November 1, 2016

The Woman in a Wheelchair Who Thought She Could Not Be Saved

by Jordan Standridge

As I saw her sitting there on her wheelchair sobbing…both our hearts were breaking.

people-holy-stepsHers because she was unable to walk up the Holy Steps to have her sins forgiven. She so desperately wanted to be able to spend less time in purgatory and she couldn’t bear the thought of being so close to the steps where Jesus had walked and unable to go up them like everybody else.

Mine because she had been duped into believing that this ritual of walking up the steps, and saying a few hundred hail Mary’s, would save her from her sin. Her tears were yet another example of the evil that is the Roman Catholic Church.

Of course, a sign not too far from her stated that those who could not crawl up the steps could stay right where they were and still receive pardon for their sin, but she wasn’t buying it.  She knew that she was missing out on something, and it was all because of her inability to perform works.

As I gazed around the room, I was overwhelmed by the dozens of people who were partaking in this practice of walking up these “holy steps”. According to Roman Catholic tradition, these were the steps that Jesus walked on in order to go up to Pilate. They even have spots on them which they claim is where Jesus’ blood dropped. Supposedly, Helena the mother of Constantine had them brought from Jerusalem to Rome in the fourth century.

499 years ago Martin Luther, angry over the selling of indulgences of the Roman Catholic Church, nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Most say that the event that sparked his outrage the most was his visit to Rome. His mentor at the monastery, Von Staupitz, encouraged Luther to go to Rome to be encouraged by the capital of the Roman Catholic Church. But the opposite occurred. Seeing priests solicit prostitutes, looking at what seemed like a circus outside of the churches where thousands of vendors were taking advantage of “church people” by selling them made up relics; all of this only confirmed Luther’s frustrations. Luther became famous over his disdain for relics as he went on to joke that eighteen of the twelve apostles were buried in Spain and that there were enough nails from Jesus’ cross that you could shoe every horse in Saxony. And all those things were conducive to make Luther question the validity of the RCC.

But many historians believe that the final nail in the wall was while he was on the holy steps themselves. As he went up these steps praying to Mary, he started to look around and it dawned on him that there was no way that he could earn forgiveness through these actions.

Luther was famous for being hard on himself over his sin. He knew that there was nothing he could do to stop sinning, but he also started to realize that there was nothing he could do to earn Christ’s forgiveness and that salvation had to come through faith alone.

For years he tried to reform the church but as he grew more in his understanding of salvation he saw more and more how the Roman Catholic Church was antithetical to that. Their whole system was based on tradition, indulgences and works and instead of reforming from within he ultimately realized that he had to break off completely.

Since Luther’s day, nothing has changed. Indulgences are still in effect, the Pope hasn’t changed his name, and tradition and the magistrate still trump the Scripture in importance.

Yet there is a lot of talk about the evangelical church embracing Christ. I have already written about the famous Evangelicals and Catholics together document signed by many prominent evangelicals and why true Christians and Catholics will never be able to be together.

As this blog post is being published the Pope is in Sweden celebrating the mass with thousands of Lutherans, in an attempt to bring the two groups together. But there will is one particular Lutheran who, had he been alive, would not have partaken in this event.

Luther himself.

If Luther could have seen the woman in the wheelchair that our team saw this last summer, his heart would have broken as well. He would have wept over the fact that the church carrying his name would embrace the lies he so courageously spoke out against almost five hundred years ago. And ultimately he would be heartbroken over the scores of Christians who think that the Reformation is over and Catholics no longer need to be evangelized.

I get the fact that so many of us have Catholic relatives and friends and we cannot bear the thought that they would spend eternity in hell, but the worst thing we can do is to ignore the truth that is so clearly hitting us in the face. The Roman Catholic Church still teaches a works-based form of religion where people are taught that crawling up some steps, and walking through some special doors, will enable them to have their sins forgiven. We must do the uncomfortable and think about the implications of these things, recognize the importance of being clear with the Gospel and then gently but boldly declare our love for Roman Catholics and share the gospel with them.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • James Wells

    Jordan,

    I love your insight and speaking out about what the True Gospel is compared to the false gospel of the RCC.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks James.

  • Archepoimen follower

    Jordan,
    This is heart-breaking! Having been raised in Catholic Church and schools, I can assure your readers that this woman’s plight is not unique. Such shrines exist across the globe and offer a variety of rewards for your efforts, from forgiveness to fertility. Luther realized almost 500 years ago what many devout Catholics fail to grasp even today, ‘Catholicism is about a relationship with the Roman Catholic Church’ and salvation is about a relationship with the Creator who has come in the flesh, Jesus.
    Tim

  • Jaina

    Are you saying that Catholics are going to hell?

    • Jordan Standridge

      Jaina are you Catholic?

      • Jaina

        I grew up non-denominational, but I have some extended family members who are Catholic.

        • Jordan Standridge

          Thanks Jaina. I honestly don’t care about making broad sweeping statements about big groups of people. I’d rather talk about individuals. Typically Roman Catholics don’t believe salvation to be instantaneous but rather believe it to be a process that takes place over many years. That would mean that they are trusting in their works for salvation. I would find out what your family members believe, if they believe that Christ must continue to die for their sin, that they must do things in order to be saved and that their sin isnt that bad and can be made up for with good works then they are not saved and they need the Gospel. The worst thing we can do is to just assume people are saved without asking any questions. So many in the church don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations and so they convince themselves that everyone who says they believe Jesus is automatically saved. We must be willing to have those conversations to get beyond a shallow understanding of the Gospel and love our friends and family enough to share the truth with them!

          • Jaina

            You’re right- we all need to do a better job of growing a community of faith and we need to be willing to have difficult conversations. But I do hope that someday Jesus gives me grace in spite of my “wrong” beliefs. I’m sure I have more than a few.

          • It’s definitely true, Jaina, that we can be saved without perfect theology. True believers do get some things wrong. For example, genuine Christians can differ on whether only believers should be baptized (credobaptism) versus the children of believing parents as well (paedobaptism). Believing or disbelieving one position in favor of another does nothing to put one’s soul in jeopardy, because neither position necessarily undermines any essential truth concerning God and His Gospel.

            However, all error is not created equal. Some error breaches the bounds into heresy — teaching which, if believed, necessarily precludes someone from salvation. There is such a thing as “going too far” and “not abiding in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9), and John’s conclusion concerning such a one is that he “does not have God.” Paul speaks about Judaizers as those who ought to be damned for preaching/believing a false gospel that corrupts grace with human works and merit (Gal 1:6-9).

            I tried to explain the difference between bad doctrine and heresy in this post (http://thecripplegate.com/bad-doctrine-vs-heresy-an-exercise-in-theological-triage/). I tried to apply it specifically to Roman Catholicism here (http://thecripplegate.com/semper-reformanda-christ-will-do-everything-or-he-will-do-nothing/). These two posts explain that while perfect theology is not a requirement for salvation, the official teachings of Roman Catholicism (which, granted not all individual Catholics believe) is a fundamentally different gospel than the true Gospel passed down to us in the Scriptures, and therefore is worthy of the condemnation Paul applies to the Judaizers.

    • Archepoimen follower

      Jaina,
      I have a large Catholic extended family. I desire for all of them to ‘walk the streets of gold along the river of life’ with me on the new heaven/earth! The determiner of that is not whether they claim Catholicism but do the have a saving relationship with the Jesus proclaimed in scripture. I have known and currently meet with members of the Catholic Church who recognize that it is Jesus who saves not the Roman Catholic Church that they belong. So, I am saying regardless of your church affiliation or attendance salvation is in Jesus alone!
      However, it is extremely difficult to find Jesus when the Catholic Church teaches that salvation resides in the Church itself instead of Jesus.

      In Him whose Grace is sufficient,

      Tim

      • Jane Hildebrand

        I like the way Mike explained it once when he said that it wasn’t that Catholics can’t be saved, but if they are it is not because of their religion, but despite of it.

        • Archepoimen follower

          Yep! ! Perfect!

  • Jane Hildebrand

    I have found that trying to reach people who are taught that they can obtain salvation by what they do is truly the most difficult, especially when their adherence is praised.

    I remember people at the Kingdom Hall often being recognized for their faithfulness to the organization for perfect attendance or time spent in field service. It made you want to work harder as the lines between them and God became more blurry. I see so many similarities with catholocism.

    As Matthew Henry said, “When I cannot enjoy the faith of assurance, I live by the faith of adherence.”

  • I’ve never wept over a blog post before, but the victimization of that poor woman moved me to tears! Whatever caused her physical disability didn’t cripple her nearly as much as the damnable teachings of the Roman Catholic Church!

  • 4Commencefiring4

    I’m not a catholic; never have been; not interested in becoming one.

    That said, I submit these questions:
    1. What is salvation? What does it look like?
    2. Who is the creator of it?
    3. What is our role in it, if any?

    As to just #1 , I’m sure we can all agree that if we looked in on christians around the world–those who are the redeemed, who have eternal life, who have been “born again” (or “from above”), who claim to “know the Lord”, who know the Scriptures decently well–we would find a wide variety of people and practices. They would not all be, perhaps many wouldn’t be, like most of us in American evangelical churches.

    Some of them might find our “Sunday best” outfits to be awfully irreverent, our “worship” music much too secular sounding, our devotion to one another secondary, our outreach to the downtrodden quite lacking, our love of one another superficial and insincere. And they may wonder, as they witness the poverty around us as we live in our abundance, on what basis we call ourselves “saved.”

    On the other hand, we might judge their practices to be too primitive, or lacking what we would think of as real Scriptural knowledge, or believing things that are not biblically justified, or excluding something we consider essential. How could someone who names the name of Christ do…that?

    In short, the very people the Bible says will populate heaven–those of “every kindred, tribe, and tongue”–are not all going to be like North American Baptists or “non-denominational Bible church” believers. I predict many will be there who–if we can recognize people we once knew in life–might surprise us.

    Not to justify works-based salvation, but to suggest caution with regard to how confident we are about just how “narrow” the gate is that leads to life and how wide the road is to destruction. We have no definitive measuring rod this side of glory.

    • It’s simply false to say “we have no definitive measuring rod this side of glory” concerning how narrow the gate is that leads to life. That very rod is the rod of the Scriptures.

      As I said to Jaina above, perfect theology is not a requirement for salvation, but some error does breach the bounds into heresy. There is such a thing as “going too far” and “not abiding in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9), and John’s conclusion concerning such a one is that he “does not have God.” Paul speaks about Judaizers as those who ought to be damned for preaching/believing a false gospel that corrupts grace with human works and merit (Gal 1:6-9). Roman Catholicism breaches those bounds by corrupting the Gospel of grace with human works (cf. Rom 11:6). We’ve done several posts at Cripplegate over the years trying to demonstrate this truth from Scripture:

      http://thecripplegate.com/semper-reformanda-christ-will-do-everything-or-he-will-do-nothing/
      http://thecripplegate.com/the-gospel-according-to-rome/
      http://thecripplegate.com/a-tale-of-two-gospels-2/

      This isn’t about who looks like us, or drawing salvation by denominational lines. Heaven will be populated by Presbyterians and Baptists and Lutherans and Anglicans and so on, from all the continents and cultures of the world — because they all believe the only saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Roman Catholicism isn’t another denomination of Christianity; it’s apostate Christianity because it fundamentally undermines what makes Christianity Christianity: the Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        I’m making the case that we cannot presume to know that any given individual is saved or not saved. I’m not defending RCC doctrine; there’s no doubt it is unbiblical and corporately off the rails.

        But just because Joe or Alice attends a church whose constitution (do RCC chuches have those? Maybe not) prescribes “Hail Mary” prayers, confessing to a priest, or the granting of indulgences, does that relegate them to eternal damnation if they (the individual) attribute their salvation to the blood of Jesus rather than the “Blessed Mother”? What if they attend one with a lady pastor? Or they think they must speak in tongues? Or one that is a “welcoming” congregation (we all know what that means)? At what point must a true believer say it’s enough, and leave for better pastures? I’ve known some people who think if you don’t attend church every time the doors are open, you can’t possibly be serious about your faith.

        The issue is, when God truly saves an individual, do we expect them to be insulated from adhering to any and all errors of doctrine? Lots of denominations err in any number of ways in their doctrine. Shall we conclude that those poor souls who are not attuned to those errors, either due to ignorance or valuing other priorities, are under the judgment of God and cannot possibly be born again?

        The apostles saw someone outside their company casting out demons in the name of Christ and objected to it. He said to let them alone, for “He who is not against us is for us.”

        When a preacher implies he can determine which individuals are of the household of God and which aren’t, I get a little uncomfortable.

        • Karl Heitman

          What makes me really uncomfortable is people arguing under the guise of a pseudonym….

          Brother (sister?), your comment demonstrates the dire need for the universal church to keep reforming by continually being taught the theology rediscovered by the Reformers. When someone, such as your self, compares the practice of Mariolatry to egalitarianism, there is a startling lack of discernment when it comes to differentiating between primary, secondary, and tertiary matters of faith.

          //”I’m making the case that we cannot presume to know that any given individual is saved or not saved.”//

          Are you just arguing for the sake of arguing or do you really think that some who doesn’t believe in sola fide is a Christian?

          • bs

            Karl, it might be more helpful if you actually engaged the arguments.
            Peace.

          • Karl Heitman

            bs, thank so so very much for that kind suggestion.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Let’s ask the thief on the cross, when we finally get to meet him, if he believed in “sola fide.” As I understand it from his words, he knew only that was this Man beside him on the cross was able to save him. It was enough.

          • Karl Heitman

            //”It was enough.”//

            Precisely.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Yes, well he hadn’t worked out any theology or gotten his “doctrine” right, wrong, or indifferent. He was dying and decided, in his last hour, to throw in with this apparently innocent Man, hoping that there was something there to benefit him. Evidently, he’d heard something about a “kingdom” associated with this individual, and little else.

            If that’s being a believer in “sola fide”, fine.

        • I’m making the case that we cannot presume to know that any given individual is saved or not saved.

          I get it, but I think you’re flat-out wrong about that. It’s very simple. If (a) Scripture teaches that a man is justified by faith apart from works (Rom 3:28) and that adding works to the ground of justification so corrupts the Gospel as to make grace no longer grace (Rom 11:6); and if (b) someone consciously confesses that they believe a man justified by faith plus the works of love and charity that God works in them, and consciously confesses that they believe those works form a part of the ground of their justification; then (c) that person is not saved. They have expressly contradicted Scripture at the most foundational level — not about men’s and women’s roles or mode and recipients of baptism, but about the Gospel itself.

          The Roman Catholic Church has canonized into law the precepts outlined in (b) above. They have anathematized the Gospel in the Council of Trent. While someone who belongs to a Catholic church may not believe everything the Church officially teaches (and therefore themselves are not Roman Catholics, according to Catholicism itself), the vast majority either do believe Catholic doctrine or haven’t had the Gospel preached clearly enough to them to be able to tell the difference. You might think it’s loving or balanced or charitable to run interference for deceived Roman Catholics, arguing that they may in all likelihood be saved despite the heretical corruptions of the Church to which they belong, but you’re not doing them any favors. You’re only pacifying them in their self-deception. You do them no more favors than the Hatmakers (see Eric’s post today) do the homosexuals who profess faith in Christ. You downplay their need for genuine repentance and thus work against their own salvation.

          I’m not defending RCC doctrine; there’s no doubt it is unbiblical and corporately off the rails.

          Yeah, it’s more than that. Again, Roman Catholic doctrine is not just unbiblical and “off the rails,” the way egalitarianism is unbiblical or charismaticism is off the rails. It’s anti-biblical, mutually exclusive with the Gospel of Christ.

          But just because Joe or Alice attends a church whose constitution … prescribes “Hail Mary” prayers, confessing to a priest, or the granting of indulgences, does that relegate them to eternal damnation if they (the individual) attribute their salvation to the blood of Jesus rather than the “Blessed Mother”?

          Once again, this is not about “Hail Mary” prayers (though that is gross idolatry), confessing to a priest (though that is high blasphemy against Christ), or the granting of indulgences (which is the most disgusting form of peddling the gospel [2 Cor 2:17] that may be able to be imagined). This is about believing in a “gospel” that the Apostle Paul himself says is “anathema.”

          What if they attend one with a lady pastor? Or they think they must speak in tongues? Or one that is a “welcoming” congregation (we all know what that means)?

          Your inability to distinguish between the errors of egalitarianism and charismaticism and the heresy of denying sola fide is terribly troubling. Once again, not all error is created equal. All error is serious, but some undermines the Gospel, other doesn’t.

          At what point must a true believer say it’s enough, and leave for better pastures?

          When a true believer in Christ — that is, one who has owned and confessed his sin before God, has repudiated and turned from his sin, and has put his trust in Christ alone for righteousness, who lived, died, and rose again on behalf of sinners — recognizes that he belongs to a “church” who denies the very foundations of the Gospel by which he claims to be saved, he must leave. And if he’s reading his Bible, and if He’s indwelt by the Spirit of God (as all true believers are, Rom 8:9), and if he’s paying attention at all when he’s in church, it’s not going to be too terribly long before he realizes he’s got to get out of there.

          Again, no one is arguing that there may be true believers in Catholic churches who are so immature in the faith that they’re ignorant of these things. But there’s a world of difference between those people and the ones who consciously reject the biblical doctrine of salvation. No one is advocating shunning all professing Catholics when we meet them; we’re arguing that we have to engage them with the true Gospel, because we don’t know if they’re the poor misguided souls who would leave if they only knew better, or the hardened, dogmatic Catholics that need to be warned and rebuked. What we simply cannot do, however, is say, “Well, it’s totally probable that they don’t know any better, so I’m just going to treat them like brothers and sisters, even though they might actually be self-deceived and on their way to hell.”

          The issue is, when God truly saves an individual, do we expect them to be insulated from adhering to any and all errors of doctrine?

          No, but no one on this blog has ever even hinted at believing that. In fact, we’ve explicitly affirmed the contrary — some of us multiple times on this thread alone. But true believers will be insulated from some errors of doctrine, and those are the doctrines which fundamentally undermine the Gospel itself (like denying the deity of Christ, the Triunity of God, and the Gospel of justification by faith alone).

          Let’s ask the thief on the cross, when we finally get to meet him, if he believed in “sola fide.” As I understand it from his words, he knew only that was this Man beside him on the cross was able to save him. It was enough.
          Nobody is arguing that one has to be able to say, “I believe in the doctrine of sola fide” to be saved. The Gospel call isn’t to believe in justification by faith alone, but to believe in Christ who justifies by faith alone. But you can’t deny sola fide and be saved. And it’s reasonable to sincerely question whether one understands the Gospel if they can sit and hear the Gospel denied week by week without any trouble of conscience.

          And the thief is the perfect example of someone who is justified by faith alone; as you say, all he did was trust that Christ was able to save him. He was trusting in Christ alone for forgiveness. But practicing Catholics aren’t trusting in Christ alone to save them; He isn’t enough. That death on the cross wasn’t enough. He needs to be re-sacrificed at each mass. They need to do works of penance to “preserve and increase” their justification. Roman Catholicism actively teaches its parishioners to be unlike the thief on the cross when it anathematizes justification by faith alone.

          These precious people need our love, which means our commitment to stand on Scripture and proclaim the true Gospel to them. They don’t need some warped sympathy that downplays the severity of their error and their need of forgiveness.

          • bs

            Mike, I guess you would call James’ letter “strawy” since it seems to be saying what you say is “unbiblical”? Please don’t treat this as a “gotcha” comment — just one that calls you to broaden your thinking a little, maybe even check out what other Christians _actually_ believe and teach.
            Peace

          • Your condescending snide truly knows no bounds, Bruce.

            So many problems in so few words.

            1. Your assumption that my “thinking” is not sufficiently “broad” is uncharitable.

            2. Your insinuation that I’m somehow misrepresenting what Catholics actually believe is baseless and inflammatory. This will be your last comment on this thread unless you (a) either demonstrate from my own words (i.e., quote precisely what I’ve said) how I’ve misrepresented someone, or (b) retract your accusation.

            3. As I’ve taken pains to demonstrate, both in these comments and in other posts linked within the comments, Roman Catholics are not “other Christians.”

            4. No, I wouldn’t call James’ letter “strawy” (I don’t even know what that means) because it does not, in fact, teach against sola fide, as anyone who has read a halfway-decent Protestant commentary on James understands.

            Not that you’re putting in the work to warrant this level of interaction, but for anyone reading who might be wondering how James 2:24 doesn’t undermine sola fide, here’s the answer:

            James uses the word “justified” (dikaioō) in a different sense than Paul uses it when he speaks of the forensic declaration of righteousness. In particular, James speaks of justification in the sense of “vindication” or “the demonstration of righteousness.”

            Scripture often uses the word in this sense. For example, when a lawyer purposed to test Jesus by asking him what he must do to gain eternal life, Jesus instructed him to love his neighbor as himself. Luke tells us that, in response, the lawyer “desir[ed] to justify himself, [and] said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29). In saying this, the lawyer was not seeking a legal pronouncement of his righteousness; he was attempting to demonstrate to others that he was already righteous. In other words, he was seeking to vindicate his own righteousness. Similarly, we read in a confession of the early church that Christ “was manifested in the flesh” and “vindicated [edikaiōthē] by the Spirit” (1 Tim. 3:16). Certainly, the Lord Jesus stood in no need of forensic justification, of being legally declared righteous. Rather, this passage speaks of the Spirit’s vindication of Christ by the many miracles he performed (Acts 2:22), as well as the ultimate vindication of the resurrection (Rom. 1:4). In the same way, James uses the term “justified” in the sense of “vindicated” or “demonstrated.”

            That he does so is borne out not only lexically but also contextually. In this passage, James is commenting on Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac according to God’s commandment (James 2:21; cf. Gen. 22:1–14), an event that took place many years after it was declared that Abraham “believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). In contrast, when Paul desires to illustrate the truth of the imputation of righteousness through faith alone apart from works (Rom. 4:6), he chooses this earlier instance in Abraham’s life before there was even any law for him to follow (Rom. 4:9–13). James, however, is not speaking of forensic justification and the imputation of righteousness. He is not speaking about good works that are the ground of our salvation. Rather, he is speaking about good works that are the necessary evidence of our salvation. Abraham’s faith, which was credited to him as righteousness apart from anything he had done, was vindicated by his works. In other words, Abraham’s works demonstrated that his faith was true faith and not dead faith (cf. James 2:17, 26). True faith is shown by its works (James 2:18), but those works are the evidence and result of our justification and initial sanctification, not the ground of our justification.

            Far from refuting the doctrine of sola fide in favor of the legalists, James’ argument actually provides a defense of the doctrine from the attack of the opposite error: antinomianism. This word comes from the prefix anti- and the Greek word nomos, which means “law.” Antinomianism, then, speaks of those who are “against the law,” specifically, in its theological sense, those who deny that sanctification is the necessary concomitant of justification. Whereas legalism (e.g., Roman Catholicism) fails to adequately distinguish between justification and sanctification, antinomianism severs the vital union between the two. Whereas legalism (e.g., Roman Catholicism) undermines the gospel by insisting that we must add our obedience to Christ’s work in order to be justified, antinomianism perverts the gospel by subtracting from the efficacy of Christ’s work, denying that those who receive Christ as Savior must also submit to him as Lord. James absolutely demolishes that proposition. He explains that the “faith” of professing Christians who fail to make progress in practical holiness, continuing to walk in patterns of unrighteousness, is no true and saving faith at all. Theirs is a dead faith (James 2:17, 26), a demonic faith (James 2:19), and a useless faith (James 2:20) that marks them out as those who address Jesus as Lord but to whom he will chillingly declare, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23).
            James doesn’t contradict Paul. He’s simply talking about something different — not the forensic declaration of righteousness on the ground of imputation, but the vindication of one’s genuine salvation by the necessary fruit of good works. Those good works are the evidence, not the ground, of salvation.

          • Karl Heitman

            Mike, you should help write a systematic theology, specifically in the area of soteriology, or something. 😉

          • That explanation of James 2 may or may not appear in a forthcoming volume. 😉

          • bs

            Mike, thank you for your response.
            You have asked me to: “demonstrate from my own words (i.e., quote precisely what I’ve said) how I’ve misrepresented someone”. You also say, “in these comments and in other posts linked within the comments, Roman Catholics are not ‘other Christians.'”
            Well, I have known a number of Roman Catholics in various places, often in “mission” situations, and based on what they said, what they did and who they were, I have no grounds for doubting who they said they were — Christians. How else am I to judge them?
            I have also read a number of Roman Catholic authors and again I have not found that they taught what you have claimed they teach. In fact some emphasise grace and faith more even than the Cripplegaters!
            I could quite easily be wrong, but I suggest you have misrepresented these people.
            Can I make one observation on your treatment of “justify/vindicate”? I suggest you are simply asserting this distinction — is it even a real distinction? You say of James “That he does [use the word in a different sense] … is borne out not only lexically but also contextually”. But Mike, _senses_ of words are never established “lexically”, but only from context. And the context in both Paul and James is the same: faith, works, Abraham. Isn’t the distinction you are trying to make coming from your prior theology rather than the text itself? To come at it another way — if the word means “vindicate” in Luke, why not “vindicate” in Paul? I guess you could say that in Paul it is “forensic”, but the context in Luke is also forensic.
            Peace.

          • So, your evidence of my misrepresentation is anecdotal. And even though I have, numerous times, allowed for the fact that individuals who call themselves Roman Catholics might be saved because they do not believe official Roman Catholic doctrine, you bring that as evidence as if I’ve made no such concession. In my judgment, your accusation of misrepresentation proves false, and I think you should retract it.

            See, the definition of “Roman Catholic” is someone who believes in all official Roman Catholic dogma as established by the Magisterium — by papal decrees and councils and all that has been established into canon law. That means that if you want to call yourself a Roman Catholic, by definition you must subscribe to, for example, the canons of the Council of Trent. Canon 24 of Session 6 of the Council of Trent says, “If anyone says that the [justification] received is not preserved and . . . 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.” So the Roman Catholic Church has anathematized me, because I reject as anti-biblical the notion that justification is preserved and increased through good works. I embrace the biblical notion that good works are the fruits and signs of justification obtained. Therefore, they say that I am eternally condemned. And anyone who fails to believe what they have canonized into law there in Trent is therefore also not saved.

            So, according to Magisterial decree (which is the authority in Roman Catholicism) you can’t be a Roman Catholic while embracing sola fide — indeed, without explicitly denying it. That means Roman Catholics, by definition, reject the biblical Gospel, and, also by definition, are not saved. There may be people who identify as Roman Catholics who reject official Catholic teaching and therefore may be genuinely saved, but in those cases their own Church tells them they are not who they say they are. They aren’t Catholic, no matter what they might define themselves as. Indeed, they’re anathema, like me.

            So, I grant that there might be people who call themselves Catholic who embrace the biblical Gospel. But in that case they’re not Catholic.

            However, when you say, “…and based on what they said, what they did and who they were, I have no grounds for doubting who they said they were — Christians. How else am I to judge them?” I wonder if you yourself aren’t confused about how a Christian is to be defined. That is, what makes someone a Christian is not what they say, what they do, and the character one observes them to have. What makes someone a Christian is whom they are trusting for righteousness. And if that is not Christ alone, they are not saved. So when you ask, “How else am I to judge them?” I’d respond, on the basis of their repentance of sin (including the turning away from their own works as even the partial ground of their righteousness; cf. Isa 64:6; Rom 3:28; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5) and their genuine trust in Christ as Lord as the only ground of their righteousness before God. There are plenty of people who say, “Lord, Lord,” to whom Christ will declare, “I never knew you.” The distinction is not whether those people were able to do good enough works to “preserve and increase” their righteousness before God, but whether they repudiated their works entirely as a ground of righteousness before God and trusted entirely in the doing and the dying of Another (Luke 18:9-14; Rom 10:1-4; Phil 3:9).

            I have also read a number of Roman Catholic authors and again I have not found that they taught what you have claimed they teach.
            Once again, if that is so, then they are not Roman Catholics, by the definition of their own authorities, which they consider to be infallible.

            I suggest you are simply asserting this distinction — is it even a real distinction?

            I suggest you’re simply asserting your objection. I didn’t merely assert this. I argued for it by showing the same word used in other contexts which clearly cannot make sense if invested with the concept of forensic declaration. You continue to do this in your interaction with authors on this blog. You simply ignore the comments given to you and move on as if you dealt with them. Why should we continue to answer you line by line when you don’t give us the courtesy of dealing with the evidence presented in our comments? If you don’t deal with the actual arguments presented to you, I am not going to feel obligated to continue to publish your comments.

            Luke 10:29 and 1 Timothy 3:16 use dikaioo in ways that require a different sense than Paul is using the term. Jesus was “justified” in the Spirit. But certainly not in the way a sinner is “justified” before God. One speaks of vindication — i.e., He was vindicated to be the Son of God He claimed to be by the resurrection. The other speaks of being constituted in a right standing with God. Jesus was always in a right standing with God and had no need of being justified in this sense. To put it in the post-structuralist terms you seem to be clamoring for, this proves that the single imprecise meaning of dikaioo is able to signify several different messages depending on context.

            But Mike, _senses_ of words are never established “lexically”, but only from context.

            Senses of words (i.e., lexemes) are established by how those words are used in context. That’s all I’m trying to say. When I look at the way the word dikaioo is used in its various contexts I am doing both lexical and contextual analysis. No amount of Saussurean gobbledygook is going to change that.

            And the context in both Paul and James is the same: faith, works, Abraham.

            That’s facile. The context in Paul is that the wrath of God is revealed against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18) and that both Gentile (ch 1) and Jew (ch 2) are under the curse of God’s law. The righteousness required to stand before God is granted not by the law, but apart from it (Rom 3:21-26), only by receiving it through imputation through faith alone (Rom 4:3-5), on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (Rom 5:12-21). The context in James is the ethical implications salvation has (2:14-17). James is talking about the necessary evidence of genuine saving faith, not the ground upon which one is declared righteous “apart from works,” as Paul was saying. Paul uses an instance in Abraham’s life to illustrate that righteousness is credited through faith alone before there even was a law to obey (Rom 4:13-25). James uses another instance in Abraham’s life to illustrate that when one comes to partake in that saving righteousness that is credited through faith alone, it never remains stagnant, but vindicates itself by good works (James 2:21-22). Abraham was counted righteous apart from works, but the genuineness of Abraham’s faith was vindicated by his works.

            Those are two different senses of “justified.” And they explain why Paul’s teaching about justification apart from works does not contradict James’ teaching justification by works.

          • bs

            Mike, I will leave you to your definitions and your current thinking. You and the Cripplegate community are welcome to them and it.
            Peace

          • 4Commencefiring4

            If someone who doesn’t personally practice every detail of RCC doctrine, as you detailed very well above, cannot legitimately call himself a Catholic, then shall we also conclude that someone who doesn’t practice everything Jesus said cannot be His disciple–and therefore is unsaved?

            When I have a dinner party, I have to confess I don’t invite the blind, the lame, the homeless. I invite those who could easily repay me–family and friends. Jesus said not to do that. Am I alone? I don’t think so.

            There are many ways in which I freely admit I do not really deny myself, or my family, or the world, for the sake of Christ. If I’m honest, my use of money often doesn’t reflect an effort to store up treasures in heaven. I spend far more on myself and my family than I do contributing to the Kingdom. My contributions to the local church and to missions is but a fraction of my mortgage alone. In this expensive and modern world we’re in, I think we all can say that. And I think God knows that.

            I haven’t been beaten for the Gospel’s sake, never been shipwrecked, or stranded, or jailed, or otherwise persecuted for Christ’s sake. In fact, I’ve gotten more abuse online over the years for expressing a christian viewpoint about something than anything else. If Paul were sitting here, he’d say I’m an armchair christian and hardly in the race at all.

            Perhaps for this and any number of truths about me that “depart” from what Scripture says, I should conclude that I’m just fooling myself about this salvation thing; that I’m not even in the starting blocks yet, haven’t suited up for the race; still not even entered the stadium.

            But I have decided, from the jump, that I have nothing to bring to God; that I’m broken and helpless; that apart from His death in my place, I cannot hold out any hope of everlasting life, and all the works in the world are less than a bowl of steam to a starving man.

            And it’s my view that anyone from any church–or no church at all–might very well conclude the same. And he does so, not because he’s taken inventory of the available choices and decided to embrace them, but because God has reached into his heart and changed it supernaturally.

            The new birth is not something provable to the outsider, but we rejoice when someone claims it for themselves. We praise God when, after a week of VBS, it is reported that a dozen children have come to Christ. But do we really know God has saved a dozen children just because they raised their hand or bowed their heads in a “prayer of repentance”? No. Time will tell if the seeds grow, or they just fell on rocky soil.

            “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” I suspect a lot more people qualify for eternal life, based on that simple statement, than perhaps has been hinted at here–even if their church tries to complicate it.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            But 4C4, what if week after week you are taught that you DO have something to bring to God? You are NOT broken or helpless, you in fact are a good person and your works may help you to achieve that everlasting life. Don’t you see the difference between that and the true gospel?

            And if faith comes by hearing, what if the message is wrong?

            This is not about judging people, but the fact that when people hear the wrong message their salvation is hindered.

            Trust me, I believed in Christ for 34 years as a witness, but it was a false Christ, a Christ that relied on my good works to save me. Why didn’t God save me then? Because I was hearing the WRONG MESSAGE.

            Your argument is that people can be saved despite the church they’re in (or what they are taught) and remain there. With that logic, I’d still be attending the Kingdom Hall. God forbid.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            My point is that some are singling out the RCC as somehow uniquely incorrect (and it is incorrect, don’t get me wrong–but then pick any United Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, or other mainline church and take a survey of 100 people from each asking about what they believe constitutes salvation and see what you get.)

            If we are to conclude, based on those answers, that the salvation that otherwise might have been visited upon any given individual who attends these churches is thus rendered impossible, we are saying that only those who are exposed to the right teaching can be saved. And I’m saying salvation is an act of God alone in the heart of an individual, regardless of what someone at their church has said, or continues to say. If that’s not true, then why pray for those in the remote and primitive jungles of the world where there’s never been a gospel witness at all? Or the person in a vegetative state? Are they all automatically damned? If what they hear–or don’t hear–is the sole determinant of that, then I guess the answer is Yes, and God is thus not able to save them.

            Romans 1 says the creation itself tells us of the glory of God; we have no excuse for remaining in unbelief, regardless of our surroundings. If someone attends a “wrong” church in the civilized world, but has the Scriptures in his own language available at the drop of a hat, I’m not going to assume his church represents a fixed impediment to his finding truth. And if he does, and yet remains there for other reasons, I’m not going to assume he can’t be–or has not been–saved.

            In short, I’ll have to leave open the question of how narrow the gate is, and how wide the road. I’ve witnessed–as I’m sure you have–those who we thought were saved–pastors, youth ministers, etc., suddenly and dramatically falling from the path we thought they were on. If that can happen, I’m betting that when we get to the other side, we’re going to encounter those we never expected to see there because we had assumed no one in “that church” could possible have been saved.

            “My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts.”

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Were you saved before you were exposed to right teaching?

          • 4Commencefiring4

            That specific subject wasn’t even at issue at the time for me. I only knew that I was in trouble with God, that tomorrow was not assured, and I had been given sufficient information and warning to make a choice. I didn’t have to be told twice.

            People come to the Lord for a variety of reasons: fear, love, tragedy, hopelessness, an unexplained experience, intellectual satisfaction, sudden fortune or loss…there’s no standard scenario. God can use it all, and does.

            I don’t think we need all our questions answered or understand a host of things that we’ll get to later in a Precept study in order for God to save us. As I mentioned before, the thief on the cross didn’t know much more than 1) he was dying; and 2) this innocent Man next to him seemed to have something important in the works that he didn’t understand, but decided he wanted to be part of. So he just said, “Remember me.” Christ didn’t ask him if he understood positional truth, or the correct mode of baptism, or what his view of the end times was. He didn’t even ask him if he knew that He was the Christ or that nothing else–and no one else–could save him.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Well, why you are hesitant to call that “sufficient information” the gospel is a mystery to me.

            And while it is true that God draws us in many different ways, our salvation is always the result of hearing that “sufficient information.” Information my Catholic relatives aren’t given.

            I hope you won’t hesitate to share that gospel with any Catholic relatives or friends you may have despite you’re believing God will save them without it.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            When I came to the Lord, I was not concerned with the questions being batted around here: no one made a point of making sure I subscribed to “sola fide”, or any other such thing. I didn’t know from works vs faith, or what assured my continuance in the faith. I had no idea about Christ’s sufficiency alone, or anything close to that. I was, at 20 years of age, a spiritual child. All those questions would become clear later as I studied further and spoke with other believers. All I knew was that I had responded to what I had learned in the only way I knew. I had become a changed person between Friday night and Saturday, and that’s all I could say for sure. That was “sufficient information” as far as I was concerned, regardless of what errors of theology I may have had.

          • If someone who doesn’t personally practice every detail of RCC doctrine, as you detailed very well above, cannot legitimately call himself a Catholic, then shall we also conclude that someone who doesn’t practice everything Jesus said cannot be His disciple–and therefore is unsaved?

            Sincere question: Did you deliberately misrepresent what I said above, or did you honestly misunderstand it?

            I did not say anything about someone “who doesn’t personally practice every detail or RCC doctrine.” Perfect obedience is not the standard that the Roman Catholic Church itself puts forth in defining who its members are. (Nor is perfect obedience the biblical standard of being an evangelical Christian.) I said:

            “See, the definition of ‘Roman Catholic’ is someone who believes in all official Roman Catholic dogma as established by the Magisterium — by papal decrees and councils and all that has been established into canon law. That means that if you want to call yourself a Roman Catholic, by definition you must subscribe to [i.e., believe in], for example, the canons of the Council of Trent.”

            That’s just the way Roman Catholicism works. The Magisterium is the sole infallible authority concerning faith and practice, which includes what it means to be saved and what precludes one from salvation. A Roman Catholic who distrusts the “infallible” authority of the Magisterium is a contradiction in terms. It’s like talking about a Muslim who’s a Trinitarian. You can call yourself whatever you want, but by definition, Roman Catholics must subscribe to — or at the very least not deny as authoritative — the canon law (papal decrees, conciliar declarations, etc.).

            That has nothing to do with the comment you made, for a number of reasons. One, because you transposed “practice” for “believe.” Two, even if you didn’t transpose those two, you can’t legitimately transfer man-made Roman Catholic rules (i.e., the demand for implicit trust in the Magisterium) to biblical Christianity, because they are different things. Three, even if you could transfer them, the proper analogy would be (a) just as true Catholics, by definition, implicitly trust the sole infallible authority of the Magisterium concerning all matters of faith and practice, (b) true Christians, by definition, implicitly trust the sole infallible authority of the Scriptures concerning all matters of faith and practice. So the analogy wouldn’t be someone who perfectly obeys everything Scripture says; Scripture itself says we will be sinful until we see Christ (1 John 1:8; 3:2). It would be someone who believes everything Scripture says — i.e., someone who believes in sola Scriptura, tota Scriptura, and the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Scriptures. In other words, just as you can’t be a true Catholic while denying any teaching of the Magisterium, you can’t be a true Christian while denying any teaching of Scripture. Because you moved the goal posts, your comments about dinner parties, self-denial, use of money, and persecution don’t address the topic at hand and are moot.

            But I have decided, from the jump, that I have nothing to bring to God; that I’m broken and helpless; that apart from His death in my place, I cannot hold out any hope of everlasting life, and all the works in the world are less than a bowl of steam to a starving man. And it’s my view that anyone from any church–or no church at all–might very well conclude the same.

            While at the same time being taught that Christ has to be re-sacrificed, demonstrating the insufficiency of His actual sacrifice (Heb 10:11-18)? While at the same time being taught that your works of charity in addition to Christ’s work “preserve and increase” your standing before God? While at the same time being taught that baptism, and penance, and confirmation, and marriage, and a list of other religious rituals are necessary for forgiveness — not just being the works of obedience that give evidence of salvation but being the part of the very ground of that salvation itself? And then not just being taught those things, but living in accordance with them?

            And he does so, not because he’s taken inventory of the available choices and decided to embrace them, but because God has reached into his heart and changed it supernaturally.

            By what means has God performed this miracle of supernatural heart change? By the preaching of the Gospel (1 Pet 1:23-25), by the message concerning Christ (Rom 10:17), by the word of truth (Jas 1:18). And the Roman Catholic gospel is no gospel at all, because it teaches people to do the same thing that the Judaizers’ gospel taught them. God does not perform this miracle apart from the proclamation of the true Gospel concerning Christ.

            “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” I suspect a lot more people qualify for eternal life, based on that simple statement, than perhaps has been hinted at here–even if their church tries to complicate it.

            If you abstract Romans 10:9-10 from the letter in which it was written, then you might be led to mistakenly conclude that this is saying anyone who mouths the words “Jesus is Lord” and who sincerely believes in the fact of the resurrection is regenerate. (I dare say the demons could say Jesus was Lord [cf. Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34], and have no trouble believing the fact that He was raised from the dead; cf. James 2:19). But of course this is not the only statement in Romans, but comes after the most thorough explanations in all of Scripture of justification by faith alone on the ground of the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ alone (Rom 3:21-5:21). Surely Paul expects us not to have forgotten the first 9 chapters of his letter when we come to 10:9-10!

            If, then, we are not to have a sudden onset of amnesia when we get to chapter 10, we must conclude that “Believing in your heart” means genuinely believing that the true God raised the true Christ from the dead, as vindication of the sufficient, once-for-all payment for sins that He accomplished on the cross for His people, when God set Him forth publicly as a propitiation of divine wrath by the redemption through His blood (Rom 3:25), and trusting in that sufficient propitiating payment for acceptance with God. “Confessing with your mouth” means genuinely, from the heart, owning Christ as the Lord and Master of your life — both of your walk and of your mind, so that to disbelieve the things Christ says in His Word is to deny His Lordship.

            Once again, 4CF4, you do no one any favors by promoting an easy-believism. You only downplay the need of true salvation, which is neither loving nor compassionate.

          • My point is that some are singling out the RCC as somehow uniquely incorrect (and it is incorrect, don’t get me wrong–but then pick any United Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, or other mainline church and take a survey of 100 people from each asking about what they believe constitutes salvation and see what you get.)

            You continue to ignore what’s been said to you. The Roman Catholic Church is uniquely incorrect, insofar as their official doctrine anathematizes the biblical Gospel. The Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc., may also have their share of professing Christians who are self-deceived. But, in most cases, those churches do not codify as dogma the condemnation of the biblical Gospel. If they do, I’d say the same of them as I do about Catholicism.

            If we are to conclude, based on those answers, that the salvation that otherwise might have been visited upon any given individual who attends these churches is thus rendered impossible, we are saying that only those who are exposed to the right teaching can be saved.

            First of all, not impossible, because, as has been stipulated from the beginning, there might be individuals who don’t subscribe to Catholic doctrine within Catholic Churches. Perhaps they read their Bibles enough to believe better than they’re taught, but not enough to know that they need to get out of the apostate church they’re in.

            But secondly, of course we’re saying that only those who are exposed to the right teaching can be saved, if, by right teaching, you mean the right Gospel, because it is only the right teaching concerning the Gospel of Christ that saves us. The Apostle John says that explicitly in 2 John 1:9: “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” So not only if you don’t have the teaching, but if you don’t abide in the teaching, you don’t have God.

            If that’s not true, then why pray for those in the remote and primitive jungles of the world where there’s never been a gospel witness at all? Or the person in a vegetative state? Are they all automatically damned? If what they hear–or don’t hear–is the sole determinant of that, then I guess the answer is Yes, and God is thus not able to save them.
            So here you’re explicitly denying that the Gospel is necessary for salvation — that people who have never heard the Gospel might actually be saved, despite the fact that Scripture says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” It’s you versus Scripture on this one, and I’m going with Scripture. Conscious faith in the Gospel — hearing and believing in the message concerning Christ — is the only way for men to be saved (Acts 4:12; cf. Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23-25). The whole reason we send missionaries to unreached people groups is because God has declared that He will only save His people through the message concerning His Son.

            Romans 1 says the creation itself tells us of the glory of God; we have no excuse for remaining in unbelief, regardless of our surroundings.
            Yes, that’s true. General revelation is sufficient to condemn — to render men without excuse for not believing. But it is not sufficient to save. For that, we need the special revelation of what God has done through His Son. Which is why Romans doesn’t end at chapter 1 but continues through chapters 3-5, where the Gospel of justification by faith in Christ is explained, and to the end of the letter which outlines the implications of that Gospel.
            . . . because we had assumed no one in “that church” could possible have been saved.
            Once again, no one has claimed that it’s impossible for any individual in any given church to be saved. Only repeated concessions to the contrary. Maybe you think if you just keep beating up this straw man no one else will notice you’re not making a biblical case for your position.

            “My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts.”
            So, if I quote that back to you, does that mean your thoughts are wrong? Or are you misapplying that passage? God’s thoughts are actually recorded for us in the Scriptures. If we’ve scriptural case for our position, then we’re not really employing “our thoughts,” but seeking only to give vent to God’s thoughts. If you’ve not made a scriptural case for your position, but have only argued on the strength of what “must be true” or “can’t be true” according to your own understanding, then perhaps you’re the one who needs to heed the words of Isaiah 55:8.

  • GinaRD

    “Of course, a sign not too far from her stated that those who could not crawl up the steps could stay right where they were and still receive pardon for their sin, but she wasn’t buying it.”

    If that’s the case, do you think it’s fair to blame the church for what she thought? It sounds like you’re saying that the church was teaching one thing and she was believing another.

    • Archepoimen follower

      Gina,
      In either case, the Church is teaching salvation by works not by Grace, therefore, the Church is accountable for presenting a false gospel, which is no gospel at all.

      Tim