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Jesus' life and words

Life, Love and Law

Life, Love and Law: Chapter 1


What «Good News»?

1. What I was thought as a child

I was born a Roman Catholic in 1946. I went to a good parochial school run by a religious congregation and then to a Jesuit College in a prosperous part of Montreal.

I was taught that Hell, pain for ever and ever, was the penalty for one act or thought of masturbation, for missing Mass on one Sunday as well as for a whole catalogue of other sins. I remember terrifying nightmares about Hell. The only way to avoid Hell was either not to sin in such ways or if you did, to get absolution as a result of confessing these sins to a priest and promising to really try not to sin again.

Going to Purgatory was the penalty for one lie or for hitting my brother. It meant pain until God was satisfied. God was the One Who Punishes humans for their sins. Of course, Purgatory would be followed by Heaven, where we would be forever happy with God.

We humans found sinning easy. As God was hurt by our sins, He would get angry at us. Jesus came to stop His Father's wrath1: He came to pay the price required so that some might be saved, the good Roman Catholics who died without unabsolved mortal sins.

We would pray to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was in Heaven with Him, that she would intercede for us sinners with her Son. We would pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and were taught that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. To be united to Him in Heaven, we had to receive Baptism, go to Communion at least once a year, and not die in mortal sin. Nearly all others would go to Hell : «out of the Church, no salvation»2.

The good people who never had the option to become good Roman Catholics would go to limbo, a place where they would not be unhappy for ever but neither would they be with God while the ones who had a chance to convert and did not were bound for Hell.

2. What I now believe

I now consider that most of those views are incorrect, that God cannot condemn even the worst human offender to eternal torture (Hell) and that this is part of the «Good News» Jesus brought us.

Before I try to prove such a point, permit me to express my revulsion for someone who would condemn a lower life-form's transgressions of some laws that he had set up by transforming it into a higher life-form so as to punish it more that would be possible within the framework of its initial existence. Humans are not eternal; their sufferings for transgressions are thus limited to this life. What kind of sadism is required from someone who would recreate these beings so that their sufferings would be magnified and everlasting? How can a human wish such a fate on anyone without also being a sadist? And is not this the wish often expressed by many «God-fearing Christians»?

The Church made a point of talking about Jesus' compassion. We had the Feast of the Sacred Heart and now also that of the Infinite Mercy. But even today we talk as if Jesus had to placate His Father. This position is untenable and I can prove it as it is written3I and my Father are one.»4 and «Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.»5

So here is my thesis, which I will prove in the following pages: If Jesus is the Expression, the Word of the Father, He cannot placate the Father. The simple fact that Jesus came to save us shows that God the Father is Saviour. God is the «One Who Loves Unconditionally and the Same» the good and the bad, the just and the unjust. Jesus is God Incarnate. He and the Father are One. And His name means «LORD saves» because this is what God is: One who saves, not One who condemns. While humans condemned God to death by crucifixion, He raises humans to Eternal Life, a Life of Being Loved, not a life of eternal torture.

3. How I intend to prove my thesis

I now have to show conclusively that this thesis is true. As a Roman Catholic, I must base my proof on Sacred Scripture. My Church recognizes as Sacred Scripture the books found in the Septuagint (the books of the Old Testament in Greek), the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and other texts considered written by the Apostles (Epistles, Hebrews and Revelation).

Some people doubt that the Gospel texts represent what Jesus said and did. They consider that they were written late, after all the Epistles. So they doubt their value: how could an oral tradition be accurate? The best you can hope for would be to keep the gist of the story most of the time. Who could trust such documents? Of course, if the story of Jesus is untrustworthy, theologians are wasting their time studying it and Christians who live according to Jesus' sayings are living according to a lie.

I have examined this problem in my essay Christians and Scripture from a Christian point of view and found solutions that, at least, satisfy me.

The Bible was one of many books that my Church forbade me to read when I was a child. The reasons were that I did not have the knowledge required first to choose the sound interpretations among all the possible ones and second, to decide which of its stories, commands and laws I was not to follow.

My Church is right in denying that in the Bible, all possible interpretations are valid and all possible excerpts are relevant. Again I have tried to find in my essay Christians and Scripture what validity conditions a Christian interpretation must satisfy. (These will be necessary, not sufficient.) I consider that the results I worked out there provide a workable method to read Scripture so as to check if indeed the God of Jesus is incapable of condemning.

In a nutshell, I have determined there that 1) the Gospels' texts are trustworthy in that they convey correctly the words and actions of Jesus as far as they pertain to His message; that 2) these texts have absolute precedence over any other texts found in the Christian Bible and so are the only ones required to fathom God's Message as expressed in His Son and Word; that 3) any interpretation of any text of the Gospels must face successfully the test of coherence with the other texts found there: an interpretation which contradicts another text found in the Gospels just cannot be correct.

In short, the value of this work written to the «Greater Glory of God» (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam) depends on the correctness of my methodological assumptions and the soundness of the Gospel texts. Anyone who does not accept both will be unconvinced.

May God, Who came in our wretched world to be condemned to die by us, help me find the right words to express what He wants me to say about Him, our Suffering Servant who was tortured to death without fighting back and acts towards us as if we had done none of those terrible things, terrible things we continue to do to Him as we do them to our fellow humans whom He loves absolutely and unconditionally. Amen.

May Mary, His mother and our advocate, who was at the foot of the cross when her Son died and never seeked revenge, pray for us sinners. May we be like her, filled with God's Spirit, a Spirit that gives a peace not of this world as it is based on genuine forgiveness. Amen.

1 «Et de son Père arrêter le courroux:» (And stop His Father's wrath:) From the «Minuit, Chrétiens!», (O Holy Night!) written in 1847 by Placide Clappeau (music by Adolphe Adam)

2 «Salus extra ecclesiam non est.» (St Augustine, De Bapt. IV, c. xvii. 24)

3 All English quotes from the Bible are from the King James Authorized Version. Following Protestant practice, Jesus' words are in red throughout.

4 John 10:30

5 John 14:10

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 6th, 2004

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