Roman Catholic Christians

I’m the only writer in the entire blogoshpere that hasn’t said anything about Pope Benedict XVI being in the United States. Half the internet is devoted to this topic. There’s more pics of him this week than Brittney Spears; well, maybe not.

I’m still not going to blog on the Pope, but will take this occasion to say some things about the Catholic Church while everybody’s talking about it right now in America. I grew up in a Baptist tradition that taught us Roman Catholics were not Christians. I still meet people that are surprised when Catholics are referred to as Christians, so it’s still floating around out there. In the first place, a Christian is a person who believes in and/or worships Christ. Catholics do that. Mormons, Jehovah Witness, Seventh Day Adventists and perhaps many others you don’t agree with are Christians also, in that they believe in Christ. The issue my Baptist teachers had was being a converted or born-again believer. They taught that Catholics were not saved, and that’s the issue I wish to take up at this time.

Whatever else they believe about the Pope, the Bible or Church tradition, this is what Roman Catholics believe about Jesus Christ:

  • Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.
  • He lived a life without sin, although he was tempted to sin.
  • He was crucified, dead and buried.
  • On the third day, he rose again.
  • He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father.
  • He will one day return, and judge all persons.

Regardless of anything else, there’s no way one can correctly believe these things about Jesus, his relationship to God and man, and the work done on the cross and there be no possibility for salvation. There will be Catholics in heaven, because they have been washed by the blood of the Lamb. There will also be, I believe, Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians in heaven; and in hell. No one church claims exclusive rights on salvation with God. And on that statement, Catholics would disagree with me. Update: I was wrong; read the first comment.

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15 thoughts on “Roman Catholic Christians

  1. “And on that statement, Catholics would disagree with me.”

    Wrong.

    You had been doing so well up tho this point! I was impressed with your thinking on the Catholic Church, but as to the idea that we believe only card-carrying Catholics will achieve salvation, that is not accurate, there is more nuance to it than that.

    I think this article does a decent job in articulating the teaching and thinking:
    http://en.allexperts.com/q/Catholics-955/salvation-outside-Church.htm

  2. I clicked the link above, given by asimplesinner, and have now revised my understanding of what the Church thinks of outsiders. The bottom line of the entire article, which is lengthy and legal document like, is that those in the Church have a much better chance of salvation, but that a person not a member of the Roman Catholic Church may indeed be of the elect. It is the Church’s official position that you’re chances aren’t good, and that you can’t be certain, but salvation is possible for the believer not in the Church. That has not been my previous understanding; but most of what I know of the Catholic Church I learned from Baptists, so what would you expect?

  3. There are only two churches.

    The ones that sit in the pews on Sundays…and then the Church that Christ knows.

    We cannot possibly know with certainty who those are that belong to Christ.

    Only Christ knows the heart.

    Lutherans, however, will have their own room up there. So’s not to spoil they’re thinking that they’re the only ones up there.

    Thanks!

    – Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

  4. I don’t regard Roman Catholics as outsiders either. Like Clark I came from a church background that pretty much regarded the Pope as the Beast of Revelation. But, I no longer accept that either. However, I do recognize that logically speaking (and the Catholic Church has produced some of the great logical thinkers, like Aquinas) the statements of Trent and Vatican I cannot be true if the statements of Vatican II are true and vice versa.

  5. “the statements of Trent and Vatican I cannot be true if the statements of Vatican II are true and vice versa.”

    Small point of clarification – but V2 produced no dogmatic pronouncements. Reading through the 16 council documents, they were all pastoral.

    I have to say, I really appreciate – and thank you – for your writing on this matter. It is a joy and breath of fresh air in the blogosphere to see someone deal so plainly with this issues with charity.

    Keep looking into all this – we need more like you who are doing just that!

  6. Clark,

    As one who delights in sharing Christ with Roman Catholics and seeing them trust Christ alone for their salvation, I can tell you that there is a vast difference between what they believe and what the Bible says about Salvation.

    We see in these Catholic Dogma — The Council of Trent, that the Catholic church demands works for salvation. The Bible says Salvation is by Grace through faith — not of works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    Excerpts from The Council of Trent:

    “If anyone should say that justifying faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine mercy because it remits sin for the sake of Jesus Christ…let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 12)

    C) “Without the Sacrament of Baptism, no one is ever justified. If anyone says that Baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation: let him be anathema.” Council of Trent

    A) If anyone says that a man who is justified and however perfect is not bound to observe the Commandments of God AND OF HIS CHURCH, but only to believe, as though the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life without the condition of observing the Commandments: let him be anathema. Council of Trent.

    The word “anathema” means accursed. Therefore, even though I love Catholics, I am accursed by the Catholic Church.

    I am Heaven bound in Christ eternally by faith in Christ alone — without benefit of works…

    ExP(Jack)

  7. Expreacherman – My understanding of “anathema” is closer to dead than accursed. Yes, the Catholic Chruch regards us as separated from the true Church. There are many differences between what I believe about Christianity and what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. My only purpose was to point out that we agree on the office of Jesus Christ. I do not believe that works add to the redemptive work done by Christ on the cross. I do not believe the Pope is infallible, nor that Church tradition is equal to the Bible as a source of authority. I do not believe in transubstaniation.

    However, there are 12 things listed in my original post that protestants and Catholics agree on about Jesus Christ. The gospel story of Christ is the central element through the entire Bible. Catholics may be wrong about Mary, may be wrong about the Apostle Peter, but they’re right about Jesus. And nothing else is more important to get right.

    To all readers – If we are going to share the gospel with all the nations, I think we need to find common ground with our Catholic friends, and work together. Southern Baptists have a tendency to act like SBC missionaries are the only ones in the world. When missionaries in Uganda dig a well for thirsty people, God gets the glory, the Gospel gets shared, and the rejoicing people are not interested in denominational differences back in the United States. Some things, like whether you know Christ, will matter for all eternity, and others… not so much.

  8. I agree with what your last comment completely Clark, yet I want to clarify something about the original post.

    Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian according to the Bible. I can provide evidence for this if it’s needed.

    Yet you say they are. I’m not sure about Seventh-Day Adventists, I haven’t researched them enough. Could you clarify?

  9. Ever take a stick and poke around in a hornet’s nest? It looks like this:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are Christian in the sense that they believe in Christ. If asked what religion they were, they would answer “Christian” and not Buddhist or Hindu. Mormons do not believe in the same Christ that you and I believe in. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was “a god” and not “God.”

    The Seventh-Day adventist Church was started by a woman who incorrectly predicted the date that Jesus would return; twice. So the effect was that some of that original group became atheists and left the faith, some joined other churches, and those remaining members became what we now know as the Seventh-Day Adventists. Some of their beliefs are a little out there, but generally they are good people. I have to be careful here, my sister-in-law was brought up Seventh-Day.

    I was hoping to open some people’s eyes to the what we and Catholics have in common, those things being what we collectively believe about Jesus. Now the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Adventists are going to come and get me. I’ll see you in the funny pages.

  10. I preached on this subject once. Half of the time I enphazised the importance of the unity in the body of the Messiah despite our differences. Half of the time I emphazised the importance of not compromising with the truth.

    It’s a hard balance. My bottom line was that regarding people we can’t know and we can’t judge. But we can judge dogmas, and by that decide if
    1) we are willing to cooperate with a congregation with slightly different ideas and/or accept their members in our congregation if they agree to accept that this is what we believe and do not teach their ideas or
    2) if we respectfully love them as human beings, and accept that part of their members might be saved, but must refuse to cooperate and/or accept their believers in our congregations.

    For me the last category includes catholics and mormons as well as muslims and homosexuals. The first includes lutherans, non-charismatic, replacement theologies, etc

  11. Arguments like the one used by Expreacher usually never quote Canon 1 of Trent:
    Concerning justification:
    Canon 1. “If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.”

    Faith and works are manifestations of Grace. Works are faithfulness, which, as in a marriage, is essential for any relationship to survive and endure.

  12. The New Testament is clear that where there is faith, there will also be works. Paul says that “faith without works is dead.” Like I said in the original post, there are still plenty of protestants (Baptists for sure) that believe Catholics needs to get saved. If you visit ex-preacherman’s blog, he admits right off that he’s an old, stubborn, conservative that’s unlikely to change his mind on anything. But I read his blog and leave comments, and vice versa. I’m sure that in heaven, all Christians will find out that none of us had it perfectly right, and fortunately getting it perfect is not require. We get credit for Christ’s perfection, and that’s the true message of the gospel.

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  15. I’m a new follower of your blog and a Catholic. Thanks for a good piece.

    Regarding “Salvation outside the Church” the Council of Florence and Council of Trent statements sound damning to our modern ears, but hinge on What is meant by “outside the Church” and need to be balanced with the whole of Catholic teaching, which includes hoping for the salvation of every soul.

    The modern Vatican II formulation, while not “proclaiming new dogma” nor denying Trent and Florence turns the question inside out on that hinge. Stating “All salvation comes through Christ the Head through the Church his Body” CCC846 citing Lumen Gentium 14

    The result is the explicit recognition of what was always implicit that some may be “of the Church” but not formally “in the Church.”

    As the article in the first comment notes, that can be understood very narrowly and that it is very difficult or unlikely that non-Catholics will actually be saved.

    However, not a few Catholics including probably John Paul II (in his private opinion) believe that God’s mercy is infinite and trust that many, many may be saved.

    The fact is we don’t know. And the Catholic Church has never dogmatically proclaimed that any particular individual was ultimately damned or that any particular group is universally damned.

    The point being that to the best of my understanding, and I’ve been working at this a few years off and on, Catholics can in freedom believe God’s mercy will be abundant and that many not in the Church will be saved – but may not believe that EVERYONE will be saved. On the other end Catholics are also free to believe that somehow every non-Catholic that can be saved will only be saved by a miraculous intercession of being given the opportunity to profess the Faith and receive the sacraments before death. Here is a link to a religious group that teaches that way Slaves of the Immaculate Heart Of Mary This group was nearly suppressed but managed to nuance their understanding just enough to not be condemned. They are by far in the minority.

    Most average American Catholics don’t have a very solid understanding but count Protestants as brother’s in Christ and fellow Christians and expect to see many of them in heaven.

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