Why Will Catholics Go To Hell?

A Response

While reading I came across a discussion seeking answers to the question: Why Will Catholics Go To Hell? Being that there can be few who hate the monumental institution calling itself the Roman Catholic Church more than I do, I lingered for a time, reading some of the responses – both pro and con the declaration. In those hundreds of posts and replies, I did not notice anything that I had not seen before – over and over and over again on this Internet, in the battle lines of the Pro-Life movement, in the media and in my own personal encounters with defenders and denouncers of Catholicism. That this was so saddened me.

In a very real sense, I have devoted the great bulk of the 20 years since Christ entered my life to my often-declared war with Romanism. I have debated on the nature of Catholicism with priests of that cult, engaged in extended Internet and email exchanges with some of the more qualified online champions of Catholic Church, and innumerable foolish people who were no more qualified to discuss the doctrines and practices of Catholicism than I am to teach quantum physics. And I have interacted with some well-meaning but poorly informed souls, not all of whom were wearing Catholic chains.

What saddened me was seeing arguments based on emotionalism rather than verifiable research in Scripture, Catholic source documents and history. And so I am moved to post this paper. My purpose is to plead with readers to do a little research and, as appropriate, prayerful preparation prior to taking a stand on either side of issues such as this one. It is easy to imply that all Catholics are going to hell. I believe that a great many Catholics will stand with the goats on Judgment Day – as will many who profess the Christian or some other faith system, but what do we have to back up a categorical declaration that ALL Catholics are going to Hell?

There is no point in trotting out proof texts to “prove” the point, from which ever side one stands on. I likely have read them many times and used or challenged them often. I do not doubt for an instant that Catholicism proclaims as many heresies as there are stars in the firmament, or that participating in Catholic ritual or practice must surely be an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. That is a given. Similarly, I do not doubt that, even in the most arcane of Catholic foundational and subsequent documents one might occasionally encounter biblical truth proclaimed and understood as God intends. For example, it is a dogma of the RCC that the Trinitarian Godhead includes three distinct Persons; the Father, the Logos and the Holy Spirit. Rome proclaims that Christ was crucified and died according to prophecy, was buried and, again according to prophecy, rose up from the grave and was seen by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of folks who knew or recognized Him in life. Aren’t these the same things that the evangelical church holds to be God’s truth?

On the other hand, I see soi-disant Christian churches and communities proclaiming doctrines that are in clear opposition to the clear teaching of Scripture. I see “Christian” evangelists promising salvation in return for what they call love offerings or as a promised result of “coming on down” to the front of the assembly area and repeating a foolish “sinner’s prayer;” even though Scripture tells us that it is God who saves those whom He elects to salvation and that man has no part in the process.

I am not writing to defend Catholicism, or any other false religious system; nor is it my purpose to denounce all professing Christian bodies. What I am taking a stand against is the unfortunate tendency of some folks on both sides of this, or just about any other issue, to claim that they KNOW the eternal state of another based solely on that person’s religious affiliation or lack thereof. We see in Scripture that Christ, the Perfect Judge, will separate the sheep from the goats as individuals, not according to church affiliation.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
- Matthew 7:20-23

To take the position that all Catholics, or Lutherans, or Church of Christ members will go to Hell or any other place because of their religious affiliation or lack thereof is the product of prejudice, not discernment. Scripture tells us that only God knows the heart, yet to state categorically that ALL Catholics, or anyone else for that matter are Hell-bound is, in a sense, laying claim to an ability unique to God. We know from Scripture what happened to another who dared to covet God's power (Ezekiel 28:12-19)

I do not doubt that a great many who are in bondage to the Roman Catholic Church may well find themselves standing with the goats on Judgment Day. However, I also do not doubt that some who fly Romish colors will be among the sheep. One might ask how that can be, given that the Catholic Church requires that her members worship created beings, or idols, etc., and we know from Scripture that such things are an abomination to God.

In declaring that all who embrace the Catholic banner are doomed is to deny God’s power to call even the most depraved or degenerate of men or women out of the darkness and into the pure light of His grace. In our evangelical churches, we teach that when God chooses to call a sinner to salvation, justification is instantaneous, as is the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the new saint, who now is a child of God by adoption (Romans 8:10-17).

Sanctification, on the other hand, is a process that begins with regeneration and continues for so long as the new saint lives. This being the case, I do not believe it unreasonable to consider that, even within the darkness of Romanism, one might discover a brother or sister in Christ who is saved, but still working on sanctification.

My counsel is to attack the institution that is the apostate Catholic Church with great and unremitting vigor, but to deal with individual Catholics on a one-to-one basis, and doing the same with all others who claim to be saved. If one doesn’t view people as individuals, but judges them according to the herd they claim membership in, then it is possible that one might hinder the sanctification process of a newly-regenerated saint.

And that’s about all I have to say about that.

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