Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Gospel According to Rome

On occasion you may hear me state from the pulpit that the Roman Catholic Church teaches another gospel and thus I provide the warning that Paul gave in the first century to the church at Galatia.
Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

It is not that we do not appreciate the dedication and devotion to those who comprise the Church of Rome. The good works that the church provides all over the world is to be commended. However, because those works are done to merit justifying favor with God the motive for them must be condemned.
Nathan Businitz wrote a brief but good article on this topic posted at the Shepherds’ Fellowship that is worth reading.
Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009
(By Nathan Busenitz)
When it comes to an understanding of the gospel, the critical difference between the Reformed view and the Roman Catholic view centers on the role that good works play in the sinner's justification.
The Reformers taught that justification is by "faith alone" (hence, the Reformation principle of sola fide). By this, they meant that the believer's righteous standing before God is based solely on the imputed righteousness of Christ; and that salvation is received by grace alone through faith apart from any human effort or merit. This is not to say that good works were unimportant to the Reformers. But they saw good works as the fruit of justification, and not as a basis for it or a contributor to it.
By contrast, the Roman Catholic church teaches that good works participate in and contribute to the sinner's justification. As a result, the believer's righteous standing before God is largely based on his or her own good works (in addition to Christ's work on the Cross). Thus, from the Roman Catholic perspective, justification is not by faith alone, but rather by "faith co-operating with works" (to borrow a phrase from the Council of Trent). 
That is a major distinction. So, is salvation by grace alone through faith apart from works? Or is eternal life is gained through faith PLUS good works?
According to Rome, the answer is faith PLUS works. Thus, the Catholic Catechism states:
The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them [fn, Cf. DS 1569-1570]; the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, succors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments" (P 2068; ellipsis in original).
Notice how "Baptism and the observance of the Commandments" (in context, the Ten Commandments) have been added to "faith" for what is required to "attain salvation."
Along these same lines, The Catholic Answers website notes that “good works are meritorious,” stating that “our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life.” The Catholic Encyclopedia (in an article entitled “Sanctifying Grace”) further states that the sinner “is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness.” The article adds that “over and above faith other acts are necessary for justification” including fear, hope, charity, penance with contrition, and almsgiving.
Such sources help provide context for the words of Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott:
The Council of Trent teaches that for the justified eternal life is both a gift of grace promised by God and a reward for his own good works and merits. As God's grace is the presupposition and foundation of good works, by which man merits eternal life, so salutary works are, at the same time gifts of God and meritorious acts of man. . . . Blessedness in heaven is the reward for good works performed on this earth, and rewards and merit are correlative concepts. . . . A just man merits for himself through each good work . . . eternal life (if he dies in a state of grace). (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 264, 267)
On the one hand, Ott wants us to believe that "eternal life is . . . a gift of grace." But on the other hand, it is also "a reward for his [the sinner's] own good works and merits." This, then, underscores the inherent contradiction in Roman Catholic soteriology. On the one hand, salvation is by grace. On the other hand, salvation is by works (as faith co-operates with good deeds to merit eternal life).
But, biblically speaking, both cannot be true. As the apostle Paul explains in Romans 11:6, "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
The New Testament gospel stresses the fact that "by grace you have been saved, through faith, it is the gift of God, not a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9); and that salvation is received "not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy" (Titus 3:5).
When we compare the gospel according to Rome with the gospel of the New Testament we quickly find that the two are not compatible. By adding works into the equation, the Roman Catholic Church nullifies true grace. 

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