As so often happens over at Father Tim Moyle's blog "Where the Rubber Hits the Road", and with this piece as an example, the convergence of rubber and concrete sometimes involves some heavy driving. I commented yesterday on an Archdiocese of Washington article on Cardinal Newman here, where he called on Catholic Christians to not be "disputatious" among other things. I confessed that that had often eluded me, and in particular my disputatiousness has surfaced almost exclusively (for public consumption) over at Father Tim's blog, and almost without exception in responding to comments by Small Town Guy.
The particular dialogue that I have excerpted below is an example that did not result in any semblance of a car wreck, at least not yet, and certainly in part because I have kept my own itchy fingers off the steering wheel. In the mean time, the good father, has carried on a meaningful dialogue with our west coast friend and former Catholic, Small Town Guy, who raises interesting questions about the Catholic faith, from the perspective of one raised in it, who abandoned it for greener pastures, in his (humble) opinion. His opinions often describe the barrenness of the pastures of the Catholic Church, an opinion that though erroneous, he does not hold uniquely.
There were other parties to the discussion, and they had meaningful things to say about the actual originiating topic, which was a National Post opinion piece on Quebec's Colective Depression. While the commenting carries on and has for the last couple of days, the opinion piece that originated the discussion seems to have been lost in the sauce.
Well, no matter, when Small Town Guy is involved, the topic is religion and the perfidy of the Roman Catholic Church. So, here is the excised dialogue precipitated by the response of Father Tim Moyle to STG's first in the string of comments.
Small Town Guy said...Very civilised, and not particularly disputatious. I gotta learn to do that. Since this posting, Small Town Guy has responded with a very interesting perspective, thought provoking, and the kind of thought that allows Christians from both sides of the house to work towards meeting at a mutually satisfactory place. I won't say the middle, because this is not about compromise, but more about understanding what we agree on, openly discussing what we do not agree on, and looking for Jesus in it all.
The apostle Paul spoke about being absent from the body and present with the Lord. If you have that assurance, good for you. You would be a rare RC who believes that way, don't you think? (I wonder where he comes up with this kind of dig, and the real WHY behind it.)
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the official teaching of the RC church that nobody can have the assurance that they will be with the Lord after death and be in heaven? Isn't it RC teaching that RCs are judged according to their sins and good works and must make atonement in purgatory an unknown number of years (could it be thousands or millions?), for sins that were never satisfied for or atoned for in this life? So isn't it correct to say that Roman Catholicism gives no real assurance to anyone and all must suffer an unknown period of time in purgatory? (Read on. He will be corrected. But, at least he was open to being corrected. Good on you, STG.)
Fr. Tim Moyle said...
STG: I think you are looking at the teaching of the Church from the wrong angle. The Church offers the teaching about assurance to remind us that no one knows the state of another soul before God. It is always used as such: we cannot say that someone's soul has been denied God's grace and forgiveness - irrespective of what human understanding might lead us to conclude. The 'Good Thief' was rightly condemned for his acts, yet Christ assured him of a place in heaven.
As to Purgatory: you are making the mistake of 'time'.
Catholic Theology teaches us that everything that exists, including time, exists in this reality. Time does not exist in eternity. So, to be denied the fullness of the God's love even for an instant will be like thousands or millions of years. Further, the Church teaches that every soul in purgatory enters into heaven with God. It is simply the state by which we are washed of the temporal effects of our sin so as to be brought before God able to experience the Beatific Vision and survive the encounter.
This teaching was GREATLY abused prior to the period of the Reformation. It is not such today.
One last point. Catholics receive the 'blessed assurance' and enjoy its wonder and peace just as anyone else who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. It does require a 'rebirth' (aka 'born again') - a process that begins with baptism and continues to a point where an individual takes up the mantle of a saved/redeemed Christian and lives it to the fullest.
I thank God - FIRST THING every morning for the gift of Christ and for the assurance that he will bring me to paradise at the end of my days.
In this, I am hardly unique among Catholics.
Small Town Guy said...
"STG: I think you are looking at the teaching of the Church from the wrong angle. The Church offers the teaching about assurance to remind us that no one knows the state of another soul before God. It is always used as such: we cannot say that someone's soul has been denied God's grace and forgiveness - irrespective of what human understanding might lead us to conclude. The 'Good Thief' was rightly condemned for his acts, yet Christ assured him of a place in heaven."
Ah but don't priests, yourself included, have the power to withhold forgiveness for sins? If you have the power to absolve sins in the confessional, don't you also have the power to withhold absolution if you felt there is a reason for doing so? If you withhold absolution (or forgivenss) are you not withholding God's grace and forgiveness, according to RC teaching? (Okay, so let's take another approach. There is a familiar pattern here, but it is all good.)
Isn't it true that Roman Catholics fear falling into mortal sin and being lost? If that is the case, please tell me how Roman Catholics can have assurance of salvation. How can one have assurance of going to heaven if according to Roman doctrine they fall into mortal sin and can be lost?
"STG: One last point. Catholics receive the 'blessed assurance' and enjoy its wonder and peace just as anyone else who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. It does require a 'rebirth' (aka 'born again') - a process that begins with baptism and continues to a point where an individual takes up the mantle of a saved/redeemed Christian and lives it to the fullest."
So according to what you said, becoming a redeemed christian (saved and going to heaven) is a "process that begins with baptism".
If this is the case, at what point can one say he is a redeemed, saved christian? Or is this a lifelong process during which one can never really know he has been redeemed? (Good questions from our friend)
Fr. Tim Moyle said...
STG: You are giving WAY TOO MUCH power to the human institution of the Church. (That is a very common problem, and part of the challenge of dialogue among Christians.)
Yes, priests have the power to assist people to confess, but it is as an aid, not an agent. Take for example a person who would come to confession to receive absolution but is neither sincere nor complete in their confession. Just because I offer the words of ABSOLUTION (only God FORGIVES) does not mean that such a person stands in good stead before God. If absolution is withheld, (something I have never had to do in 21 yrs) it is only done as an application of St. Paul's teaching on bringing people back to Christ by shocking them with the gravity of what they are throwing away (their eternal soul).
Now let's move on to baptism and assurance. When we baptize infants, we are opening that person to becoming an inheritor of the graces won for us by the paschal mystery. Should they die before reaching a point in their life where they take personal responsibility for themselves, they go to heaven. However, there comes a point where they can make a decision by the acts and deeds where they may decline this invitation of God. They can choose through sin not to follow the path that leads to God and eternal life. Put simply, the gift of salvation is offered to all - but not all will accept the gift.
How about in your beliefs? If someone is 'born again' and then proceeds to live a life of sin and debauchery, is that person saved? They might claim salvation but do they actually receive it if they have lived their lives in an impious and unholy manner? (Good question.)
I believe that it is clear that such a 'one time' act of acceptance of Jesus as Lord and savior, if it does not result in a change of life so as to follow the dictates of scripture has the capacity to throw away God's great gift. Thus 'assurance' is based upon a continuation of grace throughout life by which we continue to walk with Christ.
Do you agree?
Here is the latest from STG:
Small Town Guy said...
"I believe that it is clear that such a 'one time' act of acceptance of Jesus as Lord and savior, if it does not result in a change of life so as to follow the dictates of scripture has the capacity to throw away God's great gift. Thus 'assurance' is based upon a continuation of grace throughout life by which we continue to walk with Christ.
Do you agree?"
Tim, I want to study this a little and reply a little later because you are getting into some pretty deep but important topics.
You mentioned throwing away God's great gift.
Does one's salvation depend then on the individual or does it depend on God? What do you think of what Jesus said "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neith shall any man pluck them out of my hand." John ch10 vs.18
From what you are saying about assurance, do you believe assurance (of salvation or going to heaven) depends on an individual's ability to live a holy life or in accordance with the dictates of the church? If assurance depends on the individual himself and knowing human weakness, what kind of assurance is that?