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Robert Kaplant wrote:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I have been questioning my faith for the last three years. I am a lay minister in my parish and I no longer believe. I have asked priests, theologians, monks, nuns, God, and have received nothing in return.

Here are my problems:

Prayer does not get answered. The Bible asks me to believe things I simply never see:

  • miracles
  • answered prayer
  • people living to 900
  • snakes talking
  • God intervening
  • etc.

Theodicy really bothers me. I see death, rape, torture, murder, and worse, on a daily basis and God does nothing about it.

That makes no sense. I also know the Bible has many errors in it. I am more than willing to believe again but honestly Nichiren Buddhism makes way more sense.

I have given my life for the Gospel and I have nothing to show for it. Yes, my wife and I love people and serve the poor but theologically it makes no sense whatsoever.

Please don't give me a platitudinous answer. I am serious about these questions and would like some honest answers. Let's see if you have any. My other questions, many of them, lead me to believe there are no real answers and that I just have to accept the related teachings all on blind faith.

That makes no sense to me.

Robert

  { If the Bible contains errors how can a person believe it, believe in the Church, and be a Christian? }

Mike replied:

Robert,

If you read what you sent us, there are no questions in your e-mail. All I read were statements about what you believe and your frustration with it.

We can't reply to an e-mail that has no questions.

Also, make sure you Reply All so everyone gets your question. I may not have the time to answer but if you Reply All one of my colleagues, like Paul, may have some time.

Mike

Robert replied:

Sorry Mike,

I thought you would get it. It's simple. Taking any one of the Biblical issues I enumerated, though all of them have equal weight and have similar ramifications, it makes the Bible and biblical teachings false.

  • If there are no such thing as people who live to be 960
  • If miracles do not happen
  • If people did not come out of the grave at the Crucifixion
  • If the Resurrection did not occur
  • If original man came from Africa and not from the Middle East . . .

then the Bible is not authoritative and cannot be relied upon for belief and practice.

Oral tradition and just saying the Church confirmed the Scriptures to be Holy is circular reasoning, and once again, is not solid enough for belief because it is not based on facts but on wishful thinking.

For example:

  • I find a book
  • I read it
  • I find 70 people to say it's authentic and authoritative, and
  • then we go around telling people it is special.

That does not prove it is and there is no evidence for it being special. That is the case with the Bible, Church Tradition, and Church Teaching so my question is:

  • If indeed the Bible contains errors, extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof, how can a person believe it, believe in the Church, and be a Christian?

I hope this explains things a bit better and I look forward to your reply.

Thank you,

Robert

Paul replied:

Robert,

It sounds like you've given up on the wresting match. To a certain degree we all go through what Jacob went through when He wrestled with God in the desert, before finally prevailing. God then rewarded him. (Genesis 32:22-32)

Perseverance may be the greatest virtue of all, especially when in the midst of seeming to find no satisfactory answers to our important questions, or when we think we can't sacrifice our own desires for the truth. That is when we are really tested.

Many of us have gone through what you're going through now — faith challenged when seeking understanding and non-contradiction. The truth is that the Catholic faith is perfectly reasonable and every one of your questions has an objectively satisfying answer.

One book that comes to mind that may be helpful to you is Kreeft and Tacelli's Handbook of Christian Apologetics. I would give that a read. Then if you have questions, formulate them and do ask us.

Perhaps we could also be a valuable help to you.

Peace,

Paul

Robert replied:

Paul,

I am more than willing to hear any good arguments in favor of Christianity.

Please send me the good stuff. I'll read it. Hey, I purchased the big book of Christian Apologetics and it really wasn't good — too complicated.

  • We are supposed to come to Christ like a child and then to figure it all out?
  • Do we need a Ph.D.?

That makes no sense. It shouldn't be so hard to believe but apparently it is!

Let me know.

Robert

Paul replied:

Robert,

I'm sorry you won't give Christian Apologetics a chance. It gives solid answers to your specific questions and I don't think one needs a Ph.D. to understand most of its content. I do know, however, that it can be very frustrating for a Christian to be in that middle stage of being intelligent enough to ask the deeper questions but not confident enough in one's education to understand the answers.

Along with all your declaratory statements and accusatory premises, you ask this question:

  • If indeed the Bible contains errors, extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof, how can a person believe it, believe in the Church, and be a Christian?

Let's first look at your two premises and then your actual question on how one can believe.

  • The Bible contains no errors relating to the only purpose for which it exists: salvation. The entire Bible is believed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. This means the Holy Spirit worked through various men through the centuries — men with different:

    • cultural backgrounds
    • modes of communication
    • languages
    • levels of sinfulness
    • educational backgrounds, and
    • understandings of the world around them.

    The Holy Spirit did not dictate as to a robot or a slave but gave inspiration to a variety of people to use their own modes of thought and communication to express deeper truths. They wrote with this inspiration and hence God offered His plan of salvation to a fallen world that desperately needs it. Therefore, if an inspired author of the Bible, for example, states something like the sun rose at 6 a.m., or God has the whole world in His Hands, we understand they were using the understanding and linguistical metaphors of their time, to communicate and support the deeper message of God's love and mercy which He offers mankind.

  • Extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof. There certainly are extraordinary claims written throughout the Scriptures. Just to name three:

    1. the creation of the universe out of nothing is certainly extraordinary
    2. as is the Incarnation, and
    3. the Resurrection of Jesus.

One question we might ask is:

  • What do we mean by proof?

One can use this term in a variety of ways. Historically, the claims about Jesus' Life have the same kind of historical proof as the claims about Alexander the Great's or Christopher Columbus'. These claims begin with word of mouth and eventually people write and edit the story before it appears in books passed down to each generation.

Secondly, one cannot reasonable think that the scientific method could prove occurrences that are claimed to transcend what the scientific method can possibly detect. That would be like trying to hear various sounds with one's eyes. Only natural things of the physical world can be observed and experimented on, to determine certain natural laws and patterns.

God transcends nature, as He does space and time, for He created all three and if God wants to suspend, transcend, or fiddle with His laws of nature in any way, He certainly can. They are His Laws. Since these kinds of miracles (creation, Incarnation, Resurrection, etc.) rise above what the limited, finite human mind or senses could possibly detect, they must be taken on faith. We choose to believe them, or not. They are extra-ordinary claims, yet they do not contradict the laws of nature. They transcend them.

  • How can one believe it, and the Church, and become Christian?

There are two quick answers to this, and both are important — one is natural and the other supernatural.

The natural answer relies on human reason.

    • It considers what is claimed
    • attempts to see if there are real contradictions or only apparent ones
    • considers whether believing it could satisfy both the heart and the mind, and
    • then makes an act of the will to either trust in the higher Power considered or to reject Him.

Both decisions — to adhere to Theism or Atheism, are acts of the will, and both require faith. There is no possible evidence or proof that supports atheism. Neither require a blind faith, but both require faith.

The supernatural component, which is the more important of the two, relies on divine grace. Grace, which is God's supernatural life offered to us, enables us to rise above our wounded minds and hearts, as well as to rise above our human nature (which includes the methods of reason and science) to see a reality undetected by the senses.

This supernatural insight, which Adam had before the fall, is offered to those who seek Truth with an open heart and mind, rather than with cynicism. It is particularly offered and received through the sacraments that Christ established for the sake of our salvation.

Paul

Robert replied:

Paul,

  • How do you know the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit?
  • What facts prove that statement?

This is a key point.

  • If the Bible is free from errors in terms of salvation then what do you make of science's evidence for the original man coming and evolving from Africa?
  • If man evolved and did not come from Mesopotamia, how is Romans 5 accurate and relevant?

The supernatural component relies on divine grace.

  • What evidence do you cite to prove your statement?
  • Am I supposed to just accept this as fact just because you say it?

You said:
. . . our wounded minds and hearts . . .

  • Who has that?

Robert

Paul replied:

Robert,

I find a fundamental error in your thinking. You begin with a false premise and then demand everything conform to this premise — that all reality must conform to that which can be observed by us.

This is like intellectual quicksand that has no way escaping, unless one allows one's mind to open to other modes of thought. The mind can travel further than the eyes, reason further than sight, and faith can travel further than both.

You said:

  • How do you know the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit?
  • What facts prove that statement?

The same facts that prove what other people in history have claimed. The person in question said it. Belief is a choice.

  • I believe Abraham Lincoln had a speech called the Gettysburg Address.
  • I believe the Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower.

I don't have to believe the word of others but, on these things, I do.

Jesus promised that, because of The Reconciliation with God He would win for mankind by virtue of His Sacrificial Death and Resurrection, He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit to His early disciples, i.e. the Church, to lead and guide them to all truth related to salvation.

That monumental occurrence of sending the Holy Spirit did take place on Pentecost (Read Acts 2), and the process of granting Inspiration and infallibility to the Church on matter of faith and morals began.

I have a question for you.

  • Can you prove that you must prove something in order to believe it?
  1. If no, then why ask your question above?
  2. if yes, then I assume you don't believe anything, since we can't prove that our senses actually detect the objective truth about things, nor that our minds are actually not fooling us.

    There is no evidence or proof for these things . . . yet you choose to believe things based on them.

You said:
This is a key point.

  • If the Bible is free from errors in terms of salvation then what do you make of science's evidence for the original man coming and evolving from Africa?
  • If man evolved and did not come from Mesopotamia, how is Romans 5 accurate and relevant?

It's simple. You are making the same mistake fundamentalists make. You are interpreting all Scripture in a literal way that a 21st century American would impose on the sacred author.

Catholic Scripture scholars understand that proper interpretation of Scripture means:

  • seeking to understand what literary form the Author was using in his time and culture, and
  • what was actually being communicated by his writing

    — not to place our perspective of literalism onto his writing.

The Genesis story does not contradict evolution in any way. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are what are called the prehistorical stories of the Bible, which were written metaphorically to convey profound truths in story form. It was not the intent of the human author, nor of God, who is the Primary Author, to explain scientific or historical detail. It was rather to communicate the profound truths about the nature of:

  • God
  • man
  • creation, and
  • our relationship with it all.

That is communicated perfectly couched in story-form throughout these prehistorical chapters. Chapter 12 of Genesis begins a more historically literal read. The fact that:

  • there is only one God (a radical thought at the time)
  • that He created everything out of nothing (another radical idea)
  • that He created man in His image (we have intellect and free will)
  • that man used his God-given freedom to reject God in original sin, and
  • that God in His mercy promised a Savior (fulfilled in Christ) to give us a second chance . . .

are all profound truths communicated through these stories in Genesis 1-11.

  • The Bible's serpent represents the devil
  • The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents sin that leads to death, and
  • The tree of Life symbolizes the eternal life of grace.

Mankind's first parents, the Bible's Adam and Eve, could have evolved from lower life forms according to God's plan. God could have decided to create life this way and infuse a spiritual personal soul into these two creatures, making them the first humans, i.e. His image and likeness on earth.

You said:
The supernatural component relies on divine grace.

No, more specifically supernatural life offered to us is divine grace.

You said:

  • What evidence do you cite to prove your statement?

I answered this above. If you have no evidence, that one must have evidence to believe something to be true, then you ought to stop contradicting yourself by asking this question.

You said:

  • Am I supposed to just accept this as fact just because you say it?

No, like anything else presented to you, you must make the choice to believe (or not).

  • Many believe man's walk on the moon was staged in Hollywood and never really happened.
  • Many believe 9/11 was an inside job.
  • To this day there is a Flat Earth Society in Great Britain despite what they believe to be false evidence to the contrary.

The bottom line is that each person is certain about what he acknowledges as being true by making a choice to believe it.

Christian claims do not contradict reason, they transcend it and transcending reason is very reasonable, since for anything at all to exist, there must be an Uncaused Primary Cause, outside of space, time, and the entire cosmos, since nothing can create itself.

That first Uncaused Cause is God, who transcends all of creation and the laws that are inherent in creation.

Paul

Paul followed up:

Robert,

I just wanted to conclude with a few additional comments and a summary of our dialogue.

A free-thinking humanist is what Adam attempted to be as he rejected God's law.

Secular humanism is a shallow, hollow combination of all the errors of philosophical modernism. It throws out reason when it throws out God, and leaves the person cynical and empty (even if there is a brief period of relief). That is because rejecting God includes rejecting self.

Being free from God is like attempting to be free from gravity. It might seem exciting as we jump off the cliff, but it won't take long before we become miserable. Secular humanism is also responsible for our culture of death but that's for another posting. Regardless, I respect the power of free will that God has given you.

To leave you with a summary of what we've covered:

  • You demand empirical (observational) proof for things that are not physical, and hence go beyond the five senses. This is impossible. You can't see God; He is Pure Spirit. This is like demanding to see a square circle or a married bachelor. It's contradictory.

  • There is, however, rational proof, by logical deduction. This means if you observe the world and continue to follow human reason you will unerringly come to God as first Cause. If you have a philosophical mind, you can find Aquinas' five rational proofs here:


    And here's a more basic summary of them:


  • Having said that, most people come to faith not through the mind, but through the heart. There is a knowledge deep within the human heart of our need for God accompanied with an intuitive knowledge that we didn't create ourselves nor the world around us.

    In fact, language and religion are the two things that humans have always possessed since the beginning and which separates us from all the other creatures. It points to the fact that there is something in the human being, a spiritual soul, that can detect that which transcends our human nature, something beyond what we can experience with the five senses. We are able to grasp abstract non-physical concepts (justice, truth, love, etc.), and we can detect a divinity that encompasses all and keeps us in existence. Sin and guilt is what hardens the heart and blinds us to this.

  • The last thing I'll mention is the necessity of grace. Grace gives spiritual light and power. In the same way we can't see the objects in a room without light on the physical level, so too without grace, we can't see God with the eyes of faith.

The first thing you and I need to do is pray for this grace.

Peace,

Paul

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