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.
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.