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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are Catholics "saved"?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question: Are Catholics "saved"?

Probably most of us have heard some variation of this before:  "Are you saved?"  or "I used to be Catholic, but then I got saved."

What's the Catholic response?  Firstly, in the strictest sense, we are not saved until we die.  Salvation happens when we die.  Period.  For salvation means that we are united with Christ in heaven.

So I find the question "are you saved?" puzzling and peculiar.

But, I also understand the question.  What's also being asked by Evangelical Christians is if we know with any certainty that we are going to heaven. And the answer comes from St. Paul: “I do not judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.  It is the Lord who judges me.”-1 Cor 4:3-4.

Salvation is a process.  We get "saved" when we are born again at baptism (baptism now saves you, says St. Peter in 1 Peter 3:21); we are saved continuously throughout our lives, and we hope to be saved in the end on judgment day.  

Thus, we can have a moral assurance of our salvation (that is, Christ offers us the hope of our salvation through his atoning death on the cross), but we do not know with an absolute certainty if we are saved.  But if we are saved, it is not through any works that we have done, (and it is not by "being a good person") but by saying Yes to the Divine Marriage Proposal of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (that is, heaven) through our cooperation with God's salvific grace.  

Catholics profess that we  "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" -Phil 2:12, as St. Paul states
We proclaim that salvation is a processwe were saved (once, 2000 years ago by Christ's atoning death on the cross, and at the moment of our baptism), we are being saved (every day when we turn our hearts, minds and souls towards God) and we hope to be saved (when we die and say yes!).

Scripture reiterates the above: 
I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5-8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9-10, 1 Cor. 3:12-15).
(Note:  even though we "work" out our salvation with fear and trembling, as St. Paul professes, this ought not be mistaken for thinking that Catholics must perform "works" in order to get to heaven. This is something we Catholics are often accused of believing.  Not true at all.  This heresy called Pelagianism (that we are saved by our own good deeds/acts/prayers) was condemned by the Catholic Church way back in the 5th century. 

"Protestants are often confused about the role Catholics believe good works play in salvation, so you should clear this up for the Fundamentalist you know. You should explain to him that we do not perform good works in order to enter a state of justification. The Council of Trent stated that "nothing which precedes justification, whether faith or works, merits the grace of justification" (Decree on Justification 8)." source
On the other hand, while Catholics get accused of believing we can work our way into heaven (something that has never been taught by the Church) there is the other perspective in which some Fundamentalists proclaim that all we must do to get saved is believe in the Lord Jesus. "All we need to do is ask Jesus into our hearts and we are saved". This, also, is not true and a corruption of the faith given to us by the apostles.  The Scriptures attest that not all who believe will enter heaven, for do not "even the demons believe, and tremble"? -James 2:19. And"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven"-Matt 7:21

Thus, if it's not through our works, and it's not by faith alone,
how do we receive salvation, justification, new birth, and eternal life?

 "The Catholic Church teaches that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and, by his grace, in obedience to his commands ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. It is not from works, so no one may boast" [Eph. 2:8-9; see Phil. 2:13, Col. 1:29, Jas. 2:14-26]). That is an uncompromising Truth.

That is, we take ALL of Scripture to understand the plan of salvation established by Jesus Christ. 

Thus we are saved
  • By believing in Christ (Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31)!
  • By declaring with our mouths (Lk 12:8; Rom 10:9)!
  • By coming to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26)!
  • By works (Rom 2:6-7; James 2:24)!
  • By grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:8)!
  • By his blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:22)!
  • By his righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1)!
  • By his Cross (Eph 2:16; Col 2:14)!
  • By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9)!
  • By baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Titus 3:5)!
  • By the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6)!

    Can we cut any one of these out of the list and proclaim it alone as the means of salvation? Can we be saved without faith? Without God’s grace? Without repentance? Without baptism? Without the Spirit?
The Answer:
These are all involved and necessary; not one of them can be dismissed as a means of obtaining eternal life. Neither can one be emphasized to the exclusion of another. They are all involved in salvation and entry into the Church. The Catholic Church does not divide these various elements of salvation up; overemphasizing some while ignoring others; rather, she holds them all in their fullness." source:  Apologist Steve Ray.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect
1 Peter 3:15


  1. You say not one of them can be dismissed to obtain eternal salvation.
    Well their is a time frame by the time a person fully understands everything they need to know and do. So if they happened to die beforehand before they have fulfilled everything they are not saved. That does not seem right to me!! A person believes gets baptised and on the way home from church they get killed in a car crash. Now because the rest is dismissed they have lost there salvation!! what happens if they got killed in a car crash on the way to baptism. Does not there faith save them?

  2. Anonymous: there is no verse in Scripture which tells us what happens if a person dies after getting baptized without "fulfilling" the rest of Scripture's "requirements" for salvation.

    God is not a statistician who tells us the populations of heaven and hell (paraphrasing Peter Kreeft).

    Thus, we don't know what happens to this baptized soul. He may reject Christ. He may say yes.

    Thus, I respond to you with Jesus' words: strive to enter.