A Question I Was Asked:

'If, As I Believe, There Could Be True Christians Among Catholics, What Happens When They Pray To Mary...'

Here is the e mail:

"...As we know there are true Christians in certain other churches and denominations and all these form the true Church of God, but I ask myself, if also Roman Catholics may be true Christians, or if we may find some among them, .....what happens when Catholics pray to Mary and the saints and with the rosary..?"

My Reply:

I have no doubt that there are true Christian believers among Roman Catholics (which is far different than to say, 'They are all true Christian believers').

But they embrace a very poor doctrinal understanding of Christianity, including a lot of things which we might think to be highly superstitious. Yet one may also perceive doctrinal errors among various Protestant groups - among whom - God evidently accepts many people. I think that the bottom line in all this is that all who truly seek God are accepted by Him (read John 6:37 in the light of Acts 17:27), but they must be true to as much as they understand. So such true seekers will be found to be elect believers whom God chooses to call. The danger might be that if and when the Holy Spirit starts to open the minds of believers of poor doctrinal knowledge to further and deeper truth, and they reject that, such a thing would seem to place them in a spiritually perilous state; but there again, I think that if God is truly working with such people, He would assist them to gradually understand more. We must also never forget that none of us ever achieve 100% doctrinal understanding in this life.

I do not personally know any Roman Catholics right now but I have known people from certain groups with a very poor grasp of theology over many, many years and, if they are true believers, their understanding always seems to have grown. As an example, I know two people who came to Christ during charismatic meetings which I would regard as extremist, but - many years later - both of these men are far more mature and knowledgeable and would not now attend such extreme places of worship, in fact one of these men is now a baptist pastor. Therefore my personal experience does lead me to believe that true believers in various groups do indeed grow in knowledge as you and I would expect (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 3:18). Yet the degree of knowledge growth might be variable. In the case of Catholics, perhaps many such people will remain Catholics but such people may well increasingly question certain doctrines. Lets face it: a lot of religion is in ones heart and mind anyway and few even know or understand every single doctrine of their denomination! Moreover, I am told that most Catholic congregations never hear their own doctrines carefully outlined/explained from the pulpit.

We should not pray to Mary or to the 'saints' but to God alone, but God looks on the heart and understanding of the individual and sins of ignorance are far less serious than sins commited from a basis of deeper knowledge, which would leave one without excuse.

Robin A. Brace, 2007.