Thursday, November 17, 2005

Was (or is) the Reformation Necessary? An examination of Protestantism’s doctrinal Pillars: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide -- 5

Interlude--Part 3

Here is the third interlude debate, caused by Jacob's recent travelling. Before he had left, he responded briefly to a comment I had made in my replies to him. So rather than give and exhaustive reply to me, he selected a portion and replied to it at length. I replied to him, and am now reproducing it here. Jacob's words are in black. My former words will be in maroon. My replies to his post will be in blue.

I sound rather harsh in my replies, but that was because even before Jacob posted this, I had been getting progressively more upset with his misrepresentation of Catholicism. In this instalment he argues that we teach "universalism", or "everyone will be saved", or at least some variation of that. However, the Catholic Church is very sure about Hell, and the possibility that men will end up there. In effect, Jacob takes our document (The Catechism of the Catholic Church) and interprets it to say exactly the opposite of what we believe. If he can do that with our Catechism, it doesn't inspire me with much faith in how he interprets other literary documents, like, oh, say, The Bible!

Reformation Debate: Part 4

My but how you do get off topic!

I don't have time to go through and answer every point of Gregory's reply to Part 2, but before I leave and wont have time to post again until possibly late next week, I wan to respond to at least one point he made. Gregory said:

"Catholic doctrine never contradicts Scripture, although some Catholic doctrines are not explicitly taught in Scripture. But, since Catholicism is not bound by Sola Scriptura, this is not a problem for us. That said, however, we do believe in the material sufficiency of Scripture--a) that it has everything we absolutely need to know for salvation, and b) that all Catholic doctrine is at least implicitly taught in Scripture."

All that is in green
[I'm leaving it black, but blockquoting it. I'll also put the emphases back in from the original CCC] is taken directly from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church:
841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."
Gregory once said that he intends to prove that "The Roman Catholic Church places salvation squarely on the nail pierced hands of Jesus Christ." Here we see straight from the RCC that they accept Muslims as included in the plan of salvation, because they profess to hold to the faith of Abraham. My response to that is, so what!

Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. It sure would be nice if you would quote our documents in context and with understanding.

The context of Paragraph 841 is "The Church's relationship with Non-Christians" which begins at paragraph 839, with a discussion of the Jews. After one small paragraph on the Muslims, it goes on to discuss members of non-monotheistic religions.

It follows a natural progression, discussing how God's salvation is for the whole world, by beginning the discussion with Christians (prior to p. 839), then going to Judaism, the religion that is closest to us, and out of which Christianity was birthed. But it does not say that the Jews, who are included in God's plan of Salvation are therefore saved. Next the Catechism progresses to the Muslims, because they are the religion after Judaism that is closest to Christianity, because of their belief in one God. But again, simply being included in God's plan of salvation does not mean that they are, in fact, automatically saved! It simply means that they are not automatically damned, either (as was believed in the Middle Ages. Paragraph 841 is more a statement of God's overwhelming mercy and universal Grace, even to historic Christianity's greatest non-Christian enemy, not a statement on the salvation of individual Muslims). It simply is saying that, yes, Jesus died for Muslims, too.

In fact, beginning at paragraph 846, to conclude and concretise the discussion of other religious groups, in the section entitled "Outside the Church there is no salvation," the Catechism states,
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is His Body. [Emphasis mine]
Paragraph 846 continues with a quotation I'm sure you'll love, but has more bearing on your discussion with Jon.

The Jews did that and they still had to hear the gospel and repent! (Luke 3:8)

Amazing! That's what it indicates in paragraphs 839-40!

The Muslims deny the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, death on the cross and resurrection!!!

Uhm, actually, now you're misrepresenting Islam as well as Catholicism! Muslims believe very firmly in Jesus' Virgin Birth! (Yeah, you're right about the other three, but seriously, get your facts straight. At least talk to a Muslim and read the Qu'ran before you spout off like this--and perhaps pay me the same courtesy!)

Unless they hear the gospel and repent, they are not a part of the plan of salvation.

Amen! The Catechism is not denying this! In fact, it affirms it in Paragraph 846 (particularly in the citation that I omitted. But hey, you've got a Catechism!)

[Edit: I read Jacob's sentence wrong the first time I replied. Allow me to adjust that. We are all a part of God's plan for salvation! Christ died for the whole world! But it is our choice to accept or to reject Him! Saying someone is not part of the plan of salvation is tantamount to saying Jesus did not die for that person, thus effectively saying they can never and will never be saved. In essense, God created them just to throw them into Hell! Had Jacob said what I had thought I had read, namely: "Unless they hear the gospel and repent, they are not saved," then my response above is valid.]

Romans 10:8-15,
But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
[I edited out the verse numbers interspersed in the text because they drive me nuts. They weren't part of the original, but were the artificial construct of mediaeval monks, anyway ;)]

Outside the gospel of Christ there is no Salvation.

Absolutely not. And look at what that text says--without the preaching of the Gospel there is no Salvation. Who preaches the Gospel? The Church! Therefore, without the Church there is no Salvation! Should we drive in some more circles here? Oh, oh, wait! You just did:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
What a complete contradiction of scripture.

Uh, yeah, you know that book you just quoted at me? Did you read chapter 2?

Romans 2:12ff: "All those who have sinned without the Law will perish without the Law; and those under the Law who have sinned will be judged by the Law. For the ones that God will justify are not those who have heard the Law but those who have kept the Law. So, when gentiles, not having the Law, still through their own innate sense behave as the Law commands, then, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves. They can demonstrate the effect of the Law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness; since they are aware of various considerations, some of which accuse them, while others provide them with a defence...on the day when, according to the gospel that I preach, God, through Jesus Christ, judges all human secrets."

What is this saying? That God's Law is on the hearts of every man, and that as a man is able, as he follows that law in his conscience, he is following God whether he knows it or not. Since, as Romans 2 clearly states, God judges us by our deeds, there is the possibility that such a man, who, through no fault of his own, does not know the fullness of the Gospel. However, if such a man is saved, it is still due to the unmerited life of Grace at work in him through Jesus Christ.

This is what the Catechism is saying. But even the Catechism isn't declaring it to be a sure thing, but says that "those too may acheive eternal salvation" [emphasis mine]. The only sure way is through Christ Jesus, and that is why evangelisation is so crucial--in fact, the Bible says and the Catechism echoes, that evangelisation is itself necessary for salvation!

So the sacraments are necessary for salvation, but only if you've heard about them. Is that right?

Not really, no. The Sacraments are the normative vehicles for God's grace, and are therefore necessary in normal circumstances, and especially for the believer. But God, though He gave us the Sacraments, is not bound by the Sacraments. The CCC says that too (# 1257).

Well then we would probably do well to keep letting people believe in whatever God they believe in because if we tell them the truth they might reject it.

This is a foolish statement because
a)Jesus clearly commands the opposite of us, telling us to go out and preach to all people;
b) a person's complete lack of hearing about Jesus only opens the remote possibility that they will be saved, depending on the life they live and the Grace of God;
and c) in today's world there are exceedingly few people who could meet that qualification, even if they don't believe in Christianity!

And if they've heard it and rejected it they are condemned, but if they haven't heard it and believe in something higher or better then themselves it ok.

No, again, it is only a possibility based solely on our faith in the abundant knowledge, mercy, justice, and compassion of our God to save.

So you can never have heard about Jesus Christ or His good news and/or deny that Jesus is God and call him simply another prophet like Moses, and yet still be a part of God's plan for eternal salvation.

Of course, because again, a) to be part of God's saving plan does not mean that you are saved, only simply that He wants you to be saved, and b) He wants everyone to be saved! Sometimes you really make me wonder if you can read. Sorry, but your caricatures of my faith are really annoying!

That seems like a pretty broad and wide open road.

Only to you!

Just about everyone will make it on that road. But Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14,
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
If you misinterpret our teaching, no wonder you end up with false conclusions about it!

How could one billion + Roman Catholics be wrong? "the gate is wide and the way is easy."

We aren't saying that. You are, but you're putting those false words into our mouths! On the one hand we believe that God is merciful and compassionate, and that He doesn't want to condemn. On the other, we know that He is holy and just and must condemn. But the harmony is found in Jesus. But where is justice in condemning someone who doesn't know about Jesus? There is none, without the possibility, however remote, that even St. Paul describes in Romans, that they might seek for God anyway and live according to what knowledge He has given them! Paul says all men are without excuse. But if they are without excuse, then it cannot be possible that they are also without the grace of salvation! However, unfortunately, the majority of people will not take even the "easy" version through Jesus! How much less will those who have never heard of the guarantee of salvation from Him not meet even the remote exception? Yet the Bible is clear that just because the chance is remote, does not mean there is no chance!

It's sad but true that way more people are on their way to Hell than Heaven.

Indeed it is. That is why my heart is so concerned with missions.

But false gospels like that of the Roman Catholic Church continue to point people towards the broad road.

The only false Gospel being discussed here is your caricature of our faith. If you want to actually deal with what the Catholic Church says, instead of misinterpreting it and misrepresenting it, I'd be a whole lot happier!


To be "in Him", doesn't that have certain moral obligations, such as fairness and honesty, even when dealing with opinions that you might disagree with? Jesus had some harsh things to say about the Pharisees, but He never lied about them! Think about that.

Your part 4 would have been a lot better put if you had asked how we reconcile those passages of the Catechism with the plain teaching of Scripture rather than just telling us what we supposedly believe and then labelling it a false Gospel.

God bless

Again, part of me wants to apologise for the harshness of my words. But the fact of the matter is that Jacob has sorely misrepresented our Faith, and then called it a "False Gospel"! If it was the first time, I'd call him on it and let it go. But he insists on doing this, and frankly it gets frustrating.

The problem is greater than Jacob, though, since this is the view of Catholics that many people have--especially Protestants. It was the view of Catholicism that I once held. Because of that, I know his arguments, and have dealt with them in my own journey. Also because of that, I want to expose the error of thinking that causes these caricatures and better demonstrate what the Church actually does teach!

Call me an eternal optimist, but I fully agree with the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who once remarked that "Not 100 people in America hate the Catholic Church. But millions hate what they falsely suppose to be the Catholic Church."

Jacob himself has said that he hates the Catholic Church, but by his replies it is evident that he doesn't actually know what it is.

That is why, I think, this debate is so important.
God bless.


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