Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Belief

Of all people, I never thought that I would read that Mother Teresa actually had a private life filled with personally written letters that revealed her to be involved with holding a highly disturbing, doubting-kind-of-crisis of belief.

Paul Edward's article: Mother Teresa's Dark Night reveals the importance of true faith verses the "works driven" kind of belief.


"If anyone is in heaven, there is no question Mother Teresa is there," is a sentiment shared by millions of Americans, believers and non-believers alike. Yet her own words suggest it was a sentiment Mother Teresa struggled with and may well have not believed.

A new book just out from Doubleday, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," reveals a previously unknown side of Mother Teresa through her private letters written over a period of 66 years. It should be noted that this book was not produced by her detractors, but rather by those seeking sainthood for the venerable nun. The letters sound what Time magazine calls "...a hodgepodge of desperate notes not intended for daylight." In the letters, written mostly to confessors, Teresa candidly—and at times with great anguish—expresses not only serious doubts about her faith, but seems resolved that she possesses no genuine faith at all.

Lots of really good comments there, too.

Some of my favorites:

tom writes: Thursday, September, 06, 2007 8:15 AM
Saving Faith
Is certainly the only "faith" that merits heaven according to scripture! What people miss is that we all stand guilty before God as we have broken His moral law. Our God-given conscience bears this out as we honestly look at the 10 commandments. Jesus took it even further and stated as far as murder, if you hate someone, you're guilty! He said if you look on a woman to lust after her, you've already commited adultery in your heart. You see it's not just the deeds, its a heart problem! It's just not what we do wrong, it's who we are! How do we escape on judgement day from a just Judge, who says in John 3:36, "he that beliveth not is CONDEMNED already! John 3:18 is the answer, believing in what Christ has done, he shed His blood to pay for every sin, to be saved, we put our faith in Him and turn or repent from our sin. That is the bottom line, then, because God has been so kind as to forgive, we love Him and do "good works" because of a heart change. We grow by getting in to the Word, and being part of a church that clearly puts this TRUTH first!

Another great comment expressing the fact that knowledge alone does not save; true saving faith involves repentance for one's sins through Jesus' sacrificial death at the cross. Faith is then evidenced by good works.

Deskjockey writes: Thursday, September, 06, 2007 9:51 AM
Ed writes: 06, 2007 7:24 AM

Here We Go Again

Although I agree with your views I would like to expand a couple points. The devil does not have faith that he is saved by the blood of Jesus, he merely has complete knowledge of God and Bible. So, knowledge alone does not save. Jas 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

It isn’t faith vs. works as you clearly point out, it is faith that manifests or is evidenced by works. So I would say a precise way to say it is that you are saved by faith, however, faith without works is dead and useless.

Therefore the criminal on the cross that merely stated he believed Jesus was who he said he was and then didn’t head off to Calcutta was never the less saved. Clearly some will confess such on their death bed without works. The works is merely a manifestation of the faith but is no requirement to being saved. Missing this distinction is what causes all the shouting.

With this understanding these following two concepts can coexist.

Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Jas 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

This comment brings up a good point that we cannot know (for certain) anyone's eternal fate (including Mother Teresa). Ultimately, only God and the individual knows for sure.

Jesus did say that "by their fruits ye shall know them." In Christopher Hitchen's case, we know that he is not a believer. In Mother Teresa's case? Who on earth could know for sure? We do have evidence of her life showing that she could have ended up in either eternal destination.

This is one reason why (IMHO) the Catholic Church's tradition of giving sainthood to servants of the church who have done good works may not be wise (or an accurate thing) to do.

stentorian writes: Thursday, September, 06, 2007 10:09 AM
"It seems, therefore, that all the things that made Mother Teresa famous—the endless hard toil, the bitter austerity, the ostentatious religious orthodoxy—were only part of an effort to still the misery within."

Somehow, the first thought that came to me here when Hitchens talks about hard toil and bitterness displayed in an "effort to still the misery within" reminded me of Hitchens himself.

Which of us is without inner struggle? Much ado about a common ailment. It gives me peace to know that even Mother Teresa struggled with life and living.

This commenter had a good point:

bjimmy5757 writes: Thursday, September, 06, 2007 11:46 AM
Faith and doubt are not antonyms
The notion that because Mother Teresa expressed doubts, therefore her faith is in question is absurd.
Think David never had doubts? - Try reading the Psalms!
Scripture (yes, the Catholic Bible, the Protestant Bible, and even the Hebrew Bible) are jam-packed with godly people who struggled with doubt. If faith were that easy, by definition it wouldn't be "faith" at all!

However, I would add the fact that David always came back to true faith in God after his bouts with doubt. It is one of the main reasons why David was called, "a man after God's own heart." Although David was guilty of many sins, rejecting God (and thus the Holy Spirit and the promise of the coming Messiah) was not ever on his radar.

Two good concluding comments:

JHS writes: Thursday, September, 06, 2007 11:51 AM
Faith and Works
Yes, both , but neither "earned" as is often imputed onto the Catholic argument. Faith increases faith and faith allows works which increase faith and if you fall short you repent which increases humility which decreases self which increases faith etc. Here are a few verses indicating that Faith alone will not cut it.

Luke 9,
23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

58Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

59He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

60Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

62Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."


JHS writes: Thursday, September, 06, 2007 12:15 PM
Really, Does it Get Any Clearer
Matthew 25

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."


Neil said...

Interesting comments. I wouldn't pretend to know her heart. I do know that works-based religion can lead to the do-gooder mentality. It can be hard to distinguish that from true faith in Jesus that leads to good works.

Christinewjc said...

Thanks for your input, Neil. I was a bit worried that people may think I was "picking on" Mother Teresa, when that was not my intent at all.

As you stated, it can be difficult to distinguish between the "do-gooder mentality" and true faith in Jesus that leads to good works. Therefore, we must be biblically sound in our thinking and sharing of God's Word and the gospel of Christ in order to not be led (purposely or inadvertently) into the direction of error.