In a recent blog post, C. Michael Patton of Credo House Ministries asked, ‘Are Roman Catholics Saved?’ He argued that the most important question was the one Jesus asked of His disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’, and that the Church of Rome answers this correctly.
Apologist James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries says that Patton has asked the wrong question. Speaking on his Dividing Line show, White dissects Patton’s post and states that what really matters is whether God’s grace to us in Christ is wholly sufficient to save – are we saved by grace alone? Here, White asserts, Rome commits the same error as the Galatians, adding our works to the grace of God as a requirement for justification. Because the Apostle Paul said that the Galatians who had done likewise were ‘severed from Christ’, the very Gospel itself – and our salvation – hangs on the answer to that question. White concludes, ‘The fundamental issue is the fact that the Roman Catholic Church does not possess – and, in fact, anathematizes – the Gospel of Jesus Christ’. ‘If a Roman Catholic is saved, they are saved in spite of the Roman Catholic Church, not because of it.’
Here is the video of James White responding to Patton’s article (MP3 is also available from the Alpha & Omega Ministries blog):
31 thoughts on “Can the Roman Catholic Gospel Save?”
One of the main problems with Rome is its failure to understand what biblically being ‘saved’ means. I addressed this issue in an article located n this link http://www.takeheed.net/News_From_The_Front/news26.htm
Two other articles that are relevant to the issue are located on http://www.takeheed.net/News_From_The_Front/news6.htm and
With all good wishes in Christ
PS Your readers may be interested to know that arrangements have been finalised for me to travel to London to appear on a ‘REVELATION TV’ programme that is due to be broadcast (DV) on Tuesday evening 15 May 2012 between 7.00pm – 8.00pm. The programme will be part of a series entitled ‘Simply the Truth’ and will focus on this occasion on the Roman Catholic teachings on ‘Mary’. I am scheduled to be in debate with a Jesuit priest. REVELATION TV can apparently be viewed on Sky 581 or Freesat 692 or online at http://www.revelationtv.com/
Dear Cecil, it’s good to hear from you. Thank you for sharing those links – I’ll be sure to check them out. Your forthcoming debate sounds interesting and I’ve added a note in my calendar to have a look at that online when it becomes available. Grace and peace to you.
Mr. White and others routinely misrepresent Catholic teaching. The Church does NOT believe that justification is earned. The Catechism clearly states that justification is the Lord’s work, not ours. Once received, which means that Mr. White’s argument amounts to a hill of beans. We believe in participating in the work of furthering God’s Kingdom (as does Mr. White, I am sure, by evangelizing, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and so on), but we do not believe that there is any way we can earn/deserve/merit justification before God. Here are relevant passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that shows EXACTLY what the Church teaches. Please don’t get your knowledge about Catholicism from people who either don’t know what they are talking about or willfully lie in order to exclude Catholics from Christianity.
“(1992) Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men…(1994) Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit….(1996) Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life…(2007) With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.”
While you are certainly welcome to your opinion, as a former Roman Catholic myself, I can tell you that unfortunately it is misinformed. Following is Canon 9 and Canon 14 of the Council of Trent on Justification (from Session 6). Notice the highlighted parts:
CANON 9: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”
CANON 14: “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.”
It follows logically that, if one is not justified by faith alone, then there is something more man must do than to simply believe he is justified solely by faith. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church has condemned the Gospel of salvation through God’s grace alone (nothing man does) by faith alone (a gift from God, nothing man does) in the finished work by Christ alone on the Cross (no need for the Mass, work is already done, nothing man needs to do).
This is contradicted by what I just showed you above from the most official of Roman Catholic sources and this is actually what was at the very heart of the Protestant Reformation. James White is completely in line with Scripture and the Reformers. We do those good works because of what God has already done for us and they contribute nothing to our salvation or our justification. To God alone be the glory; we don’t become more righteous in sanctification because believers are already clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Rather, in progressive sanctification we grow in Christ-likeness.
The teaching magisterium of the Church of Rome would tell you that these passages in the Catechism are to be interpreted in the light of the Canons of Trent. Please don’t get your information about Roman Catholicism mixed up with personal opinion. I would strongly encourage you to carefully consider the information I put in the following piece, which includes official sources from the online Vatican Library itself. Sincerely, may the Lord open your eyes:
Sparki, Could I please ask you a question? – Do you agree with Rome that you can personally merit “the attainment of eternal life”?
Mr. Silva, anything taken out of context can be easily misunderstood. I posted relevant teaching from the Catechism, which you choose to ignore over your out-of-context selections from Canon Law. The Catholic Church clearly teaches that justification comes only from Christ. Does He ask us to participate in the process AFTER we have received His initial gift of saving grace? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we are conjuring up justification on our own. As I stated above, I daresay that you agree that there is something to living a Christian life – some sort of actions you must take or refrain from or attitudes you must adopt or shed, depending on what we’re talking about. In reality, every Christian believes in participating in the process. Catholics are just more open about it.
I took nothing out of context. What I did was attempt yo put your citations in their context. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that man works with God, with a caveat “by His grace,” to *become* justified. It is considered a process, which the Reformers pointed out and Trent reacted to.
The Bible, God’s Word, tells us that through God’s grace, by faith alone, the believer, is *already* justified by Christ’s finished work on the Cross alone. Please reexamine what I explained to you in my initial comment.
You are welcome to your opinion; however, this is not at all the same Gospel. Nothing whatsoever has changed in official Roman Catholic dogma concerning its wrong view of justification since the Reformation.
Since its popes are thought to be infallible on faith and morals, it never can unless it admits they erred. The key point is, if you personally disagree with them, then according to the Roman Catholic Church, you aren’t a Roman Catholic,
Mr. Andrews, are you asking me about the governing body of the city of Rome in Italy? I am unaware that they have ever spoken about how any person attains eternal life.
If you are asking me about the Catholic Church, the Church teaches that we HAVE no merit other than what Christ won for us on the Cross. I posted this above, but I gladly do so again: (Catechism #2007) “With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.”
I agree with the Catholic Church that there I have no merit on my own, and neither does anybody else.
Sparki, Thank you for your reply but you have not actually answered my question so I will repeat it (wording slightly changed to clarify your concerns) ‘Do you agree with the Catholic Church that you can personally merit “the attainment of eternal life”?’
Mr. Andrews, the Catholic Church clearly teaches that WE HAVE NO MERIT other than what Christ won for us. So your question is completely nonsensical. I’ve posted the passage from the Catechism twice on this already. Why do you refuse to read it and/or accept it?
I do NOT believe that I can personally merit the attainment of eternal life. I believe that Christ is the one-and-only source of salvation. This is what the Catholic Church teaches. I do believe that I can cooperate with Christ in His saving work (which is what the Church teaches that we must do), but it’s still HIS work to save, not mine. My role is to submit to His will and to follow Him and do His bidding. I’m pretty sure you believe in submitting to Christ’s will, following Him and doing His bidding, right?
Sparki, You have suggested that my question is “completely nonsensical’ in the light of your posting of Paragraph 2007 of your church’s catechism. My question is actually perfectly sensible in the light of Paragraph 2010 which states ‘no one can merit the INITIAL grace of forgiveness and justification at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity WE CAN THEN MERIT FOR ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, AND FOR the attainment of eternal life.’ So your church teaches that you can personally MERIT ‘graces’ needed for ‘the attainment of eternal life’.
What Christ did during His life and death on earth fully saved His people. By His active obedience up to Calvary He established a vicarious and perfect righteousness for them and by His passive obedience at Calvary He endured a vicarious and totally redemptive suffering for them.
God’s Word teaches clearly that we cannot ‘co-operate with Christ in His saving work’. I am saved because of what God ALONE has done for me in Christ – no co-operation on my part. Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done (co-operation on our part as you would call it) but according to His mercy HE SAVED US by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (that moment in time when God, by His sovereign choice and choosing, brings a spiritually dead sinner (see Ephesians 2:1) to spiritual life just as Christ explained to Nicodemus in John 3:8).
Those who have received God’s verdict of “justified” (‘justification’ is a pronouncement by God and not a process to be pursued) at the instant of their spiritual conversion, as outlined by Christ in John 5:24, will thereafter seek to increasingly live ever-more sanctified lives as a testimony to the gift of eternal life that God has so graciously and irrevocably bestowed upon them.
Any ‘good works’ that I might produce are simply ‘the fruit’ of the salvation God has so graciously given to me for the sake of Christ and are not to any degree ‘the root’ of that salvation.
Sparki, Whilst you remain convinced of what your church teaches I fully realise that you will not accept the truth of what I believe. I will never be able to personally convince you to the contrary, only God in grace and in mercy can do that, and I shall pray to that end. Your servant for Christ.
Again, the habit of pulling things out of context gets a person into trouble. Two opposing things cannot be true at the same time, can they? So when the Church teaches that we have no merit other than what JESUS earns for us, then ANY MERIT that comes after that initial influx of Grace is still the merit that JESUS earns for us. Catholics agree with Titus 3:5. The “work” that Catholics do amounts to the “work” a child does when receiving medicine from his mother. She’s purchasing the medicine, measuring it, telling the child to open his mouth and pouring it in. All the child is doing is receiving. Get it? Jesus does it all. Our works are a means of cooperating with Jesus. And as I said in my last response to you, I’m pretty sure that YOU believe in cooperating with Jesus’ saving work by being an evangelist or simply submitting to Jesus’ will or whatever. As you say, YOUR good works are the fruit of salvation from Christ – Catholics believe the EXACT SAME THING. We just use different words. You want to say that you believe something different because of some predisposition to hate Catholicism and to try to divide the Lord’s Church in spite of His blood-sweated prayers that we all would be one (John 17). In reality, you’re the same as us. Of course, you will reject this reality because it’s more important for you to exclude Catholics from the Kingdom of God than it would be to accept people who love and serve Jesus as fellow Christians, right?
Sparki, You wrote – ‘Catholics agree with Titus 3:5. The “work” that Catholics do amounts to the “work” a child does when receiving medicine from his mother. She’s purchasing the medicine, measuring it, telling the child to open his mouth and pouring it in. All the child is doing is receiving. Get it? Jesus does it all. Our works are a means of cooperating with Jesus’.
The problem is Sparki that your ‘child’ is only sick and so can in some measure co-operate but it’s not like that when it comes to spiritual salvation. The ‘child’ (everyone born) is not just ‘sick’ (spiritually) they are DEAD (spiritually) and in no position to co-operate in their own salvation. God in grace must first regenerate them (make them spiritually alive) and this He does as His Gospel is faithfully preached and as His Spirit moves in sovereign power. No acquiescence to religious rituals of whatever ilk can bring one dead soul to life.
Secure in Christ, Cecil.
PS Just a little afterthought – you wrote ‘Two opposing things cannot be true at the same time, can they?’ – in reply to that can I ask if those who knowingly deny the deity and atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ can be in God’s plan of salvation?
Mr. Andrews, I suppose any person who knowingly denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ would not be saved, but it’s up to the Lord to decide such things, not me. However, Catholics fully acknowledge the deity of the Lord and His atoning death as the one-and-only, once-and-for-all means of salvation. I know in your chosen obstinance, you choose to believe that Catholic “works” are different than a child obediently opening his/her mouth to receive medicine, but really, that’s all it is for Catholics. We DO believe that we can do nothing to help ourselves until Jesus regenerates us. This is why we baptize infants – we don’t even believe we’re capable of choosing Christ or converting our own minds. (I’m guessing that you make people choose on their own before baptism, which means you are requiring a “work” on their part before you count them among the elect, right?) Catholics believe that JESUS does it all. We do NOT believe that we are saving ourselves, but merely cooperating with Christ as HE saves us. We’re no different than you are when you look at your daily obligations to evangelize, pray, study Scriptures, etc. (James 2:14-16), and yet you choose to believe that you are righteous and we are not. I would think that you would be glad to know that Catholics believe that only Jesus saves, and yet you grumble. And you didn’t respond to my question to you about why you think it’s okay to forge divisions among Christians despite the fact that Jesus prayed we’d all be one. I think you’re making yourself perfectly clear. Somehow, telling Catholics that we’re not saved makes you feel more important, more “saved” than we are, is that it? Maybe you’ll get a seat closer to Jesus at the heavenly Wedding Feast? Somehow, Jesus’ gift of salvation to all who believe in Him (John 3:16) is just not good enough for you unless you can clearly define other people who don’t believe it as correctly as you do. Where’s that coming from?
Sparki, You answered my question by saying ‘I suppose any person who knowingly denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ would not be saved, but it’s up to the Lord to decide such things, not me’ and you then affirm Catholic belief in both His deity and death. My reason for asking the question was not based upon any supposed Catholic denial of those things but upon the Catholic teaching in Vatican II that a large non-Christian religious grouping that does deny those things is in God’s “plan of salvation”. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a part of any Church that taught such Christ-dishonouring heresy.
You then wrote ‘I’m guessing that you make people choose on their own before baptism, which means you are requiring a “work” on their part before you count them among the elect, right?’ – WRONG Sparki – You obviously did not understand what I wrote earlier that NO WORK of any kind on our part contributes to regeneration/salvation – it is ALL an independent work wrought ALONE by God on individuals of His choosing and at His appointed time. Lazarus was DEAD – the only reason he came forth was because God FIRST brought him to life. Likewise I was spiritually DEAD and God in grace brought me to life spiritually and my subsequent baptism was merely an obedient testimony to the salvation that had already been graciously wrought alone by God.
You talk of my ‘daily obligations’ – these are merely the desires and actions of a grateful heart towards God for the salvation that He has in grace bestowed upon an undeserving wretch like myself. They certainly do not constitute any part of how I have been saved and have no part in my ‘righteousness’ before God – The Lord Jesus Christ, ‘Jehovah Tsidkenu’ is my righteousness (His gracious gift to me at conversion – see Romans 3:21-22 and Philippians 3:7-9) and I am accepted only because I am “in Him” (see Ephesians 1:6) . These biblical truths stand in contrast to Paragraph 1129 of the Catholic Catechism that states “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation”.
You make all kinds of uncharitable allegations concerning the truth of my ‘being saved’ as if the Catholic Church doesn’t make any inflated claims for itself in that area. The truth of course is otherwise because according to your church ‘separated brethren’ like myself are not privy to ‘the fullness of the means of salvation’. Referring to your allegation that I ‘forge division among Christians’ – not so – in contrast I nurture to the best of my ability the unity that true believers genuinely enjoy and seek to protect it from cancerous heresies that emanate from many groups claiming to be Christian. The reality is that not everyone claiming that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is a true Christian as we learn from the Lord Himself in Matthew 7:21-23.
Concerning John 3:16 – it’s a wonderful testimony to the grace of God who so (in this manner) loved the world that He gave (delivered up as a sacrifice) His only Son that every believing one (His elect that He would in time awaken to saving faith) should not perish but have everlasting life (as His gracious and eternally permanent gift).
Best wishes in Christ.
Mr. Andrews, my point in suggesting that the act of choosing Christ before baptism is a work that earns salvation is to show you what it is like from our perspective as Catholics. You certainly do not believe that choosing Christ is a work, even though you define people as “Christian” by such action and probably expect people to do so before they qualify for baptism. You will testify in any venue that this action of “choosing” is not a work that earns salvation. It’s the same thing for Catholics. We don’t look at our works as earning salvation. We believe that Jesus does all the regeneration, start to finish. We just accept His work, and we do that in a variety of ways. For us, it’s not just making a one-time choice and being done with it. It’s waking up every day and making a conscious choice to live for Christ. It’s praying (not just when we want to, but also when we need to and also just because it’s the right thing to do). It’s studying the Scripture. It’s looking at every person we come across as a child of the Lord and treating him/her accordingly. Very likely, this is no different than how YOU live your life as a Christian, but because we actually have documentation that these actions are important ways by which Christ imparts grace to us, you want to condemn it. We don’t do it to earn salvation – that’s done by Jesus, and we have no say in whether we are saved or not. Totally up to Him. But we do it out of love for Him, out of a desire to be continuously sanctified by Him in a fallen world. Some days, if we’re honest, we do it out of a sense of obligation. Other days, it comes easily. We’re only human, after all. I was on the protestant things for a long time before I became Catholic – there really is no difference other than there is more structure to the Catholic way. If we’re having a day when we’re feeling a little blue or a lot discouraged or attacked on all sides, we still have a road map to follow. It’s a great help. But it’s not earning salvation. I know I shall never be able to convince you of this – that will fall to the Holy Spirit’s doing, but I hope there will be a day on THIS side of heaven when you welcome your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be Catholic instead of shunning us.
A couple of other points: The Catholic Church’s statement on “separated brethren” is not that you can never be saved (compare that to the statements of many non-Catholic Christian churches that say we Catholics can never be saved!). The statement is only that you have less to go on as you find the Way. Of course, historically, it’s perfectly accurate that the “Reformers” pitched a lot of Church teaching when they set up their own faith traditions.
Also, please forgive me for sticking a couple burrs under the saddle. With the statement about choosing Christ being a work and asking hard questions about why it’s so important for you (or your church) to define who is saved and who is not, I was trying to show you how statements made against the Catholic Church feel to us. We are devoted to Christ and we trust Him only for our salvation. Routinely, our brothers and sisters in Christ accuse us based on misinterpretations or semantics or what have you and it stings. Sometimes when a discussion is a “Yes you do,” “No we don’t”, I find it helpful to use turnabout to show how awful it feels to be told you’re doing a work to earn salvation when you clearly do not. I know you don’t believe in working for salvation any more than we do. I just wish the reverse was true.
Sparki, I’m happy for you and Cecil (and Ken, if he wants to leap in again) to continue your discussions here, but I’d like to make a few of observations at this point.
1. As an aside, let me address your point: ‘I’m guessing that you make people choose on their own before baptism, which means you are requiring a “work” on their part before you count them among the elect, right?’ No. No work on our part is required to be among the elect – the elect are those whom the Father chose to save according to the pleasure of His good will in Christ before the foundation of the world, independent of their works. We would agree with your statement that ‘we don’t even believe we’re capable of choosing Christ or converting our own minds’. Indeed, we are all born dead in our sins, and we can only believe if the Holy Spirit first works in us through His word to regenerate us and grant us repentance and faith. (We obviously have a different understanding of baptism from you, but I don’t think that’s germane to the main point under discussion, so let’s not go there.)
2. You keep asserting that Ken and Cecil are taking quotations out of context. Yet I do not think you have convincingly shown that to be the case – based on your line argumentation, it could just as easily be asserted that you are taking one part of the Catechism out of the wider context of your Church’s teaching. In fact, Cecil and Ken seem to me to be trying to interpret paragraph 2007 of the Catechism in a way that is compatible with the other authoritative teachings of your Church.
3. I’d therefore be interested to hear your understanding of Trent’s anathema upon justification by faith alone.
4. You state ‘As you say, YOUR good works are the fruit of salvation from Christ – Catholics believe the EXACT SAME THING.’ We do say that good works are the fruit of salvation in Christ, proceeding from the Holy Spirit working in us.
5. But you also claim that ‘the Catholic Church clearly teaches that WE HAVE NO MERIT other than what Christ won for us’, whereas Cecil quoted paragraph 2010 from the Catechism to show that it teaches that ‘Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity WE CAN THEN MERIT FOR OURSELVES and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, AND FOR the attainment of eternal life.’ The phrase ‘merit for ourselves’ seems particularly clear, and it applies here to ‘graces…for the attainment of eternal life’.
6. The key point of controversy here, then, is the assertion that we do anything to merit grace (and specifically here, graces for eternal life). The Reformers asserted that grace is a free gift from God in Christ, and not dependent upon anything we do at all. In the words of Paul, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.’ (Eph. 2:8–9) Not of ourselves, and not of works. (Compare the Catechism’s ‘merit for ourselves…graces’.)
Grace (and, indeed, salvation by grace through faith) is thus set up as wholly distinct from works. In other words, grace is unmerited favour.
Furthermore, our justification (right-standing before God) is a forensic declaration external to ourselves made by God by His grace based upon Christ’s merits alone. Our righteousness comes by faith alone in Christ alone, and is not predicated in any way upon our works. Seen in that light, the Tridentine anathema upon justification by faith alone is an anathema upon the Gospel itself, and the Roman Catholic Church removed herself from the historic orthodox Christian Faith when she made that declaration.
7. You assert that Roman Catholics believe the same thing as Protestants here, and that Cecil and others are wilfully choosing to misunderstand Roman Catholic teaching. If I may try to bring focus to this discussion then, do you, Sparki, agree with the Reformers (and Ken and Cecil and me) that justification is by faith alone, completely independent of our works (our works being the fruit of our salvation, and not in any way the cause of it), and do you agree therefore that any works that we do subsequent to conversion in absolutely no way contribute to our final justification?
8. Would you also agree with the following (from the Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. XVI)?
9. If you do not agree with the statements in (7) and (8), will you concede that there are indeed substantive differences between the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church on the matter of justification and the role of good works? And if you do agree with (7) and (8), how do you square that with the Tridentine anathema upon justification by faith alone?
10. Finally, I’d ask you to refrain from insulting those with whom you are debating or impugning their motivations. I know Cecil and have conversed with him at length in the past. I am convinced that his debating with you here is motivated by nothing other than a desire to uphold integrity of the Gospel – justification by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone – and, specifically, to help you understand that this really is different from the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
Grace and peace to you.
Mr. Neades, thank you for your kindness in allowing me to post here.
1. As I noted above to Mr. Andrews, I know that you don’t consider “choosing Christ” to be a work that is required to be saved. I was trying to make a point that there is more agreement than division among Catholics and those in your Christian tradition, because we all agree that we can do nothing to save ourselves.
2. Being “inside” Catholicism after having been “outside” Catholicism, I know where you folks are coming from with the whole “Catholics work for salvation” bit, but I also know that it’s not true. I live in the most conservative diocese in the U.S., with a bishop and many good priests who are devoted to Christ and follow the Church’s teachings, and there is no “working for salvation” in the Catholic Church. What you say is our “working for salvation” is what Paul says is, “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) And it’s no different than what you folks do. I don’t know how to convince you of it. Perhaps if you came here and moved in with my family and attended my parish for a while, you’d see, but that seems quite impractical.
3. Well, let’s see. In the Decree on Original Sin, the Council at Trent stated: “If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,–which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propogation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, –is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema: For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. Whence that voice; Behold the lamb of God behold him who taketh away the sins of the world…” I’m reading that as justification by Christ alone, with no possibility of ANY human-wrought remedy. Oh, and p.s., Catholics look at baptism as Jesus’ work, not ours. If it’s work of human hands, it’s just getting wet. The only thing that makes baptism different than getting wet is what Jesus does during baptism.
4. I’m glad you see some agreement here.
5. The “merit for ourselves” is still merit that comes from Jesus. Jesus is the only source of ANY merit, and He dispenses it as He wishes to. It’s possible to “go through the motions” and not gain any merit at all because Jesus either gives it to us or He doesn’t. Hmmmm…let’s see if I can explain that in another way. Let’s define a work for the sake of an example – say, going to daily Mass, which is a sacrifice of time. One person can go to daily Mass out of the joy of worshiping Christ and the desire to pray with others that the Lord’s Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Another person might go to daily Mass out of habit, and just “go through the motions” without an intelligent thought one way or the other. Another person might identify a terrible, habitual sin (something like pornography or having an affair) and try to go to Mass daily to “make up” for the sin. Still another person might be an old lady, sick in bed, with a desire to go to Mass for worship in her heart and in her head, but she lacks the ability to make her old bones cooperate with that desire and thus stays home. In any of these four cases, Jesus might reward the person with merit or He might not. WE don’t call the shots on “how much merit we earn” or anything like that. The Church teaches us that it’s good to cooperate with Christ at all times and in all ways, but JESUS is still the one who earns our merit and dispenses it according to how He sees fit. All the merit *always* comes from Him, no matter what we do or don’t do.
6a. You say, “The Reformers asserted that grace is a free gift from God in Christ, and not dependent upon anything we do at all.” Catholics agree with this and with Ephesians 2:8–9. We also agree, as you say, that “[O]ur justification (right-standing before God) is a forensic declaration external to ourselves made by God by His grace based upon Christ’s merits alone.” I know that you Reformed folks are very careful to clearly delineate faith from works in your documentation, but all the Reformed people I know get it mixed up in how they live. They all do great works every day. They worship, they pray, they teach their children to love Jesus – I could go on and on an on. Fact is, living the Christian life takes a measure of work. Not to *earn* salvation, but simply to live in the joy of the Lord.
6b. You stated, “Tridentine anathema upon justification by faith alone is an anathema upon the Gospel itself, and the Roman Catholic Church removed herself from the historic orthodox Christian Faith when she made that declaration.” I don’t think you are reading the Trent documents as Catholics do. Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin explains things a bit better than I can with space/time allowances (I’m currently caring for my dad, who had open heart surgery. I can only get on line when he is napping). If you care to read Mr. Akin’s explanation, you can find one of his essays here: http://jimmyakin.com/library/justification-by-grace-alone
7. As I have stated several times, yes, I agree that justification is by faith alone, but I also agree with James that “Faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:14-26), and with Jesus who said that we must DO the will of the Father to be part of His family (Mark 3:35). I’m fairly certain that you believe that, too. I don’t know a Reformed Christian who doesn’t. Why would anybody who believe in Jesus not do what He asks us to do?
8. I agree that our works don’t bring us pardon of sin or eternal life. These come from Christ alone.
9. I agree that there are some differences in the way that the matters of justification and the role of works are defined in Reformed documents vs. Catholic documents, but not in the reality of how we all live as people who believe in Christ. (P.S. It’s just the Catholic Church. There is a Roman rite within the Catholic Church, but there are also Marionite, Melkite, and many other rites under the big Catholic umbrella.)
10. I apologize for being insulting, but I have to say it’s far more insulting to be told that I am not saved when I have devoted my life to Christ than it is to be asked if there is some reason why a person chooses to say some people are saved and some are not. I get it – I used to be a protestant like you folks, and I was taught to say that Catholics don’t know Jesus, but it’s just not true.
Michael Patton is going through a sort og negative theological metamorphosis where his attraction to intellectualism/rationalism is producing antagonisms toward significant Protestant demarcations. Without listing what I have observed I suggest readers keep this in mind as they observe his treatment of theological topics in the future. His inability or unwillingness to articulate nuanced theological certainties is quite telling.
Sparki – you wrote ‘Mr. Andrews, my point in suggesting that the act of choosing Christ before baptism is a work that earns salvation is to show you what it is like from our perspective as Catholics. You certainly do not believe that choosing Christ is a work, even though you define people as “Christian” by such action and probably expect people to do so before they qualify for baptism. You will testify in any venue that this action of “choosing” is not a work that earns salvation. It’s the same thing for Catholics. We don’t look at our works as earning salvation. We believe that Jesus does all the regeneration, start to finish. We just accept His work, and we do that in a variety of ways. For us, it’s not just making a one-time choice and being done with it. It’s waking up every day and making a conscious choice to live for Christ’.
Sparki, firstly you need to realise that you clearly think that everyone like me resides in what would be classed as the ‘Arminian’ camp – that Christ has done His work on the matter of salvation but for it to be personally effective I have to make a choice – that is not the case. The night I was converted (19 August 1984) I went into an evening service in Belfast and during that service as God’s Word was preached I was brought to a spiritual awakening and understanding of the sinless life of Christ being my ‘righteous’ covering before a Holy God and the substitutionary death of Christ being my ‘redemption’ from the wrath of a Holy God. I left that service knowing that I was chosen by God NOT that I had chosen God. God had actively made His gracious salvation known to me. You may ask – ‘How did that happen?’ – let me quote the words of the Saviour to Peter in Matthew 16:17 (with a little personal alteration and application) “Blessed art thou Cecil Andrews, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you but my Father who is in heaven”. True conversion is a supernatural work (and choice) by God and not because of any choosing by a spiritually dead sinner who is totally incapable of naturally responding to God.
So your experience is nearly identical to mine, except for location and a few other incidentals. And yet, you classify yourself as a Christian, but not me. Go figure.
Sparki – you wrote ‘It’s praying (not just when we want to, but also when we need to and also just because it’s the right thing to do). It’s studying the Scripture. It’s looking at every person we come across as a child of the Lord and treating him/her accordingly. Very likely, this is no different than how YOU live your life as a Christian, but because we actually have documentation that these actions are important ways by which Christ imparts grace to us, you want to condemn it’.
Sparki, firstly this is an example of where we use similar words but the definitions differ. In this case it relates to ‘grace’. To explain let me quote this short excerpt from a Christian newspaper article that I have used in articles to highlight what true biblical ‘grace’ really is – “Many think of grace as something actually imparted to the believer; that is, they think of it [grace] as a gift, when it is, in fact, the act of giving, an act which in turn reveals the character of the Giver. Grace is that which leads God to deal graciously with His people, an attribute of God, rather than something He parts with when He gives…There are some who distort the pivotal truth of what grace really is. They claim that God instils a commodity called “grace” into people’s hearts through various means, rituals, observances [sacraments]. Thus grace becomes a gift, a reward for man’s obedience and good intentions. And by the “grace” received they are enabled to please God and earn salvation…People are saved by grace they declare, but their particular brand of “grace” is a reward-gift, its ultimate cause lying in their own actions or works. The grace of which scripture speaks therefore is always and only found in God..[and]..emphasize[s] that salvation is utterly of God’s free mercy, bestowed on undeserving sinners who were chosen in Christ before time began.’
Secondly you have stated that we are to view ‘every person we come across as a child of the Lord and treating him/her accordingly’ – unless someone has been ‘born again’ and so adopted into God’s family then they are not a ‘child of the Lord’ – they are as the Lord Himself described the Pharisees in John 8:44 “of your father the devil” – the sad consequence of ‘original sin’ for everyone born by natural procreation into this world (including Mary I would add and Thomas Aquinas agreed with that).
I agree that we end up using different definitions of the same terms, and that leads to serious misunderstandings. The difference between you and I, however, is that I will accept your definitions of terms (even coming this late in the discussion) and attempt to use them, but you’ll just say I’m wrong and destined for hell and end the discussion before we have a chance to get anywhere. I admit, I find it wholly dissatisfying and a bit passive-aggressive, but since you won’t be back to read or respond to my responses, what does it matter?
Sparki, I never said I wouldn’t read your responses and painful though it has been I have done so. Why ‘painful’ – just to see the depth of how your mind and understanding of what God’s Word teaches have been totally obscurred (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) by what the Catholic church teaches. You’re spiritually ‘lost’ and my Lord informs me that I can make such judgments for in Matthew 7:15-20 He tells me twice that I WILL KNOW false teachers “by their fruits” – the Catholic church and its advocates are “false prophets”. I continue to pray for your deliverance and salvation.
Fact: As noted above, my experience in being saved by Christ is nearly identical to yours-the spiritual awakening to my own wretched state, unable to help myself in any way and knowing that the Lord God Almighty chose me specifically and intentionally, and that Jesus Christ did all the saving work to rescue me and bring me into the Kingdom of God.
Fact: I agree that salvation comes only from Jesus and it can never be earned or deserved.
Fact: I agree that I will never have any merit that I earn myself, but only what Christ has won for me by His death on the Cross.
Fact: I love and serve the Lord and only He with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
Fact: Even though you would say that all four facts above are true for you as well, you think that you’re a Christian and I’m not. And you think that God has somehow granted you the privilege of deciding who’s saved and who isn’t, which is a direct contradiction to the belief that God does all the choosing.
Again, I say I am thankful, so immensely thankful, that the question of my salvation is in Jesus’ hands, not yours. The hypocrisy I see from you is a poison that is dividing God’s Church and interfering with His will that we all will be One (John 17:20-23), that people will know Christ through our love and unity.
I will take Jude 1:20-24 as my anthem for today as I pray for you and all Christians, that we may be one before the Lord and thus help Him in His work that none shall perish (as Peter wrote), but all know eternal life. I bid you a blessed and fruitful Paschal season and pray that the Lord will lead you into a deeper and more profound understanding of His true and unbounded love.
Sparki – you wrote ‘We don’t do it to earn salvation – that’s done by Jesus, and we have no say in whether we are saved or not. Totally up to Him. But we do it out of love for Him, out of a desire to be continuously sanctified by Him in a fallen world. Some days, if we’re honest, we do it out of a sense of obligation. Other days, it comes easily. We’re only human, after all. I was on the protestant things for a long time before I became Catholic – there really is no difference other than there is more structure to the Catholic way. If we’re having a day when we’re feeling a little blue or a lot discouraged or attacked on all sides, we still have a road map to follow. It’s a great help. But it’s not earning salvation. I know I shall never be able to convince you of this – that will fall to the Holy Spirit’s doing, but I hope there will be a day on THIS side of heaven when you welcome your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be Catholic instead of shunning us’.
Sparki, these are fine sentiments but they fly in the face of Paragraph 1129 of the Catechism that I quoted previously “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation”.
Catechism #818 “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers …. they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”
Catechism #819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to Catholic unity.”
Constitution of the Church: “…[T]he Church now solemnly acknowledges that the Holy Ghost is truly active in the churches and communities separated from itself. To these other Christian Churches the Catholic Church is bound in many ways: through reverence for God’s word in the Scriptures; through the fact of baptism; through other sacraments which they recognize.”
Unitatis Redintegratio: “The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. …it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. “Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.”
“The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.”
“It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.”
“Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life- that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim.”
Sparki, you wrote ‘A couple of other points: The Catholic Church’s statement on “separated brethren” is not that you can never be saved (compare that to the statements of many non-Catholic Christian churches that say we Catholics can never be saved!). The statement is only that you have less to go on as you find the Way. Of course, historically, it’s perfectly accurate that the “Reformers” pitched a lot of Church teaching when they set up their own faith traditions’.
Sparki, the Catholic Church statement states that as long as I remain a ‘separated brother’ I am not privy to ‘the fullness of the means of salvation’ – that means that as long as I stay as I am I cannot be ‘fully saved’ (the reality is a person is either saved or not saved). My view on Roman Catholics is that of course they can be and are being saved – the early Protestant Reformers were all formerly Catholics and today I count many former Roman Catholics (including ex priests) amongst my dearest and closest brothers and sisters in Christ. Do those being saved today remain as Roman Catholics – not in my experience because they realise that true conversion and enlightenment means they can no longer subscribe to what the Catholic church teaches as ‘the gospel’
See above. You’re applying an interpretation that the Church does not. The fact that protestants left out a bunch of stuff when they started their own traditions means you don’t have the “fullness” but does NOT mean that you can’t be “fully saved.” Remember, we Catholics think that salvation is up to Jesus, and not up to any of us. He’ll save whomever He wishes to save, no matter what anybody on earth says. I know YOU don’t agree with that and you want the privilege of deciding who’s a “Real Christian™” and who isn’t, and I know you want to accuse the Catholic Church of doing the same thing, but we don’t. We leave the question of *anybody’s* salvation up to Jesus to decide, knowing He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful.
Sparki, you wrote ‘Also, please forgive me for sticking a couple burrs under the saddle. With the statement about choosing Christ being a work and asking hard questions about why it’s so important for you (or your church) to define who is saved and who is not, I was trying to show you how statements made against the Catholic Church feel to us. We are devoted to Christ and we trust Him only for our salvation. Routinely, our brothers and sisters in Christ accuse us based on misinterpretations or semantics or what have you and it stings. Sometimes when a discussion is a “Yes you do,” “No we don’t”, I find it helpful to use turnabout to show how awful it feels to be told you’re doing a work to earn salvation when you clearly do not. I know you don’t believe in working for salvation any more than we do. I just wish the reverse was true’.
Sparki, my thoughts towards to you and any zealous and devout Catholics can be summed up in the words of Paul as recorded in Romans 10:1-4 – simply substitute ‘Catholics’ for ‘Israel’. Feel free to respond if you wish but these will be my final postings so prayerfully in conclusion I wish you well.
Let’s just say I’m completely thankful that it is Jesus who is in charge of my salvation, not you. My hope for you is that you grow in your understanding of John 17:20-23.
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