Are Roman Catholics Christians?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by VilnaGaon, Jul 1, 2009.

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  1. VilnaGaon

    VilnaGaon Puritan Board Sophomore

    Martin Luther stated that the doctrine on which a Church Stands or Falls is Justification by Faith Alone without the works of the Law. The Reformed Baptist, Robert Zins uses this statement of Luther to prove that Catholics are not Christians. If one reflects on Luther's statement, you can see that all the Fundamental Doctrines of the Faith such as Total Depravity, Divinity of the Lord Jesus, Substitutionary Work of the Lord Jesus on behalf of His Elect can be deduced or found in the Doctrine of Justification by Faith alone. The Roman Catholic (even the Orthodox) Churches openly and explicitly deny this most Vital Doctrine, therefore they are not Christians, because by inference they are also denying the other Doctrines of the Faith which hang on Justification by Faith alone.
    James White in his book on Justification says something similar. Mueller in his Christian Dogmatics(LCMS) backs up Luther on that statement. But Mueller unfortunately refuses to draw the logical conclusion that Roman Catholics are not Christians.
    Any thoughts on this.
  2. chbrooking

    chbrooking Puritan Board Junior

    If a Roman Catholic is consistent with the teachings of his church, then he is not a Christian. But such consistency is not necessarily the case. Some (few) may be blissfully (graciously) ignorant, and actually trust in Christ alone in spite of RCC teaching.
  3. jpfrench81

    jpfrench81 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi Jacob,

    Roman Catholicism is not Christian. Roman Catholics may be Christian. It really depends on whether they truly follow Roman Catholic teachings. If they do, then the answer is no, they are not. But if the simply attend a Roman Catholic church but actually believe the gospel, then of course they are a Christian. A related question might be: how could a truly regenerate person attend the Roman Catholic church. The razor also cuts both ways: a Protestant isn't necessarily Christian either. It depends whether they believe the gospel and have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Christ.
  4. jonmo

    jonmo Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't have the theological training to answer your question. However, as an uneducated lay man, I get a bit nervous about definitive statements like this, wiping out an entire slate of the nominal Christian church from Christianity.

    From my basic understanding, I think Roman Catholicism as a creed makes it very difficult for its adherents to genuinely grasp the Gospel (it ties in too much emphasis on works and tradition, for a start). However, the membership of that church is not as homogeneous as you might think and, based on conversations with many Roman Catholics over the year, I believe there are some who have a saving faith in Christ.

    I now defer to those much better qualified to comment than I am.
  5. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    Some are, some aren't.

    The wonderful thing about salvation by grace is that it is not dependent on how good our theology is.
  6. Berean

    Berean Puritan Board Doctor

  7. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    I don't think you can say that. That's like saying if one were a Christian, one would not stay in the church of Osteen. It's one thing to point out the errors in a church, but it's another to say that a "real" Christian wouldn't go there.
  8. VilnaGaon

    VilnaGaon Puritan Board Sophomore

    But which Christ are they trusting in, ----the Christ presented to us in the Bible, or the Roman Catholic Christ of their church and tradition, their so called Magisterium. If all truth is propositional as I believe, this question is vital.
  9. Knoxienne

    Knoxienne Puritan Board Graduate

    True - I would further say that one couldn't. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in salvation and would lead the person out of a heretical situation. Jesus Christ is the author and the finisher of our faith. He doesn't just save us and leave us alone to float around in heretical churches.

    Otherwise we should just start calling everybody in every religious (not necessarily Christian) group everywhere brothers and sisters in Christ. There's a reason we don't do that. We don't adhere to the universal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
  10. VilnaGaon

    VilnaGaon Puritan Board Sophomore

  11. historyb

    historyb Puritan Board Junior

    Since the Reformation came out of there I would say yes, they are the ancestors in a since
  12. Nomad

    Nomad Puritan Board Freshman

    If a Roman Catholic actually understands and believes what Rome teaches with regard to justification, namely, that good works done in a state of grace are meritorious toward the gaining of eternal life, then no.
  13. jambo

    jambo Puritan Board Senior

    I believe the official teaching of the RC is unbiblical and anti-Christian. It is a great counterfeit that deludes many people and especially those who are theologically weak or with a poor knowledge of scripture. It does not matter how good a counterfeit note is, it has no more value than a Monopoly note and is therefore worthless.

    Having said that, I do believe there are some Christians within the RC church but they are not Christian because they followed the teaching of the church. Many feel they could perhaps reform the church, but it just doesn't happen and after a period of time they leave.
  14. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    What about someone who believes that justification comes through the exercise of free will to accept Christ's offer of salvation? Can that person be saved?
    Must someone know exactly how they are saved in order to be saved?
  15. Nomad

    Nomad Puritan Board Freshman

    There is a crucial difference between Arminians and Roman Catholics. Arminians as wrong as they are for worshipping at the alter of free will, do not deny sola fide. Again, Rome on the other hand, teaches that good works help to "merit" eternal life. A Roman Catholic who believes this denies the Gospel.
  16. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    By God's grace, many of my Catholic friends always refer to their Church's teachings thusly: "you have to take it with a grain of salt."
  17. VilnaGaon

    VilnaGaon Puritan Board Sophomore

    No consistent and TRUE arminian can ever be saved. All arminians I have met who demonstrated through their lives that that they were born again, inconsistently believed that Salvation is 100% of God, but yet a sinner has free will. These kind of arminians are as Martyn Lloyd Jones put it very well, right in their hearts but wrong in their heads. Sadly these kinds of arminians are a minority in Arminian Churches.
  18. Nomad

    Nomad Puritan Board Freshman

    That reminds me of a recent converstion. I spoke to a woman on an Arminian/Roman Catholic message board a few months ago who was in the process of converting to Roman Catholicism. She continued to post like a Protestant, even saying that she believed in justification by faith alone. I told her that as a RC she could no longer believe that. She asked for proof! I showed her from Trent and the current Catholic Catechism. She never responded and is now officially a RC. From what I was able to gather, this woman is a Protestant who likes the "trappings" of Roman Catholicism.
  19. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    At this point to answer the question I think it is important to make some distinctions. 1) to seperate out the theological system of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox with a more orthodox theological system and 2) the culture that Rome and the Eastern churches produce. One, in my option, can be saved and believe in the True Christ and the True Gospel while falling into these systems, but that is despite of these systems. Likewise it is true with our systems one may be lost but adhere to the points of doctrine. but still be lost. We need to be careful to remember that we are not saved based on our parents, our hertiage, or our theolgical system, but based on the grace of God through faith. I am not down playing the use of doctrine for I see it as a tool to dertermine who is in the faith and who is not. There are many roman Catholics today that do not agree with Rome on many points, and if we are to condem them for being a part of Rome, then also condem the church next door and those who attend there for haveing the same doctrine of salvation, I'm leaving out justification for now. We all know Rome goes with the times and they are extremely liberal, however this liberalism in a way could be a blessing for the return to true orthodox when the bad arguments are striped away like for example Limbo and possibly Purgatory soon. I have meet those who had faith in Christ alone and did not really know what Rome taught offical and heard a wide variety of things. I once got into an argument with a past Roman Catholic on the histoical position of Rome on reading their Bible, where this person who was Roman atholic was being told by the priest they should read their bible. So there are elments of possiblity that exists for real christians and Rome is not consistant with themselves, their main argument agaist denominations. We just need to teach the bible plainly and be paitent for those coming to a fuller knowlege of the faith.
  20. ChariotsofFire

    ChariotsofFire Puritan Board Sophomore

    Isn't the main problem with the Roman church that instead of relying on Christ alone for salvation, they also rely on themselves? Don't Arminians do the same? They rely on themselves to choose salvation. Are they saved?

    Even as Reformed Christians, our hearts long to contribute just a little bit with our good works, despite what our theology teaches.

    Where do we draw the line? If you believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord you will be saved. The question comes as to whether you are believing in the true Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. I believe the Apostle's Creed is a good indicator of the "essentials of the faith."
  21. Irish Presbyterian

    Irish Presbyterian Puritan Board Freshman

    Calvin said that Rome wasn't a true church but that didn't men there wasn't a true church among her.
  22. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Some of them are maybe true Christians inspite of their church's teachings. If the Holy Spirit does a thorough work in them they'll want to come out.

    We are commanded to come out of apostate churches in which an antichrist/the Antichrist has been set up in:-

    And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Rev. 18:4)

    People may think that they are strong enough Christians but it is more likely they will be influenced for bad than that they will influence others for good. I've seen this in the Church of Scotland where the antichrist of Liberal Theology has been set up for decades.

    All Roman Catholics are nominally Christians, because they partake of a perverted version of baptism and the Lord's Supper, but that just brings them under greater condemnation, as it does with nominal Liberal Christians or others. The inner reality of the covenant must be there for salvation as well as an outward bond.

    The percentage of Christians (Romanist, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal) that are true Christians must be quite small (?) We need to be praying for God to do a great work on the Earth.
  23. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    There is no good reason for us to regard any Roman Catholic as being a believer. Our judgment, however, is a different thing than speaking of the absolute standing they have with God.

    Is it theoretically possible that a Roman Catholic can be a Christian? First we must define "Roman Catholic".

    -If by RC we mean one that has ever set foot in a RC church, of course we must say that it is surely possible.

    -If by RC we mean a member of the RCC, then we must admit that it is at least possible. Many of our forefathers were 'born' in the RCC. However, they left, as is the duty of all who have eyes to see.

    -If by RC, we mean that a person subscribes to the RC doctrines (in otherwords a TRUE RC), then we must say no. Their gospel is no gospel. It is no good news.

    I find it curious as to why Martyn Lloyd Jones would not have said that they were right in their heads and wrong in their hearts. But I would rather side with Jeremiah and say that I cannot know the human heart.

    But, if we were to judge their profession, we should come to the same conclusion as the RC, which is no gospel. While they may not deny sola fide explicitly, the doctrine that they earnestly contend for destroys it just the same. Remember, the RC's will say that one is justified by faith as well. Just because one adds "sola" to that statement, does not imply that they mean the same thing that we do.
  24. dr_parsley

    dr_parsley Puritan Board Freshman

    I think that's a good way to look at it - does someone trust in Christ alone? Many Roman Catholics trust in their church above Christ, but many trust in Christ alone and use their church as an infallible aid. Many pentecostals/charismatics trust in what they perceive to be manifestations of the spirit, which amounts to trusting in their own interpretation of the phenomenons. But many pentecostals/charistmatics do trust in Christ alone. Many reformed trust in their interpretation of the bible above Christ, but many trust in Christ alone and use the bible as an infallible aid. And so it goes on; the Puritan view of assurance is clear - look for evidences in your life of the work of the spirit in the killing of sin and gospel duties done in grace. To decide on the assurance of another is even less clear - leave it up to our mutual Master.

    What we *can* guess at, is that if someone holds doctrine X, then they will find it considerably difficult to be someone who has died with Christ and raised with Him; someone who has caught up in Christ and is growing up into Him their head. If it's difficult to be saved with doctrine X, then on the other hand it is not impossible unless the gospel includes "believing X is an unpardonable sin". For that to be true, X would have to be very extreme indeed.
  25. VilnaGaon

    VilnaGaon Puritan Board Sophomore

    Respectfully brother, the Christ we believe in is not some vague ,mystical, unknowable idea that the Roman church puts forth as their saviour. Our Jesus is the Jesus presented in the Bible only. We only cling to the propositional truths in Scripture Alone. Any other salvation and any other Jesus is just a fantasy.:handshake:
  26. ReformedChapin

    ReformedChapin Puritan Board Freshman

    I want all of those who say that if Rome is anti-christian or un-christian because they don't believe in the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone they should be consistant and pretty much conclude that all evangelicalism except for the reformed and lutheran are un-christian (or whatever you want to call it.) If you examine arminianism (evangelicalism) it's pretty much on the same path as rome, a works based religion even if both claim the grace of God.

    I can't take that position, I know that both Rome and Arminians (again evangelicalism) push for the grace of God. No matter how incorrect they are with their theologies, they believe in grace even if they give man more freedom that they should.
  27. dr_parsley

    dr_parsley Puritan Board Freshman

    We are not saved by the propositional truths, we are saved by Christ. Someone can be saved while believing wrong propositions, but it makes it less likely. We believe in Christ himself, not in any representation of Him, whether that representation is made by the church or by scripture. Now scripture will always agree with the actual Christ, the church will not. But it is important to have the humility to realise that our interpretation of scripture may not agree with the real Christ and indeed CANNOT agree completely. I presume John Owen is still considered a reformed theologian? Well, before you answer me, read what he has to say, which I happened to read last night in "The Mortification of Sin" in the chapter on humility:

    Apart from those few things which God has taught us, I'm afraid Owen thinks Christ is, to take your words, "vague, mystical and unknowable" and to think otherwise is to set up an idol in our minds that may as well be hewn out of wood or stone. If we cling to the image we have formed of Him in our minds, and refuse Christ Himself (when we refuse other Christians on a point of debated interpretation) then we are on a dangerous course.

    It seems to me the correct course is to assume no-one is a Christian unless there is some gospel evidences of it. Preach to them, warn them, build them up into Christ, but don't assume they are saved especially not simply because they adhere to a set of propositions. The question then about Roman Catholics is then answered, "Don't assume they're saved any more than any one else (including your reformed friends) and only begin to suspect it of either when there are clear gospel evidences".
  28. rpavich

    rpavich Puritan Board Freshman

    <blockquote>All Roman Catholics are nominally Christians, because they partake of a perverted version of baptism and the Lord's Supper, but that just brings them under greater condemnation, as it does with nominal Liberal Christians or others.</blockquote>

    Brother; I found that statement disturbing.

    Nominally Christians? I don't think that their is a catagory called "nominal Christian" is there? Isn't it an either / or proposition?

    Could you possibly expand a little on what you meant? :think:
  29. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I meant that just as there were Jews in the Old Covenant who were not of the true Israel, so there are "Christians" in the New Covenant i.e. who partake of baptism and the Lord's Supper who are not of the true invisible Church. These are wolves in sheep's clothing. Their putting themselves under the bond of the covenant without the spiritual reality will only lead to their further condemnation, as happened to the unbelieving Jews who were in the legal bond of the covenant without the reality of true faith. They are dead wood in the New Covenant Olive Tree which needs to be pruned out by church discipline and God's providence.


    Romans 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.

    Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

    Matt. 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

    Hebrews 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

    This last passage indicates the significance of being a nominal Christian - a Christian in name only, without the inner reality of faith. Continuing in the legal bond of the Covenant has purely negative consequences for the individual, unless they repent and believe, but it does make a difference: a negative difference.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2009
  30. rpavich

    rpavich Puritan Board Freshman

    Boy...did I read that backwards! Sorry for the confusion.

    I get a little touchy when I read things like that, thanks for clarifying.

    god bless brother...
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