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Why doctrine is important – sin exists August 24, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, sadness.

One of the really startling aspects of the post-modern culture that surrounds us is the complete rejection of sin.  I say it is startling because, while I’m sure a natural human impulse, it is so utterly divorced from traditional views of morality that had been extant in the world since some of the earliest civilizations.  I don’t think it is an exaggeration today to say that the vast majority of people in modern, Western-type cultures have only the vaguest notion of sin, and many reject any notion of sin outright.  Certainly, many of our cultural elites reject sin on the whole.  We even have many voices in the Church that seem to all but ignore sin, to pretend that it does not exist. 

This points towards why some view doctrine as being so pliable.  If sin does not really exist, if virtually everyone will be saved (after all, it’s not like I’ve killed anyone), then what matters doctrine?  If sin is just an ancient/medieval construct, then who cares what one believes about abortion, or contraception, or gay marriage, or the Real Presence – we’re all saved, Jesus was a good guy, whatevs.   But is this a realistic expectation?

New Theological Movement, a really good site dedicated to Thomist faith and reason, examines this question in light of this last Sunday’s (Ordinary Form) Gospel, Luke 13:22-30.  Quoting Luke:

Someone asked Jesus, ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved?’ He answered them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

New Liturgical Movement continues:

Today, it is the common opinion of the affluent countries of the west, that all (or nearly all) people will be saved. This view is, however, contrary to the estimation of the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Moreover, Christ himself tells us that only a few will be saved. Many will attempt to enter the gates of heaven, but will not. The way to heaven is narrow and few find it (cf. Mt 7:13-14). These words are difficult for the modern world to accept, precisely because the modern world refuses to admit the reality and gravity of sin. If there is no real sin (and no serious sin), then clearly there is no hell. But if sin is real and can be serious, then it can also be mortal, killing the soul by destroying charity, incurring the punishment of eternal damnation.

Regretfully, these words are not only difficult for our modern culture to accept, they are difficult for many Catholics (and Christians) to accept.  I was reading about St. John Eudes, a great Saint of the Church, and how lived in great terror that he would be found wanting and would spend eternity in hell.  This was a man who labored mightily for the Church and served as a priest, missionary, founder of religious orders, and author of Propers for the Mass and prayers of the Divine Office.  And, until a few minutes prior to his death, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, he lived in fear that he had lived a sinful life and would be damned.  Such was the common sense of sin among the faithful at that time. 

Some may ask why I strive to define the Doctrine of the Faith in such unyielding terms.  It is because sin exists.  Evil exists.  I have felt it, I have been held in sins cold grasp.  I have been spiritually dead, cut off from God’s Grace.  I fear mightily for those who may be cut off from God’s Grace through their sinful acts and not even know it, because of bad formation or those in the Church, who out of accomodation with the world or their own bad formation or a sentimental wish not to be “too hard,” have led them to believe that they can do or believe almost anything without offending God.  This is not how God has planned Salvation.  This view of the path to Salvation  is not my opinion.  I am not so bold as to think I could somehow state definitively what God Wills on a subject like this.  This is the opinion of the great Doctors and Saints of the Church, and has been the Doctrine of the Church from its inception. 

As New Liturgical Movement reminds in another great post – hell is forever.  We bear a responsibility to our fellow man to inform Him of the Truth Christ has revealed through His Church as fully and faithfully, even as stridently as we can, within the bounds of Charity. 

Hell is eternal on account of the grave offence which sin is against God. The gravity of punishment is not determined so much by the duration of the sin (most sins only last a moment, but hell is eternal), rather the punishment is determined by the malice in the soul of the sinner and the infinite good of the God who is offended. Thus, since mortal sin kills the soul by annihilating charity and offends God by completely severing any supernatural bond to him in love, such sin requires an eternal punishment. This punishment is the pains of hell (both the despair of the soul who has no hope and the physical pains of fire and ice).

You really should go read the rest. 

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