Sunday, January 30, 2011

Answering Miss Gwen: The distinction between a person and his actions



In our discussions on a previous post, Miss Gwen asked a great question about the distinction between a person and a person's actions. She said, "I'm trying to see it, but I just don't." So, I thought the subject deserved its own blog post. Miss Gwen's words are in red.


I don't always see a clear distinction between the person and their actions. Maybe you can help me understand. I mean, does that entail "seeing" Hitler as a misguided person who performed bad actions? 


First, we don't necessarily say that Hitler was "misguided". We don't know what he was. All we know is that his acts were gravely sinful, terribly evil. As Christians, we can say that part loudly and clearly, because we know what sin and evil are, without ambiguity.


What we cannot say is that Hitler was irredeemable. We don't (ultimately) know anything about the state of his soul or whether he repented of his monstrously evil deeds at the moment of his death. We just don't know. It is not our place to damn him to hell; it's only God who can read souls and pronounce ultimate judgment. When Jesus told us not to judge, this is what he meant. We may judge actions, but not people's hearts or the state of their souls. Only God can read a human heart, and only He knows the state of a soul.


Or a serial killer as someone with a troubled past who unfortunately gruesomely killed a lot of prostitutes because they were easy targets? 


Same as Hitler. We can and must speak clearly that these actions are evil. Even if the killer had a troubled past, his actions are still evil. Even if he is mentally ill, his actions are still evil. Even if he committed his crimes under hypnosis by an evil genie, his actions are still evil. We can agree on that, right?


However, culpability -- i.e., whether or not a person is fully responsible for his actions -- is a separate issue. We can all understand that someone who is truly insane and completely out of touch with reality is not morally responsible for his actions. The actions of an insane killer are still objectively evil, but the killer may not have total (or even partial) moral culpability. [Note: Lack of moral culpability does not mean that a dangerous person is free to roam the streets; the state has an obligation to protect its citizens via humane and appropriate means of incarceration. And we should all hope that a mentally ill prisoner would receive treatment for his disorder.]


If we leave judgment to a higher power, than why is it so easy to point fingers at what people do and call it satanic or sinful?


Distinction: We leave judgment of souls to a higher power (God). But judging "what people do" (i.e., acts), is legitimate. We must speak clearly about what is right and wrong. Imagine a society, or even a family, that fails to identify or distinguish between good and evil.... What would that look like? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to live there. 


Oh, and the reason we find it "easy" to call something sinful is that we know what sin is. Sin's been around pretty much forever, and it's not hard to identify. There are no new sins, just variations on the old.


And if we separate the actions from the person then all the good things we do aren't part of us too? 


Please don't misunderstand: I've been talking about judging a person's soul vs. judging a person's actions. I have not been talking about what is or isn't "a part of us".


We have all been given the incredible gift of free will. Each individual "owns" his choices, good or bad. The good and the bad are both "part of you" -- but the bad is not "good for you". Does that make sense? It all comes down to our will. God does not touch our free will, and our actions are our own. 


Maybe this is a good time for...




A little something about our human nature:


Human beings are essentially good. God did not create anything that was evil or corrupt. 


Tragically, sin entered the world by our first parents' choice, and mankind fell from God's grace. Since then, humans have been afflicted with concupiscence, i.e., the tendency to sin. Where once humans had perfect integrity of body and soul, we now are easily tempted to evil. However, human beings, who are made in God's image and likeness, are still essentially good.* Every person, without exception, has inherent dignity and was made for the glory of Heaven. 


So (going back to the original subject), that is why we can love the sinner. 


And that is why we hate the sin. 


We hate the sin because sin is destructive to the human person. Sin demeans. Sin enslaves. Sin offends against human dignity. Sin harms not only the sinner, but others as well.


Think of it this way:


A father discovers that his beloved child has been engaging in theft and vandalism. He loves his boy. He loves his boy with every ounce of his being and would be willing to give his very life for his son. But he hates the sin. He hates it with a red-hot hate, because it demeans his son, it enslaves his son, and it offends his son's human dignity. It twists and distorts that which is good in his son, thwarts his potential, and blocks his true destiny. The father pleads, works and prays for his son's conversion. It is precisely because he loves his son that he will not accept the sin as a legitimate choice.


The father hates the sin and loves the sinner. He is a good father. 


Is that so hard to imagine?






*Note that this is quite different from the Protestant belief in the "total depravity" of human nature after the Fall. That is a post for another day.












76 comments:

  1. Great blog, Leila. When I was growing up, my Mom would often tell me that she loved me no matter what I did, but she wouldn't always love what I did. Our Heavenly Father is the same way...

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  2. Nice post. It seems like if you understand the distinction between:
    Inherent human value vs "earned" value based on actions,
    Virtue vs value
    Love as an act of the will vs love as an act of the biological organism

    You will be a long way towards grasping the Christian vs Secular world views.

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  3. Good post Leila, and good point Monica.

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  4. I learn something every time I read your blog! Thanks!

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  5. Interesting that you noted that we believe human beings are all created "good" and that we don't believe in total depravity. This has been on my mind a lot lately, as parenting books seem to start from one angle or the other.

    Great post, Leila, and I hope this helps all with that question!

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  6. Leila, Lauren - the difference between being created good with a tendency towards sin vs, total depravity has been on my mind lately too! I am really starting to see how this difference affects so much of Christendom. And great post!! So helpful and clear, as always!

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  7. You have no idea how badly i needed to read this today. THANK YOU.

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  8. Thank you Leila. I think I have a better grasp on this concept now.

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  9. Ooops, that was me above,

    miss g

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  10. Excellent post, Leila!

    I like to refer other Christians to this article at Catholic Answers as well when they say something like, "Oh, I know [insert sin here] is wrong but it's not my place to judge."

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  11. Thank you for this. It's one of those things I understood but never could seem to explain well when people asked me about it.

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  12. Miss G said, "And if we separate the actions from the person then all the good things we do aren't part of us too?"


    Isn't it also true that we cannot assume our salvation, or the salvation of others, based on their good behavior? Again, we cannot know what is in a person's heart or how God will judge them. There is no moment in our lives where we can say, "Yep. Now I'm saved."

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  13. Susan, correct. Unlike Protestantism's "once saved, always saved" we retain our free will, and we may choose to accept or reject God and goodness at any point in our lives. We certainly may have a reasonable assurance of salvation, but we do not know what our hearts will look like at the moment of our death. That is why St. Paul warns us to persevere till the very end of the race.

    I know Olya will disagree, but until Protestantism came about 500 years ago, no Christian believe in "once saved, always saved." Salvation is a process, not a single moment. It's a relationship with God.

    And Susan, you are right that someone who does very good things in life, but with no love in his heart (or with bad intent, or in order to fool people), has no assurance of salvation.

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  14. <<>>

    Well done, Leila! =)

    Cathy BB

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  15. Oops... my "applause" disappeared above. That's what I get for trying to be cute on a Monday morning!

    CBB again

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  16. great post - really clears it up!

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  17. Good post on the difference between judging a person's actions (which we are required to do) and judging the state of someones soul (which only God can do). However, saying "Salvation is a process, not a single moment. It's a relationship with God." destroys the very heart of the good news of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. GOD chooses to save some, purely out of his own mercy, not because of anything we have done, but solely on the basis of what Christ has done for us (fulfilled God's law perfectly). Does anyone reading this really want to stand before a perfectly Holy and Just God on Judgement Day and say "well I really tried to do my best"? If you think you can you need to examine the way Scripture applies the Law "anyone who hates his brother is
    guilty of murder" ect (1Jn3:15). Would you not rather stand before Him clothed in Christ's righteousness? THERE IS NO SALVATION APART FROM CHRIST. Believing in "once saved always saved" is not a notion protestants came up with only 500 years ago. If it is GOD who saves (not something we do), to suggest otherwise is to suggest GOD can fail. p.s. St Paul means persevere in Faith till the end (read Romans), not work at having a relationship with God)

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  18. Olya, Catholics believe there is no salvation apart from Christ. Catholics have been teaching and preaching that for 2,000 years. But the idea that we are saved once and can never again choose to reject God is not biblical and it is not a Christian belief. It is not even held by all Protestants.

    Of course only God saves, and of course we do not "work" our way into Heaven. But if you read the NT, you will see that nearly every page talks about the necessity of good works (not "works of the law" which is a whole other issue).

    I hope you will walk a little bit farther back in history, Olya, and see that there were 1500 years of Christianity before Martin Luther came with his new doctrines about salvation.

    Blessings!

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  19. Would you not rather stand before Him clothed in Christ's righteousness?

    Olya, you believe you will stand before Him as a snow-covered dung hill (as Luther put it). You think you will still be slimed with sin and yet only "look" clean because of Christ's righteousness.

    But how much more beautiful is the truth that you will actually stand before Him truly pure, truly infused with His righteousness. Not just imputed, not just "declared" clean by God when you really aren't.

    If God declares you clean when you are not clean, then He is a liar, right? But since we know God is not a liar, we know that He actually makes us clean. He says we are clean because when we enter Heaven we will be clean. This is a big difference between your theology and the Church's.

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  20. I love this post, Leila. As a Protestant convert to Catholicism, this was one of the teachings that was so liberating and so delightful. Realizing that I was not, after all, a wretched sinner who could never do any good allowed me to begin working toward virtue in a way I never had before. And it affirmed the idea of human dignity that I had always clung to, in spite of the teaching that we are all essentially evil.

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  21. Leila, that was actually my husband, but he does have a point. God DECLARES me righteous on the basis of Christ's perfect obedience therefor He is not a liar. God imputes (or, infuses, like you put it) Christ's perfect righteousness to an otherwise helpless sinner (Rom.3:11-12 says 'None is righteous, no, not one; NO ONE understands; NO ONE seeks God. ALL have turned aside; together they have become worthless; NO ONE does good, not even one.' v. 16 'in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There's no fear of God before their eyes' v.20 'For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight...') Leila, if you do not 'work' your way to heaven and you do not believe in Christ's imputed righteousness, how DO you get to heaven? You say 'of course, only God saves', but if it is not by Christ's perfect obedience, then HOW does He save? On basis of what do you stand before him 'truly pure, truly white'? We have already established that it is not through 'working our way to heaven', right?

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    1. Olya, Christ is quoted as saying ""Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." in Matt:7:21. There is the evidence that merely saying "I believe" but not actually following through with 'walking the walk' will not earn you salvation.

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  22. I will (hopefully) stand before God clothed in Christ's righteousness -- but only after a long time in purgatory. Like St. Paul, I'm working through my salvation in fear and trembling.

    By the way, Olya, would you have time to continue our combox conversation in this thread? I'm interested to hear your responses! :)

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  23. Also, Olya, this is a good resource about what Catholics believe regarding salvation: Assurance of Salvation. It ends with this:

    "Are you saved?" asks the Fundamentalist. The Catholic should reply: "As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13)."

    If you want a book-length treatise, I encourage you to check out "The Salvation Controversy" by Jimmy Akin.

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  24. Olya, I think Calah and JoAnna said it all. But you need to be clear that "imputed" righteousness and "infused" righteousness are two different things. They are not the same. You believe in imputed, we believe in infused.

    How are we saved? We are saved by God's grace ALONE. We are justified by our faith and our works* -- i.e., our love relationship with God.

    *See James 2:24.

    And I agree with JoAnna that I would like you to continue that previous thread, Olya. Thanks!

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  25. I can't remember who told this story or who the person was who had the list, but it went like this:

    A guy went to lunch one day with another guy, an accomplished theologian. At one point the guy got up from the table and out of his notebook fell a list of names:
    HITLER
    STALIN
    MAO
    POL POT
    ATILLA THE HUN

    Etc.

    The guy at the table looked down at the list and said, "What the heck is this?"

    The fellow with the notebook said nonchalantly, "Oh, that? Those are the people I want to remember to pray for, because I know no one else is praying for them."

    No commentary, just an interesting story I thought I'd share.

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  26. Yes we are apparently defining words like salvation, justification, sanctification, differently, reading into each others meaning of imputation vs infusion, ect . But the core issue remains the same. To repeat, Leila, if you do not 'work' your way to heaven and you do not believe in Christ's imputed righteousness, how DO you get to heaven? You say 'of course, only God saves', but if it is not by Christ's perfect obedience, then HOW does He save? On basis of what do you stand before him 'truly pure, truly white'? We have already established that it is not through 'working our way to heaven', right? Your response "How are we saved? We are saved by God's grace ALONE. We are justified by our faith and our works* -- i.e., our love relationship with God." does not answer this the way we must. Whatever terms we choose to use, the Question remains the same, on what basis can we stand before God? On Christ alone or on Christ plus what we have done? Please read James 2:24 in the context in which the apostle wrote it. He is not separating faith and works, he is saying that faith without works is dead. For example, consider a chair. If you never sit in it, do you really have "faith" in it as a chair (the purpose of which is to provide a seat)? If you truly have "faith" in it you will sit in it, in the same way if you truly have faith in GOD you will obey his commands, the way Abraham and Rahab did in James' examples. Faith defined as "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ep2:8-9)

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  27. Leila, I see you are having a wonderful discussion here with Mark, I will have to read up on it. I am not avoiding the issue, boys have swiming lessons. I'll write more tomorrow, hopefully.

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  28. he is saying that faith without works is dead.

    Exactly, Olya (aka, Mark), exactly. We agree! Unfortunately, Protestantism says that once a person "prays the sinner's prayer" then he is "saved" always and forever, with no chance of changing his mind. This is unbiblical.

    We believe that a person is saved at his baptism (when we become a "new creation" in Christ), and as long as the person stays in God's grace (friendship), he will enter Heaven. It is a relationship of love: God offers us salvation, and we live our lives for Him, in love.

    Baptism (when our soul is truly, and not symbolically, made clean) is the ordinary means of salvation. Always has been. This is Christianity.

    You should really read the early Church Fathers to get an understanding of what Christians have always believed.

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  29. Olya/Mark,

    Just a quick note about the "once saved, always saved" thing. The early Protestant reformers didn't even believe this doctrine. Indeed, Calvin taught that the Eucharist gives "undoubted assurance of eternal life", and that baptism regenerates us. Protestantism didn't start teaching that until the Puritans.

    Here's an interesting article about a man's conversion from Calvinism to Catholicism: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/how-john-calvin-made-me-a-catholic/

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  30. Sorry, I was on the phone when I made my previous comment, so it wasn't very clear! By saying "Protestantism didn't start teaching that until the Puritans", I meant the once saved always saved thing. :)

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  31. Why I let my wife talk me into this :) ??
    Leila said "Protestantism says that once a person "prays the sinner's prayer" then he is "saved" always and forever, with no chance of changing his mind. This is unbiblical." Well, we agree again, that is absolutely unbiblical (and not protestant, I hope, although there are a lot of people out there who claim that word...). G.A.S, please go read your quote from Calvin in context and notice among other things his distinction between the sign and the thing signified. Of course your comment misses the point, as it is GOD who saves.
    Leila says "Baptism (when our soul is truly, and not symbolically, made clean) is the ordinary means of salvation. Always has been. This is Christianity." Our soul is truly made clean in baptism If we have faith. GOD (through Christ) is the means of salvation. My wife grew up in Ukraine. When it became christian in 988, the prince called out his cavalry and drove the entire population of the capital unto the river and had them baptized. Just because they were all baptized does not mean that they all were saved. To use a less extreme example, how many of you know people who were baptized into the Roman Church and at the time it seemed like they were doing it for family reasons or social reasons or whatever and after that you never saw any sign of true faith in them? Christianity has always been "NO ONE comes to the Father except through Me" (Jesus).
    I do have most of the ante-nicene and post-nicene fathers on my shelf, and while I can't claim to have read every one of them exhaustively, I have read them extensively. Do they teach everything we believe as Reformed Christians? NO! Do they teach everything the Roman Magisterium teaches? NO! To Leila and G.A.S. who quoted Luther and Calvin, as you read these men's writings, did you observe how often they quoted the fathers over against the position of Rome? I would suggest anyone reading the Fathers to actually read them through (in sections, some can be tedious:)) and to try to understand them in the context in which they wrote rather than treating them as a source of proof texts. We learn so much more from them as fellow believers that way, I think. Moving on to Augustine, read his writings against Pelagius, please, I'm asking this out of true concern, what he wrote is an essential part of the gospel and speaks directly to this issue. We obviously have a fundamental disagreement here which can't be resolved (i.e. if you want a more concise refutation of the Roman Magisterium, Calvin's Institutes is a good start) and I will be gone most of the rest of the week, but I'll tell my wife to have at it :).

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  32. Mark (Olya's husband), hi!

    Actually, those who were baptized en masse did receive the mark of a Christian (if their baptism was valid), and their souls were truly cleansed. A sacrament is a work of God, and it effects what it signifies. If those who were baptized did not love God and sinned gravely after their baptism, that did not make them any less baptized, but it did make them lose the sanctifying grace in their souls. And that opens up a whole other subject, which is the cycle of redemption. A teaching for another day. But when a sacrament is confected, it is God's work, and it's for real. We can count on that.

    Now, about the Church Fathers, I find them so comforting. They hold the same faith that I do today. And Augustine was a Catholic bishop, who believes what I do today. It is a glorious continuity throughout twenty centuries of Christianity. I would love to talk more with you about why you think they were not Catholic. Give me some reasons, if you'd like. I can't promise to debate it all in these comboxes, but I may use them for a whole new post.

    I agree with you that we have a fundamental disagreement, but I think it can be resolved. If two Christians disagree on the interpretation of the Bible, to whom do we go for a "tie breaker"? The Bible says that the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth. What Church? Well, the Church which Christ founded. Where do we find that Church? We can start by looking at Peter, who held primacy among the Apostles, and who was given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven by Christ. We can continue by looking at what the Early Church wrote about ecclesiology, Church hierarchy, Baptism, Eucharist, Priesthood, Mary, etc., etc. They could serve as the tie breakers. I am comfortable if we go to them. ;)

    Bottom line, it all comes down to an issue of authority. You believe that each individual believer gets to interpret the Bible, we believe that the Church is the interpreter of the Bible (in fact, the Bible came out of the Church, not the other way around). We Catholics accept the Church as our authority, and Protestants don't. One of us is right, one is wrong.

    I encourage you to read this conversion story from my friend Kim, and see how it all boils down to authority:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/p/from-gender-feminism-to-catholicism-by.html

    Can we agree that it is an issue of authority, and whether or not Christ set up an authority (i.e., a teaching Church) to speak in His name?

    Blessings, Mark!

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  33. He really is, after 8 years of marriage it's hard to believe he actually married ME :)
    Leila, you refer to Church Fathers a lot. And I hope Mark demonstrated that we do appreciate them and value them, but God's Word rules overall, the way we discern what is or is not true is by the Bible. If the bible say to pray to God only and the church says we should pray to Mary where do we go to decide who's right? Even Peter, the Rock said some outrageous things and sided with the Judaizers at one time and Paul boldly rebuked him using the Gospel as the ultimate judge. According to you, Peter's words would have been taken as absolute truth. According to you, apostolic succession is what gives the church the ultimate authority in interpreting scriptures. Paul himself said that if him or anyone else came and preached ANYTHING other then Christ crucified (and certainly Catholic church added a lot to that over the centuries) than we are not to listen to them. (I can quote the exact passage later, I have to be out of the house in, like, ...now)
    Anyway, that's why we can't agree on the Church to be the ultimate authority.
    LOL, talking to you has become a family activity :)

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  34. Olya, I like talking to you guys, ha ha!

    But you see, that's my point: We both think that we are interpreting the Bible correctly. But we can't both be right, since our ideas contradict each other. So, where do we go to decide who is right? We can't all decide on our own (that's how we get Jehovah's Witnesses, and even Mormons), so how do we know? Where do we go aside from unbroken Church tradition, when we cannot agree on what Scriptures says?

    (By the way, the Bible does say that the Church is the authority. And the Fathers all agree.)

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  35. By the way, I use that very quote (about "even if an angel from Heaven should tell you something different, don't deviate from sound doctrine" ...I'm paraphrasing). I use it often and I used it when I taught coverts. I used it against Luther's new doctrines of "sola scriptura" and "sola fide". He deviated from sound doctrine (made up his own interpretation of Scripture that had never been believed before) and so we must not follow him.

    So, we both use that verse. :)

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  36. on a completely different subject, I think you would want to see this:
    http://wtaq.com/blogs/post/jbader/2011/feb/01/caught-tape-planned-parenthoods-cover-child-sex-tr/#

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  37. Olya, thanks so much! I got that from Jill Stanek this morning and I linked it in my latest post.

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  38. I think being actually able to distinguish between a person and their actions, and to have compassion on a heinous criminal despite his crimes without hesitation or the slightest reservation, is a grace.

    I realized this just recently with the horrific shootings in Tucson, Az and a recent incident of a woman brutally killing her teenage children. I was surprised to find I had felt nothing but pity for the murderers and was shocked and saddened to read comments calling for their torturous deaths. The thing is, I would have been saying the same thing before my recent conversion to Catholicism.
    This came about by no reasoning on my part, just God working on my soul without my knowing I suppose.

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  39. Leila, I should have contacted you because I just had this once saved always saved debate with someone and I'm writing about it now. So funny that this discussion was going on also :-) It was kind of exhausting trying to explain the Catholic view on this.LOL...

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  40. Hi from Mark
    Words have meaning, the Bible HAS meaning, and if in doubt, scripture interprets scripture. Just because people disagree on it does not mean that the Bible is somehow lacking (perhaps it's us?). The Bible Defines the church. I don't disagree that the church has a God given role, it absolutely does. Our fundamental disagreement appears to be rather on what that role is. Primarily, if one considers unbroken succession as holding priority over the Inspired Word of God, even to the extent of claiming the Bible came out of the church, it makes holding a meaningful discussion difficult because in our view you are suborning Scripture (and thus GOD Himself) to the traditions of men. In Love, Mark

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  41. Mark, I totally understand what you are saying, but we Catholics are not doing that. We believe that everything that the Church teaches is completely consistent with the inerrancy of the Bible (we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and have been teaching that truth for 2,000 years). There is a living, authoritative Church which Christ founded, which the Holy Spirit protects, which makes sure that the truths handed by Christ to the Apostles (and which were later written down) are not distorted or misinterpreted.

    The Bible says that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. I believe the Bible.

    Blessings!

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  42. PS: I agree that certain "traditions of men" should be rejected, but of course the Bible says that other legitimate "traditions" should be followed:

    1 Cor 11:2
    2 Thess 2:15
    2 Thess 3:6

    What do you make of those? Thanks!

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  43. PSS: Mark, how do you think the New Testament came to you?

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  44. Great blog, Leila! I've really enjoyed it since I started visiting it a couple months ago.

    Everybody: Sorry to jump in at the end of a conversation and refer back to the beginning again, but it seems to me both sides of the Salvation through Christ Alone argument as presented here are a tad fuzzy, and I might be able to clarify Catholic teaching a little.

    From what I've been taught (and please correct me if I'm wrong), I understand that the Church teaches that people go to heaven only through sanctifying grace, which is a gift from God. No one can earn this grace through any works or actions; it is purely a gift.

    Having said that, works can enhance a person's experience of heaven. While X and Y both have sanctifying grace given to them by God, X just sits around and does nothing while Y draws closer to God through works, prayer, etc. Both X and Y will reach heaven, but Y, because he/she is already so close to God, will have a greater experience than X.

    Finally, a person can choose to throw away the gift of sanctifying grace given to him/her by God. Committing a mortal sin is deliberately rejecting God's gift of salvation. That is why it is necessary to live a good Christian life in order to reach heaven.

    So, to summarize, any good works performed by humans will help them enjoy heaven even more, but these works have no impact whatsoever on whether a specific person will get to heaven or not. Sanctifying grace is the only thing that can open the gates of heaven. That grace is given freely by God, and no one can "deserve" it, though anyone is free to reject it.

    -Ut Christus Regnet

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  45. Hello UCR!

    Yes, I would say that technically you are correct, although I've never quite thought of it that way (the part about "someone could just sit around and do nothing" and still get to Heaven"... I know what you mean, but never would put it that way.)

    You are right that salvation is a free gift that can never be earned. And that sanctifying grace is the "apparatus" that we need to live in Heaven. Very true. But the place of "works" is very important, to the extent that we will be judged by them (as Jesus said) and justified by them (as St. James said).

    I think the controversy is over "works righteousness" that Protestants accuse Catholics of believing in. What they are failing to distinguish is that the "works of the law" (i.e., the Jewish disciplines that every Jew must follow) are different from the moral law (the Ten Commandments). We must keep the Ten Commandments, but we are no longer bound to the Jewish disciplinary laws. The Jews thought that perfect adherence to all those thousands of laws would "save" them, but in fact we know that only the Blood of Christ can save.

    Still and all, the moral law (and keeping it) is imperative to keeping us in a state of sanctifying grace. It is by transgressing the moral law that we reject the love of God and lose sanctifying grace (i.e., lose Heaven).

    Does that make sense? I'm typing in a hurry and I may not be making sense. I would love to do a whole post on it...

    Thanks!

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  46. Hi Leila from Mark
    1 Cor 11:2
    2 Thess 2:15
    2 Thess 3:6

    The traditions referred to in these passages are not what you seem to think. Scripture is the Inspired Word of God, but God gave Scripture to us in various forms, in this case in the form of letters from the apostles to various churches they had planted. The apostle is exhorting Christians to hold fast to what they have been taught. In other words, the traditions the apostle taught, either in person or by letter, are the SAME. The apostle did not teach one thing at one time and the opposite a different time. There is only One Gospel. The tradition we should follow is the GOSPEL. To attempt to use the word tradition from these passages to support later Roman non-biblical innovations does not logically follow. When I was a child, there was a group game we sometimes played. I forget the name of it, but it went something like this. Everyone in the group sat in a circle and one person read a short story (5 sentences or less) to them self. He/she then whispered it to the next person and so on till it had gone around the circle. It was always funny, because no mater how hard everyone tried to repeat the story exactly, by the end it bore almost no relation to the original. The point is that written tradition trumps any claim to unwritten tradition. You say "We believe that everything that the Church teaches is completely consistent with the inerrancy of the Bible" but with the rise of the printing press, literacy among other than the upper class only, and with the Bible being translated into the common languages, people could see for themselves (reading the Bible with the aid if the Holy Spirit which is promised to ALL believers) that the Roman church was teaching contrary to scripture. Otherwise, the Reformation may not have succeeded and Luther would have been persecuted into oblivion like countless other Priests before him that had taught and written the same views and Calvin would have been burned at the stake.
    P.P.S. The entire Bible game to all who believe from GOD. It was written by various men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and has been and will be preserved till the end of this age by the power of GOD. Surely one as familiar as yourself with the history of the church cannot be seriously suggesting that Rome had ANYTHING to do with the creation of the New Testament?

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  47. Hi Mark!

    Just a little at a time:

    In other words, the traditions the apostle taught, either in person or by letter, are the SAME. The apostle did not teach one thing at one time and the opposite a different time.

    I totally agree!

    with the rise of the printing press, literacy among other than the upper class only, and with the Bible being translated into the common languages, people could see for themselves (reading the Bible with the aid if the Holy Spirit which is promised to ALL believers) that the Roman church was teaching contrary to scripture.

    Then why are most Christians today still Catholics or Orthodox? And why do devout, Christ-loving, Bible literate Protestants convert to Catholicism?
    And, do you think that the Holy Spirit is guiding each individual Protestant to 30,000 different beliefs?

    Otherwise, the Reformation may not have succeeded and Luther would have been persecuted into oblivion like countless other Priests before him that had taught and written the same views and Calvin would have been burned at the stake.

    Or, as we Catholics would say, Luther's heresies would not have gotten a wide hearing, and he and his errors would have gone the way of the Arian heresy and all the other long line of heresies before him since the beginning of the Church. The printing press made Luther's heresy stick for a lot longer. (Though Arius' heresy lasted for hundreds of years before it died out.)

    It was written by various men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and has been and will be preserved till the end of this age by the power of GOD.

    Mark, if you don't mind, could you be very specific as to how this came about? Who were the men who wrote it, who were the men who set the canon (there were many false gospels and epistles around), who were the men who preserved it, and how did they do it?

    NOTE: I absolutely agree that it all happened under the power of God, but God works through men, so please give me specifics.

    Thanks!

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  48. Hi Mark/Olya,

    [The apostle did not teach one thing at one time and the opposite a different time.]

    Catholics agree with this. That's why you'll never find a single Catholic teaching that is contrary to Scripture.

    [ To attempt to use the word tradition from these passages to support later Roman non-biblical innovations does not logically follow.]

    There's no such thing as a "Roman non-biblical" innovation.

    Moreover, what about Protestant traditions? Please tell me where the following are found in Scripture:

    the word "Bible"
    the Bible's table of contents
    the word "Trinity"
    the phrase "altar call"
    the phrase "salvation by faith alone," or even the phrase "faith alone" that isn't preceded by the words "not by"
    the word "predestination"

    I can go on.

    [The point is that written tradition trumps any claim to unwritten tradition.]

    So you believe it is impossible for God to preserve oral and written Tradition? If so, you've just declared your own Bible to be inaccurate. If oral tradition from thousands of years ago can be considered inaccurate, then what stops written tradition from being inaccurate as well -- especially considering those that many of those who wrote the Scriptures were merely writing down WHAT THEY HAD HEARD?

    [(reading the Bible with the aid if the Holy Spirit which is promised to ALL believers)]

    So if the Holy Spirit tells me one thing, and the Holy Spirit tells you another, how do we know who is right? How do we know who authentically has heard the Holy Spirit? What do you make of Peter's exhortation in Scripture that private interpretation is dangerous?

    [Surely one as familiar as yourself with the history of the church cannot be seriously suggesting that Rome had ANYTHING to do with the creation of the New Testament?]

    Seriously? You do realize that the canon of Scripture was established at a Catholic council, right?

    "In 382 Pope Damasus convoked a synod which produced the Roman Code. The Roman Code identified a list of scriptural books identical to the Council of Trent's formally defined canon. In 393 the Council of Hippo reiterated the list, as did the First Council of Carthage four years later. In 405 Pope Innocent I wrote a letter to Exsuperius, the bishop of Toulouse, listing the same books as Scripture. The list was given again in 419 at the Second Council of Carthage." source

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  49. Your own listed history states that the canon was not established till trent, which was a response to the reformation. So we didn't have Scripture till then? (you did use the word canon)
    Gregory the Great rejected the Apocrypha, 200 years after the council of Rome in 382, along with many others whome cathloics hold in high regard, this is no secret, read your own catholic encyclopedia, according to it there were few theologians in the Medieval era who gave unqulified support to the Deuterocanonicals. We know what is scripture because God's sheep hear his Voice, if the catholic church calls a council tomorrow and decides that we should retire the Bible, it will not change the fact that it is the Word of God, just as the books that make up the Bible were almost all universally recognized long before the Council of Rome despite the fact that there was no "official" canon till trent.

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  50. Mark/Olya, please stick to discussing the canon of the New Testament, since that canon is something we agree on. We can talk about the Old Testament canon later.

    So, please go back and answer the questions regarding the New Testament books.

    Thanks!

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  51. The Deuterocanonicals were only an example, the point is the same.

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  52. Mark, pretend we are really slow. :) Can you answer the specific questions that I asked you about how the New Testament canon got to you? Please preface your answers with the question you are responding to.

    Whenever you can.

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  53. Mark, we Catholics agree that no one is authorized to change or alter God's Word. That is why Luther's attempts to remove books from the New Testament is so abhorrent to us.

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  54. I'll try to say the same thing a different way. The Roman Catholic position on canonization presumes that it was an act of authority. The Protestant position assumes that it was an act of submission to authority. Christ's sheep (which constitute the church) are those who hear his voice, and have been throughout history. When the profits spoke to Israel, the true sheep were those who heeded them because they knew they were hearing God. They didn't heed them because the religious authorities formed a council and decided they were canonical. When Jesus spoke to crowds, invoking Messianic prophecies, were the crowds supposed to exercise their own judgement, or were they supposed to turn to the religious authorities for guidance? Long before the Council of Rome in 382 (I pick that only because one of you put that out) the church knew what the canon was. Although early records are sparse, what is remarkable is how much consensus there was on the canon before ANY church council considered the question. Leila, your comment "we Catholics agree that no one is authorized to change or alter God's Word" is absurd right after your claim that the church somehow created the canon, so how does that work, they are only allowed to add books to it, they can't change their minds later? Do you not see how absurd the notion that men should sit in judgement on the voice of GOD is?

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  55. Who were the men who wrote it, who were the men who set the canon (there were many false gospels and epistles around), who were the men who preserved it, and how did they do it? Leila, your questions all presuppose YOUR answer, let me try this once again. What is the common element in all your questions? Men, men, men, men. The point I'm trying to make is that GOD doesn't NEED men to officialize his word. He did not work that way before Christ, he did not work that way at the time of Christ, it's absurd to assume that an unchangeable GOD would work that way now.

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  56. Mark/Olya, it's sort of frustrating that you won't answer the question. How did GOD have the Bible come to you? How did GOD have the New Testament canonized?

    For you to say that God did not work through men is the absurdity, and flies in the face of the entire Old and New Testaments. Who was Moses? Who were the prophets? Who were the Apostles? God always, always, always delegated His authority to sinful men. And He expected the people of God to listen to the men He put in charge.

    What is the sin of Korah? Can you tell me?

    Thanks!

    (And, if you could answer the question of how the Bible got you, that would be great.)

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  57. [The point I'm trying to make is that GOD doesn't NEED men to officialize his word. He did not work that way before Christ, he did not work that way at the time of Christ, it's absurd to assume that an unchangeable GOD would work that way now.]

    But He did use men. You've yet to prove otherwise. 

    God didn't NEED to use a teenage girl from Galilee to bear His Son. He didn't NEED to become Incarnate and die on a cross for our sins, either. But He did. 

    [Your own listed history states that the canon was not established till trent, which was a response to the reformation]

    No, it does not The canon was established prior to 400 AD and merely reiterated at Trent. As it says here:

    "The Council of Trent (1545-1564) infallibly reiterated what the Church had long taught regarding the canons of the Old and New Testaments. Pope Damasus promulgated the Catholic canons at the Synod of Rome in A.D. 382, and later, at the regional councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419), the Church again defined the same list of books as inspired.

    The canons of the Old and New Testaments, as defined by Pope Damasus and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage, were later ratified (though the books were not enumerated individually) by the later Ecumenical councils of II Nicaea (787) and Florence (1438-1445). Although the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant violation of the Bible by deleting the seven Deuterocanonical books plus portions of Daniel and Esther, was the first infallible conciliar listing of each individual book, it certainly did not add those books to the canon.

    If that were the case, how could Martin Luther and the other Reformers have objected to the presence of those books decades before the Council of Trent if they weren't in the canon to begin with and were added by the Council of Trent?"

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  58. JoAnna, thank you for that information on the canons. Much better than what I had said.

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  59. "God doesn't NEED men to officiate his word"

    God doesn't NEED anything-God lacks in nothing. But He DID use men to officiate His word. I mean, that is the entire Bible: God's self-revelation to man, through men, until finally, God became man, in yet another way to reveal Himself to humanity. He didn't NEED to do it that way, but He did. He did out of love. He did it for our sake, not for His own.

    So if man had nothing to do with the Bible coming to you (which is what you are implying by not clearly answering Leila's question to you), how did it come? Did God physically write it down Himself? Did He physically put it together and reveal it to every Christian individually (because otherwise there must be some human authority that promulgated it to all the others, and that couldn't be if man had nothing to do with it...)? What about the Reformation-why are there fewer books in your bible than in mine? Did God change His mind?

    If man had nothing to do with it, I would see positive answers to all of the above as the logical conclusions. You don't really have to answer these; by answering Leila's questions directly, I think you'll clear it all up for me. Thank you for the discussion!

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  60. Leila, God used men to WRITE DOWN the scriptures by using the Holy Spirit. He DID NOT need men to come together and say 'ok, this book's in, this one's out' just like He didn't need the Pharisees to say' Yep, Jesus is the promised one'. In fact, Jesus IS the promised one regardless of what the Pharisees thought of Him. The same with the Bible. His chosen ones KNOW what the Word of God is, they don't need councils to state which books are the inspired ones. In fact, coming from the former Soviet Union country I know of many men who pieced together the Word of God from Soviet propaganda though they had never seen a Bible in their life.
    That's the difference here, you make the Bible to be the result of men's work (something that Mark's been saying and you are clearly avoiding), councils, that decided and are telling everyone which books belong in the Bible and what they mean. And I am telling you that it is God's own Spirit who interprets the Bible for His chose ones. That is why we do not need the church to tell us what the Bible means, we have the Holy Spirit for that.
    Also, have you actually read the Church Fathers or are you getting your pieces of their works from Catholic sources? Catholic church's official policy is to go back a find proof in the Fathers of whatever the current church teaching is. And it is quite easy to do, as the Fathers were not as monolithic and unanimous in their views as you are saying (though it certainly DOES appear that way if your only sources of their writings are Catholic publications). They were different people with their own different views much like Catholics are today.

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  61. Leila, you never responded to this statement Mark made: 'I'll try to say the same thing a different way. The Roman Catholic position on canonization presumes that it was an act of authority. The Protestant position assumes that it was an act of submission to authority' Can you please comment on that.
    Thank you

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  62. Olya, HOW did we get the 27 books of the New Testament? God works through men. The Bible is a work of God and men.

    Give me a step by step. How did we get the New Testament? How did we get the 27 books? How did we know there were 27 and not 28? How did the people back in the 300s know?

    Please be very, very, very specific.

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  63. Olya, the Church was given authority by God. The Church canonized the Bible. The Church did so under the authority of the Holy Spirit. So, the Church did it as an authority, guided by the Holy Spirit. Just like the men who wrote the books of the Bible. God inspired it, they wrote it. God uses and works through men. Always has, always will.

    What was the sin of Korah?

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  64. Wait a sec, Olya, we're talking about two different things here. Let me break it down so you can see what I mean.

    You said:

    [That's the difference here, you make the Bible to be the result of men's work (something that Mark's been saying and you are clearly avoiding), councils, that decided and are telling everyone which books belong in the Bible and what they mean.]

    Then you said:

    [And I am telling you that it is God's own Spirit who interprets the Bible for His chose ones. That is why we do not need the church to tell us what the Bible means, we have the Holy Spirit for that.]

    Do you see the disconnect here? Leila and I are talking about COMPILING the Bible (1st comment). You are talking about INTERPRETING the Bible (2nd comment). They are two very different things and I don't understand why you link them together like that.

    Let's focus on the first comment for now.

    How did the Bible come into existence, in your view? Was it compiled by men or did God drop it out of the sky, fully compiled, for men to duplicate?

    Just answer that and we can go from there.

    (Incidentally, if you want a really thorough Catholic perspective on this issue, I highly recommend Mark Shea's "By What Authority: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition." He goes through everything we've been discussing so far in great detail.)

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  65. Leila, Mark here. I was only addressing two primary issues throughout this post, while trying to ignore many other issues you have raised : 1 your teaching that our works play a role in how we stand before God at the end and 2 the relationship of the church to the Bible. I read back through the comments, what is there should be sufficient to communicate my basic premise. I chose these because they are critical in understanding our relationship to God. Anyone considering an issue approaches it with certain assumptions, perhaps considering that may help? If there is any more genuine interest on your part on these issues fell free to contact me, however I believe I've exhausted this venue, so, thanks for your time and God Bless. To anyone else that jumped in in the middle, please start at the beginning and it should make much more sense.

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  66. Mark, the issue of authority is the crux of all issues we've discussed. If the Church had the authority to compile the Bible, then it logically follows She has the authority to interpret its teachings as well. The Church came before the Bible, not the other way around.

    I understand, though, why you won't (can't?) answer my question. I highly encourage you to check out the Mark Shea book I recommended upthread. As I said, it goes into all of this in much greater detail than we really can in a combox.

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  67. Mark, I have to be honest and tell you that you haven't answered the question, and no one reading even from the beginning would be able to make sense of this conversation. I am sorry you don't want to answer the question of how it is that the Bible came to your hands. God certainly was in charge of the whole process, but it's the process that I wanted you to lay out for me. I understand why you won't (can't?) answer.

    If you want to revisit this, just let me know!

    Also, I highly recommend the book that JoAnna recommends. It really was instrumental in my friend Kim's conversion to the Church:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/p/from-gender-feminism-to-catholicism-by.html

    Blessings!

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  68. Is this really how this is going to end? With no clarity whatsoever? I'm genuinely curious as to how Protestants believe the Bible came about and that really hasn't been answered yet (and I've read through the entire conversation). How disappointing...

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  69. I'm disappointed too. I've been following this thread hoping to see them tackle the question myself.

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  70. I agree. I wish we could continue the conversation. I am always ready to answer ANY question put forth about the Church, and yet I find that not everyone wants to answer when the questions are for them. I don't get it.

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  71. I'm late to this party but I'm confused why some Protestants are seemingly afraid to admit that Almighty God used men (and women) in roles He wished them to take. God still uses people to carry out His will. God can use people to canonize a Bible, just as He can use them to pray for one another. He doesn't need to, but history shows, He desires it.

    Protestants: The Bible is silent on a great many topics, and where it's not silent, it's often cloudy. So where does one go for the final word? How do you know you're following God's Perfect Will if you don't have a clear cut direction?

    -Nubby

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