Are Catholics Christian? Why Not Reverse the Question?
A bit over a year ago, the question “Are Catholics Christian?” Prompted me to write a book. The number of Folk who claim to be Catholic that fall victim to well-meaning Evangelical Christians who challenge their faith each year is immense. For most Catholics, this really shouldn’t be a tough question, not because there is no answer, but because the answer is so obvious.
The problem with this question is two-fold:
- the person asking the question truly believes that Catholics are not Christian, and
- there are a propensity of people who are Catholic, in name only, not properly catechized, and living more in the world, than within the Church.
Just what do we mean when we use the term Christian?
Catholics define “Christian” as any person who is baptized and who has faith in Jesus Christ. Insofar as this goes, most Christians from every denomination would agree. This definition of “Christian” is a baseline. It’s the (Orthodox) foundation of our faith.
As an Evangelical, In my younger years, I didn’t actually have a clear definition of what a Christian is, except to say that a “Christian” is someone who has “accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior” or someone who has “been saved” or someone who has “asked Jesus into their heart.” The problem with this definition, as I was taught, is that there is no objectivity to it. Just what does it mean to “accept Jesus into your heart” to “get saved” or “accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior”?
In my particular type of religious experience, having have gone forward at a revival meeting or having prayed the sinner’s prayer or wept for my sins and turned to Jesus, we begin to see a totally alien criteria for being a “Christian.” We then can begin to understand (allowing for a few slight differences in language) that most Catholics have done precisely this.
In my conversion to Catholicism, I began to wonder, if all of Christian doctrine and teachings were to be found in the Bible (Sola Scriptura), just where do we find things like the “Sinner’s prayer,” or even “accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”
If the sinner’s prayer is a way of rejecting the world, the flesh and the devil and believing in Christ as Savior and Lord, then this is precisely what happens within the Catholic baptism rite. Repenting of one’s sins and accepting the forgiveness of Christ is precisely what happens when a Catholic goes to confession. Repenting of sins and accepting Christ is exactly what happens at Mass.
The Evangelical is not comfortable with this because it all happens with “somebody just reading prayers out of a book.” But why should the Catholic liturgy with set prayers and set music and hymns be any worse than the “liturgy” of the Evangelical preacher who follows a set formula for preaching, for giving the altar call and using the same emotional music?
So, are Catholics Christian? Of course. They’ve repented of their sins. They’ve accepted the forgiveness of Christ. They’ve rejected the world, the flesh and the devil. They’ decided to follow Christ within the faith of the Church.
This comparison between Evangelical and Catholic Christianity is something I have written on extensively in my eBook “Authentic Faith, Radical Transformation, and Contemplative Prayer.” (https://www.amazon.com/Authentic-Radical-Transformation-Contemplative-Prayer-ebook/dp/B01G63YZ8C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515431423&sr=8-1&keywords=Authentic+Faith+callahan)In this book, I encourage Catholics to undertake a radical journey that has the potential to transform their lives into something the world at large finds reprehensible — a life led by the Holy Spirit of God, and faith in Jesus Christ, rather than in the wisdom of this age.
Therefore question before you should transform into “Are Evangelical Protestants Christian,” and “How much of the Christian faith do they embrace?” Evangelicals tend to follow a reduced, minimalist version of the faith. Catholics wish to have it all. It’s like choosing between a cracker and grape juice or a Seven-course gourmet feast.
It takes much more to be a Catholic or Christian than simply believing in the existence of God —the devil believes that God exists!
”Believing has to change the way we live” ~Mother Angelica
I guess you could survive on grape juice and crackers, but if you don’t mind I’ll take the gourmet feast.