In 325 AD the Nicene Creed defined the Church by giving it 4 marks saying this in the first sentence of the last paragraph: “And we believe in One, Holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
Today we turn our attention to the third mark of the Church: catholic.
As we begin I want to give a HUGE disclaimer. Some of you right here from the start may be alarmed that I’ve chosen such a word to focus on because you may believe by teaching the ‘catholic’ nature of the Church that I am affirming the Roman Catholic Church. I am not doing that. I will never do that. I am protestant through and through.
Another wrong conclusion to draw from hearing me say I am protestant through and through is that I believe Romans Catholics aren’t true believers. Do I think that? Well yes and no. I say yes because I do think the Roman Catholic gospel is a false gospel, because it teaches that works contribute to our salvation. Paul refutes this idea in Galatians, in fact, it’s the whole point of Galatians. Paul even says anyone who teaches such a works based gospel is ‘anathema’ or ‘accursed’ in Galatians 1:6. So yes the Roman Catholic gospel is a false gospel and anyone who embraces a false gospel is automatically a false convert, and not a true believer.
But I also say no, because though the priests within the Roman Catholicism teach these things and believe these things, not all the people who are within the walls of these churches believe these things. I have a feeling that many so-called Catholics do not know the extent of the works-based salvation they really proclaim. These people, though deceived, can be true believers. So can a Roman Catholic be a Christian? Yes and no.
Back to our point here: why use the word ‘catholic’ at all? Well the word ‘catholic’ that the Nicene Creed uses here has a lower case ‘c’ not an upper case ‘C.’ You may not think this matters very much, but the size of the letter ‘c’ determines alot. While an upper case ‘C’ indicates a proper noun and refers to the institution of the Roman Catholic Church, the creed’s usage of the lower case ‘c’ indicates the original sense of the word, which simply means ‘universal.’
Therefore to say the Church is catholic, to define the Church as having ‘catholicity’ is to say the Church is universal. This means Christ’s true Church is formed by all the people who, in all times and in all places, have believed in Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel.
To describe this catholic or universal nature of the Church, we’ll turn to John’s apocalypse for the next few posts. Specifically, Revelation 4-5.