This new ecumenical statement is an outgrowth of the original "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" declaration of March 29, 1994. It "emerged from a series of conferences convened by Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus."
The publication of "The Gift of Salvation" in Christianity Today is accompanied by an introduction by Timothy George, senior adviser to Christianity Today and dean of Beeson Divinity School at the Southern Baptist-supported Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. George says "The Gift of Salvation" "has been made possible by a major realignment in ecumenical discourse: the coalescence of believing Roman Catholics and faithful evangelicals who both affirm the substance of historic Christian orthodoxy against the ideology of theological pluralism that marks much mainline Protestant thought as well as avant-garde Catholic theology. Thus, for all our differences, Bible-believing evangelicals stand much closer to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger than to Bishop John Spong!" (George, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: A New Initiative," Christianity Today, Dec. 8, 1997, p. 34).
Timothy George and the other signers of this new ecumenical initiative like to think of themselves as "faithful evangelicals," but in reality they are the blind leading the blind. A true Bible believer does not stand close either to Catholic Cardinal Ratzinger or to the modernist Spong. Neither are friends of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. To pretend that a Roman Catholic can be faithful to his "church" while at the same time affirming the biblical doctrine of justification, that salvation is strictly by faith alone through grace alone by the atonement of Christ alone without works or sacraments, is unbelievable blindness. If the Catholic theologians who signed "The Gift of Salvation" really believe this doctrine of salvation, they are commanded by the Word of God to depart from the unscriptural Catholic church with its false gospel and blasphemous claims and doctrines of devils.
THE CONTENT OF "THE GIFT OF SALVATION"
"The Gift of Salvation" is a bland and, in the ecumenical context, insufficient affirmation of the doctrine of biblical justification. It begins by thanking God that in recent years many Evangelicals and Catholics "have been able to express a common faith in Christ and so to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters in Christ."
Consider the following excerpts from "The Gift of Salvation" --
"...we affirm the binding authority of Holy Scripture, God's inspired word; and we acknowledge the Apostles' and Nicene creeds as faithful witnesses to that Word."
"We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our won; it is entirely God's gift, conferred through the Father's sheer graciousness, out of the love that he bears us in his Son, who suffered on our behalf and rose from the dead for our justification. Jesus was 'put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification' (Romans 4:25). In justification, God, on the basis of Christ's righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends, and by virtue of his declaration it is so."
"The New Testament makes it clear that the gift of justification is received through faith."
"We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone (sola fide)."
"Sanctification is not fully accomplished at the beginning of our life in Christ, but is progressively furthered as we struggle, with God's grace and help, against adversity and temptation. In this struggle we are assured that Christ's grace will be sufficient for us, enabling us to persevere to the end. When we fail, we can still turn to God in humble repentance and confidently ask for, and receive, his forgiveness. We may therefore have assured hope for the eternal life promised to us in Christ. As we have shared in his sufferings, we will share in his final glory. 'We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2). While we dare not presume upon the grace of God, the promise of God in Christ is utterly reliable, and faith in that promise overcomes anxiety about our eternal future."
"In obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord, we commit ourselves to evangelizing everyone. We must share the fullness of God's saving truth with all, including members of our several communities. Evangelicals must speak the gospel to Catholics and Catholics to Evangelicals."
AN INSUFFICIENT STATEMENT
In light of Rome's false sacramental gospel, this ecumenical statement is sorely insufficient. In typical New Evangelical fashion, the evangelical authors and signers omitted many things that are necessary to properly delineate the true Bible Gospel from the false Roman Catholic one. For the most part, what they stated about justification is not inherently unscriptural; the most serious problem lies in what they failed to state. You see, Rome has always admitted that salvation is a gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ, that it comes only through the Lord Jesus Christ, that it comes through faith, that God's grace is sufficient for salvation. Rome agrees with all of that. It has brought God's curse upon itself, though (Galatians 1:7), by going beyond this and claiming that salvation is distributed through its sacraments and priesthood.
THIS ECUMENICAL PAPER FAILS TO STATE THAT THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH SACRAMENTS. To have been meaningful, the statement would have said that justification is by God's grace alone through the atonement of Christ alone through faith alone, WITHOUT WORKS OR BAPTISM OR OTHER SACRAMENTS OR CHURCH OR PRIESTHOOD.
THIS STATEMENT ALSO FAILS TO EXPOSE THE MANIFOLD WAYS IN WHICH ROME HAS DENIED THE GOSPEL. To have been meaningful, the statement would have noted without hesitation that Rome has perverted and denied the Gospel of the grace of Christ not only through its definition of the gospel but also by its sacramental system; by its doctrine of baptismal regeneration; by exalting its priests, popes, saints, and Mary as alleged mediators between Christ and men; by its doctrine of purgatory, etc.
The statement's failure to address these matters plainly leaves it empty and insufficient. It does not get at the heart of the problem of Rome's error. It skirts the key issues, and leaves more questions unanswered than answered. These are very intelligent men, and we can be assured that this is not done in ignorance.
A MEANINGLESS STATEMENT
Further, the "Gift of Salvation" ecumenical statement is really an exercise in vanity. The Roman Catholic signers cannot speak for Rome, and they admit that they do not do so. Roman Catholic doctrine is formally defined by its popes, doctors, and councils. It is not for individual Catholics to decide what they will believe and what they will not believe. The signing of such a statement by 15 Catholic theologians, even if it were a truly sound and sufficient statement of biblical justification, means absolutely nothing other than to cloud the issue of the gospel in the minds of gullible people.
A DECEPTIVE STATEMENT
The "Gift of Salvation" statement is more than an exercise in vanity, though. It is one of the most deceptive things I have ever seen. The concluding paragraph claims that the Catholic signers are "conscientiously faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church." That is a blatant lie, and I will not hedge my terms. Rome unequivocally denies that justification is by grace alone through faith alone without works or sacraments. Rome unequivocally condemns those who teach that justification is by grace alone through faith alone without works or sacraments. The Catholic signers are well aware of this. Therefore it is patently impossible for a faithful Catholic to understand justification "in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by faith alone (sola fide)."
If these Catholic theologians really believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone without works or sacraments, if they really believe that justification was defined properly by the Reformation, they should publicly repudiate Rome's false gospel. They should expose the Council of Trent and the Vatican II Council as false. They should separate themselves from an institution which is committed to a false gospel and which has cursed and tormented and murdered humble Bible-believing saints through the centuries.
JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE ALONE DENIED BY TRENT
At the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the declarations of which are still in force, the Roman Catholic Church formally condemned the biblical doctrine of faith alone and grace alone. Consider the following declarations of Trent:
"If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 12).
"If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24).
JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE ALONE DENIED BY VATICAN II
In its most formal and authoritative statements since Trent, Rome has continued to deny that salvation is by grace alone through Christ's atonement alone through faith alone without works or sacraments. Consider the following statements of the authoritative Vatican II Council of the mid-1960s, called by Pope John Paul XXIII and attended by more than 2,400 Catholic bishops --
"For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, 'the work of our redemption is accomplished,' and it is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church" (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Introduction, para. 2).
"As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which 'Christ our Pasch is sacrificed' (1 Cor. 5:7) is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out" (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 1, 3, p. 324).
"... [Christ] also willed that the work of salvation which they preached should be set in train through the sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical [ritualistic] life revolves. Thus by Baptism men are grafted into the paschal mystery of Christ. ... They receive the spirit of adoption as sons" (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Chap. 1, I, 5,6, pp. 23-24).
"From the most ancient times in the Church good works were also offered to God for the salvation of sinners, particularly the works which human weakness finds hard. Because the sufferings of the martyrs for the faith and for God's law were thought to be very valuable, penitents used to turn to the martyrs to be helped by their merits to obtain a more speedy reconciliation from the bishops. Indeed, the prayers and good works of holy people were regarded as of such great value that it could be asserted that the penitent was washed, cleansed and redeemed with the help of the entire Christian people" (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, chap. 3, 6, pp. 78,79).
ROME DENIES SALVATION BY GRACE ALONE IN ITS DEFINITION OF JUSTIFICATION
Rome's gospel is a confused combination of faith plus works, grace plus sacraments, Christ plus the church. It redefines grace to include works. It confuses justification with sanctification. It confuses imputation with impartation. It views justification not as a once-for-all legal declaration whereby the sinner is declared righteous before God and is granted eternal life as the unmerited gift of God, but as a process whereby the sinner is gradually saved through participation in the sacraments. There is no eternal security in the Roman gospel because salvation allegedly depends partially upon a man's works. According to Roman Catholic theology, Christ purchased salvation and gave it to the Catholic Church to be distributed to men through its sacraments. This is not only a false gospel, it is a blasphemous usurpation of Christ's position as only Lord and Savior and Mediator. The authoritative Addis and Arnold Catholic Dictionary, with the Imprimatur (ecclesiastical authorization for printing) of E. Morrough Bernard, 1950, says justification "consists, not in the mere remission of sins, but in the sanctification and renewal of the inner man by the voluntary reception of God's grace and gifts" This dictionary plainly states that the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is contrary to that of the Reformation, noting that "the Council of Trent was at pains to define most clearly and explicitly the Catholic tradition on the matter, placing it in sharp opposition to the contrary tenets of the Reformers." Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia, published in 1991, defines justification as "THE PROCESS by which a sinner is made righteous, pure and holy before God." "Justification in the Catholic Tradition comes about by means of faith in Christ, AND in a life of good works lived in response to God's invitation to believe. ... That works are clearly required in the New Testament for union with Christ is seen in the many parables such as the Good Samaritan, Lazarus and Dives, and others" (emphasis added).
ROME DENIES SALVATION BY GRACE ALONE IN DOZENS OF OTHER WAYS
Not only in its definition of justification, but in dozens of other ways Rome denies the once-for-all sufficiency of Christ's atonement, His sole mediatorship, and the doctrine of salvation through faith alone by grace alone without works.
Rome denies justification by grace alone BY ITS DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMAL REGENERATION. The New Catholic Catechism (1994) dogmatically declares: "The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are 'reborn of water and the Spirit.' God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism..." (1257).
Rome denies justification by grace alone BY ITS DOCTRINE OF THE MASS, by claiming that in the mass "the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated" and "the work of our redemption is carried out" (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy).
Rome denies justification by grace alone BY ITS DOCTRINE OF THE SACRAMENTS: "The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ... The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Saviour" (New Catholic Catechism, 1129).
Rome denies justification by grace alone BY ITS DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY, claiming that "the doctrine of purgatory clearly demonstrates that even when the guilt of sin has been taken away, punishment for it or the consequences of it may remain to be expiated or cleansed" (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy).
Rome denies justification by grace alone and the sole Mediatorship of Christ BY ITS DOCTRINE OF CONFESSION. "One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and with the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience" (New Catholic Catechism, 1493). "Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church" (New Catholic Catechism, 1497). "The sacrament of Penance restores and strengthens in members of the Church who have sinned the fundamental gift of ... conversion to the kingdom of Christ, which is first received in Baptism" (Vatican II, Decree on Confession for Religious).
Rome denies justification by grace alone and the sole Mediatorship of Christ BY ITS DOCTRINE OF THE PAPACY: "For 'God's only-begotten Son ... has won a treasure for the militant Church ... he has entrusted it to blessed Peter, the key-bearer of heaven, and to his successors who are Christ's vicars on earth, so that they may distribute it to the faithful for their salvation'" (ellipsis are in the original) (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, Chap. 4, 7, p. 80).
Rome denies justification by grace alone and the sole Mediatorship of Christ BY ITS PRIESTHOOD: "The purpose then for which priests are consecrated by God through the ministry of the bishop is that they should be made sharers in a special way in Christ's priesthood and, by carrying out sacred functions, act as his ministers who through his Spirit continually exercises his priestly function for our benefit in the liturgy. By Baptism priests introduce men into the People of God; by the sacrament of Penance they reconcile sinners with God and the Church; by the Anointing of the sick they relieve those who are ill; and especially by the celebration of Mass they offer Christ's sacrifice sacramentally" (Vatican II, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, chap. 2, I, 5, p. 781).
Rome denies justification by grace alone and the sole Mediatorship of Christ BY ITS DOCTRINE OF MARY: "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Saviour's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace" (New Catholic Catechism, 968). "... Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us gifts of eternal salvation. ... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix" (New Catholic Catechism, 969).
Rome denies justification by grace alone and the sole Mediatorship of Christ BY ITS DOCTRINE OF THE SAINTS: "Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin" (New Catholic Catechism, 1475).
Rome denies justification by grace alone and the sole Mediatorship of Christ BY ITS DOCTRINE OF FORGIVENESS THROUGH THE CHURCH: "There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. ... Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin" (New Catholic Catechism, 982).
Rome denies justification by grace alone BY ITS DOCTRINE OF INDULGENCES: "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. ... Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead" (New Catholic Catechism, 1471).
Rome has not changed its doctrinal position or its claims to be the one, true, holy, apostolic church. It is engaged in a clever ploy. It is using the ecumenical movement to bring the separated sons home to the papa (which is the meaning of the term pope), and it is succeeding brilliantly. The amazing fact is that Rome has not hidden its goal in ecumenical relations. Consider the following statement from the Vatican II Council:
"The term 'ecumenical movement' indicates the initiatives and activities encouraged and organized, according to the various needs of the [Roman] Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity. ... The results will be that, little by little, as the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion are overcome, ALL CHRISTIANS WILL BE GATHERED IN A COMMON CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST, INTO THE UNITY OF THE ONE AND ONLY CHURCH, which Christ bestowed on his Church from the beginning. THE UNITY, WE BELIEVE, SUBSISTS IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AS SOMETHING SHE CAN NEVER LOSE" (emphasis added) (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, chap. 1, 4, p. 416).
Do not be deceived, friends.
"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4).
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
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