ROMAN CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS IN DIALOGUE

2b0\

Toward the end of the twentieth century, Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders met frequently to discuss the similarities and the differences between the two groups. In 1994, a significant document, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Commission in the Third Millennium,” was released.

In 1997 a document was released by some of the same participants, called “The Gift of Salvation.” This attempted to address commonalities on this issue. However, these documents have greatly overstated the agreements between these two systems of belief. Unfortunately, important areas of disagreement were neglected and some portions of the documents lacked in clarity.

Biblical Christianity Compared with Roman Catholicism

As we place classic Roman Catholic teachings alongside those of biblical Christianity, we find the following:

GOD

Roman Catholic Perspective: One God in three persons, though angels, saints, and Mary are also highly revered.

Biblical Perspective: One God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

HOLY BOOK

Roman Catholic Perspective: Accept the 66 books of the Bible as authoritative, along with additional books (the Apocryphal), Sacred Tradition, and papal infallibility.

Biblical Perspective: The 66 books of the Holy Bible are the sole authoritative work for Christianity.

SIN

Roman Catholic Perspective: All people have sinned (except Jesus and his mother Mary). Also teaches that there are venial and mortal sins.

Biblical Perspective: All people have sinned (except Jesus).

JESUS CHRIST

Roman Catholic Perspective: God’s perfect son, resurrected, holy, divine (second person of the Trinity), yet also fully human.

Biblical Perspective: God’s perfect son, holy, resurrected, divine (second person of the Trinity), yet also fully human.

SALVATION

Roman Catholic Perspective: Justification is obtained by doing meritorious works that cooperate with God’s grace, with focus upon the seven sacraments.

Biblical Perspective: Justification is obtained only by God’s grace [alone] through faith [alone] in [the finished work on the Cross of] Jesus Christ [alone], not by human effort or as a result of cooperating with God’s grace.

AFTERLIFE

Roman Catholic Perspective: All souls enter either heaven, hell, or purgatory upon death. The prayers and deeds of living [Roman] Catholics can help those in purgatory to reach heaven more quickly.

Biblical Perspective: All people will enter either heaven or hell upon death, depending on whether they have salvation in Jesus Christ. The Bible does not mention purgatory.

Because of the vast [and irreconcilable] differences that exist in the foundational beliefs of Roman Catholicism and biblical Christianity, we conclude that though some [Roman] Catholics may believe differently than their church and are true Christians, Roman Catholicism as a religious system is not the same as biblical Christianity.1

Further reading

Endnotes

  1. John Ankerberg & Dillon Burroughs, What’s the Big Deal About Other Religions? [Eugene: Harvest House, 2008], 44-46.