Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Penitent Thief

This is in response to an ongoing post over at the Catholic blog - Chad Is Not Enough. (This post will make more sense if you read his first.)

The subject is salvation and whether a small amount of faith on the deathbed is sufficient. I had already talked about the necessity for baptism in the thread. I want to bring up perhaps the best example we have of such a scenario: the penitent thief. He did not receive a literal baptism of water. He was justified though and did of course enter into heaven. He did not feed the poor or go to mass or live a pious life. In fact he lived a terrible one not so dissimilar from my own. But he did have faith in Christ which is necessary. He had true faith. But he wasnt completely void of works either. His faith did in fact drive him to act.

What kinds of good works can you do while hanging from a Roman cross? The thief did in fact rebuke his comrade when he mocked Christ. His faith was not dead. He backed up his belief with works. His heart was truly penitent and he was absolved and justified then & there by Christ Himself. So in the answer to the question which I may have originally misunderstood - of course God can and does save us on our death bed through true repentance. The Catholic Church has always taught anyway that it is God alone who decides who goes to heaven or hell.

The flip side is of course, if the thief had somehow survived the crucifixion, he would be required to live in obedience to the gospel like everyone else. He would be required to go and be baptized by literal water and he would be required to 'approach his own salvation with fear and trembling'. Just a few thoughts...


Anonymous said...

I guess where I see the question being wrong is the focus on the receiver of the gift rather than the giver of the gift.

The incarnation, Christ's life of perfect obedience is not for me until I am saved (read here baptism, altar call, chrismation etc.) and then I must struggle to figure it out and somehow by my own good works try to enter heaven.

No. It was the publican that cried "God be merciful to me a sinner" that went home justified. Nowhere do we see the publican back next week in the robes of the pharasee...

God's peace


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I'm not saying that good works earn our way into heaven. The does not and never has taught that.

I went to your site and I'm a little confused. Are you Catholic?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

*Correction* The Church does not teach that & never has.

Love4theWord said...

You're a little confused. Imagine how I must feel.

Came to Christ at age 8 in United Methodist, became Catholic at age 18, Eastern Orthodox at 30, will be 40 next year and don't know where 'home' is. Have been reading some Scott Hahn and Fr. Groeshal. Like them both alot.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Keep seeking the Truth. It's hard (even impossible) to be "smart enough" or "wise enough" to figure it all out on your own. Thats the beauty of orthodoxy. You dont need to figure anything out, the great fathers of the faith who have gone before us have already figured it out.

I greatly admire the Orthodox church for their faithfulness to orthodox doctrine. May God bless you on your spiritual journey.

Anonymous said...

TheGodFearinFiddler welcome home brother. very impressed to read about your conversion. Your passion and love for Our Lord and His Church is so tangible.
run the good race. like the Lord of the Rings. it is a difficult journey brother. but well worth it. i say. very well worth it.
my prayers and wishes for your good health and faith.
- pio

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thanks for the kind words.

These are exciting times to be coming into the Church. Lots of great things are happening.