Bookmark and Share
My Photo

FROM the EDITORS:

  • IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
    Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.

NEW & UPCOMING, available from IGNATIUS PRESS







































































« Catholicism is not a democracy... | Main | Seewald on Ratzinger: "A Revolutionary of the Christian Type" »

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Comments

Mulder

No. Anyone who advocates for the slaughtering of children (and refuses to give protection to children born alive after an abortion lest that protection 'undermine' Roe) is not a Christian. What's to debate?

Jon

That is a debate which will be counter productive. A better debate would be whether any of Obama's actions run counter to Christian teaching. If folks waste time asking whether Obama himself is a Christian they will just be dismissed as being mean spirited and the debate will not be advanced at all on any substantive issue.

Ed Peters

Well, you know where I stand here (on the right answer, that's where!): if BO is baptized (I say, IF he is baptized), then he is Christian. Period. Everything else is an adjectival or adverbial modifier of what kind of Christian he might be. Which is fine. But to argue anything else is to risk doing serious harm to the doctrines surrounding baptism.

Evan

Obama was baptized in 1988. Here is some information about baptism in the UCC:

http://www.ucc.org/worship/baptism/

Of course the qualification about "feminine language" for God would be problematic, but I'm assuming this wasn't the case for Obama's baptism 20 years ago.

I think Ed offers the acceptable answer here... beyond the question of why all this matters in the first place, of course. Here I'd agree with Jon that there are other more pertinent things to discuss with regard to Obama's faith.

Bender

The bigger question is whether Al Qaeda can call him an apostate (as they impliedly do in their recent video).

Mark Brumley

It seems to me that there are different theological senses in which one can say that someone is a Christian. We can ask, has he been incorporated into Christ? Valid baptism accomplishes that. And the sacramental seal persists, notwithstanding anything the person subsequently does or does not do, because incorporation into Christ is the free gift of God in the full sense of that expression. Its persistence is not dependent on anything we do or fail to do. A validly baptized person is, then, a Christian and remains a Christian in that sense. Whether BO is validly baptized is another issue, but assuming that he is, then he would be a Christian in at least the aforementioned sense.

However, there is another sense in which we speak of a person as a Christian. Indeed, I would argue that this other sense has a kind of primacy, even over the sense to which we refer when we speak of someone as having been validly baptized. Does this person genuinely profess the Christian faith? A validly baptized person has the infused virtue of faith but such a person who abandons the Christian faith, while not ceasing to be baptized, does cease to be a believer. Unless we wish to claim that one can be a believer without believing, and that Christianity does not require faith in one who is capable of believing, then it follows that faith is necessary in order to be a Christian. One might legitimately ask a person, even a baptized person, if he believes. If he does not, then we can speak of him as no longer being a Christian. (We can set aside the issue of the man, baptised as an infant, perhaps, or as an adult but who lacks faith, and who never actually and interiorly believed.)

Now it is possible to enage in gravely sinful acts without losing the theological virtue of faith. Without charity, which is incompatible with deliberate and freely chosen grave sin, such faith becomes "dead faith" and it is not sufficient for salvation, even though it entails affirming as true what God has revealed, to the extent that that revelation is present to the one assenting to it on the basis of its having been revealed by God. In that sense, being a Christian is compatible with engaging in gravely sinful actions. In this were not true, then when we sin gravely we would cease to be Christians and everytime we repented sufficiently we would become Christians again. It would also reduce all sorts of statements in the New Testament to nonsense.

That said, it is possible for one to sin in such a way that one does not directly lose the virtue of faith and yet one opens one's self up to serious temptations against faith. One may succumb to such temptation and cease to believe interiorly but still exteriorly profess to believe--perhaps for social or political reasons. Objectively gravely sinful actions, such as support for abortion, may be a sign of such an interior/exterior split, and therefore of a merely external profession of Christianity, although the qualififcation that it "may be a sign" means that it is no infallible indication.

Ed Peters

Hmmm.

MB wrote: "However, there is another sense in which we speak of a person as a Christian." Well, sure, people speak lots of ways. That doesn't mean we can. People talk about "baptized Christian" as if both terms were needed. They aren't, any more than "ordained deacon" is necessary to describe a man in the first level of holy orders. Every baptized person is Christian, every Christian is baptized. Not sure of that, remember CDF and the Mormons.

MB wrote: "Indeed, I would argue that this other sense has a kind of primacy, even over the sense to which we refer when we speak of someone as having been validly baptized." Ok, I'm listening. 'Kind of primacy', what does that mean?

MB wrote: "Does this person genuinely profess the Christian faith? A validly baptized person has the infused virtue of faith but such a person who abandons the Christian faith, while not ceasing to be baptized, does cease to be a believer." Fine. If you mean by beleiver what I mean by believer: one who actually believes, fine. No problem.

MB wrote: "Unless we wish to claim that one can be a believer without believing," That's not the claim, else, I'd be arguing absurdly; But I am saying, one can BE (be, not act like, be) a Christian without beleiving. Sadly, happens all the time.

MB: "and that Christianity does not require faith in one who is capable of believing," Again, that's not the claim, but even so, Christianity requires all sorts of things of Christians that they often do not do. So?

MB wrote: "then it follows that faith is necessary in order to be a Christian." The understanding of 'necessary' being what is at issue.

MB wrote: "One might legitimately ask a person, even a baptized person, if he believes. If he does not, then we can speak of him as no longer being a Christian." Some would say that. But they would be wrong, is my point. At most, we can of some folks, they are "apostates", but apostate what? apostate Christians. What is remedy for an repentent apostate? Confession. Not baptism, simple confession. And confession can ONLY be administered to whom? to Christians.

MB wrote: "We can set aside the issue of the man, baptised as an infant, perhaps, or as an adult but who lacks faith, and who never actually and interiorly believed." No, I don't think we can set these aside, for they illustrate precisely some of the very points at issue.

Look guys, we know that there are serious distortions of Christian identity out there, with all sorts of poeple claiming to be Christian who are not baptized, and all sorts of baptized folks claiming not to BE Christian. But both groups show little to no understanding of the absolutely essential and sufficient character of (valid) baptism in regard to Christian identity. Beleid amits a vast different in degree, in objects of belief, in time of belief. Does one BECOME more Christian, over time? No, we don't even claim that of Confirmation, let alone of something as fluid as faith. Could one BE "Christian" with regard to the divinity of Christ, but at the the same time not BE "Christian" with regard to the procession of the Holy Spirit? There would be no end of identity disputes if belief were the criterion of determining everyone's Christian identity.

If you want to argue whether it is "more important" to be "good" or to be "Christian" (a certain primacy?), we can argue that one; but not what makes one, forever, Christian or not. Not even those baptized by blood or desire are "Christian" (though they are saved); only water baptism makes one a Christian. To hold anything else simply runs roughshod over the sacrament of baptism.

Mark Brumley

Wow. I think we're going to have to do some involved theology here to deal with these issues. Frankly, it seems to me that you simple ignore many of the relevant distinctions made. I hardly know where to begin. Your line of argument, Ed, to the extent we differ, seems in many ways what the best of preconciliar, conciliar and postconciliar theology tried to get beyond--a kind of baptismal reductionism. But obviously you don't agree.

If you want to argue whether it is "more important" to be "good" or to be "Christian" (a certain primacy?), we can argue that one; but not what makes one, forever, Christian or not. Not even those baptized by blood or desire are "Christian" (though they are saved); only water baptism makes one a Christian. To hold anything else simply runs roughshod over the sacrament of baptism.

Since no one is arguing that baptism doesn't make one a Christian in the sense mentioned above, the argument is a red herring. The issue is, is there another sense in which one is a Christian? There is not enough space to cite Scripture and Tradition to make the point. Really. St. Genesius, pray for us.

But probably this is a discussion for another forum.

Ed Peters

Ok, behind the woodshed, with sticks, at midnight. I am reminded of the character in Brideshead who claimed the right to participate in any counter-revolution, anywhere. (Well, sort of reminded.) Me? I'll oppose creeping nominalism wherever it rears its beautifully deceptive head.

Mark Brumley

To speak analogically is not nominalism. Indeed, it is part of the solution to nominalism.

LJ

Ed, what an interesting discussion. I think, with my limited theological knowledge, that you are right to clarify and insist on precision here.

I was raised in an Evangelical Baptist home and was told as far back as I can remember that all one needed to do was believe in Jesus Christ and salvation was assured. Later on, I was told that, "oh by the way, you need to be baptized." On that point I rebelled and was never baptized until I entered the Catholic Church some 35 years later. I felt that I had been the victim of a "bait and switch" and moreover, the Baptist baptism to them was only an ordinance and did not have the sacramental power to wash away sin.
But I did consider myself a Christian at the time based upon my faith in Jesus Christ, such as it was, and that to me illustrates your point, that being a Christian is not synonymous with faith or salvation. That is common Protestant short-hand however.
The Baptist response to this discussion would likely be "there you go, if you didn't baptize infants you wouldn't separate faith and baptism!" But much of their view of the matter is predicated on the "once saved always saved" doctrine whereas what matters for the Catholic is how we die. And, of course, because we don't know when that is, it is prudent to be a state of grace at all times. And that kind of life requires the gift of faith. Isn't that the first thing the priest says in the confessional, "I thank God for your gift of faith"?

As you say, one can qualify the term Christian, a good Christian, a bad Christian, a knowledgeable Christian, an ignorant Christian, a Christian in or out of the state of grace, but it is baptism that identifies the person as Christian, just as circumcision identified the Jew. It means also that there could very well be a number of Christians in Hell when all is said and done, and some of them might even be Catholics.

Dan Deeny

Very interesting. I hope Sen. Obama reads some of the discussion. Sen. Biden is a Catholic. I imagine he knows the rules. So, now what?

Mark Brumley

Restriction of the term "Christian" to designate one who has been baptised, and excluding all other applications of the term to a person, for any other reason, creates the terminological monstrosities of the Buddhist Christian, the Zoroastrian Christian, the Agnostic Christian and the Atheist Christian. Or the other way around, the Christian Buddhist, the Christian Zoroastrian, the Christian Agnostic, and the Christian Atheist. For the one who apostatizes from Christianity continues to possess the baptismal character and by the restrictive use of Christian must still be called a Christian, regardless of the faith or anti-faith he comes to maintain.

Let us by all means affirm that valid baptism makes one a Christian in the restrictive sense. However, in our zeal to uphold the permanence of the baptismal character and all that it entails, let us not ignore the fruitful, analogous designation of Christian for someone who actually affirms Christianity.

"Christian" does, after all, imply a certain conformity to Christ. While the baptismal character conforms the baptized to Christ, so do other things, in other ways. Things like faith, hope, and charity. And while these theological virtues are, ordinarily, infused in baptism, they are by no means permanent in the way the baptismal character is. They can be lost and with their loss comes a loss of a certain conformity to Christ. What's more, while he who consents to be baptized receives the character, unless he also has faith, where faith is possible, he does not receive justification--the point of baptism and the conformity to Christ par excellence.

Now the baptized atheist may wind up in hell bearing the seal of his baptism. But it is less than helpful to speak, without severe qualification, of someone as a Christian who lives a long earthly life largely without faith, indeed generally in outspoken and militant opposition to Christianity, just so we can maintain the permanence of the baptismal character. Surely there are better ways to do that, ways that don't require us to call the militant atheist Richard Dawkins a Christian, even a poor one.

While we're at it, shall we call (sorry Richard) Joseph Stalin a Christian?

We may think we're getting a bargin on precision by restricting "Christian" to mean only that one has been baptized, but the transaction comes at the cost of making us say sillying things in other contexts. Surely, ladies and gentlemen, our vocabulary is sufficient in dexterity to admit more than the baptismal sense to the word Christian, so that we can avoid the nonsense that results from calling the aforementioned enemies of the faith "Christians".

Ed Peters

"While we're at it, shall we call...Joseph Stalin a Christian?"

Sure, why not? And Hitler too. A horrible Christian, a reprehensible Christian, etc, etc, but, a Christian, in that he was baptized into Christ, whereas, say, Mao wasn't. Surely, there are Christians in Hell, no? If folks will allow an analogy, I argue that Christian identity does not admit of degrees (whereas Christian perfection and/or holiness does come in degrees), in rather the same way that American citizenship does not admit of degrees, but American patriotism does.

I don't think I'm misunderstanding MB's as-always thoughtful position. I think I disgaree with it, and I have suggested a number of equally-chilling "monstrosities" if we allow one's basic identify as a Christian to be loosed from baptismal status.

That said, I must beg off further contributions, as I don't know how to explain what I see in this regard.

Mark Brumley

"A Christian in that he was baptized into Christ." Well, yes. So. Who here disputes that in the sense that he was baptized he was a Christian? The very fact that we have to qualify how we speak of Hitler, Stalin, etc. as Christians ("in that he was baptized into Christ") points to the problem of limiting our use of the word Christian to indicating merely that someone was at some point baptized.

How does using the word Christian in my other, perfectly intelligible, also theological sense require a denial that Hitler or anyone else was baptized and that the baptismal character persists? Answer: It doesn't. So why argue as if this is an either/or, as if allowing for another sense of the word Christian is incompatible with affirming the permanence of baptism?

Now the term "Christian identity" has been introduced into the discussion. Does Christian identity admit of degrees? I guess that depends on what you mean by Christian identity. I assume that it is to be taken as synonymous with being a Christian. Can one person be more of a Christian than another? Well, not in the sense that one baptized person can have more of the baptismal character than another baptized person. But the issue then is whether we must restrict the use of the term "Christian" to refer only to the fact that one has been baptized. Why can't we also use it to refer to the fact that, in addition to having been baptized, one professes Christianity or at least does not repudiate it? There are scads of examples of such a use in our theological tradition. Why this arbitrary restriction?

With respect to the citizenship analogy, you don't make the case that being Christian doesn't admit of degrees by pointing to something else that does not--citizenship. Communion admits of degrees, so why don't we say being a Christian is like communion in admitting of degrees, rather than like citizenship in not?

The baptismal character doesn't admit of degrees, but it doesn't follow from that that "Christian identity" doesn't, either. Unless we arbitrary limit the term "Christian identity" to apply only to bearing the baptismal character. Bearing the baptismal character "marks one as a Christian" in a very specific theological sense, but it by no means is the only meaningful sense in which we can refer to one being a Christian or the only meaningful way one is "marked as a Christian". Surely the man who is justified and possesses the baptismal character can be understood to be more of a Christian, in the sense of being more conformed to Christ through the man's faith, hope, and charity, than the man who is not justified and merely possesses the baptismal character. Why is it a problem to say that the man who is baptized and chooses to identify himself with Christ through the man's ongoing profession of faith has more Christian identity and is more of a Christian than the man who is baptized and chooses to deny Christ and to identify with his enemies?

I don't think I'm misunderstanding MB's as-always thoughtful position. I think I disgaree with it, and I have suggested a number of equally-chilling "monstrosities" if we allow one's basic identify as a Christian to be loosed from baptismal status.

Is the disagreement that one can use the word Christian to mean something in addition to "merely one who has been baptized"? If so, I have yet to hear any basis for why the word Christian cannot be used in this additional sense. To appeal to the fact that we can use "Christian" in a minimalistic, technical sense to refer to one who has been baptized, without regard to whether he believes, does not show why we cannot also use it to refer, in a broader theological sense, to someone who, say, has been baptized and actually continues to identify himself with Christianity as opposed to repudiating it. If using the word in two senses really poses such a problem, then let's find another term for the minimalist sense so we don't wind up sounding as if we're saying things we're not or leading people to believe that there is no a difference in kind, as well as degree, between an apostate such as Hitler or Stalin and St. Francis.


The comments to this entry are closed.

Ignatius Insight

Twitter


Ignatius Press


Catholic World Report


WORTHY OF ATTENTION:




















Blogs & Sites We Like

June 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad