Friday, September 24, 2010

Once Saved, Always Saved or Faith and Works: A Catholic point of view.

What is the point of all this "religion stuff"? Ask non believers and they'll sneer at you as if you should know..."it's all about getting your money". Other's believe it to be control. Crazy talk? You be the judge. The real "point" of this all is spelled out in one word S-A-L-V-A-T-I-O-N! Salvation; the eternal reward of an eternity in heaven. How then, do we achieve salvation? Is there a difference between a "Catholic" view of salvation and evangelical protestant view? Absolutely! The differences between Catholics and Protestants is much more than statues and holy water. In this article I intend to define the protestant doctrine of salvation known as "once saved always saved" and challenge it with the biblical doctrine of Catholic salvation known sometimes as "faith and works".

I hear all the time how protestants are "saved". They accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and voila, it's all done. They believe they are guaranteed eternal salvation. Just believe in your heart, say the words (although the believing is more important than the saying), and that's it. That seems simple enough. Before I sign up for anything, I want to make sure it's on the up and up though. I think some research on one's eternal salvation deserves at least some due diligence.

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of "once saved always saved" is the big, BIG, problem of sin. If one is "saved" then he is certainly free to rape and pillage isn't he? After all, he has a free pass to heaven, a get out jail free card. The answer to this issue, which is frankly a weak non starter is that if someone actually loved Jesus in his heart, he would never commit those heinous crimes. He must have been lying when he spoke the sinners prayer. The protestants use Colossians 3: 3-4: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory". Christ stands in your place before the judge. If this is the case, then what's the point of so much of the New Testament? Once one is "saved" they don't sin? That doesn't make any sense. What is Paul talking about in Romans 8:15: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. He's talking about sinning, which is in our nature since the fall of Adam. Romans 6:15-16 "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Of course not! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness". Paul is talking to the Romans, telling them that sins lead to death (hell). He did not say to be "saved", he is referring to obeying the "law" which is the old Jewish law or "obedience" which is to God. Protestants like to confuse the term "law" with the Catholic Church. Paul not denouncing all law, is talking to many Jews (and Gentiles) and telling them that salvation comes through Jesus Christ and not through following Jewish religious law.

As I continue to reference the Bible for salvation, I want to be clear with the argument here. "Once saved, always saved" refers to the fact that the "saved" is given absolute assurance of salvation. They believe this cannot be undone. One cannot be "unsaved". Mathew's gospel is full of references to loosing one's soul, even references about coming in and out of grace. Remember, these are believers- the "saved". Jesus says in Mathew 5: 27-29: If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna..." Mathew 6: 14: "if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." I looked real hard, but could not find where those "saved" people are the exception to that rule. Jesus is so concerned about people sinning and thus being thrown into Gehanna (Hell) that he suggests plucking out their eyes if it causes them to sin. In Mathew 6: 14 he points to consequences of failing to forgive: "neither will your Father forgive your transgressions". What do you suppose he means by this? There is no footnote stating that "saved" people are exempt from forgiving others. Mathew 13: 41-42: "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace..." Still no reference exempting those "saved". St Paul in Galatians 5:4 says "you are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace". Once again, we see people supposedly "saved" "falling from grace". In other words, these people were in good graces with God, but by blindly following the old Jewish law, they will loose that grace. This doesn't work well with the doctrine of "once saved always saved". Colossians 3:25 says "For the wrongdoer will receive recompense for the wrong he committed, and there is no partiality".

The Catholic Church, founded by Jesus himself at Pentecost, has the way to salvation. The "Catholic" view of salvation is not an arbitrary statement to simply come out of a council of Bishops, it is rooted throughout the Bible. It's not as "easy" or "warm and fuzzy" as the protestant view of "once saved always saved", but nothing worth having is easy. While Catholics and Protestants may disagree on salvation, we certainly believe that this discussion does not exists with out the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. We must also remember that grace plays a major role in our ability to do ANYTHING. Nowhere does the Catholic Church state that we "earn" our way into heaven. Jesus did that for us. The battle has been fought and won. It is up to us to cooperate. God Bless.