Month: September 2017

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In Defense of Exaggerated Marian Devotion

A Marian procession in San Cataldo, Sicily, for the Feast of the Assumption.
Protestants aren't the only ones who find Catholic devotion to Mary a bit over-the-top sometimes. A lot of Catholics find other Catholics, including great Saints like Alphonsus Liguori and Louis de Montfort, to be a little "much" when talking about the Virgin Mary. I get it. Take the Salve Regina, for example: it calls Mary "Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope." How is that kind of effusive flattery theologically defensible? After all, Our Life and our Hope is Jesus Christ.

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Is Salvation Our Doing, or God’s?

Michelangelo, Creation of Adam (1512) [from the Sistine Chapel ceiling]
What percentage of our salvation is our doing, and what percentage of it is God’s doing? This is a common way of approaching the question of salvation, and it’s a driving force for a lot of bad theology. For example, Steven J. Cole claims that Roman Catholicism "teaches that in order to gain enough merit for salvation, we must add our good works to what Christ did on the cross." That's a common misunderstanding: since Catholics believe human cooperation is necessary, that must mean we're reducing God's credit from 100% to something lower, right? And it's ultimately for this reason that Martin Luther and later Protestants (most famously Calvinists) will argue that man’s free will in the realm of salvation is basically an illusion: we provide 0% to salvation. Why? To ensure that God gets 100%.

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Do Catholics Make Christianity Too Difficult?

A common complaint against Catholicism is that its view of the spiritual life is too difficult, that it over-complicates Christianity and doesn’t trust enough in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. That’s an appealing complaint, since it proposes a lighter, easier Christianity. But it’s a view we should be extremely suspicious of, given everything else we know about reality. So here are six observations that I think have some bearing on how we think of salvation specifically and the spiritual life more generally:

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