Mandatory Submission and the World’s Two Largest Religions
[This is the first in a series of posts concerning improper submission to religious authority.]
One couldn’t escape the media coverage of Pope Francis and his visit to the U.S. in September. I was working out at the gym, and on the TV in front of me on Fox News was the papal mass in Philadelphia. Millions flocked to see the pope, and to listen to his messages.
We studied the book of Colossians (my favorite book) at the church I have been attending. In Colossians 1, Paul writes that Jesus Christ is preeminent in all things. He reconciled us to himself by the blood of His cross. He is the head of the body, the Church. Our faith is founded on submission to Jesus Christ. It is through faith alone in Him that we are reconciled to God and receive eternal life.
The largest religion in the world is Islam, which means “submission.” A “Muslim” is “One who submits.” The cardinal doctrine of Islam is submission to God and His prophet. In order to convert to Islam, one must recite the Shahadah: “I testify that there is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
The second largest religion in the world is Roman Catholicism. A “Catholic” is one who submits to the Magisterium, the teaching authority of Romanism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office…The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the ‘supreme Magisterium,’ above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine ‘for belief as being divinely revealed,’ and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions ‘must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.'” (CCC 891).
Submission to the Pope and bishops even extends to non-infallible declarations: “[even] without pronouncing in a ‘definitive manner’ they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to a better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful ‘are to adhere to it with religious assent’ which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.” (CCC 892). In the Papal Bull Unum Sanctum (link), submission to the pope is forever imposed as a condition for salvation.
Both Islam and Roman Catholicism have five laws that if followed guarantee eternal life to the faithful. For the Catholic, these five laws provide “the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in growth of God and neighbor.” (CCC 2014). They are known as the Five Precepts. In Islam, the minimum requirements are known as the Five Pillars. They are almost identical in nature and subject matter. Here they are:
1) Precept/Pillar concerning worship and rest
Roman Catholicism: Attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and rest from servile labor.
Islam: Mandatory worship 5 times per day (Salat).
2) Precept/Pillar concerning confession
Roman Catholicism: Mandatory confession of sins to a priest at least once per year.
Islam: Mandatory pilgrimmage to Mecca at least once per lifetime (Hajj).
3) Precept/Pillar concerning testimony of faith
Roman Catholicism: Receive the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
Islam: Testimony of faith – “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of God” (Shahadah).
4) Precept/Pillar concerning mandatory fasting and abstinence
Roman Catholicism: Observe the days of fasting and abstinence.
Islam: Fasting in the month of Ramadan (Sawm).
5) Precept/Pillar concerning religious support
Roman Catholicism: Provide for the needs of the Church.
Islam: Mandatory giving (Zakat).
For the Roman Catholic, faith is placed in the sacramental system of their Church and the “infallible” teachings of the Pope. Through this system, they are empowered to merit salvation by their good works. Revelation is ongoing, and includes Holy Tradition as delivered through the “successors to the apostles” – the Pope and bishops. Heaven is merited through faith and good works.
For the Muslim, faith is placed in the teachings of Muhammad, God’s final prophet. Those who submit to Allah, believe the prophet, and do good works will go to heaven.
For the Christian, we believe that God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). We submit to Jesus, our living head. It is through faith alone in Christ alone that we are reconciled to God. We do not trust in earthly rulers in any way for our acceptance with God. We do not yield “Obsequium Religiousum” (religious assent -link). We are like Bereans, who search the scriptures to see if any teaching is true. Colossians chapter 2 led me to flee the Roman Catholic religion. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). “I say this that no one may delude you with plausible arguments” (Col. 2:4). “Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food or drink, or with regard to a festival, or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col. 2:16). Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetisism…and not holding fast to the Head” (Col. 2:18).
All Hail King Jesus!
“If then you have been raised up with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2). Jesus Christ is our ruler; we submit to King Jesus. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17).