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Tough Questions: How are Catholics 'Saved?'
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"Are you saved?" It's a question often asked of Catholics by some Christians who seem to feel that Catholics are somehow less Christian than most. It's always a strange one, and it feels like a trap. In some ways, it's a loaded question, intended to match your knowledge of the Bible against the questioner. However, we can answer with certainty, that Catholics are indeed saved.
Catholics get asked this question a lot. How should we answer it?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The simple answer to the question, "Are you saved?" is yes. As Catholics, we are born again through Baptism, and we strive to live in God's friendship. And while we cannot save ourselves, we pray that God will have mercy on us and deliver us into heaven.
But first, let's look at the question itself, because something always seems "off" when the question is asked.
The Bible tells us we must be "born again" to be "saved." Jesus Himself said as much, (John 3:3), and it is repeated by St. Peter, our first Pope, who was appointed by Jesus to lead His Church on earth. (1 Peter 3:21)
For some Christians, this is where salvation begins and ends. There are a variety of beliefs about baptism and salvation. Some believe in baptism only for adults, some believe salvation cannot be lost, and others believe salvation can be lost. As Catholics, we know salvation only comes from Jesus Christ, to those who are "born again" by water and the Spirit, just as Jesus explained. And we know that salvation is impossible for those who die in a state of mortal sin, having chosen to violate God's commandments and refusing to repent.
Perhaps the more unsettling aspect of the question, "Are you saved?" is the subtle insinuation that Catholics aren't Christians. Of course we are "saved," isn't that a big part of what Christianity is about?
The people asking this question might not know their history in the first place. Not all Christians understand that the Church established by Jesus Christ was the Catholic Church. Some are of the remarkable belief that there was no "Church" and that the early Christians all just got baptized, read the Bible, and prayed together, and were "saved."
Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church and commissioned the Apostle Peter as the person responsible for it after his Ascension. (Matthew 16:16-20). And we know Peter was recognized as such and that he fulfilled this role. (Mk 1:36; Lk 9:28,32; Acts 2:37; Acts 3:6-12; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 15:4-8; 1 Cor 9:5; 1 Pet 5:2; . . . among a great many others.)
It is important to be clear. There were no other Churches except for the Church established by Jesus Christ. And that Church is the Catholic Church. It may also be called the Roman Catholic Church, and there are several rites and traditions in the Church that do not call themselves "Roman," but they are otherwise in Communion with Rome with some cultural distinctions, but no significant differences in dogma.
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The "Bible" churches that many belong to today are the product of the last two centuries, with many appearing only in recent decades. All of them are established by individuals who may have a degree or certificate that affirms they have knowledge of the Bible, and how to manage a church, but this does not mean they completely understand the history or tradition of the Church established by Jesus Christ.
We also know the Bible did not exist in these early years of the Church. In fact, many books would not be written until decades after the death of Christ. The canon of the Bible as we know it today, (meaning the books that are in the Bible) was not firmly established until almost the 5th century. This is a problem for Bible Christians who believe the scriptures alone are sufficient to understanding our Christian faith. It ignores the inescapable fact that tradition, as established by our Jewish heritage, and affirmed by Jesus Christ and the Apostles, as well as the early Church fathers, is an important part of our faith.
How a person is saved was established by Jesus Christ, and the entire process is well understood by the Catholic Church. In fact, with the exception of notable heretical movements which did not survive as established faiths to the present day, none of the Church's teachings on salvation were seriously challenged until the Protestant Reformation. At that time, in the early 16th century, Martin Luther, and many others, concluded they knew better than the fathers of the Church and began acting out on their own ideas. Martin Luther set the tone, even removing seven books from the canon of the Bible, which many Protestants still do without today.
The result of these modern heresies is a widespread lack of knowledge about the history of the Church and how one is saved.
To be clear, we are saved by our baptism. God performs this work, entirely Himself, out of his merciful love for us. We cannot save ourselves, but we can choose four ourselves if we desire heaven or hell by choosing to live according to God's will, or according to our sins. When we err, as we often do thanks to Original Sin, we can ask forgiveness from God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is God alone who forgives our sins (for many good reasons, the priest is present, but it is God who provides the grace) and He does want to save us. For God loves each of us as individuals, He created each of us with deliberate inattention, and He makes no mistakes.
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Yes, we who are baptized, who love God with all our hearts, and who strive to live in His grace and friendship, are SAVED.
If you want to see more "Tough Questions," from Professor Marshall Connolly, consider supporting Catholic Online School, a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation.
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