Is it important to be part of the “True Church”?

Pope Benedict XVI has reminded the world that Roman Catholicism is not as quick to embrace Protestantism as many would like to believe.

According to an AP news article released today, Pope Benedict says that Orthodox churches are defective and that other Christian denominations are not true churches.

As pleased as I have been with his willingness to speak with clarity concerning his position on Islam, I suspected this was indicative of a more conservative understanding of the decisions made at Vatican II. Indeed, in this document, the Vatican is setting the record straight on Vatican II.

Whether the Pope feels non-Roman Catholics are part of the true church or not is inconsequential in the mind of the Protestant. It surely doesn’t bother me to be part of the Protestant Reformation — in fact it pleases me. But it’s important to understand that Roman Catholicism teaches that salvation comes through “The Church.” Thus, when one says, “You are not part of the true church” he is saying “you do not have access to the medium of salvation — The Church.” The AP article indicates that this is in keeping with earlier writings of Pope Benedict.

The Rev. Sara MacVane of the Anglican Centre in Rome, is right — this is nothing new. But so many Roman Catholics and Protestants alike long for a union with one another, that they’ve forgotten this important distinction. It’s a distinction worthy of note to Pope Benedict and it is the same for Protestants. The issue is the understanding of how one is “saved.” Does salvation from through the Roman Church or through Christ alone?

The AP article notes that there was “no indication about why the pope felt it necessary to release the document.” However, I think part of it is to combat the “inroads” (Pope John Paul II’s word) that Protestantism is making into Roman Catholicism, especially in Latin America.

3 thoughts on “Is it important to be part of the “True Church”?

  1. Hey! I’ve been waiting for a while for something to comment on so I could get my very own account. Huzzah!

    I think that the Pope is right when he says that salvation is through the Church. Scripture says that the Church is Christ’s body– so how could a person be connected to the Head, but not the Body? Our Presbyterian confession says that there is “no ordinary possibility of salvation” outside the Church.

    He’s wrong in his definition of the True Church though. RC’s want their church to have an institutional and hierarchical authority that can be traced (as somebody else said) like the pedigree of a purebred dog. The Reformers said that the authority of a church and its connection with Christ come through the Spirit operating in the Word and Sacrament– not quite so neat and tidy.

    Doug Wilson says that the Epistles in the Bible were written first to various groups of people, and that they are for us in a “secondhand” way. But he points out that the Roman church are the actual intended recipients of the Epistle to the Romans, and the Pope is being addressed by Paul himself when Paul writes “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee” (Rom 11:21).

  2. All I can say is what Jesus said: “I AM the way, the truth and the light. NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT through me.”

    The Pope is right, there is only one way. He’s wrong if he thinks only catholics can “get it”.

  3. Actually, I find the comments refreshing. Benedict is at least espousing a RCC orthodoxy that is miles from JPII’s squishy ecumenism and mysticism. I think we must consider the Pope’s election. LWK was at CUA during the coclave following JPII’s death. Many were surprised that the new Pontiff was not from a 3rd World country…SA of Africa. Benedict seemed to be a compromose candidate and his age was insurance that he would not have a long term a la JPII. It seems the current Pope, who after all was the keeper of theological uprightness for many years at the Vatican, wants to strike a blow for RCC purity a/o reassert same before his term ends. The next Pope will have to address the worldwide issues of he RCC and theological niceties may have to take second, third, ??? fiddle.
    Again, it is refresing to hear someone say in these times of the “equality of ideas”, you are wrong and we are right. At least he is taking on religous pluralism that is the bane of us all today.

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