Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Should Catholics Understand Romans 9?

In the comments on Friday's post, a Calvinist convert to Catholicism asked what to make of Romans 9:18-21, which sound like Paul's saying that God made some people for Heaven, and some people for Hell:
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me thus?"  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?
I would suggest that this passage needs to be read in the context of Paul's fuller argument (which runs from Chapter 9 to Chapter 11 of the Epistle), and I'd make these points:

(1) Yes, that part of Romans 9 really does sound like St. Paul is saying that God mercifully saves some, and damns the rest.  After all, in v. 18, he says, “So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills.” He then proceeds with the three verses that the commenter cited to, in which Paul rhetorically asks and answers the question, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?

But here’s the thing. We know that, despite how it may sound, St. Paul isn’t saying that those whose hearts are hardened are eternally damned. And we know this because St. Paul explicitly denies that this is what he’s saying, when he continues this line of argumentation two chapters later.

In Romans 11:7, he says that “Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.” Then he says of those who have been hardened, “So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means!” (Rom. 11:12).  On the contrary, Paul explains that part of his ministry to the Gentiles is “to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them” (Rom. 11:14). And thus, “a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25-26).

Now, this chapter in particular, with branches being cut off from Christ, or ingrafted on to Him, quite plainly repudiates any notion of “once saved, always saved.” I’d go so far as to say that this makes sense only if election is conditional – specifically, if it is conditioned on faith, as Paul explicitly says it is in Romans 9:30-31 and Rom. 11:20-21.

(2) The term “elect” simply means “chosen,” so the obvious question is: chosen to what? Are we talking about election to graces and blessings (like having five talents, instead of one), election to participation in the life of the visible Church, or election to eternal life? Protestants tend to assume that “election” is always meant in this third sense, but I’ve never seen a good explanation for this belief. In fact, verses like Romans 11:28 seem to confound that sort of reading.  And if the election Paul is speaking of is to eternal life, then the answer to his rhetorical question in Rom. 11:12 would be “yes,” since he's defined the hardened to be those who aren't elect (Rom. 11:7).

On the other hand, if Paul is speaking of election in either of the first two senses - that of blessings and curses, or particularly, of being part of the visible chosen people - Romans 9 and 11 make a lot more sense.  After all, the famous line, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,” that Paul cites to in Rom. 9:13 wasn't originally about eternal salvation at all.  It was about the way that God had preserved and protected the Israelites, while allowing the country of the Edomites (the descendants of Esau) to be turned into a wasteland (Malachi 1:2-5).    There's no reference in the passage to the salvation of Jacob, Esau, the Israelites, or the Edomites... unless one presupposes that the prosperous are saved, and the desolate are damned.

(3) Finally, St. Paul explicitly denies that God shows any favoritism, as regards salvation, in Romans 2:4-11:
“Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 
For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Ironically, despite Paul's warning here not to “presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience,” Calvinists use this Epistle to justify the idea that once you're saved, you're always saved.  And despite Paul's point that “God shows no partiality” (which is literally the central argument of the Epistle, since Paul's answering the idea that God arbitrarily divided the world into two immutable groups: Jews and Gentiles), Calvinists use this Epistle to justify the idea that God shows partiality, and divided the world into two immutable groups: the elect and reprobate.

The only thing I would add to this is Fr. William Most's commentary of the massa damnata interpretation of this passage of Romans 9:
Fr. William Most
All exegetes today reject this interpretation. As Huby points out, [Cf. Joseph Huby, SJ, Saint Paul, Epitre aux Romains, Traduction et Commentaire, Verbum Salutis X, Beauchesne, Paris, 1957, p. 349.] it is altogether arbitrary to say that the "clay" in v. 21 stands for the human race, corrupted by original sin, because in the whole of chapter 9 there is not even a remote allusion to original sin. Lagrange makes a keen observation [M.J. Lagrange, OP, Saint Paul, Epitre aux Romains, Gabalda, Paris, 1931, p. 238.]: "At least the potter does not blame the vessels which he has made for ignoble uses." Hence, if God really had made certain men for ignoble roles, He should not blame and condemn these men for being such. 
Actually, St. Paul was only making a comparison, or, as Lagrange says, [Ibid.] "a simple parable." St. Paul wishes to teach that God has the right to assign men to various places in the external order of this world-which is quite different and distinct from the internal order of eternal salvation or ruin! That is, God makes some to be kings, others physicians, others laborers, etc. And similarly, He brings some into the Church in the full sense, and not others. But these assignments by no means fix the eternal lot of a man. Later in this chapter we shall examine what relation does exist between a man's eternal lot and his place in the external order of this world.
So in short, reading Paul to be talking about eternal life and eternal death in Romans 9:18-21 would not just contradict Catholic theology.  It contradicts the rest of Paul's line of argumentation in Romans itself.  It's a much stronger reading to view Paul as talking about (a) the blessing and curses of ordinary life [like giving one person five talents, and another one], and/or (b) participation in the life of the visible Church [which fits the general theme of Romans].

28 comments:

  1. So predestination doesn't really *do* anything? "Predestine" is just another way of saying "foreknew"?

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  2. Visible church? That would crush Calvinists. I keep asking where is this one, holy and apostolic church founded at Pentecost and my former brethren can point nowhere.

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  3. I find it hard to believe that God is the "author" or "creator" of sin. In other words, if God has destined me to commit such-and-such a sin, and I have no will to avoid committing that sin, then God is the author of that sin, and I do not believe it is possible for that to be true of God as we know Him.

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  4. blah blah predestination. Only the penitent thief on the cross knew if he was saved or not, because the Lord told him. God gave us free will and we can use it to languish in sin or we can use it to follow the teachings of Christ and His Church. Just because God knows everything doesn't mean we aren't responsible for our freely chosen decisions.

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  5. Thank you for your thoughts on this passage. I am in complete agreement that a Calvinistic understanding of these 3 chapters, while potentially acceptable standing alone, is unintelligible within the wider framework of the epistle. In fact, considering the passage immediately following (chapter 12), it is clear that whatever St. Paul might be saying in chapters 9 - 11 is to serve as a motivation for right action.

    Having admitted this, I'm not sold on your interpretation that Paul here refers to earthly blessings. 9:22 speaks of "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" which does not sound like an earthly curse.

    I don't understand what you mean in your final thought about "participation in the life of the visible Church". Would you explain that further or point me toward some material for reading?

    Ultimately, I understand this passage as a confusing bit of text wrapped in a clear text. Since the clear interpretation of Romans is antithetical to a Calvinistic soteriology, the confusing bits must fall in line. I just haven't figured a good method for lining them up!

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    1. Christopher,

      The problem is that the alternative interpretation (that God hardens some, because He created them for eternal destruction) is explicitly rejected by St. Paul in Rom. 11:12. You're right, though, that this is not one of the clearest passages in Scripture.

      As an aside, I've found something of a trend in Protestantism to do the opposite of what you've said: that is, starting from the confusing bits, and trying to force fit the clear bits to say something other than they do. For example, Paul could have been meaning "good works" as well as "works of the Law" in Romans and Galatians, but that's by no means clear from these passages in isolation (since it wasn't part of the dispute he was addressing). Luther starts from the idea that he did mean both, and then can't figure out what to do with James, which explicitly does deal with good works, and says the opposite of what Luther wants him to say.

      Other examples abound: you'll find Evangelical communities built upon very specific end-times chronologies, as if the Bible was obviously warning about the E.U. But then when they get to something really remarkably clear, like John 17:20-23, they'll just explain it away.

      My point is that building a theological system built on the most confusing and highly-controverted passages of Scripture strikes me as bad methodology, particularly when it necessitates negating clear passages of Scripture to make it fit the system.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  6. The scriptural support behind the idea of predestination has always been unsound ... it flies in the face of all the other places in the NT where the writers warn people to 'shape up' if they want to go to heaven, and particular St Paul's emphasis that he himself does not have a guarantee (for example, 1 Cor 9.24-27). And as you say it takes a very one-sided reading of Romans to find support for the idea there. But that, of course, is the point of 'proof texting' ... you find the one or two verses that seem to support what you are saying, rip it out of context, and then ignore what the rest of Sacred Scripture has to say.

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    1. So who's at fault Frister, for putting the word "predestination" in scripture? I know the biblical writers didn't put it there. So it was the Catholic church that monkeying with the text and added it.

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  8. Rey,

    Well thank you for admitting that the Scriptures are only here because of the Catholic Church!

    Cary

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    1. You're quite welcome. Although it is very sad how you burned so much of the good stuff and kept so much trash. Romans 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 were more worthy to be burned than the gospel of the Ebionites.

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    2. Rey,

      Can you clarify your background and give some reason to what you just said? I just would like to be clear on your position and understand what you are saying before dialoging...

      In Christ
      Cary

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  9. My background is that I'm not a faith-onlyist Prot nor a Calvinist. I'm not really sure what you mean by background? What denomination I was raised in? It was the Restoration Movement churches of Christ which of course rejects faith-onlyism and beleives baptism is essential to salvation among other things like moral living.

    All of that I think is irrelevant. What is important is what the writer [not Paul in my estimation] is trying to say in these chapters. I will give you a brief overview of Romans 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9.

    3 - the writer is misusing the OT, ripping many passages out of context that are about atheists, universalizing them into a doctrine of "its impossible to be righteous" which contradicts Jesus who says "I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" and again "God sends the rain on the righteous and unrighteous" and a host of other passages that demonstrate that righteous people do exist. When the Psalmist says "there is none righteous no not one" in those two psalms about atheists (the ones that begin "the fool has said in his heart there is no God") he means only that atheists cannot be righteous not that nobody can nor ever was (e.g. Job, Enoch, etc.) The whole chapter is the madness of an illiterate.

    4 - Abraham's story from Genesis 15 which says literally in the OT "he believed the LORD and counted it to him as righteousness" (i.e. Abraham believed God's reiteration of the promise and counted it [God's reiteration of the promise] to God as righteousness [assuming that it meant God would eventually keep the promise he kept repeating]) is modified by Paul into "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness" as if the passage were about how God justified Abraham rather than how Abraham counted God as just in his belief that God would keep his promise. Again, illiteracy run amock and producing false doctrine [faith-onlyism which leads to Calvinism].

    5 - I can't say much on this one to a Catholic audience, so I will forgo. But basically flowing from the idea that its impossible to be righteous (3) and therefore we must be justified by faith alone as Abraham supposedly was (4) we come to the idea that really our own sins didn't damn us (Adam's did) and our own obedience has nothing to do with our salvation (only Jesus' does) -- so our damnation and salvation are both solely about what others do and we are totally passive through the whole thing.

    7 - an extension of 3 and the argument that its impossible to be righteous. Despite Enoch and Job clearly having been able to do the good they willed to do Paul puts forth the subjective argument that since he is incapable of doing so, everyone must be.

    9 - Misuse of the story of Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharoah, to argue arbitrary predestination, topped off with the attack "How dare you reply against God" to anyone who questions that God is a puppetmaster who makes people sin.

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    1. Rey,

      by background I just meant what Church you go to and how you got there. It seems like you laid out your basic beliefs though which is pretty much what I was asking for. Thank you for responding graciously. You also then added your reasoning for your belief that Romans 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 are "trash."

      Without getting into tedium, some of which you have laid out, I'd lke to ask what you believe to be the neccesary beliefs for one to be a Christian? on what/whose authority? Also, how does one know which books the Bible consists of or should consist of?

      You clearly claimed your estimation as important to the assessment above...are there others that back this assertion? How does it square with historical Christianity? Why are you an authority on these matters, or if these are someone else's ideas, why are they an authority?

      Thank you again for your charitable tone, I hope the dialogue can continue.

      In Christ
      Cary

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  10. Well, let me start by saying I've never heard anyone use the phrase "historical Christianity" before other than Calvinists. And by that phrase "historical Christianity" they simply mean the dominant line post-Augustine. They don't want to hear about "historical Christianity" prior to that, how that Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, Tertullian upheld freewill. They don't want to know that the Augustinian doctrine of original sin didn't exist until the Manichean converted back to Catholicism at 26.

    I suppose when you say "historical Christianity," however, you will allow that it goes back further than Augustine of Hippo. So, how do my idea square with "historical Christianity"? They square quite nicely with pre-Augustinian historical Christianity, in that nobody believed the doctrine of Romans 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 prior to him. Sure, the church may have said unreflectively (as my own church did and does) that it believed that Romans was written by Paul and was inspired scripture, but they only said this (as my church only does) because they had never reflected rationally on the contents of the epistle. Had they, then they would have been forced to take one of three possible paths: (1) Reject what the church had always believed--reject historic Christianity--for something new; the path taken by Augustine. (2) Ignore these passages and pretend they somehow harmonize with the rest of scripture; the path taken by Pelagius. (3) Throw them out of the Bible.

    Essentially, historic Christianity pre-Augustine took path #2. Probably, although it cannot be proven, because they never paid the epistle to the Romans enough attention to do #3.

    Now, with the continual division that's been caused by #1 its clear that #2 is not a good solution, so I say we ought to go for #3.

    Looking for an ecumenical solution, we can know for sure that #1 (rejecting pre-Augustinian historic Christianity and imposing Augustinianism on everyone) will not unite everyone back into one church. #2 also can't do it because eventually the same ole same ole will happen; a new Augustine will arise from some Manichean cult and confuse the crap out of everyone again. #3 unites everyone in one church without the faith-onlyist immoral scum which are left in the dust, so it is the best option.

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  11. In other words, to put it more simply. Despite his having been canonized by the imperial church, Augustine is really a heresiarch who is personally responsible for the fragmentation of Christianity into so many denominations. It is his doctrines that divide Christianity (e.g. original sin, predestination). Of course, those doctrines are found in embryo in Romans 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9, and so whoever wrote those passages (it certainly could not be Paul) was also a heretic; but nobody bought into them (aside from the Gnostics) until this Manichean agitator. Until Augustine is condemned by an ecumenical council as a heretic, and these passages are declared spurious by the same, there can be no peace in Christendom.

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    1. Rey,

      Thank you again. I would like to stay out of the minutia, because I think it often obscures the root. To go back to that can you answer these:

      Without getting into tedium, some of which you have laid out, I'd lke to ask what you believe to be the neccesary beliefs for one to be a Christian? on what/whose authority? Also, how does one know which books the Bible consists of or should consist of?

      For example, you claim certain parts of Romans as essentially forgeries and Augustine as a heretic, though even if it was he'd be a heretic before doctrines were defined, sort of like writing a law after a crime and then prosecuting the "criminal." Therefore, I think it important to understand how you assert what should and shouldn't the Bible consist of.

      I would like to address one broader topic, you seem to imply that merely because one (Calvinists) can take what another (Augustine) says to provide support for their own heresy means that the original thoughts were heretical, but this is false. For example, Christ said a lot of things that today, taken out of context, are promoted by "Christians" who claim the right to kill a human person merely as a result of their stage of development or location....does that mean Christ was a heretic or a murderer? of course not. Make sense? that may not be the clearest analogy or explanation.

      In Christ
      Cary

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  12. "I'd lke to ask what you believe to be the neccesary beliefs for one to be a Christian? on what/whose authority?"

    I would say monotheism, belief in God, one God only, the God of the Old Testament who created the world, and belief in Jesus as the Messiah/Son of God, belief that God requires us to live morally, that we will be judged in the end by how we have lived but that of course there will be mercy for the righteous who haven't lived sinless lives but have lived in continual repentance trying to get close. Anyone who denies these, I would say is not a Christian. Certainly, by this definition, many Protestants are not Christians since they deny everything I just said about the judgment.

    And to be a Christian one must believe in the Bible (which I will define below).

    I would add belief that baptism is essential to being Christian and one must be baptized to be called a Christian. That would also be problematic for many Prots.

    "Also, how does one know which books the Bible consists of or should consist of?"

    The Bible should consist of all the books in the New Testament accepted now by the Catholic Church and Protestant churches and Eastern Orthodox, as well as all the books of the Old Testament and Apocrypha accepted by the Jews, the Catholic church, the Protestant churches, and the Eastern Orthodox. By this second one, I mean that the Roman Deutero-Canonicals should be accepted, but also those texts not found there but also those found in the Protestant definition of the Apocrypha which are no longer printed in Catholic Bibles [Prayer of Manasseh, 4th Ezra] should be accepted, as well as those books of the 'Apocrypha' which are found in the Eastern Orthodox Bibles but not the Romans, namely 3rd and 4th Macabees.

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    1. Rey,

      again, i'm trying to avoid minutia and ten page responses. Your patience and charity is to be commended. You answered a lot of what but i dont think you answerd why your view is to be the right view? or on whose authority your view rests. I also didn't ask which books the Bible consists of in your opinion, but HOW one would know which books the Bible consists of.

      In Christ,
      Cary

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  13. "For example, you claim certain parts of Romans as essentially forgeries and Augustine as a heretic, though even if it was he'd be a heretic before doctrines were defined, sort of like writing a law after a crime and then prosecuting the 'criminal.' Therefore, I think it important to understand how you assert what should and shouldn't the Bible consist of."

    The rule of the Christian faith came before Paul wrote his epistles. There were Christians before Paul, and from his very epistles we can see they didn't agree with him. Why else does he bash Peter, James, and John as nobodies who only seem to be something, in Galatians? The Bible should consist of all the books that Christians have ever included in it, and yet, we should use caution in accepting the odd-ball theories of this or that writer which contradict the tenor of the rest of Scripture. Paul's doctrines of justification by faith alone, predestination, original sin, contradict not only much of what his says in his other epistles, but even some of what he says in Romans itself, much of what is in the gospels, and certainly the whole of the Old Testament. It is therefore dubious despite being in the Bible.

    Rather than viewing the Bible as an inerrant/infallible document that fell out of the sky, we should view it as a sort of authorized anthology/library: that's why I don't object to the Apocrypha: that's why I don't limit the Apocrypha to the Roman apocrypha and leave out 4th Ezra or 4th Macabees: that's why (and the only reason) I can accept Romans and Galatians as belonging in the Bible. The Bible is not, as Prots suppose, a book that puts forth one coherent message and never contradicts it: their is diversity of view and positions in the Bible. This is why I defined what one must believe to be a Christian in minimalistic terms with respect to Christology: Mark doesn't have the virgin birth story and can be understood as an adoptionist work. If someone were to believe Jesus was a man naturally born who was adopted by God as the Messiah at his baptism, and that person were to be baptized and live a good moral life under that belief, there is nothing and nobody that can say he is not a Christian. He believes as much of the Bible as anyone else, and he excels most if he has lived a good moral life!

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    1. Rey,

      it seems here that you condemn Paul as far from an apostle, but instead almost as a heretic. would that reading be accurate? if so why include his epistles at all in the Bible? before you said the bible should consist of all the current NT books but you also said previously that parts of Romans should be removed...I'm confused as to how/where you have come up with some of your view points and why you feel so strongly about them. I'm not intending to get a reply on this one just to outline thoughts I have.

      cary

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  14. "I would like to address one broader topic, you seem to imply that merely because one (Calvinists) can take what another (Augustine) says to provide support for their own heresy means that the original thoughts were heretical, but this is false."

    There is not difference between Calvinism and Augustinianism except that Augustine requires baptism and they don't; but their fatalism is the same.

    "For example, Christ said a lot of things that today, taken out of context, are promoted by 'Christians' who claim the right to kill a human person merely as a result of their stage of development or location....does that mean Christ was a heretic or a murderer?"

    What are you talking about? I have no clue what you are talking about there, but I certainly do maintain that one is responsible for their misstatements that lead to false doctrine...if one puts forth their words as the infallible word of God. If your word if the infallible word of God, then it better be unambiguous. Why is it that the definitions of modern theologians are so unambiguous? ("Believe in the Trinity or burn in hell. Be baptized or burn in hell.") And yet, the Biblical authors have trouble expressing themselves? If a Biblical author writes things that are incoherent, like that we are justified by faith alone, that in Romans 2 "the doers of the law shall be justified" and in Romans 3 "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified"--if a biblical author writes such as that, he is a heretic, despite his belonging in the Bible due to the anthology definition of the canon.

    I don't know what things you think Jesus said that lead to abortion or whatever, because I've never seen any such thing in the gospels, so are you sure you aren't reading the gospel of Thomas or something? But I can say this, if some such thing is found in the gospel, it is the fault of the evangelist who ascribes the words to Jesus for I doubt Jesus would say anything that leads to false doctrine.

    I'll even give an example. In Matthew's account of the rich young ruler. Ok, we have the traditional text:

    "GOOD master, what GOOD thing must I do to have eternal life? Jesus answers: Why do you call me good? One is good, i.e. God; but anyways, if you want to enter life, keep the commandments...."

    And we have the text found in other manuscripts but not generally used by our English translators:


    "master, what GOOD thing must I do to have eternal life? Jesus answers: Why do you ask me what is good? One thing is good; so, if you want to enter life, keep the commandments...."

    The "but anyways" and the "so" both come from the same "kai"--the difference is one reading requires the kai to have a disjunctive and the other a sort of because force. But this is the thing, in one text Jesus quibbles that the guy called him good and contradicts his own doctrine that "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things" and "God causes the sun to shine on the good and the bad" etc. by saying "One is good, i.e. God" or "Only God is good," and he gives a non-answer to the question: What good thing must I do to have eternal life? Well, only God can be good, but keep the commandments anyway.

    Huh? Only God can be good, but keep the commandments anyway? But in the other manuscripts we have an actual answer to the question: What good thing must I do to have eternal life? Duh, you should know already, only one thing is good, namely keeping the commandments.

    So which of the two texts found in our manuscripts is right? Obviously the "why do you ask me what is good? one thing is good" text, yet overwhelmingly people choose the other non-sense text. Why? Because they hate morality.

    Now, whose fault is it? Is it Jesus' fault that some scribe changed what he said? No; it is the scribe's fault.

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    1. Rey,

      WRT this: "if one puts forth their words as the infallible word of God" my point is precisely that this is not how Augustine spoke. Rather, he spoke his opinion, in many cases brilliantly, on a number of issues, but on some issues perhaps incorrectly. And? he was human, these errors were not ex cathedra, he wasn't the Pope, and he did not claim his statements as infallible. Does this make sense? I dont understand all the condemnation of Augustine...which is why i was originally trying to understand what background you came from/what church or denomination you ascribe to/what beliefs you hold and why you feel those beliefs to be accurate.

      I completely agree as you said about that Paul's epistles were written even as the Church had already set forth on practicing the faith through God given Traditions of the Apostles. What I dont see is that Paul's writtings are irreconcilable with those of the Apostles and the Church, many of the issues you write on were not settled dogmatically for many centuries and when they were none of them contradicted Paul's writtings particularly not of his epistles. In fact the only way we have the Bible and Paul's epistles as a part of it is because of Sacred Tradition and the Church, which I commended you firstly for recognizing.

      In Christ
      cary

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  15. SOMEONE PLEASE READ THIS AND HELP ME!!!!!!!!! I've only been a Catholic for a couple years now, and it seems the more I learn (especially on blogs like these) the more confused I get about some things. SO CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME! All I ever hear about (and teach myself) is how the Eucharist is the greatest of all sacraments and the "source and summit of the Church", and baptism by water is necessary for salvation...as well as Eucharist...so if all this is true, then what of those non-Catholic Christians that consciously reject the Catholic Church, and by extension, it's sacraments and really, Christ Himself? People keep saying that baptism by desire can be possibly applied for them (for had they know the Truth of the Church and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, they would have chosen it), or they say that these people are 'grossly ignorant' of the truth. But doesn't this just excuse their responsibility to learn the truth? I mean, what's the point of having a one true Church if God's calling people to be baptists, calvinists, lutherans, methodists, etc.. I mean, if the Gospels reflect the sacraments, and the sacramental communities gave proof to the gospels deemed 'canonical', then how does being a 'christian' outside of the sacramental Church lead to salvation?

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    1. > "People keep saying that baptism by desire can be possibly applied for them"

      Baptism is the *ordinary* means of salvation, but God's grace is not simply restricted to the Sacraments, He can work in *extraordinary* ways. There is the *possibility* of salvation for those who have not been baptized, but that's not a risk I'd personally be willing to make though...

      "They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)" - Romans 2:15


      > "I mean, what's the point of having a one true Church if God's calling people to be baptists, calvinists, lutherans, methodists, etc."

      Who said that God is calling people to become baptists etc?

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    2. You asked, “what's the point of having a one true Church if God's calling people to be baptists, calvinists, lutherans, methodists, etc..”? He’s not. That wouldn’t just make the Church irrelevant: more fundamentally, it would mean that God is inconsistent, calling one person to believe x is true, and another person to believe x is false. That’s completely inconsistent with the nature of all-knowing and loving God. So, for example, either the Baptists are right about infant Baptism, or we are. We can’t both be right, and God can’t be calling us to both belief systems.

      So Protestants are doing something other than what God intends for them, and calls them to. If they’re doing this willfully, they’re committing a serious sin. If they’re doing it ignorantly, it’s much less grave (cf. Luke 12:47-48).

      The same thing is true for Catholics, of course. All of us fall short of the glory of God, and most of us have at one time (i) gone in a direction other than the one that God called us to, and/or (ii) held to ideas about God that were wrong. If we’re doing this intentionally, we’re rebels and heretics, and our souls are at stake. But often, it’s out of ignorance, and what’s needed is simply better catechesis. So Protestants are wrong, not evil.

      Beyond that, Restless Pilgrim did a good job, I think of showing that God is not bound by the Sacraments, but we are (Summa II. 68.2.c.; CCC 1257).

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    3. @ Joe and Restless Pilgrim.. Thanks guys. I think what I was getting at with the “what's the point of having a one true Church if God's calling people to be baptists, calvinists, lutherans, methodists, etc..”? comment is that from what the main article above is about and some of the related source material from Father Most is, as I understood it, that God can harden hearts at will and open hearts at will. And that some people are meant to fulfill certain roles in God's plan, and maybe as a result, some people are called by God to be 'Christians', just not Catholic. I was called from atheism, to the Catholic Church where God deemed it to be the best place for 'me'. (again, this is based on what I think was talked about in Paul's Letter to the Romans, and Fr. Most's work) So that idea, coupled with Church teaching that "had they known better" everyone would be Catholic, and thusly, everyone's off the hook so to speak from being judged. Someone told me I should look at it this way....is there salvation outside the Catholic Church (i.e. no water baptism, no Eucharist)? Answer: "possible, but not likely" is that a pretty fair answer? Thanks again guys! ~Nick

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