The question of whether Roman Catholics are Christians or not is a very natural question for Protestants to raise because of how different our views of salvation are. When Catholics say that you’re not saved by grace alone, through faith alone, it raises the question quite naturally. When Roman Catholics say according to our theology, according to our official teaching, we are saved both by faith and by good works, it raises the question for a Protestant. In response, I think we have to say, first of all, that many Roman Catholics are, no doubt, true Christians, as many of them as have repented of their sins sincerely and have trusted in Christ, are born again by faith in Christ Jesus and are saved on that basis. And they may be in a church that, in certain fundamental ways, contradicts that very faith by which they are saved. But in that case, they are saved, despite the teaching of the church, not because of it. And in that way, many Roman Catholics are, no doubt, believers.
There is a significant difference between those theologians and the Roman Catholic church who have studied the doctrines of their faith and the average lay Catholic, who although they went through catical training as a child or teen, don’t pay much attention to it and don’t have extensive knowledge of it. For the average Roman Catholic who doesn’t know by that theology, who hasn’t been trained and corrected by the tradition and by the Scriptures, their case is not so desperate. And in many cases they’re able to hear the gospel quite clearly and purely because you don’t have the dogmas of the church interfering with the clear gospel message.
Now the theologians, it is a bit of a different case because they’ve studied the theology. They’ve studied the Scriptures. And despite their studying the Scriptures, retain these fundamental errors concerning the authority, concerning salvation, concerning faith and grace and the sacraments. And while none of us can see into the heart of any person and know for sure whether they’re saved or not, those who have been trained have had the Scriptures correcting them. And in some respect even parts of the tradition correcting them and yet have not responded to that correction and we have to say their case is a dire case, a desperate case indeed.
As Protestants it’s usually not all that helpful for us to talk about ways in which the Church historically, at the Council of Trent or the 4th or 5th Lateran Council, contradicted the Scriptures or contradicted the gospel. It’s more important to point to the fundamentals, to point to the question of Jesus, of repentance and faith in him.
And we need to ask the question, how do you know that anyone is a true believer? A true Christian? For there are many many Protestants who have identified with the Church. Who have professed the faith in some form or way in their church and are members in good standing, but give no outward evidence of actually having personally repented, trusted in Christ and so, be born again. And so the question actually is a good question both for Catholics and for Protestants. Thanks for watching Honest Answers. You can submit your questions by email, twitter or in the comments section below. And don’t forget to subscribe to find out the answer to next Wednesday’s question.