I’ve found it interesting–and disconcerting–that in many evangelical circles there is a high degree of suspicion regarding Roman Catholicism. “Are Roman Catholics even Christians?” I’ve heard some ask, “Isn’t the Roman Catholic Church kind of like a cult?”
I’ve noticed quite a few misconceptions about Roman Catholic belief and practice among my friends and acquaintances, so this series will be an attempt to set the record straight and establish that yes, the Roman Catholic Church is indeed a Christian Church1, and Roman Catholics are Christians. We will also examine some of the more misunderstood and/or controversial Roman Catholic doctrines together.
As human beings, we naturally tend to be afraid of things that are unfamiliar or that we do not understand. We must not allow fear to play any part in our interactions with any person or group, whether they are Christian or not. Fear has nothing to do with love! “Perfect love casts out fear” (John 4:18). Coming to this and all conversations with humility and charity is key to honoring our Lord Jesus and fellow human beings made in the image of God.
I enter into wholehearted agreement with Alan Schreck when he says, “Satan as been able to use…lack of understanding (both among Catholics and others) to divide Christians from one another and to divert their attention and energies away from proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and advancing his kingdom on earth.”2
A few myths that need to be dispelled right off the bat:
- Roman Catholics don’t believe that Jesus is raised from the dead (some people mistakenly think this because of the prominence of the crucifix in Roman Catholic piety)
- Roman Catholics worship Mary and other saints
- Roman Catholics believe they can save themselves apart from the work of Christ
- Roman Catholics believe that only Roman Catholics are saved
In reality, evangelicals and Roman Catholics have these basic beliefs of Christianity in common:
- The historical reality of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
- Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone
- There is one God existing as a Trinity comprised of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- The Bible is the inspired word of God
- Only the true God is to be worshiped; idolatry is strictly forbidden.
- All people that accept Jesus as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ
Dive deeper by reading this essential ecumenical document, authored by evangelical and Catholic leaders together:
Over the next several weeks we will look at some of these issues in more depth.
As we continue to discuss those things we have in common with Roman Catholics as well what does separate us, remember the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, “that they all may be one” (John 17:21) and the Apostle’s words,
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6, ESV)
- No, I’m not converting to Roman Catholicism. Yet, I am passionate about unity in Christ’s church. One of the most divisive and hurtful things we can do to our other brothers and sisters is “de-church” them because we do not fully understand their beliefs, even when they stand within the boundaries of historic Christian orthodoxy. ↩
- Schreck, A. (2004). Catholic and Christian: An explanation of commonly misunderstood Catholic beliefs. Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, p. 2 ↩