Answering the alleged “Catholic verses” – #1: The Church is the Pillar of All Truth?

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?
https://www.gotquestions.org/church-pillar-foundation-truth.html

See also:

The Pillar and Ground of Truth by Joe Mizzi
http://www.justforcatholics.org/a91.htm

22 thoughts on “Answering the alleged “Catholic verses” – #1: The Church is the Pillar of All Truth?

  1. This was a very well written post; I thought it was good you looked at the Greek with how stulos and hedraioma, mean “pillar, column, prop, or support” and “prop or support” respectively. Those things of course is not the same thing as the chief cornerstone, which is Christ! So if Romanism is contrary to Christ, it is the one with the problem. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jimmy. Yes, Catholicism has sooo many doctrines that are un-Scriptural and even anti-Scriptural that it MUST argue for its position as the foundation/source of truth rather than Scripture.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I look forward to reading this critique Tom…in the meantime, I need some help. What’s the best way to evangelize a Catholic family member? My Aunt was just diagnosed with very aggressive, fast moving anaplastic cancer of the thyroid. Her thyroid was removed but it has metastasized to her lungs. She’s being treated at Mayo Clinic this week and they want to do a brain MRI and a PET Scan. By all accounts, as a nurse for 23 years, the doctors reports don’t sound very good. But I believe God is bigger than cancer! I want to believe for healing in her body but even more than that, I want to help her receive Christ as her Savior and her Lord. She says things like, “I know it’s in God’s hands.” She’s been saying the Memorare (a prayer to Mary) b/c it was her mother’s favorite prayer. I told her today, she needs to pray only to Jesus and trust Him. Mary can’t help her. I’ve talked to her before about salvation in Christ alone but no Catholic understands that. She’s 72 years old…this is so ingrained in her! What do I do? How do I help her to see the truth? I’m new at all of this too…I was only saved 4.5 years ago. What role does God want me to play in this? I know God is not the author of confusion…I know He doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind. So why do I have such a hard time sharing the gospel with my Catholic family? I don’t know the Bible like I should…I’m still learning. I trust God is working through me even if I’m not giving Him a lot to work with…He is and will continue to guide me. I can’t be her Holy Spirit. I can only share what I know…and I’ve done that multiple times. Any guidance you could give would be much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jackie, I’m sorry for your Aunt and I will pray for her that her heart will softened to Jesus and the Gospel. I know it’s difficult to witness, especially to family. I’m tempted to talk about theological details with unbelievers, but we need to keep the Gospel very simple. When I tell someone about Jesus and salvation, I use the “Romans Road.” Check out the link below. The article is written for teens but it’s good info for us “keep it simple folks.” Note especially the “Download Bookmark” section on the upper right hand corner. Click on those “The Romans Road to Salvation” images. It brings up a sheet that can be printed out with only five verses/passages, keeping it very simple for you and the listener. But the entire Gospel is all there in those five verses/passages. I hope that helps and I’ll be saying some prayers for your Aunt and for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done, brother! It’s so fascinating to me that the twisting of Scripture is so often done by taken a verse completely out of its context, and in this case utterly ignoring the previous verses. I’m going to write a book review of the first book in Calvin’s Institutes, and one of the things he does is refuting the RCC, along with several other falsehoods of his day. It doesn’t seem like there’s much difference between then and now, as far as false doctrine goes! I’m so excited about this series, brother. I’m praying for you, and your family, may the Lord bless you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, sister! Yes, when I listen to Catholic apologists they often accuse Bible Christians of extrapolating complex dogma out of single verse when that is exactly what they have done with 1 Timothy 3:15.

      It’s “funny” that you should mention Calvin’s Institutes because I am currently reading a book which often quotes that work in presenting Calvin’s views on Rome’s falsehoods. Looking forward to your review!

      Thanks so much for your prayers, sister! I am praying for you and yours as well. Lord bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Crissy! I’m so grateful the Lord has provided us a sure and reliable Lamp for our journey rather than having to rely on the foolish wisdom and traditions of men.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really appreciate that. The Roman Catholic religion don’t really have two millennium year old history as they argue for. Early patristics history also disproves them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not even counting the substitution of ritual and ceremony for saving faith in Christ, most of the history of the RCC is not flattering.

      Like

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