many are called?

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Most of us converts, sooner or later, end up with one sticking point or another on our journey into the Church. For some, it is the doctrine of purgatory. For others, it might be the role of Mary, or praying through the saints, or some Catholic devotional practices that to an outsider seem totally weird. It is rare for the emotional acceptance and the intellectual acceptance of Catholicism to be on the same place at the same time. Often, they aren't even in the same continent! It is also amusing to note how often the issues that start out as the biggest barrier often end up as the strongest conviction - at least that is what I have seen as I have read conversion stories. Would you believe that my biggest problem with Catholicism was the Church's teaching on sexual ethics?

I'm not a professional apologist, I'm basically a well-read and thoughtful convert. I can give the answers to the objections that I had to the faith, but it is much harder to think through issues that weren't a problem for me! There is so much that I don't know, that I haven't investigated, that I take on faith. Roma locuta est. Some things I accept because Rome has spoken. To my mind, the point of my profession of faith was that I recognized the authority passed on from the Apostles in an unbroken chain. I may be (and often have been) disobedient. I'm a sinner, not a saint, though I hope and pray that I'm improving with age. I hope that I can avoid trying to justify my sins by arguing that the Church is wrong to call them sins. I'm glad that the church will still have me - that she is a hospital for sinners not just a museum for saints. I pray that I will be granted the time I need here on this earth to "work out my salvation in fear and trembling".

I have a friend, a devout Christian friend, who has asked me a question that I have tried to answer to the best of my poor abilities. It has to do with salvation - not necessarily her own salvation, but the salvation of others. I personally have not given a lot of thought to the salvation of others - maybe I should? But my personal attitude is to share the Truth as I have found it, to pray for those others, and to leave their salvation in the hands of God.

My friend has questions about a section of the Catechism. She was reading through the Luke E.Hart Series, What Catholics Believe, Section 5 Jesus Christ:(Published by Knights of Columbus)

"Because adherents of other religions do not acknowledge that salvation comes through Christ, and sometimes do not even accept anything like the Christian understanding of salvation, this does not necessarily mean that they cannot receive the salvation offered through Christ. (CCC) 1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
Scripture teaches that God "wants all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4 ). Christ's salvation is intended for all. (CCC) 605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God's love excludes no one: "So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." He affirms that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many"; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."
Her question:

So, does the Catholic church teach and believe that it is not necessary to have faith in Christ to have eternal life in Christ, be born again, saved from sin, death, hell and the grave, etc......?

I know that God is certainly "able" to save anyone, but has God Himself not said that if we do not know the Son, we cannot know the Father? Would God not somehow supernaturally reveal Himself as Christ to such a person as described above if he or she were never able to hear the gospel, or to intellectually understand it ? ( like, for example a mentally handicapped person).

(me again) I have to believe that God will reach out somehow and save those who seek him with sincerity. I prefer to leave the details to Him. But I also worry, with my friend, that the two paragraphs of the CCC quoted above can be interpreted in a manner that encourages indifferentism, the false ecumenism that haunts our culture. I don't think that the Church has ever said that it doesn't matter who one worships or how one worships. Quite the contrary. I think that she has repeatedly said that once one is convinced of the truth of the doctrines and dogmas, that the church is the pillar and foundation of that truth (1 Timothy 3:15), then obedience delayed is obedience denied.

But do these statements mean, for example, that an Islamist terrorist who believes that suicide bombing is the will of God, may yet end up in Heaven? Please remember that the operative verb is "can be saved" - not "will be saved". Very important fine point of meaning!
I think that what the CCC states is that such a scenario is not impossible - that a moment of death conversion is possible (though I would find it highly unlikely but I have to remember that I am not God - thank God!). Is that fair? Is that just? That a man who finally receives the Word at the last moment should have the same reward as one who has spent a lifetime working for the Lord? That Cardinal Newman and Oscar Wilde should both eventually claim a place at the banquet table of the Lord? (after whatever time is spent getting the dross burnt off in Purgatory, of course).

Consider the parable of the workers in the vineyard Matthew 20:1-16
1 The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2 And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

3 And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace idle.

4 And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.

5 And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.

6 But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle?

7 They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go ye also into my vineyard.

8 And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.

9 When therefore they were come that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10 But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: And they also received every man a penny.

11 And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house,

12 Saying: These last have worked but one hour. and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats.

13 But he answering said to one of them: friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny?

14 Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee.

15 Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is thy eye evil, because I am good?

16 So shall the last be first and the first last. For many are called but few chosen.


Great minds have been struggling with this literally for millenia. In C. S. Lewis' Narnia series there is a character in The Last Battle named Emeth (which means "truth") who serves the false god Tash all his life and yet is accepted into the kingdom of Aslan. So Lewis believed it was possible.

I am the friend Alicia spoke about :)
Alicia is a wonderful friend and inspires me to seek the deeper issues of faith.

To repsond, I would like to say that
I am not contesting the fact that one can squeak into the kingdom at the last minute if repentance from sin and faith are sincere. The story of the prodigal son also illustrates this. However, it is important to note that the prodigal son first repented, and then came home.

I am concerned that the CCC could be read to say that a pagan or heathen or wiccan, who is sincerely following their "god" as they know it to be, whether Allah or RA, or Isis, or the Moon can be saved by the cross of Christ,as long as they are "seeking the truth and doing the will of God in accordance with their understanding of it" which to me is very messy doctrine indeed.

They may be terrorists seeking to shed every drop of Jewish blood, American blood, Christian blood, or they might be Bhuddists or Sufis, or New Age thinkers who seem very moral from outside observation, but they are all doing the will of their god to the best of their ability.

And along an even more sobering note, Matthew 13: 36-43 implies that there will be "tares" ( the unrighteous ) who from the outward apprearance seem to be wheat ( the righteous) but who are in reality "sons of the wicked one" vs. 38.

I do not believe that these people will be saved because Jesus taught that we must be changed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin so that we are able to repent and live a holy life.

As a Pentecostal, I have been taught that the Bible says that we are all are sinners and that all have fallen short of the kingdom of God.

Romans 4: 9-20

That actually puts me in the same category as a terrorist before I am saved. The Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags. We cannot earn our way into the kingdom of God by good moral behavior alone.

Romans 2: 14-16

The law and the prophets are the standard for moral behavior, and if we are guilty in one jot or tittle of the law, we are guilty of transgressing it all.

See Matthew 5:20

Therefore, as Christians, our good works must be the outward fruit of an inward change, which is the experience of realizing that we are sinners in need of salvation. Our works then become an act of worship out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us.

I do believe in the ability of Christ and the Holy Spirit to reveal the way of salvation to absolutely anyone, but I believe that they must consciously and willingly respond to the invitiation with repentance and faith to be saved.

To minimize the necessity of personal repentance and faith does an injustice to the truth of the gospel in my opinion. That is why I am unable to embrace the CCC's teaching, because I find it to be contrary to what I believe the scriptures teach. I am willing to accept that church teaching and tradition is a very important and authoritative matter, but when it seems to run in direct cintradition to the scriptures, I must trust in the final authority of the Holy Writ.

Blessings, Kathryn

Every Sunday schooler has asked the question "what about an Indian in the Amazon rain forest who has never heard about Jesus Christ? Is he doomed to Hell simply because no one told him about Christ?". To me, this is what those passages in the CCC are discussing. Not everyone has heard the Gospel and many have heard the Gospel but heard it in a way that made it repugnant news, not Good News (I am thinking of a laundry mat proselytizer when I was in college as an example). These people do not embrace the Gospel, but it is not through a fault of their own, right? If anything, their failure is really the failure of the laundry mat cad. Or, even more shockingly, the lack of faith in the Amazon is the "fault" of Jesus Christ for being incarnate on another continent.

Since we believe in a merciful God who desires to save all people, we can't believe he will damn someone who did not embrace a Gospel he never heard. The CCC is merely recognizing this common sense observation and saying that if a person doesn't endorse the Nicene Creed, but nevertheless lives a life which pursues the truth, they may be saved. They may be saved because pursuing the Truth is the only way they have to pursue Jesus Christ, who is, after all, the Truth personified (ie the Way, Truth, and Life).

Does that make any more sense?

Marc wrote:
"If anything, their failure is really the failure of the laundry mat cad. Or, even more shockingly, the lack of faith in the Amazon is the "fault" of Jesus Christ for being incarnate on another continent."

Well, it seems to me that it is the fault of our parents, Adam & Eve by whom we inherited sinfulness.
R.C. Sproul teaches, in his incredibly provocative book, Chosen by God, that we are unable apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit to even be able to seek God, much less have faith in Him and His salvation. I tend to agree that it is always God who initiates the process. So I really do trust in His ability to "Have mercy upon whom He will have mercy". I believe that the scriptures teach that He will give everyone an opportunity to respond to His wooing, either by repentance and faith, or defiance and unbelief.

Though I enjoy Sproul's writings very much, I remain, for now, a 4 point Calvinist. I agree with the Catholic position that it is God's desire that all would repent and come to the truth. Sproul teaches the doctrine of limited atonement.

I am listening to CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity" on CD. CS Lewis was an Armenian, but still, his insights are wonderful to contemplate.

I am surprised to hear that so many Catholics who admire his doctrine, since he was not Catholic.
Oh, I got the CDs for a great deal on ebay :)

Shalom, Y'all.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on August 18, 2005 10:45 PM.

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