This post is part of a series.
In Part 1, I introduced the idea that both Catholicism and hyper-Arminianism (hyper-Calvinism’s brother) make the deadly mistake of including works in the salvation formula, and hurt many people. Let’s dig in some more.
The Descent into Scrupulosity
In an effort to help sufferers of the very problem Catholicism creates, a Catholic Answers Magazine article entitled Scrupulosity: The Occupational Hazard of the Catholic Moral Life, describes the process its very theology kicks off:
This is the kind of reasoning that can lead a person into scrupulosity:
- Even if the offense seems minor, it is still an offense against an infinite being….The scrupulous person may believe that the difference between venial and mortal sin is only one of degree. Though there are different degrees of sin, all sin is of one kind; all offenses against God are equally serious.
- Given the inevitability of sin, there’s not much hope of salvation.
However, this misses the mark entirely - the problem is not learning to discern between serious and lesser sins – the real issue is thinking that we must or can earn or keep our salvation through a combination of grace and good works. The article continues to misinform us this way:
It is right about the seriousness of human freedom, which is not a game. We do have the power to dislodge God’s grace from our hearts through sin. But scrupulosity gets the other half of the grace/freedom picture wrong: It fails to take into account that God’s grace is so powerful that it is not as easily dislodged from the heart as the scrupulous person thinks.
If you are an Arminian, you are probably nodding in agreement with the Catholic view here, and I was probably not wrong to lump you in with the Catholic on this doctrine. It all makes such intellectual sense.
This post is part of a series.
I have previously catalogued my exodus from the bondage of Arminian Holiness to the peace of Reformed Theology, and was reminded of its horrors today when listening to a recent episode of This American Life (Show 507), in which Catholic priest Fr. Thomas Santa discussed, somewhat nonchalantly, the seemingly common and well known problem of pathological scrupulosity in Catholic circles.
Essentially, scrupulosity is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that is, in my observation, often CAUSED by (not just exacerbated) by works-based religious systems – that is, systems whose forgiveness is based upon strict obedience to good works, which is the majority of non-Christian religions in the world.
Not surprisingly, this is such a big problem in Catholicism that there is an entire subculture dedicated to describing, treating, and (mis)-understanding its origins and treatment, including Santa’s book Understanding Scrupulosity.
This interview put a bee in my bonnet because this horrific torment would not exist if it weren’t for Catholic and Protestant (primarily Arminian) churches that poison the gospel with works-righteousness and sanctification. It’s offensive and cruel.
I am currently reading Dr. Jerry Walls’ book on purgatory (for Protestants!) entitled Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation, and one important question he addresses is, “Is purgatory for the purpose of satisfaction or sanctification?”
Satisfaction, meaning paying for one’s sins, is rejected by Protestants since we see Christ’s work as full and final on that account. But what about sanctification? Walls is proposing that, among other things, Purgatory would answer the question as to how God intends to complete our sanctification before we come into his presence.
Now, I’m not sold on his solution, but he offers it in response to this important question, which I want to address in two parts – “Does God require complete sanctification before we can enter into His full presence, and how does he accomplish it?”
Walls answers seem to be “Yes” and “Purgatory” for the repentant (he also believes in post-mortem repentance, but that’s an entirely other subject).
My thesis regarding santification, however, is different:
MY THESIS: Full Practical Sanctification (FPS) is composed of two parts – moral purity, and moral maturity. The former is fully attained at the resurrection, when we receive our new bodies, having left the old corrupted bodies behind. The latter is achieved throughout eternity.
Let’s explore, shall we?
The Council on Foreign Relations recently had a great three part symposium, and I wanted to summarize some of the great material from the transcripts. It covers such things as the economic progress brought by Protestantism as compared to Catholicism and other religions, as well as how literacy spread, not by the invention or availability of the printing press, but primarily by Protestant Missionaries who used it. And more. In this part, I’ll cover the comments of Lawrence Hamilton, Director, Cultural Change Institute and Lecturer, the Fletcher School, Tufts University.
Catholic Priest, writer, and founder of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty Robert Sirico, recently gave a nice lecture entitled The Rise (And Eventual Downfall) of the New Religious Left (audio). In it, he listed the seven characteristic errors of the religious left, as well as some interesting discussion of the historic origins of the ‘left’ and ‘right’ labels. You can also read his writing on this subject from a 2002 article in First Things. He is, however, often a critic of the religious right as well.
Sirico has also been a long time critic of the Vatican and its alignment with liberal politics (except abortion, see How Partisan Are the Bishops?), i.e. the same errors he lists above. I’ve summarized his seven points below, but his discussion is really interesting. Also decent is his discussion of the same subject matter in a radio interview with Kresta in the Afternoon.
This is a fantastic piece by Fred Sanders called Why Was Mother Teresa Sad?. It’s well worth a read in the midst of the the Mother-Teresa-lost-her-faith talking point.
One of my favorite pastimes is to regularly cull through the latest ultra bargains at Christian Book Distributors and order a bunch of books for an average price of $2 each. About 50% of them are usually gems, and one particular gem I picked up for $1 (regularly $7) was John Cobb’s Christian Faith and Religious Diversity.
Although Cobb is a Christian Progressive (not my camp, as you know ;), his book was filled with insights which I found illuminating and helpful in my own desire to learn from and appreciate other faith traditions, without having to be a syncretist.
National Review Online contributor, Rod Dreher, left the Catholic Church for the Orthodox Church. He wrote a lengthy explanation of the change and what drove him to leave the church he had always known.
He investigated the sex-abuse scandal in the church, which put him face to face with lies, cover-ups and conspiracies. This left his faith damaged and depleted.
As I said, it is a very lengthy article, but it is interesting to see someone come out with a more vibrant faith after enduring trials.
So the insane Muslims reacted with violence and threats to the Pope’s recitation of a quote that called Islam violent and coercive. I’d say they proved his point. Quoting a 14th Century Byzantine emperor, he said
Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.
OK, well, even if this is accurate (and I think it is), he probably should not have repeated it. However, other Catholics are now joining in.
The AP is reporting that someone defaced what has become known as the Chicago Virgin Mary.
Victor Gonzalez of Chicago has been charged with criminal damage to state supported property. According to police, witnesses saw him painting "Big Lie" over the stain under an expressway that thousands have come to see believing it to be an image of Mary.
The site of the stain has seen thousands from the faithful Catholics bringing candles and flowers to the curious to see what all the fuss was about.
I don’t agree with what Gonzalez did, but this has long been one of my biggests questions about Catholicism – why the insistence on seeing Mary in everything?