Part 1: Examining the Differences Between Christianity and Cults Lesson 1: What Makes a Cult a Cult?

OT Prophecy Prophesied Event

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OT Prophecy

Prophesied Event

NT Fulfillment

Ps 35:19 & 69:4

Jesus hated without cause

John 15:24-25

Ps 41:9

Jesus betrayed by close friend

John 13:18

Ps 78:2

Jesus speaks in parables

Matt 13:34-35

Isa 6:10

Faithless response to Jesus’ teaching

John 12:37, 39-40

Isa 9:1-2

Jesus’ Galilean ministry

Matt 4:12-16

Hos 11:1

The Flight to Egypt

Matt 2:13-15

Zech 9:9

The Triumphal Entry

Matt 21:1-5

Zech 13:7

Jesus abandoned at His crucifixion

Matt 26:31

What’s the Difference?

Part 2: Examining the Differences Between Christianity and World Religions

Review Quiz

Following is a list of various names, publications, beliefs, practices, etc. associated with the four world religions studied in part 2 of this series. Write the name of the particular religion that goes with each item.

Islam (I)

Buddhism (B)

Hinduism (H)

Judaism (J)

  1. Dalai Lama

  2. Jihad

  3. Recite the “Shema”

4. Siddhartha Gautama

5. Polygamists

  1. Consider cows to be sacred

  2. Has a popular form in America called Zen

8. A “sister” of Christianity

9. Muhammed

  1. An offshoot of Hinduism

  2. Worship in synagogues

12. Worship in mosques

13. Believes in reincarnation/transmigration

14. Say that Judas Iscariot, Simon of Cyrene, or Satan took Jesus’ place on the Cross

  1. Transcendental Meditation (TM)

16. Salvation comes by attaining enlightenment/nirvana

17. Salvation comes by fulfilling the “Five Pillars”

  1. Salvation comes by following the “Eight-fold Path”

  2. Salvation comes by keeping the OT Law

20. Mecca

21. Leaders are called rabbis

22. Leaders are called imams

  1. Leaders are called gurus or swamis

24. The Talmud

25. Refuse to kill any creature, including insects

  1. Still looking for the Messiah

  2. Muslim

28. Gandhi

29. Refrain from eating pork

30. Practice yoga

  1. Adherents pray 5 times a day

32. Observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, and Passover

33. Allah

  1. Ramadan

  2. Religion the Beatles promoted

36. Hare Krishnas

37. Qur’an

38. The Vedas

  1. Holy day is Saturday

40. Holy day is Friday

What’s the Difference?

Part 3: Examining the Differences Between Baptists and Denominations213

Lesson 1: Catholicism

I. History

The Catholic Church, though it traces its own roots back to the time of the apostles (believing Peter to have been the first pope), originated in the fourth century A.D. In 313 A.D. the Roman emperor, Constantine, issued the Edict of Milan, making Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. This, along with subsequent edicts by Constantine, made the church universal214 a visible, political entity. Over the years, the Catholic Church evolved into the massive organizational web that it is today. Significant councils in Catholic Church history include the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), and the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Forgettable moments in Catholic history include the various Inquisitions; the Crusades (seven separate ones from the late eleventh through the mid-thirteenth centuries A.D.); and the “Great Schism” (three different popes at the same time during the early fifteenth century A.D.). The Catholic version of the Bible in English for Americans is the NAB (New American Bible), which replaced the Douay Rheims Version in the twentieth century. Besides the Catholic Bible, a second significant source of authority in modern Catholicism is the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (published in English in 1994).215 The Catholic form of church government is monarchical (rule by one) with the pope as the head of the church.216 The current pope is Pope John Paul II, who came to office in 1978.217 Other offices in Catholicism (in descending order of authority) are cardinal, archbishop, bishop, priest, and deacon218. To these can be added brother and sister (or nun). Besides the various popes, influential Catholics throughout history have included such scholars as Augustine (354-430), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), and Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536). Well-known Catholic higher educational institutions include the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN), Georgetown University (Washington D.C.), Boston College, Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI), St. John’s University (New York City), and the University of Villanova (Philadelphia, PA). Each Catholic church is part of a parish, with each parish being part of a diocese and each diocese part of an archdiocese. The seat of the church is in Rome.219 There are approximately one billion Catholics worldwide, making it by far the largest “Christian” group in the world (it is also the largest in the U.S.).

II. Some220 Erroneous Catholic Beliefs
A. Extrabiblical revelation
The Council of Trent (sixteenth century A.D.) declared the Apocrypha221 to be canonical222, a belief still held by Catholicism today. Hence, Catholic Bibles contain most of the Apocrypha.

  1. Authority in sources other than the Bible

Catholicism espouses three sources of authority: 1) the Bible; 2) Catholic Church tradition; and 3) the magisterium, the official teaching arm of the Catholic Church (the collective decisions of the bishops and the pronouncements of the pope223). Ultimately, ultimate authority for Catholicism resides in the third.224
“Further, all those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by solemn judgment or by her ordinary teaching (magisterium), proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed” (First Vatican Council; emphasis mine).
"The Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence" (Second Vatican Council; emphasis mine).

  1. Salvation by works

According to Catholicism, salvation (in the sense of initial or positional sanctification) is not a one-time event, but a process that begins at baptism and continues beyond the grave225 (hence, the development of the doctrine of purgatory). Key to Catholic salvation is observance of the sacraments (esp. baptism, the Eucharist, and penance). Historically, Catholicism has taught that salvation is impossible outside the Catholic Church (the Second Vatican Council declared: "Hence they could not be saved who . . . would refuse either to enter it [the Catholic Church], or to remain in it").226

"To those who work well right to the end and keep their trust in God, eternal life should be held out . . . for their good works and merits" (Council of Trent; emphasis mine).

"If anyone says that the faith which justifies is nothing else but trust in the divine mercy, which pardons sins because of Christ; or that it is that trust alone by which we are justified: let him be anathema" (Council of Trent).
"If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning thereby that no other cooperation is required for him to obtain the grace of justification, and that in no sense is it necessary for him to make preparation and be disposed by a movement of his own will: let him be anathema" (Council of Trent).
"Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for . . . the attainment of eternal life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2010).
"It is a universally accepted dogma of the Catholic Church that man . . . must merit heaven by his good works . . . . We can actually merit heaven as our reward . . . . Heaven must be fought for; we have to earn heaven" (Dogmatic Theology for the Laity, p. 262).
"The sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must 'make satisfaction for' or 'expiate' his sins. This satisfaction is called 'penance'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1459).

Bottom line: In Catholicism, the sinner must pay for his own sin via penance. He may also need the help of others to “spring” him from purgatory.

D. Baptismal regeneration
Catholicism teaches that baptism (primarily via “modes” other than immersion) washes away original sin (the sin of Adam imputed to all his descendants) and imparts "sanctifying grace," placing one in a state of righteousness, not only in the case of an adult, but also in the case of an infant (“christening”).
“If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation: let him be anathema” (Council of Trent)
"Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213).
E. Idolatry

The Catholic veneration of Mary (called "hyperdulia"; based on such passages as Luke 1:28 and 42) and of other "saints227" (called "dulia"), as well as for various religious objects228, is idolatrous. Catholicism teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary (officially adopted in 553), her immaculate conception (officially adopted in 1854)229, and her assumption (officially adopted in 1950).230 In fact, Catholicism goes so far as to consider Mary to be a co-mediator231 and co-redeemer with Christ.232 "Indeed, Mary as defined by the Roman Catholic Church is virtually indistinguishable from the Son of God Himself" (McCarthy, p. 223).233
F. The Eucharist

During each Catholic Mass, the Eucharist is observed. According to Catholicism, when the priest consecrates the elements, they change substance (transubstantiation), becoming the actual body and blood of Christ234, though continuing to look, feel, smell, and taste like bread and wine. Every time the Eucharist is observed, Christ is re-presented (not represented) as an "unbloody immolation" (immolation is the sacrificial killing of a victim). The Roman Catechism (p. 255) calls the Mass "a perpetual sacrifice.” Catholicism (based upon a “gross” misinterpretation of John 6:53) teaches that receiving the elements of the Eucharist are a means of salvation.
“If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice ... let him be anathema” (Council of Trent)

  1. No eternal security

There is no such thing as “once saved, always saved” in Catholicism, the Catholic doctrines of penance and purgatory bearing witness to this fact.

"No one, not even the Pope, can know for certain what his eternal destiny will be" (McCarthy, p. 106).
H. A continuing priesthood
According to Catholicism, access to God comes only through a Catholic priest.
"The form of the sacrament of penance, in which its effectiveness chiefly lies, is expressed in those words of the minister, 'I absolve you from your sins'" (Council of Trent).
“All that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Second Vatican Council)

III. Our Response235
A. The Bible (the sixty-six books of the Protestant canon) is the only source of divine revelation available today.
See the lesson on Mormonism, as well as Appendix D.

Is the Apocrypha Part of the Canon?

McCarthy (pp. 338-339) gives five reasons why the Apocrypha is not canonical:
1. The Apocrypha itself does not claim to be inspired.

2. The Jews never accepted the Apocrypha as part of the canon.

3. There is not a single quotation from the Apocrypha in the New Testament.

4. The early church did not accept the Apocrypha as inspired.

5. The Catholic Church itself did not officially declare the Apocrypha to be inspired until the Council of Trent (sixteenth century A.D.), which was a reaction to the Protestant Reformation's rejection of the Apocrypha.

  1. The Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice.

Since the Bible is the only source of divine revelation available today, only It is authoritative/infallible (Matt 5:18 and John 10:34-36). Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) was one of the battle cries of the Protestant Reformation. No human interpretation of Scripture, whether that of Catholic tradition, the Catholic magisterium, or the Catholic pope, is inherently infallible. The foundation upon which this Catholic belief rests, the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:16-19, is a questionable one, to say the least.236 It is one thing to say that Peter was the “rock”; it is quite another to say that he was the first pope and that the bishop of Rome is his perpetual successor (this latter doctrine wasn’t proposed until Pope Leo I did so in the fifth century A.D.).237 Peter was not superior to the other apostles, but was one among equals (see 1 Pet 5:1). The Bible is sufficient (2 Tim 3:16-17 and 2 Pet 1:3); It is, in and of Itself, all that is needed to save and to sanctify.
Arguing against the Catholic belief of papal infallibility is the fact that Peter “stood condemned” (Gal 2:11) and that Pope Honorius (pope from 625-638) was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681), by two succeeding Ecumenical Councils, and by every pope up through the eleventh century A.D. upon taking the oath of papal office (Brown, “So What’s the Difference?”, p. 33).238

  1. Salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, not by works.

See the lesson on Mormonism. Sola gratia (grace alone), sola fides (faith alone), and solus Christus (Christ alone) were three more battle cries of the Protestant Reformation. In response to the Catholic idea that grace comes through works, such as partaking of the sacraments, see Romans 11:6.

D. Baptism is a consequence of salvation, not a cause of salvation.
See Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:41, 8:12, 16:14-15, and 18:8. If salvation comes via baptism, why did Jesus tell the thief on the cross, who had no hope of being baptized, "Today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43)? Salvation is not by works (Eph 2:9), and baptism is a work.
The only proper “mode” of baptism is immersion (the Greek verb for baptize is baptizo, which literally means to immerse, dip, or plunge). The only proper subjects of baptism are believers. Infants cannot exercise saving faith and are, therefore, not proper subjects of baptism.
E. God alone is to be worshiped, and He is to be worshiped in spirit.
See the Second Commandment (Exod 20:4-5) and John 4:24. In response to the Catholic veneration of Mary, Luke 1:42 says “among women,” not “above women,” while Matthew 25:34 says that all believers are “blessed” (see also Jesus’ response in Luke 11:28 to one woman’s “veneration” of Mary in Luke 11:27). In response to the Catholic concept of sainthood, it can be said that all believers are saints (see 1 Cor 1:2 and Eph 1:1). In response to the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, it can be said that Mary had other children via Joseph (see Matt 13:55-56). In response to the Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, it can be said that Mary was a sinner in need of a Savior (see Luke 1:47). In response to the Catholic doctrine that Mary and Christ are co-mediators, it can be said that there is only one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5; see also John 14:6).
F. Christ offered Himself once for all for the salvation of mankind.

In response to the alleged miracle of transubstantiation, McCarthy (p. 134) makes this salient point: "Neither is there a biblical precedent for a miracle in which God expects the faithful to believe that something supernatural has occurred when in fact all outward evidence indicates that nothing at all has occurred.” In response to the continual re-presentation of Christ that the Mass portrays, see Romans 6:10, the entire book of Hebrews (especially 1:3, 7:27, 9:12, 26, 28, 10:10, 12, 14, and 18), and 1 Peter 3:18. "It is finished" (John 19:30)! Partaking of blood was forbidden by God and abhorrent to Jews (see Gen 9:4, Lev 3:17, 7:26-27, 17:10-14, Deut 12:23, and Acts 15:29). "This is my body" (Matt 26:26) and "This is my blood" (Matt 26:28) are to be understood metaphorically (as is John 6:53-54; compare John 6:54 with John 6:40). Christ’s body could not be both before the disciples and in Christ’s hands at the same time.

  1. The believer is eternally secure.

The moment one places his faith in Christ for salvation, his eternal destiny is forever settled. See especially John 10:28-29 and 1 Peter 1:3-5 in this regard. You can know you are saved (1 John 5:13).

H. The individual priesthood of the believer
See the lesson on Mormonism. Confession is to God (see Ezra 10:11 and Psa 32:5), not to a priest. Only God can forgive sin (see Mark 2:7).

A Word Concerning "Evangelicals and Catholics Together"

On March 29, 1994, an historic document was published entitled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." Signed by such notable evangelicals as Charles Colson, Pat Robertson, J.I. Packer, and the late Bill Bright, the accord (which has been lauded by ecumenics, but denounced by fundamentalists) downplays the doctrinal differences between Protestants and Catholics. In fact, it even goes so far as to say that "evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ." In spite of this new rapprochement between the two groups, the differences are insuperable. "The difference is so great as to constitute two wholly distinct religions" (John MacArthur in the Foreword to McCarthy's book, p. 8). For a good analysis of ECT, see chapter five of MacArthur's book, Reckless Faith, and Ernest Pickering's booklet, Holding Hands with the Pope. Since the initial 1994 ECT document, several other related documents have been put forth by the same group, restating and refining the original document, but retaining the same underlying errors.

Resources for Further Study:

The Gospel According to Rome by McCarthy

So What’s the Difference? by Ridenour (chp. 2)

Handbook of Denominations in the United States (10th ed.) by Mead & Hill (pp. 267-275)

“Denominations Comparison” pamphlet by Rose Publishing

“So What’s the Difference?” Sunday School series by Brown

“What’s the Difference?” Sunday School series by Brown

The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church by Berry (chp. 5)
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