Drumroll please! Introducing . . .
On these days I will write about faith or life topics and you’ll have the opportunity to “talk” with me (and fellow readers) about them. Have a burning question about Catholicism? Question about some life issue? Submit it! Since I’m not an expert, I will do the research and present to you an explanation of why we do what we do or believe. Quotes, Bible verses, and references are included. For life issues it will focus more on science in most situations.
I’ve been doing a lot of faith-related reading recently, and am excited to share with you! Much of what I’ve read has been Protestant to Catholic conversion stories which are intriguing. It’s neat to see what the deciding factors were, which I’ll be using here. Please feel free to share these posts and get a conversation going!
This week’s topic:
How do Catholics believe people can get to heaven?
Good works, right?
Okay, calm down a second. If you’re Catholic, you might be thinking: Girl, stop misrepresenting us! You know it’s more than that! And if you’re not? Perhaps you thought “Well, duh. Why are you writing a whole thing on this?”.
Bear with me here, folks.
Until I started reading conversion stories, I didn’t realize that this is so important it’s one of two issues most Protestant people have with Catholicism. I didn’t know that it is a factor why many people are repulsed by Catholicism. This particular issue is such a big deal that Martin Luther said something along the lines of: the Church stands or falls on this one doctrine.
My understanding is that the two basic Protestant doctrines are Sola Scriptura (the Bible as their only authority) and Sola Fide (justification by faith alone). Sola Fide says that to get to heaven you have to believe in Jesus. Boom bam, baby! If that were the case, wouldn’t pretty much everyone go to heaven? According to this you could believe in God, do horrendous things . . . and go to heaven. Right?
Many aspects of religion require faith. You have to just trust sometimes and accept that you cannot fully understand it. I can see where people are temped to do that in this case. After all, take a look at what the Bible says:
“A worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due. But when one does not work, yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Rom. 4:4-5
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your household will be saved” Acts 16:31
So what does the Catholic Church teach?
First off, what is “justification”? It means to be righteous or made right in the eyes of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.” (1990)
It “has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life” (1992)
“Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God” (1996)
Basically, Catholics say that justification is deification – when we become “like God” when our sins are wiped away at the moment of baptism. At that moment we become open and able to receiving his graces, some of which are the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Each is an integral part of being “saved”: faith helps us to accept the grace, hope gives us the reason for it in the first place, and charity helps us to live a good life hereafter. It’s not a one time deal when you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior that saves you. It’s a continuous cycle.
I was saved.
I am being saved.
And I hope to be saved when the last day comes.
I could go on and on about who Catholics believe can get to heaven, but I’ll save that for another topic 🙂
That’s what we believe and why: faith, hope and charity all at once – not just faith. This is just scratching the surface, though, so do more reading!
What are your thoughts?
Here are suggestions for further reading (though since I haven’t read them all myself I cannot completely attest to their awesomeness):
Justification Sola Fide: Catholic After All? by Christopher Malloy
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