Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pope Francis and Michael Voris agree about the Church of nice

Pope Francis made an excellent point in his homily today at his Mass with the new cardinals at the Vatican Basilica, when he said: "My brother Cardinals, Jesus did not come to teach us good manners, how to behave well at the table!" In this respect, his theme dovetails nicely with that of Michael Voris, who, over the last year, has been harping about "the church of nice." [Via Rorate]

My own version of this is to talk about "Care Bear Theology." That is, if the Gospel can be reduced to the saccharine message of the Care Bear care-a-lot niceness, who needs Jesus? The words of Pope Francis are even more blunt: if the purpose of Jesus was merely to come and teach us good manners, he said, "he would not have had to come down from heaven and die on the Cross."

This simple but important point goes back to a misunderstanding about the Person and work of Christ that was widespread when I was in college during the era of the Vietnam War, peace protests, and "flower children." There was a widely-accepted conceit that Jesus was primarily a role model, a guru who had come to set an example for us. From John Howard Yoder's scholarly book, The Politics of Jesus, to folk-song-singing and pot-smoking Jesus Freaks, there was the idea that Jesus had come to help us learn to get along more peaceably, to be kinder and gentler, to love our enemies, forgive others, live simply.

As important as these things unquestionably are, to suppose that this was the essential point of Jesus' earthly ministry is to miss entirely the basic point of His Incarnation: Jesus came, not primarily to be our example or even to teach us, but to do for us something that we cannot do for ourselves -- namely, to die for us and atone for our sins.

[Hat tip to New Catholic]


Unknown said...

Yes! With only this reservation: to stop merely at Jesus' life and passion as a means of atonement is to stop to soon!
What is the atonement for? Reconciliation of course! With ourselves and with God. What is reconciliation for? The Kingdom of God. That's the point of it all. That's the Good News. "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." This is salvation: not an end, but a way of living - one that isn't about manners and niceties, but holiness and union with the one who made us. This is to be a saint and, as the Holy Father has said, "To be a saint is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world." - which is for the good of the world and pleasing to God.

Charles said...

Good point, Robert. The Eastern Orthodox understand Christ's atonement in terms of his victory over death, which even goes beyond simple propitiation.

Your point about repentance and reconciliation goes beyond even that. You could even go beyond that with a theology of filial Adoption into God's family. The order of salvation is a rich and multifaceted tapestry, so to speak; and thank you for reminding us of that.