Biblical Answers to Questions in the Roman Catholic Compendium

The compendium, a summary of the Catechism published in 1992, is being translated into other languages from the Italian original. The following questions were translated into English as a sample on the site. We have removed the answers so that people may appreciate the biblical evidence. The questions will obviously reflect Catholic interests and emphases.

UPDATE: The entire compendium is now online, as is the Catechism itself.

3. Knowing God by reason

3. How is it possible to know God only with the light of reason?

One may know about God without personally knowing him. But one cannot know him without knowing about his nature, character, and will. With the light of reason alone, one cannot know God. The human mind, in and of itself, has no innate knowledge of the true God. However, one may know many things about him by observing creation,(f1) because “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).

In Romans 1, Paul declares what we may know about God from creation: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (vv. 19-20).

Thus, those who do not honor God are culpable, because creation reveals some things about God. But man has rejected even that limited knowledge and preferred to invent his own gods.

Creation is then limited as a revelation of God. It cannot reveal the plan or will of God for man, necessary things for knowing God. For that, one must turn elsewhere, to Holy Scripture.

In order to know God one must consider the Christ as his definitive revelation: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18; see also 17:3; 1 John 5:20).

The knowledge of the glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). The prophetic writings make the gospel of Christ known to all nations (Romans 16:25-27). By human wisdom it is impossible to know God; only through the message of Christ is it possible (1 Corinthians 1:21). Thus Scripture equates knowing God with obeying the gospel of the Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Professing to know God is insufficient; it must be demonstrated in one’s manner of life (Titus 1:16). True, godly love is a result of knowing God (1 John 4:7-8). Those who do not know God give themselves over to their sensual passions (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).

Knowing God is a description of the very essence of Christianity (Galatians 4:8-9). As such, it constitutes man’s most important concern and should drive us to the Christ and his cross.

23. Unity between OT and NT

23. What unity is there between the Old and New Testaments?

The unity between the Old and New Testaments is that of the one God who is fulfilling his purpose in the world, among men, since before the creation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). When Adam and Eve sin, the divine plan of salvation is instituted. As early as Genesis 3:15, God indicates his knowledge and determination of the ultimate victory over Satan.

This early indication also describes the unity between the testaments as one of divine concern for man’s eternal destiny. Though the Old Testament brings a recognized emphasis on the earthly, physical state of God’s people, the eternal is not absent. The spiritual and heavenly focus come into full bloom in Christ.

As God worked in the world, Scriptures were produced to register to all mankind, for all time, what he was doing. Some have called this progressive revelation, but since the term “progressive” might connote that previous knowledge was imperfect or out of date, it has been suggested that it be termed cumulative revelation.(f2)

Such works as Homer Hailey’s From the Day of Creation to Eternity to the more recent work of Frank Chesser, Potrait of God, successfully trace what has been called the “golden thread” of redemption through holy Scripture.

32. How to regard non-Christians

32. How should non-Catholic Christians be regarded? [Here we should ask it as, How should non-Christians be regarded?]

It is common for those involved in religious groups of which the Bible knows nothing to speak of hyphenated Christians, that is, Christians who belong to a denomination or group with its own system of beliefs, government, polity, and worship. People identify their “brand” of Christianity by the name of their denomination. The New Testament, however, is clear: one is a Christian, nothing more and nothing less, or one is not a Christian.

No line is clearer in all of Scripture than that which God draws between his people and those who do not belong to him. In the New Testament, the Greek word ethne is often used of non-Christians, meaning, “nations, Gentiles, pagans.” God has but one people, one nation, which is the church of Jesus Christ. All others are considered as outside of Christ. Such are “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Both Jew and Gentile showed themselves to be lost (Romans 1-2). Even those who tried to live sincerely by their conscience rejected what the created world revealed about God and thus made themselves repugnant to him (Romans 1:18-32; 2:14-16).

One must understand, first of all, who is a Christian before one can consider one’s relationship to the non-Christian. The Christian is one who has heard (welcomed) the message of Christ (Luke 8:21; 11:28; John 5:24; Acts 10:14; Romans 10:1-2, 10, 17; Ephesians 1:13-14), put one’s faith in him (Mark 16:16; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 11:6), repented of one’s sin to serve God (Luke 13:3,5; 24:47; Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:10), confessed the name of Christ (Romans 10:9-10), and been immersed in water in order that one’s sins might be forgiven (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

It is popular thought to affirm that “we are all God’s children.” By creation, it is true that we all trace our “lineage” back to Adam (see Luke 3:38). But the Fall and the entrance of sin into humanity has all but obliterated God’s creational paternity. The common human condition is sin and its eternal consequences (Romans 3:23). Therefore, without Christ, there is no salvation.

This means that Christians should regard all non-Christians, religious or not, knowledgeable or not, as objects of God’s love who may be saved through the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, they will be punished eternally in “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

Many mouth the name of Jesus, but do not obey his will (Matthew 7:21). Many belong to religious groups and organizations, whose rules, regulations, traditions, and creeds contradict each other and, worse, cancel out the word of God (Matthew 15:1-20). By their allegiance to human teachings and systems, they forfeit any place in the Kingdom of God. These, too, God would call out of their religious “towers of Babel” in order to be saved by the blood of Christ, joined to Christ, and added to the one body, the church of the living Lord.

171. No salvation outside Church

171. What is the meaning of the affirmation: “There is no salvation outside the Church”?

There are two extremes to avoid here. One, that the church herself saves. The church is composed of those people who, by faith and obedience, have been saved. The church is the saved, not the Savior. The saved are added to the church (Acts 2:40-41). She has no power of her own to save others. She is, on the other hand, God’s instrument to save. It is her mission to proclaim the gospel in order that all people might be saved. Hers is not to merely be a good example and do good works, but to “speak a good word for Jesus,” as Joe Gray put it. Hence, it is appropriate to speak of individual Christians saving others (see 1 Corinthians 7:16; 9:22; 1 Timothy 4:16; James 5:20; Jude 1:23).

The second extreme to avoid is to consider that the church has no relation to salvation. This is the common denominational view. But redemption is in Christ (Romans 3:24), as is eternal life (Romans 6:23), justification (Galatians 2:17), sonship of God (Galatians 3:26), every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). To be in Christ is equivalent to being in the one body, in the church (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:14). To be baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27) is to be baptized into Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:13).

One must also consider, in this question, the nature of the church. For it is not the popular idea of a building, a hierarchy, a conglomeration of denominations and divisions which teach differing doctrines, nor some association which people may call a church. The church was established by Christ (Matthew 16:18); the saints bear his name as Christians (1 Peter 4:16); they follow his lead as the one with all authority (Matthew 28:18); they speak only the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2); they carry out his mission of world evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20); they worship according to his instruction (John 4:24).

471. Why protect embryo

471. Why must society protect every embryo?

No answer has been yet prepared.

475. Human experiments

475. When are scientific, medical or psychological experiments with persons or human groups morally legitimate?

No answer as of yet.

482. World peace

482. What is required for peace in the world?

The end of the world. While the world stands, there will be no true, lasting, effective, global peace, nor has there ever been. What peace has existed, such as during the so-called Pax Romana, was gained at the point of a sword. There will always be “wars and rumors of wars” (Mark 13:7). The peace that Jesus gives is not the peace of the world (John 14:27). The true peace among men is promoted by the preaching of the gospel (Ephesians 2:13-22).

In a manner of speaking, the Divine Peace also comes by conquest, but not by oppressing nations or ethnic groups. God bring peace by overcoming Satan. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).

Peace in this world exists among God’s saints, as the angels announced to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). Even Jesus himself proclaims that, besides peace with God, he brings conflict among men: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51).

Men are unable to discover what brings peace, even when He stands in front of them: “Would that you, even you [Jerusalem], had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).

Christ’s disciples have peace as they go about fulfilling his mission. Jesus said to his followers, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). This is the Lord’s characteristic greeting, “Peace be with you,” and the apostles and prophets, as did the Jews before them, routinely included a greeting of peace in their letters.

To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6). The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:7). Therefore, we must pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19). So we seek to “live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11), though we know it will be impossible to do so with everyone — but we make the effort (Romans 12:18).

Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). Though the world be caught up in a conflagration, we cannot lose him, nor the peace he gives.

502. Offenses to dignity of marriage

502. What are the offenses to the dignity of marriage?

Any teaching or action which demeans the place of marriage as God ordained it constitutes an offense to its dignity. Among such would include redefinition of marriage to include homosexuality; the man’s authoritarian and oppressive approach to his wife; the wife’s circumvention or refusal of her husband’s authority; the handing over the reins of the family to the children; the refusal to consider children as a blessing from God; the failure to care for one’s children and especially to train them in the nuture of the Lord.

514. Right to work

514. To what type of work does every person have a right?

No answer as of yet.

533. Man’s greatest desire

533. What is man’s greatest desire?

Man’s greatest desire is God himself. Man was created for God’s communion. Having deprived himself from that intimate relationship with the Creator through his sin, man seeks to fill that void by other means — power, possessions, positions, pleasure, etc. But since it was God who “put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), other attempts will necessarily fail. Only Christ, who suffered “that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18), can fulfill our greatest desire. For this reason he deserves our full obedience and allegiance.

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:8-9).

f1. Scripture does not call creation “nature,” as is common today.
f2. I am unable at present to locate the source of this suggestion.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

What do you think?