(Read the series so far.)
As far as I can tell the Roman Catholic Church now teaches that the most likely way to go to hell is to believe Roman Catholic doctrine. Allow me to support this from a series of quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
The CCC teaches that Protestants who disbelieve the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church are likely saved:
CCC-818: However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ … . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ. (Brackets in original.)
CCC-819: Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church.
(Read the series so far.)
Among Roman Catholics, Vatican II, and thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), is interpreted across a spectrum from essential rejection to continuity with the past to rupture.
Essential rejection is the position of extremely traditional Catholics who remain in communion with the Pope but who continue to give or take the Mass in the wafer alone and who gravitate toward the Latin Mass. Their interpretation of CCC has the greatest continuity with pre-Vatican II statements and tends to minimize the discontinuity.
Continuity with the past is the mainstream interpretation of serious Catholics. “Serious” does not include politicos who claim Augustine supported abortion or who have purchased multiple annulments. Pope Benedict XVI, now emeritus, appears to me to be a very conservative proponent of the continuity view, and he is the mind behind the current universal Catechism. This view is represented by Catholic voices like the magazine First Things.
It was a warm spring day in DC, and my Catholic friend explained with great earnestness that if I were to be ordained prior to converting to Catholicism, then I might be able to be a priest and keep my wife and kids. Dispensations can be obtained.
My heart and mind toyed with the thoughts: the great creaking beauty of the medieval liturgy, the pageantry and fancy dress, the history, architecture, the universities, libraries, philosophy, and Latin. The specter of the Mass rose before me. Worshiping bread and the wine, bowing and kissing statues of saints excused with the thinnest of theological distinctions, Pilipino adherents nailing themselves to crosses. No, this is not the Way.
And I said, “The problem is that one of us is a blasphemer. Either I blaspheme Christ by not worshiping him at every available Mass, or you commit an act of idolatry by worshiping bread and wine. There is no middle ground. In heaven if allowed or required I will kiss and pray to Mary; in heaven I will adore the body of Christ, but until heaven or when Christ returns I will trust the Bible and my conscience.”
(Read Part 1.)
My intent in this article is to show from the Catechism of the Catholic Church a radically different understanding of nature and grace than what is taught by the Bible and held by Protestants. The Catholic view of grace and nature, along its view of Christ-Church interconnectedness, leads to a different gospel than found in the Bible. Lord willing, next week we will consider the Christ-church issue.
Our three main sources are the Bible, Allison’s Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
We are entering into the Byzantine substructures of Roman Catholic theology. And while I am attempting to make sure each article in the series can stand alone, the reader will be greatly assisted by reading the first article in this series.
A few years ago, I stopped by a friend’s church in Washington, D.C. to walk to lunch with him. He had just finished a gut-wrenching meeting where a recent church member explained he had converted to Roman Catholicism without informing the pastors of the church.
The church member’s main justification for the conversion was the intellectual dearth among Protestants and particularly Baptists. And he held this out as the force that drove him to cross the Tiber.
My friend valiantly attempted to share the gospel with the young man from God’s Word and to pull him back to the true faith. But the deed was done, and the excuse was that Baptists lack intellectual and academic validity. And this excuse was given to a pastor with a doctorate in church history from Cambridge.