Sunday, September 27, 2015

Asking the Big Questions: Who gets saved?

I came across an article here, about a man seeking to extend life using Google's billions.  Since I have neither billions nor an interest in living a long time, which would just extend this vale of tears, and since I do believe in Heaven (not necessarily the floaty kind) even for someone as accursed as a transsexual (and contrary to some of the comments yelled at me by the wonderful people here for the Pope's visit this weekend as I walked the streets of Philadelphia: "Hey Caitlyn you're going to hell"; "Man in a dress you are Satan's child") I went back to von Bathasar, reportedly one of John Paul's and Benedict's favorite theologians.

Von Bathasar believes that the New Testament contains two irreconcilable series of statements about redemption:

The first series speaks of individuals being condemned to eternal torment. Those who have rejected Christ are accountable for their actions and they will be cast into “the outer darkness,” or “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:30ff.; see also Mt 5:22,29; 8:12; 10:28; 2 Pet 2:4-10; 3:7; Rev 19:20f.). The second series of texts speaks of God’s desire, and ability, to save all mankind. “God our Savior...desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). Anticipating his suffering and death, Jesus proclaims, “Now is the judgment of this world,...when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:31). “God has consigned all men to disobedience that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32; see also 2 Pet 3:9; Titus 2:11; Rom 5:14-21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20).
God loves all men and all creatures, inasmuch as he wishes them all some good, but he does not wish every good to them all. So far, therefore, as He does not wish this particular good-- namely, eternal life--He is said to hate, that is to reprobate some men (ST I q 23 a 3 ad 1.))

Aquinas believed in the former -- essentially predestination -- since God Knew us before we were in the womb:
Von Bathasar believes in the latter, universalism, the tenet that we are all saved -- or at least he thinks we should all hope for it -- because the post-Good Friday Christ taught exactly that and he did not mention his earlier "teeth gnashing in Gehenna" phase.  In other words, He could only see as a man while he was here -- it took the Resurrection and death for Christ to understand the redemptive value of God.

This makes sense too because one of the Seven Last Words "My God, My God why have you foresaken me" seems to contradict Christ's declaration, during His ministry, that despair is the only sin that couldn't be forgiven.  "My God, My God" sounds an awful lot like despair.

This also helped me understand his words to the thief who repented on his cross next to Christ at Calvary "This day, you shall be with me before my Father in Heaven."  The other thief, the one who mocked Christ though, wasn't out of options.  Even after death, von Balthasar would have it I think that that thief would have another chance, and another, and another (at least the "seven times seventy" number of times a person should forgive another here on Earth.)  And it would be pretty hard to deny God after death when He is standing before you.  As stubborn as anyone might be, the proof would be right there.

The last is why I whispered into my brother's ear some years ago, the last day before he died, as he slipped into a coma, "Just make sure to say you believe, when you get asked, because it will count then."

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