Doctine is important as it defines the beliefs and practices of the church of Christ. And without unity of doctrine, true unity cannot be achieved. Real unity, not just in name or pretense, is what Jesus prayed His disciples would be known for (John 17:20,21). Because false teachers can create so many problems in the church, what is the manner in which the church is to deal with false teachers? Paul writes:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)

Though it can be a wrenching experience for any congregation, it is sometimes necessary that it withdraw fellowship from a fellow Christian who will not quit their divisive teaching. To withdraw fellowship from the false teacher only means he will not have the chance to lead astray the elect of God. That said, there is no threat issued toward the false teacher save the warning of God’s judgment.

In the middle ages, the Catholic Church used violence to silence any who opposed them. There are more examples than I care to list here, but consider their treatment of the Albigenses. This was a group of ascetics who taught the dualistic view that flesh is evil and spirit is good. The dualist sought to escape the flesh and their ascetic lifestyle was born of this doctrine. They suppressed all of their appetites as part of the quest to escape the flesh. “Thus earthly life was evil, and above all, marriage, the’ perpetuation of life was intrinsically evil.”1 Such teachings and prohibitions were obviously contrary to Scripture as being “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). And a most troubling teaching of the dualists say that Christ only appeared to have come in the flesh, an impossibility according to this view if flesh is sin.

The Catholics did not merely ostrasize this group. They did not settle with publicly marking this group as false teachers so as to warn others. No, instead by order of the Catholic Pope, a hundred year inquisition was directed at the Albigenses, and other groups, with penalty of death for anyone who was part of it. says they were “exterminated.” Interestingly, the asceticism and monasticism of the Catholic Church is similar to what they opposed in the Albigenses. “[W]ho forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving . . . .” Catholics justify their prohibitions saying that they believe in the sanctity of marriage — just not for their preachers! And the Catholic teaching of inherited sin sounds similar to the Albigenses’ teaching that flesh is sinful.

Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Chapter IV, tells of many Catholic persecutions from the middle of the 12th century through the 16th century.2 For denying transubstantiation, for denying the authority of the Pope, for denying the necessity of infant baptism, and for translating, printing, and owning the Bible, men, women, children, young and old, were imprisoned, tortured, had their tongues cut out, their bodies torn apart, and many burnt alive. The Catholic Church has in the past dealt harshly with those who taught differently than they. Because they had the power, when they were right and when they were wrong, the punishment of death was always a possibility. Thankfully such methods are a thing of the past.

But this is not the way of Jesus Christ. No faithful follower of Christ would resort to such coercive tactics. Yes, the Scriptures warn against adding to or taking from God’s Word. And Christians are told not to support or associate with those who continue in error. But Christians would never and will never force others to believe under the threat of death. Vengeance belongs to the Lord.

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4 replies

  1. The Catholic Church opposed the Albigenses because they were Manichees, not Christians. Among their teachings were beliefs that all matter is evil, that matrimony is evil, that fornication is no sin, that “assisted suicide” is a good. These sound much like modern-day Western secular beliefs. Calling good, evil, and evil, good is something that the Catholic Church had always fought against from the beginning and is continuing to fight against. I hope that you don’t mean your readers should not associate with or support Catholics. We need allies.Discipler: “Catholics justify their prohibitions saying that they believe in the sanctity of marriage — just not for their preachers! And the Catholic teaching of inherited sin sounds similar to the Albigenses’ teaching that flesh is sinful.”Catholics do indeed teach and uphold the sanctity of matrimony. In fact, Catholics recognize that our Lord elevated natural marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament, a sign between a man and a woman like Christ and his Church.The Catholic Church has both married clergy and unmarried clergy. The discipline (not a doctrine) varies among the different Rites. Marriage is renounced freely by some (no coersion), not because it is bad but because its goodness makes it a valuable and generous gift to God. Many such offerings are found throughout Sacred Scripture. It is an invitation from Our Lord to live as he did: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; <>some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven<>. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Matthew 19:12 NAB). There can be nothing unacceptable in that.


  2. Discipler says:Dear Pazdziernik, I don’t mean to say that I disagree with everything that the Catholic Church teaches. What led me to comment on this matter was some reading I did on “Christian” groups that were in existence through the middle ages. If history records accurately on their doctrines (early Christians were accused of cannibalism, it wasn’t true), then I too would oppose what they say about the sinfulness of flesh. No matter how wrong they were though, I would not kill them if they did not turn away from it. The fact is that the Popes did. When I read such things, I wonder how could supposed men of God justify such coercive tactics to retain their followers.And you wrote about the sanctity of marriage and how Catholics elevated it to “natural marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament.” See, that is the problem right there. You think it is sanctified by God, but it is too lowly for the Roman Catholic priests to engage in. And Catholics can’t elevate marriage above the place God gave to it. All marriage is sacred and that without the blessing of a Priest and the Catholic Church. A marriage performed by the Justice of the Peace is holy and recognized the same by God. Your discussion of who may marry and how the “discipline” (I call it a doctrine) is applied is not really answering the point I made. My position on this matter is not weakened because the Orthodox or Eastern Catholics have marriage. The Orthodox Church didn’t submit to many things that originated in Rome. The Church in Rome can’t turn around and claim diversity of thought on the matter. On a personal level, a person has the right to choose celibacy and to preach if he likes. But there is no way to justify putting a “discipline” in place that makes such service to God contingent on following that discipline. That is a man-made rule. The local priest in our community doesn’t have the right to choose to be a Catholic priest and be married.And your treatment of Matthew 19 is way out of context. If we got into that, then it would lead to your having to defend such man-made rules as “annulment”.


  3. Here a little diddy from Hans von Balthasar from <> The Christian State of Life <>. In context, he is speaking about the different states of life for Christians. Celibacy for N.T. priests (a.k.a. no being married) has its origins very early. “The fact that poverty is assigned so unequivocally to first place while virginity is initially less significant in terms of the promise can be explained as follows. The Lord called the apostles from the Israel of the Old Testament, where marriage was itself a state of promise. He who came to fulfil the law, not destroy it (Matthew 5:17), did not want to build his Church on men who had not lived the true messianic tradition. In the beginning, therefore, celibacy had to be by way of exception, although it should be noted that, even in the beginning, so much emphasis was placed on this exception — in John the Baptist, in John the Evangelist, in Paul — that through their example it had already become the rule for the generations to be born under the New Testament. Indeed, from the Lord’s command to his apostles to be always at the service of the bretheren, of which Paul gave the eleven apostles such an illustrious example, it is obvious that <>renunciation of a wife is no less required than renunciation of house and lands and familial ties. <>”Certainly service to God does not require celibacy. God is pleased to be served through married life as well. For the Apostles and their successors, the bishops and their helpers, N.T. priests, celibacy is certainly still esteemed and practiced. Celibacy is in the category of “discipline” and as such it can be changed. However, John Paull II said something like “where celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is not esteemed neither is family and married life.” (not an exact quote)


  4. Dear P,To remain celibate is a personal choice and can be nothing more. It cannot be bound on the man of God. The Balthasar is nothing more than opinion and sophistry. Such does not rise to the standard given to us in the New Testament. Peter was married and served admirably. Also, this discussion on marriage is off track from the original point. The Catholic Church might try to make a case for why celibacy is more desirable, but it cannot bind that opinion. And, even if the Catholic Church could make a air-tight case for their position, it would not be cause to put opponents to death. That was my point. False teachers are to be marked and put out of the church.


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