Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

10/2/2012 (1 year 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

Article Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/2/2012 (1 year 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 calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.



Comments


More Living Faith

Who's ready for the most historic canonization in modern history?

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Are you ready for the canonization of Pope John Paul II? Vatican officials are busy preparing for the historic canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. As they prepare, it's time for use to get ready as well. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - on April 27, a ... continue reading


Pope Francis encourages people to kiss crucifix and recite simple prayer Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is encouraging people this holy week to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer: "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord." He wishes to remind others that Christ's passion "isn't the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn't the ... continue reading


Pope Francis distributes Bibles, asks Catholics to perform acts of charity

Image of Bibles were handed out to all visitors regardless of their religious affiliation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has given out tens of thousands of Bibles to people that he hopes they will keep and use daily. The gifts were distributed in St. Peter's Square following Mass. The gifts came with one string attached however, Pope Francis asked all people to perform an ... continue reading


Pope Francis' Wild Ride - Pope takes happy kids for a spin through St. Peter's Square Watch

Image of Pope Francis kisses Livio Bastianelli and Davide Maria goodbye after their lucky ride.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis gave to kids the ride of a lifetime by inviting them for a spin in the Popemobile around St. Peter's Square. The gesture continues to cement Pope Francis as a man of the people who is most comfortable with the throngs of faithful who seek his wisdom and ... continue reading


Seminary is not for those who do not wish to 'get on with life,' Pope admonishes Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In addressing the Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni, the Pope did not mince words. Pope Francis was forthright in saying that the seminary is not a refuge for those who have "psychological problems" or lack the courage "to get on in life." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Pope Francis apologizes for abuse scandal, says Church deserves to pay Watch

Image of Pope Francis embraces a child in St. Peter's Square.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has made his strongest statement yet about the scandal of child abuse in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis made clear that victims of abuse deserved an apology as well as compensation for what they have suffered.  He reaffirmed that the Church will be ... continue reading


Pope Francis makes special plea, but is asking us - Are you listening? Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis continues to call for aid to the poor as the holiday season ends. The Holy Father has set a goal to eradicate global hunger by distributing food more equitably around the world and he has called on all faithful Catholics to help. It's a call that can't be ... continue reading


'The Devil is here, even in the 21st century,' Pope Francis warns Watch

Image of Life is a constant battle against evil due to the presence of the devil, Pope Francis said, admitting that even he

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The devil is very much alive in the 21st Century, Pope Francis warns, and he often takes the form of gossip. The pope confessed that he himself was tempted to gossip, and the faithful need to stay on their toes. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Speaking in the ... continue reading


The Protest Against Evil and the Rise of Atheism: Is Evil Really the Problem?

Image of Adam and Eve deny their creatureliness in the Edenic Paradise, desiring to be as gods without God, and thus commit original sin.

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

It sounds very nice, a world devoid of suffering and every type of evil. However, there are some problems with such an idea, at least for now, given the present situation. What would it mean for us if there were no potential for evil? Atheists often reject God in ... continue reading


How I Read Myself Into the Church Watch

Image of

By Deal W. Hudson

It's said that people don't read much anymore, that we live in a multimedia age, and that the act of reading is on the wane. These prognostications have already been proven false. Nothing can replace reading a book as the most intimate medium of enjoyment and ... 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, Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9
1 The spirit of Lord Yahweh is on me for Yahweh has ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 89:21-22, 25, 27
21 My hand will always be with him, my arm will make ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:16-21
16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, ... Read More

Reading 2, Revelation 1:5-8
5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 17th, 2014 Image

St. Anicetus
April 17: Anicetus was a Syrian from Emesa. He became pope about 155 and ... 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