Sunday, February 19, 2012

Re-Evangelization All Over Again

In one of the recent newsletters of Our Sunday Visitor (Jan. 15, 2012), a column by Msgr. Francis Mannion (pg. 19) answered questions about the reality of hell. Now, he believes there is one. But he also says that anyone who has loved or been loved will not end up there. He said he heard this idea "about 1970" and has believed it since then.

It doesn't surprise me this idea circulated in the 70's. All you need is love, right? This has been a pervasive idea among Christians. Of course love is a wonderful reality, an amazing characteristic of our Divine God. But we must also remember that Jesus Christ came to Earth for our redemption because of our sins. He is our true hero, for He overcame a terrible ordeal to win the victory. And he asks us to believe in Him so we may have everlasting life with Him (John, 3:16).

The idea that all religions are the same is called "Indifferentism." Evangelicals kept free of this ideology for a while, but mainstream Protestants and many Catholics subscribe to the idea that one spiritual path is as good as another. Some theologians subscribe to "Universalism," in which we are all acceptable. A part of this group may say this is due to Christ's redemptive act which included everyone, but some would not even go so far as to say we needed Him, but that God simply loves all of us and we are all just on different journeys to the great universal oneness of love we will all eventually experience. However, indifferentism is not new and was mentioned by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832. He quoted St. Augustine from an even earlier time (born 354 AD): “The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit is the form, if it does not live from the root?” (20. St. Augustine, in psalm. contra part. Donat.)

A Church document called "Nostra Aetate" (proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1965) says though there may be some parts of truth in all religions, the whole Truth culminates in Jesus Christ. If you know Him, there is no reason to follow another religion. To me, Christianity is a combination of being able to read the Truth in the Scripture and experiencing it with Christ.

Love is a wonderful thing, but many people have loved some people and hated others. Criminals have loved. Did past tyrants and dictators love their children? Probably, at least to some degree. Are they prepared for or worthy of heaven? Remember, heaven is perfect.

There must be a way we are able to be righteous in heaven, and we are told how that can be. In Romans 3 (NAB), The Apostle Paul tells us no one can be justified in God's sight by observing the law (see verses 19 and 20), and this means we cannot act morally enough on our own. The next verses tell us: 21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called for a re-evangelization of the Church. I went through a time of doubt and even disbelief myself, influenced by these kinds of theology I have mentioned. Yet it is really worth thinking about the afterlife. The more I read the Bible and prayed, the more I believed you really do have to believe in Jesus Christ, that He was God, and that He came to save us from our sins to enter heaven. God the Father made Him the center of our lives and our hope, and He truly is.

People say a good God would not let people who never heard of Him go to hell. It is God's business how to handle that and should not be used as some excuse to not believe. Christians have faith that God is just, and things would not come out right if there was no justice. But He is also merciful. Each human being who has heard about Christ and has the opportunity to learn must work on their own soul to believe. Hopefully, they will come to do so, and then can help others do the same. The idea that we don't need to believe in Christ to get to heaven, which in my opinion is implied by Msgr. Mannion, is the very reason we need evangelization and re-evangelization.

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