Do I Have to Stop Being Catholic to be a Christian?
Do I have to stop being Catholic to be a Christian?
No, not necessarily. I don’t agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches. But I have small and large theological disagreements with all Christian denominations – my own included. It is very possible to be a Christian within the Catholic Church. The problem is that it is also possible to NOT be a Christian within the Catholic Church. Along with all the denominations which were once state-religions (Lutheranism, Greek/Russian/Ukrainian/etc. Orthodoxy, Reformed, Anglican/Episcopalian) there is a tendency to equate church membership with salvation, even though the church may officially teach against it. And that is the big danger.
What do you mean?
According to Jesus, salvation is a matter of one’s heart. Jesus says unless you are born again, you will not enter the kingdom of God. Jesus was speaking to Jews who thought they were going to heaven just because they were Jews, and because they went to synagogue meetings and the temple. But they were wrong. They needed a personal relationship with God. That is why Jesus said they needed to be born again.
What does that have to do with the Catholic Church?
Many Catholics believe they are saved just because they are Catholic and go to church. However, this does not save you.
But my priest says that being baptized save me.
In 1 Peter 3:21-22 it says « Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ… » So the point is not just getting wet – but making an appeal to God for a clean conscience. A child can be baptized, but only an adult can make a heart-felt request of God for a new conscience. Have you ever asked God to give you a new heart and mind?
Well, I thought the priest did that for me when he baptized me.
In Scriptures, salvation always begins with a conscious decision. I am not saying your infant baptism was Illegitimate. But standing alone, it is insufficient for salvation. Romans 10:10 says, « for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. » God wants a personal relationship with us. And that requires a conscious choice to believe in God and confess Him as your saviour. That’s something YOU must do – nobody can do it for you. Jesus also said, « If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. » John 14:23. God will come to you and make His abode within you if you love Him and keep His word. These are your decisions to make – and today is as good of a day as any!
If I wanted to do this, how would I do it?
Romans 10:13 says, « whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. » As a Catholic, you already know of the true God. You already know you are a sinner. And you already know that salvation is won through the death of God’s only Son Jesus. So all that is lacking is for you to call out to Him in prayer, asking Him to forgive you of your sins, to give you a new heart, and committing all your life to Him.
Should I write this down?
It’s not a formula. It’s a real personal request from your heart to the heart of God. But if it would help, you can pray the prayer on the back of this tract. (See bottom of page)
But I must ask again – if I asked Jesus into my heart, will I still be a Catholic? All my family is a Catholic, and they would be very angry if I became a Protestant.
What if I am right?
What do you mean?
If I am right, and being Catholic is not enough, then many in your family may be going to Hell right now. How will they feel towards you in eternity if they find out you knew the way to heaven, but you did not tell them?
But I still believe you can be a Catholic and a Christian. I do not doubt that there are some among your family who will know exactly what you have done, and approve because they are Christians too. There is a whole movement within the Catholic Church of evangelical Catholic Christians. You could seek them out and join that movement. My own belief is that as you read the Bible more, and grow in your faith more and more you will tend to see some of the errors which Protestant Christians have pointed out in Catholicism for centuries. However, perhaps you will not. Perhaps someday you will become a very passionate and informed Evangelical Catholic who may challenge me in my beliefs. But we must remember – many of these on secondary issues. The main issue is salvation. And theologically, Catholics agree that a personal relationship with Jesus is necessary for salvation.
And so you think it is possible to be a Catholic and a Christian?
Yes, I do. But remember – Jew, Greek, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran or Reformed or Mennonite: it is necessary for EACH ONE OF US to individually obey Jesus’ command. We must all be born again. Are you ready to take that step?
A SINNER’S PRAYER
Dear Father God:
I know that you are the creator of Heaven and earth. You are the only God. You are all powerful, wise and just.
And I know that in your eyes, I am a sinner. I do not deserve to be in your presence. I do not deserve to live. I deserve to be punished for my sins.
But I also know you are merciful. You have sent your son Jesus to die for my sins. You took all my punishment, and put it on Him. Thank you, God!
Today, I pray that you would save me from my sins by the blood of Jesus.
Please conquer the evil in my heart and life, please forgive my sins, please give me a new heart, please adopt me into your family, and please remove me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of your beloved Son Jesus. I commit to live all of my life, from here on out, for you only.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
/\ If you have prayed this prayer for the first time, from the heart, you have become a Christian. Please get in touch with me by commenting or sending me an e-mail form. I’d love to talk more with you about how to grow in your faith!