Letter To An Assembly Of God Minister
– On The Word Of God –

By JAMES LIKOUDIS


The following is a letter written by Mr. Likoudis responding to a Protestant minister, a Pastor in the Central Assembly of God church, himself a former Catholic, who has many misconception concerning the Catholic Church's Doctrine and Teachings.



August 30, 2004

Rev. ___________
Pastor, Central Assembly of God


Dear Pastor_____

I wish to thank you for the opportunity given Karen and myself to speak with you the other week. As promised during our meeting, I have read carefully former Carmelite Catholic priest Bartholomew F. Brewer's "Scriptural Truths for Roman Catholics". Allow me to give my observations.

I must say he does stress one important truth. If the Catholic Church is true, then all who profess to be Christians "must become Catholic". He fails to note, however, that if the Catholic Church is "false and cultic", then Christianity as a revealed religion itself is discredited and declared false. This is because integral Christianity is embodied in the Catholic Church. It is also because the basic principle underlying all Brewer's attacks on Catholic beliefs and practices is unreasonable and unsupportable. The result of his polemics is a house built on sand. I refer to his and your belief in the Protestant principle that the rule of faith for Christians is "sola Scriptura", i.e., "the Bible alone". The "Bible alone" was never the belief of Christians for the 16 centuries before Luther's religious revolt, and as I stated to you in our conversation previously, cannot be demonstrated. It is certainly not taught in Scripture (whether in the 66 books held by Protestants or in the 73 insisted upon by the Catholic Church as all divinely inspired). In fact, many passages in the Scripture we hold in common indicate that the traditions of the Apostles, whether written or oral, are also authoritative and that Christians should believe and follow them (See: 1 Cor. 11:2; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:1-3). If 2 Tim. 3:16 is appealed to (as you did in our conversation) as stating that the "Scriptures" are profitable for correction, training, etc., that is not saying the written Word is the only source for these things. Moreover, how do you know that 2 Tim. 3:16 is inspired at all? On what or on whose authority do you claim this?

I gather that your remarks essentially went like this. We believe the Bible is inspired. Why do we believe it is inspired? Because the Bible says it is inspired and we believe the Bible because it is inspired. This is the kind of circular reasoning which betrays the logical fallacy of all Protestantism and together with the unwarranted exaltation of private judgment as competent in the interpretation of the Scriptures. It is this position which has proved disastrous for the unity of Christians (and note, too, St. Peter's warning against private interpretation - 2 Peter 1:20). There is an even worse consequence, namely, that belief in Christianity becomes perceived by serious people as something irrational. Without a credible ground for its acceptance, Scripture itself is emptied of value as a competent spiritual authority in matters of religious belief. I believe you see this clearly enough in many Liberal Protestants' outright denying the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, the Atonement, the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and other traditional Christian beliefs. You apparently do not see this in the case of fundamentalists and evangelicals and your own denomination.

Nowhere in your Bible of 66 books does Scripture identify all the books that even make up "the Bible". Why anyone should believe Brewer or yourself in your arbitrary choice to follow 16th century Protestants in their restricting the canon of Scripture to 66 books, thereby removing 7 books inspired by God and confirmed by the Councils of the Catholic Church from the 4th century on as such, is left unexplained... The burning questions remain unanswered:

  • How can one know with certitude what the Word of God is?
  • How can we know with absolute certitude its contents?
  • How does one know that Apostolic Tradition does not also contain the unwritten Word of God?

After all, the early Church (as we see in the writings of the Fathers of the Church and the Acts of early Councils) clearly held to Apostolic Tradition as part of the "deposit of faith" (paradosis) committed to the Church. The saintly Fathers of the Church in both East and West never maintained the self-sufficiency of Scripture, nor did the early Catholic Church, the medieval Catholic Church, nor the Catholic Church of today. For 16 centuries Christians believed the Gospel of Christ was something handed down in and by the Church and taught by the Church's bishops who had succeeded to the place of the Apostles. The Christian Faith was something received from the Church's official teachers, the Successor of Peter at Rome and the other bishops in communion with him. It is utter ignorance of Church history which would obscure that Christianity is embodied in a visible historical Church which clarifies the meaning of Scripture and Tradition for every generation of believers. Christianity is not something each Bible-believer invents for himself by opposing his own understanding of the "Scriptures" to the actual Church Christ established on the Rock-man, Peter (Matt. 16:18 ff.) and whose Scriptures they are. It is astonishing to witness Brewer opposing his own peculiar interpretations of the Gospel to the Church whose Gospel it is.

It needs to be recalled for Protestants who know almost no early Church history that the Church appears as a visible historical society with teachings and an institutional structure which were in existence before the New Testament was fully written. The Apostles, evangelists, prophets, and bishops being appointed by the Apostles to oversee the first Christians – all these mentioned in the pages of the New Testament – were members of that Church whose Apostles were told by Christ: "He who hears you, hears Me; and he who rejects you, rejects Me; and he who rejects Me, rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16). Christ spoke with authority and clearly transmitted that same authority to human beings whom He commissioned to teach in His Name. If the Apostles were to have no successors as teachers and rulers of the Church, then how explain the appearance of bishops throughout the Mediterranean world of the 2nd century claiming to be their successors? The successors of the Apostles are still with us in the Pope and Bishops of the Catholic Church that regarded itself as the "Go, Teach ye all nations" [Catholic] Church from the very beginning of Christianity. In the sober historical account of the Acts of the Apostles (20:28-30) we read about the "fierce wolves" and "those speaking perverse things" who dared to challenge the authority of the bishops appointed by the Apostles. [These are the bishops that] "The Holy Spirit has placed you as bishops, to rule the Church of God" (Acts 20:28). These bishops and their successors were bishops of the Catholic Church which, as noted, existed even before the New Testament was completely written.

The Catholic Church has always been an undeniable massive historical fact in Christian history ready to reject the false interpretations of Scripture made in every century. It is historical fact freely admitted by Protestant scholars that from the beginnings of Christianity, there were bishops in communion with the chief bishop who sat on the Chair of Peter at Rome, and who claimed as a body to speak with apostolic authority in Christ's Name to give expression to Gospel-teaching on faith and morals. One can thus understand why the greatest patristic scholar and Catholic convert of the 19th century, John Henry Cardinal Newman (whose profound book "The Development of Doctrine" Brewer shamefully distorts) was obliged to say : "To go deep into history is to cease to be a Protestant".

I can only repeat our conviction as Catholics that the fundamental principle of Protestantism "sola Scriptura" relied on by Brewer is both historically and theologically false. It is logically incoherent and does violence to reason. In ignoring the concrete and historical character of the Church as the visible social Body of Christ, it tragically exposes all Christian belief to skepticism and unbelief. Private individualistic interpretation of Scriptural texts smashes Christianity into thousands of splinter groups, all claiming to hold true doctrine but interpreting the Bible differently and with no divine authority among them to end the endless divisions, ruptures, schisms and heresies so evident among Protestants for whom St. Paul's cry "One Lord, one faith, one Baptism" (Eph. 4:5) is no longer applicable. A Protestant scholar (Paul Sabatier) has correctly noted : "The Protestant Christian who isolates himself, believing that he can draw all religious truth from his Bible or his individual inspiration lives and thinks in unreality".

Arguments over the meaning of specific Scriptural texts with "sola Scriptura" advocates are without resolution. Reason demands (and Scripture itself confirms) that there be a divinely established authority external to the individual to decide questions of belief. Catholic theologians have refuted Scriptural misinterpretations for centuries, and there is no need here to answer every distortion Brewer makes. It is far more important to reveal the basic error in "sola Scriptura", a position rejected by Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholics who constitute, after all, the overwhelming number of Christians. There can be no religious certainty in adhering (as Brewer does) to anti-Catholic positions that are based on an erroneous principle of Scriptural interpretation, one that ignores the authority of the historical Church Christ established on the Rock of Peter and against which He declared the Gates of Hell can not prevail (Matt. 16:18).

Then, too, there is another false principle that Brewer relies upon – namely that the Church Christ founded suffered such doctrinal corruption by men that the visible Church itself became apostate. Not only does this outrageous assertion give the lie to Christ Himself, but it was firmly rejected by the earliest Fathers of the Church in their struggle against the "false teachers" whom the Apostle Peter warned would appear "bringing in sects of perdition" (2 Peter 2:1). For example, St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop of the Catholic Church (c. 110 A.D.) wrote: "For this the Lord received ointment on His head, that He might breathe incorruption into His Church". It was of that visible Church of which he was a bishop that he spoke. He spoke as Catholics have always done distinguishing carefully between the moral corruption resulting from sinful behavior and doctrinal corruption involving heretical attempts to change the doctrines of the Church. Surely, the Holy Spirit Who indwells the Church would never permit the latter. Is it not He (the Spirit of Truth) Whose mission is always to keep the visible Church faithful to Christ?

I do not have time to deal with all Brewer's falsehoods. I may have already exhausted your patience. But I wish to bring to your attention the following which to my mind suffice to discredit his anti-Catholic tract:

  1. He denies Peter was the Rock. But many Protestant scholars do admit it was the person of Peter made the Rock and precisely because of his confession of Christ's divinity.
  2. He falsely declares "Vicarius Filii Dei" to be a papal title. That has never been a formal or official title for the Roman Pontiff. "Vicarius Christi" (Vicar of Christ) or "Servant of the servants of God" have been papal titles, but "Vicar of the Son of God" has been attributed to the Pope by anti-Catholic bigots in the vain attempt to equate the letters with numbers "proving" that the Pope was 666, the Beast of Revelation! Brewer is full of such nonsense.
  3. Brewer claims "Christ did not leave His Church to human leaders". But did He not do so in transmitting His authority to His human Apostles? Did He not arrange for the Apostles to appoint bishops after them to "rule the Church of God" as already noted with reference to Acts of the Apostles 20: 28-30 ?
  4. Christ IS the Head of the Church. Of course, HE IS and always remains the Invisible Head of the Church on earth and the Church in Heaven. But why could He not arrange for a visible head for the visible Church on earth He founded? A visible Church without a visible head wielding supreme authority would be monstrous as well as a contradiction in terms. The famous Petrine texts declaring Peter the Rock of the Church, the Holder of the Keys, the Confirmer of his brethren, and Chief Shepherd of the flock mean nothing if they do not signify Peter being made the visible head of the Apostolic College and of the whole Church, holding an office of headship in the Church intended to last as long as the Church itself (See: Matt. 16:18-19; Lk. 22: 31-32; Jn. 21: 15-17).
  5. "There were no Roman Catholics until 315 A.D." This false assertion is belied by the fact that the Apostles Creed (the baptismal Creed of the Roman Church) was already in evidence by the year 200 A.D. Those to be baptized were obliged to profess : "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, etc." Luther was so horrified by this that he unwarrantably changed "Catholic Church" to "Christian Church"!
  6. Brewer professes "salvation by faith alone". But this is not Scriptural, is rejected by many Protestants, and by Eastern Orthodox, as well as by Catholics. Interestingly, Brewer chose to ignore in his screed the words of St. James: "faith without works is useless... faith without works is dead" (See James 2:14-26). As with many Protestants he confuses "works done in charity" which merit a heavenly reward with the "ritual and ceremonial works of the Old Law" that no longer bind Christians.
  7. As for the dates he gives for "Roman Catholic Inventions", he makes some real historical and theological whoppers. Auricular confession to a priest he declares "instituted by Pope Innocent III" who lived in the 13th century. But that great teacher Origen writes about private confession to a priest in the 3rd century! Ditto for other Fathers of the Church.
  8. Prayers for the dead he claims to be invented in 300 A.D., but it is clear that Prayers for the dead can be found in the Roman Catacombs where Christians were buried earlier to that date, and it is clear that Christians simply continued to follow the Jewish practice as found in the 2nd Book of Maccabees (which Luther of course rejected as Scripture as he also did the epistles of James and Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and the Book of Revelation) ! This, again, was private interpretation with a vengeance!
  9. The doctrine of Purgatory Brewer ascribes to Pope Gregory I (593 A.D.) despite the fact that 2 centuries earlier St. Augustine had a highly developed doctrine of prayer for the dead who had not made complete satisfaction for sins committed in this life, and needing cleansing. Ditto for the earliest liturgies like that of St. James and St. John Chrysostom in the 4th c., liturgies which are still used in the Catholic Church for beseeching the mercy of God for the repose of His departed servants. Tertullian (160-240 A.D.) speaks of anniversary Masses for the dead: "We make on one day every year oblations for the dead, as for their birthdays". The failure to pray for the dead, especially one's own relatives, manifests the grossest spiritual negligence and lack of charity for those in need of prayers, alms, and Masses. St.Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) wrote in his famous catechetical addresses: "Then we pray for the holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us and for all who have died in our communion, believing that the souls for whom prayers are offered receive very great assistance, while the holy and most awful sacrifice lies to open view".

It is a tragedy that Luther's false theory of justification by faith alone led him and other Protestants to deny the distinction between mortal and venial sin, the fact of temporal punishment due to forgiven sins still unpaid, the necessity of good works done for the love of God and neighbor, the efficacy of indulgences, and the usefulness of prayers for the dead. It is true that, as Brewer says, Purgatory was proclaimed a dogma by the Council of Florence in 1439, but there was only expressed in an official definition what the Church had believed from its beginnings! Throughout his "Scriptural Truths for Catholics" Brewer confounds the date of an official doctrinal definition with the "invention of a doctrine", whereas the definition was intended to only confirm what the Church had always believed concerning doctrines which Brewer opines to be "anti-biblical" e.g., Purgatory, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, her veneration as the Mother of God, Transubstantiation, etc.

– CONCLUSION –

I see no reason why a lapsed Catholic priest who commits such historical and theological howlers regarding Christian doctrine is to be believed in preference to the authority of the Catholic Church founded by Christ Himself. As St. Augustine testified, "I would not believe the Gospel were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church". The whole matter of Christian belief is, in fact, tied to the infallible authority of the visible Church Christ founded. It is by the authority of that Catholic Church (which was constituted by Christ as a visible divine authority external to the individual) that the ordinary person seeking the whole truth of Divine Revelation can see guaranteed the Bible's authenticity, its divine inspiration, and its proper interpretation. Without that Church teaching with Christ's authority, I do not see how it is possible for anyone to determine definitively:

  1. what the contents of the Bible are,
  2. whether such books are indeed divinely inspired with God their Author, and
  3. what is the meaning of its many mysterious texts fought over by scholars for centuries.

Such matters involve truths of the supernatural order and are unknowable to natural reason. Only a divine authority can make them known to both unlearned and learned. Catholics believe that the Catholic Church as a teacher of faith and morals is that divine authority.

That Brewer as a professional anti-Catholic is a real scoundrel unworthy of being considered credible is also revealed by the fact that he has for many years distributed and supported a forgery. The forgery was that of an alleged speech at Vatican I by the great Croatian Archbishop Joseph Gross Strossmayer which expressed total disbelief in the Papacy. It is true that the Archbishop was an "inopportunist" at the Council and argued with the minority against the formal definition of papal infallibility for various reasons including ecumenical ones, but he never wrote the infamous forgery become known as the "Strossmayer Speech", which denied the Papacy as well as other aspects of Catholic doctrine. It is this forgery filled with Protestant rhetoric which Brewer has defended on his Website to continue defaming the integrity of a famous Catholic Bishop who, in fact, quickly responded to the forgery (originating with a lapsed Mexican priest) with the disclaimer : "I never gave such an Address as was falsely attributed to me. My principles are totally different from those that came into play in the aforesaid Address. I am aware of never having said anything which could actually weaken the authority of the Holy See or in some way wound the unity of the Church". The good Bishop had to spend decades reiterating the forgery to be bogus and a fraud, but unfortunately the forged speech made and continues to make dupes – including those in our time thanks to the despicable efforts of our anti-Catholic polemicist Bartholomew F. Brewer.

What I find most distressing, pastor, is to see good people indoctrinated with the worst misconceptions concerning the Catholic Church and its beliefs. That is what Brewer is involved in – and, I must say, to his shame. However, I cannot fail to stress that we Catholics are grateful for whatever aspects of revealed truth our separated brethren still retain, but it remains that it is the prayer of Our Lord that all His disciples be one in His one and undivided visible Church that motivates our love and concern for those who have sadly left the Catholic Church. Above all, it is a question of the salvation of souls. For us Catholics, belief in Christ can not be separated from belief in the Church He founded for the salvation of souls.

Our all-too-brief dialogue has stimulated these reflections. I have tried to explain that if one truly seeks a biblical religion, it can only be found in the Catholic Church which is "the true Church" (Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy, #2) and "the one true religion" (Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, #1) and the same "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" noted in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381 A.D.).

Remembering you in prayer, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,
— James Likoudis,
P.O.Box 852,
Montour Falls, NY 14865





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