Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Since Westboro Baptist Church's "elder" Fred Phelps died, the attention the church has gained has intrigued me. At the same time, however, it embarrasses me that members of WBC call themselves "Christian". What they do - and more specifically how they do it - is diametrically opposed to Christianity. They want to win souls for God, but sometimes you can win the battle but lose the soul.
The church's actions have made me seriously think about how I evangelise and how I talk to people about Christ and the Catholic Church. I have also thought about my own failings as a human being. I'm a Christian. I am a Catholic-Christian. I'm not a perfect Catholic-Christian nor am I perfect human being. What I am is this:
I am a person made in the image and likeness of God doing his best to cooperate with God's grace and liveout the Gospel message. This means that at times I will strongly disagree with some societal trends, certain behaviours, and even go as far as to call them "sinful". At times I may fall, stumble, and seem hypocritical, but such failings are not indicative of what I believe in or what I stand for, no; they are indictments on my own failings as a human being. I desire to continue to grow in holiness and become more Christ-like.
The world is changing and it has become so diverse. As a Christian, to help bring the Gospel message to others, I may be required to speak differently to others depending on their personal context - as Christ did - in order for the Gospel message to be heard. As St. Paul writes in Corinthians, I must "become all things to all men":
"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." - 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
This does not mean that I compromise my beliefs or suddenly become tolerant of sin or actions that are contrary to Natural Law, but rather I am required to look at others through the eyes of Christ and to see Christ in the eyes of others. Blend in, but remain steadfast in who you are:
"Learn who you are in the eyes of God." - St. Eugene de Mazenod
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
My wife is away overseas for work at the moment so I'm taking care of the kids on my own for a little while. This time has provided for me a few opportunities to ponder the gift of parenthood and the unique role of fatherhood. At the same time I'm able to appreciate the work that a more does and the care she has for her children.
Yes, I'm the proverbial "Mr. Mum", but the only issue I have with that term of endearment (don't get me wrong, I do take it as a compliment) is this:
There is absolutely NOTHING I can do which will match the love, care, and nurturing that my wife gives to our children; everything that I do falls terribly short. To say that I am a fill-in or replacement would be an affront to motherhood. I am, however, a father and trying to be the best dad I can be. What I give is different and how I give it is different. Put the shoe on the other foot: why aren't mothers called "Ms. Dad" when the fathers are out of town?
Growing up I was very blessed to have a mother and a father who - despite the breakup of their marriage - were every bit the mother and father to me. Mum was mum to me; Dad was dad to me. Plain and simple. Neither attempted to compensate for any absences; I had exactly what I needed.
No, I'm not offended by being called "Mr. Mum" but what I'm doing is called "parenting". Secondary to that, what I am is a father and a father to my children I will always be. As a father I give my children my best. My wife - the mother of my children - inspires me to be more for my children. It's during times like these when Shannon is away that I appreciate ALL that a mother does for their children. Immeasurable, irreplaceable, invaluable.
"As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him." - Psalms 103:13
Friday, March 07, 2014
I mentioned a little while ago that I appeared on Voice of Charity Radio back in February during my speaking tour over there. Here's the Q&A show recording, as promised (via Youtube):
A few topics were covered during the 45 minute show:
- how to evangelise effectively;
- Matthew 16:18-19 and St. Peter "the rock";
- salvation and a bit about the Catholic understanding of salvation;
- the Sacrament of Reconciliation;
- Apostolic Succession and valid priesthood and sacraments; and
- Christ's John 6 "Bread of Life from Heaven" discourse and the Eucharist
I was an early morning show (7am start) so my brain took a little while to warm up (5am wakeup), so please excuse all the uhmms and uhhhs (if I had a dollar for every time I did it...), and please forgive my waffling on (it's a nerves thing). :)
Anyway, it was a nice throwback to my days in radio; I hadn't been behind the microphone in about 10 years prior to this. It was a lot of fun and I was honoured to be a guest on Voice of Charity Radio. You can find out more about Voice of Charity here.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, and the New Covenant
What does this all mean for us? Let’s summarise:
Jesus Christ’s is first of all born in the city of Bethlehem; “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”. Jesus Christ is born in the manger, where the animals in the stable eat. This is symbolic because Jesus Christ is offered as a living sacrifice, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; and think back to the Passover Meal in Exodus).
Jesus Christ is baptised by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan. But why did he do this? The Church teaches us this on Christ’s baptism:
“Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to ‘fulfill all righteousness.’ Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his ‘beloved Son.’” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1224
“In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a ‘Baptism’ with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible ‘to be born of water and the Spirit’ in order to enter the Kingdom of God.” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1225
Speaking of the Eucharist: Christ tells His followers that he is “the bread of life that came down from Heaven” (John 6:51). Again we have Christ completing what was shown in the Old Testament. The accounts of bread “coming down from Heaven” are found in Numbers 11 and Exodus 16; this bread was given because the people of God complained to Moses that they were hungry and needed sustenance. The Lord blessed them with the miracle of “manna from Heaven” and it came in abundance, so much so that they had to put what was leftover in the Ark of the Covenant; the manna was placed in a golden pot. Sound familiar? When we go to Mass, where are hosts contained? In the Ciborium, a golden pot.
In the same discourse, Christ says this about himself but not before the Jews quarrelled among themselves about Jesus giving them His flesh to eat:
“’I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ The Jews quarrelled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.’” - John 6:51-56
One year later, Christ institutes the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, at the Last Supper; giving us bread which is His body, and wine which is His blood of the new covenant, to eat and to drink so that we may have life in us. And Christ, giving up Himself for us on the cross, pours out his blood for our salvation. So just as the Hebrew people at the first Passover were saved by the blood of the lamb, so too are we saved by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Every Sunday, we Catholics have the opportunity to partake in Christ’s body and His blood so that we may become walking tabernacles of Christ; Christ resides in us and we are commissioned to bring the Good News to others, just as the Disciples, 40 days after Christ’s resurrection at the Ascension, were commissioned by Christ to bring Christ to all nations:
“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’” - Matthew 28:18-20
We begin our journeys at Baptism, we are led by grace, we partake in the sacraments - which unite us with Christ - so that we may continue to perfect ourselves and grow in holiness as God desires.
Folks, we are blessed with the gift of the Catholic Church, which is the conduit which brings us first to Christ, and in our Christian living we grow in holiness, prepare ourselves for the journey on the way to paradise, unification with God in Heaven. Christ built the Church on St. Peter, the Rock. God gave authority to man to carry out His work on earth:
“’And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’" - Matthew 16:18-19
We have this:
“The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus. Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the ‘blessed hope’ of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the ‘holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2016
This journey to paradise, our salvation, all began with creation and it climaxes with living life daily, in every thought, word, and action, with Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” - Luke 9:23
No one ever said the journey would be easy, but we place our confidence and hope in the Lord that we may inherit eternal life. We are all partakers in this salvation history.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Noah and the Great Flood
We’re all familiar with this story: God calls Noah to build the Ark because God’s not happy, basically, and He wants to establish a new covenant with man.
God washes the world from its sinfulness with a flood, with water, and Noah, his family, and pairs of animals - male and female - of every kind (Genesis 6:12-19). So in essence, sin was washed away with water, and those who were cradled in the Ark, floating upon the water were saved. Now doesn’t that sound familiar?
St. Peter comments on Noah and the Ark this way and makes a very interesting analogy:
“For Christ also suffered or sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” - 1 Peter 3:18-22
Some churches will tell you that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. How unbiblical. St. Peter there makes it pretty clear in his letter, “This prefigured baptism, WHICH SAVES YOU NOW”. Furthermore, as Noah and his family are on the Ark for forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:17) - which I might add is the same amount of time Christ spent in the wilderness fasting, praying, being tested, and preparing for his public ministry - before they attempt to find new land, and what do they send out? First it’s a poor, old raven that flies back and forth until the waters dried off (Genesis 8:7). Selfish raven! Noah then sends out the dove - that represents the Holy Spirit - is then sent out but at first does not find any dry land for the Ark to alight. The dove is then sent out after seven more days, it returns with an olive leaf.
Noah waits seven more days before sending off the dove again but this time it does not return; it was finally time for Noah and his family, and the manner of animals they had brought with them to alight from the Ark. Now again, I know you’re familiar with this story but the significance of this story in terms of our salvation is this: Our covenant with God begins with baptism; as the Holy Spirit moved over the waters during creation and breathed life into the world, so too did the dove, the Holy Spirit, move over the waters of the flood to establish new life for all on the Ark.
We are filled with the Holy Spirit - the Spirit dwells within us - Original Sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, is put into remission and we are filled with sanctifying grace. We must allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit - the dove - so that the covenant promise made by God can be fulfilled in the name of Jesus Christ. In other words, our free will must work in cooperation with grace so that we may draw nearer to God and one day be fully united with him in paradise, just as Noah on the Ark allowed the dove - the Holy Spirit - to lead them to a place where they could begin their covenant relationship with God, so too we must submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the Church does and has from the beginning.
Moses and the Exodus
Okay, on Moses and the liberation of the Hebrews from Pharaoh… We have Moses, a prefigurement of Christ, born a Hebrew, raised in Pharaoh’s palace, exiled to the wilderness, encounters God and is led by God to lead his people out of bondage. As we know, Pharaoh was stubborn, and as a result the tenth plague, the death of every first born, was imminent. For the people of God to be protected from the tenth plague, God gave Moses these instructions:
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It shall not be eaten raw or boiled, but roasted whole, with its head and shanks and inner organs. None of it must be kept beyond the next morning; whatever is left over in the morning shall be burned up.
‘This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every first - born of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt-I, the LORD! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.’” - Exodus 12:1-13
Now tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar: the people of God were to eat from a sacrificed unblemished lamb, everything had to be consumed, and the blood of the lamb was used to mark the door posts and lintel (the horizontal beam), so that when death passed over the lands of Egypt, those covered by the blood of the lamb would be spared from death. Not seeing the connection yet? Let’s explore it…
It’s no coincidence that today’s Gospel reading [Sunday, January 19 2014] is taken from the Gospel of John. All I’m going to do is read the first verse from today’s reading:
“The next day he [St. John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” - John 1:29
Jesus Christ is the prefigured unblemished first born lamb on the Book of Exodus, and he came, as we continue to read on the Gospel of John, to save the world from its sins:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” - John 3:16-17
That is the covenant promise of the New Testament; the old law has not been abolished but fulfilled in Jesus Christ and it is through Him that we come to God:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” - John 14:6
Let’s put a bow on Moses and the Exodus: Moses eventually leads he people to freedom, and as we know they pass through the Red Sea. Well, gee, this is sounding familiar again: God’s people passing through water. It’s another prefigurement to Baptism! And as we know, the people of God pass through the Red Sea - it is miraculously parted by the power of God through Moses - the people of God are in a sense baptised, escape death and they then begin their journey to the promised land.
* * * * *
To be concluded in part three.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
As promised, here are the notes I wrote for my Salvation History talk I gave at the Flame Ministries International 24th Annual Congress on Sunday, January 19. It went very well; thank you very much for your prayers. :)
I'll be uploading these notes in three parts. Here's part one:
* * * * *
If I was to ask any of you “How are we saved?” I hope the answer you’d give me would be something along the lines of, “Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” and hopefully you’d say that it’s the Catholic Church that brings man (sic.) first into intimacy with Jesus Christ and into union with God, and it was the Catholic Church that was established by Christ, built on the rock - St. Peter (Matthew 16:18-19) - authority given to man (sic.) to help fuse man to God.
So what I want to do today is to map out Salvation History, from the Book of Genesis to the Gospels, to the Acts of the Apostles to the mission of the Catholic Church today. In reality I need about a week to talk to you about this, but we’ve only got one hour to go through it. You have my assurance though that I will not be skimping on quality.
Folks, I don’t want any of my loved ones, friends, colleagues or absolutely anyone going to Hell. My hope is that Hell is empty, that everyone has repented and died in a state of grace. But, folks, for us it’s different; we cannot afford to be complacent. Yes, we are Catholic and we have been gifted with the FULLNESS of truth and the FULLNESS of faith, but as it says in scripture:
“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” - Matthew 7:21
Our Catholicity does not guarantee our salvation; nor does anyone’s Christianity assure anyone of salvation. Now that opens up another can of worms and at the end of this talk I’ll put up a link to an article I wrote about the lie of the “Once saved, always saved” (or “Eternal Security”) for you to read in your own time. You’ll discover just how unbiblical that teaching is. But now, onto Salvation History…
Garden of Eden; Adam & Eve
- God makes man (and woman) last because man is the climax of God’s creation; who He chooses to relate with intimately
- God gives man free will because without free will there is no love
- love is a choice
- if you take away free will then we’re soulless robots
--explain in cliff notes the story of the fall--
Why did Adam and Eve take from the tree and disobey God? They were DECEIVED by Lucifer, the Devil! They were manipulated to believe that God was holding them back.
Pride came before the fall… let’s read the passage together and after we read it I just want to point a few things out:
“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, ‘Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent: ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.' But the serpent said to the woman: ‘You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.’ The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” - Genesis 3:1-6
So as a result both Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden - Paradise, which is analogous to Heaven - and you’ll noticed that before the fall, both Adam and Even walked through the Garden of Eden with God and lived in perfect harmony with Him and the rest of creation.
Lucifer cast doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve and they began to rationalise their sinful behaviour. They had ONE RULE, ONE RULE to follow. It’s when we begin to question our faith, when we begin to question why the Catholic Church teaches the way it does, we - like and Adam and Eve - begin to think, “Well why can’t I?”
“Why can’t I have sex outside of marriage?”
“Why can’t I use contraception?”
“Why can’t I smoke weed and get high?”
“Why can’t I get blind drunk?”
“Why can’t I have a one night stand?”
“Why can’t I look at pornographic material?”
“Why? Why? Why?”
And that’s when we begin to put our desires before God’s plan, before His will. Essentially we’re making ourselves greater than God as Lucifer says to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Folks, we make idols of ourselves when we fail to humble ourselves before the will of the Lord.
So as a result, Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden; they had deliberately and directly sinned against God and what’s even worse is that they were aware of the consequences:
“The LORD God gave man this order: ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.’" - Genesis 2:16-17
What’s this “death” God was speaking of? Surely a physical death would have been enough to frighten Adam and Eve out of sinning against God, I mean my son who’s turning six in a few months’ time, he tells me, “Daddy, you shouldn’t play with fire because you can die” and I tell him, “Son, because I love you, I promise you that I will not play with fire”. But the “death” God was speaking of was not a physical death, no, but a spiritual death, becoming separated from God and severing the relationship with Him. St. Paul writes in Romans:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 6:23
The Catholic Church teaches this about Hell and why one might go to Hell:
“The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1035
--Jesus, “Gehenna” = eternal fire--
--Eternal separation from God = spiritual death--
--Heaven, full union with God = eternal LIFE--
“He is not God of the dead but of the living…” - Mark 12:27a
We read on in the Catechism…
“God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a wilful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want ‘any to perish, but all to come to repentance’” - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1037
Adam and Even turned away wilfully, thus they were no longer in union with God. So Adam and Even kind of muck it up for us but the news gets better…
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
A friend of mine told me about an Evangelical friend of his - I’m not sure how the topic came up - who claimed, “I’ve been saved; I don’t need to repent!” This flabbergasted me. I could not believe that any Christian could claim that they did not need to repent.
I wanted to know more. Not knowing which particular church this friend frequents, I decided to do some investigating. I rocketed out a few emails to Evangelical churches in my area – hoping to start a dialogue - and I asked them once very simple question: “How are we saved?” Only one church got back to me. The following is how our exchange went (I’ve omitted certain details at the request of the individual to whom I spoke with; I have his permission to publish this on the condition that those details are not revealed and that he be referred to under a pseudonym; we’ll call him “Martin”):
Me: Martin, thank you very much for getting back to me. Would you mind answering for me how we are saved, and more specifically, if you could explain the concept of “eternal security” to me or “Once saved, always saved” as it is otherwise referred to.
Martin: I’d be happy to do that, Stephen. First of all, and I’m sure Catholics would agree with this, we are saved by Christ. Just have a read of John 3:16; if you believe in Christ, if you believe that He is God, if you believe that He was sent to us to save us from our sins then you will be united with God in Heaven. At --church name omitted-- we uphold the tradition of Eternal Security or “Once saved, always saved” as you put it. We believe that once a person gives their life to Jesus, begins a personal relationship with him, and they claim that Christ is Lord, then nothing – no force on earth – can separate them from God. You can find this in scripture too; it says in Romans (8:35-39):
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Basically, once you give yourself to Christ, you’re His forever and by the promise made in John 3:16 you will meet Him in Heaven.
Me: Amen to all that, Martin, and you’ll find that Catholics will agree with most with what you’ve said there - especially where being saved by Christ is concerned - but there is something you said I wanted to question you further on. Regarding Eternal Security, Amen that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ; we know that God is all loving, merciful, and forgiving, but what if someone was to be “saved” one day, but sin Mortally the next day? Romans 8:35-39 doesn’t mention murder, sexual immorality, adultery, breaking any of the 10 Commandments, etc. What if someone who was “saved” one day was to sin in one of these ways after being “saved”? Are they still saved?
Martin: We believe and maintain that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ, as it is written.
Me: Again, Amen to that, Martin. God loves us no matter what, but what if we reject His love willingly by sinning? Consider this:
“If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” - 1 John 5:16-17
The author of 1st John points out quite clearly a distinction between types of sin, i.e. sin that is deadly, and sin that is not deadly. The Catholic Church further identifies this distinction as Mortal Sin (the sin that is “deadly”) and Venial Sin (sin that is not deadly). Now you and I both know that in Christ, in God there is life, but the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We believe that a person unrepentant of their Mortal Sin will not be joined with God in Heaven. So I ask you this question: if a person that is “saved” sins Mortally, are they still saved?
Martin: We don’t believe in a distinction between sins; sin is sin, and by the blood of Christ we are saved from them all.
Me: Amen to that, Martin, but you haven’t answered my question: if a person that is “saved” sins Mortally, for example if they murder someone after being saved, are they still saved?
Martin: Well, Stephen, if there’s a person that’s been saved that commits murder after giving themselves to Christ, then perhaps they weren’t being genuine about giving themselves to Christ to begin with.
Me: So they weren’t really “saved”?
Martin: It would appear so, yes.
Me: Are you suggesting that Christ couldn’t “save” that person?
Martin: No, that’s not what I’m suggesting. What I’m suggesting is that that person internally had no intention of giving themselves to Christ that day and because of this they went on in their sinful ways.
Me: Interesting. Martin, are you familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son? Was the son not already in the “Father’s House” (which represents full union with God/salvation) before he left?
Martin: Of course.
Me: Okay, based on your own understanding of that parable, are you able to tell me how the son found himself out of the Father’s house?
Martin: Of course, Stephen. In summary, the son basically told his father, “You’re dead to me” and took his share of the inheritance and willingly left his Father’s House.
Me: In your opinion, was the son saved?
Martin: He was in the Father’s House; he was saved.
Me: But he left the Father’s House, and according to your logic - based on what we’ve already discussed - because he willingly left the Father’s House, he was never “saved” to begin with. How is this possible if he is in the Father’s House - with the Father - to begin with?
Martin: Stephen, it’s a parable, a made up story to teach the follower’s of Christ a lesson. It’s not meant to reveal the answers to the theological questions we have today.
Me: Wow, Martin, wow! Did you just suggest that Christ’s… Christ, the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), His teachings do not reveal any theological truths today?
Blogger’s note: that was the last message I left with “Martin”; I haven’t heard from him in three weeks. Suffice to say I’m disappointed that the exchange has seemingly come to an end as I would have loved to have learned more about Eternal Security (“Once saved, always saved”) from “Martin”.
What I find strange is how “Bible believing” Christians - not just from Evangelical churches - claim that Eternal Security is biblical yet at the same time they ignore passages in the Bible that very clearly contradict it! Since I did not get a chance to do a full and proper exegesis of the Parable of the Prodigal Son with “Martin”, I’m going to do a very quick on here. Here’s how we can break it down:
- the father in the parable represents God
- the father's house/home represents heaven/salvation/full union with God
- the son could be anyone one of us, but one that has sinned and turned away from God
The son starts out in his father's house - he is already “saved” - but he turns his back on his father and he makes a conscious decision in doing so. An Evangelical Christian might argue that if a person has lost their salvation then they weren't really saved to begin with (as demonstrated in the dialogue above). If you're in the father's house, YOU'RE IN THE FATHER'S HOUSE! Nothing can take you away, but that does not necessarily mean that you can't go on ahead and walk out if you so choose to (yes, it all boils down to free will). If we were "assured" of our salvation, then the father in the parable would have stopped his son from leaving his house even after his son had implied, "You are dead to me" and sinned against him (Luke 15:21).
By leaving his father, the son has to make a conscious decision to abandon his father and his house/home, something that would require a monumental amount of pride to accomplish, and by doing so the son as well says, "I don't need you". Choice can go either of two ways: You choose to either in communion with God, or you choose to abandon Him. In the same way, you can choose to come to God through His son, Jesus Christ, and be saved (John 3:16-17) but if you sin (mortally; 1 John 5:17) you can destroy that communion with God. The son in the parable chose to destroy the communion he had with his father and destroy the relationship. Did this mean his father stopped loving him? No, not at all, and this did not mean that the father did not want his son to be with him in his house. We have to remember that only those who persevere until the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13) and that we cannot love God if we have sinned against Him; the son could not love his father because he was dead to him. The son is welcomed back into his father's house only after he has humbled himself and repented for his wrongdoings; his father forgives him and celebrates his return to life (Luke 15:32).
So let’s take a look at just a handful of scripture passages that tell us that we need to repent in order to be saved… or, at the very least, tell us that we’re not “once saved, always saved” (bolded for emphasis) and that we must endure until the very end:
"'Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 7:21
"Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off." - Romans 11:22
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;" - Philippians 2:12
"For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries." - Hebrews 10:26-27
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” - Acts 2:38
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” - Hebrews 12:1
“… and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” - Matthew 10:22
“Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” - Hebrews 12:14
“Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.” - James 1:12
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” - 1 John 1:6-10
“If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” - John 15:6-10
“I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” - Revelation 3:11
“My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” - James 5:19-20
“Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward.” - 2 John 1:8
“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die.” - Ezekiel 18:24
I’ve only scraped the surface there, but let’s finish off by saying this: Even if you’re “saved” tomorrow, if you commit a Mortal Sin after that, you must repent again and seek forgiveness, time and time again! Catholics should know and understand that this is precisely why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation; we have a physical place where we can go, confess our sins, and reconcile ourselves with God and the Church again, and again if necessary. Why? Because the Church recognises that we have an inclination to sin (concupiscence). Repentance is a voluntary act of the will - led by grace - as living a life in cooperation with God’s grace to grow in holiness is. Both require humility, to devoid ourselves of the sin of pride and place our trust in the transformative power of Christ.
"Eternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy." - St. Justin Martyr (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:26 [A.D. 156]).
… and why? We do not repent and seek forgiveness because we don’t want to go to Hell, no. There is no love in doing (or not doing) because we fear the consequences, but rather we do (or not do) out of love. We admit fault and say sorry because we love God, and as doing harm to someone that we love may destroy the relationship with them, so too does Mortal Sin - rejecting the love God has for us - by our own fault destroys the relationship we have with God. That does not mean though that God stops loving us, but as the sacred scriptures and the Church teaches, to love God is to do His will and to grow in holiness (Matthew 5:48).
“We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbour or against ourselves: ‘He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’ Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’". - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1033