Monday, August 05, 2002

So, I got an email from a fellow blogger. Normally, I'm a follower of the Welborn protocol, which says that email not declared private is considered public, but I also tend to follow common sense, and this one seems like it was private. In the interest of sharing the message and avoiding the annoyance of constant circumlocutions, let us call him "Bob." Bob emailed with a question, which I found to be a surprising one from a Catholic, though perhaps I shouldn't have. His email and my reply follow, both edited slightly, with further comments at the end.

>From: "Bob" []
>Subject: the spirit
>Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 15:59:17 -0700
>You wrote: "They appear to want us to be a democracy, because they apparently do not understand the notion that we are guided by the Holy Spirit. They are so hopelessly obsessed with "power" that they sound just like the Cardinals they condemn."
>Is there a special Spirit detector that you or the RCC possesses which can determine whether it is more guided by God than say the Eastern Orth., or the Protestants, or the Jews, or Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus?
>Or let's put it in even more basic terms, is there anything to detect whether you or I are being led by God to different degrees? Or >that I am led by the spirit any less than say Paul or Jesus was? Does the spirit as manifested in Paul trump that of the spirit
> manifested in some Council?
>Or let's put it this way, is the stronger the belief in an ideology, more an assurance of righteousness than otherwise?


I was tempted not to answer your email, becuase you won't like my answer. (At least, I wouldn't like it, if I were in the position of asking the question of someone else.) You may think it snippy or sarcastic, but I promise you it isn't.

There *is* a spirit detector. It is called the Magisterium. It is the Magisterium that defines the difference between the RCC and all other churches. It does not always function with perfect accuracy, but it is a fundamental tenet of the Roman Catholic Faith that it is the authoritative repository of Christ's teaching.

Eastern Orthodox churches have the fewest theological problems with the idea of the Magisterium (for reasons that people smarter than I must explain). Protestant churches mostly object to the idea. And Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus think we're all batty on it, though many find much politer ways to say it.

You may not like the answer, but it isn't mine. It is the Roman Catholic Church's.

Now, having given that answer, you may find (as many American Catholics do) that this is awfully judgmental and not very ecumenical, and therefore full of self-righteousness. For myself, I am very hesitant to declare (as the Magisterium is also, though many individuals are less so) that this therefore means others whom you name cannot be saved. If you read my blog with any regularity, you will know I take a rather hopeful view of salvation, and suppose that it is possible many people who do not acknowledge either the magiesterium or even Christ may well be saved. But there is little comfort to be found in Scripture on this, and I only enter the realm of speculation.

JB the Kairos Guy

My further comment is that no one should take this as a sign of triumphalism. As I have said before the thing that distinguishes Christians from others is not how good we are, but that we are the only ones who understand how truly wicked we are. I don't suppose it made any difference to my correspondent, as I have sensed in some previous emails that he is rather skeptical of the whole notion that some people are saved while others are not. But if you really are a member of the Roman Catholic Church, you have to find a way to reconcile your modern, western relativism with an absolutism that is not very heartening to those on the wrong side of it.


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