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Sean Smith wrote:

Mike,

I finally finished reading that book Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David B. Currie and found it immensely helpful.

I've also read the booklet you sent me titled Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth.

On page 25, a puzzling passage reads —

"The Bible makes it clear that Christians have a moral assurance of salvation
(God will be true to his word and will grant salvation to those who have faith in Christ and are obedient to him [1 John 3:19-24]), but the Bible does not teach that Christians have a guarantee of Heaven. There can be no absolute assurance of salvation."

This sounds contradictory to me.

  • Can you better explain what sounds like:

      Salvation is a gift, yet it must be earned, but there is no assurance that one will actually earn it?

  • Moreover, what does it mean to have moral assurance of salvation but not an absolute assurance?
  • Lastly, if there is no guarantee of Heaven exactly where would one spend their
    eternal life?

— Sean

  { How can salvation be a gift that must be earned when there is no assurance one actually earns it? }

Mike replied:

Hi Sean,

You are correct. We do make a distinction between an absolute assurance of salvation and a moral assurance of salvation.

It's my understanding that certain Protestant theologies claim that one can have an absolute assurance of salvation by declaring that Jesus is your Personal Lord and Savior, then the next day go out and start sinning against the teachings of the Bible and the Church Our Lord established on St. Peter, while still having an assurance of being saved. This is what Martin Luther erroneously taught.

Despite these sins, this false theology would say that the person, despite his sins, would still go to Heaven due to his public proclamation of faith.

People incorrectly substitute faith for hope in this false theological view of salvation, but don't realize it.

To have a moral assurance of salvation is not absolute.

  • Why?

Because real, invisible, demonic, spirits of this world could tempt us through other people:

  • to sin or
  • persuade us to rationalize sin or
  • persuade us that we are not sinning.

As Catholics, we believe that as long as we strive to live a moral life in accordance with the teachings of the Church and the Scriptures we have a moral, but not absolute, assurance of our salvation.  Striving to live a moral life includes receiving the sacraments on a regular basis, especially by attending weekly Mass and going to Confession on a monthly basis.

Nevertheless, we could choose to mortally sin at the end of our lives.  Such a sin would be detrimental to our salvation. This is where we see the wisdom of the Church adding that extra line to, the Scriptural prayer, the Hail Mary. Most of this prayer consist of passages from Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:41-42a, 48, but the Church adds for our benefit:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.

This is why solid Catholic spirituality always stresses a daily prayer life and perseverance in good works. These works are obviously not our own works, but are done In Christ working through us, eucharistically. We are His Body and we carry out His work in this world.

Hope this answers your question.

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi Sean,

Mike's answer sounds good but I just wanted to add to his answer.

It's easy to see how the issue of gift versus the necessity of obedience can be confusing.
We should look at it this way.

Our human life is a gift. Nothing we did merited our being born. Just as our natural birth was a gift, so our supernatural birth is a gift.

After we are born, we have a choice. We can choose to live, or we can choose to die. If we commit suicide, we die. Nothing physically prevents us from committing suicide or endangering our health by failing to eat or see the doctor or what have you. None of these choices change the fact that our birth was still a gift.

Likewise, we can make moral choices that are tantamount to spiritual suicide. We call these mortal sins. Again, the fact that we can reject our salvation by committing sin doesn't prove that we really earned our salvation in the first place. After all, being able to reject a gift doesn't make it not a gift so salvation is a gift first because it initially comes to us independently of anything we do.

What we then do with our salvation is up to us; once we are saved, our wills are freed by God's grace, and we can turn our backs on salvation or, moved by God's grace (again a gift), we can persevere and obey. Even in this secondary sense, salvation is a gift because the will to obey is even a grace and gift from God.

We believe that ultimately our salvation is a pure gift of God. We cooperate in our salvation by grace (with grace going before, enabling us to do so), and we can resist or spurn that grace, but ultimately we are saved by grace alone.

Eric

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