Formerly the Thinking Catholic Strategic Center
Sunday, September 25, 2011, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I was in the cemetery, standing at the head of the casket, leading the graveside prayers for my life-long Catholic parishioner. I decided, since we had already offered a full funeral Mass, to abbreviate this service and leave some time for the Protestant minister who had been invited by a daughter of the deceased. Looking up, I noticed that he had appeared, and stood opposite me. I nodded, stepped back, and he began by reading a passage from the Bible. He then told us, a mostly Catholic group, how at the daughter’s request he had visited the deceased in the hospital and asked him if he had been saved. The man answered, no, he never had known how to do it. The minister told him how, and the man did, and so the minister wanted to assure us that our departed had been saved, and therefore we should know he was with the Lord in heaven.
One couldn’t help but feel that the opposing team had scored. But that may not have been the reverend’s intent. In fact he seemed ill at ease, never looked at me, and left promptly. But, what about it? Are Catholics saved? Or are we, kept in ignorance by the Whore of Babylon, doomed to hell because we have not accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior?
If someone asks you if you are “saved”, or they might say “born again”, they are probably operating out of the “born again Christian” theology, familiar to anyone who has seen Billy Graham on TV. According to this theology we are all sinners, doomed to hell unless we repent of sin and turn to Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. At that point you are saved, and forever saved. You did nothing, and in fact can do nothing to earn God’s mercy, and so you cannot lose that mercy either once you’ve received it. In summary, salvation is by faith alone, not by works, and once saved always saved.
The Catholic faith is that, true, we are sinners, and we cannot earn God’s mercy; salvation is a grace, a free gift; but it is a gift we must respond to and put into action. Salvation is more like a life-long journey of many decisions than a single moment’s decision; the grace of God making it all possible, but our acting on that possibility being part of the process. To say “I am now saved, and am forever saved” is presumptuous. And there are many Bible passages to support the Catholic view. I will quote the briefest I can think of. It’s in Paul’s Letter to the Galations, where he is arguing that observance of the Jewish ceremonial law is not required for salvation, and he says:
St. Paul is the great authority quoted by the “faith alone” crowd, and he said it’s all a matter of faith working through love. He could have added here what he made plain elsewhere, that both faith and the works of love are made possible by God’s grace, so there are no grounds for boasting.
But let’s not plunge headlong into the whole faith vs. works debate. The born-again Christian wants to know if you have been born again, and the honest answer is “yes!”, because every Catholic has been baptized. Here you could quote what Jesus said to Nicodemus, recorded in the Gospel of John, ch. 3:
And this is what the Catholic Church has always taught, that the Sacrament of water baptism forgives sin and confers the gift of the Holy Spirit, adopting the baptized person into the life of God merited for us by Christ.
Objection: “But you were only a baby and didn’t know what was happening, much less accept Jesus for yourself.”
Your answer: Exactly! That’s how little Catholics believe that we earn salvation by what we do. God doesn’t even wait for that little child to grow up and reach the age of reason and make his own personal faith commitment. We take seriously what you claim to believe, that our relationship with God is God’s initiative, not our own. Christ did not wait for any personal recognition or affirmation on the part of children before he said, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for it is to just such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
But your born-again questioner is wanting some evidence that a Catholic truly repents of sin and personally accepts Jesus as Lord and savior. So tell them about the sacrament of Confirmation, when the candidate reaffirms, on her own volition, the faith commitment made for her at baptism, and consider the annual Easter renewal of baptismal promises that everyone in church is guided through:
Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? I do.
Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? I do.
Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? I do.
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? I do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father? I do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and lfe everlasting? I do.
Do you mean it? Okay, you have just repented of sin and professed faith that Jesus is Lord. If this is what the born-again Christian is looking for, you’ve just been born again.
But no need to wait for Easter. What does a Catholic do at every Sunday Mass? He or she starts by confessing that he is an unworthy sinner, has sinned through his own fault, in thought and word, in what he has done and failed to do, and he looks to God’s mercy, not his own efforts, for salvation. “May God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.”
Does your born-again friend need more evidence? Stay on through Mass until the priest raises the Eucharist before the people and says – and here I will use the new Missal translation because it is closer to the Bible story of the centurion who trusted Jesus with faith – the priest says, to all present:
Look at Jesus, look to Jesus, the Lamb-Victim sent by God to merit our salvation by his sacrifice on the cross. And the Catholic responds:
“Lord, I am not worthy”. Does that sound like someone standing on the merits of their own good works?
“Only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Who would say that but someone who looks to Jesus, their savior, to give what they cannot give themselves?
Is more evidence needed that the devout, believing Catholic has been born again and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior? There is more evidence to give, but this is surely enough for any one of us, being visited and questioned by a well-meaning minister, to answer, honestly and with conviction:
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Date: Wed Sep 28 23:54:47 2011
Location: Lewiston, Idaho, USA
According to the Lutheran’s Augsburg Confession (1530) “Men are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.” This doctrine of justification by faith was the keystone of the whole Lutheran system and became the battle cry of the Protestant Reformation. Drastic consequences followed. An almost entirely self-centered individualism resulted, evangelical piety making personal conversion, guaranteed by feelings of assurance, the center of its work. Popular Protestantism urges the individual “to believe in Christ and be saved.” The sense of community and of corporate religion declined. No intermediaries – priests, sacraments, or saints – were needed. The church was redefined: no longer as a visible institution founded by Our Lord, but as a vague, invisible aggregate of the “saved,” known only to God.
In the new interpretation of Christianity, the sacraments could not be a means of grace. They were merely symbols of a favor already conferred, and they came to be neglected. The logical end of the road was reached in the complete abandonment of liturgical worship and sacramentalism by such bodies as the Quakers and the Salvation Army. The effect on the spiritual life was calculated to have equally sad results: the theory of justification by faith alone could not maintain Christian standards of spirituality.
Is just the “feeling” of salvation all that is necessary, if you are “justified by faith alone?” This idea has resulted in a self-centered and subjective individualism, divorced from all ideas of the Church incorporating us as members of the mystical body of Christ. People have tended to regard the whole of religion as consisting in their own interior and personal state of religious “feeling.” It has led to the most extravagant and even morbid attempts to induce an artificial sense of security by periodic outbreaks of highly-charged emotional revivalism. In those converted at such meetings there has resulted only too often an appalling complacency in the thought of being among the “saved” that is as far removed as possible from the humility declared by the gospel to be a first condition of our rehabilitation in the sight of God.
Christ warns us to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation (Matt 26:41); he makes us pray to be preserved from temptation (Luke 11:4). Surely such warnings are meaningless to the man who thinks himself already and permanently saved.
The idea of “full, free, and present salvation” for those “justified by faith” – as if Christ had done all the work and the Christian had to do nothing toward his own salvation – led to the dreadful doctrine that it is belief and not behavior that matters – a doctrine that is the very basis of hypocrisy. Christ warned his hearers against imitating the Pharisees, of whom he declared, “They preach but they do not practice.” (Matt 23:3). Quite evidently He thought that not only what we believe matters but also how we behave.
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matt 7:16-20) And then later, “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matt 25:40-46) And further on Jesus says, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” How can it be said that salvation is “wholly without works” if, for lack of good works, it can be forfeited?
Apart from the fact that were it not for the Catholic Church, Protestants would have no Bible at all, does the Bible support this idea of salvation based on faith alone? Scripture teaches that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus Himself tells us, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13; cf. 25:31-46). One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God, (the state of mortal sin) will go to hell.
For many fundamentalists and evangelicals it makes no difference – as far as salvation is concerned – how you live or end your life. Consider the warning Paul gave: “See then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off: (Rom. 11:22; see also Heb. 10:26-29, 2Pet. 2:20-21).
Can we know we are saved for certain? Yes. This is why God gave us the sacraments – to provide visible assurances that He is invisibly providing us with His grace. And one can be confident that one has not thrown away that grace by simply examining one’s life and seeing whether mortal sin has been committed. Indeed, the tests that John sets forth in his first epistle to help us know whether we are abiding in grace are, in essence, tests of whether we are dwelling in grave sin.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
Likewise, by looking at the course of one’s life in grace and the resolution of one’s heart to keep following God, one can also have an assurance of future salvation. Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:12) says, “Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is not the language of self-confident assurance. Our salvation is something that remains to be worked out.
How to answer the question: Are you saved? The Catholic response is: “As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom 8:24; Eph 2:5-8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 2:15; Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom 5:9-10; 1 Cor 3:12-15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom 5:2; 2 Tim 2:11-13).
Date: Thu Sep 29 06:44:31 2011
From: Vic Biorseth
See also the Are You Saved? page.
Date: Tue Jul 03 00:53:08 2012
This video refutes protestant theology and confirms Catholic theology on "Being Born Again"
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Converted Page to SBI! Release 3.0 BB 2.0.
Date: Thu Jul 18 19:05:14 2013
Five questions that Baptists and Evangelicals should ask themselves:
1. Does the Bible state that a sinner is capable of choosing righteousness/choosing God?
The Bible states that the sinner must believe and repent, but are these actions initiated and performed by man of his own intellectual abilities, or are faith, belief, and repentance a part of the entire "package" of salvation? Are faith, belief, and repentance part of the "free gift"? Does God give you faith, belief and repentance at the moment he "quickens" you, or does he require you to make a decision that you want them first, and only then does he give them to you.
2. Is there any passage of Scripture that describes salvation in the Baptist/evangelical terms of: "Accept Christ into your heart", "Make a decision for Christ", "Pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner's Prayer)". Is it possible that being "born again" is something that God does at a time of his choosing, and not something that man decides to do at a time of his choosing? Is man an active participant in his salvation in that he cooperates with God in a decision to believe, or is man a passive participant in his salvation; God does ALL the work?
3. Is the Bible a static collection of words or do the Words of God have real power, real supernatural power? How does the Bible describe the Word? Is it the meaning of the Word that has power or do the words themselves have supernatural power to "quicken" the souls of sinners, creating faith, belief and repentance?
4. Does preaching the Word save everyone who hears it, or only the "predestined", the "elect", the "called", the "appointed" will believe when they hear the Word?
5. WHEN does the Bible, if read in its simple, plain, literal rendering, say that sins are forgiven and washed away?
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
Date: Thu Jul 18 19:47:55 2013
From: Vic Biorseth
Those are all good questions for Baptists, Evangelicals and Calvinists. Note well that the "Word" you are seeking answers for, as spoken of in the Bible, are spoken words, not written. Faith comes from hearing, not reading (Rom. 10:17). The Bible didn't exist yet. It is the meticulously preserved words and the authoritative meaning of the words that you are looking for.
You might seek the answer to another question, which was put to Luther: Where did the purely Lutheran dogma of justification by faith alone come from?
And if justification by faith alone is a new Gospel, is not any new Gospel cursed by Scripture? (Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18-19)
You might try expanding your search to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Date: Mon Jul 28 2014
From: Vic Biorseth
Changes pursuant to changing the website URL
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Pulled the trigger on the 301 MOVE IT option June 1, 2014. Working my way through all the webpages. .
Date: Tue Aug 09 01:54:31 2016
Protestants do have a very real and good point when when they are concerned whether someone has a personal relationship with Christ. As a convert from Protestantism to the Catholic Church, it is saddening to see many Catholics who are simply going through the motions, occasionally or regularly attending mass on Sunday but living life just like a non-Christian for the rest of the week. I can't help but think that a great deal of Catholics could really use a 'personal relationship' with Him, where the Holy Spirit would transform their dead religiosity into a living faith from which works would flow.
Date: Tue Aug 09 2016
From: Vic Biorseth
All of that is true, up to a point, but sometimes appearances may be deceiving. An elite military unit on parade may be seen to be "going through the motions" too, but, for the most part, they believe very strongly in what they are doing and they express this belief through strong "esprit de corps". They will die for their brothers.
There are cases, true enough, of Catholics who don't take their religion seriously, just as there are Protestants who get all emotionally worked up on Sunday and are rude to their neighbors on Monday.
All of us would do better if we more fully and completely embraced the Truth of Jesus present in the Eucharist. That, for me, is the center of "Relationship". Love of God is, in and of itself, a relationship. You cannot truly love what you do not know, and Eucharist draws you deeper and deeper into that intimate knowledge.
See the Personal Relationship page. For me, the "trigger" in deepening my relationship with Jesus Christ was understanding what Paul said about "hearing" the Word. Using a modified version of the Lectio Divina method of prayer, I began to "hear" Scripture, and everything changed.
For me, this made the Homily the second most important part of the Mass, after Eucharist. Strange, I know, but that's me.
Date: Wed Aug 10 17:30:46 2016
Raised as a protestant, I've been at constant odds with the "once saved always saved" Presbyterian pitted against the "be careful or you'll lose it by wandering too far" Methodist and everything in between. All of the above in-depth discussion has been most interesting and thought provoking and helpful. I didn't realize that I've missed a lot of posts on this subject and will find them. It appears I've never fully understood the Catholic doctrine as described by Vic and Dennis and I find the questions posed by Gary challenging and excellent. It seems to me that in the 1950s, when I was a searching young girl, all main line churches, including the Catholic Church, fell pray to communism within its seminaries and the majority lost their spiritual power and congregations grew cold. At this point, I currently believe that if any church can instill and guide an individual into a humble, thankful, obedient commitment to and faith in a very living Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, it will please God the Father. Are you wincing? If this church also remains faithful (few do)and continues to support and challenge this believer to remain faithful to the end, he will be saved. It is a perilous journey. It is for the body of Christ, his church, his bride, he will come. But it is made up of unique and dearly loved individuals from every tribe and nation. If a person is not changed by this loving and powerful relationship in Christ, then no doctrine or church umbrella will be able to save him/her. The Catholic Church, with the help of Thomas Merton's "Thoughts in Solitude" and "Life and Holiness" and Vic's extraordinary teaching is appealing more and more. Sadly the current Pope's communist leanings and UN influences is giving me much pause and concern. God help us all. We love because He first loved us
Date: Wed Aug 10 17:30:46 2016
From: Vic Biorseth
At this point in your journey, I hesitate tell you about how there is no salvation outside the Church, but, we are all about Truth here. The simple fact is, there is only one Church Christ founded, not two, not many, and not any number other than one.
If this seemingly "harsh" language drives anyone away, I pray that sooner or later they will look deeper into it, to see if it has any basis in Truth.
The idea of "community" prayer and liturgy is wrapped up in Jesus' teaching that we are the Body of Christ, and He is the Head. He is the Vine, we are the Branches. Apart from Him, and apart from His body, we really can do nothing. There's nothing wrong with a little solitude in prayer, but we need community prayer, too. Jesus prayed that we would be one, and that we would be one in Him, as He was one with the Father.
His Church is where we find His body, and become part of it. There, and only there, do we become what we eat.
The Scripture is clear. He founded His Church on Peter; He conferred His authority on His chosen teachers, saying "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." That's pretty clear. (See Infallibility.)
We have had bad Popes before, and bad Bishops, and bad Priests. But no Pope - not even Alexander VI - ever taught error on faith or morals, in his official capacity as teacher of the faith. The Church has weathered all sorts of storms, and she survives. She survives.
The Doctrine remains, unchanged from the beginning.
There is a reason for that: She is holy. Despite all of us sinners.
May an angel of the Lord guide you in your seeking.
Date: Sun Aug 21 18:42:33 2016
Thank you Vic. I will pursue this study further and look forward to your posts. And no, your words are not harsh. Truth to power. Stay well.
If you want to establish, launch and maintain an independent personally owned actual WebSite like this one, go to SBI! They will make a Web-Master out of you at the very least, and make you into an entrepreneur with your own business if that's your goal. You don't need any special skills or special knowledge, other than the topic of whatever your WebSite will be about.
Never be lukewarm.
Life itself demands passion.
He who is indifferent to God has already forfeited his soul.
He who is indifferent to politics has already forfeited his liberty.
In America, religion is not mere window dressing and citizenship is not a spectator sport.
Do not allow our common destiny as a whole people to just happen without your input.
Seek the Truth; find the Way; live the Life; please God, and live forever.
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