In my Friday “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist” series, I get into some heavy-duty comparative theology, but sometimes a simple, anecdotal story can be quite illustrative.
I have five older sisters who were brought up in Roman Catholicism and attended Catholic grammar school and high school just as I did. Four of the sisters are now self-proclaimed atheists or agnostics, while the fifth sister still identifies somewhat as a Catholic and enjoys going to mass occasionally, mainly because the rituals and ceremonies evoke pleasant childhood memories for her.
One day, this sister came over for dinner and the conversation turned to spiritual matters. In our discussion, I shared that we are all sinners and deserve eternal punishment, but the Good News is that God so loved us, He sent Jesus Christ, God the Son,* to pay for our sins and that we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone.
My sister immediately responded with a good measure of emotional indignation, saying, “I don’t need to be saved!” She claimed that she was a good person and did not need a Savior. Her self-righteous remarks exemplified the thinking of Catholics and Catholicism in general. While the Roman Catholic church does refer to Jesus Christ as “Savior,” it teaches its members that they must essentially save themselves via sacramental grace (for those who still bother to avail themselves of the sacraments) and good works. The bottom line for Catholics is merit. Catholics believe they are basically good people who deserve to go to Heaven. They will tell you that, while they are not perfect, they do a fairly decent job of obeying the Ten Commandments. After all, they haven’t killed anyone or robbed a bank, etc., etc.
Accept Jesus Christ as Savior? Such a thought is offensive to Catholics. They know that their church technically refers to Jesus Christ as “Savior,” but they surely don’t believe that they themselves need to be saved.
*In addition to her belief that she doesn’t need a Savior, this particular semi-practicing Catholic sister also declared that she does not believe that Jesus was/is God. Catholics generally have a very shallow grasp of their church’s theology and/or knowledge of the Bible.
“30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16:30-31