Thursday, February 24, 2011

Follow Up Concerning Invincible Ignorance and "Inclusivism": One of the most serious charges against either Rome or Orthodoxy is that it is indifferent toward Jesus as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." That perhaps articulating some idea that God is merciful to the ignorant who never hear of Jesus Christ. (Granted, this outcome grows more unlikely by the day, praise God.) On the one hand, "all paths lead to God" is expressly false, based on the verse I quoted above. But if all truth in the universe finds its source and summit in Jesus Christ, then whatever a person happens to be doing at any given time may be an occasion to find truth which belongs to Him. In that sense, all paths lead to God because nothing good or true or lovely could be so without God. Frankly, Acts 17 makes very little sense within a Calvinist way of looking at salvation/conversion, specifically this verse: "that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him." What do we call all the occasions immediately prior to someone responding in faith to Jesus Christ? Why are they seeking? Aren't they dead? Calvinists have no category for an as-yet-saved person "in transit," or a good explanation for why they are in transit. I suppose after the fact, you could say they were decretally elect in the mind of God from all eternity anyway, but I don't know how in Heaven you know that, nor how you know that you and your fellows know you're going to make it to the end. Are you absolutely sure you want to say that God has to regenerate a person first? Does this fit with how things normally go? [Ephesians 2:5, idiot.--ed.] OK, that is a sticky one.

But come, let us reason together on another matter. I heard a pastor describe a believer's lament this way: "I'm the one who believes, even though that non-Christian over there is way better than me." All together now: "to the praise of His glorious grace." But, you must fearfully consider, "Perhaps I have the dead faith James decries." Furthermore, you dummy, GO TALK TO that person! It's probably the easiest harvest in the history of Christianity. Anyway, this is what Catholics were talking about with agape at the Council of Trent: "Faith Alone" could reduce to mere assent without anyone noticing, because we Protestants don't talk about dead faith. To us, it's a ridiculous contradiction. BUT MAYBE IT SHOULDN'T BE. Of course, works do flow from faith, in a sense. But what kind of faith? To a Catholic, works are not only the fruit of (living) faith, agape is their animating power. Yes, I'm a little bothered by such a narrow, sterile definition of "faith" as intellectual assent in the Catholic Church; yes, I understand how the sacramental system could seem fearful and mechanistic to a Protestant. But I also know that the signs Christ uses to teach his people light the loving heart up like a Christmas tree. If there are 7 of them, what do I care? It's all love to me. In short, this is an ecclesial discussion; don't blame me if I return, abandoning my protest for lack of evidence. Our communities were not formed with the intent of permanence. Dare I say, they were not formed with the intent of schism.

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