or antipopes.” (Volume I, page 632)
[Note: An antipope is one who makes an illegal or false claim to the office of pope.]

By this statement alone, they have refuted their own position on Apostolic Succession. If the Catholic Church can’t really know who was actually pope at any given time, then Apostolic Succession is a myth.

The words of John the Baptist come to mind: “And think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father’; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9) John was condemning the unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees, who looked to some physical lineage all the way back to Abraham for their “righteousness.” But John was showing them that God is more concerned with a person’s heart than his lineage or ancestry. The same principle applies today. All true believers are successors of the apostles (Acts 2:42), not just certain leaders. We should look to the teachings of the apostles, as outlined in Scripture, not to a physical line of successors. It may sound good, but the Catholic concept of “Apostolic Succession” is simply an unbiblical, arrogant and false claim. And since it is a foundational claim of the Catholic Church, what will happen to this “house built upon the sand”? (Matthew 7:26-27)

Thursday, December 17, 2009


[Catholics who deny the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (“Bible alone”) will often do so because they believe that we can’t interpret the Scriptures apart from the authority of the Catholic Church. The following is a fictional dialogue, but it is based on numerous real encounters (personal, internet, and otherwise) between Catholics and Protestants. Catholic comments will be in blue, while the Sola Scriptura believer’s comments will be in black.]

That’s just YOUR interpretation. You Protestants only have your subjective (personal) interpretation of the Bible. But we need to be CERTAIN about Scripture interpretation, because the correct meaning is vitally important. Therefore, we need someone who is INFALLIBLE to interpret for us.

And who might that be?

The Church, of course.

Meaning…the Catholic Church, right?

That’s correct.

But how does one who is searching for the truth, first determine that the Catholic Church is really the true Church, the (supposedly) infallible source of truth?

Matthew 16:18-19 tells us that Peter is the Rock upon which Jesus builds His Church, and Peter is the visible head of that Church, and it will never let the gates of hell prevail. Also, the Catholic Church has power to bind and loose, and no other church does.

So, you’re telling me that my interpretation of Scripture is “subjective” and therefore, insufficient, so I must look to the Catholic Church to interpret for me, right? Yet, in order to recognize the Catholic Church as the “true” Church, I must go to Matthew 16 to find out… but (according to you) I can’t really be sure of my interpretation in the first place. You tell me that I can’t really understand it, yet you point me to that same Bible to verify your assertion. Am I understanding you correctly?

You Protestants misread Matthew 16. But it is obvious that Jesus established His Church here.

So, the meaning of Matthew 16 should be “obvious” to an outsider (non-Catholic) who is searching for truth?

We believe an honest person would see the same truth that we see when reading Matthew 16. It is very clear to anyone seeking the truth.

Again, that seems to be a contradiction. First, you say we CAN’T trust our interpretation of the Bible, but then you say that if we read a particular passage in the Bible (Matthew 16), it is obviously telling us who CAN interpret it. In other words, we need to interpret the Bible in order to understand that our interpretation of the Bible will be wrong? Is this what you are saying?

I’m saying that we need to be absolutely SURE that our interpretation is correct.

But, would you agree that it is POSSIBLE for a seeker, apart from the Catholic Church, to correctly interpret a particular passage?

Yes, it is possible, but we need CERTAINTY, not just “possibility”.

And the Catholic has that certainty?

Yes, because he depends on the infallible Church as the authentic interpreter.

So, when a person seeking the truth chooses to join the Catholic Church, is that a fallible choice?

Yes, we, as individuals, are fallible, but we know the Church is infallible.

And you determined this (the Church’s infallibility) by your FALLIBLE reading of Matthew 16? If your original decision to join that church was a FALLIBLE one, how can you boast of having infallible certainty now? Suppose you find out later that the Catholic Church is wrong?

We can be infallibly certain because the Catholic Church IS infallible, and she tells us that we are right – that we made the right choice.

Of course she tells you that you made the right choice! Would you expect her to tell you that you were WRONG to join her? In the same way, certain cults will tell you that their leaders are also infallible, and you made the right choice in joining THEM. So how do you test them? How do you know whether THEIR church is right or wrong?

Because we Catholics not only have Scripture, but we also have Sacred Tradition to help us in deciding these things.

And exactly what IS this Tradition?

In a nutshell, it is simply the teachings of the Church.

So, let me recap… you know that the Catholic Church has infallibility based on your fallible interpretation of Matthew 16, “supported” by the Church’s Sacred Tradition, which is simply based on its OWN teachings? In other words, you are saying, “The Church is infallible because that’s what it teaches!” Sounds pretty weak and circular to me. But suppose some Catholics disagree on the interpretation of Matthew 16. What then?

We have an ultimate human leader (the pope) who can settle all disputes, unlike Protestants with their many divisions. If an interpretation is needed, he can give an official and infallible one.

Then who “infallibly interprets” HIS interpretation if there are any misunderstandings / disagreements / divisions on what HE said? At some point, the “fallible” must meet the “Infallible,” and it is still the fallible individual who must ultimately determine what the “Infallible” has said, whether it is God, the Pope, the Council of Trent, or whoever.

We believe that once the Pope has spoken, it is understandable and clear enough for the individual who exercises humble obedience and common sense.

But that is exactly how the Protestant sees the interpretation of SCRIPTURE…using humility and common sense (along with basic hermeneutical principles, of course). If interpretation by humble obedience and common sense works in understanding the Pope, then why would it not work for Scripture?

But there are things in the Bible that are hard to understand. The Bible, itself, admits this (2 Peter 3:16). When people privately interpret, they end up twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction!

This passage only says that SOME things are hard to understand. But does that mean that we give up? Stop studying? Do we neglect our responsibility to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and turn the whole thing over to some (supposedly) infallible leader just because a certain passage is hard to understand? Of course not. We continue to prayerfully study and learn. Now, this doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from others, because we certainly can. We all need help interpreting now and then. But we have no biblical reason to believe in a single human leader (or organization) who MUST arbitrate for us. And by the way, 2 Peter 3:16 says nothing about an infallible human interpreter, although this would be an excellent place to mention it. Also, that passage in 2 Peter is speaking of the error of the “wicked” and unbelieving (verse 17), not the humble and prayerful person who is truly trying to find the will of God.

But the Protestant puts too much emphasis on the individual. There is too much risk here of private interpretation. The Bible also warns us against that (2 Peter 1:20).

But 2 Peter 1:20-21 is not speaking of one’s READING of Scripture, but rather, the ORIGIN of Scripture. This passage is often taken out of context by Catholics, as you just did. It is saying that no prophecy was given to the prophet by HIS OWN interpretation, but was directly from God. It is NOT telling us that the common man can’t (or shouldn’t) interpret, nor is it saying that a particular organization (like the Catholic Church) must be the only authentic interpreter.

But the Bible also tells us that we must obey our leaders (Hebrews 13:17). THEY have the truth, and THEY have the correct interpretation of Scripture. That’s why God put them there.

Does the person who happens to be in a church that teaches serious heresy have the responsibility to obey HIS leaders, too? It is true that we should obey our leaders WHO ARE BIBLICALLY SOUND, but how is one to know, if we cannot rightly divide the Word? God expects Church leaders to be “tested” and “evaluated” by their congregation to be sure that they are in line with Scripture, just as the Bereans tested the message of the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).

As I said before, the Catholic Church is infallible, as Matthew 16 and other passages clearly indicate. There is no need for the individual to strain and travail with his private interpretations, because he may let his prejudice and presuppositions cloud the true interpretation. God established the Catholic Church and its leaders to take care of all that.

That is the problem with many Catholics. They operate on a false assumption. That is: Either 1) One must have an INFALLIBLE interpretation of Scripture, or 2) he will inevitably have a WRONG interpretation. To these Catholics, there seems to be no middle ground… but “infallible” and “wrong” are not the only possibilities. It is certainly possible to be fallible (as all of us are) and yet be RIGHT in one’s Bible interpretation.


Catholics often ask, “What use is an infallible book (the Bible), without an infallible interpreter (the Catholic Church)?” But this is like asking, “What use is an infallible God without an infallible human mind to understand Him?” But that’s ridiculous. He doesn’t expect us to understand Him infallibly. Infallibility is GOD’S domain. Only HE can have infallible certainty, but we humans can have sufficient certainty. So, all these Catholics who insist on “infallible certainty” are simply engaging in futility and unnecessary hype.

And one has to wonder, if infallible interpretations are so critical, then why are there only a tiny handful of Bible verses “infallibly interpreted” by the Catholic Church?

When we encourage each person to interpret Scripture, we do not mean that one can interpret it recklessly or just any way he feels like it. As mentioned above, there are basic hermeneutical principles involved, along with common sense. And it is important that one’s heart should be right, also (Luke 8:11-15). Many times, the problem is not hard Scripture, but hard hearts.

Catholics will often ask Protestants, “By what authority do you interpret Scripture?” But why should we need some special “authority” or “permission” to do something that God has already told us to do? He has already told us to “rightly divide” (interpret) His Word. This question is like asking, “By what authority do you obey the Commandments?” It has nothing to do with authority on our part. It’s simply something that God EXPECTS us to do.

Instead of telling me, “That’s just YOUR interpretation,” let’s look at the Scriptures together and exegete the relevant passages, and perhaps you can SHOW me where I am wrong in my interpretation. Let’s see which interpretation is most reasonable.

I just can’t see how a loving God would give us inspired revelation and not give the ability to understand it to those who need it most, the ones who Jesus favored…the common folk, the poor, the uneducated, and the lost… those who cried out to God. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura (“Bible alone”) does not mean that all Scripture is perfectly clear to everyone, or even equally clear to everyone, but we are ALL expected to interpret, at least to some degree. More than a dozen times in the New Testament we see the call, “WHOSOEVER has an ear, let him hear.” Anyone who “has an ear” is someone who is able to hear, interpret, and understand God’s message. The word “whosoever” is not restricted to church leaders.

Remember, Jesus, at a most critical time in His ministry, showed us how Scripture interprets Scripture. When He was tempted in the wilderness and the devil quoted Scripture to Him, Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, well, I guess I’ll have to appeal to Tradition now!” No, He went deeper into Scripture and said, “It is written AGAIN…” (Matthew 4:5-7)

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The Catholic Church boasts that she is the sole authentic interpreter of the Word of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church #100), yet she has provided us with many teachings that contradict the Bible. Therefore, saying that we need the Catholic Church to interpret the Bible for us is like saying that we need the fox to guard the henhouse. Eternal souls are too precious to be put into the hands of, and be dependent upon, an organization who makes such sweeping claims, but cannot deliver the goods.

The gospel message that God has given us is not complex or hard to interpret. It is simply this: To enter Heaven, we need to believe / trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and not in a Church, organization, pope, good works, or anything else. Let’s not complicate something so simple, yet so important. To be sure, we don’t need the Catholic Church to interpret this for us.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


We stated in a previous post that the Catholic Church’s dependence on the church fathers to prove the truth of a particular teaching raises more questions than answers. For example, exactly which of the early Christians were considered to be church fathers? How do we know for sure? Does the Catholic Church have an infallible list of these? How do we know that we are correctly interpreting a certain father when we read his writings? If we can correctly interpret the fathers, shouldn’t we also be able to correctly interpret the Scriptures? Why is it that some of the fathers contradict each other? Why do they sometimes contradict the Catholic Church? And how do we know that the “heretics” were not the real fathers and the ones believed to be “fathers” weren’t the real heretics? Can the Catholic Church answer any of these questions without using circular reasoning (e.g., saying the fathers are right because the Church says so, and the Church is right because the fathers say so)?

Although Catholics are quick to use the fathers as authoritative sources, someone may find it difficult to find an “official” statement by the Catholic Church that clearly defines exactly who the fathers are, and precisely what type of authority they hold. But it seems, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that the teachings of the fathers somehow tie in closely with Sacred Tradition (CCC #78; CCC #688). In fact, the fathers of the Church are said to be one of the “principal sources” in the creation of the Catholic Catechism (CCC #11). With this in mind, we must ask, “Are all the fathers’ teachings correct?” How do we know (again, without using circular reasoning)? The answer is simple…we compare their teachings with the Bible.

The Pope Has Spoken

But, according to a papal encyclical by Pope Pius XII, it is wrong to “judge the doctrine of the Fathers and of the Teaching Church by the norm of Holy Scripture, interpreted by the purely human reason of exegetes, instead of explaining Holy Scripture according to the mind of the Church which Christ Our Lord has appointed guardian and interpreter of the whole deposit of divinely revealed truth.” (“Humani Generis”, paragraph 22, August 12, 1950.)

In other words, according to the Catholic Church, we are not allowed to judge the teachings of the church fathers in light of Scripture without the “mind of the Church.” But the “mind” of the Catholic Church clearly contradicts the Scriptures in many of its teachings, so its claim of being the “guardian and interpreter” of the “whole deposit” of truth is an empty and deceitful boast.

The Test

The Bible commands us to TEST ALL THINGS (I Thessalonians 5:21; I John 4:1), which would include the fathers, and we test them with the Scriptures, just as Jesus did (Matthew 15:1-9). No one’s teachings are exempt from this test, whether it’s the Catholic Church, a Protestant church, any church father, or any individual or group. We are all subject to God’s ultimate authority, the Scriptures, which will judge us in the last day (John 12:48). Even the teachings of the APOSTLES were to be tested (Acts 17:11), as well as those who claimed to be apostles (Revelation 2:2). And if we can test an angel from Heaven (Galatians 1:8-9), we can certainly test the church fathers.

What If…?

But, just for the sake of argument, what if there were a perfectly unanimous agreement between all the fathers on all their teachings and Scripture interpretations? Would even this prove that the fathers’ teachings are true? The answer is still no. It’s not the level of unity on a doctrine that proves its truthfulness, but it’s whether it lines up with God’s revelation…the Scriptures.

To demonstrate the point, what if every single father firmly believed in a particular false teaching? Would that kind of unity make the teaching true? Of course not. Someone may answer, “But God wouldn’t have let them believe in it if it were false.” But this answer is just an unprovable assumption.

Apostasy in the Early Church

Can we always trust the fathers? Is it possible that even a church father could fall into error or apostasy? Yes, indeed. Note that apostasy, in one form or another, has entered the church from earliest times. Although not a complete apostasy, it was nevertheless present in different degrees and in different places early on, even in the days of the apostles. Note what the Apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders:

28) Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

29) For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in AMONG YOU, not sparing the flock.

30) Also OF YOUR OWN SELVES shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)

Paul also dealt with the errors of the Judaizers in the early church era, in his epistle to the Galatians, and he dealt with Gnosticism in his epistle to the Colossians.

The Apostle John also had to deal with the false teachings of the Gnostics in the epistle of I John. Furthermore, the Lord Jesus pointed out, through John, the false teachings within two of the seven churches of Asia that needed to be dealt with. (Revelation 2:14-15, 20)

Now, this does NOT mean that the gates of Hell had prevailed over the church (Matthew 16:18), but only that some had fallen prey to false doctrine. So, there was no guarantee that a father would automatically be right. One’s position or ecclesiastical (church) office does not make his message true. His faithfulness to God’s Truth does. (John 17:17)

“Closer-in-Time” Proves Truth?


Being “closer” to the time of the apostles does not necessarily mean the fathers’ teachings had to be true. Just as the apostles sometimes had problems understanding Jesus, Himself, the students of the apostles no doubt also sometimes had trouble understanding the apostles. And so on, down the line. Error can, and did, creep into the church and led to more and more false teaching. But, if “closer-in-time” proves a teaching is true, then why did heretics exist during the time of the apostles? And if “farther-in-time” weakens the truth, then wouldn’t it be pretty hopeless for us today, since we are so far removed from the time of Jesus and the apostles? How could we know any truth today? Perhaps the likelihood of being correct in those days was greater, but proximity in time does not guarantee truth. The fact is, there was both truth AND error in their day, just as it is now. We don’t have living, infallible apostles today to keep us on track, but we do have infallible Scripture.


This does not necessarily follow. The New Testament speaks of men who were probably directly taught by apostles, yet were teaching false doctrine, like Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17-18). Worse yet, no doubt some had even stood in the very presence of Jesus Christ and claimed to be His disciples, and yet, misunderstood or misconstrued what He taught, and then went out and taught heresy. So, being in a line of students directly up to the apostles does not prove one’s doctrine. The Pharisees claimed a pedigree (lineage) from Abraham, but they didn’t do Abraham’s works or teach what Abraham taught (Matthew 3:7-9; Mark 7:6-8; John 8:39). Remember, these Pharisees were Jewish leaders to whom the oracles of God had been entrusted (Romans 3:2), just as the apostles had also been entrusted with the oracles of God. But this did not eliminate the possibility of error, abuse, or misunderstanding (even shortly) down the line. Once again, the teachings of the students of the apostles were true and accurate only in relation to their faithfulness to God’s Word.


First of all, we’re not saying that the teachings of the fathers are never to be trusted…they just all need to be tested before they’re accepted.

Secondly, longevity does not prove truth. Just because the Catholic Church has been around a long time doesn’t mean they’re right. The Hindus have been around for about five thousand years (more than twice as long as Christianity), but I don’t think that any reputable Catholic would say that the Hindus have more truth than Christianity does.

Thirdly, there is an extraordinary assumption in the above claim: that the modern day Catholic Church is the same church that existed in the first century, i.e., the church we find in the Bible. But how can the Catholic Church be that same one when many of its teachings are not found in the Bible, and oftentimes even contradict the Bible?

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, that was US back then, and we’re still here, doing and teaching the same things as then!” But the proof of the true church is in its faithfulness to Scripture. Catholics like to say, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” But if someone wants to see the historical church, the church of the Bible, and what THEY taught, why look so much to the fathers in the fourth, third, or second century, as many Catholics do? Why not go all the way back in history to the Author of Christianity, Jesus Christ Himself, i.e., to Him Whose words were infallible? What someone else SAID He taught does not override our responsibility to go directly to His Words in Scripture to see what He actually did teach.


The Pharisees and scribes were sharply rebuked by the Lord Jesus when they put their man-made traditions above God’s Word. And just as the Pharisees put too much trust in their “tradition of the elders” (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3), so do Catholics today when they look to the church fathers. Let us never embrace the words of the church fathers at the neglect of the words of the Heavenly Father. (Matthew 6:26)

Please understand, we are in no way attempting to belittle the church fathers. They had good and valuable insight, their teachings were useful and informative, and they were important to the church. But we are trying to avoid the over-emphasis of their importance. Some of them were more important than others, and they had different levels of authority and recognition. But the fathers were human, just like you and me. They sometimes disagreed with each other, contradicted each other, changed their minds on certain things, and sometimes even fell into heresy.

Were the church fathers great men of God? We believe that most of them probably were. Were they good role models? Again, we believe that probably the majority of them were good Christian examples. But the real question is, “Were their teachings INFALLIBLE?” And the answer is no. Therefore, let us hold on to that which IS God-breathed and infallible, God’s Word, the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and let us use that as our Standard to test every teaching that comes our way.