May 16, 2017 at 6:15 pm #22367
One of the big ‘worldview’ shifts since leaving more fundamentalist Christianity has been understanding the mercy with which God views all humans, regardless of their religion. But I appreciate this needs balance with the understanding that the Catholic church has the fullness of truth. But I admit, it is still difficult to get my head around much ecumenical work that seems devoted to erasing and downplaying legitimate differences. I don’t want to become a Catholic version of an exclusive fundamentalist, but I can’t get away from the understanding that the Catholic church is the ‘rightest’ of all religions. How does someone keep the two ends of the seesaw in balance? I’m thinking keeping God’s mercy front and centre in my mind and heart is probably the best way to go.May 16, 2017 at 7:32 pm #22368
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
As creatures, we have difficulty reconciling the paradoxes we see in God. He is one God, yet he exists in three divine Persons. Jesus Christ is both the eternal Son of God and the incarnate Son of Man — both God and a creature, living both in eternity and in time. God’s essence is truth, yet he is also love and mercy.
In light of these examples, we Catholics have developed an attitude of “both/and” when dealing with these and many other facets of the faith. We affirm both sides of the matter, and the two seemingly contradictory parts of our faith are held in tension in spite of that “impossibility.” Why do we do this? Because, so long as we have faith in his authentic revelation, “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). He works miracles; we accept his revelation as true because of them (John 14:1; 10:25, 38) and because we have been given the Holy Spirit to confirm us in the truth (John 14:26; 16:13) — far greater truth than we have in the created universe.
This is not a matter of believing in the viability of contradictions, but of believing that God has revealed the truth, as mind-boggling as we may find it.
I can’t get away from the understanding that the Catholic church is the ‘rightest’ of all religions.
There is nothing wrong with your thinking, Elizabeth. Other Christians have “some” of the truth, derived ultimately from their Catholic ancestry, but the Catholic Church has it in its fullness. Furthermore, other religions have “some” truth, insofar as they are conformed to the truth which God has revealed through the Jewish and Christian religions, even though they lack the fullness that Catholic Christians have received through their adherence to God’s divine decision to send his Son as his definitive revelation.
DavidMay 16, 2017 at 7:41 pm #22369
The truth is, there can only be one true path to God and salvation, and it is through Christ and the Church he founded.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes a “positive” approach to explaining the one salvation concept by showing how God draws us to Him in different ways; and suggesting that there will be people who won’t know about the Church, or even Christianity, for which God’s mercy may still be great. However, there can only be one faith in God, one Christ, one Church, and one salvation. There are no other options. There are simply different paths from which people may eventually find their way to God and the Church. How people come to find God, and His Church, may vary. Other religions simply reflect a desire for God in some form, but not a true understanding of Him and of salvation. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus didn’t found multiple churches – he said “upon this rock I will build my Church”. It is singular, and there aren’t multiple options throughout scripture for how we interpret salvation (through water and spirit; and eating of Christ’s flesh and blood in the bread and wine), and morality. Yet many religions, and even Christians, do just that – believe what is convenient and disregard what isn’t.
There is a reason Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14).
I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion stemming from the idea of ecumenism (dialog with other religions), and while the compassionate impetus is of course good, we have to be very careful that this doesn’t lead to universalist thinking (that eventually all are saved), or that all religions are equal in the sight of God. They are not. They can not be equal. God loves all of us, but it doesn’t mean all of us truly love, accept and obey Him. Many souls will end up in hell thinking they can choose whatever appeals to them and still say “I love God”. The CCC presents the idea of defensible ignorance, where we may not be accountable for what we do not, and could not know about God. But we are responsible for acting on the truth when we know it. Most people have heard, or have access to the truth in our modern world.
Jesus also says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
And in Matthew 7:26, Jesus talks about hearing his words, but not acting on them being like building one’s house on sand, where it will be washed away by the rain. My Ignatius study Bible describes this as being a parallel to the soul. If we don’t care for our souls (and relationships with God) through prayer and virtue (obedience to God), we can be washed away by not only hardships in life, but deceptions and false theologies, including thinking that we have done “enough” (presuming God’s grace).
There is no way to believe in an absolute authority on faith, and still think that other religions are also valid. Only one is, and can be true. All we can see in other religions is an attempt to find God. That desire for God is something we can use as a doorway to conversation about the truth faith, but it doesn’t grant the other religion validity itself. The differences are not trivial. Our compassionate view of the world needs to be one of praying for, and reaching out to those around us to find Christ and His Church. There is nothing arrogant or exclusive about knowing the truth. When we fail to defend, and share this incredibly beautiful truth with others, we are in a way adopting an exclusive attitude. However, when we know how amazing this faith is, I think our overwhelming desire is to tell everyone we can so they can have the same opportunity to know God, and be saved.May 17, 2017 at 10:58 am #22374
Having been both Protestant and Catholic, it seems to me that what the Catholic Church is trying to do is bridge the gaps between us all. Some of those gaps are larger than others depending upon what religion or denomination you are talking about, but the main purpose seems to be to keep the doors open and the conversation going. The Church wants to avoid polarization because that has a habit of becoming less and less charitable ( we can point to the recent presidential campaigns and election which were extremely polarized as an example of what can happen). The Church is trying to live up to the words of Christ when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”. It is trying to walk down the road and meet people where they are at. That came across to me VERY strongly during my conversion. I was never judged or hounded, just thoroughly welcomed exactly where I was at in that moment even if I was suspicious, scared, doubtful or merely curious.
Ecumenism for the Church is less about converting (didn’t Pope Francis say something about that recently which, as usual, caused a great stir?), and more about finding common ground with all it meets. Common ground is peaceful ground because on that ground we are friends and equals. When we are on common ground we are not in defense mode. We are not territorial on common ground because there is no threat. I think that is the whole purpose of ecumenism. Evangelism, on the other hand, is the place for conversion; but unless you are on common ground in peace, you cannot have that particular conversation.
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