Just for Catholics

Who are the True Catholics?

Question: We are surprised concerning your use of the word "catholic" in connection with the church and members of the Roman Church, which mistakenly calls itself "catholic." The only church which could and should be called "catholic" is the Church of Christ as defined in the Bible. This is certainly not the Roman Church. A catholic church should preach the proper biblical message and not heresies, as is done in the Roman Church. You cannot call the Roman Church and the Romanists "Catholics".

Answer: I agree. It is self-contradictory to call a local body "Roman" (which is particular) and at the same time "Catholic" (which means universal). The Roman church falsely appropriates the term "catholic" exclusively to itself. It is the epitome of pride for the local assembly of Rome to limit the universal church of Jesus Christ to those churches in submission to herself. Moreover, as you say, a church is "catholic" - a member of the universal church of Jesus Christ - if it is faithful to His Word. Sadly the Roman church is far removed from the truth of Scripture.

I find myself caught in a dilemma. Reluctantly I refer to the members of the Roman church as "Catholics" simply because they are generally known by that name and not because I consider it an appropriate or accurate description. I must meet them where they are.

Moreover I'm unwilling to use such terms as "romanism, romanists and papists" for a very simple reason. The Roman Catholic propaganda machine has been very effective to caricature the genuine evangelistic efforts of many Protestants as hatred and bigotry against them. Why should I fall into their trap? I want to reach the people who call themselves "Catholics" and I will shout and call them by that name to get their attention. Then hopefully they will listen and hear the Good News of salvation in Christ and, among other things, that the true church of Christ is not the Roman apostasy.

I think that there is ample biblical warrant for this policy. The apostle Paul regularly calls the apostate descendants of Abraham both "Jews" and "Israel". Elsewhere, however, he is eager to explain:

"For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28,29). And, "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites...But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel" (Romans 9:1-6).

He called them Israelites even though they are "not all Israel". He called them Jews even though they were not inwardly so. Similarly I call them Catholics even though they are not really catholic. But I don't stop there. I go on to tell them about the true catholic church, which is made up of all believers in Christ all through the ages and all over the world. The church of Christ is not limited to any denomination boundary. I also tell them about the head and the Saviour of the body, Jesus Christ. All who truly believe in Him, who have the Holy Spirit, are members of His body, the church. They are the real "catholics" and that it  is their privilege and duty to meet with other believers in the local congregations for worship and mutual edification.

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A