Hell or Heaven

In December last year a hero died. His name was Salah Farah, and he was a school teacher, married with four children. It occurred in Kenya when a bus was stopped by al-Shabab. The terrorist told the Muslim passengers to move away so that they could shoot the Christians. They refused. Salah said “We asked them to kill all of us or leave us alone.”

Salah took a bullet but afterwards he said “people should live peacefully together. We are brothers. It’s only the religion that is the difference, so I ask my brother Muslims to take care of the Christians so that the Christians also take care of us… and let us help one another and let us live together peacefully.” he was taken to hospital to remove the bullet but he died during the operation.

Of course none of us know what happened to Salah in the afterlife. However we can speculate. Here is a man who had every opportunity to become a Christian. He was educated and certainly had the opportunity to meet Christians. But he appears to have rejected this. He was not baptised (I assume) and, had he read the Christian Scriptures, he would have known that only through Christ could he be saved. Therefore this act of heroism was not a result of grace (either sanctifying or actual) – it was therefore of no supernatural value. Consequently we know that he is now in Hell for all eternity.

That’s one argument, and it’s difficult to fault. My only problem is that I don’t believe it. Indeed I hope that in my afterlife I will find myself in the same place as Salah is now.

But there are consequences from my belief. It would seem that, having an unbaptised fallen nature, we receive an ‘eternal’ sentence when we die. Is it necessary to have been martyred in the cause of our fellow man to be saved, or, if Salah had not been on the bus – and died as a Muslim in ripe old age, would his fate be the same? And how about people of a humanist bent, who nevertheless lead decent lives – no more perfect or imperfect than are our own?

(There is a brief account of Salah’s death on http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=29286)

About Quentin

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161 Responses to Hell or Heaven

  1. Bonsai says:

    It is a difficult question and an age old one. In so many ways God has given humanity the stepping stones to Him and these days with the Internet reaching a what I believe is a majority of humans (did not look up statistics) there would be no excuse not to explore the nature of God and His word in most cases. It is a much broader application that the old fashioned traveling missionary method alone. There has to be something we don’t know about though, an appeal process . . .something. Baptism the way I understand it is more symbolic, and that just reaching upward to Jesus in prayer would be the most important step. Maybe this occurred at some point for this man at the very precipice.

  2. ignatius says:


    “Therefore his act of terrorism was not a result of grace (either sanctifying or actual) – it was therefore of no supernatural value. Consequently we know that he is now in Hell for all eternity…”

    For ‘terrorism’ should we read ‘heroism’?… or have I missed something?

    The answer to all your questions is quite simple, we do not know.

    • Quentin says:

      Thanks for this. You’re absolutely right. (slip of the Pen? Fingers? Mind?) I am about to alter it to what I intended: ‘This act of heroism’

  3. Martha says:

    Surely natural goodness comes from God and is of supernatural value, whether or not it is technically sanctifying or actual grace. And how can anyone define what is an opportunity of knowing Christ? However well educated, environment, culture and temperament are predominant influences.

  4. St.Joseph says:

    John came baptizing with water, Jesus said He would Baptize with the Spirit.
    Muslim’s believe in God so therefore those with the Spirit of Jesus in them as a part of the goodness of the Blessed Trinity, they will obviously look after their neighbours with the Love of God.
    And I believe will be judged accordingly for their good works!

    • tim says:

      “Extra ecclesia nulla salus” – needs careful interpretation. God is just. “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance”. Baptism with water cannot be essential for salvation (if it were, we would have to believe that all those born before the practice was instituted are damned, which we can’t). That doesn’t mean that it isn’t enormously important. We have a powerful obligation to spread our faith.

  5. G.D. says:

    ” ……. and let us help one another and let us live together peacefully. ”
    Anyone who truely tries to live the above statement is living out God’s purpose for them.
    (Failure to do so perfectly accepted as a given for us all).
    What kind of God would condemn such a person? Not any God i wish to serve.

    Especially when condemnation is for anyone who simply doesn’t ‘agree’ with my understanding, or doesn’t ‘practise religion’ in the same way. Follow the same ‘rituals’ that lead me to know God.
    That is totally illogical; not to mention devoid of love.
    The Christ (and all that means for reparation & salvation of creation) surely can not be limited to any of our subjective belief systems?

    Did Jesus come to create a ‘formal’ belief system? Or to ‘open’ the Way back to ……. ‘live together peacefully’ for each other? ‘Being’ for each other is being for God!

    Anyone who seeks sincerely to do that, tries to live ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus’ teachings’. (However it has been revealed to them). And is living for unity in God’s love.

    I believe that doesn’t negate any personal cherished beliefs that are truely of/for/from God.

    i say all that (God help me!), as a practising Catholic follower of Christ. (As far as i’m concerned, that is. Clear conscience too. Sinner that i am).

    It is the only Way that makes sense of God for me. The only Way i can see that leads to final reconcilliation with God; and God’s Universal creating Spirit.
    It really is all about love and mercy. Condemnation is …. not an attribute of God.
    I do not conjecture!
    I’m either right in that or condemned by God.

  6. Galerimo says:

    Thanks Quentin – I see the site link back in your email and I find that is handy.

    My head – Scripture is not used in heaven – we won’t need it then either for ourselves. Those who have a problem with Salah can be comforted by that fact. Teresa of Avila says “God’s hands are not tied by the sacraments”.

    My heart – gratitude for you Salah – greater love has no one….. you are more of a Christian than I am. And I have been through all the hoops. Please pray for me.

    God – what is the question?

  7. John Nolan says:

    I’m no moral theologian, but as I understand it Salah, a Moslem, was in a state of ‘invincible ignorance’ (a term often misunderstood since it is used in a secular context with an entirely different meaning) so cannot be held culpable for not converting, which otherwise would be a sin against faith. Nor is he deprived of Divine grace. Invincible ignorance does not exculpate those (such as the terrorists) who act contrary to the natural moral law, which God has engraved on the hearts of all men, whether Christian or not.

    • Alan says:


      I could take a stab at the meaning of “invincible ignorance” or I could search and perhaps find the wrong answer. Can you outline the meaning to give me an idea of why Salah might have been in that state?

      • John Nolan says:

        Alan, ignorance is invincible if a person could not remove it by applying reasonable diligence in determining the answer. A Moslem might be aware of Christian scripture and doctrine but adheres to the Koran as the word of God; so the diligence required to reject the latter and embrace the former would not be reasonable.

        St Edmund Campion on the scaffold expected that he would meet his Protestant accusers in heaven ‘where all differences will be forgot’. He acknowledged them to be heretics but assumed their ignorance to be invincible.

        That is how I read it, but I’m not a theologian and am prepared to be corrected.

    • Vincent says:

      John, I follow your argument. But there has been much on this blog about how we come into the world separated from God by our fallen and sinful nature. This would imply that the “passive defence” of invincible ignorance would not serve. It could perhaps work for infants who never have a chance to make a choice. And even then the Church only grudgingly accepts that they won’t necessarily go to Limbo for eternity. The Church’s traditional opinion relies on the Scriptural insistence on the need for baptism — to which the only exceptions are pretty narrow. Are you suggesting that anyone who is good in terms of his own lights is in fact a Christian unawares?

  8. Hock says:

    These terrible circumstances and it heroic response ( and the analysis on here,) are yet another example of the moral maze we make for ourselves when we try to define the mind of an omnipotent God.
    I read a letter in a recent edition of The Catholic Universe in which the writer drew attention ( and criticism, ) of remarks by Pope Francis that were contradictory to his previous statements and yet in both cases he was supporting his comments by quoting scripture!
    Some things are best left alone and we can only give thanks for this person’s loving response and trust in the knowledge that God’s judgement is , by definition, the right one.

  9. Martha says:

    “In My Father’s house there are many mansions”
    “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold”

    • tim says:

      Thank you, Martha. It always surprises me on the blog that there are so few quotations from the Gospels to help us out. I know that “the Devil can quote Scripture for his own ends” but that is not the normal rule.

  10. ignatius says:

    “Invincible ignorance”
    The state of pagans (and infants?) who have not heard the gospel….thats a rough ball park idea.

    I like the phrase and wonder to its extensibility.

    For example: A young man lives across the road from a church. He can see that something goes on there, he can see there’s a big cross on the wall. His parents however are firm atheists who hate ‘those bloody do gooders across the road’
    None of the young mans mates go to church, in fact quite the opposite. The young man finds himself taking increasingly to drugs and alcohol as pass times and runs round being a bit unruly…. Is he in a state of invincible ignorance?

    • G.D. says:

      No idea. Sounds as if he’s off his head though. And not in his right mind.

      • ignatius says:

        Seeing as I was that young man I can vouch for his mental state as being overall rational!! Some 45 years on, that young man is a house owner with a responsible job, successful family and (after quite rigorous psychometric testing!) ordained for service. The experience of losing ones way and ‘running with the wrong crew’ has, in an odd kind of way, proved helpful in prison chaplaincy and ministry generally..But for awhile it was a close run thing!!

        The point I was trying to make is that,during that period in my life, I might as well have been a fully committed adherent of a different religion entirely because issues of Christian belief meant nothing to me even though I was living right across the road from a church!

    • tim says:

      No. The state of people who have not heard the Gospel is ordinary ignorance, plain and simple. If they react unfavorably having heard it, that may be due to defects in the way it is presented to them, or to existing prejudices which they are (possibly without any ill-will on their part) unable to overcome.
      I offer an example. Two people discuss climate change, with opposing views on what, if anything, could or should be done about it. Each has arrived at a position that he finds totally convincing, to the point at which he is simply unable to give proper weight to points advanced by his opponent. I speak under correction – maybe that’s not the sort of situation that is meant?

      • ignatius says:

        Tim, see above. Yes, that’s the kind of thing I mean. When I worked in China I met several people who had never ever heard the gospel on account of the communist regime of the time. Some responded with joy and some with disbelief either due to their inability to believe or their minds being filled with Marxist atheism. The point behind my post is as follows. I am pretty much convinced that we can blind ourselves towards faith to the degree that we become genuinely unable to move our will into gear sufficiently to produce a change of heart.
        I think it is the case that over time human beings tend towards positions which they bulwark with argument as self justification to th degree that they cannot change their own deep seated view. This is where revelation needs to make an entrance

      • G.D. says:

        Ignatius, i too was a ‘wild child’ when growing up (nothing too wild but plenty of sex drugs and rock & roll) until my ‘conversion’ in mid twenties. Know exactly what you mean. My comment ‘right mind’ was light hearted.

        Past life experiences (& choices) make us what we are …. and make us able to respond to life in various ways. Your past gives you insight into the work you do with inmates. Would God be able to use you as well in that role if you had not been a ‘wild child’ – was your lack of faith, at that time, a ‘blessing in disguise’ for others later?

        Was the pains and troubles i caused (to myself) in my ‘wild youth’ part of the ‘training’ and growth of grace for my later ‘realisation’ how i could attempt to actually live ‘in my right mind’ for a ‘higher power’ rather than my own choices? Me thinks so!

        In God’s time it happened to me, was in fact done unto me – yes i responded to God, eventually, but had to be dragged through ‘hell on earth’ to do so.,And even my response was grace!
        If it happened to me it can happen to all. I hope (almost beleive it will).

        That for me, makes some sense in the seeming arbitrary choices we all make – some postive some negative. ‘Who will save me from this body … thanks be to ….’ God, in God’s ‘time’.

  11. Nektarios says:

    I find Quentin’s view very strange for the following reasons:
    It is not surprising the line of questioning, but I also see the dangers in it.

    We agree Salvation is of God. It is a miraculous action of God and not of man at all.
    If we think we are arguing the case about Selah, precipitating what God’s judgement will be for him, think again.

    Jesus said, All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. At the end, Our Lord will come as Judge.
    What of Selah, with all that we know about him, which is so little? But, God knows all about him
    The Lord’s advice to us might be something like, ‘what is that to you, follow thou Me’

    The danger with such a discussion as this, is we sit in judgement. Christ has not given up His Power nor as Judge, for He alone knows all things about Selah and of course all of us. He is our Judge too,
    Are we not warned in Holy Scriptures not to judge one another, lest we be judged?

    We can presume so many things concerning the eternal destiny of Selah, but it is just that presumption on our part, and He has not given us the power nor the right to Judge him, that belongs to Christ alone.

    • St.Joseph says:

      What does the 8 Commandment say against our neighbour,? Thou shalt not bear false witness against our neighbour.
      I would rather believe that there salvation is in the Lord’s Hands and if one keeps the Commandments he will not be condemned to hellfire and damnation, the 2nd Commandment!

    • Vincent says:

      Nektarios, I find your comment a little confusing. If I remember the views you expressed before correctly, you put a strong emphasis on the effects of original sin, and the irrelevance of our good works in achieving salvation. On that basis Salah (worth noticing the spelling) obtained no merit whatsoever through his selfless action. You have also claimed that all we need to know about salvation is what Scripture tells us. But it says explicitly that we must believe in Christ and be born again through baptism in order to be saved. Black marks for Salah!

      You are right to say that God can choose what he wants to do without reference to us, so we don’t know Salah’s fate. But it’s rather odd that in your terms God has contradicted himself. Do please explain how I have misunderstood what you previously said.

      • Nektarios says:

        The effects of original sin, effected our old nature, where man’s mind was darkened, and on the day he fell, spiritually he died towards God.

        Ephesians chapter 1 1-14 tells us clearly God’s plan of Salvation.

        Let me ask you first, Vincent, where does our authority on concerning Salvation come from and has been communicated to us?

        Answering that, Vincent, you will find Salvation is truly of God.
        People who are saved will do good works of faith and have always done so.
        Though explanation for you, Vincent?

  12. ignatius says:

    Hardon has this to say in his Catholic Catechism:
    “…the parallel Tradition arose of considering such people (“God fearing”)open to salvation, although they were not professed Catholics or even neccessarily baptised. Ambrose and Augustine paved the way for making these distinctions. By the twelfth century it was widely assumed that a person can be saved if some ‘invincible obstacle stands in the way” of his baptism and entrance into the church…..”
    Hardon p234.

    I would think that strong cultural/religious forces might be classed as such obstacles. I gave the example of the young man above (17thJune10.59) just as a less spectacular example of how upbringing and local culture might mitigate strongly against a person easily receiving the gospel.

    The other thing is of course salvation being only of ‘The Church’ I find myself wondering about this too. For example, assume a person has a workmate who is known to be a Christian. The person simply cannot bring themselves to become part of a church yet the example they have seen in their workmate makes them want to live the best possible life they can. Is it possible that salvation comes to this person ‘through the church’ in the form of the example set before them by the church in the form of the workmate?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Hitler was a catholic so probably baptized , that does not mean that those who he killed were destined for hell when they died because they were Jews.

  13. Nektarios says:

    For a time, I worked offshore in the oil industry. It was common in every part of the accommodation
    rooms for 4, one would find pornographic pictures of naked women all over the walls around their bunks.
    I was saddened and felt this was not at all right. So around my bunk I took them all down and put up pics of my wife and family.
    Without saying a word to anyone, all over the accommodation, people took the pics of naked ladies down and put their wives and children and family up.

    This for me was setting an example not for them, but for my own soul, – it was amazing that in the space of three days, there was not a picture of naked ladies anywhere on the accommodation on the rig.
    Did this action save them? No it didn’t, but it was clear to me at the time, God could still act on their conscience and so there was hope.

  14. Nektarios says:


    I am aware on this blog that the approach to saving faith, is generally intellectual, that is of the mind. That alone is not enough, we need to go further.
    Romans 10:9-10 -It not only involves the mind as a set of propositions, but also the heart.

    Work through what are the component parts of saving faith?
    The truth is received by the mind, but as that alone is not sufficient, that same truth convicts the heart.
    This leads to repentance. That is changing ones mind. The heart comes under conviction, that is
    it see it has been wrong, sinful, against God.
    It brings the heart into a state of fear and a longing for deliverance.
    Saving faith brings about trust in Christ and a deep committal to Him as our Lord and Saviour.

    What then happens is the old desperately wicked heart is changed. The stoney heart has been changed to a heart of flesh that love the Lord for all He has done.

    Then there is peace and our heart is full of thankfulness and praise, for we then know this saving faith, which everybody does not have, has been given to us by God.

    • Vincent says:

      Thank you for this, Nektarios. Perhaps you would now take this a stage further by explaining how this process (which I broadly accept) could relate to Salah.

      • Nektarios says:


        Quentin’s argument as usual polarises those that are true Christians and Salah who is a Muslim. But to go from that external view of things, to the judgement of God concerning Salah is dangerous. To even assume we know what the judgement of God would be concerning him, without even taking a second thought about what that judgement would actually mean for us?

        If we go on the general Gospel and its teaching we can from our mental assent to truth say, there is little hope that he would be saved.

        However, the Lord is the Saviour of the world. We do not know if he would have become a true believer in Christ later, but the poor man was shot down and hurled into eternity.

        If there is any hope for Salah, it is this: As Lord and God, has all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth, He can act.
        What, if He knowing all about Salah, were to say to His Father, ‘ I died for Salah, My blood covers him? Work the rest out for yourself.
        But having said that, it is only a speculation.

        If we are true Christians, born again believers, then it is enough that we make our own calling of election sure and believe from the heart on Christ Jesus our Lord, our God and Saviour, to love Him, obey Him, ( even if we fall down occasionally) trusting in Him for everything.
        That on that fearful day of Judgement we will be found safe in Christ.

      • Martha says:

        Nektarios, Selfish though we may be, and concerned for our own skins, how could it be enough to be concerned only for ourselves? I don’t think you would be making comments on this blog if you were not concerned yourself for other contributors and readers.

  15. Brendan says:

    Your approach is well met Nektarios. Modern culture, proud of its rationality, overtaking the ‘ need’ for God , eschews the hearts request to enter more deeply into the domain of God ,which is ‘ love.’
    As a Christian the more one dwells on the prospect of ‘ heaven ‘ or ‘ hell ‘ in the context of the heart and not wholly of the rational mind , the more one is convinced in light of the fruit of ‘
    baptismal ‘ initiation that these are realities beyond rational understanding , but within the understanding of Gods Realm ( The Kingdom )…….’ cor ad cor loquitur .’ ( Cardinal Newmans’ motto ).
    In light of this the Catholic Church does not rule out the possibility of Divine Mercy to those who through no fault of their own do not know/cannot accept God through His being Incarnate to us in Christ. More certain is the one , who having knowledge of God flagrantly denies his Truth , in contrast to the one who ‘ lives ‘ in the Truth through the Sacrament of Initiation /Baptism.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I have a Muslim friend for 30 years who came to UK to study English at a local college, married with 2 boys at University in Turkey, she owned a Travel Agency ,a great devotion to the ‘Virgin Mary, called her Travel Agency by Her name,
      She used to come to Mass with me and told me that there were 2 levels of the Muslim faith, one extreme ,and the other like herself and family, She wore western clothes unless she went to the Mosque.
      Her husband died in an accident during one of their tourist outings, a wall collapsed over the beach and he was killed. Her two sons studying to be a doctor and lawyer, one had to join the army and was killed.
      She was such a generous and loving person whilst in the UK and we kept in touch up to a few years ago, however she used to send messages to me also by some of her UK tourists and would have loved me to go to her home .We lost touch about 5 years ago.
      If the old saying is right that Our Lady lets us in through the back door, I am sure she will be not a lost soul.

      • St.Joseph says:

        She loved Fatima. Fatima being the daughter of Muhamid (spelt wrong I think)

      • Brendan says:

        I rise to your ‘ surety ‘. Please God your right !

      • Nektarios says:

        Here lies the danger in the approach to the revealed truth, if we only have a mental ascent to it. It seems to me these days, so many have this approach.
        But, a mental ascent to the truth is not saving faith. It may be an agreement with the revealed truth at a mental intellectual level, but goes no further. Some churches this is all they ask of one, mentally ascent to the truth and the priests will do the rest. God help us and deliver us from priestcraft!

        In mental ascent to the truth alone, we can imagine all sorts of things, like, ‘Our Lady lets us in through the back door’, but, there is no other way to God but by Christ our Lord.

      • St.Joseph says:

        God did choose a Woman and Jesus is Her flesh and blood.
        Through Mary to Jesus.
        We can make what we like of that in as much as Jesus gave His Apostles to His Mothers care on the Cross, also from His birth!
        Perhaps we ought to listen to Her more when She appears to us , why do we need Her?
        Perhaps males in this world sometimes get it wrong.!

  16. Martha says:

    How could anyone think otherwise?

  17. John Nolan says:

    Nektarios, assuming you meant ‘assent’ rather than ‘ascent’ (although the latter has some logic to it) and that ‘assent’ is by definition a product of intellect and reason, then I assume you are touching on the interaction of reason and faith, which was the subject of Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg lecture.

    There are teachings of the Church which are part of the deposit of faith (de fide) and our assent is not requested but required. In this case our intellect and will must submit, since reason without faith is as much of a blind alley as faith without reason.

    ‘Islam’ means ‘submission’. To what extent theirs is a faith without reason is a matter of debate.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan

      I did mean assent but my word check automatically changes it.
      Saving faith can only be appropriated in a new nature. As it is spiritual in nature, ones natural reason does not ascend to it, hence, spiritual things are spiritually discerned.

      As to the rest of your argument I answer that in my reply to Vincent 18th June 12.28.
      Saving faith is far from being blind or without reason and understanding.

      • pnyikos says:

        Nektarios, let’s get right down to basics.

        Protestants, especially Evangelicals, have taken hold of a truism — that no one can merit an eternity of happiness no matter how much good he does in this world and how completely he avoids evil in the small amount of time he lives — and turned it into the claim that nothing we do on this earth has any merit except through the grace of God,

        At the same time, they seem not at all concerned about the flip side — that failure to accept Jesus and thereby to become a “new creation” — means that we, though guilty of a finite amount of sin, are supposed to “merit” an eternity of suffering in hell.

        There is even a strong streak in Protestantism, and even in those Catholics who take Augustine too seriously, that we cannot do anything good by ourselves, it all has to be due to the grace of God — and yet somehow we are supposed to be fully responsible for all the sins that we commit.

        I have never understood the thinking behind this paradox. I suppose it might be on account of taking the concept of original sin to the nth degree — an original sin that we had nothing to do with!

        And none of us asked to be born into this fallen species.

      • Quentin says:

        pnykos, you refer correctly to a paradox but I prefer the term mystery. I once spent many months trying to understand how our good actions could be truly ours and truly the results of grace.

        Of course I never solved it but I got enough enlightenment to enable me to live with it. My initial mistake was to think of it in terms of human experience. I saw it merely as two persons: God and me — each doing the entire same thing. This seemed a nonsense.Then I realised that God’s infiltration of me is not from outside but from inside — through the process of creation. Therefore the grace in me is not ‘added’ by God but is genuinely part of the reality of the created me. “I live, now not I, Christ lives in me.”.

        I don’t know if that explanation is helpful. But I find it so.

  18. Nektarios says:


    Well, pnyikos, lets get right down to basics.

    First, is Salvation of God something we can or do merit? If it was, the Apostle Paul could have claimed it, but even he saw all his reading of, and attachment to the Law could not, and did not, save him or anyone, the direct opposite, it condemns us.

    Salvation is of God and is a matter of God’s salvific grace. That grace of God towards us means, unmerited favour. We don’t reach a certain stage of good works to be worthy of receiving that grace,
    it is as I say on the part of God, His unmerited favour. This idea or some have made it a doctrine, one can gain Salvation and eternal bliss on account of our works.
    What does God have to say about our works before his perfectly holy eyes?
    ‘All our works are as filthy rags.’

    The natural man can do good works, yes, but these are not works of salvific grace but common grace. It has to do with family essentially and the good one does on the part of ones family, and so on. Widen it out to the social, and the national, and international spheres, and you see the same common grace at work. Morality, Law of the Land, social cohesion, medicine, business, work, and so on are all aspects of common grace to all men. But we don’t go far along that line before we see sin appearing, adultery, murder, stealing, and so on.
    Man is his old nature is a sinner, a rebel against God, and the wages of sin is death, spiritually and eventually physically.

    It is a pernicious heresy held by some that Salvation and eternal bliss can be obtained by our own merits.

    Sowe we now have to answer what is salfivic grace. what is faith, or what is saving faith, what is it, how does it come to us, how does one appropriate it?

    I will stop and go on to another page.

    • Martha says:

      “It is a pernicious heresy held by some that Salvation and eternal bliss can be obtained by our own merits.”

      My simple understanding is that we cannot obtain salvation by our own merits, but if we respond in love to our Saviour, try to do what He has taught us, and repent when we fail, we hope to obtain it through His merits and mercy. We have to play our part, but recognise that this does not amount to meriting or deserving of ourselves.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I am thinking how salvation can be applied to the ‘good thief ‘when Jesus said to him ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise’?He turned to Jesus but did not know Who He was.!

      • Nektarios says:

        Quite so, Martha.

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph

        It is clear from the narrative the dying thief knew something about Jesus.
        He perhaps did not know much about him and so asked to be remembered when He came into His Kingdom.
        Now see the authority of the Lord, This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.
        And so it was, though out of sight to all and the understanding of all, even now.
        Glorious is it not?

  19. Nektarios says:


    Lets say, as it is obvious there are variations definitions of faith. Salvific faith see it as a link to the fulness we can receive of Christ.
    Some see faith in terms of historical or intellectual faith. Some churches who look at faith this way,
    claim, that it is not possible for the ordinary believer to understand the faith, all they want is for the ordinary member to intellectually assent to the truth and leave the rest to the teachings of their church. All they want is dull conformity, order, uniformity, but that is to put the church in place of Christ. But that is the intellectual approach to faith, but it is not salvific faith. Here is the origins of where merit of salvation comes from.
    If is was all a matter of intellect then very few could be saved. It was also elitism, with only the aristocrisy gaining merit of salvation and under guidance the clergy of a so-called all knowing church, such could read the word of God and the clergy alone could interpret it.
    But all that approach has nothing to do with Salvation nor faith or how one comes to it.

    If you want Pynikos we can go further into, what is involved in faith? How does faith come to us? What are the different elements of saving faith and so on

    • pnyikos says:

      Yes, Nektarios, that is a good question: how does this salvific faith, which Protestants see as the sine qua non of escaping eternal hell and being ushered into heaven, come to us?

      Is it something that we did something to “merit”, or did God pick some of us to be infused with it and others not? and if so, on what grounds? Your posts seem to bring us towards an uncompromising doctrine of Predestination.

      • Nektarios says:

        Just read the Scriptures. I have given it out already Ephesians 1:1-14.
        Pre-determination of God which is the Catholic translation of the word ‘predestination’
        is a more accurate translation.
        It does not quite hold the same meaning as predestination which is as you same used the wrong way, pushed to far, can be an uncompromising doctrine. It has led some into hardline positions and goodness knows what that must do to their souls.

      • pnyikos says:


        You have not answered your own question, “How does faith come to us?” except by repeating the claim that it comes from God. There is no hint as to the basis by which God chooses some for eternal happiness and leaves the others to rot in their sins for all eternity. We are left with the unedifying picture of a God who cannot or will not save everyone, nor leave everyone in the state that you allege: all sinners, all deserving of hell.

        I am reminded of a couplet from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

        Nay, but for the terror of His Face,
        I swear I will not call injustice Grace.

        Peter Nyikos

      • pnyikos says:

        I should add that the unedifying picture is of a God who does not seem to care whether the person he chooses to save is good or bad: if God were to make a choice on that basis, that would mean that it is the “merits” of the good person that “earn” for him the decision of God to infuse him with salvific grace. You’ve burned that particular bridge behind you, Nektarios.

      • Nektarios says:

        As I have said earlier on these issues concerning Salvation, the problem is we so often start with ourselves. I make the suggestion that you start with God.
        I cannot understand your insisting on your post today, you wrote:

        I should add that the unedifying picture is of a God who does not seem to care whether the person he chooses to save is good or bad: if God were to make a choice on that basis, that would mean that it is the “merits” of the good person that “earn” for him the decision of God to infuse him with salvific grace. You’ve burned that particular bridge behind you, Nektarios.

        The position you outline as my position or indeed that of God are both erroneous. Salvation, ‘ is not of works, lest any man should boast’.
        The view you propound is in fact heretical.
        Merits for the Christian does not give him Salvation, but it does give rewards especially in this life, and the life to come.

        Christ Himself, God’s own Son said, did He not, ‘I am come to seek and to save that which was lost…..
        I don’t want to bog you down with texts in context in Scriptures on this.
        I wonder if you know anything, from what you have posted, about the heights and depths of God’s love towards us?

        God is holy, he hates sin. We are sinners, there is no way you can strut before God with your so-called merits and think you could fool God with it, no matter how well intentioned.

        It also strikes me what you have written, demonstrates you neither know much about the depths of sinfulness in your own nature, nor God who offers you Salvation on the grounds
        that you believe Christ died for you. &c.

        All I see in what you say is a religious, and not a Christian bias and prejudice

      • overload says:

        Nektarios & Pnyikos

        Is this discussion really about “merits”?
        Do we know how Salah lived his life before his end? Did he merit his way to God? I myself don’t know, but according to the article the impression is that he knocked on God’s door in that moment of sacrifice.
        In truth: I can ask, and it shall be given unto me; I can seek and I shall find; I can knock and the door will be opened unto me. None of these in themselves mean I have “merited” anything.
        I may sincerely and longingly seek God, but my own will and effort is subject to delusion, temptation and weakness, so I will invariably miss the mark. I cannot speak for every other man who has lived, but all those I have come into contact with or got something of a rounded impression about in the world today seem to have the same problem.
        Asking is not meriting, it is a pleading.
        Knocking on a door as opposed to opening or breaking down a door obviously depends upon a response from the other side of the door.

        How was the devout gentile Cornelius Saved? He was told:
        Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
        Acts 10
        Is not his ‘memorial offering’ itself a work of God’s Spirit within him?

        it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy… O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
        Romans 9

      • Quentin says:

        Overload, even turning to God to ask him cannot be done without grace. Pelagianism – a big heresy in the 5th century – got this wrong, and so was condemned. But the asking is still meritorious because grace works, so to speak, from the inside.

        Salah, we might think, was both grace-filled and truly meritorious. Greater love hath no man…

    • pnyikos says:


      Contrary to your opening words, I have not begun with myself, but with God and my fellow man. You accuse me of heresy, and yet you have not told me where this alleged heresy lies. Yet you accuse ME of prejudice and bile! And your accusation that I have not given arguments is just plain false.

      It is not the Catholic view of God, but your Protestant view of God to which I have been objecting, and if I have got it wrong, you have not told me where my misunderstanding of your Protestant views lies. You claim that my understanding of predestination is distorted, yet you give no hint as to what the correct view isl.

      Protestants, especially Evangelicals, center their doctrines on the writings of Paul, especially Romans 2-7. If anything in the Gospels, or in other books like the Epistle of James, or the Book of Job, seem to conflict with these doctrines, they are either ignored or given strained interpretations–or even thrown out, as Luther tried to do with the Epistle of James.

      You say we are all sinners and deserving of hell. By that standard, the “comforters” of Job had it right and Job had it wrong: they said he must have done something wrong to deserve his misfortunes — misfortunes far less serious than an eternity in hell — and by your dogma, he did indeed do something to deserve them, and his protestations of innocence were heretical.

      You quote Jesus saying, ‘I am come to seek and to save that which was lost…..’
      but your dogma has it that all, without exception, were lost before Jesus came, since all are sinners deserving of hell. So what was there to seek?

      By the way, you must believe the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the sinlessness of Mary is heretical (because Paul said all have sinned). The Orthodox do not accept this doctrine, and yet the accounts I have seen of why the great schism is continuing never mention this difficulty. Have you come across any that do?

      • Nektarios says:


        Does any of this really need answering? All that you rant on about here I have indeed answered.

        What I am stating has nothing to do with Protestantism or Catholicism or indeed Orthodoxy, but everything that we have had handed down through the Scriptures.

        Now to briefly answer you.

        It would be wrong to infer I am accusing you of anything.

        Christianity initially had nothing to do with Orthodoxy or Catholicism nor the latter Protestantism.
        I recognise of course the edifices that man has built up over centuries exist, but they have political, religious and social overtones, which has nothing to do with Christianity.
        What you claim is my Protestant dogma, is not so, but, did you find this for yourself or did others tell you?

        Of course there are interpretations of Scriptures, but in general most are agreed about most essential things concerning Salvation.
        I recognise there are errors in all the Churches, some of which are important. But if the leaders in the Churches can hardly bring themselves to discuss it with each other,
        I hardly think it is my place to discuss all these matters with you openly on the blog.

        It is not I that says, we are all sinners but the inspired word of God, so it is not a dogma of mine, nor indeed anyone else, – it is a fact.
        Please don’t jump to conclusions as you seem freely to interpret what I am saying, which clearly I am not saying.

        If you do not already grasp what there was to seek, I quoted the words of our Lord.
        What was there to seek? Us, the whole of mankind, and the whole of the cosmos.
        This is not a work that we do, but a work He has done.
        It is He that regenerates, saves, brings to a new birth in Christ. It is He that gives life.
        It is He that finds what was lost, and will see us, and nature changed completely again, and returning to Him. And being made children of God, will not only be glorified, but there are many other aspects not yet revealed. There are treasures indeed now and in eternity awaiting those who have by God’s grace been awakened and brought to this new life in Christ. All has been done by our Lord, so that is what there was to seek and find, by God.
        We now join Him in that work and He sends us out with the Gospel.

        Finally, the great schism as it was called, had nothing to do with Mary. There are many issues and causes that have arisen over `the Holy Mother Mary’. I will not indulge in these spectulations concerning her, as they do not form part of Christian dogma, nor Apologetics nor any mention of it is Holy Scriptures..

      • pnyikos says:


        You are wrong to think that you have answered my objections. For instance, we never discussed Job before, and you simply ignore the way I push your claims to their logical conclusion where Job is concerned. This is also true of the other issues I analyzed.

        You have simply repeated a few scriptural passages and interpreted them in line with dogmas of Protestantism, which I have encountered many times in my 70 years from Evangelicals. They take an absolutely literalist view of a few isolated scriptural passages, almost all of them due to Paul. This is especially true of the claim that all have sinned; if this is to be taken literally, then the doctrine about Mary’s sinlessness is not mere “speculation” like you say: it is heresy pure and simple.

        One exception to the above: I recall no passage in the Bible which says all are deserving of hell. I have occasionally seen this claim made by Protestants. Did you get this from them, or did you take it upon yourself to re-interpret “deserving of death” (as in: “the wages of sin is death”) as deserving of hell? That no one deserves an eternity of happiness is something I conceded a while back [yet you keep harping on this theme as though I had not done so]. I can live with the idea that even people who have suffered terribly for most of their lives cannot ask for more than a finite amount of happiness in the hereafter. Oblivion, after all finite accounts have been settled, is the way I have always interpreted these passages. Why do you interpret them differently?

      • overload says:

        Pnyikos and Nektarios

        Perhaps the issue here is not so much a theological speculation on absolute truth, but rather to consider what you/we are taking about from a personal point of view in our relationship with God, oneself and one another.

        For a number of years, during which I was in a tormented limbo (filled with deep vision, fear and delusion), I believed I was doomed, inescapably destined for Hell. Yet for all the delusion I have some insight into the reality of Hell, and, as Nektarios refers to: the depth of my sinfulness: that I don’t just commit lots of individual sins, I am totally lost in sin, a slave to sin, drowning in a cesspit of sin. (And yet conversely I can easily lapse into complacent states of mind—Christ help me.) I feel it is very profitable to ask the Spirit to convict me deeply, fully and perpetually, of sin, because in doing so I can begin to fully understand the depth of my need for God, His power and love for me.. as Jesus said “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

        Am I/we worthy of Hell?
        Of myself what I can say is that—but for renewal by faith & grace in Jesus Christ—my conscience convicts me of being worthy of Hell. And my conscience tells me that I am not just me but we; that as I find myself a part of this world; and therein as a part of famil(ies)/nation(s)/culture(s)/belief(s) (and perhaps especially as a part of a fractured Christian church): we together—such as we are enmeshed (as opposed to united in love) with one another—such as I experience it—are in a state worthy of death/Hell. To my mind this world is not just fallen, but double fallen: fallen and cursed.. which on the other hand is blessedness without limit through the cross of Christ.

        Is everyone in the world today worthy of Hell?
        I cannot speak for individuals in the individuality of their soul (between them and God), but I can speak for individuals as I experience the communication of my spirit with their/your spirit; for even if the Spirit speaks to me through/with your spirit, if the parched flailing of my spirit comes into contact with your spirit then your spirit echos or communicates with the brokenness of my own spirit. I have yet to clearly experience otherwise in this world, but with Christ—who’s fleshy presence is somehow not steadfastly discernible/tangible—sustained—to me as is the fleshy presence of myself and others who live by the heavy gravity of this world.

      • Nektarios says:


        I refer to your posting of 27th. 07.14.

        You write or interpret what I said thus:This is especially true of the claim that all have sinned; if this is to be taken literally, then the doctrine about Mary’s sinlessness is not mere “speculation” like you say: it is heresy pure and simple.

        Here is what I actually wrote atOn 27th at 1.40am.

        Finally, the great schism as it was called, had nothing to do with Mary. There are many issues and causes that have arisen over `the Holy Mother Mary’. I will not indulge in these spectulations concerning her, as they do not form part of Christian dogma, nor Apologetics nor any mention of it is Holy Scriptures.

        If you are going to deliberately misrepresent what I write at every turn, I cannot see where we can meaningfully continue this discussion.

      • pnyikos says:


        I have not misrepresented what you wrote: the only issue about Mary that I talked about to you is the Roman Catholic claim of her sinlessness. Instead of acknowledging the huge difficulty this poses for one of the things you keep harping about, Paul’s claim that all have sinned, you flatly said “There are many issues and causes that have arisen over `the Holy Mother Mary’. I will not indulge in these spectulations concerning her, as they do not form part of Christian dogma,”

        Are you now alleging that “these speculations” EXCLUDED the very issue that I had been talking about, the sinlessness of Mary? How on earth was I supposed to know that? How can you accuse me of “deliberately” misrepresenting you?

        This is only the latest of many replies from you in which you keep evading the challenges I pose to your claim that we have all sinned and are deserving of hell. I think you realize that you cannot confront them directly. That would explain, in human terms, why you choose to make a personal attack on me and allege that there is no point in your discussing things with me any longer if …. if I keep doing something “at every turn” that I never did in the first place.

        I wonder — do you think Jesus approves of these actions of yours? Do you think you are being led by the Holy Spirit in doing them?

        By the way, it is true that the Immaculate Conception is not a part of CHRISTIAN dogma: I have seen a poster in a hall of a Greek Orthodox church which pointed out that the Orthodox are an Apostolic Church, and on the other hand depicted the Roman Catholic Church as having added non-Apostolic dogmas, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary.

      • overload says:

        “it is true that the Immaculate Conception is not a part of CHRISTIAN dogma”

        Being CHRISTIAN (I understand the meaning of this word to include both believing in and following our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ) is the rock upon which the Catholic Church is built and the lifeblood of Catholicity, is it not?
        Assuming that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is true.. IF it is truly not a part of Christian dogma (and I am not assuming that it is not), then why is it a dogma (as opposed to merely a teaching/doctrine) in the Catholic Church?

      • Nektarios says:


        If you think I have misinterpreted the meaning of your replies, then I apologies unreservedly. uI could only perceive you apparently trying to box me into a corner which was one of mere speculations. I cannot approach things like that, especially when it comes to the truth.

        I wonder what gives rise to the couple of questions you raised:
        ‘I wonder — do you think Jesus approves of these actions of yours? Do you think you are being led by the Holy Spirit in doing them?’ I can honestly answer for most of them in the affirmative.

    • pnyikos says:

      Nektarios, you wrote:

      “I could only perceive you apparently trying to box me into a corner which was one of mere speculations. I cannot approach things like that, especially when it comes to the truth.”

      The corner had nothing to do with “mere speculations”. It had to do with (1) a dogma of yours that all have sinned and deserving of hell; (2) a flat statement by St. Paul supporting the first half of your dogma; and (3) the Catholic dogma of Mary’s sinlessness which contradicts your literal interpretation of Paul’s words. Unless you admit that your oft-repeated claim that we have all sinned and deserving of hell is mere speculation, there is no way what I’ve quoted from you above can be true.

      As to what you wrote next…
      “I wonder what gives rise to the couple of questions you raised: `I wonder — do you think Jesus approves of these actions of yours? Do you think you are being led by the Holy Spirit in doing them?’ ”

      What gave rise to them is that you bore false witness against me by accusing me of misrepresenting you in connection with the word “speculations.” This may have been unintentional — I’ll accept your apology if it was indeed unintentional — but Jesus’s commandment against bearing false witness applies to some degree about being careful lest one wind up bearing false witness, and I exhort you to use more caution in the future.

  20. ionzone says:

    I’ve heard it speculated very well that when Jesus says that the only way into Heaven is through him, he doesn’t mean that only Christians go to heaven, but that only people who try to live up to his teachings go to Heaven. In which case, Salah Farah is a dead cert and could even be counted as a martyr to Christianity. Just my thoughts on it.

    • G.D. says:

      Yes! Only i’d say – the ‘same teachings’ rather than his teachings ….. they are perrenial teachings … taught in many forms … by many a Christian and non christian. They are prior to Jeus’ life during and after.

    • St.Joseph says:

      What about. Jesus’ saying ‘Unless you eat my Body and drink my Blood you can not have life in you ‘!
      And then ‘There are only two Commandments ‘Love one another as I have loved you’.!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Or then again what Salah did..’ Laid down his life for his brothers’. and Judge not others and you shall not be judged! Did the good Samaritan go to Hell.?

    • Nektarios says:


      What you say here needs revising because what you assert as just your thoughts, is not Christianity.

      • pnyikos says:

        I would say the same about you, Nektarios. You represent a brand of Protestantism here, but it is not a part of what C. S. Lewis referred to as `Mere Christianity’ in the book of the same title. For that matter, I’m not sure many Protestants would endorse everything you write here.

      • Nektarios says:

        ionzone & Pnyikos

        No arguments, just prejudice and bile.
        I have read the works of C.S Lewis way back in the 70’s.

        Even within Protestantism so called, though the Apologetics of some bear no relation to
        their forebears writings and preaching. No, many today are ill-taught, ill- read, and so are spiritually weak.
        ionzone – what exactly do I need to revise as you think what I lay before you is not Christianity nor the truth?

  21. Brendan says:

    Re: St.Joseph 12:38pm.
    You raise an interesting intuitive point here; of which there is a whole theology around.
    Referring to the CCC:-
    ” God has bound himself to the Sacrament of Baptism [ Initiation ] , but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”
    There is something telling us here of ‘ initiation ‘ by baptism of the Spirit . Further in CCC :-
    ” It may be supposed that such persons would have desired baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity .”
    There is no doubt in the observers mind what the the Repentant thief required/wanted on his dying …” remember me when you come into your kingdom.”..all though not fully aware.
    St. Paul meant just that when he describes Baptism as ‘ dying unto Christ ‘ for every initiate.
    That’s just what the Repentant Thief was ‘ about .’
    That is why a ‘ Baptism ‘ is necessary to be sure of ones ‘ place ‘ in Salvation ; and in doing so, defeating this world with its dark powers ranged against the Spirit , and the tools ( grace ) to remain in that ‘ place.’Only then can a person really take on and live Christs’ message……” I have overcome the world …” John 16:33.
    That is why the Catholic Church can say with authority, in its belief of having the full measure of the Christian Faith ; there is no surety of Salvation outside the Church in the knowledge that all Christians are ‘ Baptised-in-Christ. ‘

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you for your comment.
      The question I would ask and that is ‘Is baptism the only road to salvation.?
      There are many Christian denominations who have different beliefs but one baptism.
      Is the Catholic Church the narrow gate which we enter through.?
      Is it easier to be a member of the other Churches, who have no difficulty with the way of life the Catholic Church teaches?

      • G.D. says:

        Brendan,you said ‘That is why a ‘ Baptism ‘ is necessary to be sure of ones ‘ place ‘ in Salvation’ . Do you mean sacramental baptism by ‘a baptism’? Or that there can be ‘a’ baptism other than sacramental?

  22. Brendan says:

    I can only say to Ionzone and G.D .; there are no ” dead certs ” for heaven in this life – this is the ‘ world ‘ talking . Our Lord makes it clear ………” Enter by the narrow gate , since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it ; but it is a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. Also mentioned in Lukes’ Gospel ; a cautionary meaning for those fellow Jews , first to hear the word of God.
    Applicable to all now in Christs revelation…. ” I am the Way; I am the Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me .If you know me, you will know my Father too. From this moment you know him and have seen him. ” John 14:6-7. – NJB
    Baptism -in- Christ for the catechumen ,narrows that road and puts one on the right path.

    • G.D. says:

      Brendan, I am not advocating any ‘dead cert’ of anything, but it did seem to be i admit. Clarifying … My ‘Yes!’ was a general agreement with the sentiments of the teaching idea of Ionzone.

      Being sincerely and fully initiated in the Catholic church, with wholehearted acceptance from me as an adult, i have been lead by and followed the teachings of Jesus; and recognise The Risen Christ in Jesus.
      Following the teachings of the Catholic church sincerely (for many years over strictly & dogmatically) has brought me to believe anyone who loves in the Spirit (of Christ as i recognise it) is loving through Christ (as i would name it) no matter what ‘label’ they themselves put on it.
      What God chooses to do with them, or me is ……. ??? .. up to God.

      The saying of Christ ‘I am the Way, the Truth & the Life’ is true for me, i recognise that as Father (Way) Son (Truth) Holy Spirit (Life).
      Jesus was & remains the gateway for me to that Trinity.

      Following that ‘narrow path’ has lead me to an appreciation of a ‘narrower’ Way, in which The Christ of God, and the wisdom teachings of that Christ have no ‘borders’.
      There are ‘boundaries’, of course, the boundaries of Love & Wisdom.
      That lack of ‘borders’ don’t take away any of the ‘law'(s) that enabled me to walk through the ‘gateway’ and, as i experience it, is a truth that helps to keep me within those boundaries, and set me free from self(ishness).

      ( I assume it is there for all to accept? Offered to all, throughout all of ‘creations becoming’? Others may have different perceptions of the gate? But are lead to the same love & wisdom?) ………. A rose by any other name is still a rose …….

  23. Brendan says:

    In the end this demonstrates what Christian faith ‘ means .’ – to come some way to answering a perennial point that Nektarios always seems to mull over. To the Christian expressing his/her ‘ faith’ ; existentially speaking, this would/should come as natural as breathing .
    The ‘ mystery ‘ that Quentin earlier alluded to in conversation with Pnykos is summed up by St. Paul in this context of ” dying ” to Christ and rising with Him …. ” yet it is no longer I but Christ living in me .” Galatians 2:20. ( NJB )
    Again , John 10:10 – ” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have so that they may have life and have to the full. “

    • Brendan says:

      Place ” come ” between ” have ” and ” so “.

    • Nektarios says:


      It may appear to be as natural as breathing, and it is for a child of God, but the Spiritual life, this new life we have in Christ, is not man made, or given by sacraments or rites,
      but is supernatural. It is an action of God’s will. Such a person who receives this new life in Christ is essentially a completely new person and in this world, but not of it.

      I see in so much of external religion, people trying to nail it down to merely human terms and understanding of it. This is why so many feel that Salvation of God is based on them making a decision for Christ, or believing the Church gives it to them. This would be wrong on both counts. Salvation and all that that means is of God, and God alone.

      And finally, baptism is not necessarily essential for Salvation of God in an individual. Without the will of God saving the person and that person having saving faith, the rite of baptism has no salvific meaning.

      • Brendan says:

        Nektarios – It may be because like most Catholics ( even if some of us are not as articulate to express ourselves ) , I have immersed myself in the language and culture of The Catholic Church . Having said this , it may be be difficult for some Protestants and other non-Catholics to appreciate the unspoken ‘ theology ‘ of the Catholics daily life.
        In my piece i don’t believe I have given any hint at all of my ‘ Spirituality ‘ being ” man made ” . Indeed with St.Paul as our witness it is entirely God-given…… and on that we will surely agree. Now, if there is some ‘ specific ‘ point on which you diverge from myself, or a Catholic approach contrary to your belief , please spell it out so we can debate.
        Just to say that there are many Catholics who while assenting to Catholic Doctrine , the daily practice of their ‘ faith ‘ is just simple charitable and prayerful. Are we to deny – as Quentin says – that which is based on ‘ love ‘ . Anything else surely is to second-guess God ?……… fatal!……..if we are to learn the lessons of the past.

  24. Quentin says:

    If I were asked what basically keeps me a Catholic, I would answer ‘love’. I believe that every act of love — from the smallest to the greatest — exists, and remains significant, throughout eternity.The Catholic Church, moth eaten though it may be, not only presents me with love as the highest value, but it enables me to relate this to the source of love — through Christ to God.

    I do not believe that there are two kinds of love: a natural form and a supernatural form. I believe that every act of love, whoever performs it and whatever the circumstances, is supernatural, for Christ is always present.

    With this in mind I firmly believe that at the Last Judgment no distinction of denomination or secularism will be relevant. The only question will be: “Did you love?”. I think we may well be surprised to see who makes and who fails the grade.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Well said! However there will be those who will believe that loving God and the Church is more important than our neighbours.

    • Nektarios says:


      No, Quentin, that is just sentiment. In the last judgement it will be a matter whether you are covered with the blood of the Lamb. Then, if any allegations be brought against you. He can say, ‘ See my shed blood, I died for him ‘ This person is one the Father gave Me.’

      So away with all this sentimental twaddle about what you did by way of love.
      A child of God will love God from the heart and also his neighbour.
      It is in their new nature given to them by God. They will also do good works where the opportunity presents itself for them.
      They will love Christ with an ardent love, being fully committed to Him.

      Will it be a perfect love? No, not yet, because we are still in this body of sin and death which we fight the good fight of faith with day by day till our last breath.
      Ah, that is love!

      • Quentin says:

        Nektarios, I have put a little entry into my diary for the Day of Judgment. It says: “Compare notes with Nektarios.” I look forward to that.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I am a bit confused with the teaching of the Orthodox Church, when it come to Hell or Heaven on the Day of Judgement,
        Am I to understand that the Orthodox Church believes that abortion is a sin and contraception is a sin same sex relationship is a sin, etc, therefore they are destined for hell for all eternity as you don’t believe in Purgatory.
        Is there no repentance after death if one has not clothed themselves in the blood of Christ even though they will believe they are not committing a sin. They will be Christians in their belief that their Church see no sin in their lifestyle.

  25. ignatius says:


    Yes, something like that. Last week I was at a Pentecostal type celebration. The preacher preached up a storm and the room was ringing with amens and strong, loud, emphatic affirmations as to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and how he is the author and finisher of every good work and how everyone there were the chosen sons of God.
    At the bible study thereafter there was a more in depth, but nonetheless fervent discussion, everyone called out the promises of God and affirmed their faith and their intentions of living fully in Christ. The only thing was that this celebration was taking place in a prison where most of the men were serving fairly long jail sentences, about which no mention was made…this was the elephant in the room.
    It does seem to me that the more fervent and doctrinally dogmatic we become, then, across the board, the wronger we probably are. But actions are real and love, if it is love, is an action.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I find the Big Question being ‘How do we love our neighbour?
      We tell them about Jesus Christ Our Saviour who died on the Cross for our salvation.
      Should we feel that they are bound by the same sins as Holy Mother teaches. Do we have a duty to tell them.
      I speak of sin that the Catholic Church teaches , abortion , same sex marriage. contraception, Divorce (which I agree there can be a second marriage under certain circumstances There is a rule for gradualism where people do mature in their faith)
      married priests , we have married priest already to me it is hypocritical, to say no!
      Just my beliefs, I am not the Pope!!.
      We are asked to evangelize, With love.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Above should say ‘as Holy Mother Church teaches’

      • ignatius says:

        St Joseph,
        I think that when a person approaches the body of Christ (The Church) it is the case that they approach a whole family, with all its history, rather than an individual. This means that certainly, either by speaking or reading, our neighbour will come into contact with the strange teachings of the family thee person is on the threshold of joining. How much part any individual takes in the process is up to them.

  26. Brendan says:

    Quentin ,1.10pm – Amen !

  27. Brendan says:

    It would be sheer self-indulgence if we were to believe that we cannot hope to attain a perfect love for God , in response to the gift of Gods perfect love given freely to us – and not because we deserve such love. To this end we obey Christs command… the formula is well known .
    ” Go , therefore, make disciples of all nations ; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ,and teach them[ his Church ] to observe all the commands I gave you. I am with you always ; yes, to the end of time .” Matt. 28:19-20 ( NJB )

  28. ignatius says:

    “It would be sheer self-indulgence if we were to believe that we cannot hope to attain a perfect love for God , in response to the gift of Gods perfect love given freely to us – and not because we deserve such love…”

    I’ve tried to fathom this sentence several times now. It looks as if it should be interesting but I cannot grasp the meaning which , to my eyes, is lost among the double negatives; could you explain please.

    I find as I go on that the katapathic view take hold of me in ever deeper measure. This tends to lead into a state of inarticulate and rather awkward relationship where one feels not unlike an adolescent in love. But as to the finer points of doctrine, silence. This condition, one of tongue tied yearning and self abnegation also inclines towards either action or silence rather than words. It does not make for concise apologetics I must admit. I do however know one or two quite fine minded types and these tell me firstly that the basic rationale of doctrine is principally to tell us what Christian faith is not and who God isn’t. Secondly that the Spirit of God certainly subsists in the Church but we are never, at any one time, certain quite where.

    • ignatius says:

      Oops, sorry, got my terms round the wrong way.. should read ‘apothatic’ not katapathic. Referring to the two kinds of prayer one of which favours intellect and positive definition while the other tends toward abandonment. I’ve spent a lot of time in the katapathic mode-argument, discussion, definition etc but have over these years made the transition rather. Particularly with regard to this year of Mercy.
      I think that Christian love, which is essentially charity,compassion and mercy is, as Quentin suggests, an orientation of the human heart which has turned christward, it is a whole hearted response quite literally, not segmented. This kind of love can easily take the lover by surprise both in terms of its intensity and of its object.

  29. Brendan says:

    Ignatius – I answered Nektarios’ claim that the true follower of Christ is given over entirely to Him – as defined by St. Paul…” it is not I that live… etc.” , ; in effect God determines ones ‘ spirituality ‘ in oneself , and not we in ourselves. Nektarios then furthers the claim in saying that….” they will love Christ with an ardent love , being fully committed to him . ” seemingly in support of this. He then contradicts himself by asserting this is not a state of ” perfect love “.
    Now I believe that there is a ” state of perfect love ” as defined/indicted by St.Paul which does tie one irrevocably to Christ in this life . It follows that our ‘ spiritual state then would be broken by willful ” self-indulgence ” in denying that this perfect state of union ( love ) with God could be achieved – thus elevating our own spiritual ideal above Gods. In Nektarios’ case – one can’t have it both ways.

  30. ignatius says:

    Sooooo….you mean that if God says we can love him perfectly then who are we to argue.??
    Tell me then, this state of ‘perfect union’, is it experiential? Teresa of Avilla seemed to think that very very few people ever got that far in this life.

    • Brendan says:

      My thoughts exactly Ignatius ; you catch my point splendidly and with brevity ! Whatever St. Paul , St. Teresa and countless Holy Men and Women have experienced it was not ‘otherworldly ‘ in the sense of being taken ‘ out ‘ of oneself ; but it would seem to me- given St. Paul’s life and testimony- fully ‘ experiential ‘ and available to all , given Gods immeasurable generosity ….for those who seek Him. ‘ Agape ‘ as you will appreciate I’m sure , is that wonderment and joy of creation we share in Gods full embrace …. a foretaste of the Beatific Vision in heaven ?
      Have we lost the faith/belief in this ‘ experience ‘ given our too rational culture ? Does this deaden ‘ faith ‘; or at least mitigate against it ?

  31. St.Joseph says:

    My own perfect state in life ‘in Love; is with a personal relationship with The Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I feel one with the Trinity , it is along with my family- my Life.

    • G.D. says:

      You have it St. J! Faith completed.
      You are with God in the world. Blessed is she who comes in the name of the Lord.

  32. Nektarios says:

    St Joseph

    What you pose, is not an Apostolic or particularly Christian way of looking at these things.
    First, we are all sinners, we are all hell deserving. Delineating various sins, unless repented of
    such cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Modernists and liberals can change the theology, but they cannot change the word of God.

    Yes, the Orthodox believe that abortion is a sin. That same sex and same sex marriages(so-called) are sinful.
    Contraception, is not seen as a sin, and so is left to the couples consciences and in agreement whether they use contraception or not.

    There is no repentance after death.
    A person who is a child of God, is forgiven their sins past, present and in the future.
    But the main point is, they will always know if they are sinning. The Holy Spirit will convict them of it. God commands all His people to be holy, and without that, no man will see God.

    If some are deluded into thinking they are not sinning, If they are God’s children, they will be troubled, they will be brought to repentance one way or another. If they still want their sin,
    they will be reprobates not knowing Him, and so die in their sin and will only have a lost eternity to enter.

    Like I said, churches, theologians or us as individuals can change the theology all they like, but, the price of that is their own souls will be lost. The word of God is irrevocable, and His word will stand.

    People abound today who are deceiving, if it were possible the people of God, a terrible judgement awaits them. And people who knowingly deceive others to sin who are Children of God, without repentance, as Jesus said, It would be better for them if a millstone had been rung round their necks and thrown into the river.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you for your comment.
      It always makes me wonder – even when Pope Francis make the comment that ‘we are all sinners’, I would prefer to say we are all capable of committing sin.
      I don’t consider what I say as presumptuous but more of the feeling of despair.
      St John Paul 2nd would go to daily confession , if Pope Francis believes that he is living in the state of sin -he ought to do the same. So should we all.? Because as you say dying in the state of sin there is no redemption only Hell.
      I may be confused here by what you are saying. However–
      You say’ the orthodox Church believes that contraception is not a sin’. What sort of contraception is acceptable to the Orthodox Church.
      If the Holy Father declared that contraception was not a sin, I would ask him the same question!
      Is sin related to our own conscience belief as to what sin is- if so will God judge us on our conscience or what ‘our’ church teaches. Because if our church teaches one thing and we obey it,surely God will not condemn us to Hell.
      Or who do you believe is the true Church of Jesus Christ.
      I apologise for all the questions, however I like things to be clear when it come to the opinions of others..

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph

        Well, lets take each question at a time.
        You write: ‘when Pope Francis make the comment that ‘we are all sinners’, I would prefer to say we are all capable of committing sin.
        I don’t consider what I say as presumptuous but more of the feeling of despair.’

        The Pope is right in what he said there, and you are right in what you say too.
        We are all sinners, therefore we are equally all capable of committing sin, as we all do daily.
        If we think we only sometimes sin, then we only think somethings or behaviours are sin and others are not. The natural man is in despair, he really does not know himself, he is a rebel against God, that is in biblical terms is to be at enmity against God.

        Ok, lets look at your’ feeling of despair.’
        It is here we need to be very clear in our minds what a Christian actually is? How does one actually become a child of God?
        Do you think one becomes a child of God because one’s brought up by Christian parents, one hears the Gospel in Church and you believed it, that our actions and beliefs make us a child of God? No. no, no, We are all saved by grace through faith.

        So what is grace? Grace means unmerited favour of God. In other words, nothing we do, nor can ever do will bring us the grace of God. It is sovereign act of God alone,

        What is faith? Let me put it this way to you, Faith does not give Salvation. Faith is the means by which all the salvation in Christ is brought to us – that is faith.
        Lastly on this, No Christian who is a child of God, should not be in a state of despair ever.
        In the Orthodox Church, despair on the part of a child of God, is seen as a sin!

        I will try to answer your other questions in the following posting.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you for your comment.
        When I mentioned despair I may have confused you I agree with what you say, I was thinking that by Pope Francis saying that we are all sinners ,people could be despairing. We must trust in God.
        Yes we do have the Grace of God to see us through our sorrows, I can only go through what I am going through with the Grace of God, also for those who are praying for me. which I now need very much as the hospital has stopped my chemo treatment, as it was making me so ill,
        As always I place myself in The Lord’s hands.

      • Nektarios says:

        This is part 2 seeking to answer your questions.

        You write: ‘You say’ the orthodox Church believes that contraception is not a sin’. What sort of contraception is acceptable to the Orthodox Church.
        If the Holy Father declared that contraception was not a sin, I would ask him the same question!

        I have answered this before to you. So, lets restate it. The Orthodoxox Church see abortifacients as sinful. The use of condomns is by agreement with their partner are not seen as an abortifacients as such.

        On to your next question:
        You write: Is sin related to our own conscience belief as to what sin is- if so will God judge us on our conscience or what ‘our’ church teaches. Because if our church teaches one thing and we obey it,surely God will not condemn us to Hell.

        I see where you are going with this question. God does not judge according to our own conscience, or what the Church teaches.
        God judges according to His word and His Holiness.
        What churches teach – my reply is that of Christ, ‘do what they tell you, but don’t do as they do!’

        Lastly, your write: ‘who do you believe is the true Church of Jesus Christ?’

        Who or what is the true Church of Jesus Christ? Read Acts 2 and there you
        will find out what the true Church of Jesus Christ is and what it consists of.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you for your reply.
        A condom is not a contraceptive-it is only a contraceptive when used in the fertile time of a woman’s cycle .And then not a 100 % a contraceptive
        It could be classed as spilling ones seed if a condom is used when one can not conceive.
        What is the point?
        What do you mean by’ Do as they tell you, but don’t do as they do’
        If a Church teaches that abortion and same sex marriage etc are alright with God, there are Christian denomination who have same sex marriage and teach that abortion in some cases are OK, and then there conscience will be free, we will leave that to the Lord and hopefully they wont go to Hell! My thoughts.
        Is it perhaps better to belong to a liberal thinking Church!
        I haven’t read Acts 2 yet but will do later. and let you know what I think. I have had visitors
        Also other religious who do not believe Jesus is God. Are they condemned too.

  33. ignatius says:

    St Joseph,

    “My own perfect state in life ‘in Love; is with a personal relationship with The Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I feel one with the Trinity , it is along with my family- my Life…”

    Yes, I do think there is this profound intimacy that comes when, as per the promise Jesus makes in Johns gospel (ch 14 v23 that is), the Trinity comes to make its home within us. This sense is profoundly and unsurprisingly joyous in its nature. I often think of the hospitality of Abraham at Mamre when the Lord turns up outside Abrams tent in the heat of the day. Abraham then dashes off, in accordance with the tradition of hospitality, to make lunch for everyone…Yet I would guess that, stirring in his heart, was a kind of amazed excitement because, even as he nagged Sarah to get on with lunch, he knew that something astonishing was afoot. The deep joy of life within the Trinity is like that I think. God comes to us while we are doing the washing up and somehow manages to reassure and refresh us at the deepest level of the heart and soul.

  34. G.D. says:

    Is there not teaching that Christ descended into hell to save sinners? Which is ‘after’ physical death?
    Which makes a nonsense of ‘no salvation after death’.

    If the above is not so, then this physical earthly state (including physical death) where Christ has already come to save ‘sinners’, must be hell? Which, of course it isn’t. Thanks God for that.
    If it was, we’d all be damned no matter what we did or didn’t do, simply because we are still in it. And death the logical outcome. Christ or no Christ.

    Earth, Hell, The Kingdom, are states of being – not places to inhabit. States we can all experience in our partiality.

    When all three are transcended, a ‘new heaven and earth’ (i.e. state of being) is lived by a person. Then ……. ‘I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me’. …..And, Now is the time. ….. It is accomplished.

    Fill in the gaps if you can.

    • G.D. says:

      Not that i claim to have transcended! Just that it is a possibility.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I know exactly what you are saying.
        We must believe that there is a new life in Christ or else His dying will be in vain.
        He was born for that!
        I consider that as Hope not presumption,

    • Nektarios says:


      When Christ died and descended into Hades and ‘ preached the Gospel to the captives’……

      You have to see something clearly here. Death held all those who had believed the promises till the promises were fulfilled in Christ.
      Christ having overcome death, led those who had believed the promises concerning the coming Saviour, but had not seen it before they had died, now heard the Gospel, and out of Hades He led those held captive by death who believe the promises, He led the captives captive.
      Those who did not believe the promises were not addressed, and so they are where they are till the day of Judgement.

      • G.D. says:

        Sorry Nektarios, but that’s not the way i read it.
        It was sinners (‘captives’ if you like) he went to save, in hell. Nothing about them that already believed.
        They must have died physically to get there, so were saved after physical death.

      • Nektarios says:

        Speak of things you know.

      • G.D. says:

        Oh, I’d hate to over rationalise the issue. i don’t ‘know’ anything for certain. Just like everyone else. Only experience the response of God, to my seeking God. And God responds. What more is needed.

      • G.D. says:

        Default the logic of my post and i might be more ‘rational’, and speak of what i know.
        If my experience of God leads me to do so.
        I will say … we are all where we are till the day of Judgement; and that is an open conclusion, untill God manifests it. For everyone.
        No one knows what that will be. Except to them that God has already shown it.
        Oh, and the promises have already been fulfilled. Jesus did it i believe.

  35. Brendan says:

    Ignatius and everyone – There is one important distinction to be made ; and I can see that this is really behind your question…” Is this experiential ?”
    There may well be different levels of ‘ experiencing ‘ God in our lives. The Saint of Avila was given a gift of contemplation which we call ” resting in God “. ( discussed earlier in this Blog ). As you say , very few attain this level/state of transcendence. But this is totally contemplative and to us appears experientaly , otherworldly.
    There is no reference or inference in Holy Scripture that I know of that St. Paul was a ‘ mystic ‘ in that sense, given my limited knowledge of hagiology. So his was a ‘ level given ‘ to him as one who approached Christ as ” like a child ” ; complete trust of God-in-Christ ; having received the ‘ revelation ‘ ( gift of faith ) as we all can receive …. and this is the key. It i not our realm of spirituality but His to be accepted in humility and thanksgiving. Like St.Paul, a life lived to the full in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

    • overload says:

      Yes Brendan (as a child) we are told st paul was, in the Spirit, TAKEN up to the third heaven, he did not GO up there like a meditating buddhist in deep seclusion & concentration is said to be able to do with ascending/descending the ‘9 jhanas’.

  36. Martin Kirkham says:

    Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, has been made by God and given an immortal soul. Faith is an intensely personal thing; it would be outrageous to think that non-Christians were beyond God’s mercy.

  37. Brendan says:

    Nektarios – The human condition ( mind and all ) is a gift from God – as we are, made in His own image.I agree with the Orthodox dislike of over-rationalisation ( as I inferred with Ignatius ) – as I understand it a product largely of history and culture arising out of the ecclesial state of the Eastern Roman Empire ?) ; a propensity to which the Catholic West was prone throughout the Church due to its Culture and History arising out of the Western Roman Empire and its attachment to classical Greek philosophy – and perhaps later the Enlightenment period. As I see it, there is a balance to be struck in these matters.
    However, cut from the same stock East and West , we remain closer than we think in a world of over-rationalisation, as we both perceive.

    • Nektarios says:


      Over rationalisation on the human condition is the natural man trying to make sense of who and what he is. Influences over the centuries, has not changed the situation concerning man. Even now, though psychology, has its uses, they underestimate the depths of human nature. It is so clear that they try to pin the blame on nature (which they don’t understand) and nurture ( which they only partially understand).

      As I have said several times on the blog, man is walking around in the dark bumping into things. He does not understand himself, He understands he is often sorrowful, fearful, experiences pleasure, sensations, is anxious, experiences guilt, shame, fear and one day death.
      Theological, over rationalisation as you call it, has the same source, man walking in the dark. He is aware of something, and according to his experiences tries to make sense of it.

      But Light has come into the world and the world, or darkness comprehends it not, but, for the Child of God, that Light has shone into his mind and in his heart and changed him, so much so, he is a new creation altogether.

  38. Geordie says:

    St Joseph
    “Well said! However there will be those who will believe that loving God and the Church is more important than our neighbours.”

    Loving God is more important than loving our neighbours. We wouldn’t be able to love our neighbours without loving God.

  39. St.Joseph says:

    Of course not, However I did say ‘those who will believe’!!!!

    • Martha says:

      I think this is a very difficult one, because Our Lord said, “If you love Me keep My commandments,” and, to those who may not have known Him, or recognised Him, “Whatever you do for the least of My little ones, you do it to ME, ” “When I was hungry you gave ME to eat, when I was thirsty you gave ME to drink . . ” We show our love for Him by how we treat others. I don’t think it is given to us all to feel or experience love for God in the way some contributors are describing. I remember a very devout and prayerful parish priest one time talking about this, and explaining it, and saying that he himself had never had actual feelings of love for God. St. Teresa of Calcutta felt that God was at a distance in a way, and other saints I am sure.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I believe it is called the ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’

        The least you do for my little ones, etc you say, I believe this also concerns the unborn children from the moment of conception into old life. One of the works of mercy. Of loving our neighbour. All Christians are duty bound to respect all life and support the pro-life movement. Sadly there are those who will not lift a finger to support it.

      • G.D. says:

        Yes! Martha, nicely put.

  40. Martha says:

    Not really St. Joseph, the Dark Night of the Soul I think would be more like a severe depression, and is probably sometimes confused with that state. I was trying to describe the lack of feelings of elation in relation to God, or experiencing them mildly or rarely.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I understand what you are saying, but that is the reason I feel so close to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
      He gives me great courage and strength to believe in His Real Presence,
      One could call it an attachment in the spiritual sense,
      If our young people saw the beauty in this and what God has given us in His Son, perhaps there would be more vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Even more practicing Catholics!

  41. Brendan says:

    We can be certain of one thing, if nothing else, as persons baptised-in-Christ…….” Sky and earth will pass way, but my words will never pass away. ” Matt.24:35. And…. ” to whom shall we go?
    you have the message of eternal life. ” ( the first Pope ) – John:6:68.

  42. ignatius says:

    Hang on Brendan…
    “There is no reference or inference in Holy Scripture that I know of that St. Paul was a ‘ mystic ‘ in that sense, given my limited knowledge of hagiology…”

    Wasn’t Paul the man who was so overcome by an encounter with Christ that he fell to his knee and was blind or three days? Wasn’t he the one who was ‘impelled by the spirit’ to travel from Ephesus to Jerusalem being warned on the way he was to face persecution..? Isn’t this the man who was ‘caught up’ into the heavenly realms where he saw things of which a man could not speak??

    People get very uptight about the ‘experiential’ discussion but it seems to me that even on a casual reading of scripture we are confronted by powerful encounter, real live feeling from the heart. The psalms must be the prime example of this, the gospels and Paul’s letters too. I don’t think you will find many writers, either in the Bible or among the later saints, whose faith is not based in quite raw and powerful emotion issuing forth from the heart and impelling to action…else why act? Why bother? Why stand outside a courtyard weeping bitterly for something you do not feel and which has not moved you to the core of your being?

    Now of course there are differences in temperament and life experience etc with each giving and given according to their own; but I would find it very strange were any of you to seriously claim that your faith proceeded from your intellect alone and had no deeper root embedded deep within or even that at no time had any the partaking of sacraments influenced your soul beyond the rational.

  43. John Nolan says:

    Ignatius, I think you have hit the nail on the head and (despite his Protestantism) so has Nektarios. The great tragedy of Vatican II was that in an attempt to make Catholicism ‘relevant’ to 20th century man it reduced it to an intellectual construct which did not engage the hearts of the faithful; even the liturgy had to be ‘in the dull catalogue of common things’.

  44. G.D. says:

    That’s strange, John, I see VII as opening up to the ‘experiential’ more so than the ‘intellectual’.
    Not that i personaly know of the church prior to VII.
    Isn’t that why the more ‘free liturgical anomolies’ were happening – to express the more personal ‘experiential’ aspects?
    Having said that many a sung latin mass has ‘take me out’ of myself, so i understand what you are saying.

    But, hasn’t it ever been thus? (Since the middle ages?). That any ‘mystical experience’ outside of that which followed ‘the norm’, & can be explained logically, been frowned on? (Condemned as the ‘devils’ works even).
    For instance those ‘mystics’ who spoke of various experiences, that were supressed in thier own life times, and later well respected for their ‘teachings’. Some declared saints even.

    It’s not ‘acceptable’ to be like that.

    • G.D. says:

      People that have deeply moving experiences ‘in the Spirit’ (dreadful phrase, but i can think of none other that fits) are looked upon as ‘suspect’, or worse, deranged.
      Yet, Mary Joseph Elizabeth Zachariah and Paul (to name but a few) were having those kind of experiences that defied logic.
      Yes, we need to discern them, of course. But, it seems to me, there is no real ‘testing of the spirits’, no guidance for those who experience such phenomena.
      Which has given the church a culture of avoidance and mistrust of them.

      Why do we mistrust and discourage them so much?
      What are we frightened of when they happen?

    • John Nolan says:

      GD, I take your point. But Josephinism in Austria (1780-1790) was a conscious attempt by a despotic and sceptical ruler to make the Catholic Church conform to Enlightenment ideals, and this included a vernacular liturgy.

      Not long afterwards the French revolutionaries attempted to secularize the Church in the name of rationalism.

      Scroll back to the 16th century where the Protestant ‘reformers’ systematically destroyed the iconography in stained glass and wall paintings (and in the process most of late medieval art and music) to insist on the primacy of the written word. Ironically anyone who was literate in English was also literate in Latin – when Shakespeare was at grammar school the boys were punished for speaking English!

      Vatican II was the moment when the Catholic Church, which could make a good case for being the mainstay of European civilization, finally sold the pass to rational Enlightenment ideas. The fact that these ideas when transposed to the 20th century led to genocide on an unprecedented scale seems to have eluded the movers and shakers of Vatican II.

      We now have a Church in clear decline and a papacy which was recently described by someone who is far more erudite than I as ‘calamitously dysfunctional’.

      Pious platitudes will not suffice – nor will fiddling while Rome burns.

      • G.D. says:

        John, i’m not advoting go with any ‘mystical’ impulse that comes and let it happen. Particularly if it is bent on destruction of anothers way of belief and acceptance of God. If i was i’d be away with the fundamental fairys (or totaly lost to Joycean ways!) and be very happy, thank you very much. God forbid!
        Said before discernment is vital.

        It’s just that i feel a more balanced, open, intagrative approach to such ‘experientials’ would be so much more ‘benificial’ for all. As long as the ‘experientials’ were also open to the traditions. It’s never one or the other but both and!
        Without the knee jerk reaction to shut down from fear; it may even give some guidance to everyone.
        And the Church may find the decline in church declining!

        As for Pope Francis, as i see it, he is trying to balance the ‘extreems’. Bless him. He knows, i’m sure he knows, the need for a less ‘fundamental attitude’ from all of us (Including himself! How hard in his position must that be!?) from ‘within’ and ‘outside’ the church.

        As for fiddling while Rome burns .. it wasn’t a Christian that did it, was it?

  45. Brendan says:

    Ignatius – Yes, I agree with you. God subjected Paul ( and no doubt many persons ) throughout human history to what I would deem ‘ special treatment ‘. Why ? Because He remains inscrutable to us we can only speculate. I have said earlier , that perhaps God manifests himself in different ways residing in his creation ( US ). But we can with a ‘ rational ‘ mind under the direction of The Spirit speculate that in the case of St. Paul he wanted to make an example to the World of His power to change ( metanoia ) a person , and to prepare Saul under the free will of his senses for his great journey of evangelising the gentile world. His case for ‘ conversion ‘ was one of exception for his time – yes, full of mysticism unlike the overwhelming majority of cases after – but the latter was the norm . But his life following that – and I claim no authority on this academically or otherwise , as most do – shows only what we as Christians experience in our daily lives, initially through the grace of the Holy Spirit in Baptism.
    As you and John Nolan concur; in some ways since Vatican ii ( although I would not blame the ‘ message ‘ , more the ‘ messenger ‘ – the Bishops more in omission ) , we have ‘ rationalised ‘ daily practice of The Faith in our minds too much. This would seem counter to the life led by for example by St.Paul. Of course Gods mercy is unfathomable and who are we to individually judge others before ourselves?
    Heaven would seem far closer to us and the world if we ( Christians ) and the world like the gift of St.Pauls’ life – I repeat by experience entirely accessible to all in the Spirit , could ….. ‘ hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman : ” If you knew the gift of God !” ‘ ( Extract from ‘ Prayer of Pope Francis for The Year of Mercy )

  46. St.Joseph says:

    Saint Padre Pio’s life of suffering and mysticism with the stigmata-wounds of Jesus all his life, hidden for years by the Church as works of the Devil. Then canonised a Saint. There are many miracles through his intercession. I firmly believe The Lord works through him as He does when we pray to the Saints.
    I don’t think that if one believes- it happens, but because it happens one believes. People are sceptical,, and yet believe the greatest miracle of all of Jesus born of a Virgin, risen from the dead and feeding millions all over the world with His Body and Blood Soul and Divinity through the power of God by the ordained priests hands .
    I believe miracles and mysticism has a part to play in the Mystical Body of Christ.
    As Brendan says it is not the message but the messengers I think some put their own interpretations on Vatican 2 .An excuse to liberalise. Didn’t it do just that!. Not only Holy Mass, but education in catholic schools, where it would be the most effective with the young!!

    • St.Joseph says:

      PS.Although saying that my 12 year old grandson who goes to St Peter’s High School in Gloucester has some very good questions for their homework on the Catholic Church.
      He was asked the question at school where the priest places the Blessed Sacrament when they are left over from Holy Communion, He answered The Tabernacle. A big difference to many years ago upon reading a ‘modern \Catechism book’ which asked the question,
      ‘What is the box called where the bread is kept’ in church.
      That’s Vat 2 teaching, or not so much that but the messenger,!

  47. Brendan says:

    I’ve enjoyed this weeks blog everyone; thank you. Let’s hope there’s a big turnout for tomorrows vote.

  48. ignatius says:

    “..People that have deeply moving experiences ‘in the Spirit’ (dreadful phrase, but i can think of none other that fits) are looked upon as ‘suspect’, or worse, deranged…”

    Yes, here in England we have a kind of deep rooted scepticism. This is no bad thing in many ways but it is not external symptoms that interest me, nor apostles and saints come to that. I am talking about ‘us’ ‘Us’ being me, you and the parishioner you stand next to at Mass. Most, with a little prompting, will talk about the times they have been blessed by a warming of the heart or a sense of consolation.
    Many, given opportunity will share with you the way their faith and its consolations became real to them in periods of difficulty, how they may have become dry of heart then, realising that dryness,have turned to prayer or confession, returned maybe to the sacrament and more regular church attendance finding there peace.
    I believe it is vitally important for our inner lives that we recognise these deep stirrings for what they are, the deep moving of the spirit of God within. We need to notice and allow ourselves to be moved in these ways, the examen of conscience and the practice of confession lead us towards a recognition that our lived lives are based in something far deeper than our assumed rationality and out of which our rational seeking arises; in the end our hearts are drawn by love.

  49. G.D. says:

    Agree wholeheartedly with your post Ignatius.

    But there is still a lacking, in general, of teaching how this ‘comes about’; and little support for means and ways to embrace and deal with this kind of experience; they are there but, in general, not encouraged within the church.

    If the conversations you speak of were the natural everyday staple of parishes, there would be a healthier faith development all round. And the young among us would find so much more meaning and value within the ‘religious’ community and themselves.

    People who do open to that depth – usually, as you rightly say, ‘forced’ to seek awareness/meaning through some type of suffering, and face the darkness within – are in the main not trusted within the church. Are ‘suspect’.
    These people (that have walked in part that narrow & harrowing path into the arms of God and continue to do so daily) are the ones who can accompany others on the journey into the depths of God. A journey we are all called to take, we are all offered. Yet, in the main, is not supported.
    Is not acceptable to the biased ‘intellectualised logical’ mainstream of religion.

    I assume that is why lots of people leave the church and seek elsewhere for the spiritual ‘meat’ that gives strength for that journey and the supporting accompaniment as it’s travelled.
    Which is a great shame i think – needing to live outside a structured and traditional spirituality, with all the pitfalls (as you hint at) that it can produce.

    A question that has always been with me … “Why is the ‘mystical’ (transcending of logical intellectual understanding) so unacceptable (fearful to?) and avoided by the majority (particularly leaders) within the church?”. Especially as the whole foundation of the Christian is of that ilk. ………Yet God seems to be taking care of the answers.
    There are ‘signs of the times’ that it is so. Many more are opening up to that ‘mystical’ and making it a natural part of life. Thanks be to God.

  50. Brendan says:


    • G.D. says:

      Quite right, nobody said any such thing as far as i am aware. (Wish i could alter this text size i’d make it very very small!).

      There are however people who’s religion is only rational. With no concept of any personal deeper realisation of God. Which is fine if that’s what they are satisfied with.
      But a shame when they denounce others believing because they experience,
      and reject them for going deeper into that experiential knowing to find what it actually IS.

      How else, at the end of the day, will ‘teaching them to OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I have commanded you’ be known to MEAN as in the context (below) and in action, NOW?
      It’s a lot more than is written in the bible, as the bible itself says. A lot deeper than doctrine can intellectually conceptualise. A lot more expansive than logic can conceive of. A lot more than belief can perceive.

      Beyond the mind of man.

      (‘ [17] And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. [18] And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you : and, lo, I am with you all days , even to the end of the world’. ‘Douay-Rheims / Latin Vulgate’.)

      • Nektarios says:


        This is dangerous assertions you have made. Perhaps a bit of guidance is required.

        The reality of the Christian life is mystical, yes, but we are in this body meantime.
        The Apostolic doctrines and teaching addresses us. As Christians, true children of God, we have become spiritually alive.

        The difficulty we all have and are aware of so much of our thinking and actions tell us that
        we are not totally spiritual and in the mystical realm perfectly yet.

        Scripture exhorts us to, hold fast to the truth once delivered. It is practical, it is spiritual,
        it empowers one and so on. But that is not the main reason.

        We have an enemy of our souls, and betwixt this life and the mystical life it is easy to be led astray, hence hold fast to the truth…..

        Some people have a very strong mystical bent, what they say about it and what they do
        one asks, whom does your mystical life serve, God the devil, oneself, pleasure, what?

        There is also a sound mystical life that emerges when one has the truth, knows the doctrines and the teaching of Christ and the Apostles and follow Him in it.

        One last thing G.D. for your edification. For the Christian a strong mystical life in one is truly personal, it does not have application for everyone, not is it to be applied like that either, it is personal.
        As you have noticed, the Church does not see ones mystical life in terms you describe, they are personal to you.
        But, be careful, The teachings of our Lord and His holy Apostles leads to a healthy mystical life, but again it is personal to you and not to be applied to all and sundry.

  51. Quentin says:

    This has been a very interesting discussion, but I am still not clear about how we view Salah’s state in the afterlife. There are several possibilities: a) his heroic act of love would be sufficient to jump the barrier to be redeemed by Christ. b) to be saved without having faith in Christ also applies to non Christians who lead a life of exceptional love for their fellow man, c) everyone who leads a decent, loving life will in fact be saved whether he has recognised Christ or not.

    Of course we cannot know the answers for sure, but we can consider what, in the light of God’s mercy and justice, we think ought to be the answer. In this regard we might remember that the ‘fallen nature’ which we inherit is not a result of our personal fault. Would we agree that, in the ordinary human way, to blame and punish someone for the sins of his ancestors would be grossly unjust?

    • G.D. says:

      Yes, Quentin i would agree with your last sentence. I view Salah ‘with God’.

    • St.Joseph says:

      The Encyclical of Pope Pius 11 during world war 11 Mystical Corpus Christi 1943.
      It is interesting that it says it condemns ‘forced conversions’ in strong terms!
      Also speaks of euthanasia of the Nazi programmes of the disability of race-based murders of Jews and other minorities and is therefore significant for its reiteration of church teaching, against the killing of people with disabilities..
      Why then in Gods name would The Lord so lack in mercy to send those of different faiths, who believed in Him and lived a life of love for Him and his neighbour be condemned to Hell?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Also ‘we do speak of sin and sinners as Jesus did. it is our duty as Christians, so that we can on earth make this a better world for future generations (that does not give us the priority to Judge the of others) that belongs to God.
        We do as Jesus tells us (The Kingdom of God is close at hand) and Heaven can be found in our lifetime here on earth.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Missed out ‘soul’ after Judge the soul of others.

    • Nektarios says:

      You really can’t second-guess how God will judge Salah.
      we have tried to explain there is nothing in us, or in what we will do, religious, good works
      can or will merit Salvation of God. Nor our believing about Christ or not will not merit Salvation of God. Salvation is of God, the will of God not based on anything in us at all.
      If there was such a thing as meriting the Salvation of God, Christ would not have come into the world.

      He came into the world because the case concerning man as hopless left to himself. He came to seek out that which was lost, to redeem us, forgive us from sin, To be our sacrificial lamb for us. He came also to end the power of the devil and death and to those who believe on Him, will be saved, yes.

      God does not see through Quentin’s eyes and conduct His Judgement upon us all.

      Your other questions are all very interesting philosophically, or liberal religiousity, full of our good sentiments, but God does not see us like that at all.
      He will either see us in Christ or not.

      • We arrye says:

        “we have tried to explain there is nothing in us, or in what we do, religious, good works can or will merit Salvation of God”

        Indeed Salvation is to be saved, so by definition is not and cannot be an act of ones own!

        To my mind reading Scripture, Salvation refers fundamentally to the End of Time, and is relevant to all or most life(s) in creation. However before that it refers to the baptism of repentance & believing, for man; receiving the HS in Jesus name. But, the HS already lives in all things, in all life, so it may indeed be that nothing within us merits Salvation, however something within all is Salvation. But is this HS a persons we are married to, or a friend/aquaintance within us, or within us as the wind and water which comes and goes, goes and comes—or momentarily sparks here and there—more or less uncertainly?

        Putting to one side for a moment the prophesied End of Time apparently expected to come by fire and judgement, and in the meantime any individual final ends by martyrdom (whether visible to others or not), and therefor the (absolute?) necessity to use the word “Salvation”: is it possible that before this expected End comes, some few of fallen man has managed to “merit” his way, perhaps not to the Father, but to some kind of heavenly existence or paradise? Or could any perhaps even have bypassed the Father?

        “None is righteous, no, not one”. (This is a quote from both the Psalms and Romans.)
        But what about Enoch who pleased God and who’s live was “translated”; and Elijah, a mere prophet, taken up to heaven? And what about Job (who was without the law and promises of Israel), and Noah, etc.? (And I won’t blabber on about Melchizedek again; I think my beliefs are well known from previous discussions.)

      • Quentin says:

        My question is not addressed to the interior mysteries of God, but to our understanding of how those who are not formally Christians stand with regard to salvation. Salah is merely a starting example.

        You refer to your theological position on merit as if it were an agreed truism of Christianity. But of course it isn’t. And it hasn’t been since St Paul made it abundantly clear that, through Christ, our good actions are indeed meritorious. So my questions probe the relationship of the good actions of those who are not formally Christians. Your personal take on the relation of faith and works would not seem relevant here.

      • pnyikos says:


        This post of yours strengthens the impression that you stand here for an uncompromising doctrine of Predestination. I mentioned this less than an hour ago in reply to a June 19 post of yours which you addressed to me. Sorry about the tardy reply — I’ve been wrapped up until today in a mathematics conference where I gave a talk yesterday afternoon.

    • pnyikos says:


      I would agree with all of a), b) and c). Others have brought up the case of the “souls in prison” whom Jesus visited according to the epistle attributed to Peter. It strains credulity to claim that they had some precognition of Jesus centuries before his birth. The most logical conclusion, in my opinion, is that the ones whom Jesus took with him into paradise were the ones who had led decent, loving lives. After all, did not Jesus tell someone who told him the ways he had led a good life, “You are not far from the kingdom of heaven”? And did he not tell the rich young man to keep the commandments, only adding that if he wanted to be perfect, he should sell his goods, etc.?

      In the case of Salah, admittedly, it would be presumptious to claim that he is now in heaven, but it would be much more presumptious to claim that the Good Thief is in heaven, were it not for Jesus’s express words that he would be with him in paradise on the same day.

      Salah has it all over the Good Thief otherwise: as Jesus said, there is no love greater than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends. Anyone who quibbles that these Christians were strangers, not friends, misses the point of the story of the Good Samaritan. Just as the Good Samaritan made himself a neighbor of the robbers’ victim, so Salah made himself a friend of the Christians he tried to save.

  52. G.D. says:

    Quite right, nobody said any such thing as far as i am aware. (Wish i could alter this text size i’d make it very very small!).

    There are however people who’s religion is only rational. With no concept of any personal deeper realisation of God. Which is fine if that’s what they are satisfied with.
    But a shame when they denounce others believing because they experience,
    and reject them for going deeper into that experiential knowing to find what it actually IS.

    How else, at the end of the day, will ‘teaching them to OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I have commanded you’ be known to MEAN as in the context (below) and in action, NOW?
    It’s a lot more than is written in the bible, as the bible itself says. A lot deeper than doctrine can intellectually conceptualise. A lot more expansive than logic can conceive of. A lot more than belief can perceive.

    Beyond the mind of man.

    (‘ [17] And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. [18] And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you : and, lo, I am with you all days , even to the end of the world’. ‘Douay-Rheims / Latin Vulgate’.)

  53. ignatius says:

    Its a bit like the referendum this…
    Your answer is probably B)
    we can get quite close to saying C) but not quite on account of the use of ‘decent’ , which is a very slippery term indeed.
    I go for B)…remain in other words!

  54. ignatius says:

    Good stuff this Nektarios:

    “I wonder what gives rise to the couple of questions you raised:
    ‘I wonder — do you think Jesus approves of these actions of yours? Do you think you are being led by the Holy Spirit in doing them?’ I can honestly answer for most of them in the affirmative…..”

    Ho ho ho, well, we needed a laugh didnt we…Look out pnykios..here comes Jesus with his cane.. 🙂

    • pnyikos says:


      I have seen you and Nektarios get into quarrels before, and he should be glad that you were in a jovial mood this time. Read my reply to the post from which you are quoting; you could have been a lot harder on him if you had been serious.

      By the way, I don’t think the Second Coming is any time soon. I go with one translation of the long commandment in Exodus against graven images. It says that God shows mercy on those who are faithful even to the thousandth generation [other translations say a thousand times] and there haven’t been a thousand generations since Moses or Abraham or even (if one takes about 6000 years to the time of Adam) since Adam.

  55. Nektarios says:


    The time is short now for humanity – Forgive my seriousness. Time for such debating is nigh over for all of us. We all need to know and have assurance of where we stand when Christ our Lord returns. He is coming soon!

    • St.Joseph says:

      You may well be right.

      • St.Joseph says:

        We remember this evening on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme (my grandfather included) and for all those who died for peace in the world, hell for many also ordinary citizens who died for the sake of peace. And for those who are still dying for the sake of peace.
        Let us find also peace in our hearts .

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