Who Can be Saved by Christ?*

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Introduction

Who can be saved in the Church founded by Christ has long been a big debate among Catholics, Protestant Christians, and non-Christians. Because of cultural diversity and ethnocentrism, Christians, non-Christians, and even atheists believe that they can be saved by their own religion, church, or spirituality. No one accepts that his/her religion is fake and would not save them in this world or in the next life.

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But the problem is: There are numerous religions and forms of humanist and religious beliefs that offer salvation to people in the world or afterlife. The Catholic Church was once the only the dominant religion in the Western world after Emperor Constantine made baptism in the Catholic Church compulsory in the Christian Roman empire during the third century A.D. Thereafter, the Church adopted and preached  the  doctrine that “there is no salvation” outside the Catholic Church. Catholics then believe that Christ founded the Catholic Church as the true Church of Christ. No one can be saved without receiving the sacrament of baptism as the means of membership in the Church. This is the reason why the early Christian missionaries were in a hurry to baptize non-Christians and natives outside Europe in order to save as many people as possible since pagans and unbaptized are judged to go to hell and receive eternal damnation.

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With the growing modernization of the world and the birth of various Christian and non-Christian religions competing with the Catholic Church, the doctrine of “No salvation outside the Catholic Church” would surely bring millions of people to perdition even if they are fundamentally people of good will and conscience. The realization that the salvation of Christ is for everyone and that there is only one Church founded by Christ has inspired Catholic theologians and the hierarchy to revisit the doctrine of “no salvation outside the Catholic Church.” Thus, when the Catholic Church convened the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), a universal council and an assembly of bishops and top theologians headed by the Pope in 1962, a new ecclesiology or model of the Church of Christ emerged.

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Photo credit: http://princeofpeacetaylors.net

This time the doctrine of salvation recognized that the Church founded by Christ is only one, not many, and that this Church includes believers from different religions, churches, and denominations. It also recognizes the possibility of salvation even to non-believers with good will and membership in Christ’s Church through baptism of desire. But Vatican II still held to the belief that the institutional fullness for salvation of the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. With this, the membership in the Church of Christ has a hierarchy with the Catholic Church possessing all the institutional means for people’s salvation, but other religions also share these means for the salvation of their members. People who are faithful to the demands and beliefs of their religion are members of the one Church of Christ and can be saved. Even atheists with good will and who aims to serve humanity can be saved in the Church of Christ. It seems that everyone can be members informally in the Church and can be saved in Christ if they follow the requirements of their religion or possess good will.

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But there is one caveat in the Catholic Church’s renewed teaching on salvation. Even though Catholics are even the fullness of the means of salvation, it doesn’t mean that they are automatically saved if they do not follow what is expected by them by the Church. Moreover, Vatican II also teaches that those who fully recognized or believed in their conscience that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church but “refuses to enter or remain in the Catholic”, would not be saved.

*This article is based of my recollection of my ecclesiology course while studying at Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, under the late Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, S.J.

Photo credit (except Vatican II image): Pexels.com free photos

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Who Can be Saved by Christ?*

pexels-photo-208331

Introduction

Who can be saved in the Church founded by Christ has long been a big debate among Catholics, Protestant Christians, and non-Christians. Because of cultural diversity and ethnocentrism, Christians, non-Christians, and even atheists believe that they can be saved by their own religion, church, or spirituality. No one accepts that his/her religion is fake and would not save them in this world or in the next life.

eye-eyebrows-eyelashes-41942

But the problem is: There are numerous religions and forms of humanist and religious beliefs that offer salvation to people in the world or afterlife. The Catholic Church was once the only the dominant religion in the Western world after Emperor Constantine made baptism in the Catholic Church compulsory in the Christian Roman empire during the third century A.D. Thereafter, the Church adopted and preached  the  doctrine that “there is no salvation” outside the Catholic Church. Catholics then believe that Christ founded the Catholic Church as the true Church of Christ. No one can be saved without receiving the sacrament of baptism as the means of membership in the Church. This is the reason why the early Christian missionaries were in a hurry to baptize non-Christians and natives outside Europe in order to save as many people as possible since pagans and unbaptized are judged to go to hell and receive eternal damnation.

aged-architectural-design-castle-460634 (1).jpg

With the growing modernization of the world and the birth of various Christian and non-Christian religions competing with the Catholic Church, the doctrine of “No salvation outside the Catholic Church” would surely bring millions of people to perdition even if they are fundamentally people of good will and conscience. The realization that the salvation of Christ is for everyone and that there is only one Church founded by Christ has inspired Catholic theologians and the hierarchy to revisit the doctrine of “no salvation outside the Catholic Church.” Thus, when the Catholic Church convened the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), a universal council and an assembly of bishops and top theologians headed by the Pope in 1962, a new ecclesiology or model of the Church of Christ emerged.

vaticanII-image

Photo credit: http://princeofpeacetaylors.net

This time the doctrine of salvation recognized that the Church founded by Christ is only one, not many, and that this Church includes believers from different religions, churches, and denominations. It also recognizes the possibility of salvation even to non-believers with good will and membership in Christ’s Church through baptism of desire. But Vatican II still held to the belief that the institutional fullness for salvation of the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. With this, the membership in the Church of Christ has a hierarchy with the Catholic Church possessing all the institutional means for people’s salvation, but other religions also share these means for the salvation of their members. People who are faithful to the demands and beliefs of their religion are members of the one Church of Christ and can be saved. Even atheists with good will and who aims to serve humanity can be saved in the Church of Christ. It seems that everyone can be members informally in the Church and can be saved in Christ if they follow the requirements of their religion or possess good will.

altar-architecture-art-161092

But there is one caveat in the Catholic Church’s renewed teaching on salvation. Even though Catholics are even the fullness of the means of salvation, it doesn’t mean that they are automatically saved if they do not follow what is expected by them by the Church. Moreover, Vatican II also teaches that those who fully recognized or believed in their conscience that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church but “refuses to enter or remain in the Catholic”, would not be saved.

*This article is based of my recollection of my ecclesiology course while studying at Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, under the late Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, S.J.

Photo credit (except Vatican II image): Pexels.com free photos

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Orthodoxy, Religious Beliefs, and God’s Saving Power during Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana)

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Do ordinary Catholics who are disaster victims in the Philippines hold orthodox beliefs on the Church teaching on salvation?

It has been said that many Filipino Catholics are “unchurched’ or who do not go to Mass, hold official religious beliefs, and receive religious instructions regularly from their parish churches. I tried to test the orthodoxy of the religious beliefs of some Catholic victims of Typhoon Ondoy concerning God’s salvation; thus, I conducted a qualitative research two years ago. I interviewed around 17 poor Catholic mothers who became victims of Typhoon Ondoy (International name: Tropical Storm Ketsana) and relocated in a government low-cost housing project in Rodriguez, Rizal. I asked them how they understood the Church’s doctrine on God’s salvation as experienced during the typhoon. I recorded their narratives in my research notes and analyzed their religious beliefs, whether their understanding of God’s salvation is orthodox or in accordance with the official Church teachings or unorthodox, i.e., folk or a combination of the official and nonofficial or cultural beliefs.

I tried to summarize and analyze their narratives and compared them with the official teachings of the Church. My objective was to know whether their religious beliefs on God’s salvation as experienced during the typhoon are in accordance with the Church’s official teaching.

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Photo:  Satellite image of Typhoon Ondoy, one of the strongest super typhoons to hit the Philippines in 2009 that left thousands of people homeless (Source: http://weather.com.ph/typhoon/climatology).

On the Nature of God’s Salvific Act (Kaligtasan)

The official doctrine of the Catholic Church on salvation (kaligtasan) sees God’s saving action through Christ in the post-Vatican documents as holistic and as a “means to an end.” This means that God saves people both in the material and spiritual sense, even in the miraculous sense, as the Church believes in the existence of miracles. For the Church, salvation is not only saving the “soul” but also saving the body of the person. Salvation is saving the entire person, both his/her body and soul. The Post-Vatican II theology of the Catholic Church therefore sees salvation as both material and spiritual.

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With Vatican II’s friendly stance towards the modern world, the material aspect of saving or promoting human development is even more emphasized in the doctrine. People need to be saved by God from death, poverty, hunger, and all forms of material insecurity and injustices in society as part of His saving plan. However, the official doctrine also emphasizes that whatever material, tangible or miraculous act felt by the believer from God’s saving power, is only a sign or a preliminary step  in the person’s spiritual journey to God.

In other words, God’s saving act is not an end in itself, i.e., just for a display of divine power or magic to impress believers of God’s power, but as a means to an end, the beginning of the long journey towards holiness with Christ.

God’s Saving Power as Material and Miraculous

My informants’ view of the material aspect of salvation is within the Church’s official teaching. This is confirmed by my informants’ religious narratives. For them, the concept of saving, although an act of God, is not abstract but something tangible and material in nature.  Given the great risk to life and property posed by disasters, God’s saving power rescued them from physical harm and total loss of property caused by Typhoon Ondoy, For instance, Aling Sonia, 28 years old, a mother of six also claimed that God saved them physically from harm:

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Sabi ko sa dasal ko noon nang tumaas na ang tubig: Diyos ko! Ilayo mo ako sa kapamahakan, dahil maliiit pa po ang mga anak ko at buntis pa ako at kabuwanan pa. Iligtas mo po sana kami sa kapahamakan. Bahala na kung wala kaming gamit bastat kami po ay ligtas… At dininig naman po ang aking dasal. Kami ay nailikas sa mataas na lugar at dinala sa evacuation center ng Barangay San Isidro bago nabigyan ng pabahay sa relokasyon.

Translation

I said in my prayer at that time when the water was rising: My God, spare me from danger because my children are still very young. I am also pregnant and am about to give birth. Please save us from danger. Come what may, if we are left without belonging as long as we are all saved. And my prayer was answered. We were rescued/brought to a higher place and were brought to the evacuation center of Barangay San Isidro before we were given a house unit in the relocation.

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God’s saving act, for my informants, was not only physical and material, but also miraculous. God heard their prayers and performed a miracle (himala) to save them from death and danger posed by Typhoon Ondoy.

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Aling Anita, 45 years old, an ambulant vendor with 6 children, for instance, claimed that God personally saved her children from the typhoon by performing a miracle. She believed that God sent her friend to save her children from the flood.

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Napakalakas ng ulan ng umagang iyon. Ako’y naglalako ng pang-almusal tuwing umaga. Habang naglalakad, may nakapagsabi sa akin na napakataas na raw po ang baha lugal namin. Natangay na raw po ng baha ang mga barung-barong doon. Nagmamadali akong umuwi subalit ako’y na “stranded” dahil napakataas ang baha sa daan. Balisang-balisa ako noon subalit tuloy-tuloy at taimtim na nagdadasal na sana iligtas ng Diyos ang aking anim na maliliit na anak. Noong oras ding yaon dininig ng Diyos ang aking panalangin. May nakapagsabi sa akin na iniligtas raw sila ng aking kaibigan na malayong nakatira sa lugar namin. Biglang naisip raw ng kaibigan ko na ako’y naglalako tuwing umaga at walang makapagsagip sa mga anak ko kaya pinuntahan n’ya ang bahay naming kahit malayo. Tamang-tama po ang dating n’ya. Inilikas niya ang aking mga anak sa mataas ng lugar bago natangay ang aming bahay ng rumaragasang tubig. Nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa Panginoong Diyos na iniligtas Nya ang aking pamilya sa  bagyong Ondoy!

Translation:

“The rain was so heavy on that morning. I peddled breakfast from house-to-house every morning. While walking, somebody told me that the flood was already very high in our place. The makeshift houses there were already washed away. I hurriedly went home but was stranded because of the high flood on the roads. I was very worried but I kept on praying fervently that God would save my 6 little kids. At that very moment God heard my prayer. Somebody told me that a friend of mine who resided far from our place saved my children. I later learned that my friend remembered that I was vending every morning and that no one might save my children. So she went to my house even if it is remote. Her arrival was on time. She was able to bring all my children to higher ground before our house was swept away by rampaging water. I was really thankful to our Lord God for saving my family from Typhoon Ondoy.”

God’s Salvation as Miracle

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Believing God’s salvation (pagliligtas) as miraculous is an orthodox belief rooted in the Bible and Church teachings. In the Book of Exodus, for instance, God miraculously saved the Israelites from the plagues (Ex. 20). The Gospels are also full of stories of Jesus’ miracles, saving people from all sorts of problems and difficulties (e.g. The healing of the centurion’s slave, Lk. 7: 1-7; The healing of the Gerasene demoniac, Mk.5: 1-20; The cleansing of the 10 lepers, Lk. 17:11-19). The Church’s Magisterium also believes in the existence of divine miracles. In its official document, Dei Fillius (# 3), the Magisterium condemns those who deny the authenticity of miracles.

Although not all of the victims’ narratives implied dramatic and miraculous divine intervention, all my 17 informants, however, believed that somehow God saved them miraculously from the typhoon. All of them lived in danger zones at that time near rivers and creeks when the flood water caused by monsoon rains unexpectedly reached the rooftops of their shanties swiftly. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported that Ondoy poured a month’s rain in 6 hours causing massive flooding in most parts of the country. Believing in miracles (himala) is an orthodox belief and in accordance with the Biblical and Catholic Church’s official teachings.

The Church’s Teaching on Miracles

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A miracle is traditionally understood as a supernatural sign or wonder, brought about by God, signifying His glory and the salvation of humankind (Catholiceducation.org). Although the Church believes in miracle, it does not however see it as an end in itself but as a means to an end. In the official Church teaching and theological explanation, God’s miraculous intervention of God’s saving acts are a call to faith or a sign that invites faith in Christ. They are not meant to satisfy people’s curiosity and desire for magic. They are signs that point to a higher reality, to God’s Kingdom (CCC #540-50). Thus God’s salvific acts invite belief and invite greater intimacy with Him. It is not a private possession to impress people or make people felt that they are favored by God. God saves people to invite them to a lifelong process of conversion:

The process towards salvation and sanctification is not a one-and-for-all reality, but an ongoing interpersonal process of conversion that lasts a lifetime – precisely because it is a relationship with Christ, not an object or private possession.

The doctrinal orthodoxy of my informants regarding the purpose of God’s miraculous interventions during the typhoon appeared to be more non-official and folk rather than official. My own impression of my informants’ interpretation of their survival from the flood of Typhoon Ondoy was a kind of private gift or possession given by God rather than a call, a beginning of a lifelong process of conversion to God. There were no efforts on their part to sanctify their own selves through public religiosity offered by their parish church as part of the doctrine’s requirement. Aling Nita, for instance, recalled that God saved her and her family for the second time from Ondoy:

“Napakabait po ng Diyos. Niligtas po kami ng Diyos noong Bagyong Reming, ngayon niligtas na naman kami sa  ikalawang pagkakataon sa sakuna ni Ondoy.”

Translation:

“God is so good. He saved me and my family from Typhoon Reming before, and now he saved us again from the tragedy of Ondoy.”

Conclusion

In sum, my informants beliefs about the miraculous characteristic of God’s saving act  seemed to be more influenced by the Filipino cultural belief of swerte (luck), albeit couched in spiritual language as one informant would say: Maswerte po ang pamilya namin at niligtas kami ng Diyos sa sakuna ng bagyong Ondoy (“Our family was lucky since God saved us from the tragedy of Typhoon Ondoy”). This implies that most of my Typhoon Ondoy informants held religious beliefs which did not conform fully to the Church’s official teaching on salvation. Their beliefs are, therefore, more folk or a combination of official teachings and cultural beliefs.

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Catholics in the Philippines constitute around 85 percent of the country’s 100 million population. But due to lack of resources, priests and catechists to teach the Catholic faith in the grassroots, the great majority of Filipino Catholics are ignorant of the official teachings of the Church. How to address the folk religious beliefs of many Catholics is a great challenge not only to the local Church in the Philippines, but also to the universal Church, remembering Christ’s command to all Christians:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 19).

Photo credit (except on satellite image on TS Ondoy): Pexels.com free photos

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A Story of Faith in the Midst of Poverty in a Relocation Site

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God does not want people to be poor. Poverty can make people preoccupied with subsistence or worldly concerns of finding the next meal to fight hunger and to be mentally busy in satisfying one’s family needs. The destitute and materially poor Christians are actually have limited time to pray and resources to travel to holy places to enrich their spirituality compared to the rich ones. They have less time to participate in public rituals, such as attending the Holy Mass, as well as joining the other activities of their Parish church.

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Because of the Biblical injunction that God blesses the poor, many Christians think that material poverty can make people humble and more trusting in God. This idea is a misunderstanding of the Gospel’s teaching on being “poor in spirit”. To be poor in the Biblical sense is simply to be detached from material wealth and being attached spiritually to God, whether one is rich or poor. We can see many poor people who are boastful, proud, and even oppressive to their fellow poor and even exploitative of their employers or rich patrons despite their being in the lower class!

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Poverty in spirit is an attitude towards wealth–not a social class position in society–which sees possession of material things as a means and not an end or purpose in life. It is also a form of spirituality, socially learned from one’s religious upbringing in the family, church, or local community. In the Bible, the anawim or the “Poor of Yahweh” are not mere religious individuals but a spiritual community with members, whether materially poor or rich, supporting one another in their faith. Spirituality has a social dimension. One cannot just become religious by being alone, without the social influence of one’s social groups or local community. People are social beings.

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Now, in one of my interviews for my study on the religiosity of Filipino women who were victims of the flood of Typhoon Ondoy (Tropical Storm Ketsana) in the Philippines, I encountered one poor woman named Aling Betty. Her family was relocated in a remote resettlement built by the government in the Province of Rizal. Because of corruption, typhoon victims in the relocation area suffer a lack of livelihood and jobs despite the government’s assurance that it will provide stable jobs and basic social services for the poor disaster victims.

Aling Betty’s strong faith in God exemplifies the strong private religiosity of Filipinos women. International surveys on religiosity consistently identify the Philippines as the most religious country in the world in terms of personal beliefs in God and the Filipino women as the most religious group of Filipinos.

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Aling Betty’s strong faith in God despite extreme poverty in the relocation area for typhoon victims is an inspiring for me. Here’s what I’ve written about her story:

“The story of Aling Betty is one of the many stories of suffering, lack of jobs and sustainable livelihood program in government-owned relocation areas such as Southville 8A. Betty said she saw me conducting interviews in the site and she was hoping that after that I might come back that afternoon.

Click the link below. See for yourself the poverty and substandard houses for disaster victims in Aling Betty’s relocation site:

Southville 8 Relocation Site

Indeed, I went back to the site on that afternoon to check follow up my interview with two key informants. She said prayed and tried her lack to find me.  She said that she has been at the corner of the entrance road leading to  relocation site, sitting on the entrance steps of the relocation chapel.  She said that her family had nothing to eat for supper on that evening and that she was worried for her husband and two young of her 6 children who were sick.  She was hoping that I could help, at least in proving her some food for the family.

Luckily, I have some kilos of rice and canned goods  which I usually give as a token of gratitude to informants after interviews. I learned that her husband, the only breadwinner, who worked as a casual construction worker in the relocation area, was just terminated from his job because his employer found out that he has a heart ailment. Her husband experienced difficulty in breathing. Aling Betty she said she cannot brought him to a doctor for a check-up. The nearest public hospital at that time was Amang Rodriguez Hospital in Marikina City, around 25 kilometers away from the relocation site. They had no money even for the transportation fare. In fact, they worry for their next meal especially that her husband is now sick and unemployed. She said  that she was too shy to approach her neighbors and relatives for help since they too are very poor. Besides, they had already helped her many times and lent her some money.”

Aling Betty has no full-time or part-time job. She has no small trade in the area. She was totally dependent on the meager income of her husband as a casual construction worker.  She said she participated in soap-making seminars and other skills training in the relocation site. But there was capital or support from the sponsors or  local government available to start her own small business. Asked about their future in the relocation site, she said:

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Hindi ko po alam kung papaano pa kami mabubuhay dito sa relokasyon. Sa Diyos na lang kami umaasa na hindi niya kami pababayaan. Nag-aalala kami sa aming kalagayan sa ngayon sa pabahay. Napabayaan po kami ng gobyerno. Walang permanenteng trabaho, walang sapat na kita. Paano matutugunan ang aming pangangailangan lalo na sa mga batang nag-aaral pa, paano na ang kinabukasan nila?

Translation:

I don’t know how we can continue to survive here in the relocation. God is  our only our hope that He will not abandon us. We are worried about our current conditions in the housing. The government has abandoned us. No permanent job, no sufficient income. How can our needs be satisfied especially for our children who are still studying, what about their future?

Indeed, there are poor people who have strong faith in God despite extreme poverty and material deprivation. This is a gift that God provides to those who believe in Him. Didn’t he tell us with these words?

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 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30).

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What is the Relationship between the Material and the Spiritual for Christians?

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Introduction

Whether we believe it or not, life has two dimensions: the material and the spiritual, the real and the ideal.  Life is more than what we eat. That is why religions are born to give meaning to the great tragedies in life such as sickness, accidents, and death, as well as to the realization that there is more that meets the eye, that there is a reality “out there” beyond human experience.

There has always been an ongoing debate on the relationship of these two major dimensions of life. For Christians, the material life is not the ultimate goal in this world. As Christ said "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt.16:26).

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The Beatitudes also teach Christians that the poor in spirit are blessed by God, implying that a strict accumulation of wealth can be dangerous to their spiritual salvation. A true Christian must be detached from material wealth and attached to God spiritually.

But does this mean that Christians must be materially poor to be closer to God?

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The Christian Meaning of Detachment

The word “detachment” from material wealth does not mean material deprivation. Material detachment is an attitude in life that sees wealth as a means to an end rather than an end in itself as many materialists and hedonists believe. A person can detach from material things if his or her ultimate meaning or goal in life transcends the worldly concerns and anticipate the coming of  the afterlife.

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The German sociologist Max Weber made an interesting study on the connection between religion and capitalism. To him, what drives the Protestant capitalists (especially Calvinists) in Europe in expanding their businesses is not pleasure or mere accumulation of wealth for fame or honor in society, but spirituality: becoming wealthy is a sign of God’s blessing and being predestined to be saved by Him in the next life. The Calvinist Protestant theology that guides the spirituality of these capitalists views capital accumulation as means to an end. Thus, Protestant capitalists, Weber discovered, were frugal, determined to expand their business empires without fanfare and pride, since they saw the spiritual or theological meaning of becoming rich in material wealth as a sign of salvation.

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Some people who believe in the afterlife also understand that our mind and memories continue to exist after death.  Our mind is said to be a repository and recorder of our all experiences while we still live here on earth. To George Mead, our mind is a social product. What is registered there reflects our human experiences.

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The power of our mind is confirmed by the near-death stories of patients who briefly died but were able to revive, confirming that our minds are still be active while our bodies are in coma or being declared clinically dead for a short while. Thus, if our human mind is a recorder of memories and continues to exist after death, we can hypothesize that we can take a short glance and review our entire life after death. We can then take a panoramic view of the quality of our entire life after death through our memories and consider it as one big dream. In the Church teaching, the person who just died will not be condemned by God because of his/her few sinful acts. But by the overall orientation of his/her life: whether he or she primarily opts for the good or evil.

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What brings more happiness to our consciousness during this review is probably not the wealth we have accumulated nor the fame and status we achieved in life as they are part of our past material life, but the spiritual realities of joy and loving memories we have had with our loved ones, with people we sincerely helped, and with our God. We can then smile that we live our life as we like it to be or frown for not living a “good” life as our God wants it to be.

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Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who has achieved the pinnacle of success in the business world allegedly mentioned during his dying moments that what matters most in life is not wealth which can turn a person a “twisted being” but matters unrelated to wealth and memories precipitated by love:

Indeed,  memories precipitated by love can make us smile and happy while we review our life script at the end of our lives:

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A scholar or scientist who spent hours of research and writing to sincerely help humanity advance in knowledge and solve some of life’s problems and saw people smiling because his/her works and findings cured their disease or helped them see the world closer to the truth.

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The joy of a mother seeing her baby smiling her back; the happiness of seeing the glowing face of a dying homeless person who silently say “thank you” in his/her last breath because we have given him/her  comfort and care; the consolation of a religious encountering his/her God in prayer.

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The inner joy a person who stood his/her ground against a tyrant regime for sake of the truth and justice; or  the inspiration of the countless unsung heroes who offered their lives for sake of their country, ideology, religion, and social reform.

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Indeed, what is essential is invisible to the eye. We can sometimes be totally influenced by the material realities of life and get hooked in material accumulation for honor and pride. We sometimes take for granted or sideline the spiritual side of life which can provide us  lasting happiness and spiritual joy. Surely, we are spiritually weak and sinful creatures of God. Only the blood of Christ on the cross and the grace of God can make us strong and prioritize the spiritual over the material!

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