Jimmy Akin vs. the Magisterium on salvation

Catholic blogger and author Jimmy Akin teaches numerous grave doctrinal errors on a wide range of subjects, along with the false claim that these errors are magisterial teaching or sound theology.

His errors include false teachings on contraception, on intrinsic evil, and on predestination, grace, and salvation. He openly rejects the teaching of the Council of Trent on transubstantiation and the teaching of the same Council on confession in kind and number. In addition, Akin has publicly declared that all the anathemas of every Ecumenical Council are null and void, and this schismatic error is fitting company for his heretical errors.

Jimmy Akin’s latest doctrinal error pertains to the role of Christ to open the gates of Heaven by His death and resurrection. Here is the post: Yes, Enoch and Elijah went to heaven. As he often does when denying a magisterial teaching, Akin first correctly states that teaching:

“Many Catholics are aware that Jesus ‘opened the gates of heaven’ and allowed the righteous dead to go there. The Catechism even says it: CCC 637 ‘In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.’ “

So Akin knows Church teaching on this subject. But the teaching of the Magisterium seems to carry no weight with him. His own shiny ideas are always more convincing to his mind. So then he proposes a grave doctrinal error, directly contradicting magisterial teaching on salvation:

“What about figures like Enoch and Elijah, who seem to have been assumed into heaven prior to the time of Christ? The obvious answer, I’ve always held, is that they were exceptions. As a general rule, heaven was not open to those who lived before the time of Christ, but God is omnipotent, and he can make exceptions if he chooses.”

On what basis does Akin reject magisterial teaching on the opening of the gates of heaven by Christ’s salvific death? Well, if an answer seems “obvious” and he himself has “always held” it, then he simply declares an exception to Church teaching. Akin says that God “can make exceptions”, but in this case, it is Akin who is making an exception. Jimmy Akin ignores the fact that God has appointed the Magisterium as the authoritative interpreter of Tradition and Scripture, and as the authoritative Teacher on faith, morals, and salvation. If an idea seems true to Akin’s mind, then he publicly declares that idea, with no regard for the authoritative teaching of the Church.

The Magisterium teaches that all those human persons who died in a state of grace prior to the death of Christ were unable to enter Heaven until Christ’s salvific death on the Cross. Thus, Sacred Scripture says that Jesus visited the souls in prison, that is, in Purgatory and the limbo of the Fathers, in order to teach them and to free them for entrance into Heaven.

[1 Peter]
{3:19} And in the Spirit, he preached to those who were in prison, going to those souls
{3:20} who had been unbelieving in past times, while they waited for the patience of God, as in the days of Noah, when the ark was being built. In that ark, a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.

Akin contradicts Sacred Scripture and the first Pope, Saint Peter, by claiming that Enoch and Elijah entered Heaven before Christ. The Old Testament passages that Akin cites, saying Elijah was taken up to heaven, are not sufficient to contradict magisterial teaching because the Magisterium is the authoritative interpreter of Scripture. In addition, it is clear from a multitude of examples in the Old Testament that “heaven” sometimes refers to the heavens, i.e. the sky. Elijah was lifted up into the sky, but he was not “assumed into heaven prior to the time of Christ” as Akin asserts.

Even the sinless and all-perfect Blessed Virgin Mary was only assumed into heaven after the death, resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. And she was granted this privilege, to be given a glorious resurrected body prior to the resurrection of the just, due to her Immaculate Conception.

“Christ overcame sin and death by his own death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul.

“Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.” (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, n. 4-5.)

But the Immaculate Conception was a “singular grace and privilege”, as the very dogma of the Immaculate Conception plainly states. So we cannot hold that Enoch or Elijah were assumed into heaven. Even Saints Joseph and John the Baptist, the holiest of the Saints (other than Mary), were not assumed into heaven. Do you really believe that Enoch and Elijah are holier than Saint Joseph, chaste husband of Mary, foster-father of the Christ-child, head of the holy family, and Patron of the universal Church? Do you think that God gave Enoch and Elijah a privilege greater than that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, such that they would be assumed into heaven before her Assumption and before Christ?

But does the Magisterium specifically teach that no one entered Heaven prior to the death of Christ? Yes.

The Council of Arles (AD 314) is not an Ecumenical Council, but its teachings are of the Magisterium and have been upheld and taught by the Magisterium continuously since that time. The Council condemned a list of propositions, including the idea “that the patriarchs and prophets or every one of the highest saints, even before the times of the redemption, entered into paradise.” [Denzinger 160a].

The “obvious answer” which Jimmy Akin has “always held” and which he arrogantly and ignorantly teaches to the faithful is contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium. It is an error condemned by magisterial teaching.

And while the Council of Arles teaches truth by condemning error, Pope Innocent III teaches the same truth by a positive assertion. In speaking of salvation prior to Christ, Pope Innocent III teaches that “there was no arriving at the kingdom of heaven, which up to the death of Christ was barred to all.” He further asserts that the gate of the kingdom of heaven “the blood of Christ has mercifully opened for His faithful.” [Denzinger 410].

Jimmy Akin contradicts the teaching of Pope Innocent III that entrance into the kingdom of heaven was “barred to all” prior to Christ.

The Council of Chalcedon, an Ecumenical Council, taught that Christ “opened the gates of paradise for the believing thief”, implying that the gates were closed prior to that opening. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “1026 By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us.”

The infallible teaching of Pope Benedict XII (the 12th) in 1336 is that: “the souls of all the saints who departed from this world before the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ” … “since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into Heaven, already before they take up their bodies again and before the general Judgment, have been, are, and will be with Christ in Heaven, in the heavenly kingdom and paradise, joined to the company of the holy Angels.” [On the Beatific Vision of God] This teaching of the Pope is infallible, as is clearly indicated by its first words: “By this Constitution which is to remain in force forever, we, with apostolic authority, define the following….” The souls of those who died in a state of grace prior to Christ (“saints”) only enter Heaven, and then in soul only, after Christ’s salvific passion. His resurrection and ascension are also salvific, by the timing of the opening of the gates of heaven is based on His salvific death.

So the idea expressed by Jimmy Akin, that Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven (body and soul!!) prior to Christ, is contrary to the clear and definitive teaching of the Magisterium on salvation. Is this teaching, which Akin blithely rejects, an infallible teaching of the Magisterium? Yes, it is. It is infallible under Papal Infallibility, by Pope Benedict XII, and it is infallible under the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

The words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Bridget are also relevant to this discussion: “Know, too, that there is no human body in Heaven but the glorious body of my Son and mine.” [Saint Bridget of Sweden, Revelations of St. Bridget, p. 69. ]

And then there is the opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas, that Enoch and Elijah were not taken up to the paradise of Heaven, but only to the paradise of Adam and Eve, where they await that future time (Revelation 11) when they will preach in opposition to the errors of the Antichrist:

“Elias was taken up into the atmospheric heaven, but not in to the empyrean heaven, which is the abode of the saints: and likewise Enoch was translated into the earthly paradise, where he is believed to live with Elias until the coming of Antichrist. (Summa III, 49, 5)”

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich also saw a vision indicating that Enoch and Elijah were taken up to the paradise of the garden of Eden, awaiting the end times. [Emmerich, The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations, Volume I, (Paris: Desclee, 1914) p. 33.]

What support does Akin offer for his teaching, in contradiction to the definitive teaching of the Magisterium? He presents his own interpretation of Scripture. But the Magisterium is the sole authoritative interpreter of Scripture, so his interpretation cannot withstand magisterial teaching to the contrary.

Akin also cites a general audience of Pope Saint John Paul II:

“The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11) [General Audience, July 21, 1999].”

We believers are assumed into heaven after the general resurrection, when we are given glorified bodies. Pope Saint John Paul II makes the general statement that “believers” can also ascend (or more precisely be assumed) into Heaven. This assertion does not consider the timing of that entrance into heaven, nor does it consider whether the believers are entering heaven in soul only (prior to the general resurrection) or in soul and body (after the general resurrection). Then the holy Pontiff cites the Old Testament accounts of Enoch and Elijah, merely to support his point that believers can go to heaven, and that this understanding dates back to the earliest days of the Jewish faith. He absolutely does not state that Enoch or Elijah entered Heaven in body and soul, by some type of assumption, nor even in soul alone, prior to Christ.

And since we have clear magisterial teachings stating that no one can enter heaven, even in soul only, prior to the death of Christ, it is rash, foolish, and uncharitable to interpret the words of Pope Saint John Paul II as if he were contradicting past magisterial teachings.

Why does Jimmy Akin reject the teaching of the Magisterium on Christ our Savior opening the gates of Heaven for all those who die in a state of grace? Arrogance and ignorance.

He arrogantly teaches the faithful whatever seems good to his own mind, whatever seems to be the “obvious answer”, not as if these ideas were always held by the Church, but only because these ideas were “always held” by his own mind. He does not teach from Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, but from his own understanding, as if it were a type of Sacred Deposit of Faith.

And he teaches these ideas from his own mind without bothering to research a topic to see what the Magisterium has taught. I did not spend months or weeks or days researching Church teaching in order to find the above references. It does not take long to look in the CCC, and Denzinger, and other sources to find Church teaching on any subject. Before I teach on any subject, I research that subject. Jimmy Akin is ignorant of Church teaching because he does not bother to research a subject before he teaches.

Like so many online teachers of Catholicism today, Jimmy Akin goes forth on the internet to teach the Gospel of the version of Catholicism in his own mind, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

[Galatians 3]
{3:1} O senseless Galatians, who has so fascinated you that you would not obey the truth, even though Jesus Christ has been presented before your eyes, crucified among you?

And like so many other false teachers, he is uncorrectable. His blatant heresy on transubstantiation was first published on Good Friday of 2011, and it still stands on his own website today, continuing to lead faithful souls into grave heresy. See my post on Akin’s error here and here. If any priest were to believe Akin’s heresy, then that priest’s attempted consecration of the Eucharist would be invalid. For a valid Sacrament always requires in ministers, when they effect and confer the sacraments, the intention at least of doing what the Church does. And in the consecration of the Eucharist, the Church intends a conversion of substance, not an annihilation of substance.

What amazes me is not that a Catholic would go astray from Church teaching, but that, having gone so far astray, a Catholic would have the arrogance to teach these errors to others. And when grave doctrinal errors are taught to them, the faithful do not seem to notice or mind. Akin is only one of many false teachers in the Church today, who not only harm souls by the spread grave doctrinal errors on faith, morals, and salvation, but also successfully convince many souls that these errors are actually Church teaching or sound theology.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Mt 7:15).

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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One Response to Jimmy Akin vs. the Magisterium on salvation

  1. Francisco says:

    So basically the passage in the discussion is:

    [2 Kings]
    {2:11} And as they continued on, they were conversing while walking. And behold, a fiery chariot with fiery horses divided the two. And Elijah ascended by a whirlwind into heaven.

    As a Spanish speaking reader as well, I have never had any problem interpreting this verse as if Elijah went to “Heaven”, but up to the sky. In Spanish, the word “Cielo”, means “Heaven” and “Sky”, but interpreting this particular passage, I think it seems obvious that the Word is saying that he went up to the sky, not Heaven.

    similarly here:
    [Matthew]
    {14:19} And when he had ordered the multitude to sit down upon the grass, he took the five loaves and the two fish, and gazing up to heaven, he blessed and broke and gave the bread to the disciples, and then the disciples to the multitudes.

    “Gazing up to heaven” can clearly be interpreted that our Lord Jesus “looked up to the sky”.

    Jesus Christ has said it very clearly:

    [John]
    {3:13} And no one has ascended to heaven, except the one who descended from heaven: the Son of man who is in heaven.

    AND

    {14:6} Jesus said to him: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.

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