Cardinal Newman and the Supernatural Drama of Salvation
Every time we sin, especially a mortal sin, we say 'no' to God
Even while a Protestant, John Henry Newman rejected a Christianity that revolved around "any particular time when you renounced the world (as it is called), and were converted," i.e., a "once saved, always saved" Christianity. Newman, a man deeply sensitive to the inner life of conscience and deeply versed in scripture understood within the light of tradition, emphatically rejected the "once saved, always saved" dogma with very strong words.
Cardinal John Henry Newman
For many Protestants, the "once saved, always saved" dogma is a sincerely felt--but deeply erroneous and unscriptural--belief that the Gospel teaches that accepting Jesus as one's Lord and Savior gives one what they call the assurance of salvation.
A corollary of this unfortunate doctrine is that nothing one does from that point--even a heinous sin--can take away that salvation. Nothing. Since we didn't earn salvation by being good, we can't lose salvation by being bad.
Basically, it is the view that once we say "yes" to God, we can never say "no." Either that or the "nos" to God make no difference in our relationship with God at least insofar as it relates to our salvation.
John Henry Newman--even while Protestant--rejected this doctrine, calling it in one of his sermons an "error," a "deceit," one stemming from the "shallowness of religion," or even "a blinded conscience." These are very harsh words by a verbal craftsman who was of a very judicious bent.
Even while still a Protestant, Newman rejected a Christianity that revolved around "any particular time when you renounced the world (as it is called), and were converted." This is a reference to a "once saved, always saved" theology of salvation.
Newman, a man deeply sensitive to the inner life of conscience and deeply versed in scripture understood within the light of tradition, emphatically rejected the "once saved, always saved" dogma with very strong words. This is a dogma which points to a "particular time" where salvation is got, and then leaves it at that.
For Newman who had his feet surely planted in the Gospel and in the inner promptings of conscience which was the voice of God found within man, salvation is not a painting, a still picture, an instant in time in one's life--but a drama, a series of pictures, a process in time throughout one's whole life. We must constantly be converted to the Lord Jesus, not just once, but daily.
In the Lord's Prayer, we ask for our "daily bread," our panem quotidianum. Is our turning to Christ, the giver of that bread of life, to be any less quotidian?
It is not sufficient to say "yes" to Christ once and then take leave. Our task is to become incorporated into Christ himself so as to develop in us the mind, the attitude which was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). And what is this mind of Jesus, this attitude of Jesus to which we must strive?
Jesus, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, "was not 'yes' and 'no,' but 'yes' has been in him." Non fuit est et non, sed est in illo fuit. (2 Cor. 1:19)
Christ's being was all in God, was in fact God. There was no part of his being, including his human nature, which was not in God. He was all "yes" unto God.
The Gospel insists that as Christians we must strive like Christ to be all "yes" unto God, so that there be no admixture of "yes" and "no" in us.
St. Paul tells the Philippians that to live is Christ and to die to oneself is gain (Cf. Phil. 1:21). To live is Christ is to say all "yes" to Christ. To die to self, to say "no" to self which means to say "yes" to Christ, is gain.
Among all mankind, Mary most perfectly imitated Jesus. She, "our tainted nature's solitary boast," was all "yes" unto God. Her "yes," which lasted from the first moment of conception until the end of her earthly life and assumption into heaven never had the least "no" to it.
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum said the one whose name was "full of grace" and who was worthy to bear God and give him the mantle of human flesh. "Be it done unto me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) These words of Mary are the words of someone who is all "yes" unto God. These are the words of someone who understood that to live is Christ.
It is this attitude which was in Christ the Redeemer and in Mary, the one perfectly redeemed, which must be in us.
None of us can say we are all "yes" unto God throughout our lives. If we say we have no sin in us, if we say we have not said "no" to God, we deceive ourselves. (1 John 1:8).
Every time we sin, especially a mortal sin, we say "no" to God. A mortal sin is a categorical "no" to God which entirely negates any prior "yes." A venial sin is a lesser "no" which mars, but does not negate the "yes" unto God.
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