The doctrine of the Fall (both of man and of some ‘gods,’ ‘eldils’ or ‘angels’) is the only satisfactory explanation. Evil begins, in a universe where all was good, from free will, which was permitted because it makes possible the greatest good of all. The corruption of the first sinner consists not in choosing some evil thing (there are no evil things for him to choose) but in preferring a lesser good (himself) before a greater (God). The Fall is, in fact, Pride. The possibility of this wrong preference is inherent in the v. (very) fact of having, or being, a self at all. But though freedom is real it is not infinite. Every choice reduces a little one’s freedom to choose the next time. There therefore comes a time when the creature is fully built, irrevocably attached either to God or to itself. This irrevocableness is what we call Heaven or Hell. Every conscious agent is finally committed in the long run: i.e., it rises above freedom into willed, but henceforth unalterable, union with God, or else sinks below freedom into the black fire of self-imprisonment. That is why the universe (as even the physicists now admit) has a real history, a fifth act with a finale in which the good characters ‘live happily ever after’ and the bad ones are cast out. At least that is how I see it.
Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
October 26, 2014
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” These words of our Savior, which we have just heard, are repeated at this parish everyday at every Anglican Use Mass. It is very good for us to hear these words at every Mass so that we are constantly reminded of our need to put God first by loving Him above all things; but, when something becomes so familiar to us we can develop a tendency to ignore its true meaning. What does it mean to love God with your entire being? This is a very serious question to which we must have the correct answer so that we can rightly order our lives toward God. But in addition, without the right understanding for the love of God we will not know how to keep the second of our Lord’s commands: to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, what does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul and mind? Before looking for the answer I want to address modern man’s take on this question.
In our secular and pluralistic society, modern man asks a similar but altogether different question. Instead of asking how to rightly love God, modern society demands an answer to the question “Why should we love God, if there is one? What has He ever done for us?” And even we as Catholics, and who claim to love God, don’t always prove it. Too often in our speech we say we love God, but in our actions towards Him we show a profound indifference. We let our lives get in the way of loving God by saying to ourselves – I just don’t have time go to Mass this Sunday, or to pray, or go to adoration, or to do some work of mercy. By so doing we functionally become agnostics because through our actions we ask the same question that our modern society constantly asks – why should we love God? Continue reading
‘Niceness’—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.
For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to pro- duce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
On this day in 1845 a significant event took place. It was an event that would figure prominently in my own life as well as the life of many others throughout the years. The event in question was the reception of Blessed John Henry Newman from the Church of England into the fullness of the Catholic Faith. He, having been an Anglican priest, was subsequently ordained a Catholic priest and later made a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on September 19, 2010 (which happens to be the same date, in 2004, that I was ordained as an Anglican priest). The reason he is so important for me and many others (former Anglican priests as well as laity) is that he was our forerunner. His courage of leaving all behind in order to follow his conscience in regards to his faith is something that has inspired countless people to also leave everything behind for the cause of the Kingdom of God. His writings have taught many Anglicans the Truths of the Catholic Faith. His life, in fact, is an enduring witness of the relentless pursuit of the Truth. I cannot help thinking that if he had not followed the path that was laid before him then I may not be where I am right now: a priest in Christ’s one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And, even more than that, without Newman’s witness I might not have become Catholic at all.
So, how does Bl. Cardinal Newman fit into my current series on Islam, you ask? It is because of something he wrote in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. There he writes,
True religion is the summit and perfection of false religions; it combines in one whatever there is of good and true separately remaining in each. And in like manner the Catholic Creed is for the most part the combination of separate truths, which heretics have divided among themselves, and err in dividing. So that, in matter of fact, if a religious mind were educated in and sincerely attached to some form of heathenism or heresy, and then were brought under the light of truth, it would be drawn off from error into the truth, not by losing what it had, but by gaining what it had not, not by being unclothed, but by being ‘clothed upon,’ ‘that mortality may be swallowed by of life.’ That same principle of faith which attaches it at first to the wrong doctrine would attach it to the truth; and that portion of its original doctrine, which was to be cast off as absolutely false, would not be directly rejected, but indirectly, in the reception of the truth which is its opposite. True conversion is ever of a positive, not a negative character.
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 6th ed., 2005, p.200-1
The point that concerns us here, in regards to individual Muslims and their possibility of conversion, is here, “…if a religious mind were educated in and sincerely attached to some form of heathenism or heresy, and then were brought under the light of truth, it would be drawn off from error into the truth, not by losing what it had, but by gaining what it had not.” What this means is that those sincere Muslims who are earnestly seeking God through their religion would, if confronted with the Truth of the Catholic Faith and received it in an unbiased manner, be converted to the Truth of the Catholic Faith. This is because if they are truly searching for God, for the Truth, then when confronted with the fullness of that Truth which they seek they would not be able turn away from it. But, of course, this would depend upon them being able to hear the Gospel in a unbiased manner, meaning with no preconceived notions about the Catholic Faith. But that seems unlikely. But still, we must hold to the hope that those who have ears to hear will hear the Truth, accept it, and live it out in their lives.
Clarification on the last post…which is why this is called part 2 continued
My last post is one of those instances of pushing the ‘publish’ button too soon. If I had reflected on it more, specifically the last paragraph, then I probably would have noticed a change that needed to be made before posting it. I say ‘probably’ because I am not actually the one that noticed the problem – it was pointed out to me by my friend (who is also the one that has prompted me to write this particular series).
The paragraph in question is as follows:
The problem with this paragraph centers on the wording “simply God’s desire for all mankind to be saved.” The reason that this is a problem is because the plan of salvation is much more than “simply God’s desire” for all mankind to be saved. Instead, it is God actively working throughout the entire history of mankind to bring about our salvation. Although, it could be argued that since God is pure act then His desire for something to happen is the same as the action itself. Nevertheless, for the sake of clarity it should have been stated more precisely to begin with.
What to do about Lumen Gentium 16?
I continue today my reflection on Islam that has been prompted by an email I received from a friend. In that email he brings up the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, §16, which in part states:
But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.
The part I am struggling with here is “the plan of salvation also includes…the Muslims”. Without explaining what is meant by “the plan of salvation” the document makes it sound like (at least to me) that all religions are valid paths to salvation. (The idea that all religions are valid paths to God makes me apprehensive and defensive, which in turn can lead to quick tempered reactions on my part. But, such reactions can obviously be counterproductive, which I will address later in this series.) But of course this couldn’t be true because it contradicts what the Church has always taught: that salvation comes to us only through Jesus Christ.
In order to try and resolve the problem of the meaning of “plan of salvation” I tried searching for a commentary on Lumen Gentium. There was only one document that appeared useful, which was by Daniel J. Castellano. And, to make sure the interpretation given to the phrase in question was valid, I tried looking up the author. I couldn't find much information but it does seem that he is very intelligent Catholic (undergrad from MIT, graduate studies at Boston University). Hopefully that means his interpretation can be trusted because I have not found anything to corroborate what he says. Below is what he has to say about the phrase in question (rest of the article here):
Since God’s “plan of salvation” is implemented solely through the Church, the Council is here asserting that the Church is linked in some way to all who believe in the Creator. This is most obviously the case with the Muslims, who share our belief in the one God of Abraham. It cannot be said that the God of Islam is another false god, even if the Muslims might differ from Christians in theological doctrines. They clearly give honor to the Creator, not a mere creature, and respect His sovereignty over all men. This ability to recognize the one God is a gift of the Holy Spirit administered through the Church. Going further, St. Paul famously commended the Athenians for honoring a mere “unknown God.” (Acts 17:23) Though they had no positive understanding of the one God as the Muslims do, they at least had the inclination to honor that which transcended their understanding of creation. This seeking is also a gift of the Holy Ghost to the Church. We should not be surprised to see this salvific activity beyond the visible structure of the Church, given the Savior’s desire for all men to be saved. (1 Tim. 2:4)
If this interpretation is accurate we could therefore say that the “plan of salvation” is simply God’s desire for all mankind to be saved, which is true and therefore, “plan of salvation” does not somehow make Islam, or any other religion, equal to the one and only true religion established by Jesus Christ.
Yesterday one of my friends sent me an email in response to my post yesterday. He made some excellent points on how to deal with the situation in which we find ourselves with Islam. There were too many points he made to discuss it all at once, especially because I do not have enough time. Therefore, it is my plan to do several posts over the next few days to work through what I have learned from my friend.
The first thing that needs to be discussed is the picture that I posted a link to yesterday. Supposedly it was a Muslim cleric who did this recently, but the website found here says that the picture was actually from several years ago and that the man responsible was in fact arrested. This information has given me sufficient doubt about the situation that I have decided to delete yesterday’s post. But let me add that the deletion of that post does not mean that I have changed my mind about Islam. I still do not believe that it is a religion of peace. Certainly there are Muslims in the world that want to live their lives in peace but I do not believe that the religion itself is peaceful. Nevertheless, in this series I will reflect more on this issue and see if there is perhaps something I am missing that has caused me to see Islam incorrectly. After all, we should never blindly hold to an incorrect understanding about anything, instead, we should always seek the Truth.