Why did God allow for the striking-down of people in the Old Testament? How is this reconciled with the dogma of a loving God?
Protestants and modern-day “Jews” don’t have an answer for this — one beyond dualism or “mystery”, I mean. But the Church does.
There is mortal sin, and there is venial sin (1 John 5:17). Mortal sin — willful and of grave nature — separates one from God, practically killing the soul. Venial sin — all other — must simply be cleansed, and it does not eternally separate us from Him. And this distinction is shown in the Old Testament.
Among mortal sins punished: irreverence (2 Samuel 6:1-7), despair/disbelief (Numbers 11:1-3), and false claims of authority (Numbers 16). These crimes have always been condemned.
Why did punishment change from body-centric to soul-centric? First, it didn’t, because unrighteous people were also kept from entering the Limbo of the Patriarchs, which, after Christ’s Sacrifice, later led to Heaven. Second, temporal punishment was the only way to get at the Jews’ consciences: As liberal scholars love to point out, the majority of Jews did not believe in an afterlife!
God does not desire death, though it can be used to give us the best chance at salvation (2 Peter 3). (I think here of St. Rita and her sons.) Even in the old days, He merely wanted a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), and He wanted devotion.
There is no change in principle: God is immutable.
A study of James 3:2 (in context), Matthew 5:48, Hebrews 7, and Revelation 21:27. The video explains what these verses, examined together, mean for your salvation.
I was talking with one of my closest friends – she’s really more of a mentor to me, actually. After watching my video about asking the saints to pray for us, she made the assertion that, “The saints haven’t reached perfection; they are, however, in the presence of perfection!” I make this video with all respect due to her.
Some Protestants seem to try to make it sound as if any kind of perfection is totally unattainable. They point to verses like James 3:2, which includes the statement “For we all stumble in many ways”. But in discussing this issue, that verse frequently gets taken out of context.
That part of James 3 is basically saying that Christians need to be careful about selecting their leaders, because bad leaders lead to bad, heretical teachings. It is not saying that it’s impossible to reach perfection.
Christ tells us in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. So, according to some Protestants, either Christ is wrong, or He is just messing with our heads. Neither one of those options sound correct.
Also, it is pointed out in Hebrews 7:11 that perfection was not found through the Levitical priesthood. The chapter goes on to say that perfection can be found through Christ, who brings in “a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
And, like I mentioned in the saints video, Revelation 21:27 teaches us that nothing imperfect will enter Heaven.
Clearly, there’s a possibility of reaching perfection.
But what do I mean by “reaching perfection”?
I think Protestants tend to think that we are saying that it’s possible to totally abstain from sin.
But perfection, in the end, is not only about sinlessness. After all, everyone has sinned.
Putting aside the doctrine of Purgatory (which I plan to address in a future post or video), people, essentially, reach perfection by taking advantage of the graces that God has given us so that we might be closer to Him. And yes, this includes going to Confession and doing penance for our sins.
We must always remember, though, that this is not done completely by us, but with the help of Christ.
Anyone that has reached Heaven, and thus pleased God, has reached perfection. Let’s all try to be a little more perfect, then.
Arguably, the greatest problem that Christianity faces today is the prevalent disbelief in Hell and the seriousness of sin. St. Augustine of Hippo, a Doctor of the Church, put it this way:
“Now eternal punishment seems hard and unjust to human senses for the reason that in this [our] infirmity of dying senses there is lacking that sense of the highest and purest wisdom, [that] whereby it can be felt what a great outrage was committed in that first prevarication.”
St. Robert Bellarmine, another Doctor of the Church, summarized the problem even more succinctly in his Sermon on Hell (delivered at Louvain University, Belgium, in approximately 1574):
“If we truly understood the gravity of the fault, we would scarcely entertain any doubt as to the bitterness of the penalty.”
Hell is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, but people tend to tone down the message of possible condemnation in favor of a wishy-washy assumption that everyone will get to Heaven somehow. Well, that assumption is nonsense.
Here are some Bible verses:
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels..” – Matthew 25:41 (NASB)
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell..” – Mark 9:42-47 (NASB)
“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'” – Luke 16:22-24 (NASB)
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” – John 15:5-6 (NASB)
If there is truly no risk of Hell, then why did Christ suffer and die for us? The Crucifixion would have been a totally pointless exercise. Some relativists argue that Christ simply delivered us all from the punishments that come with sin, without any restrictions, and “paid the price.” But that is clearly untrue. He came to offer us a path to salvation, not to just give us salvation (read Matthew 7:13-14). Even most Protestants cede that point through their claim that sola fide (faith alone) is what is needed to reach Heaven and to avoid Hell, which is, though simple, still a restriction.
Tragically, despite the risk of eternal damnation, Christianity in the West seems to be in the process of being displaced by, as Benedict XVI once called it, a “dictatorship of relativism,” in which political correctness and unquestioning acceptance of sin are the primary “virtues.”