Catholicism - Roman|
Only path to Salvation?
Q. I went to a conference and heard a priest say that people can only be saved within the Roman Catholic Church. Is there any truth to his claim at all? And how do we respond to this?
I don't find the priest's statement in the Bible. Do you? However, Roman Catholics and Protestants share many beliefs such as prayer to God, the same Bible (minus the apocrypha), some hymns, and doctrines like the Trinity, the atonement, creation, and so forth.
However, Catholics place a huge block of faith in their own church traditions. In fact, they place traditions and the church on par with Scripture for the basis of their authority. In other words, they do not believe in "Sola Scriptura" or in Scripture alone. That is why the Reformers made "Sola Scriptura" their motto.
Mystery Religions, Barbarians and Mariolatry
By placing their faith in church traditions they have evolved and incorporated many errors along the way of history. Some of these errors are gargantuan - such as Mariolatry, a belief that Mary is the Queen of Heaven and Co-Redemptrix with Christ.
The title Queen of Heaven was first used by Nimrod's wife, Semeramis. Of course, Nimrod founded Babylon, not known for its faithfulness to Jewish beliefs!
Many traditions within Catholicism use elements from Babylonian and Roman Mystery Religions. They also encompass other idolatrous practices from the barbarians who infiltrated the church in the early centuries of church history. Naturally, Protestant and Catholic historians differ in their assessment of such rituals and beliefs.
Traditions Backed By Scripture?
To be fair, Catholics defend their faith in church traditions from 2 Thessalonians 2:15:
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (NASB).
However, it is not clear that there are oral traditions apart from those written in the bible that we should follow.
The Bible is our Standard
When we are confronted by Roman Catholic friends we gently need to remind them that Protestants believe Scripture is sufficient to teach us everything we need to know (2 Tim. 3:16).
Furthermore, we believe that all who accept Christ's redemption and lordship are saved.
One Way to God
Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
Paul told Timothy, "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…" (1 Tim. 2:5).
Paul also said, "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing" (1 Tim. 6:3, ESV).
Simple Faith Saves
Life is much simpler for the Protestant who places his faith in God's Word. We don't have to fuss over and study the volumes of writings, speeches, councils and contradictions uttered by endless popes throughout history.
Showing Respect to Catholics - Early Church Fathers
If we wish, however, we may find it valuable to read some of the earliest writings of the church fathers who diligently studied the Bible and quoted from it. That is a way to show respect for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters because they have always held dear these writings. Remember that the church fathers are partly to thank for showing us that our New Testament is accurate. After all, they began writing and quoting from the New Testament as early as 95 A.D.
Clement of Rome wrote 1 Clement (c. 95 A.D.).
Ignatius from Syria wrote vigorously against the Gnostics (d. 117).
Papius knew the apostle John (c. 60-130).
Polycarp also knew the apostle John&wrote an Epistle to the Philippians (Hannah 2004, 7).
It is always fruitful to point out the similarities between Roman Catholicism and Protestants. Yet, we can also emphasize our reliance upon Scripture.
That is because we believe the Bible is sufficient for our study and growth. 2 Timothy 3:16 assures us that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
Hannah, John D. 2004. The Kregel pictorial guide to church history. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.
Litfin, Bryan M. 2007. Getting to know the church fathers: an evangelical introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos.