What Do Catholics Believe About Salvation?

Perhaps nothing splits apart Catholics and Protestants like the topic of salvation. The arguments rage over how were saved, when were saved, and whether we can be assured of salvation. And Protestants fight among themselves as much as they fight with Catholics. No one understands the various arguments better than Catholic Answers Jimmy Akina former Protestant himself. For the last 15 years, Jimmy has studied the issue of salvation, taking into account Church teachings and the various Protestant interpretations, while focusing primarily on Scripture. And now hes taken his findings and put them into a noteworthy book, The Salvation Controversy. If you want to understand both the Catholic and Protestant positions on salvationand be equipped to defend the Churchs teachingstheres no better guide than The Salvation Controversy. Its a complete guide to salvation that no Catholic should be without.

Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith By Peter Kreeft, Ronald Tracelli Unbelievers, doubters and skeptics continue to attack the truths of Christianity.

How do Catholics get to heaven?

Those Christians who die still imperfectly purified must, according to Catholic teaching, pass through a state of purification known as purgatory before entering heaven.

There are few more confusing topics than salvation. It goes beyond the standard question posed by Fundamentalists: Have you been saved? What the question also means is: Dont you wish you had the assurance of salvation? Evangelicals and Fundamentalists think they do have such an absolute assurance.

The truth is that in one sense we are all redeemed by Christs death on the crossChristians, Jews, Muslims, even animists in the darkest forests (1 Tim. The anonymous author says the Lord Jesus wanted his followers to be so sure of their salvation that they would rejoice more in the expectation of heaven than in victories on earth.

It is this Paul speaks of when he writes to the Philippians and says, And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. There are many saintly men and women who have long lived the Christian life and whose characters are marked with profound spiritual joy and peace. Such an individual was Paul, writing at the end of his life, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

But earlier in life, even Paul did not claim an infallible assurance, either of his present justification or of his remaining in grace in the future.

On March 29, 1994 a declaration was released entitled, Evangelicals and Catholics Together. It states, We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ. But is the evangelical (or fundamentalist) view of salvation really the same as the Roman Catholic? The evangelical/fundamentalist view teaches that the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross accomplished our salvation and that this salvation is applied by personal trust in this sacrifice.

First, saving faith in Catholic theology is not merely trusting completely in the finished work of Christ at Calvary for salvation. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood (Romans 3:2325 New American Bible Revised New Testament).

Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, The Documents of Vatican II, Abbott edition, page 35). Likewise, what brings eternal life to people today is personal trust in the One who was lifted up on the cross for our sins.

Are you saved? Thats a question often heard from well-meaning Christians who want to help others know Jesus Christ. As Catholics whose faith is centered in Him, we can appreciate their good intentions and admire their willingness to talk about God.

If we want to follow up on that statement, we can assure the inquirer that we do in fact have faith in Jesus Christ, that we recognize Him as our Savior and Lord, and that our goal is to be counted one day among the saints in heaven. Exploring the answer together can help the other person grasp more fully and accurately what it actually means to be saved.

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus offer us, through the forgiveness of our sins, escape from eternal punishment. In this way, Jesus begins the process of a complete renewal of Gods likeness in us, a healing of the brokenness that comes from sin. Those who are joined there with God forever, in the deepest possible communion of love, will achieve their greatest destiny.

It involves making a series of choices to love, over the long term, so that a committed relationship grows. If you talk over these points with Christian friends who ask whether youre saved, you could open up for them a whole new way of thinking.

A Mistaken Notion

The teaching of the Catholic Church helps us understand that this is actually a mistaken notion of salvation. Jesus Christ came to give us much more than a kind of eternal fire insurance policy. Salvation in the fullest sense is an ongoing process that won’t be complete until after we die. And in the meantime, it’s still possible to turn away again from God.When someone asks us, then, whether we’re “saved,” perhaps the best short answer is this: “Well, I’m doing what the apostle Paul tells us to do in the Bible: I’m ‘working out’ my salvation day by day” (see Phil 2:12).If we want to follow up on that statement, we can assure the inquirer that we do in fact have faith in Jesus Christ, that we recognize Him as our Savior and Lord, and that our goal is to be counted one day among the saints in heaven.But why end the discussion there? If you want to take it a step farther, try this approach. Say: “Now I have a question for you: We both know that Jesus saves us from sin. But what are we saved for?”This query shifts the focus of the conversation. Exploring the answer together can help the other person grasp more fully and accurately what it actually means to be saved.

What Is Salvation?

According to the Catholic understanding of salvation, rooted in Scripture, we aren’t just saved from sin. We’re saved for eternal life with God.Why did God create us in the first place? He made us in certain ways like himself, able to think and choose, so we could be sons and daughters who live in friendship with Him. God created us for himself, for nothing less than to know, love, serve and enjoy Him — now and forever.Through sin, however, we’ve rebelled against God and rejected His friendship. As a result, His likeness in us has been marred, and we’ve separated ourselves from Him. Since He’s the Source of all that’s good, such separation can lead only to misery in both this life and the next.Because God loved us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from such a terrible fate. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus offer us, through the forgiveness of our sins, escape from eternal punishment.But that’s not all. He also reconciles us to God, opening the door to a full restoration of our friendship with Him.In this way, Jesus begins the process of a complete renewal of God’s likeness in us, a healing of the brokenness that comes from sin. So salvation isn’t just a way to avoid hell, nor is it just a past event.On the contrary: Salvation, in its fullness, is God’s new creation. To save us, He remakes us in His likeness — a lifelong process requiring our cooperation — so that we can once again think and love as He thinks and loves. This process finds its completion only in heaven, where eternal life is enjoyed in perfect harmony with Him.Those who are joined there with God forever, in the deepest possible communion of love, will achieve their greatest destiny. They will fulfill their deepest longing. They will become what they were made to be.