I want to share something that came up in a recent discussion I had with a good friend who is Baptist. My friend believes that he has absolute assurance of salvation because he has accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. His (mis)understanding of the Catholic position is that we believe that we have to work our way to heaven. I explained to him what the Church actually teaches and that believing that one can earn heaven is actually heresy.
However, an interesting concept came up during the discussion when we were addressing the idea of mortal sin. When one considers that mortal sin, by definition, has to be committed with full knowledge and full consent and when one considers that if we die in a state of grace (free from mortal sin) we believe that we will not go to hell (we didn’t get into purgatory this time), then we have a truer assurance of salvation than our Protestant brothers and sisters. In other words, we can choose not to commit mortal sin, it’s not something we fall into unknowingly. We can also go to reconcilliation if we do fall.
With that backdrop, I contend that the Catholic Church offers a clear and practical, Scripture-based assurance of salvation that is not otherwise available.