Category Archives: Theology

Once saved, better stay saved


-the right panel of a diptych “The Crucifixion, The Last Judgment, by Jan van Eyck, 1440-41, Northern Renaissance painting, a masterpiece of Renaissance art, 11 x 32.5 cm, 4.3 x 12.8 inches 


-by Karlo Broussard

“No, seriously, you could go to Hell. Some Christians think the possibility of going to hell is solely for unbelievers. They don’t believe that a true born-again Christian can lose his salvation, hence the common phrase once saved, always saved.

But for other Christians, hell is a stark reality to contend with, even for justified Christians, since they believe that a Christian can lose the gift of salvation initially received. There are several Scripture passages they commonly turn to for support—e.g., Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-31 and John 15:2-3. Each of these passages warns Christians about removing themselves from the source of salvation—namely, Jesus—which implies the possibility of damnation even for Christians. So it’s more like once saved, better stay saved.

There’s a way to rebut these biblical passages, but we’ll have to see how good it is. To get a good look at it, we can check Protestant theologian Michael Norton in his chapter of the book Four Views on Eternal Security.

Basically, the argument goes, scriptural warnings about falling away from the Faith refer to those Christians who trust only in their baptism rather than in what baptism signifies: faith in Christ. Such Christians, it’s argued, are satisfied with having merely an external relation with Christ. As Norton puts it, these are Christians “in the covenant [via baptism] but not personally united by living faith to Jesus Christ.” Such Christians would be akin to those Jews who trusted in their natural descent from Abraham as grounds for their membership in the New Covenant but were cut off (Rom. 11:19-22).

Note that the interpretive principle here entails that someone can be in the covenant via baptism, and thus a member of the covenant community, but at the same time not be regenerate, or saved, or justified. Now, there seem to be only two ways that this could be true.

Either . . .

A) A believer was initially regenerated through baptism, became a visible member of the covenant community, and then lost that saving grace,

. . . or . . .

B) A believer became a visible member of the covenant community through baptism but was never regenerated in the first place, which implies that baptism doesn’t make someone regenerate, or, as Norton puts it, “united by living faith to Jesus Christ.”

Of course it can’t be A, because then everyone agrees, and there’s no argument. So it has to be B—but B is not true. Baptism does regenerate and unite a person to Christ by living faith.

Consider what Paul teaches in Romans 6:3-4:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul furthers spell out the effects of this union with Christ through baptism. In verses 6-7, he writes,

We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died [the baptismal death] is freed [Greek, dedikaiōtai] from sin.

What’s interesting about this passage, as pointed out in Catholic circles by apologist Jimmy Akin, is that the Greek doesn’t say “freed from sin.” The Greek word translated “freed” is dikaioō, which means “to put into a right relationship (with God); acquit, declare and treat as righteous.” This is the same word Paul uses when he speaks of our justification by faith: “Since we are justified [Greek, dikaiōthentes] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). So the phrase “freed from sin” in Romans 6:7 can literally be translated “justified from sin.”

Modern translations render it as “freed from sin” because the context is clearly about sanctification. In the verse before Paul speaks of baptismal death, he speaks of those in Christ as having “died to sin.” As quoted above, Paul speaks of those who have died the death of baptism as “no longer enslaved to sin.”

So, for Paul, justification can include sanctification, which is the interior renewal of the soul whereby the objective guilt of sin is removed. And that justification, or regeneration, takes place in baptism.

So the contention that baptism doesn’t make us “united by living faith to Jesus Christ” is false. It has to be. And if so, then we can reject the idea that “trusting in baptism” is somehow to be separated from “trusting in Christ,” and doing the former keeps you off the heavenly guest list.

There’s one more thing to bring up here. The “trusting in baptism” principle fails to account for the other Scripture passages that are often cited for the belief that regenerate believers can lose their salvation, like Galatians 5:4. The text reads,

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Notice that Paul says the Galatians were “severed from Christ” and that they had “fallen away from grace.” Both statements imply that the Galatians were saved, or regenerate, since to be in Christ and in grace is to be free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). If you’re trying to reject the Catholic position on losing salvation, you can’t say here that these Christians merely had an external relationship with Jesus by being members of the Christian community through their baptism. They were in Christ.

Why would Paul speak of the Galatians being in Christ if they didn’t have faith in him? It’s not as if Paul were talking about baptized infants or baptized people who can’t use reason. How can someone who doesn’t fall into these categories of baptized people be in Christ, and thus be not subject to condemnation, and not have faith? Isn’t faith necessary to be free from condemnation, at least for those who can exercise it? It is: “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb. 11:6).

In the end, the interpretive principle embedded in the counter-response above introduces a novel theology that we shouldn’t accept as Christians: baptized adults united with Christ but without faith. Paul’s teaching on baptism in Romans 6:3-4, 7, and 17-18, and his teaching that believers can be “severed from Christ” (Gal. 5:4), provide the reason why.

The possibility of hell is not a message just for unbelievers. It’s a message for Christians as well, and a sobering one at that. Let’s not forget it.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Physics allows for the soul


-by Tara Macisaac, The Epoch Times

“Henry P. Stapp is a theoretical physicist at the University of California–Berkeley who worked with some of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics. He does not seek to prove that the soul exists, but he does say that the existence of the soul fits within the laws of physics.

It is not true to say belief in the soul is unscientific, according to Stapp. Here the word “soul” refers to a personality independent of the brain or the rest of the human body that can survive beyond death. In his paper, “Compatibility of Contemporary Physical Theory With Personality Survival,” he wrote: “Strong doubts about personality survival based solely on the belief that postmortem survival is incompatible with the laws of physics are unfounded.”

He works with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—more or less the interpretation used by some of the founders of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Even Bohr and Heisenberg had some disagreements on how quantum mechanics works, and understandings of the theory since that time have also been diverse. Stapp’s paper on the Copenhagen interpretation has been influential. It was written in the 1970s and Heisenberg wrote an appendix for it.

Stapp noted of his own concepts: “There has been no hint in my previous descriptions (or conception) of this orthodox quantum mechanics of any notion of personality survival.”

Why Quantum Theory Could Hint at Life After Death

Stapp explains that the founders of quantum theory required scientists to essentially cut the world into two parts. Above the cut, classical mathematics could describe the physical processes empirically experienced. Below the cut, quantum mathematics describes a realm “which does not entail complete physical determinism.”

Of this realm below the cut, Stapp wrote: “One generally finds that the evolved state of the system below the cut cannot be matched to any conceivable classical description of the properties visible to observers.”

So how do scientists observe the invisible? They choose particular properties of the quantum system and set up apparatus to view their effects on the physical processes “above the cut.”

The key is the experimenter’s choice. When working with the quantum system, the observer’s choice has been shown to physically impact what manifests and can be observed above the cut.

Stapp cited Bohr’s analogy for this interaction between a scientist and his experiment results: “[It’s like] a blind man with a cane: when the cane is held loosely, the boundary between the person and the external world is the divide between hand and cane; but when held tightly the cane becomes part of the probing self: the person feels that he himself extends to the tip of the cane.”

The physical and mental are connected in a dynamic way. In terms of the relationship between mind and brain, it seems the observer can hold in place a chosen brain activity that would otherwise be fleeting. This is a choice similar to the choice a scientist makes when deciding which properties of the quantum system to study.

The quantum explanation of how the mind and brain can be separate or different, yet connected by the laws of physics “is a welcome revelation,” wrote Stapp. “It solves a problem that has plagued both science and philosophy for centuries—the imagined science-mandated need either to equate mind with brain, or to make the brain dynamically independent of the mind.”

Stapp said it is not contrary to the laws of physics that the personality of a dead person may attach itself to a living person, as in the case of so-called spirit possession. It wouldn’t require any basic change in orthodox theory, though it would “require a relaxing of the idea that physical and mental events occur only when paired together.”

Classical physical theory can only evade the problem, and classical physicists can only work to discredit intuition as a product of human confusion, said Stapp. Science should instead, he said, recognize “the physical effects of consciousness as a physical problem that needs to be answered in dynamical terms.”

How This Understanding Affects the Moral Fabric of Society

Furthermore, it is imperative for maintaining human morality to consider people as more than just machines of flesh and blood.

In another paper, titled “Attention, Intention, and Will in Quantum Physics,” Stapp wrote: “It has become now widely appreciated that assimilation by the general public of this ‘scientific’ view, according to which each human being is basically a mechanical robot, is likely to have a significant and corrosive impact on the moral fabric of society.”

He wrote of the “growing tendency of people to exonerate themselves by arguing that it is not ‘I’ who is at fault, but some mechanical process within: ‘my genes made me do it’; or ‘my high blood-sugar content made me do it.’ Recall the infamous ‘Twinkie Defense’ that got Dan White off with five years for murdering San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.”

Love,
Matthew

Domingo Báñez, OP (1528-1604) – Salvation ONLY with God’s grace, free will



-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“Domingo Báñez (1528-1604) was a feisty Basque Dominican Friar and a leading theologian of his era. He was part of the third generation of scholasticism’s Silver Age, centered around the University of Salamanca in Spain where he occupied the prestigious first chair of theology for nineteen years. His fierce intellect was often embroiled in theological controversy in an age when doctrine was a matter of life and death. He deployed his sometimes scathing prose—a departure from the usual academic reserve of the scholastics—in service to the adoration of God and the defense of Catholic teaching. He taught Saint John of Ávila, counseled King Phillip II, and was confessor and defender of Saint Teresa of Ávila.

Βáñez is best known for his leading role in the De auxiliis controversy concerning the grace of God. All Catholics agreed (and still agree) that we cannot be saved without God’s grace. Though we were broken by original sin, God deigns to dwell in our souls and raise us to new life. Our path to salvation has God as its first source at every step and in every good work. Unfortunately, some Protestants taught that there is no such thing as free will because God determines everything, and Catholics in the sixteenth century were divided on how to respond.

Some began to argue that God only gives grace to those whom He knows will make good use of it. Báñez, however, thought this theory was a disaster, worrying that it meant the ultimate reason for salvation was found, not in the mercy of God, but rather in the free choice of man. God would only be reacting to future human choices, instead of giving the grace to choose the good in the first place.

This touches upon many of the deepest and most difficult questions plumbed by man. What is free will? How does God relate to creatures? Why is there evil in our world? Báñez attacked these questions with the full force of the doctrine of the Master, Thomas Aquinas. He attended always to the authority of Scripture, the Fathers, and the Councils, particularly the writings of Saint Paul and Saint Augustine. Báñez contended that the difference between a sinner and a saint is first of all the mercy of God. Yet God never takes away our free will. Rather, he gives us the grace to use it well.

This may sound rather pedantic, but for Báñez the whole Christian life was at stake. Referring to a passage of St. Augustine in which he found his position articulated, the Dominican writes:

“I say before God who judges me, that reading this in St. Augustine and citing him, it gives me great wonder that men who teach prayer and the spirit come to feel so feebly the movement of the grace of God. . . . Because even I, being a sinner as God knows and a man of little spirit and less prayer, but knowing that I am the work of his mercy and that each day he suffers me my ingratitude, reading these words of St. Augustine, have held back tears and, knowing my faults, have invoked the mercy of God that it may efficaciously carry me to him. May God give light to all so that with humility we may attribute to God what is his own, and to ourselves what is our own, that is, sin, in which God has no part, although being able to impede the sin he permits it on account of his secret judgments” (Translated by the author of this post).

For Βáñez, doctrinal arguments mattered because God matters. He fought hard to secure what he believed to be the metaphysical foundation for any sound spiritual life. He remains controversial to this day, even within his own Order, for the views that he defended so vociferously. Nonetheless, when he died, the faithful Dominican commended all his teachings to the judgment of the Church.

May we, too, burn with the zeal for truth that once fired this towering intellect of the Order of Preachers.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Can you lose your salvation? Jn 10:27-29


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Karlo Broussard

“How can the Catholic Church teach that it’s possible for us to lose our salvation when Jesus says that his sheep always hear his voice and that no one can snatch us out of his hand?

Recall that the Catechism warns of “offending God’s love” and “incurring punishment” (2090). To fear incurring the punishment of hell implies that a person can’t have absolute assurance of his salvation. Protestants use 1 John 5:13 to challenge this belief. But there is another Bible passage that some Protestants [64] use to mount the challenge: John 10:27-29:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, Who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

If Jesus says that no one shall snatch Christians out of his and the Father’s hand, doesn’t it follow that we are eternally secure?

1. Jesus’ promise to protect his sheep is on the condition that his sheep remain in the flock. It doesn’t exclude the possibility that a sheep could wander off and thus lose the reward of eternal life.

The condition for being among Jesus’ sheep and being rewarded with eternal life is that we continue hearing Jesus’ voice and following him. Jesus teaches this motif of continued faithfulness a few chapters later with his vine and branch metaphor in John 15:4-6:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

Just as we the branches must remain in Christ the vine lest we perish, so, too, we the sheep must continue to listen to the voice of Jesus the shepherd lest we perish.

Even the verbs suggest continuous, ongoing action by the sheep and the shepherd, not a one-time event in the past [65]. Jesus doesn’t say, “My sheep heard my voice, and I knew them.” Instead, he says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them” (v.27). His sheep are those who hear His voice in the present.

2. Jesus only says that no external power can snatch a sheep out of his hands. He doesn’t say that a sheep couldn’t exclude itself from His hands.

The passage says that no one shall snatch—take away by force—Christians out of the hands of Jesus and the Father. This doesn’t preclude the possibility that we can take ourselves out of Jesus’ protecting hands by our sin. A similar passage is Romans 8:35-39 where Paul lists a series of external things that can’t take us out of Christ’s loving embrace. But he never says that our own sin can’t separate us from Christ’s love.

Like Paul in Romans 8:35-39, Jesus is telling us in John 10:27-29 that no external power can snatch us out of his hands. But that doesn’t mean we can’t voluntarily leave his hands by committing a sin “unto death” (1 John 5:16-17). And if we were to die in that state of spiritual death without repentance, we would forfeit the gift that was promised to us: eternal life.

3. There is abundant evidence from Scripture that Christians do, in fact, fall from a saving relationship with Christ due to sin.

The Bible teaches that sheep do go astray. Consider, for example, Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep whom the shepherd goes to find (Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7). Sure, the shepherd finds the sheep (Jesus never stops trying to get us back in His flock). But the point is that the sheep can wander away.

The same motif is found in Jesus’ parable about the wicked servant who thinks his master is delayed and beats the other servants and gets drunk (Matt. 24:45-51). Notice that the servant is a member of the master’s household. But because of his failure to be vigilant in preparing for his master’s return, he was found wanting and was kicked out with the hypocrites where “men will weep and gnash their teeth” (v.51). Similarly, Christians can be members of Christ’s flock and members of His household, but if we don’t persevere in fidelity to him we will lose our number among the elect. That Christians can fall out of Christ’s hands due to sin is evident in Paul’s harsh criticism of the Galatians:

Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you . . . You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Gal. 5:2,4).

If some of the Galatians were “severed from Christ” and “fallen from grace,” then they were first in Christ and in grace. They were counted among the flock, but they later went astray. Not because they were snatched but by their own volition.

Didn’t Jesus give a parable about a sheep wondering away from the flock? (Matt. 18:10-14).

Peter teaches that those who “have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”—that’s to say born-again Christians—can return back to their evil ways: “They are again entangled in them and overpowered” (2 Pet. 2:20). Peter identifies their return to defilement as being worse than their former state, saying, “The last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (vv.20-21). He adds salt to the wound by comparing their return to defilement to a dog returning to its vomit (v.22). Clearly, Peter didn’t believe in the doctrine of eternal security.”

Love & Truth,
Matthew

[64] See Waiss and McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, 381; Norm Geisler, “A Moderate Calvinist View,” in Four Views on Eternal Security, ed. J Matthew Pinson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 71.

[65] See Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981), 357.

Broussard, Karlo. Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs (p. 74-77). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Sin renders the soul miserable – Ven Louis of Granada, OP, (1504-1588)

“Thus sin renders the soul miserable, weak and torpid, inconstant in doing good, cowardly in resisting temptation, slothful in the observance of God’s commandments. It deprives her of true liberty and of that sovereignty which she should never resign; it makes her a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil; it subjects her to a harder and more wretched servitude than that of the unhappy Israelites in Egypt or Babylon. Sin so dulls and stupefies the spiritual senses of man that he is deaf to God’s voice and inspirations; blind to the dreadful calamities which threaten him; insensible to the sweet odor of virtue and the example of the saints; incapable of tasting how sweet the Lord is, or feeling the touch of His benign hand in the benefits which should be a constant incitement to his greater love. Moreover, sin destroys the peace and joy of a good conscience, takes away the soul’s fervor, and leaves her an object abominable in the eyes of God and His saints. The grace of justification delivers us from all these miseries. For God, in His infinite mercy, is not content with effacing our sins and restoring us to His favor; He delivers us from the evils sin has brought upon us, and renews the interior man in his former strength and beauty. Thus He heals our wounds, breaks our bonds, moderates the violence of our passions, restores with true liberty the supernatural beauty of the soul, reestablishes us in the peace and joy of a good conscience, reanimates our interior senses, inspires us with ardor for good and a salutary hatred of sin, makes us strong and constant in resisting evil, and thus enriches us with an abundance of good works. In fine, He so perfectly renews the inner man with all his faculties that the Apostle calls those who are thus justified new men and new creatures.”

Love,
Matthew

Mortification

“But you, know by experience that our cross is truly full of unction, whereby it is not only light, but all the bitterness and hardship we find in our state is, by the grace of God, rendered sweet and pleasant.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“I shall now speak of those means that may help us to render this necessary practice of mortification not only easy, but pleasant.

The first means is the grace of God, with which all things become easy. St. Paul supplies us both with an example and a proof of this truth.

The sting of the flesh, the angel of Satan, tormented him. Thrice he begged of God to be delivered from it, and God made this answer to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Again, he says, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Yet, as he says elsewhere, “Not I , but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). We must not believe that God leaves us to our own strength in time of mortification and suffering. No!

He bears the greater part of the burden Himself, and for this reason the law is called a yoke, which is to be born by two. For Jesus Christ joins Himself to us, to help us to support it, and with His assistance, who can be discouraged?

Therefore, let nothing in the law appear to you too hard, since you will have nothing but the easiest part of it to bear. It is for this reason also that He calls it a yoke and a burden when He says, “My yoke is sweet, and My burden light” (Matt. 11:30).

For though, as regards our nature and weakness, it be ever so hard a yoke, and ever so heavy a burden, yet the grace of God renders it easy and light, because our Lord Himself helps us to bear it.

St. Bernard, in His first sermon on the dedication of a church, says that, as in the consecration the walls are anointed with holy oil, so our Savior does the same in religious souls, sweetening by the spiritual unction of His grace all their crosses, penances and mortifications.

Worldlings are afraid of a religious life because they see its crosses, but perceive not the unction with which they are anointed and made easy. “But you,” says the Saint, speaking to his religious, “know by experience that our cross is truly full of unction, whereby it is not only light, but all the bitterness and hardship we find in our state is, by the grace of God, rendered sweet and pleasant.”

St. Austin admits that before he knew the power of grace, he could never comprehend what chastity was nor believe that anyone was able to practice it. But the grace of God renders all things so easy that, if we possess it, we may say with St. John that “His commandments are not heavy” (1 John 5:3), because the abundance of grace He bestows upon us renders them most sweet and easy.

The second means which makes the practice of mortification easy is the love of God. Love, more than anything else, sweetens pain of every kind. “He who loves,” says St. Austin, “thinks that nothing is hard, and yet the least labor is insupportable to those who love not. Love alone is ashamed to find difficulty in anything.”

It is thus that those who love hunting make no account of the fatigue they endure, but rather look upon it as a pleasure. It is not love that makes the mother find no difficulty in nursing her infant?

Is it not love that keeps the wife day and night at her sick husband’s bedside? Is it not love that causes all sorts of creatures to take so much in nourishing their young that they even abstain from eating and expose themselves to dangers for their sakes?

Was it not love that made Jacob think his many years’ service for Rachel short and sweet? “They seemed but a few days, because of the greatness of his love” (Gen. 29:20).

No sooner does love appear than all pain vanishes and all sweetness accompanies our labor. A holy woman said that from her first being touched with the love of God, she knew not what it was to suffer, either exteriorly or interiorly, neither from the world, the flesh or the devil because pure love knows not what pain or torment is.

Love, therefore, not only raises the price of all our actions and renders them more perfect, but it gives us courage to support all kinds of mortification and makes us feel great ease and sweetness, even in the hardest things.

It was thus that St. Chrysostom explains these words of the Apostle, “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). For he not only says (as the Saint notices) that the law and all the commandments are included in love, but that it is love which renders the observance of both most easy.

Let us therefore love much, and nothing will be able to stop us in the way of perfection. Then we shall be able to say with the Apostle,

“Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the sword? For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35, 38).”

Love & fortitude,
Matthew

The Happy Death of the Just – Ven Louis of Granada, OP, (1504-1588)


-please click on the image for greater detail

“The end, it is said, crowns the work, and, therefore, it is in death that the just man’s life is most fittingly crowned, while the departure of the sinner is a no less fitting close to his wretched career.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 115:15), says the Psalmist, but “the death of the wicked is very evil” (Ps. 33:22).

Commenting upon the latter part of this text, St. Bernard says:

“The death of the wicked is bad because it takes them from this world: it is still worse because it separates the soul from the body; and it is worst because it precipitates them into the fire of Hell, and delivers them a prey to the undying worm of remorse.”

To these evils which haunt the sinner at the hour of death add the bitter regrets which gnaw his heart, the anguish which fills his soul, and the torments which rack his body.

He is seized with terror at the thought of the past; of the account he must render; of the sentence which is to be pronounced against him; of the horrors of the tomb; of separation from wife, children, and friends; of bidding farewell to the things he has loved with an inordinate and a guilty love – wealth, luxuries, and even the gifts of nature, the light of day and the pure air of heaven.

The stronger his love for earthly things has been, the bitterer will be his anguish in separating from them. As St. Augustine says, we cannot part without grief from that which we have possessed with love. It was in the same spirit that a certain philosopher said that he who had fewest pleasures in life has least reason to fear death.

But the greatest suffering of the wicked at the hour of death comes from the stings of remorse, and the thought of the terrible future upon which they are about to enter.

The approach of death seems to open man’s eyes and make him see all things as he never saw them before.

“As life ebbs away,” says St. Eusebius, “man is free from all distracting care for the necessities of life. He ceases to desire honors, emoluments, or dignities, for he sees that they are beyond his grasp. Eternal interests and thoughts of God’s justice demand all his attention. The past with its pleasures is gone; the present with its opportunities is rapidly gliding away; all that remains to him is the future, with the dismal prospect of his many sins waiting to accuse him before the judgment seat of the just God.”

“Consider,” the saint again says, “the terror which will seize the negligent soul when she is entering eternity; the anguish with which she will be filled when, foremost among her accusers, her conscience will appear with its innumerable retinue of sins.

Its testimony cannot be denied; its accusations will leave her mute and helpless; there will be no need to seek further witnesses, for the knowledge of this lifelong companion will confound her.”

Still more terrible is the picture of the death of the sinner given by St. Peter Damian:

“Let us try to represent to ourselves,” he says,”the terror which fills the soul of the sinner at the hour of death and the bitter reproaches with which conscience assails him.”

The commandments he has despised and the sins he has committed appear before him to haunt him by their presence.

He sighs for the time which he has squandered, and which was given to him to do penance; he beholds with despair the account he must render before the dread tribunal of God. He longs to arrest the moments, but they speed relentlessly on, bearing him nearer and nearer to his doom.

If he looks back, his life seems but a moment, and before him is the limitless horizon of eternity. He weeps bitterly at the thought of the unspeakable happiness which he has sacrificed for the fleeting pleasures of the flesh.

Confusion and shame overwhelm him when he sees he has forfeited a glorious place among the angelic choirs, through love for his body, which is about to become the food of worms.

When he turns his eyes from the abode of these beings of light to the dark valley of this world, he sees how base and unworthy the things for which he has rejected immortal glory and happiness.

Oh! Could he but regain a small portion of the time he has lost, what austerities, what mortifications he would practice! What is there that could overcome his courage?

What vows would he not offer, and how fervent would be his prayers! But while he is revolving these sad thoughts, the messengers of death appear in the rigid limbs, the dark and hollow eyes, the heaving breast, the foaming lips, and the livid face.

And as these exterior heralds approach, every thought, word, and action of his guilty life appears before him.

“Vainly does he strive to turn his eyes from them; they will not be banished. On one side – and this is true of every man’s death – Satan and his legions are present, tempting the dying man, in the hope of seizing his soul even at the last minute. On the other side are the angels of Heaven, helping, consoling, and strengthening him. And yet it is his own life what will decide the contest between the spirits of darkness and the angels of light. But the impious man, whose unexpiated crimes are crying for vengeance, rejects the help that is offered to him, yields to despair, and as his unhappy soul passes from his pampered body, the demons are ready to seize it and bear it away.”

What stronger proof does man require of the wretched condition of the sinner, and what more does he need to make him avoid a career which ends so deplorably?

If, at this critical hour, riches could help him as they do at many other periods of life, the evil would be less.

But he will receive no succor from his riches, his honors, his dignities, his distinguished friends. The only patronage which will then avail him will be that of virtue and innocence.

“Riches,” says the Wise Man, “shall not profit in the day of revenge, but justice shall deliver from death” (Prov. 11:4).

As the wicked, therefore, receive at the our of death the punishment of their crimes, so do the just then receive the reward of their virtues.

“With him that feareth the Lord,” says the Holy Spirit, “it shall go well in the latter end; and in the day of his death he shall be blessed” (Ecclus. 1:13). St. John declares this truth still more forcefully when he tells us that he heard a voice from Heaven commanding him, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth, saith the Spirit, they rest from their labors, for their works follow them” (Apoc. 14:13).

With such a promise from God Himself, how can the just man fear? Can he dread that hour in which he is to receive the reward of his life’s labors?”

Love,
Matthew

The incoherence of the world


-by Karlo Broussard

“The so-called “wisdom” of the world is rife with incoherencies. One of the more trendy and pernicious examples of our time is transgenderism. Like relativism, transgender philosophy looks compelling, maybe even commonsense, on the surface. But when you examine it closely, you discover that it devours itself, like the Ouroboros, the creepy ancient symbol of a snake devouring its own tail.

Consider that transgenderism, or at least one form of it, claims that an individual’s identity as male or female—that is, his understanding of himself—can be in conflict with the biological sex that he was conceived with. A biological male, so it’s argued, can have a female gender identity, and vice versa.

Here is where the snake begins to devour its tail. Consider a male who thinks his gender identity is female. He identifies with the female form because he thinks his gender identity is female. He may even seek to assimilate such a form via surgery and doctor-prescribed hormones.

But already we’re running into problems. Our gent denies the connection between biological sexual forms and gender identity. That is to say, he thinks his biological maleness doesn’t indicate his gender identity. But at the same time, he’s seeking a connection between gender identity and biological sexual forms insofar as he identifies with and seeks to take on the female form to match his female gender identity.

What does this amount to? A contradiction: there’s no connection between biological sex and gender identity, and yet there is a connection, at the same time and in the same respect.

Now, an advocate of transgenderism might counter, “Well, for some, it’s not the biological female form that the man might identify with, but rather the female form that’s socially constructed: the wearing of high heels, makeup, long hair, and a curvy figure.”

But the same logical problem arises. If the socially constructed male form (the wearing of flat shoes, short hair, robust figure, etc.) is not indicative of one’s gender identity, then the socially constructed female form would not be indicative of one’s gender identity, either. And if that’s the case, then in principle, there is no way for the man to identify with the socially constructed female form because such a form isn’t connected to a female gender identity. So, in this scenario, like the above, we would have to deny the connection between gender identity and socially constructed maleness or femaleness and affirm that same connection at the same time and in the same respect. That’s a contradiction, which we can’t accept.

There’s another way in which the transgender philosophy is logically incoherent: it ends up defining woman in terms of what it means to be a woman. To the question, “What is a woman?”, a transgenderist only can give one answer: “a person whose gender identity is female.” The answer can’t be a biological female because transgender philosophy separates gender identity from biological sex. Nor can the answer be female social stereotypes since gender identity is supposedly innate, and thus, it’s supposed to precede such stereotypes. Therefore, female gender identity is the only game in town when it comes to defining what a woman is.

Can you see the problem here? Let me help you out: it’s a vicious circle! This view of woman defines the word in terms of woman, inserting what we’re trying to define into the definition. It’s a recursive nightmare, again like our friend the Ouroboros.

Another problem emerges: to what does female gender identity refer? If it refers not to biological sex, or to societally enforced norms, or to the inner sense of self (lest we end in a vicious circle), then female gender identity seems to refer to nothing. As philosopher Robert P. George puts it, “there seems to be no ‘something’ for [the inner sense of gender identity] to be the sense of.” If female gender identity refers to nothing, then it’s unintelligible.

The only way out here is to say there’s no difference whatsoever between a male and female gender identity. But that would exclude many people who are accepted as members of the “trans” community, like our gent above. So maybe the transgender philosophy is not so inclusive after all.

It’s important to emphasize that the above critiques are aimed at the ideas or the ways of thinking that transgender philosophy embodies. They are not aimed at the individuals who may have legitimate confusion regarding their sexual identity. Our hearts go out to these people, and we love them. And it’s precisely because of our love for them that we expose the logical incoherencies of the transgender philosophy. We are made for truth. And that’s the only thing that will make us truly happy!”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Merit in Heaven? Merit from Heaven? The Treasury of Merit


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Karlo Broussard

“Sometimes, when we dabble in theology, we discover that some of our beliefs seemingly conflict with each other, challenging the pride we have in our beliefs. One example of a possible contradiction involves the intercession of the saints and their conformity to God’s will. You can find that one here.

The saints’ conformity to God’s will is not the only apparent obstacle to belief in the intercession of the saints. The saints’ inability to merit anything in heaven is another. St. Thomas Aquinas presents the objection this way:

Whosoever obtains something by prayer merits it in a sense. But the saints in heaven are not in the state of meriting. Therefore they cannot obtain anything for us from God by their prayers (Summa Theologiae Suppl. 72:3 obj 4).

The standard view in Catholic theology is that in order for a person to merit something, he must still be in this life, so departed human souls—including the saints—can no longer merit.

Here are some biblical passages that theologians have traditionally appealed to for support of this teaching:

  • Hebrews 4:10: “For whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his.”
  • Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth. ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’”

Now, St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 3:8 that the wages we receive are proportioned to our labor. He writes, “He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.”

So, if the Bible teaches that our labors cease when we die in the Lord, and our wages are proportioned to our labors, then it follows that our wages for our labors are fixed upon death. And since “wages” here traditionally has been viewed to include the gift of charity, we can conclude that our degree of charity is fixed upon death, and thus we can no longer merit because charity is the principle of merit.

There are a few different possible answers to this objection that Aquinas identifies.

First, as he writes, “although the saints are not in a state to merit for themselves, when once they are in heaven, they are in a state to merit for others” (ST Suppl. 72:2 ad 4). In other words, rather than their charity benefiting themselves, it’s beneficial for others.

A second possibility is that the saints in heaven can assist others by virtue of the merit they acquired while here on earth. Aquinas writes, “For while living they merited that their prayers should be heard after their death.”

This is consistent with what the Bible says about how the value of our charitable works remains with us as we enter heaven. Remember Revelation 14:13 above. The value of the good works of those who die in grace continues to exist as they exist in heaven.

Catholic teaching on the treasury of the Church is rooted in this biblical teaching. In paragraphs 1475-1477, the Catechism explains the Church’s treasury as follows:

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.” In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. . . . We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church’s treasury. . . . The “treasury of the Church” is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. . . . This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. . . . In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints.

So Catholic teaching on the treasury of the Church provides us with an answer to this objection, and Aquinas’s thought runs parallel to it.

A third possible response is that the objection assumes that prayer obtains things only by way of merit. But, Aquinas argues, this is not true. Prayer can also obtain things by way of impetration, which simply means “by request or entreaty.”

Prayer is meritorious when there is a certain proportion between our prayer and that which we seek to obtain through the prayer, such that the thing we seek through the prayer is given as a reward. For example, Paul teaches in Romans 2:6-7 that eternal life will be given to those “who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality.” The reason why eternal life is a proportionate reward for our good works is that, according to Philippians 2:13, it is God who is at work in us, “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Or, as Paul puts it in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The supernatural reward of heaven has a proper proportion to the supernatural value that God gives our good works by acting in and through us.

Obtaining something through prayer considered merely as a request (impetration), on the other hand, depends not on a proportion between the value of the request and that which is sought, but rather on the liberality of the person from whom we’re requesting something. In other words, whatever is sought by the request is not in any way due to the person who’s making the request. Whether the thing sought is obtained is entirely up to the person of whom the request is made.

So we can conclude with Aquinas that although the saints in heaven might not be able to obtain some good for us through meritorious prayer, they can still do so through prayers of impetration—prayers by way of request or entreaty.

The apparent conflict, therefore, between the intercession of the saints and their inability to merit in heaven is just that: apparent. A healthy Catholic pride in this belief can remain.

Being made righteous by God is more than a legal standing, it’s a reality


-by Karlo Broussard

“Some Protestants believe, contrary to Catholic teaching, that our justification doesn’t consist in us being intrinsically righteous. Rather, God merely declares us righteous, whereby we receive Christ’s personal righteousness, and God treats us just as he treats Christ. In other words, God sees Christ when he sees us.

To make their case, these Protestants will often appeal to 2 Corinthians 5:21, where Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Just as Christ is said to be sin when he wasn’t, so the argument goes, so too sinners are reckoned to be righteous (“become the righteousness of God”) when they aren’t. And if we’re reckoned righteous without being intrinsically righteous, then it must be Christ’s righteousness that we receive.

Let’s see how we might respond to this argument.

Key to the argument is its interpretation of the term sin. It interprets sin as literally referring to actions that contravene God’s law. But we have good reason to think Paul is referring to something else here—namely, a sin offering.

In the Old Testament, the term “sin” (Greek, hamartia) is often used to refer to a “sin offering.” Consider, for example, Leviticus 4:33:

If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering [Greek, hamartia], he shall bring a female without blemish, and lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering [Greek, hamartia], and kill it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.

(The English translator inserted the third “sin offering” above for clarity. There’s no corresponding hamartia in the original text, so the third “sin offering” above does not translate hamartia only in a technical sense.)

Other passages include Leviticus 5:12 and 6:25. Isaiah 53:10 directly applies hamartia to the suffering Messiah, who is expected to make himself a sin offering: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin [Greek, hamartia].”

It’s against this Old Testament backdrop that Paul speaks of Jesus as being “made sin.” And he does so within a context where he speaks of Christ reconciling the world back to God:

  • 18: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
  • 19: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”
  • 20: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Given this context of Christ’s reconciliation and the Old Testament usage of hamartia to refer to a sin offering, it’s reasonable to interpret Paul’s use of hamartia in 2 Corinthians 5:21 as referring to Jesus, the suffering Messiah, becoming the atoning sacrifice for the redemption of the world rather than being considered something he’s not: sin itself.

Since the fundamental assumption of the argument that we’re considering here is false, it fails to justify (yes, the pun is intended) the idea that we can be reckoned righteous when we’re not actually (intrinsically) righteous.

This leads to a second response. Given our above interpretation that “sin” refers to “sin offering,” notice that Paul doesn’t think Christ is “considered” a sin offering; rather, Christ actually is the sin offering. Jesus bore our sins as the sacrificial victim so we could be reconciled back to God, as Paul teaches in the preceding verses (vv. 18-20). If Christ actually is the atoning sacrifice and is not merely “considered” to be so, and our “becoming the righteousness of God” is parallel to that, which many Protestants affirm, then we should interpret our becoming righteous as actually becoming righteous rather than being merely considered or reckoned righteous.

Protestant New Testament scholar N.T. Wright concurs:

The little word genōmetha in 2 Corinthians 5:21b—“that we might become God’s righteousness in him”—does not sit comfortably with the normal interpretation, according to which God’s righteousness is “imputed” or “reckoned” to believers. If that was what Paul meant, with the overtones of “extraneous righteousness” that normally come with that theory, the one thing he ought not to have said is that we “become” that righteousness. Surely that leans far too much toward a Roman Catholic notion of infused righteousness?

It’s important to note here that Catholics do not believe that the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” means we become the righteousness that is God’s own righteousness in virtue, being pure existence. Rather, the idea is that the righteousness that we receive when we’re justified is a righteousness that comes from God, since it is he who makes us just. This is the sense that Paul has in mind in Philippians 3:9, where he writes, “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Now, it’s possible that the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” refers not to something about us, but rather to God’s own righteousness, or faithfulness to the covenant, being manifest in the world through us. This is how Paul uses the phrase “the righteousness of God” in Romans 3:25-26: “This [Jesus’s expiatory death] was to show God’s righteousness . . . it was to prove at the present time that he is righteous.” So Paul could be saying in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God has manifested his righteousness (fidelity to the covenant) by saving us through Christ, who is the promised sin offering (“sin”) that reconciles the human race back to God.

Although this interpretation of the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” excludes 2 Corinthians 5:21 as positive evidence for God making us actually righteous, it remains the case that 2 Corinthians 5:21 does not support the teaching that we, as justified Christians, have only our legal standing changed before God.

So, as Catholics, we need not change our view of justification based on 2 Corinthians 5:21. We can still believe that when God justifies us, he makes us intrinsically righteous by his grace. In the words of Paul, he makes us a “new creation,” with the old passing away and the new having come (2 Cor. 5:17).

Love & truth,
Matthew