This is part of a collection of rebuttals, responses, and replies. See the index.

Roman Catholic soteriology rejects faith alone (‘sola fide‘). The Sacraments are a part of salvation. Sola fide implies the rejection of the sacraments, including marriage as a sacrament. If Sanctified Marriage is equal to Sacramental marriage, then both must be rejected.

On Friday at Sigma Frame, Jack wrote a fantastic piece, “Apostolic Apostasy“, which summarized my post “Axioms of Faith” quite well, proving once again that I could use an editor. It got no comments, but…

…it was the most liked post in three weeks, when last the same four people—who rarely comment—liked another similar post (re: my comments and Ed Hurst’s post). Now, two new posts and a quiet weekend later, and Jack has this to say:

I am surprised that Catholics have not called out Derek for misrepresenting the Catholic position on Sacramental Marriage, or me for misunderstanding it.  Catholic readers have been strangely silent about this whole topic
— Jack @ Sigma Frame, “Sacramental Soteriology

I’ve written extensively about Roman Catholicism. I derive these positions primarily from Roman Catholic sources.[1] Jack’s short summary effectively sidesteps most of the evidence I have presented to-date from the lips of Roman Catholics and the Mother Church.

If I’m misrepresenting the Catholic position, so too have the Protestant Reformers for five centuries. But the Protestant reformers were not confused about what Roman Catholics believed regarding salvation. Nor did they actually agree with Roman Catholicism the whole time. It wasn’t one big mistake, a “whoopsy!“, that led to the murderings. Many key reformers were ex-priests! Others regularly examined the primary teachings—both verbal and writings—of Roman Catholicism. Some would maintain their views at their own trials and executions even as Rome explained their ‘errors’.

From the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther understood justification to be entirely the work of God and was condemned for it. Justification by faith was the reason for the Reformation. If Roman Catholics do not believe in justification by works (as they sometimes claim), then why then was Martin Luther condemned for asserting that we are not justified by our own works? I will discuss this further below.

Regardless, I have debated Roman Catholics whose views confirm the accuracy of these positions. I read and cite Roman Catholic apologists. These views do not come out of nowhere. They are not misrepresentations. For Ed Hurst, the same is true:

I worked within Catholic institutions for a couple of years. What I posted about the sacrament of marriage on my blog was based on several conversations I had with senior priests. It was echoed by Catholic chaplains in the military, but this was all no later than the 1990s. If a significant number of Catholic folk think otherwise, particularly since then, I’m not concerned. I stand by my post.

So when Jack says…

“Sacramental marriage [..] is not an issue of salvation”

…he shows that he fundamentally misunderstands Roman Catholic dogma, presumably from not interacting with Roman Catholics on these matters.

To Be Catholic

To learn more about the Roman Catholic perspective, read apologist Patrick Madrid’s popular book “Answer Me This!” or read this extensive ongoing web series “Becoming Catholic” by apologist Joshua Charles. If the latter, start with “Baptismal Regeneration” and see how the Sacrament of Baptism is the means—the cause—of salvation that is explicitly mutually exclusive with “sola fide” (faith alone). The mutual exclusivity in core belief is why the Westminister Confession of Faith disallows marriage to anyone who is not a Christian, including Roman Catholics:

“3. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry who are able with judgment to give their consent; yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And, therefore, such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life or maintain damnable heresies.”
— WCoF, Chapter 24: “Of Marriage and Divorce

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official doctrinal teaching of Roman Catholicism, teaches that the no one can participate in any of the sacraments (whether Eucharist or Marriage) until one first participates in Roman Catholicism Sacrament of Baptism. Moreover, it is quite clear that all of the sacraments are participation in the ongoing means of saving grace. Baptism is merely the first: an initiation, not a completion, of an regenerative process of sanctification, a process that can be rejected and cease.

A few days ago, commentator dpmonahan wrote this comment:

The sacrament is not the ceremony, the sacrament is still the contract, here between baptized persons. It is not merely the moment of agreeing to the contract, but the sacrament is sustained over the life of it (i.e. until one of the persons dies). [..] Sacraments can fail: i.e. the person receiving the grace can resist it. [..] The grace of marriage is supposed to result in greater conformity to Christ and therefore a greater participation in the joy of heaven.

This comment is quite a typical and accurate portrayal of Roman Catholic doctrine. Jack liked this comment, so we know that not only did he read it, but he ‘liked’ it to some extent. The important point here is that the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Marriage is an ongoing participation. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that works such as these are required for eternal salvation. Roman Catholic apologist Tim Staples has affirmed this:

“Paul made very clear in Romans 2:6-8 that good works are necessary for attaining eternal life

Without good works, a Roman Catholic cannot attain eternal life. Life may be eternal, but for the Roman Catholic salvation is most assuredly not assured.[2] Yet, even if they do not lose it completely, they may still need to work for a time in purgatory for having insufficiently worked for their own sanctification in life.

Contrast this with Ed Hurst, who wrote:

The definition of the term “sacrament” is a religious ritual that serves as a means of grace. There is no such thing. Nothing in this world is a means of grace. Grace is not that kind of thing. Grace is the process of spiritual adoption, of divine election. No ritual can aid that process. Grace/election either happens or it does not. God chooses; the initiative is totally in His hands. He puts His grace on you at His whim. You cannot engage any ritual to get grace.

There is no way to square the circle.


The Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation is complicated, and at times vague, unclear, and even apparently contradictory. It involves (actual) grace, works, participation in the sacraments, penance, and following the law. Before we go to the unofficial statements from the apologists, here is a quick overview of the official church teaching:

First, when the Catholic Answers Staff says…

By the way, “let him be anathema” means “let him be excommunicated,” not “let him be cursed to hell.” The phrase was used in conciliar documents in a technical, theological sense, not in the same sense as the word “anathema” is found in Scripture. Don’t let “Bible Christians” throw you for a loop on this one.
— “Does the Catholic Church Teach That Works Can Obtain Salvation?

…they leave out that to be outside of the church—anathema—means you cannot be saved, for salvation requires the Church. They are correct that you are not prescriptively “cursed to hell”: you can always repent and (re)join the Church. But if you are excommunicated, you cannot participate in your salvation through the sacraments and thus condemn yourself by your works. Being condemned to Hell is certainly an accurate description of being kicked out of the church.

Second, some Roman Catholics uncomfortable with the term “works” will say that mere participation or cooperation[3]—the preparation and action of personal will[4]—is required for salvation. Apologists will—on one hand—explicitly cite requiring works for salvation (e.g. Tim Staples), while—on the other hand—saying that justification by works has always been condemned by the church (e.g. Catholic Answers Staff).[5] In his chapter on salvation, Patrick Madrid does the same.[6] It amounts to a motte-and-bailey. Regardless of the words chosen and their loaded meanings, the initial salvation through the required personal act of baptism—not faith alone—is clearly not sufficient to ensure eternal life.

The initial grace of justification and salvation we receive in baptism is a done deal. [..] However, this is not the end of the story. Scripture reveals that it is precisely through this justification and salvation the new Christian experiences in baptism that he enters into a process of justification and salvation requiring his free cooperation with God’s grace.
— Tim Staples, Catholic Answers, “Justification: Process or One-Time Deal?

So even though the Roman Catholic church teaches that baptism saves (initial grace) and that no one can merit it (CCC#2010), one must still engage in a physical act to be saved, even initially. Even though it is a “done deal”, thereafter salvation is an ongoing regenerative process that requires a constant repetition of additional human rituals to succeed. Roman Catholics may vehemently deny that participation is a work, even as they require specific ongoing deeds—sacraments—in order to achieve eternal salvation.[2] Moreover, those works merit eternal life.[7]

Notice that Paul excludes works only with regard to that initial stage of salvation/justification. After we’re initially justified, then we must carry out the good works that God wills for us. [..] We also know that works pertain to our final justification.
— Karlo Broussard, Catholic Answers, “Justified by Faith or Works or Both?

Broussard condemns justification by works, but only initially. He is quite clear that final justification is by works, in precise agreement with Staples. Beyond all the word play, the bottom line is that without works, you not only cannot be assured of salvation, but unless you manage to die in a state of initial grace (or official martyrdom), you are quite unlikely to experience eternal life on account of your mortal sin.[1]

Lastly, the distinction between works and participation becomes meaningless if one acknowledges that Paul does not advocate a first tier of salvation based on faith and baptism and a second tier of salvation based on works.


For all his talk of “unity”, whenever Derek L. Ramsey strikes up an argument, the unity falls apart.

I am quite up-front about this. It is no mystery. I stated this only a few days ago in “What is Grace?“:

You cannot have unity without first purging that which creates disunity. I long for unity, both in the church and in marriage. But I’m often seen as divisive for insisting that we cannot merely set aside our differences and get along with people who disagree with us on the core issues of salvation and repentance from sin. These issues are non-negotiable because they were non-negotiable to Christ. A number of heresies are irrelevant distractions, but this does not include the system of sacraments. I have, and will, seek unity with Christian heretics, but I can never be in complete unity with anyone who gets salvation wrong. How can I? How can you? How can anyone?

The idea that unity falls apart because people disagree is false. Agreement when there should be disagreement is false unity. When I strike up an argument, I use my word-scalpel to reveal what was already there: disunity.

I kindly suggest that Derek’s skills are better suited towards infiltrating non-Christian sites in order to tear down their atheistic / progressive constructs.

I’ve debated atheists on many occasions, including on this blog. I’ve also debated Roman Catholics and I’ve read from those who have converted to and from Roman Catholicism. I’ve never had a problem doing either.

In exposing the inherent disunity that already existed, it forces even the fence sitters have to make a choice, or rather, acknowledge the choice they already made:

I gave my opinion of this series from the outset, and nothing written has changed my mind. I think you jumped the shark here, and I wonder if by lack of engagement others felt the same.
— Bardelys the Magnifient

I’m not going to stop talking about this topic. Even when all engagement has long ceased, I’m still going to be writing about it, refining my arguments further. I don’t do it for engagement.

Meanwhile, while many have refused to weigh in, one was willing to reveal how Jack’s paradigm of marital sanctification is more-or-less equivalent to the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Marriage:

I have some areas of disagreement, but Jack seems to be working towards a fair description of Catholic truth claims.
— RICanuck

On this we agree! Way back when I wrote “Sanctified Marriage, Part 1“, I had noticed that there was something seriously wrong with Jack’s view of sanctification. Eventually it became clearer that Jack’s Sanctified Marriage paradigm is so very close to Catholic truth claims.

There is still some confusion about whether “sacrament” refers to a ritual or the nature of marriage itself. I am generously assuming the latter is the case, and that “sacramental” is Catholish for “sanctified” in Protestantese.

This assumption, underlying Jack’s view, is incorrect, as history described in “Sacraments are the Reason for the Priesthood” shows. Soon even he will have to join so many others who have ceased attempting to shoehorn Protestantism (a square peg) into Roman Catholicism (a round hole). He’ll be forced to convert to Roman Catholicism, or else abandon his own teachings on sanctification which rely on it.

[T]he various Christian sects should be converging with each other. [..] If we can look past our sectarian indoctrinations and return to the ancient faith, then it becomes apparent that, in respect to the major issues of faith, we are talking about the same things using different terminology and are emphasizing different elements.
— Jack @ Sigma Frame, “Ecumenical Translations”

Unity is impossible when the options are mutually exclusive. Disunity on the topic of salvation is thus inevitable. The only way to achieve unity in the body of Christ is to invite those outside to come, imploring them to repent. If calling Roman Catholics to repent is not permitted, there can be no unity.

Further Reading


[1] Including both former Roman Catholics and those who converted to Roman Catholicism. This also includes anything the Roman Catholic church claims as their own, including the early church writers.

[2] Mortal sins—which invalidate one’s salvation and require the sacramental salvation of penance to achieve salvation again—include the list of grave sins given in Galatians 5:19-20…

sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions

…, the following (per CCC#1853)…

[A]nger, blasphemy, envy, hatred, malice, murder, neglect of Sunday obligation, sins against faith (incredulity against God or heresy), sins against hope and sins against love also constitute grave matter.

…, the four gravest sins of all (voluntary murder, homosexual relations, taking advantage of the poor, and defrauding a workman of his wages), and the capital sins (pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth).

[3] Jason Stellman says that works—acts of love of God and neighbor—are meritorious and contributory to our final salvation. — “The Journey Home – 2013-12-09” (YouTube)

[4] “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema” — Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 9.

[5] The difference between works and participation/cooperation is akin to duliahyperdulia, and latria, the different types of veneration and worship: separate meanings without sufficient practical distinction.

[6] Patrick Madrid, “Answer Me This?”, pages 93,100:

Contrary to what you’ve been told, this allegation [of works righteousness] is simply not true. It’s both a misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church actually teaches and a misunderstanding of what the Bible says about what is required for salvation. Let’s begin by clearing up the first problem underlying your question. The Catholic Church does not now teach, nor has it ever taught, a doctrine of salvation based on “works righteousness.”

So you see [in James 2], justification involves both faith and obedience. Both are necessary, as St. Paul explained

[7] From the Council of Trent, Sixth Session, “Decree Concerning Justification, Chapter 16“, under the merit of good works:

…by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, …


  1. Pingback: The Mystery of Glorifying a Provision for the Flesh | Σ Frame

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