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Cover story

Separated as chaff from wheat

The following is an excerpt from Tribulation Force, the second book in the Left Behind series:

Buck spent the rest of the day tweaking his cover story for Global Weekly on the theories behind the disappearances. … Most interesting to Buck was the interpretation of the event on the part of other churchman. A lot of Catholics were confused, because while many remained, some had disappeared, including the new pope, who had been installed just a few months before the vanishings. He had stirred up controversy in the church with a new doctrine that seemed to coincide more with the “heresy” of Martin Luther than with the historic orthodoxy they were used to. When the pope had disappeared, some Catholic scholars had concluded that this was indeed an act of God. “Those who opposed the orthodox teaching of the Mother Church were winnowed out from among us,” Peter Cardinal Mathews of Cincinnati, a leading archbishop, had told Buck. ... “This is a very difficult time. I myself am grieving the loss of a sister and an aunt. But they had left the church.”

“They had?”

“They opposed the teaching. Wonderful women, most kind. Most earnest, I must add. But I fear they have been separated as chaff from wheat. Yet those of us who remain should be confident in our standing with God as never before.”

Buck had been bold enough to ask the archbishop to comment on certain passages of scripture, primarily Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

“Now you see,” the archbishop said, “this is precisely my point. People have been taking verses like that out of context for centuries and trying to build a doctrine on them.”

“But there are other passages just like these,” Buck said.

“I understand that, but, listen, you’re not Catholic, are you?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, see, you don’t understand the broad sweep of the historical church.”

“Excuse me, but explain to me why so many non-Catholics are still here, if your hypothesis is right.”

“God knows,” Archbishop Mathews had said. “He knows hearts. He knows more than we do.”

“That’s for sure,” Buck said.

Of course Buck left his personal comments and opinions out of the article, but he was able to work in the scripture and the archbishop’s attempt to explain away the doctrine of grace.

National Catholic Reporter, June 15, 2001