Skip to comments.Can Catholics Be Christians?
Posted on 12/08/2009 11:41:52 AM PST by Gamecock
I just came from a funeral service for an aunt of mine who was a staunch Catholic. I came out of that religion about 25 years ago after reading for myself what the Bible had to say. My question surrounds the actuality of salvation for all the millions who still practice Mary worship and so forth. Knowing that one cannot serve two masters, I wonder at how it is possible that the aforementioned can really experience Christ in a saving way, while they continue to believe that the church of Rome is solely responsible for their eternal welfare.
Greetings in Christ Jesus our Lord and only Savior. Thank you for your question.
Unless a person is clearly outside the pale of the Christian faith, I do not believe that you can judge the "actuality" or "reality" of someone's salvation. You may judge the "credibility" of their faith; or you may question the "probability" of someone's salvation. You may also ask, as you have done, "how it is possible that the aforementioned can really experience Christ in a saving way."
None of us, however, can truly say that we are perfect in knowledge or practice. We are always growing both in wisdom and in the grace of God. Is it possible for someone who prays to Mary to be a true Christian? In other words, can someone who is truly saved be in error on such an issue?
Conscious compromise of God's truth can be serious and deadly, but we also see from Scripture that in his mercy God may (and does) choose to accept less than perfect understanding and obedience, even of his own people. (Indeed, isn't the salvation and the perseverance of the saints dependent upon that fact?) There will be growth in understanding and holiness, but perfection must await our going to be with Jesus or His return to take us unto himself (see 1 John 3:2).
In the Old Testament, consider Asa in 1 Kings 15. He removed the idols from the land, but he allowed the high places to remain. The high places were clearly unacceptable. But the text states that Asa was loyal to the Lord his entire life. How could this be? Had he not seriously compromised?
What about the New Testament? Consider the Corinthians. Was the church at Corinth an exemplary church? Did they not have many doctrinal problems, e.g., concerning the Lord's Supper and the doctrine of the resurrection? (See 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Cor. 15.) Did even the apostles fully understand? Even though what they wrote was protected from error, did they not grow and mature in their own understanding and obedience? Wasn't it necessary at one point, for instance, for Paul to rebuke Peter for his inconsistency? (See Gal. 2.)
My point is not to defend the doctrinal aberrations of Rome. I do not believe such is possible. I think, however, that people generally follow their leaders. They learn from them; they consider their arguments rational and coherent.
For example, consider devotion to Mary. I read Jarislov Pellikan's Mary Through the Centuries and I cannot get past page 10 before I am wondering why the author is so blind to the fallacies of his arguments. However, if I were not being so critical and I were already predisposed to the position, then his arguments would perhaps seem irrefutable. So then, we should boldly, patiently, and compassionately discuss these matters with our loved ones, praying that the Holy Spirit will grant them more understanding.
Whatever we may judge in terms of the "actuality" or "probability" or "possibility" of a person's salvation at the end of life is, in the end, academic, for God is the one who can look at the heart and only he can truly judge. (He is the One, in fact, who has chosen his elect.) "It is appointed to man once to die, and after that comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27), but "Today is the day of salvation" (Heb. 3:13). We should work, therefore, the works of him who sent us while it is light and point our neighbors and loved ones to Christ.
For myself, I too was a Roman Catholic. In the past six months, I have attended the funeral of two uncles and one aunt whom I loved very much. I had opportunity at each funeral to speak a word of testimony regarding the Savior. I stood in the pulpit of the church in which I had served mass as a young boy and in my eulogies spoke of my faith in Christ.
Was it as detailed as I wish it could have been? No, but I am thankful for the opportunity God gave. Do I believe that my family members went to heaven? For one I have hope; for the others, I have little hope. Upon what is my hope based? It is always and only grounded in Christ and the Gospel.
We may define Christianity broadly by including as Christians all who confess the Apostles' Creed. We may define Christianity narrowly by including as Christians only those who confess our particular denominational creed. We need to exercise care, because, if we are too narrow, we may find ourselves excluding someone like Augustine. On the other hand, if we are too broad, we may find ourselves including many who should be excluded.
Personally, therefore, I do not judge. I have either greater or lesser hope. For example, I have greater hope for my Roman Catholic family members who ignorantly follow their leaders without thinking. Many times I find these to be at least open to discussion regarding the Gospel. However, I have lesser hope for people who are self-consciously Roman Catholic; that is, they understand the issues yet continue in the way of the Papacy.
I recommend that you read the book Come out from among Them by John Calvin. I found it very helpful and it addresses somewhat the question that you have raised.
I hope that my answer helps. You are free to write for clarification. May our Lord bless you.
Theo, I am responding in post 115 to your post 50.
With an incendiary title like the one heading this thread, why would you suppose anything different?
It was in the first paragraph and I as a Catholic figured the rest of it would be Catholic bashing didn’t bother to read the rest, especially since I know the tendencies of the poster.
I know, we just seem to be somewhat in the middle of all these fights, with some uniquely Protastant theological differences but liturgically and traditionally more Catholic in practice. After we all got over that whole King Henry thing, we seemed to get along well (not counting the Irish, but they are another story..) :->
***A better question is can you be a Christian outside the Catholic Church.***
Even more so!
And this fullness does not in itself prevent various individuals from being dopes and sinners, including the occasional (or even frequent) dope and sinner who becomes Pope. But if you look (we'd say) not at the individual but at the teaching, the sacraments, blah blah, of what for shorthand I will call "Rome" you'd be looking at the real deal. So we have "wheat and tares together sown" and separated at the harvest. And the other view has wheat and tares sort of physically or phenomenologically together, but not REALLY together. Or that's the best I can do. All this is me just trying to get to an objective presentation of the difference in view, NOT to persuade or argue. My wife also thinks I talk too much.
"non-elcan Lutherans"? I find it more direct just to call them sodomy and non-sodomy denominations.
Yes, you’re right, I don’t believe that fairy tale. I trust in the words of Scripture. If something as remarkable as Mary’s Assumption into Heaven were true, it would have been referenced by those penning the words of Scripture.
I’ll say “Hi” to Jesus’ mom when I see her. She’ll say “Hi” back, I’m pretty sure, and then will introduce me to the other children she begat.
Speaking as an Anglican who is familiar with the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, there are quite a few more differences in theology beyond ecclesiastical structure than initially present themselves between the three, even among conservatives. That is part of the reason why most conservative Episcopalians aren't quick to jump ship and join one of those bodies.
Best construction on everything.
The Anglican Missions movement seems to be filling the vacuum for Conservative Episcopals where they don't need to jump ship, they are finding their traditional roots and values in their own churches again.
I do believe there is one divine truth. There is one right answer to every question, big and small. But, I do not believe any particular denomination of Christianity has all the right answers. I do not believe any one man has all the right answers. I do not believe any group of men can have all the right answers.
However, I am a Baptist for a reason. I believe that Baptist opinions regarding Christian doctrine are the closest to true. My wife is a Methodist — the distinctions between a Baptist and a Methodist are minimal. My children are being raised in a Baptist mega-church in Houston.
However, I do not claim doctrinal perfection among Baptists or Methodists or any other denomination. I believe doctrinal perfection to be an absolute impossibility save for Christ Himself. My pastor would not claim to know all the answers. I do not believe in doctrinal infallibility of the vatican, the Catholic church, or the Baptist church. I am quite sure that every person on this planet is doctrinally wrong about something.
It is the nature of a fallen mankind that our interpretation of the Word of God will be imperfect — but we do the best we can, and thank God for Grace to gloss over the rest.
Yup. Sure can. The Church of which I’m a member was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” It finds its home in Heaven, not in Rome; with Christ, not with His mom.
Thanks for the ping.
You appear confused.
I use the word “dear” as a salutation. It's part of the greeting at the beginning of a piece of correspondence. Except for the absolutely most informal, I begin all my correspondence thusly. This electronic missive is an example.
I'm sure that you've received letters in the mail, or even e-mails that begin, “Dear Alex [or whatever your name is in the non-virtual world],”.
As a point of differentiation, one usually follows the name of the addressee with a comma if the correspondence is casual or personal, and with a colon if it is formal or a matter of business or law. Since I don't consider my posts here to be formal, or matters of business or law, I always follow my correspondent's name with a comma.
Didn't they teach you this stuff in third grade?
Anyway, your use of the word “dear” in your post to Petronski is more in the form of a term of endearment. In this context, one wouldn't say that it was a greeting or part of the salutation.
As a term of endearment, one might use it with someone in whom one is romantically interested, or with someone of lesser rank for whom one has affection. My mother often called us "dear," and certainly, as her children, we were of a lesser rank than her. We NEVER called her "dear" back.
One might also possibly use the word in an ironic way, when one is not actually endeared to the other, but rather is trying to communicate, rather, some sort of hostility toward the other. In this sense, it can readily be interpreted as an attempt to insult.
Thus, a reasonable interpretation of your use of the term “dear” in your post to Petronski is that you are trying to tell him that you have some romantic interest in him. In other words, that you're “hitting” on him, or perhaps that you believe that you already have a close, intimate relationship with him.
Another reasonable interpretation is that you're condescending to him, in that you believe that you're his superior.
Another reasonable interpretation is that you're being sarcastic toward him, and treating him disrespectfully or with hostility.
I'm not a mind-reader, so I don't know which of these is what's happening, but they are all reasonable inferences from what you said.
If none of these represent your true meaning, then perhaps you should try to use the language in a more appropriate manner, so as not to give rise to these or other possible misinterpretations.
When Jesus was asked how people should pray He said “Our Father, Who art in Heaven,” NOT “My Mother, Who art on Earth”!
We are told to pray ONLY to God, not people who are dead.
That was a beautiful explanation!
Sed contra: Vetus melius est.
For, while the Old wine is better, the new wine is not necessarily bad on that account.
I answer that: The Catholic Church on earth ordinarily comprises all those baptized with water, the use of a Trinitarian formula, and the intention to Baptize. By definition, ordinarily those so Baptized are Christian and Catholic, and those not so Baptized are neither. Further there are more or less extraordinary ways (not all of which are specified or ennumerated) that one might be brought into the Catholic Church. In this precise use of "outside" or "inside" that Catholic Church, "to be a Christian" and "to be inside the Catholic Church" are just different ways of saying the same thing.
Speaking loosely, one might intend by "outside the Catholic Church" to mean those not in communion with the See of Rome. Clearly such can be not only Christians but good Christians. For even the wine which is not "better" can still be "good.
We now proceed to the next article .... ;-)
I’m a Catholic. I was a Mennonite not that long ago, and an Anglican before that.
Christ is very clear, in saying that wide is the gate that leads to destruction and narrow is the gate that leads to salvation.
He also warns that many who are on the inside will be outside, and outside inside.
Do I believe that God will save protestants? Yes, if they sincerely love him and do not deny the truth in his word.
Will he save everyone who is Catholic? No, I believe that there are many who call themselves Catholics who do not truly love him.
Let us be clear where the true divisions lie. The teachings on Mary, the teachings on scripture and tradition, are all far older than those of John Calvin. It is only by rejecting them can you charge the church with heresy, when the Church has not changed anything at all. It is the Calvinists who have changed things around, and claimed that the Church itself changed at some unspecified point.
We do not believe that obedience to the pope is necessary for salvation, even as we believe that the pope is the Vicar of Christ here on earth. We do not believe that accepting the immaculate conception is necessary for salvation, even as Mary is the Theotokos, and God-bearer.
Just because one does not possess a virtue doesn’t make that virtue necessary for salvation, just the opposite. Salvation is by the Grace of God through faith in Christ. No more, no less. He decides, not us.