John Wycliffe lived as a Roman Catholic priest. John Wycliffe died as a Roman Catholic Priest.
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):
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.")
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.