I have some observation after reading the entire thread “Faith Alone & James 4:18” forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=212661 (closed) in the Apologetics forum:
Except for those who believe in predestination, I really don’t see a fundamental difference between Catholics and Protestants in the doctrine of what is necessary for salvation. The doctrinal difference is in the emphasis we chose to describe our beliefs. Even the “Once Saved/Always Saved” (OSAS) concept has been reduced to a logical excess by the leading posters in the Protestant camp. If those (sinners claiming to be saved but not showing the works) are not saved in the first place, than what is the point of even talking about anyone being “always saved”. OSAS becomes a superfluous, theoretical concept.
However, there may be a very significant difference on the production line. This is where doctrine meets the masses and the effectiveness of the various techniques must be considered if you care not only about the salvation of the masses but also the wellbeing of mankind. The concept of “Do no harm” is worth considering.
As it makes no sense to teach calculus before algebra, it is also counterproductive to teach salvation by faith through grace before the student has a genuine understanding of what faith is and its implications, i.e., works or avoiding sin. It would be equally counterproductive to teach that Confession is a substitute for avoiding sin. One could dismiss these “teachings” as manufactured by the imagination of the wishful weak of soul. But it is more constructive to ask how many of these failures are in the teaching itself. If the mass of cases of these heresies are the result of inadvertent omissions or careless shortcuts in teaching, then dismissal of these failures would not make things any better. One must ask if the failures are caused by the strategy of the teaching itself.
I haven’t seen studies of the cost of being oblivious to this strategy but I suspect it is a deadly serious business. Whether the obliviousness results in (1) massive abuse on the sacrament of Confession or (2) the belief that sin is without consequences for salvation, these failures need to be wake-up calls for Christian evangelists.
Some of the best potential case studies showing failure in teaching Christianity to the masses would be the major wars where the villains had popular support among Christians. Two cases come to mind:
(1) The beginning of the American Civil War with the attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate forces.
(2) The rise of the popularity of Hitler, even after it was well known that he was an aggressive, hateful warmonger.
In both of these cases there was popular support of an evil that resulted in unprecedented death and misery. The critical questions here are (1) what was the religious background of the masses and (2) to what extent was the failure (to be a real Christian) the product of flawed religious teaching strategy.
If the answer is that the masses had the attitude that they can get away with such deeds and still be saved, it says something that the evangelists need to think about long and hard. Is there an absence of guilt on the part of both the masses and their teachers?