Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity use many of the same terms – God, sin, grace, faith, Jesus the Savior, Heaven, etc. – so there is a tendency on the part of many to assume they share the same basic beliefs, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Below I would like to focus on just one of many vital differences.
Wounded or Depraved?
I listen to a lot of Catholic talk radio for research purposes and the hosts regularly admit that Catholicism differs from evangelicalism with regards to the condition of men’s souls. A phrase that you’ll hear repeatedly within Catholicism is that people are born into this world with a “wounded” spiritual nature; that people are “inherently good” but are wounded by sin. With baptism, which allegedly washes away all sin, and then through the subsequent administration of the church’s grace-infusing sacraments – the eucharist and reconciliation (confession) regularly, and confirmation, anointing of the sick (last rites), and marriage or ordination only once – a Catholic is supposedly able to rehabilitate their “wounded” spiritual nature and become increasingly and subjectively good and righteous. If they persevere in their goodness and righteousness, they are told they will be able to merit Heaven at the moment of their death.
“(The Council of) Trent articulates the classic Catholic position that the human condition is not self-sufficient but a ‘fallen’ one, and yet we are not totally depraved but remain ‘inherently good.’” – from “What Makes a School Catholic” by Thomas Groom
Contrast the above with Biblical Christianity, which teaches the depravity of all humankind. Even those thoughts and actions that we might call “good” are tainted with sin. There is no absolutely no righteousness within us. When a person repents of their sinful, rebellious condition and trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone, He imputes His perfect righteousness to them. Before we accept Christ, we are NOT wounded, rather we are slaves to sin and at enmity with God.
“…to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” – Titus 1:15-16
After we accept Christ as Savior, we follow Him in obedience as Lord, albeit imperfectly.
So, are people “inherently good but wounded” and able to rehabilitate themselves with the help of the sacraments in order to merit Heaven as Catholicism teaches…
…are people totally depraved and without any hope unless they trust in Jesus Christ by faith alone and receive His imputed perfect righteousness?
One way is right and one way is wrong. Both ways cannot be right!
David Anders (photo below), host of the ”Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show, regularly disparages the Biblical view of the total depravity of man and propagates the Catholic view of “good but wounded” souls rehabilitating themselves through the sacraments and good works. That is not Christianity, folks, but a very dangerous false gospel. Although I am vehemently opposed to his false gospel, I do “respect” Anders in a certain sense for constantly and uncompromisingly pointing out the unbridgeable differences between his Catholic false gospel and Biblical Christianity. It’s unfortunate that many evangelical Christians are not as uncompromising in regards to the genuine Gospel of grace as Anders is in regards to his false gospel.
Postscript: “Catholic guilt” is legendary, but Catholics generally have a veeeeeery low view of sin. If asked, most Catholics will say that they do a pretty good job of obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!). After all, they will say, they never killed anyone or robbed a bank.