Monday, February 16, 2009

Not A Child of God

I found this most recent post by Candy to be profoundly sad. It is true that not everyone will "be saved" but what a horrible way of looking at humanity. Especially when you consider that Candy has said that very few people will be saved. Therefore, most of humanity would not be children of God.

While this isn't my best area of theology (so please, correct any errors), I feel the Catholic Church has a much more positive view of humanity.

First, all of mankind is special, because man is created in the image of God, and because God became Incarnate, or enfleshed:

355 "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them."218 Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is "in the image of God"; (II) in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created "male and female"; (IV) God established him in his friendship.


356 Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator".219 He is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake",220 and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity:

What made you establish man in so great a dignity? Certainly the incalculable love by which you have looked on your creature in yourself! You are taken with love for her; for by love indeed you created her, by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good.221

357 Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.

358 God created everything for man,222 but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him:

What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honor? It is man that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and made him sit at his right hand.223

359 "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear."224

St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ. . . The first man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life. . . The second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on himself the role and the name of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image. The first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows no end. The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: "I am the first and the last."225


362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."229 Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

363 In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person.230 But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,231 that by which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man.

364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:232

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. 233

God desires us all to be saved, because of His great love for us. While Candy has described heaven as a place where she will wear special crowns, and enjoy the treasures she has stored up there, Catholics view heaven as being in the presence of God, and perpetually adoring Him there:

Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face:598

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment - and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven - have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.599

1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

1025 To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." The elect live "in Christ,"600 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.601

For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.602

1026 By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.

1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."603

1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory "the beatific vision":

How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.604

1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him "they shall reign for ever and ever."605

I think that God also loves those who will go to hell. They are condemned because of a willful rejection of God, and would not be happy being in His presence in Heaven. Therefore, hell is a place of separation from God.

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."618

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."619

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":621

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Dr MikeyMike said...

This illustrates something that I have always wondered about.

How did the misconception get started that the RCC teaches its believers to live in fear, guilt, and a sense of worthlessness? I've heard of individuals on talk-shows and radio programs talk about all this 'guilt' and that 'they were raised Catholic' as if that was a contributing factor. It even was in a patient vignette in my Human Behavior class for a patient with Generalized Anxiety: "I was raised Catholic and I have done some bad things. I am constantly afraid of going to Hell."

Yet, from what I've learned at Mass and through religious education is that, while the Church recognizes the human tendency towards sin, God has institute numerous, life-changing sacraments and commissions that will let us still come into his presence -- a feat made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I always walked away from Church feeling like, "Both God and the Church recognizes we are imperfect, and that is why you can do (a., (b., (c.), etc... in order to become holy.."

How did all of this stuff get started? Were things different before Vatican II or something? I wasn't around during that time-frame.

sara said...

I really don't know what to make of her recent writings.

My own opinion, which I hope is based on Scripture, is that humanity is created in the image of God, though that image is marred through sin. We are sinful beings who need God for forgiveness, salvation and EVERYTHING.

Every good thing comes from God whether we are believers or not. He has poured out His blessings on humanity - the sun shines on the just and the unjust. Not everyone will be saved, but yes, God does desire that all would be.

I think that it is difficult but important to have a correct view of ourselves - we are nothing without God, but we are also precious to Him, loved by Him, and made in His image and He desires a relationship with us. These things are hard for me to express, please try to read between the lines.

There is, of course, a difference between believers and unbelievers. Jesus did pray specifically for believers. I don't think this should be a point of pride however. By God's grace alone I am a believer, and I have done nothing to earn that. (I know, I know, we're skimming by some doctrinal differences here.) In myself, in my flesh, there is no good thing - I am utterly sinful. I rejoice that I am adopted as a child of God, but it is because of what He has done and not something that I can brag about in myself.

Lately it seems that God is trying to hammer something home to me - something about how He knows me completely, knows all my faults, my sins, my thoughts, my actions and He loves me anyway and has not left me to my own devices. What a mighty God we serve, huh?

Elena said...

I was alive for the wee littlest bit before Vatican II so I can't say. But I do think there was perhaps more emphasis that it was very easy to fall into sin (which indeed it is!) and so we had to be constantly vigilant.

Thinking back, maybe we should emphasize that more!

Barbara C. said...

I tried to post this before, but it must not have gone through.

Mikey, I think that the idea of "Catholic guilt" might stem from Catholics kind of being held to a higher standard of sorts. For instance, most other denominations do not consider it a mortal sin to miss Sunday service. And going to regular confession and having to examine one's conscious makes one more aware of sinful tendencies.

And whereas many denominations are "Once Saved Always Saved", Catholics are not so there one must always be on their toes, hence Catholic fear. And even though our detractors hold it against it, the Catholic Church is a Church of action. So Catholics may be hyper-sensitive to those times when we are not "walking the walk", hence the guilt.

Dr MikeyMike said...

Every good thing comes from God whether we are believers or not. He has poured out His blessings on humanity - the sun shines on the just and the unjust.

I love the point that you make here. I bring up something similar to some of the snottier Atheists I come into contact with at school.

There is, of course, a difference between believers and unbelievers. Jesus did pray specifically for believers. I don't think this should be a point of pride however. By God's grace alone I am a believer, and I have done nothing to earn that. (I know, I know, we're skimming by some doctrinal differences here.)

Sara, I hardly find your post controversial. If anything, it was a joy to read! I cannot say that it is by 'grace alone' that I am a believer, unless it is in the context of God blessing me with his grace to be able to see his works and listen to his Word. I wanted to comment more on that, but I felt as though the language you used could have been interpreted a couple of ways and I didn't want to take anything you said out of context. Either way, I don't think it's all that silly or scandalous :).

Barbara -- Hi!! Thank you for your input. I can definitely see your point, yet that hardly makes me any more sympathetic towards those who complain. So you feel guilty and refuse to do anything about it so you'll simply up and leave a denomination? You've earned -my- respect. Not! And see? Therein lies the paradox. I always felt that the Church encouraged forgiveness, salvation, and the pathway to Holiness. I always came away feeling as though it wanting us to be mindful of our sins, but also to rise above them and become something better. That just does not mesh with the whole gloomy image of 'the bad, Catholic Church making me feel all guilty and making me a nervous wreck.'

sara said...

Dr. MikeyMike, yes, I was purposely vague. :) I'm just enjoying the common ground we share as believers.

Blessings on you,

just said...

I agree that it is a sad perspective. It makes it too easy to do an "us vs them" thing and demonize anyone who is not that particular brand of Christian. As an evangelical, I really struggled with this, because the nature of my work demands that I treat every person I encounter professionally as if s/he is doing the very best s/he can given the circumstances, ie ascribing a positive intent. This did not sit well with my fundamentalist faith, but it *worked.* I wasn't able to integrate it into my faith until I became Catholic :) Believing that we are all brothers and sisters has been great for me as a parent, too, when I don't quite know how to respond to a situation. Any situation, really--treat the other person with dignity and assume the best, and many things will work themselves out.

Barbara C. said...

Well, Mikey, I don't think it is Catholic guilt/fear that makes people leave the Church. Usually it's ignorance or egotism.

I don't think Catholic guilt/fear is often given as a reason for leaving the Church. I think it's just Catholics may be slightly more hyper-sensitive to sin and guilty feelings, whether they are still part of the Church or not. I think that they probably feel even more guilty when they leave the Church. Growing up Catholic leaves an indelible mark on you. Even when you leave the Church, you never really leave it, if you know what I mean. It's like Jimminy Cricket constantly whispering in your ear no matter how much you wish you could pretend he doesn't exist.;-)

I think when people try to use Catholic guilt/fear as an excuse it is because they only heard half the lesson. They kind of missed or were mis-taught the part where sacraments are there to wipe away the guilt and fear. They think that the purpose of Confession is to make them focus on how bad they are when it's really about starting over with a clean slate and a chance to do better. See--ignorance.

Then on the other hand you have egotists who want to set themselves up as God, even though they may claim to be atheists. They want to believe that as long as they can't see the hurtful consequences then they never do anything wrong. And they are angry at Jimminy Cricket for suggesting otherwise.

As for pre-VII/post-VII, there was more emphasis on the Sacraments as a means to keep you from Hell in the old days, as though that you should be prepared for death at all times. Vigilance, like Elena said. After V-II, everything became very "God is love. Kumbaya." This isn't necessarily because of VII, but more how people (clergy and lay) chose to misinterpret VII in the light of the '60s culture shift. Post-VII Catholic guilt is more about being considered a "bad person" and less about fear of eternal damnation.

Kelly said...

Barbara said:

I think when people try to use Catholic guilt/fear as an excuse it is because they only heard half the lesson. They kind of missed or were mis-taught the part where sacraments are there to wipe away the guilt and fear. They think that the purpose of Confession is to make them focus on how bad they are when it's really about starting over with a clean slate and a chance to do better. See--ignorance.

I was hoping you would jump in on this one, Barbara!

That is the impression that I've gotten from my Mom. She only heard a focus on the negative (all those sins you've committed), the rules (no fish, no black patent leather shoes), and rote memorization (a sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace).

That's why when it was the Boomer's turn to do religious instruction, they were all about love and how you feel about things.

I try to tread the middle ground with my children. I want them to understand the reasons behind what we believe, the way my Mom knew, but I also want them to have a love of Catholicism, and means involving the emotions as well.

Lisa said...

Candy's site is now GONE! Log on and see for yourself what her "project" was.
I feel like crying!