I’ve heard a handful of Christians I’ve talked to online refer to Catholics as non-Christians. I’m not really sure why, and I’m usually skeptical when I hear a group who professes Jesus Christ be called a non-Christian sect because I’ve even heard Old Earth Creationists like Hugh Ross and myself be labeled as non-Christians because we deny the days of creation as 6 24 hour periods and we believe that they’re long periods of time. Arminians likewise have been labeled as non-Christians by over zealous Calvinists (though most Calvinists I’ve talked to don’t hold the view that non-Calvinists are non-Christians). This is why I always want to investigate what the said sect believes before I form my opinion on whether the group in question is really Christian or not. Because often times a group is called non-Christian merely because the person disagrees with them on some secondary issue. Usually what makes a group non-Christian is that they deny some or many of the most crucial, central doctrines of the Christian faith (doctrines such as The Trinity, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, the virgin birth, or that unbelieving sinners go to Hell, or that Christ is the only way to Heaven). Jehovah’s Witnesses for example, deny the deity of Christ (which, usually, the deity of Christ and the trinity go hand-in-hand, if you accept or deny one, you accept or deny the other). Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is St. Michael, not God in the flesh.
But what about Roman Catholics? Are they Christians or not? First, what do Catholics believe? I did some studying into Catholicism a few years ago (spending time watching EWTN and the “Crash Course In Catholicism” videos), right around the time I became a Christian. I was Catholic leaning for a while there, though as I’ve studied scripture and reflected on the issues which separate Catholics from non-Catholics, I think I’m a firmly established Evangelical.
I’ve discovered that Catholics and I agree on a lot of things. We both agree for example what’s stated in “The Apostles Creed”.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended to the dead, On the third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; He will come to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will be without end, I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.”
I’d like to point out that “Catholic” in this creed doesn’t just mean ROMAN Catholic, rather, it’s referring to the “universal” Church. “Catholic” means universal. Ken Samples does a good job of pointing this out in his commentary on the apostles creed in his book “A World Of Difference: Putting Christian Truth Claims To The Worldview Test”. Moreover, “communion of saints” could be referring to Christians being ushered into the Kingdom of Heaven rather than special people ordained by the church after their deaths. Regardless, Evangelicals can clearly see from this creed alone that is recited by Catholics during the Divine Mercy prayer and during the Rosary prayer, that we share a lot of common ground. Notice also that the essentials of the Christian faith are mentioned in this creed. Belief in God as the Creator of the universe, belief in Jesus as God, belief in the virgin birth and the resurrection, and belief in The Trinity.
If Roman Catholics did deny of these things, I would consider them as much a non-Christian group as I do Christadelphians, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.
don’t think Catholics are non-Christians. I do think they hold
some unbiblical doctrines (purgatory, confession to a priest etc.), but
they seem to adhere to all of the essentials.
I don’t agree with several things they belief in. I don’t believe we go to Purgatory before we enter Heaven, I don’t believe you need to confess your sins to a priest in order to be forgiven, you can go straight to God Himself (see 1 John 1:9, & Psalm 51 for example), and I don’t believe that the communion wafers and wine LITERALLY turn into the body and blood of Christ (If they were literal flesh and blood, wouldn’t they taste like skin and blood? Why does the Church insist that our senses are deceiving us?) In any case, I don’t think having a few
secondary issues wrong makes one a non-christian. I still believe they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I
should like to think we can have fellowship with one another in spite of
some theological disagreements just I get along with Calvinists and
young earth creationists even though I disagree theologically with them. Trust me, I think the Calvinists are dead wrong on the things that separate them from their oppositions (Arminians and Molinism) and I also find Theistic Evolution to be inconsistent with scripture. Nevertheless, I still consider them my brothers and sisters in Christ. I think the Catholics are misguided on many things, but I don’t think God will bar them access to Heaven on the basis of those things because I consider them to be just as secondary an issue as the age of the Earth or whether baptism should be full submersion or sprinkled.
And contrary to popular belief, the Catholics don’t worship Mary, they just greatly admire her. Moreover, they don’t pray TO saints. They have the saints intercess for them. It’s no different than asking one of your friends to pray for you. It’s just that in the case of the saints, the saints are are no longer living and they’re in Heaven. These are two very common misrepresentations of Catholicism. Whether you agree with them or not, you should at least look into what they believe so you don’t misrepresent their view (a fallacy known as “Straw Man”).
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I’ve read some of your posts on Catholicism. I, a Catholic, want to thank you. Even though you disagree, you represent the Catholic Church’s teaching in a fair manner. Thank you and God bless you. Please pray for me.
I’m really glad to hear that. I do try to represent all views fairly and accurately. Sometimes I misunderstand and fail, but I always make the utmost effort to NOT attack a straw man. Thanks for your feedback. God bless you, brother.
Evan, Roman Catholicism gets it very wrong regarding the doctrine of justification and salvation soteriology. Those are not minor, secondary issues, but the issues upon which the church stands or falls as Martin Luther stated.
Read “The Gospel According to Rome” by James G. McCarthy or “Same Words, Different Worlds: Do Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Believe the Same Gospel?” by Leonardo De Chirico for fair and objective examinations of Roman Catholic doctrine compared to Scripture.
I do want to dig into Roman Catholicism in more depth some day. If you are right in regards to their view of justification, then I’d be inclined to agree that they’re preaching a different gospel. This would be sad not only because it means the true church would be smaller than I thought, but that it would mean the RC’s were so close to orthodoxy but it missed it by a hair. However, I’m not entirely sure whether they do affirm works based JUSTIFICATION. I’ve dialogued with several online and it’s nearly impossible to get them to be upfront about their view on what justifies you before a holy God. Based on the way they talk about “salvation”, I get the impression that what they mean by “Grace and works go together in achieving your salvation” is SANCTIFICATION. Salvation is an “already, but not yet” thing. We “were saved, are being saved, and will be saved”. See this chart –> https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ae/9f/da/ae9fda697306493e034b7d6fc1facda6.jpg
If they mean we have to work at being sanctified, then I don’t disagree. You can’t just believe your way into being a better person. Being conformed to Christ’s image takes time and effort; continuously yielding to The Holy Spirit’s influence. It won’t just fall into your lap by mental affirmation. I’ve asked Catholics, “By salvation, do you mean justification or sanctification?” And I can never get a clear answer. I’ve even stopped using the term “Salvation by faith alone” altogether and just started using “Justification by faith alone” to make it clear which of the three tesnes of salvation I’m referring to, but that hasn’t helped either. They seem to beat around the bush when I’m trying to get a straight answer to “Are we using the word salvation in the same way or are we talking passed each other?”
He is completely wrong. We Catholics do not believe that salvation comes by faith or by works, but ENTIRELY by Grace! Faith is how this grace is manifested and works are proof that we live this faith. The Catechism of the Church in nº 2008 will tell us that not even our good works are our merits, and that these merits must be attributed first to the grace of God and only secondly to the believer.
In Ephesians 2:5 we see that it is by grace that we are saved and in Ephesians 2:8 that we are saved through faith, which is different from saying that we are saved because of it. Finally, Saint James teaches us that faith without works is dead, because who can say that he has faith if he does not live according to the greatness of it?
It is no accident that in recent years we have come to terms with common statements on the subject in 1999, over 400 years after the issue of justification divided the church. Lutherans and Catholics could unite around a common resolution, as set out in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), signed by Catholics and Lutherans in the city of Augsburg.
Through dialogue and prayer, Lutherans no longer consider Catholics to be Pelagians, and Catholics no longer consider Lutherans to be lazy hypocrites, so this seems like a step in the right direction, and I think there’s a very important lesson here in this, we have a topic that, by all accounts, caused the Reformation for centuries, kept the Western Church apart in largely bitter rivalry, and yet, when we actually sit back and listen to each other explain what they believe, agreeing in common language to express our theology, what we find is that the vast simplifications we use to attack one another are quite different from what we really believe, we can only imagine how different our church would look today if we had adopted that approach in the 16th century, and how much better our church and world would look like 400 years from now if we continue with this approach.
I’m very happy to hear this. Sounds like there really isn’t a divide over what saves us after all. Justification is by grace alone through faith alone. We believe in Christ and God declares us clean. However, like you said, someone who truly expressed saving faith will then go on to do good works. They will be noticably different from the unbelieving world around them. If they don’t, then their faith was probably mere intellectual assent to the truths of the Christian faith as the demons have (James 2:19). James isn’t saying works are needed to be saved, but that a person with true saving faith will do good works.
Exactly! I loved that explanation. <3.
Just as a reminder, I highly recommend reading Dr. Brant Pitre if you want to know more about Catholicism. He has an excellent book in which he makes the case that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that He was the Jewish Messiah (The Case for Jesus), and he has also written extensively on the Eucharist and Mary, you would love his books! (^-^).
Evan, below is a link to an article from a Catholic source regarding the RC view on justification. It surely doesn’t mesh with the Gospel Christian view. Take the RCC at its own word. It’s wrong about justification and unabashedly teaching a works-righteousness false gospel.
Justification: Process or One-Time Deal?