Wednesday, May 30, 2012

John Wycliffe—A man who was a Roman Catholic Priest

As I finished reading this biography on John Wycliffe, this simple fact hit me hard.

John Wycliffe lived as a Roman Catholic priest. John Wycliffe died as a Roman Catholic Priest.

Or to say it another way: The Morning Star of the Reformation was a Roman Catholic.

Sort of ironic, don’t you think?

So here is the $144,000 question I want to try to answer: Can a Roman Catholic be a Christian?

Well….before I give my answer, I need to make a couple general statements.

First, please understand I am not intentionally trying to pick a fight or offend any Roman Catholic.

I mean it. I was very hesitant to write this blog post because I have many family members that I love dearly that are Roman Catholic.

Second, the main issue is the gospel.

This is always the main issue. The only way that Roman Catholics and Christians are the same (i.e. they belong or identified as the same group) is if their understanding of the gospel is the same.

So before we can answer the primary question (“Can a Roman Catholic be a Christian?”), we must find out if the gospel according to Rome is the same as the gospel according to Jesus.

Let's start with this, "How is an individual "justified" (i.e. made right before God)?

Below is an excellent summary of the differences between Roman Catholics and Christians (another point of irony....the author used to be Protestant, now he converted to Roman Catholicism): 

Roman Catholic

Protestant and “Bible only” Christian

Justification is a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour [5]
Justification is God’s judicial declaration that the sinner is counted as just or righteous by virtue of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ [6]

Justification is an on-going process (Key word: process)

Justification is one-time event (Key word: one-time event)
Because Justification is an on-going process, it starts when God, without any merit from us [8], takes the initiative to draw us to believe in Christ (John 6:44). It includes Sanctification, remission of sin and renewal of inner man [9]. Faith in Christ, a free gift from God, is necessary and marks the beginning of our Justification [10]. Scripture says we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and through Sanctification (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Through (on-going process) Justification the righteousness of God through Christ is infused by the Holy Spirit in us or through Justification we are made righteous [12], as stated in Romans 5:19.

Justification is by Grace [18]

Catholics do not believe in Justification by works [19].
Throughout our (on-going process) Justification God always takes the initiative to save us. His Grace will move us, first to believe in Christ as Lord and Saviour, and later to obey His commandment [20], be they loving one another, praying, sharing faith, avoiding sin, repenting from sin etc. Without God’s Grace through Christ we can do nothing as Scripture says apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5).


Justification is conferred in Baptism [63]. Baptism is necessary for salvation of those who hear the Gospel (Mark 16:16. 1 Peter 3:21) and have chance to take it [64]. Through Baptism we are cleansed from original sin, other sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16) and all punishment for sins [65] – we are therefore regenerated (Titus 3:5) and born anew (Romans 6:3-4) as sons of God [66], become members of His Church [67] and receive the grace of justification [68], i.e. Sanctifying Grace. According to Scripture there are mortal (deadly) and non-deadly sins (1 John 5:16-17). Sanctifying Grace is lost through committing mortal sin [69] – we regain it back when moved by grace we repent and are forgiven (by God) through Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation.
Because Justification is one-time event we are justified when we believe in Christ as personal Lord and Saviour or when we become “born-again” Christians.
Sanctification is separated from Justification but there is no Justification without Sanctification [11]
Through (one-time event) Justification the righteousness of Christ is imputed on us or through Justification we are declared righteous [13], as stated in Romans 4:3, 5. We are made righteous through Sanctification, which follows our Justification [14].

Justification is by faith alone [22]

Works are not part of (one-time event) Justification.
Those who follow Lordship Salvation view believe that while we are justified by faith alone, faith that justifies (known as saving or true faith) is not alone, i.e. it will inevitably produce works [23]. A born again Christian will inevitably turn away from his/her old sinful life and will inevitably become new person who shows the fruits of his/her faith through good works. Luther wrote that while faith alone justifies, good works are necessary for salvation [24]. Those who do not turn away from their sinful life (or do not show fruits of faith in their good works) are false believers and will not enter heaven.


Some, like Church of Christ and even Luther [71], consider the necessity of Baptism for our salvation. Calvin denied that Baptism erases original sin [72]. He did believe in Baptism for the forgiveness of sin but stated that the blood of Christ, figured by the water of Baptism, is the one that cleanses us from sin [73]. Calvin also stated that through Baptism all sins, past and future are forgiven, i.e. we don’t need sacrament of Reconciliation [74].
In general, Protestants and “Bible only” Christians consider Baptism only as symbol or public declaration of one’s faith in Christ – it neither regenerate us nor forgive our sins [75].

Here is the bottom line: Roman Catholics and Christians do not have the same view of justification.

Roman Catholics believe that we cooperate with God in the process of justification, but evangelical Christians believe that justification is an action of God alone.

But doesn't the Roman Catholic position state that God alone initiates justification? Yes, that is true. ("Because Justification is an on-going process, it starts when God, without any merit from us, takes the initiative to draw us to believe in Christ.")

So yes. God takes the initiative or God starts the process of justification, but human cooperation is needed during the process of justification. 

Therefore, the claim that Roman Catholicism promotes a "work-based" salvation is valid. Human cooperation to any degree means "work-based".

And if Roman Catholicism promotes a "work-based" salvation, then there is a undeniable conflict with the words of Ephesians 2.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)


Enough of the preliminary stuff. It is time to answer the question, "Can a Roman Catholic be a Christian?"

Yes....I believe it is possible. Yet I would also assert that most Roman Catholics are not saved because they are trusting in their own righteousness (i.e. the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification), not in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul gives testimony of the basis of his salvation in Philippians 3.

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith"   (Phil. 3:8-9)

So who is the type of Roman Catholic that is a true follower of Christ? I am hesitant to give an answer, but I will try.

Maybe this is an individual who stays in the Catholic Church for family reasons and yet personally understands and believes the true, unadjusted gospel.

Maybe this is an individual who is illiterate and therefore, cannot read the scriptures for himself /herself. But again, this individual must have heard the gospel and responded by faith to the person and work of Jesus Christ and Him alone to be reconciled to God.

To be honest, I cannot understand how any Roman Catholic who has a bible (and consistently reads it) stays in the Roman Catholic Church.

So was John Wycliffe, the Roman Catholic priest, a Christian?

Well, I obviously don't know the heart of Wycliffe, but I sure hope so. He appropriately challenged many aspects of Roman Catholicism. For example, he challenged the elevation of tradition, the doctrine of the church, the divine intention of "the Church and the State" and the authority of the Pope. Yet it is puzzling that Wycliffe never seemed to challenge the issues relates to Rome's view of salvation, specifically, the doctrine of justification.

The fate of Wycliffe has been sealed for centuries, but modern-day Catholics still have an opportunity.

Therefore, I want to encourage any Roman Catholic to ask this question of themselves.

"If you died today and God were to ask you, 'Why should I let you into My Heaven?', what would your answer be"?

If your answer mentions your good works, your church attendance, your tithing, your charitable giving....even your baptism rather than your personal trust in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ and His righteousness ALONE, then you should be very concerned about your standing with God.


  1. I have so much to say ! While I formulate my next blogpost (thanks for the material!). I will just say that most Catholics are Christians, anyone who is Baptised is a Christian by definition.

    I think what you mean is who is saved, well God only knows, but as a former Evangelical now Catholic, I can tell you that the Catholic Church's teaching is more in line with Christ, the New Testament, and the teaching of the Apostles.

    One need only read the Church Fathers of the first and second century to see how the first Christians put the teachings of the Apostles into practice.

    Ok there is a preview. More to come!


  2. I have written a full rebuttal of your allegations and opinions listed in this blog. Once again it is quite lenghty so you can view it on my blog, Finding the Catholic Church. The url is below and I look forward to much more discussion regarding the rift that unnecessarily divides our faiths.

    God Bless,


  3. Here is the introduction to my post....

    Today, I am writing a blog response to another post on the

    "Listening to the Giants" Blog

    The blog post presented in this case is titled:

    John Wycliffe- A man who was a Roman Catholic Priest.

    The author of the blog in typical Holier than Thou, Evangelical America style asks the profound question “Can a Roman Catholic be a Christian?” The author does stress that he does not wish to offend, but let’s face it, this is offensive language, particularly when the ignorance behind the statements are understood. It should also be noted that he is not really asking if a Roman Catholic can be a Christian, he is asking “Can Roman Catholics be saved like my friends and I are.” In fact, his conclusion pretty much emphasized this point saying,

    “Yes…I believe it is possible. Yet I would also assert that most Roman Catholic’s are not saved because they are trusting in their own righteousness not in the righteousness of Jesus Christ……So who is the type of Roman Catholic that is a true follower of Christ?....Maybe this is an individual that stays in the Catholic Church for family reasons and yet personally understands and believes the true, unadjusted gospel. Maybe this is an individual who is illiterate and therefore, cannot read the scriptures for himself….To be honest I cannot understand how any Roman Catholic who has a Bible (and consistently reads it) stays in the Roman Catholic Church.”

    What? Are you serious? I would laugh about this, but as a former devout Evangelical Christian who was so certain of my Sunday School teaching, and blindly followed my mega church pastor and all that went before him, I know that sadly this fellow is not joking. There is a serious misconception about Catholicism in the Protestant World here in America. I seriously have to question how many practicing Catholic’s this gentlemen talks to, how many priests he has listened to sermons of? How many Catholic Apologists he has reviewed?

    I am almost certain the answer is none.

    I would bet that this person’s exposure to Roman Catholic’s may be in the form of a few co workers, family, or other acquaintences that don’t know their faith, and probably a smattering of fallen away Catholics that also do not understand the Catholic faith, oh and there of course is the Protestant Seminary education (or lack there of) regarding Catholicism. I hope that this post, if he reads it, will help him to understand how far off he is in truly understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He mentions that Catholic’s rely on their own righteousness, this of course is false, but I would say that Catholic’s rely no more on our own righteousness, then Evangelical’s rely on their own traditions and intellect.

    So to start my rebuttal, I think we need to answer the question he proposes: "To know who is a Christian (who is saved), one needs to see if they are practicing the Gospel according to Jesus."

    So enough about what I think of all this. What does Jesus think of this?

    Find out at my blog

  4. I just put together that you attended John MacArthur's seminary. I have I viewed his sermons against Catholicism and it is truly sad how he has relied on anti catholic sources for his information instead of true catholic teaching. MacArthur's anti catholic rhetoric brings into question the intellectual honesty of the rest of his teaching.

  5. Every Christian prior to the different branches of the Reformation belonged to the same, one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church. For a Protestant Christian to claim the Catholic Church and Catholics are un-Christian is like the tiniest twig on the tip-top branch of a tree to deny its own trunk and roots. And Evangelicals believe in "works" as well, otherwise, they would be in the position of endorsing all kinds of sinful behavior. It is a "work" of faith even to turn away from one's own sins. As with much in understanding the Bible and Christian Faith in general, we have to be willing to grasp both/and aspects. It is both that we are responsible for laying up our treasures in Heaven, and it is through Christ alone and His merits alone that justification occurs. But, as St. Paul says, the works have been prepared in advance for the elect; and through their works, the Lord is glorified. It's a both/and, not an either/or. Also, who do you hear about being persecuted by ISIS? It's not Presbyterians. It's not Baptists. It's Catholics. The oldest Churches in the world are Catholic. Think those babies having their heads cut off for the sake of Christ's name are not "Christian?" Tell that to ISIS. Funny how Christians don't seem to know who their own are, but the enemy manages to figure it out.

  6. Hello Clint,

    Peace be with you. I am thankful for your charity in attempting to present the Catholic position from quoting scripture, but by quoting Ephesians 2:8-9 after just noting that Catholics believe that by no works of our own, we are saved and justified by faith, you seem to use Ephesians 2:8-9 incorrectly.

    Ephesians 2:8-9 declares: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast." This is another text commonly used to dismiss good works as necessary for salvation in the life of a Christian. However, once again, context is the key to understanding Paul. In verses 4-6, he says: "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him . . ."

    Context reveals that St. Paul was talking about the initial grace of salvation or justification by which we are raised from death unto life. The construction of the Greek text of Ephesians 2:8-9 makes clear that both grace and faith are entirely unmerited. Many Protestants are shocked to discover this is precisely what the Catholic Church teaches—and baptizes babies to prove it. How much more can the Church do to demonstrate this truth? What kind of works could a newborn baby have done to merit anything? However, once that baby grows up and reaches the age of accountability, he must begin to "work out [his] own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in [him], both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil 2:12-13). Or, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."