Are the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Views on How One is Saved Actually That Different?

What-must-I-do-to-be-saved Not for itching ears

Not Really!

I am beginning to think that there is less disagreement between the Protestant view and the Catholic / Orthodox view on salvation than we realize.

The misunderstanding is a result of how each part of the church defines “salvation.”

When a Protestant talks about “being saved”, “getting saved”, “accepting Christ” or any other number of terms we use for this, we are primarily referring to the idea of forgiveness of sins. Our sins are forgiven when we “come to Christ”. We have been ‘saved” from sins eternal penalty.  We can not earn this forgiveness of sins, it is a merciful free gift from God and we resist anything that makes it look like it must be earned.

In this sense Salvation IS an event, we have been forgiven of our sins!  However, it doesn’t end there does it?   The Christian life simply begins with this forgiveness and new birth. The next phase is what we Protestants call sanctification and it is a life-long process, not an event. Sanctification is the process of living out the Christian faith and becoming more and more like Christ. It involves choices and actions and a modification of behavior. Few Protestant theologians would separate these two things from the Christian life, though they do divide them into two categories: Salvation and Sanctification. To be a Christian, to live the life of a follower of Christ, both are needed and are not optional.

The Catholic and Orthodox view of salvation incorporate this forgiveness of sins with the process of sanctification and call it salvation. That is why they can say “I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.” That is why they can say that salvation involves works, because that is indeed what is involved in the process of sanctification.  However they do not mean it the way a Protestant intuitively understands it.   Once we are saved, we begin a new life where we say “No” to our old way of life and “Yes” to God’s way. For as long as we draw breath, we make choices: will we become more like Christ or won’t we?  This Orthodox and Catholic view of salvation is similar to the Protestant view of Salvation and Sanctification. Both answer the question “What now?”

Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox all agree that one can not earn his/her forgiveness. We also agree that followers of Christ MUST grow and that the ultimate goal of Christianity is to become like our Savior. We just use different terms to describe it and have different traditions to help foster this growth. How far we get in that transformative process in this life is up to us and the choices we make.

At least, that’s my take!

For a short informative look at the tradition of Sola Scriptura, read the post “Questioning our Protestant Tradition of Sola Scriptura”

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on December 16, 2014, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Early Church History, The Christian Life, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Hi Jim. Thought I’d return the favor. It is nice to see another believer, who draws from the best of both denominations.

    Like

  2. As an Orthodox I would always say I am “being saved”. I hadn’t thought of the distinction between salvation and continued sanctification but that is spot on. Yes, in some way actually all the work was done as soon as Christ died on the Cross. He even said it Himself. Since then there is nothing more to add. But there is still hard work in each and every one of us to actually accept what He did. Because ultimately we will all be raised up and have eternal “life” in a new body.

    It may be for some of us however we won’t like that life because the light of God will actually be burning fires. So there is work. And it is a process that lasts us till the moment we die. It cannot be finished any sooner. And once saved in Heaven the expectation is we must continue moving ever-closer to God for all eternity. But this time it will be easy because there will be no enemy. It must keep getting better because God’s love is boundless and infinite and any absoluteness or limitation must in itself become a kind of hellishness precisely because it is for eternity and then there would be no hope of anything better!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad you are jumping into the conversations here. It is good for us Protestants to hear how the Orthodox see things. It is hard to believe this, but most Protestants don’t even know the Orthodox exist or anything about what they believe. So please, add your thoughts to any of out topics!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Jim. I think some of the problem in the West including the USA and UK is that our education system dichotomizes everything between Protestant and Roman Catholic. So much of anything else is ignored. Somehow it is instilled in our education that Africa and Asia are Muslim and that any Christians amongst them must be those Evangelized later on by colonialists and imperialists! Imagine saying that to an Ethiopian!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is spot on, and so refreshing to read, and agrees with a lot of the things I’ve written. See my most recent post, and my recent series on grace and justification. God bless you, brother, and His peace be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like this. Part of my current frustration has been the apparent Calvinism within all my non-Calvinist friends and family. I wasn’t raised Calvinist but after meeting a bunch in college I looked into it. It was a process but I eventually concluded that it must be wrong because of things like the whole “I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.” This suggests a life long process and a life lived right. There’s too much in the Bible that requires a moral life. Friends and family with whom I discussed this stuff agreed, we patted ourselves on the back for being so smart, and we all moved on with life.

    Enter Catholicism…

    Suddenly everyone is telling me how we’re not saved by works and how we’re justified and we can do nothing more for salvation and how we’re guaranteed eternal life etc etc etc. It seemed an odd and sudden shift. Recent conversations have felt like the exact conversations I had with Calvinists in college.

    Do you have any thoughts why this might be? A Catholic friend suggested to me that the roots of Protestantism is Calvinism and therefore, to be a non-Calvinist Protestant puts one in a tough position to defend beliefs. My experience seems evidence for this.

    Liked by 1 person

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