Friday, September 10, 2010

Are Roman Catholics Really Christians?

"Are Roman Catholics Really Christians?"

The above question is one that gets tossed around a bit too carelessly in Protestant circles. The answers that are often given - either "Yes" or "No" - are usually stated by people who know enough about Catholicism to be dangerous but not accurate.

Quite frankly, the question is a problematic one because it is too vague. It is not precise.

A better question would be, "If a person follows the stated teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, is he really a Christian?" It could be asked this way, "If a person follows the Vatican's stated doctrine, is he saved?"

The above questions are important, but I still don't find them to be very useful. The reason is this: they deal with large groups of people instead of individuals. We are saved at the individual level, so I'd like to propose a much more useful question.

That question is this: "Is the person who I'm talking to, who is Roman Catholic, really a Christian? Is he saved?"

This question is much more useful because it causes me to have to get to know the person and have an in-depth conversation. Instead of stereotyping what he believes, this makes me listen to what he says.

If we deal with the question on an individual basis, we will find that some Roman Catholics are really Christians and some are not. Some know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and some do not. Some have eternal life and some do not. The key is being in Christ.

Let's be honest: if we have this same type of conversation with Protestants, we will find that some are really Christians and some are not. Some know Jesus Christ and have received the gift of eternal life, while others have not.

Please let me be clear. In this post I am not saying that I believe that the stated doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are as biblical as the classic doctrines of Protestantism. For example, I believe in justification by faith alone by God's grace alone. I love the 5 solas. I also believe that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is biblical.

The point I am making is that instead of saying that someone is or isn't really a Christian based on the group he is a part of, we should actually get to know the person and discover what he really believes. If he is a Christian, then you can rejoice with him that you are brothers in Christ. If he is not, then you may have the beginnings of a friendship that will (hopefully) lead to in-depth gospel proclamation.

To sum up - we need to actually get to know people. This is true inside the church and out.

When we do this, we will find out what they really think instead of assuming something based on what a particular group believes.

(This post obviously applies to those who may be a part of orthodox Christianity: Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. I'm not referring here to cults such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. We should certainly befriend those in cults such as this, but we need not think they might already know Jesus as Lord.)

7 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

This is the danger of association a particular group or organization with The Church. People are not Christians based on their affiliation with any manmade sect or denomination. I am quite certain there are many of His elect sheep who are in a Roman Catholic church today and are saved in spite of the false teachings of the Roman Catholic church. I am likewise quite certain that there are people in the most theologically sound, orthodox churches who are as lost as a Muslim in Saudi Arabia.

Eric said...

Arthur,

Well put. Man made ideas always get in the way instead of helping. Many people are headed to Hell thinking they are right with God because of their label as "Catholic," "Southern Baptist," or whatever else. We all need to look to Christ, embracing His gospel while leaving splinter categories behind.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

I would echo Arthur's words.

Eric said...

John,

Amen.

Pastor Josh said...

How can you state that simply because someone is attending a Roman Catholic Church does not mean he embraces their doctrines and thus give credence to the possibility of their conversion; and then end the blog with a statement that if someone attends a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon church there is no possibility that they are converted? Something's got to give! I agree that anyone who embraces Catholic, Mormon, or Jehovah's Witness doctrine is not saved, but just as a newly converted Christian might not yet have moved out of their Catholic church, the same is true for Jehovah's Witness or LDS church members. (Although a proper view of progressive sanctification would expect that all three would eventually see the doctrinal heresy of their respective religious affiliation and seek a bible teaching church.)

Eric said...

Josh,

Thank you for commenting on my blog.

I see what you are saying. I based my statements on the fact that Roman Catholics, for example, would agree with the Nicene Creed or Apostle's Creed while cults probably would not. In other words, the doctrines of the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are more blatantly heretical than are those of the Roman Catholic Church.

Could a new Christian stumble into a cult without realizing what their teachings are? Probably yes. But as you say, in the process of sanctification I would hope that they would quickly flee to a biblical church.

Stephen said...

Upon my conversion (as an act of God) Knowing 'Fear of the Lord' after being a 'Christian' for over 35 years -- yes, there is a difference -- it's by God's Will and not mans doing that one is Place IN Christ and is Enabled to receive Him - I saw it 'ALL" as a Lie. That the religion side of it as man defines religions was man-made. I would say: "If someone asks me if I am a chrisitain I'd say, "I don't know..what do you think a Christian is?"..and chances are based on their answer.I 'd say, "IN that case, I'm not a Christian". The hinge being how others have pre-conceived what fits the mold of what they think some-thing or some-one 'should be'. IN one sense..Christianity by title is man-made. COLOSSIANS 1:27 and2 COR 4:10-11 was the Realty. at the time...then to 'out The Life'..while "I Die Daily"..how is that a religion ? I don't know. For a "Catholic' who has Truly Bore the Cross and Understands and Knows Christ (to the best of one's ability on any given day) - I don't see how they could remain in that church without their conscience convicting them..but that might be a key..it's a matter of the conscience...we do not know another's conscience - it's not so much that like you say they are or are not 'IN Christ" on an individual basis - it's their overall system that insists if you are not Catholic then you're essentially "out' or at 'high risk''..that's their problem - but they get their paybacks from thinking they are the Kingdom of God on earth.