How should I respond to someone who asks me if I've been saved, or born again?
Answer with a resounding, "Yes!" Tell them that it is through Baptism that you were saved, just as the Bible says in 1 Ptr 3:20-21 and that it is through Baptism, water and the Spirit, that you are "born again," just as the Bible says in John 3:5.
You see, many Protestants believe that they are saved by making one single act of faith at one single point in time in their lives. Nowhere does Scripture say such a thing. As Catholics, however, we believe that salvation is a process which begins with our Baptism and continues throughout our lifetimes, just as the Bible teaches us.
There are so many places in Scripture, which talk about how one is "saved", but not one of them says we are saved by one act of faith at just one point in time. As I just mentioned, 1 Ptr 3:20 says we are saved by baptism. In Hebrews 12:14 it says that we will not see the Lord unless we are holy, and that we have to strive for this holiness. In Matthew 6:14-15, it says we must forgive others or we will not be forgiven. Can you attain salvation if God hasn't forgiven you? No! So, our forgiving others is necessary for our salvation.
1 Tim 2:15 says that woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with modesty. John 6:54 says we will have eternal life by doing something...eating the flesh and drinking the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew 19, verses 16 and 17, Jesus is asked directly what one must do to have eternal life. Did He say, accept me into your heart once and that's it? No! Jesus said to keep the commandments and you will have life.
Yes, as Catholics we are born again. And, as Catholics we believe that we were saved, as Paul says in Rom 8:24; that we are being saved, as Paul says in 1 Cor 1:18; and that we will be saved, as Paul says in Rom 5:9-10, provided we persevere and keep our eyes on the prize. Salvation is a process, just as Catholics believe, and just as the Bible clearly teaches.
There are few more confusing topics than salvation. It goes beyond the standard question posed by Fundamentalists: "Have you been saved?" What the question also means is: "Don’t you wish you had the assurance of salvation?" Evangelicals and Fundamentalists think they do have such an absolute assurance.
All they have to do is "accept Christ as their personal Savior," and it’s done. They might well live exemplary lives thereafter, but living well is not crucial and definitely does not affect their salvation.
Kenneth E. Hagin, a well-known Pentecostal televangelist from the "Word Faith" wing of Protestantism, asserts that this assurance of salvation comes through being "born again": "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Though much of Hagin’s theology is considered bizarre in Protestant circles, his explanation of being born again could be endorsed by millions of Evangelical Protestants. In his booklet, The New Birth, Hagin writes, "The new birth is a necessity to being saved. Through the new birth you come into the right relationship with God."
According to Hagin, there are many things that this new birth is not. "The new birth is not: confirmation, church membership, water baptism, the taking of sacraments, observing religious duties, an intellectual reception of Christianity, orthodoxy of faith, going to church, saying prayers, reading the Bible, being moral, being cultured or refined, doing good deeds, doing your best, nor any of the many other things some men are trusting in to save them." Those who have obtained the new birth "did the one thing necessary: they accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior by repenting and turning to God with the whole heart as a little child." That one act of the will, he explains, is all they needed to do. But is this true? Does the Bible support this concept?
Scripture teaches that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus himself tells us, "He who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 24:13; cf. 25:31–46). One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of mortal sin) will go to hell.
For many Fundamentalists and Evangelicals it makes no difference—as far as salvation is concerned—how you live or end your life. You can heed the altar call at church, announce that you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, and, so long as you really believe it, you’re set. From that point on there is nothing you can do, no sin you can commit, no matter how heinous, that will forfeit your salvation. You can’t undo your salvation, even if you wanted to.
Does this sound too good to be true? Yes, but nevertheless, it is something many Protestants claim. Take a look at what Wilson Ewin, the author of a booklet called There is Therefore Now No Condemnation, says. He writes that "the person who places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his blood shed at Calvary is eternally secure. He can never lose his salvation. No personal breaking of God’s or man’s laws or commandments can nullify that status."
"To deny the assurance of salvation would be to deny Christ’s perfect redemption," argues Ewin, and this is something he can say only because he confuses the redemption that Christ accomplished for us objectively with our individual appropriation of that redemption. The truth is that in one sense we are all redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross—Christians, Jews, Muslims, even animists in the darkest forests (1 Tim. 2:6, 4:10, 1 John 2:2)—but our individual appropriation of what Christ provided is contingent on our response.
Certainly, Christ did die on the cross once for all and has entered into the holy place in heaven to appear before God on our behalf. Christ has abundantly provided for our salvation, but that does not mean that there is no process by which this is applied to us as individuals. Obviously, there is, or we would have been saved and justified from all eternity, with no need to repent or have faith or anything else. We would have been born "saved," with no need to be born again. Since we were not, since it is necessary for those who hear the gospel to repent and embrace it, there is a time at which we come to be reconciled to God. And if so, then we, like Adam and Eve, can become unreconciled with God and, like the prodigal son, need to come back and be reconciled again with God, after having left his family.
You Can’t Lose Heaven?
Ewin says that "no wrong act or sinful deed can ever affect the believer’s salvation. The sinner did nothing to merit God’s grace and likewise he can do nothing to demerit grace. True, sinful conduct always lessens one’s fellowship with Christ, limits his contribution to God’s work and can result in serious disciplinary action by the Holy Spirit."
One problem with this argument is that this is not even how things work in everyday life. If another person gives us something as a grace—as a gift—and even if we did nothing to deserve it (though frequently gifts are given based on our having pleased the one bestowing the gift), it in no way follows that our actions are irrelevant to whether or not we keep the gift. We can lose it in all kinds of ways. We can misplace it, destroy it, give it to someone else, take it back to the store. We may even forfeit something we were given by later displeasing the one who gave it—as when a person has been appointed to a special position but is later stripped of that position on account of mismanagement.
The argument fares no better when one turns to Scripture, for one finds that Adam and Eve, who received God’s grace in a manner just as unmerited as anyone today, most definitely did demerit it—and lost grace not only for themselves but for us as well (cf. also Rom. 11:17-24). While the idea that what is received without merit cannot be lost by demerit may have a kind of poetic charm for some, it does not stand up when compared with the way things really work—either in the everyday world or in the Bible.
Regarding the issue of whether Christians have an "absolute" assurance of salvation, regardless of their actions, consider this warning Paul gave: "See then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off" (Rom. 11:22; see also Heb. 10:26–29, 2 Pet. 2:20–21).
Can You Know?
Related to the issue of whether one can lose one’s salvation is the question of whether one can know with complete certainty that one is in a state of salvation. Even if one could not lose one’s salvation, one still might not be sure whether one ever had salvation. Similarly, even if one could be sure that one is now in a state of salvation, one might be able to fall from grace in the future. The "knowability" of salvation is a different question than the "loseability" of salvation.
From the Radio Bible Class listeners can obtain a booklet called Can Anyone Really Know for Sure? The anonymous author says the "Lord Jesus wanted his followers to be so sure of their salvation that they would rejoice more in the expectation of heaven than in victories on earth. ‘These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).’"
Places where Scripture speaks of our ability to know that we are abiding in grace are important and must be taken seriously. But they do not promise that we will be protected from self-deception on this matter. Even the author of Can Anyone Really Know for Sure? admits that there is a false assurance: "The New Testament teaches us that genuine assurance is possible and desirable, but it also warns us that we can be deceived through a false assurance. Jesus declared: ‘Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 7:21)."
Sometimes Fundamentalists portray Catholics as if they must every moment be in terror of losing their salvation since Catholics recognize that it is possible to lose salvation through mortal sin. Fundamentalists then hold out the idea that, rather than living every moment in terror, they can have a calm, assured knowledge that they will, in fact, be saved, and that nothing will ever be able to change this fact.
But this portrayal is in error. Catholics do not live lives of mortal terror concerning salvation. True, salvation can be lost through mortal sin, but such sins are by nature grave ones, and not the kind that a person living the Christian life is going to slip into committing on the spur of the moment, without deliberate thought and consent. Neither does the Catholic Church teach that one cannot have an assurance of salvation. This is true both of present and future salvation.
One can be confident of one’s present salvation. This is one of the chief reasons why God gave us the sacraments—to provide visible assurances that he is invisibly providing us with his grace. And one can be confident that one has not thrown away that grace by simply examining one’s life and seeing whether one has committed mortal sin. Indeed, the tests that John sets forth in his first epistle to help us know whether we are abiding in grace are, in essence, tests of whether we are dwelling in grave sin. For example, "By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:10), "If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20), "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
Likewise, by looking at the course of one’s life in grace and the resolution of one’s heart to keep following God, one can also have an assurance of future salvation. It is this Paul speaks of when he writes to the Philippians and says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). This is not a promise for all Christians, or even necessarily all in the church at Philippi, but it is a confidence that the Philippian Christians in general would make it. The basis of this is their spiritual performance to date, and Paul feels a need to explain to them that there is a basis for his confidence in them. Thus he says, immediately, "It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel" (1:7). The fact that the Philippians performed spiritually by assisting Paul in his imprisonment and ministry showed that their hearts were with God and that it could be expected that they, at least in general, would persevere and remain with God.
There are many saintly men and women who have long lived the Christian life and whose characters are marked with profound spiritual joy and peace. Such individuals can look forward with confidence to their reception in heaven.
Such an individual was Paul, writing at the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day" (2 Tim. 4:7-8). But earlier in life, even Paul did not claim an infallible assurance, either of his present justification or of his remaining in grace in the future. Concerning his present state, he wrote, "I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby justified [Gk., dedikaiomai]. It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Cor. 4:4). Concerning his remaining life, Paul was frank in admitting that even he could fall away: "I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27). Of course, for a spiritual giant such as Paul, it would be quite unexpected and out of character for him to fall from God’s grace. Nevertheless, he points out that, however much confidence in his own salvation he may be warranted in feeling, even he cannot be infallibly sure either of his own present state or of his future course.
The same is true of us. We can, if our lives display a pattern of perseverance and spiritual fruit, have not only a confidence in our present state of grace but also of our future perseverance with God. Yet we cannot have an infallible certitude of our own salvation, as many Protestants will admit. There is the possibility of self-deception (cf. Matt. 7:22-23). As Jeremiah expressed it, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). There is also the possibility of falling from grace through mortal sin, and even of falling away from the faith entirely, for as Jesus told us, there are those who "believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). It is in the light of these warnings and admonitions that we must understand Scripture’s positive statements concerning our ability to know and have confidence in our salvation. Assurance we may have; infallible certitude we may not.
For example, Philippians 2:12 says, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This is not the language of self-confident assurance. Our salvation is something that remains to be worked out.
What To Say
"Are you saved?" asks the Fundamentalist. The Catholic should reply: "As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13)."
NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004
I have a friend who says that Baptism is a symbolic act and that it has nothing to do with salvation...how can I answer them?
Simple. By showing them what the Bible says. First, nowhere does the Bible say that Baptism is merely a "symbolic" act...that passage simply does not exist.
Second, let's see what the Bible does say about Baptism:
Ezek 36:25-27, it says, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses...a new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you...and I will put My spirit within you..." Here, in the Old Testament, we have a foreshadowing of New Testament baptism.
Now, let's see if the New Testament corresponds to what we just read in Ezekiel. Acts 2:38, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Note that there is no symbolic language here...this is real! The Book of Acts says, "Be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins." Ezekiel says, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from your uncleanness." The Book of Acts says, "...and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Ezekiel says: "...and I will put My Spirit within you." Do you begin to see how God, in the Old Covenant, was preparing us for what He gives us in the New Covenant?
Acts 22:16 - "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins...". 1 Cor 12:13 - "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body..." What body was that? The Body of Christ. 1 Ptr 3:21: "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you..."
Scripture simply does not support the non-Catholic notion that Baptism is symbolic. Scripture does very directly and very clearly support the Catholic teaching that Baptism saves us; that Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ; that Baptism washes away sin; and that through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit...just as the Catholic Church teaches!
How do I respond to someone who believes that only the "chosen" ones are saved? This person is a Calvinist. I realize there is the whole free will issue but I am curious as to the best way to respond to this person?
There are those among the Calvinists who believe that God has pre-destined people for Heaven, and that He has also pre-destined people for Hell. "Double predestination" is the term frequently used to describe this belief. They believe a person's fate is determined solely by God, and that the individual has absolutely no choice in the matter.
In essence, this boils down to a question of whether or not we have free will. Are we free to accept God or to reject God, or has that already been determined for us? If you can show someone who holds to this belief that Scripture is pretty clear that we do indeed have free will, then you just might plant some seeds of truth with them.
Luke 7:30, " ...but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by [John the Baptist]." It was God's purpose that the Pharisees and lawyers be baptized by John - that they repent of their sins and turn to God. But they rejected God's purpose for them. How could they do that if they dont have free will? If it was God's purpose that they repent and be baptized by John, then if the strict Calvinist belief is true, they would have repented and been baptized by John, but they didnt and they werent. They clearly exercised free will in opposition to the will of God.
Luke 13:4-5, " Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Jesus very clearly is saying to His listeners that they have it within themselves to change their fate. They are headed for death and damnation, but He tells them they can choose to repent and avoid that fate. In other words, Jesus clearly believes that these people have free will. If they did not have free will, they could not change their fate. And, if God has already predetermined their fate, then why would Jesus tell them they can change their fate?
1 Tim 2:3-4, " This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
This pretty much seals the deal. God wants all men to be saved. It doesn't say God wants only the elect to be saved, but rather " all men." If God wants all men to be saved, then He certainly does not predestine any to Hell. Also, if God wants all men to be saved, and man does not have free will to oppose God's will, then all men are predestined for Heaven. Yet, no Calvinist would say that all men are among the elect. Which means, there is an inconsistency between this particular Calvinist belief and the Word of God.
I was talking with an Evangelical co-worker and he said the Bible teaches that once we are saved, we can never lose our salvation. Is that true?
Absolutely not. In fact, the Bible is full of passages that either directly or indirectly contradict this doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved. For example:
Rom 11:17-23, But if some of the branches were broken off [the Jews], and you, a wild olive shoot [the Gentiles], were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree [Jesus Christ], do not boast over the branches...For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you...Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but Gods kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.
Paul is talking about how salvation has come to the Gentiles, while many of the Jews have rejected it. And he makes it very clear that once you have been grafted into Christ, you must continue in His kindness, or you can also be cut off. So, even after youve been saved, you can still be cut off from Jesus Christ.
This is further seen in Galatians, chapter 5. Verse 1, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery [sin]. If once saved always saved is true, then one cannot submit again to a yoke of slavery, and Pauls warning makes no sense.
But Paul goes on in verse 4 to say, You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Paul is talking to Gentile Christians who had been wrongly taught by the Judaizers that they have to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic Law in order to be true Christians. Paul tells them that is false, and if they submit to circumcision and to the Old Law, they will be severed from Christ. If once saved always saved is true, though, they cant be severed from Christ and, once again, Pauls warning is meaningless.
We also have the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke chapter 15. The Prodigal Son was in his fathers house, and the father here is representative of God the Father. Then, the Prodigal Son leaves his fathers house and goes and lives a sinful life. In the end, though, he repents and returns to his father. After the Prodigal Son returns, the father says this of him in verse 24: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
In Evangelical terminology, to be dead is to be unsaved, and to be alive is to be saved. Notice very carefully, though, that the father says the son is alive again. In other words, the son was alive, or saved, when he was in his fathers house at the beginning of the parable; was dead, or unsaved, when he left his fathers house and lived in sin; then was alive again, saved again, when he repented and returned to his fathers house. Alive, dead, alive again. Saved, unsaved, saved again.
Im a Born-Again Christian and I was wondering why the Catholic Church doesnt do the altar call to have people accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior since it says that you must make this declaration to be Born Again?
The Catholic Church does, in a sense, make an altar call at every Mass. When people approach the altar to receive Communion, they are indeed accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, as they accept His body and blood into their bodies. Jesus says in John 6, verse 51 and following, that unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you have no life in you. If you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you will have eternal life He says, and He will raise you up at the last day.
He repeats Himself on this matter in John 6 like He does nowhere else in Scripture. Catholics take Jesus' words literally - we believe what He says. That is why we believe we receive His actual body and blood during Communion (or the Lord's Supper as you might call it). So when a Catholic approaches the altar to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, they are saying with their bodies, I believe. And just minutes before they approach the altar, they have, with the recitation of the Nicene Creed, declared with their lips that they believe. They believe Jesus is the Lord and Savior of mankind and they believe He is present - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - in the Eucharist that they receive.
My question to you, however, is where does it say that someone must make a declaration in which they "accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior" in order to be born again? Nowhere does the Bible say such a thing. In fact, the Bible says that one is born again by being baptized. John 3:3-5 says that unless one is born of water and the Spirit (baptism) one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
So it is through water and the Spirit that one is born again. All Catholics, by virtue of their baptism, are Born Again Christians. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that one should not make a declaration that Jesus is their Lord and Savior - we need to constantly proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ - but the Bible does not say that one is "born again" by making such a verbal declaration of acceptance of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. And, I assume you want to go by what the Bible says, right?
How do I answer my father-in-law (a Methodist) when he says he read the Catechism and it says that only those belonging to The Church will achieve salvation.
First, ask your father-in-law if he agrees with the statement that one must be a member of the Body of Christ in order to be saved. As a Methodist, he should say that he agrees. Then point out to him that the Bible tells us that The Church is the Body of Christ (e.g. Col 1:24). So, when we say that one must be a member of The Church in order to be saved, what we are really saying is that one must be a member of the Body of Christ in order to be saved.
So, I think there should be agreement between the two of you on that once The Church is identified as the Body of Christ. The real question is: Is the Catholic definition of The Church, as being the Catholic Church, the correct definition of what the Church is? Or, is the Methodist definition of The Church, which is generally along the lines of: All those who have accepted Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior regardless of what denomination they belong to, the correct definition? (For an in-depth treatment of this topic, go to: www.biblechristiansociety.com and order the free talk - CD or mp3 download - entitled, One Church.)
Regarding what the Catechism teaches about no salvation outside of the Church, we need to look at a few paragraphs:
#846: "Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
#847: ...Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
#848 says: Although in ways known to Himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please Him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."
What do these paragraphs tell us? 1) If you knowingly reject the Church and its teachings as the ordinary means of salvation, you cannot be saved. 2) Ignorance of Christ and His Church does not automatically incur damnation, nor does it automatically result in salvation, either. In other words, someone who is not formally a Catholic may be saved, if they have lived an extraordinary life, through some extraordinary means by which God joins them to the Body of Christ, the Church.
However, as #848 states, we (Catholics) have the obligation to evangelize all men. Why? Since Catholicism contains the fullness of revealed truth, it is logical to say that any persons best chance of getting to Heaven - of obtaining that holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14) - is to be 100% Catholic and thereby have access to all the grace that God provides through the Sacraments, particularly through the Eucharist and Confession, as well as all the other treasures of the Church.
Catholics say that faith and works are necessary for salvation and that one has to be baptized in order to be saved; yet, the Good Thief did no works and was not baptized, and still Jesus told him he would be in paradise. Doesnt this prove Catholic
No, it does not. Luke 23:42-43, And he [the Good Thief] said, Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power. And He [Jesus] said to him, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.
Is the Good Thief saved? Obviously he is, based on Jesus words. Does this prove that works and Baptism have nothing to do with ones salvation? Definitely not. Lets consider first the works part of this.
My question to anyone who says the Good Thief did no works is this: If he had not opened his mouth in defense of Jesus, would he have still been saved? Maybe, but we dont know for sure. However, we can say with great confidence that he would not have received Jesus promise of Paradise if he had remained silent. So, the next question is: Was verbally defending Jesus while hanging on a cross, which prompted Jesus promise of Paradise, a work?
Indeed it was, especially when you consider what the Good Thief was going through. Many people do not realize that when one is crucified, they usually die by asphyxiation. Fluid slowly collects in their lungs making it harder and harder to breathe, until it gets to the point where they literally suffocate. In order to breathe, one must lift themselves up from their hanging position and take a breath. Well, to do that, you have to push up on two feet that just happen to have this huge nail sticking through them. This is why they broke the thieves legs to make them die quicker. By breaking their legs, it prevented the thieves from lifting themselves up to get air.
In other words, the mere act of breathing is something that is extremely painful. So the Good Thief, in order to speak, had to first press up on his feet to get air, which caused excruciating pain, and then he used some of this very precious breath to speak in defense of Christ. I consider it an incredible work for someone with nails through his hands and feet - struggling to breathe because of the fluid building up in his lungs - to use some of his precious breath to defend Christ. In spite of all his misery and pain, he thought of someone else before himself. How can anyone claim the Good Thief did no works?
Finally, lets address the Baptism issue. The most important thing to remember here is that the New Covenant had not yet been instituted - the Old Covenant was still in effect. The Old Covenant equivalent of Baptism was circumcision (Col 2:11-12). This thief being a Jew, he was undoubtedly circumcised. Therefore, the fact that he wasn't baptized, as far as we know, is not relevant in this situation. Was Moses baptized? Was David? Was Abraham? No, but they were all circumcised and they were all saved - under the Old Covenant.
Jesus said: No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit' (John 3:3-5). I have seen a good number of non-Christians living a righteous life. Will they not enter the Kingdom of God?
The Church teaches, as God clearly states in John 3, that Baptism is necessary for salvation. The Church believes that God wants all men to be saved, and therefore gives all men the opportunity for salvation. The "ordinary" means of salvation is through the Sacraments (beginning with Baptism) given to us by God through His Church. But, the Church holds out the possibility that there is some "extraordinary" means of salvation known only unto God, by which those who are not physically baptized may still receive the grace of salvation through Christ Jesus.
As St. Paul says in Rom 2, when speaking about those who have not the law, "...their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."
The Church teaches that non-Christians who are invincibly ignorant of the truths about Jesus Christ and His Church, "may" be saved. In other words, it is possible for them to be saved, if they are indeed righteous, if they have never been told about Jesus, and had no way of finding out about Him and thereby believing in Him. If, however, they have been exposed to Christ, and know something of the claims of Christianity, yet have either rejected those claims or not investigated those claims (willful ignorance), then they may indeed have a difficult time come Judgment Day.
This is why it is so incumbent upon us, as Catholics, to do all in our power to bring Christ to the world, to bring Truth to the world. The best chance any person has to be with God in Heaven for all of eternity is to be a Catholic who is devout, regularly receives the Sacraments, and does all in their power to be holy. It is difficult enough to be holy with all the graces available to us as Catholics, how much more difficult for those who do not have Baptism, who do not regularly go to Confession, and who do not regularly receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist! Therefore, we cannot simply sit back and say, "Well, these are good people, surely God will take them to Heaven even though they are not Christian." That is gambling with someone's soul based on a personal opinion, or on a "feeling."
By our Baptism we are all called to evangelize. If it's not something we are comfortable doing, then we need to pray to God to give us the strength and the wisdom to get out there and do it anyway. The lives of souls are at stake.
No one can say whether or not someone will end up in Hell, that is a judgment reserved for God alone. However, one can indeed say that getting to Heaven is not an easy thing and that we need all the graces possible in order to persevere in holiness to the end, and that the greatest graces available to us are found in and through the Sacraments. Therefore, one can conclude that those outside of the Sacraments have the odds stacked against them.
"Es gibt nicht mehr als 100 Menschen auf der Welt, die die Katholische Kirche wirklich hassen, aber es gibt Millionen, die das hassen, was sie für die Katholische Kirche halten…Wenn wir Katholiken all die Unwahrheiten und Lügen, die gegen die Kirche gesagt wurden, glauben würden, würden wir die Kirche wahrscheinlich Tausend Mal mehr hassen als sie es tun."
Erzbischof Fulton Sheen
Father Joseph Ratzinger 1969 Prediction of the Future of the Church
In a 1969 German radio broadcast, Father Joseph Ratzinger offered this prediction of the future of the Church:
“The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.
To put this more positively: The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered.
If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!
How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.
Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century.
But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
"Interesting that they call it "gay pride" because pride is the worst of sins and the root of all other sins - in essence a stubborn rebellion against God and his commandments. This parade in Tel Aviv is awful and shameful not only because Israel promotes sexual perversion and the distortion of God's purpose for the human person, but it's even worse because they celebrate it with "pride". Remember that God will extend His protection upon you, Israel, only to the extent that you keep his commandments. In other words, you are inviting disaster upon your nation. Repent!"
If the Church becomes more and more like the world, why would we need the Church then anymore? The world does what the world does - and it can do that way better than Church people will ever be able to. If we don't have more than this, if we are no different than anybody else, what's the point of being a follower of Jesus Christ?