CSC: WELS Topical Q&A: Religion: Roman Catholic: Responses to previous questions...
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Q:
First of all, one of the responses to a question states that Catholics are in great danger of [not] being saved. Lutherans believe in being saved through faith alone but not in works. Jesus showed us what faith meant through doing good works. I find it hard to believe that if a person had complete faith in Jesus but do not perform any good works, and who may even perform bad acts, can be saved. Please explain.

Also, I am extremely offended by the harshness to your responses, most of which are a direct attacks against the Catholic Church, its teachings, and their members. To me, this is not a very Christian thing to do. Have love for everyone and show respect. Catholics have respect for all so I believe it is only right to give us the same respect in return.

Likewise, you are clearly attacking the people you base your church upon. Simon Peter was the founder of the Catholic Church, as chosen by Jesus Christ himself. Then, since previously you stated that Catholics are in great danger of [not] being saved, Peter is too and all of the apostles.

The Lutheran Church would have little basis if the writers of the Bible are not going to be saved. "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Mt 16, 17-19

This is justification enough. These are Jesus' words. Catholic tradition and dogma is clearly justified in Jesus's words. The Pope DOES have the right to define doctrine as Jesus gave the first Pope the "keys to the kingdom of heaven."

I also read that you claim the popes are the antichrist. Do you really think that Simon Peter was the Antichrist? Do you honestly think that someone who loves and teaches so strongly and devotely as the Pope is the Antichrist?

Do Lutherans believe in Scripture alone? That strikes me as odd, that you are then Lutheran, because, correct me if I am wrong, but Jesus taught to love everyone, and unfortunetly, I have found some very harsh, cruel words within your answers to questions. You may not agree with Catholic teaching, but at least respect us as fellow Christians who believe and love God. Don't criticize Catholics for doing good works, because to me, doing good for others is selfless, it is love, and love is faith.

Where would the Lutheran Church be without the Catholic Church? Why do you place so much on one man, Martin Luther, who merely wanted to reform the Catholic Church, not reinvent it, and certainly not to insult its members. If you can honestly see no truth in anything of which I have said, please show me, where in the Bible I can find truth in anything otherwise.


A:
First, to the issue of what loves requires: love requires people to tell the truth. We cannot silently accept the teachings of the Catholic church if we believe them to be false. If we believe someone is following a false way, love requires that we warn them. Thus love for Catholics requires us to speak against the false teachings of the Catholic church, which endanger people’s souls.

We must ask where does the sad separation between Lutherans and Catholics come from. It comes from the Catholic church. It is simply untrue to say that the Catholic church respects or shows toleration for the Lutheran church. The present pope has approved a document, Dominus Jesus, which denies that our Lutheran church even has the right to be called a church. You can find this document on the Vatican web site. After the Reformation the Catholic church cursed the teachings of the Lutheran church in the decrees of the Council of Trent. These curses still stand against the teachings of the Lutheran confessions and against Luther. These curses against the teachings of the Lutheran confessions still apply.

Why was it that Luther did not stay in a reformed Catholic church as he intended? It was because he was excommunicated. He was declared an outlaw and made subject to death. He had to be hid to be protected from being burned at the stake by the Catholic church and the government authorities working with them. Followers of the Reformation were in fact burned at the stake. The Catholics waged a war against the Lutherans called the Smalcald War to force them back into the Catholic church. When they captured Luther's home town, the Catholic troops wanted to desecrate Luther's grave and body, but the emperor, to his credit, refused. This is how the division came about. All of this is recorded in any history of the period and can be easily verified.

As far as the doctrinal differences which separate our churches, they are primarily two. The Catholic church damns the teaching of the Lutheran church because we do not accept the authority of the pope to make man-made laws that contradict the Bible. Of Lutherans and Lutheran pastors the Catholic church says:

Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII, Can. 6: If anyone says that in the Catholic church there is not a hierarchy instituted by divine ordination, which consists of bishops, presbyters, and ministers, let him be damned.
Can. 7: If anyone says that the bishops are not superior to presbyters or that they do not have the authority to confirm and ordain, or that the authority which they have belongs both to them and to the presbyters, or that ordination conferred by them without the call and consent of the people or secular authorities is not valid or that those who are not rightly ordained nor sent by canonical and ecclesiastical authority, but who come from elsewhere, are legitimate ministers of the Word and the sacraments, let him be damned.

All of this is without any authority in Scripture. There is no biblical or historical evidence for the claims of the Roman Catholic church that Peter was the first pope. In fact there is no evidence that there even was a pope in the first century. Even Catholic historians recognize this as a historical fact:

Francis A. Sullivan, S.J.: Most Christian scholars from both sides of this divide agree that the threefold structure of ministry, with one bishop among a number of presbyters and deacons in each church, does not appear in the New Testament…. Hardly any doubt that the church of Rome was led by a group of presbyters for at least a part of the second century (From Apostles to Bishops, p 217). No doubt proving that bishops were the successors of the apostles by divine institution would be easier if the New Testament clearly stated that before they died the apostles had appointed a single bishop to lead each of the churches they founded (p. 223).

We honor Peter and in fact some of our churches are named after him, but he was not the first pope, nor was he Roman Catholic. If you read his first letter, you will see that he did not teach a Roman hierarchy, but that all Christians are royal priests. The same keys given to Peter in Matthew 16 are given to the whole church of believers in Matthew 18.

The Lutheran church strongly teaches good works, but not as a cause of our forgiveness. We do works not to be forgiven, but because we have been forgiven. St. Paul strongly teaches the importance of good works, but he also clearly says that salvation is by faith not by works. The Catholic church denies this and teaches that salvation is by faith and works. This teaching denies the most important teaching of the Bible. This is another teaching for which the Council of Trent damned the Lutheran church. Read Paul’s letters to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. All of them clearly teach salvation is by faith not by works.

A simple book that summarizes these teachings is Basic Doctrines of the Bible by Armin Schuetze. Our publishing house also has a Bible course Catholicism Today, which discusses the differences between the Lutheran and Catholic church and our concern for members of the Catholic church since the teaching of salvation by faith and works is indeed a danger to their souls. There is nothing on our web site that attacks the members of the Catholic church who are victims of its false teachings. We do indeed reject its unbiblical teachings which are a danger to Catholics' souls.



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