Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thoughts on Predestination

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day, and he mentioned he had stumbled over the concept of predestination recently. It made me stop to consider my own run-ins with this idea and the extent to which I've worked on it as regards my own spiritual life. Though I don't have it completely philosophically integrated, here's what I've got so far.

I grew up in a Christian home; I was raised in an American Baptist church, kind of on the liberal end of a conservative tradition. For example, my mom had a bottle of wine in the refrigerator, we went to all sorts of movies, no one ever said anything about playing cards – but there was definitely no swearing and no smoking.

Anyway, the first time I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” and asked Jesus into my heart, I was 5 years old. I had an experience of praying to “recommit” my life to Jesus when I was 8; I think it was because I felt really guilty about something (which I can’t remember now) and I thought I was a “backslider”.

The time that I point to as my actual age-of-reason conversion was when I was 12. I had been involved in a “Bible Club” children’s ministry through the family of my best friend in elementary school, where I learned to pray and read the Bible for myself. One afternoon I was sitting on my bed reading I John, and I came across the part in Chapter 4 where it reads: “If anyone says he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (v. 20-21). That hit me between the eyes, because I really did hate my brother – and it showed me for the first time that I wasn’t loving God. I’d tried to be a good girl and not get in trouble and everything, and I thought that was enough to be a Christian. At the same time, there were terrible amounts of resentment and hatred building in my heart against my older brother because of how violent he was with my sister and me. (FYI, my older brother Steve was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 16 and has been managed on medication since then.) Anyway, having been confronted with this spiritual truth by the Holy Spirit Himself through the Scriptures, I realized I needed not just to believe, but to change and be changed – and so, that was my first conscious, engaged beginning as a Christian. I was baptized (like a good Baptist) several months later.

Here’s my first encounter with the concept of predestination: When I was 16, I changed schools and started at Catlin Gabel as a sophomore. I’d only had a few close Christian friends in my life up to that time, but now they were all pretty much gone, and none of my new friends shared my faith at all – in fact, one girl attacked me about it fairly regularly. I looked around at other classmates of mine who were smoking (tobacco and other substances), drinking, and sleeping around – and they appeared to be having fun. The thought occurred to me: Why am I sitting around being “moral”, when I could be having fun? As I started to think more about it, I began to resent the fact that I’d been raised as a Christian – I really didn’t know any other sort of life. In my church and at Bible Club, I’d heard about how you had to make a choice to follow Jesus, but I began to see that I was never really given a choice – about big things like this, things that seemed to matter and shape your life. My mom and dad (who both had demanding careers) were a little disengaged at times in my upbringing, but they were very definite about going to church and the importance of being a certain kind of person. I suppose I bought into that in order to be close to them in the midst of the chaos that Steve’s illness brought into the family dynamics. But I began to think seriously about whether I still wanted to be a Christian – and what I would be if I weren’t a Christian.

I had internalized the Baptist adage “once saved, always saved”, but instead of comforting me, it began to make me angry and a little confused. Of course, as a good Christian, I wasn’t supposed to want things that were bad for me, right? If God was so pleased with me being with Him, why wasn’t I happy and joyful all the time? Did that mean that I really wasn’t one of the “chosen”, that I wouldn’t be happy in heaven? What if there was real happiness in a place other than heaven? And if I was predestined for heaven, “eternally secure” as my Sunday school teacher put it, that means I’ve got my “fire insurance policy” and it doesn’t matter what I do between now and when I die because it’s not about works, it’s about faith, right? Does God really know what I’m going to choose before I choose it? If He does, then what does it matter?

After much serious thought and prayer, the way it came down in my 16-year-old mind was this: God is outside of time. We’re not; we have to live through time. So, God knows what we’re going to do, decide, and choose – but we don’t. (Somehow that thought had more force in my head back then than when I look at it here on the page right now.) The fact that humans can’t know the future means that if God is all-knowing, He is in fact sovereign over us.

And, I realized that I only had this one personal identity, this identity as a Christian, built on knowing Jesus. I realized that if I decided not to be a Christian anymore, I’d have to completely rebuild my self-concept from scratch – I’d have to completely scrap my whole life experience up to that point. Because I had read God’s promises in the Bible – things like “If you keep your mind stayed on Me, you will have perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3) and “If you obey Me, I will bless you” (Job 36:11). I had seen that work in my life. I realized that if I stepped outside of that, there would be no guarantees. If I were to smoke pot or drink or go ‘round with boys, I might be happy – or I might not. With my Christian life, life with God, He was offering me a guarantee – a promise. It dawned on me that if I believed He loved me, then I had to trust Him – even if it meant giving up these other pathways to happiness, that for all I knew really would make me happy (though in hindsight, I can see that such happiness would have only been temporary).

I suppose you could draw a couple of conclusions from this: either that I was just stuck with being a Christian because I didn’t really have the courage to try anything else, or that I couldn’t leave Jesus because I knew deep down that, despite everything, He really loved me. I suppose that both are true in a sense.


I recognize that in principle, there’s still an existential tension between God’s omniscience and the threat it poses to the meaning of human choices. The following analogy resonates the best with me presently on this score:

God is the Author of the book in which we are all characters. From His perspective, it’s as if we were two-dimensional, living only on the page in the mind of God and any readers. As the pages turn, we live our lives and make our choices, and we reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of those choices. We can’t skip ahead in the book and see what’s to come, what certain choices will bring; we can’t turn back and undo things that didn’t turn out as we would have liked. God is the one who in that mysterious Other Dimension creates us in His mind and writes us and our lives on the page, fleshing us out and making us real, fully human, present to ourselves and to others. He can skip ahead or go back, or enter or observe our timeline at whatever point He chooses. He remains in ultimate control as the Creator and Author of human history, but because our character and nature as humans is reflective of His, He allows us the small reflection of His limitless power over the universe which we call free will. As far as we who live “in the book” (i.e. in the space/time continuum) are concerned, though this power over the course of our lives isn’t absolute like God’s, it is quite real, because God made it as part of our human nature.

It’s tempting to cop an attitude about God’s sovereignty and resent the fact that He didn’t give us ultimate power over our own lives, and then do a passive/aggressive thing of refusing to use the power of will that He did give us to order, control, and shape ourselves and our world – we shirk our responsibilities to act/contribute to the world and end up slacking (spiritually speaking), like a petulant, morose, full-of-himself adolescent. I think we make a mistake when we don’t regard free will with the dignity that God gives it. After all, God really allows us to do stuff – to build things, to invent things, to be mini-creators. Our free will, our freedom, is a good thing, given to us so that we can reach our potential as human beings for God’s glory; St. Augustine said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Freedom is not to be pissed away and squandered on things that don’t build up, nor to be pissed on and left to atrophy. It’s part of the image of God in us and should be respected as such. After all, God respects it; He lets us make our choices and succeed, or screw up, or both, without sending angels or thunderbolts or apparitions at every turn to coerce us in what we choose. When those freaky things happen, I don’t believe it’s ever to force our hand, but to encourage us toward the right thing regarding something really important – something that’s really going to matter for someone else.


On a secular level, when God is removed from the picture (or equated with matter/the natural world), this question degenerates into the familiar debates of nature vs. nurture, genetics vs. environment, materialism vs. existentialism. From this perspective, it’s my view that our development as humans is comprised of both our genetic inheritance and what we choose to do with it. We can’t mutate our own genes at will, but neither can we escape living on planet Earth – they both affect us and shape us in different ways. It’s a cooperative, interactive thing, sort of like the way that God calls us to cooperate with His gift of grace, both to accept His love and His choice of us (John 15:16) and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).


Re: spiritual “dimensionality”, try this on – it’s a poem I wrote several years ago.

[On looking at plates from the Book of Kells:]

His hair is drawn at the ends
into an undisentangleable knot,
the strands reaching into the grapevines above His head,
into the borders where we, the Body,
discover ourselves
likewise inextricably woven.

You reach into, down, under
my heart and pull through -
I thread over, between, out
to curl beside you,
happy for companionship on this plane
but yet still aware
of the Light, the Eye,
the unbound dimension
whence come mysteries of
color and shape and proportion.

We know what we mean -
whether we are beautiful,
we cannot tell.

© 1995 KJL


A corollary question to the predestination vs. free will dichotomy is this: Is it possible for a Christian believer to lose their salvation, i.e. to be a Christian one day and not be one the next? Since it’s assumed there’s a line between “saved” and “not saved”, and one crosses this line in order to enter the Kingdom of God, is it possible to step back across it into darkness, total lostness, again?

I was part of a good-sized independent charismatic church in my late twenties, and many of my friends came from Assembly of God or Pentecostal backgrounds (heavily influenced by Armenianism). Over the years that I was there, I began to see people who I thought were strong believers just get up and walk away from the faith. When my friends saw this happen, they acknowledged that the person had been saved by Christ but figured they had lost that saving grace in their lives through their disobedience and sin, and they would have to “get saved” all over again if they were going to get to heaven – i.e. go up to an altar call, pray to receive Jesus in their heart again, and start over from square one. They based this on Bible passages like Ezekiel 33:12-13, Matthew 13:19-21 and Hebrews 6:4-6 (the Hebrews passage is especially harsh if interpreted this way, since it would seem to mean that a person who falls away can’t ever get right with God again). They would talk about a “hardness of heart” to which God would just abandon people if they were stubborn enough. I, on the other hand, tended to think according to my “once saved, always saved” upbringing and if I watched a Christian walk away from God, just totally repudiate Him, it was hard for me to believe that he or she was ever really a Christian in the first place. I looked to Bible verses such as John 10:27-29, Romans 8:29-30, Romans 11:29, Ephesians 1:4, and I Timothy 2:4 to support my view. The idea that God could literally abandon someone in sin, just give up on a person, really bothered me, so I leaned heavily the other direction – though I realized that sin really does separate us from God. Jesus can’t have a relationship with someone who doesn’t believe in Him, hates Him, and/or never talks to Him, right?

When I began to study Catholic sacramental theology, I discovered a different model for understanding the phenomenon of how a person is saved, i.e. enters and stays in the Family of God. In this light, I found a different picture emerging from the Scriptures. In interpreting the Apostle’s teaching regarding the interplay between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will, the early Church fathers and theologians don’t pit one idea against the other; they acknowledge that both concepts are valid and important. They base their interpretations on a couple of key concepts:

Great emphasis is placed on baptism as the beginning of one’s life in God. Catholics interpret the verse “Baptism now saves you…” (I Peter 3:21) in the most literal way possible. This is the way into the boat that takes you to the other side; this is the gate you pass through to come into the city. This is why Catholics, Presbyterians, and Lutherans baptize babies – it takes the place that circumcision had in the Jewish faith. It’s the initiation into the community, the tribe, the people of God. (And I’ll point out a cool fact which this interpretation suggests: Christ transformed this older Jewish initiation rite into something that women as well as men can receive.)

I learned a lot about my baptism when I became a Catholic – they regarded it with much more seriousness than I had up to that point. FYI, Catholics don’t ever re-baptize people; they figure that if a person has already received a Christian baptism (in water and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), they’re good to go as far as that’s concerned – God has already opened a channel of grace into their lives through that sacrament because the sacraments work of their own accord – they actually convey what they signify, in this case the removal of the stain of original sin and the rebirth of the soul in God (John 3:5-7).

Don’t think that I’m saying that baptism gives you a free ride into heaven, no questions asked; by no means. The Apostles also placed great emphasis on obeying Christ’s teachings and living a holy life. St. James insists that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:13-17); Paul talks about building one’s life in Christ out of various materials (I Corinthians 3:10-15) and “working out your salvation” (Phil. 2:12). Though original sin has been removed, a thing called concupiscence (that’s Augustine’s word) remains in our souls and bodies, in our being as humans. It’s the warp/distortion of our spiritual senses caused by hell’s fire, the smoke in our lungs, the holes/disconnects in our mind, the fogginess of our vision, the pull of gravity on our guts – what St. Paul complained about in Romans 7. This needs dealing with - all the time, because sin is serious, and hell is real, and we can still screw up real bad if we’re not paying attention.

However, that’s what getting saved is all about – it’s the process of repairing the damage, becoming holy, putting on the new man, being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. Catholic teaching points to the fact that in the Bible, various Greek verb tenses are used to describe salvation (“you have been saved” [Eph. 2:8], “us who are being saved” [I Cor. 1:18], “we shall be saved” [Acts 15:11]) – that’s past, present, and future. What Reformation theology regarded as a two-step process (first justification, then sanctification), Catholics regard as one single pathway called salvation. St. Paul also talks about the Christian life as being like an athlete in training (I Corinthians 9:24-27), a process of getting into shape so you can compete and win. This is what the other sacraments (confirmation, Eucharist, confession, etc.) and any other practices that help a person live holy and be like Jesus are for.

So, it’s a combination of both concepts, a synthesis: Our journey has a beginning in baptism, which God wills and brings about (with or without our cooperation), and then He expects us to follow through and grow in Him, to persevere toward the goal, and to establish His Kingdom and His Presence wherever we are – because the promise of redemption doesn’t belong to just us, to just our souls. Christ came to redeem all of Creation, the whole planet, including us - body and soul (Romans 8:19-23). So, our work as Christians is to join with Christ in “redeeming the temporal order” (Pope John Paul II’s phrase, I think).

So, if salvation is a process and not a line in the sand that you cross, then you can see why Catholics are reluctant to judge whether someone is “saved” or not. We look at people and consider where they are in relation to the Truth, what kind of grasp they already have on spiritual reality, and then try to encourage them toward a fuller understanding of the truth of Christ. This idea is foundational to all our interreligious dialogue – the idea that there is some salvageable good in nearly all religions and cultures, and people need to be encouraged to embrace that good more fully so they can progress toward more comprehensive transformation and redemption in Christ.

That's what I'm about on this blog, really. Just trying to whisper to other souls in the darkness: "Goooooo toward the liiiiiiiight. Gooooo toward the liiiiiiiight..."

[Hat tip to for the above image of St. Augustine.]

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Wilma wrote back...

... and had a few more things to say. [Here's Wilma in bold, me in regular font:]

Just so you know Kathleen I am a cradle Catholic-- Catholic school, nuns, confirmation, the whole nine yards. I also spent many years in the Unitarian-Universalist Association. However I am now a born again Christian, and in learning God's Word have been blessed to know Jesus Christ as my Savior. I have interacted with Catholics for over four years now, oftentimes for several hours a day, online. I can define Transubstantiation unlike a high percentage of Catholics in the pews. {Why do you assume I am a Calvinist?}

These are interesting facts to know about you - thanks for sharing that. Believe it or not, I’m genuinely glad that you found Jesus and are trying to follow Him, and that you’re trying to live by your understanding of the Bible. Of course, I’m dismayed that you didn’t find Him in your experience of the Catholic Church growing up; I assure you, I recognize that you’re not alone. I will definitely concede the point that catechesis (at least since the 1970s or so) in American Catholic churches has been extremely poor as far as connecting Catholics with the faith of our fathers. Others have deconstructed this much more thoroughly than I, but in my view, the ham-fisted way in which the reforms of Vatican II were implemented in this country, the growing wedge of distrust between the American hierarchy and the official magisterium (i.e., the teaching office of the Church) begun by the American bishops’ refusal to enforce the directives of Humanae Vitae (prohibiting artificial birth control – published in 1968), and the “sexual revolution” and general social upheaval of the late ‘60s and into the ‘70s all combined to create a “perfect storm” of sorts – in which many priests, nuns, catechists, and laypeople have been caught up. I don’t deny that many American Catholics don’t know Jesus and don’t live their faith. I contend, however, that this is due to their rebellion against the true teachings of the Church as promulgated by the magisterium and not to their embrace of it.

”[T]he redemption and transformation of matter/the material world into the Kingdom of God began with the Incarnation." Uh dear, did you ever read the first line in the Bible?

Yes, as a matter of fact: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…” (Gen. 1:1) It’s a good bet that the Apostle John was also familiar with this verse when he wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). In his manner of writing the Gospel, which was of course inspired by the Holy Spirit, John was drawing a direct analogy between the Creation and the Incarnation, casting the latter as the Re-Creation, if you will. Christ is the Beginning, the first fruits (Col. 1:15-20) of redemption from the Fall; all the rest of creation’s redemption follows as He remakes it (Rev. 21:5).

"This means also that matter, e.g. our mortal bodies, can be infused with grace – which they are in the sacraments." Oh really? and pray tell, just WHERE does the bible teach that we are INFUSED with anything other than sin?

In the place where it says that “the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Rom 8:11). See also my previous reference to I Cor. 15:42-44. Also, back in Genesis, when humankind (i.e. Adam) was created, it says that God “blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7) I remind you that Catholic teaching holds that though Adam’s sin brought death into the world, the promise of redemption was given even before Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden (Gen. 3:15), and though the image of God in man was marred or wounded, it was not destroyed.

Here’s paragraph #398 from the Catechism: “In [Adam’s] sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory. [emphasis mine] Seduced by the devil, he wanted to ‘be like God’, but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God’”.

Further into the Catechism’s discussion of original sin, mention is made of the Protestant reformers’ error of identifying original sin with concupiscence (our continuing tendency towards sin). This conflation of the two concepts, and the resulting idea of mankind as totally depraved, is an integral part of both Luther’s and Calvin’s theology, and since your line of thought seems to derive from that, I thought you were a Calvinist. Sorry if I was mistaken.

"This causes Catholics to honor (I say honor, not worship) those material things which we see as windows into the Beyond, into the heart of God – including the Eucharist, icons of various kinds, and relics of deceased saints." So you mean when 3 million people line up in the pouring cold rain, to walk by a bunch of dried up bones, and shriveled up organs, this is just for "honor"? How about insanity? Why would your saints themselves want attention paid to their dead body parts, rather then to God if they are truly saints? --by the way there's a reason Catholic churches instead of Fellowship Baptist are chosen as the backdrop for your loved horror movies.

I’ll take your comments in reverse order: 3) Yes, I’ve also noticed the fascination with the Catholic Church in horror films as well as other genres of books, cinema, and television. The reason is that the Catholic Church looms quite large in the Western imagination – it’s the most “churchy” thing out there. 2) The saints want all of us to see and worship God, which is why they strove to live exemplary lives, which is why we remember and honor them. Don’t you have a picture of your grandmother anywhere? Don’t you have something that she owned or wore? Isn’t it special to you because she’s your family – you love her, and you see this material thing as a connection to her memory and an encouragement in the blessing she was in your life? That’s the core of it, really. 1) I’ve done the best I can to be patient and responsive to your concerns, Wilma. I apologize for repeating the name they used for you over on Amy’s blog. That said, one more crack about “insanity” and I will permanently ban you. This is my blog, and you are a guest here.

“Truthfully, I don’t know how the whole body parts thing got started; I think it had to do with the fact that during the first 300 years of Christianity, coming across a Christian’s dead body wasn’t all that rare an occurrence, and St. Augustine and other early Christians speak of miracles connected with being the presence of saints’ bodies or tombs." So you don't know but you honor it anyway? Shall I teach you a thing or two about Necromancy?

I don’t wish to know anything about necromancy, thanks. But check out what happened when some folks tossed someone’s dead body into the prophet Elisha’s fresh grave (II Kings 13:20-21). God can and does do miracles with whatever He chooses. The early Christians attest to the miracles mentioned above. Your quarrel is with them, not with me.

"Not to belabor the point, but contact, interaction, and dialogue with other religions does not constitute endorsement, acceptance, or “embracing” everything in those other religions. Catholic teaching holds that other religions may have some limited grasp on spiritual truth, and we dialogue with them in hopes of reinforcing whatever truth they have." 2Cr 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

The apostles did not have "rap" sessions about Baal, Isis, and Molech. Neither did they hold world-wide prayer sessions for all the pagans to go offer their sacrifices {Right from the Vatican website one can view some Vooduns offering their liquor libations to the "spirits" at Assisi}. They preached the true gospel, not the antichrist universalist "cosmic christ gospel" where as your last Pope stated..."Jesus" is found via false religions.

Here is what he said: “It will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour". (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue-Congregation for The Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 19 May 1991 n29; L’Ossertavore Romano English Edition, 1 July 1991, p.III)

Your last Pope {as well as the present one} must have missed these verses. Act 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 2Cr 11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or [if] ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with [him].

So your religious "dialogue", is NOT Biblical. All of the above would make your favorite wannabe Buddhist man Merton anything but a would be Saint.

In your interpretation of II Cor. 6:15, you are assuming that “Belial” and “the infidel” is synonymous with every single person, culture, and artifact on the planet that does not worship God, pray, and read the Bible exactly as you do. Catholics do not interpret this passage this way. Again, because of our view that the Fall did not destroy, but rather wounded, the image of God in humankind, there are some things in human cultures that are simply human, that retain some salvageable goodness, and they’re not all automatically consigned to the realm of the satanic. Consider: Q: Is a baseball game good or evil? A: It depends on the way the players play the game. Sometimes heroic sacrifices are made; sometimes people cheat. It’s the players’ individual moral choices, based on their conscience, that determine the character of the game. Not all pagan cultural artifacts and practices, including those having to do with religion, are inherently demonic; rather a lot of pagan and non-Christian religious practices are simply human efforts to reach the Truth, the Divine, with varying (but inadequate) degrees of success. Works, if you will, apart from grace.

So, here’s the thing: I completely agree with the quotation above from the Pontifical Council – that’s what I believe. However, I do not believe that this contradicts the Bible verses you quoted below it. God’s mercy is wider than our vision of it; if He wants to reach out and save some suffering native in Uganda that’s never heard the Gospel of Christ, it’s within His prerogative to do so. (See Romans 9:14-16.) Also, the Bible says that one’s actions, based on the witness of one’s conscience, will either accuse or excuse a person on Judgment Day – whether or not that person has ever heard the Gospel (Romans 2:9-16). This is the key, though: If anyone is saved, it’s Jesus Christ that saves them. (Acts 4:12 - yes, absolutely.) If anyone receives mercy at the hand of God in the midst of their ignorance, it’s because Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible.

And, the Apostle Paul did in fact dialogue with the philosophers on Mars Hill in a culturally relevant way, even quoting their own poets, in order to help them grasp the fullness of the truth in Christ (Acts 17:21-34).

"Regarding the Assisi gatherings to pray for peace – come now, would you prefer that humans not ask whatever Higher Power they believe in for help in achieving peace on earth? Would you prefer that we give up hope for a peaceful coexistence between different religions and cultures, and return to blowing each other up to the last man standing? Unless you can grasp the meaning of the difference between religious dialogue and syncretism, based on what I've already said, it won’t do much good for me to continue to try to explain it."
I don't care about the line between religious dialogue and syncretism which in Catholicism seems to move every year, but the line set forth by God's command which is this.. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. So when Rome has prayer sessions for peace with Vooduns, Shintoists, Jainists, Buddhists, Islamics, and right on the Vatican website, pretty much state they are all praying to the same "God"---in that horrid Lucis Trustesque prayer, your church has flunked Christianity 101, and has broken the first commandment! I can find an example of this, EVERY WEEK, where someone like the Dalai Lama who definitely preaches "another gospel" and is "antichrist" by all scriptural tests-- who directly denies Jesus Christ is invited in and lauded by the Catholic clergy right in their cathedrals.

Again and again, we see the Roman Catholic church praising and lauding other religions from Cardinals praying to Allah, praising Buddha's teachings and lighting incense to Ganesha {I can prove all this happened} and Catholics in the pews being led more and more into universalism. What has happened at Georgetown is par for the course, they are not just wayward "disobedient" liberals. They are following the examples from the TOP. 2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Eph 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them...

As I read through this, I’m more and more convinced it won’t do much good for me to continue trying to explain how Catholicism sees itself in relation to other world religions. I will say the following, however:

1) The yardstick for measuring Truth is held firmly in the Church’s own hand. She does not accept other’s views as to what is good at face value, but judges by her own standards. You are quite wrong to say that the Catholic Church "flunks Christianity 101" and "breaks the first commendment" - since the Catholic Church decides what constitutes the Christian faith and is not measured by any standard except the teaching of the Apostles, received from Christ Himself.

2) Though they hold a much different view of His character, Muslims do (or attempt to) worship the One God, that Person of the Trinity revealed to Jews as Yahweh and to Christians as God the Father. Since Islam is a monotheistic religion, they have grasped the truth that there is only one God, and Catholics, measuring by the light of Christian revelation, regard that as a step in the right direction. It doesn’t bother me that Muslims call the One God “Allah” (which is Arabic for God) anymore than my Mexican friends at church call God “Dios Padre”. (It does bother me that several groups of Muslims have exhibited a disturbing tendency to blow up people they disagree with.) “Allah” is simply God’s name in another language. No other deity is being named; I would venture to say that Muslims do not intend to name another deity, because they believe (as we do) that there is none. That said, I do not accept Islam’s view of God as an implacable judge who demands the immediate murder of all unbelievers. Nor do I accept the tenets of Buddhism, which insist that I detach my self-concept from my God-given personality in search of some “higher wisdom” apart from who God made me to be. There’s no way that I’m “yoked to unbelievers” as a member of the Roman Catholic Church – except in the sense of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30) – and that parable applies to the body of all baptized Christians. However, if the Lucis Trust stumbled upon some true idea in the midst of their theosophical weirdness, it would not be wrong to say, “This one idea is true, and the rest is false.” Remember the old proverb: Even a clock that is stopped tells the correct time – but only twice a day.

As for your pop culture inquiries, all you have shown me is that the things of this world are far more important to you and these other folks, then God's Word, and commands. You stick to these things because they appeal to the flesh. Jam 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Modern horror does NOT teach the things of God {as an ex-horror fan, I could write an essay even on what sort of things Stephen King stands the way his daughter is a UU minister.} If you are looking for salvation and the answers to life via The Corpse Bride, Alien, Freddy Vs. Jason, Stephen King, Dracula, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes and other worldly, occultic, satanic, evil movies, you will only be led into more and more error and the things of the world. Even the idea that you see horror movies as "Christian" tells me that you are extremely lost, and excusing these things so that you may continue indulging in them. I repented of this in my past and now with the Holy Spirit indwelling in me, am truly revolted by them as is every other true child of God.

So, I’m “extremely lost”, eh? I should let you know that I’m having trouble seeing the pathway to truth in the midst of your long, antagonizing screeds – but I suppose that means I’m “blind” as well. *Sigh.

I’m getting tired, so my responses are getting shorter:

First, contrast James 4:4 with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…” God loved the world enough to send Jesus Christ to die for us. Whether you feel you have to love it or hate it, it all depends on how you define “world” - and my comments above will have to suffice on that.

I am in no way “looking for salvation” through horror films. I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior; how many times and in how many ways do I have to say that before you believe me? I actually agree in the main with your statement that modern horror films often don’t reflect a Christian conception of the moral universe – it’s the classic horror genre (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman) that depicts more accurately the battle between good and evil. However, some modern horror films do in fact tell stories of heroic battles and victories over evil – The Exorcism of Emily Rose being one. I reject the idea that this whole genre of pop culture should be off limits to the “true child of God” because conversations about the questions it raises do in fact yield good spiritual fruit, and this is precisely why I enjoy and support Cornerstone Festival’s Imaginarium lecture series.

In closing, here are some more Scripture verses for you (not that I think we’ll get anywhere with prooftexting):

Matt. 7:1-2: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

Psalm 37:8: “Give up your anger, abandon your wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.”

James 1:20: “The wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”

I John 4:20-21: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

And with that, I’m done with this. Wilma, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to continue this exchange; I think its profitability is about spent for both of us. I sincerely wish you God’s blessings on your way.