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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I’m confused

Posted by Gary on July 24, 2007

Recently Pope Benedict XVI approved a declaration that asserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church and asserted that only Catholicism provides the true path to salvation. Orthodox churches are recognized as churches but suffer a “defect” because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope. Protestant churches are considered “ecclesial communities” but cannot be considered churches nor do they have the “means of salvation”. (See full article here).

For my part, I am glad that this long held position has been brought to the fore through the publication of this document. Enough of the “Whatever works for you” mindset of the last 75 years. Not everything can be true. In particular, doctrines that directly contradict one another cannot both be true no matter how sincere the adherents of each doctrine are.

It was with a sense of wonder though that I read another article about a particular element of the Latin Mass that will soon be reinstituted in the Catholic Church. Traditionally on Good Friday a prayer for the conversion of the Jews has been offered. Many Jewish groups have communicated their displeasure at the prospect of the revival of this prayer. While planning to move ahead, the Vatican has suggested that a study could be conducted and held forth the possibility that the prayer could be removed, “This could be decided and this would resolve all the problems,” said Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is the most senior official in the Vatican after the pope. (See full article here).

If Catholicism alone teaches the true path of salvation how can it do anything other than pray for the conversion of those outside the church? In particular, how can you refuse to pray for the conversion of individuals who reject Jesus as the Messiah Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but through Me”? The thought that dropping this prayer would even be considered is a marvel.

As a Protestant I do not agree with the declaration from the Vatican in any way except that I do believe there is one, true, church. The one, true, church is not visible but invisible and is made up of those who have received forgiveness of sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel of the Catholic Church and the gospel preached by Protestant churches are not the same gospel. Rome holds forth salvation via combination, a combination of God’s work and human effort. The gospel of Scripture is that we are saved by grace, through faith; not of works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). I am glad to have these eternal differences brought before us again but must admit that when I hear that the Catholic church might be willing to drop the prayer for the conversion of the Jews that I am left to wonder if they believe what they have asserted. How can you believe that salvation is found in your church alone and yet refuse to pray for the conversion of those outside it?

Interesting things, interesting times. May God use them to startle us out of our slumber of salvation by sincerity, just be sincere about what you believe, that’s all that matters.

Matthew 7:21
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…”


2 Responses to “I’m confused”
  1. Good points. If the Catholic Church holds the fullness of truth (and we do) then we should continue praying for conversion of those outside the Church (and we will). You’re right about Protestants and Catholics having a different idea about salvation. Protestants believe we are saved by faith alone whereas the Bible says explicitly (and I quote) “a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone” (James 2:24 NIV)

    We do believe that salvation is an act of God’s grace but of course we concur (with Scripture) that man’s freewill must cooperate with God’s grace. We can (and many do) reject God’s grace. From the Catechism:

    2020 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God’s mercy

    2023 Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.

    2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.

    Hope this helps clarify some. Keep up the good work.

  2. Dear Fiddler,

    Thank you for your thoughts. Much I will say in response I assume you are familiar with having formerly been Protestant. I interestingly was raised Roman Catholic and became a Protestant at age 19.

    I do think in the main you missed my point in writing. You mentioned that the RCC possesses the truth and will pray for the unconverted when my question was why the church would even consider not praying for the unconverted? I don’t believe you responded to that. The initial impression one is left with is that if the prayer would be dropped it would be out of a fear of offending. Those who possess the truth must have more courage than this.

    May I ask how you reconcile the Bible’s clear teaching that salvation does not come through works? (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5,) or this important passage:

    Galatians 3:5-7
    “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”

    Of course the issue here concerns whether works contribute to salvation or are the fruit of salvation. I wish you to know why it must be the latter for if not we would have the ability to boast before God as having contributed something to our salvation which the Bible tells us clearly cannot happen, “So that no one may boast.” I take you to attribute something of these works to man ability because you mention these works in connection with his “free will”.

    Concerning your statement that many reject the grace of God. What would you say of Jesus’ statement:

    John 6:37
    “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me,”

    Man’s coming to God here is attributed to God’s choice of them and giving them to His Son, there is no mention of the possibility of the grace failing because all those the Father gives the Son will come.

    We do not deny man’s choice of God but that choice is only a response to God’s choice of Him and that choice is made entirely by the enabling grace of God. Hence the Scripture:

    John 1:12-13
    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

    Thanks for your comments.

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