October 30, 2013

5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel

by Jesse Johnson

DividedWith Reformation Day this week, it is a good time to remind ourselves of what exactly the differences are between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestants. Certainly on just about every single area of theology there are differences, but here are what I think are the five most glaring and significant issues that separate the Catholic Church from the gospel of grace:  

1) Justification

Evangelicals teach that sinners are justified on the basis of faith alone, and that ones’ faith is placed in the finished substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross, confirmed by his glorious resurrection, and that this is a gift based entirely on his grace. Finally, that justification is complete and total at the moment of our conversion, and that believers never grow more justified.

In contrast the Catholic church teaches that justification is a process that includes works (with those works “infusing” one’s faith), and that those works are the cause of the justification process. Beyond that, the Catholic Church teaches:

“If anyone says, that by faith alone the impious is justified; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent #9)

Or:

“If anyone says that the justice [or justification] received 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 the increase, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, 24).

2. The Pope as head of the church

For evangelicals, the church is made up of all of those who have been justified by God through faith. Local churches are led by elders, and each church is generally autonomous. Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and there is no authority over any local church on earth apart from Scripture.  Elders and pastors are fallible in how they lead the church.

In the Roman Catholic teaching, the church is composed of laity and is led by those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders (deacons, priests and bishops). The head of the church is the Pope, who when speaking authoritatively on matters relating to the church, is protected from the possibility of error concerning doctrine and morals of the church. Also, for anyone to be saved, they must be under the Pope’s authority:

“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Unam Sanctam, 1302).

3. Mass vs. communion

For evangelicals, communion is commemorative, and acts as a remembrance of the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus. The bread is symbolic of the body, and wine symbolic of the blood. There is nothing mystical or meritorious about it, but it is a means of grace and of provoking growth in godliness.

The Catholic Church teaches transubstantiation, that the bread and wine are transformed literally into the body and blood of Jesus. Thus in the mass, the priest calls Jesus down from heaven, and in the breaking of the bread Jesus is re-sacrificed. The mass is meritorious, as one of the seven sacraments, and it is a “true and proper sacrifice.” Here again is the council of Trent:

If any one saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.”

As a side note, many of the Protestants and puritans made martyrs by the RCC went to their deaths over this issue. They considered participation in the Mass to be idolatry, and refused, and often were put to death for their refusal.

4. Mary

For evangelicals, Mary was Jesus’ mother, a sinner, and one who was saved from her sins by her faith in Jesus. We recognize a period of her life where she did not believe in Jesus (see, for example, Mark 3:30-33), but that  by the time of Jesus’ death she had placed her faith in him as her Messiah. She had other children after Jesus, and died a physical death. She is to be admired as a woman of faith.

In the Catholic Church, Mary is an object of devotion—and in much of the world, she is an object of outright worship. It is normative to pray to her (consider, for example, the Hail Mary), and it is taught that she was sinless. In fact, the Immaculate Conception is the Catholic doctrine that Mary was conceived without a sin nature, thus she was not a recipient of Jesus’ redemption, but instead was a participant in that redemption. She was a perpetual virgin, and did not die a physical death, but was rather assumed into heaven, where she reigns now as the Queen of heaven and is herself Ineffabilis Deus (“ineffable God,” or “inexplicably divine”)

5. Purgatory

Evangelicals believe that there is no such place as purgatory, but that hell is real and heaven is obtainable only as a gift from God, through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, and this is all of grace. For those who place their faith in Jesus, when they die they are immediately ushered into glory, where they will be in the presence of the Lord.

In Catholic theology, purgatory is where Catholics go when they die. Only those who are in a state of grace may go there, and once you have suffered for your non-mortal sins, you are made ready to see heaven. Thus purgatory is not eternal—but it is like hell in another way: purgatory involves both flames and suffering, and serves to make atonement for sins that you did not confess before you die. In many ways, Purgatory is the glue that holds the system together. Because it is a system where eternal judgment is based on works, and because sins are frequent and it is impossible to know and confess all of ones’ sins, purgatory is an essential piece of Catholic theology.

I give this list here simply because it always surprises me to find those that say “Catholics and Christians believe the same thing on the important issues, it is just in details where they differ.” Well, I suppose it matters what the “important issues are” but these five certainly touch on areas that are essential to the gospel.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA.
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  • Kenny Blair

    Second only to justification by faith plus works is the Catholic doctrine of the 3 legged stool for final authority. Protestants believe in scripture alone for final authority. Catholics believe in the 3 legged stool of scripture, church tradition, and the majesterium for authority.

    • Elise Hilton

      Where does Scripture state that Scripture alone is the final authority?

      • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

        I would answer that, but I first want to just pause, ask you to re-read your question, and then ask yourself: “given the way I worded my question, does any possible answer to it even matter?”

        • Elise Hilton

          Of course it matters! If, as you believe, Scripture alone is the final authority on truth and salvation, then you MUST be able to prove that with Scripture. Otherwise, “Protestants believe in scripture alone for final authority” means Protestants believe something that is untrue.

          • Bill

            But if you don’t prove that there is another infallible rule of faith and practice for the church, then sola scriptura stands.
            What if I can prove convincingly that have any other infallible rule of faith is to add to God’s words?

          • Elise Hilton

            1 Tim. 3:15: “…so that if I should be delayed you will know what kind of conduct befits a member of God’s household, the church of the living God, THE PILLAR AND BULWARK OF TRUTH.” Clearly, Paul understood that the church is the pillar of Truth. Again, I have to ask, where does Scripture say that Scripture alone is the final authority? If that is your belief, then Scripture MUST back it up, or the entire idea falls apart.

          • Peter Giesbrecht

            Matt. 15:9 “They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.” This falls remarkably near the Catholic flaw of Papal Bulls.

          • jim

            Scripture tells us God is ‘not changing’ (immutable) in several places such as 1 Sam 15:29. The Catholic Church has changed its stance on several points including whether non-Catholics can be saved. Reference 2nd Vatican Council which said non-Catholics can be saved in contrast to earlier teaching which said “salvation was confined within the teachings of the Roman Church”. Since God does not change, and the domain of those saved changed, we know that the decree did not come from God. So therefore the Catholic Church does not always indicate God’s will.

          • Max

            Elise, I find it funny that you have just appealed to a verse in the Bible as authoritative to
            try and support your view of a final authority alongside the Scripture.
            That is, are you assuming Sola Scriptura in order to deny it?

            Also, can you explain the connection between 1 Tim 3:15 and the Roman Church’s view/your view on final authority? It seems like you are assuming your view before you go to the text rather than deriving your view from the text and the context (see esp. 1 Tim 3:16). This verse is not saying that the church is the arbiter or decider of truth or interpretation of the Bible as if it is some sort of authority outside of the Scripture. It is saying the church is to support the truth like a pillar supports a roof or a foundation supports a building. If the Roman Church is indeed the pillar and support of truth, one would expect it to be in precise harmony with clear Biblical teachings, not contradict clear Biblical teachings. What kind of pillar or foundation is the Roman church if it contradicts the Word of God? When understood rightly, 1 Tim 3:15 actually is a strong support for Sola Scriptura. The church must have as its aim the upholding of true doctrine (1 Tim 3:16) through preaching, defending, and practicing the truth. What is God’s truth? His Word. 2 Tim 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God. That’s what the church is to hold up, God’s words, not extra-biblical teaching of man.

        • Elise Hilton

          So, will you answer the question posed? Where does Scripture state that Scripture alone is the only authority of God’s truth?

          • Anthony Jan Yap

            @elisehilton:disqus I have the verses that you are looking for. But before I give it to you, let me tell you that you are twisting the scripture. There is nothing in 1 Tim 3:15 that says that the Catholic Church is the final authority. Period. Have you not read that we are the Church of God because he does not dwell in your fancy buildings?

            Anyway, here are the verses:

            1 Corinthians 4:6 – “Do not go beyond what is written.” (are you surprised that the Bible would literally say that ?)

            Mark 7:9 – “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (A direct blow from Lord Jesus himself to your Catholic theology)

            Galatian 1:8 – “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (The Bible is the only teachings from the apostles that we have now. Catholic Theology contradicts it often.)

            So Elise Hilton, I hope these verses would open up your eyes. If not, then there is great blindness in your eyes.

            I cannot be wrong because I am only quoting God’s words. What about you? What about your traditions that Lord Jesus hated? Your tradition of calling priests as Father and the pope as Holy Father is even contradictory to the commands of the Lord in Matthew 23:9.

  • Ben Santing

    Where do you find that the BVM has become Ineffabilis Deus?

    • JS280

      I’m curious as well. I realize that the title of the papal bull declaring the immaculate conception is “Ineffable Deus”, however I have not come across any documents attributing that title to Mary. Other than that, this article is spot on.

    • allen_t

      a quick search on google or wkipedia will lead you to a decree by Pope Pius IX http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ineffabilis_Deus

      • Elise Hilton

        Like most Church documents, “Ineffabilis Deus” is named after the first few words of the document. This one, an Apostolic Constitution, begins with the words “God is ineffible”, thus “Ineffabilis Deus”. It does NOT declare Mary “ineffable”.

        http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pi09id.htm

  • Elise Hilton

    Regarding justification, how do you reconcile your thoughts with James
    2:24? Also, where does Scripture state we are justified by “faith
    alone”?

    Regarding church leadership (the Pope), if Jesus wanted
    churches to be autonomous, then why did He appoint Peter as head of the
    “Church” (Jesus did not say, “upon this rock I shall build my CHURCHES)?
    Christ wants us to be unified as Christians, not splintered.
    Regarding
    the Mass and the Eucharist, we do not “re-sacrifice” Christ; we can’t –
    humans have no ability to do so. What we do is enter into the eternal
    salvation, the once-and-for-all sacrifice Christ made. It was not a
    sacrifice that was only for those present at the Last Supper or those at
    the foot of the Cross, but an eternal sacrifice. At the Mass, we enter
    into that eternal sacrifice in a substantive and mysterious way, just as
    Christ instructed us to do.
    Catholics do not worship Mary. She is
    recognized as the first saved – why would God allow His Son to be
    carried in a vessel that was unworthy of Him? Even the Ten Commandments,
    the sign of the first covenant, were treated with respect and devotion.
    Certainly, the vessel (Mary) carrying the sign of the New Covenant
    (Christ) must be AT LEAST as worthy. If Christ is King, then logically,
    his mother is Queen, and we as her children in Christ, turn to her in
    supplication, just as we would turn to our own earthly mothers for help
    in times of need.
    Finally, regarding Purgatory, who among us believes
    we are worthy to enter into God’s presence as we are? If you were
    invited to the King’s Palace, would you show up in filthy clothes and
    muddy shoes? Would you not want the opportunity to be as best prepared
    as possible? Would you not want the chance to “be purified” of ALL
    impurities and sins before coming into the presence of Almighty God?
    That is Purgatory, a chance to be wholly purified.

    In the peace of Christ,
    Elise

    • Ray

      Elise,

      Jesse is not giving us his opinion only but has included supporting quotes from RCC documents. Those anathemas from the Council of Trent have never been rescinded. You may not believe certain aspects or teachings of the RCC faith, but those teachings are nevertheless the position of Rome where, as you would agree, lies total church authority.

      Ray

    • allen_t

      You must read James 2:26 in light of James 2:23. You will remember from Genesis and the text there that the declaration and the faith comes before the action. You see this in the book of romans where for 11 ch. he talks about justification, then in chapter 12 he drops the ‘therefore.’ This is also made clear in galatians

      This gets into your second question – to which you must go read Ephesians 2 ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand,that we should walk in them.’ You see here very clearly, which is a James makes clear as well, works are a result of faith. Further if you read Isa 64, you would understand that your best works of righteousness outside of Christ are like offering him a menstrual rag.
      You might at this point point out that I am quoting a bunch of paul, so let’s turn to Jesus. John 3, NIcodimus had the position equivalent to a cardinal – and was told he must be born again.

      The article was not so much about the pope, as it was about hierarchy. 1 Pt. 2 makes it clear that Christ by His death and resurrection abolished the laity.

      All I will mention about Mary is that to put her in a special category necessitates turning a blind eye to the entire book of romans (especially ch 3).

      In your comments on purgatory, you talk about us coming to God. It is the opposite (1 John). God comes to us: he comes to the prostitute (John 4), he comes to lepers, to the blind, to us.
      By Justification, we are made perfect as Christ is perfect (1 Pt 3:18, eph2, romans, galations, sermon on the mount).

  • george canady

    Thank you Jesse. It seems our culture has a kind of reverence for the Catholic church without understanding. Maybe because of how the media has depicted it over the last 100 years. I still feel a pinch when the Catholic church or Pope is decried even though I think myself to be solidly reformed; I think I sense it even in the preaching of the best known reformed pastors.

    • Elise Hilton

      If you believe there is a “kind of reverence” in our culture for the Catholic Church, you are not Catholic. Anti-Catholicism has roots deep in our society, going back before the Founding, when Catholics were banned from many colonies and Mass was prohibited. Catholic schools were illegal. The Ku Klux Klan doesn’t exist only to eliminate blacks; they hate Catholics too.

      • george canady

        Elise,
        Thanks for your reply, I would not consider myself anti-Catholic, although I have been regretably unkind at times to people that disagree with me. My best friend in 1978 Odessa Permian High School (go Mojo) was and remains Catholic. His 85 year old mother seems a model of the devout faithful Catholic. I have so much respect for her. She was so nice to me growing up. She gives her religion a good name. God has been gracious to her. On the other hand, I was raised a Methodist and I was tought my bad behavior would wind up in loss of my salvation. Something similar to Catholacism. Scary for a guy like me. I knew my deeds would never be good enough to keep me from hell. If it were up to me, I would not have a chance at Heaven. I have learned my gift of faith says Jesus behaved for me. So now my obedience is not a duty, it is from a heart of grateful loving thanks. I don’t think my best friend from High school or his mother has that contentment yet.

        • Elise Hilton

          None of us have a chance at Heaven. It is only through Christ that we are redeemed. As Catholics, we believe Heaven is certainly ours to lose, however. I am a sinner, I deserve punishment for all my sins past, present and future. Christ has lifted that punishment, but I can always turn my back on Him.

          • george canady

            Thanks Elise, I would not say I understand fully why I don’t think I could turn my back on Jesus. I am “enjoying the pain” of trying to research what election and predestination is all about. I have gained much insight from John Piper’s book “The Justification of God” and John MacArthur’s books on Lordship Salvation like “Ashamed of The Gospel” and “The Gospel According to Jesus”. Also I have gained from listening to R.C. Sproul at Ligonier Ministries. He is a high intelectual that puts things down where a guy like me can get to them. You sound like someone who has a more educated take on things and would probably enjoy some of these resources. Maybe you already know about them? I have so much to learn, but I now have the contentment in struggle that has alluded me for 40 years. Sorry for a slow response, but my wife has to fix my spelling and grammar.

  • Coleman Ford

    While I am a committed Evangelical and appreciate this summary of differences, I did notice one thing in your presentation which I know misrepresents the Catholic position on the mass.

    While the position of transubstantiation is affirmed, the idea of re-sacrifice is not. The exact wording from the Catholic Catechism says, “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit” (1366; p. 380 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed). I had a theology professor point this out to us in class, and it’s been helpful to look at the Catechism to see what the Roman Catholic church actually believes.

    This doesn’t mean I agree with the position, but I think the position should be represented fairly. Thanks for the post!

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Yeah, “re-sacrifice” was an historic term often used. It is certainly a “representation” as well, and also a “real and true” sacrifice. I don’t want to quibble over the difference between “re-sacrifice” and “re-presents the sacrifice in a real and true way.” Either way, it is most certainly idolatry, or as Lady Jane Gray, Queen of England, said, “If the baker made God, who made the baker?”

      • Elise Hilton

        If it is idolatry, then how do you explain John 6:53-65? The word Jesus uses for “feeds” or “eats” literally translates as “gnaws”. He meant “EAT” His flesh. Many disciples were upset by his words and left Him. Had he been speaking only metaphorically, would He not have been bound by the Truth that He was to explain Himself more clearly? Instead, He said to those remaining, “Do you want to leave me as well?” He didn’t say, “Hey, hold on. You misunderstood me. I didn’t mean you REALLY had to eat my flesh and drink my blood…” Catholics do not worship bread and wine; we worship Jesus Christ: Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity.

        • Erik Jellum

          They left him, because they rightly understood that he was claiming divinity with his statement. He was claiming that he is the way of salvation. Eating his body and drinking his blood is a parable, just like all his other parables.

          • Elise Hilton

            Read John 6:60-61 and tell me if that sounds like they “rightly understood.”

          • Erik Jellum

            Yeah, John 6:60-61 sounds like they rightly understood he was claiming divinity. Many other times when people heard Jesus claims to divinity, they tried to kill him. In this case, they decided to leave him, not kill him.

          • Erik Jellum

            The more I thought about it, I realized I was partly wrong. You are right that there were those who didn’t rightly understand. They thought Jesus was talking about eating his actual body, and drinking his actual blood, and got upset with him about that. There were others that rightly understood he was claiming divinity, and saying he was the only way to salvation, and they got upset with him about that.

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  • Travis

    “We recognize a period of her life where she did not believe in Jesus (see, for example, Mark 3:30-33)” Could you draw this out a little further?

    • Howard Parks

      Mark 3:21 should have been included; his famly thought Jesus was out of His mind and went to take charge of Him. Verse 31 is when they arrived. His mother was part of this group that came to take charge of Him.

  • Paul W

    Thank you for this post – I’m going to review with the family tomorrow on Ref Day.
    Regarding authority for doctrine and life, I recently read about the Weslyan Quadrilateral where sola scriptura is used as a “complimentary” principle of religious authority along with tradition, reason, and experience. For sola scriptura in the reformed tradition, I suppose the point which has to be stressed is “final” authority, since reason, tradition, and experience/conscience are also used in living the Christian life, formulating theology, and in interpreting/understanding the scriptures themselves. I’m not sure in what sense sola scriptura is “final” within the quadrilateral, if it in fact is final. More reading to do.

  • Sam

    To leave aside the issues of Catholic doctrine, this post gives an odd take on Protestant belief. It excludes John Calvin, all Presbyterians (McCheyne! Chalmers!), Evangelical Anglicans (Charles Simeon! Whitefield!), and a huge number of others. None of these people would agree with what you say on autonomous churches, and most would disagree with the (Zwinglian) idea that Communion is symbolic only.
    I know you are an independent, but this is a bit much! To say you think it right is one thing; to imply it is the one accepted evangelical view is quite another.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      I tried not to say “symbolic only.” It IS symbolic,but I definitely didn’t use the word “only.”
      Can you give me an example or two of where I’m not representing someone like Calvin correctly?

  • Alex Anvari

    You should try actually referencing Catholic doctrine (the catechism?) when you “quote” Catholic beliefs.

    Most of your points are pure conjecture and you pulled proof-text based on your pre-determined confirmation bias.

    I can google for things I want my opponent to have said too.

    Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary:

    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. It would seem, however, that . . . many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      I quoted from the main RCC documents on those topice. Not really some obscure sources. BTW, here is a link on C-gate where Nate give several more sources, none of which are obscure things found via google or whatever: http://thecripplegate.com/reprise-the-gospel-according-to-rome/

  • Roxanne

    Perhaps you should be clear about which corner of Protestant theology you are comparing with Catholicism. The entirety of these ideas most definitely do not represent them all. I am neither Protestant (though I came from a Protestant household) nor Catholic and want to just see them both fairly represented.

    I will make one point though, you have no proof that Mary had other children and that she did not believe until later in her life. Firstly, she said yet to God by excepting Christ in her womb. It took great faith and belief to say yes already at that point. Secondly, Mary was a young teenager between 14 and 16 when she became with child and had previously, not married, but been betrothed to (you need to know historical and cultural context here) Joseph, an elderly widower who already had many adult children. Therefore, you have no proof that Mary had other children. For context you can read the Protevangelium of James, among other places, which is a historical account of the early life of Mary and her parents Joachim and Anna.

    This is the problem with throwing Tradition out completely (throwing the baby out with the bathwater), people also throw out the history books, and completely disconnect themselves with historical context, historical social norms/customs, and therefore completely misinterpret things here, there, and everywhere.

    Matthew 5:17
    Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

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  • Johnny

    I big one, and one often overlooked, is that Rome rules with the sword. We have centuries of crusades and inquisition courtesy of Rome and it’s fondness of enforcing her will via means of the sword. In preparation for a Reformation service tomorrow I’ve been reading about various reformers and the brutal treatment they received at the hands of the RCC, generally for horrific sins such as translating the Bible into English for everyone to read, or teaching the gospel of Christ Jesus by faith alone, or baptizing someone who was actually a repentant believer (and not a baby.) These were crimes worthy of torture and execution, according to Rome?

    Eccumenicalism will never work with true biblical Christianity as history has shown that Rome has a fondness of enforcing her will via means of violence and killing, and to those who think things have changed, keep in mind that the Vatican has it’s own military to this day….

  • Guest

    I am a little confused. Is the Roman Catholic Church Christian? Are the Orthodox churches throughout the world Chistian? Or is the only word the can be exchanged for Christian the word Evangelical?

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      It depends on what you mean by “christian.” A religion about Jesus? Then yes. A religion that teaches the gospel of salvation by faith alone, in Jesus alone, bestowed by grace alone? Then the RCC is NOT.
      Are there people in the RCC that are saved? Yes. can you be saved while believing what the RCC teaches? No. They themselves say that if anyone says they are saved by grace alone, they are damned. So the RCC says that its teachings are not compatible with the gospel.

      • http://nathanrhale.com/ Nathan R. Hale

        We must be careful that we consider all authoritative documents and not just pull quotes out of their context. We must also be careful to discern what Roman Catholics *mean* when they use vocab we are used to using in a certain way. What Roman Catholics are condemning is antinomianism.

        Consider this additional quote from Trent for more perspective. We are

        “…said to be justified gratuitously (i.e., by grace), because none of those things which precede justification, whether faith or works, merit grace itself of justification, for ‘if it is a grace, it is not now by reason of works, otherwise (as the same Apostle says) grace would no longer be grace’

        [Rom 11:6]”

        I have developed this line of thought more completely here, with quotes and references:

        http://nathanrhale.com/protestants-and-roman-catholic-justification/

        Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have legitimate differences of conviction. Yet, let’s not caricature each other.

        • elainebitt

          “Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have legitimate differences of conviction.”

          Yet, only one can be “true religion”.

          • http://nathanrhale.com/ Nathan R. Hale

            Agreed, someone is wrong on those things :) But we should make every effort to charitably understand others’ point of view! While I readily acknowledge there are serious rifts of belief and practice between Roman Catholics and most evangelicals, we evangelicals sometimes overstate our case without seriously making the effort to understand what our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are *actually saying*.

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  • Tim Cantrell

    Thanks, Jesse. You led us all 7 of us in family worship today for a Reformation Day reading – a very helpful summary. Blessings brother, Tim

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Thanks Tim. Good to hear from you.

  • Daniel L.

    Hey Jesse. Of all articles to get such kickback… I’m surprised that people assume you have jumped to conclusions. Since everyone claims we have to go to the Catholic source, what better than the Council of Trent. Though some try to argue that Trent is only one document of many, the fact is that it is the most official and carefully delineated of all Catholic documents. We cannot revise Catholic doctrine based on the interpretation of some modern-day Catholic blogger. I just wanted to give a small sampling to show that your judgement is spot on. All Protestants should take some time to read the Council of Trent if they wish to interact on these issues. Thanks for your ministry Jesse. The Cripplegate is a great blessing to many.

    Council of Trent Excerpts:
    Fourth Session:
    “But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema”

    Sixth Session:
    CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.
    CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.
    CANON XXIII.-lf any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,-except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema
    CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.

    Seventh Session:
    CANON I.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.
    CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not ineed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.
    CANON VIII.-If any one saith, that by the said sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace; let him be anathema.
    CANON V.-If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation; let him be anathema.

    Thirteenth Session:
    CANON I.-If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.
    CANON IV.-If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.
    CANON V.-If any one saith, either that the principal fruit of the most holy Eucharist is the remission of sins, or, that other effects do not result therefrom; let him be anathema.
    CANON VIII.-lf any one saith, that Christ, given in the Eucharist, is eaten spiritually only, and not also sacramentally and really; let him be anathema.

  • Igor

    One Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) theologian recently wrote that salvation in ROC is by God’s grace alone (although it is a life long journey), whereas salvation according to evangelicals requires work – repentance. Looks like they (ROC) turn our argument against us, evagelicals.

    • Daniel L.

      Hey Igor,
      I can understand there is some confusion here. I have in the past gotten tripped up on this myself. We evangelicals believe that repentance is given by God (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25). It is a mystery in that we are called to repent and yet we cannot unless God enables our hearts to be inclined to repent (cf. Luke 24:47 and John 6:65). So we are to preach repentance, but only those who God grants repentance will actually repent. IF we are to believe that repentance is a “work”, then I could equally argue that the ROC is advocating the “work” of believing salvation is by God’s grace alone. At the end of the day, you could argue that any act by man is a “work”, but this is not a right understanding of what Paul is describing in Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul is arguing that your righteousness cannot earn salvation, not that you should neglect repentance and belief. I hope that is helpful, and perhaps others can explain better.

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