Religion based on Opinion

Facebook is an interesting thing. I am friends with SO many people with an extreme variety of beliefs. I always find it funny for example when one of my liberal friends posts something opinionated and one of my far right friends posts something just as opinionated and Facebook laughs and puts them back to back on my timeline. Those things amuse me. I do try to be friends with many people. I don't discriminate and I will love you regardless of what you believe. I generally try not to be controversial myself for a few reasons. First, I hate confrontation. Normally it is very unproductive and just stresses me out. Secondly, in Romans 12, we are instructed  to love one another and when at all possible live in peace with everyone.

I do however enjoy discussions which I find to be completely different than a confrontation. If you believe what you believe and you know why you believe it then generally we can have a great conversation and learn about each other's beliefs without being personally offended or hurt, or attacking each other. That being said, I'm going to share a belief I hold about "Religion based on your opinion". Allow me to preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert on the Catholic church and do not claim to be. My Mom was raised Catholic however, I have dated a catholic, I have had a lot of exposure to what the Catholic church believes and promotes, and I have had many discussions about Catholic theology so I do feel like I can generally hold a conversation about it and what the differences are between what Catholics believe and what I believe and why.

That being said,  I was scrolling through my Facebook page yesterday when I saw someone make note that the Pope appointed Father Barron to be Auxiliary Bishop of LA. (whaaaat?) Thanks to Google I know what that means. :) An auxiliary bishop is one who is assigned to a diocese because either the bishop there can't perform his duties, or the area is so large they need more than one. So then I noticed that this Father Barron is a super popular priest. He has a ministry called Word on Fire and he has a website, youtube videos and is generally kind of a "hip/modern" priest. I clicked on one of his Youtube homilies: Is Hell crowded or empty? I started watching it and became concerned pretty quickly. Instead of focusing on scripture (he loosely refers to it but never quotes it directly), he focuses on people, the church, traditions, and his own opinions to come up with his final belief system. This is something that is very dangerous for us as Christians. You should *always* go back to the Bible and see what it really says. Please  feel free to open the video in a separate browser window and walk through it with me...

Video; 0:00-:5:25 - He begins with Rob Bell and the fact that Bell teaches that no-one ends up in hell and calls him a moralist/universalist. This is far so good. Barron goes on to reference some parables that Jesus taught referring to Hell and the existence of eternal punishment stating "we didn't just drag this language of hell out of nowhere, it's coming up from Jesus himself.". Great!  Around 1:45-1:50  He says, "And then as the tradition unfolds, we see this question debated back and forth." What tradition is he referring to? Just to clarify for you, it's the tradition of the catholic church. Next, Barron reviews ideas from several past theologians. He begins with Origin of Alexandria who believes that in the end, all will be saved... even the devil and his demons. Barron goes on to state "well the church condemned apocatastasis..." Notice, his focus is on the fact that the church condemns it, not that it contradicts scripture. This is dangerous because how do you know if the church is right or wrong? They are, after all, comprised of human beings. One verse you can use to refute apoca-whatever-it-is:

Revelation 20:10 "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

So clearly Satan does not ,in the end, become redeemed.....So far the Catholic church and I are on the same page, I just wish he use scripture to defend why. He continues on to the theologian Augustine of Hippo who believed in original sin, which resulted in the whole human race deserving hell. Augustine also subscribed to the belief that a handful of people are "chosen" to be saved. Friar Barron calls this view very pessimistic. Now, while we could debate the semantics of God's choosing people verses free will to salvation (calvinism vs. arminianism which are both protestant belief systems), overall this belief system is much closer to what scripture says.
Original Sin/Born with sin results in eternal separation from God:

Romans 3:23-25a "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. "

Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Romans 3:10 "As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one."

To me, this is pretty clear cut. Without accepting Jesus as our savior, we are, as pessimistic or negative as you may feel it is, doomed to an eternity without Christ. (By the way to me this is not unfair or pessimistic, but that's an entirely separate blog post).

Video: 3:10 the video continues and Barron moves on to Thomas Aquinas - Aquinas believes that most go to hell and also believes that part of the Joy in Heaven is to look down and see God's justice being served. Ok I don't have a scripture for this (and I'm pretty sure this statement is more of an opinion and not a theological belief point anyway) in MY opinion since there are no tears in heaven (Rev 21:4), I cannot imagine this as a possibility. When your hearts are perfected to be like Jesus' heart, and your souls are in heaven and your mind knows everything perfectly, I find it hard to believe that anyone would find Joy in God's justice while watching a family member suffer while being separated for eternity. Hmmmm..... continuing through history to Karl Barth - Barron states that Barth's belief is "pretty much a universalist position and that through the cross of Jesus, all people are saved, and the church's job is to announce this good news to the world." Barron kind of blows past this and moves on to the next guy but woah woah woah. This is so far off scripture!

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Maybe that wasn't the point Barron wanted to focus on, so he continues right on to what seems to be his favorite theologian Hans urs von Bathasar. Bathasar said "We may reasonably hope that all people may be saved".

Now if you want, you can listen to the video from 5:25 on, but I have included a transcript of what Barron says. I've underlined a few things that I will come back to....Barron says, 
"My own view, having surveyed this grand tradition, my own view is that Bathasar had it pretty much right. I think that God desires all people to be saved. God has gone to the limits of God forsakenness to effect this salvation. Can it be resisted? Yes, and that's why we have to hold to the existence of hell. At least as a possibility. See hell, or Gehenna, the fire, all that... Those are spacial and visual metaphors for the state of deep loneliness that comes from having rejected a divine love. That's how I put it. Hell is not so much a place. We use spacial metaphors for it. It's a condition, it's a state of being. It's having refused in freedom, the divine love. And it results in this terrible loneliness. We have to accept the possibility of hell, we have to accept the existence of it as a possibility because of human freedom. But, are any human beings IN hell? We don't know. We don't know, the church has never declared on that subject.  And, and we may pray that all be saved and may even have reasonable HOPE that all may be saved. So it's a universalism if you want, but not of the Origin, Barth, or Rob Bell variety, where I know everyone will be saved. It's a theologically grounded reasonable hope that all will be saved. You know, in light of that, let me say a word about C.S. Lewis because he gave one of the best images, I think, for hell. He said "The door to hell, is always locked from the inside, not from the outside." It's not so much that God sends someone to hell and then locks the door, rather we send ourselves there. If anyone's in hell, he or she sent himself or sent herself there and now has locked the door. I've used the image before of heaven's like this great party. It's a share in the divine life. Everyone's invited. Hell would be the state of that person who has slunk into the corner and refused to join the party. Has locked himself into this sad, and dark, and lonely place. Not so much sent there by an avenging God, but a self imposed exile. That's hell as a possibility. Just a last thought. Hell you might say, is a corollary of two more fundamental teachings. Namely that God is love, and that we are free. You can't hold to those two, and I think everyone wants to hold to those two...that God is love and we are free...if those are both true, you have to accept hell as a possibility. Because the divine love can be refused in our freedom. When it's refused, it causes pain. You know, it's as simple as that. That's why Lewis again says "The love of God lights up the fires of hell." See what he means is, the love of God when resisted, hurts. It pains us. But not an arbitrary imposition, it's a self imposed exile. I think that's the best way, from the Catholic perspective, to grasp this complex issue of hell and salvation. Bottom line, we may reasonably hope that all people will be saved. "

 I will just go through the text in the order that he did:

1) Grand Tradition. My biggest issue with this entire youtube video/homily/sermon if you can call it that, is that scripture isn't anywhere. It's a lot of abstract thought, a lot of church traditions, a lot of trust in human ideas passed down through the years (which by the way has evolved and changed as you see happen throughout his historical summary) and it's all condensed to be what seems like this kind of nice, non-offensive, happy middle ground of belief. 

2)God desires all people to be saved. Of course He does! This we can agree on. Let's back that up with some scripture.
1 Tim 2:3-6a
This is good, and pleases God our Savior,  who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

3) Because we can resist God, we have to hold to the existence, or possibility of the existence, of hell. Wait a minute....Because of free will? Because we are sinners who have the ability to say no? That's why we believe something? What about the Bible? What about the fact that the Bible references it, a LOT? What about Revelation 21:8, Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Matthew 13:50, Mark 9:43, Jude 1:7, Proverbs 23:14, Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4-10, Revelation get the idea.

4) Hell is a spacial metaphor - it's a state of being. Great! So I don't have to worry about NOT believing in God or Jesus, or salvation because the absolute worst thing that will happen is that I will be super lonely. That's comforting... so Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, and Nero are all in heaven right now, they are just super lonely because they rejected God's love....

5) This is my favorite. We have to believe it's a possibility, but we can't know for sure if anyone actually goes to hell. Why? Because the church has never come out and made an official statement about it. I'm sorry, but I missed the memo where I needed an organization to interpret scripture for me. I would rather read it myself and see what is actually says. Refer to #3.

6) I lied, this might be my favorite. Barron says this is a theologically based belief. What? What theology is this and what's it based on? Some random mix of dead, fallible humans who claimed to believe in scripture and also embraced Catholicism so it's acceptable to mush them all together to come up with something that makes you feel all warm and mushy inside? Sometimes the Bible isn't comfortable. Sometimes Truth isn't comfortable. Sometimes telling the Truth is hard. If no one was going to be permanently separated from God because of our sin nature (which by definition separates us from God in His perfection until we accept his forgiveness and salvation and are declared righteous as well) then why in the world would he sacrifice his son as an offering to cover those sins? This whole theory diminishes the power of the cross and the incredible sacrifice and covering for our sins that it was.

7) Ok, ok, so let's all agree hell is actually a possibility....Barron likens it to be invited to a party, going to the party, and then not participating. So.....everyone GOES to heaven they just aren't happy in heaven? Either this is a horrible metaphor for what he actually believes, or what he actually believes is horrible. There are so many things wrong with this.
 First of all, not everyone gets to heaven ok? If you believe what the Bible says, it just is what it is:

Matthew 7: 13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (also see verses 21-23, Rev 20:11-15, and all of point#3 above).

Secondly, there is no way anyone is getting into heaven without an eternity of happiness...No one will be a sad wallflower in the party of heaven.

Revelation 21:4
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

8) Once again, he sums it up trying to explain the Catholic perspective. I wouldn't necessarily have an issue with this is if was a debate between denominations trying to explain how one belief differed from another, but as far as I can tell this is a homily for church goers/believers to find answers and there are no scripture references, and no real theology. Instead, it's religion based on opinion. Opinions of humans,  and opinions of a large organization.

The Bible warns us of false prophets, wolfs in sheep's clothing, lies that are so carefully disguised they appear to be the Truth. How are you able to discern what is true and what isn't? How do you know that even if something makes you feel good, is politically correct,  doesn't offend your friends so it must be wrong? How do you know if what you believe is RIGHT? How do you know if your discomfort in something is good or bad?
You have to personally read the Bible and see what it says. You can't depend on anyone else to do that for you. Read the chapter the verses come from so that you understand context and where they are coming from.

If you are a friend of mine and are not a Christian, this might be a loaded/offensive/difficult/confusing post. This is really directed at fellow believers who also believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. If you want to talk to me about what I believe I would love to talk to you. I believe that Jesus is the son of God, I believe that humans are born with a sin nature and therefore are eternally separated from God until they accept salvation. I believe that God sent Jesus to earth in human form 100% God and 100% human as the ultimate sacrifice/payment for our sins. I believe that Jesus is our one and only mediator (1 Tim 2:5), meaning we do not need other humans or organizations or saints to intervene on our behalf because Jesus is now our mediator. I believe that if we accept that Jesus is God and that his death paid the consequences for our sins, then through his grace we are saved and will spend eternity with him. We are able to do that even though we are imperfect beings because as scripture says:
Ephesians 2:8-9
"For by grace have you been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it was the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast."
We can never earn our way into heaven or out of hell. All sins are equal. God provides his gift of salvation to anyone who accepts it and believes in Him. I am not a universalist because I am a Christian who believes that there is only one way to heaven:
John 14:6
"Jesus answered. 'I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through me."
There is only one way, but he made it easy!
Romans 10:9
"If you declare with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

You may read this and disagree with me. and that's OK! As long as you know why. =) XO