Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Review: Understanding Roman Catholicism, by Rick Jones

Understanding Roman Catholicism: 37 Roman Catholic Doctrines Explained
Rick Jones
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Rick Jones (Print Edition formerly published by Chick Publications, October 1, 1995), November 18, 2013
Christianity, Nonfiction, Religion, Theology

Book Synopsis: Are Roman Catholics REALLY Christians? This eye-opening book examines 37 main Catholic doctrines, quoting from the official Catholic Catechism, then compares each doctrine with the Word of God. Written in a loving style, yet without compromising, this book clearly shows the eternal destiny of those who follow the pope of Rome. If you want to talk intelligently with Catholics about their salvation, you first must know what they believe. If you are like most Christians you will be shocked when you learn what Catholicism really teaches. Must reading for every Christian who knows or talks with any Roman Catholics.

My Review

The title of this book is rather misleading, unless one reads the synopsis. The title leads the reader to believe that it's a concise, clear explanation of Catholicism for non-Catholics, or for those Catholics who would like to refresh their knowledge of Catholic doctrine. This is not the intent of the book, though. Instead, it's an exposition of Catholic doctrines that are in direct contradiction to Bible teachings. 

I think this is a pretty sneaky move on the part of the author, but I don't condemn him for it. Indeed, this little ruse might have drawn many an unsuspecting Catholic to the book, and have then perhaps stimulated them to question Catholicism. This is exactly what happened to me, although I had already begun to question my Catholic beliefs before coming across this book. However, it did help me to see exactly how Catholic doctrines were in total opposition to what is taught in the Bible. 

Jones uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994 edition) and compares quotes from it side by side with Biblical quotes. He clearly shows how each Catholic doctrine differs markedly from what is actually taught in the Bible.  

The biggest contradiction is also the key concept of Christianity: salvation. Just how are we humans saved, according to the Bible, and according to the Catholic Church? Jones shows that, according to the latter, one must be a member of the Catholic Church in order to be saved. Furthermore, one must also perform "good works". 

In regards to salvation only through the church of Rome, Jones quotes: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained." (Catholic Catechism, paragraph #816) Jone contrasts this with the following Biblical quote: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13, KJV) He also points out that Jesus repeats this message in John 3:16, 3;18, and 6:40. He also references Romans 10:9-10, in which Paul states that if one confesses out loud, and believes in one's heart, that Jesus rose from the dead, one will be saved. Jones mentions other verses, as well.

In regards to "good works", which include such things as baptism and the other sacraments, Jones emphasizes that salvation is a free gift of grace from God, and can never be earned through the performance of any type of "good works". He references Ephesians 2:8-9, as well as Titus 3:5, Romans 3:28, and Galatians 3:8 and 3:26. These are not the only verses he mentions, but they are the most important ones.

Each chapter in the book examines a specific doctrine, contrasting quotes from the Catholic Catechism with relevant quotes from the Bible. At the end of each chapter, Jones summarizes his point, and then challenges the Catholic reader to decide whether s/he will choose to believe God, as quoted from the Bible, or the Catholic Church.

The doctrines examined by the author in this book are precisely the ones that set apart Catholics from other Christian denominations. They are also the very ones that are huge points of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics. Some of these doctrines are: the Catholic Church is the one true church, baptism saves, the Pope is infallible, the sacraments save Catholics, there are venial and mortal sins, the bread and wine are transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ during the Mass, indulgences can help get souls out of Purgatory, and the Virgin Mary is Co-Redemptrix and Co-Mediator, together with her son, Jesus.

The entire book is laid out in a very straightforward, simple manner, with each Catholic doctrine clearly explained, and then juxtaposed with the Biblical teaching it contradicts.

Jones is a former Catholic himself, so he never talks down to or attacks Catholic readers. In fact, his tone is even loving and respectful. In spite of its simplicity, the book should be studied by any reader -- whether Catholic or not -- who would like to be better informed about the differences between Catholic teaching and what is taught in the Bible. 

Having stated all of the above, I would also have to point out that it seems to me that Jones has carefully selected the verses he uses, ignoring those that might be used by Catholics in support of the teachings of their church. For instance, in the chapter titled, "Confessing Sins to a Priest", Jones clearly leaves out a key verse used by Catholics in support of this particular doctrine: John 20:21-23 (KJV), which states the following: "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you, as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."

Clearly, the above verse is a powerful one to use in support of the Catholic doctrine of confessing sins to a priest. Why, then, does Jones fail to address it? True, he does give several verses that show that people in the Bible confessed their sins directly to God, but still, he should have addressed the verse above (as well as others that seem to justify the Catholic position). Just what did Jesus mean in this verse? What teaching was He attempting to convey?

It might seem that I'm either playing devil's advocate here, or trying to find ways to criticize the author of this book. However, what I'm simply trying to do is to remain objective, although I was raised in the Catholic Church myself. Tt seems to me that Jones could have done a more thorough job of refuting any verses that might be used by Catholics in counter-arguments with him. 

To summarize, although I do think that this book presents a very clear, easy-to-read exposition of the author's position, I don't think it goes far enough in proving that his position -- which is the one take by most Protestants -- is the only true one. Therefore, I would regard this book as a sort of primer for those who are beginning to question Catholic teachings. 

In this regard, I would like to read another book which  I believe will be a more thorough, more in-depth examination of this highly-important (to anyone interested in theology) issue. That book is titled The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God, by James G. McCarthy. I happen to own this book, so I will be delving into it in the very near future. Hopefully this book will clear up some of the issues that Jones's book has left unresolved in my mind.   

About the Author  

(from the Amazon Author Page)

 At the age of 20, while in the US Navy, Rick Jones thought he was a Christian because he belonged to a religion. But one warm August evening in Ventura, California, he learned the difference between religion and Christianity. His life was transformed when he received God's free gift of eternal life by trusting Jesus Christ by faith alone for his salvation.

Rick's life's calling soon came into razor-sharp focus - to help others find that same salvation. It began with Bible college, followed by six years at a Christian home for troubled teens. That calling continued during his years working at a Christian publishing company. It is also the thrust of the six books he has written, as well as his website.

Online Links


Brian Joseph said...

Super post Maria.

As you know I find this kind of book fascinating.

These Holy Books are so complicated. When they are translated into actual religious ideologies and organizations there is plenty of room for disagreement and debate. When I read these books sometimes I wonder how certain religious beliefs and traditions can be said to derive from them.

As for playing devil's advocate, when examining such systems I think that it becomes necessary sometimes. Thus what you are doing in this post seems very valid.

I like the fact that the author is respectful and civil.

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

Thanks for the good word! (I really like this saying of yours, so I'm 'borrowing' it. :) )

I love to read about this kind of thing! I know books like these are not featured on book blogs very often (that I know of, anyway). But that's why I started MindSpirit Book Journeys. I know the readers of A Night's Dream of Books won't be interested in books like these. I'm very happy that you obviously are!

Several years ago, when I was in my twenties, I met another twenty-something girl who befriended me. She had an ulterior motive, though -- to tell me that the doctrines of the Catholic Church were wrong, and to see if I would then start attending her church, a Protestant one. I was not open to the message at that time, and felt very offended. However, about 20 years ago, I was invited to another Protestant church (a non-denominational one) by a co-worker. I attended that church for about 4 years, but was still emotionally tied to the Catholic Church.

I am much more open to the Protestant message now. Perhaps my unconscious mind has been processing all these theological points all the while. I don't know. But now I see the glaring errors of Catholic doctrine much more clearly and easily.

As for Bible translations, Jones exclusively uses the King James Version. By the way, there's an ongoing controversy regarding translations in Protestant circles. Jones is of the opinion that the only authorized translation is the KJV. That's because modern translations, such as the New International Version, actually distort the meaning of certain Bible verses. He's also written a book on this topic. But that's another post.

I also think it's important to play devil's advocate in reviewing these types of books. Jones could have been more thorough, in my honest opinion. I shall have to read the other book I mentioned in my review, to see how that author handles this topic.

As you know, theology is a subject of vital importance to me.

I, too, like the fact that Jones is respectful of Catholics. He simply presents his evidence, and then gently asks Catholics to make their own decisions regarding what he presents.

Thanks so much for the great comment!! :)