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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Catholicism and "No one comes to the Father but through Me"

Question:  Doesn't the belief that non Christians are going to heaven contradict the Bible which states that no one gets to heaven except through Jesus--"no one comes to the Father but through me"--John 14:6

Response:  So as a repeat from the previous post on this topic, Catholicism professes that non-Christians MAY go to heaven, not that they ARE definitely going to heaven.

But if they are in heaven, it's ONLY through the atoning death of Christ.  

And their faith in Christ. 

Yes, faith in Jesus is necessary to go to heaven.

However, Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft states, using Socrates*, who lived centuries before Christ, as an example, faith in Christ means more than faith in the 33 year old Jewish man who walked the streets of Jerusalem 2000 years ago: 

"What might it mean to say Socrates could have had faith in Christ? To have faith in Christ, you must somehow know Christ. How could Socrates have known Christ? In the same way everyone can: as “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (Jn. 1:9). As the preincarnate Logos, the divine Word or Light or Reason.

No one can know God except through Christ (Jn. 1:18; Lk. 10:22). But pagans know God (Acts 17:28; Rom. 1:19-20; 2:11-16). Therefore pagans know Christ.

For Christ is not just a six-foot-high, thirty-three-year-old Jewish carpenter. He is the second person of the eternal Trinity, the full expression, or revelation, or Logos, of the Father (Col. 1:15, 19; Jn. 14:9). He is to the Father as sunlight is to the sun. As such he is “light, which lightens everyone” through reason and conscience."

Thus, any person who uses the light of human reason to come to a love of truth, beauty, goodness, knows Christ.  He may be unaware that his path towards the Light is being led by Jesus, but he is on the right course nonetheless.  Exclusive, literal knowledge of Christ is not necessary.. (but it must also be stated that an explicit REJECTION of Christ would appear to be a deal-breaker).

Quoting Kreeft further: "The mere abstract, intellectual pursuit of truth is not sufficient to save you.  But neither are intellectual mistakes enough to damn you...Socrates (or any other pagan) could seek God, could repent of his sins, and could obscurely believe in and accept the God he knew obscurely and partially and therefore he could be saved--or damned if he refused to seek, repent and believe". (ibid)

If Jesus is the ONLY Savior, then it necessarily follows that all other religions and ideologies which deny this are...perilously wrong...and must therefore be rejected.

But it doesn't follow that practitioners of these other religions must be rejected or that they are necessarily condemned.

They can't be saved without Him, but they also, paradoxically, aren't condemned without Him either.  

So, again, it's a mistake to decline to evangelize a non-Christian--why not assist him in to the boat for the ride to the other side?
But it's also incorrect to assume that he's condemned to hell merely because he had the bad fortune of being born in Bhutan and isn't a Christian.
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*Kreeft gives the caveat that he's not claiming to know that Socrates is in heaven.  He is only providing a way to reconcile the concept that IF Socrates (or any other non-Christian, pagan, Hindu, Jew, etc) is in heaven, this is how we can understand it.  There is no "St. Socrates" canonized by the Catholic Church; as such it would be outside Kreeft's paygrade to declare Socrates to be in heaven.  *:) happy

Friday, February 10, 2017

Catholicism vs "The Shack"

In a few weeks the movie "The Shack" is coming out. 


Let me preface by saying: I plan to see the movie.  I read the book and thought it was mildly entertaining.

No one is saying that we should be boycotting this movie....

It's a movie.  For entertainment.  We, as critical thinkers, can take the good and eschew the bad.

However, with that said, it's also naive to think that it's just a movie about a guy who goes to a shack, meets 3 people and comes back changed for the better.

Quoting from a friend, regarding the book, in 2010:  "Yes, we're aware that the book is fiction but it's the fact that it is another in a long line of things out there that are 'just fiction but have big parts that go against Church teaching' such as: The DaVinci Code, The Secret, The Golden Compass, etc."

It's a movie that definitely is trying to make some theological points*.  And some of these theological statements made in the book are contrary to what Catholicism professes.

To wit:  
-the renouncing of religion in favor of a "relationship".  Religion is a burden.  Relationships are what God is all about.  (Catholic response:  what is religion but a relationship with God? Catholicism embraces the both/and. We don't want to be sour-pussed saints who only mouth rules and rituals...but we also can't have a relationship without rules and rituals. We can't have a relationship with God if we don't know who He is. And the ONLY way we can know anything meaningful about Christ is through His Body, the Catholic Church).

-Christ did not come to save us from our sins, for there is no such thing as sin. (Catholic response:  if there truly is no such thing as sin, then what the heck was the crucifixion for?  Christ suffered for nothing?)

-All God wants is for us to be with Him, and if it's through Christ, or through Buddha, it doesn't matter.(Catholic response:  this seems to be an untenable position for Catholics, given the Scripture which declares that Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to God except through Christ).

-The portrayal of one of the persons of the Trinity as a woman.  (Catholic response:  God has chosen to reveal Himself as Father.  While it's true that God as a divine being is neither male nor female, we understand God through what has been revealed to us, and God is our Father.  Not our Mother.)

-The rejection of laws and rules. The main character, Mack says, “Are you saying I don’t have to follow the rules?” The response “Yes. In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful.” (Catholic response:  Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law.  All things simply cannot be "lawful".  That's just gaga, lala nonsense).

-Also, while a conversation with Jesus:  “Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy.”(Catholic response:  what the what?)

*If anyone objects to the above with this: "But you haven't even seen the movie yet, so how do you know any of these things will be portrayed in the movie?" I say: that is a valid point.  And if none of those criticisms appear in the movie, then no harm has been done.  But I suspect that those who loved the book because of its unconventional theology won't be disappointed with any diversion from the religious themes of the book.  


So, as with all things in our popular culture, we enjoy them with our guard up.  We receive what is good and reject what is bad, as it says in Philippians 4:8:  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How can billions of people be condemned just because of where they were born?

Question:  You are a Christian, and therefore saved, because you happen to be born in a family that's Christian, in an area where Christianity is prominent. If you had been born in, say, India, you'd be Hindu.  If you were born in China, you'd probably be Buddhist. How can someone be condemned because he had the bad luck of being born in a non-Christian country?  Billions of people--billions!--have simply had the misfortune of being born in a world where they never heard of Jesus.  So they're going to hell, basically, because of geography--for having the bad luck of being born in the jungles of Borneo.

Response:  Firstly, no one is "saved" simply because he's a Christian.  (The implication in the question above is that you will definitely go to heaven simply because you accepted Jesus into your heart).  That's an objection that can be posed to fundamentalist Christians, but it's not what Catholics professes.  

Secondly, no Hindu, Buddhist, non-Christian is "condemned" (that is, going to hell) simply because he never heard of Jesus.

Jesus tells us quite plainly in Scripture that “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin”--John 15:22.  That is, those who have never heard of Christ "would not have sin" and are therefore not condemned.

A document from Vatican II, Lumen Gentium professes: Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does divine Providence deny the help necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, but who strive to live a good life, thanks to his grace" (Lumen Gentium, no. 16).

Our Catechism proclaims:  The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life." (CCC 843)


So this then prompts 3 questions:  

1) Why even evangelize if non-Christians are going to heaven too? 

2) Doesn't the belief that non Christians are going to heaven contradict the Bible which states that no one gets to heaven except through Jesus--"no one comes to the Father but through me"--John 14:6

3) Doesn't this belief contradict the Catholic Church's own teaching which is:  "Outside the Church there is no salvation"?

Response to #1:  the question overstates the Church's teaching.  We don't profess that non-Christians ARE going to heaven.  Only that they MAY be able to.  Their "best shot" at standing before the Eternal Throne of heaven is...by embracing Christ and His Church, which is why we always want to share the good news with others.

An (imperfect) analogy is this:  we need to cross a raging river.  Catholics are in a boat.  Non-Catholics may be able to cross the river, but it really help them if we invite them in to our boat.  It's a special kind of mean to look at them, floundering in the river and say, "Hey, I understand that you may be able to get to the other side, so...good luck to you!  Buh-bye!" *;) winking

In other words:  all of us need the Eucharist!  All of us need the grace conferred by the sacraments to eschew sin and embrace the Light.  All of us need the mystical body of Christ, the Catholic Church.

Questions 2 and 3 will be addressed at a later date!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Abortion and "You can't legislate morality"

The anniversary of Roe v Wade is upon us, and it often invites discussions with folks who disagree with the Catholic Church on her view of abortion.

An argument that is often promoted by the prochoice crowd is:  you can't legislate morality.  You can't force your view on me, because America is a democracy.

And that's frankly, gaga, lala nonsense.
It's something they've heard and accepted, blindly, without considering if it's actually true.

All laws are, essentially, nothing but "legislated morality". 

And what are civil rights except "legislated morality"? As Fr. Thomas Kocik says, "How are we to describe the civil rights laws of the 1960s, except as the codification of a moral imperative?"

He goes on to say, "And what are our various social welfare laws, if not expressions of a corporate responsibility for the poor, the old, and the sick among us? The question, then, is not whether but how we legislate morality."

Morality is legislated and "forced" on us every day.  To wit:  "You can't drive a car with your baby in the front seat."  And "You cannot refuse to serve a man in a restaurant because of the color of his skin".  And "If you draw a swastika on a piece of property, you will be punished".

So it's a peculiar argument to deny prolifers the right to also try to legislate their morality. If it's true that it should be illegal to kill an innocent human being, then why not extend this law to the most innocent, and most vulnerable human beings?

Now, it's correct to say that no one can be coerced into believing another person's morality.   As Catholic Apologist Mark Shea says, "What we really mean when we say you can't legislate morality is that the Law cannot put the things of the Spirit in the heart. It cannot instill love of neighbor, for instance. But it can and does punish those who can't even bring themselves to keep from harming their neighbor. It says, if you can't love your neighbor, at least don't beat him to death with a baseball bat or cheat him out of money. That's a really moral function. It's just not the highest moral function."

So when Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless" he meant this in the sense that morality, as a change of heart, can't be imposed upon society.  Not that we shouldn't legislate morality.




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As a corollary, even though all law is legislated morality, we also don't want all morality to be legislated.

So, while adultery is immoral, it isn't necessary to legislate this into a crime.
And while everyone should be giving honor and glory to God, it's bad legislation and bad government to force this upon our citizens.

Laws are enacted which enforce the floor of human behavior, not the upper echelons of morality.

It is heroic virtue that can't be legislated...that is something that comes from the infusion of grace, not from the legal system.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bill Nye and "Can We Stop Telling Women What to Do With Their Bodies?"

Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" posted a video on Youtube defending abortion.

Firstly, in response to the title "Stop telling women what to do with their bodies!" "It's a private matter!"--I think it's important to offer a parallel.  Prior to the 1960's, it was totally legal for a man to beat his wife in the privacy of his home, provided that he didn't leave a mark on her. In other words, the paradigm was:   "Stop telling men what they can do in the privacy of their own home!"

Of course, no morally sane person believes that a man can do whatever he wants in his own home, if it harms another human being.

Similarly, no morally sane person ought to believe that a woman can do whatever she wants with her own body, if it harms another human being.

Nye also states:

"I mean it’s hard not to get frustrated with this everybody. And I know nobody likes abortion, okay. But you can’t tell somebody what to do. I mean she has rights over this, especially if she doesn’t like the guy that got her pregnant. She doesn’t want anything to do with your genes; get over it, especially if she were raped and all this."

This prompts the question, "Why doesn't anybody like abortion?"

If it's nothing more than the extraction of a tissue from the body, why does nobody like abortion?

I never hear anyone say, "Nobody likes appendectomies!"
We simply view it as a necessary surgical procedure to remove an unwanted, diseased tissue.

The reason "nobody likes abortion" is because we all inherently understand that it's a human person that's being extracted.  Not a piece of tissue.

I think any time we're in a discussion with someone who is pro-choice and concedes, "Nobody likes abortion.  It should be safe, legal and rare"...we ought to ask why it is that nobody likes it.



Friday, January 13, 2017

"Do not add to this book" and Sola Scriptura

So one of the major divisions between Catholicism and Protestantism is that Catholicism rejects Sola Scriptura, or the idea that all of our (theological) beliefs must come from Scripture alone. 

Except, ironically, this belief in Sola Scriptura isn't found in the Bible...so Sola Scriptura is a self-refuting principle.

There are some folks who will cite this verse in Revelation to prove Sola Sciptura:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;--Revelation 22:18

That is, the Bible is complete--and "adding to" the Bible, like the Catholic Church has done, with her papal encyclicals, Church councils, infallible teachings, is condemned in the above verse.

Catholic response:
 if we take the above words from Revelation literally, and no one can add to that book, Revelation, then we wouldn't have the New Testament in its entirety.  
Revelation, even if it was placed at the end of the Bible, wasn't written last. All of the books written AFTER Revelation would then be considered "adding to" that book.  

Historians record Revelation to be written about 90 AD.  The Gospel of John, the epistles of John, Jude, Timothy, were all believed to have been written after that...that is, were ADDED after the inspired writing of Revelation.

Also, the Catholic Church hasn't "added to" anything.  The entirety of the kerygma, the gospel message, the good news, was given, once for all (Jude 1:3), to the Church.  In other words, the Catholic faith was whole and entire before a single word of the New Testament was ever put to writ. The Church received this good news 2000 years ago, and has proclaimed it for 2000 years.  Some of this good news was written down (Sacred Scripture) and some of it has been proclaimed orally (Sacred Tradition).  Papal encyclicals and other magisterial documents are NOT adding to the Faith--they are in-depth clarifications, insights and illuminations on what has already been professed.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Catholicism, Parenting, Branding and Brainwashing

So I saw this meme on Facebook recently:

Image result for we are all born atheist


IOW:  it's a cruel and abusive form of parenting to brand your child with a religious identity.
Just like no parent should tell a child, "No! You don't like latkes! Your favorite food is fish!"...no parent should tell a child, "You are a Christian!" That's a form of brainwashing, according to this meme.  Let him decide what religion he favors.

Catholic response: if religion were merely another opinion, or preference, or taste, OF COURSE we should let our children form their own thoughts!  It's absurd for a parent to dictate what her child's favorite color is, or if he wants ketchup with his fries, or whether she thinks modern dance is weird or beautiful (it's weird.  Definitely. *;) winking ).

However, would it be absurd for a parent to say: 
-no, you cannot declare that 5 is more than 60
-you shouldn't believe that white people are smarter than everyone else
-yes, a girl can be a pilot 
-no, you cannot run around this restaurant like you're in a park.  Sit here at this table and eat your dinner quietly
-no, you cannot decide that you don't want your MMR vaccination

Certainly not!  In fact, parents SHOULD be saying those things to their children.  

It's a peculiar double standard that atheists typically demonstrate when it comes to religion.  Most atheists accept and extol the truths of science.  They don't see the truths professed in the scientific world as "dogmas", nor do they see it as a form of brainwashing to tell their children:  "70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water".

No atheistic parent would tell her son:  "Yes, Damien, you can form your own opinion about whether $1 is equal to 100 pennies or equal to 50 pennies.  It's up to you!"

Yet, curiously, any truths of a religious nature are relegated to the arena of brainwashing and forcing one's opinion upon our children.

One has to wonder why this hypocrisy is permitted in their minds....

Finally, it should be noted that the meme itself seems to contradict its own message.  For is it not a form of brainwashing to tell people, "Let your children form their own damn opinions"?