Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Bosco, who has been here from the start, telling us all that Jesus will save us all if we just ask. This has always struck me as both laudable and strange. Laudable in so far as he is motivated by the desire to ‘save’ us all, and strange because by his own confession, he did not ask Jesus for help, he just (if I recall aright) received a new spirit. But then if his new spirit has told him that Catholics (or ‘cathols’ in Bosco-speak) are not saved, then one can see why he is not asking why God does not treat each of us as he treated Bosco. He has just made a long comment to which I have replied in part, but on which, because it contains matter of wider interest, I want to essay a broader commentary.
He begins by doing something he occasionally does, but which often gets lost in the general rant sometimes – that is by saying something nice about Catholics:
I spent 7 weeks listening to Immaculate Heart Radio 93 KHJ AM. Ive heard testimonies of changed lives and what have you. I think that’s great. They profess a want and love for Jesus. They repeat some passages of scripture and say that its what they do. Sounds great, and for the most part, it is.
But we know there is going to be a ‘but’, and here it comes:
Then Bosco comes along and calls them idolaters and other terrible names. Where does this Bosco clown get off calling gods people idolaters? Us cathols profess faith in Christ and do all sorts of good works. You know what? Unsaved is unsaved. I got born again and I was in the choir of my church. The reverend was a family friend and I knew him and his family all my life. Dinners and BBQs, birthdays. After meeting Jesus, I took him into his office and asked him if he knew Jesus personally. He said he didn’t. Then I said to him…how can you talk about him when you don’t know him? I left it at that and I don’t think I ever attended another service there. Why would I? I don’t need anybody to tell me about Jesus. I know him and he shows himself to me
In not needing anyone to tell him about Jesus, Bosco stands in a place many modern people seem to stand, but it is far from clear that it is the only way to encounter the Lord. We read in Acts 8:26-40 about one of the earliest Gentile converts, an Ethiopian Eunuch who is reading Isaiah is asked by St Phillip if he understands what he is reading? We are told the it was the Holy Spirit who inspired Phillip to ask. Phillip did not ‘do a Bosco’. He did not tell the Eunuch to ask Jesus to open the door to him. The Eunuch asked how he could understand what he was reading without a teacher? Phillip still did not say ‘ask Jesus to come into your heart, he stands at the door.’ Instead he told the Eunuch the Good News, and the Eunuch asked to be baptised. That is one way of coming to the Lord, and one many of us have followed. Of course, no one denies that there are other ways, such as the one Bosco describes, but that is not the point: the point is there are many ways, and it is a relatively late phenomenon for people to decide that they, unlike the Eunuch, need no help to understand what it is they are reading in the Bible. It was for that very reason that the Church was wary of people reading the Bible on their own.
We are told that the sheep of Jesus’ fold know their master’s voice, but Bosco takes this a stage further and often tells us that he knows who and who is not saved by what they say. This again, is profoundly unscriptural, as nowhere does the Bible tell us that the ‘saved’ will know each other. God alone knows who is saved, and if we feel able to judge as he judges, we have gone wrong because we have arrogated to ourselves something that is God’s alone. The danger here is clear, we end up relying on our own judgment and attributing what we feel and say to God. If someone points out another reading, or that Christians have not believed this traditionally, that can be dismissed by saying such people are not ‘saved’. That not a single Apostle behaved in such a manner seems to give no pause for thought to Bosco or to others who feel the same way.
We can quarry the Scriptures for the meaning we think they ought to have and act as unlike the Eunuch as possible and proclaim we need no help. As one who does, and who finds the help of many St Phillips of great assistance, I cannot attain such exalted heights. I know whatever I see now I see as through a glass darkly, and it is through faith that I believe I shall one day see him face to face. God brings us to him in the way he considers best, and I consider myself ill-equipped to tell him there is only one way he can do that. As the theme of today’s sermon was humility, I am glad to think I learned something from it.