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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Sinner's Prayer / point at which salvation begins

by Catherine Frakas 05 May 2001

Sinner's Prayer / point at which salvation begins QUESTION from David August 30, 2001 Evangelical Protestants (myself included) believe that someone is saved (or begins the process of salvation) when he/she commits his/her life to Christ, usually involving what is often termed the sinner's prayer. This prayer might sound something like, Lord Jesus, I recognize that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. I believe You are the Son of God. Please forgive me for my sins and come into my life. Amen.
Does the Catholic Church suggest anything similar when someone wishes to join the Church? How does the Catholic process of salvation begin? Could hypothetically someone go through the motions of confirmation, confession, first communion, etc., without making any sort of commitment to Christ?
I ask because I have friends who are people who fit the term cafeteria Catholic, in that they basically feel that they can go through the line, pick and choose what they like from the Church, live a very sinful life, and be saved because they go through the motions of confession and the Eucharist. Am I correct in assuming that the Church would not consider such people to be on the narrow road that leads to eternal life? Do you have any suggestions for reaching such people with the gospel?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on August 29, 2001 Dear David:
The Catholic Church believes what is taught in the Bible -- The process of salvation begins at Baptism and continues until the moment of death.
Since God has given us Free Will, we can freely choose to deny and reject our Baptism at any time in our life. Thus, a Christian can lose his salvation. This is clearly taught in the Bible. The idea of once-saved-always-saved is not Scriptural and can be found nowhere in the Bible.
Thus, salvation is about what we decide, our faith. If we have no faith, we have no salvation. Saying a particular prayer like a magical forumula doesn't bake the cake. One must actually BAKE THE CAKE of the faith in their lives.
Can a person receive Baptism and Confirmation, etc and not make a commitment to Christ? Yes; and if they don't followup on the Sacraments they could find themselves in hell. Baptism births one into the Kingdom of God, but it doesn't keep them there. They must follow-through with personal faith and commitment and action -- live their faith (St. James said faith without works is dead).
Those cafeteria Catholics you speak of are risking their soul to hell. One cannot pick and choose Truth. You either accept it or you don't. And even on issues that we are allowed a personal opinion, we are to obey those rules even if we disagree. Rebellion against the legitimate authority of the Church also risks hell, not because of the rule borken, but because of the sins of pride, arrogance and rebellion in deliberately breaking that rule.
How to reach them? Persevere in praying for them. Talk to them about the Church. Ask why they don't believe in whatever they don't believe in. If you know the whys you might be able to show how the Church's teaching is appropriate. This strategy is applicable for both Cafeteria Catholics and Cafeteria Protestants.
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