Thursday, July 30, 2009

OSAS 4: Reattaching the Branch

In discussions over this subject, it has been pointed out to me that some of the verses I have cited “prove too much.” To them, if these verses mean that a Christian can lose his salvation they also suggest that once salvation is lost it cannot be regained. Let's look at one example:
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. [John 15:6]
If we read this a certain way, it sounds like the branches are cast into the fire as soon as they are cut off. Jesus does not say that the branch gets a chance to reattach.

But let's look at the sequence of events: The branch was cut off and thrown away, it withered, it was gathered up, and finally it was thrown into the fire. This does leave at least one step in between the cutting off and the casting into flames. There is a period where it lies on the ground withering.

Now, what if the branch was picked up before it finished drying out, and was nourished and reattached to the vine? Do the scriptures support such a possibility?
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

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. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! [Romans 11:17-24]
I bring this up because it uses a similar analogy of branches, but in this case it shows that branches can be removed and reattached. The problem is, however, that this verse is being applied to groups of people (Jews and Gentiles), thus it might not necessarily apply to individuals (e.g. if faith disappeared among Gentiles, the Jews would once again be grafted in). However, in my reading he is actually applying it to both. Yes, the Jews lost their place, but this happened “because of unbelief.” This is an individual level lack of faith. The Jews certainly did not reject Christ “as a people,” for the majority of early converts were Jews, including the writer of this verse.

Still, I will move on to an example that does not have the additional complexity of speaking about whole groups of people.
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. [James 5:19-20]
First, notice that James is speaking to his “brothers,” meaning fellow Christians. Second, notice that they “wander from the truth.” What would it mean for a “brother” to “wander from the truth?” It means that he was a saved person, abiding in Christ, but he abandoned the faith. But then it goes on to say that someone could “bring him back” and “save him from death.”

Thus, the scriptures do support the idea that one can be saved, but then lose his salvation, and finally be brought back to salvation. A removed branch can be reattached.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Flesh and Bones

The Church is the body of Christ.

Occasionally the people of the Church cause her wounds, but her bones are strong, and Christ will always heal her flesh. Let us, for the moment, envision this body as representing two things: Her flesh is her love and compassion, her softness. Her skeleton is the Truth, composed of her infallible teachings, the deposit of the faith, the Scriptures and Tradition.

Now, what happens when a church breaks off from The Catholic Church? It becomes more prone to decay. When it is injured, it is more likely to get an infection, and Christ is less able to heal it, since it is not as fully connected to him.

Thus, Protestant churches, as time passes will often get infections or tumors, and the only response is to excise the damaged tissue. This provides a kind of restoration, but at the same time it leaves scars and sometimes disfigurement.

Let us now look at some of the extreme examples of this disfigurement:

There is a minister named Fred Phelps whose congregation is often seen carrying signs that read, "God hates Gays." This is what happens when an injured body strips the flesh from its bones. We are left with a broken and gruesome skeleton. It keeps fragments of truth (not that God hates gays, but that god disapproves of sin), but it can no longer reach out and touch with healing hands. It only has vicious bony claws.

At the other extreme we find those in the liberal Episcopalian hierarchy. They have abandoned their bones, seeing them as too hard (or intolerant). They have become like a jellyfish stranded on the seashore, a blob of flesh that knows only how to be soft and has lost its real purpose. It takes bones to walk, and bones to reach out your hand to make a difference.

As another illustration, I would like you to imagine a police officer. He is a strong and confident man, trained to enforce the law. He has his uniform, his badge, his gun, and all his other equipment. This is the way a police officer is supposed to be.

Now, a Pastor in one of the conservative Protestant denominations is like this police officer, but without his uniform and his badge, and missing much of his equipment. He is still willing and able to fight crime, but he is seriously hindered.

The liberal Protestant ministers, like the aforementioned Episcopalians, are in a different position. Such a minister may have the uniform and carry much of the equipment, thus appearing from a distance to be a fully equipped officer. But, when you get closer, you see that it is not a police officer in the uniform, it is a great dane.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Modesty and Madness

Well, I'm still not planning to write much, but I'll point out a couple of interesting articles.

This first one is a great piece on modesty at Mass:

And this second one is about homeschooling parents who are doing a great job of educating their children, but still have the German goverment threatening to take away their kids due to anti-homeschooling laws put in place by the Third Reich in 1938:

German Government... Threatens to Seize Custody of Son from Homeschooling Family

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Been a While

Well, it's been a while since I've posted, and I don't have much to say at the moment either.

But I will explain a bit: I have been working on a project that's been taking up the energy I devote to writing stuff related to Catholicism. In short, I'm trying to develop a ministry or a set of programs which will address certain elements which are often neglected in modern Catholic parishes, primarily community and evangelization.

Lately, one of my favorite Catholic websites has been Fr. Barron's, so check that out if your looking for some good reading or videos.