I'm coming at this from the evangelical reform side of salvation. For the evangelical, salvation is made for us by Jesus on the cross. There is nothing else we can add to make us more saved, or less saved (I know those who believe in losing your salvation). So my hope is in the fact that Jesus paid for me, and that God raised him from the dead.

But from my understanding, Roman Catholics believe that salvation must be earned, although Jesus made the way possible. If there is a part involve from me in my salvation, I find it hard to believe where is the hope in all of it.

Could someone explain to me how they see the hope in the Roman faith?

EDIT I want to extend an apology if this question has insulted anyone. I tried to asked it in a way that was neutral, trying to understand my catholics friends. Since there were many sincere catholic on this site I though I would get a to answer to this genuine question.

So here again I ask your forgiveness if I offended anyone. It was not my intention in any way.

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    Whoa! Tone down the rhetoric a notch or two. I lean toward the Reformed, Calvinist side myself and I praise God that He frees us from earning salvation. But we still bind ourselves to God's commands (for our own Joy!) and we can work side-by-side with Catholics against the darkness of the world. Just imagine how pleasantly surprised our Catholic brothers and sisters will be to find that salvation is by grace alone! (But let's not settle for cheap grace ourselves.) Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 5:41
  • I totally agree with you, I did not want to be disrespetful in anyway. I am asking the question sincerely. Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 10:56
  • @JonEricson I added a apology to my question. Thanks for pointing out. I am a big fan of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book The Cost Of Discipleship. So I did not want to sound cheap grace either. Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 11:08

3 Answers 3


To answer your question, I finally got to reading pope Benedict's spe salvi and it was totally worth it.

First of all, it is "in hope we are saved"

The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life

-Spe Salvi

A person who hopes has been led out of darkness. Hope gives our works meaning and our life direction. We work to bring about and build up the Kingdom of God here on earth, all the while hoping for a share in it in the next.

The pope relates the story of St Josephine Bakhita, an African saint whose life was almost pure hope.

She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her “at the Father's right hand”. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed”, no longer a slave, but a free child of God.

Her hope was simply God Himself. That is Catholic hope, what else could you say the substance of which is Faith?

You do point out some true doctrinal differences between our sects. We don't say that a person can lose their salvation because we don't presume that we had it to begin with.

A person can't become unbaptized, but through intentional evil acts can put themselves outside a state of grace. If one dies outside a state of grace they will go to hell. Don't do this!

But, as Jesus says, the only unforgivable sin is the offense against the Holy Spirit, which is quite simply denying that He has the power to save. This despair is the virtue which is the opposite of hope.

So I think I wrote enough, maybe someone else will touch on faith and works. But we believe that if a person has faith they'll show it in the way they live their lives. As the pope says our hope is "performative" not just "informative" it directs our path, it doesn't just fill our brains with lofty notions. And it is communitive, not individualistic, our hope is to seek the kingdom as a people. Even though we must die alone like Christ, we can help carry each others crosses. It's not that we do it to earn salvation, we do it in imitation of Jesus and the hope of what lies beyond sends us forth

  • Thanks for your thought full reply. I want to apologize if my question sounded harsh, my intention were genuine. Thanks again for your reply. Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 11:12

Definitions and commentaries about Hope could go on for a very long time (the scholastics, Fathers, and Doctors wrote voluminously on this topic); perhaps a more concise insight of the Catholic view of Hope can be grokked by considering a prayer called "The Act of Hope" that I was taught as soon as I was able to memorize:

O MY GOD, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and Life Everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.

In this short prayer we affirm that any expectation of salvation is explicitly anticipated based on the infinite merits that Christ earned on our behalf, and our reliance on His mercy. It's also important to realize that the operation of Hope in the soul cannot really be separated from Faith, as Faith in God is the basis of our Hope (and Faith and Hope together become actively expressed in Charity, both to God and man, which is why the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, while being separate in concept, cannot be separated in practice for the Christian who lives as he believes).

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    I would have posted a summarized version of Aquinas or Augustine for this question but since Peter Turner went with the most recent encyclical on this topic I decided to go the less formal route with my answer. To say that A LOT has been written on this topic by Catholic authors is a significant understatement! Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 15:13

@DavidLaberge: thank you for asking and for the sensitivity in framing your question.

Q. Could someone explain to me how they see the hope in the Roman faith?

Rephrased to:

What is the foundation of hope in Catholicism? i.e. why hope at all as a [Roman] Catholic?

Staring with:

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (RSVCE):
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

And proceeding with the Catholic definition of what these are:

313. Which are the Theological Virtues?
The Theological Virtues are 'Faith, Hope, and Charity'. 1 Cor. 13:13


314. Why are they called Theological Virtues?
They are called Theological Virtues because they relate immediately to God.

And the Catholic definition of the Theological Virtue of Hope:

136. What is Hope?
Hope is a supernatural gift of God, by which we firmly trust that God will give us eternal life and all means necessary to obtain it, if we do what he requires of us.

And why Catholics hope:

137. Why must we hope in God?
We must hope in God because he is infinitely good, infinitely powerful, and faithful to his promises.

From a catholic perspective, the following:

138. Can we do any good work of ourselves towards our salvation?
We can do no good work of ourselves towards our salvation; we need the help of God's grace.

Should resolve:

But from my understanding, Roman Catholics believe that salvation must be earned, although Jesus made the way possible. If there is a part involve[d] from me in my salvation, I find it hard to believe where is the hope in all of it.

As that's a misunderstanding of the Catholic position.

Summary: the help of God's grace [given as a free gift] is needed, to worship God by Faith [the root and trunk], by Hope [as above, the branches], and by Charity [the fruit, the good works].

This is the context of James 2:14-26 Faith without Works Is Dead, which is in unison with St. Paul as above.


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