Category Archives: Salvation

Your Sin Will Find You

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A few years ago my wife and I attended a Catholic homeschooling conference in Minnesota.   The keynote speaker was Jeff Cavins.

Mr. Cavins is a good man with a lot of good things to say.   In full disclosure, though, from his time on Relevant Radio as the morning host, there were times I felt he was judgmental against those with opinions other than his own.   I remember a particular show where outreach to the Spanish-speaking community in America was discussed.   I am perfectly fine with meeting people where they are at and reaching them in their own language, but I also firmly believe that, for the good of these very people, we need to empower them for future success, which includes asking them to learn English.   On this particular show, Jeff Cavins and his guest were advocating, paraphrasing here, that the Christian approach is for us all to learn Spanish deal with the fact – and expect – that some people will not learn English.

Someone called in and made the exact point I was thinking, which is basically that this is poppycock, and I don’t think it’s against Christian ideals to expect reciprocation from that community.    In other words, yes we will help them, but they need to help themselves as well so they can be the most productive members of the country they have chosen to come to.   I remember the caller making this point, in a very respectful and reasonable way.

The response was extremely cold.   I was actually offended by the reaction.   It was as if the opinion of Cavins and guest were an official doctrinal position of the Church.    What could have been a good back and forth on the respective merits of the approaches, and an understanding that we really want similar things but maybe we have a couple different ideas on the best approach, the guy was treated like a child who wasn’t deserving of their time and discussion.

Having said that, nobody is perfect.   Cavins does much good and has offered great resources to strengthen people in the faith.    The main reason I mention it is because that really, really annoyed me and it stuck with me.   And despite all his good, it goes to show how even one momentary failing can do a lot of harm.    Not that Jeff Cavins knows me or cares what I think of him one way or the other.   But it’s still a good lesson for us all – a momentary lapse of reason can haunt you.   Maybe in this case, few heard it and fewer yet looked at it the way I did, and fewer yet remember it either way.    But I remember it, and perhaps there are others like me.

Having said that, there is one other memorable thing I can remember of Jeff Cavins, and it was a talk he gave at the aforementioned homeschooling conference.   In this case, it impressed me as a piece of great wisdom, and it is this:  “Your sin will find you.”

As Christians, we all believe that we will be judged.   And we all know that some people seem to get away with all sorts of things – bad things, including things that hurt other people – without temporal repercussions.  And while, as Christians, we want everyone to abandon sinful ways and accept Christ and be saved, we also long for appropriate justice.   And thus, we simply have to trust that, whether this life or in the next, justice will be done.

So, it may not be universally true that “sin finds you” while still on this physical planet in the temporal sense.    But I think it’s true that a lot of it really does.   I think there is a reason for this.   I think one way that God brings you back to Him is to humble you so that you are forced to deal with your own sinfulness.    Perhaps if you fall and then repent, God finds that sufficient.   Perhaps if your heart is completely stone cold, there is little to be gained.   But if you are ripe for salvation but are a slave to some sin or another, you may need to be completely jolted out of your ways, and that may mean a very uncomfortable, and even public, and embarrassing revealing of who you are.

In my own life, I have seen this happen.   I have seen it happen with others around me.   And I think what we have seen over the last few months in the political arena is a perfect example of this as well.   Between all the things that have been revealed about Bill and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, what is revealed to the world is a dark side of sin that ultimately comes at a great cost.   In the case of Hillary Clinton, it is very likely that everything that was uncovered by the Wikileaks e-mails cost her the Presidency.   In a bizarre turn, the sexting scandal of Anthony Weiner ultimately cost him his political life and his marriage, but also ensnared the Clinton campaign and also assisted in damaging her Presidential hopes.    And even though Donald Trump won, many ultimately supported him despite a number of problematic things that were uncovered and made public to the world.   Yes, he’s President and can make reparation for past sins by governing in a Godly way, but the memory of the things he has said and how he said them will not go away.   The damage to him is personal, not just in how we view him, but in how his wife and kids view him.    I’m not suggesting that there is any lack of love there, nor should there be.   But it is something they will now always know that their dad has said, and it may be a less tangible type of damage than losing the election, but it is real nonetheless.

But not all these things are ultimately a bad thing.   Whether Hillary, Bill, and Donald repent and change their ways is completely up to them.   But such public embarrassment can do it.   If one is able to self-reflect and realize that sins were committed, mistakes were made, and embarrassment occurred, then repentance can be initiated.   It can be a deep, sorrowful repentance.   Or, it can be action-oriented (“I’ll make sure I never make that mistake again”) out of fear of embarrassment.   Sure, I think God always prefers perfect contrition, but he gives us imperfect humans a lot of tools and feelings to help us do the right thing even with imperfect contrition.   And that’s still a blessing.

Even more important when discussing more public figures – but this still does apply to all of us – is that when the sins and mistakes of others are revealed it is a learning opportunity for all of us.   Do you think anyone in government with security clearance in the near future will be setting up private e-mail and lying about it?   Yeah…   don’t think so.   And that’s a good thing.   Should all of us watch our language, our conversation, and our actions at all times not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because in this day and age of constant video monitoring, cell phone usage, and internet tracking we may just be leaving a roadmap of our own sinfulness for all the world to see at some future time?    Yeah – not that I’m thrilled about the scary non-private world we live in, but it’s probably a good thing for all of us to ask the question “If I ran for office, would I want others to see and hear what I am doing and saying right now?”    It would be great if we just did the right thing because it’s the right thing and because we love God and neighbor.   But if we also do it out of a bit of a sense of fear that someone else may find out, that’s not entirely a bad thing, either.

The best antidote for your sin “not finding you” is to stop sinning.   Or, at least, go to Confession, be sorry, and work on your deficiencies.   We all have our weaknesses.   None of us are perfect.   Don’t embrace your sin – fight against it.   Those feelings of guilt you have?   Yeah, the world tell you that’s bad.   It isn’t.   It’s a gift.   Use it, but then after you are forgiven then shake the guilt for what you confessed and move forward.  We’re human – there will likely be some residual guilt for sin depending on the nature of it.   Don’t let that residual guilt allow you to question the gift of forgiveness.  Instead, use it to continue to be resolute that you don’t want to repeat your offense.   But if you do, don’t despair.    Most Catholics will tell you that they get frustrated because they end up repeating the same sins and confessing them over and over.    The goal isn’t to just go with it because you can go to confession.   The goal is to stop.   But that goal is much harder than it seems – it takes multiple confessions and continued grace to stop your bad behavior.   Hopefully, you will sin less often, and less severely.   But it will happen.   Let that guilt get you to confession – that’s healthy.   Despair is not.

Will your sin find you?    Yes, it will.   But better that it finds you sooner rather than never, and that you work to correct it.   Better that it finds you in a way that puts you on your knees and gets you to confession.    In the end, you can never be happy that you sinned, but you may thank God for the gift of your sin finding you.

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Male and Female He Created Them

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It’s one of the most fundamental aspects of creation.   Aside from all the theology of it all, God created us to procreate.   The mechanism by which He did this was to create man and woman.   This is not just true of the human race, but of all living creation, save certain exceptions that are either single-cell organisms or random things God seems to have created just because He can and enjoys messing with us a little bit.

Yes, it’s true that certain elements of creation are either non-gender (bacteria, for example) and propagate through cell division, or are hermaphrodites (both male and female) and reproduce all by themselves through some sort of kinky process I don’t really care to dwell on.   But there is one common characteristic that every aspect of reproducing creation shares:  the way you reproduce is the way you’re designed, and the way it’s meant to be.

Man, of course, is our focus here.   We are made in the image and likeness of God.   It may seem strange that God the Father, a Spirit and neither solely masculine nor feminine, created us as male and female.   But we need to keep in mind that our image and likeness is our spiritual nature.  God has no body, so there can be no physical form at all that would be a perfect reflection of God.    Further, God is not just the Father, but the Son and the Holy Spirit.

It has long been theologically accepted that the family is a reflection of the Trinity.  While the Trinity’s oneness is spiritual and not physical, our humanity requires a way to commune with each other physically in order to physically propagate.  The Holy Spirit is the result of the love between Father and Son, while our children are the result of the love between mother and father.

One thing that has been apparent from the beginning of the first moment of man’s existence is that the devil realizes that the best way to undermine God, to mock God, to pull people away from God, is to attack humanity precisely where we most reflect God’s design for us, and most reflect His very essence.

People have often pointed to “End Times” study – such as in Revelation – and noted that there seems to be a false prophet (mockery of John the Baptist) who precedes the Antichrist (mockery of Christ).   The Family is, of course, attacked continuously throughout all of salvation history.

One thing that has also been easy to see throughout all of history is the attack on the procreative aspect of sexuality.   Whether we are talking about sex outside of marriage, or sex for pure pleasure, or contraception, or homosexuality – when the procreative act takes place without the procreative aspect of it willfully and purposefully in play, then this is an attack and a mockery of the very love between Father and Son that produces the third Person of the Trinity eternally.   It’s a mockery, then, of the Trinity itself.

This has always been a human struggle, and in different times these things ebb and flow and rise and fall.   It is probably worse in our time than it has ever been, but it is not a new attack.   The attack just seems to be more successful in its acceptance and effectiveness in drawing people into error and away from God.

However, we are now seeing an attack that I believe is unprecedented in all of world history.   It is an attack on the very existence of human being being male or female.    It is so absurd on its surface that it is easy to not take it seriously.   And quite frankly, we shouldn’t even be having a debate about it.   It’s is self-evident that we are male and female.   But it shows how easily duped we humans are, particularly among the supposed intellectual elite – that this is even something we are now discussing.

The deception is insanely diabolical.   Homosexuality is problematic, but it does not by its nature deny the gender of the person, whether male or female.    Even someone who feels like they are a man trapped in a woman’s body or vice-versa is recognizing that there is such a distinction – male and female.

I am talking about people who are now believing, and convincing others to believe, that they are neither male nor are they female.   They dismiss gender as “binary.”

This may at first be viewed with a bit of eye-rolling and easy to dismiss.  Quite honestly, I am not sure I even heard of the concept as non-binary genderism until a year or two ago. But we ignore this heresy at our peril.   This is more than an attack on family, it is more than a mockery of the Trinity, it is more than any of the previous confusions in the realm of human sexuality and family.  This is new, and it is an attack on the very nature of humanity itself.   It is the utmost mockery of the human person, and of God’s design, and of God.

It is already the case that Canada is considering the passage of – and very well may pass – a bill that will make it a criminal offense to address a person by the pronouns “he” or “she” in lieu of “they.”    I’m not making this up.     Within the last year or two – really as soon as the Supreme Court OK’d same-sex marriage – the entire issue of transgenderism reached a fever pitch, and transgenderism evolved in meaning from a man feeling like he needs to become a woman and going through some action or process to make that happen, to now being able to just say he’s a woman because he feels that way regardless of his biological design, to being no such thing as a man or a woman.   We are all just non-binary creatures who have no business calling ourselves one thing or another because it offends the sensibilities of those around us who don’t accept that we are one thing or another.

This is such a devious attack on human nature by the devil that I don’t think any one at any time ever saw it coming.    I have read countless accounts – fictional and predictive – of what the world would become as we near the End Times or Chastisement or whatever.    Most of those accounts properly foresaw a world falling away from God, becoming more selfish and violent, increases in sexual perversions, and so on.    I never recall seeing anyone accurately forecast that a good chunk of humanity would devolve to a state where we utterly ignore our physical attributes and refuse to recognize our gender, and further that this group would gain acceptance and relevance to the point where governments would promote this idea, outlaw opposing views, and completely turn the argument around and call all those who oppose it from the very simple arguments of observation, reason, and logic immoral bigots.

It’s quite mad, and it’s the world we live in.

We all know, in the end, that God has His ultimate victory over the Devil.   We may or may not see that in our lifetime, but one wonders how long we can sustain such a path of utter disregard for humanity.   The one remaining step to absolute perdition seems to be laws that criminalize the belief that humans are any different than plants or animals.   We’ve seen people argue this in the past, and they’ve been dismissed as the lunatics that they are.    But we may soon see the day where they are no longer dismissed, but accepted and celebrated, and their ideas legislated in some form or fashion.

If I were God, I likely would have wiped us out long ago.   Thankfully for all of us, I am not God (despite what the Relativists think).   But the only way for Him to gain the ultimate victory here on earth can’t be pretty for anyone.

 

The Movie “Next,” Predesination, Intervention of God, and the Salvation of Souls – Musings from the Diatribe Guy

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A while back I had rented the movie “Next.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a movie starring Nicolas Cage about a man (Cris Johnson) who can see the next two minutes of his life. The conceptual part of this was pretty cool and allows for a lot of contemplation about what such a skill might do for a person.

I’m pretty much entertained by anything, so I thought it was a good – but not great – movie. It was entertaining in some respects, flawed in others, and overall a bit of a feeling like they could have done a bit more with the idea. But worth a rental if you like action/adventure with a little twist.
The purpose here is not to critique the movie, but to focus on a particular scene that left a thought-provoking question lingering in my mind. First, I’ll recap the scene, and then move on to what I think is thought-provoking about it in a Theological sense.

Key to this is that he can adjust his own actions to affect the outcome of the next two minutes. So, if he doesn’t like what he sees, he can choose to act differently than he intended to try and change the outcome. He has the ability on a moment by moment basis of always knowing the outcome of the next two minutes based on his current course of behavior. He can only see the next two minutes of his own circumstances – not anyone else’s.

The scene takes place in a café. Cris Johnson is infatuated with a female customer. We see him walk up to her and say something and get a negative response, and then we see a rewind back to the current moment. He had just seen the next two minutes based on his approach to her, and it didn’t work out. So now we see the next two minutes play out in a different way. As it turns out, she has an estranged boyfriend show up and give her a hard time. Johnson plays out a scenario where he comes to the rescue and beats the guy up. She doesn’t like this. Rewind again. Finally, after a number of scenarios, he finds the one scenario that engages her interest in him – he allows himself to take a punch from the boyfriend. Since this works towards his desired outcome, he allows it to happen and the story goes from there.

So, what could I possibly consider worthy of Theological musing with respect to this scene?
A lot! The more I thought about this, the more I developed it in my mind, and the more I was excited about how it helped me to reconcile some interesting questions we have about how God works in our world and in all our lives. Not just as individuals, but as an entire community.

Consider the scene above. The woman had perfect free will in every single scenario that played out. She rejected him, and rejected him again. Over and over and over. And yet, he was able to determine a way that he could act that would elicit a free response from her that was different from all the other scenarios. He did everything he could to get her to see him, love him (OK, maybe not immediately, but at least be interested in him), and respond to him in a positive way. But ultimately, it was her choice. There may have ultimately been no scenarios he could dream up, no words to be said, no actions to be done, that would ever achieve a positive end. At least on that day. On a different day, at a different time, under different circumstances, he may have come up with something.

Now, consider his own limitations: He has a limited ability to imagine different things to try. He has limited ability in his ability to try them. He can only see out for the next 2 minutes. He can only see the things that happen as it relates to him. He can only impact what is physically associated with him in immediate space and time. And yet, even with all those limitations, two minutes of foreknowledge allows him to assess how he deals with every situation in order to greatly increase the possibility of positive outcomes. But he doesn’t actually control anything in the way of behavior of others. Assuming he doesn’t use his ability for illicit means, this foreknowledge is used to avoid certain circumstances, most certainly, but also to evoke the best possible response of the people around you.

By now, I’m guessing you can see where I’m going with this.

Let’s remove the limitations. Let’s talk about God.

Imagine the ability to consider an infinite number of scenarios at every moment of all time. Consider the fact that there is no limitation on how far in advance one can see the outcome of every scenario. Consider no limitation of space and the number of people that can be impacted at every given moment. However, consider all this in the context of free will and freedom of response to any and all scenarios for each individual at all moments of all times.

It does not take long to see the complexity of this. But before getting into the complexity of what this all means, we can quickly form some conclusions.

We can conclude that, from the very first moment of time, God knows exactly how everything in all of human history will play out. He knows because He already knows every moment’s reaching out to every person and how they responded, and He has done so in the way that maximizes the salvation of souls in a way that protects the dignity of free will.

We can see how God can know how all of human history unfolds, and how He could intervene (or not) and how He can call out to us or assist us and do all of these things, while at the same time knowing that every response we made along the way was ours and ours alone. The very fact that God tries everything possible to get us to respond in the best way for our soul and salvation does not compromise our free will. Just like a terrific marketing campaign may compel a person to make the decision to buy a product, nobody is forcing the purchase of that product. It would cheapen God’s work to say He is “marketing” salvation, but we can at least see the analogy. God is trying to compel us to Him, and there is no shame in saying that He is doing so.

This also, in my mind, helps to clear up misunderstandings about any references by St. Paul to being “predestined.” In this sense, predestination is not something we are bound to from the beginning. It means two things: (1) that we are all created for salvation, and thus predestined to be called to it; and (2) God already knows the choices we will make, but our choices are a response to His very best efforts to get us to make the right choice. Just as in the example of the movie, there simply may be no scenario in which God can bring some people into the fold without compromising the dignity of free will.

Where things get complex is when one starts to consider the question about why we go through a lot of the things we go through if God is really trying to save souls.

First of all, we must keep in mind the sheer enormity of what we are talking about. Infinity times infinity does not begin to encompass the complexity of it all. Every impetus at every moment that God provides is a seedling to every subsequent moment of the response of those impacted. And it does not take long to realize we all impact each other on a continuous basis, so much that whatever happens in my life at any given moment will ultimately potentially impact every person in the world to some extent or another. Second of all, we need to set aside our individualism for a moment. By this, I do not mean that God does not consider us uniquely and individually. Certainly, He does, and He desires that we all be saved. But that’s the key: He desires that ALL of us be saved. To think we are any more worthy of being saved than anyone else is folly.

So, let’s follow this to a logical conclusion, which may be a bit unsettling to some: if we are all created in God’s image, and if God loves us all equally, and if we are all created equal, then a logical line of thought is that God will do whatever He needs to do at every moment in time to maximize the number of souls to be saved. While He desires that all be saved, we know that not all respond to Him and many people will not –through their own choices and actions and non-response – be saved. But if God has played out every scenario and sees X souls accepting Him in the first scenario and Y souls in the second, and Y > X, then it seems only logical that He chooses scenario 2. It would be hoped that every person who responded in the first scenario is included in the second, but that is not guaranteed. And while this seems disturbing, it is important to remember that in all cases, we chose freely.

This also perhaps helps us explain a few of the difficult things to comprehend in the world about suffering. As Christians, I think we can all agree that the number one priority of life is the attainment of salvation, and incorporated in this are all the things that bring it about: love of God above all else, loving neighbor as yourself, etc. So to say this is not to diminish any aspect of Christian ministry, love, or action. But it does put certain things into perspective. We can look to the rise and fall of peoples and nations, and we can look to different areas of prosperity versus destitution and suffering and wonder why these things must be. But if it is to be believed that God has played all this out, then it must be believed that there is a reason for everything.

Given that nothing is more important than salvation, consider the scenario in which God foresaw a very prosperous African continent, with little suffering. Suppose that the entire continent lost its faith in that prosperity. Now consider the scenario where there is much unfortunate pain and suffering, and yet this draws people around the world to compassion and assistance, and touches peoples’ lives, and at the same time drawing many of the people suffering to God as their only hope. While it may be unfortunate that this must be the way salvation is attained, which do you think God would choose? It may seem difficult to an emotional created being who doesn’t like physical suffering, but it is not even a question to be debated to the God that considers this world a tiny passage on the way to eternal bliss. And after this life is passed, every one of those people will happily accept their salvific state and would say that it was worth much more suffering than the worst of their time on earth.
Consider the blessings we in the United States have realized, and look at the history of this country as it invoked God and spread His Word, and sent missionaries around the globe. Now consider the future that is in store for us as these blessings are perverted into self-aggrandizement and we fear acknowledgment of Christ as our Savior and involved in the design of all things. God will do what is necessary to maximize the salvation of souls – He always does.

One wonders, given the state of the world today, just how horrible the world would be in countless other scenarios in the way the world unfolded. Or maybe “horrible” isn’t the right word. Perhaps there are numerous scenarios where we would be awash in prosperity and wealth, with enough to eat and drink without worry. And maybe we’d all be fat and happy and on our way directly to hell.

Every action we take, every prayer we say, every last thing we do is the beginning of the rest of all moments in time. Do we let God inspire us to work towards an increase in the salvation of souls? Or do we, in every way He tries say “no”?

If you rent the movie, don’t expect delving into these concepts. The movie isn’t about that and you’d be sorely disappointed. But Since my mind rant with things, I thought I’d share.

Everything in this post is a philosophical exercise on my part. To the extent that anything uncomfortably might bump up against Church teaching, I defer in all ways to the magisterial teachings of the Church. I don’t think anything does, but it’s good to acknowledge that I’m simply human and imperfect. And yes, it’s all opinion. If you think I couldn’t be more deluded and wrong, then you may well be correct.