Thanks for joining me today as we continue our series examining and responding to Catholic apologist and philosopher, Peter Kreeft’s book, “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic” (2018).
Claim #22: I am a Catholic because only the Catholic Church is marked out by the four marks*
In opening this chapter, Kreeft states, “The Nicene Creed identifies the Church of Christ by four marks: she is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Only (the Catholic church) fits that description” (p. 75). Kreeft then expounds on RC-ism’s claims to these four marks:
- One – The Roman Catholic church was established by Christ and has existed without interruption to the present day. All other churches have broken away from the RCC, never vice versa. The RCC has taught the same theological and moral dogmas since it was established.
- Holy – Although the RC church has included many scandalously notorious sinners, including “a couple” of popes, the church is the source of holiness via its sacraments. As in the previous chapter, Kreeft again cites Thomas More, referencing More’s fictitious dialogue in the theatrical production, A Man for All Seasons, as an example of personal holiness attained through the holy RC church.
- Catholic/Universal – “Catholic” means Universal and only the RCC can claim to be Universal in multiple senses: “for all men, for all the world, for all times, for all cultures, and teaching all that Christ and the apostles taught” (p. 76).
- Apostolic – Only the RCC can trace its lineage directly back to St. Peter via apostolic succession.
Since only the RC church has these four marks of authenticity according to Kreeft, he exhorts the reader to go to Christ via His Body that he instituted, the Roman Catholic church. Because other Christian churches are deficient to a great degree, Kreeft asks the Protestant reader, “Why settle for a little lifeboat when you can have the whole (RC) ark?” (p. 78).
The Nicene Creed (325 AD) is not God-breathed Scripture, but let’s see if the RCC is distinguished by the creed’s four marks of authenticity:
One – After Christianity was legalized and then adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the early church became increasingly institutionalized according to the Roman imperial model. Religion was imposed rather than a choice. The church was “one” according to imperial and magisterial fiat. The genuine church, in contrast, is composed of all those who have freely accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone as taught by the New Testament church and God’s Word. In that sense, the true church of genuine believers is one. In historical contradiction to Kreeft’s assertions, the institutional pseudo-church had a major divide with the East-West Schism of 1054 and the Roman church specifically experienced the Western Schism of 1378-1417, with its three competing popes. The RCC has changed its theological and moral dogmas regularly as we previously examined in chapter 5 (see here). Many conservative Catholics consider pope Francis a heretic for his doctrine-bending “reforms.” The notion of Roman Catholicism as a united monolith is a fraudulent mirage.
Holy – The RCC is unholy because it teaches a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The genuine church composed of all born-again believers is “holy” (Greek: ἅγιος/hágios), separated unto Christ. Kreeft concedes that “a couple” of popes were scoundrels, but even Catholic historians will admit there were MANY examples of papal and episcopal corruption. Kreeft once again presents Thomas More as an example of saintly holiness when history records that in his role as Lord High Chancellor of England he oversaw the bloody persecution of Protestant believers.
Catholic/Universal – For a millennia, Roman Catholicism gained “converts” throughout the world via the tip of sword and spear aka forced baptisms. Jesus Christ did not teach compulsory “faith.” Genuine believers are located throughout the world as a result of the sowing of the genuine Gospel. The term, “Roman Catholic” is actually a dichotomy, i.e., location specific, yet Universal. Does not compute.
Apostolic – There is no Scriptural evidence for the papacy, for Peter as the first pope, or for Peter ever being in Rome. Neither do we find in Scripture any support for apostolic succession. Jesus specifically warned against the type of church hierarchy created by Roman Catholicism:
“But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” – Matthew 20: 25-28.
The genuine church of Christ is apostolic in that it proclaims the same Gospel and doctrines as taught by the apostles according to the New Testament. The apostate Roman church supplants Scripture with its specious “sacred traditions” that were never taught by Jesus Christ or His apostles.
The Nicene Creed is not Scripture, but we do see that the Roman church actually does NOT have the four marks specified by the creed, while the Body of genuine evangelical believers does. Once again, Kreeft closes a chapter by disparaging Gospel Christianity. Why do so many evangelicals view critical examinations of Roman Catholicism and its false gospel as distasteful, unseemly, and repugnant when Catholic apologists are always quite willing to disparage Gospel Christianity?
*The fallacy of the claim is obviously key, but any editor worth his/her salt would have changed this to “I am a Catholic because only the Catholic Church is distinguished by the four marks.”
Next week: Claim #23: I am a Catholic for the reason Walker Percy gave: “What else is there?”