Sunday, September 7, 2008

Honest To God - Part 1 - The Gospel

The very controversial book by an Anglican bishop titled 'Honest to God' was the work of famous (or rather infamous) liberal theology and a general attack at Traditional Christian Theology. I'm not going liberal (though I do like the Quakers), but I decided that instead of constantly publishing polemics, this series is going to go in favor of a more personal approach to theology. Rather than entrenching myself within Catholicism or Protestantism, I'll just state my beliefs about things from my limited reading of Tradition/Church Fathers, Scripture, Logic, and Personal Experience (Wesleyan quadrilateral is my favourite approach to Christianity).

I'm hoping to cover 3 topics:

1. The Gospel
2. The Holy Spirit
3. The Sacraments

*note: Today I signed up for RCIA at the Catholic Cathedral in town, so please don't guilt trip me about not being Catholic enough, I'm following through with it. Thus my Catholic Ecclesiology has beat my Protestant Soteriology, and Church Tradition/History has beat Scripture.

"Man is nothing but a subject so naturally full of error that it can only be eradicated through grace." -Blaise Pascal

I've heard alot of arguments on the subject, I think in the end that St. Augustine, and John Calvin are correct in their assessment. I believe that the unregenerate man can neither do good, nor even think it, as the Bondage and Liberation of the Will says. I think mankind only has the free choice to choose between sin and sin.

I believe that at the culmination of the ages, Christ came as the God-Man to reconcile the world to God and redeem those the father had given him. I believe as Scripture says that Christ died for all, and his message should be addressed to all people, yet at the same time his sacrifice was only efficient for some. I've been influenced alot by reading "Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism" by Iain Murray, in understanding the balance and historic Calvinism.

I don't know about the saints or mother teresa or others, but in my own personal opinion and in contradiction to the teaching of my church, I believe that I have nothing to offer God, and that as a begger I come to the Lord, unconditionally elected, and saved solely by his grace alone. Even my repentence is done in selfishness and fear of Hell, but trusting Christ, I believe he will lead me to Heaven.

I read this verse today which comforted me greatly "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me" -John 10:14

For those of you who know theology, you'll realize I basically have a completely Reformed/Calvinistic view of Salvation (Soteriology), you are right in saying that. I just don't know how to explain the Gospel in Catholic terms, the Reformed/Augustinian way is the only way I understand.

Whenever I explain the gospel in Catholicism, I can usually convince people - it's almost the same gospel as Methodism/Wesleyan/Arminianism - but for me on a completely individual and personal level the Gospel of the Church Fathers and of the Catholic Church is terrible news. It's a requirement I could never live up to (perfection), and it makes Christ more of a legalist than a lover. The Early Church (2nd century) even taught that if you sinned after baptism you could not be forgiven, as J.N.D. Kelly points out. But I think I'll be a sinner my whole life. Simul Iust et Pecatur or something like that right?

I hope against hope that Christ loves me unconditionally and not based on my own merits or acheivements. These are the things that God has revealed to me personally in my life, as I said, I cannot provide logically indefensible proof for why I believe them, and I am branded a heretic for believing them in the Communion of Rome, please don't remind me, I KNOW.

I am still becoming a Roman Catholic, but this kind of message or Gospel -whether or not it is 'another gospel' (Gal 1:8) - will always bring tears to my eyes. If God took me back in time and gave me one request, one thing I could make to be true, it would be salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. But as I said, I don't 'really' believe it, and see tons of problems with it, etc. But again this is just at a personal level.

I really wish I was " justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith" - Romans 3:24-25

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