The Gospel Coalition

Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI unveiled a new Vatican agency to promote "new evangelization" and gave it the task of combating the "de-Christianization" of countries that were first evangelized centuries ago.

Here is a brief overview of evangelism initiatives promulgated by the modern papacy, to help us better understand the nature and direction of Catholic evangelism.

[caption id="attachment_4659" align="alignright" width="164" caption="Pope Paul VI"][/caption]

The exhortation of Pope Paul VI (1963-1978), Evangelii nuntiandi, is usually regarded as the start of the New Evangelization movement (so called for the opening words of the document: Evangelii nuntiandi studium nostrae aetatis hominibus, "The effort to proclaim the gospel to the people of today”). Paul VI, you may remember, was the pilgrim pope who named himself after the greatest Christian missionary after Jesus, the apostle Paul.



Evangelii nuntiandi reflects the pilgrim people, lay-empowered impulse of Vatican II by emphasizing the role of every Catholic (and not simply ordained priests) in spreading the message of Christian faith. Pope Paul VI begins his statement by discussing the role of Jesus Christ as the great Evangelizer, the One who proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God and testified to this reality through innumerable signs. Those who embrace Jesus and his message join the community of faith that dedicates itself to embodying and proclaiming the Christian message. This, according to Pope Paul, is the essential mission of the church. In his words, "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity" (EN 14). In this way, the entire church enjoys a ministry of evangelism.



[caption id="attachment_4660" align="alignleft" width="232" caption="Pope John Paul II"][/caption]

Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) saw the need for a "great re-launching" of evangelization in the life of the church. In his encyclical titled Redemptoris missio (1990), he affirmed that in addition to proclaiming truth, evangelization must include thoughtful catechesis “in heartfelt communion with the Church’s pastors and the Magisterium” (RM 51).

Five years later, the book John Paul II and the New Evangelization: How You Can Bring the Good News to Others, edited by Ralph Martin and Peter Williamson, raised the visibility of the pope’s vision in America. Following the pontiff's memorable 1993 visit to Denver, Colorado, for Youth Day, American Catholics joined their voices (and substantial resources) in enthusiastic support. The fruit of this effort has created several apostolates (ministries) that are now “answering Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization,” as it’s often stated. Some that I’m familiar with are: Relevant Radio, EWTN (television), Catholics Come Home (commercials and website), and entire universities such as John Paul the Great in Southern California and the Augustine Institute in Colorado. No doubt, there are many more.

[caption id="attachment_4661" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Pope Benedict XVI"][/caption]

According to Catholic News Service, Pope Benedict’s Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization will encourage a clearer understanding of the faith and help to "remake the Christian fabric of human society."

The council aims to work closely with modern communications media—something that the pope himself requested—employing the use of different languages to address forms of religious indifference, declared atheism, and the “interior desert” that exists in the souls of so many post-Christian people.

A special task of the agency is to favor use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In this regard, Benedict is concerned, like his predecessor, to serve those who lack an awareness of basic doctrine. In Benedict’s words:
We need to avoid, above all, that "new evangelization" comes across like an abstract formula. We need to fill this idea with theological and pastoral content, and we’ll do it on the strength of the magisterium of these last decades.

The pope’s statement, released in Italian and Latin, identified several factors in the weakening of religious faith in the West: advances in science and technology; the widening of individual freedom and lifestyle choices; profound economic changes; the mixing of cultures and ethnic groups brought about by migration; and the growing interdependence among peoples.

To some extent, evangelicals share points of common interest with the New Evangelization, along with areas of difference. Rather than offering my analysis, I think it would be more interesting to solicit input from readers. So here is your chance to comment.

What are some lessons that we can learn from Catholics in this regard, and perhaps even common ground on which we can partner?

And where is it better to refrain from collaboration on account of doctrinal disagreement?


Comments:

Edward Hara

October 26, 2010 at 06:00 PM

cClint --

Thank you for that honest and irenic response. I think that much of the "fire-braething" from Protestants comes from the fear of Catholicism as being something akin to witchcraft or some other pagan way of damning our souls to hell. You can read some comments here that seem to infer that strongly. I know this because I was of the same thinking just a mere 12 years ago, and would have gleefully joined in the chorus of those denouncing anything Catholic in the most pejorative terms.

What is especially frustrating is to be treated as if when I converted to the Catholic Faith, I somehow put my brain outside the front door for the cats to drag away and play with. Nothing could be further from the truth in this matter. It took 2+ years of intense study, working hard to put down my fears and to try to understand with an open mind what I was reading, to finally understand that the Catholic Faith is the Faith of the earliest Christians and that there is scriptural support for all aspects of that Faith, even our reverence for the Theotokos and the saints. All it took was finding the right interpretive key -- the Covenant of God, and coming to a proper understanding of it.

The ironic thing is that this proper understanding of the covenant was formed in my by a Reformed Protestant author by the name of Ray Sutton. His works are not fringe -- he is on the I.C.E. freebooks website with the likes of Bahnsen, North, and Gentry. Surely you will admit these are some heavy hitters in Reformed writing circles.

Once I understood the covenant and ran all the Catholic doctrines through the grid of the covenant and found that they all fit, all I could do after that was to convert. It was the only intellectually honest thing to do.

But so often, when I attempt to share the scriptures with other Protestants, I get a venomous reaction. I think this is because certain publications have "poisoned the well" of reasonable and rational discourse on the subject, and many even today consider it their duty to keep alive certain tales that were proved decades ago to be outright lies about the Church. It's like the NY Times and their incessant drum beating on the recent sexual scandal in the Church. No event is too old or too dated for the Times, as long as they can once again trash and insult the Church they hate so much.

Clint -- I offer to you and anyone else here a rational discourse on the Church's doctrines if you wish. I have a manuscript I have written for Reformed Protestants. It is about the covenant (a subject dear to most Presbyterians) and how the Catholic Faith is covenantal. Anyone who wishes it in MS Word format can write me at christosrey@comcast.net and request a copy. You can also ask me any question regarding any Catholic doctrine and I will endeavor to put it to scripture and prove it.

Thank you for your response.

Ed

Clint

October 25, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Edward,

I am grateful that you have come to know Christ by the grace of God. Though, I may disagree with you on some things that you said, I do commend your desire to hold to the Scriptures no matter what they say. But, it seems as though you are reacting uncharitably to a select group of uncharitable Protestants rather than to your zeal for the authority of Scripture.

John

October 25, 2010 at 04:38 PM

Well, I read your posts, (including the ones that weren't deemed decent enough to publically post) and all I've got say is if my nine year old said what you said in the way that you said it he would have got a spanking for a bad attitude.

I mean, really, how old are you?

It really doesn't matter what side of the debate you are on. You shouldn't act like that. It is quite clear from this post that Catholics and Protestants can be sinful in the way that they hold their disagreements. Let us all do better next time.

Clint

October 25, 2010 at 03:39 PM

Well, bro, I'm a Protestant and I have given my share of venom towards Catholics (probably far more frequent and far less charitable than you). Unfortunately for guys like us, anything less than name-calling is still infinitely less than the love that Christ demands. So, as a fellow sinner, let's endeavor to emulate our Savior, who was reviled but did not revile in return. And maybe, by doing that, you'll shame the fire-breathing Protestants like myself into repentance.

Edward Hara

October 25, 2010 at 03:18 PM

Clint - I went back over my posts just to be sure that I didn't do such a thing as call anyone names like "Protestant Ignoramus" or other such fun pejoratives. This is something we get all the time from the more strident of Fundamentalist/Evangelicals who are convinced that we belong to the "Whore of Rome" and that we are "Papist Dupes" etc. Not a lot of fun, but it keeps you on your toes. I feel that an uncharitable response from me would have been more along the lines of name calling, etc., rather than putting forth the challenges that I put forth, such as asking for proof that Evangelicalism existed prior to the middle of the 1800's or proof that Protestant distinctive doctrines existed in the first century. It is when I do such that usually the detractors are heading for the high weeds shouting insults over their right shoulder.

I happen to like irenic exchange, however, being all too human, I also tend to react to venom with venom. Sometimes not. Most times, yes. I guess I get tired in my soul of trying to explain from scripture the Catholic Faith and then being rewarded in such a manner with such sobriquets.

Clint

October 22, 2010 at 07:00 PM

Chris,

I'm not sure I'm answering any of the questions you posed. To be honest, I just skimmed through your article, read a few debates, and decided to comment.

I'm not sure that the institution of the RCC can be affirmed or recognized as Christian. But, there are many people who are genuine brothers and sisters within the RCC (Rom 2:24). We should count them as brethren, love them tangibly and so fulfill the law of Christ.

One thing that I believe is that Protestants should be ashamed of is the thousands of splinter groups that fight amongst each other (guilty). Sure, I believe that the institutions of the Mormon and Catholic church are apostate, but their unity over falsehood is deeply contrasted with our disunity over "truth." Their is some validity to their contempt for our disunity. We could attribute it to the sovereignty of God (which I do), but there are sins that we are responsible for and a deeper desire for unity that should be present (which is why I appreciate the GCC). As Isaiah lamented that he was a man of unclean lips in the midst of a people with unclean lips, I think I, along with all other Protestants should confess to God that we are divisive individuals in the midst of a divisive group.

To all who would respond negatively to this: you are probably far more intelligent, so please go easy on me.

Mario

October 20, 2010 at 12:11 AM

@Ian, October 18, 2010 at 6:46 PM

I hope this might help, Ian. Here I will quote John Piper:

"Some people think that zeal for God is all that is needed. But the Bible is shockingly clear that we can have a zeal for God and not be saved. In Romans 10:1 Paul says, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for [my Jewish kinsmen] is that they may be saved." Why aren't they saved? The next verse answers: because "they have a zeal for God..." Pause. Let that sink in. "I am praying for them to be saved, because they have a zeal for God..."

This is astonishing. You can have a zeal for God and not be saved. The reason this is so astonishing is that the New Testament also says that you cannot be saved without a zeal for God - at least not without the seeds of it. Jesus said to the church in Laodicea, "Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Rev 3:16). And Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:22, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed."

So we must have a zeal for God, yet if we have it we may not be saved. Why? Paul tells us plainly: "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, -but not according to knowledge-" (Rom. 10:1-2). There's the problem. There is a zeal for God that accords with knowledge, and there is a zeal for God that is not in accord with knowledge. The one is essential; the other is suicidal. The reason Paul's kinsmen are not saved is that they have a zeal for God that is not in accord with knowledge.

This means that there is a knowledge that turns perishing zeal into saving zeal. What is that knowledge? Romans 10:3 tells us what they didn't know: "They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, -being ignorant of the righteousness of God-, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness" (Rom. 10:2-3).

Here is the root of their suicidal zeal for God. In all their thinking about God and his righteousness, they missed the main point - that is a free gift for faith. When they seek to -establish their own- righteousness, they are not -submitting- to the righteousness of God. In fact, their effort to establish their own righteousness is rebellion and insubordination against the righteousness of God. This is why they are not saved.

...

What kind of ignorance was this? It was the same kind of ignorance that we saw in 1 Corinthians 8:2: "If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does yet know as he ought to know." They knew so much. They knew the law better than we do. But they did not know as they ought to know. Why not? The root was the same for the Corinthians and for Paul's kinsmen - pride. The knowledge they had was puffing them up. It was not humbling them and making them look away from themselves.

So both groups had knowledge. Both groups used their minds to increase knowledge. And both groups were puffed up. What they needed was not less knowledge. The solution to their problem was not to stop thinking. The solution was the heartfelt discovery of God's grace in Jesus Christ. The Corinthians needed to see that everything they knew was a free gift of electing grace and was designed by God to feed the fires of humble love for God and man. Similarly Paul's kinsmen needed to see that righteousness of God that they lacked was a free gift of that same grace. It comes only through union with Christ by faith. And when it comes, it brings in its train the power to love (Rom. 13:8; Gal. 5:6)

Mary Elizebeth Tyler

October 20, 2010 at 10:46 PM

@ Dave:

Thank you for this excellent bit of information. The problem I see is because the Pope(s) speaks ex cathedra they cannot denounce their original position on JBFA without doing great damage to the Pope's infallible status.

Joshua

October 20, 2010 at 08:10 AM

Christ shed his blood on the cross. God himself hung on that tree and died. Hope in that alone has the power to save you. Adding anything whatsoever to that so as to participate in salvation is the greatest abomination to Almighty God imaginable. It proves that you see no majesty whatsoever in the all eternity altering act of God bearing his arm of salvation to be our Redeemer.

I don't care what you are, if you think your damnable good works will somehow secure, participate in, or play a role in securing or participating in your salvation, you fail to believe the gospel in every respect.

You were born a son of the devil and were only capable of damnable good works from the moment you fell out of your mother. The only thing that can save your wretched soul is the all powerful incomprehensible grace of God himself through Jesus Christ. God shed his very own blood for you to wash away the filth that is your life. That was the act of salvation. It is done. It is a free gift. Humbly accepting that converts you, and as the love of God in Christ floods into your heart like a freight train it converts you and you are a new creation.

As you meditate on the love of God by revisiting this eternity altering act done by God at Calvary, God's love is shed abroad in your heart afresh continually and it radically changes your behavior and alters everything that you are--and you continue to grow in love for him until you see him face-to-face in glory.

This love for God and change in behavior all hinges upon the single act of love that God completed. Justification and sanctification are inseparable but totally distinct benefits of believing the gospel.

Allan Schwarb

October 20, 2010 at 05:51 AM

Quotation with citations:

Eminent Protestant professor, Dr. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary, Historical Theology and Church History), advises in Reformation21.org (Nov 2005):

"Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day."

Dr. Trueman’s bottom line:

Unless you awaken every day knowing why you’re Protestant, you should "do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church."

http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/is-the-reformation-over.php

Dave

October 20, 2010 at 03:51 PM

Thank you Chris for an opportunity to respond to your questions.

If we want to understand where the RCC is today, as opposed to where it was five hundred years ago (and why we *still* should not partner with it), then I'd *highly* recommend having a listen to an excellent and very scholarly talk entitled, 'Has Roman Catholicism Changed', given by Dr Nick Needham, a British reformed baptist pastor who also teaches church history at Highland Theological College in Scotland. (I see from the 'Resources' page at this website that the Gospel Coalition offers some of his sermons and lectures).


The talk is available on his own church's website in real media format:

http://www.wicketgate.org/rct/rct.html


Or you can download an mp3 version of the same talk from the Gospel Coalition's website:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/resources/a/has_roman_catholicism_changed


In his talk, Nick Needham begins by outlining the developments leading up to Vatican II.

In brief, Needham identifies the theology of the RCC in the 19th Century as Neo-Scholasticism, or Neo-Thomism, which essentially still upheld the doctrines set out by the Council of Trent.

He goes on to explain, with many references to Roman Catholic theologians and writers of the past 100 years or so, how the present day RCC, post-Vatican II, is comprised broadly of three groups:

At one extreme are the traditionalist Catholics (e.g. Society of Saint Pius X, and those who follow Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre) who still hold to the doctrines of Trent, and who reject Vatican II as heretical. Needham also includes the ex-Presbyterian Scott Hahn in this category (I noticed that Scott Hahn was mentioned by 'Eve' earlier in this thread).

Then there are the radical liberals at the other end of the spectrum, such as Hans Kung.

The middle ground, which represents current Roman Catholic orthodoxy, is held by the conservative liberals. Needham argues that the official position of the RCC since Vatican II has been of the conservative liberal variety, and that the current Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, is a conservative liberal. It is the conservative liberal view which is represented in the official Catechism of the RCC.

Neo-Scholasticism, or Neo-Thomism, is the caricature of Roman Catholicism which most of us of a reformed persuasion recognise and take issue with, but unfortunately we are making a *big* mistake here. The RCC of today does *not* still hold to the Council of Trent, and if we respond to Roman Catholicism as though the RCC of today was the RCC which Luther and Calvin confronted then we are fighting like a man 'beating the air'.

Sure, there are conservative Catholics who still hold to the Council of Trent, and these are the Roman Catholics who are likely to engage with us when we attempt to fight the same battles the 16th Century reformers fought. But those conservative Roman Catholics do *not* represent the mainstream or official stance of the RCC.

The official position of the RCC post-Vatican II on salvation, is, Needham argues, inclusivist. That is, that Jesus Christ is still the only saviour, but that people can be saved by him without explicit Christian faith in him. It will be sufficient for them to be sincere in following whichever religion they have.

From the official Catechism of the RCC:

(see http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p123a9p3.htm )

Para 841:
"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Para 842
"The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God."


Para 847
"...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."


Rome today teaches that people of any faith can be saved if they are sincere in following the religion or light they have. This is NOT the Gospel! It is also not the view of the RCC of the 1500s, which would probably have regarded the modern day RCC as heretical.

Yes, we *do* still need to assert the wonderful biblical truth of justification by grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone. But not to counter the modern day RCC, because their official position is no longer concerned that we hold the views we do on justification. They don't care about this difference any more! In their view, as long as we are sincere in following the light we have, then we will be saved too, along with all the sincere Muslims, sincere Hindus, sincere Buddhists, sincere Atheists, etc.

The point of asserting the biblical doctrine of justification these days isn't so much in order to respond to the RCC, but rather to counter people from the 'New Perspective on Paul' camp such as Tom Wright who want to redefine justification on the basis of 'the whole life lived'.

Yes, we should be kind and loving to Roman Catholics, and tell them the Gospel. But we cannot and must not partner with people outside the faith as though they were brothers and sisters in Christ when their version of the 'gospel' is a false gospel. The RCC still teaches a false gospel, albeit a different false gospel from that confronted by Calvin.

To be frank, Chris, I am rather disturbed by your questions, which seem to admit a possibility that there might be some common ground on which we might partner with the RCC.

BTW, I am not Nick Needham writing under a pseudonym :-)

Adam

October 19, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Hey Eve,

Thanks for the info about the RCC's position on accepting other baptisms, I didn't know that and that is helpful. There are many things that I am sure I have to learn about RCC's positions.
I still do have some issues about justification being applied via baptism (contradiction with/no evidence from Romans 4 and James 2). And about justification being a long term process.(ex. Rom. 5:1 having been justified we have peace with God.) "Justified" is an aorist passive verb indicating it is a completed action.

Nonetheless, this is not the best forum for discussing things anyways as one could send volley after volley of discussions and never get anywhere. And we have to take care of our families anyways and not spend too much time on the internet.

Thanks for posting, as it was informing on my part. I'm sorry but I don't have FB and it sounds like you are very busy. Thanks for the offer. As for another coicidence, my wife is the oldest of 8 whose parents are former Catholics. :) Hope you have a good day as I know that you are busy with your family.

blessings to you,
Adam

Eve

October 19, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Adam, yes, actually my name is Eve....pretty coincidental. :o)

You're right, the only way we can be justified is because of Christ's work on the cross. And, no, baptism is any Trinitarian baptism. I was baptized at age 9 in the church I attended when I was young. It was by immersion and what would have been termed "Believer's Baptism." I was not re-baptized when I became Catholic. The Catholic Church recognizes as brothers and sisters, all those who have been baptized "In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

As to how justification is obtained...I guess you could start with Scripture on that one. James Ch. 2. Specifically the last section (ex. vs. 24 "See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.") As an Evangelical I was taught the justification was a one-time declaration. Catholic teaching is that it is a continuing process of sanctification over the believer's life-time.

I love Paul's Letter to the Romans. And Ch. 1-5 have much to say about works and faith. Here Paul is pointing out that our own works can never save us. Only the finished work of Christ on the cross. This does not contradict what James is teaching in Ch. 2 (because we know that Scripture cannot contradict it self). When James is referring to "works", it is the works, the deeds we do because we do believe and have faith and strive everyday to be like Christ. Faith begins our journey; the good things we do along the way are expected of all believers.

I would recommend reading the following books: Scott Hahn's "Rome Sweet Home" "The Lamb's Supper" and "Reasons to Believe" although any book of his would be enlightening. David Currie's "Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic." The writings of the Early Church Fathers and, of course, the Catechism.

Well, Adam, this will most likely be the last time I'll post. I really just wanted to share a bit of truth about what Catholics really do believe. I'm a mom of 8, 5 still at home, and things keep pretty busy. It's not my goal to get into arguments, but rather share what we have in common and build on that. But I'll check back now and then. :o) God Bless! ***I always welcome new friends on FB. I can private message you my FB name if you like.

Adam

October 19, 2010 at 12:02 PM

By the way, is your name really Eve? Mine actually is Adam.

Adam

October 19, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Paragraph "2020 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism."

(of course a RCC baptism through the RCC priesthood)

Is that Romans 1-5?

Adam

October 19, 2010 at 11:55 AM

How do you obtain that justification?

Eve

October 19, 2010 at 11:52 AM

I think reading the Catechism would be a great idea. Start with paragraph 1996:

"Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life."

I am a convert to Catholicism from Southern Baptist. I educuated myself on what Catholics actually believed vs. what I had always been taught they believed. It was a very humbling experience. Don't let pride get in the way of truth. For more info, you (or anyone else) should check out www.CatholicsComeHome.org. Also reading a little Scott Hahn never hurt! He is a Presbyterian minister who converted several years ago and has written many eye opening books on this topic.

God Bless!

Adam

October 19, 2010 at 09:07 AM

Hey Allan,

Just to answer your comments. I would just respond that one can still humbly respond that, "just because there are a multiplicity of views on a issue doesn't mean that there is a clear and obvious answer". Controversy doesn't mean that the issue is difficult or obscure in Scripture. (we could think of the 'debate' over homosexuality in some denominations)

Of course, there are things that are hard to understand and one should be generous and not too dogmatic on their views (eschatology for example). You are right to remind us of this

But justification is not one of those. I don't know what to say... I just read Romans 1-5 and see it clearly laid out. So it still is a very critical doctrine on which your soul hangs upon, whether or not there are plenty of opinions out there.

I hope that makes sense, let me know if you need me to be more clear, I'm typing with one hand, and holding a two year old in the other, so my comments are brief!

Mary Elizebeth Tyler

October 19, 2010 at 08:55 AM

Allan Schwarb:

Since I do not see any reference given to the second hand claims supposedly made by Dr. Trueman, it would be disingenuous of me to make a comment. I would just tell you that the Apostle Paul has the correct view on Justification.

Justified by faith alone is such a critical doctrine, it asks the very question, "How am I made right before a just and holy God?"

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a DEBTOR TO THE WHOLE LAW. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW; ye are FALLEN FROM GRACE. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith (Gal 5:1-5).”

Notice particularly the words in Galatians 5:4, “Christ is become of NO EFFECT unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are FALLEN FROM GRACE.” FALLEN FROM GRACE. When the Catholic Church adds to the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross, by their good works, they have fallen from grace, and are cursed by God. The RCC’s Council of Trent condemned the Reformed doctrine of Justified by faith alone. They declared it anathema, and in so doing they have brought God’s wrath and condemnation upon the church. This IS the GOSPEL… (by FAITH and nothing added to the sufficiency of Christ), the very article on which a church stands or falls from grace.

Allan Schwarb

October 19, 2010 at 07:21 AM

@ October 18, 2010 at 6:42 PM


Mary Elizebeth Tyler,

Eminent Protestant professor, Dr. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary, Historical Theology and Church History), advises his students each year:

Christianity’s default position is the Roman Catholic Church. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism.

Dr. Trueman’s bottom line:

Unless you awaken every day knowing why you’re Protestant, you should do the right thing and become Roman Catholic.

Of the six Justification views, doesn't his advice help one decide?

Allan Schwarb

Adam

October 18, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Hey Allan,

That is a good question! Thank you for it. To answer your question about how can I consider RCC folk ignorant guides in light of all the wonderful truths that are affirmed (that I affirm as well) in Nicene Creed?

Basically, the nicene creed is excellent. I believe that all that it affirms is correctly derived from Biblical truths. But, it does not address the nature of justification nor how to obtain it by faith in any specific way. I believe that RCC official doctrine misses a correct understanding of how a person can be justified by God. And if you get that wrong then you get the gospel wrong and thus do not get the blessings of the forgiveness of sins.

So, to sum it up... you can affirm all that the nicene creed says. And then live out your life in light of the teachings of the RCC about obtaining salvation and be lost.

The verse I would go to is Romans 3:25, "[Jesus] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith"

So in other words, just as much as God 'set forward' Jesus as a propitiation (aka one who would appease the wrath of God on the cross) he also 'set forward' that propitiation to be received by faith. So, if you miss the true nature of faith (which RCC doctrine does) then you miss the Christ that God sent.

That is why I said that they are 'ignorant guides'. I wasn't trying to be overinflamatory in calling them 'ignorant', I just wanted to communicate that they don't know the way, thats all.

I hope that answers your question (a good one by the way).
Let me know if it doesn't.

Chris

October 18, 2010 at 10:46 AM

What about Mary’s role as co-redemptrix and mediatrix of all graces?

What about the Seven Sacraments?

What about purgatory?

What about the celibacy of the priesthood?

What about the Mass as true sacrifice?

What about the Donation of Constantine?

What about the fact that the only "true" members of the church are the priesthood?

What about the distinction between "saints" and laymen?

These are just a few of the sticky-widgets.

By the way, it is regrettable that you never heard about the covenant. It has been the central theme of my church experience, within the PCA.

Signed,
ex-Roman Catholic.

Mario

October 18, 2010 at 08:22 AM

I *really* do believe that the content and the attitude to be fostered in this discussion may well be advised by what was written in Chris's book, which might be quite paramount in continuing the discussion in this under-fire blog post.

But, here's a link to a website outside this TGC blog, just in case, where Ligon Duncan quotes several text from the early church fathers. http://t4g.org/2010/04/did-the-fathers-know-the-gospel-session-vii-2/.

So, here's an excerpt [of Ligon Duncan's part of the conference in T4G2010, "Do the fathers know the gospel?"]:

We tend to find two views of the early church fathers...

(1) one reading of the church fathers may lead us to conclude that the Reformers are wrong in formulating the gospel. The argument is that the church fathers were the closest Christians to Jesus in the New Testament. Therefore, their understanding of Christianity and New Testament must be determinative, and even authoritative, in our understanding of New Testament. And, when we read them, they do not agree with the Protestant view of justification. That is one view you can found among those who study the church fathers.

(2) another view, the opposite view, is this. That the gospel itself was lost from the time of the end of New Testament, to the 16th century. And, that it was re-discovered, for the first time, by the magisterial reformers - Luther, and the following. That the NT theology of grace was lost, as early as in the apostolic fathers, and did not re-appear until the day of magisterial reformation.

But, -neither- of the two views in the readings of the church fathers is accurate, sufficient, or helpful.

How, then, should we read the church fathers, instead?

We should read the church fathers respectfully, but carefully, under the authority of Scripture... our greatest concern in reading the church fathers is not to read what they said about a particular doctrine and, then, decide what they said about a particular doctrine is authoritative, infallible, and true. But, [we should read them] to learn what they say about a particular doctrine, in order to know -how they read the Scriptures-. The Scripture is our -final- authority. And they help [to] test our reading of the Scripture. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. -But-, they help us, whether they are right or wrong, to read the Bible better, and to sit under its authority better! And that's how we need the church fathers.

[But, firstly] You need to to understand that Calvin is an incredible patristic scholar. In 1536, when he was 27-years-old, he went along to disputation among Protestants and Roman Catholics in Lausanne. And, during that disputation, the Protestants were faring badly against their Roman Catholic opponents in the area of church fathers. And the Roman Catholic side was citing the church fathers against the views of the Reformers. The representatives of the Protestants were not coming back with the rebuttals, and here was the young John Calvin. He knows the [church] fathers. He rises to his feet, and begins to cite from memory, almost perfectly verbatim from numerous church fathers in rebuttal to his Roman Catholic opponents...

Here's what Bruce Gordon says about Calvin's reading of the church fathers: Calvin believed that the church fathers are human. They disagreed with one another. And they get it wrong... In his commentary, Augustine and Chrysostom are [occasionally] declared as dead wrong. Nevertheless, for Calvin... the church fathers were so highly regarded that they were constantly quoted and named.

Here, Ligon Duncan quotes a contemporary Roman Catholic scholar in the area of patristic father's interpretation of escathology:

"The fathers' formulation was a complex process of continuity and change over a long period of time. And the thought of any one father shows oscillations."

So, if you're reading Irenaeus... and you're reading him on the millenial issue. He's [frequently] considered as one proponent of millenialism.. But, here's the problem. The first three books in "Against Heresies" - he looks, what we call today, amillenialist. It's only on the final two books that he starts to sound like a millenialist... The change that happened in his views was to counter the gnostic controversies.

So, if you say that the fathers are authoritative, here's the problem:

the fathers contradict one another, and the fathers sometime contradict themselves.

Here, Ligon expounds on the authority of the Scripture, that stands by itself:

Did the church created the Bible? [Did the arguments goes like] the church created the Bible, therefore the church is authoritative in how the Bible is to be understood?]

But, consider the Scripture, that the Word of God is one that creates the people of God, not the contrary.

Is it "boy, does it seem arbitrary that the church chooses what book is in, what book is out?"

The church does not determine that. -But-, the church recognize what is the true Word of God. First, the marks of apostleship, and, second, inspiration.

The church asks, "Was this book written in the hands of apostle, appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ? Does he have the marks of apostleship?" and second question is: "Does this book bear the marks of inspiration?" Meaning: "Does the truth in this book comport with the truth in the Hebrew canon?"

So, they [the fathers] did not determine or create the New Testament canon. They recognize the Scripture by the quality of the Scripture itself [squared up by the Hebrew bible, which is their canon at the time]

...

Did the fathers know the gospel? Yes. And no.

Yes. If you mean, "Was the gospel lost in the days of church fathers?" No.

"Did the church fathers articulate the gospel, especially in such cases like imputation [of righteousness], as clearly as it is to be sufficiently sustained for the well being of the church?" [The answer is] No.

"Are the fathers authoritative in how we are to read Paul and Jesus?" No.

"Are they helpful?" Yes.

Let me say why. Let me walk you in these passages. Here are what the apostolic fathers say in the key points of the doctrine of salvation.

Just think about atonement. [And] here's Clement of Rome, writing circa 90 AD:

"Because of the love that he had for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, gave His blood for us. By the will of God, he gave us His flesh for our flesh. And His soul for our soul."

Listen to Diognetus, circa 100s:

"The Father himself placed upon Christ the burden of our iniquities. And He gave His own Son as a ransom for us. The Holy One for the transgressor! The blameless One for the wicked! For what other things are capable of covering our sin? Then, His righteousness! O, sweet exchange! O, unsearchable operation! O, benefits, surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One! And that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!"

That's Diognetus in 2nd century.

Consider Irenaeus. [Ligon Duncan noted that this is the man that was probably taught by Papius, who was taught by John. John the Apostle.]

"To do away with the disobedience of man that have taken in the beginning by means of the Tree. He became obedient unto death even the death of the Cross. He, thereby, rectified that disobedience that are incurred by reason of a tree through the obedience that was upon the Tree, that is the Cross! In the first Adam, we had offended God Himself; for Adam did not performed God's commandment. However, in the second Adam, we are reconciled to God, being made obedient even unto death. For we are debtors to no one else but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning. By transgressing God's commandment we became His enemies. Therefore, in the last time, the Lord has restored us in the friendship through His incarnation. He has became the mediator of God and men, propitiating, indeed, for us the Father, against whom we had sin. He [the Lord] has canceled our disobedience, by His own obedience. He has conferred upon us the gift of communion with and subjection to our Maker."

Hear what's Justin Martyr when he was converted. Here's their idea of conversion:

"When I was delighting in the doctrines of Plato, I heard Christians being slandered. And, yet, they were fearless in death. And I heard, they were unafraid of all other things that were considered fearful. And I consider that it is impossible to be living in wickedness and pleasure. For what sensual and intemperate person could welcome death that would deprive them of their enjoyment. Such a person would prefer to continue all of the place in the present lives."

Here's his account of being converted, after a Christian spoke to him about the gospel:

"When this Christian had spoken these and many other things. He went away, exhorting me to attend upon them. I have not seen him since. But, immediately, a flame was kindled in my soul. And I was possessed by a love of the Prophets [Ligon Duncan noted that this he meant the Scriptures], and of those men who are friends of Christ."

Did the fathers speak about "justification by faith"?

Hilary of Poitiers, one of the church fathers before Augustine, highlighted the importance of justification by faith alone. And he did it by going to the gospel. He did it, for instance, in going to the parables of workers in the vineyard. And he used it as an illustration that salvation is completely God's gift. Despite the fact that the worker is hired at the eleventh hour of the day, they received the same wages as they were hired in the morning. "The remuneration for the one that was hired last," Hilary said, "demonstrates that it was not based by merit, but based on grace."

"Rather, God has freely granted His grace to all, through justification by faith."

[Ligon points us to the work of D.H. Williams, that point us to Matthew commentary of Hilary of Poitiers. Here's the abstract:

This essay challenges the criticism usually levelled at the early Fathers prior to Augustine for not articulating a view of justification by faith that corresponded with Pauline Christianity as reflected in the formulas of the sixteenth-century reformers. Not only is such a view anachronistic and tends to assume that there was (or is) a uniform definition of justification, but there is evidence that Latin theology before Augustine promulgated the tenets of unmerited grace and the necessity of righteousness that come only through justifying faith. In particular, the Matthew commentary of Hilary of Poitiers explicitly formulates a biblical theology of ‘fides sola iustificat’, and probably contributed to a revival of interest in the Pauline Epistles by the end of the fourth and early fifth centuries.]

I've quoted enough - and I felt terrible. But, I do hope what was given above, which is taught by a brother, who's really a gift to the church, may be weighed with a heart for sincerity of faith as in accord to the Scripture.

Ian

October 18, 2010 at 06:46 PM

Oh right, I see.

So if you're not Reformed, you're not saved?

Does it not occur to you that the Gospel did not start with John Calvin?

Mary Elizebeth Tyler

October 18, 2010 at 06:42 PM

Ian asked: "So what about those who pray, and then find their home amongst the Methodists? Or Anglicans? Or Catholics?"




Very good question, Ian. One of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truths. Never is it suggested for a moment that the Holy Spirit will lead us away from truth and into a damnable error; this is highly antithetical to His purpose. How could this ever be? Truth is so highly prized by God that Jesus describes Himself as the way the TRUTH and the life. So to find truth is synonymous with finding/knowing Christ.

Many people will also sincerely believe a lie. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it (Jer 17:9)?

God tells us, “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they SHOULD BELIEVE A LIE. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Th 2:10).

It simply boils down to God’s election of an individual, and then His Spirit puts the desire in our hearts to love the truth.

“That ye would walk worthy of God, WHO HATH CALLED YOU unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Th 2:12-13).”

Ian

October 18, 2010 at 05:51 PM

So what about those who pray, and then find their home amongst the Methodists? Or Anglicans? Or Catholics?

Mary Elizebeth Tyler

October 18, 2010 at 05:46 PM

Allen asked the question: "Since there are at least six Justifications, the “doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls.” (Martin Luther), how does one find the right Justification from his Bible?"

I think there is a very simple answer to that question, maybe too simple for some. You ask the Lord to lead you to the truth. If you are sincere and truly seeking His truth, and He knows who is, He will lead to you the beautiful truth about justification.

The Lord will not withhold knowledge from us, He is eager to make Himself known to His people. I asked years ago for the Lord to lead me to His truth, because I, too, had similar question that you raise, and it was not more than a few months later that I discovered the reformed faith.

Martin Luther got it right! N.T. Wright has it wrong!

Allan Schwarb

October 18, 2010 at 04:48 PM

Adam,

Thank you for your thoughts.

An over-arching Reformation doctrine is “Perspicuity of the Scripture.” If the Bible is crystal-clear on anything shouldn't it be on Justification –- a most critical doctrine?

However, with so many Justification traditions to choose from (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist or New Perspective on Paul), which Justification must one follow to be saved?:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justification_%28theology%29#Comparison_of_traditions

Since there are at least six Justifications, the “doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls.” (Martin Luther), how does one find the right Justification from his Bible?

Allan Schwarb

Allan Schwarb

October 17, 2010 at 11:42 PM

@October 15, 2010 at 8:37 AM:

Adam,

The following is related to your point that "more central issues are so distorted that one cannot find the true gospel and thus not find the true Christ [in Catholicism]":

Why do you find Catholicism an "ignorant guide" when it formulated the Nicene Creed which has been the "true gospel" in a nutshell for over 1,600 years?

Since the 4th Century, how could one be considered a Christian and disagree with it?

Allan Schwarb

Chris Waldburger

October 17, 2010 at 08:17 AM

Interesting post and comments; here are a few of my thoughts:

If 'faith alone' is the key principle of the Bible why does the Bible seemingly allow so many the option of missing that key principle? For example, the parable of the sheep and the goats?

And if 'faith alone' is the key principle why does it not appear in any of the early creeds?

The key principle of the New Testament is surely that Jesus reigns as the Resurrected Messiah-King of the Universe and that by his life, death and resurrection humanity is offered salvation. (That is why, enigmatically, the apostles never evangelise with the 'faith-alone' style that most modern evangelicals use.)


I really don't think you can just reject all Catholics as un-saved and the world's greatest mission field when they officially hold to the doctrine that Jesus, the Son of God, is the Saviour of the world. Sure, many Catholics are bad people who will go to hell in all likelihood but that is true of all groupings (remember the parables of the wheat and the weeds). It is particularly easy for non-denominational types to lambast Catholics and other denominations because they needn't be associated with anybody's sins.

I like Francis' post.

Christianity is clearly not just about having the right doctrine. We are not Gnostics. We believe our souls need to be regenerated, brought back to life in a state of grace.

And while we may differ on how that life comes about and how it is maintained, the fact that both Catholics and Protestants believe in the necessity of that life of Christ is surely of paramount importance and should surely give us some kind of means to partner together for the kingdom of God without embarrassing the gospel with horrible squabbles that defy the heart of Jesus.

Francis Beckwith

October 16, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Constantine, here's an assignment for you.

Is it possible that it is true that Jesus is the only way to heaven, that there is no salvation outside the Church, and that some atheists and Protestants will be in heaven?

If there is a way to answer "yes" to this question, then the query is not incoherent. It could, for other reasons, be wrong, but not on the grounds that it lacks conceptual clarity.

One of the rules I have for myself, though I sometimes out of weakness violate it, is this: always interpret another's theology in a way that makes sense. Too often when it comes to popular apologetics, there is a "gotcha" attitude whose triumphalism far exceeds the data offered. But when you're in the Amen corner with your buds, you can't see it. What happens is that apologetics becomes a form of spiritual narcissism, making oneself feel better about one's tradition, but really not accomplishing what it is set out to accomplish: convince the other.

This posture tends to blind one to the problems in one's own tradition. Take, for example, the problem of connecting justification with individual assent to a set of theological beliefs, which I suspect you believe or you wouldn't ridicule that idea that atheists may be in heaven. Suppose we accept your understanding, what do we do about Grandma Jones, a devout Baptist, who couldn't give an account of the Trinity or the Incarnation if her life depended on it? Does she not make it? If she does, why not Uncle Joe, a Mormon, who has been taught mistaken views of the Trinity and Incarnation and has been given no compelling reason to change his mind? Why does Grandma Jones get in but not Uncle Joe, when both in fact hold flawed theological views? Suppose we meet Anglican Andy, a high churcher who believes that the sacraments are means of grace and thus serve purpose in the transformation of the Christian over one's life? Is Anglican Andy a "denier of the Gospel" and thus will spend eternity in hell? Or contrast him with Calvary Chapel Chuckie who ridicules Anglican Andy but continues to return to the altar call every couple of months after smoking weed and sleeping with his neighbor's wife. (That's what I call "Protestant confession.") CCC believes in "forensic justification," while Anglican Andy doesn't. So, CCC gets in and AA doesn't?

The Catholic Church has thought long and hard about these sorts of issues. They are difficult and perplexing issues that simply cannot be adequately addressed by trotting out a Bible verse or employing provocative nouns and adjectives.

Fr. Bill Mouser

October 16, 2010 at 09:29 AM

If anyone is still reading this thread, I'd be interested to know if he concurs that "the gospel" that saves us is the one that Paul takes great pains to stipulate in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. In those brief verses Paul stipulates that:

1. He is reminding them of the gospel which he preached, the gospel which they believed, and the gospel by which they (and, by extension, any Christian, right?) is saved (vv. 1-2).

2. He insists it is the gospel which he himself received is comprehended in the following ... what? points? affirmations? Whatever, they are four in number:

A. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (v. 3);

B. That Christ was buried (v. 4);

C. That Christ rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures (v. 4); and, finally,

D. That he was seen by a number of people whom Paul lists in what appears to be chronological order of their seeing the risen Lord (vv. 5ff.).

Do Protestants preach this? Do Romans preach this?

I expect each side of this argument will insist that the other adds to this gospel, and in so doing negates any salvific power of the gospel which has been added to. At least, that's how I've often heard the argument proceed.

And if that argument works at all, it works just as potently for either side against the other, for it's easy to find Protestants and Romans urging a number of additional affirmations/actions that are ~required~ if one is to be saved.

Edward Hara

October 16, 2010 at 07:42 AM

The problem with apologetics w/ Protestants is that they are not willing to listen. I just experienced this with Phillip Mayberry as we discussed offline. He simply will not admit that the Greek word "logizomai" does not support the idea of "giving Jesus' righteousness to another". I even showed him that from a PROTESTANT Bible Dictionary. His response was to continue to deny, but now also to impugn the veracity of Strong's Dictionary. How does one therefore reason with the unreasonable?

It is furthermore an exercise in incredulity to hear Protestants speak of "the gospel" when there is no evidence whatsoever that any of the FOND PROTESTANT DOCTRINAL INVENTIONS that separated them from the Church had any existence prior to 1517. If you are going to stake your soul on a teaching, you better be sure that this teaching exists rather than being just a particular screwball interpretation of the scriptures. This is what the JW's and Mormons have done. I note that once I challenge them to produce some proofs of the historical existence of their doctrines, rather than listening to their wierd interpretations of scriptures, they hit the doors and don't come back, looking for more ignorant suckers.

Now if Chris and all other Protestants in the world want to live and die pretending that the first Christians were Evangelicals, you can do that. You have no proof of that, but hey, God gives you a free will to reject Truth. The fact that some Catholic you may have met cannot articulate the Gospel in a more precise way (Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again) or (Christ died to pay for my sins) does not make the Church wrong. It shows the continuing need we have to catechize Catholics and make them strong defenders of the Faith.

1. Anyone can make the Bible say anything. The THOUSANDS of Bible based "Christian" religions who all teach something different is eloquent proof of this. And they all claim the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Some will go as far as to state that if you don't follow THEIR interpretation, you are doomed.

2. When did this fracturing start? First century? No. Third? No. Sixth century? Again, no. Oh, there were a few heretics around, but there was no idea of the Church being anything other than that single body which was ruled over by the bishops. The fracturing started in earnest AFTER THE REFORMATION. Jesus said that He died to bring forth ONE CHURCH -- ONE BRIDE -- not thousands and thousands. Why doesn't this cause you folks to stop and say "Something is bad wrong here."

3. Eloquence is not the same as Truth. Finding Truth takes hard work, especially since the Scriptures are God breathed and we are dimmed by sin. Therefore, as I study, I look for clues to the Truth, I want to know what the very first Christians believed. Imagine my horror when I found out (something my PCA church kept from me) that the Early Fathers were distinctly Catholic in their theology.

4. There are 1000 egregious lies and esoteric ideas about the Catholic Faith. Many of these started during the heat of the Reformation and have developed a life of their own. Some men, like Jack Chick, have made a comfortable living off these lies. Others, like Alexander Hislop, author of a wretched book of lies called MYSTERY BABYLON, were found out and publically disgraced (By his author, Ralph Woodrow, no less). But the lies keep going.

5. There is a single key that can help anyone understand the Catholic Faith. In my 25 years in various Evangelical brands of churches, I never heard this key mentioned one, EVEN THOUGH THE WORD APPEARS IN THE BIBLE OVER 280 TIMES!!!!

The key is The Covenant of God. Once you understand the covenant properly (the Calvinists have it completely wrong), every doctrine of the Church falls into line.

But there will never be any point of agreement between Truth and heresy. The only thing I hope for is an end to this illegitimate split from the Church and the restoration of one Church on earth as it was in the beginning.

Constantine

October 16, 2010 at 02:23 AM

Hi Chris,

What a wonderfully important topic and thank you for your thoughtful leadership therein.

While many others before me have pointed out – and rightfully so, I think – the distinct doctrinal divide which precludes any joint effort between Christians and Catholics I would like to add that the Roman Church has effectively removed herself from any meaningful evangelization catechetically and historically.

As Avery Cardinal Dulles wrote shortly before his death and according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) even atheists can be saved! (See, “Who Can Be Saved?”, February 2008, First Things.) The remark caused no little heartburn in the blogosphere as Catholics scrambled to obfuscate that obvious contradiction to the manifestly clear teachings of Jesus. So as long as the CCC contains such blatant heresy, and it is promoted by the vaunted “Magisterium”, how is it possible to think of using it in evangelization as your article points asks? Or how is it possible to think of joining with a group whose official teaching is so badly skewed?

The add-on thought to that one is the more damning for Rome. And that is, that a successful evangelistic effort would result in more risk to a human soul than would a failure. If you were successful in converting one and he then subsequently left the Catholic Church, his soul would be endangered, for there is “no salvation outside the Catholic Church”. (This dates back to the 14th century and Pope Boniface VIII's bull, Unam Sanctum, which has never been repealed or reformed. And it is part of Catholic theology that one can lose their salvation by leaving the church or otherwise.) Therefore the inclusivistic universalism of Rome has effectively neutered evangelism, or worse, made it a spiritually dangerous enterprise. If its true that atheists can get into heaven without conversion, what's the point of evangelization at all? And how exactly would a Christian make the case for salvation which requires belief in Jesus
alongside a Catholic whose church clearly teaches otherwise? It's an oil and water situation.

Historically, the effect of Catholic evangelization has had on its parent cultures has been less than commendable. And I realize that this may be incendiary and I certainly don't mean it to be. But even the most casual look at the history of Western civilization sees the direct correlation between the rise of Romanism and the decline of a culture. Think of Italy in the Renaissance and what it is now; of Spain in the Imperial era and what it now is; and France as late as the early 19th century. France was, to use Irenaeus' words, the “elder sister of Christianity”. And here, two short centuries after Rome was given control of the Gallican church by Napoleon, France is a secular country! (Need we even mention Mexico, a country that is 100% Roman Catholic? The Philippines? The Papal States themselves?) And what of the situation we are now in with a Catholic population that has doubled since 1960? The case seems so strong that to dwell on it any further would be to appear to be “piling on”. But the point is, given that track record, why, exactly, would we want to “team up” with a team like this?

To come back 'round to your questions, those are the lessons we have learned and they teach us to refrain from joint evangelizing on practical, theological and doctrinal grounds.

I am grateful to those before me who made the doctrinal case and I hope my supplement is true and if not, corrected. But Dr. John MacArthur perhaps sums it up best when he says that the greatest mission field in the world today is the Roman Catholic Church. We should be evangelizing them and THEN partnering with them to an altogether broken world. For, as Jesus reminds us, any house divided against itself will fall.

Peace.

jann

October 16, 2010 at 01:21 AM

I don't know what kind the explanation about the involvement and connecting evangelical and RCC ? when keep the papalism (as church emperor without 'power') in my country (Indonesia) the RCC face trying to be warm, humanitarian, scholarly with philosophical, but still with aware as minority and also not like pre-reformation with dominance in all of spheres.
I really confuse with some RCC (in Indonesia) persons said about 'universalism' but still hold they belief like "an only one truly" in RCC (not layman). the form is 'universalism', where you should to be convert as free-thinker (with full of its consistencies) not as church attend, especially full with symbol and misticysm. A proud with existensialism philosophical understanding, I think it was fatalistic understanding, cause this distinction and uniquely the origin and genuine Christianity with prophets, apostles and biblical canon with evangelical spirit, not church emperor.
RCC was the dark background when we try dialog, with pursuit to share the gospel to moslem. as historically refer to Holy crusades (in Indo known as"perang salib", “the cross war”)when the christian western emperor tried to seize and take control of Jerusalem from moslem khilafah dynasty succesor during 9-10 century. the reason with religion motivation with weapon conquer. the dimension of moslem religion political, still looking the hegemony of church emperor. something that makes wounds of history and the problem was, they (moslem) hard to look the reformation as correction in 'ruling emperor' in church on the 14th century. They think all of similar RCC and evangelical (not-charismatic, cause there are catholic charismatic !)
I knew some RCC scholar, interesting with Sufi and Tauhid moslem approach in indonesia. I don't know this pure spiritual contemplative approach, many RCC convert to moslem story repent from Idolatry in church, wow really ? or something like political approach to make expand the influence of covert the papalism emperor had been change as humanism emperor.

The RCC expand with social humanitarian like spread the school institution as priority, with middle (reachable) cost till high cost and also join built the church in Indonesia. RCC still get the member with the recently face. Although I also criticized the evangelical missionaries from the US (America)who enjoy its ‘establishment’ (with American style ) in Indonesia, I am still not convinced with the philosophical motivations of humanity which is since the RCC has no power in the conscious of the dark age. so the evangelization efforts remain in the 'status quo' (I refer former Jesuit Richard Bennet was right about these, look on www.bereanbeacon.org).

Jann
Evangelical community ‘catholic’ (not Roman Catholic)
Cibinong, Indonesia

Neil Parille

October 16, 2010 at 01:08 PM

Constantine,

Protestant countries have secularized faster than Catholic ones. The Scandanavian countries and the Netherlands are quite liberal.

Of course most Catholics are probably quite nominal in their faith as even those catholic apologists who talk about "a billion catholics" would probably admit.

One issue is that the CC has very open view of church membership. If you say you are a catholic, you are a catholic. There is a sense in which, according to catholic theology, John Spong and Rowan Williams are in some sense joined to the catholic church.

Edward Hara

October 16, 2010 at 01:01 PM

Brother Beckwith --

Thank you for that succinct response to a very knotty problem. What Protestants don't realize is that they have come to associate the word "faith" and the corresponding salvation that goes with that "faith" as intellectual assent to a certain formulation of ideas. Thus, the holding of "orthodoxy" in thought is of primary concern regarding salvation. I have seen more than one Internet forum conversation between various factions of Evangelicals break down into a "you're going to hell because you don't believe ______".

In the same mode, this is why the center of the Evangelical service is the preaching. If salvation centers around right belief, then the feeding, nurturing, and encouraging of right thought is primary. Everything is just "extras", including the Lord's Supper.

Salvation in the Catholic Faith, properly understood, is UNITIVE. We are JOINED TO CHRIST in baptism (Rom. 6:3) which enters us into a covenant relationship which the scriptures describe as analogous to the intimacy of a bride and groom. The Eucharist is the primary means by which that intimate union is continued, as well as the Sacrifice by means of which affronts against the union are pardoned and the union restored. All of this is covenant theology. Thus, the Eucharist, and not preaching, is the center of the Catholic Liturgy.

Much of the problem that exists is with Protestant understandings of Catholic theological terms. When I converted to the Church in 2001, I found the depth of writings in the Church much greater than what I had experienced in the Evangelical flocks in which I had been. Perhaps that was my own fault, or it may have been that the owners of Christian bookstores know that there is a limited market of potential readers who are interested in how many definitions of "pistis" exist. Most of us lay folks are simply do not think on that deep a level.

Timotheus

October 15, 2010 at 12:41 PM

"Common ground on which we [Evangelicals and Catholics] can partner"? With all due respect, we can't even agree with them on what grace is, and given the fact that Sola Fide (saved through "Faith Alone", what we believe) is to them officially condemned as heresy (along with the other 4 Solas which are the main things that separate us from them), then we may believe in the same Jesus, but we don't believe the same Gospel of how to be saved by and through Him.

If, therefore, our very core beliefs upon which our entire religions are founded are different, what in common do we really ultimately have with them? As a result, ecumenism with them is absolutely no different than with Mormons or Muslims. Amos 3:3; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

Chris Zodrow

October 15, 2010 at 11:43 AM

Chris,
Not to be flippant, but I don't need to read what you have written on the RCC. I was baptized and raised in the RCC- I had my first confession at 8. We had a family priest. Two of my uncles went to RCC seminary. We didn't eat red meat on Fridays even after Vatican II. I used to pray to Mary. I have read the Catechism. My grandparents both died believing that they would spend some time in purgatory before Peter granted them entrance. I have read the Summas.

The problem is that the differences are not just theological. They are social, economic, philosophical, ethical, political and juridical. When the Reformation happened it was not simply the differences between justification that occurred, but a total shift in ground motives. It was a rejection in toto of a complete system.

I am not a reactionary evangelical. I read de Lubac and Küng. I believe that there are people within the Roman church who are Christians. But the notion that the church itself— in her official positions— is teaching anything close to the true Jesus Christ is either naive or a kind of deception.

Sincerely,
Chris

[...] Chris Castaldo, an Evangelical Protestant pastor, has posted an entry on the Gospel Coalition blog (“Pope Unveils Agency for New Evangelization”) in which he invites input from his readers. If you want to read the post and the comments, go [...]

Chris Castaldo

October 15, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Thanks Chris,
Our common point of interest (with Catholics) is the enterprise of confronting the growing antipathy in our world for anything done in the name of Jesus. If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Catholicism (which I don’t expect you have) you’ll know that the last thing I’m calling for is carelessness toward our theological differences. The Protestant Reformation happened for a reason and its implications are still relevant today. My aim, as stated above, is to gain insight into how people like you and me think about the issue. Thanks again Chris.

Chris

October 15, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Chris,
You said: "Responses to these questions are instructive on numerous levels, including the attitude with which we marshal our rationale".

Are you just taking the temperature of folks or were your initial questions sincere?

You asked: "What are some lessons that we can learn from Catholics in this regard, and perhaps even common ground on which we can partner?" After saying that we shared a "common interest".

Was this just a bait?

In the mean time, it appears (wrongly perhaps) that you are suggesting that Protestants no longer protest. We ought to be grieved that the RCC is making such a push.

"We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is
hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward
for those who aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will
also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at
last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we
can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the
way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule,
Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to
accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends.
There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs,
only in our means". — Saruman

Brian Orr

October 15, 2010 at 10:39 AM

I think it is important to make sure that Christianity isn't going to partner up with any religion. We already have many others in the progressive ecumenical arena doing that. The Gospel coalition needs to not even flirt with the idea because the true Gospel is what separates us from the rest of the so called biblical religions.

Chris Castaldo

October 15, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Thanks Adam. Good point, and I certainly appreciate your kindness in saying so. If you or I were in a position of having somehow compromised, it would still be the responsibility of our brethren to correct us in a way that is in keeping with the New Testament, restoring in a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1) and with the love of Christ (1 Cor 13). In this vein, I’ve often thought that in addition to biblically principled conviction, our apologetic against Catholic interlocutors must intentionally showcase Christian virtue—meekness, kindness, and grace—demonstrating that our doctrines find expression in conduct that more vividly embodies the character of Christ, the kind that we read about in the pastoral epistles, for instance, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5). Thanks again Adam.

Mervin Bunter

October 15, 2010 at 10:16 PM

Please don't think I'm ignoring you. I posted a comment that must've been WAY too long, 'cause it's "awaiting moderation". :-)

Mervin Bunter

October 15, 2010 at 10:02 PM

Ah. Yes, your point is much clearer now. Thank you for clarifying. But again this simply goes back to the different definitions that Catholics and Protestants use. Perhaps I can explain it best by analogy:

Let's take the instance of the man that Peter healed on the day of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts. Who actually healed the man: Peter or Christ? Obviously the man was healed by Christ through Peter. Put another way, through whom does salvation come? Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that salvation comes from the Jews. But surely He knows that He alone is the Way, Truth, and Life. Why would he say that salvation is from the Jews? Obviously the answer is that both are true: Christ came to the world THROUGH the Jews.

That is the sense in which Catholics see salvation today. Christ started the Church with his disciples. This Church taught in His name and eventually collected the inspired books together into the Bible. Christ's salvation thus comes through the working of His body: the Church. As it says in Romans, "How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" In this sense, your friend is correct.

He/she is also correct in another sense. You already know that Evangelicals believe that the Church is an invisible collection of all true believers everywhere and in all times. The Catholic way of stating that is that all true believers are a part of the Catholic Church, whether they are in full communion with the visible Catholic Church or not. Catholics thus use the term "separated brethren" when they speak of our Protestant brothers and sisters. In this sense, your friend is correct again. Outside of this Church of all believers, there is no salvation.

The problem that we have today is that Protestants and Catholics don't speak the same language. I was a Reformed believer for 20 years; and I was an elder in the Evangelical Free Church for several of those years, before being received into full communion with the Catholic Church. My biggest hurdle was in trying to translate between the concepts that I knew as a Protestant and the words that my Catholic brothers were using. During this process, I discovered something that shocked me: most Catholics don't have a clue what their Church really teaches. And by extension, lots of Protestants don't know what their Church really teaches (though I think the Protestants do a better job of explaining it, hands down... but I digress).

I know of Evangelicals who no longer attend Church at all, simply because of the "faith alone" doctrine. They figure that since they gave their life to Christ two decades ago, they're set for life. These people don't really understand the Reformed theology that they claim to believe in.

Likewise, I know people in the Catholic Church who think that they will be saved by saying enough prayers, reading enough Scripture, and attending Mass every week. These people don't understand Catholic doctrine either. Those are the people that I am called to reach: the Catholics who don't know WHY they do all these things. The Protestants are doing a pretty decent job of explaining their doctrine (except for the people who leave the Church thinking that raising their hand to "accept Jesus" at a fifth-grade Bible Camp will get them to heaven). But Catholics... well frankly they suck at teaching their doctrine to the laity. Like the Apostle Paul might have said, "To the Catholic I have become a Catholic, that I might win Catholics."

I didn't come onto this board to try to make you Catholic. I only came here because several people are falling into the same trap that many lay Catholics fall into: the idea that the Catholic Church teaches a works-based salvation. That is a false understanding of Catholic doctrine, and those who perpetuate it are either ignorant of the truth, or willfully distorting it. Judging from the insightful comments of those here, I assume it is the former.

I will leave you again with James Akin's explanation of the Catholic doctrine of "sola fide". If you haven't read it, please at least read the first five paragraphs; they aren't long: http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/SOLAFIDE.htm

If you truly wish to win Catholics for Christ, point them to someone who truly understands Catholic doctrine. Feeding them on hatred and misunderstanding does not serve the cause of Christ.

And to Bill below: yes, I have read much of R.C. Sproul's writings (remember, I was Reformed for two decades). Unfortunately, he understands Catholic doctrine as little as most Protestants (which is to say, not at all).

Please forgive the length of this post. If you wish to discuss Catholic doctrine in more depth, please feel free to e-mail me at MervinBunter@att.net. I won't promise to respond, because I'm normally much busier than I was today.

- 1 Timothy 3:15

brett

October 15, 2010 at 10:02 AM

mr. mayberry mentions men who died for these issue - perhaps indeed, we fight little because our heads are in no danger of being removed. or could it be sheer ignorance (whether honest or fool-hearted) regarding the issues at hand. perhaps it is the case that were the circumstances similar and rome had freedom to silence its opposers, adherents to the Gospel of Jesus Christ might take up arms (the Sword of the Spirit) and even gladly give their heads in defense of such a noble cause as our King holds forth.
below are some words from the preface of william whitaker's book "disputations on Holy Scripture", i trust it will be a profitable perusal for all who possess even a common measure of discernment.

PAGE 15...
In the first place, we have to treat not of the opinions of philosophers, which one may either be ignorant of, or refute with commendation,—not of the forms of the lawyers, in which one may err without damage,—not of the institutions of physicians, of the nature and cure of diseases, wherein only our bodily health is concerned,—not of any slight or trivial matters ; —but here the matter of our dispute is certain controversies of religion, and those of the last importance, in which whosoever errs is deceived to the eternal destruction of his soul. In a word, we have to speak of the sacred scriptures, of the nature of the church, of the sacraments, of righteousness, of Christ, of the fundamentals of the faith; all which are of that nature, that if one be shaken, nothing can remain sound in the whole fabric of religion. If what these men teach be true, we are in a miserable condition ; we are involved in infinite errors of the grossest kind, and cannot possibly be saved. But if, as I am fully persuaded and convinced, it is they who are in error, they cannot deny that they are justly condemned if they still persist in their errors. For if one heresy be sufficient to entail destruction, what hope can be cherished for those who defend so many heresies with such obstinate pertinacity ? Therefore either they must perish, or we. It is impossible that we can both be safe, where our assertions and belief are so contradictory. Since this is so, it behooves us all to bestow great pains and diligence in acquiring a thorough knowledge of these matters, where error is attended with such perils.
PAGE 21...
For it is a certain mystery of iniquity, which in words establishes Christ, but in fact destroys him. This is the very antichristianism of the papists, who leave indeed the natures of Christ intact, but make away with the offices of Christ, and consequently Christ himself. For Jesus cannot be Christ, if he bear not all his offices and merits. Now these offices and benefits are designated by the very names Christ and Jesus. All the heresies of the papists (a very few excepted, which relate to his person,) concern these offices and merits of Christ: on which account it will be no inconvenient distribution of the popish errors and heresies, to set them forth as they are tenets opposed to Christ and Jesus.

Stephen

October 15, 2010 at 09:59 AM

The Gospel Coalition blog needs a like button.

Adam

October 15, 2010 at 09:45 AM

Hey Chris,

I thought that this might sort of be your intentions noting at the end of the article your connections with college church. I assumed that, because of this, you would be "robustly protestant" in this issue and not too squishy in your beliefs.

However, might I suggest that the "data" that you wish to extract from the gospel coalition folk (which I think is a good idea on your part, by the way) might be "bad data". Its the kind of data that you can't trust. You see (at least on my part) I would speak very differently to my Catholic relatives and other protestants who share my opinions on the Catholic faith than I would with a Christian who I think is starting to get borderline on their beliefs on this issue.
You see some people (by my judgement) in the above comments are a little reacting to what they think you think about this. (They are not sure what you believe because you left it open-ended.) Or at least they are reacting to what the truths that the Gospel Coalition stands for. (note Kevin's second comment) You see, at least some of your data is showing you... [what gospel coalition people react to when one of their own is seemingly compromised on an important issue]. Maybe not the data you want.

I would suggest that you say right before your two questions in the article at the end just what you said in your well-worded comment above. Otherwise, you should not be surprised if people react very strongly to something that you do not believe.

Phillip Mayberry

October 15, 2010 at 09:17 AM

I am always amazed at how easily we in the modern church are transfixed by every bauble that is dangled in front of our eyes. Rome preaches a false gospel, and yet we seem to be doing our best to say nice things about them at every turn, and minimize differences that our Protestant forefathers died to uphold. Rome is different today, to be sure, but their doctrines are still to be protested and denied. As long as they deny Justification by faith alone, they are a false church, period.

As the posters above have said: Catholics need the gospel. We cannot pretend otherwise, lest we be found unfaithful servants of Christ. They preach a gospel that is a different gospel, a gospel of darkness- and how much fellowship can light and darkness have again???

Chris Castaldo

October 15, 2010 at 09:15 AM

Thanks Lon. I'm not making a case for partnership. Nor am I suggesting that Catholics and Evangelicals share a common understanding of the gospel. The questions at the end of the post are simply intended to provide insight into what people in our Gospel Coalition Community think about the issue. Responses to these questions are instructive on numerous levels, including the attitude with which we marshal our rationale. This information is helpful to me as a pastor who regularly shepherds people across the Catholic/Protestant divide. Hopefully, it will do the same for others who serve in Catholic communities.

Ian

October 15, 2010 at 09:14 AM

Is this move a little late? Is the Papacy addressing issues from a decade ago? Maybe the RCC is a little behind many of the Protestant traditions where devotees walked out of Church a generation ago. I'm not sure I'd agree the Church needs to reconstruct the 'christian fabric' or rechristianize society. I'd be more inclined to agree with Michael Frost, Stuart Murray and others who see the Church today as an exiled, marginalised minority and have no problem with this.

As with many large denominations, I think these statements are a little behind what is really happening at the grassroots. In some parts of the world, Catholics are leading the way in fighting for justice and mercy and thus spreading Christ. In other parts, there has been a significant evangelical/charismatic influence. A friend of mine was in fact 'born again' in the Catholic Church.

The part about combining Evangelism with 'thoughtful catechesis' is good to see, and also an example I hope to follow. Sometimes I think we make Church too easy, when there might be some benefit in requiring converts to undergo a course of teaching and personal transformation.

In my mind, the main objection I have to this new evangelisation is that it reminds us, once again, that the Church of Rome believes itself to be somehow separate to the rest of the Kingdom of God. That lack of communion between Christ-followers at the institutional level can communicate hostility between traditions, and when Catholics and other Evangelicals are working together it can feel a little awkward.

This sense of superiority and even cultural domination that this new evangelisation seems to have is contradictory to the spirit of humility with which Jesus acted and the apostles spoke. One can never know, however. GK Chesterton, the great Catholic apologist, spoke of the Catholic, christianised society in which he lived as being the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. I'm not quite sure if I agree with him.

Logan

October 15, 2010 at 08:57 AM

Matthew 23:15:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

Kevin

October 15, 2010 at 08:54 AM

This post does make me wonder, where does The Gospel Coalition stand on a document like Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT)?

Kevin

October 15, 2010 at 08:45 AM

We must remember, Catholicism is not another Christian denomination, it is another religion. The central issue being salvation by works verses grace. The Apostle Paul pronounces an anathema upon all who hold to similar doctrines and the Catholic Church pronounces an anathema on all who hold to salvation by faith alone. Just because they use similar terminology does not mean that they hold to the same definitions. With this in mind, we can not partner with Catholics in evangelism in any way. We must, with even greater clarity, set forth the Gospel in Biblical terms so that the unbelieving world will clearly see the difference between faith and works based religions.

Lon

October 15, 2010 at 08:42 AM

Chris,
How do we "partner" with someone in spreading the gospel when their gospel is a false one? I do not understand the purpose of you posting this article. Is it a challenge for us to be more involved in evangelism? So be it and Amen. But what does the Catholic understanding of the gospel have to do with it? Our Catholic friends need the gospel. They should not be given some kind of hope that they already possess it.

Adam

October 15, 2010 at 08:37 AM

I'm sure that you could go to the official Mormon website and read some similar statements about the call for evangelization in the world, that is written in enough comprehensible "evangelicaleze" for us to nod our heads in naive agreement.

I think this would apply to the Catholic church as well. Let us just simply take their official catechism and turn to the section on justification and see whether or not it lines up with a Pauline understanding of justification through faith and ask yourself whether or not this is another gospel or not. It is not based on faith by any Biblical definition.

Let us be nice and kind and generous in love to our Catholic friends and family but let us not be forgetful enough to know that the wolf always comes in sheep's clothing.

So, no, it would be Biblically unfaithful to partner with the Catholic church in the manner that says "These are our Chrisitian brothers who we stand with and partner in the same field of the gospel."

We must bite the bullet on this one to remain faithful to the Bible. Although we can agree on many moral issues and doctrinal issues (like the trinity for example) other more central issues are so distorted that one cannot find the true gospel and thus not find the true Christ. Would you have an African Safari guide who has never been to the plains themselves? It is the same with those who officially endorse Catholic doctrine they do not know the way of eternal life themselves and are thus ignorant guides. We love them, but they are ignorant guides. Why partner with that situation?

Brian Orr

October 15, 2010 at 06:38 PM

I understand your point about infants, etc. What I am trying to get at is that when I asked this person what the gospel is, they failed to give me the gospel. They made it clear that "the Council teaches that the Church,a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation." Their position is the church is the means for salvation...you must "do this in order to get..." Its about being in Christ. Their mention to Christ is in the next sentence, but it is reference back to the church. I hope my point is clear now.

Mary Elizebeth Tyler

October 15, 2010 at 05:45 PM

I do not understand how people can miss the clear prohibition of 2 John 10-11: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds."

When we, Protestants, unite with the purveyors of such soul-damning heresies, we give a clear signal to the entire world, that a system such as the RCC is a viable, true, doctrinally sound faith. We are in fact giving our stamp of approval to vicious lies and blasphemies that the very words of Christ tell us to contend AGAINST.

Endorsing a false spiritual system of beliefs, like the signers of "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" did, commits treasonous spiritual adultery and it makes one guilty of joining the body of Christ to a harlot. (1 Cor. 6:15) Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

Bill

October 15, 2010 at 05:20 PM

R.C. Sproul has a clear and concise little book explaining the difference between Rome and Reformation concerning justification. IT is called "Justified By Faith Alone". It clearly identifies the disagreement.

Mervin Bunter

October 15, 2010 at 05:05 PM

If I understand you correctly, you object to the use of "may achieve" and "try in their actions". That particular paragraph is talking about those who have never had Christ preached to them (or are too young to understand). Paul talks about this set of people in Romans, saying that the things of God are plainly visible from the things that are made. (In other words, even though they haven't heard of Christ, they are obligated to believe certain truths about God that are rationally knowable through nature).

In this case, this person is suggesting that we don't know what God will choose to do with people who "through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church" (like infants, or those who never heard the name of Christ). Even in Evangelical circles, there is still debate about what will happen to those types of people after they die.

Personally, I read that paragraph much more Calvinisticly (if that's a word) than you do. It says that if someone is "moved by grace" (sounds Calvinist, doesn't it?) to seek God and to do His will, it is possible that they will somehow be saved, even though they were ignorant of the specifics of Christ. They are saying that God NORMALLY brings about salvation through a person's willing acceptance of the Gospel as preached by believers. But they are also saying that God is ABLE to save people even if they have never heard of Christ.

Do you disagree? Do you believe that infants are damned because they didn't express "saving faith"? If so, then we will have to agree to disagree. As for myself, I don't claim to know the eternal destination of anyone, especially infants or those who are never told of Christ. But if one HAS been told of Christ, and willingly rejects Him, that person is is danger of damnation (as your friend mentioned).

I hope this makes sense.

Chris Castaldo

October 15, 2010 at 04:13 PM

Thanks Chris, I don't understand your question.

Chris Zodrow

October 15, 2010 at 03:57 PM

Chris,
Hodge was very clever to leave the categorical applications open. All men is, well, all men. The latter category is a bit more limited.

Are you suggesting that he was making the application of the latter category to the men with whom he was corresponding?

Chris Castaldo

October 15, 2010 at 02:39 PM

Tim, your case might be more compelling without the superlatives.

I like the way Charles Hodge put it when he wrote to Pope Pius IX in 1869 declining an invitation to attend Vatican I (my website features the entire letter). After citing the reasons why his attendance and that of his delegates would not happen, he offers the following conclusion:

“Nevertheless, although we cannot return to the fellowship of the Church of Rome, we desire to live in charity with all men. We love all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. We regard as Christian brethren all who worship, love, and obey him as their God and Saviour, and we hope to be united in heaven with all who unite with us on earth in saying, ‘Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen’ (Rev. 1:6).”

Adam

October 15, 2010 at 02:37 PM

Hey brother,

You are absolutely right.

Amen, may we all be just like that.

Much love,
-Adam

Brian Orr

October 15, 2010 at 02:18 PM

Below is a response from a devout Roman Catholic when I asked them to tell me what the gospel is...They gave a Catholic perspective, not a biblical one. If this is truly the understanding then I am sure that we are no misunderstanding the catholic version of the gospel

"The Bible mentions salvation in the past, present & future. We must be in the state of grace when we die since time is the measure of change and therefor our will is set when we die. If we will to be apart from God, all all that entails, then we will get just that.
Here's a quote regarding the Catholic perspective:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church,a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: The one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the
Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would
refuse either to enter it or to remain in it’ (LG 14; cf. Mark 16:16, John 3:5).

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: "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" (LG 16)"

Notice the words "may achieve" and "try in their actions". No use of Scriptures particularly (Romans 3:23;6:23;5:8;10:9-10 Eph 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5; or especially 2 Cor. 5:21). They had to use a citation from RCC doctrine. To me their understanding of the Gospel is false.

Mervin Bunter

October 15, 2010 at 01:44 PM

It is strange how many people (Catholics included) think that the Roman Catholic Church teaches some sort of "salvation by works". This has been a sad misunderstand of most Protestants (and many Catholics) for years. I refer you to the excellent article by James Akin regarding the Catholic belief in sola fide (when properly understood): http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/SOLAFIDE.htm

It doesn't help Christianity at all if we continue to throw such misunderstandings into the public sphere. Kevin above correctly identifies that "the Catholic Church pronounces an anathema on all who hold to salvation by faith alone." If you read the article I linked above, you should see the difference between the Catholic understanding of "faith alone" (i.e., intellectual assent alone) and the Protestant understanding. Surely if anything is certain between Evangelicals and Catholics, it is that intellectual assent alone does not save.

If you are going to disagree with Roman Catholic doctrine, you might want to take pains to discover what the doctrine really is. Even if you don't want to become Catholic, you should be able to say with Chesterton: "I had no more idea of becoming a Catholic than of becoming a cannibal... I was merely pointing out that justice should be done even to cannibals."

Phillip Mayberry

October 15, 2010 at 01:40 PM

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