MacArthur’s Mistakes: Heresies of the Catholic Church (Mary Worship)



John MacArthur is a prolific and popular writer at the reformed end of the Evangelical spectrum. He is also a fierce anti-Catholic. On his blog he wrote a series of articles titled Exposing the Heresies of the Catholic Church which are (and I do not say this lightly) surprisingly bad. I will be responding to some of the more egregious errors in a little series of my own. It would be most charitable to read his article all the way through first – then come back and read my reply.

This article concerns Exposing the Heresies of the Catholic Church: Mary Worship. MacArthur’s article is not very long, yet even in this small space he manages to concoct a combination strawman/slippery slope argument that rivals the humorous DirectTV ad. I have a screenshot of it below with the important points highlighted. First, in yellow, are the actual statements that the Catholic Church issued concerning the veneration of Mary (Ineffabilis Deus,1854), after this, in red, is MacArthur’s “interpretation” of the text:


So MacArthur’s take-away from Mary being the most exalted human being in Heaven is that she is the fourth person of the Trinity.


MacArthur is using a flawed hermeneutic here (one that is, unfortunately, not unusual in some circles) that apparently says one may read anything into the text that its words can possibly bear. Only if words like “Queen” or “co-redeemer” are being used the way MacArthur reads them does his conclusion follow. That he has misrepresented Catholic teaching is obvious to anyone who takes the time to see how the Church uses those terms. For this one need only consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Mary.

The Catholic View of Mary

The most important thing to note about the Church’s teaching on Mary is that “Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. ” (CCC 964). Whatever else is said of her, no matter how inappropriately exalted it might sound, it is Mary’s role in the ministry of Christ that merits it. Thus, her titles always need to be understood according to her roles (which always, themselves, depend on Jesus Christ). Once this is grasped, the objections becomes far less tenable.

Queen of Heaven

According to Catholic theology, Mary was “preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death” (CCC 966). As the highest ranked human being, she is called “Queen of Heaven.” This not only fits her description in Revelation 12, but it is also derived from the Old Testament.

In the Davidic Kingdom the queen was often the king’s mother. Because the kings often had many wives, issues would arise with only one being the queen. So, the mother of the King was considered the queen of the kingdom (e.g., I Kings 2:17-25 where Solomon is on the throne with his mother Bathsheba. See also Gen.16:4, 8, 9, 1 Kings 11:19; 15:13; 2 Kings 5:3; 10:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16; Psalm 123:2; Proverbs 30:23; Isaiah 24:2; 47:5, 7; Jeremiah 13:18; 29:2). Catholics see this as a prophetic type of the Kingdom role of Mary – if Jesus is King, Mary is Queen  (cf. Ps. 45 and Luke 1:31-33).

This does in any way support the ludicrous idea that Mary is considered “an additional member of the Trinity”!

Co-Redeemer / Mediatrix

Mary had a faith that never wavered. From assenting to bearing the God-Man, to her agony at his death on the cross, Mary faithfully joined Jesus in his work. After her death, she prays for sinners and (like us when we pray), this can result in salvation. Thus it is said that, “her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” (CCC 969). Thus, it is not that Mary died for sinners or bought their freedom from sin – it is that by her faithfulness, actions, and prayers, the work of Christ took place. Whether or not it could have been different is not the issue. God chose to work through Mary, and her involvement makes her a partner in the plan of salvation. That is what is being acknowledged in her title of “co-redeemer” (aka Mediatrix).

Note that immediately following this declaration, the Church is quick to add that,

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. . . . rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it. (CCC 970)

Mary’s exalted status in the work of salvation is based on her exalted role. We are co-redeemers and mediators in a sense as well. Paul writes that we are to “intercede” or “mediate” for others as part of our “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19). (In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, he even claims to have saved some people!) Any mediating ability we (or Mary) have depend on Jesus’s mediation. There is only one redeemer – one who mediates salvation between mankind and God (1 Tim. 5:2) as to his incarnation and redemption, but that does not mean there are no “sub-mediators” within mankind as well (we tacitly admit this every time we ask others to pray for us). This, in fact, is taught in First Timothy itself: “let intercessions to be made for all men” (cf. Heb. 7:24-25).

The fact that Jesus is our one mediator does not preclude him from including others in his activity. We see this in other examples as well: Matthew 23:8 indicates that we have “only one teacher,” yet James 3:1 and Ephesians 4:11 indicate there are many teachers. One verse later we are told to “call no man ‘father’, for you have one Father, who is in heaven,” yet both Peter and Paul do this very thing (1 Cor. 4:14–15; Phil. 2:22; Phm. 10; Titus 1:4; 1 Tim 1:18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 1 Pet. 5:13). Jesus is the Shepherd (Jn. 10:11), but so are the leaders of the Church (1 Pet. 5:2).

No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.” (CCC 970)

For whatever reason, God has chosen to use a variety of creatures in his work, and when he does so it is not inappropriate to indicate that by the use of titles. This does not “ascribe to men the infallible characteristics that only belong to God.” These particular titles of Mary simply picks out her roles. They do not elevate her to “an alternative avenue of access to God.”

On Marian Veneration

Protestants confuse a lot of things that Catholics distinguish. One place this becomes problematic is that Protestants see prayer and worship as the same thing. But prayer simply means “to ask.” No one overhearing an older English conversation between two men with one saying, “I pray thee, Lord, where are the fairgrounds?” would think the speaker was worshiping the man as a god! So one can “pray to” someone without worshiping them. And, if the saints in Heaven are able to know what is happening on Earth and offer prayers in response (which they apparently can – Rev. 6:9-11), then “praying to them to pray for us” should not be an issue.

Further, there are distinctions amongst the types of honor appropriately given to various persons. In Latin these are called Latria, Dulia and Hyperdulia. Latria is worship and is the worship that is due only to God (that is why idol worship is called idolatry – idol+latria). Dulia is not worship, it is the giving of due honor.  We do this when we throw an astronaut a parade or make a statue of a president. Hyperdulia is the highest honor  given to the highest of humans – the Virgin Mary (considered so for being  honored by God as the mother of Jesus). Mary is not worshiped – no sacrifices are given to her. In fact, while the word “worship” appears nearly 100 times in the Catechism, it occurs zero times with relation to Mary.



MacArthur sums up his issues with the Catholic view of Mary by saying that, “it’s often a shock for Catholics to read the Bible and see how little is actually said about Mary. . . . It warps the truth of Scripture and distorts the Person and work of Jesus Christ.” MacArthur himself might be surprised that only a few pages are devoted to Mary in the Catechism. He might also be surprised by what the Catholic Church actually teaches – because the “warping” on display here is MacArthur’s ridiculous inferences and subsequent slander of Catholic teaching. If MacArthur is really interested in “unleashing the truth,” he might start with his dishonest presentation of Catholic piety – because this kind of blatant misrepresentation can only hurt his cause.


46 thoughts on “MacArthur’s Mistakes: Heresies of the Catholic Church (Mary Worship)

  1. MacArthur is correct. For all the sidestepping of the issue in official Romanist writings, the actual effect is that Mary is indeed worshipped, and is indeed seen as a redeemer. She is also a mediator between man and Christ, which is heretical. The whole identity of the Catholic Mary is unbiblical, and I’m surprised to see such a defense of Romanist doctrine on this site.

    In order for prayers to Mary to be answered by Mary, Mary would have to be omnipresent (to hear the prayers of all Catholics in the world). That one characteristic puts her on a level with God. Praying to Mary in and of itself puts her on a level with God.

    The Romanist Mary is NOT the Mary of the Bible.

  2. Concerning Mary hearing prayers, did you notice in the article that I cited Rev. 6 as an exaqmple of the saints having knowledge of goings-on on Earth and then sending up prayers about them? They do not need to be omniscient any more than I do to hear your prayers. If the issue is that they are in God’s presence and too far away to hear prayers on Earth then why couldn’t God simply tell them whatw as said? In any case you have to explain how they know what is going on on Earth. This does not put Mary or any saints on a level with God any more than asking your friends to pray for you does.

  3. Marian devotion does NOT go back to the N.T. Just because aberrant teachings were brought in later, that doesn’t make them biblical.

    Rev. does not have everyone in heaven hearing all the prayers of everyone – But Mary does. How can that be? And she answers their prayers – how can that be. She is indeed placed as a fourth member of the Godhead by the average Catholic. And they do see her as the intermediary between us and Jesus – that is unbiblical.

    And your response about asking Mary to intercede being the same as asking your friend to pray for you is the standard Romanist response. Mary is dead. We are nowhere told to talk to the dead, and in fact are told we are not to try to communicate with the dead. Mary has no more power than any other person who has died.

    Mary was not born sinless, she did was not assumed bodily into heaven, she is not the queen of heaven, she cannot respond to our prayers, etc.

  4. What part do I need to back up – that there is no biblical evidence for such mariolatry?

    It is Rome who asserts that Mary was born sinless, yet they have no evidence or even a logical, biblical argument.

    It is Rome who asserts Mary was assumed bodily into heaven, and yet they have no evidence or even a rational biblical argument

    It is Rome who asserts Mary is the “Queen of Heaven,” and yet they have no evidence or rational biblical argument.

    It is Rome who asserts Mary can respond to our prayers, and yet they have no evidence or rational biblical argument.

    Deut. 18:11-12 says we are not to consult with the dead – is this just an assertion or is this evidence against praying to Mary?

    Just what am I asserting without evidence? My assertions are that Romanist Mariolatry is unbiblical nonsense and not found in the Bible. If you have evidence from Scripture, then present it. If the only evidence you have is Romanist dogma from someone who claims to represent Christ on earth, then you have nothing but assertions.

  5. Interesting that the Church responsible for selecting the canon of Scripture and defining Christian orthodoxy and which included thinkers like Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Chesterton, Newman, etc. is so completely unbiblical and illogical. Since you already know that these 4 issues “have no evidence or even a logical, biblical argument,” I am sure you can tell me real quick how Rome argues for these things. Go.

  6. I know how Rome argues for such things, as I’m sure you also know, so I think it is pointless and a waste of time to type it all out here. I have studied Romanism for many years, including studying many papal encyclicals, the Catechism, Ludwig Ott’s “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,” the many canons and decrees of the councils, etc, and find lots and lots of papal assertions to set up new dogmas and doctrines which will not be found in the Bible. Of course I’m just a layman, with no degree letters after my name, so I’m apparently unable to see the rational behind all the false teaching of Rome.

    By the way, the Roman church was NOT responsible for selecting the Canon (it was already selected by the church, not the Roman organization), nor did the ROMAN church define orthodoxy, since that was done by the Bible and the councils prior to the Romanist church taking over.

    Apparently you are supportive of Romanist dogma of this sort and do not appear to be able to be swayed in your position, and I will not be swayed in my position either. So the exercise here is futile.

  7. There is, of course, no biblical evidence for the proposition that: “all true doctrines about Christ and His saving economy must be supported by biblical evidence”. That is one primary presupposition dividing Catholics and Protestants. Where, exactly was the “deposit of faith” deposited? Not that I think for a minute that the primary Marian dogmas do not have a basis in the written dimension of Apostolic teaching. But the broader assumption is the central problem.

    Pax Christi

  8. Glenn,

    Your lack of a degree or either of our willingness to listen is not at issue here. I do not understand how my requests for support for your position is being taken by you as an unwillingness to be swayed. It’s simple: You made some strong claims and I am asking that you back them up. You don’t need to reproduce volumes of arguments – just show that you at least know what they are.

    You listed several doctrines of Catholicism that you said had no logical or biblical basis, so you must know their reasons for holding to them – otherwise you would not know enough to make the claim. Again I ask – what are they?

    As to the canon – you said it was not the Roman Church that decided it. OK, when did the (non-Roman) Church decide it exactly?

    As to Orthodoxy – if the Bible determines orthodoxy, then where does it say which doctrines must be held in order for one to be considered orthodox, and which of the hundreds of positions on various Bible doctrines are correct?

  9. Ray,

    Yes, there is a difference between a lack of support from the Bible and somwething being “unbiblical”. There is no biblical support for pews, meeting in church buildings, youth pastors, or lock-ins – but these are not necessarily “unbiblical” in the way that phrase usualy sounds. One wonders how all these “non-biblical” ideas got into the Church so fast!

  10. Great Facebook convo going on – thought I’d put it here.

    DZ: I actually listened to all of his sermons on this topic and, unless i was misunderstanding, he seemed to be quoting straight from the sources of Catholic authors. I think he even prefaced his whole series by stating that exact thing.

    LL: I’m not sure if it’s dishonest. I’ve seen too many evangelical who cannot see Catholic positions for anything.

    Doug Beaumont: Quoting a source and correctly explaining it are two different things. I am pretty sure he knows that Catholicism does not teach that Mary is the 4th person of the Trinity!

    LL: Wow.

  11. More from Facebook:

    SC: It appears I have woken up a sleeping monster…in a good way. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. I see your points on MacArthur’s interpretation(s) of the exaltation of Mary. I’m not sure if tone plays a part in bringing things into proper context. If so, I think there may be some value in listening to the series–maybe you did. I didn’t feel that he was speaking in absolutes about Mary being an addition to the Trinity. Instead, I think he was more or less saying that the emphasis Catholics place on Mary is too much; thus essentially placing her at an unbiblical high position. He speaks of her humility and how it doesn’t correlate with the lofty seat Catholics place her. I don’t disagree with MacArthur using flawed hermeneutics to convince his audience. Without even reading MacArthur’s response and based solely on the last sentence of the 1854 article that talks about, “… [Mary] stands at the right hand of [Jesus]…petitions for us…what she asks, she obtains…” I see where there is room for concern. Regarding the Marian Veneration and praying to the saints: I suppose the question for me is simply, “why?” Why would anybody need (or even want) to pray to anyone else when God is available through Jesus alone. Wether it’s acceptable or not, I just don’t understand the need for it. More so, I don’t understand the emphasis on the specifics: pray to Peter for this, Paul for that, etc. Can Catholics pray to any of the saints? If so, how can they remember all of them? Again I ask, “why?” Also, I didn’t get the same take away from revelation 6:9-11 so I might need some help with that one…Again, great read. More questions were raised because of it. MacArthur is quite dramatic and may not have the best method of delivery to an audience with higher education. My take always weren’t as absolute as yours and more intended to drive the point home for the audience. Even with an understanding that Mary isn’t a 4th part of the Trinity, the position still doesn’t settle right in my heart.

    JD: Prayer to saints bothered me too for a while but it’s all about community. Protestants largely think that the dead are gone while Orthodox and Catholics see an active community. If you would ever ask a friend to pray for you it’s the same thing. If you choose a pious friend over a vulgar one doubly so. After all prayer is a form of worshiping God and to pray for someone else is community with God. Do you not think that the saints care nothing about the Body of Christ and worshiping as a community. It’s also the conclusion of the creed that predates the formation of the biblical cannon. It IS the heart of Christianity.

    Doug Beaumont: SC, It may be the case that Mac was just using hyperbole, but given his audience and the fact that it went out on print he needs to make that more clear. As to the “why” questions – see Justin’s posts above this one. If James is right and the prayers of a righteous man avail much, then wouldn’t it make sense to ask the MOST righteous persons for prayer?

    JD: Yes Christ but also others duplication to saints does not need require not praying to Christ. Just as asking a friend of yours to pray for you does not disallow you wife from doing the same. In that list if requests why not allow the saints to worship God with your concerns while your friends may pray and rarely for any length. It also draws you closer to God by connecting more with His body that is the Church with all its members

    SC: I see your points about requesting prayers from the saints is much like asking a friend to pray for you; thus empowering community with the Body of Christ. My concern with that is that I don’t see equal emphasis in Catholicism regarding the Saints who have passed being on the same playing field as our brothers and sisters who are present with us. If there were an equal push to utilize both spectrums equally as prayer warriors on out behalf, then I could buy into a bit more. To your point, Doug, I would disagree that it makes “sense to ask the MOST righteous persons for prayer” and would instead say that it makes more sense to ask the most righteous Person (singular) since the hierarchy allows for this to occur. If prayer was based on following a chain of command, then yes, I agree with you–go to the most righteous one you can that is next in line. However, since we have full, uninhibited access to the Commander in Chief, I would rather go straight to the top. Plus, I feel that there is great value in speaking to a love brother or sister in faith and asking for prayer face to face. But that doesn’t, in any way, take away from the responsibility that I have to communicate with the Father. If I’m going to pray to someone or ask someone to pray for me that’s not directly on front of me, then I see no value in it being anyone other than The Lord Himself. To Justin’s point of “Too many of us in the Protestant world…despise Mary…” I don’t see that in the circles I am around. There seems to be a healthy respect for the life she lived, sacrifices she made, etc.. But I agree with you in that I wouldn’t say they “adore” her. I have a LOT to learn. Especially about the after life (before the uprising of saints or whatever it’s called) and there involvement in the Body of Christ while they wait for His return. Maybe that would aid in my understanding of it all but I don’t see it swaying my stance on face to face interaction with the brethren and bypassing the deceased middle men and going straight to the top. Hopefully I’m making sense in all if this while I process. I told DZ that I feel like a little league ball player on the field with the MLB. Thanks for your input and responses.

    Doug Beaumont: SC, I think you are making some good points but they all depend on how Catholics/Orthodox actually operate in real life. If the concerns you have over going “straight to the commander-in-chief” are legitimate, then asking others to pray seems to suffer from the same problems. The saints are ont stand-ins for God any more tha our friends are. Further, the saints are not on the same playing field as us. They are glorified, completely free from sin, and dwelling in the presence of God – none of those things are true of us. James 5:16 means their prayers are more effective than ours.

    DZ: It’s not the same thing at all. Praying to a creature and praying to our creator is a different thing. Talking to my friend, like Scott, and talking to my friend who passed away last week (not literal) is an obvious difference. Prayer is a form of worship so why should I feel compelled to pray to a saint?
    “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” (Rev. 19:10).
    The angel tells John not to bow a knee to him because he is a creature.
    Justin, you said Mary is the God-bearer. Where is that in scripture? Also, with your assertion that we should “see Mary as the hope of salvation,” what are the ramifications for Protestants, like myself, who dont hold that view and only place my hope in Christ?

    Doug Beaumont: DZ, Your statement that “Prayer is a form of worship” begs the question. Like I said in my article, prayer is making a request – the word does not necessarily take on worship overtones, and such a thing is explicitly denied with regard to the saints in the traditions under discussion.

    DZ: Oh, I understand. I was just reiterating what JD was saying: “prayer is a form of worshipping God.” I guess what could be argued is the details of the prayer, but at this point, it’s irrelevant.

    Doug Beaumont: DZ, No you’re right – if JD said that then in this context it would not be the case. There is some equivocation going on. I see it now – he meant that when we PRAY (“ask”) the saints to PRAY (“worship”) with us, then we are all worshiping together.

  12. Even more Facebook goodness:

    MG: Doug, I’m just reading this… and I’m very curious to know why you consider (or, at least, equates) the “Catholic Saints” the MOST righteous persons? Living in a Catholic country, I’m also very curious to understand why St. Michael (an angel!) is a saint and I’ve seen no mention (so far, to St. Moses, or St. David).. so, the criteria for the “booking” seem to very, hmm, how will I say? Capricious… from the part of the men who decide who’s and who’s not gonna be a MOST RIGHTEOUS… That’s just my first objection… I’m not agreeing with McArthur, I’m just questioning your defenses here. (I’d have more things to say, but that’s enough for FAcebook… hahahah)

    Doug Beaumont Basically “Saints” = persons in Heaven (i.e., in the presence of God). Angels are persons in Heaven, so they are titled called “saint” even though it sounds weird to us non-Catholics. I do not think I ever said anything about “Catholic Saints”. As to Mary, she is seen as highest because she gave birth to the person of God at his incarnation – an honor not shared by any other human (or angel!). Agree or disagree, I don’t think that is capricious.

    MG: I’m saying a “saint” in the Bible is a person (we could argue if he/she is dead of alive), but always a person. You are using a system that consider a “saint” a specific group of people chose by a special group in Rome, that, by the way, have even chosen an angel as a “saint”… and (up here on this FB post) you seem to have equated “saint” (in this confusing Roman definition) to the MOST honoured people. I think this must be clarified. This things must be clarified because the word assumes different meaning for different groups… in the Bible, we never pray to angels, for example.

    Doug Beaumont: A saint in this context is a person currently in Heaven (i.e., in the presence of God). This is not an honor conferred by men – it is a state of being that is simply recognized by the Church. As far as I know, we never pray to Jesus in the Bible either. But the Bible is not the only source of Christian teaching that exists!

  13. Doug, I agree wholeheartedly with Glenn. Your own responses are unworthy of a disciple of Jesus Christ. The ancient heresies of Roman Catholicicm make it no less a psuedo-christian cult than Mormonism or the JWs. The repeated warnings of Jesus and the apostles concerning false teachers were already applicable in their own day and certainly not less in the few centuries that immediately followed. Jude urges us to earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. If you insist on contending for a faith that continued to evolve and be added to in the centuries following (and continues to evolve) then we must include you in those whom we are warned about. The RC teaching concerning Mary is a cunningly devised fable and no less so just because it’s an ancient one. Alan Spencer

  14. Alan,

    First – if you agree wholeheartedly with Glenn, perhaps you can provide the support for his assertions that he failed to produce. That would help a lot, otherwise his claims have the appearance of being made up.

    Second – I think you have two serious defects in your thinking represented here – one of principle and one of particulars. First your attack on the principle of development: Christianity is a living religion and that means it is not static. The issue is whether changes are developments or distortions of the faith once delivered to the saints. There were centuries of “non-trinitarian” Christianity, and lots of proposed ways to explain the Incarnation until these issues were settled by authoritative councils/creeds/defintions of the Church. Development is not the same as heretical evolution.

    And now to your particular complaint: Yes, there were heresies early on (e.g., the Galatian heresy). So you are correct that being ancient does not make something true. However, those ancient heresies were dealt with by developing doctrine at authoritative councils/creeds/defintions of the Church (e.g., the Galatian heresy cf. Acts 15).

    So: orthodox Christian doctrine develops, and it does so primarily through authoritative councils/creeds/defintions of the Church. (Even if you restrict yourself to the ecumenical councils/creeds/defintions of the first millennium this is clear). So before you compare Catholicism to cults, you should ask yourself this: Does the ancient Church look more like the Catholic church or your church?

  15. Alan, your comments reflect the kind of thinking that pushes people towards Catholicism. The reason is this: all you have done is assert, assert, and assert. And the assertions to anyone schooled in Catholic theology commit the straw-man fallacy. If you really want to interact along reasonable lines of conversation you must stop this. And now this is *why* this kind of ranting only pushes people towards Catholicism … when rants like this one are asked to justify the assertions, the attempt at justification rarely comes … if at all. Then people who are genuinely interested in studying Catholicism for themselves, often they see through these straw-men to find something wonderful.

    For those of you who read this blog and wish to interact over Catholicism, please look at the sad rant done in Alan’s post and work to avoid doing the same. The more charity we can all bring to the table, the more fruitful will our conservations be. We should all desire to honor God with truth … and ranting is not a wise way to do this.


    Jason Reed

  16. The N.T. Church looks more like my church than the organization of Rome.

    The Mormons can – and do – use the same line of reasoning that the church doctrine develops. Romanism is indeed very cultic with all the unbiblical and heretical teachings they have brought in.

  17. Alan, in point of fact, Mormonism is more in line with your line of thinking. Both you and the Mormon believe that the church had basically gone into apostasy by the middle of the 2nd century … and stayed that way … until … a reformer comes along and tries to re-establish the church to her roots. With the reform coming centuries and centuries later.

    But … again … you are making assertions with no argument.

  18. Alan…

    Let me take a few guesses here: Does your church have authoritative apostolic councils that are binding on the whole church (Acts 15)? Probably not – because you don’t think that’s legitimate. Do you meet in homes and sell everything you have to share with each other (Acts 4)? Probably not – because the church has developed since then. So which is it? Must the church be just like the NT church to be legitimate or can it develop?

    Mormons do not even attempt an historical argument for their “prophet.” I think you perhaps misunderstand both groups.

  19. Jason, and Doug,
    I think you were addressing the Mormons attacks to me. Sorry, but I am an ex-Mormon and have been studying their faith in depth for the past almost 40 years since coming to the real Christ of the Bible, and it is YOU who don’t seem to understand Mormonism.

    As for Roman Catholicism, I have done enough exposure of their false teachings on my own blog that I don’t feel the need to wrestle with it all here, since you here seem to want to forget about the Reformation and go back to Rome.

    By the way, Acts 4 is descriptive, not proscriptive. But you knew that, didn’t you?

    When the church “develops” away from N.T. teachings as did Rome, it is indeed illegitimate.

    As far as the charge that either I or Alan think the church went into apostasy, well I can’t speak for Alan, but that is a totally ludicrous idea. The real church never failed to stay around even when persecuted by Rome.

  20. Glenn,

    I am not sure why this was not clear from the comments being specifically addressed to Alan, but we were both addressing Alan’s claim that RC and LDS had the same arguments. And yes, Acts 4 is descriptive and not necessarily prescriptive (hence my using it to show Alan his mistake). As to the rest, I’m done responding to bare assertions.

  21. Hey Doug,,

    I have been reading your latest articles and find them very interesting. This being October and me being a good reformed Protestant:), I am dedicating this month to discussing the Protestant Reformation on “Theology Matters with The Pellews” on our internet radio show. This coming Thursday (October 10th) 6-8pm (EST), we will be looking at the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and will also be examining this very article on the air and offering a response. As I have read the comments in this section, both yourself and Jason Reed welcome thoughtful dialog and arguments:

    Jason Reed:
    “And now this is *why* this kind of ranting only pushes people towards Catholicism … when rants like this one are asked to justify the assertions, the attempt at justification rarely comes … if at all. Then people who are genuinely interested in studying Catholicism for themselves, often they see through these straw-men to find something wonderful.”

    I am in agreement with you, Jason, that we need good thoughtful dialog and want to offer both you and Doug the opportunity to call into our live show and publicly defend the arguments put forth in this article.

    Doug, I must admit to some confusion as to whether *you* actually hold these views or if you are just merely opposing MacArthur’s understanding of the Catholic view of Mary. Regardless you offer several standard Catholic arguments for their position and that is what we will be examining.

    I greatly respect both of you gentlemen as you both had a great impact on my love for apologetics, philosophy and for defending the truth. Just as this article was written publicly and several comments have been made publicly defending this article, I am of the opinion that this article needs to be publicly challenged and again I invite both of you to call into the show. The number to call is 760-542-3907. I will open the phone lines around 6:50 est so there will be over an hour available for those desiring to call in and dialog with my guests. After Melissa gets the link up, I will post it both here and on facebook so people can either listen live or download the podcast afterwards. Please take this invitation in the spirit it is given and that is with humility and a desire to have fruitful dialog on these important topics.

    God Bless!

  22. Doug:

    I am a bit amazed that you, and apparently Jason, have taken such positions on the RCC. I can only conclude, as respectfully as I can, that you have not exercised discernment in these statements. You have focused on the fine points of the trees, and missed the forest.

    You are, of course, correct on the fine points of distinctions that the RCC makes in such areas as dulia and hyperdulia, and shades of gray in meritorious works. However, these distinctions do not filter down to the average person in the pew……there are many a catholic who will light a few more candles to Mary and say a few more rosaries, thinking that this will get great Aunt Nag out of pergatory a few weeks sooner. At the popular level, I’d suggest the majority of catholics do not make these distinctions…..the prayers and supplications to and religious activities blend together to make a works based system. No doubt Peter in Galatia had some fine point of distinction to justify his actions. Paul would have none of it, based on what was communicated to the masses.

    I have, in my files, popular-level publications telling me that if I wear my scapular because there are too many souls focused on Jesus, and not enough on Mary. I have statements from Mary at Fatima where she asks us to “give ourselves to me entirely — to give every bit of yourselves to me, every bit of you….give me every thought, every word, every action every indulgence…” What the theologians from the teaching magisterium say in latin is not what the person in the pew hears, and all the religious activity tacked on in between merely adds up to a works-based system understood by the churchgoers.

    I again give you the respect you deserve, for you have done your homework, and I do not challenge your references. I do challenge your discernment, for you are close to supporting grave error.

    Yours in Christ,
    Glenn Smith

  23. Glenn,

    Thank you for your concern and your tone. I would be interested in seeing these documents you have – charges of “what most Catholics actually believe” are very easy to make, yet I rarely find confirmation from any trustworthy source (or from the Catholics I know). The failure, when it exists, of the laity to accurately understand the Church’s actual teachings is unfortunate and often probably the fault of their not having been taught well (the testimony of many ex-Catholics is evidence of this). However, judgment of the Church must be limited to its official teachings. I attended a Baptist Church for some time pastored by an SES graduate and professor that had Masons in the leadership, and deacons who regularly thanked God the Father for dying on the cross for them in their prayers (with amens coming from both the pews and the stage). What follows from that is not that Baptists are occultic patripassianists!

    What the “average Catholic” thinks or does not think is immaterial to what the Catholic Church is. In congregational traditions, what the average person in the pew thinks has major ramifications for what that tradition becomes – for they make their own doctrinal statements and choose their own ministers by themselves and rarely have a binding authority outside of their democratic units. This is where the distinction between the magesterium and the laity in Catholicism comes in. If I want to know what Catholcisim teaches I need to look to “the theologians from the teaching magisterium” because that is the only legitimate source. I won’t speculate on what Peter may or may not have done, but I will point out that what Paul “communicated to the masses” was what was confirmed in an apostolic council (that reached its decision based on Peter’s testimony, no less!).

    As to what happens when scapulars are worn or what was said at Fatima (and I cannot find that quote – please let me know its source), these are not really connected to whether MacArthur’s assertions were acceptable, and that is all this article was about.

    God bless,

  24. Glenn,

    Thank you for providing this, and for your generally careful handling of the subject on your blog. The brown scapular was one of the first things I had thrown in my face when I made the suggestion that perhaps the Catholic view of salvation was not completely heretical haha.

    What I have found is that popular piety in Roman Catholicism can be very confusing from an Evangelical point of view. RC is not as “two-story” as Evangelicalism – it’s not just “me and Jesus” – it is more like “me, my family, parish, priest, bishop, all other Catholics, the Pope, Saints, Angels, and Jesus.” The whole body is considered important. Thus, your concern that “works of God are mixed with works of men” is misplaced. This is just what follows from the fact that, although he did not have to, Jesus has chosen to use the members of his body to accomplish his work (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 and 1 Cor. 9:22). Because of this, hundreds of personal devotional activities have sprung up over the millennia concerning the more holy members of the body (James 5:16). Those concerning Mary – the Mother of God – are especially popular, and things like the Brown Scapular are part of that.

    Now on to the problem of official vs. popular teaching. Four times in your article you say that Catholics only see what the local priest tells them, which in practice can vary from official teaching. First, this is ironic given that the tract you quote from was written by the Bishop – not the priest – of the diocese! 🙂 Second, while you imply that the official teaching is hidden away in some obscure Latin documents, Catholic study Bibles, books, websites, and other lay-level sources abound. Further, Catholics primarily learn the faith from Mass, not obscure documents of canon law.

    This is important because the bullet points you quoted are advertising the benefits of an official rite – not just guidelines for someone to privately interpret. During that official process, one learns that the act involves much more than wearing a piece of cloth. Just as baptism is not just getting dunked, and the Lord’s Supper is not just eating a snack, sacramentals cannot simply be appropriated by performing the physical act associated with them. The brown scapular is a sign and seal of a deeper promise and devotional practice. If you read how the Catholic Encyclopedia describes it, you will see that one has to be among the faithful to receive the benefits of the scapular (it is not a magical object!).

    So while it may be true that such a practice is “extremely distasteful to protestants,” it should be evaluated according to what the Church actually teaches in the official rite, and not how an Evangelical might understand a brief pamphlet on it.

  25. I generally don’t see much benefit in tit-for-tat discussions online, so I will make one brief comment here and on your blog, then let this be. What I showed here is given by a local priest, and has Bishops quoting Popes, teaching me about doctrinal issues of salvation for people inside and outside the church. Separate and apart from anyone’s personal “deeper promise and devotional practice” is the implications taught here regarding works and salvation, such as who is responsible for acts attributed to God. The best such a response can do is again tie together works and salvation, which is the issue in the first place.

    Doug, I am not defending John Macarthur, James White, Jack Chick, or anyone else. I have no dog in this fight. My wife was catholic when we married, and I still have many RCC relatives that I respect, as I do you and Jason. I can only urge you both to step back here and ponder the situation: you have a brother with concerns for you. The doctrinal issues here are profound, deep, and significant, and the doctrine taught here by the RCC presents profound error, which you have apparently accepted.

  26. Hey Glenn,

    Thank you for the comments. I would love to interact with you on these things, but right now I don’t have time. I’m busy finishing this PhD and I have kids under the weather. I’ll get to your blog as soon as I am able.

    Peace in Christ,

    Jason Reed

  27. Forgive me, I haven’t read all the comments, I might have ADHD or something. Did anyone bring up the fact that one of the previous posts mentions that we are not supposed to converse with the dead? I seem to remember that Jesus, within eyesight of Peter, James, and John, has a conversation with Moses and Elijah. Wouldn’t that be a contradiction? OR would the more likely reason be that Jesus also happened to mention that “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Matt 22 Are those in Heaven dead?
    Wouldn’t the more likely thought process here be that they might have had an earthly death, but even now, are more alive in Christ than the rest of us? They are beholding, in person, the Beatific Vision! The saints in Heaven have none of the earthly cares or hang ups that we have. They are with the Triune God! Revelation talks about the saints offering the prayers of the saints to God. How do they obtain these prayers? If they couldn’t hear what’s going on on earth, how do they get the prayers? Does it make any sense whatsoever that God hears the prayers and instead of dealing directly, would then give them to the saints who then offer them back to Him? Seriously?!?!

  28. Erik,

    You make several good points here but I am somewhat confused on the last one. It seems like your conclusion does not follow form everything you said leading up to it. Are you just arguing that earthly prayers do not go to god first? Or are you arguing that they do not get to the saints at all?

    If it is the former, I am not really sure what the issue is, but OK. 🙂 If it is the latter, well, the same verse you alluded to in Revelation that has the saints praying also shows that they do indeed have concern for what is going on in the earth. If God graciously allows people on Earth to join in prayer, and this is somehow more effective or beneficial than solitary prayer (why else would he do so?), then it is no more absurd for God to allow saints in heaven to know prayer requests and offer them back to him than it is for him to accept multiple prayers on Earth.

    Then again it’s early, I have no coffee activating my brain, and maybe I have misunderstood. 🙂

  29. 🙂 Not at all. Sorry for the confusion. . Of course God hears our prayers first and foremost. I was just railing about the fact that some people don’t logically interpret Scripture. Revelation clearly (for me) lays out the saints praying for us. I also believe that those that have gone on before us are very aware of what’s going on here on earth, and that there wouldn’t be any point of the passage of our prayers being offered by the saints, if we weren’t allowed/given permission to ask for their intercession.
    I imagine that I made that as clear as mud.

  30. Pingback: Tiber Treading No More | Soul Device

  31. Glenn E. Chatfield:

    Heresies of the Catholic church ?? How about heresies and unbiblical doctrines of evangelicalism (fundamentalist protestantism) ?? The heretical and unbiblical “sola scriptura” has been an abject failure since its inception. This apostate belief has led to the 43,000 competing apostate denominations that cannot even agree on a basic Christian essentials such as Salvation !! Go to different cults/fellowships/sects/ independent churches and they will all tell you a different theology and interpretation on how to be saved. And the worst is they all claim what you claim – Just believe in Jesus, I was inspired by the Holy Spirit, I have a personal divine revelation from God blah blah blah but all have hundreds of interpretation and doctrines that changes overtime – whether its a trend or fashion or spirit of the times (zeitgeist) !! That is the deception and heresy of the unbiblical sola fide and sola scriptura, it has also opened the floodgates for numerous perversions of the bible that is fashioned on the beliefs by men that fits their own lifestyles. So spare us your “heretical evangelical apostate doctrine”. It is disastrous and has made Christianity a mockery !! Below are examples of false evangelical / protestant / fundamentalist doctrines:

    Christian-‘z’*i’*o’*n’*i’*s’*m’, rapture, dispensationalism, universalism, social gospel, Sola fide, Sola scriptura, bible-believing, once saved always saved, Jesus and me only, Jesus only, instant salvation, pre-destination, irresistible grace, Jesus as my Lord and Personal savior, prosperity gospel, social gospel, unitarianism, pre-tribulation, tribulation, post-tribulation and endless more such as: Age of Accountability, Total Depravity of Man, Ask Jesus into your Heart, Invisible Church, Folding your Hands, Bowing your Head, “Personal Relationship with Christ”, Televangelism, Accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, Enthroning the Bible in your Heart, “Covered with the righteousness of Christ”, Limited Atonement, Imputed righteousness, Altar Call, Dedication; Rededication, “Giving your Life to the Lord”, Revival, Inerrancy, Eternal Security, Denominations, Faith Alone, Devotions, Wedding rings, Full-time Ministry, Church as a building when we see the early believers meeting in private homes, Sater Meal, Sunday School, “Righteousness of Christ” (phrase never found in the New Testament) etc

    Now can you give me chapter and verse from scriptures justifying these fundamentalist protestant / evangelical theologies and traditions?

    Sola scriptura in the last 400 years, has also encouraged and pushed the alterations and perversions of the bible that we are currently witnessing today such as: The Schofield bible, Geneva bible, Mormon bible, NIV, New World translation, Clear Word bible, Moffat bible, Godspeed bible, Lamsa bible, King James vers., New King James vers. etc. All re-written to fashion their own beliefs and to satisfy elitist agendas.

    Now, why won’t this blog and Mr. MacArthur ask this question ? Where did Luther, Calvin etc got their authority and acceptance to delete the Greek Text LXX (Septuagint – 7 books of the Old Testament) if scripture is inerrant and God breathed and if it is the only rule of authority ? The Greek Text LXX (Septuagint – 7 books of the Old Testament) is canonically approved by the apostles and early church fathers, it was used by St. Paul and St. Timothy in their ministries and Jesus also quoted from the Greek Septuagint, it also included the prophecy of the “Resurrection of Jesus Christ” ! Martin Luther was against the “prayers for the dead” and “Purgatory”, that is why he removed the Greek Text LXX (Septuagint – 7 books of the Old Testament), it is also recognized by *j*e*w*s outside Israel and he (Luther) was also against faith and works as stated in James 2:20-26 that is why he almost got rid of the Book of James of the New Testament if wasn’t stopped by his fellow monks. He also added the word “sola” in the Epistle to the Romans to justify his sola fide doctrine. Now this begs the question again, Is it in scripture that anybody can delete and pervert verses and chapters in the bible ? Is Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Erasmus, Charles Taze Russel, Joseph Smith, Cyrus Schofield and King James in the bible ? Is it prophesied in scripture that after 1600 years these named mentioned can alter, change, tamper and pervert scripture authorized by God ? And why are evangelicals / fundamentalist protestants still holds this biblical position in their perverted bibles ?

    And your excuse on how the Canon of Scriptures was put together is laughable ?? LOL !! The Catholic church decided and closed the “Canon of Scriptures” – Your handy bible (Latin Vulgate) in the 4th century. The bible was codified, canonized, translated, decided and closed by the Catholic church not for the purpose of authority but to dispel heretical books circulating that are claiming to be divinely inspired books in the 4th century!! Even the word “bible” was first used by a Catholic bishop – St. John Chrysostom of the Byzantine church !! The 3rd and 4th century was a challenging time for the church because they were facing a vicious heresy called “Arianism”. This is also the reason the Catholic church declared the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the Nicene Creed in the 3rd century to stick it to all the heretics – Agnostics, Arianism, Menaechism, donatism etc that are very much against the Divinity of Christ. Do you think the 43,000 competing apostate denominations can withstand this onslaught ?

    And intercessory prayers, praying to saints and for the dead is believed by the apostles, early church fathers, early martyrs. It is in scripture and SACRED TRADITION !! And can you find me a Catholic doctrine that says that she is divine?The Holy Trinity is a Catholic doctrine that that we have preserved even before it was declared in the 3rd century, The Early (Apostolic) fathers was martyred for that belief !! Mr. MacAarthur forgets that we always profess this in our prayers. And we pray to Mary because she is the Ark of the Covenant of the New Testament. Mr. MacArthur has exposed himself as a mason, only in a lodge would you hear these slights against the Blessed Mother and the Catholic church.

    The Catholic church has stood the test of time, the Early Church Fathers, martyrs, Catholics (real Christians) were all Catholics and they were the ones who sacrificed and gave up their lives for the church Jesus’ established !! This is “the mustard seed” that Jesus’ was referring to !! The church cannot be found in protestant-fundamentalist evangelicalism, they are apostate registered corporations !! Just imagine if they applied the unbiblical doctrine of “sola scriptura” then nothing would have been accomplished, and at worst, they would not even believe in Jesus as God, because their belief is, if it is not in the bible (that the Catholic church has given), then we will not believe it – Like a WYSIWYG html editor program, what you see, is what you get logic. Sola scriptura (scripture alone) has never been an authority and never will, it is just a 400 year unbiblical tradition an agnostic upgrade that created division and instability among societies that gave the enemies of the church to sneak in and promote their diabolical agenda.

  32. Jacob: Nope, not that I am aware of, because the KJV is an incomplete bible, and definitely cannot be used in Mass, below are approved English versions of Catholic bible, very much close to the Latin Vulgate. There is also the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). This is the English translation of the Greek Septuagint (the Scriptures in Greek).

    Best – New Jerusalem Bible

    U.S. “Standard” – New American Bible

    Easier – Good News Translation

    Below is a link of lists of approved several English Bibles at several levels

    EWTN References:

  33. Soul Device:

    The issue first and foremost is King James was not officially authorized nor commissioned by The Magisterium of the Catholic Church to translate his own (English) version, he had his own agenda, that alone disqualifies the book for official book, as compared to St. Jerome who translated scriptures from (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) to the Latin Vulgate. The Latin Vulgate is the perfectly translated version of the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.

    2nd, who is King James of England and what is his qualifications, let me quote you some unflattering descriptions about him:

    “His Majesty’s Royal Greatness… not only as to our king and sovereign but as to the principal mover and author of the work: humbly croving of your most sacred majesty.” (Preface to the Authorized Version)

    “He (King James I) disdained women and fawned unconscionably on his favorite men” (Encyclopedia Americana 1995)

    Who was this dishonest king? Morally what kind of man was he? First of all we know he was queer. Not only do the historical references prove this. Such as testament of Sir. John Oglander in 1617, before the privy council England.

    “The king is wondrous passionate, a lover of his favorites beyond the love of men to women. He is the chastise prince for women that ever was, for he would often swear that he never kissed any other woman than his own queen. I never yet saw any fond husband make so much or so great dalliance over his beautiful spouse as I have seen King James over his favorites, especially Buckingham.” (Queen James and His Courtiers 1997)

    ” We also have a large number of love letters from Queen James to one of his lovers the Earl of Buckingham, who was later promoted to the post of post of “gentleman of king bed chamber” (Encyclopedia American 1995)

    James used to end these letters calling Buckingham his only sweet child, his sweet child and wife, thy dear dad and husband and dear dad. (King James VI of Scotland I of England 1974) It is clear that their relationship parallels modern queer “father/son” associations. Most of these letters are so perverted and sexual.

    There is also a painting King James commissioned Daniel Mytens (a dutch artist) to paint of him. It now hang in the national portrait gallery, London. For this portrait (one of his favorite) James poses in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation gown. Making King James to the best this authors knowledge the first “Royal Drag Queen” in English history.

    King James also in 1617 addressed the honorable privy council with a official affirmation of his love for men Buckingham. This deplorable king tried to justify his homosexuality with one of the worst kinds of blasphemy. King James officially stated he believed Christ was queer.

    “I, James am neither a God nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defeat, for Jesus Christ did the same and therefore I can not be blamed. Christ had his son John, and I have my George.” (King James VI of Scotland I of England, Antonia Fraser,1974)

    Secondly, King James also did this in his bid to consolidate his power over English people and Church of England. ( This is reason of the making of his “Bible.” Repressed the Protestants when it fit his purposes. King James, “repressed the Protestants as strongly as have the Catholics.” (Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia) The use of torture was quite common under James’ rule. His political and economic blundering was so great it caused one French state man to laugh and characterize King James as the “wisest fool in Christendom.” ( Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia 1994)

    – Now this is one of the destructive byproducts of “sola scriptura”, “sola fide” and “sola masoterica”. It is really hard for somebody to use a KJV if they really knew who translated this book.

  34. Just,

    I assume you know it was not KIng James who translated that Bible . . . your last comment kind of makes it sound like he did. In any case, including the lack of the deuterocanonicals as a reason to not use it is fine but it is even more interesting tome that it originally did!

  35. The translators of course was under the payroll and jurisdiction of King James. The problem is he is not the Head of the Universal Church – The Catholic church, so that makes his bible version invalid complete books or not.

  36. Someone should have challenged the premise that RCC equals the ancient catholic church by default. We had a church split at Chalcedon(yes the Coptics count) and another in 1054. The RCC is only half of the Western branch of Christianity and I would challenge the equivocation of it automatically with the ancient church of creed and council.

  37. Just,
    I was referring to the original kjv with all the books. Even so, it appears I was wrong

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