Enter your email address to receive updates by email:

subscribe in a reader like my facebook page follow me on twitter Image Map
Podcast Message Line: 512-222-3389
Logos Catholic Bible Software

« Finding Aquinas In Latin | Main | Ecclesia Suplet »

February 26, 2007

Comments

Eileen R

Neat post, Jimmy! I've personally found that, on an academic level, N.T. Wright's writings are very helpful. Particularly "The Resurrection of the Son of God", all 817 pages.

momof6

Sigh. I love any post with a book recommendation. Thanks, Jimmy!

Kris

Jimmy you consistantly write so well and answer the question so fully I often wonder if there will be anything to discuss!

I will certainly pray for the reader and doubly encourage the C.S. Lewis recomendations. I've yet to find any material that is more exciting and logical to read than the works of C.S. Lewis.

Tim J.

Those C.S. Lewis books helped me a great deal.

I don't have the philosophical chops to take the arguments for God all the way to their conclusions, but I found I did not have to.

During college, Christianity began to look unlikely to me. Then I started to really look at the logical underpinnings of competing worldviews and found they fell apart rather quickly.

I soon arrived at the point of believing that, even IF Christianity was absurd, it was still the LEAST absurd philosophy going. People often attacked Christianity as nonsense, but I found they attacked it with even greater nonsense.

That's when I started to get the delightfully eerie sense that Christianity might be a bit wonky, but it seemed to be wonky in exactly the same way that the whole universe was wonky.

In other words, if you accept a few basic Christian absurdities (though Chesterton might call them "paradoxes", and others "mysteries") then the whole world begins to make logical sense. In the other philosophies, you start with a basic logic that is supposed to make sense of everything, but ends in absurdity.

John

Other good books:
"Stories of Padre Pio" - Katerina Tangari
"Wonder of the World" - Roy Varghese
"Josef Pieper: An Anthology" - Josef Pieper

Esau

The reader might want to watch the ewtn program:

FINDING GOD THROUGH FAITH AND REASON

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., lends insight into new evidence gathered from the fields of contemporary philosophy and physics which supports proof for the existence of God. The universe itself connotes the existence of a creator and the principle of intelligent design leads to logical conclusions about the nature of God.

Anon

Tim J.,

I soon arrived at the point of believing that, even IF Christianity was absurd, it was still the LEAST absurd philosophy going. People often attacked Christianity as nonsense, but I found they attacked it with even greater nonsense.

Sounds like Pascal, whom Peter Kreeft refers to as the greatest Christian apologist of all time. Kreeft's Christianity for Modern Pagans -- which he describes as a "festooning" of Pascal's Pensees -- is a particularly splendid read on these topics.

Eileen R

Oh, I'm also reading Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity" which may be very applicable. Like everything our current pope has written, it draws the reader in very well, imho. I find that I don't have to struggle to get into his writings, though obviously there's plenty of ideas therein to struggle mentally with.

Amazon Link.

Eileen R

Here are the passages in 'Introduction to Christianity' which immediately lept out at me, and I think they are spot on the subject the questioner here is interested in.

"It is the basic pattern of man’s destiny only to be allowed to find the finality of his existence in this unceasing rivalry between doubt and belief, temptation and certainty." is a great sentence to meditate on.

AnnonyMouse

"Therefore, my question is this: At what point does reason give way to true religious faith? "

The only thing I would add to this great explaination of Jimmys is that faith is a gift from God. If you ask for it, with humble and true intentions, then you will receive it. Like the tree that starts off as a tiny seed and grows massive. Remember, tho, it is a gift.

Keep reading and asking quesitons. At some point, things should start to fall in order...and the only way I can describe it is.. the grea AHAAA! will happen.

AnnonyMouse

CCC153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come "from felsh and blood, " but from "my Father who is in Heaven. " Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and coverts it to God, who opns the eyes of the mind and "makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth."
Also 154-165 could be helpful.

This gift of faith is given through Baptism and strenghtened through the scaraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. Confirmation solidifies and makes strong the person to defend the truth.

Tim Powers

I'll echo the recommendation of Lewis's _Mere Christianity,_ which I accidentally raed in college and which had the effect of yanking me out of happy agnosticism.

And I'd also recommend a book called _Modern Physics and Ancient Faith,_ by Stephen M. Barr (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003) which argues that the discoveries of modern physics imply that the universe has a Designer. This isn't "Creation Science" -- Barr is a serious mainstream physicist and an intelligent Catholic.

As a matter of fact, I find that any "Physics or Math for Non-experts" book makes a Designer pretty evident. It's the materialists who are constantly hedged in by an arbitrary dogma.

John Weidner

for any intellectual-type searching I'd not want to miss Newman. Among many other things, he was (I think) the first to point out, as Jimmy argues, that almost all of our beliefs come from adding up probablilities, not from formal logic or personal scientific inquiry. He called this the "illative sense."

A favorite quote:
"Certainty, in its highest sense, is the reward of those who, by an act of will, and at the dictate of reason and prudence, embrace the truth, when nature, like a coward, shrinks [from it]. You must make a venture; faith is a venture before a man is a catholic; it is a gift after it. You approach the church in the way of reason, you enter it in the light of the spirit." --- Newman

Esau

On Saint Augustine:

Augustine emerged in the late fourth century as a rigorous defender of the Christian faith. He responded forcefully to pagans' allegations that Christian beliefs were not only superstitious but also barbaric. But he was, for the most part, a strong compatibilist. He felt that intellectual inquiry into the faith was to be understood as faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum). To believe is "to think with assent" (credere est assensione cogitare). It is an act of the intellect determined not by reason, but by the will. Faith involves a commitment "to believe in a God," "to believe God," and "to believe in God."

In On Christian Doctrine Augustine makes it clear that Christian teachers not only may, but ought, to use pagan thinking when interpreting Scripture. He points out that if a pagan science studies what is eternal and unchanging, it can be used to clarify and illuminate the Christian faith. Thus, logic, history, and the natural sciences are extremely helpful in matters of interpreting ambiguous or unknown symbols in the Scriptures. However, Augustine is equally interested to avoid any pagan learning, such as that of crafts and superstition that is not targeted at unchangeable knowledge.

Augustine believed that Platonists were the best of philosophers, since they concentrated not merely on the causes of things and the method of acquiring knowledge, but also on the cause of the organized universe as such. One does not, then, have to be a Christian to have a conception of God. Yet, only a Christian can attain to this kind of knowledge without having to have recourse to philosophy.

Augustine argued further that the final authority for the determination of the use of reason in faith lies not with the individual, but with the Church itself. His battle with the Manichean heresy prompted him to realize that the Church is indeed the final arbiter of what cannot be demonstrated--or can be demonstrated but cannot be understood by all believers. Yet despite this appeal to ecclesiastical authority, he believe that one cannot genuinely understand God until one loves Him.

Juli

I'd like to point out a Case for Christ and a Case for Faith. Those 2 books brought me 99% of the way home. They're not Catholic, but they can really hit at the intellectual doubts one may have.

StubbleSpark

Mr. Powers, you said that any book on physics reveals the will of the Designer.

While the general consensus on the world today pits religion aganst science in some sort of psychic dualism, the facts (and history) show science as an extension of religion. After all, no one has any business pursuing science at all if they believe in a random cosmos.

Much ado is made about clash between evolution and creation science in the media, but no one ever seems to remember facts like the Big Bang theory was first postulated by Georges Lemaître a physicist and Catholic priest in Belgium. Eistein thought it was the most simple and perfectly complete theory he had ever seen. When I see it, I think "in the beginning ... FWOOOOM!!"

I have heard that the dearth of believers are mathematicians and the field with the least is biology (where man is most likely to succumb to the desire to play god).

As for the original poster, the statement: “if God exists, and there are eternal consequences for going against his will, then he would make his will known to me.” sounds a little like Pascal's wager (also mentioned in Kreeft's book on Pascal).

I really enjoyed his post. His question and Jimmy's answer has been one of the best posts I have seen. (definitely print-worthy).

John Weidner

We are all book-lovers here, but I would add that much better than books is just being with smart solid Catholics. Faith rubs off on you somehow.

But it's hard to find people who think in terms of "historical/logical arguments for objective truth." Most people just don't think like that, though their faith may be far stronger than mine or thine. Their eyes glaze over if you talk about such. You might keep your eyes open for anything with the word "Dominican."

Nutcrazical

Sounds like Pascal, whom Peter Kreeft refers to as the greatest Christian apologist of all time.

And speaking of Pascal...

I've been reading up on him for a presentation on my Philosophy class. He's mostly wonderful and I certainly do not regret choosing him among the post-Enlightenment I had to choose from. But there's something I read just today on his Letter on the possibility of the commandments that is bothering me, and I don't want to e-mail Jimmy about it, so if anyone can clarify:

[...] canon 22; for since it forbids, on pain of anathema, to say that all the justified have the power to persevere in justice, does it not necessarily imply that all the justified do not have the proximate power to observe the commandments in the next moment, since there is no difference between the power to observe the commandments in the next moment and the power to persevere in justice [...]

This definition of the 22nd canon also necessarily implies that the justified do not always have the proximate power to persevere in prayer, for since the promises of the Gospel and the Scriptures assure us of the certainty of obtaining the necessary justice for salvation, if we ask for it through the spirit of grace and in the way we ought, is it not unquestionable that there is no difference between persevering in prayer, and persevering in the impenetration of justice[?]

From this you see how the necessary conclusion is that whilst it is true in one meaning tat God never abandons a justified person if that person does not abandon him first, that is to say that God never refuses his grace to those who pray to him as they ought, and never distances himself from those who sincerely seek him, it is, however, true in another meaning that God sometimes abandons the justified before they have abandoned him; that is to say that God does not always give the proximate power to the justified to persevere in prayer.

He's using the documents of the Council of Trent here. Canon 22 states: If anyone says that the one justified either can without the special help of God persevere in the justice received, or that with that help he cannot, let him be anathema. Canon 23: If anyone says that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; [...] let him be anathema.

What seriously bothered me was Pascal's conclusion: that God abandons people even if they have tried everything to stay within His graces. I'm guessing he reaches this conclusion depending on his understanding of grace, which was heretical: he believed that grace was intrinsecally efficacious and irresistible. And then, I do think it's questionable that there is no difference between persevering in prayer, and persevering in the impenetration of justice. But I'm no expert. Can anyone elaborate?

StubbleSpark

Nutcrazical,

Why not email Jimmy with this one? It seems to have something to do with grace and predestination, which was the subject of one the chapters of book Salvation Controversy.

As far the quote is concerned, all I can say is the Church never goes so far as to say a given person has gone to Hell after dying because we cannot judge the state of their soul nor can we guess the depth of God's mercy. The theological underpinning of that would seem to point us away from any certain knowledge that God "abandons" anyone at anytime before they are finished.

Perhaps the abadnoment Pascal is talking about here refers to the soul conditioned by sin to become closed to His grace and confused in its orientation -- ie the temporal punishments of sin. These bear a lasting effect on the body and the soul and if not properly counteracted can serve to further distance someone from God's grace and will.

I dunno. I read a lot but my formal training was in language and not philosophy.

Keith Rickert

I'd also recommend Ronald Knox's The Belief of Catholics. All throughout that classic and indispensable book, he hits on the intersection of faith and reason.

paul f

I'm so happy to see Miracles listed there. It doesn't usually get the attention that Mere Christianity does. Nice work.

Someone above quoted CCC 153 and recommended 154-155. Here is the text to which reference was made.

LaSalle

This is a line worth quoting!

"I want to be comforted by truth, not seek truth in only that in which I am comfortable."

It's obvious that God's grace has touched this person and I have no doubt that it will lead him to Rome.

Jimmy's simple explanation about the 'Motives of credibility' is astute and concise - That's the basis of EVERYONE'S faith isn't it?

I think the problem is that for most people, once the person is convinced by the motives for credibility with regards to a wrong religion, it seems almost impossible that he would continue looking for motives of credibility; what results is what the reader first notices - they seek truth in what they feel comfortable in, to the extent that they will become unable to discern evidence that contradicts their religion.

I think not being able to see the flaw in Sola Scriptura is a good example of that point.

As usual, great work Jimmy.

Catholic Mom

And speaking of Peter Kreeft, he has some excellent writings on the arguments of God's existence from many different angles, here:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/featured-writing.htm

A.Williams

The best books ever to teach the 'life of Christ', I believe, were written by Archbishop Alban Goodier, SJ, Titled "The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, vols.1 & 2", and "The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ".

The well known priest, catequist and author, Fr. John Hardon, also recommends these books as the 'best' in analysing the actual life, words and general humanity of Jesus, without 'over scrutinzing' or doubting the historical underpinnings of the storys.

Basically, Goodier writes this 'life' accepting the Douey Rheims version, and putting 'scriptural controversy' aside, takes it from there, trying to find out..."Who exactly is Jesus Christ" given in the Gospel accounts? What did He say, HOW did He say it, and when, and under what motivations( ie. time constraints, weather conditions, political approval and opposition, etc.) did He do everything related in these Gospel stories.

Basically it is a scrutinization of every word of Christ, a scrutinization of the context of the times that the events and particular stories occured, tying the Jewish liturgical year and also the rhythm of the seasons(ie.harvest, sowing, feast and vacation days etc..,) together, to get as close to a real picture of the real Jesus--that walked and preached in the streets of Nazareth, Jerusalem Capharnaum and all of Judea--as possible.

Now, I agree, there are many great books on theology out there, but we must remember that Jesus Himself "is the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE"...and unless we are exposed 'very well'to this 'Jesus', we don't have a very solid foundation on which to base all of our other theological opinions and conclusions.

I totally agree with Jimmy that we need good teachers in this! And Archbishop Goodier, who was very famous in His day, in the 1920's and 30's, and a writer of many excellent books...is a GREAT and reliable teacher of the Life of Our Lord!

Really, I am convinced that Archbishop Goodier needs to be canonized, if not for anything else ..than those countless detailed insights (and nuances) that he uncovers in both the "Public Life" and "Passion and Death" of Our Lord Jesus Christ. No where have I found such sensitivity and careful analysis, as in these books!

Anon

Nutcrazical,

it is, however, true in another meaning that God sometimes abandons the justified before they have abandoned him; that is to say that God does not always give the proximate power to the justified to persevere in prayer.

I don't have the full context for this, so take my comments here with a grain of salt. But Pascal does say at the outset that this is "another meaning," which I interpreted as another sense. In one sense, the Father abandoned the Son on the Cross: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" I suspect that the "other meaning" which Pascal is trying to tap into may be tied into that reality.

It does not appear to me that he is necessarily drawing the conclusion you attribute to him, because he does say that "it is true in one meaning that God never abandons a justified person if that person does not abandon him first, that is to say that God never refuses his grace to those who pray to him as they ought, and never distances himself from those who sincerely seek him."

He does not say that one is sometimes true, and the other is sometimes true. Both are true, understood in the right sense.


A.Williams

Esau,

The point you refer to in your commentary on St.Augustine, where you write:

"Yet despite this appeal to ecclesiastical authority, he believe that one cannot genuinely understand God until one loves Him."

...is even more reason to study well the Life, mannerisms and words of Christ! If we cannot understand God 'until we love Him', then how are we to LOVE HIM ...if we don't KNOW HIM??

And this is the point. We KNOW GOD through knowing JESUS CHRIST, the 'one' teacher sent by God to reveal Himself to us. And in this, we also LOVE GOD...because all those who know Jesus well, know that He is COMPLETELY LOVABLE!

So we understand God only by loving Him, and we love Him by knowing Jesus Christ, who, when well known, is found to be ENTIRELY LOVEABLE.

Conclusion: Study well everything 'authentic', about everything concerning, OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!

Tim J.

I have to say (lest anyone mistakenly assume from my posts above that I discovered the truth of the Church on my own) that I'm pretty certain I would never have given Catholicism a fair shake if not for the many hours I spent in conversation with Jimmy when he and I were in college.

That kind of thing doesn't hurt. So, if you can arrange it, I recommend living basically across the street from a pretty brilliant philosophy major on his way to becoming a reknowned Catholic apologist.

On top of that, I prayed, read the Bible a lot, as well as the Church Fathers, discovered C.S. Lewis, Augustine's Confessions (accidentally), and a bunch of other stuff. I attended a number of different churches.

Augustine's Confessions forever changed my ideas about Catholic saints. I took his name at my Confirmation.

Eileen R

Tim, I didn't know you and Jimmy were at college together! That's very neat.

Tim J.

Sure, Eileen R... why do you think he lets me run amok on his otherwise perfectly respectable blog?

I know things. Hee hee.

Alex Benziger.G

Sir,
Existence of God and Religion is one who have the faith and their conscience. Likewise the Incarnation of God- Jesus Christ- the Second Person is based on their faith and reason.St. Paul clearly said in Rom.5:6-11 for the reason, we follow and live according to Gospel.

Esau

Esau,

The point you refer to in your commentary on St.Augustine, where you write:

"Yet despite this appeal to ecclesiastical authority, he believe that one cannot genuinely understand God until one loves Him."


Actually, those weren't my words; they were from a philosophical commentary, which is why I framed it in the manner I did above.

It makes sense, too.

(Surprising also that it's from what can be described as a secular source.)


It is like what Fr. Corapi often says where if you really love God, then you would strive to know all you can about Him: Can you imagine if you were to love someone that way, if you didn't want to know him? That would be absurd! And so, in wanting to love God, we want to get to know him.

Joseph D'Hippolito

After 33 posts, nobody recommends the *one* book that this young searcher *should* read: the Bible. Not just read it, mind you, but study it thoroughly through a good Bible study program (I'm sure good Catholic Bible studies are available). If the young searcher wants to find out what God's will really is, then he should explore Scripture.

Now, to all of you who might accuse me of adovcating Sola Scriptura theology: Keep in mind that Scripture *is* divinely inspired and that it provides the foundation for the major Christian doctrines, ones that all the denominations agree upon (Christ's divinity, His role as the ultimate atoning sacrifice to redeem humanity, the necessity of such a sacrifice in the first place), as well as the revelation of God's character, personality and integrity.

Anon

Joseph,

Good suggestion (although I'm assuming it was implied in the above commens as well). In studying Scripture on this point, I would suggest beginning with the Book of Wisdom, which was written to address this pretty much head on.

Dan Hunter

He should read anything in the Summa by Aquinas.
When I was first embracing the True Church,I reinforced my weak faith by Aquinas irrefutable proofs of the Divine and all that pertains to Him.
God bless you.

Sailorette/Foxfier

Joseph-- I view it as a highly advanced line of study-- a body needs to understand where the book's coming from before it makes sense. A really smart, gifted person with a really good Bible that has lots and lots of footnotes would be helped, but often folks get triped up when what they hear isn't what was being said, if you understand me.

Sailorette/Foxfier

(Just as a footnote-- the above is NOT in logical posting, it's in normal speech. Those who were about to jump down my throat about the sense part can back down.)

AnnonyMouse

I assumed, maybe incorrectly, from the person's question that he/she was familar with Scripture. Maybe that was bad on my part. Good suggestion Joseph.

TerryC

I second the [i]Summa[/i]., absolutely an indispensable thinking persons guide to reason inspired proof of the existence of God, and the validity of a moral framework. No wonder they used it as a supplement to the Bible at Trent.

Franklin Jennings

Well, I stand by Fr. Jullian Carron's claim that the human heart is an infallible criterion by which truth can be judged. Does this proposal satisfy my desire? If not, how can it be true? My desire is a fact. I did not create it, I cannot manipulate it. it is an essential component of my nature.

My judgement is still flawed by ignorance and impurity though.

Nutcrazical

StubbleSpark,

grace and predestination, which was the subject of one the chapters of book Salvation Controversy.

I forgot Jimmy had written a book by that title. I'll check it out, now that I've been forcefully dragged into the topic (which I always thought too complicated for me to even touch it).

...and Anon,

How I wish it was something among those lines, but Pascal later put what he meant more explicitly. I should have quoted this before, but it jumped out at me just now:

[we can conclude] that God never abandons a justified person, if he does not abandon God first, and in another meaning, God sometimes abandons him first, and that one has to be quite blind or insincere to find a contradiction in these propositions which coexist so easily. For it is only another way of saying [...] that God never refuses what has been sincerely asked for in prayer, and that God does not always grant perseverance in prayer. That is not contradictory in the slightest.

Well, now I understand why saying that grace cannot be resisted, and that therefore it's clear that God hasn't given everyone at least some grace, is such an awful thing to say.

It's so annoying, too, that he is looking at canon 23 yet doesn't seem to notice that it makes a distinction between not sinning and losing grace: ...sin no more, nor lose grace...

He's still great, though. It's only in this issue where he falls.

Nutcrazical

On reason:

111) ...Let us see whether reason has the strength and grip capable of establishing the truth.

But perhaps this subject goes beyond the compass of reason. So let us examine what it has discovered with its own strength. If there is anywhere where its own self-interest should have made it apply itself most seriously, it is in the search for its sovereign good. Let us see where these strong and far-seeing souls have placed it, and whether they agree on it.

One says that the sovereign good lies in virtue, another in pleasure, another in following nature, another in truth, another in happy ignorance, another in doing nothing, yet more in not being taken in by appearances, another in admiring nothing, and these fine skeptics with their Stoical calmness, doubt, and perpetual suspension of judgment, and others wiser still who say sovereign good cannot be found, not even by wishing it. We have been well served!

220) Reason's last step is to recognize that there is an infinite number of things which surpass it. It is simply feeble if it does not go as far as realizing that.
If natural things surpass it, what will we say about supernatural things?

And faith:

217) Faith states clearly what the senses do not, but not the opposite of what they see. It is above them, not against.

-Blaise Pascal, Pensées [Sellier numbering]

Joseph D'Hippolito

Annonymoose/Foxfier, I'm sure our young searcher can pick up a good Catholic Bible study either at a Catholic book store or through an apologetics agency (hint, hint, Jimmy...)

kentuckyliz

Wow, interesting topic. I sympathize with the Seeker. As a young intellectual, I set aside the practice of my faith. I may have poked fun at religion, but never outright denied it. Mass was just dry as dust to me, and I was in the choir because the only way to endure it was to sing! I only went when I was with family, because the parents just expected it. On my own, fuhgeddaboudit.

I guess the beginning of the end of the Reign of Reason as my god (idol!) was really getting to know a bunch of intellectuals very well. Some of the silly ideas they embraced, that flew in the face of ordinary common sense, was astounding. There is no one stupider than an intellectual.

Evil, either. They were condescending and hateful towards ordinary people who weren't intellectuals. Beware of intellectuals who think they should be the ruling class; more blood has been shed by this impulse than anything else, including the wars of religion.

There was just a point in my life where Reason alone didn't work any more. My life was fine on the surface, but the invisible structure was crumbling. God bless natural consequences; what I denied were sins started feeling like sins and they wore me down. I was peeled to the core; I had to step down off the throne of Self.

For a while there was just emptiness and dryness and nothing. But then a friend dragged me to see a speaker, a faithful Catholic man whose faith caught fire and he really did radical things--gave away all his wealth, started feeding the poor for free at his high-class restaurant, and ran himself to ruin--joyfully--because he was an evangelist saving souls by the thousands with his powerful witness and teaching from the heart. All his rich, successful friends turned their backs on him. I made a vacation to hear him lead a teaching retreat for a week, and it changed my life. The wisdom of Christ is upside down to the world--and it was explained to me--and I understood it. Truth is finally after all is said and done is a Person - Jesus Christ. No one has ever said anything like what he said; and backed it up with resurrection from the dead.

I didn't immediately become a good Catholic. For a long time, I just loved Jesus and read the Gospels over and over to learn of my beloved (eventually branching out to the entire NT). Finally, Jesus was really alive to me and it was personal.

Cancer ended my pagan vanity-worship of my perfect young strong body. It was a blessing.

When my mother died, and I saw her empty shell at the wake, I knew the butterfly had flown. I just knew to my bones that there is an afterlife. Later I learned about our own resurrection and glorification at the last day. The older and crumblier I get, the more this means to me. I have more gray hairs and wrinkles, surgical scars, and yes, a second cancer, and I just laugh. I will be perfect again, so I don't have to grieve with aging. My mother will have her breast back and she won't be obese; I will have that chunk of my leg back and no scars and no paunchy belly. Therefore, I don't need to call the plastic surgeon.

After being a solo NT reading Jesus freak, it occurred to me that I had received many good things in my life and I ought to go to Mass out of gratitude. Then I finally heard and understood the Mass. All my Bible reading had made me a convinced Catholic, before this whole apologetics movement got going. It was rich and wonderful to worship with others. No more dry as dust.

Really, it boils down to just a few things:

Who is Jesus? --read at least the Gospels to find out.
(Don't worry if you don't understand everything at first. Pay attention to his own words--get a red letter edition of the Bible if you need to--Jesus' own words printed in red.) Who else ever taught such things? He takes it beyond any other religious or philosophical tradition.

After getting to know him, what is Jesus? An evil and cruel liar, a raving lunatic, or the Son of God?

How does he back up what he says? Resurrection from the dead--bodily resurrection, not just some ghost. Socrates, Buddha, Confucious, Mohammed, Zoroaster, Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, Ghandi, etc. etc. etc. through ages of ages never did that. It is a radically unique claim.

How can I believe in the Resurrection? This involves trusting other witnesses like Jimmy Akin's description of the born-blind man accepting the existence of color on your word. The Apostles, Jesus' closest followers, spread throughout the world teaching the same thing, never straying in their own direction with what was being taught. (How likely is that?) They were all martyred. Would they die miserable, torturous deaths for a lie? You'd think they'd recant and save their skins if they were just putting us on. We take their word.

From the beginning, Christians venerated the relics of holy people. There is no tomb of Jesus, and no veneration of his relics. If any relics should have been venerated, it would be his!

The oldest, longest continuing human institution in the world is the Catholic Church. It shouldn't have survived if it were merely natural, especially when many Caesars and emperors have willed its destruction. (Much less its own unholy scandals!--We're sinners, please remember this, of which I am the most miserable.)

I know well the reasoning way of the world, and none of this makes any freakin' sense whatsoever, if you know anything about human nature. It must be supernatural.

Her ongoing freaky miracles attest to the fact. The eucharist miracle of Lanciano, and incorrupt dead holy people who don't decay, unenbalmed, after centuries. The miracle of the sun witnessed by thousands, including skeptics and atheists, at Fatima. Inexplicable healings at Lourdes, even reported by skeptical Nobel prize winning doctors and scientists. Science doesn't even attempt to explain this stuff. Science kneels silent before the God who rules Nature.

I don't have to believe in those later miracles, but they are encouragers to my faith, and I still have a skeptical tendency. However, in spite of my tiny faith, the size of a mustard seed, I prayed over a woman once and she was healed. I still barely believe it really happened despite the heartfelt testimony of her friends. Jesus did the healing, and it's nice to know he's not limited by my tattered, tiny shred of faith. Proves to me that an unholy, unbelieving, scandalous priest can still confect the Eucharist. It's the power of God, not man.

St. Thomas Aquinas, that tower of Reason, at the end of his life, called all his works as straw, silent before the loving power of God.

God is not a set of propositions. He can't be Venn diagrammed. Any god that fits within my able yet small brain is not a god worth worshipping.

Pursue the paths of reason if that is what resonates with you. However, I would like to challenge you to a few things...while pursuing Reason, also read the Gospels. Begin with a prayer. God, if you exist, help me to know you. While I read this, please open my mind to understand and accept it if it is your will. Then, once you know something about Christ's life, I double dog dare you to pray the Rosary for at least two weeks. Even if you're not really sure about it. The important thing is to meditate on the mysteries while praying it, not just vocal recitation. There's websites with instructions how to do it. Bring to prayer an impossible situation and see if something doesn't happen--either the situation will resolve or you will be at peace with it no matter what happens. Then I triple dog dare you to go to Mass on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil.

May God bless you, earnest seeker. Ye shall find.


LarryD

Great post, kentuckyliz. There is nothing more powerful than a person's testimony, because it is real and personal. Your post really touched me. Thanks!! Jesus be praised!!

A.Williams

I agree with you Kentuckyliz, that we should always include the mystical, spiritual and heart felt experiences when discussing any topics concerning faith. And the reason is, as you put it very well, that.. "God is not a set of propositions. He can't be Venn diagrammed"

Moreover, we have all experienced(I think), particular, inexplicable, occurrances of Divine Providence in our lives. These experiences, of which have sometimes inspired radical life changes, are often in no way associated with any sort of logic or reason. Really,they are more akin to 'angelic' intervention. And the varieties of this Divine Providence are infinite, and is also witnessed in 'answers to our prayers', as you described so well above.

So, the miraculous is in no way to be put aside, but rather we should be much more sensitive to the Divine Providence shown to us in the hundreds of 'little' miracles that might occur, and on an almost continual basis!

With everyone we meet, or talk to, there is an opportunity for a miracle of faith for that person, something that might indeed lead to his/her eternal salvation. It might even be just a charitable act, but something that sparks a fire in His heart and steers him in a new direction.

These, I think, are the seeds that Jesus talks about in the Gospel--the seeds sown everywhere, in both good soil and bad! And so all of this needs to be included when we talk about life and faith, and not just logic, canon laws and theological argumentation, however interesting these other topics might be. And you also reinforce this same idea, when you point out:

"St. Thomas Aquinas, that tower of Reason, at the end of his life, called all his works as straw, silent before the loving power of God."

So these philosophical topics might be easier to discuss, due to the fact they are so objective, and are often based on documents, laws and established doctrines. But personal 'communion' with God, both through the knowledge of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, and in the partaking of the Eucharist, is what leads us to "eternal life". Argumentation, logic and apologetics, only prepares the soul, and fortify the faith of a person, but the actual experience of faith, and living united and in communion with God, is the goal to which all these other things lead.

So, I am totally with you in your advice to first learn WELL who Jesus Christ is... both through His words and Gospel stories, and in then though the grateful and love-filled reception of Him in the Holy Eucharist.

The comments to this entry are closed.

January 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31