This post is the first in a long series in which I will respond to Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong’s book, “The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants” (photo above). I completely agree with Armstrong’s argument that the gospel preached by Catholicism (salvation by sacramental grace and merit) and the Gospel preached by Biblical Christianity (salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone) are not the same, but are, in fact, diametrically opposed. Armstrong cites ninety-five Bible verses to justify the Catholic view. Over the course of a year, I plan on responding to all of the verses he cites as evidence for Catholicism that supposedly “confound” Protestants.
Without any further ado, let’s look at the first of the Armstrong’s “Catholic” verses by which he claims the church is the pillar of the truth:
#1) “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 3:15 (NIV)
From this verse, Armstrong argues that the Catholic church “is the foundation of truth; it is infallible; it is specially protected by the Holy Spirit so that it can be the Guardian and Preserver of apostolic tradition and truth and doctrine” (p. 3).
But is it reasonable to construe all of those claims from this verse? Catholicism is prone to greatly overreach with its Bible interpretations as we shall see going forward.
If we examine the original Greek used in this verse, we find that the words for pillar and foundation, stulos and hedraioma, mean “pillar, column, prop, or support” and “prop or support” respectively. The church (all genuine believers in Christ, not just leaders) is not the foundation of the truth, but is the steward of the truth, which we have in God’s Word.
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth” – John 17:17
A better translation of 1 Timothy 3:15 is the ESV:
“If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (ESV)
Paul makes it repeatedly clear throughout his epistles that Scripture is our standard, not weak, fallible men inside the church.
“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” – 1 Corinthians 4:6
The pope and his bishops have set themselves up as the foundation and source of belief, leading to the creation of a plethora of spurious traditions throughout the centuries, but it is Jesus Christ and His Word that are our spiritual foundation.
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:11
It’s ironic that Catholicism extrapolates great powers and privileges for itself from 1 Timothy 3:15 while it conveniently ignores 1 Timothy 3:1–13, preceding it, which declares that church leaders ought to be the husband of one wife and able to effectively parent their children. That’s hardly a description of Catholic priests and prelates. In the following chapter, in 1 Timothy 4:1–3, Paul condemns the type of clerical celibacy mandated by Catholicism.
Armstrong wrote this book back in 2004 and it’s very interesting that Catholicism currently finds itself in an awkward situation that strongly argues against his claims. In the past few years, pope Francis has changed sacrosanct Catholic teaching by lifting the ban on communion for remarried divorcees, permitting intercommunion with Protestants, and, most recently, by completely banning capital punishment. Many conservative Catholics would enthusiastically agree that this pope is NOT their foundation of faith.
While Armstrong presents 1 Timothy 3:15 as an irrefutable “Catholic verse,” we Protestants are far from being “confounded.”
For this post, I am indebted to the article below from GotQuestions.org:
What does 1 Timothy 3:15 mean when it says that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth?
The Pillar and Ground of Truth by Joe Mizzi