Does the Roman Catholic Gospel Save? or “Getting the Gospel ‘Righter'”

It seems that just about every week a new book comes out on the subject of how we are getting the Gospel wrong. I am getting tired of it. Once I read a book and adjust my thinking to getting the Gospel right, I find out in the next book I read that I got it wrong again! Is the Gospel that difficult? Does every generation get the Gospel wrong, thus requiring the next enlightened generation to get them back on course?

Last week, I wrote a post about whether or not Roman Catholics are saved. I chose this topic because, within the past couple of weeks, I had been asked this question (or some variation of it) four times. It is an important question, which caused quite a conversation. I had to close the comments down on this blog topic within 24 hours of posting it!  The reason for closing the comments was not so much the belligerence of Roman Catholics who did not agree with what I had written, but because of some very (ahem…) committed Protestants who were being less than gracious. James White did a thoughtful Dividing Line broadcast, where he strongly disagreed with me. Over the last week, the most common objection I received about what I had written was that I had been asking the wrong question. What is the right question? Well, the consensus seemed to be this: “Does the Roman Catholic Church have the right Gospel?”, not, “are Roman Catholics Saved?” There are myriad ways I could have phrased it:

“Are Roman Catholics saved?”

“Can Roman Catholics be saved?”

“Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save?”

“Does Roman Catholicism have the right Gospel?”

All of these require a slight variation in response. Most of my Protestant friends are more than willing to admit that Catholics could be saved, and that some are saved. However, they are quick to point out that “Rome’s Gospel does not save.” Of course, in order to make such a comment, the assumption is that we already have the “right” Gospel, which begs the question: “How much of the Gospel do we have to get right?” Another way to put it: “How much of the Gospel can we get wrong and still have the right Gospel?”

Head hurt? Mine too. But stay with me.

The Gospel is simply the “good news” of God. However, there is so much to it. We can boil the Gospel down to its basic essentials, or we can expand it to include all of its implications and benefits. If we take the former, then it is absolutely necessary to have the right Gospel. However, if we take the latter, how can we ever expect to have the “right” Gospel? I don’t have everything right. I don’t necessarily know what I have wrong, but I like to think that I am open to change, and am willing to nuance my views as I learn. In other words, “Do we have the right Gospel?” is not as black and white an issue as we may be inclined to assume. There is so much of the Gospel in which all of us can improve our understanding.  In other words, I think we could all have a “righter” Gospel today than we did yesterday.

Paul speaks of the Gospel in two ways. His letter to the Romans, the entire book, is the Gospel (Rom. 1:15-17). Romans 1:17 makes it clear that, in this context, the vindication of God’s righteousness (which is, I believe, the essence of chapters 1-11) is part of the Gospel message. Here, sin (Rom. 3:23), justification by faith alone (Rom. 3:21), imputation of sin (Rom. 5:18), imputation of righteousness (Rom. 4:1-5; Rom. 5:18), the vindication of creation (Rom. 8:16), the freedom from bondage (Rom. 7), the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8), the security of the believer in Christ (Rom. 8:28-39), and, I believe, the eternal elective decree of salvation which vindicates God’s faithfulness (Rom. 9-11) are all part of the Gospel message. However, in 1 Cor. 15:1-8, Paul seems to suggest that there are issues within the Gospel that are of “first importance.” These issues surround Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Was Paul saying that these were the only issues which were of “first importance”? Here, he does not mention (much less emphasize) faith, grace, imputation, Christ’s humanity and deity, or Christ second coming. All of these, we would say, are integral parts of the “good news.”  All of us would say that getting the Gospel “right” needs to include these things.

We could also do a study based on the sermons in Acts. I count thirteen evangelistic sermons in Acts (meaning they were speeches given to those who were unbelievers). Most likely, Luke summarized these sermons, frequently giving just the essence of what the Apostle taught (Acts 9:20; Acts 10:42; Acts 20:21).  Therefore, it is difficult to make too many theological conclusions, or even draw out a definite kyrugma (essential preaching).  Similarly, these sermons were highly contextualized, often being given exclusively to Jews, Gentiles, philosophers, or kings. For example, I can only identify one place where freedom from the law is explicitly mentioned (Acts 13:39).  In a similar sense, I don’t find substitutionary atonement explicitly mentioned in any sermons recorded in Acts. In addition, it is interesting that the deity of Christ, in the strictest sense of the term, is mentioned on just one occasion (Acts 9:20). In all but two sermons, I find the subject of the death and resurrection of Christ addressed. In about half of the sermons, I find repentance and forgiveness being part of the focus. And in many messages (especially to the Jews), Christ’s messiahship (kingship) is mentioned. It is of further interest to note what aspects of the Gospel are included, but it is just as interesting to see which are left out.

What does all of this mean? How do we know when we have the right Gospel? Are we supposed to find the least common denominator and then focus exclusively on that? Or are we supposed to see letters, like Romans, as the most developed and comprehensive of all, and use them as models?

When we ask questions like, “Does Rome have the right Gospel?”, I am not sure what is being implied. “Do they have a right enough Gospel?” Right enough for what? Normally, we mean “right enough to save.” Which aspects of the Gospel are we questioning? Are we getting the essence of the Gospel from Acts? If so, then yes, Catholics seem to be OK.  Are we getting it from Paul in Romans? If so, I would say comme si, comme ca. However, if that is the case, one could just as easily assert that Arminians receive the wrong Gospel, since they fail to see (generally speaking) the “good news”  of security and/or the “good news” of sovereign election. Furthermore, is a Gospel that does not support the doctrine of the security of the believer really a Gospel at all? Well, yes and no. It could be “more right”. It could be “better news.”  Finally, to those who deny these aspects of the Gospel (security and eternal election), using the standard above, one could call upon them to experience a “righter” Gospel.

When it comes to the Gospel, I believe Calvinist Evangelical Protestants have the “rightest” points of view, but I think there are certain aspects of the Gospel we can overemphasize to such a degree that we lose focus on more central components.  Moreover, I think we can also lose sight of important (not central) components that other traditions are more faithful to preserve. For example, I believe that substitutionary atonement is the essence of the “for” in Christ, who gave himself up “for me” (Gal. 2:20) as payment for sin. Protestants and Catholics do well to see this doctrine, while the Eastern Orthodox church outright deny this substitutionary aspect of the Gospel in particular.  Do they have the wrong Gospel? In one sense, yes. However, in another sense, I think they have a “righter” Gospel in that they call upon people to see the “recapitulation” aspect of Christ’s life. Protestant and Catholics, in my opinion, are very deficient in understanding how Christ qualified to be our substitute. Therefore, Eastern Orthodox traditionally have “better news” with regard to the humanity of Christ.

What is the solution? Well, I don’t like the least common denominator approach, since it suggests that having the entire Gospel is not that important, i.e., only those things to which we can boil it all down (i.e. sin, messiahship, death, burial, resurrection, faith). The entire message is the Gospel. Therefore, “getting the Gospel wrong” is not an option. Yet, it has to be. Catholics miss grace and, in this sense, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter”, and this causes serious concern.  Preterists, who deny Christ’s future coming, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter” and their position should be considered serious. Universalists, who deny the reality of an eternal punishment, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter” and its ramifications are similarly serious. Arminians, who deny sovereign election, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter”, and it is (Are you getting my point?) serious. From a charismatic perspective, cessationists, who do not believe in the continuation of certain gifts of the Spirit, have a different Gospel. Maybe our Gospel needs to be “righter.” Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox all have different Gospels in some respects. All of these traditions emphasize different aspects of the Gospel and need to be anathematized in some ways.

So, “Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save?” is such a loaded question for me. People can antagonistically ask everyone all of these questions: “Does the Calvinist Gospel save?”  “Does the Arminian Gospel save?”  “Does the fundamentalist Gospel save?”  “Does the Church of Christ Gospel save?”  “Does the Eastern Orthodox Gospel save?” “Does the Universalist Gospel save?”  I don’t even know what the Roman Catholic Gospel is these days. It has quite a bit of dynamic progression throughout history. Is there one sentence you could write which would clearly articulate the essence of their Gospel? I doubt it. And if you did, the next Roman Catholic apologist would write it down differently. “Does Rome have the wrong Gospel?” Certain aspects of their doctrines are wrong, yes. However, in the real world, people are not asking these questions. They are asking something more specific. Concerning Calvinism, what one is really saying is, “Can one deny libertarian free will and be saved?” Concerning Arminianism, “Can one believe that salvation can be lost, yet still be saved?”  Concerning fundamentalism, “Can one who is a separationist be saved?” Concerning the Church of Christ, “Can one believe in baptismal regeneration and still be saved?” Concerning Eastern Orthodoxy, “Can one believe in deification and be saved?” Concerning Universalism (of the Christian variety), “Can one deny hell and be saved?” And concerning Roman Catholics, “Can one who believes that works contribute to their justification be saved?”  That is what people are really asking.

The broader question is always: “Can one have bad doctrine and be saved?”  All but the most ardent maximalists would say “yes.”  But where do we cross the line? And I don’t really like the false dichotomy which says, “doctrine does not save . . . God does.” That misses the point of the conversation, as it discredits the necessity of faith in God altogether. If faith is necessary in any sense, that faith must have content. And it is that very content on which this discussion centers. In other words, if faith is important, then content is, as well.

There is definitely a line that can be crossed. I can’t always tell you where that line is, exactly. I know that the center of the Gospel is the person and work of Christ. In addition, I would contend that one must accept who Christ is (the God-man), and what he did (died for our sins and rose from the grave).  Acceptance of these requires, I believe, the presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). I believe that it is a “wronger” Gospel when works are added as a factor to justification. I believe that Protestant Evangelicals have the “rightest” Gospel. I think that Evangelical Protestants have a better answer for the history of the church, the development of doctrine, and the systematic nature of canonical truth. That said, I also know that we can all have a “righter” Gospel. Indeed, one day we will all stand before God and see this “righter” Gospel more clearly. Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save? To the degree that the individual Catholic is trusting in the God-man who takes away the sins of the world, it can. All of us (Protestant and Catholic) can and should trust Christ more, but Catholics need to get the Gospel “righter” by abandoning their denial of justification by faith alone. Their application of the Gospel is not very good news.

Grace is incredibly mind blowing.

224 Responses to “Does the Roman Catholic Gospel Save? or “Getting the Gospel ‘Righter'””

  1. CMP,

    I’m glad to see you address the issue through this lens–i.e. “Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save?”, as opposed to “Can Roman Catholics be saved?” Both are important, and I don’t see how any discussion of this subject can be complete without including both.

    And the issues that discussed in this post are important aspects of answering “Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save?”

    But I’m surprised that you didn’t delve into Galatians. It’s obvious on the face of it that Paul introduces the category of “another gospel” in connection with how people were relating Christianity and one kind of “works”. And I know this is not news to you–in the past I’ve heard you discuss the anathema in Galatians, specifically concerning Catholicism. And Galatians was a big part of Dr. White’s podcast response to you.

    I think your first post hinted at how you understand Galatians. Please, elaborate, and present your exegetical case.

  2. Nice article. I’ve had a hard time understanding where these lines are. I have a tendency to throw the baby out with the water in most cases. As I’ve grown in faith and grown my belief I’ve had times where someone I read would become “anathema” to me and I’d abandon them. I’ve tried to back off that line, trying not to judge based on labels or even disagreements. I once put down “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis because he denied the depravity of man, which I found unacceptable. I do understand though that that is no reason for me to abandon everything Lewis brings to the theological/literary table.

    Thanks for the articles.
    God bless.

  3. Thanks again for taking a risk by putting posts like these out here. These questions need to be asked, if for anything, helping us all to be sharpened. At the end of the day, it’s not theological nuances we’ll be needing to wrestle with, but the real, messy, real-life situations in which we find ourselves, our responses to which will be informed by those theological nuances.

    It’s very easy to see a domino-effect on both sides. If one disqualifies all Roman Catholics from salvation because they believe works/sacraments contribute to justification, then, by consequence, one must disqualify Lutherans, Anglicans, Church of Christ. . . and the bulk of Christianity up to the Reformation. But if one says Roman Catholics can be justified even with an unbiblical and dangerous view of justification, then, it is argued, the floodgates are opened for all kinds of heresy.

    But I don’t think this issue can be dichotomized to simply, and I think the questions you ask above show why that’s not the case. Much of what you said is how I’ve come to see it; the biggest argument against our position, is indeed Galatians, and so I agree with the above comments – I’d love to see another post addressing whether or not Galatians can be applied to Roman Catholicism.

    My own thoughts – Galatians is about the law/gospel distinction and doesn’t even touch sacramentalism; however, by consequence, an expositor can make a case that all forms of legalism and superstition are dangerous based…

  4. If you break it down like that it does get complicated, lol. Where do I fit? I don’t believe in Divine election however I do believe in eternal security. The way I see it Christ died for the sins of the whole world(everyone), however each one must accept God’s free gift of Eternal life. Whoever believes in Him and accepts Him will be born again(That’s if we really accept him) and will have a secure and eternal redemption because of God’s grace and not our own works. So the way I see it anyone can be saved even a Catholic, Mormon, etc. if they really believe and once they accept Jesus the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth and they will learn to leave behind that which doesn’t honor God and will grow in all areas of the complete Gospel which is the whole bible. That is my simple way of seeing it. lol

  5. david carlson April 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I want me some of the funamentalist Gospel. I have had enough of the fundamentalists and having me some fun would be very nice right now…..

    apparently it is not just emails for which you need a proofreader…..

  6. Can a person deny that Salvation is by Grace Alone alone through Faith Alone In Christ Alone and still be considered a believer In the Gospel ? Paul said If anyone preaches to you another gospel contrary to what we have preached let him be anathema. Does a Gospel that adds works to Justification qualify as a gospel contrary to the one Paul preached ?

  7. Ok..I will be the first to stand in the way of the grenade. Firstly, what is the gospel to me? Answer: believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. It’s that simple. BUT! that belief must be with the heart. That is the element that I feel you have not addressed in your ” catholic gospel can they be saved are they??” questions. I find myself asking the question always that people or rather ” born again Christians” who ask about the catholic gospel don’t , to me at least, seem to understand the catholic church and it’s doctrines. So let me tell you what they are.

    The roman Catholic gospel begins at birth: One is baptised into the catholic church as a baby and you are now part of the church.

    you then receive Christ for the first time at holy communion usually aged seven.

    You then receive the holy spirit through the laying on of hands by a bishop usually at age twelve. (whether you truly believe in Christ with all your heart or not. i would say for the majority if not all children I went to school and was confirmed alongside..I would say not!.

    It is then considered that your allegiance is to Rome and the Pope and his priests and bishops in matters of faith as they are the one true church. and don’t think for a moment that the Roman Catholic hirearchy see it as any other way.

    So you tell me…is that how one gets saved??

    To cement what I have said if you want to get a full understanding of the Roman Catholic Gospel go to a mass or an RC funeral…

  8. I believe Catholics would say their works contribute to their justification, but that they are saved by Christ. The Catholic Catechism says, “The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.” In other words, it is still of God’s doing, but it comes through the works.

    It’s wrong, but it doesn’t seem to me that they intend to say that we’re saved by our works. Rather it seems God continues to infuse more justifying grace due to the works.

  9. CMP,

    I have great hope:
    1.) That God protects people in the Catholic church from truly understanding the places where the worst problems lie in dogmatic Catholic theology.
    2.) That many Catholics interpret & articulate Catholic theology in a way that avoids actually denying the gospel.
    3.) That when they articulate the relationship between works and justification in a way that does actually deny the gospel, it does not reflect what they actually trust in.
    4.) That in their hearts and minds, what they are actually trusting in is solely what Christ for them. That they truly believe the gospel, even if they elsewhere say things inconsistent with it.
    5.) That when true members of the body of Christ articulate works & justification in a way that does deny the gospel, that God protects their listeners from stumbling.

    I have no idea how often it turns out that way, but I hope it happens frequently. I hope it happens more often than not. (And I know that to some degree, we all need God’s grace to protect us from problems & immaturities in our understanding & pursuit of Him.)

    You argued against the necessity of perfect doctrine in order to be saved–even doctrine about the gospel. I somewhat agree. And this is how I apply it. And this still allows people to agree that official Catholic doctrine denies the gospel, without sacrificing the concerns that you raised in this post.

  10. I would say that the most important thing is to interact with the contents of this post. That would go far in advancing the discussion.

  11. Michael, another excellent post & “what ifs”, enjoyed reading it.

    A question that I would ask would be: for the first 1,500 years of Christianity, the Gospel of the Protestant Reformation hadn’t yet been created.

    Therefore, where do you think the souls of these millions of faithful, “pre-Reformation” Christians – many of them who were martyred for the Faith – are right now?

    Maybe attempting to answer that question will enlighten us as we discuss contemporary issues.

    Glory to God for all things

  12. CMP,

    I can’t tell if that’s a response to my first comment, to someone else’s, or to my second. Could you explicitly address that kind of comment to someone in particular?

    Assuming it’s a response to my first comment:

    Fair enough–you did discuss “different gospel” in the post. And I had actually forgotten that, when I started writing my comment. I apologize.

    But that doesn’t mean you delved into Galatians, and I wouldn’t change my first question much. I’ll explain why. If you think my question is still deficient due to not interacting with the contents of your post, please point out something specific.

    Paul uses language like “deserting him who called you”, and “a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you”, and “let him be accursed”, and “false brothers”, and “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse”, and “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain”, and “You are severed from Christ”.

    At least at first glance, that gets into territory that your discussion of “different gospels” doesn’t. Paul seems to be raising a concern of false/contrary gospel, not just a version of the gospel that is somewhat different but still contains the core. And I can’t tell where your post acknowledges that possibility about Roman Catholic teaching.

    I agree with & appreciate much of your post, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask you to delve into Galatians. It is, arguably, biblical data that brings…

  13. Odd… The end got cut off, even though I was under the character limit.

    That was supposed to be “It is, arguably, biblical data that brings faith & works into the core of the gospel.”

  14. “Of course, in order to make such a comment, the assumption is that we do have the “right” Gospel.”

    The Bible contains the “right” Gospel. If Rome doesn’t hold to the Gospel as contained in the Scriptures, then she doesn’t possess the “right” Gospel.

    What am I missing here?

    In Christ,

    – Shane

  15. Did the Judiazers have the “right” Gospel?

    What it antagonistic of Paul to tell those Galatians who embraced circumcision that they were “severed from Christ?”

    Maybe Paul should have told them…”well, you ‘got it right’ who God is, who Jesus is, and you believe that He died and was resurrected…so hey, that’s right enough!”

    Or were those who held to the insufficiency of grace REALLY severed from Christ, as Paul said?

    Shouldn’t we take the sufficiency of grace as seriously as the Apostle Paul did?

    In Christ,

    – Shane

  16. In all good humor, I just have to say that this reminds me of a couple of teenagers talking about how their parents don’t know anything about dating, boys, or what leads to a happy life. 

  17. The essence of the Gospel will always be in the very “face” of Christ Himself: “For God who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) And so, the Incarnation and the Incarnate One are the very substance and the revelation of the fulness of God, leading to salvation.. and the life of the triune God, itself…”for through Him we both (Jew & Gentile) have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph. 2:18) Certainly, we will come to doctrinal and dogmatic understanding as we grow ‘In Christ’, but only Christ Jesus Himself, is the Salvation of God itself, as HE is too the “Elect” of God, and the Head of His Elect & redemptive Body! And we all should be able to say Amen here…Protestant, Catholic & Orthodox! As Matt. 1:21, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus (Savior), for He will save His people from their sins.” Incarnation, Covenant, Redemption & Salvation are all connected…’In Christ’!

  18. Oh, I just mean that kind of like teenagers think their parents know next to nothing, about them or the world, Protestants question whether the “Catholic Gospel” is even salvific.  It’s just ironic to question the authenticity of the tree that you (general) yourself grew from. 

  19. And the so-called Reformational and Reformed doctrine reach back into this very essence of Christ Jesus Himself, Incarnate, and in Himself too the Salvation History of God, (Gen. 3:15).

  20. We Protestant, Reformational and Reformed Christians don’t doubt the “Catholic Gospel” being “salvific”, as it is the Saving Gospel itself! But we doubt that Rome and the Roman Church have always given the fulness of that Gospel! As in fact, the whole historical church is always but a Pilgrim church, Protestant, R. Catholic, & the Orthodox!

  21. If all this is in fact the case, then the Reformation was not necessary, as it reduces the actions of the Reformers to that of holding differing opinions from Rome. Just a difference of opinion and nothing more. They just felt Rome had a less accurate understanding of the Gospel, right?

    Of course if you read the Reformers, and what they had to say of Rome and her minutemen, you will find their collective view to be a little more than a difference of opinion.

    Of course the Reformers are not our ultimate authority. Scripture is. So ultimately I punt to Paul and let him do the dirty work then let the ecumenical chips fall where they may.

  22. “Can the Roman Catholic Gospel save?” is definitely a better, more precise question than “Are Roman Catholics saved?”. But I’d like to share a different question –same issue, maybe a truer perspective. 

    Are Catholics in a covenantal relationship with God?

    Because, after all is said and done, it’s not so much the *knowing* as it is the *being*, right?
    Catholics would believe that a newly baptized baby has no intellectual knowledge of what just happened, but has received grace and is now in a covenantal relationship with God.  So not _knowing_ as a qualifier for salvation, but rather _being_. 

  23. “Reformed Christians don’t doubt the “Catholic Gospel” being “salvific”, as it is the Saving Gospel itself! But we doubt that Rome and the Roman Church have always given the fulness of that Gospel!”

    Apparently you’re not familiar with the actual Protestant Reformation. I am a former Roman Catholic whom God graciously led away from its false gospel and saved me.

    If Jesus felt the RCC had a salvific gospel, He wouldn’t have had me convert. God hates the Roman Catholic Church because it is, as John MacArthur has rightly stated:

    “Satan’s best front for the Kingdom of God.”

  24. Indeed, Baptism is a “covenantal” act, itself. But, it is always a ‘sign and seal’ of that work of God Himself. Only in the eschatological end will we see, as in Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” This is for all the redeemed of the Lord also! Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox..and all those real Christians in between.

  25. Btw, all real Christians are “Catholic” and “Orthodox” in my theological understanding! :)

  26. Mt approach is: if a certain theist
    1. believes that Jesus Christ lived and died and resurrected for our salvation
    2. thinks that he is personally in need of this salvation
    3. decides that, having been saved, he now submits (at least least willing to submit, or tries to submit) himself to Christ
    He is saved in my book.

    Whether he truly is saved or not, that’s God’s job to decide, not mine.

  27. I am convinced this is the wrong question. Nowhere in Scripture are we required to determine if another person is saved. Rather we are commanded to teach God’s truth and correct those who deviate from it. Galatians makes it clear that faith versus work is a critical issue. While there are other issues that are mentioned as critical, not all of the aspects of gospel teaching are so emphasized. Whether there are those who are unclear on this truth who will be saved is in the hand of God. But we cannot simply assume they will be saved, but try to instruct them.

  28. “Oh, I just mean that kind of like teenagers think their parents know next to nothing, about them or the world, Protestants question whether the “Catholic Gospel” is even salvific. It’s just ironic to question the authenticity of the tree that you (general) yourself grew from. ”

    The Roman Catholic “gospel” is another gospel whose preachers Paul anathematized in Galatians 1:8-9. “Catholic” merely means “universal” so in that sense, there is One “Catholic” Church. However, we are specifically speaking about the Roman Catholic Church. If Judiazers were “severed from Christ” because they added ONE work to grace, then the RCC is most definitely severed from Christ for the many works they add to grace.

    The RCC teaches the necessity of grace (which is a good start)…but not the sufficiency of grace (which is a horrible finish).

    I didn’t come from the tree of Roman Catholicism.

    In Christ,

    – Shane

  29. White responded quickly: I think he too easily dismisses the “What abouts?” but who am I to ask questions? :-)

  30. Ok. I’ll bite. What about the “What abouts?”

    In Christ,

    – Shane

  31. See OP. I suppose one could ask if we are to throw certain Arminians who believe that some sins can cause the loss of salvation? Do they have a Gospel that saves? Or what about the those who believe in baptismal regeneration? Do they have a Gospel that saves? Not to mention the first 1500 urs of church history.

  32. Did CS Lewis, who believed in Purgatory, have a Gospel that saves?

  33. Not to mention again the distinction between the fuller Gospel as expressed in Romans or the more essential version in 1 Cor.

  34. CMP,

    As one that you know disagress with you on issues regarding Calvinism, I can’t help but say that I find it rather amusing that you of course think that Calvinists have the “rightest” gospel! I reckon there are a lot of folks out and about that would not agree with you on that one at all.

  35. Cheryl, “reckon” is an understatement. But what would any expect? That I would think there was a “righter” Gospel out there but I am just hanging out here for drill? Of course I would think that!

  36. Mr. Patton, I read your original response, James White’s response, and your second post. “There is definitely a line that can be crossed. I can’t always tell you where that line is, exactly. I know that the center of the Gospel is the person and work of Christ. In addition, I would contend that one must accept who Christ is (the God-man), and that what he did (died for our sins and rose from the grave) requires, I believe, the presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14).” We preach who Jesus is, and what He did – both parts are defined biblically. Its the second part – what He did that is biblically defined and just as with 1st part, don’t Paul’s epistles define what deniel is non salvific (gal 5, romans 10?) The dividing line? Do you agree that the Scriptures are enough to define true gospel/false gospel? Have you read “Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology” – your second post reminded me of the discussion Chapter 4 (Mark Dever) “Improving the Gospel?)and Greg Gilbert “What is the Gospel?” p.108 “But according to Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, that is not sharing the gospel:”We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Do you think we should preach the gospel to commited RC (Matthew 28)? God sent His gospel of peace through the blood of His Son to a child of wrath, granting repentence, the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit, eternal life and the gift of righteousness.

  37. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but it strikes me as truly interesting that in a discussion of the “Good News” or gospel that just about the only evangelist being named is Paul. As if no one ever had anything else to say on the subject.

    What about the “Good News” that Jesus preached? Seems like that might be relevant. In Mark 1:15 we see Jesus proclaiming the euangelion of God – that the Kingdom of God was near. Is that a gospel “other” than what Paul preached? Bottom line: whatever “Good News” Jesus was preaching, it doesn’t resemble what Paul was preaching.

    This doesn’t mean that Paul was wrong to preach what he did, of course. It just means that perhaps we should pause before declaring what is and what is not “Gospel”. Especially if we claim that it is “Gospel” that we need to be “saved”. Others point out that Paul makes reference to a false gospel and that one can apparently be condemned (at least by Paul) for it. I don’t think this is too surprising. It seems obvious that we can be wrong to the point of being damned. Did Paul bother to point out what these “false gospels” were? Not really. Just that they were “other” than what he taught. But he neglects to point out what specifically constitutes “gospel” – so we have no clear-cut reference point for an “other”.

  38. As for our Roman Catholic brethren, and the significance they ascribe to works, well, it seems to me that James would have agreed with them. Everyone likes to focus on the “believe” part of of John 3:16-18 and ignore 19-21. One cannot separate works from faith. So if we are saved by faith, then works are somehow involved as well. That seems to be at least part of what Jesus is saying in John 3:16-21, and James obviously echoes it. Last I checked, Jesus and James had access to the “gospel” as well. I think some of us need to be less Paul-centric. To me, CMP’s study on sermons in Acts was very illuminating. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that it’s the only reference (that I’ve noticed) to someone other than Paul. If they were proclaiming “Gospel”, it is clear that they were emphasizing different things, not the same things, which is what I’d expect if it were so formulaic.

  39. ‘The Lord knows those that are his’ and ‘let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity’.

    In the end, God alone knows what has gone on in a man’s heart, we don’t – though wouldn’t we love to! The nearest we can get to judge apart from a profession of faith is to see if that profession leads to a life moving away from iniquity.
    In the light of recent events, this is clearly not the case amongst a section of catholic clergy, but then evangelicalism has its share of the bogus too, lest we should ever get self-righteous.
    I have rarely if ever met Roman Catholics where the essence of their religion wasn’t largely external rather than something spiritual that had gone on on the inside. Perhaps the distinction is between religion and faith for external versus internal reality. This would then allow for those who go through the outward trappings to also have a genuine faith on the inside, but the latter is what counts – religion never justified anyone.

  40. I have to go with Scot McKnight’s view on the gospel:

    1 Corinthians 15 is a summary of the gospel.

    It summarizes the sermons in Acts, which in turn are summaries of the gospels themselves. We don’t want to start saying the Apostles were unable to preach the gospel.

    McKnight is right- if it is just about how I am saved, then it limits the wide scope of the good news, namely, about who Jesus is.

    The gospel is about Jesus, who He is, and what He has done. It is not just about us getting saved (although that is a part of it). To focus just on the soteriology aspect is to make it too much about me, not Him.

    Would a RC be want to preach the sermons in Acts?

  41. Um, this might be a strange question, but am I understanding this right- that Calvinists believe that once they’re born again no matter what they do afterwards they won’t be kicked out of salvation? I hope I got that wrong, as that is just WRONG and that’s a point made in all of the NT letters, I believe.
    Ok now that I have asked that, let me clarify two things: One: I know of the exact Roman Catholic Church that everyone dismisses, living here in France dealing with it up front. Two, I wasn’t raised in that faith, but I was raised Roman Catholic as well. I was taught from a very young age that we are saved by God’s grace through Jesus’s birth into human form, and his submission to death on the cross in our place. I didn’t learn a bunch of fancy terms or anything, just that. I also learned that Mary has a respected place in the church as she also willingly and openly submitted to God’s will for her, as many prophets from the Old Testament have done. Again, back to my comment on the 1st
    post, Mary was Jesus’s earthly mother… Christ threw out the Law, but not one line from the law has been changed either. Those are both paraphrases of Christ’s comments in the Gospels-which to me are the four books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the rest are just supporting chapters to help us to flesh out the words of Christ. I was also taught to believe that we are forever to be changed in our HEARTS and minds and submit to God’s will through the Holy Spirit. After that it’s…

  42. Hmm cut off as well:
    After that it’s God’s place to judge each person’s heart for our place in eternity.
    And as I get a little extra space let me add that last night I was reading 1 Corinthians 3:5-17. There is an implication of works being judged as well as faith in that text. With all due respects to each of you, and many blessings of the Holy Spirit, and that presence stay
    in this discussion.

  43. First I notice that Mr. Patton sets Romans against 1 Corinthians (the “fuller” gospel as opposed to the “essential” gospel).

    Then I read from JB Chappell that the fact that Paul was the only Biblical author being quoted was a problem…as if another author of Scripture had something completely different and opposing to say.

    Why are setting Scripture against Scripture?

    Mr. Patton…did the Judiazers get the gospel “right enough?” Obviously, they didn’t possess the Gospel because Paul said they were “severed from Christ.” Why would Paul judge in such a manner?

    Answer that, and these nagging questions about Roman Catholicism (the “What abouts?”) are no longer nagging questions.

    Grace is sufficient, friend.

    In Christ,

    – Shane

  44. “Did Paul bother to point out what these “false gospels” were? Not really. Just that they were “other” than what he taught. But he neglects to point out what specifically constitutes “gospel” – so we have no clear-cut reference point for an “other”.”

    He did specifically mention those who desired to add the practice of circumcision to grace, JB. Read the entire book of Galatians.

    Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
    (Galatians 5:2-6 ESV)

    Anyone who adds anything to grace is severed from Christ…be it circumcision, or the Sacraments.

    In Christ,

    – Shane

  45. I guess u can’t answer the questions?

    So, if the Gal would have accepted circumcism they would have lost their salvation?

  46. Mr. Patton…

    The text says that those who added circumcision to the grace of God were/are “severed from Christ.”

    In Galatians, Pau cites Lev 8:5 when he writes “The one who does them shall live by them.”

    Those who willingly add works (on in the case of the Judiazers…only ONE work) to God’s grace are putting themselves under a curse, for “cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, and do them.” (Gal 3:10; cited from Deut 27:26)

    To answer your question specifically…one cannot lose what one never possessed.

    In Christ,

    – Shane

  47. So they were not really attached to Christ? We are not to take it literally?

  48. Attached to Christ on what basis?

    Can somebody be under the curse of the Law and still be in Christ?

    In Christ,

    – Shane


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