exactly does the Roman Catholic Church teach is the way of salvation? A
popular post-Vatican II catechism provides the following summary of the
Question What is necessary to
Answer You have to be brought
into spiritual contact with that saving death of Jesus by faith and
Baptism and loyal membership in His Church, by love of God and neighbor
proved by obedience to His commandments, by the other Sacraments
especially Holy Communion, by prayer and good works and by final
perseverance, that is, preserving Godís friendship and grace until
Note the lack of emphasis on Jesus in this answer. The
only mention of Him is with reference to being "brought into
spiritual contact with that saving death of Jesus." What the
catechism means by this is that the person must have sanctifying grace in
his soul. This, says the Church, unites a person to Jesus and gives him a
participation in the divine life of God. According to the catechism, to
obtain sanctifying grace and preserve it in oneís soul, a Catholic must
accomplish a list of ten requirements:
- being baptized
- being a loyal member of the Church
- loving God
- loving his neighbor
- keeping the Ten Commandments
- receiving the sacraments, especially Holy Communion
- doing good works
- dying in a state of grace
Based on this list, I have developed a technique for
sharing the gospel with Catholics called the Pocket Evangelism Kit.
It is made up of a number of illustrated cards, each representing one
aspect of the Catholic plan of salvation. The cards are placed before the
Catholic with a brief explanation of what each represents. The person is
then asked to pick up those cards that he or she considers necessary for
salvation. The purpose is to help the person see what he is trusting in
for his salvation.
Catholics typically pick up several cards. A well-taught
Catholic will take most, if not all of them, as the catechism answer above
instructs. Most Catholics make their selection with an attitude of the
more the better!
Once the person has made his selection, he is asked
several questions to help him rethink his selection. For example, should
the person select the card titled "Keeping the Ten
Commandments," he is asked: "Are you able to keep the Ten
Commandments to Godís standard?" If he picks the card titled
"Loving Your Neighbor," he is asked: "Do you love your
neighbor with the kind of love that God requires?" If he selects the
"Doing Good Works" card, the question is: "How many good
works do you have to do to get into heaven?" It is surprising how
readily most Catholics admit that they canít do the things that they
have selected as being necessary for salvation.
Should the Catholic pick up the card titled
"Believing in God"óand most doóthe person is asked,
"What must you believe in order to go to heaven?" Here one would
hope to hear something about the Lord Jesus and His saving work on the
cross. More often than not, however, Catholics say nothing about Him.
Instead they speak of the necessity of believing that God exists, that He
is loving and merciful, or that He will forgive those who are truly sorry
for their sins.
It is interesting to see the reaction of Catholics who
fail to make any mention of Jesus when the omission is pointed out to
them. Linda was such a person. I showed her the cards and asked her to
pick up the ones that she thought were necessary for salvation. Linda
chose most of them. When I asked her to explain her selection, she
mentioned neither Jesus nor the cross. When I brought this omission to her
attention, she became defensive.
"Your question was unfair!" Linda protested.
"You asked what I had to do to be saved. If you had asked me
about Jesus, I would haveó" Linda suddenly paused and became
reflective. She then continued in a quieter voice. "No, I have no
excuse. I should have mentioned Jesus. I think I have just learned
something very important."
I hoped that Linda had learned that no true Christian
could forget to mention Jesus when asked how to get to heaven. I hoped
that she realized that she needed to place her trust in Christ for
salvation. But despite her admission, Linda continues to cling to the
Roman Catholic Church and the false gospel that it teaches.
Knowing Where Youíre Going
When we asked Pat, a Catholic woman from Ohio whom we
interviewed outside of Saint Patrick Cathedral in New York how she hoped
to get to heaven, she answered, "Catholicism isnít any different
than any other religion. You obey the Ten Commandments, and I think
youíve got a pretty good chance. You canít go wrong with the Ten
At least with regard to her first remark, Pat is
correct. Catholicism isnít any different from most other religions.
Whether it is Islam, Hinduism, a mixture of Chinese religions, or one of
the Christian sects such as Mormonism or the Jehovah Witnesses, most
religions are basically the same. Like Roman Catholicism, they all teach:
Live a good life here on earth and you have a pretty good chance of
enjoying blessing in the next life.
Biblical Christianity stands apart. It teaches that
"no one is good except God alone" (Mark 10:18), that "all
our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Isaiah 64:6). True
Christianity teaches that sinners can be accepted by God through the
righteous work of another (Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). It
proclaims a Savior who paid our penalty for us with His own life (Mark
10:45; 1 Peter 2:24). It tells of Godís offer of eternal life to anyone
who repents and believes (Mark 1:15; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). Those
who accept this free gift of God can know that they are going to
heaven, because their acceptance before God is in Christ, not themselves.
The Lord assured His disciples, saying, "rejoice that your names are
recorded in heaven" (Luke 10:29). He said, "I give eternal life
to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of
My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no
one is able to snatch them out of the Fatherís hand" (John
10:28-29). The Holy Spirit also participates in guaranteeing the future of
the redeemed. At the moment of salvation the Spirit comes to dwell in each
believer "as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the
redemption of Godís own possession, to the praise of His glory"
Rash presumption is what Rome
calls this. And right it would be if salvation were dependent, even in
part, upon our own righteous deeds. Believing the promises of Scripture,
however, is not presumption but faith in God.
Adapted from Conversations with Catholics by
James G. McCarthy (Harvest House Publishers: Eugene, 1997)
Mr. Mike Gendron
Mr. Greg Durel
Carlos Tomas Knott