Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: Europe

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church was very clear, if not persuasive, about the criteria for everlasting life. Catholics believed, taught, and acted on the belief, that those who died in mortal sin would not attain everlasting life. The claim that non-Catholics would go to hell sometimes led to abuses in the way Catholics attempted to convert the lost and in the way Catholics acted towards those who disagreed with their beliefs.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been less clear about the criteria for everlasting life. Individual Catholics are all over the place in describing their own beliefs about salvation. Some Catholics believe that a good Buddhist will go to Heaven along with all of the people who never even heard the Gospel. Other Catholics still place their faith in the last rites. The trend for the last thirty years of Catholicism though has been moving in the direction of a more inclusive view of salvation.

As Catholicism has expressed a more inclusive view of salvation, Europeans have become less religious and more secular. It’s not a coincidence. Even with the reformation, Catholicism has remained the major Christian religion in Europe. In the period since 1965, Europeans not only stopped believing they needed to be Catholic to get to heaven, they stopped believing they needed any type of faith because the Catholic Church stopped defending the Church’s historic beliefs.

The secularization of Europe is no small matter in regards to the ability of Christians to salt the earth. Western Civilization consists of the United States and Europe. There may come a time when other parts of the world start to produce leading thinkers, but until that time happens, if it ever happens, it will remain the role of Western Civilization to protect and defend the traditional values that created our civilization. The most important of these values is the belief in the Gospel.

Europeans, as a whole, are at least as thoughtful and educated as Americans, if not more than Americans. As a group, they should respond to the arguments in favor of the Gospel if the Catholic Church would once again become serious about defending the historic faith. The Catholic Church doesn’t need to return to the pre-Vatican II days, but it does need to strategically plan and implement policies that lead to more and better Catholic apologists as well as an evangelistic mindset of its members.

1 comment:

Mark Daniels said...

As a Lutheran, I can only say that I earnestly hope that the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, and other Christian bodies in Europe will present a more robust witness for Jesus Christ. He is, after all, "the way, the truth, and the life" and He deserves to be presented as such. Europe is in desperate need of the spiritual renewal that comes from faith in Christ!

Good words!