Monday, February 5, 2007

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

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