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).
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.
Shane Lems is pastor of the United Reformed Church in Sunnyvale, Washington (in the Yakima Valley). He is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California. He blogs, along with fellow classmate Andrew Compton, at Reformed Reader where this article first appeared: it is used with permission.