There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing.- Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus

Responding to a friend's question:
I also have a question about the fact that people can be saved without being catholic as long as they don't know of the Church's Truth. What exactly does this mean? Is it simply people who have never heard of the church or is it people who are uncertain?  

For the "no salvation outside the Church" thing, there's a lot of leeway in the phrase "not knowing." In general, its easiest to say, yeah, if a person's in the depths of a rainforest their whole lives & they've never heard of the Christianity, let alone the Catholic Church, then yeah, the Church accepts its not fair to say they can't be saved. For people who have heard about the Catholic Church, but don't know anything about it is another situation where they "don't know", in my opinion. But for a person who has grown up in Sunday school or in a Catholic school, or has researched the Church themselves & understands the Church's teachings correctly and rejects them, then they're "outside the church" but they can't be under the category of "not knowing". 
It really gets summed up well by Clement of Alexandria: "From whathas been said, I think it is clear that there is one true Church, which is really ancient, into which those who are just according to design are enrolled." From this quote, the definition of what "the Church" is changes a little, for how can there be a "Church" before Jesus came and before the first Christians formed the Catholic Church. 
"Those who follow the Spirit of Christ, who writes the law on their hearts, are Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church. But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do belong to Christ, to His Church...we insist that even these people who belong without formal adherence have the objective obligation to formally enter the Church. It is only their ignorance that excuses them. Vatican II similarly: "They who without their own fault . . . can attain eternal salvation."
Really, I can't even go into what this means for dissenting Catholics, Christians that came out of the Protestant Rebellion, or people who know that Christianity exists. 1 Samuel 16:7 "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." If you follow the Catholic faith in your heart while being ignorant of the Catholic Church, you are de facto (if not de jour) a member of the Church. 
 So... what if you've been living the Catholic Faith in your heart all your life, but never heard about the Catholic Church. If you are "without fault and can attain eternal salvation" then should a missionary come to you and tell you about the Catholic Church? The answer is, if you are really that good, then you will gladly join the Catholic Church, because it's what you believe and have followed all your life already.

If the missionary does a good job. It doesn't make sense to follow the Catholic Church if it doesn't make sense to you because it has been poorly (or even wrongly in some cases) explained. This is the reason why Pope (Venerable) John Paul II called for a new evangelization, to re-teach areas that were historically Catholic Christian, but had lost the faith through misunderstanding. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen captured this need in his quote "Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is."
Why through the Church? Because it is Christ's Church. If you belong to Christ, you are in His Church. If you do not belong to Christ, you reject eternal salvation and so you are not saved. 
Other than an "everyone goes to heaven" mentality, I don't know if any other religion tries to be fair to people who have never heard of their religion.

On the Nature of Jesus

Every explanation of Jesus that is possible has been proposed. To borrow from C S Lewis (Mere Christianity):

the first dimension is a line. the 2nd dimension is made out of lines, and makes a square, which is more than a line. the 3rd dimension is made out of squares..., but is a cube... and so on with the 4th dimension, which is made out of cubes, but we can't really imagine it. you just kinda get told it follows the same pattern, and accept it because it's logical to. To understand how Jesus is God is to try to see the fourth dimension. To begin the analogy the same way, imagine a spider, ant, or a goldfish. It exists, it has being & is one being but has no personality. It isn't a person. A human is a human being and is a human person. One person per being, and only one being per person, that's what we're used to, that's 3D for us. Now it gets complicated & really there is no good terminology for beyond one person & one being together. God is three persons in one being. If you think of the analogy of how squares make a cube, it helps a little, but not very much. There is only one God, but God has/is made of three separate "persons" (in quotes because that's the closest word we have to describe it... it's like trying to describe a cube by saying its sides are squares). The Father is a divine person. the Holy Spirit is a divine person. Jesus is a divine person as much as the other two are. Jesus didn't at any point stop being a divine person. To be safe & use Bible language, Jesus "emptied himself, taking the form of a (human)". He was a human being in every way, but He was not a "human person", he remained a divine "person".

On our level, it would be like giving up your personality, becoming a ant to save the ants from ant traps and Raid and to show the ants how to get into the fridge.

Another interesting, picky, terminology thing is the whole create-beget question. God is the creator of the universe. But the universe is not of the same substance of God: it is not one with God, like you are not a scarf you knit. I can tell the scarf was made by you, but the scarf is not you. Creation is then used mainly to talk about the coming of existence of things that are not of the same type, as yourself... i can't think of a better word, but begetting is the coming of existence of things that are like yourself. People don't create children, they beget children... which isn't very commonly used now that we say people "have" children, when "have" is also a term of ownership rather than the coming of existence of someone. But in the Creed of Nicea (look it up, not just Catholics accept it) Jesus is said to be "begotten, not made, one in being with the Father."... Jesus himself said "The Father and I are one" and showed his power as God by forgiving sins (which freaked out the religious leaders of the day to no end). The Father beget the Son... the Son is like the Father... only more one than a human father and son, due to the ability for more than one "person" to be in one "being." Jesus isn't a human who God went into... Jesus wasn't just pretending to be human... He was unexplanably both, and needs to be in order for His sacrifice on the cross to work in the Pandorica (just that a human takes the consequences for a human mistake)-Tardis (only God can possibly make the sacrifice be for everyone's sins) sense.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

 Some conversations with friends and family sparked some thoughts worth sharing. 

With my non-Catholic best friend I was discussing the nature of religions. And, really, picking a religion is picking your reality. For Catholics, God has revealed whether or not a spiritual realm is real & how it works. This is why we know we can go to Heaven. Can. One of her understandable concerns was how do good people go to heaven if they get some things in their religion wrong. I don't know if other religions have an answer to that question, but for the Catholic Church, the Church can save people who are not members of the Church. I found this originally on a friend's facebook note & took the original source:
"There Is No Salvation Outside Of The Catholic Church – Originally stated by St. Cyprian, the Latin axiom “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” reminds us that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church.  This dogma was declared at the Fourth Lateran Council and is a source of confusion for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  According to the Catechism, all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is His Body.  It does not mean that non-Catholics cannot achieve salvation.  Individuals who are unaware that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church may still achieve salvation through the merits of the Church, despite their lack of knowledge." from

The other conversation, with my aunt, turned to belief. For her, she had wondered how God could allow innocent people to die. And her eventual response was that belief in God is not based on emotions. I would say that you can't believe in God just on emotions, but emotion can be a component of why I would believe in God. But having a belief just because you feel God there... that feeling will go away, and so the belief will go away. God is bigger than a person's belief. God's existence is not dependent on a person's belief. Even if we can't emotionally or physically feel God, He is there. He is close to us. As it says in Dt 30:10-14...
Moses said to the people:
"If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.
"For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.

Which was the first reading last Sunday, if you were paying attention :).

"The best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgments; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic... he does not judge Christianity calmly as a Confucian would; he... does not judge it as he would judge Confucianism."  

-G. K. Chesterton The Everlasting Man

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Night Thoughts 3

So, a couple nights ago, I was thinking about Jesus being both God and Man, and what His sacrifice on the cross meant. It's a contradiction in terms, to be both fully God and fully Man. Man is a creation, not worthy to be worshiped. God is the creator, a being outside of space and time, and not only is worthy of honor, but requires it by His nature. Man is finite. God is infinite.

It's kind of like in Doctor Who, "The Big Bang" where the 11th Doctor "restarts" the universe. The Pandorica can fix the problem, but is finite, and an infinite amount has to be fixed. For some as yet unknown reason, the TARDIS is exploding and destroying infinitely. The solution is to combine the Pandorica's solution, to the TARDIS's infiniteness, so the universe is fixed at every point in space and time. Now, Doctor Who isn't really Catholic at all, and sometimes could be interpreted as rather misunderstanding Catholics, or at worst subtily anti-Catholic.

But it is an analogy. The first humans God made, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and caused an infinite rift in relations between God and Man. It was Man's fault, and only a human can make retribution to God, but God is infinite, and so no human God made could possibly ever make retribution. Jesus is a divine person (not a human person, but fully human) and so Jesus could provide the ability to do things infinitely. He became fully human to make retribution, and could do so infinitely because He was God.

How did Jesus make reparation? Through Adam and Eve, everyone is born with original sin: a separation from God and a proclivity toward separation from God. Thus, even after baptism which removes original sin, the proclivity still exists, and causes everyone to fall at some point. Every action has its consequence, and the just consequence of sin is death. God is life, sin is turning away from God, and thus, is turning away from life. In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites a finite reparation of their sins, which was the sacrifice of pure animals. Jesus sacrificed himself, taking upon himself all the infinite sins of everyone that would keep them from heaven if they wanted to go.

Why did Jesus die on the cross? Because we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and God doesn't make junk. He loves us more than anything else He created because He knows we can be like Him and He wants us to be like Him. We are imperfect now, but we can become perfect. God wants everyone to go to heaven!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Your Love is Better Than Life (by the Newsboys)

I was listening to this and it is not only a fun song musically (it's the closest to rap I'll get) but it's so deep. Isn't it interesting as well how close love songs and Christian songs are?

"I dunno nothing that I haven't been taught,
I dunno why I was born into the family I’ve got,
I dunno if I ever had an original thought,
maybe not, maybe so, maybe later, I dunno
I dunno how I can end a prayer, then turn on a friend,
I dunno what I was thinking when I just pressed send,
I dunno why I still criticize the things I dunno
I dunno, I dunno, I dunno, but this one thing I know

Without your love, I’m just a broken machine R.
Without your love, it’s all a mindless routine R.
Without your love, I’m in another free fall R.
Without your love, I’ve got nothing at all

I dunno what goes down the moment we die
Do we get halos and harps? Do we sleep? Do we fly? I dunno
how, when and why this world will finally end,
Speculation’s gonna grow, who knows best, I dunno
I dunno if I should push ahead or stop and grieve,
I lie awake and wonder how to make a city believe,
I dunno when it’s a ministry and when it’s a show
maybe neither, maybe both, I dunno, but this one thing I know

Without your love, I’m just a broken machine R.
Without your touch I’m not a full human being R.
If I should ever leave, where would I go? R.
I look to you ‘cause you’re the lover of my soul


I dunno when to walk away or stand and fight
just when I’ve got it wrong, I’m sure I heard you right
and when my arguments are watertight you expose every hole with a flash and a flood and I know
I hear you call in the eye of the storm and I know you’ve had my back since the day I was born still
stoking my heart
still stirring my head
you’re my pillar of fire
you’re the wine, you’re the bread, and

Without your love, I’m just a broken machine R.
Without your love, it’s all a mindless routine R.
Without your love, I’m in another free fall R.
Without your love, I’ve got nothing at all

I dunno nothing that I haven't been taught, I dunno why I was born into the family I’ve got, R.
I dunno if I ever had an original thought, maybe not, maybe so, maybe soon, maybe later, I dunno R.
I dunno when I’ve got it right or wrong, I dunno how I can rap it in a four minute song, but I know
My grip is better when I’m not hanging on, your love is making us strong (all along)
Your love is better than life"

The bits in italic really capture how I feel :)  (The all caps parts came in the lyrics that way)