This Roman Catholic Beliefs post features a discussion from Pastor/Teacher John MacArthur and host Al Saunders as they discuss the book, The Ecumenical Jihad.
JOHN: Well it disturbs me immensely and from a number of fronts. One, doctrinally the Roman Catholic Church does not teach the truth of Scripture. It does not teach the truth of salvation. It confounds the whole gospel by making Mary a co-redemptrix with Christ. It brings in works. The idea being that you’re saved by infused grace which is infused into you, first of all, at your infant baptism and then it gets infused every time you have Mass or every time you do Penance, or every time you say you’re rosary or whatever. And every time this is infused in you, it cooperates with your human effort to produce salvation.
The problem is they say you’ll never know until you die and probably when you die you won’t have made it so you’ll have to go to Purgatory and burn for a while in a moderate fire until you can finally get bounced out of there into heaven.
That is utterly unbiblical. That is the stuff of the Roman system. It is theologically heretical.
Secondly, this whole thing is frightening from a pastoral standpoint, or an evangelistic standpoint, because it wants to re-label Roman Catholics as if they were Christians and therefore eliminate the whole of evangelism. And I have found as a pastor that I would say 60 percent of our church are new Christians, typically, through the years, brand new Christians. And well over half of those people, well over half of them have come out of Roman Catholic backgrounds where they were lost, where they didn’t know Christ at all. And they would be the first people to rise up and say, “Wait a minute. If somebody hadn’t come and shown me the truth, I would still be in that system on my way to hell.”
AL: Are you saying, John, that a Catholic cannot be born again if he belongs to the Catholic Church?
JOHN: I’m not saying that but I would say this, he cannot be born again if he believes Catholic doctrine. He could be in the Church but he would have to have heard the truth.
AL: Saved in spite of the Church.
JOHN: Well he would have to be saved by the truth which is not the standard doctrine of the Church, but it is possible, certainly, that some priest or some person in the Catholic Church could come to the understanding of the gospel or that like Martin Luther, some Roman Catholic could be reading his Bible and come to the understanding of the truth. I don’t believe though a true believer can really be faithful and obedient to the command to obey the Word of God and to study to be approved of God and so forth, and stay in that system.
AL: Well let’s have one or two practical questions, if we may. How do we react then to our Catholic friends and neighbors? What do we say to them, especially if they bring a book like this to us and say, “Here’s the thing we’ve been working toward?”
JOHN: Well, I think, first of all, you always take them back to Christ. You always take them back to the person of Christ. You always take them back to the issue of salvation. Probably the best way to do that is to ask them if they have received the full forgiveness of all their sins forever. And they will say, “Oh, no, no.” And then you can show them that that is completely available in Christ and that they can come into possession of complete forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ and not have to live in fear and trying to achieve that hoping that they won’t have to go to Purgatory and have it all sort of burned out. I think the issue is to confront them not to assault their system, but to confront their doubts and their fears and their anxieties and the fact that Catholics generally live in this terrible sense of doubt, and never knowing whether they’re ultimately going to make it or not.
AL: And, of course, in the average church there is such a differing degree who have biblical knowledge and understanding, some who are truly rooted and grounded in the faith but others who are just sort of drifting around. So it must be very difficult for any pastors who are listening today to say, “But you don’t know what’s going on in our neighborhood.”
JOHN: Yeah, one of the great things that we have going on today is a lack of discernment in the church. Somebody asked me the other day, “What is the single, greatest problem of the church today?” And I said it’s easy, one word, “deception.” People are just deceived. And that’s the tendency. You know, the Apostle Paul was instructing Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2, he said, “Preach the Word.” Why? “Because the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”
There is just a tendency to drift. It’s just…it’s just characteristic of fallen people, even Christian people, they just drift. I mean, you turn on the television on a Christian station and you see some guy whose theology is aberrant and he’s filled this arena with tens of thousands of people that come and hear him, you know, give this unbiblical stuff and there they are all in mass, taking it in as if it was truth.
AL: Why do they believe it?
JOHN: It’s just a gullibility. It’s because they’re appealed to on an emotional level. It’s because they’re made promises here and there because, you know, there’s a certain manipulation that goes on. And there’s just this basic gullibility. I think it was P.T. Barnum who said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” There’s a tendency in the human heart to drift. Paul even said at the end of his ministry, “All in Asia have forsaken me.” I mean, they just tend to drift. The disciples, Jesus spends three years with them, He goes to the cross, they all flee. There is just that built in to them. That’s why there has to be the systematic, ongoing care and discipline so that Christians become strong and have good discernment.
I am amazed…I am amazed at this. And I think sometimes these guys who know better who identify with this kind of Movement, do it because maybe they get a little swept away and enamored with the sort of high-brow heady environment of these sort of elevated intellects. Maybe they like the idea of being accepted in wide, wide circles and they don’t really want to create conflict. But the bottom line is, this is a deadly, deadly heresy that is being endorsed by Roman Catholic leaders and well-known evangelical leaders as if it were something Christians ought to pay attention to and, in fact, it is a frightening, frightening thing that can recast lost people as people who are going to end up in heaven.
AL: Well, John, I’m sure I’m speaking for thousands of people in expressing sincere appreciation for your stand for the faith, and taking time to pass along information like this to our Grace To You family. It does fit in with our mission statement, doesn’t it?
JOHN: It does. And you know, Al, as you know, because you know me well, I feel like my responsibility is a guardianship that I have been entrusted with the Scripture. Paul said to Timothy, “Guard the treasure that’s been given to you. Retain the standard of sound words. Hold on to these things.” And there is a guardianship of the truth that I feel so strongly about. And when people come along and assault the truth and replace it with error and lead people astray, then you have to contend for the once-for-all delivered faith. That’s part of ministry responsibility for which I believe I am accountable.