Is God different than we are?: The ontological controversy

Consider this quote from Timothy George, in our recent Christianity without the Atonement post:

The problem comes when we use an anthropopathic term like “wrath” and apply it univocally to the God of eternity. Before long, we have constructed “a god who looks like me,” to use the title of a recent book of feminist theology.  Then caricatures of divine wrath proliferate:  God having a temper tantrum or acting like a big bully who needs to be “appeased” before he can forgive or, as is often alleged with reference to the atonement, practicing cosmic child abuse.

Note the word “univocally.”  This alludes to a historically important theological issue having to do with ontology, or the nature of being, as it applies to God.  The “univocal” position is that God is a being in the same way we are beings.  The “analogy of being” position is that only God has being in its fullness, while we and the whole creation exist in a related but qualitatively lesser way than He does.

Now this may seem like an arcane issue, but–as I will try to explain,with some help, after the jump–it is extraordinarily important, having to do with the Catholic critique of Protestantism, the nature of the Sacraments, the relationship between Christianity and science, the rise of secularism, and the very way we think about God.  [Read more...]

Indulgences via Twitter

Pope Francis will be offering a plenary indulgence–that is, a full release from Purgatory for sins committed up to that point–for those who follow the World Youth Day activities on Twitter or other social media sites. [Read more...]

Do conservatives need to be Catholics?

According to some circles, in order to be a consistent conservative, you really need to be a Roman Catholic.  Darryl Hart challenges that notion. [Read more...]

Catholic evangelism

Roman Catholics have been launching a major world-wide evangelism effort.  It includes “witnessing,” knocking on doors, and sharing what Jesus has done in my life. They are adopting techniques associated with evangelicals.  Do you think Catholics might have some advantages in the competition for the “unchurched”?  Their mystical tradition could appeal to the “spiritual but not religious” crowd.  They aren’t saddled so much as evangelicals with conservative politics, which is turning off so many non-Christians.  Catholic worship will come across to lots of people as more interesting than what most Protestants do.  To those attracted by megachurches, Catholicism is the most mega church of them all.  Despite their theological differences, should Protestants welcome Catholic evangelism efforts? [Read more...]

More on the salvation of non-believers

In trying to explain Pope Francis’s statement about atheists that we blogged about, a Vatican spokesman, Father Thomas Rosica wrote a piece entitled Explanatory Note on the Meaning of ‘Salvation’ in Francis’ Daily Homily of May 22:  Reflections on Atheists, Christians, and Who Will Be Saved.  He nuanced what the pope said, but he didn’t explain it away, nor did he say, as we did in our discussion, that he was referring to meeting together in the realm of civil righteousness.  Rather, Father Rosica explained the sense in which atheists and other non-believers can, in fact, be saved:

4)  The great German Jesuit theolgian, Fr. Karl Rahner introduced the idea of “anonymous Christian” into theological reflection. Through this concept, offered to Christians, Rahner said that God desires all people to be saved, and cannot possibly consign all non-Christians to hell.  Secondly, Jesus Christ is God’s only means of salvation. This must mean that the non-Christians who end up in heaven must have received the grace of Christ without their realising it.   Hence the term – ‘anonymous Christian’. [Read more...]

Pope says atheists can be saved

Pope Francis preached a homily in which he pretty much said that atheists too can do good and therefore can go to heaven.  (Notice the assumption that salvation is by good works and not by faith, which is being presented as not really necessary.)  The pope’s words are after the jump, along with some other indications of a growing universalism in Roman Catholicism. [Read more...]