Thursday, December 30, 2010

Follow Up: Catholic Weddings, Marriages, and Canon Law...

Follow up question from my friend over at the Catholic forum and my response. It was a very good follow up question!

Question: I'm still unsure about one thing. Say a non practising Catholic couple are married by a non Catholic celebrant and they die without ever having intended on getting their marriage convalidated, would this have any effect on where their soul ends up?

Answer: To my knowledge a Catholic couple (practising or not) being in an invalid/non-sacramental marriage would equate to committing adultery and thus being in mortal sin which would mean Hell if they both died with mortal sin on their souls (i.e. unforgiven and unrepented), but there's an important caveat to highlight. The precise nature of the sin will depend on what their will was at the time of the marriage, when they realised it was invalid, and whether they are having sex, etc., but the matter involved in this area is grave and thus, if done knowingly and deliberately, it will constitute mortal sin. 

[Blogger's note: emphasis added; I forwarded a paraphrased version of the original question to Jimmy Akin; the highlighted portion is his response]

The caveat: Vincible versus Invincible Ignorance

If a Catholic couple was genuinely ignorant of the fact or unaware that they had to be married by the Church in order for their marriage to be valid and sacramental, then they may not be culpable (responsible) for the resulting sin.

"Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors." - CCC, 1735

"Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin." - CCC, 1859

"Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest." - CCC, 1860

So if the couple is genuinely (i.e. invincibly) ignorant, then they may not suffer the fate that which mortal sin presents, but if the couple indeed knows that being married invalidly would result in mortal sin and gets married invalidly in a manner of "rebellion" so to speak, then they will have willingly committed mortal sin and for that to diminish they would need that sin forgiven by the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for their marriage to be convalidated.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Catholic Weddings, Marriages, and Canon Law...

The following is a discussion I had with a friend over at the Catholic forum based on a question regarding a relation's upcoming wedding.

Question 1: Are there priests who marry couples outside of a church and would the marriage be valid in the eyes of the Church?

Answer 1: Some diocese may have a specific policy when it comes to such weddings so it would be very worthwhile for your brother and for your sister-in-law to first make contact with their pastor and then the bishop of the archdiocese to inquire about this. If your sister-in-law is told that she would not be permitted to have a garden or beach wedding ceremony (and I think it's likely that she will be told this, but if the answer is "yes" then a dispensation from the bishop would be required), I would encourage your sister-in-law to look into a church she'd be happy to get married in and that she finds aesthetically pleasing.

Concerning why Catholic beach/garden wedding ceremonies are discouraged, here's how Fr. Vincent Serpa, the chaplain for Catholic Answers, addresses the question:

I find it a sign of the times that we so often get this question and others like it. Why can’t we be married at the beach or in our family home?
No one ever asks if an ordination to the priesthood or the final profession of a religious sister or brother can take place in a garden. These vocations are automatically associated with the worship of God and it is understood that a church is a building specifically designed for and designated as a place for worship, i.e., acknowledging God to be who He is. It is unlike any other place.
Unfortunately, weddings make a lot of money for a lot of people. So our culture demands a whole array of unnecessary attachments to this most significant and sacred of events--to the point that they take over. There is a television series—not an individual program, but a series--that is just about the wedding dress. Week after week young women are encouraged to obsess over a dress they will wear only once—hopefully. Recently I noticed in the TV listings a program about Disney dream weddings. The further weddings become whimsical fantasies, the less likely the bride is to be grounded in what the wedding and marriage are really all about.
Like the ordination to the priesthood and the profession of the vows of religious life, marriage is all about GOD! The bride and the groom are all about God, because everyone who has ever lived is all about God. We are His idea. He created us for Himself. Union with God is the goal of every Christian vocation, including marriage. In fact, Pope John Paul II called marriage the primordial vocation because it peoples all other vocations. Our blessed Lord likened the relationship He has with His Church to the relationship of husband and wife.
The further away the wedding wanders from its sublime God-centered context, the more obscure its significance becomes in society. Certainly, Mass can be celebrated anywhere. But it is most appropriately celebrated in church and for the most part, it is. The Church, in the light of a secular world that relegates religion to the sidelines, very wisely insists that Catholic weddings take place in church. It is sadly another sign of the times that so many priests, religious and laity of my generation haven’t a clue to all this.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
Canon 1118 of the Code of Canon Law (1983) is otherwise quite clear on the matter:
Can. 1118 §1. A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church. It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.
§2. The local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
§3. A marriage between a Catholic party and a non-baptized party can be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.
Question 2: I have a friend that found a priest that married her and her husband outside of a church and apparently it was legit (valid), but they had to pay $2000.00. Have you heard of that happening before?

Answer 2: Let me just start off by saying that the marriage would not be invalid due to the ceremony taking place outside the physical bounds of a church, but typically what you'd find is that the practice (i.e. a Catholic beach or garden wedding ceremony) would be discouraged.

Concerning the $2000.00 figure, in my opinion that's ridiculous; completely and utterly ridiculous! It's normal for a couple to pay a stipend to the priest and or parish, but $2000.00 for a wedding that didn't even take place within a church? Allow me to put this in perspective for you: a few weekends ago I attended my cousin's wedding in Melbourne; the wedding took place at St. Mary Star of the Sea Cathedral in West Melbourne. My cousin and his wife paid $3000.00 (which I believe was still way too much) for use of the church and for the priest's services that day. Unfortunately there may be some priests who abuse the stipend thing and run it more like a personal business for themselves, and it sounds like this is what has happened with your friend, i.e. she was ripped off. It almost sounds as though the priest was "penalising" them for having the ceremony outside of a church.

Having said that there is no flat fee or rate for stipends, but is expected to be a generous donation to the church and or priest as a "thanks" and always within the means of the couple or whoever is paying the wedding expenses. My wife and I paid a stipend of $200.00 total for use of the church and for our delegated priest's services; this is all our parish asked of us and our priest thought this was more than generous.

Question 3: Can a couple go ahead with an outdoor wedding without the permission of the priest marrying them? 

Answer 3: A couple should always inquire about it first; the priest marrying them should be their first port of call. They can then go to the bishop if necessary.

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." - Romans 13:1-2

Question 4: If a Catholic couple get married by a celebrant, how does the Catholic Church view the marriage? Is it legit, sinful etc?

Answer 4: By celebrant I'm assuming you mean a non-Catholic/non-ordained celebrant like a judge or Justice of the Peace.

All Catholics are required to be married by the local Ordinary or priest, or delegated priest, deacon or orindary in order for the marriage to be valid in the eyes of the Church:
Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. ⇒ 144, ⇒ 1112, §1, ⇒ 1116, and ⇒ 1127, §§1-2.
Question 5: If a Catholic couple gets married by a celebrant, are they able to Baptise their kids in a Catholic Church?

Answer 5: All Catholics have a moral obligation to raise their children in the faith and thus all Catholic parents should be able to have their children baptised. If the priest, however, believes that the parents are either unable or unwilling to raise the child in the Catholic faith (e.g. if the parents do not practice their faith, if they only want to have the child baptised to get into Catholic private schools, for example), he can defer baptism until a more appropriate time when the two of you are better prepared to meet the religious requirements of baptism. If this priest does choose to defer baptism, he'll let you know and you can then ask him what you and your husband need to do to demonstrate your ability and willingness to raise your child Catholic.
Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:
1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;
2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.
Question 6: When we say "valid in the eyes of the Church", what exactly does that mean?

Answer 6: Validity pertains to the [marriage] bond itself: that there is nothing impeding the marriage (e.g. age, consent, previous marriage, etc.) and it has received the Church's "blessing", so to speak.

Question 7: What's the difference between having the Catholic Church's blessing and not having it?

Answer 7: Having a marriage blessed and receiving the Church's "blessing" are two different things. The latter is an informal way of saying that the marriage is valid (and may take place within the Church to begin with given there are no impediments to it) as discussed/mentioned earlier. Having a marriage blessed (the correct term for this is "convalidation"), on the other hand, essentially makes a marriage Catholic and thus valid and sacramental. This would need to take place, for example, if two Catholics did not get married within the Catholic Church, i.e. married by judge or Justice of the Peace.

Question 8: So a couple can get married where ever they want, by whom ever they want, and just get a "convalidation" to make it Catholic?

Answer 8: A Catholic couple should get married in church and by the local Ordinary and priest (or a delegated priest, deacon or ordinary), but let's just say that a Catholic couple many, many moons ago decided it would be a great idea to elope and get married by a judge or a Justice of the Peace (i.e. or another type of non-ordained/non-Catholic celebrant) and many years later realise that their marriage is not valid (in the eyes of the Church) and sacramental. Having their marriage convalidated makes it a "Catholic marriage" (i.e. valid and sacramental) as opposed to merely a civil union/legally recognised marriage.

Obviously couples with no Catholic or other Christian background/upbringing are not obligated to get married in a church or have it recognised by an ecclesial authority.

Bible version cited: RSV

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I hope you have found this helpful; please do note hesitate to contact me via email if you have any questions about this blog entry.

God bless!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Luke 1:28, how to explain the Immaculate Conception and the Ark of the New Covenant

In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke we read of the archangel Gabriel coming to Mary who is in Nazareth (a city in Galilee) and declares to Mary that she will bear the son of God and call him "Jesus". The archangel greets Mary by saying, "Hail, full of grace" (Luke 1:28; "Hail, O favoured one" in other translations). The term "full of grace" ("gratia plena" in Latin) for Mary comes from the original Greek manuscript of the Gospel of Luke (who was a Greek himself). The word used by the archangel Gabriel (i.e. the word St. Luke uses for it) for the Blessed Virgin Mary was "kecharitomene" which translates to "having been graced" or "having been favoured". The archangel Gabriel is speaking in what's known as the "perfect passive participle", meaning Gabriel is talking about a quality that is and was always present, namely freedom from original sin.

How can this be explained in layman's terms? Mary's preservation from original sin is like this: if you fall into a pit and I pull you out from it, I've saved you. In the same way, if you're walking along and I prevent you from falling in the pit (either by warning you about it or physically stopping you before you get there) I have also saved you this way. In the latter instance, I have "preserved" you from the fall, ergo Mary has been "preserved" from original sin.

Mary's Immaculate Conception is not of her own doing (Catholics do not deify Mary) nor is it the doing of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. Preservation from original sin is the gift given to Mary by God. Was it necessary that Mary be free from original sin in order to be the mother of the human person of God (Jesus Christ)? No, but it was fitting that she be preserved from it. Just as the Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament (Exodus 25:10-22) was crafted according to detailed and specific instructions given by God, so too was Mary created with a purpose: with Christ, giver of the New Covenant, in mind. This is why we call Mary the "Ark of the New Covenant". To emphasise what this means, have a look at the following table and I will finish things with this to allow you to ponder these things within your own heart:

Further reading:

God bless you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Question Concerning Sexuality: How Far is "Too Far"?

A friend of mine (let's call him "Brody" for the sake of anonymousness) that I know through The Catholic Forum sent me this question last week concerning Catholic sexuality and with it my answer. "Brody" has given me permission to publish his question to me; I hope you find the answer I provided helpful for yourself.

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Brody: I didn't want to post this question on or on your wall because it is a bit awkward, and you are the smartest person I know in Church teaching.

I was having a discussion at work with the guys on shift (they seem to always ask me religious questions) and they began to ask me about sexuality, and I wanted to ask just to clarify my own answers to their questions and also so I know too.

Where is 'the line' for sexual behaviour between a couple? Is passionate kissing allowed? I told them that having sex is a mortal sin. Is that correct? Do the rules apply differently for engaged couples.

Also, I understand and believe that contraception is a mortal sin, but how is a married couple to have sex if they don't want kids? Is the man to just withdraw every time and stop?

I'm sorry for the akward questions.
Thank you brother Hospitaller, PAX

Me: Sex outside of marriage is a mortal sin, that is correct. It is in violation of the Sixth Commandment: "You shall not commit adultery". All of this is actually covered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church from paragraph 2331 to 2400 (

As far as "the line" between a couple in a committed relationship (dating, I'm assuming) is concerned, there'd certainly be nothing wrong with a exchanging a kiss with your significant other as a display of affection, but the advice I always give to my male students when they ask about where "the line" is, is this: always make sure you're thinking with the "right head" because if you're not careful you may become consumed by your lust. Be prudent and exercise chastity: uphold the dignity of yourself as an individual and that of your significant other.

Men should always see women as daughters of God. It becomes very difficult for your lust to consume you if you keep this thought in mind, so do nothing to a woman that God would not want you to do with his daughters.

Concerning engaged couples: yes, even they must remain chaste. For even for them it is a mortal sin to engage in sexual intercourse before marriage:

"Those who are engaged to marry are called to live chastity in continence. They should see in this time of testing a discovery of mutual respect, an apprenticeship in fidelity, and the hope of receiving one another from God. They should reserve for marriage the expressions of affection that belong to married love. They will help each other grow in chastity." - CCC, par. 2350

Concerning not wanting kids: This is covered in paragraphs 2366 to 2372 of the Catechism, but this paragraph in particular hits the bullseye with your question:

"Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil" - CCC, par. 2370

Onanism, the sin of "seed spilling", is so called because Onan who had a moral obligation to bear children with his dead brother's widow, was struck down by God because he refused to bear offspring for his brother; he "withdrew" (Genesis 38:6-10). Onan acted selfishly; he contracepted. Further reading here:

What paragraph 2370 of the Catechism means when it refers to "methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods" is Natural Family Planning (or the Rhythm Method. More information on NFP here: (some good answers to other questions there too).

My wife and I have been using a combination of NFP methodology and abstinence in our own marriage, and while it is challenging at times we're sure to communicate any feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction between us in order to come to some sort of compromise. Personally I have found that I have been able to grow more in love with my wife over the years because of this; the type of love we call "agape".

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If you want some great reading about the Church's teachings on sex and sexuality, then I highly recommend reading Jason Evert's material over at and by visiting his website over at

Have you got a question that you want answered? Feel free to shoot me an email here. I look forward to your correspondence.

God bless!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Spirit Magnus... on Twitter!

I don't know why I haven't mentioned this already, but I'm on Twitter. My tweets aren't anything fancy, just a few thoughts and musings in 140 characters or less. You can send me a tweet at @TheSpiritMagnus if you're on Twitter yourself. 

Tweet you later and feel free to add me to your 'Follow' list.

God bless.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal/Movement: My Thoughts and Reflections

Before I begin my commentary I would like to make it very clear that I have nothing against Catholic charismatic movements or communities and certainly don't want to smear a particular community's reputation by sharing my thoughts about the charismatic movement itself, but having said that, now being on the outside looking in, there are a few things that I would like to say that some may not see as being favourable. I only say what I'm about to say in this entry because of my own heartfelt desire to live an orthodox Catholicity, faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me as it is conferred to me through the Sacraments of Church. If I make a comment about a particular unnamed charismatic group, please be aware that what ever my thoughts on this are they are not indicative of all charismatic groups and I fully acknowledge the good work they do and the gifts they offer to Catholic Christians wishing to deepen their relationship with almighty God.

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If the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is something you're unfamiliar with, then I suggest you do some background reading first (here's a little something for that: and

So I'd like to begin with my own experiences first. I spent a great deal of my life in a charismatic Catholic community (which shall remain nameless), and now that I stand from the outside looking in, I realise although they were a Catholic community much of what they did and said was very, very Protestant. For example, if you weren't or could not pray in tongues, then you apparently did not have the Holy Spirit in you at all and that you needed to be baptised in the Holy Spirit (baptism of fire/spirit) to receive the spiritual gifts. When I told them I received the Holy Spirit at my Confirmation, they insisted, which effectively treated my Confirmation and the Holy Spirit that is conferred to me through the Sacraments as superfluous. They also insisted on mandatory tithing (the first 10% of your income) which is something Christians are not bound to due to it pertaining to Mosaic law. Christians should certainly give alms and give to their local parish, but not a prescribed amount.

Some comments about some charismatic "trademarks":

"Vibrant Masses" (Charismatic Masses) - All I see them as now is as a highlight reel of liturgical abuses.

"Prophecy" (Prophetic Word) - Private interpretations of scripture where it was being - in a sense -"horoscoped" and welcomed as a form of public revelation.

"Healing" (Healing Ministry) - I've had personal experiences of being healed physically; this, by my own admission, is what kept me from leaving this particular community I was in any earlier.

"Speaking in Tongues" (The Gift of Tongues) - All I hear now is babble and there were some that made attempts to interpret this "tongue wagging" as prophetic word.

As I said in the prelude to the formal part of this blog entry, I'm certain this is not indicative of all charismatic Catholic communities and I am aware that there are other charismatic communities that devote their energies more to charismatic praise and worship (which I personally haven't got a problem with). In other words, they avoid emulating Protestant-Pentecostal models of praise and worship; the focal point is always on the Mass (i.e. on Jesus Christ, the bread of life which came down from Heaven) and faithfulness to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church..

But let's get a bit more specific. I'm going to cite a few paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in lieu of a couple of the things I've spoken about above. The rest I'm going to leave up to you. I've shared with you my own personal thoughts and feelings on the charismatic movement, but I don't want my personal experiences to be that influences your own position or thoughts of the charismatic movement. The following is merely food for thought.

First, in response to "prophecy" (Prophetic Word):
"The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.
Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 66-67 
In response to charismatic Masses:
The harmony of signs (song, music, words, and actions) is all the more expressive and fruitful when expressed in the cultural richness of the People of God who celebrate. Hence "religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services," in conformity with the Church's norms, "the voices of the faithful may be heard." But "the texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine. Indeed they should be drawn chiefly from the Sacred Scripture and from liturgical sources."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1158 
In response to "healings" and the "gift of tongues" (i.e. charisms):
Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.
Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.
It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds. "Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good," so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together "for the common good."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 799-801 
And further to that, one of the key documents to be promulgated by Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Pope Paul VI said this:
These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.
Lumen Gentium, par. 12
In summary, all Catholics should exercise careful judgement and discernment when involving themselves in charismatic movements. Scripture tells us:
"Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil." - 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
I hope you have found this insightful.

Thank you again for reading and God bless you. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Concept Flaw: The Calvinist "Reprobate"

Catholics have a different understanding of what "predestination" means. All people are created with the capacity and intention to love and do good and to, ultimately, relate with God. That is to, through His Son, Jesus Christ, become a friend of God and seek Him to one day live in heavenly glory. Calvinists believe that God has predestined those (i.e. predetermined) who will be with Him in Heaven and who will go to Hell. The reprobate is the latter of these predestined: one that has no hope of salvation.

"Reprobation, in Christian theology, is a corollary to the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election which derives that some of mankind (the elect) are predestined by God for salvation. Therefore, the remainder are left to their fallen nature and eventually to eternal damnation." (

What Calvinists also believe in that it is Christ/God alone that enables a man (sic.) to come to faith and be saved and there's nothing they can do to resist this grace (i.e. "irresistible grace"). Again, these are men (sic.) that have been predestined to come to faith and accept his God's grace in the first place, unlike the reprobate who, like mentioned earlier, has no hope of salvation also due to this predestination.

So here's the problem with the Calvinist concept of the reprobate: theoretically it's impossible for them to exist.

The Calvinist concept of the reprobate actually makes it impossible for any sinner to come to faith and be saved, which in key is the problem with the Calvinist understanding of predestination.

The reason why, however, the reprobate cannot even theoretically exist is because of free will. Much in the same way "irresistible grace" (that men, once they come to faith, cannot reject this grace) cannot exist. Even those who have been "saved" have sinned (mortally) and by doing so have rejected God's grace; they are no longer "saved" (unless of course they repent and seek to restore their relationship with God through and penitent act, e.g. the Sacrament of Reconciliation). There have also been those that were sinners that have come to faith through Christ and have been forgiven of their sins.

The reprobate is, according to Calvinist understanding, to do anything beyond the realm of sin due to their "fallen nature". But here's the thing: if all men have sinned (Romans 3:23) and if those who claim to be without sin live in deceit (1 John 1:8-10), then how does anybody at all come to faith?!? We already know that the notion of God predestining people to go to Him and the rest to damnation is completely and utterly ridiculous - in other words God creating people intentionally for Heaven/Hell - and not to mention not at all in the character of God: we're created in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) and that means if some are depraved beings (i.e. reprobates), then God himself had to infuse that depraved nature within us which would have to have been part of His own nature (i.e. His "image" and "likeness"). We know this is also impossible because God, our heavenly Father, is perfect:

"You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:48 (RSV)

And since we've touched on Genesis let's talk a bit about The Fall...

Man (Adam and Eve) created in the image and likeness of God, living in paradise (Eden), were perfect, that is they were free from sin and did not sin... until... ol' Lucifer comes along, takes advantage of Adam and Eve's naivety, makes them think that God is oppressing them and thus convinces them to disobey God's instruction to them knowing full well what would happen to them if they did (Genesis 3:3). Now if God created us in His "image and likeness" then it's impossible for him to make beings with a fallen nature, i.e. it's impossible for Him to create reprobates. What corrupted us was sin; what destroyed our friendship with God was sin; willing disobedience of God's instruction.
Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. - CCC, par. 1850
 Every man (sic.) inherits the sin of Adam and Eve: Original Sin; but this is not to say that we are no longer created in the "image and likeness" of God who is perfect. The stain of Original Sin is overcome by baptism; baptism is the outward sign of our relationship with God, as children of God the Father.
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word." - CCC, par. 1213
 So here's another problem with the reprobate: if there are those destined for damnation, why is it that all ma be baptised and have Original Sin remitted, and according to scripture be saved?

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..." - 1 Peter 3:21

Looking at it from a purely practical perspective and based on that verse of scripture alone: how can one that has been baptised and still be a reprobate, i.e. still have nothing more to hope for than the pits of Hell? If even the baptised have no hope of salvation, then this makes St. Peter a liar, scripture itself errant, and Christ's work on the cross completely and utterly pointless!

Of course we know that we must remain in God's friendship through Christ in order to be saved (Matthew 24:13; Romans 11:22; 2 Timothy 2:11-13), and that all may come to faith through Jesus Christ, but we must be perfect (i.e. to act and continue to grow in holiness) just as our Heavenly Father is (Matthew 5:48).

Even if a person is not baptised and not made one of the people of God, it's possible even for them to be reprobates and even they may be saved:

"Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men." - CCC, par. 848
Please note the bolded part: the Church still exhorts all Christians to evangelise and bring more to Christ. Paragraph 848 does not mean we can sit back and leave the rest up to God; it is better that all come to the Church, but I digress slightly...
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. - CCC, par. 847
We're talking about the invincibly ignorant here. These people, obviously, differ to those who are aware of the Gospel message and its salvific power, but knowingly and willingly reject this truth. The individual that rejects this truth and makes erroneous judgements brings condemnation upon themself (CCC, par. 1790), and if the parables in Luke 15 are anything to go by, this is applicable to those who already know the truth and walk in holiness but later reject it and those who are "lost" from the very start (salvation is there for them too).

Then there's the matter of the nature of salvation itself: offered to all...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

It's true that while all may not choose to believe in Christ in order to merit salvation, the fact that God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) is another nail in the Calvinist reprobate coffin: it means that absolutely nobody is beyond the hope of salvation and that all may be saved.

The reprobate cannot exist because even grace is extended to them. No, not all accept this grace (as mentioned above), but it is still offered to them, and consider this: if God makes it possible for all men to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then why did He make those - a certain elect - that are destined for damnation and have no hope of it? And it would seem that the Calvinist reprobate is punished/damned simply for according according to how God made them, i.e. what He destined them for.

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Want more?

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

"And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." - Acts 2:21

"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, 'every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'" - Romans 10:12-13

I'd like to thank you all for your patience over the last couple of weeks; things have been very hectic at work and I've had to put blogging on hold for a little while, but things are starting to settle down a bit and I've been able to complete this particular blog entry which was promised just over a month ago now.

Thank you very much for reading. :-)

God bless. 

Friday, October 08, 2010

Contra-Calvinism: More Scriptural References Refuting "Unconditional Election" and "Limited Atonement"

I thought I'd make a follow-up blog entry to the last, this time with a fistful of verses from the Bible that counter the Calvinist position on "Unconditional Election" and "Limited Atonement".

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." - Romans 5:6

"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." - John 12:47-48

"God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew." - Romans 11:2

"Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again." - Romans 11:22-23

"Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." - Romans 11:30-32

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." - Hebrews 2:9

"Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other." - Isaiah 45:22

"And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved." - Acts 2:21

"For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" - Romans 10:12-13

... And for good measure, here's what we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church about God's tolerance of all acts of free will:

"To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: 'In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.' For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness." - CCC, par. 600

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In my next blog entry I'll be looking at the concept of the "reprobate" and pointing out the issues this idea presents.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 04, 2010

A Problem With Calvinism: "Unconditional Election"

I'm in a discussion with a [now] former Catholic that has embraced Calvinism. While the two of us remain civil and friendly towards each other, I've decided to counsel him. Below is the most recent message I sent to him:

If God predestines souls to Him (i.e. Unconditional Election), then he predestines the rest to damnation. Is this the God you truly believe in? That he would intentionally create souls only for them to be damned?

How does that reconcile with:

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, WHO WANTS ALL MEN TO BE SAVED and to come to a knowledge of the truth." - 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV, emphasis added)

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, but EVERYONE to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV, emphasis added)

"Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'" - Ezekiel 33:11

While it's true that not everyone will be saved, the choice is still ours: the offer has been made to each and every single one of us:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into THE WORLD to condemn the world, but to save THE WORLD through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." - John 3:16-18

Two things:

1.) There are believers (who will be saved);
2.) There are non-believers (who will not be saved)

"Believes" is a verb, a doing word/an action. To believe means to make a choice; to not believe is another choice. Choices are made based on free will, a gift that God has given to each of us freely:

"He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.'" - Acts 16:30-31

"But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 10:33

"Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.' And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile." - 1 Peter 1:13-17

Each of us are made in the image and likeness of God, and if God then predestines souls to Hell in as much He predestines others to be saved, then that is to say that God passes on a fallen nature to these creations. If His creations are reprobates, then are they really made in His image and likeness? Could a perfect creator still be a "perfect creator" if what he creates is imperfect? Wouldn't this creator then be an imperfect creator?

Now, concerning judgement and again on the topic of unconditional election...

What function or purpose does judgement serve at all if God has already predestined souls to Heaven and the rest to damnation? Calvinism seems to make judgement (i.e. the last things) completely redundant here.

Unconditional Election appears to advocate a form of spiritual anarchy: whether you're part of "the elect" or a reprobate, what does it really matter then what you do in life? If you are part of "the elect" then you've got nothing to worry about, and if you're a reprobate then you have EVERYTHING to worry about and there's ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do about it!

You need to ask yourself then this question: are you part of "the elect" and how do you know?

I'll keep you all updated.

God bless.

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You can learn more about some of the other problems with Calvinism by following these links:

Total Depravity of Man -

A Tiptoe Through the TULIP

Monday, September 27, 2010

You Can Lose Your Salvation: An Exegesis of Luke 15

I asked my students in a lesson last week, "Can a Christian lose their salvation?" I took a show of hands and about half said 'yes', about a third were unsure and only one or two said 'no'. So we looked a three parables (Luke 15):

The parable of the lost sheep
The parable of the lost coin (drachma)
The parable of the prodigal son

These three parables have one in common: they all concern something that is "lost" and "found again". If something is lost, it once had to be "found" (i.e. in possession).

All three parables end the same way as well:

"Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." - Luke 15:7

"Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." - Luke 15:10

"'It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'" - Luke 15:32

Jesus placed particular emphasis on the need for repentance (to acknowledge wrongdoings and seek forgiveness for reparation), but what these three parables have in common is this: they all involve lost things. If something is "lost", it was before "found" (i.e. in possession). But it's the wording of the final verse in the Parable of the Prodigal Son that's most poignant:

"... for your brother was dead, and is alive..."

Let's do some quick trivia...

1.) The wages of sin is?

Death (Romans 6:23)! Yes, you guessed it.

2.) God is God of the?

Living (Mark 12:27)! Yes, you're on fire!

Now, some logic play...

If we are unrepentant for sin(s), according to Romans 6:23, what's going to happen to us? Yeah, we're dead, that is we will go where there is no life, and if God is God of the living then those who are not in communion with Him (i.e. heavenly) are dead; a death of the soul not in the sense that the soul is "annihilated" like Jehovah's Witnesses believe, but where souls are "eternally lost" (CCC, par. 1034) and where souls are tormented by the eternal loss of God.

So why will there be so much rejoicing in Heaven when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7, 10)? Because it will be to God and the angels of Heaven as if the person was dead and has come back to life. Think of it this way: have you ever been worried sick about someone and been so relieved at hearing of their safety and good health? We are, as scripture tells us, surrounded by a "great cloud of witness" (Hebrews 12:1) and these are - apart from God - the angels and the saints in Heaven who hope and pray for us to share in the glory that we will experience with almighty God.

Why does the father in the parable of the prodigal son say about his son to the other, "your brother was dead"? At the beginning of the parable, the son goes to the father and asks for his share of the inheritance. Now any good lawyer will tell you that an heir will get their inheritance usually after their parent has died. Essentially, the son is telling the father, "You are dead to me; give me what is mine and I'll be on my way". So the son leaves his father and his father's house and goes off and squanders his inheritance; living as if his father was indeed dead and didn't exist (sounds familiar, doesn't it? Atheists, I'm looking at you!). It's not until the son hits rock-bottom he realises how good he had it and that he should try and make good with his father, not knowing if his father will even take him back let alone accept his apology! The father is waiting for him and when he sees his son he welcomes him with an embrace and of course forgives him, much to the discontent of the older brother.

Let's break the parable down:

- the father is God
- the father's house/home is heaven/salvation
- 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. Now an Evangelical Christian might argue that if a person has lost their salvation then they weren't really saved to begin with... poppycock! 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 choice). 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.

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 neighbor 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 for ever 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

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).

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What have we and what can we learn from Luke 15?

To summarise:

- if something is lost, it had to be found/in possession initially;
- if something is lost, you have to realise it's lost;
- if you are lost, the first most instinctive thing to do is to call out or ask for help;
- there is only life if you are "found";
- it's better to be "found" than "lost";
- being found means being in God's friendship; and
- being lost means being apart from God

Making your way to God through Christ (John 14:6) is one thing, but every Christian must work to keep communion with God. Scripture is very, very clear on this matter:

"'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 (RSV)

"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 (ibid.)

"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 (ibid.)

"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

Stay close to God; stay close to Christ; stay close to the Church.

"[E]ternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy" - St. Justin Martyr (fragment in Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:26 [A.D. 156]).