One very popular old evangelism method is called “The Roman Road.” In this article we will look at another “Roman Road”: The Roman Catholic Church. We will do this using a quiz format. Read and answer the following 15 question about Roman Catholicism. The right answers are listed below with a short explanation of each point. If you are Catholic you should know all the answers. If you are not Catholic you may be surprised what you don’t know about that church’s history and beliefs.
So let’s dig in. Each question has only one right answer.
___ 1. The percentage of Roman Catholics in the North American (U.S. and Canada) population is:
___ 2. The world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is in:
a. Istanbul, Turkey
b. Vatican City, Italy
c. Jerusalem, Israel
d. Nashville, Tennessee
___ 3. The beginning of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution can best be dated at around:
a. 2 BC
b. AD 33
c. AD 600
___ 4. The Protestant Reformation against the Roman Catholic Church was begun in 1517 by:
a. St. Augustine
b. Martin Luther
c. Thomas Aquinas
d. Lex Luthor
___ 5. In AD 1870, the Vatican I Council of the Roman Catholic Church affirmed the infallibility of:
a. The Pope
b. St. Thomas More
c. Mother Theresa
d. The New York Times
___ 6. In AD 2005, the Roman Catholic Church College of Cardinals elected Joseph Ratzinger as Pope _____________.
a. John Paul II
b. Benedict XVI
c. John XXIII
d. Ringo III
___ 7. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that God exists as:
a. The eternal Trinity
b. Just one of many other gods
c. A unitary material being
d. The Old Man Upstairs
___ 8. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is:
a. The second person of the Trinity
b. A great prophet
c. A super angel named Michael
d. “Just Alright”
___ 9. One book in Roman Catholic versions of the Bible not found in Protestant or Jewish Bible versions is:
___10. One great philosopher who had enormous influence on Roman Catholic Church teaching was:
c. Thomas Aquinas
d. The Amazing Carnac
___11. According to Roman Catholic Church teaching, sins that do not result in total alienation from God are called:
___ 12. According to the Roman Catholic Church, the rituals God uses to allow people to receive His grace are called the Seven:
d. Habits of Highly Successful People
___ 13. In Roman Catholic Church teachings, the doctrine that describes Mary’s birth is called:
a. The Virgin Birth
b. The Immaculate Conception
c. The Assumption
d. The Immaculate Reception
___ 14. In Roman Catholic Church teaching, salvation is a process that ends only when one gets to:
d. The Final Four
___ 15. When witnessing to Catholics, always focus on:
a. How wrong their church is
b. The need to become a Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, or whatever.
c. The need for personal faith in Jesus
d. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame
Let’s see how you did. (If you answered D for any of them, you especially need to read the information below)
1. The correct answer is C. About 23% of the approximately 330 million total populations of the USA and Canada are Catholic. That translates to about 80 million in North America. If you add Mexico to that, the number more than doubles. About 16% of the world’s population, or about 1.05 billion people, claim Catholicism as their faith. It is largest religious organization in the world.
2. If you saw either of the recent movies, The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons, you should have gotten this one easily. The correct answer is of course B. The world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is Vatican City in Rome, Italy. Though only a few square miles in size, it is actually a sovereign state totally independent of Italy’s government.
3. The correct answer depends on who you ask. Roman Catholics would assert that their church began in the 1st century ca. AD 33 (answer B) with the Apostle Peter, whom they regard as the first Pope. Protestants and evangelicals, however, often point to around AD 600 (answer C) as a more likely date for the establishment of the institutional church. About that time, the Bishop of Rome, Gregory l, consolidated his power and asserted himself to be head of the world church. Other scholars point to other dates.
4. The correct answer is B. The Protestant Reformation against the Roman Catholic church was begun in 1517 by a German monk and theology teacher named Martin Luther (1483 –1546). Luther was troubled by his lack of assurance of salvation and by the corrupt practice by some in the church of selling indulgences so people could buy salvation. Studying the New Testament in Greek, Luther came to realize that salvation is based on grace through faith in Christ alone.
On October 31st, 1517, Luther nailed a list of 95 Theses questioning some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This act, and others, gathered the momentum in northern Europe that eventually led to a complete break with Rome and the start of the Protestant Reformation.
5. The correct answer is A. Though the doctrine was already well established in the Roman Catholic Church for more than a thousand years, it was not until AD 1870 that the Vatican I Council of the church formally affirmed the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Pope. This dogma asserts that when a Pope makes a statement “Ex Cathedra” (from the throne), what he declares must be believed by all faithful Catholics.
The Vatican Council I stated it this way:
“…we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff (Pope) speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.”
6. The correct answer is B. In AD 2005, the Roman Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals elected Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. He is the man Pope from Germany to hold that position. He succeeded Pope John Paul II who was the first Polish Pope.
Whenever a sitting Pope dies (or abdicates), the College of Cardinals, the highest ranking bishops of the church from around the world, gather in Rome to select a new one from their midst.
7. The correct answer is A. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that God exists as the eternal Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Though they may differ on other significant doctrines, that Bible based doctrine is the most essential of all Christian beliefs. It is shared by Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox. Any person or group denying or redefining the Trinity is regarded as heretical and a cult. Examples include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Unitarian Universalists, Christian Scientists, etc.
8. The correct answer is A. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. That is, they believe Jesus was eternally preexistent as God the Son with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They believe He was the virgin born incarnation of God in flesh. So, He was totally God and totally Man. He died on the cross, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. As with the doctrine of God this is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith.
9. The correct answer is C. All Bible versions approved by the Roman Catholic Church, like all Protestant versions, contain the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. However, they also include other books and portions of books not usually found in Protestant versions. They are also not found in Jewish versions of the Old Testament.
Those writings were done during the Intertestamental Period (between the Old and New Testaments) and include helpful historical information from that 400 year period. Evangelicals, Protestants and Jews reject their canonicity in Scripture because they are not regarded as reliable. They refer to them as the Apocrypha, meaning “hidden” or “esoteric.” They include the following: 1 and 2 Esdras; Tobit; Judith; Rest of Esther; Wisdom of Solomon; Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach); Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy; Song of the Three Children; the Story of Susanna; Bel and the Dragon; Prayer of Manasses; and 1 & 2 Maccabees.
10. The correct answer is C. Thomas Aquinas (1225 –1274) was one great philosopher who greatly influenced Roman Catholic theology. An Italian priest, he wrote massive works of philosophy in the tradition of scholasticism. His two greatest works for which he is best-known were the Summa Theologiae (A Treatise of Theology) and the Summa Contra Gentiles (A Treatise Against the Pagans). Two other philosophers who also contributed to the Catholic belief system were the great Greek thinker Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) and Augustine of Hippo (AD 354 – AD 430).
11. The correct answer is A. Roman Catholic theology specifies two categories of sins. Lesser sins that do not result in total alienation from God are called “venial sins.” They are easily forgiven by confession to a priest who will declare absolution and may require some work of penance to make atonement for them. They will also add to the time one must spend suffering in purgatory to cleanse themselves before entering heaven.
On the other hand, deadly sins or “mortal sins” are those than cannot be forgiven and result in damnation in hell. Mortal sins include, among others, murder, adultery, lying under oath, abortion, and divorce (which is forbidden by Catholic Church law). This side of Roman Catholic doctrine obviously presents a serious ethical dilemma for Catholics who are legally divorced in a civil court and remarried.
The concept of mortal sin is especially troubling for Catholic women who have had abortions and the doctors who perform them. It also is terribly inconsistent for Catholic politicians and judges who vote for unrestricted abortions. Technically, anyone guilty of a mortal sin is not allowed to participate in the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) and other sacraments (see answer to question 12).
12. The correct answer is B. According to the Roman Catholic Church, the rituals God uses to allow people to receive His grace are called the Seven Sacraments. In Catholic theology, the sacraments are ways through which people are able to receive the grace of God. As Thomas Aquinas said, the sacraments are “The instruments God uses in causing in us or communicating to us the graces of salvation.” They are regarded both as a symbol and a reality. “The sacraments confer the grace that they signify” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1127). In their view, what is indicated symbolically is really given in fact and is necessary to impart grace to the believer.
The Seven Sacraments include:
1) The Sacrament of Baptism – Baptism (performed by a priest by sprinkling on infants and convert adults) removes original and actual sin. It imparts saving grace to the recipient, makes one a Christian, and inducts them into the body of Christ (the Roman Catholic Church).
2) The Sacrament of Confirmation – When the person reaches maturity (usually about age 12) then they make confirmation of their baptism which imparts the Holy Spirit to the recipient. “Through the sacrament of confirmation, those who have been born anew in baptism receive the inexpressible Gift, the Holy Spirit himself, by which ‘they are endowed . . . with special strength” (The Catholic Encyclopedia).
3) The Sacrament of The Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) – The elements (bread and wine) literally becomes the body and blood of Christ by a miraculous process called transubstantiation. It is also called the Mass and is performed by a priest whenever possible for communicants in fellowship with the church.
Most Protestant and Evangelical churches do not agree with the sacramental concept of the Eucharist. They regard the elements of the Lord’s Supper only as symbols of the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19; Matt. 26:26-28; and John 6:35 were intended to be understood symbolically, not literally.
4) The Sacrament Of Penance – Penance consists of feeling sincere remorse and sorrow for one’s sin and making a confession to a priest. If the priest is satisfied with the confession, he will grant absolution (forgiveness). He may also require the person to perform certain acts of penance (such as repeating the rosary) to remove the effects of the sin.
5) The Sacrament of Matrimony – This is the sanctifying of a marriage performed by a priest. According to Catholic Law, no valid marriage can be broken by divorce for any reason. Some marriages may be broken by a church granted annulment which indicates that because certain circumstances the marriage was never valid.
6) The Sacrament of Holy Orders – This is the calling and ordination of men into one of three levels service: the Bishopric, the Priesthood, and the Diaconate. These ordinations are for life.
7) The Sacrament of Anointing Of The Sick – (Formerly known as Extreme Unction). This sacrament is the anointing of oil by a priest when a Catholic is thought to be near death.
13. The correct answer is B. Many people believe that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is another term for the virgin birth of Jesus. Actually, however, in Roman Catholic Church teachings, the doctrine does not refer to Jesus’ birth but rather to the birth of Mary, Jesus’ mother. In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared “ex cathedra” what was already widely believed in the Catholic Church. He asserted the dogma that Mary was miraculously conceived without inheriting original sin (the doctrine of papal infallibility was defined in 1870 – see answer 5).
The official doctrinal statement was written this way:
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.
—Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854
Protestants and evangelicals might ask reasonably, “Where did that doctrine come from? Is it in the Bible?” Clearly it is not found in the New Testament. Roman Catholic theologians point to the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary in Luke 1: 26- 38 as biblical support.
Luke 1: 28 is translated in the New American Standard Bible as “And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” The Catholic Douay-Rheims 1899 Bible (American Edition) has it this way, “And the angel being come in, said unto her: ‘Hail (Mary), full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.’” Catholics assert that the phrase “full of grace” means that she was totally free of sin. Many Catholics repeat that verse over and over while saying the rosary using prayer beads. Protestants and evangelicals reply that the doctrine cannot be sustained from that or any other passage of Scripture.
The Roman Catholic Church also asserts that Mary, before she died physically, or immediately upon her death, was taken up into heaven to serve as Queen of Heaven. This is called the doctrine of the Assumption and, like the Immaculate Conception, has no Biblical basis. This doctrine has long been a part of Catholic tradition. However, it was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII only on November 1, 1950, in his Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God).
14. The correct answer is A. In Roman Catholic Church teaching, salvation is a lengthy process that ends only when one gets to Heaven. The process begins at baptism but then must be maintained by receiving the sacraments and faithfulness to God and the church. Salvation is mediated only through the Roman Catholic Church. After death, a believer must spend an extended length of time in Purgatory to expunge the effects of sins committed in this life. Only then is the believer allowed to enter into the presence of God in heaven.
15. The correct answer is C. When witnessing to Catholics, we should never focus on how wrong their church is or tell them that they need to join our church or any denomination to be saved. Salvation is entirely a matter of placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Usually Catholics already have a theistic worldview and generally believe in the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. However, in most cases, Catholics depend on church membership and good works to gain salvation. As a result, they tend to lack the assurance of their salvation and most do not enjoy a personal relationship directly with God. It is on the point of the totality of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone where we need to focus our witness to them.
So how did you do? If you got all the answers right, or even most of them, you are pretty well informed about Roman Catholicism. If you got less than half correct, you may want to study the answers carefully, especially if you intend to share Christ with your Catholic friends.
© Tal Davis 2012