by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)


  • Introduction
  • What was the Foundation?
  • Who is the Head?
  • What is its Source of Authority?
  • Student Instructions

  • Introduction

    Our study has now carried us through the historical facts associated with the rise of the Roman Catholic Church. The purpose of this lesson will be to examine the foundation of this organization in order to be able to compare it to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible. Some of the basic doctrines of this organization will challenge its claims but also clearly identify it as being something completely different from the church of the Lord Jesus as depicted in primitive New Testament Christianity.

    If we are serious about following the Bible as God's divine will for all mankind, we must be willing to examine the principles and practices of existing religious organizations to see what they believe and practice. It is not enough just to ignore these fundamental questions since the truth of God's will for all of us is at issue.

    How can this proposition be demonstrated? In the course of this investigation, we will look at its foundation, at its leadership (head), and at its source of authority. In the process, we will be examining its claims.

    What was the Foundation?

    The Church Built on Whom?

    * "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:16-18).
    * "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11).
    Christ -- "the chief cornerstone" (Eph. 2:20).
    * "Jesus, our Lord, founded but one church, which He was pleased to build on Peter. Therefore, any church that does not recognized Peter as its foundation stone is not the church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God." Gibbons, p.82) -- the imminent Catholic historian).

    Consider: Review again, Lesson 8 on the foundation of the church.

    Who is the Head?

    Is the Pope the Head of the Church?

    * To the mother of Zebedee's sons, who wanted them to have a prominent position on His right and left hand, Christ said "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: ... Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. 20:20-28).
    * Paul was equal. (II Cor. 11:5)
    * Peter was himself sent by others. (Acts 8:14)
    * "Call no man your father ... Neither be ye called masters ... whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased ..." (Matt. 23:9-12)
    * "In the Acts of the Apostles, ... St. Peter appears before us, like Saul among the tribes, standing head and shoulders over his brethren by the prominent part he takes in every ministerial duty. ... The meaning, therefore, ... must be that Peter was first not only in rank and honor, but also in authority." (Gibbons, pp.83-84).

    Consider: Review again Lesson 6, regarding the attitudes which Jesus sought to instill in his disciples. Is the idea of rank and position of one above another consistent with Christ's teaching?

    Was Peter the First Pope?

    "Call no man your father" (Matt. 23:9). The word "pope" or "papa" means "father"."St. Peter is called the first Bishop (or pope)..." (Gibbons, p. 87).
    * "God's supreme concern being for the dominion of the church, he has bestowed upon Peter and his successors, the bishops of Rome, all the power that would belong to Christ if he were reigning on earth." (Newman 1:508).

    * Peter never designated himself as a pope, but as "a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:1) and a "fellow-elder" (I Peter 5:1). When he used the term "chief shepherd" (I Peter 5:4), he did not refer to himself, but Christ. Peter probably wrote his letter about 62-63 A.D.
    * In Acts 8:14 it is said: "Now when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John." If the apostles had recognized Peter as pope, why did they send?
    * At the Council of Jerusalem, the final decision was pronounced by James and not Peter, thus denying the papal authority supposedly belonging to Peter. (Acts 15:13,19).
    * Paul corrected Peter for teaching falsely (Gal. 2:11). Is this infallibility ?
    * Peter was married (Mark 1:30 and Luke 4:38). Popes are not allowed to marry.
    * In his Roman letter, Paul (about 60 A.D.) honors over two dozen Christians mentioning their names, but Peter (whom some suppose was there as pope) is not even mentioned. (See Rom. 16).
    * Study Acts 10:24-26 to see if Peter conducted himself in a manner befitting a pope.

    Was Peter Ever in Rome?

    * The Bible is silent.* "St. Peter is called the first Bishop of Rome because he transferred his See from Antioch to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom with St. Paul". (Gibbons, p.87).
    * The intrinsic evidence of St. Peter's first Epistle, the testimony of his immediate successor in the ministry, as well as the avowal of emminent Protestant commentators, all concur in fixing the See of Peter in Rome. " (Gibbons, p.87).

    Consider: Because of the doctrine of the primacy to the Bishop of Rome -- exalting him above the Bishops of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, etc. - the Catholic church is obligated to prove that Peter was in Rome. Please see again the discussion under Was Peter the First Pope? It cannot be proven conclusively that Peter was ever in the city of Rome. But, even if he did go there, there is no evidence that he was there for twenty-five years (as the Catholic Church asserts) or that he was there in the capacity of pope. Gibbon's statements above are assertions. Did he (Peter) transfer his alleged See to Rome? Evidence? Does Peter support this claim? If so, where? Did his successors support it? While there is some possibility that he may have been there, he would not have been there as the pope. Do Protestant commentators confirm this? Do they believe in the pope?

    Are the Popes Peter's Successors?

    *The Bible is silent.* "Whatever privileges, therefore, were conferred on Peter which may be considered essential to the government of the church are inherited by the Bishops of Rome, as successors of the Prince of Apostles." (Gibbons, p.89).
    * Pope Innocent III "believed that Christ had given to the successors of Peter authority not only over the church, but over the world" (Fisher, p.192).
    * Gibbons says unity is only possible if all will "recognize Peter and his successors as the Head of the church". (Gibbons, p.98).

    Consider: Gibbons says, "The church did not die with Peter. It was destined to continue to the end of time; consequently, whatever official prerogatives were conferred on Peter were not to cease at his death, but were to be handed down to his successors from generation to generation. The church is in all ages as much in need of a Supreme Ruler as it was in the days of the Apostles" (Gibbons, p.89).

    These are bold assertions. Who said that Peter had to have someone to succeed him? Where did this idea originate? The Bible? No -- it came from the minds of men. There is not a shred of evidence to support this alleged claim -- a clear example of Catholic dogma. The apostles were eye-witnesses of the risen Christ. See Acts 1:22, II Peter 1:16, Acts 10:41 and Acts 26:16-17. As a witness can testify only to what he has seen, it follows that there were no successors to the apostles.

    Even if Peter had been the first pope, and even if he had spent 25 years in Rome as pope (neither of which is true), there is still nothing to support the doctrine of apostolic succession except the bold claims of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

    Are Popes Infallible?

    * The Bible is silent.* The Vatican Council of 1870: "We teach and define it to be a dogma divinely revealed that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks excathedra, that is, when acting in his office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, through the divine assistance promised him by the Blessed Peter, he enjoys that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith and morals; and therefore such definitions of the said Roman Pontiff are irreformable to themselves, and not from the consent of the church". (Matthews, p.35).

    Consider. Although the Bible knows nothing of this Roman Catholic assumption, history is replete with examples to the contrary.
    *Most reliable sources list 196 popes since Boniface III (606 A.D.) the first one yet.
    **There was a period of 70 years when no one ruled as pope.
    **"At one stage, from 1044 to 1046, there were three very unworthy men each claiming to be the pontiff. They were Benedict IX, Sylvester III, and Gregory VI." (Renwick, p. 87).
    **There have been no less than 29 controversies among them as to whom was pope.
    **In the 9th century, Pope Joan, a woman disguised as a man, rules for two and one-half years. (Moshelm, p. 186).
    *Popes have actually endorsed error.
    **Calixtus tuaght the Patripassion heresy.
    Liberius supported the Arian heresy.
    **Zozimus defended Pelagianism, but his predecessor, Innocent I, had condemned it as heresy.
    **Honorius was condemned as a heretic by the 6th Ecumenical Council in 681 by Leo II.
    **Sixtus V translation of the Latin Vulgate in 1590 had over 2,000 errors in it - after he had pronounced it true and authentic. (All references, Matthews, p. 59-62).
    *Popes have condemned scientific knowledge as heresy.
    **Galileo was condemned to silence for putting forth his Copernican theory of the sun as the center of our solar system. In 1704, this was called heresy by the pope. Today, it is unquestionably accepted by scientists. Infallibility? (Matthews, p. 65).
    *Some of the world's most depraved and immoral creatures were popes.
    **Their names and the extent of their crimes are too numerous to mention. Any church history will give the sordid details (See Halley, pp. 881-883).
    **In 1873, an American Bishop by the name of Purcell stated in public debate: "Some of the bad popes of Rome are expiating their sins in the penal fires of hell."
    **Is this infallibility? Can an immoral person be expected to render infallible decisions in religious matters? If he is immoral and pretends to be religious, he is hypocritical. If he is hypocritical, how could his judgment be reliable?

    Are Popes Equal to God?

    * "There is one God" (Eph. 4:6)
    * "There is one Lord (Christ)" (Eph. 4:5)
    * "We hold upon this earth the place of God almighty, " Pope Leo III said on June 20, 1894.
    * Gregory IX said that the pope is not to be regarded as man, but God.
    * When a new pope is crowned, he sits on the altar in the exact spot where the box containing the (body of Christ) usually sits, and is worshipped by the people.
    * He is referred to as "Our Lord God the Pope". (All references, Phillips, p.351).

    Consider. To assert a thing is NOT to prove it.

    What is its Source of Authority?

    Is the Bible the Only Source of Authority?

    * "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16-17).
    * Jesus said to some religious leaders, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? ... Thus, have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matt. 15:3,6).
    * "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, ... and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8).
    * "The Bible and the tradition of the church are the divine rule of faith. (Council of Trent, Sess. IV).
    * "The Pope is infallible, (thus, having the power to change anything in the Bible he deems necessary). The voice of the church (the councils) is infallible, also.
    * "Therefore, the church traditions, which are "of men", make of none effect the word of God.

    Consider: This statement is taken from an address by the cardinals of the church to Pope Pius III, which is preserved in the National Library of Paris, Vol. 2; pages 650, 651. Quote: "The Bible is the book which more than any other thing has raised against us the tumults and tempests by which we have almost perished. In fact, if one compares the teachings of the Bible with what takes place in our churches, he will soon find discord, and will realize that our teachings are often different from the Bible, and often still, contrary to it" (Howard, p.17).

    Need more be said? One wonders what Jesus would ask of them if He were on earth again -- perhaps something along the same line as the question He put to the Pharisees about following the "traditions of men" and ignoring the Bible.

    Objection: Sometimes people will say that they realize the history of Catholicism has been very bad, but that things are different today. Are they? Have the designs and purposes of Catholicism been changed? Has the pope renounced his infallibility? Do they still practice the doctrines and laws herein described? Do they follow the Bible as their source of authority? Except for the fact that her armies were destroyed and her earthly territory reduced to a few acres of land, what has been altered? She still has command of vast financial resources. She still makes every claim she has ever made. Her aims are still the same -- complete and utter control of the religious and secular lives of men. (See Cox, pages 44 and 45).

    Conclusion: As regards her foundation, her head, and her source of authority, it appears that the Roman Catholic church seeks by her claims to justify the existence of a church that they wish they could say Christ built but which is so unlike what Jesus described in the Bible as His church.

    apostolic succession - successors to Peter.
    assertion - claim with no basis, or proof.
    dogma - assertion, or claim without evidence.
    fraudulent- fake, false.
    imminent- prominent.
    infallible - impossible to be wrong.
    irreformable- unchangeable.
    See - pope, pontiff in office.

    Fisher, G.P., History of the Christian Church
    Gibbons, J.C., The Faith of our Fathers, P.J.Lenedy and Sons, New York, 1917.
    Halley, H.H., Bible Handbook
    Howard, V.E., Tract, "The Bible from God or Catholic Church?"
    Matthews, Paul, Basic Errors of Catholicism Dehoff Publications, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 1952.
    Mosheim, John L., An Ecclesiastical History
    Miller, Waymon P., A Survey of Church History
    Newman, A.H., A Manual of Church History
    Renwick, A.M., The Story of the Church

    Student Instructions
    1. Study the lesson text carefully till you understand its meaning. Then answer the Questions to this lesson.
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    I. Put TRUE or FALSE before each of the following statements, (Example: True -- Christ built His church upon Himself instead of upon a man -- Peter, for example.)

    1. The pope is the head of Christ's church.

    2. Popes are well-known for their proficiency in translating the Scriptures.

    3. The idea of supremacy over others in religion is defended by Christ.

    4. Cornelius fell on his face to honor Peter in Acts 10.

    5. Peter permitted Cornelius to worship him as the Pope.

    6. The other apostles believed they were not as high as Peter in authority.

    7. Peter had no wife.

    8. Popes ore usually allowed to have as many wives as they desire.

    9. In order to support their doctrine, the Catholic Church must prove that Peter was in Rome.

    10. The Bible tells us that Peter did live in Rome.

    11. The great Bishops of the other large cities agreed with Rome's estimation of her supremacy.

    12. The Catholic Church can easily prove from the Bible that Peter had successors.

    13. The basic purposes of the Catholic Church have not been changed by time.

    14. The declaration of papal infallibility in 1870 meant that popes were supposed to be infallible from the very beginning.

    15. All the popes have been males.

    16. There have always been popes since Peter there was never a time when the Catholic church had no pope.

    17. The popes have sometimes disagreed among themselves over who was the official pope.

    18. According to Catholicism, an immoral person can make infallible judgements in matters of faith and morals.

    19. According to the Bible, immoral persons who pretend to be religious are pointed out as hypocritical.

    20. The Catholic church and others churches have the some source of authority in religion.

    21. A person can follow the Bible and still be a Roman Catholic.

    22. Galileo put forth the theory that the sun was the center of the universe.

    23. The pope declared Galileo's theory about the center of the universe as heresy in 1704.

    24. Galileo's theory is accepted without question.

    25. The Catholic church made a mistake in regard to Galileo's theory, in spite of the fact that they claim to be infallible.

    II. Match the person in the list below with the correct quotation, or belief by placing the proper letter in the blank to the left.
    A. Pope Gregory IX
    B. Pope Leo III
    C. Pope Pius III
    D. Peter (in Bible)
    E. Gibbon

    26. "We hold upon this earth the place of God almighty".

    27. "The Pope is not to be regarded as man, but God".

    28. "... if one compares the teachings of the Bible with what takes place in our churches, he will soon find discord, and will realize that our teachings are often different from the Bible, and often still, contrary to it."

    29. "..any church that does not recognize Peter as its foundation stone is not the church of Christ..."

    30. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Christ."

    III. Give three ways in which the church of Christ differs from the Catholic church.
    31. First way:
    32. Second way:
    33. Third way:

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