Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and the Biblical Gospel

The Roman Catholic Church also instructs and expects its members to place fides implicita (implicit faith) in submitting to the organization and its interpretations of Scripture. Cyprian, an early church father and the bishop of Carthage, developed a formula that was formative of Roman Catholic understanding of the relationship of the church to salvation. The classic formula espoused by Cyprian is the statement, extra ecclesiam nulla salutis. Extra means “outside of” or “apart from.” Ecclesiam means “the church.” Nulla means “none” or “no.” Salus means “salvation.” So Cyprian declared, “Outside of the church, no salvation.” Therefore, it is necessary for a person to be concretely, really and visibly within the membership of the Roman Catholic Church. This view, despite being subject to controversy even within the church, has nonetheless been part of its official doctrine for centuries, and remains in the current version of the Catechism.

Perhaps the most telling example of the Roman Catholic Church’s acceptance of Cyprian’s view is in its own name, commonly referred to as the Catholic Church. The word “catholic” originally meant “universal,” and when it appeared in the early Christian creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed, “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” simply acknowledged the union that all people around the world have with each other, who are spiritually united with Christ. This is in line with the New Testament teaching that believers everywhere comprise the true body of Christ (John 10:16, Romans 12:4-6, I Corinthians 1:2-3, I Corinthians 12:5-14, 26-27, Ephesians 2:19-22, 4:4-6). In this sense, Protestants consider ourselves “catholic” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV: Of the Church, line 2). While we don’t usually use that word in order to avoid confusion, we also won’t resign the use of the word to any single organization.

So, it is a misnomer to use the word “catholic” to define a single visible institution such as the Roman Catholic Church, as it discounts the legitimacy of believers elsewhere but the name “Catholic Church” is epithetical to its view of itself as essential to the salvation of Christians, as the lines are blurred between one’s identity in Christ, and his identity in the church.

(CCC 181) “‘Believing’ is an ecclesial act. the Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. the Church is the mother of all believers. ‘No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother’ (St. Cyprian, De unit. 6: PL 4, 519).”

(CCC 182) “We believe all ‘that which is contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed’ (Paul VI, CPG # 20).”

(CCC 846) “How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.”

(CCC 1814) “Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith ‘man freely commits his entire self to God.’ For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Living faith ‘work(s) through charity.'”

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apologetics, church history, justification, Reformation, systematic theology