Ten Reasons Why I Will Never Go To Rome

  For the past eight years or so, I’ve had the opportunity to read, study, and observe the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  Most specifically, I’ve read extensively from The Catechism of the Catholic Church and The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent.  Having studied these resources, I have thought of many reasons why I believe Rome is unbiblical and why I will never go there.  I thought it might be helpful to give our readers citations along with ten of my reasons why I am a Reformed Protestant and not a Roman Catholic (though I do have more reasons than ten).  I will never go to Rome because:

1) …I will not have my conscience bound by man or man’s decrees.  Rome binds consciences beyond the Word by teaching that the dogmas of the Church’s Magisterium “oblige” adherence (Catechism, p. 33, 548).  I believe that God alone is Lord of the conscience and that it can only be bound by his Word (Westminster Confession of Faith 20.2).

2) …I will never submit to a Pope.  Rome teaches that the pope is “pastor of the entire Church” and has “full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (Catechism, p. 254).   However, Scripture teaches there is no other head of the church besides Christ (WCF 25.6).

3) …I refuse to pray to Mary or have her for a mediator or helper.  Rome teaches that Christians should pray “to” Mary; “we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself” (Catechism, p. 704ff).   The first commandment, however, teaches us not to pray to or confide in any creature (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 94).

4) …Rome anathematized the gospel of free grace. “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone…let him be anathema” (Canons of Trent, 43).  Scripture, however, teaches that God justifies ungodly sinners by faith alone, completely apart from works (see HC Q/A 60-61).

5) …I believe the church is under the Word, not beside or above it.  Rome teaches that Scripture is not the highest authority in faith and life.  Rome says “both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (Catechism, p. 31).  However, Scripture teaches that it alone is authoritative and sets forth perfect and complete doctrine for salvation and life (see Belgic Confession of Faith article 7).

6) …I do not believe that salvation is losable.  The Council of Trent said that true faith can be lost and one can forfeit the grace of justification (Canons of Trent, 38-40).  But God’s Word teaches that Christ will never let go of his sheep and that nothing can separate the elect from God’s love in Christ (WCF 17.1).

7) …I do not believe the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice.  Rome’s catechism teaches that in the Eucharist “the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever-present…the Eucharist is also a sacrifice…because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross….” (Catechism, p.380).  Scripture, however, teaches that the body of our Lord ascended into heaven where he now is; therefore the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of his death, a participation in it, and a reminder of it (WLC Q/A 168-170).

8) …I am not convinced that baptism itself effects the forgiveness of sins.  According to Rome, “by baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sins” (Catechism, p. 353).  On the other hand, Scripture teaches that baptism is a sign and seal that points us to Jesus’ blood and the Holy Spirit’s work, which alone can wash away sin and effect its forgiveness (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 72-73).

9) …Purgatory is an unbiblical doctrine.  Rome says that Christians who die in an imperfect state “undergo purification” after death “to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism, p. 291).  Scripture teaches differently.  Scripture teaches that in Christ a Christian has all he or she needs to enter the joy of heaven, since he is our holiness, sanctification, and righteousness (WLC Q/A 85).

10) …Rome’s many superstitions lead people away from Jesus.  Rome’s icons, images, saints, indulgences, mysticism, and repetitious prayers often lead people into a vortex of idolatry.  For example, Rome teaches that dead saints “do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth….” (Catechism, p. 271).  Scripture, however, teaches us to stay away from superstitions and myths while standing firm only on apostolic truth, which has Christ as its center (WCF 22.7).

In case you were wondering, I cited Reformed Creeds/Confessions rather than Scripture texts.  The reason for this is simple: if you look up those confessional references, they will give you numerous Scripture citations.  Rather than me list dozens of Scripture texts, you can read the summaries in the Reformed Creeds/Confessions and look up the Scripture for yourself.

Also if you’re interested, I recommend R. C. Sproul’s book, Are We Together?  Finally, Andrew and I have both studied and critiqued other parts of Roman Catholic theology here on the blog, which you can find using the search bar.

rev. shane lems

sunnyside wa

23 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why I Will Never Go To Rome”

  1. I too have read Sproul’s book “Are we together?”, and the answer is, as you have clearly illustrated here, a resounding no! Timely post. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Timely. I’ve been bemused by the number of evangelicals going gaga over the Papal conclave and today’s announcement. I wish the new Pope well, but for the reasons cited here I remain a convinced Protestant.

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  3. I am not going to cross the Tiber either – actually, I went to seminary in Rome a stone’s throw away from the Vatican – emphasis on “stone”!

    Still, I would also warn against falling into the sin against the Holy Spirit. That is, the Holy Spirit continues to blow where it will, within the Catholic Church as much as within the Protestant churches. Such facts might well impact the way we engage in polemics.

    Moreover, Shane, I have always admired your all-out commitment to the magisterium of your church: the Westminster Confession of Faith as interpreted by the divines of your denomination. That would be my first comment: your point #1 comes right back at you.

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    1. Dear new reader, not only is the Roman Catholic Church Christian, she is the *original* Christian Church. The one Jesus built. The RCC is also the one which, sadly, everyone else broke off from. But then again, that was predicted (Matthew 24:11)

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  4. […] Ten Reason Why I Will Never Go to Rome — Rev. Shane Lems has put together 10 reasons why we can never agree with Rome using their own statements about what they believe. He has studied the Catechism of the Catholic Church and The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, so he is not speaking off the cuff. He shows us that no matter how theological this pope may be, he is not someone we can ever agree with theologically because the magisterium of Rome is the authority of Rome, not the Scriptures alone. Here are the first four reasons: […]

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  5. 1) …I will not have my conscience bound by man or man’s decrees. Like the way American Evangelicals let the wider culture and the prejudices of their 1800s forebears dictate their attitudes about alcoholic beverages? Whether it’s even “sinful” or not, Fundies will still insist teetotaling is the “best choice” for Christians in the contemporary USA. Talk about binding your conscience with man-made traditions…
    2) …I will never submit to a Pope. Sure, you can be your own pope. Just interpret Scripture on your own, without any guidance or outside teaching (like the Ethiopian treasurer in Acts 8, right? Oh, wait…) And surely the Holy Spirit will lead you to the same conclusions and fullness of Truth as every other Protestant individual & sect out there. A miraculously unified testimony! Isn’t that what’s played out over the past 500 years of history? Hmm…
    3) …I refuse to pray to Mary or have her for a mediator or helper. Why? Her last recorded words in Scripture—the summit of her ministry, one might say—was pointing to Jesus and telling them, “Do whatever He tells you.” Do you also refuse to look to her as the unparalleled example of humility and obedience to God? Maybe some Protestant woman did it better…educate me!
    4) …Rome anathematized the gospel of free grace. According to the CCC, grace is a free and undeserved gift from God. But to say faith alone—without showing any kind of fruit whatsoever—gets you into Heaven? C’mon, are there any serious Protestants who functionally believe this in their dealings with each other, other than carnal/liberal antinomians?
    5) …I believe the church is under the Word, not beside or above it. You’re mistaken. Rome teaches that Scripture is the authoritative, inerrant Word of God. Tradition merely interprets & conveys it to us in a way that prevents the confusion and chaos of 500+ different Protestant sects (see response to #2).
    6) …I do not believe that salvation is losable. Christ gives us the grace to obey, and sustains us in faith. But we’re still moral agents with a capacity to choose. If you walk away from God and never come back, deny your saving knowledge of Him and live as if He wasn’t there, do you really think it’s going to matter on Judgment Day that you “got saved” umpteen years ago and recited the Sinner’s Prayer?
    7) …I do not believe the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice. Interesting how conservative Protestants always insist on the literal sense of Scripture being primary—everywhere except the words of Jesus Himself recorded in John 6. “Oh noooo!” you protest. “No way. Not that. That’s only figurative, metaphorical, allegorical, symbolic…”
    8) …I am not convinced that baptism itself effects the forgiveness of sins. According to Rome, “by baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sins” (Catechism, p. 353). This is also according to St. Peter, an Apostle and Divinely inspired Scripture writer (1 Peter 3:21). But then again, maybe his teaching doesn’t carry as much weight since he was also a Pope.
    9) …Purgatory is an unbiblical doctrine. No, it’s not. It is found, along with intercessory prayer from the saints, in the OT book of 2 Maccabees. Of course, if you’re using a decimated version of the Bible from which Martin Luther etal. decided to chuck the books that contradicted their doctrinal innovations, you wouldn’t know that. Now you do.
    10) …Rome’s many superstitions lead people away from Jesus. Evangelicalism’s buzzwords, cliquish subculture, condescension toward everyone on the outside, commoditization of faith, cult-of-personality pastors, separatism from things like secular music & movies, and repetitious “praise n’ worship” songs never lead people into a vortex of idolatry or self-righteousness at all, do they?

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    1. Tony: for the record, I’m not an American evangelical, as you can see from scores of other posts on the blog.

      Also, because of your overly sarcastic tone, the points you were trying to make were quite lost in the rhetoric.

      shane

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      1. Right, I get that you’re Reformed and not broadly Evangelical. But do those distinctions really hold up when you’ve got high-profile “Reformed” people like Piper, Mohler, Mahaney and MacArthur espousing elements of the generic-Evangelical body of teachings? More confusion…

        And while I probably should work on toning down my sarcasm, is the dogmatism of your original 10 points (“Rome is just WRONG!”) any less offensive?

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  6. Hello, Henry!

    Never more to Rome, eh? I think there’s a song in there somewhere.

    I wonder whether anyone has explained how Mary and the saints manage to hear prayers from anyone, anywhere.

    And Tony, the RCC wasn’t built by Jesus, it was built by the Romans. That’s what the R means.

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  7. Tony does not dialogue but merely monologues. Tony thus stands-over Shane rather than understands him. Just like the Pharisees, Tony stands over Shane on his high-horse soap box and thus speaks down at Shane telling him what he believes by wrongly twisting his words into something other than the authorial intent of Shane’s words. Rather than correcting Shane Tony thus confirms Shane’s theological wisdom that is based on a gospel-centered perception of reality rather than seeing reality via an earthy institution (as did the Pharisees).

    Tony should have thus read, e.g., Kevin Vanhoozer’s, Is There a Meaning in This Text, before commenting on Shane’s post. Tony demonstrates not an “understanding” of Shane’s text; Rather, Tony demostrates what Vanhoozer calls an “over-standing” of Shane’s text. Specifically, Tony’s “review” (read: re-construal) lacks what Vanhoozer calls, “interpretive virtues.” By this term Vanhoozer presents a solid case that true understanding requires the reader to first “stand under” the text and thus make every effort, not to “stand over” the author’s text in order to rewrite the author’s intended meaning into one’s personal concerns/views, but rather to employ diligent care in order to faithfully represent the primary authorial intent embedded within the text before adding one’s critique. Clearly, Tony thus “stands over” Shane’s authorial intent by “using” the text to promote his personal ideology rather than taking care to first represent faithfully Shane’s (primary) intended meaning before adding his critique (which is very misguided on many levels).

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      1. A river pours out of the Vatican? Yes–a river of easily-swayed, poorly catechized people, ignorant of the Faith, just like I was when I foolishly left Rome for Protestantism several years ago.

        A trickle of converts from Reformed Protestantism to Catholicism? Yes–a trickle of theologically savvy, Biblically literate, highly educated people, including many pastors who’ve wrestled with all the deeper issues and in many cases, sacrificed greatly to make that “swim” across the Tiber.

        Wonder why that could be…

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    1. Not over-standing anything, Alex. I’ve been on both sides of this “divide”–pridefully left Catholicism when I wasn’t very well-versed in Scripture and hadn’t even picked up the Catechism.

      I know how this whole Reformed camp thinks. I was in the PCA. I know how important it is for Calvinists to think they’re *right*! Hence the massive body of polemical literature, from Calvin’s Institutes to the Westminster Standards, systematizing theology into an exact science–and displaying minimal humility or humanity along the way.

      Of all the pressing issues facing our broken, hurting world today, the PCA is currently in the fight of its life over such important things as… Intinction? BioLogos?? I would be ROFL if it weren’t just so darn sad.

      The more Scripture one reads (and I’ve now read the whole 66-book canon), along with the historic testimony of Church fathers and saints thru the ages, the clearer it becomes that Jesus did indeed establish His kingdom here on earth, has remained with it, and has not allowed the gates of Hell to prevail against it. This would be the same kingdom–the Church–to which He gave Peter the Keys.

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  8. Shane,

    I took the liberty of compiling the Scripture references for each point of you argument.

    1. I will not have my conscience bound by man or man’s decrees.

    James 4:12; Rom. 14:4; Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29; 1 Cor. 7:23; Matt. 23:8,9,10; 2 Cor. 1:24; Matt. 15:9; Col. 2:20,22,23; Gal. 1:10; Gal. 2:4,5; Gal. 5:1; Rom. 10:17; Rom. 14:23; Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11; John 4:22; Hos. 5:11; Rev. 13:12,16,17; Jer. 8:9

    2. I will never submit to a Pope.

    Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22; Matt. 23:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:3,4,8,9; Rev. 13:6

    3. I refuse to pray to Mary or have her for a mediator or helper.

    Ex. 34:28,29; Deut. 4:13; 10:3,4; 1Cor. 6:9,10; 10:7,14; Lev. 18:21; Deut. 18:10-12; Mat. 4:10; Rev. 19:10; John 17:3; Jer. 17:5,7

    4. Rome anathematized the gospel of free grace.

    Rom. 1:17; 3:9, 22, 24, 25; 4:4, 5;5:1; 7:23; John 3:36; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9; Tit. 3:5; Eph 2:8,9; 2Cor. 5:19, 21; 1John 2:1; 5:10; John 3:18; Psa. 16:2; 1Cor. 1:30; 2:2

    5. I believe the church is under the Word, not beside or above it.

    2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:10-12. 2. 1 Cor. 15:2; 1 Tim. 1:3. 3. Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Acts 26:22; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev 22:18-19. 4. Psalm 19:7; John 15:15; Acts 18:28; Acts 20:27; Rom. 15:4. 5. Mark 7:7-9; Acts 4:19; Col. 2:8; 1 John 2:19. 6. Deut. 4:5-6; Isa. 1:20; 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 4:4-6; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Tim. 3:14-15.

    6. I do not believe that salvation is losable.

    Phil. 1:6; 2 Pet. 1:10; John 10:28,29; 1 John 3:9; 1 Pet. 1:5,9

    7. I do not believe the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice.

    Heb. 9:22, 25, 26, 28; 7:23,24,27; 10:11,12,14,18

    8. I am not convinced that baptism itself effects the forgiveness of sins.

    Mat. 3:11; 1John 1:7; 1Cor. 6:11

    9. Purgatory is an unbiblical doctrine.

    Heb. 12:23; 2 Cor. 5:1,6,8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 23:43

    10. Rome’s many superstitions lead people away from Jesus.

    2 Thess. 2:3, 4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; Matt. 15:7-9; Titus 1:14; Rev. 22:18

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  9. My old friend John Hobbins (who hasn’t been blogging much lately!) has hit the nail squarely on the head with his comment. It perfectly contextualizes points #2-10.

    After 20 years of biblical studies with a heavy dose of theology and Church history along the way, my wife and I took our family into the Roman Catholic Church a year ago. After so many years of watching Protestants smack each other over the head with their Luthers, Calvins, Zwinglis, Pipers, Bells, and whatnot, not to mention such arrogance that they all understand Scripture so well (though no one can seem to agree), it’s been a year of sweet bliss, and I look forward to many more years of such.

    I almost hate to write it, because it sounds so hackneyed, but Scott Hahn’s quite right with his sentiment, Rome sweet Home. I do hope you make it to Rome at some point.

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