Q: I belong to two Christian lay discussion groups — one Catholic and one inter/nondenominational. They both to one degree or another espouse the “saved” concept — meaning the idea is promulgated and tacitly agreed to by most members (with minor exceptions as to concept and acceptance — one being me.)
(Saved meaning accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and confessing your sins, thereby receiving forgiveness for all past and future sins.) …
And of course, lurking in the background is the futility of doing good works in any sense as to achieving salvation through same. After all, why did Christ need your help when he was sent by the Father to achieve salvation for all of us — our actions being superfluous. …
John J. Grauer
Hilton Head Island
A: A Catholic man at the end of his life sits before the Lord in the Final Judgment.
The Lord may say, “You’ve been a faithful follower of your God, finding direction from Scripture and living your life in the tradition of the Catholic Church. You were redeemed by Jesus Christ dying for your sins and saved by the grace of God. From your strong faith came good works that affirmed that faith. You’ve confessed your sins and been forgiven while you strived to atone for your wrong doing. You are a sinner, but your soul will see salvation. You will spend a period in final purification before joining the saints in heaven.”
As a Catholic, the man did not believe he had been ‘saved’ by faith alone. He was given salvation by God and redemption by his Son. Through his faith, from which — provided its true faith — good works will come naturally, and living in the tradition handed down in the Catholic Church and in lessons from Scripture, the man sought to maintain his salvation.
A lifelong sinner who confessed and was forgiven his sins at the end of his earthly life will see the same fate in the Final Judgment. Had he not had the chance to ask forgiveness, though, his judgment would have been severely different.
An interesting statement was in Catholicism and Fundamentalism, “When they get to heaven, the one with the greater capacity for love will enjoy greater blessedness there, although each will enjoy it as fully as he is capable.”
Traditionally, a Protestant believes that he can take Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and, without confessing his sins, be ‘saved’ by the Lord, who would overlook, not take away, his past and future sins. He would believe that by faith alone, in that he had taken Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, he will see salvation, regardless of his actions henceforth — sinful or saintly.
It is also pertinent to reference the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by leaders of the Catholic and Lutheran churches in October 1999. The joint declaration, in part, said Catholics and Lutherans agree that justification and salvation are totally free gifts of God and cannot be earned by performing good works, but rather are reflected in good works, as reported by Catholic News Service.
Sources: Biblical references: Romans 2:6-8; James 2:14-17, 24, 26; Philippians 2:12-13; Galatians 2:20 (reference for Protestant belief in personal Lord and Savior); Matthew 25:31-46; John 12:44-46; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (forgiveness); 1 Peter 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; John 12:48-49;
The Catechism of the Catholic Church: 55, 1450-1452, 982, 1031, 1041;
Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating and What Catholics Really Believe by Karl Keating;
with the help of Father Jeffrey Kendall and Deacon Lee Selzer.
If you have a question about the Catholic faith, write to The New Catholic Miscellany, From the Catechism, P.O. Box 818, Charleston, SC 29402.