Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pope and unborn part 2

OK, I've been around this with a few people in my church who took my comments about the Pope's declaration that there's hope that unborn and unbaptized children will all get to go to heaven. I was pretty harsh, but what I was attempting to say was that the biblical basis for much of what's being discussed here is thin, and God's sovereign will needs to be examined and not church tradition.
My only attempt to cover this issue directly through scripture was by using 1 Cor 7:14, which states that an unbelieving spouse (and children) may be sanctified through the spouse. However, there is thought that this verse actually means that those unbelieving family members are simply "blessed" by having a believer in the house, and that they merely have the benefit of opportunity to witness a child of God first hand, as well as receive blessings through the person they were intended for. (However, the Catholic's seem to agree with me, see the article I link to) (P.S. that still doesn't mean I'm correct).
However, another train of thought is that while unborn children are conceived with inherent sin, brought forth by Adam, they have not yet had the opportunity to actually take action against God and sin, so they are still without sin, and so God will let them commune with him for eternity. Not a bad thought.
But in the end, we must remember that the decisions that God makes are perfect. Like I said yesterday, God is Love, and God is happiness, and furthermore the actions and decisions that God makes are good, as only God is truly good in the fullest sense of the word. Therefore whatever decision he makes to the ultimate destiny of unborn children, whether to save some or all, it will be the good and right decision.

So indeed, there is hope that unborn children will all be saved. I was wrong to immediately criticize the Pope and his merry men, and actually do honor his guts in taking on a long standing Catholic tenet.
I still haven't seen a link to the actual report that the Vatican put out explaining all this (nothing on the Vatican's site). Even this Catholic News agency doesn't have a link on the article on the subject. However, they do a more thorough job of detailing what the report is about. They also cover the verse in Corinthians I brought up.
In the end, the article, as well as the report, are quick to acknowledge that they don't have all the answers, and indeed none of us really do. I can't say for sure that I know what will become of all the babies of the world who die pre or post childbirth. It's in God's hands for sure.

Part of the angst about all this is the Church's convoluted historical belief about the importance of Baptism, which places a weird philosophical handicap on issues like this. What I mean by this is that Catholics place the saving grace almost entirely on the sacrament of baptism, and the belief propagates until we have this issue of people freaking out about what happens to those poor babies who don't get the holy water trickled over their head. I even saw this on a Catholic blog.
Sounds like nothing has changed in regards to the teaching. Christ said a person must be baptized to enter heaven, so what happens to babies who die without it? Limbo, theologians of old speculated. But since we don't know for sure, we can hope that there is a way they can go to heaven. Sounds like Benedict is stressing the hope part of it, without explicitly rejecting Limbo. Am I right?
(I'm not pressing this as an example of Church teaching, but as one of lay-catholic thought). I dealt with the ridiculousness of Limbo a bit in my last post, and I certainly hope that Benedict is putting that to rest. Many Catholics are taking it that way. But that second sentence is what's killing me. I'm going to assume that he's talking about physical baptism performed by your neighborhood priest, and not the baptism that Christ was talking about when he said, "John baptized you with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Other than that, does Jesus say what this person is claiming?

Now, while I'm wondering what the Catholic faithful are thinking on this issue, I'm not sure that the Catholic Church itself believes this at it's core. From the article I talk about above it says the report on unborn children says
In this and other situations, the need for the sacrament of baptism is not absolute and is secondary to God's desire for the salvation of every person, it said. "God can therefore give the grace of baptism without the sacrament being conferred, and this fact should particularly be recalled when the conferring of baptism would be impossible," it said.
I'm sort of with them here. It's important to note that many Catholic scholars point out that baptism is more about the induction into the church of God than it is about salvation. However once again, is God really giving the "grace of baptism" or is he giving us the grace of redemption? It's not the same thing.
Then earlier in the article we get this.
The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.
Which, again, is misleading because it makes it seem like baptism is what saves you, not faith in Christ.
Picking the truths out of the Bible as they apply to all of life's issues isn't always an easy thing to do, but you can see how developing a rigid and dogmatic rule set that relies on the church tradition as much as (or more than) actual Biblical teaching can make explaining God's truth and getting out of tight doctrinal corners exceedingly difficult. I think the Catholics made a good move and here's hoping the good moves keep coming.

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