“The truth that’s told with bad intent
beats all the lies you can invent.”
— William Blake
I remember the horror I felt in November 1978 when I learned that a minister of a respected mainline denomination, named Jim Jones, had forcing his followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. The incident was in itself horrific. But what upset me even more was the fact that “my church” was run by the same organization that had ordained Jim Jones!
I was coping with severe clinical depression at that time, and I began to silently wonder: What do I really know about the church – “the body of Christ” – beyond what I’ve been taught from childhood? There are so many denominations with different beliefs and traditions. Somebody’s got to be wrong … right?
In my heart I knew that my own relationship with Christ was well grounded. But from that moment I simply couldn’t shake the ominous feeling that I didn’t have the whole story. And the possibility was deeply unsettling.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012, when I came across a newly published book by Thomas Horn and Cris Putnam, titled “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here.” Within its pages lay a summary of facts that I wish I had known about back in the 1970’s and beyond. Much of the historical information I’ve stated so far was gleaned from the meticulous, footnoted research that these two men have provided for enquiring minds.
The authors present a stunning account of historical events that went terribly wrong. However, the men who were responsible have insisted that they were absolutely right. The most blatant example of this was the creation of the papacy – “the oldest continuously functioning institution in the world” (Petrus Romanus, page 171).
The pope acts as leader of what has come to be known as the Roman Catholic Church, which continues to insist that it is the only “true” Christian church. Multitudes of faithful followers believe that each man who holds this office is the divine successor of the apostle Simon Peter. Those who have studied Jesus’ obviously flawed disciple question the reasoning behind that myth, which was not accepted as truth until nearly two hundred years after Peter’s death. And it wasn’t until the eleventh century that “Pope” or Pontiff” was declared the official title of the office, created by powerful Romans.
As the Church allowed the popes more and more power, a new title was adopted – “Vicar of Christ,” which literally means, “instead of Christ.” The masses were required to believe that each elected man who sat in the chair (a.k.a. the “See”) of St. Peter must be honored as “infallible.” That is, he speaks without error to all Christians, universally, on behalf of the Lord God.
There were three primary reasons why a majority of people went along with all of this over the centuries:
(1) Illiteracy. Most people could not read. So, they were dependent on others to tell them what is written in the Bible about the ministry, the miracles, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus foretold (Matthew 24:4-5), deceivers infiltrated the Church and distorted the Scriptures to accomplish their own purposes. The illiterate had no ammunition with which to defend the original gospel message. Yet many were willing to die for what they knew in their hearts to be the simple truth about Jesus, the Messiah.
(2) Papal power. The popes were given power to dictate laws, collect unreasonable taxes, take people’s land on behalf of the Church, and dreadfully punish those who could not – or would not – comply. They threatened people with excommunication and eternal damnation if they acted or spoke in opposition to those who were carefully placed in positions of authority.
(3) Secrecy. Deals were sealed behind closed doors – many would say with the devil. Wars were fought, blood was shed, and wickedness increased (just as Jesus foretold), all in the name of “Saint Peter” and the Church in Rome.
Just like the followers of the false prophet Jim Jones, innocent Christians were forced to conform to manmade common law, and sell their souls or be put to death. Of course history shows that, in the end, they all died anyway.
“… the Lord has rejected those you trust;
you will not be helped by them.”
A RUST REMOVER …
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look into the history of the denomination or independent organization where you worship. When and why was it founded? Research the character of the men and/or women who felt led to establish it in the area where you live? Read 1 Timothy 4 and resolve to “watch your life and doctrine closely” so that “you will save yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).