Catholics and Protestants

A Question from Class: Would a Catholic see a member of Lakeside (or other Protestant Christian) as saved? I’m just curious as who they define as “saved”–those with a personal relationship with Christ, those who observe the sacrements, those who observe sacrements at a Catholic church, etc?

My Answer:
Great question! I am in the middle of reading a book that talks about exactly that.

Are Protestant saved, according to Catholics? Before Vatican II, the answer would have been simply, “No.” There is a Catholic dogma that states, “outside the church there is no salvation,” and that was understood to mean that Protestants are “outside the church.” (But not Eastern Orthodox churches – Catholic theology has recognized them as “true churches” for several hundred years.)

Vatican II changed all that. There was a document called Lumen Gentium (“Light to the Nations”) that acknowledged that there are true Christians, who are truly saved and in whom God is truly working, but who are not part of the Roman Catholic church. In other words, it recognized for the first time (!) that you can be Protestant and still be saved. Vatican II also spurred the Catholic Church to find common ground with other churches, with the idea that, as theological differences were worked out, those churches would “come home” to the “Mother Church” ( i.e. Rome). (That hasn’t exactly happened the way they planned.)

But (there’s always a but!), a church like Lakeside is a bit of a puzzle to Catholic theology. That same Lumen Gentium defines “the Church” as those who “preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter” – i.e. the pope. Catholics view church as “top down,” starting with Christ, then flowing the apostles, and only then to the people. It’s the popes, bishops, and priests who form the foundation of the church. They don’t have a very good grid for understanding “bottom up” churches, where the church is first and foremost a fellowship of believers, who then elect and ordain their own leaders. So some Catholics would hesitate to even call Lakeside a church! ( <!– D(["mb","I think from Acts and 1 & 2 Corinthians, however, that it's pretty clear that we are.)

Finally, in terms of who is saved, I decided to look it up in the \nCatholic Catechism, which the official word on pretty much everything. When speaking about the people of God, it says that

\n One becomes a member of this people [of God] not by a physical birth, but by being "born anew," a birth "of water and the Spirit," that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.

\nThat's really close to what Lakeside says! It's just a small matter of defining "faith" and "baptism." 🙂

Mike

“,1] ); //–>I think from Acts and 1 & 2 Corinthians, however, that it’s pretty clear that we are.)

Finally, in terms of who is saved, I decided to look it up in the Catholic Catechism, which the official word on pretty much everything. When speaking about the people of God, it says that

One becomes a member of this people [of God] not by a physical birth, but by being “born anew,” a birth “of water and the Spirit,” that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.

That’s really close to what Lakeside says! It’s just a small matter of defining “faith” and “baptism.” 🙂

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