The Father William Most Collection
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
James White (The Fatal Flaw, p. 11) thinks Catholicism is not Christian because, as he says, it says the work of Christ is unfinished. He writes: "The atonement of Christ is not dependent upon the disposition of human beings at all, but rather perfects those for whom it is made - it does not remit part of the penalty of sin, but, since it atones perfectly for all sin, it removes all the penalty of sin as well, for where sin is forgiven, no basis for punishment remains.... it can be readily seen why the Reformers and all who hold to Biblical authority, refuse to the Catholic system the name Christian" [emphasis his].
An interesting concept of "perfect"! Luther, whom White considers a "Reformer" wrote to Melanchthon on August 1, 1521 (Works, American Edition. 48, 281-82): "...you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly.... No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day". What a nice "perfect" man! murder and fornication a thousand times a day! And a man who kills 6 others and then himself is also perfect!
No wonder we have crime in our cities. No wonder the District of Colombia is the murder capital of the U.S. No wonder people riot if they do not like a court decision. But they are all perfect!
When they die, God will join them to Himself intimately forever at once! For they are perfect! But suppose they should meet wit the refiner's fire (Malachi 3:2-3): "Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire."
St. Paul says (1 Cor 13:12) that we will see Him face to face. Now of course God has no face, and the soul has no eyes. But yet if we are faithful to Him, we will see Him as directly as I might see you. When I see you I do not take you into my head - I take in an image of you. But there can be no image in between when I see God, for images are finite, God is infinite. So He must join Himself directly to the soul. Will He do that with total corruption? Luther insists we are totally corrupt - not perfect! -in fact, we have no free will (The Bondage of the Will, tr. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, Revell Co., Old Tappan, N.J., 1957, p.273). As a result there is an absolute, blind predestination to heaven or hell. We are, Luther says (pp. 103-04), like a horse. Either God or the devil rides us. We have nothing to say which one rides. We go to heaven or hell accordingly. My! What a perfect man! What a loving God! Many Lutherans do not know of this horrid doctrine. The Missouri Synod of Lutherans (Brief Doctrinal Statement of the Missouri Synod, Concordia, St. Louis, 1932 §14) taught: since we are all "equally and utterly corrupt", and grace is everywhere. Why are not all saved? They reply: "We do not know." They dare not face the truth of what Luther really said. Nor does White. And White forgets that instead of being perfect as he claims, we are all, according to the great "Reformer", totally corrupt! So while White claims Catholicism is not even Christian, we must say White is not even a good Protestant! Instead of calling us totally corrupt, as Luther does, White thinks we are all perfect. And what a perfect man: no free will at all!
White does no better in telling us what St. Paul says than he does in telling us what Luther says. In Romans 8:17: "We are heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him, so we may also be glorified with Him." What need of that, if we are already perfect? But Romans 8:17 is just part of the great syn Christo theme of St. Paul. We are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are members of Christ and like Him. We find this in many places in Paul: Romans 8:9; 6:1-6; Col 3:1-4; Eph 2:5-6. Really, White disobeys the Bible. 2 Peter 3:16 says of the Epistles of St. Paul: "There are many things in them hard to understand, which the unlearned and the unstable twist, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."
So we must not forget: it is one thing for Jesus to earn all forgiveness and grace once for all; another thing for me to receive it. For that, I must be open, to receive. Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:17 which we just cited: "We are heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him so we may also be glorified with him." And as we said, this is just part of the great syn Christo theme in Paul.
Really White slips badly also in saying: A church is not Christian if it thinks the work of Christ is incomplete. Why flatly not Christian? Could one not believe in Christ and still suppose His work is complete, but that we need to be disposed?
If someone steals $1000 from me, and I forgive him, do I thereby tell him: You need not repay it? Of course not. Maybe I should ask to borrow $1000 from White, and never repay it!
Still further, if I had to believe the Catholic Church is not Christian, then I would have to give up on Christ altogether, for He promised to protect His Church until the end. If He lets it teach something unchristian, or lets it teach a false way to salvation for nearly 15 centuries, then Christ has failed and Christ is to be rejected. Would Christ entrust the revival of faith to such an immoral man as Luther, who thought we could kill 1000 men, after 1000 fornications, and then kill ourselves, and at once be joined to God forever?