Although raised independent fundamental Baptist, I was always more open-minded and never fully committed to the deposit of faith handed to me by my fellow church members. Things always seemed a bit off or incomplete to me, somehow. Consequently, when I was reconciled to the Catholic faith five years ago, my transition was easy and smooth. Things finally clicked and made sense—sort of like “Hooked on Phonics” for Christianity, and once you learn to read, you cannot unlearn or not read words when they are right in front of you. Worlds open up and the truth is plain—and there is no going back.
Over the course of the next several months, I will address the common misconceptions many Protestants have about the Catholic faith, and also clarify for many Catholics what Protestants believe (fundamentalists and evangelicals in particular, because there are too many denominations to generalize the whole). There will be more common ground than many realize and there will be a lot of plain truth of the Catholic Faith that could just make our reluctant, protesting, and separated Catholics return home.
I can only assume that those that leave the Catholic Church over misunderstanding of Salvation do not understand that it is just that—a misunderstanding. Fundamentally, Salvation is one of the wonderful agreements we have with Protestants—only most of us, and they, don’t know it.
Almost any Protestant will tell you we are saved by our faith and believe that Catholics perceive good works to be the path to Heaven. Catholics, unfamiliar with Scripture or befuddled and unpracticed in defending their faith, might believe the Protestant accusation, although, chances are, they weren’t actually taught that. We can end the debate here and now, though, because we believe the exact same thing: People are saved by GRACE (Ephesians 2: 4-9).
There is nothing you can do to earn or merit salvation. Your faith in your salvation and in Jesus is a product of His grace and essential to keep receiving God’s grace. God’s grace is free to all, as Jesus, the most perfect human AND God incarnate, paid the price and offered up His suffering for all humans. It is always your choice to accept the gift of grace or reject it—and it remains an ongoing choice. As with any gift, you can keep it and treasure it, shine it all up and make it pretty for all to see, or you can be careless with it and throw it away. You never lose it, you always choose it (or not).
The famed “Romans Road” which is a favorite evangelical tool for most Protestants, quotes Romans chapter 8, verses 30, 35, 38-39
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is a common passage used as a rebuttal to Catholics and the concept of “losing” salvation, however, it needn’t be–Catholics agree, no outside forces of any kind can take us away from the love of God. We, can, however, remove ourselves. God would still love us, but we would be rejecting Him and His grace. Paul was speaking to the early Christians that were being martyred, giving them hope and courage to face whatever might befall them because the reward of heaven would be theirs.
By accepting the free gift of God’s Grace, we are professing our faith and receiving Him into our heart, but we live our faith through our works (James 2: 14-18, 24, 26). Faith is not enough—even demons have faith and believe (James 2: 19), but our faith is expressed in our actions and service to God and others (see also Matthew 7:21, Matthew 16:27, Romans 2: 5-10, 2 Cor 5:10, James 2:14-16, 1 Peter 1:17)—but is not to be mistaken for the “works of the law” or relying on justification through strict observance of traditions.
We continue to profess our faith through our works, thereby keeping the channel of God’s grace open to us and keeping us close to Him, a process that begins with Baptism. Our Baptism, even if done as an infant before we are aware of what it entails, is the opening of the channel of grace and the beginning of our salvation. What we do from there either hinders or increases the flow of grace; the grace is still free and it is always your choice to accept it or throw it away. Sin separates us from God and blocks the channel of grace that He continually bestows upon us, but confessing it and repenting re-opens the channel so blessings can flow anew. Jesus paid the price for our sin and the grace provided through His mercy enables our faith and works through faith, which are not innately valuable on their own and do not merit us salvation without His grace.
Although many of us can remember making the conscious decision to turn our life over to God, it is a decision we must continue to make daily and does not end with the end of a single prayer. Catholics and Protestants agree it is a decision to be made by all mature Christians continually with God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Baby Baptism, you ask? Stay tuned, friends…we have lots more ground to cover next month.
About Janie de Lara
I am a Catholic convert living in the Deep South, and was raised Independent Fundamental Baptist (the scary kind that can quote entire chapters of KJV verses at you). I love my new faith so much, I wish I could hug it. I have an interracial marriage and a son from a previous relationship, so I am no stranger to controversy and I am a working mom who is pretty bummed about suffering from infertility, but trying to see all the bright spots in this crazy, hectic life. I don’t write for anyone or anything in particular, just when something gets laid on my heart or if I am dying to share something. My greatest desire (besides a passel of babies) is for everyone to get along–races, creeds, cultures, political views…todo…everyone just get along!