If you have read any of my earlier posts, such as Vacuous Answers to Reasonable Questions – Part One, or 10 Questions, you know that I have an ongoing struggle to understand what God is doing and make sense of it. I now have a spiritual father who has let me know that I really need to stop screwing around with understanding everything that God is doing and simply trust that He is good and always does good. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, as if I can stop being what I was created to be, which is an intolerably curious, nosy, and analytical person who loves solving puzzles and thinking about mysteries. This is why I am a top-flight mechanic. I like to tear things apart, figure out what is broken, and then – make it work!
Can’t make God work. At least not to my specifications. Which is utterly frustrating to me and a bit scary. Or more like terrifying when I consider the idea of eternal conscious torment in a place called hell.
I am working on “letting go and letting God,” as they call it, but certain things still just kind of drive me over the edge. I hear people making statements and the red flags start popping up all over the place. I can’t help it. It is as if there is a certain trigger in my mind that goes off when touched the right way.
For instance – and this is again under the assumption taught by the Roman Catholic Church ( you know, the one that claims it is “THE Church” and all outside if it go to hell forever) of eternal torment of sinners – the appearances of Christ in dreams to Muslims in the Middle East, resulting in, from what I’ve read, millions of conversions to Christianity. My mind immediately says, “Okay. Why not appear to all Muslims like that so that this persecution and killing of Christians will stop and we can rejoice in the filling of the Kingdom of God?”
Am I allowed to ask this question, or am I an evil person for questioning what God does and how He chooses to do it? Am I an evil person for being plagued from time to time with the doubts you are going to see me express in this piece?
What has set me off this morning is a blog by Leticia Adams. She is an incredible convert to the Catholic Church who has gone through sheer hell to come to Christ. This is what she wrote this morning as she continues to grieve and struggle through the suicide of her son: (my commentary in bold red)
Salvation through Judas
I was taught that only God can bring good out of evil. Not that he creates evil, evil is the deterioration of the good, but God can bring good out of evil choices we each make.
No argument here. I am watching him do this in my life as I struggle with a marriage that was based on lies and for the first two years, was incredibly difficult and painful. I have come to realize that God hooked me up with a difficult woman in order to teach me to love unconditionally and to give as He gave on the Cross – in pain and self-sacrifice.
The biggest example of this is the Crucifixion. Jesus was beaten, battered, flogged, tortured and murdered for no good reason. He was executed in a brutal way as if He was the most dangerous of criminals even though He was sinless. Even if you believe the charges made against Him by those who called for His death, it did not warrant the evilness and brutality of His death. And yet, it was through that death on the Cross that we are saved.
It is through our participation in that death that we cooperate with the saving action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we die to self – for the root of all sin is the exaltation of self over love – we become like Christ. As we participate in His death through our own dying to self – such as choosing to live with a wife who lied to you to marry you and has turned out to be a very difficult person with which to live – we become more and more like Him. This is salvation – not the legal idea of forgiveness presented by Protestantism (say this prayer and your sins are forgiven and you are on the way to heaven – guaranteed) nor the similar ideas of Roman Catholicism (say this many Rosaries on Five First Fridays and God will assure you a seat at the Beatific Vision) but entering into union with Christ by becoming like Him. We die to self as He died to self on the Cross, and we rise to glory.
What got everything going was Judas. It was Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss on the cheek in the garden after conspiring with the Pharisees to have Jesus arrested and killed. This is where the story of the Passion begins. Jesus knew Judas was going to do it but he didn’t stop it from happening. Why? Because Jesus knew that through this betrayal the salvation of man would begin. This is how He was going to save us all.
Uh huh. All but that poor schmuck, Judas, who is, according to most people who are honest about their thoughts on it, roasting in hell even now. When I read this paragraph, my thoughts started to tumble around my head again. God wills to save everyone (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet He was, according to Roman Catholic thought, willing to use Judas and cast him aside as so much trash. Into the furnace with you, you traitor! But according to this, the salvation plan of God couldn’t have even happened without Judas and God being willing to use Him in this way and then watch him condemn himself to everlasting torment.
This sort of thing makes me think that if this is true, then the Calvinists are correct and God chooses who he will save and the rest of us – tough cookies!
Everything about the life of Jesus is an example for us. He became man to become one of us. He wanted us to know that everything we go through, He has been through. He shares with us in our humanity and in our sufferings. When we feel alone in our own conflicts and doubts, He gets it. When we feel betrayed and like everything is crumbling, He gets it.
Does Jesus “get it?” Has He really experienced torment going on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever without any hope of remediation or forgiveness? This is the Roman Catholic position. Once you die, no chance of repenting, no chance to see things clearly and say, “I was wrong, please forgive me.” Just unrelenting torment of the most horrible kind.
If this scenario of the next life is true (and God I hope it isn’t!), then we have much to fear of a God who allows us to be tempted, tricked, and then thrown into hell for believing in deceptions. As I asked in another piece, God as Monster, what kind of God does this to sentient beings? How is such behavior towards poor, wretched, sinful creatures who live in a sin-cursed and darkened world an expression of the Bible verse, “God is love.” ? This is why I pray that Patristic Universalism is true.
At this moment, that is how I feel. I feel frantic, betrayed and like the worldview that I have come to believe in is crumbling all around me. But I also feel some responsibility to act and to do the right things. I have no idea what those things are at the moment but I know that walking away is not one of them for me. I understand that others feel the opposite of that, but I feel firm in my faith.
I am glad Leticia feels firm in her faith. I have days where I feel firm in the faith and days that I am deeply tempted to chuck it all as a bad cosmic joke by a God who is more like Batman’s psychopathic nemesis, The Joker, than the human expression of complete love for mankind. But I have nowhere else to go. Where shall I go? Back to the sins that almost killed me, gave me various diseases, caused me depression and suicidal thoughts when younger? That is an idiot question. I must plod on, even when every hot breath of hell is whispering in my ear, “You can’t trust Him. He is not going to save you because you are too evil. He is not going to save your children, and you caused them to hate God.” It is a hard road I walk some days. My only hope is that somehow I make it away from the fire and into the light.
Part of the reason why I feel so firm in it is that of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. In that, I have an example of how sometimes it is through betrayal and evil choices of humans, even men who are ordained as priests by Jesus Himself, that God saves us. God does not rejoice in those evil choices. Jesus said that it would have been better for Judas to never have even been born. But God can and does bring good out of all things.
Except for Judas. He’s disposable, as we all are when you get down to it.
In my own life, I have come face to face with this knowledge after the suicide of my son. I could not figure out how God could watch my son hang himself and do nothing. What I have come to realize is that allowing us to make choices that are evil (in the theological and real sense of the word, not just the hyperbolic sense of the word) is the price of giving us free will. He cannot take that freedom away from us. The only thing He can do is to bring good out of it. Which does not take away the suffering brought about by the evil choice. That is a consequence.
A consequence is one thing. Something that teaches us a lesson, makes us more like Christ, brings us closer to God – yes, those are good, even if they are dreadfully painful as we go through them. That is not what Judas experienced. That is not what sinners experience who don’t find the truth in this lifetime. It is not consequence. It is eternal, non-stop suffering with no chance (again, according to Roman Catholic teaching) of making amends, repenting, or finding forgiveness in the next life. Get it right here or you are toast, pal. And it doesn’t matter if you never heard of Jesus Christ, were tricked by the devil, or anything.
I will always suffer from grief after losing my son to suicide, but the good that has come from it is that I have grown closer to God even in all my anger at Him. Also, my family has become so much closer and we rely on each other in ways that we never did before. I have also been blessed by so many people who don’t even know me but who have prayed for me and my family and Anthony. I have been loved through it which I needed because I don’t know if I have ever been loved through anything else in my life.
I am sorry that Leticia lost her son in such a cruel way. Those who commit suicide never think of the pain they will be leaving for those who love them. But unlike her, I am not going to sit down and paint a happy face on the tragedy of my life – that all my children want nothing to do with God, are headed for hell (if RCism is true) and it is all my fault. I never showed them the loving God who died for all. What I showed them was some freak deity made up in Bob Jones Fundamentalism – a dysfunctional, heretical religion which calls itself Christian but is filled with people who are judgmental of everything and everyone who is not of their camp. Why did God not send me to an Orthodox church when I was finally converted from my sins? Why not a church where my zeal and enthusiasm could be tempered with learning to love as Christ loves, rather than learning to be mean-spirited and judgmental of all others outside Fundamentalism. My children want nothing to do with Christ and in a sense, one can’t blame them. Who would want the mean-spirited, judgmental Christ of Fundamentalism (think Jack Chick tracts). I cannot paint a happy face on this.
I do not know what good will come from the chaos in the Church right now, but God is not gone. We will find Him in the Truth of it all. And regardless of everything else, people on every side are unified in demanding the truth to be found.
Whatever it takes for the Church to realize the days of secrecy and lying are over. Whatever it takes for the hierarchy to remember that they serve God, they are not CEOs or experts in PR. Their job is to protect the sheep.
I would hope this is true, but the cynical part of me says, “Yeah, fat chance.” The Roman Catholic Church has dealt in wrong teaching, strange ideas, and utter heresies now for 1,000 years. I don’t see things changing any time soon. In my personal opinion, when the RCC severed Herself from the Body of Christ by choosing schism and heresy (the Filioque clause of the Creed) over discussion and reconciliation, they opened the door to all kinds of bad behavior.
This is another area where my understanding is troubled. When the East and West were about to split apart in 1054 AD, why did God not go to the hierarchy of the Church and put a stop to it? It seems instead that all the visions the RC God gives to the saints are of eternal hell fire, Luther the heretic roasting in the flames, damnation and curses, judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment. Not a hint of mercy. Not a vision at all about who was wrong in the schism? Nothing to stop erroneous teachings such as Indulgences and Purgatory. Something is wrong here.
Whatever it takes.
Even if smug and arrogant people who don’t give one bit of care about the Gospel feel like they got a win because their hobby horse rode the fastest. It isn’t about winning at all. It is about getting down to basics so we can evangelize the world who is in desperate need of knowing they are loved.
Sometimes salvation comes begins with Judas.
Yeah. then he gets thrown in the fire and life goes on. Have a nice eternity, Judas.