Catholics are sometimes charged with lack of zeal for evangelism. Our Protestant Evangelical brothers sometimes say that our reliance on the sacramental system of the Church leads us to assume that a person is ‘saved’ and leads us to neglect their need for conversion.

This is an understandable reaction from those who begin with Evangelical Protestant assumptions. For the Evangelical Protestant conversion is a once and done experience. For the Catholic conversion is a way of life. Within the Catholic perspective there may indeed be complacency, but even a marginally catechized Catholic is less likely to be complacent because Catholics are taught to avoid the sin of presumption. In other words, we don’t believe in that recently invented, non Scriptural dogma which has been artifically added to the deposit of faith, the Calvinistic belief in ‘eternal security’.

Catholics are taught about the dangers of mortal sin and the subsequent danger of hell. Catholic priests also believe in these real possibilities and warn their people not to be complacent, and seek always for constant conversion for themselves and their flock. Of course, there are liberal Catholics who veer toward a squishy universalism, and want Jesus to be more of a travelling buddy than the judge eternal, but this is not the formal teaching of the church, nor, in my experience, is it the practice of the majority of pastors or people.

The vast majority of Protestant Evangelicals, on the other hand, do have a formal doctrine that encourages sleepy Christianity. What is more likely to make a Christian complacent–the doctrine of eternal security–which ways that once you’ve ‘accepted Jesus into your heart’ you’ve got your ticket to heaven no matter what you do, or the Catholic belief in the possibility that through one moment of mortal sin your soul may be lost forever?