Can You Risk Not Knowing the Truth?

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION: We become children of God by accepting Jesus as our Savior, nothing is said about the church. The church is only a fellowship structure to hand down the truth about our need for salvation. Jesus does not say that the church is the way or that no one comes to him except through the church. Jesus alone is the way!

SCRIPTURE: John 14:6: Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."

CATHOLIC TRUTH: Jesus here speaks of himself as "the way and the truth and the life." The critic above quoted this text to illustrate that the church is only a bearer of the proclamation and that Jesus alone is the way to salvation. This viewpoint shows a terrible ignorance of the Scriptures. The "way" would come to refer, not only to Jesus, but to Christianity and to the Church herself (Acts 18:25; 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4). Christ, indeed, is the way to the Father; his exodus from darkness to light opens the road to salvation for all of us. We are invited to travel that road; such is our participation with Christ. The Church comes to be understood as also the way because she has, in actuality, taken this road.

We find something of this in 1 Peter 2:9: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against the soul." Often read at funeral liturgies we have the text of 2 Corinthians 5:1-7: "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight." Moving to 1 Corinthians, we read in the context of the roles and gifts in the Church: "But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent WAY" (12:31).

The Church is where we find ourselves in the earthly pilgrimage. It is by means of her divine mysteries as the great sacrament of salvation that we encounter Christ. Imbued with the presence of her Savior, the Church is the new chosen People of God. She is inseparable from her Lord and Redeemer. Christ's way is illumined by her presence in the world. Christ's truth is fearlessly proclaimed in a world that still counts the Gospel as foolishness. Christ's offer of eternal life is realized in her saints and all life is defended from the womb to the tomb. Without the Church, we would be an orphaned people, quick to lose our way.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS, who gave himself as a ransom for all.

CATHOLIC TRUTH: Okay, Catholics also believe that Jesus is the Mediator and Redeemer. The role of Mary, the saints, and the believing Church does not diminish this truth. Just a few verses earlier, the words of Paul attest to this much: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, INTERCESSIONS, and thanksgivings be made for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1). I am at a lost as to how the anti-Catholic critic could have missed this; no doubt, his agenda of hatred blinded him to the truth. Indeed, given this context, it is understood that this intercessory liturgical prayer can also be made for pagans and it receives its efficacy from the presence of the saving Lord within the community of salvation, the Church. Verse five may have actually been an early creedal statement of faith similar to the Jewish shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

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Revised on April 30, 1998.