Straight into the Jaws of Satan
Yikes! Where’s my Scofield Reference Bible (KJV) when I need it? Dispensationalists are not Arminian as asserted by Phillip Blosser’s article ("Walking the Ecumenical Tightrope," October 1998). I was raised dispensationalist, earned a minor in dispensationalist theology at a dispensationalist university, and can recite God’s Plan for the Ages from memory. We were taught that the rapture would be any day now (terrifying to a child); that the hard sayings of Jesus weren’t meant for Christians (Jesus taught in a different dispensation than our own); that the Antichrist would be a Catholic pope; and that Arminians (Methodists, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostals) were probably not true Christians because, like Catholics, they believed they could lose their salvation through serious sin. We knew that salvation was guaranteed for the "born-again." All it took was a prayer.
Poor Arminians! (I knew who Arminius was by the time I was ten.) We evangelized them but were never allowed to visit their churches. Everything in the article following that unfortunate pairing was accurate.
An interesting note: Evangelizing children is of primary interest to dispensationalists, since if they can get a child to say the "sinner’s prayer," that child is saved, regardless of consequent behavior. But there is a Catch-22, even among the "once saved, always saved" Christians: If a person who gets "born again" doesn’t shape his life to the strict norms of dispensational Fundamentalism (no smoking, no drinking, no big sins) then it is said that he probably was never really born again. So although they preach "once saved, always saved," they have a handy way to explain away the scoundrels—in other words, they say works have nothing to do with salvation, but even they really don’t believe that.
I for one now fall into the "probably never saved" camp, having gone over to enemy territory when I converted to the Catholic faith in 1995—"straight into the jaws of Satan," said my brother, an upright and truly sincere dispensationalist minister. My reply is from one of Billy Graham’s good old favorite hymns: "I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back."
Too Many Bad Fruits
Thanks for the article about apparitions ("The Ten Most Common Misconceptions about Apparitions," October 1998). It’s very thorough and what I have needed for a long time.
I have been often accused of not having an open mind about these things, but, as one priest who gave a mission in our parish said, "Some people’s minds are so open their brains have fallen out."
We have several people in our parish who are addicted to these things and the latest books about the latest seers. They have no concept of Church authority belonging to the bishop of the area where the apparition occurs; their "Mary" even condemns the local bishop. After some long conversations with one of these apparition aficionados I felt I had come to know her particular Jesus and Mary and found myself feeling nauseated as I looked at statues of them when I went to church. I think the thought was, "If this is you, Mary, if this is you, Jesus, I don’t like you very much." It was as if they had lost their holiness.
Those feelings didn’t last. I had forgotten about them until recently, when I talked to a former apparition chaser who, with his family, had come to his senses because too many bad fruits had come from these things.
By the way, great issue. I’m going to send a subscription to my sister in Pennsylvania. Each issue gets better and better. You are leaving no stone unturned in apologetics, it seems. I wish you would publish some pamphlets on certain articles like the apparitions article and possibly a book that contains all these great articles so we can just look them up.
I stock our church leaflet rack and have trouble keeping books on apologetics. These books even are nothing compared to what has been published lately in This Rock.
"Catholic Answers Live" is wonderful and a blessing to everyone who listens to it! My husband, Roger, and I listen to it religiously here in Portland, Oregon, on KBVM. We don’t hear it live, so we tape it and listen while we eat dinner.
The answers of the Catholic Answers staff (and your guests) are always delivered with so much love and poise, that love that is "kind, [that] is not jealous . . . [or] pompous . . . [or] inflated . . . [or] rude . . . [and] does not seek its own interests." We support your ministry, both in prayers and financially. We hope your program will be heard in every town, city, and burg in the U.S. so everyone (Catholics and non-Catholics) can understand not only the beauty and fullness of our faith but also the rich, close relationship we enjoy with our Lord.
I wish to voice my congratulations for an excellent October issue of This Rock. "Walking the Ecumenical Tightrope" and "The Post-Conciliar Spirit" were especially enjoyable.
The whole debate about holding hands during the Our Father ("Letters") is simultaneously amusing and disturbing. Though it is clear that this liturgical gesture has not been approved in America, if someone wants to hold hands while praying, well, I don’t have any problem with it. What does bother me is that they frequently pressure others to do the same. It’s hard to avoid someone who is groping for your hand, especially while trying to focus on the Our Father with one’s eyes closed. There is also the implication that if someone doesn’t hold hands, he or she is not a loving person.
On the surface it seems such an insignificant thing; indeed, its insignificance is one of the arguments marshaled for its promotion. But if it really doesn’t matter, why do people get so upset about it? Why are those who decline to participate in an insignificant gesture characterized as uncharitable liturgical Neanderthals? The very fact the so many people are up in arms (pun intended) about the whole matter is itself an indication that something greater, perhaps something questionable, is at work.
West Linn, Oregon
Your October issue left me with some issues I needed to bring up. It was incomplete in a strange way.
In the "‘Marxist’ Trends" letter, page 7, Fr. Paul Marx mentions that some Canadian bishops are trying to dissuade other bishops from their dissent to Humanae Vitae. Question: Why are dissenting bishops still in positions of leadership? A future article in This Rock really needs to address the issue of what the Church is doing, from the Pope on down, to discipline (not merely pray for) and oust dissenters who are still holding high offices.
Why is Kevin Orlin Johnson’s answer to the question "Can apparitions be photographed?" a simple "Nope" ("The Ten Most Common Misconceptions about Apparitions")? What are his credentials to answer this so concisely, without further explanation? Did I miss something?
Joanna Bogle’s article on Confession ("How to Talk about Confession") left doors wide open too. How would forgiveness work if no sins were mentioned? Simple: God knows all our sins. Apostles can forgive or retain sins by simply observing the sincerity of the person confessing his or her faults in general terms. The need to specifically mention the sins is not a criterion that can be clearly deduced from biblical texts. How do we know if the sins have truly been forgiven? Simple. We trust God to forgive a sincerely repentant heart. What if further help is needed? It can be sought from pastors, at the believer’s discretion.
Please note that I love your publication and am playing devil’s advocate here. I know that my Protestant wife could run a Mack truck through this last article. Hope I haven’t come across as too harsh, but I like to tell Catholic apologists: There is always a Protestant quietly watching. Cover all your bases.
Editor’s reply: Your question regarding dissenting bishops is far too complicated for a thorough answer in this space. In a nutshell, some Vatican watchers believe the Pope brooks dissent in his prelates because the alternative—should he come down too harshly on them—is schism, and he believes a great many more souls would be lost by the latter. Stay the course, the reasoning goes; continue to teach strongly and authoritatively; and let the grassroots orthodoxy that is springing up in the Western Church come to fruition in a future generation.
In answering the question of whether apparitions can be photographed, I don’t think Johnson intended to be flip. If you refer to his earlier definition of an apparition—a heavenly being who makes himself known to human senses—it would follow that such an intrusion couldn’t be captured on film.
Regarding Bogle’s article, it’s true God knows all our sins, but do we? It’s easier to gloss over serious sins in a general, private act of repentance than it is when we make a specific inventory in our examination of conscience prior to confession. Many of us also have had the experience of a wise priest leading us to remember additional sins through questions raised by our confessing the sins we do recall.
We may trust God to forgive a sincerely repentant heart, but that is not an argument against availing ourselves of the sacramental graces he has given us through his Son. One could explain away the need for all the sacraments, with the exception of baptism, by the appeal to a sincere heart.
Is Youse in or Out?
I am a new subscriber to This Rock and was reading the "Dragnet" item on page 11 (July/August 1998) regarding Catholics for Contraception when I was immediately reminded of section 13, paragraph 2 of Fides et Ratio, the recent encyclical from Pope John Paul II: "[F]reedom is not realized in decisions made against God. For how could it be an exercise of true freedom to refuse to be open to the very reality which enables our self-realization? Men and women can accomplish no more important act in their lives than the act of faith; it is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth and chooses to live in that truth."
Groups like Catholics for Contraception do have a choice: to embrace "the fullness" of their faith or reject it. It is as simple as that.
It Does the Heart Good
I just love listening to "Catholic Answers Live." I listen on my way home from work. I have been a Catholic all my life and attended Catholic school for eight years, but I feel that I have learned more about the faith from listening to your program. I have also discovered that I have so much more to learn. I especially enjoy listening to the little ones ask such thought-provoking and soul-searching questions. It does the heart good to hear that Catholicism isn’t lost in the younger generations.
Keep up the good work spreading the good news of Christ.
Steph (No Surname Given)
"Our Father"—Get It?
Truly, I am puzzled by all the confusion over whether or not it is permissible and appropriate to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer. Since another common name of that prayer is also its opening words—"Our Father"—isn’t the answer obvious?
We are not saying "my" Father. We are affirming "our" Father in this prayer. Get it? " Our" Father. Holding hands is a remarkably appropriate supplement to those words. Of course, holding hands is entirely voluntary.
San Diego, California
Editor’s reply: One could argue conversely that because we are joined already by addressing God as "Our Father," holding hands is not only distracting but remarkably unnecessary. Though, as you say, it's a voluntary gesture, to decline to participate seems to be viewed as the spiritual equivalent of breaking a chain letter.