Sunday, February 25, 2007

Catholicism: Purgatory

In the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, there remains a temporal punishment for sin for those who have died in God’s grace. Jesus’ work on the cross somehow paid for the “guilt” of the believer’s sins (keeping them out of hell) but did not pay the full penalty of sin – some satisfaction remains.

“Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”

“…The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, can. xi) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God."
-Catholic Encyclopedia

At least some Catholic theologians admit that this doctrine has little basis in Scripture:

“There is not much in Scripture on Purgatory except that in Second Maccabees 12:45, Judas sends a collection to the Temple for those fallen in battle, found with amulets on, "that they might be freed from this sin." Luther saw so clearly that this referred to Purgatory--which he rejected--that he rejected this book too, declaring it not part of Scripture. Some have tried to see an implication of Purgatory in Matthew 12:32. There Jesus speaks of the sin against the Holy Spirit that will be forgiven "neither in this world nor in the next." But the expression quoted is known in Rabbinic literature, where it means merely "never." Still less could we deduce purgatory from First Corinthians 3:11-15. Paul means if the work of some Christian worker has been of such low quality that it burns down, he himself will be saved "as through fire." But the fire seems to mean the apocalyptic fire of the last day, not a fire of purgatory.

But our belief in Purgatory rests on the tradition and definitions of the Church, at the Councils of Lyons II, Florence, and Trent.”
-The Basic Catholic Catechism

What Christ could not do alone, the Church faithful can. Through prayers and indulgences, the faithful on earth can relieve some of the punishment for those in Purgatory.

“Hence, since our prayers and our sacrifices can help those who are still waiting in purgatory, the saints have not hesitated to warn us that we have a real duty toward those who are still in purgatorial expiation.” Catholic Encyclopedia

”In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.” CCC 475

“An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted” CCC 478-479

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Catholicism: Necessary for Salvation

Catholic Catechism:

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation…

1277 necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself...

183 Faith is necessary for salvation…

1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation…

980 …This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation…

846 ...the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation...

1816 …Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation…

1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

837 …Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved.

2036 The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation…

2068 …so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.

Council of Trent:

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not ineed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.

Catechism of St. Pius:

39 Q: What are the conditions necessary to obtain Heaven?
A: The conditions necessary to obtain Heaven are the grace of God, the practice of good works, and perseverance until death in His holy love.

Compendium of the CCC:

207. What is life everlasting?
Eternal life is that life which begins immediately after death. It will have no end. It will be preceded for each person by a particular judgment at the hands of Christ who is the Judge of the living and the dead. This particular judgement will be confirmed in the final judgment.

208. What is the particular judgment?
It is the judgment of immediate retribution which each one after death will receive from God in his immortal soul in accord with his faith and his works. This retribution consists in entrance into the happiness of heaven, immediately or after an appropriate purification, or entry into the eternal damnation of hell.

Baltimore Catechism
Q. 476. Is grace necessary to salvation?
A. Grace is necessary to salvation, because without grace we can do nothing to merit heaven.

Q. 477. Can we resist the grace of God?
A. We can, and unfortunately often do, resist the grace of God.

Q. 478. Is it a sin knowingly to resist the grace of God?
A. It is a sin, knowingly, to resist the grace of God, because we thereby insult Him and reject His gifts without which we cannot be saved.

Q. 479. Does God give His grace to every one?
A. God gives to everyone He creates sufficient grace to save his soul; and if persons do not save their souls, it is because they have not used the grace given.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Catholicism: The Cross

Finally we are getting somewhere in the comments section. I feel like I spend half my time trying to get the Catholics to admit to the teachings of their own Church.

Through penance, purgatory and needing to cooperate in their own salvation it is obvious that Catholics deny the completed work of Christ on the cross. While maintaining that it is Christ who saves them with their words, their actions say differently.

This was an analogy given from one of the Catholic commenters:

I understand that we do not save ourselves. Catholics don't believe we save ourselves. [Words]

Catholics believe Jesus saved us by dying on the cross and ascending into heaven. In this way he cleared all the obstacles between humans and God and proceeded to open the gate to heaven. Now the gate's open. We have been saved. Are we just going to sit here and stare at the open gate? No. We must follow Jesus and walk through that gate to enter heaven. Our actions do not "save us", Jesus did, but because have been given free will we must choose to actively follow him. Jesus is not going to drag us through that gate. [Actions]

Likewise from the Catholic Catechism:
“Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” CCC 618

How does Jesus save if he has only opened the gate? How does he save if he has just provided the ladder? All he has done is provided the means for a person to save themselves by entering the gate or climbing the ladder, depending on which analogy you pick.

In trying to understand this I came upon a comment from a Catholic Apologist on the Envoy Magazine discussion board:

“There have been several theories of the atonement and not one of them is distinctly "Catholic" in an exclusive sense. The only caveat we have is that we do not hold to penal substitution (which has been a favorite theory of the Calvinists). This is the theory that Jesus suffered the punishment for our sins so that we would not have to. We do accept the idea of vicarious atonement in which Jesus suffered on our behalf, but what he did made satisfaction for us so that we would not be punished…The reason that Catholics do not go for penal substitution is because it is tied up with the idea of imputed righteousness….Another problem with penal substitution is that it implies that Jesus has paid the full penalty for sin and that there is no further chastisement to be suffered. This not only eliminates purgatory, it also makes the need for sanctification superfluous. Jesus asked us to take up our Cross and follow him every day. He did not tell us that we had no need to suffer any further. Just the opposite. He warned of persecutions to come and that we would have to "hunger and thirst for righteousness sake." …Finally, if Jesus really was to suffer the penalty for human sin, he would have to be damned to Hell forever. Obviously, that did not happen. And even the sufferings he underwent -- bad as they were -- were not as severe as those suffered by other humans. It was who he was that made the difference. God sacrificed himself for righteousness sake.” Art Sippo (I fixed spelling mistakes from original)

Not only does that quote make no sense to me (it seems contradictory) but that last bolded statement scares me.

Perhaps one of my Catholic commenters can explain to me what the cross accomplished if not the full payment for the penalty of sin. How does a partial payment save anyone?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Catholicism: Cooperation in Salvation

There are only two possible ways to salvation.

Salvation is either 100% of God or there is some amount of cooperation on the part of the sinner. Jesus either paid the price in full, or there is still some work to be done.

The Catholic model of salvation is one of cooperation between God and the sinner. Jesus’s perfect righteousness and death on the cross merited the grace for the sinner to justify (make righteous) himself.

This grace merited by Jesus (sanctifying grace) is given in increments starting with Baptism and is continued to be merited by the sinner through good works (sacraments, acts of charity, etc.). But sanctifying grace can also be lost through sin, and if you die without sanctifying grace in your soul, you will not make it to heaven.

"Once you have supernatural life, once sanctifying grace is in your soul, you can increase it by every supernaturally good action you do: receiving Communion, saying prayers, performing the corporal works of mercy. Is it worth increasing sanctifying grace once you have it; isn’t the minimum enough? Yes and no. It’s enough to get you into heaven, but it may not be enough to sustain itself. It’s easy to fall from grace, as you know. The more solidly you’re wed to sanctifying grace, the more likely you can withstand temptations.

And if you do that, you maintain sanctifying grace. In other words, once you achieve the supernatural life, you don’t want to take it easy. The minimum isn’t good enough because it’s easy to lose the minimum. We must continually seek God’s grace, continually respond to the actual graces God is working within us, inclining us to turn to him and do good.”

"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." CCC 2027

"We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ..." CCC 1821

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. CCC 2010

"Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but 'in body' not 'in heart.'" CCC 837

"The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. "Sacramental grace" is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior." CCC 1129

This cooperation with God by the sinner to insure salvation is quite different than the Protestant understanding of justification which relies on the completed work of Christ on the cross to reconcile the sinner to God (which is obatined by faith alone). Sadly, in reading Catholic material, the Protestant teachings on salvation and justification as described by Catholic literature seem to be somewhat misunderstood and inaccurate. I have some interesting quotes to share in my next post.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Catholicism: Justification by Grace?

Excerpt from Justification by Faith Alone by Dr. John H. Gerstner:

Some Romanists will say that they too teach justification by grace — by Christ’s righteousness, in fact. But the righteousness of Christ which they claim justifies is not Christ’s own personal righteousness reckoned or credited or given or imputed to believers. Romanists refer to the righteousness which Christ works into the life of the believer or infuses into him in his own living and behavior. It is not Christ’s personal righteousness but the believer’s personal righteousness, which he performs by the grace of God.

It is Christ’s righteousness versus the believer’s own righteousness. It is Christ’s achievement versus the Christian’s achievement. It is an imputed righteousness not an infused righteousness. It is a gift of God versus an accomplishment of man. These two righteousnesses are as different as righteousnesses could conceivably be.

It does come down to the way it has been popularly stated for the last four and a half centuries: Protestantism’s salvation by faith versus Rome’s salvation by works. That is not a technically accurate way to state this vital difference, But it points to the truth. The Protestant trusts Christ to save him and the Catholic trusts Christ to help him save himself. It is faith versus works. Or, as the Spirit of God puts it in Romans 4:16 (NIV), "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace, and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring." It is "by faith SO THAT IT MAY BE BY grace...."

If a Romanist wants to be saved by grace alone, it will have to be by faith alone. "The promise comes by faith so that it may be by grace." You can’t be saved "sola gratia" except "sola fide." Every Roman Catholic who wants to be saved by grace must be saved by faith and join us.

And we want Romanists to be saved. We aren’t trying to win an argument but souls! How sad to see a banner raised against "faith alone" when that is the only way to be saved by grace. We agree with Roman friends — salvation is by grace. That is the reason it must be by faith. If it is a salvation based on works that come from grace, it is not based on grace but on the Christian’s works that come from grace. The works that come from grace must prove grace but they cannot be grace. They may come from, be derivative of, a consequence of, but they cannot be identified with it. Faith is merely union with Christ who is our righteousness, our grace, our salvation.

Catholicism: Salvation and Justification

Since I am short on time I wanted to share some excerpts from an article I found. I would encourage everyone to read the entire article as it does a very good job of explaining the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on salvation and justification. It is these teachings which are most relevant to determining whether or not Rome preaches “another Gospel”.

"Roman Catholic theology does not embrace the interpretation of salvation and justification as that presented by Scripture and the Protestant Reformers. The Roman Church does teach that we are justified by grace through faith on account of Christ. What is missing, however, is the word alone. By omitting this word the Roman Church redefines grace, faith and justification in a way that undermines and invalidates the teaching of Scripture."

"According to the Church of Rome, Christ did not accomplish a full, finished and completed salvation in his work of atonement. His death on the cross did not deal with the full penalty of man's sin. It merited grace for man which is then channeled to the individual through the Roman Catholic Church and its sacraments. This grace then enables man to do works of righteousness in order to merit justification and eternal life."

"When Rome states that an individual is justified by grace she means that grace has been infused into the soul of man. This makes him righteous before God and enables him to perform acts of righteousness. These then become the basis of justification and the means whereby he merits heaven. Justification is a process then by which the individual is made righteous in a moral sense. The Roman Catholic Church interprets the phrase the righteousness of God to mean a human righteousness which has its source in the grace of God, channeled through sacraments. But the righteousness itself is the work of man cooperating with that grace. The righteousness of God then is not the righteousness of Christ but rather the righteousness of man which results from the gift of grace, the source of which is God."

"…So Roman Catholic theology teaches that justification is obtained by receiving grace through baptism, and is maintained through the sacrament of penance, the mass and the works of sanctification which in turn merit eternal life. It is important to point out that sanctification in Roman Catholic theology is not only the righteous acts of individuals cooperating with the grace of God but participation in the sacraments of the Church. A state of sanctifying grace, by which a person is justified, cannot be maintained apart from the sacraments. Justification then is not by grace alone (in the biblical sense) or on account of Christ alone (in the biblical sense)."

"Roman Catholicism teaches that saving faith is not trust in Christ alone for justification and salvation. While the Church of Rome affirms the necessity for faith in the justification of adults, her definition is different from that of the scriptures and the teaching of the Protestant Church. To a Roman Catholic, justifying faith is called dogmatic faith. This has to do with the doctrinal content of the faith necessary to be believed for salvation. Essentially it means intellectual assent to eveything the Church teaches. In order to be saved an individual must believe and hold to every doctrine dogmatically defined by the Roman Catholic Church. This entails not only the teaching of the Creed, the sacraments and justification but also the doctrines related to the Papacy (papal rule and infallibility), Mary (immaculate conception and assumption), the canon of scripture and purgatory. Vatican I states that it is necessary for salvation that an individual believe not only all that is revealed in Scripture but also everything defined and proposed by the Church."

"From a Roman Catholic perspective, the concept of saving faith is far removed from the biblical teaching of commitment to and simple trust in Christ alone for salvation. The Roman Catholic Church has distorted the gospel of grace. It has fallen into the same Galatian error of legalism (a sacerdotal/sacramental/works salvation) addressed by Paul in his letter to the Galatian Churches. In that letter Paul dealt with the heresy of the Judaizers, who attempted to add the Jewish ceremonial law to faith in Christ as a basis for salvation…The Roman Catholic teaching on salvation is essentially the same as that preached by the Judaizers. Paul warned the Galatian believers that if they embraced this false gospel they would actually desert Christ (Gal. 1:6). Those evangelicals who would promote spiritual cohabitation with the Church of Rome need to heed to the warning of Paul. He saw no basis for unity with the Judaizers even though they professed faith in Christ. Likewise, there is no basis for unity with the Church of Rome today. If evangelicals jettison the Reformation gospel distinctives for so called unity with Rome they will deny Christ."

Excerpts from:
The Roman Catholic Teaching on Salvation and Justification
By William Webster

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Catholicism: Membership Tract

Take a look on this tract from on “How to Become a Catholic”. Often on Christian websites you will see a link to somewhere that tells you “how to become a Christian” or “how to be saved” so when I saw the Catholic version I checked it out.

One major thing struck me as I read “How to Become Catholic”. The words “Jesus” and “Christ” are not found anywhere in the article. Quite a bit different than this “How to Become a Christian” or this “Ready” button from CWO.

Some excerpts from How to Become A Catholic:

“Becoming Catholic is one of life’s most profound and joyous experiences. Some are blessed enough to receive this great gift while they are infants, and, over time, they recognize the enormous grace that has been bestowed on them. Others enter the Catholic fold when they are older children or adults. This tract examines the joyful process by which one becomes a Catholic.

A person is brought into full communion with the Catholic Church through reception of the three sacraments of Christian initiation—baptism, confirmation, and the holy Eucharist—but the process by which one becomes a Catholic can take different forms.“

“The Christian fully enters the Church by profession of faith and formal reception. For the profession of faith, the candidate says, "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."

The bishop or priest then formally receives the Christian into the Church by saying, "[Name], the Lord receives you into the Catholic Church. His loving kindness has led you here, so that in the unity of the Holy Spirit you may have full communion with us in the faith that you have professed in the presence of his family."

Please go through and read the whole tract. I think it is an interesting look into the day-to-day of the Catholic faith.