Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My Intentions....

I have not posted on this site for almost a year, but I have decided to give it another try. One of my goals is to post reviews and 'cliff notes' for books related to Catholicism. I hope that people will will like what I post and visit the site regularly. I also hope to generate a little ad revenue through the site. If you have any suggestions for books you think I should discuss, let me know!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation - A Response to Protestants

I was recently involved in a debate on a Protestant blog on whether baptism is necessary for salvation. The moderator of the board subsequently posted the following article. It appears to me that he was trying to rebut my arguments. Since I have my doubts as to whether I will be allowed to respond to the article on his blog, I’m posting my response here. The article is long, so I will be doing this in two parts.

This article was taken from Pulpit Magazine. The article is in Ariel and my responses are in Georgia.

Is water baptism necessary for salvation? No. Let’s examine what the Scriptures teach on this issue:

“First, it is quite clear from such passages as Acts 15 and Romans 4 that no external act is necessary for salvation. Salvation is by divine grace through faith alone (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9, etc.).”

In fact, it is NOT clear. The author errs in assuming that the above passages refer, explicitly or implicitly, to baptism. They do not. Those passages deal with the specific question of whether Gentiles who came to believe in Christ had to fulfill the old Mosaic laws regarding circumcision and dietary restrictions. They say nothing about acts commanded by Christ. So the author must first prove that these passages somehow refer to baptism before he can claim support from them.

If water baptism were necessary for salvation, we would expect to find it stressed whenever the gospel is presented in Scripture. That is not the case, however. Peter mentioned baptism in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). However, in his sermon from Solomon’s portico in the Temple (Acts 3:12-26), Peter makes no reference to baptism, but links forgiveness of sin to repentance (3:19). If baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sin, why didn’t Peter say so in Acts 3?

In fact, Peter did not just “mention” baptism. Rather, he was very specific in stating, in Acts 2:38, “’Repent and be baptized, 7 every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.’” Yet the author just glosses over this because it does not fit his template. Instead, he points to several sections where Peter does not mention baptism and claims 1) that his silence is somehow tantamount to stating that baptism does not result in the remission of sins; and 2) that such statement overrides Peter’s EXPLICIT statement that baptism DOES result in the remission of sins. Where is the logic in that position?

Paul never made water baptism any part of his gospel presentations. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul gives a concise summary of the gospel message he preached. There is no mention of baptism. In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul states that “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” thus clearly differentiating the gospel from baptism.

Again, the author errs by making presumptions without evidence and by ignoring explicit mention of baptism. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul mentions holding on to the Gospel he has preached and gives a one sentence summary of Jesus living, dying and coming back to life. This in no way shows whether Paul did or did not preach baptism for the remission of sins, and it is incumbent upon the author to show Paul did not. Also, if you go further down the chapter, to 1 Corinthians 29, Paul explicitly mentions baptism. “Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?”

The author also takes Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 1:17 out of context. In verses 10 through 16, Paul is criticizing the Corinthians for their rivalries. “I mean that each of you is saying, "I belong to 5 Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ."” (1 Cor. 1:12). He then states that he has only baptized a few of them himself, and he is glad he did not baptize the others, “so that no one can say you were baptized in my name.” He then states that he came not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.

Notice what is going on here. First, Paul does NOT say that the Corinthians are not baptized, but rather, that he did not himself baptize most of them; rather, it was performed by others. Second, he acknowledges having performed baptisms himself. Third, he states that they are baptized in the name of Christ, not in his name or someone else’s name. His point is that while a person may dunk you in the water, it is Christ that is cleansing you of your sin during that dunking.

Paul himself has contradicted two of the author’s points: first, that baptism is somehow an act separated from Christ, and second, that Paul did not preach baptism. Only by pulling the passages out of their chapters, and thus, out of their contexts, can the author attempt to support his point.

Those passages are difficult to understand if water baptism is necessary for salvation. If baptism were part of the gospel itself, necessary for salvation, what good would it have done Paul to preach the gospel, but not baptize? No one would have been saved. Paul clearly understood water baptism to be separate from the gospel, and hence in no way efficacious for salvation.

I have just shown above that Paul did baptize and viewed it as part of the Gospel and part of salvation.

Perhaps the most convincing refutation of the view that baptism is necessary for salvation are those who were saved apart from baptism. The penitent woman (Luke 7:37-50), the paralytic man (Matthew 9:2), the publican (Luke 18:13-14), and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) all experienced forgiveness of sins apart from baptism. For that matter, we have no record of the apostles’ being baptized, yet Jesus pronounced them clean of their sins (John 15:3—note that the Word of God, not baptism, is what cleansed them).

Yes, when Jesus walked the Earth he personally forgave the sins of certain people with whom he came in contact. Christ can do that. That does not change the fact that he personally preached baptism for the remission of sins. John 3:5 states, “Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”” Matthew 28:18-20 states, “Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, 12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."” In Mark 16:16, Jesus states, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

As for the Apostles, with regard to the original twelve, while we may not have a record of them being baptized themselves, we do have a record of them performing baptisms in John 3:22. John 3:22 states, “After this [his discussion with Nicodemus the Pharisee], Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing.” Are we to assume that any mention of “his disciples” does not refer to the Apostles? Were they not also disciples?

Further, we know that Paul was baptized, and that he himself said that the baptism washed away his sins. In Acts 22, Paul appears in the Temple in Jerusalem and gives his defense, relating his conversion story. In verses 12 through 16, Paul states:

"A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, 'Saul, my brother, regain your sight.' And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, 'The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness 2 before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.'”

Notice that Paul states that even after his sight is restored, Ananias told him he needed to have his sins washed away.

The Bible also gives us an example of people who were saved before being baptized. In Acts 10:44-48, Cornelius and those with him were converted through Peter’s message. That they were saved before being baptized is evident from their reception of the Holy Spirit (v. 44) and the gifts of the Spirit (v. 46) before their baptism. Indeed, it is the fact that they had received the Holy Spirit (and hence were saved) that led Peter to baptize them (cf. v. 47).

Actually, if you read the entire chapter, it is clear that the purpose of the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit before their baptism was to show the Jewish community that Christ intended for the Gentiles to also be saved. Peter was forced to justify his actions to the Jews, and when the Spirit poured down, he said, essentially, “What further proof do you need?” This did not eliminate the need for those people to be baptized. In fact, if baptism were not necessary for salvation, then Peter went through a lot of hassle from the Jews for nothing.

Further, Peter himself preached the necessity of baptism for salvation. Besides Act 2:38, Peter also stated in 1 Peter 3:21-22,

This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God 7 for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.”

One of the basic principles of biblical interpretation is the analogia scriptura, the analogy of Scripture—we must compare Scripture with Scripture in order to understand its full and proper sense. Since the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, any interpretation of a specific passage that contradicts the general teaching of the Bible is to be rejected.

By that standard, Case Closed. Baptism is necessary for salvation.

Part II will come tomorrow.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Response to IrishCalvinist's blog posting on evangelization

For those just joining us, I was posting comments to the IrishCalvinist posting above. Erik Raymond, the blogger and the assistant pastor of Omaha Bible Church, had responded to my comments. I attempted to post a rebuttal, but as of yet the comments have not been approved, even though subsequent comments have been approved. Lest those readers of Erik's blog think I had no response, I have copied it here in full. I invite those involved to continue the debate on this page. Though I may disagree with you, I have no fear of allowing you to post your positions.

Erik, you say:

“I do not see how the association of Rome’s view of baptism with the Galatian heresy is inaccurate. Just because the text does not say baptism does not mean that what Rome is doing does not apply. For they are of the same seed; both are adding something one does (or receives if you prefer) to the cross.”

The problem is that YOU have ADDED that YOURSELF. YOU think that just because it makes sense, it must be correct. But it is just as correct (if not more) to say that Paul did NOT mean for baptism to be lumped in. Baptism is not adding to the Cross, but rather is part of what Jesus prescribes for the faithful.

You have proven my point, Erik. You read a passage, you say to yourself, “Gee, I think this means ‘X’,” and then you proclaim it to be the Gospel. But it is not the Gospel - it is your reading, your interpretation of the Gospel. And when you ‘point’ to other passages which you say support your view, you are doing the SAME THING. But you CANNOT point to any other source to support your position.

Jacob, you are doing the same thing with Ephesians 2. It does not contradict what I am saying because Saint Paul is still addressing the works of the Old Covenant. Paul specifically believed in the regenerative aspect of baptism:

“Or are you aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4.

“In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 3:11-12.

“But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7.

Rob, I am striving to attain the glory of Christ in Heaven, and it is my fervent hope that I can lead Erik to do the same. For while Erik’s intentions may be good in his zeal for the Lord, he is actually actively attempting to pull people away from the truth of the Gospel. I think it is terrible that someone, no matter how misguided, would try to separate people from the presence of Christ himself in the Eucharist. My hope is that by pointing out the faults in Erik’s and other Calvinists’ thinking, they will truly understand Scripture and reach the fullness of their faith.

Also look at Acts 2:37-41. The Apostles have just finished preaching to the multitudes about Christ, after having received the Holy Spirit:

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Catholic Church's Teaching on Justification

I am currently involved in a discussion on justification with some friends at www.irishcalvinist.com. I wanted to refer to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification issued by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. However, it is some hefty reading. For their convenience, I am posting part of the document here. I have removed paragraphs relating to the Lutheran Church because they do not pertain to the discussion. I have also removed the introductory paragraphs. This is the 'meat' of the document as it relates to the Church's position.


by the Lutheran World Federation
and the Catholic Church

1. Biblical Message of Justification

8.Our common way of listening to the word of God in Scripture has led to such new insights. Together we hear the gospel that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). This good news is set forth in Holy Scripture in various ways. In the Old Testament we listen to God's word about human sinfulness (Ps 51:1-5; Dan 9:5f; Eccl/Qo 8:9f; Ezra 9:6f) and human disobedience (Gen 3:1-19; Neh 9:16f,26) as well as of God's "righteousness" (Isa 46:13; 51:5-8; 56:1 [cf. 53:11]; Jer 9:24) and "judgment" (Eccl/Qo 12:14; Ps 9:5f; 76:7-9).

9.In the New Testament diverse treatments of "righteousness" and "justification" are found in the writings of Matthew (5:10; 6:33; 21:32), John (16:8-11), Hebrews (5:3; 10:37f), and James (2:14-26).[10] In Paul's letters also, the gift of salvation is described in various ways, among others: "for freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal 5:1-13; cf. Rom 6:7), "reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:18-21; cf. Rom 5:11), "peace with God" (Rom 5:1), "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17), "alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:11,23), or "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 1:30; 2 Cor 1:1). Chief among these is the "justification" of sinful human beings by God's grace through faith (Rom 3:23-25), which came into particular prominence in the Reformation period.

10.Paul sets forth the gospel as the power of God for salvation of the person who has fallen under the power of sin, as the message that proclaims that "the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith" (Rom 1:16f) and that grants "justification" (Rom 3:21-31). He proclaims Christ as "our righteousness" (1 Cor 1:30), applying to the risen Lord what Jeremiah proclaimed about God himself (Jer 23:6). In Christ's death and resurrection all dimensions of his saving work have their roots for he is "our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom 4:25). All human beings are in need of God's righteousness, "since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23; cf. Rom 1:18-3:20; 11:32; Gal 3:22). In Galatians (3:6) and Romans (4:3-9), Paul understands Abraham's faith (Gen 15:6) as faith in the God who justifies the sinner (Rom 4:5) and calls upon the testimony of the Old Testament to undergird his gospel that this righteousness will be reckoned to all who, like Abraham, trust in God's promise. "For the righteous will live by faith (Hab 2:4; cf. Gal 3:11; Rom 1:17). In Paul's letters, God's righteousness is also God's power for those who have faith (Rom 1:16f; 2 Cor 5:21). In Christ he makes it our righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Justification becomes ours through Christ Jesus "whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith" (Rom 3:25; see 3:21-28). "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works" (Eph 2:8f).

11.Justification is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Rom 3:23-25; Acts 13:39; Lk 18:14), liberation from the dominating power of sin and death (Rom 5:12-21) and from the curse of the law (Gal 3:10-14). It is acceptance into communion with God: already now, but then fully in God's coming kingdom (Rom 5:1f). It unites with Christ and with his death and resurrection (Rom 6:5). It occurs in the reception of the Holy Spirit in baptism and incorporation into the one body (Rom 8:1f, 9f; I Cor 12:12f). All this is from God alone, for Christ's sake, by grace, through faith in "the gospel of God's Son" (Rom 1:1-3).

12.The justified live by faith that comes from the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17) and is active through love (Gal 5:6), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22f). But since the justified are assailed from within and without by powers and desires (Rom 8:35-39; Gal 5:16-21) and fall into sin (1 Jn 1:8,10), they must constantly hear God's promises anew, confess their sins (1 Jn 1:9), participate in Christ's body and blood, and be exhorted to live righteously in accord with the will of God. That is why the Apostle says to the justified: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil 2:12f). But the good news remains: "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1), and in whom Christ lives (Gal 2:20). Christ's "act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all" (Rom 5:18).

15.In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.[11]

16.All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith. Faith is itself God's gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life.

17.We also share the conviction that the message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God's saving action in Christ: it tells us that as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way.

18.Therefore the doctrine of justification, which takes up this message and explicates it, is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith, which are to be seen as internally related to each other. It is an indispensable criterion which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ. When Lutherans emphasize the unique significance of this criterion, they do not deny the interrelation and significance of all truths of faith. When Catholics see themselves as bound by several criteria, they do not deny the special function of the message of justification. Lutherans and Catholics share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who alone is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5f) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts. [cf. Sources for section 3].

4. Explicating the Common Understanding of Justification

4.1 Human Powerlessness and Sin in Relation to Justification

19.We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation. The freedom they possess in relation to persons and the things of this world is no freedom in relation to salvation, for as sinners they stand under God's judgment and are incapable of turning by themselves to God to seek deliverance, of meriting their justification before God, or of attaining salvation by their own abilities. Justification takes place solely by God's grace. Because Catholics and Lutherans confess this together, it is true to say:

20.When Catholics say that persons "cooperate" in preparing for and accepting justification by consenting to God's justifying action, they see such personal consent as itself an effect of grace, not as an action arising from innate human abilities.

4.2 Justification as Forgiveness of Sins and Making Righteous

22.We confess together that God forgives sin by grace and at the same time frees human beings from sin's enslaving power and imparts the gift of new life in Christ. When persons come by faith to share in Christ, God no longer imputes to them their sin and through the Holy Spirit effects in them an active love. These two aspects of God's gracious action are not to be separated, for persons are by faith united with Christ, who in his person is our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30): both the forgiveness of sin and the saving presence of God himself. Because Catholics and Lutherans confess this together, it is true to say that:

24.When Catholics emphasize the renewal of the interior person through the reception of grace imparted as a gift to the believer,[13] they wish to insist that God's forgiving grace always brings with it a gift of new life, which in the Holy Spirit becomes effective in active love. They do not thereby deny that God's gift of grace in justification remains independent of human cooperation. [cf. Sources for section 4.2].

4.3 Justification by Faith and through Grace

25.We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.

27.The Catholic understanding also sees faith as fundamental in justification. For without faith, no justification can take place. Persons are justified through baptism as hearers of the word and believers in it. The justification of sinners is forgiveness of sins and being made righteous by justifying grace, which makes us children of God. In justification the righteous receive from Christ faith, hope, and love and are thereby taken into communion with him.[14] This new personal relation to God is grounded totally on God's graciousness and remains constantly dependent on the salvific and creative working of this gracious God, who remains true to himself, so that one can rely upon him. Thus justifying grace never becomes a human possession to which one could appeal over against God. While Catholic teaching emphasizes the renewal of life by justifying grace, this renewal in faith, hope, and love is always dependent on God's unfathomable grace and contributes nothing to justification about which one could boast before God (Rom 3:27). [See Sources for section 4.3].

4.4 The Justified as Sinner

28.We confess together that in baptism the Holy Spirit unites one with Christ, justifies, and truly renews the person. But the justified must all through life constantly look to God's unconditional justifying grace. They also are continuously exposed to the power of sin still pressing its attacks (cf. Rom 6:12-14) and are not exempt from a lifelong struggle against the contradiction to God within the selfish desires of the old Adam (cf. Gal 5:16; Rom 7:7-10). The justified also must ask God daily for forgiveness as in the Lord's Prayer (Mt. 6:12; 1 Jn 1:9), are ever again called to conversion and penance, and are ever again granted forgiveness.

30.Catholics hold that the grace of Jesus Christ imparted in baptism takes away all that is sin "in the proper sense" and that is "worthy of damnation" (Rom 8:1).[16] There does, however, remain in the person an inclination (concupiscence) which comes from sin and presses toward sin. Since, according to Catholic conviction, human sins always involve a personal element and since this element is lacking in this inclination, Catholics do not see this inclination as sin in an authentic sense. They do not thereby deny that this inclination does not correspond to God's original design for humanity and that it is objectively in contradiction to God and remains one's enemy in lifelong struggle. Grateful for deliverance by Christ, they underscore that this inclination in contradiction to God does not merit the punishment of eternal death[17] and does not separate the justified person from God. But when individuals voluntarily separate themselves from God, it is not enough to return to observing the commandments, for they must receive pardon and peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation through the word of forgiveness imparted to them in virtue of God's reconciling work in Christ. [See Sources for section 4.4].

4.5 Law and Gospel

31.We confess together that persons are justified by faith in the gospel "apart from works prescribed by the law" (Rom 3:28). Christ has fulfilled the law and by his death and resurrection has overcome it as a way to salvation. We also confess that God's commandments retain their validity for the justified and that Christ has by his teaching and example expressed God's will which is a standard for the conduct of the justified also.

33.Because the law as a way to salvation has been fulfilled and overcome through the gospel, Catholics can say that Christ is not a lawgiver in the manner of Moses. When Catholics emphasize that the righteous are bound to observe God's commandments, they do not thereby deny that through Jesus Christ God has mercifully promised to his children the grace of eternal life.[18] [See Sources for section 4.5].

4.6 Assurance of Salvation

34.We confess together that the faithful can rely on the mercy and promises of God. In spite of their own weakness and the manifold threats to their faith, on the strength of Christ's death and resurrection they can build on the effective promise of God's grace in Word and Sacrament and so be sure of this grace.

35.This was emphasized in a particular way by the Reformers: in the midst of temptation, believers should not look to themselves but look solely to Christ and trust only him. In trust in God's promise they are assured of their salvation, but are never secure looking at themselves.

36.Catholics can share the concern of the Reformers to ground faith in the objective reality of Christ's promise, to look away from one's own experience, and to trust in Christ's forgiving word alone (cf. Mt 16:19; 18:18). With the Second Vatican Council, Catholics state: to have faith is to entrust oneself totally to God,[19] who liberates us from the darkness of sin and death and awakens us to eternal life.[20] In this sense, one cannot believe in God and at the same time consider the divine promise untrustworthy. No one may doubt God's mercy and Christ's merit. Every person, however, may be concerned about his salvation when he looks upon his own weaknesses and shortcomings. Recognizing his own failures, however, the believer may yet be certain that God intends his salvation. [See Sources for section 4.6].

4.7 The Good Works of the Justified

37.We confess together that good works - a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love - follow justification and are its fruits. When the justified live in Christ and act in the grace they receive, they bring forth, in biblical terms, good fruit. Since Christians struggle against sin their entire lives, this consequence of justification is also for them an obligation they must fulfill. Thus both Jesus and the apostolic Scriptures admonish Christians to bring forth the works of love.

38.According to Catholic understanding, good works, made possible by grace and the working of the Holy Spirit, contribute to growth in grace, so that the righteousness that comes from God is preserved and communion with Christ is deepened. When Catholics affirm the "meritorious" character of good works, they wish to say that, according to the biblical witness, a reward in heaven is promised to these works. Their intention is to emphasize the responsibility of persons for their actions, not to contest the character of those works as gifts, or far less to deny that justification always remains the unmerited gift of grace.

I am back...

It's been awhile since I have posted here. If anyone was following this nacsent blog, I apologize. However, thanks to some friends at another blog, I now have renewed interest in posting.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Debate over "Tendencies"

The document has been released. Catholic World News has an unofficial translation of the document here. Everyone is talking about the Vatican's pronouncement on the ordination of homosexual men. But what does it mean?

The document lists three situations in which a man should not enter the seminary or priesthood. The first is where the person is practicing homosexuality. The third is where the person is supporting the gay culture. These two are obvious. If you are deliberately flouting a central teaching of the Church, that the act of homosexual relations is a sin, then you should not be in a position of teaching others about the truths of the Church.

But what about the second situation? That is where a person has "profound deep-rooted homosexual tendencies." What does that mean? This is the phrase that has people tied in knots. Does this mean that any man who is attracted to other men can never be a priest? Is simple orientation enough to exclude one from the priesthood?

I decided to approach this in a legalistic fashion. I first looked up the definition of "tendencies" on the Merriam-Webster website. Webster defines tendency as "direction or approach toward a place, object, effect, or limit; a proneness to a particular kind of thought or action; the purposeful trend of something written or said : AIM b : deliberate but indirect advocacy."

All of these definitions seem to involve something more than just an "orientation." Rather, they seem to indicate some sort of movement. If we apply these phrases to the current issue, homosexual tendencies would be defined as: "direction or approach toward homosexuality; a proneness to homosexual thought or action; the purposeful trend of homosexuality; deliberate but indirect advocacy of homosexuality."

Webster goes further and states that "tendency implies an inclination sometimes amounting to an impelling force." Webster also mentions the following as synonyms: trend, drift, tenor and current. Each of those words, defined, also imply movement towards something. Thus, the Vatican's use of the word "tendencies" appears not to indicate that homosexual orientation alone would exclude someone from the priesthood. Rather, the phrase seems to require some sort of compulsion on the part of the man to engage in homosexual behavior or to excuse or advocate the homosexual behavior of others.

The question then becomes, how much of a compulsion are we talking about? Surely all of us feel lust at times. Can you really exclude candidates simply for having lustful thoughts about men? Wouldn't many heterosexual priest fail if such a standard were applied to them?

I would say that such a standard does already apply to heterosexual priests. Every person has carnal desires, whether married or unmarried, gay or straight. Some people control these desires better than others. If a heterosexual or homosexual man spends a significant amount of time thinking about sex, imagining sex, then that man is not a good candidate for the priesthood. That man can still be a good Catholic and perhaps will even become a recognized saint someday. But right now, that man should concentrate on controlling his own thoughts and actions. I think this is what profound deep-rooted tendencies means.

I also think that men who would show profound tendencies toward other types of sin would not be suitable candidates for the priesthood. Thus, if a man had a constant urge to steal, even if he did not actually do so, then he should not enter the priesthood. Perhaps a monestary, if he feels such desire, but not the priesthood. He should concentrate instead on battling his personal demons.

Obviously there is an unclear middle-ground. Some men will have more than just fleeting impulses of lust that occur for everyone, yet those thoughts may not significantly interfere with their day to day goings on. It is impossible to write a definition to govern every possible situation in which men might find themselves. The Vatican deals with this by placing responsibility for the decision on both the candidate and the candidate's superiors and spiritual director. I think that a candidate who knows he has not just fleeting thoughts but compulsions to lust, again either heterosexual or homosexual, and yet feels his desire to become a priest is more important than honoring the Church's position, disqualifies himself for a more basic reason - his inability to put others' needs and desires before his own. Also, I think candidates should have faith in the ability of their superiors and spiritual director to discern, with the help of God, whether the man's inclinations amount to something profound and deep-rooted. If the candidate cannot have such faith, how will he have faith in his superiors and spiritual director on other issues? Such inability also disqualifies one from being a priest in the Church.

Many people have said that this document will discourage even those with fleeting homosexual urges from considering the preisthood. That may be true, but I don't see how this document could have been better worded. From a legal perspective, it draws the lines about as clearly as it can while still leaving room for judgment and discretion on the part of the candidate and the superiors and spiritual directors. From a theological perspective, the document simply reinforces a teaching of the Church that has been unchecked for some time. From a 'good of the Church' perspective, I believe it is more important to have fewer priests that are stronger in their faith and more clearly devoted to the teachings of the Magisterium than it is to have bodies up at the pulpit who may go astray in their preaching and counseling.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mark Shea makes the Wall Street Journal Online!

I am a devoted fan of James Taranto's "Best of the Web" on opinionjournal.com. Opinion Journal is the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal Online. Today's piece included a discussion that has been brewing on Mark Shea's site regarding torture of prisoners. Taranto begins his piece as follows:

Mark Shea is a blogger we had never heard of until yesterday, when Andrew Sullivan
linked us to one of his posts.

Okay, obviously we Catholics need to do a better job of promoting Catholic authors.

James Taranto frequently discusses Sullivan and his blog, and his mention of Mark Shea's blog is incidental to that. However, since Mark is one of the current high-profile apologists for the Church, I suggest that Taranto should check out his blogs on torture of terrorists, particularly Mark's post dated November 24 entitled "Krauthammer Pleads for Hard Cases to Make Law," and the 88 comments that followed, many of which were follow ups by Mark debating his readers.

Specifically, Mark prefers to refer to those of us who do not oppose the current detention and interrogation of terrorists as the "Rubber Hose Right." Mark asserts that those supporting the current policies regarding detainees do so under a false scenario, the "ticking-bomb scenario," and that even in such circumstances, torture cannot be justified. However, by making these arguments, Mark appears to be side-stepping the real issue by assuming that everything which is done to the detainees to obtain information constitutes 'torture.' For example, Mark supports Senator McCain's bill, which would ban "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of detainees. However, it is unclear what would constitute such conduct. Does turning down the air-conditioning in the cell consttute degrading or cruel treatment? Does it constitute torture?

Further, Mark quotes an article by David Luban at the Washington Post. Luban argues against the ticking time-bomb scenario by stating that most information is not gathered in a time-pressed situation where we have only one hour to gather information. He specifically mentions how the interrogation of Mohamed Qatani, the 20th Hijacker, gave us information concerning Al-Qaeda, but how the Pentagon never claimed that any of that information helped prevent any terrorist attacks. Of course, it's a fallacy to think that the Pentagon's failure to state such means the opposite is true. However, and more importantly, if Qatani had been picked up two years before 9/11, it is certainly possible that we would have learned valuable information. Would that have fallen under the "ticking-bomb scenario"? Osama Bin-Laden spent years planning 9/11, and although many dots could have and should have been connected during that time, those dots weren't.
Somehow I don't find comfort in the thought that we are expected to rely on the same intelligence-gathering methods in use before 9/11 to protect the country. If any of the current detainees have information on a grand plan that is set to take place 5 years from now, I would prefer to learn about it now and not take the chance that we can learn of it some other way.

So we are back to the question of what is permissible. Forget about the words torture, abuse, cruel treatment. Let's make a list of what we are permitted to do. I would be greatly interested in hearing Mark give his opinion on the following questions:

1. If we encounter a terrorist outside the U.S., do you believe we are allowed to detain him or her? If so, for how long?

2. Are we required to provide each detainee from outside the U.S. with an attorney? Are we allowed to question the detainees without an attorney?

3. Are interrogators permitted to shout at detainees during interrogation?

4. Are interrogators permitted to deprive detainees of sleep in order to secure cooperation?

5. Are interrogators permitted to use drugs on detainees to obtain information?

6. Are interrogators permitted to slap detainees during interrogation?

7. Are interrogators permitted to withhold food in any amount to secure cooperation? If so, how much or for how long before it becomes cruel or abuse?

8. Are interrogators permitted to place detainees in solitary confinement to secure cooperation?

Mark, I do not ask you these questions to provoke you or put you on the spot. I sincerely wish to know what you consider acceptable and non-acceptable treatment.

If that makes me a member of the Rubber Hose Right, so be it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Banning of Christmas Trees in Omaha?

Apparently not. It was just a rumor.


Corpus Christi gay play at UNL

I heard about this on the KVSS morning show today. UNL is sponsoring a play called "Corpus Christi", which operates from the prospective that Christ and the Apostles were gay. Bruce and Kris were urging Catholics to protest the play and to contact the UNL Chancellor, Harvey Perlman, to express their displeasure.

Here is a link with some information: http://www.tfp.org/what_we_do/index/corpus_christi_u_nebraska.htm

While I support the general idea of protesting the play, I have absolutely no belief that Perlman would ever stop the play's performance. I knew Perlman when he was dean of the law school. He views his political correctness as a key to acheiving his legacy, which is what he is all about.

Speaking of legacy, if you're one of the (millions? lol) of fans angry about the ouster of Solich and the hiring of Callahan, stop putting all the blame on Petersen, and look instead to the man who hired him, again in an attempt to secure a legacy. Perlman hired Petersen specifically because Perlman was looking to change the way Nebraska football is played.