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Writing a letter to your confirmation candidate

It seems that one of the biggest events in confirmation preparation in this country is the letters of support to be given to the confirmation candidates during their mandatory retreats.

I have three such letters saved on this blog:

Confirmation letter to my daughterConfirmation letter to my fourth sonConfirmation letter to to my third son
I've asked my children what they remember about the letter they got from me and their dad, and also what they remembered about the letters they received. 
The answer was not much, or at least nothing specific. In general they were happy to have gotten a bag full of letters and there was a sense of feeling loved and supported. I guess that's the main thing - for them to have a sense that this is an important step in their spiritual growth, and that people they know, love and respect have taken the time out of their lives to let them know that! So here are some tips on procuring and writing letters for young confirmation candidates. Start thinkin…

Apologetics at its finest

The time spent over at "Of (some)Christian Women has bore some good fruit, in that I have been able to read the works of some very accomplished apologists and have learned more about my Catholic Faith from them. It was from that blog discussion that I was introduced to Mark Windsor and even though we had a shaky start we are friendly now. I also dealved more into the Phatmass Site through the participation of JSWRANCH.

Yesterday, O(S)CW also had two more apologists join the frey!

The first is Art Sippo, whom O(S)CW actually quotes in her post here.

The second was Jason Gennaro who also maintains a website. Jason very graciously gave me permission to repost some of his comments on the O(S)CW blog here.

Long-time readers of my blog will remember that I am a self-taught, child of Vatican II, lay Catholic. Most of the intellectual stuff I know about the Catholic Faith, I learned through study and research as an adult. So I found Jason's comments to be very helpful - the kind of thing I would print out and keep with my study bible for further reading.

The O(S)CW's original question was:

Perhaps one of my Catholic commenters can explain to me what the cross accomplished if not the full payment for the penalty of sin. How does a partial payment save anyone?

Mr. Gennaro's comments in blue:

From the comments and from an offline e-mail to me, Carrie and others have said that Christ's sacrifice on the cross erased every true believer's past, present, and future sin and that, because of faith, the salvation of these believers is assured - once saved, always saved. That is the full payment for the penalty of sin. (Correct me if I am wrong on this)

But this doesn't square with Scripture. How can we explain away the following (and these are just a handful of examples)?

*All verses are NIV, as I think this is a version that is acceptable to most Christians

1. Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me"

God is asking us to do what He did, to act every day in a way compatible with Him. He says is you want to follow Him to Heaven, you must deny yourself daily. By denying yourself daily, you are allowing others to have what you would have or want to that not a good work. You might say, well, taking up your cross daily means professing or acknowledging your faith each day. But that still contradicts a one-time profession of faith for a once saved, always saved belief.

2. Matthew 7:21,24
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven...Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."

Jesus' words are plain, you must do the will of the Father. You must take His words and put them into practice. If you don't do these things, your faith is a fraud.

3. Romans 1:5
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

Faith requires obedience. Obedience to what? The commandments. (Matthew 19:17) If you continually break the commandments you are sinning. If you are sinning, you disobeying God and rejecting your faith, which requires obedience.

4. 1 Cor. 6-9
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Believer or not, if you commit these sins or return to committing them after receiving justification, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. No salvation for these people. Not all of them are murderers, either. Slanderers and the greedy are also not going to heaven.

5. Galatians 5:1,6
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery...For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Christ has redeemed us and set us free, but we can slip back into slavery and it doesn't take rejecting Jesus. How do we fight against this? With faith that expresses itself through love. Love expressing itself. That's doing something.

6. Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose

If your salvation is assured and full payment made, why does one need to work out their salvation. Remember, these are Christians that have always obeyed St. Paul. And why must you act according to His good purpose. Seems like there is some work required.

7. 1 Timothy 1:19
I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

Two Christians are blaspheming and they might be going to hell. Satan will deal with them, but there is a chance that they can make amends, if they learn not to blaspheme. Until they do, though, faith or no faith, they are near to losing their salvation.

8. 1 Timothy 5:8
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever

Read closely. Not doing a good work means you can deny your faith. Note that St. Paul does not say they were unbelievers. He said they would be worse then unbelievers. These people he was criticizing did not give up their faith. They still believed. But their lack of good works could earn them the loss of salvation.

9. Hebrews 5:9
once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

Again, we must not only believe in Christ, we must also obey Him. That means doing good things and refraining from sin. (Matthew 5:20, 48)

10. James 2:19
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

According to this and the system of faith alone, even demons will go to Heaven for they know that Christ is the God of salvation (Luke 4:33, Matt. 8:29).

11. James 2:24
You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

This one stands on its own.

Scripture interprets Scripture. Scripture cannot contradict itself. So there must be something more than just Christ's sacrifice deleting all sin (before, now, and to come) plus faith alone equaling salvation. It just doesn't add up.

There is much more from Scripture, but I will stop there for now. I would, though, like to share with you what some of the earliest Christians thought about needing only faith. How did those who first heard the Gospel understand it?

"For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith?" Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, AD 98 Clement knew St. Peter the Apostle.

"For he who keepth these shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; but he who chooseth other things shall be destroyed with his works." Epistle of Barnabas, AD 132

"Whoever dies in his sins, even if he profess to believe in Christ, does not truly believe in Him, and even if that which exists without works be called faith, such faith is dead in itself, as we read in the Epistle bearing the name of James." Origen, Commentary on John 19:6, AD 232

"And in like manner, the Gentiles by faith in Christ prepare for themselves eternal life through good works." Hippolytus, Commentary on Proverbs, AD 235

Before even delving into Catholic beliefs, I think Carrie and others need to address the apparent inconsistencies in their beliefs and Scripture

Then later:

Jason, my purpose with the whole series was to educate like-minded Protestants on the false doctrines of Rome. I don't have to defend my own position b/c my targeted audience already agrees with my position.

Again, that is your prerogative. But if there is a legitimate challenge to your position, even if your target audience agrees with your positions/assertions, don't you owe it to that target audience to prove my interpretations of Scripture wrong? Some of your target audience may be lead to believe what I wrote? I know that you complained that some who challenge you in the combox don't use Scripture. Now, if you still want to try and convince us that your religion is legitimate, then do it from the Bible. But I did. And I did it because you have said that Catholics have counter-scriptural doctrines.

You haven't proven anything Go back through my archives - we have covered this stuff in detail before.

Again, another apology. If I was supposed to look through your Archives before I posted, then I should have. In having a quick look now, though, I was unable to find where you tackled all or most of the Scripture that I mentioned. Could please you post a link or a few links?

In truth, I would have rather you answered at least some of the Scripture that I used to show that faith alone is not viable. I know that you may not do so from what you wrote earlier.

I will go through your LONG coment later but I disagree with your viewpoint on this discussion. This is my blog and I maintain that the Gospel of Rome is not the Gospel of Christ. You will have to prove that wrong, I don't need to defend my position.

But for the record, I will be busy until after Christmas so I may or may not be able to respond to comments. Besides, I am really not interested in debating this - the purpose is to educate other Protestants on the Gospel of Rome.

Ellen had suggested that maybe you'd like to answer some of the questions raised, instead of ignoring that we've already addressed these..

Like I mentioned in my first post, I feel that would be jumping ahead of things. However, I must dispute some of the items that appeared in the comments that I know have no basis

This was my favorite part. I learned a lot from Jason's information!

You cannot use Elijah, Abraham, the Good Thief, or St. Stephen to undermine purgatory and show that people went directly to heaven. Why?

i) Elijah: Scripture mentions that he went to heaven (2 Kings 2:11), but Jesus said that "No one has gone up to Heaven except the One who came down from there – the Son of Man" (John 3:13). How do we square the two? Well, Elijah could have gone to sheol, where the just who died before Christ waited for Him to open the gates of Heaven. Or he could have gone to one of the three heavens that St. Paul mentions (2 Corinthians 12:2-3), with only the third one being Paradise, whose door was not opened until Christ's passion was complete. Or maybe it appeared that Elijah went to heaven when he really did the same thing as Phillip in Acts (8:26-40) and was whisked away to another place. No one knows for certain. Here's the thing though. If you believe that Elijah could be assumed into heaven without dying then there is nothing to prevent you from believing that the same thing could happen to Mary.

ii) Abraham: In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus describes Abraham's bosom, one of two places in Sheol where the dead waited for Christ's death. Abraham's bosom was where the good resided. These were the ones who were freed when Christ descended to the dead (Ephesians 4:8-10). The other place, across the chasm, was where the not-so-good went. That's where we find Lazarus. As Christ was still alive when He told this story, Abraham could not have been in Heaven.

iii) The Good Thief: he didn't go straight to heaven either. Why? Because Christ didn't go straight to heaven. Instead, he descended to the dead and then returned to earth without going to heaven. Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " (John 20:17) That was three days later and the Good thief wasn't with him then. There's more too: Jesus never promises this thief heaven. He promises him paradise. To the Jews, paradise was another word for Abraham's bosom, a place where the righteous dead reside. St. Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 12, where he talks about a man who died in Christ but was caught up in paradise, caught up as in not having made it there yet.

iv) St. Stephen: "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."...59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:55-60) Doubtless, St. Stephen was given a special grace to see heaven (perhaps in order to persevere until death), but there is nothing in that description that states that he went there right away.

Of note, as of this afternoon, there has been no attempt to deal with these inconsistencies on that blog.

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