When I was in Kindergarten and for part of first grade, I attended a small Christian school. One day in first grade, the teacher was reading one of the Gospels to us, at the part about the Crucifixion. She asked us to consider praying the Sinner’s Prayer to ask Jesus into our hearts, to accept Him as Lord and Savior. She said that if any of us wanted to do this, we could talk to her after school and she would lead us in a prayer. I immediately knew I wanted to do this, and so I approached her after school. She led me in a prayer, and I had a picture of Jesus actually coming into my heart. Later she gave me a small red New Testament with a lovely inscription that included a reference to Psalm 119:105:
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
That was a powerful experience and the emotion of it stayed with me for years.
As far as I can tell, according to “once saved, always saved,” (OSAS) I am saved. The reason I bring this is up is not to argue for the doctrine, which I don’t believe as a Catholic, but to show how the OSAS pattern of salvation is present in Catholic practice.
So just to be sure that I still understand OSAS correctly, I looked it up just now on two different websites. I don’t know if these are representative of all who believe the doctrine, but the descriptions seem reasonable and align with what I remember:
The Bible teaches “once saved, always saved” — that we can be saved once and for all only through a repentant, saving faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person has accepted Christ as Savior, they may wonder if it is possible to lose that salvation. What if they commit a sin? What if they commit a lot of sins? What if they do something very, very wrong? Is it possible to be saved, and then lose that salvation? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “no.” Once a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, he/she is forever saved. This fact is referred to as the doctrine of “eternal security,” often summarized as “once saved, always saved.” From All About God.
“Once saved always saved” is the position that when a person becomes a Christian he can never lose his salvation… CARM’s position is that salvation cannot be lost. We believe we are secure in Christ, not because of our ability and faithfulness, but because of God’s. We believe that Christ paid for all of our sins: past, present, and future. From CARM.org
I also looked up how to be saved from the same websites:
Salvation is simply a process of confessing and believing. A man must confess that Jesus is Lord… Next, he must believe that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. From All About God.
Believe in Jesus. Receive Jesus, who is God in flesh, who died and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4) as your Lord and Savior (John 1:12). Ask Jesus to forgive you, to come into your heart, and to wash you clean from your sins. Pray to Jesus. Seek Him. Ask Him to save you. From CARM.org.
As a child I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart, asked Him to forgive me of my sins, and asked Him to be my Lord and Savior. So I think it’s pretty clear that if somebody reading this truly believes in OSAS, they needn’t worry about me.
Now I am going to show how that same person needn’t worry about other Catholics, since the OSAS pattern is part of Catholic practice. There are three components to being saved, according to OSAS. The person needs to:
- Confess that Jesus is Lord.
- Believe that God raised Him from the dead
- Sincerely ask Him to forgive the person’s sins.
Sincere Catholics do all of those. For example:
- Every Sunday, we recite the Nicene creed which states: … I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God…
- That same creed also states: …for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
- Catholics who are sincere in their faith confess their sins regularly. So even the very first confession a person makes satisfies OSAS, it seems to me. The fact that it happens before a priest is not relevant to OSAS, since the scripture says, “Confess your sins to one another,” and, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The Protestant objection to confessing to a priest doesn’t apply to OSAS, since the doctrine itself doesn’t state that the person can’t confess with somebody else listening. Now, perhaps it is possible that the Catholic really believes that he is confessing ONLY TO the priest. But if he believes this, he is mistaken about Catholic doctrine. Jesus is definitely part of those sessions, and the Church teaches this.
Another example: these three things also happen during Catholic confirmation, which we regard as a sacrament that finishes the initiation process into the Catholic Church. The person is asked a number of questions to which he must give public assent in front of the congregation, among them:
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose from the dead…
Since confirmation is a sacrament, the person needs to be in a state of grace, which means that he must have already repented of and confessed his sins. Going through the motions in an insincere way does not count, neither according to OSAS nor Catholic doctrine.
Now, as I said earlier, this is not an argument in defense of OSAS. Let me be super clear that Catholic doctrine does not teach OSAS. I am using OSAS as an opportunity to describe Catholic practice so that those who believe it can have an opportunity to see the Church in a new way.