Okay, so this is a pretty random topic for this kind of blog but my brain is still in its morning fog, and I feel like I need to post something since I haven’t in days and its the first thing that popped in my mind. No idea why.
But anyway, are Catholics saved?
No, I don’t feel like getting into any messy faith alone vs. works vs. faith and works debates today. (Short answer, for those who are curious, Catholics believe we are saved by grace alone).
Better yet, do Catholics think they are saved?
If you haven’t been asked the question, “are you saved?” you and I probably weren’t neighbors growing up. Because let me tell you, in the Bible belt this usually the second question after “how are you?” I jest, but I remember being taught a CCD (Sunday school) lesson on “What to do when someone asks you if you are saved.”
A variation of the “are you saved” question is the “are you 100% sure you are going to heaven?” question. A typical Protestant response, “Yes of course, I am 100% sure that I am going to heaven.” A typical Catholic response, “I sure hope so! But I don’t know.”
To which the asker will respond some variant of, “well if you aren’t 100% sure you are going to heaven, then you aren’t going. You see, the Bible tells us that we can know if we are going to heaven by saying we are saved in grace through faith in Jesus. If you trust Jesus alone, then you will know you are going to heaven. But you can’t “earn” your way to heaven through good works, so stop trying.”
To which the Catholic response is usually, “Huh?”
So why do Catholics say “huh?” instead of “Oh yes, I absolutely agree” or “Wait, who is Jesus again?” Here’s a few reasons from my own personal experience.
1) We believe God is sovereign.
This means that no matter what, God is the one absolutely in control. He decides who goes to heaven, not us. We don’t just decide “hey, I’m gonna go to heaven, I think I’ll book my trip today.” Rather, in our understanding, it is God who brings us to heaven.
2) We don’t believe in “faith alone”.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that there will be people standing at the gates yelling his name to whom he will say “I did not know you.” And why did he not know them? Because they did not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned. Not because they didn’t have enough faith. I’m not saying “do X, Y, and Z” and you’ll get there. I am saying though it’s more complicated than just saying “hey! I want to go! Faith? Check. Done.”
3) We believe salvation is a mystery.
Catholics like to say things are mysteries; it gets us out of explaining things. Just kidding. But the truth is, we don’t know really, truly, fully how salvation works. There are Bible verses which appear to contradict each other, there are evolving ideas of salvation throughout the text, and the mainstream Christian view of salvation is radically different then it was when Paul was writing his letters. So to say “I know exactly how it works” seems a bit presumptuous to us.
We believe that God will remain true to his word and that He is a merciful God. Meaning “we have no idea who will go to heaven and who won’t.” What about people whose theology doesn’t line up 100% with ours? People who have never heard of Jesus? People whose awful life circumstances drove them away from the Church? Babies who died before they were baptized? Good people who didn’t understand the teachings of Jesus? Evil people who claimed to fully believe in the message? We don’t know. That is for God to decide.
4) We don’t like to talk about it.
I’ve come up with a good analogy to explain why Catholics aren’t really chatty about their faith. Again, if you’ve never had someone ask you “How’s your walk with Christ going?” then you might not have grown up where I did. To us, our relationship with God is analogous to the one you have with a partner or a spouse. It’s not something you just go shouting to everyone about. It’s personal, sacred, and in some ways, private. I wouldn’t go around telling people “well, I was pissed at John for this thing he did, but then we made up and then after that things were great but you know I really don’t understand why guys do this yada yada yada.” And so I probably wouldn’t as readily bare the most intimate details of my soul with someone else either.
I’m not saying that’s a good thing. I think sometimes Catholics forget that it is okay to talk about. It’s okay to share, to grow, to discuss, to encourage. It can be private without being secret. But the truth is, we’re not all that chatty when some stranger knocks on our door to ask the most intimate question of our salvation.
I hope that explains (to any future missionaries out there ’cause I know they are reading this blog) why when you ask a Catholic if they are saved, why they will probably say “I hope so” and not “Yes!” We do it not out of confusion or a lack of trust in God, or because we think we haven’t earned enough Jesus points yet but probably will before we die. Rather, we do it to remain respectful of God’s ultimate authority, to know that he alone is in control. To remind ourselves that we are not what is of central importance here, but God is.