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Church of Rome at the Bar of History [Paperback]

By William Webster (Author)
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Item description for Church of Rome at the Bar of History by William Webster...

In all the confusion of the contemporary religious scene, one Church claims to abide changeless in her message and authority. From the first and through the ages, she claims to stand by one faith. But, asks William Webster, is this true? And he answers the question not by debating texts of Scripture but by a straight appeal to the very area where the Church of Rome believes her case is strongest, the facts of history.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Banner of Truth
Pages   244
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.38" Width: 5.38" Height: 0.87"
Weight:   0.73 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 1997
Publisher   Banner of Truth
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0851517102  
ISBN13  9780851517100  

Availability  7 units.
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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > Roman Catholicism
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Church History

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Reviews - What do customers think about Church of Rome at the Bar of History?

Misses the mark  Oct 25, 2007
As a former Roman Catholic, turned agnostic, now Christian after studying the Bible for myself; this book misses the mark.

The author does a reasonable good job of trying to present basic Catholic Doctrine in a non-controversial manor. For the casual reader is it a good start. But for anyone who wants the truth presented without candy coating it, look elsewhere. Perhaps to avoid `controversy', or out of lack of knowledge, the author avoids mentioning well documented Catholic doctrine which fly in the face of the Bible.

Here are just a few examples:

On the role of the priest in forgiving sin, from a Biblical perspective, it is considered blasphemy for man to believe he can forgive sin (Read Mark 2:7). The author never mentions this fact.

In appendix 6, the author cites a letter from Pope Gregory to John, Bishop of Constantinople, expressing his concerns about the title of `universal' Bishop. Yet there are three letters where Gregory equates the title of `universal' bishop to that of antichrist (Register of Letters, Book V Letter 21, Book VII Letter 33 and 31).

The author makes no mention to the fact that most Protestant Reformers like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, and Wesley all considered the Roman Catholic Church and specifically the office of the papacy as the office of the antichrist. My issue is not with whether or not the author/reader agrees but the fact that it is never mentioned.

Other gems missing include quotes from the handbook entitled Dignity and Duties of the Priest by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Here is just a sampling of what you will find.

"... And God Himself is obliged to abide by the judgment of His priests, and either not to pardon or to pardon, according as they refuse or give absolution, provided the penitent is capable of it. ...
...Priests are called Vicars of Jesus Christ, because they hold his place on earth. "You hold the place of Christ," ...
... According to St. Ambrose, a priest, in absolving a sinner, performs the very office of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of souls.

But the biggest surprise of all is that the author never mentions the fact that the Roman Catholic Church teaches a different Ten Commandments than what is written in the Bible! Even more astounding, the Roman Catholic Church claims it has the right to change the Ten Commandments which God wrote with His own finger. Yet these facts are never even mentioned in the book.

I wish there was a book I could recommend in its place. I can't. With the age of the Internet, you actually will gain more insight into Roman Catholic theology by searching through the online versions of the Catholic Catechism and Catholic Encyclopedia. In most cases the Catholic Church does a better job of presenting the criticisms against itself than do Protestants/Evangelicals.
Found wanting  Jun 25, 2006
An excellent introduction to the writings of the church fathers. A must read for Catholics and Protestants alike. Were the characteristic doctrines of the modern Roman Catholic Church taught and believed in the early church? William Webster proves from the patristic writings that such doctrines as auricular confession, the marian dogmas and papal infallibility did not originate in Scripture or the tradition of the early Christian church. The church of Rome is placed at the bar of history and she is found wanting.
Some good arguments, some bad  Nov 22, 2003
William Webster has developed his little apologetics niche by arguing against the claims made by the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, in this book he offers some really good arguments along with some really terrible ones. First the positive aspects of the book. Webster does a great job of dealing with the more Protestant oriented issues like justification, faith, and the Scriptures. I believe Webster argues convincingly that the deutero-cannonicals were not considered authoritative Scripture by the Church fathers. Nevertheless, he fails to take into consideration the fact that many of the fathers meant different things when they referred to the canon as opposed to Scripture. Just because the Fathers didn't regard the deuteros as part of the Christian canon, or books read during the liturgical season, doesn't mean they didn' regard them as Scripture. In fact, Athanasius lists the books of the canon as the 66 found in Protestant bibles minus Esther, but elsewhere in his writings he repeatedly refers to many of the apocryphal books as Scripture. Either he contradicted himself on many occasions or he had two divergent notions as to what the canon was and what was Scripture.

When it comes to other issues like justification Webster is correct in his assessments of the the different ideas held by Protestants and Catholics, but he doesn't do enough to convince that his views are correct. Examining the Marian doctrines, Webster illustrates dogmas such as the assumption and immaculate conception weren't held by the Church Fathers. Also, his work on the supposed evolution of the papacy is also strong, but to understand that issue one should read his longer work, The Matthew 16 Controversey, for a fuller and more thorough line of argumentation. I believe that these sections were the stronger sections of the book, and the ones that were more convincing and persuasive in their argumentation.

I think where Webster really goes off track is when he deals with issues like the Eucharist and the Sacraments. First, I don't know what qualifications Webster used to determine that Justin Martyr believed in consubstantiation while Ignatius of Antioch believed in transubstantiation. There is one time in Justin's Apology where he specifically says the bread and wine in the Eucharist is transmuted into the body and blood of Christ. Hardly, Lutheran type consubstantiation language to me. Also, to say that the Didache and Eusebius taught that the bread and wine were merely symbols is hard to swallow. First, Eusebius refers elsewhere in his writings to the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ, so either he contradicts himself or means something different by the word symbol; In fact, Webster never examines the argument that the Greek word for symbol does not mean symbol in the way English speaking people understand it. In the Greek the word had a much stronger connotation and meaning, which can be evinced by the fact that many Fathers stated that Jesus Christ was the true symbol of God. They weren't saying that he just signified God, but that he was truly and actually God in the flesh. Finally, saying Augustine believed in a spiritual presense only does not take into his many statements where he says that the bread and the cup are truly Christ's body and blood. What I thought was really appalling was Webster's treatment of baptism. After stating that Fathers were unanimously agreed that baptism was efficacious for regeneration, spiritual life, and the remission of sins, Webster proceeds to state they were all wrong and then argues for a Zwinglian interpretation of baptism. I don't know about you, but if I have to choose between the unanimous opinion of the Fathers who much closer to the time of the Apostles, or the private opinions of one man writing in the 16th century, I will side with the Fathers. Overall, an interesting read, but I think Webster would be better served if he took each subject individually and wrote a more detailed examination of each topic.

Great Use of Selective Quoting  Sep 9, 2003
Any one interested in this owes it to themselves to read Steven Ray's UPON THIS ROCK which scholarly illustrates through extensive footnotes how Webster uses selecting quoting of each church Father to make his anti-catholic points unless of course you've already made up your mind ahead time. In numerous cases, as Steven Ray illustrates, Webster does not ever consider the whole body of each Father's work but merely quotes the material that appears damaging but selectively omits writings by same church father that does not support the protestant position. Consider the the Epistle of Clement I (96 A.D) which uses the words to Church of Corinthians "SEnd...Back" - This is a form of Imperial Roman terminology commanding performance. Ray shows how Corinthians 150 years later were still reading Clements letter outload at church according Church father Dioysius (A.D 166 -175)who was Bishop of Corinith.
Be Careful how you use  May 3, 2003
I believe this to be a 5-star book, but I am concerned about who reads it. I can't imagine any Catholic reading this book and believing the material; unless you're a Catholic who is genuinely questioning the authority of your church this will only get your hackles up. Protestants who are strong in their faith don't need historical evidence to be convinced of their beliefs, so I am afraid that this book will only serve to poison your spirit against Catholic brothers and sisters.

To those very close to a Catholic: this book is immensely helpful in deciding what to believe. You are bomabarded constantly with Catholic claims to "catholicity"; that is, that Christ instituted only one church (naturally, the RCC) and that all Christians everywhere and for all time have believed exactly what the RCC says. Along the same lines, Reformation beliefs are johnny-come-lately's and that Protestants should return to the "real" church. This is the most difficult argument of Catholics to wrestle with, because Bible verses can be interpreted differently as can fruits of the Spirit but history is a fact.

Well, Webster blows the "catholic" argument out of the water. He has an easy job, because he doesn't have to show that Church Fathers would have been Protestant, merely that some beliefs of each father go against modern Catholicism. By quoting historical documents (which are extensively referenced), he shows that the early Church contained a mix of "Catholic" and "Protestant" beliefs (at best) or were entirely opposed to an idea like a papacy at the beginning. He admits that the doctrine of the Eucharist is the best supported historically, but even so, some authoritative writers explicitly supported views more like Calvin's on the topic.

I would say, then, that Webster succeeds in using his book to show that Reformation beliefs had support in the early Church and that the RCC is unjustified in dismissing Protestant beliefs as going against history, and that even some of its own beliefs contradict the statements of those it uses for support. Even if it does not convince, for whatever reason, a single Catholic, I am convinced that I should not be swayed by any claims of the RCC to sole ownership of history.


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