But What About Those Tough Stains?

Maybe purgatory makes sense if sin is like routine dirt that comes with perspiration, dust, food, like going through the motions in worship:

Let’s imagine you’re dead…. But you were busy….

So we, sinful creatures all, step out of this life into eternity—and we know, more clearly than we have never known anything, that we are not worthy to be in the presence of the Almighty God. In life, we may have casually popped the Eucharist onto our tongue, drunk of the Precious Blood, then gone back to our pews to idly watch the others return to their seats, ogling the cute boys or checking out the fashion faux pax, hardly pausing to ponder the great impossibility, the unimaginable truth, that God has given Himself to us, in the flimsy gift wrap of bread and wine. Wholly. Fully.

We have ignored Him, too, when we have not bothered to pray; when we have gossiped about our neighbors; when we have shirked our responsibilities in the workplace, when we have allowed anger to govern our relationships or our driving, when we have cheated on our diets or (yikes!) cheated on our spouses.

We are earthen vessels, all of us. And we know instinctively that we cannot face the great and mighty God in our current condition. True, we have been redeemed by the Blood of Christ, and His sacrifice has made it possible for us to be with Him for all eternity. First, though, we need to wash up—get ready for the party, for the great receiving line.

That’s what Purgatory is. It’s the washroom, the hot shower, where we become like Him.

Just imagine being in a hot shower for a millennium.

But if sin is like murder or deceit, something that takes you from innocent to guilty, maybe even gets you kicked out of the Garden of Eden and forces God to position angels with fiery swords to prevent you from going back, maybe you need something stronger to remove the stain of guilt.

Something like the active obedience of Christ? No clean without it.

Saving the World

One light show at a time.

In case you missed it, the Vatican celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (yesterday) with a light show:

A mixture of fascination, curiosity and consternation is greeting a light show to be projected onto St. Peter’s basilica tomorrow — the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the opening day of the Jubilee of Mercy.

A coalition of non-Catholic humanitarian, philanthropic and conservation groups along with the World Bank are staging the event. It will be the first time ever that images will be projected onto the 17th century basilica’s façade and Michelangelo’s cupola.

The organizers say the three hour event, called “Fiat Lux, Illuminating Our Common Home”, will tell the “visual story of the interdependency of humans and life on earth with the planet, in order to educate and inspire change around the climate crisis across generations, cultures, languages, religions and class.”

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, called the event “unique” and said the illumination show “will present images inspired of Mercy, of humanity, of the natural world, and of climate changes.”

He added that the light show, whose images have been shown on various landmarks around the world, is meant to link Pope Francis’ environment encyclical Laudato Si’ with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) currently underway in Paris until Friday.

“It is our hope that this beautiful and contemporary work of public art will inspire citizens of the world to join together in a moment of compassion and to activate a global movement to protect humankind, our common home and precious endangered species,” said Carole Tomko, vice president of Vulcan, Inc., one of the groups sponsoring the event and which promotes initiatives to “change and improve the way people live, learn, do business and experience the world.”

Some conservative Roman Catholics have taken a page from Protestant iconoclasm and regard such a use of holy buildings as sacrilege:

The sense that St. Peter’s Basilica has been profaned is strong. The symbolic significance of the event is a Church immersed in darkness, but illuminated by the world, by the new climatist-religion-ideology (all financed by the World Bank Group which will now have to explain to us what politics compatible with the teaching of the Church it is promoting..)

The holy place par excellence, the heart of Christianity transformed on a maxi-screen for the show of the New World Power Ideology …and the Nativity Crib was left in darkness.

It does make you wonder what salvation means. If improving the environment can save the world, then what happened to the cross of Christ and the sacraments? Could it be that hell is empty (and will remain so) and so the church can now devote itself to more humanitarian and less heavenly causes? Did Balthasar really win at Vatican 2 as Commonweal suggests? Before Vatican 2, Rome was pretty clear where unbelievers went at death:

Any sin, for Augustine, is an unspeakable offense against God; particularly offensive was the sin of the first man who was singularly graced with an intimate “enjoyment of God” and who stood as the progenitor of the human race. His impiety in abandoning God was so great that it “merited eternal evil” in consequence of which “the whole of mankind is a ‘condemned mass’ [massa damnata]; for he who committed the first sin was punished, and along with him all the stock which had its roots in him.” According to Augustine, no one has the right to criticize that retribution as unjust, and the fact that some are released from it through the free bounty of God is ground for heartfelt thanksgiving.

The same severe doctrine of hell has been affirmed time and again in official church documents. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 declared that, at the end of time, “all will receive according to their deeds, good or evil, the former to their everlasting glory with Christ, the latter to perpetual punishment with the devil.” In his constitution of 1336, Benedictus Deus, Benedict XII solemnly defined that “the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down immediately after death into hell and suffer the pain of hell.” The Council of Florence in 1442 maintained that “not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics and schismatics” are precluded from salvation for they “will enter into eternal fire” unless they embrace the Catholic Church before their death. Similar declarations on hell and salvation were issued by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. Vatican I reinforced them in the nineteenth century. Vatican II did not revisit the solemn definitions of hell by earlier councils, but it did at least affirm that, yes, atheists can be saved.

But that changed when Balthasar and Kung met Barth:

Like Barth and Balthasar, Hans Küng too comes close to proposing universal salvation. And like them, he enlists the virtue of hope to support the idea. In his book Eternal Life, Küng’s critical discussion of hell begins with Jesus’s own words about hell, which, according to Küng, were figurative rather than literal: terms in the New Testament pertaining to final judgment—words like “hell,” “eternal,” ‘fire”—are to be taken as metaphors warning sinners of the delicate edge they’re dancing on. They are “meant to bring vividly before us here and now the absolute seriousness of God’s claim and the urgency of conversion in the present life,” Küng writes. No one should dismiss his or her responsibility to meet the demands of conversion, but how each of us meets them “remains a matter for God as merciful judge” in his “all-embracing final act of grace.” Like Balthasar, Küng maintains that judgment of the individual is in God’s hands; it would be “presumptuous for a person to seek to anticipate the judgement of this absolutely final authority. Neither in the one way nor in the other can we tie God’s hands or dispose of him. There is nothing to be known here, but everything to be hoped.”

Barth, Balthasar, and Küng all agonize over the question of universal salvation, which they treat not just as a theological puzzle but as a genuine mystery. Because we cannot answer the question with absolute certainty, it finally has to be left—in humility and hope—to the judgment of a loving God. This is as much of an affirmation as they dare to make.

What these three theologians show us, however, is that hope is a powerful virtue and not just a matter of wishful thinking. Hope always has its reasons, even earthly hopes. In the everyday sense of the word, a doctor’s skill is reason for his patient to hope for a cure, a worker’s good job performance a reason for her to hope for a promotion—though such hopes, subject to human limitations, can be disappointed. In the economy of salvation, however, the reason for hope is nothing less than the divine will—profoundly declared in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus: “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). The clarity of this scriptural passage on God’s will reassures not only Christians but all mankind that our hope for salvation will be fulfilled—without exceptions.

But if U.S. parochial schools can reconsider their mission, maybe the Vatican can find it’s pre-Vatican 2 self:

“We don’t open Catholic schools to get kids into college,” Guernsey said. “We open Catholic schools to get them into heaven.”

A Church I Could Believe In

What if popes sounded like this?

The Catholic Church then is, and always will be, violent and intransigent when the rights of God are in question. She will be absolutely ruthless, for example, towards heresy, for heresy affects not personal matters on which Charity may yield, but a Divine right on which there must be no yielding. Yet, simultaneously, she will be infinitely kind towards the heretic, since a thousand human motives and circumstances may come in and modify his responsibility. At a word of repentance she will readmit his person into her treasury of souls, but not his heresy into her treasury of wisdom; she will strike his name eagerly and freely from her black list of the rebellious, but not his book from the pages of her Index.

Was Leo XIII as jealous of God’s rights when it came to the Word of God?

The Church aims, not at making a show, but at doing a work. She regards this world, and all that is in it, as a mere shadow, as dust and ashes, compared with the value of one single soul. She holds that, unless she can, in her own way, do good to souls, it is no use her doing anything; she holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse. She considers the action of this world and the action of the soul simply incommensurate, viewed in their respective spheres; she would rather save the soul of one single wild bandit of Calabria, or whining beggar of Palermo, than draw a hundred lines of railroad through the length and breadth of Italy, or carry out a sanitary reform, in its fullest details, in every city of Sicily, except so far as these great national works tended to some spiritual good beyond them.

That doesn’t sound like a Social Gospel. But it does sound like a view of sin that would drive you to confession — forget weekly or, ahem, weakly — but daily. Sort of like what Luther experienced when he considered his sins and how to atone for them.

But from most of the “converts” I read, my soul is not in peril by remaining outside the Roman Catholic Church. If I “convert,” I get an upgrade. But I’m not apparently in danger of going to hell.

Sola Scriptura?

Don’t listen to the polls but only to Jesus except when he teaches about what will become of Jerusalem:

Q. Recent polls indicate that some 70 percent of Catholics in the United States (and 66 percent in Ireland) do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but rather a symbolic presence.

I happen to be one of them. I am Jesuit-educated, and I have written to my pastor with my question but have been greeted with stone silence. If these polls are even halfway true, why is this elephant in the room never addressed or even mentioned in church? Are we all condemned to hell for this belief? (Duxbury, Massachusetts)

A. The beliefs of the Catholic Church are not determined by plebiscite. That is to say, what is fundamental in determining the core content of the Catholic faith is not how people feel, but what Jesus said. And for that, we go to the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.

Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and the fish to feed 5,000 people, and the crowds are in awe. The very next day, Jesus says something that turns out to be very controversial (Jn 6:35, 51): “I am the bread of life … the living bread that came down from heaven … and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” People are shocked and ask: “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52).

Even his followers are horrified. Christ has every opportunity to pull back and explain. “Wait,” he might have said, “I was only speaking figuratively.”

Instead, he presses the point, watching as people start to drift away: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:54-56).

Later, at the Last Supper, Jesus reaffirms this teaching in language that is virtually identical.

Polling data varies widely regarding this teaching. The National Catholic Reporter, for example, found in a 2011 survey that 63 percent of adult Catholics believe that “at the consecration during a Catholic Mass, the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

But as I said at the start, polling data is largely irrelevant, except to this extent (as your question suggests): If a fair number of Catholics do not subscribe to a long-held and central article of faith, the Church should doubtless do more to proclaim and explain that teaching.

As to your last line, about the consequences of not believing, one thing is certain: No one is going to hell who sincerely follows the dictates of his own properly formed conscience. So why worry about that? Why not focus instead on determining what Jesus taught?

So bishops should teach what the Bible teaches or church members should follow their consciences? No wonder the polls’ results and authority.

Hedging the Call

Devin Rose is one of the many apologists in the Roman Catholic world — a guy who was agnostic, became evangelical, dissatisfied with evangelicalism, and then took the plunge into the Tiber. If you want to hear his “testimony,” go here.

One thing to be said for what follows is that Rose implicitly admits the difficulty that he and other apologists face when the message from the bishops (even the pope) is not exactly what brought him to Roman Catholicism. So if you’re going to appeal to Protestants, you need to figure in Vatican 2’s equivocation:

Here are the four reasons you should evangelize Protestant friends and family with the fullness of the truth:

1. Future Souls

I have a Protestant friend who had two children then got sterilized. He and I had lots of discussions about the Catholic Faith and Protestantism. I told him at one point contraception and sterilization were sinful. He got angry.

But he also began to desire having more children. He was something of a providentialist and said that “God will miraculously give us children if He wants to, in spite of the sterilization.” I told him to get it reversed.

A year or two later he decided to reverse the sterilization. A short while later they conceived again and had a son. Then conceived again and had a daughter. So they have two older children and two little children! Sharing the fullness of truth in the Catholic Faith resulted in two new souls being created by God, destined for eternity with Him. Almost all Protestants embrace contraception and sterilization, which is really sad and not what God wants.

Note that this friend is still Protestant. He didn’t become Catholic, at least not yet. I hope he does, but I am thrilled that they opened up their marriage to God blessing them with more children.

2. The Sacraments

Protestants have baptism and marriage but not any other sacraments. God instituted seven, including the Eucharist, so that we could receive Him body and blood, soul and divinity, as well as Confirmation to be strengthened fully in the Spirit, and Confession to reconcile us to Himself and His Church. They are missing out on these.

They also miss out on consecrated virginity for the sake of the Kingdom, which Jesus in Matthew 19 spoke of and Paul did in 1 Corinthians 7. God wants His children to consider all vocations, not just marriage.

Through the sacraments we receive God’s grace in abundance.

3. Bigger Cups!

It is true that everyone in Heaven will be filled to the brim with God’s love, but some people will have bigger cups than others. Here on earth we can, with the help of His grace, become holier and holier, more and more like Him, so that our cups are enlarged. In the Catholic Faith these opportunities abound; we have the fullness of the means of sanctification.

Protestants want to become just like Jesus. They want the biggest cup possible. But they are operating outside of the ordinary means of increasing their cup’s volume.

4. Danger of Hell

It is true that God is not bound by His sacraments and can save anyone He likes. It is also true that Protestants have valid baptisms (by and large) and so receive the Holy Spirit and are regenerated, being born again, from above, to newness of life. However, it is also true that they are relying on God to work in an extra-ordinary way. He set out the way He wanted us to assure our salvation by giving us His Church, with rightful leaders, sacraments, Tradition, and protection from error of her doctrines.

Protestants eschew all those things and so in a sense test God to save them in spite of it. He is so merciful that He can and no doubt will, but Protestants are following the Faith on their own terms, not the way that God planned it.

What happens when a Protestant, after being baptized, commits a mortal sin? Their soul is in peril, and they cannot avail themselves of Confession. They have to confess directly to God and hope that they have perfect contrition to be forgiven. They are essentially gambling with their souls, though most don’t know it (invincible ignorance).

Bigger cups?!? We know how Erik will fight that reference.

We are a long way from Fulton Sheen.

In 29,000 out of 30,000 Denominations This Would Get You In Trouble

Apologists for Rome do like to number the many communions that Protestantism has provoked. At the same time, Protestants hear a lot about the superior mechanisms that Rome has for maintaining unity within a universal church.

Less do we hear from the apologists — other Roman Catholic sites on the interweb are not so bashful — about the troubling views of priests, theologians and bishops within the Roman Catholic Church. Here are a couple of recent examples that caught the eye of this vinegary Old School Presbyterian:

Will hell be empty?

Michael Voris recently came out with a video entitled simply “Fr. Barron is Wrong”, challenging the popular priest-evangelist on his repeated statements in favor of the theory proposed by the late Hans Urs von Balthasar in Dare We Hope? that it is acceptable for Christian to have good hope that Hell may be empty. Voris rightly notes that Christ Himself says some souls will definitely go to Hell on numerous occasions, and that the Church’s alleged “silence” on the definitive presence of anyone in Hell is not due to any support for the empty-hell theory, but due to the fact that the definitive presence of any one soul in Hell is not part of Divine Revelation and therefore outside the pale of the Church’s competence to define. Therefore, the fact that the Church has never “proclaimed” anyone in Hell provides no rationale whatsoever for asserting that Hell is empty.

At this point Mark Shea jumped in and accused Voris of smearing Fr. Barron wrongly with his “poison.” It is not my intention here to comment on the antagonism between Voris and Shea; I am more interested in Shea’s comments that the Fr. Barron-Balthasar “Empty Hell” theory is “perfectly within the pale of orthodox speculation” and that “at the end of the day, that’s all you have: two schools of opinion–both of which are allowed by the Church.” Thus, the Balthasarian “Empty Hell” theory is granted a legitimate place on the spectrum of legitimate opinions upon which Catholics can disagree in good conscience, and the traditional opinion that people do in fact go to Hell is also placed on the spectrum as another legitimate “option.”

Do Roman Catholic theologians teach what the church teaches?

An international group of prominent Catholic theologians have called the church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality “incomprehensible” and are asking bishops around the world to take seriously the expertise of lay people in their preparations for a global meeting of the prelates at the Vatican next year.
Church teaching on issues like contraception and same-sex marriage, the theologians write, are based on “abstract notions of natural law and [are] outdated, or at the very least scientifically uninformed” and “are for the most part incomprehensible to the majority of the faithful.”

Addressing next year’s meeting of church leaders, known as a Synod of Bishops, they say that previous such meetings involved “only carefully hand-picked members of the laity.”

Those meetings, they write, “offered no critical voice and ignored abundant evidence that the teaching of the church on marriage and sexuality was not serving the needs of the faithful.”

One reason that many Protestant denominations would not countenance deviation from church teaching and expectations is that they remember the battles with modernism during fundamentalist-like controversies and still understand theological liberalism to be a danger to Christian witness. In contrast, (overkill alert) Rome seems to have forgotten its battles with modernism thanks to the engagement of the modern world called by Vatican 2. In fact, it is curious how much latitude for downright loopy views exists in a church that has a pontiff with remarkable powers compared to a little denomination like the OPC where elders and ministers have as much power in the wider world as a customer service representative at Kroger Super Market.

When will the apologists reasons catch up with their church’s reality? And why don’t Jason and the Callers appeal to the very mechanism that is supposed to protect the church from error?

So how are we to deal with liberalism in the Catholic Church? We ought to pray earnestly for orthodoxy to flourish, support religious orders that are obedient to the teaching of church, support Catholic schools that are obedient to the teaching of the church, volunteer in our parishes and if we encounter truly egregious heterodoxy in our parishes we should contact our bishops.

The Limits of Unlimited Authority

When you hunt around for explanations of the Council of Trent’s anathemas on various Roman Catholic websites, you find a recurring assertion that the church cannot damn anyone to hell, only God can do that. The anathemas as such only apply to Protestant doctrines, not to Protestants themselves.

Like other excommunications, anathemas didn’t do anything to a person’s soul. It didn’t make him “damned by God” or anything like that. The only man who can make a man damned by God is the man himself. The Church has no such power. An anathema was a formal way of signaling him that he had done something gravely wrong, that he had endangered his own soul, and that he needed to repent. Anathemas, like other excommunications, were thus medicinal penalties, designed to promote healing and reconciliation.

Love the Protestant, hate Protestantism, I guess.

This explanation is odd for a couple reasons. First, if Protestants are not anathematized by Trent, is it not the case that Protestants are still schismatics, which is not a good condition for the soul since schism is a mortal sin?

Sins against Faith: 2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith”9 as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.10 Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him. 2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith: Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness. 2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

Some apologists will also tell us that we are under obligation to go to Mass if we want to go to heaven.

We may be spared Trent’s condemnations, but the very idea of no salvation outside the church and Rome’s claim that it has the power to dispense grace takes Protestants from the Council’s frying pan into Rome’s fire.

The other odd aspect of this distinction between Rome’s authority and God’s when it comes the fate of souls is that the papacy does apparently have the power to canonize saints. This implies that the church can determine who is in heaven. It even has access to a treasury of merits to liberate souls from purgatory with indulgences.

Now maybe such limits on Rome’s power truly exist. But why does it seem like a case of public relations where Roman Catholic apologists are uncomfortable with hell and try to distance themselves from anathemas but not so much with heaven and the process of canonization? Have Rome’s apologists been reading Rob Bell?

Will Rob Bell Be Cremated?

Glancing through Diarmaid MacCulloch’s three-thousand year history of Christianity, I noticed an astute point by the author. It is the inverse relationship that exists in the contemporary setting between churches teaching about hell and churches opposing cremation.

It is observable that certain aspects of the Christian past are being jettisoned without fuss even within self-consciously traditional religion. The most notable casualty of the past century has been Hell. It has dropped out of Christian preaching or much popular concern, first among Protestants, then later among Catholics, who have also ceased to pay much attention to that aspect of Western doctrine which seemed all-consuming in the Latin Church on the eve of the Reformation, Purgatory. (1012)

MacCulloch goes on:

A particularly suprising development in Christianity, admittedly so far noticeable mainly in the West, is the abandonment of a key aspect of Christian practice since its early days, inhumation of corpses. As hellfire receded, there advanced the literal fires of the crematorium; such fire, previously reserved by Christians for heretics, now routinely forms the liturgical climax to encomia of the good things in the life of the deceased. (1013)

One last point that MacCulloch makes is that cremation took root in the West among liberal Italian nationalists who were often forbidden from being buried in church graveyards. Cremation as such was a gesture of anti-clericalism.

Not sure I have much of a point here except to recover reasons against cremation.

Is Tony Soprano in Hell?

That is the question that Ross Douthat uses to respond to Rob Bell’s query about whether Christians must believe that Ghandi is in hell for being Hindu (probably not the best way of putting it since the eternal destiny of any human, aside from Christ, has not been part of Protestant church dogma).

Here is part of Douthat’s reasoning:

Atheists have license to scoff at damnation, but to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices. If there’s no possibility of saying no to paradise then none of our no’s have any real meaning either. They’re like home runs or strikeouts in a children’s game where nobody’s keeping score.

In this sense, a doctrine of universal salvation turns out to be as deterministic as the more strident forms of scientific materialism. Instead of making us prisoners of our glands and genes, it makes us prisoners of God himself. We can check out any time we want, but we can never really leave.

The doctrine of hell, by contrast, assumes that our choices are real, and, indeed, that we are the choices that we make. The miser can become his greed, the murderer can lose himself inside his violence, and their freedom to turn and be forgiven is inseparable from their freedom not to do so.

As Anthony Esolen writes, in the introduction to his translation of Dante’s “Inferno,” the idea of hell is crucial to Western humanism. It’s a way of asserting that “things have meaning” — that earthly life is more than just a series of unimportant events, and that “the use of one man’s free will, at one moment, can mean life or death … salvation or damnation.”

If there’s a modern-day analogue to the “Inferno,” a work of art that illustrates the humanist case for hell, it’s David Chase’s “The Sopranos.” The HBO hit is a portrait of damnation freely chosen: Chase made audiences love Tony Soprano, and then made us watch as the mob boss traveled so deep into iniquity — refusing every opportunity to turn back — that it was hard to imagine him ever coming out. “The Sopranos” never suggested that Tony was beyond forgiveness. But, by the end, it suggested that he was beyond ever genuinely asking for it.

The entire piece is worth reading not only for its explicit point but also to show that as supposedly debased and secular as American society is, it still permits arguments like Douthat’s – at the New York Times no less. Way to go, Ross. Way to go, light of nature.

Christian Hell?

Mark Horne apparently thinks he has landed a damaging jab against 2k by ridiculing Jason Stellman’s point about the discontinuity between culture here and the new heavens and new earth – a point raised in Keith Mathison’s review of David VanDrunen’s new book, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. Stellman wrote:

If my marriage to my wife will not survive into the age to come, then why would I think her wedding ring will? Sure, it’s a nice ring and very well-made, but it’s hardly a higher example of human productivity than our marriage is.

For what it’s worth, the absence of marriage in the new heavens and new earth would certainly seem to unravel arguments that look at redemption as the restoration of creation. If marriage existed as part of the created order and then vanishes in the glorified order, something is going on that seems to escape the average neo-Calvinist’s redemptive-historical horizon.

But Horne does not consider Stellman’s point for very long and rushes instead to his own – perhaps listening to too much Focus on the Family – about the difference that Christianity makes for marriages and child rearing. He writes:

If we use this principle for a generalized defense of R2K, then we must state that there are no such things as Christian marriages or Christian families. Jesus does not want us wasting our time talking about how husbands and wives should behave or raising their children according to God’s word. This is all a compromise of the Gospel and a confusion of law and grace. We should leave family issues to secular family counselors just as we should leave the economy to Bernanke.

(By the way, humans rear children; they raise cows. And I’ll take my chances with Bernake over Gary North running the economy.)

First, marriage is a legal status determined by the state. As such, Christian marriages do not exist unless we want to turn matrimony into a sacrament. But when you refuse the categories of holy, common, and profane, how else to make marriage meaningful except to baptize it?

Second, since marriage as an institution is not Christian but a creation ordinance that is open to all human beings (except for gay ones – lest anti-2k hysteria surface), then the issue is whether a Christian’s vocation is married or single. Christianity has to do with persons, not with institutions (other than the church). Christians who are married have clear instruction from Scripture about how they should conduct themselves as spouse or parent or both. But that does not mean that the institution of marriage (or the church for that matter) will survive in the new heavens and new earth. I mean, the Bible gives some instruction about the Lord’s Supper but does that mean we’ll still be observing that meal in remembrance of the Lord whom we see with our resurrected eyes?

Horne concludes with this whopper – the antithesis doesn’t come any more antithetical:

It is one or the other. Either you affirm that Jesus is “ruler of the kings of the earth” or you deny that it is “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”

Huh? Since when does denial of Jesus as ruler of the earth unseat him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords? This is where the literal mindedness of 2k’s critics is most revealing. They do not seem to have any conception for Christ ruling all things in different ways (you know, some as redeemer and others as creator and redeemer). Which means in the case of marriage that Christ rules all marriages, whether entered by believers or unbelievers. And those people who deny Christ as Lord are no less married than those who confess his name. To implicitly question the legitimacy of unbelievers’ marriages is to throw all conventions that support a measure of good social order to the wind. The implication of Horne’s antithesis is – if you don’t have Christ in your heart, be who you really are, a hell raiser. Since I’ve had hell raisers as neighbors, I much prefer those unbelievers who follow the order of creation even if they can’t identify the creator in a multiple choice test.

And speaking of hell, I wonder if it has ever occurred to 2k critics like Mark Horne that Christ is Lord of both Heaven and Hell, and that his rule in those places is markedly different. If Christ is indeed Lord of the cursed and the blessed, then it may be possible to imagine that Christ’s rule in a Christian home will be different from his sovereignty within a secular family. And if this is the case, then Christians need neither force non-believers to live like Christians nor inaugurate the eschaton by having the state start the judgments that Christ will execute when he returns. In other words, if Christians will simply follow what their Lord has told them to do – attend the means of grace, live quiet and peaceful lives, and glorify God and love neighbors in their work – Christ, who is Lord, will take care of the rest.

Uncanny how Christ does that without our ruling in his name.