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Roman Catholicism, Christianity?

Hello everyone! This question has surfaced for me time and again. I would like some honest feedback and opinions. Please don’t take my question as offensive, for I don’t intend it that way.

Are Roman Catholics actually Christians? I can’t seem to equate the two…

I understand that a Christian is someone who confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus Christ is Lord and has been raised from the dead. However, squaring the fact that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and the massive amount of adding and subtracting that the Roman Catholic Church has done to God’s word doesn’t seem the same thing.

I understand that not all Protestant Denominations hold entirely biblical views and practices either… but those differences almost seem to be apples to oranges when put against the Catholic Church…

Many Christian theologians whom I respect hold a seemingly soft viewpoint on this subject, which bothers me. I don’t know if that’s for politically correct reasons or if there is something I’m missing.

Thank you in advance and again, no offense intended, just questions that I have been struggling with.

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Hello Garrett @Gnichols. Thank you for your question. I hear what you are saying and I know you dont mean it in a bad and my understanding is that you are trying to understand it better. That is what the search for the truth is. It is always crucial you dont make any judgments without having studied the history of Christianity and understood what led to what. I advise you to not just take people’s word and try to look for scholars in the field and also read good books.

Now the definition of being a Christian is a person who is a follower of Christ. A person who takes Jesus Christ as a Lord and savior and believes in the trinity and the act of salvation. All Christians, whether orthodox Christian, catholic, or protestant for the most part believe in that. So that is the core. What the denominations differ in is on communion, worship practices, etc. Now becareful not to judge a denomination based on the individuals either. We are all fallen and not up to par most times. We are more hypocrites than the outside world sometimes.

It might sound funny to you but if you hear the other flip side, a protestant maybe blamed for cutting out parts of the bible that was supposed to be there and making Christianity a cafeteria where people pick and choose what they want instead of following what was there. You see. So the best thing is to try to understand what the church of Christ at it’s beginning looked like and seeing what was added due to tradition and seeing if those traditions were appropriate or not. Now that is subjective and so some may like one thing over the other. But I dont think Christians should be fighting over small things and dividing themselves. We need to stay together and preach the gospel to the world so that people that dont know Christ could be saved.

I hope that helps.
God Bless.

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That is a very good question, @Gnichols. I appreciate your honesty and your spirit.

And with equal honesty and a desire to answer with the right spirit, I must tell you this:

A Christian is anyone who has repented of his sins, and trusted the gospel of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to save him from his sins. That faith is what transforms him on the inside, and the life that follows is a result of that transformation.

Any Catholic who does that is a Christian. And there have been Catholics across the centuries who have done exactly that. Some of the more famous ones have been priests like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wycliffe and many other men who earnestly desired to reform the corruption they saw within the Institutional Church.

And I do not doubt that there have been an indeterminable number of other Catholics who have likewise found salvation through the gospel of Christ alone.

But having said that, I must be honest and point out that these believers were saved not because of what official Catholic doctrine taught, but in spite of it. And many of them were excommunicated, persecuted and even martyred by the Catholic Church authorities because of their “heresy” of salvation by faith in Christ alone.

Because the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is very emphatic that salvation must be earned by keeping sacraments, performing rituals and doing good works. But anyone who depends on any mixture of faith plus his own efforts to earn salvation has a fatal misunderstanding of what salvation really is.

There are literally scores of verses that teach that salvation is by grace through faith apart from works – you can do an easy internet search on a phrase like “verses that teach salvation by faith without works” for lists of them.

Just to give one example, Galatians 2:16 says, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

The book of Galatians was specifically written to warn against adding works to the gospel of salvation by faith – in fact, it is the most scathing denunciation of corrupting the gospel with the addition of works found in the Bible.

So any religion that teaches that salvation is earned by any combination of faith plus works is not teaching the Christian faith of the New Testament.

And I regret to say that this disqualifies the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

I hope this will help you sort out your understanding of this important issue.

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Hey James @jlyons, I have a comment to make. Just to say I am not catholic :wink: It is true that we are saved by grace. There is nothing we can do to make it to heaven as God is only good, aka perfect. He is the one who pays for our sins. Christ at the same time says if you love me keep my commandments. Yes, out of knowing and loving God with our new beginning as a new creation in Christ, that will drive us to want to be different and walk in the ways of God. We may fall and we ask for forgiveness and be forgiven again, but if one denies God whether in their words or actions, they are saying God I dont want you in my life and thus, God will not force them to be in heaven with him for eternity (a possible loss of salvation). We always have free will. Now our actions show that we have true faith too. You can say oh yes, I follow you Christ but you truly dont act and behave that way, have you truly been changed? Have you truly known your God? Some may come and take Christ as a free ticket to heaven. “Oh sure great, I dont want to go to hell, I will accept Christ as my Lord and savior. Saved, go to Church on sundays and then vacation from island to island.” Is that man saved? So it is a tricky subject.

Also, yes Galatians says that but, look at James 2:14-26 below.

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by [b]my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made [d]perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was [e]accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

So the way I see it, in my opinion, I know for orthodox Christianity, that a true faith is shown by works. That you need to work to be like Christ all your life despite being saved by grace. So they are hand in hand. Works does not give you salvation as you cant attain it, but your efforts shows to Christ your dedication as his disciple which for lack of better term becomes grace in hands of God. I think people like to argue. For I, it almost sounds like saying tomatoes and tomatas. :man_shrugging: :face_with_monocle:

Here is a link from a catholic website answering their view as well. https://sioa.weconnect.com/Salvation-and-faith-and-works

Last but not least,

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I hope this helps.
God Bless.

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Yes, if Catholicism taught that good works were the result of salvation by faith alone as you have described, rather than the actual means of salvation, then the centuries-long divide between it and the bulk of Christianity would not exist.

Unfortunately, it does, and until the Catholic Church changes its stance on the role of works in salvation, it will remain an unreconcilable difference. We cannot really make peace by pretenting it isn’t - all my “wishing” to the contrary notwithstanding. The meaning of the gospel is non-negotiable.

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As a Catholic I hope you are not on the entry committee if I am lucky enough to make it to the gates of Heaven.
Corruption will be a problem for all religions as long as we frail people are members.
Some how it seems that taking an axe to the root of Christianity won’t make it better.
I believe grace and works go hand and hand.
God will decide.

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Hey James @jlyons, I do see you point and here are a few questions. I think both catholic and protestant believe that salvation comes from faith but the statement gets convoluted once works starts to be communicated. The real question I think that underlines this is can you lose salvation if you are not in the works?

Good discussion.

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Hey Robert @Robert1, I can understand where you are coming from and what I understand from RZIM Connect, the goal is to have fruitful discussions to reveal the truth and to gain understanding. It’s fine to state what we believe but it is even better when we give support to our belief, whether it is via scripture, logic etc. It’s not about the person, it is the idea we are discussing.

One question I have for you, for instance I grew up as an orthodox Christian and had many catholic friends, orthodoxy and catholic have similarities in their beliefs but one common thing I have seen, and this is generalization ofcourse but compared to protestant, we tend to learn from the priest mainly instead of actually reading the bible. It is as if we would never challenge the thoughts if we dont know what is in the bible. Do you relate to this?

Thanks
God Bless You.

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Hi All
Just a little different perspective here. I particularly appreciate the comment of @Danageze bringing a background of Orthodox Christianity. I have noticed that Protestants often bifurcate the discussion into Protestant and Roman Catholic Traditions. This is a false starting point as there are so many Traditions in Christianity than just two. There are 4 Ancient Traditions of Christianity that existed at the time of the Nicene Creed as well as innumerable Traditions within Protestantism. Protestantism came at the time of the Reformation and the leaders of the Reformation exchanged letters with the Archbishop of Constantinople to explore leading Protestants into the Orthodox Church. While this joining never took place (primarily over the issue of apostolic succession), it demonstrates that the Reformers considered Orthodox Christianity as orthodox in their beliefs. Another fact that many do not realize is the results of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent. This Council was held in response to the Reformation. If you read its results you can see how if the Roman Catholic Church had met 100 years earlier and adopted the findings of Trent, then it is highly probable that The Reformation would never have occurred.
So what defines a specific Tradition as orthodox in its beliefs and in harmony with the teachings of the New Testament. I would submit that if a Tradition accepts all the principles put forth in The Nicene Creed it falls within orthodoxy. Many traditions (such as Baptists) due not incorporate the ancient creeds (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, & Athanasian Creed) into their official positions but all of them accept the ancient creeds as documents accurately summarizing the Christian Religion.
All that said I would say that Roman Catholicism definitely falls within the definition of being a Christian Tradition despite all its faults. I would include all three of the other ancient Traditions in this category as well. This is particularly true when you consider some the teachings in the Protestant Community of Traditions today. The teaching that Mary is the Queen of Heaven and conceived without sin is certainly no more bad theologically than the teachings sanctioning homosexuality, support for using abortion, biblical inclusivism, anti-suffering, and semi-universalism that exist in the Protestant Traditions. All of these are additions to the Gospel and take away the Power of the Gospel as it is preached to the world.
Dan

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Hi Dan @dan0647, thank you for saying this. Such a needed post I feel like.

I grew up as an orthodox and I have been searching and searching to understand the difference and where “things went side ways” because as I compare orthodox Christianity with protestant, there are many things that are similar and it feels as if protestant are children of orthodox Christianity that were in disagreement with the catholic church. Because there are doctrines in Catholic that orthodox Christians do not agree with and many protestants dont even know much of orthodox Christianity. The “fight” is between catholic church and protestant but Orthodox Christianity was there even before the catholic church was there. The catholic church originated when they separated themselves from the original church in the 11th century. Then they had the different doctrines and then the reformation happens. I would like to hear or read more about the part you mentioned about the joining that never happened due to the apostolic succession.

Thanks.

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Hi Dan this is Dan :grinning: There are several articles about the Reformers and the Orthodox Church online. Just look under Reformers and Orthodox Church. Among the facts of history were there were 7 letters between the Reformers and The Patriarch. It is not widely known that the Reformers did not believe they were starting another denomination in the beginning but rather were seeking to join what they viewed as the True Church because they believed that the Roman Catholic Church had become apostate.

There are several reasons that the Reformers did not join The Orthodox Church but I believe here are some that are perhaps less emphasized but I believe important.

  1. Apostolic Succession: The Orthodox Church would not accept the authority of the Reformers as Overseers/Bishops and the two sides were in disagreement concerning the term Apostolic Church in the Nicene Creed
  2. The Sack of Constantinople: A crusade of the West sacked Constantinople in 1204 which ultimately led to its capture in the 1400s. The Roman Catholic Church pillaged many artifacts and writings in the care of the Orthodox Church and their was a lot of bad blood between East and West.
  3. The Sacraments and Sacramental Grace: There were significant differences even among the Reformers on this issue and consequently this resulted in the Orthodox Church insisting that if the Reformers joined the Orthodox Church they would have to accept all Orthodox Theology not just the principal points. Again the Church getting into an argument on non-essentials even though they agree on essentials.

I have put below a general history of the Church that I made up for my Sunday School class that you might find interesting. Its purpose is to show how the Western Church became so divided.

Historical Events surrounding the Reformation

313: Edict of Milan – Roman Empire become Christian, Church divides into Eastern Church (Church of East and Oriental Church) and Western Church (Church of Rome and Church of Constantinople)

325: Council of Nicaea – Nicene Creed

381: Council of Constantinople 1 – Athanasian Creed, Affirmation of New Testament Canon (Council of Laodicea)

413: Augustine’s City of God introduces Amillennialism and Post-Millennialism

431: Schism of Church of East Council of Ephesus.

451: Schism of Oriental Church, Council of Chalcedon

495: Roman Synod ascribes Vicar of Christ to Bishop of Rome

1054: The Great Schism of Roman and Orthodox Church

1204: Sack of Constantinople by Crusaders

1274: Thomas Aquinas- Summa Theologica

1440: Printing Press Invented

1492: Pope Alexander VI (Very Corrupt)

1492: Discovery of Americas by Columbus

1517: Luther- 95 Thesis

1534: Anglican Catholic Church separates from Roman Catholic Church

1536: Calvin- Institutes of the Christian Religion

1543: Copernican System Published

1545-1563: Council of Trent (Roman Catholic Reformation)

1595: Arminianism response to Calvinism

1550-1715: European Wars of Religion

1854: Immaculate Conception of Mary declared Article of Faith by Roman Catholic Church

1870: Pope declared infallible by Roman Catholic Church

1950: Assumption of Mary declared Article of Faith by Pope

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Yes Dan the Dan :wink:, All Dan’s are blessed :stuck_out_tongue: Thank you for this outline and response. I will read more into it and ask you more questions as they come.

God Bless.

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Dan:
Thanks for the kind advice. The foundation of my Faith is Roman Catholic. As a young man I
Rebelled against the strict rules and rituals. As an adult I’ve found that the rules have shaped my character. They have guided me through some murky times. ( for example the last 50 years)

As a result of listening to Ravi I have been reading the Bible daily. It is the most profound experience ever. Most of it brings the rules and rituals to heart and gives them meaning. I’m often confused by siting a particular reading as it seems that the profundity is derived from the total. You can find lines that say you are saved by Belief and lines that say faith without works is meaningless.
I have heard Ravi say that the differences
In the denominations won’t be relevant at final judgment day.
God will sort us out.
I hope my points are clear and my sins are forgiven.
God bless All
R

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Hey Robert, @Robert1, thank you for your reply. Yes, I hate the division in Christianity and the many denominations. Christ never intended it to be like this. Yes the truth matters but we have to also be able to really understand what our differences are. If it is tomato vs tomata difference, then it is ridiculous to separate and confuse the rest of the world that doesn’t know Christ. But if it is major difference, that is an issue as well. Let God help us stay in the truth. As finding the Truth is finding him.

God Bless.

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I am not Catholic, so I can only make observations. My impression, however, is that the main difference between Catholic and Protestant is how we view the Bible. For the Catholic, the Bible is important, but Papal authority is supreme. When there is a doctrinal issue in the Catholic Church, it will be resolved by Papal teaching, not by referring to the Bible. For the Protestant, in theory the Bible is their highest authority. But I am not Protestant, either, so I can hardly speak for them (and anyway there are perhaps thousands of denominations). But as far as who will be in Heaven, the previous posts have it right: Know Jesus? You’re in. Don’t know Jesus, sorry Charlie. As far as works, those who know Him will have works follow them around. Those who do works seeking to justify themselves get the boot (“I never knew you”).

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Thank you for your explanation. It’s really useful

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Thank you so much for your information.

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@Danageze I prefer tomaters. :laughing:

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LMBO @blbossard. I’m laughing so hard. Thanks for making my night. Tomaters are coming right up. The chef is cooking. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Hi Garrett, very similar to questions I have had. I am hoping I am able to make this short and to the point.

At this time in my never-to-be-finished sanctification and walk with Christ, I try to come at these types of questions differently. Is it really whether “X”, “Y”, or “Z” (denomination or individual) are Christian or is it really what they believe, their faith, that makes them Christian?

So the first thing is to define what does it mean to be a Christian? (I know, this could be a REALLY long answer.)

  • Do you believe you are a sinner, that you do not do what God would have you to do or live as He would have you to live? That you do not obey even His basic 10 commands. (Rom 3:23)
  • You realize that you can’t ever be “good enough”, to be as good as God, perfect actually, to enter into His presence. (Matt 5:48)
    • If you are walking humbly, you will acknowledge this. (Micah 6:8)
  • You will never be able to work your way into God’s righteousness, it’s all about faith. (Eph 2:8-9)
  • The work required to be saved, to have your sins forgiven, was accomplished on the Cross by Jesus Christ, alone. (1 Peter 2:24)
  • The ONLY work we must do to be saved is to BELIEVE (that’s faith) what God has said. (John 6:29)
  • If you think you must do ANYTHING to help Jesus get you saved, His death was not good enough, Christ died for nothing. (Gal 2:21)

So whether of not someone calls themselves a Catholic, or Orthodox, or Protestant, or, or, or, isn’t really what is important, it really only matters what they believe and what they know because it’s what you KNOW that determines whether or not you have eternal life. (John 17:3)

Just my thoughts. God bless.

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