Besides asking this provocative question, we could also consider asking similar questions such as are Anglicans Christians; are Baptists Christians or even are Evangelicals Christians. Whichever of these questions we pose we are driven to consider the critical issue of what makes a Christian? Nevertheless, we will run with our original question; are Catholics Christians?. Our response to this question, no doubt, depends on our background and/or experience. The two extreme viewpoints would be:
- No Catholic could ever be a Christian.
- All Catholics are Christians.
However, as ever, in seeking to evaluate this question properly we need to consider what the God who knows all says in His perfect word; the Bible.
First of all though, we need to make a distinction between the system, Roman Catholicism, and the individuals within the system, Catholics. Let us look, initially, at the individuals and ask the question can a Catholic be a Christian? However, in asking such a question we need to go back and ask a prior question: What is a Christian? To which we answer that a Christian is someone who has been born again of the Holy Spirit because as our Lord said unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God (see John 3:3 and 7). Associated with this new birth is the universal Christian experience of repenting of our sins and placing faith in our LORD Jesus Christ (see Acts 20:21) who died to take away our sins.
All Christians then, have been born again and have exercised repentance and faith. So if someone who calls themselves a Catholic (or takes any other label for that matter) has been through these experiences then they are Christians. A Catholic can be a Christian. And if we are true Christians then we share the same salvation with them; we are part of the great household of faith and joy together as brother and sisters in Christ.
However we now have to ask a further question is Roman Catholicism Christian? At this point it might be helpful to remind ourselves of a bit of history. We go back to the early sixteenth century and to a Roman Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther. He began to seek God and came to realize the great truth that a Christian is not made by keeping the regulations of the Roman church, but by having faith in Christ. God used this man to bring about the recovery of the truth that the just shall live by his faith (Hab. 2:4). The great truth of justification by faith was accordingly recovered.
Of course; the Roman Catholic church did not and still does not affirm this doctrine. Rather, they assert the doctrine of justification by works. They say that someone becomes a Christian by keeping to the Roman Catholic code of practice with baptism, mass, confession etc.. The Roman Catholic Church is seriously in error with these things and is deluding millions by these false teachings.
Associated with the recovery of truth through Luther and the Reformation which ensued was the return to a focus on our LORD Jesus Christ as the one and only Saviour. Christianity finds its focus in Jesus Christ the LORD and Him alone. He is the One who brings us to God through His once finished work on Calvary. However, there are two major ways in which Catholicism takes away from the glory of our LORD Jesus.
The Mass Tenuously the origins of this is found in the Lord’s ordaining that we should remember Him in the bread and wine; the Lord’s Supper. However, rather than this being a remembrance feast, as it should be, Catholicism conceived the mass as a re-sacrifice of our LORD Jesus. Every time the mass takes place, Roman Catholic doctrine says that our LORD, in the bread and wine, is re-sacrificed. Such teaching is seriously wrong. Our Lord after he had made one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 10:12). Done is the work that saves once and forever done. When we consider the evil of the mass we must remember as well that great Christian men like Latimer and Ridley were burnt of at the stake in Oxford by the Roman Catholic Establishment some 550 years ago, because they refused to go along with the mass. The same doctrine of the mass is still held by the Roman Catholic Church and is utterly contrary to biblical truth.
Mary The problem here is that Mary is put on a level with our LORD Jesus; she is said to be the co-redemptrix (co-redeemer) with the LORD. This again takes away from the glory of our LORD Jesus and is utterly contrary to scripture. Mary rejoiced in God her Saviour. She is last mentioned in the scriptures as being in a prayer meeting (see Acts 1:14); she is never prayed to. Mary was a sinner who needed a Saviour (see Luk. 1:47). Jesus was the Saviour who died on account of the needs of sinners. Interestingly, although perhaps we were not aware of it, Pope John Paul 11 when he kissed the ground upon arrival in a country he visited was doing so as a symbolic gesture of claiming the land for Mary. Christianity gives all the glory to our Lord Jesus; it is not shared by Him with Mary.
In summary then a Catholic can be a Christian, but Catholicism is never Christian; it is a false church. Accordingly, a Christian may we be still within the fold of Roman Catholicism. However, a Christian should not remain there because the call of the LORD is to come out. Finally as you have read this you may have found it hard teaching to stomach. However, it might be interesting, even helpful, to return to the other questions posed above and even to ask; are evangelicals Christians? Now there is something to chew on. And as you do your chewing remember it is what the Scriptures say that matters.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of March 2006)