Pope Francis loves gays and abortion-seekers: Antinomianism or grace?

Pope Francis knows how to shake things up, eh? While I have net yet read the whole interview (another post to come about that), it made me think of a comment that Adam recently posted on this site.  I had posted about how I get caught up in thinking about theology that I fail to encounter the One I study.  Or I argue about a point about the faith, but ignore the reason for the faith in the first place, Jesus.

It’s hard.  I think our intentions are right and true in that we want to seek out God.  But that is the problem.  We are seeking for God, while God is seeking for us.  It’s not like a meet in the middle kind of thing.  When we go looking for God, as if we are on an expedition, we won’t find him.  I think it’s about, rather, allowing God to find us.  Accepting God’s invitation.  The problem is, while that may be true, it seems so ethereal, so touchy-feely.  I get the feeling like holiness is much more simple, much more common, everyday.  If holiness isn’t simply living a bunch of rules (like our pope recently indicated), but rather an encounter, what does that mean?  What are the practical implications?  If it doesn’t actually involve doing something, then what is it?  Holiness isn’t just doing good.  It is accepting grace.  But what does that mean?

How does one encounter the Lord Jesus?  I don’t really know.  But I think it has something to do with mercy, accepting forgiveness, and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  I think it involves a search for Truth and Goodness.  I think it involves healing and being and allowing Love to seep through the bark to the place we are most vulnerable.  Rules do not come quite yet.  Once we have this encounter with Jesus, we are given a choice–much like Jesus’ contemporaries had a choice after they encountered Him.  Will I come and follow?  Will I put down my nets, my boat, my family, my friends, my life as I know it, and follow?

But why?  Why would anyone in their right minds follow?  Our post-modern, skeptical self says, “What’s in it for me?”  Everything: living water, eternal life, everlasting food.  It’s the ultimate bargain with implications for eternity.  The question lingers–what will I choose?

Jesus tells those he healed:

“Go, and sin no more.”

After healing, forgiveness, and change of heart, then we are compelled, on our own accord, to seek the Kingdom of God, to know His ways, and to sin no more.  The grace we receive from healing and forgiveness opens our hearts to the longing that we have had all along, to live according to God’s commandments, such as living an authentic person-affirming chastity or living the virtues.

But didn’t you say that the natural virtues–living a good life–should lead unbelievers to Christ?  What now, you equivocating sophist?

I may be a sophist, but I don’t equivocate (here at least).

If we live the virtues, we will have a taste of Truth and Goodness, which can lead us to that encounter.  Living a good life takes us far, but only accepting God’s supernatural grace into our lives–and in response to God’s gift of grace, live our lives according to His will–can we live truly and deeply, with supernatural virtue.  Holiness, ultimate living, requires us to take a step beyond just “being a good person,” or even living a virtuous life.  It requires us to constant encounter with a person, Jesus Christ.

It’s a cycle of encounter, healing, grace, and transformation.  That transformation gives us a deeper sense of Jesus Christ, which in turn leads to a deeper encounter, and thus, the blessed cycle continues.

Transformation without healing and grace can only lead to idolatry.  That is, if I teach my children to follow God’s rules, but don’t teach them about the God who gives the rules, and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom he sent to set me free from the bonds of death, in order that I can have eternal life, I lead my children to an idol.  I need to lead them to the Person of Jesus Christ.

This is what Paul teaches in 1 Timothy:

For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.

This is the Gospel. This is what it is all about, and this is, I think (though I haven’t fully read the piece) is what Pope Francis is driving at when he talked about the Church being “obsessed” with homosexuality and abortion. From the little I have read, this is what it is all about. He teaches that it’s not about living a code of rules. Christianity is not a code of rules. It is an encounter with a Person, Christ Jesus.

By his most recently published comments, he is not eliminating rules from Christian Living.  He is not saying that we shouldn’t have rules or follow rules.  Thus, he is not an antinomian.  But rather, he rightly emphasizes grace which only comes through an encounter with the Living Christ, Jesus our Lord.

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