A concerned parent writes, “My child is about to marry a very sweet person who is Roman Catholic. I have always regarded Catholics as ‘outside the pale,’ so to speak. Is my child’s future spouse possibly an evangelical Christian also?”
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Catholics, like Protestants and Orthodox Christians, are individual people. In some parts of the world, many of them believe and practice a lot of nonbiblical superstitions — some of which stand quite opposed to the gospel of justification by grace through trust in Jesus Christ. Many other Catholics, particularly in the USA and Western Europe, do not. Since Vatican II, American Catholics have been increasingly getting into the Scriptures, focusing on Jesus, experiencing charismatic renewal, and looking a great deal more like the kind of Christians with which evangelicals are familiar.
It is sobering for me to remember that for many, many centuries, most of God’s people in the Western hemisphere did not have any viable option to a very superstitious and sometimes corrupt ecclesiastical Roman Catholicism. Nor did they have Bibles in their own language — and they could not have read them if they had. Yet they served God and worshipped him in the only way they knew. Will God take all that into account when he finally judges them? I must suppose that he will.
God doesn’t deal with people by church affiliation but on an individual basis as he sees the heart. And Scripture assures us more times than one that no person who puts saving trust in Jesus Christ will be left hanging out to dry (my paraphrase). Thank God, our salvation finally does not depend on our own ability to do, think or experience anything perfectly, but on the certain ability of a loving, sovereign God to grasp us and to hold on! If we keep our hand in the one that bears the nail-scars, we may be very sure that he will never ever leave us or forsake us. And that, in the end, depends on the faithful heart of God our Savior, not the name on the sign above the church-house door.