Sunday, October 15, 2006

My Salvation

I often joke with people when I talk about my journey into Catholicism that when I was a Baptist, I had been "saved" three times and Batptized twice. Regardless of my commitment to Christ and my "salvation" I always questioned it. The concept of predestination always bothered me. That is the idea that one is predestined to be saved or not. If a person had been already chosen by God to be saved, then it would happen regardless. If a person was not chosen, then there is nothing they could do to become saved. I often questioned my own salvation because although I had those moments of "accepting Christ as my personal savior" I still struggled with sin and the true desire to live a Christian life. I felt that although I wanted a relationship with Christ, I didn't know how to make myself become what I was supposed to be. I didn't understand how a person could be "saved" and still live a life of sin and still get to heaven. Protestants answer that by stating that "well, then the person probably really wasn't saved because they weren't sincere in their commitment." They contend that if salvation really happened for that person, then they will automatically live a good Christian life and have the desire in them. I know that there are often times where those "saved" take time to re-commit themselves to Christ because although they were supposedly "saved" they had moments of sinful struggles. Then there are those that realize that they were really not "saved" before but finally make the true commitment that they didn't make before.

My first experience with salvation came when I was nine years old. I was at a large Baptist church and the pastor had the typical "Alter Call" and I felt compelled to go up with the others and dedicate my life for Christ. Honestly I probably felt kind of scared because I was afraid of going to hell. But I went up and kneeled on the steps and waited patiently for someone to come talk to me... because that's what they did. And nobody came and I started to feel foolish and I think I started to cry because I was kind of scared and I didn't know what to do. Finally an adult came to talk to me and took me to a little room off the side. I can't remember really what happened exactly, but they probably talked to me about salvation and asked me if I wanted to be saved. I'm sure I said the Jesus prayer. I can't remember if it was the same day or another Sunday, but I was Baptized and I was happy that I wasn't going to hell any more. I enjoyed going to church, but eventually stopped going when we moved.

I was later "saved" again when I was 15 in high school but never made the commitment to actively attend church. Although my good friend Bret and his parents would pick me up and take me, I could never really get into it. Finally, for the third time, I was "saved" in college. For a brief time, I did make the commitment and really got into going to church. But like before, the feeling waned and I fell away from my commitment.

During that time I stopped going to church, I still believed in God but decided that perhaps I didn't believe in "religion." At one point I thought that maybe if I studied different denominations I could find one that better "fit" me, but I didn't get far with that thought. Finally after a ten+ year lapse I discovered Catholicism. Studying the faith gave me answers to the many gnawing questions I had. The more I read, the more it made sense to me. It was no longer a matter of finding a church to "fit" me, but becoming part of the one, true Church established by Christ.

A big factor in my conversion was the Catholic concept of salvation. Deep down I always had the belief that salvation wasn't a simple one time commitment, but an ongoing responsibility. The teachings of the Church confirmed that for me and I've found that I have far more confidence in my salvation now than I ever did before. To me, the protestant concept is like an easy out. One doesn't really have to work that hard to earn their place in heaven. Or it's an easy out in that if I'm predestined, then I can live however I like and then God will let me know when it's time for me to commit. I was worried that perhaps I wasn't called to be saved but am thankful now to know that all are called. The concept of free will was a big thing for me and I wrote two lengthy posts on it. If we have no free will, then what is the purpose of trying to be good? Without free will, we are merely puppets in God's hand and it won't matter how we live because he will take the puppets He likes up to heaven and condemn the others to hell. If we're supposed to build a relationship with God, we have to make the choice to do so. Even in the protestant denominations one still has to choose to be saved. And for the record, I do still believe that salvation is a gift from God, but as Father Phan said today, "We have to choose to accept that gift and keep accepting it." We can't simply accept it once and then put it on the shelf. I know that because I continue to accept God's graces, they are are working in my life. I know that my salvation is dependent on my choices and not a one time commitment. I know that for the first time, I am on the right track in building a relationship with Christ. I know that I still have a long way to go, but I am anxious and excited to be a part of the journey.

1 comment:

Greg Long (Australia) said...

According to John Henry Cardinal Newman predestination to grace is wholly gratuitous but predestination to glory depends upon one's forseen merits and thus requires good works.

Because God has the immediacy of all knowledge, past, present and future St. Gregory of Nyssa puts predestination this way- "For those whom He (God) foreknew he also predestined.......and those He predestined he also called; and those whom he called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified."

God's foreknowledge does not prevent me from doing what I freely will to do. The fact is that He knows me so intimately that He knows what I will do or fail to do but that does not mean He causes that act or omission.

The skilled weather analyst may know that there will be torrential rain but that does not mean he causes it.