Saved by Christ, not Rules

Saved by Christ, not Rules August 28, 2015

In which we discuss the fact that the heart of the Catholic faith is relationship with Jesus–and instantly earn a charge of heresy from a combox bishop.

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  • Gunnar Thalweg

    Not surprising you earned a heresy charge. The concept you are explaining is very hard to explain.

    I try and fail to explain it like this: You can be Catholic in the sense that one is a Seattle Mariners fan or button-collecting hobbyist. You can identify as a Catholic, be excited about being Catholic, and otherwise be Catholic in a way that’s … it’s not surface, but that doesn’t break your heart or pierce your soul. Now, being a Catholic in a “fan” kind of way, or in a self-identity kind of way, is not a bad thing. There are also cognitive-behavioral effects that feel good.

    But underneath there all that is a real relationship with the living God, one that is transformative. This sounds gnostic, but I mean it sacramental. It pierces all that Catholic-ness into something deeper and clearly coming from an external source, from God.

    And then all that Catholic-ness seems transformed, too. Yes, you should go to confession, because you don’t want to offend God, because you know you’ve offended Him … or not offended, but disappointed, or failed to please … and you want to please and realize you’ve wasted so much time and missed the point again and again, called sin, that you are oriented toward sin. That what the church calls sinful interferes with and covers up that relationship.

    But I have tried to explain this and unless someone already knows what I’m talking about, they don’t believe me. Or try to re-interpret it.

    • chezami

      Well said!

    • I would say this applies to all faith systems – serving as a properly outlined, well-constructed highway for our mindful (spiritual) needs. In this sense, rejecting religion is a quite ridiculous mistake – no one is ‘without belief’ after all, and we all use what is at hand – most often (but not always) the belief we’ve been growing up with.

      For atheists who understand at least those basics, there should be no shame in admitting they enjoy religious writers (think St Augustine, or Teresa of Avila, anyone with a broad mind really, past or present), enjoy reli-inspired literature (e.g. Dostojewski), religious paintings etc. However, sometimes atheism is not the universal negativism some think it always is, but rather a matter of certain boundaries that we cannot cross. Because it just doesn’t make sense ‘going the second mile’ with – for instance – my Christian or Muslim friends. And they usually don’t ask me either – they know I would go the second mile with them whenever there is a good reason for it – but don’t ask me to ‘think like a Catholic’ or be one. I can enjoy Catholic thought (and Islamic thought etc) but nowhere does that bring me more close to being a theist.

      I understand the point anyway. But, in a sense, it’s like you said, “all that Catholic-ness seems transformed”. For me it is already transformed by being exactly that: “Catholic-ness”. What sticks to my mind is the “Good-ness” I can see in all this Catholic-ness, and Muslim-ness and so on (any religious frameworks of thought). I’m fine with it, never too enthusiastic but rather grateful, because it makes sense to have religious ideas dwelling around and be inspiring up to some point.

      • You protest too much. You are here. You will meet Christ and believe.

        • “protesting too much” is not an argument. In fact not everyone would call what I wrote a protest – if I start ‘protesting’, you will know it, believe me.

          I don’t believe I will ever meet Christ at all. But let’s say I appreciate this guy, probably more than many Christians do – for instance those who turn Jesus into a Republican, are they respecting Christ? It all remains to be seen. But you were being judgmental about me here – that much I know. Like “meeting Christ” would be in sharp contrast with my “protest”. Says who? Maybe if Christ would come back, there would be a bag full of not so pretty surprises for you too. Because you don’t know how Jesus would judge about me or about you. You see Jesus through the spectacles of 2000 years full of theology.

          • I’m not giving you an argument. I’m telling you that you will meet Christ. That’s not a judgement of you.

            If you don’t believe in God or Christ why should you care if I tell you that?

            I do think that in general atheists who hang around religious blogs are in a state of bad faith.

            • “If you don’t believe in God or Christ why should you care if I tell you that?” — Quite simply because it is offensive (insulting) to be told that I am not even entitled to ‘protest’ an issue unless I would believe in a risen Christ who (presumably) would one day punish me for doing so.

              You added another offensive comment when you say “I do think that in general atheists who hang around religious blogs are in a state of bad faith”. This is all very judgmental stuff. You seem to dwell in the belief that every non-theistic mind is part of some monolithic, probably Dawkinsian mindset. In reality, an atheist can also be someone who personally cannot believe in a god but still understands the reasons why religion embeds certain answers to hard questions, or gives meaning to things (in a way arts do as well).

              • Atheists, as you exemplify, are also preposterously thin-skinned.

                I have no idea what the intentions of Christ towards you may be. How could I know? I simply told you that you would meet Christ.

                If you hang out on a religious site and take offense when people disagree with you and contradict you, you become a model of the unreasonable expectation. What did you expect?

                The atheist position is wrong. Period. A non-starter. If you can’t take being told that, why are you here?

                Why *are* you here?

                With a few exceptions, the atheists I have met in comment boxes say nothing beautiful, nothing deep, nothing generous, nothing moving. It’s all bile, venom, sarcasm, attempts at wounding and debating points learned by rote.

                Write something beautiful. Go ahead. What’s inside you made by atheism?

                • Stop the ‘blaming it all on others’, Mr Chichikov. Not thinskinnedness or the ‘intentions’ of someone who died 2000 years ago are concerns of mine. I was addressing your words, written down anno 2015. Telling me that I ‘will meet Christ’ is not a conversation – no more than if a Muslim would tell me I will meet Muhammad. You need to take into consideration the way you engage with others, and if it isn’t a meaningful way, then there’s not the ‘thinskinnedness’ of someone else to blame.

                  The question “why” I am here is not one I see forbidden in the patheos policies – if I am crossing boundaries, please give me the link to what I can and cannot do.

                  As for the atheist position being “wrong. Period” – I maintain no such claims towards believers so I do not think we have some common ground here – you are just pointing out I shouldn’t be here. Yet, while you talk about atheism being mostly “venom, sarcasm and wounding”, I am missing the point where you saw those things in my original comment on this page.

                  • So the reason you’re here is confidential? You’re on a secret mission? It’s none of our business?

                    • Joseph

                      N-n-n-nooooo… Seven… man…


                    • I’m a READER. This is the internet. How much legitimization will I have to provide each time when you happen to be around when I wasn’t even asking you anything?

                    • There’s no requirement that I’m aware of that you have to provide anything.

    • It is an encounter. A meeting. Yes.

  • Ken

    It is a difficult topic but really it’s grown up Catholicism. If all we’re doing is following rules it’s glorified superstition. Pope Benedict has said this is the ultimate core of our religion a personal encounter with Christ. Last I checked he’s a pretty smart guy. I’m following him.

  • Becky

    Well, that will teach YOU! So there!

    I did not manage to read all the comments, but I read enough of them to know that you are well defended, Mark. I, fortunately for me, do not have a public and popular blog, so the chances I have for being totally misunderstood are fewer and less dramatic. I will suggest one thing that sometimes seems to help the other person see reason. This applies only to the case where the person is criticizing me for saying the exact opposite of what I did say. When they state what they think is true, if I possibly can, I say “Yes, I completely agree with you.” and then restate it in a way that is different from what they think they disagree with. Sometimes, as you know, it is more important for these people to feel that they have one-upped you than to try to find agreement.

    Was it Fulton Sheen who said “There are not a hundred people in America who hate Mark Shea. There are millions who hate what they wrongly believe to be Mark Shea”?

    Becky D.