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John wrote:

Hi, guys —

  1. Why is the Catholic faith based around the idea that good works are a necessity to receive salvation?

    The Bible clearly says in Ephesians:

    8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. "

    Ephesians 2:8-9

  2. Secondly, I must ask you where in the Bible does it say that Mary is holy?
    God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, are the only holy beings.

  3. Third, where does the concept of infant Baptism come from?

    I understand that in the Bible it says:

      31 . . . you must be saved, you and your household. in Acts 16:31.

    It also says in a different book that you must be baptized, you and your household.

    However this does not directly say that anyone in this household is an infant. It is also proper to assume that an infant has no logical ability to assume a God exists. With this being the case, baptizing them and considering them saved by grace, would not be safe to assume. It could potentially put the child in a fairly dangerous situation if they believed they are, because of the said Baptism.

    I would say, due to my study of the Bible, that if a child was too young to grasp the concept of God, in spite of a tragic death, he would go to Heaven, however the Bible does not say this specifically.

  4. My final question has to do with the concept of holy water.

    • How could one possibly assume that water is holy?


  { Can you answer questions on, why works are needed for salvation, infant baptism, and holy water? }

Eric replied:

Hi, John —

Thanks for your question.

Question 1:

  • Where do you get the idea that the Catholic religion is based around the idea that good works are a necessity to receive salvation?

The fact that we baptize infants proves that we do not believe this. We believe that infants are saved as soon as they are baptized; no works are required.

However, for adults, if one has a mere intellectual assent but not faith that bears fruit in good deeds, that faith cannot save. (See James 2:14, 17, 20-24)

It is by grace that we have been saved; everything depends on God's grace but we must respond to, and correspond with, that grace; we are not merely passive actors in it. God's grace goes first, enabling us to respond, and then we respond.

It's important to understand the context of St. Paul's words to the Ephesians. All of Romans
(and most of Galatians) is an argument against the Judaizers — those who felt that Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. Circumcision, plus the other Jewish ceremonial laws given by Moses, were considered in technical jargon as works of Law. This is the phrase St. Paul uses in Romans repeatedly, as he argues that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised (Romans 4:9-12), thus Gentiles can be justified without circumcision. Consequently, when Paul has works in mind, he is thinking chiefly of circumcision and the Mosaic, covenant rituals.

James, on the other hand, is thinking of deeds of charity: Feeding the poor. So when Paul is saying we are saved by faith apart from works, he is not saying that we need not show love to our brothers and sisters. (See Galatians 5:6) Our faith needs to be a faith that bears fruit, as our Lord said, and we will be judged according to our good deeds, at least for those who are able to do them. (Matthew 25:32-46) Nevertheless, these good deeds still rest on God's grace; without God's grace we'd be unable to do them.

Question 2:

It is not true that only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are holy.

Question 3:

While it is true that the verse in Acts you mention does not specifically mention infants, it does not rule them out. Note that it says that they and their household were baptized, not that they believed and were baptized, which you'd expect with your argument.

It is clear that they acted as a family unit, together; in those days they were much less individualistic than we are today. In any case, No, it doesn't conclusively prove infant baptism, but it suggests it.

Part of the problem is that when this topic is discussed, people tend to speak past each other because we have different conceptions of Baptism. People who raise this objection often do so because they mistakenly think Baptism is merely a public profession of faith.

In this understanding, which is contrary to Scripture and has no sound basis in Scripture to boot,
it makes sense to object to infant baptism: No Faith, no Profession, no Baptism. We don't see things that way. We see Baptism as:

If you'd like to discuss this in greater detail, I have more information. Anyway, my point is, because we believe Baptism brings salvation, fills us with grace, and joins us to the saving Death and Resurrection of Christ, making us spiritually alive, we want our infants to have that grace and

A good piece of reading on this topic is here:

and here is evidence of it practiced in the early Church:

Question 4:

We do not assume water is holy. Water is not holy until it is made holy by a cleric. Holy water may be found in the Bible in Numbers 5:17.


John replied:

Hi, John —

The Church has never believed in Justification by works; that is Pelagianism and therefore a condemned heresy. Works do enter the picture, past our initial justification, as Paul continues to write in Ephesians. Our Protestant brethren quote Ephesians 2:8-9, but conveniently forget to mention verse 10 which specifically talks about works.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Paul also spells it out in Romans, Chapter 8 when he writes:

13 IF by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the flesh, then you are the sons of God.

So that's a pretty big *IF*. Surely, the good works we do as Christians are done by the Spirit of God working in us and through us, but we must actively allow Him to do so. Aside from this, I would refer you to our database where we discuss the nature of justification.

We believe it is dynamic, progressive, intrinsic and infused, whereas, Protestants believe it to be static, imputed and forensic. Therefore, there are a lot of misunderstandings which arise from these different approaches. When you really sit down and isolate the paradigms and use the proper language for the proper paradigm, the differences become less substantial and more semantics.

I would like to add to Eric's explanation of holy water. The question boils downs to:

  • Does God use man and matter, as points of contact, for our faith in order to administer grace?

To answer this question we can look at two simple examples, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, some men threw the dead body into an open grave where the bones of the prophet Elisha were buried. Upon coming into contact with those bones the corpse came back to life.

  • Now, was there something magical about the bones?

No, but they were used by God to transmit grace. In this case, a miracle.

In the New Testament, we have an example of the Apostle Paul praying over handkerchiefs. (Acts 19:11-12) Subsequently, these same handkerchiefs were brought to the sick, laid upon them, and they recovered.

When a priest blesses an item, be it water or anything else, all that means is, if something comes in contact with that item, it comes in contact with that prayer. There is nothing different about the water. It's the prayer or the blessing that is important.

  • How does it work?

Well, I don't know that we can give you a formula, but I'll give you a hint. The Holy Spirit probably has something to do with it.


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