The Pope on salvation by works

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)Catholics, Protestants often say, believe in salvation by good works.  This engenders the reply from thoughtful Catholics, no we don’t!  You have to have grace.  In fact, we even believe in justification by faith, just like you Lutherans do, as proven by the accord we signed with liberal Lutherans.  Since there is now no real disagreement, there is no need for the Reformation divisions.  You can come back to Rome and enjoy being under Pope Francis.

But Pope Francis keeps preaching that salvation is, in fact, by good works.  He is reported to have said recently that it’s better to be an atheist than a bad Christian.  Now this is not exactly what he said, according to ChurchPop; in context he was referring to Christians living a “double life” of sin and piety, which creates a “scandal” that makes outsiders think it would be better to be an atheist.  But read his sermon yourself to get a sense of where he stands on the importance of good works for salvation.  Note how he warns against “excessive confidence” in Christ’s forgiveness.

Earlier the Pope has said that on the last day the only issue will be “what we did.”  Lots of Christians won’t make it.  But atheists will, if they do good.  Here is what the Pope said of atheists:  “‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

So those who do not believe but do good works will meet with the Christians who do good works in Heaven.  While Christians who believe but are sinful will not.

[Read more…]

Why the Pope likes Luther

At the joint Catholic/Lutheran service in Sweden, commemorating Reformation Day, Pope Francis was said to have “issued some of the most positive language ever used by a pope to describe Martin Luther and his beliefs.”

The Pope said that the doctrine of justification “expresses the essence of human existence before God.”  The Reformation “helped give greater centrality to sacred scripture in the Church’s life.”  And in his teaching that salvation is “by grace alone, ” Luther “reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response.”

The Pope also signed a commitment with the head of the Lutheran World Federation to work towards full intercommunion between the two theological traditions.

After the jump, a news story about the developments from a Catholic publication.  For the full text of the Pope’s remarks, go here.  For the Communion agreement, go here.  See also my thoughts on the matter.

[Read more…]

Commemorating or undoing the Reformation?

On Reformation Day, October 31, the Pope will commemorate the Reformation in a common service with Lutherans in Sweden.

Michael Root, in The Christian Century, discusses the event, sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, and gets into the difficulties it and related events scheduled for the 500th Anniversary of the 95 Theses have been posing for Catholics.  Nothing is said about the difficulties they might pose for Lutherans.

But such unionistic services raise the question:  Is the intention to celebrate (what Protestants are saying), commemorate (what Catholics are saying) or undo the Reformation (what would seem to be the ecumenical agenda)? [Read more…]

St. Teresa of Calcutta, saint of darkness

Mother Teresa was canonized on Sunday, officially declared to be a saint.  It isn’t necessary to be a Roman Catholic to appreciate this woman, who ministered to the poor and the dying on the streets of Calcutta.

Her example and the sense of holiness she conveyed persuaded many, such as Malcolm Muggeridge, to become a Christian.  Nevertheless, it is said that she experienced spiritual doubt and depression, a “dark night of the soul” that lasted some 50 years.

She wrote, “If I’m going to be a saint, I’m going to be a saint of darkness, and I’ll be asking from heaven to be the light of those who are in darkness on Earth.”  According to a priest involved with her canonization, she experienced both the physical poverty of the poor and the spiritual poverty of the “unloved, unwanted, uncared for.”

I have heard this period of darkness referred to as evidence that Teresa “was not perfect,” but I think it makes her holiness more believable.  The life of faith is not “perfection,” nor constant joy; rather, it often involves what Luther called “tentatio”–struggle, conflict, agony of conscience–and her descriptions of her depression shows that her faith was in Christ and not her own good works, which she had in such abundance.

In honor of her canonization, I will link and excerpt the speech she made at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, in which she gave a compelling critique of abortion.  Afterwards, she received a standing ovation, with President and Mrs. Clinton, also on the dais, staying in their seats.

[Read more…]

The six signs of demonic possession?

Beliefnet has an interview with Father Gary Thomas, a Vatican-certified exorcist that is very interesting, though I’m not sure what I think of it.  After the jump, I give his “six classic signs of demonic possessions,” as well as what he says about how to protect yourself from demons.

Two of the signs are “aversion to the sacred” and “the rolling of the eyes.”  I knew it!  Teenagers who don’t want to go to church and give you that eye-rolling look are possessed by the devil!

But, really, being in thrall to Satan is surely less dramatic than what is described here, a matter of being in bondage to sin and unbelief.  Just as protecting yourself from Satan is also undramatic–go to church, pray, have faith in Christ, etc.–which Father Thomas says, though in terms of Roman Catholic theology.

And yet, I’m not denying that these extreme cases exist.  What do you think?  What is the distinctly Roman Catholic theology in what Father Thomas says? [Read more…]