Please help me sort these issues out. 'Fundamental Option' versus on-again/off-again salvation?


OK. I am aware that in the 1980’s or 1990’s, the RCC eschewed many aspects of the theory of ‘fundamental option.’ This is a soteriological opinion that says that one is ‘saved’ or not saved based upon how one is ‘fundamentally’ oriented towards God. One whose life and will and desire are fundamentally oriented towards serving and loving God can be said to be in a state of grace. One who changes ones orientation away from God in some fundamental way–who opts to reject God on some fundamental level–is in mortal sin and therefore in danger of damnation. But for most Christians, most sinful acts would NOT alter one’s ‘fundamental option’ and therefore most sinful acts would be venial sins. Venial sins can of course gradually undermine one’s fundamental option to the point where one has ultimately rejected God by degrees. But in most cases, according to this perspective, one could rarely reject God in such a decidedly radical way by the mere commission of a single act.

The beauty of the doctrine of ‘fundamental option’ as I have just described it is that it eliminates the ‘daisy-chain’ orientation of so much of Catholic spirituality: “God loves me; He loves me not; He loves me; he loves me not . . .”. The fundamental option would help a scrupulous Catholic to have real assurance that they are not falling in-and-out of grace multiple times a day. This in fact was one of the theological issues that put a wedge between me and Roman Catholicism so many long years ago. Although I left Catholic soteriology for Arminianism, I left because even in Arminianism there is a tremendous degree of assurance that it is God who preserves us in grace, and that we therefore do not have to trouble ourselves daily and even hourly with questions about “Oh my God . . .have I just committed a mortal sin? If I die before I can get to confession, will I go to Hell”? It is really true, in my opinion, that a devout and diligent Catholic can spend their lives in a paroxysm of anxiety about the state of their soul, because the Magisterium have insisted upon an understanding of mortal sin that makes almost everyone vulnerable to being in danger of hellfire almost every minute they are not actually inside a confessional and being absolved.

Now that I have moved from Arminian to a moderate Calvinistic/Augustinian perspective on salvation, the theology of fundamental option is even more appealing to me. I am aware that it’s chief proponents were people whose theology was much more liberal in many other respects than my own. But fundamental option, as I have described it above, certainly grants a greater degree of basic assurance in God’s mercy and grace than the sort of soteriology I remember learning from the New St. Joseph’s Baltimore Catechism, or even from ***The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults. ***

Those sorts of books almost always encouraged one to think of mortal and venial sin as something to be evaluated from a list: if you were ‘mildly angry’ you had committed a venial sin and did not necessarily need to go to Confession, but if you were ‘very angry’ you were in mortal sin and needed to confess ASAP lest you perish in your sinfulness. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems more oriented towards this ‘now-I’m-saved/now-I’m-damned’ attitude. Where is the ‘perfect love that casts out fear’ in such an understanding? Hw can Catholics say that God not only saves us but preserves us in His mercy and grace?



Though what you seem to be seeking would be a very comforting and appealing truth, I do not know that there is any good reason to believe that this is the position we as Christians actually find ourselves.

Verses like the following lead me to think otherwise:

“Philippians Chapter 2
12 * So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. * 13 For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.”

Matthew Chapter 7
13* "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, * that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

I don’t think the portrait you paint of the “saved again – damned again” flip flopping of the Catholic Churches belief system is accurate.

But neither do I think that God Love’s prevents us from leaving His grace. We take an active part in walking in His grace. He does not guarantee us we will not stumble along the way. He just gives us the opption of letting Him help us up, dust us off and continue leading us along the path.

We always have the option of simply laying down in the dirt. Unfortuntely many choose to do so.



Gods doesn’t seem to believe in it.

But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live. 23* Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? 24 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die. 25 "Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Exechiel 18:21-28


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