A reader writes

hi mark, i heard the podcast of the journey home with you on it & thought you were very entertaining(as well as informative – you always have to add that..). i’ve been crawling through romans and i came to chapter 8 verse 1 – “there is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.” do non catholics love pointing this out to catholics as an argument for “once saved, always saved” or as an argument against purgatory?

also, what can we say when we’re asked if we have absolute assurance that we’ll go to heaven when we die?

I’m not up on what Scriptures every taxonomical category of Christian might use as a justification for “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved”. I s’pose Romans 8:1 might be an attractive candidate for some folks. Dittos for those interested in “refuting” Purgatory. Scripture is wonderfully malleable in a pair of determined hands and people can prove all sorts of things to themselves, if not to those more familiar with how the Church has historically read its own Bible.

Re: what can we say when we’re asked if we have absolute assurance that we’ll go to heaven when we die? Answer: I don’t have absolute assurance, because I’m a Christian. Christians walk by faith in the living Christ, not by our interior sense of absolute certitude. Our eyes are turned outward on Christ, not inward on some theory or feeling about how sure we are that we can never lose our salvation. In the tradition of the Church, both certitude (also known as “presumption”) and despair are grave dangers to the healthy Christian life because they are the twin enemies of the virtue of Hope. As Paul says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience?” (Romans 8:24-25).

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