Is the Roman Catholic Church Pharisaical?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "pharisaical" as follows:
"Marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness."
But we all know what the key word is: "hypocritical". Today's society enjoys labeling as "pharisaical" anyone who is caught saying one thing but doing another. This is apparent whenever some famous televangelist has an affair or when a politician exploits his religious affirmations for personal gain. Pharisees definitely have the reputation of being hypocrites; in fact, Christ labeled the teachers of the law as such on numerous occasions. But just because some Pharisees are hypocrites does not mean that all hypocrites are Pharisees. And it certainly does not mean that all Pharisees are hypocrites. What is a Pharisee, anyway? Lead Pharisee from the Gospel of JohnThe word used in the NT comes from a Jewish root word: parash. It is not surprising that the word has nothing to do with hypocrisy (after all, the Pharisees would not have named themselves "hypocrites"). Rather, "parash" means "to separate, distinguish, or scatter abroad." This came from the separation that the high-and-mighty Pharisees had from the common Israelite. In Romans, Paul explains that the Law was created to show man his sin, and thereby his inability to get to God and his need for salvation. The Pharisees should have known this; Psalm 19 says that the Law of God exists to convert the soul. However, they deliberately distanced themselves and the Law from the common people and used it to control. Romans says that the works of the law can never justify a man. However, a close study of the actions of the Pharisees will show that they controlled the people by dictating what the law was and why one needed to follow it. This earned them many rebukes from Christ. John the Baptist even called them a "brood of vipers." So how does this relate to the Roman Catholic Church? A Roman Catholic PriestIn the same way that the Pharisees took the Law and made themselves its figurehead, the hierarchical system of the Roman Catholic Church has trapped the doctrine of Grace in a web of sacraments and ritual. The Pharisees told the people, "You must obey the Law, so do what we tell you." The RCC says, "Salvation is by grace through faith, but in order to get that grace you must obey us and follow all our rituals. Jesus said that the traditions of man make the Word of God useless. This goes for both Law and Grace. The Roman Catholic Church promises that we can obtain grace by doing what they tell us to do. But God's Word says that there is but ONE Mediator between God and man: Jesus Christ. In Him, David S. MacMillan III


David Ketter said...

Ohh....now we're talking controversial. :)

Anyways, you do make a point - but I think, philosophically speaking, we should all be Pharisees. Before you all stop jumping on me, have a look at some of their writings. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt had a good summary of their position:

Imagine that life is a cliff edge and you are trying to get to the top of the mountain. Most people walk, comfortably, near the middle of the path, immediate to the edge. If you fall of the edge, you are done for. A Pharisee would hug to the side of the mountain, staying as far away from the edge as humanly possible. The edge, in case you didn't figure it out already, is sin. The Pharisees avoided sin like the plague and that is something that I think Christians have lost today.

If we are truly honest, it is from the Pharisees' brand of Judaism that Christianity sprang. Jesus held many views in common with them - and actually ate with them on occasion - something that he didn't do with Sadducees (who were more ritualistic and wrapped up in their "service" to God). And we know that Pharisees ONLY ate with Pharisees, so, what kind of conclusion does that bring us to?

And the Apostle Paul: "A Pharisee of Pharisees." A stickler for the Law and having a zeal for the LORD. These are all admirable traits that many in the Church have lost today. I think, if anything, the Church has become more like the Sadducees - denying the resurection of the dead, holding only to the ritualistic (they viewed the Torah as the only inspired Scripture), denying the supernatural (angels, demons, etc.), and maintaining a distant concept of God (that is better suited to deism).

Other than that, lol, I think you have an excellent post here (love the picture, too).

Grace and Peace,
David Ketter

David S. MacMillan III said...


The Pharisees may have appeared to be "hugging the other side of the cliff." But in reality they were shouting to everyone:

"We are on top of the cliff to your left, and we are the only ones who really know where the cliff on your right is! Do what we tell you and you possibly won't fall off!"

To continue the analogy, Grace is being caught by the cross of Christ as you tumble off the cliff. The RCC says "You can be caught by the cross only if you wear the clothes and do the dance we tell you to do! That's the only way the cross will know it has to catch you!"

Clothing and dances are metaphors here. But you get the picture.

I agree that the "Church" today is "Sadduceeical". But I would contend that the RCC is "Pharisaical" because it focuses on the parash of a hierarchical system of rituals and sacraments that are controlled by those "higher-up". As Jesus said (paraphrased), "In your zeal for control through perfection, you have ignored the higher points of the Law. You should have done the former without neglecting the latter."

I would also contend that our goal should be to further "the latter" primarily as it is much more important than sticking to rituals and unbiblical hierarchies. Our goal should be what Jesus told the woman at the well: "A time is coming and is already here that the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth." (I'm mixing theological concepts but you get the point.)

Jesus again (for some reason I never tire of quoting this guy): "True worship is to do the will of the Father."

"He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

So my challenge to everyone is to stop ignoring the greater points of the law! Get the Word out! True worship is to tell others about our God's awesome plan of law, sin and forgiveness through Jesus Christ!

For more information on this subject, watch the Firefighter video at www.LivingWaters.com.

In Him,

David S. MacMillan III

David Ketter said...


Granted, their conservative ideals took them to extremes - but they seem to be more like Baptist extremes to me: no alcohol, no non-hymnic music (or no music at all), and you must absolutely cover the woman's head. I don't mean offense to them by any stretch of imagination, but just trying to provide a contemporary example.

I LOVE how you turned my analogy, though. That really put a picture into my mind: one of a man holding onto the Cross with such desparation because if he lets go, well, the rest of history.

I can only say Amen to your points (and what are the greatest commandments?): Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your mind...and the second, Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Anyways, I think we agree on principle - just have a different view on these sects. Frankly, I just think the Pharisees take too much bashing anymore...and THEY were the ones to stick up for Christians... (Gamaliel, the Pharisees at Paul's hearing, etc.).

Grace and Peace,
David (DJ) Ketter