Instigator / Pro

Catholicism is not True Christianity


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 4 votes and with 7 points ahead, the winner is...

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Round 1
I am writing this because I am tired of people blaming Christians for the evil the Catholic Church has done throughout its history. Catholicism is not real Christianity since they do not base most of their beliefs on the Bible, but on tradition. Historically there are many Bible-based denominations since the earliest days of Christianity.
Thanks to GeneralGrant for instigating this topic.

THESIS: "Catholicism is Not True Christianity"

Pro’s argument might be fairly faulted for excessive brevity, lack of warrant, and insufficient definition. 

Let’s define two terms:

Definition of Catholicism:

: roman catholicism
: the faith, practice, or system of Catholic Christianity

Let’s note here that Mirriam-Webster defines Catholicism as inherently Christian.  (Let’s also note that this debate will treat Catholicism and Roman Catholicism as synonymous designations for the same religion.)

Definition of Christianity:

: the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies
: conformity to the Christian religion
: the practice of Christianity
Here too, Catholicism is a Christian religion by ordinary definition.

Con submits that Pro retains sole burden of proof in this debate for instigating a claim that clearly challenges our ordinary English definition of Christianity.  If Con can show that Pro’s claim lacks warrant and/or disprove Pro’s evidence, then readers of this debate should favor Con in voting.

Pro’s thesis does not only suffer from unwarranted generalization but also serves as a textbook example of one kind informal logical fallacy, the appeal to purity also know as the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.  Wikipedia offers the following example:

Person A: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Person B: "But my uncle Angus is a Scotsman and he puts sugar on his porridge."
Person A: "But no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge." 

Person A attempts to protect the unwarranted generalization by creating an ad hoc rule that excludes contradicting evidence.  A Scotsman may be well understood but only Person A can define a true Scotsman.

Likewise, Pro’s argument is an abridged version of this:

Pro: “No true Christian is Roman Catholic.”
Con: “But Roman Catholics are Christians by definition.”
Pro: “But no true Christian is Roman Catholic.”


In spite our commonplace understanding of Christianity, Pro has added an additional purity test: True Christians are those who follow the Bible and not tradition.  Examples of true Christians are Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pietists, Moravians, Waldensians, and Anabaptists.

Con challenges this test with a number of complaints:

  1. Pro has failed to failed to identify which version, translation, and edition of Bible is being used for this purity test.  There is no monolithic, well agreed book that may serve as “THE (one and only) Bible,” so Pro must define and defend the text by which Roman Catholics fail the standards of Christianity.  To maintain consistency, Pro’s defined version of the Bible must be accepted by the true Christians cited.
  2. Who or what is the defining authority for Christianity?  After all, no version of the Bible nor denomination of Christianity existed in the time of Christ.  Wikipedia offers, “Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament.”  That definition certainly includes Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. as Christians and conforms to our normal understanding.  On what authority does Pro rely to define the proper biblical following and exclude Christian tradition?
  3. Pro specifically excludes Roman Catholics from True Christianity but  includes at least 7 other denominations.  All 7 denominations are part of the Protestant tradition and qualify as “Radical Reformation” responses to both Roman Catholicism and the Magisterial Reformation of Luther & Calvin.  What is the biblical yardstick that makes some Christians true and other Christians false?
  4. When and where does Christianity end and True Christianity begin?
  • Was St. Paul a true Christian?
  • St. Ignatius is credited with the first recorded use of the word, “Christian.”  Was St. Ignatius a true Christian? 
  • Was Constantine the Great a true Christian?
  • Was St. Thomas Aquinas a true Christian?
  • Was Martin Luther a true Christian? 
  • Was Mother Theresa a true Christian?
  • Was Fred Phelps a true Christian?

Pro twice characterizes Roman Catholics as “evil.”  That is, the majority of those people who define themselves as Christians are profoundly immoral and/or corrupted by supernaturally wicked forces.  As the oldest continually functioning international and human institution, the Roman Catholic Church serves as the bedrock underpinning the history and development of Western Civilization.  Does Pro intend to characterize all or most of Western culture as evil or are most non-Catholic westerners somehow immune to the evil of the Church?  How is Pro defining evil and what are some examples of evil acts performed in common by all Roman Catholics?


Pro states that Roman Catholics base their beliefs on tradition rather than the Bible.  Here is the standard and complete English language translation of Roman Catholic beliefs, as declared and affirmed in the Nicene Creed.  I wonder if Pro would be so good as to identify which statements contradict the Bible.

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Going by Pro’s definition, Con estimates that there may be something like 60 million true Christians worldwide, a smaller denomination than Shintoism or Falun Gongism.  Which raises the question whether purity of biblical interpretation is more important than building a community of believers in Christ’s salvation?  Jesus himself never heard of Christianity or the Bible during his life on Earth- does Christ’s example suggest that the elevation of perfect biblical interpretation takes precedence over the transmission of his example and Golden Rule? 

This debater asks Pro: what is the value to Christianity in setting a narrow standard for Christianity according to a stricter biblical interpretation.  Aren’t more people more likely to enjoy the benefit of Christ’s example if the definition of Christianity is more inclusive?


Likewise, this reader of the Good Book would suggest that Jesus’s example recommends an emphasis on the loving brotherhood of all mankind and communal inclusivity.  Christ ignored Mosaic Law in favor of new, more forgiving commandments.  Christ repeatedly rejected perfect religious adherence in favor of human compassion.  I’d ask Pro to consider Christ’s teaching regarding our obligation towards our neighbors and then note that Roman Catholics are neighbors to other Christian denominationswithin the community of Christ.  How then would Christ command his adherents to  treat Roman Catholics?  and how would Jesus encourage other Christians to view Roman Catholic? however much synchronous or discordant he found that cosmology with Christ's own teaching?

I look forward to Pro’s replies in the second round.

Round 2
You have used man's definition of Christianity, but not God's definition. His definition for a Christian is one who follows Him and obeys Him and has been saved from their sins by Him. True Biblical Christianity does not put man's ideas over God's, but conforms to God's requirements to be a Christian. You stated above that there are many Bibles. However, this is not true, there is only one. I disagree with some newer translations of the Bible, but the overall message is still clearly seen in all the versions of the Bible. I have gone through the Catholic Bible and have seen no major differences between their and my KJV. 

I will address some key doctrines and practices of the Catholics that go against what Scripture says.

The Supreme Authority in the Church

The New Testament Apostles established only two offices in the local churches: elders and deacons. A comparison of the relevant passages (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1-2; 1Peter 5; Acts 6; and 20:28-32) shows that the terms "elder" (or presbyter, from the Greek word presbuteros), "pastor" (or shepherd), and "overseer" (or bishop, from the Greek word episkopos) all refer to the same position of leadership. The Apostles gave no instructions for higher levels of leadership over multiple churches or over all churches in a large city or over the whole world. The New Testament indicates that the 1st century local churches were to be independent congregations under the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Word of God.
In contrast, as we have seen in the historical developments of the spread of Christianity in Western Europe, some bishops began to claim authority over more than one congregation, then over a city, and then over the worldwide church, and along the way cardinals, archbishops, and patriarchs were added to provide leadership under the absolute monarchy of the papacy.
The Catholic Church claims that the pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra ("from the chair of Peter"); when he speaks as the supreme teacher of the church he is incapable of teaching any false doctrine. Likewise, the bishops do not and cannot err when they teach religious and moral doctrines. This Magisterium (consisting of the pope and the bishops) is endowed "with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #890) And, it is claimed, God has given this Magisterium the task of providing the correct interpretation of the Scriptures for the rest of the church. (CCC #85)
How does the Magisterium accomplish this task of interpreting Scripture without error? First, it includes in the Catholic version of the Scriptures the apocryphal books, (CCC #120) which are not accepted as the Word of God by either Jews or Protestants. But in those books, the popes and bishops find justification for some Roman Catholic doctrines, such as praying for the dead. Second, the Catholic Church equates unwritten "Tradition" with written Scripture. She "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence." (CCC #82) This is because "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God." (CCC #97) In Roman Catholic doctrine, "Tradition" (Capital 'T') is the Church's "doctrine, life, and worship." It is "a current of life and truth coming from God through Christ and through the Apostles to the last of the faithful who repeats his creed and learns his catechism." (CCC #78) Abd "Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word." (CCC #113)
So the Catholic Church leadership relies heavily on man-made ideas and practices accumulated over the centuries as the basis for their interpretation of the Word of God.
The pope also claims his supreme authority by asserting that he inherited it from Peter who, according to official doctrine, was the bishop of Rome and the first pope over the worldwide church. "The Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered." (CCC #882)
But nowhere does the New Testament make either of those papal claims (infallibility and authority), nor does it teach the infallible authority of the bishops or describe any kind of magisterium. In fact, the Bible never says that Peter was in Rome (though we know from church history that he was martyred there), which is strange if he was the head of the Church in Rome. And if he was the bishop of Rome, it is equally strange that when Paul wrote his letters to the church in Rome in about A.D. 57, he greeted many believers by name (Romans 16), but does not mention Peter. How could Paul overlook greeting the bishop, especially since his letter was giving very authoritative teaching to the Church there? Furthermore, Paul says that the Christian Church was built on the foundation of the Apostles (plural) and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-20).
It is also significant that in Peter's two letters written to all Christians in Asia Minor he describes himself as an Apostle and bondservant of Jesus Christ (1 Pt. 1:1; 2 Pt. 1:1), not as bishop of Rome. In Peter's first letter he humbly exhorts elders of the various churches as "a fellow elder," not as a supreme elder in authority over them and says they should not "lord over" the Christians that they shepherd in their flocks under the Authority of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (1 Pt. 5:1-4). In 2 Pt. 3:2, he admonishes his readers to follow the commandments of Jesus and "your apostles" (plural), not his writings as uniquely authoritative.
It is true that Peter gave the "birthday sermon" of the Church to Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). But it was the Apostles (plural: Acts 6) whom led the Church there in the earlier years and there is not Biblical evidence that Peter was the supreme leader of the Apostles then or any other time. Peter did lead the first Gentiles to faith in Christ in Caesarea (Acts 10), but when questioned about this by the Apostles a few days later in Jerusalem, Peter did not have supreme authority (Acts 11:1-18). When Philip led the first Samaritans to Christ, the Apostles in Jerusalem did not send Peter alone, but Peter and John together to confirm that the Samaritans were full members of the Church (Acts 8:5-17).
When Paul and Barnabas reported to the Church in Antioch about the many Gentiles coming to Christ, a dispute arose with other Jewish Christians who contended that Gentiles needed to be circumcised. The Church then sent Paul and Barnabas to the Apostles and elders (note: both are plural words, Acts 15:2, 15:4) in Jerusalem to resolve this matter. Peter was there and spoke, but so did Barnabas, Paul, and James. If anyone had supreme authority there, it was James, for it was after he spoke that "the apostles and elders with the whole church" decided to send Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with instructions about Gentile believers (Acts 15:13-22). Peter had no unique authority in this situation.
Three years after Paul's conversion he went to Jerusalem and met Peter and James, the Lord's half-brother (Gal. 1:18-19). Then after 14 more years of ministry among the Gentiles, Paul went to Jerusalem again with Barnabas and Titus to explain to the Church there about their ministry among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:1-9). Paul says that God had committed him to take the gospel to the Gentiles, just as God had committed Peter to take the gospel to the Jews, and Paul saw hi apostolic authority as equal to Peter's Paul names James, Peter, and John (in that order, again suggesting that James was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem) as ones who "seemed to be pillars" in the Church (Gal. 2:9). Those three together gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, signifying their equal authority in the churches, but with James, Peter, and John focusing on evangelism to the Jews and Paul and Barnabas going to the Gentiles.
But some time later Paul found Peter at the church in Antioch and had to confront and rebuke Peter in front of the other Christians for his hypocrisy, caving into peer pressure from Jewish Christians, and by his behavior undermining the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:11-14). This is hardly consistent with the idea that Peter was the head of the whole Church. Peter obviously responded positively to this humbling rebuke, evidenced by his affirming statement that Paul's writings were Scripture (2 Pt. 3:16).
There is no basis in Scripture for the papal claims of infallibility and supreme authority over the worldwide Church. The claims come from a long series of men grabbing more and more power, starting with Leo I in A.D. 440, and it has led to a massive amount of political, moral, and theological corruption through the centuries.
Because the Catholic Church denies the supreme authority of Scripture, through its popes and bishops, it has been able to proclaim numerous doctrines that are contrary to Scripture. Clearly, this is a case of faith in man's word over faith in God's Word.
But the Apostles made it perfectly clear in the New Testament that the primacy belongs to Jesus Christ alone and is not shared with any man. "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18).
The Bible is also clear that the "traditions" spoken of by the Apostles must be the same as the teaching in their New Testament writings, not contradictory to it or adding to or taking away from the doctrines in those books (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6; 1Cor. 11:2). Because of the dangers of false prophets, false teachers, and false gospels (Mat. 24:4; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Pt. 2:1-3), Scripture repeatedly proclaims its supreme authority. Believers are not to turn to the right or to the left from God's Word (Josh. 1:6-8) but walk in the ancient paths of the biblical prophets (Jer. 6:16-19; Is. 8:20). Jewish and Christian fathers were expected to know the Scriptures and teach them to their children (Deut. 6:1-9; Eph. 6:4).
Jesus taught His followers (not just church leaders) to treat the Word of God as their necessary daily food (Mat. 4:4), and that Scripture was the means by which God would produce holy maturity in their lives (Jn. 17:17). His followers were to reject any man-made traditions that contradicted Scripture (Mk. 7:6-13) and to test every truth claim against Scripture (Acts 17:11) because demonic spirits would seek to lead believers astray (1 Jn. 4:1). Paul also warned that men would arise in the Church speaking perverse things to draw Christians away from the truth. So he urged people to follow the Word of God (Acts 20:28-32). This repeated insistence on the supreme authority of God's Word is a reflection of the fact that He has magnified His Word above His name (Psalm 138:2).

I still have other examples that I will share with in the next round because of the lack of time I have.

Thanks, GeneralGrant, for your detailed response.

Unfortunately, most of your argument fails to support your topic or the issues raised by Con in R1. 

Overall, Pro is arguing that Roman Catholics are wrong about some points of doctrine.  But this is not a debate about whether or not Roman Catholics are correct in their beliefs, only about whether or not Roman Catholics are correctly termed Christians.

We can see that the mere presence of doctrinal differences is not sufficient to warrant exclusion from the community of Christians, since we easily discern evidence of doctrinal differences between, say, Methodists and Baptists but in that case Pro has allowed that both doctrines are Christian in spite of at least one denomination being wrong about at least some things.

We can also see that some denominations have not been addressed although some of those are clearly more separated doctrinally than Roman Catholics are from say, Methodists (The Church of Latter-Day Saints, for example or Eastern Orthodoxies).

In R2, Pro focuses on Roman Catholic church authority and hierarchy: The Pope and papal claims to infallibility, holy appointment, etc. do not accord with Pro’s reading of the Bible.  This debate gains nothing by defending the institution of the papacy or its legitimacy according to scripture.  Con is interested in discovering from Pro why the hierarchies of the Roman Catholic disqualify that denomination from the ranks of Christianity.

 Methodists are ok with baptizing babies into their church while Baptists believe the bible mandates adult baptism after confession.  From a Baptist perspective, Methodist practices are not entirely biblical.  From a Methodist perspective, Baptists must have some of the bible wrong.  Certainly, one or both denominations must be wrong.  Both denominations can’t be strictly biblical yet Pro does not mind including both denominations in the community of Christians in spite of obviously unbiblical beliefs by one or both.  Why do some unbiblical beliefs warrant exclusion from Christianity while other unbiblical beliefs do not?  Wouldn’t it be more ideologically consistent and less prejudicial for Pro to say, “here is my denomination and our interpretation of the bible, all other denominations and interpretations are non-Christian?”  Why are Roman Catholics singled out?


Pro faults Con’s offered definitions as human definitions, not divine.  Pro argues that his definition of Christianity comes from God and is therefore superior. 
His definition for a Christian is one who follows God and obeys God and has been saved from their sins by God.  Let’s note that Pro offers no biblical citation here.  In fact, the bible does not get around to defining Christians or Christianity and since the bible is Pro’s exclusive source for the word of God that means God does not define Christian either, right?  

 Let’s be sure to note that the word “Christian” only comes up three times in the New Testament:

“…So, for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’” (Acts 26:28)

“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).
We see that all that the bible definitively tells us about the nature of Christianity is from Peter, who tells Christians to be proud of the name.


Pro identifies the KJV, the King James Version of the Bible as properly Christian version.  Likewise, Con prefers KJV although for perhaps different reasons.  KJV is by far the most poetic and majestic English language translation to read.  However, the language is also now 400 years old and presents many of the same kinds of problems and ambiguities as a Shakespearean play.  The translators of the time were quite limited in their knowledge and access to ancient Hebrew.

“Although the King James Version may sound very lofty and dignified in its language (thou, thee, ye, thine), it can be very difficult to read since the English language has changed substantially in the last 400 years. Likewise, since the King James Version was written, scholars have discovered numerous other manuscripts from which more accurate and current translations have been made.
Since the late 19th century, progress made in Scripture scholarship has produced versions of the Bible that challenge the previously undisputed prominence of the King James Version. Specifically, for Catholics, the King James Version follows the Protestant pattern of not including the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament that are recognized by Catholics: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 & 2 Maccabees (as well as portions of the Books of Esther and Daniel). Readings from these books appear in the Catholic Lectionary at various times of the liturgical year. Likewise, these books contain references to concepts that are familiar to Catholics but rejected by Protestants such as prayer for the dead and intercessions of saints and angels.”

In R1, Con argued that Pro retains sole burden of proof for the claim, “Catholicism is not True Christianity,” and Pro has not disputed this argument.  Con does not need to prove that Roman Catholicism is particularly Christian but Pro must prove that Roman Catholicism is not properly thought of as a Christian denomination.


In R1, Con implicated Pro for creating an ad hoc standard for Christianity.  Pro’s standard is neither well defined or well warranted.  In R2, we can understand that the legitimacy and the authority of the papacy is one primary exclusionary principle that hedges out Roman Catholics.  The suggestion is that there may be more standards introduced in further rounds.  Pro’s sole authority in the application of these standards is his personal interpretation of God’s intent as discovered in one poetic translation of one ancient, deeply ambiguous book. 

Con has defined Christianity in such a fashion as to include any ordinary understanding of “true” Christianity.  Pro has a different definition of “true” Christianity, for which readers are mostly left to deduce out from Pro’s critique.

Con's implication is not refuted by Pro.  “True” Christian stands, at best, as a fallacious sub-set of Christian beliefs.

Pro has identified the Bible on which he relies.  For authority, Pro relies on God’s intent as extracted from the KJV Bible which in turn relies on God for authentication.   This is fairly classic circular reasoning:

We can trust God because the Bible tells us so.
We can trust the Bible because God tells us so.

Con rejects Pro’s claim to authority on the subject on the basis of failure to substantiate by any evidence so far proffered.  For Pro’s authority to hold up, at least God or the Bible must be demonstrated to be true beyond doubt.

Con asked “what is the biblical yardstick that makes some Christians true and other Christians false?”   Pro ignored this direct question.

Con submitted a list of famous Christians and asked Pro to identify which of these qualified as true Christians (in an effort to draw a line around this undefined set).  Pro also ignored these questions.


In R1, Pro justified his debate because of the blame true Christians accrue unjustly for the evil acts of Roman Catholics.  Con asked Pro to name some of those evil acts but in R2,  Pro failed to respond.


In R1, Con printed the Nicene Creed, the Roman Catholic statement of beliefs recited at every mass.  Con asked Pro to identify which statements contradict the bible, Pro demurred in R2.


Con asked Pro what advantages are gained for Christians generally by redefining Christianity more narrowly than the common application.

Con also asked Pro if a narrow definition of Christianity was consistent with Christ’s famously inclusive, not exclusive example.

Pro has ignored both these points.

Going forward into R3, Con is perfectly willing to concede that some beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church do not accord with some beliefs of some other Christian denominations as well as some interpretations of some versions of the Bible by some Christian denominations.  Since there is more than one denomination in Pro’s set of beliefs that merits the appellation “true Christianity” some discordance is clearly permissible within this exclusive set.   Therefore, Roman Catholics are not excluded only for reasons of doctrine or the doctrines which don’t accord bear some special distinction in the case of Roman Catholicism- either way, Pro has failed to make this key link to thesis and is also dropping Con’s points like hot rocks.

Round 3
Pro forfeits, extend all arguments into R4.
Round 4
Extend all argument to R5
Round 5
Thanks to GeneralGrant for conceding this debate in deed if not in word.

Con recommends that voters award arguments to Con.  Pro argued that some Roman Catholic doctrines failed to accord with Pro's interpretation of scripture.  Con pointed out that only one Christian denomination at best could accomplish perfect accordance with scripture and yet Pro includes multiple denominations into the set of True Christians.  Therefore, the definition of True Christian must hinge on more than incorrect doctrine but Pro has never responded or illuminated the difference that distinguishes.

Pro only responded to Con's argument on two points: preferred Bible and authority.  Pro has offered that his (unexplained) definition for Christianity comes from God which Con supposes we are meant to infer from Pro's citations in the absence of any link to argument.

Con recommends that voters award conduct for triple forfeit.

Thanks in advance for the voters' kind consideration.