We’ve been looking at the difference between Christianity and other major religions – particularly their teaching about how to get to heaven. Today we will look at Roman Catholicism.
Roman Catholicism shares many similar doctrines with Protestant Christianity. For example the deity of Christ, the virgin birth and Jesus’ resurrection. But sadly there is no agreement on the way of salvation.
Between 1545-1563AD the Roman Catholic Church held the Council of Trent to settle religious differences brought on by the Protestant Reformation. One of the differences they sought to answer was how you are justified before God. Justification is a legal declaration that one is righteous before God and therefore able to go to heaven. The Roman Catholics stated that ‘If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema’ (Sixth Session, Canon IX). So if you claim to be justified by faith alone, the Roman Catholic church says may you be anathema – eternally condemned. This canon from the Council of Trent is still in effect today.
But are they wrong? Aren’t you supposed to be good to get into heaven? The Bible says that the problem with man is that he is never good. He is totally depraved and cannot offer anything to God for his salvation: ‘Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law (Romans 3:20)’. The only way to be justified before God is by faith in Jesus’ death alone: ‘…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus…For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law (Rom 3:22-24, 28).
Now I’m not suggesting that you cannot go to a Roman Catholic church and still be a Christian. But if you believe in Jesus alone for your salvation, you have parted from the clear teachings of the institution known as Roman Catholicism – you’re not actually Roman Catholic.
Are you justified before God by faith alone, or do you trust in your faith AND your works to justify you?