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Catholicism: Popes

Prepared and Presented by Titus Prevatt, Youth Group Student Leader

Remember that this series is so you can have a basic idea of what different religions believe and what the major differences are between Christianity and other religions. However, please don’t assume you know everything about that person because you heard their worldview in an apologetics spotlight. People have varying views on their religion, just like how there are different denominations of Christians that have different beliefs. Just keep that in mind when you’re talking to someone.

This week we are talking about Catholicism, and this time we’re talking about the Pope. Here’s a list of what they believe concerning their Popes.

o The Catholic Church believes the first Pope was Peter the Apostle. They get this idea from Matthew 16:18, but we’ll be covering that in a minute. According to them Peter was the foundation on which Christ built his church.

o The Catholic Church also refers to the Pope as the holy father, and that the Pope is basically God’s ambassador on earth.

o Catholics have a law book called the Canon Law, which the Pope can and does change, similar to Mormonism which we will talk about another week.

o Catholics believe that Peter, the Popes, and the Bishops are all infallible, which means they cannot make a mistake in Biblical doctrines and their teachings.

o The Pope wears a ring, and many people will kiss the ring as a sign of respect, obedience and devotion not to the Pope as a person, but to what he represents and stands for.

Those are the basic beliefs the Catholic Church has on Popes. Here is what the Protestant faith (what we believe in) believes regarding this.

o We believe that there are no Popes. If we look through God’s Word, we will not find a single instance where a Pope is specifically mentioned or explained. Let’s take a look at Matthew 16:18, the main verse the Catholic Church gets this idea from.

**Matthew 16:18**
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.”

At first glance the idea seems like it could possibly be true, but we should always look at the surrounding verses for context. If we go back a few verses, we can see that Peter confessed Jesus as Son of the living God.

When we look at that context, it seems more likely that Jesus, when he said “and upon this rock I shall build my church” was referring to the fact that Himself, being the actual living, breathing son of God is foundational to the church. This is crucial to our beliefs, because if Jesus was not the true son of God, His death would not have been enough to cover the sins of the world. It seems very likely that this is what he was referring to. Once we see this, the idea of Popes coming from this passage seems less likely.

o Next point, the Bible makes it clear that God is our ONLY holy father. Matthew 23:9 says:

“And do not call ANYONE on earth your father, for one is your father, he who is in heaven.”

This is just one of many examples where the Bible says this. This verse clearly states that absolutely nobody on earth is supposed to be called our holy father. The verse also states that our only holy father is “he who is in heaven” who is also known as God. We can clearly see here that referring to the Pope as the “holy father” is not biblical.

o We believe that the Bible is our only law book, and we are supposed to not live contradictory to what the Bible says. Here’s an example in Joshua 23:6

“Be very firm then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it…”

Here we can see that the Bible is our law book. No other law books are mentioned in the Bible, and nobody in the Bible had permission to change the law. Jesus does kind of expand on the laws of Moses, showing people how sinful they truly were, but he never changed the law. If God ever simply changed his law, he’d be a liar. It would be like if I told you that to enter the kingdom of heaven, you need to own a pet turtle. And after you bought that turtle, I told you that you don’t need it anymore. That is what it would be like if God changed his law, which is inconsistent with his nature because he cannot lie.

o On to the next point, we believe every human being is fallible due to sin in the world. The statement “all of humanity” certainly covers Peter, the Popes, and the bishops. The Bible is infallible because God divinely inspired the old writers of the book to write exactly what he meant. Peter was able to write the original copies of the Bible without mistake ONLY because the spirit inspired him. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Bible is written through God’s direct revelation through man.

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Here we can see that ALL of scripture is inspired by God’s direct revelation to man. The Bible has never said that Peter is infallible, but rather the Bible tells us the books he wrote were infallible only because God worked through Peter. We can see clearly now that only God is infallible.

o We believe that the Pope’s ring does not signify anything. The Pope is not greater than anyone; therefore, I would argue that crying over, bowing to, and kissing the Pope’s ring seems like idolatry. If you think about it, when we idolize famous people such as our favorite singer or sports athlete, when we meet them, often people cry during that moment. When power is recognized in certain countries, we bow. When we love something, we might kiss it. When all three are combined, it is a great trifecta of idolatry. The Pope and his ring has no more significance than Pastor Ryan or Brian wearing their wedding rings.

This was just a basic overview of what the Catholic Church believes concerning Popes. I’d encourage you to study more for yourself if you are interested in learning more.

Categories: Matt's Apologetics Spotlight