August 4, 2020

“Additional Doctrines,” Baptist Style

In debates and discussions here at Internet Monk.com, a reader is likely to read that Catholics have “added doctrines” to Christianity. My reaction is not so much to challenge the statement- I believe it is a universal fact in Christian history- but to raise the issue of whether evangelicals really shouldn’t be somewhat more careful where they point that particular weapon. It could go off and hurt someone they know.

Just for example, I’ve thought back to my own upbringing in a Southern Baptist fundamentalist church in Western Kentucky. Did I encounter any “added doctrines?”

Let me be clear that I heard the Gospel in this church, was discipled intentionally, learned much about community and leadership and was encouraged and affirmed in my gifts and callings. I’m grateful for all the good the Holy Spirit did in me through that community.

But in this same context, I learned…

1. The only way to receive Jesus Christ and be saved was to walk the aisle at the end of a sermon and repeat a prayer provided by the preacher.

2. That the American flag and patriotic demonstrations were part of worship.

3. The Jesus had founded the Southern Baptist church, which had existed from Biblical times to the present day.

4. That Christians must be teetotalers, and no one in the Bible ever drank wine.

5. The King James Version was the only real Bible.

6. No one could be a Christian if they weren’t a Baptist.

7. There was an extensive dress code and behavior code for Christians that could not be specifically found in the Bible.

8. The civil rights movement was wrong and the Vietnam war was right.

9. Tithing was a New Testament requirement for all Christians.

10. Church sponsored revivals were endorsed in the Bible.

11. Deacons were supposed to run the church.

12. Sunday was a day when all businesses must be closed, and we should vote to impose that view on the community.

13. All true believers had a “born again” experience which they could recall and describe.

14. Being a good Christian was a matter of attending church events. especially all worship services and Sunday School.

There are certainly other matters on which our church taught and promoted questionable doctrines. We were strongly dispensational and had extensive beliefs about the end of the world, for example. If you crawled up inside a lot of things we said and did, you’d find bunches of legalism and even superstition.

The big difference is that these doctrines aren’t part of any Baptist confession of faith, though some were part of our church covenant, and all were frequently preached, taught and enforced.

Are these errors as bad as the extra-Biblical doctrines my church would have charged to Roman Catholicism? Purgatory? Praying to Mary? Papal infallibility? That’s not my call. But they are substantial. They deny or distort important things that all Christians believe.

Just a reminder that we need to be equally aware of our own issues with “additional doctrines” that can’t be substantiated by scripture. (And as I said elsewhere, our Catholic friends wouldn’t claim that everything they believe is clearly taught in the Bible. We did.)

Comments

  1. Whenever I’m getting down on my good ol’ Baptist roots (Anglican now), I watch this best of the best of Rober Duvall’s movies and make sure I can put myself into the scene in the right way. Not that he’s a baptist … but perhaps some of you will know what I mean.

  2. I believe that it is impossible to have grape juice for any prolonged period of time without the modern technology called Pasteurization. Welche was a tempermant movement man, and promoted his grape juice as a temperate alternative to wine in the Lord’s Supper.

    Clive S. Lewis said that any educated person who maintains that they actually used grape juice in the early church is a lying charlaitan.

  3. The only student who has ever been really really angry with me in a Bible class was a girl from Alabama who listened to me say “glass of wine” several times in a lecture on Passover/Lord’s Supper, and stopped me with a look of horror:

    “You think that Jesus drank wine?”

    I said “What do you think he drank?”

    She began to explain that she’d done an extensive personal research project and learned that the wine in Palestine wasn’t actually fermented etc.

    I said that I understood her pov, but there was only one word for wine in the NT, and the warnings about drunkenness made no sense if it wasn’t fermented.

    She got very angry.

    Apologized the next day, and from that moment on decided I was worthless as a teacher, but did well anyway.

    I thought I’d be in the president’s office in a day, but I never heard anything of it.

    It’s hard core orthodoxy down here in Ky- Jesus no way could drink no no no no no way.

  4. One of my favorite passages about drinking alcohol goes even beyond wine. Here’s Deuteronomy 14: 23-16–

    “You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

    Not only “wine” but “strong drink”! In fact, “Whatever your heart desires”! Are we talking about God and the Bible here?

  5. imonk –

    Upon reviewing your list of additional doctrines, I can honestly say, “Been there, done that.” But, don’t you think this relates back to your earlier post on interpreting the Bible? Who instructed you on the dress code in your church? Who taught you that the wine mentioned in the Bible was actually grape juice? Exactly where does it say in scripture that “deacons run the church?” Was it a seminary-trained “professional” who told you, “If the Kings James was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me?” or words to that affect?

    It took me many years (all the while attending Southern Baptist churches) to come to the realization that some folks were preaching and teaching things not found in Scripture. I’ve been called a “rebel” by a few, but I can live with that. You may remember that Tom Cruise movie with the line, “Show me the money!” Well, Preacher, Minister, Reverend, and fellow-Christian – “Show me the Scripture!”

    God Bless.

  6. My church was typical 1950-75 SBC:

    Uneducated clergy, revivalistic, obsessed with legalistic witness, strong evangelism and discipleship but no awareness of the non-biblical water they were swimming in.

    Dispensational, but largely ignorant of the meaning of the Kingdom of God.

    Strongly anti-catholic. and anti-Protestant. Always said “We are not Protestant!”

  7. MNP:

    I believe that it is impossible to have grape juice for any prolonged period of time without the modern technology called Pasteurization. Welche was a tempermant movement man, and promoted his grape juice as a temperate alternative to wine in the Lord’s Supper.

    Actually, the Methodist groups Welch belonged to were advocating unfirmented “wine” in the Lord’s Supper for several decades before the Welches developed pasteurized grape juice. There are some ancient methods for keeping firmentation at bay, but they’re not anywhere near as good as pasteurization. Not to lend creedance to the teetotalers’ revisionist histories regarding biblical drinking, but that’s what I read earlier today.

  8. Welch, I heard about the story of how he developed his grape juice (which is to this day my favorite)

    I tell my wife who is a Southern Baptist, that one of the greatest developments of the Protestant revolt was Welch’s Grape juice. She always gives me a dirty look when I bring it up.

  9. So – the next time someone brings up “Where is Purgatory in the Bible?”, we should wave a carton of Welch’s Grape Juice at them 😉

  10. Ky boy but not now says

    Just so everyone knows, in my neck of the SBC woods, the other end of the state from iMonk in the 60s, tt was considered pastors choice. But only for communion, never outside the church. I can’t quite figure out where they would get it except from non-Christians with that attitude. Which for communion purposes is a bit odd. But most folks would never let logic get in the way of legalism.

    And we were in no way shape or form a non fundamentalist church. Well until we built that new building after the fire and got accused of building a, GASP, Catholic looking church. 🙂

    http://travel.webshots.com/photo/1315501527066441112MFqpmU

  11. Shouldn’t #4 read:
    At the wedding of Cana, Jesus changed the wine into water, not the other way around. (merely a translational error – the original documents were true)

  12. I know your church well. One of the best churches in the state. Just solid all around in the best sense of the SBC’s cooperative, missional vision.

  13. Ky boy but not now says

    If you’re talking to me I haven’t been there except for a funeral or two in twenty years. And I moved away over 30 years ago. I don’t know much about it now.

  14. Is #3 a Trail of Blood reference? If so, that “doctrine” wasn’t limited to Southern Baptists. My Baptist school in Pennsylvania taught it in the 1970s, too.

  15. #7 is Scripturally-based. Dress code and hair length is what Paul meant (and all he meant) when he wrote Romans 12:2.

    At least, that’s what they told me at my high school (which was run by an independent Baptist church — you know the kind that left the SBC because it was too liberal?).

  16. BTW, that’s two different schools in my two comments. I’m a transplanted Yankee. 😉

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy, touche, yeah that’s true – it’s more the idealized ’50s – I always pictured the phrase “Don’t smoke, drink or chew and don’t date girls who do.” as coming from the ’50s, but the cultural taboo against smoking hadn’t quite started yet

    Are all the comments on this thread fun/hilarious or what? IMonk, you’ve been giving everyone way too much fun the last couple days. Independent/SBC fundamentalist Baptists are almost too easy to make fun of. I lived it for a couple years, and enjoyed myself. But their capacity for gleaning all sorts of rules from Scripture is pretty amazing.

    Then, on the other hand, attending Pastor Mark Dever’s church in D.C. later was a breath of fresh air. There are some really good exceptions out there.

  18. With a Missionary Baptist upbringing, I get to play this game. We, too, faced Nashville when we prayed. :>)

    However, I really believe that it is part of fallen-human nature that Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, Pentecostals each could name their own lists of colloquial (but extra Biblical) “idioms.” I even think, if I could create my version of the perfect church . . . in time (maybe in one generation), if we weren’t careful . . . it could go to seed.

    With that said, I wish I could tell you the honest truth about my church’s list, but it would be so extreme that you would assuming that I was embellishing. I will mention a few of the more constrained lessons I learned.

    1). I learned that having long hair, hair that went over my ear, was an outward sign I was gay. Gayness disgusted God to the point that it made Him want to throw up.

    2). A perplexing lesson that premarital sex was sin . . . yet, parking, and necking for hours and having a girlfriend for years was very healthy and encouraged. Buying or having condoms was evil. Getting pregnant meant you were a worthless tramp and your entire family was trash. Yet, if you happened to be a boy and turned 18 and still was a virgin, meant you were a sissy . . . or gay. Gayness disgusted God and made Him want to throw up.

    3). Having a big Bible on your coffee table, and one with your name on it, which you carried to church, made God happy. But if you read the Bible too much, you would go “Bible Crazy” and end up in the local mental hospital, called “Green Valley.”

    4) Music with a beat was from Satan. Listening to and singing along with the old Nashville Hymnal pleased God. If you didn’t like that kind of music, it meant that you were “of the world.”

    5) Jack was our role model. He had very short hair. He wore suits to church. He led the choir was the Sunday School director . . . and was a hard church worker.

    Jack carried a large, white KJ Bible. He never drank alcohol and not only he didn’t swear, but he never said “darn,” “Shoot,” “Crap” or any other substitute for “swear words.” God loved Jack a lot.

    I couldn’t understand why my mother always stood between Jack and me, and never let me go to his house for youth Bible study. When I was older I found out that he was sexually molesting many of the young men . . . including my older brother. All the adults knew what he was doing, but never spoke of it outside of whispers.

    There’s more of the story here:

    http://evangelicalinthewilderness.blogspot.com/2008/11/my-manuscript-chapter-nineteen.html

  19. I grew up in the SBC in Central FL during the 90’s and didn’t realize the majority of Christians accepted drinking alcohol in moderation, and *gasp* actually used it in the Lord’s Supper. I only learned this later on, after much confusion and stumbling from seeing fellow Christians I admired (but were non-baptist) partake.

    Revivalism was strong. Once a year we got some speakers to come through, lined up some testimonies from current members, and went to church every night for a week. Lots of praying and crying.

    The tithing thing, yeah everyone I knew accepted that as LAW, not tithing in full was backsliding at best. But the Assemblies of God church I frequented years later was just as bad, or worse if you consider the fact the pastor announced specials “times of blessing” when giving above and beyond would yield you a “special” blessing from God Himself. I guess the church’s bank balance was slipping those months. The irony was this was a very anti-catholic church and believed THEY were being led by the spirit, yet treated their own pastor/founder like a pope himself!

    The PCA church I am part of now is very behind in the times and fairly fundamentalist, mostly because of the strong SBC/charismatic fundamentalism culture here in small town NC. I brew my own beer and make my own cider at home and don’t dare tell anyone because teetotalism is strong enough it would be a hassle.

    I’m thinking of staying Presby at heart but attending Lutheran to be around some intelligent Christians, and still away from rampants liberalism, and popery which I want nothing to do with, neither one.

  20. imonk,

    How do you figure that fundementalism loved you? Are you just basing it on perceived intentions?

    You mentioned a couple of good ways in which you were nurtured, but that doesn’t negate the ways you were harmed.

    It seems to me that love is actions and that if you teach someone lies you are not loving them. You might mean to love them, but you are hurting them.

    I am also curious what your definition of a cult is? I know some people say that it is only when an essential doctrine (whatever that is suposed to mean) is denied, but it would seem to me that the NT seems to point to those who are purposely divisive (only baptists are really christians) and those who abuse their authority (questioning is rebellion) are along the same lines as heretics/cultists.

    I lived in what I would consider a cult for over three years and while they had some fruity theology it is ultimately their abuse of (assumed) authority and the “we’re the true church” stuff that makes me believe they are a cult.

    I believe the leadership had good intentions towards me much of the time and a sincere zeal for God, but to call what they did to myself and the others in that church love is quite a stretch.

    We weren’t Baptist. Just for the record.

  21. Christopher Lake says

    Michael,

    I know that there are a lot of visible reasons to be pessimistic about Mohler’s, Dever’s, and 9 Marks’ influence within the SBC, but in the comments of your “12 Churches, 12 Calvinists” post, two “Reformed SBC’er” people posted (a young pastor, and another pastor’s wife) who were working in small, rural churches for Biblical reform. They weren’t trumpeting Calvinism; they were loving the congregations and pointing them in the direction of better teaching. The work seemed to be bearing fruit. These are small signs of hope in the overall SBC machine– but they are there.

    Another sign of hope– *Jerry Vines* wrote a complimentary blurb for Mark Dever’s book, “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.” Unexpected bedfellows, to be sure, but isn’t that *some* progress for the SBC? Also, Paige Patterson has expressed alarm over the lax state of membership in many SBC churches. 9 Marks may be making a larger long-term impact than we think in SBC life. I can only hope and pray. Time will tell. I do know that there are many young men coming out of Southern Baptist seminaries with good, sound theology and methodology for the local church, and they aren’t all going into the non-denominational churches, the PCA, or Sovereign Grace Ministry churches.

  22. Martha:

    Just remember you can only wave the Welch’s grapejuice at the Baptists. 🙂

    In all seriousness, I think the extra doctrines the RCs provide are harmful. I know a woman who left RC because she had an infant who died. The baby had been baptized and therefore buried in the RC cemetary. She then had a stillborn baby. The church leadership would not allow her to bury her stillborn baby near her baptized baby, in the RC cemetary, because the stillborn baby was in Limbo. She not only walked away from RC but no longer has any faith at all.

    These doctrines, which RCs must assent to, such as Purgatory, Limbo, etc. can really cause emotional damage to people when carried out to their logical application in every day life.

    I do think I have read somewhere that the RCs have now given up Limbo. Is this true?

  23. Boethius:

    Please consult the catechism and recent statements of the church on Limbo, including one linked in my Cantalamessa post. You are misrepresenting the church’s current views on Limbo. Benedict 16 has clarified this RC teaching.

    I agree that in the past this doctrine was horrible, but the church’s views have “clarified.”

  24. The SBC isn’t about good theology. Good theology is great. The SBC is about cooperative missions, and all of this crowd funds missions independently far more than through the CP. That’s the death of the SBC.

  25. Geoege C:

    I was there. They loved me. When my dad became mentally ill, they loved me. They taught me. They affirmed my gifts and let me exercise them. They supported my education. They were family to me.

    The doctrinal aberrations didn’t erase the love I experienced from family and friends.

    I know. It was my life.

    ms

  26. I graduated from Southeastern 10 years ago and saw many reformed guys there as well, both faculty and students. There were many reformed guys in the IMB as well. Instead of parading under the angry-Calvinist banner, the guys I know teach with a high view of God, love the people, cooperate in missions, and hopefully will see long term fruit. I hope there are more than 6-10% of pastors like this in the SBC although I do think you are correct that the churches themselves don’t want to go in this direction. If change is going to come it will be through loving, patient, biblical pastors teaching the Bible and loving the people, not beating it down the throats of the churches. You also need to remember that it is still hard for an SBC seminary graduate to go to the PCA… I looked down that road… and Sovereign Grace is pretty restrictive in their church planting… you must come from within their churches to be considered and then you also have to go to their pastors school.

  27. Ummmmm how long ago was that Boethius? When my mom had a still born baby, the nuns at the hospital baptized him, and he was buried in a Catholic Cemetery. That particular cemetery has a special section for babies/very young children that died called, “Holy Innocents.” Not all of those children were born dead either – I’ve looked at some of the dates on the marker. And keep in mind – my family isn’t Catholic!!! My mom let them baptize the baby because she thought it would mean something to my step-father’s Catholic parents.

    That’s one of the reason I’ll always have great affection/respect for the Catholic Church. When the schools in the city I lived in with both substandard and unsafe – the Catholic Church educated me. When my family didn’t have enough food to eat – the Catholic Church fed us. When my brother died and we couldn’t afford to pay for a burial – the Catholic Church paid for that too.

  28. My personal favorite extra law: if your wife has been divorced, you are excluded from serving in the pastorate. Never mind that the Greek of 1 Tim 3:2 reads “mias gunaikos andra” – man of one woman or husband of one wife. It says nothing at all about the wife and whether she had been married before – we have our traditions from the fathers. So, while we’re having a “leadership crisis” we’re going to exclude somebody for an extrabiblical “commonsense” interpretation that is neither common nor sensical.

    Interpreting the Bible honestly and contextually too often takes a backseat to that part of human endeavor that is always involved in whatever is stupid, petty and vindictive: politics.

  29. Memphis Aggie says

    Imonk

    The concept that infants without Baptism might be not be saved arose from the rejection of Pelagianism and the acceptance of the doctrine original sin. I think limbo was always a “theological speculation” to roughly quote Benedict XVI (that’s the clarification you mentioned) but because it came from St. Augustine it was influential. The doctrine of original sin is crucial in understanding the need for grace but as an unwanted side effect it gives rise to fear for the eternal welfare of children and infants (hence infant Baptism). The fact is we don’t really know what becomes of the souls of infants innocent of any worldly sin but carrying the original flaw. Modern Catholics rely on the concept that grave sin requires knowledge of it’s gravity to me mortal. Thus under that construct the innocent unbaptized infant carries only the fatal flaw of original sin as a potential but unrealized weakness or proclivity that is not yet mortal sin.

  30. From the linky that iMonk sent from Fr. Cantalamessa:

    “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” (CCC, 1261).

    and

    I must confess that the mere idea of a God eternally depriving an innocent creature of His vision simply because another person has sinned, or because of an accidental miscarriage, makes me shudder…and I am sure would make any unbeliever happy to stay away from the Christian faith. If Hell consists essentially in the deprivation of God, Limbo is Hell!

    I was listening to some of Fr. Cantalamessa’s sermons on preaching. Dude has some wisdom goin’ for him.

  31. Memphis Aggie says

    Obed

    I think you have it right. Limbo arises from the apparent conflict of believing in original sin and in a merciful generous God. However I believe that Limbo never existed and that unbaptized innocents are either baptized by Angels or summarily judged innocent on the Last Day. In any case this relates to the concept of graces existing beyond the range of the visible Church. Another way of expressing it is that while God has promised grace through the sacrament of Baptism and we rely on that promise He is not limited to giving grace only through Baptism. His ways are not our ways so He may have any number of alternative modes of grace.

  32. When you get down to it, every church has their own set of traditions – many of them extra-biblical. I’ve served in six different SBC churches over the past 30 years and have noted a few of the above listed “additional doctrines,” but not all. I’ve served primarily in larger, urban congregations which tend to be less fundamentalist. All were very conservative.

    In the first church I served as an associate pastor, our pastor required the staff to wear a suit to work – every day! (A blazer and tie were not sufficient). If it was 105 degrees in August, we had to have that coat on. I dearly love this pastor (now retired) and still count him as a good friend. He loves Jesus and cared for his flock faithfully, but I never understood his dress-code obsession. After he retired, the first thing to go was the dress code. No one complained.

  33. Bob Sacamento says

    You forgot “no dancing.” Are you sure you’re really saved?

    I got into a real fundamentalist sort of group in my college years. They taught me to really look down on the folks in the church back home for not being “dedicated.”
    I still today think that the folks in the home church (and I) could be more “dedicated.” But mostly I am just grateful that I grew up in a church full of people with bucket loads of common sense and humility. Knowing that there were other ways to practice your faith, I was eventually able to say goodbye to the fundies without saying goodbye to Jesus himself.

  34. I believe that it is impossible to have grape juice for any prolonged period of time without the modern technology called Pasteurization.

    The way I heard “wine” rationalized by people who didn’t want to believe it was what the rest of us call “wine” was that what it really meant was NEW wine. Grape juice will naturally ferment, but in Bible Times, they only let it ferment just a little, so it had a teeny bit of alcohol in it and would keep.

    I now know that it doesn’t quite work this way. First, that much alcohol isn’t enough for the wine to “keep” unless there is essentially no sugar left after fermentation — if there’s sugar, natural yeasts will go after it. Second, since I think their mental image of “just a little alcohol” was on the order of 1%, that means you’d have to pick your grapes very, very unripe (before they had significant sugar in them) in order for this to work. But that’s what they believed.

    iMonk, I can’t believe you forgot GAMBLING in your list of rules. I’m used to associating with people who agree with me that gambling is bad, and I keep getting surprised, because I now work for a Catholic institution where social events often include bingo and the like.

    Peace.

  35. We are veering off subject a bit….But, infant death, or children of any age for that matter, is something that we must simply trust God with. We can wrestle and toil with what might be or what God thinks, but it will really get us nowhere since the scriptures are pretty vague regarding this difficult reality.

    We must trust God for who He is. Period. For He alone is Judge….and a merciful, faithful, loving, and grace giving One at that.

    Peace

  36. Memphis Aggie says

    Back on topic. If we can drift from the Gospel in an over reaction to a real world problem (drinking, drug abuse etc). Where have we/or have we drifted in over reaction to today’s real world problems? I think temperance is much less blameworthy than prosperity Gospel. To me, temperance is a response to real problems while prosperity gospel is just hucksterism. Or is that just my modern perspective talking? Surely poverty is a real problem as well and some Biblical prescriptions around debt and the like just make sense. Maybe some of the prosperity fantasy rose out of good intentions and willful self deception rather than motives of cynical manipulation.

    Hard to know, but what I really wonder about are not so much the large scale failures I can easily spot in someone else but the possibility that I may err in a similar way. If nothing else this blog regularly highlights clear differences between sincere followers of Christ. In seeking Christ I need to ferret out those occasions when I may rationalize the Gospel or excuse myself too easily. While it’s easy to say the prosperity Gospel is too materialistic do I examine my own practices? I just bought yet another Spiderman toy for my oldest for Christmas. What am I teaching him? Christ was born in poverty and slept in a pen feeding animals his first night. So I go on to celebrate his birth with garish lights, excess feasting and excess merchandise.

  37. j. Michael Jones:

    Reading Imonk is like a cup of coffee for me and some of these posts can really get me laughing – a good laughing, not at the person or even the topic or in a judgemental way, but in the way, and the tempo the post was written – some of you could be comedy writers. That’s how your post above started out – until I got to the bottom – prayers to you guys, unfortunately whether you be Baptist or Catholic or even just a kid in school, that kind of evil lurks…

  38. The grape juice thing is an interesting idea – I believe there was more wine drinking (no pasteurization and the grape juice naturally fermented) because you could get sick on the water…

    I won’t speak to Baptist man-made tradition since I am not a Baptist and have no experience here…

  39. Boethius, I’m old enough to remember being taught about Limbo in school and yes, in the old days (up to the 1960s/70s), it was indeed the tradition that unbaptised infants were not buried in the consecrated ground of the graveyard.

    This was indeed harsh, and thanks be to God that it has now changed. As I recall, Limbo was taught to us as a place of “perfect natural felicity” – no suffering or certainly not regarded as a place of punishment, but the deprivation of the Beatific Vision.

    However, it was always more along the lines of a hypothesis rather than a firmly taught doctrine such as (yes) Purgatory – a theological construct as an answer to the perpetual question of “So, suppose a good man – a man whom we or anyone would call a virtuous man – dies, will he be damned for lack of baptism? How is this reconciled with a merciful God?” That’s even addressed by Dante in the “Divine Comedy”, where he uses the example of a man living in India, who has no opportunity to be baptised – can he then be held as culpable as a man living in Christian lands? How is this justice?

    On the other hand, to say “Everyone can go to Heaven” then means that you deny the necessity of Baptism – and if baptism is not necessary, then why is it done? Why was it instituted in the first place? If it comes to that, what is the necessity for being a Christian if a good Hindu, Buddhist or Taoist has an equal chance of attaining Heaven as long as they are (naturally) virtuous?

    So the current position is we don’t know what happens the souls of unbaptised infants but we rely on the mercy of God.

    As an aside, I have to say that outside the question of babies and small children, Limbo made sense to me as an intellectual construct and I can see why it was proposed; it’s not a place of suffering or punishment, it deals with the problem of reconciling justice and mercy, and it offers a middle ground between declaring all save Christians are unequivocally damned (whether or not they even had a chance of knowing God) and Universalism which has its own problems. But in the end, it’s the mercy of God we must all rely on. And, as Dante answers his own question, we should be a lot more worried about the state of our own soul than wondering if a hypothetical Indian pagan is damned 🙂

  40. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    If we can drift from the Gospel in an over reaction to a real world problem (drinking, drug abuse etc). Where have we/or have we drifted in over reaction to today’s real world problems? — Memphis Aggie

    No individual or culture is conscious of their own blind spots. That’s why they’re called “blind spots”.

  41. Boethius – so if grape juice only works on Baptists, can I wave my Pioneer pin at the Methodists? 🙂

    The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart is an Irish sodality for lay people who voluntarily vow to abstain from all alcohol as an act of reparation for the abuse of alcohol. They recite the “Heroic Offering” prayer twice daily and have a badge they wear. And, interestingly enough in light of what Michael said about the influence of women in the temperance movement and Evangelicalism, it was co-founded by four women because membership in the early days was confined to women.

    Traditionally (I don’t know if it’s stil done nowadays), when you made your Confirmation (at age 12), you were also given the opportunity to ‘take the pledge’ until the age of 18 (legal drinking age in Ireland).

    With studies showing that the average age for Irish people to start drinking is 13(!), maybe this isn’t such a bad idea anymore… but please remember, all this is *voluntary* and no-one *has* to do it. The whole point is that abstention is seen as a mortification, a sacrifice, since drink is a natural good, is licit, and hence a gift of God, if not abused.

  42. Just to clarify that last – no, I’m not a Pioneer, never got the pin, and do indeed take a drop now and again 🙂

  43. Aliasmoi:

    The woman I am referring to was a coworker of mine. She was elderly and I am sure she has passed on by now. I wonder which baby she is buried next to, if she is with either of them. Too bad the RC did not clarify this doctrine before she passed on.

  44. Its worth keeping in mind that different dioceses in different places were apt to handle doctrines like Purgatory in different ways. What might have seemed normal and natural in one Irish-American church might have seemed severe and unnecessary in a Catholic church in a Polish American community.

    Kind of like the SBC.

    If one dumbass pastor tells you that you can’t Really Be Saved if you’re really into Metallica, and you leave the church as a side-effect, nobody standing by would blame the SBC or the Reformation for introducing such divisive doctrines. They’d blame (or, probably, commmend) that guy. That would be wrongheaded.

    Despite the fact that Metallica sucks and banning them is in good taste, I mean.

  45. Memphis Aggie says

    Headless

    I may not be aware of my own faults, but I’m confident my wife can tell me 🙂

  46. Martha:

    (off subject) – Do you speak Gaelic too (the Irish ancestorial instinct in me wants to know)? Actually the Irish side of my family were legendary drinkers and singers in their own mind (although I imbibe very little because waking up to all the little ones on a hangover is a bit torturous).

    Patrick Lynch:

    It is interesting that in America in the nineteenth and early twentieth century the Catholic Church was very cultural. German Catholics did not mix with Irish who did not mix with Italian who did not mix with Polish – and each had their own little “t” traditions along with different emphasises on Big “T” traditions. Kind of how the Eastern Orthodox operate today (from what I understand there are cultural divides between the churches that sometimes cause issue).

    Boethius:

    In some Catholic cemeteries there are actually areas set aside for markers to honor those babies lost to abortion. These markers are put there by women who, through the process of regret-pain/healing/forgiveness (Project Rachel) want to remember the life that could have been and mourn their decision.

  47. Interesting post. The exercise of dogmatic theology is to say no more than Scripture warrants nor less. The history of dogmatic theology shows that there is a tendency toward one ditch or the other – to say more than Scripture says and also to say less than what we are given to say.

  48. Radagast – ah, the Language Revival question!

    Unfortunately, like the majority of my countrymen and women, despite learning it at school, I am not a fluent speaker of the First Official Language. That’s a tortuous question in itself – why are we so bad at learning our own language? But I can make an attempt at the “cúpla focail” (literally, ‘couple of words’) 🙂

    Nollaig shona agus ath-bhliain faoi mhaise daoibh (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all)

    Here’s a link to Irish phrases for use on the radio (common greetings, etc.):

    http://www.forasnagaeilge.ie/dynamic/publications/29987_BCI_English_Irish.pdf

    As a sidenote, it throws a revealing light on Irish sporting practices by giving the following useful phrases for commentary on games:

    “X is injured/bleeding/stretched on the grass
    Tá x gortaithe go dona/ag cur fola/sínte ar an bhféar
    X is leaving the field
    Tá x ag imeacht den pháirc
    X is being carried on a stretcher
    Tá x á iompar ar shínteán”
    😉

  49. Okay, this is totally off-topic, but on that last, I can’t resist giving the helpful phrases for radio weather forecasting in Irish:

    “It is going to rain
    Tá báisteach air
    It is pouring rain
    Tá sé ag stealladh báistí
    It is lashing rain
    Tá sé ina ghleadhradh báistí
    There is more rain
    Tá tuilleadh báistí ann
    There are floods on the roads
    Tá tuilte ar na bóithre”

    As they add, “Tóg leat do scáth fearthainne/báistí (Take your brolly with you)!” 🙂

  50. Radagast, immigration really does do crazy stuff to religion. I read a pretty sweet book about the subject called “American Catholic” by Charles Morris ( http://www.amazon.com/American-Catholic-Sinners-Americas-Powerful/dp/0679742212 ) that has a lot of information on how different strands of Catholicism have become dominant or declined over time in our country. Interesting stuff – you never realize how many statistics you’re a number to until you start to look at immigration.