Friday, August 6, 2010

Salvation & Where it Lies

All this contraception talk & advice has got me thinking heavily about the varieties of opinions we have within the Body of Christ. Christians are all united in the belief of Jesus Christ, yet we struggle to agree on little points here and there, and this causes little splits within the once unified Body to occur...and ultimately this was what happened to the RCC & the Reformation.

I absolutely adore the richness of the Catholic faith and how much wisdom & nourishment I have received since returning, but I also love Protestant takes on certain subjects. I enjoy watching TBN sometimes, reading Christian blogs, reading/watching Christian encouragement from preachers like Joel Osteen or Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron. And sometimes I feel a little guilty because these people do criticize Catholic teaching & sometimes even question the salvation of Catholics. But on the flip side...I keep being told "there is no salvation outside of the Church". I have always struggled with this teaching...I don't know how sound it is to begin with (correct me if I have been misinformed).

The only truly religious young people I know at school are Protestants, and my cousins who have been dealing with a huge tragedy have all seemed to find comfort outside the RCC and in Protestant churches. I can't blame many people for leaving the faith because the churches (in my area) do a poor job of explaining the faith & making it accessible to this generation. On top of that, I feel like Protestants reach out more to people (though sometimes this can be a bad trait). But then I get frustrated because I cannot discuss Catholic topics with them, or they point out the "wrong" parts of my faith and how that's not Biblical. I hate the fact that I always have to be defending, rather than growing & learning.

And when I allow all these thoughts to swirl around in my brain, I come to the point of exhaustion: why does it matter?

Who cares where someone finds a deeper faith in Christ, as long as they are being truly nourished? What it all comes down to is that Jesus commanded us to love God and accept Him as the messiah & savior, then we will be saved. So why do the churches (Catholic & Protestant) have to attack one another? Why can't salvation alone unite us? We all have different ideas & opinions on authority over the faithful, on contraception, on scripture, etc because we're humans & we are imperfect creatures. God promised hell wouldn't prevail over the church, but we will always be lead astray & it is impossible to say who is wrong & who is right because we're all sinners.

I just sooo wish we could be One in Christ again.
Peace & Love,
RA

(ps- I will be taking a short leave for a family vacation. enjoy the summer!)

13 comments:

The Catholic Wife said...

Here's a good article about what "no salvation outside the Church" really means.

Now, why does it matter? Because truth trumps everything. The Catholic Church is the church that Jesus founded, and her teachings are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

For instance, if you believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist (and is not present in Protestant "Eucharist" because of lack of apostolic succession), and that this is an objective truth with huge implications (here is Jesus, who is God, and He wants to physically enter my body and shower me with graces--wow!!!), wouldn't you want those same Protestants who love Jesus so much to have a share in that?

Protestants can be saved, but how easy is it for them? I don't know the answer to that, but I've talked to many Protestants who honestly believe that the Holy Spirit leads them to the true interpretation of Scripture... and yet you'll probably be able to find another denomination who claims the same and has a contradicting view of the same topic. Since God is truth, we know that there has to be a "right" answer, but the Holy Spirit wouldn't lead different people in different directions, would it? Who would? (Hint: who is the Father of Lies?) And how can we know which is the truth? Work your way back through history all the way to the apostolic times. The only church that has existed for 2000 years is the Catholic church. It is the Catholic church's teachings which are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

caraboska said...

I am sure the Orthodox Church would make the same claims about itself. And the Protestants would make the same claims about themselves - on the basis that the apostolic succession is not the laying on of hands, but the teaching of right doctrine - as set forth in the Bible, without reference to any tradition.

And the differences are much more than just contraception, authority... But even about the doctrine of salvation. Let's not fool ourselves: what is the RCC going to say about a person who absolutely refuses any 'spiritual reality' that might have resulted from baptism (especially as an infant when the person was not even able to believe for themselves...), believing that the spiritual reality must already be present, via actual personal faith in Jesus Christ, for the baptism to even be valid at all?

What is the RCC going to say about the person who believes that the communion elements are only symbols and nothing more?

What will the RCC say about the person who believes that neither of these things, nor any work of human hands, can in any way materially contribute to our salvation?

What will the RCC say about the person who absolutely rejects the idea that confession before a priest is in any way necessary for any purpose whatsoever?

What will the RCC say about the person who believes that all believers are priests, and therefore rejects any 'special priesthood' for pastors?

Let's not fool ourselves. The RCC will tell us that such a person is serving the devil and on their way to hell. No matter how much they believe in God and Jesus and the Bible. No matter how much evidence they give in their lives of fruit in keeping with repentance.

If even such a person - being fully aware of the RCC doctrine of salvation - steadfastly refuses to believe in it, if they - being fully aware of the requirements imposed by the RCC doctrine of salvation - steadfastly refuse to fulfill them, then the RCC teaches that they are not saved and that is that.

There are no conditions for fellowship in that kind of a situation. It really is an either/or choice.

caraboska said...

No RCC catechism with a nihil obstat has ever taught anything but that water baptism is necessary for salvation. The conclusion from that would be that there is no spiritual reality outside of that, and if a person in fact has any spiritual reality in their life without baptism, then it is a counterfeit from the devil.

The same applies to communion. It is necessary to one's salvation to take it.

And it is necessary to go to confession in order to be admitted to communion.

And the validity of all of these ordinances depends on... the mediation of the priesthood.

And all of this comes not from the Bible, but from tradition. If we read the Bible without tradition, we will come to the exact opposite conclusions about all of these things. So that tradition is also necessary.

So it all comes down to 'authority' after all. The 'authorities' present themselves as the guardians of a tradition apart from which there is no salvation, as the only valid mediators of ordinances without which there is no salvation. In other words, it is all about control by mere human beings who want to take the place of God in other people's lives.

I realize I am stepping on a lot of toes here. But there is no nice way to say what needs to be said. No sane Protestant will just stand by and watch silently while people are being led into idolatry by people whom they have been taught to trust unconditionally as being infallible (at least when they are speaking ex cathedra).

It is indeed a matter of huge significance. Can there be any salvation for the idolater? Can there be any salvation from the source whose goal is to obtain and maintain control over people?

What gives more honor to God: an attempt to present oneself as the guardian of the mystery, the guardian of the tradition, the sole mediator of the ordinances necessary for salvation, or an acknowledgement that there is no authority save from the words of Scripture, so that the preacher will not even permit anyone to call him/her Father/Mother, Teacher or Master (Monsignor?), much less arrogate any personal authority to him/herself?

What gives more honor to God: slaving away, performing works of human hands in order to earn one's salvation, thereby trying to arrogate to oneself, if only in some small measure, the role of Savior, or acknowledging what the Bible says, namely that God is the only Savior and desisting from one's attempts to earn salvation, trusting only and exclusively in the once-for-all finished work of Jesus Christ?

What gives more honor to God: fearing God and doing these ordinances and commandments hoping to earn one's salvation or at least avoid hell, or being motivated in no measure by either fear of punishment or desire for reward - only and exclusively by love for God?

The Catholic Wife said...

but the teaching of right doctrine - as set forth in the Bible, without reference to any tradition.

Catholic doctrine is very much scriptural, although your claim that there should be no reference to any tradition... isn't. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 11:2. St. Paul *commends* the Corinthians for following apostolic tradition. And in 2 Thess 2:15, St. Paul *commands* the Thessalonians to keep them: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter."

especially as an infant when the person was not even able to believe for themselves.

Well, it's clear from the New Testament that it's perfectly acceptable for infants or small children to be baptized. "Whole households" were baptized; infants were not excluded. ;-)

What is the RCC going to say about the person who believes that the communion elements are only symbols and nothing more?

Well, if they believe that about the communion elements in a Protestant church, they'd be correct. They're only symbols.

What will the RCC say about the person who believes that neither of these things, nor any work of human hands, can in any way materially contribute to our salvation?

That faith without works is a dead. (James 2:20) Most Protestants I know believe just as much, except they phrase it differently. They say that if their faith doesn't translate to a change in their lives and in the way they treat other people, that they don't have the saving kind of faith.

What will the RCC say about the person who absolutely rejects the idea that confession before a priest is in any way necessary for any purpose whatsoever?

That hopefully this person will experience "perfect contrition" - true repentance and sorrow for sins for love of God - in order to be saved.

What will the RCC say about the person who believes that all believers are priests, and therefore rejects any 'special priesthood' for pastors?

That this person doesn't read their Bible. The laying on of hands by a bishop (one with teaching authority--originally, these were the apostles) is what transmits apostolic authority. Even St. Paul needed to be ordained before preaching the gospel, even though he was hand-picked by Jesus.

There are no conditions for fellowship in that kind of a situation. It really is an either/or choice.

What do you mean?

No RCC catechism with a nihil obstat has ever taught anything but that water baptism is necessary for salvation.

Not quite. Not only is the Catechism not exhaustive, but did you read the link I posted in my first comment?

The same applies to communion. It is necessary to one's salvation to take it.

Again, did you read the link I posted in my first comment?

And it is necessary to go to confession in order to be admitted to communion.

It is necessary to be in a state of grace, meaning without mortal sin to receive communion, yes. It means we must receive communion "worthily," as pointed out by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. But, of course, that wouldn't apply in a Protestant church because it's only bread.

And the validity of all of these ordinances depends on... the mediation of the priesthood.

Yes. Jesus gave the apostles (and their successors) the authority to bind and loose on earth. And Acts 6:6, 9:17-19, and 13:3 show that apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). Again, even St. Paul, who was *directly chosen by Jesus*, becomes a minister only after the laying on of hands by a bishop (Ananias).

The Catholic Wife said...

And all of this comes not from the Bible,

I just quoted half a dozen scripture passages that support the Catholic Church's positions. Not from the Bible?

but from tradition. If we read the Bible without tradition, we will come to the exact opposite conclusions about all of these things. So that tradition is also necessary.

Of course. St. Paul says so.

If we read the Bible without tradition, we will come to the exact opposite conclusions about all of these things.

Yes, and you and other people reading the Bible without tradition will disagree on different things, as well. If God is truth, shouldn't we all be led to the same conclusions?

So it all comes down to 'authority' after all.

And that shocks you? Jesus *gave* authority to the apostles (Matt 10:1) and went on to say, "He who receives you, receives Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me and the One who sent Me" (Matt 10:40). John 12:49 tells us that the Father's authority is transferred to the Son. Jesus says that the Word He speaks is not His own authority, but from the Father (John 14:10), and then... Jesus sends the apostles just as the Father sent Him (John 17:18 and 20:21). Divinely-appointed authority.

No sane Protestant will just stand by and watch silently while people are being led into idolatry

What idolatry?

there is no authority save from the words of Scripture

Ah, Sola Scriptura. A doctrine that isn't in the Bible. ;-)

so that the preacher will not even permit anyone to call him/her Father/Mother, Teacher or Master (Monsignor?)

That's weird. What did Jesus call Abraham in Luke 16:24? "Father." What did Sts. Stephen and Paul call the Jewish religious leaders in Acts 7:2 and 22:1? "Fathers." What word does St. Paul use to refer to himself in relation to his "beloved children" in 1 Cor 4:14-15? "Father in Christ." Surely, if Jesus were speaking literally, he wouldn't have contradicted himself, and Sts. Stephen and Paul wouldn't have used the term either. What Jesus *really* meant by "call no man your father on earth" is that all legitimate authority and truth ultimately come from God. Catholics call priests "father" because, like St. Paul, priests cooperate with God in giving spiritual life to their flock by preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments.

slaving away, performing works of human hands in order to earn one's salvation

I don't know what you mean. Faith without works is dead, isn't it? That's what the Catholic Church teaches--faith *and* works, not one or the other. That's scriptural, too.

What gives more honor to God: fearing God and doing these ordinances and commandments hoping to earn one's salvation or at least avoid hell, or being motivated in no measure by either fear of punishment or desire for reward - only and exclusively by love for God?

Surely, the latter. But how is that a Catholic/non-Catholic issue?

Charisms on Campus said...

I'm intrigued by the debate ;)

I enjoyed both reading the questions/comments and the Catholic approach to outside misunderstandings.

Caraboska- I was just like you before I actively started studying what the Church teaches in depth. I totally respect and support your own faith and spiritual journey though! Thanks for still posting, I love to hear from you :)

The Catholic Wife- you're sooo knowledgeable! I'm truly loving your participation on this blog and in my spiritual questions...what a blessing :)

Peace be with both of you ladies!

aleia-jade said...

Have you read C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle"? It's the last of his Narnia books. Even though he's not Catholic, I found it helpful in illustrating some of the points in Tha Catholic Wife's post, since fiction generally helps me make better sense of reality.

caraboska said...

COC, I live in a 95% RC country, numbering among my friends is a man whom I am helping with translating materials for his doctoral dissertation in theology at an RC seminary here. So I can't really avoid finding out what the RCC teaches - from both the RCC and other viewpoints.

When I talk about the catechisms, I am speaking on the basis of a book which takes all of the Catholic doctrines concerning salvation, and looked at 4 different RC catechisms from different time frames, to see what the RCC really teaches in these matters, and whether that has teaching has in any way changed over time.

And he found that it has not changed over time, and that often Catholics - even priests - who write about what the Church teaches about salvation appear to be unaware of the true content of the official RCC documents concerning these matters. Basically, with regard to each doctrine that impacts on salvation, it is said in these documents that anyone who does not agree with the view on the doctrines in question, as presented in the documents, should be considered accursed.

So it appears that the official RCC take on someone like me is that I am serving the devil and on my way to hell.

One thing that is pointed out by this book, however, which I should have probably taken cognizance of and refrained from discussing the details of the doctrines, etc., is that it is not possible to get anywhere in the discussion as long as the difference in views on tradition continues to exist.

And here I would like to point out that this problem existed back in Jesus' time too. The Pharisees (like today's Orthodox Jews, who are their direct spiritual descendants) believed that the Law had an oral and a written portion. The written portion is what we know as the Pentateuch. The oral Law is contained in the Mishnah and the Gemarah - in other words, the Talmud. So that when an Orthodox Jew talks about 'Torah', they mean both the books of Scripture and the Talmud taken together.

In other words, the Talmud appears to occupy a similar place in the lives of the Pharisees and their descendants, as tradition does in the RCC.

And Jesus, in the gospels, had quite a bit to say about what our relationship to the Law should be. And even about what our view of the so-called oral Law ought to be. Keep in mind: the Pharisees and Orthodox Jews view the Talmud as part of God's Word.

So, here Jesus comes telling them that their rules about Corban - things devoted to God - are off-base. We can be sure that this was a matter of the oral Law. So that the Pharisees believed these rules to be part of God's Word.

But the fact remains that these rules led to a situation where someone has something material in their possession which could, in principle be used to help their parents who might be in need. But since it is Corban - devoted to the Lord - this is supposedly forbidden.

And what does Jesus say about this? 'You have a fine way of controverting the Scriptures with your... man-made rules.' Evidently his attitude towards the oral Law, which these people believed to be part of God's Word, was anything but.

His point was that the Scripture has to be normative with respect to tradition - not vice versa.

caraboska said...

I don't like the fact that the conclusions I draw basically would tell me I cannot contract a valid marriage with the man I love - God would not be in it because of being unequally yoked, so it would just be fornication.

I don't like the fact that in order to tell the truth (or at least my understanding thereof) I end up telling people things they REALLY don't want to hear. I can't imagine any of it is pleasant for them.

But what can I do? Pretend it ain't so, just to please other people? What about pleasing God? Pretend it ain't so, so that I can have some illusion of fellowship with other people which really can't exist?

Or have I completely misunderstood what the foundation of spirituality or fellowship is - maybe all this really doesn't matter? But on the other hand, if something appears to be necessary to true worship of God and only God, how can I just ignore it?

I do not have all the answers at this time. But one thing I do know: it is required for the person of faith to be willing to be even entirely alone in their faith, if that is what is required to please God, if everyone around them really has gone astray. We cannot worship fellowship or companionship or relationships. This is a matter of worshiping God and only God.

caraboska said...

This was supposed to be at the beginning of the last comment - it got lost in the shuffle as I had to divide my comment:

I don't like the conclusions I come to from studying the Bible. I don't like the fact that my mother and I disagree so sharply about matters of faith that we have had to agree never to see each other again in this life. At least we can still talk on the phone.

The Catholic Wife said...

I don't like the fact that the conclusions I draw basically would tell me I cannot contract a valid marriage with the man I love - God would not be in it because of being unequally yoked, so it would just be fornication.

I don't know the details of your situation, but the Catholic Church can certainly consider a marriage between Protestants valid and sacramental.

I don't like the fact that in order to tell the truth (or at least my understanding thereof) I end up telling people things they REALLY don't want to hear. I can't imagine any of it is pleasant for them.

I understand that. We live in an age of political correctness and the reality of heaven and hell is anything but.

But what can I do? Pretend it ain't so, just to please other people? What about pleasing God? Pretend it ain't so, so that I can have some illusion of fellowship with other people which really can't exist?

I don't know what you're asking here, but I do believe that pleasing God--knowing, loving, and serving Him--should be the motivating factor behind everything we do.

Or have I completely misunderstood what the foundation of spirituality or fellowship is - maybe all this really doesn't matter? But on the other hand, if something appears to be necessary to true worship of God and only God, how can I just ignore it?

What do you say appears to be necessary to the true worship of God and only God? And what does "worship" mean to you?

I do not have all the answers at this time. But one thing I do know: it is required for the person of faith to be willing to be even entirely alone in their faith, if that is what is required to please God, if everyone around them really has gone astray.

Definitely. But how does that one person know that their faith is truth?

We cannot worship fellowship or companionship or relationships. This is a matter of worshiping God and only God.

Again, I'd love to hear your definition of what it means to worship God.

caraboska said...

TCW, The problem is that M believes water baptism is necessary for salvation, and I believe that salvation is by grace through faith *only*, so that water baptism is only valid if salvation has already taken place.

Now, you should know that of the churches I have attended thus far, I have spent most of my time in ones that taught that a person who believes that water baptism is necessary for salvation is not a Christian and is therefore on their way to hell. So when I discovered that M believes water baptism is necessary for salvation, I was first of all horrified.

But, wanting not to be a sheep and just believe everything I hear, I decided to give M the benefit of the doubt and look for other evidence as to whether he is really a Christian - for example, does he live according to Biblical norms? And the man does make a concerted effort to do so, as far as he understands those norms.

I know him well enough to have an idea what he would be like - all the time instead of just in moments of human weakness - if he weren't doing that. And quite frankly, the picture is not a pretty one. He is who he is only by God's grace. Lest anyone misunderstands, the same is true of me.

But I have been more or less tormented by doubts all these over 6 years it's been since we met. Right around Christmastime last year, I began to pray very intensively about it, and I came to a very shocking realization, namely that if we take each of our respective views to its logical conclusion, each of our views would tell us to view the other as serving the devil and on their way to hell.

This is how it works: For him, he figures that there is no spiritual reality in a person's life unless they have been baptized with water. Or if they have any spiritual reality despite not having been baptized, or despite having absolutely rejected any spiritual reality that might have entered their life as a result of water baptism, then that spirituality is a counterfeit. It is not from God, but from the devil.

For me, on the other hand, if a person did not have the spiritual reality in their life before being baptized, then they do not have it afterwards either. And if they do nonetheless have some kind of spiritual reality in their life, as a result of being baptized, then it is something to be very worried about. It is a counterfeit. It is not from God, but from the devil.

We are at least enough on the same page to be agreed that there can be no true fellowship between two such individuals. And there really can't be - unless the word 'fellowship' means something very different from what I think it does. Which is of course possible. But for the moment, I have to go with what I understand to be the reality of the matter.

And of course this raises the question: how is God going to join us together if we are not on the same page about Him, if we do not, from a Scriptural standpoint, have substantially the same relationship with Him? And isn't that the first qualification for a valid marriage: that God join the two together?

And at least in this measure M and I are on the same page: both of us would absolutely insist on having only a valid marriage - without which any, um, contact between us would be fornication. We have each spent our lives avoiding that to the best of our understanding. So engaging in fornication - even legalized - is absolutely out of the question.

caraboska said...

So yes, I do view this question in terms of whether we worship the same God. Because I understand that salvation comes only from God, without the action of any human hand (including the one that performs water baptism), I view the reckoning of water baptism (or for that matter, any other human act) as necessary to salvation as placing that act in a position that is to be occupied only by God. If that is a correct understanding, then such a thing would be idolatry. So that the person who holds this view would not be worshiping the same God as I worship.

I view the gospel as follows: that Jesus came to earth precisely in order to solve that idolatry problem. For if He had not come to offer His redemptive sacrifice, then all we would have left is the attempt to earn salvation by our own efforts. Which would amount to worship of our own selves and efforts.


Furthermore, by taking the penalty on Himself, He has done away with fear of punishment or even desire for heaven as motives for coming to God. In other words, He offered His sacrifice so that we can come to God for the right reasons: neither out of fear of punishment, nor out of desire for reward.

See, God tells us in His Word that we are to love Him with *all* our heart, and *all* our soul, and *all* our strength. He says there is no fear in love. He says that love does not seek its own.

So in the measure we have any motive besides God - for example, fear of punishment or desire for reward - then we are subtracting from that 100% that God requires of us. And that motive - whatever it is - is an idol, and harboring such a thing in our lives will mean that we have become idolaters.

And again: if we do not agree with a given person about whom (or, as the case may be, what) we are worshiping, how can we have any fellowship? How can there be any unity between such people?

And I view having reached this point beyond which one cannot go - that understanding that God has to be the sole ultimate motive, the sole ultimate answer to everything that is going on in our life, as a key indicator of whether I am on the right track.

I may have mentioned elsewhere that I have, through Scripture, come to know God in a way that goes beyond words. For that matter, that's how it was for me from the very beginning. That having been said, I know the power of the Scripture, and need no one to tell me whether it is God's Word. I also acknowledge the Scripture as the measure of all else - every book, every teaching, every experience, every perception.

It has been pointed out that not everyone understands the Scriptures the same way. And there are two reasons for that, even three: 1) God's Word contains a number of paradoxical things whose possibiility of being true is rooted in God and His nature and His infinitude; 2) People do not have infinite minds and may not be able to see or grasp everything that is in the Word; 3) people can have idols in their lives which cloud their ability to properly understand the Word.

All this on top of the problems of not reading the whole Scripture before coming to a conclusion, of faulty hermeneutics (a common problem being proceeding from the specific - or worse yet, mere examples - to the general, instead of the other way around). Not to mention people who are taking what other people say the Scripture says, instead of what it actually says.

In extreme cases, you even have people who believe it is not proper for anyone except a person with a pastoral calling to study the original languages of the Scriptures - that our place is to trust in 'God's ordained authority' and insisting on reading the Scriptures in the original language for ourselves, on assuming upon ourselves the ultimate responsibility for the content of our faith, is therefore disobedience to God, pride, etc.

So there are LOTS of reasons that people can come to differing understandings of the Scriptures...