10. Do Protestants and Catholics now agree on the doctrine of justification, or are the teachings of the Council of Trent still authoritative?
In 1983 a group of Lutheran and Catholic theologians made the newsworthy announcement that they had come to agreement on the meaning of justification. Although this widely publicized statement caused many people to believe that Catholics and Protestants were now agreed on this doctrine, this was far from true.
First, whether or not some individual Catholic scholars accept the biblical doctrine of justification is not the same as having Rome accept it. Second, those involved did no such thing. Although their statement sounded evangelical, a careful reading of the report proves that what was upheld was the traditional Catholic doctrine of justification. For example, the report clearly equates justification and sanctification: "By justification we are both declared and made righteous. Justification, therefore, is not a legal fiction [a reference to the Protestant view]. God, in justifying, effects what He promises; He forgives sin and makes us truly righteous."
But as W. Robert Godfrey, professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, correctly observes, "The report yields to the Roman Catholics on the doctrine of justification, and compromises too much what is essential to the gospel." Thus, the report did not unite Lutherans and Catholics on the nature of justification; it simply upheld the Catholic view.
In essence, the decrees made by the Council of Trent on justification remain the standard of Roman Catholic theology. These decrees have never been modified, altered, or rescinded by Rome. This is why Karl Keating maintains that the views of Trent on justification are not only true Catholic doctrine, but that they are true biblical doctrine as well.
The Catholic doctrine reiterated by the Council of Trent (1566-1572) is principally a reply to the "heresies" of the Protestant Reformation. A careful reading of the sixth session on justification will clearly show that, despite Catholic claims, its pronouncements are not only unbiblical, but anti-biblical as well.
Trent decreed that whoever does not "faithfully and firmly accept this Catholic doctrine on justification ... cannot be justified...." Thus, in the section "Canons Concerning Justification," we read, for example:
Canon 9-If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification ... let him be anathema [cursed by God].
Not surprisingly, Trent also decreed that good works increase our justification. For example, in Canon 24 we read,
If anyone says that the justice received [i.e., justification] is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.
Trent establishes perhaps the most subtle form of justification by works ever devised. This subtlety may explain why some Catholics actively encourage Protestants to read the decrees of Trent-to "prove" that Catholicism does not teach a form of salvation by works. We do think that every Protestant should read these decrees carefully and then determine for themselves whether or not the gospel of grace has been rejected.
Unfortunately, because Roman Catholic teaching denies that justification is the past and completed declaration of God the Judge, it thoroughly undermines a believer's certainty of salvation. If "to justify" means to make a person righteous, a person is left to his own subjective condition for the basis of his acceptance before God. This explains why Catholic justification fluctuates in the life of a believer. It is not a completed act of God. Rather, it is based on the grace empowered works of sinful people for its maintenance. Thus, it can hardly provide any sense of security of salvation. For example, since the Catholic Church teaches that justification can be lost by mortal sin, a person can only know he retains his justification if he is certain he has not committed mortal sin. But in Catholic teaching, such knowledge is problematic at best. Mortal sin is not always clearly defined, so definite knowledge of having committed such a sin is not always possible.
Clearly, Catholics and Protestants are not in agreement on this matter.
11. How is the Roman Catholic view of biblical authority and inerrancy compromised?
Doctrinally, the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally taught that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and Catholics continue to maintain that they have the highest regard for Scripture. Rev. John A. O'Brien of Notre Dame University writes, "Far from being hostile to the Bible, the Catholic Church is its true mother ... The simple fact is that the Catholic Church loves the Bible, reveres it as the inspired word of God, gives to it a loyalty and intelligent obedience greater than that of any other religious body in the world... -a loyalty of which history knows no parallel."
But this position was compromised at Vatican II which restricted biblical inerrancy to a more narrow spectrum of biblical teaching and also allowed for further encroachment of neoorthodoxy. In effect, the Church now holds to a position of "limited inerrancy": Scripture is inerrant, but not all of it. (Exactly where it is and is not inerrant is left for the interpreter to decide, an example of "private judgment" the Church claims it rejects.)
But regardless, in practice, even the traditional view of inerrancy had been compromised by
1) the Church's acceptance of the Apocrypha,
2) a belief in inerrant Tradition, and
3) the claim that the Church alone properly interprets Scripture.
1. The Apocrypha undermines inerrancy.
Catholicism teaches that Scripture involves more than the canon accepted by the Jews, Jesus, and the Church of the first four centuries, i.e., the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament. It adds new portions to the books of Esther and Daniel plus seven additional books, which were written between the Testaments: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Ben Sirach, (also called Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and Wisdom. The Catholic Church refers to these extra books as "deuterocanonical works"-those that are canonical or scriptural for Catholics but which were never part of the Jewish Bible.
The Apocrypha undermines a doctrine of inerrancy because these books contain historical and other errors. Thus, if the Apocrypha is considered Scripture, this identifies error with God's Word. This is why neither the Jews, Jesus, the apostles, nor most of the early Church fathers ever accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture.
Biblical scholar Dr. Rene Pache comments, "Except for certain interesting historical information (especially in 1 Maccabees) and a few beautiful moral thoughts (e.g., Wisdom of Solomon), these books contain absurd legends and platitudes, and historical, geographical and chronological errors, as well as manifestly heretical doctrines; they even recommend immoral acts (Judith 9:10,13)." Errors in the Apocrypha are frequently pointed out in standard works. For example,
Tobit ... contains certain historical and geographical errors such as the assumption that Sennacherib was the son of Shalmaneser (1:15) instead of Sargon II, and that Nineveh was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus (14:5) instead of by Nabopolassar and Cyaxares .... Judith cannot possibly be historical because of the glaring errors it contains.... [In 2 Maccabees] there are also numerous disarrangements and discrepancies in chronological, historical, and numerical matters in the book, reflecting ignorance or confusion ....
For 1,500 years no Roman Catholic was required to believe that the Apocrypha was Scripture, until the Council of Trent made its fateful decree. Unfortunately, the Council adopted its position "for reasons of expediency rather than evidence." Thus, it was "unmindful of evidence, of former popes and scholars, of the Fathers of the church and the witness of Christ and the apostles" in making its decision to include the Apocrypha as Scripture.
Dr. Pache points out that one of the reasons Trent accepted the Apocrypha was merely in response to the arguments of the Reformers who were attempting to defend the principle of "sola scriptura"-that the Bible alone is the believer's authority.
Why, then, did Rome take so new and daring a position? Because, confronted by the Reformers, she lacked arguments to justify her unscriptural deviations. She declared that the Apocryphal books supported such doctrines as prayers for dead (II Maccabees 12:44); the expiatory sacrifice (eventually to become the Mass, II Maccabees 12:39-46); alms giving with expiatory value, also leading to deliverance from death (Tobit 12:9; 4:10); invocation and intercession of the saints (II Maccabees 15:14; Bar. 3:4); the worship of angels (Tobit 12:12); purgatory; and the redemption of souls after death (II Maccabees 12:42,46).
2. Catholic Tradition undermines inerrancy.
As noted before, Catholicism accepts sacred Tradition as having divine authority: Vatican II emphasized that Catholic Scripture and Tradition "form one sacred deposit of the word of God." Thus, "Both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence." Karl Keating thinks that "...the trouble of [the] fundamentalist [e.g., evangelical] is that he labors under the misconception that Scripture has the last word..." and that Tradition "counts for nothing."
Of course, biblically, there is nothing wrong with tradition. Even Scripture acknowledges its usefulness, but only when it is based upon apostolic teaching (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6) or not in conflict with Scripture itself. When tradition reflects the truths of Scripture, this is fine. But when it denies and opposes God's word in the Bible, we have a problem.
Catholic Tradition comprises a massive body of literature-the teachings of the early Fathers, historic creeds, the writings of Church scholars and leaders, laws given by synods and councils, papal decrees, etc. Today, one of the Catholic Church's normal functions is to continue this refinement of doctrine and practice.
everal problems are created by the Church's claim that this mass of data is, in some sense, necessary for salvation and/or infallible.
First, there is the insuperable difficulty in authoritatively determining where infallible Tradition lies. As Keating confesses, "The big problem, no doubt, is determining what constitutes authentic tradition." Second, the large amount of data itself poses a problem. Papal "Bulls" alone from 450-1850 comprise more than 40 volumes. This has led to "almost inextricable difficulties" for Catholic theologians.
Third, problems relating to the fact of errors, demonstrable self-contradictions, and even denials of biblical teaching are inescapable.
Fourth, contradictory Tradition and differences in the historical interpretation of Tradition have plagued the claim to infallibility. For example, even popes have disagreed on such subjects as religious freedom, the validity of civil marriages, the legitimacy of Bible reading, the order of the Jesuits, Galileo's scientific data, and other topics. On rare occasion, popes have even sided with heresy, as did Pope Liberius (352-66) when he accepted the Arians who rejected Christ's deity (cf, Zozimus and the Pelagians, Honorius I and the Monothelites, or Vigilius and the Monphysites and Nestorians).
Finally, the testimony of Church history itself proves time and again that when any other source of authority is put on par with Scripture, Scripture becomes a secondary authority. According to Keating, "Fundamentalists say the Bible is the sole rule of faith .... Catholics, on the other hand, say the Bible is not the sole rule of faith and that nothing in the Bible suggests it was meant to be." However, "We need only read Church history to discover that when another source of authority is placed alongside Scripture as of equal importance, Scripture eventually becomes relegated to the background."
If Catholic Tradition were, in fact, "inerrant" and "sacred," then it would not deny Scripture. Perhaps this explains why many of the Church's unscriptural doctrines were added in the midst of debate and dissension among Catholics themselves. For example, at the Council of Trent not all participants thought it credible that the Apocrypha was Scripture. And at the first Vatican council, not all believed the Pope should be considered infallible.
3. Catholic interpretation undermines inerrancy.
In The Documents of Vatican II, under the category of "Revelation," we find the following:
The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [i.e., Tradition], has been entrusted exclusively to the living, teaching office of the Church ....
Here we see that the Catholic Church allocates to itself the sole power to properly interpret the Catholic Bible and Tradition. The Protestant view of the individual's right to devoutly interpret the Bible by diligent study (2 Timothy 2:15) and under the illumination of the Holy Spirit is rejected. as false.
Keating claims that the evangelicals' understanding of the Bible as the sole authority is irrational because "the individual is the least solid of all interpreters." And he believes that the only manner in which we can know the Bible really is inspired is if an infallible Church tells us it is.
Of course, we must ask the question-is the Catholic Church truly infallible? Is its Tradition inerrant? Does it always interpret the Bible correctly? It claims so. This is why Keating and other Catholics refer to "the authoritative and infallible Church" and "the fact of an infallible teaching Church." But where is the evidence?
It is important here to understand what the Catholic Church means by infallible. Infallibility is officially defined as "immunity from error, excluding not only its existence, but even its possibility." This infallibility extends not only to the Pope in matters of faith and morals, but also to the bishops in teaching and, by implication, interpretation. But the problem is that, as history proves, the Roman Catholic Church has not been infallible-despite its claims. As Hans Kung, the dissident Catholic theologian, points out, "The errors of the Ecclesiastical teaching office in every generation have been numerous and indisputable. ... And yet the teaching office constantly found it difficult to admit these errors frankly and honestly ..."
Consider a modern example. Most Catholic literature contains the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimature, Church seals which designate authority. They are defined as a "declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error." Yet The Catholic Encyclopedia, which contains these seals, teaches the following:
1. Salvation is by works (and other theological errors);
2. Muslims worship the biblical God;
3. The book of Daniel was written in 165 B.C.;
4. Mormons "believe in the Trinity";
5. Papal infallibility is true; and
6. The Catholic Church is the only true Church.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also includes positive reviews of Transcendental Meditation, the religion of Islam, and the destructive approach to Scripture known as Form Criticism. Such teachings indicate that The Catholic Encyclopedia cannot possibly be free from doctrinal error.
Books such as Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism, which seek to critique evangelical Christianity from the perspective of Catholic dogma, have this problem in common: Catholic doctrine precedes exegesis. The Bible is interpreted primarily in light of Church doctrine, and not its own teachings. Where the Bible conflicts with Catholic dogma, no appeal to Scripture is sufficient because in the end, Scripture is not the final authority-only what the Church interprets and teaches is the final authority.
The fact that "infallible" popes have consistently upheld unbiblical Roman Catholic doctrine proves that it is Catholic doctrine derived from Tradition which interprets the Bible, and not standard principles of exegesis.
In other words, while Tradition has authority over Scripture, the teaching office of the Church has authority over Tradition because it decides what Tradition is (and thus what Scripture is) and how to properly interpret them both. This is why Catholics hold that it is their Tradition which "gives life to Scripture."
This also tells us why, in a very real sense, Church Tradition is considered necessary for salvation: "Magisterium of the Church is the power given by Christ to the Church together with infallibility by which the Church teaches authoritatively the revealed truth of the Scripture and holds forth the truth of tradition for salvation.
Unfortunately, Rome has left her Church without the divinely given means to determine truth from error, namely the inerrant authority of the Scriptures alone. The Church herself becomes the standard of truth in whatever she teaches or does, and thus there is no higher authority to which she must submit or standard by which she must be judged.
In conclusion, by
1) adding the errant Apocrypha to the canon,
2) accepting errant Tradition as divine revelation,
3) claiming that proper interpretation of Scripture/Tradition resides only in the Catholic Church, and 4) asserting infallibility for herself,
the Catholic Church has effectively undermined the inerrancy and authority of the Bible.
12. Is the Pope infallible?
The Catholic Church teaches that when the Pope speaks "ex cathedra" (i.e., "from his chair" or authoritatively), he is infallible in matters of faith and morals.
Papal infallibility was officially defined and promulgated on July 18, 1870 at the first Vatican Council. What this means is that for 1,870 years the Catholic Church did not officially teach that the Pope was infallible. Even within the Council itself, there were many protests, and a large number of other faithful Catholics rejected it as well, earning for themselves the title "Old Catholics."
We grant that most papal statements are not made under the strictures of the 1870 ex cathedra definition. But that is not the issue. Rather, the issue is that such pronouncements in general uphold the doctrinal position of Catholicism overall.
A thorough discussion of the Vatican I Council can be found in August Bernard Hasler's How the Pope Became Infallible. Hasler served for five years in the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity where he was given access to the Vatican Archives. There he uncovered crucial documents relating to the council which had never been studied before. As a result of his research, this learned Catholic scholar concluded:
It is becoming increasingly obvious, in fact, that the dogma of papal infallibility has no basis either in the Bible or the history of the Church during the first millennium. If, however, the First Vatican Council was not free, then neither was it ecumenical. And in that case its decrees have no claim to validity. So the way is clear to revise this Council and, at the same time, to escape from a situation which both history and theology find more and more indefensible. Is this asking too much of the Church? Can it ever admit that a council erred, that in 1870 Vatican I made the wrong decision?
Papal infallibility has never been a credible doctrine. As Carson points out in his study of contemporary Catholicism, the doctrine of an infallible Pope and/or Church reasonably assumes that the infallible guide will first of all be clearly recognizable; second, that this guide will act with reasonable promptitude in discerning truth from error; and third, that this guide can never be responsible for leading the Church into error. But in the history of the Catholic Church, this has not been the case.
13. What is the unique role of Mary in Roman Catholicism, and is it biblical?
Significant areas of Catholic doctrine and practice are related to the person and work of Mary, Her unique relationship to God is usually discussed in a trinity of functions:
2) Mediatrix, and
3) Queen of Heaven.
As Co-redemptrix, she cooperates with Christ in the work of saving sinners. As Mediatrix, she now dispenses God's blessings and grace to the spiritually needy. As Queen of Heaven, she rules providentially with Christ, the King of Heaven. Although views in the Roman Church vary, Mary has usually been elevated above all the prophets, apostles, saints, popes, and even the Catholic Church itself. In the words of Pope Paul VI, "... the place she occupies in the Church [is] 'the highest place and the closest to us after Jesus.'"
With the honored blessing given by Vatican II,139 Mariology is as firmly entrenched in Catholicism as ever. Vatican II declares: "It admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered." But the Catholic view of Mary is not scriptural; to the contrary, it is entirely traditional. Some of the unbiblical teachings relating to the Mary of Catholic Tradition include the following:
1. Mary's immaculate conception: This doctrine teaches that she was born without original sin and was, therefore, sinless throughout her life.
2. Mary's perpetual virginity: This dogma asserts that she had no children after Jesus.
3. Mary's bodily assumption or physical ascension into heaven: This teaches that because of her sinlessness, Mary never experienced physical death. Instead she was raised bodily into the presence of Christ.
4. Mary's role as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces: This doctrine holds that the obedience and sufferings of Mary were essential to secure the full redemption bought by Christ.
5. Mary's right to veneration and/or worship: This teaching argues that because of her unparalleled role in the economy of salvation, Mary is worthy of special adoration.
Space permits discussion of only these last two points.
Is Mary a "Savior" in the Roman Catholic Church?
Mariology is defined as the study of that theology "which treats the life, role and virtues of the Blessed Mother of God" and which "demonstrates ... her position as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces." Thus, Catholic popes have always glorified Mary.
Pope Leo XIII stated in his rosary encyclical, "Octobri mense"(1891): "Nobody can approach Christ except through the mother." Pope Pius X (1903-1914) asserted that Mary is "the dispenser of all gifts which Jesus has acquired for us by His death and His blood." Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) says, "With Jesus, Mary has redeemed the human race." The conclusion of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) in his encyclical, "Mystici Corporis" (1943), was that Mary willingly offered Christ on Golgotha: "Who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always most intimately united with her Son, offered him on Golgotha to the eternal Father ... for all the children of Adam."
All this is why Vatican II declared that, "Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving role, but by her manifold acts of intercession continued to win for us gifts of eternal salvation." ***** And in The Catholic Response, Stravinskas remarks that, "One cannot ignore this woman, lest one risk distorting the gospel itself."
Although Mary did not literally die for the sin of the world, by giving birth to the Messiah and by giving Him moral support and other things, Mary can be seen as indirectly helping to atone for the sins of the world. Thus, of her temporal earthly sufferings, The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that she "endured them for our salvation." 149 Further, "In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her Divine Son for men, made atonement for the sins of men and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind."
Is Mary worshiped in the Roman Catholic Church?
Although Catholic theology attempts to draw a line between the worship offered to God and that offered to Mary, in practice these frequently become indistinguishable. The specific terms used are latria-adoration which is due God alone; dulia-veneration offered to the saints; and hyperdulia-special veneration given to Mary. As Carson remarks,
The development of Mariology has been accompanied by an ever-increasing tendency to accord Mary a worship that, in much popular devotion, is indistinguishable from that offered to God alone.
For example, when the average Catholic invokes the aid of Mary as a heavenly, all-powerful intercessor, or to beseech Jesus for them, or to forgive their sins, it is hard to imagine that in that precise moment they are distinguishing between latria, dulia, and hyperdulia:
Rome may deny that Mary is worshipped as God. But to attribute to her powers which involve omniscience and omnipresence, if she is to hear [and answer] the prayers of millions, is to accord to her what belongs to God alone. Furthermore, the prayers themselves are phrased in such a way that it is hard to distinguish them from those offered to God.
Noted Protestant theologian R.C. Sproul remarked, "I think, however, for all practical purposes, that I can say without fear of ever being proven wrong, that millions of Roman Catholic people in this world today worship Mary, and in doing so, believe that they are doing what the Church is telling them to do."
Again, the Catholic Church officially claims that its Mariology does not subtract from the worship due Christ as God and Mediator. But strictly, this must be questioned. As an Evangelical Council on Catholicism observed, "In effect many Roman Catholics put her on the same level as the persons of the Trinity."
The biblical Mary
The Mary of Catholic teaching has little to do with the Mary of the New Testament. Given Mary's supreme importance in the Catholic Church, it's amazing to consider the complete absence of even the mention of her name in the New Testament epistles.
Apart from Acts 1:14, Mary is mentioned nowhere else outside the Gospels. And even in the Gospels, her spiritual power and authority are almost non-existent. Neither Jesus Christ, nor Paul, nor any other biblical writer ever gave Mary the place or devotion the Catholic Church has given her for a thousand years. This is all the more incredible when we consider that the New Testament letters were written specifically for the spiritual guidance of the Church, and that they have a great deal to say about both doctrine and worship. How then is it possible? If Mary performs the many vital spiritual functions we have just discussed, how could Mary's name be entirely absent from the very heart of the New Testament teaching-exactly where one would expect her to be most prominent? Even Catholics are forced to confess that scriptural support for these doctrines is lacking.
Luke relates an interesting incident in the life of Jesus. In effect, the story tells us that apart from her role as bearer and mother of the Messiah, Mary was not unique or especially blessed. In fact, by Jesus' words, "on the contrary," we see that those who obey God are more blessed than if they had given birth to Jesus. It is almost as if God were speaking to Catholic dogma: "... one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.' But He said, 'On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it"' (Luke 11:27-28, NASB). Jesus often referred to Himself as "the Son of Man," but never once, as Catholics do, as "the Son of Mary."
14. What about "evangelical Catholics" who accept Rome as the authority?
There are many contemporary voices attempting to bring evangelicals and Catholics together as common brethren of a common faith. One of the more prominent examples of this is seen in Keith Fournier's text Evangelical Catholics.
Catholics and evangelicals may indeed work together in support of promoting Christian values in the larger society. But what bothers us about Fournier's book is that it is basically an encouragement for evangelicals to return to the Mother Church.
Despite his claim to be an evangelical, Fournier's commitment is fully to Rome: "I am a Roman Catholic, not by accident or mistake but by heartfelt conviction"; "I have submitted myself to the teaching office of the Church and its leadership'; and "[I have] rooted myself in a sacramental and incarnational Catholic/Christian world view."
The problem is that Fournier's "evangelical/Catholic" faith is merely a Roman Catholicism that he has falsely claimed as evangelical. In a review of Fournier's book, theologian E. Calvin Beisner wisely writes:
Despite Fournier's good intentions in attempting to bypass them [doctrinal differences] for the outward unity of the body of Christ, he really will do both Catholics and evangelicals only a disservice if he successfully persuades them that one can be evangelical and Catholic in the proper sense of those words.
This is not to say that the Catholic Church is devoid of genuine Christians-there are many. The real question, though, is one of commitment to biblical truth and the importance of spiritual growth based on it. The issue then becomes, "Can Christians remain in the Catholic Church without compromising their faith and/or their spiritual growth?"
We can hardly say that God would never allow Christians to remain in the Catholic Church in order to lead others to personal faith in Christ. But in order to do so effectively, these believers have to be thoroughly informed on the issues, weighing them carefully, resolving not to partake in practices or to accept doctrines that are not biblical. Further, we would suspect that for the vast majority of Christians in the Catholic Church, acquiring such discernment may necessitate a lengthy absence from Rome.
Thus, we think it prudent for Catholics who receive Christ as their personal Savior to find a place where they can receive biblical teaching and Christian fellowship that will encourage their commitment to Christ and His Word alone. Once grounded in those beliefs, a program of closer ministry to Rome may be possible.
Today, far too many Christians and evangelical organizations are accepting Roman Catholicism as a fully Christian religion. Perhaps what is needed is a much closer look at Catholicism-and with it a much closer look at New Testament Christianity.
A Personal Word to Catholics
If you have stayed with us this far, we want you to know we appreciate your perseverance and your integrity in examining a critique of the faith you hold dear. We have written this booklet because we believe there is one vital issue that all Catholics need to think through. That is the issue of their personal salvation.
Catholics, perhaps more than anyone else, believe that it is not possible in this life to have assurance of salvation (except perhaps in very rare circumstances). You have been taught that the belief in the assurance of salvation is a "presumption upon the mercy of God" and that mortal sin results in "eternal separation from God," requiring penance for restoration. You have heard about the personal hazards of "triumphalism," something that arises from an "assurance of having been saved," which "is a dangerous position" to hold. But the "assurance of having been saved" is a biblical doctrine, as 1 John 5:13 proves.
You also know that because Catholicism teaches that a Christian may lose his or her salvation, it argues that "not even faith ... or conversion... or reception of baptism ... or constancy throughout life... can gain for one the right to salvation..." and that all these are held to be only "the forerunners of attainment" toward salvation.
But again, this is not biblical teaching. Jesus Himself taught that faith does bring the right to salvation: "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12, NASB, emphasis added). The Bible clearly teaches that by faith alone people can know that they are eternally saved because they, at the moment of saving faith, possess eternal life. You can know this by truly trusting in Christ for forgiveness of sins and making Him your personal Savior.
If you are a Catholic and desire to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, we would urge you to say the following prayer:
Dear God, it is my desire to enter into a personal relationship with You through the death of Your Son Jesus on the cross. Although I have believed many things about Jesus, I confess that I have never truly received Him individually as my personal Savior and Lord. I have never realized that salvation uses a gift that You offer me freely. I now receive that gift and believe that Christ died on the cross for my sins-all of them. I believe that He rose from the dead. It is my desire that He now become my Lord and Savior and so, I now receive Him into my life. I make Him Lord over all areas of my life, including any personal beliefs or practices that are not biblical.
Help me to be committed to study Your Word and to grow as a Christian in ways that honor You. Give me the strength to face difficulty or rejection when it comes to making a stand for You. If it is Your will, and necessary for me to leave this Church, guide me into a good church and fellowship so that I might know and glorify You the more. In Jesus' name I pray this, trusting in Your guidance. Amen.
* Examples of New Testament claims for divine inspiration (i.e., inerrancy) include Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:1,7,10,12-13; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 4:8; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 3:2,16; 1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 1:1-3; 22:18-19.
** For example, the words used in Canons 1 and 3 of the Council of Trent concerning justification sound completely biblical-until they are interpreted in light of larger Catholic theology. Then they mean something entirely different than what the Bible means.
*** The Sacrifice of the Mass does not remit the guilt of sins immediately as do the sacraments of baptism and of penance, but immediately by the conferring of the grace of repentance. The Council of Trent teaches: "Propitiated by the offering of the sacrifice [Mass], God, by granting the grace and the gift of penance remits trespasses and sins, however grievous they may be."
**** In "My Ticket to Heaven," a popular Catholic tract (over 3,000,000, copies in print), the reader is told that his "ticket to heaven" is good works and permanent abstention from mortal sin (pp. 3-10). Thus, "If I do my part, God will do His part (p. 12). This booklet is labeled as "a tract of salvation," and a straightforward presentation of Christian faith, but its principal effect is to produce the fear of never achieving heaven since salvation is so clearly laid out as involving a practical perfectionism. Written by a priest of 40 years, it never once mentions personal faith in Jesus Christ as the basis for salvation.
***** The "maximalists" assert that by means of her Fiat and offering of her Son on the cross that Mary is absolutely necessary not only to the Incarnation but to Redemption itself. This is why she is called a Co-redemptrix. But even the so-called "minimalists" affirm such beliefs as Mary's alleged bodily assumption, immaculate conception, and her coronation as Queen of Heaven.