The Challenge: I received the following in my email (05/17/02):
The Response: My pleasure. In making my comment, I was referring to what seemed to be your attempt to discount the seriousness of priestly sexual misconduct that has been so much in the news of late. From the tone of your article I get the impression that you are posting a defense of the Catholic Church in general and misbehaving priests in particular by suggesting that not even Jesus managed to choose a company of close disciples who would be faithful to Him.
I contend that it cannot be argued from Scripture that, from the time of he was chosen, Christ’s expectations of Judas were the same as those of the other 11 apostles. It seems clear from the Scriptures that Jesus knew exactly whom He wanted to be His 12 closest associates; that He did not choose them at random. We cannot, of course, know what criteria He used in making His choices, but I believe it reasonable to say that He did not act blindly.
Catholics and ‘Protestants’ agree that Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnation of the Logos, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead. The Scriptures inform that God is omniscient (1 John 3:20) and has foreknowledge (Isaiah 48:3,5). Certainly, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, being of the same essence, must share those attributes. Whether the Incarnate Son enjoyed the full exercise of those divine attributes is something theologians debate to this day. The Scriptures provide evidence that He was aware of His divinity at an early age (Luke 2:422-49)
In your article, you mention that Judas Iscariot “allowed Satan to enter into Him” and that he “was always free, and he used his freedom to allow Satan to enter into him.” These statements are based upon Arminian presuppositions of free will and cannot be proved from the Scriptures. “Allowing” is a volitional act; something one chooses to do. The Scriptures tell us that Satan entered into Judas, but say nothing to suggest that Judas made the decision to allow Satan to do so.
Then there is this passage, which also shows that Jesus had foreknowledge of what Judas was about to do:
On the other hand, we know that Satan has power to make men turn away from God (Job 2:4,5) and that he can even afflict believers (Luke 13:16).
It is not my intention to defend Judas, but to point out that you have ascribed to him a volitional act of which he may or may not be guilty. It can be argued that Judas was not saved, and that his unregenerate and sinful state presented little obstacle to Satan’s takeover.
Jesus was aware that one of the Twelve would betray Him some time prior to the Last Supper; in fact, from the very beginning. We see this in the closing verses of John 6:
Why did the Logos take on human form? The Scriptures are clear that He was sent by the Father to make atonement for our sins:
How should that atonement be made? Should Jesus have dressed in white garments, knelt on a white cloth and, after penning a haiku, disemboweled Himself after the form of a samurai committing hara-kiri? Perhaps He should have doused Himself with olive oil and set Himself on fire, in the fashion of a Buddhist priest committing self-immolation. A ritual suicide would have been viewed by God’s chosen people as a clear violation of the Commandment prohibiting murder; suicide being self-murder (Exodus 20:13). Jesus could hardly have walked up to the Temple on that Passover and demanded to be sacrificed. He had to be offered up. As it turned out, He was offered up by the priests of the Temple and delivered to Roman authorities for immolation. His was the Perfect Sacrifice; the only sacrifice that could atone for the sins of mankind.
It seems clear to me that Judas Iscariot played a pivotal role in God’s plan of redemption. Had he not betrayed Jesus, someone else would have had to do it in his stead. In that the Scriptures tell us that Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him, I submit that your statement that “Jesus didn't choose Judas to betray him. He chose him to be like all the others” doesn’t measure up to Scripture. Your implied charge that not even Jesus was able to choose close associates who would be loyal to Him is unsupportable from Scripture. Therefore, I submit, your apparent attempt to reduce the seriousness of priestly sexual misconduct by drawing a false comparison from Jesus’ selection of followers is also unsupportable.
Your declaration that Christ acts through even a sinful priest, if his intentions are correct, is faithful to paragraph 1584 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. However, as you must be aware, I reject the Catholic concept of a sacramental priesthood, with all that it entails. I have no interest in exploring that fantasy with you at this time.
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