The Allure and Danger of the Roman Catholic Church

by Dale Partridge

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift within the Christian community towards Roman Catholicism. This trend isn’t limited to high-profile individuals like Candace Owens, Tammy Peterson (Jordan Peterson’s wife), Mark Wahlberg, and Shia LaBeouf; numerous people from Protestant backgrounds are also making this transition.

However, it’s important to note that their reasons for converting center not around the Gospel of Grace but around the church’s long-standing history, traditions, the perception of stability, the religious appeal, and its institutional power. As Western civilization deteriorates and many feel societal foundations eroding under secular influences, there is a growing desire for something perceived as unshakeable. The rise of feminism and homosexuality has significantly confused men and women and altered dating norms and family structures, leading many to seek some form of religious clarity. As a result, some are turning to institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and even Islam because they appear less affected by modernity. Last night, I saw this post on X which characterizes my observation.

When asked to explain his reasoning, his response further supported my argument that much of the motivation for conversion is not rooted in the Gospel but in historicity.

Unfortunately, much of American Protestantism does not command this same respect for its historical resolve. It has become subject to ridicule within the broader Christian world due to its numerous denominations, doctrinal disunity, and a propensity to adapt and compromise with secular culture in an attempt to evangelize it. This approach has led to an embarrassingly ‘low church’ culture marked by hyper-casualized worship services that often feature a rock band, coffee shop, and some degree of pastoral showmanship. The past generations who were raised on this form of “audience Christianity” have witnessed its impotence to transform culture, uphold the family, and resist liberalism. Ultimately, a generation of pastors bought into the lie that simplifying the church would somehow make Christ more accessible to pagans. This, of course, is the outcome of Arminian theology that worships “free will” and believes that people come to Christ by intellectual persuasion rather than by the proclamation of sin, the wrath of God, repentance, and faith (but that’s for another article).

Consequently, the American church is inflated with individuals who came to church but never came to Christ. They prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” but were never born again. As we know, what you win people with, you win people to—and the Protestant church has spent about 75 years winning people with gimmicks. As a result, we have millions of moralists and religious people who worship among us but cannot explain fundamental Gospel truths because they’ve never heard them preached. They do not know and cannot defend the authority and adequacy of the Scriptures, the doctrine of original sin, the righteousness of Christ imputed by faith, penal substitutionary atonement, and the doctrine of perseverance. Many of these false converts are among those transitioning from Protestantism to Catholicism.

Therefore, what appears as a significant shift toward Rome does not reflect a movement of genuine followers of Christ but rather a migration of individuals seeking structure and stability in religious institutions during uncertain times.

If you are drawn to historic institutions in search of cultural equalibrium, let me take a moment to reaffirm why, despite its shortcomings, Protestantism remains the more prudent option. Below, I will briefly show several of the unbiblical views held by the Roman Catholic Church. Then, I will present what I consider to be the Protestant response to this issue.

False Doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church

  1. A works-based Gospel: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that faith, along with works and sacraments, is necessary for salvation. However, Ephesians 2:8-9 contradicts their view by stating, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” In other words, Rome does not believe in the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith, but rather salvation is earned by a combination of our obedience and faith. This is a tragic misunderstanding of the Gospel. According to Scripture, humanity is unrighteous and needs to be made righteous (Rom. 3:9-10). The only path to righteousness is perfect obedience to the Law, which only Christ could accomplish. Matthew 5:17 says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” In Romans 8:3-4, the Apostle says, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…”

    Namely, Christ not only fulfilled the demand for law-keeping but also fulfilled our penalty for law-breaking.

    Rome diverges from the view that Christ’s righteousness is fully ours by faith alone, and thus, they insist that additional acts of obedience are necessary because Christ’s own obedience is insufficient.

  2. Rejection of Sola Scriptura: Catholic doctrine holds that Scripture, church tradition, and the Pope are authoritative sources for faith and Christian living. However, the teachings of the Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles consistently use Scripture as their sole standard. When Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness, He countered Satan using Scripture alone. Similarly, in His disputes with religious leaders, He relied exclusively on Scripture. For example, in Matthew 21:42, Jesus confronts his adversaries by questioning their familiarity with the Scriptures rather than referencing contemporary customs, traditions, or the priesthood. This approach is consistent with how He explained the prophecies to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27) and how he informed the Pharisees in John 5:39 that the Scriptures testify about Him. Paul, too, exemplifies the reliance on Scripture alone for doctrinal authority, as seen in Acts 17:2, where he defends his Gospel message solely through the Scriptures. He praises the Bereans in Acts 17:11 for diligently verifying his teachings against the Scriptures. This emphasis on Scripture as the sole foundation for authority is a recurring motif throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Without the anchoring principle of Sola Scriptura, there is a risk that Christian life could become susceptible to the incorporation of doctrines and practices derived from human invention rather than divine instruction (which is categorically true of Roman Catholicism).
  3. Veneration of Saints: Catholics honor saints and seek their intercession based on their view of the communion of saints. However, 1 Timothy 2:5 emphasizes, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” which implies that no other intercessor is needed besides Jesus. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Why would you go to a saint when you can go to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit? He is our great High Priest, and to seek intercession from another is to elevate man to the level of Christ (Heb. 4:14-16).
  4. Transubstantiation: This doctrine states that during the Eucharist, the substances of bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, though the appearances of bread and wine remain. Yet, Hebrews 9:28 states, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him…” This passage, along with numerous others, suggests that Christ’s sacrifice is a singular, once-for-all act, not a sacrifice that is perpetually reproduced in the Eucharist each week. Furthermore, this doctrine disrupts the hypostatic union by implying that Christ’s physical body can be present in multiple locations simultaneously, despite Scripture stating that He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, awaiting the subjugation of His enemies through the church’s proclamation of the Gospel (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 10:12-13).
  5. Worship of Mary: While the Catholic Church officially teaches veneration, not worship, of Mary, their behavior often says otherwise. Frequently, they address her with titles like “The Mother of God” or “Queen of Heaven,” which are titles not found in the Bible. The Pope instructs people to pray to Mary even though Christ instructs people to pray to the Father. Moreover, they reject the idea that Mary had a sinful nature, despite Scripture declaring that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” They assert her perpetual virginity, even though Scripture clearly states that Jesus had siblings. Finally, they refute the notion of Mary’s physical death, claiming instead that she was assumed into heaven, a belief for which there is no scriptural or early church historical support.

I mention these points to acknowledge that while the Catholic Church possesses admirable qualities, such as its dedication to certain traditional values, its magnificent cathedrals, and its enduring presence across generations, it fundamentally lacks a true understanding of the Gospel. This brings to mind Jesus’ words, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Religion’s allure is potent; as spiritual beings, we often gravitate toward ritualism and legalism because following rules can seem simpler for our flesh than fully trusting in the work of Christ. Our pride prefers a system where heaven can be earned, but this directly contradicts the teaching of Savior. This contradiction is what activated the Reformers of the 15th-16th centuries to give up their lives for change. They aimed not to replace but to restore the Catholic Church to a foundation based on Scripture alone. This desire for reformation explains why some, including myself, identify as Reformed Catholics. I would wholly support the Roman Catholic Church if it would realign with Sola Scriptura, the doctrines of the Gospel by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and rectify its many heresies. But, as it stands, as shown in the Council of Trent’s doctrinal declarations, the Roman Catholic Church remains an apostate institution. And no institution, regardless of how beautiful and strong it may appear, is worth joining if the institution itself is dead.

*Clarification: I do understand there are regenerate persons in the Roman Catholic Church. But I believe they are there despite Rome’s doctrine, not because of it. Additionally, I am aware that some sects of Catholicism are aligned with several Protestant positions and are actively seeking to reform the church from within.

My View of a Solution: High-Church Protestantism

I align myself with those Protestants in search of a more substantial, serious, and solemn expression of Christianity. I understand the external draw to Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy. American Protestantism, in its casualized and progressive approach, has, in my view, caused more harm than benefit. I am weary of our many church buildings that resemble bland government offices and do not reflect the glory of the message they house. I’m tired of Lord’s Day services that are reduced to a predictable and shallow routine of announcements, three songs, and a topical sermon. I’ve had enough of low theology, oversimplified statements of faith, and the superficial call for ‘core values’ and ‘vision statements.’

My desire is for Protestant churches to embrace reverence and liturgy—churches that are classically reformed, uphold covenantalism, cultivate a culture of modest women, sing psalms and traditional hymns, offer corporate confession on bended knees, and build sanctuaries that visually communicate the Kingdom of God. I’m not calling for vestments or icons. I’m calling for formalism and reverence. I’m calling for order and beauty. I’m calling for liturgy and depth.

I yearn for a reformed catholicity where Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Reformed Baptists eventually find doctrinal harmony and unite to form an organized front to the secular world. I want ecclesiastical accountability that’s rooted in Scripture, biblical ordination, the regular administration of the sacraments, and full-throttled expository preaching. But most of all, I want Great Commission-centric Christianity that engages society and transforms it with the Gospel. Churches that restore cities through the expansion of the Kingdom. I want godly men in high places of power who write laws and influence culture to bow to King Jesus. I want all these things because I believe Scripture calls for them.

Unfortunately, churches like this are exceedingly rare. Our congregation, King’s Way, in Prescott, Arizona, aims to be such a church. We have recently applied for affiliation with the CREC (Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches), as it appears to be one of the few denominations aligning with this biblical vision.

Ultimately, I am convinced that if the Protestant Church returned to a Scripture-centered, historic, and robust approach, elevated its reverence, and rejected its reliance on gimmicks and pageantry, the Protestant inclination to gravitate towards Rome would decrease. The legitimacy, stability, and traditionalism that the Christian community seeks are not invalid pursuits; they are simply desires that must be found within biblical orthodoxy, not within the institution of Rome. Therefore, the solution is not low-church Americanism or high-church Romanism. It’s high-church Protestantism because it is the only expression that has a regard for both Scripture and a commitment to the Gospel.

Dale Partridge is the President of and holds a Graduate Certificate from Western Seminary. He is the author of several Christian books, including “The Manliness of Christ” and the bestselling children’s book “Jesus and My Gender.” He is also the host of the Real Christianity podcast and the lead pastor at King's Way Bible Church in Prescott, Arizona.

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