Every time I write about the Roman Catholic church, I have to keep in mind that it wears two hats. On the one hand, it still teaches its old-school, religious legalism. It claims a person must be baptized and then must participate in the church’s sacraments in order to receive graces so that they can obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and remain in a “state of grace” so as to merit Heaven when they die. Phew! Sorry for the long-winded sentence.
But, on the other hand, the Catholic church magnanimously conceded at the Second Vatican Council that non-Catholic religionists might also be able to merit Heaven if they “follow the light they are given.” Pope Francis has subsequently said even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their conscience.
“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 847
So, on one side of its mouth, Catholicism says its members must follow a formidable, exacting, legalistic process in order to possibly qualify for Heaven (with no assurance), while from the other side it says non-Catholics can get by with “following” their religion or their conscience just as long as they have a “sincere heart.”
If that’s the case, who would ever want to be Catholic? “Following one’s conscience” is a pretty fluid target. It can change like the wind. Why would people desire to constantly check off a burdensome religious to-do list if they can do what they think is right in their own eyes?
But exactly how earnest must a heart be for it to be considered “sincere”? In contrast, God’s Word says something about men’s hearts being desperately wicked:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
Catholics argue that its members have a great advantage over everyone else because only they have the eucharist and the other bona fide sacraments to assist someone seeking Heaven, but if I’m a non-Catholic and all I have to do is vaguely “follow” my religion or my conscience “with a sincere heart,” whatever that means, then the non-Catholic surely has the advantage. The 80% of Catholics who don’t attend obligatory mass on Sunday must have figured that out as well.
None of the above is Christianity. We are all sinners and we all deserve eternal punishment. But God the Son came to Earth and paid the penalty for sin. He offers you the free gift of salvation. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone!
The fact that Catholicism proclaims a very broad road to salvation that includes other works-religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., and even atheism should give every ecumenical evangelical pause. This embracing of all religions under its interfaith umbrella is a black mark upon Roman Catholicism from the Lord for all believers to see.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” – 1 Timothy 4:1-3