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Peter T Chattaway

left behind ... and catholicism, etc.

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Over on the Passion thread, there was a brief mention of the Left Behind phenomenon, which I thought it might warrant a thread of its own. First, I'll just quote one of my posts from that thread:

- - -

SDG wrote:

: Cf. my piece on the Left Behind phenomenon.

BTW, good article.

FWIW, I have only read the first Left Behind book, and I believe there is a mention in there of the Pope being among those who are raptured -- I couldn't bother to look it up now, but I believe it comes up, just in passing, in a conversation between Buck Williams and his colleagues. I remember raising an eyebrow at that, because it seemed so out-of-character for a book bearing the name of a dyed-in-the-wool fundie like Tim LaHaye. But I didn't read any of the other books, so it wasn't until I read an article on the franchise in the Atlantic Monthly that I heard about this raptured Pope's Lutheran tendencies. I found myself wondering if the initial reference in the original book had been a casual aside tossed in there by Jerry B. Jenkins, and if LaHaye had rapped his knuckles for that, and if Jenkins had been obliged to come up with this "Lutheran" explanation when it came time, in the second book, to demonize the remnants of the Catholic Church.

FWIW, I've written a few articles on end-times films and culture myself:

http://peter.chattaway.com/articles/leftbehi.htm

http://peter.chattaway.com/articles/lindsey.htm

- - -

And now, I'd like to know what SDG makes of this comment from an article in the latest Books & Culture that compares and contrasts the Left Behind series with the original end-times novels that came out 90 years ago:

Equally fascinating is the manner in which the novels negotiate the end of the other Cold War, the hostile standoff between the competing branches of Western Christendom. Throughout the rapture novel tradition, Roman Catholicism has been given a negative press. Watson's heroes were "ultra-protestants" adhering to a "Moody and Sankey religion." The motives of their enemy were undisguised: "Romanism boldly declares its aim to win, or coerce Britain back into her harlot fold." LaHaye and Jenkins certainly moderate this mood. In Left Behind, the Pope is among the raptured, though perhaps only because he has embraced Luther's "heresies"; but, in later novels, the rapture seems to have also involved entire Catholic congregations whose evangelical credentials are in no way signaled. Such rapprochement is tempered, however, as the novels identify the replacement pope as the Antichrist's false prophet. In the aftermath of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the Left Behind novels seek to have their cake and eat it.

What do you make of this, SDG? The impression I got from reading your critique was that you thought the books were more or less completely anti-Catholic.

FWIW, I'm not at all surprised that the films have not yet gone the anti-Catholic route. Film, being the inherently conservative medum that it is, typically tends to appeal to a more universal audience and to shy away from sectarian controversies, whereas novels are free to be bolder. (I am thinking, now, of Jim Cullen's observation that the film version of Gone with the Wind toned down the racism, classism and feminism of the novel...)

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Apocalypse No: Religious bookstore refuses novel

Regent College won't sell latest in most popular Christian series ever

Douglas Todd

Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

When the latest book in the most popular Christian fiction series of all time was released Tuesday, it wasn't on the shelves of one of the biggest Christian bookstores in Canada because of concerns that it promotes a dangerous world view that exacerbates global tensions.

Regent College Bookstore, which is affiliated with a world-renowned evangelical graduate school in Vancouver, won't be selling the 12th instalment in the phenomenally popular Left Behind series, which is being released today across North America to huge fanfare.

The authors of the Left Behind series, which is about the United States' central role in ushering in a cataclysm that destroys non-Christians, have surpassed mystery writer John Grisham as the best-selling writers of adult fiction in North America.

Although many Christian and mainstream bookstores in Canada havebegun to sell the series' final book, Glorious Appearing, a manager at Regent College Bookstore said the Christian books "mix a dangerous theology with politics -- and we don't want to sell it."

Ian Panth, whose Christian bookstore is a non-profit arm of Regent College, on the University of B.C. campus, said Tuesday:

"The book is very American-centric. It says the United States is successful because it has supported the state of Israel. It portrays the Anti-Christ as a Russian who has risen up to take over the United Nations. It also paints the European Union as entirely demonic."

The majority of faculty at the evangelical Christian graduate school, Panth said, are appalled by the bad writing and bad theology in the apocalyptic series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins -- which has sold more than 40 million copies and been translated into 34 languages.

The Left Behind series is an explosive blend of supernaturalism and geopolitics, which suggests the U.S. is beyond criticism, said Panth, whose bookstore rings up more than $1 million in annual sales. The series ignores the reality that every government, including that of the U.S., is imperfect, he said.

In Glorious Appearing, Jesus Christ returns to Earth and violently destroys non-Christians, including Jews who refuse to convert.

The Left Behind series is based on ultra-conservative interpretations of the New Testament's Book of Revelation, which claim the second coming of Christ won't occur until Israel is controlled by Jews.

The manager of Funston's Christian Books in Vancouver, Dave Powell, would say only that the Left Behind series has always sold well with a certain reading audience and he expects strong sales of Glorious Appearing.

A clerk at Chapters Books at Broadway and Granville, who would not identify herself, said the Christian novel is ready to go on sale today. However, national officials for Chapters failed to respond to questions about how many copies have been stocked by the chain. Although Wal-Mart has sold millions of copies of the Left Behind series in the U.S., Canadian Wal-Mart officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The Left Behind series, which a Christian film production company in Ontario has made into several movies, sells most strongly among evangelical Protestants, who make up almost 40 per cent of the U.S. population, but less than 10 per cent of Canadians.

St. Jerome's University president Michael Higgins, a noted commentator on the Canadian religious scene, said Canadian Christians don't have the same taste as Americans for messianic and apocalyptic visions about a cataclysmic end of the world.

"Canadians see books that bring together Biblical prophecy, the Middle East and the U.S. as part of an Americanization of the political process. And they're nervous about that," said Higgins, whose Catholic institution is connected with the University of Waterloo in southern Ontario.

In the U.S., Higgins said, many members of the influential religious right see their country taking a messianic role, as the New Jerusalem, in world politics.

However, in Canada, Higgins said, most conservative Protestants and Catholics have trouble with such a triumphalistic attitude.

dtodd@png.canwest.com

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It takes a lot to shock me when it comes to commercialism and materialism, and I'm never first in line to cry "Censorship!" anytime a bookstore chooses not to carry a certain title, but this article is astonishing. It reeks of senseless cultural snobbery, at the very least.

So the last "Left Behind" novel is America-centric? Whatever. As for the poor theology, yeah, I agree, but dispensational premillennialism reaches far and wide, and choosing not to stock a certain book that reflects it is highly questionable.

And, I wonder, if I walked the aisles of the Regent bookstore, might I find a few other books that reflect the same questionable theology? I bet I would. Other books that are poorly written? Almost certainly.

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Jeez. I can't even get Seattle Pacific University's bookstore to sell Christianity Today. Nope. They've only got room for Time, Newsweek, People, and I think some magazine that has to do with brides...

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First The Passion showed Jesus can take the pain -- now Glorious Appearing shows he can dish it, too!

- - -

The Return of the Warrior Jesus

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

Published: April 4, 2004

WRITERS and artists have been imagining the Second Coming of Jesus for 2,000 years, but few have portrayed him wreaking more carnage on the unbelieving world than Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

In their new apocalyptic novel, "Glorious Appearing," based on Dr. LaHaye's interpretation of Biblical prophecies about the Second Coming, their Jesus appears from the clouds on a white horse with a "conviction like a flame of fire" in his eyes. With all the gruesome detail of a Hollywood horror movie, Jesus eviscerates the flesh of millions of unbelievers merely by speaking.

"Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood," Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins write. "It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.'' The authors add, "Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated."

Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins did not invent fire and brimstone. But some scholars who study religion say that the phenomenal popularity of their "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic thrillers -- now the best-selling adult novels in the United States -- are part of a shift in American culture's image of Jesus. The gentle, pacifist Jesus of the Crucifixion is sharing the spotlight with a more muscular warrior Jesus of the Second Coming, the Lamb making way for the Lion.

Scholars who study religion in American culture say the trend partly reflects the growing clout of evangelical Christians and the relative decline of the liberal mainline Protestant denominations over the last 30 years. The image of a fearsome Jesus who will turn the tables on the unbelieving earthly authorities corresponds to a widespread sense among many conservative Christians that their values are under assault in a culture war with the secular society around them. The shift coincides with a surging interest in Biblical prophecies of the apocalypse around the turn of the millennium, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the two wars with Iraq. And the warlike image of Jesus also fits with President George W. Bush's discussions of a godly purpose behind American military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are signs of the same shift in Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ," which dealt almost exclusively with the submissive Jesus of the Crucifixion. "When you see him stand up at the end of the movie, he reminds you of Schwarzenegger,'' said Stephen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University and author of "American Jesus," a new cultural history. "I think that movie shows more of a macho Jesus, who, in this case, is brutalized instead of brutalizing."

He added, "I definitely think the pendulum is swinging toward a darker, more martial, macho concept of the Messiah."

Some worry that the turn toward a more warlike Jesus reflects a dangerous tendency to see earthly conflicts in cosmic terms. "I think a lot of people are looking at contemporary conflict around the world and seeing it as a kind of religious war," said Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton. "And there is no kind of conflict that becomes more intractable than when people are convinced that they alone have access to God's truth and the other side are the people of Satan."

But Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called the warrior Jesus of the "Left Behind" novels a healthy corrective, reminding people that Jesus is judgmental as well as merciful. "The fear of God is a worthy emotion," he said.

He argued that the wrathful Jesus in the book series was an antidote to what he called "the effeminate Jesus" that has sometimes prevailed in the culture. "In our stained-glass windows and our popular culture, Jesus is a kind of marshmallowy, Santa Claus Jesus, which is not at all in keeping with the gospels," he said.

The fight for a manly Jesus has been long-running. At the beginning of the 20th century, some Christian critics railed against what they called "bearded lady'' portraits of Jesus of the Victorian era. But the battle over the manliness of Jesus had settled down by the middle of the 20th century, when the relatively liberal, mainline Protestant denominations were at their apex.

Few liberal Protestants believed in a literal hell or talked much about the Second Coming. Their masculine but soft-spoken image of Jesus was exemplified by the once-ubiquitous portrait "Head of Christ,'' made by Warner Sallman in 1941, which depicted a handsome man looking serenely upward. "It is the classic Mr. Rogers Jesus picture," Professor Prothero said in an interview.

But a less visible subculture of more evangelical Protestants held on to a far sterner, more bellicose image of Jesus that centered on the apocalypse. Like Dr. LaHaye, they maintained a darker "pre-millennialist'' view that the Bible predicts a period of turmoil before Jesus returns in a final apocalyptic battle to overthrow the Antichrist.

Bible scholars holding this view have often sought to apply Biblical prophecy to current events, frequently taking the creation of the state of Israel as a welcome sign that history is nearing a close. Dr. LaHaye's "Left Behind" series starts when all the born-again are summoned to heaven in the Rapture. Then the Antichrist uses the United Nations to create a single world government, world currency and world religion -- all signposts on the road to Armageddon, in Dr. LaHaye's view. The Antichrist establishes his global capital at the Biblical Babylon, now known as Baghdad.

The overarching themes in such Biblical interpretation also bear a strong resemblance to contemporary talk of a culture war pitting secular liberals against conservative Christians, said Timothy Weber, president of Memphis Theological Seminary. "The culture war fits into the pre-millennialists' expectation of the end of history -- the decline of civilization, the breakdown of morality, a general breakdown of order,'' he said. "The warrior Jesus returns to set everything right again."

Until about 30 years ago, evangelical Christians who leaned toward such views tended to shun engagement with politics or the larger culture as a little bit dirty and a little bit pointless, said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron who studies religion. But that changed around the 1970's, when many conservative Christians began to feel that their traditional values had come under attack by the secular culture around them. When conservative Christians began to join the culture war, Dr. LaHaye was on the frontlines, joining Jerry Falwell in founding the Moral Majority.

Not all evangelical Protestants agree with Dr. LaHaye, but they are much more likely than other groups to sympathize with him. "The groups that had those views are much more visible than they used to be,'' Professor Green said. "They are more politically active than they were in the past.''

Even in the Catholic Church, which does not share Dr. LaHaye's interpretation of the Second Coming, a growing number of conservatives, including Mr. Gibson, identify with conservative Protestants, he said.

They have also helped put allies in the White House. President Ronald Reagan occasionally alluded to Biblical prophecies of a final battle at Armageddon, stirring fears among liberal Christians that he envisioned a nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union.

President George W. Bush, a born-again Methodist, has not talked publicly about Armageddon, but he has been unusually outspoken about the role of his faith in both his own life and his foreign policy, suggesting the United States was doing God's work by spreading freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For his part, Mr. Jenkins, co-author of "Glorious Appearing," acknowledged that the "tough love" Jesus might not please everyone. "Some people might say, 'We like thinking that Jesus is the man who spoke in paradoxes and beatitudes,' and they might not want to find out that he is also the one who is going to judge at the end of the world,'' he said, adding: "But, of course, that is the way it is in the Bible."

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See also this review by Catholic critic Carl Olson:

Matters aren't helped by the antichrist, Nicolae Jetty Carpathia (described as "ol' Nick" by some of the good guys), who wears leather chaps, usually rides a horse, and wildly swings a sword while posing madly for the omnipresent camera crews who wisely avoid equestrian transportation. Although possessed by Satan, ostensibly a being of high intelligence, ol' Nick mercilessly mangles the English language as he tirelessly rallies his troops:

"These uprisings shall be crushed posthaste. As we speak, portions of our more than extravagantly outfitted fighting force will peel off to these locations to lay waste to the pretenders. They will regret their insolence only as long as they have breath, and then they will be trampled and made an example of."

Isn't it embarrassing to think that the man who wrote THAT paragraph is also the man who started up some sort of writers' guild to encourage good Christian fiction writing?

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:cry:

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All those Left Behind Catholics

By Terry Mattingly

Catholic writer Carl Olson was struggling as he led his audience through the maze of competing Christian beliefs about the Second Coming of Jesus.

There are premillennialists who believe Christ will reign for 1,000 years on earth. But it wouldn't be fair to lump them with the ultra-literal premillennial dispensationalists, he noted, since these camps contain bitter rifts over the timing of "the rapture." That's when the trumpet sounds, the dead rise and Christians soar to meet Christ in the air. Then there is the ancient amillennial stance, without a 1,000-year kingdom. Oh, and don't forget the postmillennialists.

Rows of middle-aged, cradle Catholics in Salem, Ore., gazed back -- utterly lost.

"I was getting absolutely nowhere," said Olson. "So I finally asked them: 'How many of you have ever heard a single sermon or even some kind of talk at church about what the Catholic faith actually teaches about the Second Coming?' There were 200 or more people there and four or five hands went up. That's what you see everywhere."

These Catholics didn't know their catechism. But, many could quote chapter and verse from another doctrinal source -- the "Left Behind" novels by evangelical superstars Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. This amazes Olson, who was raised in what he called a "strong, fundamentalist Protestant" home before converting to Catholicism.

The first 11 novels have sold around 50 million copies and that doesn't include the racks of children's books, audio editions, games, comics, DVDs and music products. Now the climactic "Glorious Appearing: The End of Days" is out, complete with a warrior Christ on a white stallion leading the angelic version of shock and awe.

The powers that be at the New York Times were struck by this scene: "Tens of thousands of foot soldiers dropped their weapons, grabbed their heads or their chests, fell to their knees, and writhed as they were invisibly sliced asunder. Their innards and entrails gushed to the desert floor, and as those around them turned to run, they too were slain, their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of God."

For millions of modern Catholics, this is more exciting than the works of Justin Martyr, Augustine and the Second Vatican Council. Olson said it's hard to know what chunk of the "Left Behind" audience is Catholic, but publicists say that 11 percent is a good estimate.

This shouldn't be foreign territory for Catholics, said Olson, author of "Will Catholics Be 'Left Behind'?" In every Mass, they say they believe Jesus will "come again in glory to judge the living and dead." Catholics are taught -- along with Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, Anglicans and many others -- that "the rapture" will follow a time of tribulation and happen at the Second Coming, not seven years earlier as taught in the "Left Behind" series.

But it's hard to resist thrillers in which the mysterious Book of Revelation is decoded into visions of United Nations plots, global media, Chinese armies, Israeli jets and, well, Satan running the Vatican.

"Lots of Catholics tell me that 'Left Behind' can't be bad because LaHaye and Jenkins have the pope getting raptured along with the good guys," said Olson. "They don't even notice that this pope is considered a radical because he has started preaching what sure sounds like evangelical Protestantism. In other words, he's a real Christian. The next pope turns out to be Anti-Christ's right-hand man."

Meanwhile, most priests and bishops are silent, said Olson. Many fear being called "fundamentalists" if they even discuss issues of prophecy and the end times. Others may not believe what their church teaches.

The Catholic bishops of Illinois did release a "Left Behind" critique, claiming: "Overall, these books reinforce an unhealthy and immature belief in a harshly judgmental God whose mercy we earn by good behavior." But Olson said too many Catholic leaders refuse to take seriously the content of the books, movies and television programs that shape the beliefs of their people.

"If you want to be a good shepherd, you have to care about this stuff," he said. "These kinds of books and movies are where most Americans -- including Catholics -- get their beliefs and attitudes about faith and spirituality. ... You cannot wish these things away. They're real."

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Terry Mattingly wrote:

: The Catholic bishops of Illinois did release a "Left Behind" critique,

: claiming: "Overall, these books reinforce an unhealthy and immature

: belief in a harshly judgmental God whose mercy we earn by good

: behavior."

To which James Kushiner replied:

Well, there's a switch. Catholics -- bishops in this case -- criticizing a very popular, essentially Protestant Evangelical work for teaching what amounts to works righteousness. The charge usually (still) comes from the other camp.

Ha!

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NY Times Op/Ed piece, calling the series bigoted...

Which is not really fair, and which the author glosses over by lumping the charge together with other charges, like "Predicting the apocalypse has a bad track record." To believe that only explicitly confessing born-again Christians can be saved, and that therefore all Muslims, Buddhists, etc. who do not convert will be damned is bad theology and certainly objectionable, but the charge of "bigotry" seems off base.

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Forgive me for my bad theological understanding of the issues at hand but could you please clarify how

To believe that only explicitly confessing born-again Christians can be saved, and that therefore all Muslims, Buddhists, etc. who do not convert will be damned is bad theology and certainly objectionable

Off topic, I know but of much interest to me.

Thanks in advance.

Edited by gigi

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I don't know what the Catholic answer to this would be, but when Orthodox scholar Fr. Thomas Hopko was in Vancouver recently, he said that ALL people had been saved, but SOME people would not accept it; there are those who will welcome God's love when they are exposed to it in all its fullness, and there are those who will find God's love hellishly painful. Hopko cited Romans 2 ("There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. . . . For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them"), which I liked, because I have been citing that passage for years, too. Change "Jew" to "Christian" and "Gentile" to "non-Christian", and the principle still holds, I think.

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Thanks. I'm gonna have to go out and do some more reading around this. Personal issues have recently made this a big point of contention for me, partly I think because of the evangelism of the person with whom I was discussing it. I've been wondering about the perspective of other denominations for a while now and this is, honestly, quite a big weight off my shoulders.

Thanks again.

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I don't know what the Catholic answer to this would be, but when Orthodox scholar Fr. Thomas Hopko was in Vancouver recently, he said that ALL people had been saved, but SOME people would not accept it; there are those who will welcome God's love when they are exposed to it in all its fullness, and there are those who will find God's love hellishly painful.

The Catholic Church likewise teaches that Jesus' redemptive mission has, in one sense, already redeemed all the world. What remains is for the fruit of Christ's redemption to be communicated to the world.

In order to receive the fruit of redemption, it is necessary -- not optional -- to receive Christian faith and baptism. But there are different kinds of necessity. Faith and baptism are normative necessities, not absolute and exceptionless necessities. Normative necessity, to oversimplify a bit, means that it's what you have to do, but if someone is prevented from doing so through no fault of his own, God judges him according to what he has been given, not what he hasn't.

This does NOT mean that those who haven't heard the Gospel get a free pass. If it's possible for people to be saved without explicitly accepting Christ, it's also possible for people to be lost without explicitly rejecting Christ.

It also doesn't mean that evangelization doesn't matter. Those who have not received Christian faith and baptism are in a gravely deficient situation with regard to salvation, and we must do what we can to give them the opportunity to make a free and explicit choice, rather than muddlng along without knowing the stakes.

What it does mean is that we don't have to write off all those who haven't heard the gospel, or even those who may be aware of it in some way but haven't accepted it. Perhaps deficiencies in its presentation or some other factor prevent someone through no fault of his own from coming to faith. Perhaps not. God alone is judge.

I must also add that, in Catholic belief, it is necessary for salvation -- not optional -- to belong to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, which subsists in the Catholic communion governed by the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome, and to receive Jesus' true body and blood in Holy Communion.

This, too, is a normative necessity, not an absolute necessity, and non-Catholic Christians, who through faith and baptism are my brethren in Christ, are not hereby consigned to hell. Whether any particular non-Christian is responsible before God for not accepting Jesus, or whether any particular non-Catholic is responsible before God for not accepting the Catholic Church, is for God alone to judge. But for those who are responsible, who are in a position to know, or to be able to know if they wish to, what God requires of them, there can be no indifferentism.

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Steve, if this is true, why are unbaptized infants an issue? Surely baptism for infants would be a 'normative necessity'?

Not sure I follow. Baptism for infants IS a normative necessity. It's necessary, not optional. We must baptize our infants, just as we must preach the gospel to the unbelieving nations; and our responsibility in this regard varies according to our situation in life, with parents bearing unique responsibility in connection with their own children to have them baptized.

Those who deprive infants of baptism are judged by God according to their degree of culpability or non-culpability, just as those who do not receive baptism themselves are judged according to their degree of culpability or non-culpability.

Unbaptized infants themselves, of course, are totally non-culpable for their non-reception of baptism, and so are not judged for it. But that doesn't lessen our responsibility to administer it to them, just as the fact that pagans who never hear the gospel are non-culpable for their non-reception of baptism doesn't lessen our responsibility to make it available to them.

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I wish I was at home (and could consult my books), but (in RC doctrine) where do unbaptized infants go after death?

[ Heh...like your sig. I should have done "keep giving in Thanksgiving"...oh well ]

Thanks! I plan on keeping it through Advent and the Octave of Christmas.

RC doctrine stipulates what does NOT happen to babies who die without baptism -- i.e., contra St. Augustine, they do not go to hell, because only those with personal sin go to hell -- but is silent about does happen to them. The Church commends them to God's mercy.

It is widely but erroneously believed that Catholic teaching consigns babies who die without baptism to someplace called "limbo." The existence of such a state is an idea in Catholic thought, but it is not Church teaching, it is merely theological speculation. This "limbo" (more presisely, "limbo infantum," so distinguished from the "limbo patronum" or "limbo of the fathers" from which Christ delivered the Old Testament saints into paradise when he "descended into hell," the so-called "harrowing of hell") is conceived as an eternal state of perfect natural happiness, the thought being that the unbaptized are excluded from supernatural happiness because they died without sanctifying grace.

Although the speculative tradition of limbo has enjoyed wide acceptance in the past, I find it problematic on a number of levels. For one thing, I find the notion of a human soul enjoying enternal perfect natural happiness problematic. St. Augustine himself, who believed so strongly in the necessity of baptism that he was ready to consign unbaptized babies to hell, nevertheless tells us that God has made us for himself, and our souls are restless until they rest in him. It therefore seems to me that eternity for the human soul must be either eternal rest in God or eternal restlessness apart from him.

I incline toward the other view: that somehow such infants do receive sanctifying grace, presumably at the moment of death. As I see it, this view is commended by analogy to the "baptism of blood" that unites confessing but unbaptized martyrs to Christ's death, and in particular the Church's tradition of honoring as martyrs the "holy innocents" slaughtered by Herod in an effort to kill Jesus.

Baptism itself, after all, is precisely a symbolic or ceremonial death and burial in water sacramentally uniting us to the death and burial and resurrection of Christ. In honoring as saints confessing but unbaptized believers who confessed Christ even unto death, the Church recognizes that in their literal death they received a union with Christ's death comparable to what the baptized receive through the ceremonial death of baptism.

In honoring the holy innocents, moreover, the Church also recognizes that this union with Christ's death in bodily death (not just sacramental death) can even extend to infants who lack personal faith, at least those who are in some way matyred for Christ's sake.

Couldn't this same principle extend also, for example, to the victims of the holocaust of abortion? Aren't they too victims of a murderous anti-Christian spirit? And if they can receive sanctifying grace at death, and if also heathen adults, according to their dispositions, may or may not die all unknowing in sanctifying grace, why should God's mercy not also extend to the unbaptized babies who die of natural causes? Might it not be the case that those who die unbaptized and are denied entrance to heaven are those who obstruct and refuse God's grace through some personal sin?

That is my working view: that babies who die without baptism are in their death united with the death of Christ, and so receive sanctifying grace and enjoy the supernatural happiness of heaven, not merely the natural happiness that some imagine in limbo.

As a postscript, I cannot accept the notion advanced by some Calvinists, that babies who die without baptism are variously elected either to heaven or to hell (or, without the double predestination twist, elected or not elected to heaven), since Catholic soteriology teaches on the contrary that those without personal sin do not go to hell.

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I imagine the Orthodox would concur with everything SDG has said, with of course the obvious exception that the one holy catholic and apostolic Church is to be found in Orthodoxy, not Catholicism.

When it's one patriarch versus four, that seems pretty clear-cut. wink.gif

(Sorry if that's a confusing historical reference, gigi, or if you don't know quite what that's all about. In short, there used to be just one Church, minus a few heretical splinter groups, until Orthodoxy and Catholicism went through a major split that began with problematic developments in the West circa AD 800, became "official" when the patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople excommunicated each other in AD 1054, and was pretty much finalized by the Catholic Crusader sack of Constantinople in 1204. If you want to know more of the history, check Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Church, which is written from an Orthodox perspective but is pretty sensitive to Catholic sensibilities; you can read the book online here. The Orthodox Church has remained basically intact since then, whereas, one could argue, all the Protestant churches that arose a few hundred years after the Schism were basically over-reacting to some of the excesses of Catholicism, even as they further entrenched other excesses.)

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From your writing above, then does RC doctrine distinguish between 'personal sin' and a fallen state still requiring atonement?

Human beings are born in a state of original sin, of spiritual death. Like physical death, this spiritual death is a negative reality, an absence or privation of life, in this case spiritual or supernatural life, also called sanctifying grace.

One of the effects of this absence of sanctifying grace is that our appetites and faculties are disordered in various ways which incline us toward sin. This is called concupiscence. Concupiscence includes the disordering and inflaming of our appetites, the weakening of our will, and the darkening of our intellect.

The Reformers took issue with the Catholic distinction that concupiscence, while it results from original sin and inclines us to commit sin, is not itself sin; but in practice I find that most Protestants agree with the traditional Catholic view. (For example, many Protestants recognize that for a man to experience a disordered erotic attraction to other men is a consequence of human fallenness and inclines him toward sin, but that merely to experience the attraction is not a sin.)

Through baptism, and, in the case of those who are old enough, through faith, we receive sanctifying grace, divine life in Christ, which reverses our state of original sin or spiritual death, giving us new birth as new creatures in Christ and children of God. However, both those who are born again and those who are not alike continue to suffer from the effects of original sin upon our nature, and, because our appetites are disordered and inflamed, and our will is weakened, and our intellect darkened, we all fall personal sin every day.

Personal sin is more than mere privation of spiritual life, it is itself a harmful or deadly reality, like poison, capable of destroying or at least impairing the life of grace in us, assuming we have received it. The poison of personal sin can be drawn only by the grace of repentance and forgiveness. In the case of mortal sin, it must be drawn before we can be restored to life, either by receiving the new birth (in the case of new converts) or by reconciliation with God (in the case of the baptized).

What about David's lament that he was sinful from conception?

I would say that what I have expressed in this post in theological analytic terms, David here expresses according to the idiom, literary style, and state of dogmatic development that pertains to his state and pursuit.

When it's one patriarch versus four, that seems pretty clear-cut.  wink.gif

Now, there's an aphorism I can't recall the basis for in the tradition of the undivided Church. smile.gif I do, however, recall Jesus granting special authority and status to St. Peter, and the authority of St. Peter and of those who succeed to his chair in Rome being acknowledged by fathers of the East as well as of the West. To cite one interesting passage from Cyprian of Carthage:
"The Lord says to Peter:

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SDG wrote:

: Now, there's an aphorism I can't recall the basis for in the tradition of the

: undivided Church.

Trust me, your position would be a lot, lot harder to dismiss if you had at least one other patriarch on your side.

: I do, however, recall Jesus granting special authority and status to St. Peter, and

: the authority of St. Peter and of those who succeed to his chair in Rome being

: acknowledged by fathers of the East as well as of the West.

Yes, as a sort of "first among equals". Kinda like how the Archbishop of Canterbury functions within the Anglican Church. Though I don't remember Jesus saying anything about Rome; if he WAS granting special status to those who succeed in one of Peter's "chairs", he could just as easily have been referring to Antioch.

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SDG wrote:

: Now, there's an aphorism I can't recall the basis for in the tradition of the

: undivided Church.

Trust me, your position would be a lot, lot harder to dismiss if you had at least one other patriarch on your side.

Jesus didn't found patriarchates. He gave us apostles, and they ordained bishops. Which bishops are "patriarchs" is a matter of custom. Jesus did not say, "Upon two or more patriarchs I will build my church." He said "Upon this rock."

: I do, however, recall Jesus granting special authority and status to St. Peter, and

: the authority of St. Peter and of those who succeed to his chair in Rome being

: acknowledged by fathers of the East as well as of the West.

Yes, as a sort of "first among equals".  Kinda like how the Archbishop of Canterbury functions within the Anglican Church.

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom" is not "first among equals." It's a reference to the Davidic office of the chief steward or prime minister of the house of the son of David, by way of allusion to Isaiah 22:22: "And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." The chief steward was not first among equals with the other stewards, he was the one with final binding authority, symbolized by the power of the keys, given to one steward alone.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is the Davidic king, and St. Peter is his chief steward. And, of course, the office of chief steward is a successive one -- as the context of Isaiah 22 itself indicates.

Though I don't remember Jesus saying anything about Rome; if he WAS granting special status to those who succeed in one of Peter's "chairs", he could just as easily have been referring to Antioch.

And if there were any early Fathers that argued for that view, it would be something to consider. Yet, somehow, there was widespread recognition in the undivided Church, in the East as well as the West, that it was Rome, not Antioch, that was specially associated with Peter in this way. See the links above.

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SDG wrote:

: Jesus didn't found patriarchates. He gave us apostles, and they ordained bishops.

: Which bishops are "patriarchs" is a matter of custom.

Indeed. The point is, as far as the Orthodox have always been concerned, no bishop, not even a patriarch, can assume power and authority over the entire Church. The Bishop of Rome came to believe that he could. The others disagreed. Ergo, schism.

If Peter ever DID have the kind of towering authority over the others that you ascribe to him, then it is interesting that we see no evidence of this in the New Testament. Paul feels quite free to chastise Peter for straying into error in Galatians 2, and of course, at the first major Church council, in Jerusalem, the final word was given to James the Just, as per Acts 15. Peter was certainly a very INFLUENTIAL figure, as were the other apostles, but the scriptural evidence points to a more decentralized model of conciliarity than the Roman Catholic Church now practises.

: Yet, somehow, there was widespread recognition in the undivided Church, in the

: East as well as the West, that it was Rome, not Antioch, that was specially

: associated with Peter in this way.

Just a matter of custom, eh?

BTW, we seem to have strayed from the original topic, i.e. Left Behind ...

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SDG wrote:

: Jesus didn't found patriarchates. He gave us apostles, and they ordained bishops.

: Which bishops are "patriarchs" is a matter of custom.

Indeed. The point is, as far as the Orthodox have always been concerned, no bishop, not even a patriarch, can assume power and authority over the entire Church. The Bishop of Rome came to believe that he could. The others disagreed. Ergo, schism.

: Yet, somehow, there was widespread recognition in the undivided Church, in the

: East as well as the West, that it was Rome, not Antioch, that was specially

: associated with Peter in this way.

Just a matter of custom, eh?

That the bishop of Rome and certain other bishops are called patriarchs is a matter of custom. That the keys of the kingdom were given to St. Peter, and handed down to his successors, is not. That the Petrine office came to be held in Rome, and that the Petrine character of the episcopacy of Rome was acknowledged in the East as well as the West, is a matter of historical happenstance and providence.

BTW, we seem to have strayed from the original topic, i.e. Left Behind ...

And before that the topic strayed to baptism and original sin. Perhaps Alan will slice and dice the thread for us....

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Did everyone see this? Tyndale is publishing another series on the end times, this time from a preterist viewpoint. I can't find the link with the quotes, but Tim LaHaye is very upset that Tyndale is "going to take the money we made for them and promote this nonsense."

The series is being written by Sigmund Brouwer, who seems like a decent author in my experience.

Personally I eye all views of the end times with an equal amount of skepticism, but I'm all for anything that challenges people to think about things they've grown up believing. That said, I'm almost entirely against Christian consumerism, so it's a trade off.

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Thanks for getting us back on topic! smile.gif

theoddone33 wrote:

: Did everyone see this?

That particular article, no. Though I did see the Time magazine article ("LaHaye was not amused when Tyndale asked him to debate his new competition, Christian-radio host Hank Hanegraaff, as a promotion").

: The series is being written by Sigmund Brouwer . . .

Don't forget Hanegraaff!

And don't forget Babylon Rising, that OTHER series of end-times novels that Tim LaHaye is overseeing nowadays (and for a different publisher, I think?); the thread for it is here.

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A girl's internet goes down for two days and she misses out on a whole lotta debate *has eye strain.*

I realise now that this isn't going to be an easy topic to tackle, with no straight forward answers. I have to say, you have all made me want to read a lot more on the above subjects. Ironically, the only thing that hasn't piqued my curiosity is the "left behind" series.

Much appreciated fellas.

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