Saturday, October 29, 2011

Isn't that Enough?

A college friend of mine made a statement once that bears reflection here, in the context of theological discussion. I can't remember exactly what triggered it, but as I recall it's something he said that tells people sometimes. I didn't have a great response in the moment, but it's stuck with me as something that I disagree with, for reasons I don't think I could have articulated well at the time.

"Christ died for me. Isn't that enough?"

It's hard to know how to respond to such a statement. Its simplicity screams for acceptance. Who doesn't like a simple Gospel? But clearly...

No. At least not for an Arminian-turned-Catholic like myself. If Christ dying for someone is enough, that would force me to take the step from universal atonement ("Christ died for all") to universal salvation ("all will be saved"). Not doing that.

Now I'm being pedantic here. While that could be what he meant, I'm guessing that even if he does hold to limited atonement ("Christ died only for those who are saved"), he probably meant something more like:

"Christ died for me, and I have accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Isn't that enough?"

Again the statement screams for our simple acceptance. Down with meaningless scholasticism, down with pointless theological debates. Or at least, down with the notion that they really matter up against the simple Gospel of acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior.

But that's not enough.

Because if we try to go with just that personal relationship, we get a desire for more. We desire to know more, to know the Truth--the whole Truth and nothing but it. To go beyond the simple truth of Christ's death for us, of our following Him, because to follow Him we have to know how. To know how we need someplace to start. The proof is simple and observable: Simply watch a new Christian as they grow in faith: they will read the Scriptures and seek the counsel of those more grown in the faith than they are. If their new-found relationship with Christ were enough, these things would be superfluous.

But still that little voice objects: "Isn't that still enough to survive, spiritually speaking?" Oh, sure, it might be enough in the sense that a lifeboat is enough to keep you from drowning, or that a piece of bread to keep you from starving. But what starving person would live alone on the spiritual bread of this simple Gospel, if they had before them the feast of the Scriptures, theology, and--if I may--the consecrated Host in the sacrament of Thanksgiving?

Enough for survival? Yes. But enough for thriving, except in the most extenuating circumstances? No, because God has provided more, and wants more for each and every one of us, desiring that we might be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth.

Now I am not prepared, nor do I desire to attempt in this post, to build up the whole of Catholic theology starting from this point. But the mere simple Gospel many espouse is, quite frankly, more a starting point than something that can justly and simply be called "enough" for salvation as Christ fully intended it to be.

1 comment:

Matt Prior said...

You are right and you are wrong my friend! Christ's sacrifice is enough but it is not. What you hit on in your argument is the now and not yet of sanctification.
With Christ's sacrifice and our acceptance of His sacrifice in our own lives, we are saved and there is nothing more needed for salvation. Hence, your friend is correct in querying: "Isn't that enough?" (I would also venture to answer that it is enough.)
Any who have been led down the "Roman's Road" can attest to the complete salvation found in these verses.
Conversely, this is not enough. Within the terminology of sanctification, "not yet" is as important as "now." As you stated: "We desire to know more, to know the Truth--the whole Truth and nothing but it." Not only is there an inherent desire for us to know more glean more and come to a deeper understanding of "being a Christian." As evidenced by Ephesians 2:8-10 and James 2, you were again right in saying: "Oh, sure, it might be enough in the sense that a lifeboat is enough to keep you from drowning, or that a piece of bread to keep you from starving. But what starving person would live alone on the spiritual bread of this simple Gospel, if they had before them the feast of the Scriptures, theology, and--if I may--the consecrated Host in the sacrament of Thanksgiving?"
So my friend, you are right and you are wrong, as is your friend, who is right and is wrong. Of course, this implies that I am right, which I am in no means comfortable claiming. I am comfortable claiming to know the coolest D Lo ever though...

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