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OK, this entry has my attention, not in the least because every man wants to protect his secrets*. The lesson from this advertisement? Protect your cullions with a shield – Blue Cross Blue Shield.Let me also help crack the nuts of this ad’s other, somewhat more latent message, namely that Pelagianism doesn’t pay (enough). Indeed, our funny little boy in the Blue Cross advert has (perhaps unintentionally) been caught up in a long-standing soteriological feud between Protestants and Catholics.Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance is something we buy in case we are injured (whether in this way – God forbid - or another) so that, upon injury, we might have coverage, a kind of “shield” against the unaffordable costs of necessary medical treatment. No doubt, if this advertisement were to air on television, many a man would come to the Blue Cross for their chain mail of health coverage. But not all who would call would be covered, not even with a fig leaf. So don’t count on singing “Just as I am” on the way to the Blue Cross. If the recipient of this unfortunate kick also had cancer, he would find BCBS not so keen to provide affordable coverage for his much needed nut-balm.Blue Cross Blue Shield has come to call the healthy, not the sick, even though, of course, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick (Mark 2:16-18). To be fair to BCBS and all health insurance companies, they have really come for those of us who are potentially sick, but healthy-enough to get a policy. This means that the sickest people usually cannot join such a health care body as BCBS. I mention this not as a tirade against BCBS or our private health care system, but to note the real-life constraints and limits that the Blue Cross can provide; if they offered affordable health care insurance to all the very sick, then Blue Cross would be in the red before you could shake a stick.While Blue Cross Blue Shield comes not for the already-too-sick, our Lord dies on the cross for us, shielding us from wrath and judgment, no matter how sick we are and despite (or rather because of) our inability to pay for such coverage ourselves. I do not mean that salvation is merely “coverage” of sin and its consequences, and a shield from God’s wrath. Nor do I mean to suggest that people should think of Christianity as akin to a health insurance policy (or more appropriately a life insurance policy) whereby we take up Christianity just in case the afterlife leaves us with unpaid debts, in order to receive God’s long-term care.Rather, by analogy, may I suggest that one of the differences between Reformed and Catholic soteriologies is that the Reformed tradition insists that Christ has fully paid for all of our salvation “insurance premiums” in advance? If we were to slip-up and miss this or next month’s payment, our policy would not be terminated or even be put in jeopardy of termination by our Provider. This would of course mean that our own merits and the merits of the Saints et al of the Catholic parade are superfluous, the price for coverage having already been paid in toto by the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ who “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7.25).Even to suggest that we could somehow contribute to our own “salvation premiums” when they are all already paid through Christ’s cross and ever-living intercession is at best a quaint, even humorous thought, from the Reformed perspective. The Reformed believer may perhaps think that God is even a bit amused by the Catholic view, namely that we can help out a bit to sustain our coverage from God’s present or final judgment, much in the way that a father might be amused (sort of tickled) by any gesture from his adopted son that he must somehow be a good enough adopted son to be counted as a “real” son and therefore eligible to be on the family health care policy. “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3.25-26) One preacher said all this better than I. On a Sunday years ago I visited a church in North Carolina where the preacher said, “Some people say that Jesus is just a crutch” to which he replied, “Yes, Jesus in my crutch! And my wheelchair, and my hospital bed, and my nurse, my doctor, my ambulance, my medical helicopter, my health insurance policy and the whole health care system!” His own health care analogy states the Reformed view well: Not only can you not help pay for your already-paid-for “salvation premiums”, you are also the recipient of the whole of God’s plan, which extends far, far beyond your own ability to keep your own policy with God in tact. This, according to the Apostle Paul, is just how far beyond.For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1,4-14). For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8.29-30).If we put Paul’s words into health care parlance, continuing with the analogy, universal coverage may be out; not everyone is covered by God’s plan. The Catholic view also seems to be out since its piecemeal, conditional “good news” resembles the fine print of the Blue Cross plan, namely that premiums must still be paid, and if not, coverage can be lost.I should like to draw a response from any of the Roman or Anglican Catholics who roam these pages. I’ve no doubt misrepresented the Reformed and Catholic views to some extent, in which case I probably deserve a kick in the bollocks.M.F. Davidson______________________________*“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her” (Deuteronomy 25: 11-12 KJV).
Excellent work Fr. Brown! - Uncle Screwtape.
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