Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Sacramental Road to Salvation

A very large part of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is the sacramental system. The RCC teaches that God’s grace is given chiefly through the sacraments of which there are seven: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

When looking at this system as a whole, it is clear that the salvation of the Roman Catholic is tied up in their church membership. The normative means for obtaining (and maintaining) the grace to merit salvation is through the church-provided sacraments.


”The sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses. Through them divine life is bestowed upon us. Compendium of the CCC, #224

The Sacraments have been instituted as a special means through which we are to receive the grace merited for us by Christ. As Christ is the giver of the grace, He has the right to determine the manner in which it shall be given, and one who refuses to make use of the Sacraments will not receive God's grace. Baltimore Catechism #580

The sacraments are not just signs of something sacred, but actually give grace to the recipient. As such, the sacraments are considered necessary for salvation.


"The outward sign is not used merely to indicate that grace has been given, for the use of the outward sign with the proper intention also gives the grace of the Sacrament. Hence the right application of the outward sign is always followed by the gift of internal grace if the Sacrament be administered with the right intention and received with the right dispositions." Baltimore Catechism #584

"For believers in Christ the sacraments, even if they are not all given to each of the faithful, are necessary for salvation because they confer sacramental grace, forgiveness of sins, adoption as children of God, conformation to Christ the Lord and membership in the Church." Compendium of the CCC, #230

Through the sacraments Catholics are initiated into the Church and into Christ. This initiation usually begins with the Baptism of an infant followed later by Confirmation between the ages of seven and sixteen (USCCB).


”Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.” Compendium of the CCC, #251

”Baptism is a Sacrament which cleanses us from original sin, makes us Christians, children of God, and heirs of heaven… We are the heirs of Christ because at His death we came into the possession of God's friendship, of grace, and of the right to enter heaven, provided we comply with the conditions Our Lord has laid down for the gaining of this inheritance. The conditions Our Lord has laid down for the gaining of this inheritance are: That we receive, when possible, the Sacraments He has instituted; and that we believe and practice all He has taught.” Baltimore Catechism #621, 624, 625

”Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.” CCC 1250

”Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe... CCC 1253

Obviously an infant does not have a faith in Christ in Baptism so the parents are expected to make the profession of faith.


”Everyone who is to be baptized is required to make a profession of faith. This is done personally in the case of an adult or by the parents and by the Church in the case of infants. Also the godfather or the godmother and the whole ecclesial community share the responsibility for baptismal preparation (catechumenate) as well as for the development and safeguarding of the faith and grace given at baptism.” Compendium of the CCC, #259

After receiving the sacrament of baptism, the recipient becomes “a new creature” and belongs forever to Christ. Through baptism is given the grace of Justification.


"Baptism takes away original sin, all personal sins and all punishment due to sin. It makes the baptized person a participant in the divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace, the grace of justification which incorporates one into Christ and into his Church. It gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ and provides the basis for communion with all Christians. It bestows the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A baptized person belongs forever to Christ. He is marked with the indelible seal of Christ (character)." Compendium of the CCC, #263

"The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
- enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
- giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
- allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian's supernatural life has its roots in Baptism."
CCC 1266

If the baptized "falls" from grace through mortal sin, they must re-establish their grace through the sacrament of penance. Hence, the ability to remain in grace requires continuing in the church system not only to access penance, but also to increase grace through the eucharist and the mass to protect from falling into mortal sin in the first place.

Such is the sacramental road to salvation.


"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

23 comments:

kevin82 said...

Carrie,

I found this post helpful, namely as a reminder of Catholic sacramentology (=soteriology), so thanks for the work put into it. My question for Catholics would be if it is proper to say that both the newly baptized adult and the Catholic saint (who is perfect or near-perfect in working-off temporal penalties) are in the same soteriological state (such that, e.g., purgatory is by-passed). It seems the answer is certainly "yes," but would this not require that the newly baptized adult (i.e., prior to committing mortal sin) is just as righteous/holy/detached-from-sin as, say, Mother Teresa?

Kevin

Bill Cork said...

You say, "The sacraments are not signs of something sacred."

The Catholic definition is that "The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us." CCC 1131.

Machaira said...

The Catholic definition is that "The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace . . .

The difference is that for protestants the sacraments are signs and seals of grace applied by the Holy Spirit, whereas Catholics believe that the sacraments, through the "operation" (ex opera operato) of a sacerdotal priesthood, actually contain in themselves the power to confer the grace signified.

Carrie said...

You say, "The sacraments are not signs of something sacred."


Thanks Bill. I think I need to change that to "not just".

Pontificator said...

Perhaps what is missing in this statement of the sacramental system is the key point that the sacraments are given by God to create and sustain the life and unity of the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ. The sacraments are simultaneously divine acts and communal acts. Baptism intiates one to the Holy Eucharist, in and by which Christ enacts and recreates the unity of his Church. In the words of St Thomas Aquinas, "The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity." The sacraments are misunderstood--and certainly have been misunderstood by many Catholics--if they are seen as dispensations of grace for an individualistic salvation. As one of my seminary professors liked to put it, "I am not saved apart from those who have been made my brothers and sisters in baptism." The sacraments ensure my connection to the family of God.

Pontificator said...

The difference is that for protestants the sacraments are signs and seals of grace applied by the Holy Spirit, whereas Catholics believe that the sacraments, through the "operation" (ex opera operato) of a sacerdotal priesthood, actually contain in themselves the power to confer the grace signified.

This is not quite accurate. According to Catholic understanding, every sacrament is an act of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is God himself who ensures the efficacy of the Church's sacramental acts. The Church does not have power in herself to regenerate sinners or make bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Savior. All the Church can do is obey the sacramental mandates of Christ, trusting in Christ to fulfill his sacramental promises: hence ex opere operato.

Because sacraments are simultaneously acts of Christ and acts of the Church, a duly ordained bishop or priest is necessary for the proper administration of the sacraments. But please note that laymen may administer the Sacrament of Holy Baptism in extraordinary situations, and in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony the sacramental ministers are the husband and wife themselves, not the priest.

Machaira said...

The difference is that for protestants the sacraments are signs and seals of grace applied by the Holy Spirit, whereas Catholics believe that the sacraments, through the "operation" (ex opera operato) of a sacerdotal priesthood, actually contain in themselves the power to confer the grace signified.

This is not quite accurate. According to Catholic understanding, every sacrament is an act of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . . .

My statement is accurate. All you've done is add a statment regarding who "authorizes" the RC sacramental system.

Pontificator said...

Machaira, it's not just a question of who authorizes sacraments, viz., Christ. According to Catholic understanding, every sacramental action is an action of Christ himself: he is the minister. When the Church baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes. When the Church absolves, it is Christ who absolves, etc. The Church's sacramental actions depend entirely upon Christ himself, who speaks and acts in and through the words and actions of the Church. The Church accomplishes nothing in her own power. All she can do is lend Christ her voice and limbs, who takes them and employs them as he wills.

In the words of John Paul II:

"Christianity is a great action of God. The action of the word becomes the action of the sacraments. What else are the sacraments (all of them!), if not the action of Christ in the Holy Spirit? When the Church baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes; when the Church absolves, it is Christ who absolves; when the Church celebrates the Eucharist, it is Christ who celebrates it: 'This is my body.' And so on. All the sacraments are an action of Christ, the action of God in Christ."

This is not an exclusively Catholic understanding. It is shared by Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans.

EgoMakarios said...

"When looking at this system as a whole, it is clear that the salvation of the Roman Catholic is tied up in their church membership."

This is one of those things where the Prots went too far in opposing the errors of Catholicism, and went way beyond opposing the pope, to opposing God Himself. Scripture says "Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." (Eph 5:23) Is salvation, then, tied up in church membership? Yes. Thus Paul says in Hebrews 10:25-26 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,...because if we go on sinning on purpose after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the enemies." Plainly, he says those who cease attending church have thrown away Christ's sacrifice and are now enemies of God, whom God will destroy. He goes on to say that they have "trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace."

As to baptism itself, Peter said in Acts 2:38 (NRSV) "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." In Acts 22:16 Paul was instructed "And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name." Paul taught in Romans 6:5 "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death (baptism), we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (newness of life)" and again in Colossians 2:12 "buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead." Protestantism has set its face against Christ in rejecting baptism. "Oh, but we do baptize." But you do not baptize as an appeal for cleansing, as Peter says "And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," and therefore because you do not make an appeal for cleansing in baptism, you will die in your sins unclean and be cast away from the presence of God.

Now the Catholics, because they are baptized faithless infants will share your end, for Col 2:12 says "baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the operation of God" and therefore although "baptized" they are not baptized, for not having faith when "baptized" they merely got wet. Unless they repent of their infant baptism and get baptized as believers as an appeal for cleansing, they like you will die in their sins. Neither Catholic nor Protestant can be saved until leave Catholicism or Protestantism, accept true baptism and become true Christians.

Lvka said...

The Church is Christ Body -- that's Scripture. Does the freedom that Christ brought us equal freedom from Himself? -- just asking...

L P Cruz said...

I will chime in since Fr. Pontificator mentioned Lutherans. I will chime in because Evangelicals do not understand how can Lutherans affirm sola fide and at same time have a sacramental understanding of the Sacraments.

The quote of John Paul II is fair enough for we believe that the sacraments of Baptism and Supper are Gifts of God to Sinners.

However, we on the one hand tie Baptism and Supper to the Gospel, to the Cross. It is understood from the Lutheran side that Baptism/Supper is the Gospel (The Word of God) with the earthly elements. It is again a declaration or promise - peace be with you your sins are forgiven you on account of Christ's work on the Cross for your behalf, it is finished. It is a gift of God to you in which Baptism and the Supper unites you. It is the way God declares to us what Jesus did 2000 years ago into our space and time.

For this reason, in the Lutheran sense, it does not have the sacrament of Penance which plays the major role to the RC after baptism; for Lutherans, Baptism functions in your life time, you go back to it again and again in the sense, that God has made a promise to you that at the Cross of His Son, He forgave you of all your sins, past, present and future. It is a form of the Gospel the same way that preaching the Word of Promise (the Gospel) produces faith. It makes you rest on the finished work of Christ.

From Luther's Large Cath
35] But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God's (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper's baptism). God's works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. 36] For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God's command and ordinance, and besides in God's name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.

There is in one sense ex opera operato in what is a valid Baptism, there is no ex opera operato in what is efficacious Baptism. The two are not the same.


People who have been baptized can and do walk away from this gift and hence, baptized people may despise their baptism.


LPC

orthodox said...

If the Israelites hadn't put the blood over their doorposts, but had only said "I'm ok, because I'm an Israelite", would they have been saved?

EgoMakarios said...

Good question, Orthodox. Again, what if Noah had merely believed that God told him to build an ark and sat at home saying "God, I beleive the flood is coming, and I beleive that you told me to build an ark. But salvation is by faith only, so rather than actually build it, I'm just gonna sit here an beleive"? Would have been saved? Or would he have drowned as the Protestants are going to drown in fire on the last day?

L P Cruz said...

"I'm ok, because I'm an Israelite", would they have been saved

I am sorry, is that an argument against what I said? I am missing your point, if it was directed to my comment and also which comment is being questioned?

LPC

Ken Temple said...

Pontificator --
where did the Latin phrase "ex opere operato" come from?

the article linked on your post mentions Trent; but some Church histories mention Augustine and Optatus as first coming up with the phrase in their battles against the Donatists. Is this true? Was it from Optatus and Augustine? If so, what are the exact references? Does any one know?

Ken Temple said...

Egomakarios,
Don't you realize that that (your example of Noah, the flood and just sitting there "believing" (which is not true faith at all) in their mind with no action to get into the arc) is a caricature of what "Sola Fide" teaches? It does not teach mere "intellectual assent" in the mind.

True faith results in actions, change, good works, fruits of holiness, righteousness, love. The Reformers said, "We are justified by faith alone, but that faith does not stay alone." It results in immediate change, action, obedience, growth, hatred for sin, confession, love, holiness, etc. That is why James 2 is not a contradiction to Romans 4 and Galatians 3.

Pontificator said...

Ken, Peter of Poitiers appears to have been the first person to have used the expression in the late 12th century; but certainly the concern expressed, i.e., the objective efficacy of the sacraments, goes back much earlier. "Ex opere operato" ("from the work having been worked") must always be understood in relation to "ex opere operantis" ("from the deed of the doer").

Richard Neuhaus describes the ex opere operato as "the sacramental enactment of sola gratia."

For a Reformed discussion, see Joel Garver.

Ken Temple said...

Pontificator,
thank you very much for that link. Very helpful.

Why do so many mention Optatus and Augustine in their battles against the Donatists as the originator's of this term?

EgoMakarios said...

Ken Temple says "Egomakarios,
Don't you realize that that (your example of Noah, the flood and just sitting there 'believing' (which is not true faith at all) in their mind with no action to get into the arc) is a caricature of what 'Sola Fide' teaches?"


Don't you realize, Ken, that you are a liar? If you Sola Fideans believed that true faith rather than just mental assent were necessary for salvation, you would not try and set 'faith' in opposition to baptism. The sort of faith (true faith) that Noah had, which included within it his building of the ark (not as a 'work' but as part of faith) is perfectly parallel to true Christian faith which included baptism within in it (not as a 'work' but as part of faith). In that you Sola Fideans say "baptism isn't necessary" you show that your sort of 'faith' is not true faith but mental assent, and you are proven to be liars when you cry 'foul.'

GeneMBridges said...

n that you Sola Fideans say "baptism isn't necessary" you show that your sort of 'faith' is not true faith but mental assent, and you are proven to be liars when you cry 'foul.'

Accept of course, that Sola Fideans don't define faith as "mental assent." That would be the adherents of the Stone-Campbell movement, who, ironically, hold the same view of baptism you affirm. But then, EM isn't known for truth telling or his ability to accurately state the opposing position. Historic Reformed theology explicitly denies Sandemanianism. EM knows this, so he has to willfully misrepresent it. Like his father, he speaks from his nature.

EM doesn't even define saving faith as "mental assent," rather he defines it as "trust." He says this sort of faith is necessary when one is baptized, and then he says that baptism is the efficient condition of justification. Those not credobaptized are, therefore, not saved. It doesn't really matter how this faith is arrived at in his view, whether from LFW or as a gift of God. What matters is that the person is baptized. It doesn't, therefore matter how else one defines saving faith, as long as the agent is baptized.

The problem for EM is that he merely asserts without offering an exegetical foundation. He simply quotes texts of Scripture without exegeting them.

We Reformed Baptists must be a real conundrum for him. Reformed Baptists affirm justification by faith alone, but they also affirm confessor baptism. What we deny is that baptism is regenerative or an efficient cause of justification. Baptism is no more necessary for justification than circumcision or the Lord's Supper.

EM also wants to relegate not only all "Protestants" and Catholics and Orthodox to hell, but all Calvinists in particular. Is this on the notion that they are all Paedobaptists? If so, then Particular Baptists must represent a real problem for him. He can't relegate us to hell based on Paedobaptism, so he relegates us to hell based on Calvinism. So, which is it? The problem with EM is that his logic is schizophrenic.

EM denies he holds to baptismal regeneration itself, yet, as we can see, when pressed, one's faith can have all sorts of transformative results, but if one is unbaptized, and one one think if he was consistent by immersion only, one cannot, in his view be saved. EM is just another sacramentalist who denies Sola Fide.

He's also neglecting to account for Lutherans. Lutheran Paedobaptism and Presbyterian Paedobaptism are not convertible. In Lutheran theology, that baptism is believers baptism. It just isn't confessor baptism, yet he seems to insist on equating Presbyterian covenantal baptism with Lutheran baptism. Yet both traditions affirm Sola Fide. For that matter, Paedobaptist churches also practice confessor baptism, since the unbaptized must be baptized in order to become communicant members of the churches, upon public profession of faith.

So, are those persons so baptized going to hell too? Do they believe faith is "mental assent?"

The sort of faith (true faith) that Noah had, which included within it his building of the ark (not as a 'work' but as part of faith) is perfectly parallel to true Christian faith which included baptism within in it (not as a 'work' but as part of faith)

Except at precisely the point of comparison, it fails, for Noah did not undergo confessor baptism. Ultimately, EM has to hold out two different methods of salvation: one in the OT period and another in the NT period, with the latter being faith plus baptism. So, men are not justified by faith, according to EM, they are really justified by baptism or faith plus some other efficient cause. This is a classic example of ad hoc theology.

Captain Kangaroo said...

"The sacraments are not just signs of something sacred, but actually give grace to the recipient. As such, the sacraments are considered necessary for salvation..."

Your conclusion does not follow the premise.
A) Not all grace comes to us via sacraments.
B) Not all grace is saving grace.

The repentant thief crucified next to Christ received no physical sacrament.

Also, there is no way that all of the sacraments as a "system" (as you call it) could be necessary to salvation because most people could not possibly receive all seven. It should be obvious to all but the most bigoted observer that Catholics must believe that at least some sacraments would have to be unnecessary for salvation.

Further it is not Catholic doctrine that sacraments are the ONLY avenue of grace. The passage someone cited form the Baltimore catechism is referencing sacramental grace specifically; and quite logically, one does not receive grace through sacraments without partaking of them.

If you are going to continue making claims about Catholic teaching based on your quickie hostile interpretations of writings you clearly do not understand, at least have the courtesy to TRY to acknowledge what is actually practiced to see how your take measures up: Someone who is excommunicated cannot partake of the sacraments at all, yet can be saved. Protestants who do not believe in sacraments can be saved.

We view sacramental grace as normative because Jesus (either personally or through the body of which he is the Head) instituted them, but "normative" does not mean "absolutely mandatory."

Your utter lack of understanding (or, if you actually do understand, lack of credibility) is showing.

L P Cruz said...

Yes Gene,

I am baffled what EM means by "trust", trust in what? What is the object of this trust, if he even grants that it has an object.

If Prots/Caths/Orthos are going to perdition, I wonder what it is that will prevent him from going there? On what basis is he exempted?

LPC

Carrie said...

Captain Kangaroo,

Try reading the article again. I never made the claims you stated.

Note specifically my wording:

The RCC teaches that God’s grace is given chiefly through the sacraments

The normative means for obtaining (and maintaining) the grace to merit salvation

And, of course, all the quotations have linkls to the source so any reader can quickly get more information. It wasn't my intention to emphasize all the loopholes.