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Imperiled salvation?

Over on the "Backlash?" thread Robert Reid posed this question when one of the respondents suggested non-Christian young people had imperiled their salvation:

"Do you actually, truly, in your heart of hearts believe that anyone's "salvation" is imperiled simply by not being a Christian? In other words, that God actually does divide the world into Christians and non-Christians, with the Christians truly getting a better deal based on their beliefs?"

I was curious about why Robert asked the question, and in a pleasant offline exchange, he said he found the view "unexpected," since he saw the Commonweal blog as "liberal, possibly even universalistic."

Anyhow, rather than clutter up the "Backlash?" thread with off-topic comments, I've set up this thread, so you can here offer your opinions, unexpected or otherwise, about the conditions for salvation.

(For the record, I hope salvation is not imperiled by not being a Christian, since I lost two infants to miscarriage. However, I believe Christianity is requisite to MY salvation. While this might sound wishy-washy, the Church, to my knowledge, has never taught that any individual is actually in Hell, so I don't feel compelled to condemn where the Church has not. Liberal? Universalistic? You decide.)



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Jean, I hope this query does not hijack your thread, but by coincidence (Providence?) I just got off the phone with my devoutly Evangelical mother (I love putting "devout" in front of non-Catholic religious labels) who said her Bible study is discussing the topic of "Eternal Security," which they ascribe to, and she wanted the Catholic taje on it. I fumbled around somewhat, saying we don't buy into it (I thought), but of course a Catholic (esp me) trying to explain complexity (not to mention Purgatory) to one's born again mother doesn't work very well. It all sounds mushy. Then again, even the perseverance of the saints can sound mushy, and that's Calvinism, I believe.In any case, this question is about whether Christians, and specifically Catholics, can imperil their eternal salvation. If it's too off-lede, delete the responses. But it does freak out the non-Catholics to hear the late Cardinal O'Connor cheerily saying he doesn't know if he'll be going to heaven or not. What kind of faith is that? they ask. I'll greatly appreciate profound but pithy answers from the site's brain trust.

Too often, salvation is defined negatively to mean "not damned." Thus, to believe that one is saved is to believe that one is not damned. This idea gives rise to bad theology and bad religion. It defines the religious life in terms of fear, but not fear of the LORD, rather, fear for one's fate. This latter fear is one of the single greatest obstacles to the love of God and neighbor.Alternatively, salvation is defined in terms of eternal bliss with God, the beatific vision, and one is saved if one has this state of affairs in one's future. It think this is a Greek, and mistaken notion of salvation. It appeals to our sense of pride, to be like God. It causes us to forget our place as creatures before God.Wedded to this notion of salvation is a kind of gatekeeper mentality that seeks to define what is necessary to achieve this eternal state of affairs. This too leads to bad religion, and turns God into a bad parent.Salvation as I understand it, and as I think most Jews understood it (and therefore as Jesus understood it) is the opportunity to love God with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength, and therefore, to love one's neighbor as one's self. This opportunity is a gift, and this gift is salvation. Thus, salvation is entirely a matter for this life, not life after death. If there is a final judgment, it will simply be an accounting of what one has done in this life with one's gift, so, same difference.When my student's ask if I am saved, I say "Beats me." This seems to unnerve them a bit.

Let me clarify something from the previous post (kids are distracting me!) I think salvation is not the opportunity to love God and neighbor (which we all have), but the actual loving of God and neighbor. Salvation is not the reward for loving God and neighbor, but the actual loving of God and neigbor. To imperil salvation is to thus to fail to love God and neighbor, or perhaps to love them less than one can.

David,I excuse myself from membership in anything with the word brain in it. Can only think of the cartoon guy with the enormous head.But my sense is that this is an insuperable difference that is basically semantics, regarding theology. Until there is serious sin, which the Evangelical theology can't handle very well.Scenario 1:Catholic: We believe that since God is the one who keeps those safe who hope in Him, then, since God is trustworthy, He intends to bring us to heaven. Evangelical: But you're not SURE, are you? What kind of faith is that?Catholic: It's possible that, later on, I could change my heart or my life in such a way that I rebel against God and put my eternal salvation in danger. And then what if I never repent?Evangelical: Then you're not saved!!***Scenario 2:Evangelical: It turns out Sylvia wasn't saved, after all.Catholic: What are you talking about? I went to her baptism.Evangelical: Yes, I know, she SEEMED saved. She testified! But she is starting up with those men again, and the drugs. Catholic: Well, we all sin. If it were me I could go to confession.Evangelical: If she can't stop sinning, she wasn't really saved.R. Catholic hope is so close to the Calvinist perseverance of the saints that it's practically the same thing. But I think we take a more realistic view of time. Salvation, for us, doesn't happen all at once.In my experience, though, there is nothing you can say that will shake an evangelical's faith in irresistible grace, and I wouldn't try. This need for security--that's how we lost Luther. So might as well sing "Blessed Assurance" with my fingers crossed.

For an armchair theologian like me having done just enough scattered reading and reflection to be dangerous (hopefully, to myself only), salvation is a daunting topic.For my own economy of thought, I think of the issue on a timeline, with Church pronouncements pre-Vatican II almost entirely exclusivist (i.e., the Catholic Church is the ONLY game in town when it comes to salvation), and post-Vatican II, when Church pronouncements took a more inclusivist turn, as in this passage from Lumen Gentium:"The Catholic Church professes that it is the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ; this it does not and could not deny. But in its Constitution the Church now solemnly acknowledges that the Holy Ghost is truly active in the churches and communities separated from itself. To these other Christian Churches the Catholic Church is bound in many ways: through reverence for God's word in the Scriptures; through the fact of baptism; through other sacraments which they recognize. The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church." That is quite a profound statement, to my way of thinking. "If he seeks God sincerely" would seem to exclude some atheists, perhaps, but non-Catholic denominations would appear to be included in the scope of salvation. (Much of the second paragraph above has been incorporated into section 847 of the CCC.)In Vatican II's Unitatis Reditegratio (the Decree on Ecumenism), the following caveat was added:"Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life- that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is 'the all-embracing means of salvation,' that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God." I think the key phrase in this passage is that only through the Catholic Church can people "benefit fully from the means of salvation." Catholics benefit fully; non-Catholics get a lesser degree of benefit, but they are not precluded from salvation.Dominus Iesus raised something of a firestorm in 2000 when then-Cardinal Ratzinger released this CDF document that seems to denigrate non-Catholic relifions: "With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31). This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that one religion is as good as another'. If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. However, 'all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged.' One understands then that, following the Lord's command (cf. Mt 28:19-20) and as a requirement of her love for all people, the Church 'proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life' (Jn 14:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life." Though Dominus Iesus retains the full- means-of-salvation language from the Decree on Ecumenism, the addition of language that other religions are in a "gravely deficient situation" would seem to indicate, to me at least, that the pendulum is swinging back to some degree to an exclusivist position by the Church on the issue of salvation.

Kathy's Catholic-Protestant scenarios are right on target. I've left family gatherings early because I didn't want to be embroiled in discussions about fire insurance.If we have seen the Truth of the Church, I think we are under an obligation to do our best to struggle after it. Some do better than others. I'm a straggling struggler.On the other hand, I believe that God's Love covers in some way those who have never heard of the Church, did not live long enough to know the Church, or whom people within the Church have driven away.But I don't pretend to be sure about any of it.

Okay, here's the thing. The Catechism teaches us that "Baptism is necessary for salvation." (CCC 1257) The same paragraph states that "the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude." Given that there are well over 1 billion baptized Christians living, that's actually a pretty generous proffering of salvation.Istm that that's the kernel. The church has qualified it thusly: "Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament" (CCC 1257).The principle is also extended to various others:* Catechumens who die before baptism;* Martyrs in faith who are killed before baptism;* "Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (CCC 1260).What about infants who die before baptism, as Jean brought up? The funeral rites suggest that we may hope for their salvation as well. What about those who have been baptized but then fall away or deny Christ in some way? Surely that is the situation of many of the respondents to the Barna survey. The parable of the Prodigal Son suggests that, if the prodigal repents, the Father will run out to meet him with joy.

To speak of salvation being imperiled means we need to know what we mean by salvation. Is everyone so far assuming salvation is an either/or matter? Heaven or Hell?Isn't also important to ask what it means to be saved? William's texts speak of being united in the Body of Christ. What does that mean if not "To love God and neighbor with all one has"? If it means membership in the Church, what does the Church have beyond the teachings, sacraments, liturgy, that enable one to love God and neighbor with all one has?Doesn't a heaven/hell emphasis on salvation make this world seem kind of secondary in importance?Maybe I am too Eastern here, thinking in terms of the process of salvation, whereas most others think of salvation as a matter of status.

Let's kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say. If the Catholic Church teaches that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation, what could you possibly do to lose it? To me it sounds like it is not all about us.

(I promise I'll behave right after this.)To the tune of Love and Marriage:Grace and merit, grace and merit,God's so great that He can't wait to share it--'Specially with His Mother!You can't have one without the other.Grace and merit, grace and merit,The Cross is heavy but you'll have to bear it.Listen, sister, brother,You can't have one without the other.Try, try, try to separate them,It's an illusion.Try, try, try and you will only addTo the confusion.Grace and merit, grace and merit,It's a legacy we can inherit,With and through His Mother.You can't have one without the other.

However one slices it the encounter with Jesus has to be the great gift of God since he showed the way to God. This is why practically everyone speaks well of Jesus because there is nothing bad anyone can see about him and we know the fullness of God is in him.Unfortunately, too many followers insisted on speaking in the name of God taking such words as "whose sins you shall forgive " etc as given to them instead of the Body of Christ. Jesus said s/he who is not against you is for you. Yet, because we have done such a bad job of proclaiming the gospel, the abundant life that Jesus brought is not properly proclaimed to others. (Witness the American Indian who refused baptism before being killed by Christians saying he would not want to be baptized by a God of such evil men.)Augustine taught mediocrity and he got worse. Because the flame must alway burn it cannot stay in the middle. Jesus insisted that the lukewarm would be vomited out of his mouth. Do we want the church of dogma or the church of the Spirit?

<< Let me clarify something from the previous post (kids are distracting me!) I think salvation is not the opportunity to love God and neighbor (which we all have), but the actual loving of God and neighbor. Salvation is not the reward for loving God and neighbor, but the actual loving of God and neigbor. To imperil salvation is to thus to fail to love God and neighbor, or perhaps to love them less than one can. >>Hi, Joe, perhaps I'm not understanding, but it sounds like you see it as a here-and-now, in-this-world kind of thing. What happens after the believer dies?

Jim: The parable of the Prodigal Son suggests that, if the prodigal repents, the Father will run out to meet him with joy. Jean: We had a huge talk about this parable in RCIA, and kept going back to it several times in the course of the program. All I can say is that there are an awful lot of people, including good and pious Catholics who run RCIA programs, who really hate that parable because they think the good son (who is like them) got the shaft and the bad son (who reminds them of a wayward sibling) didn't suffer enough.Which is why it's good God is in charge of salvation instead of the popular acclaim of our families, I guess.

Jean : "All I can say is that there are an awful lot of people, including good and pious Catholics who run RCIA programs, who really hate that parable because they think the good son (who is like them) got the shaft and the bad son (who reminds them of a wayward sibling) didn't suffer enough."Yes, I used to think so too, along with the parable of the labourers in the vineyard (Mathew 20:1-16) where lot of people feel it is unfair that those who did less work also gets the same wages as those worked the whole day. Then it dawned on me that I am more in the position of the prodigal son / the labourer who worked least and suddenly the parable seems wonderful.

Jim: Thanks for asking. I was wondering if anyone was going to notice what you notice (and then, if they did, think it worth commenting on).In short, yes, salvation, as I understand it, is a this worldly kind of thing. The Kingdom of Heaven is within you. My salvation comes from my ability to return to God again, and again, and again. My soul glories in the Lord. My salvation comes from knowing that my Redeemer lives.Now, as for life after death. The resurrection gives us reason to hope that something is up here. However, I think that connecting life after death with salvation was a BIG mistake of the early churches one that we live with to this day. The mistake, I think, was made very understandable given the very shortened understanding of history that many of the early churches had, and, I would wager, that even Jesus and Paul had. Thus, one could connect the idea of salvation in this world with salvation in the next world much more directly. One needed to repent now because there was thought to be not much time left.Of course, we did get more time. But instead of returning to a Jewish notion of repentance and of the life of the people before God, the churches focused in a very Greek way on the status of the soul after death. They also decided that they were the final arbiters of this status, and that they alone had what was necessary for the soul to have the proper status. It was a gigantic power grab, and very unfaithful, IMHO.

<< Let's kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say. If the Catholic Church teaches that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation, what could you possibly do to lose it? To me it sounds like it is not all about us. >>Hi, Alan,I suppose the from-the-manual Catholic answer would be, we're free to make the bad decision of refusing the gift that is given so lovingly and undeservedly.

Hi, Joe, those are very interesting / provocative views, and I appreciate your providing the basis for them.Perhaps along the same lines: I do think you're right (if I understand you) that many folks posit a kind of false dichotomy, i.e. our current life = no kingdom; life after death = entry to the kingdom for the good or lucky ones.To the contrary: Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom already, and did so when he was on earth with us. The promise was fulfilled in the hearing of those at the synagogue 2,000 years ago. The kingdom is certainly here, now, and we believers are blessed to be citizens. That's the basis, I would think, for all of the sharp political and social analysis in Commonweal - we're citizens of God's kingdom, critiquing earthly realms. I would add, in my conventional way, that God's kingdom here on earth is not complete, it is in a process of becoming, and will not reach its culmination until God deems the time to be ripe.

The prodigal son parable is a great lesson all around. It shows that the son who stayed home was not very generous and attributed his goodness to himself rather than the grace of God. He was more into what he did not have (the external celebration) rather than what he had, everything--"Everything I have is yours."Those who come in the first or the eleventh hour are there because of the gift of God. Those who objected to those coming later forget what joy it was to be there already.

Joe,You asked: "Doesn't a heaven/hell emphasis on salvation make this world seem kind of secondary in importance?"Yes, but I was always taught (grade school and high school) that it was SUPPOSED to. Was this wrong?Isn't the notion of absolution through the sacrament of Penence for persons with "imperfect contrition" an indication that the whole system is set up to get people into heaven and keep them from going to hell?From the Catechism1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.Life is a kind of test. If you die in the state of grace, you pass the test and go to heaven. If you die and you are not in the state of grace, even if you have been a good person all your life, commit one serious sin, and get killed in a car crash on the way to confession, you go to hell and suffer eternal torment. I always got the impression that heaven and hell were what Catholicism were ultimately all about. Here's a great quote: "The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned, in order that their bliss be more delightful for them" (Summa Theo III, Supplementum Q 94, Art. 1).

I'd like to ask this very simple question, since I am getting confused.Does everybody believe (and does Catholicism teach) that there is a place (or state), usually referred to as Heaven, where good people will go after they die (ultimately, since there may be a stop in Purgatory), and they will be happy in Heaven for all eternity? And also, does everybody believe (and does Catholicism teach) that there is a place (or state), usually referred to as Hell, where bad people will go after they die, and they will suffer some kind of real torment for all eternity? And ultimately, everyone winds up in either Heaven or Hell?

David,At first glance, my position is the radical one, and yours is the orthodox one. What you have been taught is standard. However, being the humble person that I am, I dare to say that this entire tradition is mistaken, yeah, I say unto you, even an abomination (insert smile thingy here)! For it mocks the mercy of God and creates a state of fear rather than openness in those who truly seek God. This fear actually succeeds in closing them off from God and neighbor.However, I also believe that there is much in the tradition worth retrieving, especially the idea of contrition. I would read this as returning again and again to God. It also asks the believer to be mindful of her or his relation to God and neighbor, and so to be mindful of her or his failures. Also worth retrieving is the idea of justice as the order willed by God for human life and community. Thus, we sin against the will of God when we fail to pursue justice. Remember Micah 6:8 "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" That, as I see it, is what it means to be saved.If heaven and hell are what Catholicism is about, then, from my perspective, that is a good reason not to be Catholic.Jim: Yes, the Kingdom is incomplete. I am not sure that it will ever be ripe. But that does not concern me, so long as I can live within it and help to build it.Finally, it is worth keeping in mind that we may simply never be as separated from God as we think. Salvation is to know this.

If life is a test, it is not a gift. Tests are taken, gifts are given. Share a test and you are a cheater, share a gift and you are blessed.

Many thanks for all the thoughts; Kathy and Jean have clearly emerged from evangelical experiences that I have had, as well. Couple of quick thoughts: I always like the notion, used periodically in good homilies, that eternal life begins when we are born. Whatever the function of this world in the economy of salvation, his notion seems to bridge this world and the world to come.Also, re David Nickol's "simple question" (I understand the impulse, David): Heaven and Hell certainly exist. But John Paul II, channeling Balthasar (and his possibly heretical ideas) expressed the hope that Hell was empty. Doesn't that get us more or less to the same point--that Hell doesn't exist as a punishment, but as some kind of yardstick or a way to get our bearings?For my own simple question, then: Catholics can gain and THEN lose salvation?

My best friend in college was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. There were some subjects we learned to avoid.The answer is yes. But, there isn't any conclusive proof that it's ever happened.

David: As you may know, Origen was one of the first to suggest the possibility of universal salvation. This, and other things, got him condemned. In order to make universal salvation work however, Origen needed to postulate the reincarnation of the soul, so that over time, all souls would eventually be drawn to God, but first they would have to experience the fruits of their choices, what the Buddhists would call the fruits of their karma.Some time back I had an aha moment. I had been reading lots of writings within Buddhism at the time (still do) and I found myself reflecting on the Catholic notion of purgatory. I then found myself wondering if the Buddhists are correct about many lives and the possibility of achieving Enlightenment, and the Catholics were right about purgatory. If so, I concluded, we are living in purgatory. I have not entirely let go of this musing. One of the things it helps with, along with knowing traditions like that of Origen, is the almost absurdity of getting it right in one lifetime, and the even greater absurdity of dying before one is born. I have found that in the history of world religions, Christianity and Islam are rather alone in denying reincarnation. There is something genuinely comforting in the realization that one will be back it one day, even if one does not remember anything. And it also helps one take responsibility for getting one's act together, realizing that how we live today may make our future efforts either easier, or much more difficult.

Sorry if I am boring folks, but I just came across this passage in a text we are reading in my Philosophy of Religion class, and it seems relevant to this thread:"Human action is not the beginning. At the the beginning is God's eternal expectation. There is an eternal cry in the world: God is beseeching man to answer, to return, to fulfill. Something is asked of man, of all men, at all times. In every act we either answer or defy, we either return or move away, we either fulfill or miss the goal. Life consists of endless opportunities to sanctify the profane, opportunities to redeem the power of God from the chain of potentialities, opportunities to serve spiritual ends." Abraham Joshua Heschel

A note on the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a recurring motif in Augustine's used by Augustine to describe himself as lost and bereft in a "far country." By extension, it refers to all of us who turn and attempt to come home again to a welcoming and forgiving father. I think the real jolt of the parable (when not allegorized) is that the hearers of Jesus must have thought that the father was crazy in the first place in giving all that money to a young man. The point of Jesus is this: the love of God is like the father who lavishes upon his children and is always ready to return more. We ought to identify with the son who stayed behind and became, like us all too often, a whiner despite what a loving father has and will give him.On the larger issue of who gets saved, I trust in the words of Paul that God wills (note the Greek WILLS; not mere velleity) the salvation of all. That text inspired Balthasar's book .

Not boring at all, Joe. All good food for thought, and for the soul--wherever mine may be...David

Fr. Neuhaus over at First Things took up the matter of whether we might hope for universal salvation a few years ago. He thought we might, though apparently some of his readers took strong objection to this view. In any case, his modest piece brings together many of the common arguments, pro and con and includes a helpful list of relevant NT texts. He ends by citing Pauls comments in Romans 11:33-36 praising the unimaginable wisdom and mercy of God:For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. I recall, Fr. Joseph Fitzmeyer had a memorably pithy aside on that same Romans text in his Anchor commentary to the effect that Gods goodness is not a payment for services rendered.)

Joe Pettit wrote,"I have found that in the history of world religions, Christianity and Islam are rather alone in denying reincarnation. There is something genuinely comforting in the realization that one will be back it one day, even if one does not remember anything. And it also helps one take responsibility for getting one's act together, realizing that how we live today may make our future efforts either easier, or much more difficult."I don't understand this Joe. Sounds like you are accepting everything. Why not just go new wave and throw everything out. This kind of thinking gives material to the doctrinalists that thinking is dangerous.One of the beliefs that seems central to Christianity is that we begin to live the divine life within us (no way do we become like God) in that we abide in God and s/he in us. We begin in this life especially when we learn to take the lowest seat and not lord it over others. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding and the core of who we are as Christians. This life continues after our death and we are still the same person. Thanks be to God forever for so great a gift. What is the point of coming back as a dog or lion (if I had to choose, a gentle one that is)?

Bill,I did not explicitly accept reincarnation. I advanced it as a thought experiment. I am not worried about doctrinalists. If they have a problem with reincarnation, I will just refer them Matthew 16:14.Just for the record, those who affirm reincarnation affirm that it is always the same consciousness. Also, as for the point of coming back as a dog or lion, I refer you to the many morality tales of the Buddha as an animal before, as Gautama, he reached enlightenment. They are some of the most popular stories about the Buddha within heavily Buddhist countries.Once again, I am not definitively affirming reincarnation. I am pointing out the status of the belief relative to non-Christian traditions. I also meant to point out how there is a certain logic to the belief, a logic that is defied in the "one shot is all ya got" version of our lives in traditional Christianity. Frankly, if that were the case, I often feel that I would rather love God and neighbor with all I had and then just died. That makes sense to me. Judgment after one go around really seems quite arbitrary. Eternal life is not a prerequisite for the Great Commandment.

. . . . the almost absurdity of getting it right in one lifetime, and the even greater absurdity of dying before one is born . . . .Joe,I take it you are referring to an issue I am always bringing up, which is that if life (personhood) begins at conception, perhaps about 50 to 80 percent of human beings never even make it to implantation, let alone gestation, birth, and a life in this world. Reincarnation neatly solves the problem of where they all go, and what could possibly be the point of a life being created only to die before the "person" develops a heart and a brain. Likewise it solves the problem of what happens when babies are lost because of miscarriage. They all just move on to their next incarnation. Even if one rejects the idea that everyone is reincarnated again and again, I don't see any reason to rule out the possibility that those who die in the first few hours, days, or even months after conception get another opportunity (and another, and another, if necessary) so they can at least be born.It also solves another problem regarding all the lost embryos: What happens at the time of the resurrection of the body if the "person" in question never really HAD a body? On the other hand, for souls that are reincarnated multiple times, when the "last day" arrives, what body gets resurrected?

-Catholics can gain and THEN lose salvation?- I think that part of the covenant, though, of Baptism is that God intends to sustain the ones He saves. Baptism is the gift that keeps on giving, in terms of grace, and there is constant grace throughout the Christian life. Christ makes a covenant with his sheep, to keep them safe. Then there's Hopkins:I say that we are woundwith mercy round and roundas if with air

Embarrassing as it was at the time, looking back at Clinton splitting semantic hairs over sex in the Oval Office now looks like the good old days - wholesome, innocent and so forth. . .I would think the pious group we have at the top today wouldn't want to help make the case for this sort of "moral relativism," but it's hard not to make the comparison.Paul -

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