Recently, some Christians recommended to me the teachings of John MacArthur to help me find my way back to the straight and narrow as they understood it. When I looked up his biography, I noticed the section that mentioned that John MacArthur doesn’t believe that Catholics are Christians. I was reminded of a similar mindset in the Left Behind novels, it mentions that not many Catholics were raptured – only some were, but the Pope was among the raptured as he embraced some of Martin Luther’s teachings and did not believe in traditional Catholic teachings while many who were not raptured did believe according to traditional Catholic teachings.
Growing up, I didn’t really interact with the Catholic communities nearby. Occasionally it would be mentioned that they were the weird ones who paid too much attention to Mary, had all sorts of confusing rituals, and didn’t do things the right way – the way we did them. It wasn’t until we hosted a Catholic exchange student for a year that we got to see how she lived out her faith day in and day out. Our youth group was impressed by her, as she seemed more kind, more patient, more caring, more considerate, more knowledgeable, more wise, and more Christian than all of us combined. Not long after she returned to her own country, our pastor gave a sermon in which he declared that anyone who didn’t believe exactly as our denomination taught was a heretic who wouldn’t get to go to Heaven. The youth group realized that this meant that our Catholic friend wouldn’t join us in Heaven one day. We decided that all we really needed to believe in was Jesus – all of the other -isms and -tions are secondary and non-essential. By believing that we needed only Jesus, we knew that she too, would make it into Heaven. This put us at odds with the pastor and our denomination. It wasn’t long before the whole youth group just quit showing up to church. As far as we were concerned, we didn’t want to go to a heaven where only Protestants knew the magic words. We wanted a heaven were anyone who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved – any sincere believer in any denomination, even non-denominationalists, would celebrate with us one day in Heaven.
So it scares me to see prominent people with a far-reaching audience have the opportunity to speak ill of other Christians – to declare that my brothers and sisters in the faith really aren’t part of the family of God. Doesn’t he know that his denomination is a spiritual descendant of Catholicism and both are descendants of the one original church? To declare that Catholics are not Christian, then we’d have to declare were even less Christian than that!
History tells me that Catholics and Protestants haven’t always gotten along. Sometimes they were pitted against each other, other times they willingly engaged in conflict against each other, and every now and then they peacefully co-existed. Something tells me that we’ve spent so much time arguing over our differences that we don’t realize how much we have in common. I have no doubt that Catholics are every bit as Christian as Protestants and Protestants are every bit as Christian as Catholics – we do agree on the essentials: that everyone who calls upon Jesus’ name will be saved. So we have to be careful as to the teachers we choose, and to ignore the voices of those who declare they know who is in and who is out, who really is a Christian and who really isn’t.