Catholicim & Blblical salvation - Faithful Generations

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Catholicim & Blblical salvation

Catholicism & Biblical Salvation

by Richard M. Bennett

The topic of salvation, while Biblically clear and precise, is quite complex in Catholic teaching.  To help clarify the unbiblical but official doctrine of the Catholic Church, those Catholic teachings which explicitly speak of "cooperation with God" in the salvation "process" will be examined, and the Biblical position shown.  Further, the unbiblical tradition and official teaching of Rome that the grace of salvation is said to be a quality inside the soul of the person who believes will be highlighted, and the Biblical answer to this erroneous position is given.

The total picture of salvation in Catholicism is in her teachings on the seven sacraments, the power of her priests, the office and role of Mary in "the process" of inner grace, with the help of those who have died (communion with the dead), and after this life, the purifying help of purgatory.

The full picture of the Catholic salvation "process" begins with new birth, which occurs in infant baptism and which purportedly washes away original sin.  The "process" of salvation is a long journey through all the sacraments, with the Sacrifice of the Mass, central to most events.  Good works, merit, sacramentals and saints, are all involved, but the focus is always on inner moral goodness which one is always attempting to increase in order to be good enough to die in "sanctifying grace" and then to be saved or at least land for a time in purgatory.

In contrast, Biblical justification is perfect and a finished work of God.  "It is God that justifieth."   Justification is God's work alone to show His righteousness, and the fact that He alone saves.   Once God has justified any person, He views that person "in Christ" , for God, having forgiven the sinner, reckons to his account Christ's righteousness.  Thus justification is by faith alone "without the deeds of the law."

The Bible teaches that in Christ the believer's sins are expiated totally, having been paid for in full by the shedding of His blood.

  • Romans 3:23-26  "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at that time His righteousness; that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
  • Hebrews 10:14, 17-18  "For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified"    "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin."
  • I John 2:2  "And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
  • I Peter 1:18-19  "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:"
  • Isaiah 53:6  "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
  • Ephesians 2:8-9  "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."
  • Romans 11:6  "And if by grace, then is it no more of works:  otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then is it no more grace:  otherwise work is no more work."
  • Galatians 2:21  "I do not frustrate the grace of God:  for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
  • Phillippeans 3:8-9  "that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
  • Colossians 3:3-4  "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  when Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."
  • I Corinthians 1:30  "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."
  • Isaiah 61:10  "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels."

The Catholic Church focuses a person's faith for salvation to the Roman Catholic Church herself.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)

  • Para. 816  "The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains 'For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained...."
  • Para. 824  "It is in the [Roman Catholic] Church that 'the fullness of the means of salvation' has been deposited.  It is in her that 'by the grace of God we acquire holiness.'"
  • Para. 982  "There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. 'There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest."
  • Para. 983  "Catechesis strives to awaken and nourish in the faithful faith in the incomparable greatness of the risen Christ's gift to his Church:  the mission and the power to forgive sins through the ministry of the apostles and their successors:...Priests have received from God a power that he has given neither to angels nor to archangels.... God above confirms what priests do here below. Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come or eternal liberation.  let us thank God who has given his Church such a gift."

The "process" begins for most Catholics at baptism, when baptism is administered to them by the Church.

  • Para. 1257  "The [Roman Catholic] Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude;"
  • Para. 1263  "By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishments for sin...."
  • Para. 1277  "Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ.  In accordance with the Lord's will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism."

The Catholic is taught that the process of conversion is accomplished by a person's good deeds and sufferings.

  • Para. 1435  "Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness.  Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance."
  • Para. 1439  "The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father."

To Catholics in "mortal sin", the process continues by telling all to their priest, even their most secret sins.

  • Para. 1456  "confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance:  'All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."

[This issue will be dealt with more fully in a separate study entitled "Salvation and the Sacramental System."]

The idea of the "process" being helped by the holiness of other human beings is also taught to Catholics.  This interchange in expiation of sin is shared even with those in purgatory.

  • Para. 1475  "In the communion of saints, 'a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth.  Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.'  In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others.  Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin."

The idea of drawing merit from others in the Church depends on the idea of the "treasury of the Church".

  • Para. 1476"...the 'treasury of the Church' is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ's merits have before God."
  • Para. 1477  "This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God.  In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them.  in this way they have attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body."

God's grace is only part of the "process of salvation" (described above); Catholics are taught also that Mary is a mother in the order of grace.

  • Para. 968  "Her [Mary's] role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further.  'In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls.  For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace."

Grace and Justification
Logically, in the formal teaching of the Catholic Church, grace is not "the power of God unto salvation"  nor a demonstration of Who God is, "that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" , but merely a help given to humans.

  • Para. 2021  "Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons.  It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life."

Rather than the Biblical teaching that God's one time act of imputing a person's sin to Christ and His righteousness to the believer, the Catholic Church teaches that grace is a quality, known as "sanctifying grace", which resides within a person, making him or her pleasing to God.

  • Para. 2024  "Sanctifying grace makes us 'pleasing to God.'  Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church.  God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us."

This is in stark contrast to the Biblical teaching of positional legal righteousness in Christ alone.  (See Ephesians 1:3-14, Philippians 3:8-9, Colossians 3:3-4, Romans 3:24, 5:19, Isaiah 45:24-25, Psalm 71:16, Jeremiah 23:6.)

The Catholic is taught that with God's help, he can claim merit of his own before God.  This is because of the unbiblical idea of an "associate partnership" of God and man together in the work of salvation.

  • Para. 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."
  • Para. 2010  "...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..."
  • Para. 1521  "Union with the passion of Christ.  By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's Passion:  in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior's redemptive Passion.  Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus."
  • Para. 618  "The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the 'one mediator between God and men.'  But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, 'the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery' is offered to all man.  He calls his disciples to 'take up [their] cross and follow [him],' for 'Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] and example so that [we] should follow in his steps.'  In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.  This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering."

:  The Catholic doctrine of being made partners with God in Christ's death and resurrection is utterly perverse in that on a false basis, it subtly holds out false hope to man.  There is no scriptural basis to the idea of being made partners with Christ in the paschal mystery.  Such a concept is an utter lie as it denies the repeated statements of God's truth in Scripture that the work of redemption is " by Himself" , "without the deeds of the law", "not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" , "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us...."

The Biblical truth that the unsaved person is dead in sin is given to convict a person of his or her hopeless state in order that he or she might cry out to God for His grace alone.

  • Romans 6:23  "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Ephesians 2:1  "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;"
  • Colossians 2:13  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses;"

Before God, each one is dead in his or her sin.  He or she can do nothing towards gaining salvation.  Clearly, according to Scripture, Christ Jesus has substituted on the cross for each one of His own sheep, once and for all time, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree...."   His grace is sufficient to change your heart so that you can trust Him.  He will then put into you the will to repent.  You will be born again in Him, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

Not only has the Lord Jesus Christ paid fully the satisfaction required by His Father for the totality of a person's sin, but when one is placed in Him by God the Judge, Christ's righteousness is credited to that person, as II Corinthians 5:21 explains so clearly, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

Salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.  "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:  and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."