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.
Stop calling other Freepers names, e.g. shill, pretend Catholic, n00b.
Possibly something you want no part of through your defensiveness here concerning our Church.
With our hearts we believe and with our lips we profess but one Church, not that of heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which we believe that no one is saved.
-Profession of Faith for the Waldensians, 1208
Waldensians = Proto-Calvinists. I'm sure Gamecock and Co. would be more than happy to claim them as fellow believers.
Catholics should defend the faith and Holy Mother Church. Not be defensive about them.
You know, you’re right. I needn’t exert myself on a point so obvious.
I’ll save my energy. Thanks.
Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.
Your claims to be Catholic are laughable.
Can Christians be Christians?
I'd think so. Maybe even some snake handlers could be Christians. But some posters can and do in fact go well out of their way to prove themselves to be total bigoted idiots that don't have a clue beyond their own obsessions.
Kind of like the Talaban, without the IEDs -- so far.
This brand-new Catholic poster's authenticity is beyond reproach!
This brand-new Catholic poster's authenticity is beyond reproach!
Q 12. Can we be saved in every religion? A. No, we can only be saved in the religion that Jesus Christ has taught. Q. 13. Where do we find this religion of Jesus Christ? A. We find it in the Roman Catholic Church. St. John Nepomuk Neumann, CSsR, Bishop of Philadelphia, Small Catechism of the Christian Religion
This really isn't open to a whole lot of interpretation and semantics, much as many in America would like it to be.
You know how zealously Our predecessors taught that very article of faith which these dare to deny, namely the necessity of the Catholic faith and of unity for salvation. The words of that celebrated disciple of the Apostles, martyred Saint Ignatius, in his letter to the Philadelphians are relevant to this matter: "Be not deceived, my brother; if anyone follows a schismatic, he will not attain the inheritance of the kingdom of God." Moreover, Saint Augustine and the other African bishops who met in the Council of Cirta in the year 412 explained the same thing at greater length: "Whoever has separated himself from the Catholic Church, no matter how laudably he lives, will not have eternal life, but has earned the anger of God because of this one crime: that he abandoned his union with Christ" (Epsitle 141). Omitting other appropriate passages which are almost numberless in the writings of the Fathers, We shall praise Saint Gregory the Great, who expressly testifies that this is indeed the teaching of the Catholic Church. He says: "The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in her and asserts that all who are outside of her will not be saved" (Moral. in Job, 16.5). Official acts of the Church proclaim the same dogma. Thus, in the decree on faith which Innocent III published with the synod of the Lateran IV, these things are written: "There is one universal Church of the faithful outside of which no one at all is saved." Finally, the same dogma is expressly mentioned in the profession of faith proposed by the Apostolic See, not only that which all Latin churches use (Creed of the Council of Trent), but also that which the Greek Orthodox Church uses (cf. Gregory XIII, Profession "Sanctissimus") and that which other Eastern Catholics use (cf. Benedict XIV, Profession "Nuper ad Nos") ... We are so concerned about this serious and well known dogma, which has been attacked with such remarkable audacity, that We could not restrain Our pen from reinforcing this truth with many testimonies. Strive to eradicate these slithering errors with all your strength. Inspire the populace of Bavaria to keep the Catholic faith and unity as the only way of salvation with an ever more ardent zeal, and thus, to avoid every danger of forsaking it. -Pope Gregory XIV, Encyclical Summo Jugiter Studio, 5-6, 27 May 1832
This is quite false. Why don't you let real Catholics explain Catholic teaching? I find it rather patronizing when people tell me I believe something I don't, although I have probably read more Catholic theology than 99% of Protestant ministers, to say nothing of Protestant laymen.
The bottom line is, you are judged on the response to the graces and helps to salvation you are given, and your response to those graces and helps. The Gospels state that clearly in a couple of places.
If you are given the grace to understand that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ as the instrument of man's salvation, and that unity with her is directly willed by God ... but you choose to go to First Baptist because you like the choir there more, and besides, you can chat with Aunt Betsy after the service on Sundays, that is a grave sin which can send you to hell. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, if you want to look it up. The teaching has a pedigree back to Augustine and even farther.)
If you aren't given that grace, or if factors beyond your control make it impossible for you to respond to it, your subjective culpability is lessened. It may be lessened to zero.
The Catholic Church dogmatically, infallibly says that canonized saints are in heaven. It has never dogmatically, or even authoritatively taught than any human being is in hell. Not Luther, not Calvin, not Thomas Jefferson, not Ted Bundy ... there is, I admit, some debate about Judas Iscariot.
Since we don't know that they're in hell, they could be in purgatory on their way to heaven, or already there. So it's absolutely the case that some Protestants could be saved, or many, or all.
I’ll go right away to my parish then, and make sure my pastor isn’t laughing at me. I’d hate for that to happen.
Have you nothing better to do?
Of course you will.
If you are a faithful Catholic, then read the response of the Holy Office in the matter of Fr. Feeney for starters. Re-read Lumen Gentium. Also please see Pio Nono's discussion of "invincible ignorance" (people find the term objectionable, but it is technically correct). I can get you the reference if you need it.
There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. That much is absolutely true.
That is not the same thing as saying that only those who profess Catholicism on earth can be saved. In fact, Fr. Feeney said that his ordinary was a heretic for not believing that it was the same thing, and was disciplined by the Holy Office under Pope Pius XII for saying that.
I don't think you want to accuse Pio Nono and Pius XII of teaching heresy, do you?
Do you mean "outwardly" or "quietly?"
“Catholics are the ORIGINAL CHRISTIANS!”
And, as it was interestingly put to me today: our Lord Jesus Christ was the first convert from Judaism to Catholicism.
Not sure how that holds up theologically, but it’s interesting to look at it that way.
What is [A festering gob of protestant falsehood]?
(You wouldn’t really repeat yourself again, would you?)
Absolutely, positively, any way at all.