Apologetics for the Masses #433 - What Do Catholics Believe, From a Protestant (Part 2)

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Dismantling a Protestant's Skewed View of Catholicism

General Comments

Hey folks,

Two things:

1) The third video in my "Accessible Apologetics" series for the Apologetics Institute of the Office of Evangelization is now available online.  It's titled: Whose Bible Is it?  You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3462mFaXf3o

If you like it, please send the link to friends and family...especially non-Catholic family and friends.  Maybe you'll plant a seed...

2) For those of you who contacted me to let me know that you own a business or are a CEO or some similar ranking officer in one, I will get back with you sometime in the next few weeks.  Still trying to iron out some details regarding this project I mentioned to see if it is viable or not.  So stay tuned...


     In the issue I sent out a couple of weeks ago - Apologetics for the Masses #431 - I gave you a homework assignment.  I wanted you to look over what Lisa Loraine Baker, a Protestant, wrote about Catholic teaching in her article, What Do Catholics Believe?  I wanted you to sharpen your ability to spot false assumptions, misconceptions, contradictions, and outright lies about Catholic teaching that are all too often believed as authentic Catholic teaching. 

     In this issue of the newsletter, I'm going to analyze/dissect what Lisa Lorraine Baker had to say about Catholic teaching in her article.  If I can find an email address for her, I'll send her a copy of this newsletter and see what she has to say, if anything, about it.  It's annoying when someone writes an article like this, which displays such ignorance of Catholic teaching, when with just the slightest bit of research they could have found out that a lot of what they think the Catholic Church teaches, isn't actually taught by the Catholic Church.  It's annoying, because we have this thing called the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" - that tells people what Catholics believe and teach - which pretty much anyone with even a high school education can find easily accessible.  Their ignorance could be easily dispelled if they would put just the slightest bit of effort into actually doing research on the subject matter they write/talk about.

     Unfortunately, though, I have come across a number of Protestants who do not want to know the truth or do not care about the truth in regard to Catholic teaching.  If what they are telling people about the Catholic Church is false, they don't really care, because when it comes to getting people out of the Catholic Church, the end ("converting" Catholics) justifies the means (lying and misrepresentation).  I would hope that Lisa Loraine Baker would not be one such Protestant and that, if informed of her mistakes, she would retract her statements and apologize for them.  Maybe we'll have the chance to see...

     I'll look at about the first half of the article this issue, and then the rest of it in the next issue.  I hope you enjoy.


What Do Catholics Believe?
by Lisa Loraine Baker
Contributing Writer
2021, 1 Dec


What Do Catholics Believe?

The beliefs of different Christian denominations throughout history have caused everything from minor skirmishes involving distinctives of the faith (how often to partake in communion, etc.) to major battles over non-negotiable doctrines (the Bible is God’s Word, infallible and inspired by Him. Salvation is in Jesus alone, etc.). Though Catholics and Protestants share some parallel beliefs, there are some non-negotiables as outlined below. The relationship has softened, but life-changing differences remain.

The Apostles' Creed denotes the whole Christian church as the holy catholic church. In this sense, the word, catholic, refers to the universal, true Christian Church of all times and all places. For the purpose of clarification, we will use the phrase, Roman Catholic(s) to refer to those who adhere to present-day Catholic doctrine.


My Response

     The first thing I want to note is in regard to her statement: "The beliefs of different Christian denominations throughout history...".  There haven't been "different Christian denominations throughout history"!  Christian "denominations" have only existed since the 16th century when the Protestant Deformation began.  And, no, that is not a misprint.  What the Protestants call the "Reformation" did not, in fact, "reform" the Church.  In reality, it deformed the Church.  The Deformation led to the tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of Protestant denominations - i.e., divisions - within Christianity that we have today.  In other words, her opening sentence makes no sense because "Christian denominations" have not existed "throughout history".  They have existed for the last 500 years of history.

     The next thing to note is her reference to "non-negotiable doctrines".  Which means she must think there are negotiable doctrines.  I have always found such thinking fascinating.  For Protestants, who believe in Sola Scriptura, doctrines originate in the Bible.  So, which parts of the Bible are "negotiable" as opposed to being "non-negotiable"?  Or, as it is often framed: essential vs. non-essential doctrine.  But, that begs the question: Who gets to decide if a doctrine is essential or non-essential?  Non-negotiable or negotiable?  Who in Protestantism has the authority to decide such matters?  Or, is there a table in the Bible that tells us which doctrines are essential vs. those that are non-essential?  Which parts of the Word of God are essential, and which parts are non-essential?

     Next, I would ask Lisa Loraine Baker the following: How do you know the Bible that you have is "infallible and inspired by Him [God]"?  Upon whose authority do you rely for this belief?  Yes, in 2 Timothy 3:16 it says that "All Scripture is inspired by God".  But, how do you know what is or is not Scripture?  How do you know that 2 Timothy is Scripture?  Does is somewhere say in the Bible, "2 Timothy is inspired Scripture"?  Is there a line, for example, in the Gospel of Mark that says, "The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are inspired Scripture?"  Whose authority does she rely upon to know that the Bible she has, with all the books in it, is inspired Scripture? 

     My last comment on this section of her article will be focused on the 2nd paragraph.  This thing about "...the word, catholic" referring to "the universal, true Christian Church of all times and all places".  She is correct, although not necessarily in the way she means it.  The word "catholic" does indeed refer to the "universal, true Christian Church of all times and all places."  Which means, unfortunately for her, that there are no Protestant churches or denominations that can be "the universal, true Christian Church," since no Protestant church or denomination has existed in all times and all places of Christianity for the last 2000 years.  Again, Protestantism is a 500-yr. old phenomenon - a 500-yr. old source of division - in Christianity.  So, her starting point for the article - her underlying assumptions - are a bit off.  Well, actually, more than a bit off.


Lisa Loraine Baker

Major Beliefs of Roman Catholics

Baptism is required for salvation: The Bible clearly says we are saved by grace alone, not works (Ephesians 2:4-9). To claim baptism is necessary or a prerequisite for salvation is a false teaching. Roman Catholics believe God imparts His saving grace through physical means (such as baptismal water and communion). The clergy are believed to have the God-given authority to facilitate such rituals Their ceremony (in the dominion of grace) purifies an infant from original sin, restores, and integrates the child into Christ and His Church.


My Response

     We are indeed saved by grace alone.  Only by the grace of God can we come to believe in Him and be saved.  However, exactly how is it that grace is initially applied to our lives?  The Catholic Church says through Baptism and because of this Baptism is indeed required for salvation.  And guess what?  The Bible agrees (1 Peter 3:20-21; Titus 3:4-7; John 3:3-5; and elsewhere).  Which means Lisa Loraine Baker is wrong when she says this teaching of the Church is a "false teaching". 

     Furthermore, I have to ask: By what authority does she make the claim that Catholic teaching on Baptism is a "false teaching"?  That claim is based on nothing more than her fallible interpretation of Scripture.  Well, I disagree with her fallible interpretation of Scripture.  As do a billion or so other Catholics.  As do Christians "throughout history" and of "all times and all places".  What gives her the right to tell me what I believe is wrong?  Where is her name listed in the Bible that I may believe she has authority over me? 

     At least she got the part about the effects of Baptism - purifies from original sin, restores and integrates the [baptized] into Christ and His Church.  Although, "restores" isn't really the right word because you can't "restore" what you didn't have in the first place.  A better word might be establishes - as in establishes a covenantal relationship with Christ and His Church.  In addition, she left out the part about how Baptism forgives personal sin (Acts 2:38) as well as Original Sin, but she seems focused entirely on infant Baptism and infants have no personal sin. 


Lisa Loraine Baker

The reverence of Mary: Roman Catholics give Mary (the mother of Jesus) an exalted position as mediator between man and God, and they pray to her. Scripture says, “For there is one God, and there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Mary is also said to have been conceived in her mother’s womb in the normal way but born without original sin. Catholic tradition adds she also lived a sin-free life. Romans 3:23 refutes this, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22). Mary is not to be given special sinless status, for only Jesus lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15).


My Response

     Yes, Roman Catholics give Mary an exalted position - as the sinless Mother of God, and as our mother - but not an exalted position "as mediator between God and man," at least, not in the way that she means it.  Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Vatican Council II, says about Mary's role:

     "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power.  But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men...flows forth from the superabuncance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it."  (Paragraph #970)

     That is pretty clear language that tells anyone interested in looking into what the Catholic Church actually teaches, that Mary can do nothing of her own power and authority.  Rather, all that she is able to do, "depends entirely" on the "unique" mediation of Christ.  Furthermore, Lisa's understanding of the terminology regarding Catholics "praying to" Mary is obviously woefully lacking.  We do not "pray to" Mary as if she was somehow divine and could hear our prayers on her own apart from Christ.  When we say we "pray to" Mary, and the other saints, we are, essentially, saying that we are asking them for their prayers.  Just as Lisa Loraine Baker has asked for prayers from members of the Body of Christ on Earth, so we ask for prayers from the members of the Body of Christ in Heaven. 

     As for her comments about Mary and Original Sin, she is apparently ignorant (that's a surprise!) of the teaching on the Immaculate Conception.  Mary was indeed conceived in "the normal way," in human terms, but it was anything but normal in the fact that, through a special grace from God, she was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. 

     She then trots out the standard Protestant "proof" that Mary did not live a sinless life - Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  Well, what about Romans 5:18-19 which substitutes "many" for "all" from one verse to the next?  So, is "all" an absolute, or does it just mean "many"?  If it is an absolute, then if we ask Lisa Loraine Baker if she is seeking God, what do you think she would say?  Of course she's seeking God she would reply.  In which case, we would have to call her a liar, because Romans 3:11 says, "No one seeks for God."  If "all" is an absolute in verse 23, then "no one" is an absolute in verse 11, and in verse 12 where it says "no one does good".  Yet, Scripture is filled with examples of people doing good.  Is Scripture contradicting itself?  Is Lisa Loraine Baker not seeking God?  Or, perhaps, is Lisa's fallible interpretation of Scripture once again resulting in a faulty understanding of the Word of God?

     Also, she cites Hebrews 4:15 as scriptural evidence that "only Jesus lived a sinless life".  Yet, nowhere in that verse, or any other verse in Hebrews, or the rest of the Bible, does it say, "only Jesus lived a sinless life".  She is reading something into the words of Scripture that just isn't there.  Plus, in Luke 1 it says that the parents of John the Baptist were "righteous before God, walking in all [there's that word again] the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," (verse 6).  If "all" is an absolute, then it sounds like Elizabeth and Zechariah just might have been sinless.  Plus, in verse 15, it seems that Scripture is saying John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life.  Can one sin if he is filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life? 

     Finally, I have to say, that it is incredibly sad that Protestants do not give "Mary (the mother of Jesus)" an "exalted position"...at all!  The woman who is the daughter of the Father, the mother of the Son, and the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  I.e., the woman who has the most unique relationship with the Trinity that has ever been or will ever be.  The woman who bore the God-Man in her womb for 9 months.  The woman upon whom God the Father Himself bestowed the incredible honor of bearing His Son.  Again, incredibly sad...for them.


Lisa Loraine Baker

Purgatory: According to the Oxford Language Dictionary, purgatory is defined as, (in Roman Catholic doctrine), a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are atoning for their sins before going to heaven.” How are their sins removed? By praying for the dead. Protestants believe as long as a person has breath, there is a chance to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Once dead, all chances are lost, for a saved person goes to paradise (Luke 23:43) and an unsaved person goes to hell (Matthew 25:31-46; Hebrews 9:27). The gospel is Christ’s completed work plus nothing, including purgatory (Galatians 2:16; 3:5-6).


My Response

     Again, incredible ignorance of Catholic teaching on display here for all to see. She thinks Catholic teaching on Purgatory is, essentially, saying that one can "accept Jesus as Lord and Savior" in Purgatory, after they have died.  In other words, that Purgatory is a 2nd chance for salvation.  A 2nd chance for an "unsaved person" to become a "saved person".  Sorry, but no, it's not.  If a person dies in a state of mortal sin (unsaved, in Protestant parlance), then they are destined for Hell for all of eternity.  They do not get to go to Purgatory for a 2nd chance or any such thing.  Even the definition of Purgatory that she cites from the Oxford Language Dictionary (instead of the Catechism of the Catholic Church) says nothing about the "unsaved" being in Purgatory.  Ignorance is easy folks, it doesn't require a lot of work on people's parts.  Why would you quote from the Oxford Dictionary on something like this? 

     Nothing to really dissect here, because she is just flat out got it wrong.  I'm not going to make a counter-argument against a bogus argument other than to say that this just shows the lack of pretty much any kind of substantive research for her article.  It's pathetic. 


Lisa Loraine Baker

Indulgences: Are a payment to the church (the pope) for the forgiveness of sins via certain pilgrimages, building construction, or payments. This is a major sticking point for Protestants, for Jesus is the only One who can forgive sins by His grace. The work of salvation is done by Him. Our choice is to accept His work (Romans 6:23) and daily deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24).

In the book of Acts, a sorcerer named Simon sought to buy the power of the Holy Spirit when he witnessed Peter and John laying hands on people to receive Him (the Holy Spirit). Peter and John soundly rebuked him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:20-23). This passage deals with the gifting of the Holy Spirit, but forgiveness of sins is bound up within Him.


My Response

     Once more, her ignorance of Catholic teaching is on full display here: "Indulgences are a payment" of money to the church/pope for the forgiveness of sins, she says.  First of all, indulgences have nothing to do with the forgiveness of sin.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (Paragraph #1471): "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven," (emphasis mine).  An indulgence has to do with the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, not the forgiveness of eternal punishment incurred by sin.  Furthermore, an indulgence has nothing to do with paying money to anyone.  When it comes to an indulgence, it could be said that instead of paying money for something, one is receiving from the treasury of the Church - the spiritual treasury - the merits of Christ before God.  It's almost as if she is getting all of her information from reading some tract on indulgences published by Jack Chick or some other such fundamentalist anti-Catholic stereotype of Catholic teaching. 

     And, again, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoting Scripture): "Only God forgives sins," (Paragraph #1441).  So, yes, Catholics believe that "only Jesus" can forgive sins.  However, just as Jesus utilizes men to physically heal others - by His power and grace - so He utilizes men (the priests) to spiritually heal others - by His power and grace.  One more time, indulgences are not about the forgiveness of sin, they are about the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin.  So that passage she quotes from Acts about Simon the sorcerer has absolutely no relevance to Catholic teaching on indulgences.

     I'll stop here for now and finish this up in the next issue. 

Closing Comments

If anyone happens to know Lisa Loraine Baker, please let me know.  I would love to send her a copy of this newsletter, as well as a copy of the Catechism, and see how she responds.  Is she an honest, albeit ignorant, seeker of the truth who is willing to admit when she gets something wrong?  Or is she just another run-of-the-mill anti-Catholic?


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Apologetics for the Masses