Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

10/2/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Every time we sin, especially a mortal sin, we say 'no' to God

Even while a Protestant, John Henry Newman rejected a Christianity that revolved around "any particular time when you renounced the world (as it is called), and were converted," i.e., a "once saved, always saved" Christianity.  Newman, a man deeply sensitive to the inner life of conscience and deeply versed in scripture understood within the light of tradition, emphatically rejected the "once saved, always saved" dogma with very strong words. 

Cardinal John Henry Newman

Cardinal John Henry Newman

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/2/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Justification, Salvation, once saved always saved, John Henry Newman


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - We commonly hear Protestants--usually of the Evangelical or Southern Baptist tradition--proclaim the dogma of "once saved, always saved."  This doctrine is called the doctrine of the "preservation of the saints" or the doctrine of "eternal security."  It is usually traced to the Protestant Reformer John Calvin.

For many Protestants, the "once saved, always saved" dogma is a sincerely felt--but deeply erroneous and unscriptural--belief that the Gospel teaches that accepting Jesus as one's Lord and Savior gives one what they call the assurance of salvation. 

A corollary of this unfortunate doctrine is that nothing one does from that point--even a heinous sin--can take away that salvation.  Nothing.  Since we didn't earn salvation by being good, we can't lose salvation by being bad.

Basically, it is the view that once we say "yes" to God, we can never say "no."  Either that or the "nos" to God make no difference in our relationship with God at least insofar as it relates to our salvation.

John Henry Newman--even while Protestant--rejected this doctrine, calling it in one of his sermons an "error," a "deceit," one stemming from the "shallowness of religion," or even "a blinded conscience."  These are very harsh words by a verbal craftsman who was of a very judicious bent.

Even while still a Protestant, Newman rejected a Christianity that revolved around "any particular time when you renounced the world (as it is called), and were converted."  This is a reference to a "once saved, always saved" theology of salvation. 

Newman, a man deeply sensitive to the inner life of conscience and deeply versed in scripture understood within the light of tradition, emphatically rejected the "once saved, always saved" dogma with very strong words.  This is a dogma which points to a "particular time" where salvation is got, and then leaves it at that.

For Newman who had his feet surely planted in the Gospel and in the inner promptings of conscience which was the voice of God found within man, salvation is not a painting, a still picture, an instant in time in one's life--but a drama, a series of pictures, a process in time throughout one's whole life.  We must constantly be converted to the Lord Jesus, not just once, but daily.

In the Lord's Prayer, we ask for our "daily bread," our panem quotidianum.  Is our turning to Christ, the giver of that bread of life, to be any less quotidian?

It is not sufficient to say "yes" to Christ once and then take leave.  Our task is to become incorporated into Christ himself so as to develop in us the mind, the attitude which was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5).  And what is this mind of Jesus, this attitude of Jesus to which we must strive? 

Jesus, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, "was not 'yes' and 'no,' but 'yes' has been in him."  Non fuit est et non, sed est in illo fuit.  (2 Cor. 1:19)

Christ's being was all in God, was in fact God.  There was no part of his being, including his human nature, which was not in God.  He was all "yes" unto God.

The Gospel insists that as Christians we must strive like Christ to be all "yes" unto God, so that there be no admixture of "yes" and "no" in us. 

St. Paul tells the Philippians that to live is Christ and to die to oneself is gain (Cf. Phil. 1:21).  To live is Christ is to say all "yes" to Christ.  To die to self, to say "no" to self which means to say "yes" to Christ, is gain. 

Among all mankind, Mary most perfectly imitated Jesus.  She, "our tainted nature's solitary boast," was all "yes" unto God.  Her "yes," which lasted from the first moment of conception until the end of her earthly life and assumption into heaven never had the least "no" to it.
 
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum said the one whose name was "full of grace" and who was worthy to bear God and give him the mantle of human flesh.  "Be it done unto me according to your word."  (Luke 1:38)  These words of Mary are the words of someone who is all "yes" unto God.  These are the words of someone who understood that to live is Christ.

It is this attitude which was in Christ the Redeemer and in Mary, the one perfectly redeemed, which must be in us. 

None of us can say we are all "yes" unto God throughout our lives.  If we say we have no sin in us, if we say we have not said "no" to God, we deceive ourselves.  (1 John 1:8). 

Every time we sin, especially a mortal sin, we say "no" to God.  A mortal sin is a categorical "no" to God which entirely negates any prior "yes."  A venial sin is a lesser "no" which mars, but does not negate the "yes" unto God.

Anyone who has examined his conscience honestly after a fall into a mortal sin will recognize how the "no" to God involved in choosing a particular act, whether out of weakness or, worse, intentionally, shuts God out of the picture.  We close the door on God, and he has been excluded from the drama of our life. 

Does a man who looks at pornography on the internet to assuage his lust, or one decides to have an adulterous affair, or one who talks his wife into aborting their child have any "yes" to God left in him when he makes such choices and acts upon them? 

If such a man looks honestly into his soul and does not rely upon some shallow dogma of "once saved, always saved," he will confront the horrible reality that engaging in mortal sin, with knowledge and consent, is an entrance into a horrible darkness that leaves a damned spot in the soul.  And that darkness, that dark spot, stays in the soul, though one may neglect it or even forget it. 

And there the spot festers, suppurating, befouling the soul.  "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" says the conscience, and yet it can do nothing about it on its own.  The conscience cannot forgive itself.  And the furies of conscience whirl about the iner mountains of the soul, the cliffs of fall as Gerard Manley Hopkins called them, while the fate of our soul, which has said "no" to God, hangs at the balance.

But forgetfulness, either through neglect or through suppression, does not out the spot.  Reliance on a past "yes" of ours is of no avail.  The darkness can only be overcome by a return, by a renewed "yes," to the merciful God to whom one has said "no."

While we have the ability to say "no" to God--which is something with us till our dying day--we cannot have assurance of salvation, unless through some sort of special revelation.  And yet we are not therefore compelled to despair.  This is because God gives us the grace to say "yes" anew to him.

"In one sense, indeed, you may take comfort from the first," Newman says, as "from the first you know [God] desires your salvation, has died for you, has washed away your sins by baptism, and will ever help you; and this thought must cheer you while you go on to examine and review your lives, and to turn to God in self-denial."

But this cheer and this hope we have is different from assurance of salvation.  Newman continues to tell his flock that "you never can be sure of salvation, while you are here; and therefore you must always fear while you hope."

To believe in "once saved, always saved" is not authentic Christianity, but a corrupt form of it, one rejected by the Church in various ways, but most notably by the Council of Trent in its Decree on Justification

As Aidan Nichols explains it in his excellent book The Shape of Catholic Theology, the Council of Trent saw the "supernaturalized life," as "life lived under grace in faith, hope, and love," and therefore presented "a more complex and subtle picture," than the "once saved, always saved" doctrine of the Protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin.  As Aidan Nichols explains it, the life of a Christian travels between "two poles." 

In the drama of the Christian life, one pole is "absolute confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, mediated to us through Christ via the sacraments of the Church."

The other pole is "a fearful recognition of our weakness, the permanent possibility that we may reject this goodness and mercy."

For this reason, the "Catholic experience of justification would consist in an unconditional trust in the help of God, but within this trust, a genuine fear of separating oneself from God."  This leads to "a conscious effort of union with God in prayer and penance."

This is authentic Christianity, in the words of Newman, "the true Christian state" of life.

As Newman describes it, an authentic Christian life will have the following dramatic elements: "A deep resignation to God's will, a surrender of ourselves, soul and body, to Him; hoping indeed, that we shall be saved, but fixing our eyes more earnestly on Him than on ourselves; that is, acting for His glory, seeking to please Him, devoting ourselves to Him in all manly obedience and strenuous good works; and, when we do look within, thinking of ourselves with a certain abhorrence and contempt as being sinners, mortifying our flesh, scourging our appetites, and composedly awaiting that time when, if we be worthy, we shall be stripped of our present selves, and new made in the kingdom of Christ."

Look at the action words that Newman uses: resigning, surrendering, hoping, fixing our eyes upon, acting, seeking, devoting, working, looking within, thinking, mortifying, scourging, awaiting . . . . This is a marriage with Christ, not a one-night stand with Christ.

That's the true Gospel, a dramatic life in Christ, not an instantaneous "once saved, always saved" experience.

Newman famously said that "in heaven, love will absorb fear; but in this world, fear and love must go together."  And for that reason, "fear and love must go together; always fear, always love, to your dying day." 

These are the words of a true Christian sentiment, and they are at the heart of the Christian drama: always fear, always love, to your dying day.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Living Faith

Feast of Christ the King and Advent: What Does it Mean? Watch

Image of The Church really IS the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ. That Body is inseparably joined to the Head. Jesus Christ is alive, he has been raised, and he continues His redemptive mission now through the Church, of which we are members. As we choose to actually live our lives liturgically, not just go through the motions, we can move through life in the flow of the liturgical calendar. We can experience the deeper mystery and meaning of life, now made New in Jesus Christ, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6,7) Jesus Christ is King! Jesus Christ is meant to become the Lord of our whole lives, and inform the very pattern of how we live them.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On November 23rd we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Liturgical Church year offers to each of us consider the creature which is called time, receive it as a gift and begin to really live differently. Yet, for ... continue reading


Two bishops dine and dialogue with peace activists

Image of War doesn't decide who is right, just who is left.

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops fall assembly in Baltimore, two bishops decided to forego the military chaplains dinner sponsored by the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Office, and attended instead a simple supper and discussion on peacemaking. On the evening of ... continue reading


'God always forgives, but the earth does not,' Pope warns Watch

Image of The Pope urged the world's leaders to rein in their greed and help the hungry.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A doomsday scenario in which Mother Nature would exact her revenge is possible, even likely, Pope Francis warns. The pontiff was speaking out against the exploitation of natural resources for profit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope urged the world's ... continue reading


Pope Francis' special message: Why Poverty? 'And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain'

Image of When we give our loaves and fishes to Christ, there is no end to the Good that can come from it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has asked the world to do more to help those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Despite gains made in infrastructure and outpourings of food, too many people with plenty have done too little to help. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With ... continue reading


How do you raise a good, upstanding child? With daily prayers, weekly church attendance and the knowledge of God Watch

Image of Billy Graham, now 96, has reached out to millions with his joyous words of the truth of God and Jesus Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Billy Graham, the world famous television evangelist and founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has said that the reason the world seems to be in such dire straits is that children are not being raised right. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Learning Lessons for Life from Zaccheus and that Sycamore Tree Watch

Image of Zaccheus climbed that tree in order to see the Lord, not to be seen by Jesus. He did not care what the crowd thought of a grown man climbing a tree! He went after the encounter with Jesus Christ with a childlike simplicity and a reckless abandon. Do we?

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Sycamore tree created a clear line of vision for Zaccheus. It helped him to rise above the crowd and see the Lord clearly. It placed him in the right position for the invitation that would follow. Jesus told him to come down for he was coming to his house! ... continue reading


Jesus Weeps and Calls us to Recognize His Visitation Watch

Image of The Cross, an instrument of torture, will become the sign of peace, for those who find their refuge under its shadow and embrace the One who stretches out His arms to embrace the whole world. There Jesus will deal definitively with the great enemy of peace, the sin which impedes it in each of our lives. With tenderness He looks out from the Mount of Olives and sees the Holy City of Jerusalem. How he loves that City. Then, Jesus weeps. He knows the City will soon be overtaken and destroyed by the armies of Titus. He weeps the tears of Love and cries compassion from His Sacred Heart

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus shows His disciples - and He shows us us, because we are His disciples in this hour - the pattern of living in a continual communion with the Father. He invites them - and He invites us - into this very communion of love which He has with the Father, in the ... continue reading


Children deserve both father and mother, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that

By CNA/EWTN News

Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that "the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope made these remarks on Nov. 17 at ... continue reading


Here are 10 Very Interesting Facts About the Catholic Church You Probably Didn't Know! Watch

Image of Pope Francis commands the world's smallest professional army.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

How much do you know about the Catholic Church? Here are 10 fun facts you might not know. See how many you know and post your result in the comments! 1.    Vatican City has the highest crime rate in the world! With a population around 500 people and a ... continue reading


Study: Latin Americans abandoning Catholic Church for evangelical, Protestant churches Watch

Image of Protestants now make up 19 percent of the Latin American population, while another eight percent now profess no religious affiliation, a figure reaching 37 percent in Uruguay.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Catholic Church is losing members in Latin America at an increasing rate. According to the Pew research Center, many Latin Americans are leaving the church for Pentecostal, Protestant churches. There is even a growing number of Latin Americans who now ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
11 "For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 23:1-2, 2-3, 5, 6
1 [Psalm Of David] Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 25:31-46
31 'When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
20 In fact, however, Christ has been raised from the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 23rd, 2014 Image

Bl. Miguel Pro
November 23: Born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Agustin ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter