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1. Predestination and Free Will in John 6

2. The Old versus the New Covenant

3. Buying Your Way into Heaven and Other Religions

4. Romans 3:23 and Calvin's "Total Depravity"

5. Are We Really Free Moral Agents?

6. A dialogue with a Protestant about "Faith Alone" and "Eternal Security"

7. Outside the Church there Is no Salvation

8. Questions from a Lapsed but Returning Catholic

9. What Does it Mean to Know Christ?

10. Prevenient or "Wooing" Grace

11. Once Saved, Always Saved?

12. Grace and Free will

13. Ephesians 2:8-9 grace versus works

14. Are we saved by works?

15. Saved by faith alone?

16. Predestination and Grace: Thomism or Molinism?

17. Sufficient versus efficacious grace in Thomism

18. Fr. William Mosts interpretation of St. Thomas on grace and predestination

19. Eternal Security and 1 John 5:13

20. The peace and joy of non-Catholics


Back Home Next

1. Predestination and Free Will in John 6

Stephanie: Hello John. I have greatly enjoyed your site and have used it to support by Catholic beliefs several times among Protestant friends, particularly on the purgatory issue and the works/faith issue. I am writing in regards to an issue that has come up several times among my Protestant friends but that I don't know how to refute well based on scripture. I was wondering if you have done any research on the Calvinistic idea of predestination/predetermination. I have gotten into a few debates on this issue with a Presbyterian friend of mine who keeps insisting the Catholic Church is wrong about their belief on freewill. He quoted some versus to support his idea. The one I had most difficultly with was Romans 9:18-24. There was also another verse he used, which I can't remember where in the gospels it is located, but it basically said "No one comes to the Father unless God wills them to come to Him (paraphrase)." I looked up predestination on the internet and found that the Catholic Church agrees with the doctrine but also believes in freewill? I am slightly confused on this matter and how to respond to my friend because it was my understanding that the Catholic Church was very pro-freewill and anti-Calvinism. I know you are busy, but if you have anytime to look into this issue I would greatly appreciate it. God bless, Stephanie

J. Salza: Stephanie, when we study Scripture and predestination, we must remember that there are two sides to the equation: what God does, and what we do. Some Scriptures deal only with what God does, and others only with what we do, but we cannot interpret them in isolation. Proper exegesis of Scripture means to read what the text says, and harmonize it with the entire Bible. We further cannot assert what is not there, and deny what is not there either.

Let's remember this as we look at Romans 9: Verses 18-19 is about what God does, verses 20 is about what we do, verses 21-24 is about what God does. There is nothing in these verses that says that God predetermines anyone to heaven or hell. There is nothing in these verses that tell us how we know we are in the elect. The verses are only about God's power (which is infinite), and our human response (which is not).  Note in the same letter, Paul clearly teaches that God judges people based upon their works, and that people can lose their salvation if they do evil. See Rom. 2:5-8; 14:10,12.

The verse you also referred to is John 6:37-44.  In verse 37, Jesus is saying that those the Father draws by His prevenient grace will come to Jesus. But note that it doesn't say that the drawing is an “irresistible decree” like the Calvinists claim, or that the people who are drawn will remain with Jesus until “the last day.” In verse 39, Jesus says it is not the Father's will that Jesus should lose any of what He gave Jesus. This is true. But this only deals with the Father's will, not human will, which could ultimately reject Jesus. Verse 40 again is about God's will; it does not address the human will, which could choose to reject Jesus at some point in the future.

In verse 44, Jesus affirms that no one comes to Him unless the Father draws him. This is true; it is speaking of the fact that we cannot come to Christ but by God's grace. But again, it says nothing about remaining with Jesus or being eternally secure with Jesus. There are many other Scriptures that talk about how we can actually lose our salvation (Rom. 11:20-23; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 11:2-3, etc.). So, when a Scripture describes God’s divine action (the predestination side), we cannot exclude human response (the free will side). Calvinists, for example, automatically isogete the passages that deal with God’s divine action by excluding human free will actions. But this is not proper biblical exegesis.

For example, see John 5:40 which shows that we have a freewill choice of coming to Jesus after being drawn by the Father; here the Jews “refused to come” to Jesus, so the Father is going to stop “drawing” them. When the Father draws men to Jesus and actually gives them over to Jesus, these people have responded to the drawing, and have not “refused to come.” See also 2 Tim. 2:10-13 where Paul says that even the “elect” can “deny” Jesus. In Catholic theology, there is always a balance between two principles that seem to be inapposite, here God’s will and human free will.  I hope that helps.

Stephanie: Thank you so much for getting back to me. You've given me some great ammunition for the interfaith Bible study I'll be having on Sunday! I'm the only Catholic represented so it is definitely a challenge to defend my beliefs sometimes(there are several members who were raised Catholic but converted to Protestantism). It's a tough crowd, but they are willing to listen if I can back things up with Scripture. Have a great Easter, Stephanie

J. Salza: Stephanie, just a couple more thoughts on Romans 9. When you read Romans 9, 10, and 11, a major theme of Paul's is the Jews lack of faith in Christ. He compares this lack of faith, for example, to Pharoah's lack of faith, and explains that God hardens the hearts of those who choose to disbelieve. God hardens unbelievers hearts as a punishment for their sin of unbelief. Paul is describing this action of God in Rom. 9:18-21. Right after Paul describes how God used Pharoah's hardness of heart as both a punishment to unbelievers (they drowned in the Red Sea) and a manifestation of His glory (God parted the Red Sea for Moses the faithful)(see v. 17), Paul reveals how God hardens whom He wills (v. 18), and makes out of the clay some for noble and some for ignoble purposes (v. 21). Paul is not saying that God predetermines certain people to hell. Instead, Paul is explaining that God will use even the unfaithful ones, whose hearts are hardened (like Pharoah), to punish sinners and manifest His glory. God's will can never be thwarted. This is really the context of Romans 9:18-24.

If you read on, you will see how Paul focuses on Israel's lack of faith, and how they were basing their relationship on the external law. In chapter 11, God explains how the Jews have been cut off from God, and the Gentiles are grafted in instead; but that the Jews can be re-grafted in if they repent. Paul explains that the Jews hearts are so hardened, that only a remnant of them are being saved by grace (11:5). This is the context of the verses that your Protestant friends are using to prove predestination. The verses have nothing to do with predestination, but how God uses people for His own purposes, whether they are noble or ignoble. My book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith has quite a bit of material devoted to predestination, the elect, and eternal security, refuting all of the popular Protestant claims and vindicating the Catholic position.

Grace be with you.



2. The Old versus the New Covenant

John: Dear John Salza, I was reading Jeremiah 31, and in verse 4, the Lord says "...O Virgin Israel."   Another fine detailed fulfillment about the New Israel and Mary.  Speaking of fulfillments, I have another question.  I fully understand that Jesus came in order to fulfill the Old Testament, but I guess it's always been a question to me what isn't needed anymore from the Old Testament be cause of the fulfillment.  For instance, we don't follow the Mosaic Law anymore, so do we still have to obey the 10 Commandments. Anything you have to say will help me anchor my wondering thoughts about this.  "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." Phil 4:23.

J. Salza: John, that is a great question. We are no longer under the Old Testament laws, but we must still uphold the Old Testament principles.  This is because, with the death and resurrection of Christ, we are no longer in the system of law but the system of grace, if we approach God with faith in Jesus Christ.

If you read the book of Romans (especially chapters 3 and 4), Paul repeatedly talks about how we are no longer justified by "works of the law" (Rom. 3:20,28). These works included all of the legal, moral and ceremonial edicts of the Old Covenant. These laws have been superseded by the laws of the New Covenant. However, while we are no longer under law from a legal standpoint, we must still follow their godly principles, including the moral precepts of the Ten Commandments.  This is why Paul can say "the doers of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:13) and "the law is holy" (Rom. 7:12).  Paul is referring to the principles of the law, not the letter of the law.

This is why Jesus says "You heard it said that thou shalt not commit adultery.  But I say to you, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in her heart" (Matt. 5:27-28).  Christ is upholding the principle of the law (thou shalt not commit adultery), but He is perfecting it in His New Covenant of grace, which is not concerned with the legal stipulations, but with the heart of man.  He retains what is holy in the Sixth Commandment, and perfects it.

This was God's original purpose in giving the Jews the law - to move them to love God and their neighbor as themselves. But like Paul so often writes about, the Jews began to boast about their relationship with God in the law because they had the law written on tablets, and the Gentiles did not. In so doing, the Jews began to view God in a legalistic sense, like a debtor who owed them for their works, rather than a Father who owed them nothing, but would love them if they were to be faithful. When we don’t approach God as our loving Father through faith in Jesus Christ, we convert our relationship with God from a covenantal to a contractual one. Thus, our works become based on law (contract), not grace (covenant).

Paul repeatedly indicts the Jews for their boasting in the law (Rom. 2:17,23; Eph. 2:8-9).  Paul said that they needed to put faith in Christ, and not in themselves.  If we approach God as a debtor, we will be judged under the Old Covenant laws, and we will be condemned, because under the old laws, there was no mercy, and we would have to be perfect in order to be acquitted (James 2:10).  But in the New Covenant, if we approach God with faith in Jesus Christ, we are in a system of grace, and God will reward us for being faithful.  We have "obtained access to this grace" through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1-2).

Therefore, to answer the question:  we are no longer under the "letter" of the law, but are under the "principle" of the law.  This is the New Covenant, which is the "law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).  It has retained all that was good and holy in the Old Covenant, and has perfected those laws in love.



3. Buying Your Way into Heaven and Other Religion

Shannon: I read your article on the web regarding Masons and I have a few questions if you don't mind.  Didn't the Catholic church used to allow the wealthy landed class of feudal europe to basically buy their way in to heaven with good works e.g half of the cathedrals in Europe?  I'm Catholic but I distinctly remember that was one of the things Luther opposed in his treatise?  This good works philosophy sounds like something the Masons borrowed from Catholicism of old.   Also hasn't the Pope in his outreach to the world hinted recently that other religons e.g. Jewish, Hindu even Islam have possible alternative routes to salvation?  No I'm not a mason. Thank you.

J. Salza: Shannon, the Church teaches that good works in the system of grace are required for salvation, but that "works of law" (see Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16) do not. When Adam disobeyed God’s law, God used the law to condemn us (Rom. 7:10).  "Works of law" refer to the Mosaic law, or any system where we approach God as a debtor who owes us for our works (we call that “works righteousness”).  We cannot approach God this way.  Instead, we have to approach God in the system of grace, with faith in Christ, acknowledging that God owes us nothing, but, because He is a faithful Father, will reward us for our works.  This is why James teaches that a man is justified by works and not faith alone, and why Paul says the doers of the law will be justified.  These works refer to works in the system of grace, when we approach God with faith in Christ, and not works of law where we approach God as a debtor who owes us.

The Church has of course never taught that anyone can buy there way into heaven.  We could give God nothing because He already has everything. That is the viewpoint of a person who is in the system of law, not grace.  Regarding the pope, he has never taught that other religions give alternate routes to heaven.  That would be heresy, which is precisely why this pope and about 11 other predecessor popes have condemned Freemasonry. It promotes that very idea.  The Church officially teaches that all of humanity must convert to Christ and come into the Catholic Church to be saved.  If they are invincibly ignorant of this responsibility, they can still be saved, but it will be more difficult, since they do not have the fullness of divine grace that God offers in the seven sacraments, which are in the Catholic Church.  I hope that helps.



4. Romans 3:23 and Calvin's "Total Depravity"

Bob: Hello John. I recently discovered your web site via a link from the Coming Home Network.  I have a question that, hopefully, you can help me resolve.  I stems from this passage from your page, subject as above:

"Rom. 3:23 - "all have sinned" also refers only to those able to commit sin. This is not everyone. For example, infants, the retarded, and the senile cannot sin. "

This is a most interesting notion, indeed.  I am a former catholic (47 years ago), presently Reformed Presbyterian.  As such, I have been taught that infants, indeed are not only capable of sinning, but fail just as miserably as I do to uphold God's law perfectly. Can you please point me toward, or, better yet, explain the history of this doctrine for me?  It really conflicts with Calvin's doctrine of Total Depravity.

Thanks, and may the Lord richly bless your work; it has already been of great help in my journey seeking Truth.

In Christ,

Southern Maryland

J. Salza:  Bob, thank you much for your email and commendation.

Calvin's doctrine of total depravity was his own invention; it was never taught by the Church or any early Church father for 1,500 years prior to Calvin coming on the scene.  Calvin based "total depravity" on verses such as Eph 2:1,5 and Col 2:13 where Paul refers to us as "dead in our trespasses."  But in these verses, Paul was teaching about our condition prior to baptism (cf. Col 2:12).  Before baptism, we indeed were dead in our trespasses. After baptism, we are no longer dead, but alive in Christ. As St. Peter says in 1 Peter 3:21, baptism now saves us, and as St. Paul describes, this is done by the "washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit," which is baptism (Titus 3:5).  Man is still encumbered by concupiscence, which is the proclivity to commit sin, and often succumbs to sin, but he is not totally depraved.  This is because we have received the grace of filial adoption in Christ through baptism (cf. Titus 3:7).

Calvin argued for total depravity because he did not believe that man had freewill.  Thus, he believed that God predestined some to heaven and some to hell.  Calvin could simply not reconcile the truth that God's sovereignty includes human free will.  While it is a mystery how God's sovereignty and our free will interact, the truth is that they do, as the Scriptures teach. But Calvin could not comprehend this, and thus concluded that we are totally depraved, unable to respond to God's grace, and so God had to predestine some to heaven and others to hell.

Calvin's teaching makes God a liar.  For example, God so often pleaded with Israel to turn away from their sins and repent (cf. Ezek. 18:30; 33:11). But if these people were already predestined to hell, then that would make God's pleading superfluous. He would be revealing His desire for Israel to repent, knowing all the while that they did not have the ability to do so. This is not the God of the Christian faith, for God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). When you follow Calvinism to its ultimate end, it makes God the author of sin (since there is no more freewill, but sin exists, God must be its author).

Regarding Rom. 3:23, Paul is saying that all people are subject to original sin, and that we all would have died in that sin had it not been for the new life of Christ which we receive in baptism.  Paul is not saying that all people commit sin (as I said, even though infants are subject to original sin, they do not commit sins by their own free will choices; not until they reach the age of reason). 

Note also that the Greek word for "all" (pantes) does not mean every single person.  For example, the same word is used in 1 Cor. 15:22 where Paul says that just as in Adam "all" have died, so in Christ "all" shall live. But we know that not all people have died (Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven), and we also know that not all people will live because Jesus taught us that some people will choose hell. Note also that in Rom. 5:19 Paul says "many" (polloi) were made sinners.  He changes the word from "all" to "many" which underscores that, when Paul says "all," he means "many."



5. Are We Really Free Moral Agents

Stan: Dear Mr. John, I do not believe that the Bible anywhere teaches that man is a
free moral agent. That teaching is a figment of the imagination of the harlot church system.(guess who) In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite. It tells us, "It is NOT of him that WILLETH or of him that runneth, but of GOD that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:16). The biggest lie that ever was told in human language is that all men are born free moral agents. They are not born free. Be honest! Ask, Is that child free who is born in the slums; the child of a harlot and a whoremonger; a child without a name, who grows up with the brand of shame upon his brow from the beginning; who grows up amidst vice, and never knows virtue until it is steeped in vice? Is such a child a FREE MORAL AGENT, free to act intelligently, as he chooses, upon all moral questions? Is that child free who grows up amidst falsehood, and never knows what truth is until it is steeped in ties; that never knows what honesty is until it is steeped in crime? Is that child born free? Is that child free who is born in a communist land and in a godless home; who is told by its government and taught by its teachers that there is no God in heaven, and never knows even a verse of Scripture until it is steeped in unbelief and infidelity? Is that child born free? Is he a free moral agent? It is a sham, a delusion, and a snare to say it. It is not true. All are not born into this world as free moral agents. The truth is much stronger than that, for the fact is, that NONE are free moral agents!

J. Salza: Stan, you are espousing a philosophy that was never taught by any Christian figure until John Calvin in the 16th century. That should give you pause, if you have intellectual integrity.  Did all the fathers, doctors and saints of the Church have it wrong?  No, they didn't.

We are free because we have been created in God's own image and likeness. God has redeemed us, but we choose to cooperate with this free gift by choosing to either accept it or reject it, in accord with how we respond to His grace. We are free because we can only love if we are free.  If we weren't free, we could not truly love, and if we could not love, we could not enjoy God in heaven for all eternity.  We are not robots, nor are we animals who live by instincts alone.  We are free agents of God, just like the angels are, only with flesh and bone who live in a temporal world.

If Adam didn't really have a choice, then God's warning him not to eat the forbidden fruit would have been a meaningless threat.  If Adam weren't free, he would have already been predetermined to disobey the divine command, any warning from God would have been irrelevant.  This gets into the mystery of God's sovereignty which includes, not excludes, our free will.  To argue that God was issuing a meaningless warning makes God a deceiver and a liar. This is not true (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). The only liar in the garden was Satan, the father of lies.

I suggest you read some of the Fathers writings about predestination, grace and the elect on this matter.  It is one of the most interesting and mysterious aspects of our faith.  Christ would not have had to redeem us by the blood of His cross if we weren't free, because God would not have been angered by our sins (which is the reason Christ had to suffer; to appease the Father).  Instead, we would have already been excused by our lack of freedom, since sin no longer would have been a choice.

Stan: John, come to your senses regarding works in Salvation. Remember the rich young ruler who asked Jesus, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have Eternal Life?" (Matthew 19:16). He obviously viewed himself as having kept the Law; and thus, accepted by God. However, the LORD Jesus knew better and met the rich young ruler's misconception with the piercing command, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come and follow Me." If the young ruler would have been WILLING to follow Christ, I believe Jesus would have let him keep his wealth. The whole thing is a heart condition. (Matthew 19:21). Realizing that the young man loved his riches more than he loved God, the LORD had to demonstrate that whatever stands in the way of complete submission of our heart and lives to God must be given up for us to be saved. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (16:26). Even if the thing to be relinquished is humanly difficult, Gospel Faith will be-- first of all-- demonstrated by a willing heart, before any attempted action.

J. Salza: Stan, I suggest you come home to the Catholic Church who was built by Christ upon the rock of St. Peter and who is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth, instead of trying to interpret Bible passages piecemeal on your own to somehow prove a point.  The passage about the rich man actually proves the truth of Catholic teaching.  The rich man kept the letter of the law by avoiding sin.  He also obviously had faith in Jesus.  But Jesus exhorts him to add works to his faith in order to attain salvation (by selling his goods to the poor). Jesus tells him that his faith alone will not save him.  We must add works to our faith.  This is why James says that we are "justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24).  When you decide to study the 2,000 year-old tradition of the Church, which includes the teachings of all the fathers, doctors and medievals, you will discover that they were all Catholic.  St. Peter warns us in his epistles that Scripture is not a matter of personal interpretation; in doing so, we may twist the meaning of the Scriptures to our own destruction.



6. A dialogue with a Protestant about "Faith Alone" and "Eternal Security

Dan: Hello John.  I see that you are thoroughly indoctrinated into Roman Catholicism and unable to properly interpret scripture. Hopefully you will take the time to read through the "Just for Catholics" website that I sent you. If you have any questions, email Joe at xxxxxxxxx. In response to eternal security- In Matthew 10:22, 24:13 and Mark 13:13, "endure to the end" is  NOT in addition to faith in Christ. Salvation IS NOT faith + endure to the end (works) = salvation.

J. Salza: Really? Then why did Jesus Christ say that we must “endure to the end to be saved”? (See Mt 10:22; 24:13; Mk 13:13). Why was I able, in my book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith, to devote nine pages (pp. 202-210) of Scripture quotations teaching that we can lose our salvation if we don’t endure to the end?

Dan: The people who endure to the end prove their faith and are the same ones who are saved. Those who do fall away give conclusive proof that they were never truly saved to begin with - (1 John 2:19). *Your interpretation is typical "natural man" (1 Cor. 2:14) theology.

J. Salza: If what you are saying is true, this means that you can’t claim “to be saved” at this point in time in your life (although I bet you do). This is because, as you have stated, “the people who endure to the end prove their faith and are the same ones who are saved.” Since the demonstration of whether or not one is saved is whether or not the person “endures to the end,” you can never know that you are saved until “the end,” that is, when you die. Thank you, Dan, for demonstrating the error of “once saved, always saved.”

Dan: The negative form of the Greek word, "adokimos" in 1 Cor. 9:27 is translated "castaway" in the KJV, "disqualified" {for the prize} in the NIV, "rejected" in Hebrews 6:8; and "reprobate" in Romans 1:28, 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:16; and 2 Cor. 13:5-7. The use of the word in 1 Cor. 9:27 is in relation to "service" and Paul is therefore speaking of his strong desire to avoid the Lord's disapproval of his "service" at the end of the road which pertains to rewards in heaven and NOT loss of salvation. In context, (1 Cor. 9:24) Paul mentions getting the "prize" from the Greek word "brabeion" Strong's # 1017, which is used metaphorically of the "reward" to be obtained hereafter by the faithful BELIEVER. An award, a prize in the public games. Salvation is a "gift" (Rom. 6:23)  and NOT a prize. *You confuse salvation with service and rewards.

J. Salza: This is the kind of forced exegesis that Protestants have to undertake to get around Scripture passages that deny their false theology. You admit that “adokimos” refers to the “reprobate” who are to be condemned by God. But when you come to 1 Cor. 9:27, you decide to interpret the word differently, somehow forcing it to mean those who will receive “the Lord’s disapproval of his service.” Sorry, but that isn’t going to work. First, in Paul’s discourse in 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Paul never once mentions “service.” Paul instead mentions running to win the “imperishable” (Greek, aphthartos) wreath (v.25). The word aphthartos appears only one other time in Scripture in 1 Cor. 15:51 in connection with human beings, where Paul says the dead will be raised “imperishable.” This “imperishable” crown refers to nothing less than the resurrection of our salvation. It has nothing to do with less rewards.

The word “brabeion” also has a soteriological implication. For example, Paul tells the Philippians, “I press on toward the goal for the prize (brabeion) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). This “prize” of the upward call is nothing less than heaven itself. You try to make a distinction between “prize” and “gift” but Scripture makes no such distinctions. Paul tells the same Philippians to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Salvation can also be called a prize because we have to work it out with fear and trembling. Certainly, the prize has been acquired for us by the voluntary and gratuitous sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but we also participate in acquiring the prize by cooperating with God’s grace. This is how we “work it out.” Since salvation is an all-or-nothing proposition, Paul uses the metaphor of a race. Paul says it is a matter of winning or losing the race for the “imperishable wreath” and “prize.” There is nothing about receiving more or less rewards.

Dan: In the analogy of the olive tree (Romans 11:19-23), Paul shows that Israel (the natural branches) were broken off because of UNBELIEF (despite being God's covenant nation) and that Gentiles  (wild branches) were grafted in through FAITH. *This is not a warning that believers may lose their salvation. "Branches were broken off and others grafted in" is based solely on the issue of FAITH. Paul, speaking to Gentile Christians, warns them not to boast and feel superior because God rejected some Jews through UNBELIEF. Gentiles are not the source of blessing, but have been grafted into the covenant of salvation that God made with Abraham by FAITH.- (Gal. 3:6-9,13,14). "Continue in his goodness"- refers to steadfast perseverance in faith. Steadfastness is a proof of the reality of faith and a by-product of salvation, not a means to it. Those who reject God's offer of salvation through faith, will be cut off. In Paul's analogy (vs. 24) God will graft the (believing) Jewish people back into the olive tree of His covenant blessings because it was theirs originally, unlike the wild branches (the Gentiles). *You completely missed this one.

J. Salza: Sorry, Dan, but you missed it. If Paul is not warning the Gentiles that they can lose their salvation, then why does Paul tell them “if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (v.21), and “otherwise you too will be cut off” (v.22)? Even though Paul is warning the Gentiles that they can be “cut off” like the Jews, you are telling me that God wasn’t really giving the Gentiles a warning? What kind of exegesis is this? Are you saying that the Jews were merely “cut off” from less rewards? Paul is speaking about salvation proper here. That is why he repeatedly warns the Jews to repent and come to Christ for salvation. They were in fact “cut off” from salvation because they thought that had to earn with “works of law,” and not faith in Christ. Paul is warning the Gentiles to persevere in their faith in Christ, or they too will be severed like the Jews. Also, tell me where Scripture teaches that steadfastness is not a means to salvation, but a “by-product” of it? Where does Scripture ever say that “works” are only a “by-product” of faith?

Also, you refer to the covenant God made with Abraham, but then say that it was “the Jews’ originally.” This is also incorrect. God made the covenant of grace with Abraham when he was a Gentile, not a Jew. The Abrahamic covenant applies equally to Jews and Gentiles and everyone else who places their faith in Jesus Christ.

Dan: Salvation is by grace, through FAITH, NOT WORKS (Eph. 2:8,9). Without having "saving" faith, you are not even capable of interpretating scripture. You "infuse" works into the definition of  faith which creates a "works based" false gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). The Greek words for faith/believe  are "pistis" and "pisteuo." These are two forms of the same word. "Pistis" being the noun form  and "pisteuo" being the verb form. To have faith in Christ for salvation means that you have   (belief, trust, reliance) in Him ALONE to save you. Nothing in the root meaning of either word  carries any concept of works. This kind of belief should result in actions appropriate to the belief, but the actions (works) are not inherent in the belief. "Saving faith" is a complete trust in the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ as the only means of salvation. ***Either you are trusting 100% in the finished work of Christ ALONE to save you or else you are 100% lost. My prayer for you is that you will come to place your faith in Christ ALONE for salvation and be saved (John 3:15-18,36  Acts 16:30,31).

J. Salza: The problem you have is that James says that salvific justification is obtained “by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). If Paul says that salvation is NOT obtained by works, and James says that salvation IS obtained by works, then the inspired writers are obviously talking about two different kinds of works (since Scripture cannot contradict itself). The original Greek demonstrates this as well. As I set forth on the website and in my book in painful detail (pp. 157-188), the “works” that do not justify are those performed by people who try to obligate God to reward them.

These were primarily the Jews who had made their covenant relationship with God into a contractual arrangement. They viewed God as a debtor who owed them, and not as a Father who would reward them for being faithful. Paul primarily refers to the “works of the Mosaic” law as the type of works that do not justify. James is referring to works done with faith in the grace of Jesus Christ. You are missing the key paradigm between law versus grace which is critical to understanding the biblical teaching on justification. In addition, no where does the Bible use the term “saving faith.” No where does the Bible say you need saving faith for “interpretating (sic)” the Scriptures. 

You are also in error in your understanding of the Greek “pistis” and “pisteo.”  You see, the meaning of the Greek word also includes “obedience.” Obedience is separate from faith, and something that must be added to faith to be justified. For example, in John 3:36 it says “He who believes (pisteo) in the Son has eternal life; He who does not OBEY (apeitheo) the Son shall not see life.” See also 1 Peter 2:7-8. This means that “belief” includes “obedience,” and since Jesus commanded us to do good works and endure to the end to be saved, true “faith” in Christ includes doing the “works” that He commanded us to do. It is faith + works that lead to salvation, not faith alone.

Dan: Until you understand what saving faith is, you'll never understand the grace of God or salvation. You'll just continue to believe in whatever your church teaches you. The Catholic church is not 2000 years old, but unfortunately that sales pitch has lead millions to bondage and UNBELIEF- (2 Cor. 4:3,4). I trust God's word, not man's tradition.

J. Salza: Dan, where does the Bible ever use the phrase “saving faith”? Please show me where the Bible makes such a distinction between true faith and false faith. Please also find one person (father, doctor, medieval, etc.) before the Reformation who taught eternal security and “faith alone” theology. I can assure you that there is none.  This is a novel theological invention of the Protestant reformers, and has no foundation in Scripture.  You are ignoring the 2,000 year-old teaching tradition of the Catholic and apostolic Church.

Your argument about enduring to the end is fallacious. You argue faith alone, and yet Jesus says that those who have faith must endure in that faith to the end.  Faith alone never obtains the grace of justification and final salvation.  In fact, your position even gives you less security in your salvation.  This is because you never really know whether you are saved until the end.  Catholics know we are saved, so long as we persevere in faith.  We know salvation is ours to lose.  Because you cannot predict the future, you don't even know if salvation is yours to begin with. 

Your exegesis of 1 Cor. 9:27 is simply wrong, and you cannot find one father of Church until the Reformation that agrees with you.  You say reprobate is in relation to service, but that is not what the Scripture says.  Paul is saying that he must endure or he will be cut off.  Adokimos always refers to the reprobates as you indicate, and these refer to those condemned. Your exegesis of Romans 11 is likewise flawed.  The Gentiles already have faith, and yet Paul warns them that they too can be cut-off.  This means they can lose the salvation they currently have.

You also are not grasping the faith versus works paradigm of St. Paul, which is the foundation of his theology on justification.  When Paul says we are not justified by works (Romans, Galatians), he is referring to "works of law," not good works.  Works of law refer to the Mosaic law, or any worldview in which we believe God owes us salvation by our works.  The Jews believed that they could get to heaven by their works of law.  The Gentiles also began imbibing this mentality. This is why Paul says the wages of sin is death.  The Catholic Church teaches, like Paul, that we are saved by grace, not works of law. 

When we humble ourselves and acknowledge that God does not owe us salvation, we move from a system of law to the system of grace. In the system of grace, we are justified by faith and works acting together.  This is why James says that we are justified by works and not by faith alone (unlike what you believe).  Is James contradicting Paul?  No, because James is teaching about works in the system of grace, while Paul is teaching about works in the system of law.  If we are in a system of law, the law will condemn us because we cannot live up to its exacting standards.  If we are in a system of grace, God has mercy on us, and even though we are not perfect, God forgives us our sins, so long as we persevere in "faith working through love." (Gal. 5:6).

The only time Scripture uses the phrase “faith alone” is when James says “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” in James 2:24. This obviously is a big problem for your theology.  St. Paul uses the word "faith" over a hundred times in Scripture, but never said "faith alone" or "faith only."  Yet Paul used the word "alone" more than any New Testament writer.  Don't you think that if Paul wanted to teach "faith alone" theology, he would have used "faith alone?"  He didn't, because a man is justified by works, and NOT by faith alone (James 2:24).



7. Outside the Church there Is no Salvation

Michael: Do you think you could compile citations for a topic/heading entitled: Necessity of the Church. In other words, the principle that it is important, even necessary, to belong to the institutional, visible Church that Christ founded. Of course I am not suggesting something along the lines of Fr. Feeney's misunderstanding of "outside the Church there is no salvation." But rather an "answer" to the misunderstanding that baptism outside of and therefore informal membership in the Catholic Church are just as expedient to salvation as formal membership in Her. I can explain this to someone using modern Catholic theological parlance, but it would be wonderful to have a dozen or so direct Scriptural references to back me up. At this time, I am not as well versed in the Scriptures as I hope to be after a year or two of daily reading, so perhaps you could help me and your website visitors in this regard? Thank you for your time, insight, prayers and suggestions. And thanks for the great website!

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,


J. Salza: Thanks for your thoughtful email.  I hope the website helps demonstrate, through the Scriptures and the Fathers, that the fullness of truth is only found in the Catholic Church.  I hope we cover the Church’s infallible doctrine "extra ecclesiam nulla salus” by demonstrating that the Catholic Church is the one, true and only Church founded by our Savior.

Regarding your comments on "no salvation outside the Church," it is not accurate to say that "informal membership in the Catholic Church are just as expedient to salvation as formal membership in Her."  That is not true.  If it were, then one religion would just be as good as another. This is a heresy called indifferentism which the Church has repeatedly condemned.

Objectively speaking, there is no possible way of salvation outside Christ and His Church.  Those who will be saved will be saved by Christ through the Catholic Church.  It is true that, non-Catholic Christians, by virtue of their baptism, are imperfectly united to the Church. But this does not mean that salvation is equally expedient for them.  To the contrary, it is because they do not have the fullness of the sacramental life of the Church, which brings about the very salvation at issue.  If you study what the Church has said on this, you will see the nearly 2,000-year tradition on this teaching. It was only after the Second Vatican Council where liberal theologians began to challenge the age-old teaching of no salvation outside the Church.  They began to say that invincible ignorance was a reason that everyone, or at least most people, would be saved.

This is not true, and it does not comport with the Tradition of the Church. Invincible ignorance of the Church is the exception, not the rule. Pius IX, the pope that first introduced the teaching "invincible ignorance," was writing in an age where there were not the forms of mass communication we have today. Certainly, in our era, most people should know about Jesus Christ and what He teaches regarding salvation. In addition, Pius IX was directing his teaching toward certain sects that were proclaiming the Church was no longer necessary for salvation.

In affirming that the Church was necessary for salvation, Pius IX carved out an exception for those who were ignorant of the gospel, “by no fault of their own.” Again, this is an exception, not the rule. Moreover, the exception has not risen to the level of a dogmatic teaching like EENS is. In today’s world of secularism and materialism, the Church needs all the more to implore people to repent of their false gods and come to Christ to be saved.  This makes the false ecumenism and irenicism in the Church so harmful.  We need to preach the gospel, not water it down.  It is a matter of salvation, because, outside the Church, there is none.

Grace be with you.



8. Questions from a Lapsed but Returning Catholic

Laurie: I wanted to thank you for the wonderful website,  I am a "lapsed" Catholic who has been trying to find A church to return to.  At first I examine the Protestant beliefs and found many of them appealing. I even looked at their scriptural support.  But then I was speaking to my mother-in-law (Catholic) about it and she said before I make a decision it would be only fair to see the other side.  So I found your website and starting reading scripture and their relation to the Catholic teachings.  It has been a most positive experience!  I now see the succession of the apostles, that Jesus IS the body and blood at the Lord's Supper at mass, along with many other subjects.

There are a few, however, I still have trouble on, I didn't want to get into all of them because I really just wanted to thank you for your site.  But I'm still confused about venial/mortal sins and justification and maybe you could clear the justification issue up for me, if you have time.  In Rom 3:20 you said Paul is speaking about Mosaic law.  O.k. that's fine, I get that, but in 3:24 it still says "...justified freely by his grace through redemption of Jesus Christ". It doesn't say, along with good works, etc. And then if you think about it, aren't the Catholic Laws on the same level as the Mosaic laws?  Rules Catholics are being "accounted" for.  For example, sacraments (reconciliation to a priest only), Holy Days of Obligation?  Where does days of Holy Obligation comes from anyway?

I don't expect to find all the answers I'm looking for but I just have a hard time with what seems to me is a difference in Catholic law and God's laws. I ultimately have to answer to God, not the Church. Also, saints in the bible is used in reference to people on earth, as well as, heaven.  How do we know that the references in the Bible is not speaking of people on earth?

Thank you for your time


J. Salza: Hi Laurie. Thank you for your kind words.  It is wonderful that you are investigating your faith of baptism.  It is also good to look at the Protestant side.  With careful and faithful study, I believe you will begin to see all the inconsistencies with Protestantism, and how Protestantism and its 30,000 different denominations (all borne from the Reformation 1500 years after Christ's ascension) is not God's plan.  The Lord Jesus left us one Church - the holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

In regard to your questions, Rom. 3:24 is not inconsistent with Rom. 3:20.  Rom. 3:24 precisely provides the Catholic belief - that we are justified by the grace of Jesus Christ through His redemption.  Without Jesus' death and resurrection, our faith and works would be meaningless.  I cite Rom. 3:20 because Protestants often use the verse in an effort to prove that we are not saved or justified by works.  But this means "works of the Mosaic law” or any work where we try to obligate God, not good charitable works.  See James 2:24 where he writes that we are justified by works and not by the Protestant idea of faith alone (sola fide). Holy Days of Obligation come from the Commandments of God. The Third Commandment God gave us is “Keep holy the Sabbath.” When Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant, the Church changed the Holy Day of Obligation from Saturday to Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection.

The Old Covenant worship laws were superceded by the New Covenant worship laws, the seven sacraments.  Jesus Christ instituted seven sacraments which the Church has celebrated for 2,000 years (the Protestants have now rejected all but one, and sometimes two).  These are means by which Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit and endows our soul with sanctifying grace (most especially in the Holy Eucharist which is the source and summit of the Catholic faith).  These are the normative means that Jesus chose to confer His grace upon us during our earthly existence. 

Regarding “Catholic law versus God’s laws,” there is no distinction because the Catholic Church is God’s Church, and we are to submit to her laws and teachings out of love and fear of God. What the Church teaches on faith and morals is in fact God's laws, because the Church has been endowed by Christ with this special charism, as Jesus told Peter “whatever you bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:18-19). There is, however, a distinction between laws and truth.  Laws (canon, liturgical, etc.), while rooted in divine law, can be changed by the Church.  The truth that Christ gave us through the apostles (on His Divinity, the sacraments, the Trinity, salvation, etc.) cannot be changed.

Justification is a theological concept that refers to our right relationship with God. It is the moment that we are freed from sin and infused with God’s sanctifying grace. The infusion of grace into our souls is the formal cause of justification. This happens at the moment of our baptism and continues throughout the rest of our lives (by having faith, receiving the sacraments, doing good works).  The Protestant understanding of justification is generally that it is a one-time event (e.g., someone gets saved on January 21, 2005 because they accepted Jesus into their life as Savior at an altar call.  They have nothing more to do.)  This, of course, is not true.

On venial and mortal sin, see my link on Purgatory and 1 John 5:16-17. John distinguishes venial sin (that which does not preclude our entrance into heaven) and mortal sin (that which does preclude our entrance into heaven unless it is forgiven by God, normatively for Catholics, in the sacrament of reconciliation).

As far as the saints, as you just stated, they include both those on earth and in heaven, because we are all one in the body of Christ.  Regarding the saints in heaven, see Apoc. 6:9-11, where these saints are offering imprecatory prayers to God so that he will avenge their blood by exacting punishments on earth. This is one of many examples where God responds to the prayers of the saints in heaven (just as he responds to the prayers of the saints on earth). See my link on the saints which provides more Scriptural support for this teaching.



9. What Does it Mean to Know Christ?

Shin: Hi John. Thank you for always answering my questions. I have another question. To quote your website: "Jesus' teaching on the separation of the sheep from the goats is based on the works that were done during their lives, not just on their acceptance of Christ as Savior. In fact, this teaching even demonstrates that those who are ultimately saved do not necessarily have to know Christ."

What does it mean for someone not to know Christ? Is it possible for someone who has heard of Christ and even been brought to Church by friends a couple of times as a visitor and yet not know Christ? Thank you very much and hope to hear from you soon.

Best Wishes,


J. Salza: Shin, the point I am making here is that Jesus bases salvation and damnation upon what we have actually done during our lives, not on how much faith we had in Him (since faith alone does not save us).  The point was made to rebut the Protestant contention that we are saved by faith alone.  The Church teaches that those who do not know Christ can still be saved if they persevere in faith, hope and love. These are the people who are invincibly ignorant of Christ, meaning that they don’t know Christ through no fault of their own. In such a case, God will judge them based on how they love God and their neighbor as themselves, notwithstanding their limited knowledge. God is fair, because He is just and merciful.  Those who have learned about Christ and His truth are held to an even higher standard.  Saint Peter writes that if we learn about Christ and the truth, and still fall away, it would have been better for us not to know Him at all.  Jesus teaches us that to whom much is given, much more will be required.

We don't know whether someone who attends Mass once or twice really knows Jesus.  Only God can judge the heart. God will judge how we respond to His grace, which He gives to all people. When someone hears the claims of Christ and the truth, he is bound to investigate whether or not what he heard is true.  If he is indifferent to the truth, God will judge Him for his indifferentism.  If he receives false information, God will judge him according to how he responded to what he knows.  As Christ said in the Book of Revelation, "woe that you are either hot or cold; because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth." God judges the sincerity of someone's intentions.  But it is true that Catholics, who are practicing the faith, have the best chance for salvation, not because of their own merits, but because of the charity and mercy of God (which they receive in the seven sacraments). 

The best we can do is love God and neighbor with our whole heart, mind and strength, bear witness to the truth of Christ and His Church, and leave the rest up to God.

Shin: Hi John. Thank you for your email. One reason I'm becoming a Catholic is to quote you, "The Church teaches that those who do not know Christ can still be saved if they persevere in faith, hope and love.” I come from a Chinese background and Chinese culture does not have a tradition of Christianity like in the West. My father just passed away and although I have brought him to Mass several times, he was not a Christian as no one has really properly preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to him, me not being mature enough. Everyone who knew him could testify that he was a wonderful person, so kind, humble and unassuming. The fact that the Catholic church teaches that there is salvation for the righteous who are non-Christians is deeply consoling for me as it allows the possibility of my father being in heaven. I asked a priest at Church the other day about my father. He said that if my father was a good man, even though he was not a Christian, then he would be counted among the sheep and would be in heaven.

Thank you very much and God bless you.


J. Salza: Dear Shin. Congratulations on becoming Catholic (welcome Home!).  Best wishes for your classes.  Soon you will receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  The sacrament will change your life. Remember also to pray for your father, that God may bring Him into His heavenly peace. God bless you.



10. Prevenient or "Wooing" Grace

Patron: Here is a summary of where I'm at with the Catholic Wallet Tract.  Right now it almost looks like it will be an exposition on prevenient grace, "wooing" grace.  The reason for this is to provide proper instruction to Catholics, deepen their faith, and give them the answer to the calumny that Catholics supposedly work their way into heaven apart from the Easter Mysteries. Any general insights on prevenient grace, wooing grace would be helpful.  Any insights on prevenient in relation to Mary would be helpful.  Mary will make it more three-dimensional and "incarnational".

Regardless of any insights or not, please say a quick pray about this Catholic Wallet Tract.

Scripture Quotes tied to Prevenient Grace, "wooing" grace

"I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  Choose life then, that you and your descendents may live.  Deut. 30;19

"...And afterwards the continual holocaust, both on the new moons and on all the solemnities of the Lord that were consecrated, and on which a free will offering was made to the Lord."  Ezra 3;5

"And the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell in Jerusalem."  Neh. 11;2

"Because I called you and you refused, I stretched out my hand, and there was none that regarded."  Prov. 1;24

"If you be willing and will harken to me, you shall eat the good things of the land.  But if you will not, and you will provoke me to wrath, the sword shall devour you because the mouth of the Lord has spoken it."  Isa. 1;19-20

"If I do this willingly, I have a reward.  But if unwillingly, it is a stewardship entrusted to me.  What then is my reward?"  1 Cor. 9;17-18

"Tend the flock of God which is among you, governing not under constraint, but willingly, according to God."  1 Pet. 5;2

J. Salza: One of the best examples of prevenient grace not mentioned above is demonstrated in Acts 10:1-4, 31, 44-49.  In these passages, we learn that Cornelius, who was a non-baptized Gentile centurion, offered prayers that ascended as a memorial before God.  God received this non-baptized man's prayers because he sought the true God.  This actual grace moved Cornelius to be born again in water baptism, and thus saved by Jesus Christ.  This demonstrates that God does give actual grace to those not yet baptized, for the purposes of moving them to baptism and the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ which can only be found in the Holy Catholic Church. 

However, note that Cornelius was already praying to the true God.  This does not mean that pagans, who worship false gods, will be provided such grace, unless they are invincibly ignorant of Christ and their prayers concern their individual salvation (Aquinas wrote about this in the Summa).  Those who are not praying to the true God will still be heard by God if they are earnestly praying for their salvation, and not for temporal gifts (such as good weather, food, world peace, etc).  This gives us Catholics a severe duty to evangelize those who do not know the true God, so that they will seek Him and, like Cornelius, be moved to receive the salvation that God desires for them in His only begotten Son.

Grace be with you.

John Salza
Author, The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith (Our Sunday Vistor)



11. Once Saved, Always Saved?

Patron: John, how do you respond to the Protestant doctrine “once saved, always saved?”

J. Salza: The doctrine of "once saved, always saved" was invented by John Calvin during the Reformation.  Under this theory, the Protestant believes that one is saved when he accepts Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.  This is comforting - after all, who wouldn't want assurance?  According to this view, true Christians are the ones who will persevere to the end.  For those who accepted Christ during their lives but did not persevere to the end, the doctrine calls these people superficial Christians.  So true Christians will go to heaven and superficial Christians will not.  Not only is this teaching not Scriptural, it is difficult to accept the teaching on reason.

The only distinction between a true Christian and a superficial Christian is that the superficial Christian did not persevere to the end.  Otherwise, the two types of Christians appear to be the same.  The superficial Christian has all the earmarks of a true Christian except that he did not persevere. But this necessarily means that the true Christian cannot know that he really is a true Christian either until the end of his life.  He, too, won't know whether his conversion was genuine until the end of his life.  Therefore, despite all the talk about assurance, he cannot be sure.

This doctrine, therefore, actually gives its adherents less assurance of their salvation.  It necessarily imposes upon them uncertainty until the end.  The Catholic (and Scriptural) view, however, does give assurance to the believer that he is in fact currently saved (a true Christian), and that, if he perseveres to the end, he will be saved at death. We also know that God will give all the graces necessary for us to be faithful to the end (because of our freewill, the question is always whether we will accept the grace or not). Thus, Catholics know that it is theirs to lose.  Protestant Calvinists don't even know whether it is theirs to begin with.

John Salza



12. Grace and Free will

Catie: Mr. Salza, one of the points that we have been studying is the idea of predestination. Protestants believe in predestination, that God has chosen them for eternal salvation and nothing can take that away. Of course we believe that God can and does choose people to salvation, however it is up to us to accept Him and live the way He wants us to etc. The sticky part is when he (my boyfriend) says that nothing can be taken out of the hand of God. Yes, that's true...but if we sin...So it is very hard to explain and agree but disagree at the same time. He does believe in Free Will, that we have the choice to either choose Him or not. That when we are faced with temptations it is up to us to choose which. What do the Bible and the church say about the interplay between grace and free will?

J. Salza: The main point about predestination in Scripture is this: Sometimes the verse is about God's grace (like when in John 6:37-44 it says the Father draws people), and sometimes it is about human free will (like in John 5:40 when Jesus says the Jews refuse to come to Him). You can never rule out one over the other. Grace and freewill work together, but the Church does not exactly tell us how they do. That is a mystery. There are two main schools of thought - Thomism and Molinism.

I prefer the Thomist side which essentially says all is based on grace, without downplaying our free will. God's grace moves us to Him and prepares us to receive His grace. Then He sends us grace. If we do not resist the grace, then the grace works in and through us to accomplish God's end, in cooperation with our free will. Aquinas called the effect of this initial grace "operating grace." As we cooperate with the grace, the effect becomes "cooperating grace." But we can also resist the grace. Both Scripture and Aquinas teach that God allows us to resist the grace.

But Aquinas says that if God wills it, He can have us receive the grace infallibly. This would happen in extraordinary circumstances. Most theologians attribute these extraordinary graces to situations where others are fervently praying or making sacrifices for the person who is predestined (like Monica praying for Augustine). I also believe God shows special benevolence to certain people because He is a personal God, and certain people please Him more than others. You can see this in Exodus 32-33. Predestination to grace refers to those who don't initially resist the grace, but don't persevere in the grace to the end, which is glory.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



13. Ephesians 2:8-9 grace versus works

Zack: Ephesians 2:8-9 says this (according to New American Bible "The Catholic Youth Bible" revised):

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is a gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast."

How can one be saved by good works if the Bible clearly says here that one is not saved by works but by faith alone?

I'd just like to know what you think.

Thank you,


J. Salza: Zack, many people don't understand Ephesians 2:8-9. In this passage, Paul says we are not saved by works. But James says that we ARE saved by works and not by faith alone in James 2:24. Is there a contradiction? No.

The difference is that Paul and James are talking about two different kinds of works. When Paul speaks of works, he is generally referring to "works of law" (read also Galatians) which refer to works done under the Mosaic law. The Jews believed that they still had to perform their ritual works to be saved (e.g., circumcision). In Acts 15, Peter declared that circumcision was no longer required for salvation. We are saved by grace, not works. When Paul refers to "works," he is also referring to any type of work where we attempt to obligate God and make him a debtor to us. The Jews were attempting to do this in their rigid system of law.

Paul is teaching that, with the death and resurrection of Christ, the Father has invited us into the system of grace where we now can have a gracious relationship with God. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ, not works of law. However, once we transition from the condemnation of the law into the system of grace (Rom 5:1-5), we must add works to our faith. We are not justified or saved by faith alone (James 2:24).

Thus, there is a distinction between "works of law" and "good works." The former are done in a system of law which cannot save us, and the latter are performed in a system of grace by which we are saved. If we approach God with faith in Christ that He is our Father and will reward us not because He is obligated but out of His sheer benevolence, we please Him in a system of grace and He will save us. If we approach God impersonally and try to obligate him to reward us for our works, He will condemn us. The distinction is "law" versus "grace." This permeates Paul's teaching on justification.

I recently send this short analysis to another of my patrons:

Here is the critical issue that you must understand: there are works in a system of law, and works in a system of grace. When we do works in a system of law, we stand condemned. That is because in this system, we try to obligate God like an employer. But there is nothing we can do to merit any payment from God.

When we do works in a system of grace, they are profitable to our salvation. That is because in a system of grace, we approach God as a Father who loves us, not as an employer who owes us. We move from a system of law to a system of grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1-5).

That is why Paul says that we are not "justified by works of law." He is referring primarily to the Mosaic law (e.g., circumcision) or any work where we try to obligate God. This is to be distinguished from works performed under the auspices of grace. There is a difference between "works of law" and "good works." This is why James says that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

Paul's teaching that we are not justified by works of law and James' teaching that we ARE justified by works appear to be inconsistent with each other, until you recognize that they are talking about two different systems: law and grace.

Grace be with you.

John Salza

Zack: Thank you for your quick response. I'm a Catholic, but I attend a primarily Free Will Baptist school (though other denominations are present). They teach in their Bible studies that one must trust Christ with their life and believe in Him, and then after you've "been saved" you should have the desire to do good works and follow God's law but that they aren't required to get into heaven. They teach that good works are to lay up treasures in heaven for us to enjoy when we get there by believing in Christ.

They also suggest that people who believe that good works are necessary to enter the kingdom of God are hypocritical... and that they are like the Pharisees who Christ compared with a grave -- looks nice on the outside, but all that lies inside is a rotting corpse because they only do their works to impress the people watching them. That's what I've heard all the time at school, so that's why I was wondering what you thought.

They never bothered to mention James 2:24... I never knew the Bible said anything like that.

Thank you again for the info!


J. Salza: Zack, many Baptists are very anti-Catholic and ignorant of what Scripture really says. Be careful. The irony is that they ridicule the Catholic Church, the very Church that gave them the Bible!

If you want more information on how to understand and defend your faith using the bible, I recommend my book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith. I wrote it with the Baptists and other Protestants in mind.

The Bible never says that we are saved by "faith alone" and that good works just automatically flow out of believers. It says just the opposite. The New Testament was written primarily for true, genuine believers who were being warned not to fall away from the faith. There is nothing about "once saved, always saved" anywhere in Scripture.

Neither faith nor works can save us outside of God's grace. But once we accept Christ with faith and move into a system of grace, we must add good works to our faith in order to be justified. James tells us so. So does Jesus. The good works are not automatic either. We must make a conscious effort to do them. We can also refuse to do them, even though we still believe in Jesus. Make sense? Faith and works are two different things, and they must be coupled together to procure justification. In fact, Jesus Himself said "by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matt 12:37). Jesus is saying that even our words can justify us or condemn us. Jesus looks at our actions, not just our faith.

Regarding Romans 3, if you read that section and also read Paul's letter to the Galatians, you see how Paul is emphasizing "works of law" in reference to the Mosaic law or any type of work where we try to obligate God. These works have nothing to do with the good works that James requires in James 2:24.

God bless.

John Salza



14. Are we saved by works?

Chris: Dear to whom this concerns,

I have some questions on what you wrote about salvation. You said you need works, and supplies some verses to back it up. So I went and looked up those verses, since you didn't actually put what they said, just all in general. So anyway, I looked them up, and it never said you need works for salvation. I read ahead and past on them and alot of them talked about wars and what they would get for punishment, and getting treasure in heaven for our good deeds, not salvation. If you could please contact me as soon as possible.

Thank you for your time.

J. Salza: There are many passages in Scripture where Jesus and the sacred writers teach that works are required for salvation.

For example, in the parable of the talents, Jesus teaches that those who increased their talents with good works were saved. Those who buried their talents by not doing good works were condemned (Matt 25:14-30).

When Jesus comes at the end of the world, He grants salvation based upon what we have actually done, not how much faith we had (Matt 25:31-46; 16:27). Jesus determines our eternal destiny based upon what we have done with our lives.

In Rev 2:5, Jesus warns the faithful to do the good works they did at first, otherwise he will remove their place in heaven. This proves that good works are necessary for salvation. Our deeds follow us, and determine our eternal destiny (Rev 14:13; 20:12; 22:12). That is why Jesus says "He who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt 10:22).

Paul echoes Jesus' teaching about good and bad works and how they determine our salvation (see Rom 2:5-8; Rom 14:10,12; 2 Cor 5:10). Romans 2:5-8 is especially clear. There is a polarity between bad works which lead to hell, and good works which lead to heaven, not just more rewards. Paul also explains this in 1 Cor 3:15 where he describes how a person must pass through fire based on the works he performed during his life. If the works are bad enough, the person is condemned. If the works are mixed good and bad, the bad works retard but not prevent his salvation.

See also James 2. James is speaking about salvific justification when He says "Can his faith save him?" (v.14). James' answer is an unqualified NO. If the Christian does not perform good works, he cannot be saved. "A man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24).

I hope this helps.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



15. Saved by faith alone?

Rick: My dear Brother,

I understand how you have missed the mark on this. You are confusing reward with salvation. Two different things. Yes, we will ALL be judged for our works. The unbeliever unto eternal death for his rejection of Jesus Christ, the true believer unto reward. We, the true believers, will not perish for our works, we will be rewarded for good works, through faith and lose rewards, what we could have had, for failing not to do good works by lack of faith.

God does not contradict. Please read Epheisans 2:1-10. It is perfectly clear what salvation is and what works are. If we rely on works to save us, then we have become legalistic and not relying on what Christ has done. Yes, in James 2:18 says You say you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.

You see Brother, works has nothing to do with keeping your salvation, but rather simply obedience to God which manifests our faith in Him. A three fold result, it proves our faith to a lost world, pleases God, rewards us for obedience. Nothing more.

I pray God will open your eyes and heart to what He has shown you this day.

One thing that I would suggest, receive the Holy Spirit as you receive Jesus Christ. While the Holy Spirit is a gift of God, freely given, just as salvation is freely geiven, the Holy Spirit must be received. (Study Acts) If you have not yet received Him, and it appears you have not from your misunderstanding of God's word, please do so. He will enlighten you. That's why He was given, to lead us to Truth.

May God richly bless you my dear Brother

Rick H

J. Salza: Rick, the Bible expressly contradicts your ideas about "faith alone" and salvation. The Bible NEVER says we are justified/saved by "faith alone." In fact, the only time the phrase "faith alone" appears in the bible is to negate this proposition. James says "a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." (James 2:24). James is talking about salvific justification because he says "Can his faith SAVE him?" (James 2:14). James is not talking about rewards but salvation proper. James' answer to this rhetorical question is a resounding NO.

Go also to 1 Cor 3:11-17. This is another section that is squarely opposed to your view about rewards v. salvation. In this section, using metaphors, Paul explains that those who do good will be saved, and those who do evil will be condemned (the metaphors Paul uses are gold, silver v. wood, hay). There is a clear polarity between doing good which leads to salvation (v.14) and doing bad which leads to damnation (v.17). This is not about "less rewards."

Verse 15 poses another problem for you. Paul says that those who built with both materials will suffer loss but will still receive their reward. In order to receive the reward, the person must pass through fire. This fire purges the person of the defects which led to the bad works in the first place. The Greek for "suffer loss" refers to a punishment through expiation. In your theology, there is no place for a post-death punishment by fire process before a person is saved. This isn't about receiving "less rewards" because the person STILL receives the reward (which is salvation). Yet the saved person first receives a fiery expiation for their sins after their death.

Jesus also never teaches that "faith alone" leads to salvation. He always focuses on works, not as the basis of more rewards, but to obtain salvation. In fact, Jesus even says "by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matt 12:37). So you see, Rick, there is nothing about receiving salvation by "faith alone." The Bible is clear that we must add works to our faith to obtain salvation. As James says, we must be doers of the law, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. This is the teaching of the Fathers and the 2,000 year-old Catholic Church.

Rick: Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

John, I stated this in my original email. What more do you need?

J. Salza: Rick, this is a common mistake. Paul says we are not saved by works in Eph 2:8-9, but James says we ARE saved by works in James 2:24. How do we reconcile the two? They appear to be entirely inconsistent. Here is the answer:

Paul is speaking about works done in a system of law, where we view God as owing us salvation for our works. These types of works can only condemn us. The Catholic Church dogmatically affirmed this teaching at the Council of Trent. When Paul speaks of "works," he is primarily referring to works of the Mosaic law. This is why Paul usually calls them "works of law."

However, James is talking about works done in a system of grace, where we approach God with faith, as a Father, not an employer. When we approach God in faith knowing that He doesn't owe us anything but will reward us because of His goodness, He views us with grace and rewards us for our faith and works. These do not refer to "works of law," but works of love. This is the key paradigm of the biblical teaching on justification.

You have to understand the distinction between law versus grace. When we are under law, neither our faith nor our works can please God. When we are in grace, both our faith and works please God. I hope this helps.

Rick: John, What you have referenced is the evidence of salvation. James does not say that we are saved by works. What he is saying is, you may profess your faith and that alone does you no good. You must live your faith to be pleasing to the Lord. Throughout the new testament, there is scripture that illustrates what we must do to be saved, Acts 16:29-31 for example. It is our faith in the shed Blood and resurection of Jesus Christ that justifies us. Yes, when we are justified, we serve out of love for the Father's gift of His son. But our service DOES NOT save us. I agree that if we are not serving God with all that we have, then His love is not in us. I have not met anyone, that is a true believer in our Lord, that is not serving Him in some way. It is human nature to want to repay a debt. Although we know that we never can, yet it is an effort of love. You continue to try to save yourself through works and you may be disappointed. I do, however, get the impression that you do understand that faith and trust in Christ is the way of salvation. You seem to believe that works help to keep it. That's OK, if that's what gets you to continue in faith. I prefer to follow Jesus purely out of love.

J. Salza: Rick, I agree that love is the key. It is the greatest of all the theological virtues. But we are not saved by faith alone. James tells us that faith is faith and works are works. They are two separate entities, and must be coupled together to achieve salvation. Faith (a mental process) and works (an action) are required for salvation.

When James asks Can his faith save him?, the answer is a resounding NO. James is talking about salvation. The answer to the question is NO because we must add works to our faith. Works just don't flow automatically out of true believers. The Bible never says anything about false faith or saving faith. Faith may truly exist, but it is not enough to save us. Even the demons believe in Jesus and tremble. Remember, James was talking to "saved Christians" in his epistle. Yet James continues to warn them to avoid sin and do good, or they will lose their salvation. That is because their faith was not enough to save them.

Abraham is a perfect example. Even though he was justified in Genesis 15, God still required him to sacrifice his son (a "work") which justified him in Genesis 22. If Abraham would not have added this work to his faith, he would have fallen out of favor with God. Thus, James says that Abraham was justified by his works.

Faith and works are required for salvation. God accepts them when done in a system of grace. This means we don't view God as a debtor who owes us, but as a loving Father who will reward us out of His goodness. Neither our faith nor our works can please God outside of grace. The key distinction is law versus grace. We are saved by God's grace through faith and works, and not faith alone.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



16. Predestination and Grace: Thomism or Molinism?

Ken: John, on the question of grace and predestination, are you a Thomist or a Molinist?

J. Salza: I am a Thomist. I reject Molinism as contrary to the nature of God and am a bit surprised that Pope Paul V didnt do the same back in 1607. I think St. Francis de Sales talked him out of it. I know, its more complicated than that. But St. Thomas is the greatest mind the Church has ever known, and I hope the Church will soon follow Pope Leo XIIIs exhortation to return to his scholastic methodology which will be an antidote to the modernism we see today. Let me provide a very brief summary of these two schools of thought.

St. Thomas teaches that God, who is the Prime Mover, grants man grace which moves mans will toward the good. It is all God at this point. God makes the first move. Thomas calls this operating grace. At this point, man can resist or not resist the grace. If man does not resist the grace, it is the grace that is allowing his nonresistance and cooperation. Then, by using his freewill, man can actually move toward the good, and the grace strengthens and supports his will toward that end. This grace is called cooperating grace. Both operating and cooperating grace are the same grace, but they produce two effects. The first is to move the will (by virtue of the grace alone); the second is to will the movement of the will (by virtue of the same grace along with human freewill). This is why Paul says, for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13). Gods grace first moves the will to the good, and then leads the person to work the good. Thus, St. Thomas teaching is clearly based on the divinely Word of God as taught in Sacred Scripture.

The Molinist system is based on the teaching of the Spanish Jesuit Molina which says that God looks at future merits and demerits in determining how He grants grace. In other words, Molinists believe that God considers how a person is going to respond to the grace in determining how He grants the grace. The Molinists call Gods knowledge of these future contingencies his middle knowledge (scientia media). Molina came up with this system because he didnt understand St. Thomas teaching in light of 1Tim 2:4, where Paul reveals that God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Molina couldnt understand how God could reprobate certain people without considering their future merits or demerits. Molina thus (erroneously) viewed St. Thomas teaching as smacking of determinism. This is a complete misreading of St. Thomas.

St. Thomas is clear that God antecedently wills all people to be saved, which is consistent with 1Tim 2:4. As Prime Mover, God continues to grant man grace to save his soul. However, as we have learned, man can resist this grace. When man habitually resists Gods grace so that He places himself in opposition to God, God withdraws His grace and allows the person to fall away. Thus, God antecedently wills all men to be saved, but consequently wills some to be damned as a punishment for their rejection of grace, as His justice exacts. Thus, salvation and damnation come from the same immutable will of God, who wills to save all men, but who also wills to punish evil.

I do not subscribe to the Molinist position on predestination and grace for the following reasons. First, if God really looked at future merits and demerits (His middle knowledge) to determine who He will give the grace of salvation, that would make Gods will dependent upon human will. This cannot be true. Gods will is never dependent upon human will. This denies the truth that God is the Prime Mover. He is not passive and is always willing the sinners salvation. To say that God bases His decision on human actions is the error of Pelagianism which was condemned by the Church.

Second, the fact that future merits are brought about by Gods grace makes the Molinist position circular. That is, God is looking at future merits to determine who He will give the grace of salvation to, but the future merits are brought about by Gods grace in the first place! Thus, Paul says, What have you that you have not received? (1Cor 4:7). So God is said to be making a determination about the distribution of grace which has already been dispensed. As Augustine says in Epistle 194, When God crowns your merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts.

Third, I dont see support for the existence of middle knowledge in the context of predestination in either Scripture or the Fathers. Molinists often refer to, Jesus statement in Matthew 11:21 where He says, Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But this proves only that God knows contingent events, not that He predestines people based on future merits and demerits. In fact, Jesus statement actually disproves Molinism, which holds that God would grant the grace of salvation to those who would respond to it.

In the case of the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida, according to Jesus, they would have responded had God given them the grace, but God did not give it. This demonstrates that God did not look at their future merits to determine whether He would give them the grace. Instead, it was Gods will from all eternity to antecedently will their salvation, and to consequently will their damnation because they rejected His graces. In other words, God gave them operating graces, and they resisted the grace (and God allowed them to resist; He did not send them extraordinary graces to break the resistance). We can only chalk this up to the divine will of God, as St. Thomas did. St. Paul also tells us not to make any further inquiries about it.



17. Sufficient versus efficacious grace in Thomism

Joel: Dear Mr. Salza,

I've been looking into Thomism for a couple of weeks now, and I understand you are Thomist. I was wondering if you could answer a question I have about Thomism:

If a man is in a state of Habitual grace, would God give the man sufficient grace or efficacious grace in order to perform salutary acts? My understanding is that a man's will that has not been prepared by God would need efficacious grace, but for the man in Habitual grace (whose will has been prepared), it seems he could consent to sufficient grace. If this is true, would it be up to his free will to accept the sufficient grace?

J. Salza: Joel, God gives all men sufficient grace to be saved. This is true because God antecedently wills all to be saved, and He doesn't command the impossible, meaning that all have the possibility of salvation. If the man is a member of God's elect, then God also gives that man efficacious grace, which means he predestinates that man to heaven with the grace of final perseverance. In either case, the man is free to accept or reject the grace. But in the case of the elect, God wills the man to infallibly accept the efficacious grace (which is why it is efficacious), without taking away his freewill. That is how powerful God is. How God predestinates some through efficacious grace while giving sufficient grace to all is one of the greatest mysteries of our faith. As St. Thomas teaches, it is rooted in the divine will and love of God. As Augustine says, why God draws one and not another, answer not, unless you wish to err.

Joel: Thank you for responding Mr. Salza. I understand the basics of Thomism, but my question was related to someone who is in a state of sanctifying (habitual) grace. Would he be given sufficient or efficacious grace in order to perform salutary acts, since he already has the sanctifying grace from God?

J.Salza: It depends if you mean predestination to grace or predesination to glory. A man in sanctifying grace can receive efficacious grace to perform a salutary act which means he will infallibly do the act (he is predestined to grace). But a man in sanctifying grace will receive efficacious grace to persevere to the end of his life only if he is in God's elect (he is predestined to glory). If he is not in God's elect, then he will not only not receive efficacious grace to persevere, he will fall from sanctifying grace and die in mortal sin because God abandons him as a punishment for his sins (negative reprobation).

Joel: Thanks John! That helps immensely!


18. Fr. William Mosts interpretation of St. Thomas on grace and predestination

Jeff: John, have you read Fr. William Most's interpretation of Thomas' teaching on predestination? It is a six-page summary of Thomas' teaching called "Actual Grace" which you can find on the web. In his summary, Fr. Most says that God operates in an ordinary way and an extraordinary way. In the ordinary way, God sends man a grace and, if the man doesn't resist the grace, the grace becomes efficacious. In the extraordinary way, God sends a man a grace which will break any resistance. I don't recall St. Thomas teaching about these two modes. Fr. Most also says that St. Thomas never distinguished between "sufficient" grace and "efficacious" grace, but I always hear Thomists refer to these distinctions. Does this reflect St. Thomas' teaching on predestination?

Jeff: John, yes, I have read Fr. Most's synopsis and I disagree with it. First, while it is true that Thomas didn't divide grace between "sufficient" and "efficacious" in the Summa, it is proper to distinguish between these two kinds of graces when reading St. Thomas. In fact, St. Thomas' teaching demands this distinction. It is clear that St. Thomas makes a distinction between grace that is intrinsically efficacious to achieve its end and grace that is not. With sufficient grace, God gives man the power to act but man resists. With efficacious grace, God actually moves man to act, even though man remains free to resist but does not. With the former, the power to act is in potency and is never actualized. With the latter, the power to resist is in potency and is never actualized. In both cases, man is free. Hence, it is the type of grace that God gives - sufficient or efficacious - that determines man. The salutary act must always be attributed to God, not man. Remember, it is God determined or determining - there is no other choice.

Second, Thomas never makes a distinction between the "ordinary" and the "extraordinary" mode of giving grace as Fr. Most does. This is Fr. Most's creation. Fr. Most indicates that this "extraordinary" mode of granting grace (which infallibly moves man to act) is extremely rare and happens only, for example, as the result of heroic penance and prayer (such as the case of Monica's prayers for Augustine). This is not correct. God grants this type of grace (which Thomists call "efficacious grace") all the time. Every time we perform a salutary act, it is because God has given us an efficacious grace to do it. Notice also how Fr. Most implies that the "extraordinary" mode of grace depends upon man's actions (heroic penance and prayer). Again, God's grace is not dependent upon man. It is given freely. In this piece, Fr. Most specifically says that the grace would become efficacious for the man if the man did not resist. But this attributes the salutary act to man, not to God, and St Thomas never teaches such a thing. In short, Fr. Most's teachings are inconsistent with St. Thomas and more consistent with Molinism.

When contemplating the inscrutable mystery of predestination, there is always the risk of caving in to the Molinist position, because it seems easier for us to digest. But if we attribute the act of non-resistance to man, and not to God, then the "good" of non-resistance doesn't come from the Supreme Good which is God. When discussing predestination, we need to do two things: First, we need to assert the absolute sovereignty of God and declare that all salutary acts come from God, not man. Second, we need to assert the absolute truth of human freewill. When man receives a sufficient grace, he truly has the power to cooperate with the grace, and his resistance comes from himself, not from God. If this weren't true, then God would be commanding man to do the impossible, and this would be a grave injustice. Similarly, when man receives an efficacious grace, man has truly has the power to resist, but doesn't, because he freely chooses the good. This is key. With efficacious grace, God is not forcing the man to act. The intrinsic efficacy of the grace causes man to act freely. Man wills the good because God's efficacious grace is working in him, both to will and to accomplish (Phil 2:13). We need to hold these truths - God's sovereignty and human freewill - in balance. Whether man performs a salutary act depends upon the kind of grace that God gives man - sufficient or efficacious - but in both cases, man is completely free to resist or to cooperate. Yet, it is the grace that God gives that determines the final outcome. Again, it is God determining or determined. There is no other choice.

Jeff: John, thank you very much for your answer. These are great insights. One other question. Aquinas divides grace into operating and cooperating grace, but says it is the same grace. How do you reconcile this statement from Thomas that there is one grace with two effects, with the Thomistic view that there are two graces (sufficient and efficacious) with two effects?

John: Thomas defines operating grace as the grace which presents mans will with a good and moves his will toward that good. If this grace is not efficacious, then it is resisted by man and hence does not translate into cooperating grace. If this grace is efficacious, then it is not resisted by man and man cooperates with the grace by freely choosing the good. This is why St. Paul in Phil 2:13 says that God works in man both to will (operating grace) and to accomplish (cooperating grace). So it is either sufficient or efficacious from the very beginning. Sufficient grace is not translated into efficacious grace based on mans response. Hence, a sufficient grace is an operating grace only, while an efficacious grace is both an operating and a cooperating grace. God gives sufficient grace to all men, but efficacious grace only to His elect (that is, the efficacious grace of final perseverance). Again, the mystery is that with sufficient grace, man is able to cooperate with the grace to save his soul, but freely chooses not to, and God permits him to fall away. With efficacious grace, man is able to resist the grace but does not, because the grace causes him to freely choose the good. In both cases, man is completely free, but in the former, the resistance (which is an evil) comes from man, while in the latter, the non-resistance (which is a good) comes from God.


19. Eternal Security and 1 John 5:13

Paul: Hey, John

Thank you for the wonderful job you have done on this site. It certainly is a wonderful and informative site. I was spending some time this morning on your site and was much enjoying it. I spent some time reading on end times, etc.

While I agree with what I have read of what you have written, I wonder how you reconcile 1 John 5:13 in your page on salvation.I was wondering if you could share. I found it curiously absent on your 'salvation' page and have really been blessed by the assurance it seems to give.

May our Lord richly bless your day!

In the love of Christ,

J. Salza: Paul, Protestants use 1Jn5:13 as a proof text for both eternal security and sola Scriptura. It is a very abused passage. First, John doesn't say that Scripture is necessary to come to salvation. In 1Jn2:7, John says the commandment also comes by hearing. In his second and third epistles, John reveals that he has more to say, and won't commit them to writing. The most John is saying is that he chose to write his epistle so the faithful know they have eternal life. But what else did he say? John says we must confess our sins to be forgiven (1:9). If we don't, then we don't have eternal life. John says we must keep the commandments (2:3; 3:23; 5:2). John says we must love one another (2:10; 3:11; 4:7,11-12,21). John says that we must not murmur or we don't have eternal life (3:15). John says we must do good, and not just believe to have eternal life (3:7,18), and so forth and so on. Yes, it is a beautiful passage, but I don't believe it is a text that reveals much about Catholic theology concerning salvation. It simply reveals John's
motives for writing the epistle. I hope that helps.

Thank you for your kind words.

Grace be with you.
John Salza


20. The peace and joy of non-Catholics

Brendan: Hi John,

I'm a bit confused. I have a few friends who are Baptists and non-Catholic Christians in general. They always seem to be full of praise of God and thanking Him for what they see as Blessings He has bestowed on them. They are good people and do good works, yet, ultimately they are not Catholics, despite of course knowing about the Catholic Church. My confusion therefore is that why would God Bless them so much if they arent Catholics? Would He not surely bestow them with the revelation to channel their faith and good works into first becoming Catholic?

I look at them and see good 'God fearing' people, who always 'thank The Lord' etc, yet they have never once Eaten His Flesh or drunk His Blood, never once prayed to Our Lady or any Saint, never once confessed any sin to a priest, would baulk at any idea of saying the rosary etc etc. In addition, if we are to follow the 'no salvation outside The Church' line to the letter, unless God has mercy on them they are damned! Did not St Augustine say that no amount of praising the Lord would save you if you werent Catholic? I suppose I have confusion seeing these friends of mine who have such joy and seem so happy and praiseful of Christ, yet are not Catholics.


J. Salza: Brendan, remember, if these people don't have the grace of salvation that is found through the Catholic Church, then what are really their blessings? Jesus says that man can gain even the whole world but lose his soul. Of course, God is moving these non-Catholics by His grace when they acknowledge God and give Him thanks. And yes, these people are closer to the truth than Jews and Moslems. God's grace works in the hearts of nonbelievers so that they are moved to become Catholic. The blessings that they receive are meant to lead them to the Catholic Faith, or, in some cases, are meant to keep them blind in their sins (which happens to the very wealthy). Remember also that Blessed Pius IX taught that non-Catholics may have the possibility of salvation if they are invincibly ignorant of the Catholic Faith (in which case they are invisibly inside the Church through charity).

Ultimately, you are touching upon the mystery of grace, and we have no real explanation for it. God grants people grace according to His eternal decrees and plan of predestination. Perhaps if God didn't give these non-Catholics the blessings they currently have, they would despair and never convert. So in many cases such material blessings are preparatory for the gospel. God, however, wants to use you, who notice that they have "partial-truth," to give them the true Gospel. In the end, God judges whether they are invincibly ignorant (and hence can be saved), or not. What a mystery is grace!

John Salza



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