Thursday, April 06, 2006

Reactions to My Unam Sanctum vs Catechism Article

My best friend, who is Roman Catholic, posted to his parish's Internet bulleting board a question about my recent article. Good question. Shows honesty. He wants to believe what is true and to test his beliefs. He also wants to see what the Catholic response would be.

I found the responses to be interesting. Some were from an old friend from high school (more on that later).
Anyway, I think this idea of “one true church” is something many of us have struggled with, who gets to heaven? Who achieves salvation? These are questions which we will never really know for sure, at least IMO. ... This is where faith comes into play most of all, faith that God knows what he’s doing and that in the end all will be revealed.

Why can't we know that for sure?

While I would argue I can't know whether that is the case or not for specific individuals, Scripture has made the conditions for salvation known to us. Otherwise, you should live in fear your entire life.

This comment is telling and it is common among those who belong to churches and those outside. There is a deep skeptism. How can I know something like that?

My question in return would be: Has God made any of that known to us? Has he revealed knowledge of who receives salvation? If the answer is yes, skeptism on the question is no moral virtue. Instead, it would be disbelief.

If God tells you X and you say we can't be sure about X, that isn't an admirable or good position to take.

It is Scripture that testifies that we need to believe in Jesus. Peter (who should hold some sway for Roman Catholics) said "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Another person wrote the following:
Can't help but think of my mother speaking to a priest about someone who'd died. Don't remember if that someone had no faith or what, but, when asked if he/she was Catholic, Mom said "he/she is now."

My aforementioned friend from high school also wrote the following:
I find it very difficult to believe that I will never see any of my friends (I’m the only Catholic) or my husband (has become a non-practicing Catholic) in heaven should I get there myself.

Do you see a thread in these reactions? Concern for loved-ones. Either friends or family. In other words, concern and emotion trumps traditional teachings or biblical teachings. This is where the creeping Roman Catholic universalism comes from. People don't want their loved ones to be in eternal, spiritual trouble. And, frankly, I don't want them to be in trouble either. That's why I want people to have faith in Jesus.

I also would like to notice the sadness of the last statement. "...should I get there myself." I'm used to running into people's skepticism about knowing spiritual matters. But look what the results in. Is that in my high school friend's best interests?

How does Scripture speak? "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:13)

But that wasn't really what my friend was originally asking. He wasn't asking what people are or are not going to heaven. He was asking how can we say we have an infallible Church, whose teachings we are told to rely on, when they aren't consistent in what they teach. Biblical and Roman Catholic teachings on the topic of inclusivism are important. But I was dealing with infallibility and church authority.

My high school friend responds to that point: "I understand what Geoff is saying, but I don't think it's not unprecidented that the Church change its position. But what the heck do I know. Take care."

So the answer seems to be "yes, this is a contradiction."

This post now needs to go on a major tangent.

My old friend shared some personal information.
Anyway, I knew Geoff very well in high school. I know exactly what you mean when you say he believe what he does very strongly, I attribute my fall from the Church when I was in HS & start of college to him and our many long conversations after Bible Study, I was very impressionable then. Thankfully I met a wonderful person in college who brought me back & to him I have always been grateful.
BTW, I still e-mail [another mutual friend] from time to time; he seems to be doing very well. While he and I had different beliefs he never tried to make mine feel like they were totally wrong like some other people (see above) did.

Now, I will confess that I am forceful about what I believe, even non-spiritual matters. When this person knew me I was 16 and 17 and a very new Christian. I didn't then and don't always now handle myself with grace and tact.

She may feel I am/was a jerk for making her feel that her beliefs (or some of them) were wrong. (I'm not sure how much she is viewing my lack of grace versus my proclaiming what I feel is true.)

I cared about the old friend. I was concerned about how she was doing and about her well-being. Frankly, I can't remember specific topics of conversation regarding Roman Catholicism. It's been a while. If I care about someone, I am going to contend for the truth, since it is for everyone's own good to believe true things...esp. in spiritual matters.

If I've spoken my peace or if someone says "please stop talking to me about this", I won't bring it up anymore. But I want to get the information into the person's head so they can think about it. From there, it is up to them. That doesn't mean if we disagree we can't be friends, buddies, etc.

Now, if it is poor form to tell people they are wrong, what are we to make of Jesus and the apostles?

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

I quoted Peter earlier to say that there is no other way except for Jesus.

Stephen, the first martyr, said to the religious authorities "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ear! You always resits the Holy Spirit." (Acts 7:51)

Paul preached to the Greeks and said "these time of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent..." (Acts 17:30)

After debating Jewish people, Paul began to be opposed. What did he say? "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean." (Acts 18:6)

Ok, you are saying "enough." The pattern is clear. Jesus and the apostles and the early Christians told people they were wrong when they were wrong. Not to crush them or to get people to agree with them just for the sake of it. (And granted they possessed much more grace and boldness than I do.) But for their well-being. So that they may have life and have it abundantly.

A few final thoughts. If someone says you have a problem or doing something wrong if you tell someone they believe something which is wrong, what are they saying? They are saying that your belief in proclaiming what you believe is wrong. So, according to their own belief, they themselves are wrong to say you are wrong.

If someone believes in something detrimental to their own person, is it loving to leave them be? No. (At this point, I want to say I am not judging our mutual friend. Nor am I concerned that our friend says he didn't make her feel she was wrong. Obviously, I was having enough conversations that he didn't need to talk to her. Or maybe he didn't feel it was appropriate in his situation. Or maybe he did disagree, but with more tact.)

Love is more radical. It is not rude. However, it does not rejoice in inquity, but rejoices in the truth. (I Cor. 13:5-6)

I am opinionated. It doesn't matter much if you disagree with me about beer, Moneyball, economics, political matters, and a vast of other things. But Jesus is different. I may be opinionated. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong. That doesn't mean you don't need to believe in Jesus. I may be opinionated, but that doesn't mean I don't care about you. I will try to dialogue with you. We may agree to disagree and then do something else. Have a beer. Play a video game. Something like that.

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