Two questions re. Sin & Salvation

Dear all;

Playing devil’s advocate to a point here, but I had two thoughts earlier.

These come after I was considering mortal sin and contrition, incidentally.

The first: If ‘once saved always saved’ is correct, according to some non-Catholics, how can some non-Catholics pronounce that Catholics are not saved and are going to hell? (Again, I stress here I am playing the extreme of devil’s advocate- thankfully most non-Catholics don’t profess this to be true). Would they cite that Catholics, in the main, don’t consider themselves to have had a ‘conversion moment’ and so haven’t personally accepted Christ?

The part of your post I bolded is the reason they’d give. But then one has to ask just how they know that Catholics don’t have a “personal relationship” with Christ? They are presuming to judge hearts based solely (pardon the pun) on a formula that men invented and which is not even in the Bible they love to interpret “literally,” that is until it disagrees with what they want to believe. You’re right, it doesn’t make sense, but they can’t/won’t see that because they believe so strongly that they must have had a one-time conversion experience in order to be saved. Although, again, this is not biblical.

I had a chat with a Protestant about this and asked if Hitler had believed but continued in the manner he did then on her account he would go to Heaven. She replied that only if he had a good conversion.

It makes no sense to me. It is like people who say they don’t need to go to church to see God because He is everywhere anyway.

It’s just like a TREE, once you’re baptized you become a GOOD tree!
But those trees that DO NOT produce fruit, even if they are good, will
be “cut down” at the judgement. That’s why Paul says in Phil 2 :12
to WORK OUT your salvation with fear and trembling!

I have been talking to a “non-denominational” recently about this topic. She is a friend of mine and these things come up a lot. But I did mention Hitler, unrepentant serial killers, etc. and I used the following verse to back me up on my position: 1 John 3:15 “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in himself.” (1 John 3:15 DRA) Apparently my verse was out of context?:shrug: Can someone please explain to me either how my verse is out of context or how an unrepentant murderer can get to Heaven?

Thank you!


Many non-Catholics don’t regard the Catholic Church as a Christian institution.

hi Richard,
When one has this born again experience they will no longer want to commit any sin so they will stay saved. If one such person does go and commit a serious sin well they just weren’t saved in the first place.

That doesn’t make sense to me. See, all the Christians I’ve talked to accept that they are sinners. So then did this born again experience not truly happen for all the Christians I’ve talked to?

Regarding this, they wouldn’t actually assert this. It doesn’t matter whether we believe we’ve had a conversion moment or not. As Catholics, part of our theology is that we must perform good works. This, they would say, would render our “conversion” incomplete or invalid, because we’re not relying fully on the Grace of Christ’s Salvation, but are in part relying on the merit of our own actions. This, they would argue, is why we’re not saved, because we never fully converted to begin with.

Well, faith is a work. Choosing to receive the sacraments is a work. Choosing to accept The Holy Spirit’s call to conversion is a work. Any use of the free will is a work, good or bad. Faith is an exercise of the free will, it’s an alignment between the human will and God’s will.

NO, it is not. It absolutely is NOT.

The ONLY thing that assures our salvation is Christian Baptism:

By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God. (CCC, 1263)

Notice that this is the most complete and perfect description of “salvation” that one could define, and there is no mention of “good works” there.

If the Catholic Church believed in “once-saved, always-saved,” this would be the end of this discussion, because we are “once saved” by Christian Baptism.

But the Church recognizes that even the “saved” may sin, and defines sin thus:

Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” [CCC 1849]

It is POSSIBLE, therefore, that we might sin through neglect (“a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor”). Our Lord clearly implicates Jewish leaders in such neglect in his parable about the Good Samaritan. But we are NOT compelled to seek out such situations. We are not obligated, for example, to work in a soup kitchen as a condition of our salvation. If we are confronted with a legitimate situation of need, and are able to respond but do not, for selfish reasons, this constitutes sin (and, given sufficient knowledge and intent, a mortal sin).

But there is NO SUCH THING in Catholic theology as a general obligation of any kind to do good works as a condition of salvation.

PLEASE get this right. It is important.

Man! I don’t know.
All’s I know I guess that there too much sin around. Look upon thy own soul.
Others will follow.

“hi Richard,
When one has this born again experience they will no longer want to commit any sin so they will stay saved. If one such person does go and commit a serious sin well they just weren’t saved in the first place.”

I think this points to why we need ‘works’ too, and why we are so blessed to have the sacrament of confession to keep us on the right path and help us to remain in grace.

In ‘accepting Jesus as our personal lord and saviour (sorry!)’ the journey doesn’t end. But I guess being a ‘true’ Catholic and not just one who turns up every week for mass and leaves 5 minutes before the end is needing to also have this ‘experience’ or I would say- realisation- i.e. re-connecting to God; and then following the Churches teaching on reconciliation and good works.

“But there is NO SUCH THING in Catholic theology as a general obligation of any kind to do good works as a condition of salvation.”

  • Quite right. I think we need to be open to good works and do them whenever the occasion presents itself- seeing it as an opportunity to please God and serve our neighbour.

I.e we cannot just walk on by and expect salvation to still be on the table regardless.

I mentioned I had two questions, and had to stop on question 1 as my laptop battery was about to cut me off!

My second question was:

Protestants don’t believe in mortal sin- at least not in the same way And this links a little to our conversation above- sin cannot be so grave as to part us from God if we adopt the once-saved philosophy of life.

It seems to me that, once baptised, salvation is right there on the table if we want. It isn’t ours to take, and keep forever. We can sit and remain with it, or we can walk away.

I see mortal sin as walking away. Deliberately turning from God.

Would you say this is the most important component of a mortal sin? I.e. the free will point?

By the same token- if we sin, but wholly do not wish to be in this position of sin- and there could be countless examples- is this component (complete willingness) crucial to define whether it is mortal, or not?

Because I’m looking at mortal sin; assessing the occasions of sin and wondering if there are grey areas here?

In order for a sin to be mortal, it must meet three conditions:

•Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter

•Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner

•Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner

I would say Free-will is the known, a conscious rational choice needs to be made for understanding of the supernatural imposition of grace, then correct habits to cooperate with the blessing can procede. God only blesses His own gifts, nothing else. Its imperative to comprehend the free-will, its another to place it in correct perspective.

Man has a inclination to sin, a fractured nature which was not corrected at the Cross. We were set free from being hostage to evil. Yet we still inherit the post fall nature of man. The control or experience any mastery over the nature can only be strengthened and constantly through Gods grace and the sacraments of the Church.

False. The quote from the CCC is regarding the Grace of Baptism, not Salvaiton. Baptism does assure Salvation, but it is not to be understood that Baptism alone does so. From the CCC:

1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.48 They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. the Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.

1128 This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation49 that the **sacraments **act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed”), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that "the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God."50 From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.

1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.51 “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. the Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. the fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature52 by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.

The CCC is clear here that all of the Sacraments are necessary for Salvation. Baptism is the primary Sacrament in that through it we gain access to the merits and graces of the rest.

Let’s be very clear here. The graces of Christ’s sacrifice, and the life of the Holy Spirit are what save.

Baptism is the most fundamental, basic, and necessary Sacrament to receive Salvation, but for those who live long after Baptism, it’s the other Sacraments that bring salvation.

From the CCC:


1949 Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him:

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.1

True, our own works do not merit salvation. However, through the Sacraments we are united to Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. And it is in this state of union with Christ, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit whereby our works have merit because they are not our works but Christ’s through us.

II. Human Freedom in the Economy of Salvation

1741 Liberation and salvation. By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. "For freedom Christ has set us free."34 In him we have communion with the "truth that makes us free."35 The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."36 Already we glory in the "liberty of the children of God."37

1742 Freedom and grace. the grace of Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart. On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world. By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world:

When we unite ourselves to the saving action of Christ on the cross, we receive the Holy Spirit and become free, and the Holy Spirit working in us, teaches us spiritual freedom * in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world*.

Here, you see that salvation isn’t for ourselves. It’s to free us to be “free collaborators” with God’s own work both in His Church (the already Baptised) and in the world (the unBaptised). This is why Faith without works is dead, because Faith is for works.

There is a real problem with thinking that the Christian only has to “respond” to immediate needs. This kind of thinking doesn’t understand the meaning and purpose of Salvation. It doesn’t link the doctrine of Salvation with Christ’s exhortation to “clothe the naked, feed the hungry, etc.” “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Did Christ go out of His way to “seek out such situations” as you put it? He most certainly did. He incarnated for exactly that reason; to help the helpless.

Can I make a slight interjection along the lines of what I was hinting at with regards to mortal sin…

Again, I understand we cannot possibly be sure on the way a soul is received by God- but here we go:

If a good Catholic, who receives the sacraments regularly,were, say, to attend a meal on Good Friday and decide to eat meat (which is a mortal sin, apparently), were he or she to unfortunately have an accident on the way home and be killed, would he or she automatically go to hell? I’m sure there is a good answer to this. But without agreeing with them one bit, one can see how the ‘once saved always saved’ argument may appeal to many.

What was the intent of eating the meat? Was it an act of charity towards a non-Catholic host who would not understand why her pot roast wasn’t good enough for her Catholic guest? Or was it merely an overwhelming temptation because the pot roast simply looked so good and smelled so wonderful? For a mortal sin to be committed the intent has to be greater than that. It has to be a deliberate rejection of the teaching. I rather doubt most people in that situation would have such a longing for pot roast that they would decide to deliberately reject the Church’s proscription. They wouldn’t have in their heart something like: “I know it’s a mortal sin, but won’t obey because I reject the Church’s authority to lay this discipline on me. I’ll eat pot roast in defiance of Christ and his Church.” If the person doesn’t have that in his heart, it can’t rise to the level of a mortal sin, but is a venial sin only due to human weakness. :slight_smile:

Hi Della,

Thank you for the analogy! A really good answer- thank you :slight_smile:


This isn’t quite true. A person doesn’t necessarily have to “reject the teaching” for it to be a mortal sin. One may simply have in their heart “I know this is a great evil, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

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