IS ROMAN CATHOLICISM CHRISTIAN?
by Doug Kuepper To many Christians, such a question is outrageous.
But what if I would have asked, "Is Mormonism Christian?" To a majority
of evangelicals, the mere idea of comparing Roman Catholicism with
Mormonism is preposterous. But is it?
Catholics are precious people. Many are sincere, loving, kind and
charitable. But that doesn't make them Christians.
I was raised a Roman Catholic and loved the Church. I spent two years
in a minor seminary preparing for the priesthood. After my wife and I
were married, we were both active Catholics. My involvement included
teaching literature classes, serving as Minister of Music in two
parishes, and membership of various committees. I became a certified
liturgical minister, and gave seminars to train lay people in different
types of ministry. I'm even pictured in a filmstrip series for use in
Catholic dioceses all over the country. To say the least, I was very
religious, very involved, very dedicated and very lost.
Since my conversion to Christ, I continue to keep abreast of what is
happening in the Roman church. Yet so many Christians lack any knowledge
of Catholicism, even those who one would think should know better. When
I was at Columbia Biblical Seminary one of the world's leading
evangelical apologist/lawyers was on campus. I told him that the
president of a European missionary group was going to teach in our
evangelism class about how to reach Catholics with the Gospel.
His response was, "Does this school teach Catholic hating? I'd rather
be a Roman Catholic that a liberal Protestant." This illustrates one of
the greatest obstacles to Roman Catholic evangelism, the uninformed or
I love Roman Catholics as individuals; most of my family is Catholic.
It is necessary to make a proper distinction between individual
Catholics, who might believe many differing things on a very broad
spectrum, and the official teaching of the Church. Because these have
become so indistinct through a lack of understanding among Christians,
many do not understand Roman Catholicism or Roman Catholics, and do not
know that these lost people need the Gospel.
Often you hear the statement, "I know a Roman Catholic who's born
again. He's one of the nicest, most generous people I know." The
obvious problem with such a statement is in equating being born again
with certain good qualities of behavior. Many Roman Catholics are
wonderful people, better that many Protestants I know, but "niceness" is
not the basis for anyone's salvation.
The Christian may respond, "But he says he's born again." I wonder
if you asked him about his being born again. I heard a priest conducting
Mass at a local Catholic high school, and he told the student body, "You
became born again when you were baptized as babies; so if anyone asks you
if you're born again, you can say `yes'!" Lest you think that is just one
priest's opinion, a Vatican II statement said, "By the sacrament of
Baptism man becomes truly incorporated into the crucified and risen
Christ and is reborn to a sharing of the divine life."
Other biblical teachings are changed to fit Catholic theology. The
Bible states that Jesus died for sins; that He paid the price in full.
Catholicism also says that Jesus died for sins, but they say that His
death merely opened the gates of Heaven so that if one works hard enough
he can work his way in (See Gal 2:21).
Catholics say they "receive Jesus" every time they partake of Holy
Communion. They say that they "evangelize", but this ends in a persons
not following Christ, but Catholicism. We must never assume that the
Catholic has the same biblical meaning in the terms he freely uses.
Every cult uses biblical and evangelical terms and phrases to try to
give itself credibility. The most successful counterfeit is the cult
that looks closest to the real thing.
In their book UNDERSTANDING THE CULTS, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart
list 11 characteristics of cults. Roman Catholicism has every one of the
characteristics, yet is not listed as a cult. Why?
One cultic characteristic is "non-biblical source of authority." The
Catholic Church seems to encourage people to read the Bible BUT there is
one stipulation. Vatican II said, "The task of authentically
interpreting the Word of God whether written or handed down, has been
entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office (Magisterium) of the
(Catholic) Church." Tradition is then used to interpret Scriptures, and
the further cultic characteristic of "new truth" manifests itself in
official teachings of the Church such as purgatory or indulgences.
(Neither of these are popular today, but are both official, and non-
The cultic characteristic of "strong leadership" is evident in the
pope; the characteristic of "double talk" is evident when Catholicism
states, "Catholics don't worship Mary" yet promotes the Rosary, a
devotion in which 10 Hail Marys are said for every Lord's Prayer. Even
Catholicism's relationship to Protestants is double-talk.
Vatican II stated, "But all the saving means used by the separated
brethren derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth
entrusted to the Catholic Church...For it is through Christ's Catholic
Church alone, which is the all-embracing means of salvation, that the
fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained."
Another cultic characteristic, "salvation by works" is evidenced by
the "saving" aspects of water baptism and the Mass. In this blasphemous
form of worship, the priest is supposed to officiate over the unbloody
sacrifice of Christ for the remission of sins. This is in complete
opposition to our Lord's completed sacrifice, once for all time (Heb
10:12-18). Yet if a Catholic intentionally misses Sunday Mass or on
Holydays of Obligation, he is guilty of mortal sin, that would sentence
him to hell if not confessed prior to death.
This salvation by works gives no assurance. In fact, official
Catholic teaching says it is the sin of presumption to have an assurance
of salvation. These cultic characteristics lead to the fact that
Catholicism also has the cultic mark of "another Jesus." For an easy-to-
understand study about this, write for SCRIPTURAL EVANGELISM and THE
FINAL FLOCK by Bill Jackson. In these, the facts that "The Roman
Catholic Church as a whole and Catholics as individuals do not have a
biblical concept of the Trinity, Deity of Christ and the sacrificial
aspects of Calvary" are and lovingly presented.
A Roman Catholic's singing "A Mighty Fortress is our God" doesn't mean
he understands Reformation doctrine. There is much talk today about the
need for unity, oneness and loving one another without letting doctrine
get in the way. But a doctrine that tries to substitute unity and love
for Bible truth is Satanic.
Catholicism is the greatest counterfeit of Christianity, dangerous in
its ecumenical and New Age characteristics. Evangelicals must realize
that by using Roman Catholics as examples of doing good deeds in their
sermons gives Roman Catholicism a credibility it does not deserve. The
Christian must not only be aware of the need for Catholic evangelism, he
must be discerning in what he says so as to stop compromising his
position on biblical salvation.
In looking for an example of reaching out to the poor, Mother Teresa
is often used. Although her service to the suffering street people of
Calcutta is commendable, her "dying with dignity" leaves out the Gospel.
She has said, "Oh, I hope I am converting. I don't mean what you
think...If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives,
then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a
better Catholic, a better whatever we are" (Desmond Doig, MOTHER TERESA:
HER PEOPLE AND HER WORK).
John MacArthur visited Mother Teresa and wrote in MASTERPIECE, "We
asked her questions that might reveal her spiritual state. Her answers
were troubling. `I love and respect all religions', an unthinkable remark
in the light of the hellishness of India's dominant religions."
Some evangelicals praise Pope John Paul II, who gathered liberal
Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christian religious leaders
to pray for peace. By his acknowledgment of their "prayers", he was
saying their religions were valid.
Jesus is still the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no man can come to
the Father except by Him. Are we only giving lip-service to that
statement while we succumb to an ecumenical spirit that eliminates
biblical truth for the sake of unity? Too often the answer is yes;
especially in the compromises of the charismatic renewal where the truth
of God's Word is exchanged for experiences, "signs and wonders", and a
false form of love.
Another illustration of compromise is the abortion issue. True
Christians cannot pray with unbelievers, and pro-lifers get so caught up
in the issue, as important as it is, that they forget the important
difference. In the process of saving a baby's earthly life, if there is
no clear presentation of the Gospel, are we being instrumental of sending
a mother and child to an eternal death?
Some Christians even cite priests and bishops that they believe are
truly saved. How could a born again priest perform water baptisms and
continue daily to offer the Mass, if he really understood that the work
of Christ was sufficient once for all?
Some "Christian" ministries present a "watered-down" Gospel so no one
will be offended. My wife and I were once asked to sing for such a
group, but our first song had to be non-religious, "so it would not
scare people away." Why do we try to entertain and then "sneak in" the
Gospel message? Catholics love religious performances, but if the
message is so shallow that the unsaved person doesn't hear the difference
between Truth and error, he never can be reached.
We must never try just to win arguments, but we engage in what former
priest Bart Brewer calls "sanctified provocation." The Gospel is
offensive to the lost for it exposes their prideful, sinful natures.
Let's stop compromising and start proclaiming. I don't want my family
and friends to continue in their lost condition. Certainly you would not
want an uninformed Christian to encourage your loved ones to stay in
their lost religious state.
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