Paul's Passing Thoughts

Where is the Church Doctrine of Interim Salvation?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 16, 2020

ppt-jpeg4There is no difference between Protestantism and Catholicism. Both focus on the need to deal with “present sin” and the supposed authority of the church being efficacious for that purpose. Catholics call it the “sacraments,” while Protestants call it the “ordinary means of grace.” Clearly, in both cases, there is no maintaining of salvation without the church. Again, I will repeat, as I often do, that Catholics are more honest about it while Protestants deliberately hide the fact. We also contend that salvation is a onetime finished work by God inside the believer obtained by faith that does not have to be maintained.

So, other than the other run-of-the-mill life events that keep us from going to church, of late, we have the Coronavirus. There is a lot of spiritual cheerleading going on as a result, but conspicuously absent is discussion of how “Christians” keep themselves saved apart from church. Can atonement take place apart from church? And if it can, how? As another aside, we would contend that sin is not covered, but ended.

It seems that there would be a formal doctrine that addresses this. However, there does seem to be an unspoken doctrine of sorts: if you can’t attend church through no fault of your own, God will forgive your sins apart from the church. But, with that said, shouldn’t there be a stated doctrine of some sort? Priests and Protestant pastors alike have stern warnings for professing Christians  who “think they don’t need church.” Yet, when access to church is blocked, there seems to be no doctrine of interim atonement spoken of.

I at least have a partial answer for this. As a former Southern Baptist pastor, I can tell you that many, many, many Baptists believe they are saved by being a member of a church whether they show up or not. This is an irrefutable fact that I saw and experienced firsthand for years. Formal church membership coronated by water baptism supplies an ongoing cleansing for “present sins.” Those who “show up for church every time the doors are open” are a spiritual elitist class of Christians and not “casual Christians.” They are of the “devout” class.

Where in the world would Protestants get that idea? Well, from Protestant orthodoxy. Protestant orthodoxy has always held that “present sin” removes one from salvation  without ongoing repentance leading to forgiveness that can only be found in the church:

“Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered” (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

“Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

“To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

“Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place” (Ibid).

“Q87: What is repentance unto life?
A87: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience” [the newly applied obedience of Christ in response to re-repentance] (Westminster Shorter Catechism (1674).

“. . . forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead” (Luther’s Works: American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955, vol. 34, p. 163).

“. . . Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ. is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners” (Ibid, p.164).

“On no condition is sin a passing phase, but we are justified daily by the unmerited forgiveness of sins and by the justification of God’s mercy. Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous” (Ibid, p.167).

“For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually” (Ibid., p.190).

“Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced
to heal sickness day by day until it is cured” (Ibid., p.191).

Protestants howl in protest at the idea they teach progressive justification that can only be found in church. But I must ask, what is it to be continually “justified” daily for “daily” sin?

The best answer I have for all of this follows: the best salvation insurance underwritten by church is Catholicism. If you can’t go to church to get daily justification, you can fall back on purgatory.

True, you need church going on to get people out of purgatory, so, I would suggest churches focus on that heavily in-between things like the Coronavirus. People unable to obtain the church’s authority over salvation are counting on it.

At any rate, good luck with the whole hot mess.




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