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.
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.
It seems we are facing the fundamental crossroads that faces all arguments on religion- at what point do history, tradition, and various theological details merge with the bigger picture of salvation.
Christ Himself is very clear as to the path of salvation, it is simple, and there is no ambiguity. It doesn’t involve incantations, rituals, or minute rules. It is simply belief.
Our traditions, rituals, dare I say, even most of our theological differences have nothing to do with Salvation. They aren’t about the next life, they are about this life. There is only one path to salvation, but what we do in this life has many paths.
It is akin to food. We all need food to survive. Different people, however, choose different ways to partake in said food. Some people are vegetarians, some only eat BBQ, others don’t touch junk food, while some thrive on McDonalds. It all provides that necessary sustenance, it just may impact our day to day well being.
It is why I find denominational wars where each one declares theirs the only path to salvation and all others be damned, as grossly obscene. Denominations are not the path to salvation, only Christ is. Denominations are simply part of how you live in this life.
Salvation is a personal relationship between you and God. It has nothing to do with if you are a United Redormed Presbimethodlutherist or an Orthodox Catholanglertraditionalist.
I appreciate your explanation, and agree wholeheartedly.
“Do you actually seek to limit God, or suppose that He can be limited? Do you not suppose that it is within His power to allow those in Heaven the ability to hear when people still on this mortal coil address them? You might not agree that He does, but your statement appears to indicate that you do not think that He can.”
I prefer Christ’s own rebuke. “He is a God not of the dead, but of the Living.” For Mary is not dead, she is alive in Christ. You are therefore not communicating with the dead, you are communicating with those who are alive in Christ.
For do you not truly believe in our reward of eternal life?
You might want to read Revelation 5 from the POV that those in Heaven not only know what is going on on the earth, but receive prayers coming from us and present them to God. I won’t tell you which verses support that; I’m sure you can be open-minded enough to figure them out for yourself.
>> Without the Authority and Infallibility of the Catholic church given by the Holy Spirit there would be no Bible. If the Catholic church was fallible the the Bible is not worth the paper it is printed on.
That depends on your interpretation of “doctrinal infallibility”. One can believe that the construction of the Bible was infallible, and not believe that everything the Catholic church does (doctrinally) is infallible. That certain events throughout history have been divine does not necessarily mean that divine infallibility rests eternally in one group of men.
Personally, I have seen no Biblical justification for the belief that doctrinal infallibility is forever.
Just a small correction: here's what the solemn declaration of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX said: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."
Actually, yes it is mentioned, it just isn’t THE word Catholic. Jesus wanted us all to be one and that would be Catholic which means universal and...one.
There were no Christians except Catholic Christians for over a thousand years.
It's not so much a matter of becoming a Christian, though this might apply there as well.
When I see among so many anti-Catholics intellectuals what can scarcely be explained without postulating a rejection of reason, truth, and charity, one begins to think there must be something very powerful which almost freezes their hearts and nearly paralyzes their minds. To assert with angry clarity what turns out to be completely untrue (as in The Church teaches us to worship Mary) is really quite remarkable behavior for otherwise just and thoughtful people.
So the apparently unreasoning aversion and distaste themselves become a reason to look into the thing to which they are directed. And then the persistent barrage of unfair attacks arouses sympathy for those attacked. Next thing you know, you're attending Mass ...
I have to agree with you. Although I think the Devil is greatly pleased by the infighting between Christians.
Who says that prayer?
We are told to pray ONLY to God...
So you naturally never ask anyone to pray for you, and rebuke any requests that you pray for someone, right?
...not people who are dead.
They're not dead.
This probably what confuses non-Roman Catholics:
Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
“is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
Yes, I believe the teaching is inspired. I believe that anyone who has sufficient time to investigate the question will come to the same conclusion.
However, that time and ability is not available to everyone. Salvation is left to God to read our hearts and minds.
We are told to pray ONLY to God, not people who are dead.
Thanks for the advice, Ed.
I actually did say that prayer this morning, the way Jesus taught us to pray.
And if you don't mind, I'm going to continue to worship Him the best way I can, and I am pleased that you are doing the same. Funny, we have so much in common, and yet, we end up talking about our differences.
All in the Gospel of Luke. The second part is merely asking the intercession of the Theotokos for us.
You are doing that now. You say: "I believe that Baptist opinions regarding Christian doctrine are the closest to true." I have no doubt you believe that. But upon what do you measure Truth here?
It is true that no Church has all of the Truth, in the sense that not everything that is true was imparted by Christ. God not only has not revealed all of His Mind to us, we, as finite creatures, couldn't possibly understand it if He did. But it is also true that everything that Christ taught is Truth, and the totality of that teaching is the Deposit of Faith. That discrete, concrete body of teaching from Him, and what was conveyed to the Apostles under inspiration of the Holy Spirit in both Scripture and Sacred Tradition, cannot be in error. It was also entrusted to us with the understanding that it should not be lost to us, and that Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to the Church to preserve that Deposit of Faith, even within the confines of a Church entirely populated by otherwise quite fallible (and forgetful!) human beings. Jesus makes no sense in Matthew 28:20 and John 16:13-15 otherwise.
To the extent, then, that Jesus intended to establish a Church based on teachings of His Truth (and this is confirmed in 1Timothy 3:15), and to preserve that Truth within His Church through all generations to the end of time, one could reasonably infer that it is still possible to find that Deposit of Faith somewhere on earth, intact and entire, in continuous existence from the first Pentecost, when the Church was born, to this day. All one really needs to do, at that point, is find the one Church that has been able to organically trace its lineage of custodianship of the Deposit of Faith back to the beginning.
Obviously, I would say that Church is the Catholic Church. I believe, if nothing else, that that Church alone has much of a claim, based just on historical continuity and sheer existence alone - though, of course, I also believe that its teachings are, in fact, the Deposit of Faith! You, clearly, do not. But you might want to reflect on how the some of the tenets of Baptists do not appear until the 16th Century, and how they do not dovetail with the teachings of "that other Church" in the 2nd, or 7th, or 12th Centuries. No other group besides the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has even a demonstrable historical claim to the continuity required. Therefore, since Jesus said He would be with and guide His Church, and send the Holy Spirit to preserve it in the details of the Faith, it would be logical to begin by supposing the only Church with the long-term historical existence necessary to span the entire timeframe involved just might be the Church He founded. If that is true, then it just might be also the case that that Church's teachings are, in fact, preserving the fullness of Revelation - the Deposit of Faith - down to this very day.
That you presently disagree with much of the Catholic Church's teaching is quite understandable, if you simply inherited what you know from another group's perspective. Some folks have a 500 year lineage in that regard! But the true Reference Standard, I would suggest, is not what can only be traced back to the 1500's, or what might have been believed for a few centuries fairly early on, only to have been entirely abandoned until dusted off in our own day. The true Reference Standard belongs to only one Church, continuous in existence and preserved from error, as Christ Himself promised. Disagreement with it, regardless of how sincerely held the beliefs to the contrary, is still, in the end, disagreement with Christ. That the Catholic Church teaches some things contrary to the Baptists' (or any other denomination's) beliefs is not in dispute. What is at issue is whether those other denominations are "correct" to be in such disagreement. And upon what authority of historical continuity can they make a case for their disagreement?
What part of the word partially did you not understand?
In the 8 years I have been a Catholic, I have never heard one Catholic in my parish say anything negative about protestants -- not a Priest, a Deacon or a lay person.
As a child both my mother and father were ordained pentacostal ministers. The Catholic bashing was nonstop.
As an adult, I joined the UMC. While the UMC was not as anti-Catholic as the fundamentalists, it was there.
Finally, I decided to see for myself what Roman Catholicism was all about. After considerable study, I concluded that if one is to be a Christian, one has to be Catholic.
Anti-Catholicism is rooted in a kind of juvenile inferiority complex. Those who are always picking at the Catholics are only trying to justify their own misbegotten beliefs.
In Catholicism, I found a logically consistent theology. As protestant, I found the theology fundamentally flawed in so many ways. I didn't realize just how flawed protestant theology was until I studied Catholicism.
Namely this, I sincerely love my neighbors as God instructed me to do:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:35-40
So when speaking to a beloved Freeper I often end my remark with a "dear" such as "dear brother in Christ" or "dear sitetest."
To a person very angry with me I have been known to say "There is nothing you can say or do that will make me stop loving you." It is the truth.
In sum, Christian agape love (Matt 22) is not a romantic thing at all.
Should have made this a caucus thread so all the bigots could play with themselves.
By your definition, then, all Christians are catholic. Kinda unhelpful to play such word games, no, when we clearly know what each other is talking about?
When my rancher, neighbor wants to visit, he pulls his feed truck up to the barbed wire fence and honks the horn. I prefer the horn. He uses an old air raid siren to call his cattle.
I walk up the road to his truck and we visit across the fence. He runs a large cattle ranch. My husband and I are building a house. So, we talk about stuff.
We talk about growing old. We talk about the future, where we will spend eternity. We talk about the Lord Jesus and what we think about Him. We talk about the Word of God and what it says to us. We talk about our souls and our faith.
I’ve read this long thread. Too bad the most important things in life and eternity aren’t being discussed without anger and name calling on this thread. My neighbor is Catholic and I am Protestant and we are friends, it can be done.
Your replies are the most rational and reasonable without calling anyone any names....good for you...
Yes, and I don’t know why because the first part comes directly from the Holy Bible and the last is inferred by the fact that Mary is the mother of Jesus who was fully God while he was fully human.
I wasn’t aware that Orthodox Presbyterians were such a mixture of ignorance and arrogance. As a loving Catholic I will pray that you will either shed your ignorance or learn to hide it better.
Awwwwwww . . . .
how . . . thuhweeet . . .
[please excuse me, I think I have a sudden gagging reflex]
Actually, joking aside . . .
Jesus is my focus . . . All else is chaff or durn close to it.
I’m a Catholic, my husband was a Protestant.
It’s only those who must cut others down to rationalize their own beliefs who don’t get along. Look at this thread. Only a couple of people are tiffing.
Most love each other.
We must be careful to avoid judging from the specific to the general. I would be distressed if anyone who knew me concluded that all Catholics were as sinful as I am.
And they do this because God was too busy to hear them? Or the Holy Spirit, which dwells in us and intercedes for us, isn't good enough to talk to God directly, but needs heavenly human spirits to do the talking?
I believe in the power of intercessory prayer, because it's use is spelled out in the Bible. But in the Bible, the intercessor is a living human here on earth.
Of course, it does not bother me in the least if others get comfort from a belief that their prayers are heard by loved ones or others in heavan, and that they are passed on to God and made more effectual. I don't see any biblical reason to believe that myself, but there is certainly much I don't understand.
I assume you wrote this with your hazmat suit on.
Very true. I will be more careful.
I always point to the Transfiguration, when Peter, James and John saw a transfigured Christ speaking to Moses and Elijah. Both Moses and Elijah had been "dead" for centuries. But there they were, clearly alive enough to chat.
I especially like those “sola” fantasies!
I have yet to find them in the Bible, even when I asked at BSF.
Nice post, but it made me think (although not exactly on topic)...
A Catholic has many things they feel compelled to do, that seem to be tied to their relationship with God and their salvation. Church attendance, confession, baptism, communion are all very important. I don’t presume that a Catholic who fails to meet those obligations would be at risk for eternal damnation, I suppose a learned Catholic here could enlighten me on that point.
But here are us protestants, living what appears to be a much less ordered life, a much less restrictive life. We never see the inside of a confessional, we never take what the Catholics would see as a true communion, we do not worship in the appropriate ways, times, and places.
But we still are allowed the possibility of heaven. Is there anything we lose in eternity because of our choice of denomination, from a Catholic perspective? Does the choice matter? Should our Catholic brethren be working harder to bring us back to the fold, so we get all the blessings available in Heaven for us, or is that not an issue?
Christianity is defined by the set of beliefs espoused by Christ Himself. To my mind, this is not as dependent on lineage or continuity as it is on faithful interpretation of the Word of God. In short, you’re unlikely to sway my opinion by stating that there was a different Biblical interpretation in 1400AD. In my opinion, the men of 1400AD were just as likely as we are to be wrong in their interpretation. And, tradition can often justify practices that are not otherwise justifiable.
The church established by Christ is the Christian church — in many, if not most, respects, we (Catholic and Protestant) are one church of believers in the divinity of Christ. The lineage of every current Christian denomination can therefore be traced back to Christ Himself.
To the extent that there are legitimate disagreements among Christians as to doctrine, I believe every believer is capable of educated interpretation of the scripture.
Some are certainly more educated than others, and, in that respect, the Vatican is a collection of some of the more educated Christian theologians in the world. Some opinions are certainly worthy of greater respect than others.
As a Baptist, I often listen to the Vatican on theological matters. They are not infallible by any stretch — but they are educated enough to be worthy of consideration (even when I disagree).
Begat? No wonder we have theological disagreements. Evidently we have biological disagreements! ;-)
I trust in the words of Scripture. ,BR />
There may be a little circularity to your argument. IF Sola Scriptura is the way to go, AND IF immaculate conception/bodily assumption are properly de Fide, then it would follow that God would providentially included something about them explicitly in Scripture.
But, arguendo only, IF the Scriptures do, as we maintain, speak authoritatively about the CHurch's teaching charism, THEN believing in Scripture would lead one also to believe in the magisterium, and so to believe what was declared to be de Fide.
So from our side of the divide we do not think that trusting the teaching charism of the Church which was "sent", that is: apostolic, contradicts trusting in the Scriptures.
They are, and so is everybody else, that's why we need an alien righteousness.
You need to re-read your Catechism....>QUICKLY!!
Stick to Seinfeld.
>>Should our Catholic brethren be working harder to bring us back to the fold, so we get all the blessings available in Heaven for us, or is that not an issue?<<
We are not required to evangelize to you.
We don’t count the number of souls we bring to the Catholic Church because we believe that if you have a good relationship with Christ, you can make it to heaven.
We will tell you if you ask (it’s not a secret club). However, I know that many non-Catholics don’t believe it but Catholics were targeted for a time and we don’t get in your face and put ourselves out as a target.
We believe in free will and you have a choice to join us or not.