Bringing you the "Good News" of Jesus Christ and His Church While PROMOTING CATHOLIC Apologetic Support groups loyal to the Holy Father and Church's magisterium
Home About
AskACatholic.com
What's New? Resources The Church Family Life Mass and
Adoration
Ask A Catholic
Knowledge base
AskACatholic Disclaimer
Search the
AskACatholic Database
Donate and
Support our work
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
New Questions
Cool Catholic Videos
About Saints
Disciplines and Practices
Purgatory and Indulgences
About the Holy Mass
About Mary
Searching and Confused
Homosexual Issues
Life and Family
No Salvation Outside the Church
Sacred Scripture
non-Catholic Cults
Justification and Salvation
back
The Pope and Papacy
The Sacraments
Relationships and Marriage situations
Specific people, organizations and events
Doctrine and Teachings
Specific Practices
Church Internals
Church History


Jack Dennis wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Condensed, what is the view of salvation, both Catholic versus Protestant?

Jack

  { Can you give me both, the condensed Catholic and Protestant views of salvation? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Jack —

Condensed, eh? You ask a lot. :-)

Protestants are all over the map when it comes to theology so it's hard to make a single statement about what they believe, but since Protestants come out of the Reformation, I'll confine myself to what the Reformers taught about salvation.

Let me:

  • super-summarize it first
  • then go into some detail
  • then refer you to a web page.

Both sides see salvation as entirely dependent on God's grace, every step of the way, but Catholicism sees salvation as a process involving the cooperation of the believer which actually transforms the believer into a righteous person worthy of Heaven, whereas the Reformers saw salvation as a one-time event involving no cooperation on the part of the believer which makes a believer legally acquitted of his sin, without actually changing him into a righteous person.

The Reformers conceived of salvation as a kind of legal (or "forensic") transaction that involves the "imputation" of Christ's righteousness to the believer. In essence, God "declares" the sinner righteous, on account of Christ's taking his place in his sacrifice, even though he really isn't. Luther used the vivid image of a dunghill covered with snow: It looks clean and white, but underneath it's still corrupt. The imputed righteousness remains alien to the believer; he is subjectively pleasing to God, but not objectively pleasing.

In the Catholic view, God's divine life, his grace, heals the individual of their sin and Christ's righteousness is "imparted" to the believer — this means that the believer is made truly righteous and objectively pleasing to God. We would appeal to verses such as:

  • Psalm 103:12
  • Ezekiel 36:25-29
  • Zechariah 13:1
  • Revelation 7:14, and
  • others.

Thus the person truly deserves to be saved and is worthy of heaven. Of course, the process of justification — being made righteous — is all dependent on God's grace, and all flows from the merits of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, so it is nothing we earn.

There is an additional element to this however.

Protestants (including the Reformers) tend to view salvation as a one-time, once-for-all event. One moment you are a sinner, bound for Hell; the next moment you are justified, and bound for Heaven (sometimes irrevocably), and that's that.

In Catholicism (and Orthodoxy), salvation is a process, and we can be justified multiple times in our life. This is evident in Scripture; St. Paul says that Abraham was justified when he believed God (Romans 4:9), and St. James says he was justified when he offered his son (James 2:21).
So we believe that after a wicked man is justified and made righteous — which is strictly based on grace through faith alone — it is possible to grow in righteousness by doing good deeds prompted and enabled by God's grace. Salvation starts at baptism (where we believe we are justified by grace through faith alone), continues through our earthly life (where we can grow in righteousness and holiness, or even forfeit our righteousness through sin), and ends when we are glorified in the Resurrection. Thus a Catholic can say,

"I have been saved, I am being saved, and I hope to be saved."

An additional question is whether the believer participates in his own salvation.

In Catholicism, God's grace enters the soul and awakens the will, enabling it to cooperate with grace, to come to faith, and so be saved. Thus it is synergistic, a cooperation between God and man (with God as the initiator, and man always, at every step, dependent on God's grace).

In Reformed traditions, salvation is monergistic: It's completely a unilateral act of God, and man's will does not cooperate in it.

The Catholic view of salvation tends to be more "both-and" rather than "either-or", and organic, meaning that it relies less on the courtroom analogy Luther emphasized, and more on the examples in nature that Jesus tended to use (crops, families, trees, vines, life/death dichotomy, etc.).

For more details, Wikipedia has a good article on this:

Eric

Jack replied:

Hi, Eric —

Thank you. Your explanation was very helpful.

I'm a new Catholic and sometimes it all boggles me.

Thanks again.

Jack

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
© 2012 Panoramic Sites
The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.