Catholic Q and A by John Martigoni

General Comments

Hey folks, I’m coming to you a couple of days earlier in the week than normal, but that’s because I’ll be heading out to Charlotte for the Catholic Leadership Conference tomorrow and Friday, so if I want to get a newsletter out, it’s got to be today.

Introduction

This week I’m going to respond to an email I received that takes issue with one of the videos in my “Questions Protestants Can’t Answer” series.  It’s video #14, which is about the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  First, the comments I received in their entirety, in italics, and then my response.  It goes along with the same theme of Once Saved Always Saved that we’ve been talking about in the last couple of newsletters.

Question/Answer

Question/Comment

I am a Catholic and have enjoyed  reading your articles from the time I have been receiving them in my inbox.. They often provide  interesting and  convincing  perspectives on  difficult theological issues. Thank you.
I am responding to your Video presentation on Questions Protestants Can’t Answer #14 – “What does the lost sheep say about assurance of salvation?”

I am only giving my reflections, not from an attitude of disagreeing with what you are saying, but with reference to some other passages that come to my mind and the inferences I have arrived at.  Firstly, I must say that the word ‘lost’ may not necessary  mean ‘Lost’ in the fullness of the word, but is more meant to be ‘strayed’. Because, once one is born again, you are a new person, the old has gone. And along with becoming a ‘new’ man, one receives serveral things: Sonship; the three offices of Priest, Prophet and King; a multitude of special graces and the rich inheritance of the saints, and add to it, ‘all the blessings in the heavenly places,’ etc., etc.  And God’s gifts are irrevocable. Hence these things cannot be lost. You carry them with you even when you run away. I think the purpose of this parable  – that the Lord had in mind – was not meant not to be used it to prove a theological point about ‘can you get ‘lost.’

Its focus is on on calling the one who may be thinking he is ‘lost’ because of his terrible transgressions. It was meant to call back the one who has lost hope –  so he can come back to a Father who never gives up on you!  It is meant to bring him back telling him, “Don’t ever think, I have abandoned you, don’t ever think I will take away your sonship, even when you think you are lost, you are my son, I love you please come back. You still have not been stripped of your offices; please come back and exercise it. Come let me put that robe back on you again. Don’t give up because you have committed that terrible sin. And if think you can get ‘Lost!’ – you must be joking, there is no place you can hide from my eyes, even the ends of the universe. I will come running after you. I will find you and bring you back!”

There is only one possibility  though – to refuse to come back, after the Father has found the “lost,” you. That is not because God chose to let you be lost, but because you choose to reject Him after He found you. That is the only way you can “lose ME.” But I will never lose you. 

So there is truth in that sense, what the protestant brethren are trying to tell us. I am sure no sensible and mature protestant will say, Judas, the son of perdition was not lost!  Judas ‘chose’ to believe that he was “lost.” The issue was that he  “lost” hope’ even when in truth he was always “found.”

I will be happy to hear your perspective.

My Response:

Okay, first of all, what is written above is the product of this individual’s own reflections.  Fine and dandy.  We are all allowed to read Scripture and discern for ourselves how Scripture is speaking to us.  Secondly, I don’t think there is really a doctrinal issue involved here, although there might be – as I’ll explain in a moment – so this is not a question of right vs.wrong in terms of Church teaching, as much as it is a question of a difference of opinion over interpretation.  Having said that, though, there are a few things that I want to comment on as a warning…a warning in two ways: 1) Against the biblical interpretations of folks who you are disputing doctrine with; and 2) Against where our own private reflections can lead us.

Let’s start with that last warning first.  There was a phrase this person used that caused me to absolutely cringe.  That phrase was: “I think the purpose of this parable  – that the Lord had in mind – was not meant not to be used it to prove a theological point…”  The purpose of the parable “that the Lord had in mind.”  I’m sorry, but I would never use that phrase when interpreting some passage of Scripture like this, unless Scripture and/or Jesus’ Church clearly tells us He had a particular thing in mind – for example, the Eucharist, Confession, and so on.  Scripture very plainly asks the question: “For who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom 11:34; 1 Cor 2:16).  And the answer is very plain…no one.  So, I would hesitate to use that particular phrase.  Instead, I would say something like, “What this passage is saying to me…,” and then I would see if what that passage is saying to me is within the parameters of the teaching of the Church founded by Jesus Christ or not.  If it is, I’m good to go. If it’s not, I better re-think my thinking.

In regards to the first warning I mention, this person did a few things that are very common to how many non-Catholics will respond to some argument you’ve made, which makes me wonder if he really is Catholic, or if maybe he is a convert to the Faith who was not properly catechized and who has not lost all of his Protestantism.  First, notice how he tries to change the wording of Scripture: Well, Jesus said “lost,” but I think what He really means is “strayed.”  “Lost may not necessarily mean lost.”  Really?  Well, if Jesus really meant “strayed,” then why did He say, “lost.”  “Lost” doesn’t mean “lost,” just like “Eat My flesh” and “Drink My blood,” don’t really mean “Eat My flesh” and “Drink My blood.”  And rendering eternal life to men for their works doesn’t really mean “rendering” unto them “eternal life.”  And, being justified by works and not by faith alone, doesn’t really mean “not by faith alone.”  And on and on the manipulation of the words of  Scripture…the twisting of the words of Scripture…goes.  Be very aware of such things when talking about the Catholic Faith with folks.  Don’t accept the word of man as a substitution for the Word of God.

The other thing this person is doing, is not sticking with the context – either the context of the passage, or the context of what Scripture means when it uses the word “lost” in relation to people.  For example, the word “lost” in regard to the sheep in Luke 15 is also used to describe the “lost” coin and the “lost” son – the Prodigal Son – in Luke 15.  And, in relation to the Prodigal Son, his state of being “lost” is described as death.  “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”  Being lost is akin to being dead.  And the death being spoken of here is not a physical death, but a spiritual death – a death due to sinful living.  It is not just that the son strayed, but that he was dead.  Dead to the father.  Dead in his sins.  He had been in his father’s house, but he left his father’s house, wallowed in sin, and became lost…dead.  So, the context of Luke 15 is not simply one of someone “straying,” and “thinking they have no hope.”  Uh unh…the context is one of spiritual death…separation from the Father…through sin.  The context is not about one who “thinks they are lost,” it is about one who is actually lost.  The word “lost” here means unsaved…it means the loss of one’s salvation.

We can also see this in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Well, if being “lost” doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your salvation, if it only means that you’ve “strayed,” but you’re still saved, then why does Luke 19:10 say that Jesus came to seek and SAVE the lost?  You only need to be saved if you are in a state of being unsaved.  Lost = unsaved.  Lost = spiritually dead.  Lost = separation from the Father.  Lost = hasta la vista, baby.  Jesus is seeking for His lost sheep, but the reason He is seeking for them is because they have lost their salvation that He has made available to them for free.  If they haven’t lost their salvation, then they are not lost.  In other words, pretty much the entire argument this person is making in regard to my video makes no sense; at least, no scriptural sense.  Ignoring context is another tack of many Protestants who question and/or attack the Catholic Faith using the Bible.  So, just be aware of that.

Now, I say this is not a doctrinal issue because I don’t think he is arguing for Once Saved Always Saved, since he says you can still reject Jesus after He has found you.  Although, he comes pretty close to Once Saved Always Saved with a couple of other things that he says.  But, I will give him the benefit of the doubt here, and hope he realizes that even though one is “born again” (through Baptism) and once born again always born again (no revoking one’s Baptism), that doesn’t mean you cannot turn away from Christ and lose the salvation He has given you through Baptism.  If, however, he is arguing for Once Saved Always Saved, then it is indeed a doctrinal issue and he is indeed wrong.

 Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great week.  Nunc est tempus, hic est locus!

Once saved, Always saved?

Aside

Once Saved…Always Saved?
(The Doctrine of Eternal Security)

Introduction
Many Christians believe in a concept known as “eternal security,” also known as Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS).  This is the belief that once you’ve accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, then you are guaranteed a place in Heaven, no matter what. Once you’ve accepted Christ, you have absolute assurance that you are saved forever – eternal security.  But, is this a truly Christian belief – a truly biblical belief?  Let’s look at the arguments and see.

1) The Argument From Sin
This is the main problem cited in regard to a belief in eternal security.  If, after a person is saved, they cannot lose their salvation, no matter what they do, no matter how many sins they commit, then we are left with a reality where there is , essentially, no consequence for sin.  There is no consequence of sin for the unbeliever, because he is already going to Hell for his unbelief, so whether he sins or not, it makes no difference; and there is no consequence of sin for the believer, because once he believes, he’s on the Salvation Express headed to Heaven, so whether he sins or not, it makes no difference.  In a Once Saved Always Saved belief system, there is no serious  consequence for sin.  Is that what Christians really believe?

Sin and the Bible
From the beginning of the Gospels, Jesus makes it a major point of His ministry to talk about repentance from sin and to warn of the consequences of sin.  “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’” (Matt 4:17).  Why do we need to repent, though, if sin holds no consequences regarding our salvation?  Why didn’t Jesus just say, “Believe, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?”  Why repent?  Because, as Jesus shows us in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere, there are indeed serious consequences of sin.  In Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus said that if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Or, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  Why? Because it is better to lose an eye or a hand than to have your whole body tossed into Hell. Can Jesus be any more clear that sin can  cause believers to end up in Hell?

Maybe, though, Jesus was referring to unbelievers here?  Not a chance.  Jesus cannot be talking about unbelievers because He is holding out the possibility of salvation for those who take the drastic measure of cutting of their hand or plucking out their eye in order to avoid sin.  Even if unbelievers take such drastic measures to avoid sin, they will still be headed to Hell, not Heaven, for their unbelief!  Which means Jesus is speaking of the consequences of sin for believers!  Unrepented sin, if you believe Jesus, will get you thrown into Hell. This flies in the face of the doctrine of eternal security.

Also, in pretty much every letter he wrote, Paul warns the believers he is writing to about the consequences of sin.  Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  The Word of God says that there are consequences to sin – that sin leads to death – and Paul makes no distinction between the believer and the unbeliever.

Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger…I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.”  Ephesians 5:5, “Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man…has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.”  Sin has consequences, and there is nothing in these passages, or the many others like them, that indicates believers are exempt from the consequences of these sins.

So, contrary to the doctrine of eternal security, Scripture shows us that sin does indeed carry  consequences, for the saved and the unsaved, with the worst of those consequences being the loss of one’s salvation.

2) The Argument from the Bible
There are any number of Scripture verses that are in direct contradiction to a belief in Once Saved Always Saved.  So many, in fact, that it is difficult to decide which ones to mention, but here are just a few:

Eternal Security and the Bible
Romans 17:-24, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen [the Jews], but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.”  Paul is talking to Gentiles who have been grafted into God (v.17), who have been saved.  Yet, what is Paul saying to these saved persons?  He is warning them that if they do not continue in God’s kindness, they, too, will be cut off – they will lose their salvation – just as the Jews were.

Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come if they then commit apostasy…”  Could an unbeliever ever be described as being “enlightened,” or as being a “partaker of the Holy Spirit,” or of having “tasted the heavenly gift?”  Absolutely not!  Which means, this passage is talking about believers; yet, what does it say?  It says that believers can commit apostasy; they can reject Christ even after being saved!

John 15:1-6: Jesus is the vine (v.1).  Those who believe in Him are the branches (v.5).  Can an unbeliever in any way be said to be a branch of the vine that is Christ?  Absolutely not.  So, what will happen to the branches, to the believers, if they do not produce good fruit?  Are they still saved?  No!  If there is a branch of the vine that does not produce good fruit, then it is cut off from the vine – from Christ – tossed into the fire and burned.  A not so subtle reference to Hell.

Ezekiel 33:13: “Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that he has committed he shall die.”  Sounds like the righteous people spoken of here thought they couldn’t lose their salvation either, doesn’t it?

All of these passages, and many, many more, state very plainly and clearly that we can indeed lose our salvation, that we can indeed turn away from Christ, of our own free will, even after we’ve been saved.

3) Arguments For Once Saved Always Saved
There are a few main verses of Scripture that OSAS believers point to in support of their belief, but do these verses really teach eternal security?  Let’s take a look at them and see:

From the Bible
John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 8:38-39: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 5:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

The arguments are that since a believer cannot be snatched out of the hand of God and that there is nothing that can separate them from the love of God, then once they are saved, they are saved for good.  Plus the fact that there is “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus, and they have passed “from death to life,” further cements the case in the mind of the OSAS believer that he cannot lose his salvation.

Twisting the Scripture?
Is that really what those passages say, though?  Or is that simply someone twisting scripture (2 Peter 3:16) to make the Bible fit what they believe?  In John 10:27-29, for example, is this passage really teaching that you cannot lose your salvation, or is it simply saying that no one can forcibly remove, or snatch, you from the hand of God against your will?  Where does this passage say that you cannot walk away from God of your own free will?  It doesn’t, it just says you cannot be pulled away from God against your will.

In Romans 8:1-2, there is indeed no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; as long as you stay in Christ Jesus. But, nowhere does this verse say one will automatically stay in Christ Jesus regardless of how much sin they commit.  And in Romans 8:38-39, did you notice that sin is not mentioned as something that cannot separate us from God?  Also, if you stop to think about what that verse actually says, you will see it is speaking of God’s unconditional love for us, not unconditional salvation.

John 5:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”  Yes, if you hear Jesus’ word and believe in God, you have passed from death to life.  But, nowhere does it say that you cannot pass from life to death, as the Prodigal Son did.  He was alive, then was dead, then alive again (Luke 15:24)!  And, nowhere does this verse say you cannot lose your faith in Christ at some point after believing in Him, which is exactly what happens in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, where Jesus talks about how some will receive the Word with joy, but then fall away from the Word when they are persecuted (Matt 13:20-21).

There is no verse in the Bible that says once you are saved, you are guaranteed to always remain saved.  There is no verse in the Bible that says sin has no consequences.  There is no verse in the Bible that says we can have absolute assurance of our salvation.  In fact, Paul himself tells us not to judge ourselves as being saved, because that judgment is reserved for the Lord when He comes (1 Cor 4:3-5).

4) What About Babies?
Not all, but many, adherents of OSAS believe that if a baby dies, he or she will go to Heaven.  They believe babies are, in essence, “saved.”  But, what happens when someone does not die as a baby, and they grow up and never accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – are they still saved?  No.  Which means they were saved as babies, but then they lost that state of salvation when they grew up and did not profess a belief in Christ.  If OSAS is  true, however, that can’t happen.  If OSAS is true, then if a baby is saved, it shouldn’t matter if they profess Christ or not as adults, because they cannot lose their salvation.  Yet, no believer in Once Saved Always Saved would agree that was the case.  This presents quite a logical dilemma for believers of this doctrine.

5) Does This Make Any Sense?
Finally, there are a number of Scripture verses that make absolutely no sense whatsoever in a Once Saved Always Saved world.  Here are just a few for you to check out yourself: Phil 2:12; Heb 4:1,11; Col 1:21-23; 2 Cor 13:5-6; Heb 10:38; 1 Tim 4:1; and there are many more.