“I am a Catholic convert who reads and enjoys your blog (even if I do disagree with you on many points). I am, however, troubled by this statement from your post: "despite the fact that he denies the very Gospel I treasure."Is this statement directed solely at Matatics or all Catholics? Surely, you don't believe that all Catholics are "gospel deniers." I mean, it's one thing to say that Catholics are mistaken in their interpretation of the Bible, and it's quite another to characterize that as denying the gospel. It just seems to me that with the culture rotting at its core, and Catholics and reformed protestants sharing much common ground, there ought to be a desire to use less hostile characterizations. I am not suggesting that we paper over our serious theological disagreements, but calling every Catholic a gospel denier seems a bit over the top.”
My comment was directed toward Gerry. During the seminar, Gerry repeatedly denied that justification is by faith alone. He made sure to emphasize this. I believe the Bible teaches Justification by faith alone (Romans 3-4). Thus, Gerry denies that which I treasure.
The next response:
“James-I respect your position. It's one that I once held. But opposition to sola fide is not peculiar to Gerry. Indeed, all orthodox Catholics would reject that doctrine. But it's one thing to say, "Catholics reject a biblical doctrine that I believe to be at the very heart of the gospel," and quite another to call someone who disagrees with sola fide a "gospel denier." I just think we, as brothers in Christ, ought to move beyond such rhetoric. I may think that your wrong about sola fide, but I certainly don't question your love/devotion to Jesus Christ.Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to promote some sort of "warm fuzzy," let's-pretend-we-don't-have-any-theological-differences dialogue. I am just suggesting that questioning whether the other side is even Christian strikes me as unproductive.”
At the seminar, Gerry Matatics used the old analogy that if one is suspending a heavy object in the air by a chain, if one link is weak or bad, the entire object will crash to the ground. I feel similarly about Rome’s denial of the heart of the gospel- sola fide. While Rome may say some nice things about the Gospel, it denies the very heart of the Gospel. Thus, the entire Gospel “falls” in official Roman Catholic declaration. If one link in the chain is bad, the entire chain is bad and will not support what it intends to.
Right before the seminar, my wife leaned over to me and asked, “Are these people here our brothers and sisters in Christ?” I whispered back, “No…and maybe.” I said this because my opinion is that Rome denies the heart of the Gospel and so therefore does not officially teach the “Gospel.” On the other hand, I don’t deny that there are some Roman Catholics that are my brothers and sisters in Christ- but this is despite Rome’s teaching, not because of it.
I know it must seem arrogant and foolish to believe that sola fide is the heart of the Gospel. But I believe the Bible teaches it, and also teaches that finding justification in any other way is a doomed endeavor. I will attempt to present this position with as much respect as I possibly can. I realize this is a harsh opinion to Roman Catholic ears- but this does not mean I “hate” Catholics or dislike them. You won’t find me calling Rome the “Whore of Babylon” or saying that the Pope is the antichrist.
Now, Gerry Matatics and I at least seem to agree on one thing: I do believe that doctrine is important- so did Gerry Matatics. I believe doctrine has eternal consequences- so did Gerry Matatics. I think Gerry would likewise say to me, “If you are outside the church you will not be saved” or “you cannot be saved if you believe the heresy of sola fide”.
Take a look at these quotes from Gerry’s website:
Catholic Faith: no salvation outside of
“This true Catholic Faith, outside of which none can be saved, which I now profess and truly hold …”
(Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Session 2, Profession of Faith, 1870)
Church: no salvation outside of
“Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic Faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity … This is the Catholic Faith; unless each one believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”
(Athanasian Creed; quoted and solemnly ratified ex cathedra by Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, session 8, November 22, 1439)
“There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice.”
(Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, Constitution 1, 1215)
"The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church -- not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics -- cannot share in eternal life, and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives; [the Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches] that the unity of this ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only those who abide in it do the Church's sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgivings and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia productive of eternal rewards; and [the Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches] that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."
(Ex cathedra solemn definition of Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence (Ecumenical Council), "Cantate Domino," 1441; Denzinger)
“It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the Rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members ... By divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and … this is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church.”
(Pope Leo XII, Ubi Primum, May 5, 1824; paragraph 14)
Church: only the baptized are members
"Only those are really to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith and who have not unhappily withdrawn from Body-unity or for grave faults have been excluded by legitimate authority."
(Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi)
Faith, Catholic: Necessary for salvation
“ Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith.For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire he will undoubtedly be lost forever. This is what the Catholic faith teaches …
This, then, is what he who wishes to be saved must believe about the Trinity. It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ …This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved.”
Jews: forfeit covenant relationship with God due to unbelief
“… If you be Christ’s then you are the seed of Abraham” (Gal 3:29). If we because of our faith in Christ are deemed children of Abraham, the Jews therefore because of their perfidy [“deliberate breach of faith; calculated violation of trust; treachery” – American Heritage Dictionary, Second edition] have ceased to be His seed.”
(St. Gregory the Great, Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, vol. 1, p. 92)
Non-Catholics: are not Christians
“Even the heretics appear to have Christ, for none of them denies the name of Christ; yet, anyone who does not confess all that pertains to Christ does in fact deny Christ.”
(St. Ambrose (+389): cited in Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2, p. 163)
“Therefore the holy martyr Cyprian, writing about schism, denied to the pseudo-bishop Novatian even the title of Christian, on the grounds that he was cut off and separated from the Church of Christ. ‘Whoever he is,’ he says, ‘and whatever sort he is, he is not a Christian who is not in the Church of Christ.’ “
(Pope Pius IX, Etsi multa, November 21, 1873, paragraph 25)
Unevangelized peoples: faithless and in bondage to Satan
“We are thankful for the success of apostolic missions in America, the Indies, and other faithless lands…They search out those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to summon them to the light and life of the Catholic religion… At length they snatch them from the devil’s rule by the bath of regeneration and promote them to the freedom of God’s adopted sons.”
(Pope Gregory XVI, Probe Nostis, Sept. 18, 1840; paragraph 6)
Now- the times have changed, and Protestants are not normally considered “heretics” by Roman Catholic apologists anymore. We are considered “separated brethren” or something to that effect. Gerry Matatics though would conclude differently. At least Gerry and I can agree truth is vital, and both agree Catholics and Protestants believe in two different Gospels. Both of us believe the other is eternally wrong.
During the Reformation period the new Protestants were popularly considered heretics. But since Protestants are supposedly not heretics anymore- I have to wonder why there is a need for most Roman Catholic apologetics. What’s the point? Why do Catholic apologetics? Why spend so much time writing against the Reformation or Protestants? It seems time could be spent better elsewhere.
I've been in more than a few discussion with Roman Catholics. Very few wish to call me a heretic. I tried one time to appeal to Galatians 1:6-9-
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"
I've asked- Isn't Justification by faith alone considered "another gospel" to a Roman Catholic? Why not condemn me a heretic?
The answer:The only way I could be deemed a heretic was if I knew the Roman Catholic Church was the true church- and still I denied her truth. But since I remain convinced the Roman Catholic Church does not teach the truth and is a false church, i'm not a heretic, but rather, seperated brethren- due to my ignorance- even though I adhere to faith alone, and believe that it is the Gospel- and I condemn as anathema any system that would deny it.
Now apply Catholic apologist logic to the Scriptures, and church history. What happens? It's not possible to consistently apply this logic to the Scriptures and church history. It certainly doesn't seem to fit with Paul's emphatic plea in Galatians 1. It also doesn't seem to fit with what the Council of Trent declared:
Canon 9- "If Anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema."
Even the Catholic Encyclopedia grips it:
"The doctrine of justification by faith alone was considered by Luther and his followers as an incontrovertible dogma, as the foundation rock of the Reformation, as an "article by which the Church must stand or fall" (articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesia), and which of itself would have been a sufficient cause for beginning the Reformation, as the Smalkaldic Articles emphatically declare. Thus we need not wonder when later on we see Lutheran theologians declaring that the Sola-Fides doctrine, as the principium materiale of Protestantism, deserves to be placed side by side with the doctrine of Sola-Scriptura ("Bible alone", with the exclusion of Tradition) as its principium formale -- two maxims in which the contrast between Protestant and Catholic teaching reaches its highest point. Since, however, neither maxim can be found in the Bible, every Catholic is forced to conclude that Protestantism from its very beginning and foundation is based on self-deception."