Thursday, September 13, 2007

The excuse does not excuse

Carrie responds.
Relax - it's just a quote. The link to the full document is there for everyone to read for themselves in context.
Then of course Carrie might have selected a quotation from Redemptoris Missio (RM) like this, if one quotation is just as good as another:
No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit (RM 5).
That quotation is far truer to the spirit of the encyclical as a whole, whose goal is:
The present document has as its goal an interior renewal of faith and Christian life. For missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others! It is in commitment to the Church's universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support (RM 2; emphasis in original).
So when Carrie posts a quotation that the average uninformed Protestant will certainly understand as universalistic, is it really "just a quote"? Hogwash.

Carrie follows with a quotation of CCC 847, the significant portion of which is:
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.
Once again: a quotation ripped from context. Because 848 says:
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 (emphasis added).
Note what it says: God can lead them "to that faith without which it is impossible to please him" in ways known to himself. The means doesn't change: it is still through Christ, as RM affirms, and it requires faith "without which it is impossible to please him."

This is completely non-controversial from the Catholic perspective, since "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments" (CCC 1257).

But of course, to the Protestant, with an erroneous notion of the sacrament of Baptism, that seems wrong (though it isn't). And Carrie is among them, since she says one must have a "direct/personal faith in Christ" in order to be saved. But the problem with that is evident, as we shall see in addressing her question:
Or maybe the easier question is - will all who die without personally accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour go to hell?
Of course not. But neither will they all go to heaven, either. The obvious question remains to be answered by her: Will babies who die go to hell? How about the mentally handicapped who are incapable of understanding the gospel? If she says "No, they won't all go to hell," then she has answered her own question the same way: Not all who die without having made the Protestant expression of faith will go to hell. But if that's the case, then even from the Protestant perspective it would have to be conceded that God is free to use extraordinary means for the salvation of people if he chooses to do so - though of course their salvation would still be accomplished through Christ.

On the other hand, If she says that all these will go to hell - well, that's a pretty frightening picture, and it is certainly not a Catholic one.

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