To the evident discomfort of some here, we have a long-time contributor who goes by the name of Bosco, who criticises the Catholic Church and all ‘religions’, preferring, instead, his own unmediated connection with Jesus. He recently committed some of his thoughts to a piece here, and it, and the comments it provoked provide an interesting insight into the strengths and limitations of that view.
Its strength is obvious.As Bosco recently put it:
When one is born again, one is changed. Theres no two ways. You know you have had something happen. You know Jesus is rite there with you. He lets you know. he starts working with you. Theres no uncertainty. No confusion with the holy ghost. Its real.
Not all the insults he directs at my Church can take away from that. It can make me doubt his level of theological literacy, and it can make me lament the language he employs about my own Church; but it cannot detract from the effect he says it made on him. I, too, would be an even worse person were it not for Jesus.
But in this attitude there is, it seems to me, some confusion. He states: ‘If you ask him to reveal himself to you, and he does, you wont have all these worries.’ But then, when asked whether one could lose this sort of salvation, Bosco states he does not believe in ‘once saved, always saved‘, although he thinks ‘its really hard to lose ones salvation‘. This puzzles me. You know you are ‘saved’ Bosco says, but you can lose salvation. Does that mean that the promise of salvation Bosco has could be lost if God changes his mind? This seems, at least to me, a strange version of God.
It opens up some odd prospects, and ones of which St Paul was only too well aware, as his letters to the Galatians and Corinthians show. If one is ‘saved’ and one has that assurance, then one is amongst the ‘elect’ and if God is faithful, then one cannot lose that election, whatever one does. St Paul clearly warns those early converts against such an attitude. Salvation, for him, is like a race, and one must keep running to the very end to win the crown of the victor. Nowhere does Paul talk like Bosco and tell us of his assurance that he is ‘saved’. He remains convinced he is a great sinner, and he keeps up the effort to be worthy of the Lord whom he serves. For him, as for the sort of Christian I am, salvation is a process. We were saved from sin when we were baptised; we are saved from the effects of sin by our sacramental life; and we hope that, at the end, God will judge us worthy of his greatest gift of being with him for eternity.
Bosco tells me ‘One cant unmeet Jesus. If you ask him to reveal himself to you, and he does, you wont have all these worries.’ But what of all those who ask for this (and it is not clear from his own account that Bosco ever actually asked Jesus to reveal himself) and do not get it? Are they not part of the ‘elect’? If so, then why should they bother trying to lead a good and moral life? If, whatever they do, they are damned to hell, why not h=behave as badly as the law will allow and ensure that at least in this life, you have the best time possible. It isn’t a question of damning the consequences, after all, because if you have asked and Jesus has not turned up, then you are already damned.
This seems to me as far away from the message Jesus offers us as you could possibly get. Jesus came so that all could have eternal life. Not everyone will receive him, but to as many as will receive him, he offers eternal life. There is nothing here about a random set of appearances to sup with the elect, such as Bosco. There has always been, within Christianity, the danger of various forms of pharisaism, that sense that others are unworthy where one is, oneself, worthy, but of all of them, it seems to me the idea that Jesus will appear in a random way to some of those who ask him to appear (and to some who don’t) is one of the worst. It offers no hope to many, and an unconditional offer of salvation to others, regardless of the lives they lead. This is certainly how a cult would operate, but it is not how the Church founded by Jesus has operated, nor is it how most Christians, in whatever church, looked upon these things. It is, perhaps, a form of hyper-calvinism which speaks to the contemporary need to be special. I’d be interested in your view.