Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!



On this greatest of holidays, Nathaniel Peters has an essay on Pope Francis' beautiful reflection on grace and pelagianism.

Peters:

One of the greatest theological diseases we find in contemporary Catholicism is pelagianism, the notion that we’re all basically good people whose moral improvement and salvation is the result of our good actions. In this mindset, God’s grace becomes less consequential because it’s less necessary. At its heart, Christianity is about doing good things.

Throughout history, great theologians have combated pelagianism: Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and, in our own time, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Benedict XVI. They have reminded us that, at its heart, Christianity is a love story in which God seeks us out and draws us closer to himself. The first move belongs to God, and any real good we do is a gift from him, enshrouded with his own love. In this understanding, God’s grace has the primacy and priority. 
In his homily for the Chrism Mass yesterday, Pope Francis underscored this, calling out implicit pelagianism by name: 
It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.
As we hear God’s call to evangelize and serve, we do so mindful that we are responding to a gift received. We are no longer our own, and we no longer operate by our own powers. But the more we respond, by grace, to the grace that we have been given, the more grace grows in us, making us more and more alive.

As we seek the Lord and His grace, Francis reminds us that our encounter with Him is a gift, freely given to us and unearned by us. Our good works are not what earn us grace. They are grace, working in us.

His gift to us was earned, but not by us.

Happy Easter to all. 

11 comments:

  1. What a lovely religion Christianity is! Asserting that basically all humans are totally depraved.

    Frans de Waal has recently published a book 'the Bonobo and the Atheist' dealing with the evolution of morality in social animals, including wolves, elephants, whales, gorillas, common chimps and bonobos.

    Were he not an atheist, he'd be an adherent of pelagianism. He notes that the human urge to help and cooperate is innate. On neuroimaging studies, activation of centres to cooperate occur earlier and more easily than those causing self serving actions.

    Thomas Huxley ("Darwin's bulldog"), were he not an agnostic, would have been an adherent of utter depravity, insisting that humans are basically selfish and egoistic, with only a thin veneer of altruism for show. 'Scratch an altruist, and a hypocrit bleeds'.

    He'd fit nicely in the Catholic Church were it not for the fact that he'd be unlikely to seek a relationship with God.

    I'm glad I don't belong to a religion that insists that I have to seek 'grace' before I can do any good. And even then, I'm not responsible for any good I do.

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    1. >>What a lovely religion Christianity is! Asserting that basically all humans are totally depraved.<<

      It is and we are. I'll put it this way: we're more bad than good. We can do good, but we're all sinners and there's no changing that.

      What's your point? Does this bother you? Are you bowled over by the goodness of your fellow human beings? I'm not.

      This is a lot like some anti-Christians' revulsion upon hearing that Christians believe that only Christians are going to heaven. Yes, it's true. That belief is so fundamental to Christianity--there's only one way to the Father, and that is through the Son. Really nasty detractors of the Christian religion usually translate this to mean, you Christians just believe everyone who doesn't believe like you do is going to hell!

      It isn't something that we believe because we want to; we believe it because it's true. I'd rather believe it isn't true. I have friends and even relatives who are either nonreligious or belong to other faiths. I wish we could all go to heaven! But wishing doesn't make it so. I'm sure I could find some feel-good church that would tell me anything I want to hear, including that everyone goes to heaven, but that church would be lying and it wouldn't be Christian in any real meaningful sense of the word.

      >>I'm glad I don't belong to a religion that insists that I have to seek 'grace' before I can do any good.<<

      I don't know what you mean by this. It sounds like just another mean swipe at Christians, just in time for Easter morning. Do good 'til your heart's content, Bachfiend.

      JQ

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    2. Couldn't you take even on day off from being an ignorant jerk, Bachfiend? It's Easter. Relax and enjoy some ham or something. There's plenty of time to be a miserable wretch tommorrow.

      The Torch

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    3. Ilion,

      Try to be consistent. One of the 'evidences' for the existence of God is 'objective' moral law implanted in humans. But then you assert that all humans are innately utterly depraved. Which is a depressing thought.

      I take the idealistic view that basically humans are good and altruistic, and I have evidence to support me. And it arose naturally by evolution in ancestor species we share with present day gorillas, common chimpanzees and bonobos, which have their own moral systems. And there are independently evolved moral systems in other social animals such as whales, elephants and wolves.

      So what is it? God implanted moral law just in humans, and did such a lousy job that everyone is basically utterly depraved? Or is morality a natural adaptation to living in society?

      When you meet a new person, do you assume that he or she is utterly depraved, until such time that you assure yourself that he or she is 'saved'?

      I generally give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

      Delete
  2. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyMarch 31, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Frans de Waal might have done better to study Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Ancient Rome, Honecker's East Germany, or Moorish Spain. Or, frankly, modern Iran. Or Syria. Why bother to extrapolate from other species?

    But backfield always has a gorilla video stashed away for any given topic, which makes for some amusing and enjoyable comment threads.

    I thank the living God for His good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Hallowed be His name.

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    1. Georgie,

      Why do you persist in mentioning a gorilla video? When I first mentioned ' the Invisible Gorilla' I specifically referred to the book. With your lack of reading comprehension, you misinterpreted it as the video.

      And yes, I have seen one of the videos afterwards. I was amazed that 50% of people missed the gorilla, it was so obvious. I managed to miss the background drapes changing colour and one of the players leaving the court, both equally blatant.

      Dictatorships show that power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. It says nothing about how individuals act towards other individuals. The Soviet Union was evil. The individuals weren't. In the dark days of the siege of Leningrad 1941/42, when ordinary citizens were getting around a 1000 calories per day and starving, being forced to scrape starch off the back of wallpaper to survive, Communist functionaries allocated themselves more than adequate food.

      Ordinary citizens were so weakened by hunger that if they fell over in the snow, they were too weak to get up again and just froze to death. Egnor insists that without 'objective' (God-given) morality, passers-by would just ignore them and allow them to freeze; it does remove competition for food after all.

      No; they behaved immediately as Good Samaritans and helped. Unlike the study with theology students who didn't stop to help a member of an experiment who was feigning a collapse, because the theology students were in a hurry to give a talk on the Good Samaritan.

      The Torch,

      It's in my job description. I commented not because it's Easter, but because of the hideous dogma of total depravity. I'm basically an adherent of palagianism, but didn't know it till today.

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    2. I didn't say that you were being an ignorant jerk because it's Easter. I said you should take a day off from being an ignorant jerk because it's Easter. You need to work on your reading comprehension.

      There's nothing hideous about salvation through repentance. Human beings are sinful. You can give yourself an undeserved pat on the back if you want, but people in general have the capacity to do terrible things and frequently take advantage of it.

      The Torch

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    3. The Torch,

      I comment when I see something I disagree with. If Egnor had written a thread just wishing everyone a Happy Easter (I wonder; when did 'Happy Easter become a greeting? I can't remember it ever being used as a child), i wouldn't have commented. But this dogma of utter depravity irritates me. Actually, I'm a realistic idealist. I think, and there's evidence to support me, that people are actually innately altruistic, not evil. Psychopaths such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc excluded.

      Delete
  3. A very happy Easter to one and all.
    May your day be full of hope and joy.
    God Bless and HAPPY EASTER!!

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