30 April, 2010

Discussion of the difference between the assurance of salvation taught by Calvin and the Church

(Dannyboy) I know I am saved.

(Cristoiglesia) I understand that you have been deceived by Calvinist teaching into thinking that you have already been saved but that will not occur until your death and judgment according to biblical teaching. Only our sovereign God declares one saved and that is done at judgment. We cannot proclaim ourselves or others saved without prideful presumption. You are looking for cheap grace but that grace was earned for us by our Lord at Calvary and carried a heavy price of suffering to atone for our sins and open the door to heaven for us through our repentance.

(Dannyboy) And, I know that if you think you are saved because you do enough works, and teach others that they can lose their salvation by works (and you clearly do).

(Cristoiglesia) Why would you make such a presumption except that you were influenced by false teachers and believed their lies about Christ’s Church? Works salvation or Pelagianism is a heresy condemned by the Church.

"If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."
-Council of Trent, Sixth Session, Canon I

As you can see, what you accuse Catholics of is not true and that the Church teaches the exact opposite of what you have been told and believe.

(Dannyboy)If salvation can be lost by works, then it can be gained by works. You are teaching salvation isn't something we are promised or is a gift (though you will probably say you do). You're teaching that we won't really know until we get to heaven, depending on the "condition of our soul."

(Cristoiglesia) Well, as I have just pointed out to you, you are coming to erroneous conclusions by using a false premise. The Church teaches that we do not earn or lose salvation by works. Salvation is a promise, not a current one but instead as future promise based on our continuation of faith until final salvation at judgment. If we die in God’s grace with a sanctified soul we merit heaven, If we do not we merit hell. This is the teaching of our Lord.

(Dannyboy) How do you know the condition of your soul? I know the condition of mine because Christ has died for my sins. Perhaps He hasn't died for yours, and you don't believe He has died for the sins of those who you tell must have a "right soul condition" upon death in order to be saved, at that time. But, I know I am saved, and it is well with my soul.

(Cristoiglesia) Christ died so that everyone’s sins may be forgiven but the Bible teaches that there can be a false assurance of salvation. Here is what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:21 (King James Version)
21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

St. Paul questioned his own salvation on several occasions when he spoke of his walk in faith as a race where one who is successful wins heaven. Then St. Paul says the following:

1 Corinthians 9:27 (King James Version)
27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Now, let us look at what St. Paul taught to those who were already saved or had already come to initial salvation:

2 Corinthians 5:10 (King James Version)
10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Romans 2:6 (King James Version)
6Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

Romans 11:22 (King James Version)
22Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

This is the teaching of the inspired Word of God and not the teaching of John Calvin that you place above God’s Word. We are not judged only by the one act of coming to faith and accepting Jesus as our personal savior but instead how we respond to His grace through our life. There is no doubt that we are saved by faith and this has been the constant teaching of the Church through its entire history. Where the Protestants depart from orthodoxy and the Bible is when they claim that we are saved by faith alone. Such an assumption is clearly forbidden in Scriptures.

(Dannyboy) I *am* born again. Not going to be... not hope to be... I *am* born again. And, I *am* saved. If you aren't... then you aren't.

(Cristoiglesia) No, you are not an exception to Scriptures. There are no exceptions and everyone is saved in the same plan of salvation put into action by Christ’s salvific work on the cross.

In the Bible it tells us that Nicodemus asked Jesus what must be done to be saved. Jesus said the following:

John 3:5 (King James Version)
5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Now, if you are a convicted follower of Calvin you would say that the water is of no benefit which is another departure from orthodoxy as the orthodox Christian view is that both the water and the Holy Spirit are joined As one in the Sacrament of Baptism established by our Lord. It is not just the conviction from the Holy Spirit that is necessary but the water as well. You would say that the water is unnecessary but Jesus did not teach that the Holy Spirit alone is what is necessary for salvation but that the two are joined as one. His teaching does not say that an intellectual assent is all that is necessary but that the water is equally necessary.
Now, as a true Calvinist you probably believe that there is no act that can assist your salvation and that your acceptance of Christ is all that is needed. Let us look at St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Romans 5:2 (King James Version)
2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Now, if Calvin was right and that by our one assent to faith we are assured of salvation then why is St. Paul saying that we “rejoice in hope” for glory if nothing can separate us from heaven.

St. Paul explains his meaning here:

Romans 8:24 (King James Version)
24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

The reason we have hope is because even though we are in the Spirit we know that there is a chance that we may lose it through mortal sin.

So, the Catholic would respond to a Calvinist asking if they are saved by answering, "I am redeemed by the blood of Christ and as St. Paul taught I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling with hopeful confidence, lacking false assurance as the Church has taught from the beginning of the Church at Pentecost.

(Dannyboy) That's not presumption. You said you aren't saved. You can't know until you find out what the condition of your soul is. I'm sorry you don't know the condition of your soul, as I know the condition of my soul. The condition of my soul is covered by the blood of Christ. He is in me. Has been since the day I was saved. I'm sorry this is not the case for you, as you have told me.

(Cristoiglesia) I said my salvation is not complete until death and judgment and that it is a process and not a one time event. I am being sanctified by His grace and I cooperate with that grace by confession of my sins and reconciling back into the familial relationship with Him when I fail by the seduction of temptation.

To Catholic Christians and many other Christians, justification is understood differently. We understand from Scriptures that justification is not the covering of sin but the eradication and the beginning of true sanctification and simultaneous renewal. The soul is transformed into goodness instead of being a sinful soul with sins covered by Christ’s blood. We see Scriptures saying that forgiveness results in a complete removal of sins. The only time the Bible mentions the covering of sin is in the context of one man’s sin being forgiven by another. One should note that we have no power to forgive another’s sin, therefore the context is that we do all we can and cover or overlook those sins against us. In relation to God and His removal of sin the Scriptures use quite different terminology such as “blot out”, “blotting out”, “clears away” and “takes away”.

Catholics see justification as a rebirth and supernatural life in a former sinner:

(Joh 3:5 DRB) Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

(Tit 3:5 DRB) Not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost.

That creates an inner renewal of the soul:

(Eph 4:23 DRB) And be renewed in spirit of your mind:

Resulting in complete sanctification:

(1Co 6:11 DRB) And such some of you were. But you are washed: but you are sanctified: but you are justified: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.

Through this glorious process initiated by God’s grace the soul becomes beautiful, holy and worthy of heaven where nothing unclean is allowed. It is not an ugly sinful soul hidden under the blood of Jesus but instead one sanctified by Him and created anew for His glory.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous05 May, 2011

    I am so happy to have read this! As a new Catholic (former Protestant), this discussion has helped me along the way to true understanding. God Bless you, Fr. Joseph:)