Friday, March 1, 2013

Are Catholic's Christians- A Response to an Evangelical Blog

Today, I am writing a blog response to another post on the 

The blog post presented in this case is titled: 

John Wycliffe- A man who was a Roman Catholic Priest.

The author of the blog in typical Holier than Thou, Evangelical America style asks the profound question “Can a Roman Catholic be a Christian?”  The author does stress that he does not wish to offend, but let’s face it, this is offensive language, particularly when the ignorance behind the statements are understood.  It should also be noted that he is not really asking if a Roman Catholic can be a Christian, he is asking “Can Roman Catholics be saved like my friends and I are.” In fact, his conclusion pretty much emphasized this point saying,

“Yes…I believe it is possible. Yet I would also assert that most Roman Catholic’s are not saved because they are trusting in their own righteousness not in the righteousness of Jesus Christ……So who is the type of Roman Catholic that is a true follower of Christ?....Maybe this is an individual that stays in the Catholic Church for family reasons and yet personally understands and believes the true, unadjusted gospel. Maybe this is an individual who is illiterate and therefore, cannot read the scriptures for himself….To be honest I cannot understand how any Roman Catholic who has a Bible (and consistently reads it) stays in the Roman Catholic Church.”

What? Are you serious?  I would laugh about this, but as a former devout Evangelical Christian who was so certain of my Sunday School teaching, and blindly followed my mega church pastor and all that went before him, I know that sadly this fellow is not joking.  There is a serious misconception about Catholicism in the Protestant World here in America.  I seriously have to question how many practicing Catholic’s this gentlemen talks to, how many priests he has listened to sermons of? How many Catholic Apologists he has reviewed?

I am almost certain the answer is none. 

I would bet that this person’s exposure to Roman Catholic’s may be in the form of a few co workers, family, or other acquaintences that don’t know their faith, and probably a smattering of fallen away Catholics that also do not understand the Catholic faith, oh and there of course is the Protestant Seminary education (or lack there of) regarding Catholicism. I hope that this post, if he reads it, will help him to understand how far off he is in truly understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He mentions that Catholic’s rely on their own righteousness, this of course is false, but I would say that Catholic’s rely no more on our own righteousness, then Evangelical’s rely on their own traditions and intellect.

So to start my rebuttal, I think we need to answer the question he proposes: "To know who is a Christian (who is saved), one needs to see if they are practicing the Gospel according to Jesus."
He then outlines, that Jesus believes all Protestant tenants, he specifically points out that Protestant’s, and thus “true Christians” believe that Catholics cooperate with God in the process of justification where as evangelical’s believe that justification is an act of faith alone. Please note that he goes into much detail to emphasize, rightly so, that Catholic’s believe that God is the initiator of all acts of cooperation in His salvation plan, and that any work done by an individual is merited to God and not man, yet he still claims this is works based salvation. Of course this is another straw man, and indicates that Catholics earn their salvation, which is not true.  It also shows that he believes faith is simply an act of the intellect, a prayer at a revival, a simple belief that Jesus is the Savior of the World. I believed these same tenants for a long time myself, and was disappointed and hurt when I realized I was following manmade religion for most of my life. I never stopped to wonder about the idea of intellectual faith and assertion of Christ.  Could not Adolph Hitler have had such a belief in Jesus, maybe he prayed the “sinners prayer” at a revival as a youth, by most evangelical definitions, despite his atrocities in the rest of his life, he would be welcoming us into heaven when we arrive there.  I know this is an extreme example, but one that I hope will shed some light on this false doctrine. In light of this let us remember what James says in Chapter 2, verse 19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”  I would argue that the demons believe that Jesus is God, that he came to save the world, that he died and rose again, that he died for their sins and rebellion, and yet I would not say that demons, who continue to rebel against God and do evil, are saved.

It should be noted that when he does a side by side of justification he mentions Martin Luther and his beliefs that if one is truly saved he will produce good works, and if his life is not changed and he does not do good works than he is a false believer and will not find heaven.  So let me get this straight; Faith Alone means that by God’s grace you are justified and if you are truly justified and truly have faith you will do Good Works (Which I assume are fully attributed to the Grace of God).  How is that not the Catholic Position? It really is! Yet Martin Luther’s position is not the Evangelical position, the Baptist idea of Once Saved Always Saved, and the idea of praying a single prayer for your “get out of hell free card” are the Evangelical tenants. I know….I was involved in this type of Evangelism many, many times.

  So enough about what I think of all this. What does Jesus think of this?

Matt 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Wow? So not everyone that cries out Lord at a revival will enter heaven, but only the ones who after that “DO THE WILL OF THE FATHER”.

Matt 7:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

So the person that hears Jesus’ commands and PUTS THEM INTO PRACTICE is building on the rock.

Matt 12:36-37
 “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I am certain this is self-explanatory right? How are we judged? By what we say/do. Note that the proceeding verses are about bearing good and bad fruit.

Matt 16:24-27
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

He says, that you must deny yourself (works) take up your cross and follow him (works). He clearly says that works demonstrated out of faith in who He says he is, is necessary. The Son of Man will reward each person according to what they believed? NO! According to what they HAD DONE! Please remember though, that as I speak of works, these works are demonstrative works of faith, these are works that come from God for God, an solely by his Grace.  These are works of a true believers heart, and are done, because Jesus told us to and we are trying to follow him in everything.

Matt 19:16-30
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

So, let me get this straight, Someone asks Jesus directly, “How do I have eternal life?” And Jesus answers him and tells us! Jesus tells him, “ believe in your heart that I am God and that I died for your sins and rose again.”  Oh wait a minute, I was remembering what my Evangecube said when I was an Evangelical, Jesus DID NOT say that, lets go back to the text and double check Jesus’ answer.  Oh yes, he says “keep the commandments” What does he mean?! In case there is any doubt he lists the WORKS that need to be Refrained from or Committed.  So when the man says that he has done that, Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor and to follow Jesus.  You see Jesus tells him to love others as himself, to live generously, to have FAITH in Christ and what he is doing,  To FOLLOW Christ, not intellectually, but FULLY! How exciting that we know from Jesus himself how to have eternal life. We are to cooperate with his plan, we are to “drop our nets” and follow him, we are to go out into the “deep water” and caste our nets again, even though we had caught no fish all night.  We are to show a LIVING FAITH to the World, to not just give God intellectual lip service, but to have a transformation of heart and TRULY, FULLY Follow JESUS CHRIST.


In case right now you are scratching your head and wondering what Jesus says about intellectual belief, lets look back at what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

You see Jesus very plainly says that more than just intellectual belief is required, in fact in the proceeding verses of Chapter 7 of Matthew, Jesus tells us about the trees that “do not bear good fruit” that are then “thrown into the fire”.  He further tells us that we will recognize his true disciples “by their fruit”. What is fruit other than good works, if good works are not necessary as a demonstration of saving faith, then why does Jesus lay down so much emphasis about them? Lets look at some more words of Jesus.

Matt 24:10-13
“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

“And because of increased lawlessness (OT Law), the love of many will grow cold (sounds like today), But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  How do we overlook such verses in American Evangelicalism?

Matt 25:31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I believe this passage speaks of the TRUE GOSPEL of Jesus Christ.  If there was any doubt before, one only needs to look here.  Nowhere is there any mention, of belief, or faith alone, but it is clear that both the sheep and the goats have faith in Christ. The difference between them, is their hearts. The goats had faith in Christ and if they had seen him hurting they would have helped him, but they ignored their neighbors, they turned the other way from the homeless man begging for a sandwich, they ignored the widows and orphans, they treated the least as the least. The sheep, who are saved also had faith in Christ, but they had true faith, and like Jesus, they helped others, they served, they were the hands and feet of Jesus to the world……Powerful stuff…..Imagine the world if every Christian (Yes even every Catholic Christian) did this.

Luke 8:21
He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Matt 28:19-20a
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“teaching them to obey EVERYTHING I have commanded you” I mention this because, another tenant of Protestantism is Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone, yet in John 21:25, John says,  “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” .  Think of the ramifications of this. Are we to assume that the only important things for us, and all that the Apostles shared to others are found in the Bible? John tells us no! Yet are we supposed to think that whatever was orally passed on by the Apostles is unimportant? That those teachings of Jesus are worthless?  If you are a sola scriptuarist, then you are saying that these extra teachings John references of Jesus are worthless and unimportant, and that the Apostles censored themselves after Jesus’ command in Matt 28.  But I digress, back to what Jesus says about Salvation.

Luke 10:25-28
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Jesus goes on to teach the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which he makes it clear that your neighbor is anyone in need, even those you are uncomfortable with.

John 5:28-29
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned."

Like Jesus Paul, also emphasizes this, while condemning Jewish works of the Law without faith in Jesus, or in lieu of Faith in Jesus, Paul emphasizes justification through faith and works. Some of my favorite verses regarding this are:

1 Cor 13:1-3, 13
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

If you have not faith? No if you have not Love you are nothing.  The greatest of these is faith? No the greatest is Love, because as Galations 5:6 says,

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”

Faith working through love….exactly what the Catholic Church teaches.

Romans 2:6-13
God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.  (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
Galations 6:7-9
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

1 Cor 7:19
Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

James 1:22-25
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

There are many more verses we can look at, but for sake of the length of this paper, I feel one more passage should be examined and that is James Chapter 2 in its entirety, but I will highlight just a few verses here.

James 2:14-24
 “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?  As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

James 2:24, Yes this is the only place in the Bible where the words “Faith Alone” are mentioned…. “Not by Faith Alone”

It is important we understand too, that James wrote his gospel, because of the very idea that was already starting among both jews and gentiles.  That is the idea that is so similar to modern evangelicalism, that one only needs to profess Christ, or be baptized with no life change, no good works and they would be saved.  James clearly addressed the problem then, and an honest reading will help address the problem today.

Clearly the case for the Catholic position is clear, and I would challenge any reader of this post to find me the Words of Jesus himself that say we are saved by Faith Alone apart from works.  The truth is that it cannot be found, and that it was not taught by Jesus or any of the Apostles as a holistic view of Scripture will show.

The idea that Christians for the first 1,500 years of Christianity were Catholics and thus not saved, then for the next 300 years, all Christians whether Reformers (like Wycliffe and Luther) or Catholics, were not saved because they did not hold the present evangelical view. And the idea that only after American Evangelicalism sprouted or maybe even only once “Joe’s First Evangelical Free Church” was established, that people were Christians and saved, is not just ludicrous and laughable, but completely ethnocentric (or maybe religiocentric is a better word ) and ignorant of history.

So, I have appealed in the one authority you will acknowledge for deciding matters of faith, the Bible.  I have read it and studied it. As you allege, no one can do so and remain Catholic, yet here I am a learned Evangelical, who decided to erase my preconceived doctrines and ideas and read the Bible fresh one day, to see what it said and to see which church most aligned with its teachings.  My friend, by the grace of God, I found the Catholic Church in that process.  The more I studied, the more solidified I became in my Catholic Faith. I was also so relieved, and yet also surprised to find out that thousands of people every year in America are making the same journey. Hundreds of protestant ministers and seminarians are making the switch, because they truly seek the truth and are willing to follow it even if that means going to the Church that was so engrained in our youths as deplorable.

I must ask you, do you believe there is one truth delivered from God? Or do you believe that truth is relative to the individual?  I would guess that you would say there is one truth from God.  How then, do we have thousands (over 30,000) protestant denominations? These denominations are founded on schism from others and on division, on disagreements about how the Bible should be interpreted.  This means, only one of all the Christian denominations has the fullness of Christ’s truth.  The fullness of the faith that was given by Christ and preached by the Apostles.  I believe this is in the Catholic Church, and to a slightly lesser extent the other Apostolic Churches. These are the only churches that trace themselves all the way back to the Apostles, that have taught consistently for millennia not decades, and continues to be the bearer of Christ’s Commission.  At this point, one could also look at the first few centuries of Christian writings, from the likes of Augustine, Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Polycarp, and others and see clearly that the church they belonged to was the same church the Catholic Church is today, at the very least, you can see that it is nothing like American Evangelicalism.

I hope that this post was able to educate you about what exactly the Gospel is, and that Catholic’s, despite the Evangelical propaganda against them, are in fact Christians. Ultimately, as the Catholic Church says, I will leave the determination of salvation of others up to God alone, and do my best to follow Christ and his teachings as he commanded me to, having full faith in his Grace and Mercy. So you may be asking now, are non-Catholics saved?  Maybe, it’s complicated, for another post maybe, and up to God.  All baptized however, no matter what the denomination, are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Your brother in Christ,

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