Are Roman Catholics Christians?

Josh Buice

In a recent pastoral staff questions and answers session, we received an interesting question – “Are Catholics Christians?”  In an attempt to handle the question with pastoral sensitivity and biblical precision, we approached it by explaining the serious errors of the Catholic Church.  If anyone embraces the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church willingly and knowingly, they cannot be a true follower of Christ.

The Error of Transubstantiation

According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, during the Mass, after the consecration of the Lord’s Supper, the elements of the Eucharist are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus.  This is a grave error taken from a misunderstanding of John 6 where Jesus talks about eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus.  According to the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, they embrace this doctrinal error that blasphemes the “once for all” sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.

Paragraph 1376 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reads:

The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation,” (CCC, 1376).

The Error of Denying the Sufficiency of Scripture

It is the long standing position of the Church of Jesus Christ to embrace the inerrancy, infallibility, authority, and complete sufficiency of the Word of God.  However, the Roman Catholic Church commits the tragic error of adding to the Word of God.  In fact, they elevate to the level of divine authority the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore, if the Roman Catholic Church officially recognizes a teaching as truth – no matter what the Bible says – it’s to be taken as sacred, holy, divine, and authoritative.

All throughout history, the Catholic Church has fought for control over the Bible.  Years ago, they hated men like John Wycliffe and murdered William Tyndale and many others in order to control the Bible and prevent having it translated and printed in the common language of English.  Today, they still want control and they do it through other means.

Paragraph 80 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reads:

“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.”  Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own “always, to the close of the age”.

God’s Word doesn’t need any additions or addendums.  As Paul said to Timothy, the Word of God is capable of reproving, rebuking, edifying, and educating.  To add to the Word of Truth is to make a statement about God.  Did He forget something?  Did He overlook something?  What a grievous error to suggest that God’s Word is incomplete.  This is an error that will have a damning affect upon the soul (Revelation 22:18-19).

The Error of Perverting the Gospel

The entire Roman Catholic religion is built upon a works based foundation rather than the foundation of grace.  If you do – God will do.  That’s the motivation of the Roman Catholic system.  As we read the Bible, we see that the works of a man have no ability to remove the stain of sin upon the soul.  It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by God’s work of grace and mercy that saves us (Titus 3:5).  Paul makes it abundantly clear that salvation is a work of God alone in Ephesians 1-2.  In Ephesians 1, Paul labors to make clear the point that salvation is a work of God from before the foundation of the world.  In Ephesians 2, Paul labors the point that God brings sinners to life spiritually – by grace we are saved, and no man, woman, boy or girl can ever boast about their salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In another place, Paul warns the church at Galatia regarding their perversion of the gospel.  In an attempt to lead the church astray, some Judaizers were teaching that a person must be circumcised according to the Jewish custom in order to inherit the Kingdom of God.  Paul scolds the church in the early verses of his letter for moving away from the true gospel.  Paul then moves to one of the most stern warnings in all of Scripture.  He writes:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

A simple word study on the word “accursed” that Paul employs twice in these early verses will demonstrate the severity of this warning.  The word is ἀνάθεμα which actually means to be damned to hell.  In other words, Paul was not playing games when it comes to the gospel.  This is the hinge between heaven and hell.  There is no wiggle room here on this issue.

As we examine the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, we see clearly that God’s Son is blasphemed, God’s Word is compromised, and God’s grace is perverted.  Therefore, to know these blasphemous errors and to embrace them is to deny the true grace of God and to damn your soul to hell.  It must be clear – nothing can pervert the gospel and get a free pass.  According to their own teachings, it is an untenable feat to align Rome’s doctrine with the gospel of Jesus.  Catholics are not Christians.  Dr. R.C. Sproul has rightly summarized the key error of the Roman Catholic Church:

At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution. [1]

1.  “Is the Reformation Over?” Tabletalk, September 2009, p. 7.

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Author Are Roman Catholics Christians?

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.