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?