This is another email I sent in response to questions that were asked.
In addition to the email I was responding to, I have had several recent emails from supporters of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Most are unable to even consider a thought outside their little boxes, and false beliefs about their “grand” heritage puff them up so they can’t imagine that they have to consider anything except their point of view.
This is why I dismiss their claims …
The Fall of the Church
I generally stick to the fathers from before Nicea because I think that after Nicea the church was basically destroyed. In A.D. 300, perhaps 10% of the empire called themselves Christian, but in A.D. 350 it would have been closer to 90%. That number jumped because the emperor “embraced” Christianity, not because the Gospel actually converted 80% of Roman citizens in 50 years.
Christianity Before the Fall
Before Nicea, I find the agreement among Christian writers remarkable. They have a view of the Trinity that is slightly different from ours, but they completely agree among themselves, and the Nicene Creed expresses their view, not ours. Their description of the basics of the faith is consistent, and their understanding of the church, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are consistent.
Church leadership changed over that time. Their church meetings got larger, and so they got more organized, more often, and more centered on leaders.
The Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Trees Bearing Fruit
The problem with the Orthodox and Catholics boils down to one Biblical issue. Jesus said that we would know those who spoke for God by their fruit. The Orthodox and Catholics have not had good fruit for centuries, and at times the fruit of the RCC has been as evil as it is possible to be. Even today, almost all Catholics and Orthodox are Christian in name and ritual only. Their faith really doesn’t affect their behavior, and most of them have no idea what it is like to have the Spirit of God living inside of you.
If the fruit is bad, the tree is bad.
Salvation Outside the Church
Yes, both teach that there is no salvation outside the church. How I wish we could still teach that!!!
In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there was only one church. All churches that held that the apostles had taught the one true Gospel were united. They were holy, they were empowered by God, and they were separate from the world. They were an excellent testimony for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To willingly choose not to be a part of those churches, which constituted the one church and one mother of us all, was clearly a divisive and thus evil act.
Alas, we no longer have such a situation. To choose to be a part of the Catholic or Orthodox church will do you no good at all. If you are holy in their churches, it is because you learned to be holy somewhere else–whether from the Bible or from a Christian that has the Spirit of God. You will not learn to be holy from Catholic or Orthodox teaching.
Thus, they are in no position to say there’s no salvation outside their churches. The fact is, there is very little salvation inside their churches.
Salvation That Is "Revealed"
(Can Be Seen)
Paul said that he was not ashamed of the Gospel because it was the power of God to salvation, producing a justification that was revealed when people believed (Rom. 1:16-17). The RC and Orthodox Gospel produces no such justification.
Words vs. Power
Modern Christians are way too busy throwing words around. The life of Christ is not about words, it is about power. There’s a lot of talk among RC and Orthodox churches, but almost no power. Among Protestants, power to save and justify is found here and there, but you have a lot better shot than among the RC and Orthodox.
My advice is always to look for the people who preach a Gospel that saves and that can be seen to save. You will know the good tree by its fruit, not by its empty words.
Hang with those people, and you will learn the doctrines that God cares about.