Monday, March 27, 2006

Changed Your Mind

Lately I have been in nostalgic religion mode. Meaning, I've been listening to Christian music and hymns. This happens every so often. The thing is, it really is nostalgia now, and not much more, because as I listen I miss the concept of a loving God, but I just don't believe in one. I'm not saying I don't believe in God at all, but the things that the Judeo-Christian God has done make Him seem less than loving. Examples:

Genesis 6:17
I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

Numbers 21:6
Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.

Psalm 78:31
God's anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel.

Luke 12:5
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Yeahhh. Things like that kind of kill the message for me.

Yesterday Fellow Seeker called me with some big news he was reading in a philosophy magazine: the Catholic Church might/will abolish Limbo from its doctrine. Not to offend any Catholics who love Limbo, but I always thought it was kind of a sick concept. I found this article about the possible rejection of the Limbo 'hypothesis' at Catholic.org. Interesting stuff.

What I don't understand - and I would love Future Priest's input on this - is how you can justify dismissing a belief the Church has held since the Middle Ages. I see that they're claiming it has always been a 'hypothesis' rather than a fact with scriptural basis, but the Catholics I know never thought of it that way. It was a church doctrine, and they believed it. My father was adamant about baptizing me in the Catholic church, even though Mother had become born again (he hadn't yet) and they weren't even church-goers. There's a real fear of not baptizing babies soon enough. My question is, was John Paul II and is Benedict XVI more attuned to God's character and will than previous popes? I don't get it.

13 comments:

WOLVERINE said...

And therin lies more of th' problems I had with religion. If it be so-called God's will, how in th' hell can these mere mortals just say "Oh, we're gonna alter the doctrine now so Hell is now gonna be a Sandals in Bermuda." If Limbo supposedly exists, takin' it out of th' doctrines ain't gonna be changin' that's where people could end up.

An' of course th' hypocrisy of a "kind and loving god". Totally agree with ya on th' yeahhh.

Now yer seein' all th' fun shtuff I've been talkin' about all these years. Welcome to th' dark side. ;-)

fp said...

Post 1 of 3

Gospel of John, Chapter 13: Verses 34 and 35
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Please forgive me in advance for the length of the post, but your questions deserve very detailed answers because it deals with the necessity of Baptism and that love and mercy that God has for us:
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ON THE LOVE OF GOD
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First and foremost, it is through that supreme act of Love, the crucifixion of the only begotten Son of God, Christ Jesus, that we are saved.

"It is the Cross, then, that must always, but especially in this time of Lent, be at the center of our meditations. ... It is the glory of Christ crucified that all Christians are called to contemplate, experience and bear witness to with their lives. The Cross is the definitive 'sign,' ... given us that we might understand the truth of man and the truth of God: we were all created and redeemed by a God Who, out of love, sacrificed His only Son."---Pope Benedict XVI, VATICAN CITY, MAR 26, 2006

Let us concentrate on the Holy Father’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html]:

“1. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”.
We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life” (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel's faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth.

(37) A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?
38. Certainly Job could complain before God about the presence of incomprehensible and apparently unjustified suffering in the world. In his pain he cried out: “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! ... I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? ... Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me” (23:3, 5-6, 15-16). Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). We should continue asking this question in prayerful dialogue before his face: “Lord, holy and true, how long will it be?” (Rev 6:10). It is Saint Augustine who gives us faith's answer to our sufferings: “Si comprehendis, non est Deus”—”if you understand him, he is not God.” [35] Our protest is not meant to challenge God, or to suggest that error, weakness or indifference can be found in him. For the believer, it is impossible to imagine that God is powerless or that “perhaps he is asleep” (cf. 1 Kg 18:27). Instead, our crying out is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power. Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God” (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible.
39. Faith, hope and charity go together. Hope is practised through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God's mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness. Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world—this is the invitation I would like to extend with the present Encyclical.”

fp said...

Post 2 of 3
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ON BAPTISM
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From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM):
“1275 Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ's Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ.
1276 "Go therefore 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" (Mt 28:19-20).
1277 Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord's will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism.
1278 The essential rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water on his head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
1279 The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ.
1280 Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship. Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated (cf. DS 1609 and DS 1624).
1281 Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized (cf. LG 16).
1282 Since the earliest times, Baptism has been administered to children, for it is a grace and a gift of God that does not presuppose any human merit; children are baptized in the faith of the Church. Entry into Christian life gives access to true freedom.
1283 With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation.”

The Necessity of Baptism
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.
1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.
1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

"845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood.
"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

fp said...

Post 3 of 3
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ON LIMBO
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http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0506867.htm

Limbo is actually a rather merciful alternative to Hell. Many Catholics grew up thinking limbo -- the place where babies who have died without baptism spend eternity in a state of "natural happiness" but not in the presence of God -- was part of Catholic tradition.

Instead, it was a hypothesis -- a theory held out as a possible way to balance the Christian belief in the necessity of baptism with belief in God's mercy.

Like hypotheses in any branch of science, a theological hypothesis can be proven wrong or be set aside when it is clear it does not help explain Catholic faith.

"In the 1985 book-length interview, "The Ratzinger Report," the future Pope Benedict said, "Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally – and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as prefect of the congregation – I would abandon it, since it was only a theological hypothesis." Theologians bounce ideas back and forth all the time, writing extensively on such topics before the notions are placed before a council of bishops or the Pope alone. It is through either a council or by an ex cathedra statement of the Holy Father that a notion becomes a doctrine.
Limbo was never considered “de fide”, that is of the faith, like such things as belief in the Holy Trinity, that the Eucharist is truly and really the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, or the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Limbo was never a doctrine confirmed or promulgated by a council or by the authority of the Pope, and hence never was required to be believed by Catholics like they must believe in the Holy Trinity (Three Persons [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] in One God).
CCC 1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

With regard to the sacramental system of the Church, The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the same point in different words, "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments" (CCC, 1257). God can give grace to whomever He wants by whatever means He wants, but He has bound the Church to follow the sacramental system established by His Son.

Hope this answers everyone’s’ questions, if not leave a post and I’ll do my best to get back to you.

God loves you.

Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of love:
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.

Anonymous said...

holy crap..!
no pun intended
what was thattttttttttttt

WOLVERINE said...

THAT was someone with WAY too much free time.

sojourness said...

Be nice, I asked for his opinion.

That being said, FP, I'd like to know what you personally think about it. Is the church admitting it was wrong after all this time? Does that mean all previous popes who didn't get rid of Limbo were, if not wrong, then not as attuned to God as the current one?

WOLVERINE said...

Nizza? Me? MAI! Come potrei resistere a così messa a punto facile? Lo conoscete, devo prendere i miei colpi mentre vengono. Sono giusto non che intelligente. Inoltre, quando era l'ultima volta voi venuti a contatto di chiunque nei periodi moderni adattati al dio che precedentemente non ha riseduto in Bellevue?

There's yer Italian refresher fer today.

L'OH la mia torta della pizza che cosa sono voi che andate comprare? Annaloni, cannaloni, OH la torta della pizza...

sojourness said...

Come sai lui non parla italiano?

Sei pazzo ;)

WOLVERINE said...

Non stava provando a nascondere qualche cosa, alesato appena e non stava avendo divertimento.

fp said...

Limbo was initially proposed by theologians as a merciful alternative to Hell, based on certain things like:
a) the necessity of Baptism
b) that children have no personal sin, they are innocent except for Original Sin
c) nothing unclean, i.e. sinful, can enter Our Lord’s Kingdom
d) and that Abraham and other righteous elect before they were allowed to go to Heaven with Jesus after the Crucifixion were in “limbus patrum.”


The notion of limbo is a theological extrapolation to provide explanation for cases not included in the heaven-purgatory-hell triad. Limbo does not appear as a thesis to be taught in the new Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Ratzinger, as you know, was in favor of the notion of limbo being set aside. In "The Ratzinger Report," he said, "Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally - and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation - I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis. It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for faith, namely, the importance of baptism. To put it in the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God' (John 3:5). One should not hesitate to give up the idea of limbo, if need be (and it is worth noting that the very theologians who proposed 'limbo' also said that parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer); but the concern behind it must not be surrendered. Baptism has never been a side issue for faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be."

Our Lord established a sacramental system to which His Church is bound, but God is not bound by this system. That being said, I believe in the mercy of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe it is up to Our Lord who He calls to be with Him in Heaven and that we should certainly pray for the dead.

Hence, no one is wrong because nothing was ever decided because the Church never formally proclaimed limbo as an infallible doctrine.

WOLVERINE said...

Actually sounds like a back door cop-out to me. Sure God wasn't a lawyer?

sojourness said...

Okay, fp, makes sense. Thanks :)