The Roman Catholic Controversy: What is the Gospel?

The Roman Catholic Controversy

The first post in my series on James R. White’s The Roman Catholic Controversy.

Catholics and Protestants — do the differences still matter? That is the question The Roman Catholic Controversy presents us with from the start. From the very first pages, the book makes clear that the question is merely rhetorical: In the foreword, John H. Armstrong announces unequivocally that “Catholic doctrinal formulations . . . significantly conflict with the plain teaching of God’s Word” and that Catholic doctrines “actually undermine the grace of God in the Gospel.” Accidentally, Armstrong places the book in its context: The Catholic Controversy was published in 1996, amid the first in the new explosion of converts from evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism, and the rising wave of conversion literature, especially from Scott Hahn (Rome Sweet Rome, 1993), Patrick Madrid (Surprised by Truth, 1994), David Currie (Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, 1996), and Stephen Ray (Crossing the Tiber, 1997) — and the ensuing counter-wave of panicked evangelical apologetics. I sincerely hope The Catholic Controversy is not another attack book, a blunt weapon designed to stanch the flow of defections by any means necessary.

Thankfully, James White steps forward with an ingenuousness and honesty that seems to reflect a genuine evangelical concern for truth and for salvation. In a world of postmodern relativism*, as “many . . . are, perhaps unwittingly, sacrificing absolute truth on the altar of compromise and expediency,” White fears the true message of the Gospel — the truthfulness — is being lost. This truth is central and crucial — and on this truth, White argues, Protestants and Catholics have a “disagreement of a fundamental nature” regarding the most fundamental of questions: What is the Gospel?

* For what it’s worth, on my first day of grad school, one of my professors announced that “postmodernism is dead.” I am pleased to confirm that at least in the historical discipline, it has shown no signs of stirring.

In a disarming feint, White does a curious thing: He presents a hypothetical dialogue between a recent, enthusiastic Catholic convert and a shocked evangelical friend. I must admit, I nearly laughed out loud as he introduced this. “At the mall, Bill has just run into Scott, an old friend from his teenage years. He and Scott both sang in youth choir; they even passed out tracts together near the downtown mission. Bill is in for a surprise.” It smells in every way like a bad after-school special. And remember, kids, don’t accept food or drink from Catholics: it just might be the Body and Blood of Christ.

Scott, the convert, echoes so many of the arguments and claims I myself have made for the truth of Rome: that Catholic doctrine does have a firm foundation in Scripture; that Catholics don’t worship Mary; that sola scriptura has no basis in Scripture; and that coming to Rome is not to lose the Gospel, but to gain the fullness of Apostolic Truth. White acknowledges that most Protestants are not prepared to answer the claims of Rome, and he implies that this is why Scott converted: because he lacked the knowledge to defend against them. I can only presume that White will return to each of these claims, and provide a counterargument.

White then approaches the main argument of his book: not only to reject the claims of Rome, but to reject all efforts at ecumenism. Merely sharing the “bare confession” that “Jesus is Lord” is not a valid basis for Christian unity, he rightly argues. More than simply calling on the name of Jesus, “who Jesus is, what He did, and how we come to know Him” are crucial questions to the Christian identity. (All emphases are White’s.) “If unity in doctrine on the person of Christ is necessary for meaningful unity,” White asks, “is unity on the doctrine of the Gospel itself also just as necessary?” It is a telling question that I believe underpins White’s argument.

White concludes his first chapter in very certain, concrete terms: that the Roman Catholic Church is “preaching a gospel that is contradictory to that taught by the Apostles of the Lord,” a teaching that is “a dangerous error that is to be avoided at peril of spiritual loss.” Catholics very clearly teach “a different gospel” than Protestants (and with that, he sets up a thesis directly contrary to mine); he knows many Catholics who would acknowledge as much, he adds. “The Gospel message itself is an issue upon which compromise is impossible. No unity can exist where the Gospel is no longer central to the teaching of the Church,” White argues. “The Roman Catholic position on the topic of the Gospel . . . falls outside the realm of biblical truth, not just in minor, secondary issues but with reference to the very heart of the Gospel itself.”

And what, to White, is the heart of the Gospel? He does not leave us in suspense: “The fact that God justifies us freely by his grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone must, I believe, be included in the most basic, fundamental definition of the Christian faith.” It is the standard Reformed refrain that has echoed since the Reformation itself: without the five solas — sola scriptura (by Scripture alone), sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fide (by faith alone), solo Christo (by Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone) — there is no Gospel.

But this returns me to the essential question which White posed: What is the Gospel? Is the Gospel Reformed doctrine? Did Jesus lay out the five solas in His Sermon on the Mount? If this in itself is White’s gospel, then I have no doubt that Catholics denied sharing it. No, doctrine — both Reformed doctrine and Catholic doctrine — is teaching about the Gospel. And even though both Catholics and Protestants claim that their teachings were guided by the Holy Spirit (the Catholic Church does claim infallibly), teaching is something men do; saving is what Jesus does.

Despite White’s insistence that the Catholic Church teaches a “different gospel” than Protestants, we both agree that Jesus saves. We both agree that we are sinners in need of a Savior, hopeless in our sin without Him. We both agree that salvation is by grace alone, by Christ alone — that no one can approach God, by his own grace and merits, apart from the grace of God. We both agree that God is love — that because He loved us, Christ died for the sins of us all so that we might be saved; that we are justified by His merits alone. And yes, there are doctrinal differences between us. But is the Gospel that Jesus justifies us by faith alone (with works necessarily proceeding), upon which we disagree — or is the Gospel that Jesus justifies us by His grace alone, and nothing we have ever done or could ever do, by our own merits or efforts, could pay the price He paid — upon which we agree? Does White really mean to subjugate the love and the grace and the salvation of God to doctrine?

As often as Protestants accuse Catholics of worshipping Mary, I often wonder if Reformed Christians don’t worship their solas. Doctrine is important; I do not argue otherwise. Doctrinal relativism — the trap I myself fell into for so long — is a lie. But do our different doctrines not describe the same Truth? Is that Truth not the Christ who saves us by His grace, rather than our doctrine?

40 thoughts on “The Roman Catholic Controversy: What is the Gospel?

  1. It is telling that perhaps the earliest Christian creed was, “Jesus is Lord”. The rest we’ve added over 2000 years.

    I notice some of the same issues you do. When we talk about the Gospel, what do we mean? I’m sure I could find something in Paul’s letters that expresses it in one sentence (I was leafing through Romans, but I’ll have to go through it more carefully), but it’s an interesting exercise. If I had one sentence, how would I describe the Gospel?

    • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Not one sentence, but a pretty succinct summary. Taking just the first sentence would work — but these are verses that are very easy to take out of context. Evangelicals like to forget about verse 10 entirely. And they forget the larger context: Paul rejecting the teachings of the Judaizers, who insisted Christians were saved by the works of the (Jewish) Law.

      • Welcome, brother! Yes, certainly, if we think of the “gospel” in terms of the “good news” of Jesus Christ, you’ve got it. ๐Ÿ™‚ That is a very important passage, too, as an evidence of the Resurrection, since many scholars believe Paul is reciting an early Christian creed which offers testimony to within a few years of the event. The way especially Protestants use the word “gospel” though, is to refer to “how we are saved” (and by that, they usually mean “how we are justified”). His peace be with you!

        • Thanks for your welcome!

          “The way especially Protestants use the word โ€œgospelโ€ though, is to refer to โ€œhow we are savedโ€ (and by that, they usually mean โ€œhow we are justifiedโ€).”

          I agree with you about what Protestants mean by “gospel.” When we read the I Cor. 15 passage _carefully_, we notice that Paul says that the gospel which he defines here saves (“by which you are saved”). Hence, Paul’s definition of the saving gospel doesn’t match up with either the Protestant or Catholic definitions. D. A. Carson is an exception, but he makes major errors in analyzing the gospel.

          Several theologians misread this passage badly, assuming that the gospel in this passage is limited to the topic of the Resurrection (e.g., Calvin calls the gospel here a “gospel of the Resurrection). However, Paul argues from an uncontroversial base–the definition of the saving gospel which the Corinthians had received–and proceeds from that base to build his doctrine of the physical, bodily Resurrection, which was controversial within the Corinthian church.

          The saving gospel answers the most important question of the New Testament: Who is Jesus of Nazareth? The saving gospel explains the key characteristics of the coming Messiah from OT passages about his death for sins, burial, and resurrection, then proceeds to give evidence that Jesus of Nazareth provided evidence that He is the Messiah, using the testimony of the apostles.

          • Thanks again. I would point out, too, that reading 1 Cor 15 in this way, it departs rather dramatically from the standard Protestant conception of a one-time justification by faith alone. Paul says that in this Gospel that the Corinthians received, in which they stand, they are being saved (present tense, a progressive action) — if (conditionally) they hold fast to the word that has been preached to them — unless they believed in vain (demonstrating that mere belief is not enough to save, since it is possible to believe in vain). ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. 1 John 4:8 would be my summary: ‘He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.’ That is at the heart of His atoning sacrifice. We dare not ask for justice, but we have been offered Grace freely.

  3. Pingback: A burden for Christian unity « The Lonely Pilgrim

  4. Pingback: The Roman Catholic Controversy « The Lonely Pilgrim

  5. “And remember, kids, donโ€™t accept food or drink from Catholics: it just might be the Body and Blood of Christ.” That made me laugh out loud.

  6. Pingback: Justification by faith alone, or what? What do Protestants think Catholics believe? « The Lonely Pilgrim

  7. Pingback: What is the Good News? | Living an Ecumenical Life

  8. THE GOOD NEWS IN A “NUTSHELL” IS THIS: WE ARE ALL SINNERS. WE NEED A SAVIOR. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ATTAIN SALVATION BY OUR OWN GOOD WORKS. GOD SHOWED US HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LOVE FOR US BY PROVIDING THE SACRIFICE TO PAY FOR OUR SINS.

    1. All humans inherited the sin nature from Adam (see Romans 5:12).

    2. FYI – If you break one law, you’ve broken the entire law (see James 2:10). And “… all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (see Romans 3). Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. Christ’s blood was shed for our sins (see Hebrews 9:22).

    3. Our righteousness is as filthy rags (see Isaiah 64:6).

    4. If the Hebrews could have acheived perfection in keeping the law, then they would have done so. The law was our schoolmaster to show us that only God can save us. Only He is righteous, and we need His free gift of salvation because we cannot attain it by our good works. (see Galatians 3 and Romans 3). Jesus paid for our sins because we couldn’t.

    5. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

    6. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED.” (Romans 10:9)

    7. “For WHOSOEVER shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

    8. “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED? And they said, BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED, and thy house.” (Acts 16:30-31)

    9. We do good works because we are thankful for the salvation which God provided for us, not in order to earn our salvation. Salvation has already been secured for us. We can have full assurance of our salvation now (see 1 John 5:13).

    10. The story of Christ and salvation is like a red thread which is weaved through the entire bible. Jesus was God incarnate. Jesus is “The Word”. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

    11. “Where is boasting then?…” (see Romans 3:27)

      • I was just trying to clarify what “The Gospel” is by providing a clear explanation, to help shed light for future readers of your blog.

          • I guess you can’t have too much of a good thing, right?

            I just wanted to re-emphasize that the Good News is about believing in Jesus… and not about keeping laws. I am soo glad that the Good News is a very simple concept. Even little kids get it. It’s nice to be able to rest in full assurance of our salvation.

          • Well you know, though we agree upon what the Gospel is, this concept of “resting” in an absolute “assurance of salvation” is a Protestant concept. Yes, we may be assured that God will always keep His promises, that He will always be faithful to us, that there is forgiveness for our every sin and salvation for our every hurt; but that doesn’t abrogate our responsibility to remain faithful to His Gospel and His Truth. The Good News is about faith in Jesus — not a one-time, passing, intellectual assent to belief, but an enduring commitment of one’s whole life to Him (cf. Matthew 10:22, 24:13; Luke 8:15; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Hebrews 3:6, 14; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:11; etc.).

          • Not only is resting in full assurance of our salvation a “protestant” concept, but it is also an “Epistle of John” concept: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; THAT YE MAY KNOW THAT YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)

            A person gets filled with the Holy Spirit by believing in Jesus… Not by doing good works. When a person believes in Jesus, they are born again (John 3:3), which is a one-time event. Believing in Jesus means acknowledging that you are a sinner and accepting the free gift of salvation which He has provided for us, since we could not attain it on our own, because only God is righteous.

            So believing in Jesus enables us to live and walk in the Spirit (produce good fruit such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance).

            So as long as you believe in Jesus, you will be living and walking in the Spirit (producing good fruit) and you will have eternal life. Walking in the Spirit also means overcoming the flesh (adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and revellings) through the Spirit.

            I would say that sometimes both protestants and catholics may take for granted their salvation, and become negligent in their relationship with God, and need to be reminded to walk in the Spirit. Just because one is born again (saved), doesn’t give us a license to sin. That is like saying that once you are married to someone, that gives you a license to cheat on your wife. People that are born again believe and trust that God will never leave them nor forsake them. They constantly acknowledge their sins, repent, and desire to be in communion with God. Just like a little child relationship with it’s parent. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:15-16)

            I don’t think that someone can lose their salvation once they truly believe in Jesus. Either your name is in the Lambs Book of Life, or it’s not. Some people may not believe in Jesus now, but if they are in the Lambs Book of LIfe and hear the gospel, then at some point in their life they will believe in Jesus (example Paul didn’t believe, and then he had his experience on the road to Damascus and was born again). Paul had always been written in the Lambs Book of Life, but no one knew it for sure until he was born again and came to believe in Jesus.

          • I’m afraid you may be misunderstanding John. Yes, John says that we have eternal life (i.e. life that has the character of being eternal). He does not say that we have the assurance of that life eternally — in other words, he does not say that we cannot lose what we have gained. In fact, just the opposite, if we believe the same John wrote 2 John, in which he exhorts us to “Look to [ourselves], that [we] may not lose what [we] have worked for, but may win a full reward” (2 John 8). Jesus says, in John’s Gospel, that “every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40), any many other things along these lines — but this is not unconditional. In the same Gospel, he commands that we “abide in Him” — but that if we do not abide in Him, we will be “cast forth as a branch and [wither]” and “thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:1โ€“17). This does not sound like an unconditional assurance of salvation to me! Abiding in Him entails “keeping His commandments” (v. 10), namely, by “loving one another” (v. 12) — by which we will “bear much fruit and so prove to be [His] disciples” (v. 8).

            Again, I don’t know why you are carrying on about good works. No one believes that we are saved by good works. Catholics believe as well as Protestants that it is only by living and walking in His Spirit that we are able to do anything good at all (cf. John 15:5).

            So as long as you believe in Jesus, you will be living and walking in the Spirit (producing good fruit) and you will have eternal life. … I donโ€™t think that someone can lose their salvation once they truly believe in Jesus. Either your name is in the Lambs Book of Life, or itโ€™s not.

            You are essentially repeating back my argument to me. ๐Ÿ™‚ The only way to justify a belief in “assurance of salvation” is by saying that if someone fails to live and walk by the Spirit, then they didn’t really believe in Jesus in the first place. This is a disingenuous argument. There are many people who have lived and walked in the Christian life, proclaimed boldly that they had “assurance of their salvation,” and then fallen away and completely apostatized from the faith. Take, for example, the prominent atheist Bart Ehrman, formerly a zealous evangelical. Can we say that he “never really believed” in the first place? If the Protestant argument holds true, and belief in Christ is the only thing required to be saved, then this argument falls flat. It basically amounts to, “If you believe in Christ, you have complete assurance of salvation! — unless it later turns out that you don’t actually, really believe in Jesus” — and you can’t really have assurance that you actually believe in Him unless you persevere to the end and prove to be His disciple — which is not really any assurance at all, and the very same thing that Catholics argue.

          • Would you say that you are maintaining your salvation through good works? “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3)

            Concerning John 15:2, any branch in Christ which does not bear fruit, was never intended to bear fruit, and thus was never written in the Lambs Book of Life. That fruitless branch never truly believed nor was ever born again to begin with. The Vine grows just as God intended for it to grow…some branches to bear fruit, some to stoke the fire.

            Did you choose God, or did He chose you? Why did he chose you? FYI – It was not because of your works.

          • Thank you for this opportunity to share the meaning of “the gospel”, and explain eternal security : )

          • You’re welcome. Can you get your witnessing merit badge now?

            FWIW, I was raised an Evangelical and hang out with Baptists most of the time. I understand what people think about “eternal security.”

            If some branches in the vine of Christ “were never meant to bear fruit,” why does Jesus very earnestly implore all His disciples to abide in Him by bearing good fruit — as if they had some choice in the matter? And how can someone become a member of the vine if they were not born again? Doesn’t being a member of Christ entail having been born again in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?

          • I am not trying to earn a merit badge. I enjoy trying to share the truth and light of Christ where I can. What better purpose is there in life? I am not trying to win an argument, I am merely trying to share what I believe to be true and hopefully help someone gain a more clear picture of Truth. And hopefully I will learn something along the way, which in fact I did today… I was reminded that in order to be in closer union with God that I should not be lax in listening to and yielding to the Holy Spirit. I also learned that I am probably not going to change the mind of an arminian, and that an arminian is probably not going to ever change my mind : ) We could be going back and forth for days coming up with clever arguments to strengthen our positions, and frankly I’m not up for this sort of banter! : ) It’s like trying to convert a liberal to be conservative…it’s 99% unlikely, and will take divine intervention! Have a great evening!

          • … Who’s an Arminian? Arminianism is a Protestant theology, not a Catholic one. What I’m giving is just the basic Christian understanding of these passages for the past 2,000 years.

            I’m not looking to win any argument either. In fact, I’m rather baffled at why you came here to share this “truth” in the first place. I don’t know whether to be flattered or offended that you thought the Holy Spirit was telling you to stay away from me. ๐Ÿ™‚ But now I’m curious. I seem to have uncovered some serious flaws in your position, and rather than addressing them, you’re retreating. If, as Paul says, “to be in Christ is to be a new creation” (i.e. “born again”), how can any member or “branch” of Christ not, in fact, be “born again,” or be intended not for salvation, but to “stoke the fire”? That seems an awful lot like aborting babies to fuel the incinerator, and not something my Lord would do.

          • If u r familiar with what arminianism is, It seems that some of your theology is similar…that is what i meant. I am at the other end of the spectrum with Calvinism (u can google to compare the differences)
            Also, I don’t remember ever saying anything like “the Holy Spirit told me to stay away from you” maybe u have my post confused with someone else’s?
            Also concerning the branches which will be burned… This has nothing to do with abortions. It has to do with God having control and power over His creation (men)…”1Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,” (Rom 9:21-23) this is a picture of predestination, which we have nothing to do with, just like u dont have power to put your name in the book of life , nor take it away from the book of life.

          • Yes, I am familiar with both Arminianism and Calvinism. I was a Protestant for over thirty years of my life.

            You said you “leaned something today,” that you “should not be lax in listening to and yielding to the Holy Spirit,” so I wondered if His telling you to leave me alone was what you failed to heed. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Yes, in fact, what you suggested is quite similar to abortion. You said that Jesus would bring people into Himself (that is, into life) who were never meant to bear fruit, but were only meant to “stoke the fire.” How is that not like abortion โ€” giving life only to destroy it?

            You still aren’t answering my questions. Why does Jesus exhort everyone in Him to “abide in Him” and “bear fruit,” if some are not meant to bear fruit at all? Why does He exhort us at all, if we have no power or control over the matter? If all those who are “born again” must produce good fruit, and all those who are in Him are “born again,” how can it be that some in Him would not produce good fruit, and would therefore be cast away and burned?

          • I found this explanation online:
            John 15:2 “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit” Here he doesn’t use “live, abide or dwell”, but simply says “in”. I believe he’s speaking of those who associate with the visible church, who have a surface knowledge of Christ, but who have not established a living relationship with Christ as is evident of their fruitlessness”
            There are many scriptures that point to a Christians’ eternal security. For a for more thorough explanation of eternal security visit http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/security_believer.html

          • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17). It’s amusing to see the gyrations you have to go to avoid the plain meaning of the Scripture. I thought Protestants were supposed to be “Bible believers”? ๐Ÿ˜‰

            I have read a number of books on “eternal security,” even by noted authors such as Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, and J.I. Packer โ€” and their arguments are about as convincing as yours. Such a belief requires taking many Scriptures out of context and completely ignoring many more.

  9. SALVATION FOR TODAY

    The Heart of the Gospel is Romans 3:24-26 and is what must be given to the un-believer.

    JUSTIFICATION is taught in the first four chapters of Romans that shows how an un-believer must be saved. Romans 4 is how the un-believer has to believe the Gospel found in Rom 3:24-26 that uses Abraham as an example, being fully persuaded Rom 4:21.

    God is not the author of Confusion 1 Cor 14:33.

    It’s important to understand that key components of the Gospel must contain:

    (i) Believe in Jesus
    (ii) Faith in his blood for the forgiveness of life time of sins.

    If the above two key components are missing from the Gospel, then there is no salvation.

    • Hi, thanks for the comment! I wonder, though, if you actually read my article or just the headline. Some Protestants (like the ones I was responding to) would argue that the Catholic Church believes a “different gospel” than the true one. Would you agree with that? Are you interested in having a conversation about it, or did you just come to pass me a Gospel tract? God bless you and His peace be with you!

      • Hi Joseph, Thanks for the response. Yes I came to give you God’s own Gospel tract which is not of my own fabrication. The reason being majority in Christendom not being established in the faith, miss the glad tidings to good things – the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, being unstable and unlearned wrest the scriptures unto their own destruction.

        Yes I have read your article but would like to have a conversation why it is widely believed that the Catholic Church believes a different Gospel which off course if you would agree to gospel content of my “first post” i.e. God’s way of justifying sinners like you and me in his sight – not worthy of his grace.

        God Bless you too.

        • Thanks for the reply, Nathaniel. I would say that a false, stubborn, and pernicious prejudice is the source of the opinion of so many anti-Catholic Protestants who insist that Catholics believe a “different gospel.” The Protestant Reformers, and Martin Luther himself, made “sola fide” their battle cry, arguing that justification is “by faith alone”, in opposition to a supposed “justification by works” or “works’ righteousness” โ€” but the truth is that the Catholic Church has always taught that justification is solely by undeserved and unmerited grace through faith (a certain kind of faith, not merely intellectual assent) and not by works (since Scripture itself attests to this). It baffles me that anyone who has spent any length of time in a Catholic church or talking to or reading Catholics, especially in the past five hundred years, could believe that Catholics hold a “false gospel” โ€” unless that is one’s foregone conclusion from the start.

          His peace be with you.

  10. Greetings Joseph
    yes there is always the controversy still raging – The reformers cry of justification by”faith alone” vs Catholic not by faith alone. So with the disagreement still stuck in the mud, we must then go to the Holy Scriptures to get the answer to settle it once for all. That is why I asked you in my original post on whether you are in agreement that God’s way of justification (justifying lost sinners) is clearly taught in the first four chapters of Romans. The Apostle Paul commissioned to go to the gentiles in his treatise in the book of Romans is very clear in the first four chapters of Romans detailing how God justifies lost sinners by his “Grace” through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

    Also if the Catholic church teaches “justification is not by faith alone”, it means the word “alone” is a problem that seems to be getting in the way. So presuming we remove “alone” – we are then left with the word “faith”. Then it now must read: justification is solely by undeserved and unmerited grace through faith. Now the question I ask is this: whose faith?

    Hope you understand what I have written and would appreciate your sincere answer to the questions I gave raised.

    God Bless.

    • Nathaniel,

      So far as the Catholic Church is concerned, there has never been any dispute that justification is by faith, even by “faith alone.” The Church would in fact agree with the statement that it is by “faith alone,” with the stipulation that this is faith working in love (Galatians 5:6), not merely a passing intellectual assent. Whose faith? The sinner’s, of course. But even that faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8โ€“10).

      So the charges of the Protestant Reformers against doctrines of “works’ righteousness” fall particularly flat: such has never been taught in the Catholic Church. Sadly, this is what many Protestants continue to be taught to this day.

      The biggest problems Catholics and Protestants have in understanding each other are misunderstandings and conflicting uses of terminology, and different understandings of the mechanics (but not the nature) of concepts such as justification and salvation. I’ve written a good bit about it in my recent series on grace and justification. I would sum it up by saying that in the Catholic mind, salvation is an ongoing and lifelong process of being justified by faith, transformed and renewed in the image of Christ, until the work of God is at last complete in us โ€” as opposed to the idea of many Protestants that we believe in Christ in one moment and then are “saved,” as if all the work of God were suddenly completed.

      His peace be with you.

  11. Joseph .. one more thing I forgot to mention is this: if justification is not by faith alone, then can it be understood that justification is by faith+works. OR if justification is not by faith alone, but only faith – can it mean the word “faith” by itself is “alone” by and itself.

Comments are closed.