Catholicism Negates Jesus' Death, New Birth

Larry Ray Hafley

From an article by Alan Cooperman in the Washington Post, and published in the Houston Chronicle, (8/18/02, 4A), it appears that "a committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has negated the death of Christ, and invalidated his declaration, "Ye must be born again" (Jn. 3:3-7).

"Campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity 'are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church,' a committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared.

"Summing up a series of Vatican pronouncements since 1965 that has reversed the church's historical approach to Judaism, the bishops said last week that the Old Testament covenant between the Jews and God is valid and that Jews do not need to convert to Christianity to be saved. While the Roman Catholic Church 'must bear witness in the world to the Good News of Christ...this evangelizing task no longer includes the wish to absorb the Jewish faith into Christianity and so end the distinctive witness of Jews to God in human history,' they said.

"....Eugene Fisher, director of Catholic-Jewish relations for the bishops' conference, said the document contains 'no new doctrine' but 'distills a lot of things that have been said and steps that have been taken' since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Fisher noted, for example, that in the 1970s, the church changed its official prayer for the Jewish people, which used to call for their conversion. Now the prayer, recited on Good Friday, asks God to help Jews intensify their faith in their covenant, he said.

"While the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical groups run campaigns to convert Jews, the Catholic church gradually has abandoned such efforts. 'If an individual Jew wants to convert to Catholicism, that can still happen,' said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, spokesman for the bishops's conference. 'But the point is that proselytizing campaigns are not compatible with the respect with which we hold Judaism.'

"The document makes clear that this attitude is unique. 'Though the Catholic Church respects all religious traditions...and though we believe God's infinite grace is surely available to believers of other faiths, it is only about Israel's covenant that the Church can speak with the certainty of biblical witness,' it says.

"Although he played no role in drafting the document, Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, hailed it as 'groundbreaking,' Some Catholic leaders have renounced proselytizing among Jews in the past, but 'this is the first time the Catholic leaders of a whole country have stated it officially,' he said."

Old Testament Not Nailed To The Cross?

The law of commandments, contained in ordinances, has not been "nailed to the cross if those bishops are correct; but, they are not, and it has been (Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14). Though the Hebrew writer argues that God has taken away the first covenant that he may establish the second, this committee of Catholic bishops says "that the Old Testament covenant between the Jews and God is valid." Do these bishops read the book of Hebrews?

Consider the awful implications of Hebrews 9:8 ("that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was still standing") if the Old Testament covenant is still "valid." (a) If the Old Testament is still "valid," Christ cannot be our High Priest, since there is no place for one to be a priest from the tribe of Judah under the law of Moses (Heb. 7:11-14; Heb. 8:4). (b) If that is so, Christ is not our High Priest and we have no offering for our sins (Heb. 10). (c) Christ has not yet entered into heaven itself to "appear in the presence of God for us." We are yet in our sins! (d) Paul uses the marriage relationship to establish that we are not under the law of Moses and that we may, therefore, be married to Christ (Rom. 7:1-6). Otherwise, we would be spiritual adulterers!

Despite the fact that these bishops say "the Old Testament covenant between the Jews and God is valid," in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says it "is done away" and "is abolished" (vv. 11, 13). Those Catholic bishops who contend to the contrary are "blinded" and are unwittingly forbidding men to receive "liberty" through the Spirit (vv. 14, 17; Cf. Gal. 3:1-5).

If Jews Saved Apart From The Gospel:

If it is true "that Jews do not need to convert to Christianity to be saved," as per the report above, then a number of things must follow.

(1) The "new birth" is null and void, at least as far as the Jews are concerned. Remember, though, that it was to Nicodemus, a "ruler of the Jews," to whom Jesus said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:1-7). Why did the Savior say that to Nicodemus? Since it is now claimed "that the (Catholic) Church can speak with the certainty of biblical witness" that Nicodemus need not be born again, why did Jesus say that he "must be born again"?

(2) The gospel is not now, and never has been, "the power of God unto the Jew first and also to the Gentile" (Rom. 1:16). Jesus said that "repentance and remission of sins" was to be preached "in (his) name, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:47). Why, though, begin at Jerusalem, if the Jews have no need for "repentance and remission of sins" in the name of Christ?

If the Jews are saved through faithfulness to "Israel's covenant" and not by the gospel, as Catholicism now claims, (a) why did John the Baptist tell them that their fleshly ties to Abraham were no guarantee of Divine deliverance (Matt. 3:7-12)? (b) Why did Jesus tell them, "your house is left unto desolate" (Matt. 23:38)? Further, (c) if the Jews may be saved by the Old Testament, why did Jesus say, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43; Cf. Heb. 12:28 and 1 Pet. 2:5-9 which shows the threat was fulfilled)? Has that verdict been repealed? Does modern Judaism possess the "kingdom of God"? The Holy Spirit says it does not (Col. 1:13; Heb. 1:8; Heb. 12:28)!

Specifically and directly including and indicting the Jews, Paul said that "the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:18-23). If he is correct, the Jews today, who still consider the gospel "foolishness" are those who "perish" in contrast with those who believe it and "are saved." Is it possible that a committee, a conference of men, can simply wipe Paul's words out of existence and cancel their meaning? No (Matt. 24:35; Lk. 10:16; 1 Cor. 4:6; 14:37; 15:11)!

(d) Paul taught that the gospel he preached was "the word of...salvation" prophesied by the prophets (Acts 13:26). He also taught that it was only through the gospel they could have "the forgiveness of sins" and be "justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38, 39). When the Jewish audience rejected the gospel and clung to "Israel's covenant," Paul said they had "judged (themselves) unworthy of everlasting life" (Acts 13:46). How could that be true if the Jews are saved without obedience to the gospel and by cleaving and clinging to "Israel's covenant"?

(3) Jesus erred when he said to the Jews that their unbelief would condemn them. If it is true that Jews may be saved without faith in Jesus as the Son of God, how do we explain the following texts, spoken to Jews, by the Lord himself? "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:18). "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (Jn. 8:24). "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (Jn. 14:6). Did Jesus err when he made those statement to the Jews? If not, this segment of Catholicism is wrong when it declares that the Jews may be saved without faith in Christ.

Jesus said that those who, like the Jews, do not believe in him, do not believe in the Father, nor do they believe in Moses or his testimony. "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me" (Jn. 5:46). If Jews today reject Jesus, they also reject Moses, "for he wrote of me," Jesus said. So, though Catholicism claims that the Jews are saved if they abide in the Old Testament, Jesus denies it. Again, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (Jn. 6:45). Where was that written? It was "written in the prophets," that is, in the Old Testament. So, that covenant says that those who hear and learn from the Father will believe in Jesus. Thus, the Old Testament prophets did not say that Jews were to be excused from the New Covenant of Christ (Cf. Matthew 26:28; Heb. 9). Jesus says that if one has "learned of" (or from) the Father, he will come "unto me." Thus, Jews who reject Jesus have not "learned of the Father." Neither are they truly abiding in "Israel's covenant," for if they were, they would believe in Jesus as the Son of God (Jn. 5:46; 6:45). (Peter, who was allegedly Catholicism's first Pope, spoke to the same effect and appealed to the testimony of Moses to prove that Jesus is Lord -- Acts 3:22, 23; Cf. 2:36; 3:13-15, 24-26).

The apostle John testifies to the same point. "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?....Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also" (1Jn. 2:23). "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." (2 Jn. 9). Jews who do not believe in Christ have neither the Father, nor the Son, so in what way can it be said that they are saved apart from Christ?

According to the Holy Spirit, the "liar" is "he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ." However, a Catholic committee of U.S. bishops says those liars, if they be unbelieving Jews, may be saved! (We shall not bother to mention that "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" [Rev. 21:8]).

Note what the Holy Spirit said is done to God by those who, like the Jews, refuse to believe "on the Son of God." "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son" (1Jn. 5:10). The unbelieving Jew makes God a liar "because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son." Is it possible that such a man can be saved if he remains in that state of unbelief? Catholicism, it appears, would say, "yes."

Did the Lord and the apostles tell the truth? If so, the Jews do not know God since they have spurned the Savior. This means that Catholicism is in error when it claims to the contrary. If their committee of bishops is not teaching falsely, is the Bible wrong? It is one or the other. Both cannot be right. Either the doctrine of the Catholic Affairs Committee is wrong, or the Bible is wrong. What say ye?

(4) God's grace is nullified and Jesus died in vain. At least, that is what Paul argued. "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly" (Gal. 2:21). If unbelieving Jews are saved by the works of the law (which Paul contended was an impossibility-Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:10, 11), why did Jesus "taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9)? How could he be the propitiation for our sins, "and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world," if the Jews are saved by "intensify(ing) their covenant" (1 Jn. 2:1, 2)?

The Hebrew writer has harsh words for those who have "insulted the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:29). When they say Jews may be saved by Moses' law, the Catholic bishops endorse that which the Spirit of grace says has "nullified" the grace of God. Is not the sanctifying of unbelief an insult to the Spirit of grace?

Peter, whom the Catholic bishops claim as their first Pope, said that those who had been "redeemed" "with the precious blood of Christ" stood "in the true grace of God" (1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 5:12). That being true, in what kind of grace does one stand if he has "counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing" (Heb. 10:29)? Yet, that is where the unbelieving Jew stands to whom Catholicism promises grace and acceptance.

The Hebrew Christians were in danger of drawing back unto perdition (Heb. 10:32-39). They were seeking asylum under Moses and the blood of bulls and goats, which could never "take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). As such, they were warned of the eternal consequences which carries with it a penalty worse than physical death (Heb. 10:29). In strong and strict terms, they were told of the folly and futility of turning to "Israel's covenant" and of forsaking the covenant of Christ (Heb. 2:1-4; 10:26-31). "See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth (Moses), much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him (God, through Jesus) who speaks from heaven" (Heb. 12:25; Cf. 1:1, 2). In light of those sacred, solemn, searing words of the Spirit, how dare men declare them recipients of redemption who nullify the grace of God and make the cross of Christ of none effect?

(5) Paul was wrong when he said the purpose of the law was "to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24, 25). No, Paul, according to Catholic scholars, that was not the purpose of the law. According to Catholicism, Paul did not know that the Jews, instead of coming to Christ in order to be justified by faith, must retain and maintain the "intensity" of their devotion to their law and not to Christ.

The law was written "unto the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1:1). It was given to the Jews (Rom. 9:4, 5). The promises of which Paul spoke were made unto "Abraham and his seed" (Gal. 3:16). Hence, it cannot be denied that the Jews were included in the "us" of Galatians 3:24-"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Now, since that system of faith has come, the Jews are "no longer under a schoolmaster;" that is, they are no more under the law, for "the law was (their) schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:24, 25).

In view of the declaration of Galatians 3:24, 25, that the law was given to bring the Jews to Christ that they might be justified by faith, and that, therefore, the Jews are no longer under the law, will someone please explain how, in view of that, Catholicism can say, "with the certainty of biblical witness," that grace is available to unbelieving Jews apart from faith in Christ? Denial will not make the text disappear or go away. Either Scripture is wrong, or Catholicism is wrong. Both positions cannot be true. Which is correct?

(6) Access into the grace of God is not by faith. If the Jews (who yet "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame," declaring in their unbelief that he deserved the death he died) are saved, it follows that Paul was wrong when he declared that "we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (Rom. 3:24; 5:1, 2). Without faith, one cannot have access or entrance "into this grace wherein we stand" and by which we are saved and justified (Rom. 3:24).

Galatians 2:16 through 3:29 is the declaration of independence from the curse of the law. It is the charter of spiritual liberty, freeing those who were bound under sentence of death to the works of the law. It is an emancipation proclamation granting full inheritance to the family of faith. Because "Israel's covenant" is not of faith, it cannot liberate and emancipate, it cannot free and forgive its captives who wait on their spiritual death row. However, "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29).

Now, let us reverse that great text. What is true of the opposite of it? Let us see. "You are not sons of God for you have not believed in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were not baptized into Christ have not put on Christ. There is both Jew and Greek, there are slaves and free, there are males and females; for you are not one in Christ Jesus. And if you are not Christ's, then you are not Abraham's seed, and not heirs according to the promise."

See the condition of those who are not children of God by faith in Christ, those who have not been baptized into Christ? Now, it is to just such people, modern day unbelieving Jews, to whom Catholicism would grant the blessings and benefits of son-ship and inheritance. If they have those blessings (and I would to God that they did!), then one can make no sense of Galatians 2:16-3:29, particularly 3:26-29.

Observe that Abraham's seed are those who are children of God "in (not out of) Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). This "squares" with Romans 2:28, 29, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." In view of those texts, are unbelieving Jews today "Abraham's seed"? Are they Jews "whose praise is...from God"? No wonder that Jesus said to Nicodemus, a man who had the blood of Abraham pulsing, coursing and throbbing through his body, "Ye must be born again"!

(7) One may be saved who will not submit himself to the righteousness of God. Since his prayer was that the Jews "might be saved," it is evident that the apostle Paul thought and taught that unbelieving Jews were lost (Rom. 10:1-17). Paul argues that it is "the same" for both Jew and Gentile, for both have the same Lord (Rom. 10:12). Plainly, he says that both classes of men, all men, must call on the name of the Lord, confessing that Jesus is Lord, if they would be saved (Rom. 10:9-13). The language of Roman 10 will not allow one to say that unbelieving Jews can be saved in their unbelief. It will not permit one to be saved who does not believe "that God hath raised him (Christ) from the dead" (v. 9).

Yes, Paul allows, the Jews have a fervent "zeal of God," but it is not according to knowledge, rather, it is in ignorance (Cf. Acts 3:17; Rom. 10:3). The Jew is ignorant of God's plan of making men righteous through Christ. Because of that, he has rejected Jesus and gone about to establish his own plan of righteousness, his own system of salvation, which cannot save him. No group of bishops, however gracious are their goals or noble are their intentions, can grant them the hope of eternal salvation apart from faith in Christ. At least, they cannot do so if Romans 10 is to be believed.

Because of their unbelief, the Jews were broken off. All who stand, stand by faith in Christ. Only if the Jew turns to faith in Christ can he expect to be saved. That is what the Spirit said in Romans 11:20-23. Thus, they cannot be saved who "have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."

(8) One may have eternal life outside of Christ. "And this is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 Jn. 5:11). Paul spoke of "the promise of life which is in (not out of) Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:1). May one have eternal life apart from Christ? Peter, who is supposed to have been the first Pope of the Catholic Church, said, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Let it be noted that Peter said those words to his brethren in the flesh, the Jews. Late in the afternoon on the day before, he had told the Jews to "Repent...and be converted that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). They had refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ and had crucified him. Peter told them there was no other refuge, no other way of redemption, no other plan of peace and pardon. They had to believe and obey the Lord Jesus, or else they would be "destroyed" (Acts 2:36-38; 3:13-19, 23; 4:12).

Since the Catholic Church of today no longer prays for the Jews "conversion," they are refusing to pray for that which their alleged first Pope appealed (Acts 3:19). Now, according to the article above, instead of issuing a "call for their conversion...the prayer recited on Good Friday, asks God to help Jews intensify their faith in their covenant." In other words they are not only denying Peter's appeal for their conversion, but they are asking God to harden the Jews in their unbelief toward his only begotten Son!


If the news report is in error, and if the Catholic Church has been misrepresented, I shall be happy to know it so that I may make correction. Or, if the bishops have overstepped their authority, should we not expect to see a clear disclaimer and denunciation of their pronouncement? Too, should we not expect to hear that the Jews must indeed be converted to Christ and that if they fail to believe on the Son of God, they "shall die in (their) sins" (Jn. 3:18, 36; 8:24; 14:6)? If the news account is misleading, will a Catholic authority, above that of the U.S. Conference of bishops, come out and frankly declare to the Jews exactly what the Savior said to them, ""that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him" (Jn. 5:23)?

(Addendum: After finishing the article above, I saw a report where another group of religious scholars, some of whom evidently are Protestants, have said much the same as Catholicism has said; namely, that "Jews can be saved without coming to faith in Jesus Christ" [San Antonio Express-News, 9/7/02, 7B]. Again, if that be so, let liberal Protestants answer the same questions posed to Catholics who teach the same error.)