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.


Anonymous said...

I think you have a misunderstanding of what you think "protestants" believe about salvation. But, without launching into a big theological debate at this point, I ask you; clearly define your position on how one can go to heaven? Not as a Catholic, not as a protestant (btw, I'm Evangelical), just as a human being?

ROCCO DE LEO said...

Thank you for your comment. I think your point about my understading of protestant or Evangelical salvation points out the problem we see outside the Catholic Church. There are over 30,000 denomonations, and probably a similar amount of versions of "salvation". Look to the foundation of your Church, where is the authority. The Catholic Church as authority from Jesus Christ- not Luther, Calvin, etc. This will be another discussion that we will enjoy. I defer to the Church "the pillar and bulwark of the truth". The Catechsim states that "salvation comes from God alone, but because we recieve the life of faith through the Church; she is our mother: we believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not IN the church as if she were the author of our salvation. Because she is our mother, she is also the teacher of the faith" (Catechism 169). The Church in a sense translates the holy scripture. Without writing a huge treatise on salvation, I will point to two important "manuals" the Church teaches lead to salvation. The first is Mathew: 5: 3-9- the Beatitudes. The second is the Ten Commandments. What must be done above and beyond all of this "intellectual debate" is a childlike faith in Jesus. I enjoy the apologetics and the understading of the faith, but as a follower and lover of Christ (as you said, not Catholic, or Protestant) I strive...I beg the Lord for a Joy in simply loving him and having faith that he will call me home someday. God Bless.

Jason said...

I like the discussion Rocco! I have a question...(and, in the name of full disclosure, I'm an evangelical Christian)...How does one receive eternal life? You refused to answer the question the last time it was posed.

I will answer it clearly from my perspective. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." Unfortunately for you, unless you're willing to chalk the entire Bible up to a bunch of huey, this verse speaks clearly what is required for salvation (read: everlasting life).

You reference many verses to disprove the 'once saved, always saved' belief, but I'd like you to explain this to me: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." - John 10:27-28

I don't discount James theory that 'show me your faith and I'll show you works', attaining eternal life isn't about works. It's about faith. Faith that Jesus is the son of the one and only Holy God, died for your sins on the cross, and rose from the dead on the third day. Faith + NOTHING = salvation. Jesus is completely responsible for my entrance into heaven.

Where, then, do works come into play? Your faith should be evident through your works. However, Jesus also promises us crowns to toss at His feet once we are in heaven, based on the work that we've done here on earth (so that the praise, ultimately, always goes back to HIM) in 1 COR 3:13-15.

Jesus + Nothing = salvation. THAT is His promise.

Anonymous said...

Well said "Jason". You took many of the words right out of my mouth.

Anonymous said...

Rocco, a good succinct presentation of a very big topic...the biggest topic, in fact! A good discussion, too, with your fellow Christians.

All teaching comes down to authority. That is, does a teaching of Holy Scripture have merit? Where does it come from and upon what is it based? Who is teaching it and what are their credentials? If someone has authority than people will find it trustworthy but those aforementioned questions must be satisfied.

Sadly, there are innumerable interpretations of the Bible verses regarding this topic. How can I be sure of who is right and who isn't? Why can't I have my own interpretation? What's more, an interpretation that suits my own purposes. Once Saved always saved is a good example of this. It's very attractive, reassuring and very convenient. However, is it a true Christian teaching? Under whose authority was this revealed and taught? Is it of man or of God? Where did it come from?

It came from Martin Luther. It came from a man. It was not a doctrine until Luther declared it to be one. Faith and works predated Luther as a dogma of Christian belief from the time of the apostles and the beginning of the Catholic Church. It is a dogma which means it is an eternal, unchangeable and undeniable belief of Christianity.

So what it comes down to is this: Do I have as much authority to declare Christian dogma than Martin Luther? Yes, I do. Do I have as much authority to declare Christian dogma than the Catholic Church which predates Luther and was founded upon the Rock by Our Lord and Savior? No, I don't.

Trust me when I say that I would love to make up and develop and ponder and ultimately live my life by my own doctrine. But I don't because I know that is the way of man and not the way of God. A part of me, the fallen nature of me, wants that. But the bigger part of me wants to obey God. The Catholic Church simply has the otherworldly authority on matters of faith and morals and this, along with many, many, many other reasons is why the dogma of faith and works can be trusted as the truth.

We are responsible for our actions in this life. This is the way of God. Man will question and debate this just as they will question and debate the scripture passages. The Catholic teaching is that in order to make it to heaven one must not be in a state of mortal sin. Now mortal sin will be debated by man. What is it? Is it this or is it that? There has to be one truth. This truth must be taught by someone who has authority to be trusted. The choice is to believe what has always been taught or to venture out through that very wide gate and put faith in the world or in men to come up with the answers and interpretations. As for me, I'll take the teachings founded upon the Rock.

God Bless,
East Coast Commuter