What About Evangelical Catholics?-Part 2
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|Can Christians remain in the Catholic Church without compromising their faith and/or their spiritual growth? We certainly cannot say that God would never allow Christians to remain in the Catholic Church in order to lead others to personal faith in Christ. But in order to do so, they should be thoroughly informed on the issues, weigh them carefully, and resolve not to partake in practices or to accept doctrines that are not biblical.|
Can Christians remain in the Catholic Church without compromising their faith and/or their spiritual growth?
We certainly cannot say that God would never allow Christians to remain in the Catholic Church in order to lead others to personal faith in Christ. But in order to do so, they should be thoroughly informed on the issues, weigh them carefully, and resolve not to partake in practices or to accept doctrines that are not biblical. Further, we would suspect that for the vast majority of Christians in the Catholic Church that acquiring such discernment may necessitate a lengthy, if not permanent, absence from Rome.
Consider a typical example of what Roman Catholic beliefs do to Christian commitment. The following is a statement given to John Weldon by a former roommate, a subsequent youth pastor with whom he roomed for four years:
- Growing up in the Catholic Church definitely made an impact on my life. I attended Church faithfully every Sunday. As a result, on the positive side, I did know something about Jesus and His death on the cross. But beyond that my time in the Catholic Church made the first few years of my Christian life very difficult to enjoy as I had no assurance of salvation at all.
- Catholic doctrine taught me that if you are a Catholic and leave the Church, you are damned forever. I was taught that the Catholic Church was the only true Church and that every other Church was wrong. As a young boy, I grew up being told about relatives that had “fallen away” and how evil this was. Those who went to the Baptist Church or other Protestant churches were almost as bad as those who had fallen away from the Catholic Church.
- With this background, it was very difficult to believe that Jesus really loved me and that all my sins were fully paid for. I believed my sins were only absolved through confession to a priest. As a result, I never truly felt forgiven nor was I at all sure I would make it to heaven. I was left only with the sobering “hope” that I would at least make it to purgatory and that there I could somehow work my way out.
- Further, even for three years after I was saved. I felt incredible guilt and condemnation because I was attending churches that taught the Bible. I would go to various churches with friends, but then go to Mass on Sunday evening to make sure I was covering all the bases.
- As my relationship with Christ grew, I finally realized that if God was real and did love me, then He wanted me to grow closer to Him. He wanted me to worship and obey Him and to study the Bible on my own.
- In the past, my Catholic teaching had never brought me closer to the love of God, or to God as One whom I wanted to obey. It had only left me with the fear that I would never make it to heaven. Unfortunately, the teaching of the Catholic Church never gave me anything that would motivate me to holiness and a desire to be sanctified in the Lord. As a result, as a Catholic, I fell into all kinds of sexual immorality and drunkenness and I hardly even felt convicted. I knew nothing about what the Bible taught about these subjects and had no motivation from the love of God in order to change my lifestyle.
- In the end, it was a slow process of spiritual growth that led me to see clearly how different Roman Catholicism is from biblical faith. Until I really knew the Bible and had grown in my relationship to the Lord, I found it difficult to forsake the Catholic Church. But the more I seriously studied the Bible, the more clearly I saw that my Catholic upbringing had actually hindered both my salvation and my commitment to God and Jesus.
- I think that more than anything else, Christians in the Catholic Church need to resolve to be committed to Christ alone and the biblical authority alone. Unfortunately, even after leaving the Church it was difficult to grow as a Christian because of the Catholic teaching I had adopted and believed. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had stayed in the Catholic Church and never learned the Bible.
It is the author’s own experience that such stories are anything but uncommon. But if so, the Catholic Church must be seen as a genuine hindrance to the cause of Christ.
No Christian needs to feel guilty over leaving a Church that is not biblical. One’s commitment is to Christ first, not a church. Second, no one should feel guilty about an association with the Catholic Church in order to reach unsaved friends or loved ones. But if the consequences involve the sapping of their own spiritual growth, the cost is too high. Again, this would be a compromise of their personal commitment to God. And, in fact, reaching Catholic friends and family can be done just as easily outside the Church.
So we think that when it comes to the crucial issue of spiritual growth, to retain attendance at a Catholic Church is probably unwise. Most Catholic churches do not teach the Bible to those in attendance, they teach Roman Catholic beliefs. If so, how can new Christians ever grow in the faith when all they are taught are doctrines which undermine biblical faith?
We think it is better for those who become Christians in the Catholic Church to leave the Church and find a place where they can receive biblical teaching and Christian fellowship that will encourage their commitment to Christ and His word alone. Once more mature spiritually, then a program of closer contact with Roman Catholicism might begin.
Today, far too many Christians and Evangelical Christian organizations are accepting Roman Catholicism as a fully Christian religion and individual Catholics as true Christians. Perhaps what is needed is a much closer look at Catholicism—and perhaps also a much closer look at Evangelicalism. Why? Because, as our next section documents, even some Evangelicals are turning to Rome. The Church needs to understand the reasons given for such a conversion—and whether or not they are legitimate.