Protestant view of sin & justification

Hello All!

I have an acquaintance of mine who who is an evangelical Protestant. We do not live in the same area. We stay in touch via Facebook. The issue he feels most strongly about (and posts about almost everyday) is the issue of justification. 'm having trouble explaining the Catholic view. But I am feeling a strong sense that I need to continue dialogue with him. May I have your help in this discussion?

This is what he believes:

We are justified when we simply believe in Christ, and nothing we do can un-save us after we’ve chosen to “believe”. He says that when we say sin can separate us from God, we’re saying we’re more powerful than God - that His sacrifice was incomplete and insufficient.

I asked him about the 10 commandments, and why we should be good people if all we have to do is “believe”. He said it’s important to live a good life, but that doing that has nothing to do with justification - it’s just because we can.

Any tips for what to bring up would be wonderful! Brownie points for Bible references.

Thank you!

Wow!! sounds like OSAS - Yes, we are justified by our faith in Christ but it doesn’t stop there. We must continue fellowshiping with other Christians, studying God’s word and be in constant “communication” with Him (prayer, scripture, fellowship). I’m just reacting off the top of my head with this and I know you were asking for Catholic help with it - but from a Protestant point of view, he’s in a precarious position spiritually if that’s all he thinks is involved with salvation.

Thank you! That’s really helpful to hear from your perspective as well.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s my understanding that OSAS is a normal belief for Protestants. It’s been interesting to hear his take on sin. He believes that nothing we do can separate us eternally from God - except our unbelief. It’s a hard subject, which is understandable. But it’s also hard to discuss when he says literally nothing can come between us and God.

What if huge sinners still “believe” in the truth of salvation through the grace of Jesus? Do they still automatically go to heaven? How do we discuss this?

Any Protestant viewpoints and Catholic explanation would be wonderful!

The irony of this debate is how we believe a lot of the same things but express them differently.

I think the main difference is that Catholics believe one can lose their Salvation while some Protestants believe that someone who continues sinning or leaves Christ was “Never saved to begin with.”

The results are the same that ‘said sinner’ is not saved at death; though both our groups agree that neither of us can judge.

It’s odd that we argue about this one, because we basically believe the same.

I hear the same all the time, but there is so much scripture that contradicts what they say they believe.

Satan believes in God.

(Mat 7:21 KJV) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

How does your friend know that he is not one of them, in the above verse?

It seams to me that they have blinders on and they cannot see or hear what is in scripture, or they twist the scripture to make it look like it is in agreement with what they believe.

:shrug:

Yes, it’s kind of funny because we both used the same scripture verse to explain our (differing) opinions once - that’s the problem with personal interpretations of it, I suppose.

From a Catholic perspective, we believe we cannot know the eternal destination of anyone. Except for the saints (who we believe are in heaven after a long process to investigate their sanctity), we do not, and cannot, make those claims about anyone.

I don’t know that this acquaintance of mine would agree with what you explained (dronald), about them never being saved. He seems to believe that just “believing” is enough for anyone in all circumstances.

It’s frustrating a bit, because it doesn’t make sense to me why we should be good if believing is all it takes. What compels us if it’s not necessary? It’s something we can choose, but why should we be good if all we have to do is believe in Jesus? He has not been able to answer this in a satisfactory way, and I’d be interested to hear viewpoints on it!

The protestant view is that good works will flow automatically from faith, that they are manifestations of faith, and that faith without these good works isn’t really “faith” anyway, but they will contend that the ground of justification (i.e. the reason we can go to heaven) is faith alone. I think both Catholics and Protestants will certainly say that faith and works are both important.

Protestants will usually affirm that original sin has so destroyed our capacity to do good that we don’t really have a free will to choose the good in matters of salvation or damnation. Instead, because we are so inclined to evil, God does an act in us that operates independently of our free will to do good. Catholics maintain that our wills retain an ability to, with the help of God’s grace, to choose the good.

Protestants will often charge that Catholics think that we can work our way to salvation because we say that our good works merit salvation. Catholics have never affirmed that we can work our way to heaven based on our own efforts, this has been condemned at the Council of Orange and the Council of Trent. What we say is that God operates in us and we cooperate with His grace and with our wills to do good works.

There was an evangelical scholar, Alister McGrath, who has written a book on the history of the doctrine of justification who states that St. Augustine’s teaching on this, often held to be the protestant position, is more in line with the Catholic view:

lonelypilgrim.com/tag/iustitia-dei/

One quote:

For Augustine, the human liberum arbitrium captivatum is incapable of desiring or attaining justification. How, then, does faith, the fulcrum about which justification takes place, arise in the individual? According to Augustine, the act of faith is itself a divine gift, in which God acts upon the rational soul in such a way that it comes to believe. Whether this action on the will leads to its subsequent assent to justification is a matter for humanity, rather than for God. ‘The one who created you without you will not justify you without you’ (‘Qui fecit te sine te, non te iustificat sine te’). Although God is the origin of the gift which humans are able to receive and possess, the acts of receiving and possessing themselves can be said to be the humans’.

McGrath continues:

To meet what he regarded as Pelagian evasions, Augustine drew a distinction between operative and co-operative grace. God operates to initiate humanity’s justification, in that humans are given a will capable of desiring good, and subsequently co-operate with that good will to perform good works, to bring that justification to perfection. God operates upon the bad desires of the liberum arbitrium captivatum to allow it to will good, and subsequently co-operates with the liberum arbitrium liberatum to actualise that good will in a good action.

Most protestants will also say that salvation is a one time event, whereas Catholics believe that salvation is a lifelong process. Protestants believe in “imputed” righteous, that faith allows one’s sins to be covered via the sacrifice of Christ and his righteousness in justification, but Catholics believe in “infused” righteousness, that sin is really blotted out .

The early Protestant reformers logically separated justification and sanctification (and glorification, which happens after death in Protestant theology).

[sidebar: Historically I think this was crucial to the success of the protestant reformation, once people became convinced that they didn’t need the Church and her sacraments for their spiritual life (which came about through public debate on theology, allowing cities and towns to decide what beliefs they would have), charges of corruption against the church (which weren’t really anything new in Church history and had been made for centuries before 1517) became powerful enough to warrant a split from the Church.]

Catholics do not separate these three, for us they are three joined processes that begin at baptism. This is why we say that a person can lose her justification through mortal sin (which can then be regained through sacramental confession or a perfect act of contrition if confession is not available). Protestants contend that a person can “backslide” in sanctification but cannot lose her justification.

Some texts on the relationship between justification, sanctification and glorification

1 Corinthians 6:10-11
‘Not the effeminate nor the
impure nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor
extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God. And such some of
you were. But you are washed; but you are sanctified; but you are
justified; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of
our God.’

Romans 8:30
And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Some on losing your salvation:

Philippians 2:12-13
work out your own
salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at
work in you, both to will and to work for his good
pleasure.

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible to restore
again to repentance those who have once been
enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift,
and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and
have tasted the goodness of the word of God, and
the powers of the age to come, if they then commit
apostasy . . .

Infused righteousness:

John 1:29 . . . Behold, the Lamb of God, who
takes away the sin of the world!

1 John 1:7 . . . the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses
us from all sin.

1 John 1:9 . . . He is faithful and just, and will
forgive our sins and cleanse us from all
unrighteousness.

Sounds like your friend is a “once saved, always saved” christian. He believes that no matter what you do your salvation is assured.

This belief is contradicted in almost every book in the new testament.

In Galations 5:19-21 St Paul gives a list of Mortal Sins that exclude true believers from Heaven. So a believer can lose his gift of Salvation thus refuting the “once justified always justified” belief. It also proves that a believer can lose his Salvation for grave sins i.e. his deeds and not just for denying the faith or for apostasy.

When St Paul says “I warn you as I warned you before” he is speaking directly to the true believers. He gives the warning directly to fellow members of the body of Christ, the very people he identified as** “sons of God”** (Gal:3:26-27) who have** “put on Christ” ** (Gal:3:26-27).

St Paul is saying: don’t be deceived by a false message such as “faith alone” or “once saved always saved” according to which after you truly believe you are supposedly incapable of or immune to committing grave sins.

**Gal:5:19-21 "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,

Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God."**

Gemma S

This same point was discussed last month between Catholics and Protestants, here on this forum (Non-Catholic Religions) under the title “Simple question on Sola Fide”. Link:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=957702&highlight=Sola+Fide&page=3

A turning point in the debate came when one commenter posted this link to an analysis by Jimmy Akin:

jimmyakin.com/library/justification-by-faith-alone

Very briefly, the conclusion we reached (Catholics and Protestants alike) was this: Catholics and Protestants define the word “faith” differently. Catholics have a narrower definition, Protestants a broader definition. The answer to the question, “Justification by faith alone: true or false?” is “True” if you are using the word “faith” in the Protestant sense but “False” if you are using it in the Catholic sense.

I hope this helps.

Regards
Bart

Faith does not mean “Believing that God exists.” The argument isn’t that one has to believe that a God exists and that a Jesus died on a cross and resurrected; the argument is that one must have Faith in Christ. A person with Faith will trust, love, believe in Him and not just know about it and believe it.

Ask him what happens to people who say they believe in Christ but continue to go about raping, murdering and stealing from others.

Your friend will likely say that the person had never truly been saved. That’s what I normally hear from the OSASers. Although again, we all say (Catholic and Protestant) that we cannot judge if a person has/will attain Salvation.

Also keep in mind that your friend may not be speaking on behalf of what his Church definitely agrees with. For example, my old wrestling coach committed suicide last month and I went to his Catholic funeral. The suicide wasn’t mentioned once until at one point his brother says that my old coach’s kids keep asking “Will my dad go to Heaven” to which the Priest assured them he is.

Now, he was a good guy and we like to believe he went to Heaven and this earth was just too much; so even a Catholic Priest will make that judgement even though there’s no way of really knowing. In fact in the past the CC was extremely tough on suicides and still can be; teaching it as a mortal sin if I’m speaking correctly.

Wow… I would really like to meet you if you believe you meet the criteria in that you would never do the things listed above!

I never said I don’t do any of those things. You did read my post? Please show me where I say that?

The difference is I have all the Sacraments, the most important being the Sacrament of Reconciliation. These repair the broken relationship provided one is truly repentant.

I don’t believe we lose our salvation based on those and that the listed sins are mortal sins that remove us from being saved. The idea is ridiculous considering that we all do those things.

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Both Protestants and Catholics are truly repentant of those things.

When we do those things we ‘sin’. For a Catholic who does those things and is truly repentant, they have access to the Confessional to repair the broken relationship by being given absolution.

The Protestant who believes in ‘faith alone’ and ‘once saved, always saved’ has no idea when or if his/her breaking of a Mortal Sin has been forgiven by God.

I find it interesting that “fornication” is not a Mortal Sin in your eyes. It is breaking a Commandment is it not?

Witchcraft is also breaking the first Commandment.

Jesus said that whoever even looks on a woman with lustful intent commits adultery; so while I must preface by saying it’s absolutely horrible and sickening, it is too something that Christians (Catholic and Protestant) struggle with, and fight against as they walk with Christ.

So to believe (perhaps) as you do that if someone commits adultery in their heart and then dies soon after, while remorseful, while walking with Christ, while struggling and trying to improve, but not yet confessed is now going to burn in Hell for all of eternity because it’s as you claim, “Mortal.” Well I disagree.

Lutherans do NOT teach OSAS. It would be interesting to find out which denominations do but I really don’t think that it is as common as some might want to think.

Just a thought here after reading many of the comments.

God bless all.

Rita

This is a link to the question of OSAS…might be helpful for those interested.

:blessyou:

Forgot the link and then I lost it. I found another thread that discussed denominations that taught OSAS: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=318833

Pretty good

Protestants will usually affirm that original sin has so destroyed our capacity to do good that we don’t really have a free will to choose the good in matters of salvation or damnation. Instead, because we are so inclined to evil, God does an act in us that operates independently of our free will to do good. Catholics maintain that our wills retain an ability to, with the help of God’s grace, to choose the good.

Not sure on this one. Not sure if CC teaches total depravity. Many think that there is something good in us and we freely decide for Christ . P’s do not say that but that but somehow they still hold on to free will, yet as you state, God by grace changes our will or enables it to choose righteousness. We both say we can not do it on our own

Protestants will often charge that Catholics think that we can work our way to salvation because we say that our good works merit salvation. Catholics have never affirmed that we can work our way to heaven based on our own efforts, this has been condemned at the Council of Orange and the Council of Trent. What we say is that God operates in us and we cooperate with His grace and with our wills to do good works.

Right. It is like it really does not count as good works because it is by grace. I disagree because while we can differentiate between a fleshly, carnal work and a spiritual work, a work is still a work. Paul says even a righteous work (a spiritual, religious work) can not save.

Most protestants will also say that salvation is a one time event, whereas Catholics believe that salvation is a lifelong process.

Good. Semantically a P is saved, brought from death to life, via the new birth. A P says I was born, therefore I breath, and eat, and drink, and learn to walketc… A C might say you breathe and eat and learn to walk to stay alive.

Protestants believe in “imputed” righteous, that faith allows one’s sins to be covered via the sacrifice of Christ and his righteousness in justification, but Catholics believe in “infused” righteousness, that sin is really blotted out .

Good. Not sure about the difference of blotting vs covering. maybe it si more about the new man in Christ vs the old man of the flesh.

The early Protestant reformers logically separated justification and sanctification (and glorification, which happens after death in Protestant theology).

Good

Historically I think this was crucial to the success of the protestant reformation, once people became convinced that they didn’t need the Church and her sacraments for their spiritual life

Very good. One could say conflict of interest led to defining those things differently than CC. The reverse could also be said, that doctrine was formed specifically to keep Catholics Catholic. As a side note, the more universal truths are by their nature non-sectarian or cross sectarian (they do not proselytize to any specific denomination or church, but to Christ and His Body.)

Catholics do not separate these three, for us they are three joined processes that begin at baptism. This is why we say that a person can lose her justification through mortal sin (which can then be regained through sacramental confession or a perfect act of contrition if confession is not available). Protestants contend that a person can “backslide” in sanctification but cannot lose her justification.

Right, like the prodigal son was still always a son (some would say). You must also add the caveat of OSAS vs ability to lose salvation , both found in P’s.

Have not read all posts, but it seems the person has not disclosed osas, one way or the other and was only referencing that this new life is not extinguished when the old man sins. He may very well agree however, .that habitual sin may indeed lead one to eventually deny the faith. He may also state that the Spirit prompts the new man to repent and denounce sin and that persevere in the faith.

Blessings

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