This is in part a follow-on to the last CNAG entry on the term “deserve.” There is definitely a tension between the universalist strain within the New Testament that has cropped up from time to time within the history of Christianity, and the opposite, or at least complementary strain that stresses the importance of spreading the message of Jesus Christ and convincing others to explicitly take up his teachings and his way of life.
The problem with the universalist view is, of course, one of practical psychology. If you can be all-or-nothing “saved” without needing to “accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior,” or for that matter go through the instructional and ritual process of the catechumenate and be baptized, then why does it matter whether anybody spreads the gospel or not?
Obviously, I gave the game away with the term “all-or-nothing.” It may very well be, and I believe it is most likely, that many human beings with little or no explicit knowledge and no explicit allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth in this mortal lifetime nevertheless find themselves in His comforting embrace for eternity, because even outside that explicit structure, they ultimately cast in their lot with the good that God made known to them and repented of the evil. Yet that hardly makes it not worthwhile to do what we can to make Jesus known and revered.
First of all, if the reality is that every human being’s destiny is bound up with this man’s life and death, why would we not want to spread the word? The argument, “it’s true and I would want to know” surely suffices on its own.
Second, do you really think that there is no lasting value to doing more good in this life? Is it really the case that the best life is to enjoy as much as possible of this world’s pleasures, do a minimal amount of good for others, and just slide under the wire to make some minimal criterion for salvation (a deathbed conversion, etc.)? That is the stuff of social conformity.
I don’t know whether I can actually change anyone else’s fate by telling them about Jesus, the things I believe He has done for me, or the way Christianity makes the universe make more sense to me. I don’t know whether any of the help I have tried to give by visiting my lonely old greataunt or counseling poor pregnant women or anything else could have done that either. I don’t know if Mother Theresa, in a long life of prayer and caring for the needy, ever flipped anyone’s destiny from hell to heaven; nor do I know that any tyrant or abuser ever did the opposite.
Maybe the good and the evil that we do provide points of departure for other people to make their choices for or against goodness and God, but I have a hard time seeing how God would judge them for anything I did or failed to do.
Yet surely it is still worth while to spread the truth, and if the gospel is the truth, it is the best truth we can spread. I want to do as much good as I can. I don’t want to be mediocre, in time or in eternity.
The Post Christian meditations, written by Paul, address the larger question, “Why do people believe science and the Catholic, Christian faith are mutually contradictory?” They consider the background reasons why people in the modern West desire to punish the faith of their ancestors and deny it credibility, apart from any cogent reasons to reject its actual dogmas and teachings.