Skip to comments.Getting in Touch With Reality (good character and behavior as a ticket to Heaven)
Posted on 10/28/2007 3:18:58 PM PDT by NYer
Each year, at one of our country's leading Catholic universities, a professor does a survey with his incoming class of students. He puts to them this question: "If you were to die tonight and appear at the pearly gates, what would be your entry ticket?"
Nine out of ten bet their good character and behavior will gain them admission.
This is exactly the strategy used by the Pharisee in the parable that we find in this Sunday's gospel (Luke 18:9-14) about the Pharisee and the publican.
As we listen to this story today, the Pharisee strikes us as conceited. His real problem, though, is that he, like the students noted above, is out of touch with reality. And, by the way, being out of touch with reality is the definition of insanity.
Reality is that we are creatures and God is the creator. Heaven is the experience of sharing intimately in God's inner life, participating in his immortality and friendship. We have less of a claim to intimate friendship with God than a flea has to intimate friendship with us. As the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard said, there is an infinite qualitative distance between us and God.
In fact, standing on our own merits, we have absolutely no claim whatsoever on God. A claim is based on justice. Justice is about receiving our due and paying what we owe. We receive our very being and all we need to sustain that being from God. Therefore we owe him everything — perfect love, honor, obedience, and worship. Showing up at church from time to time, tossing a few bucks in the basket, and trying to be basically decent people doesn't quite cover the debt.
In fact, considering what we all owe, the Pharisee's merits don't appear all that more impressive than the tax-collector's.
That's why God sent Jesus. Through His act of perfect humility, obedience and love on the cross, He paid the debt that the entire race owed to God. That's justice. And then He credited it to our account. That's mercy. Another name for mercy is grace.
In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, studied St. Paul's letters and came to a startling conclusion: "for by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph 2:8). Wait a minute. Isn't this Protestant doctrine? No. In the words of Peter Kreeft, the Protestant Reformation began when a Catholic monk rediscovered a Catholic doctrine in a Catholic book.
Talking to most Catholics in Luther's day, you'd never know this was Catholic doctrine. And the college survey noted above illustrates that the same is regrettably true today. Most appear to be under the illusion of the Pharisee that they deserve salvation based on their good deeds.
The Catholic Church's teaching has always been clear — it's all grace. Whatever natural blessings we enjoy — health, job, family, education — are gifts. Did we have to labor at all to attain what we have? Usually. But we were created out of nothing. Our very existence and ability to labor is a gift. If we enjoy a personal, intimate relationship with God as our Father and Jesus as our brother, those are all gifts as well. Do we have to labor spiritually to do God's will and walk in the path of good works that God has marked out for us (Eph 2:10)? Of course. But the very ability to know God's will and love as God loves is pure grace.
The publican was under no illusions: he knew that he deserved nothing but judgment. So he asked for mercy. This is the sane thing to do. The Pharisee, under the illusion that his works made him righteous, didn't think he needed grace, so didn't ask. That's insane.
Humility is not only sane, it is liberating. It enables us to stop thinking about what we've done and what we deserve and focus instead on what He's done and how much He deserves. Humility may begin with beating one's breast and looking at the ground. After all, the term "humility" comes from the word "humus" or earth. But mature humility looks exuberantly up to heaven. Not with the arrogance of the Pharisee, mind you, but with joyful thanksgiving of those who are thrilled to know that they are loved.
(This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is used by permission of the author.)
“That’s why God sent Jesus. Through His act of perfect humility, obedience and love on the cross, He paid the debt that the entire race owed to God. That’s justice.”
Oh dear....The Romans believe that a wrathful “god” needed to be satisfied by blood, preferably innocent blood, and in the perfect event, shed by His Son. Neat! I really want to run off and worship that monster!
So you don’t think Christ was judged on the Cross for the sins of all mankind, or do you simply think God is unjust and ignores sin and forgave sin willy nilly without perfect righteousness and perfect justice.
“So you dont think Christ was judged on the Cross for the sins of all mankind, or do you simply think God is unjust and ignores sin and forgave sin willy nilly without perfect righteousness and perfect justice.”
Perhaps you should read again what I wrote, C, then ping me.
Concur. Amen. So I believe it.
I’ve reread your post and it strikes me that you are being sarcastic of the work performed on the Cross by our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, instead implying that the judgment required by God the Father being satisfied by Our Lord’s sacrifice somehow lower’s the love of God the Father and God the Son.
Paul explains in his letter to the Romans the nature of justification as provided through faith in Christ.
Is this to what you refer?
It strikes me as an odd comment for you to make.
“It strikes me as an odd comment for you to make.”
The atonement theory of the Incarnation is distinctly Western and scholastic and neither Orthodox nor patristic. It comes from +Anselm in the 11th century. It is, in the opinion of at least some Orthodox theologians, the origin of Western atheism.
To an Orthodox Christian, to say that Almighty God demanded the death of His Son to satisfy a blood lust grounded in the Father’s “Justice” is blasphemy. The death on the Cross, the Sacrifice was absolutely necessary on several levels, none of which had to do with satisfying the wrath of the Father.
Here’s why Christ died on the Cross:
That’s Orthodox Christianity, C.
I take the atonement theory from Abraham’s type of offering his son to the Father, then his hand stayed because God provides all that is required, including the Perfect sacrifice, in body, soul and spirit.
I associate the blood with the death of Christ on the Cross, although I believe there are also some significant issues associated with the ressurected body, discernible from the human spirit which are also addressed by the blood on the Cross.
His Perfect Justice and Perfect Righteousness I understand from the Arc of the Covenent and the Mercy Seat with two Cherubim facing one another.
These all preceded Anselm, but nonetheless fabulous types for our understanding of what He provides, don’t you think?
I noticed Cvenger's reply that the atonement is understood in pe-Anslem's terms through Abrahamic sacrifice, both of which are examples of how much the Jews and legalistic Latins misunderstood God revealed to us fully in Christ.
Once you get going from an incomplete premise or wrong platform, the rest of your journey will not lead you to the narrow path that leads to Truth.
The Protestants are a perfect exmaple of a wide path that is open to everyone (relativism) and to every kind of private interpretation and fanatasy, and a sure way of missing the mark.
Judaism and Anslem's atonement are something from a Friday the 13th hororr movie. No wonder atheism was born in the West. No wonder Europe is secular. Even America, where so many claim to be Christians, life is profoundly secular, violent and manterialistic. It's all (double) talk.
I think this is a meretricious question. Nothing in Scripture suggests a "ticket" or pass or quiz for entry into Heaven. The Lord Jesus will invite His own to enter, on His initiative.
The Lord Jesus will invite His own to enter, on His initiative.
So like the other thread is talking about getting into heaven if one is “saved” doesn’t work, does it. LOL!
I think we waste a lot of effort on trying to make God conform to our thinking. It’s natural, but our efforts to define - or limit - what God will do are always going to be misleading to some extent.
There were some interesting ideas on that thread. I just skimmed the posts, but it was informative about how different people think.