When Scott and I met, he was a predestined, once-saved-always-saved Calvinist. This was new to me.
“How can you say, ‘once saved always saved’?” I asked. “You’re telling me that you don’t know anyone who said the prayer of salvation and then gave it all up after a few years?”
“Sure,” he said, “but it means they weren’t ever saved to begin with.”
This absolutely floored me. So, some dude thinks he’s saved, acts like he’s saved, goes out and “saves” other people, but – joke’s on him – he wasn’t predestined for heaven, so it was all irrelevant? He could die, still thinking and acting like he was a Christian, but end up in hell because that’s where God created him to go?
In a nutshell, that’s Calvinist (double) predestination. This doctrine (cough, heresy condemned in many councils of the early Church, cough, cough) teaches that free will is a man-made delusion, an attempt to fool ourselves into thinking we have some choice, some active part in God’s plan. While the focus is on God’s destining certain fortunate people for heaven, it also means God created some people to burn in hell. We have no say in the outcome. We are robots, and no matter what prayer we say, what acts of mercy we fulfill, no matter how painful a martyr’s death we die, it all ends up a game of meaningless chance.
I’m not sure what the point of getting up early on a Sunday morning would be, if it doesn’t matter either way. I’m not even sure what the point of the Crucifixion would be (or evangelization, for that matter). If men are predestined to heaven or hell, then a sacrifice is not needed, the blood of the Lamb isn’t necessary. Evangelization is a joke. But I’m sure Calvin worked that one out.
Thank you, sweet mercy, for the sanity and comfort of Catholicism, which does teach an authentic doctrine of predestination, stating that we are predestined for life. God doesn’t choose hell for anyone; rather, men choose hell for themselves.
Regardless, 20 years later, Calvinism is still haunting us. Our oldest sons have been confronted and questioned on a regular basis by well-meaning predestined friends. Even cornered, inappropriately, by a parent, to straighten them out. I thank God for the old-fashioned curriculum we were pointed towards so many years ago. The kids have been given some apologetics preparation that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to give. So, the kids seem to be holding their own. They’ve been able to offer Scripture verses, and the early Church Fathers in response to questions. One son has even lent out books to a few friends.
It is not easy to be a Catholic. At every turn we are challenged, and sometimes it is by other Christians that we are hit the hardest. I think it’s fair to say that we are a generation of unprepared Catholics. But I think that is changing. Anyone with a truth-seeking heart can find what they seek.
My boys and their Catholic friends have been able to encourage each other and talk these things out. And most importantly, they know that they don’t have to have an answer to every challenge. They already understand the concept of Peter’s authority, the same authority once used by Catholic bishops to put together the New Testament. When non-Catholics use Scripture to try to disprove the Church, they don’t understand that they are quoting a book put together by Catholic bishops! Those bishops didn’t choose books that contradicted the faith they were dying for.
Unlike Calvinism, Catholicism shares Christ’s invitation to salvation for all. We have the gift of hope, the virtue by which we firmly trust that God, who is all-powerful and all-faithful to his promises, will in his mercy give us eternal happiness and the means to obtain it!
And this “hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5). That’s awesome. And it’s the beautiful, loving act of a Father who creates mankind to glorify him into all eternity. I believe in the love of my heavenly Father, and I humbly accept his invitation to eternal life, knowing that it comes at the cost of the blood of his Son. I am undeserving, and I am grateful. I work in hope towards the day when a “purifying encounter with Christ” will lead me towards the arms of him who destined me for himself.
If you are looking for good apologetic resources for yourself or your kids, they are plentiful! May I humbly recommend these for a start:
- Friendly Defenders Flash Cards
- Beginning Apologetics by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham
- Why We’re Catholic by Trent Horn
- Anything by Father John Laux
- And watch episodes of EWTN’s The Journey Home together.
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