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April 19, 2005

Catholics and Baptists

With the recent interest in the Pope, the Baptist Press did an article outlining some of the major differences between Catholics and Baptists. Most of these differences would be the same of almost any Evangelical denomination, not just Baptists. For the most part the article quotes Bill Gordon, an associate with the North American Mission Board’s interfaith evangelism team and author of NAMB’s overview of the faith, Roman Catholicism Belief Bulletin.

“Catholics will agree that you have to be saved by the grace of God that comes through Jesus Christ,” Gordon said. “Catholicism, however, teaches that one receives God’s grace through the church’s sacraments. Southern Baptists believe, according to Scripture, that we receive God’s grace solely through faith in Jesus Christ, by faith alone....

Gordon said the Catholic Church also distinguishes between the seriousness of various sins. Murder, adultery, stealing and lying are called mortal sins which must be confessed to a priest in order to receive forgiveness. Other less serious sins, known as venial sins, according to Catholicism, can be atoned for after death in a place called purgatory.

I should also note that Gordan said, “The Jesus of Catholicism is the same Jesus we worship,” and “I do believe that it’s possible for Roman Catholics to be genuinely saved in spite of what their church teaches. It’s faith in Jesus Christ that saves, not membership in a church or denomination. Salvation is not determined by church membership. Salvation is determined by personal faith in Jesus Christ.”

While this may sound patronizing or condescending to some, I'm sure Gordon would agree as I do, and as most Southern Baptists and Evangelicals do that one can “belong” to any denomination and still not be saved. Unfortunately the idea of salvation being the result of a specific belief seems to be rather unpopular these days. Self-proclaimed Roman Catholics Pat Buchanan as well as Bill O'Reilly have both articulated their belief that all who are “sincere” regardless of religion will go to heaven — a teaching that is not only inconsistent with the Bible, but with all Evangelical denominations as well as Catholicism.

An example, though, of this is the recent firing of radio host Marty Minto. The incident emphasizes the trend toward a sort of “least common denominator” religion which is being seen in so-called “mainstream” denominations today (You know, the one's with big empty cathedrals). Too many people in all denominations are too willing to abandon truth for convenience.

Baptists are interested in the selection of the next Pope because it will determine the direction the Catholic church will take. Historically the Roman Catholic Church has swayed from staunchly defending tradition to adopting pagan beliefs and pretending they are actually Christian. Pope John Paul II seems to have encouraged a more conservative attitude, but he did weaken the Roman Catholic stance on some crucial issues, Evolution being one of them.

At the core of any and all Christian denominations is the focus on the outward being a result of the inward. Roman Catholic rituals and traditions can be fine in their place. Their place is as an outward expression or utilization of the inward devotion. But too many Catholics (as in all denominations) will substitute the outward for the inward, making the practice of their rituals as much to do with real Christianity as masturbation has to do with marriage.

I frequently hear people who say they have “escaped” the Catholic Church. They see it as a cult. And as Catholicism is practiced as a series of rituals to replace true belief and devotion to Christ, it can become a cult. That's the danger of any intensely ritualized form of worship and service. At the same time we Baptists and other Evangelicals risk the dangers of  a sort of “sola fide” complacency as we lounge on faith and forget James’ admonition:

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:18-20

Posted by Danny Carlton at April 19, 2005 10:17 AM

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I am 18 years old, my dad's side of the family is baptist and my mom's side of the family is Catholic, my brother and I have also been raised Catholic. Recently, I have heard that Baptist believe that Catholics won't go to heaven, is this honestly what you believe? Also, what do you mean by "pretending to be Christian"? I am not trying to argue with you I am just trying to get my questions answered from an outside view. Will you please e-mail me back with some honest answers, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

Posted by: Dana at July 10, 2005 11:23 AM

The post is pretty clear that salvation isn't dependent of what denomination you belong to. There are Catholics who are saved, just as there are Baptists who are saved. It's faith in Jesus that results in salvation, not being Catholic or Baptist.

As for the quote, "Historically the Roman Catholic Church has swayed from staunchly defending tradition to adopting pagan beliefs and pretending they are actually Christian" That is referring to the pagan beliefs that some pretend are Christian, such as many of the rituals and traditions that have been adopted as part of Christmas, as well as the unhealthy focus on Mary, that was the result of melding Isis worship into Catholicism.

Posted by: Danny Carlton at July 10, 2005 01:18 PM

I think you are crazy. I am Roman Catholic, and married to a lapsed Baptist. We have raised our children Catholic. My husband has witnessed that Catholic children, raised, schooled and churched in the faith, have a stronger support system and belief. Jesus Christ IS the founder of the Catholic church, and I therefore take his lead over man's. We honour and love Mary, his mother, as we should. As God chose her to be the mother of his son Jesus Christ, don't you feel she is worthy of praise and prayer? The Lord thought she was pretty special! I am pleased we have traditions we follow, that my grandparents and now my children follow. It is comforting in it's constant and consistant devotion to the Lord. We do not worship statues. They are there to represent Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Pope maintains our beliefs, not catering to the whims of man. That is why we do not stray from our beliefs and traditions, it is God's will, and we follow it with all our hearts. The Catholic Church is the true church of Jesus Christ. We do recognize other Christian religions for their Christian beliefs, and we are instructed to love our neighbour, despite differences. Why do Protestant religions show such hatred and intolerance to other faiths? Not a very Christian attitude. Live your faith!
Know that we do occassionally visit my husband's family's Baptist church. The people are kind (as long as I don't mention I'm Catholic), and I find it strange that they have different ministers pretty much just talking about their personal lives. When I attend Mass at my church, the very doctrine I learned as a child comes naturally from my heart and lips, and my heart swells with faith in the Lord. I take comfort in the familiarity of the words I know in my heart and hear from my Priest. The word of God. Praise be to God. It is my first language, and in my soul.
I pray you shall be so blessed in your faith as I am in mine. I have friends from all faiths, they are good people, and I judge them by their acts. We all love the Lord. I've been a practising faithful Roman Catholic for all my 42 years, as have all my family, and I've never known a Catholic who has denied his faith, or felt it was cult-like. It is constant, consistant guidance, never wavering or changing on whims, like a good parent does. We as Catholics know what to expect in our faith. We've never had a divorce in my family, nor an abortion. We raise our kids in our faith, and they have strong moral ethics. My husband's Baptist family has had all these things. They are good people, but have different moral values.
In closing, our 25th wedding anniversary is next year, and my Baptist husband and I will renew our vows in the Catholic church. A blessed sacrament from Jesus Christ, in the Catholic church. I love my husband, and though I have different beliefs than his family, our love of the Lord and his son Jesus Christ unites us!
God Bless! Tolerance, patience and love I pray for you. Why do you fear us? We speak of Christ from his church, the Catholic faith.

Posted by: Marie Lahey at November 12, 2005 10:11 PM

Heavenly Father, forgive Jack, as he knows not what he does.

`A GOOD Catholic!

Posted by: Paula at November 12, 2005 10:20 PM

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