Another Essay, Another book

Having recently had an essay published in an anthology of articles in which I kept rather unusual company (Catholics and Catholicism in Contemporary Australia), I am pleased to annouce the publication of another essay by your host in rather more sanguine company.

For some years now, a group of us have been preparing an answer to Ray Galea’s book “Nothing in my hand I bring“, and it has finally reached publication stage. You can read about it and order it here: Answering the Anti-Catholic Challenge, edited by Robert Haddad. I did the final essay, responding to Galea’s “appendix” on “The New Catholicism”.

In short, his argument is with the activity of the Catholic Church in the area of interfaith dialogue. He especially focuses upon the statement by the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium 16 that:

Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.

I struggled with precisely this teaching in the last days before I committed myself to the path of seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. My Lutheran mentors advised me that I could not in conscience join the Catholic Church because it was, not to put too fine a point on it, a syncretistic and universalistic religion which acknowledged other paths to salvation than grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone. The definitive turning point for me was the publication, in August 2000, of Dominus Iesus, a document which should put paid to any lingering doubts that the Catholic Church views the Christian religion as just one path among many of salvation.

Even when one looks at the statement in LG 16, one sees the very important phrase “moved by grace”. There is no doubt in my mind that the grace spoken of is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which reaches out to all human beings, even those who “through no fault of their own do not” explicitly “know the Gospel of Christ or His Church”. God’s grace in Christ is universal (contra strict Calivinism), and meant for all people. Catholics believe firmly that all human beings are in some relationship with God (hence the reference to conscience as the point of contact apart from the positive revelation of God in Scripture and Tradition) and equally reject the teaching of the Protestants that the fall of Adam so corrupted the souls of men that every effort of theirs to seek God will of necessity lead them away from rather than toward God. God is always reaching out to every human being, and he acknowledges their response, even if it is without explicit knowledge of “the Gospel of Christ or His Church”.

Of course, for those who do have such explicit knowledge, the situation is entirely different. The proclamation of the Gospel is always an experience of “krisis” in the human soul. The appropriate response is always faith in Christ – the rejection of Christ is a rejection of the grace that God extends to the human person.

Yet the path of salvation is not always smooth, nor is it necessarily always completed in this life. God looks at the heart of men, and judges each according to his grace. We therefore do not stand in judgement on any whose response to the Gospel appears to us to be negative. We cannot prejudge what is taking place in their hearts and how the Gospel has impacted. We also allow that in many cases, the fault lies with us, in the way we have presented or explained the Gospel, which can at times place greater stumbling blocks in their way.

Anyway, for my full treatment, buy the book. I haven’t seen all the other essays in this book and am looking forward to reading it when it arrives.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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3 Responses to Another Essay, Another book

  1. Stephen K says:

    I’m afraid I might have to wait until both your books come to my local public library, David, not to mention the Galea book that started it all! I find myself a little sceptical as to whether anything in response to Ray Galea – whom I had never heard of before – will deliver a knock-down corrective. My old 1959 volumes of Tanquerey’s Dogmatic Theology (Desclee) probably contain most of what one might seek by way of Catholic apologetics (and I’ve had my share and enough).

    By the same token, nothing Ray Galea appears to be saying seems earth-shatteringly new or particularly destructive of Catholicism either. (I’ve just followed your links and looked up a couple of interviews and Youtube addresses by him.) In his interviews and addresses he appears to characterise some popular Catholic emphases reasonably accurately enough, but naturally, the theology that informs them is not a simple one-dimensional thing and a faith and religious practice and understanding cannot be reduced to a one-size-fits-all formula. What goes on in the mind of each follower is, I believe, an idiosyncratic and nuanced thing, not to mention that read one way rather than another, Catholic prayers and beliefs can be understood as Scripturally as Protestant ones. I’ve heard all and thought some of what he says before.

    So I find myself neither particularly impressed nor in any way disturbed by his religious conversion. Ultimately, like you, he has followed a line of thought that makes sense and moved him. Good on him! (And you!) The acid test will be, how will he touch others’ lives in understanding and compassion where they find themselves? That’s the only – or the most important – apologetic that I think needs my dealing with and that I have to come to terms with.

  2. Matthias says:

    Regarding salvation the Dean at st patrick’s in his homily last Sunday ,made the point that Salvation in Christ is God’s Grace and that it is a perfect gift -,and that it cannot be earned.
    By the way the dispensationalist website-RAIDERS NEWS UPDATES- which i managed to get to from a catholic site,are having a series on Petrus Romanus-the last pope and of dire prophecies associated with Pope Benedict for this year. However what comes out ,and citing numerous cathlolic sources ,is a subtle subliminal criticism, of the Catholic Church under the guise of Prophecy. I
    When i see Hal Lindsey involved I know it is a case of let the reader beware.

  3. Christine says:

    God is always reaching out to every human being, and he acknowledges their response, even if it is without explicit knowledge of “the Gospel of Christ or His Church”.

    Agreed. I, too, struggled with some of these issues while still Lutheran. Dominus Iesus was most helpful in resolving them.

    Before I became Catholic a very wise Catholic lady expressed the opinion that even though Christians cannot share every belief in other religions we can acknowledge the reverence that is present in many of them and that some of those teachings may in some fashion prepare the hearts of some to receive the Gospel.

    As for those who continue to believe in the transmigration of souls, as in Hinduism, or animism, etc., I suppose all we can do is continue to give a firm and courageous witness to Jesus Christ.

    I continue to adhere to the Lord’s words that no one comes to the Father except through him, even if they don’t explicitly know it.


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