Thursday, May 22, 2008

Exploring Catholicism: Part 2

[also see Part 1]
I have read some catholic apologetics on this stuff and they always show new scriptures, but I would like to understand how Romans 10 I think it is where it says “ If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Or the verse John wrote how he “wrote all these things that you might know you have eternal life.” Or other verses like it fit into the Catholic idea of salvation. Also any others you can think of, those were the ones off the top of my head.
First, we have to keep in mind that we are discussing "Once Saved, Always Saved," not sola fide ("faith alone" saves). Now, you cited Rom 10:9 and 1 Jn 5:13. "Fluffy" added Rom 8:1 and Eph 2:8-9 in her comment on Part 1. Time does not permit for me to respond to every passage that Protestants use to support OSAS, but I can respond to these. I have links to articles that should adequately address the rest.

First, chapter 8 of Paul's letter to the Romans:

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This passage isn't about OSAS, it's about perseverence. As long as you remain in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation for you. But, when you are no longer in Jesus, then there IS condemnation for you, and my point is that a person can go from being "in Jesus" to being "out of Jesus." Several passages bear this out.

So, for example, Paul writes to the Romans, "Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off" (Rom 11:22). Did you catch that? We, as branches connected to the vine, can be cut off. You can be in a living relationship with Jesus and then NOT in one if you do not continue in his kindness.

Moving on, Paul writes to the Galatians, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery [...] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal 5:1,4). OSAS says you cannot fall from your freedom in Christ, you cannot fall from grace. But if that were true, why would Paul warn them not to submit again to a yoke of slavery? Why would he say that some of them "are severed from Christ" and "have fallen away"?

To the Hebrews, Paul gives this warning: "Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God" (Heb 3:12). And again: "'but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls" (Heb 10:38-39). It is obvious from this that it is in fact possible for an honest-to-goodness Christian to "fall away from the living God," to "shrink back and be destroyed."

Peter, James, and John echo these very same sentiments:

2 Pet 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall

Jas 5:19-20 My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Rev 2:4-5 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Many other verses can be cited as well, but you get the idea. The point is that Rom 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who remain in Christ, and this becomes a call for perseverence in light of other passages which assert that a person can in fact fall "out of Christ" and be condemned. There would be no point in calling Christians to "continue in His kindness," to "take care" or "be zealous to confirm your call and election" if persevering in grace was not necessary, as an OSAS soteriology would have us believe.

The next verse cited was from chapter 10:

Rom 10:9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Since this verse is about sola fide, not OSAS, I think it will only belabor this post to respond to it. At any rate, I agree that faith leads to salvation, I just also believe that one can lose that salvation after receiving it.

The third passage cited was from Ephesians:

Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast.

This passage too is about sola fide, so again, no need to quarrel with it. The final passage cited was from John's first letter:

1 Jn 5:13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

Since one element of OSAS is being able to know, in this life, that you are saved, this passage is relevant. You may be surprised to find that, in a sense, Catholics agree with this. Note that it says, "have eternal life," in the present tense. This means that it regards a Christian's current status before the Lord. A Catholic can say, "Yes, I am currently in a saving relationship with God." He can have an assurance of this; he simply has to examine his conscience and find that there is presently no mortal sin on his soul. He can even have a relative assurance of his future salvation, if he finds that he is ever-more walking a course towards God and away from sin, and that there exists within himself a desire to love God and obey His commandments. This is the type of assurance that John describes.

But, an infallible certitude that excludes any potential for a person's heart or uninformed conscience to deceive him regarding his relationship with God (cf. Jer 17:9), or that excludes any possibility for a person to fall away is simply not Scriptural. Not even Paul himself felt this type of "assurance":

1 Cor 4:4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

1 Cor 9:26-27 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Phil 3:11-14 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Those are simply not the words of an OSAS-believer, and I dare say the doctrine is absent both from Paul's letters and from all of Scripture. "Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:12). For more articles in refutation of OSAS, see the Catholic Defense Directory, Salvation: Hope vs. Assurance.

I appreciate these articles, I just received your email today so I have not had a chance to read them but I will and I am sure that I will have some questions. Since I emailed last I have been reading Early Christian Doctrines by JND Kelly. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the sacraments were intended to be more than just symbols.
JND Kelly's works are highly-praised, both in Catholic and Protestant circles. You should be able to learn a great deal from him.

I guess I was more looking for what it means for them to be that particular label and what I should expect should I visit a church that is conservative, latin rite, charismatic, or any others that I don’t know about.
Like I said before, people define these terms differently so I can really only explain them how I understand them myself. I consider myself to be "conservative," so my explanations are from that point of view.

That said, I think a "conservative" parish is one where those responsible for catechesis (the pastor, the DRE, the religious ed. teachers, etc.) teach what the Catholic Church actually professes. The liturgy is faithful to the liturgical documents that govern it and is conducted in a way that adequately reflects the solemn nature of the liturgy. You should see a healthy devotional and sacramental life. An openness to Latin (instead of an ambivalence or hatred of it) seems to be a characteristic as well.

A "liberal" parish, in my mind, would be one that didn't adequately pass on the doctrines of the faith, either by neglecting some doctrines or by outright teaching heresy. The liturgy is usually more centered on the people in the pews then on God and there are usually several liturgical abuses. You'll usually find music unbefitting of the Mass, and an absence of Latin, or the organ, or chant (even though Sacrosanctum Concilium gives these "pride of place"). Eucharistic adoration and the Sacrament of Confession are often neglected.

You also mentioned "latin rite" parishes. The phrase "latin rite" actually refers to all Catholics whose liturgical and theological traditions come from West, from Rome. This will be the very vast majority of parishes in the United States. I'm guessing you meant instead to refer to those parishes that offer the Mass in Latin (the "extraordinary form" of the Mass, following the missal of Pope John XXIII). Usually, I think such parishes fall in the "conservative" category. But, there are some that have actually gone off the deep end and consider both the Second Vatican Council and the "ordinary form" of the Mass (in the vernacular, following the missal of Pope Paul VI) to be invalid. You would want to avoid parishes like that.

Finally, you mentioned "charismatic" parishes. Usually, charismatic parishes have a special emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly healing and speaking in tongues. I think it is possible for a parish to be both "conservative" and "charismatic," but, from my limited experience, they tend to be liberal. You'll usually find "prayer meetings" during the week where these gifts are displayed and encouraged. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if people are being pressured to speak in tongues to legitimize their faith, or if the prayer meetings become more important than the Mass itself.

All that being said, please note that these are not static or authoritative definitions. A parish can be conservative in some areas and liberal in others, and people are always quibbling about what it means to be "conservative" and "liberal." I hesitated to define these categories b/c they usually just create more division within the Church. But, I want you to be able to determine when a parish is being authentically Catholic and when it is not, so that's why I'm posting this.

Honestly, you shouldn't put too much into these labels. Instead, you should try to learn as much as you can about Catholicism so that you will know what it means to be a good and faithful Catholic, and so that you can surround yourself with people who are as committed to this faithfulness as you are.

Also I realize this is a loaded question but how much of what the church teaches has to be accepted to be considered Catholic? An example would be I just read somewhere that one of the church’s bishops or leaders came with a public statement that it would not be against the faith to believe in other life in the universe (here). Or I think also that I heard a Catholic could believe in a form of theistic evolution. Can a person think this is garbage and be Catholic? I guess the question is what are the fundamentals or non-negotiables?
I'll give you the long, complicated answer first. From the Code of Canon Law:
  • Can. 750 Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal magisterium, which is manifested by the common adherence of Christ's faithful under the guidance of the sacred magisterium. All are therefore bound to shun any contrary doctrines.

    Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith. Apostasy is the total repudiation of the christian faith. Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

    Can. 752 While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ's faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.

    Can. 753 Whether they teach individually, or in Episcopal Conferences, or gathered together in particular councils, Bishops in communion with the head and the members of the College, while not infallible in their teaching, are the authentic instructors and teachers of the faith for Christ's faithful entrusted to their care. The faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic magisterium of their Bishops.

    Can. 754 All Christ's faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which lawful ecclesiastical authority issues for the purpose of proposing doctrine or of proscribing erroneous opinions; this is particularly the case of those published by the Roman Pontiff or by the College of Bishops.
Now, to state it more simply, a Catholic is basically required to believe whatever is taught in the Church's authoritative documents and/or whatever has always been taught and professed by the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the best source for such teachings. Also, a list of "dogmas" (doctrines which the Church proposes for belief as formally revealed by God) can be found here.

Now, as for the existence of aliens and theistic evolution, a Catholic does not have to believe in these things, but he can if he wants. This is b/c the Church does not have a teaching on these matters that either confirms or denies them. You may regard "theistic evolution" to be garbage, and that's fine, but, as far as the Church is concerned, as long as you believe that creation was initiated by God and that, at some point in time there existed one man and one woman and that from them came the entire human race, then how God's act of creation brought all created things into existence is a legitimately debated point.

Was it in 7 days or over a span of millions of years? The Church has not decided that point, and since it is a matter of science, it is probably not within her authority to do so. This means that something like "theistic evolution" is a permissible position b/c it takes a stand on what is legitimately debatable (the "evolution" part) without denying what must be held be Catholics (the "theistic" part).

I know that was a lot, but I had a lot to cover. I hope it helps.

Pax Christi,


No Fluff Required said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
No Fluff Required said...

Phat cat:
"But if that were true, why would Paul warn them not to submit again to a yoke of slavery?"

It is possible to subject yourself to the unnecessary traditions (which the Jews did) that distract from the purity of faith in Christ.

Phat cat:
"Why would he say that some of them "are severed from Christ" and "have fallen away"?

There is a claim to faith that does not lead to salvation. There are those who think they are saved who have made a profession, but the fruitless expressions of their life demonstrate that the seed of the Gospel was planted in rocky soil.

No Fluff Required said...

Your friend said,

"I guess I was more looking for what it means for them to be that particular label and what I should expect should I visit a church that is conservative, latin rite, charismatic, or any others that I don’t know about."

I say:
Come to Wisconsin and visit Racine Bible Church.

Anonymous said...

Phat Cat,

The Catholic teaching on marriage annulments explains the theology on OSAS.
A Catholic marries in church with the full agreement of their spouse and priest. The Catholic (lets say the groom) makes a public declaration of vows. It is a valid marriage in the eyes of the church.
The man cannot announce a few years later he has "changed his mind" or "fallen in love" with someone else and expect to simply walk away.
Even if a man fails to live perfectly his marriage vows, he remains married and can seek and receive forgiveness for any failings.

Marriage is for life except.....

Suppose the man makes his wife's life intolerable. He cheats, hits her and generally abuses the marriage relationship. A canon lawyer may be called in and, after investigation, declares the marriage may be annuled - in other words, it never existed in the first place.
Even though the groom stood up in front of his bride, the priest and witnesses and declared his vows, he never really intended to honour them.
Here is the reasoning behind OSAS. A person who decalres they are saved but does not live up to that life, never really was saved. Sure, we all fail at times, but we ask God's forgiveness and receive it humbly. Our sin at times does not negate our salvation...unless we never meant it in the first place.
In other words, we have not lost our salvation; it has been annuled.


No Fluff Required said...

You said:
"Rom 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who remain in Christ, and this becomes a call for perseverence"

I say:
Romans 8:1 says "THERE IS therefore, NOW no condemnation for those who ARE IN Christ Jesus."

You can't make this say what you said.

Perseverance is the proof that someone has been truly saved, not that they must continue in the flesh what was started by the Spirit.

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