Monday, May 27, 2013

Apologetics toolbox: Redemption and heaven

As unreliable as the MSM is in reporting on matters religious, religious bloggers and non-mainstream news outlets are almost as bad at reporting on what the MSM says about religion. Has anyone actually read an article or post which declares, without any weasel words or equivocal phrasing, “Pope Francis said Thursday that atheists can go to heaven by doing good works”? If you know where such posts can be found, please send me the links and I’ll post them here.

Of course, that’s not what the Pope said, as Jimmy Akin takes some time to explain. Pace Terry Mattingly, HuffPo’s headline (“Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed By Jesus As Well As Catholics, Pope Francis Says”) is only as dramatic as the fact is — all mankind has been redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. If there’s any problem with the anonymous author’s piece, it’s that s/he confuses redemption with justification: “…the Pope’s words may spark memories of the deep divisions from the Protestant reformation over the belief in redemption through grace versus redemption through works[bold font mine.—TL].

Why would such an assertion be controversial? In strict justice, atheists can’t be wholly blamed for getting Christian concepts mixed up. For one thing, Catholic catechesis and religious formation have degraded considerably since 1965; for another, common Christian consensus understanding of such basic concepts has also fallen apart, as a natural consequence of sola scriptura and the rejection of human religious authority. If we don’t get these things right, how do we convince the non-believer?

The assertion is only controversial if we believe that redemption is a guarantee of heaven — that, because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, you don’t really need to do anything other than be “good enough” to go to heaven. This is the error that needs correction. So what is redemption?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To a very special Mother

Originally posted May 8, 2011

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals sing in truth, "What a friend we have in Jesus!" But I wonder what their Friend thinks about the way they talk about His Mother.

You may read the Bible. You may read it so much that you can rattle off whole chapters from memory without missing a word. But if you don't have a proper love and reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mother, then either you don't truly understand what you read, or your relationship with Jesus is way off. Or both.

Yes, Marian devotion can be overdone, just as you can have an inordinate or improper love for your own mother. But the opposite is just as true. "As a protestant," Randy at Speak the Truth in Love writes, "I looked at Mary and saw a concubine. Someone who performed a biological function. A surrogate mother. I was told to look at her and marvel at how amazing a thing she did. God using her body to bring Jesus to the world. That contemplating that was dangerous. It might lead me to worship Mary."

Yes, Randy has come past that point. And to be fair, there are Protestants who love Mary as well. "You Catholics don't have sole claim on her," one woman said, and I for one am willing to share. But to regard Mary as important only for her uterus? That wrongs not just Mary — and all women should take umbrage at it — but God as well.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The foundations of the New Jerusalem

Today, the sixth Sunday of Easter, almost starts us on a countdown to Pentecost, the “birthday of the Church”. For the first reading (Ac 15:1-2, 22-29) concerns the Council of Jerusalem (ca. 42) and the letter the Council sent to the gentile Christians of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia — not just the first ecumenical council, but also the first instance in which the Church instructed others without appeal to Scripture, Christ’s teaching or other precedent.

There is a choice of second reading; for our purposes, let’s take Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23. In this reading, the angel shows St. John the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God, which he tells us “had twelve courses of stones as its foundation [the Greek has themelious dōdeka, “twelve foundations”], on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” This should call back to our minds St. Paul’s words to St. Timothy, where he refers to the Church as “the pillar and foundation [hedraiōma][1]of the truth”.

Again with the Gospel we have our choice, so let’s follow John 14:23-29, which forms part of Jesus’ “Last Supper discourse”. In this passage, the Lord promises the gathered disciples, who will (with one lamentable exception) become his first apostles, that “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” Earlier, he had said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you” (vv. 16-17).