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.
It's not nice to call Jesus' mom a "false god".
I just noticed your sig. That’s awesome!
Great news, but the Mother of God is neither false nor a god.
I think it's an amusing coincidence. That's all it is, right ?? ... hmmm ...
I don't own a Calvinist Bible...
Of course the explicit words to that effect aren't there, but neither are a lot of other things ... an orthodox, detailed explanation of the Trinity, for example. It had to be deduced. "I don't see it" isn't the same thing as "it isn't in there".
Exactly...Just as Sola Scripture is in there...
However, as I said, there is nothing in the scripture that even remotely suggests that God's grace comes thru Mary...You can use a million watt searchlight and you won't find anything about that issue, other than to find that God's Grace comes from God...
This is a depressing thread.
As Catholics we are asked to form echumenical relationships with our fellow Christians. This was stressed by Pope John Paul II and now by Pope Benedict.
And to the non-Catholics, we are your brothers in Christ and together we are the body of Christ. Plain and simple.
How on earth, really, can this thread go on with negativity, devisiveness, anger and bitterness?
Please people we have bigger issues facing us than to bring each other down. There are many enemies of Christ, and our fellow Chrsitians are not one of them.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down ones life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
Please practice peace, patience and love.
She isn't to me...She's only a false god to those who worship her...
You should talk to one of our fine Calvinist FReepers for advice on where to buy one.
I believe the KJV is acceptable. Even I own one of those.
Just as Sola Scripture is in there
That's one that I don't find. I do find verses rejecting it. I also find logic and practical experience rejecting it.
However, as I said, there is nothing in the scripture that even remotely suggests that God's grace comes thru Mary
Now you're changing the subject. If you want to see God's grace personified, His Name is Jesus. Jesus came through Mary. That ought to be in everyone's Bible.
other than to find that God's Grace comes from God
Never said it didn't. "From" and "through" are not the same word, and they don't mean the same thing.
I don't know anyone like that, so I'll have to take your word for it.
Don't be downhearted about this. The villains in this thread are in the minuscule sub-minority of Christianity.
Thank God you're not describing Catholics!
blended, with salt pour favor
Keep it up and we might have to start calling you Patronski. ;-)
I give you that one.
“...She’s only a false god to those who worship her...”
...Like who??? Nobody on this thread!!! Catholics don’t worship Mary, if they did they would say so!!!
Re-read Lumen Gentium.
This part? Where it wraps up the discussion of non-Catholics?
Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord's command, "preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16.16) takes zealous care to foster the missions.
If your salvation must be procured by formal action by an outside party, then it is not something you actually possess right now.
Why don't you explain how your view of this squares with Unitatis Redintegratio, which states:
For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one body of Christ into which all those must (opportet) be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.
Pio Nono's discussion of "invincible ignorance"
Ignorance excuses from culpability of sin. That's what Bl. Pius IX says in this regard: "God ... will by no means suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt of deliberate sin."
But ignorance is not salvific - quite the opposite! Ignorance of things divine is a form of punishment for sins, and it is a cause of many people's loss according to the Popes.
Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: "We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect." (Instit., 27:18) [Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Acerbo Nimis, 2, 15 April 1905]
Generally, though, I've found that those who cling to Bl. Pius IX's discussion of invincible ignorance as their loophole out of the obvious meaning of the words of this dogma have never actually read much further on what he had to say on this subject. For example:
Teach that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and come to the community of His children (Romans 1; Hebrews 11; Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8). There is only one true, holy, Catholic Church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded on Peter by the word of the Lord (St. Cyprian, Epistle 43), outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church (ibid, On the Unity of the Catholic Church). [Bl. Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Singulari Quidem, 17 March 1856]
[The following are prescribed errors:]
16. Men can, in the cult of any religion, find the way of eternal salvation and attain eternal salvation. - Encyclical Qui pluribus, November 9, 1846.
17. One ought to at least have good hope for the eternal salvation of all those who in no way dwell in the true Church of Christ. - Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863, etc.
18. Protestantism is simply another form of the same Christian religion, and it is possible to please God just as much as in the Catholic Church. - Encyclical Noscitis et Nobiscum, Decemebr 8, 1849.
The Syllabus of Errors, attached to Encyclical Quanta Cura, 1864
Its also good to read the context of the Encyclical around the very famous invincible ignorance quote, both before and after it.
And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, We should mention again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life. Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. ...[invincible ignorance quote here]... The Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church is well-known; and also that those who are obstinate toward the authority and definitions of the same Church, and who persistently separate themselves from the unity of the Church, and from the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, to whom "the guardianship of the vine has been entrusted by the Savior," (Council of Chalcedon, Letter to Pope Leo I) cannot obtain eternal salvation. The words of Christ are clear enough: "And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican" (Matthew 18:17); "He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that dispeth you, despiseth Me; and he that dispiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me" (Luke 10:16); "He that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16); "He that doth not believe, is already judged" (John 3:18); "He that is not with Me, is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth" (Luke 11:23). The Apostle Paul says that such persons are "perverted and self-condemned" (Titus 3:11); the Prince of the Apostles calls the "false prophets ... who shall bring in sects of perdition, and deny the Lord who bought them: bringing upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:1).
But, God forbid that the sons of the Catholic Church ever in any way be hostile to those who are not joined with us in the same bonds of faith and love; but rather they should always be zealous to seek them out and aid them, whether poor, or sick, or afflicted with any other burdens, with all the offices of Christian charity; and they should especially endeavor to snatch them from the darkness of error in which they unhappily lie, and lead them back to Catholic truth and to the most loving Mother the Church, who never ceases to stretch out her maternal hands lovingly to them, and to call them back to her bosom so that, established and firm in faith, hope, and charity, and "being fruitful in every good work" (Collosians 1:10), they may attain eternal salvation. [Bl. Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, 10 August 1863]
Bl. Pope Pius IX did not believe that people living apart from the Church were on the right road.
That is not the same thing as saying that only those who profess Catholicism on earth can be saved.
That is what we confess in the Athanasian Creed though, isn't it? "Whosoever will be saved, before all things, it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly."
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.
Fr. Feeney and Co. got themselves into trouble over the denial of Baptism of Desire, the defined dogma whereby someone who believes in the Catholic Faith, but has the misfortune of being unable to be baptized prior to dying, can still be saved. Invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire are rather contradictory though. If one is ignorant of the faith or hostile to it, he can hardly have a sort of implicit baptism of desire (unless we all wish to be Rahnerites), as one cannot desire what one does not know or that to which one is opposed. The Letter from the Holy Office states this explicitly:
Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): "Faith is the beginning of mans salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children."
I must be the villain you're talking about...I believe there is only one formula that leads to Salvation...And I am convinced it has nothing to do with your religious institution...And that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ which is the result of one trusting wholly in the death of Jesus for their Salvation apart from any works they think they can do to merit Salvation...
I am in unity will Millions of Christians thru-out the World who are wrapped up in 60 some thousand or so denominations based on one thing...
We are counting on the shed blood of Jesus and His shed blood ALONE for our Salvation...If there are any Catholics who believe that, then I am in unity with them as well...
However, bowing down to or acknowledging your pope or praying to Mary will never happen...
If any Catholic wants to ecumenical base on that, I am more than happy to oblige...
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