Talking to Catholics

Recently, I have had some interesting run-ins with some Roman Catholics (RCs) on the OkState campus, at a table called “Ask a Catholic.”  Naturally, being the person I am, I couldn’t resist, and I was surprised to actually have some profitable and respectful discourse with them.

I have to say up front:  I do believe the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) to be a heretical organization, institutionally apostate, and preaching a false gospel (cf. the Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon IX and XI).  That said, I want to stress “organization” and “institution”, as I don’t believe everyone in it to be unbelievers.  But I fear a large majority are.  For this reason, I want to believe that I went to the table with good motives, to express the true Gospel of Christ, with the hope of seeing them respond in repentance and faith in the blood atonement, imputed righteousness, and mediatory work of Christ alone.

While obviously I have disagreements, the RCs I did speak with have been very cordial and have engaged in reasonable discourse (it is hard to get that from the Mormon table).  For that I am thankful.  I wanted to treat them in like respect, but being firm on the fact that I believe their gospel to be false, and encouraging them to think it out.  I have witnessed countless times forums and blogs of those who disagree with the RCC, and do so in a spiteful…almost hateful…manner.  It is telling at the end of my discussion, when the RC says to me, “I have never actually had a good conversation with a Calvinist before, it usually digresses quickly into so many other things.”  I did not find that hard to believe, unfortunately, as I believe some Calvinists believe in their own worthiness of election.

I am writing this as somewhat of a suggestion when speaking to RCs, because I believe that the conversation can rabbit-trail very easily into transubstantiation, saints, Mary worship, the pope, and any number of other subjects.

What I believe to be the most important focal point is the Gospel, and primarily the doctrine of Justification.  I think everything else listed above can easily branch off of how you understand this doctrine.

The Gospel is the dividing line and the biggest disagreement between the RCC and protestants, this cannot be overstated, since it is the tendency these days to push the Gospel to the back of all discussions in order to attain unity.  The RCC dogmatically preaches a works based salvation, unabashedly I might add.  It is reliant upon your choices, and the Gospel either succeeds or fails based on your ability to do good works.

Some things to keep in mind:

-As with any discussion, keep the focus upon one line of thought, in this case (and in most) that should be the Gospel.  Specifically Justification.  Otherwise you easily get off topic and never actually say anything.  Rather it is just a competition of who can throw out the most proof-texts.

-I’d recommend looking up infused vs. imputed (or forensic) righteousness and understanding their meaning.  Catholic = Infused, Protestant = Imputed.  Understanding this can make a world of difference.

-Always bring it back to Scripture.  While a RC may not affirm sola scriptura, they will affirm the Scripture’s legitimacy and innerancy.  If infallible Tradition contradicts Scripture, which will they rely upon 9 times out of 10?  Tradition.

-Recognize your own sinfulness.  This is mostly for me, as I am easily puffed up, and quickly disregard my own unworthiness of salvation.  This can lead to a disdain towards others if I don’t set my mind in the right perspective.  But I try to express to those the comfort, peace, and joy I find in the imputed righteousness of Christ…an unmerited Salvation given to me apart from my works and by no means reliant upon them, but on a faithful substitute.

For more information on Roman Catholicism I direct you to :  (It’s a very good resource).


~ by TSL on December 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “Talking to Catholics”

  1. Hello

    I was directed to your blog by a friend; I contribute to DiscoverOrthodoxy ( and, as an OSU student, have also had the fortune of talking often with the Roman Catholic guys at their table. I have to say that I have befriended some of them and find them quite knowledgeable.

    Obviously, you may not want to put this info out on the web, but is there any way I might know you? The Reformed community in Stillwater is rather small so the odds might be good.

    Anyway, I liked your post and think you highlighted on some good points. What I have learned in dialogue with them is that you have to put yourself out of the evangelical worldview. I often cite their own church councils in discussion but most importantly have to remember that they don’t operate under the individualized “got saved” mentality that most of us Protestants are prone toward in some way or another (still trying to rid myself of that). It’s all about apostolic authority and pneumatic unity with them.

    The issue on which I got some headway was that of transubstantiation in its logical denial of the doctrines set forth in the Definition of Chalcedon, the hypostatic union.

    I was directed to the local Father for my answers.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this, perhaps we shall meet again on this blogosphere.


    Caleb Roberts

    • Hey Caleb,

      Thanks for the comment. Not sure we’ve ever met, but I sent you a friend invitation on Fbook. Do you attend the PCA church?

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