There’s a long-standing argument going on all over social media after a celebrity posted photos of her and her husband getting baptized into a non-Catholic church. The debate is about Catholicism, and whether Roman Catholics can be considered Christians or not.
Early this week, I met up with a friend to catch up over coffee. My friend (name will be withheld to protect the individual) is a businessman from Manila who grew up in a Catholic family, and grew up in mostly Catholic circles. He went to college in Ateneo de Manila University and built relationships with Jesuits who became a huge influence in his life, and still are today.
Very recently, this friend joined Victory, got into the discipleship process and decided to become a follower of Christ. I loved listening to how God transformed him, and showed himself fully bringing a full revelation that is found in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
But then this friend of mine shares with me a strong and compelling insight about a flawed frame of thought that some (okay, most) “Born Again” Christians have. It’s the idea that all Catholics are unsaved.
Disclaimer: The views that I share on certain topics are not necessarily the beliefs that my home church, Victory, has. These views are mine alone.
I’ll be completely honest- as someone who grew up never being exposed to Catholic beliefs, I once believed that Catholicism was wrong. And, whether you admit it or not, most Evangelical Christians have fallen for this mindset. Is it really wrong to think of Roman Catholics as unsaved people, or is it time to change our frame of thought when it comes to deciding whether a person is saved or not?
Here are four ideas that I hope will bring light to this long-standing gray area.
1. Idolatry can take many forms
One common stand amongst non-Catholics is the idea that Catholicism is wrong in inculcating saint worship. We don’t pray to saints, and that’s true, but I hope we stop and think of it this way- What is the difference between putting your faith on a false image of holiness and putting your faith in your bank account?
Am I implying that you should burn your savings too? Absolutely not. My point is that idolatry can take many forms, and as important as it is to address them, it’s not our place to address the idolatry of others especially if we have no relationship with them. There are more important things that pointing out what’s wrong.
In true essence, Catholic rituals are not dead practices because they were originally wrong. The Sign of the Cross, the Rosary and Catechism are extremely beautiful imageries of the relentless love and compassion of God that have been communicated very poorly to members of the Catholic body. Catholicism isn’t idolatry. It’s only a religion that has lost it’s essence because of poor understanding, and it’s happened to other sects- even to Baptists, Pentecostals and Evangelicals.
2. Salvation comes by Grace, not law
We’ve heard this all over, and some Born Again Christians even over emphasize on this a little too much. Someone who understands faith in the truest context of Christianity will know that all the fine print will not even matter if we truly understand the concept of the grace of God.
I was sharing the gospel with one student last month, and in our conversation, I asked him if he believed he was going to heaven or not. He answered by saying, “I hope so.” Then I asked him why he wasn’t sure. He told me that he would have to go through purgatory first because of all of the sins he had committed.
I shared to that student that there would be no need for purgatory because Jesus died on the cross so that he would be set free and washed clean of his sins. That student gave his life to Jesus that afternoon.
3. Any argument done without a relationship is a bad move
I couldn’t help but laugh after reading debates that “Born Again Christians” commented on that Facebook post by Regine Velasquez because arguments just went around in circles. Why? Because it’s virtually impossible to tell someone in the internet that he or she is wrong.
It’s often difficult getting people to listen to you when you barely know them, so might as well not argue with someone over religious beliefs online (although, I admit I’ve given in to the temptation once or twice before). Let’s not be that “bigot” (I say that because whether you’re a bigot or not, to the eyes of a troll you will be) that preaches on a Timeline.
There’s a reason why Jesus sat with sinners, and it’s not because He approved of their wrong doings. Remember that most of the time, Jesus would tell sinners to repent and “sin no more,” but he would always do so once he had built a relationship with the sinner. That’s what loving a sinner means.
4. Conversion counts when the heart is changed
I have a Catholic friend who lives a God-honoring life, and I’ve never asked him to convert. In fact, I’ve never asked any of my Catholic friends to convert because it would be pointless to convert someone to another religion that teaches the same message and points to the same Person.
Evangelism does not mean sharing the message of Christ to a Catholic, and asking that person to stop going to a Catholic mass, and attend your worship service instead. It is rather a process of leading a person to a relationship with a God who loves him or her, and who wants to give him or her hope and a future.
Conversion doesn’t count when a person changes the religion status part of her bio-data from “Roman Catholic” to “Baptist.” What makes the angels rejoice in the heavens is when a soul that was once lost has been found once again in the love and grace of Jesus Christ- sometimes that soul can be Catholic, most of the time it can also be Evangelical.
This list isn’t exhaustive, and I just might do a series if people don’t start throwing hate comments at me. I hope this helps brings light to the hazy discussion that is Catholicism and Christianity.
If you have any concerns, questions or objections, please feel free to drop me a message in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.