I keep hearing arguments in favor of the Catholics who were killed in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday that since there really aren’t a lot of choices for Biblical Christian churches, most Christians there can only join the Catholic Church — so they do.
I want to reiterate that the Catholics who were killed in Sri Lanka at the hands of Islamic terrorists is a tragic and horrific crime against humanity, but more so, a crime against God. Regardless of their religious beliefs, social status, ethnicity, they were undoubtedly God’s creatures who were created in his image — and murder is a direct assault against the Image of God. Yet, being made in the Image of God does not make one a Christian, nor does being in the Roman Catholic Church.
The argument is that these people were true “seekers” of God and since they sought God and could only find the Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, they chose to worship there. But this argument does not hold any weight, biblically. This is an argument one would expect to hear from Billy Graham or Emergent Church leader, Robert Schuller to make. But not Protestants and certainly not Reformed Christians.
Imagine making this argument from the perspective of another religion altogether, say Hinduism. Imagine that there are unreached tribes in India who have never heard of Jesus or the gospel, yet they “truly” seek God and could only find Hinduism. No intellectually honest Bible-believing Christian would affirm them as saved. You would have to deny what the Scriptures teach — and many do — that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that He alone is the only way (John 14:6).
Now lets place this back into perspective. While the Roman Catholic Church claims Christ, Bible-believing Christians reject Rome as a valid expression of Christianity because their gospel is false. (You can read more about that here, here, and here.) To assume that Roman Catholics are Christians is to deny that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone — the biblical teaching on salvation. The Roman Catholic Church officially denies this teaching and forbids its members from believing it. It is a false religion and a false church that practices idolatry.
Simply not having a Biblical church with a building does not excuse you from joining a false religion. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite, to come out of and forsake the false religions.
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
“Come out of her, my people,Revelation 18:4 (ESV)
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
So then what should we make of this? Is it fair to say that these people aren’t true Christians when they had no options for churches? The Scriptures clearly answer this questions — that apart from the knowledge of Christ, there can be no salvation. Jesus’ last words on Earth before ascending into Heaven were for his followers to go out into the world, all the nations, to make disciples and teach them to follow Him. This is the Great Commission. Romans 10 further clearly teaches that without the fulfillment of this commission, there can be no salvation.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”Romans 10:14-15 (ESV)
While the lack of biblical churches in Sri Lanka may be due to the failure of Christians to reach them, it could simply be the judgment of God on the reprobate. We don’t know for sure, but a good example of this would be the remote tribe of North Sentinel Island. Practically unreachable due to the violent and deadly reception by its inhabitants, it’s clear that God has not allowed the gospel to reach that Island. This can be a hard pill to swallow for some, but as Christians, we believe God is sovereign over all things. Nothing comes to pass without His approval (Psalm 115:3).
One thing is for sure, that unless these people hear the gospel, repent of their idolatry, come out of their Pagan religions and worship the one and only true God, Jesus Christ, that these people will continue to wallow in their sin and judgment until eternity come.