As a former Evangelical, I encountered a number of disagreements. However, based on my limited time and exposure in the “Protestant” world, I was curious what the most disputed disagreements are, and to a lesser degree, why.
The most significant one in my own mind reminds me of a story.
A former assistant pastor of mine was giving a lecture on Protestantism vs. Catholicism. (I was Catholic at the time, but invited to sit-in on the event). Anyhow, during the talk, the issue of “once saved, always saved” came up. Before contentious debate arose the pastor stepped in. He made it clear that he did not believe in “once saved, always saved,” whereas the assistant pastor did.
Now let’s be honest…
*]They sincerely love God (At least I believe that.)
*]They desire to do His will (I actually believe that too.)
*]They believe that the Holy Spirit will surely guide them into all Biblical truth.
However, many of them can’t agree on serious doctrinal issues.
What are other contentious issues within the Protestant world are?..
(Feel free to share any experiences you may have had.)
This is one of the non-essentials since in practical terms they lead to the same result. The once saved always saved view is the modern term for what was called perseverance of the saints. That meant that once a person had saving faith he would be protected from falling away. If he fell away then he had never had true saving faith. Since it is impossible to know whether someone has true saving faith until they persevere to the end, it is impossible to say that a person is actually saved. So both views result in the same conclusion, a person is only saved is they actually persevere.
Then you would have misunderstood the doctrine as I know of few Protestants, if any, who would say that you are free to sin. Scripture tells us that if you have true faith you don’t walk in sin. Works follow true faith and if you don’t have works or continue to sin, you didn’t have true faith.
Most Protestant Christians would say sin is always wrong, but there is not any real reason to worry because “Jesus paid your sin debt in full.” If you sin, you are not in any real danger of losing your salvation because you are saved by faith alone. This was Martin Luthers position, and remains the position of most Protestants.
There’s a huge and fascinating debate going on at the moment between penal substitution theories of atonement and Christus Victor. I’ve been following it on a couple of web forums and it’s doing my theological knowledge no end of good :-). It does seem to be becoming a bit of a measuring rod though - only those supporting PSA being regarded as ‘sound’ in the evangelical camp. It’s made me very concious of hymns and songs which relate to the cross though - nearly all of which seem to support PSA.
So how does OSAS follow from that? Since man has free will isnt it possible for one to have true faith but in a moment of weakness or extreme anger commits a grevious sin.?
Now I will acknowledge up front that ancedotal evidence proves little but let me tell the one time I ran into OSAS that really put me off it. I was counseling in a CPC and had a young lady who was positive on her pregnancy test. She was youth director at her Church and told me she could not let down the children she was working with by being visibly pregnant . She told me she was going to have an abortion and even though she knew it was wroing she knew she was already saved and it would not imperil her soul. Did she in reality out her soul in dnager or is the fact she beleived in an unconditionl OSAS save her?
Once saved, always saved (which I do not personally agree with) is generally associated with Calvinism, predestination and unconditional election. Freewill is associated with Arminianism which generally does not accept once saved, always saved.
So when dealing with once saved, always saved, your assumption of freewill does not go with that doctrine.
Now both Calvinists and Arminians agree that true faith will result in good works and a desire not to sin. If a person continues to habitually sin, then both Calvinists and Armineans would feel that the person is not really saved. Calvinists would say that the person never had true faith, while the Arminian would say while they may have had true faith, they no longer have it. Both sides say that if a person does sin he must repent and confess it to God.
The reason once saved, always saved has the same result is that you can never know whether you have true faith or whether you are like the seed scattered on the shallow ground or amidst the thorns and are not one of the elect. Therefore one who believes in once saved always saved should be concerned that sinning means that they are not one of the elect. Therefore they must try not to sin, know that, even so, if they do sin they must confess and repent. The one who doesn’t believe in the doctrine will try to maintain their faith and also try not to sin.
The key is that while once saved, always saved says the elect cannot fall, nobody knows who is actually elect.
I would consider someone who says or preaches you are free to sin as you wish has been poorly taught and doesn’t properly understand the doctrine. This is not really different from Catholic who have been poorly taught and do not understand what the Church teaches. A Catholic may feel free to sin because they know they can go to Confession and be forgiven.
The Westminster Confession of Faith is one of the standard confessions that professes once saved, always says. Note what it says about how a person must act.
I. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.
II. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, **so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments. **
V. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.
I. Good works are only such as God has commanded in His holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention.
II. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, **are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God,**9] whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.
III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.
Quite clearly it does not say once you believe youcan sin as much as you want yet it also says:
I. They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
Actually, I believe your perspective is easier to embrace than many other Protestants, and is actually closer to the Catholic faith on some level.
One thing I’m not clear about though is your understanding of imputed righeousness. Although what you say does not sound like infused righteousness, as we believe, I’m not sure how one is “declared righteous” if they are not living in any sin. It’s almost like saying only those who die in a state of perfect sanctity (those who persevere) will be among the elect. Please clarify.
This also begs the question, how do you define sin? For Catholics we believe in (venial) lesser sin and (mortal) grave sin, knowing that all sin is wrong. We also believe that because of our fallen nature, we are prone to sin, even sin which we are not fully aware of. More importantly, how does your camp measure “lesser” sin vs. “greater” sin (if at all) within this understanding? I just have an impossible time accepting that being a little lazy (a venial sin) is the same thing as child molestation (serious grave sin.) Please clarify.
Few people are totally pure in their thoughts, intentions, and actions. Sin can be so subtle and unrecognizable at times. Is this kind of sin recognized and mentioned within your beliefs?
Everyone has committed sin at some time. Therefore they can never meet God’s standard, which is perfection, because, even if they manage not to sin anymore, they are still guilty from the past and still have a sin nature within them. Salvation is viewed as having different parts, regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification. Catholicism generally regards these as being the same thing so whose terminology is being used is important.
Regeneration is where God gives us a spirit that allows us to seek him and want to please him. We are infused with the Holy Spirit. Although our old fleshly sin nature remains we are able to resist it now. So there is an infusion but not such that makes us righteous.
Justification comes through faith. By truly believing, we are declared righteous before God by reason of Christ’s perfect obediance and sacrifice. This is the imputation part. We are not actually made righteous because we have actually sinned in the past and still have our sin nature which means that we will sin in the future. However if we continue to believe and repent God will still view us as righteous.
Sanctification is the life long process by which we work out our own salvation. Because we have been regenerated we strive to be holy, not to sin and to be like Christ. Because we still have a sin nature this process will never be complete in this life. If we perserve until death our sin nature dies but our regenerated nature doesn’t and we are truly sanctified.
Glorification comes when we receive our resurrection bodies at the second coming.
We make no distinctions between sins and believe that any sin merits death but that by God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice we are forgiven. We sin even if we do not recognize it as sin. Our nature is such that we cannot always tell when we sin, although sometimes it is obvious. When I pray I ask for forgiveness of what I know I have done wrong and for what I have done which I have not recognized as sin. If we truly repent and have faith in Jesus we will be forgiven.
I believe if someone accepts the Apostle’s Creed that they can be saved if they repent and have faith. Of course I would define catholic church as being the invisible body of all belivers and apostolic as following the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles as recorded in Scripture. In that I am sola scripture in believing that the Bible sets out everything that is necessary for salvation. That doesn’t mean it contains everything but it does have what is necessary.
My belief is that a prime fault of any organized religion is trying to understand more than God has told us. People want to know everything and feel they have a right to know. If God hasn’t clearly revealed something men speculate and then try to support their speculations by forcing Scripture, or in the case of Catholics Tradition, to support their conclusions. This thinking we have a right to know everything is a result of pride. What’s worse, in too many cases, people take their conclusions and say anyone who doesn’t believe them is wrong, heretical or whatever.
So I don’t think that someone is damned for following the teaching of the Catholic Church. I myself could not be Catholic as I could not accept everything that it puts forward as necessary for belief, some of which I feel are speculations to satisfy the need to know. But I don’t think that believing these speculatons denies salvation anymore than it denies salvation to Protestants who believe their particular ideas are necessary.
I belong to the Presbyterian Church in Canada, whose requirement for membership is to affirm the Apostle’s Creed.
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