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WhyTheContradiction wrote:

Hi, guys —

John 3:16 says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

But the Catholic Church says, whosoever will be saved, before all things, it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.

  • Why the contradiction?


  { If John 3:16 is true, why does one have to be a Catholic; why the contradiction? }

Mike replied:

Dear WhyTheContradiction —

Thanks for the good question.

You said:
John 3:16 says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

But the Catholic Church says, whosoever will be saved, before all things, it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.

  • Why the contradiction?

Where's the contradiction?

Let me give you an example in this political season. Let's hypothetically say you are a politically active person and you truly believe that Speaker Gingrich would make a great president.
<Yes, I'm showing my bias.>

  • You put up signs for him
  • You make phone calls for him
  • You make financial contributions to his campaign
  • You support him at rallies by your presence

  • Why?

Because you believe in him and his message to restore America. Your internal belief for him, is proven and manifested publicly in your actions supporting him.

  • If you came out and said to your family and friends: I'm for Newt! but did nothing to prove you believed in his message, but rather supported and financed Democratic values, would you really believe in him?

God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

If you believe in Jesus, you will obey what His Church says and encourage others to join and obey it. Jesus says in Matthew 16, "I will build MY Church". It's Jesus' Church but He chose to found it on a succession of men, starting with St. Peter. "He who hears you, hears me."
(Luke 10:16) If you disagree with the choice Jesus made when he founded His Church,
you don't really believe in Him.

  • So again, where is the contradiction? ... or is the better question:

  • Do you really believe in Him and His Church and are you willing to follow and obey: (Romans 16:26), like the very first martyrs of the Church did?

You said:
whosoever will be saved, before all things, it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.

As my colleague Eric said in another answer:

The Catholic position on salvation of non-believers is that it is possible for those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of Christ and His Church to be saved if they seek God, responding to his grace, and faithfully follow the dictates of their conscience. Explicating this from Scripture would take a whole book but for a start, look at John 9:41, which says,

'Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." '

Thus, we are only accountable for what we know.

I hope this helps,


WhyTheContradiction replied:

Hi, Mike —

I appreciate your reply, however you have not answered my question.

Christ said whoever believed in Him would be saved.

The Catholics says:

"No, not true, they have to belong to the Catholic faith."

In Matthew 16:18, the definition of church is: a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): — assembly, church. This makes no reference to any particular Christian denomination.

You do not agree, per the definition of the Greek word for "church", that any religious congregation, not limited to Catholics only, constitutes His church.


Mike replied:

I intended to answer your question.

Your last statement was:

  • Why the contradiction?

and I basically replied:

There is none. Jesus founded only one faith: the Catholic faith. This is History 101; it's basic.
The Catholic Church is not a denomination, meaning part of a whole; it is the whole faith.

We acknowledge the teachings of other Christian faiths that agree with us, but they still lack the fullness of faith that can only be found in the one Church Jesus established before ascending into Heaven.

If they have been validly baptized, they are indeed part of the Body of Christ, but they don't accept all the teachings He wishes them to accept. The are in partial communion with the Church.

You said:
The Catholics says

"No, not true, they have to belong to the Catholic faith."

Yes, because believing in Jesus means we believe in His Church; you can't separate the two because it's His Church.

I'll let my colleagues handle the Greek portion of your question as that is not my strong suite.


WhyTheContradiction replied:

Christ says one thing and the Catholics say the opposite: There is no contradiction.

Got it!

Thanks for your time.


Paul replied:

WhyTheContradiction —

You state one needs not be Catholic (or any particular religion I would surmise) because Jesus states that whoever believes in Him would be saved. We must ask, however, what He means by "believe" and what is the "Him" that He speaks of.

  • Can we simply assent to a concept or image that we conjure up by reading the Bible?
  • Or does believe infer a living relationship with Him that must be maintained?
  • If so, where is He and how can we maintain it?

Since the time Christ ascended into heaven and the Spirit was sent to give birth to the Church,
it is has been held that this Church, that Christ instituted, and the Spirit forms and animates,
is His extended body.

He continues to live and give (supernatural) Life through His body, the Church to all who seek salvation. Jesus says to His early Church disciples,

"Whatever you say, I say" (Luke 10:16), and "Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me," (Matthew 25:40)

and the risen Jesus said to St. Paul on the road to Tarsus,

"Why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4)

  • Who is the "me" Jesus speaks of?

St. Paul never met Jesus before this and he was only persecuting His Church.

So when Jesus commands us to believe in Him, He is speaking about Himself (as head) and His living Church (as body). And in order to maintain union with Him we must receive His life in the sacraments and live His truth, that is infallibly proclaimed, by the authority He gave His Church on earth.

So believing in Jesus includes His Church.



WhyTheContradiction replied:

Hi Paul,

Jesus said, in affect "any one who believes shall be saved."

"Anyone" is all inclusive. It is not limited to the Catholic faith. Catholics say the opposite.
They say if you are not a Catholic, you are not going to be saved, yet you guys are telling me this is not a contradiction!

Per the definition of the Greek word for "church". Christ established Christianity, not a denomination.

My question has not been answered.

Thanks for the response.


Paul replied:

WhyTheContradiction —

Your question has been answered. Anyone does mean anyone. Regarding salvation, Jesus includes His one universal [ecclesia|Church] when referring to Himself, because by sending His Spirit He grafts them onto Himself.

Catholic Christianity is not a denomination, but a Church. All individuals that are validly baptized become a part of this Church to some degree or another, whether they recognize it or not.


John replied:

Dear WhyTheContradiction —

Yes, the word Ecclesia in the Greek refers to the called out, people of God. The reason no denomination is mentioned is because there were no denominations. There was only the Church.
The actual name of the Church is not Roman Catholic Church, it's the Church of Jesus Christ, not to be confused with later Protestant sects that took that name. The Church of Jesus Christ fully subsists in the Catholic Church.

That would include Roman Catholics and all the Eastern Catholic Churches which make up the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, properly called the Church of Jesus Christ.

The word Catholic means universal and it began to be used by the end of the first century, because certain heretical sects such as the Judaizers and Gnostics started springing up. The Church used the term Catholic to distinguish itself from these heretical groups. Later, the word orthodox was used to describe the true Church to distinguish Her from other heretics; it was used more in the East, while the word Catholic was used in the West. Nevertheless, there was one Church for the first 1,000 years of Christian History: that Church was and is the Catholic Church under the bishop of Rome, or the Pope. In 1054, there was a great schism between East and West and the Eastern Churches that left, kept the name Orthodox.

"Denominations" didn't come into play until the 1500's when Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Henry the VIII decided to start their own churches, abandoning Apostolic Succession and Tradition.
They embraced heresies and divided Christianity in the West.

All that said, this issue here is about John 3:16. The Church acknowledges that we are justified faith. It always has and always will. It won't use the words faith alone, because the Bible doesn't teach we are saved by faith alone.

John 3:16 has a context, so let's back up to John 1 where it says to whomever believes, he gave the power to become sons of God. (John 1:12) So in that context, we see that faith isn't just a one time event that is based on cognitively agreeing to facts. No, the Greek word of Faith is Pistis. It means faithfulness and also means obedience. Paul in Roman's 1:5 makes it clear that he is preaching the Gospel to bring about the obedience of faith.

So Catholics recognize that other Christians believe in Christ and obey them according to their conscience, but we also say, everyone is called to seek the truth and to have their conscience formed by the truth.

No one is saying only card-carrying Catholics can be saved. That's not our business to say.

We are simply saying that if faith is only in the head, and isn't followed with obedience, it is not a faith that saves.


WhyTheContradiction replied:

From Wikipedia: The Athanasian Creed

Widely accepted among Western Christians, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church and most liturgical Protestant denominations, the Athanasian Creed has been used in public worship less and less frequently. The creed has never gained much acceptance in liturgy among Eastern Christians.

The text of the Athanasian Creed is as follows:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith.

  • Do you disagree?


John replied:


  • What is meant by the word Catholic in this context?

The fact is there is only one Church and that is the Catholic Church the Christ founded. All other Christians, in some imperfect way, are part of the one Catholic Church.

When discussing the Athanasian Creed, remember what was being addressed at the time. Athanasius was dealing with Arian heretics who denied the Divinity of Christ.

The Church has always understood that salvation is a matter that concerns God. We, as his ambassadors, can only preach the complete gospel, but God can save anyone who He pleases that is willing to be saved.

The Church has never once said anyone particular person is in Hell. We don't even say that Judas is in Hell, although we have very little hope. God decides these things.

We always rely on His Grace, Mercy, and Justice. We can only preach what we've been told to preach.


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