Sacramental Marriage vs. "Once Saved Always Saved"

I’ve always thought the catholic explanation to salvation (“am saved, am being saved and will be saved”) was obviously superior to the evangelical protestant OSAS idea. The silliness of OSAS becomes sharply clear when a person who was once clearly an ‘on-fire’ christian, who shared his faith, brought others to christ, lived a disciplined prayer life, etc goes apostate. Many of those in the OSAS camp say “well, he was never really born again in the first place.” Such people refuse to see that such a position actually means that NOBODY can know if he’s REALLY been born again or just had been fooling himself. Poof, no real assurance of salvation.

This morning it hit me that catholics have the same problem with sacramental marriage. We tell people their marriage is forever, that no man can separate what God has joined, but then we go and declare nullity on a nearly routine basis when marriages go sour. Nullity, of course, means there never really was a sacramental marriage there in the first place. Since it appears so completely commonplace that couples turn out NOT to be truly joined by God in marriage, how can ANYBODY be sure that their OWN marriage is a sacramental one?

The two situations seem eerily similar to me and its an uncomfortable feeling since I’ve always considered the OSAS idea a load of horse manure.

Well, the arguments about OSAS basically prove that there is no guarantee of salvation, which of course, there isn’t. Salvation is something we hope for and “work out with fear and trembling”.

Similarly, we hope and pray that our marriages will work out, and we work to nurture them. Whether they ultimately do, or don’t, doesn’t change whether the marriage was sacramental. Couples can, sadly, lose sight of the graces from God that help them nurture their marriages, just as a person can lose sight of God’s graces that lead us to salvation.

On the issue of whether we can know with certainty that the marriage was sacramental, that two people were indeed joined by God, hopefully we can be at least as certain of this as we can be that at any given moment we are in a state of grace. I very much hope that the tribunals are very careful with the decision of whether or not to declare that a valid, sacramental marriage never actually took place based on clear evidence that something was lacking at the time of the wedding (e.g., intention never to have children, or such a high level of immaturity that the person wasn’t able to truly commit to a marriage). People do make mistakes, sadly. But, take heart. An annulment shouldn’t be, and I’m sure it isn’t, an easily given rubber stamp to say that a marriage is annuled just so that one of the former couple can be free to marry again.

i understand the idea of an invalid marriage, but i too fear we are trying to bend the rules too often when it comes to marriage.

i defer to the Church with the idea that the salvation of our soul is an eternal issue, heaven is forever, while marriage is only while we are here on earth.

Jesus tells us; “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Mt 22:30).

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!


First, I don’t support the opinion that it is commonplace that annulments are granted. The Church assumes a marriage is valid unless and until it can be found otherwise. As a divorced husband who was NOT granted an annulment (the tribunal didn’t see evidence which would cause them to consider the marriage to be other than sacramental), I speak from experience.

As to how we can know for sure if a marriage is in fact sacramental, I’ll say this… It absolutely, with out a doubt, IS a valid marriage until such time as the Church declares it otherwise.

Good observations, manualman. It seems to come down to the fact that it was Jesus who said “what God has joined, let no man divide.” So, that is the divine law and command. (There is no similar statement regarding assured salvation.) What is left for us is to decide how, exactly, it happens that God joins a couple in marriage and determine if such a union actually exists. This determination only occurs when a couple’s marriage breaks down and they ask for an investigation of their marraige. The *presumption *is that a capable couple’s external manifestation of consent is valid and effective. But, this presumption of the law can be overturned by contrary proof. So, you have the possibility for a declaration of nullity.

So, how can anybody be “sure” that their own marriage is valid/sacramental? I guess by examining their act of consent and seeing if it was in accord with what the Church requires of that act.

I don’t really know much about the “OSAS” dynamic but a difference between that and sacramental marriage seems to be “assurance/guarantee” versus “presumption.” There are other differences, too–they don’t strike me as all that similar. But, again, I haven’t pondered much over the OSAS issue…since it seems patently false.


It is an interesting analogy, but I’m wondering whether it is merely inherent in the nature of the extreme positions involved. In the general case, if an action cannot be undone according to theory/doctrine, but is often undone in practice, then pretty much the only way to reconcile the two is to postulate that when the action is undone in practice, it “never validly happened” according to theory but only appeared to happen to the naked eye.

I also find it interesting that it is evangelical Protestantism and Roman Catholicism that provide the extreme positions in both cases, and that other denominations have middle-of-the-road positions. For example, between the evangelical OSAS and the Catholic “every other day” salvation (e.g, saved on Tuesday, commit a mortal sin on Wednesday, go to confession on Thursday), there is the fundamental option/orientation theory that allows for backsliding but still provides a day-to-day security in salvation provided that one is still trying to follow Christ.

For marriage, the middle-of-the-road position comes from the Eastern Orthodox, who hold that it doesn’t make sense to say that someone who committed murder can be forgiven even though the victim cannot be brought back to live, yet someone who committed the sin of marrying the wrong person the first time around can never be forgiven of their mistake.

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