Thought Experiment for Non-Catholic Christians

I’m not wanting this to turn into a debate thread, just answers “from the other side” (so to speak). This is mainly directed towards non-Catholic Christians who hold to the “Once Saved Always Saved” belief. I just want your opinions as this thought has been going through my mind for a little while now since having a conversation with a close friend who is a Protestant pastor of an interdenominational campus ministry I used to be a part of, before I came back to the Catholic Church.

I know among some, if not most, of those who hold to the OSAS belief that anyone who falls away and rejects God after having been “saved” is said to not really have had faith to begin with, otherwise he wouldn’t have fallen, and therefore, he was not really “saved” to begin with. Faith being a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing. Which brings me to my thought experiment.

Situation A:
A guy confesses Jesus as his Lord and Savior (and maybe even says the sinner’s prayer) and thereby becoming a Christian. This guy a few weeks later gets into a car accident and dies. Being a Christian, in your view he would have been “saved” and therefore went to Heaven, correct?

Situation B:
Now, assuming the same events happened to this guy, but he didn’t die weeks later. Let’s say instead that due to traumatic events in his life (like loved ones dying, or something else that causes him to question his faith) leads him to lose his faith and renounces God, thereby removing his status as a Christian. Then he would eventually die. In this case, you would say (in assuming the belief I mentioned earlier holds) that he never really had faith to begin with, and thereby would not make it to Heaven, correct?

Okay, so now comes the fun “thinking” part of this thought experiment. If this same man that would have lost his faith like in ‘B’ died before he lost his faith (like in ‘A’), would he be considered “saved”?

Remember, he would have died while he was known as a Christian, but had he not died, would have lost his faith, thereby meaning he never really had faith to begin with. Would he have been saved? Why or why not?

Thanks in advance for your answers!

Only God knows the eternal destiny of any person. I don’t deal with hyperthetical what ifs. I belief Scripture teaches the perserverance of the saints, yet warns of the danger of falling away. How do they relate? Not up to me to figure it out.

Agreed , only God knows for certain.

You should look more into Catholic theology. For us, it’s not all about belief. God doesn’t condemn people to hell; everyone in hell is there because they chose to be by doing something they knew to be seriously morally wrong. If you didn’t know, and couldn’t reasonable have been expected to know, that Jesus is God, then you will not be punished for failing to believe in Him. I’m sorry I don’t have time right now to give a more detailed answer.

How a person is “known” or whether or not a person has said a specific prayer (e.g. the sinner’s prayer) is unreliable external evidence. According to mainstream Protestant theology, salvation is a change of heart worked in the sinner by God. In no way can a person earn their way into heaven by doing certain things (or many things!) or saying certain prayers (or many prayers!). Thus the proposed thought experiment does not present a challenge to the Protestant. Situation A and situation B are exactly the same from a salvation point of view.

Protestants believe that good works flow out of a heart that has been transformed by God through his son, Jesus Christ.

I will answer based on a pet theory of mine with which I am not sure many Protestants would agree.

Many people translate the word “faith” (pistis) as belief. While the terms are certainly linked in Greek, I don’t think the popular conception of them in English is correct. Faith, in my model, becomes much more akin to faithfulness to something rather than belief in something. So in your thought experiment we could say that the man in situation A has faithfulness and the same man in situation B does not have faithfulness. Note: faithfulness is not a onetime event and so we cannot really say the man in situation B had faithfulness at any one point in time.

I think you missed the point of my experiment. It isn’t a faith vs works experiment. And by the way, Catholics agree you can’t earn your way into heaven by your own deeds.

My question was about faith. Knowing that if the guy didn’t end up dying, he would have lost his faith (however you define the word, whether belief, or belief and being a follower), would he have been considered “saved” by Protestant standards? Since it seems so adamant that Protestants are so secure in their belief that they are “saved” by faith alone, this is why I raised the experiment. If a man appears to have faith while on Earth, but had he not died while still in his belief, would have lost it later on, would he go to heaven?

And if this becomes a “I leave that up to God”, then how can you be so secure if you don’t know? If a man who dies, thinking he has security in his salvation, but would have later lost his faith had he not died, is not known whether he is really saved or not, then you cannot really be secure in that belief, can you? This is the reason for my thought experiment. I want to see if someone has a viable answer.

This isn’t an A vs B, it is an A and B. Like I said before, if the man had not died while still being in faith (or appearing to have faith), that he would have lost his faith later on, would he be saved? Would he go to heaven?

I want a yes or no, a why or why not. It is alright if you try and define terms (and by faith, I don’t just mean belief, but a following as well, since that is how it seems to be defined among the Protestants I know. That faith is a belief resulting in good works, as this man would have had in A, but would have lost in B). So, if you would like to give a more complete answer that I am looking for rather than just attempting to define a word, I would appreciate it.

Thanks again for your responses.

I’ve asked this question of people before. The answer I have gotten is consistently the same - that person B, if he really lost is faith, must never have been a genuine believer to begin with.

So, if he died before he lost his faith, he still would not have had faith to begin with, and therefore would not have been saved? Then how could he have been assured of his salvation while he was alive if he wasn’t actually saved? (I understand that you are Catholic, so these questions don’t really apply to you, but if you want to ask a Protestant friend and get his response, that would be fine too)

That is the one which I have run into as well: “Once Saved, Always Saved, Except Those Who Were Never Saved And Everyone Just Thought That They Were”. It makes little sense of Hebrews 6:4-6.

I’ve made this query too. I don’t really get a direct response. The consensus seems to be that those who die with faith MUST (somehow) have all had authentic faith.

The people I talk to don’t say this, mind you. This is just the logical conclusion of their sentiment that any and every loved one who died appearing to be a believer must have actually been one.

The impression I get is that those who believe and say that they have faith and “got saved” are trusted completely to be honest and of integrity. When one loses faith, the people around them cope with the idea by concluding that the person was never genuine. Not that they thought they were saved and had fooled themselves, but rather that they were an intentional wolf in sheep’s clothing, working secretly to try to drag people down. It is a sense of betrayal and it allows them to distance themselves from the un-saved person, as well as, more importantly, continue to cling to the notion that their own faith can never be lost.


I still haven’t gotten the type of answer I’m looking for. The closest thing is Farsight’s response which is a response he got, and he even didn’t really get a response.

Anybody have a response from the point of view mentioned in the OP?

OSAS is a ridiculous belief. Puts God and our life in God in a box.

Only God knows and will decide whether we have loved as we should at the end of our life.

I know, hence why I pose the question. I want to try and understand the mindset, for the sake of curiosity. To answer from a Catholic perspective is simple, because we believe that people can lose their faith, but we also believe in the mercy and justice of God, hence why it is up to him and for us to hope and go forward in confidence.

So I wait for a Protestant OSAS view that actually responds to my question and not wandering around the question.

Once saved always saved doesn’t have meaning if you can’t prove 100%, the so called “saved” is not going to fall.
Can one say at judgement " I might have repented but I didn’t live enough…"?
I think the answer doesn’t matter because, somehow our soul “freeze” at the moment of death, the soul resulting from a longer life would be completly different, repenting or not.

Your question certainly raises some questions as to the OSAS principle. This from Ezekiel 18

20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

You have not posed a viable question. A person’s salvation is only secure when Jesus Christ secures it. It has NOTHING TO DO WITH what the human does. There is no such thing as a person who has faith one day and does not have faith the next. When God gives a person faith, that faith cannot fail. When God, the creator of the universe, reveals himself to a person, that person will no longer resist. Look at Isaiah when he saw the Lord: Down on the ground he went.

We can look at what Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 8:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

In each and every case, we don’t have a role. God is doing it all. In the same way God swore by his own name to keep his promise to Abraham, God promises to keep us in the faith that he gives us.

To think otherwise is to think God is weak and not capable of preserving the ones he wishes to save.

The answer to your thought experiment, then, is that the man was never saved. He thought he was, but he had actually never experienced the transformation promised to those who are in Jesus Christ. Those Christ has revealed himself to will never change their minds.

Thank you for actually answering my question!

I would want to ask more questions following this, but like I said, I don’t want this to turn into a debate.

No. God isn’t finished saving us til we die. Protestants have this problem of fixing God into a time box. God makes salvation possible. We must accept it. This is an act on our part. He opens the door. We walk into it, let it be done according to your word.

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