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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.

*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 in a conversation with Jesus, Jesus asserts:  “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 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 would 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!