(Continued from page 276)Baptism is necessary for salvation?
Keeping 'The Commandments' is essential for salvation?
You write: 'Jesus taught very clearly that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but Fundamentalists just consider Baptism to be optional.'
TCE: Where did Jesus make a statement that 'Baptism is necessary for salvation'? There are certainly many Scriptures that have been mis-interpreted by cults to try and teach this Papal dogma, e.g., John 3:5 in which Jesus says to Nicodemus:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
If we take verses 5 and 6 together and read the passages in context, it is clear that our Lord is talking about physical birth and spiritual birth. The spiritual new birth can only take place if one has first been born physically. Nicodemus understood what Jesus was saying about the physical birth, for he states:
How can a man be born when he Is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (John 3:4)
We all recognise that the birth of a child is described by Jesus' words 'born of water.' Babies are literally born in water. The first birth is physical, the second is spiritual. Unless a man is born again - born spiritually - he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Notice that the word baptism isn't even mentioned here by Jesus. Baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation because Christ's blood saves us, not water (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 3:21). Also, baptism is something we do, a work, and Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it clear that salvation is a free gift - not something we can earn - and only afterwards can we do the good works which are pleasing to God but which pay absolutely no part in our salvation. If works played any part in our salvation then it would not be described as a gift in Scripture. Do you want to try and insult God by offering to pay Him for the gift He has given you? Would you dream of insulting anyone on earth by thanking them for the nice gift they had just presented to you - and then offering to pay them for it?
Baptism of the believer should be performed as a sign that the convert has made the decision to put their trust in Christ, the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world, but it cannot do anything to help us gain salvation. If baptism was utterly essential for salvation, then there is no way that the thief on the cross could have entered Paradise with Christ that very day (Luke 23:43) because clearly, by his own admission, he deserved to die and obviously had no faith in Christ prior to his agonising suffering alongside the Saviour. Therefore the record shows that he was not baptised, had done no good works subsequent to accepting Christ as Saviour, did not belong to any church and had merely thrown himself totally on the mercy of the Saviour God. This is the Magnificent Saviour God, and the Great Gospel of Salvation through Grace Alone that orthodox evangelical Christians believe in!
To say baptism is absolutely essential is to deny the many passages that show works are not a requirement for salvation. Those who believe in salvation by works also use 1 Peter 3:20-21 to support their claim that you must be baptized to enter heaven:
Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.
What they fall to realize is that the last half of verse 21 makes everything clear:
Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh [which is what water does], but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the context of baptism, it is important to note that it was Noah and his family who were dry and stayed alive - the wet ones died outside the protection of the ark!
You may think that Acts 2:38 proves you must be baptized in order to be saved:
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The disagreement between orthodox Christian theology and Papal theology stems from the use of the word for in this verse. Papists (and others) claim Peter taught the act of baptism grants remission of sins. This is where the error of taking one verse and ignoring all others to create a doctrine is shown to be in error, for the Bible clearly states that it is only the blood of Christ that cleanses from sin, not the water of baptism:
In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:14)
But if we walk In the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
The Greek text from which for is translated in Acts 2:38 uses the word eis. Pronounced 'ace,' the word in this context means 'in view of,' 'with a view', or 'because of.' You are not baptized to receive forgiveness, but rather because you have already been forgiven.
This same Greek word is translated 'at' in Matthew 12:41:
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas....
The Ninevites did not repent 'to get' the preaching of Jonas, but rather 'because of' the preaching of Jonas.
Another verse misused by believers in works-baptism-righteousness is Mark 16:16:
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
To fully support the idea that one must be baptized to be saved, the verse would have to read: 'He that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned.' Since it does not read this way it is poor exegesis to assume it does mean this. There are many Scriptures to support the idea that unbelief brings damnation, not a lack of baptism and, of course, the clear example of the death of the 'thief on the cross' proves that simple belief in Christ brings salvation, not any work-sacraments!
The Word (Jesus, John 1:1) cleanses us, not water baptism:
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3)
That He might sanctify and cleanse it [the church] with the washing of water by the word. (Ephesians 5:26)
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5)
We are well aware of the Papal Roman Catholic distinction between 'justification by grace,' by which you mean 'only the first aspect of justification' or 'initial justification' - which is nowhere spoken of in the Bible! Though this view has it that justification begins by God's grace, it disguises a false doctrine by actually loading up works one must do in order to be saved. This grossly inaccurate aspect of Papal Roman Catholic theology teaches that the grace of justification can be gained and lost and gained and lost, on and on. It is therefore a conditional justification and means that committing a mortal sin virtually erases sanctifying and justifying grace from the soul. For a person who commits such a sin, the only remedy is to become 're-justified' through the sacrament of penance (another un-Scriptural device!)
The Bible teaches that justification is a once-for-all event based entirely on God's grace and received through faith alone. Scripture teaches that: 1) justification is a singular and instantaneous event; 2) justification involves a legal declaration by God; 3) justification is external to man; 4) justification is once-for-all; 5) justification is based on the work of Christ on the cross; 6) the result of justification is peace with God; 7) justification comes through faith alone; 8) justification is based entirely on God's grace; and 9) good works are a consequence of justification, not a condition of it.
The Bible portrays justification as a singular event in which God declares the believing sinner to be righteous. It is not based on performance or good works. It involves God's instantaneous pardoning of the sinner, declaring him or her to be absolutely righteous at the moment he or she trusts in Christ for salvation (see Romans 3:25,28,30; 8:33,34; Galatians 4:21-5:12; 1 John 1:7-2:2), hence our confidence that, like the thief on the cross, we can be certain of spending eternity in heaven with Christ.
Negatively, this word means that a person is once-for-all pronounced not guilty before God. Positively, the word means that a person is once-for-all pronounced righteous before God. The very righteousness of Christ is imputed (or credited) to the believer's life. From the moment a person places faith in Christ the Saviour, God sees that person through the lens of Christ's righteousness - He views us as if He were viewing His Son (in terms of righteousness!). This view is often referred to as 'forensic justification.' 'Forensic' comes from a Latin word meaning 'forum' which has its roots in the ancient Roman forum, where a court could meet and make judicial, or legal, declarations. Forensic justification, then, speaks of God's judicial declaration of the believer's righteousness before Him. The believer is legally acquitted of all guilt, and the very righteousness of Christ is imputed to his account. Henceforth, when God sees the believer, He sees him in all the righteousness of Christ.
Justification is external to man, and does not hinge on man's personal level of righteousness or on anything that man does. It hinges solely on God's declaration. Even while the person is still a sinner and is experientially not righteous, he is nevertheless righteous in God's sight because of forensic justification. This view of justification has support from the Old Testament. For example, in Deuteronomy 25:1 we read of judges who 'justify the unrighteous and condemn the wicked' (emphasis added). The word justify here clearly means 'declare to be righteous' just as condemn means 'declare to be guilty.' The word is used in a forensic sense here and elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Job 27:5 and Proverbs 17:15). When the apostle Paul (an Old Testament scholar par excellence) used the word justify in the Book of Romans, he did so against this Old Testament backdrop.
So, to use modern terminology, at the moment a person places personal faith in Christ, God makes an incalculable 'deposit' of righteousness into that person's personal 'spiritual bank account.' It is a once-for-all act on God's part and is irrevocable. It is a 'done deal' in modern parlance and cannot be lost (we discuss later whether it can be 'thrown away'!). God's pronouncement is final. This is the wonderful gift of salvation that the apostles, Church Fathers, and Reformers and pre-Reformers died for.
Justification is based solely on the work of Christ on the cross. God did not just subjectively decide to overlook man's sin or wink at his unrighteousness. Justification has an objective basis. Indeed, Jesus died on the cross for us. He died in our stead and paid for our sins. Jesus ransomed us from death by His own death on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21: 'God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God').
Martin Luther definitely understood this fact, for he wrote: 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You have become what You were not so that I might become what I was not.' But he so wished to emphasise the folly of his old Papal ways that he determined to stress that works were in no way part of salvation to the point where he encouraged Antinomianism (literally, 'against law') in his efforts to live by grace alone.
The result of justification is peace with God. Romans 5:1 states:
'Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'
Because there is peace between the Father and Jesus, there is also peace between the Father and believers, since believers are 'in Christ' (Romans 8:1). When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, God looks at us through the Lord Jesus Christ. He sees us in all absolute purity and holiness of His Son.
Scripture clearly teaches justification by faith in Christ alone (Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:6-14). God justifies 'the one who has faith in Jesus' (Romans 3:26). 'A man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law' (Romans 3:28). 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness' (Romans 4:3). 'Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1).
Justification is based entirely on God's grace. Romans 3:24 tells us that God's declaration of righteousness is given to believers 'freely by his grace'. The word grace literally means 'unmerited favour.' It is because of God's unmerited favor that believers can freely be 'declared righteous' before God. The Bible makes virtually no reference to 'sanctifying grace.' In the Bible, grace is quite simply grace - and it refers to the unmerited favor of God. 'Unmerited' means it cannot be worked for, but Papal Catholicism teaches that one must do meritorious works to earn grace. If grace is not free, though, it is not truly grace and Scripture makes this absolutely clear:
'If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace' (Romans 11:6).
Further, the idea that God's grace is repeatedly communicated to His people through 'sacraments' has no Biblical basis. God's grace is given to us not through ritual ceremonies but comes straight from Him to all who believe in the person of Jesus Christ:
'Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God' (Romans 5:1,2).
Contrary to Papal Roman Catholicism, merit plays no role in obtaining eternal life. From a Biblical perspective, opting for the merit system can only be bad, since all of us merit one thing-eternal death - as the Bible makes clear:
'For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 6:23).
We simply cannot do good works to earn favour with God. Rather, our favour with God comes only as a result of placing faith in Christ, after which time the Father sees us as being 'in Christ.' Experientially we may still be quite imperfect, but the Father sees us as having the very perfection of Christ since we are 'in Christ' (Romans 8:1). As a result of our relationship with Christ, and as a result of walking in dependence on the Spirit, good works are increasingly produced in our lives. Good works are the result of our relationship with Christ, not the source of it.
Psalm 130:3,4 makes this very clear: 'If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness'. This passage exemplifies grace. The phrase 'kept a record' referred, among the ancients, to keeping an itemized account. The point of the psalmist is that if God were keeping a detailed account of all our sins, there would be no way for us to have a relationship with Him. It would be impossible. The good news is that God does not keep such an itemized account but rather forgives those who trust in Christ.
True grace is sometimes hard for people to grasp. After all, our society is performance-oriented. Obtaining good grades in school depends on how well we perform in school. Climbing up the corporate ladder at work depends on how well we perform at work. In our society, nothing of any real worth is a 'free ticket.' But God's gift of salvation is a grace-gift. It is free! We cannot attain it by a good performance. Ephesians 2:8,9 affirms this:
'By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.'
Titus 3:5 affirms this truth that God:
'He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.'
By contrast, Romans 3:20 says that 'by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified [or declared righteous] in His sight' (insert added). In Galatians 2:16 the apostle Paul tells us that 'a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.'
We repeat - gifts cannot be worked for - only wages can be worked for as Romans 4:4-5 tells us:
'When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness'.
Since salvation is a free gift, it cannot be earned. I hope we are clear on this point for it is irrefutable.
Good works are a consequence of justification, not a condition for it. Good works are a by-product of salvation (Matthew 7:15-23; 1 Timothy 5:10,25). Good works result from the changed purpose for living that salvation brings (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). We are not saved by our works, but in order to do good works. We do works not to gain salvation, but because we have already gained it.
So at the end it all comes down to this simple choice - do you believe the clear teaching of the Bible given through inspired men such as the apostle Paul (Romans 3:20):
'by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified [or declared righteous] in His sight'
This is the reason that many churches are allowing believers to waive the baptismal rite - they accept that we are saved by grace, but have lost sight of the importance of baptism as a declaration of faith in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. They are clearly in error in this matter but, like the thief on the cross, still expect to receive their heavenly reward. On the other hand a Papal Roman Catholic seeks to obtain their justification by works which Scripture clearly declares to be in error. Who are you going to believe - the Bible or the errors of fallible popes past and present?
You write: 'When the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, Jesus replied, 'Keep the commandments,' a teaching that Catholics take seriously.'
TCE: Do all Catholics take these claims seriously - and is it even possible for them to keep all the commandments heaped upon them by the 'new Pharisees of Papal Rome'?
On page 78 we examined the reasons for the rise in ecumenism and gave examples of the ignorance of typical Catholics concerning salvation!
But do Papal Roman Catholics really believe that they take all the commandments seriously? We think not! In the Bible the word 'abomination' is a spiritual term associated with idolatry. God condemned Israel for the 'idols of thy abominations' (Ezekiel 16:36). Occult practices are also called abominations, along with illicit and perverted sex. The Biblical prohibition against making images for religious purposes and bowing down before them (and God's abhorrence of this pagan practice) is clearly set forth in the second of the Ten Commandments and in numerous other passages of Scripture. For example: 'Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image.., to bow down unto it.... Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the Lord' (Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 27:15). Yet Vatican II commends images in churches and says they are to be 'venerated by the faithful.' In Catholic churches and cathedrals around the world one sees the faithful on their knees in front of images of the 'saints' or 'Mary.'
The second of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Israel states: 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath.... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them' (Exodus 20:4,5; cf. Deuteronomy 5:8,9). How does the Roman Catholic Church get around this clear ban on bowing before idols and images? She doesn't just ignore it - she literally hides it from the people. The 'Ten Commandments' shown in Catholic catechisms leave out the second commandment prohibiting images and divide the last one, prohibiting covetousness, into two. It is a flagrant rejection of a clear command by God. Moreover, that rejection is dishonestly covered up by pretending the command doesn't exist. It is a deliberate deception practiced upon the members of the Church, most of whom know nothing of the Bible except what the clergy tell them.
When Emperor Leo III issued an edict from Constantinople calling for forcible baptism of Jews, he was praised. But when, in 726, he demanded that all images be broken, there was a great outcry from citizens and clergy. Pope Gregory II claimed that images were not worshipped but reverenced. The truth slipped out, however, in his letter to the emperor: 'But as for the statue of St. Peter himself, which all the kingdoms of the West esteem as a god on earth, the whole West would take a terrible revenge [if it were destroyed].'' A bloody war was fought around Ravena over this issue and a synod in Papal Rome excommunicated all who dared attack the images. Christians had not used images until Constantine became the de facto head of the Church. The door that was opened to paganism at that time has never been shut as Papal Rome attempted to accommodate the pagans joining it by retaining their idols under Christian names. That practice is still part of Santeria, voodoo, etc. today. Catholic apologists insist that veneration is not of the image itself but of the 'saint' it represents. Yet John Paul II openly promotes the pagan belief that images have power. A few years ago, at St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope declared:
A mysterious 'presence' of the transcendent Prototype seems as it were to be transferred to the sacred image ... The devout contemplation of such an image thus appears as a real and concrete path of purification of the soul of the believer.., because the image itself, blessed by the priest ... can in a certain sense, by analogy with the sacraments, actually be considered a channel of divine grace.'
The Bible repeatedly condemns such idolatry as spiritual adultery or fornication! Papal Rome is the 'Mother of Harlots' in this way as well, having led untold millions into idolatry.
The Roman Catholic Church has also been in the business of selling salvation to the naive, with much of her great wealth accumulated from that source. That she dare carry this on in the name of the Christ, who offers salvation as a free gift and told His disciples, 'Freely ye have received, freely give' (Matthew 10:8) speaks volumes for the demonic nature of the Papal Roman Catholic Church! There could be no greater abomination than selling salvation, yet Papal Rome has never repented of this evil but continues similar practices to this day.
Under Pope Leo X (1513-21) - who cursed and excommunicated Martin Luther (despite the clear Biblical admonition to 'bless and not curse' - Romans 12:14) - specific prices were published by the Roman Chancery to be paid to the Church for absolution from each imaginable crime. Even murder had its price! For example, a deacon guilty of murder could be absolved for 20 crowns. The 'anointed malefactors,' as they were called, once pardoned in this way by the Church, could not be prosecuted by civil authorities. How can anyone who claims to know their Bible ever accommodate such beliefs into their doctrinal system? Or do you admit that this was a doctrinal error by an anti-pope?
Leo's sale of salvation was nothing new. Two hundred years earlier John XXII (1316-34) had done the same, setting a price for every crime from murder to incest to sodomy. Papal Roman Catholics have the nerve to criticize Luther - pointing out the speck in his eye while failing to see the truth for the log in their own eye (Matthew 7:3) for, clearly, the more Catholics sinned the richer the Church became. Similar fund-raising schemes had been in operation for years. Innocent VIII (1484-92), for example, had granted the 20-year Butterbriefe indulgence. For a certain sum one could purchase the privilege of eating favourite dishes during Lent and at other times of fasting. It was a way to be credited with fasting while indulging oneself in the richest of foods. The people believed that the popes had such power. After all, you believe that whatever the vicars of Christ bound or loose on earth is similarly bound or loosed in heaven? The proceeds from this enterprising scheme built the bridge over the Elbe. Julius III (1550-5) renewed this indulgence (for a handsome fee) for another 20 years after he came to office. Leo X tore down Constantine's basilica and built St. Peter's, largely with monies paid by people who thought they were thereby gaining forgiveness of sins and entrance to heaven. The sin of Simony (Acts 8:8-25) coupled with the vilest Antinomianism led to that magnificent structure standing as one more piece of evidence that Papal Rome is the 'Mother of abominations.'
As Giovanni de Medici, Leo had been made an abbot at age seven for his first communion and a cardinal at age 13. Though he was the youngest cardinal to that time, Pope Benedict IX ascended to Peter's throne at age 11. Imagine an 11-year-old solemnly pronouncing forgiveness of sins as Christ's one true representative on earth! It was Leo X who commissioned the Dominican Friar Tetzel to sell indulgences, which it was promised would free those in purgatory or release the purchaser, if bought in his own name, from having to spend any time in that intermediate place of torment. Tetzel's infamous sales pitch went, 'As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs!' How could anyone be so naive as to believe that the forgiveness of sins for which Christ had to endure the full wrath of God upon the cross could be purchased with money? This 'God' of Papal Catholicism who moves in response to whatever regulations a corrupt Church invents is clearly not the God of the Bible. It was this particular abomination of selling salvation that scandalized Martin Luther and sparked the Reformation.
Instead of ridding itself of past abominations, including indulgences, a major document of Vatican II devotes 17 pages to explaining indulgences and how to obtain them and excommunicates and damns any who deny that the Church has the right to grant indulgences today for salvation. The rules are complex and ludicrous as well as abominable. Try to imagine God honouring such regulations as granting certain indulgences 'only on set days appointed by the Holy See' or that a 'plenary indulgence, applicable only to the dead, can be gained in all churches ... on November 2,' etc. The entire teaching on indulgences denies the sufficiency of Christ's redemptive sacrifice for sins upon the cross. Some ancient indulgences even remain in force today, such as the occasion - reported in Inside the Vatican - that occurred on August 28 and 29, 1994, which claimed an entirely un-Scriptural opportunity for obtaining a special indulgence:
Pope Celestine V gave a Holy Door to the Cathedral of Maria Collemaggio in his Bull of 29 September, 1294. To obtain this 'perdonanza' indulgence, it's necessary to be in the Cathedral between 18:00 (6 P.M.) 28 August and 18:00 (6 P.M.) 29 August, to truly repent of one's sins, and to confess and go to mass and communion within 8 days of the visit. The Holy Door is open every year, but this year, 1994, is the 700th anniversary of the Bull of Pardon. Go there!'
You have shown yourself keen on equating 'straw' with other matter - how about you make a judgement on the nature of this 'Bull'! Note that it is another doctrinal error by a pope, not a matter of personal sin!
Inside the door of the Wittenberg castle church to which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses were relics (including an alleged lock of the Virgin Mary's hair) offering 2 million years in indulgences to those venerating them according to prescribed rules. Never has the Roman Catholic Church apologized for having led multitudes astray in this manner, then or now! Consider the souls now in hell who have been sold a bogus 'ticket to heaven' - how do you apologize to them? For both ingenuity and infamy, no money-grabbing scheme of the past or of today's unscrupulous television hucksters (e.g. Benny Hinn et al) even comes close to the sale of indulgences. It provided much cash for the popes at the time of the Reformation. In A.D. 593 Pope Gregory I had first proposed the un-Biblical (but ultimately very profitable) idea that there was a place called 'purgatory' in which the spirits of the dead suffered in order to be purged of their sins and fully delivered from 'the debt of eternal punishment.' This fabrication was declared to be a Church dogma by the Council of Florence in 1439 and remains an important part of Papal Roman Catholicism today.
It was not such abominable heresies, however, that divided Roman Catholics. All seemed content with the promise that the Church would somehow get them to heaven, no matter how repugnant to common sense and justice the methods were. It was the division caused by rival popes, each claiming to be in charge of the machinery of salvation, that stirred the Church to action. By deposing all three rivals who each claimed to be the Vicar of Christ, and then appointing a new pope, Martin V, the Council of Constance (1414-18) reunited the Church. Many bishops were convinced that a reformation was desperately needed. To move the Church toward reformation, Constance decreed that there should be another ecumenical council each ten years. Pope Martin V dutifully summoned the Council in 1423 to meet, first at Pavia, then at Sienna. But the moment any signs of an attempt at reform manifested themselves, he dissolved it 'on account of the fewness of those present.' However, shortly before his death, he summoned the new Council to meet at Basle. Martin V's successor, Eugenius IV, could not avoid carrying out the duty he had inherited from his predecessor, to which he was already pledged in conclave. Eugenius ordered the council disbanded almost immediately upon a pretext, but the assembly refused and a contest with the pope began, at first with the backing of the general populace of Europe and King Sigismund. In vain the pope excommunicated the prelates involved. Support for reform poured in to the council from kings, princes, bishops, prelates and universities. Under pressure the pope was forced to give the council his full sanction, an acknowledgment once again of the superiority of council over pope (which Pius IX managed to reverse at Vatican I).
The council deposed Eugenius, calling him 'a notorious disturber of peace and unity of God's Church, a simoniac, a perjurer, an incorrigible man, a schismatic, an apostate from the Faith, an obstinate heretic, a squanderer of the Church's rights and property, incapable and harmful to the administration of the Roman Pontificate... .' Yet his name remains on today's official list of the vicars of Christ.) With great courage the council decreed:
All ecclesiastical appointments shall be made according to the canons of the Church; all simony shall cease ... all priests whether of the highest or lowest rank shall put away their concubines, and whoever within two months of this decree neglects its demands shall be deprived of his office, though he be the Bishop of Rome.
... the popes shall neither demand nor receive any fees for ecclesiastical offices. From now on, a pope should think not of this world's treasures but only of those of the world to come.
That medicine proved too strong, and the tide of opinion turned against the council. The people wanted reformation, but not that much; and the last thing the pope and the Curia wanted was to be required to live as true Christians with a council making certain they did. Pope Eugenius summoned his own council at Florence, deposed and anathematized the members of Basle, 'laid Basle under interdict, excommunicated the municipal council, and required every one to plunder the merchants who were bringing their wares to the city, because it is written, 'The righteous hath spoiled the ungodly.'' The pope then bribed King Frederick with 100,000 florins 'together with the imperial crown, assigned tithes to him from all the German benefices and ... gave full power to his confessor to give him twice a plenary absolution from all sins.' Such is the abominable manner in which the popes dispensed their favours, including forgiveness of sins.
The Council of Basle could not compete with the power and wealth of the pope. Eugenius now had the backing he needed. Roman Catholic historian Von Dollinger comments:
'The victory of Eugenius was complete. When on his deathbed he received the homage of the German ambassadors, the event was celebrated (February 7, 1447) in Rome with ringing of bells and bonfires. Even the slight concessions the pope had made to the Germans he thereupon recalled in secret Bulls.'
As he died, having triumphed over the council and Germany, Eugenius cried in agony of conscience, 'How much better were it for thy soul's salvation hadst thou never become Cardinal and Pope!' The next pope, Nicholas V (1447-55), voided Eugenius's decrees against the Council of Basle (yet both remain on the official list of popes today). It was the last chance for the papacy to be reformed, but it never happened. In only a short while the Curia's diligent forgers were at work again producing more false documents to prove the popes' infallibility and dominance over all.
Papal Rome's dominance of Church and world for more than a thousand years through excommunication, torture, and death had led to corruption of such proportions that even the secular world recoiled in shame and horror. The cry resounded throughout Christendom for a reformation of the Church. All knew, however, that it was impossible as long as the Court of Papal Rome remained unchanged. Among the popes who followed Nicholas on Peter's alleged throne were some whose evil was beyond imagination. Von Dollinger says of Paul II, Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII, and Alexander VI that each tried 'to exceed the vices of his predecessor.' Pilgrims who went to Papal Rome with high hopes returned disillusioned, like Martin Luther, to declare that 'in the metropolis of Christendom, and in the bosom of the great mother and mistress of all Churches, the clergy, with scarcely an exception, kept concubines.' And the Church made a profit from it.
Sixtus IV (1471-84), who had licensed Papal Rome's brothels for an annual fee and taxed the clergy for their mistresses, invented an even more ingenious method of filling the Church's coffers. It would be used by the popes after him to full advantage. Sixtus decided that he, as Christ's vicar, could apply indulgences to the dead as well as to the living. It was a novel idea which no one had thought of before, and one which turned out to be incredibly profitable. What surviving relative could refuse to purchase the release of a deceased mother, father, aunt, uncle, or child from the tortures of purgatory? And of course the richer the living relatives were the more it invariably cost to transfer the deceased from purgatory to heaven. One marvels that anyone would take the word of such an evil pope, but Sixtus was no worse than many others, and after all, evil or not, he was Christ's vicar and the successor of Peter, was he not? Chamberlin put it well: 'No lay monarch, no matter how powerful or virtuous, could hope to attract to himself the deep instinctive reverence that men felt for the successor of St. Peter, no matter how unworthy....' The few bold souls, such as Savonarola, of Florence, who dared to criticize Papal Rome's abominations, were consigned to the flames for their zeal.
Such was the state of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation. Remember, Luther and Calvin were devout Catholics. There were no Protestants. That word had not been invented. Multitudes had been crying for reformation for at least 200 years. No one, however, Calvin and Luther included, wanted to leave the Church. They desired to see it reformed from within.
Furious at the challenge to their power, the popes would have consigned Luther and Calvin to the flames, but, unable to get their hands on them because of the protection afforded by certain German princes, the hierarchy threw them summarily out of the Church. Sick to death with the arrogant despotism of the papacy, with its oppression and slaughter of any who would not bow to its imperious demands, multitudes followed Luther and Calvin and the other Reformation leaders out of the Church, giddy with the first gasping breaths of spiritual freedom they had ever drawn.
Suddenly Protestantism, the 'heretical' upstart , was thriving and on the march everywhere. Pope Paul III saw his empire dwindling and his influence over kings coming to an end. A despotic, Renaissance pope who had 'bestowed the red hat on his nephews, aged fourteen and seventeen, and promoted them despite their notorious immorality,' Paul III acted decisively on two fronts. He convened a council in Trent (northern Italy) that would condemn the Reformation theologically; and he went to work behind the scenes to organize a holy war that was intended to militarily wipe Protestantism from the face of the earth in Christ's name.
Papal Rome's popularity was at a low ebb when the Council of Trent met in 1545 to consider its response to the menace of Protestantism which threatened the Church in much of Europe. There were still many clergy within the Catholic Church who realized the need for a reformation and hoped that Trent would bring it about, thereby making it possible to welcome those who had left the Church back into its fold. The pope and his Curia, however, had other plans.
The opening speech at the council, by Bishop Coriolano Martorano, encouraged those who hoped for reform. Unfortunately, very few so minded were present, for the pope had stacked the deck with his own men. Von Dollinger describes that stirring oration:
The picture he [Martorano] drew of the Italian Cardinals and bishops, their bloodthirsty cruelty, their avarice, their pride, and the devastation they had wrought of the Church, was perfectly shocking. An unknown writer, who has described this first sitting in a letter to a friend, thinks Luther himself never spoke more severely.
In fact, this lone cry for a return to genuine Christianity was followed by a chorus supporting the very evil which Martorano had exposed. The Council of Trent, controlled by Italians, was to prove itself incapable of facing the facts. When once again a non-Italian delegate dared to bring up charges that reflected badly upon the papacy, the Italian bishops shouted, stamped their feet, and cried that this 'accursed wretch must not speak; he should at once be brought to trial.' The 'freedom of speech' at Trent was similar to the situation experienced 325 years later in Papal Rome at Vatican I.
A famous eyewitness wrote shortly after the council opened that nothing beneficial was to be hoped for from the 'monstrous bishops' attending; there was 'nothing episcopal about them except their long robes ... [they] had become bishops through royal favor, through solicitation, through purchase in Papal Rome, through criminal arts, or after long years spent in the Curia.' They 'must all be deposed' if Trent was to produce anything worthy, but that was impossible.' Another contemporary, Pallavicini, wrote:
The Italian bishops knew of no other aim than the upholding of the Apostolic See and its greatness. They thought that in working for its interests they showed themselves at once good Italians and good Christians.
Not satisfied with damning the Protestants theologically (the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent contain more than 100 anathemas against Protestant beliefs), Pope Paul III wanted to destroy them physically. He offered the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V of Spain, '1,100,000 ducats, 12,000 infantry, 500 horses, if he would turn his full force against the heretics.' The Catholic emperor was only too happy to have a reason to bring the rival Protestant princes of Germany into subjection and 'to crush Protestantism and give to his realm a unified Catholic Faith that would, he thought, strengthen and facilitate his government.'
The result of Rome's persecution was nearly ten years of war across Europe. Paul III 'issued a Bull excommunicating all who should resist Charles and offering liberal indulgences to all who should aid him.' After heavy losses on both sides and much treachery among the rival rulers, the Protestants remained strong enough to force the emperor into a compromise. If you want to know what caused another major displacement of persons on each side of the divide, Will Durant explains the settlement that created the state churches which still exist in Europe today:
In order to permit peace among and within the states each prince was to choose between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism; all his subjects were to accept 'his religion whose realm' it was; and those who did not like it were to emigrate. There was no pretense on either side to toleration; the principle which the Reformation had upheld in the youth of its rebellion - the right of private judgment - was as completely rejected by the Protestant leaders as by the Catholics ...
The Protestants now agreed with Charles and the popes that unity of religious belief was indispensable to social order and peace .. the princes [were to] banish dissenters instead of burning them ... The real victor was not freedom of worship but the freedom of the princes. Each became, like Henry VIII of England, the supreme head of the Church [whether Catholic or Protestant] in his territory, with the exclusive right to appoint the clergy and the men who should define the obligatory faith.
The 'Erastian' principle - that the state should rule the Church - was definitely established. As it was the princes, not the theologians, who had led Protestantism to its triumph, they naturally assumed the fruits of victory - their territorial supremacy over the emperor, their ecclesiastical supremacy over the Church ... In effect the Holy Roman Empire died not in 1806 but in 1555. [emphasis added]
The story of the Reformation has been told elsewhere and, while it is clear that there were evils perpetrated on both sides, the driving force was undeniably the Papal Roman Catholic Church.
'Abomination' is a spiritual term. There is no greater abomination than rejecting the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for our sins - unless it is leading others astray also. That abomination in varying forms continues in Papal Roman Catholicism to this day. To claim that Papal Rome seeks to follow the commandments of God as no other church does is to deny the 'cold hard facts'!
Another of Papal Rome's great deceptions relates to marriage and divorce. The Roman Catholic Church is supposedly known for its adamant stand against divorce. Yet at the same time she is a veritable and unique divorce mill, hiding this fact by deceitfully calling it by another name. The Church grants in the United States alone 'annulments' by the tens of thousands each year. Her use of psychology is particularly perverse. Many annulments are granted for 'psychological' reasons such as being raised in a 'dysfunctional' family or being 'psychologically unprepared' for a marriage that occurred decades before and produced numerous children. It is the ultimate in hypocrisy and cynicism, and yet another of the abominations Papal Rome has birthed.
Here is an excerpt from a typical letter from a Catholic diocese justifying to a distraught woman an annulment granted to her husband of 30 years (five children, husband and wife both Catholics):
This investigation by a court of the Catholic Church determines whether an essential element of the Sacrament of Matrimony was missing at the time the marriage was entered. If a careful investigation should determine that such an element as perceived by the Church was lacking, then your marriage does not bind you or Mr. ________ so far as the Catholic Church is concerned. This decision does not have civil implications and does not make your children illegitimate.
Of course there are no 'civil implications.' As unjust as the courts may be at times, civil judges are not yet ready to pretend a marriage didn't actually occur because one of the parties now claims that he or she was not psychologically prepared at the time or held some mental reservation as to whether it would work out. Sadly enough, some Catholics now file secret letters with their attorneys at the time of marriage, expressing doubts, just in case they want an annulment later. Common sense would say that if there are doubts, then the vows should not be taken; and once the promise is made to be faithful 'for better or worse,' it should be kept. If couples can make solemn vows of fidelity and later break them without penalty and with the blessing of the Church, then all interpersonal relationships break down, whether business or private. No one can be trusted anymore to keep any promise.
While claiming to stand for holiness, Papal Rome corrupts her followers. On PrimeTime Barbara Zimmerman declared: 'For my Church to say, 'Well, you know, you can't get a divorce, but we'll annul it and that'll take care of it - it's - - it's slimy. It's sleazy. It's dishonest. It's saying, 'We'll get around our own rules.'
The implications for eternity are solemn indeed. If the Catholic Church can't be trusted to tell the truth about marriage and divorce, then how can it be trusted when it comes to salvation? To be cheated in this life is costly enough, but to be cheated for eternity is a loss from which there is no recovery.
The golden chalice held by the woman riding the beast was filled with 'the abominations and filthiness of her fornication' (Revelation 17:4). There is not, and never has been, a city on earth except 'Christian' Papal Rome which perfectly fits that description. She has been the seducer of souls, leading multitudes into the abominations of idolatry, sexual immorality, the denial of the sufficiency of Christ's redemptive work upon the cross, and the sale of counterfeit salvation in its place - and has done it while posing as the one true Church acting in the name of Christ.
(Continued on page 278)