Is Catholicism really bad?
I was raised Roman Catholic. So what does this mean? Have I been living a
lie? What’s wrong with doing good things and living a good Christian life?
Is Catholicism really that bad? I’m really, really confused right now.
Thanks so much for your question. I too was raised as a Catholic and it is easy to be confused as you discover differences between Catholics and Protestants.
There are a few things to say in response to your question.
Firstly, what is your motivation for doing good things and living a good Christian life? What do you think ‘a good Christian life’ is? For a Catholic (and I’m speaking generally) the motivation arises out of the view that by doing good things you can achieve eternal life, but from a Protestant Christian perspective doing good things alone doesn’t save you but rather doing good flows out of being saved by the person and work of Jesus Christ. Reversing these two around is what leads to a lot of confusion. So, there is nothing wrong with doing good things (keep doing them!) but understanding the motivation for doing them is crucial. Another way of saying the same thing is to say that no-one can do good things unless they themselves are good -‘for how can a bad tree bear good fruit’ (Mat 7:18). Jesus is saying here that doing good things only flows out of being good - the only way to be good in God’s eyes is to be ‘justified by faith alone’.
This leads to my second point, being justified by faith alone is a big difference between Christians and Protestants. The term is a technical one and means that you can only be right before God on the basis of faith. But faith is not a ‘good thing’ that we do as we learn that ‘faith’ in Eph 2:8-10 is given to us by God and so in fact it is totally and utterly the work of God to declares us right. We can bring nothing so to speak.
Following on from this, thirdly, is the Catholic view of the ‘image of God’ and sin. Back in Gen 1:26 God says he made mankind in ‘our image, in our likeness’. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Gen 3 Catholics say that ‘the image’ wasn’t greatly affected by the fall so there is still a way for us to know God by reason. On the other hand, a Protestant Christian perspective says that sin totally and utterly destroyed us knowing anything about God by ourselves, we need God to reveal himself to us. This is what the rest of the Bible goes on to do from Gen 4 onwards climaxing in the sending of Jesus as the fullest revelation of himself - ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9)
So, is Catholicism really that bad? Well, it does confuse the priority of justification over ‘doing good’ so in that sense it is bad as it doesn’t reflect what the Bible is saying. This aspect of the priority of justification is central to understanding the whole Bible so Catholicism is not doing us any favours in confusing the two ideas.
Hopefully this has helped to start clearing away some of your confusion…but as it is with these things there is heaps more to be said. Please keep asking questions if you are still confused.
Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au