Friday, November 29, 2013

Stump the Priest: Is Hell the Same for Everyone?



Question: "How do you square Luke 13:1-5 with the idea that Hell is not experienced by all outside of the Church in the same way?"

Luke 13:1-5

The passage in Luke 13:1-5 really does not address  the question whether hell is experienced by every one the same. According to the commentary of Blessed Theophylact, the Galileans that were slain by Pilate were the followers of a man named Judas of Galilee, who was stirring up rebellion against Rome.

So when told about those who were killed, Christ asked the people: "Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

His point was that unless they repented, ceased stirring up rebelling, and served God, they would all likewise perish. And then he mentioned another incident: "Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." According to Blessed Theophylact, this tower falling on the 18 at Siloam was an image of what would happen to all the people of Jerusalem when the Romans would destroy it in 70 A.D. 

Differing Degrees of Punishment

That there will be different degrees of punishment in hell is made clear by many passages of Scripture:

"And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47-48).

"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation" (James 3:1)

"Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee" (Matthew 11:21-24).

"Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29).

Differing Degrees of Reward

The Scriptures also indicate that those who are saved will likewise receive different degrees of reward:

"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16:27).

"Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour" (1 Corinthians 3:8).

"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12).

Conclusion

The Gospel of John tells us that Christ is the "true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9). And Christ made it clear that we will be judged according to what we have been given: "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48). So clearly, those who have been given less will be held accountable for less. So those who have never been in the Church, and who go to hell, will be judged less harshly than those who have been in the Church, had the fullness of the Faith, and yet either did nothing with it, or disregarded entirely, and lived actively wicked lives. Exactly how those differing degrees of rewards and punishments will be manifested, we cannot say. But we know for sure that on the day of judgment, no one will be able to say that anyone received an unjust punishment, but will rather say "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether" (Psalms 18[19]:9).

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Puhalo rants again... on Transgenderism and Intersexuality


On his Facebook page, the retired vagante Archbishop, Lazar Puhalo, has decided to attack me and attribute to me things that I have not said, in order to cover up the things that he has in fact said.

In a youtube video, dated March 18, 2011, Puhalo expressed his views that it is perfectly acceptable for those who wish to identify themselves with the opposite sex to do so, or for them to actually have a sex change operation. It is very clear from his comments that he is not speaking about those born with ambiguous genitalia, or the intersex. He is speaking about those who believe that they are men trapped in female bodies, or women trapped in male bodies. He says that it is the brain that determines one's sex, not their bodies.

This view is in complete opposition with the views expressed by the rest of the Church on this issue. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church issued a statement directly addressing this matter:

"Sometimes perverted human sexuality is manifested in the form of the painful feeling of one’s belonging to the opposite sex, resulting in an attempt to change one’s sex (transsexuality). One’s desire to refuse the sex that has been given him or her by the Creator can have pernicious consequences for one’s further development. «The change of sex» through hormonal impact and surgical operation has led in many cases not to the solution of psychological problems, but to their aggravation, causing a deep inner crisis. The Church cannot approve of such a «rebellion against the Creator» and recognise as valid the artificially changed sexual affiliation. If «a change of sex» happened in a person before his or her Baptism, he or she can be admitted to this Sacrament as any other sinner, but the Church will baptise him or her as belonging to his or her sex by birth. The ordination of such a person and his or her marriage in church are inadmissible.

Transsexuality should be distinguished from the wrong identification of the sex in one’s infancy as a result of doctors’ mistake caused by a pathological development of sexual characteristics. The surgical correction in this case is not a change of sex" (The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, section XII. Problems of bioethics, sub section 9).

I have quoted this passage repeatedly, when discussing this issue, including the second paragraph that makes the distinction between transgenderism, and those who are born with some sexual ambiguity.

The idea that someone might be born with such problems is not a new discovery. Christ Himself spoke of this in Matthew 19:12:

"For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."

Puhalo is now suggesting that I have somehow attacked those born with these conditions, or that I deny that such people exist. Of course both claims are false, and I suspect he knows it... which he certainly would if he bothered to read what I have said on the subject. The Church does not object to surgical corrections of such conditions, when they can be corrected. And in fact it does not object to correcting a mistaken gender assignment with subsequent surgery. But this is just a red herring, because Puhalo does not wish to deal with the fact that what he actually has advocated is completely at odds with what the Church teaches.

I am glad that the OCA was able to bring Puhalo and his follows out of the bogus jurisdictions that he has at various times been affiliated with, and bring them back into the Orthodox Church. The OCA synod of Bishops should, however, take measures to ensure that this "retired Archbishop" not spout heresy, as he has regularly done on this and several other issues.

Update: On Puhalo's Facebook page, he posted the following update:

"Let us make it abundantly clear: The doctrine of the Orthodox Church holds that sexual intercourse between people of the same gender is a sin. Moreover, the Orthodox Church will never accept, or even consider accepting, same sex marriages. This is unequivocally the doctrine of the Orthodox Church. This is not an excuse to persecute, bully or harm anyone, but it is clearly the doctrine of the Church."

Now, that sounds good enough, as far as it goes. But you will notice he states what the Church teaches, but does not express his agreement with it. And when someone posted their complaint "To continue labelling as "sin" anything that we fail to understand and incorporate to our preconceptions is a grave insult to human dignity and intelligence." Puhalo replied:"I have been forbidden by "higher ups" to express any truth about the nature of the issue, so I only express the official doctrine of the Church" (November 24 at 12:26am).

This is good news, in as much as it indicates that the Bishops of the OCA have begun to rein him in. However, it is clear that Puhalo intends to continue promoting his heretical views on human sexuality, with a wink and a nod when necessary.

Update: Puhalo recently did a radio interview, along with Frank Schaeffer in which he again stated that he is forbidden by the Synod of the OCA to speak on "certain issues". He also once again makes the false claim that there are those in the Orthodox Church who deny that there are people born with ambiguous genitalia, and other such nonsense.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sermon on Skeptical Biblical Scholarship

I recently preached two sermons on Skeptical Biblical Scholarship, which were a response to a series the History Channel's "Bible Secrets Revealed".

You can click here to listen to Part 1.

Click here, to listen to Part 2.

There is one correction that I wanted to make, and one qualification, to the first sermon:

One example that I inserted into the sermon off the cuff, made reference to Tiglath Pileser, but the Assyrian King I actually had in mind was Sargon II -- that's the danger of speaking from memory.

The qualification is to my comment that those who get Ph.D.'s needing to come up with a "new theory". It is true that to get a Ph.D. you have to produce a thesis that present new scholarship, but such scholarship would not necessary entail a particular new theory. What I meant to say was that this need to produce new scholarship encourages the development of new theories, as opposed to taking a traditional view of Scripture, and it is also true that for a biblical scholar to become noteworthy, he has to come up with some ground breaking, new approach to Scripture, or some new theory related to the authorship of part of the Bible, or a re-interpretation of biblical history.

You can also read an excellent essay by an Orthodox Biblical Scholar, Eric Jobe: A Response to the History Channel’s “Bible Secrets Revealed”.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Homiletics

Here is a lecture by Fr. Valery Lukianov (who is one of the most senior priests in ROCOR, and known to be an exceptionally good preacher) on how to prepare a good sermon:



You can listen to Fr. Thomas Hopko discuss sermon preparation and delivery here.

Here also is some wisdom from a Protestant minister -- Fred Craddock -- who is considered to be one of the greatest Protestant preachers alive today. Not everything he says would be applicable to Orthodox preaching, but there is much that does:

Sermon Preparation:



Purpose of a Sermon:



What to avoid when preaching:



Storytelling in Sermons:



On Using Humor or Emotions in Sermons:



You may also want to look at the Preacher's Institute web page (an Orthodox Website):

http://preachersinstitute.com/


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stump the Priest: How Can God Forgive Those Who Have Committed Horrible Crimes?


Question: "You have said that some people will receive mercy in the final judgment while others will receive justice.  But, what if those that have wronged you are forgiven? Won’t you not receive justice, then?  And, what about your own forgiveness and those you have transgressed against – will they not receive justice? Real justice is a restoration of the victim. And, that could be retributive as opposed to restitution or some other such thing, but not just any retribution is okay in such a transaction.  It is not enough that “they suffered, too”. They have to suffer a precise measure of consequences for abusing you while you are vindicated and made whole again. So how can a person who has harmed another be saved and receive mercy if perfect justice is done in the final judgment?”


I will answer your question with quotations from a portion of the greatest novel ever written: The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoyevsky (a devout Orthodox Christian, and one might say... a great lay theologian):

In the novel, you have three brothers. Ivan, the second oldest brother, is an atheist, while the youngest brother Alexei (Alyosha) is a novice monk, and a pious believer. In one conversation, Ivan presents his brother with a problem along the lines of your question. He tells a story, which in fact was based on an actual incident:

*****

“One picture, only one more, because it's so curious, so characteristic, and I have only just read it in some collection of Russian antiquities. I've forgotten the name. I must look it up. It was in the darkest days of serfdom at the beginning of the century, and long live the Liberator of the People! There was in those days a general of aristocratic connections, the owner of great estates, one of those men—somewhat exceptional, I believe, even then—who, retiring from the service into a life of leisure, are convinced that they've earned absolute power over the lives of their subjects. There were such men then. So our general, settled on his property of two thousand souls, lives in pomp, and domineers over his poor neighbors as though they were dependents and buffoons. He has kennels of hundreds of hounds and nearly a hundred dog-boys—all mounted, and in uniform. One day a serf-boy, a little child of eight, threw a stone in play and hurt the paw of the general's favorite hound. ‘Why is my favorite dog lame?’ He is told that the boy threw a stone that hurt the dog's paw. ‘So you did it.’ The general looked the child up and down. ‘Take him.’ He was taken—taken from his mother and kept shut up all night. Early that morning the general comes out on horseback, with the hounds, his dependents, dog-boys, and huntsmen, all mounted around him in full hunting parade. The servants are summoned for their edification, and in front of them all stands the mother of the child. The child is brought from the lock-up. It's a gloomy, cold, foggy autumn day, a capital day for hunting. The general orders the child to be undressed; the child is stripped naked. He shivers, numb with terror, not daring to cry.... ‘Make him run,’ commands the general. ‘Run! run!’ shout the dog-boys. The boy runs.... ‘At him!’ yells the general, and he sets the whole pack of hounds on the child. The hounds catch him, and tear him to pieces before his mother's eyes!... I believe the general was afterwards declared incapable of administering his estates. Well—what did he deserve? To be shot? To be shot for the satisfaction of our moral feelings? Speak, Alyosha!”

[After a bit of back and forth, Ivan closes with this argument:]

“Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its center, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on purpose. I am a bug, and I recognize in all humility that I cannot understand why the world is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to blame, I suppose; they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy, so there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidian understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly; that everything flows and finds its level—but that's only Euclidian nonsense, I know that, and I can't consent to live by it! What comfort is it to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect simply and directly, and that I know it?—I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven't suffered, simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when every one suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That's a question I can't answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I've only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It's beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their fathers' crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension. Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn't grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be, when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.’ When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can't accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child's torturer, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ but I don't want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to ‘dear, kind God’! It's not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don't want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother's heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return Him the ticket.”

“That's rebellion,” murmured Alyosha, looking down.

“Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that,” said Ivan earnestly. “One can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me yourself, I challenge you—answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature—that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance—and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”

“No, I wouldn't consent,” said Alyosha softly.

“And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building it would agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim? And accepting it would remain happy for ever?”

“No, I can't admit it. Brother,” said Alyosha suddenly, with flashing eyes, “you said just now, is there a being in the whole world who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? But there is a Being and He can forgive everything, all and for all, because He gave His innocent blood for all and everything. You have forgotten Him, and on Him is built the edifice, and it is to Him they cry aloud, ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed!’ ”

*****

Christ was the greatest of innocent sufferers, and he has the power to forgive, even those who have committed the most horrible of crimes. The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) makes clear that the debts that men owe to one another for their offenses are relatively minor in comparison with the debt we owe God. God is our creator, and to Him we owe our very existence, and yet we sin against Him. Our fellow men are finite creatures, and while we sin against each other, the degree of the offense is small because we are not offending our great benefactor, but fellow creatures. It is our Creator that we owe the real debt to, and it is He that has the power to forgive great sinners, and also the power to not only make those who have suffered whole, but to bestow upon them infinite blessings that even they do not deserve.

So those who repent of their sins, and accept God's forgiveness and grace will receive mercy on the day of judgment. Those reject God's grace will get God's justice on the day of judgment. No one will receive injustice on the day of judgment.

The Prayer Rule of St. Pachomius



St. Ignatii Brianchaninov writes in his book on the Jesus Prayer: "An angel of God taught St. Pachomius the Great a rule of prayer for the vast community of monks dependent on him. The monks under the spiritual direction of St. Pachomius had to perform the rule every day. Only those who had attained perfection and the unceasing prayer connected with it were freed from the obligation to perform the rule. The rule taught by the angel consisted of the Trisagion, the Lord's prayer, Psalm 50, the Symbol of Faith (Creed) and one hundred Jesus Prayers. In the rule, the Prayer of Jesus is spoken of like the Lord's Prayer, that is, as prayers generally known and in general use."

You can find the text of the rule of St. Pachomius by clicking here.

This prayer rule consists of prayers that an Orthodox Christian should commit to memory, and the rule itself is simple, and easily memorized. One great advantage to memorizing this prayer rule is that if you are ever without a prayer book, you can use this prayer rule in the place of your morning or evening prayers. You can easily do this prayer rule while driving too, and so if your schedule makes it difficult to do either your morning or evening prayers, you can do this prayer rule while on your way to or from work or school.




Friday, November 15, 2013

Stump the Priest: Is Marriage Eternal?

Ss. Peter and Febronia

Question: Does not the Church teach that the marriage bond is indissoluble and eternal, like the bond between Christ and His Church?

Without a doubt, there is no marriage in heaven in the same sense that it exists in this life. The Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, presented Christ with an argument that they thought showed the absudity of the resurrect. They presented the case of a woman who was married to 7 brothers in a row, but each died without fathering any children by her, and then finally the woman died also. And so they asked Christ "Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her" (Matthew 22:28).

Christ's response was to say: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:29-30).

The fathers say that we have marriage and procreation in this life because we have death, but in the life to come, where there is no death, there is no need for procreation, and therefore no marriage. For example, St. John of Damascus, speaking of the resurrection says:

"For they will be, says the Lord, as the angels of God [Mark 12:25]: there will no longer be marriage nor procreation of children. The divine apostle, in truth, says, For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus, Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like His glorious body [Philippians 3:20-21]: not meaning change into another form (God forbid!), but rather the change from corruption into incorruption" (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4:27).

But the question remains, will there remain some bond of relationship between a husband and a wife that will continue on beyond the grave? We cannot definitively answer that question, though perhaps the lives of Ss. Peter and Febronia of Murom give us some reason to believe that such a bond does continue in some sense. This couple, who are held up as examples of Christian marital love, both took monastic tonsure before they reposed, but had expressed their wish that they be buried together. Though separated, they reposed within minutes of one another. Because of their monastic tonsure many thought that this was inappropriate to bury them together, and their funerals were to be held in two different Churches. However, their coffins were found empty, but rather their bodies were found together in the tomb St. Peter had intended for them. Their bodies were taken back to their respective coffins, but when this happened again, no one dared separate them again.

See also St. John Chrysostom's Letter to a Young Widow.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Stump the Priest: What does Baptism do?


Question. "As a former Evangelical, I have a question. Where do many protestants get the idea that baptism is “only an outward expression of an inward change”?"

Roman Catholics and Anglicans have historically used the phrase "outward sign of an inward grace" to describe the sacraments, but by this expression, Roman Catholics certainly have not wished to suggest that the sacraments are "only" outward forms that have no direct connection to the inward grace that they signify. Most Protestants only accept two sacraments: baptism, and communion (some, such as the Salvation Army, reject all sacraments -- including baptism), and many of those Protestants believe that these sacraments are "only" outward expressions. They believe that we are saved by "faith alone" and that baptism is merely a public profession of that faith, and the first act of obedience of a Christian... but they do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation.

As a consequence, it is not uncommon in some Protestant denominations to find people who have never been baptized, and yet consider themselves Christians. I know that when I was attending Southern Nazarene University, in my New Testament Theology class, the professor made a point of asking if anyone in the class had not been baptized, when he got to the point in the course in which Baptism was discussed... and invariably, there would be one or two students who were studying for the ministry, and yet had never been baptized. He would tell them to see him after class, so that he could make the arrangements for them to be baptized.

One does not find such a laissez faire view of Baptism in the New Testament. St. Peter speaks of Ark of Noah, and how it saved Noah and his family as a type (foreshadowing) of Baptism: "There is also an antitype [that which is forshadowed by the type] which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). This text, read in its context (3:18-22) states that just as the Ark of Noah saved those who were in it, so does Baptism now save us.

The reason why many Protestant traditions took the position that Baptism was only an outward profession of faith is in reaction to the view of many careless Christians who falsely believed that they would be saved simply by virtue of their having been baptized. And such an erroneous view does need to be corrected, but not by denying the clear teachings of Scripture, and the unbroken Tradition of the Church on the matter. Baptism is the portal into the Ark of the Church. However, if someone does not remain in the Ark, they will not benefit by having entered that portal, but will in fact face the greater judgment.

You could think of being baptized as being analogous to having health insurance. When you have health insurance, you have the right to go and see your doctor and receive the treatment that you need. However, if someone has health insurance, but never uses it, that health insurance does them absolutely no good. Likewise, being baptized brings you into the Church, where you have all the sacraments and instruction in righteousness that the Church has to offer, but if you are baptized, but separate yourself from the Church by not bothering to avail yourself of the grace that if to be found there, your baptism has done you no good.

Now, some may ask, does this mean that if someone is not baptized, they cannot be saved? No. One can cite exceptional examples such as the wise thief on the Cross who "stole paradise" "in single moment," or to martyrs who embraced the Christian Faith and were killed before they could be baptized. However, the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church make it clear that baptism is the normal means by which we should enter the Church, and ultimately enter paradise.

It should be pointed out that there are some Protestants, such as Lutherans and members of the "Campbellite" Church of Christ that do affirm that Baptism actually plays a necessary role in our salvation, and so is not something that one could ignore, and still be considered a Christian.