It is crucial
to understand that once terms such as "faith," "grace," "salvation,"
"redemption" and "justification" are filtered through larger Catholic
theology, they become so altered they lose their biblical meaning. For
example, the manner in which words are used in Canons 1-3 of the Council
of Trent on justification sound biblical1—but
once interpreted in light of larger Catholic theology, they mean
something entirely different than what the Bible means.
themselves frequently admit their interpretation of biblical words
differs from that of Reformation Protestantism. For example, The
Papal Encyclicals agrees: "Faith has different meanings for a
Catholic and a Protestant."2
Thus, "... in this faith sacraments and good works are
distinction in meaning frequently goes unnoticed by both Catholic and
Protestant laymen. Keating is entirely correct when he points out, "As
in so many matters, fundamentalists [e.g., conservative Christians] and
Catholics are at loggerheads because they define terms differently."4
Keating provides us with two examples: 1) he
defines redemption as something distinct from salvation and 2) he sees
faith as mere intellectual assent to Church doctrine:
The truth is that we are
all redeemed—Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists in the darkest
forests—but our salvation is conditional….
For Catholics, faith is the
acceptance of revealed truths, doctrines, on God’s word alone. This is
called theological or confessional faith. For fundamentalists, faith
is trust in Christ’s promises, not belief in a set of dogmas. This is
called fiducial faith.5
however, redemption is something that only a believer has, and it
is clearly stated to include the forgiveness of sins: "In him we have
redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of sins..."
(Ephesians 1:7, emphasis added). Muslims, Hindus and animists do not
have redemption, biblically speaking, because they are not saved.
When Keating distinguishes redemption and salvation in the manner he
does, he makes a distinction that is unbiblical. And, of course,
biblically, faith is simple trust in Christ, despite what Rome
teaches. It certainly involves belief in doctrine, but much more than
mere intellectual assent that such doctrines are true. Biblically, faith
is not only personal trust in Christ, but involves personal trust in
what God has said is true. Faith involves not just intellect, but a
person’s will or volition as well.
devout Catholics do not question their Church’s teaching about the
definition of biblical terms because the Catholic Church believes that,
"Over the Book [Bible] stands the Church.…"6
The Church has final authority over the Bible, and, therefore, it is the
Church’s interpretation of biblical words that is authoritative. In the
end, it is the Church’s definition of biblical terms—not the biblical
definition—that wins the day.
Papal Encyclicals correctly points out that Protestants turn to the
Bible alone to determine whether or not a doctrine is true.
Nevertheless, it also confesses "This is just the reverse of the
Catholic’s approach to belief. As the Catholic sees it, he must accept
God on God’s terms and not his own. It is not for him to ‘judge’ the
divine message, but only to receive it. Since he receives it from a
living, teaching organ, he does not have to puzzle over the meaning of
the revelation because the ever-present living magisterium [teaching
office] can tell him exactly what the doctrine intends."7
Catholics turn to the Church because they have been promised that
the Church exercises an inerrant authority to properly interpret
the Bible. In other words, the Catholic man or woman can, in full trust,
accept whatever the Church teaches them about salvation and never have
to worry that the Church might be wrong. As Keating argues, "the
Bible... is interpreted infallibly only by the teaching authority
invested by Jesus in the Catholic Church."8
his definitive critique of the Council of Trent (a council convened to
oppose Protestant teaching) eminent Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz
(1522-1586) correctly noted that the Catholic Popes and teaching office
had reserved for themselves the prerogative of a biased
interpretation of Scripture predicated largely upon Catholic tradition.
In the words of Chemnitz, the end result was an entirely new
interpretation "so that we must believe not what the Scripture says
simply, strictly, and clearly but what they through their power and
authority interpret for us. By this strategy they seek to escape the
clearest passages [of Scripture] concerning justifying faith... the
intercession of Christ, etc."9
That such a
situation remains true today is difficult to deny. Consider the term
grace. Catholicism teaches that salvation—i.e., forgiveness of
sins—occurs through God’s grace—but a form of grace that empowers
necessary works of human merit. Thus, salvation is by grace and
works. The Catholic Encyclopedia asserts that God’s grace is a
supernatural power that "makes it possible for them [Catholics] to place
[perform] acts directed toward eternal salvation."10
And further, the "means of salvation given by
Christ" are defined specifically as "the sacraments and sacrifice
[Mass]" of Catholicism.11
however, (as it relates to salvation) grace is not a divine empowerment
of men to help them earn their own salvation; rather it is a divine
disposition toward men that offers them salvation entirely as a free
gift of God’s mercy. Collectively, the following Scriptures prove this
I will love them freely...
[Believers] are justified
freely by his grace... (Romans 3:24).
...the gift of God is
eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23; cf., 5:15-16).
...how much more will those
who receive God’s... gift of righteousness reign in life... (Romans
But because of his great
love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ... it
is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from
yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works... (Ephesians 2:4, 8).
the Bible teaches that forgiveness of sins comes solely and entirely by
grace, through faith in Christ, Catholicism denies this and teaches that
actual forgiveness of sins comes not solely by faith in Christ, but also
through many or all of the following: a) The sacraments such as baptism
and penance, b) priestly confession, c) participation in the Mass, d)
the help of the virgin Mary, e) the recitation of the Rosary and f)
purgatorial suffering after death. Because the true merit of man,
achieved through these and other means, is in some sense responsible for
salvation, Catholicism cannot logically deny that it teaches a form of
salvation by works.
1 H. J. Schroeder, trans.,
The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford, IL:
Tan Books, 1978), p. 42. Canons 1-3 on Justification read:
CANON I.-If any one
saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether
done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without
the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.
CANON II.-If any one
saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for
this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit
eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do
both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.
CANON III.-If any one
saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and
without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he
ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him;
let him be anathema.
2 Anne Fremantle, The
Papal Encyclicals In Their Historical Context: The Teachings of the
Popes (NY: New American Library/Mentor, 1956), p. 11.
3 Dom Bernard Orchard, et.
al., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson, 1953), p. 1049 from Norman Geisler and Ralph
McKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and
Differences (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), p. 238,
4 Karl Keating, What
Catholics Really Believe—Setting the Record Straight (Ann Arbor,
MI: Servant, 1992), p. 81.
5 Ibid., pp. 316-317.
6 Fremantle, 11.
7 Ibid., 18, emphasis
8 Keating, What
Catholics Really Believe…, p. 29.
9 Martin Chemnitz,
Examination of the Council of Trent (St. Louis, MO: Concordia,
1971), Part 1, p. 213.
10 Robert C. Broaderick,
ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, rev. and updated (NY: Thomas
Nelson Publishers, 1987), p. 21.
11 Ibid., p. 115.