Jesuit Soteriology and the “Anonymous Docetist”

It seems to me that the apostolic fervor (at least at times), the moral laxism, and now the effective doctrine of universal salvation associated with the Jesuits might all have their root in a profound un-ease with the idea of anyone being lost. This un-ease in turn inspires a profound un-ease with the idea that seed is ever sown in vain–that an act of evangelization, while beneficial to evangelizer, might not bear fruit for the recipient. If you’re St. Ignatius Loyola and you’re afraid of souls in Asia being lost, you go to Asia and try to convert them. But what about people who notionally are attracted to the Gospel but just don’t want to live by its demands? Well, surely there are ways to shoehorn them in; hence the moral laxism (and Rome condemned it too, not just Pascal and the Jansenists). And what if the missions don’t succeed, at least not to the degree hoped for? Redefine victory: turns out that everyone is already an anonymous Christian!

It strikes me as a form of the heresy of Docetism. Docetism said that Christ only appeared to be crucified, but this was just an illusion. Applied to evangelization, sometimes the Gospel and Christian witness really are rejected, whether casually or vehemently. Christ refers to this in the parable of the sower and the seed: very often the seed sown won’t ever bear fruit, and it isn’t something to worry about or concoct convoluted theories to get around by saying that the rocky soil is actually bearing an invisible harvest–indeed, it bears the *greatest* harvest! One can and should hope that seed sown will bear fruit later, or is bearing fruit in unseen ways, but one shouldn’t demand this as the price for sowing.

I say all of this as someone affected by the very un-ease I describe. I don’t like the idea of having to repent of my own sins, or being called to witness in ways that others might choose to decline. It’s natural to try to flee the cross and live as an “anonymous Docetist.”

The upshot of all this is: “The road to heterodoxy and heteropraxis is paved with understandable anxieties.” 🙂

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