What Must I (a Protestant) Do to be Saved?

In the fine print of church teaching (via the church’s lay apologists), being Protestant is inferior to being Roman Catholic. Jimmy Akin explains that Protestants are partial Christians:

the Catholic understanding is that Protestants are our brothers and sisters in Christ. So all Christians who profess faith in Christ and who are properly baptized are Christians and were put into a relationship with Jesus that Scripture describes in terms of being members of his Body. Different people have different degrees or forms of incorporation into His Body, though. And the goal is for everyone to be fully incorporated into Jesus, so we’re united with Him in the most ways possible. So that includes things like having the fullness of the Christian faith, understanding and accepting all of Jesus’s teachings. It also includes things like receiving all of the Sacraments that he would have us receive. Not just baptism, but the other Sacraments as well, and in the Catholic view there are seven sacraments.

It also includes being fully united with His Church, because Jesus said, “I will build my Church–” singular, not plural– “and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” So Jesus established a Church in the first century, and it’s continued down to the present day. And we also know that that Church is a visible Church, because he gave it leaders, like Saint Peter and the other Apostles, and the other ministers that they appointed to lead the Church in their absence, and so there has been a single visible communion of believers in Jesus that’s existed all the way from the first century to today.

The fullness of Rome has a lot to do with history — the apostles, the apostles’ successors, and the apostles Christ founded.

Not even Protestantism’s benefits can measure up to Rome’s antiquity:

[Protestants] still share many elements of grace, and have many wonderful aspects about them; they they honor Scripture, they may have a slight difference about, you know, what some of the books of the Bible should be, but they still honor God’s Word, they believe in Jesus, they believe in the Holy Trinity, they have a valid Sacrament of Baptism, and they have a lot of elements of grace and sanctification.

At the same time, we have to acknowledge that, you know, there are some differences between Protestants and Catholics, and from a Catholic perspective, those differences aren’t a good thing, … “What if someone knowingly refuses to accept something that Jesus willed us to have?”

If someone knew that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and that He wanted all of his followers to be united to it, and they said, “You know, I’m just not going to do that. I know Jesus wants me to do it, I know that he prayed for Christian unity on the night of the Last Supper, I know that’s a high on his priority list, but I’m just not going to do that,” well, then you’d have to question whether that person actually has a saving relationship with God, because he’s turning his back on something that’s fundamental and very important to Jesus, and therefore it looks, at least from outward appearances, like he’s cutting himself off from the means of grace that Jesus gave us. And so that person would be in spiritual jeopardy.

Is there salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church? The answer seems to be, yes, as long as either you don’t believe Rome is the church Jesus founded or you don’t know there’s no salvation outside the church. Knowledge (or ignorance) of the church is key as Akin claims:

You could have someone who, let’s say, was raised in a Protestant community, may have heard that Catholics believed Jesus founded the Catholic Church, but they don’t KNOW that; that hasn’t been proven to them, they haven’t seen sufficient evidence for that, and so through no fault of their own, they’ve never joined the Catholic Church–but they would if they knew that this was Jesus’s Church.

I know a lot of people who are in the Protestant community who would say, “Oh yeah, if I was convinced the Catholic Church was the one founded by Jesus, I would join it today.” Well, that person is not deliberately cutting himself off from from what Jesus would have him experience. He’s open to what Jesus would have him experience, and he’s already experiencing many elements of grace and sanctification. But he’s not deliberately refusing to do something he knows Jesus wants him to do. And so that person, even though they haven’t been fully incorporated into the Catholic Church, they’re still in a saving relationship with God. And so, if someone is not Catholic, through no fault of their own, but they’re otherwise responding to God’s grace, then they’ll be saved.

So the real question of salvation for Protestants is their knowledge of and degree of hostility to the Roman Catholic Church. A pious Protestant who hasn’t given much thought to Rome is apparently in a state of grace.

But if a person, whether they’re Catholic or not, refuses to do something of fundamental importance, like it could be not joining the Catholic Church, could be leaving, it could be any number of other grave things, like go out and commit murder or adultery; well, you’re deliberately defying the will of Christ in a fundamental matter there, and that will result in you being lost unless you repent. So everybody, both Protestant and Catholic, needs to be open to the grace that God wants us to have, and needs to be willing to respond to the call of Christ in all of these very fundamental matters.

The openness goes only one way though. Roman Catholics do not need to be open to the grace that is available in Protestant churches to be saved. For a Roman Catholic, salvation depends on the church. (Which is why a website can describe how to become Roman Catholic without ever mentioning Jesus Christ).

13 thoughts on “What Must I (a Protestant) Do to be Saved?

  1. Can you be a “biblicist” and still be saved?

    Carl Truman— The Reformers operated with what I would call a hermeneutic of trust regarding the past. One
    of the things that characterizes our present age is suspicion, particularly suspicion of authority and suspicion of tradition.

    in sum–They still killed Anabaptists but they became also capitalists. We should not judge the Reformers by standards nobody used back then/ All the Christians were killing heretics back then. Even the Anabaptists were killing people back then, and they were also socialists. The Anabaptists were not saved, not then and not now, nor were they really even biblicists.

    Carl Truman—As literacy rates rise, radical thinking within society increases…Biblicism seems to make things easy

    so–now that we went through that brief time of Protestant iconoclasm, show the non-elders pictures and give the sacrament. They don’t need to agree with the Confession. By all means keep saying “the church” even after you become apostate from “the Roman church”. Use the abstraction of universal invisible church to keep in practice the rituals of the “one visible church”. If you were to repent of your Romanist water, then would threaten the myth of “two ways of being in the covenant”. Zwingli is bad. Aquinas is way better for us Reformed to begin.

    Carl Truman–The Augsburg Confession was written in 1530 when the Holy Roman Empire and its emperor, Charles V, could have committed to either Catholicism or Protestantism.

    learn this–You can have church denominations and you can have those churches bless nations which kill apart from any religion or God at all. But anabaptists and biblicists are dangerous and sectarian. We can be evangelical when it serves our agenda to make the definitions, but we don’t have to be evangelical at all. But we are Reformed and therefore must make distinctions between different kinds of “Reformed” . Even the people who receive the sacrament must be warned against the “federal vision” the Westminster Confession of Faith is the end of history until we die and go up to heaven.

    https://journal.rts.edu/article/reforming-god/

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  2. Scott Clark–”There is one standard for the Western church prior to the Reformation and another standard after. Once the Word had been recovered, the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, there is no excuse to corrupt the administration of baptism by denying it to the children of believers.

    Scott Clark—-The religious pluralism that Americans have experienced since 1789 is a novelty in world history. It is a breath-taking experiment but it is not the natural state of humans. It creates unresolved tensions. The ambiguities inherent in state-enforced religious pluralism abound. Fundamentalists chafe at the tension and Pietist-influenced
    evangelicals (mostly) ignore it. The TheoRecons want to resolve it in a radical way. They want to return to the status quo ante 1789.

    Bozeman, “Inductive and Deductive Polities”—-The General Assembly found it necessary to lament the practice of those who ‘question and unsettle practice which have received the enlightened sanction of centuries

    Machen–Of course if he came over here I could simply move out. It would be a big sacrifice to me.”

    https://contingentmagazine.org/2020/01/25/mailbag-standards/

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  3. “So Jesus established a Church in the first century, and it’s continued down to the present day.”
    This statement is pretty easy to establish exegetically. So far, so good.

    “And we also know that that Church is a visible Church, because he gave it leaders, like Saint Peter and the other Apostles, and the other ministers that they appointed to lead the Church in their absence, and so there has been a single visible communion of believers in Jesus that’s existed all the way from the first century to today.”
    Whoa, whoa, whoa… he gave it leaders. True. But a single visible communion? Um no. Many members of the visible communion were not in fact part of the body of Christ according to the NT. To make sense of the metaphors used to describe the church/body of Christ there have to be two distinct senses of the church. Merging these into one has driven Catholicism into an ecclesiastical ditch.

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  4. To answer your titular question, the same as anyone else. They must call upon the name of Jesus, that he might save them from their sins. But as an aside, consider the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:3b and following.

    Behold, the sower went out to sow;
    and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and devoured them.

    And others fell on rocky places where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; because they had no root they withered away.

    And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.

    And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty.

    And the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”

    And he answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand . . .

    Is not he who sits upon the seat of Saint Peter like thorny ground to many of his hearers? But in spite of this the word is proclaimed! To such a purpose was the protestant reformation . . . that the word might be proclaimed with fruitful results.

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  5. Alright. Technically he’s saying that even if you’re Protestant, if you are Protestant through no fault of your own, it is possible to be saved through the Catholic Church.

    “A pious Protestant who hasn’t given much thought to Rome is apparently in a state of grace.” That is technically true, but that does not rule out the need for evangelization of Protestants. In the Catholic Church you have access to all seven sacraments and therefore more grace, the Blessed Mother, and infallible dogma, three elements that make salvation much easier.

    “Roman Catholics do not need to be open to the grace that is available in Protestant churches to be saved. For a Roman Catholic, salvation depends on the church.” That is not technically true. For one thing, following the will of God either by faith or acts of charity, is impossible without grace bought by Christ.

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  6. Thanks for your reply, Mr. Hart. For one thing, our Lord is certainly that, our sole Lord and Savior. However, Catholics believe He uses other persons and things to distribute grace. I mean, you accept that He uses the Bible for us to know about Him. Catholics also believe in the necessity of Tradition and the Magisterium. Don’t get me wrong; Jesus Christ is the most important thing and I think we agree on that. However, if Christ did, as Catholics believe, institute the sacraments, it would be foolish to refuse them.

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  7. “…However, if Christ did, as Catholics believe, institute the sacraments, it would be foolish to refuse them….”
    Yeah, that’s true. But show us from scripture where he instituted more sacraments than baptism and his last supper.

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  8. The question is whether Christ does that. Well, technically speaking, yes, in that it is not strictly speaking required. However, not a wise one. Catholics view her as spiritual mother and God commanded us to honor our father and mother. Intercession of the saints works, by the way, based on the words in James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Now, the Virgin Mary is considered the greatest saint, closest to the throne of God, so how beneficial do you think it would be, considering the verse I have just named, if those in heaven were to be praying for us?

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  9. @George
    Thanks for the challenge! Here:
    Reconciliation: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”—John 20:22-23
    Holy Orders (Priesthood): “Because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”—Romans 15:15-16
    Matrimony: “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”—Matthew 19:5-6
    Anointing of the Sick/Extreme Unction: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”—James 5:14-15
    Confirmation: “For it [the Holy Spirit] had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”—Acts 8:16-17

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