Gregg Allison – Has Rome Really Changed Its Tune? The Catholic Church: 500 Years Later

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October 31, 2017, will mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. Martin Luther’s nailing of his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church on that day in 1517 has proven to be one of the most important events in the history of the world. Indeed, many evangelicals trace their beginnings to this moment that launched the Protestant movement, of which we consider ourselves heirs.

But the Reformation was five hundred years ago! Like most everything else a half-millennium removed from its start, things have changed. Or have they? What issues sparked the Reformation? What were the key protests against the Catholic Church at that time? Do those same conditions exist now, such that the Reformation remains unfinished?

Half a Millennium Ago

Luther’s Ninety-five Theses constituted a call to debate some of the flagrant errors of the Catholic Church in his time. His subsequent writings exposed many other problems:

– a denial of justification by God’s grace received through faith alone in Christ alone
– an unbiblical view of salvation as joining together God and sinners such that divine grace, communicated through the Church’s sacraments, initiates the lifelong process, and human effort responds by engaging in good works in order to merit eternal life

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Michael Horton – Is This Good News?

In his Wednesday Mass homily this week, Pope Francis attracted considerable media attention. According to reports, the message drew on Mark 9:40, where Jesus says, “He who is not against us is for us.” Like the disciples, we can be intolerant of the good that others can do—even atheists. Because we’re all created in God’s image, there is still a possibility of doing good. So far, nothing particularly controversial in terms of classical Christian teaching. The most ardent evangelical would affirm that although our works are so corrupted by sin that they cannot justify us before God, they can help our neighbors.

However, the pontiff added, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!…We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Reports from major outlets, including the Huffington Post, express astonishment at the pope’s comments. What is this strange new teaching? Of course, it’s not new at all. It has been an emphasis ever since the Second Vatican Council, where the previously shunned speculations of Karl Rahner, S. J., became official teaching. There is no way to reconcile the previous councils and papal pronouncements depriving non-Roman Catholics of salvation with the idea of the “anonymous Christian.” Nevertheless, there it is. Not the development of dogma, as Cardinal Newman formulated, but the flat contradiction of dogma.

Before Vatican II, the standard teaching was that ordinarily no one can be saved who does not submit to the magisterium and papal authority in particular. Especially in trouble were those who had been reared Roman Catholic and yet explicitly rejected the pope’s headship. Although they were consigned to everlasting punishment by papal decrees, the Protestant Reformers never applied the same rule to their Roman Catholic opponents. Calvin even said that although Rome has excommunicated itself according to the criterion of Galatians 1:8-9, “There is a true church among her.”

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John MacArthur – Exposing the Heresies of the Catholic Church: Grace vs. Works

The New Testament is clear about the nature of saving faith. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28). “A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus . . . since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).

According to Scripture, salvation is by faith in Christ alone through God’s grace alone. When you put your trust in Jesus Christ He declares you righteous—not because you are, but because He imputes His righteousness to you, and because He paid the penalty for your sin. Christ bears our sin and we receive His righteousness. That is the indescribable glory of the doctrine of justification (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church stands in stark opposition to that biblical understanding. Rather than salvation by grace through faith, they preach a false gospel of works.

The words of the Council of Trent—convened to affirm and codify the teaching of the Catholic Church in response to the Reformation—clearly spell out the Catholic version of justification that still stands today. “Hence, to those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.” Salvation in the Catholic system is something you earn “by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life.”

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John MacArthur – A Timely Critique of the Catholic Church

Last week Pope Benedict XVI made the historic and unexpected announcement that he will soon retire. As a result, we’re about to be inundated with a massive wave of news coverage and public discussion about the Roman Catholic Church, and specifically the search for the new pope.

In the coming days and weeks, you’re likely to find yourself in a variety of conversations about the Catholic Church with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors—each one an opportunity to shed biblical light on a topic that everyone will be talking about. And when the Lord brings those opportunities, I want you to be able to speak with clarity and authority regarding the truth of God’s Word and the corrupt idolatry of Roman Catholicism.

The current attitude throughout much of the evangelical church is that we ought to embrace Catholics as true believers in Christ. And it’s safe to assume we’ll hear even more calls for unity and partnership with the Catholic Church in the days to come.

But reclassifying the pope, the worship of Mary, the idolatry of the mass, and the entire Roman Catholic system as authentic, biblical Christianity isn’t that simple. It has massive implications, including overturning centuries of church history, missionary effort, and martyrdom.

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