I ran across a critical comment on Word Press the other day from an ecumenical evangelical, something to the effect of, “there are jerks out there who put forth the idea that all Catholics are not Christians.”
The comment was not directed to me personally, but I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to it.
I do acknowledge that there are some hardcore fundamentalists out there who claim there are no Catholics who are Christians, but I am not one them. Please allow me to explain.
Attending or becoming a member of a particular denominational church, whether it be Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc., doesn’t make anyone a Christian. Every person must individually repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior by faith alone. No one is “grandfathered” into the body of Christ. But some churches are more helpful in pointing people to Christ than others. And there are some churches that are outright hindrances to salvation. Some churches preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and those in attendance are able to hear the Gospel and respond to the invitation to accept Christ. Other churches do not preach the Gospel and do not invite attendees/members to receive Christ by faith alone.
The Roman Catholic church teaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. It’s a complicated system with many tangents, but a succinct summary of Catholic salvation is that a person must be baptized and then participate in the church’s sacraments as required, to receive graces so they can successfully obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and remain in a mortal-sinless “state of grace” so as to hopefully merit Heaven when they die. No Catholic will deny that works play a major role in meriting/achieving salvation. None of that is the Gospel.
Now back to the original issue. Are there some people who identify as Catholics who are blood-bought, born-again Christians? I believe there are. There are some Catholics who were somehow exposed to the Gospel of grace, maybe by reading a book or the Bible, or watching a television show, or attending an evangelical service, or conversing with a Christian friend, and they genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. There are other Catholics, perhaps, who became so spiritually exhausted with Catholicism’s works-righteousness treadmill, that they threw themselves at the feet of Christ and asked Him to save them, much like the repentant thief on the cross and the repentant tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. These Catholics have, in essence, become Christians in spite of their church. Some of these new-born Christians leave the Catholic church immediately because they understand Catholic doctrine is not compatible with the Gospel. Others linger. Some out of fear. Some out of ignorance. Some out of stubbornness. But as they continue to read and study God’s Word and are obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, they will eventually leave. God’s Word and Catholic doctrine are irreconcilable.
So, I would absolutely NOT claim that “all Catholics are not Christians.” There are some Catholics who are saved in spite of their church. There are many good Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches that preach the Gospel, and there are many bad Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches that don’t preach the Gospel (most of the bad ones belong to liberal, mainline denominations). But in regards to Catholic churches, there are ZERO good ones because NONE preach the Gospel of grace.
Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?