Tuesday, July 15, 2008

God, that is, Love, is limitless- infinite (unbounded)

It seems that the The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey is starting to be digested. The current issue of America magazine has a feature article on what the results mean for the Catholic Church in the U.S. It seems things are not as bad as many pundits thought. Beyond the numbers game, which is no indicator of success for the kingdom of God, is that 79% of Catholics believe "that many religions lead to eternal life"(America, 21-28 June 2008, p. 4) Is this just rank relativism? Many Christians, including most Evangelicals think it is. It is interesting that I ran into this note in America's Current Comment section just days after having this discussion with some Evangelical brothers.

This is where the ground-breaking work of theologians, like the late Jacques DuPuis, SJ, is so very vital. I cannot recommend highly enough two of this prolific theologian's last books, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, a work that fell under the suspicion of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, thus earning Fr. DuPuis an undeserved notification from the Congregation, about which he was somewhat indignant. Of course, it helps tremendously when Fr. Gerald O' Collins, SJ, stands as your canonical advocate before the Congregation. The notification was mild, merely pointing out the obvious, that in a work of speculative theology there are some ambiguities. In an effort to both clarify and make his thoughts on religious pluralism accessible to a wider audience, he wrote Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue. So, it is heartening, as the America brief notes that "this more positive attitude to other traditions" might "be an indication that Catholics are in tune with the Second Vatican Council".

We read in Lumen Gentium, the Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, that “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation" (LG, 16) The Council teaches, therefore the church believes, that, in the words of America's editors "even atheists can be saved," because, turning to the Council again, this time Gaudium et Spes, "the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery"(GS, 22).

Put simply it is ridiculous to try to limit God, who has redeemed the world through Christ. Indeed, all who are saved are saved through Christ, even through the mediation of the church, especially the eucharist. There are many who respond to the Holy Spirit's offer to be partners, "in a way known [only] to God, in [and through] the paschal mystery", the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, the Holy Spirit blows where He will (Jn 3,8). God works always and everywhere in the world to accomplish the divine work of redeeming and sanctifying the whole of humanity and the world itself. So, let us always and everywhere proclaim the mystery of faith, which is nothing less than the mystery of our redemption: "Christ has died. Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

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