Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Great Debate X
05/28/2005 - James WhiteIn a little over two weeks I will be debating Roman Catholic apologist Bill Rutland on the question raised by the following two sections of the Catholic Catechism:
841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."  [330 = LG 16; cf. NA 3.]These sections of the Catechism, outside of the comment at the end of 1260, are taken directly from the documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 16 and Gaudium et Spes 22. Hence, they are not "new" as if the Catechism is saying something that had not been explicitly stated before. But the substance of these assertions truly demonstrates a fundamental difference once again between biblical Christianity and Romanism.
1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."  Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known of its necessity. [62 = GS 22 # 5; cf. LG 16; AG 7]
One thing needs to be pointed out from the start (and I assure you, I will be emphasizing it in the debate): these sections are not about children who die in infancy. They are not about those who are mentally incapable of functioning or understanding. Both sections are explicitly about functioning, mature individuals capable of religious choice and action. Note how section 841 speaks of Muslims "acknowledging" the Creator (the act of a mature individual); professing the faith of Abraham, adoring the one, merciful God (that I would reject the idea that Christians worship the same God as Muslims should be a given)--all these actions speak of maturity and hence place the topic squarely in the realm of professing non-Christians entering into heaven.
The same is true of 1260. The person envisioned here "seeks the truth" and "does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it." Such a person is active, knows and understands truth, etc. In both cases, the "infants who die in infancy" argument is rendered irrelevant. Rome is directly asserting an inclusivistic viewpoint that includes within its framework the active, convinced, worshipping Muslim or members of other non-Christian religions. This will be the debate.
Note as well, of course, that Rome's claim regarding God's universal salvific will is based upon the utter negation of Reformed theology. Once again the Reformed individual stands upon solid biblical ground to respond to Rome's teachings, while the Arminian finds himself once again in agreement with Rome at a fundamental level. This was the whole point of the very first question I asked of Dave Hunt years ago regarding his agreement with Rome on the nature of grace and the nature of man's will, and here it is again.