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Roman Catholicism

Part 2

Last time, we looked at the opportunities afforded to Christian young people (indeed to us all) to positively witness for Christ to Roman Catholics. We considered various reasons why many of them are disillusioned with “religion” and suggested some ways in which we might evangelise them. Nothing is impossible with God.

Now we turn our attention to the devout Roman Catholic who, notwithstanding some disappointments, is determined to persevere with his religion. In many ways, he may be easier to witness to than the secular Roman Catholic and may welcome a conversation. Some things to remember include:

There may be the common ground of an acquaintance with the Bible.
The devout Roman Catholic may have some knowledge of his Bible and use it to defend the errors of his church. This common ground can be used to advantage. However, we need to establish that the Bible can only be interpreted in a way that is entirely consistent with itself. This will invariably lead to the Evangelical truth that we embrace. He may run to the declarations of Church Fathers or various Church Councils. We neither want nor need to get bogged down in needless arguments over the Church Fathers!  This can be avoided by pointing out that they cannot be right if they contradict the writings of the Scriptures. Don’t let the conversation get away from the Bible. This alone is described as being the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)

We should centre on the fundamental issues and not side issues.
Debates surrounding Peter’s marriage or Mary’s children are side issues. Our opportunity to witness may be relatively short and we should make as much hay as we can while the sun shines. Keep to those great truths that are more likely to lead to conversion. For Luther, it was the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law.  In my witnessing, I always try to emphasise both the freeness of God’s salvation: it is without money and without price. Another doctrine I bring forth is the absolute sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Flowing from these glorious truths is the fact that the child of God can have assurance of salvation. This is something a consistent Roman Catholic can never claim. Not only does his works-based religion prevent this, but his church officially anathematizes him if he should so claim. Admittedly this is an experience centred argument, but it may penetrate the defences of the yearning Roman Catholic. It is, after all, an experience based on the truths of God’s word and therefore admissible.

Handle specific doctrinal disputes very carefully.
Sometimes, despite all efforts to the contrary, you do end up dealing with subjects such as the doctrine of the Mass or Mary’s role in the redemption of the soul. You need to be aware of what Rome teaches on these issues and how to refute her error. You need to avoid giving the impression that the Protestant (and by implication, the Bible) has no answer to these teachings. This controversy has raged for hundreds of years and there are many helpful resources out there. Although written over 60 years ago, Lorraine Boettner’s ‘Roman Catholicism’ is still the main reference book. This is because Rome has not fundamentally changed in her main doctrines for hundreds of years. Boettner’s book may still be located in second hand bookshops and is available in its entirety online. There are other more recent resources. You do need, however, to be very discerning if you engage the services of the Internet. Some claims made about Rome, and arguments used to try and refute her, are not particularly helpful. Let us not fall into the trap of throwing whatever comes to hand at the Pope! This will prove only to be counterproductive.

Leave the ground ready for another opportunity to witness to the Roman Catholic.
This may be you again, or God may use another Christian. The important thing is to leave the Roman Catholic with a favourable impression. It is important that we, as Evangelical Protestants are reasonable people to talk to. If you perceive that an argument is starting, then it might be better to walk away until things cool down. Also be careful as to the resources you may choose to give.  I remember once giving a devotee of the Virgin Mary a recording of a Protestant minister preaching on the errors of Rome. The tape was duly copied and passed on. The preaching style and content, while substantially correct, took no prisoners. My erstwhile friend was offended and I had to work hard over a two-year period to get the relationship back to where it was before I gave him the tape. I learned the hard way.

Encourage your devout Roman Catholic contact to attend gospel meetings with you.
You might also introduce them to those Roman Catholics who have converted to Jesus Christ. Like Ezekiel, these converts have sat where the Roman Catholic is now sitting.  Whereas the rest of us are merely looking in and working on what other people tell us, they know the background by experience. Be aware that such an invite may lead to a reciprocal invite to attend the Roman Catholic Mass with them.  Here your principles of evangelism and separation clash. Although this two-way invite sounds reasonable, yet the reality is that it is not a level playing pitch at all. You have the spirit of truth and they possess the spirit of error. However, there is nothing to be lost by extending the invite, risk or otherwise.

The Christian has something in his witnessing that his Roman Catholic friends cannot produce. After the Christian has done his homework properly and sought to avoid some of the pitfalls already stated, he may totally and prayerfully rely upon the sovereign work of God. The sower does not sow God’s word to see it return unto him void. Our labour is never in vain in the Lord. Even the stoutest heart may be subdued by the saving grace of God. Most of the Reformers were devout Roman Catholics and some were strong, persecuting priests. Yet God not only saved them as individuals, but used them to bring about the great revival in Europe and further afield. The same God still lives today and we should serve Him in witnessing not only to Roman Catholics, but to all He sends across our paths.

Mr Colin Maxwell.