Jason asked:

I have a Protestant friend and they talk about once saved always saved. What's the best way to respond to this, and specifically Acts 16:30 where there's the man who asks, 'what must I do to be saved?' and the apostles respond, believe in the Lord and you shall be saved?


Edward Sri replied:

"There's so many passages in Saint Paul that really highlight that there's a lot more going on than simply some one time act of faith that brings about salvation ... Saint Paul talks about working out your salvation in fear and trembling. That doesn't sound like someone who thinks that he was saved at a certain moment on the road to Damascus, and there's nothing else after that. He's certainly thinking we need to do the good works following the Lord as a part of that. There's passages in the letter of James that emphasizes how faith alone is not enough, that we must also do good works.

What I like to do is turn to a broader biblical picture as opposed to just proof texting little verses ... I would want to step back first of all, and I think in our conversation ... assure them that we don't think that we're trying to earn our way to heaven. That's their biggest fear. Many of them think that Catholics are just trying to do good works to earn salvation. We have to tell them that the Catholic church teaches that salvation is completely a free gift. It's not something that we do on our own ... You see this exemplified in the baptism of an infant in the Catholic church ... This child didn't do anything to earn salvation, and yet the Catholic church teaches that at baptism the child is filled with the life of the Holy Spirit. The life of salvation is beginning there ....

We want to stress once we're in covenant with God ... we have to remain faithful to it, and we want it to increase and to grow. The analogy you find that the scriputure's using the most to describe this process of salvation is family life. Saint Paul talks about that at baptism that we're given the life of the spirit within it and we cry out in our hearts abba father. So we become children of God, and that life of childhood is a gift as it is a natural life, but then we have to continue growing in that.

Just like in the bible we read about certain children that are faithful sons ... and others that are like prodigal sons, and become separated from the father. We can do things in our life that keep us from living out that life of salvation, and we can lose it actually.

One last point I would turn to 1st Corinthians chapter 10 ... When Paul once described this journey of salvation he uses the analogy of the exodus story ... he highlights how in the exodus, the first exodus, the Israelites had to pass through the waters of the Red Sea, they were fed by God with the mana in the desert, and they're on their journey to their inheritance which is the promised land. But then Paul says, but with many of them God was displeased. And most of them were disinherited, and died in the wilderness. Most of those people who were saved from Egypt never got to the promised land. And then Paul says to the Corinthians that's a lesson for us. You better be careful because just because you've been baptized, and you go to mass, and receive communion doesn't mean that you're going to enter the inheritance of the heavenly promised land - eternal life. Be careful. Because just as in the old exodus many were disinherited, many may be disinherited in the new exodus, this new spiritual liberation we find in Jesus Christ.


Patrick Coffin added:

... try Romans 11 verse 22. It's a very clear example of Saint Paul warning the Christians in Rome, and the phrase he uses is remain in his kindness or you will be cut off. That makes no sense at all if salvation is a one-time eternally indestructible party ticket. It's always good to ask, well do you call Jesus Lord? Of course I do. Well Matthew 7:21, Jesus said not everyone who says Lord, Lord will inherit the kingdom of heaven.... There's a lot more on this at Catholic.com ... keyword search once saved always saved..."

Edward Sri added:

"My favorite line to use with them is saying, this idea of once saved always saved, that's not biblical. I don't want to follow a man-made tradition. I want to follow the bible. [Editor's note: When you say this it will open the flood gates to attack on Catholic traditions. Be prepared.] They're following a tradition that's made up around the time of the Protestant reformation."


Copyrights:

Catholic Answers, "How to become Catholic" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

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Show air date: November 25, 2013

Name of show: How to become Catholic

Guest comments by: Edward Sri

Question appeared in show: 27:48


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