Posts Tagged “salvation”

The Inauguration Mass For Pope FrancisPope Francis has bucked more than a few traditional Catholic trends since taking office a couple months ago. The most recent example of this is a dual one, and came in a homily he delivered today. The RNS reports via Hartford FAVS (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis is warning Catholics not to demonize those who are not members of the church, and he specifically defended atheists, saying that building walls against non-Catholics leads to “killing in the name of God.”

“(T)his ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God,” Francis said Wednesday (May 22) in remarks at the informal morning Mass that he celebrates in the chapel at the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

“And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

Francis explained that doing good is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”

To both atheists and believers, he said that “if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”

Both of the pope’s concessions are remarkable: That non-Catholics — atheists even! — might be “redeemed” by virtue of their good works, is a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. It would seem to make the Catholic Church itself useless and irrelevant. As remarkable, too, is his admission that killing in God’s name is blasphemy. Since the time of St Augustine, the R.C. Church has used the principle of “just war” to do an awful lot of killing in the name of their God. For Francis to state categorically that killing in God’s name is blasphemy, flies in the fact of this long tradition.

I expect traditional Catholics will scream to high heaven about these remarks. Just as they did when he dared wash the feet of women during Holy Week. But then again, sanctimonious outrage isn’t new to them. They more or less live in a perpetual state of sanctimonious outrage, all the time; all that changes is what they claim drives their outrage.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England & Wales), via Flickr.

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First Assembly of God, Torrington, CT / Stay cool with Jesus sign / Mike Angogliati / Torrington Register-CitizenI know I’m going to get complaints about this, so let me straighten this out, right at the start. There are many sorts of “terror” in the world. Only a little of it is what we generally connect with the word “terror” — i.e. suicide hijackers and abortion-clinic bombers. By using the word “terror” in the title of this post, I am not, by any means, asserting any kind of equivalence among these events. “Terror” does not always mean “killing many innocent bystanders at once.” Many sorts of threats can constitute “terror,” even if those threats are never manifested in violence. There are degrees of terror, some much worse than others. But still, they all remain “terror” in some way or another.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Most Christians — especially of the fundamentalist sort — will not accept this as an example of “terrorism.” They don’t view it that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything other than a form of terror by threat.

The nearby Torrington Register-Citizen ran a story today about the heatwave which is gripping much of the country (WebCite cached article). It included a picture of a Torrington church’s sign:

MIKE AGOGLIATI / Register Citizen / A sign of the times. This sign at the First Assembly of God Church on New Harwinton Road offers advice for keeping cool in the summer heat. 'Think it's hot here? Imagine Hell.'

Mike Agogliati / Register Citizen / A sign of the times. This sign at the First Assembly of God Church on New Harwinton Road offers advice for keeping cool in the summer heat. Their 'loving' message? 'Think it's hot here? Imagine Hell.'

I can think of no better example of what is wrong with fundamentalist / evangelical Christianity, than this sign. It carries the threat of this particular religion, which claims that, if one fails to believe precisely what it teaches, one will be condemned to an eternity of torment.

Those who adhere to this sort of thinking haven’t the slightest clue how horrific it is. To them, it’s “fact,” and its ramifications don’t matter to them. They do not realize theirs is a campaign of terror: “Believe what we order you to believe, or you will FRY with the Satan’s demons in ‘the Lake of Fire’!”

Consider if what they believe is true … that their angry, sin-hating, almighty God will condemn people to eternal torment merely because of what they happen to believe. Why should mere “belief” provide relief from eternal perdition? What being worth worshipping should care so much about what the beings he ostensibly loves “believe” rather than what they “do” or what they “are”? How does this sort of threat differ from any other kind of extortion?

To put it bluntly — it doesn’t. It’s a threat. Nothing more, nothing less. Any being who feels the need to threaten people, in order to coerce their adoration and worship, is not worth adoring or worshipping. Period.

Photo credit: Mike Agogliati / Torrington Register Citizen.

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Last Judgment (Arkhangelsk)I’ve blogged twice about the controversy over evangelical pastor Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. Supposedly, Bell is an evil, Satan-loving heretic who dares promote the vile and disgusting heresy known as “universalism,” or the idea that all human beings will somehow — eventually — be saved. The uproar over his book hasn’t abated, though, and it’s even had some casualties. The AP (via MSNBC) reports that one of them is a pastor in Henderson, NC who lost his job over it (WebCite cached article):

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, [Chad] Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow’s Chapel in Henderson.

Although Holtz’s Facebook posting triggered his firing, it’s not the only point of disagreement he had with his own congregation:

Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the last straw.

I guess modern thinking is objectionable to evangelical southern Christians. They would, of course, be better off if they would just stop the spiritual/psychological terror campaign they conduct against others (e.g. “You MUST believe what I tell you to believe, or you’ll spend eternity IN FLAMES!!!”). But they’re too childish to do that … so they won’t.

Hat tip: RozMarija at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Souls Chained and Tormented in HellTen days ago I blogged about the uproar of the supposed “heresy” of evangelical pastor Rob Bell. In an interview reported on the CNN Belief blog, however, Bell claims he’s not a “universalist” and therefore is no “heretic” (WebCite cached article):

For two weeks while controversy swirled around him, Pastor Rob Bell stayed silent. His critics said he was playing fast and loose with heaven and hell, salvation and damnation. The eternity of souls was on the line, they said.

All this was over Bell’s new book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Critics tore into it before the book even hit store shelves on Tuesday, some going so far as to label Bell a heretic. …

Bell said he was surprised by the controversy around his book. Critics said he was preaching universalism, a theology that suggests everyone goes to heaven and hell is empty.

“I’m not a universalist. So that’s just not true.” He reiterated that again in the event that evening where he expounded on that idea and said that he didn’t believe God reaches down and sweeps everyone to heaven.

Even if Bell claims not to be a universalist, his book does convey a view of heaven and hell which is certainly not standard evangelical-Christian fare:

Bell said if a believer has their eyes on heaven, they can miss the opportunities to bring people a taste of heaven here on Earth – and they can miss seeing the hell around them.

“Greed, injustice, the sex trade in Far East Asia, we see hell all around us, whenever people reject what is good and human and right and peaceful and all that,” he said.

“I begin with this world right now and the observation that we are free to choose. It’s the nature of love. So then when you die, I would assume [given] the nature of love you can continue to make these types of choices.”

For Bell the here and now is just as important as any possible life to come. “I think it’s very very important to point out … [that] we are speculating about after you die,” he said.

So I’m not sure this will assuage all of Bell’s critics … some are likely to keep screaming that he’s a “heretic.” They’ll just use a different rationale for doing so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ed Martin & family (candidate for Missouri's 3rd Congressional district)Missouri Congressional candidate Ed Martin has declared that President Obama and other Democrats are preventing people from acquiring their salvation from Jesus Christ. Yes, folks, he really said it. Fired Up Missouri has the story, as well as the audio (WebCite cached article):

Speaking on the Gina Loudon radio program this afternoon, Congressional candidate Ed Martin told listeners that “we have to be very, very aware” of policies pursued by Barack Obama and Russ Carnahan that will “take away” the freedom to be a Christian. …

MARTIN: … And part of that freedom — when you take a government and you impose, and take away all your choices. One of the choices you take away is to find the Lord. And find your savior.

And that’s one of the things that’s most destructive about the growth of government. It’s this taking away that freedom. The freedom — the ultimate freedom, to find your salvation, to get your salvation. And to find Christ, for me and you.

If you wish, you can listen to the recording, directly from YouTube:

Now, I’m not sure how this works, exactly. If salvation comes from God through Jesus Christ, I don’t quite understand how any human being — not even a president of the United States — could possibly get in the way of it. I know I’m just a cynical godless agnostic heathen, but I just don’t see how anything in the universe can thwart the will of a truly omnipotent being.

Do you?

… Didn’t think so.

Update: The Riverfront Times in St Louis reports that, although it appears Martin lost by nearly 4,500 votes, he’s alleging “voting irregularities,” refuses to concede defeat, and promises to fight on to get his Congressional seat (cached article). This is in spite of the fact that his margin of loss is above the amount that might allow him to call for a recount. Can you say “sore loser”?

Hat tip: Pulling to the Left.

Photo credit: Ed Martin campaign Web site.

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During an audience of Pope Paul VI in 1977The Roman Catholic clerical abuse saga continues to grow worse for the Church and the Vatican. CBS News reports on a letter which had been sent to then-Pope Paul VI in 1963 advising the removal of pedophile priests (locally cached image):

The head of a Roman Catholic order that specialized in the treatment of pedophile priests visited with the then-pope nearly 50 years ago and followed up with a letter recommending the removal of pedophile priests from ministry, according to a copy of the letter released Wednesday.

In the Aug. 27, 1963 letter, the head of the New Mexico-based Servants of the Holy Paraclete tells the pope he recommends removing pedophile priests from active ministry and strongly urges defrocking repeat offenders.

The letter, written by the Rev. Gerald M.C. Fitzgerald, appears to have been drafted at the request of the pope and summarizes Fitzgerald’s thoughts on problem priests after his Vatican visit.

One would expect that the Pope — having requested the advice — would then have taken it. The Roman Catholic hierarchy, of course, is denying that Paul VI even saw the letter, so he hadn’t been warned. Even so, it’s documentary evidence that someone within the Church, with knowledge of the issue, had tried to inform the Vatican of its extent:

“It [the letter] shows without a shadow of a doubt that … how pervasive the problem was was communicated to the pope. He was able to share with him their knowledge of how pervasive this problems was, how destructive this problem was,” [abuse victims' attorney Tony] DeMarco said.

In an additional news item which is not really news, the Vatican continues to complain that newspapers — especially the New York Times — have dared to report factual information about the Church:

The Vatican’s top doctrinal official, Cardinal William Levada, specifically called out the New York Times for coverage he called “deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness.” The pope, he said, is owed a debt of gratitude for introducing needed reforms.

Translation from Vaticans-speak: Waaah waah wah waaaah wah!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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I’ve blogged before on Bishop Richard Williamson, who — along with the rest of his cohorts in the formerly schismatic Society of St Pius X — had reentered the fold of Roman Catholicism. It was about a year ago that the Vatican came under fire for having readmitted him (along with the rest of the SSPX), without realizing he was a Holocaust denier. Ultimately the Vatican chose to order him to take back his Holocaust denials. But, as Der Spiegel reports, even a year later, he has not yet done so (WebCite cached article):

Bishop Williamson Unrepentent in Holocaust Denial

Controversial Bishop Richard Williamson continues in his denial of the Holocaust, embarrassing both the Society of St. Pius to which he belongs and the Vatican. But the SSPX is becoming increasingly powerful despite the controversy and is attracting more and more supporters. …

The world has become a smaller place for the notorious bishop. Since he denied the existence of the Holocaust on television more than a year ago, causing serious problems for Pope Benedict XVI and almost triggering a revolt against Rome by the Catholic faithful, the ultra-conservative SSPX has kept him in virtual quarantine at its Wimbledon headquarters. Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX, likens Williamson to uranium: “It’s dangerous when you have it,” he says, but you can’t “simply leave it by the side of the road.”

Fellay knows what he is talking about. Williamson has no intention of revising his views on the gas chambers. When Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld sent him a book about the history of the Holocaust last year, he set it aside, unread. “The fact is that the 6 million people who were supposedly gassed represent a huge lie,” he wrote recently to his fellow members of the SSPX, noting that “a completely new world order was built” on this “fact.” The Jews, he added, “became ersatz saviors thanks to the concentration camps.”

Note carefully this last sentence, which reveals the theological source of Williamson’s denials: “The Jews became ersatz saviors thanks to the concentration camps.” (Emphasis mine) Obviously Williamson thinks that Jesus’ exclusive status as “savior” will be compromised by admitting the Holocaust occurred.

Folks, this is scary stuff. Really scary. However, the cat is now out of the bag … we can see, now, why there are Christians in the occidental world who so vehemently object to admitting the Holocaust occurred. (Of course, this does nothing to explain Holocaust denialism in the Islamic world … but that’s another matter entirely.)

One final question remains, which is why the Roman Catholic Church has yet to discipline Williamson for his disobedience (i.e. not taking back his Holocaust denials, after he was ordered to do so). That they have done nothing about this shows their lack of integrity as an organization, at best. If they wish to present themselves as a beacon of morality in the world, they’re going to have to do a better job of it than they have, and since we all know that “charity begins at home,” they need to start by forcing their own to behave morally.

Hat tip: Rogues Gallery blog at the New England Skeptical Society.

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