I am a protestant searcher and I do not understand soteriology very well. I know what I have been told about being saved by faith alone and that seems to be completely Biblical. But from what I understand about Catholics, this is not denied, but is stipulated as a sort of -then what? Faith comes through faith in Christ and then it is a continued work in the life of the believer. (The parable of the sower seems to strike on that.) This is how I have understood the Catholic position, and it also seems completely Biblical. (This is also why purgatory makes sense to me. With an analogy of the temple, we may sacrifice in the outer courts for the justification of the people, but we still must be purified if we want to enter the Holy of Holies.)
My impression is that many Catholics and Protestants are arguing past each other. One says that it is God’s work to condemn because of His righteous judgement, and another saying it is a man’s choice and state of mind that is the cause of Hell. (This is not necessarilly C’s vs. P’s but free-will vs. Pre-destination and so crosses many denominational boundaries.) From my readings so far, this question is something that Catholics would say ‘yes, it is both.’ We choose Hell and God condemns us. Our free choice is completely in sync with His sovereignty.
The other thing that seems important about this question is that ultimately the answer must be really simple. I don’t believe God would make this essentially difficult because it ought to be understood by everyone, universally. This leads me to think that there is something to the status quo answer- live a good life and you will go to heaven. The problem is, who has really lived a good life? (Like Homer Simpson said when he was reading the Bible, “What a downer, everybody’s a sinner… except for this guy.”) Christ is the saviour for everyone who has sinned, but still we must still continue to try to live that good life. I think the people who usually say that they were basically good are deceiving themselves about their own goodness. Those who truly want to live the holy life don’t become more and more content with themselves.
I am sorry to ramble, but this is the gist of my understanding. I wanted to see what Catholics in particular would say about my understanding of salvation.
Peace in Christ,