Will “Basically Good People” Be Saved?

Juan de la Abadía, Saint Michael Weighing Souls (1490)
Juan de la Abadía, Saint Michael Weighing Souls (1490)

“Are you going to Heaven?” “I think so. After all, I’m basically a good person.” Like me, you’ve probably heard versions of this conversation countless times. It relies on a simple but attractive theological premise: since you’re basically a good person, it would be unjust to send you to Hell; therefore, you’ll be in Heaven forever. But how does this line of reasoning stand up to close inquiry?

The Heart is Deceptive Above All Things.

There’s a reason that God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Self-deceit is easy:

But I do also want to let you know that there was harmony in that home. There was harmony at home. I was – I was a good person. Being brought up, I never had a record. I just hope that they find it in their hearts to forgive me and to maybe do some research on people who have addictions to – so they can see how their addiction takes over their lives.

That’s from Ariel Castro’s closing speech at a trial in which he pled guilty to 937 criminal counts, including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder (the murders in question were of his own unborn children). Throughout his statement, he continually excuses his behavior by claiming sex addiction (“I’m not a monster. I am a normal person. I am just sick. I have an addiction — just like an alcoholic has an addiction”) and that, deep down, he’s a good guy (“I’ve been a musician for a long time, maybe 25, 30 years. And to be a musician and to be a monster like they say that I am, I don’t think I can handle it. I’m a happy person inside.”). Contrast that with this:

I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

That’s St. Paul (1 Timothy 1:12-16), and note how different he sounds. Rather than claiming to be a basically good person, he describes himself as the worst of sinners, a man who was guilty of blasphemy, of insulting Christ and persecuting Christians, and yet a man upon whom Christ had mercy.

Most of us don’t have the sort of track record of Ariel Castro, or perhaps even of Saint Paul (who had his share of blood on his hands). But all of us have unclean hands. All of us have done things we’re not proud of: all have sinned. And we can respond to that in one of two ways. Either we go Castro’s route of self-deceit, minimizing our sins, excusing them by writing them off, or simply forgetting about them entirely; or else we go the route of St. Paul, of confessing that we’ve sinned and are in desperate need of mercy.

Here’s one problem with Castro’s approach: it doesn’t really mean anything. Who can’t describe themselves as “basically a good person”? My natural inclination, and yours, and everyone’s, is to judge other people harshly, while making excuses for our own mistakes and sins. We shrug off our bad behavior because of our good motives or intentions, or because our bad behavior was provoked in some way (by our addictions or weakness or somebody else’s bad behavior, etc.). In other people, like Ariel Castro, we recognize this as guilty evasion. But it’s easy to overlook how we do it to ourselves. That’s how self-deception works, after all.

You Don’t Really Deserve Heaven.

Underneath it all, “I’m basically a good person” seems to mean “I haven’t murdered anyone” or haven’t committed some other giant sin. So what? Were you ever seriously tempted to do so? If not, it sounds like you’re really just saying that you haven’t done those awful things that you’ve never been seriously tempted to do. But what about those sins that you were tempted to commit? How did you fare on those? Not so well, am I right?

But maybe I’m wrong: maybe you really have led an extraordinary life, and maybe it’s not just self-deception leading you to say that. Fair enough. You still don’t deserve Heaven, and it’s more than a tiny bit narcissistic to think that you do.

Imagine if I said, “Congress should award me the Congressional Gold Medal, because I’m basically a good person.” When pressed on the great things I’d done to deserve the medal, I just mention all those times that I didn’t rob banks, and that I tend to be nice most of the time, or at least when I happen to be in a good mood. You would rightly say, “it sounds like you’re achieving the minimal standards of human decency: why do you think you deserve to be awarded for this?” And you’d be right; but I’d be right to ask you the same thing. If not-being-awful doesn’t earn me the Medal of Honor or get me a holiday named after me, why in the world does it earn you something infinitely higher than that for all eternity?

 Philippe de Champaigne, Saint Augustine (1650)
Philippe de Champaigne, Saint Augustine (1650)

There is a Better Way.

So no, you can’t earn Heaven with your good deeds. But there’s another approach, that you’re going to Heaven, not because you’re so great, but because God is. This is closer to the mark, because it tells the most important truth: God alone is the Good that will satisfy our hearts. The Bible will tell us, theology will tell us, but we know it on a more fundamental level. Today’s the feast day of St. Augustine, who famously begins his Confessions by saying,

Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that You resist the proud, — yet man, this part of Your creation, desires to praise You. You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.

Nothing other than God can ever satisfy us for long. Augustine’s autobiography bore witness to this truth, and so do many of our lives, as well.

But God’s infinite goodness is. if you will, a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it explains why He glories in having mercy on us, despite our transparent unworthiness. The Saints aren’t in Heaven because of their own greatness, but because of God’s. But on the other hand, it means that if we reject God – and this life clearly bears witness to the truth that He gives us the freedom to reject Him – then we’ll be miserable. You can’t say that God is infinite Good, the source of all goodness, and then expect to find goodness apart from Him. That’s like looking for some sort of infinity-plus-one happiness: it doesn’t make sense, and it just can’t exist. So if you’re a “basically-good” person who decides to commit their life to something other than God, you’re committing to eternal misery. That’s what it means to say that God is the source of all goodness: He’s an all or nothing deal.

Once we recognize this truth, and our utter unworthiness of the goodness of God, the logical response isn’t to plead our basic goodness, or our mostly-good works, but to cry to Him for mercy. We know that God alone will satisfy our hearts, and that we don’t deserve Him. In fact, we don’t just not deserve Him (even a sinless person wouldn’t deserve Him). We’ve actually done positive damage to our relationship with Him via our sins. We need His mercy and forgiveness (be that for a lot of sins, or just a few), and we need His salvation. Fortunately, the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. It’s up to us to stop deluding ourselves and realize that this means us.

76 Comments

  1. Hi Fr. Joe,

    That assumes that God is going to ask us to justify our behaviour. From what I can see, God is watching our behaviour, all our lives. And when we die, He already knows whether we are sheep or goats.

    So, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m tellin’ you why, Jesus Christ is watching, right now.

    1. De Maria,

      I’m not sure that I follow. Certainly God is aware of our behavior all of our lives. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not still a particular judgment at the end of our lives, followed by a general Final Judgment at the end of time.

      You seem to be suggesting it’s one or the other, or that something in the post denies God’s foreknowledge or predestination. Can you clarify?

      Joe

      P.S. It’s not “Fr. Joe” yet. I will be ordained in 2018. Thanks for the thought, though!

      1. Is it Deacon Joe, then?

        I’m not sure that I follow. Certainly God is aware of our behavior all of our lives. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not still a particular judgment at the end of our lives, followed by a general Final Judgment at the end of time.

        You seem to be suggesting it’s one or the other, or that something in the post denies God’s foreknowledge or predestination.
        Can you clarify?

        It sounds to me as though you’re basically saying, “You can’t earn your way to heaven because of your good deeds, so don’t even try. Just throw yourself upon God’s mercy”.

        However, that ignores the fact that God does not shed His mercy upon those who don’t keep His Commandments:
        Exodus 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

        And God knows who those are before they get to the particular Judgment. (Matt 7:21).

        1. De Maria,

          Your thread w/ Joe intrigues me. Allow me to offer a distinction that may prove helpful.

          There is causal and non-causal foreknowledge, and they do what they sound like they do.

          NON-CAUSAL: What is your favorite movie? Mine is Braveheart. I know that William Wallace dies at the end of the movie, yet it in no way causes his death. The first time I watched it he died. The last time I watched it (which has been too long), he died. My knowledge of his death now is a consequence of my being outside of “movie-time;” it doesn’t cause his death.

          I propose that this is something like God’s foreknowledge of our acceptance or rejection of Him. He knows our choice b/c its effects have eternal consequences, and eternity is God’s. But, his knowledge of our choices’ effects does not in any way determine those choices. It is non-causal foreknowledge.

          CAUSAL: This would be distinct from causal foreknowledge. For instance, let’s say I know that a burglar is hiding in my house. Knowing this causes me to call the police instead of entering my pad.

          Best regards,

          Alan

          1. Alan,

            In that example, you’re God. And God knows that William Wallace has done some good and some evil. God doesn’t need to ask William what he has done, he already knows. And if God judges to the extent that William has kept the Commandments, he will receive God’s mercy. No amount of begging will give William any mercy. His begging time, is up.

            Make sense?

  2. Though not a guarantee of attaining Heaven, we are certainly in a better position to attain Heaven if we humbly listen to, and follow what, Jesus teaches us in this regard:

    “And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? [17] Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. [18] He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. [19] Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [20] The young man saith to him: All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me?[21] Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. [22] And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.

    And:

    “Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have? [28] And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [29] And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’ s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.”

    There are many more such scriptures of hope on this same topic, but truly it is said that we need the Mercy of God, because we cannot even begin to fulfill these same words above without His Mercy and Grace.

    (I’m changing my comment name from Al Williams to awlms, as the former is too long for my liking.)

      1. I only commented about 20 times on the last post regarding Calvin..and Romans 8…and Augustine’s Book X…. so …really you didn’t miss me too much 🙂 You and CK provided some very excellent info. on that last post. It’s something to remember for future study. And, Craig also forced me to read the ‘Confessions’ again. 🙂 What a treat. And how appropriate for the Feasts of Sts. Monica and Augustine over the last two days.

        1. But I didn’t know who you were, err, are. Maybe I missed the memo. Or forgot.

          Yep, I was praying to St. Augustine since his name was being bandied about so.

          1. Sorry, De Maria. When Joe moved his blog to this new site, I thought I’d give my whole name instead of just my initials, not wanting to hide in anonymity. However, my name is so long, that I’m getting sick of looking at it when posting or reading comments, so I’m abandoning the idea, and just using awlms.

            Best to you and keep up the good work. I like your zeal for the faith.

        2. De Maria,

          It would benefit me better if indeed I DID understand you better. And the reason for this is that there are often fairly simple answers to complex questions, such as the relations between faith, and grace, and merit, that the Church provided many centuries ago…but, now the same questions are argued with almost the same vigor as they did back in 350 AD.

          The problem today is, that almost nobody cares to read any of these historical sources that resolve such questions, and so the same heresies can be reborn over and over again, in so many generations later, in one form or another. A good example of this is the link that Joe provided for the canons of the Council of Orange. The Catholic doctrine regarding faith, justification, grace and merit are spelled out both simply and sufficiently in these few ‘canons’. Thus, really there is little need to argue about them, as the Church rebuked and settled the Semi Pelagian heretical controversies over 1600 years ago.

          But now, because this history is largely mixed in with, and buried amongst countless other historical conflicts and doctrines, almost nobody knows about the resolutions that the Church provided so many centuries ago. Catholics might know something of the end results, such as the fact that grace precedes merit, but they have no idea where the Church acquired this theology, or how many Churches needed to be burnt to the ground, and Fathers of the Church to be exiled or stoned to death, to do so.

          So, when either you, Joe, Craig, or someone else brings up the finer points of the debates, and the minute details inherent in these arguments, it is an impetus for others, like myself, to get out and study the source documents, such as the canons of the early Ecumenical Councils. In this way, those who read the arguments that you guys debate in the comments section can gain a lot of understanding of Church theology just by being directed to these excellent sources provided for in the commentary.

          After reviewing these source documents, I think it is easier, as you say…’to understand you’. And at the very least we will all understand the Catholic faith better.

          So, thanks for all of your contributions. And thanks to the others as well. We are all better, and wiser, Christians if we dive deeper into Church history, and theology, to understand our Holy Faith better.

          1. Nobody will ever understand another perfectly, and maybe not even very well at all, as St. Augustine mentions in the “Confessions”. But if people understand Christ through the Gospel He teaches, and the sacraments He provides, therein they will have something in common between themselves that they can understand each other by, which is Our Lord Jesus Christ. The rest doesn’t really matter too much.

  3. Hi De Maria, I didn’t get that impression at all.

    To me (to simplify greatly) the article is saying that *just* being a good person doesn’t merit Heaven, whereas having faith and doing God’s will (by being the kind of good person Christ tells us to be in Matthew 25 for example) does. 😃

    Deacon Joe, thank you for this excellent article! 😃👍

    God bless,

    Cam 😃

    1. Hello Cam,

      I guess I have a knee jerk reaction whenever someone says, “So no, you can’t earn Heaven with your good deeds.”

      Because, although it is technically correct. However, you won’t “merit” heaven without them, either.
      John 15:1-2King James Version (KJV)

      1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: …

      Basically, we are supposed to:
      Luke 17:8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? 9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

      So, we do that which God wills for us to do and hope for His mercy.

      1. I guess I have a knee jerk reaction whenever someone says, “So no, you can’t earn Heaven with your good deeds.”

        *****

        I actually don’t think that’s what Joe was getting at. The piece is more about our ability as humans to excuse our individual sins because they’re not “major” (like murder or rape) and that we shouldn’t assume God will just let us in because we met the bare minimum standards of human decency. That’s what the “I’m basically a good person” argument is about. It presumes upon the mercy of God in a way that allows us to feel mentally secure in remaining in our sins because, “I’m not as bad as that awful guy over there, so God will overlook my issues. After all, if he’s good he won’t condemn a basically good person like me.”

        So the point of the piece is that you can’t just be a lump and never really commit yourself to God and his righteousness and expect to get to heaven. You have to make the choice to believe in and love God and to follow his commandments. That seems, to me, to be what Joe is saying here.

      2. De Maria,

        As Mandy and Alan and Cameron mentioned, I’m not denying that the justified Christian needs to obey God, an obedience that will manifest itself in good works. I’ve written enough articles specifically on that point that I don’t think that there should be any confusion.

        What I am denying is that being a “basically good person” is what Christianity teaches about justification.

        But beyond this, “So no, you can’t earn Heaven with your good deeds” is absolutely what the Catholic Church teaches. I think you run the risk, in trying to avoid Protestantism, of affirming something that sounds like Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism.

        Canon 18 of the Council of Orange distinguishes between the sort of good works we believe in, from those believed in by the Pelagians, when it says that “grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.” And:

        “We also believe and confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith in him and love for him without any previous good works of our own that deserve reward, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacrament of baptism, and after baptism be able by his help to do what is pleasing to him.”

        So yeah, we don’t believe in sola fide, but we do believe that initial justification is an absolutely unmerited gift, and that we’re incapable of doing good works without God’s prior action. In other words, we reject the premises assumed by the person who thinks that they can get to Heaven without the Christian life because they are “basically good people.”

        1. Two things, Joe,

          Mandy said,
          That’s what the “I’m basically a good person” argument is about. It presumes upon the mercy of God in a way that allows us to feel mentally secure in remaining in our sins because, “I’m not as bad as that awful guy over there, so God will overlook my issues

          This is what I thought your article was doing. Advising that one could “presume(s) upon the mercy of God in a way that allows us to feel mentally secure in remaining in our sins”.

          Second and more importantly, this is wrong:
          but we do believe that initial justification is an absolutely unmerited gift

          I’ve heard other Catholics say that and it isn’t taught anywhere in Catholicism. I believe it is a misunderstanding of these words from the Council of Trent:
          we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification.

          That means that the faith and works which precede justification do not equal the value of the grace of justification. However, since faith and works must precede justification, they have merit, in the eyes of God.

          For some reason, people get the grace of justitication confused with the unmerited gift of the Call to Conversion:
          CHAPTER V
          THE NECESSITY OF PREPARATION FOR JUSTIFICATION IN ADULTS, AND WHENCE IT PROCEEDS

          It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called;

          The proof of this is that one must answer this call and cooperate with the grace of God before God will justify the person. i.e. there must be a preparation.

          CHAPTER VI
          THE MANNER OF PREPARATION

          Now, they [the adults] are disposed to that justice when, aroused and aided by divine grace, receiving faith by hearing,[21] they are moved freely toward God, believing to be true what has been divinely revealed and promised, especially that the sinner is justified by God by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;[22] and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves from the fear of divine justice, by which they are salutarily aroused, to consider the mercy of God, are raised to hope, trusting that God will be propitious to them for Christ’s sake; and they begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice, and on that account are moved against sin by a certain hatred and detestation, that is, by that repentance that must be performed before baptism;[23] finally, when they resolve to receive baptism, to begin a new life and to keep the commandments of God.

          But if I’m wrong, please correct me.

          1. De Maria,

            If I am understanding what you’re sayin correctly, it is wrong.

            Trent says explicitly, “The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.”

            So it isn’t like you’ve got some merit apart from Christ, but not enough to merit justification. That’s heresy, and directly contrary to Christ’s words (for example, in the description of the Vine and Branches in John’s Gospel). Apart from grace, you’ve got no merit. So you don’t merit even a little bit of your initial justification, and Protestants are right to call out Catholics who claim otherwise.

            Where Catholics and Protestants differ is in what happens next. Protestants tend to believe that justification is a mere act of declaration in which we’re covered in Christ’s alien righteousness. Catholics believe that God infuses His grace in us, pouring faith, hope, and charity into our hearts, thereby enabling us to cooperate with His will and to merit (in a secondary sense).

            But to claim that we could do something prior to these theological virtues worthy of merit or recompense of any kind would misunderstand what we mean by “good works,” vis-a-vis the Pelagians who we excommunicated.

            Joe

          2. Let’s get past this first.

            you said:
            De Maria,

            If I am understanding what you’re sayin correctly, it is wrong.

            Trent says explicitly, “The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; ….

            Notice that I quoted the same part, but I also emphasied, “they are called.”

            It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called;…

            Do you see a difference in meaning there, in what you emphasized and that which I emphasized?

            It sounds to me as though you are saying that we are justified as soon as we receive the call to conversion. In other words, as soon as we come to faith. Which is the Protestant doctrine and the reason why they reject Baptism.

            The Synod is saying that we receive a free gift of “vocation” (i.e. call). We must accept this gift and cooperate with it and prepare for our justification. This preparation actually has a formal name, RCIA.

            After we have done that, then we request and receive justification in Baptism.

            Correct me if I’m wrong.

          3. Here’s what the Catechism says about *initial* justification and its relationship with the ongoing process of justification, called sanctification.

            “2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.” (CCC)

            Initial grace is unmerited. The difference between Protestants and Catholics, as Joe said, is in what happens next. We believe that being justified does not guarantee continuing justification, also known as sanctification. After initial justification we *can* merit graces needed for sanctification. But, even our merits have their source in Christ:

            “2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.” (CCC)

            To illustrate this point, the Catechism then quotes St. Therese of Lisieux:

            “After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.”

            St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Act of Offering” in Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke (Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277

            Catholicism is more complex than Protestantism. Protestantism operates in a universe of simple dichotomies. For the Protestant, to believe in grace alone means to deny any place in salvation for human merit. The Protestant believes we face a clear choice: any place for works denies salvation by grace alone. The Catholic does not believe that grace and works cancel each other out; he understands that merit is, first of all, the fruit of God’s grace

            “2025 We can have merit in God’s sight only because of God’s free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man’s collaboration. Man’s merit is due to God.” (CCC)

            This turn in the conversation to grace/merit seems to be a bit off the initial topic of the post, but I think there’s an important connection. Our propensity to self-deception, our tendency to be complacent in our confidence that we merit heaven, can only be countered by a lively awareness of our complete dependence on God’s grace, especially as found in Confession and the Eucharist, to do anything of supernatural worth .

          4. Hi Joe, Charlotte, et. al.

            Joe said,
            De Maria,

            As Mandy and Alan and Cameron mentioned, I’m not denying that the justified Christian needs to obey God, an obedience that will manifest itself in good works. I’ve written enough articles specifically on that point that I don’t think that there should be any confusion…..

            How about the “unjustified” Christian. The sinner who has just been touched by the prevenient grace of God but has not yet been baptized.

            1. Must he do good works before baptism?
            2. Are those good works looked upon with favor in God’s eyes? In other words, do his good works have merit in God’s eyes, before baptism?

            I believe the Catholic Church answers, “yes” to both of those questions. Are we on the same page, yet?

          5. De Maria,

            Not yet. No work is meritorious apart from charity (again, that’s Pelagianism). So you can’t speak of us having meritorious works without the prior infusion of the theological virtues. As Charlotte has pointed out, all of this is in CCC 2010-11. See also CCC 1813,

            “The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.”

            And Chapter VII of the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification:

            “For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts[38] of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity.

            (This is why they’re called “infused virtues,” because they’re not the result of man’s good works, but of God’s gracious infusion.). Chapter XVI of the same Decree explains that when the Church speaks of us as “meriting” our salvation, that we really mean that we’re freely cooperating with the (unmerited by us) merits of Christ at work in our soul:

            “Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own from ourselves, nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated, for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ.

            “Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, Christ promises, shall not lose his reward; and the Apostle testifies that, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord, whose bounty toward all men is so great that He wishes the things that are His gifts to be their merits.”

            So when you talk about Christians who have never been justified, or good works that precede the infusion of the theological virtues, I’m not sure where you’re getting it, because both ideas appear directly contrary to the Magisterial teaching of the Church.

            I.X.,

            Joe

          6. Hello Joe,

            because both ideas appear directly contrary to the Magisterial teaching of the Church.

            I don’t think so, Joe. But I’m having trouble corralling you. I’m trying to draw a bullseye on exactly what we are talking about.

            you seem to be saying that our good deeds merit nothing after conversion but before baptism, is that correct?

            So when you talk about Christians who have never been justified,….

            I mean, for example, Catechumens.

            Do you mean to tell me, that Catechumens, who are seeking God, studying His Word and beginning to keep the Commandments because of their faith, do not please God and do not merit anything in God’s eyes?

            Let’s se

        2. Joe,

          Question: Also, do you see a difference between merit and earning?

          I do.

          I see earning as being able to demand recompense.
          Whereas merit is judged by the Master.

          A student, for example, merits a grade. Although many people say it is earned.
          Whereas, a wage laborer, earns a just recompense.

          The problem when you say that we do not “earn” our way to heaven is that there are many people who don’t see a difference. Nor is it very clearly spelled out in Scripture.

          Revelation 22:12New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

          12 “Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds.

          You also said:
          Canon 18 of the Council of Orange distinguishes between the sort of good works we believe in, from those believed in by the Pelagians, when it says that “grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.”

          I don’t see the connection between what I’ve said and this objection to what I’ve said. I did not deny either and I affirmed that “Recompense is due to good works if they are performed”.

          ???

          1. I think the Lord sums the argument up fairly decisively when He says:

            “he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

          2. De Maria,

            The point I’m contesting is that we can have meritorious works apart from, or prior to, grace.

            I.X.,

            Joe

            What do you mean by “prior to grace”? Prior to the grace of conversion (i.e. faith)? Or prior to Sanctifying grace (Baptism)?

  4. To better be able to enter into ‘eternal life’, or ‘Heaven’, we should have an idea of WHAT eternal life is in the first place:

    1
    John 17:3
    Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    2
    1 John 5:11
    And this is the testimony, that God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son.

    3
    1 John 5:20
    And we know that the Son of God is come: and he hath given us understanding that we may know the true God, and may be in his true Son. This is the true God and life eternal.

    And this is why the Eucharist is so important, because it accustoms us to be intimately close to Christ’s ‘real presence’. So that where Christ is, we also want to be. We want to always be in His company. Sort of like when He said: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. [3] And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be. [4] And whither I go you know, and the way you know. [5] Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? [6] Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me. [7] If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father also: and from henceforth you shall know him, and you have seen him.” (John 14:2)

  5. Joe, you wrote a good article, and I think our agreement is 100% up to the point where you know where we diverge. You write, “Protestants tend to believe that justification is a mere act of declaration in which we’re covered in Christ’s alien righteousness. Catholics believe that God infuses His grace in us…thereby enabling us to cooperate with His will and to merit (in a secondary sense.)”

    I have a few questions and not all of them rhetorical.

    Theologically, how is salvation not a result of works, but it can be merited by what we do? What do you mean by “in a secondary sense?”

    Why does the Bible not speak of initial and subsequent justification if what WE HAD TO DO to attain our subsequent justification is so important, if we don’t do it we suffer as a result?

    Why does early church tradition not speak of initial and subsequent justification if it was so important? (I have not found it, perhaps you can point it out.)

    Why do you think the idea of being covered with Christ’s righteousness, and not ours, to be Protestant and not properly understood Catholic doctrine?

    For example Victorinus wrote: “As it was accounted to Abraham as justice, then, because he had faith, therefore, if we have faith in Christ and his whole Mystery, we too will be children of Abraham. This means that our whole life will be accounted to us as justice” (Gal 3:7). Without getting into the Mystery part, he is saying that a Christian’s whole life is accounted as righteous. This does not sound like “grace infusion.”

    Athanasius wrote, “It is necessary therefore it is necessary to believe the Holy Scriptures to confess him who is the first fruit of us to celebrate the philanthropy of him who assumed our nature to be struck with wonder at the great dispensation to fear not the curse which is from the Law for Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law Hence the full accomplishment of the Law which was made through the first fruit must be imputed to the whole mass” (Athan Synops Sacr Script lib vii in Epist ad Rom Oper vol ii p 125).

    Cyril writes something similar, “For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him: but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing , this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour” (Catechetical Lecture 5, Chap 10).

    My opinion is that because if initial and subsequent justification thing is not found in the Bible, and if it is not even found in the early church, but the Protestant view of soteriology is, this lends the Protestant view credibility.

    I really appreciate your feedback as I have been studying both Chyrsostom and Ambrose speaking about the priesthood, and early writings about sacraments aside from the Lord’s Supper, and I am still trying to understand the topic as a whole.

  6. De Maria: “Do you mean the Catechumens who are seeking God…do not merit anything in God’s eyes?”

    De Maria, you are bordering on heresy here (other replies here have said what you are writing is Pelagian, so that’s not me being bitter or anything.) Joe already answered this question. Grace precedes the desire of the Catechumen and sustains him all the way through. The early church settled the matter conclusively, saying that such men and women who die before baptism are “baptized by desire” because their faith and desire to partake in the sacraments suffices for the physical sacrament. Joe teaches faith + sacraments. You seem to literally be preaching works righteousness, which is heresy, and it will take you to hell. If you somehow are misspeaking, now would be a good time to say it.

    The following from a Catholic site:

    Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. Book V, Sec I, Concerning the Martyrs, para 6: (3rd-4th Century): (A compilation of writings from the Apostles and their immediate successors) “But let him who is vouchsafed the honour of martyrdom rejoice with joy in the Lord, as obtaining thereby so great a crown, and departing out of this life by his confession. Nay, though he be trot a catechumen, let him depart without trouble; for his suffering for Christ will be to him a more genuine baptism, because he does really die with Christ, but the rest only in a figure.”

    St. Ambrose, Church Father and Doctor of the Church (4th Century): From his writing “De obitu Valentiniani consolatio”: “But I hear that you are distressed because he did not receive the sacrament of baptism. Tell me, what attribute do we have besides our will, our intention? Yet, a short time ago he had this desire that before he came to Italy he should be initiated [baptized], and he indicated that he wanted to be baptized as soon as possible by myself. Did he not, therefore, have that grace which he desired? Did he not have what he asked for? Undoubtedly because he asked for it he received it.”

      1. The problem is that no one considers that works other than you. It is ironic that James anticipated your very point: “But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). James then goes about denying that there are two different kinds of faith (one with works and one without). There is only faith with works. So, the Catechumen that Ambrose was talking about simply received the grace he desired, because his desire was true. There isn’t a degree of suffering or works needed to get saved, though faith may compel us to suffer or to work.

        Again, I am not the only one correcting you on it here. Your example was “how about catechumens.” I showed you that you’re wrong. Have a good day!

        1. The problem that I see here, is that faith can die and the grace of God can be rejected after it has been once been joyfully received and practiced. And as 1Peter 5:8 says:

          “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.”

          So there is the virtue of fortitude, or perseverance, that is necessary after a person is ‘born again’, and the purity of a persons baptismal faith, and grace, must be preserved through ‘sobriety’ and great diligence, even as instructed by Peter, above.

          And didn’t Jesus say the same when He explained the parable of the scattered seed?:

          “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. [12] And they by the way side are they that hear; then the devil cometh, and taketh the word out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. [13] Now they upon the rock, are they who when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no roots; for they BELIEVE FOR A WHILE, and in time of temptation, they fall away. [14] And that which fell among thorns, are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. [15] But that on the good ground, are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.” (Luke 8:11)

          The words of Christ have eternal implications. Why argue so scrupulously about the ‘origins’ of faith and grace, when it is the preserving of that faith and grace that is the hard part? And to be ‘Born Again’ is one thing, but the soul then needs to develop and grow after that, as the parable says, all of which is also accompanied by peril and temptation, wherein a weak soul in a time of temptation will “fall away”. Grace sufficient for this growth is always there, but the free will of the soul always has the choice of neglecting the graces, and gifts, of God that are offered to him, whereby the soul puts himself in mortal danger of being, as Peter says, ‘devoured by the Roaring Lion’.

          1. “The problem that I see here, is that faith can die and the grace of God can be rejected after it has been once been joyfully received and practiced.”

            Perhaps (though I do not concede that point, but there are Protestants that do), but that’s not the issue with the catechumen (which you are responding to.)

            Perseverance is a spiritual gift given to all that God has called. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39).

        2. Craig said – The problem is that no one considers that works other than you. It is ironic that James anticipated your very point: “But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). James then goes about denying that there are two different kinds of faith (one with works and one without).

          Me – As we discussed elsewhere James is talking about one kind of faith and that’s intellectual assent.

          Craig – There is only faith with works.

          Me – where do you get this?

          Craig – So, the Catechumen that Ambrose was talking about simply received the grace he desired, because his desire was true.

          Me – I can roll with this.

          Craig – There isn’t a degree of suffering or works needed to get saved, though faith may compel us to suffer or to work.

          Me – Mark 10:17-31 says exactly the opposite of what you are saying. Listen to what Jesus told Peter when he pointed out that they had given up their riches. Jesus didn’t say don’t worry your faith alone saved you, but said the act of giving up their riches (as Jesus commanded) did save them. The passage also implies that if the rich man had given up his riches he would have inherited eternal life.

          17i As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?* No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”j 20He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
          23* Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”k 24The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” 28Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. 31But many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first.”l

          Are you saying that there is faith that does not compel us to suffer or to work? That sounds like a different kind of faith.

          Craig – Again, I am not the only one correcting you on it here. Your example was “how about catechumens.” I showed you that you’re wrong. Have a good day!

          Me – Craig your conflating De Maria’s discussion of initial justification with progressive justification.

          1. Craig said – The problem is that no one considers that works other than you. It is ironic that James anticipated your very point: “But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). James then goes about denying that there are two different kinds of faith (one with works and one without).

            Me – “As we discussed elsewhere James is talking about one kind of faith and that’s intellectual assent.”

            Again, your interpretation leaves something to be desired. James clearly says that someone speculates there are two kinds of faith, one with works and one that’s just intellectual. His response is that there isn’t a purely intellectual faith, that only the faith with works is true

            Me– There isn’t a degree of suffering or works needed to get saved, though faith may compel us to suffer or to work.

            CK – Mark 10:17-31 says exactly the opposite of what you are saying. …

            Me again- Actually, what you quoted is a non sequitur. The rich young man was not saved, and Jesus showed the man that he did not love God with his whole heart by picking on the money. It is not a relevant situation. I cover the topic in more detail here http://christianreformedtheology.com/2015/02/21/an-exegesis-on-the-rick-young-ruler/, but in short, Jesus takes offense to the question “what must i DO.”

            “Are you saying that there is faith that does not compel us to suffer or to work?”

            No, I am surprised you have taken that interpretation of what I said. Clearly, the only kind of faith there is is the kind that makes a man willing to suffer and willing to do work. However, the work or suffering in of themselves do not make one right with God, for Abraham before doing anything was right with God.

            “Craig your conflating De Maria’s discussion of initial justification with progressive justification.”

            I believe you are confused. I was responding to De Maria’s comment that catechumens cannot be saved apart from their merit. That is pertaining to initial justification.

          2. Craig – Again, your interpretation leaves something to be desired. James clearly says that someone speculates there are two kinds of faith, one with works and one that’s just intellectual. His response is that there isn’t a purely intellectual faith, that only the faith with works is true.

            Me – actually only faith working through love. He says nothing about true faith. He is comparing faith that’s active and faith that is not (dead faith).

            Craig – The rich young man was not saved, and Jesus showed the man that he did not love God with his whole heart by picking on the money.

            Me – actually we don’t know in the end what the RYM decided. The passage does imply that if he had done what was asked he would have been inherited eternal life. He would have been perfect.

            So my question to you is – would the RYM have attained eternal life if he had done what Jesus asked of Him?

        3. Craig Truglia says:
          September 2, 2015 at 11:49 am
          The problem is that no one considers that works other than you…..

          There you go misrepresenting what I said, as usual.

          I said, “Suffering for Christ, is a work of faith

          1. 1st. This is related to you twisting my words, AS USUAL. I said it was a work of faith. Not a mere work.

            2nd. Your twisting of words continues even in this question, you ask:
            Again, how is this related to your original point that catechumens merit some sort of salvation apart from faith (your original contention)?

            I want you to prove that I asked that question. I want you to quote me saying anything about catechumens meriting anything apart from faith.

            3rd. No, that’s not my original contention. It is YOU twisting my words.

            Of course, it is futile of me to ask to fess up. You are clearly not here for honest discourse.

          2. To be fair to you, De Maria is totally right in the catechumen issue. I misread what he said (I Was at work on my phone):

            “Do you mean to tell me, that Catechumens, who are seeking God, studying His Word and beginning to keep the Commandments because of their faith, do not please God and do not merit anything in God’s eyes?”

            There is nothing objectionable here, my apologies.

          3. Craig Truglia says:
            September 3, 2015 at 12:37 pm
            To be fair to you, De Maria….

            There is nothing objectionable here, my apologies.

            No problem.

      2. Craig Truglia says:
        September 2, 2015 at 11:49 am
        The problem is that no one considers that works other than you. It is ironic that James anticipated your very point: “But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). James then goes about denying that there are two different kinds of faith (one with works and one without). There is only faith with works.

        That’s the Catholic Doctrine. There is only faith with works. Faith alone, is dead.

        So, the Catechumen that Ambrose was talking about simply received the grace he desired, because his desire was true. There isn’t a degree of suffering or works needed to get saved, though faith may compel us to suffer or to work.

        So, all you need to do is desire it but need not obey? Then if that Catechumen did not suffer and also refused to be baptized, would he have been saved in that way?

        Again, I am not the only one correcting you on it here. Your example was “how about catechumens.” I showed you that you’re wrong.

        You have showed me nothing except that you’re confused. As for correcting me, I’ll await Joe’s response.

        Have a good day!

        Lol! Why do I get the impression that you don’t mean that at all? Yeah, I think you’re getting snippy.

        1. I think this whole reply, which essentially says, “I agree with the substance but I refuse to agree in full” is essentially why I have put forward the idea of some sort of real conversation. Then you are outraged over “snippyness” because you are told to have a good day, after I am accused of “contradicting” myself again, when I just restated the same thing three time.

          There’s no making some people happy. I’d bet in personal conversation, or over a phone, youtube debate or whatever, your tone would be totally different. You’re a message board tough guy, but sorry I am not impressed.

          I sincerely pray for God to bless you,

          Craig

          1. Craig Truglia says:
            September 3, 2015 at 12:32 pm
            I think this whole reply, which essentially says, “I agree with the substance but I refuse to agree in full” is essentially why I have put forward the idea of some sort of real conversation.

            What? Are you paraphrasing me as saying that, “I agree with the substance….?” If so, read my reply again. I said, “There is only faith with works. Faith alone, is dead.”

            Then you are outraged over “snippyness” because you are told to have a good day,

            With an exclamation point. Which is usually indicative of someone who thinks they have said something which can’t be gainsayed.

            after I am accused of “contradicting” myself again, when I just restated the same thing three time.

            You have proclaimed your belief that faith “alone” saves, throughout our discussions. But now, you add “suffering” to faith or replace faith with “suffering”. I don’t know which, but nevertheless, you have contradicted your doctrine of salvation by faith alone.

            There’s no making some people happy. I’d bet in personal conversation, or over a phone, youtube debate or whatever, your tone would be totally different. You’re a message board tough guy, but sorry I am not impressed.

            I sincerely pray for God to bless you,

            Craig

          2. Oops, missed this part,

            Craig also said,

            There’s no making some people happy. I’d bet in personal conversation, or over a phone, youtube debate or whatever, your tone would be totally different.

            Than yours? What are you upset about, that I talk to you the way you talk to Catholics?

            You’re a message board tough guy,

            It takes one to know one.

            but sorry I am not impressed.

            Ditto.

            I sincerely pray for God to bless you,

            Craig

            May God bless you as well

  7. “actually only faith working through love. He says nothing about true faith. He is comparing faith that’s active and faith that is not (dead faith).”

    To repeat again, his verbiage leads us to one conclusion. There are not two kinds of faith, he denies this categorically. There is only faith that results in works, or faith working through love, or faith that produces fruits. These are the true faith, this is why Aquinas, Chrysostom, and others used terms like “faith alone” (their words not mine) and saw that as no contradiction with James 2.

    So, the modern Catholic exegesis of James 2 fails, because it disregards what the text literally says. Further, it says absolutely nothing of sacraments, which is really what the Catholic wants to shoehorn in their anyway, so I really do not see it as a beneficial proof text for your side. I think I can more comfortably quote it and live with its ramifications than a Catholic.

    “actually we don’t know in the end what the RYM decided. The passage does imply that if he had done what was asked he would have been inherited eternal life. He would have been perfect.”

    I somehow doubt it. Jesus started at the first commandment (or second…), “I am the Lord God, you shall have no other gods before me.” Yet, he broke the first one. If God kept going down the list…

    “would the RYM have attained eternal life if he had done what Jesus asked of Him?”

    Yes, because he would have laid aside his idol and picked up his cross, living by faith in Christ…it is this that makes a man perfect.

        1. Apologies accepted. De Maria has a tone with you and you with him. I’m not trying to moderate the blog.

          I’m just asking for consistency between us.

          That’s all.

          1. I have to disagree, it is more of a one way street. I have to deliberately ignore 33% of what he says because they are thinly veiled personal attacks and such. I don’t think anything I write comes remotely close to that, even if 2 or 3 indiscretions could be dug up somewhere.

          2. Craig Truglia says:
            September 3, 2015 at 12:28 pm
            I have to disagree, it is more of a one way street. I have to deliberately ignore 33% of what he says because they are thinly veiled personal attacks and such.

            If mine are veiled, yours are not.

            I don’t think anything I write comes remotely close to that, even if 2 or 3 indiscretions could be dug up somewhere.

            Try everytime you respond to my messages.

            But perhaps you think its polite to twist peoples words and misrepresent what they say. I don’t. Up above, where I asked you to prove what you claimed I had said, you simply ignored the request.

            And there’s a whole litany of other things that I’ve already complained about, directly to you. I can’t recall what they are right now, but I’m sure if you read up our previous messages, you’ll find them.

        2. Who do what, Craig? You’re the one who came on this blog telling me that you knew more about the Catholic Church than I do. That was many moons ago, but your attitude remains. All you have to do is look a few messages up and there you are in all your high uppity ness.

          1. Knowing the Catholic Faith is worse than not knowing it unless you both accept and follow it. This is because to know the Catholic faith is to know what the Lord wills for His Church here on Earth. From the mouth of Jesus we learn regarding this:

            “…that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. [48] But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. ” (Luke 12:12)

            And this same saying certainly relates to both ‘faith’ and ‘works’, as well as the necessity of both faith and works for the meriting of salvation.

          2. Just for consideration, and not for argumentation: What difference does it make if a person has ‘faith’, but does not obey the will of the Lord in whom he believes? According to the scripture above, in the very least he will receive ‘many stripes’, which is a severe punishment. Jesus also says on the same theme:

            “A certain man had two sons; and coming to the first, he said: Son, go work today in my vineyard. [29] And he answering, said: I will not. But afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went. [30] And coming to the other, he said in like manner. And he answering, said: I go, Sir; and he went not. [31] Which of the two did the father’ s will? They say to him: The first. Jesus saith to them: Amen I say to you, that the publicans and the harlots shall go into the kingdom of God before you.”

            So, it is not only faith that is necessary, but also to ‘do’ the ‘works’ of obeying what the Lord calls us to do on Earth, and on a daily basis. Even St. Peter, according to Church history and tradition, was repulsed by the idea of entering Rome wherein severe persecution and suffering was certainly waiting for Him. And the Lord needed to teach Him in a vision, that it was His will that he should return to Rome, wherein shortly Peter was indeed crucified by the Romans, and that also, upside down.

            So this is an example of an Apostle having faith, but fleeing from the will of God due to extreme repulsion and fear, similar to what the prophet Jonas did in the Old Testament. But like Jonas, Peter also returned to fulfill the will of Christ for him in this life. Thus, it is not only faith, but also the fulfillment of that faith through our actions and obedience to God, that is essential for our salvation. And there are so many examples of this in the parables and sayings of Christ, and also in the old Testament, that it seems that almost the entirety of the Gospels would need to be usedas a scriptural resource supporting this theme.

          3. “Just for consideration, and not for argumentation: What difference does it make if a person has ‘faith’, but does not obey the will of the Lord in whom he believes? According to the scripture above, in the very least he will receive ‘many stripes’, which is a severe punishment.”

            I just lost my reply, so I apologize if I sound “short.” My wife and I read the following last night: “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God[a] is truly made complete in them” (1 John 2:4-5).

            We found it to be a remarkable summary of James 2. THe only real faith is faith that results in work. John calls those who claim to have faith, but with no works, “liars.” James speaks of faith being perfected by works. John speaks of faith being complete. They are fundamentally speaking of faith working in love, that Paul speaks of in Galatians.

            Also in Galatians, Paul speaks of fruit of the Holy Spirit. I presume the fruit is the love working from the faith. Now, the fruit of the Holy Spirit do not justify a man, as one must already be saved (have the Holy SPirit) to have such fruits.

            Catholics think of justification as a continuing process, Protestants do not. Hence, their view of works is forced to be different. To a Catholic works must be done to erase sins committed along the way in the journey of life. So, works in this sense are efficacious. To the Protestant, justification is not lost, though those who are justified are sanctified and will inevitably do good works. The works please God, but do not play a role in a Christians eternal destiny because upon the judgment of works, the CHristians’ sins are all nailed to the cross with Christ, so they have no wicked acts to answer to. THis is just as true the first day you are justified, to your very last day on Earth.

            So, I really do not think the argument is over works as much as the necessity of sacraments to erase sins.

            GOd bless,
            Craig

          4. Craig – Catholics think of justification as a continuing process, Protestants do not. Hence, their view of works is forced to be different. To a Catholic works must be done to erase sins committed along the way in the journey of life. So, works in this sense are efficacious. To the Protestant, justification is not lost, though those who are justified are sanctified and will inevitably do good works. The works please God, but do not play a role in a Christians eternal destiny because upon the judgment of works, the CHristians’ sins are all nailed to the cross with Christ, so they have no wicked acts to answer to. THis is just as true the first day you are justified, to your very last day on Earth.

            Me – so much here. Your view on works of the spirit not playing a role in our continuing justification is because of your view on faith alone and once saved always saved, unless you were never saved paradigm. The kind of works we are talking about is allowing Christ to work through us. It’s obeying Christ and yes it’ includes participating in the Sacraments. Once we are saved we can continue to let Him work through us or choose not to. If you choose not to then you will fall.

            So using your meaning of faith, and once saved always saved how do you reconcile the to the passage below and the ones awlms alluded to? In the Catholic understanding this passage makes perfect sense just taking the passage as it’s written.

            “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)

            How can one fall of one was were saved to begin with? It also says I’ll be ok PROVIDED I CONTINUE in His kindness. Sounds like I have a choice. We can continue to cooperate with God or not, in which case we will fall away.

            That’s why we are told to work our salvation in fear and trembling.

            The pieces fit better under the Catholic understanding. You don’t have these countless contradictions.

  8. “To the Protestant, justification is not lost, though those who are justified are sanctified and will inevitably do good works. The works please God, but do not play a role in a Christians eternal destiny because upon the judgment of works, the CHristians’ sins are all nailed to the cross with Christ, so they have no wicked acts to answer to. THis is just as true the first day you are justified, to your very last day on Earth.”

    What I’m wondering is how do the Protestants reconcile all of the teachings of Christ as found in the Parables that He has left to us as His premier teachings wherein He relates over and over about once faithful servants of God who fall away from such service for one reason or another? Almost all of the parables involve persons intimately associated with God, so this assumes a deep faith, grace, or knowledge that is already established. Do Protestants then just ignore these multiple parables and warnings of Christ to always be ‘awake and prepared’, ‘for you know not when your Master will return’?

    Just as a reminder, think about the ten wise and foolish virgins, all of whom were invited as friends of the Bridegroom, and all home were provided an equal amount of essential oil for their lamps to see with in the darkness of the night. But only five of these virgins guarded that oil carefully so as to use exclusively for when the bridegroom arrived. They needed it as an essential aid to follow after Him without stumbling and injuring themselves in the dark along the way. The five foolish Virgins wasted their oil on unessential uses, and although desirous to follow the Bridegroom in the dark, they could not do so and thus were left behind without Him. Doesn’t this parable teach anything to a Protestant about the ‘works’ necessary of guarding carefully one’s ‘faith’, one’s ‘treasure’, one’s ‘pearl of great value’, one’s ‘lamp oil’, one’s ‘inheritance’, etc…?

    And in earlier posts I related of the parable of the ‘scattered seed’. Jesus taught that the ‘seed’ was ‘the word of God’. And some people “BELIEVE FOR A WHILE, and in time of temptation, they FALL AWAY”. “And that which fell among thorns, ARE THEY WHO HAVE HEARD, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and YIELD NO FRUIT.”

    Does this and the many other such parables of Christ teach anything to Christians who consider themselves ‘irrevocably justified’ as you describe in your quote above? Why would Jesus use these parables to teach, and warn, in the first place were His servants already irrevocably justified? And one other thing, why does Jesus call His followers ‘disciples’, if these same were justified already and needed not to imitate Christ and follow His ‘discipline’, which is what a ‘disciple’ does by very definition? Is following the Lord’s discipline, and example, not ‘work’? When Jesus says “Take up your cross and come follow Me” is this also not work? And, if it isn’t a type of work, then why did Jesus say “It is finished” on the Cross of Calvary? He insinuates that everything He did was a work of God throughout His life, which culminated with His sacrifice and death. And this we are also called to follow in imitation of Him, wherein we also take up and ‘carry our own crosses’ in our lives and ‘Follow Him’. And we accomplish this by doing ALSO what Jesus did in this world, ‘works of God’: “I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4).

    And regarding His disciples and servants, Jesus teaches: “Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? [12] Otherwise believe for the very works’ sake. Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do.”

    A lot of Protestant doctrine, and theology, just doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t ‘square’ with the multitude of eternally beautiful teachings and parables, such as those found above, that the Lord provided for our deep understanding of God, and our eternal benefit. For by growing in the understanding God in these parables and teachings, we advance closer and closer to eternal life, as the Lord Himself said:

    “Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)

  9. “…the CHristians’ sins are all nailed to the cross with Christ, so they have no wicked acts to answer to. THis is just as true the first day you are justified, to your very last day on Earth.”

    How does this philosophy explain what is taught in the 1st two chapters of the Book of Revelations, and particularly, here:

    “And to the angel of the church of Sardis, write: These things saith he, that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars: I KNOW THY WORKS, that thou hast the name of being alive: and thou art DEAD. [2] Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die. For I FIND NOT THY WORKS FULL before my God. [3] Have in mind therefore in what manner thou hast received and heard: and observe, and DO PENANCE. If then thou shalt not watch, I will come to thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know at what hour I will come to thee. [4] But thou hast a few names in Sardis, which HAVE NOT DEFILED THEIR GARMENTS: and they shall walk with me in white, because THEY ARE WORTHY. [5] HE THAT SHALL OVERCOME, shall thus be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. ( Rev.3:1)

    I read almost nothing here that conforms to what you declare that “they have no wicked acts to answer to”. The first 2 chapters of Revelations, not to mention numerous other texts of this book, completely contradict this idea. And the scriptural evidence against your proposition are so numerous in the entire Bible, that to cite all of the pertinent quotes would be extremely burdensome, and probably take a few full length books to detail the finer points. In just the recent comments I have made on this post, I cited about 10 major parables and sayings of Christ, and then also this small quote from Revelations, above. But this only scratches the surface. My problem is that I’m actually afraid of boring the readers here if I continue citing them. 🙂

      1. Another great resource which references Sacred Scripture and rebukes many Protestant concepts such as “Once save always saved” is the famous treatise “On the Our Father” by St. Cyprian. Both St. Augustine and St. Ambrose regarded this short treatise very highly, and did not write their own treatises’ on the Lords Prayer because they thought that his was suitable for their purposes also.

        Here’s a short selection on the phrase “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”:

        “…He has clearly joined herewith and added the law, and has bound us by a certain condition and engagement, that we should ask that our debts be forgiven us in such a manner as we ourselves forgive our debtors, knowing that that which we seek for our sins cannot be obtained unless we ourselves have acted in a similar way in respect of our debtors. Therefore also He says in another place, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” And the servant who, after having had all his debt forgiven him by his master, would not forgive his fellow-servant, is cast back into prison; be cause he would not forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the indulgence that had been shown to himself by his lord. And these things Christ still more urgently sets forth in His precepts with yet greater power of His rebuke. “When ye stand praying,” says He, “forgive if ye have aught against any, that your Father which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you your trespasses.” There remains no ground of excuse in the day of judgment, when you will be judged according to your own sentence; and whatever you have done, that you also will suffer. For God commands us to be peacemakers, and in agreement, and of one mind in His house; and such as He makes us by a second birth, such He wishes us when new-born to continue, that we who have begun to be sons of God may abide in God’s peace, and that, having one spirit, we should also have one heart and one mind. Thus God does not receive the sacrifice of a person who is in disagreement, but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled to his brother, that so God also may be appeased by the prayers of a peace-maker. Our peace and brotherly agreement is the greater sacrifice to God,—and a people united in one in the unity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

  10. “To the Protestant, justification is not lost”

    Then to whom is Jesus referring this teaching from the Sermon on the Mount? Does your statement not completely contradict Christ’s lesson here? :

    “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. [22] But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. [23] If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; [24] Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift. [25] Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.[26] Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing. [27] You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. [28] But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. [30] And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.” (Matt. 5:21)

      1. Hers’s a very deep and pertinent quote, mentioned in both Matthew and Luke, which shows that a disciple in a state of grace is not living under a state of perpetual sin, as implied by some Calvin followers:

        [34] The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be lightsome: but if it be evil, thy body also will be darksome. [35] Take heed therefore, that the light which is in thee, be not darkness.

        Note how the Lord says ‘take heed’. This means….work and be careful, watch and pray, ‘that you enter not into temptation’. We ourselves have a part to play in maintaining our state of grace that we received at baptism. We should strive to be one of those described as such:

        “which HAVE NOT DEFILED THEIR GARMENTS: and they shall walk with me in white, because THEY ARE WORTHY. [5] HE THAT SHALL OVERCOME, shall thus be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. ( Rev.3:1)”

        Note, Jesus doesn’t say “I will confess His name at the time of his ‘irrevocable Justification’ when he is ‘born again’. He will only do this after we ‘overcome’, that is, at the end…at judgement day.

        And, in another passage, Revelations 2:2, Jesus says:

        “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them that are evil, and thou hast tried them, who say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: [3] And thou hast patience, and hast endured for my name, and hast not fainted. [4] But I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity. [5] Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and do penance, and do the first works. Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance.”

        This all sounds like very Catholic teaching and doctrine to me! 🙂

        1. Quick error…I should have wrote ‘perpetual mortal sin’ instead of ‘perpetual sin’, in the first sentence above. There’s a big difference. 🙂

        2. That’s awesome and reminds me of this one:

          Luke 20:34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:

          35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:

          36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

          SHALL BE ACCOUNTED WORTHY – In other words, salvation must be merited.

          1. Not really, perpetual unrepented venial sin predisposes us to commit mortal sin:
            1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. …

      2. Again, this is just scratching the surface of scriptural quotes that contradict ‘once saved always saved’. But as CK and De Maria asked for more….here are some easy ones:

        Mark 13:13

        “And you shall be hated by all men for my name’ s sake. But he that shall endure unto the end, he shall be saved.”

        Mark 13:33

        “Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is. [34] Even as a man who going into a far country, left his house; and gave authority to his servants over every work, and commanded the porter to watch. [35] Watch ye therefore, (for you know not when the lord of the house cometh: at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning,)Lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping. [37] And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch.”

        Matt. 24:24

        “[11] And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many. [12] And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. [13] But he that shall persevere to the end, HE SHALL BE SAVED.”

        Luke 13:23

        “And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: [24] Strive to enter by the narrow gate; FOR MANY, I SAY TO YOU,SHALL SEEK TO ENTER, AND SHALL NOT BE ABLE [25] But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are.[26] Then you shall begin to say: We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. [27] And he shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are: depart from me, all YE WORKERS OF INIQUITY.”

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