March 14, 2013

Reprise: The ‘Gospel’ According to Rome

by Nathan Busenitz

With a new pope elected, the eyes of the world are on the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt many evangelicals find themselves confused as to the critical differences between the biblical gospel and the gospel according to Rome. Hence today’s post:

In Romans 11:6, Paul says of salvation, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”

rosaryBy contrast, Roman Catholicism finds itself in the impossible position of advocating a gospel in which salvation is offered by grace plus works. The Catholic church promotes a synergistic sacramental soteriology in which human good works, along with God’s grace, contribute to the sinner’s justification.

This is in distinct contrast to the evangelical understanding of the gospel, in which salvation is received by grace through faith alone.

Despite the eccumenical efforts of some, the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Evangelicalism is one of substance not merely semantics.

Today’s post is intended as a summary of Roman Catholic teaching with regard to the essence of the gospel (in order to demonstrate how it strays from the biblical message of salvation). Catholic sources are included under each of the following points.

* * *

I. According to Rome, salvation is not by grace alone through faith alone; it does not come through the sole imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner.

Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9: “If anyone says, that by faith alone the impious is justified . . . let him be anathema.”

Council of Trent, Canon 11: “If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the favor of God, let him be anathema.”

* * *

II. According to Rome, good works are necessary for salvation. They are not merely the fruits of justification (as evangelicals assert), they are actually the root of it. They are meritorious and will be rewarded with eternal life.

Council of Trent, Canon 24: “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.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in an article entitled Sanctifying Grace, states that the sinner “is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness” such that “over and above faith other acts are necessary for justification” including acts of charity, penance with contrition, and almsgiving.

Catholic Answers: “Even though only God’s grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please him, and he promises to reward them with eternal life (Rom. 2:6–7, Gal. 6:6–10). Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer him. Then he gives us grace to obey his commandments in love, and he rewards us with salvation when we offer these acts of love back to him (Rom. 2:6–11, Gal. 6:6–10, Matt. 25:34–40). . . . We do not ‘earn’ our salvation through good works (Eph. 2:8–9, Rom. 9:16), but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life (Rom. 2:7, Gal. 6:8–9).”

Notice the confusion Catholic theology portrays in trying to maintain a gospel of both grace and works. On the one hand, Catholic apologists assert that believers do not earn their salvation through good works. On the other hand, they contend that God rewards good works with eternal life. Those two concepts are contradictory. Is eternal life a free gift (received by grace) or is it a reward (received on the basis of good works)? It cannot be both.

But Catholics do not seem to be aware of that critical contradiction. Hence, the Catholic Catechism asserts that heaven is “God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ” (P 1821). In other words, heaven is offered on the basis of grace plus works.

Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott reiterates the confusing concept that eternal life is both a gift of God’s grace and a reward for human good works.

Catholic theologian, Ludwig Ott: “The Council of Trent teaches that for the justified eternal life is both a gift or grace promised by God and a reward for his own good works and merits. . . . According to Holy Writ, eternal blessedness in heaven is the reward . . . for good works performed on this earth, and rewards and merit are correlative concepts” (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma [Rockford: Tan, 1974], 264).

Ludwig Ott: “As God’s grace is the presupposition and foundation of (supernatural) good works, by which man merits eternal life, so salutary works are, at the same time gifts of God and meritorious acts of man. (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 264, 267).

In particular, Catholic theology asserts that the sacraments are necessary for salvation — including baptism and the keeping of the Ten Commandments.

Catholic author, John Hardon: “Are the sacraments necessary for salvation? According to the way God has willed that we be saved the sacraments are necessary for salvation” (John Hardon, Question # 1119).

The Catholic Catechism: “The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandements are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them [fn, Cf. DS 1569–1570]; the Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, succors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments” (P 2068; ellipsis in original)

Notice that “baptism” and the “observance of the Ten Commandments” have been added to “faith” as being necessary for unbelievers to “attain salvation.” This is similar to the Judaizers of Acts 15, who wanted to add circumcision and Mosaic Law-keeping to the requirements for salvation in apostolic times. In fact, in Roman Catholic theology, baptism is regarded as the equivalent of circumcision, and the Ten Commandmants are the heart and summary of the Mosaic Law.

You can see how Paul responded to the synergistic gospel of the Judaizers in Galatians 1:6–9.

* * *

III. According to Rome, the act of water baptism brings forgiveness for sins. Any major sins committed after baptism must be paid for by the sinner through acts of penance.

The Catholic view on penance represents a distorted understanding of the biblical doctrine of repentance.

The Catholic Catechism: “By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as punishment for sin.” (P 1263)

The Catholic Catechism: “Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded the ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification.” (P 1446)

The Catholic Catechism: “Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is also called ‘penance’.” (P 1459; emphasis mine)

John Hardon: “Penance is . . . necessary because we must expiate and make reparation for the punishment which is due our sins. . . . We make satisfaction for our sins by every good act we perform in the state of grace but especially by prayer, penance and the practice of charity” (Question #1320).

* * *

IV. According to Rome, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is not sufficient to send the redeemed directly to heaven. Thus, sins that are not properly paid for in this life (through penance) will be purified after death through temporary punishment in Purgatory.

Council of Trent, Canon 30: “If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.”

Handbook for Today’s Catholic: “If you die in the love of God but possess any stains of sin, such stains are cleansed away in a purifying process called Purgatory. These stains of sin are primarily the temporal punishment due to venial or mortal sins already forgiven but for which sufficient penance was not done during your lifetime” (p. 47).

The Catholic Catechism says that Purgatory is for “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation, but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (P 1030).

Pope Paul VI: “The doctrine of purgatory clearly demonstrates that even when the guilt of sin has been taken away, punishment for it or the consequences of it may remain to be expiated and cleansed. They often are. In fact, in purgatory the souls of those ‘who died in the charity of God and truly repentant, but who had not made satisfaction with adequate penance for their sins and omissions’ are cleansed after death with punishments designed to purge away their debt.” (Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, January 1, 1967).

This, of course, is in direct contrast to biblical teaching about divine forgiveness:

Romans 8:1 – “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 5:18–21 – “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Colossians 2:13–14 – “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

* * *

V. According to Rome, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is repeated every time the Mass is celebrated.

Council of Trent: “If anyone says, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice . . . and that it ought not to be offered for the living and dead for sins, pains, satisfactions and other necessities: let him be anathema” (Doctrine on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 3).

John Hardon: “The Sacrifice of the altar . . . is no mere empty commemoration of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, but a true and proper act of sacrifice. Christ, the eternal High Priest, in an unbloody way offers himself a most acceptable Victim to the eternal Father as He did upon the Cross. . . . In the Mass, no less than on Calvary, Jesus really offers His life to His heavenly Father. . . . The Mass, therefore, no less than the Cross, is expiatory for sins” (Questions #1265, 1269, 1277).

This is in direct contrast to the biblical teaching about Christ’s death:

Hebrews 7:26–27: “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”

Hebrews 10:10–14: “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

* * *

The Biblical Position: In contrast to the Roman Catholic position, salvation comes through faith alone by grace alone based on the work of Christ alone. (Though good works result from our new birth, they are not the basis of it. Good works are the fruit of justification, not the root of it.)

Here are just a few verses to make the point.

Luke 18:9–14 – “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

John 20:31 – “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Acts 16:30–31 – “After he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”

Romans 4:2–5 – “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

Romans 10:9–10 – “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Ephesians 2:8–10 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Titus 3:4–8 – “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.”

Conclusion: Before evangelicals rush headlong to enthusiastically embrace the new pope (pretending as if the Reformation never happened), they should stop and remember the fact that the Roman Catholic Church teaches a gospel that is utterly incompatible with the biblical gospel of grace. In the same way that Paul denounced the false teachings of the Judaizers (Gal. 1:6-9), the gospel according to Rome deserves unhesistating words of condemnation.

That means that those who promote Rome’s false gospel, including the new pope, ought to be confronted for their part in the propogation of damning error.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • Linda Rice

    I appreciate the clarity. Thanks.

  • Jim Dowdy

    Thanks Nathan for this excellent reminder. I am still surprised at how many western “evangelicals” I meet that either believe the Roman Catholic Church is evangelical or at least “close enough.” This means these “evangelicals” either do not understand the biblical gospel or that they are misinformed about Roman Catholicism, or both. A number of (evangelical) folks over the years have puzzled over the fact that my wife and I are (Christian) missionaries in Mexico where over 90 million of its 112 million inhabitants are Catholic. After all, they say, isn’t Mexico already “Christian”? This is yet another reminder why posts such as yours today are constantly needed.

    Jim Dowdy, Missionary-Professor
    Word of Grace Biblical Seminary
    Mexico City, Mexico

    • Mark Ray

      Hello Jim Dowdy. I know that every day you have to stand on those essential differences in gentleness and truth. Mark Ray from Faith Community Church, Woodstock, GA.

      • HL Jackson

        Mark,
        I live nearby in Cumming, GA. Where is your church community located?

    • jeppo

      Catholics ARE Christian! They are the original Christians. The problem is that many of them haven’t been well catechized and don’t know their faith as well as they should. They are then told false-truths or misunderstandings about their Catholic faith and since they are not as versed as they should be, they are led away from the one true Church that Christ established. There are so many misunderstandings about the Catholic faith.

      It reminds me of what Arch-Bishop Fulton Sheen once said…..”There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There
      are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic
      Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

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  • kevin2184

    So well written. Thanks Nathan. I’ve posted this to my facebook page. My prayer is that my Catholic family and friends read this and are saved.

  • Michael Burke

    my added cheers Nathan for this excellent reminder. One thing I noticed this morning is the “Verses” Pope Francis will use in the Inagural Mass. Have you noticed them and the implicit message they convey? If that is not an eye opener for the Faithful True Believer, I am suspect this one has not been fully briefed on Our Risen Savior whose mission in the escathology of the ages is quite rebellious to it? Confer 1 Cor. 15:24-25!

    • jeppo

      Could you explain more of this? I’m not getting what you are saying? What are you saying that the verses that were used at the Pope’s Inaugural Mass imply?

  • Mary Elizabeth Palshan

    What a blessing this article is!!! I will also post this to my facebook page. Thank you, Professor Busenitz.

  • SLIMJIM

    Thank you for this post! My prayers is that many Catholics will read this and the Gospel be planted in their hearts

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  • http://hausers.us Jason

    Thanks for reposting this. Check out the first minute of this interview, you will be shocked with what you hear Robert Jeffress say about the pope, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6zi0IOCA5Sc I’m glad Al Mohler removed his facebook post that Ratzinger should be praised for defending life and fighting moral decline.

  • kjh

    I. Nowhere is scripture does it say that salvation is through faith alone. And yet James 2:24 says salvation is NOT through faith alone.

    II. Romans 2:6 – He will render to each one according to his works

    III. John 3 – you must be born of water and spirit;

    I Peter 3:21 – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    IV. Scripture nowhere says we go “directly to heaven” after we die. The closest is Paul who says to to absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

    V. It not as though Catholics don’t believe in the sufficiency of Christ. They believe so strongly in power and sufficiency Christ, that he is able to be present in the Eucharist, even if that goes against modern rational thinking. Your quotes did not show Catholic teaching denying the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.

    I’m not RC and don’t agree with Rome on a lot of things. However, Its not as though many of their teachings don’t have a biblical basis. If we want to exalt Christ, perhaps we should seek the unity that he called us to. I realize you believe strongly that you a trying to promote unity around the gospel by explaining how errant Rome is. However, our unity is to be in Christ himself, not in a system of doctrine. Maybe we should have a little more respect for the Catholic positions, even if we don’t agree with them.

    • elainebitt

      There’s no such thing as unity in error. Can you imagine Jesus saying to the Pharisees something like “we believe in the same God, so let’s put our differences aside and move on to more profitable things”?

      Strangely enough (that is, to you), Jesus did think doctrine was important. Very important. It was over doctrine that he drew a very clear line. How can one read the Gospels and deny that, baffles me.

      Lastly, I could not see any disrespect coming from Nathan on this article. What you are really saying is this (which is what all say when they play the “respect” card): do not call out any disagreements that you might have with such-and-such, just ignore them and let’s all learn how to play well together”.

      I understand it is hard for some people to understand that it is not OUR disagreements, as if it is all a matter of personal opinion. It’s our Lord’s disagreements. We have been commanded to defend THE truth, His truth, His Word.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      I. Nowhere is scripture does it say that salvation is through faith alone.

      To say we are saved by faith, not of ourselves, and not by works (Eph 2:8-9), and apart from works (Rom 3:28) doesn’t quite leave room for any other conclusion.

      And yet James 2:24 says salvation is NOT through faith alone.

      James is speaking about the good works that are evidence of saving faith. The good works are not the ground of our justification, but are the evidence of our justification.

      II. Romans 2:6 – He will render to each one according to his works

      Same thing. The works that are brought forth in faith are the evidence, not the ground, of our acceptance with God.

      III. John 3 – you must be born of water and spirit;

      Christian baptism didn’t exist when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus in John 3, because the Church didn’t exist until Acts 2. Certainly Jesus wasn’t saying that Jewish proselyte baptism was necessary for salvation. This is a reference to the New Covenant promise as given in Ezekiel 36:25-27, not to baptism.

      I Peter 3:21 – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      Yes: not the removal of dirt from the body, as if it was the mere washing, the sacrament itself that saved. But rather, the appeal to God for a good conscience that is repentance and faith. Baptism is an outward symbol of that inward reality — that immersion (Gk. baptizo) into union with Christ by faith alone.

      IV. Scripture nowhere says we go “directly to heaven” after we die. The closest is Paul who says to to absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
      That’s not “close.” That’s all the way there. To be absent from the body is to be dead. To be absent from the body is to be present with Christ. Ergo, to be dead is to be with Christ. Besdies 2 Cor 5:8, there’s also Philippians 1:23, in which Paul says it is far better “to depart and be with Christ.” The grammar of the original Greek links “to depart” and “be with Christ” such that they speak of the same reality.

      On the contrary, nowhere in Scripture does it say there is any intermediate step between the believer’s death and heaven in the presence of their Lord.

      V. It not as though Catholics don’t believe in the sufficiency of Christ.

      Sure it is. It makes no sense to say, “Something is so sufficent that it has to be done over and over again to work effectively.” That’s just nonsense. The sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice is marked explicitly by it’s being offered once for all (Heb 7:26-27; 10:10-14; as noted in the original post).
      However, Its not as though many of their teachings don’t have a biblical basis.
      Some do. There’s no question about that. No historic heresy got everything wrong. But the five teachings above don’t have a biblical basis. And to believe that we can contribute in any sense to our justification is not the Gospel, because it’s not good news to sinners who are incapable of attaining righteousness before a holy God.

      If we want to exalt Christ, perhaps we should seek the unity that he called us to.

      As Elaine mentioned, that unity starts with unity in the truth. To say our unity is to be in Christ Himself and not in doctrine is to make a nonsense statement. Who is Christ? What is the nature of His salvation? What must I do to be His? The moment you answer even these most basic questions about who “Christ Himself” is, you have a system of doctrine.

      Maybe we should have a little more respect for the Catholic positions, even if we don’t agree with them.

      This isn’t about disrespect or mere disagreement. It’s simply comparing religious teaching to the authority of Scripture and sounding the warning that, if believed, such teaching will condemn you to hell while promising to lead you to Heaven. Nothing is more necessary than to sound the alarm.

      • jeppo

        Mike, there are many Scripture verses that state the exact opposite of the faith alone (sola fide) argument. Please read my post on this page.

    • jeppo

      AMEN Brother! (or sister??). Great response!

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  • Chaosengeneer

    Typical sophistry on both sides of the coin, how can one claim to be more than the other, non of this is based on fact, observable or derived through logic. This is after all only a philosophical point of view and relies on your faith to make it ‘truth’

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  • Benjamin LeClair

    just found your site here through brother voddie baucham. thank you so much for your clarity and unending resolve to defend the faith of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ!

  • Ignatius P.

    Nathan,

    Indeed a false gospel is no gospel and you are completely correct in stating that “the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Evangelicalism is one of substance not merely semantics.” I appreciate your thoughtful article but disagree with many of your conclusions.

    First, why must grace and works be diametrically opposed to one another in the economy of salvation? You simply state that this must be so and it cannot be otherwise without adequate explanation. Catholic’s believe that eternal life is both a free gift and reward, but completely the work of God’s grace in the believer. In the words of St. Augustine, “You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.” Paragraphs 2007-2008 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church make this clear.

    The free gift of grace does not preclude the necessity of our cooperation with grace for eternal life. For the Catholic it is both/and, not an either/or. The whole “grace plus works” paradigm is easily exploited to misconstrue Catholic theology because it all too readily lends itself to the uninformed assumption that Catholics “earn” their salvation by “works.” Works are not something we add to God’s grace to perfect it or something separate from God’s grace; rather they are the outworking of the grace of God’s salvation in the faithful.

    To say that the necessity of the sacraments and obedience to the commandments for salvation is similar to the “synergistic gospel of the Judaizers” is to confuse works of faith in the new covenant and works of the law in the old covenant. The sacraments and obedience to the commandments are not “added to faith” but are an essential part of faith insomuch as Christ established them as necessary for salvation. Again, not either/or but both/and situation here from the Catholic perspective. There is no “works salvation” in Catholicism, just the pure and abundant grace of God received in the sacraments and cooperated with in obedience to the commandments.

    Secondly, in your analysis of the Catholic teaching on penance and purgatory you quote some authoritative Catholic sources and simply state that they obviously contradict the “biblical teaching on divine forgiveness” without offering any explanation besides merely quoting a few verses. There is no clear or apparent reason why these verses are in direct contrast to the Catholic teaching on penance and purgatory unless you assume a priori that this is the case. You state specifically in point IV that “according to Rome, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is not sufficient to send the redeemed directly to heaven.” This statement is ambiguous but I’m assuming you mean that the Catholic Church teaches that faith alone is not sufficient to bring us to heaven immediately after death–which would be correct. Certainly Christ’s sacrifice would send us directly to heaven were we to fully receive its grace becoming fully purified from our sin and filled with divine charity. Penance and purgatory do not negate the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross insomuch as their effectiveness is completely dependent upon the merits of Christ’s passion.

    Thirdly, your statement that Catholics believe that “Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is repeated every time the mass is celebrated” is wrong. Catholics believe that the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross is re-presented, not repeated. During mass space and time are abolished and the same sacrifice of Christ upon Calvary is present in an unbloody manner under the appearance of bread and wine wherein Christ, acting as both priest and victim, offers himself to the Father for the salvation of the world. Since God stands outside of both space and time, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the sacrifice of the mass are one and the same sacrifice perpetuated throughout time. Again, not either/or, but both/and!

    Indeed evangelicals should not rush headlong into the arms of the Pope but should carefully consider the truthfulness of the teachings of the Catholic Church, but without dismissing them at first glance. One should always examine their faith in light of the Scriptures, church history, and the teachings of the early church fathers. I hope I have not been unnecessarily contentious, but I felt it necessary to provide a Catholic counterbalance to your article.

    Grace to you,

    Ignatius P.

    • jeppo

      Good input here Ignatius!

  • DelawareMom

    As a Catholic, I feel compelled to clarify a few of your misunderstandings. I don’t have time for all of them.

    First of all, if Baptism is not necessary, then why bother? The first thing Saul did after he regained his sight was to be was baptized. I guess it must be pretty important.

    Second, purgatory is not condemnation. It is a place of purification for sins. See 2 Maccabees 12:42-46 where expiation is made for the sin of those who died. It may not be in your Bible. I believe it was one of the passages that Martin Luther had removed.

    And I will end with this one:
    “If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of
    the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace
    and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and
    inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the
    favor of God, let him be anathema.”
    I would like to point out that as used here “excluding grace” means if someone leaves it out, they are wrong.

    And excellent book on Catholic teaching of the Eucharist is “The Lamb’s Supper” by Scott Hahn, a former evangelical pastor.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Unfortunately, DelawareMom, your comment only reveals your own misunderstandings.

      First of all, if Baptism is not necessary, then why bother? The first thing Saul did after he regained his sight was to be was baptized. I guess it must be pretty important.

      No one is denying the importance of baptism. Baptism is an ordinance of the Church that every believer must submit to. We simply deny, with Scripture, and against Catholic teaching, that it is an instrument of justification and regeneration.

      Secondly, regarding the canonicity of 2 Maccabees, it isn’t. Canonical, that is. Jerome himself acknowledged this when he translated the Latin Vulgate. “As the Church reads the books of Judith and Tobit and Maccabees but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also it reads Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people, not for the authoritative confirmation of doctrine.” It’s not that Jerome’s opinion is authoritative, but I find it interesting that the translator of the Bible that would be used in the Catholic church for 1,000 years explicitly stated that these books were not to be considered canonical or authoritative like the others.

      Further, the notion that Luther “removed” the book is incorrect and anachronistic. It was not until the Council of Trent in 1546 that the Apocryphal books were “canonized” by the RCC. Interestingly enough, Luther followed Jerome’s suit by translating the Apocryphal books in his 1534 edition, but added this note: “Apocrypha: These Books Are Not Held Equal to the Scriptures, but Are Useful and Good to Read.” To learn more about canonicity, see Nate’s post here.

      Regarding the anathema quote, Scripture disagrees with it (cf. Rom 4 and Rom 11:6). We do “exclude” the impartation of grace and charity as the grounds of justification. Grace is not imparted or infused, making the believer actually practically righteous such that their justification is based on their own righteousness (even if that righteousness is a divine gift; cf. Luke 18:9-14). Rather, by grace, the alien righteousness and merit of Christ is imputed to the believer apart from works, and it is that righteousness that is the sole ground of our justification.

      Finally, I appreciate the book recommendation. You might enjoy, “The Roman Catholic Controversy,” by James White; The Church of Rome at the Bar of History,” by William Webster, who simply examines the contradictions of the popes and councils throughout history; and “Far from Rome, Near to God,” which chronicles the conversion stories of 50 former Catholic priests.

    • jeppo

      Amen Delaware Mom!!

  • jeppo

    Wow! So much to discuss in this article! I appreciate them though cuz it gives me a chance to enlighten & explain! I encourage you to think & pray about these things.

    First of
    all, the issue of Sola Fide (Justification by faith alone) is a simple one to
    solve. The fact is that Luther, through his own arrogance, added the word
    “alone” to scripture in Romans 3:28 in his
    translation of the New Testament into German. That word was not previously
    there so that caused problems w/ what Luther personally believed and taught; so
    he added the word “alone” to make it fit his personal beliefs. He also rejected the epistle to the
    Hebrews and the book of Revelation. He also called the epistle of James
    “an epistle of straw” because James 2:14–26 conflicted with his
    personal theology on good works.

    Luther,
    in fact, was confronted at the time on why he had added the word
    “alone” to Romans 3:28. His response is VERY revealing so read
    carefully. To the criticism of adding the word “alone” to Romans 3:28
    Martin Luther disrespectfully replied:

    “You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word
    ‘alone’ is not in the text of Paul. If your Papist makes such an unnecessary
    row about the word ‘alone,’ say right out to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have
    it so,’ and say: ‘Papist and asses are one and the same thing.’ I WILL HAVE IT SO, AND I ORDER IT SO,
    AND MY WILL IS REASON ENOUGH. I KNOW
    VERY WELL THAT THE WORD “ALONE” IS NOT IN THE LATIN OR GREEK TEXT, and it was not necessary for the Papists to teach me
    that. IT IS TRUE THOSE LETTERS ARE NOT IN IT, which letters the jackasses look
    at, as a cow stares at a new gate…It shall remain in MY New Testament, and if all the Popish donkeys were to get mad and
    beside themselves, they will not get it out.”(quoted in John Stoddard,
    “Rebuilding a Lost Faith”, (Rockford, IL: Tan Books), 136-137)

    The Catholic belief is that we are saved
    by God’s grace 1st!!! Period. W/o this, we could never earn our way
    into Heaven because we aren’t good enough. We can have nothing &no
    Salvation if not for God’s great gift to us. However, as James 2:14-24 states, we
    can LOSE that salvation that was freely given to us if we fail to act on it. We
    are OBLIGATED to use that Grace to do good works in the name of Christ.
    Obligated. If we do not, then we are not imitating Christ & we are only
    takers of the gift & not returning anything……& we are at risk of losing
    the salvation that God freely gave to us. James 2:14-24 states so, as well as
    many other passages in Scripture that I would be happy to list for you if you
    like. The only way (it seems to me) that one would NOT be judged for not doing
    any type of good works here on earth for the advancement of the Kingdom of God,
    would be if someone was not capable of doing so. (An infant, someone who turns
    their life over to Christ on his death bed, etc.) Otherwise we are responsible
    for works as commanded by Christ himself! It is just like the parable Jesus
    told about the talents. (Matthew 25:14-30;
    Luke 19:12-28)

    If we do not
    do something (works) w/ the gifts God gave us, then we will be like the servant
    who buried his talent and was thrown out to wail & grind his teeth. We MUST
    do works if we are capable. Some of us are more capable (the servant w/ 10
    talents) and some of us are less (the servant w/ 1 talent), but we need to do
    good works w/ the talents that we are given up to our capabilities.

    The article
    above states that we don’t EARN our
    salvation through good works & I agree. But we KEEP it through good works;
    and we can LOSE it through the absence of good works. Our relationship w/
    Christ is like any other relationship. There must be a give & take. We
    cannot just take. Truthfully, how much respect or time do you really want to
    give to someone you are in a relationship w/ if they only take from you? You
    must also give (works). Reciprocation is very important in our relationship w/
    Christ.

    The
    following paragraph is right out of this article & it explains it
    perfectly! Especially in light that the word “alone” was not originally in the
    text of Romans 3:28………..

    [Catholic Answers: “Even
    though only God’s grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please
    him, and he promises to reward them with eternal life (Rom. 2:6–7, Gal. 6:6–10). Thus good works are
    meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in
    our hands to offer him. Then he gives us grace to obey His commandments in
    love, and He rewards us with salvation when we offer these acts of love back to
    Him (Rom. 2:6–11, Gal. 6:6–10, Matt. 25:34–40). . . . We do not ‘earn’ our
    salvation through good works (Eph. 2:8–9, Rom. 9:16), but our
    faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that
    our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal
    life (Rom. 2:7, Gal. 6:8–9).”]

    Finally, on
    this topic about works…….. You should read about “The Divine Mercy” when Christ
    Himself appeared to St. Faustina & talked to her about His Divine Mercy.
    From her Diary, pg 742 (Diary of St. Faustina), Christ Himself tells her, “I
    DEMAND from you DEEDS OF MERCY which are to arise out of love for me. You are
    to show mercy to your neighbors always & everywhere. You must not shrink
    from this or try to excuse yourself from it.”
    So, again, it is not just something we do because we feel like it, it is
    REQUIRED of us! Deeds of mercy are what? Works! Works of Mercy. Honestly, read
    about St. Faustina some time. AMAZING!!

    I hope this
    helps everyone reading this. Also, if any of it makes sense to you & you
    are confused, PRAY ABOUT IT! If you really want to live the way Christ wants
    you to live, ask God to reveal the truth to you & to open your heart &
    mind to the truth!

    I’m going to have to reply later about the other topics raised in the article above,
    as it’s late now. Take care & God Bless.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Jeppo,

      I deleted your comments about Luther because neither he, his translation of Rom 3:28, or his view of the Book of James has anything to do with the issue. None of us believes what we believe because Luther said so, but because the Scriptures say so.

      Aside from that, the rest of your comment interacts very little with the original post. Nate’s original post cites primary Catholic sources and refutes such teaching with biblical argument. You need to engage with the original post to make a contribution.

      I should not, there is a difference between (a) saying that our works are not in any way the ground of our justification, and (b) saying that works don’t matter. You seem to be under the impression that we believe (b), but we’re saying (a). Works are necessary in the sense that they are the necessary fruit and evidence of salvation. But to suggest that they are in any way the ground of our justificaiton, whether to get saved or stay saved, is to preach another gospel, which is really no gospel at all (Gal 1:6-8). Since this seems to be your position, I pray you’d reconsider in light of the Scriptural evidence, especially that which is presented in this post.

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