Hey folks, I’m coming to you a couple of days earlier in the week than normal, but that’s because I’ll be heading out to Charlotte for the Catholic Leadership Conference tomorrow and Friday, so if I want to get a newsletter out, it’s got to be today.
This week I’m going to respond to an email I received that takes issue with one of the videos in my “Questions Protestants Can’t Answer” series. It’s video #14, which is about the Parable of the Lost Sheep. First, the comments I received in their entirety, in italics, and then my response. It goes along with the same theme of Once Saved Always Saved that we’ve been talking about in the last couple of newsletters.
I am a Catholic and have enjoyed reading your articles from the time I have been receiving them in my inbox.. They often provide interesting and convincing perspectives on difficult theological issues. Thank you.
I am responding to your Video presentation on Questions Protestants Can’t Answer #14 – “What does the lost sheep say about assurance of salvation?”
I am only giving my reflections, not from an attitude of disagreeing with what you are saying, but with reference to some other passages that come to my mind and the inferences I have arrived at. Firstly, I must say that the word ‘lost’ may not necessary mean ‘Lost’ in the fullness of the word, but is more meant to be ‘strayed’. Because, once one is born again, you are a new person, the old has gone. And along with becoming a ‘new’ man, one receives serveral things: Sonship; the three offices of Priest, Prophet and King; a multitude of special graces and the rich inheritance of the saints, and add to it, ‘all the blessings in the heavenly places,’ etc., etc. And God’s gifts are irrevocable. Hence these things cannot be lost. You carry them with you even when you run away. I think the purpose of this parable – that the Lord had in mind – was not meant not to be used it to prove a theological point about ‘can you get ‘lost.’
Its focus is on on calling the one who may be thinking he is ‘lost’ because of his terrible transgressions. It was meant to call back the one who has lost hope – so he can come back to a Father who never gives up on you! It is meant to bring him back telling him, “Don’t ever think, I have abandoned you, don’t ever think I will take away your sonship, even when you think you are lost, you are my son, I love you please come back. You still have not been stripped of your offices; please come back and exercise it. Come let me put that robe back on you again. Don’t give up because you have committed that terrible sin. And if think you can get ‘Lost!’ – you must be joking, there is no place you can hide from my eyes, even the ends of the universe. I will come running after you. I will find you and bring you back!”
There is only one possibility though – to refuse to come back, after the Father has found the “lost,” you. That is not because God chose to let you be lost, but because you choose to reject Him after He found you. That is the only way you can “lose ME.” But I will never lose you.
So there is truth in that sense, what the protestant brethren are trying to tell us. I am sure no sensible and mature protestant will say, Judas, the son of perdition was not lost! Judas ‘chose’ to believe that he was “lost.” The issue was that he “lost” hope’ even when in truth he was always “found.”
I will be happy to hear your perspective.
Okay, first of all, what is written above is the product of this individual’s own reflections. Fine and dandy. We are all allowed to read Scripture and discern for ourselves how Scripture is speaking to us. Secondly, I don’t think there is really a doctrinal issue involved here, although there might be – as I’ll explain in a moment – so this is not a question of right vs.wrong in terms of Church teaching, as much as it is a question of a difference of opinion over interpretation. Having said that, though, there are a few things that I want to comment on as a warning…a warning in two ways: 1) Against the biblical interpretations of folks who you are disputing doctrine with; and 2) Against where our own private reflections can lead us.
Let’s start with that last warning first. There was a phrase this person used that caused me to absolutely cringe. That phrase was: “I think the purpose of this parable – that the Lord had in mind – was not meant not to be used it to prove a theological point…” The purpose of the parable “that the Lord had in mind.” I’m sorry, but I would never use that phrase when interpreting some passage of Scripture like this, unless Scripture and/or Jesus’ Church clearly tells us He had a particular thing in mind – for example, the Eucharist, Confession, and so on. Scripture very plainly asks the question: “For who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom 11:34; 1 Cor 2:16). And the answer is very plain…no one. So, I would hesitate to use that particular phrase. Instead, I would say something like, “What this passage is saying to me…,” and then I would see if what that passage is saying to me is within the parameters of the teaching of the Church founded by Jesus Christ or not. If it is, I’m good to go. If it’s not, I better re-think my thinking.
In regards to the first warning I mention, this person did a few things that are very common to how many non-Catholics will respond to some argument you’ve made, which makes me wonder if he really is Catholic, or if maybe he is a convert to the Faith who was not properly catechized and who has not lost all of his Protestantism. First, notice how he tries to change the wording of Scripture: Well, Jesus said “lost,” but I think what He really means is “strayed.” “Lost may not necessarily mean lost.” Really? Well, if Jesus really meant “strayed,” then why did He say, “lost.” “Lost” doesn’t mean “lost,” just like “Eat My flesh” and “Drink My blood,” don’t really mean “Eat My flesh” and “Drink My blood.” And rendering eternal life to men for their works doesn’t really mean “rendering” unto them “eternal life.” And, being justified by works and not by faith alone, doesn’t really mean “not by faith alone.” And on and on the manipulation of the words of Scripture…the twisting of the words of Scripture…goes. Be very aware of such things when talking about the Catholic Faith with folks. Don’t accept the word of man as a substitution for the Word of God.
The other thing this person is doing, is not sticking with the context – either the context of the passage, or the context of what Scripture means when it uses the word “lost” in relation to people. For example, the word “lost” in regard to the sheep in Luke 15 is also used to describe the “lost” coin and the “lost” son – the Prodigal Son – in Luke 15. And, in relation to the Prodigal Son, his state of being “lost” is described as death. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” Being lost is akin to being dead. And the death being spoken of here is not a physical death, but a spiritual death – a death due to sinful living. It is not just that the son strayed, but that he was dead. Dead to the father. Dead in his sins. He had been in his father’s house, but he left his father’s house, wallowed in sin, and became lost…dead. So, the context of Luke 15 is not simply one of someone “straying,” and “thinking they have no hope.” Uh unh…the context is one of spiritual death…separation from the Father…through sin. The context is not about one who “thinks they are lost,” it is about one who is actually lost. The word “lost” here means unsaved…it means the loss of one’s salvation.
We can also see this in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Well, if being “lost” doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your salvation, if it only means that you’ve “strayed,” but you’re still saved, then why does Luke 19:10 say that Jesus came to seek and SAVE the lost? You only need to be saved if you are in a state of being unsaved. Lost = unsaved. Lost = spiritually dead. Lost = separation from the Father. Lost = hasta la vista, baby. Jesus is seeking for His lost sheep, but the reason He is seeking for them is because they have lost their salvation that He has made available to them for free. If they haven’t lost their salvation, then they are not lost. In other words, pretty much the entire argument this person is making in regard to my video makes no sense; at least, no scriptural sense. Ignoring context is another tack of many Protestants who question and/or attack the Catholic Faith using the Bible. So, just be aware of that.
Now, I say this is not a doctrinal issue because I don’t think he is arguing for Once Saved Always Saved, since he says you can still reject Jesus after He has found you. Although, he comes pretty close to Once Saved Always Saved with a couple of other things that he says. But, I will give him the benefit of the doubt here, and hope he realizes that even though one is “born again” (through Baptism) and once born again always born again (no revoking one’s Baptism), that doesn’t mean you cannot turn away from Christ and lose the salvation He has given you through Baptism. If, however, he is arguing for Once Saved Always Saved, then it is indeed a doctrinal issue and he is indeed wrong.
I hope all of you have a great week. Nunc est tempus, hic est locus!