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Cheryl wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a "former" Protestant (in quotes because I still don't have another name for my beliefs) who has been currently searching in a Unitarian church. In my search, I have been challenged by some strong Protestants about salvation.

In many instances, they claim that Catholics are going to Hell, as well as anyone else that does not follow their interpretation of the New Testament because they do not accept Christ as their personal savior.  They also perceive that they (Catholics) think they will get to Heaven by their own works and deeds. 

I don't believe this is entirely true, since my mother's family is Catholic and I've been to many Catholic weddings and funerals. I cannot defend this because I know virtually nothing about the religion.

  • I know it is a rather lengthy issue but can you explain, in a nut shell, why their statement is untrue and what Catholics believe?
  • In what fundamental ways does the Catholic Church differ from the Protestant denominations?

I know some Scripture is different.

  • Where did it come from and how do you know it?
  • Do you use this as the Word of God instead of other writings?

Please remember in your answers that I know very little about Catholics so I will have no assumed knowledge to draw from. I just think it is wrong to make a bold statement like that unless you have the background on the religion you're attacking.



  { In what fundamental ways does the Catholic Church differ from Protestant denominations? }

Bob replied:

Dear Cheryl:

Thanks for your question. You picked a handful.

While the issues you seek are vast in scope, I'll do my best to cut to the chase.

You ought to get a copy of Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" by Karl Keating for a more in depth look at these questions and more.

In discussing salvation:

Protestants will quote you Romans 3:28

28 one is justified by Faith apart from works of the law.

and Catholics will quote you James 2:24:

24 See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

(Please refer to your Bible and study these verses and the surrounding contexts)

  • Ouch, how can we make sense of this?

We Catholics believe that Luther made an erroneous judgment about what Paul was teaching in Romans which led him to insert the word "alone" into his translation of Romans 3:28. That word was not in the Greek and is not implied. If it was, it would obviously contradict James.

The Catholic view is that Faith and works are complimentary and both necessary as part of God's plan to complete his work in us, the making of us into his children in the fullest sense (see
John 1:12). One to the exclusion of the other is wrong. Works without faith cannot please God, and faith without works is mere lip service (cf. Matthew 7:21; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

What would benefit you most is to understand justification and sanctification as understood by both Protestants and Catholics. Keep in mind though that there are many, many different brands of Protestantism, all claiming to hold the "true" interpretation.

We believe that the Catholic Church is the authentic Church and therefore the correct interpreter because Jesus built His Church on his Apostles and St. Peter. Peter alone was given a unique role to guide and maintain the Church much like a prime minister functions in a royal cabinet. His job was to shepherd (John 21:15ff), hold his "brothers" together despite the attacks of satan
(Luke 22) and "legislate" make laws, codify teachings, etc. (Matthew 16:17ff). While all of the Apostles were given authority, Peter alone is handed the "keys" which represents Christ's personal authority.

For a good Old Testament foreshadowing of this, read Isaiah 22:20-24 and note the parallel language. In the Davidic kingdom, God elected a "prime minister" to oversee the house of David. In Jesus' new kingdom, the boundaries don't merely cover Palestine, but branch from heaven to earth. This is why we have a Pope, to work for Jesus in keeping the Church together. There may be many sins and divisions, but no man on this earth is working harder to bring peace and unity than John Paul II. If you reflect on this you will see the wisdom and grace of Christ's design.

Hope this helps,

Bob or (BK)

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